Memories and Reflections
Edited by Scott G. Kenney
Bendt Jensen Ericksen (1832-1904) was born in Vasingerod, Denmark, to Jens Christian Ericksen and Dorothea Bendtsen, and grew up in Copenhagen. His mother often sent him to find his drunken father. On one such occasion he heard singing and, following it to an upper room, found a meeting of Mormons and investigators. He was baptized in 1851 by Neil Andersen at Amager, where he subsequently served as missionary and branch president. He married Anne Petersen, who bore three sons, Hans, Christian, and Jens. One by one, however, his wife and children died of contagious disease.
On 1 February 1864, Prussia and Austria invaded Denmark. Bendt boarded the Louis Napoleon and sailed for the United States. Three weeks at sea the ship caught fire and burned. After several days in a life boat, he and his companions were rescued by a passing ship and landed in New York. Soon thereafter, Bendt walked beside an ox team to Utah, [p.144] arriving on 15 September 1864. He was assigned to help settle Bear River City, where he lived for a time with his wife Anna Justesen in a river bank “dugout.” Anna died at an early age, presumably due in part to the harsh living conditions, shortly after giving birth to Annie.
Family records differ as to the number and names of Bendt’s plural wives. Ellen Swan, a descendant of Ellen Jonasen Ericksen provides the longest list: Anne Petersen, mother of Hans, Christian, and Jens; Ellen Olsen, mother of Mary Larsen; Anna Kristine Justesen (or Jurtsen), mother of Annie; Ellen Christene Dorothea Jonasen, mother of Marie, Peter, and Moroni; Anna Sophia Danielsen, mother of Eldena, Ephraim, and Alma; Sophia Jensen, a widow with three children, William, Simon, and Marian; and Ane Hansen Justesen.
In 1870 Bendt served a mission to the Indians of Arizona and in 1876 returned as a missionary to Denmark, where he met Anna Sophia Danielsen. Sophia (1842-1908) was born in Bogelund, the daughter of the blacksmith Daniel Rasmussen and Anna Maria Hendricksen. Her brother Peter migrated to Utah first, settling in Hyrum. She followed in 1878 with her brothers William and Herman. Brother Henry emigrated with their mother in 1880. Daniel arrived the following year, but Rasmus apparently remained in Denmark. Sophia married Bendt Jensen shortly after her arrival in Utah at the age of thirty-six.
Bendt was a relatively prosperous citizen of Bear River City, but Sophia persuaded him to move to Spring Creek near Logan—closer to her family—and they eventually moved to Preston, Idaho. As Ephraim noted in his biography of Bendt, “From the time Bendt Jensen left Bear River City to the day of his death in Preston, he moved backwards financially.” It is not known whether Eldena was born in Bear River City or Spring Creek, but Ephraim (b. 2 Jan. 1882) and Alma (b. 27 Aug. 1883) were born in Spring Creek, later part of the Church Farm near Logan. The family consisted of Bendt and Ellen Jonason and their three children, [p.145] plus Annie and Sophia and her three. They had two wagons, four or five horses, two or three cows, a few pigs, and some chickens. Bendt tried to raise rye, but with little success. He purchased salt and fruit in Bear River City and peddled it in Preston. He worked on the Logan Temple and the Oneida Stake Academy. Eventually he purchased a self-binder and worked for other farmers. His older sons Peter and Moroni hauled wood from the canyon to pay the tuition for Ephraim and Alma at the academy. Bendt served as president of the Preston Scandinavian organization.
“Aunt Ellen,” was deaf and never learned English. She took care of the farm work while Sophia cooked and sewed. Bendt was eventually able to rent a second farm in Preston from Joe Nielsen to which Aunt Ellen and her family moved.
Sophia stood tall and erect. Physically and emotionally strong, she was the mainstay of the family. When Bendt was in prison for polygamy, the winter was particularly severe with snow drifts five or six feet high. Completely isolated, she fed the animals, milked the cows, and kept the fire burning with fence posts she could pull down and slabs from the sheds. Then the children came down with the measles. She always spoke Danish, though her closest friend, Mrs. Gus Peterson, helped her learn enough English to read the Book of Mormon.
