Tuesday, October 4, 2011

John Steen, Dapper Mystery Man

John Steen, ca 1910s [photo courtesy of Agnes Allpress]

W. J. James in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, took this picture on the reverse John Steen/Stean has written “Till Tantte Anna.” [To Aunt Anna]

John Steen or Stean was the brother of Sadie and Anna Stean. He worked as a farm helper for his Aunt and Uncle at Gåseflå when he was about 14 to 16 years old. His sisters left Norway for America in 1908 but he waited until he was 18 before he too left. On the emigration list he says he is going to Amerika, usually thought of as the United States, but he went on the Allan Line and that steamship line went into Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Many immigrants moved from Canada directly or indirectly into the United States where they settled permanently but it appears that John may have stayed in Canada at least for a period of time. His friend and co-worker at Gåseflå, Lars Stensland, who was four year older than John, left on April 1, 1910 and John followed on April 23rd of the same year. They joined up in Canada and had this next photo taken.

John Steen and Lars Stensland, ca 1910s
[photo courtesy of Agnes Allpress]

Lars eventually went on to Pitt, Minnesota where he homesteaded and farmed. His World War I draft registration form dated June 1917 says that he was short, slight, light haired and blue eyed.

What happened to John and his whereabouts have always been a mystery. Did he marry and have a family or die young and single? Did he enter the United States or always remain in Canada? Some family members thought he ended up in Albert Lee, Minnesota but Prince Albert in Saskatchewan was also called Albert Lee for a time.

There was only one John Steen born in Norway in 1892 that appeared on the US census records that could possibly fit him but when I looked at the death certificate it did not give the right birth date (31 Oct 1892) nor did the parents names match with our John. The fact that we do have the photographs, one with the note on the back, suggests that he did at least correspond with family members for a little while before disappearing.

Lill Anna (middle), John Steen and one of John's sisters, ca 1902
[photo courtesy of Agnes Allpress]

This chewed up photo shows, I think, Lill Anna with John and one of his sisters. John would have been perhaps 16 if this were taken in 1907/1908 or 11 or 12 if before Anna left Norway the first time.

The last picture was taken in New Liskeard, Ontario, Canada and once more shows John with a friend, perhaps Lars Stensland again. New Liskeard is located inland but is not very far from Sault Ste. Marie right on Lake Superior. Lake Superior borders both Canada and the United States (Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota). I would guess that the winters would not be very hospitable—very cold with lots of snow and ice.

John Steen and Lars Stensland, ca 1910s
[photo courtesy of Agnes Allpress]

Notice the ruffles on their ties or shirts and the high boots that have laces and hooks. They both look youngish so this may have been taken shortly after they arrived in Canada.

All these photos of John Stean were in Gunie Swanson’s collection that her daughter Agnes Allpress gave me a year or so before she passed away. I guess everybody knows I never throw things out and therefore I have become a sort of family historical repository. I love the old photos and letters especially the ones that tell us stories about our ancestors and their lives. If any of John’s descendants stumble upon this blog and can shed more light about this handsome young man, I would be happy to hear from them.

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