IIMARY JANE CHRISTENSEN BROWN 1889-1976
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Orson Pratt Brown's Cousin's Wife
Mary Jane Christensen Brown
I was born on the 23rd of November 1889, in an adobe house on the corner of 14th South and County Road which is now 3300 South and Highland Drive in Millcreek, Utah. [My father is Andrew Miller Christensen born on November 11, 1847 in Hemstrup, , , Denmark, he died in November 1937. My mother is Inger Susanna Petersen (Pedersen) born on April 4, 1859 in Pedstrop, , Kobenhavn, Denmark. They were married on July 28, 1878 in Salt Lake City].
My grandparents, Hans Petersen and his wife Maren Christen Nielsen, and their family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denmark. Their conversion was brought about by their little daughter, Inger Susanah, who had rheumatic fever or polio when she was about three years old. Her legs were drawn up so she could not stand up. A neighbor lady who belonged to the Church came to see her every day and told her that she knew a man who could bless her and she would get well and walk. Now Susie, as she was called, kept begging her mother to let the man come and bless her. So her mother consented just to please her and stop her begging. The neighbor lady was so happy she got the elders to come. Of course, they always offer a prayer before they administer; while they were praying Susie called out, "Hurry and bless me." They administered to her and she straightened her legs out immediately and was healed. Of course, this got her parents converted. The family joined the Church and they began to prepare to come to Utah. They were not rich but were comfortable. They came from good stock--musicians, authors, priests, and peiople of many other accomplishments.
The family joined the Church and came to America with a group of 300 on an old sail boat. The voyage took six weeks, they buried a baby in the ocean, and a son, Peter, 18 years old, was accidently killed by an Indian while crossing the plains.
I was number seven in the family of my parents of 12 children. My grandfather made a dugout for their home at first until he got work as a miller in a mill. They finally got on their feet so Grandpa bought 25 acres of ground on the territory where we lived with other people around. They had the first crop of grain all green and growing when the grasshoppers came and cleaned it all up.
Grandpa built a nice adobe home on his land. They went through many hardships like the rest of the pioneers. My mother, Susie, was six years old and walked most of the way across the plains. The little girls (she and her sister, Winnie and Hannah) went barefooted around the hills to herd cows. As they grew up they were taught to knit, sew, spin yarn, cook, and keep house. When Susie was 14 years old there was a smallpox epidemic. An old couple living alone near by with no one to help them came down with the smallpox and Susie took pity on them and without her mother's consent went to their house and took care of them for a day or two. She cleaned and bathed them and washed their clothes, cooked them some food, and went home. Of course, she got a terrible case of the disease. She had two beautiful long braids of hair, she lost it all. She was covered with scabs from head to toe. She couldn't open her eyes or mouth, couldn't eat or talk. They thought she was dead and measured her for her coffin. She could hear them talk and knew they were ready to bury her alive but then someone said, "Let us wait a little to see if she is still alive.: They put a glass lumbler over her mouth; it was closed with scabs, but they saw a little moisture and so knew she was still alive. When the scabs broke and she could talk and eat a little, she said to them, "Oh! please don't ever bury me until you are sure." She had that horror all her life.
Grandpa died and Grandma lived with her daughter, Minnie, who never married, and their son, Hans, who had just come home from a mission to New Zealand. Some of his friends from there came to Salt Lake and came to Grandma's to visit. We children were a little frightened of them at first. They looked so different. One old gentleman told us he had been a chief before he joined the Church and that they ate people but didn't do it any more. We learned to like them, they visited with us a lot.
When Grandpa died, Grandma gave some of her land next to her house for a church to be built. Every one from north, east, south, and west for miles had to go to church miles away to the old Millcreek church. So when our new church was built, many people were happy. The man across the street from Grandma, who was named Cummings, became our bishop. His mother was the midwife who helped bring me into the world; his son became my boyhood sweetheart--we always talked about getting married when we grew up.
When my mother, Susie, was 18 years old she met my father, Andrew Christensen, who was a convert and had been on a mission in Denmark before he came to Utah in 1867. He got a job at Z.C.M.I. for a while. He and my mother got married in Moroni, Utah, then later were sealed in the Endowment House. My father left Z.C.M.I. and moved to Alta to work in the mines for a while, then came back to Salt Lake. He went to work for his brother, James Christensen, who had a store on First South and West Temple. They sold all kinds of produce, chickens, eggs, butter, cheese, etc. They lived with Grandma until they built a small house west near the brick yard, then we moved to the city a little east of the City and County Building. My little brother, Alma, was born there. My sister, Emma, was 2 1\2 years old and I was 4. We used to hang and swing on the front gate and call hello to passersby. It must have been an election year because everyone was talking about Democrats and Republicans, so I would call out to passersby, "Are you a Democrat or a Republican?" Of course no one answered me back. One day a Chinaman came by. I don't know where I got the saying, but I called to him, "Ching, Chong, Chinaman." He was angry and stared to come after us. We screamed and started for the house. Mama came out to see what was the matter. He told her and she calmed him down, told him we were just babies and didn't know what we were talking about, so he went on his way. We were scolded and spanked, so we didn't do that anymore.
