Thomas Benjamin Olin

Thomas Benjamin Olin was born March 15, 1844 in Chemung, New York and died June 28, 1917 in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota. Death certificate and obituary. He married Mary Louisa Cunningham on August 11, 1867 in Greenville, Kent, Michigan.[1] She was born August 18, 1849 in Ceresco, Michigan.[2] After Thomas’s death she married Bernard (Barney) Lemke March 9, 1918 in Hibbing, St. Louis, Minnesota. She died February 26, 1924 in Itasca, Minnesota.[3] Interestingly, on Mary’s death certificate she is listed as Mrs. Barney Lemke with no further information as to her identity. Had it not been for the cleverness of the clerk at Itasca County, I might never have found a death certificate for her. She is, however, buried near her husband, Thomas, in the Grand Rapids Cemetery and the headstone reads Mary Olin.

Tom Olin’s family moved to Mecosta, Michigan when he was 15 years old around 1860-61 and apparently a great deal of his extended family did too. His brother, Giles Olin, was married to Lydia Moulter on February 2, 1856. She was born in Chemung and I suppose they were married there which would substantiate Willard’s account of his father leaving New York around 1860.[4] Family oral history says that Thomas B. Olin played the fife and drum at the age of 16 in the 10th New York Division or the Pennsylvania Division of the Union Army during the Civil War.[5] I have been unsuccessful finding a record of his enlistment. It may be that he used a different name because of his age?

Thomas left New York after the war and went to join his family in Michigan. He was a farmer there when he met and married Mary Cunningham in Greenville, Michigan. Interestingly, the marriage certificate shows his name as Benjamin Olin. He lived most of his life in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota. His obituary read: “Thomas suffered intensely during his long illness but patiently, manifesting a spirit of Christian fortitude. Calmly he awaited the end, talking with his pastor with the quiet assurance of those who have a sincere faith in the goodness of their God. He went to his reward calmly and peacefully at the age of 73.”

Tom and Mary lived in Austin Township, Mecosta, Michigan at least until 1873 as that is the date their son Florance was born. (On Willard, Emily and Florance’s birth certificate it shows both Tom and Mary’s birth place as New York.) There were many diseases that ravaged the young during those times and I’m sure that Florance was the victim of one of these diseases. His sister, Emily contracted polio and survived to old age. However, it would have been very hard to stay where so much heartache lingered. It is said in Mecosta County, Michigan that the Austin cemetery (Olin cemetery) contains somewhere between 20-40 children’s graves. Hardly an Olin family or their neighbor was left untouched by death.

According to Willard’s letter, Tom and Mary came in to the Fridley Station (about 15 miles North of Minneapolis, Minnesota) on the Northern Railroad in November 1879[6]. They stayed in Fridley[7] about three weeks then moved to Dayton, Hennepin, Minnesota where Willard says he started school. His sister Sadie was born there in 1880. Apparently the soil was too sandy in Fridley and unsuitable for farming. I have just recently had access to the 1880 United States Census and it shows that Tom and Mary were in Wright County, Minnesota in 1880 also. It shows Mary’s birthplace as Vermont there. This was an interesting clue. I suppose Mary could have been born in Vermont and come to Michigan with her parents.

Willard stated that it was Mary who homesteaded in Morrison County, Minnesota in 1881 and they stayed for ten years. The description reads: Southeast 1/4 of Section 2 Parker Township, Morrison County. On researching the plat book for Morrison County during that time period I have found that a T. Olin and W. Olin owned a 1/4 section each next to each other and that Willard was correct in the description. It would seem then that Tom Olin actually homesteaded rather than Mary. However, the plat drawing was in the year 1892, shortly before their departure for Staples. The quarter section is divided into three parts. Half of the section (80 acres) belonging to T. Olin, one quarter each of the second half (40 acres each) divided between W. Olin and J.H. Hamilton. My guess is that Mary may very well have homestead originally and possibly transferred the land to her husband. Tom then sold 1/4 to another party (Hamilton) and had the other 1/4 transferred to his son, Willard who by 1892 was 24 years old. In the John Olin Family History, mentioned many times in the beginning of this history, it shows Thomas Benjamin Olin, son of Henry Olin and Lydia Corrie as living in Huff, Minnesota. I visited the Morrison County Historical Society and they could not understand where this “Huff” township came from. However, it seems that a Mr. Huff had bought a substantial piece of property in Parker Township and became the postmaster, hence Huff Post Office. For those of you who are familiar with Minnesota and/or the Little Falls area, the section that was homesteaded was in Parker Township and what is now Randall. Although Randall was considerably closer than the Huff post office, it was in a different township. Little Falls, though considerably larger, was entirely too distant to visit on any regular basis, however, it was the nearest large town and so was often referred to for locality familiarity when giving a description of their whereabouts.

