A Biography by Ruby K. Smith. Contained in a collection of family remembrances entitled, Sarah Jane Bartholomew Christenson, 1876-1966, compiled sometime after 1985 in a limited number of copies by her daughter, Margaret Christenson Adams ( a copy of which is in the possession of W. Bart Christenson, Provo, Utah), this life history was commissioned in 1955 by another daughter, Edythe Christenson Robbins. Composed a decade before her passing, the informative biography contains an introduction and six chapters.Table of Contents/photographs | Table of Contents/documents | SJB Additional Family History | Website Home | Christenson Line | Howells Line | Contact Me
"Mother will be here in a minute," said Edythe.
The familiar rooms of the big home brought back a flood of memories. How often Edythe and her husband, Dr. Robbins, had entertained their many friends in that lovely home. It seemed that everything they did was out of the ordinary, but the wedding receptions they had given for each of their four beautiful daughters had all been very special. Each time it had been much the same: the brightly lighted home; the youthful wedding party with a radiant bride in white satin; the sisters of the bride in attending roles; the receiving line of parents and grandparents; flowers in profusion; soft strains of wedding music in the background; the display of beautiful wedding gifts on the floor above; refreshments served to perfection and great throngs of guests. All these had been a part of the colorful scene. It seemed just yesterday that the youngest daughter was married.
The reverie was interrupted by the appearance of Edythe’s mother. The expressive sparkle in her brown eyes and a certain intangible aliveness in her manner made it hard to believe that she was half way through her eightieth year. What was the secret of the mild, gentle, lovable personality which distinguished her?
For a long time, she had been a quiet participant in the social activities of the Robbins family, but how many of the guests at one of her granddaughter's wedding receptions had been aware that she had been busy for many months in preparation for this important day. Each bride had known that no one else could sew quite like her grandmother. So it was she who had made most of the smart wool dresses and tailored coats for the trousseau, and much of the bridal attire for the wedding party as well.
It was the story of another wedding reception which we wanted, however, one which had taken place sixty years before in the little town of Fayette in Sanpete County. So, little by little, that bride of long ago recalled the details of the wedding when Bishop Bartholomew's lovely daughter, Sarah Jane, had become the wife of Andrew B. Christenson, a brilliant young school teacher.
The wedding reception had been held in the old family home where Sarah was born. Like the modern weddings, it, too, had been a very special occasion - but what a world of difference sixty years had made in most of the details! To really appreciate the difference, we soon discovered that we must learn Sarah's story from the very beginning.Table of Contents/photographs | Table of Contents/documents | SJB Additional Family History | Website Home | Christenson Line | Howells Line | Contact Me
The story of Sarah Jane Bartholomew really begins two generations before she was born, with the life-stories of her courageous pioneer forebearers. It was they who inspired her with the high ideals and taught her the habits of industry which have characterized her life.
Sarah's grandfather, Joseph Bartholomew, was born in Spencer, Indiana in 1820 - the same year in which a certain boy beheld a glorious vision in the woods of western New York. Scarcely more than two decades later, that boy, now the great Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the mayor of the beautiful city of Nauvoo, Illinois, and Joseph Bartholomew was one of his devoted followers in a neighboring town of Hancock County. It was there that Joseph met Polly Benson, whose family were converts to the Church from New York State.
When Joseph and Polly were married in December 1843, all was well with the Saints. Their most important project at the time was the building of the great temple at Nauvoo, and Joseph devoted much of his time as a worker on that project. How could they have guessed the trials which were to come to them during the next few years?
Six months later, the Saints were shocked and grief-stricken by the tragic martyrdom of their beloved Prophet and his brother, and no one knew where their enemies would strike next! They only knew that they must finish the Temple at all costs, in order to obtain the blessings therein, which the Prophet had promised them. So the work went on more industriously than ever.
Meanwhile, soon after the martyrdom, Polly gave birth to twin sons, who lived only long enough to be named for the great martyrs. The next year, on September 4, 1845, their son, John, was born.That winter, the Temple was sufficiently completed for the Saints to receive the promised blessings. No sooner had this been accomplished, however, than the fury of the mobs again fell upon them, and thousands of defenseless Saints were driven from their homes in the middle of the winter!
Somehow, the Bartholomew family managed to travel across the prairie as far as Council Bluffs, Iowa, the gathering place of the Saints on the banks of the Missouri River. But it was several years later before they were prepared to follow their new prophet, Brigham Young, to the new home of the Saints in the Rocky Mountains. Meanwhile, three more children were born to them.
Finally, in 1852, Joseph and Polly with their little family, started on the long journey across the plains. By that time, John was seven, old enough to drive the cows along beside the wagon, so his sturdy little feet trudged most of the long weary miles of that journey. What does one remember most about a childhood experience like that? In after years, John Bartholomew never forgot his disappointment when they reached the "Sweetwater" which they had heard so much about, only to find that the water there was not sweet, but so alkaline they could not drink it.
When Joseph Bartholomew and his family arrived in Utah, they moved to the little town of Springville in Utah County. There they found themselves among friends, and they soon settled down to make a new life for their growing family, a family which was soon doubled by the birth of four more children. Then they learned that their journeyings were not yet over!
Warm Creek, in Sanpete County, was a small stream which originated in a warm spring at the southern end of the San Pitch Mountain Range. It was thought by the Church leaders that this creek would supply sufficient water for a settlement in that area, so five men including Joseph Bartholomew were called to take their families to pioneer the region.
When the little pioneer group arrived at their destination in 1861, they faced many problems. The other settlements in the county were still in the primitive stage, and they were all a long way from outside help. Until they could mature some crops and start some industries which would make them self-supporting, they would have to endure many hardships. The first year in the valley was a severe test of faith for everyone, and only two of the five families proved equal to the test.
By this time, Joseph's son, John, was sixteen years old, and with his help, Joseph was determined to succeed in his mission. So they and the Mellor family stayed on, and became the founders of the picturesque little town of Fayette. Soon other families joined them, and within three years, they had a thriving little town of twenty families.