My father met George Dern, who in later years became governor of Utah. He had a mine in Mercer that he had worked on for a while. He had closed it down and asked my father to move to Mercer and start it up again. It was a station engine on top of the ground with a big bucket fastened to a big chain rope to haul the men down the shaft and bring up the ore. We lived in Mercer for a while--I don't know how long, as I was only a little girl. They closed the mine as it was not paying, then we went back to Salt Lake. My father had bought 18 acres of land in Sandy when I was aobut 2 1\2 years old, but my little sister about 4 years old died and he didn't like the farm anyway; That is why we left there and went back to Salt Lake. There was a store for sale on the corner of Fourteenth South and County Road (now 3300 South and Highland Drive), so Dad bought it with the money we got by selling the Sandy farm.
My mother's brother, Hans, who had just come back from his mission, went in with father to buy the store. He was only there three weeks and was killed in a runaway, so my two older brothers worked with my father. Then it was just a little while when someone set fire to the store and it burned to the ground. There was no fire station anywhere near so everything was burned down. We had the post office there, too; they got the mail and books out--that's all they had time for. There was a two room house joining the store where my brother who had just gotten married lived. It, with all his furniture, was gone too. Now my father was left without money, farm, or store, and no job.
The schoolhouse was across the road from the store; I was going to school there. I had an experience there before the store burned down. The school teacher was the girl named Fanny Allen who was engaged to my Uncle Hans who was killed in the runaway. She still taught school there for several years. She was sealed to my uncle in the temple. One day she told me to take the names of anyone who whispered. I thought I was so smart to have such a responsible job, so when I didn't see any one talking, I put down the name of my friend who sat behind me. She didn't whisper, and she got mad at me and at recess she slapped me and pulled my hair. I slapped her back. Lots of kids watched us fight. Some of them were on my side and some were on hers. I bribed the school's tought boy to be on my side; I went to the store and asked Father for a sack of candy. He didn't know what I wanted it for. The bad boy (Bert was his name)--I didn;t mean for him to fight or do anything mean, I just wanted him to be on my side, so I gave him some candy--bit the girl's finger, which was bleeding a little. The father came to school very angry. He told the teacher, and they got us all in school and we got it settled, but it was along while before we were friends again.
There was no work around there for my father, so we went back to Mercer and Dad worked the mill. Mercer was a nice town at first when we were there, but it all burned to the ground. They built it up again but it was never like it had been before. They had several big churches, a big hospital, hotels, a big department store, doctor's offices, an opera house, 14 saloons, boarding houses, a dance hall,etc.
I used to tend children for the neighbors and do little errands. One day a lady sent me to the store with a nickel to buy a spool of thread. I went and gave the lady the nickel and got the thread, then I sat on the stool and waited, the clerk came to me and asked, "Did you want something?" I answered that I was waiting for my change. She told me I had just given her a nickel, and I said no, it was a quarter. I really thought it was a quarter. She gave me 20 cents and I took it with the thread to the lady; she said, "Oh! I just gave you a nickel, you can have the 20 cents." I was so frightened and ashamed, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to take it back to the store, I didn't want to tell my mother, I was just sick. I took it to the grocery store and bought 20 cents worth of peanuts. I thought I would try to eat them all and no one would know anything. I couldn't eat them all so I gave my little sister and brother the rest. It was a long time before I told anyone about it.
I had a cousin who had a new baby and she wouldn't let me hold the baby or help with the dishes or do anything. They lived in a little ghost town west of Mercer, so she had me come and stay with her on the weeks that her husband worked nights. I was so lonely and homesick; I just played outdoors under the cedar trees and cried and thought about the fun my little sister and brother were having in Mercer. My father was always so swet and kind to us children, never scolded or spaned us for anything. Mother did the punishing; she was a sweet, loving mohter but some one had to get after us. Papa used to take us on his lap and sing funny songs and play the violin and sing to us. We loved him very much. I never told anyone that I didn't want to go to West Dip with Millie. I thought it was just my duty. The place finally closed down and I was through there and happy. My little baby brother got pneumonia and died. I was so broken hearted I couldn't stop crying. The folks had a time calming me down.
In those days when there was a death the women (I guess the Relief Society) took care of the dead, washed and dressed them, and cooked for the family. My mother did all those things. She always helped everybody who had troubles. They dressed everybody in black who had anybody die. I cried in the funeral and I asked my cousin who sat by me why she was crying since it wasn't her baby. She said, "I'm crying because you're crying."
