This letter was written to Elonie Malvina (Leona) Jensen Rixey from her sister, Elvina Elvira (Mina) Jensen Stansfield at age 81. Aunt Mina lived to be 1 month shy of 100. Mina and Leona were my grandfather Arthur Jensen’s sisters. My mother, Betty Kathleen Jensen Farley, had a copy of this letter in her possession. As the copy is fading badly, I will attempt to re-type it as close to the way it was written as possible. Lynda Farley Bench
Mt. Pleasant, Utah
February 26, 1964
This morning while I was in bed, I had an inspiration; I will write to Leona; my television is being repaired and I can’t even hear the news on radio as my radio is in my television set, too. So you will have to bear the brunt. I hope you can take it. I guess you can for you are of that good old, Swedish stuff. I miss television when it is off, especially the news and some stories. I am so anxious to get on with the trial of poor old, rich Winston Grimsby, who is accused of murdering a gal who was trying to get a million or less, from him. I thought it interesting to see and hear about conditions in Kentucky, where the coal mines closed down and put so many men out of work. Can you imagine a state as old as Kentucky in such a condition; men of 60 or older who couldn’t read or write. “What kind of a state is it?” I ask myself. I remember when Hoover was president, he went fishing in some of the places and he found that some places have never had a school. So he got a school for them and also when the draft cam (and of course, they didn’t escape the draft) some of the boys had never worn a pair of shoes. One man couldn’t leave the mountains because he couldn’t read the road signs, so couldn’t go out and find work. I know it’s true because the March issue of Presbyterian Life had a lot of pictures of college students bringing clothes and food to them last Christmas. I blame the state for such conditions. President Johnson mentioned Kentucky as the most poverty-stricken area. And others can clip millions of dollars out of nowhere. How does it happen anyway? ? ? (as B. Baker and that crook from Texas.) And thinking about President Kennedy - - was it not the most tragic thing ? ? I was watching everything when he was shot and when Oswald was shot, too. And all during the funeral, it was like an ancient pageant, so fabulous and tragic. I could hardly make myself believe it was real. The walk to the church and Mrs. Kennedy walking all the way; the caisson, the empty saddle and the drums. The chills went up and down my back. The Catholic sermon, with all that canting in an unknown language, except the Priest and God. If it takes all that us ordinary humans will never get to Heaven, I’m afraid. Do I sound cynical? (I had to look in the dictionary to spell it.)
I am glad I am just a down-to-earth Presbyterian- - -
* * * * *
I have a lot of papers I saved from the First World War in 1914, and the Second World War and also the last War with Japan. Let me ramble along a little further into the Spanish-American War when you and I were in the Eighth Grade. C.J. Jensen was our teacher and we got a cable (or however the news came those days) that Admiral Dewey had sunk the Spanish Fleet in Manilla Harbor…..How we whooped and stomped our feet. It was such a thrill, and so many things have happened since those days. Evan was in the War with Japan, in the Navy. He was a Lieutenant on a small gunboat that protects the large ships. They fired so often and so fast that the guns got red-hot; the Japs plunging their planes right on the ships. Evan won’t talk much about it but he did say that they plucked men right out of the water and their flesh stuck to their hands as they lifted them out.
I am rambling along. I forgot what I was going to say about the funeral of our President and his brave wife and those sweet children who have no father now, only in memory and I wept as they crept up to the bier and kissed it, poor little tykes. They are humans even if they own millions of dollars. They have only one heart, one brain, even as you and I. I somehow got the feeling that Mrs. Kennedy was aware that she was making history with her bravery, her poise, etc. (am I getting - - where is that word again - -cynical?) I think there was another cup of coffee in my pot after breakfast. I will get it and maybe I can collect my thoughts better and not ramble along so badly. There was a cup all right but the bottom was full of grounds. I boil my first cup of coffee in the morning so I can get it fast (about three minutes, where, if you perk in the perculator, it takes nine minutes for the best coffee. If you perk longer it gets sort of a sour taste. But this last cup wasn’t too good. The grounds are so fine that particles get under my lower plates and they cut like raspberry seeds. I drink a lot of coffee, maybe too much but I blame it on the commercials of coffee. Every time I see a play, they have coffee and then I get the urge to put on the pot and I enjoy it with the play. I am glad I don’t have any booze in my home or I might become an “alcohalic.” Is that spelled right? Well, here I am, away from the funeral again, from coffee to raspberry seeds and booze. I will try to keep my mind in the groove. And Leona, that word reminds me when we were eleven or twelve years old and Father made us weed the wheat field, ten acres. OH! It looked so big, and black seed plants by the millions with an occasional milk weed which always made our hands sticky. But we would count off five rows, walk in the center row and watch the other rows for weeds. It was easy, up and down, you, Elmer and me; each five rows - - that makes fifteen each turn. By noon we were real hungry but we never cheated. We made a flat spot of earth, put a straight stick in the center and when the sun made a straight shadow, it was noon and we could eat. I can’t remember what but most likely it was “fit” (lard) and smoked sausage. Mother seemed to have barrels of sausage, always and I couldn’t stand it, especially if she always put onion in