Biography of Christian Olsen and Annie Ellingsen, written from memory and family records of Martha Olsen Lundquist, a child and eighth child in a family of ten, assisted by Joyce Nelson Bingham, great granddaughter. This history was written in 1951-1952.
Christian Olsen, the son of Ole Bartelson and Maria Johnson, was born on January 21, 1825 at Raade, Norway. Father was the youngest of a family of five. He was large in stature, very strong and active and had a kind, sympathetic, tenderhearted nature. He seemed to be a great favorite in his father’s family.
Father was raised on a farm in Raade, Norway. They were considered quite well-to-do-farmers. They owned as much as any one person was allowed to own in Norway. I have heard him tell so many times how clean and warm they kept their stables and how the women always did the milking.
When father reached manhood, he became dissatisfied on the farm, so he bought a ship and went to sea. I often heard him say how he loved to be out on the ocean. While on a voyage, he encountered a storm. His ship was wrecked and all on board were drowned except himself. Being a very strong man and a good swimmer, he was picked up by another ship and taken to shore. Also, when he was a small boy, he was kicked in the forehead by a colt and his skull crushed. It left a deep scar through his eyebrow. He was not expected to live. We feel that through the grace of God, his life was spared to join the church and come to Zion and do the work in the temple for his people and kindred dead. He was the only one of his people who joined the church. He worked diligently in the temple under trying circumstances as long as he was able to go and died with the pleading words that his family would carry on.
After he was brought back from sea, where he lost everything and almost his life, he was cared for by his loving mother and brothers and sisters of whom he often spoke so kindly. His father had died some time before. His kind people helped him get started again, but it was not long after that when he met the Mormon missionaries. He was interested in what they had to say, started to investigate the gospel, and, after some consideration, decided to be baptized. This was in the early days of the church when the Mormons were looked down upon and criticized for their beliefs.
Father was baptized in the month of January in the night in the river because of the criticism and prejudice against the Mormons at the time. The ice was very thick, but they chopped a hole with an ax, big enough to go down into the water. He told us many times that he didn’t even feel the cold. He had to walk about a half block to change his clothes, which were frozen stiff on him, but he never caught cold or suffered in the least. This, he said, strengthened his testimony greatly. He knew that the Lord had blessed him. Having joined the church, he now had a great desire to go to Utah, and join the saints there. He disposed of what he had in order to emigrate.
This was a sad time for his aged mother. She knew she would never see him again. I have often heard father say that the greatest sorrow of his life was leaving his mother. He was the only one of his people to join the church, but his testimony of the gospel meant so much to him that he felt he had to go where he could be with the saints in Zion.
The president of the mission encouraged him to go and recommended Annie Ellingsen (my mother) as a very lovely girl. He advised him to meet her and marry her and take her with him to Utah. He also recommended father to her. The word of a mission president was the same as the word of the Lord to them. They were only acquainted two weeks before they were married. Mother joined the church under much worse circumstances than father did. She was the oldest of a family of four. Her father had died while the children were quite young, which made it necessary for her to go out and work to help support the family. She was a small delicate girl and had to work very hard.
She heard of the Mormon elders by chance and listened to the rumors about them. Some said they were hairy all over. Others said they had horns on their heads, and still others said that they looked like any other men. This aroused her curiosity, so she decided to see for herself. She went in where the Mormon elders were holding meetings and was very impressed by their kindly faces and by what they said. She was shocked to think people would say such things about such nice men. Mother continued to go and listen to them, accepted the tracts, and became more and more interested.
When her mother found out what she was doing, she became very hostile and bitter. She tried every way to stop her, both by kindness and reasoning, scolding and force. She even whipped her and had the ministers talk to her, but to no avail. In spite of this, she was baptized into the church. When her mother found out she was leaving for America with a strange man, you can imagine how she felt. She took all her clothes away from her, thinking that this would stop her, but the way was opened for her to get them. She watched when her mother and her older sister and brother went to work, leaving her younger sister, Marea, alone. Then she went into their home and her sister helped her find her clothes. Marea was the only one she really hated to leave. They cried together and my mother promised her that she would come to Zion and she would have a home for her to come to. Marea did join the church in Norway and came to Weston where I, Martha, was a baby. She stayed for awhile and then went to Salt Lake and found a job. She married a man by the same name as my father, Christian Olsen, who was, however, no relation. She had two children, both boys, then she died. The boys died young also. (My mother never got to see her again. She lived in Santaquin, Utah.)
