James M. Hermansen sustained fatal injuries attempting to rescue Derald E. Lay from a runaway wagon, Widtsoe, Utah, April 17, 1924. A team of spirited horses hitched to a wagon ran away with Derald, 10, in the wagon. While the horses were running at a speed of 12 m.p.h., Hermansen, 54, farmer, ran to one side of their path to grasp the lines at the bit and turn the team into a fence. The team turned suddenly toward him and struck him. He fell between the horses, and he was rolled by the under part of the wagon as it passed over him. His spinal cord was severed, and his head was cut. He died three weeks later as a result of his injuries. The team was finally stopped, and Derald was uninjured. 24392-1996
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James Marinus Hermansen was born on Sept. 28, 1870, in Frejlev, Aalborg, Denmark, to Jorgen Christian Hermansen and Anne Kristine Jensen Hermansen. As a boy, he helped with the farm chores. He didn’t talk much, but he loved to read books on religion, agriculture and astronomy. On Aug. 25, 1891, he left form Liverpool, England, aboard the S.S. Nevada to emigrate to America. He lived in Elsinore, Utah, where he worked for seven years for Bishop J. I. Jensen doing farm work. Hermansen also helped haul freight from Manti, Utah, to Ely, Nev.
One day, while he was sowing grain in the church field, Hermansen noticed a young lady walking across the field where he had sown. He called to her, “The field has just been seeded.” She smiled at him and replied, “I didn’t know it.” From then on, they spent a great deal of time together, going for buggy rides and to church. This was Minnie Nielsen. On May 22, 1897, they were married. They moved into a small house on a farm that he cultivated. Their income came from sugar beets. They produced their own meat, eggs, butter, cheese, milk, vegetables and fruits. There were nine children born to them while they lived in Elsinore; three of them died.
In 1914, they purchased a house and farm in Widtsoe, Utah. The land was claimed by sage brush, prairie dogs, rabbits and coyotes. Before crops could be planted, the sage brush had to be uprooted and the land cleared. Logs were hauled from the nearby mountains to construct a barn. While living in Widtsoe, there were three more children born. Hermansen’s nature was gentle but firm. He enjoyed being with his family and with his books. He was generous with his neighbors and would share meat and crops with them.
On April 17, 1924, Hermansen was run over by a spirited team of horses and critically injured while trying to save 10-year-old Derald E. Lay, who was in the wagon. He was taken to the LDS Hospital, then to his sister’s home in Salt Lake City. Each day he lived, he said, “I have lived another day, but if I am going to be a cripple, I would rather die.” He was paralyzed the last 21 days of his life. He died on May 8, 1924.
Hermansen was buried in an Elsinore cemetery. On his headstone is the inscription, “Died a hero.” He posthumously received the Carnegie Medal for heroism.
(Edited from information provided by the family.)