Johannah (Hannah) Christensen Larsen

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The Life of

Johannah (Hannah) Christensen Larsen


Johannah (Johanne, Hannah) was born January 15, 1860 to Lars Christensen and Margrethe Nielsen in Jyllinge, Roskilda, Denmark.  She was the youngest of eight children:  five girls and three boys.  Two of her brothers were given the name of Jens.    The first Jens died when he was only three years old, and another boy was born about three years later and given the same name. 

Johannah lived in a nice home on the banks of a river.  They kept their cows on an island in the middle of the river.  Everyday they had to row their boat over to the island to milk the cows and take care of them. 

Their mother was an excellent homemaker and the home was always spotless.  They would take sand from the river bank to polish the kitchen floor.  Her mother was also a very good seamstress and taught her daughters very well so they always had nice clothes. 

When Johannah was nineteen, she and her sister Ane (who was twenty-two) went to Copenhagen to work for a rich family.  While there, they were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Elder Hans Oluf Magelby converted Johannah and she was baptized by Elder H. J. Grisjansen on October 24, 1881.  Ane was baptized on December 28, 1881. 

After they were baptized, they decided to immigrate to Utah.  In September of 1882 they set out for the United States.  It took them four or five days to cross the North Sea.  From there they took a train across England to Liverpool, where they boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.  The ship was blown off course and the water got very bad.  Johannah remembered it as being "black and roily".  They finally docked in New York and then took a train to Ephraim, Utah where their two aunts lived. 

Their aunts, who were their mother's sisters, had been in Utah for some time. In fact, due to distances and lack of communication, her maternal grandparents and aunts had joined the church and emigrated before Johannah and her family knew about it.  Niels Rasmussen and Anne Nielsen, the grandparents, were among the first emigrants to leave Denmark and come to America for the gospel.  There were two hundred people in their party when Niels and Anne left Aalborg, Denmark.  They took their daughter, Hannah, her husband, and two children and sailed from Liverpool on January 7, 1855 to New Orleans.  From there they boarded a ship and went up the Mississippi River, and finally pushed a handcart to Utah.  Grandmother Anne Nielsen, Hannah's husband, and their two children died and were buried on the plains.  Cholera caused a heavy loss to these pioneers.  Niels Rasmussen died about one year after the company arrived in Salt Lake City.  He was one of the first pioneers to be buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Hannah (Johannah's aunt) married Lewis Dorius in Ephraim and settled there.  Their daughter married and later was killed along with her husband by Indians that attacked their farm house near Ephraim.  Their son lived and grew up to be a school teacher in Ephraim. 

After living in Ephraim for a while, Johannah and Ane went to Salt Lake City where they worked for George Q. Cannon who was an apostle in the church.  The girls owed money to the emigration fund and they wanted to help the rest of their family come to America, so they were grateful for their jobs.  They earned $2.50 a week out of which they paid their tithing, emigration fund, and sent the rest to Denmark to their family.

George Q. Cannon had five homes on his ranch located in the western part of Salt Lake City where the Jordan Park is now.  Johannah worked for one wife while Ane worked for another.  It took them six months to pay off their debt to the emigration fund and then they were able to help four of their family come to Utah.  Their father and one sister, Karen Marie, never joined the Church.  Their father died January 1, 1882, the year his daughters immigrated to Utah. 

While on the Cannon ranch, the girls had to walk five miles each way to attend church on Sunday.  There was a rough element with the cowboys on the ranch; so when Oluf Larsen and Hans Olsen Magelby came to conference, Apostle Lund suggested that they marry the sisters and take care of them.  Oluf was twenty-four years older than Johannah. They were married July 17, 1884 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City and moved to Ephraim, Utah to live with his other wife, Anna Marie.  Anna Marie was in accord with the marriage and they got along very well.  Johannah spoke fondly of her as a wonderful person.  Marie named one of her daughters after Johannah. 