Among the new settlers in Fayette during this period was the Metcalf family from Springville. John Edward Metcalf was born in Hull, Yorkshire, England, in 1812. In the fall of 1849, he and his wife, Mary, were converted to the truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and began to look forward to the time when they could join the Saints in Zion. At that time, only four of the ten children who had come to their home were still living - their oldest daughter, and three sons. Less than a year later, however, another daughter was born to them, whom they named Eliza R. - for the beloved Mormon Poetess, Eliza R. Snow. The missionaries all spoke very highly of Sister Snow, but strangely enough, none of them could tell what the "R" in her name stood for.
Later, one more son was added to the family, and in 1853, John E. Metcalf, with his wife and six children, started on the long journey to Utah. After many weeks by sea and land, they joined the Claudius Spencer Emigrant Company, with whom they made their way across the plains in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. For the next two years, the family remained in Salt Lake City. Then they moved to Springville, where they stayed for several years - until they, too, were called on a mission to Sanpete County.
John E. Metcalf had been an upholsterer in England, but in Utah, there was far greater need for flour than there was for upholstered chairs. So President Young sent him to build a flour mill on the Warm Creek in Fayette. He accepted the assignment whole-heartedly, and was not only very successful as a miller, but he gradually acquired a large herd of sheep and other properties which made him very well-to-do.
The pioneers of Fayette did not have all clear sailing. They were too vulnerable to attacks from the hostile Black Hawk Indians. During those first years, two men who were watching a fire at the lime-kiln in the hills, were killed by the Indians in a surprise attack. Thoroughly aroused, the Fayette settlers hurriedly moved their families to the fort at Gunnison, and stood ready to defend their property. Young John Bartholomew was among those who participated in this "War." They finally made peace with the Indians, but it was not until 1868, that it was considered safe for the families from Fayette to return home. Meanwhile, John Metcalf helped to build a sawmill in Gunnison.
Soon after they returned, another event of great importance to our story occurred. Eliza R. Metcalf - now a lovely young lady of eighteen - had won the heart of John Bartholomew, the handsome, black-eyed son of Fayette's first family. In October 1868, John and Eliza journeyed to Salt Lake City by team, to be married in the Endowment House. And there, much to her surprise, Eliza discovered that one of the women who was to assist her was Eliza R. Snow - the lady for whom she had been named! So after all those years, Sister Snow heard her story, and Eliza learned for the first time that her middle name was "Roxie!"
When the newly-weds returned home, they had no place to start housekeeping, until John built a house. He soon went to the mountains for logs, with which he built their first little house on the corner of a large building lot he owned. It was there that their first three children were born - John Edward, Roxie, and William. And it was there they suffered their first unhappy loss in the death of little William.
By this time, they felt the need for a larger, more permanent home. In 1875, a new rock homestead was built of red sandstone quarried from the hills. It was a two-story structure, with large rooms and long porches - built to last a century. Later, the temporary log house on the corner of the lot was torn down.
Although they had to rush it a little, the new home was finished in time for the first important event within its walls - the birth of their second daughter, Sarah Jane!Table of Contents/photographs | Table of Contents/documents | SJB Additional Family History | Website Home | Christenson Line | Howells Line | Contact Me
When Sarah Jane Bartholomew was born on September 8, 1876, she started life under typical pioneer conditions. By that time, the first railroad across the continent had been completed, and Brigham Young had sponsored branch lines both north and south of Ogden and Salt Lake City. But Fayette was still a full day's journey by team from the nearest railway station, and its inhabitants had not yet learned to depend upon the outside world for any of the necessities of life. Whatever they needed, they contrived to obtain through their own efforts, by making use of the materials at hand. No wonder they all acquired self-reliance from their earliest childhood!
Not long before Sarah was two years old - on July 4, 1877 - an event of great importance to the family occurred. The General Authorities of the Church came to the valley to organize the communities of Sanpete County into a new stake of Zion, and to sustain new stake and ward officers. Fayette was then a branch, with John Bartholomew as the presiding elder. Now it was organized into a ward, and John was set apart as its first bishop by President Brigham Young - a mission from which he was never released as long as he lived. So Sarah grew up in the goodly environment of a bishop's home, where she obtained the spiritual development which enriched her whole life.
The bishop's counselors were John James and one of the bishop's younger brothers, Joseph Bartholomew Jr. One of the first responsibilities of the new bishopric was to provide a place for the meetings of the ward, and a one-room meeting house was erected, which soon became the center of activities for the community. At first, it even served as the schoolhouse. What happy memories Sarah had of that old building: the Sunday meetings with her father in charge, the community parties and dances, the home dramatics which her father enthusiastically sponsored, her childhood school days, and the happy association of friends and neighbors who worshipped and played together like one big family.
The little town of Fayette was a very choice environment for young people. But it was in her own home that Sarah enjoyed the most valuable experiences. After Sarah's advent, seven more children were born in the big rock house, so there was always a large family to share the joys and sorrows of the family. The children loved the evenings at home, when their parents sang together, or when their father played with them. He could do anything, they thought, when they saw him walk across the floor on his hands, with his feet high in the air! It was when he called them all together for a sacred hour of prayer, however, that the family ties were most greatly strengthened.
Practically everything which the family ate was produced at home: beef, pork, mutton, poultry, eggs, milk, butter, vegetables of all kinds, grain for flour, and many fruits. In addition, the children gathered wild berries, and their father hunted wild game. And every summer, as soon as the first crop of hay was up, the whole family went on a camping trip to Fish Lake, to get their annual feast of fish. Most of it was fried or barbecued, and eaten fresh, but some of it was dried, Indian Fashion, for future use.
Methods of food preservation were all rather primitive in those early days, as Sarah was almost grown before they had bottles for fruit canning. They always had preserves, however, and plenty of dried foods--corn from the garden, apples from their Grandfather's orchard, etc. When a beef was slaughtered in the winter-time, much of it was frozen by hanging it in the woodshed, but pork was usually smoked or salted, and the lard rendered for shortening. There were many important by-products of their food supply. Each fall, after the potato harvest, all the bruised potatoes were used to make starch for family use. Then there were tallow candles to be made for lighting, and soap for the family - huge kettles of it - for which they saved all their excess fat.
