Tuesday, May 3, 2011


1896 - 1979

Relationship:  James Peter Christensen is my Father
I was born September 18, 1896, in a one room log cabin, the second child of Soren Peter and Alvina Stephensen Christensen.

My father was born in Sindal, Hjorring, Denmark, January 16, 1866, and came to America alone at the age of 11 years. His father was already in America and living in the state of Colorado where he had employment as a carpenter. His mother remained in Denmark and came to America later. I was blessed on November 5, 1896 by George Gardner.

My father came to Levan with a group of emigrants and for several years was “pastured out” living with various families and working for his board and room, probably the longest stay was with the C. N. Lundsteen family (the mother and father of Louise Lundsteen Francom.)

                                                        ALVINA STEPHENSEN

My mother was born in Aasted, Hjorring, Denmark on November 19, 1868, and came to America with her parents at the age of 18 months, on a sailing vessel which took six weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Because of their poverty they were forced to stay in the lower levels of the ship and weren’t even allowed to come on deck during the entire voyage.

My father had built a two room home during the summer previous to my birth and moved into it when I was but two months old. Because of the dampness of the newly plastered walls and the extremely cold winter, I contacted pneumonia and was ill practically all winter. But due to the very good care of my mother, I survived.

Pneumonia was a very treacherous and dreaded disease at that day and time and many deaths resulted. There was an old saying that if a patient could survive past the ninth day, the danger would be over and the patient had a chance of getting well. Many didn’t reach the ninth day.

During my early childhood days my father operated his 20 acre farm and did carpenter work to keep his family fed and clothed.

I was the second child of seven children; my sister Lela was older than I, then came Alvin, Angus, Lyman, Vinnie and Leo. Lyman died on September 30, 1968 at the H.K. Porter Rubber Plant at Nephi of an accident. At this time and according to my recollection, all have died.

When I was about the age of eight years, I contacted chicken pox which resulted in the loss of the sight of my right eye and left me totally blind in that eye. I was baptized into the Church on August 5, 1905 by Hans Anderson and confirmed a member of the Church on August 6, 1905.
I received my grade school education in Levan School together with two years of high school. I went to the third year of high school at Nephi and that was the extent of my education. There was no school bus operating at that time and cars were very scarce, so I stayed with Mrs. Cowan during my third year high school.

I spent one summer in Idaho when I was 18 years old, first in Grace working on a farm irrigating, and then at a place called Cove about 10 miles below Grace on the Bear River, helping build a big power plant.

There I met Leo Hendrickson of Gunnison, a young man about my caliber so we decided to go to Idaho Falls to make a fortune working in the potatoes. We became separated in Idaho Falls and I have never seen him again. (I learned from his brother that he died quite young, a few years after we met).

From Idaho Falls I came to Shelley, where I worked in a potato warehouse for a couple of months weighing and checking potatoes and loading bagged potatoes on railroad cars for shipment. (I didn’t’ get my fortune so I came home when the job ended.)


For the next few years I worked at the Salt Creek ranch south of Levan doing general farm work, this was before tractors came into use and we did all the work with horses often with eight or ten horses on one plow outfit.

During this time I courted several girls and finally found one that took pity on me and married me. On April 27, 1921, a lovely girl by the name of Vera Mangelson and were married in the Manti Temple and have lived together ever since.

I was superintendent of the YMMIA (Young Men Mutual Improvement Association) and counselor to Russell Gardner in the MIA in 1935. Also, LeGrand Mangelson and Alma Winter served as counselors when I was superintendent.

My political career began in the fall of 1936 (age 40) when I was elected to serve on the Levan Town Board at the November 1935 election for a four year term.
                                  James and Vera's home in Levan

James and Vera's home now, 2011. 
It is now owned by someone else and has been added onto.

On January 4, 1942 I was appointed the Levan Ward Clerk. I was appointed Bishop of the Levan Ward on May 21, 1944 (age 48) and was released on December 12, 1948.

