Monday, March 1, 2010

Niels Christian Johansen (Pioneer of the Month - March 2010)

Niels Christian Johansen
Chris (Blacksmith)
Married:  Gertrude Jensen
Born:  March 17, 1872   ---   Mt. Pleasant, Utah
Died::  November 11, 1947  ---   Mt. Pleasant, Utah

History written by Etta Marie Johansen Larsen (daughter)

In 1872 Mt. Pleasant, Utah, Sanpete County, was a bustling little town boasting a population of 3,000 people.  The people were divided in four groups: those in the southeast part of town were called the "Rocky Heaven" crowd, no doubt named because of the rocks brought down by the creeks in past ages.  In the southwest part of town lived the "Copenhagens" or "Copenslogans" group.  The Danish people congregated in this area.  "Dog Type" was the name tagged on the residents of the northwest part of town.  Northeast residents were answered to the "Buttermilks"; maybe they milked cows or churned butter.

Dad was born March 17, 1872 to Niels and Kirstine (or Christena) Marie Anderson Johansen (Johannes) in the southwest part of Mt. Pleasant in a small adobe house which is still standing and hasn't changed a lot.  H was the eldest of eight children, six boys and two girls.  He also had half brothers and sisters, as Grandfather had been married before.  He was blessed in 1872 and given the name Niels Christian after his father.  His relatives called him "Chris the Blacksmith", but to mother it was "Christian".  He was baptized April 1, 1882, by J.J. Wallis and confirmed April 2, 1882, by Peter Monsen (neighbor) and H. J. Brown.  Dad was made an elder on December 8, 1885 in the Mt. Pleasant South Ward which was shortly before he married mother.  He was made second counselor in the Y.M.M.I.A. of the Mt. Pleasant South Ward, October 2, 1901.

Dad was always an active church worker and served at various times with the Sunday School, the M.I.A., and the Priesthood in Mt. Pleasant North Ward.  He was a Seventy at the time of his death.

I suppose Dad grew up learning to work as there were chores to do, such as hauling wood in for winter, herding cows on the street, helping with the vegetable garden as everyone had a garden those days, helping Grandfather thresh his wheat in the fall, and also helping to haul the hay as Grandfather owned a small piece of ground in the southwest part of town.  He probably helped clean and pick the burrs out of the wool so Grandmther could card the wool for quilts.  Grandfather was a weaver and had his own loom.  I can see Father as a child having many friends, playing with the Copenhagen kids in that part of town.  Some of the games were steal sticks, run-my-sheep-run, stink base, Danish ball, rounders, leap-frog, nip cat, kick the can, mumble peg and marbles in the spring.

He was 24 years old when he courted and fell in love with a shy, timid Danish girl from the north part of town.  He and Gertrude Jensen married January 1, 1896, in the Manti Temple.  They went to Manti with two other couples in a bob sleigh, staying overnight with friends, and came home the next day.  They lived two blocks east of his parents in a small adobe house.  They lived there only a short time and then moved over on Main Street to Grandmother Jensen's home to take care of her until she died October 21, 1899.

