. . . A short time after father was baptized I was baptized also and likewise my sister. Father sold the home which consisted in a house on about three acres of land of a poor quality preparatory to our emigration. I was happy in what I considered the prospects before me, not only in the thoughts which my religion and hope in God now inspired, but the privilege of going to other parts on the world to see countries and people of whom I had read in school studies I considered a great treat. I had then never seen a railroad train and the prospect of soon having many and long rides with the iron horse was to me something grand, especially did I think that a voyage across the Atlantic would be very enjoyable. I was looking on the bright side of all these things not considering as I then could not conceive of the hardships and trials encountered upon a journey of over six thousand miles in those days, and especially with the accommodations furnished the Mormon emigration. I remember when the last [p.712] of the household goods was sold at auction a day or two before starting on our long journey to a land of which we knew nothing only as it had been represented to us by the Mormon elders, and the very day of starting was anxiously waited for by me. Let me here say that I believe that although the mission work in that land was by the Utah church under the presidency of Brigham Young that the gospel principle as preached was the truth and was confirmed by God's Spirit to the satisfaction of upright men and women. Polygamy at that time was not denied but was not mentioned by the elders unless brought up by others when they had to try to defend it. When any claimed they could not believe, they were told: do not trouble yourself about it, it is a holy principle if you can not see into it now wait till you get to Zion, and all will come out right. In this hope thousands have left all dear to them in this life only to meet with disappointment and regret after the sacrifice has been made, many to become so discouraged as to five up all hope to God and religion to plod along in darkness and infidelity with nothing in which to place confidence. It was on the 10 day of April 1864 that we left what had been our home for the long and tedious journey not expecting to see relatives and friends again. Though we left but few friends, our religion had made us contemptible and degraded in their eyes, this of course made the parting all the easier. We had become strangers among our own people, and we were going now to gather with those who were one with us in faith and in spirit, and we cared not for the hatred of the world, nor even for those more merciful who looked upon us with pity. We were carried by team from Storehedinge to Copenhagen from where we wailed in a few days by steamer bound for Hull, England. Our family consisted of father and mother, myself, my sister Annie, and two younger brethren named respectively Nels five, and Christian two and one half years old at this time.
I soon found it was not so pleasurable to go to sea as [p.713] I had anticipated, especially for those not accustomed to the ocean and in such a crowded condition as we were in.
We were but fairly out of the harbor when the heaving of the vessel began to cause a peculiar sensation as though my stomach was displeased with its present location causing a feeling that was all together unpleasant. The captain concluded to anchor before leaving Oresound, that is the narrow channel between Danmark and Sweden because of the roughness of the sea in the Cattegat waiting for more pleasant weather. I presume this was done out of pity for the poor emigrants who were crowded together as so many sheep is a pen. We laid here until the following morning, when we lifted anchor and set out to sea for good. The wind became stronger again, and we had a very rough sea the waves constantly rolling over the deck, and found before we reached England that I had overestimated the pleasures of a sea voyage. Nearly all aboard the vessel was sick with the exception of the crew. I found it necessary to remain on deck as I could not stand it below. My youngest brother took very ill on this trip, he went into spasms and we thought was dying but after being carried on deck into the fresh air he soon revived and got well again. I think it was caused by the excitement, crowded conditions and bad air, caused by so many being crowded into a small space. The trip lasted three days I think, and this voyage was a rough one, but the good ship carried us through. The crew was very kind to the passengers but the boat was not arranged to carry so many. When I now after so many years think of the night, as still remembered by me, how the sick people were laying in the hold on the floor in a promiscuous way men, women, and children it is almost enough to sicken my stomach now.
When we landed in England we soon found it was a strange land and we were among a people whose language we could not understand nor could they understand us. We were here sheltered in some large warehouses or building of some such kinds but as we now had little more room and got access to our bedding we made our beds at nights upon the floor, and had a good rest as our stay was prolonged for several days. As I was looking around in that neighborhood one day [p.714] and with curiosity beholding what was going on in this new world. I would frequently listen to the conversation between men to try to catch some word that I could understand but in vain, it was all sealed to me. I remember as I was pondering over this strange affair I noticed a rooster, and saw him flap his wings just as a rooster would do in Denmark, and was almost surprised to hear him crow exactly as a Danish rooster would do. I came to the conclusion while men in different lands spoke different languages, that rooster language was the same throughout the world.
We had now already begun to learn that all in our company were not Saint-like in their conduct one toward another, but then we were going to Zion where we were to learn more perfectly the way of the Lord.
