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Peter Niels Skousen

The History of Peter Niels Skousen Compiled by Anjanette Stone Lofgren October 2007 Peter Niels Skousen was born on September 6, 1856 in Randers, Aarhus, Denmark. He was the son of James Niels Skousen (born as Jens Neilson, September 30, 1828, Herslev, Vejle, Denmark, died October 23, 1912, Alpine, Apache, Arizona, USA) and Sidsel (Cecil) Marie Pederson (born August 23, 1826, Laasby, Skandeborg, Denmark, died February 10, 1899, Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico). Peter’s father had been one of the Mounted Royal Guards and received 3 years of military training. He became a proud member of the finest riding team in the Danish kingdom. James and Sidsel fell in love, became engaged, and soon set up what was very common in those days in Denmark, a common-law marriage. James was twenty and she was twenty-two. Peter was the second of nine children born to James and Sidsel. Their firstborn, Petria Skousen was born June 6, 1849, in Aarhus, Denmark and died almost two months later on August 1, 1849. Seven years later, his parents were married on May 18, 1856, in the Dum Church in Aarhus, Denmark. They were very religious and James was even called to assist the minister many times because of his knowledge of the scriptures. After Peter was born in 1856, his parents had a son named Parley Pratt Skousen. Parley was born on February 15, 1859, in Randers, Denmark and died two days later on February 17, 1859. Willard Richard Skousen was born on February 5, 1860, in Randers, Denmark. He and Peter were nearly three and a half years apart. James and Sidsel heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when Peter was a baby. Elder Madson baptized James and Sidsel, and two traveling Elders confirmed them members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Skousen home was always open to the Mormon missionaries and became a familiar part of Peter’s young life. Before leaving Denmark, Sidsel had a desire to share the gospel message with her family, especially her beloved brother who was a school teacher. Her message was rejected and her brother thought he was more educated than her because of his profession. She was crushed by her family’s reaction to her new religion. The Mormon missionaries and Peter’s parents spoke at lengths about moving to Utah. This was intriguing to young Peter. James had lost his job because of his new religion but soon obtained better paying employment so they could have the needed funds to cross the ocean. In the early spring of 1862 when Peter was five years old and Willard was about two years old, the Skousen’s left their beloved home in Denmark for the unknown future ahead of them in the United States. Sidsel was four months pregnant when they left Denmark. The Skousen’s were probably with the saints who boarded the ship Albion in Aarhus on the morning of April 7th and sailed to Hamburg, Germany. They arrived in the evening of April 8th. Here the saints boarded two different ships, the Humboldt and the Franklin. Peter’s family boarded the ship, Humboldt in Hamburg, Germany with 323 other LDS immigrants. Their captain was H. D. Boysen and their church leader for the voyage was Hans Christian Hansen. Their journey was a success. The Humboldt arrived in New York on May 20th, 1862. They continued their journey westward by train and steamboat up the Missouri River to Florence, Nebraska (now Omaha). This was the outfitting place for the journey across the plains for the saints. Peter’s family arrived in Florence in early June. It was here they joined the John R. Murdock Company consisting of 700 individuals and 65 wagons. They departed Florence, Nebraska on July 24, 1862. Two weeks after leaving Florence, Nebraska, Sidsel gave birth to a daughter, Hannah Marie (or Johannah) Skousen on August 2, 1862, near the Platte River in Nebraska. The family arrived in Salt Lake City on September 28, 1862, and while here, his father helped cut stones for the temple. Soon after arriving in Utah they moved to Lehi and lived in a one bedroom house just east of the Lehi Roller Mills. They moved around a lot and then settled in Draper where they bought a 40 acre farm. Three more children were born to James and Sidsel while living in Draper; Caroline in 1867, Mary in 1870, and James Niels Jr. in 1872. Two unpleasant childhood memories for Peter where when at the age of seven, he crushed his finger and almost froze to death. The incidents happened while he helped his father with harvesting the crops and cutting wood for winter on their Draper farm. One day a log slipped and crushed one of his fingers and nail. Another worker took a handkerchief and spit his used chewing tobacco into the handkerchief and tied it around Peter’s finger. He kept it on his finger for a week. The other time they were caught in snowstorm while logging. Peter almost froze to death and by the time he reached home he could hardly walk. Sidsel put him to bed where he spent several days recovering. He became very ill as his body warmed up and was filled with aches and pains. Peter was a big help to his father helping him in many of his labors on their farm. They