Jens Peter Christensen Winter

My Life with my Grandparents

by granddaughter, Eliza Winter Halls

[At the time of my birth] Mother and Father [Jens N.C. and Mary Margaret Petersen Winter] were living in Grandfather Winter’s house which Dad had helped build at the age of ten. They built it by mixing the adobes by hand. The adobes were made of red sand and lime mixed together and dried in the summer sun. The house was built on the top of a hill at the south edge of Huntsville.

Grandfather Winter lived at the homestead on Hawkins Southwest Creek. In those days, they would go out and file on what they called a homestead. They had to live on it three months each year for three years, and then it belonged to them. I remember being told that Aunt Sine [Jensine Christensen Winter], my father’s younger and only surviving sister, stayed with my parents in the winter to go to school. My father was the second child. My grandparents lost six children at birth or shortly after.

Somewhere between 1893 and 1898 we moved down the road to the house that Dad built. He had cleared the ground of willows and built a two-room adobe house. Dad and Mother planted trees, and until the advent of the Pine View Dam, it was known as Winter’s Grove.

On January 25, 1896, Dora Estelle was born with red, curly hair. She was the third child and I was the second. Our older sister, Margaret Rozina was born on August 14, 1891 and had blond hair. I do not remember moving, but I do remember the building addition of the kitchen and pantry. Mary and Pete, Grandpa’s children, and Margaret used to play on the floor joists. I was afraid of falling through. We were living in this house when Elmer Jens, my only brother and last child of my mother, was born December, 21, 1899. I was just six years old. I remember Mrs. Hislop, the midwife, coming and going, telling me to keep Dora, age three, busy and not let her in the other room. Margaret was nowhere around. This baby boy I fetched and cared for, and I also cared for Mother. I remember that I must have asked over and over, “Is a couple two?” because Mother got impatient with me. (Well, I still cannot remember more than five minutes).

We were a happy family. Some evenings when Dad came home he would pretend to make a big issue of Margaret and me helping to pull off his boots. At times we would get on his knees and he would jiggle and sing to us while waiting for supper. In the summer we played on the river’s edge which ran a short distance from the house and was never very deep. I do not remember ever falling in, but I have a faint memory of being pulled out of a ditch of water by the pond and of backing up into a bucket of water that had been carried by Dad for washing clothes, etc. On wash days he would carry the water from the river and fill all the buckets, tubs, and boilers before going to work. He bought one of the first washers out. It operated with two curved washboards (like boards) that ran opposite directions, the top one inside the other, the clothes in between.

In the fall when school days came, to put shoes and stockings on was pure torture. We walked to school in good weather. We would go to Grandpa Winter’s and wait for Mary, and walk together from there three blocks, a distance of one mile in all.

Anne, Mary, and Pete were the children of Grandpa Winter and his second wife, Mette Marie Pedersen Winter, but this wife had died when Mary was born. For lunch we walked three blocks to Grandpa’s and back. My legs were short, and it was hard to keep up with Mary and Margaret. It was hurry, hurry, hurry. I saw others at school who took their lunch, having time for play at noon. I thought how nice it would be to take my lunch, but I had to have an excuse, for I was afraid the plain truth would not be good enough; so I came up with the excuse that Mary wouldn’t give me enough time to eat. There may have been some truth in that as I have always been a slow eater. Even then my teeth were poor. I remember having a toothache at the age of five, sitting by the stove and holding hot packs to my face. Anyhow, one morning we appeared at Grandpa’s with our lunch buckets and, of course, Grandpa wanted to know why. I told him the same story. We got a real Danish Scotch blessing, a good bawling out. I could not understand a word he said, but the tone I heard. It may have been directed at Mary as much as me for she understood and she wouldn’t walk to school with us that morning. We tagged along behind, and I bet Grandpa hotfooted it down home to get the straight of things. Well it was fun while it lasted, and it was not long before we were back at Grandpa’s for lunch, no more foolishness.

In the autumn of 1899, Uncle Laurits and Aunt Hannah Petersen from Provo came to visit us. He was my mother’s brother, a handsome man with black hair and short black whiskers on his face. He frightened me a little. He and his family had been sick and their oldest boy was left with a weak heart from rheumatic fever and died at the age of fifteen. As no one else was sick, I presume we got the germ from them. We all got sick, Dad and Mother first, then the rest of the family. Dad was the first to recover and nursed the rest of us. I remember I had a big pus bag under my left ear. I can remember the bed quilts raising and rolling from the foot of the bed to the head, also the walls from the top to the bottom, but I guess I was too sick to care. Dora and Elmer had festers around their fingernails and toe nails. Dad would pick these pus bags with a needle to drain them. I guess the poison came to the outside of us and that is why we survived. Mother was sick in a different way. She was down for so long, but at last she was up and around once more. However, she had lost her voice.

Grandpa Petersen, her father, came to see us one day while we were sick and they talked for a long time. He sat in the kitchen and Mother stood in the bedroom door. As far as I remember, he was our only visitor. At one point, Dad had a doctor come from Ogden because there were no doctors in Huntsville. He gave Mother a bottle of medicine and told her to scrape her tongue. He pronounced it diphtheria.

On January 10, 1901, early in the morning, Dad said to us, “Don’t disturb your mother, she is sleeping.” I can see her now laying in bed. “And don’t let Elmer get in bed with her.” He was in the cradle. “I have to go see Grandma.” We slept on, as did Elmer. Mother had passed away in her sleep. The poison of the disease had gone inwards, and too, she was five months pregnant according to Aunt Mary Petersen. The funeral was small. Very few came to the house as people were afraid. I stood by Mother’s casket and looked at her until someone pulled me away. We children did not go to the funeral. Grandma Winter stayed with us.

Uncle Joe Petersen said of my mother’s death, “My sister Mary died suddenly, supposedly of heart failure, January 10, 1901. At six o’clock in the morning, she raised up and asked her husband if the baby was covered, and, on lying down again, gave a couple of gasps and was gone. She died with a smile on her face, and looked very beautiful. The funeral was held the following Tuesday, January 15, in the Huntsville meeting house, but was poorly attended, probably because it was reported that she had been suffering from diphtheria. My cousin, Henry Petersen, gave the funeral sermon, a very excellent one. Brother David McKay dedicated the grave.”

When they thought we were safely well we moved, lock, stock, and barrel, along with beds and washer, to Grandpa Winter’s. I was only seven years old at this time, but I immediately adopted Elmer, age one. He was my little boy. Peter Winter told me in later years how I really took good care of that little boy. Poor Grandma, then about sixty-seven years old, now had a third family to care for. She was raising the children of Grandfather’s second wife, Mette, who died giving birth to Mary. Anne and Mary took the disease and were real sick for weeks.