Memories of Andrew B. Christenson by His Children
My Father by Edythe Lovena Christenson Robbins --- Second child and oldest daughter.
Father radiated a magnetic presence. He possessed an unusually fine mind, a retentive memory, imagination, drive and purpose.
I know from earliest childhood that he loved me. I was treated as a person from the first. Father took time out to explain, to interest, to inspire, to "fire" me with purpose and high ideals. This took place at 5:00 a.m. while dropping seed as he dug the holes or in the mountains checking the sheep camps; in the evening or in one of the treasure houses of the world's great art; it might even occur, as with blue eyes sparkling, he gave me the latest volume on the excavations at Luxor along the Nile, at age 14. Earlier, as my two brothers and I were simultaneously "downed" with the "mumps" what should arrive but a twenty-volume set of the Books of knowledge! How we devoured those books!
In attempting to write something of my impressions of Father, I shall divide my efforts into three parts: Dreams dreamed---Dreams realized---Dreams unfulfilled. Being the eldest child to live I shall write mostly of the second part. From these years I can report first-hand. The third portion I shall leave, in the main, for his younger children, whom he also loved.
More than once, I've heard Father tell of leaving home at age thirteen, to work. It was in the employ of one, Julius Christensen, who had many horses, cattle and sheep. Julius Christensen was a professed atheist. Father believed with heart and soul in the divinity of the Restored Gospel of Christ. Whether in jest or soberness, the older man had now and again made a point of testing Andrew's faith. It had nettled the younger man. One day it became necessary to cross a small lake. Whether it was Twelve-mile or Fish Lake, I do not know. As often happened, with almost no warning, a sudden squall developed. The winds blew hard and the waves rose high. The rowboat was near the center of the lake, and as the craft was jerked and tossed it seemed the boat would surely capsize. Andrew was rowing, fighting with all of his might while praying fervently, when, to his utter amazement, Julius dropped to his knees in the bottom of the boat and calling upon Deity, pleaded to be saved.
. It was in the solitude of the mountains, while watching his employer's sheep, Andrew dreamed his dreams and made his resolves. He would re-enter school. A strapping young man, at the age of nineteen, older and taller than his classmates, Father faced the lower classroom of the Gunnison Seminary where he buckled to work in earnest. Three years later he entered the Brigham Young Academy at Provo, from which he graduated in 1895.
Father did not do things by halves. A degree from Brigham Young was not
enough. He took Mother and Adelbert, their first-born, to Ann Arbor, Michigan,
where he entered the School of Literature at the University there. This
is where I made my appearance. Father remained to graduate from the school.
Andrew's advanced studies paid off. He was given the principalship, plus a teaching post, at the Latter-day Saint High School in Salt Lake City. Dreams were being realized. Andrew signed on some excellent teachers. He was a tremendous organizer and his schools ran smooth. Father was a forceful, gifted speaker and made many calls to the wards and stakes throughout the valley in the interest of increased enrollment for the school.
Despite Father's heavy schedule, I felt his gentle watch-care over me. I was permitted to start Kindergarten at the LDS. I suppose it was in connection with some sort of experimental training school for teachers. At five, I felt it to be special for me, exciting!
In this same year, Father and Mother took me to a night performance of Shakespeare's King Lear, at the Salt Lake Theater. Even now I can recall, in mental vision, flashes of the scenery and some of the action of the play. Father was fond of Shakespeare. He had studied him intensively and often quoted from his works. While heading the forerunner of the Dixie College at St. George, Andrew had personally directed a few of Shakespeare's plays.
Father purchased a home on a large corner lot at the juncture of 27th South and 9th East. There were berries and an orchard with much garden space. A generous, natural spring had been piped onto the property and it gushed and sparkled clean and clear. Immediately Father envisioned a trout pond---our own fresh fish. It materialized as time went on but was enclosed with a six-foot wire fence and a padlocked gate. Our baby sister Elsie was much too fond of the water.
The home was nice to look at, built of red brick in a compact, artistic form. Sections of the front windows were of stained glass forming a bay. The rooms were lovely with their richly embossed wallpapers of wine-red and gold and blue. There was an upper floor with bedrooms, but, best of all, a long, front combination storage and playroom. Here stood a trunk that contained many of Mother's once-used dresses including her white organdy wedding gown, plus its dainty, French kid slippers with seed pearl-studded bows, French heels and pointed toes.
President John Taylor had once owned the home. My understanding is that it was built for him. I would have to do further research to be sure.
This was a fruitful, happy time. There was always so much to do, to investigate, and to construct. In June or December there was the annual trip to the delightful relatives in Sanpete, in summer, a jaunt to the sheep camps on the Weber. This was usually made with one or more families of relatives. It was a hey-day for the children of the caravan. In the cooler weather, there were memorable "Family Evenings." Mother played the hymns and sang alto. Father told the most wonderful stories that always called for "just one more." He could recite poetry and often did. One was held bound under his magnetic spell.
Our Christmases were something to remember; especially the one when we found coal in the feet of our stockings. We had been duly warned but were a little unbelieving. Our downcast faces burst into joy, however, as we were mischievously lead, by our doting parents, to investigate the other rooms. In the front one, a fire sputtered and sparkled from the grate. A Christmas tree had been fashioned, through the night, from the lower boughs of our own trees and they were alight with tinsel and candles. And oh, what gifts there were! Mother had dressed a doll with real hair. Father never forgot the books plus other exciting things. The boys were so delighted!
It was April 8, 1910; the day was bright and beautiful. My two brothers and I had been asked to "keep an eye on" seventeen month old Elsie. We became engrossed in "jumping the rope." It was the current rage at school. Suddenly, "Have you seen Elsie?" The rope was dropped from mid-air and we ran, as always, to the pond. The baby liked to stand by the fence and look through the wire to watch the water and the fish. But, for once---just this once---the gate stood open! Our speed increased. There, her cherub face turned upward, floated our small sister!
