One of the things that is remarkable about Colusa County is the ‘small town’ feel. Families plant their roots where many grow deep. The Lausten-Pearson family tree is one with branches that have been growing in different directions for many years but their roots have kept them all together.
On June 2, 2019, the family celebrated their 125th Annual Family Picnic at the Will S. Green Park in Colusa. Families traveled far and wide, some from across the globe to observe this familial tradition.
Those who attended this picnic have fond memories of the many activities and games, such as baseball and a tug-of-war between the Laustens and the Pearsons. There were 150 people in attendance this year, an exponential growth from the very first picnic in 1894, which had eight of original couples who settled here.
Heading the planning committee, Susan Moser (Lausten) arranged the entire picnic from another state where she currently lives. In addition to the picnic barbecue, she included the tradition of games, scavenger hunt, a raffle to help with the cost of future picnics, and a photo booth with a rustic, vintage look.
Stories and photos are important to the Laustens and Pearsons, the family said. The history of the original picnic has been passed down through the generations.
Moser recalled the reason for the first picnic, “When they immigrated over from Denmark, out of the original eight couples, seven of them settled in the Maxwell area, leaving the one sister and her husband, who settled in Illinois, to be able to see them once a year when they traveled to California. Hence the family picnic began.”
Lausten and Pearson have been familiar last names in Maxwell, Colusa, and Williams for generations. There are some who have left but return to see cousins, coming all the way from Denmark or Germany.
“These were brave, intrepid, and strong folk. They were immigrants who made strenuous and dangerous trips from far away for the possibility of a better life,” explained Sadye (Pearson-Petersen) Reddick. “Our pioneer ancestors settled in the undeveloped frontier country of California, leaving Europe for many reasons. At the time that the Laustens left, southern Denmark was occupied by Prussia (Germany and the area was historically known as Schleswig-Holstein). War seemed to be looming as Prussia was expanding, and economic conditions were depressed and harsh. The income was small and there were many children.”
Patriarch of the family, Olaf Person settled in Maxwell. He and his wife, Else Lausten had eleven children. Reddick recalled the family story, “Olaf came from Southern Sweden, not intending to immigrate, but, after being shipwrecked off the coast of Mendocino, where he and one other sailor survived, and after surviving one other shipwreck, he stayed. He was only about 20 years old. Most of our ancestors invested in land and developed ranches and farms.”
The first picnic was held on May 6, 1894 at Grapevine Creek some six miles west of Sites.
Moser said the family tradition honors those who came before and celebrates those here now.
“Our family picnic, an unbroken tradition of 125 years is truly impressive and shows the importance of family bonds,” Riddick said. “Our ancestors knew what love meant.” ■