Scandinavians to Zion: From the Old World to the New World
Excerpts from Homeward to Zion by William Mulder
"THOUGH WE HAD OUR TROUBLES ON THE JOURNEY, NOW EVERY
HEART SWELLED WITH JOY TO SEE THE SNOW-COVERED
MOUTAINS AND BEAUTIFUL VALLEY..."1
Only good news came back from the handful of emigrants who had left Copenhagen
early in 1852. The Italy had brought the "little flock" from Liverpool
to New Orleans by May 10 "all well in body and spirit."
They had proceeded up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to
Kanesville, Iowa, where they had joined a large encampment of
Saints getting ready to cross the plains. In July Erastus Snow had
caught up with them and, as part of Captain Eli B. Kelsey's ox
train of one hundred fifty wagons, had led them into the
Salt Lake Valley on October 16 "They are all alive and well satisfied," Stjerne could tell its anxious readers, "and they urge their friends to follow them." 2
Their letters dissolved the worst fears about the hazards of the long journey and silenced the skeptics distrustful of conditions in
Mormon landet, the rumor-ridden land of the Mormons. A few of the emigrants had already bought places to live and turned the first soil; Niels Jensen and his nephew Frederik Petersen were getting ready to build a pottery in the Second Ward, a parish soon to be known as "Little Denmark"; clerk Conrad Svanevelt's wife had a new baby, a girl they called Josephine Brighamine in honor of the prophets; the Rasmus Petersens were staying temporarily with Erastus Snow, turnabout for the time he had made his home with them in Denmark; tailor Wilhelm Knudsen looked forward to the arrival of his father's family with the Forsgren company and went north to the settlement at Box Elder to get ready for them; midwife Augusta Dorius married Henry Stevens and went south to Sanpete Valley, where Cecilia Jorgensen followed to become in time the plural wife of Hans Jensen Hals. It was a sad
day when Stjerne had to report Svanevelt's defection, removal to California, and final return to Denmark, but a happy one when it could announce his reunion with the Saints.3 So ran the news about the five families, six bachelors, and four spinsters who were the forerunners of the hosts to come. They were never out of mind, though it was not until death that some of them figured again in the news from Zion: the obituary always remembered they were "one of the first twenty-eight," and that paid them the highest respect.
An even greater watchfulness followed the adventures of the Forsgren company, which sailed from Liverpool on January 16, 1853 aboard the Forest Monarch, the Mayflower of the Mormon migration from Scandinavia. More characteristic of the future emigration in numbers and organization than the first group, the Forsgren pilgrims provided a more genuine test of the ability of Saints from the European mainland to make their way to Zion and establish themselves as equal citizens of the Kingdom. It was a long nine months before they could record in their journals: "September 30, 1853. This day we entered the Valley and camped in the center of the city." And it was a long way from Copenhagen, where in the previous December they had assembled to make preparations for the journey.4
Some had to travel far to get to headquarters. As early as the first of August, Lars Poulsen and his family of six, who had sacrificed their farm at half its 5000 rigsdaler value, left their native island of Jegendo in an open boat to make their way down Lim Fjorden to Aalborg, only to find cholera raging, and they had to put up in a simple hut on the outskirts of the city. It was November before they reached Copenhagen, but in time to assist a number of hopeful converts to join the company. Christian Ipsen Munk, a cooper from the island of Bornholm, came to Ronne and crossed over to Copenhagen with his family weeks early to lodge with eight other emigrant families in the same house "in perfect harmony," a friendship that would keep several of them close neighbors in the settlements.
At noon on December 20, the emigrants--199 adults and 95 children under twelve—boarded the steamer Obotrit amid "songs of praise and thanksgiving" from friends and jeers from the idle gathered on the wharf at Copenhagen. A stormy night forced the vessel into a Falster harbor for forty-eight hours, and it did not reach Kiel in Holstein until the evening of the 22nd. Kiel was but three hours by train to Hamburg, where the emigrants aroused "great curiosity" the next morning as they marched through the streets to their quarters, a large hall on the banks of the Elbe just outside the city. They found their fare a "palatable and well-cooked meal, tea and bread and butter," though they had to sleep on straw and chairs scattered the length of the building. Willard Snow, John Forsgren, and Daniel Garn, Mormon missionary in Hamburg, had dinner with Mr. Morris of the shipping firm, who spread "a good table." Morris & Co. furnished the emigrants their breakfast on the morning of the 24th and, after their customary songs and prayers, saw them aboard the English ship Lion bound for Hull. A newspaper account picturing the emigrants as "driven out of Scandinavia" and making it appear an "act of humanity" on Hamburg's part to permit them to land and re-embark, angered Snow as "insult" and "pretense," because "Mr. Morris had paid $20 for the privilege of landing the steamer," and "the Senate and police authorities had been trying for a long time to drive Bro. Garn out of the country."
The company, reluctantly leaving an ailing "Sister Knudsen" behind, sailed down the Elbe in good spirits, rode out a fogbound Christmas Eve in Cuxhaven, and, buffeted by violent storms which strewed the North Sea with wrecks, finally dragged into Hull on the 28th. They crossed England the next day to Liverpool, where they were housed in a comfortable hotel, served a warm meal "immediately," and "taken good care of" until on December 31 they boarded the Forest Monarch, a "splendid sailing vessel" which had not carried passengers before; carpenters, in fact, were still installing the berths. "And thus," journalized Herman Julius Christensen, one of the emigrants, "the year 1852 ended with all its remarkable events. God be praised for the many blessings which he has bestowed upon his people."
On New Year's Day two tenders towed the frigate out into the River Mersey, but it was another fifteen days before favoring winds took it out to sea, a layover which brought "murmurings and complaints" but which gave the company a chance to regulate its housekeeping: two were named to help in the galley, and three to deliver foodstuffs to it; thirteen "captains" were to distribute daily provisions and seven more to ration the water; and two were to supervise cleaning the quarters.
Daily prayers and almost daily meetings permitted airing of feelings, provided inspiration and instruction, and established a pattern of general consent for conducting the emigrants' affairs: everything was ordered by vote. On January 11 when "the brethren and sisters raised their hands in agreement to live in harmony with each other," Willard Snow, who had settled with the Liverpool office, felt satisfied and returned to Copenhagen, leaving with the ship's officers a testimonial of his pleasure at the arrangements. Meanwhile, on January 7 and 8, the Forest Monarch received visitors newly arrived from Zion, among them Hans Peter Olson, on his way to fill a mission in Scandinavia, who "gave us good tidings of Zion, which caused us great joy." Dancing and games in the evening celebrated the occasion.
At last, on January 16, with the weather fair, the Forest Monarch set out to sea and headed for New Orleans. The Saints observed the event by taking communion. Five marriages, two births, and three deaths had seen life come full cycle while they were still in port; and Jeppe Bentzen, bitten by a dog in Hamburg, had to be left behind in Liverpool with a badly infected leg.5 It was not many days before foul weather tested the improvised berths, which creaked fearfully, some even tumbling down. Brother Hans Larsen fell and knocked an arm out of joint, the first in an epidemic of bad hurts and bruises as land legs failed to hold the unpredictable deck. Though seasickness was universal, on the whole the weather was calm, particularly as they approached the southern latitudes, and the Atlantic crossing pleasant
Within four weeks they glimpsed the West Indies and it became too warm to hear daily discourses on the millennium, the resurrection, and the gathering of Israel, though not too warm for Christian Christiansen's violin. But Brother Holzhasen stayed away from meetings altogether, and gave himself to levity; it was proposed, seconded, and unanimously agreed that he should be cut off from the church for having turned "to worldly ways." And Brother Andersen and his wife, it came out, were not united. The Andersen asked forgiveness and hoped to be remembered in the prayers of the congregation. But by the time the Forest Monarch reached New Orleans on March 17, matters between them had gone from bad to worse, and they left the company. A greater loss was the five who died within sight of the promised land and were buried in port.
At New Orleans, where customs officers mistook the emigrants for Irish laborers,6 they bought fresh bread, but Elder Forsgren had to warn them not to go into the city, for the people were most ungodly.
They gave Forsgren a vote of confidence and, pooling their means to enable everyone to go on, moved by steamboat upriver to St. Louis, marveling at the panorama of life along the Mississippi—the extensive forests, here and there being burned over for a clearing, the pleasant towns, the spring song of birds, the orchards in fairest bloom, the slaves working in the fields, where Negro women rode the ox-pulled plows and children waved from the banks with wide handkerchiefs. "Everything looked full of life and very good."
In St. Louis, where Mormon emigrants were already familiar figures and the congregation numbered over three thousand, they found enough empty houses for a month's stay and worked at odd jobs while waiting for the "sickly season" along the river to pass, Forsgren meanwhile keeping them close together through frequent meetings, communion, and counseling, for the temptations in St. Louis were great. During April three more couples were married, five of the company died, two children were born, and a Sister Mathiesen was refused fellowship because she "had not made a true acknowledgment and could not be received into the Church without having the fruits of repentance." Thankful their troubles were no greater, half the company left on April 21, for Keokuk, Iowa, twenty-four hours away and not far from storied Nauvoo. The rest followed ten days later.
