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Christen Christensen (1817-1899): Biography

This biography was compiled in October and November 2009 by W. Bart. Christenson, Jr., Provo, Utah, with a desire to fully document Christen's life as far as possible. Information from a book authored by his great-granddaughter, Virginia Christensen Keeler (1901-1970) was used freely throughout the piece. The book, Some Christensen’s’ Who Came from Thy…, published by J. Grant Stevenson, Provo, Utah, 1969, includes facts, notations and quotations from diaries and other documents in her possession at the time of writing, which to date have not been located anywhere else.

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In the Book of Mormon, as Father Lehi and his family arrived in the New World, he unfolded an interesting prophesy to them regarding the Americas. Said he:

…notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.
Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord. Wherefore, this land is consecrated…it shall be a land of liberty…unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.
1

During the 1800’s and 1900’s, the United States became a seed-bed for the restoration of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God on earth, as millions immigrated to our shores thus answering this prophesy.

Accordingly, along with other bold immigrants before and after, from all walks of life and from all nations, Christen Christensen and his family from Thisted, Denmark, must be included among the chosen number—for they too were led by the Lord.

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Descending from a long line of Norsemen extending back to the first inhabitants of the Thy region in Denmark, Christen was born on 29 July 1817 in Flarupgaard, Ydby, Thisted, Denmark. He was home christened on the day of his birth and again later in the Lutheran parish church in Ydby, on 5 October 1817. He was given the name of Christen Christensen. His father was also named Christen; his mother was Maren Christensdatter. 2 (Seemingly, Christen or Christian was a fashionable given name at the time.)

He came from a family of seven children, three boys and four girls, of which he was the oldest child. 3 When his father died at age 43, young Christen, not quite 15 years of age at the time, was left to take over the family farm and provide for his mother and younger siblings. It was a big responsibility, but he worked hard. He subsequently courted and married Karen Lauritzdatter when he was 27, after which he gave up the family farm to his younger and only living brother, Jens. Then, with his new bride, he moved to Kobberod, some five miles away, where he bought another farm. Here, with continued hard work and resourcefulness, over the next two decades, he prospered greatly:

Christen and Karen both had relatives in Kobberod and so he bought a farm there and settled. He … built that farm until it [became] one of the richest and best in the whole area and he was considered one of the most successful farmers around. He employed a number of laborers, both on the farm and in the house. Aside from this he manufactured farm implements on his place, for which he had good market. He was a lover of thoroughbred horses and owned a number, as well as his own up-to-date and impressive carriage. He loved sports and was a fine wrestler and jumper, as well as being clever at horseshoes. He had numerous friends and relatives in South Thy, being well known and well respected withal. [He] was a well-to-do, successful man, one might say, and besides … [eventually] fathered ten children and provided well for his household. 4

Moreover, he was also described as being upstanding…rather tall and somewhat stern looking. 5

In her interesting and informative book, Some Christensen’s Who Came from Thy…, great-granddaughter, Virginia Christensen Keeler (1901-1970), further described the environment in which Christen and his family lived:

The Danes themselves were a fine race, usually tall and athletically trained. In the country districts, such as Thy, they were kind and hospitable with an easy independence of bearing. The natives of Thy, perhaps the harshest part of Denmark, were possibly more hardy and vigorous, in the main, because of the process of natural selection, the weaker ones dying off young. Jutland in general was sometimes referred to as the ‘dark continent’, particularly by Danes of the Island cities. This was probably because of the seeming backwardness of its people, the country manner and country dress, including wooden shoes, but more especially because of the peculiar Danish brogue spoken in parts of Thy—‘Danish words all chewed up and swallowed and then spit out of the throat’, and sounding almost as harsh as the land itself. But in spite of it all, the blood of Israel, and some of the finest blood in the kingdom of Denmark, flowed in the veins of the farming Jut Landers of Thy. Among these, and surely not the least of them, were the Christen Christensen’s of Kobberod. In fact, to many of the people of the area Christen Christensen himself was known as ‘the great man of the north’. 6

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Regarding Christen’s marriage to Karen Lauritzdatter, a dark-haired, attractive, intelligent and spiritual girl, they were married in Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark, on 25 March 1845. He was 27 ¾ years old, and she was 18 ½. 7 Then, over the next seventeen years, they produced ten children, as follows:

Christian Christensen Flarup was born 24 April 1846, in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark. He married Else Marie Andersen 8 April 1879, near Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark. He died 5 November 1922, near Heltborg, Thisted, Denmark. 8

Laurs (Lauritz or Lars) Mathias Christian was second born, 22 July 1847, in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark. He married Else Cathrine/Katrine Andersen/Christensen 22 April 1866, in Aalborg, Aalborg, Denmark. He died 10 November 1928, in Manti, Sanpete, Utah. 9

Maren came next. She was born 14 February 1849, at Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark. She married Lars Christian Nielsen Myrup 22 April 1866, in Aalborg, Aalborg, Denmark. 10 She died 13 July 1883, at Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah. 11

Ane Marie was fourth born. She entered the world at Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark on 2 March 1850, but only survived until 5 July 1850. She died in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark, and is buried in Gettrup. 12

Peder Christian was next. He was born 5 July 1851, at Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark. He died in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark, on 9 March 1856, and is buried in Gettrup. 13

Niels Christian was sixth born, but only survived six months. He was born 23 April 1853 in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark, where he subsequently died on 21 September 1853. He was also buried in Gettrup. 14

