Family of Mary Pierson Swenson (Olena Marie Olsdatter Songe)

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Nils Bersvendsen
<< married 1st
Olena Marie Olsdatter Songe
(Mary Pierson Swenson)
married 2nd >>
Nils Julius Hessler
aka Julius Russell Kuler



This site is dedicated to providing and soliciting genealogical information (photos, documents, stories, etc.) on the family of Mary Pierson Swenson. Mary was born in Norway as Olena Marie Olsdatter Songe and emigrated to America with her parents at the age of 15. Mary married twice after she emigrated to America, having two children in the first marriage and one child in the second marriage. The story of her second husband is complicated and although discussed briefly in the Biography section below, there is more information on this Nils Julius Hessler Family page.

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


Mary Pierson Swenson was 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. She was the second of eight children born to Ole Pedersen Songe and Anne Helene Olsdatter Flangeborg. On 17 Dec 1837, she was baptized in Tromøy kirke. Olena Marie grew up on the family farm. She was confirmed in Tromøy kirke on 18 Apr 1852.

Baptismal Record of Olena Marie Olsdatter Songe (Tromøy Ministerialbok nr.A4, 1837-1846, s.62, #4)
Confirmation Record of Olena Marie Olsdatter Songe (Tromøy Ministerialbok nr.A5, 1847-1856, s.146, #3)

At the age of 15, Olena Marie left Norway with her parents and six siblings to emigrate to America. They left Arendal on 10 Feb 1853 aboard the ship Victoria, arriving in New Orleans seven weeks later on 29 Mar 1853. The family then sailed from New Orleans to Galveston and boarded the steamer Jack Hays which took them up the Trinity River to a Norwegian settlement called Magnolia in Anderson County. From there, they traveled overland by wagon and walking to the Norwegian settlement of Brownsboro in Henderson County and then to Four Mile in Kaufman County where they stayed for three months. The family then left Four Mile for Dallas County were they stayed for 9 months.

The State of Texas was offering free land to attract settlers. Immigrants were encouraged by Cleng Peerson, the “Father of Norwegian Immigration to America”, to come to the Bosque River area where the Texas legislature was getting ready to create a new county (Bosque County was created on February 3, 1854). While the family was in Dallas, Mary's father Ole went to Bosque County looking for a new home. He looked for a location with wood and water. On November 8, 1853, Ole filed for preemption privileges on a piece of land along Gary’s Creek west of Norse. He chose the location for their home in a narrow valley because it “looked like Norway.” This was the first preemption in Bosque County. A preemption was a homesteading grant established by the State of Texas. From 1845 to 1854, individuals could claim 320 acres from the unappropriated public domain. If they lived on the land for three years and made improvements, they could file for a Patent and the land would be theirs. Ole built a small frame house and brought his family to Bosque County. He later built a larger rock house, which still stands, measuring 40 x 25 feet. It had two rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs. Porches ran the length of the house and the walls were 24 inches thick. Ole received a Patent for his land on December 15, 1859.

On July 4, 1854, the Mary's family went to a celebration held on a 60-acre tract of land that had been chosen to be the site of the new town of Meridian and county seat for Bosque County. Town lots were to be sold at a public sale, and the entertainment included a barbeque dinner and an address by Nicholas Battle, candidate for district attorney. Mary and her older sister Caroline were asked to carry the surveyor’s chain for George B. Erath, the county surveyor, as the last two lots were surveyed.

Mary married Nils Swenson on 22 Dec 1859 at the age of 22. They were married in the home of Ole Canuteson where Mary had been helping. Mary and Nils had two children, Clara Anne Swenson and Neil Marion Swenson. Nils died during the civil war (he had served for three years). Two stories concerning his death exist. One story says he was on furlough from the army and on his way home with Mr. Dahl when they ate some green apples they found. They were in Indian Territory, and he was so ill he died there. The other story says he became ill in the Indian Nation 50 miles north of the Red River. Mr. Dahl brought him to a hospital near Bonham where he died of typhoid fever after two days, five days after becoming ill.

Mary kept the farm after the death of her husband Nils Swenson. A good-looking debonaire man appeared in Clifton 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).

