BergesonFamilyHistory
Family History of the Bergeson family
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Summary

of the biographies of

Niels Bergeson, Olive Matilda Jensen
Anna Maria Petterson and Amalia Kristina Swenson

Niels Bergeson was born February 29, 1840 in Glumslov, Landskrona, a small fishing village on the western coast of Sweden. His Father, Borge Nilsson, was a ship's carpenter. He built and repaired boats for fishermen on both sides of the Oresund Strait between Sweden and Denmark.

Borge's second wife, Karna Palsson died while Niels was only six. Her death left Borge, then 60, with three daughters and two sons, aged four to 14. Times were very difficult in Sweden and he found that he could not support his family. As work was available in Denmark, Borge decided to go there. He found homes for his daughters and took the youngest boy with him.

He left Niels in the care of relatives, but either they neglected or abandoned him, so Niels found himself alone for six months in a small rat infested cabin, eating milkweed and green peas gleaned from the field. Occasionally he went begging with a blind man for something to eat. "If I had a little bread and cheese (the big ugly rats) would eat it for me, so I had to tie it up and hang it in the ceiling."

When he was 14 he decided to search for his father in Denmark. He left during the winter and crossed the Oresund Strait, a distance of about 10 miles, using a small sleigh and a barn door for support as he crossed where the ice was thin or cracked. He found his Father in Ordrup, near Copenhagen. There he worked as a teamster and helped farmers.

"During this time there was quite a stir in the religious world." His brother went to Copenhagen and attended a meeting of the United Brethren, where Elder Erastus Snow spoke, "the Spirit of God was poured out in such force that all to a man were converted and baptized. Niels" older half-brother, Johannes, was baptized. However, Niels was 17 and didn't pay much attention, but often heard his brother talk about the Mormons. "... and I felt in my heart that there was something in it that eventually would demand obedience."

Niels was a good-looking man of medium build; about 5 feet 10 inches tall with blue eyes, brown hair, a thick beard and weighed about 175 pounds. By age 23, he had saved some money, and married Olivia Matilda Jensen, They settled in Ordrup and had five children, three girls and two boys. However, a boy and girl died in infancy.

He found work as a gardener in the royal estate at Bernstorff, a place where King Christian IX and his family spent part of their summer. During this time a missionary came to visit them. He left a Book of Mormon. However, Niels had no time to read it until much later. While trimming trees he was "sun struck" and was confined to his bed for about ten days. While thus prostrated I came to think of the Book of Mormon that the young missionary had left "...and while lying in bed I read it from start to finish with the result that I declared it to be the work of God and not of man, and that same testimony was continued with me to the present day." Niels was baptized in 1867. Because of local disturbances against the church the ordinance was performed in the middle of the night at the seashore.

This was a difficult time for Niels, as Olive Matilda did not share his enthusiasm for the gospel, as she was affected by the attitude of her family. She called on the priest and officers of the law for Niels to either renounce his religion or give her a divorce. He appeared before the priest to answer her call for a divorce or renounce his religion. He said, "I will not renounce my faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and if my wife is determined to have a divorce I shall have to submit." At that point she began to cry, they went home together and the divorce was never asked again.

Through the efforts of her husband, Olive Matilda was baptized by Niels, December of 1868. "From now on we were united and the Elders were always welcome in our home." However, she was an outcast from her own family and many people remained bitter against the Mormons.

Niels continued to work in the royal gardens. His work brought him in contact with the Royal family of King Christian, and especially Crown Prince Fredrick, who was about his age. Prince Frederick, often made inquiry about temporal and religious conditions. Niels told him of his religious standing and testified of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Niels had to keep the family's playground in order, so he mingled with them every day.

Although Niels had a secure position working for the Danish royal family, he wanted to immigrate to Zion. In July of 1870, Niels, Olive Matilda and their three children, Josephine, Julia and Frederick sailed to Liverpool on the ship Nevada. There they boarded the Minnesota to New York along with 315 other Saints. Also in the same group were Niels' sister, Christina, her husband Hans Peterson, Christina's stepson "Pete" and their son Terkel.