Pouline, the third daughter and seventh born child was born 30 March 1855 in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark. She married Andrew Andersen in Salt Lake City, 12 May 1873. 15 She died 8 October 1913 in Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah, where she is buried. 16

Their first daughter to be named Petrine was born 4 May 1857 in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark, but died there on 13 March 1858. She was buried in Gettrup, too. 17

A surviving daughter also named Petrine was born 28 February 1859 in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark. She immigrated to Utah in 1866, but passed away in Gunnison, Sanpete County, Utah, on 8 September 1879. 18 She was sealed posthumously to her fiancée, Jens Mikkelsen, on 26 March 1903, in the Manti Temple. 19

The tenth and last child born to the couple, another daughter was Nielsine Christiane. She was born 15 June 1862 in Kobbero, Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark. She married Anthony Madsen to whom she was sealed in the Manti Temple on 14 December 1898. 20 She died 22 July 1898, and is buried in Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah. 21

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The Christensen family members were active Lutherans and attended the Gettrup parish regularly. However, there was a prevailing church doctrine which bothered them greatly, especially Karen. It was the church’s stand on refusing burial for un-baptized children within the confines of the church’s graveyard. The priest alleged that such children “died in their sins” and could not be buried next to those who had been privileged to receive baptism. Unfortunately, their sixth-born child, little Neils Christian had passed away before the baptismal ordinance could be performed. Consequently, he had not qualified for a proper burial. Gentle, devout Karen was heartbroken with the decision. 22

(As an aside, on a trip to Scandinavia during the summer of 1989, my wife, one of our daughters and I had a thought-provoking experience. While in Norway, during a bus tour as we were descending a steep mountain road into a narrow-walled alpine valley formed by the Folgefonni Glacier:

… to visit several lovely, venerable villages founded by early Norsemen, [we] learned that until this close, mountain passageway had been completed only fifteen years earlier, many of these small, alpine settlements had been totally isolated throughout most of the year.
In one of the quaint hamlets, we stopped to see an ancient, well-preserved, Viking wooden-stave, Christian church, one of the last still extant, surrounded by its characteristic flowered graveyard. It had multiple, small, six-inch-in-diameter windows, supposedly fashioned, we were told, so that evil spirits would have difficulty in entering the building. In addition, we were informed, if evil spirits should enter, the women were seated next to the windows—so that the men would have time to escape! Moreover, hideous-looking, wood-carved figures adorned the building, as further deterrent to the unwanted evil spirits. Infant children who had been baptized and died could be buried beneath the church alter. However, un-baptized children had to be buried outside the church walls. With its bizarre traditions and unusual architecture, the stave church was most unique and interesting.
23)

At any rate, when the two locally stationed but socially-ostracized Mormon missionaries knocked on their door, spiritually minded but doctrinally-troubled Karen let them in out of the cold. It was not too long after hearing their message and reading and praying about what she read in the Book of Mormon, most specifically about the concepts found in the eighth chapter of Moroni that she found answers to the troubling doctrine of infant baptism and knew the Church was true. Other family members began listening and pondering the message, as well. Soon, she and her oldest daughter, Maren, accepted baptism, on 1 May 1865. 24

Christen Senior had been seriously considering the step for quite a while. In fact the urge to be baptized had kept yanking at his coattails for weeks but his Danish stubbornness had kept holding him back. Why hadn’t he thought of the whole thing first? The night following his wife’s baptism, as he and she were preparing to retire, Karen spoke to him of the great peace that had come into her heart with the administration of those holy ordinances, and then she said, rather wistfully, ‘But it will be so difficult to emigrate to Zion without you, my love.’ These last words stunned him—that was something else he hadn’t thought about first either. Well now if this was how the wind was blowing it was a different matter entirely! Next day Christen made a special visit to the lodgings of the Mormon missionaries, and the following day, May 3rd 1865, accompanied by the two delighted Elders, he himself went down to the water and was baptized a member of the new church by Elder Myrup [Lars Christian Nielsen Myrup, who would eventually become his son-in-law], assisted by the other Elder. [Two other family members were also baptized five days later.] 25

Virginia C. Keeler continues the story:

One could say this much for the father, Christen Christensen of Kobberod: whenever he went into something he went in all over! As far as he was concerned, from the moment of his baptism and as long as he lived, nothing was too good for the Restored Church and its missionaries. Right away he helped to secure a rented hall in the town of Gettrup where the few members of the church in the area could hold services. He and his family attended regularly and assisted in fellowshipping new members by inviting them to their home. They fed and entertained the missionaries and did everything they could to further the work of the Lord in that small part of His vineyard. It wasn’t long before a goodly part of the discussions at the meetings were about emigration. The Millennial Star, an LDS church publication printed in England but translated into Danish, carried the message:--‘The poor, the pure in heart will be brought singing to Zion… let all who can procure a loaf of bread and one garment on their backs be assured there is water plenty and pure by the way. And doubt no longer but come next year to the place of gathering, even in flocks, as doves fly to their window before the storm.’ Emigration—this was a magic word now for these new Saints; to Zion they must surely go—next year! 26

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Meanwhile, Karen who was carrying her eleventh child was not doing well. She was weak and frail and needed help with the younger children. The previous governess had tendered her resignation as the family embraced the Church, because of ill-feelings for the despised religious sect from America; she even began spreading unkind rumors about the family and the Church in the village. [It] was said the priest himself had plenty bad to say of them [too]. Perhaps he was worried about his pocket money, since the family no longer joined his congregations. Christen Senior couldn’t have cared less what people said or how they reacted, though he was somewhat surprised at the bigotry of some of the best of them. 27