Many had now begun to see things not by them expected to be found among Saints yet with an eye of faith were looking for the better when we should arrive in Zion.
After about a week's stay at Hull we resumed our journey. This time by rail to Liverpool. It was my first ride in a railway train, and that was the case with a good many even among the older people, for in the country from where we came people do not travel much. Many are there born into the world and live a long life never never to see country and people 50 miles from home. I enjoyed this my first railroad ride immensely though the accommodations were poor. We arrived in Liverpool before night, and here we were to lay upon the stone pavement but as far as I remember it was under a sort of a shed by the dock where cargoes from the vessels were unloaded. It was poor accommodations for human beings, but then we were only Mormon emigrants and I did not hear of much complaints. It was expected that the road to Zion would be a difficult one, the [THAT] God's people should go through much tribulation whereby to become purified as gold. With this understanding all were determined to bear with meekness that which seemed to be their lot looking forward to the ultimate reward; a home in Zion. I would here remark that this emigration was all in charge of the leaders among the priesthood. They chartered the vessels and railroad trains and arranged the whole matter. [p.715] They fixed the price for each to pay for his or her passage and to them was the money paid and the people trusted all in their hands accepting such as they provided for them. If they should have asked for to know any of the particulars they would have been told it was not their business, and if any had complained they would have been considered in a spirit of apostasy.
I think it was on the 26 of April we went on board a large sailing vessel named The Monarch of the Sea. But she was not yet ready to sail. This large and proud vessel was to carry us cross the Atlantic to the continent of America.
On the 28th we were towed out of the harbor into sea again, the Monarch [of the Sea] carrying a cargo of about one thousand human beings beside the crew. It was my birthday, I was fourteen years old, and now bid adieu to the European shore, not troubling myself whether I ever or not should see that continent again. Upon this ship we were not quite so crowded as we had been across the North Sea from Denmark to England; but the room was small enough considering that we were there to stay for several weeks at least. We had not been long on board this vessel before we learned that we were in a rough company as far as the crew was concerned. They treated the people worse than beast, if they happened to be in their road on the deck they would kick and push them out of the way having no regard for either women or children.
One of the great difficulties that soon presented itself to us was that the ship was altogether incapable to cook for so large a crowd of passengers, and that the men in charge of the kitchen was inexperienced hands who were thus employed, working their passage. Rations was divided out consisting in oatmeal, rice, peas and meat and perhaps a few other articles. I think a few shrunken potatoes was given once or twice and coffee and tea was in like manner distributed. Each family was to bring their kettle with what they wanted boiled to the kitchen door and was to have it cooked in their turn, but when it was found that the kitchen was entirely inadequate this rule was not observed. The stronger crowded their dish to the front, while that belonging to the weaker and more modest ones was left behind. It was many [p.716] days that many got no cooking done at all, but had to satisfy their cravings by gnawing the hardtacks of which we had plenty.
This condition of affairs soon led to unpleasantness, to quarrels and hard feelings and who can blame them, even saints do not want to starve nor see their little ones cry for something to east. Our condition was most deplorable. The meat we got could be smelled from one end of the vessel to the other when the barrels were opened, it was almost a wonder that it did not explode the same before hand, so strong as it was. When we did happen to get our oatmeal peas or rice cooked as a rule it was not fit to eat being scorched, it not being tended to as the men had not the experience and so many vessels to look after, not the time. For those who had sickness in the family this condition of course was very trying as nothing could be had such as would tempt the appetite of the afflicted one. And we had not been aboard many days before sickness made its inroad into many families.
Our family did not escape. In a few days from the day of sailing my oldest brother took sick and he died in about a week and my youngest brother again in about a week after him. It soon became a common thing to have several deaths a day. I think about 60 children died which included nearly all the little one found among us. One old man closed his earthly career on board the ship but I think he was the only grown person who died. The disease among the children was said to be the measles, but why it should prove to be so universally fatal I can not now understand, and is rather inclined to think that it was the scarlet fever, and perhaps both. It was truly a trying time for parents and relatives of the little ones. No sooner was life extinct, but they would put their body in a coarse sack together with a piece of iron and dump them overboard without ceremony. The iron being in the sack to cause the body to sink. Having two brothers thus buried in the great deep the word of God which says, that: "The sea shall give up the dead which are in it," is not without significance and comfort to me.
