Relative of the Tollefsons sheds more light on family in bizarre coincidence
By Craig Marx, Editor
In our October 31st “Halloween” issue of the Antigo Times, I had a chance to tell a brief history of the legendary family that first purchased the land and house where I grew up at. The Tollefsons were subject to the harsh lifestyle that the turn of the century brought to many families across the globe, including war and incurable disease that destroyed families and ravaged towns.
Prior to writing this short tale of Leland Tollefson and his family, information was basically non-existent except for the hard copy news and history found at the Antigo Public Library in both newspapers and the dauntingly-exhaustive “History of Langlade County Wisconsin” by Robert Dessureau. After doing the research and talking with my parents about the history of their land deed itself, I was able to compile the story that was published in time for the appropriately somber season.
About a week after posting the article online, I received an email from a Mary Tyrrell in Milwaukee. It turns out that after coincidentally discussing genealogy with her nephew and husband, she informed me that she was the granddaughter of Ida Tollefson, Anton’s sister and Leland’s aunt. After searching online and coming across our Tollefson story, which did not exist a week beforehand, Mary and her husband, Patrick, were able to determine that she is a first cousin, once removed, to Leland.
I almost could not believe it. It is amazing how the monster compendium of Langlade County history has been published for almost a century now but because of the inter-connectivity of the modern world a relative of the legendary Antigonian was pursuing the same history at almost exactly the same moment.
Mary would go on to add to the Tollefson Family history:
“About a year ago, another relative had found a book that had been taken from my grandmother’s farmhouse in Waupaca County with an inscription on it ‘To Irvy, from Aunt Matena, 1896.’ The book was appropriate for an 8 to 10 year old. We could not think of any relative who fit that name or age. But because we had access to Ancestry.com we spent a large amount of time looking at my grandmother’s brothers. Anton was the brother we saw that had moved from Manitowoc to Antigo and was a merchant. We also read the history of Langlade County to see that he had died on Halloween, several days after the fire that befell his business in 1894.
“We also found his wedding to Mary or Marie Erickson on 26 December 1886 in Manitowoc. She was born about 1864 in Wisconsin, [and] she died 8 March 1924 in Antigo.”
That was very fascinating news to read. Nowhere in the history of the county was Mary’s death listed. Though a cause of death was not provided, it is interesting to know when she passed away and where as the last of that particular family of Tollefsons and as a mother who had survived the loss of all of her boys and husband.
Mrs. Tyrell added more concise dates to the births and deaths of the Tollefsons in Antigo:
“[Anton’s] children were: 1. Norman Irvy Tollefson was born in Michigan in September 1888 and he died 1 March 1910 in Antigo; 2. Rueben Tollefson was born in 1892 in Wisconsin and died 2 October 1914 in Antigo; 3. Earl Tollefson was born 17 September 1889 in Antigo and he died 28 May 1890 in Antigo; 4. Leland Anton Tollefson was born 30 May 1894 in Antigo and died in France on 17 Aug. 1918.”
Again, the causes of death were not mentioned but their passing at such a young age is most likely from one of the multiple childhood diseases that were prevalent at the time.
To have someone contact me out of the blue and express genuine interest in a segment of history that I myself know vaguely of until a week prior to that particular email was incredibly enlightening. The more we delve into the past of Antigo and Langlade County, whether it be a family’s history, baseball, or restaurants, it is amazing to see how new light shed on old tales brings people together.