Thursday, October 29, 2015

Though he killed Rattlesnakes, he was Denied Citizenship

Johan Emmanuel Hansson, aka John Hanson, was the only grandfather I knew. (My Fonkert grandfather died five years before I was born.) Last week, I told the story of how a postmark from old family letters led me to my second cousin's home in Hyssna, Sweden, where a photo in my cousin's mother's photo album drove home the fact that Åke and I were, in fact, cousins.

Grandpa and Grandma Hanson lived in the small -- actually, tiny -- town of Tingley in Ringgold County, Iowa.I have fond memories of twice yearly visits to their small wood frame house along the main street of the town of perhaps 300 souls. My father was a teacher, so there was usually a summer trip to Tingley. At least several years, we also made the 200-mile trip from "North Iowa" to "Southern Iowa" on Thanksgiving Eve. Leaving after school on Wednesday, we usually made it just past Des Moines by the time "The Wizard of Oz" came onto the radio. Winding up and down the hills of Southern Iowa in the dark, I was terrified by the Wicked Witches. (Oh, I have no idea why the northern part of Iowa is called "North Iowa" and the southern part is called "Southern Iowa.")

John Hanson, circa 1920s
Grandpa was a gentle man. The two things I remember most about him in Tingley were his ancient Model-A Ford (maybe it was a slightly newer model, but I swear I remember him cranking it), his cigars, and his stories about killing rattlesnakes in his pasture. With a pitchfork, as I recall. He was an honest man.

Born in Hyssna, Sweden, in 1888, he worked on a farm across the road from his home. On our 1993 trip, a descendant of the farmer told me that Johan sold everything he owned to pay for his passage across the ocean in 1908, under the name Johan Emmanuel Månsson -- son of Måns Hansson. He had taken no food with him and his family worried he wouldn't survive the trip

Record of Departure from Hyssna Parish

Passengers leaving Göteborg
He did arrive and soon was crossing another ocean, this time of grass, on his way to Ringgold County, where Swedes were a novelty. He filed a declaration of intent for citizenship in February 1912.He went back to court in October 1915 to file his petition ("second papers") for citizenship. The judge rejected the petition in part because, in the judge's eyes, Johan/John had used an assumed name.  In a motion to dismiss the petition, the Chief Naturalization Examiner for the State of Iowa concluded that Johan/John's application "was not made in his full and true name as demanded by statute" and that Johan/John used "an assumed and fictitious name."  In response to a question, Johan/John had admitted "his true name in his native country was Manson." You see, my grandfather had chosen to use Hanson instead of the patronymic Månsson, just as his siblings back in Sweden had done about that time. Patronymics were going out of style, and no true American would use them.

S.S. Kensington Manifest, Arriving Quebec
To be fair, the judge also ruled that the required witnesses "must cover the full period of residence" and in this petition did not. Why not? Because John Hanson told the court that he had been gone from Iowa for two short periods, the first from August through October 1911 and the second from late July through October 1915. Why? To earn money helping with the wheat harvest in South Dakota.

I felt a deep sense of injustice when I read the file. He must have subsequently appealed and received his citizenship because the 1920 census stated he was a naturalized citizen and he later received a Social Security number. There should be court records to confirm this; I need to search for them.

Why did a 20-year-old young Swede go to Southern Iowa to live among English, Germans, and Americans? I will try to answer that question next week.

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