Autobiography of John Herbert Wessman
Contributor: clbm562 Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
John Herbert Wessman, born Oct. 14, 1882, Goteborg Sweden. Experiences of my life from the age of three years on.
It was meant for me to live and to come to this land of liberty that is blessed above all other lands of the earth. I have had many unusual experiences and I am grateful to my Father in Heaven that my life has been spared and I suppose it was to be. I had the raising up of a wonderful mother and thank God for this. If I can live an honorable life and graduate with honors in a life to come --in a life hereafter, I owe it mostly to the training of my dear mother.
At the age of three years there was a terrible epidemic of diphtheria. My older brother and sister died with it. Mother left me with a young girl to get medicine for me. I was choking and would have died but she picked me up by the feet and shook me. This broke the membrane in my throat and I recovered well thereafter. There was no diphtheria vaccine and it was almost sure death to have it.
My first remembrance of school at 7 years old, I was given a lesson and King Oscar the 2nd was there with his son, now the present king of Sweden. He congratulated me and shook my hand and also the young prince. We were born on the same day. I met the prince when we were about 30 years old and shook hands with him, he remembered me.
When I was eight years old, my father took me on a sea voyage up the Baltic sea. Our first stop was at Copenhagen Denmark. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen was entering the harbor there. The sea was as smooth as glass, and the beautiful white buildings and the steamers with the smoke coming out of the tunnels, and the sails on other boats, I can remember to this day. We visited in Copenhagen and the greatest attraction was a building, round like a tower. In the second story was a large room with a large round table. This king had walked around the table and he had done so for 25 years and wore a deep groove in the table, which was made of stone. His people imprisoned him for his tyrannies and murders and wickedness. He made war on Sweden and killed all of the Swedish Kings family but one, a prince Vasa. He escaped by being cornered in a load of hay. The Danes pushed their lances through the hay, one of the lances injured his leg and Vasa was lamed all his life through this. The Swedes were fighting the Catholics in the thirty year war. It was the last of the Catholics in Germany. (This was not the king I met years before) (King Oscar was a descendant of Vasa)
We continued on our voyage up the Baltic sea, stopped at two ports in Germany, and took a small boat (I think it was the Oder River). We returned to the sea and we continued north to Estonia and Latvia, now taken over by Russia. We continued to Saint Petersburg, now called Leningrad, and to Helesingfors in Finland, now called Helsinki. We left the gulf of Finland going Northward and stopped at 2 smaller ports in Finland and arrived at Haparanda, Sweden. This is the most northerly city in Sweden. I was asleep in the cabin, my father came down. He called me, said “come up on deck, I want to show you something”. It was 12:30 at night, he said “read this news Lakes, you will never forget it.” I did just that, really the land of the midnight sun. I shall never forget it. It is called the ‘northern lights’. We started South on the Lapland coast and also stopped at Sundsvall and Gavle and to Oland and to Stockholm and Karlskrona, back to Goteborg.
When I was nine years old, I was baptized by Louiseutices Dahlquist and confirmed by him. It was about June 1st 1891 or 1892. I can remember it so well, we had to be baptized at night because people knew that this spot was where the Mormons were baptizing. A large steamer went up the river and the waves tossed up and down and it was cold. I remember the ice on the edge of the bank as we stepped on it. July 1st 1893, I and my brother Henry left Sweden for America. My father took us to Copenhagen. We were there for two days and took a steamer for Hull, England, and from there overland to Liverpool. I remember an incident there. There was a fight of several men, and a squad of bobbies was sent to bring them in. It became a general fight between bobbies and civilians. They were dragged to the jail. We stayed in Liverpool for five days, and we then boarded a vessel called the ‘Alaska’ for America. When we were 2-3 days out, three large whales came to the surface for air. Many flying fish followed the steamer to get the offal for food, and when we got to the banks of Newfoundland, the sirens and the horns kept blowing continuously that we didn’t get much sleep that night.
In entering New York, we saw the statue of liberty and landed at the dock six and a half days from Liverpool. It took five and a half days from New York to Salt Lake City. We went to stay with my sister, Fanny Parker, then I went to live with the Charlie Eleason Family at Millville Utah. I stayed at Eleasons for five and a half years, and had many experiences that were new to me. I set traps for wild animals, muskrats, mink, wild cats, coyotes and Mountain Lions. For the bigger animals I used to get help to set the traps at home, for they were so big. I carried them down to the pastures set.
One morning I rode my horse to the pasture when in the middle of the dam, I ran into 3 Mountain Lions. The horse gave one snort and whirled, jumped a 4 wire fence and raced for home. Mrs. Eliason said to her husband there is something wrong, Herbert doesn’t ride his horse like that. He ran to the corral, jumped the poles and stopped. I was still on his back. Another morning I went to the traps and found that a mountain lion got in one of the traps and had gone up the canyon. I was not well and the folks, they said I better stay home. Three young fellows took after it. It had dragged the pole seven miles. They shot it and skinned it. The skin measured 7 ½ feet over the back from foot to foot.
