Biographical Sketch of Thomas Hanson (1823-1892)
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From "A Portrait & Biographical Album of Fayette County, Iowa", (1891),p. 308.

Thomas Hanson

          THOMAS HANSON, an early settler and prominent farmer of Jefferson Township residing on section 17, is of English birth. He was born in the town of Keighley, Yorkshire, on the 9th of December, 1823, and is a son of Joseph and Ahinoam (Wood) Hanson, who were also natives of Yorkshire, England. His father was born April 1, 1787, and died on the 28 of March, 1865; his mother was born February 23, 1790, and her death occurred December 24, 1861
          Under the parental roof in the usual manner of farmer lads our subject spent his boyhood days, and in the public schools of the neighborhood acquired a knowledge of the common English branches of learning. When eighteen years of age he was apprenticed to the stonemason's trade and after serving his term worked awhile as a journeyman, the engaged as a contractor and builder. He was married on the 21st of June, 1845, to Miss Ellen Smith, daughter of John and Jane Smith. She was born May 20, 1823, in Yorkshire, and while yet residing in England four children, three sons and a daughter, were born of their union; Thomas L., born May 30, 1849, Married Miss Viola Baldwin and resides in Central City, Neb.; Isaac, born June 20, 1851, is at home; Sarah A., born February 16, 1855, is the wife of J. W. Drayton, a resident of Antelope County, Neb.; Joseph, born April 8, 1857, is a farmer of Clay County, Iowa. Emigrating to America Mr. Hanson took up his residence in Fayette County, Iowa, and here the family circle was increased by the birth of four other children: John W., born March 9, 1860, married Miss Emma Ridler, now deceased, and is engaged in the mercantile business at Ruthven, Palo Alto County, Iowa; Alfred, born May 3, 1862, married Edith May Scott, is engaged in farming in Jefferson Township and is also Secretary of the Farmers' Creamery Association of this county; Martha Alice, born April 6, 1861, died October 21, 1871; Minnie, a young lady in her eighteenth year, born April 4, 1873, is still with her parents.
          Mr. Hanson continued to pursue the business of a contractor until his father's death in March, 1855, when he returned to the old homestead and carried on a farm until the spring of 1857, when he emigrated with his family to America. Leaving the old country in April of that year he at length reached New York and came directly to Iowa, locating where he now resides. He at first purchased eighty acres of land, the present homestead, which is situated one mile north and one mile west of Oelwein on section 17, Jefferson Township. That thriving young city was not established until fifteen years later and its site was then covered with wild prairie grass, a home for deer, wolves and wild fowl. Mr. Hanson improved his land and increased his acreage by subsequent purchases until he now has six hundred and thirty-five acres of valuable farming land. His residence is situated in an attractive and beautiful spot and his home is supplied with all the comforts which are suggested by the earnest wish of the father to enhance the happiness of his family. When Mr. Hanson arrived with his wife and children in Jefferson Township he was a poor man, and after securing his land found himself without means to purchase a team with which to improve it. He hired ten acres broken the first season, for which he paid partly in cash and partly in work. The following spring by borrowing some money he was enabled to buy a yoke of two-year-old steers. His only vehicle was a home made sled. With this insufficient and crude outfit he made his way as best he could during the year 1858, after which time his circumstances rapidly improved.
          Mrs. Hanson, who was a most exemplary wife and mother, lived to see her children grown to be men and women and useful and respected members of society. Her death occurred February 6, 1884, in the sixty-first year of her age. Mr. Hanson was again married November 12, 1885, in this county, leading to the marriage altar Miss Eliza Mary Hanson, who was born in Racine County, Wis., May 4, 1850, and is a daughter of Hiram and Eliza Hanson. Her father was born in England and was a cousin of her husband. One child graces their union, a son, George Leslie, born on the 18th of November, 1886.
          Mr. and Mrs. Hanson attend the Baptist Church. He is a Republican in politics and has acceptable served as Trustee of Jefferson Township for eight years. In the autumn of 1871 he went to Europe and visited his native town, returning to Iowa in the following spring. On his way out it happened that he witnessed the great Chicago fire of that year. Mr. Hanson has invested considerable capital in the city of Oelwein, having confidence in the future prospects of that thriving railroad center. He is the owner of one-third interest in the Union Block and in the new building in its rear. He also owns the harness-shop and lot on the same side of the street to the eastward, and a house and lot in Paign's Second Addition to Oelwein. Although beginning his career in this township in such limited circumstances, he has long been known as one of the substantial and prosperous farmers and business men of Fayette County. His life has been one of industry and frugality and has been shaped by sagacious management and strict integrity. At this writing his is in the enjoyment of robust health, and exhibits that enterprise and public spirit that has for years characterized his course in life.

From History of Oelwein, 1973.


