James Yorgason

James Yorgason

Lyngby, Lunds kommun, Skåne län, Sweden
Death 16 May 1917 (aged 69)
Fountain Green, Sanpete County, Utah, USA
Burial Fountain Green, Sanpete County, Utah, USA
Memorial ID 12410300 View Source

Son of Sören Jöransson aka Yorgason and Karna "Caroline" Nilsdotter.

His name at birth was Jons Sorensson. Upon his entry into the United States, his name was mis-recorded as Jens Joransen. During his family's initial year in the United States, at Keokuk, Iowa, the family surname emerged as Yorgason. After his move from Utah to California, c. 1893, he changed his name to James Y. Johnson; Johnson was the Americanized maiden name of his first wife Christena Johnson Yorgason (born Kjersti Jonsson). After his death, his name was recorded in federal military records as James Peter Yorgensen, the only time his middle name was recorded (Peter is the Americanized version of the name Pehr, and Pehr was a family name shared with his elder brother Peter Yorganson (1835-1913), his paternal uncle Pehr Joransson (1797-1823), and his paternal great-grandfather Pehr Fagelberg (1738-1796).)

Along with his parents and older siblings, he departed Sweden in October 1855, to travel to the Utah Territory. His family traveled to Norway, then Denmark, then took a ship to England.

He and his family left Liverpool, England on December 12, 1855 aboard the wooden three-masted ship John J. Boyd, which was full of Mormon immigrants headed for Utah. They arrived in New York on February 14, 1856, and were processed through Castle Clinton on the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

From New York, they took the train west, to the end of the line at Keokuk, Iowa. They stayed and worked in that area until they could afford to continue their travels west to the Utah Territory the following year. While they were in Iowa, the family name was changed to Yorgason, rather than Joransson.

The Yorgason family settled in Fountain Green, Sanpete county, Utah. Much later, James' older brother Pehr (Peter) moved to Alberta, Canada.

James married Kjersti "Christena" Johnson as the first of his eight wives. Christena's family was about to move out of Utah, having left the Mormon church due to the perfidy of a local Mormon bishop, and so Christena's elopement with James came as quite a surprise to the families. Christena Johnson's family later settled in Omaha, Nebraska, making their home where the Joslyn Art Museum is now located.

With the support and encouragement of his first wife, he entered into a number of plural marriages. He was never married to more than four women at any one time.

He was named a bishop in the local church. He headed two church missions to Sweden. He became a successful businessman. In addition to other enterprises, he owned a dairy in Salt Lake City.

In 1893, when James Yorgason moved to Los Angeles, California from Utah, to avoid federal marshalls who were seeking polygamists, he was unable to convince any of his wives to move to California with him -- such was the amount of trouble that had been brought on the family by the feds. He assumed the name James Y. Johnson. His eldest son with Frances Tilby Yorgason, John William Yorgason, joined him in Los Angeles. They worked together, lived next door to each other, and John William Yorgason also assumed the name Johnson.

"James Yorgason (Joranson), Bishop of Fountain Green, Sanpete County, Utah, was born May 16, 1847, at Malmö, Malmöhus lån, Sweden, the son of Sören Jöranson and Caroline Jensen. He was baptized in 1856 and emigrated to Utah in 1857 with his parents, locating in Moroni, Sanpete county, where he resided until 1884, when he moved to Fountain Green, having been called to preside there as Bishop. He was ordained to that position in 1884, by Francis M. Lyman, and held the position until 1891, when he was released, and moved to California, where he resided for twenty-five years, mostly at Los Angeles. While a resident of Utah he was principally engaged in farming and sheep-raising. Having just returned from California, he died at Fountain Green May 16, 1917.
"During his life he married six wives [sic], namely: Christina [sic] Johnson, who bore him nine children; Frances M. Tilby, who was the mother of five children; Amy, who bore him three children; Maria Peterson, who became the mother of two children; Hannah Olsen, who bore him one child, and Catherine, who became the mother of two children.
"Bishop Jöranson filled two missions to Sweden, the first one in 1881-1883, when he presided over the Skåne conference, and the other in 1886-1888, when he presided over the Stockholm conference."
(from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia)

