In 1880 in Schleswieg-Holstein Germany (which would have been Denmark, except for an act of aggression on the part of Germany) on a peasant's holdings, Niels Lauritzen Ferslev died and left his wife, Inga Marie Ferslev with three small children; Marie, Peter and Caroline. But before the 26th day of November of that year had passed, another boy was born, who was promptly named Niels Lauritzen Ferslev. Inga Marie had been married before and there was a married daughter living nearby and a son, Mark Markesan, who lived in the new world in Wisconsin. There may have been other children in Denmark, but that is all that we know about. It must have been a work filled, poverty stricken frightening life, but to the young Niels, it was a life full of adventure and excitement.
Niels had many happy memories from his years in Denmark. The one room and a pocket house with the bunk beds built along the walls, each having its own shutters to make a room of itself when the occupant closed them. He remembered the baking oven on one side, the warm pocket room behind the fireplace and the animal smell that rose from the barn below as well as the heat that rose from it. He especially remembered the wee Lutheran Church and the quiet churchyard where his father slept. Sometimes he sat there and dreamed of being a pastor. Christmas Eve was his favorite time with the church bells ringing calling a stop to all work. He even like to go to school even though he had to learn the hated German language.
When Niels was ten years old, his mother decided to give up the unequal struggle with the hard work, the German occupation and the German Military threat to her boys. She decided to come to the United States and Green Bay where her son Mark already lived.
They embarked from Hamburg, Germany with the five Ferslevs and a disabled sister of Inga's. The trip was already a time of high adventure for a curious ten year old. It was his first glimpse of a big city. All the people crowed together in the large gas lite shed to eat and wait for the time to get on the ship made him fidgety. Beside him, on the long wooden bench, was an odd box with queer little handles. Finally his curious fingers had to fiddle with the knobs. Suddenly the room was plunged into darkness!!!! Niels has turned off the gas to the whole room. Of the boat trip, the long journey overland to Green Bay, Niels never said very much. We know that they landed at Baltimore and not at Ellis Island.
Living in Green Bay, became another adventure for the young Niels. They rented a house on Pearl Street, and out of their poverty, necessity became the mother of invention and they found many ways to make ends meet. One way, common to most children who lived along the tracks, was to gather coal as it dropped from the big steam engines as they roared past. Inga Marie made Danish Beer and the young Niels peddled it to the thirsty railroaders until a man told him it was against the law for a minor to sell beer. So that way of earning money was stopped.
Niels, of course, had to go to school and when he started, it was necessary for him to go into the first grade as he knew no English. This was very difficult for him as he was 10 at this time and tall for his age anyway. A natural aptitude for language and a teacher who knew Norwegian, plus a quick mind for learning, helped Niels to overcome his language handicap and he moved quickly speedily though his first few grades. He completed the 8th grade and then went to work to help support the family.
Somehow the family prospered. They moved further west in the city and purchased a house on Shawano Avenue. The tall, narrow house looked like a child's drawing with one door and one window on the first floor in the front. It was located west of the small river or slough that crossed Shawano Avenue near where the GB&W tracks were located. and near where West High School now stands. The area has now been filled in and there is no trace of the river that used to run through there.
Mark did help the family with finances until he was married. Niels worked on a farm owned by a relative. Marie did housework. Peter was stricken with appendicitis, and as so often happened in those days, it was fatal. Caroline also died of appendicitis. Both of them are buried in the Fort Howard Cemetery in Green Bay along with Inga Marie Ferslev.
Shortly after this the family had a good break. There was an inheritance from a relative in Denmark, not large, but with Niel's share, plus the loan of Marie's share, Niels was able to go to business college and when he finished, he was able to get a good job as a bookkeeper.
In those days there were steamships making trips on the Fox River and out into the Bay of Green Bay. It was the thing to do on a Sunday afternoon, so Niels and Glen Campbell decided to take the excursion. The boat was full of young people enjoying the sparkling water and cool breezes. And there by the railing stood a girl, small, dark and vivid. Niels lost his heart. Amazingly Glen approached the group with "The Girl" and Niels meet Clara Anne Jeffcott.
Niels proposed not long after they met, but Clara said, severely, she was too young to think about marriage and besides she wanted to marry a citizen of the United States.
