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Biography of Janetta Berntine Ingmann Dahle 1846-1929

By Janice C. Tenney
Submitted by Darrell K. Loosle

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Located at the top of the fat lower third of Norway is the busy port of Trondheim. It sits on a peninsula between the Trondheim Fjord and the Nidelva River. At one time Trondheim was Norway’s capital and "the cathedral city" where the coronation of Norwegian kings took place. Many old buildings still remain, but others have been rebuilt after having been destroyed by fire. Janetta Berntine Ingmann’s birth occurred in Trondheim, and her christening took place in an ancient chapel there, the Lutheran Church of Vor Frue (Our Lady). The parish of Vor Frue is sometimes listed with the other places of her birth—Trondheim, Sør-Trøndelag, Norway.

Janetta Ingmann’s birth on February 17, 1846, undoubtedly a cold winter day, is recorded in the Trondheim, Norway Church Records. She is listed as Jonetta Berntine daughter of Johan Henrik Gabrielsen Ingmann and Anna Bergitha Ingmann. All three of Janetta’s names have variant spellings in different records. One reason for the diverse orthography could be due to various pronunciations in different languages. Another might be the phonetic spelling used by many during those years of immigrant assimilation.*

Janetta and her sister, Laura, born eighteen months before Janetta, were the oldest children in the Ingmann family. These two sisters undoubtedly helped with household chores as the family increased by three more children—John, Maria, and Anna—in the next five years. The last child, a son, to come to this family was stillborn, and six days later Janetta’s mother died on March 7, 1854. Later in life Janetta would retell this tragic tale to her children and grandchildren.

When my baby brother was born and did not live, my mother died.
Papa was out fishing, and when he returned, he found his wife dead and
already buried. He was sad and went out fishing again, and was drowned
in the deep, deep sea

In retelling this painful experience to her children, it is not known if Janetta merely shortened the time between the deaths of her mother and father or if the story changed in the retelling from parents to grandchildren. Records show that her father, John, actually lived nearly six years after his wife’s death. When he died in 1860 at sea, his oldest daughter, Laura, was fifteen, and Janetta was just a few days short of her fourteenth birthday.

The following twenty-four months of Janetta’s teenage years are not documented. She and her siblings were separated and lived with different relatives, but it is unknown exactly where they stayed. Family tradition indicates that Janetta went to school to learn to be a seamstress. Whether this training took place before or after her father’s death is uncertain, but family members and others whose clothing she sewed knew her to be an excellent seamstress. A niece of Janetta once commented that Aunt Janetta’s children’s clothes were outstanding. Pictures taken of the family verify this cherished statement. The girls’ dresses have pleats and ruffles with lace peeking from petticoats and pantaloons. The boys wore suits with matching vests.

Janetta’s clothes were most often a dark color, each dress having something special to set it off such as tucks or pleats, ruching or ruffles, buttons or bows. In her later years she preferred her dresses to be black which she wore with her black cape when she went out. In her old age when she no longer sewed, she was still particular about her appearance and was considered "fussy" regarding how her clothes fit and how they were sewn recounted daughter-in-law Vilate* who sewed for her as she aged.

An important date in Janetta’s life was her conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By 1851 Mormon missionaries had begun proselytizing in Norway, having some success gaining converts to their new American religion. This success was increased as young, freshly baptized Norwegian men became elders and were called to serve ‘home missions.’ Interestingly enough, Janetta’s future husband, John Dahle, was one such young Norwegian missionary.

One year after John’s baptism in the fall of 1858, he was ordained an elder and called on a mission in his native Norway. Among other places, his mission took him to Trondheim. In Trondheim, Elder John Dahle met the Ingmann girls and taught them the gospel. He baptized Laura, who was nearly sixteen, on August 13, 1860. Two weeks later, on August 27, he baptized Janetta, age fourteen.

The Norwegian government did not consider Mormonism to be a Christian religion, and, needless to say, the Mormons found themselves persecuted by zealous anti-Mormon mobs. It was difficult to admit openly to being a Mormon. Often mobs disrupted the meetings the missionaries were holding with members and investigators in their homes where members tried not to attract the attention of others who might frighten them. Those attending even took the precaution of reading the words to the hymns, rather than singing, to prevent anyone from hearing and possibly breaking up their services. The young missionaries often found themselves in jail for preaching a "heathen religion."

