2013 Heritage Matters-1: Joseph Hyrum Thiessens

Joseph Hyrum Thiessens

By Golden V. Adams Jr.

[As told to the author by Henrietta Thiessens, about 1962]

It was a nice clear winter day in January.  The snow that was lying on the ground glistened as if it were manna from heaven.  This was the day a blessing from heaven was given to Hermannus and Henrietta Folkers Thiessens.

With mid-afternoon came the much cherished parcel.  This was the third boy born to this couple.

The little bundle arrived in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah.  The date was January 13, 1924.

This was a very special day for Folkert Teunis Folkers and his wife, Hilje Mulder Folkers, since this was the first grandchild born since they had come to America from the Netherlands.  Because of this, Hilje was given the honor of naming the little boy.  Henrietta, the mother of the baby boy wanted his name to be Joseph for the Bible character who was sold into Egypt.  However the grandmother chose the name Joseph Hyrum; Joseph for the Prophet Joseph Smith, and Hyrum for the Prophet's brother.  Thus, the baby was blessed and given the name of Joseph Hyrum Thiessens.

When Joseph was six months old, his father and mother gave him a book having no pictures.  He turned the pages looking at the book, but not once did he tear a single page.  This was thought to be quite remarkable by his parents.  His father said he was really going to be a book-worm!

Joseph Hyrum Thiessens, about 1 year old

Joseph, being about a year old, was allowed to have an old song book to take to church and he really loved to sing.  However, his parents had to be quite careful.  When the singing stopped, Joseph would just keep right on singing.  At this, everyone would laugh.

It was often that his father sat in front of the congregation and Joseph was not at all concerned or content until he could run up and sit on his father's lap.  He did this many a time when he was a young chlid.

Joseph had a dark complexion.  His skin was an olive color.  As a young child he had dark blonde hair which later turned a dark brown.  His eyes were a dark brown and they had a very special way all their own in expressing every wish.  His eyes were extremely beautiful as were all his features.  At times they looked extremely puzzled and other times they were very happy.

Joseph was a favorite of his grandparents Folkert and Hilje.  When his grandfather came home from work each afternoon, Joseph would be waiting for him as he always had something in his lunch pail especially for Joseph.

When Joseph was a year and a half old, the family was invited for Christmas day dinner to some of the family's Dutch friends.  Joseph's father and grandparents were in California and his mother stayed home with the children.  Joseph was asked to sing a little song in Dutch since the people there were all of Dutch descent.  Joseph spoke English as did his brothers and sisters.

One winter day this same winter, Joseph heard his grandfather coming home.  He was sitting on his rocking horse and when he heard his grandfather's voice, he tried to climb off.  He couldn't quite make it.  In his struggle he lost his balance, slipped, and ruptured himself.  He then had to wear a truss.  He wore this for about a year.  After this, he was all right.

When Joseph was about four years old, his mother took him and his three younger sisters, Hilda, Ruth, and Grace to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Joseph was to watch Hilda and Ruth; his mother held the baby, Grace.   You can imagine the picture it made when he took Hilda and Ruth, held on to their little hands, and said, "Come on you little kids.  It's time to go home" as if he were all grown up?

When he was about five years old, his grandparents moved to live with George Albert Smith [in the cottage behind his home].  As Joseph visited quite often, he became a favorite of George Albert Smith.

Brother Smith had a grandson about Joseph's age.  He lived next door to the Smiths.  Joseph and the grandson soon became fast friends.

Joseph, Henrietta and Hilda Thiessens, ca. 1930 on 7th East in Salt Lake City, Utah

As Joseph grew older, Brother Smith often took Joseph with him to the Church Office.  Since the Thiessens family had no car, he delighted to travel with George Albert Smith just for the ride.  Brother Smith would often give Joseph a tablet of chocolate which he would faithfully save to divide with his brothers and sisters.

At the age of ten years, Joseph and Hank, his older brother, dug an underground hut as their clubhouse.  This was done in the back yard at 7th East.  It was about five feet deep and about four feet square.  They put boards over the hut and put dirt and leaves on top of this.  Leaving just enough room for an entrance, they dug steps into the dirt as a means of getting into the clubhouse.

Folkert and Hilje moved to the house where Folkert planted a vegetable garden in the back yard [at Leland Avenue] and Joseph would help with it.