Memories and Reflections
Edited by Scott G. Kenney
A Dane in Zion, 1882-1908
I arrived in Utah on January 2, 1882, thirty-five years after Brigham Young and seventeen years after my father, Bendt Jensen Ericksen. Brigham, Father and I, and a few others pioneered Cache Valley in northern Utah and later Preston, Idaho. Brigham, or the church, owned the land on which I was born. It was called the Church Farm and was located two or three miles southwest of Logan, Utah. After it had served to support me and other members of father’s family, the Church Farm became an endowment of the Brigham Young College, to be used for my education. My brothers and sister—Alma, Eldena, and Peter—and I all went to school there, so we feel much indebted to Brigham, the Lord, and the old Church Farm.
I do not recall distinctly what my role was on the farm in those early days except to kill ducks and keep an eye on Mother. According to my mother, and she had a good memory, I spent much time turning young ducklings on their backs by means of a long stick. Time and time again Aunt Ellen would pick up a dead duck and bring it to Mother as evidence of my destructive tendency. This was conduct of which I have always been ashamed. Although this took place on the Church Farm, [p.6] you must bear in mind that these were pioneer days, and to fight and kill was not entirely out of order. The problem was not so much in fighting and killing as in discriminating between objects of hate and objects of love. I was then in the primitive stage.
But even as a young savage, I loved my mother, the germ of civilized living. Mother said that I had a sweet disposition, for every five or ten minutes I would report to her at the door of the cottage, make sure that she was still there, give her a smile, and then, presumably, return to my work of destruction.
My pioneering really began at Preston, which is as far back as my recollection goes. I was four years old, though big enough to be six, when I had my first ride on a horse, a white horse. McKain was my favorite mount. If and when a monument is built to my memory, it must be of a boy of four sitting proudly astride a prancing white horse, Father’s hat on his head, clog shoes on his feet, a big rope in his right hand, with the straps in his left, holding McKain’s head high, speed and action under control. And the inscription should read:
This Is Ephraim the First
Pioneer Cowboy of Southern Idaho
I was reared in a family of ten, a splendid social environment. I received orders from all but Alma, my younger brother. Each of my father’s two wives, Ellen and Sophia, had three children—two boys and one girl. Each woman was guardian of her own little brood.
I was never subjected to a real disciplinary experience by my father. (By that I mean punishment preceded by careful thought or special instructions dealing with a particular offense.) I was influenced by the way he conducted his own life. He lived a life of honor and integrity. He was courageous in the defense of right as he understood it and was also [p.7] humble and self-sacrificing. He was a preacher of righteousness, to be sure, but that was geared along religious channels and mainly for public consumption. In his home he taught by example and by very few words.
One Sunday afternoon in 1886 or ’87 my father delivered a gospel sermon in Richmond, Utah, in which he set the pattern for his promising young son. My father always preached with deep conviction. No one in his audience could fail to hear him, and certainly no one would doubt his sincerity. I was impressed, everlastingly so. And in the home of my uncle William G. Danielsen my father returned the compliment. My uncles Henry and Herman Danielsen recognized my potential, for I distinctly remember being put on a chair or table and told to PREACH. And did I preach! Louder, and louder, and louder, at their demand. Father did not understand a word I said, but he got the spirit of it, and that is what I got from him. He and Mother enjoyed hearing me preach, and I must confess that I enjoyed hearing myself as well.
My mother did not preach moral or religious beliefs to her children. She pointed out the way of life that to her was ideal, not in the abstract, but by concrete examples. I developed a clear picture of what she wanted me to be. She had a way distinctly her own. She had no interest above the education and moral and social accomplishments of her children.
I loved animals and remember them, their appearances and names, as well as I recall the members of my family. McKain and the two dogs, Ring and Kaiser, and the white and black cat were important members of the family. When father killed the dogs (we could not afford to feed them) and McKain died and the little cat hanged itself by a ribbon we had tied around its neck, I wept bitterly. Only my mother was able to give me comfort. She assured me that I would someday have my pets in heaven. Even as an adult I have not been able to think of heaven as a happy place without my pets.
[p.8] At the age of seven I was sent to school. My equipment for scholarly achievements was not good. I do not recall winning any prizes in reading, writing, or arithmetic, or even in deportment. In my first year I earned two severe thrashings from Mr. Flack. Once for trying to straighten the loping ear of Alf Casperson, which suggested to Mr. Flack an effort on my part to ridicule my seatmate’s personal infirmity; and once for pointing out with my finger the snug fit of Mr. Flack’s pants right at the point where the back changes its name. He was embarrassed and I was whipped. I meant no harm in either case.
During my second year in school I was repeatedly slapped by the teacher for doing nothing but looking around too much. She also promised me a dunce cap, which she never delivered. I learned nothing during my first three years in school, not even good behavior.
I had no friends in school. I was a lonely little Danish boy, ridiculed by teachers and pupils alike.1 The days were long, sitting on benches without desks, no paper or lead pencils, only slates with slate pencils. There was no fun for me within the school building or on the outside. I was happy only when the day ended and my sister, Eldena, and I were permitted to go home. The two-mile walk to the house on the sand ridge came to me as a relief from the monotony of the public school room.
My mother tried to teach me to read, but to no avail. My case seemed hopeless, but Mother never whipped me. Her method was kindness and thoughtful correction. She seemed never to lose faith in me. My mother’s love and faith in me was my one and, for a time, only source of moral security. She never failed me, even when I was in the wrong.
[p.9] The Oneida Stake Academy was established in Preston about 1890. I was one of the young pioneers to be registered on opening day. The first year was conducted in a building previously used as a saloon. Joseph G. Nelson was principal and teacher, his wife was the only other teacher. The second year was conducted in the basement floor of the academy, which was then under construction.2
I attended the academy from the age of nine to twenty-one. However, not until the last two years, my first two years of high school, did I attend more than three or four months a year. The physical facilities were not what they should have been but were better than the public school. The teachers were far ahead. I was quite sure of that. My parents told me that the church school teachers were servants of the Lord, and I believed them. By the time the building was finished, which required three or four years, the staff was about five or six in number. Only two or three held degrees, but they were excellent teachers. They all seemed to take an interest in me, though I was certainly not a brilliant student. I always regarded myself as somewhat below average. But I had a will to become somebody of importance. My mother told me that I would some day.
