The following is from the Journal of Hans Christensen who was born in Denmark in 1840 and died in Utah in 1923. Some may find it weird that we start this history with photos of the old Utah State Prison on 13th East just west of 20th East in Sugar House (a suburb city within Salt Lake City) near where the current Sugar House Park and Highland High School are located.
As a boy, I can recall in the 1940s riding in the back seat of my father’s 1936 Chevrolet and passing the prison, which was a two or three-story brick building at that time, and seeing some men in prison clothing standing in the windows looking out. What a weird feeling that was, and because it was so unusual I asked Dad about it and it stayed with me the rest of my life.
Later the prison was relocated to the Point of the Mountain in in almost the farthest point south in Salt Lake County where it now stands. To have a state prison right there in a shopping center area of the city near houses and commerce was quite fascinating to me and the cause of many nighttime fears and thoughts that have made a gigantic impression on my young, fertile mind and subconscious. I have the Spirit of Elijah, the spirit of family history and I want very much to find where my two progenitors named Christopher White came from. One is the father, the other the son, the latter being father of Thomas Jones White who was father to my grandfather Parley David White, my grandfather and father of my loving father, David Virgil White. I want to solve the mystery, the riddle. Who and where are the fathers of my White line past Christopher White?
I believe in our Prophet Thomas S. Monson’s words: “I testify that when we do all we can to accomplish the work that is before us, the Lord will make available to us the sacred key needed to unlock the treasure which we so much seek.
-President Thomas S. Monson
But to answer the question, “Why put these pictures of the original prison near the front of this journal?” the answer is simple. Hans Christensen may never have written this 20-page journal of his life had he not had the time afforded him by incarceration, be it only six months. He said that very thing in the opening paragraphs of his biography. Come to think of it, when was the last time I “blogged” my journal? This morning, but my entries are wide spaced, unfortunately, and Hans Christensen’s journal is having a salutary effect on me, asking pointedly why–with all the hi-tech we have today–don’t I write everyday and get on with it. If his writing affects me positively, then my writing should do likewise to my descendants. He’s not a direct blood relative, he’s Carolyn’s Great Grandfather, but I have grown to like and love him like a grandfather. I’m very close to him right now.
This account was copied from the personal journal by Carolyn’s aunt, Zola Christensen Elkington and I have edited that, introduced paragraphs, proper spelling, and shortened sentences to render the account more readable and less cumbersome. I did this without, I believe, taking away from the personality and understanding of the biographer whose personality, character, and traits still come alive because of his style of writing and because his use of words and aphorisms revealing his conversational style or colloquailisms and pet words such as “hath” instead of “had” or “have” which I did not eliminate.
Christensen’s original journal is 20 pages long, single-spaced with no paragraph indents (as was the practice until the end of the nineteenth century) so we will divide it up here into several parts. I may end up with a book-length manuscript when I’m through. Just as well, because I find it most interesting. This man Hans Christensen is a giant of a man. I look forward to meeting him someday. He wrote this biography while at the Utah State Penitentiary, a Federal prison that was located at the present Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City. Some Photos of the various buildings are included below for historical purposes, not to necessarily highlight this small part of his life. So very little of the countryside, city, and other things and venues he may have been familiar with are still available for recording. I guess I’m like an antique collector. When there is so very little of an era to collect, you seem to drool over the chipped vase or the cracked tea cups and place on them far more value than you would otherwise.
I apologize in advance to anyone who is offended by the references and pictures relating to the prison. But if readers and researchers would look at more history of these times, they would find something very unique and outstanding going on. Like Historian Will Bagley and others have said, there are only two places in the world where the people are actually proud of their convict heritage and that’s in Utah and Australia.
Part I Preface and More
Finding myself in possession of more leisure time at present than ever has been the case during my life before, I have conceived the idea of writing down a short sketch of my own life, thinking that although not of much importance to anyone else it may be of more interest to my children or their descendants at some future time. Serving a sentence in the Utah State Penitentiary for the serious crime of having treated my wives as wives, against the peace and dignity of the law of the United States, I have no access to any memoranda which I may have kept of the events of my life except a journal which I kept a short period while performing a mission to my native country. Therefore, my narrative will of necessity be deficient in regard to dates, as I have no other resource to draw from than a somewhat impaired memory (He was age 50 at the time). Should my effort not be of any interest or benefit to anyone, it will be at least help to center my thoughts on other scenes than these immediately before me, and thus pleasantly while away some of the lonely hours consequent upon prison life. (Utah Penitentiary, February 5, 1890).
I, Hans Christensen, was born in a small village called Snarup in Rakkebye Sogn, Hjorring, Amt Danmark on the twentieth day of February, 1840. My parents’ names were Christen Lausen and Gjertrue Hansdattar.
