Friday, February 27, 2009

Soren Peter Guhl

Every family's got one: The crazy dude nobody talks much about.

In our family, my vote goes to Soren Peter Guhl. On the Henderson Reunion Web site, we haul him out of the basement and into the spotlight.

Born in 1821, in Ossens, Jutland, Denmark, Soren was an only child of a Danish mother and German father. The history I have of his life was written by an unknown author, and there are holes in it. But the broad picture is solid, I think, and includes some really interesting bits of history.

Not much is known of Soren's life prior to the time he joined the Mormon Church in 1852. The account I have says he was the father to four children, named Naphiena, Audrea, Joseph and Maren, but no wife is mentioned. I did a little poking around while writing this, attempting verify the information, and discovered that, indeed, he did have a family prior to marrying our great-great-grandmother Mariane Madsen. He and his first wife, Kerstine Harde, had four children named Julia, Naphena, Andrai, Joseph and Marie.

It appears by the time the family was ready to come to Utah, they had to delay their travel due to the so-called "Utah War" -- the standoff between the Mormons in the Utah Territory and the federal government, which had sent troops.

Soren and his group finally traveled West, though, in 1859. The journey is well documented, and we can find various references to it, and accounts of it, on the Web. In fact, I tracked down pictures of the ships the family took from Denmark to England, and from England to America.

Soren was a leader among the group of Mormon travelers, but there's a telling anecdote from the wagon train journey that indicates he may have been a little, um, dramatic:

As told in "E. Kay Kirkham, George (Wm.) Kirkham: His Ancestors and Descendants to the Third Generation," (Provo: J. Grant Stevenson), pp. 66-67. LDS microfilm 924481, item 2:

"Upon another occasion misfortune overcame us. I well remember as we were yoking up the cattle, some being already hitched and carelessly some of the company were lying in the shade of the wagons, when a wild cow was put into the yoke began to bellow. This frightened five teams and they ran away, killing J.C. Madsen and more or less wounding several others. One of the company, who several accused of being the cause of the contention, went down to the Platte River to drown himself but said he was not able find sufficient water. He was found sitting on the bank contemplating when people came to his rescue."

Guess who the would-be suicide was: That's right, Soren Guhl.

On the LDS Church Web site, I found this:

"Pedersen, Lars Christian, Autobiographical sketch [ca. 1919], 3-4." In the journal excerpt, Pedersen wrote: "It was found that S[oren]. P[eter]. Guhl and others mostly of the leading men were overloaded and was afterward obliged to unload some of their heavy articles such as stoves and earthen or China ware which they buried on the bank of Platt[e] River for safe keeping till they returned for them, which they realy did after apostatizing on their arrivel in Utah, and went back to make there homes with their own kind of people. On July 15th as we were about hitching up our teams a misfortune occured through the carelessness of parties who had tiched [hitched] their teams to their wagons and then laid down under and about the wagons, while others were busy yoking up unhadny [unhandy] cattle. And when a wild cow belonging to my mother was yoked up, she bellowed, and five teams were frightened and run. Killed J[ens]. C[hristian]. Waden [Vaden] and wounded several others more or less. This caused considerable confusion in camp[.] S. P. Guhl who several accused of being the cause of contention by his overloading which caused the displeasure of God on the people went down to the river “Platt[e]” to drown himself but said he was unable to fine sufficient water was sitting on the river bank contemplating when people came in his search."
Like I said, he was an interesting guy. But really, that's only scratching the surface. If you'll go to the Web site, you'll discover he also got caught up with a group that decided the Savior's coming was so imminent, they didn't need to plant that year's crops. When the Lord failed to appear, leader of the sect refused to give back land, etc., to people who had signed it over to him and the authorities were summoned. In the end, there was canon fire and, apparently, a split between Soren and Mariane.

It's a heck of a story, really, so if you haven't read it, please check it out. I've touched up a few things in preparing for this blog posting, so there might be a thing or two you don't recall from the last time you looked at it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

William Abram & Nancy Lena Guhl McIntosh

If you’re looking for interesting stories of common frontier folk on the family Web site, I don’t know how you could do better than the story told about William Abram and Nancy Lena Guhl McIntosh. There’s mystery, joy, sadness and tragedy all wrapped into their tale.

The history of their lives together was written by their son, John Willard McIntosh (1886-1971). Up front, he offers a couple of interesting details about his grandmother, Caroline Elizabeth Caldwell McIntosh (we focused on her a couple of weeks ago). For example, speaking of his father, William Abram, who was born in St. John, Utah, in 1859: “When he was three months old his father died, and his mother was left with four children: Isaac, by a previous marriage, Mary Anne and John David. My father was the youngest. A year or two later his mother married George Dymock and one son was born to them, named George.

“Shortly after his [George’s] birth his father left St. John and hasn't been heard of since. My grandmother was left alone now with five children.”

John Willard reveals not much is known about his father, except that he was in the “sheep business” with his brother, until he was married in 1883, but that he “went out of it approximately 1893, during the panic.”

It’s interesting to notice what impressed the young John Willard, who wrote of his father: “He was a lover of sports, foot racing, wrestling and especially baseball, being pitcher most of the time. I have seen him walk across a baseball diamond on his hands.” That would, I think, qualify as athletic.

Then comes an intriguing section, to my way of thinking, anyway: “After his marriage to my mother, they built a small home in St. John. This building, somewhat remodeled, is still standing. They moved a house from Clover that belonged to my grandmother, and put it 18 to 20 feet north of their home. My grandmother lived here until my parents moved to Wyoming in 1900. They later built a room between the two buildings.”

