By his son John Henry Jensen and his daughter Lillie Ingaborg Jensen Memmott, as told to them by Jens Peter Jensen. Minor editing by Guy L. Black.
I, Jens Peter Jensen, was born in Herlev, Denmark 29 Sept 1863. When I was eight year old, my mother, who was a member of the Mormon Church, had me baptized into the Mormon Church. My father died when I was a mere child. We were very poor in a financial way. Mother, being a widow, worked hard every day. I also worked wherever a job was available.
One day, when I didn’t have any work and I was to be home all day, Mother suggested that I start dinner so it would be ready when she came home from work. I put on a kettle of potatoes after peeling them very carefully. Not a bit should be wasted, as potatoes were choice and hard to get. I built a hot fire, placed the kettle of potatoes on the hot stove, but forgot to add water. This turned out to be a great calamity to our family, who had very little to eat. When mother came within two blocks of the house she knew she was either to feast on burnt black potatoes or go back to work on an empty stomach.
One day I went to an outside toilet, (privy in those days) and I fell in. This caused great alarm in the neighborhood. Mother had to go for help, which was slightly embarrassing. I nearly died before they got me out. When they finally did get me out, they burned all my clothing and bathed me in several tubs of warm soapy water before I could go to the house and mingle with other people. I had picked up a scent which was far from multiplying into dollars.
As I grew older, I fell into bad company. My mother was always working. Father was dead, and I was left pretty much on my own. I started smoking, and drank some, as I had no one around to keep me from falling into these bad habits, which I really lived to regret.
After I finished school, I found a job working on a large ranch. There I worked for many years, farming in the daytime, and feeding and tending cows mornings and evenings. On this ranch several girls also worked, doing the cooking and housework, and milking sixteen head of cows a piece. Milking time for the girls started at 4:00 a.m. each morning. While working there, I took a liking to one of the girls by the name of Inga Lisa Johannesson, who was born 28 March 1865. During our courtship I told her how I felt as though this was the true gospel and that I planned to join them as soon as I could quit drinking and smoking.
On one occasion, I asked her if she would go to one of their meetings with me and hear the Elders preach the true gospel. She told me that she had heard some stories about the Mormons having horns and many wives. She promised to go with me and listen to what they had to say about their many wives, but she said, “I will never join them.” I told her not to judge them until she had heard them preach. The very next meeting the Elders held, Inga Lisa and I were there. After the meeting, as we were walking home, I asked her what she thought about their talks. She answered, “I have never heard the gospel explained so well. Those Elders spoke the truth. I know it because of the burning feeling I had in my bosom. While they were speaking this evening I knew without a doubt they have the true gospel. I want to attend more of their meetings and learn more of their gospel.”
In five months, Inga Lisa and I went to Copenhagen, Denmark and were married. Time went on and our first child, Carl William, was born. Two years later, our second child, Axel Hyrum, was born. In less than three years after his birth, Axel Hyrum became very ill. He was taken to a hospital where they operated on him and placed a celluloid tube in his throat. He had become a victim of Membranous croup. When we went to visit him, we were forbidden to enter his room, as he would get homesick and cry to go home with us. So we had to stand outside the door and peek through the crack of the door, so he couldn’t see us. That was very hard on Inga Lisa, as she could see that he was failing more each time she came. She wanted to go in and put him in her arms and love him, but that was refused her. After weeks of illness, he died. Inga Lisa said, “I cannot go on any longer. I want to die also.” Because she felt like there was nothing more to live for, she neglected William and me. This drove me to drinking even more. I spent all night long at the pool halls and liquor store. During all this time of trial and tribulations, the Elders visited us, teaching us the gospel and trying to get us to join the church. Inga Lisa began studying the Book of Mormon and the Bible. This gave her great comfort and hope, to the extent that she asked for baptism. It was in the coldest part of the winter when the Elders cut a hole through the ice, which was six inches thick. Then they baptized her. I told Inga Lisa I would be rebaptized later, as I didn’t think I was quite ready to give up my smoking and drinking.