logged, grew grain, hay, raised dairy cows, and many other endeavors to help make a living for the family. Sister Fitzgerald was Peter’s Sunday School teacher who taught him how to read and write. When he was ten years old he started school and was taught by Dr. John R. Park. With the help of these two teachers, Peter became an exceptional student. He loved school so much he was disappointed whenever his father needed him to stay home to help with the farm. Despite this disappointment, he was unknowingly educating himself through laboring with his father. He developed self-initiative and business experience. Dr. Park spent 30 minutes a day teaching Peter and his classmates how to read music and how to sing. He would write the staff and notes on the blackboard as he taught them many songs. The children developed into a good choir in Draper as a result of Dr. Park’s instruction and the time he devoted to his students. Peter was about nine when he had a desire to play the fiddle. He made his own fiddle by taking an old wooden shoe and obtained strings from neighbor’s broken violin. He found a piece of wood, carved it into a bow, and attached horse hair to it. Peter enjoyed running and was very fast. He raced in the holiday celebrations and won many prizes. Baseball also became a favorite sport for Peter and the other Skousen’s. It was hard for him to stop a game to go back inside the school when recess was over. One day when Peter was grazing the cattle near the Jordan River, he stumbled upon an old rusty cap and ball six-shooter. It had probably once belonged to a soldier from Johnston’s Army. Peter took it home where he cleaned, oiled, and worked on it until he was able to get it to shoot. He was proud of his accomplishment. Peter was jumping over a stream one day when he found a five dollar gold piece shining through the water. His father took it to Salt Lake City where he was able to get more than five dollars in exchange. A portion of it was given to peter and he used it to purchase a brand new pony. He loved his dear pony which he named “Jule”. Jule could outrun the other boys’ ponies. Peter was heartbroken the day his beloved pony ran away to the hills with a group of wild horses. He tried unsuccessfully to find his horse. In his own words Peter said; “One time as I was going up a long slant of a hill in search of my pony I decided to ask the Lord to help me and to guide me with His Spirit to where the horse was. I had a dollar which I had saved up by small amounts given me by my parents. Of course I thought I was rich to have so much as a dollar. But I told the Lord that if He would help me find my pony I would give the dollar in tithing. I got up from my knees and started out. Crossing several hollows and ridges, there came along a band of horses just as fast as they could go, kicking up their heels and going down towards town after water and there was my pony with them. I took in after them and could hardly keep up with them. I got them in the street that went by our place but how was I to get them in the corral? That puzzled me but when they got near the corral the little mare of mine knew the place and went right into the corral and several others followed her. I hurried and put up the bars. I got a rope to catch her. She seemed rather wild, but as soon as I put the rope on her, she came right up to me just like she was glad to see me. I let the bars down and the other horses went out and up towards the hills as fast as they could. Yes, my mare gave a whimper like she would say ‘goodbye’, but she soon felt at home again.” Brother Absalom Heber Smith, the first councilor in the Skousen’s bishopric, baptized Peter in a clear pond fed by a spring in east Draper near the main creek. He was confirmed a member after the baptism by Bishop Isaac M. Stewart. In 1870, James married a second wife named Ane Kirstine Jorgensen Hansen. They had 2 boys and 6 girls; Ella Marie, Erastus, Orson Pratt, Anna Christina, Eliza, Melvina, Mary Esther, and Terry Donahoe. At the age of 17, Peter was attending the School of Deseret in Salt Lake City when his father was called to help settle Arizona. He left Sidsel and their children in Utah and took Ane and their children with him to Arizona. Peter had to leave school to help his mother run their farm in Draper. A year had passed when James returned to Utah from Arizona, leaving his second family behind. He came to pack up his family and move them to Arizona. Three teams were driven by Peter, Willard, and their father. On their way to Arizona they stopped in St. George, Utah where Peter and Willard took out their endowments. Peter was ordained an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. They arrived at Allen’s Camp, later called St. Joseph, on December 24, 1877, where they pledged to live the United Order. Peter taught school here and was also the assistant postmaster. He kept books for the United Order. James was very strict about living the United Order while in St. Joseph. What the head of the church said was the word of the Lord to him. They milked cows and shared all the crops together. James and Willard had a bit of a falling out and Willard left St. Joseph. On November 11, 1884, James