As Janetta continued her activity with the Mormons in Norway, she found that even teenage girls were not immune to religious persecution. Later in her life she wrote about her incarceration for being a Mormon.

I was arrested for my belief in the Gospel and was taken by
two city officers to a large farm house far out in the country
where I was told I would have to remain until I became of
age. Six months later I was released by the mayor.

It seems absurd to think of arresting a fifteen-year-old girl for her belief in Christ. To the Norwegians in the mid-1800’s Mormonism was a pagan religious sect, attempting to harm their youth. Worse still, missionaries were believed to be actively convincing their daughters to leave Norway after they had joined this strange church. The false rumors abounded about young girls needed for the polygamous Mormon men, and town officials reacted swiftly to this apparent threat.

A few months after her release from imprisonment, Janetta immigrated to America with a group of Scandinavian Saints. Her sister, Laura, had moved there during the previous year with a group of Church members. Janetta and Laura longed to meet again in Zion.

The various groups of Saints emigrating from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, were given directions by church leaders regarding the cost for their voyage to America and schedules indicating where and when to meet. From their home countries they traveled by train, ferry, and steamer, adding more LDS emigrants to their groups the farther they went. Their final destination before boarding a ship for the trans-Atlantic trip was near Hamburg, Germany, on the Elbe River. There seaworthy ships had been engaged by the missionary leaders to ‘gather’ the Scandinavians to America.

Conway B. Sonne writes of the emotions involved for the emigrant converts when they left their homes for America:
In responding to the call, new converts left their homes, families,
and native lands for an unknown future in an untamed country. Between
1840 and 1890, at least eighty-five thousand LDS emigrants braved the
treacherous oceans, surviving the dangers of wind, wave, and disease.
Some fifty thousand of them crossed the water in sailing vessels.
This religious impulse among believers was described by one LDS
emigrant in these words: "I believed in the principle of the gathering and
felt it my duty to go…my heart was fixed." Thousands followed that same
gospel star to Zion.

Janetta had no family with whom to travel and became one of those thousands when she quickly boarded her assigned ship, the Electric, in the early spring of 1862. Apparently the Dahle brothers and their mother took her under their care. The church leader of the Scandinavian emigrants was returning missionary, Elder Soren Christofferson of Manti who was 43. Other LDS men took care of the travelers’ needs such as exchanging their money and other such business affairs.

The Electric was a medium clipper ship and served mainly the trans-Atlantic trade. Accommodations on the ship’s two decks included a row of built-in single bunks along each side with a double row of bunks down the center. "The young unmarried men were assigned to the bow of the ship while the unmarried women were settled in the stern."

When all the travelers were on board, Elder Christofferson called a meeting for the immigrants. There he "exhorted them" to be diligent and faithful in living the commandments. He also encouraged them to be patient while on board ship and how to act after they arrived in America.

The long hours at sea were filled with work, cleaning and maintaining their living quarters and attending scheduled meetings, but not all was solemnity on board. The immigrants enjoyed "singing praises to the Lord, playing, dancing," and other such forms of entertainment until they reached New York harbor six weeks later on June 5. The travelers were not allowed to disembark until a doctor had come "on board to inspect [them] to be sure no contagious diseases were among them." Having passed the doctor’s inspection the next day, the group proceeded to Castle Garden where they waited for the Saints to disembark from the Athena which arrived on June 6.

At this point in Janetta’s travels a new and unexpected development occurred—she was to be married. Recalling her marriage years later, Janetta would always include the part that she and John Dahle "were prevailed upon by the Elders to be married." Apparently this was the case, as Elder Soren Christofferson, the presiding church leader, performed their marriage the evening of June 8 while they were at Castle Garden, New York. There are strong and moral reasons why he may have preferred having a married couple rather than two single people under his care for the trip across the plains, especially when one was a lovely sixteen-year-old girl with no family support.

Most immigrants upon arriving in New York were left to their own devices as soon as they left Castle Garden, but not so for the Mormon travelers who had prearranged their trip. The program for gathering the Saints by 1862 was so well organized that incoming people were passed along from post to post by caring individuals until they reached their final destination. So it was with Janetta and her new husband John.

