History of Christina Helen Larsen Palmer

Christina Helen LarsenOn April 22, 1941, Christina, then seventy-nine years of age, dictated this story of her life to her grand daughter in law, Mable Johansen Palmer.  When Christina was eighty-six years old she dictated the later part.

“I was born in Bergsjo, Sweden, April 17, 1862.  Since we came to America when I was four years old I remember very little about Sweden.  The house we lived in was quite high and there were several steps leading up to the front door.  The house was painted a cream color.  One incident I can remember was the day I was standing on a step of the porch when mother came out of the cottage, grabbed me and ran down the street as fast as she could go toward the mill where my father was working.  A number of people were gathered around and there seemed to be something going on.  I saw my father bring a little boy out of the water of the millpond with his ear bleeding.

When I was four years old my people migrated from Sweden to Andover, Illinois, USA where we stayed for one year.  Then my father heard about Minnesota where one could take up god homesteads, part farmland and part timber, so my parents decided to go there.  They went to a place called Isanti in Isanti County, thirty-five miles north of St. Paul.  This place had good farmland and although there was no coal in that part of the country, there was plenty of wood to burn.

In those days there were no picture shows, no cars, no aeroplanes, but we children had great fun anyway, with lots of sports.  Once in a while a circus would come to town.  In the wintertime we went sleighing, coasting and skiing.  There was a big hill on our land that ran down to a tamarack swamp.  The four of us, my brother John, two of our neighbours and I used to get on a coaster and go scooting down this hill.  We had lots of fun.  When the deep snow would thaw and then freeze it would leave a hard crust on the top and we would go skiing all over the country.  We often went sleighing in the on-horse open sleigh with bells on the horses.  The horse would run as if he was proud to be wearing bells.  Sometimes now I think if I had to choose between the life we had then and the life people have now I would choose the life I had.

In the summer there were fish in nearly all the lakes around and we would go fishing, swimming and boating.  One day my younger brother John and I were away out in a boat on Lake Fanny, which was about fifteen miles long, and three miles wide, when a big wind came up and the boat began to rock.  I became quite timid so we rowed back which was fortunate for us as the wind became much stronger.  We were very glad then we reached the shore.  Wild fruit of many kinds grew plentifully such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, strawberries and cranberries.  We never thought of buying cranberries, but we boxed them and kept them for winter.  There were also Hazel and Butternuts.

Now I will tell how I came to hear about the gospel and join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I had a girl friend, Katie Wickstrom, whose people also came from Sweden.  One night while I was visiting with her a knock came at the door.  It was a man and he asked if he could stay all night as he was traveling without purse or script, since he was a minister from Utah.  Mr. Wickstrom invited him in.  Kate and I talked about him in the other room.  He was dressed nicely and talked so nicely that we wondered how we could have heard such terrible stories about the Mormons.  After supper he asked I he could have prayer with the family.  That prayer affected me and I thought a man cannot be mean who could offer such a beautiful prayer as that; it seemed so sacred.  He prayed for the family and was so thankful to the Lord that he had a place to stay.  Then he asked Mr. Wickstrom if he thought he could get the schoolhouse to hold a meeting in.  Missionaries never asked for church houses because they knew they could not get them.  Mr. Wickstrom was one of the trustees so the meeting was held there.  I stayed over for the meeting.  The next day another meeting was held which all of us attended and there were quite a few there, among them a few mean boys who made a lot of noise.  People were very prejudiced in those days, as they did not know much about the Mormons.  I could not make fun of the meeting because it seemed so sacred to me.  After the meeting we went back to Wickstrom’s and the missionary stayed there again that night.  The next day I went home and told my folks that while I had been away I had seen something that they had never seen.  Of course they would never have guessed a Mormon Elder.  My father said he would like to talk to the missionary, as he had never heard anything about the Mormons.  I told father that maybe he could get to see him as he was going over to one of our neighbors and he would have to pass our place.  We could easily recognize him because he carried two suitcases and he wore a nice overcoat.  The next day father saw him and he asked if he was on the right road, so father had a chance to talk with him.  Father invited him to stay all night because he wanted to talk with him to find out about his people and who they were.  Father asked him many questions, which he answered.  The Elder asked father if he could hold a meeting in the school house, but father told him he could hold a meeting here in his house, if he liked, that very night, and he would go around and invite the neighbors.  At the meeting that night mother became intensely interested and she and I believed and were baptized the next summer.  One of our neighbors, the Clements, mother and I, were the only Mormons for miles around.  Father never joined the church, but he was very friendly with the Elders and always welcomed the many Elders who stayed at out home.  Years later when I came to Utah I met a number of these Elders and they returned the hospitality we had given them in the mission field.  Neither my father nor my brother John ever joined the church, but they were always friendly and attended the meetings.

