1 Moroni Beginnings

by Bernard D. Major



I was born October 1, 1919 at Moroni, Utah to Henry Vincen and Mattie Agatha Nielsen Major. Before I was born, my mother came down with a disease called at that time dropsy. (Probably toxemia, a dangerous condition that may occur during pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure, swelling of ankles and hands and sudden weight gain).






This is a disease where the body fills up with fluids and the body was greatly enlarged. The doctor had told Dad that she wouldn't live. She was 7 months pregnant with me. Dad was not a member of the Church at this time. When Dad had left the doctor's office after being informed of this, he was heart broken, but as Dad was walking home a voice spoke to him and told him that if he would take her to the temple in Manti, she would be healed. Dad, not being a member of the Church, went to Bishop Lamb's home and told him of the experience, and the bishop told Dad that he would give her a recommend to go to the temple.


Dad said he wanted to be baptized because he believed in the Lord and the Church and he would give up his habits, so arrangements were also made for his baptism. He went home and told Mother and this raised her spirits, as she had already received the same message.  


Arrangements were made for her to go to the temple. Large clothes were made for her. Aunt Mable bought some large white stockings in Salt Lake and brought them out to her. Aunt Mable took Mother and Dad to the temple. Dad couldn't go in, but they carried Mother into the temple where she was given a blessing by President Young and she was promised that she would live to see her son and another child born. He told her that I would be a blessing to her and would achieve many things in the Church.


                                                        Mattie Agatha Nielsen      Henry Vincen Major

                                                                    about 1904                       about 1910



I do not remember my birth but I do remember my wonderful loving kind and patient father and mother of whom have always been my guiding light to direct me back to the straight and narrow path when I had strayed. They set the path and the course for me to follow. I was born to live a full life, but I regret the many mistakes and bad things I have done in my life. If only I could erase them.


I was born in a two room log cabin in Moroni Utah. It was located on the south side of a hill in the north east end of Moroni. My Grandfather (Niels Christian Nielson born 11 Jan 1857 in Denmark; died 8 Jan 1925 in Moroni, Sanpete, Utah) and Grandmother Nielsen (Isabel Ellen Warner, born 4 May 1859 Nephi, Juab, Utah; died 28 August 1928 in Moroni, Sanpete, Utah.) lived just west of our home. Grandfather Nielsen had given the property to my father to build a home on it.


Dad cut down many of the cottonwood trees on my Grandmother's property in Spring City. He used a large broad ax to square them to form building logs. He hauled them to Moroni, a distance of about 8 miles, by horse and wagon and these were used to build the east room that was used for a kitchen and bedroom. Later, Dad was given an old log building by a friend in Moroni, if he would tear it down. This dad did and built the 2nd room on the west side of the house from the logs and materials that he had salvaged. Dad also built a log chicken coup and cow barn out of logs.


My oldest brother, Arthur Vincen, was born on January 18, 1914. He died at 18 months old on July 10, 1915. Then there was Warner Christian Major, who was almost three years older than me, born on August 16, 1916. Almost four years after I was born came my little sister Geniel on August 15, 1923.



I remember as a small boy in Moroni we always had a good garden on the east side of the house where we raised all the vegetables that we could eat during the summer months, such as corn and peas. Potatoes, carrots, turnips, onions and parsnips were stored in the root cellar that Dad had built on the north side of the house in the hillside, with steps going down into it. Apples were also stored there when Dad could get them. We watered the garden from a spring that came from a meadow north and east of our property. One of my chores was to keep the ditch clean and water the garden.


Fun in Moroni

I remember my Christmas in Moroni. My first Christmas that I remember, I would hang up my stocking on a nail on the wall with my older brother Warner and my younger sister Geniel. We got an orange, some candy, and nuts in our stocking, also a candy animal of which was the treat of all. Any toys that we received were hand made. I remember getting a tricycle and a sleigh as I grew older; most of the toys we received we shared together. One of the advantages of living on a hill was that I could ride the tricycle coaster wagon or sleigh down the hill and pull them back up the hill. Later, when Warner and I got a used bike, I was too small to reach the pedals. I would get it over next to the house or the fence and climb on it and coast down the hill. Somehow I managed to reach the brake pedal with one foot. That saved me from crashing into a wagon or buggy--cow or horse on the dirt street that ran past our house on the south side.



