Ellen Johnson Nelson

submitted by: Bowie Munford

History of Ellen Johnson Nelson

By Bowie Munford
East Elementary First Place
Mrs. Allen 4th Grade Class
March 13, 2023

My great, great, great, great Grandma, Ellen Johnson Nelson, was born on August 20, 1835 in Villiga Stocken which is in Southeast Sweden. In 1853 she joined a new church and moved to Copenhagen and worked in a cotton factory. Ellen and her brother decided to move to America for their church. It was very hard to leave her parents back in Sweden because she loved them very much and thought she would never see them again.

They had to come to America on a boat. It was a very hard boat ride. It took almost two months and someone stole their things. All they had to eat for three weeks was oatmeal and tea. The boat brought them to New Orleans. That was in April 1855. In October her brother got sick and died so she was all alone in a new country and she didn't know English very well. Then she got very sick with smallpox. She thought she was going to die, she was so sick.

She did get better and moved to Omaha, Nebraska. She met a girl named Caroline who had also just come from Sweden. Ellen and Caroline became best friends. Caroline had come from Sweden with her brother Bengt after joining the same new church that Ellen had. Bengt promised the girls that he would take them to Utah where there was more members of their church but the needed to find work to earn money for their journey.

They went to Atchison, Kansas. Ellen and Caroline found jobs working for a family whose last name was Saxon. Ellen's job was to take care of a little girl in the family named Ida. When Ida Saxon grew up she marred a man named William McKinley who became President of the United States. So Ellen had been the nanny of America's First Lady!

When they had earned enough money they set off across the plains with covered wagons pulled by wild Oxen. One night Ellen and Bengt both had the same dream that they would get married to each other. It took three months to come across the plains and Ellen and Caroline's job was to cook all the food for the people they were traveling with and they had to stay up very late at night making bread.

They made it to Salt Lake City on November 9th, 1856. Ellen and Bengt got married on November 16, 1856. They met a church leader who they traveled to Cedar City with. It was cold and snowy and they even got lost on their way. It was a very difficult journey. They got to Cedar on November 29, 1856. They were the third family to settle in what is now Cedar City. Their Bishop church leader assigned them to go live about 10 miles West of Cedar to Iron Springs for Bengt to herd cows for the winter.

Their home was a dugout in the bank of the creek. The walls of their dugout house were willow branches and their front door was a loose board. They had dirt floors that were usually muddy. Ellen sat there cold and alone most days while Bengt was away taking care of the cows. In the spring they moved to the settlement of Cedar City. The town was only one year old and there were only two other families that lived there. They got a piece of land and made another dugout house in the ground.

Ellen's husband Bengt had learned how to make bricks and build houses in Sweden. He was the only one who knew how to do that in Cedar so e planned and built the new houses and buildings. That became his new job. He was even in charge of building the tabernacle building which everyone said was so pretty. They built a pretty house instead f their dirt dugout, and their pretty house is still standing very close to our School, East Elementary.

Ellen and Bengt had eight kids and their family did a lot to help build Cedar City. Ellen and Bengt were very hard workers and always helped people around them. "As honest as Bengt Nelson" was a motto that people tried to live up to.

When they first got to Cedar City, they had no money and their clothing was very worn out. There was not any stories to buy more clothes, and they didn't have money for that anyway. The traded for things that they needed. Bengt built things for people and they would pay him in things like sheep - He earned two sheep for a job one time. Ellen learned how to spin and weave wool from sheep in Sweden. She sewed Bengt a pair of wool pants from those two sheep.

Ellen and Bengt taught their kids how to do farm and field work, cloth production, and weaving, sewing, candle making, planting and harvesting, gardening, plastering and building homes, cleaning and decorating, hauling water and wood, and how to love and care for each other.

Ellen was a great cook and had a lot of other talents, like beekeeping, which she made into a business. She was always helpful and loving to everyone, and everyone she met loved her very much. There are still a lot of people in Southern Utah that come from Ellen and there is even a statue of her to honor her near the creek dugout she first lived in at Iron Springs. On New Years Eve when she was 74 years old, she fell down while she was working at her home and her hip broke. That was December 31, 1909. She passed away 10 days later, on January 19,1910 and all of her family, especially Bengt, were very sad because they loved her so much. Her headstone is here in the Cedar City Cemetery.

I learned all of this about Ellen from old journals and family memories. She was a very important person. All he people that live in Cedar City now still Benefit from the hard work of Ellen and I am proud to be her great, great, great, great Granddaughter.