Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

This page was created 06 Sep 2008

Severine Evensen Tallasen & Her Family

From Norway & Sweden via Alaska to Settle in Oneida, Tennessee

By NADINE C. SMITH Contributing Columnist

The family of Laurence C. Smith can trace their lineage back several generations, but they do not know for sure who their immigrant ancestors were. The Smiths were in the Scott County area by the early I 800s. By the time the area became a county in 1849, they were well-established in the area and played a prominent role in the development of the county. Henry Clay Smith married Lucinda Terry. They had fifteen children – ten boys and five girls — and all lived to be adults and settled in this area except for one daughter who moved to Florida. One of their sons, Laurence Clifton, was born in 1900. This is the story of Laurence Clifton Smith and his wife Thelma Severine Tallasen Smith and her family.

Laurence C. Smith and Thelma Tallasen were married in 1926. Thelma and her family had come to Scott County in 1923 from Seward, Alaska. The story of how Thelma and her family came to this area from Alaska is a fascinating story even if the details are few and obscure. Thelma’s family has been able to trace their ancestors because Thelma’s parents were the ones who came to this country from Norway and Sweden. The following is the story of her parents, Tallas Tallasen and Severine Evensen Tallasen.

The Evensen-Tallasen
Family Story

Severine Evensen Tallasen

Tallas Tallasen

Severine (Sylvia) Evensen was born in Solar, Norway on December 6, 1866, and died November 24, 1947. At some point she started using the name Sylvia, probably after coming to Scott County. Her mother was Swedish and her father was Norwegian. She came to this country from Norway by way of Ellis Island and New York City. She came under the sponsorship of the Mormon Church. She left Christiana, Norway on November 4, 1892, and traveled to Liverpool, England. She then had to wait ten days for a steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It then took them three weeks to reach Utah, probably traveling by train.

Severine brought all of her possessions -with her in a plain black wooden trunk. According to family stories, she slept on the trunk while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. This trunk is now in the possession of a family member. At one time she sang in the Mormon tabernacle choir and was there at the Salt Lake Temple Dedication Services on April 9, 1893.

While living in Utah, she married a man from that area. Very little is known about this first marriage. One of Severine’s granddaughters said that she remembered her grandmother saying that he was too fond of looking at the ladies’ ankles. Another family member said she had been told that he had a wife in every town. However, we have no documentation, but her first husband was probably Mormon. For whatever reason, that first marriage ended in divorce and Severine moved to Alaska to get as far away from Utah as possible.

Very little is known about Tallas (Talleck) Tallasen. According to oral family history, he came from Sweden. According to one family source, his mother was Scottish, and his father was from Norway. His mother was a telegraph operator and died in a fire in the building where she was working. According to this report, she had got out of the building, but went back in to help one of her coworkers make it out. Tallasen had had serious disagreements with his father and lived with an uncle for awhile. He stowed away on a boat and came to Alaska at an early age. According to family stories, he left Sweden at about the age of twelve. He joined the merchant marines and served there for nine years. Then he was discharged and stayed in Alaska to look for gold.

The Gold Rush was going on at this time in Alaska and northern Canada. Many prospectors came to this cold northern region looking for gold and excitement. Severine Evensen had left Utah with a girl friend who was traveling to Alaska to join her husband who was already up there prospecting for gold. Severine and her friend ended up there in the vicinity of Nome, Alaska. There she found employment at a way station or road house for travelers. This was owned by the government. Part of her job was to feed the dog teams when prospectors came into the way station. She mixed up corn meal mush as part of the food for them. When she came to this area and learned that people ate cornbread she was shocked. She was used to that being fed to the dogs.

Tallas met Severine when he came to the way station for supplies and rest. They were married in 1901.

They took over the operation of a way station about twenty-six miles from Nome. While they lived there near Nome, they had two daughters, Helen Marie, born in 1903, and Thelma Severine, born 1907.

Thelma was born twenty-six miles northeast of Nome, Alaska at a way station near Nome operated by her parents.

Included with this story are some pictures of their family while living in the area near Nome.

Severine Evensen Tallasen’s homeplace in Norway
Tallas Tallasen and friends at the Road House in Nome, Alaska
U.S. Road House in Nome, Alaska

They later moved to Murray, Utah, about fifteen miles south of Salt Lake City. While they were living there, a third daughter was born in 1911 and named Myrtle Fern. They owned a large farm, but he did not like farming so they decided to move back to Alaska and opened a way station near Nome. Later they moved to Seward, Alaska.

