Taken from the book, Some Christensen's Who Came From Thy, by Virginia Christensen Keeler
Andrew, second child of Laurs M. C. and Else K. Christensen, was born Sunday 6 June 1869 in Manti, Sanpete, Utah. Black Hawk Indian War hostilities were nearly over then and the railroad had just come to Utah Territory, the last spike having been driven at Promontory Point 10 May 1869, linking the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads in a great transcontinental system. Andrew was named for his mothers father, the Danish version of the name being Anders. When he was a young man he added the middle initial B and changed the last three letters of his surname from the original Danish spelling, sen to son. He was less than a year old when his family moved into the Gunnison valley and here he spent most of the remainder of his childhood, in such communities as Gunnison, Mayfield, and Christenburg. He was baptized a member of the LDS church in Mayfield and it was here he also started school. We feel fortunate to have had choice contributions about him from each of his six children now living. Most of the remainder of Andrews story comes from them.
Wendell begins:-- Father came from sturdy Danish stock men and women of courage, faith and vision. At age thirteen he left home to work and help out. His first job was as a herder for the well-to-do but rather Godless man, Julius Christensen, who spent time telling 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 the gully, swollen with floodwaters, the bank caved in, plunging horse and rider into the torrent. The man caught a hanging branch and was helped by father, who said he never heard a man pray to God more fervently for deliverance.
Edythe tells a similar story about this professional atheist, Julius Christensen, and young Andrew:-- Father believed with heart and soul in the divinity of the restored gospel of Christ. Whether in jest or soberness, the older man made a point of now and then testing Andrews faith. It nettled the younger man. One day it became necessary to cross a small lake. As often happens, with almost no warning, a sudden squall developed. The wind blew hard and the waves rose high. The rowboat, near the center of the lake, jerked and tossed about until it seemed it would surely capsize. Andrew, who was rowing and fighting the elements with all his might, began praying fervently. To his utter amazement, Julius dropped to his knees in the bottom of the boat and, calling upon Deity, also pleaded to be saved.
Wendell continues:--much of fathers time for the next six years was spent alone in the mountains and deserts far from home and loved ones. His companions were mostly sheep, wild animals and rough men. He had many hair-raising experiences of which he told us years and years later, before the fire on long evenings. He was a marvelous storyteller and we children would sit entranced, reliving such experiences with him. One of my favorites was about the 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. Although bears were not uncommon in the Henry Mountains, father was unarmed and this one seemed to have but one object in mind him! First young Andrew shouted, then threw stones, but the grizzly came steadily onward. In desperation he 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 pushed and strained with all his might. Slowly the crack began to widen and, 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 rocks and dirt. The bear rose on his haunches, then turned and headed straight down the mountain with a large boulder close behind and gaining speed at every turn. Father said he never saw 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 huge rock speeding unchecked behind, crashing trees and brush in its path. The sight hit fathers funny-bone and he literally rolled on the ground and laughed.
Through all his lonely days and nights he never ceased to remain true to the teaching of his parents and his church. Truly he lived close to the Lord during those years and had some remarkable spiritual experiences, which comforted him in his loneliness and strengthened him in his faith and convictions as to the part he personally might play in shaping the world about him. All boys have dreams, but Andrews were a bit vast. But to him they were real and he seemed to see before him all the means for their realization. During those years he never ceased to study and prepare for the future that began to take shape in his young, active mind. He dreamed of getting an education and kept books in a box in the sheep wagon. These he studied frequently, preparing for the day when he could go back to school and then begin his accomplishments.
Luther writes: -- There is nothing under heaven quite like herding sheep to make an intelligent young man realize there are better things in life. It was sometime during those half dozen years of playing nursemaid to the wooly creatures that there developed in father a longing for a more formal education. Those long hours, while the sheep bedded down at midday and at nights, gave ample time for him to daydream and formulate his plans, and from the classrooms of nature he learned well. It was from this period of his life that he drew much of the material for the wonderful and sometimes hair-raising experiences that he later told us children; the true stories that kept us quiet on long, slow, dusty wagon or car rides, rated with refreshments at our home evenings, or produced luscious drowsiness at bedtime.
