Bengt Johnson Jr. -History
Contributor: Rbemis01 Created: 2 years ago Updated: 3 months ago
History of Bengt Johnson Jr
Bengt Johnson Jr. was born 13 June 1850 in Sodervidinge, Malmo, Sweden where he lived until his twelfth year. He then, in company of his parents Bengt and Guinelda Johnson also two younger brothers, Nils and Per (Peter) left Sweden for America about 6 April 1862. They traveled by way of Hamburg Germany. From there they set sail on board the sail ship “Franklin’ 15 April 1862 with a company of 413 Scandinavian saints under the direction of Elder C. A. Madsen.
During the trip across the ocean, measles broke out among the children and between 40 and 50 of them died and were buried at sea.
The company arrived at the New York harbor 29 May and immediately wended their way towards Florence Nebraska, where they arrived 9 June and made preparations to cross the Great Plains to Utah.
With Joseph Hornes Church Train the 20th of July they began the long journey across the wild country to the Rocky Mountains with a company of 570 souls in 52 wagons, and ox teams. None of the company died crossing the plains due to the loving and watchful care of Capt Horne.
They arrived in Great Salt Lake Valley 1 October 1862 where they remained during that winter. In the spring of 1863 they came to Provo and made their first home east of the Old Fort (now Sowiette Park) about 7th North and 2nd West street.
Bengt worked with his father and others learning all the arts of Pioneer ways and as he grew older he took great pleasure in swinging the “Cradle” and became very expert with it so much so that very few could cut more grain in a day than he. One night beginning about 4 o’clock P.M. he cradled thru the moonlight night till 6 A.M. when he had cut just 5 acres of wheat for Hans Knudsen. Andrew and Harmon bundled the grain and 5 women bound it.
During the Indian War he was called as one of the home guards under Commander John Turner. Their duty was to guard the east side of the mud wall fort. The wall in the east side was never built. The east wall was to have been built in what is now University Street.
In 1867 he was called to go to Cottonwood Canyon to haul granite for the building of the Salt Lake Temple. He and his companion Robert Boardman hauled the largest stone that was hauled by ox team. These stones were loaded by cranes of pioneer manufacture.
In company with other young men who had been called by Pres. Brigham Young to go back to Benton, Iowa, to the Union Pacific Railroad terminal to bring the poor saints to Utah. On 15 June 1868 a company of 62 wagons and ox teams in charge of Capt John G. Holman wended their way back over the prairies. They made the round trip returning to Salt Lake Valley on 25 September (just 103 days) with about 650 immigrants. A number died on the way.
During the summer of 1870 Bengt worked on the building of the Cooperative Woolen Factory and for his labor grandfather received stock in the concern. On Sept 23rd he was called to guard duty to hold in check a party of U. S. Soldiers who had made a raid on some of the citizens of Provo and had abused some of them very severely.
On 6 March 1871 he married Betsy Christofferson in the Endowment house of Salt Lake City. Along with other work, Bengt did shoe mending. He also built his first furniture. Sure it was crude, but it served its purpose. While he worked hard his new wife was equally as industrious; she being a seamstress made clothes for women and children and also made suits for the men; she also did some carding and weaving. Thus they worked together saving means for a home of their own which was a lowly log cabin made of split logs.
In 1874 he got a job on the Utah central Railroad in Philander Brown’s section where he worked until the latter part of 1877 when the Road Master took him to Salt Lake City to lay out the yards there. He remained there for two years and then was made foreman of Section No 15 between Provo and Springville where he remained until 1888.
In the spring of 1884 father sold our home to the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Co. and bought 13 acres south across the R.R. tracks from Wm. Stradling. We moved into a large granary that stood south of the Fort Wall. This wall was the south wall of the big Fort. It was made of mud and was 4 feet thick at the base tapered to 2 feet at the top and was 14 feet tall. There were port holes all along this wall so that in case of an Indian attack the settlers could protect themselves by shooting thru these holes. These holes were large on the inside and small on the outside thus enabling the man to shoot at any angle he chose. Father began immediately to build an adobe house of 3 rooms. When we could move into the new house he began to level the big wall and while at this job as the wall fell he ran but was not fast enough for it caught his right foot between two larger pieces and it mashed his foot.