I was next elected Mayor of Levan (age 47) in the November 1943 election but had to give up this position in September 1945 (when Von was born), when I was appointed Juab County Clerk and Auditor, after having served as chief deputy County Assessor for the past seven years.

In the fall of 1946 I defeated Ralph Beard of Nephi for the office of County Clerk and Auditor in the November 5th election with a comfortable majority of 1640 votes to 1042 for Mr. Beard.

In the fall of 1950 I defeated Clarence Paystrup of Levan for the same office in the November 7th election with another comfortable majority of 1834 votes to 867 for Mr. Paystrup.

In 1953 I was Father of The Year for Juab-Sanpete-Millard Counties. I also served as P.T.A. (Parent Teacher Association) President.

In the fall of 1954 I defeated William Stowell of Nephi for the same office in the November 2nd election with a majority of 1834 votes to 802 for Mr. Stowell.

I was again sustained as Superintendent of the YMMIA on September 24, 1961.

In the fall of 1962 (age 66) I was unopposed for the same office in the November 6th election having received 1556 votes.

My political career finally came to an end in the fall of 1966 (age 70) when I was defeated in the November 8th election when I received 977 votes to 1129 for my opponent Andy Johnson.

I served for the first four months of 1967 as deputy clerk and auditor to Mr. Johnson, making a total of 28 years and four months as an elected official of Juab County.


Mom remembers a special story involving her beautiful watch. Dad had gone into Nephi (this happened before they were married) to get a load of lumber. Well, he saw this beautiful watch in the store window. He decided to buy it for Mom. They wrapped it up fancy and he started home.

On the way home, Dad forgot what the watch looked like, so he unwrapped the package and took another look at the watch. Then he wrapped it up again. He did this several more times before he got home.

He gave the watch to Mom and she still had this in her possession. Now Von has the watch in my possession.

James and Vera's 50th Wedding Anniversary

While Dad was on his way to Idaho Falls, they passed through Ft. Hall, Idaho. He remembers seeing lots of Indians gathered by the train; said it looked like they were having a celebration. They were all dressed in pretty costumes and he remembers that.

On this same journey with the young man going to Idaho to gain a fortune, they each carried a suitcase. In one was all the bedding, in the other was their clothes. In Idaho Falls they got separated and Dad got the clothes suitcase. He never did again see that man.

Dad worked up in Grace, Idaho watching an ice machine for some time. He would tend it during the night. In the same plant was a baker who would do his baking at night too. Dad would go and talk to him in English and he could understand, then the man would talk to Dad in Danish and Dad could understand. They were the only two working nights; the man would fix good pastries for them to eat and they had a good time together.

Dad would stay by the ice machine all night and sometimes if something went wrong with the ice machine, he would hear the change in the noise and go fix it. Sometimes he would sleep over by the machine and could wake up when the noise changed.

When Dad was out courting (this was before street lights) a particular girl, when it was about time for them to return home the mother would come and look for them with a lantern swinging in her hand. One time they saw her coming and walked around one side of a tree while she walked around the other. She went up in town looking for them and they were at home all the time.

* * *

Dennis nominated Dad for the honor of Father of the Year from the Juab-Sanpete-Millard County Area for the year 1953. The following is what he wrote on the Entry Blank. “I nominate Mr. James Christensen of Levan, Utah because he has always been unselfish and has taken from himself and given to his seven children and wife. He is always very active in the church and his family and religion come first. He is a friend to everyone and always has a kind and cheering word for everyone calling at his office or home. To know him is to respect and love him. As busy as he is he always has time to help someone in need or make calls to the sick.”

James ( isn't he handsome? )

Dad and Mom loved to square dance. They belonged to a club and would dance every week. They even danced in Salt Lake City at the All Church Dance Festival. Mom had numerous dresses, unlike today’s style, they were long and flared and multi-colored. They both loved to dance as often as they could.