I was the second of their seven children (six boys and one girl0, whose names are as follows according to age:
Lars Peter, Hans, Andres, Ane Maris, Jens Peter, Christan and Mathias, the last two of whom were twins. In the country where we lived it was customary for the children to be given their father’s given name as their surname; consequently, our surname was Christensen, although our father’s surname was Lausen. This makes it particularly difficult for a person to trace back his genealogy very far in that country. This custom is not, however, in use now, and the children bear the surname of their father like they do in this and other countries.
My father was born in a small place called Molhusens, a short distance west of Gunderup, Wreilav Sogn in the year 1805. His father died while he was very young, and being of an inventive turn of mind and possessing some mechanical genius, he used his leisure time in mechanical experiments. I remember of him telling how when he was a boy herding stock in Westergaard, Gunderup. He built a windmill, although nothing but a toy it had all the wheels and machinery found in any other mill. As he grew older, he started making clocks, without serving any apprenticeship, he made 16 clocks. I have seen one of them, and although they would not compare with our modern clocks, it nevertheless showed his ingenuity; while yet a youth and staying home with his widowed mother who, according to rules and customs of the country in those days, lived on a small farm which was rented for a certain stated amount–a man and wife had rented it.
During the widowhood of his mother, father was helping her to run this small farm and while doing so he became possessed of a desire to be a blacksmith and built a small shop, procured a few tools, and went to work without any other apprenticeship than an occasional visit to a blacksmith by the name of Jans Brohused, who lived about a mile distant from his home. In the course of time he became renowned in the country round about as a first class blacksmith, and was generally known by the name of Christen Molhusene from the place he was born and still lived).
Sometime, probably in the year 1836, he married our mother, who was born in Rakkebye in 1808. Her father’s name was Hans Andersan, generally known as Hans Bake. Her mother’s name was Maren Pedersdatter. After the death of father’s mother, their home was taken possession of by the estate to which it belonged (Westergaard) and father, with his family, which then consisted of his wife and one son, moved to Snarrup where he rented a small place, built a shop and continued in his trade as blacksmith. Here, I was born on the 20th day of February 1840.
When I was about one- and a-half, our parents moved back to Molhussna where they bought a small place close to where father’s father had been born. It was the furthest house west belonging to Wreilev Sogn. Our parents being in poor circumstances, though father was a good mechanic, they had to practice the utmost frugality. My strict economy they were able to improve their home. Some of my first recollections are the rebuilding of the house, the old one which they had bought which was almost ready to tumble down.
As time passed, other children wee born to them and they gave us such an education as their limited means would allow. The public school of the district was situated at Wrilev Closter nearly one Danish mile (four English) from our home, it was naturally a long distance for small children to walk morning and evening from two to four days each week during the winter season.
In that country the winter days were very short and generally stormy, but it was very seldom the storm would prevent us from attending school, and when that happened it was always with regrets on my part as I loved school and was generally thought well of by the teacher Mer. F.C. Rosendall. I never had any other teacher.
The country had a great school system, which made it compulsory for all children to attend school. The teacher was paid by the government, their terms extending for life, or during good behavior. There was not anything very progressive in the system and very little could be said in its favor except this: It being compulsory, nearly everybody learned to some extent the first rudiments of education, and very few of the Danish people can be found who are not able to read and write. I was naturally apt to learn. I loved study and was never behind in my lessons and I became a favorite with the teacher. I learned a great deal more at home than I did at school, however. I remember Mother saying that I learned to read without her knowing it. One day while yet very young I was occupying myself with an old almanac.
I was able to point out to Mother most of the letters in the alphabet. This so surprised her that I was furnished a book and thereafter there was more interest taken in my advancement. But on account of the long distance to school, I did not attend until I was about 8 years old, and then went only in the winter as I was needed at home in the summer to herd or take care of stock; and being well advanced acording to my age, my parents found no difficulty in obtaining a permit for me to stay away from school in the summer.
When I was ten, I was hired out to a man in Ounderup by the name of A.P. Mortensen for the summer to take care of stock. I stayed withhim for six summers. The three first winters I stayed in his home I went to school. In the fall of 1854, it being the last winter that I was intitled to the benefit of the public school, Mr. Mortensen, being in need of a hand during the winter to help feed stock and trash the grain,m etc. he persuaded me with my parent’s consent to stay with it, being the time for the preparation of my confirmation into the Lutheran Church of which my parents were members.
This arrangement cut me short of the opportunity to advance very much in my studies, which I regretted at the time and have many times since. As I was then advanced so that I was able to progress rapidly, and being deprived of that winter’s schooling, it naturally cut me short of the opportunity to store my mind with much knowledge which might have been of use to me in after life. Nevertheless, I was at the head of my class at the time of my confirmation, and was dismissed from school with high honors. This was quite an epoch in my life. I now felt that I was a young man, and soon commenced to build castles in the air. I gave very little more time or thought to study and had scarcely an idea that what little I had learned would ever be of any use to me again.
