Mabel Thompson (an unknown aunt)

In the 1920 census, my grandparents, Pearl and Sam Thompson, are listed as living in Irving Township, just to the west of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. My grandfather was making his living as a farmer, and by then all of their children except Ellen (Dottie) had been born.

But there was one other child in the household whose name I had never seen before: Mabel Thompson, a daughter, four months old. However, she does not appear in the 1930 census or thereafter. The only reasonable conclusion seemed to be that she was a previously unknown aunt who had not lived to adulthood.

So who was Mabel, and what happened to her? After a good deal of searching, the only Mabel Thompson (of the right age) I could find in any later Wisconsin census reports was a girl by that name, nine years old, living in 1930 as a boarder in the household of Alvin A. Olson, a farmer in Oregon Township, Dane County, Wisconsin, just west of Stoughton. She is described as attending school, yet she could not read or write. (That struck me as an unusual combination: Mental impairment, perhaps? Blindness? Deafness?)

With some further investigation, I discovered that Alvin Olson’s sister, Ella Elisa Olson, was married to Elmer Alvin Sperloen, the son of Erik E. Sperloen and Sena Peterson (the latter being Sam Thompson’s cousin). So the tentative conclusion I’ve reached is that Mabel (apparently physically or mentally handicapped) proved to be too great a burden for my grandparents, who were extremely poor and had seven other children, and was sent off to be raised on a farm owned by a distant relative of Sam Thompson. (He himself had been born and spent his childhood near Stoughton.)

After 1930 Mabel Thompson disappears from all records: it seems likely that she died young. For some reason, her name was seldom if ever mentioned to Sam and Pearl’s grandchildren. Certainly I never heard of her when I was growing up. (Another Thompson family mystery.)

[Thanks to Pat Koukal for help in uncovering the story of Mabel’s short life.]

* * *

Just for the record, here are two newspaper clippings about Alvin and Velma Olson, in whose home Mabel lived for a number of years:

Wisconsin State Journal, 23 February 1961, p. 8.

Janesville Daily Gazette, 15 January 1968, p. 2.

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