Friday, February 8, 2013


Mount Olivet Cemetery is on the northwest side of Chicago - on Narragansett Avenue, north of Addison Street.  It was dedicated on September 12, 1886 and was founded by the Scandinavian Lutheran Cemetery Association as a burial place for the Scandinavian population of Chicagoland.  It was originally called Mount Olive Cemetery to differentiate it from Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery on Chicago's south side.  Although primarily a cemetery for those of Scandinavian heritage, since its purchase by SCI it also caters to the Hispanic community, and in fact, has a section dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe - which I doubt you will find in any other Scandinavian Lutheran cemetery.

This blog is dedicated to the fact that there is a story "under every tombstone" in a cemetery, but the story I am going to relate this week also took place above a tombstone - the tombstone of Hulda Olsen Mikkelsen.

If you stroll through Mount Olive Cemetery there are lots of large, old family monuments.  Walking along the curving roadway that runs along the north side of section C, you come across Lot 7, that contains a tall, slim monument dedicated to the deceased members of the Olsen Family.  

It is a peaceful, quiet place and looking at the Olsen family monument you could never guess what happened there on October 10, 1898. Here is the story from the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 11, 1898:

What can we find out about Aksel Mikkelsen and his wife Hulda? Unfortunately, not too much, but let's look at what we do have.

Aksel Mikkelsen was born in January 26, 1859 in Cristensana, Norway. He came to the United States in 1879 when he was twenty years old and became a naturalized US citizen on March 7, 1886 in Chicago.  On November 1, 1884 he was married to Hulda Olsen by the Rev. John Z. Torgerson, pastor of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Bethania Church of Chicago, on Grand Avenue at Carpenter Street.

Hulda Olsen was born April 20, 1860 in Norway, the daughter of Carl Johan Olsen and Ernestine (nee Nullmeyer).  She joined brothers Gustav, Johan and Carl, and sisters Augusta and Aagot.  The Olsen family came to America in 1880, when Hulda was twenty years old and settled in Chicago where Carl Olsen was a baker.

Aksel registered to vote in the elections of 1888 where he reported his address as 61 Huron Street and 1890 where his address was 139 Fowler Street, the same place he was living when he died.  Aksel joined the Chicago Police Department in 1889 and was assigned to the West North Avenue police station.

Aksel and Hulda had five children:  

Einar O. Mikkelsen          Born June 30, 1885
Lillie C. Mikkelsen           Born December 19, 1886
August Henry Mikkelsen       Born February 1, 1889
Sigrid C. Mikkelsen         Born November 25, 1892
Charlotte Mikkelsen         Born December 5, 1895 

Hulda Olsen Mikkelsen died February 22, 1898 at the age of thirty-seven:


She died at the Norwegian Hospital in Chicago of puerperal septicemia (streptococus).  This is a bacterial infection contracted by women during childbirth or miscarriage.  It was also referred to as childbed fever.  I have mentioned in a previous article about the Behl family that 100 years ago one of the major causes of death for women was complications from childbirth.  Childbed fever was one of the most frequent complications.  There is no record of Aksel and Hulda having a baby in 1898 so we can assume she probably miscarried.

Hulda was buried on the same day that she died - February 22, 1898. She died at 4:15 in the morning and was buried later that afternoon - very unusual among people who were not Jewish, and in cases where there was no epidemic, like there was with the Spanish influenza.

She was buried in the south-east corner of the Olsen family plot at Mt. Olive Cemetery:

Aksel Mikkelsen took Hulda's death very hard.  He may have felt personally responsible because she died as a result of a pregnancy. Aksel's fellow officers with the Chicago Police Department noted that Aksel had been visiting Hulda's grave every day.  

Early in the morning of Monday, October 10, 1898 Aksel left home after saying goodbye to each of his children.  He told his housekeeper that he did not have to work until that evening and that he would be back later that day.  Then he went to Mount Olive Cemetery and in front of Hulda's grave he shot himself in the right temple with his patrolman's revolver.  

The Coroner determined that he died "from shooting himself in the head with a revolver while temporarily insane at the grave of his wife in Mt. Olive Cemetery on October 10, 1898."

Aksel was buried in front of his wife in the Olsen family plot in Mt. Olive.

Hulda Mikkelsen
20 Apr 1860
22 Feb. 1898.

Axel Mikkelsen
26 Jan 1859
10 Oct 1898

As I retell these stories from days gone by, I try not to pass judgement on the actions of the people I write about.  It is hard to imagine, however that Aksel Mikkelsen thought that his children would be better off without him.  They had already lost their mother and were grieving for her, and then, less than one year later they lost their father as well.  

Next week we will see what happened to the children:  Einar, Lillie, August, Sigrid and Charlotte.  Five orphaned children - and the oldest was just thirteen.

May Hulda Olsen Nikkelsen and her husband Aksel rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. I recently found your blog and I find your posts fascinating. They are well researched and well written.

    In reading this one, an idea came to mind. It's probably impossible to know either way, but I wonder whether Hulda's death was the result of a botched abortion attempt, hence no record of a baby being born when Hulda died. (Could that also explain the speedy funeral on the same day that Hulda died?) With 5 children to raise, the couple may have felt that they just could not cope with a sixth child.

    The guilt of having gotten his wife pregnant, compounded by agreeing that "something" needed to be done could explain how he could take his own life.

    I'm not trying to pass judgement on either Aksel or Hulda. Desperate situations sometimes cause people to make desperate choices. But if that were what happened, it could explain how Aksel could have made the decision to end his life, despite knowing that his children would be orphaned.