Tag Archives: Spencer

Sarah’s Untimely Death

Sarah Elsie Gardner from the collection of Margie Montoya

I am a 38-year old woman who died in February of 1925.  I was brought to the County Hospital here in San Bernardino, California where I lingered for four days before I died.  My diagnosis – acute cholecystitis – in layman’s terms – I died from an inflammation of my gallbladder ~ Sarah Elsie Gardner Spencer Pearson ~

We take so many things for granted – modern healthcare being one of them.  Did you know that not so very long ago – 92 years to be exact – when my great-grandmother Sarah died, the leading causes of death included pneumonia and influenza along with tuberculosis; diarrhea and Syphilis?  Had my great-grandmother been diagnosed in 2017, it is very likely that she would have lived to see her old age.  Elsie would quickly have been diagnosed and hospitalized, given pain medications along with antibiotics and promptly whisked off to surgery.  The doctors would have availed themselves to unheard of technologies including ultrasound; a surgeon would have performed a quick and non-invasive surgery; and chances are that Elsie would have been home and on the mend within a few days.  Today it is rare to die from an inflamed gallbladder.

While many medical advances were being made, medical care by all accounts was still fairly archaic in 1925.  Doctors during this time period essentially relied on common home remedies rather than on medical science.  Elsie would have probably been given pain medication such as Opium (Tincture No. 23, i.e., Laudanum) which was widely regarded as an all-purpose cure for everything under the sun.

Did you know that Bayer used to peddle heroin?!

Prior to this time doctors had used morphine and cocaine to calm teething babies; arsenic and mercury to treat syphilis and heroin to relieve asthma symptoms.  Although discovered in the late 1920s, antibiotics weren’t widely used until the 1940s – instead patients were treated with topical iodine, bromine and mercury to heal their infections – none of which would have helped Elsie.  Had her doctors chosen surgery as an option (which it appears they did not), more than likely it would have been exploratory and they would have anesthetized her with Ether and/or Chloroform.  Hospitals in this time period generally consisted of wards versus today’s private rooms.

Vintage surgical suite circa 1925

Then, as they do now, nurses played a vital role in health care – treating common illnesses, delivering infants and providing emergency care – so it is really unknown whether or not Elsie even had the benefit of a qualified physician.

Throat lozenges containing Cocaine

It took me a fair amount of time to locate my great-grandmother’s death certificate.  I knew that she had divorced my great-grandfather George Francis Spencer; and I knew that she had remarried (Carl Henrick Persow/Person).  I lost track of her after the 1920 census.  Many of the other Spencer family trees on indicated that Elsie had died in Redlands; however, no one had any detailed information or could provide me with a source.  After digging through the California death index, I came across a possibility:  Mrs. Elsie Pearson whose death date matched my great-grandmother’s.  I ordered the certificate and bingo – it was her!

Elsie was listed as a white female who was divorced and whose husband has been Carl Pearson.  The certificate confirms her date of birth and her date of death.  Her occupation was listed as:  “cook.”  It confirms that her father was Henry Gardner and her mother was Mary Patterson.  She had been a resident of Redlands, California for two years prior to her death.  Her body was sent to Payson, Utah for burial.  And saddest of all – the information for the death certificate was provided by the hospital records – not a family member – which indicates to me that she was alone and without loved ones by her side when she died at 38 years, 7 months and 7 days.


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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Spencer


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Oscar Olsen and the Spencer Sisters

Lovina Arsula Spencer – was one of my great grand aunts of the Spencer line – and one of the daughters of Richard Henry Spencer and Lucy Lodica Elmer who was born in Payson, Utah County, Utah on 25 Aug 1879. While still an infant, Lovina’s father relocated the family to Sanpete County where she spent the remainder of her childhood.

Lovina Arsula Spencer Olsen - from the collection of Blaine Spencer

On 15 Mar 1899, at the age of 20 years, Lovina married Oscar Eli Olsen in Mount Pleasant, Sanpete County, Utah. Oscar, the son of Swedish immigrants, was born to James (or Jons) Peter Olsen and Margaret Christina Caroline Miller on 17 Aug 1873 in Utah. He was also the older brother of Henry Peter Olsen who married Lovina’s older sister, Lucy Ann Spencer.

Oscar Eli Olsen

To complicate the marriage triangle a little further – Oscar had previously been married to Lovina’s half-sister Martha Jane Spencer (1870-1895), the daughter of Jerusha Elmer and Richard Henry Spencer. I know – it’s hard to keep up with these large extended Mormon families! 

