Nellie Johnson Johnson-history
Contributor: srodyx Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
History of Nellie Johnson Johnson – compiled by Nanette H. Lamb—January 2015
Nellie Johnson was born 26 June 1876 to Joel Andrew and Ellen Cook Johnson in Provo Utah, Utah. Joel was the son of Joel Hills and Lucina Alzina Bascom Johnson and was born in Danville, Ogle County, Illinois and Ellen was the daughter of Joyce Collins and Thomas Cook from England. Joyce and one child died in England and Thomas brought the rest of the children to Utah two years later. They crossed the plains in the Philemon C. Merrill company in 1867.
Nellie was blessed Lucina Alzina Johnson –after her paternal grandmother who lived with them--and was baptized with the same name. Some say that she was named Ellen Lucina Alzina Johnson, but that was only in someones head, it was never on paper. The church where the records were kept burned and when they made new records, she went by Nellie. She was always called Nellie at home because her mothers name was Ellen and hers was the same as her grandmothers and so she was called Nellie to eliminate confusion and that is what she went by all of her life.
She was the oldest of three children—Nellie, Sarah Lamira (Aunt Sade) and Joel who died at age 10. She only had a fourth grade education. Her mother got rheumatism on her way across the plains and it plagued her all of her life. Lucina Alzina died in 1885 and that would have been when Nellie was in fourth grade. So she terminated her schooling at the end of the fourth grade so that she could cook and keep house for her mother. At that time several relatives came to Provo from Arizona and Utah to attend BYAcademy and they lived at Grandma and Grandpa Joel A Johnson’s home so Nellie was cooking for the ‘boarders’ as well as the family. She loved learning, but she never went back to school. She could write and she could read, but all of her life she declined to do either if she could get someone else to do it for her. She didn’t feel like she could do it good enough. Case in point—when she joined the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers she gathered the information she needed to join and had her daughter Nita write it up for her and whenever she had to present something to the ‘daughters’ , she gathered the information and had Nita come with her and do the presentation. She never held a calling in the church other than being a member of the Relief Society and a member of the Old Folks Committee. Mom said that she grew to be an ‘old folk’ on the Old Folks Committee.
She apparently didn’t talk about meeting or being courted by Benjamin Asael Johnson. Rumor has it that they met at a dance. Nellie was dancing and Benjamin Asael was sitting on the sidelines because she loved to dance and he didn’t like to dance at all. But there were lots of ward parties and dances. So you decide because we don’t know. But we do know that they were married on February 15th 1905 in Salt Lake City.
Nellie gave birth to four children: Dessa , born 14 May1906, Nita born 7 November 1908, Ronald B born October 29, 1912 and Curtis A born 12 August 1915. She had blue eyes and brown hair and a stocky build. She was a good cook and she was very pleasant and she was very happy to learn things if you took time to sit down and explain them to her.
Nellie and Asael lived on a farm and because of that Nellie did a lot of things that are very foreign to us. Whenever Grandpa butchered a pig, they used everything. You’ll have to ask me about that. Nellie ‘tried’ (cooked the grease out) all of the lard and saved the rinds for soap—except a few that she ground to make Cracklin’ Bread. I have to assume that the lard was stored in the cellar. It was used for cooking and baking. The rinds were saved in a big iron pot measuring about 30 inches in diameter and about 10 inches deep. It had big rings on the side of the pot on which were hooked chains that also hooked into the tripod which held the pot over the fire. On soap making day, the fire was built and all of the soap ingredients were put in the pot and the lye would literally dissolve the pork rinds. The soap had to be stirred until it was “done”. Nita said that it had to be cooked more than to the ‘jelly or sheeting’ stage. It had to have small droplets come from the large wooden paddle that was the ‘stir stick’. Then it was cooled slightly and poured into a soap mold that Benjamin Asael had made from boards: (2X6’s and 2X4’s.) Then when it was set, it was cut into bars or pieces which were added to the wash boiler on wash day. Nellie always put hers in a small cloth bag, so if the soap crumbled at all it wouldn’t get stuck in the clean clothes being washed.
Laundry or wash day was another long drawn out chore that had to be done every Monday morning. The clothes were sorted according to color and the sheets were washed first. They went into the washer which was manually agitated. The agitator was a lever that either had to be moved back and forth or around and round by hand. Then the clothes had to be wrung out and put into the wash boiler and boiled—so that they would be white and beautiful—then fished out with the long stick or soap paddle and put into the rinse from which they had to be wring out and hung on the long line hooked to a pulley between the house and the barn. When that line was full, it was extremely heavy. Nellie liked it to be done early in the day so that the clothes would be dry by evening. Then Tuesday was ironing day. The clothes were sprinkled on Monday and then they would be uniformly damp so they could be ironed on Tuesday. But, don’t get the flat iron too hot or they’d get scorched. I wonder how long it took to know how to get the flat iron the right temperature to iron. Yes, most things that needed to be ironed were 100% cotton so you didn’t have to worry about synthetics unless you had something rayon, but that would not be washed with all of the other clothes, it had to be dry cleaned.
Don’t forget that the cows had to be milked twice a day. Grandpa did that because he didn’t think that was a woman’s work even though his mother had always been the one to milk the cows as he grew up—because of her upbringing in Sweden where the women milked—not the men. So grandpa built a cooling box for grandma. He put it in the summer porch. It had a series of pipes going back and forth from one end to the other and from the top to the bottom of the box and the water from the well ran through those pipes and kept the milk and cream cold. The milk was put through the separator every morning. Last nights and this mornings milk were separated and put in the “cool box” and every other day the cream was churned into butter which grandma used at home and sold to neighbors and also took to the grocery store and traded for groceries. She had special butter papers printed that had her name and Sweet Cream Butter printed on them. She didn’t like sour cream butter so she made sure that her labels said Sweet Cream Butter. She also traded eggs from their 40-50 chickens. They had what they needed and the rest went to the grocery store. They always had a large garden and several fruit trees. Grandpa made cider every year and then 50 gallons of vinegar which he shared with the neighbors.
Nellie had learned to sew from her mother who was an excellent seamstress. She did it all by hand because she didn’t have a sewing machine. Think about making a dress—floor length, with stays and tiny pleats and ruffles and doing it all by hand. She was also a beautiful quilter as well and loved to go to her friends houses to quilt with them and she did many quilts all by herself in her parlor for women who didn’t quilt or wanted to pay her to do it. She also loved to crochet and did beautiful work. She taught Nita to crochet, but she couldn’t do it like her mother, so she learned to knit. Nellie made clothes for the girls’ dolls every Christmas and made dresses for the girls from the hand-me-down skirts from Asael’s sisters.
Nellie was very sick for about six months before she died. She needed daily care and got it mostly from Nita and the neighbor ladies. Nita would go up and do what needed to be done in the morning and spend most of the day with her and the women in the ward would take turns spending the night with her. Her mind was bright and clear right up to the end. She died of cancer on October 27, 1942 at the age of 66 years. She was buried in the Provo City Cemetery in the Johnson Plot on 29 October, her son Ronald’s birthday. She was well loved by all who knew her.