It (the dirt street) was once the roadway that went from Moroni to Mount Pleasant and was used by wagon teams hauling wood and coal from the mountains east of Fairview; also farm wagons and horse and buggies. A few of the people had real fancy buggies and high spirited horses. They were the Cadillacs of that day. We had a pasture south of the road where Dad kept our horse that pulled the old buggy, also two milk cows. There was a large canal that ran west along the south side of the pasture with large willow trees growing on the north bank, the branches spreading out across the canal. We would tie ropes on them and swing across the canal. We had a lot of fun jumping in the canal and wading in it.


Childhood Chores

During the summer time, when I was out of school, it was my responsibility to take the cows out along the pasture lanes and road ways so that they could have feed, as our pasture was only long enough for the horse to feed on. Some of the time I was permitted to ride the horse. We didn't have a saddle, so I would put an old blanket on the horse's back to sit on and many times the blanket would slide off and take me with it.


I liked to herd the cows along the pasture land east of Moroni that paralleled the Sanpitch River. When the cows were feeding good or they would have had enough to eat and would lay down, I would go over on the river and fish. They were only minnows but were fun to catch. I would use a piece of string with a hook made out of a straight pin and a small bottle cork on it. There were plenty of willows growing along the bank, so it was always easy to cut a fishing pole from one of the straight stems. The river didn't have much water in it as it was diverted upstream into a large canal that watered the field south of Moroni. I threaded the fish on a willow and cooked them over a fire.


I would also go over to the diversion dam and watch the older boys swim in the large hole in the canal below the dam that took the water out of the river. I didn't go in the water as I didn't know how to swim. I was only 7 or 8 years old, but one day, while I was watching a large group of boys swim, several of the older boys kept trying to get me to come in with them. I kept telling them "no" that I couldn't swim and the water was quite swift, so they grabbed me and carried me over to the dam and threw me over into the water. I landed in the deep water and went down, but I started kicking my feet and paddling with my arms and hands like a dog swims and I came to the top. I kept on kicking and paddling and the flow of the water took me down stream. My brother Warner, who was in the water swimming with the other boys, saw what had happened and he hurried out of the water and ran down stream and pulled me out. I was so scared. I was shaking hard. I guess the rest of the boys was as scared as I was. I learned to swim after that and enjoyed many good times swimming in the hole below the dam.



Grandfather Nielsen

I remember my Grandfather Nielsen more than my grandmother. Grandfather would take me with him at times or sit and talk to me. He would always have me help him clean out the cistern in the Spring of the year. The cistern was on the hill north of Grandfather Nielsen's house. It was a concrete tank, about twelve to sixteen feet square, dug into the hill. Only the top of the tank, where it had a small hole with a lid on it, could be seen. In the spring, when the cistern was empty, he would tie a bucket on a rope and put me in the bucket and drop me through the opening into the tank. (The first time I went down, I think I was only 5 or 6 years old as I remember going to kindergarten about the same time.) The water was put into the concrete tank from a ditch that brought the water from the large canal north of the city that watered the fields north of the city and the west side almost to the city of Fountain Green, also the garden and lawns in town.


When I got to the bottom of the tank, I would fill the bucket with water and silt that had settled from the irrigation water. It was about a foot deep, as the pipe on the bottom that went down to the tap on the outside of Grandfather's house was about a foot above the floor, giving room for the water to settle. There usually was several Salamanders in the water, about 6" to 12" long. I was scared of them at first; they looked like alligators! But Grandfather said that they wouldn't hurt me, and I ended up having a lot of fun catching them. When the water was put into the cistern, it was run through a screen like used on a screen door or window, to keep larger particles from getting in. The eggs of the salamander must have been small to get through the screen and they would hatch and grow in the tank. The tank was filled spring and fall and more often, when needed as our family and Uncle James, who lived west of Grandpa and Grandma Nielsen, got our water out of the tap by Grandpa Nielsen's house that came from the tank.

