We ask for strength and God gives us
difficulties which make us strong.
We pray for wisdom and God sends us problems,
the solution of which develops wisdom.
We plead for prosperity and God gives us
brain and brawn to work.
We plead for courage and God gives us
Dangers to overcome.
We ask for favors – God gives us opportunities.
– This is the answer.
The past is what it is, the future may
be made better by the use of the
present... THE PAST IS TO LEARN
FROM, BUT NOT TO LIVE IN.
The children of Lars B. Neilson by Dorothy Marie Mortensen born 3 Feb. 1835
Name Date of Birth Married to Date of Death
Louis 23 Aug 1857 infancy
Dorotha Martina 24 Dec 1858 Allen Wilkinson 6 Apr 1939
Neils Peter 26 Apr 1860 Bertha ? ? Jan 1901
Eliza Maria Olena 18 Oct 1861 Larman Wright
Henry Reiser 27 Dec 1923
By Ann Christine Mortensen born 14 Sept 1837
Lorenzo 18 Apr 1860 Marguerite Corrintha Olmstead
Jennie Erickson (Peterson) 14 July 1941
Mary Ann Helena 18 May 1861 John Wesley Allred
William L. Jones 16 Jan 1951
Morten Didrich 7 Dec 1862 12 May 1863
James Diderich 19 Mar 1864 Caroline Jane Fox (Olmstead) 16 Oct 1936
Christine 13 Nov 1865 6 Oct 1866
John Fullmer 9 Dec 1866 2 Mar 1867
Emma Amelia 14 June 1868 Joseph Stover Weaver
? McGilvery 13 Dec 1943
Lars Ferdinand 28 Mar 1870 Caroline Jane Olmstead 15 Mar 1951
Lorette Christine 27 Sep 1871 Willard Henry Robinson 1 Nov 1958
Dozinda Christiana 10 April 1873 David Thomas Burraston
George Wilkinson 15 Sept 1967
Raymond Antan 25 May 1875 Anna Laura Syddall
Mabel Wright 24 Feb 1939
Minnie May 23 Apr 1877 David Owen Collings 26 Oct 1958
Viola Nickelena 7 Apr 1879 Guyern Goodman Hawkins
Otis Maylen Osgood
Daniel Alonzo Morris 3 Nov 1964
William Dare 14 July 1880 Lola Miller
Margaret Barney 2 May 1958
Twins of Benjamin L. Clapp and Ann Christine Mortensen, raised by Lars Neilson
Elijah Charles Clapp 11 Dec 1857 Mary Neilson 12 Dec 1913
Elisha Drown Clapp 11 Dec 1857 Harriet Cecelia Snow 13 Jan 1914
LIFE OF LARS B. NEILSON
by his granddaughter
LELA N. FACKRELL
―Get out, you scamp! And don't ever come back.‖
With these words thundering in his ears, Lars got out of the music studio a very sad boy. For some time,
he had been an eager listener to his boy friend's music lessons, going home to practice the instructions
diligently for a week, then returning again for another new lesson. There's nothing wrong about listening, he
reasoned, when he could ask none of the questions that flooded his mind nor demonstrate his playing.
What would this story have been if the music master had recognized the intense desire for music that
burned in Lars' breast, and had opened a way to teach him? Many teachers have recognized superior talents of
poor students and made it possible for them to study. Would this teacher, whose name has long been forgotten,
have gained immortal fame by being the teacher of a virtuoso violinist? The master's anger at being tricked
blinded him to his opportunity, and Lars' musical life story became one of continued self-help and unaided
Lars was born near Staarup in a ―little white cottage about one half mile from the Sea,‖1 15 Sept 1833, the
first son and second child of Niels Bertelsen, son of Peder Pedersen Bertelsen and Johanna Iversen; and Maren
Larsen Dam, daughter of Lars Christian Dam, and Ida Johanne Johansen. As all fathers experience justifiable
joy and pride when a son is born, Father Niels was no exception. For him, however, this was his only
vest-popping experience. Although he welcomed into his heart and home nine other children, all of them were
Niels taught Lars to fish, to make fishnets, hunt and shoot, and do chores about the farm. In our
imagination, we can see father and son spending many happy hours together as well as a few corrective trips to
the woodshed. Lars went to school when he was six and perhaps until he was fourteen, as that was compulsory
in Denmark, and obtained what was then considered a finished education. Oh yes, and he tagged along when
his friend went for his violin lesson, and learned surreptitiously to play the violin. Later he learned the flute,
clarinet, piccolo and organ without benefit of a teacher as far as we can learn.
As Lars grew older he must have been a good imitator of his father, who was ―An honored man in his
community, jolly and full of fun, the life of every party.‖2 To judge by Lars' actions in later life, he probably
also became a popular member among the young folks with his humor and music.
By the time he reached his seventeenth year, his well-ordered Danish life underwent a drastic change. On
14 June 1850, Elders Erastus Snow and George P. Dykes arrived in Copenhagen Denmark bringing the
message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in a few short months had baptized so many
people that a branch was organized 15 Sept. 18503 (Lars' birthday). As the missionaries traveled to other cities,
the established, peaceful way of life was disturbed by the enthusiastic fervor of the converts and the frenzied
actions of the mobs who tried to stop the movement.
Relief Society Magazine, July 1956
One of the new converts from Gries Vyle, Denmark, was Joannes Larsen, a very likeable young man, who
called on the Bertelsen family.4 His message was very well received. Just what Lars' first reactions were to
this new message we do not know, but by Feb. 1851 his sister, Bolette, was baptized. Did Lars grow angry
when mobs threatened violence? What did he do when the playmates who used to play on the heather with his
little sisters, began to tease and torment them because their parents listened to the missionaries? What were his
thoughts and reactions when the landlord forced them from the home they had rented for so many years?5
An inspirational message coupled with opposition and persecution, forces one to think, study and pray.
Lars could not remain neutral in the midst of so much discussion within the home, and persecution and
arguments in the streets. One caught in such a predicament must take a stand. Lars did. He was the second in
the family to be baptized, 6 Mar. 1853 by Niels Knudsen.6 Six days later his mother was also baptized,
followed by the rest of the family.
Lette and Helena soon left to join the Saints in Zion. Lars was nearing age 22 when all male citizens were
required to enter the army for basic training after which they were to remain ―on call.‖7 The excited talk of a
war coming forced Niels and Maren to make frantic preparations for Lars to leave Denmark before the clutches
of the army kept him in Denmark. They didn't want to leave their only son at home when their turn came to
depart for Zion. Hasty preparations were made, fond farewells spoken and Lars crossed the English Channel
for Liverpool, England where he boarded the ship James Nesmith. They sailed 7 Jan 1855 with 440
Scandinavians aboard.8 This predominance of Danes postponed the pain of the supercilious smiles which
makes one aware of their queer dress; round trunks and different manners. Among the passengers was a family
of Lars' friends, Diderick and Maren Mortensen and six of their daughters.9 Lars enjoyed their company very
much and later married two of the girls.
Lars' daughter, Lorette, in writing the life of her mother says:
One incident occurred during the journey that is worthy of record. They had been sailing several weeks
when a terrible storm arose – so terrific it brought alarm and fear to both the officers and passengers ... the
converts were gathered in the lower part of the ship ... Suddenly the captain of the ship appeared before them
and said, ―Are you people Mormons?‖
―Yes we are sometimes called Mormons ...‖
―I understand ... you believe in a God who controls the sea and land.‖
―We do indeed,‖ answered the elder.
―Well then, I must urge you to call on your God now with all the faith you can command. Our ship is
disabled and unless the storm ceases immediately it will only be a matter of a short time until we will all be at
the bottom of the sea.‖
―We will call on our God, He will hear our prayer I can assure you, and He will save us.‖
The captain disappeared and the elder turned to the shocked group.
Ada Gordon, Life Story of Frederikka Christina Bertelsen
Early Church File
Andrew Christian Neilson, Diary, D. U. P. Files
Andrew Jensen, Church Chronology, p. 52
Emigration cards (38335 F Utah 1 pt 1 and pt 6 Gen. Soc.)
―Be not afraid, the same God that stilled the waves of Galilee still lives. He knows the sacrifices you have
made. He knows how earnestly you desire to help in the building of His Church in the earth, and He will not
desert you now. We will call upon Him and He will save us, but we must have faith. We must all do our part.‖
He gathered them together in a circle and they began their supplication to their God, the elder first then
each in turn added his plea for deliverance, even the children. And then a most wonderful thing happened.
The storm abated almost immediately – the angry waves ceased to hiss and pound the little ship — a great calm
settled over the mighty deep, and the little group of humble grateful emigrants knew that their prayers had been
heard and they had been saved!
