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Autobiographical sketch of Rev. A. J. Hansen, D.D. Part 1
1932-1936 | California
Written by himself 1932-1936
(He was a retired minister and senior member of the California Methodist Episcopal Church)
According to an entry on the fly-leaf of Mother’s Bible, I was born in Fremont county, southwestern corner of Iowa, October 11, 1850. Both Father and Mother had been previously married, leaving children in each case, but I came first of a family of seven children - two boys and five girls, all but myself having birthplace in Mills Co. on a farm some twenty miles east of the Missouri River, Glenwood being the county seat. My father was a sturdy native of Norway who had come over to America a good many years before my birth, first settling in Minnesota and becoming father of four children, one of whom is still living at the age of 100 in Spokane, Washington, in care of a daughter considerably younger than myself.
My father was a hard working man. He was a successful farmer and was quick to adopt farming methods that would improve his living and working conditions. He was very good to me and was always concerned about my education and welfare.
My Mother and her people, the Terry’s , came from Canada. They were very devoted members of the Latter-Day Saint Church. Her family had gone on to settle in Utah and Mother was very desirous of joining them. Her brothers, who were assigned missionaries to the Gentiles, were often in our home. They kept coaxing her to join her family and friends in the west. Her parent’s wrote frequently of their home in Utah and their desire to see her. Both of these things caused her to be unhappy with her lot.
Affairs came to such a state in our home that father finally agreed to fit out a wagon for her and she, with the children, started for Utah in company with my half-brother, William Crawford. I chose to remain with my father and later came with him to California.
After four months of travel with a well-proportioned team of four horses and plenty of pasture along most of the devious and interesting road via Salt Lake City and around the Great Lake to the north, and then down the sluggish Humbolt River, and finally across to Honey Lake, we climbed the Sierras and followed the Feather River down to Marysville, or rather to what is now Yuba City. Having recruited our teams for a week or two, we pushed on down to Sacramento, reaching our journeys end about the middle of September.
Satisfied that California would suit as a future residence, father soon disposed of team and wagon and arranged for a homeward trip by “Overland Stage”, the first section of which was a ride by railway train to Folsom, a live mining town some twenty miles away. And thence it was by old line stagecoach through and over the Sierras, first to Carson City, where father met the governor, an old-time friend, and we got some sense of the wild excitement over the wonderful discoveries of gold and silver ores conception of what the discovery of the Comstock Lode, in what has since been known as Virginia City, was to mean to San Francisco and the other great centers in our state.
Onward, night and day, pushed our strong vehicle, first to Salt Lake City via a route south of the Humboldt and Desert, where we saw the far famed “Pony Express” in operation and numbers of stalwart men planting great poles and stringing strong wires from one to the next, creating the wonderful Overland Telegraph, speady bearer of news from “The Battle Front” where brave Americans from North and South were struggling in deadly conflict to settle the supreme question of our country’s future. California’s interest in that matter was at white heat then and even the speeding “Pony Express” couldn’t bring the news fast enough. It gives one a thrill even now in these far-off years to think of having been alive then, and to find that we have today a United Country, under the ever glorious Flag of the Free.
A stop-over in Salt Lake City for a Sunday gave us opportunity to inquire as to the other part of our severed family- Mother and the other children. But we found no one who knew anything about them. Curiosity was gratified in having a chance that Sunday evening to see and hear that notable personage Brigham Young, at a gathering of the Saints in one of the ward school houses.
He was issuing a call for volunteers to move into Southern Utah, raise cotton and sugar cane, and so provide clothing and food articles, and by that means become more independent of “The Gentiles”. Bad boy, as I surely was, I was greatly shocked by the profanity which he employed in stressing the virtues of “Home Products” such as tobacco, so easily produced on the fertile lands along the banks of the Jordan River just south of the city. I may say that in my more mature years I have come to appreciate the shrewdness and statesmanship of this clever dictator and rank pretender, by whose undisputed sway for more than a quarter of the last century a great state with multitudes of sober, steady going people, who in many ways furnished us an example of what can be accomplished under the rigid regime of industry and sobriety imposed upon them by Brigham Young.
Day and night our stage pounded on with only an occasional stop for meals and change of horses, and at length, after 18 days of actual travel, Father and I were safely deposited in Council Bluffs, Iowa, about the 15th of October. My eleventh birthday had occurred on the way, and was celebrated by the customary supply of crackers and cheese which we had in store for the journey.