Be that as it may, a new governess was urgently needed. And with the help of the missionaries a new one was soon found—Else Cathrine/Kathrine Andersen/Christensen, a singular new convert, who had been baptized herself only five months earlier. She resided in a nearby community and needed employment as well as a change of venue. She was hired. The new arrangement worked out marvelously. It was a perfect fit. Else eventually became our great grandmother, when she married Christen’s and Karen’s second son, Laurs M. C., our great grandfather, some months later. 28

Hence, in anticipation of their intended early emigration to the New Zion in America, amidst the whispered innuendos and unkind jeers of uninformed townspeople and prejudiced, non-believing neighbors and acquaintances—evidently, there were no direct physical attacks on the family, however—they began the onerous task of selling their farmstead and numerous possessions and preparing for the new life. How difficult it would have been to leave everything familiar behind, thus to launch out into the unknown—especially since they were so widely respected, comfortably situated, and materially secure. Their actions speak volumes about the strength of their convictions. Nevertheless, that is what they did. After all, as Father Lehi had prophesied centuries before, they were among a select, inspired group being led by the hand of the Lord to the New World, consequently shortly to fulfill their foreordained roles and destinies.

Accordingly, over the next eleven months following their baptisms, as the disposing of possessions and property proceeded, interesting occurrences transpired. One of these happenings was the conversion of part of the money that resulted from the sales into gold coins. He then had Else sew the coins into the lining of a waistcoat which he constantly wore 29, providently anticipating unforeseen monetary emergencies which might arise—and they did—during their exodus.

Other interesting happenings included his participation in helping the fledgling Church in their locale with its financial obligations, as well as paying full travel expenses for a number of needy Saints, to Utah. 30 As his grandson, Albert H Christenson (1872-1957), later recorded: My father’s father, Christian [Christen] Christensen, sold out his entire property, paid a considerable sum to clear up the Church debt in that part of the country, paid the passage for 31 people, including his own family, to Utah, and loaned a considerable sum of money to returning missionaries. 31 [It is unlikely that he was ever fully reimbursed for these generous expenditures, either. Nonetheless … [he] never worried about this and often stated that it was a blessing to use one’s means in such a worthy cause. 32]

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Finally, after nearly a year of preparation, the time arrived for their departure to America. Great-granddaughter, Edith C. Bauer picks up the story 33:

Christen sold his house and farm for a greatly reduced price with the stipulation that the family could remain in the house until they were ready to leave for America in mid-April.

After Christen had sold much of his livestock, as well as his lands, he went to Aalborg to pay passage to Wyoming, Nebraska for his family, and a number of other emigrants. He converted the remainder of his monies into American gold coins. When he returned to Kobberod, he had Else K. sew these coins into the lining of his waistcoat to provide for travel needs.

When the family had finished packing their newly sewed clothes and carefully selected items into two large trunks, and several smaller valises and boxes, they bid their friends and relatives “goodbye.” A drayman picked up their luggage and took it to Aalborg, but Christen and his family and Else K. and Lars Myrup rode to Aalborg in a fine carriage drawn by a favorite team of black horses. These were sold in Aalborg before the group sailed. A few days after arriving in Aalborg there was a double wedding—Else K. Andersen was married to Laurs M. C. Christensen, and Maren (Mary) Christensen was married to Lars Myrup. The date was April 22, 1866. 34

The Christensen's and other Saints who were immigrating to America at that time had assembled at Aalborg. From there they traveled by ships and rail to Hamburg. Here they boarded the Kenilworth on May 16, 1866.The ocean voyage aboard the Kenilworth was long and filled with discomfort. The frail Karen Lauritzen Christensen died at sea [23 June 1866], and she and her unborn baby were buried in the Atlantic Ocean. 35

A description of the burial was reconstructed by granddaughter, Elsie C, Bartholomew:

Her burial at sea, the same day as her death, was performed as was the custom of such in those days. Her corpse was sewed into a canvas sack into which was also placed scissors and other things thought needful for use in the delivery of her expected child. All was fastened to a large plank, with heavy weights at one end, and then pushed overboard into the troubled sea. 36

Sorrowful Christen found much needed assistance for his three young daughters during Karen’s last days aboard ship by engaging the help of a single sister on the ship. In fact, the compatible arrangement eventually led to his second marriage:

It became necessary for someone to be by Karen most of the time. In order to free Christen and his older children, as well as Else for this responsibility, a kindly emigrant sister, Anne [Ane] Jensen, was hired to look after the three girls a great deal of the time. Anne was a twenty-eight year old spinster 37 from Vaar, Hjorring Amt, in the Vendsyssel Conference and had been baptized into the Church in Feb. 1861. Like Else, she was emigrating without her own family members and gladly took over the care of Pauline, now eleven, Petrine, age seven, and little Sena (Nielsine) who had her fourth birthday in route, 15 June, which must have passed by mostly unnoticed because of the deep concern of all for her mother’s welfare. 38

Following a difficult ocean passage of 58 days, during which time other passengers succumbed, as well, the ship arrived in New York Harbor. From here, a circuitous and difficult train ride into Canada (the Church never commissioned this route, again) was used to reach their point of demarcation across the plains, in Wyoming, Nebraska. They then joined the Abner Lowry Wagon Train bound for Utah. A description of their journey has already been given elsewhere. 39 Certainly, it was a hard passage for the Christensen’s in many ways:

Christen Christensen and his party, having lost their large trunks of clothing in route, were obliged to purchase more of the necessities at Wyoming. Here, among other things, Christen bought three cooking-stoves, one for himself and one for each of his two married children. Little by little his reserve was being exhausted and it must have now been necessary for him to fall back on the gold pieces in the lining of his vest. He had come to depend on the spinster Anne Jensen to a great extent now, in the absence of his dear wife Karen, until she had grown to seem like a regular member of his family. Anne herself had become very fond of Christen and the little girls and they of her. All, however, were very weary and anxious to be on their way. It was just short of four months since the Christensen’s had left their home in Thy. 40

The overland trek took some nine weeks to complete. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 22 October 1866. 41 It was formidable journey. Scores of unfortunate pioneers in the company lost their lives along the way. Church Historian, Andrew Jenson, a fellow traveler on the sea aboard the Kenilworth, who also came across the plains in a sister Wagon Company, had these observations concerning the Abner Lowry Wagon Train:

If the details of this company’s journey across the plains were written, it would probably present one of the most pitiable and heartrending chapters in the history of the Church; but it is perhaps better to close the episode and not revive the memory of something so touching and sorrowful. At some future date, undoubtedly, more details will be published about the experience of that ill-fated company; and in the great hereafter those who laid down their lives on the way will have an opportunity to give an accurate and truthful account of their sufferings. 42

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Most of the travelers in the Abner Lowry Wagon Train were of Scandinavian origin, and after their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, soon made their way down to Sanpete County, as had become commonplace for new converts from this part of the world at the time. The Christensen’s settled there, too. Christen and Ane were married shortly thereafter:

It had been decided beforehand that Christen Christensen and his younger daughters, Pauline, Petrine and Nielsene, as well as Anne [Ane] Jensen would stop off at Fountain Green and spend the winter with friends there and in Moroni. The family things therefore had been sorted and repacked in preparation for it, since Laurs and Else, Maren and Lars Myrup were continuing south to Manti. It had been pretty well decided that Christen and Anne would be wed soon after they reached their destination. He desperately needed a mother for his children and Anne seemed just the one for the job. She had proved to be well qualified for it and the little girls loved her; besides she and Christen had become very fond of each other. Elder Morten Lund, who had come all the way from Aalborg in their company, also dropped off at Fountain Green for this was his home and here his wife and children awaited him. It is quite possible that it was Elder Lund who, nearly three weeks later (Nov. 17, 1866), performed the marriage ceremony that made Christen and Anne husband and wife. 43

Both wives were sealed to him some two years later, on 3 October 1868, in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. 44

Meanwhile, simultaneous with their arrival in Sanpete County, the Utah Black Hawk Indian War was in full swing:

What in reality was the Black Hawk War? On the most basic level, it was a series of raids against Mormon settlements in the Sanpete Valley and other areas of central and southern Utah between 1865 and 1872. During the first three years, the hostile Indians were led by Black Hawk, a warrior of the Northern Ute’s, and later by Shena-vegan, a member of Black Hawk’s dissident band. Together they waged a guerilla war that devastated the economy of Central Utah and caused the virtual abandonment of nearly all of the settlements. The last few years, from 1869 to 1872, raiding was primarily the act of disgruntled reservation Indians who acted independently and sporadically, and without great effect. The most significant events of the war took place in the earliest period….

… to the Mormon settlers, the Black Hawk War was worthy of the name in every respect. By 1866 the conflict had become so serious that upwards of 2,500 able-bodied men were pressed into the militia in an attempt to stabilize the frontier. The task was a formidable one—during the years 1865 to 1867 Black Hawks’ men managed to steal approximately five thousand head of cattle and kill as many as ninety settlers and militiamen. Numerous settlements in Central and Southern Utah were abandoned, including such major communities as Richfield, Circleville, Panguitch, and Kanab. Without question the conflict called for war-like expenditures of manpower and materiel….

The fact of the matter was, conflict between the two cultures was essentially inevitable. What the Indians needed, the Mormon settlers were loath to give. The land and the resources were not so extensive, nor the bonds of culture close enough, for these two peoples to mutually prosper. In their primitive ways, the Ute’s were powerless to prevent the loss of lands and resources to the Mormon settlers. The United States Government had the means to step in and alleviate the suffering as the native peoples were displaced, but…it chose not to do so…. It should be remembered… that Congress had far greater problems to contend with in the aftermath of the Civil War. 45

As a consequence, shortly after their arrival in Sanpete County, the male members of the Christensen clan were called into military service:

Laurs Christensen and Lars Myrup both served with the Sanpete militia, first under General Warren Stone Snow and later under General Page. Christen Christensen himself also served in the Black Hawk Indian War, even though he was well past forty-five when men could be released from that military duty. 46 (Nearly twenty years following his death his wife Anne [Ane] received a pension settlement for his service in that war. 47, 48)

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Thereafter, over the next 15 years following their marriage in 1866, Christen and Ane conceived six children, first a daughter and then five sons. A listing of them follows:

Caroline was born 28 September 1867, in Manti, Sanpete, Utah. 49 Church records indicate that she married John Jensen at age 26, on 3 November 1893. 50 She died in Axtell, Sanpete, Utah, on 1 December 1944. 51

Christen ‘K’ came next. He was born 24 December 1869, in Manti Sanpete, Utah. 52 Church records show that he married Lucinda Anderson at age 52, on 27 June 1921. 53 His death certificate shows that he died 31 October 1934, at Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah. 54

John Taylor was third born. He was born 26 April 1872, in Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah. 55 According to church records, he married Margaret Caroline Peterson 20 June 1906 in the Manti Temple. 56 He died 6 March 1913, and is buried in the Manti City Cemetery. 57

