Bernard Niels Christensen
|Bernard's Mission Photo|
The following spring of 1904 when the school year ended, Maud returned to Pleasant Grove to make preparations for their wedding. Bernard continued to work for the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company. He was transferred to Sugar City, Idaho.
On September 14, 1904, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple and went to Sugar City, Idaho to live. He was 27 and she was 26. By the time their first child, Clare Bernard, was born July 25, 1905, they were living in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Shortly after they moved to American Fork where they lived for the rest of their lives.
Bernard and Maud became the parents of six children--Clare, Maurine, Rosalie (who died of pneumonia at four weeks), Paul, Kathryn, and Owen.
Making a Living
In making a living, Bernard did several things. “Before I [Paul] was born, he worked as a salesman for the National Tea Importing Company. He sold tea, coffee, extracts, and other products in Eureka and the neighboring mining towns. Mining towns were rough places, and Dad was warned that he would ‘go to hell’ if he pursued that job. But he was firm in his faith and his conduct.
“One night, he and a friend who worked in a store in Eureka thought someone was trying to steal from the safe in the store. They crept through the store to the safe carrying loaded pistols. They found no one there. All his life following that experience, Dad was glad that they did not shoot some one that night.
“On another occasion, Dad was carrying several hundred dollars cash in his pockets. To protect himself and the cash, Dad put the cash in his shoes and walked the railroad tracks between towns. To save money, Dad frequently rode the freight trains between Eureka and American Fork. As he boarded the train in Provo one night, a brakeman told him that the train would be going to fast through American Fork for Dad to get off. Dad knew that there was an uphill grade on the railroad as it approached American Fork. This would slow the freight train to a speed he could take care of himself. . . . He [also] knew that he could jump off the train and his landing would be cushioned by the loose cinders along the steep side of the grade. He was wearing a heavy coat. As the train was entering American Fork, Dad stood on the bottom step at the end of a freight car. At what he thought was the appropriate moment, he jumped from the step. His heavy coat caught momentarily on the freight car. Instead of his landing clear of the train in the loose cinders, he was thrown down under the outer edge of the car against the rail. He was extremely grateful to be unhurt. I think that was the last time Dad rode the freight trains.
“Later, he was manager of the American Fork branch of the Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company. They sold horse-drawn machinery to farmers. . . .In my pre-school days, I spent a lot of time with Dad at the Con Wagon, as it was called [and traveling with him across Utah valley contacting farmers]. About the time I started school, he helped organize a predecessor of what is now Intermountain Farmers Association. Following that, he was head of a poultry cooperative that shipped train carloads of eggs to New York City. During this [same period of time], they were operating the family farm in American Fork. The last five years of his life, he was a crop loan supervisor in the USDA Emergency Crop Loan Program." Mountains to Climb, Paul D. Christensen, p. 7.
|Bernard and the chickens 1925|
Those were the “facts” of his making a living. Later Paul would write, “Dad was a farmer at heart and wanted his family on the farm, but he was too impatient to enjoy farming with its constant frustrations. Our farm was too small and scattered in too many locations to make a good living. We usually grew about one acre each of potatoes, carrots, onions, and cauliflower, three acres of cabbage, five acres of corn, and eighty acres of hay, grain, and pasture. We strived for high yields of vegetables and hoped for high prices. But when people were paying the grocer 4 to 5 cents per pound for cabbage, we frequently received less than one-half cent. Some years the price of cabbage was so low that we left it unharvested in the field.
The milk cows and the chickens were our most consistent income. But they required care every day of the year.” (p. 29)
The most important thing that Bernard was raising were his children. When the Consolidated Wagon company closed in the mid-1920’s, Bernard decided to farm. For ten years he worked closely with his sons farming and in the wholesale egg business. They loved to be with him and to hear his stories. “Farming by hand labor was hard physical work, but the rewards of sharing life with each other was great compensation for [their] efforts.” (p. 30)
|Clare, Owen, Paul, and Bernard|
Making a Life
|Bernard later in life|
“Dad always taught and emphasized gun safety. [There were reasons.] . . . One day he was hunting pine hens with his close friend, Dr. Philemon Kelley. They became separated. Dad sat down to rest. Phil soon saw Dad’s hunting cap, which Dad was wearing, and thought it looked like a pine hen. He aimed his loaded shotgun at the cap and was ready to pull the trigger when Dad stood up. On another day Dad was alone hunting rabbits in Cedar Valley. While unloading his fun to go home, he thought he had ejected all of the bullets out of the gun. He looked down the inside of the gun barrel with his finger on the trigger. The instant before he pulled the trigger he pushed the gun away from his face. It frightened Dad so much that it was several years before he told any of us about it. . . .