There were six children in our family.  Father’s name was Jonas Olaf Larson; Mother’s name was Margaret Olsen Larson; my oldest brother’s name was John Peter Larson.  He was younger than I and is still living in Raymond.  The other children were Mathilda, who died when she was two months old; Theodore died when he was about one year old; and Silas Eugene who died at about six months.  There were no good doctors in those days.  Once when I was sick the doctor came and all he did was to but my arm and bleed me, which was the worst thing he could have done.

When I was nineteen years old an Elder named William M. Palmer passed our place with Silas Clements.  They were on their way to Cambridge, a distance of three miles, to hold a meeting.  This was the second time I had seen Elder Palmer, and when he came I was picking cranberries.  Afterwards he always said he found me in a cranberry marsh.

After supper we went in two buggies to a meeting in Cambridge.  After the meeting some boys threw some eggs at him and splattered his overcoat.  The next day I cleaned it for him.  He often said that was the first thing I ever cleaned for him, but it certainly was not the last.

In October of 1880 the Clements family planned to go to Utah and they wanted me to go with them, so I got ready and accompanied them.  At a conference held in St. Francis, Brother William Moroni Palmer, President of the mission, and Brother Jacobson announced that they were going to Utah that fall, so we joined them on the trip.  President Palmer took charge of the company, arranged for the train and although it was not a very good one, it was far better than pulling a handcart.  A few months after our arrival in Salt Lake City, Utah, President Palmer proposed and on December 15, 1881 President Daniel H.Wells married us in the Endowment House.

In 1882 my parents and brother John came to Utah and settled in Aurora, Sevier County.  John married Alice Clements.  My mother died in Aurora May 28, 1888.  I moved to Glenwood, Sevier County and lived for a while, then moved to Aurora and then to Salt Lake City where we lived for three years.  Then we moved back to Aurora and lived eleven years, then came to Raymond, Alberta, Canada where we have lived ever since.

In those days the Mormons coming to Alberta unloaded their effects from the train at Stirling, then drove overland to Raymond, Magrath or Cardston.  We hired two railway cars and brought our household furnishings, cattle and horses from Utah.  When we arrive in Stirling a Chinook wind was blowing and people were saying what a nice day it was.  We rode in and open democrat and I soon learned that a Chinook could chill one right through.  When we reached Raymond we found that thee were very few houses built, but we did find shelter in two rooms in the newly build house of Christopher Nelson.  Then my husband bought a farm, a cook wagon and a tent to live in while we built the house in town, which we moved into before winter.

My eldest daughter Helen, (Later married to John Harding) was teaching school in Wellington, Utah and could not come to Canada until June.  My brother John had a Post Office in Aurora so when he left for Canada his wife Alice stayed to take care of it until June when she and her two children and Helen came to Canada together.  The two oldest children had come earlier with their father.

As soon as possible after our arrival we moved to the farm where we made our home in a nice clean cook wagon with the boys in the tent.  On May 15, 1903 we experienced our first disaster.  In the night a terrible wind blew in from the north.  I wakened my husband saying, ‘Oh Papa, listen how the wind is blowing.  It will blow our car over.’  He said, ‘No, it won’t hurt anything.  Go to sleep.”  But I was nervous.  I could feel it was getting colder.  He knew the wagon wouldn’t blow over because it was facing the wind, in the morning when he opened the door there was a big drift of snow as high as the cook wagon.  We couldn’t even get to the tent.  It snowed for three days during which time the boys in the tent cooked their own meals.  After three days the sun came out and we were able to shovel a path to the tent.

The day before the storm the cattle were feeding around the place but the next day I asked what had happened to all the cattle.  It was a good thing that we had a calf that had been put in a pen so one caw was there because of the calf.  A team that the boys used the day before was tied in a shelter, and we had a few pigs, but all the rest of our horses and cattle had disappeared.  Now we wondered how we were going to live.  We didn’t have much money left after buying cattle, horses and land.  I wondered how anyone could farm in this country.  For a few days our future looked very dark, but after the storm most of our animals were found.  They, with other people’s cattle had drifted south to the Milk River ridge, and were all brought back together.  We lost a nice mare, which we had paid $150 for.