I saw nothing before me but hard work. I remembered that my teacher had told me that by perseverance I might be able to make my work as a businessman, but I saw no opening and was not possessed of enough push or energy to make one.
I continued in the service of A.P. Mortensen until I was sixteen. He was a well informed man, a man of order and system, a man who had a place for everything and wanted everything in its place. I learned many lessons from him that have been of use to me in after years, but he was naturally a man of the world and I was under no restraints so far as religion or morality was concerned. I gradually drifted into many bad habits such as profanity, playing cards for drinks or money on a small scale, and the like. Such things were a general custom among both old and young, and I was perhaps neither worse nor better than boys of my age and opportunity.
At age 16, at Father’s request, I reluctantly left the service of Mr. Mortensen on November 1,1856 with a good recommendation for faithful service. My father desired me to come home and take care of the small farm on which the family lived.
Father had suffered an attack of rheumatism several years before and had become lame. He was only able to continue the labors of his trade (blacksmith) by arranging a high stool on which he would rest himself while actually handling the tools and heavy hot irons necessary to carry on his trade. Notwithstanding, he kept the reputation of being the best plowsmith in the neighborhood and always had all the work he could accomplish. He kept one or two young men as apprentices: My brother Lars Peter, three years older than me, had been staying at home learning the trade. I was offered the same opportunity, but I had no inclination to become a blacksmith.
The training I had received in the service of A.P. Mortensen had given me the preference of life as a farmer. Consequently, despite my young age, I was given almost exclusive charge of my parent’s small farm. I was particular in my work and did everything, as far as I know, satisfactorily. But there was not enough work for a man all the time, and having no inclination to work in the blacksmith shop, arrangements were made for me to go to work three days a week for another man in the neighborhood. Andreas C. Nielsen. he was a carpenter and a turner by trade and also owned a farm somewhat larger than my parent’s. For several years I did the work on both farms, including thrashing all the grain with “glail” during winter.
With one exception the time passed smoothly and pleasantly. Nielsen had a daughter who was staying at home, another feature that helped things pass pleasantly. She was a little younger than me, but we had been playmates during our school days. Though considerably out of my way, I had often carried her dinner box home from school for her and there had been an understanding growing between us, which had ripened into love. It was my honest intention, at some future time, to make her my wife. This condition of affairs was fully understood and sanctioned by our parents on both sides.
The circumstances which I referred to before which cast a somewhat gloom aspect upon life was the fact of my oldest brother Lars Peter being disturbed (as we thought) in his religious ideas. He was then a young man of good steady habits, and he had stayed home with our parents all his life with the exception of two summers. He had learned the blacksmith trade while a boy and had been much help to Father in the shop.
In the early part of 1868 and before there was a great religious excitement among the people. The Baptists were gaining many converts, and the Mormons and other denominations had made their appearance.
(editor’s note: In Denmark, as with other northern European nations, the Lutheran Church was and is the state church. In order to join another denomination one must go to the local Lutheran priest and gain permission, as everyone is born into the Lutheran Church).
This caused the Lutherans (who predominated the church scene in Denmark) to exert themselves in every way they could, to counteract these influences. There was kind of an inner circle arrangement to which some of the priests belonged, while others did not. Extra meetings were held and lay members, men and women, began to preach and exhort. Their exhortations warned people to beware of false prophets, of wolves in sheep’s clothing, and many of them also preached repentance unto the people and sought them to turn unto Jesus Christ who was ready at all times and under all circumstances to receive them with open arms, provided they kept away from these false prophets.
The oldest interior equipment are the brick Communion table and the front featuring a characteristic cable ornament along the edge whose like is only found in very few churches in Northern Jutland. The pulpit from the Renaissance. The beautiful altarpiece holds a replica of Carl Bloch’s painting showing the Resurrection (the original hangs in the church chapel of the Palace of Frederiksborg.)
The church of Hyllebjerg is assumed to have close ties to the Cistercian order that built the Vitskøl monastery.
In the period 1982-84 the church underwent a thorough restoration. During this process the original yellow clinkers which had been covered by a wooden floor came to sight. During the restoration remains of oak also came to sight indicating that the first church on this site may have been a wooden church.
Assuming this church was still under Catholic control in 1521 when Martin Luther was excommunicated, this may not have been a church that Hans Christensen and his family would have attended.
But we don’t know that for sure. It does aid us in giving to the reader a flavor of what churches and buildings of the times looked like.