We found our way down to the old home place some thirty miles away and found our tenant in full swing of pomposity and big talk, as he claimed to have been in California himself sometime before we made the trip, and had to his credit some notable achievements of very doubtful moral character. He seemingly had been hoping that Father would never return and that he would become easy possessor of that fine Iowa farm. And so we enjoyed the old home during the late fall and winter – part of my time being taken with study in the district school, something in which I had never before been interested. Father became more restless and by early spring concluded to sell the farm, which he did at a scandalously low price (only $2500) and made preparations for another trip “Across the Plains”.
This time it was to be away out to the Pacific Northwest to the Gold Fields of the Salmon River, somewhere in the wonderful region since included in the state of Idaho. That journey, which began with ox-teams early in May and ended late in September in Portland Oregon, embraced happenings of a highly sensational character, which I have set forth in a fuller account not just now at hand. Of one thing I am certain, if the marauder who, with others, invaded our unguarded encampment one night out in Southern Wyoming, crept into our tent and took a rifle from under the pillow of Father and myself, had aimed better as I stood in the open doorway, something like seventy-four years of my earthly career would have been clipped off then and there. That
Bullet hole, close to where I stood, was for many a day a reminder of my narrow escape.
Autobiographical Sketch of Andrew Jackson Hansen Part II
1865-1932 | Sacramento CA
Passing over many other thrilling circumstances of that eventual journey, let it suffice to say that, having reached Portland by river boat from The Dalles, we found so much of rain and fog and muddy streets that Father speedily disposed of team and wagon and secured passage per steamer to San Francisco. The vessel was under commission to convey a company of Uncle Sam’s soldiers to a certain frontier post on Puget Sound, and thus I had opportunity to glimpse that wonderful inland stretch of water which pushes away to the south of Victoria, B.C. to Olympia, the capital of a marvelously progressive state.
Twenty years later, under due commission from our Church authorities, I was privileged to view both Portland and Puget Sound under circumstances that afforded a thrill of deep satisfaction that I was permitted to see both of these under fairer skies and vastly improved human conditions. That is truly the wonder land of our continental United States.
My birthday, the 11th of October, occurred on the voyage down the coast and the only thing , and I remember about it was that I got up on the hurricane deck of the old Sierra Nevada, snuggled up to the huge smoke stack and wondered what would happen next. I was 12 years old.
A few days were spent in wonderful San Francisco. As boarders in The What Cheer house away down on Jackson Street, over one of the many sloughs composing the waterfront in those days, we found plenty of occupation in “seeing things” for a few days and then by river steamer pushed up to Sacramento in a night ride of no special interest to me except that I slept part of the time on a pile of bags full of grain, and was tumbled off by the deck hands at some landing before the night was half ended. The next morning found us in the Capital City, and I was to be a smallish inconspicuous part of California life for the next twenty years or more.
How to find lucrative occupation in a strange city was a problem my Father had never faced, as farming was his normal occupation. How it came to pass that he was induced to invest his remaining funds, . of a saloon at 4th and J streets, in Sacramento, I have never found out. As he had never had any sort of experience in operating an institution of that kind, he, of course, had to employ and ingratiating bartender to carry on the business. Father and I had a sleeping apartment in the rear of the fair-sized store, with a side entrance, and were simply on-lookers while business was carried on in the main room. As to the immediate financial returns, I have no knowledge, but one thing was indelibly fixed in my memory, and that was the suddenness with which the business collapsed.
It was on this wise: One Sunday morning Father set out for a visit with some old-time friends in the outskirts of the city. I of course, was with him as a Sunday School had never yet gained my attention. Our visit was prolonged ‘till late in the evening. When we returned, about ten-thirty, we found ourselves locked out and the premises entirely closed. After a night in some nearby cheap lodging house and a modest breakfast, we found the place still closed. A policeman and locksmith were enlisted for the solution of the mystery. Opened doors disclosed the fact that the entire outfit- bar, barrels, bottles, glasses, etc., etc., had been removed during our absence, and what was still more remarkable, no one could be found who knew anything about how it happened. And that was the end alike of my poor dear
Father’s interest in the saloon business and likewise of the little money supply on hand when we finally landed in California.
