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How Did She Get to North America?

We're told that Hulda Christine Johnson emigrated via Gothenburg, Sweden to Hull, England, and then on to Canada. She rested up in Winnipeg. There Hulda and her sisters worked as house servants.

Eventually we find her in North Dakota where she may have followed the promise of an arranged marriage. Hulda is firmly knotted to Mike Anton Werner in the late 1910's in Wilton, ND.

Wilton was the home of the Washburn Lignite Coal Company; the most prosperous underground mining firm in North Dakota from 1900-1928. Washburn Lignite chose Wilton wisely. It was the site of the largest lignite coal mine in the world.

The mine eventually went through a change of hands. It was sold to the Otter Tail Power Company of Minnesota in 1928 and leased to the Truax-Traer Company of Minot in 1930. It closed in 1946 due to the development of new sources of energy but abandoned mines never really go away. North Dakotans continue to be reminded of their ghostly presence in the form of sinkholes and disappearing farm machinery.

Mining Slows Down and They Move On...

Hulda and Mike had at least four children in Wilton: Glenn, Bernice V., Sterling, and Harriet. In the early 1930's something other than goldenrod lured them to the prairies of Illinois. Earning one buck per ton of coal was just about average pay for a miner in the early part of the 20th century, but it was probably something more than a desire for better wages. For as yet unknown reasons, the lot of them packed up and headed for the Chicago area. Family photos from this period show their children (and Gerta's) living large on a farm. Stuart was born shortly after their move and Marianne, the youngest, was born at Cook County Hospital in 1933. 

One More Slice of North Dakota History...

McLean County's Wilton is also known as a "bedroom community to Bismarck". The county itself was named after John A. McLean (1849-1916); a merchant, stockman, and for a time the mayor of Bismarck. Click for more information on the winter home of Lewis and Clark or a photo of the early (1936) cabin of Teddy Roosevelt on the grounds of the State Capitol.