Saturday, July 9, 2011

NIELSON JENNY MELVINA

MY GRANDMOTHER

JENNIE MELVINA NIELSON
by JAMES R. BAGGETT

Jennie Melvina Nielson was born on 26 December, 1889 at Richfield, Utah.  She was the seventh child, and the third girl, born to James Nielson and Christina Marie (Stina) Smith.  Jennie's father was born 18 October, 1860 in Denmark and emigrated to this country in 1877.  He settled in Richfield, Utah where he married Stina Smith on 13 December, 1879 when he was 19 years old and she was 16.  Stina was born at Fountain Green, Utah, in 1863, was the daughter of Jorgen Smith and one of his three wives, Christine Marie Birkedahl, both converts and early Mormon pioneers. 

Jennies mother, Stina, gave birth to 15 children but four girls and two boys died at ages from five weeks to nine years.  The remaining nine that lived to be adults were;  Niels (born 1882), May (1883), Christian Edward (1886), Joseph Henry (1888), Jennie Melvina (1889), Caroline (1891), James (1892), Martha  (1895), and Ella (1904).  All of the children were born at Richfield except Manila who died at one year after being born at Spring Glen, Utah and Ella who was born at Winter Quarters.  Thus, except for a brief move to Spring Glen, Jennie lived with parents at Richfield until sometime between 1901 and 1904 when they moved to Winter Quarters where Ella was born on 20 December, 1904.  On 18 July, 1906 when Ella was 18 months old, her mother, Stina died of pneumonia at Winter Quarters.  Ella was raised by her father with the help of her older sisters, including Jennie and Martha.  Jennie taught Ella how to cook, including how to bake a cake. 

Sometime after moving to Winter Quarters, Jennie met Thomas Wesley Holm.  Tom was born in Spanish Fork on 7 March, 1886.  And on 2 April, 1906, when she was 17 years old, Jennie and Tom were married in Price, Utah.  On 2 January, 1907 in Winter Quarters her daughter, Laura Christina was born.  A second child, Thomas Wesley, born in Winter Quarters on 20 October, 1908 died the following day and was buried in the little cemetery at nearby Scofield.  On 2 October, 1909, her son James Annis was born also in Winter Quarters.  On 14 March, 1910, on a card addressed to three year old Laura, Tom's mother in Spanish Fork wrote to Jennie that,  "You can have the house.  I will put in some garden for you."  Thus it can be known that Jennie and Ton moved with their family to Spanish Fork in the spring or summer of 1910, but records of their lives for the next six years are mostly lacking.  Jennie gave birth to second daughter, Wanda, in Spanish Fork on 22 October, 1911, but this child died that same day and it is reported that she is buried, unmarked, at the foot of the grave of a relative, Stephen Douglas Holm. 

In the spring of 1916, Tom, Jennie and family moved to Burley, Idaho and settled in the Starrh,s Ferry district just west of town, where some of their Utah friends had already settled.  Jennies sister, Ella traveled from Winter Quarters in the spring of 1921, when she was 16 years old, to visit Jennie, and at that time met her future husband, Leslie Booth.  Ella again visited Jennie in 1922 and this time married Leslie Boothe on 2 October, with Jennie and their sister, Martha as witnesses.  Jennie and Tom may have lived at Starrh's Ferry until their one year trip to California. 

Late in 1929, Jen and Tom packed up and moved to California in their big black Chrysler, along with daughter, Laura and her husband, Jim Baggett, and their son, Jim A. Holm and his wife, Thelma.  At this time, Jennie had two grandsons, Jimmie Baggett, who was about one and a half years old, and Billy Holm, who was five months old.  They spent most of the year in Los Angeles, during which time Keith Baggett was born to Laura and Jim.  About September of 1930, Jennie, Tom, Laura, Jim, and the two children were back in Burley.  This is known from photographs of Jimmie and Keith at the house in Burley where they lived for the next two years.  On 4 October, 1930, Jimmy and Keith were photographed in Salt Lake City with their grandmother Jennie and with Jennie's niece, Norma Oreno (later Known as Norma Carter).  When Laura died in June, 1932, Jim Baggett moved with Jimmie and Keith in with Tom and Jennie where they were living near Aylor corner, about four miles south of Burley on Overland (the Oakley Highway).  During the three and a half years Jim and his sons lived with Tom and Jennie, until Jim remarried in September 1935, Jennie was a good and loving mother to Jimmie and Keith.  Jim and the boys moved with them to three additional houses.  Since this was during the depression, times were hard and it was a struggle to make a living at farming, so Tom apparently was always trying to find better situations. 