In 1888 he fulfilled a mission to Sweden for the LDS Church. On his return from this mission he was unable to get his old R.R job so he decided to take up farming. As a farmer he was very successful in general farming and thru the careful planning of his good wife they gathered plenty of this worlds goods about them. He held many church offices and was prominent in the progress of Provo. He had a wonderful wife who never tired of helping. She enjoyed helping the needy and took delight in making our clothes, mending and cooking; cutting and drying apples, peaches and plums. She also cared for a large flock of ducks, chickens and geese and these furnished all of our groceries. The dried fruit bought a large cook stove and furniture for the home. Mother died 3 April 1913 after rearing her 4 daughters and 4 sons to maturity. Alvin died 10 March 1898.
At this writing 20 January 1938 they have a posterity of 4 daughters and 4 sons, 21 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. In 1911, father filled another mission to Sweden for the church. On 7 January 1914 father married Hilda Johanna Hansen. From this union two children, Jesse Royal and Hulda Marie were born to them. Fathers last days were spent in the Salt Lake Temple for his dead kindred.
He was a man of fair complexion; 6 feet tall weighing 190 pounds. He died of Paralytic Stroke 29 June 1921.
Written by Benjamin Asael Johnson
Slightly edited by Nanette H Lamb
Granddaughter of Benj. A. Johnson
Benjamin Asael Johnson-history
Contributor: Rbemis01 Created: 2 years ago Updated: 3 months ago
History of Benjamin Asael Johnson compiled by Nanette H. Lamb
Benjamin Asael Johnson is the father of Nita Johnson Hinckley who is my mother. His parents are Bengt Johnson Jr. And (Betsy) Bengta Nilsson Christoffersson Johnson. They both came from Sweden. I have pulled bits and pieces out of interviews with my mother by Genie Lamb in January thru March 1999. Genie was interviewing mother to get some history from her because she didn’t ever write anything about her life and in the process as she talked about her dad, we learned more about him too.
Benjamin Asael Johnson was born18 August 1877 (we think probably in the home of his parents at approximately 600 South 700 West in Provo, Utah County, Utah. That house was just east across a narrow field from where my mom (Nita) grew up (723 West 600 South). It could have been in his grandfather’s home on 1560 South 1100 West. His father was a farmer and he worked with his dad through his youth. He also learned to be a carpenter and a blacksmith. His hobbies were wood turning and carving (whittling). He built the house where he and Nellie raised their family. He was just a good handy-man. He could do about anything he decided was necessary.
He was educated in the Provo City Schools and graduated from Provo High School. He attended BY Academy for about 2 years and studied accounting but didn’t like it. He preferred farming.
He was called on a 4 year mission to Tahiti in 1899. He left Salt Lake City 28 October 1899 with companion James T Mills and they went by train to San Francisco arriving October 30th. They arranged for their tickets on the 31st and took their luggage to the boat on November 1st. They had testimony meeting with the saints on Thursday the first and bought their tickets. He had the opportunity to visit with some family who lived there and enjoyed that chance. Finally on 5 November 1899 they boarded the ship and began the trip to Tahiti. On Monday he said they were feeding the fishes often. They had a lot of rough seas at the first. He always told me that you could sail and not be sea sick if you ate salted peanuts. Something about the salt I think. Maybe he hadn’t learned that yet. He wrote about seeing porpoises and a whale and flying fish and even ducks. On the 28th he said that the vessel made 20 miles in 24 hours moving a little faster than it had been going for a while. On December 1st they ate breakfast south of the equator. Finally they sited Tahiti on Dec 12th . The tug boat hooked on to their ship at 10:10 AM and at 5:30 P M they finally dropped anchor. President Chamberlin and Bro Mc Gregor met them and brought them to their new home. They had fast day the next day and a meeting of the missionaries and a Native conducted and told them not to get discouraged if they were persecuted and stoned. That sounds like quite a welcome to me. The President met with them the next day and suggested that they start out by studying the Tahitian language and another missionary would be their teacher. One of the first things they did was clean up the yard of where they lived. Does that sound like a Utah farm boy to you?
The London Mission Society had all “preaching” bottled up just for themselves. So our missionaries could only visit with the people and make friends with them paving the way for the future of LDS missionary work in that country. .
