Fries Family

1730 - 1984

The Fries family (once Friis) came from Farsund, Norway. It is an old viking name and can also be found in Denmark. It’s also sometimes a name given to people from a province in the Netherlands called Friesland. Our family can be traced back in Norway to the mid-18th century so if they were once ever from the Netherlands, it was before this period. There may be a relation to clergyman and writer Peder Clausen Friis (1 April 1545 – 15 October 1614) since he lived in the same area as our Friis family but if the link exists, it has yet to be confirmed.

Our Friis branch begins with Jeremias Friis who origins are unknown until he married 30 year old Karina Nilsdatter (b. abt. 1730 in Herad) in Herad, Vest-Agder, Norway on July 27, 1760. Their son Hans Jeremiasson Friis was actually born 3 months earlier and baptized on April 15, 1760. This was not uncommon in Norway at the time; due to the nation's economic problems, men often could not afford to support a family and so a couple might have something of a common law marriage, having children together while the woman still lived with her parents until the man could find work.

Hans was born in Bolsøy, Møre og Romesdal, Norway which is quite a ways north of the county of Vest-Agder, where Karina was both born and married. The reasons for their relocations to and from Møre og Romesdal are unknown. Both are coastal counties and Jeremias was a sailor so it may have been that for a brief time, he could only find work in Møre og Romesdal.

Unfortunately, Hans never knew his father very well since Jeremias was lost at sea in 1767 when Hans was only about 7 years old.

Having settled in Vest-Agder, Hans was married in the town of Lista on September 27, 1781 when he was 21 years old to Anna Clausdatter who was 40 years old (having been born on March 17, 1741 in Lista) and the daughter of Claus Biornsen and Karen Frederiksdatter (married November 11, 1740 which means Anna was conceived before their marriage). Marrying a much older woman was also not unheard of in Norway at the time; due to the high death rates and economical problems, people probably could not afford to be picky about age. Not surprisingly though, Hans and Anna only had one known child together before Anna probably went through menopause. Their son, Jeremias Frederick Hanson Friis, was born in Farsund, Vest-Agder, Norway (a town not far from Lista) on February 10, 1785 and baptized 3 days later.

In 1801, the family was living on a farm named Fulland (which came from Hans’ mother’s family) in Herad,Vest-Agder and Hans was working not only as a farmer but also a blacksmith. Jeremias, though old enough to work by this point (he was 16 years old), appears to have been unable to work at the time due to health reasons. It must have been a temporary illness or injury since he goes on to marry, have children, and move to America later in his life. Someone with a permanent disability would never have been able to support a family.

Anna died on December 5, 1811 at the age of 70 and Hans remarried on February 11, 1819 to Gunnild Stilluvsdatter Hodeland but she unfortunately was killed by an avalanche before they had any children. By this point, the family had moved to Herad where Jeremias Frederick was also married on July 20, 1805 to Adele Bergitte Hansdatter (daughter of Hans Bernhardusen), born August 31, 1781, making her 24 years old and Jeremias 20. Their marriage resulted in five sons and one daughter:

  1. Hans (b. December 1, 1809)
  2. Jeremias Frederick Jr. (b. 1816)
  3. Niels Tobias (b. August 6, 1818)
  4. Gabriel Andreas Adams (b. September 29, 1820)
  5. Maren Kristine
  6. Berent Mathias (b. January 21, 1825).

It's likely Niels died young since there are no other records of him after his birth and baptism record. Maren's birth is questionable since some records say she was born around 1820 and others say 1806.

Hans Jeremiasson Friis died on February 25, 1834 in Herad at the age of 74.

Jeremias Frederick and his family immigrated to Wisconsin throughout the mid 1800's, eventually settling in a town called Norway. Our ancestor Gabriel was the first of the family to arrive in New York in 1844, initially settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His brother Hans then arrived in New York in 1847, carrying on to meet Gabriel in Milwaukee. In May of 1848, Jeremias and his wife Adele, along with their daughter Maren and her family (husband Andrew Ellertson) and sons Berent and Jeremias Jr and his wife Grethe, left Herad via Farsund and arrived in New York on July 19, 1848 upon the ship "Hercules". They settled in Norway, Racine County, Wisconsin.

On July 16, 1849, Gabriel was naturalized as a US citizen while living in Milwaukee but only a month later the family was struck by tragedy. Parents Jeremias and Adele succumbed to the cholera epidemic on August 9th and 15th respectively and were buried in the Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery in Wisconsin. There were three waves of the epidemic, one in 1849, 1850, and 1852. Prior to his death, Jeremias had been considered for a position in charge of a school being planned by Pastor Stub.