What next was the problem confronting an old farmer in a thriving new city- and he was ‘dead-broke’. First he disposed of me by arranging with some chance acquaintance to take care of me by giving me plenty of hard work and two-meals a day (that was their custom) and a place on the floor of their cottage basement where I could spread my blankets and put in full time sleeping until about six A.M., when a modest breakfast was served. After this the man of the house set out with saw and saw=buck and I followed with axe and broom. My part of the day’s work was the splitting and storing of the lengths cut by him from the four-foot wood left at the street curb. Usually dinner time didn’t come until two P.M. or later. Then there was a full mean, and anyone can imagine how a very hungry boy went at it.
Up to that time, I had never taken very eagerly to hard work of any sort, including lesson assignments in the schools attended. In a short time Father returned and said he had secured work on a ‘ranch’ not far from town at a small wage per month in addition to board and a place to sleep in a bunkhouse apart from the many residence. His job was plowing, sowing, care of stock, etc., something he had always been used to, so that he was quite pleased with the situation. He came in to see me every Sunday and gave me a little spending money, so that I could have an occasional ‘treat’ of candy, nuts or sweet cakes, and thus time wore on for many weeks. One day father came in and said that he had told the ranch folks about me and my situation, and they showed interest and said “Bring your boy out here and let him do our common chores for clothes and a chance to go to school. “ And so it came to pass in the order of very gracious Divine Providence that sometime in January or February, 1863, I became an inmate of the attractive Christian home of Samuel Rich, Esq., a retired merchant of Sacramento, who had invested in a hundred and sixty acre ranch some five miles southeast of the City, and on a prominent knoll- not far from the main highway to the city of Stockton, had erected an attractive dwelling and had already surrounded it with shrubs, fruit and shade trees, and flowering plants a-plenty, so that it had become an object of marked interest to friends and travelers alike.
And there I was to spend five eventful years and to find the trend of my life entirely changed.
Up to that time, I had been almost entirely under the influence of men who showed no interest in religion and very little in common decency. They drank, swore, utterly disregarded the sanctity of the Christian Sabbath, they talked sex and other filthiness almost incessantly, and, while generally honest in main business transactions, were not above lying and thieving in minor matters.
Very few of the neighbors in our old Iowa community were in any wise different, so I was well along the road to become a confirmed specimen of the sort above described. Thus I was introduced to the company of people of an entirely different sort: The Sabbath respected by church attendance either in Sacramento (Old Sixth Methodist) or the nearby schoolhouse, and a well sustained Sunday School of which Mr. George Rich was superintendent with numbers of highly respectable people always on hand. There were frequent visits of the “regular preacher” on the circuit which covered all the outlying sections of the country. Why, it was all so different that my interest steadly grew in an entirely different direction.
A year later, it must have been about the middle of February 1864, with a blessed revival in progress in the old Elder Creek School House, under the
Direction of a very ordinary Methodist Minister, and on the tender, earnest invitation of our Sunday School Superintendent, I knelt at “The Mourners Bench” as “a seeker” and soon found that the Captain of our Salvation was there and that my enlistment for life service in this cause was then and there accepted by Him. All the rest followed in the way of realization, and I have never ceased repeating “O Happy Day that fixed my choice on Thee, True Saviour of Christ and his people”- for over seventy-two years have been most blessed realization all the way.
I find that I have got ahead of story in the order of events, so I will return to say that only a short time after I went to live on the “Rich Ranch” all the needed plowing, etc., was finished and Father was out of a job. He disappeared and I heard nothing from him until early in June. A very brief letter, written for him by someone at San Pedro, southern California, said that he had enlisted as a cavalryman in the Union army and that the company was awaiting orders to go to the front.
A tin-type picture as he appeared in uniform was enclosed with the letter. I never heard from him again. Many years later I ascertained from the State records of California Volunteers that he was mustered out of service at Ft. Union, New Mexico in January 1865 “on account of disability”, which was not surprising as he was about sixty-five years old. No definite knowledge as to his movements after his discharge from the army, and the place of his decease has ever come to any of the scattered elements of the Hansen family in Southern California, Utah or State of Washington.
Something over five years of my life were spent on the relationship indicated. I was well treated, but only indirectly considered ‘one of the family’.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that ‘Grandpa Rich’, as he became a short time after my arrival, was not especially fond of boys and their tendency ‘ to take the initiative in a large number of directions’, so he saw to it that I didn’t waste much time in play or on foolish inventions , and doubtless the discipline was good for me. For one thing, it certainly taught me how to be more tolerant of boys’ ways in my later years than when I first undertook to handle them in school and church.