Niels Christian Nielsen and Isabel Ellen Warner Family about 1904 


Top row:  Juliett (Julie), James, Ellen,  Mattie Agatha

Bottom row:  Isabel Ellen, Niels Christian Nielsen, Mabel

ca. 1904

Lesson on tobacco and rattle snakes

When I was about 7 years old and was living in Moroni, my Uncle James, who lived west of Grandfather Nielsen's house, would go with some of his friends down by the canal just south of his house under a hallow tree for shade and to play cards. They would play for money. His son Jay(James) and I would go there after they had left and look through the grass. Usually we would find some coins, nickels, dimes, quarters, sometimes we would find a 50 cent piece that had fallen in the grass. After a while, we started picking up the cigarettes and cigar butts and putting them in a sack. Finally, we thought we would try making a smoke out of it, so we took some newspapers and rolled the tobacco from the cigarettes and cigar butts in it and lit it up with a match. We sat there on the canal bank smoking it. Well, we started to get dizzy so we went home, and by the time I got home, I was sick. Never in my life have I ever been that sick. I was too sick to live or die. I guess some one had faith in me so I lived. Tobacco smoke to this day makes me sick. I don't remember if I told my parents what I had done, but I think my Grandfather Nielsen knew because he later taught me a great lesson about tobacco that I have strongly remembered all my life.



One time in the spring, after we had cleaned out the tank, he took me with him up to the canal to turn the water out of the canal into the ditch that filled the water cistern about 2 miles away north of Grandpa's house. He held on to my hand and helped me through the sage brush. I remember that just before we got to the canal, we came upon a large mother rattlesnake. There were a lot of baby snakes by her. They were only about an inch long. The mother snake made a noise and all the baby snakes crawled in her mouth. She coiled up in a coil with her rattlers rattling loud. Her mouth wide open, ready to spring up and grab us if we got closer. Grandpa Nielsen told me he wanted to show me something and he picked up a stick with a fork on one end and put the fork over the back of the rattle snake's head and held it down. Grandfather Nielsen chewed tobacco and while holding the snake down, he bent over and spit the tobacco juice out of his mouth into the snake's mouth and throat. He released the snake and it twisted and turned in agony and finely died. He said to me, "I want you to know that tobacco is more poisonous than a rattle snake."




My father had smoked tobacco since he was a small boy but had quit before I was born. I only remember a can of Prince Albert Tobacco on the cupboard that dad had kept as a reminder. When I was old enough to understand, he told me how bad tobacco was, and how he had regretted using it and I seen it no more.




By brother and I would like to fish for carp in the Wales Reservoir south and west of Moroni. We would go down to the co-op store and they would give us a long bamboo pole that had been used to roll carpet or rugs on. They would unroll the carpets on to piles on the selling floor, so they always had some of the bamboo poles laying around. They were 10' to 12' feet long. We would buy a mason's line and large bottle corks were always plentiful. We would tie a long piece of mason line on one end of the pole and then tie on a hook, baited with a worm on the other end. We put a cork about 3 ft up the line. We would wade out in the shallow water in the Wales reservoir southwest of Moroni, up to our waist, dragging the line and hook behind us. When we were out about a quarter of a block we would throw the line and baited hook in front of us. When the carp would grab the bait on the hook and pull the cork down, we would pull our pole up, catching the fish. We would have to wade back to shore pulling the fish with us to land them on the shore. They were up to 2 feet long. We also tried to catch them in the large concrete pipe that let the water come out under the dam into the stream below, but they were too hard to catch. My hands weren't big enough to get hold of their tails.



When I was baptized at 8 years old, I was the second person to be baptized in the new Moroni East Ward baptismal font. It had been under construction for two years. My father had worked as a brick tender on the job. My cousin Edna Rostern was the first one baptized. Up until this time, others had been baptized in the Sanpitch River. I had looked forward to this event and was excited to be baptized in the new building. I do not remember too much of my activity in church in Moroni. I just remember going to church every Sunday, and I would go to Primary every week after school. It was only 2 blocks out of my way home.



