On 27 Jan 2013, at the Oakland Museum Women’s Board White Elephant Sale “Preview Sale,” I purchased a set of old photos, letters, and other ephemera that evidently once belonged to a Norwegian miner named Westy Pettersen (1835-).
Westy is listed in the 1860 U.S. Census data for Seneca Township, Post Office Quincy, Plumas Co., CA (where his name is spelled “Wesley Peterson”); the 1880 U.S. Census data for Hillsboro Electoral Precinct, Dona Ana Co., NM (where his name is spelled “Westy Petersen”); the 1900 U.S. Census data for Precinct 10, Fairview, Sierra Co., NM (where his name is spelled Westy Peterson”); and the 1910 U.S. Census data for Precinct 11, Chloride, Sierra Co., NM (where his name is spelled “Westy Petersen”). He immigrated in 1850, according to enumerators. I am guessing that he may have come to America as a stowaway or cabin boy during the Gold Rush, possibly entering the country through the port of San Francisco. Apparently, Westy never married. I have not determined his date or place of death.
Among Westy’s papers is a small printed Circular reading in part : “As there are no dues connected with the California Volunteer Veteran Association, . . .” This suggested to me that he served in the Civil War. I found him listed in the 1890 Veteran Schedules for Precincts 3, 13 and 14, Sierra Co., New Mexico (a special census of Civil War Union veterans and widows), under the name “Westy Peterson.” His pension filing dated 13 Oct 1891, also under the name “Westy Peterson,” shows that he was a private in Company F of the 5th California Infantry. He joined the Union Army on 18 Oct 1861 and was mustered out on 30 Nov 1864. The 5th Regiment was ordered to Camp Latham in southern California on 1 Feb 1862. Company F was stationed at various forts in Arizona and New Mexico during the war. Company F was on an expedition to southwest New Mexico from 23 Jul to 10 Oct 1864. I assume Westy decided to settle in New Mexico following his discharge from the army, although I have not found him in the 1870 U.S. Census.
There are 4 letters addressed to Westy from his brother Henrik Pettersen, Molde, Norway. These letters are dated: 27 Nov 1892, 11 May 1910, 23 Aug 1910, and 14 Sep? 1911. There is an additional undated, unaddressed, and unsigned letter. These letters are all written in Norwegian and I have not had them translated. There are two undated photos of an elderly man taken by Eilert Dahl, Molde, Norway, identified on the back of the mounts “Westy Pettersen,” and giving his birth date as 28 Feb 1811 and death date as 22 Oct 1880. I assume this may be Westy’s father. There is an undated photo of a middle-aged man taken by Eilert Dahl, Molde, Norway, identified on the back of the mount as “Henrik Pettersen,” and giving his birth date as 1 Oct 1851. I assume this is Westy’s brother. The handwriting on these photos matches that of Henrik Pettersen.
There are 9 letters addressed to Westy from his cousin Severin Pettersen, 933 Ballou St. (house later remumbered 1738 Ballou St.), Chicago, IL, the last letter actually written by Severin’s daughter Mabel. These letters are dated: 17 Oct 1907, 17 Nov 1907, 3 Jul 1908, 4 Oct 1908, 17 Jan 1909, 19 Jun 1909, 6 Sep 1909, 11 May 1910, and 15 Dec 1912.
There is an undated group portrait of a middle-aged couple, two teenage girls, and a younger boy, taken by L. Jaenel, Chicago, IL. Although the subjects are not identified, I assume this is the Severin Pettersen family in about 1908. This family is listed in the 1900 U.S. Census data for Chicago (resided at 933 Ballou St.), Cook Co., IL; the 1910 U.S. Census data for Chicago (resided at 1738 North Ballou St.), Cook Co., IL; and the 1920 U.S. Census data for Chicago (resided at 1738 Ballou St.), Cook Co., IL. Family members appear in Public Member Trees posted on ancestry.com. On 31 Jul 1882, in Chicago, Cook Co., IL, Severin Hartwig Pettersen, born 20 Mar 1849 in Norway, died 9 Apr 1924 in Chicago, Cook Co., IL, son of Didrik Hartwig Pettersen (1803-) and Louisa Brigitta Christiansen, married Louise Berthina Mathieson, born Sep 1856 in Norway, died 30 Apr 1945 in Chicago, Cook Co., IL. The couple had 5 children who survived infancy, including: Lillie Pettersen (1888-), Anna Pettersen (1893-), Mabel Pettersen (1894-), and George T. Pettersen (1896-1978). In her letter dated 15 Dec 1912 to Westy Pettersen, Mabel Pettersen states that she is sending him photos of her young brother (George T. Pettersen) who said it was so hard to smile for the camera. Included are two RPPCs (Real Photo Postcards) of an unsmiling teenage boy, one of them marked on the back: “16 years old 1912.”
In his letter dated 21 Oct 1907, Severin introduces himself to Westy, informing him that he was born in Sandefjord Norway in 1849 and has been living in Chicago for the last 25 years, married with 5 children living, the youngest 10 years. He told Westy that he promised his cousin Henry Pettersen in Molde that he would find him. Severin addressed the envelope:
“Mr Westy Pettersen
Chloride or Fairview
was owner of
the Black Colt
Finally, in this collection is an undated (circa 1890s) group portrait of a young couple with 5 children, taken by H. A. Schmidt, but lacking any location and identification.
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