Done very well in school, after 3 years in school I out-spelled everyone at the agricultural college in Logan. I started at the A.C., but was not able to finish because my mother needed me at home…and I thought it was the only thing to do.
I can remember as a boy I had earned two dollars working and it was the first money I had earned. I handed it to her (my mother), she said “no, it is your money, you spend it”. I insisted that she should take it. She said “put 20 cents of this in your bank, and 20 cents is your tithing. The rest is yours, to do as you think best. If you pay your tithing you will never be in want. The was surely a prophecy, thank God I have never been in want.
When I was fifteen years old, living with the Eleason family, my brother Henry took very sick. Seven doctors gave him up. The said it was inflammation of the bowels, and couldn’t do anything for him. The Elders administered to him and said he would get well and live to raise a big family. A lady doctor, Semmill was her name, took the case. Said “while there is life, there is hope”. She operated on him at our home. When she put the scalpel in him, the puss hit the ceiling. She done what she could, told my sister “there is no chance for him”. She put the sheet up over him and said “I’ll come up in the morning”. My sister took care of him, washed him off, and gave him all the water he wanted to drink. Said “if he is going to die, I can at least give him water if he wants”. She looked up and there stood my father at his head. He shook his head and disappeared (father had died the year before). The doctor called the next morning and was very much surprised when mother told her he was alive and seemed to feel better. They put him in an ambulance and walked the horses to the St. Marks Hospital. The Elders were called in and administered to him, said he would live and raise a large family.
In the meantime, Henry was very low and on the 3rd day, the Intern pronounced him dead, and he was sent to the morgue. A few minutes afterward my sister and mother came to the hospital. They were told he was dead. My sister said “I don’t believe it, he was told by the Elders that he would live and raise a large family”. She called the doctor. She came at once and said to the intern “where did you get the permission to put him in the Morgue?” She put a mirror to his lips, and in a few moments said “he’s alive”. She rushed him in and applied restorative. He lived and raised a large family.
There was a special train of Surgeons (250 of them) at Ogden, on the way to San Francisco, read of the case. The train came to Salt Lake and looked over the patient, asked many questions. Dr. Semmill said “this was not my skill, but was an act of God”. She made this statement several times. The Surgeons were very much surprised. One of them picked up a jar had water in it. They gave gold pieces, filled the jar with them. This was really a blessing fulfilled.
I wanted to help as much as possible, so I went to work for the Western Union Telegraph as a messenger. From the first I done well. I averaged $5.00 a day tips, which was big money those days, and from 5 to 60 dollars a month wages. My brothers went to school and my mother went to work in the Salt Lake Temple. I often think what this meant to both of us, and I thank god for this mother for she was a jewel among women. She started me on the road to success and Church, and I will never forget some of the things she told me. I want to relate an incident that happened. She was not well and one day, the President of the Temple and one of his counselors administered to here, and in the prayer she was told she would be shown what to do to regain her health. One afternoon I came home, she had boiled some potatoes. I noticed she had trouble in peeling them. I said “mother, why don’t you cook them longer”. Her answer “this is the way I was told to do”. By obeying that simple remedy, she was instantly cured and worked in the temple for 42 years – first 20 years not a day was lost when the temple was open.
About this time I started to think of working at some things for a future for me. I could not finish school, so I got a job at the Salt Lake Drug Co. Very small pay, but found in would be something for the future. I went to work inside to get acquainted with medicines. Nelden Judson offered me more money. Later, Smith Farrs Drug co offered me more money, then I went to work for Schsamm Johnson, and they put me to work in a retail store, and I picked up things pretty fast. They put me in as a pharmaceutical apprentice. About this time I met Ruby Durrant and we were married February 10, 1904 in the Salt Lake temple. Our oldest son Herbert was born January 20th, 1905 in Salt Lake City. I came near losing both my wife and baby, she was in labour for two nights and a day. Two years afterward, my son Frank was born, December 23, 1907 or 1908. Then we got a baby girl (Lois) about 2 ½ years after Frank. Frances was born here in Salt Lake City and we moved to Rigby Idaho. I went to work at City Pharmacy. By this time I had 4 children, and my expenses were getting bigger all the time, so I decided to do something about it.
