Ole Swensen (1861-1929)

Personal History

From Birth to 1903


PERSONAL HISTORY OF OLE SWENSEN

To whom it may concern----

It is with reluctance that I commence the task of writing this record because of my limited knowledge of spelling and grammer. Never-the-less I desire to leave to the children and grandchildren a few words of history of the past from my hand.

I think best here to narrate the history of the past of this writing, and the history up until time of writing can be found in bulk, of each of the children, rather by reference from the family group or reference card.

I, Ole Swensen was born in humble circumstances, yet by goodly parents: 19 of March 1861, on a small farm named Glitre-braatin, so called because it was a clearing out of a wood previously belonging to the Gaard (farm) middle Löken and lying on a hill the west windows glitered in the afternoon sun. The little dear Home was a beautiful place and dear to my childhood memories.

From the hill looking north can be seen like a little village in which resided the workers of Baron Harold Vedel Jarsberg's iron works; in the background is seen the mountains leading up to Lummendalen. In the foreground we see the Baron's beautiful grounds and palace, where a good gardener was steadily employed. A small river running from north to south, it strikes Glitre on north side, turn west around the hili, rolls over several falls and empties in the sea in Sanviken, some three miles away. Since leaving my homeland the surroundings have greatly changed, by putting in of a dam, and an electric plant, which furnishes light and power; this does away with the beauty of some of the falls, and in some places in the channel of the river (the water) is more than 100 feet deep.

The writer on one occasion, while swimming barely escaped being washed over one of these falls, about 50 feet high, now over 50 years since. At that time there was barely a cut into the solid rock. When the dam was put in and the water raised, the stream had cut into the rocky mass about 15 feet.

Father was a hard working man, earning support for his family by his daily toil, done some house-building assisted by my oldest brother John.

I well remember the spring of 1864, my youngest sister was a baby in Mothers arm and I a small lad at her apron string. My Father had left home in the morning to cut out of a frozen log at a water shed, for the roof of the house on gaarden Kulsberg. About 5 o'clock in the afternoon thinking Father would soon be home from work, we were surprised and frightened by Martin Kulsberg driving into the home with him (Father) laying in hay in a wagon box, Martin picking him up and carried him in the house and laid him on the bed; tho but a little over three years of age, I can remember the circumstances as if it happened a few days ago. His ax had glanced on the frozen log and severed the jugler vein on top of one foot. They had tried to stop the flow by wrapping with rags, until there was a bundle as large as a horses head.

Father we thought was dead, someone was hurried to the doctor, which was quickly at hand, he comforted Mother, that there still was life and hope providing the little blood which was left could be retained, and he set to work with greatest care to undo the bundle. He was successful, the cut did not open and thanks to God Father's life was saved, but I also remember him around home with that foot tied up at the following Christmas.

I will not try to record details until my school day, commencing in the spring of 1869. The point of recollection is: I could not remember the name of `Q' in the alphabet, and the teacher pulled my hair and slapped me on the side of the head. The second day of school the boy had a headache, but the third day I went to school and knew all the letters and this was the only punishment I received during school.

The house of our school district wa about 4 miles away and the Baron had a privet school for his iron works people it being but a mile or less away, we children of the neighborhood were allowed to go to his school which was a great advantage to us.

The school consisted of one teacher and three grades, each grade having two days each of the week, from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. We had catechism and Bible history, which with other good moral teachings, had a good effect upon my life. The church was Lutheran and church and school run by the government.

Mother to is worthy of mention here, she was one of God's noble daughters, the Mother of 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls, of which one boy died an infant. In work in her line she was right up with Father; spinning, weaving, sewing, knitting and other work needed to help to keep the family both in and out of the house.

Times with us were tight in those days, for to be able to buy the home, Father borrowed money in the bank, which had to be paid certain amount of capital with interest, I think every ? which had to be whether we had anything to eat or wear; but when the ordeal was over things took a turn, though not without work and some of the family too had by this time grown to be able to help.

