The Tavern

Week 8: #52 Ancestors – Family Photo

By Eilene Lyon

Rather than a standard group portrait, I will share a trio of images recently added to by my 4th cousin, Twinkycat.

She and I met in Wisconsin in 2012. As we got acquainted over drinks, she showed me a hardbound, professionally printed copy of her great-aunt’s scrapbook. Amazingly, it contained photos of my dad and his brothers as young boys. Their great-grandmother must have sent the pictures from South Dakota to Wisconsin.

Because my cousin’s branch of the family remained in Wisconsin, she has closer ties to our history there. (My ancestors were perennially on the move.) She also gave me a copy of her genealogy, which had many photos from my side of the family. My family has no such collection of photos from her branch.

Map of northern Germany showing the hometown of the Nordt family: Beyendorf-Sohlen.

Our common ancestors are German immigrants, Mathias and Dorethe (Sandring) Nordt. They had two daughters, Mary Frederica (my 2nd great-grandmother) and Agatha (Twinkycat’s 2nd great-grandmother). Mary Frederica was my last ancestor to be born on foreign soil. Mathias and Dorethe also had a son, Wilhelm (William) Daniel Nordt.

Sandring-Nordt, Dorethee and daughtes
Dorethe Sandring Nordt (standing) with her two daughters, Agatha (left) and Mary Frederica. (Courtesy of twinkycat171)


The Nordts emigrated in 1881. Mathias and William arrived in April at New York. Dorethe and her daughters arrived in November at Baltimore.1 They settled in southeastern Wisconsin. In Germany, Mathias had been a shoemaker. William was a musician.2 Thanks to recently found baptismal records and a marriage record, we know that the Nordts were from a small community that is now a suburb of Magdeburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, in northern Germany.3

The Nordts established a hotel/tavern in Sullivan, Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Judging by the photo above, it was a happening sort of place. I wish I could be raising a tankard with Mathias there (though it might be frowned on for a woman – note there’s not a single female in either tavern photo).

The children all married: William to Mary Hansen; Mary Frederica to Alton P. Crandall; and Agatha to John Cook.

Hotel in Sullivan owned by Mathias
Interior of the tavern. Mathias Nordt with beard and pipe. His son-in-law, Alton Crandall, in front holding dog leash. This photo illustrates the height disparity between the two men. Alton Crandall is my 2nd-great-grandfather. Check out the parrot! (Courtesy of twinkycat171)

According to my cousin, the Sullivan hotel burned down in the summer of 1907. I haven’t been able to verify the event with other sources. Allegedly, Dorethe sustained fatal injuries during the fire. Her death certificate lists the causes of death as “Oedema of Lungs” and “Heart failure” for a duration of 2 ½ days, but does not mention the fire as the proximate cause.4

After the fire and the death of his wife, Mathias Nordt became a dairy farmer near Hebron. In 1920, he was living with his younger daughter, Agatha Cook, in Koshkonong, Wisconsin. He eventually moved to South Dakota to live with his elder daughter, Mary F. Crandall. He died in Codington County in 1927 and his body was returned to Wisconsin for burial in the family plot.5


Mathias Nordt (1836 – 1927) and Dorethe Sandring (1830 – 1907) on Ancestry.

Feature image: Group portrait on the porch of the tavern in Sullivan, Wisconsin. Mathias Nordt is the bearded man in the center (Courtesy of twinkycat171)

  1. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Records of the US Customs Service, RG36; NAI Number: 2655153; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85 – via 
  2. Year: 1881; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 434; Line: 30; List Number: 372 – via 
  3. Baptism record for Marie Friederika Nordt (also for her siblings). Landesarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt; Magdeburg, Deutschland; Film Number: 1190624. Saxony, Prussia, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1890 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016. 
  4. Dortha Sandring Nordt. Wisconsin Certificate of Death. Copy supplied by twinkycat171. 
  5. Mathias Nordt. South Dakota, Death Index, 1879-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2004. 

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