The ship arrived at New Orleans 23 Feb. 1855 and most of the company continued up the river to Ft.
Levenworth.10 Five months later on 12 Aug. 1855, Lars and Dorothy Mortensen were married in Weston,
Missouri by Elder C. Nelson.11 One wishes one knew more details of their courtship and marriage, and where
they lived until they joined the wagon train for Utah in 1856. When Elder Benjamin L. Clapp began
organizing the balance of his missionary converts for the trek to Utah, Lars and Dorothy joined them. Word
was sent to Dorothy's sister, Christine, to accompany them. She and an escort mounted horses and joined the
company at their first camp. The joy of reunion between the sisters, the details of the travels with Lars
entertaining the crowd around the camp fire at night, the courtship of Captain Benjamin L. Clapp and Christine
would make a lovely chapter if we knew the details. They arrived in Salt Lake 19 Sept. 1856.12
Statistics on paper are uninteresting and cold but if we place them in a setting of Utah history, we can piece
a story together. Life in early Utah was a hazardous adventure with something to try the soul or strengthen the
character every day. Lars met adversity or enjoyment head-on, never shrinking his tasks.
One usually thinks of one's ancestor as a feeble old man. Royal F. Neilson, a grandson, said, ―I only knew
him when he was old with a long white beard, rosy cheeks and merry disposition. Every time I see Santa
Clause, I think of Grandpa Neilson.‖ But at this time of Lars' life, he was a young 21 year-old bridegroom of
fair complexion, blond hair and beard, rosy cheeks, prominent eye bones, and although he was only about 5 ft
2 in. in height, he stood so straight that once at a kangaroo court he was fined for stooping. (A kangaroo court
is a fund raising stunt played at a dance or party. Couples are arrested on the dance floor and brought before
the judge. ―What's the charge?‖ thunders the judge. Everyone listens, for the joke that is sure to follow will be
as ridiculous and unfitting to the person as the ingenuity of the arresting officer can make it.
―For stooping over when he walks.‖
―Lars Neilson is fined for stooping when he walks,‖ and the dancing continues amid the laughter.)
As Lars and his bride walked the streets of Salt Lake listening to the ―monkey jabbering‖ of the foreign
English language, did they feel relief and pleasure at reaching their destination? Or did they feel foreign,
unwanted, and laughed at?13 Lars must have appraised the wonderful possibilities of using his musical talent
in such a city. He must have wished desperately that he could speak English, and mentally made plans to learn
Andrew Jensen, Church Chronology, page 52
Lars Neilson‘s handwritten record, owned by Lela N. Fackrell
Deseret News 1856 p. 229 (D. U. P. Files) and Lorette Neilson Robinson
Ephraim‘s First 100 Years, (Utah Era) ―When the first company of Scandinavian Saints arrived in Utah in 1854,
the English people made light of the queer dress and customs of the foreigners.‖
it quickly so he could earn a living here with his music. That the Scandinavians were being asked to settle in
Sanpete to strengthen the colonies from Indian raids must not have been welcome news.
About Nov. 1856,14 regardless of his own wants and wishes, he obeyed the decision of Brigham Young
and began his journey to Fort Ephraim, which had been finished the previous year. After leaving Provo valley
they traveled up the Spanish Fork River to what is now Thistle where they crossed the river and want south
through the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. After living in nearly flat Denmark where the highest elevation is
only 536 feet,15 one wonders if Utah's fall beauty of blazing red, gold and green made the Danes overcome
their fear and awe at being in the midst of such a rugged, high mountain range from which a band of naked
savages could emerge at any moment and ―scare the livin' daylights‖ out of a person. Utah was not like
Denmark, and after 118 miles of fearsome, tiring travel they reached Fort Ephraim which was also like nothing
The sight of Fort Ephraim must have been a crushing blow. A witches caldron of impish collections could
not have poured out a more forlorn, bleak and dismal sight to Lars after living in a ―little white cottage by the
sea‖ amid the rolling, green hills of Denmark. His state of emotions defies description. One can just hear his
Danish exclamation, ―Sufferin' catfish. Is this where we have to live?‖ as he viewed the 17-acre fort with its
walls from 14 to 7 feet high and four feet thick at the top, its mud and log houses placed side by side, lining
three walls. ―No privacy at all and the houses are dark inside,‖ may have been Dorothy's first thoughts as she
saw the one window and door in the front of each small house. Some Saints were living in tents and covered
wagons, she noticed as she nodded in greeting to their welcome smiles and gestures.
The smaller fort in the center contained the business section, that is, the post office, tithing house, etc. (See
map) with a Church and school house in its center. A closer look showed that the ―walls of the meeting house
consisted of cedar posts stuck in the ground, a few feet apart, the intervening spaces being filled with
adobes,‖16 The roof was of logs and dirt. The animals were housed within the large fort at night and herded
carefully during the day. Their perfume easily permeated most, if not all, the fort. Dust must have been so
prevalent it was taken for granted. A ditch of water flowed from one corner of the fort completely around the
smaller fort and out the opposite corner. The newly arrived group was greeted in four different languages
besides broken English. Talk about monkey jabbering! It must have been a laughable hodge-podge.
Lars proceeded to learn the English language and adopt American ways. One Danish custom was
continued: he changed his name from Bertelsen to Neilson when he married. He spelled the ―son‖ in the
English fashion as a concession to his new country, not knowing that in doing so he made his name Swedish.
He bragged to his grandchildren that he didn't say ―dis and dat‖ like other foreigners, much to their amusement
because his determined efforts to be sure and say the ―th‖ still gave it a different emphasis. However, his
speech was clear and unbroken, easily understood.
How this addition of Saints were cared for at Fort Ephraim after entering it, we can only imagine. Neither
do we know if Lars and Dorothy lived in a cabin or covered wagon. We can be sure that each family was given
a start of the yeast that was unknown in Utah Valley until the Danes brought it in 1853. 17 The scant food
supply was shared with the newcomers. The women began their various duties of cooking by camp fire or
fireplace and caring for the household. The men herded livestock, hunted wild game, hauled wood, kept the
fire banked at night (for there were no matches) and took turns watching for Indians from Guard Knoll.
Lorette N. Robinson and Winston R. Crandall, Life of Christine M. Clapp Neilson
Standard American Encyclopedia, Vol IV Denmark
Map and description of the Fort taken from These Our Fathers, History of Sevier County
Mabel Harmer, Story of Utah, p. 144
Guard Knoll was close to the fort and on its top was a nine-foot wall built of limestone hauled from the
mountains northeast of Ephraim. There were holes about twenty feet apart to shoot through. The great gate
was always guarded. Lars served as a guard throughout the Indian warfare. Perhaps his marksmanship played
a part in his selection for this duty. As Lars did his duties, Dorothy carried water from the stream, heated it in a
blackened tub over an outdoor fire, boiled her clothes and washed them on a washboard with homemade soap.
She ―set‖ her bread at night, wearily dragged her tired feet to bed where she lay breathing heavily. The
consumption that caused her death could have begun, or at least have been aggravated in this cold, drafty place
where hard work was the rule and rest was thought of as a sin.
Uninvited and unwanted events kept changing the Neilson story like a turn of a TV knob. One day in July
of 1857 the following conversation may have happened:
―The United States Army is on its way to fight us!‖
―Holy Moses! That's the last straw.‖
―What'll we do now?‖
After the first shock and surprise is over and the dangerous trail through the mountains and over the prairie
is remembered, the vulnerability of the U. S. Army makes the men begin to laugh.
―They'll never get to Salt Lake Valley unless Brigham Young lets them. He‘ll give them Hail Columbia.‖
―They can burn the grass feed, or—‖
―Drive off the horses and cattle and leave the army afoot, the dirty dogs, and—‖
―Burn the Forts and buildings along the way.‖
―If that army ever gets into Echo Canyon the Saints will shower down rocks on them from the top of the
―They'll squeal like stuck pigs.‖
―Furthermore, listen to this: Brigham Young says, ‗Before I will suffer what I have in times gone by, there
shall not be one building, nor one foot of lumber, nor a stick, nor a tree, nor a particle of grass and hay that will
burn, left in reach of our enemies...our enemies shall find it as barren as when we came here.' The Saints will
move south and let the enemies have the empty valley.‖
Lars may have glanced at his wife heavy with child, white-faced with worry over her sister, Christine, who
was also expecting the stork, in Salt Lake. He immediately thought of his little twelve-year-old sister, Lena
Marie, on the way to Utah. Would she ever get to Utah now? How could he help her when his own living was
so precarious and money was nonexistent?