My oldest sister was in the city of Christiania sewing for an upholstering firm, name, Lillo, and I well remember when she brought to the home the first kerosene lamp to substitute the tallow candle, about ten inches high. My sister later married Julius Ungerness, a workman on the shop where she worked, a very nice man. about the year 18972 my oldest brother, John left in company with my Uncle Hans, Fathers brother, to America, which caused grief in the family.

In the fall of 1875 I graduated from the school, by going before the Priest once a week that summer, taking exam in theology and confirmation in the fall of the year. My school teacher recommended to Father that he send me to seminary and bring me up a school teacher in the church, but the Lord must have planned otherwise.

The following year i went to the city for the purpose of hunting a trade. Succeeded in finding a New Upholstering Firm and secured a place where I stayed until the fall of the year, but conditions being unendurable, I became homesick and quit. The following spring I started as apprentice a R. Romberg & Co., located in Storgaden #10, Kristiania. 4 years was consumed in learning a trade, in those days, and it meant a lot of hard work. The trade was upholstering. Among other hard work together with the other boys, that I had to do was carrying heavy furniture on the head, which probably was the cause of much headache in later years.

During these four years in the city, I never visited dance, or any other bad places, mostly on Sunday, especially in the summer went home to see my folks, only about 15 miles away. My master was my brother-in-law, so I had a good place at their house whenever I felt disposed. Had free access to the pipes and tobacco in the rack, but it seemed that some power kept me from it.

Received my diploma in April 1880 and given a supper by the firm. At this time my wage was raised and having several friends and not of the best class I became quite reckless and instead of preparing for Sunday on Saturday we would have a good time Saturday night and lay a bed on Sunday. And this way of doing, the spirit of the lord came and upbraided my for my conduct. (Stop Think?) My heart was pricked and it turned me to a better way of living.

In the summer of 1881 my cousin John Stromness, being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, emigrated to Utah, and I was invited, by him, to a party to be given in the LDS Hall in Osterhagagaden 27, in honor of the ones who should emigrate. Not altogether in favor with the Mormons, but went, and was captivated by the spirit of true friendship I found prevailing among that people. My cousin left that week and the following Sunday I visited their meeting and from that time on was a continual visitor; became more and more interested, then learned some of the tunes and bought a Hymn Book.

Now a real fight set up, something new in my life, it became a great issue; should I join the L.D.S. church, or not? Both sides put up good and substantial evidence for its claim. All I had that was really dear and loveable was my parents and brothers and sisters. I had always greatly loved my parents and tried to obey them. I read the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 10:34-37, this gave me the best argument, for to me without Christ there could be no comfort in anything else, so without asking my parents I asked for baptism and was baptized 23 Oct. 1881 by Elder Christian Hogensen, and coming up out of the water the spirit of God rested upon me I could not hold back but said, that I could testify to the whole world that this was indeed the gospel of Christ, was confirmed the same evening and pronounced a member of the Church by Elder Christian Hogensen. Now the real test of a weak faith began. I found Satan and also found the Lord, I combatted the evil one by fasting and prayer and the Lord answered me, and was relieved by its heavy pressure by being ordained an Elder on 24 Jan. 1882, this was another great testimony to me of the divinity of the work; another thing I learned, so plain as one could learn anything was, who was my friend and who was my foe.

The news spread like fire so everybody knew at once. Now the firm I worked for consisted of four in partnership and at the first Sunday after baptism as I partook of the Sacrament, two of the four were there to spy me out. The following Monday morning I was questioned by the head of the company, if I was now a member of the Mormon Church, to which I answered in the affirmative. I was given a choice of leaving the church or the shop. I left the shop. Another boy on the shop and myself roomed together and when he found that I had been baptized and had the same question to answer, he to be baptized, but his choice was shop; and when our landlady found out that, I was also turned from my place of lodging.