The following is from a handwritten account by their daughter Thelma. Shortly before her death, she started to write an account of her early life, but was unable to finish it.

"Mother then wanted to leave the cold North and they decided to go back to Utah. All I remember of Nome is leaving on a ship. To get to the ship since Nome did not have a deep harbor was going on a flatboat or barge while I had to sit on a duffel bag of Mother’s in the center of the barge where the luggage was stacked, I wanted to see the water but I could remember seeing only the long dark pants of the men and the long dark shirts of the women who stood around the rail of the barge until we got to the ship."

The oldest daughter, Helen, married a soldier named John Slaven from Scott County, Tennessee and they moved there after he was discharged from the service. Included is a picture of the camp where he was stationed while in Alaska.


Mr. Tallack Tallason, for the past ten years a resident of Seward, died last evening at the family home in this city from injuries received yesterday afternoon about 3:30 o'clock, while at work in the engine room of the San Juan Fishing & Packing Company's cold storage plant.

At the time of the accident, Mr. Tallasen was alone in the engine room, but was discovered shortly after it happened. According to the best information obtainable Mr. Tallason was oiling a bearing on the main shafting, standing on a ladder to do so. The supposition is that the ladder slipped and he grabbed hold of the shaft to keep from falling. A set screw on the shaft caught hold of his clothing and within the space of a few seconds he was being whirled to his death. The first intimation to be had that he was in danger was when the carpenter of the plant, who a few minutes before had left the engine room, heard a cry of distress, followed by several loud thumps, and later a fall as though a heavy body had struck the floor. Calling to Foreman Nicholich and hastening to the engineroom, Mr. Tallason was found lying on the floor, bleeding profusely from the many wounds caused by his legs and body striking a huge timber above the shafting and also from an ugly gash in the back of his head. With the exception of portions of his garments from the shins down his body was stripped of clothing. His lower limbs were practically beaten to a pulp and nearly all his ribs were broken. The shinbones were protruding through the flesh in many places.

Dr. Baughman was hastily summoned and the injured man taken to his home, where death occurred shortly after half past five o'clock. Nurse Perry, who was in attendance, made a heroic fight to prolong life by artificial respiration but all efforts were unavailing, Mr. Tallason passing away quietly.

The deceased was born in Norway on March 3, 1866. At an early age he came to the United States and on reaching manhood's estate for a time followed a seafaring life. About thirty years ago he came to Alaska, leaving later for the states. At a later period he went to Nome, where he was married to Miss Everein Evanson, in 1901. On May 6, ten years ago, he moved to Seward, which place he made his home. Prior to his arrival at Nome he served in the Spanish American, war, and was at Manila when Admiral Dewey captured that city. His residence in Alaska for the past twenty years has been continuous. Surviving him in addition to a devoted wife, are three daughters, Helen Marie (Mrs. John Slavin), living at Elva, Tennessee; Thelma Severien and Myrtle Fern; both of whom are living at Seward.

Mr. Tallasen was a member of Seward Lodge, Loyal Order of Moose, and he will be buried under the suspices of that order, interment being made in the Seward cemetery. Funeral services will be tomorrow afternoon at the Undertaking Chapel at 2:00 o'clock.

The funeral will be attended by members of the Loyal Order of Moose, Spanish-American war veterans; and ex-service men; and friends of the family, all of whom are requested to attend.

Tallas Tallasen worked as an engineer in the cannery and was killed in an accident there in 1923. [See explicit details of the accident in attached news story.] After his death, Severine Tallasen and her two younger daughters, Thelma and Myrtle, moved to Oneida. They traveled by ship to the United States and then took a train to Minnesota and Wisconsin, where they visited for awhile with relatives. Severine had at least one sister, Hannah, and possibly other family members who had moved to this area from Norway. It is thought by family members that Hannah came to the United States before Severine.

They arrived in Oneida when Thelma was sixteen. John and Helen Slaven were living there in the No Business area of Scott County near his family. The only way for Severine to get in touch with her daughter Helen was by letter, since there were no telephones in the rural areas at that time. The family stayed at the Commercial Hotel on Main Street until John and Helen came to town with a horse and wagon to take the family home with them to No Business for awhile. Thelma has told about the road being so steep in places that she was afraid that the wagon would overturn.

They stayed with the Slaven family for awhile, then Severine rented a house in town and they moved to Oneida so that the two young girls could go to school. This was in 1923 when they came to Oneida. Severine later had a house built on what became Slaven Lane and her daughter Helen and her family later moved to Oneida and lived in the house next door. Both of these houses are still standing and belong to members of the Slaven family.