I walked about 2 1/2 miles one way to school every day. When I was in the first grade the teacher taught us how to embroidery, and I made a number of dish towels, etc. Mother was always showing them off as I grew older, and I was embarrassed because I thought it was girl's work. I was held back in the 2nd year of school. I had received my first small pox shot and it became infected, and I had a dose of the small pox. I was out of school for 2 or 3 months, so I was a year behind, but I seemed to keep up with the rest of the class.


When I was in the 4th or 5th grade I had a class of English. James Prestwich was the teacher. He had assigned the class to write a story of some experience that we had. The day the assignment was to be completed, he told the class that they were to come up to the front of the class and read their story. I had forgotten to get mine and when it came my turn, I took a sheet of paper with me up to the front of the class and read off a beautiful story. Just as I got through Mr. Prestwich, my teacher, came over and said that it was an excellent story and he asked me for the paper. I gave it to him and when he saw that there was nothing written on it, he hit me on the side of the face with the book he had in his hand. It sure did hurt. I had often thought I would get even with him when I grew up, but he was an old man when I did. I was always easy going, not one to be fighting and quarrelling. My older brother Warner would always come to help me when older boys would pick on me. He was always ready for a good fight.


I liked the winter times at school. The school was built on a hill and we had a lot of fun sleigh riding down the hill during recesses, at noon, and after school. During the winter time Warner and I trapped muskrats and skunks for their pelts to make a little money. We would set traps on the banks of the Sanpitch River and canals where the muskrats made their slides into the water, and we would also set traps in their holes just under the water. The skunks lived in holes along the hillsides near the river. We would tie a long pole onto the chain of the trap. The long stick was used to lift the skunk into the air and to carry it over to the river where we would put them into the river and drown them so that their fur wouldn't get all smelled up or get it on us.

Miracles and food 

I had a great experience when I was trapping that stands out strong in my memory. It was late fall or early winter. (There was no snow on the ground as yet.) I was returning from checking my traps after school along the Sanpitch River east and south of my home. I was not far from the old flour mill, when I had completed my trap line. I was walking north westwardly through the pastures to join up with the old roadway that went by our house from Moroni to Mount Pleasant. It was almost dark.


As I was going through the pasture about 200 yards from the roadway (approximately where Earl Nielsen now lives) I heard a pheasant roster fly up to my right and east of me. As it was flying towards me and a little in front of me, a small beam or rod of light came from the east toward it and stopped when it got to the pheasant, like it had hit it. The pheasant fell to the ground a short distance from me. I did not hear any sound of a gun as I thought some one had shot it with a tracer bullet. There were no clouds in the sky, so it could not have been lightening. The pheasant fell only a short distance from me. I watched and listened for a short period of time, but I neither saw nor heard anything. I walked over and picked up the roster pheasant, and tucked it into my heavy coat that I was wearing. When I got home I told Mother and Dad of my experience. We heated some water and cleaned the feathers from it and to our surprise, we found no mark on it. The rod of light that brought it down out of the sky did not come from the earth. We had very little food at that time to live on. We had fresh meat on the table. We were blessed.


Flying Pheasant



Another time, I am not sure if it was the same year, but I had waded down the canal south of our home and set a trap on a muskrat slide. There were thick rose bushes and willows on both sides of the canal that prevented anyone from walking through it. The next day as I checked my traps there was a large rooster pheasant caught in the trap. I do not know how the pheasant could have crawled in there through the thickets, and I'm sure it didn't swim there. Again, we had fresh meat on the table.



When I was a small boy, my mother had to go to the hospital. Dad said that she was very sick. The hospital was in Moroni. It belonged to Dr. Dice. It was a large home where he lived. His wife helped him and perhaps others; I don't remember. It was located on the south east corner of the intersection on main street just south of the old and present L.D.S. Church. I believe the building is still there today. It had several rooms in it and one of them served as an operating room. When Dad brought mother home, he took her over to Grandmother Nielsen's home so she could help take care of mother. I remember that mother looked real sick. She was pale and very weak. When mother was in the hospital Dad told us that Heavenly Father might have to take her home and we should be brave.


