Biography of John Hansen Dahle 1837-1920

By Janice C. Tenney
Submitted by Darrell K. Loosle

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John Hansen Dahle had many new experiences during his life which his parents probably never imagined would come to him. He converted to a new religion, suffered persecution, emigrated from Norway, sailed to America, walked across the plains with a wagon train company, became a dairy farmer, returned to Norway to preach the gospel, served in his Utah community, and fathered fourteen children. Throughout his lifetime he was honest and upright as he strove to do what was right.

On November 16, 1837, on the family farm in Kvinnherad, Hordaland County, Norway, John was born the fifth child and third son of Hans Hansen and Anna Johansen Dahle. The family surname of ‘Dahle’ comes from the name of the farm, Lille-Dale,* which means ‘little valley’. The farm is near the village of Olve on the southwest coast of Norway.

In a Norwegian farmer’s family, according to Norwegian traditions and laws, the eldest son would be entitled to the family farm, a privilege given to him in order that the farms would not be broken up into smaller and smaller acreage as the generations passed. Other sons had to find another way to earn their livelihood. John’s father owned a fishing boat, the Hertha, which resulted in his younger sons becoming fishermen.

While on their boat the Dahle brothers first became acquainted with the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family stories told through the generations of the Dahle brothers’ conversion to that church agree in some main points. The three brothers, Johannes, John, and Helge, were returning to Norway on their fishing boat, and although their vessel was not a passenger ship, they allowed some Mormon missionaries to travel with them. The missionaries began teaching any on board who would listen, and Johannes attended their meetings, eventually accepting the gospel. His younger brothers thought he was crazy, and, as family tradition notes, threatened to throw him overboard if he joined the Mormons. But within months both the younger brothers were converted.

Seven years after missionaries first entered Norway in the fall of 1851 Ole E. Orstad performed John’s baptism in 1858, nearly six months after his older brother Johannes had been baptized. Three days later J. Olsen confirmed John a member of the LDS Church. During the next year, while John worked as a mate on the family fishing boat, it docked in Stavanger, a prominent city located on a peninsula on Norway’s uneven southwest coast. It was there he met Elder C. S. Winge* who ordained him an Elder and then called him to be his missionary companion. Both Elders were young—Elder Winge, 23, and John, 21—when John accepted the call for this ‘home mission’ in Norway.

In former days while performing their missionary labors in Norway, young Elders were exposed to terrible persecution and were often imprisoned. Yet they continued to travel throughout the country preaching the gospel without purse or script. Many of the missionaries’ clothes became worn as they served, and most days they did not know where they would sleep when night came.

Elder Winge and Elder Dahle first traveled to Sandmor, which lies between Bergen and Trondheim, where they opened a new missionary field, teaching the gospel on Ageroen, one of the many islands along Norway’s irregular coastline. Here, finding people willing to listen to them, holding a number of meetings, and baptizing a few, they felt some success. Of course, the parish priest was greatly disturbed with the missionaries teaching his flock and threatened to have the missionaries punished. At that point Elder Winge set apart Elder Dahle to preside over the few Saints they had baptized on the island, and he set out to return to the branch at Stavanger.

Elder Winge left the island and made his way to Molde on the mainland where he waited for a steamship to take him to Stavanger. Unfortunately during this time, he was arrested in Molde and put in jail. To his astonishment, he found Elder Dahle also in jail. He, too, had been arrested on the island where they had been preaching and was taken to the jail at Molde. Even though Elder Dahle was ill from hunger, he warmly embraced his former companion. The two missionaries lingering in the jail experienced depression but were lifted with thoughts of their innocence along with the feeling that they were "worthy to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus."

Several days later court hearings were held for them to determine the evidence against the missionaries. These hearings were under the direction of a county judge and two jurymen, all of whom were "dressed in full uniform." John’s hearing was first and apparently went without incident. However, during Elder Winge’s hearing a "a sharp quarrel ensued" between him and one of the jurymen, which the judge had to break up, ending the first hearing. Two days later the prisoners were transported to another venue where a second hearing was scheduled. However, no witnesses were present because of storms. That resulted in a third hearing being planned. At this final hearing the court attempted to show that the missionaries had spoken scornfully of the Lutheran teachings, but none of the sixteen witnesses could remember exactly the words Elder Winge had used. Elder Winge seemed to have no fear at the hearing, as he bore a strong testimony in loud tones "that Mormonism is the truth."