In any case, it was here that Henry Olin and Frank Olin were born, 1883 and 1885 respectively.[8] In 1892 the family moved to Staples where Tom ran a boarding house. Sadie attended her first school here. Willard met his future wife, Ella, here also. Apparently, the Kingston and Sandretzky families were in this area also. Tom and Mary moved their family to Grand Rapids in 1896. This date is given to us from Willard’s recollections, however, Thomas Olin and family is listed as coming to Grand Rapids in 1894. According to his grandson Otto Olin, Thomas Olin was an easy-going man that he made the trip from Aitkin to Grand Rapids via ox cart and that he was suffering from a broken leg at the time. He built and owned an hotel (Floto Hotel) and amusement park on Swan Lake in Pengilley which is also in Itasca Cty, Minnesota. It has been said that the ferris wheel from this amusement park was handed down for a couple of generations. During the winter he would peddle toboggan loads of fish to Coleraine. While in Grand Rapids he built several buildings. Later when Bovey was being established and built, he moved there, living in a tent while his house was being built. One day while going around the point of Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids he broke his leg and had to be carried. Later, on in life he was run over by a team of horses and taken to Mayo but refused surgery. It is said that he spent the last years of his life in a rocking chair. Tom and Mary had the following children:

Willard Edward Olin

Willard was born May 7, 1868 in Austin Township, Mecosta Cty, Michigan and died December 31, 1946 in Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota. See more about Willard>>>

Emily Louisa Olin

Emily Louisa Olin “Emma” was born August 25, 1870 in Austin Township, Mecosta, Michigan and died October 3, 1931 in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota. She was crippled with polio yet still did all her own milking and chores. She also raised Persian cats in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota. While young she married George Gallagher probably in Staples, Minnesota. Nothing is known of this marriage except that it ended.

Emily and George had one daughter:

Lottie Gallagher born about 1886 probably in Staples, Minnesota (Todd or Wadena County) and died December 30, 1896 in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota. She had polio also and died as the result of a dog bite at age ten. She is buried in an unmarked grave next to her mother. Judging from the many pictures taken of this child she was a great favorite in the family particularly with her aunt, Sadie.

Emily remarried in 1894 in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota to William Sherman Kingston (1867-1920).

Interestingly, there is no grave found in the Grand Rapids cemetery for Sherman. William is listed as a resident of Grand Rapids in 1896 and then as Sherman Kingston, he is listed with his family-Emma, Uta and Harvey in the 1905 census of Grand Rapids. The Kingston farm was located where the Church of God is currently situated in Grand Rapids. However, William S. Kingston died in Otter Tail County, Minnesota. It is possible he is buried there.

Uta Marie Kingston was born December 24, 1900 in Itasca, Minnesota and was first married to George Allen. There is one infant son listed for Uta and George who died September 29, 1921 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She married second to George Borgenson. (No other children known.) Uta is on the left.

Daughter Kingston born February 4, 1897 and died March 9, 1897.

Harvey Clayton Kingston wass born September 9, 1902 (or July 9, 1902) in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota, died June 10, 1980 Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota, buried in Coleraine, Itasca, Minnesota. He married May 11, 1936 in Iowa to Aili Armito Pelto born March 20, 1913 Bovey, Itasca, Minnesota, died January 21, 2000 Grand Rapids, Minnesota and had no children. Harvey ran a stand in Lester Park near Duluth, St. Louis, Minnesota. He lost his arm as a young boy while helping his father saw logs.

Floyd Leon “Bill” Kingston born December 13, 1905 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and died February 14, 1990 in St. Louis, Minnesota. He married Helen E. Sholtz, she was born December 9, 1908 and died February 17, 1983.

Floyd Kingston and Helen Sholtz were divorced in the 1930’s. Floyd was living in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in the 1940 US Census. He moved to Duluth in the 40’s. He remarried May 17, 1961 in St. Louis, Minnesota to Mae Augusta Saukko who was born August 28, 1908 in Carlton County, Minnesota and died November 11, 2006 in Carlton, Carlton County, Minnesota. Floyd helped raise her two sons.

Florance O. Olin

Florance O. Olin (male) was born April 22, 1873 Austin Twsp, Mecosta, Michigan and died June 12, 1875. Headstones says Florence.

Otus Sowelan Olin

Otus Sowelan Olin was born September 2, 1876 and died July 22, 1877 in Austin Twsp, Mecosta, Michigan. She is buried in the Olin cemetery. Her headstone says “Otis”. This name is taken from the Michigan State Vital Records.

Sarah Gladys Olin

Sarah Gladys Olin “Sadie” was born February 27, 1880 in Dayton, Hennepin, Minnesota and died November 17, 1966 in Auburn, Washington. She married November 19, 1894 at Staples, Todd, Minnesota to William Julius Sandretzky (May 20, 1872-August 20, 1946). See more on Sadie’s family>>>

Henry Jacob Olin

Henry Jacob Olin was born April 16, 1883 at Morrison, Minnesota and was killed by a falling tree at 19 years on February 19, 1903 and is buried in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota. He is on the left.

