THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN NIELSEN AND KAREN SOPHIA ERICKSEN
This history is brief as not much is known of our grandparents, It has been written for our families in memory of the many good examples they have left us to follow and pattern our lives after.
On 12 November 1810 in Rusgaard, Hjorring Amptt., Justmark, Denmark, a handsome baby boy was born to Niels Christen Nielsen and Karen Christensen, and according to Danish customs, the baby boy was given his father’s name Niels Christen Nielsen. When Niels was just five years old, a beautiful little baby girl was born to Erick Larsen Nielsen and Christance Bartelsen Larsen, who were close neighbors to the Nielsens. This little bundle of joy was named Karen Sophia Ericksen.
These two children grew up together, playing their native games and singing their native songs. They ran along the seashore of miles and miles of green turf, gathered the dried sod for the fires to keep the home heated, and cooked their food. Their homes were made of this turf and rocks as the timber there was very scarce. As these children grew older, they took on the responsibility of caring for the other children and doing chores. There was always music in the home. God had blessed Niels and Karen with the talent for music as he had their parents. Niels loved to play the violin and this was his favorite pastime. After his work was finished, he played his violin and they would enjoy their favorite music. They were good people. As Niles and Karen grew older they fell in love, were married. and they made their home near their parents.
To Niels and Karen, nine children were born. Karen Maria, the fourth child was born on 3 Jan 1846 at Rusgaard and in 1849 when she was three years old, Niels and Karen moved to Westgaard They were people of modest means and lived a normal life. One day there was news of a new religion being preached in their town and like others, they went to hear what it was about. It was what they had been waiting to hear, and after a short time they had embraced the gospel. The gospel had been restored to the earth in this last dispensation of time. It was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormons. The family began making plans to travel to a new land called America where they could assemble with the main body of Latter-day Saints. They saved money for the transportation, and at last they had enough for two of their children. When the first group of converts left Denmark, they sent their two oldest children with them, a daughter Christance Nielsen and a son Bartel Nielsen.
It was a tearful day when they saw the ship leave, knowing it would be at least two years before they would be together again. They had great faith that God would bless and care for them at all times. They had no way to know Niels had looked upon their faces for the last time in this life. Christance and Bertel went on with their everyday work, counting the days for enough money and necessary goods to get ready to make this adventurous voyage to America. They realized that they would never see their beloved homeland again and many of their very dear friends and relatives. Who couldn’t understand why they would want to take up a new strange religion and give up everything they held dear. But they realized that God had called them into his fold and they must answer his call.
On November 20, 1855, a company of 447 with Niels and Karen, the saints under the direction of Elder Knud Petersen got a board the steamship (Ivan) and set sail for America. Elder Petersen was returning to America after filling a mission for two years in Norway for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was on a Thursday and the weather was overcast and cold. They sailed from Copenhagen, Denmark, with their destination being Utah State in America. They reached Klin, Holsjlen, Germany by ship and then the emigrants continued their journey by rail to Gluckstadt, Germany. They then went by steamship to Grimsley, England, and then again by rail to Liverpool, England, where they joined with 42 British and 30 Italians, (all saints) and went on board the steamship “John J. Boyd”. There were 508 passengers on board and took 65 days. The journey over the Atlantic Ocean was very rough with head winds encountered most of the way. About one third of the way over, the ship was driven back onto the coast of Ireland. About midway of their passage, we met with the clipper ship “Napoleon” from Liverpool traveling to Baltimore, Md., U. S. A. It was laden with flour and all her masts and spars were carried away with the storm, leaving the bulwark stove in a sinking condition. The captain was a very cruel mean to the sailors. At one time the vessel sprang a leak and water began pouring in. There were about thirty sailors working a double lever pump with a long rope attached to the levers. One sailor was not working hard enough to suit the Captain. He picked up a rope with a large hook on the end of it and from behind hit the sailor in the head with the hook, killing him instantly. The ship was getting short of able-bodied men and the Captain was thinking of drafting passengers to take the place of disabled sailors. The vessel caught fire twice, once seriously.