Yes, I had days of uncertainties, when I was not sure whether earth was a heaven or a hell. It began when I was about thirteen. I became very much aware of myself—my long legs, my white hair, my long ears—and especially that other people were looking at me. The girls did not seem to like me. Katy actually slapped me for no reason whatsoever except that she did not like my looks. Clara was embarrassed because I [p.10] sat next to her at the party in Crockett’s home. Oh, how did I feel! The Lord only knows.
At Crockett’s home we played “post-office.” The girls were placed in one room and the boys in another. Each girl was required to choose a boy and as he entered the room give him a kiss. I was the last boy in the dark room. No one cared to call me.
I went to dances at the academy. All the “nice” young people attended academy dances since that was where the Spirit of the Lord protected young people from all evil—at least so said Bishop Parkinson, and my parents always agreed with him. Those not so nice, the disobedient ones, danced in Hobbs Hall. There they had all round dances. At the academy we had all square dances but two waltzes. All the young men would then dance with their best girl. I danced with Eldena, who was indeed a kind and loving sister. She never turned me down.
As I approached the age of sixteen, my social life began to brighten. My legs came to be more in proportion with my body. My ears did not seem so long, and the top of my head took better form. I may have combed my hair differently. More importantly, I was gaining confidence in myself. My brother Peter was a fighter of the first order in Preston, and Alma and I benefited from his pugilistic skill. He provided us with boxing gloves, and his training made us quite proficient. The boys no longer pushed me around. As I remember, I was able to slap the very fellows who used to beat me up. I never knocked any of them down but always won on points.3 Later on I became a successful wrestler too. In [p.11] fact, I succeeded in pinning the man who married the girl who slapped my face three or four years previously. That guy was a real bully, a tough guy.
While working on the Mink Creek Canal, I knocked down a man three or four years older than I. But in this case, I am ashamed to say, I used my teeth like a dog until he gave up. I am not advising any of my great-great-grandsons to fight that way, but as I remember, the men on the canal did not disapprove of my methods. I received more praise than I deserved.
I became a man among men. And among the women—well, my presence was less objectionable. But I remained a bashful youth. Not until I was twenty-three years old did I dare to make a date. Preston had many beautiful girls, but I generously let the other guys have them.
In order to save our best shoes, Alma and I used to walk with “stogies” through the muddy fields and, as we neared the better sidewalks, put on the nice school shoes, hiding the stogies behind an old header box. At age seventeen I became the academy janitor and continued in that position until I graduated from the eighth grade at age nineteen in 1901.
Ours was the first graduating class of the Oneida Stake Academy, and being the first, we were a proud group. I recall the pride of Bishop George Carver of the Third Ward who told his people that three of this distinguished group were from his ward. He and other ward and stake leaders said encouraging things about Alma and me since we were poor and compelled to work our way through school.
The years 1901 to 1903 were the years when Dr. Joseph Tanner,4 [p.12] superintendent of all LDS church schools, visited the academy and taught the gospel of large families: many sons to become great citizens. His sermon seemed innocent enough at first, but we soon discovered an underlying meaning. “Large family” to him and to some of his disciples meant more wives than one. Our beloved teacher of rhetoric, Fred Merrill, and Libby Calderwood recognized in the sermon a great eternal truth. (There were others, in the academy and out, who were also inspired—Alonzo Merrill and Laura Hansen, Arthur W. Hart and Edith Low.) Well, Alma and I became suspicious—and we were annoyed when Fred—a married man—and Libby remained late in a classroom, delaying our evening sweeping.
On one occasion in Fred’s class Alma was asked to give an example of a syllogism. He answered, “When a man, though married, spends evening after evening, and to a late hour, with a young unmarried woman, he is in love with her (major premise). Fred Merrill sits evening after evening with Libby (minor premise). Fred Merrill is therefore in love with Libby (conclusion).” Well, I need not tell you the consequences.
In my judgment neither Fred Merrill nor Alma were in the right. Polygamy was out of date, Fred was governed by instinct and tradition rather than by reason, and Alma by his sense of humor rather than sympathy. I must say, however, that the effect on Fred was both funny and pathetic. For a moment he took on all the colors of the flag but none of its meaning. This is what he said—I swear to the truth of it as well as to secrecy: “Alma, what a foolish idea! Why, if I wanted to make love to a young woman, I would not choose an old maid like Libby but a young woman like Edna (Johnson), Ray (Hocks), Anna (Parkinson), Olive [p.13] (Hanson), or Emma (Chatterton).” Well, Fred committed three offenses in one act. He violated the American and Christian standard of monogamy, he falsified his intentions, and, above all, he was most ungracious in referring to Libby as an old maid.
Fred lived at a time when plural marriages were on good authority still pronounced righteousness of the highest order, so he and many other good men of his day found it necessary to commit “lesser offenses” in order to protect the “great principle.”5 They could even turn to the scriptures for justification. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob not only married more than one wife, but each of them lied when they thought the occasion required. Fred believed the Bible to be the Word of God, and eternally so. This was also my faith at the time. But the Lord protected me from becoming a polygamist.
For two summers, at age twenty and twenty-one, I worked as a section hand on the railroad. I tamped ties for a dollar forty-five a day. They called us Jerries, which meant a sort of cheap or flimsy builder. But even so, I was a railroad man and proud to be doing a man’s job. At the end of each month I received a check, cashed it at the station, and gave the money to Mother. She put it behind the clock, and when enough had accumulated, it was used to finish paying for the home. Father was then too old to work, so Mother and Alma and I took over. To earn money and help pay for the old home thrilled me, as it did my mother.