Again, a sobering period followed, this time, coupled with a haunting remorse that lay just below the surface for many years to come. I never jumped a rope again. Father became restless. Did he blame himself? Whether or not it was planned before, I couldn't say, but late summer of the same year, Father, Mother, my two brothers and I were enroute to Europe.
I'll tell a few of the incidents so typical of Father's desire to teach and inspire us:
At Omaha, Nebraska, there was a train stop-over of an hour plus. Father took his family quickly from the train, hailed a taxi and had us driven out to the then famous Zoo. It was such an interesting hour as he explained about the animals. Returning by taxi, we made it just in time. We were not in the habit of riding in taxis, but this was special and a never-to-be-forgotten event.
Our European stay began with a few months in the beautiful, quaint old city of Oxford, England. Father did some research studies at Christ College there. Mother bloomed into soft, relaxed loveliness. For a part of each day, under Father's guidance, we wandered through the various colleges with their lovely deer infested parks; or through the many musty, vine-covered old churches; or walked along the tree-shaded banks of the winding river or even rowed a boat on the same quiet stream. Sometimes we watched the rowing teams of opposing groups of young men at rugby or cricket. Second-hand bookstores abounded. We browsed through many. The streetcars were drawn by horses along the crooked streets that had originally served as cow trails. Father took such an interest in explaining, showing, guiding our eager minds. Mother really loved this time of her life.
We met Andrew's parents in the province of Thisted, Denmark. This must have been in November, sometime. There followed a few weeks of nothing but visiting among the Danish relatives. In the main, they were prosperous appearing farmers with fine, snug barns boasting fat, sleek animals and many ducks and geese. The hand of welcome was extended until "Mormonism" was mentioned. There seemed to be no "seekers after truth." We were feted with rich, hot chocolate (a substitute for coffee), and Danish pastries until Mother cried out that she could take no more. We, three children, seemed to survive in fine shape! Grandmother Christensen's visit had been in the interest of genealogy. She loved people and was in her true element. Father assisted in this. It was his second trip to Denmark and the relatives. We left the relatives in Denmark and started for Germany, our destination.
At Copenhagen, Father made time to take us to the Thorvaldsen Museum and chapel that houses his moving sculptures of Christ and his Twelve Apostles. Father related the story of Thorvaldsen's humble beginning, when, as a poor boy along the wharf, he was discovered whittling remarkable little figures of wood. Someone of note spotted the boy's potential and started him on his way.
The beautiful, university city of Leipzig was our destination. Father made arrangements. We rented half of a comfortable apartment with a family of Saints, Gustav and Elna Warkentin. Part of their four children were comparable in age to the three of us. There was a daughter, Margaret, who became my close companion. Father lost no time in getting Wendell and I started in a German school. Mother and Sister Warkentin became fast friends as they shared the kitchen, the marketing, the two languages and strove to provide for their families needs. It was a season crammed with new, rich experiences. Piano lessons were started for me.
Our family became the guests of one of Father's professors---a Herr Doktor, at Christmastime. That was a revelation to me. The apartment was handsomely furnished and the gifts were beyond any I had seen. Christmas in Germany was something for a fairy tale and far-off, pre-war day! If one should be old enough to recall, she furnished the best toys for the world.
We were taken to see children's plays, staged with unbelievable imagination and delight. Hansel and Gretel and many of the fairy tales were made real before our eyes. We visited the Gewandhaus, the world-famous concert hall established by Felix Mendelssohn. A journey was made out to the building site of the huge, almost ugly mausoleum of stone commemorating the Napoleonic war victims, who lost their lives in that vicinity. Beautiful forest areas were nearby. These were carpeted with wild flowers in the spring of the year.
Sometime in late spring, Father received an invitation from one of the professors at the Sorbonne to be one of his guest students. For five weeks, if my memory serves me correctly, five men were to live at his home and there study, discuss and absorb whatever phase of research it was that they were working on. Since my fourth brother Luther arrived in May, this must have occurred in June, for Wendell and I were left at school and with the Warkentins while the others headed for Paris.
Returning from Europe in the early fall of 1911, Father was given a full professorship at Brigham Young University. He remained there until the Superintendent of Church Schools, with approval of the Authorities, called him to head the Academy at Rexburg, Idaho. Andrew was instrumental in establishing the Ricks as a college during his sojourn from 1914 to 1917. A new gymnasium was constructed and other improvements made. He brought the student enrollment up to new totals.
Again, the feeling of restlessness set in. Using a temporary low period in my health as an excuse he resigned this promising, fruitful position, much to Mother's disappointment, and we were moved to the small community of LaVerkin, Utah. An undeveloped mineral spring in which Father had become financially involved had drawn us there. Andrew felt that this could be made quite famous as a health spa and resort. The climate was warm the year round (in summer, hot). Nuts, grapes, pomegranates grew as in the sub-tropical.
From LaVerkin, Father was to answer one more call as a church School "trouble-shooter." In 1918 we moved to Hinckley, Utah, where he took over the head of the Millard Academy. This place held little challenge and though he went through the motions faithfully, his soul did not respond. He resigned the posts of teacher, principal, president of schools for this life.
With a "free hand" he now turned his whole attention to the interests of his projects. From here on in we seemed to enter a period of dreams unfulfilled. He worked hard but the works did not prosper. I shall leave the telling of this phase to the brothers of our family.
Perhaps his death came as a grateful release---who knows? I like to feel that he is now unfettered, inspired and enthusiastic in the work to which he was so well qualified, so nobly endowed. I should like to be within the sound of his voice again!
My Father by Wendell Bartholomew Christenson - 2nd Son of Andrew and Sarah
Each of us is many things, to as many different people, and I suppose that my impressions of Father are very much my own. As the oldest living son, I was rather personally involved in our financial and business affairs and was often given responsibilities, which I was not equipped to bear. In the process, I grew and developed, but Father had real need for someone with practical wisdom and business experience to balance his vision and enthusiasm. I was not up to the job and among those with whom father counseled there were few who had either the time or experience to really help.
