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If These Walls Could Talk

By Emily Sanderson

SPRING CITY–“You could kill me, but they will just send someone else.”

That’s what Judge Jacob Johnson said to Butch Cassidy one night as they shared a beer on his bedroom balcony when the infamous 1800s train robber came through town one night.

The original tile on his living room mantle still includes squares dedicated to each of Johnson’s two dogs, Sensation and Black Prince, complete with their names and illustrations.

Once called the “pink mansion” because of its rosy exterior paint color for many years, the Judge Jacob Johnson House in the 300 South block of 100 West was believed by some to be haunted by Johnson’s first wife, who some have imagined that he killed. However, history records that she died shortly after childbirth.

Teenagers loved to break in through the coal shoot and explore the house around Halloween when it stood vacant for a time.

When Chris and Alison Anderson purchased the home in 2000, the couple found a plaster-faced doll in the basement that was covered with spider webs. A ruined eye that was always open startled Alison when she first found her. Their kids named it “Creepydoll” and wrote a song about it.

However, the couple has never seen a ghost.

“If there are any,” Chris says, “they know we’re here.”

Judge Jacob Johnson

Jacob Johnson and his mother arrived from Aalborg, Denmark, in 1854. Johnson studied law in California but returned to Spring City, where he served as the City Attorney and later as a territorial judge, according to the Friends of Historic Spring City website.

Johnson built the stone, A-frame portion of the house for his first wife in 1875. He built the two-story Danish rotunda and Victorian stained-glass entrance in 1896 for his second wife. The Johnson House was the first in Spring City with indoor plumbing and electric lights.

Johnson never converted to the LDS Church, but he was friendly with the early Saints that settled in the area, many of whom were Scandinavian like him.

The Property

The home, cottage, barn, and granary have been well-preserved over the years, Chris Anderson says. Each of the previous owners had seen to its upkeep. However, the floor of the upper level of the main house sagged when the Andersons purchased the property, but that was because ceiling supports had been cut out when the modern heating system was installed. Gratefully, not too much damage had been done, and the couple was able to fix the problem during their four-year restoration process.

Chris, a business attorney from Salt Lake City, initially purchased the property because of his interest in a painting that hung on one of the walls in the home. An art collector, Chris negotiated with the previous owner that the artworks inside would come with it.

The Andersons sold their home in Salt Lake City, an older house in the community that they had also restored. They then made the Johnson home their primary residence. Chris continued to work in the city as Alison directed the restoration process during the week, and Chris stepped right into the hard work during weekends.

“We were interested in the rural experience,” Chris says. “The kids were out of the house, and we wanted to keep life interesting.”

The Cottage

Of the five buildings on the property, the Andersons began work on the cottage first. Doing so would give the couple a place to live while they worked on the other structures.

The cottage, originally used as Johnson’s courtroom and office, was built as a two-room structure with a steep staircase that jogged awkwardly to an upper room. A cinderblock room was added on to that building later that has been used as a bedroom.

Renters had done drugs in the cottage in recent years, so the Andersons had to completely gut the place to remove the dangerous chemicals that still lingered in the drywall and insulation. The Andersons removed the staircase and added an attic door. They removed a false ceiling and restored the two-door main entrance that had been cheaply modified to strut one door. In addition, they altered the windows in the bedroom to match the original windows’ tall dimensions, and they added stucco to the extension’s exterior to make it appear like period adobe.

The Andersons now use the cottage to house friends or family who come to visit over a weekend. The cottage is a great get-away that the couple often use themselves.

“It is the perfect place to watch period British movies like ‘Downton Abbey,’” Alison says, as the building seems to transport you back to those times.

Main House

The original two-story A-frame consisted of a kitchen and sitting room on the first level and two bedrooms on the second level. The addition includes a majestic entrance and porch, a staircase to the second level and a hallway to the back, a parlor room, two utility rooms in the back, and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The master bedroom includes a large balcony that extends along the southwest corner of the house.

The A-frame portion was built with pine wood, where the addition was built with fir. A common practice unique among the Mormon settlers was to paint the readily available pine and other plainer woods to look like a prettier wood. The sliding door to the parlor was carefully painted to look like oak on one side and mahogany on the other.

