I was born October 25, 1982, in Tarrs, Hjoring Ampt, (county) Denmark. I am so the son of Jens Andreas and Kjersten Marea Peterson Oveson. My father was a carpenter and joiner. He worked for many years as a contractor and builder, employing many men.
In 1850 shortly after the Gospel was introduced into Denmark, my father heard the Elders preach the Gospel. THe message found an echo in his heart. He was converted and ready to discard the old Lutheran religion he had been born and raised in. My mother could not understand it as readily as he so he deferred baptism. Father continued to investigate; in a few years, mother was ready to accept it. On the 17th of January 1861, they were baptized by J.C.A. Wilby. I had become acquainted with many of the missionaries, as they often made their home at our house and I listened to them. I was quite a singer as a child and soon learned the Mormon hymns. My happiest moments were when the missionaries came and I would sing for them at our home.
I had read the Book of Mormon and believed it was true. December 10, 1861, at the age of nine, I was baptized by Elder J.C. Frost in the pond by our house. The ice was about two feet thick. They cut a hole in it and baptized me. After seventy-nine years, with all my ramblings and mistakes, I have never for one moment doubted the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we live by its teachings, it will save and exalt us in our Father’s kingdom.
I started school when I was seven years old. When I became a mormon I had to take the sneers and abuse of my school mates. My teacher was a kind man. He expressed his regrets that I had been led astray.
In the spring of 1863, father sold his home and made preparations to immigrate to Utah. In the early part of April we bade farewell to dear Denmark, the land of our birth.
After a stormy voyage over the North Sea, we landed in Grimsby, England, and went by rail from there to Liverpool. We went on a the sailing vessel, B.S. Kimble, together with 654 saints from Scandinavian countries and Great Britain. Six weeks later, the 15th of June we landed in New York. We had three deaths on the voyage which was considered fortunate. We were glad to set foot on land again.
That same evening we left by rail for St. Joseph, Missouri. Here we were crowded onto a river flatboat without any railing around the sides. The engine was fired with wood. One night they laid to repleenish their supply. We were aroused from our sleep to clear the way so the sailors could carry on the wood. A boy about twelve got up, I suppose half asleep, and wlaked into the river and was lost. The current was so swift that ahe was swept away in an instant and every effort made to find him was without avail. This was the Missouri River. When we reached Florence, Nebraska, we were met by teams from Utah, a thousand miles away. They were sent with 384 wagons, 488 men, 3,604 oxen and 234, 969 lbs. of flour to meet the saints and take them to Utah (1863). At Florence we stopped a couple of weeks to clean up and rest for the long overland journey ahead. On July 6th, we started with Captain John F. Sanders’ train of about 50 Wagons. Our teamaster was Louis Jacobson of Moroni, later of Pleasant Grove, Utah. He was a kind man. As my mother was not strong and could not walk, he was willing for her to ride. It was crowded as there were three families in our wagon making fifteenn persons with their belongings besides the teamsters. To me this was a pleasure trip. We hadn’t been many days on the road before I had learned the language it took to drive oxen. In two or three weeks I was ready for graduation as a full fledged bullwhacker. After a long and wearisome journey, we arrived in Salt Lake City on the 5th of September. We rested a couple of days then continued our journey to Ephraim, Sanpete County, where we made our home and where I spent the rest of my boyhood days.
A wonderful testimony came to me when I was crossing the plains at the age of ten. Our teamster had gone fishing or hunting and left me in charge of his team. The road was good so I told three girls belonging to our wagon they could ride. After awhile, they wanted to get out. Two of them jumped out safely, but the other one, who was eighteen years old, caught her skirt on the hammer strap on the tongue and was thrown down behind the oxen. A front wheel passed over the small of her back. She rolled over and the back wheel passed over her stomach. She got into the wagon without much help. Brother Wirham administered to her and said that she would get well, go to Utah and become the mother of a large family. This has been fulfilled. She is the mother of fourteen children and still is hale and hearty at the age of 94. She lives in Centerfield, Utah. Her name is Christensen — I don’t remember her first name. This incident has always been a testimony to me of how the Lord hears the prayers of His servants.