As all the family food was produced at home, so was most of the clothing. Their father raised enough sheep to supply the family with wool, and it was sheared, cleaned, carded and spun at home. Then it was ready for their mother to weave into cloth, on her loom in the frame building next to the granary. She used pioneer dyes, sometimes combining them with excellent results. For many years, even the bishop's best suits were made of home-spun cloth.
Their ingenious pioneer skills were also called into service for furnishing their homes. Old clothing was cut up and sewed into long strips, to be used in weaving rag carpets. The carpets were always stretched and tacked down over a layer of straw, to increase the wear and to make walking easier. Most of the furniture was homemade, and since paint was not available, the kitchen chairs had to be scrubbed and scoured each week. As for the beds, interlaced strips of rawhide were stretched across the homemade bedstead frames, and securely fastened. For mattresses, they used ticks of unbleached muslin, filled with straw which they changed twice each year. Then came the feather-beds and pillows, supplied with feathers from the wild geese and ducks which the bishop loved to hunt. And finally the bedding- sheets of unbleached muslin, handwoven blankets, and homemade quilts with wool bats. When one of these pioneer four-poster beds was dressed up with a beautiful two-toned handwoven bed spread or a fancy patchwork quilt, and finished with a ruffled valance hanging to the floor, it was as lovely as any modern bed could be.
The bishop, who was a carpenter as well as a farmer always kept some choice, well-seasoned lumber on hand. Then, whenever anyone in the community died, he would make the coffin for the family, and his wife would line and decorate it.
Although wood was the only fuel they had to heat their homes, there was plenty of it, and the same fire which heated the big farm kitchen would also cook their food. There was no need to use the fireplace in the "parlor" in the winter-time, except on special occasions, and heat in the bedrooms was unheard of. On the coldest nights, they took heated rocks to bed with them, if there was not enough bedding to keep them warm.
When Sarah looked back on her childhood, she remembered the lack of a water-supply in the home as the greatest inconvenience of those pioneer days. It wasn't easy to carry all the water they needed for household use from an irrigation ditch! Sarah was only eight when she was given the responsibility of washing dishes for the family, and no child ever hated the task more than she. It would be difficult, however, for a modern child with an unlimited supply of hot water, to imagine the task which awaited little Sarah when she came home from school. After carrying in the water and kindling a fire to heat it, she must tackle the great stacks of dishes for that large family, with her dishpan of water and homemade soap. And every day, all the knives and forks had to be scoured with shaved white brick or wood ashes! Is it any wonder that the very thought of such a task made her feet drag on the way home from school - and made her sometimes wish that she wouldn't live to get there! Everyone else in the family had their own problems, however. There was no place for idle hands in that home!
Sarah was very young when she learned to crochet and knit. In a family of eleven, it took a great many pairs of hand-knit hose to keep the family clothed, so their hands were always busy - even when they were tending the younger children, or going to the fields for the cows. Even today, after many decades, Sarah has a beautiful piece of filet lace which she crocheted when she was eight. And she still had the habit she acquired so long ago- an irresistible urge to keep her hands forever busy.
For many years, Sarah's mother was the president of the Relief Society an office which, in addition to being the bishop's wife, gave her many community responsibilities. Her concern for the welfare of the people of the ward was genuine, and her charities were countless. Sarah remembered that she often slipped quietly out of the house with a basket of food for some poor family.
In those days, tithing was paid in produce, such as meat, flour, eggs, butter, etc. It was taken to the tithing office - two blocks from the Bartholomew home - where the bishop and his wife had to take care of it while it was fresh. Some of it was used to feed the Indians, but during the building of the Manti Temple, most of it was sent to Manti, to feed the workmen who were donating their time to that great project. Sometimes, it was a major chore to take care of it. If some of the butter was pale in color, for instance, Sarah often saw her mother combine it with yellower butter, and remold it, before she sent it away.
Bishop Bartholomew's hospitable home was always open to visitors from everywhere. Very often, friends who were going to Conference in Salt Lake City by team, would stay overnight with the family, knowing that both they and their team would be well cared for. Frequently, they entertained official visitors at Stake conference time. Or perhaps the visitors would be members of the Relief Society General Board. One such visitor was Eliza R. Snow, who never missed an opportunity to visit the bishop's mother whom she had known in Nauvoo, or to call on her namesake, the bishop's wife. Once when she came, there was a new baby boy in the home, whom she asked the privilege of naming. That is how one of Sarah's younger brothers came by the name of Joseph Smith Bartholomew. The family always treasured an autographed copy of a book of poems by Sister Snow, which she sent to them after this visit.
Life in that pioneer family was not all hard work. Every year, at Easter time, they had a delightful picnic party at the beautiful Warm Spring in the hills. All through the year, fresh water cress grew in abundance in the warm water of the spring. But when the grass was green, and wild flowers grew on the hills, it was a lovely place to go. There was a fireplace in Grandfather Metcalf's old mill, where they could cook their eggs. What did Fayette need of a city park? Although they always had their first outing at Easter, it was not until the "May Walk" on the first of May, that the girls had their new white dresses for summer.
About the time that Sarah reached her early teens, Grandfather Metcalf gave the family their first organ. Now Sarah could start her musical education, but since there were no music teachers in Fayette, she had to go to Gunnison for her music lessons. Her only means of transportation for the five-mile trip was by horse and buggy, but since the road was very rough and her father could seldom spare one of the best horses, the trip was anything but a joy ride. However, she made the most of her opportunity, in her eager desire for self-improvement.
So the years passed, until Sarah had completed the grade schools in Fayette, and was ready to continue her education elsewhere. In the fall of 1891, her parents made arrangements for her to attend the Seminary in Gunnison. By this time, she was a lovely young lady of sixteen, who was rapidly maturing into one of the "beautiful Bartholomew women" for which the family was noted.