After the last hearing the two elders were returned to their foul, lice-laden cells in the dark prison where, according to Elder Winge, they remained for several more weeks before the sentences were pronounced. Because the elders had administered the sacrament to the converts, both men were sentenced to remain in jail for several days on a diet of only "three small pieces of poor bread and one crock of water each day." The length of time John was on that dreadful diet was later told in family stories to have lasted for ten days. Upon his release it took two men to help him from the jail. John returned to Ageroen to recuperate from his prison ordeal, while his companion remained in jail for a few more days.

John’s missionary travels throughout the rest of his mission time in 1859-61 took him from Stavanger south of his home area near Bergen east across Norway to Christiania (Oslo) and north to Trondheim. It was in Trondheim that he met and baptized the Ingmann girls, Laura, nearly sixteen, and Janetta, fourteen.

During this time Latter-day Saints suffered a continuing persecution in Norway, causing many LDS Church members to immigrate to the United States. In the year after his release as a missionary, John H. Dahle and his mother, Anna (Ane) Johannesen Dahle, left Norway for their eventual destination of Zion in Utah. Months before the emigration of these members from Scandinavia on April 18, 1862, plans were underway for a smooth departure.

Most of those emigrating from the small church units, also called conferences, in Denmark, Sweden and Norway met in Copenhagen. From there they went on a steamer to Kiel, a port on the northern coast of Germany. This was followed by a train ride south to Altona which was a major railroad station on the north side of the Elbe River west of Hamburg, Germany. Upon arriving at the Elbe, church leaders began immediately to read the names of the travelers and assign them to board the Electric or the Athenia, which were anchored in the Elbe awaiting their passengers. John, his mother, brothers, their cousin, Marthe K. Helgesdatter, (Martha Karena Helgesen) and one of the teenagers, Janetta Ingmann, whom John had baptized in Trondheim, sailed for America from Hamburg on the ship Electric with a total of 335 Scandinavian Saints among the 400 LDS on board.

The Electric. a medium clipper ship, served mainly the trans-Atlantic trade, and by 1862 it was considered one of "the best ships" to bring LDS immigrants to America. The others were the Humbolt, Athenia, and Franklin. The ship’s Master at the time the Dahles sailed was H. C. Johannsen, 1859-1863. Interestingly, the Dahle brothers reverted to their patronymic surname of Hansen when they disembarked in New York.

On April 18 "the Electric sailed down the Elbe to Gluckstadt Roads," where it cast anchor near the ship Athenia, which was carrying a group of 486 Saints. Four days later the Electric lifted anchor and sailed to an area off the coast of Hanover, Germany, where they again waited, this time for a more favorable wind. During the wait Scandinavian mission president, John Van Cott, came aboard to assist the ecclesiastical supervisor of the Electric, Elder Soren Christofferson, in organizing the LDS members into nine districts of twenty-five to forty persons each. With a steady wind arising, the Electric left for America on April 25 when it finally sailed out into the cold winds of the open North Sea.

During the voyage of nearly seven weeks, a number of LDS immigrants died including several children. One child was born, and one couple was married. "Meetings were held on board during the voyage, and…harmony existed among the emigrants during the entire journey. The ship arrived safely in New York and the emigrants landed at Castle Garden on Friday, June 5, 1862." The following day the Athenia also arrived at Castle Garden, and the two groups of immigrating members were reunited. While official arrival of the Electric in New York harbor was June 5, the travelers did not disembark at Castle Garden until the next day due to a health inspection.

Two days after disembarking in America the emigration log of the Saints records: "In the evening of June 8, John Hanson sic Dahle and Tannete Bartine Ingeman [sic]…were married by Elder Soren Christofferson." The next day, June 9, the Dahles and the immigrants from both ships left New York by train for Florence, Nebraska, where they arrived ten days later.

After several weeks of preparation for their westward trek, John and Joneta [sic], whose names were recorded on the Joseph Horne Company roster using John’s patronymic surname of Hansen, departed, according to various records, between July 14 and July 29, 1862. This company was a ‘down-and-back’ wagon train consisting of more than 50 wagons and 570 people, most of whom, including John and Janetta, walked the entire distance because the wagons were full of supplies for the growing communities in Utah.

