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The Life of Margarethe Thomsen

Portrait of an Early California Pioneer  Woman

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My name is Zoe de Crevecoeur Erickson and I have been researching my family ancestry for many years.  I have always been fascinated by my great-great grandmother, Margarethe.  Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet a cousin, a great granddaughter of Margarethe, or Maggie as we have decided to call her.   Maggie used many spellings of her first name, however, her name is spelled Margarethe on her birth certificate.  Her last husband called her Maggie and that is how her name is placed on the 1880 census records in Riverside, California.  My cousin, Polli Jost Turner and I have decided that we should dedicate a website just to Maggie and her life.  If you are a relative, please e-mail us.   We would be delighted to meet you.   This website will be an ongoing project, so please let us know if you have anything to contribute.  Please come back and see us.

denmkarf.wmf (1302 bytes)Anna Margarethe Marie Thomsen was born in Sonderberg, Denmark, on May 27, 1840.   Her parents were Johann Christian Thomsen, a day-laborer and Maria Sophia Muntmeier. She had a brother and two or three sisters. Peter Mathias Christian, was born June 28, 1837; Johanna Sophia Marie, born January 22, 1843; Catharine Maria, born March 17, 1846; and Christiane "Jane", pronounced Yahnuh. This was short for Christi-ana.   However, it is possible that Catharine and Christiane were the same person.   Catharina was found in the 1855 census, but Christiane was not.

Margarethe’s life was one of turmoil.  She lived in the Danish duchy of Schleswig.  A duchy is similar to our state.  In the 1840’s Schleswig and its neighbor, Holstein were both ruled by Denmark, but Holstein had close ties to Germany.  The majority of the population of Holstein spoke German, while Schleswig was divided, the north favoring Denmark and the south favoring German rule.  I believe that Margarethe’s family favored Germany.  A month before her death, she received a letter from her sister written in German.  In 1848, Prussia and Denmark were at war over the Schleswig and Holstein duchies.  The war ended in 1851 as a status quo with Denmark still controlling the Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenberg duchies.  Margarethe recalled later, a cannon ball coming through her house and landing on her bed.  George Barker, an old-timer Banning resident, remembers something his mother told him. Marguerite once told her (half in jest) that she didn’t know what her nationality was--her parents were Danes, but she was born on board a ship, and the ship landed in another country!

According to family stories, Margarethe came from a wealthy family, but the family ran into some financial problems. At the age of 18, she married 28 year old George Christensen in Hamburg, Germany in 1858. The family told of George being a sea captain, and one of the family's creditors; but documents indicate that the story may not be completely true.

Australia    wpe2.jpg (2417 bytes) 

Margarethe and George sailed to Australia on the ship Johannes and arrived March 1859.   Gold was discovered in the early 1850's in Australia.   The sea voyage was long and treacherous, lasting three or four months.  By 1852, immigrants from Europe and from the disappointing Californian rushes swelled the numbers trudging the rough tracks to the diggings.  George was listed as a miner on the Victoria Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.   The roads were very poor.   Diggers, as they were called carried everything they had in "swags", (a bag slung over one shoulder), wheelbarrows and on horseback.    As gold was discovered in a new field, a mass exodus would ensue.   In the early part of the gold rush, gold could be found close to the surface of the ground, but by the time, George and Margarethe arrived, deep mining  was the norm.  It could take up to eight months to "bottom" a shaft and often with no results.  On January 28, 1860, Christian was born in Back Creek, in the district of Amherst, in the colony of Victoria, Australia. (Chris’s death certificate indicates that he was born 1859?).    Margarethe later told her daughter-in-law about a time when some robbers came. She hid the baby, most likely Chris, under the bed and ran to the mine to warn her husband.

When the gold rush slowed down, the family sailed for California in March of 1861, on board the ship Iconium, a 3 masted, square-rigged ship of 549.5 tons. It had been built in 1847 in Alna (near Rockland), Maine. The passenger list showed that the family sailed as steerage.  They arrived in San Francisco on June 7. Their daughter, Mary was born in San Francisco in November of that year.

