Olena Kempe (Olsen) (1843 - 1907)

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Place of Burial: Thatcher, Graham, Arizona, United States
Birthplace: Aasnes, Hedmark, Norway
Death: Died in Thatcher, Graham, Arizona, United States
Managed by: Randy Stebbing
Last Updated:

About Olena Kempe (Olsen)

Oline Olsen (1843-1907)

(Olena Olsen was the second wife of Christopher Jensen Kempe. They were married in December of 1865. Anne Ongerod, Christopher's first wife, had died six months previously of smallpox. Christopher would be later married in a polygamous marriage to a third wife, 3 months later named Anne Dorthea Johnsen.)

When a young girl such as Oline Olsen, surrounded by love and all the pleasures of material things, relinquishes all of this for the humble gift of truth, she well knows the cost, value, and the worth of it. And such is the story of Olena. Born in Norway 10 May 1843, she went from light of gaiety and warmth into the darkness of uncertainty, poverty, struggle, and heartache simply because she heard the truth, recognized it as such and wanted with all of her heart to live it.

She grew up in a farming village built on the edge of a large lake, the area described as a fairy-like valley, breathtaking in its beauty. Her ancestors had lived there for several generations, and her grandfather owned a vast estate. He had a weakness for drinking but never turned away a group because he had no money. If his pocket money was gone, he simply paid the bill with a deed to an acre of land. Her parents were honest, intelligent, hard working and lived close to their Lutheran church and its teachings. Olena's younger brother by five years died when she was 11, and something within her rebelled. Something was wrong somewhere. It remained a puzzle to her throughout her growing years. She grew tall and stately with long brown hair nearly to her waist and lovely blue eyes that would dance with excitement, glisten with sorrow, shine with interest, and fairly glow with a feeling of new wonder. As was usual she learned the household crafts but became restless, so she went in 1861 to Solar to learn dress making. She returned home but became restless and seemed driven to return to the city where she learned tailoring and was considered tops in her trade.

At the factory she heard about these "strange and horrible Mormons" and wanted to learn more, so she attended a meeting where Christopher Jensen Kempe was the speaker. His words rang in her ears. They removed the ever present pain of little Otto's death. It was all so different from what she had been taught. During the winter there were days and nights of questions, misgiving, emotional rapture, but finally, on 9 May 1864, she was baptized by C.J. Kempe.

Her parents tried desperately to get her to give up the church, but she brought all.the knowledge, strength, and intelligence she had to bear upon the problem. Even though she loved her parents dearly, she decided she had to forsake her Lutheran religion and go to Zion. Her father bitterly disowned her and forbade her name to be mentioned at home.

She came to America on the same ship as C.J. Kempe and took care of his wife when she contracted smallpox. In Provo, Olena lived in town and Anna (the other wife) on the farm. This continued to be their usual setup. Olena turned to dressmaking, having to practically support her family. For many years she washed the wool, hour after endless hour spun the yarn, and knitted it into stockings and booties for her family. She was an immaculate housekeeper and life was constant toil by day and night. She also milked the cows, cared for the garden and chickens and other farm tasks that needed to be done. Yet she always radiated happiness. Things were beginning to look brighter. The farm was producing good crops, and the trees in the large orchard were bearing fruit when they were called to go to Arizona. There was no shelter there after their arduous trip, so they lived in their covered wagon beds, then found an empty Mexican house where Olena and her family lived for while. They nearly starved. Eventually things improved, but it was a hard life, interspersed, however, with happy times also. One of the great joys in Olena's life was to be able to entertain the president and a number of the apostles of the church. By that time they had a comfortable, warm, hospitable home plus the means to take care of visitors and a spirit of harmony and faith. Later Day Saints enjoyed. As she reflected back along the path she had taken, she told her family she felt no remorse.

SOURCE: Descendants of Ruth Leila Kempe Dewitt daughter of Anna Dorthea Johnson and Christopher Jensen Kempe. Compiled by Edit Wert and Ruth Wake. Date: 1994.

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Olena Kempe's Timeline

1843
May 10, 1843
Aasnes, Hedmark, Norway
July 9, 1843
Hedmark, Ho, Norway
1861
1861
Age 17
Solar

Living in "Solar" and working as a dressmaker.

As was usual she learned the household crafts but became restless, so she went in 1861 to Solar [note: Solar could be a mistake as there doesn't seem to be a place called Solar, Norway or Denmark] to learn dress making. She returned home but became restless and seemed driven to return to the city where she learned tailoring and was considered tops in her trade.

SOURCE: Descendants of Ruth Leila Kempe Dewitt daughter of Anna Dorthea Johnson and Christopher Jensen Kempe. Compiled by Edit Wert and Ruth Wake. Date: 1994.

1864
May 9, 1864
Age 20

SOURCE: Descendants of Ruth Leila Kempe Dewitt daughter of Anna Dorthea Johnson and Christopher Jensen Kempe. Compiled by Edit Wert and Ruth Wake. Date: 1994.

1865
June 14, 1865
Age 22
New York City, New York, United States

On 17 March 1865 he married Anne Ongerod whom he did not love but agreed to marry on condition she use her money to help poor saints emigrate to America. She paid for about 17, some to Utah, some only to Wyoming, and left money for others to come the next year. They left Copenhagen the 4th of May, 1865 and arrived in New York City the 14th of June. Christopher wrote of the ocean trip:"While peace and good will reigned among the saints, the others lived more like cats and dogs together; some had disputes and engaged in fights, others played cards and swore while some preached, and altogether there was a real pandemonium." Anne had contracted smallpox on board ship and died in Quincy, Illinois on the 22nd of June, so Christopher who was captain of ten crossing the plains, arrived in Salt Lake City, again single, on the 8th of November 1865.

December, 1865
Age 22
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States

SOURCE: Descendants of Ruth Leila Kempe Dewitt daughter of Anna Dorthea Johnson and Christopher Jensen Kempe. Compiled by Edit Wert and Ruth Wake. Date: 1994.

1866
April, 1866
Age 22
Provo, Utah, United States

In the spring of 1866 he moved to Provo where he worked at his trade, and in 1872 moved on to Richfield where he started on regular farming and worked in many church callings, often as clerk.

December 24, 1866
Age 23
Provo, Utah, UT, USA
December 24, 1866
Age 23

A son named Joseph C. Kemp, their first child , is born on 24 Dec 1866 in Provo, Utah.

1868
May 25, 1868
Age 25
Provo, Utah, UT, USA