As time went on, our third child, Hulda, was born. We felt she took the place of our little boy who had died. Inga Lisa felt much better with the help of her Heavenly Father and the church. Now I was her biggest worry; how was she to get me to stop drinking? On payday, my friends and I would go straight from work to the saloon, and would not come home until early morning hours. When I did come home, I was very drunk. I would throw $2.00 on the table and tell Inga Lisa that was all I had left out of my paycheck. This she was to use for food for our family, and also to pay the rent and anything else we might need for the week. So in order to pay the rent and buy food for the family, she got a job from the landlord scrubbing floors.
One Saturday night, after she had been scrubbing floors all day and was very tired, she went to our apartment to clean the apartment and to prepare supper. She stayed up all night into the wee hours of the morning waiting for me to come home, because that Saturday had been payday for me. As I came home from the saloon, I had a guilty conscience. As I climbed the stairs and let myself into our apartment I threw two or three dollars on the table and, as usual, was going to bed. Inga Lisa spoke up and said, “This must stop. You are spending most of your paychecks at the saloon. We have a family and must have the money to live on and pay rent.” At this, I gathered up the money I had thrown on the table and said, “If you don’t want what money I have left, I’ll go back and drink it up.” With these angry words, I walked back to the saloon. Inga Lisa slipped on her coat and followed me, making sure I didn’t see her. I got there and had seated myself at a card table, when she arrived at the door. She hesitated, afraid to go in, when she heard quarreling and looking in she saw a drunken man ready to throw a beer bottle at me. This made up her mind to go in.
As she opened the door, the man who held the bottle turned to see who came in. When all the men saw a woman enter, they became very quiet. In those days, it was a real disgrace for a man’s wife to enter a saloon. By her coming in, it saved me from getting a blow on my head, which could have been fatal. Walking over to me, Inga Lisa said, “Jens this is Inga Lisa your wife. I want you to come home with me now.” I looked at her and told her to go home and I would follow. I felt very embarrassed to have her there. She turned and left. She had been home but a short time when I arrived home. I said to her with a groggy mind, “Was that you who came and got me out of the saloon?” As frightened as she was, she spoke up and said, “Yes, that was me.” “This has gone far enough,” I said. “When a woman has to come and get her man out of a saloon, that is the last straw. I will never enter a saloon again. I am through drinking.” That was music to Inga Lisa’s ears. I stayed with my promise. Now I still had to quit smoking, and, as Inga Lisa said, I had developed the habit of swearing.
It wasn’t long after this that I applied for baptism. This was my second baptism. In those days the church allowed for more than one baptism. In our home, we now had family prayer. Together my lovely wife and I attended church every Sunday. Now our greatest desire was to immigrate to America to live in Utah with the rest of the saints, but we had no money. About this time one of the missionaries was released. He said that he had enough money for both me and himself if I would go to Utah with him. He told me that I could work for him in Utah until I had paid him back. Immediately preparations were made. The Elder and I bid Inga farewell and left for Mayfield, Utah, which was the home town of the Elder. It wasn’t long until I had borrowed enough money from a friend in Mayfield and sent for my wife and two children.
One morning, as Inga Lisa was about her work, there was a knock at her door. When she opened the door there stood one of the missionaries that she knew very well. He told her had his release. He then told her he had received a letter from me with enough money for her and the children to immigrate to Utah. He asked her if she could be ready for the next boat that would leave in a few hours. She threw up her hands, clapped them in the air, and said, “I’ll be ready.” There was a big washing to do, ironing, some mending, clothes for three to be packed, and house rent to pay. At last a taxi was called to take her and her children to the ship. As the taxi drove up to the water edge, the ship gave several loud whistles. This was to let the people know the ship was about to leave. She and the children walked up the plank. They had no sooner reached the boat when she looked back and the gang plank was being hoisted up. The whistle blew again. They were leaving the shore and sailing out on a great ocean towards America. The third day of sailing, Inga Lisa got seasick and was put to bed unable to leave the bed for one week. Our oldest son William was having the time of his life running up onto the deck and back again to Inga Lisa’s bedside. She was so afraid he would be swept off the top deck by the wind or by a sudden toss of the boat. Inga Lisa tried her best to get him to stay by her bedside where she could watch him, but as soon as he was finished with his breakfast, up to the top deck he would go. Inga Lisa wouldn’t see him until lunch time. Then, after eating, he would be off again until dinner time. This went on day after day. While in bed, Inga Lisa had to tend and care for our youngest girl, Hulda, who was but a baby one year old. Before Inga Lisa left Copenhagen, the missionary assigned her to take care of three Swedish girls, while sailing. It was impossible for them to go overseas without a guardian. These girls lived in the same cabin on the ship with Inga Lisa. One of these girl’s name was Ingaborg. She was a great help to my wife, and also a great comfort.