I have heard in later years the statement often made [p.717] by the Mormon people, that God wondrously have blessed and preserved them, and their emigrants on their journey, but those who have been with them must remember these times as days of hardship, affliction and sorrow, such as must be experienced to fully understand.
It is not to be wondered at that contagious disease should break out among such a crowd of people who was nearly all of the poorer class and many of them very filthy it is only strange that some contagious disease did not carry off the older people as well, but they escaped now to meet with affliction and trials further on.
When it is considered that before we landed at New York we had been nearly two months on the journey and with no change of getting washing done in this crowded and filthy condition we were in a sorry plight. It was soon discovered that we had other passengers along that was not counted on at the start, and they were so seemed to increased from day to day so rapidly that no one would think of counting them. It was not large live stock, but that nearly everybody felt their presence was observed by the continual scratching in which they were non and then engaged. I have mentioned the ungentlemanly conduct of the crew as examples of their meanness would mention, that if an attempt would be made by anyone to wash their clothes and to have they [them] dried on the deck, the sailors would without the least provocation throw the same overboard as soon as they came across it. This was bedding and other clothing upon which the sick had died which some took on deck to give it a few moments fresh airing, throw it overboard. Once father and mother was on deck trying in the way circumstances would allow to rinse out some clothing, the day was fine. None of the crew had occasion to be in a hurry with their work, and father and mother was not in their way at all. Two of the sailors came along one of them I think was the first mate, they picked up the vessel containing the clothes without previous warning, and poured the whole thing into the spout leading through the ship's boulwark into the sea, and walked away as unconcerned as though nothing uncommon had happened. The clothes would all been lost if father had not immediately reached [p.718] down his hand and caught them all. Of course that finished that day's washing.
I think it was about June 1st that our eyes first beheld the shores of the new continent, the promised land, for which home and its comforts had been sacrificed. Friends and loved ones had been left behind. In many instances parents had left children, and children parents; and even worse husbands, and in this they had been encouraged by the missionaries. In support of such moves scripture had been quoted. The Master having said: "He that does not hate his father and mother, and wife, and children and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also he can not be my disciple." This and similar text wrongfully applied, had led many to believe that it was their duty to forsake all even children and companions to gather with God's people to Zion. Some of them had already begun to see that wrong that had been committed and with bitterness began to regret the step they had taken. While on the journey they began to see that some of the Elders who they had learned to look up to as the servants of God and whose work they had received as the work of God were not such men as they believed them to be. I can remember a Swedish lady whose birth place was not far from ours, who had left her companion in Sweden, who I often heard cry out: "Had I know what I know now I would never have emigrated." As it was with her so it evidently was with many others. But now all who was well enough was cheerful. The long and tedious voyage with all its trials and hardships were complete. Here before the eye was the green shore of "Joseph's Land." It was to us a cheerful sight we though now the difficult part of the journey was completed, and though yet there were several thousands of miles to be traveled before we would reach our destination, "the valleys of the mountains," it would be a journey by land and being tired of the ocean we hailed the prospects of the change with joy. We were in tow of a little steamer and soon came to anchor in the bay. I think it was on the 2nd or 3rd of June that we went ashore at the Castle Garden, where so many thousands and perhaps millions since have landed, coming [p.719] from various parts of Europe to better their financial condition in the new world. But this was not the prime object by the majority of our company. We had come to be enriched spiritually; we were going to a place appointed by God, to be under the voice of inspiration, that we might learn more fully to worship our Maker in righteousness, and to know his ways more fully.
All was in a hurry and bustle at the Garden, how long we waited there I do not remember, but I think it was the next day we boarded a steamer that carried us up the Hudson River to the city of Albany, and here again we had to wait. I sometime think of those times in contrast with our present way of traveling. How impatient we get if our trains do not make close connections, if we have to wait a few hours we think it is very inconvenient, and if it happens that we must wait till next day we consider it outrageous and declare that company ought to be prosecuted for neglect. Not so with us we waited with patience, though many felt weary and worn out with fatigue, few felt that they had a right to complain. Must not God's people come up through great tribulations? And must they not bear these in meekness and submission? What faith was exercised by many in those days to be wrecked and ruined later on as discoveries reveal the corruption within, and in the midst of the church which was believed to be God's own building accepted and directed by him.
After a while we boarded the first railway train in America and though every coach was full to its utmost capacity we were pleased with the cushioned seats and comfortable arrangements found in European railway car. We began to enjoy our ride by rail in this new land where everything looked so strangely different to what our eyes were accustomed to behold.