We finally decided to go back to Mercer and run a boarding house. We girls were getting older and sang in the choir. We had a nice church and choir. They decided to have a surprise party on me. We didn't have electric lights in the big dining room in the boarding house so we used coal oil lamps and candles. When the crowd was gathered and ready, I was sent to the dining room with a coal oil lamp in my hand. I opened the door and saw all the white blouses and I threw the lamp in the floor and screamed and frightened everyone, including myself; it took a little while to calm me down before we could have the party.
I was the seventh child of my parents' twelve children. Now Papa was having a hard time getting work in Salt Lake. He didn't want to raise his children in a mining camp but we had a good tme going to dances and shows, etc., while we were there, so we moved back to Salt Lake. We girls, there were four of us big and old enough to work, so we got jobs, mostly housework. I worked at McDonalds candy factory for a while. Linna had worked in a telephone office in Mercer and had taken care of the books and post office when we had the store; she was crippled so couldn't do things or have the fun we did. She finally met her husband, a musician and trained singer who had been the leader of a big choir of trained voices in Wales before he joined the Church and came to America. He met my sister Linna and found she was the organist in church and he knew at once she was a real musician; he fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. She turned him down on account of her lameness; she had been lame since she was three years old. He wouldn't take no for an answer, however. He said her being a criple made no difference, he loved her sweet spirit and musical talent, and finally they were married.
Minnie did housework and Emma too. I worked in a milliner store in Murray for a while, then decided I wanted to learn to play the piano, so I went to work for a music teacher. I worked for her for two winters but never learned anything.. She charged me for my lessons and 50 cents a week to practice on her piano, and made me take two lessons a week. I was supposed to get $4.00 a week to help around the house. She left me alone most of the time to tend her children, do all the cooking, washing, ironing, mending and housework. I never had time to touch the piano. Now that is where I met my husband. He had lately returned home from a mission and was going to barber school. He didn't make much money going to school but he had saved up $300.00. My husband-to-be's name was Martin (); his roommate, William Kolburg, was a close friend to my music teacher. William Kolburg wanted to borrow the $300.00 that Martin had saved. Martin let him have the money, as he said he just wanted it for one week. We have never seen him or the money since; that was sixty years ago.
We decided to get married anyway; Martin was saving a little. I couldn't save a dime. We got married in the temple on 23 June 1909. We lived with my mother for one month, never had a shower or a wedding or anything. Then we lived with my sister one month, then Martin quit the barber school and we went to Roy to live with his folks until he could find work.
Now his father had just bought a big farm and built a nice big house. So he said we could have their old house in Wilson without a down payment. We could have it for $600.00 and pay when we could. He had saved up another $100.00, so we moved in to our new (old) home and had $100 to buy a bed, a table, two or three chairs, and a stove. His folks lived on the farm and gave us flour and lots of food stuff and dishes and lots of things to start off with until Martin could get a job. He found a few odd jobs now and then until he got a job in a barber shop, then we started to get along okay. We lived in that house for six years and had four children. Martin had bought the shop and was doing good. We rented out two rooms of that house to President McKay's cousin and her husband. He was a violinist, and we bought a piano on time so we had lots of fun playing together. I could chord to his tunes okay. We played to a few dances. I loved that piano and practiced every day every chance I got and learned some nice pieces to play.
Then we sold that home for $1,800 and built us a nice little home in Ogden on Chester Street. Our fifth child, Alba, was born there. She was blessed the same day our oldest child, Orphe, was confirmed. We lived there for three years.