On January 22, 1904 my son John Melvin died from the effects of inflammatory rheumatism from which he had suffered for many years.  On July 14, 1904 Delbert died from typhoid fever, which he contracted while on the milk River ridge working for Ray Knight.  These boys were nineteen years old at the time of death.  Glen Cecil died of a rheumatic heart March 31, 1915 at age 16.  My daughter Helen was married to a neighbor farmer, John James Harding formerly of Provo, Utah on December 24, 1906.  They moved to Taber, Alberta where they homesteaded eight miles south of Taber.  Helen died there on May 13, 1911 at the time of the birth of her third child, Helen, whom I raised and who later married Daniel Jesse Atwood.

We lived on our farm north of fifteen mile Lake, eight miles north west of Raymond, in the summer and in a home in Raymond in the winter.  My brother John and his family lived on mile east of us and were our closest neighbors.  My father lived with my brother John until his death May 30, 1910.

Our farming consisted of raising grain, hay and cattle.  In the winter in 1917 we rented the farm to William R. Stevens and later to our sons Leslie and Arlo and to Jesse Atwood.

I had good hearing until I was about seventy years old, but it continued to get worse until now at age eighty-six I can only hear fairly well with the aid of a speaking tube.

When I was about sixty-five years old my eyesight, which had been exceptionally good, began to fail, and I found I was developing cataracts.  I became totally blind at seventy-nine.  In the summer of 1938 my left eye was operated on by Dr. D. Wooodcock in Lethbridge.  I had good sight fro about three weeks when the retina separated from the eyeball, and I lost the sight of that eye completely.  I was totally blind for about two years while the sight in my right eye gradually deteriorated as the cataract advanced.  I consulted Dr. Gross in Calgary but he refused to operate because of my high blood pressure, and said that unless I could reduce the blood pressure from 225 to 160 he could do nothing and this he thought was impossible.  I returned to Lethbridge where, with the help of diet, bed rest, medical assistance and faith I was able to bring the blood pressure down to 150, so Dr. Gross consented to operate and removed the cataract from my right eye, in the Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary.

Before I had my last operation I had many misgivings about the outcome, but after talking with Molly Harding I felt better. She said that her family would fast and pray for me that my faith would increase.  The Relief Society sisters in Raymond and in Calgary prayed for me and Arlo gave me a beautiful blessing.  James Anderson came to Leslies home in Raymond and gave me a blessing and promised me the operation would be successful.  All the family fasted and prayed for me on the day of the operation.  With so many others having faith it gave me faith, and I was sure I was going to be all right.  I was on the operating table two hours but during all this time I was not nervous and felt no pain.  The doctor praised me for being a wonderful patient.  I had to lie perfectly still for three days with my head between two sacks of sand.  In two weeks the doctor removed the bandages.  I shall never forget how good I felt when I could see a flower on the nurse’s hat.  I was so thrilled I clapped my hands.  Dr. Gross told me that if the other doctors in the clinic had known what he was up against with infection in my eye they would not have allowed him to operate.  It was a miracle.  I felt that the prayers of my children, friends and relatives had been answered and the Lord was the one who had done it.  The Lord inspired that doctor to operate.  I was able to go home for Christmas, and then went back to Calgary to stay with my son Arlo until I had my glasses fitted.  I have had fairly good sight in that right eye ever since.

My husband, William Moroni Palmer died January 25, 1929 at 82 years, one month and 17 days.  He was in practically normal health until about six months before his death when he started to become more feeble.  However he was up and had a good appetite that day before.  On the morning of his death he asked for something to eat.  As I was getting his breakfast I heard him breathing unnaturally.  He passed away about 2 pm that day.

Since William’s death I have lived with my children, principally with Leslie, Helen Atwood and Asael.  I sold the farm to Helen and Jesse Atwood and my granddaughter, Marie O’Brien Matkin, (Ada Ann’s daughter) bought my home in Raymond  in 1945.”

ADDENDUM by Aseal E. Palmer,

son of Christina Helen Larson Palmer

Mother had a pleasant disposition and was loved by all who knew her.  She was active in her church, having been President of the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association for a number of years in her younger days in Aurora and later in Raymond Alberta.  She was a very even-tempered person, often smiling and expressed her joy with a pleasant little chuckle.  The only phrase she used to express annoyance was “Great guns and shootin’ irons”.  She was five and one half inches tall and weighed in her prime 150 pounds.  Here eyes were blue.  Her light brown hair, always nicely combed, turned to a beautiful white in her old age.

Mother lived to be ninety-one years old and died May 26, 1953 at Raymond, Alberta, Canada.  She maintained reasonably good health until sixteen months before her death when she suffered a stroke (brain haemorrhage).  She was confined to the Raymond Municipal hospital for the entire time where she received excellent care.  She did not suffer much during the long confinement and passed peacefully away with complete assurance she would join her husband and children who had preceded her in death.  The end.