There was a druggist that had two drug stores. His druggist in one of the stores quit him, and the store was for sale, so I went to a banker at Rigby. He loaned me $1000. I bought the store at Ucon, Idaho and paid for the stock and building in 3 years. In the meantime, I had to get registered. I had been studying and had taken a correspondence course, so I took the board of Pharmacy exam in Albion and passed by 93%. Wanda was born in Ucon. About that time my Father in law had a grocery store in Salt Lake City. He was not doing too much there, so we paid up his accounts and moved the balance of the stock to Ucon. During the flu epidemic of 1917-1918, I was given a physicians license to practice medicine, and I had quite a job. I had what the Doctor’s called the ‘black flu’, the only case in that territory. This man came to me at 5 pm. He said “Herb, I have the flu, and I know it is going to get me”. I told him not to worry and gave him the best I had, and not to worry. Two hours afterward I was called to his home. He had a raging fever. I went back 2-3 hours later and he was unconscious. A black fluid came from his stomach and kept choking him. I knew – here was something unusual, more so than pneumonia. I called Dr. Kline, who was a noted Surgeon at Idaho Falls…it is a very unusual case. He said move the family out and have two men stay with him. At midnight we had to turn him, for he was choking, a black fluid came in his mouth. We worked with him all night, and at 5 O’clock he died. The only case of Black Flu in that territory. It was a terrible experience. It was here in Ucon that my daughter Wanda was born.
I want to relate a fishing trip that my brother Joseph and I went on the North fork of the Snake river, between the upper and lower mesa falls. The river was very low that year. The attendant at the lodge said fishing was good there and if we could get across the river, there could get plenty of fish. We didn’t have a boat so we decided to wade, so I took the lead. The water was almost up to the arm pits as we started to cross. There was something in the river that made a wave as it swam upstream. I thought it was a beaver as we couldn’t see anything on the surface. I said to Joseph “do you think we ought to go?” We talked it over and decided to cross, as we were nearer the other side. We got across all ok and decided to fish below the lower falls. It fell about 60 feet, the upper falls nearly 400 feet. I stepped, threw out my line, immediately a big trout grabbed it. I landed him, he weighed 6 ¾ pounds. Joseph got one that weighed 2 ½ lbs. I threw out again and got one that weighed 7 ¼ pounds, so I just waited. Joseph got several small ones. I said, “Joe, I’ll throw in once more” and landed another, he weighed 7 ¾ pounds. We had a hard time to land him. We had more than our limit and decided to call it quits. When we got to camp, I asked the caretaker what it was that made that wave, he said “it is a big Sturgeon, see that cable? We are going to bait it with meat, I think we can do it.” Later I read in the paper that they got it. It was a Sturgeon, it weighed over 900 pounds. My only sport was fishing and I took time off for that. I have had many unusual experiences in the wilds of Idaho.
I was doing well in Idaho, but we thought we would be better off if we moved back to Salt Lake City. I bought a nice home at Ucon, I sold it and the Drug store and we moved back to Salt Lake City. I went to work, we bought another nice home in Salt Lake on Princeton Avenue and we prospered there. We met friends and started to go to parties, some of these friends were all right. I was never one to drink and carry on though. About 1923 I bought a drug store at Ogden. I done very well. I eventually started a new store in the residential section, worked hard, made money, but it seemed there was always someone living with us. We had a wonderful home, plenty of rooms and had a houseful all the time. I got into the machine business and was really taking in the money. Of course, I had to have help, and I put these boarders to work and paid them good salaries. In those days, food was cheap. I remember I bought large hams, 17 cents per lb. It took plenty to keep up the house and business. I was making money, but just couldn’t be every place at once, sold the 5 point drugstore and got rid of the other store and disposed of my businesses, and went to California and stayed all winter. I came back in the spring of 1931 – my brother Henry died and I came home for the funeral. I went to work at the Walsh News Drug Store, we moved to Springville and lived there for four years, and decided to move back to Idaho. McKesson Robbins Company called me, said they had a drug store on their hands at Mackay, wanted me to take it over. I at first was not interested, but they called and wanted to talk. They offered the store to me and I could pay as I made the money to pay. I went to Mackay, took it over. Business was slow for a while, then Dr. Jensen the owner wanted to get rid of his store, so I bought that and combined the two. Mackay was a rough town, but I knew I could make it pay. My business grew and I started to make money again.