 San Francisco & the California Goldfields      wpe9.jpg (3814 bytes)

It is about this time that George Christensen ‘disappears.’ There are no death records, due largely to the 1906 earthquake.  One family story is that George, as the ship’s captain was thrown overboard by his crew on the sail from Australia to San Francisco.  George was not a captain of any ship.  The family sailed steerage.  He may have fallen overboard or the entire story is untrue.  Without the ship’s log, the mystery will go unsolved. 

 For many years, Margarethe’s second husband was an even greater mystery.  We knew that his last name was Stubbe and according to the 1880 census records, he was Prussian.  We believe that he died or disappeared between 1866 and 1868.  Some family members have said that both Christensen and Stubbe were in the army and were both killed escorting settlers over the Donner Pass area. It has been suggested that Margarethe may have lived with one of her husbands in the Pass as well. Christensen and Stubbe may actually have been killed fighting in the Modoc Wars. The Presidio in San Francisco was the regional center for the army at the time. Many soldiers were sent out from there to protect pioneers.   Another story is that Margarethe may have worked at the Army Hospital in San Francisco. The hospital still stands and is one of the oldest buildings at the Presidio.

Recently, I heard from Stubbe’s great-granddaughter.  She said that Margarethe’s third child, Henry Charles Stubbe was born in Chili Gulch, California.  This brings up a more likely possibility.  When George and Margarethe left Australia, they may have gone to the California gold fields. Chili Gulch received its name from the Chileans who worked the fields in 1848 and 1849.  The conflict arose from a local mining code that called for all foreign miners to leave the country within 15 days.  The “Chilean War” resulted in several deaths and the expulsion of the Chilean miners from their claims.  Mining continued well into the 1860’s.   George Christensen may have died or even abandoned Margarethe and she most likely met Stubbe.  Unfortunately, the Calaveras County Archives could find no information on any of the Christensen’s or Stubbes. 

Henry Charles’ death certificate said that his father was born in Germany and the 1880 census noted his nationality as Prussian.   Margarethe had two children by Stubbe; Henry Charles, born June 25, 1864; and Lulu, born June 25, 1866.  

Life was not easy for women in the gold fields.  Some women came with their husbands who would move from one claim to the next until they felt they had found a claim that would be productive.  So it was living in tents, shacks, abandoned cabins or sleeping on the ground.  We feel that George Christensen died or disappeared between 1861 and 1863.  The cabins usually had a dirt floor and no windows.  By 1864, Margarethe had 5 year old Chris and 3 year old Mary.  How did she support herself between husbands?  There were plenty of jobs to be had, washing and cooking for the miners.   Cooks could make as much as thirty dollars a day and women who took in washing could make twice as much.  However, living was not cheap.  A dozen eggs could cost as much as ten dollars.

If she stayed in San Francisco during this time, she would have been involved in two big earthquakes.  On July 22, 1864, Mark Twain wrote in the San Francisco Daily Morning Call, "Last night, at twenty minutes to eleven, the regular semi-monthly earthquake, due the night before, arrived twenty-four hours behind time, but it made up for the delay in uncommon and altogether unnecessary energy and enthusiasm. The first effort was so gentle as to move the inexperienced stranger to the expression of contempt and brave but very bad jokes; but the second was calculated to move him out of his boots, unless they fitted him neatly. Up in the third story of this building the sensation we experienced was as if we had been sent for and were mighty anxious to go. The house seemed to waltz from side to side with a quick motion, suggestive of sifting corn meal through a sieve; afterward it rocked grandly to and fro like a prodigious cradle, and in the meantime several persons started downstairs to see if there were anybody in the street so timid as to be frightened at a mere earthquake. The third shock was not important, as compared with the stunner that had just preceded it. That second shock drove people out of the theatres by dozens."

The second earthquake was October 8, 1868.  It appears that Margarethe's family would have been in one of the worst hit areas according to a map drawn up shortly after the quake.