As I have read thru the first journal, I am amazed at their daily routine. The most strange thing is that they got up and had lunch and then studied for a couple of hours, and then prepared breakfast. He worked hard to learn Tahitian. He read the Bible in Tahitian and also in English and had regular language classes with Elder Rapleye. He mentions many times that he had to clean the rice at night before he went to bed so that it would be ready to cook for breakfast the next day. One time he said: “It being my day to cook, for breakfast I served rice which is our regular food and for supper I made a vegetable soup which consisted of onions and taro…..We each have a week at wiping the dishes and a week at washing but cooking comes every third day”. (when there were three of them)
I do know that the life of a missionary now days is quite structured, but there is variety because they get to go out and contact people every day. That wasn’t the case with Grandpa Johnson. It was study, prepare meals, wash the dishes and study some more—day after day after day.
They were strict to observe fast day on Wednesday—once a month--and schedule as many personal fast days as they felt they needed. Because they didn’t have any members, they didn’t hold Sunday meetings. They bathed in a creek up the mountain from where they lived. They took turns sleeping on the bed or on the floor. Occasionally they would take a day and hike up the mountain. It was just such a different schedule than we know. January 2nd he was transferred up to Papara, where they actually took some time to talk to the natives. .
February 23rd he was again transferred, this time to Avarua, Raratonga. That created a new challenge because now instead of studying Tahitian, he was studying the Maori language. I don’t know if the languages are similar or the same or way different. It was nearly a three day voyage on a steam ship—not all of which was pleasant for him. He talks of writing letters to his family—one or two a week--and then finally on 29 March he received the first mail of his mission from home and he said: “We were aroused this morning by the Ovalan (the steam ship). We changed clothes and went down to the (Post) office about 8’clock and was there that I received the first mail from home while on the islands. The remainder of the day was spent in writing the following letters”—and he names all of the people he wrote to—four sisters and 2 brothers and his parents. He received letters from his sisters, Emma, Hannah, Aleda, and Bessie; and his brothers, Reed, and Vernie; and his parents. “The letters were written after the mail I had received had been read over and over again. The evening was spent in singing.” And I’m sure that any one of us would have sung too—for joy for finally hearing from home. Remember he left the 27 of October 1899 and got his first mail 29 March 1900. Five months is a long time to go without hearing anything from home. How discouraged would you get? Just imagine.
He was still serving in Raratonga in October of the year 1900--One year down and three more to go. I will stop the journal account at this point because I don’t have the other journals transcribed yet. I’m sure that there are more exciting stories to come—so don’t go away—in the meantime I will continue with what I know of his life.
After he returned home in 1904 he took up farming with his dad. Hearsay has it that he met Nellie Johnson at a dance. She loved to dance but he didn’t like to dance at all. I’m not quite sure how that all worked out but it did. They were married on the 15th of February 1905 in the Salt Lake Temple and made their home at 1560 South 1100 West in Provo where his Grandpa Bengt Johnson Senior’s farm was located. My mother told me once that after Asael’s marriage, he was called to go back to Tahiti—I suppose as the mission president—and Nellie would not go. I’ve often thought that was too bad, because if they had gone my mother would have been born in Tahiti. She always--all of her life—wanted to go to Tahiti. The temple aprons that she embroidered for the “women” of the family are a Tahitian pattern and your guess is as good as mine about where it came from. There were only three operating temples when grandpa came home from his mission and they were all in Utah—Salt Lake, St. George, and Manti.
There was a lady in Provo named Mrs. Silk who made temple clothes and had patterns for aprons, and that is where mom got the pattern I’m sure. If Mrs Silk told her it was a Tahitian pattern, she would surely have chosen that one. I met a lady in the temple once who questioned me about where I got the Tahitian Apron pattern. Her apron was just like mine. I had never seen another one like the ones mom made. I told her what I knew and she verified that it was indeed a Tahitian pattern. She had lived in Tahiti for several years and when she returned to the states, the sisters gave her a temple apron and it was the same pattern as mine.
Aunt Dessa was born 14 May 1906 in Great Grandpa Bengt’s home on 11th West. B. Asael—he went by ‘Asael’ all of his life-- had constructed a home near his father and planned to move in around the 1st of December of 1908, so that Nellie could have her baby in their new home, but my mom decided to come three weeks early and Nita was born in Great Grandpa Bengt’s home South on 11th West on 7 November 1908. The little family did get moved into the new home before Christmas. There was no indoor plumbing in the house but grandpa B A had brought water into the “summer kitchen” (which was a sort of screened lean to on the back of the house.) The ‘privy’ as it was lovingly called (or outhouse) was out the back path and when it was too cold to make the trip out back in the middle of the night there was a “thunder mug” or more properly called a “chamber pot” under the bed.