Oluf had daughters close to Johannah's age and they were happy with their new stepmother as she had so many pretty dresses that she let them wear.  Johannah was Oluf's fourth wife.  His first wife, Emelia Christine Amundsen, crossed the plains with him and died after child birth on October 10, 1863.  She was buried along with the baby who died twenty days on October 20, 1863.  He was named Orson. 

Anna Marie Pederson was his second wife.  She was a practicing midwife and was very good with herbs.  She made dyes from sage and Indian paint brush.  Oluf's third wife was Amalia Anderson.  Her first child, Maria Caroline, was known as Carrie and was talented in art as well as home skills.  Amalia died, however, during the birth of her second child.  Anna Marie took care of Alvilda for a year and then she died during teething. 

Oluf was called on a mission to Norway.  On his way home from his mission, he visited her family in Denmark.  He was sorry that he couldn't convert her father and sister, Karen Marie.  Karen had two children named Lawrence and Anne.  A few years after Johannah's father died, her mother Margrethe sold her home in Frekatage Foretneng, Jyllinge, Roskilda, Denmark and came to Utah.  Years later Johannah received a picture of the old home from a relative.  It had changed hands many times, once even being a bakery.   

Two of Johannah's brothers and their families came too.  It was a happy time for the family when they arrived in Ephraim as Margrethe had not seen her sisters for thirty years.  It was said that the sisters looked so much alike that they even fooled each other.  Margrethe lived with Johannah in Ephraim until Johannah had her first child Mary Andrea (May) who was born August 24, 1885, and then she moved into her own home. 

While Margrethe lived in Ephraim she had sheep which she sheared, carded the wool, dyed it, and spun her own yarn.  On the spinning wheel, she made beautiful rugs and blankets.  She loaned Ane and her husband money to open a furniture store.  They paid her back in milk and cream from their cows, and Margrethe made cheese and butter with them.  Her cellar was always full of great cheese in all stages of ripeness hanging from the rafters. 

Oluf was a farmer in Ephraim, but he had to move to Salt Lake for his health.  They moved right after Hannah, their second child, was born on July 15, 1887.  They first moved to a house in Mill Creek on Bishop Gunderson's ranch.  Then Oluf built an adobe, two room house on 17th South just off 7th East for both of his wives.  Later he built both wives separate homes.  Johannah's was an adobe house at 1011 Wilson Avenue and Marie's was built on 1176 Princeton Avenue. 

Everyone who practiced polygamy were terrorized and prosecuted.  They never knew when they were going to be raided.  Johannah had to hide during the birth of Hannah her second daughter.  In November of 1888 Oluf was sentenced to six months in the Utah State Penitentiary, but he only served five months and then moved his family to Salt Lake City.  They stayed in a house in Millcreek on Bishop Gunderson's ranch until Oluf built an adobe two room house on 17th South off 7th East for his family.

Later he built both wives separate homes.  Johannah's was an adobe house at 1011 Wilson Avenue.  She lived there until her death on December 23, 1948.  Marie's home was on Princeton Avenue at 11th East. 

When Mary Andrea was eight years old and Hannah was six, Johannah took a trip to visit her family in Ephraim.  Her mother and sisters, Ane and Mette (Stena) lived close to one another.  While there her brothers, Christen and Jens, took their mother and Johannah to Nephi to visit Margrethe's sister, Khristine Jensen.  They had a very good time because they hadn't seen each other for such a long time. 

Oluf and Johannah had seven children.  Mary Andrea was born August 24, 1885 in Ephraim, Utah as was Hannah who was born July 15, 1887.  Lawrence was born July 19, 1891; Orson was born August 10, 1893; Alma was born September 23, 1895; Sarah was born September 20, 1897, and Margaret was born September 28, 1901.  They were all born in Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake Temple was finished the year Orson was born.  Grandmother Margrethe was in Salt Lake taking care of the family and Oluf took her and Johannah to the temple and her sealed to him.  Hannah and Mary Andrea marched with the Sunday School children of the city along Main Street to the temple. 