The fire started in the Captain’s cabin and burned through the deck. Several of the trunks and other baggage that had caught on fire were tossed overboard. The vessel filled with very dense smoke and the passengers had to go up on deck for air. The Captain said to Knud Petersen “If I didn’t have Mormons on board, I would have been in New York six weeks ago.” Petersen answered, “If you hadn’t had Mormons on board, you would have been in hell two weeks ago.” There was a great deal of sickness, thirty or more had died. Karen described a burial at sea, saying that after the customary service, the corpse was sewed into a canvas or sheet with a large lump of coal at the feet. A plank was laid across the side of the vessel. The corpse was laid on the plank feet first, a prayer was said, the plank was lifted, and the dead person would slide feet first over it into the sea. Karen said she had a prayer in her heart all the way across the ocean that her family would be spared from a watery grave in the deep. The drinking water got bad and stinky before they landed. The provisions gave out, except for some very hard biscuits. They landed Feb 15, 1856 after 15 months of hardships, rough seas, hunger, and death among many families and many losing most of their belongings in the fire.
Apostle John Taylor was there at the New York docks to greet the new emigrants as they landed. He gave them directions and instructions as where to go, what to do to get checked out, and find lodging and food. It was very cold with snow on the ground and a bitter wind blowing from the East. They would have to stay in New York until the storm passed over. That turned into three weeks with very little money to hold them over and very poor shelter.
At last the time came to move on. This time their destination was St. Louis, Mo. From there, they would join with a group of Saints awaiting the trek to Utah. How thankful Karen and Niels were that they had been blessed in crossing the ocean. They were sure that God was hearing their prayers and they had great faith in the future of this new land. Now everything was in order and the weather was in a favorable condition so now the preparations were made to move on. The Saints were anxious to start. They were huddled and crowded into sheds and barns, or whatever shelters they could find for lodging, so it was good to think of moving on. It would be a little closer to their destination with each passing day of travel.
At last they were organized and under the leadership of Apostle Taylor, they set out for St. Louis. The trip was a test for all as the weather was cold and windy. Karen and Niels had a good down feather tick bed they had brought with them and they didn’t want for a warm bed. It took the company of Saints from the last part of February to May, as near as we know. It was the first part of May before they arrived in St. Louis. It was like arriving into a fairyland. It was so green and pretty everywhere. Karen thought surely their suffering and hardships were over, little did she know that her trials were just beginning. They had been in St. Louis only a short time when a dreaded epidemic broke out and the Saints were all being struck down. Sickness and death were everywhere. One morning Niels was one of the unlucky ones and by night Karen was taken sick also. By nightfall of the next night Niels had died. They took him from the room where he died through an upper window, (As Karen told the story), and buried him under a big oak tree. She was too ill to even see him buried. She never knew where he was buried or even got to visit his grave. After this sickness had passed, the Saints tarried there for a time, getting prepared for the trek to Utah. Upon leaving St. Louis, Karen with a broken heart and five little fatherless children, left with the Morton Lund Co., and other emigrants up the Missouri River to Florence, Nebraska. From there they came to Salt Lake City with the Christian Christiansen Hand Cart Company, consisting of three wagons and ten mules. They arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah September 13, 1857.
Many and varied were the experiences of these good people. Karen had many a heartache and many a laugh over the long journey. Her two youngest children were too small to walk, so she put them on her handcart and let them ride. She pulled them all the way. She still had her down tick bed with them, but as the miles passed, the load became too heavy for her and one day before packing her cart, she took the two big downy ticks and stood upon a rock and ripped them open, watching the down (feathers) fly away in the wind. Looking toward heaven she said “God will provide up with another.” The rest of the long way they slept on one ticking with the other to cover them. The earth was very hard and they missed their good bed as much as they missed their good father and husband. Karen kept wondering what she would say to Christance and Bartel when they got to Utah. It had been nearly two years since they had seen their family and now their father was gone.
Karen knew she would have a hard time to break the news to them and this would be a terrible shock for them. There was a prayer in her heart every step of the way that God would spare the rest of them on the trail. She thought about the comforts and good home they had left in Denmark, and wished also for the comfort of their friends, but with a stout heart, she carried on. God’s work had to be done and this was their mission, to help build Zion and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At one time when they had stopped near a stream of water, she took their clothing down to the stream to wash out the clothes. As she was washing her shimmy (underwear) the swift current caught it and carried in down the stream swiftly, and though she tried to catch up and retrieve it, she couldn’t. It was lost and she had only one left on her back. She had to make it do the rest of the trip. Although the journey was very hard and her heart was breaking, she was not one to complain. When the evening came, she was one with the rest, singing hymns and giving praises to the Lord for the day past and “All is Well”.
