Emma Christiansen Pedersen Tietjen

From Gary Tietjen, Ernst Albert Tietjen: Missionary and Colonizer (Bountiful, Utah: Family History Publishers, 1992), 279, 284–89

Sam Young described Ernest Tietjen as “a large heavy-boned German who was as strong as a prize fighting bull, standing six feet and four inches tall and weighing two hundred pounds.” His two wives, Emma O. and Emma C., cousins from Oslo, Norway, were just over five feet tall, so they must have made an amusing sight as he towered over them. . . .

A description of Emma C. was given by Doris Ida Black:

“I remember her stories and her face. Her roundish face was wrinkled with laugh lines and browned slightly from the outdoor life she had lived. She always hoped to have a little face powder left somewhere to make it look a little daintier.

“As a little girl I entered the village church house with her one morning. She was wearing a straight cut becoming black coat over a dress that was a little too long (as dresses are on a short lady). Around her slender neck was the familiar black velvet ribbon contrasting with her graying hair.

“She held her head high for a minute as she surveyed the crowd, nodded to some friends and walked into the chapel and towards an empty bench. She stopped a moment to lean over and whisper to Sister Mary McNeill, another gray-haired lady. They both laughed quietly. Grandma spoke to Mr. McNeill as Mary turned to her neighbor and related what had been said. Grandma straightened slowly, proudly took my hand and led me to a seat.

“She liked to get up at four o’clock in the morning; often she scrubbed her pine floors then; she said she couldn’t sleep much after Grandpa died.

“I remember the Navajos, smelling of smoke and sagebrush, gathered in her plain living room, the squaw’s bright skirts nearly covering the cleaned floor. I liked to sit under the beautiful mahogany table someone had given her and watch her as the Indians laughed and listened and ate simple refreshments before the fireplace.

“She preached to them in their own language and sounded just like one of them. Sometimes, privately, she scolded a mother for the ancient way she cared for her babies. The tree-lined street in front of her house seemed always to shelter a few Indian wagons and she liked to pay these people for some work. She offered ‘a bit of bread’ and apples from her orchard if they would cut ‘just a bit of kindling wood’ or thin out the plum bushes in the corner of her lot, or perhaps pump her some water from the well. She was quite forceful about seeing that the men paid her some work for the food they asked of her.”

This philosophy was the result of a hard lesson Emma had learned at Ramah:

“At one time, Emma became weary of one big Indian squaw who always was begging from her and never seemed satisfied with what she got. So one day Emma decided to give her everything she asked for. She had to give her so much that the old Indian had almost more than she could carry home in her blanket. She and Emma both laughed heartily about it. A few days later a group of sullen Navajos entered her home. They refused to talk or eat. After quite a while Emma coaxed them to speak to her. They were angry. They said she had killed this old squaw. She had given her too much and it had killed her.”

In one of her rare letters, Emma wrote that

“I was Sunday School teacher for years in Ramah and in Bluewater and I used Bible charts in Sunday School so when the Indians came to my house I would take the charts and explain to them about the Savior and the Heaven and they would never get tired of hearing it.” Continuing Doris’ story:

“She never seemed to believe them herself, but she was always telling us grandchildren ridiculous superstitions and stories of the ‘Nitzens’ to help us remember to keep our clothes neater and do better in our work.

“She was always kind to us, saying it was our mother’s place to correct us if we needed it. She never scolded us and acted as if we never needed correction; she expected the best from us, and it was worse than a spanking to have grandma get mildly ‘shocked’ by some misbehavior.

“She felt a great compassion for her children and thought it was much her fault if they didn’t always find the happiness they wanted. I know she blamed herself that Olga didn’t seem [as] happy as Grandma wanted to see her. Still, her children and grandchildren love and respect her.

“It should be considered what opportunities for worldly goods and ease of living (for which she hungered so) Grandma gave up. She left everyone she had known and traveled alone to America where, instead of seeing her children in a lovely home, she lived in a desert country where she watched coyotes chase her chickens and wild pigs chase her little girls. She lived a most difficult life in polygamy and was hostess to bunches of Indians, all for one big reason—she believed the gospel of Jesus Christ as she had been taught it. This she left as the heritage for her children.”

Genevieve Hassell remembered that

“Emma C. loved the Indians and was good to bring them into her home. She always had that apple orchard and she was good to let the Indians pick her apples. She let them use her sewing machine. She always had Indians around. She encouraged Grandpa in his missionary work and she loved to be helping and showing the Indians how to do things.”

Doris Black characterized Emma as

“a humorous person with a quick mind for learning. She learned several languages well: English, German, Norwegian, and … [Navajo]. Her daughter, Doris, said she often awoke to laughter coming from the kitchen and listened to her parents telling jokes in German. Emma … had one joy in this desert land—she loved to entertain, simply enjoyed being around people. She had inherited her mother’s forceful personality and dominated most of the social functions she attended. Into her home eagerly came the neighbors and Navajos, grandchildren and Apostles, to enjoy her charm and humor.”

Several people were impressed by Emma C. as a teacher. Allen Nielson wrote that

“Emma C. was often a teacher to us in our religious training. She was very familiar with the stories of Jesus in the Bible. She would tell us these stories and, in her foreign accent, used words that seemed strange to me. She told us about Christ teaching in the synagogue. She pronounced the word skin-a-hog. For years I thought that expression was just a mispronunciation of the word. I learned later that is the proper way to say the word in her native Norwegian language. Just because she didn’t use the English pronunciation, I thought she didn’t know what she was talking about, but I was the dumb one.

“Physically, Emma C. was just a medium-sized woman, but she always stood up straight and never bent over like some old people often do. This inherited characteristic has been passed on to some of her grandchildren and especially to Clifford. Despite his age, his back is still straight and he does not hump over.”

Emma C. spent her last few months with Laura in Bluewater and died in 1937 at the age of 81. Her grandson, Horace, said of her:

“One thing about Grandma, everybody liked her. She had a feel for people, enjoyed being around them. She made a good midwife. She wasn’t strong on housekeeping and cooking. She wasn’t big, didn’t reach to my shoulder, but she was very witty and in a crowd she liked being the center attraction. She had high expectations of her children and seemed to believe they were perfect; she tried to have them live nobly and well.”