Ephraim must have been agog with talk showing willingness to open crowded homes to the fleeing Saints
should the order to evacuate bring any of them that far south. On the 23 Aug. 1857, one month (lacking one
day) after Brigham Young received the alarming news of the approaching army, Lars and Dorothy were
gladdened by the arrival of their first child, a boy, whom they named Lewis. Christine gave birth to twins,
Elijah and Elisha Clapp, 11 Dec. 1857 in Salt Lake City. Lewis died young, is all the family record says, but
after waiting nearly two years for the stork to come, Lars and Dorothy didn't think of the death as a vital
statistic. They grieved. Their first daughter, Dorothy Martina, called Tena, was born 24 Dec. 1858 after the
army had entered the Salt Lake Valley peacefully and settled at Camp Floyd.
While the people of Salt Lake were dealing with the U. S. Army, the brethren in over-crowded Fort
Ephraim petitioned President Brigham Young to make another settlement in the valley. The summer of 1858,
a committee was chosen to select a sight for the new settlement, Lars' brother-in-law, Benjamin L. Clapp being
one of the committee, as he and Christine were now living in Fort Ephraim. Brother Clapp was a member of
the 1st quorum of Seventies. The brethren chose the elevation of Mt. Pleasant for the new settlement. This
choice was a ―favorite hunting ground of the Indians and later became a battleground between militia and
savages.‖18 The committee left Fort Ephraim 2 Sept. 1858 to report to Brigham Young who approved the
Lars was active in the building project which was erected after the pattern of Fort Ephraim. He is on one
record as having ―given 11 hours labor and furnishing three teams and three wagons necessary.‖20
The plan called for a gate in the center and a port-hole every 16 feet in each wall. North and
South gates were large enough for teams and wagons to pass through. The fort walls were
completed 18 July 1859. The inside of the thick wall served as the back of each of the homes
which were 16 feet square. The other three walls were of adobes. The doors and windows of
each home faced Pleasant Creek which ran through the center of the fort.21
In addition to building the fort ―The brethren plowed and seeded 900 to 1000 acres and built 2½ miles of
fence that spring.‖22 How many miles does a man have to walk guiding a plow and team down furrow after
furrow of nearly 1000 acres? The Mt. Pleasant brethren did something besides fiddle and dance. They were
hauling rock for the wall, mixing mud bricks and baking them, plowing, seeding, cooking, washing clothes and
eating – all done with cattle-stealing Indians lurking about. One gets a rapid pulse and high blood pressure just
thinking about it. We'd rather have high-powered cars lurking around each corner aiming to crush our fenders
if we fail to observe carefully. In spite of everything, or because of the ever present danger, the work
progressed rapidly and the walls were completed by July 18th. By fall the grain that the ―devilish, jumping
grasshoppers‖ didn't devour, was ready to harvest.
Lars probably wished he had sons big enough to help him thresh as he took his place with the rest of the
brethren. After the shocked bundles had dried in the fields, they were placed on a wagon cover and the wheat
heads were beaten with a flail, called a poverty stick, then the mixture was held high and poured out, the heavy
wheat falling to the canvas and the chaff blowing away in the wind. A man could thresh about six bushels a
day if the wind was favorable. When Lars arrived home at night a good layer of fine wheat chaff caked his
hair, eyebrows and lashes and clothes. ―I've got chaff on my tonsils and adenoids,‖ he likely said as he sneezed
before kissing his wife.
He was remembered more for his music, however. Hilda M. Longsdorf wrote: ―Lars Neilson, known as
Lars Fiddler, became very popular and had many invitations from other settlements to locate there. He, with
John Waldermaar and James Hansen, played for all the important gatherings held in Mt. Pleasant during the
first sixteen years...Our ever jolly Lars Neilson used to sing:
History of Sanpete County page 205 (S 7 Utah)
(6420 F Utah M 42 part 1) Mt. Pleasant L.D.S. Ward Records
Afton Taylor researcher for Slta Stroecker
These Our Fathers, p. 95
(6420 F Utah M 42 part 1) Mt. Pleasant L.D.S. Ward Records
When I was a little boy,
My mother used to say
That she used to spank me up and down
A dozen times a day
For I‘d either be up in a tree
Or rolling down the hill;
It‘s a fact that whether I sit or stand
I really can't keep still.
No, I really can't keep still,
I really can't keep still,
It's a fact that whether I sit or stand,
I really can't keep still.‖23
A SECOND MARRIAGE
After Benjamin L. Clapp was excommunicated and went to California, Christine Clapp was left alone with
twins, Elijah and Elisha (called Lige and Lice). Dorothy said to Lars, ―Go get Christine and marry her.‖ It
took a bit of persuading to get him to undertake such a responsibility, he later confided to his son, Raymond,
while the grandchildren were listening. This marriage in 1859 brought the two sisters and their three children
together. A record in Lars' handwriting says he and Dorothy were ―sealed by Father Moely 18 Feb. 1860 in
Summit Creek Utah Territory and received endowments and sealed to husband 22 Nov. 1861.‖ Both wives
were sealed that same day in the Endowment House.24
This second marriage gave new happiness to Lars. Christine was humorous, of vigorous health and after
all was a new bride. As Dorothy watched their vitality and happiness while her cough grew more severe, she
may have experienced some pangs of jealousy. On the other hand, she may have feared she would not be with
them long and rejoiced that her husband and children would have love and happiness here and that they would
all be together as one family in eternity.
On the 5 Oct. 1860, Lars' sister, Thrine, arrived in Salt Lake and was taken to Franklin D. Richard's home.
Two days later Lars took her to Ephraim.25 News of home and parents was delightedly told. The happy
reunion was further enjoyed by the antics of Lars as he proudly showed off his four months old ―twin‖ sons
born 18th and 26th of April 1860. In May and October of the following year, 1861, both wives had daughters.
This was Dorothy's last child. In December of the very next year Martin was born to Christine, but died three
months later, followed by the birth of James (in Spring City) in March of 1864.
Two months after the birth of James, Dorothy died of consumption 3 May 1864 in Ephraim. As Lars stood
by her grave in Mt. Pleasant, bidding his first love goodbye, it was hard for him to realize that in the short
space of 11 years he had come to a foreign land, entered the Celestial law of plural marriage, fathered eight
children, buried two of them, became stepfather to Christine's twins, and now he and Christine faced the
frightening prospect of rearing eight children all of whom were under seven years of age. This young couple of
30 and 24 felt helpless, frustrated and overburdened at this time but they gave no sign of shirking their
responsibilities. The three children of Dorothy's were taken to Christine‘s heart and they soon filled the vacant
spot caused by the death of her own three loved ones. For again, in referring to the record, we learn that their
Hilda M. Longsdorf, History of Mt. Pleasant
Lars‘ record owned by Lela Neilson Fackrell
next two children died in infancy. A daughter Christine lived nearly a year 13 Nov. 1865 to 6 Oct 1866 and
John Fullmer, only three months — 9 Dec. 1866 to 2 Mar. 1867. These are cold, bare facts on a family group
sheet but what could have caused these deaths?
THE BLACK HAWK WAR
In April 9, 1865 six months before baby Christine was born we can imagine some excited person dashing
into the fort after a seven-mile ride from Manti, pulling his sweaty pony to a halt in a cloud of fine dust and
madly shouting: ―Some drunken lout in Manti has pulled an Indian Chief from his horse and gave him a
bloody beating.26 There'll be a war for sure now.‖
―The crazy fool! Now we'll all suffer.‖
The country was in a dither and Lars was sent to Salt Lake City in capacity of scout to warn the people
along the way and notify President Brigham Young of the dangerous situation. This modern Paul Revere ran
on foot! Several family members remember hearing him relate his trip and how anxious he was to get back to
his loved ones. He said he kept up with the mail buggy. Whenever the driver stopped to deliver and collect
mail, change teams and eat lunch, Lars trotted on ahead nibbling dry bread. Soon the buggy would pass him.
At the next post office, Lars would pass the mail, never stopping until he returned home where he could protect
his family. The emotional intensity of his worry was not without justification.
War did come. Lasting three years, it was the worst Indian outbreak in Utah. ―Sanpete and Sevier were
like a hive of angry bees.‖27 Small bands of Indians ranged the valleys and...caused the loss of 2000 head of
cattle, a million and half dollars of expense and the lives of 70 white men — and Lars' two babies. We might
list them as war casualties because the war reached its peak the year that baby Christine died in 1866. She and
John Fullmer were born in Richfield where Lars may have moved to avoid the dangerous fighting that went on
in the favorite hunting ground of Mt. Pleasant. Having arrived in Richfield, it became so dangerous that
people were moved back to northern forts again. ―People suffered from want of food, clothing and shelter.