At Keokok, where they became part of a great encampment of Welsh and English Saints, they found that Elder Haight, the church agent, had been diligent in obtaining their outfits for the plains. The "Danish camp," as they became known, pitched in a flowered prairie grove in a setting of oak trees and wild grape, was a lively place as they learned the mysteries of the yoke and whip in handling oxen and got used to living in tents and wagons, "as good as a house."
In conference on May 17, the camp members put their accounts in order and renewed their covenants; they unanimously agreed to sustain Brigham Young, his counselors, and the apostles, approved Elder Forsgren's leadership, voted to travel under four captains, ten wagons to a company, and agreed that "anyone found drunk in the Danish camp would be cut off from the Church." Elder Christian Christiansen read a letter from Copenhagen reporting that the membership in Scandinavia had risen to 1400 that the brethren in Norway had been released from prison, and that several persons had been baptized in Sweden. It was a day of "enlightenment and instruction"; the captains "expressed their
feelings in a spirit of humility"; and the conference closed on a note of general satisfaction. The camp was ready for the plains.
Christian Nielsen, one of the emigrants with an eye for memorable detail, found the crossing "not wearisome at all." Going barefoot to save his shoes, he walked by the side of his two yoke of oxen and his heavily loaded wagon "of excellent quality and solid, far surpassing the Danish." Besides his family, he carried "a widow from Bornholm and her two children." He grew sunburned and let his beard grow. "Many of us look formidable," a sight for the begging and thieving Indians: "they have no beard." The oxen fattened on the fine grass; wood and water were plentiful.
The worst hardship, besides the constant hazard of falling from the wagons or being run over by the stock, was the weather, the sudden storms that broke over Iowa and Nebraska frightening beyond anything known in the Old Country: the ominous thunder and the flaming sky, with lightning striking terror among the tents, cloudbursts drenching them, and winds whirling them over, left the emigrants cowering and helpless. A quieter grandeur was the sight of the buffalo herds, the thousands of deer and antelope, the far-stretching, uninhabited country itself with its great rivers to ferry.
By June 25, they camped at Kanesville near Council Bluffs to rest for a week, only to have their peace seriously disturbed when the Niels Pedersens, the Jørgen Nielsens, and Frederikke Frederiksen withdrew declaring they would go no farther. "Jørgen Nielsen said there were liars and slanderers among us, and that it was not better among us than any other place in the world." He brought the law from the city to force the return of certain oxen to him, but H. J. Christensen had driven them off, and Jørgen hauled him into town and made him pay an eleven-dollar fine. To the rest of the company Jørgen seemed "possessed of an evil spirit," and he and his disaffected fellows were excommunicated; they were the beginning of an apostate element in Council Bluffs and later Omaha that would grow with each emigration, in time augmented by backtrailers from Zion itself, who gave western Iowa and eastern Nebraska their earliest Scandinavian settlers.
George P. Dykes, familiar to many of the Forsgren emigrants as Erastus Snow's early companion in Scandinavia, happened to be in Council Bluffs and counseled them "against talking with any of the people of the town, as there was no place where the Devil had more 62
power than right here, and the people would do all they could to keep the Saints here." But old Father Christiansen, the choirmaster, destined shortly to lay down his weary bones in the mountains, voiced the general feeling when he said that he would not remain there, no matter how much he was offered; he could just as well have remained in Denmark, but he wished with all his heart to come to Zion. Elder Forsgren said "everything which would delight the soul" would be found in Zion, but he also warned them not to be dismayed if, when they "came home to the Valley," they found some ungodliness.
There was no more defection, only the tedium of creeping along sixteen to twenty miles a day in mud and sand and dealing with unruly stock that tried tempers and brought out "imperfections" to be repented daily. They crossed creeks with colorful names like Wolf and Rattlesnake and Crab, and joined the English Saints in building bridges; they fed curious Indians—a band of sixty once—and were strictly forbidden to take any Indian ponies on pain of being cast out of camp. Resting only on the Sabbath, they passed one by one the historic landmarks of the Oregon and California trail—Scotts Bluff, Laramie, Bridger.
To Christian Nielsen the way presented an amazing litter of dead animals, strewn wagon parts, clothing, and equipment, the shambles left by the goldseekers stripping for the race to the coast. Emigrants who could not bear to see such waste overloaded their wagons each day with their finds—the "beautiful" brass kettles, pans, and wheel rims— only to be forced to abandon them all again before nightfall. It was all very comical. Reflecting on the rivalry of the goldseekers, Christian was impressed that in Mormon wagon trains the emigrants helped each other: if one lost an ox, the others came to his aid; if something broke, the whole company waited until it was mended—the smith set up his forge and in a moment made repairs. No one was left behind, though he observed that the selfish ones were the first to call for help.
"At last we neared the valley." On September 30, in the evening, they entered Great Salt Lake City, to be met by their old familiar, Erastus Snow, who re-baptized them all the next day to wash them of the sins of the journey and renew their covenants. It was a visible token they had come out of the world; they were in Zion, and what was past for them was merely prologue.
Some of the immigrants found a temporary home with the first twenty-eight, who had already given their neighborhood a distinctly Danish character. Some followed John Forsgren north to Fort Box Elder, where his wife was living with her father, Bishop William Davis, founder of the settlement. With John went his brother Peter, the weaver, and wife, and his sister Erika, who would become the bishop's plural wife. Most of the company, on Brigham Young's advice, went south within a few days to the high country of Sanpete Valley to strengthen Father Isaac Morley's colony.
"One would imagine we were tired of traveling," but Christian Nielsen went the 150 miles with them to Spring Town, soon better known as New Denmark. The people along the way were good to them, "overloading" them with "all kinds of articles"; in Provo someone killed an ox for them. But the farther south they traveled the more it looked like war, until they came to mute evidence in the form of two wagon boxes tipped over, their wheat and broken chests spilled on the ground in a skirmish that had seen eight Indians and four townsmen killed. They found Spring Town practically deserted: "It was a wretched fort; the walls were miserably built, the houses in unlivable condition, and we had to be armed constantly; there was good grassland here and they could become fine fields, but we were too weak to resist the Indians." In November Christian took his family to nearby Manti, where his services were needed to build a grist mill, which "with God's help" he built "after the Danish fashion." Before winter all of the company were called in from Spring Town to Manti. Within a year the larger emigration even then forming in Copenhagen would reinforce them and secure what for the moment seemed a precarious stake in Zion.
The Forsgren company left a golden track in Mormon history. Their casualties in death and apostasy had been providentially light. They had provided a model of self-help, cooperation, and democratic leadership, with authority and humility alternately exercised in crisis with good results, and they had settled in strategic areas which would influence the colonization of the emigrants to come. An ounce of their success was worth a pound of propaganda in Scandinavia, and a hundred companies confidently followed in their wake, their adventures continually renewing the twice-told tale of the first voyagers and pioneers. They gave the migration of Scandinavian Mormons a distinctive pattern.
In the Old Country, many of the converts had never been farther from home than the nearest market town. For them the Skandinavens
Stjerne became an emigrant guide, its minute instructions encompassing every detail of preparation and departure; and the presiding elders in the conferences were their faithful shepherds, guiding them through the legal maze of obtaining passports, assisting them in the disposal of their goods, and even bending to the task of packing.
Farmer Hans Jensen Hals, emigrant of 1854 who had settled in Manti, the husband of three wives and able counselor to Apostle Orson Hyde in handling Danish affairs in the settlements, was back in Scandinavia on a mission in 1865, to find his experience at a premium and his time absorbed with emigration matters:
I went with N. Nielsen to the Poor Commission in Nortranders School and received a promise of 200 dollars for him to travel on.... Held two meetings in Aalborg. The Emigrants were upbuilt and counseled in their preparation. A blessed day.... Received 4,000 rigsdaler Emigration money from C. Christensen and Jens Olesen from Thylan.... Bought material for tents and sleeping bags for the emigrants and put the tailors to work sewing them.... Came to Copenhagen and delivered to Pres. Widerborg 6,196 Emigration money. The accounting was correct.... Rented P. Larsen's hall for the emigrants from Vendsyssel.... Passed out certificates and passports, and held a meeting in the hall. Fourteen Brethren gave their farewell talks.... Received a letter from Christansen in Zion, and there read about the travels of the Emigrants....7
In April 1868 he was told he would lead the next company of 627 to Zion, a stewardship which kept him constantly preoccupied and which was not discharged until his arrival in Salt Lake on September 25, when at Brigham Young's invitation he made his report from the stand in the Tabernacle. And even then he could not rest: he went to "Brigham's office to find out if the families could get the money back for them that had died on the way," and he took some of them with him to Manti. "Now I could go home with my family and attend to my duties." And he was proud to bring with him five instruments—a tenor tuba, two tenor horns, an alto horn, and a flute—which he had bought in Copenhagen for his town's brass band.