it. I remember when Mother always put onion in all fried potatoes, “eggs”, “caga” liver sausage and we kids would sit and pick pieces of onion out of the food. She would get so mad at us for being so picky. Poor Mother! what she put up with! Here I am off the subject again. We were just having sandwiches of “fit” and sausages. I guess we were hungry enough to eat anything. After eating, we found the largest willow trees we could find, climb to the top and sway back and forth singing at the tops of our voices. None of us could sing but anyway, it was fun. However, at one o’clock by our clock, we were back weeding and by night, we usually had the ten acres clean. Father had the cleanest wheat in the field and at threshing time, with the old “Hup” power, that’s what we kids called it, the wheat was threshed. Six or eight horses pulled it round and round and a man in the center, with a big whip yelled “hup! hup!” I thought he was a hero for sure and the next hero was the two men who fed the threshing machine, one cutting the binding strings and the other stuffing the bundles down the throat so it all came out beautiful, clean wheat. We never knew what happened inside the machine, what went in and what came out; straw, clean, cream colored, and chaff and how we liked to play in the straw stack, huge stacks of it. We would climb up and slide down. I was such a coward, I was always afraid I would sink in the soft fluffy straw and would never be found again. Father always separated the straw from the chaff and mixed the chaff with the ground wheat and few the steers to be fattened. I remember so well the large manger that the steers had, filled with chaff and shorts and chop feed and bran. In case you have forgotten, bran is the outside of the wheat, the shell. Shorts is next inside and chop feed is the whole wheat, chopped. We now buy this cattle feed and pig feed in fancy packages and call it graham flour, whole meal cereal and also wheat germ. Were those animals well-fed! I buy wheat germ by the bottle and put a tablespoon of it in my oatmeal mush. It is full of Vitamin B. But before I go back to my sad story again, I have to remind you of our milk cows in case you have forgotten. My first remembrance was of an old cow, the family Old Halta (meaning limpy). We had just moved from town to the farm. I was 4 or 5 years old. I remember it so well. There was a litter of pigs born and one was a real runt and couldn’t compete with the other 11 or 12. Father sent me to milk our Old Halta and feed the runt. I can’t remember whether I got any milk out of the cow or not but the pig was fed. Of course, you wouldn’t know about Halta but I know you remember Old Mag. We kids could ride all we wanted to. She was 20 years old and so sway-backed that if two of us got on her back, we got so wedged in that we couldn’t loosen out. But one day you and I were riding on her and we both fell off. I don’t know what happened or how we managed it, but we did. I think she must have stopped very suddenly. I fell off of Fanny once as I am sure you can remember. We were home alone at the time. We put a carpet on Fanny and tied it with a rope and I should have the first ride. I was lopping down the land, sitting sideways (we wouldn’t be caught astride a horse, so vulgar) when the rope and carpet started to slide backwards and I, with it. I hit my head on a sharp rock and made a deep hole. I made you swear to not tell Father and Mother because they would forbid us to ever ride again. I tied a fascinator over my head so that they couldn’t see the blood on my hair. When I went to bed, I kept my fascinator on and also when I went to school the next day. You were so loyal not to tell. It went on for several days, the lump getting larger and larger and I was really getting sick with a fever and still I would not tell. (That’s the Swede in me; never give up) The night the folks found out about it, I was sleeping with my mother on account of a high fever. I still had my fascinator on. Kind of peculiar they didn’t notice it. I got up during the night, fumbled to a wash bowl which had a lot of soapy water in it, took off the hood and soaked my head all over the top, O’ it felt so good. In the meantime, Mother was watching me as all mothers do and when morning came, I sure got a going-over. No, it wasn’t a scolding or anything like that but Mother cut the hair away from the sore and the family was flabbergasted. It was close to blood poison. I remember at the time, Selma was staying at Hilda’s; she had just had one of the babies, I think it was Crystal and Hilda had Childbed fever…She was very sick. They were living in Twin Creek Canyon at the time. Pete came out home to let the folks know how she was and to get some things for Selma and I guess I looked pretty bad. He went home and told them how bad I was and he “didn’t think I would make it” but this was before my soap-watch douche which I administered to myself. But both Hilda and I lived, Hilda to 94 years and I am now 81. The old saying is that “only the good, die young.” According to that, Hilda must have been a very wicked woman, but I refute that saying. Hilda was one of the best women I have ever seen, never talked about people, a wonderful mother and a good wife. I am not a religious person but I can say, “God Bless.” Mother had often said Hilda, a step-daughter, was better to her than her own daughters….Well, I had better read back on my letter or I will repeat myself and that is a sign of senility.
Lindon was just here. He brought his new Ford Station wagon to have it tested after three months. He bought it at the Ford shop here, got it $100 cheaper. We have so many Station Wagons in my family that when they are all here, it takes in a whole block. They are all identical, cream-colored. They include Lindon’s, Dick’s, Reyl’s, Arvill’s and Dwain’s. I hade him a lunch of lamb chops, baked beans and he ate one whole loaf of new HOMEMADE bread. He doesn’t get bread homebaked unless he comes here. Jackie bakes bread often.