Infants could not be given proper care and the mortality was great.‖28
Yes, Lars and Christine lost two beloved babies. Let's picture Lars trying to comfort his wife at the funeral
of her undernourished eleven months old baby, just two months before the birth of John Fullmer. The burial
would have had to be done under heavy guard. By the second of March, John Fullmer‘s death and burial again
saddened the Neilson family. With test after test of heretofore unheard of problems bursting in unpredictable
succession, one wonders how Lars and Christine endured them. Nothing except strict childhood training and
the strong faith in God and the church teachings had prepared them to rise above such experiences.
Life of Daniel H. Wells, p. 127
Levi Edgar Young, Founding of Utah, p. 286
Longsdorf, These Our Fathers
Imagine Lars sitting by the fire on a rough, homemade stool, running his quick, flexible, stubby fingers
through his blond hair while the pressure of his many worries plowed through his brain. The crops must be
planted. Would there be water enough this year? Would he be raising grain for his family, or raising it for
another plague of glutinous grasshoppers to grow fat on? How could he keep the Indians away from his cows
and horses? And feed, clothe, protect and save from death, his eight small children through this Indian war?
His heart was full of concern for his neighbors and he planned to share and share alike with them. Christine
had no materials to spin, dye and weave cloth. How much longer would they have to mend, patch, make-do or
go without? Their relief was indescribable when after three years of worry, Daniel H. Wells passed through
their settlement with 200 men on their way to Manti a few miles away, to put an end to the unjust war.29 Lars
could now enjoy a visit with his beloved parents who had arrived in Utah in 1863 and, because of the war, had
gone to live in Iron County.
For the sake of historians who may be wanting data on this place, we will add some information to our
story here. (Encyclopedia History by Andrew Jensen page 134)
Chester Ward, Moroni Stake Utah is an outgrowth of Spring City. In June 1870 David
Candland made the first land entry in that section of the country now included in the Chester
Ward and located on Canal Creek in 1872, together with his boys. He also built the first
house in what is now Chester Ward. During the years 1873-1874-1875 the country gradually
filled up with settlers and when the Sanpete Stake was reorganized 4 July 1877, the Saints
residing in Canal Creek between Moroni and Ephraim were organized as Chester Ward with
Redick N. Allred as Bishop.
Lars' daughter, Sinda, described Chester as follows: Neighbors who lived in Chester prior to 1880: ―Hans
Beck who fought with father over water, lived north of us. Redick Allred lived in a big rock house. He wanted
to marry sister Mary. Redick Reden Allred, father to Redick was Bishop. Hans Neilson and his first wife lived
by Redick Allred. East and north of us lived Cap Whitlock, whose wife was Relief Society President. Andrew
Anderson was our nearest neighbor on the north. A mile square in the heart of Chester belonged to Bishop
Allred and was called Judges Pasture. We lived south of this square. We had to walk around this square to get
to school and church. David Candland was Superintendent of Sunday School and kept a post office and had
LIFE IN CHESTER
Raymond's birth in Chester in 1875, made thirteen children in the home. Talk about a herculean challenge
from life! The saying, ―Where there is life there is no escape‖ takes on real meaning here. Imagine the
hub-bub of beaus, visitors and friends that each child brought home. Imagine the childish squabbles going on,
one group arguing over whoever didn't do whatever it was they were trying to say someone else did; another
trio trying to prove which one was to do some disagreeable task. We can be sure it was enough to make Lars
want to tap fiddle-bow pie on every available head, and when kids started running around, there would be
innumerable heads to peck with the end of his fiddle-bow. Even though the older ones obtained work
elsewhere, they were not far away and came home often with friends.
When Lars' family was happy, the noise was even louder. Somehow, in the crowded events of his daily
struggle, Lars had carved his own violins30 and taught his children to play them; as well as the other
Life of Daniel H. Wells
Ell Robinson, grandson
instruments he had acquired. Each child proved they had a musical ear by playing chords on the organ while
he played violin, before they could do further study, for without a sense of harmony it would be a waste of time
to teach them, he said.
―The Indians didn't bother us,‖ Lars' daughter, Emma, laughingly said, ―They'd come begging for food and
would hear Lorette singing scales in one corner and Jimmie and Peter doing violin exercises in another corner,
the organ wheezing and cornet shrieking and drums booming at the same time, and they'd say, ‗Heap crazy‘
and hit for the hills.‖
It is during the years when the children are all at home or very near, that the most happy memories are
made. The events of these years were told and retold in side-tickling style by the children, usually embellished
a trifle to make the events funnier. One tale was often quoted: ―When Mother and Father left us overnight,
Mary went to the neighbors to see if a friend could come stay. ‗Mrs. Allred, can one of your children come and
stay with us?' she'd coax, ‗There is no one home but me, Lige, Lice, Lena, Tena, Lorenzo, Peter, Emma,
James, Lars, Lorette, Sinda, and Raymond and we're all stark alone.‘‖
Lorenzo told of the merry fun he and the older children had every fall with the school teacher. It was such
a perfect setup for punishing a teacher, he could hardly tell it for laughing at the memory of the teacher trying
to untangle the ages of her students when faced with one set of identical twins, two boys whose birthdays were
only nine days apart, two girls only five months apart, all claiming the same mother. Each one insisted they
had given their birth dates correctly. The more confused they could make the teacher, the more they enjoyed it.
Her puzzled bafflement was enough to make any mischievous youngster giggle. Unless one has a very good
sense of humor, such antics are very annoying to the parents, however.
Lorenzo longed for a pair of the wooden shoes that a Danish shoe maker carved from boxelder wood. Lars
explained how uncomfortable wooden shoes were, but at Lorenzo's insistence, got him a pair, telling him,
―Now, you'll have to wear them whether you like it or not.‖ Lorenzo played on a foundation, lost his balance
and jumped off, splitting his shoes in two pieces. Now he was sure he was rid of the awkward, noisy things,
but he didn't reckon with his father's stubbornness. He told him he'd have to wear them and wear them he did.
The shoes were taken to the blacksmith shop and repaired with an iron band! Lorenzo went
clankety-clanking around for quite awhile longer. When Lorenzo told this story to his children he sure made a
laughable story out of it, forgetting to mention the lesson his father had tried to teach.
In spite of the great amount of work that providing for a large family can be, Lars found time and energy
for teaching and playing with his children. We are indebted to his daughter, Mary, for this insight into his
character which she tells in a poem-letter written to her brothers:
2931 Webster St
Aug 10, 1926
Dear Brother Dare and Brother James, O don't you wish that we
Were in the good old Chester fields, romping in innocent glee?
As we used to long ago, where other boys and girls not far away
Would gather at our old home door to spend the evening in music,
Song and laughter light and gay.
On moonlight nights we'd all go out and play pomp-pull-away.
Then dear old Dad and Mother too, with us were in the game
Till 10:00 o'clock then Dad would say:
―Go home now boys and tomorrow you can come again.‖
Then we'd all go in with a smiling face and forget all other cares.
And circle around the table and say our evening prayers.
Perhaps Lars' good nature was the reason the kids played so many jokes on him. One trick nearly ended in
disaster. One hide-and-go-seek game, Larry (Lars Jr.) crawled under the log pile. The moonlight filtering
through the logs camouflaged him so much that the boys told their father a wild animal was crouched there.
Lars hurried with his loaded gun, peeped at the stripped animal, and frightened Larry until he jumped out
yelling ―Boo.‖ The gun fired high as Lars reared backwards white with fright and anger. When this story was
gleefully told later, Lars didn't laugh. ―The crazy little fool. I nearly shot him.‖ he said.
He did laugh when another joke was told, however. Lars was moving a corral and asked the boys to dig
the poles after the shed cover was removed. It is an exasperating task to get a group of boys to work instead of
fishing or hunting. They'd dig awhile, mutter, complain and joke; try to lift the pole from its anchored bed then
dig around it some more . Lars by working hard and steadily was moving more poles than the boys. One
rather fat corner post was giving them such difficulty that they argued it ought to be left in its place, but Lars
insisted that they keep at their work. Finally the huge post lost its stubborn grip on its lodgings just as Lars lost
―Get away and let me show you silly kids how to work. I can do it alone,‖ he shouted in exasperation as he
hurried over. With wide grins suppressed, they stepped aside. Lars got a firm hug on the huge log, gave a
mighty tug and he and the log went over backwards in the unsavory corral dust while the boys howled in merry
glee. Lars laughed along with the rest of us when the dirty trick was retold at the Raymond Neilson household.
When Lars obtained his 200 acres of wild, grass meadow in Chester, he may have figured he would set
down permanent roots and become a successful cattleman and farmer, free from fights over water. He hauled
logs from the mountains, built one great big room with a big porch on the front and a slant room on the west.
