A great storm off the coast of Nova Scotia ship-wrecked the whaling vessel on which William Thorsen and his companions were chasing whales. He nearly lost his life. After he was rescued and recovering from his ordeal, he vowed that the whales could have the sea, the sea could have the whales, and the tempests could have both of them. As for him, he headed inland to Wisconsin for a job with the Great Northern railroad. Somewhere between whaling and railroading, he took time out to fall in love with a pretty miss from Norway named Lena. They became Mr. and Mrs. William Thorsen in 1890.
William worked for the Great Northern for 23 years. During those years, two things of importance happened. First, William and Lena raised a family consisting of two sons, Edward and Henry, two daughters, Estelle and Thora, and twin boys, Theodore and Arthur, born in 1899. Second, Thora—who was attending the University of Wisconsin—became critically ill with tuberculosis and her doctor recommended that she move to a warmer climate.
The Thorsens had close friends—the Carl Carl-sons—living in Clinton on Whidbey Island. They invited the ill girl and her family to come west for a visit to see if the milder climate would improve Thora’s health. In 1908, the Thorsens accepted the Carlson’s invitation, arrived in Clinton, and stayed with the Carlsons for several weeks. The change of climate didn’t help and Thora’s condition worsened. After a trip back to Superior, Wisconsin, the Thorsens again came west seeking a mild climate and settled for a time in California where Thora died.
Sadly, the family returned to their Wisconsin home only to meet with another tragedy. William, whose job with the railroad involved working with a wrecking crew, was badly burned when a boiler blew up and he was no longer able to handle his regular job. His thoughts began to turn with eagerness to Clinton and the serene pastoral life it offered. In 1911, the Thorsen family once again arrived on South Whidbey shores, purchased a farm on Deer Lake, and started putting together the pieces of their life which had been disrupted by death and accident. Son Henry, who was 22 when
they arrived, was a certificated teacher and he started teaching at the Maxwelton school (sometimes known as Island School). He is mentioned by Carrie Ramstad Melendy as having given her special lessons in English after her arrival from Norway. Theodore and Arthur; the twins, then 12, entered Deer Lake school where they later graduated from eighth grade. Estelle was in her teens and preparing to go to Bellingham Normal school (now Western Washington University), and study to become a teacher.
Edward had become acquainted with the Simmons family, especially their daughter, Bessie. Later he and Bessie were wed. In 1918, twins Wendell and Henry blessed their union, but once again tragedy was to touch the family. Edward’s father William died in 1919. In 1920, his wife Bessie, mother of the twins, also died. Bereaved of both his wife and his father almost simultaneously, Edward took his baby sons and moved back home with his widowed mother.
By that time the Thorsens had abandoned the Deer Lake farm and had moved adjacent to the Ramstad home just above Clinton. Time passed. Estelle graduated from Normal school, taught for a time in Oak Harbor, then in Deer Lake school. In the meantime, Carl Simmons’ mother passed away and Carl came to room and board at the Thorsen home. Dan Cupid was not unmindful of this situation. He let fly his arrows, and for a second time, a wedding united the Thorsens and Sim-mons families. Estelle and Carl Simmons established their own home; the twins, Wendell and Henry who were 16 by then, lived part of the time with their grandmother Lena Thorsen, and part of the time with their uncle and aunt, Carl and Estelle Simmons.
The twins remained on South Whidbey; so have most of their children and grandchildren. Wendell, who served on the ferries as an engineer for 25 years, married Beth Galbraith whose father owned the Clinton Union store at the time. Their daughter Marietta married Leonard Nelson; they lived near Deer Lake with their two children, Les and Jim. Les is a captain on the ferry boats; his wife Dorothy and their children live in Clinton. Jim and his wife Ladonna also live in Clinton. Jim is a member of the Pilots’ Association and works on pilot boats. Daughter Sue Thorsen Leland lives in Tacoma.
Wendell’s twin brother, Henry, who was ticket agent for the ferries until his retirement; lives in Clinton with his wife, Myrtle. Their daughter Diane lives in Kodiak, Alaska with her husband and two children. Their son William is a ferry captain. His wife is the former Nada Nichols of Nichols Boat Works. They have four children
and live in Clinton. Wendell’s other son Danny is now dead. He left his widow, Judy, daughter of the former owner of Bayview store, Harold Johnston, and two children.
Once again we have a pioneer South Whidbey Island family whose members have lived in Clinton or vicinity for five generations. (It is highly probable that when the present youngest generation of Thorsens marry and have children, at least one of them will have twins because twins run in the family. Their great grandfather, William Thorsen, had twin brothers in Norway; their grand uncles, Theodore and Arthur, were twins, and their fathers, Wendell and Henry, are twins.)