About three or four days before the ship was to land at New Jersey harbor, Hulda, our baby girl, became very ill. A doctor was called. After looking at Hulda, the Doctor told Inga Lisa that the baby could not possibly live throughout the day. She would die before they reached shore. If Inga Lisa ever prayed, that was one time. She asked the Lord to save Hulda’s life, and she prayed all day. Just before dark, Hulda broke out with measles all over her face and body. The doctor said he would have to report and have them quarantined on the ship for about three weeks. The next morning, the ship was to land and the doctor hadn’t reported it. She covered up the baby’s face and walked down the gang plank as though nothing was wrong. She boarded the train to Salt Lake City, Utah. Hulda was sick for days, but she lived. The Lord had answered Inga Lisa’s prayers.
While traveling on the train, the Mormon saints were allowed the last car on the train. They were happy, and the missionaries suggested they all sing the songs of Zion. They were singing when the train wrecked. Every car on the train derailed but the last car. It stood unharmed and safe on the track, filled with a joyful group of Saints, praising and thanking their Heavenly Father for their safety. Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, Inga Lisa had to lay over for a few days. The train for Mayfield didn’t run every day. Not having enough money for a hotel, the church made a bed in the Relief Society office for Inga Lisa and the children. When at last they arrived in Gunnison, Inga Lisa was told to get off the train and go the rest of the way to Mayfield by the mail hack. She arrived in Mayfield early in the afternoon, and was taken to Joseph Christiansen’s home, where I was staying. I had not yet come home from work. Angie Christiansen, a daughter of the Christiansen’s taught her to say “Light the lamp” in the English language, so she could repeat it to me when I came home. It took two hours before she got those words straight in her mind.
That night, when I came home tired, Mrs. Christiansen met me and said that I must hurry and go to the Gunnison depot, as my wife and children were waiting there for me. I hurried out of the door to go to the depot. Mrs. Christiansen said to me, “You come back here and get yourself cleaned up. You don’t want her to see you looking like that in your dirty work clothes.” I started to my room to clean up when Angie their daughter brought Hulda to me and said, “Do you know this baby?” I didn’t know her, as I had been absent from my family for awhile and the baby had changed. I said, “No, I don’t know that baby.” Then she brought William and asked if I knew him. Yes, I knew William. Just then Mrs. Christiansen brought Inga Lisa out from behind the door, and pushed her toward me. Inga Lisa began yelling, “Light the lamp; light the lamp.” I was so surprised to see her and she kept saying, “light the lamp; light the lamp.” She told me afterwards that Angie had wanted to teacher her to say these words to let me know that she could talk English. At the time I wondered why she wanted the lamp lit, as it wasn’t yet dark.