Their experiences on the plains were similar to many other pioneer companies. However, one thing in their favor was that their leader, Captain Horne, had knowledge and skill from his previous crossing of the plains. He consistently had his group travel ten to twenty miles each day, and they moved forward "day by day like clockwork." It appeared he just seemed to know where to drive and where to stop at the end of each day’s travels in order to have sufficient feed and water for the stock. He also was adept at spacing his train from the wagon trains that were before and after him.

As they walked the distance each day, the travelers gathered buffalo chips, which were used at the end of the day as fuel for cooking their evening meals. After the evening chores were completed, the pioneers often ended the day with a dance. One pioneer with the Horne Company summarized their trip by writing that they "had a very pleasant journey with no severe storms, no trouble to speak of,…no accidents, and [no Indian problems]." Their provisions were sufficient until the final week of the journey when they were down to just some flour without even any salt to flavor it. Various groups of the Joseph Horne Company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley from September 29 to the first week in October in 1862, over five months after leaving Norway. The Deseret News reported their plains trek was "a very prosperous journey [with] little sickness and no serious accidents."

One person later noted that on the trek John carried "all his belongings under his arm." However, the Dahles appeared to have had sufficient funds to make the trip without a need to borrow. Following their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, John and Janetta traveled north to Sessions (Bountiful), Utah, and by November were in Logan, Cache County, Utah. Early settlers had first arrived in that area in 1855, and by 1859 they had organized a city. With their arrival in Logan in 1862, John and Janetta settled down to become stalwart citizens of the budding community.

During this early period of settlement before the advent of the transcontinental railroad, John joined with other men to bring LDS pioneer wagon trains with supplies and immigrants across the plains, just as he had been helped on his initial trek into the valley.

Although they lived in Logan at 144 East 3rd North, just east of the Fourth Ward chapel for the remainder of their lives, John also homesteaded acreage in Clarkston in northern Cache County about 20 miles from Logan. There he dry farmed and operated a dairy ranch. In addition to the milk produced, they made butter and cheese, which they sold to the stores in the communities.

Not living on their ranch in Clarkston, which was roughly three or five miles north of Clarkston, John relied heavily on the employment resources derived from the children of his brother, Johannes, who lived in Clarkston, together with their friends, and his sons and daughters in the summers. There were about thirty head of cows on the ranch, all needing to be milked twice a day. Some of the young workers walked approximately three or more miles from their homes in Clarkston twice a day to milk the cows. One fourteen-year-old niece was grateful for the $2.50 she received each week for milking cows twice a day, seven days a week.

Other jobs at the ranch included "setting the milk, allowing the cream to rise, and churning butter." The milk was also used to make cheese. Skills learned by the youth while working at the dairy, such as making and molding butter, making and wrapping blocks of cheese, and the general care of the animals and ranch, greatly aided them when they married and had places of their own. More than one young person met his or her future mate while working at John’s Clarkston dairy, milking cows or making cheese.

John and Janetta’s first child, John Ephraim, was born in Logan in 1863, and about every two years thereafter a child was born to them until the birth of the fourteenth child in 1891. Following John E. the children, in order of birth, were Joseph, Hyrum, Hans Garrett, Selma (Salma), Anna Janette, Willard Richard, Albert Henry, Norman Edward, Fredrick Arthur, Ernest Edwin, Clarence, George Alfred, and Roy Leland. All lived to adulthood except Clarence, who died in infancy.

One of John’s sons recalled that his father was good to his children and would often join the boys playing their games in the yard. John set certain standards for his children and expected them to be followed. He was a religious man "since it was for religion that he came to Utah." They held family prayers morning and night, and each child took a turn saying the blessing on the food at mealtimes. Family members were expected to attend all church meetings dressed in their Sunday best, wearing their shined pair of ‘Sunday shoes’, which were saved just for church meetings. John felt Sunday was to be a day of rest and to read the scriptures and other good books. Consequently, the boys were not allowed to play games on the Sabbath, not even marbles. John taught his sons to pay their tithing as illustrated by one son’s story about his flock of chickens. "Each year his father would select the choice ones for tithing." At that time tithing was paid ‘in kind.’

John’s sons were taught to work and from an early age were involved with such farm chores as herding, feeding, watering, and milking cows. They also cared for flocks of sheep and chickens. Instead of going on to high school, the older boys left home as teenagers to work at various enterprises which included herding and milking cows at the church dairy, running a horse drawn wagon transportation service for men working on the Logan Temple, washing and caring for horses and buggies, hauling wood for the temple furnace, working for the mining companies in Montana, working for farmers in southern Idaho, and herding 700 head of cattle. Often they returned home for the winter, but then were away again working during the "five months of summer."