As soon as word reached my home my parents came to see about it. My Mother crying put her arms around my neck and begged me to leave the church. I told my mother that I had fought it out in my mind, had gained the victory and done as guided and the testimony that I had done the right thing was too strong to ignore. Was sorry to thus serve my dear Mother, but could not do otherwise. Father however did not say much. Next day I visited my home but alas it was not the home it used to be; and could not endure staying but went back to town. Now I, for the first time in my life felt like the Savior, I had no place to lay my head yet did I feel that the ;yoke was easy and the burden light for the spirit of the Lord burned in my soul. Finely with a Mormon boy as a companion, we set out to hunt a lodging place. We succeeded, but nothing but the very humblest could be secured.

In a few days I obtained also a poor job but had a time to get the money for my work. Dec. 6, 1881 was ordained a teacher by Pres. Hogensen and sent with Elders to do ward teaching. Visited my Uncle Even Stromness family which was somewhat favorable to the gospel, so I took ;up a labor with Aunt Stromness. The things which were before, were no vanished. In a few months conditions began to improve.

My sisters intervened in my behalf and I returned to my old job in the old shop. We also were successful in obtaining respectable lodging, and a seeming heavy burden which weighed upon my heart and the whispering of Satan, or some other evil agent (for I heard it say; you fool, there is no God) this tormented me, but my fasting and prayers were heard and answered in that on Jan. 24, 1882 I was ordained an Elder by Christian Hogensen, and the burden was removed, another strong evidence to me that the work was diving, that the Priesthood is from God and has power for good unto the faithful.

I had been going out in the country, a teacher, with elder, assisting in spreading tracts and holding meetings on Sunday. Now as an Elder, though young in years as well as in the church was sent to preside, and will ;here mention an experience that always seemed wonderful to me, thought it may not seem so to others. It happened at a small village, Lille Strömmen (little stream) located south-east of Oslo (Kristiania) reaching there by train we obtained permission from a widow friend to hold a meeting in her home at 2 p.m., our train time going back being at 4 p.m. We commenced the meeting on time and our opening exercises, together with my companions preaching occupied 15 minutes. I starting out in good faith and occupying the rest of the hour, I felt that I too was through. There were many people in the room and in the shanty beside and we could not close the meeting without discredit. Like I was inspired I turned to the 24th chapter of Matthew and read part of the same; attempting to explain, some power took charge of me and I was conscious of nothing only that I was standing on the table in front and was speaking to the people but could see nothing but a light mist in the room. Coming to myself again, looking at my watch we had yet ten minutes to 4 o'clock, there was not a move or sound in the audience. we sang a song, dismissed with prayer, broke through the crowd and chased down the street, and reaching the station the train was ready to start and we went home happy as

Having now a good job come thinking about emigrating to Zion and made up my mind to save a little of my meager earnings every week and figured it might take four years at least. What do you think happened that same summer? An emigration of the Saints was planned and Pres. Christian Hogensen, Pres. of the Norwegian Missions was going home, he asked how I would like to go with him and work for him one year for board, cloths and a good home. It took no time and no time needed for consideration. With joy and thanksgiving I accepted. Yes! I received more than that, yes the best gift received in my whole life, in connection with the Gospel. (Look later on in this record.)

Now came my Mothers' hardest trial, when her oldest son left home and went to America it nearly broke her heart and not I, her youngest going to Utah to the Mormons my be harder still. I had to go and say good bye without hesitation or consideration, yet one of the hard things in life to do, for I always loved my Mother and this was the last time I could expect to see her: it better be done quickly. Father was not at home, but I went to see him also and he no doubt felt worse than he was willing to show.

On the 12th June 1882 I left with a company of saints (Oslo, Kristiania) During the journey we had fine weather and landed in Montpelier, Idaho 15th of July same year. A stranger in a strange land among a strange people, yet among my best friends, like a child born, not able to speak a word of the language, nor understand what others spoke. I started to learn to read in the Deseret News. Never missed a Sunday School nor any other meetings and it wasn't long until the Presiding Authorities put me to work as a ward teacher, as Sunday School Teacher and Choir Leader etc.