It was during this winter that Sarah Bartholomew first met Andrew B. Christenson - and Fate stepped into her life! In spite of her youth and his educational ambitions, Andrew Christenson recognized her as the girl he wanted to marry! It was too soon to tell her so, but he did tell her parents and began to dream of a future in which she would play the leading role!Table of Contents/photographs | Table of Contents/documents | SJB Additional Family History | Website Home | Christenson Line | Howells Line | Contact Me
Andrew B. Christenson was a very unusual person, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and the remarkable faculty of absorbing and retaining everything he saw and heard for future use. A study of his pioneer heritage explains much concerning his outstanding characteristics. So as with Sarah, his story begins with the life-stories of his pioneer forebearers.
Andrew's grandfather, Christen Christenson, was born in Thisted, Denmark, on July 29, 1817. He grew up in a prosperous farming community, where for many years, his life was very much like that of his neighbors. By the time he was middle-aged, he had a loving wife, Karen, three grown children, three younger children, a beautiful farm, a comfortable home, and everything to make life completely happy - except one thing! He and Karen had never found a church which satisfied them, as none of the sermons they heard seemed to conform with the teachings of the Bible.
Then one day, two Mormon missionaries left some tracts at their home - and their search for religious truth was ended. They promptly accepted the truth of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was explained to them by the missionaries, and on May 1, 1865, the whole family was baptized into the Church, with the exception of the oldest son. After that, their lives could never again follow the old pattern.
The Mormons were very unpopular in that community, but what did it matter - their hearts were with the Saints in Zion. Christen soon sold his estate for a goodly sum, and generously spent most of his fortune for the Church. After paying the indebtedness of the local branch, he secured passage to bring his family and a large group of Saints to Utah - about thirty in all. Then he decided to carry the money he had left where he knew it would be safe. So a large number of coins were ingeniously quilted into the lining of a vest which he constantly wore.
Just before they left home, there were two weddings in the family. Christens second son, Lars Martines Christen, was married to Elsie Katherine Christenson, a beautiful young convert who had been living in his home, and his daughter, Mary, was married to Lars Myrup, the young missionary who had baptized them.
The Christenson party joined a large group of passengers who set sail for America in May 1866. A month later, Christen suffered his first severe loss in the death of his wife, Karen. Is there anything sadder than a funeral in mid-ocean, when a loved one is buried at sea?
After a two-month ocean trip, they finally arrived in New York. Then the long railroad trip and journey across the plains by ox-team required three more months, before they finally arrived in Salt lake City. It was a long, hard journey for the Saints and missionaries from Denmark, and a few of them failed to survive the trip, but died of cholera on the plains. It is not surprising that some of them had financial problems on the way, but they soon learned that Christen Christenson had some money which they could borrow in an emergency. Perhaps some of them imposed upon his generosity, for when he arrived at the end of his journey, his money was gone! So Christen Christenson, who had always been well-to-do in Denmark, began life in his adopted country without funds.
He went to Sanpete County soon after he arrived in Utah, and spent the first winter in Fountain Green. After that, he lived in Manti for a time, but Gunnison finally became his permanent home. Meanwhile, he was remarried, and became the father of six more children. He had another financial setback which left him in very poor circumstances, when he took his family to Mayfield, to join a colony in an unsuccessful attempt to live the United Order. But with all his trials, his faith never wavered.
After the Manti Temple was finished - whenever he was not too busy on the farm - Christian and his wife went to the temple every week to work for the dead. They had to go by team, and they usually stayed from Tuesday until Saturday, so they took provisions with them for camping out. It was not an easy life - but they continued it for years! How many modern temple workers could match such devotion to the cause?
Christen Christenson had a very friendly disposition which irresistibly attracted others, to him. Young people, especially, loved to gather around, to hear him tell stories. He also had a remarkably rugged constitution. When his family met to celebrate his seventieth birthday, he turned handsprings for the grandchildren, which none of the others could match. Finally, after having lived a rich, full life for eighty-two years, he died in Gunnison on November 24, 1899.
The paternal inheritance of Andrew B. Christenson, through his grandfather, Christen Christenson, and his father, Lars M. C. Christenson, was very select - but that is only half the story of his unusual birthright. There is still the remarkable story of his mother to tell.
Elsie Katherine Christenson was a very choice spirit, who must have been sent to earth for a very special mission in life. She was born in Thisted, Denmark, on February 9, 1847, in a home of culture and refinement. At seventeen, her whole life had been carefully mapped out for her. She was to finish her education in the best schools of the day - including college and was then to marry a young admirer who had already planned a home for her.
Then something happened which upset the whole plan! She heard the message of some humble Mormon missionaries, and recognized it as the truth. So one day, early in 1865, the ice was broken on a stream and she was baptized. Now, much to the disappointment and embarrassment of her family and sweetheart, she was a member of the despised sect called "Mormons." They were all too well-bred to disown her and drive her away from home, but to relieve their embarrassment, she decided to leave home of her own accord. So she found employment as a governess in the friendly home of Christen Christenson, whose family had recently been converted to Mormonism. There, a new romance developed, and when the Christenson family left Denmark the following year, Elsie went with them as the bride of their second son, Lars M. C. Christenson.
The memorable journey by steamship, railway, and ox team required five long months. They made the trek across the plains with the Abner Lowry Company, and Elsie was among those who walked most of the way.
Lars and Elsie first lived in Manti, where their first two children were born. Andrew was the second son. Elsie had an intense hunger for education, and with characteristic determination, she set about to acquire the language of her adopted country. She soon learned to read, and when her boys were very young, she taught them to read also. Day after day, while she was carding and spinning, they recited their lessons to her. Like their mother, they quickly grasped everything she taught them, so when they first went to school, they were ready for the third grade.
When Christen Christenson and his family moved to Gunnison, Lars and Elsie went with them. Later they also went to Mayfield with the family. The failure of the United Order project in Mayfield brought on disastrous results for Elsie and her family. Their money was gone, Lars' health was very poor, their oldest son was seriously ill, and in all that isolated region, there was not a single doctor or nurse to whom they could turn for help. Was it for this that Elsie had given up the comforts of her childhood home?
Then Elsie had a dream! It seemed to tell her that she must go to Salt Lake City, where she would find someone who could give her the help she needed. In vain, she tried to dismiss the thought. She had no money for a trip to Salt Lake, and besides her family could not spare her. But the vivid dream came again and again, and in spite of herself, she had to follow its promptings.