We had a fine birthday for me. The folks brought salads and dessert, Angel food and strawberries. I had a nice 12 lb. turkey hen baking in the oven, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, fruit salad, celery and lots of dressing and gallons of coffee. We had such a congenial time. It is so much fun to get the whole bunch together once in a while. Ethel, my baby, has two lovely children, John Evan, age 10, his third year in college and Kristin, age 14, first year in High School. John is dark complexioned like his father and Kris is a blond like her mother.
Ethel went to a Business College this last year and took a business course and is now working in the insurance office that is Evan’s office and she likes it so much. She got tired of sitting home so much alone so she did something about it.
Well, Leona, I will go up along the coast while I am still writing about California and have you meet Barbara Jean and Dwain Smith’s family. Jean is Jessie’s youngest daughter. Jean loves to cook and sew and is a good homemaker. Dwain is a lieutenant in the Navy. They have three children, Brenda Susan, Kalen and Micah, who was born in the Hawaiian Islands where they lived for three years. They have bought a home in Sunnyvale and are now getting it furnished and the garden work started. Jean is a registered nurse but loves housework also.
Before I forget, the whole family gave me a lovely kitchen table and chairs to match. I thought the old ones were good enough but they said “no.” My old table was one we bought from Selma. She bought it from John Waldemar. It was solid oak and I suppose, a relic.
Well, Leona, I go on into Utah and make you acquainted with some of your kinfolk. Phyllis is Jessie’s oldest child and Arvill, her husband. He was also in the Navy during the last war. They also have three children, Paul, Rebecca and Gary. They all have brown eyes, like their father. Arvill is so nice to me, fixes everything around my place. Phyllis is also a nurse as you know. They live in Mapleton, have a lovely home and garden.
The next on the list is Jacqueline and her husband, Rey L. Larsen. They have the largest family, five children - - three boys and two girls, the oldest Raye Lynn is 13 and Patricia, the youngest, six. They live in one of the suburbs of Provo. They have just finished their new home also. Jackie is a very good housekeeper and cook. Rey L. works at the steel plant. Arvill works there also.
Richard, or Dick as we all call him, is Jessie’s youngest. He had it so good at home after the three girls married that he didn’t want to leave. He had a girl friend who thought otherwise so she led him to the altar. Jessie was afraid she would have an old bachelor on her hands. Dick and Sharon are building their new home in Provo. They have three children, the twins, Dennis and Denice and Bryant, who is about three years old. Dick is a contractor and building homes by the tract is his main occupation. Sharon if a registered nurse also. Well, the others in my family are Ethel and Jessie, Lindon and Evan. They are scattered in different places but we manage to get together occasionally. I manage to keep busy in my home taking care of the house and my garden.
As I am reminiscing about the past, I remember a few of our classmates who have died. We had 18 in the class of whom 9 were boys. Only two of the boys are still living, Charles De Graff and Royal Candland. The girls have a better record. Three have died, Ina, Winnie and Andra. Others who have died this last year, who I think you remember, are Eliza Staker, Lawrence Ericksen’s wife and Ben Staker’s wife, her sister. They are all relatives. We received word yesterday, from Duchesne County that George Stansfield died. His funeral is today. He was 82 years old. I won’t go to the funeral, the weather is too bad. The roads are very slippery.
Three tragic things happened this last year for three families. Three fathers committed suicide; Evan Nelson, Ray Bohne, our postmaster and last week, Lawrence Seeley, who hung himself. The first used guns.
This is Sunday and I can’t write today, don’t seem to collect my thoughts so I will wait until Monday to write some more of these memories. I don’t call this letter (I must look it up to see if I spelled it right) Memories. (It was spelled O.K.) Isn’t it awful to not have a good education. It shows all through this letter. At any rate, you won’t criticize my shortcomings.
Last night after the news on television (I have it going strong again) I went to bed but couldn’t sleep, trying to figure how to finish this letter. My thoughts got to wondering about you and I in our early school days when we went to the Methodist Church School. Miss Graham was the teacher, a missionary and good friend of all the children. The school was in the church building…..Everyone was so poor and when she had a church program for the children, she wanted them to look nice so she loaned them little articles of her clothing. I remember she put one of her white collars on me. I and two others girls were to sing together. I had to go home after school and as it was one and one half miles, I was late for the program so never got to show my white collar. Miss Graham later married Mr. Clemensen and was a happy wife, a mother to a number of children. I always said “She taught me the long and short division.”
All during these early school days, our father was paying tuition and also school taxes, so he said we must all go to public school. There were still six of our family going to school. I was adjustable (I had quite a time with that word) but you wanted to be with me all the time and I couldn’t shake you off. I thought you should find friends of your age. I was a long-legged gal and you were a little runt as I remember. I got very ugly with you took it out by running away from you when we got out in the sagebrush but I had to teach you to have some self-reliance someway. (I am slick. See how I can justify myself.)
