IIJAMES NIELS SKOUSEN 1828-1912
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Orson Pratt Brown's Fourth Father-in-law
James Niels Skousen
by Rita Maree Johnson, great-granddaughter
James Niels Skousen was born September 30, 1828 at Herslev, Vejile, Denmark. His parents were Niels Hansen Kappel [Nealis Hanson or Chappel or Kabel] and Johanna Jens [Jensen] Skousen.
James took his mother's family name of Skousen, probably because his mother's brother, Uncle James Skousen raised him, until he was eighteen. He was the third child in a family of six. By the time he was eighteen, he was required to leave his Uncle's home.
A man by the name of Nelis taught James and warned him of the sins of the world. Because of this man's teachings, he had a foundation laid for a moral life, which helped prepare him for Mormonism.
The law required that all able-bodied men should serve three years in military training. James wished to be a member of the mounted Royal Guard. He joined the cavalry at the age of seventeen under the assumed name of James Huyrot. His attempt to get into the Royal Guard was frustrated by the fact that he was too short. He had become an excellent horseman and did everything possible to be accepted. His persistence paid off when he was able to show that although he was too short, it was only his legs and not his body. He proved to them that on a horse he was as tall as the other men were. So James became a proud member of the finest riding team in the Danish Kingdom.
Near the time he left the service, he became enchanted with a happy-faced, good-natured young woman by the name of Sidsel Marie Pedersen. Sidsel is pronounced in English as Cecil, by which she was known in America. They became engaged and soon set up what was a very common in those days in Denmark, a common-law marriage. James was twenty and she was twenty-two. A baby girl was born on June 6, 1849, which they named Petria Skousen, but she died two months later, leaving the young couple in great sorrow.
James and Sidsel were religious and attended one of the large churches in town. Seven years after Petria died, September 6, 1856, Peter Niels Skousen was born. James and Sidsel had formalized their marriage by being married in the church called Dum Church of Aarhus, just five months previously.
Mormon missionaries had been proselytizing in Denmark since 1850. Sidsel was acquainted with a neighbor who had become a Mormon. His name was Lars O. Madsen. James was greatly impressed by the teaching he had heard at a meeting on March 8, 1857. However, his Danish pride made him want to stand by his old beliefs, so he invited Lars Madsen over to the Skousen home immediately after the meeting to reverse the discussion. As James recorded the experience; "I thought that my religion was right but the Elder of the Church of Christ knocked my foundation all to pieces until it sat down in a pile of sand. He convinced me that I was wrong." They were to be baptized that very evening during which there was a very heavy rain. In preparing to leave the house for the ordinance, James experienced a strange, terrible power, which began to distress him. After he had been baptized and came up out of the water, this power immediately withdrew and a new, sweet spirit descended upon him. After joining the church, the study and discussion of the Gospel became the most interesting thing in James' life. After being a member for only a little over three months, he was surprised by being called by the Mission President to go with him into the country to hold a meeting. James was asked to speak to a large congregation of non-members. In his utter inadequacy, he relied on the Lord for help. As he began to speak he was overjoyed and surprised to find words flowing out of his mouth. As he testified of the experience, "It is not you that speak, but your Father's Spirit that speaks through you."
James apprenticed as a boiler engineer and soon became very adept at his trade. He enjoyed his work as an engineer, but his employer at the foundry began to treat him differently. Finally, James was told that he would lose his job if he did not leave this terrible religion. Soon a new man was brought for James to instruct as his own replacement. Fortunately, he was able to obtain another job as an engineer and, much to his joy, it actually paid more than the old job.
In August 1857, James was called on a mission and assigned to preside over the Branch at Randers, in Aarhus. While at Randers, on February 15, 1859, Parley Pratt Skousen was born, being named after the great Apostle who had been killed the same month that they had joined the church. They were very sad when the baby died within two days. However, just one year later, February 5, 1860, Willard Richard Skousen was born.
As the winter of 1861 approached, plans were finally being completed for the great voyage to America. Two ships were being chartered for a large migration in April 1862. On April 6, 1862, they boarded the local steamer, the Albion. Although there were some mixed emotions, the forty-two days spent on board during the crossing included many happy hours. Little did any of them realize the many hardships which were to face them in becoming pioneers in the great deserts of America.
After arriving in Salt Lake City, James obtained a small room for his family of five and accepted the call to work at Temple Square, cutting stone for the Temple. In the middle of the fifth day of work, James was unable to continue the work, so he moved his family about twenty-five miles south to Lehi.
In the spring a man by the name of Sovendohl, a former missionary to Denmark, asked James to move to Cottonwood and work a farm on shares. This James did and lived there during the summer of 1863. In the spring of 1864 James rented a farm for two years at Draper, on which was a two-room adobe house. It was a good feeling to have a place they could call their own after four years of severe hardships.
On September 13, 1869, James took Sidsel to Salt Lake City for a very special event. They entered the Endowment House on Temple Square and were sealed for time and eternity. They left their children at home in care of a young woman who was living with them. The woman was Ane Kristine Jorgensen Hansen who had recently immigrated to America from Denmark.
One day, about a year after her own temple marriage, Sidsel had a very startling and unsettling conversation with her husband. She said, "I think you had better marry Ane and raise another family. I've got about all mine." James was beside himself. With dismay, he replied to his good wife, "Humph, I can't even take care of the family I have, let alone another." "You might just as well make up your mind to marry her," said Sidsel, "because you are going to take care of her anyway. She's a cripple, has no folks or home to go to, and I'm not going to turn her out."