Father went to work at his trade, and I did little jobs as I could find them. Father soon brought a city lot and we built the house in which my step-mother still lives. I didn’t like the carpenter trade much — it was too confining. I loved to great out - doors. Hence, my summers were usually spent working in the canyons, hauling timber, and working some on farms. During the sixties we had a lot of trouble with the Indians. It was not very safe in the mountains, and sometimes not very safe in the valleys.
Ephraim, at that time, was divided into four wards or districts. These were presided over by presiding Elders uder the direction of Bishop Caleb G. Edwards. Each of these wards or districts had a school house where Sunday School was held. A testimony or prayer meeting was held every Thursday night during the winter season. I attended my first Sunday School in the 4th Ward school house. My teacher was Thomas Hadden, a splendid old gentleman, who was devoted to his work and had the welfare of the boys and girls at heart. God bless his memory forever.
In the winter of 1864 and 1865 I attended for a term of three months in the same 4th Ward school house. Our teacher’s name was William T. Hyte. He was an eastern man and didn’t belong to the Church. He was a good teacher for his day, and a strict disciplinarian. He didn’t spare the rod for fear he would spoil the child. He was killed by the Indians in the fall of 1865.
In the winter of 1865 and 1866 I attended school in the 1st Ward school house for three months with Samuel Akin of Springtown as teacher. He was a splendid man, but not a teacher. My next and last schooling was in the winter of 1868 and 1869 for three months. Mr. Hudson was the teacher and very good for his time. Here is where I first met the little girl that afterwards became my wife. These nine months ended my schooling with the exception of a short term of evening school in penmanship.
In 1864, my father bought a cow from a man in Moroni. I remember that Father and I walked from Ephraim to Moroni, a distance of twelve miles, and drove that cow home. I think I would know that cow today if I should see her, although I have handled hundreds of them since that time.
My ambition was to get a team of oxen, or as we would then say, a yoke of oxen. Fortune favored me, for the next spring this cow brught a fine red linebacked bull calf. Now I could begin to see a starter for a yoke of oxen. As I went around town, I looked into people’s corrals to try to find a mate for this noted calf. I finally located one as near the same color as two spotted critters could well be. It belonged to Christian Torums. I first ascertained if Brother Torum would sell him, and he told me that he would (I think more to please m than anything else). Father bought the calf and I named them “Tiger and Lion.”
I got them together and took good care of them. I had them broke so that I could drive them anywhere on a small sled. The next winter when they were coming two years old, I hauled all our wood with them. I was then 14 years old and my team was one and a half years, but I would go where the men wnet and bring my load as regular as any of them that is according to the size of team and man. As the steers and the boy grew, we could do biggeer jobs. They became as good a yoke of oxen as ever was put under a whip. I wish I could say the same for the boy that handled the whip.
On the 17th of October 1865, nearly all the men were away from home for we never went away from town any distance except in companies of fifteen to twenty. At this particular time, one company had gone to Salt Lake City and one had gone to the canyons after timber. The Indians made a raid first on the men in the canyon. They killed three men; Ben Black, William T. Hyte, and Soren Jesperson. The first alarm was given by some of the men who came downn from the canyon.
Of course, excitement ran high. We had no telegraph nor telephone. The fastest means of conveying news was by the pony express. That day there wasn’t a horse in town to carry the word to Manti. There was a ban of horses in the fields abuot one and a half miles south of town. If we got a horse, we had to get these and do it on foot. A crowd of us boys started after them. When we got to the outskirts of town, the boys had all fallen back leaving Christian Nielson, Christian Thomsom Balla and myself to get the horses.
We continued on till we reached the horses. We had no ropes or bridles so we had to drive them on foot. When we were about half way to town with perhaps 20 or 25 head, we saw Indians coming down through the sagebrush south of town. I, being on the upper side (or the east side) was the first to see them. I called to the other boys to hurry for the Indians were comsiong. They said, “No, that is some Manti boys sho got the word somehow and are cmoing down.” I told them, “NO! They are Indians!”