Niels then took a job in Virginia, Minnesota, but the dark vivid girl was a lodestone pulling him back to Green Bay. So he returned, got his citizenship papers and on August 23, 1905 they were married.
These two were excellent foils for each other. They each had a sense of humor, albeit different. Niels' humor was the formal, story telling type with an appropriate joke to underline an event or a twist of words to express his meaning. Clara Anne could laugh at herself – a tremendous accomplishment as many people never are able to accomplish this.
Niels had great stamina in trying new ways of building a secure life for his family and knack of riding out the worrisome years. Hence he built a good business, starting with a retail general store and building it into a specialty shop that sold carpeting. linoleum and window shades, which later became the White Store on Broadway in Green Bay. He lost it all in the depression of 1929 and 1930. Then at the age of 50, he started rebuilding from nothing and developed a very successful insurance agency. He left a comfortable inheritance to his children when he died.
Clara Anne on the other hand, had the terrible strength of timidity. She wanted no changes, but rather to have life glide smoothly on an even keel, without great adventures. She wanted her friends to be those she knew from childhood, whose views were but slightly different from her own. She was slow to make new friends, so even after 40 years two particularly delightful women with whom she visited were still Mrs. Torgeson and Mrs. Rehder – not on a first name basis. Yet, Clara, aware of her desire to keep the status quo, gave her daughter the opportunity to stretch out and meet new experiences, new people, and to accept other races as people not races.
Clara and Niels shared where it counted: High integrity, religious faith, how to do without rather than to go in debt and a love of their county. They both worked diligently in their church. She taught Sunday School and was active in the Ladies Aid; he was a member of The Official Board. They also were active in other community groups. What a legacy they left to their children and the generations to come.
When they were married on August 23, 1905, Niels worked at the Continental – the biggest men's store in Green Bay at the time. It was located on the SE corner of Washington and Main Street. Niels and Clara lived in a neat bungalow on North Oakland, just off of Dousman Street and Niels usually walked to work, walked home for lunch at noon, walked back and walked home when the store closed. This was not at a specific time but rather when there were no more customers on the street. Then Niels would have to count the cash, close the safe and lock up the store, sometimes well after midnight. Clara worried much in those days as the hour got later and later. Only in inclement weather would he take the street car part way home, and not always then. Saturday nights he did not have the option of a street car as they stopped running long before he would lock up the store. He has told fascinating tales of bucking blizzards.
Their first child, Leon, was born in January of 1907 and 2 years later Marjorie was born on August 25,1909.
In 1911, Niels' Danish trading instinct prevailed and he and a partner opened a store in Port Washington, Wisconsin, so the family moved. However trouble plagued them in this venture. Leon died of pneumonia at the age of five. He also is buried in Fort Howard Cemetery in Green Bay. The young mother never recovered from this loss. The store had a robbery, the partners could not agree, so the partnership dissolved with a financial spanking for Niels. It was a fearsome time for Clara, however she was young and had faith in her husband. The Continental had liked Niels' work and as they were opening a store in Dayton, Ohio they made Niels the manager. So the family moved again, this time to Dayton, Ohio. The climate was too hot for Niels, so they returned to Green Bay. They rented an upper flat on Quincy Street and he went back to work at the Continental in Green Bay.
Niels decided to go into business for himself and bought a dry goods store from a Mrs. Jensen, who drove an electric car and wanted to spend her last years in Florida. This store was long, dark and very narrow and stood with four other stores each with their own specialty. Two years later the family moved back to the West Side and rented a large flat on South Maple across from the old Moravian Church. Beatrice Vivian was born at this flat in 1915.
In about 1918 the owners of the four stores that were side by side decided to join forces and have one store instead of four and thus the White Store was born. Messrs, Rehder, Sorenson, Jones and Ferslev were the four partners all being Danes. Mr. Sorenson was in the men's department, Mr. Jones in shoes and Mr. Rehder in dry goods and Mr. Ferslev in Home Furnishings on the second floor.