In the spring of 1879, as soon as her son was well enough to leave, Elsie arranged for someone to stay with her family, and her husband took her to the nearest railway station in Juab County. Then, with money she had borrowed, she bought a ticket to Salt Lake City. When she arrived in the city, she knew exactly where to go - her dream was still guiding her. She soon found the home of an aged woman doctor from Denmark, by the name of Olson. The doctor was expecting her, as she, too, had dreamed a dream. "I have had many apply for my knowledge of medicine," she said, "but I refused them all. I was waiting for the right person to come, and I have found that person in you."
For the next six months, Elsie lived at the home of the doctor, who spent practically all the time transmitting to her all she had learned from her study in Copenhagen, followed by many years of practice. Fortunately, they had no language problems, as they were both Danish. Elsie had the remarkable power to grasp and remember everything she heard, and she soon had a splendid knowledge of obstetrics and the general practice of medicine. Then the doctor gave her all her medical books, and recipes for home remedies. The aged doctor's work was done - and Elsie Christenson had found her life's mission!
When Elsie returned home, she became the community doctor, and was called into service not only for obstetrics, but for every kind of illness. The family moved back to Gunnison in 1880, but as she was the only person in the southern part of the county with any medical knowledge, her services were utilized over a wide area. People came for her at all hours of the day and night, and in a few minutes, she was on her way. After the town of Gunnison was organized, she served as the town physician for some time.
It will always be a mystery how Elsie continued her work of love and mercy for others, without neglecting her family - but the health and education of her children always came first. She became the mother of eleven children, nine of whom grew to maturity. She also adopted two other children, who needed a home and expert medical care. Meanwhile, she was on hand to bring 1500 babies into the world! She also took an active part in Church and public affairs, never missing an opportunity to help in the Relief Society, or to vote in an election.
In 1890, Elsie Christenson returned to Denmark to visit her family, taking a foster child with her. Her family celebrated the return of their "lost sister," but they still would not listen to anything about her religion. Twenty years later, she made a second trip to Denmark, to gather genealogy - this time with her husband. She was very successful in her genealogical research, and obtained a record which went back to the Fifteenth Century. During the last peaceful years of her life, she and her husband moved to Manti, and devoted many years in the Temple, working for dead relatives and friends.
When Elsie Katherine Christenson was seventy-six years old, she made a trip to visit every member of her large family. She returned to Manti on election day, and went to the poles to vote. Then she went home and peacefully passed away. Her long career of unselfish service to others came to an end in November of 1923.Table of Contents/photographs | Table of Contents/documents | SJB Additional Family History | Website Home | Christenson Line | Howells Line | Contact Me
Andrew B. Christenson, the second son of Lars M. C. Christenson and Elsie Katherine Christenson was born in Manti on June 6, 1869. He began his education under his mother's direction, followed by a few years in the small country school at Gunnison. When he was twelve years old, the guidance of an inefficient school teacher was no longer a challenge to him, so he quit school, resolving not to go back until he had earned enough money to go where he pleased. Meanwhile, he used every spare minute for reading and study.
Ten years later, he had $15,000 in the bank, a few sheep, and a determination to begin his education in real earnest. So he went to Provo, to register at the Brigham Young University. He intended to continue from the grade in which he had left off, but it was soon discovered that he had long since outgrown the lower grades, so his advancement was very rapid. However, his health was affected by the change from outdoor to indoor life, and he found it necessary to go home during part of one year. Not to lose time, he registered at the Gunnison Seminary, while he was there. And then he met Sarah Bartholomew the girl he had been looking for! After that, the Bartholomew and Christenson families became very friendly, and Andrew often went along, when his brother, Joseph, called on Sarah's sister Roxie.
The next winter, Andrew was again at the B.Y.U., while Roxie and Sarah were attending the Snow Academy at Ephriam. The girls lived at the home of Canute Peterson - the President of the Stake. It was a very interesting year for them, both educationally and socially.
In the fall of 1893, Andrew began his senior year at the B.Y.U. - after having been there only two and a half years! And since he was a natural-born teacher, he was also employed part-time as a teacher. That year, several other members of his family were also there, so their mother went along to keep house for them. Meanwhile, Sarah had also decided to go to the B.Y.U., and Elsie Christenson invited her to board with them. So Andrew and Sarah saw a great deal of each other that winter.
Now that his graduation was in sight, Andrew began to seriously court the girl he had loved for two years, and before the school year was over, she had promised to marry him!
Andrew graduated with the class of 1895, and was offered a position as a member of the faculty for the following year. That summer, with its dreams and plans for the future, was all too short. In the fall, Andrew returned to Provo, and Sarah stayed at home to prepare her trousseau. If she were to live in Provo, and be the wife of a college faculty member, she wanted to be well prepared. Her parents could afford to give her the best which was available, but at that time, the "best" was still homemade, so there was much to do, and Sarah wanted to do it all herself.
Of course there were quilts to be pieced and quilted, and feather-beds to make. Unbleached sheeting was purchased by the bolt for the sheets and pillow-cases, but they had to be bleached white, by washing and freezing on the line. Then there were carpet-rags to sew, and carpets to weave. Sarah soon mastered the art of weaving, and her hand-woven woolen blankets were beautiful. She had always liked to sew, so now she made almost everything she was to wear including all her underwear (ready-knit underwear was unheard of then).
In the midst of Sarah's preparations, word came that Andrew had been called on a mission to the Southern States! How would that affect their plans? Would she wait for him? Before long, however, another message came. The Superintendent of the School Board from Kanab, Utah, had come to the B.Y.U. looking for a principal for a new school they had just built. They wanted someone who was qualified to start the new school on an up-to-date basis to replace the primitive pioneer methods of their former school and Andrew B. Christenson had been recommended as the man for the job. So the Church authorities changed his mission assignment to Kanab! Now he could take Sarah with him.