Blacksmith shop was located at approximately 350 West Main
To them were born eight children:  Christella, Pearl,  Heber Christian, Francis Simon, Mable Christine, Aldevea Gertrude, Lester Delbert and Etta Marie.  After his marriage he herded sheep for a short time.  Later he went into the blacksmith business with George N. Clemensen.  After working with him for a few years and learning the trade, he went into the blacksmith business for himself.  He build his shop on Main Street on the southwest corner of Grandmother's lot.  Blacksmithing was a good, steady job.  Dad worked hard, being very skilled in blacksmithing, he was a perfectionist in his work.  Early of a morning he would usually sharpen hay knives so as not to waken the neighbors.  H often shod the horses in the afternoon after the sun had gone behind the shop, or he would work under the apricot trees.  When by accident Dand and horseshoing would get on the lawn and near Mother's flower beds, she would get very upset.  Toward fall he would be working mostly on plow lays and wagon wheels as the farmers would be getting ready to haul coal from Fairview Canyon.  The rims, which were always metal, would have to be smaller than the rim base, so it was up th the blacksmith to heat and stretch the metal rim, so it would fit snugly over the wooden edge.  The plow lays would have to be sharpened and often iron would have to be fastened onto the toe of the plow lay.  The farmers would do their fall plowing just as they do today.  Dad saved all the scrap iron he could find and it came in handy, especially during the war years when iron was scarce.  The fire in the forge had to be red hot when he was working so anyone standing around would get a turn pumping the bellows by hand.  One could almost tell what type of iron or steel was being pounded out by the ring of the anvil, as each had its own tone or beat.  It was music to ones ear, as a neighbor said.  I think Dad made the most money on shoeing horses.  Of course, I'm sure it was the hardest and most difficult to do.  Some of the men a few years ago told me he got fifty cents a shoe and he furnished the shoes and nails.  Many happy hours were spent with Dad in the shop, pumping the bellows, dodging the sparks as he pounded out a horseshoe or plow lay on the anvil, using up his chalk to draw pictures on the walls, a handfull of nails  to hammer in the big log that served as the doorstep for the shop.  The kids coming to and from school would stick their heads in the front door.  Dad would give them a few nails to hammer in the log.  Some of the ladies from the South Ward would tell how their kids took the long way home so they could visit with the blacksmith.  The grandkids also liked to be at the shop; sometimes they would run away from home.  Dad would soon send them back home; he didn't want the little ones around unless their mothers were wit to watch them.Blacksmithing was slow in the winter time and that was good as Dad needed a rest, for he worked so very hard.  The folks always had a good supply of food on hand; flour, grain mash, and in the cellar with long rows of smoked hams, shoulders, and sides of pork hung from the log ceilings.  In the big cupboards were shelves lined with bottles of fresh peaches, pears, apricots, plums, big crock jars of jam, pickles, relishes and of course a couple of five gallon cans of honey.  Then there was the milk cupboard with a tight screen on the front for the milk, cream.  Potatoes, carrots and parsnips were kept out in the dirt cellar which was in the corral.  Dad and Mother had two gardens, one a small one which we kids were responsible for planting, watering, and weeding.  Then we could take vegetables from it whenever we wanted as long as we didn't waste any.  We would have play dinners of fried potatoes, carrots, cooking on almost any stove in the neighborhood.  Dad always had a milk cow, chickens and pigs.  He owned five acres of ground west of town.  He would raise grain on one half and hay on the other half.  Every few years he would change the hay and grain ground.  There was a row of fruit trees down the center.  He would exchange work with the farmers to use their horses and implements to do his harvesting, so you can see there wasn't much in the food line that Mother and Dad had to buy at the store.  A little sugar, coffee, a can of salmon or maybe a piece of cheese, but Mother would always have to ask Dad for the money.  I sure had my share of going to the shop and asking Dad for money for groceries.  I didn't mind because he would usually find a couple of pennies in the bottom of the old leather purse fo me to spend for candy.  H was surely free-hearted when he was spending the money himself.  He liked to surprise  us by bringing home treats.  One day he had gone to town to get horse shoe; soon he came back in a truck with a big phonograph and several records, os for days after that he would bring a record home.  At Christmas time Mother would say that he was a big show off because he gave us so many presents.  Each summer he would see that Mother and I would have a train trip to Axtel to visit Mother's brother, Andrew.  Dad would cry when we left and he'd cry when we came home.  He was a very emotional person.  He would shop for all of  Mother's clothes and sometimes he would bring home several pairs of shoes for Mother to try and she would keep the pair that she liked best.  He would take the others back to the store.  He would buy the best grade of calico for her dresses and aprons.

Mother would go with Dad to Sacrament Meeting and the old folks parties.  She liked the picture shows and he took her often.  After I got a little older, he would say, "Take your Mother to the picture show, I'm too tired to go tonight."  Often if he three of us were home alone, Dad would say, "Sis, run up and get us an ice cream cone."  There was Gunderson's Candy Store a block and a half east of our home and it sure got a lot of Dad's money.

Dad was the boss and all we kids knew it.  If there was any arguing or quarreling going on up at the house, Dad was soon up there straightening us all up. Dad handled the money and if we ever wanted money for a show ticket or whatever, we had to ask Dad and he wasn't one to hand it over very freely.  I'm sure this was the way Mother wanted it.