They traveled by train from New York to Utah in a large immigrant company. The transcontinental railroad had been completed the year before. At the railroad siding between Ogden and Salt Lake, they were greeted by Brigham Young. The family stayed in the boxcar three days until a team and wagon came to take them to Logan.

They lived in Logan for two years. This was another difficult time as little work was available. Niels worked for farmers and in the canyons. Olive Matilda did house cleaning. She was always paid in produce, never in cash. The next spring, in 1871, Niels worked in the mines in Little Cottonwood Canyon for $2.50 per day. He returned to Logan where a son was born. He, being the first to be born in the "Land of Ephraim", was named Ephraim.

Niels was soon cutting hay and stacking it for winter. A man came along and offered him a cow for half of it. The next year he was working in the canyon cutting timber for a home to be built by the Logan River.

In April of 1873 they moved north to the Lewiston area, to try homesteading 80 acres above the Cub River. They lived in a dugout, which consisted of a pit or room about 12 by 16 and five feet deep excavated into the bank of the Cub River. It had a ridgepole in the center three feet above the bank. The roof consisted of wood slabs covered with straw and then dirt, to shed the rain. The front had a door and window at opposite ends.

A permanent house was badly needed. Niels worked for a Brother Hogan so he could use his team to haul logs from the canyon for a house. A two-story house was built which had two rooms, with a small room on the west of the larger room. Later they built another section with four rooms, two up and two down. Two Box Elder Trees were planted next to the well for shade.

People in the area had their share of pioneering. First there was no water to irrigate the crops. Niels and other farmers worked for years to build a canal to solve this problem. In the meantime they had to contend with dryness, grasshoppers, crickets, wind and frost. As such, the place was known as "Poverty Flat." During this period it was difficult to get enough food to sustain them. They had thirty head of sheep which Olive Matilda sheared, spun the yarn and knit socks.

About 1877 Niels learned that his older half-brother, Johannes, and wife could no longer work and would be sent to the poorhouse. He built a house and planted an orchard for them at Cherry Creek, near Richmond. He sent first for his brother, as he could not afford passage for both, and then for his wife the following year.

Things looked up when the railroad came to Cache Valley. In the summer of 1882, Niels, who had experience as a mason laying foundations, took a contract with the Oregon Shortline Railroad to build culverts of rock and lime mortar at the bottom of ravines and small creeks before the roadbed was made. During this time Ephraim and Joe ran the farm, using oxen to do the plowing.

In 1890 Niels was called on a mission to Scandinavia. He left Salt Lake City after October Conference and landed in Copenhagen two weeks later. He went back to Bernstorff where he had previously worked to see his friends.

Later he went to see Frederick at the palace of Amalienburg in Copenhagen. He said he had a struggle with himself to go there. "It takes much courage to stand before kings", he recalled. He gave his letter of identification to the adjutant and in a few minutes he was summoned. Frederick was happy to see him and they spoke of previous experiences. Niels mentioned that some of the elders had been banished from the land, and Frederick said he would look into it. Niels gave him a Book for Bible Investigators and a picture of his family marking the page of the Articles of Faith.

When he returned from his mission in 1892, serious problems developed between Niels and Olive Matilda. Nothing has been written by either of them. Various opinions and family folklore have been expressed. Some thought they had problems and/or separated before he left on his mission, others thought it happened after. Whenever it occurred, apparently Niels wanted to take a second wife to follow the practice of polygamy believing it to be a practice instituted under divine guidance.

Olive Matilda must have felt that she could not live in a polygamous relationship; furthermore, the church issued a manifesto against it in October 1890. She may have been angered by Niels enough to not want him back under any circumstances-polygamy or not. In December 1893-divorce action was started in Weber County, Utah, and a divorce was granted February 10, 1894. This was later recorded in Logan on March 1, 1894.