Shortly after Bea joined the family, Niels and Clara decided it was smarter to own their own home than to pay rent, so they moved, still on South Maple and Clara's Doty pride took a beating. On one side of the 500 block were the bungalow type houses of the middle class. On the other side were the older home and that was where they made the purchase. Clara dug her heels in over the outhouse and a bathroom was installed and then gas lights. They always had a telephone.
The first year in the house was not a good one. Clara came down with Quinzey Throat and on a cold blustery Valentines Day, had a tonsillectomy. Bea was a toddler of two and Marjorie was 7. After this period ended, things got better. Helen Lucy was born in this house on March 30,1917. The First WW came to an end and the White Store prospered. With a little prosperity, both looked for a better house and they moved back across the river to 414 Jackson street at the bottom of the hill.
It was at this time that Niels bought his first car. It was a Crow Elcart (I believe the name is spelled correctly) with a single seat and a flat baggage compartment where Marjorie got to sit. This was the first of a long string of cars that he owned and at one time he owned 2 cars and a truck. The unusual thing about this, even for those days, is that Niels always paid cash for his cars.
The flu epidemic hit the family hard while they were on Jackson Street. There was no help available. The coal stove needed attention and the Methodist Minister was the only person with the courage to come in and fix the stove. Grocery orders were phoned in and delivered to the back door, set on the steps to be picked up by the occupants. This was a two story home, but they all moved downstairs to be by the living room stove. The entire family did survive the epidemic.
In 1920, they moved back to the West Side on Cora Street and to much the finest house that they had owned. There they stayed for many years, living quiet delightful lives.
There were high points:
Like the Viking Daring, that took the family on 2 auto trips to Dayton, Ohio to visit friends. They had a Model T Ford at that time. It was a touring model with side curtains to put up when it rained. They camped in a tent and with Niels' ingenuity lowered the back of the front seat of the car to make a bed for Bea and Marjorie, There was a hammock to hang from the top struts to make a bed for Helen Lu. He made a wonderful cupboard to fit the running board (no trunks in those days) to hold the food, dishes etc. This was a long and exciting trip. Many roads were one lane strips of concrete. There were few campgrounds and most of them were city parks. Highways were not clearly marked and top cruising speed was 25 to 30 miles per hour. There were also many one day trips to Iron Mountain and to Milwaukee as well as picnics, swimming in Lake Michigan (at Algoma) or in Green Bay or Shawano lake. It was not unusual for Niels to get up on a Sunday morning and suggest driving to Milwaukee to see relatives for the day or drive up to Iron Mountain for the same reason. He loved to travel and instilled this in his three children.
There were low times:
The White Store had a robbery. Although it was fully covered by insurance, there was no longer the comradery and so Niels sold out his share of the partnership. So he moved downtown to the Fairfield Bartan Building on East Walnut Street.
After being in business for several years, the depression hit. The McCartney Bank closed before a check that Niels had written for several thousand dollars could be honored. The jobber who received it needed his money, so Niels had no choice but to declare bankruptcy. This was a bitter blow and he became very ill and spend a long time in the hospital. During this time he lost all his hair, seemingly over night.
Only her own family knew what a kick in the teeth all this was to Clara and her Doty Pride. Niels had to take a second mortgage on the Cora Street house and later was able to realize a little by selling it to the second mortgage holder at a little over the two mortgages. This acted as the down payment on the Kellogg St house. Clara remembered all the tricks of eating well on little, and served nourishing meals with vegetables and meat. They remade their clothes, planted a garden and ate cake but no frosting.
Niels went back to bookkeeping and then started selling insurance. He paid off his debts (many were not even his obligation under bankruptcy law, but he had his integrity) and life was looking good again.
Now to bring the Ferslev girls lives up to date. Marjorie had graduated from West High School prior to the depression and Bea and Helen Lu graduated during the depression. Marjorie had taken a job in an office. Bea and Helen Lu went to Kaukauna Normal to begin their education to become teachers. When they graduated, there were few jobs open, and it was decided that Bea being the older would have the first chance at a job. So Bea went to teach that year in the Town of New Denmark, Wisconsin. Helen Lu did get a job as an assistant teacher that first year in Duck Creek with a teacher that had to many students for one teacher to handle. She did get experience and the next year, got her own one room school
Both Bea and Helen Lu continued with their studies while they were teaching and earned their degrees. Bea continued teaching for ten years and Helen continued to move up the education system. More about this later.
