Marie Dagmar Nielsen was born in 1875 in Denmark. Her mother died when she was 11 years old. When she finished her required 7 years of school at the age of 14, she was apprenticed in the delicatessen trade, learning to make sausage and cheese. She later had several housekeeping jobs and helped care for people who were sick.
In 1907, at the age of 32, she met Niels Gregers Nielsen. An excerpt from a letter written to my Grandmother by a cousin tells the story of how they came to meet. “Your father were home in Denmark for christmas 1907. He stayd by his father, and a couple of days he go to visit my parents. And there he said: “I must find a girl, I can take with me to USA” My mother said: “Your uncle have a housekeeper. Her name is Dagmar and she is a handsom girl.” Then your father said: “Well let’s go to take a look at Dagmar” !!! —and shortly they were married!”
A family legend tells the story of their engagement: “During their courtship, Niels & Dagmar walked to visit friends. They crossed an icy lake that was partially thawing. They slipped and Dagmar fell on top of Niels. “Dagmar wouldn’t let me up until I agreed to get married” he never stopped teasing her about that.”
One week after their marriage in February 1908, Niels and Dagmar departed for the USA, where Niels had previously worked for several years. They first lived in Wyoming where there was work for a blacksmith in the coal mines, and Dagmar took in boarders. Three little boys were born to them there, but the first two died in infancy.
In 1913, they moved to Washington State and tried their hand at farming, but Niels much preferred the work of a blacksmith, so Dagmar, who had some experience with animals, would milk 30 cows each day. She said that her arms would ache badly from the chore. As a gesture of appreciation, after delivering the milk to town one day, Niels brought home 6 flats of peaches, which she then had to can.
Their fourth child, my Grandmother Clara, was born in 1915.
They were somewhat successful on their farm, selling milk for high prices during WWI, and being able to pay off their mortgage. Then, during the Depression, when milk had little value, they sold eggs and chickens as their main source of income.
Dagmar enjoyed photography, knitting, and liked to play cards. She was known for her cooking skills and was a very good seamstress. She was a quiet person with a fun-loving personality, and always enjoyed a good joke.
She died in 1945 at 70 years of age.