Franklin Herbert Olin

Franklin Herbert Olin was born April 16, 1885 Morrison County, Minnesota and died May 28, 1959 in Brainerd, Crow Wing, Minnesota. He married in 1902 to Veronica C. Lieferman was born in 1883 and died 1930. They lived in Bovey, Minnesota in 1905 and he worked in Hibbing at the time of his father’s death. (1917) Frank’s grandson, Tom Olin, has done considerable research on the family and has written some blogs. I strongly recommend you read Tom’s blog for a richer history of this branch of the family.

Frank was the first to bring a load of lumber from Grand Rapids to Bovey. A funny story about Frank was remembered by Rena Olin. Frank did some plaster work and his first job was the ceiling. The carpenter had lathed the ceiling and Frank came in later to plaster it. Just as the owner was coming up the walk to look over the job, the whole ceiling collapsed. Frank grabbed his tools and ran out the back door! To be fair, Frank was well-known and admired for his ability to run any heavy machinery put before him. He helped run heavy equipment at the Panama Canal and also helped construct the Hoover Dam. It was also said that he could build a house from the ground up. During World War II, Frank enlisted as a “CB” for the Army and Airforce. There he operated heavy equipment and helped produce coal and worked on the airfields. Frank is well-remembered for his infectious sense of humor, his love of children, good work ethic and all around good attitude about life in general. His grandson, Tom, remembered once when Frank gave Tom and Jim, his grandsons, each a dart gun at Christmas. Frank lay on the floor with a target on his head! Frank was also a terrific dancer. Veronica died young and Frank married Vicky Hagman who was much loved by the family. Vicky was born Victoria A. Hagman in 1902 and died in 1981 in Hennepin County, MN. She had brought her sons from a previous marriage — Robert, Leslie, and James Hagman. Frank and Veronica had only one child:

Merton Franklin Olin (see left) b: September 29, 1903 in Grand Rapids, Itasca County, Minnesota, died May 29, 1981 in married Anne Sylvia Roring born February 16, 1906 in Pennsylvania died November 10, 1995 in Boca Raton, Florida. Merton died in Palm Beach, Florida on May 29, 1981 in Palm Beach, Florida. His grandson has written a blog about his adventures aboard the Brigantine Yankee. Merton and Ann had three children:

  • James Hubert Olin born August 8, 1931 in North Dakota, died December 20, 1962 in Philadephia. He married Cindy Thum. James was a graduate of Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He had a double degree (teaching and accounting) and taught school in San Francisco. Obituary
  • Thomas Franklin Olin was born April 24, 1928 in Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota and died October 30, 1996 Battle Creek, Michigan. Tom was part-owner/Chief Executive Officer of Archway Cookies. Tom’s life was full of awards and great accomplishments. He was an excellent orator too. See a blog written about Tom. Also, find Tom on Wikipedia.
  • Daughter, still living


[1] In Thomas Olin’s obituary it says that they were married August 5, 1867, however, Susan Potter’s letter to Mary states that it is 1866 and this was in the family bible. I found a marriage certificate for them and Thomas is listed as Benjamin, and it was August 11, 1867.

[2] According to her death certificate on file at Itasca County, Minnesota

[3] Barney died May 1, 1928 and is buried near Mary also.

[4] From “Mecosta County History, a biographical/genealogical history”. This history lists Giles’s children which correspond with Willard’s letter and the John Olin Family History.

[5] The fife is in the possession of one of his descendants, Thomas Sandretzky, and the drum belongs to Thomas F. Olin, Sr. Family

[6] The 1870 Michigan census recorded Thomas B. Olin.

[7] Before that time, the area which is now Fridley had been the smallest county in Minnesota until it was incorporated as city and was annexed to Anoka County. Interestingly, Fridley is now a suburb of Minneapolis and has a huge population. That land would be worth a fortune now.

[8] Morrison County birth records show Olin, male 4-16-1883 at Parker Township, parents: Thomas, farmer b: NY and Mary C. Olin b: Michigan and Olin, Franklin H. 4-16-1885 at Parker Township, parents: T.F. farmer, b: NY and M.L. Olin b: Michigan. This must be how Frank Olin got the idea that Thomas B. was Thomas F.


“Minnesota, Deaths and Burials, 1835-1990,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 16 March 2015), Thomas Olin in entry for Henry Jacob Oli…, 26 Feb 1903; citing Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota, reference 1157; FHL microfilm 2,117,539. (Henry Olin’s death)

“Michigan, Births and Christenings, 1775-1995,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 16 March 2015), Thomas Olin in entry for Otus Sowelan Olin, 02 Sep 1876; citing Austin, Mecosta, Michigan, reference ; FHL microfilm 2,320,449. (Otus Olin’s birth record)

“Minnesota State Census, 1885,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 October 2015), Willard Olin in household of Thomas Olin, Parker, Morrison, Minnesota; citing p. 1, volume Morrison, State Library and Records Service, St.Paul; FHL microfilm 565,746.

“United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 October 2015), Willard Olan in household of Thomas Olan, Otsego, Wright, Minnesota, United States; citing enumeration district 65, sheet 371C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0638; FHL microfilm 1,254,638.

Last Updated on January 18, 2022 by rootie

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