We moved into a two-room house, which I had rented. While living there, Inga Lisa was paid a horrifying visit from an old Indian squaw. Inga had the kitchen door open, and in walked a squaw. She had on moccasins so she couldn’t detect that she was there until she spoke. Of course, not ever seeing a squaw before, but having heard plenty of bad stories in Denmark about the “Red Heads,” Inga Lisa let out a blood curdling scream that made the old squaw laugh and throw her hands up and down with delight. The squaw was pleased to see Inga Lisa scared, because she knew then she had the advantage over her. She started begging for food, and Inga Lisa got everything she asked for. Around the squaw was nearly half of what food we had in the house, and she was still begging. Finally she wanted “white papoose,” meaning Hulda, our baby. Inga Lisa said, “Oh no, you can’t have her.” Then Inga Lisa took off her apron and offered it to the squaw. She took the apron with greedy eyes, then said again, “white papoose”. Inga Lisa was bewildered with fright, and let out another scream. In walked a neighbor, who had seen the squaw go into our house. She had come to be with Inga Lisa, as she knew she was afraid of Indians. The neighbor drove the old squaw out of the house, locked the door, and placed all our food back in the cupboards. Inga Lisa was surely thankful for the thoughtfulness of such a good neighbor.
About a year later, our fourth child was born. We named him Parley Kimball after Parley P. Pratt and Heber C. Kimball. He was born 10 June 1894. Two more years had gone by, and the loan for Inga Lisa’s trip had been paid off. We had kept our tithing paid up, and were anxious to have our marriage solemnized in the Temple. We wanted to have this done before our next child was to be born. September 2, 1896, we were married in the MantiTemple and had our four children sealed to us. At this time we lived in a two-room adobe house in Mayfield. It was along the road which led to the Mayfield canyon. It was while living there that Inga Lisa promised to take care of an old lady who was helpless. The Relief Society paid her a small monthly fee. Inga Lisa was with child, and it was very hard on her to lift the old lady. This old lady would call several times during the night for the bedpan, but she didn’t need it. She just wanted company, as she didn’t sleep well. One night, when Inga Lisa was very tired, she asked me to get up and hand the lady the bed pan. This I did. The old lady never called for the bedpan any more at night.
Inga Lisa cleaned and scrubbed this two-room adobe house spic and span one Saturday morning, as she usually did every Saturday. She told the old lady she had to go to the store and do some shopping, and would hurry back. She left the kitchen door open a crack by mistake, as she went out of it. My milk cow feeding on some grass in the unfenced lot next to the house found it partly open and pushed it wide open and walked into the house. On the table was a large cabbage head which a good neighbor had brought us. The cow soon finished off the cabbage after which she walked to the door joining the bedroom where lay the sick lady. The old lady was scared out of her wits. When Inga Lisa came home she found the cow lying down in a corner in the kitchen with cow dung plastered all over her clean scrubbed kitchen floor. She drove the cow out and worked until sundown recleaning her kitchen.
By this time of year, work in Mayfield was scarce. It was October, and two families in Mayfield wanted to build new homes. They needed adobes made for their house, so I was hired to do this work for them. I knew I would have to work steady in order to get the adobe made before winter came and the ground was frozen. On October 17, 1896, at 10 a.m., I had just mixed a large batch of mud for the adobes I had planned to make that day, when my neighbor came and told me to hurry home because my wife had given birth to our fifth son John Henry Jensen, named after John Henry Smith. By the time I had obtained care for my family and made the necessary arrangements, the day was gone and the mud I had mixed was too dry to use. But why should I worry, we were blessed with another son. Winter had come before I had adobes finished, so I was compelled to wait until spring before finishing the amount of adobes I had promised to make. I finished out the year working around for different men around town. Next spring, I was offered a large farm on lease in Christianberg. This was a small settlement between Mayfield and Gunnison, Utah. This is what I had been looking for since I wanted to be on my own. I stayed on this farm for about five years and did very well. We lived well, but were unable to save any money. During this time we were blessed with two more children, Lillie Ingaborg, born 12 May, 1899, and Charles Edwin born 28 Jan. 1901.