Before 1869 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, instructions warned the proselyte that the journey would take from six to nine months: leaving in midwinter and arriving on the frontier in spring or early summer, the emigrants should have clothes for both extremes of weather, and shoes to last the journey. It was not true, they
were told, that they had to take along enough clothing to last ten years, nor need they be concerned about differences in standards of dress as they prevailed in the Old Country—in the New World such things did not matter. They were advised to part with the heavy chests "inherited from the fathers since time immemorial" and to take light trunks and suitcases which they could readily carry on board ship and load easily into "prairie wagons." They should not take over a hundred pounds in freight per person because few could afford to pay excess weight charges, which on the plains alone, in pre-railroad days, amounted to $24 a hundredweight.
Those who expected to go all the way to "the Valley" should have at least 150 to 200 rigsdaler, and be prepared against "robbers and false brethren who will appear friendly as long as your money lasts." They would have to take their own bedding and cooking and eating utensils, preferably tinware, items advertised for purchase at cheapest rates at Mormon headquarters in Liverpool. Emigrants must-have food for five days while en route to Liverpool. Those who had valuables would do better to convert them into cash and plan to acquire a good cow that would give milk "to their children on the plains . . . and it will be no sin to have a few dollars left for homemaking in the Valley." Artisans who desired to take the tools and models of their trade should choose the lightest and most valuable.8
After 1869, when steam and rail made for swifter passage, the instructions were still as detailed and full of oft-repeated precautions: lash your luggage well; mark baggage "Utah, U.S.A." with lampblack; use leather tags, not paper; don't wrap luggage with sail cloth, for it prevents rapid opening at the customs; in coming to Copenhagen, don't leave baggage on various railroad platforms en route; the office force at Copenhagen will meet anyone who sends notice of train or steamboat arrival; you must furnish your own food to Liverpool, costing about 10 kroner ($2.50) Adults will be allowed 135 pounds of freight on their ticket, children half as much; be prepared to pay excess freight charges, either in Copenhagen before setting out or to the Mormon agent in New York; take all the bed clothing you can; your food basket or box should be long and low allowing it to slide under the seat on the train; don't forget hand towels, comb, and soap for each person be prepared to pay lodgings, drayage, and other expenses incurred in, Copenhagen.9 This attention to small expenditures suggests how closely
the voyage was budgeted for the majority: any unforeseen outlay, however small, spelled disaster.
The instructions reflected the times: in 1872 heads of families with insufficient means to see them through to Utah were discouraged from believing that, if they could only reach the eastern states, they would find "lots of work" to enable them to return or send for their families. "Experience has taught us this is not so easy." In 1885, when conditions were equally bad, but happily offset by lower rates, Saints were reminded to keep faith with proved church methods: other agents might offer even cheaper passage but were not as responsible or as interested in the welfare of their clients. "Do not go without a shepherd."10
The Stjerne was an emigrant guide with a difference: instructions were invariably accompanied by a moral rider. They began with dollars and concluded with dogmas, a portrait of Mormonism anxious to give no offense to an already critical world. Let the Saints honor every debt incurred en route and leave a good name behind, free from blame. Let them conduct themselves according to the laws of the land in all respects that they might be "justified before man and God." Let them be prayerful, repentant, seeking knowledge "by study and by faith." Let them honor cleanliness as a heavenly principle, doing everything essential for health, for "an unclean body is not fit temple for the holy spirit that dwells there." Again and again the difficulties of the journey were rehearsed, the necessity for spiritual preparation underlined. The Saints must go with "singleness of purpose." Those without faith had better not go at all, for they would never withstand "the hate of persecutors or the power of the Destroyer."11
In sailing-vessel days the Saints were frankly told that the risks were great, sickness and death constant companions of the voyage over the water and the trek across the plains. Especially was the toll high among children. "Very few ever get through with them all," the father and mother of four small children were told.12 Scandinavians seemed particularly susceptible to measles; common killers were cholera and dysentery. Companies after 1859, traveling the entire distance by steam and rail, suffered no losses at all, but earlier they buried normally 10 per cent of their number before journey's end. Most tragic were the parties which left in January 1854 aboard the Jesse Munn and the Benjamin Adams; 200 out of 678 lost their lives, most of them of cholera
while in camp at Westport, Missouri.13 The only comfort was that they died "in the Lord."
There was also comfort in the record of safety at sea. Ships were dedicated before departure, and they were pictured as "flying like a cloud towards the promised land" with a special providence controlling the winds and the waves. Captains were impressed: said the skipper of the S.S. Idaho with 703 Scandinavian Saints on board in 1874, "I have conveyed Mormons safely across the Atlantic for eighteen years and have never heard that any ship went under with them on board." To be sure, there were other reactions to Mormon praying and singing: the mate of the John J. Boyd, carrying 437 Scandinavian Mormons in 1855, grew superstitious because of a prolonged passage and declared that ships with preachers on board were always sure of trouble.14
Going to America involved more than stepping aboard a vessel on one side of the Atlantic and disembarking on the other. It was a whole series of journeys. The proselytes first had to make their way to Copenhagen, main assembly point. Unless they lived on Zealand itself, that meant crossing the straits from Jutland or one of the Danish islands, and the Sound from Sweden—short laps but adventurous to many who were seeing the face of their country for the first time. Swedish Saints funneled through Malmö. Subsidiary assembly points in Jutland were Aalborg in the north, Aarhus in the middle, and Fredericia in the south, all along the east coast. The same little steamer picked up waiting emigrants in succession on its way to Copenhagen or, when groups were large enough, took them directly to Kiel or Lubeck on the German portion of the peninsula, where the Copenhagen detachment joined them. The journey was continued by rail to Altona, within walking distance of Hamburg, or to Gluckstadt, a little farther down the Elbe. Except for the years 1862, 1865, and 1866, when parties went directly from Hamburg to America, the emigrants moved across the North Sea to Grimsby or Hull and entrained for Liverpool along with whatever Norwegian Saints had come directly from Christiania or Stavanger.
The North Sea passage was often the roughest part of the whole journey: accounts describe the horrible retching in the holds of the vessels, sometimes little better than cattle boats, the hold thickly layered with sand in which the sea-green sick buried their vomit or burrowed for miserable sleep. Shelter at various stages of the journey certainly had none of the comforts of home; a sensitive Norwegian woman found
the "poor Saints" packed into a large hall in Copenhagen, given beds on straw in a loft in Hamburg with no segregation of men and women, quartered in a "kind of stable" in Grimsby, and sheltered in "a rude shed" in Liverpool. But the converts, mostly farmers, artisans, and laborers, were on the whole less squeamish and, rejoicing in their new-found fellowship, expressed their gratitude for these way-station accommodations: time and again their journals speak their relief at finding good food and adequate shelter waiting for them.l5
From Scandinavia to England was but a foretaste of interminable changes, endless distances. After the Atlantic there stretched a continent to cross. Until 1855 Mormon emigrants traveled the New Orleans route, utilizing the waterways to get as far inland as possible— Keokuk or Quincy on the Mississippi, Atchison or St. Joseph on the Missouri. To avoid the murderous climate of the lower Mississippi, all emigration after 1855 passed through eastern ports. The route in the states was determined by the best contract Mormon representatives were able to make. In 1866 the 684 converts aboard the Kenibuorth arriving in New York from Hamburg found that the church agent had gone to some lengths. He sent them by coastal steamer to New Haven, thence by rail to Montreal in "dirty cattle cars," along the north bank of the St. Lawrence and lakes Ontario and Erie to the St. Clair River, where they were ferried over to Port Huron, Michigan, to continue by rail to Quincy, Illinois, via Chicago; there they were ferried across the Mississippi and entrained for St. Joseph, continuing by steamboat up the Missouri to the town of Wyoming, Nebraska, where they were met by church teams waiting to trundle them to Salt Lake.l6
The tortuous itinerary did not disturb the Saints as they prepared to leave the Old Country, for there was too much excitement at departure. A Dane remembered the scene in Copenhagen in 1869: with his mother and sister he stayed with four hundred other emigrants, the greater part Mormons and "mostly farm folk," at the Bolles Hotel. The sitting room was in constant motion. Some people went about in the crowd begging to be taken along. "It was a sight to behold"—four hundred people marching from the hotel to the dock, lugging their worldly goods to the clanging of loose tinware and singing "Think not when you gather to Zion your trials and troubles are o'er...." At the dock he remembered vividly how a mother gave her three small girls a last embrace before turning them over to a young woman to be taken to Zion.17
Crowds of the curious were always on hand, scornful of their countrymen who were foolish and disloyal enough to leave home as victims of the double delusion of America and Mormonism. Sometimes there were scenes. At the boat landing in Copenhagen in 1857 an indignant crowd tried to snatch the children away from one convert couple: let the elders be damned, but it was too bad the young should face a shameful upbringing in the Mormon kingdom. In 1868 the leaders of a company of 627 proselytes were arrested just as they were embarking and hauled before the magistrate, only to be cleared when nothing could be found against them.l8
Times changed. When the S.S. Otto left Copenhagen for Lübeck in 1872 with 397 proselytes aboard, Stjerne gave thanks to "our agent, Hr. Duhrsen, his assistants, the police, the militia, and the captain for their humaneness, forehandedness, and willingness to serve with which each in his place assisted us and our friends in accomplishing the departure." No one drank a toast of farewell schnapps; there were no "depressing pipes, cigars, or nauseous quids," but only "friendliness, unity, helpfulness, and patience." And there was a noticeable absence of the usual emigrant weeping; instead, "joy and thanksgiving reigned for the chance to go to Zion." 19
In Liverpool, once aboard the ship which would carry them across the Atlantic, the converts found themselves members of a well-ordered community. A select committee of the House of Commons on emigrant ships for 1854, after examining the Mormon agent in Liverpool, concluded that "no ship under the provision of the Passenger Act could be depended upon for comfort and security in the same degree as those under his administration. The Mormon ship is a family under strong and accepted discipline, with every provision for comfort, decorum, and internal peace."20 Under a general presidency—for the shipboard company was of mixed nationality—the Scandinavians had their own supervisors responsible for things temporal and spiritual: cleaning and galley details, morning and evening devotionals, recreation and morale.