Oluf had a grocery store on 1st South and 2nd East, but he still had many financial problems.  Johannah helped out by taking in washing.  They made a fire out in the back yard to heat the water that the boys pulled out of the well.  Sarah and Al would deliver the wash in a wagon.  One day, some children three mud at them and all of the clothes became dirty and had to be done over.  Two school teachers were part of the people that she washed for.  These teachers had linen dresses that were hard to iron, but she always did a good job for them.  Because of this, they in turn were good to Johannah's children.  One of them gave the book of Heidi to Sarah and it was a favorite of Sarah's during her life.

The children developed a good sense of work from Johannah.  This also helped them develop a close relationship with each other.  Lawrence, Al, and Orson had to work hard to support the family, but Al always stuck up for his little sisters and his mother.  Johannah, although she wanted education for her family, believed that an education was a secondary luxury.  Work, though, was essential in order to survive.  When May (Andrea) and Hannah got jobs, they helped their younger sisters by buying dresses and toys for them.  By working together as a family, they brought the closeness that developed into their adult lives. 

Life without fun becomes drudgery and Johannah didn't want that.  She inserted fun wherever she could.  While she ironed, she would have bread and butter out so that the children could have a tea party.  Another time she took the yellow roses off of her hat and put them on a rose bush during the winter to make them laugh.  She would also dress up funny and knock on the door pretending to be someone coming to call, but this didn't always work as they didn't always recognize her and would be afraid.  She made Christmas special although she didn't have much money, but she would always save up enough to give them a little candy, an orange, or a toy.

One year Johannah was in quarantine for Scarlet Fever which was a dreaded disease in those days.  She expected Oluf to bring her some groceries; but when he drove up to the house after church he had a lady, a fancy singer, in the buggy that he was driving home.  She was so mad that she threw a piece of salt pork and nearly hit him.  She was hot headed, but only became angry when she was sorely provoked  

Her children were very special to her and she wanted the best for them, but she would share anything she had if someone needed it more than she did.  Once a convert, who had arrived from Denmark, was at their Sugar House Ward and needed a pair of shoes and she bought him a pair.  He always said that Johannah bought his first pair of shoes in America.   She was also very hospitable.  No one went away from her house without something to eat.  She worked hard, was a good cook, and her house was always clean. 

Oluf became feeble in his old age and Johannah took tender care of him.  He looked like a prophet of old with his white hair and a long white beard.  He even posed for a statue of Elijah and really looked the part.  He died at their home at the age of ninety-seven on November 11, 1929.  May and Sarah were with him at this time. 

Johannah sold her home to her son, Al, and she lived in an apartment that he built for her at the back of the house.  It had two rooms, a pantry, and a porch.  She lived there with Al and his family until her death.  Johannah was generous with the proceeds from this sale.  She helped Lawrence's family obtain a car for their move to California, and bought her other grandchildren savings bonds. 

Her grandchildren, which grew up near her, benefited in many ways.  Many of the girls learned to braid hair by working on the fringe of her tablecloths.  They learned their alphabet letters on her big coal stove, and she taught them to say thank you for the dinner in Danish.  It sounded like: "Tuk fa mu."  She encouraged them to never waste food, and told them it was a sin to throw away bread, except to the birds, because someday they may be hungry.  When the new automatic washing machines came in, she was very happy about it, but was very interested in comparing them to her own washboard.  Her sense of humor was strong, and everyone laughed with her when the men were going fishing at the opening of the season.  In Danish "the opening" meant going to the bathroom. 

Her testimony of the restoration of the priesthood and the gospel of Jesus Christ remained strong.  She always said, "Pay your tithing and trust the Lord to provide.  You will see the blessings."  She told her daughters that they were too selfish to live polygamy, but was very glad that wouldn't be asked to.  Genealogy was important to her and she and Ane paid $300.00 to get genealogy records of their family.  Her character strengths were displayed in her life and her teachings and lived on in her children.

