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History of My Mother Elizabeth Larsen

by Ruth Pehrson Anderson

Mother was born October 28, 1889 in Mendon, Utah, the daughter of Hans Peter Larsen and Eleanor Shelton Larsen.

Her father was one of the pioneer settlers of Mendon, arriving by way of Sardine Canyon. Before Sardine Canyon was named, a group of settlers going to Wellsville stopped near the summit to eat. Their meal consisted of ten cans of sardines. When they finished eating, they threw the cans by the side of road or trail and went on to Wellsville, Utah. Pioneers passing by later said they came through the canyon where the sardine cans were and others to shorten the identification began calling it just Sardine Canyon. The name has stayed with it.

One of the families settling at Mendon was named Thortons. One rainy day in the early spring their children were playing in a field near a creek. Their mother called them to supper. All came but one little girl about three years old, name Rosa. Her mother called and searched for her, but could not find her. That night the whole town was out searching the creek and the surrounding neighborhood, but all in vain. The parents became very frantic and prolonged the search for her into the following week but no clues were found until four years later when a man traveling through brought news about her. He said as the children were playing Rosa had strayed away from her sisters. An Indian squaw saw her chance and kidnapped the child. She carried her back to her camp. Because of ill treatment and exposure, the child contracted pneumonia. The squaw then started back with her to her parents, but the child died on the way. The body was never found. This was the only instance in which the residents of Mendon were molested by the Indians.

Mother’s father, being a farmer, she was required along with the other members of the family to help weed the gardens, thin beets, help with the potatoes and other outdoor tasks. Beside this, she had to help put up fruit and do domestic tasks. During the apple season, she was required to peel apples for the neighbours and for pay she would get a small proportion to take home with her. This is the way the neighbours would get together and do things such as quilting and staying with the sick.

To get a little spending money, Mother would get up early and gather up empty beer bottles that had been emptied the night before at the dance, and sell them for fifteen cents a dozen. This was before the days of prohibition, electric lights and appliances, automobiles and modern machinery.

One night Mother woke up feeling very ill. She tried to light the lamp, but fainted before she could finish. She came to just in time to prevent a fire.

Mother’s Aunt Bell was making a dress for Mother, and Mother thought it would be fun to help with it. Being still very young, she was unable to thread her own needle and kept bothering her Aunt to thread it for her until her Aunt lost all patience with her. She was told to go away and leave them alone. In her embarrassment she lost her needle and also a very long thread. She was afraid to ask her Aunt about it, but went out to the back of her house and prayed that she might find it. The first thing that caught her attention as she re-entered the house was her needle and thread lying on the carpet. She then went on with her sewing.

As Mother and her brothers and sisters were returning from getting potatoes. Mother’s sister, Anne, jumped from the wagon, tripped on her shoe lace and fell, breaking her arm. As no doctor was available Mother’s grandmother, Mary Wann Shelton, got some splints and bandages, set Anne’s arm, and it healed in perfect condition. Mary Wann was one who would have made an excellent nurse.

Mother was the first of her family to be baptised in the Logan Temple. The others had all been baptised in rivers. Mother went there with her cousin, Marine Harder. As they were waiting for their turn, two men carried a sick woman into the font to be baptised. After the baptism was over, the woman was able to walk up the steps into the dressing room and dress herself without any assistance. At that time, it was a common practice to use baptism as a means of healing the sick. Mother was unable to get the name of the woman, but it was one of the most remarkable instances which she has ever witnessed.

Mother attended the Mendon school. The rooms were crowded and three teachers took care of the whole school (which went to the eighth grade). Mother was left-handed, but the teacher forced her to write with her right hand by hitting her left hand with a yard ruler whenever she used it. This put her under quite a difficulty, but later on she enjoyed school. To graduate from the eighth grade, she came to Logan and took an examination in the old Brigham Young College.

One of the projects of the primary was the making of straw hats. Mother used to braid the strands, attach a ribbon or some flowers to the crown, and create a hat that resembled the sailor type of today.

In summer, Mother would join her friends playing ball, anti-i-over, and other games. In winter, she went for many bob-sleigh rides. Because it was so easy to obtain bob-sleighs, this became one of the most pleasurable winter sports for her.

During the haying season, there would be a lot of snakes in the hay. One day as hay was being loaded onto a large wagon, a snake was thrown up along with a pitch fork full of hay. It frightened Mother’s sister, Anne, so badly that she jumped from the top of the hay to the ground. Luckily, she was uninjured.

During a celebration at Mendon, Wesley G. Smith from Logan, Utah, came over to visit at Mother’s home. He became interested in a well situated in back of the house. Like most boys of twelve, he was hunting excitement. Noticing a ladder going down the side of the well, he insisted on climbing on it. As the ladder was rather old and watersoaked, it broke under his weight dropping him into the depths of the well. Mother ran for assistance. Some boys unrolled the bucket to him. Wesley held on and the boys were able to draw him up. He was taken into the house and his clothes changed. There were no boys clothes to give him as Mother’s brother was married, so he was obliged to sit around in girl’s clothes until his own dried. Wesley Smith later became a dentist, but he still remembers this amusing incident.

Mother’s family were rather musically inclined and they enjoyed gathering around the piano and singing in the evenings.

Mother came over to Logan to work when she was only fourteen or fifteen and remained for two years. She was paid in script and was only able to use it in certain stores. later she came back to Mendon and took a sewing course. She worked at Salt Lake City, and then decided to train for a nurse. She went to Hyrum to train under Dr. Frank Cutler. She attended lectures, helped him in his office and went with him on calls for two years after which she was transferred to Preston, Idaho. There she worked for D. Cutler’s brother, Dr. Allen Cutler.

One winter day, with the temperature twenty degrees below zero, Mother and Dr. Cutler set out in a small cutter pulled by a horse for a small town some ten miles distant to help perform an operation on a patient. Mother was wearing a fir coat and a pair of gloves that belonged to Dr. Cutler. Their feet were surrounded by hot bricks. By the time they had gone a block Mother’s hands were numb as she was required to drive the horse. [My mother Ruby Pehrson Esplin told me Elizabeth always drove the sleigh so the doctors hands wouldn’t be too cold to treat the patiences] Her hands soon lost the sense of feeling and seemed like hard stubs. By the time Mother reached the end of the ten mile journey her hands were frozen so badly that she was unable to help with the operation. That night she stayed at the patient’s home, but was unable to sleep because of the pain from her hands. By degrees, her hands healed without any serious results.

Mother was married to Carl William Pehrson in Salt Lake City, Utah on July 25, 1912. Later, on January 7, 1914, they were sealed in the Logan Temple. At that time, they also had my older sister, Phyllis, sealed to them. They first made their home in Logan Eighth Ward, and then built a home of their own at 465 East First North, Logan, Utah. They outgrew this one very soon, and built a large two story frame house on the next building lot east. This place, #495 East First North, was home for all of us during our childhood. Six children were born to them; four daughters, including a pair of twins, and two sons, the older one died in his first month of life.

Mother made a wonderful home for us, and devoted her whole time to it. She was a very good cook, and also made nearly all of our clothes. She like to read a lot, and always had subscriptions to the best magazines. She was a member of the Wilford Woodruff group of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, did quite a bit of Temple work in the Logan Temple, and served as secretary of the Logan 7th Ward Relief Society for four years. She made it possible for all of us to study music, always doing the work herself to give us time to practice.

After an illness of nine weeks [Phlebitis], she passed away on June 24, 1941 (Tuesday) at the age of fifty-one. She was buried in the Logan cemetery. She was survived by Dad, five children, and one grandchild [Luane Esplin].