Father was no ordinary man, in fact, he was far in advance of his time and foresaw many things, which only now after 35 years, are being recognized and appreciated.
His interests were varied. Each interest in his active mind was expanded to epic proportions, and those near to him, were included in the vision and assigned parts and responsibilities in its implementation. In the end, this was father's undoing. These chosen partners failed to play their roles. Having been selected without consent, they finally went their way, each pursuing his individual interests and needs. Yet each one, having been touched by the magic of the vision, was left far better for the experience and would remember and be raised up to a higher plane in his own scale of dreams.
Father came from sturdy Danish stock---men and women of courage, faith and vision. His grandfather, Christen Christensen, was a well-to-do manufacturer of farm implements in Flarup, Thisted, Denmark, a small village on the North Sea. When he heard the Gospel from the Mormon missionaries in 1866, he, with his family, joined the Church, sold their property, and with the money, came to America. They also paid passage for about 30 others. This money was never repaid and when the Christensens arrived in Utah, they had little left but a strong faith and grateful hearts for the privilege of being in Zion. During the long ocean voyage Christen's beloved and pregnant wife sickened and died. She was buried in the waters of the Atlantic.
In the Christensen party was a young lady of 18 years, Else Kathrine Anderson, who, alone of her family, joined the church and was disowned by her family. She changed her name, taking that of Christensen, while working as a governess in the Christensen home. She became the wife of the second son, Lauritz Mathias, then age 18, and the mother of my father.
Else Kathrine was a remarkable woman. She gave birth to 11 children,
raising 9 to maturity. In addition to the struggles of pioneer life, she
studied medicine under a woman doctor in Salt Lake to whom she was led
in a dream. As a result of her training, she was able to minister to the
needs of her family and neighbors.
At the age of 13, father left home to find work and help out. His first job was as a herder of sheep for a man also named Christensen---a well-to-do, but rather godless man who spent much time telling young Andrew that a belief in God was utter foolishness.
One day, this man, while riding the range accompanied by father, was caught in a heavy cloudburst. In trying to cross a gully, swollen with floodwaters, the bank caved in, plunging horse and rider into the torrent. The man caught a hanging branch and was helped out by father, who said he had never heard a man pray to God more fervently for deliverance.
Father was ambitious for an education and kept books in a box in the sheep wagon. These he studied at every opportunity, preparing for a day when he could go to school.
One day he had climbed to a high ledge on a slope overlooking the sheep herd, and was deep in study, when, his attention was drawn to a disturbance in the flock. Looking down, he saw a huge grizzly bear coming up the slope toward him. Father was unarmed, and though bears were not uncommon in the Henry Mountains, this one seemed to have one object in mind---father. He first shouted, then threw stones, but the bear came steadily onward. In desperation, father looked around for some means of defense when he noticed a deep crack in the ledge upon which he stood. Bracing himself against the mountainside, he placed his heels in the crack and strained with all his might. Slowly the crack began to widen. Just as the bear reached the bottom of the ledge, a great section broke loose, crashing with a thud, in front of the beast, followed by a shower of rock and dirt. The bear rose on his haunches, turned and headed straight down the mountain with the rock boulder close behind and gaining speed at every turn.
Father said he had never seen a bear run so fast. The last glimpse he had of the brute was as it headed into the scrub oak and quaking aspen, with the rock speeding unchecked-crashing trees and brush in its path. The sight hit father's "funny bone" and he literally rolled on the ground with laughter.
Father had many hair-raising experiences, of which he used to tell us,
before the fire on long evenings. He was a marvelous storyteller and we
children, would sit entranced, re-living each experience with him.
He visualized dams in the rivers, storing up water for fertile fields; he dreamed of mineral wealth in the mountain rocks and cities in the valleys, wherein prosperous, happy people would dwell. He saw the church expanding and the gospel truths being carried to the ends of the earth. He also saw himself in the picture---working, prospering and sharing.
All boys have dreams. Andrew's were a bit vast, but to him they were real and he seemed to see before him all the means for their realization.
He lived close to the Lord and had some remarkable spiritual experiences. At one time, going through the mountains alone, he became hungry and exhausted. He was impressed to investigate a deserted log hut in which he found nourishing food spread out to eat---yet, no one was in sight. Father ate with deep gratitude and a strengthened testimony.
On another occasion, while watching under the stars, thinking profoundly on the glories of creation and the goodness of God, the heavens seemed to open and he, being touched by the spirit saw the glory of the world beyond.
Through such experiences, he was comforted in his loneliness, strengthened in his faith and in his convictions as to the part that he, personally, might play in shaping the world about him.
At age 19, he had acquired some sheep of his own. He decided to put one
of his brothers in charge and start school. Father quickly finished the
grades---embarrassed by his size and age. High school followed; having
graduated with high marks, he went on to the Brigham Young Academy in
the year of 1891.
A son, whom they named Adelbert, was the first child born to the couple. He arrived on the 12th of April, 1897, at Fayette, Sanpete County, Utah. Mother had been able to return to her parent's home for her first confinement. Father, of course, was tied at school in Kanab.
So far, we have no record to confirm the year in which father left for Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he planned to obtain his master's degree in the School of Literature. It might well have been in the fall of 1898, for the second child Edythe Lovena, was born April 22, 1900, and this daughter was over one year of age before the family returned to Utah. Their length of stay was 3 years. Father won his diploma, as he was again graduated with honors, in the class of 1901.
He received a Church call to head the academy at St. George, Utah. This was the forerunner of the Dixie College as we know it. Some rather knotty problems had developed and it was felt that father's talents were needed.
During the next 18 years, father was largely engaged in filling educational missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was called to be principle of the L.D.S. in 1905. In the late summer of 1910 he took his wife Sarah, his daughter Edythe and two sons, Wendell and Sheldon, to Europe. He was bent on further study. In the interim, Adelbert had died of diphtheria 29 Nov., 1904, and Elsie born 30 Oct., 1908, had died of accidental drowning on the day of 8 April, 1910.