During the years that she lived with Al's family she was like a mother to their children.  Most of the time Margaret was working as a nurse and was on the night shift at the hospital.  She slept during the day and children were with Johannah a lot of the time.  Her little apartment kitchen/living room was where they spent time listening to the radio, playing games and reading.  When general conference was in session all the speakers were talking on the radio and the children were taught by her example to listen to the prophet's voice.  She was involved in all the family outings at the parks and the canyons.  She had a soft featherbed that all the children enjoyed when she was visiting her other grandchildren in far away places like Long Beach and Sacramento California.

During the summer of 1948 Al and Margaret and their children went on a month long vacation.   Since Johannah was old and feeble it was decided that May (Andrea) would come from Sacramento and stay with her for that period of time.  During the trip Al made several calls home to find out her condition, she was still the same so the vacation went as planned.  Upon their return she was weaker and not getting better.  The doctors indicated that old age was the cause of her illness.

Al's wife Margaret took care of her.  One day Al's daughter Joan (Buddy) was washing her hair when Johannah called her.  She laughed when Joan appeared with dripping hair.  Then she asked her where Papa was as she looked around the room for him.  She died that afternoon.  It was December 21, 1948.  She was buried December 27, 1948 in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.  With her died many interesting stories of her life, which were not recorded.  She endured to the end as a loving daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, friend, and faithful member of the Church. 

Johannah's family meant so much to her and knowing that some of her children may never have anyone write their life stories.  The following is a brief sketch of their lives.

Mary Andrea (May) was the oldest and was born August 24,1885. She had a great interest in Oluf's other wife "Marie", and loved Aunt "Carrie" (Caroline) since they all lived together for a number of years.  She married Andrew E. Winberg and had three children, Bill, Lorraine and Lucille.  She had a hard time with this marriage. Her husband was a drinker and worked for the railroad.  After many heartaches and much sorrow she was divorced and moved to California.  There she met and married John Dandis.  He was very good to her and her children.  They later adopted a boy named Richard, who was loved dearly.   He was never told he was adopted until he grew to adulthood, when he found out he ran away from home.

She and Johnny sold their place near Sacramento and moved to a house next to her son Bill in Richmond on the East side of San Francisco Bay.  It was a smaller house and a small yard that was easy to maintain.  Johnny loved it because he could go fishing whenever he wanted to.

Whenever members of the family visited the Bay area her house was the place to visit.  She had been so persecuted by people everywhere she went because she came from a polygamous family that to her dying day she would not admit that her father was a polygamist.   

May's son Bill had one daughter that was named Nathel.  She was May's only grandchild.  The two girls never married.  They all died before she did.   She always wanted a large family so she sort of adopted all her nieces and nephews.  She kept track of birthdays and encouraged everyone to visit her.  A bit of philosophy that she used that was found in a letter and serves all generations:  "We got to all make our own place in this life, if we pulled up stakes every time things go wrong nobody would have homes."  She died November 6, 1974

Hannah, the second daughter, was born July15, 1887 and was good to her brothers and her two little sisters.  She was loved by them as well.  She married Ray Cornia and died in her mother's room soon after giving birth to her baby son LeRoi.  He was injured in delivery and was blind from birth.  He was cared for by Johannah until he was five years old when his father remarried.  Later he went to a school for the blind in Laramie, Wyoming.  Johannah always had a great love for the boy and saw him as often as she could.  Hannah died March 23, 1920.

Lawrence was born July19, 1891 and was the oldest boy and worked hard to help his mother.  He had little chance for schooling because of having to work and did not finish high school.  His father was very strict with him, and he ran away with a circus when he was a teenager.  He joined the army during World War I, but after having to have all his teeth removed he was discharged.