Gabriel was a sailor and in the fall of 1845, he bought a schooner named 'Florence' which was cut in half and rebuilt to twice it's original length. It was ready to sail on Lake Michigan by spring. He delivered lumber to Chicago, Milwaukee and Racine for John Roderman who had a sawmill in Milwaukee. During one of his deliveries in Chicago, he met a woman named Abelone Gundersdatter and on September 15, 1851, they were married there in Chicago. Abelone was born on October 7, 1825 in Lyngdal, Norway. The lived in Muskegon, Michigan until 1853 when they moved to a farm named ‘Skowen’ that Gabriel had bought earlier in the town of Norway, Wisconsin. Gabriel continued to sail while Abelone worked the farm until 1867 when the 'Florence' was wrecked in a storm off Walker's Point in Milawukee and Gabriel joined the farm full time.

Gabriel and Abelone had ten children in total:

  1. Eilert (b. May 26, 1853)
  2. Jeremias Frederick (b. May 26, 1853)
  3. Jeremias Frederick (b. July 7, 1854)
  4. Gilbert Adams (b. November 20, 1855)
  5. Adel DeAmelia (b. July 25, 1858)
  6. Emma Louise (b. October 27, 1860)
  7. Lewis Eilert (b. August 25, 1862)
  8. Gabriel Andreas Abel (b. February 18, 1865)
  9. Abelone Gardia (b. July 13, 1866)
  10. Anna Louisa (b. January 6, 1870).

There were a number of infant deaths in this family. Eilert died at birth and his twin Jeremias died as an infant a few months later. Emma Louise died at 9 months old and finally, Gabriel Andreas Abel died before he was 4 months old.

In 1860, the family appeared to share a home (which valued $1,500 in real estate) with a Swedish family by the name of Olson. One of the Olson's sons, Thomas, who was only 8 at the time, would grow up to marry Adel DeAmelia Friis. Gabriel's brother, Jeremias, lived with his family only two houses away.

In 1870, three individuals all born in the country of Norway lived with the Friis's: farm laborers Abram Johnson and Hans Erickson (34 years old) and a domestic servant Anna Johnson. Anna may have been Abram's daughter since he was 42 and she was 13.

Abelone smoked a clay pipe and when visiting other homes, would go into the fields with the man of the house to discuss the crops and smoke her pipe. People remember her walking to Waterford with her pipe. She liked the smell of cow manure so well that it is reported she dipped one corner of her handkerchief in it and carried it with her. Her favorite grandchild was Gabriel Jeremias Fries but she didn't care for her grandchild Arthur Abel Fries (both sons of Gilbert Adams Fries). When the boys had colds, she gave Gabriel sweets to suck on and Arthur got bad tasting medicine.

Gabriel died on April 11, 1870 of "consumption", now known as tuberculosis, when he was only 49. He is buried in Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery and his funeral was the first in the brick church. After his death, his wife Abelone continued to run the farm and was named official head of the household in the 1880 census, unusual for women in our family at the time who would normally move in with one of their children.

Four of her children still lived with her while she was head of the household, as well as a 24 year old servant named Julius Jacobson.

Abelone died 26 years after her husband, on August 22, 1896 when she was 70. She is also buried in Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery.

Gabriel and Abelone's son Gilbert Adams was born on November 20, 1855. It is with him that we see the name change from Friis to Fries, though the name is still frequently misspelled on censuses as "Freeze".

Gilbert married Julia Anna Larson on December 19, 1878 and they had eight children together:

  1. Gabriel Jeremias (b. Febuary 27, 1880)
  2. Arthur Abel (September 13, 1881)
  3. Alven Levi (b. March 1883)
  4. John Edmund (b. June 19, 1885)
  5. Lewis Eilert (b. October 26, 1888)
  6. Grace Juliana (b. January 8, 1891)
  7. Anna (b. August 15, 1893)
  8. Jeremia Morris (b. April 1, 1896)

Gilbert was a farmer all of his working life and never moved from Norway, Wisconsin. He died there on April 21, 1944 at 88 years old and is buried in Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery. His wife had died fourteen years previously on her birthday, February 26. She is buried in the same cemetery.

At some point, a short road was named after the Fries family. Fries Lane now cuts through what was originally the northern section of Gilbert's land, a large area against the west side of Wind Lake. This property was once owned by Gilbert’s father-in-law, John Larson. Presumably, John either gave or sold it to Gilbert upon his daughter’s marriage.