After the family's return from Europe, in the summer of 1911, Father was given a full professorship in languages and history at the Brigham Young University. This he filled until a further call came to head the Church-owned Academy at Rexburg, Idaho. During his presidency, the way was paved for the first two years of college work to be accredited and work was commenced on a new gymnasium.
It was while at the Ricks in Idaho, that father began to feel that he was too limited in schoolwork. He had never forgotten those boyhood dreams and was becoming impatient with the low salaries and limited opportunities within the confines of the schools.
His daughter, Edythe, had become rather anemic and thin, with loss of appetite. There was nothing serious about her condition that a summer in the open wouldn't heal, however, it became an opportunity for father. Seizing upon her condition as excuse, father left the Ricks in the spring of 1917, and moved his family (much to mothers' disappointment) to the dry, warm climate of Utah's "Dixie." He settled us all in the small town of LaVerkin, Utah. It was within walking distance of his option-to-title, acquired mineral hot springs on a bank of the Virgin River.
During the last year in Rexburg, father had rented a wheat farm 20 miles east of the city. The crops were already planted and all we had to do, as a family, was to keep it free from mustard weed and marauding cattle. It was a marvelous summer vacation. When the harvest time came, we called in the "combines" which cut and threshed for a share in the profits. After all expenses, father realized 3000 dollars, almost as much as his entire year's teaching salary.
While in Dixie, father with the help of Sheldon, myself, and an occasional hired man with team and scraper, began to build the bathhouse near the LaVerkin Hot Springs. The development of these springs had long been in father's plans. He visualized a health spa with cabins on the hillside and hot, mineral baths piped to every dwelling. The water had unusual properties and people came from far and near to enjoy its virtues.
Along with the hot springs, father had made filings on the waters of the Virgin River and had plans for building a dam near the entrance to Zion's canyon; which would provide irrigation for thousands of acres of desert land in a climate nearly equal to that of California.
It was a good plan. Money for the initial work was acquired from the local people and everything was ready to start. The U.S. Government was ready to put up about $5,000,000. Unfortunately, war was declared in 1914 between Germany and the U.S. and all government reclamation commitments were withdrawn.
This was a severe setback for father. He had come so close to real wealth;
possibly millions from the sale of land under the project. Instead he
was left in debt, and years of hard work and planning had been lost.
Father found a house and farm near the edge of town where the family was settled. Father was soon busy with school and business trips leaving Sheldon and I, under mother's direction, to run the farm. We worked hard but with little result. The land was rapidly becoming white from alkaline, brought to the surface through heavy irrigation. Little would grow. The experience ended any real interest either of us would ever have in farming.
Father was finished with schoolwork by the spring of 1919. He resigned. With a younger brother Judge Albert and a brother-in-law of mother's, Otis Ercanbrack, they acquired the Star Ranch, located between Santaquin and Mona, Utah. It was about 12 miles north of Nephi, Utah. It was a beautiful place near the foot of lofty mountains from which flowed both surface and underground streams. Much of the land was watered by deep Artesian wells. To the west, was a lake stocked with fish, and in the fall, with an abundance of ducks and wild geese.
On the property stood three large brick houses. The one in which we were to live was beautifully furnished and would give the family and our friends many happy hours.
This venture held great promise and for a time, prosperity seemed assured. Crops were planted -wheat, alfalfa and sugar beets. There were also horses, cattle, chickens and hogs. The place was well equipped with barns and corrals. With the addition of a tractor and some machinery, we were in business. We all worked very hard and were proud and happy, and filled with high hopes for the future. There was talk of college, missions, travel and great accomplishments.
Father, in the meantime was impatient. He was offered an opportunity to buy a cattle ranch of about 5,000 acres near Duchesne, in eastern Utah. The banks were willing to put up the money and, with a thousand head of cattle thrown into the bargain, it looked very attractive. A quick calculation on father's part placed the total worth at almost $500,000, and with luck and a few good years, would pay off all the debts with plenty to go.
The winter of 1922 started out normal enough. Crops had been good the cattle were fat and ready for market with an offered price of $60.00 a head, $60,000 for the herd. Wheat was bid at $2.00 a bushel and we had 10,000 bushel to sell. However, word went around among the farmers, that prices would be higher in the spring and to hold their crops. Spring never came. The snow was heavy and stayed on the ground until nearly May. Feed for the cattle became scarce and father was forced to buy hay at $40 a ton to keep 1,000 head of cattle from starving. The banks advanced the money. Finally the winter ended, the market had vanished for both cattle and wheat. It was almost impossible to sell at any price. The banks, which had loaned so freely, now wanted their money. Farmers, who, for all of their lives had been able to get almost any amount on signature, were given a flat "no."
Father, of course, was over-extended. It cost him his share of the ranches and all other owned-assets to get out. He still owed some thousands of dollars.
To enable the children to attend school---Edythe was ready for college, Sheldon and I for high school-father moved the family to Provo for a short-term school year between 1919 to 1921. The remaining months the family spent working on the ranch. It was in the early fall of 1921 that Edythe left for study in Boston. A loan of $300 was available through church school funds for just such a purpose. This paid the railroad fare, and the 1st year tuition; with a little over. By working part-time, frugal living, a scholarship, and the help of the Lord with an occasional check from a thoughtful family friend or relative, she made it through two consecutive years of study. Father could only give encouragement and mother did her part by sending a dress now and then that she had sewn or beautifully remodeled.
In 1923 we moved from the Star Ranch to Salt Lake. I suppose we had lived in worse places, but the little house at the bend of the Jordan River on 21st South, was a place to house the family---now in dire financial straights. Mother, brave and cheerful as always, set about with almost no money, to scrub, paint and paper with the help of the children. I can remember my pride in helping to select the paper for the parlor. When it was finally hung it looked great. With a warm fire roaring in the pot-bellied stove things looked bright and cheerful.