It was customary to berth families amidships, separating the single men from the unmarried women. Watchmen maintained vigil during the night. In 1861, after six days at sea, the realistic president of the company aboard the Monarch of the Sea suggested it would help the crowded condition of the vessel if betrothed couples got married at once; thirty unions were forthwith solemnized.21 Hans Jensen Hals found the crew of the Emerald Isle ugly: they molested the young women and threatened the brethren with physical violence when they interfered. Hals as president of the company remonstrated with the captain, who only rattled the irons he had used, he said, on former insubordinate passengers. Such bad treatment was rare, but lustful sailors were a common enough source of trouble.22
Life went full circle: births, deaths, and marriages. For the children there was semblance of school, for the adults frequent lectures, generally by returning missionaries recounting things to expect in the new home. Everyone diligently studied English, or they sewed the tents and wagon covers they would need on the plains. If in no other way, the passing of the days could be noted by the menu, which might be "sweet soup" on Sunday, pea soup on Monday, rice on Tuesday and Wednesday, pea soup on Thursday, barley mush on Friday, and herring and potatoes on Saturday. In addition to the food requirements of the British Passenger Act, the Saints were supplied with two and a half pounds of sago, three pounds of butter, two pounds of cheese, and one pint of vinegar for each statute adult, and half the amount for children between one and fourteen; one pound of beef or pork weekly for each adult was substituted for its equivalent in oatmeal, provisions which enabled many of them to live "more bountifully" than they had lived in their native countries.23
Arrived at the Battery in New York and delivered to Castle Garden, the Mormon companies received the same special care. An able man like William C. Staines, for years (1869-81) the church immigration agent in the port city, wrought a swift and practiced order out of the confusion of inspection, securing lodgings, and expediting the transfer to the trains, which usually saw the converts through to the frontiers without change of cars or mixing with other passengers. On one occasion Staines dispatched a company of eleven hundred immigrants in eight hours.
Newspaper reporters, eager to give a curious public a glimpse of each new shipload of Mormons—particularly during the antipolygamy
crusade of the 1870s and 1880s, when it was alleged that foreign converts were recruited from "the dregs of society" for immoral purposes in Utah—observed their quiet conduct as they passed through customs, evidently under some "controlling influence," and were surprised to find them "as fully intelligent as the ordinary immigrants." They had
come voluntarily; most of them had paid their own way; there were as many males as females, old as well as young; and there were no paupers. A New York Times correspondent found the 723 converts arriving on the S.S. Wisconsin on June 7, 1877, "not without a share of youth and beauty, although the beauty was high in the cheek bones and too rugged for New-York belles." Another reporter found the men in an earlier company "strong, healthy fellows, averaging thirty years of age and divided about equally in occupations as farm laborers and mechanics." Another, in 1882, concluded that "the immigrants in the party were thrifty people who would probably do well in Utah."24
Some observers were prejudiced by the circular which Secretary of State William M. Evarts in 1879 sent to United States diplomatic and consular officers in Europe seeking the aid of foreign governments in preventing the departure of Mormon proselytes, "prospective lawbreakers" and "misguided men and women" lured by "agents.
operating beyond the reach of the law of the United States."25 The Times described the first group to arrive after the Evarts communiqué as "an unintelligent-looking crowd, but . . . fairly clean as compared with other batches of their brethren who preceded them in Castle Garden."26
In 1880 the Times reported an incident: the Nevada had discharged 338 Mormons; as usual, representatives of the New York Bible Society and the Protestant Emigrant Aid Society moved among the throng distributing New Testaments printed in the converts' native language, but the Mormons seemed indifferent to this proselyting. A missionary of the Emigrant Aid Society, Blossett by name, emboldened by the Evarts circular, attempted to convince the Mormons of their enormity in believing in polygamy. When he asked who instituted polygamy, he was told "Almighty God." "No," ventured the missionary, "it was Cain after he murdered his brother Abel." Whereupon, says the account, "one of the elders seized the venerable man of God and flung him violently aside," and Garden attendants had to come to his aid.27 But such episodes were rare. Despite popular antipathy, government hostility, and increasingly rigid inspections reflecting more stringent immigration laws, Mormon companies moved through customs with remarkably few delays or detentions.
On the frontier new experiences awaited the converts by way of camp life and the handling of oxen, an accomplishment most of the
autobiographies dwell on, not a few confessing how disastrous it was when greenhorns tried to substitute harness "Danish style" for the yoke or "Yankee manner." A full outfit before railroad days consisted of a wagon, two yoke of oxen, two cows, and a tent to each ten individuals; and the emigrants found the provisions, stockpiled in advance, abundant: flour, sugar, bacon, rice, beans, dried apples and peaches, tea, vinegar, salt, and soap. There were modifications—the system was not flush every year.
A tragic chapter in the migration was that of the Thornton company, which left Liverpool May 3, 1856, with 764 Saints on board, 163 of them Scandinavians. They arrived on the frontier late, encountered delays in outfitting, and set out with handcarts, only to be caught in the highlands of Wyoming by storms and freezing weather, with rations low and strength failing. They were in pitiful condition when help arrived from the Salt Lake Valley, but not before some sixty had lost their lives.28 Yet between 1856 and 1860 a thousand pushed hickory carts the thousand miles from Florence, Nebraska, to Utah. C. C. A. Christensen proudly recorded that he entered the Salt Lake Valley with the Danish flag flying from his cart, his trousers flapping in tatters about his legs.29
James Jensen, a sixteen-year-old member of Christensen's company, remembered some of their experiences, their distresses more typical than the extreme privations of the year before.30 In the negotiations for handcarts at Iowa City, eagerness led to imprudent haste. The two-wheeled carts were crudely constructed, with wooden axles and bottoms made of strips of wood covered with canvas. In these a family could take along only the barest necessities. They had to leave many Old World treasures behind in their camp grove three or four miles outside the city. They hoped these would be kept by some friend, some brother or sister who would somehow or other forward them on to Zion. But they were disappointed; the goods were so commingled it was not easy to tell the owner. And often it was necessary for needy emigrants who came after to use what was nearest at hand. "We never heard any more about the things we left behind us."
James remembered that four mule teams had been assigned the handcart emigrants to haul provisions and the sick, but the wagons, driven by unfeeling teamsters from the Valley, were often too far ahead to give support. The emigrants finally took up a collection among them
one youngster of
selves and from a passing farmer bought an ox team they could control. This became their hospital, at times carrying as many as twenty persons.
At Florence, Nebraska, where the Mormons maintained a re-equipping station that season, the emigrants reorganized. Some were unwilling to go on under existing unhappy conditions. Dissatisfied with their Scotch leader, they wanted one who knew their language and customs, who could have their confidence. He came along in the person of Christian Christiansen, veteran of the Forsgren company who had been sent out from Utah to look after the Scandinavian Saints in the Burlington area. He was hailed with delight when Mormon agent James A. Little put him in charge. The company, numbering 544 with 68 handcarts, 3 wagons, 10 mules, and a cow under four Scandinavian group captains, moved forward with renewed zeal. The Jensen family took up stations like so many other families: father and son James were the wheel team; younger brother and sister Karen were the leaders; the mother pushed; - seven trudged alongside, an infant under two rode. Sick sister Sophia died along the way.
After inspection at the first camp those thought unable to make it were sent back, among them a Swede, Hulberg, who had a feeble wife. But the disappointment was more than he could bear and, loading his wife into his cart, he made his way far in the rear of the company until it was too late to turn back. At Loup Fork, where Indians guided the emigrants across, the women clung on behind the naked braves on horseback. Little children in the carts remembered the terror when the water rose so high there was barely breathing room between the current and the cart cover.