Alison has carefully painted the window framing boards to match the painted woodwork in the home. She also removed the carpet in the house and restored the original wood flooring.

“It is mostly cosmetic what we’ve done,” Chris says about the main house. Because the house was in such good condition, they were able to preserve much of what they found there, other than fixing the ceiling supports. The couple also removed the rickety servant’s staircase in the northwest corner.

They removed a wall that split the kitchen, but they split the large servant’s bathroom upstairs into three separate bathrooms including the master bathroom, a guestroom bathroom, and a hall bathroom.

The Andersons also took out the large, wrought iron coal stoves in each of the rooms.

“We had to make a decision between historic preservation and usability,” Alison says. The stoves took up such a large portion of the rooms and made it difficult to do much with their interior designs. They also removed the wash basins.

Alison took considerable care to design the kitchen for usability. She needed a place to store all their dishes, but she also wanted to work with the existing architecture. She removed the Formica counters that had cut right across the tall windows. She then installed modern cupboards and counter space along the walls. Underneath the two windows, she added cushioned sitting areas with built-in storage space below. In addition, she built a large center island that provides additional counter space and storage.

The Barn and Yard

The couple now uses the barn and yard to host outdoor parties in the summer. They have added stone walkways, flower gardens, and a chicken coop to the yard and have replaced the picket fence. They also built a garage for their cars that they designed to look like a red barn.

The Andersons removed truckload after truckload of weeds and junk from the yard and from inside all of the buildings on the property during the restoration process. The largest and most expensive tasks during the process were building five new roofs and adding three furnaces. The cottage uses one furnace, and the main house has two. The couple completed the restoration process in 2004 but continue to improve the property with little projects they pursue.

The couple has made every effort to utilize local artists during the restoration process and prominently display local paintings throughout the home and cottage. Upon their arrive, the couple soon learned that Spring City residents care very much about the Jacob Johnson House.

“People drove by the house each day to see all that we were doing,” Chris says. He recognizes that the house is an important resource in the community that has historical value.

The house was awarded the Utah Heritage Foundation Award for its superior workmanship.

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Introduction

15.4 percent, or about 46.3 million, of the U.S. population didn’t have health insurance in 2008, according to a recent report by the U.S. Census.  But of those who have insurance, 38 million have inadequate insurance, according to a PBS documentary.  The uninsured are more likely to be impoverished and have limited access to insurance because of the cost, which affects their utilization of services available.

Employment and Insurance

There is a link between employment and those who have health care coverage.  67.5 percent had insurance through a private plan, and of those with private insurance, 58.5 percent got insurance through their employer, according to the U.S. Census.  Those who didn’t work or who were working part-time were more likely not to be insured.

Uninsured

The U.S. Census identified a link between poverty and the uninsured.  Those earning less than $25,000 per year made up 24.5 percent of the uninsured.  Those earning $25,000 to $49,999 made up 21.1 percent.  Those earning $50,000 to $74,999 made up 14.5 percent, and those earning $75,000 or more made up only 7.8 percent of the uninsured.

Under-insured

Under-insured individuals have plans that appear to be similar to HMOs or PPOs — patients pay similar monthly premiums, but annual coverage caps can be as low as $1,000, with their average being $2,000 to $15,000.  Often the plans have high deductibles, on top of the premiums.  In comparison, HMOs and PPOs often have $1 million caps, according to AmericanProgress.org.

According to the PBS documentary, nearly a third (29 percent) of Americans are uninsured or under-insured.  With little or no coverage, people are more likely to postpone necessary care and forego preventative care.  Although they still have access to care, the costs are prohibitive.  The uninsured or under-insured usually have no regular doctor and limited access to prescription medications, and they are more likely to be hospitalized for health conditions that could have been avoided.  They are also more likely to declare bankruptcy when they cannot afford to pay emergency medical bills.