I don't know just how father managed. I'm sure he was deeply discouraged and for a time, there was little to do but borrow from friends. He was gone a great deal, trying hard to get things going. For a time, he got a job somewhere in the southern part of the state as principal of a school, sending the money to mother to meet the accumulated bills.
Edythe was asked to come home from the East, which she did, finding an immediate job to help out. Sheldon and I worked in some mines in Farmington Canyon. Gradually our situation improved. Father, by some means, acquired a big house on 1876 South Main into which we moved; a place that was to play a significant part in the shaping of our lives. Located in the Farmer's Ward, we soon became active in Church and found many choice friends. Sheldon and I found our wives in this ward. It was from here that we were called on our missions.
It was from this location that my younger brother, Luther, then 14 years
of age, disappeared from home for nearly 2 years. Sensitive, nature-loving,
no doubt a frustrated boy with a father usually absent; a mother sewing
long hours often into the night; his two older brothers away on missions;
and his older sister tied with school teaching plus piano pupils after
hours found things quite intolerable and left home to relieve the tension
and breathe free. It happened while I was on my mission and caused me
many sleepless nights. He was finally discovered by our Bishop, while
on a trip to Idaho and through this contact was encouraged to return home.
The event came near breaking mother's heart., but let me say to her son's
credit, that he later left nothing undone either financially or through
thoughtful care to make it up to her for as long as she lived. I think
the experience brought us all closer together in love and affection.
When I returned from Germany, father was deeply involved in plans to
revive the Dixie Irrigation Project and to develop some little known resources
in Southern California. His fertile brain had conceived new possibilities
in metals and alloys so advanced that large corporations such as the Ford
Motor Co., became interested and promised large sums of money to develop
the idea---only to find on closer examination that it was but a brilliant
idea with little substance. During this period I spent all my time with
father. I took no other job and dropped any plans for continuing my schooling.
I drove the car on his trips, worked on his projects, and met his business
associates; until I finally realized that he was being used by unscrupulous
men, whose sole object was to keep father sold on their nonexistent skills,
to the end that he raise more money to feed and maintain them in the perpetuation
of a hoax. The cost ran to many thousands.
As I look back, I think father felt left out and deserted. His family, for whom he had planned so much, had begun to go their separate ways and were becoming independent. Even mother---with rare business insight and tireless work---had created a profitable sewing business and was no longer dependent. It was a hard role for father to play. Without a doubt it helped to hasten his death.
These things I have written fall far short of the whole story. There is so much more to tell. Each of father's children remembers, with gratitude, his influence on their lives.
There were countless ways in which he showed his love and concern. Countless lessons were taught with insight and right timing. Each one of us, through very personal and intimate contact, had our vision enlarged, or ambitions stimulated and our faith and convictions strengthened.
Edythe tells of long talks while planting corn and potatoes at 5:00 a.m. Sheldon remember discussions on astronomy and the timing of the planets. Margaret recalls lectures that hurt more than spankings. Lucile treasures poems full of tenderness and understanding. Luther recalls stories, which planted a love of nature and God's great out-of-doors. I have slept by his side out under the stars and been stirred by his vision, ambitions and hopes for his family.
In retrospect, I wouldn't want much changed. Every experience added to our strength. From him we received a taste for the good things: travel, music, literature and art. We knew the feel of wealth and power. We were shown faith, courage and strength in adversity. We were taught to set our goals high and to persevere. We learned the joy of work; and in our hearts, was planted an abiding faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Father was human. He made mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes loomed large but in contrast to the magnitude of his goals and ideals, proved really of small account. I shall always be grateful for having had him as father and for a heritage small in material things but in true worth---far beyond price!
Reaching for the Stars by Sheldon Bartholomew Christenson - 4th child
and 3rd son.
Father's life was comprised of many phases, the most dominant and consistent of which were his unusual drive and his fierce determination. He mastered, absolutely, many most difficult skills.
As an example: in the early twenties, I listened to the spell-binding oratory of William Jennings Bryan (no less) as he stood on the front steps of the old Jesse Knight home in Provo. Yet, by all methods of comparison, I have heard my own Father deliver some addresses that out-classed Bryan's. I say this in sincerity and not because I am Andrew's son.
Here's another example. In June 1929, I was returning from the German-Austrian Mission. Now, for thirty-one months my ears and tongue had been accustomed to the sounds and difficult pronunciations of the "Deutsche Sprache'---German language. At the same time, I knew Father's exposure to German had been about nil for more than a decade, and I could hardly wait to get home and test his supposed academic knowledge of the language. When the opportunity presented itself, I proudly initiated the conversation. He came back articulate, with grammatically perfect German and, mind you, completely without an English accent. I could hardly believe my ears. Then as his keen memory began to recall German axioms and adages, which he quoted verbatim, with amazing ease and versatility, I found it much more comfortable to change the whole subject. No question about it, this man was a master.
But master minds have master passions and there's no denying that many strong men, in adversity or under mental stress, have turned to some perverted sort of habit or activity, dissipating their time, talent and strength. Father was tested with many circumstances and in a wide variety of circles, but he was never enticed. He kept himself free and "unspotted for the sins of the world."
In Father's entire life there was nothing halfway. There were lofty mountains and there were lowly valleys, but not much in between. More, he was a man of great vision. But through the annual of time many visionary men, with the best intentions, have been careless---even reckless---in fiscal matters. Father was a classic example. Notwithstanding, Father wanted to help rather than hurt anyone. Always the ultimate betterment of others was uppermost in his mind. In the end, he sacrificed his health and, literally, died trying to achieve his objective. This, now, was no ordinary person. He thought big. Had he succeeded, he would have been the Hero and, believe me, anyone who helped him along the way would have been rewarded handsomely.