Well, we grew up by leaps and bounds. I did, anyway - - I can’t say the same about you. I was taller than Arthur and two years younger and I sure found out that I was a good roustabout by all the family. All the long errands were put on my shoulders, or more aptly, my legs. But I had one wish, I wished desperately to be pretty when I grew up. The Waldemar Girls once said I would be the nicest looking girl in our family. I wanted it to happen but it never did. My complexion was bad and I got enemia that so many young girls had when maturing and Mother said I had yellow roses in my cheeks instead of red. My teeth were quite large but I kept them white by polishing them with powdered charcoal and a cloth. No one ever had a toothbrush. Some children especially boys had moss that covered two thirds of their teeth. I sure would bawl them out. This is what some people call the good old days; not for me! We started to the public school. Every one called it the “Mormon” school and the Wasatch Academy and the Methodists were called “Liberals.” I got along fairly well. Celia Rasmussen was my first teacher. I sure thought she was a mean teacher. The class marched to the front and sat on a row of seats and she would scream questions at us. I had never studied history before and could never answer any questions and her screaming at us just paralyzed me and I just cried. I asked one boy, Hyrum Syndergaard how he could answer the questions for he always had his hand up. He said to just learn one thing well and remember it and raise my hand. After that, I got along well. In the meantime, you were put in another room and were making your own friends. The house where we went to school became the city jail and is now a Mortuary. The next school I attended was the Simpson School House. I don’t know where you went during that year. I seem to have lost you. The next two or three years I was always in the “overflow” school, the old social hall beside the Mormon Church. This school was called the “overflow” because in the early winter or late fall, all the other class rooms were filled and the late students had to be in the overflow and that is where I landed a couple of years. I went over the same lessons three years. There was no place to go so I got a good understanding of the fifth reader. There was no grading in those days.
We, in the overflow had one advantage the other students didn’t have. The school being next to the meeting house, all funerals were held there as there was just one ward and the school was dismissed just as the funeral was over and all we girls went into the church and marched with the congregation to view the corpse. I have seen hundreds of them but they seem to fascinate me. I, even now, like to look at mummies in the museum. When I was a child, I buried chickens that had died and after a length of time would dig them up to see how they looked. Was I morbid! Or maybe I would have made a good archeologist or morturarian. Well, I am glad I escaped from those honorable professions. I remember well, the day we left our old school beside the church and marched into the new central school house, twelve rooms, three stories high. That was in 1896, the year of the Spanish-American War which I mentioned before. You and I graduated in 1900. We called us the Twentieth Century Class - - quite a thrill for us eighth grade graduates. I have seen some High School students I could help in their studies so I guess we learned something in those days of long ago.
There was one keen disappointment that I had when we graduated… I wanted a nice white, fluffy dress. Instead, my older sisters bought cream-colored cashmere and the style, I will never forget it, was buttoned in front with several darts for fullness, ankle-length, sleeves to the wrist with lace edging. How I hated it! Our wishes were never consulted or I know we would have had a better choice. We got so few clothes and then that! I will never forget it - - will you, Leona?
And my name - - it was always a frustration (I wanted to use that word but couldn’t find it in the dictionary. I looked for “fro” - - “fru” - - I was just deciding on another word to use instead and there is was, right before my eyes, without an effort.) I was named Elvina Elvira but instead, I was called Vine, Mine and I remember the folks called me “Biddy” (a much nastier name) when Father put a stop to it. I just remember this as I was too young or too dumb to know what it meant. It was in Swedish. Well, I have been Mina ever since I left school. I still sign deeds, documents, “Elvina” to set you straight as that name is in the records. Well, I out grew those times and I got real smart. Mother trusted me to pick out a store carpet and then wall paper for our parlor and I have always been real proud of my accomplishments and even the older members of the family complimented me on my good taste and I got over my frustrations. (I have to use that nice word again.)
I awakened this morning at four a.m. and in the quiet darkness, I could think of so many things to write about but when daylight comes they seem to scatter and I can’t gather them together again. Perhaps it is a good thing or they might sound silly to some one else reading them. I have always been inferior complex-omded and most always it is a handicap. But I am efficient in many other ways and not at all effusive…(I just found that word in the dictionary and thought to use it in my letter.) I hope you don’t think I am an egotist. (I am sure you will have to get your dictionary before you, to read this last edification.)
I am almost through with this part of the narrative.
Jack always told me I was deep, he could not understand me. In fact, I know that, myself. Whenever I was hurt, imposed upon, I buried it down deep. I never betrayed a confidence and when certain persons went after my parents, I should have lashed out but I didn’t. Perhaps I was a coward at heart. To justify myself, I hated quarreling and contention and I buried my hurt a little deeper. I hate a “blabbermouth”. Most of all, I think they are trouble makers. The old saying “Silence is Golden”, if it is true, deep down in my well of silence, there must be a lot of “Golden something.” But it seems that the lid of my well suddenly popped off. Hence all this (I will look in the dictionary and find a suitable and dignified word) achievement acquired.