At this same time, Andrew Whitlock and Chris Larson were coming from Manti in a buggy with two old ladies by the name of Snow, btter known as Doctor Mariah and her sister. Just south of town they were met by the Indians who surrounded the buggy and began shooting. They got under the seat when the Indians attacked. Andrew Whitlock lost no time in applying the whip and drove at full speed while the Indians were shooting. Whitlock received one wound when he was shot in the shoulder with an arrow. One of his horses was shot through the heart, but it ran into town then fell dead. This attack delayed the Indians long enough so that we got into town with the horses we were driving. Otherwise, the Indians being headed directly towards us, would have undoubtedly caught us and taken the horses we were driving.
We hurried the last half mile and got to town safe. We corraled the horses in the first corral we could find large enough to hold them. We started back towards the west part of town in time to see the Indians coming down through a hollow that was right sought and west of town. Here they met and killed Martin Peteerson Kuhra, his wife and a grown girl by the name of Elizabeth Peterson. A small boy about two years old they didn’t kill. (the man is still living. He has been President, I think, of the West Jordan Stake. He is now Patriarch.) These people had been digging potatoes and were running for town.
The Indians turned west down in the field where the cow herd was, gathered up what cattle and horses they wanted, and brought them up south of town straight towards the mouth of the canyon. The few men that were in town went up above town and tried to head off the Indians, but were unsuccessful. Here William Thorpe was killed. That was a sad and gloomy day for Ephraim.
In 1867 and 1868, I was employed most of the time as clerk in a store belonging to H. L. Southworth. I don’t remember what my wages were, but it wasn’t very much. The experience and training was worth a great deal to me in after years, as my schooling was so very limited. I learned more, I think, working in that store than I did in school. I mention these things to give my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and the young people of today a little glimpse of what the boys and girls of 60 or 70 years ago had to do in Utah, for I was no exception to the rule. We all fared about alike.
From 1869 to 1874 during the summer months, I worked most of the time in the canyons. I had many thrilling experiences in the mountains. Sometimes narrow escapes from accidents and harm, but it was the kind of work I liked. I formed a love for the mountains that still remains with me. In the winter I worked most of the time in the carpenteer shop along with my father. Some of the time I was employed in Carl Uckerman’s furniture shop.
When working in the carpenter shop, I made many useful articles for the home. There wereno washing machines in our part of the country so the washboard was necessary. I made many washboards out of wood that served the purpose well and were used for many years.
We made our own amusements. Dancing and home dramatics were the most popular. Under the direction of Parliln McFarlin, Sr., we put on many plays of the Civil War. Also, many comedies. I was very much interested in that kind of recreation. The greater part of our amusement was dancing. Often two or three nights a week was enjoyed in this recreation. The dances were worked out in this way.
Two, three, or four boys would get together and decide to have a dance. First thing was to get the house. We would go to the presiding Elder who had charge of these ward school houses and get permission to have the dance. The use of the house was rarely denied us and the price was generally a load of wood. Next, we had to get the fiddlers. Their price was usually one bushel of wheat each, likewise the caller, for our dances were mostly square. When all arrangements were made, we would invite crowds of about thirty or forty. No one was allowed unless invited. The race was on to invite our best girl before the other fellow got her. If he beat you, you had to make a second choice. Everyone must have a partner. Girls didn’t go to the dances without a partner. If it did happen that a girl came alone, she was shunned by both boys and girls.
The boys who got up the dance would go in the afternoon, clean up the house, sweep and scrub the floor, whittle spurm candles to make the floor slick and keep the dust down. The dance would commence not later than eight o’clock and continue until our candles (we used them for lights) would burn out. That is the way it went around from one crowd to another. As time went on, we improved in these things. We got better houses for our amusements, and began to get modernized in ourmethods, but we had no better times.
Those were carefree days. We would go to our Sunday School and meeting on the Sabbath Day and usually to testimony meetings on Thursday evening. This was all in the program. We had no Mutual Improvement Association at that time, and we had no Lessor Priesthood organizations till after I was married. My first ordinationn to the Priesthood was to the office of an Elder in the Endowment House onthe 18th day of May, 1874, the day I was married.
In the winter to 1873 and 1874 my cousin, Andrew C. Nielsen, (better known as Mormon Preacher) invited a crows of us boys to join a liteerary class where we studied the Key to Theology. This was really a form of the Y.M.M.I.A>, which was organized in Ephraim in the fall of 1875 with Nielsen as its first president and of which I was a member. Years later when I looked over the members of that class it was a pleasure to see how many of those boys later filled places of responsibility both in religious and civic capacities.