Pre-existing Conditions

In a recent survey, 12.6 million non-elderly adults in the United States were denied health care coverage because of an identified pre-existing condition over the previous three years.  In 45 states, insurance companies can deny health insurance coverage to individuals based on the instance of particular health conditions.  The conditions may be as prevalent as heart disease, which affects one in three Americans, or it can be as minor as hayfever, according to HealthReform.gov.  These individuals are instead offered insurance in a high-risk category with much higher premiums.  Although these individuals still have access to health care, utilization becomes limited because of the higher costs.

Recent legislation

Recent legislation passed by Congress and President Obama addresses the problems of access and utilization of health care coverage.  Once enacted fully over the next few years, it will require all Americans to have insurance coverage, either through the government or through private insurance with the employer.  The legislation also prohibits denial of coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

References

U.S. Census statistics on health insurance coverage

http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/hlthins/data/incpovhlth/2008/tables.html

PBS, “The Healthcare Crisis: Who’s At Risk?”

http://www.pbs.org/healthcarecrisis/uninsured.html

The impact of pre-existing conditions on healthcare coverage

http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/denied_coverage/index.html

Henry Fernandez.  2007.  “Limited Benefits: Insurers Peddle ‘Limited Health Care’ to America’s Working Poor.” Center for American Progress.

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/05/limited_benefits.html

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Oct. 14, 2009

EPHRAIM — Those who helped build the sports park in Ephraim in 1995 were honored Wednesday, Oct. 7, with a plaque that will be placed in the lobby of the city building.  The sports park was a joint venture between Ephraim City and Snow College.

“Ephraim City wishes to express our appreciation to … individuals and organizations for extra hours and hard work in making the sports complex a reality,” the plaque reads.

Those honored include inmates at the Central Utah Correctional Facility; Don Erickson, retired Snow College new construction supervisor; Bart Nelson, former city councilman; Gerald Day, former Snow College president; the late Kevin Cox, owner of Cox Rocks; Mike Duncan, Snow College Grounds Supervisor; and volunteers of community organizations.

Volunteer labor by members of the community, Snow College sports teams and other groups of Snow College students laid sod and helped with other tasks, said Bob Oliver, present Snow College new construction supervisor.

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By Emily Sanderson

EPHRAIM, UTAH―Virginia Kirkman Nielson, a native of Twin Falls, Idaho, and resident of Ephraim since 1933, turned 100 years old July 19.

She is the daughter of Laurence Gomer and Nellie Marquardson Kirkman.  Laurence was the first stake president in Twin Falls and was also called to be a stake patriarch, and Nellie was the first stake Relief Society president there.

In fact, on July 26, 1919, a hot summer day 90 years ago this month, the first Twin Falls Stake was organized in her family’s one-room playhouse, which was painted to match their home.

“The brethren were drinking lemonade with ice tinkling in their glasses and fans whirring in our house when one of them suggested they adjourn to the ‘summer house’ outside. There the stake had its earliest beginnings, and father was assigned its president,” Virginia wrote in her personal history.

“Mormons were a minor group [in Twin Falls] and were ridiculed to a certain extent, rather ignored in city business.” Virginia recalls. “My best friends were Catholics who attended Sunday movies and had parties on Sunday, but I didn’t participate in these.”

Virginia recalls a number of General Authorities who stayed in their home when coming to speak at church, including President Heber J. Grant, Elder Melvin J. Ballard and Elder James E. Talmage.

Later as a well respected nurse at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, she tended to Elder Ballard following an appendectomy.

“He was quite reluctant to remain in the hospital. To check on him, I entered his room to find that he was missing!” Virginia wrote. “He didn’t want to bother anyone and ‘there was such an abundance of important items he had to take care of.’”

“His surgeon persuaded him to relax and remain as a patient until he was officially released,” she continues. “Brother Ballard recognized the ‘Kirkman’ on my nametag” as he was good friends with her father.

Virginia reminded him of his visit to Twin Falls when she was six years old. He had quoted Alexander Pope to Virginia and her older sister Phyllis, “An honest man is the noblest work of God.”

“We had interesting conversations as I cared for him,” she wrote.

Other patients she tended to include Emma Ray McKay (David O. McKay’s wife), Patriarch Hyrum Gibbs Smith, James E. Talmage, and Mayor of Salt Lake City Lewis Marcus.