“As we hunted in the field, we checked each other on which way we were pointing our guns and how we were carrying our guns. We never carried a loaded gun in the car, and always doubled-checked our guns to see that they were not loaded, except when we were actually hunting. One day following a rabbit hunt. . .we were ready to get into the car to go home. Dad asked Clare to check his gun. Clare said that he had checked it. Dad said, “Check it again.” Clare replied that he had checked it again, but Dad insisted that he check it again. Finally Clare did make one more check. The gun was loaded. This was a great lesson to us all. . . . (p. 6)
“Dad was quick-tempered, scolded us when we erred, but rarely spanked us. Ten to fifteen minutes later when he calmed down, he always apologized. Dad gave us counsel on dealing with praise. He admonished us to be wary of ourselves when someone praised us or gave us a compliment. He cautioned against our feeling ‘puffed up,’ and advised us to be humble. . . . (p. 7)
[Bernard] “was active in the Church throughout his life. Deeply religious, he lived gospel principles strictly His missionary trunk in the basement was the scene of his daily personal prayers. In his family prayers, particularly when money was scarce, he often reminded the Lord of the promise in his patriarchal blessing. ‘Your food and raiment will never be less.’ He taught us the gospel in our home and as we worked together on the farm. He never skated or hunted on Sunday. In that regard,he told of an experience he went through as a teenager. His mother was opposed to skating on Sunday. One Sunday, Dad slipped his skates out of his bedroom window, then picked them up outside and started walking to Utah Lake, which was two miles south of home. It was not long before his conscience would not allow him to go on, so he returned home. He had great respect for his mother, and she was a major influence in his life, even though she died while he was in his teens.” (p. 6)
In January 1940, Bernard was 63 years old. He was planning a skating outing with young adults and was still able to out skate them.
Saturday, January 20, was the beginning of Alpine Stake Conference. He was the senior member of the high council. He had met with the stake presidency and the high council and then gave the closing prayer in the Saturday evening priesthood leadership session of the conference. His son, Clare wrote, “Clifford E. Young, the stake president, had given some lengthy instructions. Dad leaned over and whispered to [a friend] that he wished ‘that Cliff would finish.’ Dad said he did not feel a bit good. When he arrived home, Mother was visiting with my sister, Kathryn. She had arrived from Roosevelt, Utah where she was teaching school. Dad went to bed by himself.
“In the night they heard him groaning with pain. [The doctor] was called and Clifford E. Young who lived next door came and gave Dad a blessing.” They were still there with Maud, Clare, Kathryn, and Owen when Grandfather Bernard Christensen passed away.
“Clifford E. Young said to the conference that morning that it was with difficulty that he took charge, his long and intimate friend, Bernard N. Christensen, had passed away during the night. Several people got up immediately and came down to see mother. People came in continually the next two days. Their expressions of love and sympathy and of their great esteem toward my father were a great comfort to my mother. She was a wonderful woman. She had done countless acts of kindness. In her  years as stake president of the Relief Society, she had stood as a symbol of charity, devotion and dignity. Her capabilities were rare. However, the loss of her companion was the greatest blow of her lifetime.” The Christensen Family of Soro, Denmark and American Fork, Utah, USA, Allen C. Christensen, pp. 289-290.
The array of flowers, the countless people who came, the box full of letters of sympathy, the funeral in the American Fork Tabernacle were all important. Grandmother Maud Christensen “received courage and strength out of the realization that so many people appreciated the service both she and Dad had rendered in the community.” (The Christensen Family, p. 291)