written by Mary Jean Garrison
Gideon Elias Olsen (christened Gudi Elias) was born 8 May 1844 in Budolphi Parish, Aalborg, Aalborg, Denmark, the 7th child and 5th son of Jens Olsen and Mane Dorthea Berg. Two older brothers (Christopher and Waldemar) had died as infants so that Gideon had two older sisters and two older living brothersóBarbara, Christopher, Julia, and Waldemar. (It was the custom to give a child the same name as a previous child who had died, thus the reason for the two Christophers and two Waldemars.) Six years after Gideon was born, another brother, Johannes, was born. He lived for only a few months. Aalborg was a large city located in the northern part of Denmark about 20 miles inland from the Kattegat Sea on the Lim Fiord. Aalborg lies on the 57th parallel which is just y south of Seward, Alaska. In spite of its extreme northern location, Aalborg (and Denmark in general) has a mild, damp climate, being warmed by the winds from the northern sea. Aalborg is part of the northern flat plains area of Denmark which was once a part of the sea bottom. The region rose above the water when the weight of ancient glaciers was removed by melting. When Gideon was born in 1844, Denmark was still under the rule of King Christian VIII. The king died in 1848 and was succeeded by King Frederik VII who renounced absolute rule and formed a representative form of government in June 1849. Under the new form of government, Lutheranism was no longer the ruling state church, and Denmark was opened up to missionaries from other religions. Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were sent into Denmark for the first time in 1850. Gideon was only six years old when his mother and sister Barbara were baptized in November 1850 with the third group of convert baptisms in Aalborg. Christopher, Julia, and Waldemar were baptized a short time later. Gideon was baptized on 6 July 1853. His father, Jens, never joined the Church. We can only speculate as to the nature of Gidcon's early childhood. His father was a master tailor. His Norwegian grandparents had died before his father left Norway; his Danish grandfather had died in 1829; and although his Danish grandmother did not die until 1851 at the age of 79, she had been a patient in a hospital for the aged since 1840. He did have an uncle, Ditlev Mathias Berg, his mother's brother. He must have had a close relationship with his uncle. Years later he made a record of family names and dates and designated his uncle Ditlev Mathias and aunt Anna Margrete as his grandparents. They must have treated him in such a way as to endear them in his mind, seeming to him to be what grandparents are to most of us. Perhaps there were the sweet treats and the kindly jostlings that children fondly remember as part of their association with "grandmother and grandfather." Gideon's mother seems to have been a faithful member of the Church having seen to it that all her children were baptized. The missionaries visited in their home and were called in to administer to the children when they became ill. One missionary, Christian John Larsen, was impressed with Barbara who later became his wife. The year 1853 was an eventful one for Gideon who was just a lad, only 9 years old. Christopher had emigrated to Zion early in the year. Gideon was a newly baptized member of the Mormon Church having been baptized in July 1853. Sometime in late summer Barbara went to Copenhagen where she married Christian Larsen. Then in August Gideon's uncle Ditlev died and one month later, on 7 September 1853, his mother died. The family was broken. There were only the father, Jens, and sister Julia now age fifteen, and Gideon, age nine. Eleven year old Waldemar had gone to be with Barbara and her new husband sometime after their mother died. (Waldemar died of cholera on board the steamer "St. Louis" just outside of St. Louis, Missouri on 13 March 1854 while emigrating to Zion with Barbara and her husband.) With the dispersion of the family there were apparently no longer any ties for Jens in Denmark. He gathered his belongings and two children and returned to Norway in late 1853 to be with what few relatives he had still living there. Apparently Gideon did not remember that he had been baptized in Denmark, or perhaps he wished to rededicate himself to the Church, for he was rebaptized in Norway in 1860. Gideon recorded that he was baptized in 1859; the Fredrickshald, Norway LDS Branch Records indicate that he was baptized on 4 November 1860. (It was not unusual for early members of the Church to be baptized several times.) He must have possessed a certain strength of character at that young age of 16 to be baptized when his father had shown no apparent interest in the Church. Perhaps some correspondence with Christ- opher and Barbara in America helped to keep Gideon's interest alive. His sister Julia seems to have lost any interest in the Church. She became disassociated from it some years later. In April 1863, at the age of eighteen, Gideon left Fredrickshald, Norway, leaving his father and sister Julia and other relatives on the seashore. He traveled alone anticipating a reunion with his brother Christopher