Hans Fredrick Briand de Crevecoeur  wpeC.jpg (1539 bytes)

This could be where Margarethe met Hans Fredrick Briand de Crevecoeur. Hans was born January 27, 1842 in Egelykke (located two miles from Rudkjobing); Bodstrup Sogn (parish), Langeland, Norre Herred (district), Svendborg Amt (county). His parents were Hans Bredahl, born 1797 at Krusmstrup (the Briand de Crevecoeur estate), Rylslinge sogn, Svendborn amt; and Jensigne Hylleborn Hansen, born about 1811 in Odense. Hans had 3 brothers; Anton Christian, born July, 1845; Waldemar Georg, born 1848 and Oscar Martinus Otto, born 1850.

Hans and Anton served as soldiers in Denmark and may have fought in the war of 1864. Hans migrated to the United States with his brother Anton and served in a New York regiment in the Civil War.  Shortly after the war, they enlisted in the United States Army in New York.  Hans was sent to Fort Boise, Idaho where he served three years in Company H, Twenty-third Infantry. Some of that time, he spent in the fort’s commissary. He was discharged as a sergeant on May 26, 1868.  When Hans was discharged he traveled from Idaho to the Army’s Pay Office in Oregon, arriving there in June, 1868.   His entire pay for his three years of service was $612.00. From there, he traveled to San Francisco, where he met and married Margarethe, now a mother of four. He may have met her at the Army Hospital.   They were married December 20, 1868. Pretty short courtship.

Together, Hans and Margarethe ran a boarding house.   In the 1868 San Francisco city directory, Hans is listed at 419 East Street.where Hans and a Thomas Juites were partners in a restaurant.  The family most likely lived upstairs. In 1870, he was the proprietor of Constitution House at 106 Jackson Street,  The 1871 directory lists Hans de Crevecoeur as the proprietor of the Scandinavian Home at 22 under the residential listings, however, under the business listings the address is 222 Washington.  Waldemar was born December 20, 1871.

Banning, California    wpe6.jpg (4254 bytes)

Because Margarethe suffered from asthma, the family doctor recommended that she move to the Mojave Desert.  In 1872, the family moved to the San Gorgonio Pass, near the present location of Banning, and began raising cattle and sheep. The town of Banning was not then in existence. They may have followed Hans' brother, Anton there. Jeff de Crevecoeur was born in 1874. Hans later moved his stock into the Morongo Valley, about a quarter of a mile from the later location of the Chuck Warren Ranch. Ben was born in the house that Hans built there. He is said to be the first white child born in the area. Three weeks after Ben was born, they moved to a place just north of the present Morongo Indian Reservation, which had not been established. Hans started improving the place, and they were getting along.

I believe that Ben was born May 14, 1875. He was the first white child born in Morongo Valley. Most documents indicate that he was born either May 14 or 15, 1875 or 1876. In 1941, Ben had an Affidavit of Birth drawn up. He indicated that he was born May 14, 1875. It was signed by Chris Christiansen.

Hans was murdered May 16, 1876. There have been several stories about why William Gates murdered Hans.  About 1962, an 81 year old Burt Jost told the Daily Enterprise that Hans "ran a sawmill in Water Canyon near the Banning Bench.   He was murdered and robbed of his payroll one day by a man, who shot him in the back with a double barrel shotgun."  This is the only evidence of Hans running a sawmill.

Sometime in the 1940's Ben de Crevecoeur related a story to 29 Palms' first historian, Maude Russell. A rich relative from New York City sent out a spoiled, worthless son, William Gates, hoping Hans might be able to keep him out of trouble, so he would not disgrace his wealthy father. Unfortunately, they also sent their Gates a liberal allowance each month, on the receipt of which, he went to Los Angeles, and got drunk, returning when the money was gone. He finally stole some $1,600 dollars from Hans and went to Los Angeles. He was apprehended and Hans recovered $400 of the amount. Hans had the young man released and brought him back home with him. Soon after, the young Gates came up behind Hans and shot him in the back with a shotgun. As he did not fall, Gates came closer, shooting him in the head with a six-shooter. On trial, young Gates was sentenced to be hanged, but his influential family managed to get the sentence changed to life imprisonment. While in prison at San Quentin, he contracted tuberculosis. In September, 1880, the Governor pardoned Gates and he died a few months later.