It was only for a time however for we soon found out that this journey soon would become tiresome also.
Already worn out and tired, and some sick among us, and none having for several nights enjoyed a recuperating slumber so much needed for all, and especially for people in our condition, we soon found when the eye got weary of looking at the sights and night approached that the limited [p.720] space allowed for each did not afford a very comfortable condition for sleep and rest so much needed.
Our train was a slow one being frequently sidetracked to be out of the way of other trains, and thus we were delayed for hours at the time. I remember but few of the cities that we passed through and do not know even the name of the road over which we traveled. But we came to a place where we must change cars, and we found that a train of box cars had been provided for us, with temporary hard seats arranged even without any support for the back.
Our leaders claimed that the railroad company was to blame for this treatment but how the matter stood we of course had no opportunity of knowing. It was during the war of the rebellion, when everything almost was in an unsettled condition in the United States, and this condition of affairs may some how been the cause why the company could not furnish passenger cars for us to travel in.
Our condition was uncomfortable on the first train but it became tenfold worse in box cars. How long we traveled in these I do not remember, but the trip from Albany, New York to St. Joseph, Missouri lasted about a week. The city of Chicago is one of the places remembered by me. Here as far as I remember we were furnished with passenger cars again in which we traveled to Quincy, Illinois but after crossing the Mississippi River, a train of box cars were offered to us again.
Here our company refused to travel that way and we had to wait till the next day. We had no shelter for the night and no access to our bedding. We went into the woods and the weather being fine, and by the use of shawls and overcoats we made ourselves tolerable comfortable. I think it was the most comfortable night spent for a week. The following day we were furnished regular cars, and we traveled on to St. Joseph. I think now it may be that the railroad company had been furnishing cars for the transporting of soldiers to battlefield and that the freight cars, fitted up with temporary board seats were such as had been for such used transportation, and perhaps on this account was unprepared to furnish cars for an extra train as was required for our company. [p.721] Be that as it may I have described our mode of traveling to the best of my recollection, and though over 30 years ago many of the incidents of that journey are indelible stamped upon my mind, and remembered as well as though it occurred yesterday.
St. Joseph was not much of a place at the time when we arrived there. We were dumped off near the Missouri River on the sand. If there was a depot we were not taken to it. Perhaps if there was one, it would have been too small to accommodate our crowd. Here we boarded a steamer which slowly paddled us up the Missouri River to a place called Wyoming, about seven miles above Nebraska City where we arrived about the middle of June. This was the place selected from which we were to begin our tedious journey across the plains. This trip was to be made with ox team, and the distance to be traveled some over one thousand miles. It was the first season in which the Mormon emigration was to start from here.
In previous years the starting point had been Florence, Nebraska, about 40 miles farther up the river, and about four miles from Omaha. Perhaps the principal cause for this change was the fact that this latter place having so long been on the line over which the Mormons having traveled, and in consequence many of the citizens of Omaha and Florence were apostate Mormons. Some having refused to journey any further having become weak in the faith before reaching the mountains, and others after having gone there had become disgusted and returned and located at these places. It was not desirable by the leaders of the Mormon emigration to take the people where they would be so close in contact with these apostates, as they might bring them such information as would not be desirable for them to obtain, thus leading perhaps others to apostatize.
After landing in Wyoming we were permitted to scatter about among the brush and build our camp as best we could, and everybody were soon busy at work. Only few in the company had tents, those who had were considered the rich. The rest built huts by throwing brush upon poles erected for the purpose, and an effort was made by some to have [p.722] these huts with sumac bushes and other brush in a manner to keep out the rain. But this last effort did not prove much of a success. Our brush houses answered quite well to keep out the sun but when it rained we were in pitiful condition. For it did rain and rained as we had never seen it rain before. In Denmark we had seen long and steady rains, but never had we witnessed such pour down before, nor such thunder and lightning. I have seen some such weather since, but do not think I ever seen anything worse, and we were altogether unprepared.
Among the first and very important work to be done among us was that of getting our clothing washed, that we might be freed from the past before spoken of that had by no means been diminished, but on the other hand had got worse. And for the accomplishment of this a good supply of soap had been provided by those in charge. Water being free and plenty and little wood could be gathered to heat the water the facility was good for a cleansing process. We now had plenty of room so that those who wanted to need no longer remain in their previous condition.
We had not been long in camp until we found disease prevailing among our number to an alarming extent. The change of climate and the change in living at the same time being exposed to all kinds of weather brought on sickness. This time it was not among the little ones only as was the case on board the vessel.