In was another quiet interlude with each pursuing their own interest and careers. Then came December of 1941 and Pearl Harbor. This was a time of worry and anxiety.
Then in June of 1942 Marjorie was married from the Kellogg Street House to Fred Robert Larson. The wedding was very simple and they decided to have the peonies from the garden (of which Clara always had a wealth) to decorate the living room. Naturally it was a cool spring and although Clara promised there would be plenty of flowers for June 6th, it seemed very doubtful. However on the 5th they burst into their glory and so the house was filled with peonies. After the 8 am ceremony, there was a wedding breakfast at the Beaumont Hotel for the wedding party and guests. So the family started breaking up as Bob and Marjorie moved to Ephraim to live, as that was were Bob was from.
Niels and Clara moved again. This time they bought a lovely home on Howard Street. This was a delightfully big house and had a third bedroom upstairs that was a great place for the grandchildren to spend the night. There was also a big closet that was fun to explore with many games and books to read. The war was finally over and things began to settle straighten out.
Bea had been corresponding with a soldier she knew from the church, Alton Cardinal, and when he returned home, they began to see each other regularly. On October 23, 1946 they were married from the Howard Street house.
Bea and Alton's wedding was larger but still was held in the living room of the house with the reception being held there also. It was a lovely wedding with many flowers gracing the house. After the wedding they moved to a house in Green Bay. By then the Larsons had moved back to Green Bay and all the family were in one town.
Helen Lu never completely left home until after Clara died. In 1948, she decided to become an exchange teacher in England for one year. It was the starting rung of the upward climb of her career. Connie Grant, her exchange here, was the first of the foreign people we all got to know and enjoy.
Many years later the Ferslev's moved again to a single level home on Oregon Street near Oneida Street. One bedroom was converted into a den or study for Helen Lu and Niels to use, as he had not completely retired yet. This was the room for the grandchildren to stay in also when they stayed over night. The dining room and living room were one long room. On holidays, the table was expanded into the living room to accommodate all the family. Many happy get togethers were held in this long room.
Time continued on and they were getting older, a little more easily tired, and Helen Lu was finding work was demanding more and more of her time. So it was decided that Bob and Marjorie would buy a home big enough to accommodate the Ferslevs also. On the day that the option to purchase was signed, Clara Anne died. This was February 1964 and she was 80 years old. Niels did go to live with Bob and Marjorie for a time, however, he was a lost soul without Clara, his wife of over 60 years. He met Elsie Surber and she filled a need that none of his daughters could fill, so Niels remarried. He was to move twice after that. Their first home was on Western and the second on Fisk Street. The two seemed to enjoy each other immensely and we were all happy that his last years were so peaceful.
The first part of November 1968, Elsie was hospitalized and Niels became very dependent on Bea. Elsie died in December of that year and was buried in Gilette on Christmas Eve. Niels had been in failing health for quite some time and in November had to give up driving. Elsie's death was a tremendous blow to him as he had not believed she was so ill. It became necessary have Niels go to a nursing home also. Helen Lu was in England at the time, when she returned, he seemed to brighten up momentarily. Then he slipped away from this life in January of 1969 at the age of 88. He is also buried at Fort Howard Cemetery beside his first wife.
Now back to the daughters.
Marjorie and Bob had three daughters, Carol Anne born in 1943, Priscilla Marjorie born in 1944 and Jean Roberta born in 1949. Marjorie was a stay at home mom and both she and Bob were very active in their church, community and lives of the children. After Bob retired, they both continued to stay active and volunteered for Red Cross Dial a Ride as well as did home delivered meals while continuing to be active at church. When their health began to decline they moved in with their daughter Carol Anne and her family in Black Creek. Marjorie died in January of 1990 from cancer at the age of 80. Bob move to an assisted living home as he needed more care and his life ended in August of 1991 at the age of 89. Both of them are buried at the Nicolet Memorial Gardens in Green Bay.
