Hemmingson Homestead Photos: 1880s WI US vs. 1914 BC CA

As a result of pursuing great grandfather genealogically, we are given a glimpse of what Ole Hemmingson (1851-1903) built! As well, his son, Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967).

Ole married twice and had a number of children with each wife. Matt was born in 1876 to Ole’s first; Berith. Mildred followed in 1897, to his second; Alette. Matt and his full siblings moved to the west coast, he to Vancouver Island, British Columbia before Mildred was a teenager. Mildred and her full siblings remained in the Great Lakes region, she in the northwestern Wisconsin area of their youth. Mildred’s granddaughter recently connected with Matt’s and provided pictures of Ole’s homestead in Wisconsin and Matt’s in British Columbia.



Mildred Dybedal (Hemmingson) (1897-1987) is pictured on the porch in 1908. She looks older than her eleven years. Like her half-sister Etta, she stayed true to their experience of farm life.  Mildred was known as “Ma Dyb”, an extraordinary woman, full manager of her own homestead, because “Dad Dyb” travelled so much. 

Mildred was creative and musical; a wonderful seamstress. She was an elementary school teacher whose students included her grandchildren. She is held on a well-deserved very high pedestal. 

Although we have but one corner to view, the rough beam on which the porch rests, looks old enough to assure Ole put it there himself. We can imagine Matt being an older brother with Mildred while sharing a rock on that old-fashioned chair. Feet in the Wisconsin snow.


Matt described the house that Ole’s built in 1886 on the homestead in Wisconsin. However, those same memoirs told of an historically dreadful forest fire in 1894 that razed the farm. That house was likely mostly taken, but Ole rebuilt such that the general narrative below, would apply.

In the year 1886 father built a new home – a 2-storey house of hewn logs. The logs had been in preparation for a long time and were well seasoned to prevent shrinking after construction. Sometime later the house was plastered inside and outside with lime mortar, and we were proud of our new home.

Memoirs of Mathias Hemmingsen ca 1956 Victoria B.C., Canada


The photo was taken in 1908 or five years after Ole passed, and two years in front of the census that showed Alette had moved her family to a rented home. All her children, except little Grace, now passed, were resident of her home in 1910.  Recall, the census said Torger was early 20s, and doing “odd jobs” probably helping in that field, before his 1911 demise. The teenagers, Henry and Clarence were working the sawmill to return home, exhausted. Arthur remained in school, and we would come to know he suffered hunchback. 

That left three younger students; Mildred, Earl and Paul. Of them, it said “none” for occupation. HA! We just know what Mildred did, as the only daughter!  Toil! So, hands in pockets on the porch was just a breather as the family packed their treasures for the move. She must have made her dress – precursor to the clothes she would make her children. Good job, Mildred!


Matt’s first wife, Caroline Dybedal, was sister to Mildred’s husband.  She died soon after their marriage. This photo, which came down through Mildred, is labeled “Circa 1914” and therefore could be of Chemainus or Cowichan Lake. Matt’s second wife was our dear Granny, Margaret Naysmith Alexander. The three children in age order are Margaret, Marie and our Dad, John. Two more children would come; William and Robert.  Dad was born in 1913, validating the ca 1914.



Just as Ole apparently had two builds, so did Matt. We have this pictured 1914 home on land and the stories of a float-home at Lake Cowichan in the same general period. John’s words below are offered with that context, but for certain this home was not in Victoria, as the picture’s caption contends.


Just as we have grandfather’s own words on great grandfather’s build, so we have father’s words around grandfather’s build.  The passage below comes from the Family History Dad wrote in 1999. The picture above may not have been in his possession or he would have included it in the book, but the dates in his narrative are relevant to determining where the family was at the time of the photo. 

For the first year of marriage, Matt and Margaret (A) Hemmingsen resided in Comox. Their firstborn, Margaret Henrietta Hemmingsen, was born on March 1st, 1911 in the city of Cumberland as no suitable hospital facilities existed in Comox.

In late 1911 or early 1912, this Hemmingsen family moved to Chemainus from where Matt carried out his supervisory responsibility for the development of and the logging of V.L & M’s timber in the Chemainus and Cowichan Lake areas.

John Oliver Hemmingsen 1999 Family History


The passage shows Granddad’s devotion to family. As we rollout the Memoirs of Mathias Hemmingsen we are struck by how many times he uttered the below, and here is his best:


In Chemainus the family increased with the birth of Agnes Marie on October 7th 1912 and John Oliver on November 15th 1913. The event of a firt son caused Matt to leave his Cowichan Lake responsibilities (for less than two days, but when his autocratic boss (the general manager) heard of this, a severe reprimand was given). Matt quit and was soon hired by a competitor at $20,000 per year (in 1913!) However, Matt was soon lured back to V.L. & M. and continued his job.

The next move for this family (about 1914) was to Cowichan Lake which had by now become V. L. & M’s major log supply area. A year later, a fourth child was born, William Buchanan on February 24th 1915. The birth was in Duncan B.C., 19 miles away, as no hospital existed in Cowichan Lake. The Hemmingsen residence by 1914 was a large house constructed on a cedar log raft. This house was anchored on the shoreline just a short distance above where the lake empties into the Cowichan River for its flow to salt water, a few miles from Duncan, B.C. This was a handy location from which Matt could commute to his own logging camp up the lake and to attend V.L. & M logging operations up the Robertson River which flows into Cowichan Lake.

John Oliver Hemmingsen 1999 Family History


It is a wonderful thing to know co-descendants and that is certain! We currently opine that the Cowichan home was a float house, making the above photo likely of Chemainus. On the other hand, a “hoist n roll” of a structure over logs to a raft would not have been more daunting to the logger than a “cut n paste” of words by a granddaughter, today. 


It occurs that calling Matt’s build a homestead may have been too kind. True, he cleared the land, as had his father, but it lacked the many accouterments of self-sufficiency.  Maybe, even, it was on water. 


Posts published on this blog by Doublegenealogytheadoprionwitness are copyright © MarileeWein.com 2018-2019. All Rights Reserved 
1 The Hemmingsen Family Collection including “John O Hemmingsen / Mary Margaret Hemmingsen (Dickson)” authored 1999 by John Oliver Hemmingsen. All materials posthumously published here are copyright © Marilee Wein 2018-2019.  All rights reserved.
2 The Kofal-Dybedal-Hemmingson Family Collection at MarileeWein.com copyright  © 2019.
3 The Matt Hemmingsen Family Collection “Memoirs” at MarileeWein.com copyright © 2019

7 thoughts on “Hemmingson Homestead Photos: 1880s WI US vs. 1914 BC CA

  1. Like the photos, I thought it was you standing in period costume! ha ha Are you aware that there is a Hemmingsen park, a safety area for a Marbled Merlot near the Jordan River? (named after Matt). I have a picture of Lauren standing on the road Hemmingsen Main, once again near Jordan River along with a photo of Lauren holding Granny Hemmingsen’s father’s watch. It is in the Nanaimo Museum and stopped at the moment he was killed in the mine disaster.


    1. I think you refer to the watch of Nana’s father – see my post “Robert McArthur and Mary Hay Gray…” it shows the newspaper account of the watch – would have been fun to include Lauren. Murrelet and Marmots both awesome endangered! Glad Hemmingsen Park is looking after one of them


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