Annie was raised by Aunt Ellen. She married Robert Nuttall and had two sons.
Marie married Edward Swann.
Peter and Moroni were mechanics and builders. Pete built the schoolhouse in Treasureton and Ephraim’s cabin in Mill Creek Canyon.
Eldena (1880-1918) attended the Oneida Stake Academy and one term at BYC. She taught school in Fairview, Treasureton, and Weston, [p.146] Idaho, sending money to Ephraim and Alma whenever she could. She married Alma L. Jensen in 1910. They had one son and two daughters.
Ephraim and Edna Clark Ericksen (b. 19 Nov. 1889, Auburn, Wyoming; d. 15 Aug. 1983, Salt Lake City) had five children: Stanford Clark (b. 8 July 1911); Sheldon “Shex” Danielsen (b. 30 May 1913); Ephraim Gordon (b. 7 Sept. 1917); Edna Margaret (b. 16 May 1921); and Howard Bendt (b. 1 May 1923; d. 23 March 1945).
Stanford graduated from the University of Utah, received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and married Jane Pennell in 1937. They had five children. He taught psychology at the University of Arkansas before World War II. After the war, he became head of the Vanderbilt psychology department (1946-61) and later professor of psychology and director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan (1962-82). Jane died in 1983 and Stan married Amy Jo Smith in 1985.
Sheldon completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Utah and his Ph.D. in geography at the University of Chicago (1953). He married Bertha Ford in 1936, and they had three children. He was principal of an elementary school in Star Valley, studied economics at Berkeley (1937-41) and geography at Chicago (1945-48), taught geography at the University of Oregon (1948-55), and then moved to Long Beach State where he became head of the geography department (1955-1983).
Gordon completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Utah and married Darlene Anderson in 1944. They had four children. He received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago (1947); taught at UCLA (1947-49) and the University of Kansas (1949-65); headed the department at Tennessee (1965-68); taught summers at the University of Arkansas, Washington University, St. Louis, San Diego State, and Indiana University; and in 1968 founded the [p.147] sociology department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where he continued to teach until 1985.
Margaret graduated from the Utah State Agricultural College and married Mont Kenney in 1942. They had four children. She taught elementary school in Salt Lake City for twenty-five years. Mont was operations manager at Tracy Collins Bank (1953-57), Utah legislative auditor (1957-59), comptroller at Litton Industries (1959-72), supervising internal examiner for the State Board of Regents (1972-75), and Utah’s legislative auditor general (1975-83).
Ephraim’s brother Alma finished his law degree at Berkeley (1911) and returned to Preston where he practiced law and taught at the Oneida Stake Academy. Among his students were Ezra Taft Benson and Harold B. Lee. He married Eleda Nelson (1913), practiced law in Idaho Falls (1918-31), and then moved to Oakland, California, where he served as bishop of the Berkeley Ward and as a member of the San Francisco Stake high council. Alma and Eleda raised two sons and two daughters.[p.148]
1. Except where noted, material cited in this appendix comes from Ephraim Ericksen, “Bendt”; Alma D. Ericksen, “Aunt Sophia,” “Fifty Years,” and “Life History”; and Anderson, “Biography.”
Edna Clark Ericksen
Edna Clark was born in Auburn, Wyoming, 19 November 1889, the fifth of thirteen children to Hyrum D. Clark (1856-1938) and Ann Eliza Porter (1862-1927). Hyrum D., son of Ezra T. Clark and Mary Stevenson, was a prosperous rancher in Star Valley. Eliza was the daughter of Alma Porter (1834-1903) and Minerva Adeline Deuel (1843-73). In 1903 Hyrum D. married a plural wife, Mary Alice Robinson. Edna described “Cousin Mary” as “one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met.” Polio had left Cousin Mary with a lame leg. For a time she lived with the family in Star Valley, and then moved to a two-room cottage in Paris, Idaho.