Tamping ties, cutting weeds, and carrying rails was neither pleasant nor particularly dignified, even in those days. It did not require skill but brute strength. I had the strength and did I play it up. I would carry one [p.14] end of the heavy rail while two or three other men managed to carry the other. But once my size and strength caused me some trouble. I got into an argument with one of the fellows about how much was paid to men working on the header. I had the facts but he was not convinced. In fact, he questioned my word. He did not call me a liar but implied as much. Well, to call a man a liar in those days was a challenge for a fight. It did not take place, for the foreman fired me then and there. I did not like that, nor did he, for I was rehired two hours later. He said he feared I would drive all his men off the job. I assured him I had no such intention, but there was one thing that I would not stand for. My word was not to be questioned.
Looking back over my adolescence, three interests stand out: the attention of the opposite sex, pride in my growing body and physical strength, and interest in theological questions and participation in religious discussions.
A beautiful woman has always been able to hold my attention. The shyness and timidity I experienced in their presence left me after reaching maturity. In fact, I came to enjoy their presence immensely. I told Alma Larsen and Dave Crockett when working at the Swann’s cutting grain that I expected to marry the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the sweetest girl in the world. And no one less than that. I kept my promise. Adam and I took the same vow. Each of us married the only woman in the world.
My second interest, that of becoming a great fighter, vanished little by little. I let Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, and men of that rank serve vicariously to satisfy that demand. They did very well, and I always followed a good fight over the radio.
My theological interest has become more philosophic. It was first turned into a kind of idealistic metaphysics, then to an individualistic ethics, and finally into social ethics. My ethics have been called religion [p.15] by some of my critics. To this I do not object. My interest in physical combat may be responsible for my combative spirit in religious and philosophical discussions.
It was a September morning in 1903 when Alma and I made final preparations for the twenty-seven-mile journey to Logan and Brigham Young College. Bunch and Barney were hitched to the lumber wagon, which was loaded to the brim with bedding, dishes, clothes, soap, and towels. Mother had made sure that all our needs were provided for. We had paper and pencils and a few old books, including the family Bible. We had potatoes and carrots, flour, salted bacon, and a large jar of prune preserves—good, wholesome food for boys whose appetites had not been spoiled by “nice and sweet” things. On top was a big tick Mother had stuffed to capacity with clean, dry straw. Alma and I sat on the tick and, as he put it, “We have been on the tick ever since.” I had twenty dollars in my pocket and months passed before we spent it.
Father was past seventy, mother past sixty. Their health was poor. Everything within and about the home revealed poverty by present standards of living. When it was time to bid them goodby, I broke down and wept like a child.
We pulled out and left the old farm at the north gate. Turning east, we passed the Walds and shouted goodby; and then turned south, waving goodby to Bishop Carver. We trotted through Preston waving to a few old friends but did not stop, nor did we call on Uncle Herman. We passed through Lewiston and Richmond, where we stopped to rest and think of the good times we had had with our cousins there.
Smithfield, Utah, we passed with little attention, for Logan loomed in the distance. It was the great and “Holy City.” There, towering above all else, the beautiful Logan Temple. A little east and toward the mountains was the Agricultural College. It too looked wonderful, but we were not to go there. Uncle Herman had told Mother that those who wanted [p.16] their children to become good Latter-day Saints would send them to the Brigham Young College. But that college was not in sight. We found it only after driving down Main Street to the canal. We then turned west about one block and there it was. One great building—a wonderful, long building. It stood there with wide open doors bidding us welcome, a temple of learning. God had sent us there. Mother’s dream had come true.
From the college we drove one block north and one block west to the John Thomas home—our home for the first year. Our entrance into the city was not impressive. The people of Logan did not seem very excited. They paused but a moment to look at us, gave us a gentle smile, and went on with their business. It was Alma and I who regarded this an event TRIUMPHANT, for we had come from a little house built of slabs on the sand ridge of Preston to the college of brick in a beautiful city of learning.
Joseph Geddes batched with us at the Thomas home. In college he was one year ahead of us, and he proved to be an ideal companion. He was a sort of big brother, although the younger of the three. He ranked high in scholarship, in athletics, and more than all else, in wisdom. To this day he remains our friend and big brother. There are few men of my acquaintance whose judgment I value more highly than his.6 On the first day of school Alma and I were directed into President Linford’s office. Joseph, of course, was there to guide us. Dr. Linford [p.17] was tall, and we were impressed by his gentlemanly manners and by the attention he bestowed on us. He told us how tall we were, as if we did not know. I was six feet two, and Alma nearly so. He assured us that we would make great basketball players. We may have nodded assent. He did not say a word about our intellectual possibilities. That probably did not bulge out far enough to be seen. President Linford was just the kind of man that country boys were happy to meet and have as their president. Mrs. Linford too was a most beloved mother to us and other green boys like us. We were invited to their home many times and always made to feel at ease in their presence.
The courses in which we registered, other than plane geometry, were of college grade. So we had only two years of high school and five years of college. I have always felt that certain educational training was neglected.
D. C. Jensen, our physics professor, was a kind and considerate gentleman, but he and physics frightened me at first. (We could not always tell whether professor Jensen was standing or sitting.) Charles Skidmore knew his geometry and how to teach it. Weston Vernon knew English literature, but his eyes, which darted to the right and left, prevented my concentrating on the subject.
I was interested in the psychology and Old Testament courses of Professor Mosiah Hall. He was nearly six feet tall and would have appeared to have but one dimension were it not for his mustache.7 In psychology I sat in a front seat to be near the teacher. I was impressed by what he had to say but also wanted to reveal my ideas. I was active in [p.18] class discussion, probably too active. In a class that interested me, sitting quietly and taking notes was not my role.
In the Old Testament class I sat way back in the room, listening to everything that was said with keen interest but with some reservations. Professor Hall had taken Old Testament at the University of Chicago and taught ideas he had learned there. But I had my mind made up on the interpretation of scripture. I felt it my duty to put the professor right on many important points. I did not succeed and consequently spent the entire Christmas season writing a defense of the orthodox interpretation. I prepared it for the Crimson, but Ernest Hall, the editor (and son of Mosiah), pronounced it unsuitable.