I am going to add some more to my “acquired achievement and write a little history of my town where I was born in 1883. Our Father was one of the first pioneers in Sanpete County. He and his mother came here as emigrants. The first settlers came in April and our Father and Grandmother in October of the same year. He helped build the fort as protection against the Indians and built huts and dug-outs inside the fort. Our Grandmother separated from Grandfather because he would not join the Mormon Church, which she did. He was a wealthy and educated man, a barrister or lawyer as we call it. Father met a girl, on the plains and married her later, had three children and then she died with the last baby. I must mention that Grandfather lived in…. (can’t read words here) Sweden…I know you know all this history but perhaps your children and grandchildren would like to hear about it, Leona. The history of Mt. Pleasant is an interesting one. Our Father married Mother when she was seventeen years old and she was stepmother to the two children. As the years passed she had nine children and had a hard life as all pioneers did. Mt. Pleasant was settled in the year 1850 – just 23 years before I was born. Soo - - - I am one of the relics. We have a number of them around, some more than 90 years old.
To get back to the narrative, the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches had a major role in the history of Sanpete County. A preacher from New York City because of ill health, was advised by Doctors to move west. He came later to Mt. Pleasant. But in the mean time, the Mormon Church was having troubles of its own. The High Officials of the Church decreed that all property of the citizens of all communities should turn over their property to the church and then come to the church for their wants. It was later related that one member asked the Bishop for a new shirt and he was told, “Wait for Brother So and So to pass away and you can have his shirt.” (Father said this really happened.) This last decree was more than the Swedes and a number of Danes could submit to so they apostatised. When Duncan McMillan arrived in Salt Lake City, he was told that the apostates in Sanpete County needed a spiritual advisor. So he came to Mt. Pleasant, rented a room put in a few benches and, of course, a ruler and he had a school; the beginning of Wasatch Academy and also the Presbyterian Church. The town has never grown in population but Wasatch Academy has grown tremendously in education and has contributed much to the culture of the west. They have also boarding facilities for several hundred students and have erected twenty buildings on ten city lots in the center of Mt. Pleasant. A large number of Mormon students got their High School education at Wasatch Academy as the town did not have a High School for a number of years.
To go back to the beginning, the Presbyterian Board built the Presbyterian Church on Main Street, had three class rooms in it. The front entrance was the charter class where I was initiated. It took me two terms to comprehend what it was all about. (One small incident happened; the teacher wanted us to recite poems. One of the poems was “I shot an arrow in to the air.” I told her I would recite it. Needless to say, I shot the arrow and that was all. She tried to prompt me but finally gave up and said, “Sit down.”)
Many amusing things occurred. Just a few weeks before Christmas, the Sunday School increased greatly but after Christmas, dropped back to normal. The board from back east sent barrels of toys to the school. They were very interested in the church and school. There was great excitement over the Christmas holiday and great preparations. Two huge trees were erected with tallow candles. The doors were not opened till everthing was in readiness and then there was a great rush and push to get in the building. The curtains were pulled apart and we could gaze at the lovely tree. We had been practicing Christmas songs and I knew them well. During the exercises, I was in the front seat being in the Charter class. I was singing at the top of my voice. (I can imagine what it was like.) When one of the teachers sitting on the stand laughed, I thought, at me, I closed up like a clam and I mean “clam.” It was terrible for me. I was having such a good time. But it helped some when I got my first “bought” doll off the tree, a small china doll, six inches tall, all china, even the bonnet. I remember walking home with the older sisters through the sagebrush patch, clutching my doll. This sage brush patch was to me, a potential hiding place for bears and other things such as ghosts. Often times, when I came home alone at dusk, I watched every big bush expecting something behind it to grab me. But I finally outgrew the bushes and could look over them and the bears disappeared.
The church members, with the help from those in the East and former residents who had moved away, built a new church which we still use and enjoy. All expenses of building the school and pay the teachers has been paid by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions for 80 years without paying taxes for any of the privilege of this fine institution.
I remember the school having a reading room or a library just west of the Oman Hotel. Miss Fishback was in charge of the reading room. I think that was Mt. Pleasant’s first library. I must mention the Hotel’s being a public place, was owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Oman and a number of daughters, all good church members. All but one moved to California and I must mention one especially, Mrs. Olivia Banks. She married after moving to California. For every Easter she sent to the church, huge boxes of Calla Lilies to decorate the pulpit. This she has done for forty or more years. It added so much to the Easter spirit. Two of my children, Ethel and Paul graduated from Wasatch Academy. Jessie graduated from North Sanpete High.
To go back to our parents and how they happened to be here in Utah. When Father was in his teens, the Mormon Missionaries were busy in Sweden and of course, they had to go with money or script. Grandfather, being a generous and well-to-do person, fed them and gave them shelter, never knowing that they were going to break up his family. He thought of their religion as a joke but the joke was on him as they converted his wife and our father to their religion. There were six children in the family; Andrew, Neils, Fredericka, Chasta and the twin girls, Hannah and Anna. After our father and grandmother left Sweden, Hannah and Fredericka, who were both married and had two children each, left their husbands and came to America. Fredericka with Neils and Emil. Hannah took one daughter, Stella with her and left the other one with Grandfather, who raised her. She never saw her mother again. Neils, Father’s brother and Fredericka with her two boys, moved to Colorado and years later moved to California.