and sister Barbara in Utah. Gideon sailed from Liverpool, England on the ship Antarctic on 24 May 1863. They traveled in a strong wind which made the journey rough. He described the accommodations as being very poor. It took seven weeks to reach New York; they arrived there on 10 July 1863. One can imagine the excitement that must have existed in that company of saints as they reached the shores of America. But their journey was just beginning. Many new and interesting experiences still awaited Gideon as he made his way to Utah. Gideon describes seeing many carloads of beef being brought in to New York to be slaughtered for the Civil War soldiers. He made his journey from New York to Florence, Nebraska on the same rail cars that the cattle had been hauled in. From Florence, Nebraska he drove eight head of oxen and one wagon loaded with merchandise for the saints in Utah. He left in early August, and two months later, in early October 1863, he finally arrived in Salt Lake City. Christopher met Gideon in Salt Lake City. Imagine the joy and excitement that must have surrounded their reunion. They had not seen each other for ten years. Gideon had been only eight years old when Christopher left home. Gideon, now eighteen, had been traveling for six months under very poor accommodations - rough sailing, a train ride in cattle cars, two months in a covered wagon over hot, dusty, wet, and muddy trails. He must have-been very tired and weary. What a comfortable and secure feeling it must have been to know that Christopher was there waiting for him to take him to his home. Gideon spent the winter with Christopher in Hyrum, Utah. Cache Valley was still a primitive area at that time. Wellsville had been settled in July 1856, but it was not until 1859 that it had become a permanent settlement. Hyrum was settled as a result of the "Cache Valley fever" boom of 1860 which brought hundreds of new families into the valley looking for new homes and better locations. Early settlers were attracted to Cache Valley because there was plenty of water that could be brought out of the canyons for their crops. Although the Indians were not particularly hostile, they were still a bit troublesome, so that the pioneers generally lived fort style. Hyrum had been settled in this manner with small homes lining both sides of what is now main street. The two rows of homes faced each other with stockyards, corrals, and gardens in the rear of the houses. The homes were closed together and connected by a high tight fence with a gate at either end of the street. Christopher's house was in the northeast corner, third from the east end of the row. By 1864 the pioneers moved their homes out onto larger plots and farms. In the spring of 1864 Gideon, who was now a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood, was called by Bishop Liljenquist to go to the Missouri River with eight head of oxen and a wagon to assist in bringing the "poor saints" to Utah. There were eleven people who came back with him, and he felt that he had been greatly blessed in his travels there and back. He was able to return to Hyrum with all of his oxen. It was while he was on this trip that he first met Johanna Carlson Danielson who was traveling from Sweden with her sister Anna. Gideon stayed with Christopher for another winter. He was endowed in the Endowment House on 20 January 1865 at the call of Bishop Lilenquist. Sometime during the late fall or early winter of 1864 Johanna moved to Logan where Gideon met her again. They were married on 4 March 1865. In the summer of 1865 Gideon went to work for Bishop David James in Paradise. He and Johanna did not as yet have a home so they spent their first summer living in a covered wagon. At this time Paradise was located in the extreme south end of the valley at the mouth of East Canyon on the East Fork of the Little Bear River. It had first been settled in 1860 and had been named Paradise at the suggestion of Elder Ezra T. Benson who was impressed with the natural beauty of the area. The settlers there had also built their homes in fort style as a protection against the Indians who lived in the mountains above their settlement Gideon and Johanna worked hard that summer so that by fall they were able to buy a small home in the fort from a Mr. Van Leuvan who was moving away. It was a one- roomed house with a dirt roof, but they had worked hard to acquire it and they were very happy with it. It was better than some of the houses for it had real glass windows. It was so difficult to buy glass that many of the people used greased paper to let in the light. One year later their first child. Franklin Christopher, was born on 14 September 1866. The settlers soon found that they had chosen a poor location for their settlement. They were too close to the mountains and had settled on a well-used Indian trail. The Indians used the canyons, trailing east into Wyoming and south into Ogden and Salt Lake. The Indians camped near the streams, and people were in constant fear of being attacked. The fort had to be guarded night and day, and the men could not go into the field or to the canyons for wood except in groups. They always