It wasn’t until Nita and Ronald had graduated from high school and both had employment that they bought a toilet and sink to go with the big tub with claw feet—which was given to the family by a cousin whose wife didn’t like to dust under it. Asael had provided a room for the bathroom when he built the house, but had never put the bathroom fixtures into it. So when the sink and toilet were purchased, grandpa Asael plumbed them in. Grandma Nellie had to live in a ‘new house’ for 20 years before she got indoor plumbing.
Ronald “B” Johnson was born 29 October 1912 in Provo and the youngest member of the family, Curtis “A” Johnson was born 12 August 1915 in Provo. Grandpa wasn’t new to plumbing. He had created a ‘cooling cupboard’ in the ‘summer kitchen’ by running water pipes inside of a cabinet to keep the milk and cream cold after the milking every day. Grandma Nellie churned butter every other day because she didn’t like sour cream butter. She wanted sweet cream butter. She kept what they needed for the family and took the rest to the store to trade for groceries. She did the same with eggs from their chickens. They had about 50 laying hens. It was a good way to keep the grocery bill down.
Grandpa also built a grape arbor onto the back of the house with benches on either side and that’s where the women sat to shell peas or snap beans in the summer. The kids would just jump up onto the benches and pick grapes and eat them. He built a tall swing on the east side of the house and a teeter totter for the kids to play on. He played games with his kids when they were young; Guinea and Purg are two mother remembered. Guinea is a stick game and Purg is a game played with marbles. He would just get down on his knees and play with whoever wanted to play. They didn’t have money to buy toys at the store, so he made most of the toys they played with.
At Christmas time, Asael and the neighborhood men went up the mountain on a bobsled and cut Christmas trees. The family always decorated the tree together. In the summer, he would fill the wagon bed with straw and cover it with a tarp or canvas and Grandma would fix a picnic lunch and they would go to the Utah Lake Resort and spend the day. In the evenings they would often sit around the kitchen table eating apples and popcorn and listen to Asael’s stories. He often got books from the City library.
He had an orchard south of the barn with all kinds of apples. I don’t know if he had peaches or pears or any other fruit, but he did have lots of kinds of apples because he had an apple press in the buggy shed and he pressed cider and made a 50 gallon barrel of vinegar every fall that he shared with all of the neighbors. He probably made the press. He kept the vinegar and the pickle barrels and the winter squash, potatoes and apples and bottled goods in a wonderful cellar that was just in back of the house—between the house and the buggy shed. It was down three or four steps and had a musty smell all its own. I can only remember going down there once or twice, but I loved that musty smell.
Asael always went with the thrashing crew to all of the farms around and even as far away as Elberta. He was part owner of the steam engine thresher with Jack Wesphal, Al Robbins and Heber Knudsen and he was the engine man for the steam engine. It was his job to see that the fire was burning hot and the steam was up and ready. If you have seen the movie The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara—that’s the kind of thrasher they had. They took their own bedding and slept on the ground—maybe on a pile of straw--and stayed until the job was done. It was a three day trip by horse and wagon to get to Elberta and probably that long to get the thrashing done and then that much longer to make the trip back home.
Who milked the cows while Asael was away? Nita! Nellie knew how to milk a cow but she never did it because Asael didn’t think that women should do that kind of work so Nita, being a teenager, got to milk the cows and feed the chickens and gather the eggs. They fed the chickens barley and wheat—they didn’t have lay mash and probably couldn’t have afforded it if it had been available.
Asael farmed until World War I was over and then he worked on the railroad. His father Bengt died in 1921 and he had a lot of farm ground that was divided up among his children when he died. Asael got about 17 acres to add to the 4 acres he owned, south on 1100 west. He raised alfalfa and barley and wheat. Wheat sold for $2.50 a bushel during the war and that was big money then, but after the war was over there wasn’t as much demand and the price dropped. When he went to work for the railroad he started on the B&B which is Bridge and Building, and he rode on one of those little hand propelled rail cars from Provo to east of Thistle and beyond. Mom wasn’t sure how far towards Salt Lake they went but they had to check the bridges and check the rails to see if they needed to replace spikes or rails or repair any bridges.
