“A SOBER, cultured, industrious merchant of age 40 desires the acquaintance of respectable lady, object marriage. No objection to widow with one or two small children. Must be a lady I can love and respect. I am a native of Denmark and a Protestant. Will answer all letters and exchange photos. T Hansen 1025 K St. Eureka, Humboldt County, Cal”  Wheeling Intelligencer, December 7, 19031

These days, people looking for a date keep their search to a 15-mile radius. For those who use dating apps, the user has the ability to increase or decrease the search area on a whim. While it’s possible to search globally, the practicality of finding someone nearby makes an extended courtship period easier. 

Over 100 years ago, the distance between potential matches and the seeker seemed to matter less. When a “sober, cultured, and industrious” Danish immigrant new to Humboldt County, California decided it was time to settle down, he looked around and saw…no one. In turn, T. Hansen posted this matrimonial ad in the Wheeling Intelligencer. 

Why Wheeling? Well, it’s likely that this wasn’t the only paper this advertisement ran in. In the mid-1800s, the United States began to expand rapidly, made possible through territorial acquisition, wars, as well as the forced removal and murder of Indigenous Peoples.2 Suddenly the government was responsible for large tracts of land and enlisted the help of “homesteaders”3 to help them maintain their claim. Some of these homesteaders were lucky enough to undertake this move with a sweetie in tow, but most of the people heading west were single men. 

1910 Census listing T. Hansen and son.4

It’s unclear if T. Hansen’s search ended in a match. A widowed man of the same name, age, and country of origin appear on the 1910 census for Ferndale, California. The only other member of his household is a 17-year-old son. Ferndale is a short distance from Eureka, so if this is the same Hansen, he may have moved since the ad was placed. 

Well, you know what they say: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Even if this endeavor didn’t end in love and companionship for T. Hansen, it was about the journey, right? 

References

<1>1 Matrimonial Ad of T. Hansen, Wheeling Intelligencer, December 7, 1903

2 “Native Americans and the Homestead Act” National Park Service https://www.nps.gov/home/learn/historyculture/native-americans-and-the-homestead-act.htm

3 “The Homestead Act of 1862” National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/homestead-act#background

4 U.S. Census Bureau, 1910 Federal Census, Humboldt County, Pacific Township, District 0022

• Kate Wietor is an AmeriCorps member currently serving with Wheeling Heritage researching and writing historical content for Weelunk. Kate has a BS in Anthropology from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In her free time, you can find her lurking in antique stores, marveling at the resiliency of plants in the urban landscape, and enjoying the multitude of hand-painted signs around Wheeling.

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