Family of Niels Julius Hessler aka Julius Russell Kuler

Niels Julius Hessler aka Julius Russell Kuler [1833-1903]
1st union
2nd union
married 1857
3rd union
4th union
married 1866
5th union
married 1879
Maren Andrea Larsdatter
Anne Marie Müller
Anne Larsdatter
Olena Marie Olsdatter Songe
(Mary Pierson Swenson)
Kate Elizabeth Rogers
photo photo photo photo photo
1 child 3 children 1 child 1 child 5 children



This page is dedicated to providing and soliciting genealogical information (photos, documents, stories, etc.) on the family of Nils Julius Hessler aka Julius Russell Kuler. Julius is a complicated person and somewhat of a scoundrel. He had children with five different women. Unraveling his life has been a challenge for his descendants with his life compartmentalized into what seems to have been four basic time periods:

1) his early life in Norway/Europe from his birth in 1833 until his departure to America around 1859 (about 33 years)
2) his early life in America including California from his immigration around 1859 until his departure to Texas around 1866 (about 7 years)
3) his early life in Texas from his arrival in Bosque County, Texas until he was sent away by his wife Mary, my great grandmother in 1866 or 1867 (a period of less than a year)
4) his later life in Texas (in which he changed his name) from his departure from Bosque County to the end of his life (about 36 years)

For 40+ years about the only thing I knew of him was from his early life in Texas. Briefly, Julius married my widowed great-great grandmother Mary Pierson Swenson in Bosque County, Texas in 1866. She had two young children at the time and was soon pregnant with his child. Shortly after becoming pregnant, she learned that he had a "secret side" to his life. Because of this and other reasons that will be discussed later, she sent him away before my great grandfather John was born.That was basically the last time anyone in my family heard from him. Mary took back the last name of her deceased husband, and the marriage to Julius was not talked about after that. It was as if he had not existed.

At some point in my genealogical research, I uncovered the existence of Julius but knew very little other than the record of the marriage. My great aunts did not want to talk about it. A number of years ago, I discovered some notes of my grandmother Esther Swenson Olsen in which she had interviewed her father John in 1954. It shed a little more light on the marriage. Then, I found some notes indicating that she had decided to find out what had happened to her long-departed grandfather Julius.She believed she had tracked him down to the town of Bartlett in Williamson County, Texas. I'm not sure how she accomplished this, but she apparently spoke to several of his relatives there. I'm not sure if they were in agreement that Julius Hessler and Julius Kuler were the same person, but nothing more came of it at the time.

Well, that was about all I knew until I was reading through the book Norge i Texas by Derwood Johnson in 2002 and ran across an entry for Julius Keeler which was very similar to Julius Keeler. I asked Derwood if knew any more about this family, but he did not. In 2006, Janet van Heyst was researching her great grandfather Julius and sent Derwood Johnson an email inquiring if he had additional information. Derwood forwarded the email to me, and I contacted Janet. Janet and I discussed the possible link, but we really had no other information at the time than just a little anecdotal evidence. I published a little about what I knew of Julius on my Swenson webpage.

Then on September 16, 2019, Steve Heimerle of San Francisco contacted me and said that one of his Norwegian cousins who was a great grandson of Julius had seen my webpage and wondered about the connection. Steve along with cousins Roland Sannes in Norway, Knut Lindelöf in Sweden, and Norman Hessler in Scotland had been researching Julius for years but had hit a roadblock after his disappearance from California in 1866. Steve and I corresponded and with the information he was able to provide and some that Janet van Heyst has supplied, we believe that we can conclude, and least to our satisfaction that the Neils Julius Hessler from Norway and Calfornia, the Nils Julius Hessler from Bosque County, Texas, and the Julius Russell Kuler from Brazoria and Williamson County are one and the same person.

Much of the biography and evidence below comes from information provided to me by Steve Heimerle, the European cousins (Roland Sannes, Knut Lindelöf, Norman Hessler) through Steve, and Janet Van Heyst. Please be patient as I add more information over the coming days and weeks.

