History of Hazel Johnson Christensen

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Aunt Olive’s Death

Uncle Joe Johnson worked at the sugar factory too.  He and his two little girls stayed with us that year we lived in Lewiston.  His wife, my Aunt Olive (Mother’s sister) was burned to death with her little boy Frank in Preston before we moved.  Uncle Joe was also Father’s brother so he and the girls stayed with us.  The baby, Bertha, was under a year old and Mother cared for them.

Mother says she can remember when he worked nights, he’d come home in the morning and eat, and then he would sit and weep for Aunt Olive.  He had been cleaning a clock, and someone told him to warm the kerosene to clean it.  Kerosene isn’t quite as combustible as gasoline, but when he put it on the back of the stove to warm, it blazed.  He grabbed it and threw it out the door just as Aunt Olive was coming in from emptying the dishwater.  Her little boy Frank was about two and one-half or three, and he was right behind her.

My brother had been talking to her just before, as he was going into town.  She screamed and Laurence ran back, but she was burned terribly.  That was about nine o’clock in the morning and Frank died about eleven o’clock that night.  Aunt Olive died about four o’clock the next morning.  I can remember Aunt Julia taking us upstairs into a bedroom.  She had gathered a bunch of us children around there and we knelt down and prayed for Aunt Olive.

The doctor said it was a good thing she died because she was burned so badly.  She had celluloid combs in her hair and where the combs were, she was badly burned.  She wore corsets with the steel in them and they had burned her badly also.  When there was a death in the family, the Relief Society sisters used to go and make clothes and sit up with the dead.  I remember my mother doing that.

I can remember seeing the little boy Frank all dressed up.  The women had made him a little Buster Brown suit all in white.  I can remember them lifting up his arm and showing where it was all burned.  I was about seven or eight then.  It was a bad thing and the whole town mourned.  Aunt Olive had a big funeral. 

None of Aunt Olive’s children were married at the time.  Their second boy was on a mission and they let him come home.  My mother was the only mother they had for awhile.  Uncle Joe and the girls went to Lewiston with us, but he was married about a year and a half later.  I guess that’s the way it is when a person really mourns their mate.  They can’t stand to live alone, so get married again soon.

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