The wedding day was set for July 1, 1895, and three hundred invitations were issued for the wedding reception, as both the Bartholomews and the Christensons had many relatives in the valley. When the day finally came, Andrew and Sarah went to Manti, to be married in the Manti Temple. The twenty-mile trip by horse and buggy, and the hours required to complete the sacred ceremony, made it an all-day journey - but everything was ready for the reception when they returned to Fayette.
The bride and groom, who were unattended, greeted their friends in the lovely big parlor, in the mellow glow of light from the kerosene hanging-lamp, and with the fragrance of home-grown garden flowers in the atmosphere. Sarah was a beautiful bride, with the Bartholomew brown eyes, and a wealth of soft brown hair. Her wedding dress which she herself had made - was of white organdy, with a large, lace-trimmed bertha, and big puffed sleeves and a full skirt. And her dainty white slippers were French-kid, beaded with seed pearls.
The guests who came to honor the popular couple, thronged the house, with an overflow on the porch and lawn outside. Meanwhile, according to the custom of the day, a hot meal was served to all the guests, for many of them had come long distances. The whole family had been busy for days, making preparations for the wedding feast. The menu consisted of products of the farm - roasts of beef, pork, and mutton, huge quantities of potatoes and other vegetables, and fruit pies for dessert. Sarah's mother was in charge of the serving, with the help of Roxie (who was now the wife of Andrew's brother), but during the last busy day or two, the bride, herself, had made the pies - more than fifty of them! The dinner was served in the big dining-room, but since the guests could not all sit down at once, it required many willing hands in the kitchen to complete the serving.
The crowning feature of the occasion was the big wedding cake, which was made in tiers, and elaborately decorated, with a silver bell on top. It was cut during the reception, so that each guest could take home a small piece "to dream on."
In the little town of Fayette, that wedding reception for the bishop's daughter was a major social event which would long be remembered!Table of Contents/photographs | Table of Contents/documents | SJB Additional Family History | Website Home | Christenson Line | Howells Line | Contact Me
Andrew was not due in Kanab until September, so the newlyweds spent the first two months of their married life in Gunnison. Then they packed all their belongings - even their furniture - on a hayrack, which was to be their conveyance on the long journey to Kanab. Although few people knew about Bryce and Zion Canyons in 1895, the red sandstone formations in the vicinity of Kanab were as magnificent then as they are now. But after jogging along over unbelievably rough, dusty roads for more than a week on that hayrack honeymoon, they were in no mood to enthuse about the scenery. That would have to come later.
The superintendent had assured them that there was a house in Kanab which they could rent, but when they arrived, they found it to be one small room with a lean-to. In that tiny house, Sarah set up housekeeping, with all the things she had accumulated during the past year. There, as at home, the water supply was the most troublesome problem - only more so! At least the water from Warm Creek was clear, but the Kanab Creek was always muddy, especially after a rainstorm, so they had to collect the water in large barrels, and let the red sand settle to the bottom, before it was clear enough to use. Salaries were low at that time, but so were prices. They paid only $10 a month for rent, and Sarah could hire a squaw to do a big washing for 25 cents.
Sarah went home before the school year was out, in order to be with her mother when her first child was born, but Andrew soon followed to greet his first-born son, Adelbert.
When they returned in the fall, they had a much better house in which to live, and the winter passed very pleasantly. Andrew had been remarkably successful in the work he came to do. He had established all the grades, including the 9th and 10th, in the new schoolhouse, and everything was running smoothly. He always seemed to find the right solution for every problem. It was an ambitious undertaking to produce a Shakespearian play in such a small town, but that winter, they presented a very creditable performance of "As You Like It."
After two winters in Kanab, Andrew felt that his mission there had been accomplished, and by that time, his insistent ambition for advanced study in an eastern college could no longer be denied. Sarah was to learn that life with her husband could never be humdrum or monotonous but when, if ever, could they settle down?
The next fall, the little family went to Ann Arbor, Michigan - which later became the birthplace of their daughter, Edythe. Andrew spent his time there very profitably, and in 1901, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in Literature. Now he had the scholastic background he needed to become a college professor - only to be called on another special mission to southern Utah! This time, he was needed as the principal of a new school in St. George. The Stake President, Edward H. Snow, must have heard of his success in Kanab, before he made the trip to Ann Arbor to interview him. So during the next two years, the family lived in Utah's Dixie.
St. George was an older, larger town than Kanab, and accommodations were better. Much of the time, the family lived in the former winter residence of President Brigham Young. While there, Sarah found a music teacher, and continued her study of music.
Andrew's problems in St. George were very similar to those in Kanab. All the lower grades were reorganized in the new Woodward School Building, and the 9th and 10th grades were added. As a school executive and disciplinarian, Andrew B. Christenson had few equals. The children of St. George never forgot the soldier-like marching of the pupils under his direction when the school bell rang. He even insisted that every child in town should come to school with well-polished shoes!
After getting this new school off to a good start, Andrew turned to new horizons. The literature of his native tongue was not enough to satisfy him. He wanted to study the masterpieces of other nations as well. He had studied Latin and German at the B.Y.U., and he had learned Danish from his parents. Now he wanted to go abroad for a first-hand study of languages. In August 1903, he went to Germany, where for more than a year, he studied German and Literature at the University of Berlin.
Meanwhile, what an eventful year it was for Sarah and family at home! Within a few months after he left, their second son, Wendell, was born at the home of Sarah's parents in Fayette. Later, Sarah moved to Provo, to keep house for her younger sisters who were attending the B.Y.U. There was a good school in Provo for the eight-year-old Adelbert, and she, herself, was able to register for some classes at the University. So all went well - until Adelbert became ill with diphtheria! Then Sarah faced her greatest sorrow alone, for her boy never recovered from the effects of that dread disease!
Andrew, who was grief-stricken by the news of his son's death, returned from Berlin in December 1904. It was an inconvenient time to find employment as a teacher, but there was an opening at the Latter-day Saints University in Salt Lake City. So the family moved to the city, and Andrew became principal of the Church high-school there, under President Willard Young.
This proved to be a longer assignment, so they really settled down for a change. Before long, they bought a home in Forest Dale - the first one they had owned. Two more children were born to them in Salt Lake, Sheldon and Elsie, but tragedy struck once more, when little Elsie was accidentally drowned!