James remembered some things vividly: the prickly pears his bare feet inevitably ran into; Niels Sorensen's wife appearing one morning with a new infant in her arms, born in the brush unknown to the rest of the company; the man who could not smell who killed a skunk and who, without change of clothes, had to stay behind at Deer Creek; the injured ox the commissary of Johnston's Army gave them on the Sweetwater. It was welcome beef; the emigrants did not kill any buffalo for fear of a stampede.
On the eastern plateau the company were met by flour teams from Salt Lake Valley and gave their handcart equipment in security for 9200 pounds of flour. They did not begrudge the obligation—it meant
that repayment would make possible similar help to those who came after. Within thirty miles of Salt Lake they were met by teams bringing bread, cake, and fruit, the fruit a special delicacy for the sick and worn-out. "On the 13th of September, a Sunday, we marched with feelings of thankfulness and grand expectations into the city of the Saints. One out of every ten of our number had died on the journey."
Not all emigrants had the means to go on to Utah. Handcart companies like Jensen's in the late 1850s and the practice during the 1860s of sending out wagon trains from the settlements in the territory to meet the emigrants at the advancing railroad terminal enabled several thousand to cross the plains and mountains whose journey would otherwise have come to a temporary, but disappointing, end.31 A. W. Winberg, for example, in charge of a party of 557 Scandinavians who left Hamburg on the sailship B. S. Kimball in 1865 wrote that nine wagons were put at his disposal by P.E.F. representatives at Fort Kearney to help 150 "independents" faced with a stopover. He added an interesting bit for readers of the Stjerne in the Old Country: "Lybert's mother, who is eighty years old, is determined to go on foot all the way from Wyoming [town in Nebraska]." 32
John Nielsen remembered the apprehension in his company in 1866, "whether we would have to cross the plains with hand carts or whether the church would have their wagons up on the bench waiting for us." The emigrants had just taken their luggage off the boat near Florence on the Missouri and were "huddled together on the river bottoms . . . talking about it." John saw Niels Nielsen, the presiding elder, leave the company, climb the banks, pause a moment at the top, look around, and disappear. In an hour he came down the hill again. "He approached us with a smile, bidding us prepare to carry our luggage up on the bank. That the church wagons were there to take us to Utah.... There sure was joy. We felt like one who had wandered among strangers and had at last reached home sweet home and friends." The outfits, sent out from Sanpete County under Abner Lowry, had been waiting weeks for the tardy Cavour company.
The joy was turned to grief when cholera, which had already taken a toll of the emigrants aboard ship and en route from New York, broke out again, leaving hardly a family intact and not abating till they reached the mountains. The deaths, John Nielsen remembered, ran "far past the hundred mark, and in history it has gone down as the cholera
train." He remembered the heartbreak at St. Joseph when an early victim could barely shake hands with his weeping wife and children, who had to be dragged from his side when they had to leave him to die among strangers.33
Sometimes the emigrants sought employment in eastern cities or in the country around the westernmost terminal. C 0. Folkmann wrote from Iowa City in 1858 that ten of his company had bought thirty acres to till for a season since jobs were scarce. "We are now American farmers." Elders Haight and Hoier had received them and rented a house with seven rooms for them with all the accommodations for cooking and washing, but "best of all" it was a place where they enjoyed peace and could hold services and they organized themselves into a branch of the Iowa City congregation. The young and unmarried men in their company had gone on to the Valley—these were the uncertain days of the occupation by Johnston's Army—while the families and sisters remained behind. Folkmann found Iowa so friendly he was convinced the Lord had prepared it as a temporary haven for them.34 Sometimes the emigrants served as teamsters for the merchant trains which formed at the outfitting centers and moved on to Salt Lake; or they worked on the railroad. In 1868, Valley-bound emigrants encountered friends from the Old Country working on the railroad, "already long before we reached Echo Canyon.... among them Bishop Johannessen."35
Congregations of Scandinavian Mormons flourished at different times in Chicago, Burlington, Alton, St. Louis, and particularly Omaha, in the main composed of those forced to tarry. The church in Utah, concerned lest they stray from the fold, usually sent an experienced countryman to look after them. A conference in St. Louis in 1857 advised the Scandinavian Saints stopping temporarily in the States, to move to Omaha and Florence, Nebraska, places "being built up with great energy," where the brethren could find work and "come west." By 1860 most of them had moved, Jens Peter Christensen, who had spent five years in the States and presided over the Danish congregation in Alton, leading a company of 123 into the Valley in September.36
In June 1867 the first company of Scandinavian converts crossed the Atlantic by steam; two years later, in July 1869, the first company made the entire overland journey by rail. The total travel tune was reduced to twenty-seven days. and hardships and hazards were practically eliminated. There was less need for housekeeping and organization aboard the modern ships of the Guion Line, but the Saints maintained their identity as a community, berthing apart from other emigrants and conducting their devotionals and dances as before.
The cross-country route was less of a steeplechase, though there had been charms in days of less rigid schedules such as the time an obliging railroad conductor in 1863 stopped the train at Palmyra, New York, and over six hundred Saints fresh from the John J. Boyd poured out to see the sacred Hill Cumorah and the fabled grove where Joseph Smith had seen his first vision, and "to pluck a flower or blade of grass from the locality as a memento."37 In 1886 C. F. Olsen found Mr. P. Jurgensen, agent and interpreter for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, "exceedingly alert, courteous, and friendly, doing all in his power to make the trip pleasant." The agent had met Olsen's company in Baltimore and accompanied them all the way to Chicago, reserving first-class cars and seeing that in Chicago they had a smooth transfer with only half an hour's delay.38
If real dangers were fewer, the number of predatory merchants seemed to increase. Leaders telegraphed ahead for wholesale quantities of bread, but the emigrants always had numerous private purchases to make and only the threat of boycott by the company spokesman made honest men of most vendors. The brethren were zealous in shepherding their people through the league of "thieves, pickpockets, and apostates." Disillusioned Mormons from former emigrations, drifting back to centers like Omaha, tried during stopovers to dissuade their countrymen from continuing on to Utah, particularly the young women. Strangers offered them "care and protection" if they would remain39
Anthon H. Lund, in charge of 397 emigrants crossing the continent in July 1872, found conditions so bad in Chicago that he preferred to use freight cars when he was threatened with a long delay because of a coach shortage. The curious found their way barred as they sought entry into the cars. A Swedish traveler in 1884 reported that one could move through a train at will until he came to the "Mormon cars," which were locked.40 Vigilance aboard the trains, as at the hatchways aboard ship while in port, gave rise to the belief that Mormons attempted to insulate their charges from outside contact lest they learn something of their deception. But the proselytes could hardly hear worse reports than they had already weathered in the Old Country, and
their freedom in moving about at layovers, some even remaining behind, discredits the notion.
There was more solidarity than insularity. Cars made up entirely of Mormon emigrants had the same social intimacy of shipboard organization, so much so that the piety of new converts was sometimes shocked. "The Norwegians and Danish were in their own coaches," a Mrs. Olsen told Pastor Andreas Mortensen, who won her back to Lutheranism, "and when it became dark in the evening, the returning president of the Scandinavian Mission came in and carried on shamefully with the young girls; they danced and shuffled the whole evening."41 Some converts were not prepared for the hoedowns and Virginia reels they were to witness in the settlements.