In the morning before he left for work he would tell Nita what he wanted her to do after school and she would go to school all day and come home and shock grain and do the chores before her dad got home. He was excellent at shocking grain and taught her how to be proficient at it as well. He could shock and build beehives faster than any of the other farmers. A ‘beehive’ was a shaped--stack about 3 feet high with the heads in and the stalks out and was created when they couldn’t immediately thrash the grain to protect the heads from taking on moisture and getting moldy. A tipi was just bundles standing together to look kind of like a tipi. This was done with a three tined fork that wasn’t very wide. He bought mom her own shocking fork.
He worked on the Railroad for about 10 years and then went to work as a member of the custodial staff at the Provo City and County Building where he also kept the gardens, mowed the lawns and raised and lowered the flag each day in addition to his custodial work. Then policies changed and he went up to the Provo City Power building on 800 North and 200 West. That is where he was working when he retired.
Asael was a handy man. He was a jack of all trades. He made baskets, which he probably learned to weave in Tahiti, to carry the eggs to the house and to the store with the butter Grandma churned. He probably made her butter molds as well. He put a motor on the washer so the clothes didn’t have to be agitated by hand. They still had to hand-crank the wringer though. He added on to his home and even helped build the house on Hinckley farm when it burned to the ground in 1931.
Grandpa demanded respect from his children and when he gave them a job to do he expected it to be done. One day my mom was mocking a little old man who was walking up the railroad tracks all bent over and just scuffling along and her dad asked her what she was doing and she said she was just mocking that little old man and grandpa walked over to her, took her by the shoulders and stood her up straight and said, young lady, you never mock people who are older than you and who because of the life that they have lived are bent and can’t stand up straight! Don’t you ever do that again!!! He then gave her a couple of spats and sent her off to play. The little old man was Asael’s grandfather.
Asael was a musician. He played the violin, the concertina and the accordion. Grandma used to ask him to play so she could teach her children to dance. They would push the kitchen table over by the window and he would sit and play and grandma would teach those who wanted to learn how to dance. He still didn’t like to dance himself. He knew how to concentrate and taught that to my mother or she inherited it. He taught mom to tat and knit with a ball of cord string. He was the one who told the kids bedtime stories, or had one of the kids read them. He took part in a lot of ward plays. He had been taught elocution in high school and he loved participating.
He was well versed in the scriptures. He served in the church as the Superintendent of the Sunday School and was the Gospel Doctrine teacher and was on the Old Folks Committee before he was called to the High Council (where he served at the same time as Edwin S. Hinckley.) Mom said that middle aged people grew to be ‘old folks’ while serving on the Old Folks Committee. He was always willing to serve—to go and help out anyone who needed help. My dad, George Marion Hinckley, said that you couldn’t find fault with Asael.
He came to live at Hinckley farm in 1957. He insisted that he have chores to do so every morning he would go out to the corral and cut the bale ties and push the hay into the manger. He helped in the garden and kept mom and dad busy finding ‘make work’ projects for him to do. If the weather was warm it wasn’t unusual to find him sitting on a stump by the door to the shop whittling something; small Swedish wooden shoes, nuts into baskets or something for a child’s playhouse. Sometimes he went to the back room in the barn and turned lamps, or made planters to hang on the wall or covered wagons with .22 shells for buckets. His favorite hobby was working with wood. He just liked being busy. In the evenings he would ask me to play the piano for him. He often told stories of his mission after a meal—sitting at the kitchen table—but alas! We didn’t record anything either on paper or on a cassette tape. I hope we have learned better by now.
Asael and Nellie had four children: Dessa, 14 May 1906--3 May 1987; Nita, 7 November 1908—3 April 1999; Ronald “B” 29 October 1912—19 March 1987; Curtis “A” 12 Aug 1915—4 August 1994. Asael, born 18 August 1877--lived 19 years as a widower—(Nellie , born 26 June 1876 died 27 October 1942)--and died at Nita’s home15 July 1961in Provo Utah. He is buried in the Johnson family plot in the Provo City Cemetery. The family home has been demolished to build four-plexes. It was a sad time when we realized that it was gone.