The house faced east and the eight or ten foot wide fireplace, in the south end, was made of their own
homemade brick. Lars soon acquired a herd of choice cows to graze his meadow. He still needed to irrigate his
grain fields, however, and this time he found himself in the worst possible watering situation: the tail end of
Water is the life blood of a farm. The little stream would accommodate the first few settlers, but when the
population increased, the water supply didn't. A novel could be written about the bloody shovel-fights that
resulted when men saw their parched fields of winter food crying for water. By the time a small stream reaches
the last grain patch it takes a lot longer to irrigate a field. If anyone above the stream helps himself to water out
of turn, or waters past his time limit, the last farm has only a trickle left. Each farmer was left to the task of
getting his own share, as there was no watermaster, and tempers were strained to the fighting point on many a
Danes are described as being fun loving, patient and slow to anger, but ―Heaven help the man who makes
a Dane angry enough to lose his temper.‖ Lars fit this description aptly and in addition had a streak of
stubbornness in his nature. After the struggle of trying to support his family through drought, grasshopper
plagues, water trouble and Indian raids, he now saw his efforts to raise his year's flour becoming more hopeless
each day as every water turn was stolen.
The neighbor on the north, who was also trying to get his share from his northern neighbor, was caught in
the act of damming Lars' ditch. Angry words followed as the two neighbors faced each other hotly. One was
tall and long-legged, (―His legs was split up to his bellybutton,‖ was Lars' description of him), the other was
short, stockily built and quick as a wink. The tall man lunged at the shortie like a hound after a pup, but Lars
dashed right between the long legs, grabbed the swinging hand as he went through, put the muddy thumb in his
mouth and clamped down like a bulldog. A man is not in a very favorable fighting position when one arm is
thrust through his legs and one thumb is being chewed by a thoroughly angry Danishman. Lars hung on, only
the bone kept him from chewing the thumb off, before ―Mr. Longleg‖ promised to leave Lars' headgate alone.
On arriving home, Lars said ―I'm moving out of this place. I won't fight with my neighbors like this. He‘s not
worth hell room.‖31
A collection of unexpected events changed the Neilson pattern of living. Two more girls, Minnie and
Viola, were born to Lars in Chester, and three girls were married, Mary, Tena and Lene. Peter would get the
hardest music he could find and practice until he mastered it, then walk the floor in desperation until he finally
said, ―I'm going to leave home. I'm going to be a violinist. I don't want to be a fiddler.‖ It has not been
learned how Peter obtained the money to go to Germany to study, but he went. Now Dorothy's three children
and one of Christine's had left the happy nest. The water taken from the irrigation ditch was ―not fit for
washing clothes, let alone for drinking. Christine complained that it was making her sick.‖32 Lars' struggle
over his water supply put him in the mood for moving, Lorenzo was willing, so when a farmer from Nevada
arrived, he found a favorable group.
This man owned a big ranch in Nevada equipped with machinery and horses, the lucerne planted waiting
for a family of boys to reap a good harvest. They could have all they could clear if they would only care for the
place. It sounded like such a good deal that Lorenzo urged to go. Even with Peter gone, there was 22 year old
Lige and Lice, 19 year old Lorenzo, 17 year old Jimmy, and 11 year old Larry. Surely they could make a mint
on such a wonderful place. So, not knowing about the heat, down to Nevada went the naive Neilson family.
Above the horizon of their Nevada Ranch, the sun rose with maniacal glee on its face, its intense heat
beating with insane ferocity on the workers. Lars and his boys sweated and toiled to eke a bare living from
their hot new-deal. The same sun scorched the younger children as they adjusted themselves to the lonely
desert by making playmates of Indians, lizards and snakes. ―It was so hot that the lizards would run for a little
way then flop over on their backs, fan themselves with their legs then turn over and run a ways further,‖ was
the way they joked about it to their own children later on.
What a place to bring a pregnant woman. The July sun showed her no mercy either. The house was
unbearable. Sinda said, ―It was so hot there, Mother nearly died. Dare was born in a wagon-bed under the
trees where it was a mite cooler. A lady from Bunkerville came to take care of her. Lorenzo went after her
sixty-five miles riding on horseback. I can remember how Mother screamed and hollered while waiting for
them to return.‖ Lars must have been beside himself, fearing he'd have to be the doctor, fanning her and trying
to see that she was as comfortable as possible.
Before the harvest was over Lars and his family must have been more than homesick. It is characteristic of
them to stick with the task until the harvest was finished and the expenses paid before leaving the job. They
only made a living with nothing over. ―We had to ford the Virgin River twenty-five times on the way home. It
was not a very big river, but the quicksand made it dangerous and the wagons had to keep on the move to keep
from being sucked under,‖ said Sinda. What a frightening trip!
Sinda Neilson Wilkinson
As Lars brought his family back to ―Little Denmark,‖ after his Nevada experience, he may have been
reviewing his many moves. Christine, woman-like, may have said the usual, ―I told you so. Picking from bush
to bush never fills the bucket with berries.‖ Sinda said, ―Mother would complain at the moves but Father
would say, ‗I know what I'm doing. I can't make a living here.' It was the water situation that irked him the
most.‖ We have mentioned that Fort Ephraim was over-crowded and that Lars helped build Fort Mt. Pleasant.
People at Spring City invited him to come help them build their first community amusement hall33 where he
played for bigger dances. When the Black Hawk War broke out, Lars was at Richfield where he found the war
so dangerous and living conditions so poor, that he lost two of his babies, and the move back to Mt. Pleasant
was a necessity. The next child, Lorette, was born at Spanish Fork where Lars had gone to try his luck at
fishing in Utah Lake. After one harrowing experience after another ever since his arrival in Utah it is
understandable that he would have a nostalgic yearning for the fishing of Denmark after the War ended.
Whether he only went for a season of fishing or if he had intended to make the move permanent, we do not
know. Back at Spring City, their twelfth child was born and was named Dozenda, which means dozen in
Danish, then true to custom they called her Sinda. The move to Chester was only a matter of a few miles as
Chester is an outgrowth of Spring City.
With little Sinda on the wagon seat beside him as he guided his teams safely over the quicksand rivers, he
was contemplating what to do and where to go now, as he made his eighth move since coming to Fort Ephraim
21 years before. How we do wish that this talented, little musician who wanted to make people laugh and be
happy, could have made this move to a large city where his very talented and intelligent children could have
been trained and educated. With the benefit of hind-sight we can see what seems to be mistakes in our
ancestors' decisions. We can see what a benefit it would have been for the grandchildren, had Lars settled in a
city. But let us not judge. The responsibility of providing for such a large family in a city is not impossible but
is a frightening one. Perhaps Sanpete County, the bread basket of Utah, lured Lars, it being first in milch cows
and oats, and second in sheep and wheat production in 1880. Prospects of a home anywhere in Utah was
pleasing indeed to the returning Danish family.
When Lars began his house hunting, good drinking water was the luxury most desired. A home near the
Annabell Black Hills had a lovely spring of delicious water that delighted both Lars and Christine. After all
these years of drinking highly flavored water from various sources, this spring was so greatly appreciated it was
talked about by their grandchildren.
The following chapter is a copy of the story on ―Early Amusement Halls‖ that the writer sent to the
Daughters of Utah Pioneers for publishing in their April 1965 lesson bulletin. It will describe the home and
their family orchestra in Annabelle, Utah.
The first dance-recreation hall built in the Sevier Valley was unique in that it was a do-it-yourself project
of the Lars Neilson family. Lars grew tired of playing for entertainments in boweries, hay barns, log cabins,
churches and large front parlors. ―The social heartbeat of a community suffers faulty rhythm without a
recreation center,‖ he said. With the help of his older children, he built two dance halls, the first one on his
ranch east of Annabelle, and the second one in the town.
The idea for an entertainment hall began as soon as Lars moved to his Annabelle ranch and bought a huge
rock room which hugged the mountainside so closely that a few feet of it were buried in the mountain itself. A
two-story log house joined it on the south with a spring gracing the north side. The dance hall was a modest
frame building about 100 feet long and 40 feet wide, facing west, overlooking the pasture lands. The ranch
house formed part of the east wall and a large door let in the heat from the spacious rock fireplace. Flickering
light from the coal oil lanterns and lamps shed romantic, twinkling rays on the dancers. The dance floor was
These Our Fathers
made of smooth planed boards on which generous amounts of candle wax was whittled, then polished to a slick
gloss by the sliding, dancing feet. When the floor became sandy, an intermission was called while several men
swept the floor and whittled more wax on it. The musicians faced their audience from a platform built at the
north end of the hall. The place was reached by following a narrow dirt road which hugged the curving
mountainside from Glenwood to Annabelle.