Again we quote from Wendells narrative: -- At age nineteen father had acquired some sheep of his own and he decided to put one of his brothers in charge of them and start school. He went back to Gunnison and finished the grades, embarrassed by his size and age. Seminary followed, where he got high grades. He became a fine scholar. He went on to the Brigham Young Academy at Provo, the fall of 1891, and here he spent most of the next four winters. He taught part time the one of 1893-94 and graduated from the Academy 23 May 1895, with the degree of Bachelor of Pedagogy.
It was while at B. Y. A. the winter of 1891/92 that father became better acquainted with Sarah Jane Bartholomew and her older sister Roxie. He fell in love with Sarah. The year following his graduation they were married. This took place 1 July 1896 in the Manti Temple. (Andrew had been given a mission call to the Southern States earlier that year, but this was changed in order that he might accept a call to develop the school at Kanab, Utah.) In July or August following their marriage, the honeymoon trip was made in a wagon containing all of their belongings as they made their way southeast, where father was to serve as Principal of the Kanab District School.
Andrew and Sarah boarded and roomed at the home of a son of Jacob Hamblin, Walter Hamblin and his wife Blanch Robinson Hamblin, who had been married only about two years themselves. The house in which they lived is still standing and today is owned by some descendants of the Hamblins. A ninety-one year old lady still living in Kanab (1968) Mrs. Blanch Hicks Mace, once lived in the house across the road from the Hamblin place. She remembers going there many years ago and seeing a beautiful handmade picture of some yarn flowers hanging on the wall. She was told that Mrs. A. B. Christensen made the picture for Blanch Hamblin, when they lived there together in the Gay Nineties. Mrs. Mace also remembers her husband, Charles Mace, speaking of Principal A. B. Christensen, who signed Charlies certificate of promotion from the 7th grade of the Kanab District School, 1 Apr. 1898. This certificate is still intact.
Andrews children have divided their accounts of him into three parts Dreams Dreamed Dreams Realized Dreams Unfulfilled. Edythe writes: -- Being the eldest child to live, I shall write mostly of the second part, for from these years I can report first hand. Father did not do things by halves. A degree from B. Y. U. was not enough. After two winters of teaching in Kanab he took mother and their firstborn, Adelbert, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he entered the School of Literature at the University there. This is when I made my appearance.
Andrew remained in Ann Arbor for nearly three years and won his diploma, being graduated with high honors in the class of 1901. Returning with his family to Utah, he received a call to head the Church Academy at St. George. This was the forerunner of Dixie College. He remained in the school at St. George for two or three years and then located his family in Provo. Sometime following the birth of their third child, Wendell, most likely the spring of 1904, Andrew left for some advanced study in Germany. While in Europe he visited his father and mothers relatives in Denmark. His studies in Germany, however, were interrupted prematurely by the death, in Provo, of his eldest son, Adelbert. December 1904. Andrew withdrew from school and hurried back home to comfort his wife and family.
Edythe continues: Andrews advanced study paid off. He was given the principalship, plus a teaching post, at the Latter-day High School in Salt Lake City. Dreams were being realized. He signed on some excellent teachers. He was a tremendous organizer and his schools ran smoothly. He was also a forceful, gifted speaker and made many talks in the Wards and Stakes throughout the valley in the interest of increased enrollment. He radiated a magnetic presence, a retentive memory, imagination, drive and purpose.
It was when we first lived in Salt Lake that brother Sheldon was born, and three years later my first sister, Elsie Eliza. Father purchased a home on a large corner lot at the juncture of 27th south 9th East. The home was nice to look at, built of red brick in a compact, artistic form. Sections of the front window were of stained glass, forming a bay. The rooms were lovely with their richly embossed wallpaper of wine-red, gold and blue. There was an upper floor with bedrooms; but best of all, a long combination storage and playroom. Here stood the trunk that contained many of mothers once-used dresses, including her white organdy wedding gown plus the dainty, French kid slippers with seed-pearl-studded bows, French heels and pointed toes.
These were fruitful, happy times. There was always so much to do or investigate or construct. There were the annual trips to our delightful relatives in Sanpete county; jaunts to the sheep camps; and in cooler weather, our memorable family evenings where mother played the hymns and sang alto and father told the most wonderful stories that always called for just one more. Father could recite poetry too and often did: we were held bound under his magnetic spell. Then there were our Christmases, which were something to remember, especially the one when we children found coal in the toes of our stockings.
