Thursday, Dec 01, 2022

Joseph Christensen Jenson

Joseph Christensen Jenson

Joseph Jenson was born 5 June 1867 in Logan, Utah.  He was the son of Latter-day Saint immigrants Jens Peter Christensen and Margaret Olsen Christensen.  He was the fifth and youngest child of the second family.  His father practiced polygamy, so he also had six half-siblings.

Joseph married Elizabeth Ann Adams on 29 July 1890 in Cache Valley, Utah Territory. They suffered many losses in their marriage.  Hazel Adams Jenson was born in 1890, but died less than four months later. Son Oliver Adams Jenson was born in 1890. He was their only child to live to adulthood. Little Alice Elizabeth was born on the first of September, 1893, but she died before the end of the month, on 30 September 1893. The baby’s mother died the same day. Twenty-six-year old Joseph Jenson was left widowed with a two-year-old son to raise alone. As was customary in those days, Joseph loaned his son out to his wife’s parents to raise so he could make a living.

Joseph finally remarried at age thirty-two, six years after the death of his first wife. He married Alice Girdlestone Smith on 21 September 1899. Together he and Alice had eight children, but again death was no stranger to the couple. Joseph Melvin was born in January, 1901, but he died in September that same year. Donald Sylvester, born in 1902, grew up to farm in Arbon. Lorene, a sweet baby girl made all the sweeter by the loss of the two baby girls Joseph had lost with his first wife, was born in 1904 but drowned in a Logan irrigation canal when she was just four years old. Clyde Jenson, the musician and future owner of a Stradivarius violin, also farmed in Arbon; it was his son and grandson who ran the farm for generations. Ida Vilate was born in 1908. Ralph Vaughn came along in 1911, but was killed in a farming accident in Arbon when he was eight years old. Albert Vernon was born in 1912, and George Merlin was born in 1916. Of Joseph’s eleven children (three with his first wife and eight with his second wife), only six of his children lived to adulthood.

Joseph came to the Arbon Valley (then called Bannock Valley) in 1907, proving up on his homestead in 1914. By then his oldest son, Oliver, was twenty-four years old, but it is not known if Oliver ever lived in Arbon Valley (both the 1900 and the 1910 censuses placed him living with his maternal grandparents in Logan, Utah). It appears that when Joseph came to Arbon Valley, his “help” was his sons, Donald, Clyde, and later on, little Vaughn, who died when he was eight, doing a man’s job. Young boys had to grow up fast in those days.

Joseph’s son Clyde remembers one of the annual spring moves to Arbon Valley, when the homesteaders returned after spending the winter in milder Cache Valley. According to Clyde, “They came in a covered wagon with four horses up through Sublet Trail…It was cold. [The Sublet Trail was a few miles north of where Jensen Pass would later be built. Sublet Canyon still appears on topographical maps.] They stopped at a sheep herder’s camp and then [went] on to the cabin” (Bannock Valley, p. 251, memory of Clyde and Zella Jenson).

To the early settlers, a road was a lifeline to family, supplies, and markets. Most of the settlers in the Arbon and Summit areas needed a road that was better than an Indian trail to get their wagons to Malad, which was the Oneida County seat. The farmers got together and asked the Oneida county commissioners for a good road so they could get their grain to market.

The first road used to transport people and goods into the valley was Rocky Ridge (east of Andersen Lane). The next road was called the Turkey Trail (this is east of Vance Ward), with Jenson Pass being the third road. The first two roads weren’t actually surveyed and graded – they just grew as settlers brought wagons over some of the old Indian trails. But Jenson Pass was an actual surveyed road, with a budget to pay the supervisor and workers. It was in the same place where the Hudspeth Cutoff brought literally thousands of immigrants through the valley on their way to California during the Gold Rush, fifty years previously.

The following information on the road comes from the book by Laurie Jean Ward called Bannock Valley. “The original road that Joseph C. Jenson was the supervisor, was built on the opposite side of the draw (the south side), and was built around 1910-1912. The neighbors helped build the road using a Fresno (scraper) with a team of horses. They would walk behind holding [the scraper blade] down, and when they came to rocks and rough places they had to blast with giant powder. The road was narrow with [only] a few turnouts so two wagons could [barely] pass. They would keep it open by traveling over it and with shovels” (p. 237).

Several years later, the men decided to “change [the road] to the north side because it would be easier to keep clear in the winter. About 1921, a new grade on the north side was finished. Clyde Jenson remembered when his father, his brother Don and he “would go up and use rakes to clear the rocks off. The sheep would soon go over and knock the rocks [down onto] the road again and they would have to go back and start all over again clearing the road” (p. 237). Sounds like the Jenson Pass was a full-time job, along with all the other labors associated with homesteading and farming in Arbon Valley.

Joseph C.’s family was very musical. He was something of a renaissance man, with many different abilities. Clyde said about his father: “Joseph C. Jenson was a very industrious man. He was interested in music all his life. Along with his other good qualities, he organized the first brass band in Logan, Utah before he moved to Arbon to live. He made violins and was an accomplished violinist. He played for many dances in Utah and Idaho. He was also a piano tuner and did much traveling to other communities to tune pianos. Joseph was a cabinet maker; he made harnesses for his own use, repaired machinery, and repaired family shoes” (Bannock Valley, p. 251). On top of all that, he also knew how to build snug log cabins and pretty good roads!

Joseph continued to experience family tragedies.  He lost two babies and his wife during his first marriage. His son Vaughn, at eight years old, “was killed in one of the fields when the horses he was driving on a disc ran away and he fell beneath the disc plow. He died almost instantly. Don and Clyde were in the field with him, also with machinery. How the family missed this little boy in their home!” (Bannock Valley, p. 251).

The family somehow found enough money to send son Don on a mission to the Eastern States Mission, and later to send Clyde to New York to study the saxophone. It wasn’t but a short time after Clyde returned home that Joseph got sick.  The family took him to Logan for medical help, but he died within three days. He was buried in Logan near his son Vaughn. His youngest son, George Merlin, was only fifteen years old.

Alice was left with several children at home and a farm to run with the help of her sons.  She was only fifty-two years old, but she only lived about eight more years. She had a heart attack on 24 July 1936.  The family tried to get her to Malad to the doctor there, but she was dead by the time they got her there. She too was buried in Logan.

The Jenson homestead added onto its land holdings through the years as other families left the valley. The homestead created by Joseph C. was farmed by his son Don and Clyde, then by Clyde’s son Joseph (“Joe”) Clyde Jenson.


Ward, Laurie Jean, Bannock Valley (Providence, Utah: Keith Watkins and Sons, 1982).

The links given here will provide information on other family members.