The first World War was on; it was a terrible war. Food was scarce. We had bought a farm that Martin's father had made a down payment on for us, so we raised wheat and had a lot of it stored in a grainery and had lots of it ground into flour. Our poor neighbors were eating bread made out of I don't know what. It was awful. I gave some of our flour and bread to several neighbors; they were so thankful. That big flu epidemic took place while we lived there. People were dying like flies all over the world. So many of our friends, relatives and neighbors died. They couldn't have funerals, only one or two words at the cemetery. All the doctors and nurses in town were working night and day. No funerals, people were just taken to the cemetary without friends or relatives; it was so dangerous and every family seemed to be sick. The war and the flu finally ended. I"ll never forget the noise the day the war was over. Every whistle, horn, train or anything that could make a noise was going all day and night; before it stopped two of my neighbors had breakdowns and were put in Provo for several weeks. I barely made it, for which we were thankful. Then Martin decided he wanted to farm for a year or two so we sold our home in Ogden and oved on to the little shack house we built in Roy. We just intended it to be a sort of camping house to use when we went to work a year on the farm. It was sure a camping out shack, up on stilts, no water in the house, had to dig a well and pump water, no electric lights, used candles and coal oil lamps. It was like the pioneers, but we worked hard and had many crop failures and all kinds of sickness--mumps, chicken pos, measles; we were quarantined for three monts with smallpox. Our children had many broken legs and arms, and we had Maxine's sickness and death. I had three more children while we lived there, and almost lost one of my twins. Then Alba had her eye accident. The boys were playing with carbide, pupping it in a can with a little water and putting it down a hole and exploding it. Alba just happened to look into the hole as it went off; the explosion cut through her forehead and through one eye. I had been picking currants in the field but felt impressed to hurry home. WHen I got there Martin was sitting on the doorstep with a wash basin full of bloody water. Alba's face and clothes and the steps were all bloody. s soon as I saw her I said, "We must get her to a doctor at once. This is serious." So we put her in the car and started for town. When we got there and in the elevator, a man was standing there looking at her. He said, "It looks like someone has had an accident." I told him a little of what had happened and said we were just going to the doctor. He said "I am afraid there isn't a doctor in the place at this time of day." It was evening but we never thought of the time when we started into town. He said, "I am a doctor; if you'd like to come into my office, I"ll see if I can locate your doctor, but she needs immediate attention." We replied, "Oh! we would be glad if you will take over." He took her in his office and examined her and told us that if she wasn't taken care of immediately she would lose her eye and he couldn't tell what else; she was vomiting blood and was in a mess. So we turned her over to him. I noticed on his office door it said "Eye, Ear, and Throat Specialist". That was a miracle if there ever was one. He took good care of her and told us not to take the bandage off her head and eye for six dys or she would have a bad scar. Now we did what he said and you can hardly see a scar, but of course the one eye is injured so she can't use it, only it gives a little shadow.
I had another experience that frightened me. My sister-in-law had been having sick spells with her stomach, vomiting, etc. They took her to the hospital for examination and starved her for a week; she got nervous and wouldn't eat or drink a thing. She said they wanted to kill her. She was in the second floor in the hospital. We had to watch her every minute as she wanted to jump out the window. Her husband was so tired, having been with her for so long, I said I would change off with him; so I was with her and watched her always looking at the window. I told the nurse that she said she was going to jump out the window; the nurse said to her, "You wouldn't do that would you?" Florence said, "No, no!" I thought she should have been down on a lower floor in case but they didn't move her. One day one of her friends came to visit her. I asked, "Will you watch her a minute while I go to the restroom?" Now I just neglected to tell her that she wanted to jump out the window. When I came out of the restroom, the nurse met me and said, "Don't go in there. She has jumped out the window." I nearly passed out. The first thought I had was, Oh! I am a murdurer for not telling that lady. Just then I saw them wheeling Florence in; she had a broken rib and collar bone. After that they put her in a room downstairs but she wouldn't touch a drop of water or food. She kept saying, "They are trying to poison me and kill me." Now, my other sister-in-law had just come home from Idaho. She had had some nursing training when she saw Florence, she said, "We'll take her home and she will be okay." We did that and she started to eat and drink. The doctor said she just had a spell of indigestion. She was soon well.
Then of course, we lost a 20-acre farm, then other losses and trials. Orpha, our oldest daughter lost her husband in a terrible railroad accident. I took care of her three children a great deal, as Orpha developed leukemia. She gradually got worse and for four years I took care of her and her children. She suffered badly but the last six months was terrible. She was in and out of the hospital all the time for transfusions and her liver and spleen and kidneys went bad on her. She finally died and I took her three children home and raised them. The railroad gave her enough money to put in a trust fund for their education and missions. Sterling and Donna went to Brigham Young University and graduated from college. They both got their degrees in college and were teachers. Stanley became a fine surgeon, and now is a psychiatrist.
Then my husband Martin became ill. He had four operations and I sold both my home in Roy and in Salt Lake to help with expenses for hospital and doctors' bills and his funeral [buried the 20 of February 1969]. We didn't have any insurance, but we got through. We have a fine family, all active in the Church, and we have 45 grandchildren and 45 great grandchildren. My children have all been married in the temple. We have done some temple work and a great deal of genealogy has been gathered and taken care of. I love the gospel very much and I love my family. I am 84 years old. I had a broken hip and a broken shoulder and infection in one eye that caused blindness in that eye. I am pretty well otherwise and get around with a little help.
Mary Jane Christensen Brown
PAF - Archer files = Captain James Brown + (1) Martha Stephens > John Martin Brown + Lovina Wilson > John Martin Brown Jr. (II) + Sariah Holmes > John Martin Brown the Third + Mary Jane Christensen.
"A Brief History of the Life of Mary Jane Christensen Brown - an Autobiography" Donated to this webpage by Erold Clark Wiscombe.
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