Scene of U.S. Army base in Alaska where Scott Countian John Slaven served. While there, Slaven met and married Helen Tallasen.

Ancestors & Descendants
Of Severine Evensen
And Tallas Tallasen

No information is available on the parents or ancestors of Tallas Tallasen at this time.

The following information comes from an old family Bible that belonged to Helen Slaven.

Parents of Severine Evensen: Mother — Anna Marie Pederson? Father — Ole Evensen, born in Solar, Norway.

Brothers and Sisters:

Emmanuel Evensen (in uniform, probably a soldier in World War I). .



Anna Marie


Hannah (came to the U.S. and lived in Wisconsin).

Note: This may not be in the correct chronological order.

Hannah had one daughter named Margaret that we know of. She married Claus Johnson. They had two daughters: Florence Davis and Ruth Cummings. One of them, Florence Davis, visited this area during the World’s Fair in 1982.

Emmanuel Evensen may have come to this country for awhile. One of the granddaughters tells of her grandmother visiting a brother and sister in Wisconsin. If he was here for awhile, he probably returned to Norway. Another family member reported that Severine had corresponded with her brother until Germany invaded Norway in World War II. After that the family never heard from him. According to family stories, Severine was very distressed about not knowing where her brother was or what had happened to him, and she suffered nightmares from this. His fate is another unknown factor in this family story.

Severine did speak English. Whether she learned it as a child in Norway or as an adult in the United States is not known. One family member refers to her speaking "broken English," but she could be understood. The level of her education is not known, but she was a very resourceful and clever woman. Her travels included:

Norway to England

England to New York City

New York to Utah

Utah to Alaska

Later from Alaska to Utah for a year

From Utah back to Alaska

From Alaska to Oneida

This travel record is daunting even by modern travel. To think of doing this about a century ago overwhelms the imagination.

Tallas Tallasen was buried in Seward, Alaska, but the cemetery was destroyed in the great earthquake that destroyed much of Seward. A grandson of Helen Slaven visited the area several years ago but was unable to find any trace of the cemetery or grave.

Tallas Tallasen and Severine Evensen Tallasen had three daughters.

Helen Marie, born 1903 and died 1994. She married John Slaven of Oneida, Tennessee.

Thelma Severine, born 1907 and died 1994. She married Laurence C. Smith of Oneida.

Myrtle Fern, born 1911 and died 1985. She married Henry Burchett and lived in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Myrtle Tallasen became a school teacher and moved to Tullahoma, Tennessee to teach school. She taught high school English. She married Henry Burchett and lived there until her death. Myrtle and Henry had one daughter, Sylvia Ann. Sylvia and her family live in Germantown, Tennessee.

Helen Tallasen and John Slaven met and were married in Alaska and later moved back to Scott County, Tennessee. They lived in the No Business area for several years and then moved to Oneida so the children could go to school. They lived next door to Helen’s mother on Slaven Lane. Helen taught school for awhile when living in the No Business area. Among her papers is a copy of one of her school contracts. Helen and John had six children, five girls and one boy.

Thelma and Helen Tallasen

1. Verta Slaven married Robert Harris. They had two children:

A. Robert A. Harris, Jr. (Bobby), who married Carolyn Kidd. They had three children: Linda (Missy), Ann Marie and Robin. He later married Linda Conners.

B. James Richard Harris (Jim). He married Francine Coffey Boshears. They had two children: Sean Richard Harris and Matthew Robert Harris. A second marriage was to Brenda Terry. They had one child: Jamie Harris.

2. Dorothy Slaven. She had one daughter, Patricia, who married Ed Million from Dalton, Georgia.

3. Thelma Slaven married Allen Vincent. They lived in Fairmont, West Virginia for many years. After his death she moved back to Oneida. She did not have any children.

4. Norma Slaven married Joe Sellenrick and moved to Rawlings, Wyoming. They now live in Grand Junction, Colorado. They have three children:

A. Kathy married Dean Hoillatz. They have two daughters, Elizabeth and Allyson.

B. Gary, married Patty Stricker and they live in Sheridon, Wyoming. They have three children: Shane, Denice and Jeff.

C. Howard

5. Herbert married Opal King. They have one daughter, Joyce Ann Slaven, who married Tom Hargett.

6. Helen Ruth Slaven married Fred Webb. After his death she married Charles Phillips. She did not have any children.

Postcard scene in Kristiania, with writing which is apparently Norwegian
Tallasen Family in 1920. From left: John Slaven, Helen Marie Tallasen Slaven, Severine (Sylvia) Tallasen, baby Verta Slaven, Thelma Tallasen, Myrtle Slaven, and Tallas Tallasen.
Tallasen Children. From left: Helen, Thelma, and Myrtle.