My parents were married on the ship just before leaving Norway. I have heard mother tell how happy she was when the ship left the shores of Norway. She was so afraid her mother would come on board with the minister and try to stop her. My father’s friend, Christian Hogansen, also married his sweetheart just before leaving Norway so the two couples traveled together. They crossed the Atlantic in a sail ship and when they reached New York they bought a yoke of oxen and a wagon together. They loaded their belongings together and crossed the plains. They walked most of the way and suffered many hardships. They left Norway on May 20, 1859, and they reached Salt Lake City on September 15, 1859.
Father and Christian Hogansen built them a dugout as soon as they reached Salt Lake and the two couples lived together that winter. The next spring they built another one so that each had one. Orson was born in Salt Lake in November of 1860. In 1861 they moved to Logan Utah. The land was not surveyed. They just worked a piece of land and gathered hay wherever they could. While they lived here Christian, Agnes, Annie and Joseph were born.
They moved to Weston in 1869 and built a dugout on the hill in the southwest corner of town. The next year they built a two room log house on the lot below the dugout and took a squatter’s claim on a piece of land in the south field. He worked this land until about 1879 when the land was surveyed. Father filed on a homestead of 160 acres, located a mile north of the Utah line where the railroad and highway are. He built a one room log house and moved his family in. Then he moved his log house down from town, started working his land and digging ditches to get the water on the land from Weston creek. They didn’t think that land without water was any good. They knew nothing about dry farming.
Father did his plowing with a hand plow, used a homemade harrow, and harvested his crops with a cradle until they finally got the reaper. (A cradle is similar to the scythe, except larger with wooden forks back of the knife which helped hold the grain and lay it in piles.) The reaper cut the grain and dropped it in piles while eight to ten men followed and tied it in bundles. Then it was shocked in piles, loaded, hauled, then stacked, ready for the thrasher, which was run by horse power. This was a slow process and it took a dozen or more men to do the work of harvesting and thrashing. This also made a lot of hard work for the women, preparing meals for so many with no conveniences. They had to borrow dishes, tables and kettles from each other, and put on big feeds. This was quite a celebration for us children to watch the thrasher, and see all those men work. And there was always enough food left to make it an extra treat.
No one ever went hungry around mother as long as she had anything to give them. After the railroad came through there were so many men (or hoboes, as we called them) walking up and down the track. Many came to the house and asked for something to eat and mother would set them up to the table and feed them. Father said, “You will get tired of that, Ma.” She did quit, but she never sent any of them away without handing them a lunch. She also took much pleasure in making cookies and dainties for her grandchildren.
She spun yarn and dyed it and had cloth woven. They called this homemade cloth wool linsey. She made father’s suit and clothes for the boys out of this material. Father’s garments had to be made out of the white homemade wool linsey. It was rough and coarse but we had a hard time getting him to wear the ready-made garments from the store. (I remember well a red wool linsey dress trimmed with black velvet ribbon which I had.) Mother did not get a sewing machine until some years after her children were all born. I have heard her tell how she sat up nights after the family was asleep and sewed clothes by hand until she was nearly blind. She also did all her washing on the board.
She was a small but rather plump woman, a kind and devoted mother but a very strict and determined person. We always knew she meant what she said. She never tired of doing good for others. She was a visiting Relief Society teacher for many years, as far back as I can remember. Her district extended from the river up to big hill. They never changed districts then as they do now. Many times she walked. I remember one winter mother and her companion, Teah Jensen, had walked doing teaching in the winter. It was cold and the ground was covered with snow. When they got home, their feet were so cold and numb that we had to take snow and rub them to draw out the frost. She was a very devoted Latter-Day Saint. The last act of her life was when her Relief Society teacher companion, Sister Lidy Gill, came for her in her wagon to go teaching. She arose from her sick bed, and went with her in spite of our pleadings to remain in bed. When they called at the home of James Larson, their second stop, she was so sick they had to put her to bed. She was brought home in a wagon of Mr. Larson’s but she died of pneumonia five days later, at the age of sixty-five.
Father was a very active church worker. He lived for the gospel and taught it by word and example. He was well read and studied the gospel a great deal. Father was a man of great faith and was called out often to administer to the sick. He was surely blessed with the gift of healing through his sincere faith in God. I have seen the sick, including myself, healed under his hands many times. When my brother, Hyrum, was quite young, he had rheumatism around his heart so badly that he would gasp for his breath and it just seemed as if he were dying. Father would anoint him and administer to him and he would ease right down and could rest.
