188 Branch Street

Harold Horndahl was born in 1865 in Sweden and immigrated to the United States in 1887. By 1888 he was living in Lowell and working as a laborer and in 1893 was a clerk. His most frequent early occupation was coachman for two of the rich and powerful men in town. In 1890 he was coachman for Benjamin F Sargent. From 1895 to 1903 he was coachman to George F. Penniman, “living in” with Clip art of horse and buggyhis wife and family at Penniman’s home at 268 Liberty St for seven out of those nine years.

Horndahl married Hulda Johanson in 1890 in Lowell, She was a fellow Swede, born in 1868 and immigrating in 1887. They had three children, Harry E in 1892, Emmy Linnea in 1897, and Raymond in 1906.

Photograph of 188 Branch Street

This one-story wood-frame building with a flat roof has been greatly altered since its original construction. Behind it is a three story building at 190, on the corner of whose lot 188 was built in the early 1900s.

Photograph of the Lucania
Horndahls took the Lucania for 1897 trip Liverpool to New York
Keeping their ties to Sweden must have been very important to them. Hulda traveled to Sweden for the birth of the first two children. Ship’s records show Hulda, Harry, and Emmy returning to the US in 1897 immediately after Emmy’s birth (she’s reported as age six months) and then Harold, Hulda, Harry, and Emmy returning in 1903. We can speculate that a child was expected and died in 1903 since Hulda reported having four children with only three still living in the Census of 1910. It’s quite possible Hulda made other trips on her own. The census of 1900 shows Harold living alone. When Hulda returned in 1897, she brought along two sisters: Freda Johanson, 21, and Anna Johanson, 19. Anna often lived with the Horndahls until at least 1930 and worked as a servant or housekeeper.

Clip art of painterAfter 1903, Harold worked as an inspector, janitor, hostler, collector, and dryer through 1927. He lived on 276 Walker Street, two blocks away from his coachman job, from 1910-1919. In 1898-1899 and 1909-1910 an Otto Horndahl was a lodger with Harold. It’s reasonable to assume that Otto was a relative but it’s not clear how close. Otto was a painter and this apparently influenced Harold. He reported being a painter working in a cotton mill in the 1920 census and in 1930 he claimed he was a painter with his own business. Until 1939 he took painting jobs operating from his home.

In 1920 Harold Horndahl purchased a two-family home on Viola Street. He had saved enough money to purchase this property without having to secure a mortgage.  Hulda died in 1917 at age 39 and Emmy followed in 1919 at only 22. Raymond died, also at 25, in 1930 so only Harry was left to carry on the family.

In 1909, at 17 years of age, Harry started work as a clerk at the Fitzpatrick Grocery at 343 Westford, about a three minute walk from the Horndahl residence around the corner at 407 Walker. Edward S. Fitzpatrick was a second generation Irishman who ran a rather large store (judging by the ads in the City Directory) with “provisions, grocery, and meats.” After three years there, Harry moved to the Charles Merrill Grocery at 2 Dover Street, staying there from 1912 to 1917. From 1918 to 1920 he was a driver and a laborer at a shoe factory but then returned to Merrill from and again 1921 to 1923.

In 1922, Harry married 22-year-old Esther W. Wogander, Massachusetts born daughter of Swedish immigrants. Harry had lived all his life with his father and now moved with his bride downstairs to the first floor flat of the two family house on Viola Street. They lived there until 1943 when they moved upstairs to take care of his father when he could no longer live alone (Harold died in 1944). The couple had a son, Russell E. in 1925.

Clip art of grocery clerk In 1924, Harry started his own grocery at 188 Branch Street.A new building was erected on the corner of the lot of 190 Branch Street, a house at which his father had worked as a coachman thirty years before. His old employer no longer owned the place but it must have been interesting for Harold. Harry employed his brother Raymond as a clerk at the store for three at least three years (1924-1926).
Harry Horndahl ran this grocery and meat business almost twenty years, until 1942, at which time he became a machinist for at least 1943-1945. Since machinists were much in demand during the World War, we might speculate that a machinist’s job might have been more attractive and profitable than a small retail store. Clip art of machinist
Although the elder Horndahl worked only menial jobs early on, the immigrant couple saved and were successful enough to make return trips to Sweden so that their first two children could be born there. By 1920, Harold could buy a large house for cash. Their children lived with them their whole lives and Harry, also Swedish-born and the only surviving child, ran a successful business for almost twenty years. Harold’s grandson, Russell, became a pharmacist and continued living downstairs from his mother in the family home.


The building at 188 Branch Street was briefly vacant until 1946 when Maurice L. Neustadter located his home contracting business there.  A succession of businesses followed Neustadter when he moved out in 1953.  In recent years a Southeast Asian music and video rental enterprise has operated at this address.