At one time while working for United Groceries, he as making deliveries and the team of horses ran away with him.  He had several broken ribs and lost a lung because of the accident.  He had to carry a bottle with him in his pocket into which the lung could drain.

When he was eighteen years of age, he married Kate Smith and they had four children: Burt, Irene, Julie and Eda May.  They were divorced and he went to Idaho to work.   There he met Josie Dott Christensen who was teaching school.  They were married and had six children.  The first child was still born.  The others were: George, Betty, Keith, Monty, and Jean.   Lawrence had a lot of heartaches about his first family because as part of a lump settlement with his first wife, he was never to see the children again.    He was a "hit" with all the little children and mourned not having more association with his entire family.   He became a talented baker and this skill was how he supported his family.  His talents also included building construction and he had a lovely tenor voice.   He died May18, 1945 of peritonitis.

Orson was born August10, 1893. He was a happy boy and loved to tease.  He worked at a bank and met and married Ruby Kubugunga.  They had a stormy marriage and he left her and went to California where he became a carpenter.  He came home and did carpenter work for his many relatives.  Many children had chairs, tables, cupboards and desks that he made.  He never had any children of his own but he loved all the children in the family.  He had pockets full of candy for all his nieces and nephews.  He never saw Ruby again and was never divorced. He tried all kinds of enterprises; he had a sidewalk hotdog stand once on the streets in Los Angeles.  He tried raising chickens in San Bernardino.  He was a heavy smoker and died of lung cancer on February 11, 1977.

Alma was born September 23, 1895 and was the closest one to his mother.  He was very bright in school.  He went to World War I and was hurt in a motorcycle accident.  He married Ruby McKinnon in 1928 in Randolph, Utah.  He had an ice cream store there.  They had two boys, Shirley Garr and Arthur.  They were divorced and Johannah tended the boys until Arthur went to live with his mother.  Al married Margaret James and had four other children.  They lived in Johannah's house after Oluf died and bought the house from her.  He built an apartment at the back for his mother.  It had two rooms, a pantry, and a porch.  He was always remodeling the house.  Al's children loved Johannah and would always come to see her as soon as they got home from school.  She tended, sewed, and did many things for them because Margaret worked as a nurse.  Al died of cancer at his home on June 28, 1962. 

Sarah was born September 20, 1897 and was a welcomed baby girl after three boys.  Her father was away at the time. A family friend Mr. Grosbeck an attorney went for Aunt Carrie when she was born.  Aunt Carrie wasn't a midwife but was there to help with the birth.  She went to the eighth grade at the Emerson School.  She loved to read and was a hard worker like the rest of the children in the family to help her mother raise the children.  She married Walter E. Mitchell and had seven children.  They were Beth, Grace, Helen, Robert, Richard, Walter Jr. and Stephen.  Robert died at the age of eight years old.  Sarah and Alma were the only ones in the family that stayed in Salt Lake City.  Sarah developed Lou Gherig disease or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It left her unable to swallow or talk for the last three years of her life.  She died October 21, 1982.

Margaret Elenora was born September 21, 1901 and was the last of Johannah's children.  She was called on to be the baby tender for all the grand children in the family.  She went to Nurse's training at the County Hospital in Salt Lake and during that time she met and married Harold Spinney who was operating a concession stand at the Saltair resort out on the beach at Salt Lake.  They moved to Redondo Beach California and later moved to Long Beach.  She had two daughters Elinore and Audrey.  Elinore contracted tuberculosis as a result of a bad sunburn and after a long illness passed away.  Harold worked as a truck driver for Signal Oil Company and their home was a favorite destination for all the family when they went on vacation to all the attractions in southern California.  Margaret died December 23, 1986.

Some of the forgoing information was taken from a life story that was compiled and written by a granddaughter, Beth Mitchell Howe with Betty Larsen Ross.  Other information was added by her grandson, James A Larsen.