A couple months ago, Brother J. Stapley wrote some thoughts on the Cardston temple. After enjoying them, I considered that Alberta is a significant branch of our Church’s history with which I have no personal connection. Pondering it further, though, I remembered that I do. Thanks to Canada, I’m a Nevadan.
This is a story of my great-grandmother Victora Winsor, born Sigridur Tobiasdottir. It has a personal interest for me, but others may find some value in considering what it may add to understanding families in the Church. My source on most of this is my grandfather, LaVar Winsor, and some of the wording I am copying from him. In the spring of 1883, Tobias Tobiasson and Elinborg Petursdottir began living together. The only legitimate marriage available in Iceland was that provided by the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the state church, and that was too expensive. Iceland of the 19th Century was ahead of the Scandinavian countries in routinizing co-habitation. Tobias listened to Elder Halldor Jonsson of Spanish Fork preach on both his missions and was baptized in 1887. Spanish Fork was the first gathering place in North America for Icelanders and the largest one in the United States with 410 Icelanders migrating to Utah between 1855 and 1914.
Originally a shoemaker, Tobias became an invalid confined to bed through the winter. Missionaries promised that if he went to Utah, he would be cured, so he decided to leave in June of 1900 with his nine-year-old daughter Sigridur and seven-year-old son Njall. He financed the trip in part by selling hundreds of woolen mittens he had knitted while in bed. (In Liverpool, Sigridur’s name was changed to Victora: like, but not identical to, the Queen. Njall became Neils.) Left behind were his wife and three other children. He never saw his wife again. Tobias’ brother, Magnus, showed Elinborg a picture of Eagle Gate in Salt Lake City and told her that was where the Mormons locked up their wives. She did not want to come to Utah and used that as an excuse not to. In 1903, Elinborg and Magnus had a daughter.
Arriving in Utah by train, Tobias found work in Emery County with barracks to live in. He could take a boy with him, but not a girl, so Victora went to live with an Icelandic family, then a second , non-Icelandic one. The second couple divorced, so she went back to the first one, which was big and crowded. She was moved around a couple more times and ended up with a childless couple in Enterprise, Effie and Frank Winsor. (Enterprise is north of St. George, west of Cedar City, and about 30 miles from Nevada.) She would live happily with them until her 23rd birthday, when she married Frank’s nephew, Walter Winsor. A few years late, they would move to the Moapa Valley in Nevada.
Sometime before 1904, Tobias was called to settle in Canada. He tied a tag around his son Neils’ neck, and put enough stamps on it to pay for a parcel post package of that weight. On the tag was written THIS BOY IS GOING TO LIVE WITH FRANK WINSOR IN ENTERPRISE, UTAH. PLEASE FEED HIM. Neils helped Frank Winsor put in a crop. A short time later he went to help his father in Canada.
In Canada in 1904, Tobias Tobiasson married Gudfinna Saemundsdottir, widow of Erickur Olsen. In 1909, Elinborg died back in Iceland. All Tobias’ and Elinborg’s children in Iceland, save the oldest daughter Lena, came to live near their father in Alberta. In 1911, Tobias took his family to the Salt Lake Temple and was sealed to Elinborg and their children. Victora was not present and would be sealed to her parents in the Cardston Temple in 1939.
Like his father before him, Walter Winsor had a brother with no children, and my grandfather, Victora’s oldest child, was sent to live with Uncle Andy for some of his older childhood for the benefit of both families.
Finally, Victora Winsor visited Iceland once seventy-five years after leaving it and saw again her oldest sister Lena.