Thelma Tallasen and
Laurence C. (Star) Smith
And Their Family

Laurence C. Smith was born in 1900 and died July 1949. His parents were Henry Clay Smith and Lucinda Terry Smith. Laurence was well known by the name of Star because of his athletic abilities. He worked at several different jobs. He taught school for awhile, worked as a policeman, mail carrier, and owned a dry cleaning business at one time. He suffered from emphysema and asthma in later years and was in ill health. He died in 1949 and is buried in the Smith Family Cemetery.

Thelma Severine Tallasen was born in 1907 in Nome, Alaska and died in 1994. She is buried in the Smith Family Cemetery. Thelma moved to Oneida from Alaska in 1923. She attended Oneida High School and graduated in 1926. She and Laurence were married October 1, 1926. She attended college at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, receiving a BS degree in elementary education. She started teaching at Burchfield Elementary School. Later she transferred to Oneida and taught second grade there for many years.

After her retirement, her two great interests were her church and family. She was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Oneida. She attended church faithfully and participated in many activities. Family was very important to Thelma. She greatly enjoyed visiting her children and grandchildren.

Thelma Tallasen Smith and Laurence C. Smith had seven children — four boys and three girls:

Laurence C. Smith was born in Oneida and attended the Oneida schools. After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Air Force, where he stayed until retirement. He married Joyce Schann from Bellvue, Illinois. They have four children: Linda, Laurence C., Jr., Mary and Mark. He and Joyce live near Omaha, Nebraska.

Clara Jo Smith was their second child. She died in 1988 and is buried in the Smith Family Cemetery. She graduated from Oneida High School and attended nurses training for awhile. She married William (Bill) Meredith Brown Jr. They had four children: Sylvia, Becky, Michael and Meredith. Bill Brown died in 1998.

Barbara Ann Smith was the third child. After graduating, from Oneida High School, she worked for Plateau Electric Cooperative in Oneida. She married Rondald Walls from Steams, Kentucky and lived there for a few years. They moved to Nashville after that and now live in the Mt. Juliet area. They have two children: Rhonda and Scott.

Thomas Clifton Smith was the fourth child. He graduated from Oneida High School. He served a term in the U.S. Army. After that he settled in Atlanta, graduated from Georgia State, and worked for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. He married Barbara Rose Starns from the Atlanta area. They have three children: Gregory, Leslie and Christopher. They now live in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Alma Lucinda Smith was the fifth child. After graduating from Oneida High School, she attended business school and started working for AT&T in Atlanta. She married Louis Hill and they had two sons. Later she married Raymond Partain. He died in 2000 on Christmas Eve. Alma lives in the Atlanta area near her sons.

William Henry Smith (known in the family as Billy, and also Bill to his friends and others) attended the Oneida schools. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force for a four-year term. After that he attended Cumberland College, receiving BS degree in education. He taught school at Oneida High School for many years, serving as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and then principal until his retirement. He married Nadine Chitwood. They have two sons: William H. Smith, Jr. and Roger Alan Smith.

Robert Lee Smith (known to the family as Bobby) is a twin to William H. Smith. He graduated from Oneida High School and then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He married a girl from France. They have twin sons, William and Stephen. All of them live in the Atlanta area.

All of the children of Thelma and Star are alive and doing well except for Clara Jo, who died in 1998. All of them try to get together in August of each year for the H.C. Smith Family Reunion.

Education was and is still very important to this family. Ill health kept Star from being very active in later years, but Thelma was in good health until about a year before her death. Home, family and church were all very important to her. She enjoyed life and made life enjoyable for her family. She spoke very little about her early life. It is a deep regret of her family that more knowledge of her early life was not known and preserved.

The family is fortunate to have more information and family history available on the Smith side of the family.

Every family has a story to tell. Older members of each family should provide some written record of their early life and the lives of their ancestors. This will be of immense interest to their children and grandchildren. Such stories are also of great interest and value to the genealogist. It is through these family stories that the history of our past is preserved.

Severine Tallasen

Thelma Smith & Severine Tallasen (1946)

Sisters Myrtle Fern Burchette, Helen Marie Slaven, and Thelma Severine Smith Thelma Smith at Road House in Alaska.

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 18, No. 1 – Fall 2006
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(p1, 3-5)

Scott Co, TN Homepage

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