I suppose Grandmother had a hard life as a pioneer in this new Country. In the “old country”, she had a beautiful home, servants to help with the children….Grandfather had men to work the farm. He was a “gentleman” farmer, a lawyer and also played the violin. When our Grandmother got to Utah, I think she rode in a wagon but Father pulled a handcart with this belongings all the way across the plains and when a few miles from their destination, some official of the church met them and took their cart wheels from them so they could not go back. When they reached Salt Lake City, Brigham Young ordered all the Scandanavians to move to the south of the territory which had a higher altitude and colder climate. He said they were tougher and could better stand the climate. When they reached Sanpete County, which was named after an Indian Chief, our father had to help build the rock fort and erect huts inside. Some lived in cellars. I don’t know how the years passed in between but after Father married first his first wife, her death and Mother’s marriage and having all those children (eleven in all), I suppose all anyone knew was to scratch and dif to feed so many mouths. We never had any clothes to speak of.
Father liked nice this after being used to them in Sweden. He built a huge adobe house on Main Street; had the first Charter Oak cook stove in Mt. Pleasant and also the first States carpet and States plow. All others were made by blacksmiths here in the mountains. He filled the lot with all kinds of fruit trees. I remember a few of them. Among the apples were Sweet Bough, Golden Sweet, Red June, Potato Apple or Baldwin, Greening, a whole row of what we called pig apples as no one but pigs could eat them. They were iron apples. I remember one pear tree, apricot and egg plum, green gages and wild plums - - - that made a city lot full. After Father took a quarter section of the ground north of Mt. Pleasant, all sage and rocks, he started to build a reservoir to store water and have fish. He spent practically his whole life working on this project, plowing, blasting and scraping every minute of his life when not working on the farm. But you know, Leona, I believe he loved every minute of it. I remember, as you do, I am sure, how Mother harped and scolded about his reservoir. I believe she hated it and I think He could have spent some of these hours making things a little easier for her. Things he could have done, she had to do. Later on when it was finished, he thought it needed the clay scraped out so he emptied all the water and fish out and proceeded to scrape it. It never held water again and was just a dry spot for many years. After Father died and even now it is just a hole in the ground. The farm and home have been sold to others and some remodeling done on the house as the new purchasers were taking out the walls in the foundation, revealed a leather pouch with a lot of Swedish money hid in the wall. It had been plastered and left in the wall all these many years while we children went without shoes and clothing. The people won’t tell how much or won’t even discuss it. I think he got it as his inheritance after grandfather died and the Church was after it, so he hid it in fear of his life.
During these early years in Utah, polygamy was practiced in the state. I remember twelve or fifteen polygamist families in the town but when the U.S. police came to arrest them, they scattered. Some went to prison and a number took their youngest wife and went to Mexico. It was hard to catch them as they had signals when the U.S. Officers were coming and they would scatter and hide until the danger was over. Even today, there is a lot of it in Utah. The Church denies it but we have it in the County. And the welfare supports all the children. They break U.S. law but they surely get away with it. Where are these plural marriages performed but in the temple?
Everything I have written has been about Father and his family. Well, Mother was just the opposite. They were very poor. Grandfather was a baker and he baked bread for the Army so had to move around a lot. Mother was born on a little island which belongs to Denmark and when eight years old the Mormons converted them and convinced them that they had to move to “beautiful Zion” and what a comedown when they arrived! Mother drove a cow all the way across the plains and when they arrived, they were ordered to Moroni where she lived till fifteen years of age. Grandfather, who professed to being a good Saint, thought he should go into polygamy, so he and a crony were having a consultation about trading their fifteen-year old daughters for polygamist wives. Grandmother heard it and sent Mother off to Salt Lake City to get her away from such tradings. While in Salt Lake City, she had to do housework for a living. She obtained work at the home of Porter Rockwell. They had a daughter several years younger than Mother and oftentimes they would climb in the garret and investigate the contents of numbers of trunks that were stored there. They were filled with beautiful dresses and other female clothing. The daughter asked her father for some of the finery but he refused her. These trunks, no doubt, were stolen from murdered emigrants going to California. I don’t know how long she worked for Rockwell but she met Father when she was seventeen years old and they were married. Father showed me the house he met Mother in on the west street of Moroni. He was twelve years older than Mother and had the two children, Hilda and Andrew. She had nine children besides the two stepchildren. One, Elinora, died when two years of age, of typhoid fever. In those early days, some families lost all their children with Typhoid fever and Diptheria. In just a few days, the disease would strike and all would die. I remember how frightened I was of diphtheria. They were always isolated and a yellow flag nailed on the gate post. I always crossed the street so as not to be too close to the flag. As a preventative to all these diseases, we wore an “Asefedity” bag tied around our necks all winter long. Those school rooms had some smell. The dictionary says it is a gum from an Oriental tree which tastes and smells like garlic but to my mind, there was not comparison. No doubt, the diseases came from poluted water which was used in the homes. Every time when the water turn came around a number of barrels beside the creek were filled with water to settle and be used in the homes for cooking and cleaning. People didn’t know much about germs in those days. If you didn’t get sick you were lucky. I had typhoid when I was a baby and Elinora died when two years old. Jack’s father lost a little daughter, Maggie of the same sickness. I must try to put a stone over her grave this next year.