James finally gave in and took Ane to Salt Lake City, where they were married August 1, 1870. James was just turning forty-two and Ane was twenty-five. On August 20, 1871, her first child was born a little girl whom they called Ella Marie Skousen. A year later, on August 21, 1872, Sidsel had her last child, a boy, who was given his father's name, James Niels Skousen, Jr. Almost two years later, May 3, 1874, Ane had her second child, a boy, whom they named Erastus Skousen.
James was called to be one of the missionaries to go and colonize the east-central portion of Arizona. The groups left in February, reaching Kanab in time to move out during the first week of March. James decided to leave Sidsel and her children at home in Draper while he took Ane and her two small children, Ella and Erastus. The journey from Draper to Kanab was extremely difficult, due to the severe cold and heavy snow. The saints in the settlements along the route were kind and did everything they could to alleviate suffering and hardship. They reached their destination on March 24. Ane had a baby boy, Orson Pratt Skousen on September 19, 1877 while in St. Joseph, Navajo, Arizona. In the fall of 1877, James sold everything at Draper, Utah and left for Arizona with his wife Sidsel and family. They arrived on Christmas Eve 1877.
Life in the new settlements was organized under what was called, "the Big Table Order." Each family was required to turn into a common storehouse all they owned. The whole community operated as a large family, all eating at a large table. The women folk were assigned different jobs, such as cooking, tending table, making butter and cheese, weaving and other duties common to frontier settlements.
After several years of failure, James, with several others, decided to look for land elsewhere. In the early part of February 1879, James Niels Skousen, Peter J. Christofferson, James Robertson and others obtained property in Round Valley at Springerville, which was farther up the Little Colorado. James obtained eighty acres south of town near the Little Colorado River. Ane gave birth to Anna Christina Skousen on January 17, 1880 in Springerville, Apache County, Arizona. Two years later Ane gave birth to on June 15, 1882 in Springerville, Apache, Arizona. Ane had another daughter, Melvina Skousen on August 6, 1884 in Springerville.
On November 11, 1884, James went to Prescott for trial as a polygamist. He departed on December 7 for the Yuma Penitentiary with six months' confinement and a $500 fine so he was given thirty days more in its place. He said, "It was the best month's pay I ever received." James was released from the federal penitentiary in July 1885 and rejoiced in seeing his two families.
As a convicted polygamist, James could not afford to live with both of his families in the Untied States so he had Sidsel move to Colonia Juarez with the help of Pete, Dan and James while he stayed on the farm in Arizona and took care of Ane and her young family. It was a sad day when he prepared to bid Sidsel, his lifelong sweetheart goodbye. It took twenty-one days for the little caravan to reach Colonia Juarez, Mexico. Ane had two more children, Mary Esther Skousen, born May 10, 1887 and Terry Danaboe Skousen, born June 20, 1889 at Springerville, Arizona. This made a large family of eight children for Ane, all of whom lived to maturity.
In 1890 James made a visit to Mexico. While he was gone, Miles Phelps obtained possession of eighty acres adjacent to the Skousen farm. James had irrigated the land from the Little Colorado by way of ditch, which crossed Phelps' land. Phelps took the ditch out and plowed over it. James had to sell Phelps his land for only $1000. He then moved to Alpine. He moved his family there in the spring of 1891. Members of the Skousen family own the farm to this day.
James was ordained a Patriarch January 12, 1894, by Apostle Brigham Young Jr., which office he held until his death, eighteen years later. In 1897, Sidsel became quite ill so James moved to Mexico to see her. She was living with her son, James, Jr. She died on February 20, 1898 at the age of seventy-one. As Ane was being taken care of by her older sons, James decided to stay on in Mexico where he could be with his other children. His assignment as Patriarch was transferred to the Juarez Stake.
James watched the gradual developing crisis of Revolution swirl around the Colonies in Mexico. By 1912, conditions became so dangerous that the Saints were ordered to flee to the border. On July 29, 1912, he left with the crowded train of Saints for El Paso, Texas. He then was placed on a train for Thatcher, Arizona, but was anxious to get back to Alpine. He got a ride to Springerville with a family by the name of Pulsipher. He had to sleep under the wagon at nights because the family was so large, and by doing so caught cold. When Erastus came for him in Springerville, James was found in a very weak condition.
James died shortly thereafter, on October 21, 1912 at Alpine, Arizona. He was buried in the little hamlet's cemetery. Ane was fifty-seven and lived four more years and then was buried beside him. Ane died September 21, 1916 in Alpine, Arizona.
James was a hard worker, but was never allowed time to accumulate much of this world's goods. He did collect a large and noble family, now numbering well over 2,000. The majority of them are staunch members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, holding many prominent positions. It is a safe conclusion to believe that there is nothing which makes James Niels Skousen happier than that.
PAF - Archer files = James Niels Skousen + Ane Kristine Jorgensen Hansen > (4) Eliza Skousen + Orson Pratt Brown
Stalwarts South of the Border by Nelle Spilsbury Hatch and Blaine Carmon Hardy, Pg 615-619,
Copyright 2004 www.OrsonPrattBrown.org