After the house on Overland, the family in 1933 and 1934 lived in the Unity district southeast of Burley in a log house that probably was, because it had no electricity or running water, nearly as primitive as any Jennie had lived in during her life.  At the log house, Jennie had a nice garden of vegetables and rows of annual flowers such as marigolds, cosmos, and zinnias as was her custom.  She canned and dried vegetables, cured bacon and ham, and made her own butter from the cream skimmed from the pans of milk that were saved for drinking and stored in the little cellar west of the house.  Fat from the butchered hogs were rendered into lard in the oven of the cook stove, and the cracklings that resulted were one of our treats, especially the thin crisp ones (We did not know about cholesterol in those days).  The lard was used for cooking and baking.  She also made soap by boiling the lard in a big container on top of the stove and reacting it with lye.  When the soap had cooled and solidified and cut into regular cakes, it was the real "Grandma's Lye Soap", and was similar to the Fels Naptha soap that can be bought today and is often used as a defense against poison oak.  Our flour was obtained from the Burley Flour Mill, across the street from the Farmers Equity where my father, Jim worked, and was received in exchange for wheat grown by my grandfather and delivered to the mill.  The flour came in white cotton sacks that when empty were used by Jennie for dish towels.  Like most farm women of that era, Jennie made quilts out of all kinds of cloth scraps an I can remember how heavy they felt but how essential they were to keep us warm in our bedroom way up in front of the house away from the stove.  One winter when typhoid fever had killed a number of people in the Burley area, Grandmother took Keith and me in to Dr. Espy to get typhoid shots.  When we got home we were feeling bad and had sore arms, so she moved our bed out into the middle of the living room close to the stove and we got to sleep there that night. 

Jennie's washing was done in a tub with a washboard and water that was carried in and heated on the kitchen stove.  When it could be afforded, coal was used in the kitchen stove and the heating stove that stood in the middle of the living room, but most of the time the stoves were fed with sagebrush cut out in the desert south of Burley.  Sagebrush, the only wood available in the area, was very hard to chop and was messy in the house, but produced a hot fire.  Although this was during the depression, and there was little money to spend in stores, we always seemed to have plenty of good things to eat because we lived on the farm.  There were plenty of potatoes, milk, flour, vegetables in season or preserved, and pork.  As on all farms in those days, there were chickens running all over the place but roosting and laying in a henhouse where the eggs could be collected (the hens would also lay nests of eggs out in the weeds and show up with broods of chicks).  Catching chickens for dinner, unless it was done in the chicken coop at night, was an athletic job we kids got to help with, but until we were older, the chopping block part was taken care of by the adults. 

Tom and Jennie quit farming about 1936 and moved into a house on Normal Street just south of 16th street and in view, across a vacant block, from where I lived with my Dad, my stepmother, Ethel, and my brother Keith.  In a year or two, probably soon after we had moved to Buhl in the winter of 1937-38, they moved into a small house on the west edge of the Cassia County Fairgrounds where Tom had obtained a job as a caretaker.  Keith and I came from Buhl to visit her when we could, and at least once, after I got my 1933 Chevrolet, came to stay a few days.  Because she had been our mother for a few years, she was attached to us and I am afraid our visits were never frequent or long enough.  Fortunately, her other grandchildren of Jim and Thelma Holm's family were there in Burley and spent time with her.  Janet, who was born in July 1937, was essentially raised by Jennie while her mother worked, and Don also spent a lot of time with her. 



It was in this house at the fairgrounds that both Jennie and Tom lived for the rest of their lives.  Jennie, like her sister, Ella was a diabetic.  When Jennie was only 56 years old, on 1 October, 1945, after suffering a diabetes attack in her home, she died in a Salt Lake City, hospital.  Tom died 30 October, 1958 in Burley, Idaho.  Both were buried in the Burley City Cemetery.

Jennie and Tom had four children:

Laura Christina Holm--born in Winter Quarters, Utah, on 2 January, 1897, died 11 June, 1932; married James Nephi Baggett. 

Thomas Wesley Holm--born in Winter Quarters, Utah. on 20 October, 1908, died 21 October, 1908. 

James Annis Holm--born in Winter Quarters, Utah on 2 October, 1909, died 5 June, 1995; married Margaret Andrew. 

Wanda Holm-- born and died at Spanish Fork, Utah, 22 October, 1911. 

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