Charles C. Jensen, c. 1918
born: Ole Christian Jensen, Jr.
aka: Chris Bowles, Charley, or Chas.
by Mary Ann Whitehead Overson and Rose Afton Jensen
Charles Christopher Jensen was born on 2 Jul 1874, in Richfield, Sevier, Utah, to Ole Christian Jensen (1807-1878) and Anne Mette Jeppesdatter (1853-1903). His early life is much a mystery, and he experienced much tragedy and heartache, but also equally as much laughter and joy. He was a funny man with a quick wit; he could be intentionally funny, and could be not-so-intentionally funny. Most people who knew him well knew him as Charley (his own spelling), and if you asked those people to describe him, they would say that Charley was a hard-worker for most of his life.
Ole Christian Jensen
Ole Christian Jensen was born in Elling, Hjorring, Denmark 27 Dec 1807. He married Anne Hedvig in 1829 and they had 7 children, but 4 of them died before the family came to Utah in the mid 1800s. Ole and Anne Hedwig emigrated in 1861 and settled in Richfield, Sevier County, Utah.
Anne Mette Jepestdatter was born in Vejle, Denmark 11 Dec 1853. She emigrated to with her parents and her brother in 1864.
Ole married Anne Mette Jeppesen (as she went by after emigrating) in 1868, making him one of many who practiced polygamy (he may have even married her mother, Bodil Margaret, before he married Anne Mette, but this is unconfirmed). Anne Mette was 14 years old and Ole was 60. Ole and Anne Mette had two sons, Charles Christopher Jensen (who was actually born with the name of Ole Christian Jensen), and Joseph Smith Jensen, born 1876.
Example of a dugout in central Utah
Charley was born in a dugout – a home that was literally dug out of the side of a hill, which was quite common for Danish settlers to build. Charley’s father, Ole Christian Jensen, died in 1878 at the age of 71, and so Charley and Joseph became orphans at very young ages. Anne Mette (known as Annie) was only 24, raising two boys. In the 1880 U.S. Census, she is listed as the head of house, Charley is listed (as Ole C.) along with Joseph, and, surprisingly, Annie Hedwig, Ole’s first wife, is listed as a member of the household. Anne Mette, as far as we can tell, lost her mother at a very young age, married Ole when she was only 14, and so it makes one wonder if Annie Hedwig became like a second mother to her. Annie Hedwig died in 1881, and in that same year Anne Mette married again to Andrew Christian Nielson, a man who was 7 years her junior.
Charley did not like his stepfather for reasons we do not really know. It is uncertain if Andrew Nielson asked him to leave, or if he ran away. What is certain is he left his mother and brother and stepfather when he was approximately 9 years old, and moved to Nephi, Utah, where he lived with a butcher named Mr. Bowles. This Mr. Bowles could have been either Thomas Bowles (b. 1836, who owned a butcher shop in Nephi, or, far less likely, Thomas’s son, Thomas Edward Bowles, who also worked as a butcher in his father’s shop. Both men were well known to take in people in need, and give them a home and a job. So, for a few years, Charley went by the name of Charles or Chris Bowles, never legally changing it. He seemed to not want to be associated with the people in his earlier life.
Lizzie Nielson c. 1906
After Charley left home in Richfield, his mother Anne Mette, and her new husband had a baby girl in 1890, whom they named Lizzie. They had moved to Nephi sometime between 1881 and 1890. Charley and Lizzie obviously kept in touch over the years, because Lizzie, as Charley, half-sister, came to many family functions. Afton talks about how the family called her “Crazy Aunt Lizzie;” the Danish often gave people nicknames, and they meant them endearingly (for the most part!) Lizzie earned her nickname because she would buy clothes and wear them without removing the tags. She would show up often with the tags from the store dangling from her hat, hanging in front of her face. Lizzie also hated to do dishes; instead of washing them, she would put them up in her cupboard, stacked as high as they would go, reuse the ones that weren’t “too dirty,” and buy new dishes if she ran out of clean ones. When Charley’s family would visit, Emma and her daughters would do all the dirty dishes for Lizzie, clean out the cupboards and put them away. One day Afton asked her mom what Lizzie did when the cupboard got to full of dirty dishes. Emma replied, “She throws them away – such a waste of money and good dishes!” (Emma was extremely caring and always providing service, but she was definitely not always non-judgmental!)