The fact that a copy of Carl Bloch’s famous painting showing the resurrection is located in this church building is significant.
During this time of confusion my brother Lars Peter commenced to study the scriptures and compare the Lutheran doctrine, to which we belonged, with the teachings of the savior and his apostles, finding that they did not correspond. He attended Baptist Church meetings with a view of comparing their doctrine. This was not agreeable to our parents who were Orthodox Lutherans. Especially was it disagreeable to Father. Mother was more liberal in her views. I remember an expression Father made use of one Sunday morning when Lars Peter started out to go to one of these meetings. It was in effect that he didn’t care so much about the Baptists, if he would only stay away from the Mormons. But it did not take long before he fell in with them and found what he had been seeking, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with its gifts and blessings which gave peace to his soul. As soon as he had been baptized he told Father, who in a fit of anger told him to leave home, which he did, moving to a neighboring village and a hired shop where he carried on his blacksmith trade.
This caused a great deal of disputation in our family. Lars Peter would come home occasionally as if he was anxious to convince the rest of us of the truth he had received. On such occasions I would be listening. Mother was not inclined to be liberal in her views and did not have a great deal to say. But Father was unyielding and not able to restrain his arguments either by scripture or reason. He would take to using liquor as a stimulant to sustain him in these contests and would use improper and abusive language, while Lars Peter would keep calm, cool and collected and use good reasoning from his scriptures, which had a complete convincing influence upon me that he was in the right.
In this state of affairs there was a fight going on in my mind. My prospects in life were reasonably bright for a poor boy. It was about whether I should become convinced of the truth of Mormonism, which was very unpopular, and if I did embrace Mormonism I knew my fair prospects would be gone. There were a great many evil reports circulating about the Latter-day Saints or Mormons which influenced me. My parents and friends sought to draw my attention away from Mormonism, using both religious means and that of trying to encourage me to image in the pleasures of the world. Being young and rather inclined to be gay and sociable, I allowed the pleasures of the world for a time to drown or crowd out of my mind that “still, small, voice” which from time to time, in my reflective moments, would whisper in the deepest recesses of my soul.
I tried to enjoy life, but I was not happy. I tried to satisfy my conscience by living more strictly up to the religious duties as understood and taught by the Lutheran Church of which I was a member. But I found no substantial food for my soul and I lacked the strength to resist the pleasures and allurements of the world and the prospects it held out to me.
Things went on much the same way until the spring of the year 1861. I had continued to labor for A.C. Nielsen three days a week and at home in the shop the other three days, during which time my brother Lars was joined to the Mormon Church, part of it on missions. He would come home occasionally, but the unpleasant feelings that it generally caused in the family made me avoid being present on such occasions.
One day in the Spring of 1861 Lars visited me at the house of A.C. Nielsen. he told me that he hath decided to immigrate to Utah that season and asked one favor of me. He asked if I would attend a Mormon meeting with him, knowing he was in earnest. He said he was asking it for my own good, regarding whether his religious views were reasonable, and I consented to go with him on the next Sunday afternoon provided he would go with me to (Lutheran) church in the forenoon. This he readily agreed to do. Consequently the next Sunday afternoon I attended my first Mormon meeting.
My brother and another elder spoke, their remarks were simple but true, and although they made no special impression upon my mind, as I was already much impressed with the truth of Mormonism, the ice was broken, I had made a move, and before I left my brother that evening, which I believe was the last time I saw him before he started for Utah, I hath promised that I could continue to investigate and if I was fully convinced of the truth I would join the church; I was now in earnest.
I felt that I had allowed myself to be careless and to trifle with the most important of all subjects, my soul’s salvation. I commenced to pray unto the Lord in earnest, that he would give me a testimony whether or not Mormonism was the true gospel, and if there were ever a boy in earnest it was me at that time; I was young and alone, nobody to depend upon but God. And I hath implicit faith that he would lead me in the right way; and I was fully determined that with his help, nothing shold prevent me any longer from following the dictates of my own conscience.
The first person who I told the state of my mind was Maren Kristine Andersen, the girl who I had intended to be my wife. I told her that I hoped she would be able to see the importance of the subject, that I was determined to prayerfully investigate the question and I hoped she would do the same; that in case we should not see alike, it is better to be understood now rather than after more binding contracts hath been made, and she was of course at liberty to choose for herself, as I did not wish her to act upon my convictions in these matters .
She cried and was taken very sick. The day after, her father called me in, paid me my wages, and said he was very sorry but they could not stand that sort of thing any longer. I tried to reason with him, but without any affect. Going to my home, though sorrowful, I told my mother everything and, although sympathizing, she felt another one of her sons had been lost.