          Early in 1858 Thomas and Ellen Hanson arrived in the State of Iowa. They settled in an area that fifteen years later was adjacent to the village of Oelwein. Like many early settlers the purchase of his land (eight acres), and the building of a log cabin left him without money to plant a crop. He was forced to hire his land-breaking done and had to borrow money at a high rate of interest. The following year he borrowed again but this time he bought a yoke of two-year-old steers, built a sledge in lieu of a wagon and put in his own crop. Gradually with hard work his position improved and in 1869 when stone masons were needed to build the Hospital for the Insane at Independence he was hired and worked there as long as he was needed. When the hospital was ready for occupancy in April of 1873, just one hundred years ago, Thomas Hanson was well out of debt and on the road to success.
          However, like many Americans Thomas' story did not begin in the United States. Thomas Hanson was born December 9, 1823 near Keighley, a town of north central England in the county of Yorkshire. He was the first son, and fifth child of nine born to Joseph and Ahinoam Hanson. Joseph and his wife farmed on the outskirts of Keighley. Thomas received his schooling at Keighley, and at the age of eighteen was apprenticed to a stone mason where he learned construction, stone masonry and brick work.
          In June, 1845, at the age of twenty-two, Thomas married Ellen Smith and with his bride moved into the town of Keighley. There Thomas and Ellen settled into their new life and had the first two of their four children born in England.
          They were comfortable and well established in the town of Keighley when Joseph Hanson died in 1854 and Thomas felt obliged to move back to the family farmstead. In 1857 after two discouraging years on the farm Thomas and his wife Ellen decided to leave England with their four small children. They abandoned everything they had and left England to seek a new life in America.
          The Iowa they found upon arrival was young and primitive, being only eleven years old. Independence was a small village, Otsego boasted a few wooden buildings and a post office. The trading center for this area through the sixties was McGregor where farmers could sell their produce and get their grinding done as well as buy supplies. However McGregor was over sixty miles away and was an arduous and dangerous journey. The people from Jefferson Township who made this trip went in small groups as protection from thieves and robbers who preyed upon unwary travelers. Often wives of the settlers accompanied their husbands on these trips to buy needed household supplies. These trips provided quite a holiday for the Hanson children, five boys and an older sister, who remained at home.
          One year when the Hansons returned from McGregor they found that the cat had jumped in panic to a shelf holding a small collection of pitchers carefully brought from England. Every one was broken. At least two of these pitchers have been repaired and are here in Oelwein. Returning from another trip they found the oven door smashed.
          During another excursion to McGregor the boys attempted to break a team of oxen to the yoke. In their enthusiasm they tied the tails together before attempting to put on the yoke. The results were of course disastrous. It must have been a relief to the Hansons and other parents when Independence grew large enough that the trading could be done nearer their home.
          In 1884 Ellen Hanson died having lived to see her children reach maturity. Thomas Hanson died of a heart attack at his home in Oelwein in 1892 at the age of 69. He had remarried in 1885 and had one more son George L. born in 1887.           Someone who knew him well said, "He was the best man with boys I have ever known. He worked them like beavers, taught them to love work, trusted them as boys with men's responsibilities, taught them honesty and to thank God every day for the privilege of being an American."
          Alfred Hanson, the fifth son of Thomas and Ellen Hanson was born in the log cabin north of Oelwein in 1862. He attended the country school in his district, and then enrolled in Mrs. McMillan's Select School located where the study room of the Methodist Church now stands. Later Alfred attended Upper Iowa University where he received his diploma in 1883, then taught for some time in the Commercial Department of the University.
          In 1885 Alfred married Edith Scott, daughter of Isaac and Marcella Marston Scott who had settled in Fayette County in 1868. After his marriage he rented a farm from his father just north of Oelwein where the young couple lived for seven years.           During this period Alfred was secretary of the newly formed Oelwein Farmers Creamery Company and his wife Edith had the dubious honor of figuring all the milk weights and farmers' payments.

          In 1892 the Alfred Hansons moved to Oelwein and in 1893 bought the lots where they planned to build a home. At this time they planted the elms which stood until 1968 when they were destroyed by the tornado that ravaged Oelwein. Nettcott and Donnan were the architects who designed their home which was built in 1903, and was located at 403 North Frederick Avenue.
          Alfred Hanson was very active in Fayette County banking. He organized the First National Bank of Strawberry Point, assisted in the organization of the Readlyn Savings Bank and also helped organize the First National Bank of Fayette. In Addition he set up the Oran Savings Bank for his youngest brother George Hanson.
          In 1893 Alfred Hanson and H. R. O'Neel organized the Aetna State Bank in which Mr. Hanson served as president until 1899 when he sold his interest. Alfred then persuaded his oldest brother Thomas and his brother John (also born in the log cabin), to return to Oelwein and join him in founding a bank. Thomas was in the banking business in Central City, Nebraska, and John, a former sheriff of Palo Alto County was engaged in the mercantile business in Ruthven, Iowa.
          The bank the three brothers founded was the Commercial Savings Bank of Oelwein. It was located in the Hanson Block, now the Swan Building, and occupied the area presently used by Hicks Loan Service. In April 1901 the Commercial Bank became the First National Bank of Oelwein.
          The First National Bank was moved to its present location in the Glass Block on a wet day in 1918. In the process of moving the safe to its new location it slipped and started to settle in the sand and mud. There in the center of West Charles, deep in the wagon tracks sat the assets of the First National until afternoon of the next day when through heroic efforts the safe was freed from the mud and installed without further mishap, in its new home.
          John Hanson died in 1905 before the bank was moved to its new location. He left one daughter, Marjorie Hanson Dye now living in Dayton, Ohio. Thomas L. Hanson's children are all on the west coast. He has a son Thomas Jay now 94 years old. Only one of Thomas and Ellen Hanson's grandchildren remain in Iowa. Alfred Hanson's daughter Marion, wife of Edward J. McCarthy, a former mayor of Oelwein, still lives here in the original home at 403 North Frederick.

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