On the 30th of January, 1874, my dear mother died after a long and lingering sickness. Bless her memory forever. Father and I were left alone. I was 21 years of age and the little girl I first met in 1869 would be 16 on the 16th of February. She was mature for her age. After a courtship of over five years, we began to make preparations for marriage. I got busy in the shop that winter and made what furniture we would need, such as: bureau, bedstead, cupboard, chairs, table, etc.
When father learned that he was going to be left alone, he rustled around and found him a girl and decided to get married the same time that I did. We got all preparations made, I hired a team from one of ur neighbors. I had raised some oats the summer before, so I took a load of these and father took part of a load for me. We started, as near as I can remember, about the 10th of May. My father and his girl, my father-in-law and his second wife, known as Aunt Amelia, and my girl and I.
We were a jolly little company. I think we were six days on the road. We reached Salt Lake on Saturday night. On Sunday we got, cleaned up and got our recommends approved. We camped in the old tithing yard. On Monday morning we went to the ENdowment House. It was located in the north west corner of the Temple block. There were about 25 or 30 couples to be married. For some cause, I never knew why unless it was because we were about the youngest couple and perhaps looked the greenest, we were put on lead all the way through. We were the first couple married. This was the 18th of May 1874. We were married for time and all eternity by Daniel H. Wells.
Being the first couple married, we got out about noon. Some of them didn’t et out until about night. When we got over to camp we found Aunt Amelia getting dinner for us. She had found some fresh fish and was frying it. When she saw us coming she began to cry. We wasked her what was the matter and she answered, “Now is when your troubles begin.” In a way she was right for it was the beginning of our real responsibilities. Through life that responsibilitiy brought with it both sorrow and joy, but much more joy than sorrow. It is necessary to taste the bitter in order to appreciate the sweet. I have always looked upon that event as the crowning point of my life and the greatest blessing that ever came to me.
The next day I disposed of my oats and bought things to start houskeeping with. We bought a No. 6 Charter Oak stove, some dishes, a lamp, and a few other things as far as our means would go.
It always seemed to me that the adversary had concluded to end my life at this point of my career. About one week before we left home, I was riding after some cattle through some brush. In riding fast, the horse stepped in a hole with both front feet, keeled over, and came down on top of me and went over again and head first into a deep wash that was full of water. I got loose from the saddle before he went into the water. I was sore and stiff for several days, but no bones broken.
In Salt Lake when I went to unload my oats, I had to drive through a narrow alley between two buildings. I was standing up on top of the load. The one horse was a little flighty and mean. He made a jump ahead. This threw the wagon against the wall on the other side. The sudden stop threw me head first down behind the horses onto the pavement. I got out without a scratch.
The next day my wife and I left Salt Lake and came as far as Pleasant Grove and decided to stop a day and wait for the rest of the company, who stayed in Salt Lake to do some baptizing for the dead. They came the following evening. Pleasant Grove at that time was called Battle Creek.
The next morning when we went to the pasture after our horses and got back to our wagons, I was kicked by one of the horses on the right side of the head. My face was cut badly and blood ran out of my ear. Again the hand of the Lord was over me. My head was sore, but we were able to continue on our way home. In a few days I was all right.
We reached home without further trouble. I mention these things, and many more narrow escapes later in my life because they are testimonies to me that my life has been spared for some purpose and that the protecting hand of the Lord has been over me.
It took us over two weeks to make the trip. That was not so bad for we had our honeymoon trip at the same time. When we got home, we stayed a few days with my wife’s folks. They had a large family without much room so we moved into a room up to my father’s place. We lived together for a few months. That summer I worked in the canyon most of the time getting lumber and other timber. When harvest time came, I worked binding grain and other harvest jobs. I had five acres of grain of my own.
That fall I bought a house and lot. The house was partlly finished and poorly done. One room was plastered (in a way) and the other two rooms were just the rough adobe walls, but we were glad to get a home of ur own. We moved into it as it was and weren’t alone either. There was plenty of company in those rough adobe walls. My wife’s first battle was fought with bugs and she came out victorious.
This is rather long. If you are interested in the rest of the story contact me and I will make a copy for you.