Little Andrew, just eight years old, was put in charge of one of the wagon’s drivers. He had to walk as there was no place for him to ride. One evening Karen missed him and started searching for him. She found him some distance away, sound asleep, with his little arms full of wood. He had been sent to gather wood for the fire. They were all getting very tired from the many days of walking over the rough terrain.
In this same company of Saints was Jens Mickelsen and his wife and two little girls. Mrs. Mickelsen was a frail, little woman and like many others, took sick and died. Mrs. Mickelsen made the trek as far as Echo Canyon where she died, leaving her little girls and their dad to make it without her loving care. Karen was a good faithful mother and homemaker and she must have been good to Jens and his children. A deep friendship grew between them that no doubt would shorten the long distance of the miles and the heavy load of the handcarts and the burden of sorrow they both shared. Soon after they arrived in Salt Lake, Jens and Karen were married. (No date). Today we might ask, did these folks have a honeymoon when they got married? If they were here, I’m sure they would say “yes”. Karen longed to see Christance and Bartel, and Jens knowing this was her hearts desire, decided to go find them and get the family together again. They found from some of the early pioneers that the people whom they came to Utah with had moved on down around Fillmore, Utah, so Jens and Karen walked from Salt Lake to Fillmore. Christance had married Josiah Howe Call and had two children. Josiah Call and Samuel Brown were killed by the Indians on the 7th of October at Chicken Creek (near Fillmore about 1860) and their bodies were not found until the 15th of October.
Karen, Jens and their families lived on the Provo river for a short time where Jens engaged in the fishing industry with Madsen “T”. They then moved to the west side of Spanish Fork, Utah, near the Spanish Fork River. They built a big fishing industry here, fishing in the Utah Lake. Karen and the girls made the fish nets for the men to fish with. Their first home was built of cane that grew along the shores abundantly around the lake. Both the walls and the roof were made of cane. It was then plastered inside and outside to keep out the wind and storms.
Later, with the help of Niels Larsen, they built a comfortable frame home where they lived the rest of their lives. From this home their families were married. Christance and her two children lived with them. Riley Howe Call and a girl, Melvina (Milvina died while just a small child). Christance later married Jens Peter Simpson. They built a home in Spanish Fork where she died 7 November 1879, leaving a large family who later moved to Lake Shore. Bartel married Annie Sornsen on 18 June 1860. Annie Catherine and Karen Maria were married the same day by John Murray, 6 Feb.1863. (John Murray was the father of Jeremiah Hatch). Karen Maria married Jeremiah Hatch Murray, and Annie Catherine married Hans Fredrick Hansen. At the time John Murray who married them was a High Priest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and serving the Church in the capacity of secretary to the general board of the Church. Karen and Jeremiah made their home in Leland and later mover to Ashley Valley (Uintah Basin) where she died 12 June 1897, leaving a large family of nine children.
Annie Catherine and Hans Fredrick built their home at Lake Shore (east Utah Lake). After the death of her husband, in her older age, she moved to Roosevelt, Utah where she died 25 Oct 1927. Erick married Johanna Sorensen, a sister of Bertel’s wife. They married 2 Jun 1872. He bought a piece of land for a house from his step-father, giving him a wagon spring to pay for it. He and his wife later moved to the south side of Lake Shore and built a nice home. Later they moved to Oregon where he died 26 Feb 1917. James Andrew married Karen Sophia Nielsen and they made their home at Spanish Fork, where he died 14 Jan 1915. Nelsena Christina, the youngest, married Peter Nielsen 22 Sep 1872. She lived many years at Palmyra, Utah, then moved to Spanish Fork, where she died 10 Jul 1932. We haven’t found when or to whom Jens Mickelsen’s daughters were married. We have some information that one of them married a man by the name of John Lang and moved to southern Utah, her name could have been Mary Ann Lang.
Later, (after Karen’s death in 1897), Jens married an older woman, Katrena or Kirtena. the Mickelsen household had some discord now. The older wife didn’t have the pleasant disposition that Karen and Jens were blessed with. We do not know at this time if Jens and Karen had any children, or if there were children from the second wife. We do know Karen raised his two daughters.