* * *

Bishop Kennison (at Dad’s funeral) announced the opening speaker and he said he always associated Mom and Dad as Mr. And Mrs. Choir. They had been in the choir when he first came to Levan.

* * *

Scott Christensen, a grandson, gave a nice tribute to his grandfather. He told about the many times he had been here. He said he had only missed 4 Christmas’s since he was born that the whole family weren’t here to our place for Christmas. Told about going to Eureka to pass election supplies with his grandpa and some of Wesley’s boys went there also.

* * *

Following taken from handout noting info from each bishop of Levan.

“James P. Christensen served as a bishop of the Levan Ward from May 21, 1944 to December 12, 1948.

He enjoyed working with the public. He especially enjoyed working with the young people of the ward. He served during World War II, and always had high praise for the young boys of the ward that gave up several years of their lives to serve their country in the armed forces. He had three of his sons in the service.

Many of his Bishop experiences were quite interesting. He had an unusual one while he was Bishop and working as Juab County Clerk. At the time the court house was being painted gray, there was a man and woman who were both helping with the painting, they were both middle aged, they had been working several days when one morning they climbed down from the scaffold and came into the clerk’s office, still in their dirty work clothes and wanted to get a marriage license so they could be married. They had heard that he could marry them right there. So James went to another room and got two employees as witnesses and they all went into the “vault” and he married them. The two went right back to their work and finished off the day.

James loved people and enjoyed talking to everyone. He was never too busy to stop and talk.

One of his favorite savings was, “There is good in everyone no matter how bad they seem to be”. The preceding was written by Wesley, his son.

* * *

Mom wrote in her journal the experiences leading up to the end of Dad’s life. December 4, 1978, Dad fell by the bathroom door. The ambulance came and took him to the hospital and he had a broken hip and was in the hospital for quite some time. He was later taken to Salt Lake to an extended care center. He was there for about a month and then passed away on February 27, 1979. The folks of Levan were very generous in helping Mom. See the following examples.

* * *

Dad, Ross and Von would go camping up in the Levan Canyon on our Ward Fathers and Sons night. We didn’t have a tent but we would sleep out under the stars at the Canyon Park located about 5 to 10 miles up the Levan Canyon. There would usually be lots of guys camping that evening. There would be a program and we would eat together. I remember we had an old spring bed that the sides would fold down. We put this bed in the trunk of the car and take it with us, then upon arriving in the canyon we would put up the sides of the springs and make a bed. I think Dad slept on the bed and Ross and Von would sleep on the ground. That was a good memory.

* * *

Dad had a beautiful ‘bass’ voice and he would sing in a quartet with men from Levan. They were asked to sing at a lot of functions and including church.

* * *

I remember Dad’s beautiful gardens. He had two; one by the house and one in the upper lot. He would raise all kinds of vegetables and fruits. We also had apple, apricot, walnut, plum, and peach trees. Dad and Mom were ‘famous’ for their banana squashes. They would win first place prizes at the County Fair each year. Some of the pictures of the squash is as tall as mom and dad. They both loved to garden and work outside. During the fall they would ‘sell’ their produce or just ‘give it away’ to the folks of Levan. That made them very happy to be of service to everyone.

* * *

Following is Dad’s Priesthood ordinance record:

Teacher January 9, 1912 by J. E. Taylor

Priest May 9, 1913 by J. E. Taylor

Elder April 21, 1921 by W. W. Beard

                                      Dad was ordained a High Priest but I don’t have the date.

1 comment:

  1. I loved seeing the pictures of your Dad. What wonderful memories I have of him. Remeber when we stepped off the bus in Levan in 1969 on Valentine's Day week-end? I was nervous about what your parents would think. Your dad was so cute, and happy with me, that I thought I must be the best thing that ever happened to you. I soon learned he made everyone feel that good. I love your Dad.