Now, I don’t know when John Willard wrote this history. He died in 1971, but at some point before that, the building apparently was still there; one of my goals has been to trek to St. John, have a look-see at the county property records and see if I can find the location of their home and farm. I spoke with the Tooele County recorder last year, and she told me the records are available. It could be, too, that some McIntoshes are still in the neighborhood and might know what I’m looking for.

John Willard also notes that his father’s work included the following: “My father used to butcher beef and sell the meat in the town and surrounding towns. He did some freighting, hauling milled ore from Ophir to the terminus of the railroad near Stockton.”

For those of us in Utah who’ve dabbled in rockhounding and desert camping, the towns of the Tintic Mining District, which include Ophir, are lots of fun to poke around in – I did a lot of it as a kid, and even wrote a newspaper story or two about the area when I was a reporter.

As for the butchering business, John Willard writes: “I remember quite often when beef was butchered the Indians from Skull Valley, who often stopped near our house, would take the entrails -- tripe being a special delicacy among the Indians.”

John Willard also recalls his mother, Nancy Lena: “My mother was a deeply religious woman. We often went to meetings which seemed terribly long.” And, “While Mother had very little schooling, she was quite a reader. Reading and spelling seemed a natural gift.”

He writes, too, about the particulars of the family’s move to Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin in 1900 – to a 160-acre piece of land south of Burlington: “They got to Bridger, Montana, the nearest railroad station to Burlington, and unloaded their stock and household goods -- which they loaded on wagons and took by team to Burlington. They arrived in Burlington Oct. 1, 1900. There was on the place then a two-room log, dirt-roofed cabin.

“The farm had about 30 acres of cultivated alfalfa hay. In the spring of 1901, some 20-30 acres of sagebrush land was plowed and put into crop. The means of transportation was team and wagon. …

“In 1901, a tract of land adjoining the present town was purchased by my father and others, and divided into city lots and sold for building lots. People had very little money but there was good community spirit. Everyone shared in many ways and were very helpful in times of need.”

The tragedy struck: “In March 1903, my father died after an operation for appendicitis. Mother was left with eight children -- the eldest 17 and the youngest 1. A few years later we moved into town, having built a two-room house at the east of the lot my father acquired before his death.

“We still continued to run the ranch by renting it, and later by my brother and me. We, as a family, did janitor work for the school for a number of years, and we later bought a house and had it moved several miles to our town lot on the southeast corner next to the main road. This house was a frame, shingle-roof building, three rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs. This provided a much more comfortable house than we had before. The previous one had a dirt roof and in wet weather we had to set pans on the floor to catch the rain.

“Our home was a place where we often had many of our age group, and would gather in socials and games. Quite a bedlam, sometimes, but Mother enjoyed it.”

And there’s more, lots more. So click here and have a look for yourself. And, as always, please comment or write me an e-mail and I’ll post your comments for you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Grandpa Henderson's birthplace

When I was young, before the age of 5, Mom, Dad, Grandpa and I took a trip to Basin, Idaho, where Grandpa was born. I really have no memory of the trip, but I quizzed Mom about it and she said it was interesting for a couple of reasons:

There were two homes he lived in before he turned 17 and the family herded their livestock over the Continental Divide to Burlington, Wyo. The first, a log cabin where Grandpa was born, had long since been reduced to something akin to a barn for the animals of the area. When he saw that it was filled with manure, he said, "Hell, I wish we'd never have come."

Or, he said that when they went looking for the home he lived in after the cabin. It had burned to the ground sometime between 1900, when they moved to Wyoming, and the early 1960s when we made the trip to Idaho.

Mom says they visited a cemetery in Basin, Idaho, and happened to run into its sexton/caretaker. She explains that Grandpa, then at least 80, remembered very well the people who had lived in the community and where they lived. Though he did not know the caretaker, they had known the same townspeople.

Mom adds: "That's funny, because he could remember all them, but he couldn't remember my name."

Have a look at the photos, taken from faded slides, of the home where Grandpa was born by clicking here.

And, as always, please leave your comments by clicking on the "comments" button below.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Videos from the 2004 Henderson reunion

After the 2004 reunion in Burlington, I decided to upload some video to the Web site. I figured brief snippets would be the best, otherwise it would be the Web version of going to a neighbor's home and watching their vacation slideshow.

I settled on the idea of video from each of the siblings' introductions of their respective families. I like them, because they bring these static photos alive, and it captures a moment in time before the passing of Rip, Marie and Crockett.

Here are links to each of the introductions for Reanous & Merla, Helen & Don, Marie, Mark & Frances, and Rip & Geneva. They're not long, but it's fun to relive those moments -- mundane as it may seem in the abstract.

I also uploaded another few minutes of video, mostly without audio, of scenes from the reunion of family members sitting around chatting after the meal. Stick with it until the end to hear Reanous' comments -- it's worth the investment of time.

What I'd like to know is this: Does anyone else have some video to contribute, of ANY of the reunions. Just send it to me in raw form, and I'll edit together some scenes and add it to the Web site. The scenes mentioned above are downloadable, and if anyone's really interested, I'll be happy to provide all the raw footage I have from any past reunions -- although I tend to take more photos than video.

My thinking is, if we can distribute this stuff widely enough throughout members of our family, it won't go missing for decades like so much of the material on this site.

Please click on the "comments" button below, or send me an e-mail with your responses and I'll post them on this blog.