Fourth born was Andrew. He was born at Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah, on 16 July 1874 58, married Nielsena Christassen Nielsen on 8 August 1923 59, and evidently died in Idaho, 31 May 1917. 60

Joseph, the fifth child, was born in Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah, on 10 January 1877. 61 He never married, and died in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, 26 February 1920, at age 43. 62

George Ludvig was last born on 20 August 1879, in Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah. 63 He survived less than two years, and died in Gunnison on 11 February 1881. 64

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Regarding their several places of eventual residence following their marriage in Fountain Green on17 November 1866, Christen and Ane spent the rest of the winter in Moroni. In the spring of 1867, however, they came down to the Big Fort in Manti… traveling in a company escorted by armed guards, as advised by the Prophet Brigham Young… to join their two married children and spouses. Here they remained until 1870. And as already noted it was from here that Christen entered the militia and later journeyed to Salt Lake City to be sealed to his two wives.

Then, in early 1870, all three families of the Christensen clan moved to the Gunnison Valley. They anticipated many new opportunities. Indeed, much transpired four years later:

The year 1874 was full of experiences both good and bad…There was increased anti-Mormon and anti-polygamy movement in Zion and an anti-Mormon weekly newspaper, ‘Utah Scandinav’ began publication in the Danish-Norwegian language that October but was forced to discontinue after three years run. There were numerous excommunications from the Church. But, on the other hand, many Indians were converted and baptized into the church that year—whole tribes in fact. [The Utah Black Hawk Indian War had officially ended two years before.] On July 24th a grand ‘Juvenile Jubilee’ in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City where 4,000 young musicians and singers participated to celebrate the pioneers’ entrance into the valley some twenty-seven years before [was held]. Work on Utah’s first temple was pushed forth with vigor in St. George. One of the most far-reaching and important events of the year, however, was the introduction and organization of the ‘United Order’ principle which took place at the 44th Annual conference of the Church in Salt Lake City the forepart of April.

In Gunnison the United Order was organized April 3, 1874…About 300 persons, men, women and children in Gunnison, mutually agreed to honestly and diligently labor for the building of the Kingdom of God and for the salvation of mankind…Lars Myrup and his family joined the United Order in Gunnison and were numbered among the members there who consecrated their property, time and means for the benefit of all concerned. Evidently Christen and Laurs Christensen and their families were not among this group who organized there in September 1874. Whether they were slow in making up their minds or had some other reasons we do not know. However, by the end of the year, their problems were apparently resolved in favor of ‘The Order’ and they were ready to join forces with that noble experiment—but not in Gunnison, for they had decided to move elsewhere [to North Mayfield, SE of Gunnison]…. 65

The United Order in general had been set up as a reform movement within the Church and inaugurated by President Brigham Young. He preached about it at General Conference and at all the settlements through which he traveled. The qualification for membership was not the amount of property possessed by the individual, but his standing in the Church and general good conduct. No one was admitted except those who put all they had into the association. The question of capacity to render valuable service to the group was not considered; the Gospel theory and practice of ‘the strong aiding the weak’ was recognized and carried out, that the whole community might rise together. In most places the initiations of the ‘Order’ were accomplished by a renewal of the covenant of baptism; Brigham Young and his counselors setting the example at Ephraim, Utah, July 17, 1875. The original ‘Law of Consecration’ as introduced in Missouri by Joseph Smith the Prophet in 1831-34, was not strictly followed in any instance….

In Else K. Christensen’s journal she wrote: ‘We were baptized into the United Order in 1875’… January…. Most of the early North Mayfield homes were built of logs. The Christensen’s first homes there may have been temporary willow-covered extensions to their wagon boxes until log cabins could be built for them. But the families must have been safely settled before long that mid-winter in acceptable, though modest, quarters, since all were to share alike in the Order, as least as far as the essentials were concerned. They had brought all they owned with them, which must have been little enough, and consecrated it to the Order, having disposed of what they could not bring. On the other hand, the spiritual gifts they brought along must have been great, for they were people of strong faith and deep humility in the main….

In the Mayfield Order, land was divided into fifteen acre pieces…. Each man labored for himself after spending so much time for the Order. He was paid or credited in the organization for all time spent over and above that which was required. The amount of wages was decided by the directors, with most men receiving full time pay and a few not quite so much…. 66

About the first of July that year [1875, however,] the proud old Dane, Christen Christensen, had endured about all he could take of ‘the Order’. So he pulled out and took his family back to Gunnison. He had put all he owned into that experiment, which had been little enough—a few horses, cows, pigs, chickens, a wagon and perhaps some small machinery—not many who joined had more to give. But he took much less than that out, the sum total of nothing except his family’s personal belongings—not even one cow to furnish milk for his children.