Andrew was now becoming restless. In his eager pursuit for knowledge, he had aimed higher than a high-school teaching position. He must break away for one more year of study abroad - but he would never go again without Sarah and the children. Perhaps a year of foreign travel would ease their grief for the little ones they had lost.
As soon as school was out in the spring 1910, they sold their property, and started on the journey to Europe - traveling as far as England with Andrew's parents, who were going to Denmark. Then they went to Oxford, where Sarah and the children spent a delightful summer, while Andrew studied at the Oxford University.
Andrew always made the most of every cultural opportunity which their travels afforded. The children remembered that wherever they went, their father took them to see all the famous art galleries, churches, museums, etc.
In the fall, Andrew took the family to Denmark for a short visit with his relatives - after which they went to Leipzig, Germany, to spend the winter. What an adventure that year in Leipzig was! Andrew studied at the University of Leipzig, except for six weeks, when he went to the Sorbonne in Paris. All three of the children learned the German language very readily, and two of them attended the German schools. Meanwhile, Sarah found joy in caring for the children, entertaining the Mormon missionaries, etc. But her chief delight was in the sight-seeing trips they took. Would she ever forget the original "Sistine Madonna" in Dresden, the trip up the Rhine River, or her wonderful week in Paris? The next May, their son, Luther, was born - and Leipzic was added to the list of far-flung birthplaces for her children!
The family returned home in September 1911, and went to Provo. At last, Andrew was to become a member of the B.Y.U. Faculty! After many years, he had finally reached his goal! Now he could do the work for which he had so well prepared himself in his study of Languages and Literature, and Sarah could really settle down as the wife of a college professor. How far she had gone since she first promised to marry a certain young school teacher! They soon bought a home in Pleasant view on Provo Bench, where they had plenty of roan as they wanted to give the boys some experience in farm work. The children went to the B.Y.U. Training School - and all was right with the world! It seemed too good to be true! And it was!
Three years later - not long after the birth of their daughter, Lucille, the old pattern was again repeated! Stake President Mark Austin came to Provo to find a new President for the Ricks College at Rexburg, Idaho and Andrew B. Christenson was chosen for the position! Andrew's brilliant mind was soaring in the heights with the great literature of the world in seven different languages! It seemed to be his fate, however, for the Church authorities to remember him mostly for his unusual success in solving difficult administrative problems in small schools. Was it for this that he had studied abroad? This was another "call" however, so of course he would accept the assignment. Once more the family would have to pull up stakes and move!
They went to Rexburg in the fall of 1914. Before they were well settled, Sarah received the sad news of her father's death. After having guided the spiritual activities of Fayette for more than forty years, Bishop John Bartholomew had at last been released! And Sarah was too far away, and too involved with moving problems and the care of a young baby, to go home for the funeral.
Andrew soon began the work of "strengthening and broadening the curriculum" of the Junior College of the Church in the far north, which had hitherto done little more than high-school work. Thus he played an important part in laying the foundations of the great Church College it would someday become. During their second year in Rexburg, they bought a home, and Sarah accepted the position in the presidency of the First Ward Relief Society. Once more they were settled - or were they?
After three years at the college, Andrew felt that he had accomplished the mission to which he had been called, so when the doctor told them to take their daughter to a warmer climate, as she was anemic, he was glad to go. This move took them to La Verkin on the Virgin River in southern Utah, where the climate was warm and where Andrew owned some Hot Springs. The water of the springs had very healthful properties, and Andrew hoped to develop the area.
Meanwhile, he took a much-needed vacation from teaching until another Stake President came to persuade him to help solve the problems of another school! This time, it was the Hinckley School in Millard County which needed him, so in the fall of 1918, the family moved again! That was the year of the great flu epidemic throughout the nation, when all the schools were closed for many months, so it was a more disappointing experience than the others had been. In May of that year, their youngest daughter, Margaret, was born in Hinckley. Now they had a family of six children, who must have their chance. By this time, some of them were old enough to attend the B.Y.U., so they moved to Provo.
Meanwhile, Andrew was building a new dream for the future. He had reached his first goal in life for a brief season - only to see it slip away from him. Perhaps there was another mission for him - a more important use for his extensive knowledge of languages. While he was in Europe, he had felt an urge to delve into the study of the ancient languages, and had made a beginning in that direction at every opportunity. Now, an overwhelming thought occurred to him! The Nephite record in the Book of Mormon had been written "in the language ... which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians." Surely a study of ancient Hebrew and Egyptian manuscripts would reveal many similarities to the language of the Book of Mormon, or other evidences which would substantiate the claims concerning the truth of that sacred book. If only he could make some valuable contributions to such a study! (The recent work of such scholars as Dr. Hugh Nibley proves the practicality of such an ambitious dream.)
Andrew started at once to gather material, but he would need time and means to further his dream. His school-teaching days were now over. He must find new projects which would be more profitable. His first venture was a ranch at Nephi, where the whole family spent their summer vacations helping him in his work. After a year or so, however, he decided that Salt Lake City would be a better location for his purposes. It would also provide educational opportunities for the children. So they moved to the city, where - after a time - they rented a large home on South Main Street.
Then reverses came to Andrew! He was a scholar and an idealist - not a businessman - so very few of his financial ventures made a profit. Still he clung to his dream, hoping to find a way to fulfill it - until his health began to fail. The loss of his vigorous strength was a hard cross for him to bear, especially when he could no longer work, and his beloved Sarah began to assume his responsibility as the family wage-earner. Finally, after several years of patient suffering, his life came to an early end - with his cherished dream unfulfilled! He died in St. George, Utah, on December 17, 1931 - on his way home from California, where he had gone for his health.