The next Sabbath I attended another meeting and on Monday morning I told Father my position, that I had not decided to be a Mormon yet, but I hath decided to investigate their doctrines and compare them with the Bible, and if he would allow me to do that at home I would be pleased to stay. Otherwise, I would desire to go somewhere where I could do it.
He told me I had better leave, which I did. Now came the question where to go. I was alone in the world, seemingly. I started for a place where a few Saints lived, and in a few days I found work, helping to make “torw” (used for fuel) on a large place where I hath to stand all the slurs and insinuations of the hands I was laboring with. But ridicule had no effect upon me, I was now twenty-one years of age.
I hath labored faithfully for my parents up to that time. They hath furnished me my board and clothing. All I had besides was a Ewe Lamb which Father hath given me the fall before. I continued to get work where I could and on May 15, 1861 I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Neils Christensen Lonstrup, and on the following Sunday (Pentecost) I was confirmed. On the same day, among the others, Jerhanne Maria Poulson from Weibye, who after we had immigrated to Utah, became my wife, was also confirmed. Shortly after this I hired out to two men from Weibye for the summer. I was to work three days a week for each of them. I do not remember the amount of wages, but they were low enough.
There were a number of Saints living in Weibye which made it more pleasant for me, as I could more conveniently attend meetings, etc. At a District meeting held in Bjorring, at church Broher J.C. Weibye presided in July. I was ordained a teacher and a short time theeafter was ordained an Elder and set apart to preside over the Beibye branch of the church. This was a responsibility at which I felt not at all qualified to perform as I was young and inexperienced, but I was determined not to back out from any duty placed upon me, and being humble I sought the Lord earnestly for his spirit to guide me.
I continued in that position, doing the best I could, taking charge of meetings, visiting the Saints, etc., in which duties I was ably assisted by another young man by the name of A.C;. Nielsen, who now lives in Ephraim, Sanpete County, until the third day of November when at another meeting in Kjorring, I was asked by the President of the Conference, (Bro. J.C.A. Weibye) how I would like to take a mission for the winter to which I answered, that if it was thought I could do any good in that capacity I was on hand. Accordingly, I ws released from presiding over the Weibye Branch and was sent to Aalborg Conference where I was to report as soon as I could.
I straightened up everything in connection with the branch, visited my home, sold my ewe lamb and clothes chest; I had a long talk with my mother and, although she was sympathetic she did not fall in with my religious ideas; yet I had all confidence that in time she would embrace the gospel.
When I look back upon those times, my heart is filled with gratitude unto God, that he gave me sufficient strength, faith and courage to resist the opposition which I had to meet, but I never wavered for a moment. I was reminded of the sorrow, sickness, and misery which I had caused the girl who I still loved, the disgrace I was to my own family and friends, and that I would eventually find that I was deceived, but all to no purpose; I was humble and prayerful and trusted in the Lord who gave me abundant testimony of the truth of the work in which I was engaged.
I arrived in Alborg on the __ day of November, and attended a priesthood meeting of all the laboring priesthood of the conference. Among those who were present [included] I remember Elders C. A. Madsen and O.N. Lilienquist from Zion; also, Brother Anton H. Lund who was then very young, but considered a very earnest and successful missionaries. He is now one of the Twelve Apostles.
At this meeting I was appointed to labor as a traveling elder in company with and under the direction of a young elder by the name of Stephen Pedersen. Our field of labor was the Fourth District in Cluding…Rold and Haubro Branches with headquarters in Fold, where we arrived on foot a few days later.
I found in Brother Stephen Pedersen a very nice and agreeable companion, a true friend a zealous and somewhat experienced missionary in whose company I enjoyed many happy hours. Sometimes we were traveling together, and at other times separately as circumstances would demand, visiting saints and strangers and preaching whenever we could find an opportunity. I was, however, perhaps not much of a success as a public speaker, but I did the best I could and was earnest in using such talents that the Lord had given me for the spreading of a knowledge of the truth among the people, sometimes distributing tracts from house to house. At other times visiting the saints, helping to hold meetings, etc. I had been appointed secretary of the District and president of the Rold Branch which also added to my labor.
At Christmas time, in company with Elder Stephen Pedersen, I made a visit down to Vensyssel, he being from the same neighborhood. The saints were happy to meet us, and they made us welcome everywhere. I visited my home and friends. We then started back for our field of labor, strengthened and refreshed, and continued our labors during the remaining part of the winter, a few being added to the church. At that time preparations were being made for a very heavy emigration for the next spring; meanwhile,Brother Pedersen’s step mother and sister had been baptized down near Hjorring where they lived and he ws very anxious that they should emigrate. \
A few days before the emigration was to leave, we were called in to Aalborg, and I, being liable to be drafted into the service as a soldier, was allowed to emigrate, providing I could procure the necessary means.