Now there are a few problems with this story. Ben was a baby when his father was killed and this story was related at least 40 years after the murder. It is unlikely that Hans had $1,600 available to steal. The reason will become evident in a later paragraph. A witness testified at the trial that Gates said that he killed Hans in self defense. When asked why, he said that Hans had threatened his life. No one had heard the threat, but there was mention of previous trouble between Hans and William. The jury did not sentence Gates to be hanged, but sentenced to life imprisonment.

May 27, 1876, The Guardian reported that Hans de Crevicour had been murdered by William Gates.  "Gates of good repute, was slandered."   This seems to be the closest we will get to the facts.  In the transcript of the Gates murder trial, the judge instructs the jury concerning the difference between first, second, third degree murder and self-defense.  He even goes so far as to admonish the jury that slander is not considered grounds for self-defense. 

In any case, Margarethe was alone again with children to raise. Chris, the eldest was 17 years old, Mary, 14; Henry, 12; Waldemar, 5; Jeff, 2; and Ben, a newborn. Quite a handful. And, she had more problems. In January, before Hans was killed, he was sued for non-payment of interest on his property.  The lawsuit continued until December when the state settled on a payment of $29.05.  In January of 1877, the Sheriff reported that he was unable to find any property. 

Christopher Francis Jost

Christopher Francis Jost, born June 12, 1846, in Guysborough, Nova Scotia, Canada. About 1876, Chris left the Jost family home in Guysborough and headed for California. Riding a freight train from San Pedro with a carload of merchandise, he arrived at Summit Station (Beaumont) on March 6, 1877. He was to be storekeeper and paymaster for Rev. Winfield Scott’s fluming project in the canyon. During that summer, Scott preached the first protestant services in the Pass area, "he delivered his sermon under a sycamore at Ran’s Moore’s, and young Jost conveyed those who wanted to hear the preaching." This was the beginning of the Banning First Baptist Church. After completion of the fluming project, the store was moved down to the railroad tracks, becoming the Banning General Store, the first merchandising business on the Banning town site. Chris stayed on as clerk for a time, after which he got a contract to deliver 50 cords of two-foot wood for the wood-burning locomotives of the day.

On January 7, 1878, after leaving the store, he married the widow de Crevecoeur, and moved to her ranch in the Potrero, to the northeast of Banning. Chris went into the bee business with a neighbor, buying him out the following year. Chris and Maggie worked the ranch together until 1888, when the U. S. Government, wanting to set up an Indian reservation, dispossessed them. While still at the ranch, Helen Hunt Jackson, author of the book, Ramona, reportedly boarded with the Josts. In the late 1870’s Ms. Jackson wrote a report concerning the land situation in reference to the impending Indian Reservation and mentions Chris Jost.

The Government did not give the dispossessed settlers compensating land until 1892, so in the meantime, the Josts moved into town, buying a home at the corner of Murray and Hays.

She had four children by Chris Jost. Francis "Frank" Christopher, born September 7, 1876; Burton "Burt" Cranswick, born June 19, 1881; George "Marsh" Marshall, born October 26, 1883; and John Jefferson, born March 24, 1886.

The Baptist Church was organized February 18, 1883 in Banning’s one-room school house and was the first American church in the Pass. Chris Jost was admitted to membership August 19, 1883. Banning’s first baptism included two of Margarethe’s children, Wally de Crevecoeur and Henry Stubbe. Margarethe was baptized February 24, 1884.

In 1899, Margarethe filed for guardianship of her granddaughter, Lorraine, born to Margarethe’s eldest son, Chris. Lorraine was not even 3 years old, when her mother died in 1895. Before her death, Ella asked her mother-in-law, Margarethe to raise her daughter. In her file for guardianship, she alleged that Chris had not contributed to Lorraine’s raising in any way in the past four years and that he was "not a fit or proper person to have the care and custody of said child." It appears that she was given guardianship. 

Margarethe died at the age of 73 on May 27, 1943. She shares a headstone with her son, Jeff .