In 1905-06 Edna attended the Fielding Academy in Paris, where she lived with Mary and helped care for her baby. Edna had spent most of her early years tending younger brothers and sisters. The Star Valley school had not been graded, and Edna was not able to meet the requirements for graduation from Fielding. She was humiliated. Hyrum D. came to Paris to pick up Edna and Cousin Mary. He moved Mary to a small house on the bench south of the university in Logan and took Edna home to Star Valley to mow hay, milk cows, and work in the house. In [p.149] 1907-08 Edna, one older sister, and two brothers lived with Cousin Mary while they attended the BYC.
Edna told her older brother who she wanted, and did not want, to meet at the first dance of the school year. “I want to meet some of these college men who know where they’re going. I want them good looking. I don’t want any fat ones or Danish ones.”
But Ephraim was persistent. Edna agreed to go to church with him. Entering the Logan Tabernacle, they walked down the aisle looking for a seat. Spotting an empty space, he suggested, “How about sitting here?” Noting the other occupants of the pew, Edna remembered replying,” ‘Oh, well, they look so Danish, let’s go down a little way.’ Of course as soon as I said it I knew I had said the wrong thing. He said, ‘All right,’ and we went down a few rows. Then I said, ‘Oh, I believe this is O.K.’ He said, ‘If it suits you, fine.’ So I went in, but he just stood there in the aisle. I said, ‘Doesn’t this suit you all right?’ He said, ‘Oh yes, but you see, I’m Danish'” (ECE, 1975 interview).
Ephraim was insufferably attentive. “He was always, always around.… The minute I had entered school he was there. I would go down to get my rubbers, and he was there to put them on me. I would go out to get the streetcar, and he was there. He was too constant.” Her family was very upset when she broke up with him and demanded reasons. “Look at his taste,” she replied. “He wears pink ties and green stockings and blue shirts and odd combinations. He doesn’t press his clothes, only once a month” (ECE, 1980 interview, 24-26).
But Ephraim was head over heels in love. He also took good care of his mother, which impressed the Clarks, was well-respected by his classmates, and was about to begin graduate work at a prominent university. There was much to recommend him.1 In the spring Edna returned to the [p.150] mowing in Star Valley. Ephraim proposed in July and she accepted.
While he went on to Chicago, Edna moved to Farmington with the family to care for her mother, who had pneumonia. The family doctor had ordered the move for Eliza’s health. Their new home was just a few doors away from the pioneer home of Hyrum D.’s father, Ezra T. Clark, and Susan Leggett. Edna’s sister Mary, who had become the plural wife of Edwin T. Bennion in 1903,2 was living in the old Clark home with the first of her ten children. Edna became the nurse, maid, and confidant of her mother and sister:
At this time I seemed to be in the middle of a teeter-totter—my mother on one end of it and my sister on the other end.… Mother had some grief from being the first wife with a younger second wife while my sister’s problems evolved from being a younger second wife, which meant she didn’t always have a husband near. I would go to my sister’s house and mix bread or bathe the baby; from there it was back home to fetch a bed pan for Mother. Along with performing physical acts of aid I had to be a good listener and someone my mother and sister could depend on for compassionate understanding (ECE, 1980 interview, 29).
In the fall of 1909 Edna attended the LDS College in Salt Lake City, rooming with her brother Porter on Apple Street. She did not enjoy the school, finding her classmates “a massive group of noisy, restless kids.” Ephraim seemed to think of her constantly and became anxious if she did not write at least three times a week. His letters are filled with expressions of love and affection, rarely speaking of his professors, courses, or [p.151] associates. The only notable exception is his 4 February 1910 letter, apparently prompted by the news that Edna had been denied permission to register for political economics. The letter set an important theme for their lives together:
Sweetheart, … tell the Pres. of the L.D.S. [University] that you want Political economy and you must have it. If he still refuses, tell him I said so. … There is no law that says woman shall remain for ever in the kitchen, she should understand the duties of the house, it is true, but she should also go further. I intend that my little wife shall be a leader among her sex, both in the kitchen and in public capacity. In short, she must be with me. Now will you Love, will you stand by me? I know we shall meet with some opposition but we will succeed.