What's more, I think Father resented secretly, as do others, many of
the financial limitations in our economic system, which are imposed upon
so may. But resentment alone wasn't enough. He took off in dead earnest
to do something about it, not by way of exploiting the Rich, or by the
political route of higher tax imposts, but through arduous and unrelenting
struggle to organize and develop dormant resources around him, both tangible
and intangible. This occurred about 1918, when Father had the reckless
courage to turn his back on the field of education (for which he seemed
to be best equipped); and enter upon the hazards of innumerable promotional
activities---two of which attest to his farsightedness and great vision.
Were he living today, expending the same amount of energy and effort, it's most likely he would be crowned with fame and fortune. Father foresaw these great needs, but he saw them too soon. Industry wasn't ready for his ideas until aviation grew up and the space age arrived.
It was during this period of his life that Father borrowed heavily from
many sources. Unfortunately, much of his debt was never repaid. At the
same time, he was most prudent in spending for himself or his person.
What he borrowed went into projects or for travel. Although Father liked
fine things, in traveling he was more apt to choose a modest hotel room
with single-bulb, drop-light switch, where perhaps the only item furnished
to brighten the accommodation was a small cake of lavender soap with artificial
Except when he traveled, Father was by habit akin to our feathered friends, in that he always retired and rose with the chickens. In this respect, he utterly shattered Ben Franklin's statement, "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
Father died alone in a modest hotel room in St. George. Oddly enough, 'twas in the same locale where years prior he pioneered, organized, and established the school that became a very successful Church College, endearing himself to the rugged and good people of that community.
Traveling in severe cold of that December, 1931, I arrived at St. George about fifteen hours after Father's passing. In the last moments of his life despite complications of pneumonia and diabetes, still he bothered to wind his inexpensive timepiece. I remember well, I cried as I held the watch, knowing that so long as it ticked, a last bit of Father's tremendous energy still remained. Whether Father really died of a broken heart, or was mercifully taken in illness, I do not know. But of one thing I am certain, there still remained an unsubdued determination and dignity about him to the end.
Finally, I must add that in adversity, Father never complained, nor was there any trace in him of bitterness or guile. With the exception of some fiscal matters, as heretofore mentioned, Father upheld the standards and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and sustained its designated Authorities. He retained an abiding faith in God and, throughout his life, proclaimed boldly the divine mission of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. At every call of the church, Father responded without question. Had he been asked, I'm sure he would have traveled barefoot to 'Timbuktu.'
In summary, Dear Descendants, whether we cherish or disdain, this is all part of our heritage.
It is with reluctance and mixed feelings that I will attempt to put into words the pictures of Father that were etched in to my memory and had an influence on my life. Some of those pictures are not sharp and the contrasts between light and shadow are such, that to be viewed in proper perspective, they must be separated into three parts:
Sunrise, sunset, a canopy of stars, lush mountain meadows, leagues of lodge pole, and cedar, carpets of pine grass and fern, granite peaks with their mantles of eternal snow, miles and miles of pungent sage, deep canyons ablaze with the yellows and reds of autumn, valleys and small Mormon Villages locked in the grips of winter; these were his early classrooms. The subjects offered were the birds and animals, the livestock and the soil, the weather and the four seasons, and interrelationship of all. He learned well, and it was from this period that he drew much of the material for the wonderful and sometimes hair-raising stories that kept us children quiet on long, slow, dusty car rides, rated with the refreshments at our home evenings, or produced a luscious drowsiness at bed time.
There is nothing under heaven quite like herding sheep, to make a young man realize there are better things to life. It was sometime during those years of playing nursemaid to the wooly locusts that there developed a longing for a more formal education. Those long hours, while the sheep bedded down at midday and at night, gave ample time to daydream and to formulate the plans that led into the second phase of his life: that of an outstanding student, an inspiring teacher, and a gifted administrator. Former students of his, from as diverse walks of life as a guide on Fish Lake, a barber at Zion Lodge, an Idaho Bishop, and one of my professors, have sung his praises and expressed gratitude for inspiration and guidance he had given them.
During the last few years of his teaching career, a transition began to take place that culminated in his resignation from the school system and led into the third chapter of his life. He became restless, appeared to be in a hurry to get places. He seemed dissatisfies with things as they were. He was troubled over the injustices the war brought upon his many German friends. He began to spend more time traveling in a search for undeveloped, artistic and inventive talent, land, water, minerals or products.
It was about this time that my recollections began. I remember him as not a large man, but one who looked big at the head of the table and seemed to stand out in a crowd. I remember him as a stern disciplinarian, yet I cannot recall any stern reprimands or punishment. I was kept somewhat in line by Mother's words, "your father will hear of this when he gets home." The longer he was gone the longer the lists of "hear abouts" became and the more I dreaded his return. The "hear abouts" were resolved listening to lectures on hard work, dependability, truth, and honesty, or other virtues that seemed appropriate.
For reasons I don't recall, I didn't start school until I was seven and Father seemed determined I should make up for that lost time. There were endless sessions sitting beside Dad, a first grade reader in my lap, tears streaming down my cheeks, with half my mind on the reading and the other half exploring the haunted castle across the alley back of the house. Times tables were another grim chore.
He was generally up at daylight and wanted everyone else up. The nearest I ever came to a "licking" resulted from my going back to sleep after I had been called to get up. The covers came off and he had me by the ear and into my clothes so fast, it remains in my memory as a blur. He seemed to have the notion that cows gave sour milk after five in the morning. He was always in a hurry. He could hardly wait for the frost to go out of the ground to put in a garden, then wanted peas and new potatoes before the potatoes had grown much larger than the peas.