I remember hearing father relate a time when there was a women living at Weston who became possessed of evil spirits. She was raving and defying anyone to touch her or do anything. She said, “Just so you don’t send for Christian Olsen and Brother Waltamer Thompson.” They sent for these two and as soon as they came in she began to quiet down. They laid their hands upon her head and administered to her and rebuked the evil spirit. She wilted like a leaf and lay down, and they never bothered her anymore. I often think of the conversations we listened to between father and the ward teacher and some of his good old pioneer friends, such as Rasmus Nelson, Sr. They usually discussed the gospel and related the prophecies and things that would happen in the last days. I wonder if he realized how much we listened to the things they said.
I remember and think more about them now since I have seen so many of them fulfilled, and wonder how he thought they would be brought about.
I remember the wonderful discipline, the good environment and the order of prayer we had in our home. We never thought any more of neglecting family prayer than we did of going without our breakfast or not going to bed. Most of the time father took over the responsibility of teaching us to pray, as mother had so many things to do. As soon as we were old enough to talk, we would take our turn and kneel down by father’s knees and he would teach us a simple little prayer. When we were a little older we were taught to take our turn in family prayers.
In those days, people paid their tithing with the produce they raised, since there wasn’t much chance of turning it into cash. The tenth load of hay was taken to the tithing yard. I remember the long stacks of hay on the lot north of Olie Allen’s, and the granary where they took their grain. Sometimes they paid tithing with flour or potatoes, which were always sorted. Whenever father killed a pig it was cut up and weighed, and one-tenth was laid aside for tithing, and it was always the best. Mother also kept track of her tithing eggs and butter. There was a day set for taking cattle and horses to the tithing yard. I remember so well seeing father lead a nice young black mare uptown to turn in as tithing. The boys were joking with him telling him to take in one of the old ones, but we all knew that was the way it had to be.
About 1875, when Martin Harris was living with his son in Clarkston, father, Rasmus Nelson (father of Hans and James Nelson), and Sern Jensen (father of Nephi Jensen) drove to Smithfield to visit and talk to him. Martin Harris was quite old and feeble then. They introduced themselves and father asked him if he still believed he saw an angel. Martin Harris rose straight up, raised his hands high above his head and spoke in a loud, clear voice. He said, “No, brethren, I do not believe I saw an angel, I know I saw an angel and heard him speak and saw the plates and I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.” They talked to him for some time and asked questions. He seemed pleased to talk to them and bore such a powerful testimony that no one could doubt the truthfulness of what he said.
I am reminded of an incident I heard my mother relate as to how father quit smoking. It was customary in Norway for men to smoke pipes, which he did for many years. He didn’t think there was any harm in it until he joined the church. After that he always felt that he should stop smoking, but the church did not stress it then as much as they do now. When Orson was about three or four years old, father said, “I can see he is coming to notice what I am doing. I don’t want him to say he learned to smoke from me. I have got to quit smoking.” He took his plug of tobacco and his pipe over to the stove and dropped them in the fire. That was the last time father smoked. There was another incident to show the humility of the early pioneers during the priesthood meeting. Brother Hans Kofoed was presiding and as they didn’t have their lessons outlined as they have now, they were just having a general discussion. First one would get up and then another with questions and comments on the gospel. They had been discussing for quite a while when father was talking and Brother Kofoed interrupted him and said it was time to bring the meeting to a close. This was somewhat embarrassing to father, but nothing was said and they all went home. Father said he lay awake all night thinking he must have said something that was not right and had offended Brother Kofoed. He rose in the morning as soon as it started to get light, and started over to Brother Kofoed’s home just down the block to make things right. When he got to the middle of the block, he met Brother Kofoed on his way to my father’s home on the same errand. They asked each other’s forgiveness, shed a few tears, shook hands, and their friendship was only strengthen by this experience.
I feel I would like to mention a little about my father and his best or bosom friend, Rasmus Nelson. I have never seen two men who showed more love and friendship for each other. Some of their descendants married each other later. It was at this time that some of the Latter-Day Saints were practicing polygamy and Rasmus Nelson had two wives. The law was very strict and cruel against these men who had more than one wife. The officers of the law were watching for them and they had spies out as well. If they caught these men or their wives, they were sentenced to jail. There was also a law against anyone who tried to protect them. How well I remember how careful they had to be. The officers did get Rasmus Nelson and he was given a jail sentence. They sent him to Detroit, Michigan where in a cold damp cell he contracted pneumonia and almost died. He was never well after that and died shortly after. There was nothing father would not do for him or for anyone in these trying times.
While father was very serious minded in regards to his religion, he had a great deal of humor. No one enjoyed a joke or playing a trick on someone more than he did. He was a great hand to play and joke with us children. We use to get him to run races with us when he was quite old. We had to hold hands until we got to a line, then he would usually gives us a throw back and he would go on and beat us. He was really jolly, good company for everyone.