We had been duly warned but were a little unbelieving. Our downcast faces burst into joy when we were led by our mischievous, doting parents to investigate the other rooms. In the front one a fire sputtered from the grate and a Christmas tree sparkled, alight with tinsel and candles. (It had been fashioned overnight from the lower boughs of our own evergreens.) And oh what gifts there were. Mother had dressed a doll with real hair for me and father hadnt forgotten the books and other exciting things to delight us all. Little did we know that one of our very next Christmases would be spent in Germany at the home of one of fathers professors, a Herr Doctor, whose name I have forgotten, and that the gifts would be beyond any we had ever see, like something from a fairy tale, for Germany was then the toy center of the world.
On our lot in Salt Lake City were a garden, orchard, berries, a natural spring gushing forth clear, cool water, and our own fishpond which father had built. But our baby sister was far too fond of water and her later drowning, the early spring of 1910, in this pond, brought a sobering period into all our lives, coupled with a haunting remorse that lay just below the surface for many years to come. (More detail has been given earlier of little Elsies death.) Father became restless did he blame himself?
By July of the same year, father, mother, my two brothers and I were enroute to Europe, where father planned to study again. We had sold our home in Salt Lake to generous Uncle Chris to help finance the same. Father continued to take an interest in explaining, showing, guiding and inspiring our eager lives. Mother also threw off her sadness as best she could and seemed to enjoy this period of her life.
Father at first did some research at Christ College in Oxford, England. But for part of each day members of his family were also educated when, under his expert guidance, we wandered through the various colleges with their lovely green, deer-infested parks; the many musty, vine covered old churches; walked along the tree-shaded banks of the winding river and even rowed boats on the same quiet stream. Sometimes we watched the rowing teams or opposing teams of young men engaged in playing rugby or cricket. We browsed through secondhand bookstores and rode on streetcars drawn by horses along crooked streets that had originally served as cow trails.
We left England and met Grandfather and Grandmother Christensen in the Province of Thisted, Denmark. Then followed a few weeks of nothing but visiting our 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. Grandmother Christensens visits had been in the interest of genealogy. She loved people and was in her true element. Father assisted her in this work. It was his second trip to Denmark and the relatives there. At the Danish capitol of Copenhagen, he made time to take us to the Thorvaldsen Museum and Chapel that houses the moving sculptures of Christ and His Twelve Apostles. Father related the story of the artist 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 boys potential and started him on his way towards becoming Denmarks greatest sculptor.
From Denmark we went to Germany where father studied next. We were taken by him to see childrens plays staged with unbelievable imagination and delight. Hansel and Gretel and many of the fairy tales were made real before our very eyes. We visited the Gowandhaus, world famous concert hall established by Felix Mendelssohn, and took a journey to the site of the huge, almost ugly mausoleum of stone commemorating the Napoleonic War victims who lost their lives in that vicinity.
Sometime in late spring, following my third brother Luthers birthday in May 1911, father received an invitation from one of the professors of the Sorbonne in Paris. For five weeks, five men were to live at his home and there study, discuss and absorb whatever phase of research he chose. This was a wonderful opportunity for father. The family headed for Paris, all except Wendell and I who were left at school in Germany.
Returning from Europe the early fall of 1911, father was given a full professorship at Brigham Young University. It was about the end of our stay at Provo that my second sister, Lucile, was born (1914) for after three years of teaching at B. Y. U. father was called to head the Church Academy at Rexburg, Idaho. Here he was instrumental in establishing Ricks as a college. During his sojourn there, from 1914 to 1917, improvements were made, a new gymnasium built and the student enrollment climbed to new totals.