This was also a hard time for Olive Matilda. She and her boys had to work hard to maintain their farm. She taught her children the Gospel, and lived by its principles. She never allowed her family to speak ill of the authorities of the church or anyone else. Three of her boys fulfilled missions for the church.

Olive Matilda was of medium height, a stout woman, with grey hair pulled to the back of her head, with a part in the middle. She was an excellent cook and was known for her lemon pie. She always made hot biscuits every morning for her boys, and was a good housekeeper. In her parlor there was an organ, a nice carpet, and pretty ornaments that her grandchildren remembered.

She spoke in a deep Danish accent-half Danish and half English. She is remembered as riding in her pretty buggy, dressed very nicely. She was a lively woman, spirited in her actions, and was known to have a temper on occasion. She died in Lewiston, Utah, of a stroke, April 1, 1908 at the age of 67. She had a total of 15 children, of which four died, one at birth, two less than six months and one at about one year of age.

While on his mission, Niels became acquainted with Anna Maria Petterson in Norrkoping Sweden. An only child, she was disowned by her family when she joined the church in 1889. She was tall and thin, with dark hair and large brown eyes. Emigration records show she came to this county in August 1893, the year following Niels' return from his mission.

When she first arrived in Utah, she worked as a seamstress for six months in Salt Lake City and did beautiful embroidery and sewing. She wrote letters and read books with great speed.

Niels and Anna Maria were married in the Logan Temple on February 14, 1894. She was 28 and he was almost 54. They tried homesteading in Abraham, Millard County, Utah just west of present day Delta. From the divorce settlement, he took a wagon, two teams of horses, a saddle horse, five cows, a plow and harrow.

The land produced fairly well for about two years, but each successive year when they irrigated, alkali came to the surface and crops became worse. After five years when they left, they were almost broke. They then moved to East Jordan in 1898, now the Midvale area. When Olive Matilda learned of their return she gave them material assistance during the first year.

In the fall of 1899 Niels purchased a small, 23 acre farm in Greenville, now North Logan, where he lived with his family. During the last few years of her life, Anna Maria developed debilitating arthritis. Her health became worse year by year and was confined to a wheel chair.

In 1905, Niels found it necessary to send for and pay passage for another convert to the church from Sweden, Amalia Kristina Swenson, a woman that had been a good housekeeper. She was 34 years of age and had only been a convert for about four years. She learned about the need for Brother Niels Bergeson to have someone take care of his crippled wife and five young boys, through the church.

After much prayer and fasting, she accepted the position. Amalia loved and cared for Anna Maria and the children for the next two years. Anna Maria was just 41 and youngest boy only four when she died in November of 1907. Amalia promised Anna Maria, that she would take care of the children.

She became Niels' third wife in 1908. She loved the boys and became a good mother to them, nursing them through many illnesses.

In later years, Niels' two families were often in contact with each other. "Aunt Mollie", as she was fondly known, was loved by all. They enjoyed her jolly manner, her good cooking and her thick Swedish accent.

Niels toward the end of his life, had a bad fall on the ice, which caused him to be bent over and required the use of a cane. Though sometimes irascible, he did not lose his sense of humor. He died June 12, 1925 at the age of 85.

After his death, Amalia worked in many homes and schools, cooking and caring for others. At one time she traveled to Conda, Idaho, north of Soda Springs, to visit family. From there she went on a trip back to Sweden to see her brothers and sisters that she had left years before. She left in June 1937, and stayed until October 1938, getting home just before World War II broke out.

She took time to tell many former friends and family about the gospel. She was always active in the church and served in the presidency of the Relief Society and the Primary.

When Ben lost his wife, she stayed with him and took care of his two young children, until he remarried. She served unselfishly all her life. She died March 16, 1948 at the age of 77.