carried their guns with them. Some of the Indians were very friendly while others tried to steal the livestock. The diverse attitudes of the Indians kept down the threat of an Indian war. At one time some horses were stolen in Hyrum. The settlers blamed the Indians and held Chief Sagwich as hostage until the horses were returned. He was put in the Paradise Meeting House and a heavy guard was kept around him night and day. The Chief sent some of his best men to catch those who had taken the horses. The horses were soon returned and Chief Sagwich was released. Because of the Black Hawk War in Southern Utah, the Indians in Northern Utah became more hostile. In 1868, under the advise of Apostle Benson, the fifty families living in Paradise moved their homes three miles to the north and away from the mountains to the present location of Paradise. (Old Paradise was resettled in 1880 and was named Avon by Mrs. Orson Smith in honor of the Avon of Shakespeare.) Gideon and Johanna located one block north and one block west of the public square where they lived the rest of their lives. The moving of the settlement made it necessary to extend the canal so they could have irrigation water. They dug wells for culinary water. It was a busy time and Gideon, who was a hard worker, and who liked to help others, must have done his full share of the community work. Indians continued to visit the settlers and beg for food, but there was no serious trouble. One day while Gideon was in the fields digging potatoes an Indian squaw came with her sack and began to fill it with potatoes. She wouldn't stop until he gave her a little push, which made her angry so that she hurried away muttering to herself. The Indians were generally friendly by this time, and at times stored their belongings with the settlers during the winter until they returned to claim them in the spring. Matches were very scarce, so each family tried to bank their fires at night with the hope of having enough coals to start their fires again the next morning. If the fires had gone out they would go to some more fortunate neighbor and beg a few hot coals. At one such time. Will Thomas, who was just a lad, went to get a start of fire. As he neared his home again he stopped to rest, setting the hot pan on some straw which soon began to burn. Some Indians saw him and put out the blaze which easily could have spread because of lack of water and could have destroyed everything. Gideon and Johanna were scaled in the Endowment House on 15 February 1869, and on 19 December 1869 their second son, Gideon Elias, was born. Farming was particularly difficult in those early years. There was the problem of getting enough water to the crops which was solved with the use of the canals they had dug which moved irrigation water to where it was needed. A more serious problem was the constant threat of the grasshopper plagues. Year after year crop yields were low as the grasshoppers moved from one farm to another eating as they went. The years 1869-71 were particularly bad years. The grasshoppers laid large amounts of eggs in the fall, and when the warm spring weather came millions of grasshoppers hatched out. As soon as they could move around they began eating the young green shoots of grain as fast as it came out of the ground. As a result, less than fifty percent of the crop was saved. The grasshoppers would have eaten the whole crop, but as they matured and were able to fly they moved on to other parts. The methods for fighting the grasshoppers were not very effective. "The settlers used sticks and sacks to drive them into ditches to drown or be buried; straw was placed on concentrations of them and burned; gunny sack traps were laid; pits were dug and covered over; farmers and housewives even attempted to knock them out with boards and brooms. Whole fields were burned to protect others from the hungry horde, but to no avail." (The History of a Valley, p. 152.) As a result of the grasshopper plagues, food was very scarce. However, the settlers divided their goods with each other so that all were able to survive. They learned, finally, that their one line of defense against the grasshoppers was to plant fall wheat which could be harvested early in the spring before the grasshoppers could destroy their crops. The last recorded plague occurred in 1877. There seemed to have been minimal difficulty after that time. Two more children were born to Gideon and Johanna - Julia Maria on 12 February 1872 and Charles James on 11 October 1874. Johanna wrote that six children were born. One, a boy (unnamed and no birth date given), died two hours after he was born There is no record of the sixth child which she mentioned. Gideon's brother Christopher died in 1873 leaving two wives with small children. On 12 June 1876 Gideon married one of his brother's widows, Caroline S. Jensen Olsen, as a plural wife. They were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. She had one little girl named Elizabeth, who was called Libbie. Caroline owned a home in Hyrum and some livestock. They sold the home and she moved to Paradise to live. Gideon was very kind to both of his wives and was a good stepfather