Of his 21 children, only ten sons and two daughters survived disease and mishap to reach adulthood and parenthood. His grandchildren included:

(grandchildren through 1st wife Christena Johnson, née Jonsson)
-11 children of daughter Mary Caroline Johanna Yorgason Henrie and Arthur Henrie
-9 children of son James Sanders Yorgason and Ellen Maria Aagard Yorgason
-8 children of daughter Elinor "Nora" Cecelia Yorgason Morgan and James Edward Morgan
-4 children of son Joseph Soren Adam Yorgason and Sybil Stevens Yorgason
-2 children of son Wilford Moroni Yorgason and Mary Luella Larsen Yorgason
-4 children of son Ernest Alonzo Yorgason and Luzean Lamar Stevens Yorgason

(grandchildren through 2nd wife Frances Tilby)
-4 children of son John William Yorgason and Martha Matilda "Mattie" Butts Yorgason
-7 children of son Hyrum Vincent Yorgason and Ida Pernella "Nellie" Anderson Yorgason

(grandchildren through 3rd wife Emma "Amy" Christena Larson, later Draper)
-4 children of son Orson LeRoy Yorgason and Hannah Christine Anderson Yorgason

(grandchildren through 4th wife Maria Lovisa Pehrsson)
-4 children of son Robert Gustaf Yorgason and Laura Melvina Woodland Yorgason
-6 children of son Charles Edward Yorgason and Esther Matilda Erickson Yorgason

(grandchildren through 7th wife Anna Louisa Svederus)
-6 children of son Enoch Yorgason (aka Clifford Nuttall ) and Gladys Spry Nuttall

- - - - -

When James [Yorgason] Johnson initially established himself in Los Angeles, he took out advertisements in the Los Angeles City Directory, for his work as a Poultry Dealer.
After a couple of years, he purchased a poultry farm located along the Los Angeles River, across from Elysian Park. There, he became a supplier of squab (baby pigeon) for the restaurant industry. In time, his pigeon farm became known as the "World's Largest Pigeon Ranch" and it became a national and international tourist attraction in the Los Angeles area. In 1914, the ranch was suddenly destroyed by a flash flood.
Devastating floods over the following decades resulted in the creation of the concrete channel for the Los Angeles River (constructed 1938-1960).

While living in Los Angeles, after the death of his first wife Christena and before the sudden and total loss of his famous and very profitable Pigeon Ranch, he married one last time.

His new wife was Gertrude Colby Kimmell Wing, who had been twice widowed. One of her daughters, Mary Gertrude Kimmell, was married to the creator and artist of the famed Dogs Playing Poker paintings. Thus, James Yorgason became the step-father-in-law of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge.

After the destruction of the Pigeon Farm, he sold the property to the City of Los Angeles. The property, which is adjacent to Elysian Park, is currently occupied by the Metrolink CMF (Central Maintenance Facility), which is just a little north of the intersection of Interstate 5 and Interstate 110 (a freeway known, north of downtown Los Angeles, as State Route 110). Much of the actual land is covered by the cement channel of the Los Angeles River, a project initiated after the major flooding of 1934.

In 1917, James Yorgason Johnson contracted septicemia secondary to foot gangrene after stepping on a nail, due to complications of adult-onset diabetes. The larger complication was that his new wife was a devout Christian Scientist, and in deference to her wishes he did not consult a doctor at the time of the injury.

Eventually, as his health failed, his wife Gertrude contacted his family in Wyoming, and arranged for one of his sons and a grandson to bring him back from California to Wyoming. There was a hope that he would benefit from the waters at Thermopolis, Wyoming. Before he could reach Wyoming, he died at his boyhood home in Fountain Green, Sanpete county, Utah, and was buried at the Yorgason Family Cemetery.

At his death, he was survived by his last wife, Gertrude Colby Kimmell Wing Johnson; two former wives (the wives had obtained divorces and were re-married); an estranged plural wife (she cancelled their LDS sealing after his death); 10 children; and 37 grandchildren.

Of his surviving descendants, six children and 24 grandchildren were from his marriage to his first wife, Christena Johnson.