Additions and corrections to the information contained within are always welcome by contacting Bruce Wiland (, 512-443-2918, 1510 Oxford Ave, Austin TX).


Early Life in Norway/Europe

Niels Julius Hessler was born on 03 Nov 1833 in Skien, Telemark, Norway and baptized on 10 Jan 1834. His given name in the church records is "Niels Julius" although he seems to have gone by Julius most of his life and Neils is sometimes spelled as Nils.

Baptismal Record of Niels Julius Hesler (Skien Ministerialbok nr.A5, 1814-1843, s.58, #1)
Baptismal Record of Niels Julius Hesler (Skien Klokkerbok nr.2, 1814-1842, s.573, #1)
Confirmation Record of Niels Julius Hesler (Skien Ministerialbok nr.6A, 1843-1856, s.189, #6)
Confirmation Record of Niels Julius Hesler (Skien Klokkerbok nr.4, 1843-1867, s.185, #6)

Julius was the third child of eight born to Johan Johansen Hessler and Dorthe Marie Nilsdatter:

1) Carl Edvard (1829-af1949) - emigrated to America in 1849
2) Johan "John" (1831-1878) - emigrated to America sometime before 1864
3) Niels Julius (1833-1903) - emigrated to America sometime before 1864
4) Gunda Sophie (1836-1858) - married Ole Isaksen
5) Bernhard Invald (1838-1870)
6) Johanne Marie (1841-1848) - died young
7) Theodore Martin Luther Joachim (1836-1858) - emigrated to America in 1868
8) Gottfried Oskar (1845-1905) - remained in Norway
9) Georgina Aletta Hansen (1846-1908) - she was a foster child (pleiebarn)

More to be written here but for now read these:

Chapter 9 on Nils Julius Swenson from a booklet by Steve Heimerle (it was written in 2011, so some information may be in need of updating/correcting as a result of new discoveries)

Blog on Anne Marie Müller (in Swedish) by Knut Lindelöf (link) and an English translation, such as it is, using Google Translate (PDF)

Early Life in America and California

Anecdotal evidence and family stories indicate that Julius and his brother John probably emigrated to America together in 1858 although no ship record as been found yet. Their brother Carl Edvard had already emigrated to America in 1849, and perhaps they came to visit him. However, there is no record of Carl Edvard after his emigration to America.

A family story told by Janet Van Heyest, a great granddaughter from Julius's fifth family, says that the two brothers came here on a tour of the country. They ran through their money and were in New York awaiting passage back to Europe (or more money) when the news came of the California gold mines, and they headed to California. This story may well be true because John is in the 1860 census living in Mariposa County, California as a shoemaker although Julius is nowhere to be found in this census. However, the 1900 census record for Julius indicates that he emigrated in 1858.

Julius was a painter in California and sometime concert manager as evidenced by the folloing newspaper advertisements. Julius's last advirtisement ran on 03 Mar 1866, and he must have left California shortly thereafter.

Hessler's Location in California
(click image to enlarge)

Ball/Concert Advertisement
Mariposa Free Press
Mariposa CA 15 Oct 1864
(click image to enlarge)

Painting Advertisement
Mariposa Gazette
Mariposa CA, 29 Oct 1864
(click image to enlarge)

Painting Advertisement
Mariposa Gazette
Mariposa CA, 15 Jul 1864
(click image to enlarge)

Painting Advertisement
Mariposa Free Press
Mariposa CA 03 Mar 1866
(click image to enlarge)

This is basically all we know of Julius's time in California.

Early Life in Texas and Bosque County

[Note: much of the following information comes from interview notes of John E. Swenson by his daughter Esther Swenson (Olsen) in 1954.]