In the winter the women would sit and spin thread and make fish nets for fishing. Selling fish was the main way to make a living. Men would come from all around to buy wagon loads of fish, taking them to San Pete County and Southern towns. Many women bought fish and sold them. Mrs. Johanna Ottessen did some of this work. She and the Mickelsens and others worked hard to help converts of the Church come to Utah. Out in the yard of Mickelsen’s home one could see wooden trought where the waste from the fish would be put for the oil to drain off with the heat of the sun. Fish was cooked to get the oil and the fish oil was sold by the barrel.
There were a few sheep and cows, ducks and chickens. Karen had her down tick bed now to sleep in again. The sheep were sheared, the wool spun into yarn, then Mrs. Johanna Ottessen wove it into cloth, with cotton warp and wool warp the cloth was called Linsay Wool. The cloth was used for sheets and garments. some of the cloth was dyed and used for outer garments. The cows were milked and butter was churned, and cheese was made and the surplus milk was fed to the hogs. Each week the cheese, butter and milk was taken to Spanish Fork, about eight miles away (from Lake Shore) to the market. Jens would take his team and wagon, and the women would take turns going with him. They would stop along the way, taking people with them who wanted to go. They seldom missed going to Church, at the old church on main street in Spanish Fork. On cold days they would stop at their daughter’s, Anna Catherine’s home and exchange the rocks at their feet for some hot ones. They made the beer by taking wheat and barley and soaking it in water, then laying it between sheets until it sprouted. It was then browned in the oven until it was golden brown, then it was boiled in water, hops and leavening added. After it fermented, the liquid was drained off and the beer bottled to cure and age.
Jen filled a two year mission in Denmark for the church. When he returned he had two small boys with him. These boys made their home with the Mickelsens. also one of his converts and his wife came to Utah with Jens on his return home. This convert’s wife died a few years later, then this man made his home with the Mickelsens until he married. There were other members or converts of the Church who made their home with them when they came to Utah. Jens was a very humble and good man. The Handcart which he pulled across the plains was kept to haul his milk from the corral to his house. The cedar buckets that were used were always scoured until they shown with cleanliness. Jens and Karen enjoyed their grandchildren, who liked to go to the grandparent’s house and spend many happy days. These goodly people lived to see the school house built and the meeting house at Lake Shore, contributing of their means for the good of the community.
In October 1884, Jens went out to put new shingles on the outdoor toilet, his foot slipped letting him fall to the ground, breaking his neck. He died 10 Oct 1884. Soon after Karen suffered a stroke. She was bedfast for a few years. A rope was fastened around the rafters in the ceiling so she could help herself around. Then later she was taken into the home of her children so she could have better care. She died 7 Aug 1888 at her daughter Anna Catheine’s home at Lake Shore. (She was 73 years old). They are all laid to rest in the family plot in Spanish Fork. Thus ended the pioneer life of these good people. They have left a heritage of faith, work and brotherly love.
Note: It was mentioned Jens married Katrena after Karen’s death. This is not so. Jens went into plural marriage before he went on his mission to Denmark.
Here are they of common clay, who walked through fire, and became the salt of the earth. It takes courage, love, faith in God to leave peaceful homes and loving family and dear friends and lead out to a strange land, treking through the wilderness, not knowing what lay ahead except hardships, wild savages and even death.. It must have been a great Satisfaction for them to see the desert blossom as a rose, from the efforts of their labors. This was their reward, and a promise from God fulfilled. Surely God had a purpose when He prompted them, led them, and gave them the courage to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Surely they were God’s chosen, and through their faith and trust in him, left us a great heritage for our good, and for all the generations of the future. God help us to live up to their expections.
Each one of these good Saints were sealed to each other in the Temple of the Most High God, therefore keeping his commandments for eternal life as a family. The family was not perfect, as perfection is not for this life, so we judge not that we be not judged.
This history was written by Mary Evens Youd, grand-daughter of Anna Catherine Nielsen Hansen, at the request of William H. Nielsen, son of Nelsena Christina Nielsen, daughter of Karen Nielsen Mickelsen, which came into the hands of Alice Collett Snow. Research of deaths, births, marriages and addition history, complied and written by Thelda Dortha Murray McKee, daughter of Johnathan Moyes Murray, son of Karen Maria Nielsen and Jeremiah Hatch Murray, 10 Dec 1974. This history has been retyped with dates and explanations added here and there by Cody L. Wilkins, grand-son of Jeremiah Murray and Christine Elizabeth Nilsson. 29 Nov 1989.