went to Prescott for trial as a polygamist. He departed on December 7 for the Yuma Penitentiary with six months' confinement and a $500 fine. Because he had no money to pay, he was given thirty days more in its place. He said, "It was the best month's pay I ever received." James was released from the federal penitentiary in July 1885 and rejoiced in seeing his two families. As a convicted polygamist, James could not afford to live with both of his families in the Untied States so he had Sidsel move to Colonia Juarez with the help of Peter, Dan and James while he stayed on the farm in Arizona and took care of Ane and her young family. It was a sad day when he prepared to bid Sidsel, his lifelong sweetheart goodbye. It took twenty-one days for the little caravan to reach Juarez, Mexico. Later, Peter worked near Holbrook, Arizona where he had a contract with a railroad building firm that lasted almost a year. Peter had charge of the commissary, kept the company books, and was paymaster. He then worked near Springerville, Arizona with his business partner Nathan Benjamin Robinson. They had a contract with John A. West to work on the railroad in the San Francisco Mountains. They freighted from one town to another. Nathan’s wife, Annise Adelia Bybee Robinson, cooked food for the crew, at times consisting of 50 men. She became ill and was also 8 months pregnant at the time and went to stay with her sister in Snowflake, Arizona. A few weeks before the birth of the baby, Nathan was worried about his family and returned home. Shortly after returning home he told Annise that he was going to find a missing cow. He came upon the tracks and followed them to Show Low Creek where he found some Indians killing a beef. Fearing he would tell other white men what they had done, they shot and killed Nathan and hid his body in the Show Low Creek. They weighed his body down in the water with large rocks to keep the body hidden. This was on June 1, 1882. When Annise realized something was wrong, she sent for help. Nathan’s horse had returned home with out him and had an Indian lariat on it. The settlers were scared at the news that Indians had killed Nathan and were hiding in a barn at the John Reidhead Farm in Lone Pine. Nathan’s body could not be found until some of the searchers prayed for assistance in their search. Soon after his foot was seen floating up and down in the Show Low Creek. His body was recovered and the fatherless family buried him in the Snowflake, Arizona cemetery on June 4, 1882. Peter heard the news while he was in St. Joseph on his way to Round Valley and was very concerned about Annise and her four children and unborn baby. He had a hard time sleeping as he camped that night and couldn’t stop thinking about the Robinson family. He heard a soft voice tell him that the family would devolve into his hands. He had no desire to take another man’s wife but prayed about this new development and was at peace. Peter visited the Annise and her children a few weeks later at Snowflake, Arizona. She was happy to see him and insisted that he stay for a chicken dinner. She had just delivered her son, Phileon Benjamin Robinson a few days before and her heart was grieving for her husband and was concerned for the welfare of her little ones. Peter assured her that the Lord would watch over them and provide for them. Peter returned to his home at Round Valley where his mother, Sidsel, lived. Peter told his father about his plans to marry Annise. His father suggested that he first get a wife who could be his own for eternity since Annise and Nathan had been sealed. Peter and Annise set a wedding date that was a few months away and Peter had to hurry to follow his counsel. He found a girl of 19 by the name of Mary Malinda Rogers who consented to marry him. Peter and his two fiancés made the journey from Snow Flake to St. George. Peter first married Malinda as his eternal companion and then Annise as his companion for life only on December 13, 1883 in the St. George Temple, 18 months after the death of Nathan Benjamin Robinson. Peter was twenty-seven, Annise was twenty-six, and Mary was nineteen when they joined this union. Peter and his wives returned to Round Valley where they began their lives together. Peter became a home building contractor in the Nutrioso Creek area. In the fall he was asked to teach again and went to St. John to take the required examination. When he arrived at the office he was asked if his last name was Skousen. When he answered “yes”, he was told not to bother to take the exam because he would not be hired even if he had passed. Charges had been filed against Peter for polygamy. A few days later, Peter and Brother Samuel Jarvis had a home missionary appointment to visit the St. John’s Ward. Upon their arrival they were warned that the marshal had been out looking for Peter. The next day on their way home they saw some dust rising up ahead of them and then a buggy came into view. They knew it must be the marshal so Peter laid down in the back of the wagon and covered himself with a blanket. As they got closer to the marshal, Brother Jarvis steered the horses back and forth across the road and yelled like he had been