By the time I had put in four full years on the ranch in all sorts of situations and lines of work , he had become so impressed with my earnestness to learn, that he put up a proposition that at once gripped my fancy. Said he, “Jackson, if you will stay on the ranch another year and be as steady as you have been in years past, I’ll pay your necessary bills for tuition, books and clothes at the University of the Pacific the year following.” That was something I had never so much as dreamed of, and I jumped at the chance. His son George had spent a year there and was so refined and honored.
Why, of course, I would agree to that, and was so sure that a year in such an institution would suffice to make me a highly educated man. Mr. Rich kept his word as to details above named, and I found sundry ‘chores’ to do for my board on a little farm at the edge of Santa Clara where the Old Brick College stood. And thus my Higher Education began. I was only in the Preparatory, and four more years were before me.
How those additional years were provided for in the opportunities for heavier work on farms and other places during summer and winter vacations, and how janitor jobs, wood sawing, etc., along with “batching” and other contrivances to solve problems of housing, food, books, clothing, church dues, and
Tuition, all has been set down with considerable detail in another story of my college years.
Suffice it to say that I took the full Classical and Scientific course covering four years, that early in June 1873, at College Park, San Jose, I graduated as valedictorian with my A.B. degree with credit for highest scholarship in many years. Three years later, I received my M.A. degree incursu, as mine was a literary occupation, and in 1901 the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on me pro honore – and yet my education is nowhere near completed. Even a full course in the C.L.S.C. of blessed memory did not quite finish it.
Additional Notes from his daughter Helen
1873-1932 | Sacramento CA
(Helen, his daughter, goes on from here with a few more notes.)
C.S.L.C. means Chatuqua Literary and Scientific Circle – something like extension courses given by universities now.
My father entered the ministry in the fall of 1873. His first charge was at Lockford, a small town near Stockton. The next year he was moved to Bakersfield, then to Merced, and then went to San Francisco to live with my mother at the Chinese mission. It was during that time that I was born in Santa Clara. I had a Chinese nurse the first year of my life.
Father spent two years in Sacramento, also in Chinese Mission work, after which we moved to Portland Oregon. We spent 14 years in the Northwest in Seatlle, Olympia and three smaller towns and then returned to San Jose so that I could attend the University of the Pacific.
Father’s active ministry ended in September 1923, in Nevada City Calif. After that he and mother lived for several years in East Oakland, moving to Berkley in 1933 after cousin Jennie Randall, Aunt Ellen’s daughter came to live with them. She had been with Clara Moulton in Glendale for awhile after her brother John Rhodes died.
The Moultons had three or four daughters. I haven’t heard from them for a long time. I know that they moved from Glendale. Jennie Boughton, daughter of the oldest sister, was in the Public Library at Spokane about 20 years ago.
The Fred Hansen family, whose children were Louise, Cecil, Blair and, Katherine, lived in Berkeley for several years, but I haven’t any idea where they are now. Once I was in Los Angeles, I telephoned to several Hansens, but couldn’t locate any of them.
Fred’s brothers were names Leon, Gerold and Louis, all French names probably their mother, who was Louise Basby.
Uncle Amos, I always understood, was a bachelor. He was a sort of Rolling Stone . died in Stillieon(?) Washington at the insane asylum.
Cousin Jennie Randall died in Berkeley in 1939, after a long illness.
This sketch I am sending you is an abbreviated copy of Father’s memoirs written in longhand in 1932 at the age of 82. His memory for detail was remarkable. Some time I may send you the whole manuscript, but just now I don’t like to let go of it after just having it returned to me after four years. One thing I am sure you didn’t know about our adventurous Grandfather
Was that he married for the third time in April 1863, before starting out for the coast again – a widow of about 40 years with four children. Father remarked that ” she was rather frail and peevish, but well meaning and I always felt she was kind hearted and did the best she could under the circumstances.” In August they all arrived in Eastern Oregon. After two or three weeks trying to get a foot-hold of some sort, Grandfather decided for reasons unknown to go on to The Dalles and Portland. That meant that he abandoned the widow and children, who were stranded among strangers and with little to go on.
Father remarked “I never knew what became of them and often, in these far away years, have wished that I had sometime tried to find out and to return my Father’s evil deed, if in any way possible.”
Our grandfather must have been a pretty rough customer.