John Hansen Dahle & Janetta Berntine Ingmann Dahle
in their middle years circa 1895.

The morning of June 9, the day after her marriage, Janetta and her husband, along with the other Scandinavian converts, left New York by train for their destination of Florence, Nebraska, where they would prepare for the arduous trek to Utah. Several trains moved them from New York City northward, then westerly to the Chicago area. From there they headed south on the railroads on the east side of the Mississippi River until they came to Quincy, Illinois. There the travelers transferred to riverboats that took them down the Mississippi until they landed at Hannibal on the other side of the Mississippi River. After a day of rest they took another train across northern Missouri to St. Joseph. From there they boarded a steamer to travel up the Missouri River to Florence, Nebraska, a trip totaling ten days.

In Florence John and Janetta became part of Joseph Horne’s wagon train. Janetta recorded later they were assigned to Captain Christoffersen’s company, which may have been one of the smaller groups as they were divided into fifties and tens. After almost a month of preparation in Florence, they broke camp on July 14, 1862, and began their trek across the plains, accompanied by the wagons carrying needed supplies back to Utah. Janetta stated proudly years later, "I walked the entire distance," and it was a distance not only of length—some 1000 miles, but also of time—almost three months.

According to one member of the wagon train, the trek was similar to the many others that preceded them—"somewhat tiresome and tedious." Problems developed at the beginning of the journey caused by the fact that neither the inexperienced Scandinavian teamsters, new at ordering and managing oxen teams, nor the oxen that weren’t used to the language and ways of the Scandinavians could make sufficient forward progress. Eventually, with more practice and experience the teamsters were able to control the oxen so they did not try to run away.

Their journey followed the trail that went "from Florence via Elkhorn River, Loup Fork, Wood River, Willow Lake, Rattlesnake Creek, Fort Laramie, Upper Platte Bridge, Devil’s Gate, South Pass, Green River and on to Salt Lake City." The various groups of the Horne Company arrived in Salt Lake Valley from September 23 to the first week of October.

John and Janetta and their other family members made the last leg of their journey northward to Logan, Utah, where they arrived in November. There is no record of communication between Janetta and her sister, Laura, who had immigrated the year before to Utah. Laura and her husband had settled in Logan. It may have been that Janetta gained this important information from the telegraph which had begun to operate in 1861. It is logical that Janetta would want to live near her sister. As a result, John and Janetta Dahle and his mother, Anna Dahle, made their way to Logan and settled there.

Records show that Janetta’s sister, Laura, married her husband, Niels Mickelsen (Mikkelsen), on August 9, 1862, about two months before Janetta and John arrived in Salt Lake Valley. The date of Laura’s marriage is also about two months after Janetta married John in New York. Whether the story is true or not, the female descendants of both Laura and Janetta mentioned that in Norway Laura had liked John, who became Janetta’s husband, and that there was certain coolness between the sisters due to that.

Whatever the situation between these two sisters, it was apparently resolved for they continued to be part of each other’s lives. One granddaughter wrote about her grandmother and great-aunt, Janetta and Laura, "Laura knew the art of weaving…cloth and [Janetta], who was an excellent seamstress [used the cloth] to sew…their clothes."

By August of 1863 John, now a farmer. and Janetta were settled in Logan, Utah, when their first son, John Ephraim, was born. John's mother, Anna, stayed in Logan with John and Janetta until her death in November 1864. Two-and-a-half years after their arrival in Utah, John and Janetta received their endowments and were sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on January 13, 1865, at which time they had their first born son sealed to them. Their second son was born six weeks after their sealing.

For the remainder of Janetta’s life, another sixty-six years, she would not move from Logan. Her lengthy stay there agrees with Pioneer William Preston’s feelings when he "halted his wagon just north of the Logan River, [and] declared, ‘This is good enough for me.’" All Janetta’s children were born in Logan, her husband served in church positions there, and as an elected member of the Logan City Council. She mentions in her story that she "was among the first sisters to join the Relief Society soon after it was organized"* in Logan. The family home was located in the Logan Fourth Ward just east of the chapel on East 3rd North.