As to the name Swensen; in running names in Norway, it changes for each generation, for instance Fathers's name was Svend Larsen, meaning that Svend was son of Lars or, Svend Lars sen, so also my name Ole Svendsen. In starting to write my name in this country, to make Swensen the sirname of the family hence forth and to make it easier pronounced and in conformity with the English to write it Swensen, placing "w" instead of "v:, and disregarding the "d". A mistake has been made in not changing the letter "e" to "o" as it is written in my naturalization papers, which were written earlier.

The Swedish as a rule write (son) and the Norwegian (sen). This will, I hope, clear any dispute. The Declaration of Intention dated and signed 30 June 1882 Citizen papers signed 19 July 1887. In the District Court a Paris, Bear Lake County, Territory of Idaho.

In the latter part of the year 1883 was appointed 1st assistant Superintendent of Montpelier Sunday School. When the 79th Quorum of the Seventy was organized in Bear Lake Stake, I was, with headquarters in Montpelier, ordained a seventy by Pres. Joseph F. Smith, who was then Pres. of the Church.

7 Aug. 1885 received a Patriarchal Blessing under the hand of presiding Patriarch John Smith and here recorded.

Being now 25 years of age I thought best to put a little attention about getting married, and having the consent and good will of brother Hogensen and wife, the Father and Mother of Mary Jane, their daughter, and also with her consent, we decided upon a trip to Logan, Cache Co., Utah, and had our endowments in the Logan Temple, as well as being married by Elder Marriner W. Merrill officiating, 21 Oct. 1886.

Having worked out my emigration contract I am greatful to God and also to Brother and Sister Hogensen for their kindness to me. An still with them in their home enjoying its comfort and working for wages. An now about the right age for getting married and to look around for a companion. Have secured 2 acres of land and planned to start with a one room home.

Have received a gift here to fore mentioned in this record from Bro. & Sis. Hogensen of their daughter Mary Jane and on 21st Oct. 1886 we had our endowments in the Logan Temple and the same day married by M.W.Merrill.

Stayed with Bro. and Sister Hogensen while getting our house up; that done, we moved in and commenced housekeeping. I was always anxious to have an orchard and raise fruit and bought for $25.00 worth of trees. Kept them alive for three years and then when the summer heat come on they all died and my hope blasted.

On 4th October 1887 our first baby was born, blue eyed and perfect form, and on 3 Nov. same year was given the name of Lorenzo. Was blessed by Wm. L. Rich, Bishop. This did not only increase the number of the family but the love also, and it is not possible fully to love a wife without the babies.

My mother died 18 Feb. 1884, and on May 10, 1893 my Father died and in September that same year received a letter from Box B (well known in those days) asking if I could accept a call for mission to Scandinavia, starting 2nd of December.

Could not see how I could take this mission having no means and leaving my wife with two little children and nothing to do with. She said, "you go and we will get along."

I commenced now schooling myself to the possibility of going and things begun to shape themselves. It came to my mind that someone had said, when one felt that way a mission was the best thing; now way my chance to test it out...Obtained some work here and there and was able to pay what little I owed.

We had two heifers running on the range, but knew no more about them; these some one drove in with a calf a piece, just a short time before I left home. My wife, having done milking while home with her parents, was a good milker, and now it would come in handy, and would have to break them to milk.

Left on his mission 26 November 1893
Sailed from Hoboken, N.J. 11, December 1893
Sailed from Bergen, Norway, 20 January 1896
Sailed from Glasgow, aboard "Ethiopia"
Arrived Montpelier, Idaho 18 February 1896

On 20th November 1902, I left for a mission in behalf of Y.M.M.I.A., to Sevier Stake. On this date we were set appart for the different stakes we were to labor in.

Was released Mar. 1st and returned home feeling glad and thankful for the opportunity I had during this winter in laboring among the good people of Sevier Stake.