A large portion of my last summer’s earnings had been spent during the winter in traveling, though I hath been very economical, and I hath not the least idea where to obtain the means.
Brother Stephen Pedersen proposed a plan. He desired to stay in the mission another year but he was very anxious that his mother and sister should emigrate that season, as they had sold their small house for which they hath obtained a little more means than would pay their fare to the Missouri River where the Church trains would meet the saints and bring them over the plains. That is, those who were too poor to buy their own outfits; but they hath not enough means to go with the independent company.
He said that if I would agree to help them along on the road–as well as I could inasmuch as he was desired to stay, and he was afraid if they should stop [their preparations to go] ’til he could go, their means might be gone–that he would use his influence to have them lend me what money they could spare, as he hath confidence I would do what I could toward helping them along.
I agreed to the arrangement and, accordingly, we set out for his home. The proposition pleased his mother and she let me have 50 Ringsdaler (about $25), and a hasty preparation was made for the journey. I again visited my home where I was looked upon as the prodigal son, although my mother and sister were sympatising with me. This was the last time I ever saw my mother.
We left Alberg on the 6th day of April, 1862 with a large company of emigrating saints on a steamer which was to take us to Kiel, Germany.
(Note that Kiel is in the upper left of the German Map just below and to the right of Schleswig.)
Before arriving in Kiel, the ship stopped at Arhus, Denmark and Fredericia, Denmark to take on board the emigrating saints from those conferences. It was my first voyage and caused me, like many others, a foretaste of seasickness. Upon landing in Kiel we were sent on train to Altona or Hamburg where we boarded the sailing vessel “Franklin” with Elder C.A. Madsen as our leader. There were a larger number of saints emigrating that season from Denmark to America than ever before or since.
We would sail directly from Hamburg to New York. They divided us up into four sailing vessels, but there was a delay in leaving the port as we were detained in the harbor for several days, waiting for favorable winds to carry us down the river “Klven.” We wited, but finally had to be hauled out by a steamer. We were in the neighborhood of four hundred saints on board, quite a number of them being young people.
We were organized into four districts, each with a president, and meetings for prayer were held morning and evening in each district After a while we got over our seasickness and part of the time was spent by the young people in music and dancing. Our food was prepared in a large kitchen and rations were issued to each mess according to their number.
The food was of an inferior quality, or else our apitites were greatly demoralized. The bread consisted of dry cakes brought from Hamburg, which lasted until we landed in New York. We called them “ciks.” The water was also very poor. A few extra things could be bought for those who were sick.
I enjoyed good health and to me the trip was a pleasure. There was one feature that made the trip very trying and disagreeable to some of the saints. A few days after we had started, the measles broke out among the children. Many died and had to be buried in water graves.
Sister Kjer and her daughter, who I had promised to assist and with whom I traveled, were sick much of the time. I assisted them as well as I could, and they were well satisfied with my treatment.
We landed at Castle Garden, New York on the 30th day of May and continued on our road westward, partly by train and partly by steamer, until we reached
Florence, Nebraska which was the outfitting place for the season. We arrived there in the early part of June.
To the reader: Since Hans Christensen said very little about the boat trip to America or about his point of entry experience in New York, the editor is adding the following to expand the reader’s vision and understanding of the times and the things Brother Christensen surely experienced.
The ocean voyage was one of the most hazardous parts of the trip. In the age of wooden sailing vessels such as the steamer Hans Christensen came to America in, a passage of the Atlantic could take as long as two to three months.
Living conditions on board were terrible, especially in steerage, where the majority of immigrants traveled. Many died during the passage, with high mortality rates among the old and very young. Diseases such as typhus, cholera and dysentery were rampant. Shipwrecks, storms at sea, and severe seasickness also plagued the travelers.
The most important factor in improving these conditions was the introduction of the steamship. By the 1870s, the average duration of an Atlantic voyage had been cut to two weeks.
There were several American ports of entry, but New York City was the busiest, especially after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. When a ship carrying immigrants arrived in New York Harbor in the early 1800s, a doctor rowed out from a Quarantine office located on Staten Island to inspect passengers for any contagious diseases. If the ship passed inspection, the new citizens could move through customs to start a new life in America. Once again, waiting at the exits were unscrupulous runners and agents that worked for railroad, steamboat, boarding house and money exchange concerns. Armed thugs, who traveled with these company “representatives,” sometimes bullied immigrants into accompanying them, and exploited the new arrivals, stealing their possessions.
Having a purpose, that of going out west to “Zion” was a saving grace for immigrants like Hans Christensen. They had come to America to travel to Utah, so they did not waste time setting up housekeeping in New York or some other large, overcrowded eastern American city where crime was rampant.
As a result of these dangers and the filthy traveling conditions in steerage compartments on sailing vessels, New York State appointed a commission in 1847 to inspect ships and the onshore activities of known thieves and swindlers.
In 1855, a new immigrant landing depot called Castle Garden was constructed in Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan to protect the new arrivals. This was the landing depot which Hans Christensen refers to , the one where he landed in America. Ellis Island would not be built for another 30 years.
Castle Garden was originally built in 1811 as Castle Clinton, a Federal fort to guard New York and its harbor against British invasion. When you visit Battery Park you can still see some of the guns set up there 200 years ago. The fort was ceded to the city in 1823, and served as a concert hall and reception center for visiting dignitaries. By the early 1850s, Battery Park was being enlarged through landfill, and the city commissioners decided to locate a permanent immigration landing depot on the site. Immigrants would now be brought directly to Castle Garden after passing through customs for assistance and directions.
One observer wrote in 1856, that after being registered by an immigration clerk, the new arrivals could “… enjoy themselves in the depot by taking their meals, cleansing themselves in the spacious bath-rooms, or promenading on the galleries or on the dock. In a newsletter by the National Parks Service it said, “the utmost order prevailed throughout; every requisite information was given passengers by officials conversing in different languages; letters from friends were transmitted to landing passengers, bringing them money or directions on how to proceed, etc.”
In a direct reference to the Western territories, the New York Herald of May 15, 1856, reported that “It is pleasant to learn that the immigrants who have lately arrived have been of better class than usual. Could the paper have been referring to some of the Danish converts coming to America? It would be six years later when Hans Christensen and the 400 other saints would disembark at the Castle Garden, New York facility.
“They have brought with them an average of seventy-two dollars per head,” the article continued. “Let them come, but let them keep out of politics for five years. There’s plenty of room out West yet.” Brother Christensen had only roughly $25 in Danish money when he left Denmark. He was the exception, but it is noteworthy that this highly intelligent, sturdy farmer from Denmark really handled the arduous trip so well, remaining free if sickness or disease. The descendants of this great man can only thank the Lord for their good fortune in being related to such good Danish man.
Below please find some pictures of the Castle Garden greeting facility for immigrants in New York. Harper’s Magazine printed most of these pictures giving readers a glimpse of new cultures that would re-create the woof and weft of the fabric of a fledgling nation trying to re-define itself and align itself with the changing times. At the same time, these foreigners wanted to assimilate themselves into the new, aggressive American society; and they did, by going to school, learning the English language, and working hard in a country that was going places.
The Harpers Weekly article that accompanied these picture claimed that a person’s nationality could be determined by their dress.
“It is curious to see such a heterogeneous crowd land. The Swedes are usually distinguished by their tanned-leather breeches and waistcoats, and their peculiar before mentioned exhalations; you can not miss the Irishman with his napless hat, worn coat, and corduroy trousers; the Englishman you know by his Scotch cap, clay pipe, and paper collar. The Teuton you detect at once by his long-shirted, dark blue woolen coat, high necked and brass-buttoned vest, and flat military cap or gray beaver. Indeed, one of the officers told me that he could tell exactly what part of Germany each individual came from his dress alone, and I believe he could. Then there are the Bohemians (the genuine ones) with their many-colored scarfs and glaring jackets for the women, and natty military caps for almost all the men; the French in their blue linen blouses; and finally the Norwegians ;in their curious national dress, consisting of a gray woolen stiff-necked jacket, which covers only about one-third of their back, whine in front it slopes down to a greater length, and is profusely ornamented with huge silver buttons set so close together that they overlap each. Their breeches, of dark woolen stuff, there from reach nearly up to their neck behind, only a small strip of jacket with an enormous still collar between. You can not properly say a Norwegian in a pair of breeches, but a pair of breeches with a Norwegian in them. This, of course, only applies to the farmers from
the interior parts of the country, the “Dalkeller” and “Troensere, ” etc.”
From New York Brother Christensen traveled overland and via canals and rivers such as the Errie Cannal until he found his way to Utah.
Here we laid in camp six weeks waiting for the church trains to arrive. They had been detained on the road on account of high water. While we were laying there in camp, provisions were issued to us by the church immigration agent, Elder Joseph W. Young. Although some grumbled and were dissatisfied, I felt very thankful to God for his kind care over us that far on the trip. I was also grateful to the saints in Zion who had so kindly contributed their means in helping the poor across the plains.
While encamped at Florence Hill, Nebraska we had some of the heaviest thunder and rainstorms that I had ever seen. Those who hath means enough to go with an independent company were buying up and getting their outfits together and hath a great time handling their wild steers and oxen which did not understand Danish.
I had an offer at that time to go with this company. By doing so could have saved my fare by driving a team. But on account of having promised to stay with Sister Kjer I stayed with them until we got to Utah.
About July 15th the church trains commenced to arrive. They had four yoke of oxen; and soon after their arrival, each wagon was loaded with heavy iron and other heavy merchandise and twelve persons per wagon, including their baggage, provisions, and tents.
We traveled in Captain John Murdock’s company which started from camp on the 24th of July with hundreds of others walking nearly the whole distance. Old people who were not well would change about while riding on the wagon on top of the baggage. To me, being young and strong, the church was a pleasure and I received here some of my first lessons–also in the art of driving oxen according to the American method from our teamster, a young man from Sanpete County.
The train would camp at noon and night near to the water [rivers] and grasses, as convenient. The wagons were drawn in a circle, on the inside of which we pitched our tents and made campfires. It also served as a corral to drive the oxen into, so as to catch them. The cattle and the camp were guarded at night. We saw quite a number of Indians, but hath no trouble with them.
We arrived in Salt Lake City in the latter part of September and our hearts swelled with gratitude to God for his kind protection over us both on land and sea until we safely landed in the beautiful city of the saints.
The train camped on Emigration Square and we we were surrounded with people who were inquiring about their friends. I learned that my brother Lars Peter, who was then living in Kaysville, hath been the city a day or two before but hath been obliged to return home. Those who hath no acquaintances were taken care of by the Tithing Department until they could find a place to live.
Just how I got to Kaysville where my brother lived and whether Sister Kjer and her daughter went directly up there with us I do not remember [with Hans Christen and his brother Lars Peter]. But I got there and started to work for my brother who had rented a blacksmith shop from Christopher Layton. And I remember that Sister Maren Kjer soon after rented a room in Farmington, where she made her living by weaving. She was well satisfied with the assistance I had rendered to them on the journey, and afterwards I paid them back for the amount that I had borrowed, though not in cash. That was next to impossible to do in those days.
I also received a letter afterwards from her son Stephen Pedersen thanking me for the interest I had taken in assisting his mother and sister. He never reached Utah. He died on the road to Utah a year or two after I arrived in Utah.
I had now reached my destination. I was owing for my emigration and I commenced to think of how to get that paid. My fare across the plains was about $50 which I owed to the Church and which afterwards I paid with interest with small installments as I was able.
I continued to work for my brother until after Christmas when I made a trip to Pleasant Grove. There were a number of saints who hath come in the same year, stopping there for the winter. That group included Sister Poulsen of Weibye, Denmark and her children who hath crossed the plains in the independent company. She hath left her husband for the gospel sake in a good home with four of her children barely with means enough to bring them here. They were now homeless but intended to go south in the spring in search of a place to make a home. Sister Poulsen had a daughter nearly my age. She had been confirmed a member of the church on the same day that I was. I hath known her ever since as a true Latter-day Saint. She hath been very sick on the road cross the plains and it was feared that she would not have enough [strength] to reach Utah but she did. She was now well, but through her severe illness she had lost the hair from her head which did not improve her looks any.
I hath not much time for courting as I had to go back again to work for my brother; so we made it up in a few days and we were married on the first day of February, 1863.
I will now relate our wedding tour. A few days after our marriage, we hath an opportunity to go with a neighbor to Salt Lake City. My wife gathered up all her earthly possessions and packed them in a bushel basket. We took leave of her mother and brother who gave us their best wishes and blessings, all they had to give.
We arrived in Salt Lake City in good shape and stopped at Brother Weibye’s house. He was my wife’s uncle who, with his family, hath come in the same year with the same company as my wife.
THE MOVE TO MORGAN COUNTY
We expected to stay in Salt Lake City only a few days, until we could get a chance to go up to Morgan County where my brother hath moved since I had left him. It was understood tht somewhere on the Weber was going to be our future home. I went to town every day for a week or more, looking for a chance to go but found none.
It must be remembered that we did not own a cent, all we hath in the world was our clothes with the exception of a small frying pan which my wife’s mother had given her to start housekeeping with. Upon going to town one day I found out at the Tithing Yard that there was a man in from Morgan with a load of wood. I hunted him up and told him our situation and he said that he hath no other wagon than a pair of running gears, but if we could hang onto them we were welcome to go with [him].
Editor’s note: This would have been a flatbed wagon with no side rails and only some rails on the back to “hang onto.” The part about the two gears applies to the fact that the front and back wheels are connected together with rod and gears for greater flexibility so the wagon would not get hung up on uneven ground. Note the photo of flatbed wagons below. It would take a lot of strength and be quite a feat for even a strong man to hold onto a wagon like this for any distance, especially up and down hills as the Christensens would encounter going to Morgan, let alone a woman. Unlike the pictures below, the wagons would likely be empty, having delivered hay to the Tithing Office and preparing to return to Morgan.