Athletic recognition counted quite as much as our studies. We belonged to the class of 1908.8 We called ourselves the “Invincibles” because of our athletic achievements. We won all the athletic contests of the college. Alma was the big man in the shotput, and I the college champion in the hammer throw and wrestling. And did I work! Every afternoon I was out on the field throwing the hammer, dressed in the athletic suit, crimson from head to foot.
In wrestling I had less skill but great strength. The Crimson for 1903-04 gives a full account of my first wrestling bout, complete with pictorial evidence. But there are some things of importance that did not get into print. Some of my friends called it a “sweater pulling contest” in three stages: (1) Five minutes of sweater pulling ending in a draw. I was [p.19] to draw up my stockings and he was to draw down his sweater. (2) Five more minutes of struggle ending in a tie. I was to tie up my stockings and my adversary was to tie down his sweater. (3) At the end of the last five minutes they called it off. Well it did not end here. My opponent was put in the pit against Stephens, a real wrestler. Stephens put him down. I was then given a chance to wrestle Stephens, which saved the day for me. I put him on his shoulders and was declared the champion. I was proud of the title but ashamed that I could not have done a more skillful job.9 I remained a great wrestler until Alma threw me. But he had to run a quarter acre of growing wheat to do it. This humiliation ended my wrestling career.10
Joseph and Alma indulged in pranks, quite to the displeasure of our [p.20] landlords, the Thomases. Stuffing the chimney with hay on All Fools Day seemed to them quite in order. Dousing the girls who lived in the adjoining house with cold water was another sport not beneath their dignity.
What was I doing while this was going on? Well, I quite enjoyed it but did not participate. They were just boys in their nineteenth year. I was a man of twenty-one and had a reputation to protect. Mrs. Thomas would frequently say, “Ephraim is a good boy, and so is Joseph, but Alma made Joseph mean.” While most of this was going on, I was at work as janitor at the training school. My experience in Preston had qualified me as a college custodian, and of course I had to maintain decorum.
I was also an Elder in the priesthood, the authority conferred upon me just a few days before leaving Preston. When the Walton girl became ill—possibly as the result of the cold water pranks of Alma and Joseph—I was asked to administer to her. I took the lead, Alma and Joseph were the quiet and sober witnesses. The girl recovered and I became—not a hero, that is not the right word—a spiritual leader and counselor. This attitude, this intense religious emotion, modified as I took over more and more of the college spirit, but never did it vanish.
In our apartment Joseph and Alma did the cooking and I did the dish washing and sweeping. Their job was remarkably well done. They even baked bread, to the envy of some of the women who visited us. Although I was a janitor by profession, I do not think the neatness of our rooms received any extra commendation.
In my second year at college, which was also my year of graduation from high school, I did not give very much intellectual effort. Athletics and religion I took seriously. I never missed an opportunity to see a game or participate in a contest. Nor did I neglect my church duties. In both I was advancing the Lord’s cause. The spirit of the college [p.21] permitted no distinction between these two activities. I am not sure but what this is good philosophy. Athletics put sinews into religion and religion puts spirituality into athletics. This conforms to Athenian education. Even the gods of Mount Olympus were built like athletes. Worshipping the gods and engaging in athletic activities were each part of the great Greek educational program.
I was challenged by Professor Hall’s education class. He presented a definition of education presumably learned from John Dewey at the University of Chicago. “Education is the progressive realization of the purpose of life attained through the interaction of our individual activities with our social and physical environment.” To make it stick in our minds, Hall offered an “A” to anyone who would “satisfactorily develop the meaning of this definition.” I accepted the challenge and won the grade.
“Education” as “the progressive realization of the purpose of life” supported my conviction that in human life there is a great purpose, God’s purpose, and that the achievement of that objective is man’s great assignment. Education makes the purpose and meaning of life clear, for an aimless life is unworthy of man with his God-given intelligence. Of course, neither Dewey nor Hall said anything about God having an objective for man to realize. That was my own GREAT CONTRIBUTION. At this stage religion came first and scientific observation came second, supporting faith.
But the purpose of life must be progressively realized. This meant “eternal progression.” According to Dewey the meaning of life and its purpose we create for ourselves. Life’s purposes were not fixed in the universe but had to be created as we went along. To my way of thinking this did not make sense. For how could we speak of progress without a goal toward which we are expected to go? Well, neither Dewey nor Hall thought of this BUT I DID.
[p.22] Through this definition of education I became a theologian, a definer and defender of Mormonism. I read my paper in the devotional assembly at college. I read it before a large MIA convention in the Logan tabernacle. I presented it in our church at Preston. It was remarkable how big my head grew in so short a time. I found myself a philosopher, and without the humility of Dewey or Socrates. I knew the TRUTH and the TRUTH made me a TRUE philosopher.
My memory records only a few matters of importance during my third year in college. Father had died in the autumn of the previous year,11 and my mother came to live with us temporarily in a small apartment in the Brossard home. I began to think seriously about finding a girl. Mother would frequently say, “Don’t worry, the right woman will come along.”
Cynthia Hill was a young woman about my age, and from an objective and impartial point of view she met about every specification I had set. She was a woman of culture and character and possessed a degree of beauty and charm. A little taller than the average woman, she had perfect form and an intelligent face. Furthermore, she had a melodious speaking voice, used perfect English, and was a speech instructor and teacher of girls’ physical education.
Now, the question will arise in your mind as it did in mine, why should she be interested in me? I was a big, awkward, ungainly, country boy. I lacked every quality she possessed. It may have been sympathy, or it may have been to see what she could make of material in the raw. I know that her motives must have been high and noble. She was not [p.23] ashamed of me, for she took me to the swanky faculty parties and was pleased to go with me to class parties and of course to church.