When Andrew B. Christenson passed on, he took all his fabulous store of knowledge with him - the wealth of a life time! Who can doubt that somewhere - sometime he found a use for that wealth which far surpassed his fondest earthly dream!Table of Contents/photographs | Table of Contents/documents | SJB Additional Family History | Website Home | Christenson Line | Howells Line | Contact Me
Sarah B. Christenson was very fortunate to discover very early in life that there is no happiness like the joy to be found in unselfish service to others. Perhaps as a child - when there were dishes to wash or babies to tend whenever she wanted to play - she was too young to find much joy in service. As she grew older, however, she was inspired by the example which her parents set in their devotion to their family and to the people of the ward, and she was happy to share in the rich blessings with which they were rewarded. Is that why she dedicated her own life to the service of others?
Sarah was a home-loving girl, who would have been content to spend half a century in the same house - as her mother had done - if she could have shared it with those she loved. But when she married Andrew B. Christenson, she knew that she could only find happiness in following him wherever he led the way. So his ambitions became her ambitions, and his special missions were also for her - no matter what the cost. She always found her greatest joy in helping him find success in whatever he undertook.
What a strange, eventful, unpredictable life she had lived with her scholarly husband. But what rich experiences it had brought to her! She had endured numerous hardships along the way, but she had also enjoyed great blessings. She had borne her children in many different places, under all sorts of conditions - and she had lost two of them - but what a wonderful family she now had! She had moved into more houses than she could count, but within a short time, each of them had become clean, orderly, and attractive, under the magic of her homemaking touch! And when she moved out, each of them had been left spotlessly clean. She could not live in an atmosphere of disorder.
She had been richly rewarded in her efforts to make her home attractive, for wherever she and Andrew had lived, their dwelling place had been a home of beauty, inspiration and culture - a home of industry and worth-while accomplishment - a home where good music, the arts, and great literature were enjoyed - a home of faith in God and of daily prayers for His guidance! The children had been taught to enjoy the finer things of life, and had been given cultural advantages from earliest childhood.
When Andrew's health failed, and Sarah realized that the welfare of her loved ones depended upon her ability to assume responsibility, it was her greatest challenge. But she was equal to the occasion. Of all the skills she had acquired during her girlhood, her ability to sew beautifully had been one of her greatest assets. All through the years, she had done the family sewing, and had often been persuaded to sew for friends. Now - since she could not leave the family to earn a living outside the home - her sewing skill became her means of livelihood. Before long, Sarah went into the business of making Temple clothing, with a friend. The clothes were so beautifully and neatly made, there was a big demand for them, so the business prospered.
All their lives, her boys had been taught to look forward to the time when they could go on missions for the Church. When they were old enough to go, however, their mother was the family breadwinner. Everyone but Sarah wondered how they could finance the missions, but she knew how. They must have their opportunity! When her two oldest sons were called on missions to Germany, their father and others sent them to the mission field. But it was their mother who paid their expenses while they were there. Surely the Lord must have blessed her to make it possible!
As the years passed, Sarah continued to find great joy in serving her loved ones. When the children were old enough to earn money, they helped their mother with the family expenses whenever possible, but they - like their father had educational itions. Sarah always encouraged them in those ambitions, even when it meant that she must get along without their help, while they earned their own way for advanced study in their chosen fields. Then, before she realized it, they were old enough to marry, and one by one, they began to find their mates and start homes of their own.
After Andrew's death, Sarah found herself almost alone in the big house, so she filled the empty rooms with boarders. It is a mystery how she found time to cook for boarders in addition to her sewing. But all through those busy years, her energy was prodigious, and her ability to get things done was amazing. She even found time to serve as first counselor in the presidency of the McKinley Ward Relief Society for several years. It is not surprising, however, that in time, her heart was affected by overwork.
Finally, Sarah realized that the big house was much too large for her to worry about. She would either have to remodel it for apartments, or sell out and find a smaller place to do her work. Before she reached a decision in the matter, however, she was presented with another family problem. Her eldest daughter, Edythe, had been left in broken health following the birth of her last baby and she had five children under eight years of age!
It was then that Edythe's husband, Dr. Burtis F. Robbins, offered her a permanent home with his family. This generous offer would provide a solution to all her problems, as it would give her the security of a home without the responsibility of property up-keep, and it would also give her the constant care of a doctor in case her heart became worse. Sarah was not thinking of her own problems when she considered the offer, however, as it was just another challenge for her to be of service to her loved ones, one she could not resist!
In the fall of 1936, Sarah sold her home, and accepted that challenge. Fortunately, the Lord blessed her with good health, until Edythe recovered from her illness - so she was once more equal to the occasion. Who else could the doctor have found who would have given his family such loving care?
Since that time, Edythe and her mother were mutually helpful to each other, and Sarah found much joy in the service she rendered. The Robbins home, like her own former home, was always an abiding place of faith, love, inspiration, and peace. And Sarah would have told you that no one ever had a kinder, more considerate son-in-law than the doctor was.
Throughout her long, happy years with them, Sarah's unfailing habits of cheerfulness, industry, dependability, and neatness were a constant source of inspiration to the grandchildren who grew up in her presence. Always immaculate in appearance, and always busy at some worthwhile activity, she enjoyed working with the modern equipment in the lovely, well-ordered Robbins home. It was a pleasure for her to sew in her convenient, well-equipped sewing room, or to use the automatic kitchen equipment. Meanwhile, she was again active in the Relief Society, and served in the Eleventh Ward presidency - both as counselor and president.
Sarah was very proud of all six of her sons and daughters, and she visited with them as often as possible. She kept in close touch with Sheldon and Lucile, who lived in Salt Lake, and once a year, she went to California, to visit with Wendell, Luther, and Margaret. She also had several family visits in the East. She went to Ohio a number of times, while Lucile was living there, and one year she spent the winter in New York City, with one of her granddaughters who went there to study. While there, she took advantage of the opportunity to take a course at the Columbia University, herself, and, as usual, she was active in the Manhattan Ward Relief Society, where she served once again in the presidency.
In her eightieth year, Sarah could look back on many well-spent years of generous, loving service to others. She took pride in the successful lives that her children lived, in the talents they developed, and in the service which they gave to their fellowmen. She especially loved the association of young people, and she found joy in watching the development of her grandchildren. There were always children in the family for her to love and inspire.Table of Contents/photographs | Table of Contents/documents | SJB Additional Family History | Website Home | Christenson Line | Howells Line | Contact Me
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