to Libbie. He saw to it that all their needs were taken care of; each had their own home, orchard, cows, chickens and garden plots. Gideon, Johanna, and Caroline lived at a time people now know very little about. From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, L.D.S. people were taught that it was the will of the .Lord for them to live in polygamy. Men, especially presiding officers, were encouraged to have more than one wife and the women were asked to accept it. Gideon had faith that it was right and his wife Johanna must have felt that same desire to do right for she gave her consent. Emily, the daughter of Gideon and Caroline, heard her mother say that she knew the principle was given by the Lord, but the weaknesses of the people made it hard to live as it should be lived. Gideon stayed one week with one wife and family and the next week with the other one. The children complicated things, and it was not all sunshine, yet these three people and their families had many happy times together. Gideon and Caroline had four children - Walter Julius born on 22 February 1878, Orson Mariner born .30 August 1880, Jesse born 13 April 1883, and Emily born 6 December 1885. Walter Julius died 19 January 1882 just one month before his fourth birthday. On 9 June 1884, Samuel Oldham was sustained as bishop of the Paradise Ward with Gideon and Alma 0. Jackson as his counselors. Gideon served in this capacity for eighteen years. When the Logan temple was constructed the saints were asked to contribute money and work to build it, and were promised that if they did so they would have great blessings and their children would never cry for bread. Gideon helped with the building of the temple and told his children to always remember that promise. The temple was completed and dedicated in 1884. Gideon attended the temple often and performed temple ordinances for many of his dead ancestors. Gideon tried to observe the Sabbath Day and would not travel on that day unless it was a necessity. One Sunday he needed to take his wife Caroline to Hyrum to care for her sick mother. They started out, and when about one-third of the way there the wagon wheel broke. Gideon looked at it and said, " I knew something would go wrong if we went on Sunday." Gideon, Johanna, and Caroline, and their families lived relatively peacefully as polygamist families for nearly ten years. Their peaceful existence was disrupted when the Edmunds Act of March 22, 1882 more exactly defined polygamy and set fines and punishments for those who were practicing it. (Congress upheld the law and invoked sterner measures with the passage of the Edmunds Tucker Act of March 1887.) Polygamists of both sexes were declared ineligible to hold public office. They were excluded from jury duty and prohibited from voting. When some Mormons successfully demanded the right to vote, their ballots were thrown out. The situation became very serious. Anti-polygamy prosecutions began in 1882 and increased in intensity in 1885 when the Edmunds Law was upheld as constitutional. The Church set up a policy of resistance and advised polygamist men to avoid arrest and conviction by going "underground." U.S. Marshalls and Deputy Marshalls were sent throughout all the Mormon settlements to hunt out the men who lived with their plural wives. Marshalls Whetstone and Corey filled that assignment m southern Cache Valley during those years. There were usually some apostate and non-members who were, willing to show these officers where the men lived. Many of the men were arrested and sent to jail. In order to keep free, Gideon spent much of his time in the canyons cutting timber to sell. There was a natural basin, or small valley, in the tops of the mountains of East Canyon called Sagwich's Basin. The Indian Chief Sagwich had used this basin as a hiding place for the livestock that were stolen from the early settlers. There was a natural spring flowing through the mountains near the mouth of the basin which made it an ideal camping spot. It was there that Gideon, and possibly other men who were trying to avoid the marshalls, made his camp, staying for weeks at a time, Soren Hansen, his daughter Julia's husband, worked in the canyon cutting timber, so he kept Gideon supplied with food and clean clothes. After living this way for some time Gideon went to Oregon for a short period of time to work in a sawmill for Spencer Harwood who said that he (Gideon) was the best foreman he had ever had. President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto in September 1890 relieving Church members from any further obligation to sustain the principle of plural marriage and declaring his intention to abide by the law of the land. He advised all Latter-day Saints to do likewise. The Manifesto was approved as the position of the Church by the general conference of October 1890. From that time on there was to be no more plural marriage in the Church. Gideon was able to return home where he continued to care for the spiritual and economic needs of his two families. The families homesteaded a tract of land near East Canyon. When all the boys were grown Gideon sold his farm and bought ten acres