drinking. The Marshal left him alone and kept on going. After Peter returned home he decided to move to Snowflake were he was able to help work on the new stake house which was under construction. He worked on the rounded staircase and painted the gallery. Mary and their first child, Malinda (b. November 9, 1884), moved with Peter and she stayed with her parents. Annise stayed behind in Springerville with her children and new baby, Zebulon (b. December 13, 1884). President John Taylor warned the polygamist Saints in the area to leave Arizona and take their families to Mexico where they could not be bothered by the law. Peter and Mary packed up their belongings and joined a company of thirty-two wagons. His sister, Hannah, and her husband, Ernest Leander Taylor, were also in this company. When they were in Luna Valley, New Mexico, a snow storm came through. The melted snow left behind a lot of mud causing many problems for the company. They had to travel down a steep mountain called Milligan’s Slide Off and attached pine trees to the backs of the wagons to help slow them down. Women had to walk with their babies and try to keep their balance without assistance while the men struggled to bring the wagons down the incline safely. They reached the boarder safely and the Mexican officials were shocked to see so many wagons entering their country. By March 7, 1885, the company reached the Casas Grande River just north of La Acension. They camped here until it was decided where they would settle. The church purchased about 40,000 acres of land for the Saints to live on and they found a desirable location to begin their settlement. Just as their crops were beginning to grow, they received an order from the local governor that all the Mormons in his state of Chihuahua, must immediately leave Mexico. They were granted permission to stay until their crops were harvested. Apostle Lorenzo Snow was visiting in Mexico City at the time and was sent word about the order. He spoke with the Mexican president who resolved the problem and removed the governor from office. The Saints were once again able to get back to work on their newly created town. During this time Peter’s mother, Sidsel, arrived with her sons, James, Daniel, and his wife. It had been almost two years since the Saints had began to develop their new town when word arrived that they were not living on the land that had been purchased. This was a huge blow to them and many were discouraged and returned to the United States. Most of them picked up their belongings and moved to the proper site which was not as desirable. Once again they began to prepare the land for their settlement. Peter and his brother James freighted from New Mexico and purchased a saw mill for their new colony which had been named Colonia Juarez. Peter had been called to be the Elder Quorum President and also traveled as a home missionary. Annise and her children were moved to Colonia Juarez about 1887. Eight more children were born to her and Peter in Mexico; Don Parley (b. March 26, 1888), Verna (b. Sept. 12, 1889), Effa (b. Nov. 2, 1890), Hazel (Sept. 21, 1892), Marie Lula (b. March 9, 1895), Eva (b. May 5, 1896), Anita or Annetta (b. 1897, d. 1899), and Merle Tresa (b. March 26, 1900). Peter and Mary also had eight more children born to them in Mexico; Peter James (b. Jan. 27, 1886), Angus Philemon (b. April 25, 1887), Ruth (b. Dec. 20, 1889), Estella (b. March 20, 1892), Webster Grant (b. July 26, 1893, d. June 25, 1895), Vera (b. Feb. 16, 1895, d. July 31, 1899), Smith Holister (b. Aug. 27, 1897), and Pamelia (b. Dec. 28, 1902). The two wives lived in corner houses at either end of a city block. Annise lived here until Peter purchased land in San Jose, Mexico and moved her and their children in 1895 or 1896. By 1900 they were living in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico where Annise’s youngest child was born. Peter purchased the first header for harvesting wheat and the first tractor that permitted him to pull several plows at a time. He took grading contracts with two railroads in Arizona and the head engineer of one firm was so impressed he asked him to handle an extra tough job. The road had to be made though Noco, Arizona which was based on a considerable amount of rock. He accepted the contract even though it meant he would have to do a lot of blasting which usually meant trouble with the town’s authorities. Peter had a talent for being diplomatic and also welcomed challenges which helped him with this job. In February 1893, the Skousen family received word that Willard’s wife, Sophronia Ann had passed away. She left behind three young boys. Her infant son had died in April of 1892. Willard brought his sons to Mexico to live with his mother while he went to find work. Eventually, a romance blossomed between Willard and Annise’s daughter, Laura Annice Robinson. They were married on December 23, 1896. Peter had wanted to take Laura on as a third wife and Peter’s brother, Jim, was also sweet on her. Annise said no, she will marry Willard, and Peter gave his consent. In 1902 Peter sold his farm in San Jose, Mexico, and prepared to move to Canada. He took his daughter, Malinda, and some of