Do your best Darling with whatever you take and when we get together we will decide.
By spring she was very nervous about marrying. She could not eat, sleep, or study. When Porter went home to help on the ranch, Edna went with him. At her mother’s suggestion she obtained a blessing from Patriarch Tolman in Bountiful, which had a “quieting and reassuring effect.”
Edna did not want a wedding reception, but Eliza insisted. “My other daughters had to get married on the QT, because theirs were polygamous marriages. Nobody knew when or where the marriages took place. I’m just telling the world that I have a daughter that is getting married like any girl. I’m going to have a crowd at the house to let them know.” Edna understood, but the event caused her some embarrassment when family members asked to see her rings. Ephraim could not afford one until just before Christmas 1911, when he surprised her with a gold band purchased from a mail-order catalog.
[p.152] Throughout their fifty-seven years of married life, Ephraim remained the romantic idealist, Edna the pragmatic manager. “Dad was always wooing mother with ‘sweet talk,'” Stan wrote.
Dad could change light bulbs but otherwise had no mechanical aptitude. Mother did. She was an excellent craftwoman and enjoyed turning wooden salad bowls, salt and pepper shakers, wood trays, and inventing children’s toys. Money was always a problem and Mother earned the needed extra income for her five-children family by cutting and sewing felt caps and bandelos for the [Primary] Trail Builders.
Edna was called to the Primary General Board by President Louie B. Felt in 1920. She was soon put in charge of developing a program for boys 9 to 11 years old, the Trail Builders. She designed lessons, objectives, awards and wrote regular articles for the Children’s Friend and a newspaper column, “The Chummery.” Edna and Avery made the caps, badges, and bandelos for ten to twenty thousand boys a year from 1925 to 1939, earning eight cents per badge and forty-five cents per cap. It was hard work but an important source of income (ECE to Avery, 11 April 1933.)
The 1930s were turbulent years. On 9 December 1931 Edna wrote Avery, “I’ve been fretting a lot for 3 weeks & [am] much disturbed. Sis. Anderson [who had succeeded President Felt in October 1925] deliberately shuffled the Primary board & the work considerably. She gave me the Blazers group to supervise (9 yr boys) and whacked up the Trail Builder work into 3 divisions & put a new board member in as head of the older group, where I’ve really done my best work.” Other board members and their husbands were also “peeved.” Edna felt compromised by her financial position, having to depend somewhat on the income derived from sewing caps, bandelos, and badges. She knew she had to be “decent” because if she acted “too stubborn,” the new president “might [p.153] take my felt work away & that would be even worse.… I don’t think I’ll ever work so hard again as I did to build up T. Builder work—what’s the good—along comes some one who may knock it over as a kid would a snow man.” The letter was interrupted by a phone call. All board members were requested to attend a meeting that afternoon. “Sure! I guess they will [want us to] stress tithing or word of wisdom or the like. I wish they would re-organize but they won’t—not yet.”
At the meeting, a feud between President Anderson and board member Emily Smith Stewart was apparent. Emily, daughter of George Albert Smith, had been chosen in 1921 to study social service and child welfare in Denver on behalf of the board; she had also been a guest student at Hull House in Chicago under Jane Addams. Her ideas appealed to Edna and other board members, Sister Anderson being the notable exception.
At the meeting, President Anderson called for support from board members. Some board members, according to Merlo Pusey, wept and begged forgiveness for their opposition. Emily Stewart and Vilate S. Railey expressed their grievances. Emily exclaimed she felt as if she had been “crucified in the midst of her youth” and insisted Primary could not go on until the “decks were cleared” (Pusey, 285-87).