Martha Jane Spencer

Lovina and Oscar spent the first twenty or so years raising their family in Sanpete County, Utah. The census records are confusing to interpret, but it is believed that Lovina may have helped raised her husband’s son Earl (from his first marriage); Lovina and Oscar appear to have had at least four children of their own: Vernon born in 1901; Alvin Leo born in 1904; William O. born in 1907 and Dean born in 1911. (The records conflict as to whether Dean is a male or a female.) The family owned a home, which was free and clear of a mortgage by 1910. Oscar always lists himself as “farmer” in the census records.

When Oscar filled out his World War I Draft Registration Card on 12 Sept 1918 the family was still living in Mt. Pleasant, Utah.  Oscar stated that he was 45 years old and confirmed his birthdate of 17 Aug 1873; he lists himself as a self-employed farmer; his wife “Levina Olsen” is next of kin.  Oscar goes on to describe himself as being of medium height, stout, blue eyes and light hair.  Under disabilities, he states that he has an “ulcer of the stomach.” 

By the time that the 1930 census was taken in April of that year, the Olsen family had relocated to Northwest Jerome, Jerome County, Idaho. Oscar is 56 years old and Lovina is 50. They own their own home, but no occupation is listed for either of them. Three of their adult children are still in the home with them: Alvin L., 25, farmer; William O., 22, mechanic; and Deane McK, 19, salesman at grocery store. Vernon cannot be found in this census period. 

Idaho Map highlighting Jerome County

By all accounts, Lovina and Oscar lived out their lives in Jerome, Idaho. Nothing is known to me after the 1930 census. Lovina lived a long life – dying at the age of 101 – on 4 Jan 1981. According to the Social Security Death Index, Lovina’s last place of residence was Jerome, Jerome County, Idaho. She was returned home to Mount Pleasant in Sanpete County, Utah, where she was laid to rest two days later on 6 Jan 1981. Her husband Oscar Olsen, who died many years before her in 1933, is buried at Mount Pleasant with her.

I know virtually nothing about the Olsen children. I would love to hear from any of you that are researching this particular branch of the family.  After I finished writing the synopsis for Lovina and Oscar – I was thinking to myself, “well how boring is this?” “I have nothing but names and dates.” “Who wants to read this?” Nonetheless, every life and family matters, and I am hopeful that sometime in the future a family member may stumble upon this post and learn new things about their Olsen ancestors.

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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Spencer


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A Man and His Wives



In one of my recent posts I discussed “Women in Mormonism“ – let’s talk about the men today. It is a well known fact that the Mormon sect practiced polygamy. This concept fascinates me and revolts me all at the same time.

My gg-grandfather, John Henry Spencer, was converted to Mormonism while still a child in England. He came to America with his family onboard the passenger ship Sheffield in 1841. Once the family made land fall at the port of New Orleans, they journeyed up the Mississippi River and joined the “Saints” at the “Kanesville Branch,” now known as Council Bluffs, Iowa. The family was living in Kanesville when Richard Spencer, my ggg-grandfather, and John Henry’s father, was killed on 22 Aug 1851 in some sort of an accident involving a horse – the details of which are unknown to me.

That next year, in 1852, John Spencer, along with his mother Mary and siblings, set out for Utah. They traveled (along with 200 other people) with the Third Company under Captain Thomas C. D. Howell. They left Kanesville, Iowa on 7 Jun 1852 and arrived in Salt Lake City on 27 Sept 1852. The next month in October of 1852 the family relocated to Payson, Utah.

It was in Payson that John met and married Jerushia Kibbe Elmer on 4 July 1858 (sealed for time and eternity). They became the parents of 14 children.

On that very same day, John’s brother, Richard Spencer married Lucy Lodica Elmer, Jerushia’s niece. Sadly, Richard Spencer died shortly after he married Lucy Lodica Elmer. The family story that has been passed down indicates that Richard Spencer and his wife Lucy Lodica attended a dance soon after their marriage, and being over heated and perspiring, he left the hall and laid down on a pile of wood to cool off – where he contracted a “lung fever.” It has been claimed that on his death bed he asked John to marry his widow and raise a family “for him.” Accordingly, about two years after Richard’s death, John Henry Spencer married Lucy Lodica Elmer on 7 Oct 1860 (for time only). (In a nutshell – the marriage with Jerushia is for “time and eternity” and the marriage with Lucy is “only for this lifetime.”) To this union ten children were born.

