by Lena H. Pack, 1981
edited by Eliane N. McIver, 1995
Grandfather Charles F. Nelson came to America from Denmark. His home was in Viborg, south of Hjorring where his wife, Nicolena, had lived. He was born in V. Velling, Viborg. His father and mother, Lars Rasmus Nielsen (or Rasmussen), and Geska Herman (or Sorensen), joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being baptized 20 July 1859. They were the parents of three sons and four daughters.
Charles, the sixth child, was christened Carl Frederik Larsen according to Viborg parish records which I saw for myself. I vaguely remember hearing a story of Germans overrunning great-grandfather's farm, stealing his cattle and grain, and then beating him unmercifully. I seem to remember Mama telling me that he lay in a furrow or ditch in his field not daring to move. The Germans thought he was dead.
Grandpa's father, Lars Rasmus Nielsen (Rasmussen), was forty-five years old in 1861 when the family left Denmark for America. His wife, Geska, was forty-three. The family had first gospel truths as taught by the Mormon missionaries in the home of the parents of Lars Nielsen. The gathering of friends and neighbors gained powerful testimonies that the missionaries were speaking the truth, and many were prompted to find a new home in the Salt Lake valley. Alvin Nichols, father of August, also heard the gospel there. August married one of the daughters, Rosemine, a year after they came to America. He probably knew her in Denmark.
Great-grandpa Nielsen sold his grocery business. Family tradition has it that he was also involved in a jewelry business. For a forty-five year old man and his family to pick up stakes, sell their business and then sail to a strange land with a strange language, took faith, courage, and insight. Their search for God, truth, and adventure was rewarded.
I decided to find the exact time and the name of the sailing vessel on which Grandfather Nielsen came to America. The LDS Historical Department was helpful in leading me to three films of card indexes of boat records. I struggled through the long film of the Nielsens and found nothing. My neck ached; my arm felt like it would fall off from holding the handle which winds the film. And my eyes felt as if they would burn out. It was getting late. The department was to close soon. I prayed that I could find my great-grandparents' family. The last of the three films continued the names of Petersen to Smith. I flipped through the "R's" and watched the dates carefully, pausing at Danish children's names that looked familiar.
Near the end of the film, my last chance, I spied the name of "Gedske." Wow! That was Grandpa Nielsen's mother's name, but with a different spelling! I couldn't believe my tired eyes! Above it was Lars Rasmussen. Then I checked the children with my group sheet. Some names were spelled a little differently, but there they were, listed as Anna M., Rosmine, Soren, Maren, Carl F., and Lusine. I felt as if I had struck gold! Danish research is so confusing because one is never sure under which name to look because of the patronymics.
The vessel was Monarch of the Sea, led by Captain William R. Gardener. It sailed from Liverpool, England on May 16, 1861 with 955 emigrating Mormon converts, commonly called "Saints", most of whom were from Scandinavia.
Soon after boarding the ship in Liverpool, Carl, the seven-year-old, could not be found. After a frantic search of the ship, he was discovered far down on the ship's lower deck helping to shovel coal. The sailors had made a bed for him and cared for my ambitious young grandfather.
After a long journey of thirty-four days from Liverpool on the Monarch of the Sea, the Saints landed in New York City on June 16, 1861. Little Lucine, nearly six, ran down the gangplank so quickly she lost one of her little Danish wooden clogs.
After landing in New York, the Saints then traveled in two divisions, by rail and steamboat, to Florence, Nebraska, landing there July 1st and 2nd. The route to Utah was the same as the one taken the year beforeDunkirk, Cleveland, Chicago, Quincy (Illinois), St. Joseph (Missouri), etc. Most of the group crossed the plains in Captain John K. Murdock's and Samuel A. Woolley's companies.
I discovered in talking with a representative of the LDS Historical Department that no handcarts were used to cross the plains after 1860 and that the Samuel Woolley had sixty-one large wagons. Little Lucine had an accident on the plains; she fell under the wheels of a heavy supply wagon carrying sugar and flour, breaking her leg. Poor little thing; what pain she must have suffered. She seemed to handle life's problems well, being known for her wit. Lucine grew up, married and bore twelve children. She was a hard worker, people said, and died at age forty-two.
The Deseret News of September 25, 1861 reports: "On Sunday evening 22 September Captain S. A. Woolley arrived with his company . . . seventy wagons in his company . . . were filled with women and children, and with each team there were two or three men all looking well and hardy . . . Captain Samuel Wooley's ox team company contained 338 persons, 61 wagons, 2 mules, 2 horses, 277 oxen, 81 cows. They left Florence, Nebraska July 13, 1861 (seventy-one days on the plains).
The list of families followed, first ten, second ten, etc. Then there they were! My great-grandfather and my dear great-grandmother Nelson and each of the children in the second ten! Also listed with his family were one wagon, six oxen and two cows. How happy I was to be able to picture their arrival!
Imagine their great joy in finally reaching Salt Lake valley, or Zion as they called it. They had traveled thousands of miles over ocean and land. They were called "double" pioneers. They had traveled at least four times as far as the pioneers who left Nauvoo. They had traveled the rough ocean on a sailing vessel, where many had died; then the almost "cattle car" condition of the train from New York City to the Missouri River; the river boat where cholera took so many lives, and finally, the wagon-train journey westward to the valley. Most pioneers are honored for their difficult trip across the plains. Our people thought that this phase was the easiest and most pleasant of their entire journey.
What did my great-grandparents and their family see that evening as they drove their wagon, oxen and cows up the 135-foot-wide East Temple Street, now Main Street, toward the Tithing Office where Hotel Utah now stands (now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building)? They couldn't miss the massive twelve-foot-high wall surrounding the temple block, which had been completed as a make-work project under the direction of President Young in 1857, four years earlier. They would have been told and dreamed of the day when the temple of the Lord would be built within those walls. The upper half of the Old Tabernacle, a plain and large adobe structure built in 1851 could also have been seen. It was located on the southwest corner of the temple block facing north. But the temple itself was not there. The cornerstone had been laid April 6, 1853, but then to protect it from the depredations of Johnston's invading army in 1857, the foundation had been covered with soil. With the withdrawal of the troops, the foundation must surely have been in the process of being uncovered.
At that time the temple block was a great workshop, with an iron foundry, machine shops, even City Creek converted into power there. The old bowers still standing where first services were held on Temple Square. It was a forest of tall posts set in the ground to support a roof of brush, boughs, and dirt. Reconstructed on a larger scale, it accommodated 3,000 people. (Mormon Experience, Arrington and Bitten, p. 116)
Lars Rasmus, Geska, and the children could have seen Social Hall when they undoubtedly viewed the home of their prophet, Brigham Young. What Saint, after sacrificing his or her all for the gospel would not want to look upon the prophet's face, or at least upon his home and its surroundings? My great-grandparents undoubtedly heard of the evacuation of Johnston's Army stationed at Camp Floyd and of the bargains that could be purchased there. Flour, for example, was 52 cents per sack 100 lbs., sugar 12 1/2 cents per pound, and wheat, bacon, harnesses, tents, and all kinds of tools were equally low. To make the army's evacuation as rapid possible, four million dollars worth of government property was for sold one hundred thousand dollars, thus fulfilling earlier prophecy that goods would be available in Salt Lake City for less than they could be purchased at the Missouri River.
Lars and his family would have seen the beginning of the famous Salt Lake Theater which once stood on the northwest corner of State and First South Streets and was completed nearly three months before the family arrived.
Details are uncertain as to their welcome to Salt Lake and subsequent assignment to move to Brigham City, Utah. One of the first events to take place after their arrival in Brigham was the marriage of their oldest daughter, Ann Marie Kirstine, born April 3, 1842. The marriage occurred less than a month after their arrival. Her husband was twenty-six years her senior, had , a living wife with seven children who had been born in Denmark. Three of his children were older than his new wife. Ann Marie was his third wife; his second wife died childless.
Ann Marie's first child, Marie, was born in Brigham City and died less than three months later. The next two children, Gedske and Niels, were born in Mantua, just east of Brigham City. The family apparently moved to Panacca, Nevada where a fourth child was born and died in less than a year. The fifth child was born in Panguitch, Utah, and lived only fourteen months. The next child, Charles Frederick was five when his father died followed by Anne Marie five months later on July 12, 1879. She was only thirty-seven years old. What terrible hardships she had to bear!
Although great-grandmother Geska had lost her first child thirty-eight years earlier, she had raised all her other children to maturity. How it must have grieved her to lose Ann Marie and three of her grandchildren.
The family purchased land on First East between Forest and First South Streets and built a log cabin with a dirt roof which leaked when the rains came. Then Geska would put all of the children in one bed and hold an umbrella over them to keep them dry. They later built a cozy adobe home. A wooden walk led to the gate where a big flat stone rested. This stone can now be seen at Gid Grove in Brigham City, in front of the pioneer home there. Grandfather Charles was twelve years old when he helped to lay that stone. A wide porch stretched across the front of the house. As a child I remember being taken there. The address was approximately 65 to 71 South First East.
Inside were two rooms across the front, a long front room with two fireplaces, one on the north end and one on the south wall. I remember walking into that front room with my mother when I was a young girl, and seeing the fireplaces, then walking into the south room. In Great-Grandma Nelson's time, the ceilings were covered with unbleached muslin and then whitewashed. My father, Joseph F. Hansen, bought the home in 1898 when Lars died. I was born in that home while father was on a mission in England. I don't remember ever living there, however, for I was only about a year old when we moved away to a house on Main Street.
I am told that my great-grandfather also had a large barn at the back and a chicken coop. My brother, Harvey, found that the property was deeded to Lars Rasmus Nielsen by the mayor of Brigham City from the Utah Territory in 1870.
Although the most disastrous cricket invasion in Utah occurred in 1848, subsequent invasions were equally frightening to the Saints. There must have been a bad one in Brigham City in 1862, because Mother has told how Geske fought the destroying insects with shovels, brooms, aprons, and pitchforks. Rosemine, at age 17, was married that year to August Nichols, whom she knew in Denmark. I hope the crickets didn't spoil the wedding.
August hired young Charles, age nine, to herd cows for him just south of the east hills of what is now Mantua, in a valley called Devil's Gate. Young Charley had no shoes. Sometimes one could trace his footsteps by his bloody foot marks. Poor little boy.
His brother-in-law would not let Charles sleep in the house. He made him sleep in the hayloft of the barn. Rosemine would plead with her husband to allow her little brother to sleep in the house, but to no avail. He must have been an ornery old cuss! But those were different times, and European husbands seemed to rule the house with an iron hand.
My mother's stories of her father, Charles Frederick, were fascinating. When we rode up Box Elder Canyon to Mantua, she often pointed out to me the little hill to the east above the town on which her father had seen a white man burned at the stake by Indians. She would tell me how one day while herding the cows near there, Grandpa ran to hide in the bushes when he saw a group of Indians approaching. When they near where he was hiding, Charles was so frightened, his heart beating so rapidly, that he scarcely dared to breathe. He shook so violently from that fear that he was afraid the Indians could see the bushes move. He pleaded with the Lord to help him. The Indians sat near his hiding place, ate, talked, and snoozed. Finally, they jumped on their horses and rode away. Little Charley thanked God; his prayers had been answered. His brother-in-law, August, had seen the Indians and had finally ridden up on his big gray mare to try to find little Charles and to locate the cows which had scattered in many directions. He rounded up the cows and took Charley back to his house.
One bitter cold night, when Charles was trying to sleep in the barn, the big gray mare started to whinny. August knew that the horse had sensed that Indians were about. He knew that they wanted to steal the horses. So he chased the Indians away and thereafter allowed Charles to sleep on the floor in his house, with one sheepskin to partially go over and under him. After hearing those stories, one can understand why our whole family hated that mean old man!
Rosemine, however, was loved by all. She raised a large family. She helped to earn the family living by picking and cleaning chickens. She must have softened her husband's stern disposition because all of the nieces and nephews loved to go to her home where they had a wonderful time. She died at age fifty.
I was told that August Nichols, Rosemine's son, married a non-Mormon named Minnie. They had no children. In a fit of rage, Minnie burned the family Bible with all of the genealogy in it. It may have been too painful for her to have been reminded that she had no babies to add to the genealogy.
Soren, Charles' oldest brother, was another jolly member of the Nelson family. He was a humorous fellow. When he grew up, he did the calling for square dances or else played the accordion. He loved to sing and dance. He was known for his generosity to strangers, never turning away someone who was hungry; he also loved to take long walks.
Charles returned to his parents' home in Brigham City and worked with his brother, Soren, herding sheep to the west of Brigham City at a place called "the big fields". He worked there for some time. Later, he began to herd sheep for Olaf Jensen and Ephraim Ralph. He grew to manhood.
When Charles was fifteen, he was caught up in the excitement of the transcontinental railroad, which was about to be joined at Promontory, Utah. He rode a horse to the celebration on May 10, 1869.
Charles' father, Lars, had some prize horses, and being a normal father, was not too generous about sharing them with his sons, Soren and Charles. He was afraid that the boys would run the horses too fast and injure either the horses or themselves. The same problem seems to have existed for centuries, only the mode of transportation has changed.
Lars also had a beautiful cutter and the most beautiful set of sleigh bells in the surrounding country. Geska, being a hundred years ahead of her time, knew that the sleigh and horses, including the bells, should belong to the entire family, not just to the father, so she would help the boys to get the horses out of the barn without her husband knowing it. I admire her spirit, don't you? She often would soothe Lars into sound sleep, only to have him awaken with a start, for he knew the sound of his own beautiful sleigh bells. Then he would get up and walk the streets, searching for the boys and his precious horses and sleigh. What did he do to Great-grandmother? Not much, I guess, for she lived to be seventy-seven years old.
Geska always said that her children should have the cream of the land so they would grow up and have good strong bones. She always fed the grandchildren, when they came to visit, with clabber-milk, the cream left on top, sweetened with sugar and topped with more cream. This must have tasted like yogurt. The grandchildren also liked her rice pudding made with buttermilk, raisins, sugar and cinnamon.
Chris Holst spoke kindly of my grandfather, Charles, as follows: ". . . he attended the same schools as I did. In those days . . . we attended school in private homes, and men who had some education would take up this work for a few months in the winter. . . . We also attended dances together. . . . Dances in those days were held in private homes. . . .We used to go to the canyon together; we went to family gatherings. We used to have parties and our parents would meet with us. It was different in those days. . . . I have never seen him drunk, like so many other young boys. I have never seen him gamble. I have never heard him swear. I have never heard him take the name of the Lord in vain."
That was the young man, age twenty, with whom Nicolena fell in love; she was sixteen. And the generations continued.