52 Ancestors #4: Maria Arnold
Maria (Mary) Arnold was born to Johan and Anna (Oberding) Arnold on May 2, 1884, in Hungary.1
Maria arrived at the Port of Baltimore aboard the S.S. Neckar on May 3, 1903, in the company of her stepfather, Johann Schwarz (Schwartz).2 She and Johann left Bremen, Germany, on April 18, 1903. After more than two weeks en route, with the attendant overcrowding and seasickness of steerage class passage and nagging uncertainty about their future, they were probably very glad to set foot on dry land again.
According to the ship’s manifest, Johann and Maria were continuing to Dickinson, North Dakota, to join their friend Ernst (Ernest) Biel. The manifest further reveals that Johann and Maria’s previous residence was Dolatz, Hungary, and that each of them paid their own passage. Johann’s stated occupation is farmer; Maria’s occupation is servant. It’s likely they traveled by train from Baltimore to Dickinson, but I don’t have specific information about that or the route they took.
An online database of early 20th century Stark County, North Dakota, marriages3 shows that Ernest Biel (age 27)4 and Mary Biel (age 19) were married on May 25, 1903. According to Maria’s obituary, she and Ernest were married on June 7, 1903.5 Either way, in just a few weeks, Maria traversed an ocean and three quarters of a continent to the mostly raw, untamed frontier of early 1900s North Dakota and, almost immediately married a man nine years older than she was.
Did Ernst and Maria know one another before Maria arrived, or was it an arranged marriage? Lacking diaries or other personal accounts, it seems most likely it was an arranged marriage between children of people who knew one another in Hungary. Ernst was born in 1884 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1897, at age 22. The ship’s manifest for Ernst’s voyage lists Dolatz, Hungary, as his previous residence, the same locale claimed by Maria and Johann. Maria, however, was only 13 years old in 1897 when Ernst immigrated to the U.S. It is certainly possible that she caught Ernst’s eye before he left Hungary (or vice versa), but it’s more likely family members identified a match between two people who were reasonably close in age and shared a similar background.
Details about Maria after 1903 are sparse. There is a listing for a Mrs. Mary Biel in the 1904 Bozeman, Montana city directory, indicating she worked as a laundress for the Bozeman Steam Laundry.6 There is no corresponding listing for Ernst Biel so we are left wondering where he was during this period. Bozeman is approximately 450 miles west of Dickinson; given the primitive travel conditions of the time, you would think there had to be work opportunities for both of them for the journey to be worthwhile. Note: the portrait7 that accompanies this post was taken at the Schlechten Brothers studio in Bozeman, Montana (see the imprint on the photo’s frame).8
Dickinson city directories from 1910 to 1916 list Ernst Biel as the owner of property in Lefor, North Dakota.9 Maria’s obituary provides a broad outline of her life after her immigration. She homesteaded with Ernst Biel in Lefor until his death in 1927 and then moved to Gladstone. She married Mike Hensel in Gladstone in 1929. According to Maria’s obituary, the Hensels retired to Dickinson in 1960. She (or they) moved to St. Benedict’s home in 1967. Mr. Hensel died in 1970 at age 92. Maria Arnold Biel Hensel subsequently moved to the Dickinson Nursing Home where she died on February 18, 1978 at age 93.10
Despite the lack of detail for most of Maria’s life, it is important to mention Maria’s reputation within the family. Several of my uncles (Maria’s nephews) told stories of visits at Aunt Mary’s, accompanying their parents or perhaps waiting for them to return from errands or business. Either way, Aunt Mary was apparently of the “children should be seen, not heard” persuasion. Children visiting her home were usually confined to a wooden chair for the duration, with nothing more than their day dreams and swinging feet for entertainment! It doesn’t seem Maria mellowed with age in this respect because at least two of my first cousins recently recalled childhood experiences associated with Aunt Mary.11
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1 Undated/unsourced obituary for Maria Hensel, courtesy of Clarice Arnold. Likely source: Dickinson Press, February 1978.
2 Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1948 and 1954-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006, entries for Johann Schwarz and Maria Arnold, arrived Baltimore, Maryland, 03 May 1903, aboard SS Neckar.
3 Stark County, North Dakota Marriage Records, Book 4 (approx. 1900-1905).
4 This age is inconsistent with other records. Ernest Biel was probably 28 years old when he and Maria Arnold were married.
5 Maria Hensel obituary, previously discussed.
6 R.L. Polk & Co.’s Bozeman City Directory and Gallatin County Directory, 1904-1905. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, 75, Biel, Mrs. Mary, courtesy of Jane Arnold Kipp.
7 Photograph obtained from album maintained by Clarice Arnold.
8 R.L. Polk & Co.’s Bozeman City Directory and Gallatin County Directory, 1904-1905. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, 366, Schlechten Bros.
9 1910, 1912, 1914, 1916, and 1918 Keiter Directory of Dickinson, North Dakota, microfilm reprint, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, various, Biel, Ernest.
10 Maria Hensel obituary, previously discussed.
11 Posts between January 21-23, 2015 at the (private) Facebook site for the Arnold Family and relatives from Peter Arnold Gladstone, North Dakota.