The first ball was a rousing success. Curious people who had watched the building proceedings with
growing interest came from the surrounding towns, filling the hall to capacity. The hillside was covered with
wagons, buggies, horses and mules. A strict dance manager allowed no rough antics to be carried on, and
quelled any fights or drunkenness, although sometimes the quick quadrilles, whirling and jumping polkas
might be considered rough. People came expecting amusement, and the Neilsons' reputation as entertainers
fulfilled their expectations.
About 1892, after several years of living at the edge of the hills, Mr. Neilson decided to build another
combination lumber home and dance hall closer to the surrounding towns. He chose to build in Annabelle
because of its nearness to his cattle ranch, and its central location.
The music for these dances was unusual in that Lars was the leader, the father of the other musicians and
the composer of much of the music. At times he would dance, call and play at the same time. He ruled his
own music paper and wrote his own harmony parts for the different instruments. He taught his children to play
as soon as they were big enough to hold an instrument, and because of their aptitude and talent, each child
played several instruments; all were accomplished soloists and harmonized well together, thus becoming
splendid entertainers. They had a large repertoire of popular numbers to present at intermission or between
dance sets. The Neilsons were all natural artists at acting, clowning or joking, and from the moment the first
guest entered until the last one reluctantly left there was no end of laughter and surprises.
The Neilson children, forced to earn a living by playing while their friends danced, learned to enjoy the
work by vying with each other to see who could notice the funniest sight or action on the dance floor, and their
hearty laughter never caused a break in the rhythm but added to the liveliness of the music. The dancers
caught the contagious spirit and responded in merriment, unaware that they were the butt of the musicians'
jokes. The Danish Slide-off was a dance that gave these comedians a natural opportunity to supply extra
amusement. The dancers took two hesitating steps, followed by three quick glides in one direction, then seven
quick glides in the opposite direction, followed by a two-step interval. Sometimes, at a signal from one of the
boys, everyone in the orchestra would stop playing, letting the dancers ―slide-off‖ in silence, then laughing at
the startled people, the players would pick up the two-step melody as if nothing had happened, These
unexpected breaks only added to the merriment.
The dance halls of the gay nineties were places of romance. It was here that beau met belle and courtship
began, often climaxing in a public wedding dance. Jimmie Neilson's sweet rendition of a love song could
bring tears to the eyes and joy to the heart, making the Neilson dance center the first choice for the wedding
dances. The older people, sitting cozily by the huge fireplace, would chat together, vicariously enjoying the
blossoming romances of the young dancers, trying to guess who would be the next couple to marry, or
discussing the topics of the times. People talked about these dances as long as they lived. The popularity of
the entertainers spread to distant localities until invitations came for them to perform in other towns, thus the
Neilson Musical Troupe became one of the first traveling entertaining groups in Utah.
The tickets of admission for the dances at the Annabelle halls were 50 cents each, but the people in the
distant settlements were sometimes lacking cash. Lars was generous, and if cash was not available would take
whatever produce the patron could bring. The ticket agent was always watching for an unusual offering that
would be good for a laugh. When he was offered an old, blind rooster, for instance, he took it to his father,
more to let his brothers and sisters share the joke than to obtain the expected, if somewhat embarrassed,
approval of his father. The hilarious banter of the musicians, the infectious humor of the ticket agent was so
catching that even the owner of the old blind rooster would find himself joining in the merriment.
LARS' LATER YEARS
Lars thought he and Christine could teach their children as well as school teachers. Needing the children's
talent to help draw crowds at the entertainments when they traveled, he let them miss a great deal of public
school. Lena's husband, Henry Reiser, was hired to teach the children between travels being as he and Lena
were living upstairs at the Black Hills Ranch. In the evenings, he and Christine would get the children around
the table and teach them, but it is always harder to prevent ones own children from begging out of the
assignments, even though Lars and Christine were capable teachers.
Details of the last part of Lars' life are hard to find. The few dates we have, help us to draw some
conclusions, reinforced by scanty bits of information furnished by a few of those who knew him. He always
kept a little notebook in his breast pocket, his grandson Royal F. Neilson, said, and dotted down the important
events of each day. How wonderful it would be to have these writings to help us compose his story. Such a
pity they were not preserved.
In 1889, Lars organized a class and taught singing and band instruments in Annabelle. He was
respectfully called ―professor Neilson‖ although he always modestly insisted that he was not a professor. His
girls, Emma, Lorette, Dozinda, and Minnie were members of the Annabelle choir. The family lived in their
Annabelle home a number of years before Christine's death in 1898. One by one the children married and
moved to near-by towns. Until the marriage of Lorenzo in 1892, both the Black Hills Ranch and the home in
Annabelle were owned and used, it seems. Lorenzo supervised the ranch and cattle duties until he sold the
cattle to get a wedding stake. Lars never again became a cattleman.
Peter had been to Germany ―scaling the crags of mastery‖ over his violin, and during the years of 1885-86
was getting favorable press notices in leading California newspapers. He may have stopped in Utah on his way
to eastern cities between the years of 1886 and 1893. Whenever his return was, it set the Neilson hearts
a-flutter with idolizing worship. Under his indefatigable persistence, the older children discovered what music
technique means. Viola, who was a baby (or not yet born) when Peter left, was now eight or nine years old and
showing enough talent to cause Peter to claim she could become a master violinist herself someday, which
pleased her very much.
Peter went east and was at Chicago for the World's Fair in 1893 where the Salt Lake Tabernacle choir won
second place and Peter won second place in a violin contest. The two violin finalists were so close to being a
tie that the judges were unable to decide between them. Peter said he would rather have the Olebull violin
which was the prize for second place and they gave it to him by choice. When this news reached the Neilson
family, their many friends in central Utah joined them in joy. Peter, the hero of the county, returned home
again and when he left, Viola, a young teenager, went with him to Chicago to study.
Lars' family continued to sponsor dances and travel, there being enough of them available at various times
to form an orchestra. Money was so scarce that people were willing to work long and hard for a little cash.
Those who could supplement their farm food with extra earnings were very fortunate. The mail carrier (believe
it or not) received 8¢ a day to carry mail on horseback from Annabelle to Monroe and back. Lars rode
horseback 60 miles from Annabelle to Mt. Pleasant to play for dances, probably staying over night with his
family members. Christine resigned herself to Lars‘ nomadic journeys to other communities wherever he could
organize a music class, and stayed at home to manage a little store. This first store in Annabelle began as a
small venture in her front room where she sold small items and notions most needed by housewives. The store
gradually grew in size until it filled one little room. She did all the work clerking, ordering, bookkeeping etc.,
as long as her health would allow her to do so.
One winter, about 1896 Lars, Larry, Raymond and Sinda went to Vernal, Utah to work. They teamed up
with Lena's husband and children to form an orchestra. Their dances and entertainments were successful,
Sinda's beautiful voice being the drawing attraction. Mr. Wm. Hansen, composer of ―Uintah Blues‖ begged her
to let him be her manager, saying he knew he could make her famous, but Lars insisted he could not spare her.
He feared that the many pitfalls of a traveling musician‘s life would be too great a temptation for his lovely,
Word that Christine was getting sicker made them return home in a buckboard drawn by two ponies driven
by Raymond. Had it not been for Christine's sickness Sinda would have gone with Mr. Hansen and wife
regardless of her father's fears. Sinda nursed her mother even after her marriage to David Burraston who lived
across the road from the Neilsons. Christine was taken to the Salt Lake hospital where the excess fluid was
drained from her bloated body. When they could do nothing further for her, she was returned to Annabelle
where she died, the next day, 12 Apr 1898. When Dare was told that his mother was dead, he went crying
down the street, "Mother‘s dead! Oh! Mother's dead. What'll we do now?‖
The mother is the central strand around which the other family members are twisted, and when this core
departed from the Neilson family, the strand became unraveled. Lars was now in his sixty-fifth year, and
although four of his children were unmarried (Dare 17, Viola 19 living in Chicago, Minnie 21 living with
Lorette at Salina and going to school, and Raymond 23) Lars was much alone. After a lifetime of living in a
large musical family, he must have known many lonely days. ―And yet to play the violin one has to take it on
the chin,‖34 and Lars did.
―There is no friend like music when the heart is broken, to mend its wings and give it flight again.‖ — D.
Lars continued his church and music activities, teaching in Kanosh, Grassvalley, and Koosharem after
Christine died. Communities offered him living quarters, board and room and small wage to come teach band
and voice for them. Extra money was made by playing for dances, some of which were not donation. If Lars
had been given donation credit on church records for all the times he played free at Ward functions, it would
have been a sizeable sum. We have no record of the church positions he held except that he was ordained a
Seventy 17 May 1857 by J. Gates.35
Before Raymond and Minnie were married in 1901, Lars took them and Dare to the Delamar Mine in
Nevada seeking work. This mine was so dusty it was nicknamed the Suicide Mine. In spite of the attractive
high wages, when the Neilsons discovered the short life span of the miners, they left saying their life and health
was worth more than money.