I was proud to be with her, but I did not call her. I was too timid to say much of anything to her. I was inexperienced in courting and did not know what to say or do. We went together four or five months; she remained a superior person but never a sweetheart. Near the close of that year, J. William Gardner took over. I yielded to the more artistic, more successful lover. I did not do it very gracefully, for I was humiliated. I lost my pride, but not my heart. Cynthia lost neither.
My junior year, from 1906 to 1907, opened up a new avenue of interest: leadership in student political life. Mind you I am saying political leadership. It was neither social nor intellectual, I being adept in neither. I was nominated as the candidate of the common folk against Lyman Daines, the leader of the more cultured and socially minded and probably also the more advanced students.12 We promised to give the athletic association a free hand and the full support of the larger organization. We promised, too, that the Webster Debating Society should receive more than the mere moral support. Thanks to my campaign manager, Joseph Geddes, and my brother Alma, who entered vigorously and skillfully into the fight, I was elected. I was no more qualified for this than [p.24] Harry Truman was when he was elected president. I, like he, went in like a lamb and came out like a lion. We were both Democrats.
I may say without taking credit to myself that we also won state championships in debate (led by Alma and Lowell Merrill) and basketball, and I continued to throw the hammer and collected badges of honor.13 We also had a complete legislative and judicial program to advance—”Welfare and Justice” among students. We made laws governing the moral behavior of students, and we apprehended and convicted those who stole rubber boots. In fact we went so far and did so much that the parents of some of the faculty began to ask, “Where does authority rest, with the students or faculty? Who is president, Linford or Ericksen?”
One of my favorite professors was D. C. Jensen, who taught the history of philosophy. But it was Professor William H. Chamberlin14 who most appealed to my dominant academic interest and challenged my thinking. Under him I completed only one course, philosophy of religion. Yet it was of lasting value. He had just returned from Berkeley where he had studied Personal Idealism under George H. Howison. This type of philosophy impressed me as having great religious significance since it advocated the ultimate reality of human personality. Without [p.25] much critical examination, it struck me as another way of saying that “the soul of man is eternal.” It was Mormon doctrine taught by a philosopher. But my wise teacher did not say just that. To him, if I understood him correctly, philosophy may serve to lift Mormon theology up to a higher level of spirituality. Mormonism was inclined to be overly materialistic in its emphasis on the body of man.
But notwithstanding Chamberlin’s gentle criticism of Mormon materialism and his high regard for idealism, I felt this new philosophy was too “airy,” too intangible. So I remained loyal to my church doctrine and to my own body, though the new philosophy influenced me profoundly. But more than his lectures in metaphysics, it was Chamberlin’s ethical idealism and his personality that inspired me. He lived what he taught and taught what he believed.
My home and school environment had already implanted in me the desire to preach and teach Mormonism, and now a philosopher of religion comes along to tell me that religion is philosophy and philosophy is religion. It was practically impossible for me to resist the call to become a teacher of philosophy.
I must be well qualified for this great mission, and nothing short of the Ph.D. could possibly satisfy me. It did not enter my mind for a moment that I might not have the mental capacity or the financial resources. The choice of the University of Chicago was not based on careful thought. Professors Hall (religion), Kemp (chemistry), and Chamberlin (philosophy) had attended Chicago and spoke highly of it. Hall had talked about John Dewey’s influence there as a philosopher of education, and Kemp told his students of Rockefeller’s endowment to the institution. I chose the University of Chicago for graduate work.
During my final year at the BYC, I worked as janitor at the Training School, taught a class in the preparatory department to students not quite ready for college, and of course there were also my athletic and religious [p.26] duties. But my big problem was to find the girl who would join me in life’s big enterprise. To find such a girl in nine months, fall in love, and convince her that I was the only man in the world for her was a full-time job. I was twenty-five years old and had no time to spare. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. “Ephraim can’t wait” is an expression I have heard a thousand times.
I had long since prepared the specifications. She must be at least five feet six inches tall but not over six feet, and under no condition should she weigh more than 140 pounds. She must have a beautiful and sweet face, preferably blue eyes, long brown hair, rose cheeks, and lips—well, large enough and sweet enough to match a beautiful face. She must be intelligent but not too smart. She must be virtuous and of “good report” but not an angel. She must be a human being and womanly enough to make life interesting.
I began the chase in October 1907. I first saw her two blocks south of the college, chatting and laughing with a flock of girls in front of a little grocery store. With eyes and ears wide open I said to myself, “By darn, if that isn’t the girl!” She looked and acted just like the girl I was looking for. Just a slip of a girl, rather young but tall. My, she was pretty! I really fell for her. She was perfect in every respect but for a small tear in her skirt. The source of that blemish I never did learn. It may have been caused by her tomboy behavior, for she was in the transitional state. Anyway, she was unaware of it and it did not stand in my way. I went after that girl.
She attended the big, get-acquainted party with her brother. Thank the Lord it was her brother, for I was not well enough equipped to compete with those AC guys who followed her with eyes and smiles that even she recognized as dangerous. I wanted to meet her but encountered no end of difficulties. None of the fellows who danced with her, and they [p.27] were legion, would introduce me. But I did find one who reluctantly presented me to her.
I danced with her—the greatest swing of my life. I waltzed as gracefully as I could. She waltzed beautifully and without seeming to make any effort. I engaged her in conversation. She chatted and laughed. I tried to behave as would become a college senior. She acted the part of a freshman and quite enjoyed the role. The dance ended at 12 o’clock. I did not sleep that night but had sweet dreams.
The center of activity moved from my head to my heart. In fact, my heart now began to give orders and my head became its servant. My love affair became primary and my studies secondary.
