Thomas/Thorvald Gundersen Jr.

A Timeline of Great-Grandfather's Life

By Kristine (Tina) Whitley Paulos (a great-granddaughter)

1850 September 25 – Thomas/Thorvald Gundersen Jr. was born in Drammen, Norway – son of Thomas Sr./Torger Gundersen and Olena/Oline Hansen Gundersen. Thomas Jr. was fourth of ten children. His father was a Lumberman and he learned of the trade. His childhood activities included Swimming, boating, fishing, ice skating, and skiing. His father surprised him with unexpected money to take a trip, in spite of the family' lack of funds. Thomas attended school and could read and write. Thomas' mother, Oline, was a religious woman and belonged to the Lutheran Church.

1852 – About this year the Gundersen family was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, were baptized, and were persecuted much, as were other Church members in Norway.

A story that was passed down through the family was that an angry mob came to disrupt a small group of Norwegian Saints at a meeting. Thomas Sr., a very strong man, picked up one of the men in the mob and threw him out the window. Then in another gust of righteous indignation, he picked up the stove and threw it out of the building.

1866 – The Gundersen family immigrated to America when Thomas Jr. was sixteen years old. The family had money enough from the sale of their lumber business in Norway to sail to Wisconsin. They settled in LaCross and worked for about two years in the lumber business on the Mississippi River. Thomas Sr. was a very skilled lumberman and dislodged a huge log jam by identifying and maneuvering the key log just right. For this he was paid a substantial sum of money that funded their trek westward to join the Mormon pioneers.

1868 – The Thomas & Oline Gundersen family traveled by covered wagon westward from Wisconsin to the Salt Lake Valley and experienced many hardships, as did the other pioneers. The Gundersen family settled in Big Cottonwood where they lived in a dugout first, then they built a log house, and eventually adobe rooms were added to the log house. Thomas Jr. and his brother Edward found employment hauling logs from the canyon.

1872 December 16 – Thomas Jr. married Harriet Priscilla Casper in the Salt Lake Endowment House. Twenty-two year old Thomas and seventeen year old Harriet met at a church dance. Eleven children were born to this marriage.

1879 February 13 – Thomas was asked to embrace the principle of polygamy and married Jocobine Erikke/Erika Ask in the Salt Lake Endowment House (she was seven years his elder). From this union, three children were born, but only one son, Orson Wilford, lived to adulthood. Of Thomas' fourteen children, only six grew to maturity.

1889 January 21 until 1889 May 10 – Thomas was sentenced to serve in the Sugarhouse Penitentiary for practicing polygamy following the Manifesto.

Thomas was of a jovial nature. He loved to play and often took his family on excursions to Salt Lake, to swim, picnic in the canyons, or go fishing.

He was employed as a foreman of a silver mine in Big Cottonwood Canyon where in the winter the snow fell deep enough to necessitate travel on skis.

Miraculous Avalanche Story: Thomas was skiing down the canyon one winter day when he heard a terrific roar and knew immediately that he was caught in a dangerous snow slide. The snow engulfed him completely and he was smothered and unable to move. He heard a voice saying to him, “Get up, get up!” He tried but was unable to move. The voice repeated three times “Get up, get up!” but he couldn't move. As if an answer to his fervent prayer, he felt a pair of hands lift him up to his feet and he rode the moving snow down the mountain to safety.

He heard about a rich mine at the head of South Fork in Big Cottonwood Canyon where he and his brother Edward obtained jobs from Captain and Major Goodspeed, hauling ore using a team of mules. He worked for 25 years in the canyons.

Bravery – On a trip to Mexico he took a rifle away from a man who attempted to shoot Ephraim William and himself. He related how they nearly famished from lack of water in the desert or wilderness of Utah.

Competitor – He won a race with 21 teams between Wanship and Coalville with a team of mules.

He homesteaded in Menan, Idaho.

Traveler – He saw nine grizzly bears on a trip to New Mexico.

1896 – Thomas was called on a mission for two years for the Church to his native country of Norway. His wives took in washing, raised chickens, sold garden produce and fruit and nut trees to help support their family and Thomas while he served in Norway.

After Thomas' mission, he helped other Norwegian immigrants to America by feeding and housing them, and teaching them to speak English. A few of these immigrants were even buried in his Elysian Gardens Cemetery lots.

Thomas, Harriet, and Erika all remained faithful to the Church all their lives, serving in many callings, and participating often in temple work for their ancestors.

Thomas was fond of music and was self taught in playing three instruments – the violin, accordion, and flute.

He learned the trade of plastering and taught it to his son Wilford, who in turn taught it to his sons.

He and his family helped plaster the Mill Creek meeting house.

Thomas served in many church capacities and was a school board member and a road supervisor.

1919 October 22 – Erika passed away at the age of 76. She had many challenges being the 2nd wife of Thomas after practicing polygamy became against the laws of the land. Erika had a beautiful singing voice, crocheted and kitted lovely handwork and supported herself by raising chickens, produce, and fruit and nut trees. She only had one son, Wilford live through adulthood, but Wilford and Ingeborg bore nine children. In her patriarchal blessing she was promised, “That you may have numerous posterity upon the earth that shall bring your name in honorable remembrance in the house of Israel forever."

1923 December 21 – Harriet died at the age of 68 and was described by her family as living a life of service, including thirteen years as Ward Relief Society President. In her later life she also worked in the temple. Harriet asked very little of life and had few luxuries.

1925 June 11 – Thomas married Martha Axbom in the Salt Lake Temple after his first two wives passed away. Martha, a Swedish immigrant, was a 43-year old convert to the Church (who had never married) and Thomas was 74 years old at the time of their sealing.

1926 September 5 —At the age of 75, lacking only a few weeks of being 76, Thomas Gundersen Jr. died from injuries from an automobile accident. He was buried at the Elysian Burial Gardens near Harriet and Erika.

1942 —Martha Amalia Axbom told of Justine Andersen who came to America in 1906. She died two years later and was buried in the Gundersen lot at the Elysian Gardens Cemetery. Thomas told his third wife Martha, who he had married after both Harriet and Erika had died, that Justine came to him in a dream and asked him why he had not kept his promise to marry her. In 1942, Martha went to the Salt Lake Temple and had Justine sealed to Thomas Gundersen as his fourth wife.