Carol Anne became a nurse and married Donald Grady in 1965. They built their home on his family's farm in Black Creek. They had three children; William Charles was adopted in the fall of 1971, Catherine Anne was born in 1969 and Beth Anne was born in 1971. Bill now lives in Madison Wisconsin and has his own business. Cathy married Avery Burton and they live in Greenville, Wisconsin. They have given Carol Anne 2 grandchildren Daniel James, born in 1993, and Jonathan Taylor, born in 1996. Beth Anne was killed in 1983 when the family was involved in a car accident with a drunk driver. The rest of the family was injured but did all recover. The Grady family continued to live in Black Creek until 1997, when Don was diagnosed with cancer. At that time they moved to a duplex in Greenville, Wisconsin. Cathy and Avery are on one side and Carol Anne is on the other side. Don died in 1998. However, he left behind a legacy of volunteering as well as being very active in Church and mission work. He made many short term mission trips over sees including both Africa and India both with the church as well as thru Gideons International. Cathy and Avery, besides being very involved in their church are co-owners with Carol Anne of Cathy's Country Store in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Priscilla became a teacher and married John Frick, and lives in the Chicago area. They have two children, Gregory born in 1968 and Stephanie born in 1971. Greg lives in the Chicago area and has his own business designing and planning landscaping for homes and businesses. Stephanie married William Morris and they live in lower Michigan. They have given Priscilla and John four grandchildren, Shannon born in 1995, Colleen born in 2001, Erin born in 1999 and Liam born in 2003. Steph is very busy as a mom and a self employed consultant for business management, traveling all over the United States to work with large companies. She may start international travel this year.
Jean became a successful sales person and married Paul Michael. They lived in the Milwaukee area most of their married live until the first of February, 2006 when they moved to the Villages in Florida. They have a daughter Debbie, and Paul had four sons from a previous marriage who became part of the family also. Paul sons are Paul John, married to Sherry and they have 2 boys: Sam born in 1999 and Ben in 2001; David, married Faith and they have 3 daughters: Margaret born 1991, Emily in 1993, and Louisa in 1996; Greg has 2 sons: Isaac born in 1994 and Brenden 1996; Justin is married to Nancy and they live in the New York area. Debbie married Gavin and lives in Plymouth, Wisconsin. Debbie has two children, Joshua 1989 and Christina 1995.
Now to Beatrice, after graduating from Kaukauna Normal she did get a job, and continued her education and got her degree in education. After ten years of teaching, and Alton Cardinal's return from WWII, she and Alton were married. Bea and Alton were deeply involved in church work and many ecumenical groups including being on the founding board of the Seafarers Ministry in Green Bay. They had three children: Phyllis Ruth born in 1948, David Ralph born in 1949 and Peter Bruce born in 1952. Both Phyllis and David died in 1955 during the polio epidemic. In 1960 Alton was shot in the face during a burglary at their home. Despite these tragedies, they continued to be very giving and involved people setting a good example for all of us to follow. In 1961, they bought 40 acres of woodland out near Denmark, WI. This was an enjoyment for their family as well as the nieces and other groups. They have lived in Green Bay all of their married life until the winter of 2004 at which time they moved to the Renissance Assisted Living in De Pere, Wisconsin.
Peter became a teacher for awhile and then a very successful computer programmer. He lives in Green Bay and is very involved with his church, often filling in for the pastor when he is needed. He continues to own the woods near Denmark and another generation is enjoying the use of these facilities.
Last but not least is Helen Lu the youngest of the Ferslev girls. She finished high school during the depression and went to Kaukauna Normal with Beatrice. After teaching in rural schools for a few years she got into the Green Bay school district and continued her education, while continuing to teach and did get her masters degree in education. After her year of exchange teaching in England, she was offered the principalship of Jackson School in Green Bay and found she liked administrative work. She became active in the NEA and was national president for one year. She eventually worked her way up to the Supervisor of Elementary Education for the City of Green Bay. The Viking urge to travel was very strong in her life and has been satisfied by many trips abroad as well as all over the US, she even cruised thru the Panama Canal after she was 80 years old. Painting has been a life long hobby and she continues to paint and attending short courses on new techniques. She has always lived in the Green Bay area and just recently moved to the Belleview Retirement Community outside of Green Bay.
This bring us to the end of the Ferslev Heritage as of 2006.
Written by Carol Anne Grady
based on an earlier history by her mother, Marjorie Larson.
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