As part of a tradition 150 years strong, the Lausten-Pearson family gathered in Colusa earlier this month for their annual family reunion picnic.
“I have been going to these picnics since I was born, so this was something I looked forward to for many years,” said Susan Moser, this years picnic organizer.
The original Lausten family, consisting of five sisters and three brothers, came to America from Denmark. Sadye (Pearson-Petersen) Reddick, a direct descendent of Oliver Pearson and Else Lausten, said the family left Europe for many reasons.
“At the time that the Laustens left, southern Denmark was occupied by Prussia,” Reddick said. “War seemed to be looming as Prussia was expanding, and economic conditions were depressed and harsh.”
With a limited income and many children to take care of, the family packed up and headed to America.
“These were brave, intrepid, and strong folks,” Reddick said. “They were immigrants who made strenuous and dangerous trips from far away for the possibility of a better life.”
The reunion picnic tradition began in 1894 when the family was able to reunite after settling down in America.
According to Moser, all settled in the Maxwell area except one sister, Bodel Maria, who settled in Illinois.
“To be able to see them once a year when they travelled to California – hence the family picnic began,” Moser said.
Those in attendance at the first picnic included Oliver and Else Catherine (Lausten) Pearson, August and Anne Marie (Lausten) Westcamp, Pederand Ingerborg (Mikkelsen) Lausten. Niels and Bodil (Lausten) Clausen, Christian and Christine Marie (Lausten) Mikkelsen, Christian and Anna Christina (Hattens) Lausten.
The first picnic-goers drove their horse-drawn carriages out to a field near Grapevine Creek – about six miles from Sites – for the festivities.
“The picnic was literally held in a field by the creek, bugs, stickers, and all, not like today, held in a lovely, well cared for park,” Reddick said.
Moser said even in the earliest years attendees played games and had bonding experiences at the picnic.
Reddick said every year there was a tug of war between the Laustens and the Pearsons as well as a big baseball game.
“It was looked forward to and beloved,” Moser said. “I have seen pictures from the first picnic, pictures throughout the years where they wore beautiful dresses and pearls even in the hot summer, and pictures of my cousins and every year I document our continued love for this tradition.”
This year, Moser took over the task of organizing the annual event.
“I am beyond proud to come from the family, and to be taking this position,” Moser said.
Moser said 150 people attended the picnic this year. That number has fluctuated through the years, said Moser, reaching as many as 600 people some years. Moser said she was expecting about 50 more people this year but found out that 47 family members where attending a wedding in Africa the same weekend, a pretty good excuse to miss the annual picnic in her opinion, she said.
“My goal for this particular reunion was to bring older and younger generations together and to unite the different strands of our families,” Moser said. “I also aim to keep it exciting so that the younger generations beneath me will have a desire and work ethic to keep this going.”
While the family still has strong roots in Colusa County, many of them have moved away from the area and travel from around the world each year to attend the picnic. Some family members have come from as far away as Germany and Denmark, said Moser.
“It is so important to us to keep the family reunion tradition going, to honor those who came before us, celebrate the people that are here now, and happily anticipate those who come after,” Moser said.
Moser’s dedicated work seemed to pay as this years festivities wound down.
“I received a cherished compliment as we were all leaving the picnic this year,” Moser said. “After all the hard work trying to work towards my previously stated goals, my cousin Erika – I’m a Lausten, she is a Pearson - said, ‘We arrived today as family, we leave today as friends.’ My heart exploded with joy.”
And other family members echoed this sentiment with heartfelt words about the beloved tradition.
“Our family picnic, an unbroken tradition of 125 years, is truly impressive and shows the importance of family bonds,” Reddick said.