Margarethe’s Children

"Chris" Christensen married Ella Barrett on March 29, 1888. Chris, like his step-father Chris, raised bees and sold the honey. He was also dispossessed from his ranch in the Potrero. They had three children, 9 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, at the time of his death. Chris died Dec. 25, 1942, in San Bernardino, CA; 82 years old. Ella Barrett died June 1895. Both were buried in Sunnyslope Cemetery, Beaumont.

Mary Christensen married Reznor Perry Stewart on December 30, 1880, in San Bernardino—he was 35, she was 19!) Mary died a few days after the birth of her son, R. P. Stewart, Jr. at the age of 29.

Henry G. Stubbe married Bertha. A family member, (Florence Lee) remembers Henry working for the ice company in Hollywood. He died Dec. 3, 1897; 31 years old. Bertha was buried in Banning—her marker says a child was buried there, too, perhaps Andrew.

Lula Stubbe born June 25, 1866. Died in infancy? Nothing is known about her. Marguerite’s obituary mentions that eight sons survived her, so we know that Lula had died at least by 1917. Although the fact that Aunt Florence never heard her name before seeing it in the family Bible indicates that she most likely died as a small child before the family came to Banning.

Waldemar "Wal" de Crevecoeur never married. Except for a brief service as deputy sheriff, he was a rancher all his life. He died October 23, 1938 in Riverside county, California. He operated a ranch near Beaumont. He assisted brother Ben in the Willie Boy manhunt

.Jeff de Crevecoeur died in 1889. One family story was that he had drowned; however, according to Elwood Jost, Jeff accidentally shot himself in the leg. By the time the family got him to a doctor, gangrene had set in and he was beyond help.

Benjamin "Ben" de Crevecoeur married Sarah E. Johnson on December 23, 1895. They had three children, of whom only one lived to have children of his own. They were separated in 1928 with their divorce being final in 1931. In 1932 Ben married Florence Bennett, "Flossie". Ben served as deputy sheriff of Riverside, a special agent to the Bureau of Indian affairs, a rancher, a store keeper, contractor, and constable of Banning. . As a young man, he made the adobe brick for the "Old Adobe, one of the oldest adobe houses in 29 Palms. It was demolished in 1947 because it had become a hazard.

In 1909, he was one of the central figures in the famous Willie Boy manhunt. The 1970’s movie, entitled, "Tell Them Willie Boy Was Here", starring Robert Redford, Robert Blake, Katherine Ross and Susan Clark was loosely based on the story.

Ben died March 21, 1949. and was buried in the Banning cemetery.

Francis "Frank" Christopher Jost married Jeanette "Jenny" F. Turnbull in May of 1909. They had no children. Jenny died April 26, 1921 and Frank married Bertha. Together, they lived in the Jost Hotel. After Bertha died, he married Margaret. They also had no children. Frank died January 2, 1937. Frank was buried in Banning, but without marker.

Burton "Burt" Cranswick Jost married Agnes Sophie Petzoldt on May 2, 1906. They later divorced. Agnes died March 15, 1967 in Yucaipa, California. Burt died November 15, 1972 in Banning.

George "Marsh" Marshall Jost married Emma Augusta Metze. Marsh died May 17, 1938

John Jefferson Jost married Elfrieda Dorothy Krueger. John died May 29, 1946 and Elfrieda died February 27, 1922. Both were buried in Banning, there is a marker for Elfrieda, but none for John.

For more on Margarethe, go to  It is a biography of her son, Ben de Crevecoeur and more history on Margarethe and her life.


History of Banning and San Gorgonio Pass, Tom Hughes

Ben de Crevecoeur’s scrapbook

Maude Russell’s papers, including letters written by Ben de Crevecoeur

I would like to thank Polli Turner Jost for all her help. Much of this material was copied directly from her research on the Jost and Thomsen families. Also, we both would like to thank Steve Lech, Riverside’s "amateur" historian.

Lastly, I would like to thank Anne Brandt at the San Bernardino County Archives, who contacted me every time she found the de Crevecoeur name.   


This page was last updated  10/02/09




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