While Mother was getting well, Grandmother Nielsen took a stroke and fell on the floor near Mother's bed, and Mother got out of bed and lifted Grandmother onto the bed. Mother and Father told me later in years that when Mother was operated on she was full of cancer and Dr. Dice cut out everything he could, but believing that she was going to die, he didn't take the time he should have to sew all of her insides together. Dad said that the cancerous tumor of the female organs was just like a big bloody octopus with a lot of roots or legs running out of it. Grandmother Nielsen died from the stroke on August 28, 1928 and Mother suffered most of the remaining part of her life from a rupture of the surgery from lifting Grandmother onto the bed.


Mother liked to make quilts. She would put up the quilting frames in the big kitchen at Moroni, and many of the neighbor ladies and relatives came to help her quilt. I used to like to watch them. They were very pretty with many different designs sewed into them. They used wool batting in quilts of which was plentiful at that time.



Dad worked at the Moroni Sugar Factory (built 1917).  He was foreman of the lime kiln. I liked to take his lunch to him when I wasn't in school. It was located about two or three miles south of Moroni where the present Moroni Feed Company is now built out of part of the main plant. Dad used to bring us home some burnt sugar (brown sugar lumps), and it was just like candy to us. The plant seemed so large and was fascinating to me.


Also, as a young boy I remember just being big enough to crawl up and down the rows of beets, sometimes a block long, thinning out the beets for 1 or 2 cents a row. Mother would make me knee pads out of overall material and quilt some wool or cotton in between with cloth straps on the top and bottom to tie the pads over top and bottom of my knees, but they still were sore until they became callused. As I grew older, I blocked and weeded them and was paid by the acre. It wasn't much but it helped to buy clothes and help with the expenses at home.


Men working in the sugar factory

After the Moroni Sugar Factory closed down, Dad went down to Gunnison (built 1918) to work in the sugar factory there. He stayed down there. I believed he stayed in a tent. Dad came home just before Christmas one year and brought us a very small puppy dog in his coat pocket. We were sure thrilled and enjoyed it for many years until it was killed from eating coyote bait that had been poisoned and put in behind our house. Dad only worked at the sugar factory there one to two years before it closed down, then he got work with Leo Marley taking care of his farm and sheep. His farm was located just east of the old sugar factory in Moroni.  The Sugar Industry in Utah


Grandma (Ellen Meek Major)

Dad went over to Spring City to see my Grandmother Major. Many times he walked over there and back or rode the horse when we had one. When we had the horse and buggy, he would take all of the family. I always liked to go. It was fun riding in the buggy, but it took a long time to go over to Spring City, and it seemed longer to get back. I usually fell asleep coming back.


I liked to stay over to Grandma Major's house in the summer time. She always had some cookies, and I would put them in my pocket and go out to the creek under the big cottonwood trees. There were many different varieties of birds nesting and resting in the trees. Cottontail rabbits and squirrels were frequently there and sometimes a doe and faun deer.





Flour Mill

I liked to go with dad up to the flour mill east of Moroni across the Sanpitch River and by a large canal which was to the south of it and up on the hill. The flour mill was very fascinating with all the machines, belts running over drive wheels, grinders grinding shoots where flour and bran, ground wheat and other grain came out and were put into sacks. The mill sure made a lot of noise. You had to yell at each other in order to hear. The water would come out of the canal into a pipe, and the pressure of the water furnished power for the flour mill. The water went back into the Sanpitch River that was just north of it.


Model T

Dad had bought an old used black Model T Ford car.  It had a canvas roof with a rear axel gear in it. Dad used to go to the flour mill to pick up flour, cereal (ground wheat) feed for the chickens and pigs. When we had to go up a steep hill, Dad would put the car in the rear axel gear and it gave the car a lot of power but slower. It would go up some very steep hills. Dad later traded it for a tan Star car. It looked much better and more comfortable to ride in, but it turned out to be a lemon and soon broke down and was too expensive to repair and was never used again.



Black Model T. with canvas roof                                               Tan Star Car