I must write about the Holidays. The Mormons had their Jubilee (which is called conference) when the members are all called together to get their instructions from the head of their Church. I remember seeing wagon loads of the faithful going past our home north of Mt. Pleasant, the women all dressed in their best dresses with parasols over their heads. They were covered with dust after travelling six miles over a dusty, bumpy road. The wagon was filled with chairs, with one spring leaf for the driver and either his best girl or his favorite wife, and . . . if they got along with each other, two of his favorite wives. I am sure they enjoyed it immensely. They always took their dinners along and ate in the shade along the way. I not being a Mormon never went along. These Jubilees were held twice a year; in Spring and in Fall and a great amount of wisdom was absorbed. The other great holiday for the Mormons was the great day, the Twenty-fourth of July, the day the Saints arrived in Zion. In Utah it was celebrated more than any other day.
I want to write of our Nation Holiday, the Fourth of July which the whole of United States of America loves. I have in mind the one celebration I remember when I was a child. The town was divided in two, one religious and one political. The “Mormons” were the Peoples Party; the Gentiles or non-Mormons were the “Liberals” and they could not agree on the celebration. So….the town had two parades and two Fourth of July Celebrations, one trying to out-do the other. I remember well, I thought our party, the “Liberals” had the prettiest Goddess of Liberty - - Alice Oman, sister of the Lady who sends the Calla Lilies to the Presbyterian Church every year. And the Mormons “Goddess” was Emma Frandsen, daughter of a Polygamist family. She was tall and graceful and not as pretty, I thought- - -They each had a brass band and both could make a lot of noise and it was a great day for the Danes and Swedes. Our mother gave us a 25 cent store order to spend. She sold some eggs to get this order. There was very little money here and when you sold any produce, the store would write you a store order signed by the store president. The Store was closed on Independence Day - - so – we couldn’t spend our 25 cents but it was a great day for us children anyway and of course, the older ones ended up dancing most of the night.
As I have mentioned before, the town was divided in politics as well as in religion and before election, each party had their bands and orators doing their best to win the election. The Liberal party always had a torch light parade before each meeting when all the men and boys of the party marched behind the land carrying their lighted torch. It was a great honor to be included in that parade. After the election, the People’s Party generally won for there were more people in the party - - but the Liberals were the most progressive and had more money. They formed the first bank, the “Commercial”; the Sanpete Co-op – always called the “Lower Store.” They sold everything from porous plasters to wagons and were always noted for being the best store south of Provo. There was also a harness shop where all the harnesses used in this city were made. The town grew in business and prosperity but not in population in the next few years. I remember the great excitement in the county when the railroad was being built in 1890. People travelled to Indianola in buggies and wagons to watch them work, all labor having to be with horses, ploughs and scrapers and every mile made was watched with interest. The Sunday the first passenger train came to Mt. Pleasant, there was a great celebration and for years after, the main interest on Sunday was to walk to the depot to watch the train come in. At this date, we do not have a passenger train, only freights which come through several times a week. Things have changed, Leone, since we were young. The old home still stands but has been remodeled. The reservoir which our Father kept full of water is dry most of the time - - just a little puddle in the middle. The long straw shed which we played on so often and in which we hunted eggs, is all gone. The only things left are the fruit trees which we planted and the well from which we drew water to keep them growing. And now there are only two of us left and two in-laws. But I don’t feel alone at all with my 29 member family.
I have not mentioned the deaths in the family, of which there are many, two of which are so close to me - - Paul and Jack; Mother and Father and all the brothers and sister and in-laws. I am the only one left of the in-laws side of the family. George, who died recently, left me the last of the in-laws on the Stansfield side of my family. On our Father’s side there are several cousins, you and I, Will Anderson, Emil and Ebba. Bill is getting very old, close to 90 and I think, quite a guy. I am going to quote a poem which he composed and gave to Jack. He called it, “Our Neighbor’s House” _ _
The old house across the way
In silence stands, from day to day.
The light that shone in the windows, bright
Are darkened now throughout the night.
* * *
We miss the curl of the chimney smoke,
The greeting of the neighbor fold,
Favors granted within call,
Extended kindly, great and small.
* * *
We miss them, since they have gone away
How long, we wonder, may they stay
When out the chimney, smoke rolls black
The neighbors, then, we know, are back.
He composed hundreds of poems. I don’t think that any of them were ever published, but he always brought them here for Jack and me to read. I call on him once in a while.
