History of Hazel Johnson Christensen

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My Father

My father was a leader.  He was in the bishopric and stake presidency.  Also he was in the Idaho Legislature for three terms.  When their first baby was a year old he went to Montana and was foreman in building the railroad.  Mother cooked for the men.  My father was also a probate judge for two terms before he died at 81. 

My dad had the farm but I don’t remember him doing much of the farming.  It was the boys who did it.  I had a lot of older brothers who farmed with him.  They sold our farm that was nine miles out and Father and Rene went to Dayton, west of town, and bought a farm.  But he did that to help Rene out.  I don’t think my dad was what you’d call a good farmer.  I don’t think farming was his love.  I think his was more mechanics and such.  He was master mechanic at the sugar factory in Lewiston for awhile.

My Father’s Mission and the Sawmill

When I was eleven months old my father went to Denmark on a mission.  My mother was left with the care of the family of eight children.  The oldest boy was eighteen.  She took the small children in the winters to the canyon to cook for the men at the Johnson sawmill.  Uncle Joe Johnson was in charge.  Some stayed downtown to go to school.  It was a very hard time.

It seemed to me as a girl that the sawmill was miles and miles away but I guess it was only about 17 miles.  My brother Howard and his wife took me up the canyon to it once when I was up there.  I said, “You mean this is where the sawmill was?  I thought it was a lot further away.”

He said, “Yes, right there is the site of the sawmill.  You were just a kid then; you don’t even remember.  You were a baby.” But I remember them telling about it because I got real sick up at the sawmill, and they had to bring me home.  They had to dig the sleigh out of the snow.

One night Mo­ther woke up and found Hazel awfully sick.  She was taking convulsions and had a high fever.  There was nothing there with which to doctor a sick baby and we were thirty miles from town in the dead of winter.  Mother sent Laurence out to the bunk house and he called Uncle Joe.  He hitched up the team on the sleigh and we started for home.  It was so cold and there was a bad blizzard.  . . . We got home in time to get a doctor and medical aid to Hazel so then she recovered in a few weeks. (from “Tell It Again” by Hattie Greaves)

After Mother worked at the sawmill in the winter, she went out and homesteaded in the summer.  She finished up the homesteading.  That was close to where I later taught school, where the homestead land was.  I don’t remember all this but what they told me.  But Uncle Joe and Aunt Julia Roper were right next to us on the land next to ours.  They built their little shanties, each on their own property, but close enough together so they looked after her.

I don’t believe they sent much money to the missionary then.  They mostly stayed on their own.  My oldest brother went on a mission after he had two children.  Father kind of kept his wife and children.  When my dad went to Denmark, he had to learn Danish over there.  He was of Danish descent, because his father and mother were, but they never talked Danish in the home.

My husband’s father went the same way to Denmark and about the same time, leaving his wife and their baby (Joy, my husband).  That’s how they went in those days.  Joy’s dad could talk Danish when he went because his father and mother spoke Danish and only broken English.  You could hardly understand them.

My dad went about nine months after his father did, but of course my father was 15 years older.  He’d had experience in leadership.  He’d been in the bishopric and on the high council.  When he got over there they put him in as conference president of the Aalborg Conference.  He said he couldn’t talk Danish.  He was just learning it.  So he said, “If you’ll give me C.N. Christensen (Joy’s dad) as a companion, he can be my Aaron.”

Father soon learned the language, but my father was never a good speaker.  He was a dry speaker.  Years later I was on the Primary stake board, and I used to go around the stake visiting with him.  He’d go and they’d send me along to represent the Primary.  I was the secretary.  I remember he was a dry speaker, but he was a natural leader.

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