President Anderson effected the release of Emily Smith Stewart and Vilate S. Railey, but on 9 January 1932 Edna wrote:
The muddle on the Primary Board is not ended nothwithstanding they ousted 2 members. I think she would have tried to oust me but she had such a “hell” of a time getting rid of the 2 and since I haven’t opposed her so aggressively, I am still one of the righteous souls remaining.… But things are still errupting and we may eventually get a new Pres. At 2 dif[ferent] times I have opposed the whole board and gave some heroic speeches pleading for “principle” & justice. In relating it to Bro Ballard & Geo. A. [p.154] Smith they both patted me on the back & said, “My girl we are proud of you & your courage.”
On the 19th George Albert Smith, who was emotionally distraught over the situation, tried to intervene with David O. McKay and Bishop Sylvester Q. Cannon, advisors to the Primary. The following day, Miss Anderson called for a vote from the board sustaining the releases. Though many board members privately sided with the two dissidents, only Ruth Pingree Smith and Edna C. Ericksen stood their ground, protesting that the releases had been inappropriately engineered.
During this period George Albert Smith frequently visited Ephraim and Edna. Despite theological and philosophical differences, he seemed to appreciate their friendship and moral support of his daughter. He gave the opening prayer at the funeral of Ephraim and Edna’s son Howard in 1945.
Edna decided “it was time I was getting into [a] broader field than Primary where I was giving all my time thought & energy” and accepted positions on the boards of the Salt Lake Civic Center and the White House Better Homes for America organization. During the 1932 state legislature Edna campaigned for a minimum wage for female workers. When the bill was introduced to repeal Prohibition, Edna was opposed but voted in favor of a referendum on the subject in the next general election. Her position deprived her of the support of the state Democratic party, and she was not nominated for a second term. During the second special session of 1933, she sponsored a resolution supporting an amendment authorizing Congress to regulate labor of minors. Her resolution passed the House but was defeated in the Senate.
In late 1931 and early the next year university faculty members received two pay cuts totalling 24 percent, making Edna’s felt business all the more important. She also earned $4 a day as a state [p.155] representative when the legislature was in session. Ephraim, who had grown up in poverty and left household management to his wife, may not have fully understood the seriousness of their financial condition. Edna was often unable to pay bills on time. In April 1933 she confided to Avery, “all the money we have is 1.80 in one whole week’s time & Sheldon collected that on his paper route.” In August, “We have only 65 cents to go on till Friday.” Then in October came the word that she needed an appendectomy, hysterectomy, and extraction of an ulcerated tooth. On the way to the hospital she called at the Primary office, where Miss Anderson announced a reduction in her felt work wages. In December, Ephraim, who had been working on a book, presumably the forerunner of Social Ethics, traveled to San Francisco to present a paper to the American Philosophical Society.
In addition to their own bills, Ephraim and Edna provided room and board from time to time for nieces and nephews attending the university. They also sent her father, who had fallen on hard times, $15 a month, and often more when other family members were unable or unwilling to assist. One brother refused for a time to help, believing that his father’s financial reverses were a curse from God for entering plural marriage after the 1890 Manifesto. In 1933 Edna visited her father’s bishop and arranged to have him called on a mission to California, which lifted his spirits and gave him an opportunity to serve.
In the 1940s Edna rented out four basement rooms to university students, clearing $32 a month (ECE to Avery, 5 Jan. and Aug. 1933, 17 July 1940; and ECE to children, 24 Oct. 1940). Edna was defeated in her 1946 bid for re-election. “She was hit in the hose,” as Ephraim put it, “but she is neither down nor out” (to children, 11 July 1946). She still had the assignment to oversee the commission, execution, and installation of the Brigham Young monument in Washington, D.C., which took five years and seemingly endless phone calls, letters, and meetings. In [p.156] 1947, Utah’s centennial, she also arranged a series of seven three-hour programs under the auspices of the university extension division. From Beaver to Ogden Ephraim lectured on “The Religious Philosophy of Utah Pioneers,” and Edna sang folk songs exhibiting Mormon “philosophy of thrift, recreation, the industrial life, home life, etc.” It became their form of recreation. She also joined him on his trip to Los Angeles in December 1947 when he presented a paper, no longer extant, to the American Philosophical Society.