The actual arrival in the valley of the Great Salt Lake was for the convert-emigrants the high point of their lives, surpassing even the day they set foot on America's shore. "One day as we were traveling I noticed the head team stop and the next and so on till an irregular circle was formed. I learned that we had just crossed the line into Utah and the company all bared and bowed their heads, and Niels Nielsen the Presiding Elder, offered up a prayer of thanksgiving after which we proceeded on our journey."42 The mood, the particular expectation at the moment of arrival, a trivial incident pleasant or unpleasant, often conditioned their future joy or disappointment in the spiritual claims and material promise of Zion. "As we came out of Parley's canyon, the Saints met us in droves, bringing fruit and edibles in abundance, and though we had our troubles on the journey, now every heart swelled with joy to see the snow-covered mountains and beautiful valley where the fields and meadows were still partly green and many trees full of fruit...."43 So wrote a Dane whose heart was light because of the Norwegian girl he had married en route, and because of the "small, neat dwelling" where, in 1865, they found themselves happy. A widow found Zion on a bright, sunlit day in 1883, and fell in love with mountains which reminded her of her native Norway. A bitter winter, three weeks on wheat "shorts," and years of toil at dressmaking failed to dampen the new attachment.44
It was not to be expected that Saints should see miracles on first viewing the valley, that the lame should run, the blind see, and the sick be made whole, as some said they had been "solemnly assured" they would. On the contrary, as the bitter Miss Ingerøe discovered in 1864
"the nearer we drew, the more sorrowful and exhausted the immigrants became." Hans Zobell had his disappointments. Arriving at the railroad terminal in Ogden in August 1869 with a party of nearly six hundred Scandinavians—the first to come all the way overland by rail—he was moved to exclaim: "So this is really 'Zion' indeed, but what a reception. No shelter, no brethren, none of the pure in heart to bid us welcome; but on the other hand we learn that there are a lot of untrustworthy people right here." Rustling their own food and camping on the banks of the Weber River for three days while waiting for wagons to take them on to Salt Lake, they consoled themselves with the thought that there things would be better. But when church wagons eventually brought them to the capital, they were "dumped out in the tithing yard" and made their bed "on the ground with high heaven for a roof." No one paid "the least bit of attention" to them until an old man next morning distributed a "big basket of green corn and cucumbers" among the immigrants. Zobell's faith, however, was more surely grounded than that of some of his fellows. Though he stood "with empty hands," he felt "an assurance that if God had given me the call to come here, He would not leave me here to starve and to be without shelter."45
There were mismanaged occasions (magnified by the hypersensitivity of the new arrivals), but on the whole, the same order and organization which had found them in their native villages and transported them across ocean and continent were marshaled to receive them at journey's end. Helping hands reached out from the Valley long before the immigrants arrived: supply trains loaded with flour and produce, and extra wagons to give the weary a lift, and experienced help to guide the difficult oxen down canyon roads often met them deep in the mountains when strength was lowest and discouragement great. Forerunners among their countrymen in these trains were a joy to see, and occasionally old familiars, Americans who had filled missions in Denmark. Erastus Snow himself encountered Peder Nielsen in camp at Big Mountain two days out from Salt Lake, and Brother Knudsen, who hitched two of his oxen to Peder's wagon and drove it himself "for which I am very thankful as P. Hansen who generally drives it is not a good driver."46
Before railroad days they emerged from Emigration or Parley's canyons, drove along dusty Emigration Road, and camped on Emigration
Square, the names descriptive of Zion's foremost activity.47 Church wagons went several blocks farther to the "emigrant sheds" built against the walls of the church office enclosure or "Tithing Yard." If the immigrants had traveled in "P.E.F. wagons," they could live in them until they found something of their own or were taken home by relatives and friends who converged on the city for the occasion. Church teams were equipment loaned for the frontier-to-Salt Lake mission, and their drivers were usually eager to get back to the settlements.
The arrival of an immigrant company was always a festive event in the life of pre-railroad Utah. A band and procession met the first party to be entirely assisted by the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, a mark of honor to the poor. For the survivors of the handcart ordeal in 1856, Brigham Young's text in one Sunday sermon showed special solicitude: "When those persons arrive . . . I want them distributed in this city among the families that have good, comfortable homes; and I wish the sisters now before me, and all who know how and can, to nurse and wait upon the newcomers, and prudently administer medicine and food to them.48
A few years after Hans Zobell's trying experience, when the railroad was serving Salt Lake, the Scandinavians themselves were providing their countrymen the warm welcome Hans had so sorely missed. Reported the Deseret Evening News on September 26, 1872: "The Scandinavian brethren and sisters of this city have appointed a committee, of which A. W. Winberg is chairman, whose duty it is to prepare a hearty reception in the shape of a bounteous collation, at Ballo's Hall, for the emigrants who are expected to arrive tonight." Some six hundred strong, the arrivals were conducted from the depot to the hall, where a band "discoursed sweet music" during supper. Brigham Young and other church dignitaries, moreover, had met them midway from Ogden to tour the coaches and greet their "strange brothers and sisters from across the sea," a flattering attention.49
Succeeding newcomers were often banqueted by resident Scandinavians in the Tithing Yard, where countryman Niels Jensen was on hand as an attendant. It remained the center of interest all during the immigration period. In the early years particularly, the chests and boxes from abroad and from "the States" usually meant added comforts for the community. One Norwegian's window lights and keg of nails were
Miss Ingerøe, resenting the eyes of the curious, felt that the "old Mormons from the city" were looking over the women as a butcher would livestock. The pickings in her company were slim, she observed; there were no "usable women, girls, or laborers" because most of the young people had become engaged or been married en route. When a married Dane offered her temporary shelter in his tiny adobe cottage, she accepted with some trepidation but decided he was more interested in her cow than in her. Jonas Stadling in 1885, making what he called "a forbidden visit" within the enclosure, found a Swedish girl weeping, and insinuated that it was because she faced a life of servitude.50 It must have been a rare immigrant indeed who did not shed tears at some time.
In their attention to both temporal and spiritual matters the instructions
the immigrants received on arrival were reminiscent of their indoctrination
before departure. An English traveler was impressed by
Brigham Young's practical counsel to an early band:
You are faint and weary from your march. Rest, then, for a day, for a second day, should you need it; then rise up, and see how you will live.... Be of good cheer. Look about this valley into which you have been called. Your first duty is to learn how to grow a cabbage . . . then how to feed a pig, to build a house, to plant a garden, to rear cattle, and to bake bread; in one word, your first duty is to live. The next duty—for those who, being Danes, French, and Swiss, cannot speak it now—is to learn English; the language of God, the language of the Book of Mormon, the language of these Latter Days. These things you must do first; the rest will be added to you in proper sea-: sons. God bless you; and the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.51
Franklin D. Richards, familiar to many immigrants as the church agent in Liverpool, whose name appeared on their passage contracts, sermonized while in Salt Lake City between missions: "If you look about you and see the Saints who have been here some years, and the choice locations taken up by them . . . do not fret your souls; remember that those brethren made the roads to this place . . . made the bridges, opened the canyons...." He knew it was natural for the Saints who came from abroad to be "very diligent in inspecting God's people, to see if they are as righteous as they ought to be." New arrivals stood at the forks, he said. "If you wish to travel downward, the great depot of that route is California; if upward, the great depot on that is this city.52
And Jedediah M. Grant told those who came expecting a heaven how to get it: "If you have brought a small one with you, keep it, and keep adding to it.... If you do not have means enough to buy a farm, go to work and make one.... If you have around you the garb of sectarianism you must calculate that the Mormon plow will turn that under."53
In the life ahead of them, most of the Scandinavian immigrants learned how to handle the "Mormon plow," as their flourishing settlements in Zion would testify; but some inevitably were tempted by the fleshpots of California or were overcome by longing for the old home or, for causes profound and trivial, backtrailed to Nebraska and Iowa to join those who had Allen by the way. Anti-Mormons were fond of asserting that "at least two thirds" of the emigrants would return to their native lands if they could, but "alas! the Church has no emigration fund from Utah."54 During the 1850s, 2989 converts left Denmark, but the 1860 census counted only 1824 Danes in Utah, evidence, with due allowance for deaths, that not all reached their destination or, having reached it, stayed. Some of these may have come on later: at least 1396 converts, both British and Scandinavian, who emigrated between July 1857 and June 1860, remained in the States, but the church had "good cause to presume . . . a good number of these have gone through to Utah without settling on the way."55
According to one backtrailer's story to the New York Times, at least half of the large emigration of 1854 -- which numbered 678 when it left Copenhagen—left for California the following spring. But such guesses were wild, and usually garnished with hearsay tales about Danites given orders to pursue the apostate emigrants in the disguise of Indians to steal their cattle and murder the emigrants themselves. "Those in authority curse the emigrant trains which pass through on their way to the Pacific, as they afford means for the dissatisfied persons to escape," said the New York Times, reporting in 1857 that 200 persons were on their way from Utah to the States. "They bore the appearance of persons who had seen much trouble and privation—being reduced in body and dejected in mind.... They rejoiced that they had at last reached a land where they could once more live at ease."56
