Contributor: Gena Wagaman Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
A Look Into the Life of Niels Christiansen
(As told by Niels Christiansen to Florence Christiansen, wife of Gerald Niels Christiansen)
In 1863, Peter Christiansen and his wife, Annie Petersen and their four children, Lars Peter, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Hans, emigrated from their small home near Copenhagen, Denmark. My mother, Maren Olsen, worked for them as a girl in Denmark. When they came to the United States, they brought her with them to do the work. In Denmark, Maren joined the L.D.S. Church. After coming to Utah, Maren Olsen became Peter's second wife. Later Peter married a third wife, Anne Maria Hansen. They had the following children: Martha, Helen, Hans, Caroline, Marie, Ann, Esther, Mary, Peter Victor, and Erma.
The Christiansen's came directly to Hyrum, Utah. Father was a blacksmith by trade in Denmark. When Peter came to the United States, he had decided to make his living by being a carpenter. He was later advised by the leaders of their company in Omaha to return to Council Bluffs and get enough tools to set up a blacksmith shop. After arriving in Hyrum, Peter followed the trade of a blacksmith. Later he had a sawmill and owned shares in the first threshing machine in Hyrum. He also worked as a carpenter.
I, Niels, was born on the 12th of January 1869 on the same lot that Erma lives on in Hyrum. Maren and Aunt Annie lived in the same house and each had two rooms. We kids all lived upstairs, even though it wasn't finished. The upstairs was divided into two sections, one for Maren's children and the other for Aunt Annie's children. I was the third of eight children, one girl and seven boys: Annie, Christian John, Niels, Joseph Oliver, Hyrum H., Nephi P., Lehi F., and William.
When I was born, Father was out with some contractor as a blacksmith at Promontory Point, where the Golden Spike was driven. It was a very severe winter that year, there being lots of snow.
In my childhood, I grew up about like other kids. When I was about eight or nine years old, I began to get little jobs for five or ten cents per day. On my first big job, I hired out to haul hay and grain for ten cents a day. I lived with the people that I worked for. My next job was plowing fields for twenty five cents an acre. I had to carry my dinner and walked two miles to the fields.
The most money I ever had at one time was when I earned twenty seven dollars for tying shingle bunches. I also worked for a brick maker until I had earned twelve dollars of which my Father took half in burned brick for my pay.
My playmates were our neighbors. We weren't very well to do, but we never wanted for something to eat. I guess we were considered about average. Father had a small tract of land, about forty or fifty acres that he divided into five or ten acre tracts and we kids did a lot of the work to take care of it. We also helped in father's blacksmith shop.
Our clothes were rather poor. Mother washed and carded wool and spun it for use in making our socks and mitts. We had overalls and jeans. Our shoes were regular old cowhide, and the hardest kind of leather. We had a devilish time to get them on and off because they were so hard. We never had any rubbers or boots. We irrigated in our bare feet.
One day a circus came to Logan and I wanted to go in the worst way. I had never seen a circus, but it was our turn to irrigate on one five acres, so I had to stay and I got the price of a circus ticket for my pay.
Our sports were ball, of which I played very little, swimming, playing marbles, and sometimes a few of us would take a trip up Blacksmith Fork Canyon.
As a boy I was kept pretty busy at home, there having to chop wood for the three families. My brother, Chris, when he was 12, and I, when I was 10, hauled lumber over the upper road, the steepest place! He drove the horses and I took care of the brakes as we drove down.
I don't remember buying fruit only a little for canning. We had pot plumbs, currants, chokecherries, and raised sorghum cane. We had lots of sorghum. We took the cane to the mill where it was ground and cooked, and there we got the sorghum in cans. We kids did little jobs around the mill to get some of the skimming's, not the green skimming's that were taken off at first for it wasn't good, but that skimmed off later and then we had a candy pull. We had lots of fun. Cane grew much as our corn, about six or seven feet tall. We stripped the leaves off with a stick, then cut the stocks and took them to the mill. They went through three rollers to squeeze the juice out and that is what they used to make molasses. We had fruit cooked in molasses with a little sugar in it sometimes to give it a little different flavor.