It has been said that the John Henry Spencer family home in Payson was made of adobe and logs and consisted of two large rooms with each wife being allotted a room. According to family oral history: “The ‘Indians‘ always came on baking day and they were given fresh baked bread. Both of John Spencer’s wives cooked large banquets for the settlers and the Indians alike. His wives and small children helped him a great deal in “Indian affairs.“ John’s first wife, Jerushia, was a nurse and midwife; many a night she was called to go out alone in the pitch black dark to answer a neighbor’s call. She had to travel over a bridge which she dreaded to cross and to her wonder it was her husband’s other wife, Lucy Lodica who carried the light. She helped the Indian squaws sew and care for their sick. While residing in Payson, John Henry Spencer owned property on both sides of Utah Avenue. Both wives helped in clearing away debris and rocks by carrying them in their aprons. Then they planted the orchard and garden for the family.”

Along with many of the other Mormon men, John Henry Spencer was prosecuted later in life for practicing polygamy (unlawful cohabitation and adultery).

Cause No. 672: UNLAWFUL COHABITATION: COMPLAINT – Offense: Unlawful Cohabitation; Complaint filed July 21, 1888; Warrant issued: July 21, 1888; “…on oath complains that John Spencer of Indianola in the County of Sanpete and Territory of Utah…..did then and there unlawfully live and cohabit with more than one woman to wit with Mrs. John Spencer and Jane Doe Spencer whereas name is otherwise unknown to complainant against the peace and dignity of the United States of America, and contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided. Wherefore complainant prays that a warrant may issue for the arrest of said John Spencer and that he be dealt with according to law.”
Cause No. 833: ADULTRY:  “….being then and thus a married man and having a lawful wife alive did commit this offense of adultery by having carnal knowledge of the body of one Lodica Spencer ….” 

He gave bail to await the Grand Jury action. His plural wife, Lodica, also gave bond to appear as a witness. The trial transcript reads: “Bishop John Spencer of Thistle married his second wife in the fall of 1860, had been taking care of his family since. He had lived with the Indians for the last twelve years and was a poor man. His youngest child was four weeks old and they have very little means. The court asked the defendant if he had taught the Indians anything about polygamy and he said, “No”. He was sentenced to a term of four months in prison.

During that time his family suffered; however, was able to sustain themselves through the coldest winter they had experienced.



Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Elmer, Spencer


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Lucy Ann Spencer – A Life Cut Short

My great grand aunt, Lucy Ann Spencer, did not live a long life. She was one of the daughters born to John Henry Spencer and Lucy Lodica Elmer in Payson, Utah on 23 October 1875. Lucy can be found in only one census record, and that being the 1880 census when she is only 5 years old. She is with her parents John and Lucy Spencer living in Thistle, Sanpete County, Utah. Also in the home is John’s “other” wife Jerusha (remember polygamy among the Mormons). Between the two women there are 11 children in the home ranging in age from 9 months to 17 years.

Lucy Ann Spencer Olsen – from the collection of Blaine Spencer

On October 30, 1895, at the age of 20 years, Lucy married Henry Peter Olsen in Mount Pleasant, Sanpete County, Utah. Henry, born 5 Feb 1876 in Sanpete County was the son of Danish and Swedish immigrants, James Peter Olsen and Margaret Christina Carolina Miller.  

Henry Peter Olsen - from the collection of Blaine Spencer

Lucy’s story is a tragic one. She gave birth to six children – three boys and three girls. None of her boys survived their infancy. The following children were born to Lucy and Henry: John Henry in 1896; Lucy Pearl Lena (1897-1990); James Edgar in 1900; Mary Alice (1902-1991); Annie Ethel (1905-1921); and George Elmer in 1908. The last boy, George Elmer was born 20 Aug 1908. His mother, Lucy Ann Spencer Olsen, at the age of 32, died five days later on 25 Aug 1908. Baby George died the next month on 13 Sept 1908.

Lucy’s husband, Henry Peter Olsen, eventually married again. On 16 Feb. 1910 he married Edna Shepherd. Edna was born 20 Sept 1889 in Lake Shore, Utah County, Utah, one of the daughters of Moses Andrew Shepherd and Rachael Ann Brady.

Edna Shepherd Olsen

Henry and Edna had five known children: Hannah Levender Olsen born 1910; Joseph Peter born 1912; Cleo born 1915; Rex T. born 1918; and Helen Esther born 1919. And again tragedy would strike this family. Barely three months after the birth of their last child, Helen Esther, Edna Shepherd Olsen died at the age of 30 on 22 Feb 1920.

Such heartache cannot be fathomed.

Henry Peter Olsen did remarry; however, I know nothing about his third wife other than her name: Eliza Jane Neilson. It is believed that this couple did not have children.

Henry died of heart trouble at the age of 67 on 5 April 1943. He is laid to rest in the Mount Pleasant City Cemetery with his first two wives, Lucy and Edna, and several of his children.


Posted by on March 20, 2011 in Spencer


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