Lars Myrup [his son-in-law] furnished them with an adobe dwelling not far from his in East Gunnison and most likely with sustenance as well, until Christen could get to producing again. It was a blow to the older man’s pride to have to depend entirely on others, even for milk for his family; he having been so long successful and independent and one to whom others looked for aid. A story is told of Christen at this time by his granddaughter, Florence C. Hougaard: ‘One morning the family was seated at breakfast when they heard the mooing of a cow close by. They had no cow—so they went outside to see. Behold it was one of their own cows they had been forced to leave behind in the Order. Old Bossy had followed them back to Gunnison. They were overjoyed, and Christen locked her up in their corral right away. Speaking of it later the old Dane said, ‘I don’t know for sure if I did right or not—but I felt the hand of the Lord was in it!’ 67

The last minutes of the United Order in Mayfield to which we have had access [were dated] January 20, 1877…. These may have been the last minutes kept by that organization in North Mayfield, for it wasn’t long before the Order broke up there…. The United Order movement did not get a fair start. Several factors contributed to its early abandonment: first, membership in it was voluntary and members in each area were not willing or were not considered worthy to enter the Order, thus two classes were created in the Church, which was undesirable; second, there was lack of uniformity in the movement as well as the vigorous leadership which was withdrawn when the Prophet Brigham Young’s health began failing; third, the great influx of non-Mormons into the territory and the increasing complexity of community life, which produced friction. By the time of Brigham Young’s death, 29 Aug. 1877, the majority of the Stakes and settlements had given up the United Order, including North Mayfield, but the Stakes and Wards of the Church continued to grow and flourish and railroad, college and temple building went on. 68

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Moreover, life went on during the next decade or so for the Christensen’s, as well: the family grew and new lessons were learned. Christen was 58 years old when they left Mayfield; but upon beginning his seventh decade, it was clear that he had not fully recovered economically from the United Order experience:

Christen Christensen at seventy was still a very proud man, although the vicissitudes of life had mellowed him some. He had lost most of what he had when he left the United Order, and though a farmer and stock-raiser by trade, and a very good one, he had taken up the job of delivering salt to the people of the county to get a little ready cash to help re-establish himself. He got the salt from the salt bluffs about two miles west of Axtell. This placer salt-bearing mine embraced about 40 acres in that locality. In the earliest days of the settlement each family had obtained and refined its own salt, but later it became quite an object of barter and many necessities were obtained through this traffic. The price of rock salt in 1884 was $2.00 per ton, delivered, but naturally it became more expensive as people prospered. The many tons of rock salt hauled to the silver mines in Utah, Idaho and Nevada were of some consideration to the economy of the people who dug it out and hauled it. Christen hauled rock salt at first and he became quite a well-known figure throughout the Gunnison Valley, seated erect in his little ‘salt-cart’ driving through, stopping at farmhouses and dwellings along his route to deliver his commodity. Later several ‘boileries’ were established in the valley…. Lars Myrup had one of these out in Centerfield where he made and sold table salt. He had several working for him. It was quite possible that Christen worked for his son-in-law… selling the refined salt; for he kept up both farming and delivering salt as long as he was able. Be that as it may, one’s eyes grow moist thinking of this once proud Danish gentleman whom some had called ‘the great man of the north’, who once drove his own fine team and carriage as a well-to-do farmer in Old Denmark, peddling salt in Zion in an old one-horse-cart. 69

Nevertheless, at age 70 he was still a vigorous man, loved and honored by his posterity:

On Christen Christensen’s seventieth birthday, 29 July…1887, all of his living descendants got together and held a celebration in his honor at his home in east Gunnison. He turned handsprings to show all present what he could do at his age; none others there could do what he did. He had a lively disposition and was a good mixer. He loved to dance and did very well at it. But most of all he was a fine storyteller and folks always gathered round to hear tales he told, especially the young people. He was an excellent letter writer and a fine penman besides. He always wrote to his folks in Denmark once a year, and on these occasions he related to them everything of interest that had transpired during the past year. He had an excellent memory. He had his wife Anne take notes for him as the year progressed, and when he was ready to make his yearly report he would take these notes and go into a room by himself and write his letter. This would take him many days—but when the letter was finished it was worth it. Anne would read it through aloud and the children always tried to be around to enjoy the contents before it was mailed off to Denmark. 70

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Less than one year following the birthday celebration, the long-anticipated dedication of the Manti Temple took place:

It is hard to think other than that the Christensen’s and their relatives from Gunnison were present at the dedication of the Manti Temple [21-23 May 1888]…Less than six months later most …took advantage of the marvelous opportunity and entered that magnificent edifice again, this time to do the work in behalf of some of their departed loved ones. The ‘Spirit of Elijah’ rested upon them and the importance of ‘work for the dead’ was made manifest to them. There was no excuse to neglect this work now that they had a temple near at hand; if they did, they did it ‘at the peril of their own salvation’, as the prophets had said….

On Monday, 12 Nov, 1888, Christen Christensen and a number of his family made their way from Gunnison to Manti by wagon and set up camp on the grounds provided for that purpose just southwest of the temple grounds. The next day Laurs, Pauline [Pouline], Anne and Christen himself went into the beautiful temple and were baptized for dozens of their dead kindred. For four days they labored in this sacred building for their deceased relatives—brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents—all were baptized, endowed and sealed under the hands of the holy priesthood. They did not forget to do the endowments for the gentle Karen and the daughter Petrine, or for Karen’s parents and relatives who were dead, for Christen had procured the records of them by correspondence with her people.

On Nov.14, 1888 they had the joy of fulfilling one of their most sacred dreams, that of being sealed together for time and eternity. Christen’s … daughters, [Pouline], Nielsine, or Sena, and Caroline came into the temple that day for this occasion. Caroline, the only one of Christen’s and Anne’s children not born in the covenant was sealed to them there. Then Christen’s and Karen’s children, both the living and the dead, were sealed to them—all but the first son, Christen, who was still living in far-off Denmark, apparently with no interest whatsoever in the purposes of the Most High. Christen Sr., stood for himself in this last sealing, as in the first, while Laurs, Pauline and Sena not only stood for themselves but also alternated for their dead brothers and sisters, Peter C., Niels C., Maren, Ann Marie and the two Petrines. Anne stood for the gentle Karen and Daniel H. Wells, first President of the Manti Temple, performed the sealings….

