Catherine and Henning Nickelas Fransen

Henning Nickelas Fransen was born 1839 in Germany and died 1888- he is buried on his farm in Grant County, South Dakota- section 11 120 N 52 W Mazeppa 24. According to his grandson, he only lived six years after coming to America. The family story is that the spelling was originally with a “z” they changed it to an “s” as it was easier to write.

He married Katherina Hembling in Germany in 1865. She was born 11 November 1842 in Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark (now Germany). She died Sept 9th, 1930 in Summit, Roberts County, South Dakota. She is buried in Antelope Valley, Grant County, South Dakota.

The name Hembling shows up as Hemling and sometimes Hambling. Her grandson said the name was Hembling, and that is the way it is spelled in the records in

According to the 1900 census records and letter from grandson, Catherine immigrated in 1881 and settled in Grant County in 1882.  She also had a brother August C. who immigrated,  as well as a sister Margaretha Adolphsen. Catherine’s family came from  Schleswig-Holstein, and I assume Henning did as well. The history of Schleswig Holstein involves a long and complicated struggle between Danish and German rule.  Many young men left to avoid military service, and their families went with them. Low German or Danish was the language. My aunt says she remembers her Grandma Maggie telling her about high and low German. She remembers her Grandma getting letters from someone in Germany; she would translate them for the family, so apparently they still had family in the old country. She thought it was someone by the name of Blanche.

The website  is a good source of information on immigrants who left Schleswig-Holstein. Christian August Hembling, born 1855,  is accused of illegal immigration, listed as not showing up for military service, and reported to be living in America in 1878. His date of birth matches the date of birth of the August C. Hembling who is living in Farmington Township, Grant County, SD in 1900 and 1910. His parents are Christian August and Anna Carolina Elisa née Friedrichsen.

Catherine lives with her son Chris until she moves to town. Both she and Chris were naturalized in 1887, according to the 1920 census records. Kate and Mary Stoddard stayed with their Grandmother after their mother died, and after their father remarried they continued to live with her as indicated by the 1910 census, however Katie is living with her father and Rose in 1920.


Catherine and Henning had five children, all of whom must have been born in Germany.


Eliza M, born in 23 Sept 1866. She would have been 15 when she immigrated. She married George Bovee Stoddard in 23 March 1886 in Mazeppa Township, Grant County, SD.  He was a homesteader. She died 03 July 1892 in Mazeppa Township, Grant County, South Dakota and is buried in Antelope Valley, Grant County, South Dakota.  They had three children:



Albin, 1888-1965, who never married.



Kate 1889-1974   Married Philip LeRoy Steenberg 27 April 1922 in Summit, Roberts County, SD. He worked for the railroad for 30 years. They had three children.  



Mary (Mame)1891-1972, she died in San Pedro, Los Angeles, Ca.  Married Frank Alden Leffingwell in Summit, SD and had four children; one died at the age of 4 weeks. She was a teacher before she was married, she attended Normal, and she taught in Brown County, SD. Frank worked at the Sherman Hotel in Aberdeen.


Albin was 4, Katie was 3 and Mary was 1 when their mother died.

It is said that Eliza and George had an infant buried south of the farmhouse, it is not known if the baby was stillborn or died as an infant. Thelma Wartenbee remembered there were rocks around the grave, and flowers on the top.



Margaret (Maggie) Marie, born 05 March, 1870, died 19 Oct 1946 Summit, Roberts County, SD. She would have been 11 when they first came over. She married George Stoddard’s brother, Curtis DeEll, also a homesteader- they had four daughters:



Eugenia F 1891-1897- “The 5 year old daughter of Mr and Mrs Curt Stoddard of Mazeppa Twp died last Saturday and was buried Tuesday. The cause of her death was heart trouble and the little one was sick only a short time” Grant County Review 



Lizzie Jane 1893-1958- she was a teacher before she married Clem Pugh- She attended normal college and taught school in the Summit Community prior to marriage. They had 7 children, four still living.



Blanche Salome 1987-1977- she married Ray Pugh, they had five children- one still living. She and Ray are buried in Eureka Cemetery, Newport, Oregon.



Hazel Isabella 1905-1994. Also a teacher- she married Charles Fromke, another teacher that she met at Aberdeen Normal. She taught at Ortley and Mazeppa, and they both taught at Morristown, SD after they were married. They had two children. Their daughter Charlene Marie lived a year- from 1940-1941. 






Frank A. born 1872 and died 06 November 1937. He is buried in Hope Lutheran Cemetery in Summit South Dakota. He married Charlotte (Lot) Riley in 1894 and they farmed Section 30 121 N 51 West Farmington Township. They had 4 children:



Hazel Fern, born 1894- married George Leinen. They had five children.



Edgar Henning, born 07 Nov 1897- married Minnie Kettlehut in Roberts County,  they had three children.



Alvin (Snip), born 20 Apr 1900 b.; d. Jan 1975, Twin Brooks, Grant, South Dakota.  Married Myrtle Busk- they farmed Section 24 120 N 52 W Mazeppa 24. They had two children, Crissy and Charles.



Herbert (Hub) Fransen b. 1908 d. 17 Mar 1952.  Married Edna Gladys Peterson, in 1942 in Inglewood, California. She was a teacher in the Grant County area for years. They had two children.





Anna, born 1874 Anna did not make it to South Dakota. She died enroute and was buried in Ortonville, MN in 1881


Christian Henry, born 06 April 1878, died Jan 1963.  He is buried in Hope Lutheran Cemetery, Summit, South Dakota. He farmed Section 11 120 N 52 W Mazeppa 24. He married Elizabeth Elvira Wilson Shaffer, a widow who was born in Crow Wing County, MN, on 08 Aug 1933. She had a daughter Laura Jean who was born in 1930. They had four children together, all still living: