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Else Cathrine/Kathrine Andersen/Christensen (1847-1923): Biography

A Biography by Edith Bartholomew Bauer, written and submitted to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 300 North Main, Salt Lake City, Utah, in the spring of 1985. Edith Bartholomew Bauer (1910-2004), was the daughter of Elsie Katherine Christensen Bartholomew (1875-1964), and granddaughter of Else. A copy of the biography was obtained from the DUP in July 2009, by W. Bart. Christenson, Jr., Provo, Utah, and because of its clarity and contents has been used here as the primary biography for Else K.

The sources of information included herein are found at the end of the document. However, liberty was taken throughout the piece to insert bracketed annotations, hyperlinked to sources found within the "Else's Documents" portion of this section, in order to more fully support statements made by the author. (For complete details regarding these sources, it is recommended that the reader click on the hyperlink connections to the Table of Contents/documents periodically appearing hereafter, and view them.)

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Else Kathrine Christensen, my maternal grandmother, has long been an inspiration to me and many others. As a child, I remember my grandmother and was influenced by stories my mother told me about her. As an adult, I appreciate more fully the intellectual honesty, faith, love and courage which she exhibited throughout her life.

Else Cathrine (she later changed the spelling to Kathrine) Andersen [1-doc] was born in Kjallerup, Thisted, Denmark, to Andres Christian Christensen and Mette Kirstine Hvid on February 9, 1847 [2-doc]. There is evidence of a close relationship between the parents and their four daughters and two sons. When Else K. was five years old, her father moved his family to Norhaa, about a hundred miles north of where she was born [3-doc, 4-doc]. Here, her father was able to acquire more land and to continue to prosper.

Else K. belonged to what might be called an upper middle-class family. Her parents were comfortably fixed and financially able to send their children to the best schools that existed at the time. It was in 1860 that Else K. was encouraged to enroll in the Folk High School at Bested, a few miles southwest of Norhaa. She was an eager student. Although most of the girls at the school were enrolled in sewing and home art classes, Else K. specialized in literature, history, and education—prerequisites for becoming a teacher.

At the time of her graduation (1864), she obtained a teaching position for the following year at the Children’s School in Bested. This, undoubtedly, gave her a feeling of achievement and a measure of independence. While at home during the summer of 1864, she became engaged to a promising young man of whom her parents whole-heartedly approved. In fact, her mother was delighted that Else K. was going to marry “so well,” and began thinking of wedding plans for the following summer.

To appreciate some of the latter happenings in the life of Else K., it is helpful to understand briefly some of the changes which were occurring in Denmark during this time. After many years of peace, Denmark had to go to war against Germany and Prussia to defend its eastern borders. During this period, there was considerable unrest and the powers of the “absolute monarchy” challenged. In the early 1850’s a “constituent assembly” drafted a limited constitutional democracy. As an outgrowth of this, a law was passed allowing individuals “the right of religious freedom.” Before that time, the Lutheran Church was the “state religion,” and everyone was required to be baptized and confirmed into the Lutheran Church.

As this “freedom of religion” was given, the way was opened for the Mormon missionaries to proselyte in Denmark. As the successes of the Mormon missionaries increased, so did the bitter hatred of them among many of the Danish people. [The members of] Else K.’s [family] were all active Lutherans, and very anti-Mormon. The local Lutheran priest described the missionaries as “agents of the devil.” Else K. had seen and heard of the Mormon missionaries while she was at school in Bested. They looked like honest young men to her. It bothered her to hear her family members’ rail against the “terrible Mormon missionaries” who were preaching in every town and drawing many from their Lutheran faith, during the time she was home during the summer of 1864. She was offended by many of the vicious things which were said and questioned in her own mind the reason for all the hatred.

When Else K. returned to teach in Bested that fall (1864), she found that there were Mormon missionaries preaching there. It seemed reasonable to her that she should learn for herself what their message might be, and if the criticisms she had heard during the summer were justified. When she went to a “cottage meeting” and listened to the missionaries speak, she said that her “heart and soul burned with the truthfulness of the things she heard.” She had been a diligent student of the Bible and knew much of it from memory. As she continued to be taught by the missionaries, she became converted with all the “fervor of her honest mind and soul.” Consequently, on January 25, 1865, in a sheltered bend of a nearby river, ice was broken and Else K. and a number of other converts were baptized and confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [5-doc].

When the truth of her actions became known, Else K. was dismissed from her position as teacher. She returned to the home of her parents, only to find that her family felt disgraced. Her mother locked herself in a bedroom, and during the time Else K. was at home, seldom talked with her. Her father tried to influence Else K. by telling her how much the family loved her, but that they were heart-broken by the action she had taken. If only she would give up Mormonism, they would love to have her stay with them; if not, it would be better that she leave. Else K.’s brother, Mads, brought word from her fiancé that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Hence, Else K. had Mads return the betrothal ring which her fiancé had given her.

Else K., soon to be eighteen years old, had no place to go. The Mormon missionaries, learning of her plight, contacted her and told her of a prosperous farmer, Christen Christensen (no relation), who lived in Kobberod. His wife, Karen Lauritzen, was ill, and he needed a governess for their three young girls. To Else K. such an arrangement seemed like an answer to prayer for it would solve her need for a place to live. The missionaries quickly made the necessary arrangements, and a carriage was sent to take Else K. to Koberrod. Else K. tearfully told her father “good-bye” assuring him of her great love for him and each member of her family, but asserted that she could not deny the truths of Mormonism which she believed. Her mother remained in her bedroom, not even saying “good-bye.” The carriage came and took Else K. to her new home.

The Christen Christensen family, at that time, was among the wealthier class of families in that part of Denmark. Else K. was welcomed by the Christensen family and treated as one of their own. At the time of Else K.’s arrival, the Christensen’s were being taught the Gospel by Laurs Myrup, a Mormon missionary from Myrupgaard (Denmark) and his companion. Some members of the family had already joined the Mormon religion, and subsequently all except the eldest son joined the Church.

Else K. happily taught and cared for the three young girls—Pauline, Petrine, and Nielsine. The family was pleased with her teaching of the girls, and with the gentle attention of their ailing wife and mother, who was expecting her eleventh child (four of her babies had died previously). The members of the family learned to love Else K. very much. The second son, Laurs M.C., was especially attracted to her. At the same time, Laurs Myrup, who had completed his mission, was developing a close attachment to Maren, Laurs M.C.’s sister.

As with Mormons throughout Denmark, the Christensen’s were suffering ridicule and persecution because of their beliefs. Consequently, when at a regional conference, the Saints were encouraged to gather to Zion, they decided they would immigrate to America.

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Preparations began immediately. Crops were harvested and sold. Some of the hired help was dismissed, but a seamstress was engaged to sew a year’s supply of clothing for family members—some for traveling, some for sailing, and good clothes for use in Zion. 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. [6-doc]

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, and she and her unborn baby were buried in the Atlantic Ocean. Else K. had become so fond of her mother-in-law that her death was like losing a second mother. It took the Kenilworth 58 days to reach New York [7-doc, 8-doc, 9-doc].

Because the railroads out of New York which had previously contracted to take the Saints westward broke their contract with Elder Thomas Taylor, the emigration agent for the Church (1866) the passengers of the Kenilworth were re-routed and sent north to Montreal, Canada and then westward. This route was several hundred miles longer than the usual route, and filled with hazards. (It was never used again.) In the confusion of the re-routing, the two large trunks which contained the Christensen’s precious clothing and belongings were lost or stolen. There had been nothing for them to do but go on without them. At this point, Christen must have been grateful for the gold coins he had had sewn into the lining of his waist coat.

Due to the additional travel time required, the Christensen’s did not arrive at Wyoming, Nebraska, the outfitting place for the Saints crossing the plains, until July 29, 1866. Here they were assigned to travel with the Abner Lowry Company, known as the “Sanpete Train.” Here there were additional delays, for that Company was asked to wait for the Saints from Denmark who were arriving. It was August 13 before the Lowry Company started westward. This was late in the season to start the overland journey. Cold and snow added many perils to their travel. Brigham Young sent a “rescue team” from Salt Lake which helped them from Sweet Water into the Salt Lake Valley [10-doc, 11-doc].

After a few days, the Abner Lowry Company headed south with the destination of Manti, Utah. Among those traveling south were the two young couples who had been married in Aalborg, Denmark—Else K. and Laurs M.C. Christensen and Maren and Lars Myrup. They arrived in Manti in November 1866, six months after leaving their homes in Denmark.

The “Big Fort” at Manti, Utah was Else K. and Laurs first home. With the help of the Saints, they were able to build enough of a home to shelter them from the winter cold. Laurs (age 19) was drafted to serve in the Black Hawk War, which was raging in the Sanpete area at the time. Else K., with great determination, became involved in learning English, and in adapting herself to the role of a pioneer woman in a new land.

Else K. and Laurs M. C. lived, at different times, in a number of Sanpete towns—Manti, Gunnison, and Mayfield. Eleven children were born to the couple [12-doc]. They reared nine of them to adulthood, as well as two adopted daughters. Grandmother’s (Else K.’s) sincere desire for continued learning and education is demonstrated by the fact that seven of her nine children had the opportunity to study at Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah. Of these, four became professional teachers, one a college president, and one a lawyer and judge [13-doc, 14-doc, 15-doc, 16-doc, 17-doc, 18-doc, 19-doc, 20-doc].

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To the courageous, moments of deep despair often serve as a time of mediation and evaluation, and new opportunities are revealed. From the time that Else K. received the “Holy Ghost” at her confirmation into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she felt that special confidence of being able to obtain heavenly help when it was needed. An often told story illustrates her sensitivity, determination, and faith.

It was about eight years after arriving in Utah that Else K. and Laurs M. C. decided to move from Gunnison to Mayfield with a company of Saints “to live the United Order.” For a number of reasons the project was a disastrous failure, and brought economic and health problems for my grandparents and their family. They left the “Order” with nothing. Their money was gone, Grandfather had developed poor health, and their eldest son, Chris, was seriously ill. In the entire county, there was no doctor or nurse to whom they could turn. There was little communication or available transportation to other areas. This was indeed a time of discouragement, almost despair. Undoubtedly, Else K. had reason to wonder if it were for this that she had given up the comforts of her childhood in Denmark.

The following is taken from biographies of their mother written by a son, A. H. Christensen [21-doc] and a daughter, Elsie Katherine Bartholomew [mother of the author]. In essence they say:

Mother was a woman of great faith. From experience, she knew that God would help and guide her if she would ask. And, so it was that in the anguish of poverty, sickness and sorrow, she prayed earnestly for a solution to the problems which faced her family, as well as many others in the area. An answer to her supplications came in the form of a dream. She dreamed that she must go to Salt Lake City, and that there she should find the help she needed.

The dream seemed so ridiculous that she tried to dismiss the idea from her thoughts—she had no money for a trip to Salt Lake City, and her family could not spare her. However, the ideas presented in her dream persisted. In spite of the problems inherent in her going to Salt Lake City and in being away from her family, she felt that she must follow the promptings she had received.

By the spring of 1879, the health of her son Chris had improved enough that she felt she could leave. Arrangements were made so that a neighbor lady would stay with the family whenever Father needed to be away, and to help in other ways needed. Father took Mother by team and wagon to the nearest railroad station—which was York in what is now Juab County. With borrowed money, they bought the ticket for Mother to go to Salt Lake City.

Mother’s dream had been so vivid that upon her arrival in Salt Lake City, she knew exactly where to go. She went directly to the home of a Dr. Nicolene Olsen, an aged medical doctor from Denmark. Strangely enough, Dr. Olsen was expecting Mother, for the Doctor had also had a dream in which she had seen Mother. Dr. Olsen said, ‘I have had many people apply to have me tutor them in the knowledge of medicine, but I have refused them all. I was waiting for the right person to come, and I have found that person in you.’

A. H. Christensen writes:

Mother lived at the home of Dr. Olsen for the next six months. Dr. Olsen spent practically all her time training Mother. The Doctor taught Mother what she had learned from her studies in Copenhagen, and the techniques she had gained from many years of practice. Fortunately, they had no language barrier as they both spoke Danish. Dr. Olsen told Mother that it was her desire and her purpose to leave all the knowledge she had with Mother. Accordingly, Dr. Olsen gave Mother all her books and the recipes for her home remedies.

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When Else K. returned to Mayfield, she was called into service not only in cases of obstetrics, but for every kind of illness. She made her service one of love and mercy, and was always ready to go whenever needed. At that time, Else K. was the only person in the southern end of Sanpete Valley with any medical knowledge or training.

In 1880, the family moved to Gunnison. Else K. was appointed town physician, and served in that capacity for a number of years. In addition to her interest in medicine and education, Else K. always took an active part in community affairs, and was grateful for the freedoms available in America. From the time she was accorded the right to vote, she never missed an opportunity to cast her ballot. She always taught her children that it was a great privilege to have a voice in choosing their representatives and city officials. Her last act, in any public way, was casting her ballot on Election Day in Manti (1923). She had just returned home from a visit to each of her children in Wyoming and Utah. Upon arriving in Manti, before going to her own home, she went around to the polls and cast her vote.

Her continuing love for her family in Denmark is demonstrated by her interest in genealogy and temple work. In 1890, Else K. took her adopted daughter, Ada, who was the youngest, and went to Denmark to visit her family and gather genealogy. Again, in 1910, she made a second visit to Denmark [22-doc, 23-doc, 24-doc, 25-doc]. This time she was accompanied by Laurs M. C., and they were successful in obtaining many records.

Else K. and Laurs M. C. Christensen spent the later years of their lives in Manti, doing temple work.

Else K. died November 19, 1923 at her home in Manti, and is buried in the beautiful cemetery which is in the shadow of her beloved Manti Temple [26-doc, 27-doc, 28-doc].

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Sources of Information [as credited by the author]:

1. Virginia C. Keeler, Some Christensen’s Who Came from Thy, J. Grant Stevenson, Provo, Utah, 1969, pp. 74-234. Much of what is included in the above history is a selective briefing of materials researched and written for inclusion in her remarkable history of our grandparents by Virginia Keeler. Probably my own remembrances of my grandmother and by stories my mother, Elsie Katherine Christensen Bartholomew, told of her mother influenced my selection of elements to be summarized.

2. The material marked as quoted [in the above transcription] is from a Biography of Else Kathrine Christensen, written by a son, A. H. Christensen. A part of this information was told to Kate Snow, and is included in Kate B. Carter, Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. II, p. 315.

3. Others who have published information about Else K. Christensen are:
             -A. Sherman Christensen, The Hard Rich Soil, Some Reflections and Letters of A. H. Christenson, J. Grant Stevenson, Provo, Utah (c) 1966, pp. 6, 9-12, 24-25, 29-30, 44-45, 47, 111, 139, 163, 360, 398, 401.
             -Lucile C. Tate, Andrew B. Christenson, Brigham Young University Press, 1981, pp. 28-30, 122-123, 203.

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