In 1886, father was called to go on a mission to Norway. He was then 61 years of age. I was 11 years old at the time. I brought the letter home when I came from school. When he read it, it seemed to be quite a shock to him, as well as to the rest of us. I can remember so well the words he used. “Well, well,” he said. “This is a call to go to Norway on a mission. My patriarchal blessing said I would go back to my native land and preach the gospel to my kindred people and friends. I have waited so long and am up in years and with my large family and poor financial circumstances, I had given up that part of it coming true, but here it is.” Mother sat down and said, “Well, you will have to when you are called.”
My brother, Christian, was working at that time for the Hendrick Construction Company up in northern Idaho and Oregon. When he heard that father had a call to go on a mission, he wrote, and told him to go and he would do all he could to help him. He was father’s main support and helped us at home also. Father left for his mission in the fall of 1886, and went directly to his old home in Råde, Norway. His brother and family were still living there. He went in and pretended to be a book peddler since the brothers had not seen each other for 27 years. His brother wouldn’t talk to him and walked out. Father made himself known to his brother’s wife, then he walked out to where his brother was. He still wouldn’t talk to him. He had no use for a book peddler. Father said, “I am your brother.” “You are not my brother. The only living brother I have is in America,” the brother insisted. Father took off his hat and showed him the scar on his forehead where he was kicked by the colt when he was a small boy. He was received very kindly by his brother’s family and his one living sister. He also found some of his relatives and many of his old friends to whom he explained the gospel. His brother gave him the privilege of holding cottage meetings in his house any time he wished, although his sister-in-law was afraid of what their minister would say. None of his relatives joined the church. His brother said he believed the gospel to be true, but he did not want to join the church and live there as he was too old to come to America. He came home late in the fall of 1888.
It was not an easy task for mother to be left with the responsibility of the home and making a living for her young family. My brother, Joseph, was the oldest boy home. He was only seventeen years of age and had not been used to responsibility. Nephi was fifteen, Hyrum was thirteen and Wilford, Millie and I were younger. Annie was away working whenever she could for a dollar and a half or two dollars a week which was considered good wages. Orson and Agnes were both married and Chris was away working. We surely didn’t have much to go on, but I never heard any complaining. We figured that was the way it had to be because father was on a mission. Many times we never had clothes to go away from home with.
Just to give an idea of this I will relate the following incident. They
were celebrating the twenty-fourth of July here in Weston. They built a bowery
on the north side of the church house which was the old opera house. It was only one third as large as it is now. Of course we all wanted to go to the celebration. We didn’t have clothes or shoes that were fit to go with, but mother washed and ironed what we had and let us go. She stayed home to herd the cows so they couldn’t break loose besides our own and the fences were very poor. I remember so well how I was dressed. Mother lined us up and put on the best we had. I didn’t have any shoes and I felt quite embarrassed going barefooted. I was twelve years old then. I was sitting in the corner of the bowery when my sister, Annie, saw me. She had been away working and had come to the celebration. When she saw me sitting there alone, she came to me and said, “What are you sitting here alone for?” I told her I didn’t have any shoes and began to cry. This was too much for Annie. She took me to the store and bought me a pair of shoes, stockings, and a little straw hat. We always figured we had to have something on our heads. I had a sun bonnet on. No one can imagine how thrilled I was about these things, but down in my heart I felt bad and so guilty having Annie spend her hard-earned money on me. I knew she needed it so badly and others in the family needed it just as badly as I did. Mother went without shoes on her feet or only wore some of the boys’ old shoes. She thought only of her children. In spite of our humble circumstances, we all kept well and were happy. We appreciated everything we had so much. We didn’t feel so bad about going without, as one would think. There were so many poor people and a lot of people that didn’t have any more than we had. Everyone was equal, friendly, got together and had a good time. Father didn’t see my brother, Chris, for ten years. Chris came home once and stayed through the winter while father was on his mission. It sure was a happy meeting for them when they did meet-and to think of all Chris did for us.
Father worked diligently in the church as long as he could go.
He was called to be presiding elder of the Weston Ward in 1875.
Father was president of the Scandinavians in Weston for several years,
as there were so many that couldn’t understand the English language here at that time.
He also had charge of the ward teachers for a long period of time.
He did a great deal of temple work and continued to go as long as he was able to go.
He sold his farm to his son, Hyrum, in the year of 1901 and built a home on his old
lot in the southwest corner of town. He lived there with his daughter, Annie,
until his death at the age of ninety years. He died on 11 February 1915.