We wanted to buy a farm of our own. After looking at several different farms we found one two and one-half miles southeast of Gunnison. It was a small farm, but it was all we could afford at that time. So we bought it on time payments. About the only thing that was on the place was a four-room adobe house. While still living on this small farm, I took another job hauling freight from the Gunnison Depot to the merchants in Gunnison, a distance of about four miles. As the town of Gunnison grew larger, my freight business grew also. I was compelled to buy another team of horses, and a wagon. By that time, my oldest son William was old enough to drive one team of horses while I drove the other one. With both of us working on this job, we did very well. I was able to build a corral and stable, and I also bought several good milk cows and a new buggy large enough for my family. We enjoyed going to church every Sunday in Gunnison Ward. Our children went to Sunday school and learned about the Gospel. June 7, 1903, Arthur, our eighth child, was born. March 12, 1906, Harold, our last child was born. Not long after the birth of Harold, I leased a large farm for five years. The farm was located two and one-half miles south of Centerfield, Utah. My friends in Mayfield sold me ten working horses on time payments. I also bought a lot of machinery with which to run the farm. I hired several men, and a cook by the name of Esther Follett, to help my wife with the work. During the first summer on the farm, William and our cook, Esther, were married on 2 October 1907. This made it necessary to hire another cook; however William went on working for me. We raised a large crop of hay and grain the first year.
September was time for our children to start school again, so they entered the Centerfield schools. On Christmas Day, I received a call from Mr. Parker, the owner of the ranch. He told me he had a very important matter to talk over with me. A few days after Christmas Mr. Parker arrived. He said he had a chance to sell the ranch for a good price and he would like me to give up the lease that I had on the ranch. Then he could sell it to this buyer. He said he was in need of the money at that time and would mean a great deal to him. I knew if I stayed on the farm another four years, as my lease called for, I could do very well. I had all the horses and machinery I needed and it would be clear sailing from then on. Nevertheless he was a better talker than I, so I gave him the lease, and told him he could sell the farm. I stayed on the farm until spring. I had sold my small farm and given up the freight business when we moved to the larger farm. Now I had no place to go. We rented a small house in Centerfield until I could find some work. I still had the horses and machinery to sell, as there was no need for horses or machinery that spring, and not being able to buy hay to feed the horse, I was compelled to sell at a great loss.
I found a job working for D & R G Railroad Company repairing the tracks. I walked back and forth to work about two miles each way, as I had no transportation. I worked ten hours a day for $1.50 a day. We bought another small home two miles from the Gunnison Depot for $150.00. I received a check each month from the D&R G Railroad amounting to between $35.00 and $40.00 a month. About the year 1910 I quit my job with them and leased another small farm. My two sons were able to run that farm very well. I started selling Rawleigh goods in MillardCounty. I would travel from the farm in Gunnison to MillardCounty by team and buggy once a month.
That same year, my oldest daughter, Hulda, married Niels Peter Nielsen in the MantiTemple. Also during the year I was called to my son William’s home to administer to his wife’s uncle who was very ill. He was possessed with evil spirits. His father, Mr. Nielsen, and I administered to this man, and I felt the spirits lift my hands off his head about one foot, while the evil spirits left his body. Those evil spirits followed me home and were in our home for two weeks. My wife and I both felt and heard them. One night I arose from my bed, after being extremely tormented by them, and in the name of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Priesthood, I rebuked them and commanded them to leave. Immediately they left, and we had peace and quiet thereafter.
I continued selling Rawleigh goods while my boys operated the small farm which I had leased. A few years later, my two boys, Kimball and John, left Gunnison seeking work. There was no money to make on the farm. After they left, my wife and I, with our four children, moved to Holden, Millard County, Utah. I homesteaded a dry farm and we lived there. We bought two large tents, placed a board foundation around the bottom of the tents, and laid down a board floor. We lived comfortably in it. I also built one room made out of slabs. I put tar paper on the sides and roofing tar on it. Inga Lisa lined it on the inside with newspapers and we had our range coal stove` in one end of the room and a heater stove in the other end of the room. That way we had it very comfortable. Later, we built a mud house, which proved to be warm and cozy. I also dug a big vegetable root cellar, where I kept my Rawleigh goods and bottled fruit. I bought a granary, and later we raised a lot of grain, which we stored in it. My wife and children lived comfortably here while I was still selling Rawleigh goods, going from town to town in MillardCounty.