We spent considerable time, effort, and money helping artists such as Fairbanks, Campbell, and Ramsey; guided them into the scenic areas he knew so well, and purchased some of the pictures from those trips. He became interested in one of the earliest radios, a safety tire design that now, forty years later, is coming into use, and a metal railroad tie that may yet be used. The Star Ranch and the Uinta property he visualized as the beginning of a great cattle empire where beef caves would be produced on the rangelands of Eastern Utah, then fed out on the feed produced at Star. I believe it was Father who, because cattle will always face a person when they are approached, conceived the idea of placing a brand on their foreheads. He could see, in the fertile but dry land below the Virgin River and Deep Creek, a great irrigation project if the water from those streams could be utilized. He worked years trying to bring about that. Now the Government is showing interest in completing it. The LaVerkin springs, that my wife saw as a series of pools, much too hot at one end, much too cold at the other, and all of them much too smelly, he saw as a great medical center where specialists of the world could apply their skills and utilize the curative properties of the water. He tried to develop the clay beds back of Redmond, Utah in order to utilize the medicinal properties of that clay. He recognized the potential value of the rare metal deposits along the Sierra Nevada Range. These deposits are now being mined for the tungsten and other elements so vital in the production of alloys for the aircraft and space industries.
These projects required large amounts of capital, and into them went every cent he had or could raise. It was during the height of this quest for finances that I had the privilege of driving for him. He was pushing himself to the limit of his strength and ability. In order to conserve his energy and save hotel bills, we traveled at night while he slept. It was amazing how he could sleep most of the night sitting up in a car, spend fifteen minutes shaving and freshening up in a service station wash room, then come out looking as fresh and well groomed as a New York banker.
On long trips such as those between Salt Lake and Los Angeles or San Francisco, there was time for sleep and also for long talks. He was never critical of the past, never tried to place blame for his disappointments. He was always enthusiastic toward the future, always planning new projects or enlarging present ones. He was the master of words. He used them to build empires and castles or fortunes, and as you listened, you became involved. You wanted to help. It was like a trip to Utopia and the Utopia you saw was a better world and a certain glorious hereafter. There was a world in which, as yet, untapped resources were used for the betterment of man. Oil was extracted from vast shale beds, courses of rivers were changed to make the deserts bloom, and the minds of all men were turned toward good. There was a powerful church in which his belief never faltered. There were strong family ties and a love for literature and music. It was to help reach this Utopia that so many paid the fare---his words had created a vision of smooth roads, pleasant companions, and ample reward at the end of the trip. It was a guide for this trip that he lived and, for which he expended his energy. It has been said that his ideas were twenty years ahead of the times; that the world was not ready for them. Who knows what would have happened had he gone more slowly, been more caution, planned more carefully, built more solidly, and dreamed less---who knows?
Father by Lucile Christenson Tate - 7th child and 3rd daughter
Two treasures have come to me from my father; the first is in the form of a poem he wrote when I was just a child. They show his love and tenderness, his sensitivity and refinement. They were written while he was principal of Millard Academy, his last school experience.
A Modest Gem
There's a modest gem that sparkles
This gem is not a topaz
This gem is far more precious
From the time it was written until his death in December of 1931, Father
was engaged in various enterprises, which the boys remember and have recounted.
These took him frequently away from home. As a result, my memories of
him consist of some clear-cut events rather than long periods of association.
Perhaps because these events are few, and are set against his absences,
they stand out with a vividness which everyday consistency might have
dulled. Three of these will serve to illustrate:
Soon after this experience, we moved to Star Ranch between Mona and Santaquin. After we were settled, Father, understanding my insatiable longing for a horse, gave me a little sure-footed bay mare, which I promptly named Queen. For a full summer, I remember no other companion than that beautiful animal upon whose back I lived and dreamed.
During this same period, Father called me his Danish Fairy. (Perhaps this compensated for his disappointment in not convincing Mother that I should be named the Danish Mette Maria). I thrived in the sunlight of this affectionate name until one day when he took me to Santaquin. An old bewhiskered man passed us on the street and father said, "See, that is a Danish man," Never again would "Danish Fairy" call forth the bright image the same.
Later we moved to Salt Lake and lived in a large red brick house on Main Street next to McKinley School. In this home were both parlor and living room, and in the latter was a fireplace. Before this stood Father's great black leather rocker. One winter night he built a blazing fire, cuddled Margaret on his one side and me on the other, and let us choose the stories he would tell. As he gently rocked, he took us into the sheep camps to watch him outwit a prowling bobcat; he led up the winding path to a castle on the Rhine; and he walked with us through Tom Tower at Oxford. Finally, as the fire burned to embers and we fell into our dreams, he carried us one by one upstairs and tucked us into bed.
Though the time he spent with us was limited, it had a rich and satisfying flavor. We never felt neglect or indifference from him.
As the years passed, we saw him bear the weight of illness and financial worry, but he bore them like a man. I never saw him mean or complaining.
It was during my senior year in high school and at Christmas time that Father passed away. I still remember the bleakness, the cold, the sense of loss.
Since then, time, marriage, children, and dreams of our own have erased the loss and totaled up the blessings.
Father loved us.
He dreamed big and worked to make those dreams come true.
He achieved greatly in the field of scholarship, teaching, and school administration.
In 1958 we moved our family to Provo to begin a ten-year program to see us all through BYU. While here, I have felt Father's influence strong among us, and have had the opportunity of finding his pictures, records, and talks filed away in the archives of the school. As they are permanently recorded in his school, so is his example permanently recorded in our lives. This is my Second treasure.
Some Memories and Impressions of my Father Andrew B. Christenson by Margaret Christenson Adams ---8th child and 4th daughter
My papa was one of the grandest persons I have ever known. During the
few short years that I was privileged to know him, he furnished me with
some of my most vivid and cherished memories and most valued lessons of
my childhood. To me he was always a kind and loving father, coming home
from his various business trips with tales of the almost-to-be-realized-fortune,
which was his dream during the later years of his life.
Educated as he was, and with the many successful years in education behind him, it was very hard for my Mother to rationalize his philosophy concerning his great desire to become a man of wealth through the complicated field of investment and real estate. This desire was to become almost an obsession with him. He was a man with high ideals, but he didn't have a full conception of the fact that there are many who don't have these high ideals. As a result, he lost a great deal, many times through the conniving of so-called friends and associates, and through his unfortunate inexperience in this particular field.