The value of further education for John’s sons seemed to grow the longer the family was in Utah. The establishment of the Utah State Agricultural College in 1888 in Logan provided his younger sons with greater opportunity for more advanced education. Other reasons may also have contributed. John had greater success with his financial endeavors and less need for his boys to help provide for the family, more of his children had married and were on their own, and concern for education had increased in the community.

John reaffirmed his commitment to his new religion by being rebaptized and reconfirmed in Logan on October 29, 1875. This commitment to his faith was apparent when at age 42, he accepted a mission call. He left his family again, this time for an extended period with his wife expecting their ninth child, to preach the gospel in Norway.

Arriving in Liverpool in mid May of 1880, John and the twelve missionaries with whom he had traveled disembarked from the S. S. Nevada. At that point they separated for the areas where they had been assigned. Nine were to serve in Great Britain, one in Holland, and John and two others in the Scandinavian countries. The report in the Millennial Star of their arrival indicated they had had "a somewhat stormy passage, but reached [Liverpool] in good health and spirits."

After serving fifteen months on this second mission in Norway, which notably lacked the intense persecution he had endured on his first mission, John began his homeward trip to Utah in the early fall of 1881. He sailed from Copenhagen with six other returning missionaries who had been serving in the Scandinavian countries. There they joined with 270 emigrating LDS members on the steamer Pacific. Three days later they arrived in Hull, England, and then proceeded by train to Liverpool where they met with other church members emigrating from Germany, Switzerland, and Great Britain. This large group, consisting of 644 LDS passengers including 21 missionaries, sailed for America aboard the Wyoming on September 3.

Leading the LDS group was Elder James Finlayson with all the other missionaries serving as his assistants. The ship arrived in New York in just ten days on September 13, and the members departed the following day by rail for Utah. The voyage across the Atlantic had taken ten days compared to 42 days when John had earlier sailed for the United States. The total time of this lengthy trip had been much quicker than his original one from Norway to Salt Lake Valley nineteen years earlier. That journey had taken John and his family twenty-four weeks, but in 1881 trip time had been decreased to just over three weeks.

Upon his return to his home in Logan, John continued to be active in his church and community. He was ordained a Seventy in 1884 and a High Priest in 1905. He was baptized into the United Order. He wrote letters to relatives in Norway and collected information about many deceased family members. He and his wife walked the few blocks to the temple in Logan to complete the temple ordinances for their deceased kin.

Twenty-five years after settling in Logan, John was witness to the changes that had occurred in that pioneer village. The four to five thousand people who lived there in the late 1870s were mostly converts to the ‘Mormon’ faith from America, the British Isles, and Scandinavia. Although most were tradesmen when they joined the church, as an example John was a fisherman, all of necessity became farmers to provide food for their families.* They watched their village become an oasis in the desert with the construction of the tabernacle, the Brigham Young Academy, business buildings, the temple, many homes, and the infrastructure to support the growing community. Although "the people were not perfect, brotherly love and honesty…were…in evidence."

In the minutes of the Logan City Council, John’s name is recorded as a member of the council from the Fourth Precinct for the years 1899 to 1903. He served on the standing committees of Public Grounds, Prison, and Engraving and Printing.

Gilbert Leroy Dahle, John’s nephew, whose family moved to Logan from Idaho, (c 1914), wrote in his personal history about attending church in John’s ward, the Logan Fourth Ward, with his cousin, Fred Dahle, and Alma Sonne, a friend of the Dahle family. "It was about the biggest ward in Logan and sure had a fine big building and a lot of people attended every Sunday, both Sunday school and Sacrament meeting."

John Dahle was devoted to his wife, family, and religion. He was an impressive figure with a white beard in his later years. They owned their small home in Logan, and "Their grandchildren loved to go and visit with them and most generally found Grandpa in the little yard with the cow and some chickens and Grandma in the house always cooking good food."

One son said respectfully of John and Janetta, "My parents raised their sons and daughters to be honest and good citizens in their communities." "John lived with faith and integrity and had undergone much for his religion," according to George W. Lindquist, a member of the Cache Stake Presidency. John died on October 14, 1920, in Logan at the age of eighty-two. Dr. Wallace H. Budge indicated on the death certificate that John had suffered from chronic asthma for forty years. He was buried on October 18 1920 n the Logan Cemetery.

 

 

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