This article was set in motion when Karen and I were resetting and repairing a few of the small grave markers in the Layton Township Cemetery just a month ago. About six inches of a marker were exposed, while an unknown portion was buried. First, we dug the small stone from its resting place, then washed it with water, only to find no lettering whatsoever. There were some decorative designs on one side of the cement marker. A body was indicated as I used my dowsing wires. A trip was made to the genealogy room in the Walnut Library to identify the lot owner. The lot had been purchased by Thomas Jespersen in 1906. Research turned up a short obituary of a three- month-old Jespersen infant. We wanted to know more. We discovered multiple spellings of Jespersen; they were Jasperson, Jaspersen, and Jesperson.

Thomas Jespersen and Oline Larsen were married in Dronninglund, Hjørring, Denmark on February 27, 1906. Their first child, Peter M., was born in Denmark. The young married couple decided to emigrate to Walnut, Iowa where Oline’s brother, Jens Larsen, was living. Thomas, 22, Oline, 18, and Peter, 3 months, boarded the SS C. F. Tietgen and sailed from Copenhagen on July 19, 1906, arriving in New York on August 1, 1906. The young family arrived in Walnut, Iowa about August 10th. A terrible loss occurred on August 12th. The Walnut Bureau printed the following obituary in the August 17th issue: “Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Jasperson, who arrived here a week ago from Denmark mourn the loss of their three months old child whose death occurred Sunday, August 12th. Funeral on Monday the 13th. Interment in the Walnut Cemetery.”

The family had a second son Peter on March 25, 1908 and named him Peter Martinus. Thomas purchased the Wood Shop, formerly owned by C. N. Wilmarth, and ran the same ad from June to November, 1908. “I am prepared to do first class work reasonable prices. Please give me a trial. Thos. Jesperson.” In January 1909, G. C. Benson purchased the Thomas Jespersen wagon shop. A son, Herbert Christian Jespersen, was born in Walnut on December 14, 1909. The 1910 Federal Census lists Thomas as a mason. His advertisements in The Walnut Bureau from March 1, 1912 through January 1, 1920 were for cement work. The ads mentioned “sidewalks, caves and cisterns or anything you may desire in the cement line. All work guaranteed satisfactory.” One of his large projects was a contract with parties in the city of Adair, Iowa for the placement of 4,500 feet of sidewalks and gutters in 1915.

In May of 1912, Thomas and Oline purchased a four-room house and moved it onto his lots in the southwest part of Walnut and renovated it for his family. The family moved into the house in July. The following were born there: Helmer Valdemar on Aug. 11, 1913, Oda Marie on Nov. 8, 1915 and Olga Henriette on July 31, 1918. In 1919, Thomas decided to take up farming in Palo Alto County, Iowa. He moved their household effects during the latter part of the week of January 5, 1920. The family followed later.

The three children born in Palo Alto County were: Leona Kristine on June 29, 1920, Meta Eleanore on May 12, 1922, and Earl Thomas on Aug. 25, 1925. Twins, Norman Kenneth and Nora Rosetta, were born on Aug. 8, 1929 in Kenosha, Wisconsin after the family moved there. Norman died on Feb. 3, 1931 in Wisconsin. Funeral services were held in Walnut at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jens Larsen. Burial was in the Layton Township Cemetery, Walnut, Iowa where his grave shares a marker with brother Peter’s grave.

Oline Jespersen died on Dec. 7, 1971 and is buried in Racine, Wisconsin. Thomas Jespersen died on Oct. 12, 1973 and is buried in Racine, Wisconsin. JH