Select Peterson Miscellany

Here are some Peterson stories and accounts over the years:

Petersons, Petersens, and Pedersens

The following are the approximate number of Petersons, Petersons, and Pedersens in the English-speaking world today. 

Numbers (000's)

    22          8
New Zealand

There is also Pietersen, an Afrikaan name, that was brought to South Africa by the Dutch.

John Peterson and Family in Edinburgh in 1861

In the 1861 census, the Peterson family were recorded as living at 25 Buccleuth Place, St. Giles Edinburgh. John Peterson had been born in Walls, Shetland and had moved to Edinburgh in 1828 to start a grocer's shop in Leith.

The family in 1861 was as follows:

John Peterson, aged 45
Grace M.A. Peterson, aged 36, his wife
Annie Peterson, aged 15
Peter Peterson, aged 14
Barbara M. Peterson, aged 9
Magnus Peterson, aged 6
William Peterson, aged 4
Alexander A.G. Peterson, aged 3
Franklin S. Peterson, aged one month
Mary Douglas, aged 24, servant.

Peter and William went on to have distinguished academic careers.  William's son Maurice was a noted British diplomat in the inter-war years.

Atley Peterson in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin

Atley Peterson was often described as the person who did more to promote the early growth and general welfare of the village of Soldiers Grove than any other man.  He had been born in Norway in 1847 and had come with his parents to America as a young boy.

In 1869 he established the village’s first post office.  He owned a store, sawmill, and a lumberyard in the village.  He was also a farmer and he won first prize for the best tobacco grown in Wisconsin in 1907.  And he was co-owner of the electricity plant which enabled Soldiers Grove to be the first village in the Kickapoo Valley to have electric lights.

Peterson built his residence in the village on Pine Street in 1896.  The main floor boasted large elegant rooms and there were rooms for each of the six children on the second floor.  The top floor housed the servants’ quarters.  The house stayed in the Peterson family until 1946.  It has now been transformed it into a bed-and-breakfast that is still redolent of the Victorian era.

A Tragic Accident in Adams County, Nebraska

James Peterson and his family lived in a farmhouse near Hastings.  The November 17, 1909 Hastings Republican told this terrible story.

"The Peterson's home which lies about 11 miles southwest of Hastings near the county poor farm was the scene of a most horrible accident yesterday.  A shot gun in the hands of a farm hand was accidentally discharged, the entire charge literally blowing the head off the 3-year-old son, Lloyd, who was standing near, scattering the brains and portions of flesh all about on the walls, ceiling and floor. 

The facts are as follows: Mr. Peterson had been hunting the day before and had set the gun down in a corner of the kitchen.  The hired man picked the gun up to examine it and in raising the hammer his fingers slipped off and when the hammer dropped the gun was discharged.  All members of the family - father, mother and two other children - were witness of the dreadful tragedy.  The father and mother are almost crazed with grief. 

Undertaker Livingston called in the case said that he had never looked upon a more sickening and heart-rending scene.  He said that the walls and ceiling in the room were all spattered with brains and blood."  Elizabeth Kleier, the closest neighbor, has told of hearing the shot and the anguished mother's screams."

William Petersen and His Vise Grip Locking Pliers

William Petersen came to America from Denmark just after the turn of the century.  He tried his hand at farming, but he was in incurable inventor.  At one time, he even tried to build and sell early motorcars.  Each of those enterprises failed.  In the early 1920's, he arrived in Nebraska and opened a blacksmith shop.

At some point, he realized his job would be a lot easier if he had a set of pliers that would clamp down and hold the piece of metal he was working on "in a vise-like grip."  He figured out that a screw mechanism in the handle could adjust the opening of the pliers.  Later, he figured out a way for the other handle to lock it in place. He built several prototypes, first out of cardboard and then wood.  Finally, he hammered one out of metal on his forge.  It worked.

He got his first patent for a primitive version in 1921.  The patent for the locking lever was issued in 1924. He built an inventory and starting selling the Vise-Grip Pliers out of the trunk of his car to farmers and mechanics in the surrounding towns.  Gradually, he built a business.  In spite of hard times, the tool was popular.  The Petersen Manufacturing Company was formed in 1934.  Yet it wasn't until 1938 that they opened their first official manufacturing plant in a defunct drug store in Dewitt.  That first plant had a staff of 37.

This plant lasted for seventy years until it was closed in 2008 and production moved to China.  There remains a local historical museum.

Petersons in Northern Manitoba

The Peterson family has been a fixture on Reed Lake in northern Manitoba for more than 80 years; and the history of Peterson's Reed Lake Lodge goes back nearly as far.

Perhaps the most famous and definitely the most colorful member of this family has been Corky Peterson, a second-generation Peterson who was born in a primitive cabin on the north end of Reed Lake.  Now in his mid-70's, Peterson still spends most of his time at Reed Lake.

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