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Olive Andelin Potter

A short biography

Olive Andelin Potter


            The second child born to Olaf and Maria was a little daughter, and to their surprise, she was a redhead!  They named her Olivia and called her Olive.  She was born in 1868, in Salt Lake City

            When she was eight years old, the family moved to Richfield to join the United Order there.  Olive was baptized into the church in a mill stream by her father, Olaf.  Olive didn’t like the Order because all of the parents ate together in the dining room, and all of the children ate together in the kitchen.  Even before the blessing was finished, the bigger children would grab the food and leave none for the younger children.  So Olive was glad when they finally moved from the Order.  From there, the family moved to a farm while her father helped build the Manti Temple.  Olive learned when she was young to work very hard, and was a big help to her mother, Maria.

            When Olive was 15 years old, a man came courting her.  In those days polygamy was practiced in the church, and it was all right to have more than one wife.  The man who came courting Olive was already married.  He was 34 years old and had five children, and his name was Edwin Potter.  Olive’s mother and father didn’t want her to be married so young, but she decided to anyway.  So a few months before she was 16, she was married to Edwin.

            Olive’s life from then on was unhappy, mainly because they were all so very poor.  Edwin was a hard worker, but had 2 families to care for, and wages were low.  Edwin tended sheep, repaired watches, farmed, was a blacksmith, an optometrist, carpenter, and had many other jobs.  But they were always very poor—just living in little log rooms, with flies, fleas, and rats sharing their houses.  Many times they did not even have enough to eat.  Edwin and his families moved often from place to place to try to find something to earn more money.  Olive and Edwin had 7 children, and Edwin and his first wife had 13 children.  Even a rich man would have a hard time feeding, clothing, and housing 20 children, and Edwin was not rich. 

            So Olive had to work a lot, trying to earn enough money to care for her family.  She was exceedingly thin from lack of food and hard work.  (She would wash all day on the washboard for people and just earn 50˘.  She would have to carry water from the pump, and hang the clothes outside with snow up to her knees.)

            When Olive had 4 children, she decided to leave them with her parents in Richfield and go to Salt Lake to work to try to earn more money.  She became the maid of a rich family.  She kept the house of 23 rooms clean, did the cooking, canned pickles, fruits, sauces, mincemeat, and other things.  Their evening meal was served like a banquet with three or four courses.  She earned $20 a month, and sent it all home to her children.  (While working there, one of her little girls died of diphtheria, which made her very sad.  She worked there for 3 years, then rejoined with Edwin for a year.)

            Then Olive decided she wanted her children to have an education, so she moved with her family to Provo.  She rented a little house for $5.00 a month, and had 5 young men as boarders.  Soon after they moved there, another little daughter died of diabetes.

            There was lots of hard work with the boarders, but there was lots of enjoyment too.  The boarders would sit around the kitchen table after supper and tell jokes, stories, laughing and singing.  They would gather around the piano and sing and practice.  One of Olive’s little girls, Ruby, would fall asleep under the kitchen table while listening to the music. 

            Later, the rent was raised too high near the Y, so they had to move out to the edge of town and Olive took in washing and ironing.  This wasn’t so nice, for the house was always full of wet clothes and the whole family had to work early and late with little pay.  In spite of this, Olive never complained.  She always kept her children clean and neatly dressed, often sitting up late at night to make over hand-me-downs into nice clothes for the children to wear.  She wanted her children to have a better life and more opportunities than she had had.

            Olive and her family lived in Provo 12 years.  Edwin lived most of the time in Vernal, Utah and would come to see her every so often.  He also was in Provo for a couple of years.  He was kind to her and the children and would bring his violin and play lively songs, and the children would dance around to them.  He died in Vernal while Olive lived in Provo, and she didn’t have enough money to go to the funeral.  Olive lived 27 years after that, always working hard to support her family of 4 girls and 1 boy.  She was always true to the Gospel and was never mean or unkind to anyone.

Linked toOlive Andersson Andelin

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