Departures of the disillusioned from Zion were common enough for Biküben, Danish-language newspaper in Salt Lake City, to run a facetious advertisement: "In case someone in Utah becomes tired of living
among the Mormons, here is an opportunity which you will seldom find . . ." and it went on to describe the offer of someone in Nebraska ready to "sell or trade" an eighty-acre farm for property in Utah.57
Some converts, overwhelmed at the train of calamities that beset their coming to Zion—the deaths, the deprivations—felt these to be God's judgments upon them for having forsaken their homeland against the advice of friends and their broken families. They went back beaten or defiant, hoping to make restitution or at best peace with themselves. The gentile Bourkersson, after three years in the territory and embittered by the loss of his Mormon wife to someone else, left in 1867 with an eastward-bound company of about fifty wagons "filled with estranged Mormons." To his astonishment, he found among them "many" Swedish families with whom he had journeyed to Utah. They seemed to experience an even greater camaraderie now on leaving together. In his testament published after returning to Sweden, he pleaded with his countrymen to remain in the fatherland, but if they insisted on migrating to America, then not to go farther west before they had looked at Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, or Minnesota, where they would find fruitful earth for a reasonable price, a healthful climate, and Swedish Lutheran churches and societies.58
Frue Ingerøe, with sensibilities too delicate for the rigors of pioneer life, found her journey to Utah and her stay there an unrelieved nightmare and after a year hastened back to Norway, a Stanley back from darkest Africa, to lecture on the benighted Mormons.59 Christian Michelsen, back in Denmark after a miserable absence of four years during which he could not feel the glories of an adobe and sagebrush Zion, contrasted the loveliness of the Old World with the hardness of the New. On his return, the sight of Ireland first refreshed him: the ruins of the monasteries, the little towns nestling in the hills "all bore the stamp of antiquity"; England's trim wheat fields witnessed that "here . . . no land is wasted," and crossing the Channel, he soon heard "that dear Danish speech from every mouth"; hurrying to his native Odense, he shrived himself of his Mormon associations in "a long talk" with his old pastor.60
A startling exodus occurred in May 1863, when Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's California Volunteers escorted about 160 "seceders from the Mormon Church" from their sanctuary at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City to Soda Springs, Idaho Territory, where they were already building lots and shelters near the new post being established On
the trail to Oregon and the Bannock mines. When Connor at the same time sent an empty train to Carson for quartermaster's stores, he furnished transportation there for 150 more of the seceders. These were all Morrisites, nearly half of them Scandinavians, followers of the ill-fated Welsh convert Joseph Morris, whose revelations expressing dissatisfaction with Brigham Young's management of Zion and predicting an immediate Second Coming had drawn many disillusioned Saints after him until his violent death and the disruption of his colony in the summer of 1862. It was a tragic scattering, a cruel inversion of the hope that had originally gathered them home to Zion.61
The dissatisfied beat the widest trail back to western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. In Council Bluffs and Omaha and Fremont, and in Douglas, Washington, and Dodge counties, Nebraska, it was well known that the oldest Danish settlers were or had been Mormons. "They would not, to be sure, admit it," confided an old Dane in Omaha, "but one knew it well enough."62 Zion lost a pair of famous future sculptors when wood carver James Borglum from Jutland, father of Gutzon and Solon Hannibal, turned back in 1868 from Ogden to St. Louis to become a doctor and finally establish a practice in Fremont, Nebraska, with a 6000-acre ranch for his sons to manage. The sons would one day carve a national monument on Mt. Rushmore.63 Johan Ahmanson, former Swedish Baptist, brilliant but headstrong, who had filled a distinguished mission in Norway before emigration, suffered the misfortunes of the luckless handcart company of 1856, which he later described as if it were the whole emigrant experience; moreover, he did not find the leading brethren in Zion spiritual enough, which may have meant that he did not find his advancement in church councils rapid enough to suit him, and he fled to Omaha to write an embittered book and in time become well known as "Dr." Ahmanson.64
Knud Svendsen, on his way to Utah in 1858, encountered Old Country convert-acquaintances in the vicinity of Omaha and Florence: "Jacob of Nojstjert and wife, and Jens Godtfredsen, and Christen Smed of Vreiler, and Christen from Brensen, and many Danes besides, easily l00. There is much weakness among them; the Devil has great power here." 65 And Peter 0. Thomassen grieved in 1872 that he saw "many a familiar face that once was one with us, but our feelings were no longer one. Many expressed remorse at their folly and lacked only the means to journey to Zion, while others vented their bitterness in
harmless spite." It was with a sense of relief W. W. Cluff could report that "to a man" his company got through all right, despite the temptations of apostates along the way.66
The church expected the mortality—it was used to apostasy in the mission, desertions en route, and disaffection in Zion itself. It was severe with the weak, quick to turn them over to "the buffetings of Satan." Far from grieving over defections by the way, it rationalized that they saved Zion a good deal of trouble. It could not brook ingratitude. "Though nineteen kindnesses may have been extended to them, because the twentieth did not come in the form in which they thought it should, they overlook the nineteen and find fault."67 P. C. Geertsen was ashamed of some of his countrymen: "Many of those who clamored most loudly to be freed from Babylon, once in Zion have no time for sacrament, but go to the mines to worship the God they love, the almighty dollar." 68
The ill at ease at first preferred to leave Zion, but in time they asserted their claim to a stake in the new country on other than church terms and remained, often fair game for sectarians anxious to make inroads among Zion's elect. As backtrailers they turned up in a surprising number of places in the United States, where the little eddies of their lives were lost in the general stream of history. But those content to take Zion as they found it became Mormon villagers, distinctive as the adobe bricks and irrigation ditches which now became their daily concern.
1. Christoffer J. Kempeto Carl Widerborg, November 14, 1865, Stjerne, 15:122 (January 15, 1866).
2. 'Emigration Shipping Book B (Liverpool), Promiscuous Emigration, February 28, 1851 to February 2, 1855, MS., in Historian's Office, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Stjerne, 1:112 (April 1,1852); 1:190 (September I, 1852); 2:15, 6 (October 1, 1852); 2:21 (October 15, 1852); 2:110 (January 1,1853).
3. "Efterretninger fra Emigranterne," Stjerne, 2:288 (June 15, 1853), "Fra Vesten," Stjerne, 3:187 (March 15, 1854); "Niels Jensen," Stjerne, 19:314 (July 15, 1860); Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City, 1901-1926), 4 vols., II, 67, III, 126; "O. U. C. Monster," Morgenstjernen, 3: 192 (1884), Scandinavian Jubilee Album 1850-1900 (Salt Lake City, 1900), p. 220, Salt Lake City Second Ward, Historical Record, MS., in Church Historian's Office.
4. The ensuing account of the Forsgren company is drawn from several sources: A Pioneer Journal, Forsgren Company, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Historical Pamphlet (Salt Lake City, 1944), pp. I-40; Willard Snow, Journal, MS., excerpted in Scandinavian Mission General History, MS., in Church Historian's Office, which also quotes a number of journals by members of the company—especially by Herman Julius Christensen and Christian I. Munk—and provides a partial list of the emigrants; Christian Nielsen, Letter, April 27, 1856, MS., original in Royal Library, Copenhagen; "History of Anders Thomsen, Sr., by Himself," MS., typescript in possession of Woodruff Thomsen; letters from the emigrants published in Stjerne passim for 1852-54; "Aeldste Lars Poulsens Dod," Morgenstjernen, 3:95-96 (1884). The story of the Forsgren company also survives in fleeting references in many memoirs and in the oral tradition of Mormon families who take pride in their descent from the emigrants; Scandinavian reunions frequency hear bits of it. In 1953 a float creation of the Forest Monarch formed part of the Pioneer Day parade (July 24) in Salt Lake City.
5. In almost every company someone would suffer a last-minute disappointment or disaster, like Soren Sorenson, forty-four, a farmer, who, with his wife and three children, was held up in Liverpool: "This family did not go per John J. Boyd in consequence of the Surgeon refusing to pass them, children being sick with measles." Laborer Niels Christian Nielsen's family was similarly afflicted; his little Anne Marie "Died at Chapman's Temperance Hotel 17 Dec 1855. Interred at St. Johns Church 20 Dec 1855." Emigration Records (Liverpool), Book D.
6. Records of the Bureau of Customs, Office of the Collector of Customs, Port of New Orleans, Passenger List of Forest Monarch, arriving March 17, 1853. Besides the Forsgren company the manifest shows fifty-three other passengers, most of them with Irish names, but the manifest enters "Ireland" for the whole company, and labels them all "Labourers" and "Shoemakers." See Chapter 5, "Ugly Ducklings " for the emigrants' varied occupations.
7. Hans Jensen Hals, Diary, MS., entries for 1865-68.
8. "Til Emigranterne," Stjeme, 2:30, 40-47, 62-03, 72-73 (1852)
9. "Instruktioner til Emigranterne," Stjerne, 34:201ff (April 1,1885). N. C. Flygare noted in 1877 that during the previous summer many emigrants had to leave their baggage in the hands of the railroad because they could not pay excess freight charges. Letter, February 25, 1877, Nordstjarnan (Stockholm), 1:17 (January 1, 1877). Lars J. Halling, arriving with his family in Salt Lake in 1856 as a lad of fifteen, was sent back on foot 113 miles to Fort Bridger to recover a stray ox. MS. letter, n.d., Utah Humanities Research Foundation Archives.
10. "Angaaende Emigrationen," Stjerne, 21:186 (March 15, 1872); "Vor Emigration," Stjerne, 34:200 (April 1,1885).
11. Stjerne, 1:9 (October 1, 1852); 3:62, 73 (November 15, 1853); 34:201 (December 1, 1885). Bound apprentices and servant girls sometimes had difficulty securing release from their contract before they could emigrate. Fourteen-year-old Frederick Christenson petitioned the mayor of his town, describing his master's ill treatment and his persecution by the other apprentices. The mayor, impressed that Frederick had written his own request, investigated his claims, found them true, and granted him his freedom. Frederick Christenson to Joseph Christiansen, November 29,1892, Stjerne, 42: 107-8 (January 1, 1893).
12. Andrew M. Israelsen, Autobiography (Salt Lake City, 1938), p.19.
13. Andrew Jenson, "Erindringer fra Missionen i Skandinavien," Morgenstjernen, 2:54 (1883).
14. Millennial Star, 18:206 (March 22, 1856); 28:345 (June 2, 1866); Jenson, "Erindringer," Morgenstjernen, 3:286 (1884).
