Way We Were: The life of Mary Rasmussen
Park City Museum director of education
Much of Park City’s population was made up of immigrants when it was a silver mining town. Immigrants came here to work in the mines, but other immigrants worked on farms, in shops in town, or on the railroad. The Rasmussen family was one of these immigrant families.
Mary Rasmussen was born in Norway on Aug. 1, 1868. She was the third child of Rasmus and Gustine Johnson. The family immigrated to the United States in 1872 when Mary was just 5 years old. Her family settled in a town called Oak Creek, which would be Oakley today. Oak Creek had a Norwegian population and an area called Little Norway.
On March 27, 1887, Mary married another Norwegian immigrant named Thomas Rasmussen in Wanship. They soon moved to Park City where they settled down. Mary and Thomas had two children named Ella and Harry. Thomas worked as a section foreman for the Rio Grande Western Railroad Company. Thomas also had a younger brother named Severen who fought in the Spanish American War. In 1889, Severen returned from the war sick with malaria and dysentery. Mary took care of him and nursed him back to health.
In 1900, when Mary was pregnant with their third child, tragedy struck the family. Thomas and some other employees took a handcar and started towards Park Junction. Unfortunately, a wheel on the handcar broke and Thomas was thrown forward onto the track where the handcar ran into him. He died the next day from an injury to the back of his head.
A funeral for Thomas was held at the Masonic Hall by members of the fraternal organization called the Ancient Order of the United Workmen, and he was buried at the Glenwood Cemetery. Mary received a settlement from the Rio Grande Western Railroad Company for Thomas’ untimely death. She gave birth to her third child, Ernest Riker Rasmussen, four months after Thomas died. Ernest died two weeks later of congestion of the brain and was buried next to his father at Glenwood Cemetery.
During this time period, women would take care of the children and the home. Men were responsible for working outside the home and taking care of the financials. Most widowed women tried to remarry quickly so they would be financially supported. Mary married Severen Rasmussen (Thomas’ brother) on April 27, 1901. They kept the house in Park City, but moved back to Oak Creek and bought a farm. They had three more children together, but one died as an infant.
Later, Mary was diagnosed with cancer and died on Oct. 5, 1919. She was living in Park City and her daughter and sister were taking care of her at the time. She was buried with Thomas in the Glenwood Cemetery. After her death, Severen sold the house in Park City and moved near Duchesne where he continued to farm.
Come meet Mary Rasmussen and some other immigrants from Park City’s past for our annual Glenwood Cemetery Tour, which is virtual this year. We have videotaped the production and will post it when ready this month. Check our website, parkcityhistory.org and The Park Record for more information.
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