Senator L.M. Olson — part 1

Part of my Family History Sunday series.

Laurentius Magnus Olson (known as L.M. Olson) is my great, great-grandfather. Because of this man, there are several things about my life that I enjoy:

  1. I am an American.
  2. I am a Mormon.
  3. I have a nearly unbreakable work ethic (seriously, I nearly couldn’t bring myself to take medical leave from work for my cancer treatments).

L.M. was born in Arvika, Värmland, Sweden. He lost his parents at the age of 6 and would travel between Christiania, Norway (now Oslo) and Arvika for the remaining 11 years he lived in Scandinavia. The map here shows that journey, and since Google Maps doesn’t have a “by horse” option, I imagine by bike is the closest estimate we might have to see how much time it would take to travel between the two places in the 1800’s.

At age 14 he converted to the Mormon faith while in Norway. Having no inheritance (being the youngest of 9 children), and with the Konventikel Edict having just been constitutionally revoked in Sweden (but not culturally normalized), life in Sweden for an orphaned Mormon would not have been easy; so he left. He arrived in the US and even traveled from Laramie, WY to Salt Lake City, UT via mule team. He settled in Ephraim where he not only taught school, but ran the Ephraim Co-op. While living in Ephraim, he received a call to serve as a LDS missionary in his native Sweden for a year. When he returned, he moved to Price, UT to run the Emery County Mercantile Company. He then served as Postmaster, the 3rd mayor of Price (called “President” back then), and then as Senator of the Utah Territory, participating in the 30th legislative assembly, representing the 14th Representative District (Democratic Party, won by ~800 votes). When Carbon County, UT was formed, he was named Probate Judge (without having had a formal law education).*

For the past 3-4 years I’ve had a chance to travel to Sweden at least once per year. Each time I go, I make sure to spend an extra day or so in the country to connect with my roots. And in the months leading up to the trip, I wax nostalgic and remind myself of much of my Swedish roots. Sadly, I don’t ever seem to prepare well enough before I go and learn new facts about either my ancestors or the rise of Mormonism in Sweden after the fact (e.g., last year I went to Gävle without knowing that it was where the first LDS baptism in Sweden took place in 1850 until a few months later). I’ve even been to Arvika without knowing enough to make my way around to the same places my ancestors were sure to have been. This year, however, will be different.

I plan to start writing more about my ancestry on Sundays. My hope is that this exercise will push me to better prepare for being in Sweden again. This time, I’ll focus my ancestry research on those living in Värmland (which includes Arvika) and plan to spend an extra 3 days in that area exploring.

I’ll end this post with a quote from L.M. that I found online that was printed in the Salt Lake Tribune, “…it [is] more necessary to protect the public against the banks than the banks against the public.” Even though he was an 1800’s era Democrat (what is now today’s American Republican Party), he saw a need for the government to stand as a protector of the public against the greed of capitalism. I found this quote particularly poignant considering the issues of the 2016 US Presidential campaigns. I wonder if, on at least that issue, L.M. Olson would be “feel[-ing] the Bern.”

* Account taken from Orson F. Whitney’s, “History of Utah.”