Virginia became good friends with Sister McKay who stayed at the hospital for a lengthy time in preparation for surgery.

“I was delighted to see Brother McKay as he made several daily visits to see her. As he entered the hall and approached her room, he seemed to have a glow surrounding him. Always happy, smiling and expressing gratitude for the care his dear wife received,” she wrote.

Brother Smith “was extremely ill, was in constant pain and experienced partial paralysis needing much assistance. He was anxiously awaiting his time to be released from this earth,” she wrote. “Sister Smith and I were alone in the room when death came. She clung to me and we both wept, but she immediately accepted this with no questions.”

Brother Talmage “was certainly a remarkable man, and not very talkative. More of a thinker and a solemn speaker,” she says. “He loved people. That was his big feature. He was interested in every one of us.”

Another patient she tended to was one Glen J. Nielson, born and raised in Ephraim, Utah, and who had recently returned from a mission. They later married. Elder Ballard offered to officiate at their wedding ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple.

In Ephraim, Virginia began working as a nurse immediately, as there were no other nurses available in the area. She served as a registered nurse at both the Mt. Pleasant and Gunnison hospitals for over 50 years. She also made house calls throughout Sanpete County.

“She delivered babies, gave people shots, and treated cancer patients,” says Larry Nielson, one of Virginia’s five children. “She had to have authorization from a doctor in order to do things. We would hear her get up in the middle of the night, and she would be off running.”

People didn’t always have money to pay her.

“Sometimes she would get nothing and sometimes it would be a sack of potatoes,” Larry says, but people appreciated her. “She got a call just yesterday from one [of her patients] who was just a little boy [at the time]. … He talks to Mother every six months and says, ‘you were our Florence Nightingale, our angel of mercy, who came and did it for nothing.’”

Virginia also grasped Ephraim’s history as if it were her own. She was instrumental in preserving history locally and throughout Sanpete County. Some of her accomplishments include preserving the Ephraim Co-op and Granary buildings on Main Street, developing Pioneer Park in Ephraim, sitting on the board that developed a multi-volume history of Sanpete County called The Saga of Sanpitch, and researching and participating in a documentary about the Blackhawk War that was picked up by PBS.

Virginia is still quite alert in her old age. She lives in the majestic Victorian home to which, as a young bride, her husband Glen brought her home.

“I had a wonderful early life, midlife, and old age,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

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By Emily Sanderson

Expect some world class entertainment from Caboose and the Ghosts of Gardner Village at the Scandinavian Heritage Festival this weekend.

Caboose includes acoustic, bluegrass, Celtic and swing styles and features solos of rare, older instruments including the mandolin, penny whistle, ocarina and melodica. I had to google a few of those to know what they were, and even if you don’t recognize their sounds this weekend, you will want to hear the instruments again. Combine these with the thump-thump-thump of a string bass, toe-tapping percussion and strong lyrics. Caboose is a step above the BYU jazz and Celtic concerts, which are often sold out.

Band members, a few of whom are university-level instructors, include Daron Bradford, Rob Honey, Tom Hewitson, Deborah Grimshaw and Clive Romney. These musicians live and breathe rhythm, and they have a lot of fun creating original works together.

This weekend, Caboose will share the stage with artists that composed and performed songs on The Ghosts of Gardner Village album, including Nancy Hanson, Sam Payne, Tammy Robinson and Clive Romney.

In “The Escape of Archibald Gardner,” Payne shares the plight of a man who must leave his wife and infant child in Canada to save his own life. Robinson, in “My Baby Lives,” tells of an Indian woman who, despite of misgivings, collaborates with a pioneer woman to help prevent an Indian war.

My favorite song on the album is “Diggin’ in the Dirt,” the percussion of which involves the stomping and clanging together of your garden-variety shovels and hoes. With that song in my head, planting my flower garden this month in some of the same dirt as that of my ancestors made me feel connected to those who came before me.

I love the music I listen to, many of the bands having electronic and synthesized sounds. But hearing Caboose and the Ghosts of Gardner Village with their highly skilled playing of diverse and authentic instruments fills my soul with rich, pure music. These bands are must-sees for every guitar and violin student.

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