Wendell again takes up the story; -- During the lasts year in Rexburg father rented a wheat farm twenty miles east of the city. The crops were already planted and all our family had to do was keep it free from mustard weed, and marauding cattle. It was a marvelous summer vacation. When harvest time came we called in the combines, which cut and threshed for a share in the profits. After all expenses, father realized $3,000, almost as much as an entire years teaching salary. He began to feel restless again. He had not 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 a bit thin and anemic but there was nothing so serious that a summer in the sunshine wouldnt cure. Father seized upon this as an excuse to leave Ricks and the schoolroom, and in the spring of 1917 moved the family (much to mothers disappointment) to the warm, dry climate of Utahs Dixie. He settled us in the very small community of LaVerkin, within walking distance of his options-to-title-acquired mineral hot springs on the bank of the Virgin River where, with the help of Sheldon, myself and an occasional hired man with team and scraper, father began to build a bathhouse near the LaVerkin Hot Springs. The development of these springs had long been in his plans. He visualized a health spa, baths piped to every cabin. The water there seemed to have unusual properties and people came from near and far to enjoy it. 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 Zions 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 and 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 six million dollars. Unfortunately war was declared between the United Sates and Germany about that time 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 this project, instead he was left in debt and years of hard work and planning had been lost. But soon he was again called into the service of the church school system. This time it was to go to Hinckley, Millard Co., Utah to head up the church school there. This was in the summer of 1918. Father and the rest of the family went ahead to Hinckley to find a place to live, leaving Sheldon and I, fifteen and thirteen years old respectively, to bring a load of our belongings from LaVerkin. The roads were not as they are today and it was a hard trip through sandstorms, snowstorms and mud. As we neared our destination the country appeared barren and desolate. We passed a covered wagon headed back towards Fillmore. Across the canvas cover was printed a large sign In God we trusted and in Delta we rusted. (Delta was a town near Hinckley.)
Father found a house and farm near the edge of town and here we settled. He was soon busy with school and business trips, leaving Sheldon and I, under mothers direction, to run the farm. We worked hard but with poor results. Little would grow. This experience ended any real interest in farming either of us would ever have. This place held little challenge and interest for father as well, for though he went through the motions faithfully, his soul did not respond. One good thing to come out of Hinckley, however, was our baby sister Margaret, born there the last of May that year 1919. About the same time father resigned the posts of school teacher, principal and president of schools for the rest of his life.
Luciles clear-cut memories of events began about this time. She says: As a child I had a fearless passion for horses. While we still lived in Hinckley we owned a cantankerous team named Fox and Dobin. Often as they stood feeding in the barn I would crawl under them up into the manger and manage to mount one, via its neck. When the team was hitched for plowing I was usually there and one time, misjudging my timing, I slipped from the front seat of the disk-plow and fell behind the horses, gashing my lip to make a scar I still carry.
Soon after this experience we moved to Star Ranch, between Mona and Santaquin. After we were settled there father, understanding my insatiable longing for a horse, gave me a little sure-footed mare which I promptly named Queen. For the full summer I remember no other companion than the beautiful animal on whose back I lived and dreamed.
Wendell picks up the story:-- Being finished with school by the spring of 1919, father turned his whole attention to his projects. With a younger brother, Judge Albert Christensen, and a brother-in-law of mothers, Otis Ercanbrack, he acquired the Star Ranch about eighteen 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 of fish, and in the fall with an abundance of ducks and wild geese. On this property stood three large brick houses. The one to the north in which we lived was beautifully furnished and gave our family many happy hours.
"When we moved to Star Ranch, Edythe had been ready for college and Sheldon and I for High School. Arrangements were made to move the family to Provo in winters between 1919 to 1922, for short school terms, but the remainder of the time we worked on the ranch. In the fall of 1921 Edythe left for study in Boston. By working part time and through frugal living, a scholarship, a loan from an available church school fund, the help of an occasional relative or friend and the Lord, 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 remodeled beautifully.
The Star Ranch venture seemed to hold great promise and for a time prosperity seemed assured. Crops were planted wheat, alfalfa and sugar beets. There were also horses, cattle, chickens and pigs on the place, which was well equipped with barns and corrals. With the addition of some machinery, including a tractor, we were in business. We children all worked very hard and were proud and happy and filled with hope for the future. There was talk among us of college, missions, travel and great accomplishments. On the other hand, father seemed impatient for success. He was offered an additional opportunity to buy a cattle ranch of about 5,000 acres near Duchesne, in eastern Utah. The bank was willing to put up the money and, with a thousand head of cattle thrown into the bargain this looked very attractive so he made the deal. A quick calculation on fathers part placed our total wealth then at almost $500,000, which, with luck and a few good years, would pay off all the debts and plenty to go.