I had several terrible experiences at Mackay as I had two drunk doctors to work with. I have had to drag them out of drinking joints to get them to take care of their patients. One night a woman took sick. She was in labor, both doctors were drunk. I was unable to get either one on their feet. I finally got a registered nurse, and we took care of things. The next morning we had a baby boy. Two days afterwards, I got Doctor Richards to go see the woman, she was his patient, and he reported that she was getting along alright. Another experience was mine there. There was a family living just out of town in a two or three room shack. The mother just died, they said she had a very sore throat. Two girls, 15 and 17 years of age, they took sick and a family (Pence by name) took them in. They called the local doctor, said they are alright, only have a sore throat. There was two boys 12 to 14 years old that were sick at home. Mr. Pence, manager of the lumber yard, came in to see me. He said “Herb, will you go over to my house and take a look at those girls?” I told him I would. I found the girls had a high fever and as I walked in first, I said to Mrs. Pence “you have diptheria here, I can smell it”. They have more than a sore throat. I was right, I called Dr. Eghest at Arco, told him what I found. “Can you take care of the girls?” he said. “I am full up, but as soon as possible we will get them.” I started each one with 5000 units of diptheria vaccine, next day 10,000, then doubled it to 20,000 units of diptheria until one girl had had 90,000 units and the other 120,000 units. In the mean time, I gave the boys the vaccine and kept them home in the cabin. The girls were taken to Arco, as I didn’t have room for them. I had to give the boys 40,000 and 50,000 units. One day I vaccinated 200 people with vaccine and there were no new cases. This Dr. Richards wrote the board at Boise, they told him it is a good thing I was there to take care of these people, and to forget about it. This surely boosted my business.
I had another very bad accident that I had to take care of. Three boys, young sons of prominent people, 2 of them the only sons. These boys rigged up and old Ford and on their way home, the car got away from them. I guessed it was the brakes, out of control, turned upside down, no top on it, the two boys underneath were ground to pieces. As I picked the little boy up, the back of his skull was ground out, even to the eyes. The other, he was badly mangled. They were both dead when I got there. The third boy was under the other two, so I found there was still life in him. We rushed him to Pocatello. He had broken arms and legs, but they were able to bring him back to health. He limps a little. When I picked up the other little fellow, the flesh and bone was ground right out. I didn’t want the mother to see this, but she insisted. The other boy lived to tell us how it happened. They made the drive of 118 miles to Pocatello in about 90 minutes. Police gave them right away.
My son Frank came to Mackay to live and I put him in the drug store to help me. Herbert Jr. also came to Mackay. He wanted to get out of Ogden, so he located at Malad Idaho. He started in Malad and picked up a wonderful business. My wife Ruby had been ailing for some time. She had had one operation. She was not getting any better, so we moved her back to Salt Lake. I helped out in Church as a ward teacher, and I was put in as a member of the Sunday school board. Apostle Ezra Taft Benson ordained me to a seventy, Nov. 16th, 1947.
Ruby my wife took very sick with cancer. I had her in the hospital in Salt Lake, she got some better, she died at home in Salt Lake Aug. 9th, 1946. I sold my interest in the store to Herbert and moved back to Salt Lake two years before Frank bought the store at Mackay. About this time Helen my daughter, who was in Spokane Washington, she and her children settled in Mackay Idaho. I done a lot of traveling around the country, but I was not satisfied. I just had to have something to do, so I bought a drug store at Sunset, Utah, but I sold that store in 1950 and moved back to live with Wanda and Ray at Bountiful. While living in Bountiful, I got quite active in church work, then my granddaughter Renee married Dorian Gustavenson. Then another granddaughter Joyce got married and we went to her wedding reception and to the Logan temple. On our way home that night, Dorian went to sleep driving and run off the road, and was injured quite badly, and didn’t work for 5-6 months. Before this, Dorian’s aunt died and they turned this property over to him, and for him to take over the contract. He was injured quite badly and they asked me to come and live with them so they could make the payments on this home, which I did. Yes, I came back to the thirty second ward from where Ruby and I came from when we were married, Feb. 10, 1904 in the Salt Lake temple. This was the ward where Ruby was born and where I bought a home and both of my sons were born, and I think it was a good move for me as the 32nd ward was always home to me. (My Danny-boy was born there, it seems that I loved him more than my sons and daughters – this is Renee’s boy)
In 1956 and 57 I was called to the California mission. Yes I went on this mission, I enjoyed it, gave me much experience. I truly have been blessed. No my only worry is for my family. I have many children and great grandchildren. I was ordained a high priest may 1st, 1958 by Jessie Warner of the Pioneer Stake. I was also called to be Genealogy Chairman of the 32nd ward about that time.
Renee and Gus moved to Pocatello with Danny Boy and Darrel, yes and now, they have a little girl Tina. She weighed a little over four pounds when she was born.
Now I am going to get my genealogy records up to date, Oct 18, 1960. I did not keep a record of my endowment but I have a complete record, name and date of each one. Yes it is my hope that I can continue on for the balance of my life in doing temple work. I know of a surety that God lives, that he hears and answers prayers. I have seen several healings of the sick, yes even unto death, but they were healed by the power of God, for I have seen several healings by the priesthood in my day. They were administered to and lived. I am living with Ray and Wanda Stevensen. I am still doing temple work, have 750 endowments and am helping out as a proxie.
Died: October 21st 1970, King Hill Idaho.