The first honey I ever had was at Uncle Lars Christiansen's. It was also the first honey I ever saw in the comb, and I got a hunk of it. That was a real treat.
We were encouraged to attend Sunday School and Primary, but Sacrament Meeting was only considered to be for the older people. Of course, we had Sunday evening meetings. In Sunday School the boys were in one class and the girls in another until they got in the theological class. The first Sunday School I remember, the teacher read out one of our school books to us. I attended Primary a lot. As we got older, they had cards with questions and answers to be used in teaching. The first teacher I had in Sunday School was Hans P. Hansen. The best teacher in Sunday School that I had was Charles Orwell. He gave us passages of Scripture to learn and the names of the books of the Bible. His class was praised for quoting scriptures at a Sunday School Union Meeting.
Public School conditions were not up to much. My first school was just across the street from where I lived. It was held in the home of Elizabeth Benson. I didn't go much to her school. I remember we learned the alphabet and a little writing on our slate. They had to pay tuition and there were no free books or anything. Elizabeth Benson was my teacher. I went to school, probably two or three months each winter until I was about 14, or until I was to about the fifth reader. We had arithmetic, writing, and geography. A little grammar was taught about my last year in school. We diagramed, but I never learned much about it. Those who could afford it could buy a copy book, but we wrote ours on a slate. Father was one of those who helped to establish the free school system. He worked for that a lot. My other teachers were C.C. Shaw, Ingall Thorson, Miss Allie Bobbins, Mr. Carlisle, who worked as one of the main workers in the Logan temple for years, and Mr. Mullen.
I don't remember getting a plaything for Christmas. We got candy, an orange, and cakes. On the fourth of July, if we got 15 or 20 cents we thought we had a big thing. Dancing was one of the main entertainments for the young people. After we became Deacons, we helped chop wood for the church and clean the meeting house and for this we got a dance ticket. All our dances were square dances, except maybe one or two of the dances during the evening. The one that hauled the wood got a free supper and dance ticket. Different ones were appointed to prepare the supper, and we drew for the place to go and took our girl.
I was baptized in the spring after I was eight in January. I think it was about April 25, 1877. I believe John G. Wilson baptized me and I was baptized at Hyrum, Utah. (The Moreland Ward records state that Niels Christiansen was baptized on 25 December 1878.) James F. Wray was the first man that I remember being over the Aaronic Priesthood and that taught me.
The first time I went out to work on the railroad grade was for Munson and Johnson when I was 18 years old. We went into Montana north of Helena to Prickly pear Canyon. We shipped from Logan on the narrow gauge railroad. This was my first ride on a train. We worked toward Great Falls (Montana), using horses and slush scrapers or slip scrapers, and that November was the coldest weather I ever saw. Ice froze 18 inches deep in three nights on the Missoula River. We came home on the train.
The next three years I spent most of my time at home and took care of the farm for Father. At 21, I went to work for Pete Hanson (Hanson Construction) building railroad grades down the Missoula River, from there up on to the St. Regis. I wintered that first winter in the Bitterroot Canyon with some Missourians. In May we went to Bozeman to work on a canal. For our next job, they shipped us to Missoula, and we freighted over the Flathead Reservation to Flathead Lake. That winter we went to Kootenai, Idaho and put teams on construction work. In March we went to Spokane, Washington and worked west of there on the railroad again.
When I was 24, Lars Peter went on his mission, and I rented his farm, bought his team and machinery and run Father's place. I ran it for 3 years. I didn't make much at this adventure. I offered to give Lars Peter the crop and team if he would release me from my obligations, but he wouldn't. I had a pretty good crop that year. At Christmas time I was offered 50 cents a bushel for my wheat, but was advised to hold it until spring, which I did and sold it for 30 cents. I just about broke even.
About this time I began to go steady with Lucy McBride whom I later married. Before this I had just chased around with different girls. We used an old buggy and horse. About this time the first religion class was organized at night. I attended that. Before going with Lucy, I used to sport with Laura McBride, Lucy's sister, and Martha, my half sister, quite a lot. My brother, Chris married Laura and I used to razz her and say I was going to have her little sister. I suppose what brought about my going with Lucy was that after Chris married Laura, I visited with them. Lucy was there and I got started going with her. We were married November 18, 1896, in the Logan Temple. It would have been the seventeenth, her Father's birthday, but the Logan Temple was closed that day. Apostle Marriner W. Merrill married us. Lon Barrow and I gave a big wedding dance at the opera house in Hyrum. It was his wedding also. There was a wedding supper at Lucy's folk's home the night of our wedding. It was muddy. I hitched up my horse to the old buggy and went up to her house.