The winter of 1922 started out normal enough. Crops had been good. Cattle were fat and ready for the market with an offered price of $60.00 a head - $6,000 for the herd. Wheat was bid at $2.00 a bushel and we had 10,000 bushels to sell. Word went around among the farmers, however, that prices would be higher in the spring and to hold their crops. Spring never really came. The snow was heavy and stayed on the ground until nearly May. Food for cattle became scarce and father was forced to buy hay at $40.00 a ton to keep 1,000 head of cattle from starving. Again the banks advanced the money. Finally, when 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 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, and he still owed thousand of dollars.
In 1923 we left Star Ranch and moved to Salt Lake City. I suppose we had lived in worse places but the little house on the bend of the Jordan River was at least a place to house the family now in dire financial straits. Mother, brave and cheerful, set about, with almost no money, to make the place livable, scrubbing, cleaning, painting and papering, with the help of us children. I remember my pride in helping to select the paper which, when hung, looked great.
I dont know just how father managed; Im sure he was deeply discouraged and for a time there was little for him to do but borrow from friends and relatives. He was gone a great deal trying to get things going. For a time he got a job of some kind in the southern part of the state somewhere, sending mother the money to meet accumulated bills. Edythe was asked to come home from school in the east, which she did, finding an immediate job to help out. Sheldon and I worked in some mines in Farmington Canyon for the same purpose.
Gradually our situation improved. Father, by some means, rented a big house on South Main Street into which we moved. Lucile tells of this:-- We lived in a large red brick house on Main Street next to the McKinley School. Here were both parlor and living room, and in the latter a fireplace. Before this fireplace stood fathers great big leather rocker. I remember one winter night he built a blazing fire, cuddled Margaret on his one side and me on the other as he sat 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 us up the 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 and tucked us into bed. Though the time he spent with us younger children was limited, it had a rich and satisfying flavor. We never felt neglect or indifference from him.
Margaret writes:-- As I look back on 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 big family. There was a large yard, many beautiful trees, places for secret hideouts, and plenty of room to play hide-and-seek and run-sheep-run. There was a large garden area where each of us took our turns weeding and helping with irrigation. 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 family with fresh eggs and also to help with an extra treat for some of those delicious Sunday dinners.
I remember my father was a lover of good books. We had a fine library at home and were encouraged to use it. How I loved to curl up on a rainy afternoon and lose myself in a good book. This was another heritage father passed on to us, the joy of reading. Religion played a most important role in our family life also. In fact, it seemed that our lives literally revolved around the church. And even though father was not home a great deal, we knew that we were to attend our meetings and do our duty there above all else. I heard him talk in Sacrament meetings many times and there was no doubt in my mind but that he had a strong and lasting testimony of the gospel. Mother shared this strong testimony.
Fundamentally, Papa was a sincere family man. He loved us children but always expected us to be well mannered and respectful. He could be stern when he had to be but he could be jolly and fun to be with too. When he was in a teasing mood his beautiful blue eyes would twinkle. As I remember, he never spanked me. His most severe punishment was sternly sending me to my room to contemplate my shortcomings. Im afraid Mom was delegated to correct me for more serious offenses and this was usually done when Papa was away. I always felt envious of my older brothers and sister who had been to Europe with our parents and had such tremendous experiences. I think father realized this and had every intention of making this up to the younger members of the family, for he would many times share his dreams with us as to what was in store for us as soon as the big deal went through.
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, as well as some of the most valued lessons of my childhood. To me he was always a kind loving father, coming home from his various business trips with tales of the almost-to-be-realize fortune, which was his great dream during the later years of his life. Educated and intelligent as he was, it was very hard for mother to rationalize his philosophy concerning his great desire to become a man of wealth through the complicated fields of investment and real estate. This desire became almost an obsession with him.