Lars lived with different children during this period of his life. At Lena and Henry Reiser's home in
Deweyville, Box Elder County, Utah, Lars drove a one-seated buggy usually accompanied by his little
granddaughter, Tressa Reiser. For a special joy ride, the pair would go to Corinne in a canoe on the Bear
Lamar Robinson, a grandson, wrote that ―He came to our home in Richfield, for a one night visit now and
then, usually entertaining us with a short violin program. I remember his talk was mostly about church history
Laurence McKinney, ―Music of Note‖
Early Church File
and current events—things of this kind—and I once heard him describe Pres. Brigham Young, with whom he
was well acquainted, and tell what kind of man he was. He and our grandmother Neilson were also well
acquainted with Apostle Orsen Hyde and attended his funeral.‖
When the Bertelsen family reunion was held in Mt. Pleasant, 1908 Lars was planning to lead the band in
the program. Sickness kept him home. What a heart breaking disappointment this must have been.
Lars lived with Viola at Lost River, Idaho for a time and was living in Moore, Idaho before he came to live
with his son, Raymond, in Cedarview, Duchesne County, Utah. How happy this writer is that Lars came to
live with them. That Raymond and his wife, Laura, could make room for extra people when their small house
was hardly large enough for themselves, is a credit to their ingenuity and love of family.
He came in the fall of 1911, a hale and hearty, erect 78 year old, who took long walks to visit neighbors a
mile or so away. His beard was white and his teeth were in excellent condition. (Christine's teeth had all been
molar teeth, both front and sides). He stood straight making him seem taller than his five foot two inches
height. His easygoing pleasant nature fitted into the family causing no disturbance in the household routine.
He was no sooner settled, however, than he began to goad the family into being more actively musical. The
musical instruments in Raymond's home at that time was a mandolin guitar, a toy piano, a harmonica and an
ocarina. Pioneering a new, sage-brush country left little time for music practice, but ―So what?‖ Lars had been
through worse times than these and was not accepting excuses from his children now. Disregarding the huge
amount of prodigious labor required of Raymond and Laura, he began his campaign for more music by playing
for dances with Raymond chording on the piano.
At Lars' insistence that more of the family should learn to play, a baritone was bought from a neighbor,
Alva Labrum, for Laura to learn. Lars wrote notes on the blackboard with the names of the notes and the
fingering beneath. An E flat tuba was borrowed from a neighbor for the writer to play. The tuba was almost as
tall as she was.
Viola sent her son, Will, to live with them and also sent her organ so he would have some thing to play. (A
piano was purchased later). But Will could rattle the bones. He took two polished, shortened rib bones in each
hand, holding one of them firmly between second and third fingers and the base of his thumb and the other
bone was held loosely between third and fourth fingers so that with a twist of the wrist they would clack
against each other, out-rivalling an expert snare drummer. Will could make the big, green tomato worms stand
on end and wave! With Will playing bones, Raymond at the piano and Lars changing off with violin, piccolo
and clarinet the lively cowboys danced their tired aches away.
Other people had musical instruments stored away but didn‘t know how to play them. Lars offered to teach
folks how to play, ruled his own music paper, and wrote harmonic arrangements for each instrument which
kept him busy and happy. Before long, there were about twenty people who could play well enough to form a
band. They practiced in the Neilson kitchen until it became too small for the crowd. When Bishop Russell
was invited to come listen, he found a serious, soberfaced Raymond pounding a dishpan drum with a spoon.
The Bishop was very impressed and said if ward members were willing to work that hard for a band, the ward
would furnish a set of drums. This was the first and only band in Cedarview Ward and was fully organized
with President, Vice-president, secretary and treasurer and with Lars as the band leader. They proudly played
for the fourth and twenty-fourth celebrations.
Lars' method of teaching time was to sing each rhythm combination, for example D-a-a-a da da da over and
over until the player felt the correct rhythm for that combination of notes, instead of counting 1 an, 2 an, 3 an;
or 1 an da, 2 an da, 3 an da, etc. It was a heck-of-a-note for Lars when syncopated ragtime became popular. He
would strum the bars of the advertisements and jump up stressing the offbeat angrily, ―Da, DAH, da, DAH.
What kind of crazy time is that? It's not music! I'll order none of those pieces.‖ It is also a heck-of-a-note for
his descendants that no one preserved any of Lars' own pretty compositions, one of which he called the Neilson
Waltz that the writer used to play by ear but can't recall now. Darn it!
Raymond's nephews ―L‖ and Van, children of Lorenzo, came to live with him. ―L‖ came the winter of
1914 and married the school teacher, Effie Davis in Feb 1915. ―L‖ and Effie played cornets and their cornet
and voice duets made a lovely addition to the Neilson orchestra. Van came in the fall of 1915. Memories of
these two cousins retelling the stories their father had told about life in Chester and Annabelle are the source of
many of the events contained in this story with supplements by Sinda. Remembering how Lars would laugh
along with them if the story was truthfully told and how he would indignantly deny the exaggerations are
―Grandpa was on the shed one day and got to watching something. He walked right off the shed and fell to
the ground. People teased him about it for years.‖ Lars laughed along with others at the memory. One of the
―What were you looking at, Grandpa?‖
―My wife was running. She was so fat that I thought something dreadful must be happening to make her
run, so I kept walking and looking and walked right off the shed. She was running to get one of the little tikes
away from the pond.‖
Speaking of Lars‘ many moves Van said, ―Pa said grandpa thought it was easier to move the family than to
clean the corral so he moved every time the corral got dirty.‖ Lars jumped up and in a justified anger shook his
fist at his grandson and said, ―I‘ll tan that young-un‘s hide when I see him again. Telling lies like that.‖
―You're not big enough, Grandpa,‖ laughingly teased Van.
―Oh yes I am. I've done it before and I can do it again!‖
He probably could, for as Lamar Robinson said: "Our grandfather was a very active, strong man physically
and I remember him once wrestling with our Uncle Dare, his youngest son, and holding his own very well with
him, even though our grandfather was then nearly seventy years of age.‖
MEMORIES OF LARS NEILSON BY BERNICE EDRINGTON
I was about four when grandfather came to live with us. I nearly worshipped him as children sometimes do
a beloved grandparent. Being the only grandparent I had ever known I appreciated him very much.
I remember him best for his good nature and his music. To me it seemed he was composing or playing his
violin all the time. Daddy fixed a place in the big tent with stove, bed, rocking chair and his music and here he
could be undisturbed to play and compose to his heart‘s content.
Of course, I had to help him, or so he said. I used to sit on a little chest of some kind and watch him for
hours. I knew exactly how to hold a violin under my chin, how to let my little finger stick out, at times, just so.
I could imitate him holding his head to one side and I suppose almost anything but play that violin. He
predicted I'd be the musical one in the Raymond Neilson family and to go far in that line. I hope he is not too
disappointed in me, when we meet again, and he finds out how I have failed him.
One day when I was there looking at him playing, he asked me to turn the pages of his music. He played a
little trill on his violin and said ―When I do this part, like this, you turn the page.‖ I did my best to try to tell
which trill he meant and I tried his patience to the limit before he decided there really were too many trills on
that page for a child so young to know the exact one. So he said, ―When I dip my bow like this‖ and he gave it
a special wiggle, ―You turn the page.‖ I watched that bow like a cat watching a mouse hole and I can say that
he gave a thousand wiggle wags before he would give the right one. Of course, I started to turn the page on
each one of those waggles. At last his patience broke and he reached out and rapped me on the top of the head
with the bow. It didn't hurt me at all but he broke my heart. I gave him one horrified look and fled down the
little knoll to the house.
Mother met me at the door and tried to get me to tell her what happened, but I was sobbing so
heartbrokenly she couldn't understand me, until Grandpa came hobbling as fast as possible to explain. There
were tears in his eyes as he came into the kitchen. I don't believe I ever trusted him again with the same
confidence I had before. But I still loved him about as much as a little girl could love anything. To me, if
Grandpa said it was so, it was so, and that was that...
