Sometime in the early 1890’s, Anna Margrethe Hansen moved to Racine, Wisconsin with her brother, Claus Peter Hansen, from Holeby on the Danish island of Lolland. On October 6, 1894, Anna married Jens Peter Marinus Jensen at Emmaus Lutheran Church. Church records indicate that Anna and Jens were members of the Emmaus congregation, but it isn’t clear whether Claus was ever a member.
Claus went by the name Peter, opening a barber shop on Villa Street. On July 25, 1900, he married an English-speaking woman, Jennie Louise Howard. Jennie had already had brushes with misfortune at her job as a pastry chef at the Blake Opera House at 6th Street and College Avenue. She had once been found unconscious, overcome by fumes from the stove; she later was the last person to get out of the building alive when it was destroyed by fire in December, 1884.
In 1912, Claus sold his barber shop so that he and Jennie could travel back to Denmark to visit his parents, whom he had not seen in 21 years. One of Claus’ brothers, Henrik Juul Hansen, decided to accompany Claus and Jennie on their return trip to America.
On April 10, 1912, the three boarded the R.M.S. Titanic at Southhampton as third class passengers. Only Jennie would survive the trip.
As Claus put his wife in the lifeboat, he told her, “Jennie, you had better go so that there will be one of us to tell the story back home.” His body was never recovered.
After the disaster, Jennie suffered from severe nightmares and reportedly was “unable to shed a tear.” For a while, she lived with her brother Thomas Howard and his wife, Maggie at their farm on Nicholson Road. She married Elmer Emerson, 19 years her junior, on August 25, 1915.
Jennie Louise Emerson (née Howard, late Hansen) died on December 15, 1952, aged 85. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery. A memorial for Claus Peter Hansen is included on her tombstone.
Thanks to Klaus Evgang, whose research into the Danish passengers on the Titanic alerted us to Emmaus’ connection to the disaster. See also a 1912 photo of Claus Peter and Jennie Hansen on the “Titanic – De danske fortællinger” Facebook page.