Within a few days there was to be another big party, and time was flying. This girl was being pursued by more than one fellow. There was Ray Louis and the Lloyd boys, Orson and Norman. Hy Schneider and Lyle Allred were not to be trusted either. And there were several fellows—dark horses in the race—whom I did not know. But how fast was I permitted to go? I had met MISS EDNA CLARK only a few days ago, and the fellows who were informed on such matters advised caution. Joe Jenson and I sat for more than an hour in the college assembly hall in careful deliberation. He was faced with the same problem. He was infatuated with Estella Merrill, whom he too had met only a few days before. We made our decision and acted upon it that very evening. Joe walked a mile to find his girl and then ran a mile to report to me his success, and that after having played a hard game of football. I followed the object of my affection up three flights of steps and down again and then up the college building steps. She was “hunting for her rubbers.” But she did not escape. The deer was caught. The beginning of a great romance.
Love continued through the school year of 1907-08 but not without interruptions. I remained a persistent and devoted lover. Too much so, perhaps. There were moments when my girl was not quite sure, and her [p.28] caution and moments of reflection are to her credit. She was young, in her eighteenth year, and becoming aware of her potential in the game of love. She could choose from the cream of the crop. I was eight years her senior, but I was still green, awkward and timid, and being so anxious to win the love of this girl did not make me any less self-conscious.
But I enjoyed the reputation of being honest, true, chaste, benevolent. I had been president of the student body and that carried some weight with her brothers and sisters. Indirectly I had won her mother to my side and that was the trump card. Of all persons, Edna’s mother, Eliza, had the greatest influence in her life. The report had it that Eliza wept when she heard that Edna had turned Ephraim down and rejoiced upon learning that the two were lovers again. I think I had also won over the father, Hyrum D. Clark, but at this stage I had to put him in the doubtful column. We went out to the smartest affairs that the college and I could afford. We didn’t have the luxury of a buggy, or even a bicycle built for two, but we made up for it in conversation—Edna talked and I listened—on the long walk from the Spencers, where Edna was boarding, to the college and back.
The last year of college was the shortest year of my life—preparing for and taking examinations, planning class parties, falling in and out of love, staging an important class play, preparing for graduation. And Mother died. She had been quite ill throughout the year and passed away in March.15 Here was a strange combination, the love for my mother who was passing out of my life, and the growing love for a young woman which seemed to fill the vacancy in my heart. This was not, by any means, an exchange of similar or equal values. No woman could take the place of my mother, nor can any woman take the place of the girl who became [p.29] my wife. They were both wonderful women and of inspiration and service to me beyond what I can express.
Edna visited my mother when on her sick bed, after which mother remarked in Danish, “It means something.” A few weeks later, Mother passed away. Edna, along with the graduation class, attended the funeral.
Soon afterwards, Edna proposed that we discontinue our courtship. She wanted to be free to associate with other fellows, and she most generously permitted me to find another girl. For me it was a time of waiting, and that always long. But it gave Edna time for ideas and emotions to pass from her head to her heart and from heart to head. She went out with Hyrum Schneider and then Orson Lloyd, former student body president at the AC and an advanced student at the University of Wisconsin. He chose the last party of the year, the graduation dance, to drive a wedge between me and my girl. It was my last evening with Edna before our departure—she for Auburn and I for Preston. But besides remaining attentive to my girl, I was expected to dance and bid goodby to a number of college classmates and friends. Lloyd saw his opportunity and turned his devotion to Edna, even suggesting that he take her home that very night. They say that all is fair in love and war, but he missed the boat there and then. As young as my girl was, and inexperienced with such men, her ethics did not permit such conduct. That evening, after the dance, on the Spencer steps was one of the sweetest, most perfect, most heavenly experiences of my life.
On the 24th of July 1908, sixty-one years to the day after Brigham arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, I rode into Star Valley. On entering the valley I met Young Allred, a BYC friend.
“Hello, Eph, where are you bound?”
“To the Clark ranch,” said I.
“Looking for work?”
“Oh, no, for something better.”
[p.30] Get along, Snip, get along. There was a beautiful white castle on the side of the west mountain, which I charged with courage and at full speed. There at the gate stood a beautiful princess in a dress as blue as her eyes. Arm in arm we walked the grassy path over the rustic bridge, through the garden gate to the big open porch overlooking broad acres of meadowland. We chatted and laughed and exchanged important words.
Since I am not a poet or an artist, I shall not attempt to describe the beauty of the valley before us—the mountains, the streams, the singing birds, and the aromas of the meadows. All that I dare report is that her eyes were more beautiful than all of nature and her lips sweeter than all the flowers of the hills and the meadows combined. I said, in brief, “Will you be my wife?” And she said, “Yes.”
I led my horse to the big barn, removed my coat from the saddle, then the saddle from the horse, led Snip to the water tub and then back to his stall, and fed him a big forkful of newly mowed hay. Edna prepared dinner for the family, who would shortly be returning from Auburn. When the big white-top buggy arrived, a tall man with a dark beard jumped over the wheel to assist his sweet, smiling-faced wife. Then from the seat and over every wheel came girls and boys by the dozen.16 I was presented to each member of the family from the oldest to the youngest and thoroughly scrutinized. They were all nice and, so far as I could tell, not displeased with me.
The dinner table was long and wide. Father Clark took his place at the head with Anton in a high chair at the other end. The table was well [p.31] spread, and all appeared to enjoy the food, though I suffered from a slight touch of indigestion.
Exhibit number two took place at the dance in Afton. I knew the waltz, the two-step, a plain quadrille, and the Virginia reel, but up there they danced the three-step, door-step, the racket, and Highland fling. My image was saved when I was asked to referee the basketball game before the dance.
The next day was Sunday, and all the big and little Clarks, including myself, piled into the three-seated, white-top buggy bound for Sunday School and church that followed. I was not told in advance that I might be called upon to speak, but had I not been invited on that occasion I should have been greatly disappointed. I was a college graduate and a guest of Auburn’s most distinguished family.
Well, it happened as it should. The bishop called, “Brother Ericksen to the stand.” Did I deliver a message! I told those people what education really means—”the progressive realization of the purpose of life,” and since we as Latter-day Saints believe in “eternal progression,” this is sound Mormonism. It was convincing. The audience, including the Clarks for whom it was mainly intended, appeared to nod assent.