Julius seems to have arrived in Texas in the early part of 1866. Mary Pierson Swenson, born as Olena Marie Olsdatter Songe on 16 Nov 1837 at Songe gård in what is now Arendal kommune in Aust-Agder fylke in Norway, had become a widow three years earlier when her first husband Nils Swenson died while coming home on furlough from the Civil War. She had two young children, Neil and Clara, and a farm to run. Julius Hessler, a good-looking debonaire man appeared in Bosque County and began to court her. This Nils Julius Hessler was from Skien, Telemark, Norway but spoke several languages and was a musician (especially with a violin). If Julius left California around March of 1866, this must have been quite a whirlwind romance. On 19 Apr 1866, Mary and Julius were married by Justice of the Peace J. W. Fields in Bosque County.

Marriage License of Julius Hessler and Mary Swenson
Bosque County (1866)
(click image to enlarge)

To this union a son, John Emmanuel, was born. However, before John was born, Mary found a letter and probably a picture that bore evidence of another living wife. Also, Mary’s father Ole Pierson and Grandpa Berswen (father to her first husband) saw that Julius drank excessively and would stay drunk much of the time. They felt that the letter showed he was crooked as well, and the fathers thought he was only after Mary’s money and land. Hessler must have had very little if any property when he first appeared. Both fathers told him he must leave (they first told him it would be over if he got drunk again). They along with Mary felt Julius must go. It was reported that Mary gave him a pony, $100, and he took his fiddle (minus the case which his son John later got). Then Mary went to Judge Helton at Meridian and took back the name of her first husband. It is not clear whether there was a legal divorce, some sort of annullment, or just a name change. If Julius was divorced from his first wife Anne Marie before the marriage in Bosque County, then Mary may have still been legally married, even though she changed her married name back to Swenson.

After Hessler left, old man O.A. Arneberg came to Mary’s farm and lived there with the family for years. He had come from Hamar, Norway and stayed with Mary until John was about 10 years old. He worked for board and raised a few horses. He was sort of handy man about the house. Arneberg took John fishing when John was small. An old man named Knute Skimland told Arneburg that he had talked to a man Hessler near Thorndale,Texas, and he had made the remark that he had seen his son John when John was 7 years old. Hessler had been in Bosque County with a peddler, and he told Skimland that he had been by the farm and seen his son and gave him a little money purse. After the peddler left, old man Arneburg had remarked to Mary that that man with the peddler sure looked like Hessler, but he never revealed his identity at the time. This was the last report of Hessler in Bosque County and the last and only time John E. Swenson would have seen his father Julius.

Later Life in Texas as Julius R. Kuler

When Julius left Bosque County, it is not clear where he went because we have not found a 1870 census record for him. However, we have found two "Certificates of Intent" to become an American citizen, one in 1871 and one in 1872, both filed in Galveston, Texas. The "Petition for Naturalization" which is the final step in becoming a citizen has not been found, but the 1900 census indicates that he was a naturalized citizen.

County Locations of Julius in Texas
(click image to enlarge)

Julius von Kuler
1871 Certificate of Intent
(click image to enlarge)

Julius Kuler
1872 Certificate of Intent
(click image to enlarge)

By then he had changed his last name to Kuler and taken a middle name of Russell. Thus, he was now know as Julius Russell Kuler. It is not exactly clear from where this name derived, but Julius's great granddaughter (Janet van Heyst) said that her aunt told her that her husband had said that the kaiser of Germany had given the family the title von Kuhler (changed to Kuler over here) for something that they had done. It is unknown whether that information is true or not or whether it is an exaggeration of something that really did happen. It does seem clear that the family of Julius had some ties with royalty in Europe.

Julius apparently settled near or in Columbia in Brazoria County by 1879 where he met and married Kate Elizabeth Rogers on 26 March 1879. Julius had five children with Kate, two of which were born in Brazoria County. He continued his profession as a painter as evidenced by his occupation in the 1880 and 1900 census and an 1881 and 1882 newspaper advertisement. Another family story related to Janet van Heyst by her aunt is that Kate's father thought that Kate had married beneath her station because Julius was not a very good farmer. However, he does appear to have been a Justice of the Peace in Brazoria County in 1881.

