Phoebe Adelaide Chipman Christensen
Phoebe Adelaide Chipman was a daughter of Stephen and Phoebe (Davis) Chipman; Utah pioneers. She was born at Millcreek, Utah, December 5, 1852, where her father had built and operated the first flour mill there. While a small baby, her parents moved to American Fork, the town her father founded. Her father, Stephen, died in 1868 when she was just 15. Then four years later, her mother passed away. Phoebe was the eldest of seven children and played the role of mother. Her youngest sister, Bertha, was four and had been born just months after their father's death.
|Niels and Phoebe Chipman Christensen|
Three months after Phoebe's mother's death, Phoebe married Niels Christensen in the Endowment House and he helped to raise her little brother and sisters. In time they had seven fine, strong children of her own. Phoebe was a beautiful woman, deeply spiritual, and gifted in the art of making an ideal home. She was a wise and loving mother and a devoted wife.
Through her efforts, she was instrumental in organizing “woman suffrage” in American Fork.
“On October 2, 1890, tragedy struck [Phoebe and Niels’ family] suddenly. Their daughter, Phoebe Helen, a charming, dark-haired beauty of sixteen, died. The sorrow of the family was intense. [Helen, as she was called, was the oldest child. Bernard came next in the family.] Much of Bernard’s grieving at the loss of his sweet sister was dispelled because of a marvelously realistic dream he had the following night. In that dream, he stood with Helen at the foot of the bed where her body lay and once more, as a big sister would, she told him they would meet again and it would not seem long. That certainty never died out of Bernard’s life. Interesting, is it not, that this sweet spirit of assurance was given on the night of October 3, the fourteenth anniversary of Bernard’s birth?
“[Phoebe] . . . remained unconsoled over her namesake daughter’s death. Despite the [fact that the family was in an] extraordinarily difficult financial situation, Phoebe made a trip to Manti, Utah where, on October 21, 189l, she did Phoebe Helen’s temple work. Perhaps within those sacred walls a sense of peace came.”
During the summer of 1893, Niels had several financial setbacks and Phoebe [40 years of age] was not well.
“[The following summer] July 14, 1894, was a warm summer afternoon. Bernard was riding his little black mare. He was starting for Utah Lake to go for a swim when he met his mother coming out of a neighbor’s gate. She greeted him with a smile and, with the usual caution to be careful, turned and went up the street. Bernard watched her go. He had a strong urge to go with her, but turned his horse south and went for the swim. Upon his return he found a crowd of people in front of the family home. Bernard’s mother was dying. She had stood with the choir to sing the closing hymn at a funeral and had fallen unconscious, probably the result of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.
“Among those gathered in the room where Phoebe lay was a Mrs. Tilleck, a convert to the Church from Australia. After Phoebe died and the crowd had disbursed, Mrs. Tilleck said quietly to the family, ‘Just before your mother died, I saw a short, dark-complexioned, very beautiful woman come in he door. She crossed the room and held her arms out over the bed. I saw Phoebe’s spirit rise out of her body and they left the room arm in arm.‘ There were many questions asked of Mrs. Tilleck about this remarkable woman she had never before seen, but Niel knew from the clear description which had been given that she was his mother-in-law.” Phoebe’s early death kept her from accomplishing some of the fine and helpful things she was capable of doing.
“Adversity had come again to the Christensen family. Yet its refining hand molded in them a deep loyalty and love for each other. Bernard [at 17] now felt that his duty was at home. Someone had remarked that the Christensen children were such a handsome lot and so full of life, that with an easygoing father they would all go to the bad. In Bernard’s soul there burned a fighting resolve that they would not, and that intense resolve never diminished in his life. [Bernard had the greatest respect for his father, but said in later years that his father did not recognize the hazards which young people then faced.] When their mother died, John, Homer and Marie were all younger than twelve years of age. Mable was but thirteen. Edith, who assumed the burden of the housework, was only fifteen.”
Knowing more of the history of Niels and Phoebe Christensen’s family life makes it easier to understand Bernard’s decisions, especially the one he made two or three years later to delay his mission.
Yet he was true to himself and his resolve and when the time was right, he left his sweetheart, Maud Rosalie Driggs behind and served a mission to New Zealand.