I bought a place across from my sister, Annie's, and the next day we went there and fixed it up. The next day I went back to the blacksmith shop with Father. That is the kind of a honeymoon we had out of it. We had four children: Gerald Niels, James Lorin, Merrill Leroy, and Verland Lee. After getting married, I was made an assistant to the presidency of the Elder's Quorum. I had my first experience as a ward teacher in Hyrum after I was married.
I couldn't do very much horseshoeing, my knees wouldn't stand it. Soren Hansen ran a sugar beet farm so I got work from him. I worked for $40.00 a month and a place to live. That winter I worked in the canyon to make enough to live on. Before I moved to Moreland, Idaho, I homesteaded in Pocatello Valley. I built one and a half miles of fence and moved an old granary there to live in. I had to haul water 8 miles. Lucy was dissatisfied so we quit and moved to Moreland in 1903.
I was only here a short time when they started to use me as a ward teacher in which position I served almost steady until I went to Imbler, Oregon to live in the spring of 1937. I taught in the theological class in Sunday School with Oliver Belnap. Shortly after that I was put in the Sunday School superintendency where I worked for eight years. Most of these years I was superintendent, Brother A.M. Clement and Brother Abram Hatch were my assistants. I worked in the Stake MIA for a number of years and I was also an assistant in the ward YMMIA for a good many years together with my stake job. I filled a home mission in Shelley for two months. My companion was John Bowker of Groveland. Most of the time I was alone or a local person from Shelley went with me. I also served a short time in the religion class stake board. I received my Patriarchal Blessing on 24 November 1914 from Andrew P. Benson.
I went to the California Mission Field in November 1914 and returned on the first of October 1916. Lucy came back and visited me when I was released. I guess that was really our honeymoon, the only one we ever had. I left my son, Gerald, in charge of my farm when I went on my mission. My brother, Chris, gave him a lot of advice and council.
There was an old log house on my brother Hyrum's place that I tore down and moved to Moreland. I bought an old store in Blackfoot and tore it down. Between Chris and me, we built our two room house on the Moreland town site with this material. Later Lucy got some money from her Father's estate, and we built two more rooms and a bath. We lived with Chris and Laura until we got our home finished. We had three children before we came up here. Gerald was born 31 August 1897, James was born 15 July 1899, and Merrill was born 4 August 1902. After we moved to Moreland, my son Verland was born on 5 October 1908.
The first winter I was here, I worked for the Munson brothers on Pocatello Creek logging and hauling lumber. I bought 80 acres from Hyrum and five acres in Moreland. Later, I bought 100 acres in Moreland, then traded some of it to Uncle Chris for his ground that joined my farm.
The first automobile I owned was after I came home from my mission. It was a Ford. One year the Bishop England and John Wray families and Laura and Chris and family spent about a week at Blackfoot Dam. We took three white top buggies and a big wagon for supplies. I guess that was about the biggest outing we ever had with the family. My first trip to Yellowstone Park was with William Bartlett and family, Lester Belnap and family and Al Benson and family. It was my first experience of sleeping out and having bears coming up to the bed. I have been to the Park four different time.