Father could well have been the originator of the saying Early to bed and early to rise, etc. and everyone else should follow suit. We were never allowed the privilege of sleeping in when he was home. Five oclock usually found us up and doing and, though we may have felt we were being treated a little unfairly, we all seemed to learn not to waste time, to take advantage of the beauty of nature, and that working and accomplishing things brings joy. Luther adds to this evaluation of their father:-- he was generally up at daylight and wanted everyone else up. The nearest I ever came to a licking resulted in my going back to sleep after I had been called to get up. The covers came off and father had me by the ear and into my clothes so fast the incident remains in my memory as a blur. He seemed to have the notion that cows gave sour milk after five in the morning. He seemed 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 potatoes before the potatoes had grown much larger than the peas.
For reasons I dont recall, I didnt 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 and tears streaming down my face, with half a mind on the reading and the other half exploring the haunted castles across the alley back of the house. Times tables were another grim chore.
I remember father as not a large man, but one who looked big at the head of the table and who seemed to stand out in a crowd. I remember him as a strict disciplinarian, yet I cannot recall many stern reprimands or punishments. I was kept somewhat in line by mothers words, Your father will hear of this when he gets home. The longer he was gone the longer the list 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, and other virtues that seemed appropriate.
It is with reluctance and mixed feelings that I put into words the pictures of father that were etched into my memory and had an influence on my life. It was during the last few years of his teaching career that my recollections of him began. He became restless and appeared to be in a hurry to get places. He seemed dissatisfied with things as they were and began to spend more time traveling in search of undeveloped, artistic and inventive talent, land, water, minerals and products.
Wendell writes: the time when we were living in the big house on South Main Street in Salt Lake City played a significant part in the shaping of our lives. We were in the Farmers Ward and we soon became active in church there and made many close friends. It was while located here that Sheldon and I were called on our missions to Germany; here that our younger, nature-loving brother Luther, then fourteen, ran away from home and was gone nearly two years; here that Edythe was courted and won by Dr. Burtis F. Robbins; and here that Lucile and Margaret met their future husbands and that Sheldon and I met and later married our wives.
When I returned from my mission 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 one possibility - only to find on closer examination that this brilliant idea had little substance. During this time I spent all my time with father. I took no other job and dropped plans to continue school. I drove the car on his trips, worked on his projects and met his business partners, until I finally realized that he was being used by unscrupulous men, whose sole object was to keep him sold on their non-existent skills to the end that he raise more money to feed and maintain them in the perpetuation of a hoax. The cost ran into thousands. Being the oldest living son, I was rather 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 wisdom and practical business experience to balance his vision and enthusiasm. I was not up to the job, and among others with whom he counseled there were few who had either time or experience to really help.
Luther goes on:-- father spent considerable time, effort and money helping artists such as Fairbanks, Campbell and Ramsey; guiding them into scenic areas he knew so well and purchasing some of the pictures realized 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 in a metal railroad tie that may yet be used. Of course the Star Ranch and Uinta property, which he had visualized as the beginning of a great cattle empire, came to naught. He had seen 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 harnessed and utilized. The LaVerkin hot springs, which later my wife saw as much too hot at one end, much too cold at the other, and all of them much too smelly, father had seen as a great medical center where specialists of the world could apply their skills. He tried to develop the clay beds back of Redmond, Utah in order to utilize the medical properties of the clay. He recognized the potential value of the rare metal deposits along the Sierra Nevada Range, which now are being mined for tungsten and other elements so vital in the productions 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 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 longer trips, such as those between Salt Lake and California, 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 or castles or fortunes and as you listened you became involved and wanted to help. It was like a trip to Utopia and what you saw was a better world and a 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; strong family ties and a love for literatures and music. It was to help reach this Utopia that so many paid the fare, for his words created a vision of smooth roads, pleasant company and ample rewards at the end of the journey. It was as 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 then ready for them. Who knows what might have happened had he gone more slowly, been more cautious, planned more carefully, built more solidly and dreamed less who knows?
Father always tried, says Wendell, but he was human and so made mistakes and sometimes those mistakes loomed large. He was no ordinary man; in fact he was far in advance of his times. Many, having been touched by the magic of his vision, were made far better and lifted up by that experience. There were countless ways in which he showed his love and concern, countless lessons which he taught with insight and right timing, for no one can deny but that he was a great teacher - countless ones have attested to that. In his last years he drove himself without mercy, though he was sick and the doctors begged him to stop. In his travels he was often hungry, living in cheap rooms and having to borrow money to get home to mother. From her he would only borrow more to further other fruitless trips and divide his few dollars among hangers-on who bled him for all he could raise. As I look back I think father felt left out and somewhat deserted those last years. His family, for whom he had worked and planned so much, had begun to go its separate ways and each member was becoming independent. Even mother, with rare business insight and tireless effort, had created a profitable sewing business and was no longer dependent on him. It was a hard role for father to play and without a doubt, in my opinion, helped to hasten his death.