In those early days the Saints did the work for their own dead, or hired it done by other Saints. Christen and Anne were most faithful in their genealogical responsibilities. They wrote often to the Old Country for records of their departed kin and friends and went to the temple regularly to act as proxies in their behalf. According to their daughter Caroline, the practice of going to the Manti Temple continued with her parents as long as her elderly father was able, for she wrote:--‘He was not only kind and considerate of the living but did what he could for the dead. He and mother went from Gunnison to Manti by team many a Tuesday and came back Saturday. They took their provisions with them and camped, doing temple work for their dead kindred and friends. They did this for many weeks and years, when father was not busy in the fields, farming.’

The Manti Temple records show that Christen and Anne Christensen worked consistently in that sacred building for the next nine years—accomplishing a great amount of vicarious work for their dead. 71

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Finally, Virginia C. Keeler offers sweet, concluding sentiments regarding Christen and Anne in her book Some Christensen’s Who Came from Thy…, with which I will end this piece:

There are times of exaggerated sadness accompanying death. Who can say whose passing is most mourned, that of a much loved child, a young so-much-needed mother, or one of the ‘Old Ones’ who goes to the grave trailing his accumulated years of struggle, courage and overcoming behind him? Christen Christensen passed away Tues, 21 Nov. 1899 in his eighty-third year, going down like a fine hewn log, an honest man well seasoned with experience and great faith. He wasn’t sick very long; pneumonia took him. He seemed to know he was going and ‘tis said that in his last hour he insisted on Anne straightening and smoothing down his clothing all around him, wishing to be as immaculate in death as he had always tried to be in life. If, as some Danes believed, there was a gathering of all one’s dead ancestors over the earth at an Old One’s passing, then there must have been a great unseen host of both relatives and friends waiting to greet Christen Christensen from Thy, when he died. He had done so much for the living over the years, and he had done so much for the dead, laboring consistently in the temple not only for his relatives but for great multitudes of his deceased friends as well.

This was an honorable man and his word had been as good as his bond. Not only had he served and loved man, both the living and the dead, but he had loved animals too, especially fine horses. He had raised many thoroughbreds in his day and was always kind to dumb beasts. We have been told that he was very particular about housing and feeding his animals, never going to bed at night until he was sure they were all right and had plenty to eat. Their stables and mangers were cleaned every day. He studied about animals and numbers of people brought their ailing livestock to him to be treated. We like to think of Christen Christensen as somewhat of a thoroughbred himself; for, though homespun, he was a fine and noble gentleman in every way—and from the ancient Danish Vikings in a straight line. But there was little fanfare when they laid him away in Gunnison—no bell tolled for him. Red flags of warning were on many gateposts there for the whole town was under quarantine for smallpox. No inside congregating was allowed so the funeral itself was held outside in front of the home in the bleak day-dark of Saturday, November 25, 1899.

Christen was survived by Anne and five of her six children, three of Karen’s children including the eldest son Christen in Denmark, numerous grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. One of his grandchildren, Andrew, son of Laurs and Else, was then attending school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One night he saw his grandfather Christensen, dressed as for travel and with a valise in his hand, come walking through the door and up the bed where he was sleeping. The surprised Andrew asked, ‘Where are you going?’ His grandfather Christen replied, ‘I am going to Denmark to hunt my genealogy,’ and then he disappeared. A few days later Andrew was informed of the death of his grandfather, 21 November 1899, the same night the old gentleman had visited him in a dream or vision.

For some years Anne continued to live in the old home, together with her son Joseph who never married. She was a humble woman of great faith and always thanked her Heavenly Father every day, even for the small things of life such as a good bed to sleep in. She had been very good to Christen and Christen had been kind to her. They had spent some thirty-three years together, sharing the hardships and sorrows as well as the joys of life, among the latter of which could be counted their labors together in the beautiful Manti Temple. Christen had been able to raise money to bring Anne’s sister, Mary Jensen, over from Denmark and get her established in Zion, which was also a great joy to Anne. During her later years she sold the old home and she and Joseph moved closer to town. It was to this new location that Anne’s daughter, Caroline C. Jensen, came often from Axtell to care for her mother in her last days, for she suffered greatly at the end and passed away 3 April 1914 of what was thought to be cancer ["ulcer of stomach and general debility" according to her death certificate]. A monument of some consequence, as Gunnison tombstones go, marks the place where Christen Christensen is buried, along with his wife Anne and two of their sons, in the Gunnison cemetery. 72

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To conclude, once again can we say that the life of Christen Christensen and his family helped fulfill the Lord's purposes for America as foreseen by Lehi in the Book of Mormon?

Without doubt... I believe we can.

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Sources of Information:

1. 2 Nephi 1: 5-7.

2. See 1817 (birth): Record of Christen’s birth and christening …in the Ydby, Thisted, Denmark, Parish church (Lutheran), 29 July 1817…, found in the Document section of this file.

3. See Christen Christensen (1789-1832) in the World Connect section, on this website.

4. Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s Who Came from Thy…, published by J. Grant Stevenson, Provo, Utah, 1969, pp. 136-137, based on documents in her possession at the time of writing the book; copy of book in possession of W. Bart. Christenson, Jr., Provo, Utah, or found at BYU-HBLL, Call # BX 8670.1 .C4623k.

5. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 130…

6. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 148-149.

7. See 1845 (age 27+): Christen's marriage to Karen Lauritzdatter in Gettrup, Thisted, Denmark, 25 March 1845…, found in the Document section of this file.