Fundamentally, I think Papa was a sincere family man. He loved his children, but always expected us to be well mannered and respectful. He could be stern when he had to be, but he could also be jolly and fun to be with. When he was in a teasing mood, his beautiful blue eyes would twinkle. As I remember, papa never spanked me. His most severe punishment was sternly sending me to my room to contemplate my shortcomings. I'm afraid Mom was delegated to correct me for my more serious offences and this was usually done when Papa was gone. During the earlier years, the then existing family had accompanied my father to Europe and lived there while he continued his studies in the field of education. Of course, I always felt envious of my older brothers and sister for having had this tremendous experience. I think that my father realized this and had every intention of making this up to the younger members of the family, and would many times share his dreams with us as what was in store for us as soon as "the big deal went through."
One of these dreams resulted in my learning a very good lesson. After he had returned from one of his very frequent trips to Southern California. I heard my Father telling my Mother that we would be moving to California in the very near future. This seemed to be a culmination of many of my own dreams, and I just had to share it with my friends. The next morning, in my second grade class I stood up and made the startling announcement that our family would be moving shortly. As a result , a surprise party was planned for me. I was permitted to have the party, but along with it came a stiff punishment for ever having told such a preposterous stretch of the truth. As far as I know Papa was never to know about this ---he had already left on one of his trips. I learned then that dreams didn't too often or too easily come true.
"Papa" was the title by which my father wished to be called by his younger children. My friends all called their fathers "Daddy," and often teased me for using such an old-fashioned name as "Papa." Like all children I wanted to be just like one of the crowd and conform, so the next time I saw my father I addressed him as Daddy. He was very hurt, and felt that I was being disrespectful. He felt that it was a slang expression and that was something he couldn't tolerate. From then on I always called him Papa and was proud to do so.
One spring morning my father announced he had decided that Lucile and I were to accompany him to Southern California. Mother was not too much in favor of this because it meant our being taken out of school. Papa had often said that he felt as much could be learned by traveling, to new places and observing new things as could be learned in the classroom, so Mother's veto was soon outvoted by the three of us and we were soon on our way. How thrilled we were. Just think---two whole weeks with Papa and no schoolwork or household chores. We could hardly believe our good fortune. Father kept us interested and amused all the way telling us wonderful stories and tales of his various adventures. This was Papa at his best. He loved the out-of-doors and loved traveling.
In those days after leaving St. George, Utah, the road to California resembled a cow trail more than it did a highway. Many times during the night Papa would awaken Lucile and me to help push the car through the sand that had drifted over the road. (He always crossed the desert at night well supplied with gas and water.) Even this did not dampen our spirits. To us this was high adventure. We traveled all night, during which we crossed dry lake which was a large expanse of dried mud and where one could travel at the break neck speed of thirty or forty miles an hour. As we came to the end of the desert it was dawn. There was the most beautiful sunrise. We found a quiet spot under a stately Joshua tree and Papa cooked the most delicious breakfast. The memory of the joy of that morning has never faded. We proceeded to our destination where we spent a most enjoyable week in the mountains. From then on traveling was in my blood.
As I look back on my early childhood, most of my memories center around our home at 1879 South Main Street. It was a large two-story, red brick home with plenty of room for a large family. There was a large yard, many beautiful trees, places for secret hide-outs, plenty of room to play "hide and seek" and "run sheep-run." There was a large garden area where each one of us took our turns weeding and helping with irrigating. There was also a running well, where one could get the coldest drink on a hot summer day in all Salt Lake. Mother usually kept a few chickens to help supply her large family with fresh eggs and also to supply an extra treat for some of those delicious Sunday dinners.
Papa could well have been the originator of the saying "Early to
bed and early to rise, etc." This was the way he lived and believed
firmly that everyone should follow suit. We were never allowed the privilege
of "sleeping in" when Papa was home. Five o-clock usually found
us up doing our chores. Although we felt that we were being treated a
little unfairly we all seemed to learn the lesson that working and accomplishing
things brings joy. We learned not to waste time, and to take advantage
of the beauty of nature. This I consider a most valuable lesson and one
I would like most to pass down to my own children.
During the last years of my Father's life he was afflicted with diabetes. Having been ill hardly a day in his life up to this time it was difficult, if not impossible, for him to accept the fact that he really had this disease and that, if not properly controlled by diet and insulin, it could cost him his life. My Mother was so careful in planning his meals, even to weighing every thing he ate. She baked special bread, bottled fruit without sugar, planned appetizing but proper menus for him to take when he traveled. But to no avail, as soon as he would leave home, he would eat at restaurants, paying no attention to Mother's instruction for his diet, and would often return home almost in diabetic coma. Many times this necessitated his having to be taken to the hospital to be treated until his blood sugar was again at a safe level. He would never be convinced that each of these episodes was weakening his resistance to other infections and having a dangerous effect on his health.
During one of his frequent trips to Southern California he contracted a severe chest cold that developed into pneumonia. He tried once again to make it home where he knew he would get loving care, but became so ill he had to be taken off the bus at St. George and hospitalized. On the morning of December 14, 1831, my Mother received the shattering news that he had passed away. With his death came the end of my childhood. My Mother was faced with raising three children without any provided funds. We were all made to realize the severity of the problem and from the day we laid our father to rest, there was not much childhood left.
In closing, I want to add that I feel that I inherited the most worthwhile things in life from my parents. Even though I was only allowed a few years with my father I learned many lessons that many people do not learn after spending a lifetime with theirs. My father was that kind of a man.
Velda Johnson Christenson - wife of Luther.-related to her by Virginia Christensen Keeler.
When Andrew B. Christenson was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he had a strange
dream (about November 25, 1899). It is told his grandfather, Christen
Christensen, appeared to him in a dream or visitation of some kind dressed
as if for traveling. "Where are you going?" Andrew asked his