In the late afternoon Father and Mother Clark sat in the shade east of the house. He appeared to be reading, and she was doing needlework. Edna and I approached them hand in hand, as was our custom. Edna expected nothing; there were a few moments of sociability; then, without preliminaries, I said it.
“Brother Clark, I am in love with Edna and she with me. I want her for my wife. May I have your approval?” At that moment Edna tried to escape, but I held a firm grip of her hand. The father’s reply was not immediate. He was not as hasty as I. He was thoughtful, deliberate; his words came slowly but with a voice that carried conviction. He was concerned about the welfare of his daughters.
[p.32] While he paused, the mother eased the situation by saying, “But Ephraim, we both admire you very much.” That gave me hope. The father’s discourse was appropriate, on a high level, and ended with Yes. Thank God. Patience paid off.
In Preston, after reporting my trip to Star Valley and receiving the happy approval of family and neighbors, I was ready to face realities. My financial resources were very, very limited. Alma, Eldena, and I harvested and threshed the grain, sold the few livestock, and disposed of our household furniture.17 Each of the seven children received a little over seven hundred dollars. Eldena generously gave her share to Alma and me with the kind expression, “You need it, I do not.” That, with the money we received from the sale of the crop and the few head of cattle, made it possible for us to pay our transportation to Chicago and the tuition for one year at the university.
What really disturbed me was leaving forever a home of love, idealism, and sentiment to which I could not return. That old slab house was the only home that I had ever known. All the memories and dreams of life were associated with it. I remember my father and mother moving and talking in and about that house. It was my mother more than my father who created the spirit and warmth there, and it is difficult for me to picture my parents anywhere but within those walls. Mother had been with us a few months each year for three years in Logan, but we had lived in that Preston house nearly a quarter of a century. As children we played together in and around the house. In the evenings we milked the cows and gathered the eggs. We rode our ponies here and there and everywhere, protecting the grain fields from stray animals, exercising [p.33] them for the 4th and the 24th of July races, and sometimes riding for no purpose at all except to ride. And in Bear River west of the farm, horses and boys alike went swimming. Those days and that old home I can never forget.
The melancholy of leaving the old homestead was in part countered by the final visit to Star Valley when I placed the engagement ring on my sweetheart’s finger. This was one of those ethereal experiences that belongs exclusively to devoted lovers. Two souls were made one. At the moment of my departure I declared with confidence, “This is my sweetheart forever!”
My girl’s mother replied, “I hope so, Ephraim, but two years is a long time to keep a girl waiting.” The mother was right; to leave a girl blooming into young womanhood, who was beautiful and popular, for two years was a hazardous venture. But here, as in other matters, I lived by faith.
The friendship expressed by the good people of the Third Ward left me with a sense of assurance that in leaving Preston our spiritual heritage was not lost. We still had our old friends—people who loved our parents and admired the sacrifices they had made for the education of their children.
The send off given us at Logan by our college classmates was equally encouraging. It left us with not only a deep sense of loyalty to old friends but a feeling of responsibility to live up to their expectations. We were expected not only to retain the “faith of our fathers”—the main concern of our Preston friends18—but also to reach high levels educationally.
1. Unlike Bear River City, which was settled by Danish and other Scandinavian immigrants, Preston and Logan were predominantly settled by “Americans” of British extraction. “Danish” was a term of derision. Bendt and Sophia spoke Danish at home, although Sophia’s best friend, Mrs. Peterson, taught her enough English to read the Book of Mormon. The children also learned English as a second language.
2. The LDS school first met in two rooms of the furniture store owned by J. A. Head. In 1891 classes were conducted in the basement of the new academy building, which was completed in 1894 and dedicated by Moses Thatcher 28 July 1895 (Judy, 54-55).
3. Alma Ericksen reported that each spring “all of us boys would go into town, and Pete and [Moroni] would set [Ephraim] and me up for fights. We usually had pretty good success, but the whole procedure was not pleasant, particularly in the spring of the year when we were in an underfed condition.… John Hobbs, on the other hand, would come out from town fat, roly-poly, and full of energy and would challenge me to a fight. Of course, I always accommodated him and (again, if you will excuse a little bragging) he usually had to admit defeat” (Alma Ericksen, “Aunt Sophia,” 21).
4. Joseph Marion Tanner (1859-1927), protege of Karl G. Maeser; graduate, Brigham Young Academy (1878); LDS missionary to Germany and Turkey (1884-87); president, Brigham Young College (1888-91); law degree, Harvard University (1891-94); attorney; president, Utah Agricultural College (1896-1900); superintendent, LDS church schools, and second assistant superintendent, Deseret Sunday School Union (1901-06). Tanner later was released from church positions as part of a church effort to lower the profile of its polygamous leaders. One of Tanner’s post-Manifesto plural wives was Annie Clark Tanner, daughter of Ezra T. Clark and aunt of Edna Clark. Annie’s son Obert, one of Ephraim’s students and colleagues in the philosophy department at the University of Utah, would later endow the E. E. Ericksen Chair of Philosophy.
5. Ephraim was baptized at the age of seven, immediately prior to his father’s imprisonment for plural marriage. Edna’s father and two sisters entered post-Manifesto polygamy at the direction of church leaders. Edna received proposals from married men in 1908-10, and Ephraim was encouraged to consider plural marriage by Logan acquaintances as late as the 1920s (Lambert, 41-45; ECE, 1980 interview, 14-24, 27-29, 33-34).
6. Geddes and the Ericksens had already become friends playing baseball at the Oneida Stake Academy. Alma pitched, Ephraim caught, and Joseph played first base. “When the three of us operated together,” Ericksen wrote in his unedited autobiography, “it soon became evident that we could beat any other group in attendance at the academy at that time.” Geddes then became the president of the BYC athletic association and was Ephraim’s campaign manager when he ran for BYC student body president. Geddes graduated in economics (1907), filled an LDS mission (1907-10), returned to the Oneida Academy as teacher and later (1914) principal; completed graduate work at Chicago and Columbia; and became a professor of sociology at USAC (Geddes, 3, 4).