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)

On 19 Apr 1866, Mary married Nils Julius Hessler. To this union a son John was born. Before John was born, Mary found a letter and probably a picture that bore evidence of another living wife. Also, Mary’s father and Grandpa Berswen (father to her first husband) saw he drank excessively and would stay drunk much of the time. The climax of the letter showed he was crooked as well, and the fathers thought he was only after Mary’s money and land. 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 he 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 name of first husband. Hessler must have had very little if any property when he first appeared. Danna stayed on farm.

After Hessler left, old man O.A. Arneberg (buried in Norse cemetery but grave lost somehow) came to Mary’s and lived on there with the family for years. He had come from Hamar, Norway and stayed with Danna until John was about 10 years old. He was a gunsmith when he came from Norway. He worked for board and raised a few horses (had a few mares and sold colts). He was sort of handy man about house. Arneberg took John fishing when John was so small. An old man named Knute Skimland told Arneburg that he had talked to a man Hessler near Thorndale, and he had made the remark that he had seen his son John when John was 7 years old. Hessler had been by with a peddler and he told Skimland that he had been by and seen his son and gave him a little money purse. After the peddler left, old man Arneburg had remarked to Danna 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.

Mary was once visited by Indians when they came to the settlement. A number of people were killed and captured and horses were stolen.

Her Children

Mary had 3 children. The first two were with her first husband Nils Swenson. The third was with her second husband Julius Hessler who is believed to actually be Julius Kuler. Only two of the children (Clara and John) have descendants that are living today. Click on one of the children below to see further information on that child.


Clara Anne Swenson [1860-1848] married Jorgen Christian "Chris" Grimland; 4 children; died at the age of 88


Neal Marion Swenson [1863-1947] married twice (Josephine Marie Canuteson and Eli "Ella" Sinderud); 4 children with Josephine; died at the age of 83


John Emmanuel Swenson [1867-1957] married Mary Gelena Rea; 6 children; died at the age of 90

Swenson Family Tree

Syver Larsen and Kirsti Christensdatter had 9 children, 44 grandchildren, and 76 great-grandchildren. Those shown in red are known to be deceased.

Forebears First Generation
Second Generation
Third Generation
(great grandchildren)
Fourth Generation
(gg grandchildren)
Mary Pierson Clara Anne Swenson Marion Neal Grimland Yearn Christian Grimland David Dunagan Grimland
Joseph Ingval Gunirius Grimland Joseph Rush Grimland Joseph Rush Grimland Jr
Hattie Constance Grimland Robert Earl Price Elizabeth Lee Price
Beverly Price
Virgie Lee Price Tom Hancock Barker
Robert William Barker
Marie Louise Grimland J. Edgar Lumpkin Gail Clayton Lumpkin
Laurie Ann Lumpkin
Betty Marie Lumpkin Stacy Byrns Langston
Gay Carol Langston
Leslie Marie Langston
Lewis Edwin Langston III
Neal Marion Swenson Norma Kathleen Swenson --- ---
Jodie N____ Swenson --- ---
Marie Marguerite Swenson --- ---
Jay Neal Swenson --- ---
John Emmanuel Swenson Georgie Marie Swenson Esther Doris Anderson John Ansley Russell III
Rebecca Rea Russell
David Anderson Russell
Sarah Ann Russell
George Washington Anderson Jr Ellen Claire Anderson
Susan Lynn Anderson
Roger Haynes Anderson
Kristie Lee Anderson
Esther Kyle Swenson Virginia Marie Olsen Carol Ann Hubbard
Virginia Sue Hubbard
Jean Ellen Hubbard
John Barry Hubbard Jr
Annis Louise Olsen Bruce Lane Wiland
Jill Lynn Wiland
Carroll Emmanuel Swenson John David Swenson Christine Swenson
John David Swenson Jr
Ellen Kay Swenson
Wilma Gladyce Swenson Rea Mortimer Berry Kathleen Diane Berry
Rea Mortimer Berry Jr
John Andrew Berry
Barbara Ann Berry Mark Elwood Brown
Holly Lyn Brown
Barton Berry Brown
Kelly Lee Brown
Mamie Olena Swenson --- ---
John Glenn Swenson --- ---


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

John Swenson as a young man
(date unknown)

Clara, Neal, and John Swenson
(date unknown)