Throughout the next twenty-eight years until she was almost forty-six, Janetta’s life is documented by the birth of thirteen more children:

Joseph, Hyrum, Hans Garrett, Selma (Salma), Anna Janette, Willard Richard, Albert Henry, Norman Edward, Fredrick Arthur, Ernest Edwin, Clarence, George Alfred, and Roy Leland. Of her twelve sons all but infant Clarence grew to manhood. She must have relied on her two daughters, Selma and Anna, who were born numbers five and six in her family of fourteen children to help her with the household chores. It is interesting to note that Janetta and John named their second and third sons Joseph and Hyrum undoubtedly in honor of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, martyrs to the new religion they had embraced. Hyrum, or Hyte, as he was called by family members, never married.

This petite lady surely had her hands full raising eleven boys. One son recalled that when the brothers became rambunctious at bedtime, she would take the broom to them. They would put their feet up under the covers to prevent the broom from hitting them. This same son claimed jokingly he would purposely tip the baby out of its carriage because he didn't want to tend it, and his mother obligingly relieved him of the job.

Janetta was left alone with her young family during the times that John assisted in bringing the pioneer immigrants across the plains to Utah. When she was expecting her ninth child, John left for a second mission to Norway. He was gone from the spring of 1880 until the fall of 1881. Sewing clothes for other people in the community may have been how she provided for herself and children during the time he was in Norway.

Her fourth son, Garrett, recalled his mother was a devoted church member and a strict but good mother. One thing about which she was scrupulous in teaching her children was to be honest. Garrett claimed his parents lived clean, pure lives and taught their children to do the same. He added that not all of the children had followed in their parents’ footsteps in that regard. For the most part he was referring to the fact that some of the children did not have the convert’s faith toward their religion that their parents had. However, the Dahle brothers were known in their communities as honest, good, and generous men.

John and Janetta were presumably typical of the early Norwegian convert immigrants to Utah. Though the actual number of Norwegian converts was few, they played an important part in their local settlements. Joseph W. Young, as a missionary wrote his opinion of the Scandinavian people:

The country people might be plain and simple with their black bread
and strong coffee, their age-old wooden shoes and homespun; and their
‘hornspoon and finger’ manners might be as primitive as their dress, but they
were industrious ‘and certainly the most strictly honest that I have ever met…’

Another observer, Daniel Spencer, wrote in 1855 that the Scandinavian converts were in the main "respectable farmers or mechanics with their families. Of this group the Norwegian proselytes turned out to have an easily recognized intelligentsia and in the settlements produced a highly articulate minority." This was obvious in spite of the fact that English was not their first language. Both Joanna and John could read and write.

Janetta spoke English with no accent according to a granddaughter, Leone; she did, however, throughout her life call her son Joseph, ‘Yoe.’ Even with her own grandchildren she was at times very reserved.

Widowed in 1920 at the death of her husband, she continued keeping her home and caring for others. Five of her children died before she did: Clarence as an infant, her daughter, Selma, in 1904 from complications of childbirth and pneumonia, Norman in 1919 from the flu epidemic, Hyte in 1925 from chronic alcoholic dementia, and Willard who was fatally shot in 1929 in line of duty as a policeman. Her experiences in this life included sorrows and disappointments.

Janetta concluded her own story with these positive sentences:
I have seen many great and wonderful changes take place since I
came to Logan where I have been a resident for 64 years.* I am now 78
years old and do my own work and live alone. I enjoy real good health
which is one of the many blessings we as Latter Day Saints enjoy.

In the latter part of her lengthy life her words show that she still felt blessed to have joined the new religion. She also maintained her independence and her commitment toward life. She died at age eighty-three on November 8, 1929, following an almost two-year disability as the result of a broken hip. On the death certificate the doctor indicated the cause of death was "old age." During the time she was bedridden, her son Joseph, his wife, and three teenagers moved into her home to care for her. At her funeral she was eulogized for having lived an "unselfish…devoted…and useful life characterized by…faithfulness to family and friends." On November 10, 1929 she was buried in the cemetery in Logan, the town that she accepted as her own in the new country where she lived the greater part of her life.

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