Julia and Gilbert's son Arthur Abel was born on September 13, 1881 in Waterford, Wisconsin, near Norway. In his 20's, he worked on his father's farm until sometime between 1910 and 1914 when he moved to Madison County, Alabama where he met Rachael Omega Smith. On October 29, 1914, when Arthur was almost 33 years old and Rachael was only 16, they married. By 1920, they had moved to Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania where Arthur was a nursery foreman. They had only two children:

  1. Arthur Abel Jr (b. 1915)
  2. Julia Lee (b. August 30, 1917)

Rachael was always a fun loving girl and she liked to get out of the house and have fun without Arthur, who was more interested in home life. Even after they had children, she would often leave Arthur to look after them at home while she went out with her friends. Sounds like the original girls night out! However, Arthur never seemed to mind and their marriage was a very solid one. Rachael also sometimes hosted parties at home and was a part of a Five Hundred Club, five hundred being a popular card game at the time, and the Barren Hill Card Club. Even Arthur got involved in the Bridge Club sometimes.

The family occasionally made trips to Wisconsin and Alabama to visit Arthur and Rachael’s families. Rachael remained close with her sister Kitty who also lived in the Philadelphia area and they and their children would sometimes vacation in Atlantic City.

By 1930, Arthur's in-laws, Robert Lewis and Matie Gertrude Smith were living with the family in their old age. In 1942, Arthur had moved to Mount Airy, Philadelphia, specifically on 7530 Boyer Street.

Arthur and Rachael's daughter Julia Lee was a beautiful, red-headed young woman with a creative mind. She genuinely believed she was from Venus and in her later years, she created several children’s stories about farm animals and sometimes insects. She grew up with the legend that her Mills family ancestry were related to Dutch royalty and when the Holland Tunnel connecting New York City to New Jersey was being built, in her youth she thought it was a tunnel leading to Holland instead. She fantasized that she would be the first one through when it was complete and welcomed there as a royal princess. When she was eight, she was awarded for her leaflets and posters for the daily vacation Bible School at the Lutheran church. When she was nine years old, she won a cake walk at a social event for the Ladies’ Auxiliary. A cake walk was a type of fun, recreational dance that began during in the south on plantations and grew in popularity through the rest of the country. In competitions, it was customary for the winner to be awarded a cake. In 1876 the winner of the cake walk at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition won an enormous cake. Up until the 1890’s, only men were allowed to perform the cake walk, which was also known as the prize walk, chalkline walk, and walkaround. The terms ‘cakewalk’ and ‘piece of cake’ to refer to an easy task, as well as ‘takes the cake’ to refer to the best of the bunch, are all derived from the dance and the custom of awarding the winner with a cake.

As a teenager, she was involved in her Barren Hill Consolidated school plays and enjoyed hiking with her friends. As an adult, she worked in the office of the Philadelphia Baking Company. By 1936, she was dating her future husband, Chester Harold Godshall, although they didn’t married for nearly another ten years on July 4, 1945 in Grace Lutheran Church, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. See the Godshall Family Chapter for more information on their married life.

Rachael always loved babies and when her grandchildren came along, she liked nothing more than to babysit. She would take the children for a day or week or as long as she could. She was of invaluable help in looking after her daughter Julia's first born child and helping with the housework nearly every weekend. The grandchild loved being at their grandmother's house just as much as she loved having them there.

Arthur Abel died on June 24, 1968 when he was 86 years old. He died in Upper Darby Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania but is buried in Whitemarsh Memorial Cemetery, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

After the death of her husband in 1968, Rachael moved in with her daughter's family, the Godshalls. Her granddaughter, (name removed for privacy), is named after her and has fond memories of her grandmother's time in the Godshall home. Rachael Omega died on March 24, 1984 at the age of 85. She died in Roslyn, Abington Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania but she is buried in Whitemarsh Memorial Cemetery.

© Robin Bauer 2010-2013



Fries Photos and Documents

Gabriel Andreas Adams Fries

Men, left to right: J.F. (Jeremias Frederick) Fries and Gilbert A. Fries. Women, left to right: Magy Spellum Fries, Abelone Fries (nee Gundersdatter), Adel Olson, Julia Anna Larson Fries. Children (on laps), left to right: Bessie, Anna Olson, Amos Olson, John. Children (front row), left to right: Lyman, Gabie, Alvin, Arthur A., "Gabie J." (Gabriel Jeremias)

Gilbert Adams Fries as a young man.

Gilbert Adams Fries as an old man.

Arthur Abel Fries Sr.

Rachael Omega Fries (nee Smith) with her two children, Julia Lee and Arthur Abel Jr.

Julia Lee Fries, about 17 years old.

A Google Street View image of Herad Parish church in Herad, Norway.

Google Street View image of Farsund church in Farsund, Norway.

Google Street View image of Vanse Parish church in Norway.

1887 land ownership map of 1887 overlaid onto Google maps - though it doesn’t align exactly, the properties of Abelone and her son Gilbert Fries (and his father-in-law) are outlined in red.