his sons with him. Peter’s brother-in-law, Ernest Taylor, also went with peter and took some of his sons and his daughter, Nora. The girls did the cooking. They secured some farm land and built a house. They attended their church meetings in Raymond, Taylor Stake. In the spring they worked hard to put in their wheat crop, only to have it lost to a hail storm. They prayed and determined they should spend the winter in Lethbridge. The two families rented a house and used their horse teams to haul coal from the mines 5 miles away. It was so cold that the horse’s nostrils would fill with ice and they could hardly breathe. In the spring Annise’s family and some of Mary’s children moved to Canada where they lived for many years. Several of the children were married while they lived there. Annise and Peter were farming in Raymond, Alberta, Canada in 1911, when Peter’s brother, Willard, and his family moved to Canada. Willard and his wife, Laura, decided that Canada was too cold and moved to New Mexico. Peter was ordained a high priest on August 31, 1907 by Heber S. Allen and was a member of the Taylor Stake’s High Council. Peter started a mercantile business in Canada and it was very successful. Peter and his family were doing quite well until the depression of 1906-1908 hit them hard. Peter had to sell all he had for pennies on the dollar and chose to leave Canada. At the age of fifty-two with two wives and fifteen living children Peter had to start over. The Skousen’s returned to Mexico where he repurchased his San Jose farm. Mary and her family lived with him there. In 1911, Peter along with Alonzo, Adelbert, and Harvey Taylor joined together in a partnership to invest in building a flour mill. Their business was very profitable until the Mexican Revolution. Considerable property was confiscated by rebels including thirty head of horses which left them with no way to work their farm. Losses amounted to $15,000. He had to sell his stock in the mill for $18,000 in order to buy more teams. “Shortly after this he purchased a steam tractor and thresher and a new wagon for the tractor. While bringing the merchandise overland north of La Acension where General Pancho Villa was camped, soldiers demanded all the water in the wagon tank. This caused delay while getting more water in order that the tractor could continue under its own steam. Upon arriving in La Acension, Peter bravely went up to see Pancho Villa. He cordially greeted the general and told him of his recent purchases and their need in farming. He then requested a pass so that he could go on without any further trouble. Pancho agreed that farming needed improvement in Mexico and ordered his secretary to make out the necessary document. A captain suggested there should be a duty on such merchandise. Pancho ignored him, signed the pass and wished Peter a good trip and success. Peter again displayed his ability as a diplomat.” (Skousens in America, pg. 40) Peter and his sons worked hard during the summer with their new farm equipment. They were able to get much more accomplished with their new machines rather than using horses and old plows. Peter’s farming was a great success. The Mexican Revolution was getting too dangerous for women and children to stay there, so on April 24, 1914, they left for El Paso, Texas. Peter went to Arizona for sometime and then returned to Mexico. Peter built flour mills in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. His sons tired of the mill business and wanted to return to farming. Peter sold his Colonia Dublan mill in 1924 and returned to farming. Peter purchased a new Buick Touring Sedan and on November 14, 1928, Peter drove President Heber J. Grant and his party from Columbus to Colonia Juarez and then to Thatcher, Arizona for church conferences. On May 14, 1938, Peter, Bishop Call, and the Aaronic Priesthood Quorum of Colonia Dublan, traveled to San Jose to erect a monument on the ground where the pioneers first camped in Mexico in 1885. Annise passed away on August 24, 1924, in Los Angeles, California while visiting her daughter, Hazel. She is buried in Mesa, Arizona. Mary passed away on April 21, 1945, in Phoenix, Arizona and is buried in Mesa. Peter Niels Skousen passed away on October 2, 1940, in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico. He fathered 18 children and raised 5 step-children. He was a devoted husband, father, and member of the church. He was a hard worker and worked hard to provide for his family. He was buried on October 3, 1940 in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico. Sources: Encyclopedic History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. E Treasures of Pioneer History: Vol 3, The Mormons in Mexico Biography of Annise Adelia Bybee Robinson Skousen Biography of Laura Annise Robinson Skousen History of James Niels Skousen by Rita Maree Johnson Skousens in America, Peter Niels Skousen 1856-1940 by Max B. Skousen and Meryle M. Gelisse Ancestral File ® LDS Immigration Index Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel International Genealogical Index Humboldt Ship Passenger List 1870 Utah Census 1880 Utah Census



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