I remember two things of the “olden” days before the railroad came into the valley. A large band of Indians came and pitched their camp or Wigwams just three blocks west of our home, on the Pearson farm. It was just sagebrush then. The Indians were quite harmless at this time. The most they did, was beg for food and steal whatever they collectively or individually desired. I was surely happy when they finally moved away again ….I think the reason for my fright was that the older people threatened the children that they would give them away to the Indians if they didn’t behave. I worried so much about it that I would dream of being caught and taken away. The other item was the city jail. It was located where the High School now stands. It was a large city block and this jail was in the center of it. It looked so formidable to me. There was an adobe house and on the outside, a tall lumber fence, so tall no one could climb over. I remember standing on the sidewalk looking at that formidable object.
Mt Pleasant was a typical frontier town in the early days. There were five or six saloons going full blast and a lot of gambling, shooting. A banker was sitting at his desk and a shot him. The killer was never caught. When Jack was a small boy, he was riding on a horse with a Federal Marshall who was in the county to catch the Polygamists, when someone started shooting at him. He told Jack to hold onto him tight and he made the horse gallop as fast as he could to get beyond gun range. These marshalls were just hated. This incident occurred up by the Round Hills where Jack’s dad was farming and the Marshall was taking Jack back to town.
As I sit here thinking of these things that happened so long ago, I realize how many things have changed. The large school house we were so proud of was torn down last year and a new one storey building put up. The children are hauled to school in busses and dinner cooked for them at noon. I often see children in the 8th grade and High School who can neither read nor spell but they know so much about science. I guess it is the “times.”
And I think what a wonderful age it is to have been a part of; all the inventions . . . . cars, planes, television, rockets, washers, dryers, electric cookstoves, water heaters, freezers and everything electric, even milking cows. We older people, who have seen the earlier times, realize it more than the younger generation, who take it as a matter of course, so to speak. And the great strikes the medical profession are making. Time will come when there will be a cure or preventative for a great many diseases; all in this generation.
I want to write of an incident that happened to Mother before I change the subject. We, the family, were all in the field. Mother was alone at home when the cows broke out of the corral and got into the Lucerne field. Two of the three cows got bloated and were down, dying, when Mother saw them. She had to work fast to save them so she got a scissors and a block of wood, held the blade of the scissors over the paunch of the cow and hit it with the wood club until it penetrated the stomach. She saved both cows. We though she was a heroine.
I am going to mention a few things on the other side of my family or the Stansfield side.
I read a book a short time ago about the Stansfields. Several hundred years ago, they were residing in France, side by side with a neighbor named Draper. They all emigrated to England and bought estates side by side where they prospered. There were two James Stansfields, James I and James II. I have heard Jack’s father speak of them many times. Then the Mormon missionaries came and converted them and they came to Utah. One of Grandpa Stansfield’s Uncles tried to get them to stay in England. He promised to make them the richest Stansfields in England but the lure of America was too great. So his mother and the eight children came here. The father, who followed later found when he got there that Grandmother had married another man and when he got here, she and her new husband had fled to California leaving all the children. Grandpa Stansfield was nineteen and he had to support them and the little girl, Lizzie, had to keep house. The old man’s name was Sam. He never saw his wife again. He died here in Mt. Pleasant and is buried here. The rest of the family moved to Idaho and California.
And on Grandma Stansfield’s side of the family …….She was a Nielson, her name, Sophie, her father’s, Frederick Nielson, mother’s name, Margaret. They were all born in Denmark. When they joined the Mormon Church, they were told to leave at once for America. The children were sick with the measles when they left and they were many weeks on the ocean. Their food and water ran out. The youngest child died and was buried at sea. They finally arrived in Utah and it was not like it had been pictured at all. In Denmark, he was a tailor by trade and had always lived in a large city. He was not used to farming and they nearly starved to death. On crossing the ocean, the girl who died, was so homesick and sick that she kept asking to be taken home again, where they had a little white gate. They apostatized when the other Scandinavians did. Grandmother Nielson died when in her sixties and Grandfather was 94 years old when he died. They had had enough Mormonism to last them the rest of their lives. They had four daughters; Sophia, Maria, Phena, Lizzie; and one son, Alfred.
I often wonder why we didn’t question our Father about his life in Sweden. Ne never spoke of it. I imagine he got bored with life in Sweden and the thought of going to the “New World” as they called it, was very enticing because I don’t think it was the Mormon Church, but I think the Mormon Church was an opportunity for him to break away. He was nineteen years old, just the age for adventure. But with Grandmother; that was another thing. She had a paralytic stroke a few years later and was bedridden, couldn’t speak at all and each one of the children kept her in their homes three months apiece. They all lived in graneries or cellars. She wanted to go back to Sweden but Grandfather wouldn’t take her back. However, he was generous with money for her support. Finally, Aunt Annie Fredricksen made a permanent home for her till she died and got money to buy a farm. She lived seven years after her stroke. We.., I think, if she hadn’t come to Utah, where would we be, so that change changed lots of lives.
Well, a lot of these memories are silly but overlook that part. I may think of more of our early life here in Mt. Pleasant.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
A Letter Full of Mt. Pleasant History ~ written by Elvina Elvira (Mina) Jensen Stansfield (Wife of John H. Stansfield), to her Sister, Elonie Malvina (Leona) Jensen Rixey
"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we have come from."
"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we have come from."