8. See Christen Christensen Flarup (1846-1922) in the World Connect section, on this website.

9. See Documents of Laurs/Lauritz or Lars Mathias Christian Christensen (1847-1928), on this website.

10. See Maren Christensen (1849-1883) in the World Connect section, on this website.

11. See 1883 Burial information for Mary [Maren] Christensen Myrup, who died 19 February 1849..., found in the Document section of this file.

12. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 131…

13. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 131…

14. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 131…

15. See Pouline Christensen (1855-1913) in the World Connect section, on this website.

16. See 1913 Death Certificate for Pauline [Pouline] Christensen Andersen, who died 8 October 1913..., found in the Document section of this file.

17. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 131…

18. See Petrine Christensen (1859-1878) in the World Connect section, on this website.

19. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 285…

20. See Nielsine Christiane Christensen (1862-1898) in the World Connect section, on this website.

21. See 1898 Burial information for Sena [Nielsine] Christensen Madsen who died in 1898..., found in the Document section of this file.

22. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 140…

23. W. Bart Christenson, Jr., A Stitch in Time and Eternity…An Autobiography…, Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah, 2005, p. 282.

24. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 141-150…

25. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 150-151…

26. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 151-152…

27. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 143-144…

28. See Else Cathrine/Kathrine Andersen/Christensen (1847-1923): Biography…, on this website.

29. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 158…

30. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 154-157…

31. See Autobiography of A. H. Christenson, Else's son…, under Else Cathrine/Kathrine Andersen/Christensen (1847-1923): Additional Family History, on this website.

32. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 301…

33. See Else Cathrine/Kathrine Andersen/Christensen (1847-1923): Biography, on this website.

34. See 1866 (age 19) The marriage of Else and Laurs in Aalborg, Denmark, 22 April 1866..., under Documents of Else Cathrine/Kathrine Andersen/Christensen (1847-1923), on this website.

35. See 1866 (age 48+) Listing of C. A. [Christen], Karen, and their three daughters Pouline, Petrine, and Nielsine on the Kenilworth's passenger list…, found in the Document section of this file.

36. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 183-184…

37. See Other Documents for Christens Second Wife, Ane/Anne Jensdatter (1830-1914), found in the Document section of this file.

38. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 182…

39. See Additional Family History of Else Cathrine/Kathrine Andersen/Christensen (1847-1923): Biography of her husband, Lauritz (Laurs) Mathias Christian Christensen (1847-1928) by Florence LaFaun Christensen Slagowski, on this website.

40. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 194…

41. See 1866 (age 49) Newspaper details concerning the arrival of the 1866 Abner Lowry Wagon Company…, found in the Document section of this file.

42. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 204…

43. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, p. 217…

44. See 1868 (age 51) Extraction of 3 October 1868 Endowment House Sealing Records, showing information pertaining to Christen, Karen and Ane (Christen's second wife) …, found in the Document section of this file.

45. R. Warren Metcalf, A Reappraisal of Utah’s Black Hawk War…Master’s Thesis… pp. 1-3 and 160; Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, HBLL, #D.1.02.M48 1989.

46. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 226-227…

47. See 1867 (age 50) Card Index to Military Records of the Indian Wars (Utah-Black Hawk Indian War), A-Z, indicating Christens service in the Gunnison Home Guard as a Private in the Infantry…, found in the Document section of this file.

48. See 1909 (age 71) Widow's Affidavit taken from Ane Christensen, Christen's widow in November 1909 concerning Christen's Service in the Indian Wars Within the State of Utah and of Service Relating Thereto ...Gunnison, Sanpete, Utah Home Guard…, found in the Document section of this file.

49. See Circa 1879 (age 62) Photocopy of Gunnison Ward Records, Sanpete, Utah, showing the birth dates and ordinance dates... part 1 …, found in the Document section of this file.

50. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… Caroline Christensen Jensen (1867-1944)… Marriage Information, found in the Document section of this file.

51. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… Caroline Christensen Jensen (1867-1944)… Death Certificate, found in the Document section of this file.

52. Op. cit.: See Circa 1879 (age 62) Photocopy of Gunnison Ward Records

53. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… Christen K Christensen (1869-1934)… Marriage Information, found in the Document section of this file.

54. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… Christen K Christensen (1869-1934)… Death Certificate, found in the Document section of this file.

55. Op. cit.: See Circa 1879 (age 62) Photocopy of Gunnison Ward Records

56. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… John Taylor Christensen (1872-1913)… Marriage Information, found in the Document section of this file.

57. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… John Taylor Christensen (1872-1913)… Burial Information, found in the Document section of this file.

58. Op. cit.: See Circa 1879 (age 62) Photocopy of Gunnison Ward Records

59. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… Andrew Christensen (1874-1917)… Marriage Information, found in the Document section of this file.

60. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… Andrew Christensen (1874-1917)… Idaho Death Index, found in the Document section of this file.

61. Op. cit.: See Circa 1879 (age 62) Photocopy of Gunnison Ward Records

62. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… Joseph Christensen (1877-1920)… Death Certificate, found in the Document section of this file.

63. Op. cit.: See Circa 1879 (age 62) Photocopy of Gunnison Ward Records

64. See under Selected Documents for Some of Christens Children… George Ludvig Christensen (1879-1881)… Burial Information, found in the Document section of this file.

65. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 250-252…

66. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 258-260…

67. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 261-262…

68. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 264-265…

69. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 300-301…

70. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 299-300…

71. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 307-309…

72. Op. cit.: Virginia C. Keeler (1901-1970), Some Christensen’s …, pp. 347-349…

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