Margaret says, During the last years of fathers life he was afflicted with diabetes. Having been ill hardly a day 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 it were not properly controlled by diet and insulin it could cost his life. Mother was so careful in planning his meals, even to weighing everything he ate while he was at home. She baked special bread, bottled fruit without sugar and planned proper, appetizing meals to send with him when he traveled. But to no avail, for as soon as he left home he would eat at restaurants, paying no attention to her instructions for his diet, and would often return home almost in diabetic coma. Several 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. On the morning of Dec. 17, 1931, mother received the shattering news that father had passed away. With his death came the end of my childhood.
Sheldon concludes the narrative:-- 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 of artificial lilac bouquet. Nor, with his affliction of diabetes, was his prescribed diet adhered to. Again there was a marked tendency to deny himself in his valiant effort at reaching for the stars. Through it all, however, I do not recall seeing him when his clothes were not pressed, when he was not clean-shaven or when his shoes were not shined. Except when he traveled, he 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 Franklins statement Early to bed, 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 fathers 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 fathers tremendous energy still remained. Whether he 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. He was buried in the City Cemetery at Provo, Utah 20 Dec. 1931.
To do biographical justice to the life of our father, Andrew B Christensen, would involve an enormous amount of time. We have written less than a hundredth part. I feel keenly that the story of his life must be recorded realistically, as well as in his defense. The most dominant and consistent parts of the many phases of fathers life 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 upon 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 Bryans. Heres another example:-- In June, 1929, I returned from the German-Austrian Mission. For thirty-one months my ears and tongue had been accustomed to the sounds and pronunciations of the Deutsche Sprache (German language). At the same time, I knew fathers exposure to German had been about nil for more that a decade and I could hardly wait to test his supposed academic knowledge of the language. When the time came, 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 great minds have master passions and theres 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. But then again, father was a man of great vision. Through the annals of time many visionary men with the best of intentions have been careless and even reckless in fiscal matters. Of this, father was a classic example. During the period of his life when his dreams were mostly unfulfilled, he borrowed heavily from many sources. Unfortunately, most of his debts were 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. In his immense undertakings he probed considerable chemical, metallurgical and scientific fields, gathered endless samples, set out to discover mining deposits throughout the entire west and procured numerous options and leases. Had he succeeded in his projects he would have been a hero and, believe me, anyone who had helped him would have been rewarded handsomely.
Father wanted to help rather than hurt anyone. Always the ultimate betterment of others was uppermost in his mind. I think he resented secretly, as do others, many of the financial limitations in our economic system, which are imposed upon so many. But for him resentment wasnt 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. He saw those great needs but he saw them too soon. In the end he sacrificed his health and, literally, died trying to achieve his objective.
In fathers entire life there was nothing half way. There were lofty peaks and there were lowly valleys but not much in between. He was no ordinary person and he thought big. He retained an abiding faith in God and, throughout his life, boldly proclaimed the divine mission of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. With the exception of the fiscal matters before mentioned, father upheld the standards and principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sustained its designated authorities. At their every call he responded without question. Had he been asked, Im sure he would have traveled barefoot to Timbuktu! In summary, Dear Descendants, whether we cherish or disdain, this is all part of heritage from our beloved progenitor and father.
Lucile writes: It was during my senior year in High School
and about Christmas time that father passed away. I still remember the
bleakness, the cold, the sense of loss. In his last years we had seen
him bear the weight of illness and financial loss, but he bore them like
a man. We never saw him mean or complaining. Since then, time, helped
to erase the loss and total up the blessings: Father loved us; he dreamed
big and worked to realize those dreams; he achieved greatly in the fields
of scholarship, culture, teaching and school administration. And
Edythe adds, 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 in which he was so well qualified so nobly endowed.