of land in the North Field. That supplied feed for their cows which gave enough milk for them to sell. When Gideon was a young man he was very straight, tall, and stately; but he became very bent at old age from a lifetime of hard work. He worked hard even in his declining years, but always enjoyed filling his responsibilities which he performed to the best of his ability. He was a patient, considerate man, being extremely kind to old and young folks, as well as to animals. He never forgot to raise his hat to ladies and he tried to teach his grandsons to do the same thing. He talked quite broken English and so used his native language whenever he had an opportunity to do so. Gideon had a fine team of horses. After he stopped doing farm work and logging in the canyons he began freighting. Logan was the nearest railroad station so he hauled freight for the store in Paradise. Sometimes he went into other stores to get merchandise for them, which gave him a chance to make many friends. One day a friend was walking with him on the street in Logan and he was greeted so many times with "Hello, Gideon" that his friend commented, "Is there anyone in Logan who doesn't know you?" Gideon would drive his team and wagon to Bear Lake, sometimes taking fruit from his own orchard to sell along the way. He would bring fish from the lake back with him and peddle it around the towns. The fish was salted so that it couldn't spoil. Gideon was released from the bishopric in 1902 and his son Gideon was sustained in his place. At a testimonial held in his honor he was given a beautiful leather rocker for a keepsake. He had been a ward teacher for many years before being in the Bishopric, and was sustained again to fill that assignment, which he did until his death. In June 1910, the wife of his son Gideon died, leaving five small children. Gideon and Johanna moved in with their son and his small children to care for them. Although they were well past sixty, they made a very good home for Gideon, Jr.'s little family. They continued to care for their grandchildren until their son remarried in October 1911. Gideon's daughter Emily writes: "I have talked to many people who knew [my father]. They all had something good to say and that combined well with my memory and love for him. Many have said he was a hard worker. He was given credit for doing more work in a day than anyone else. He had a great love for animals and was kind to them. He never whipped his horses. He was honest to the extreme. What he said could be depended upon and he would not knowingly cheat anyone out of a penny. He was tolerant and forgiving, and big-hearted, and would sacrifice to help others. He had great appreciation for even small things that were done for him. One lady said he had the patience of Job. His sister-in-law. Harriet Danielson, said he was a wonderful man to have for a friend. He was a prayerful man and tried to live by the inspiration of the Lord. He had great faith to heal the sick and many were healed through his administration. "William M. Bickmore said that while he was in the Bishopric he was o6ed by the people of the Ward. He also told of meeting a man while he was on a mission who had been a U.S. Marshal and had been to Paradise many times to hunt for polygamists. He gave the idea that they liked Gideon Olsen and tried not to find him." A great granddaughter, Christine Hale, wrote the following: "How special it would be to sit with Grandfather Olsen and hear of his early pioneer experiences and feel of the great faith and strength he would have to offer. It is at times like these, when we contemplate the characters of our forebearers, that our 'hearts turn to our fathers' and we long to know them and be one with them. Although we arc separated by the veil of death, the ties can still be strongóthat is, if we do our part. Inasmuch as families are eternal, what better way to prepare for eternal life than to bind these family ties with generations gone before." Gideon died on 1 November 1919 and was buried in the Paradise Cemetery on 5 November 1919. (Three adult children, Julia Maria, Franklin Christopher, and Gideon Elias had preceded him in death.) The following obituary was published in the Deseret News: The funeral of Gideon E. Olsen Sr. was held in the Paradise Meeting House November 5th. A large number of relatives and friends-were present to show their last respects of one of the most sturdy and faithful pioneers of this section. The Ward Choir furnished appropriate music and Mrs. George W. Lemon sang a solo. The opening prayer was by Elias Larsen of Logan and the closing prayer by Jacob N. Larsen of Preston. The following spoke of the faithfulness and loyalty of the desceased: William Humphreys, John P. James, Samuel Oldham, Orson Smith, Jacob Larsen, John Larsen and Bishop P.O. Hansen. Mr. Olsen was 75 years of age. He was born in Denmark and embraced the Gospel in his youth. He served faithfully in the Bishopric for 18 years. . Four children have preceded him and two wives and four children remain to mourn his departure. One of his sons came from Canada to attend the funeral.
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