Dad loved to entertain and play with his children and grandchildren, telling ghost stories, romping on the floor with them.  He would get on his knees under the big dining room table and walk it all around the room.  Mother would hold her ears when the kids would start to scream and yell.  The year 1918 when the whole family had the flu and we were all quarantined, he put up a big swing in the shop and built a whirly-gig out in the garden spot.  When almost everyone had the flu, Dad would go with Dr. Syndergaard to the homes of the sick in Mt. Pleasant and the neighboring towns.  Sometimes the horse and buggy would get stuck in the mud and Dad and the doctor would have to get out and lift the buggy up out of the mud.  Sometimes they would be gone all night.  A few weeks ago, an old neighbor, Ray Seely, told me about Dad coming down to their home in the middle of the night to borrow their old gray mare so he could go to Schofield to ber with Heber who had the flu.  The doctor had called and said Heber had taken a turn for the worse.  Dad rode all night long, but with Dad's faith and doctoring, Heber got well and was able to come home.  Dad was a good nurse and when we were sick, he usually was the one that nursed us.  I remember that he had a bottle of consecrated oil in the bedroom window.  He honored his Priesthood and used it whenever he felt it necessary. 

Dad was with the volunteer fire department most of his married life.  There were  many major fires, like the one in 1898 that destroyed most of the buildings on the north side of Main Street.  Also in 1930, Pat Cammer's barn burned with tow little ones, four and two years old in it.  Dad was the one that found them.  This really upset him for a long time.

Mt. Pleasant weathered three major flood in 1893, 1918,1946.  All went roaring down through the main section of town, distributing mud, rocks and debris on each side of Pleasant Creek, through homes, stores and streets.  The one in 1918 Louis Oldham lost his life.

The year Dad was born, 1872 the first post office was built in a small log building.  The same year the Indians and the white men signed a Peace Treaty ending the Black Hawk War.  The D & R,G Railroad started its run from Salt Lake to Mt.  Pleasant in 1890, as well as the telephone system from Fairview to Mt. Pleasant.  The first telephone and telegraph operator in Mt. Pleasant was Annie Johansen, (Little Annie) who was Dad's half sister.

In 1929 came the depression and the banks had to close their doors.  Some families went hungry, but not the N.C. Johansen family because of the storage that Dand and  Mother had on hand.  They had to help the married kids out with their little families.  Dad did have to drop all we kids life insurance and he borrowed money on his life insurance policy to pay his taxes on the land and home.  There just wasn't any money to be gotten.  He lost around $200.00 in the bank.  He did work for the farmers and they would pay him in produce which was anything from hay or grain to raspberries or honey.

Wednesday, October 22, 1941, was Dad's first trip to Salt Lake City.  He went with Gottfred and me into Granite Furniture Store to buy our furniture.  A few years later, he visited in there with LaRue and Bud.  Bud took him to all the interesting places.  He never stopped talking about what a good vacation he had.

Dad loved celebrations, like the 4th of July when he would put his anvil out in the middle of the road and at the break of dawn, he would blast off dynamite, waking up the whole town.  He was often duptized to help the town marshal at celebrations.  He was often called to serve on the jury, which he said he didn't like.  He was water master for many years, served on the stove committee for the old folks part, was president of the committee in getting the old folks pension into effect before we had social security.

Dad was large in stature, over six feet, weighing from 225 to 250 pounds, a giant of a man.  As long as I can remember, he wore a mustache and he loved to make the ends curl.  He wore a cul on the top of his head, as his hair was quite wavy.  His family broke his heart many times, but he still stood by them supporting them in all things.  He loved them very much.

In later years, Dad didn't have mujch to live on.  I asked him once why he didn't collect some of the money that the farmers owed him.  H had two record books in the shop.  When he did work for someone, he would write their name and what he had done  in one of the books.  Then when they paid him, he would cross their name off.  There were many names that weren't crossed off.  He said, "I guess they have paid me and I've forgotten to cross their names off, if not, it doesn't really matter, they are all honest men."  I remember him burning the one. but I believe he kept the other one.  Maybe he did believe that some of them owed him.

I don't remember of Dad being sick much of the time, only the spring he would get really sick with the hives.  They found out later that it was the fruit which seeds that was causing them. By not eating those fruits he was okay.  In his later years he had arthritis really bad and all I remember he did for it was a copper bracelet on each wrist.

Dad was a frank, plain-spoken person, kind, homest and full of fun.  He was respected and loved by his family and friends.  He retired in 1944 and passed away November 11, 1947.