This time it was primarily grown persons that became afflicted. It was by some called the choler. I think however it was only the result of the hardships of the journey combined with change of climate and diet. No matter what disease it was it was bad enough, and attacked both young and old, some slightly and others severely, and in quite a number of cases resulted in death. Mother was the first one in our family who came down, and we found it impossible to care for her as the sick ought to be cared for, not even being able to protect her from the rains that fell in torrents nearly every night.
One day Elder John Smith, who is now the presiding patriarch in the Utah Church came by and stopped to see [p.723] my mother his generous heart was touched with pity and he told father to come with him and he would see that we got a tent to use, which he did. John Smith was himself at this time return from a mission to Denmark. At this time mother was very low and by many not expected to live. I remember upon one occasion when alone with my father he spoke to me in manner evidently to prepare me for what he feared would be the end. I know father felt bad and I was in condition nor was I old enough to comfort him. Mother expected herself that her end had come and wanted to die. She told us that she could not live and if any spoke of the possibility of her recovery it seemed to be [-] to her. But her work was not done she could not then die, but she is living even now. She had yet to suffer many things that none of us at that time had even dreamed of.
How wisely that the creature in many instances has kept hid from gaze the future, and only revealed in part such things as may prove for our good if rightly and faithfully applied. The tent that was so kindly furnished us proved to be of but little good to us as it could not stand the storm and we being inexperienced with tenting did not know so well to pitch it securely. I remember several nights that I together with my father when the storms came up would get up and cling to the poles with all our strength in the hope of holding it secure, but it would be only for a while and then it would go down notwithstanding our efforts. After a while we learned by experience to pitch it more securely that we made it stand, and perhaps the storms were not severe. We have often felt grateful to Elder Smith for his kindness in our behalf. A friend in need is a friend indeed and such he proved to be though he was almost an entire stranger to us. Mother got better in course of time, and the next to be taken sick was my sister and I.
We had not means to purchase a team of our own and thus travel in an independent way across the plains as some did. The church had sent teams from the valleys to bring out the poor, and we being now among that class having spent all we had in the world to come this far on our way to Zion. A company composed of those whom possessed their [p.724] own teams had started and indeed had not tried to get off on account of the sickness of mother.
We had been in camp at Wyoming about six weeks, and now the last company were going to start, and so of course we must go along or be left behind. My sister was quite sick yet and I was not well, but we got started. Now the teams that came from Utah was furnished by the people there upon the call of their leaders to bring the poor saints to Zion, but before any of the belongings of the people were laced in the wagons they were loaded with merchandise almost to their full capacity. This consisted of boxes and bales and in other forms either for some individual merchant in Salt Lake City or for the cooperation known as cooperative "Zions, mercantile institution." Though I do not know if this institution was organized at that time or not. No matter the goods were hauled out for somebody, and it was all done in the name of helping the poor and building up Zion. I learned from the young man who drove our team that there was some over twenty hundred on the same before any of the emigrants had a thing put on but the emigrants goods did not amount to much, as each person was only allowed fifty pounds and that included bedding and all.
We were twelve persons to a wagon, but every man, woman, and child who was at all able to should walk. We were of course not going to go to Zion "on flowery beds of ease," neither should we ride on an ox team. But we must walk both men, women, and children. Such streams as the Platt and other rivers must be considered no obstacles, if they could be forded with teams men and women could wade across and it was expected that they should. Perhaps when we think of the hardships of the hand cart companies who traversed the desert pulling or pushing their carts, our walking and wading the rivers should not be complained of.
But it is born in mind that these teams were sent freely for the purpose of bringing home the poor, and when it is understood as was the fact that each head of family before starting on the journey had to sign promissary notes agreeing to pay $60.00 for each person carried across the [p.725] plains and these notes drawing interest at the rate of ten per cent, paid interest to e added to the principal yearly and drawing interest at same rate until paid, it looks like an expensive privilege. I remember it was announced while in camp at Wyoming that all who wanted to go on the church teams should come to office ad sign their name and of course all went. The masses coming from foreign lands of course could not speak nor read English, but they asked no questions but did as they were told, and no one explained what their signature meant. . . . [p.726]
BIB: Hansen, H. N., "An Account of a Mormon Family's Conversion to the Religion of the Latter-day Saints and their Trip from Denmark to Utah," Annals of Iowa 41:1 (Summer 1971) pp 712-26.