7. Mosiah Hall (1862-1949), graduate, University of Utah (1896); professor of education and philosophy, Brigham Young College (1898-1905); master’s degree, University of Chicago (1901); professor, Latter-day Saints’ University (1905-07); assistant, associate professor of education, University of Utah (1907-21).
8. The class of 1908 consisted of eight students graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Lyman Daines, Nettie Maughan Daines, Ephraim Ericksen, John Gardner, Alma Hendrickson, Joseph Jenson, Louis Larsen, and Hyrum Schneider), and two with a Bachelor of Science (Carl Jonsson, John Nielsen). Apostle Hyrum M. Smith delivered the baccalaureate address, emphasizing the “completeness of the education given in the church schools, contrasting it with that acquired without the aid of the Spirit of God.… Education should give us the power of triumph over sin, and it is a failure if it does not accomplish this.” Richard R. Lyman, who had attended the BYC eighteen years previous, also addressed the class (Logan Journal, 30 May 1908).
9. Ericksen told only part of the story. According to the 1903-04 Crimson (pp. 58-61), early in the morning of 4 March, the class of ’05 hoisted their colors on the west tower and demanded everyone bow to their colors before entering:
The most exciting event of the day took place when Big Ericksen triumphantly ascended the ladder to the trap-hole while the mob below was attempting to pull the ladder down, and the crowd above was pouring shavings and dirt into his face.… Ericksen made a grandstand play.… and with a mighty lunge gained the top as the ladder was pulled to the floor….…
This settled the flag contest, but war was on below and there was no desire to stop. Everybody was tugging at everybody else, and soon the boys’ coats gave way; sleeves came out, buttons off, and pockets were ripped….…
To settle the question of class supremacy, the Athletic Committee arranged for the wrestling matches described above.
Ericksen’s prowess on the basketball court during the 1907 Faculty-Senior game was also considered noteworthy: “Big Eph. passed the ball with marvelous rapidity and bounded over the floor with great velocity.” But Ericksen was pitted again his coach, the center on the faculty team. The faculty won 15 to 11 (Crimson, 1907-08, 65-68).
One year, after we had gone to college, we came home to celebrate. Dick [Ephraim] had developed into a champion BYC wrestler, and they were trying to find a worthy opponent for him. No one showed up. There was an enormous prize of $5 for the winner and a consolation prize of $4 for the loser.… So I took Dick on. Of course I lost, after about an hour’s struggle, but we both got a share of the purse.… On the same day there was also [an unscheduled] foot race. I was quite the hero and ran first [with Ephraim right behind] (Alma Ericksen. “Aunt Sophia,” 22-23).
11. Bendt Jensen Ericksen died 29 October 1904 at his home in Preston, Idaho. Present were his wife Sophia, daughter Marie and her husband Edward Swann, daughter Eldena, sons Ephraim and Alma, and Bishop George Carver.
12. In 1905 the BYC introduced student government on an experimental basis. The program produced two opposing parties. The Unitarians (Daines) argued that all school programs should be administered by one organization, while the Conservatives (Ericksen) objected that such a policy would undermine the Athletic Association (headed by Joseph Geddes), and that the student association should confine itself to conduct and discipline. The Conservatives prevailed, Ericksen was elected president and Alma Ericksen prosecuting attorney (Logan Journal, 30 Oct. 1906, 8).
Lyman L. Daines (1883-1941), graduate, BYC (1908); M.A., University of Utah (1910); Ph.D., University of California (1912); M.D., Rush Medical College (1931); taught biology, BYC (1912-15); hired at the University of Utah in 1915, the year Ericksen joined the faculty; called to the YMMIA general board of the LDS church in 1929; and became dean of the university’s College of Medicine in 1932.
13. According to Logan Journal accounts, in 1906 Ephraim took third in the hammer throw at a meet with Brigham Young University and second against the Agricultural College. In 1907 Ephraim and Alma took first and second in the hammer against LDSU and Ephraim took third against AC. BYC won the state basketball championship in 1907.
14. William H. Chamberlin (1870-1921), graduate, University of Utah (1896); LDS missionary, Society Islands (1897-99); professor of geology, astronomy, and mathematics, BYC (1900-03); studied summers, philosophy and biblical studies, metaphysics and experimental psychology, University of Chicago (1901-03, 1907); A.M., University of California under George Howison (1905-06); professor of theology, BYC (1903-10); studied metaphysics and logic with Josiah Royce and ethics with George Herbert Palmer, Harvard University (1907, 1908); taught philosophy, University of Utah (1908-09); professor of ancient languages and philosophy, BYU (1910-16); studied, Harvard (1916-17); taught extension division courses, University of Utah (1917-20).
16. Hyrum Don Carlos Smith and Ann Eliza Porter had thirteen children: Eliza Avery, Mary Minerva, Hyrum Taylor, Heber Don Carlos, Edna, Alma Porter, Rachel (“Thelma”), Rhoda, Rosel Elwin, Zula, Blanche, Owen Morrell, and Antone Ivins. By his second wife, Mary Alice Robinson, Hyrum D. had five children: Herma, Weston, Jasper, Carlos, and Hazel. “Cousin Mary” and her children were living in Logan at this time.
17. W. P. Shumway bought the Ericksen farm for $3,600, paying $2,400 cash. “If I had hunted the world over I couldn’t have found a poorer investment. It was so dry and sandy, and [there was] no water, and no rain. For years there we had no rainfall anytime. We were just dry” (Shumway).
I recall distinctly the fat Mrs. Wilcox who said to me, “Now Ephraim, you are gong away to Chicago. Be careful and do not change your mind.” She was sincere and had nothing in her soul but a fine hope for and interest in my welfare. Chicago did cause me to change my mind; it did cause me to re-evaluate my heritage. It did give me a larger perspective, but it did not destroy that inspiration which my church gave me (EEE to Gordon, 18 Oct. 1945).