Anne Mette Jeppesdatter Jensen Nielson died 4 Sept 1903 and was buried in Nephi. Andrew Christian Nielson died 5 Feb 1933.
Joseph Smith Jensen was last known to reside in Nephi in 1900 (according to the 1900 U.S. Census), living with his mother and her family. He moved to Alicel, Oregon by 1918, as indicated on his WWI Draft Card, and his occupation is listed as “Farmer”. We know that he worked in the booming lumber industry, but as far as we know he never married or had children. Afton says that he came back to Utah for Charley’s funeral in 1948, and this was the first and last time she had seen him. The family has only one blurry photo of Joseph, sitting on the front porch of Andrew and Anne Mette’s house.
Lizzie Nielson married a man named Walter Edward Osborne, and from what I know, they had 6 children. She died 26 Dec 1962, in Midvale, Utah.
Charley eventually settled on the name of Charles Christopher Jensen (but still had not changed it legally) when he married his first wife, Laura Jane Rudd in 1898. Charley was 24 and Laura was 18 year old. They had three children: Eva Luella, Wilma Marie, and Edward. They lived in Nephi in a log house with a pre-built factory roof, that had three small rooms: a kitchen and two bedrooms. They eventually built a house in a field in Levan, that was just 15 miles south of Nephi. In a 1900 directory, Charles Jensen is listed as having 20 acres, worth $170.
Laura became quite sick some time after Edward was born. She consulted doctors and they found that she had uterine cancer. She underwent a hysterectomy, but came down with pneumonia. She died on 26 Feb 1913 in Provo, Utah, and buried in Goshen. Incidentally, Laura’s father died one month prior to Laura’s death.
Charles C. Jensen, supposed wedding
advertisement photo, c. 1913
With three young children at home and no family of his own to help him, Charley was intent on getting some help. The family had moved to Goshen as Laura’s health declined. One of Charley’s friends told him that he should advertise for a wife – an act that would be much cheaper than hiring help, after all! The story goes that Charley had his photo taken so that he could put it in the newspaper ad. He had to borrow a suit, and in the photograph you can tell that the suit is much too big for his small frame! As far as we know, he never put the ad in the paper.
Emma Louisa Bale Pitt
A recent young widow, by the name of Emma Louisa Bale Pitt, was trying to make ends meet for her and her two young sons, Leonard and Walter, by cleaning houses in Nephi. Her husband, Leonard Nicholi Pitt had died in a Gypsum mine accident in March of 1912, while she was pregnant with their second child. Her family wanted her to move in with her sister, Mary, but she didn’t get along with Mary too well. Word reached Emma that there was a widower in Goshen, by the name of Charles C. Jensen, who needed a housekeeper and someone to help watch his three children. Word probably reached her via the Bowles family who Charley lived with as a youth – Thomas Edward had married Emma’s Aunt Louisa Bale. In need of steady income, Emma went to Goshen and worked for Charley in the spring/summer of 1913.
On 14 Jul 1913 Charley and Emma “eloped” to Provo and got married. They told no one what they were intending to do, but left the younger kids with Wilma to tend while they went “into town to get something.” Their intentions did not stay secret for long – someone from Goshen saw Charley and Emma come out of the courthouse in Provo, and word travelled fast in the small town. After the two had come back to Goshen, they had just sat down with their children to eat dinner, when suddenly the whole town came to “shiveree” the newlyweds, banging pots and pans and making a commotion! They held a dance in celebration that night.
A baptism certificate* in the family’s possession states that Charley was baptized 10 Aug 1913, when he was 39 years old, and about a month after marrying Emma. The story goes that on the day of their civil marriage, Emma and Charley wanted to marry in the Provo Temple. After obtaining their marriage license at the courthouse, they went to the temple, but were told that they couldn’t be sealed to each other because Charley hadn’t been baptized yet. Charley had been baptized when he was young, but it had been done under a different name (it is unknown at this point which of his many names he was first baptized under). If he wanted to marry Emma as Charles Christopher Jensen, he had to be baptized as Charles Christopher Jensen. They were unable to set up a baptism that very day, so Charley was baptized a month after he was married to Emma.