Edna’s often frantic pace led to occasional periods of near exhaustion, nervous and physical. In March 1948, for example, she wrote Avery, “I’ve felt as worn out as the ‘ole gray mare,’ as nervous as a pregnant nun, & as old as Mr Mathuselah’s wife. All I do is rest & fuss around here & that’s too much. But don’t give up. I’m still full of hopes and gas—mostly gas.”
In the autumn, following Ephraim’s mandatory retirement from the University of Utah, the Ericksens moved to Reno, where he would serve as head of the philosophy department for the University of Nevada. Edna studied Indian crafts and woodwork, and helped organize the Nevada League of Women Voters.
On 1 June 1950, as executive chair of the Brigham Young Statue Commission, Edna introduced the unveiling ceremony in the rotunda of the national capitol, becoming, as Ephraim liked to say, “the only woman to put Brigham in his place.” Speakers included Utah senator Elbert Thomas, J. Willard Marriott, Jr., President George Albert Smith, and Governor J. Bracken Lee, with an address from Vice President Alben W. Barkley, presented by Utah congresswoman Reva Beck Bosone. Choral music composed by Crawford Gates with lyrics by Vilate Railey preceeded the unveiling of the monument by Mabel Young Sanborn, a daughter of Brigham Young, and sculptor Mahonri Young, a grandson. [p.157] A reception followed in the Senate Caucus Room. For a moment, Edna was in the national spotlight.
Ephraim’s fall, in July 1953, dramatically changed the course of Edna’s life. His health had begun to decline with a prostrate operation in 1937; diabetes had been diagnosed in 1944 (ECE to Avery, 29 Sept. 1944). Partial numbness in one leg and foot began in 1946, causing a slight limp. But the fall left him paralyzed for several weeks. By October 1953 he could exercise on crutches or in a walker but spent most of his time in a wheel chair.
There is a sense of adoration in regards to Edna in Ephraim’s 1954 memoirs that may seem excessive—much of it has been omitted in the published version. But Edna’s expression of love for her husband over the next thirteen years was extraordinary. In addition to wife and lover, she became Ephraim’s resident nurse, therapist, and psychiatrist. To keep his hands nimble and provide diversion, she created a market for braided octopi through Mormon Handicraft and local university bookstores and put her husband to work. “She is breaking the law by imploying ‘cheap, unskilled labor’ even Danish labor,” Ephraim wrote Stan, “But that seems not to concern her.” In 1955 alone he braided 2,000 octopi.
By 1957 Ephraim had developed cataracts, which made reading and writing increasingly difficult. He had a tendency toward moodiness, and Edna patiently encouraged, sympathized, prodded, and entertained him. By March 1958 she noted he was “fragile at times, has eye irritation if he reads too steadily, and at times his legs are on the drag, but he is in no pain.”
After four years of nearly constant care for Ephraim, the family urged Edna to find the time to get out of the house. Margaret helped out at home while she served as receptionist for the Utah House of [p.158] Representatives in 1959 and 1961. In 1965 she was named to the Utah State Text Book Commission.
Ephraim was bedridden his last two years. Edna was his constant companion, sitting up with him through coughing and vomiting spells, working patiently to feed him bland foods and fluids, a sip at a time. Sleepless nights became routine, soothing the pain, comforting a confused and troubled soul. On 23 December 1967 her fourteen years of feeding and clothing, bathing and cajoling came to an end, and she entered a new period of living alone.
In 1974 the Utah Women’s Political Caucus and the Salt Lake chapter of the National Organization for Women honored Edna Clark Ericksen, Jean Westwood, and Lucybeth Rampton as three women “who have worked to elevate the status of women in Utah.” Though her sight and hearing gradually deteriorated, Edna remained alert and active until her death on 15 August 1983.[p.159]
1. Stanford once asked his mother about her marriage. “She was honest to admit that she was not, at first, romantically ‘in love,’ but EEE was the means for her escape from Star Valley and the opportunity to grow and to develop as a person.… This energetic, assertive, and very attractive young woman could feel destiny breathing down her neck. Settle down as a farmer’s wife for the rest of your life? No way.”