The first part of January, 1916, my two sons, Kimball and John, not being able to find work in the winter, came home. They helped the smaller boys build our mud house and cleared forty acres of land, which was sowed into wheat. They then left for Delta to obtain work in the new Delta Sugar Factory, which was under construction at that time. The both married girls from Delta and made their homes there. Kimball married Emily Tanner 10 May 1920. John married Thelda Rhoana Elder 21 November 1917. I continued selling Rawleigh goods until the year 1920, when I decided to stay home and work on the dry farm with my three youngest sons.
April 12, 1923, Jens Peter Jensen died. Cause of death, kidney trouble. The four younger children also married. Lillie married Eugene Memmott 5, Dec. 1923. Edwin married Laurene Weyerman 2 Oct. 1929. Arthur married Ruth Jeffrey 28 May 1924, and Harold married Grace Wood 18 Jan 1928.[i]
A TESTIMONY OF JENS PETER JENSEN
I was very sick with a rupture. I was in great pain, day and night for three weeks. I couldn’t walk or lay down. I begged for my family to pray for me to die.
One night I felt like I could endure it no more. My wife called my son Kimball, who was asleep, to come administer to me. He was a Priest at that time, but he was willing to try, he said. So Mother and Kimball placed their hands on my head, and Kimball prayed for me to get well, and he also mentioned that I might have a good night’s rest. As soon as they took their hands off my head I fell asleep. I slept well ‘til morning.
I had a strong desire to go to the Manti Temple and have the ordinance workers administer to me. I knew if I could do that, I would get well. So a few days later, my two sons Kimball and Henry carried me out into the buggy, and Mother drove me to the Manti Temple.
When we arrived there, Mother went into the Temple and got two men to come carry me into the Temple. There was a man there from Centerfield whom I knew really well. He told me, after I had been brought in, that it would be useless for me to expect to get well because that would be impossible. He was an ordinance worker. I had faith I would get well and I told him he hadn’t better weaken my faith; so he said, “Well, if you feel like you’ll get well, you just keep feeling that way.”
Soon I was taken into a side room and two of the ordinance workers put me in a chair and then administered to me. As soon as they took their hands off my head, I felt so overjoyed. I got up and started walking. They looked as if they couldn’t believe it, but I walked out of the Temple, and my wife and I went home. When I got home, I got out of the buggy and unhitched the horse, to the amazement of my wife and children. I walked to the house, and walked well every day. I was entirely healed from that most terrible rupture. It has been such a wonderful experience to me and my family that God healed me of all the pain I had, and made it possible for me to walk again.
[i] Vital Records, Cemetery, and Obituary Sources: Birth Record: Herlev Parish, Denmark Birth Records from 1863, p. 42, entry 17, for 1863 (September 29, 1863). Family History Library Microfilm Roll No. 48569. Marriage Record: Kirkebøger for Skt Matthæus parish, Sokkelund district, København county, Marriages 1884-1887, page170, entry 40b (3rd entry on the page). http://www.arkivalieronline.dk (Opslag 172) (Slide 172). Record indicates that the couple married on 5 February 1886 in St. Matthews parish, Sokkelund district, Copenghagen. Death Certificate: Jens Peter Jensen, Death Certificate, Registrar’s Vol. 43 No. 67, State File No. 146, Board of Health File Number 23 (525 handwritten underneath and 2301124 is stamped on the certificate), Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Salt Lake City, Utah. Also available from: Jens Peter Jensen, Death Certificate, Series 81448, Entry 20712, Utah State Archives Digital Collection, historyresearch.utah.gov/indexes/index.html accessed 23 August 2007. Electronic image in the possession of Guy L. Black. Grave Location and Cemetery Directions: Located in Holden Town Cemetery, Grave Location 127-2-4, which is at peak of hill on south side of cemetery. To get to cemetery in Holden, Utah: Upon entering town, go two blocks east on 100 North, turn right, and up the hill is the cemetery. Obituary: No known obituary.