In August of 1916, Charles and Emma took all of the children and went on a trip to Salt Lake City. They stayed in the Wilson Hotel, and it was the first time the kids had ever been to a hotel. They were so excited about the bathtub that they had two or three baths during their stay. The family went to the Salt Lake Temple to be sealed: Charley and Emma were sealed to each other and sealed to their young son, Roy (Emma was then pregnant with Jim); then Emma acted as proxy for Laura Jane Rudd, and Charlie was sealed to Laura; and Wilma, Ed, and Eva were sealed to Charley and Laura. Then Charlie acted as proxy for Leonard Nicholi Pitt while Leonard Jr. and Walt were sealed to Leonard Sr. and Emma. They traveled back home to Goshen on the train. Wilma recalled that her father had to borrow a suit from his friend Alma Jasperson, because he did not own a suit himself.
Charley and Emma had 9 children together: Charles LeRoy (Roy) in 1914, James Israel (Jim) in 1916, Andrew Leslie (Les or Andy) in 1919, Annie Foncet (Fon) in 1921, Thomas Gilbert (Gib) in 1924, Joseph William (Bill) in 1927, Ernest Maurice (Reese) in 1929, John Phillip in 1932, and Rose Afton (Afton) in 1933.
The Jensen Home, southwest corner
of 500 S. 700 W. in Provo. c. 1945
The family moved from Goshen to Provo when my mother was young. They had a nice brick house, but it was small for such a large family. However, it must have seemed palatial when compared to the places the family had been in before. The house had no indoor plumbing, but it had an artesian well just outside of the house that provided good drinking water. It wasn’t until about 1942 that they had indoor plumbing put in the house. Afton recalls her father taking long, warm baths in their large tub. The property they owned was large enough to have a small farm.
Charley and Emma outlived three of their children:
- Roy was killed in 1942 because he was hit by a large truck in Spanish Fork Canyon. The story goes that he wanted to get his mother, Emma, a gold locket, and had taken on extra work; he was herding sheep near Spanish Fork Canyon, when a truck's side-view mirror hit him in the head. Roy was taken to Payson Hospital, and he told the doctors who he was, and who his wife was, but they thought he was delusional. The next day they found him in his hospital room, dead, face turned to the wall. Dr. Curtis, a family doctor, recognized him as he was doing rounds.
- In 1945, Bill, who loved horses, was trying to cross the Provo River on his horse. The horse lost its footing and Bill was taken under the fast, spring water in an undertow and drowned. Afton recalls watching as they dredged the river for Bill’s body, and then brought it up out of the river. Bill was buried on Afton’s 12th birthday.
- In 1932, John Phillip died less then 1 day after his birth - he was born prematurely.
Charley worked for many years until his health began to decline. In his older years, when he stopped working because of his declining health, he collected disability payments and state welfare. Emma hated being on welfare, and after Charley died she stopped collecting money from the government, even though that meant that she and Afton, her only child living at home, had to get menial jobs and sometimes went hungry for a few days.
He was raised in an LDS household, baptized a member of the church, received all of his temple ordinances, and wore the LDS garments every day. He had a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, and faith in its precepts. However, he and Emma seldom went to church; he did not hold a church calling; he didn’t mind swearing, and he enjoyed his morning coffee, smoking his pipe, and drank alcohol occasionally, sometimes to excess. He was a generous man, a frugal man, and he had a lot of friends. He was tolerant of others, charitable, and was very good to the animals that he kept. Despite his spotty education, he could write and read, and enjoyed reading the daily newspaper while smoking his pipe.
Before judging him too harshly, it should be pointed out that Mormons in the central part of the State of Utah (around the turn of the century) were more lax with their religion than the staunch believers in other parts of Utah. Goshen was particularly chastised by Brigham Young, who used to stop there on his journey to and from St. George. Pres. Young loved the rugged and quick-witted people of Goshen, but his tolerance only went so far. When it became apparent that they were Mormon in name only, he told them he would no longer be stopping there until the Goshenites repented of their wayward lifestyle. For years a large sign sat at the road to Goshen that said, “We repent, Brother Brigham!” The central Utah Mormons were what people called “Jack Mormons,” and some of the little towns are still that way, today.
Charles Christopher Jensen died at 4:15 pm on 19 Jun 1949 at the Utah County Infirmary, Provo, Utah, 4 days after his youngest daughter, Afton, celebrated her 16th birthday. His health had been in decline for several years and he suffered a stroke a while before dying. The death certificate indicates that he had arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries, which is caused from high blood pressure. He was buried in Goshen on the 24th of June.
*Baptism Certificate and Death Record indicate that Charles C. Jensen’s father is Olof or Oluf C. Jensen, when other records indicate his father’s name was actually Ole Christian Jensen.