Tracy woman remembers pioneer grandfather
by Sam Matthews
Feb 08, 2014 | 2238 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When lifelong Tracyite Ina Schmidt Soma glanced at her copy of the Tracy Press last year, she was in for a surprise — a very happy one.

A story told about the naming of a school for Peter Hansen, who was Ina’s grandfather and a pioneer farmer west of Tracy near today’s Mountain House.

“At first, I learned they were going to name a school for my grandfather, but when I later learned that the school and a park were going to be part of the Peter Hansen Neighborhood, that’s even more of an honor,” she said. “I was excited when I learned about it.”

Peter Hansen Elementary School, a kindergarten-eighth grade school, and the 5-acre park won’t become a reality for several years. Exactly when depends on the rate of growth in Mountain House, but plans are being prepared for that eventuality.

Ina would like to be around when the school and park are finally built, though at the age of 91, she doesn’t know if that is possible. But just knowing they will be named for her grandfather is enough of a boost in family pride.

“My grandfather loved children and he was willing to work hard establishing a school in the area west of Tracy,” she said. “It is a fitting tribute.”

Hans Peter Hansen (he never used his first name) was born Sept. 4, 1839, in Apenrade, Denmark. While a young sailor on a Danish ship, he came to San Francisco in 1857 and decided to stay, settling first in Alameda County.

During the American Civil War, Hansen and his brother Christian volunteered for the Union Army and spent three years in Monterey guarding a stash of gold and other valuable items at the Union-held Monterey Presidio.

Peter Hansen returned to Denmark in 1867, married Christena Thomsen and brought her back to California. They came to the Tracy area a few years later and then received an 1874 federal land grant of 160 acres for his Civil War service.

He was one of the 13 farmers who petitioned San Joaquin County supervisors in 1876 to establish Lammersville School. He was a trustee and board clerk for the first 12 years of the rural school’s existence.

When the Lammersville School one-room schoolhouse was constructed on his land at Hansen and Von Sosten roads in 1878, he served as construction engineer.

In 1915, after he expanded his land holdings to 386 acres, Peter Hansen was one of the farmers who founded the West Side Irrigation District. After water deliveries began in 1918, he raised alfalfa hay in addition to the barley and wheat he had grown by dry-farming on his farm, which eventually included 386 acres. Hansen Road is named for the family.

Peter and Christena Hansen, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1917, had seven children — four girls and three boys. Ina’s father, Thomas Hansen, who married Sophia Krohn, was the only sibling to stay on the farm and work with his father until Peter Hansen died in 1919 at the age of 80.

Ina, born Nov. 12, 1922, grew up on the family farm with her sister, Susie, and brother, Tom. Her brother and sister have died, and Ina remains the only living granddaughter of Peter and Christena Hansen.

Ina, a 1940 graduate of Tracy High School, married Henry Schmidt, a World War II Navy veteran and Tracy photographer, in 1947. She worked as a bookkeeper in the West Side Market operated by her brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Lolly Hansen. After Henry Schmidt died in 1974, Ina married Stan Soma, a retired Army master sergeant who is now deceased.

Ina’s son, Gary Schmidt — a 59-year-old great-grandson of Peter Hansen — and his wife, Gloria, have two sons, Jared, 31, and Brian, 28, who are fifth-generation members of the Hansen clan as Peter Hansen’s great-great-grandsons.

Peter Hansen’s legacy lives on through his Tracy granddaughter Ina, great-grandson Gary and great-great grandsons Jared and Brian. Within a few years, Peter Hansen Neighborhood, including an elementary school and park, will become another visible reminder of that century-and-a-half legacy.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

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