In the spring of 1927, Lucy was operated on for goiter at Idaho Falls. The winter of 1835 she was operated on in Salt Lake City, Utah, for cancer. She passed away on May 11, 1936. I was very much unsettled after that. On March 1, 1937, the next spring, I married my brother-in-law's wife, Helen J. B. McBride. I went to Hyrum, and they told me that Helen and her sister were at Logan working in the temple. I went over and visited her. Later, I went to Logan to work in the Temple. We talked things over and decided to get married. We were given a civil marriage in the Logan Temple, and then we moved to her home in Imbler, Oregon. We were burned out the first winter. We moved back to Moreland for a short time, then sold the house to Burton McBride. We then bought another home in Imbler. While at Oregon, I worked at odd jobs for farmers. Helen was sick about two years, but the last four months she was helpless and I had to help her. I ruptured myself trying to move her. She passed away on 28 April 1947, a little over ten years after we had been married. I then sold our home in Imbler, and came back to Moreland. Gerald and I built a little house on Gerald's place and I have lived here now for four years. I have visited in Salt Lake City three times with Verland and for two months in California. Then again in 1950 at Christmas time, I visited with him. I am looking forward to visiting in California again with Verland this summer. I have visited in Imbler three times and also with Lu at Portland, (Woodland) Oregon. I spent two months of the summer of 1951 at Walnut Creek, California visiting with my son Verland and family.
This spring I have had an operation on my leg, to tie off the veins, as I was having trouble with blood clots forming in my leg. I have developed other troubles owing which was a blood clot in my lung, from which I had pneumonia and was in the hospital for nine days. I am home again now and beginning to feel better. In the fall of 1952, I had a blood clot lodge in my left leg below the knee which kept me bedfast for several weeks and then just before Christmas it was necessary to have it amputated above the knee. I came through this operation fine and went about in a wheel chair. In October of 1952, I went to the hospital in Idaho Falls and underwent an operation for prostate gland. Just before Christmas, I again went to Walnut Creek, California and stayed six months with Verland and family. I returned home about the first of May 9154, and went to stay with James and Thelma.
(From the book "Memories for Tomorrow, Glimpses of the James Loren Christiansen Family", compiled by Thelma P. Christiansen in 1989.) Thelma: Sixty years Niels gave to Moreland's growth. He helped build Moreland schools and churches. A member of the school board who graduated five from the first accredited high school in 1924. I came into the family in 1921. He was always my friend. It took very little to please him.
Harrison McKnight, from Moreland, was a young prospect who drew a mission call at the same time Grandpa Christiansen, 45 years old, received one. They were sent to the same California Mission to be companions. Grandpa worried. He feared Harrison would be discouraged, paired off with an old man. The result was a lasting friendship, each with great respect for the other.
One night after he had retired to bed, we hear voices from his bedroom door. Fearing he might need something, or that perhaps he was ill, we listened quietly at the door. He was saying his prayers aloud and really talking with his Heavenly Father. I am no longer needed here. I have completed my work. We realized he was asking for a release, that he was ready to be called home. We felt as if we were on holy ground, so intense was his asking. We know what a strong and constant faith he had. Yet his acceptance of Thy will be done was remarkable. Within two or three days his Heavenly Father did take him home.
Niels Christiansen, son of Peter and Mary Christiansen, born at Hyrum, Cache County, Utah, January 12, 1869.
Niels Christiansen, dear brother, I place my hands upon your head and by virtue of my office and calling in the Priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ, I seal upon you a father’s and Patriarchal blessing, and confirm upon you the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with all the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant. You were chosen before the foundation of this earth to come forth in this the last Dispensation to help prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to rule on this earth. You are a true descendant of Israel, the blood of Ephraim is coursing through your veins, and as such you are heir to all the blessings connected with the Holy Priesthood. As you are called to go forth and proclaim the Everlasting Gospel, I bless you with health and strength in body and mind. You shall go in peach and return in safety. You shall be an instrument in the hands of God to turn many souls into the fold. I bless you with the spirit of the Gospel. You shall be able to proclaim it in an intelligent manner. I bless you with the spirit of discernment. When you enter a house you shall be able by that spirit to know what kind of inhabitants there are. I bless you with the power of healing, when you place your hands upon the sick they shall be restored to health and strength.
I bless you in your fields, your flocks, and your gardens, in everything you will do in righteousness. You shall live on this earth as long as you desire. You shall sit in counsel with your brethren and many shall rise up and bless you for your council and advice. Your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and you shall come forth in the First Resurrection and be crowned with honor and glory, and in connection with your wife you shall stand as a king and ruler over your posterity. You shall be a prince in our Lord’s Kingdom and rule with him on this earth for a thousand years and through all eternity. These blessings are yours and I seal them upon you in connection with all your former blessings. I do this by virtue of the Holy Priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
(This document was copied according to the way it was written.)