One Christmas father hid a small box of hard candies in the toe of Grandfather's carpet slippers. Next
morning he was up to see us get our Christmas things. I couldn't wait for him to put on his slipper, but at last
he picked it up. Of course, he couldn't get it on and then he put on an act that could best any comedian we
have in the movies or TV today. How we children laughed as he tugged and yanked and exclaimed, ―The darn
thing fit last night, it will go on now.‖ Finally I spoke up. ―There must be something in it Grandpa. Why
don't you feel?‖
He looked dumbfounded while Lela and Clea looked at me disgustedly. ―So I shall,‖ he said in his Danish
brogue and pulled out the little box of candy. ―Ho, Ho, Ho, he laughed and we children laughed with him. It
was many years before I suddenly discovered, in a flash of remembrance, that it was all an act, put on for the
benefit of his grandchildren. The loveable old Grandfather of my childhood days will never be forgotten by
me. He will be someone, I hope, that will greet me among my other loved ones, when I join them, over there,
Lars was always helpful and as he watched the chickens ruining the young garden, he got an idea. He‘d
make a fence out of fishnetting like he used to make in Denmark. Raymond bought some strong cord and
whittled a wooden shuttle and Lars worked steadily until he had woven a yard wide fishnet fence to enclose the
garden which effectively kept even the little chicks from entering. Alas! it was no deterrent whatever when
the weiner pigs got loose. That precious fence was full of holes in no time.
The winter of 1914-15 was a cold one, at least too cold for sleeping and writing in a tent as Lars had to do.
He spent long boresome hours sitting by the kitchen stove trying to keep warm. There was no room for his
violin or writing. Friends came to his rescue when they learned he liked puzzles and riddles, by bringing their
puzzles of every sort for him to solve. He‘d work at his problem until he solved it declining help and refusing
to give up.
―Here‘s a riddle for you this morning. What is neither fish, flesh or fowl and yet has four fingers and a
―Don't anyone tell me. I want to figure it out myself.‖
Before long he had the answer and how he did laugh. (a glove)
However, one puzzle kept him stubbornly working all day. Raymond came into the kitchen with a large
whiskey bottle with a pebble inside and a huge cork tightly jammed into the top. ―This will keep you busy
awhile,‖ he said as he handed it to him. ―How can you get the rock out of the bottle without breaking the bottle
or taking the cork out?‖
―Can it be done?‖
―Don't anyone tell me. I‘ll figure it out myself.‖
At noon he was still at a loss but he stubbornly refused to give up. At Raymond's insistence that it could
be done, Lars kept on studying the problem. When the kids came home from school he was still turning and
twisting that bottle and talking to himself.
―Why don't you give up, Grandpa?‖ they asked.
―I won't give up,‖ said Lars. When he began laughing, they all ran into the kitchen to hear the solution.
―You push the blamed cork into the bottle!‖ he said.
―You could have figured it out sooner if I could have found a smaller cork for the bottle,‖ said Raymond.
When Lars was in his eighties, he rode a pony a mile to play for a dance. It came about this way. A large
enthusiastic crowd had gathered at the Cedarview dance hall to have a dance, but no musicians arrived. A
piano chord player was found in the crowd and three young men came after Lars and coaxed until he wanted to
go help them. Raymond had worked hard all day and had another long, spring workday ahead and refused to
go. When the men promised to take good care of Lars and see to it that he got home OK, Raymond helped
Lars onto the children's gentle strawberry-roan pony. The violin case, music-roll case, music-stand case were
securely tied to the saddle and Lars was escorted to the dance a mile away.
After the dance was over, Lars was mounted on a strawberry-roan pony and, forgetting their promise to
escort him, they let him ride home alone. The pony kept wanting to gallop until reaching the crossroad, then
he wanted to go north instead of west. Lars' stubbornness and horsemanship triumphed. The reluctant pony
brought him home prodded by many kicks in the ribs. You have probably guessed it. They had sent him home
alone on a strange horse.
During the summer of 1915, Lars showed signs of feebleness. When fall came it became obvious that Lars
should not sleep in a tent in such a cold country. Raymond's home was small, his five children were girls
under twelve and Laura was unable to nurse and care for an aged man under such distressing conditions.
Raymond bade his father a sad farewell and Lars went to Holbrook, Idaho to live with his daughter, Lena, who
had done so much nursing during her lifetime that she was called ―doctor.‖
The following May of 1916, Raymond received a phone call, ―Your father is very low and is calling for
you. Says he has something he must tell you.‖ Although Raymond had endless farm duties demanding
attention, he left immediately for Holbrook, but arrived one half hour too late to hear his father's last message.
Lamar Robinson accompanied Sinda to Holbrook arriving there before Lars' passing at the age of 82 years 8
months, on Raymond's birthday, 25 May 1916. ―His leg had been troubling him,‖ Sinda said, ―It began to feel
numb and to turn black.‖ Lamar said, ―He died in no pain and was conscious until almost the end. I helped
embalm him.‖ This is just the way Lars would have wanted to go.
The writer remembers a remark that Lars made while the family were on the way to Roosevelt one day.
From the vantage point of the outer edge of the seat, Lars could look down the steep, rocky hillside as the
wagon wheels rolled precariously near the edge of the narrow dugway.
―Watch out, Raymond or we'll be killed,‖ he said.
―Why should you worry, Grandpa? You've lived a long time.‖ said Van who loved to tease the old man.
―When I die, I want to die decent. I don't want to die sliding downhill on my nose.‖ snapped Lars.
He was taken to Richfield for burial. Raymond accompanied them as far as Thistle where they parted,
Raymond going to Price and then over the mountain trail to home. Three children attended the funeral, Emma,
Lorette and Sinda. Emma arranged for Christine‘s remains to be moved from Annabelle and placed by Lars'
We often expect much more of our ancestors than we expect of ourselves. Lars' song that he came to earth
to sing was sung to the best of his ability to the end of his days, letting nothing interfere with his desire to make
music and serve the Lord. There were no sour notes in his character. Through the hardships of pioneering in a
strange land, through an Indian war, grasshopper wars and droughts, the heat of Nevada, sickness, and
loneliness he stubbornly continued to do his best.
―There is a song for each of us to sing, a song of great significance. If we will make our life worth its
eternity and not sadly say: ‗The song that I came to sing remains unsung ... I have spent my days in stringing
and in unstringing my instrument,‘‖37 we must have the same determination to succeed in spite of difficulties
and stubbornly say as did Lars, ―I'll do it myself,‖ refusing to lean on others, making the world a better place
than when we found it. This is our challenge.
Richard L. Evans, Era, Apr. 1965 p. 351
Fine Old Ditchen Gentleman
Lars Neilson concert program number
I'll sing// you now a Ditchen Song 'bout // Hans Von Kroplakeet;
Vot // kept a lager-beer saloon down // in the Bowery Street;
Un // he eat swin beef, spect unslouer, un // efery kind of meat.
Un// I swear mit mine good neiuses, on top of the pible, as much as a
barrel of aourkrocit and two bushels of lager-beer efery morning he
This fine old Ditchen gentleman, von of the pestists kind.
Py the//firestove in his beer saloon efery// morning he vould stand;
Mid a// bottle ‗o snaps down py his side, un-a // glass up in his hand;
Un// py himself he trink dis toast, ick// livin de fatherland.
Un// mitout you could dutch verstay, for he vould nix engliss gespoken,
ven he vould say spekelbocs von grosen donder unbliciuns nervt de swimmigrable
skipoupens die doubbleshin// you could nix understand.
His nose// vos red as beethel, yaw py// dunder, dat is true
His// mouth ‗bout fourteen inzes vide, un his// eyes vere black as blue;
Un// he pelonged to de Free-sangerband, un he// vas a turner too.
Un// bolliticks makes him nix difference, put vhen you komer mit de
main liker law, to tike avay his lager-beer den by tam//
Dat vas someting new.
To dis fine old Ditchen gentleman, von of the pestists kind.
Dis// fine old ditchen gentleman, he vent to// bed trunk efery night;
Un// vhen sometime der comes round election, mit other// fellers he vould fight;
Un// slouk dem on cop mit a double-larrel putcherknife, but I// don‘t tink dat vas right.
// For vhen von of dem fellers hafe his head breaked into his nose all
ofer his face, un gets nearly drownded mit a big stick, I toll you
sometings ritavay shust now, dat// vas a sorry sight.
To dis fine old Ditchen gentleman, von of the gooderish kind.
But von// time der jum some trouble and he// fight mit all his main.
Dough he// vas kilt von, two, six, eight doosin couple ‗o times, he sumpts// up and fights again.
Till// hes head vas all split open down back and then the// blood kims down like rain.
Un// den dere kums de coroner mit de shury and sit upon him about 22 hours un
tre quarters and squise nearly all the breath out of his poddy and den der kums
de verdigrace vot he dies from brandy un// votter on de brain.
Dis fine old Ditchen gentleman, the subject of this song.
Lars Neilson added: ―Now the main thing about this song is to pronounce is just as it is written, give it the
Dutch accent, without it, it is no good.‖
(Each of the first three lines of every verse are sung with only one breath. The next three lines are sung
without a break for breath.)