Julius R. Kuler Family
1880 Brazoria County TX Census
(click image to enlarge)

Painting Advertisement
The Independent, Brazoria TX, 15 Apr 1881
(click image to enlarge)

Mentioned as Justice of the Peace
The Independent, Brazoria TX, 26 Aug 1881
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Advertisement Advertisement
The Independent, Brazoria TX, 24 Nov 1882
(click image to enlarge)

Sometime between 1882 and 1886, Julius, Kate, and their two youngest sons moved from Columbia in Brazoria County, to Bartlett in Williamson County TX. The last three sons were born in Bartlett. At one time, Julius was reportedly the mayor of Bartlett. 

Julius R. Kuler Family
Bartlett, Williamson County TX (ca 1894)
[Photo courtesy of Janet van Heyst ]
(click image to enlarge)

Julius R. Kuler Family
1900 Williamson County TX Census
(click image to enlarge)

Julius died on March 27, 1903 in Bartlett TX at the age of 68 after having led a long journey and a lustful life. He had sired 11 offspring, many of which did not know the existence of their siblings.

J.R. Kuler Dead.

Mr. J.R. Kuler, a pioneer citizen of Bartlett died at his home here on March 27th, age 68 years. He was interred in the Bartlett cemetery. He had been in poor health for several months. Mr. Kuler was formerly engaged in mercantile business here and consequently was well known to all the old citizens. He was a native of Norway, but came to America in early life. He was a fine musician and a man of scholarly attainments. The remains were laid to rest in Bartlett cemetery Saturday afternoon. The Tribune extends sympathy to the bereaved wife and children.

Julius R. Kuler Gravestone
Bartlett Cemetery
Obituary from The Bartlett Tribune, Bartlett TX, Vol. 17, No. 50, Ed. 1, Friday, April 3, 1903

Are Neils Julius Hessler and Julius Russell Kuler the Same Person? Judge for Yourself.

Neils Julius Hessler was born on 03 Nov 1833 according to the baptismal record in Norway.
Julius Russell Hessler was born on 03 Nov 1835 according to his gravestone. However, 1900 census gives his birth as Nov 1833. The gravestone is probably in error about his birth year.

Look at the similarities of the Julius Hessler painting advertisement from Mariposa, California in 1864.
Look at the similiarities of the Julius Kuler painting advertisement from Brazoria County, Texas in 1881.

Advertisement in The Mariposa Gazette
Mariposa CA, 29 Oct 1864
(click image to enlarge)

Advertisement in The Independent
Brazoria TX, 15 Apr 1881
(click image to enlarge)

Although taken some 30+ years apart, compare their photos. They have very similar facial features.

Why Julius chose to change his name to Kuler or von Kuler is still a mystery. Julius was supposedly educated at least partly in Germany. Janet Van Heyst, his great granddaughter, says that an aunt told her that the kaiser of Germany had given the family the title von Kuhler (changed to Kuler over here) for something that they had done. There is still more to Julius's story to unravel.



His Children

Julius had 11 children (that we know of). If there is a link for the child below, click on it to see further information on that child.

Children with Maren Andrea Larsdatter


Julie Marie Juliusdatter [1857-1939] married Anton Olsen and others; children; lived to the age of 82
Children with Anne Marie Müller


Dorthe Marie Hessler [1858-1858] died young; lived 19 days


Jacob Kruse Müller Hessler [1859-1938] married twice (May Bastow and Christiane Johanne Andersen); 1 child with May; 4 children with Christiane; lived to the age of 79


Charlotte Catharine Amalie Hessler [1863-1947] married John Oscar Lundwall; 8 children; lived to the age of 90
Children with Maren Andrea Larsdatter


Herman Juliussen [1861-1940] married twice (Josephine Marie Canuteson and Eli "Ella" Sinderud); 4 children with Josephine; lived to the age of 78
Children with Oline Marie Olsdatter Songe (Mary Pierson Swenson)


John Emmanuel Swenson [1867-1957] married Mary Gelena Rea; 6 children; lived to the age of 90
Children with Kate Elizabeth Rogers