15. Hans Zobell, "Autobiography," p. 60; Julie Ingerfroe, Et Aar i Utah (Copenhagen, 1868), p. 15; private journals cited in Scandinavian Mission General History, MS. For a hypersensitive person like Miss Ingerøe, who later apostatized, the whole journey was an unrelieved nightmare. Throughout her disillusioned account she complains of hardships which were the lot of all pioneering and not the special curse of Mormonism.
16. "Andrew Jenson, "En Zionsrejse," Morgenstjernen, 3:364-66, 374-76 (1884).
17. Zobell, "Autobiography," p. 52.
18. O. N. Liljenquist, "Autobiografi," Morgenstjernen, 2:37 (1883); Hans Jensen Hals, Diary, June 12, 1868.
19. "Emigranternes Afreise," Stjerne, 21: 296 (July 1,1872)
20. Edinburgh Review, 115:198 (1862).
21. "Lars Peter Christensen," Sevier Stake Memories (Springville, Utah, 1949), p 446.
22. Hans Jensen Hals, Diary, July 13, 1868.
23. Andrew Jenson, "Church Emigration," The Contributor (Salt Lake City), 13:182 (1892).
24. New York Times, July 8, 1877; July 16, 1873; July 3, 1882.
25. "Diplomatic Correspondence, Circular No. 10, August 9, 1879, Sent to Diplomatic and Consular Officers of the United States," Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1879 (Washington, D.C., 1880), pp.11,12.
26. New York Times, September 17,1879.
27. Ibid., September 17, 1880.
28. Jenson, "Church Emigration," The Contributor, 13:183 (1892).
29. C. A. Christensen, "Beretning," Morgensterjrnen, 3:205 (1884).
30. The ensuing handcart account is drawn from Jensen's recollections in J. M. Tanner, Biographical Sketch of James Jensen (Salt Lake City, 1911), pp. 19-40.
31. It is estimated that 4000 Mormon converts (all nationalities) crossed the plains by handcart from 1856 to 1860; and between 1861 and 1868, some 2016 "teams," each consisting of a wagon and four yoke of oxen and accommodating from eight to ten persons, were sent out from Utah as "church trains" to aid the emigrants. Latter-day Saint Journal History, MS., entry for September 25, 1868, in Church Historian's Office. Outfitting points—where Mormon agents temporarily established themselves to make advance preparations—until the completion of the railroad in 1869 were as follows: 1853, Keokuk, Iowa; 1854, Westport (near Kansas City), Missouri; 1855, Mormon Grove, Kansas (five miles west of Atchison); 1856-58, Iowa City, Iowa; 1850-63, Florence, Nebraska; 1864-66, Wyoming, Nebraska (on the Missouri River); 1867, North Platte, Nebraska; 1868, Benton, Wyoming (on the Platte River).
32. A. W. Winberg to Carl Widerborg, August 22, 1865, Stjerne, 15: 10, 11 (October 1. 1865.
33. "Life History of Our Father John Nielsen, MS., pp. 30, 34, microfilm in Utah State Historical Society.
34. A. Folkmann to Carl Widerborg, May 23, 1858, Stjerne, 7:299 (July 1,1858).
35. "M. Pedersen to J. N. Smith, February 25, 1869, Stjerne, 18:220 (April 15, 1869).
36. "Jenson, "Erindringer," Morgenstjernen, 3:214, 242 (1884); Andrew Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission (Salt Lake City, 1927), p. 150.
37. Peter 0. Thomassen, Letter, n.d., quoted in Jenson, History, p. 175.
38. to N. C. Flygare, July 20, 1886 Stjerne, 35:348 (August 15, 1886).
39. Zobell, "Autobiography," p. 71; Nils Pehrsson, Letter, March 12, 1872, MS., original in Nordiska Museet, Stockholm.
40. Jonas Stadling, Hvad Jag Horde och Sag i Mormonernas Zion (Stockholm, 1884), p. 28. The general insinuation—which the evidence here proves untenable— about the whole movement from Scandinavia seems to be that the Mormons were "segregated on the boat and on arrival at New York were herded in separate railway cars and locked in. When they arrived in Salt Lake City they were conducted to an emigrant house, from which they were distributed to different parts of the territory." George M. Stephenson, The Religious Aspects of Swedish Immigration (Minneapolis, 1932), p. 99. Even reputable historians persist in this misinterpretation which makes Mormon immigration sound like a deal in cattle.
41. Andreas Mortensen, Fra mit Besog blandt Mormonerne (Christiania, 1887), p. 279.
42. "Life History of Our Father John Nielsen," p. 35.
43. "Christoffer J. Kempe to Carl Widerborg, November 14, 1865, Stjerne, 15:122 (January 15, 1866).
44. John A. Widtsoe, In the Gospel Net (Salt Lake City, 1941), p. 79.
45. Ingerøe, Et Aar, p. 19; Zobell, "Autobiography," pp. 71-74.
46. "Peder Nielsen, Diary, September 21, 1861, typescript translation in possession of Orson B. West.
47. None of these names survives today; even Emigration Road has been robbed of its romance: it is today colorless Fifth South Street.
48. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, November 30, 1856, quoted in Milton R. Hunter, Brigham Young the Colonizer (Salt Lake City, 1940), p. 108.
49. P. O. Thomassen to K. Peterson, September 28, 1872, Stjerne, 22:44 (November 1, 1872).
50. Andrew M. Israelsen, Utah Pioneering (Salt Lake City, 1938), p. 21; Ingerøe, Et Aar i Utah, p. 20; Stadling, Hvad Jag Horde, p. 27.
51. William Hepworth Dixon, New America (Philadelphia, 1867), pp. 149, 150.
52. Sermon, October 6, 1853, Journal of Discourses, I, 316. Richards understood human nature: Mons Pedersen noted in 1870 that some who were good Saints in the Old Country turned their backs on the gospel because Zion did not come up to their expectations. Some of their reasons made him smile. "The emigrants go about looking for faults to get a true picture of conditions in Utah." They complained most over not having "a house, land, animals, and so forth, like the old settlers, and these are unwilling to turn their possessions, which they have earned through thrift and industry, over to the immigrants. Those who come in the right spirit will in due time acquire what the earlier immigrants have." Pedersen to Jesse N. Smith, March 16, 1870, Stjerne, 19:235-236 (May 1,1870).
53. Sermon, September 24, 1854, Journal of Discourses, III, 67.
54. John M. Coyner, ea., Handbook on Mormonism (Salt Lake City, 1882), p. 19.
55. Emigration Records (Liverpool), Book E, 1856-60.
56. Frederick Loba in the New York Times, April 27, May 1,May 8, 1858; "Breaking up of Mormondom," New York Times, July 18, 1857, quoting Plattsmouth (Nebraska) Jeffersonian.
57. Biküben, August 9, 1877.
58. "N. Bourkersson, Tre Or i Mormonlandet (Malmö, 1867), pp. 27, 170.
59. Ingerøe Et Aar i Utah, passim.
60. Christian Michelsen, Livet Bed Saltsøen (Odense, 1872), passim.
61. New York Times, August 2, 1863; A Voice from the West to the Scattered
People of Weber (np., nd.), passim. Of 430 baptized followers of Morris, at least
174 were Scandinavians, a proportionate number of whom must have figured in the
exodus to Soda Springs and Carson. See Roll of Membership. Names of Persons Baptized into the Fulness of the Gospel (San Francisco, 1886), passim. I am indebted to Dale L. Morgan for a copy of the list.
62. P. S. Vig, "Danske i Amerika, 1851-60" in Danske i Amerika (Minneapoli 1907), 2 vols., I, 286; George T. Flom, "The Danish Contingent in Early Iowa Iowa Journal of History and Politics, 4:238-40 (April 1906).
63. "Lamont Poulter Knapp, "The History of Solon Hannibal Borglum" (unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Utah, 1950), pp. 29-31.
64. Johan Ahmanson, Vor Tids Mohammed (Omaha, 1876), possum.
65. Diary, MS., May 26, 1858
66. Stjerne, 22:45 (November 1,1872); 20:377 (September 15, 1871)
67. Millennial Star, 26:72 (January 30, 1864).
68. Geertsen to W.W. Cluff, July 25, 1870, Stjerne, 19:365 (September 1,1870)
Andrew Jenson, a Dane who became assistant historian of the Mormon Church told a
Scandinavian gathering in Salt Lake City that "Although many of our countrymen
who have taken up Christ's cross to follow him have fallen—some in the Old
Country and others after they arrived in these valleys—the per cent of
the apostates is still much less than in any other country where the gospel has been
preached. Of the tens and hundreds of thousands baptized in America and Great Britain since the organization of the Church, only a lesser part has remained faithful." "Tale," Morgenstjernen, 4:180 (1885).
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