The History of Edith Maria Olsson Biffle

Edith Maria Olsson was the daughter of Anders Johan Olausson and Alida Christina Anderson. Anders was born the 29th of May 1850 at Hohls, Artorp, Västra Tunhem, Sweden. He and his twin sister, Beata Charlotta, were the second and third children of Olaus Nilsson and Maria Andersdotter Myrin.

Anders left Hohls the 29th of June 1879 and returned later that summer with his new wife Alida Christina Andersson (b. 1 September 1855). On the 28th of March 1887, Anders and Alida moved from Hohls to Flo Skulegården near where his sister Beata Charlotta was living at Lars Svensgården. Their first child, Anders Ivar, was born at Skulegården December 15, 1887. In 1889 the family moved to Flo Mansgården. Edit (Edith) Maria was born May 15, 1890 and Ann Konstantia, their third child, was born June 24, 1894. In 1897 their fourth child, Gustof Albert was born; he died at the age of ten in 1907.

Ivar left Sweden for Canada when he was in his early twenties (1909-1910). During that period Edith worked as a cook at Frugården, Lilleskog. In the beginning of 1911 Ivar returned to Sweden before his final emigration. He took Edith with him. On the 22nd of March 1911, Edith and Ivar took the White Star Line ship the El Dorado from Göteborg, Sweden, to Gimsby, England. From Grimsby they went by train to Liverpool where they took the Empress of Ireland to St. John's, Newfoundland. They then traveled by train across Canada to Winnipeg.

Edith Maria Olsson Biffle

Edith Maria Olson


Ivar worked for the railroad in Canada while Edith worked as a cook in Winnipeg. On June 23, 1917, Edith entered the United States from Winnipeg. Why she left Canada is not known. At that time, during World War I, Winnipeg's Swedish population a very small portion of the population of Winnipeg and they were looked on as German sympathizers (this was during World War I). On January 18, 1919, Edith signed her declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen. At that time it was very unusual for a woman to become a citizen in her own right because the only advantage of citizenship was the right to vote. In 1919 women couldn't vote in the United States. Edith again made her living as a cook.

Edith and Augustus Biffle
Edith Maria Olson and Augustus Biffle

It is not known how Edith met her husband, Augustus Biffle. Augustus (Gus) was born in DeKalb Co., Georgia, in 1880. His parents were George Hamilton Biffle and Mary Catherine Drake. Some time after the death of his mother in 1912, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisc., where he worked as a leathercutter. His father died in 1913. He again moved in the late 1910s, this time to Minneapolis, Minn. The 1920 U.S. Census has them both living in the same boarding house, so this is may have been where they met. For those of you familiar with Minneapolis' west bank area (near the University of Minnesota), the boarding house they lived in was near the Cedar Riverside intersection. This was an area in which many immigrants, especially Scandinavians, lived. They married June 5, 1920, and lived in a "flat" at 2715 Hennepin Avenue (now the Uptown area). Within the first year of their marriage they built a house at 2909 37th Avenue South. Edith returned to Sweden during the summer of 1922 to bring her mother and sister to the United States. Her father had died in 1915. She landed at Ellis Island in New York aborad the Stockholm on August 28, 1922 with her mother and sister. On the ship's manifest, Alida and Anna indicated that their passage was paid for by Augustus Biffle. At this time, the family was living at 3655 Vincent Avenue South, Minneapolis.

In 1927 the extended family, including Edith's first child Estelle, moved to 4919 Chicago Avenue. Edith's mother, Alida, died in Minneapolis on December 10, 1927, just prior to the birth of Edith's second daughter, Anita Alida, in February 1928. Four years later their son Franklin was born.

By 1928, Edith and Augustus owned a restaurant called the "Twenty-eight Hundred" at 2800 Nicollet Avenue. They sold the restaurant to her sister Anna by 1929 and Anna changed its name to "Olson's." Gus then opened a dry goods store at 3800 Grand Avenue. It was about this time that Edith enrolled in cooking school at Vocational in downtown Minneapolis.

This was the depression and times were hard in Minneapolis. The dry goods store closed and by 1931 Gus was a machine operator and leathercutter in a leather factory, a profession he had engaged in when he lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I believe this occupation was one of the reasons Gus came to Minneapolis. He worked as a leathercutter at Fort Snelling during World War I, probably making horse collars for the cavalry. One of his nieces in Georgia remembers him sending a miniture horse collar to her. He also made doll clothes for Estelle and Anita out of leather. Edith was employed by the Sister Kenney Institute located at Fort Snelling. In December 1947, Edith went to work as a cook at General Hospital in downtown Minneapolis, where she remained until the age of 65, the mandatory retirement age for Hennepin County employees at that time. However, she wasn't one to remain home for long. She continued to work at various jobs for many years after.

In October 1951, Edith and Gus purchased a house at 4648 Portland Avenue South, but didn't live there for long. Gus Biffle died of a heart attack on February 22, 1952, and Edith never returned to live at that house. She first moved in with her oldest daughter, Estelle, and her family. When her son Frank returned from the Marines, she lived with him in south Minneapolis. Frank married in 1956 and Edith moved in with Anita and her family, where she lived until her death in 1976.

Edith was a remarkable woman who was loved by all who knew her.

Additional information on the Biffle family