Julius Russell Kuler Jr [1880-1927] married Lena M. Olsen; 1 child; lived to the age of 46


James Speir Kuler [1881-1970] married Henrietta Antoinette Hempel; children?; lived to the age of 88


Oscar Godfred Kuler [1886-1971] married Effie Lee Bowling; 3 children; lived to the age of 84


Grover Cleveland Kuler [1888-1952] married Marquerite Isaac; children?; lived to the age of 63


Marcus Oliver Kuler [1890-1920] married Mary Gelena Rea; never married?; lived to the age of 29

Hessler-Kuler Family Tree

Julius had 11 children, 32 grandchildren, and 38 great-grandchildren (by current count). Those shown in red are known to be deceased.
--- indicates that they did not have any offspring;      ??? indicates that it is not known whether they had offspring;      (a) indicates adopted

The relationship between those in the First Generation is as siblings.
The relationship between those in the Second Generation is as siblings or first cousins, depending on the family unit.
The relationship between those in the Third Generation is as siblings, first cousins, or second cousins, depending on the family unit.

Forebears First Generation
Second Generation
Third Generation
(great grandchildren)
Niels Julius Hessler Kuler Julie Marie Hesler Henny Elizabeth Samuelsen ???
Henny Matilde Hansen Vik ________ Gustavsen
Karl Johan Vik Gustavsen
Erna Gustavsen
Bjørg Gustavsen
________ Gustavsen
________ Gustavsen
Gjertine Karoline Hansen ???
Dorthe Marie Hessler --- ---
Jacob Kruuse Müller Hessler Daisy Jane Hessler Alan Kirk
Geoffrey Kirk
Jacob Andrew Norman Hessler ???
Signe Vera Hessler John Richard White
Christopher Norman Hessler White
Jacob Kruse Muller Hessler ???
Charles Anderson Hessler Norman Hessler
Charlotte Catharine Amalie Hessler Oscar Jacob Lundwall ---
John Percy Lundwall John Lundwall
Inga-Karin Lundwall
Lars Lundwall
Maria Eurika Lundwall ???
Celine Charlotte Lundwall ---
Kitty Lundwall ---
Harald Lundwall ???
Gilbert Lundwall ???
Connie Lundwall ________ __________
Herman Juliussen Jennie Annora Juliussen Torger Hagen
Herman Gotfred Hesler Øistein Hesler
Guttorm Hesler
Reidar Hesler
Kari Bjørg Hesler
Øisten Leo Juliussen ---
Liv Juliussen ---
Oskar Emil Juliussen ---
Herman Juliussen Torbjørn Asgeir Juliussen
John Emmanuel Swenson Georgie Marie Swenson Esther Doris Anderson
George Washington Anderson Jr
Esther Kyle Swenson Virginia Marie Olsen
Annis Louise Olsen
Carroll Emmanuel Swenson John David Swenson
Wilma Gladyce Swenson Rea Mortimer Berry
Barbara Ann Berry
Mamie Olena Swenson ---
John Glenn Swenson ---
Julius Russell Kuler Jr Russell Julius Keeler (a) Russell Lee Keeler
David Lee Keeler
Kenneth Lee Keeler
Bruce Lee Keeler
James Speir Kuler --- ---
Oscar Godfred Kuler Oscar Godfred Kuler Jr Klarice Kuler
Merrily Kuler
Mary Elizabeth Kuler Janet Suzanne Gentry
Jeanne Elizabeth Gentry
Ruth Charlotte Kuler Carol Ruth Ashford
Elmo Roy Ashford Jr
Grover Cleveland Kuler --- ---
Marcus Oliver Kuler James Oliver Kuler William James Kuler
Sue Nell Kuler


Nils Julius Hessler as a young man
(date unknown - ca 1857-1860?)
(click image to enlarge)

John Swenson as a young man
(date unknown)
(click image to enlarge)

Julius R. Kuler Family
Bartlett, Williamson County TX (ca 1894)
[Photo courtesy of Janet van Heyst ]
(click image to enlarge)