Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm going to backtrack a bit and tell another experience I found of Robert Sweeten's. After getting well-settled in Utah, Robert had to make a trip back to eastern Canada to settle some of his father's affairs. At that time (about 1865) the train only came as far as St. Joseph, MO so Robert went on the mail stagecoach from Salt Lake. There were several delays along the way, including being pinned down by Indians shooting at the coach. Here are some specifics he wrote about that trip: "All I can remember of Denver at that time is that it had one street with a bend in it. It took us 10 days from there to get to St. Joseph, Missouri. There are 3 things I can distinctly remember about St. Jo (sic). One is the railroad station which was made from logs with grass growing all around it. I was looking around the station when someone shouted, 'Here comes the train!' I rushed out and stood by the tracks and got my first glimpse of a train. I was intently watching it come toward me when all of a sudden the air was rent by its loud whistle. It took me so by surprise that I jumped straight in the air and screamed, 'A bear!' at the top of my voice, and went inside the station thoroughly ashamed of myself.
It was in St. Jo that I ate my first orange. I had made friends with a fellow traveler and he gave me an orange to see what I would do with it. I had never eaten one before, so supposing it was to be eaten like an apple, I bit into it and was not very well pleased with the flavor of it, but I soon reached the inside and realized the skin was not to be eaten."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"A change began taking shape in the lives of the Bertelsens in 1852. Their daughter Lette said she had never known Niels to have an enemy in the world up to that time. Soon after Erastus Snow was sent to Denmark to establish the Danish Mission for the LDS Church, Elder George P. Dykes went to the city of Aalborg, a great trading center in northern Jutland. Before long, the elders arrived in Viborg. In serious-minded Maren, who was religiously inclined, the missionaries found fertile ground in which to cultivate their new and unusual religion. After hearing them only once, she was convinced that their message was true. Niels did not embrace their teachings quite so readily. Lette said 'While investigating to find out for themselves, before either of them were baptized, a mob gathered around their home to try to find the Mormon elders, saying they would beat them to death.' Not finding the elders, they went to the landlord and demanded that he exact a promise from the Bertelsens, on threat of their being turned out, that they would allow no Mormons to enter their home. Lette continued, 'The landlord pled with them a long time, but they would not promise, so he said they must go, but he could not tell them where.' Niels was so angered by this injustice he immediately wrote to the magistrate to find out if such action was legal. The word came that the county authorities must give them shelter until some other place could be found, and that they were not forbidden to let anyone enter their house if they did not preach or hold meetings. It was very hard for the family to leave the only home they had ever known, all because they wanted to read the Bible and find out for themselves if these men were telling the truth. In spite of the frequent persecution and mobbing, all the family that were old enough were baptized between 1852 and 1854. Niels was livid when Maren and the children came home with their heels crushed and bleeding from having been stomped on as they fled their persecutors. The family soon moved to Aalborg. Niels was made presiding elder of the Hals branch on June 24, 1858, a position he held until moving to Frejlev, where on January 25, 1861 he was again made presiding elder. With the dawning of the year 1863, the only members of Niels Bertelsen's family still on Danish soil were himself, Maren, and their oldest and youngest daughters. Nearly 10 years had passed since Lette, with her little sister Helene, had made the initial historic trip to Utah. Most of the rest had followed. Now Niels and Maren were making their own plans to sail with 11-yr-old Christiana Dorthea (Anna), but it was with the painful knowledge that their oldest, Johanne (and my great great-grandmother), would be left behind. She had been married the previous year to a man bitterly opposed to Mormonism, and he refused to ever let her join them in Utah. She continued to work and save her money, and in 1900, two years before her death, she sent her grandson, Nels Christian Madsen, to Utah."

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Bertelsens of Denmark

Of all my ancestors, I have the most information about the Bertelsens on my mother's side of the family. The last names followed the patronymic style, which was changing the last name each generation to incorporate part of the father's given name. Obviously this makes for incredibly difficult tracking, but luckily many members of the family have felt it to be important, so the research was done. The whole history through the 1800s was compiled into a booklet of which I have a copy. The next few posts will be excerpts.
"The ancient city of Viborg, situated in central Jutland and once the most important city on the peninsula, was settled long before Denmark was Christianized. It was approximately 27 miles northwest of here, in Lundo, where Niels Bertelsen, son of Johanna Iversen and Peder Pedersen, and Maren Larsen, daughter of Ida Johanne Johansen and Lars Christiansen, were born (see pictures above). The disparity in Niels' surname (Bertelsen instead of Pedersen) should be explained. The family pedigree chart shows the name Bertelsen as the surname of Niels's great- and great-great-grandfathers. Most likely his parents decided to break the long chain and revert to this less common name. He was, however, sometimes referred to as Niels Pedersen Bertelsen.
Next to the eldest in a family of 5 boys and 6 girls, Niels was compelled at the age of 8 to leave the small farm his father owned to herd sheep many miles away. Because he possessed a deep love for his home and family, and with the prospect of seeing them only at six-month intervals, this parting was very trying. His early life was spent in this manner until he was old enough to row a boat and engage in the fishing business with his father. Niels worked with his father until his marriage to Maren in the spring of 1831. Niels had a happy disposition; Maren, on the other hand, had a sterner nature. She came from a family comparatively wealthy in the world's goods. Her father spurned her choice of a husband, and when she married him anyway, disinherited her, giving her only $25 in keeping with the law. On April 20, 1832, their first daughter, Johanne Maria, was born (who is my direct ancestor). The couple left Lundo and moved to Staarup, Viborg County, where they rented a cottage. It was near the Skive Fjord, so Niels could pursue the fishing trade himself. Fortunately, Niels was an excellent marksman and was able to supply his fast-growing family with meat as well as ocean fish. There were also swans in abundance, and Niels was very proud that he could shoot 3 swans with one shot. Nine of their ten children were born here.
The leanness of the times forced many Danish parents to send their children away from home to work while very young. This custom, common though it was, always grieved the gentle Niels, who often shed tears when he bade goodbye to those of his children who were forced to take upon themselves the hard yoke of adulthood while still only youngsters. Yet the children never seemed to resent it."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Here is Robert's memory of meeting his future wife while visiting his step-father's nephews in Canada:
"It was the custom in those days to entertain visitors by letting them look through the family album, and while looking through the albums of each one of my step-father's nephews I would find pictures of a young lady I imagined I could like very much. She was the girl the Luckhams hired when they wanted a girl (to clean), and I was afraid she would be there. Later in the evening someone shouted, "There's Mandy," and when I looked out in the kitchen I saw her shaking snow from her feet. After she had warmed herself she came in and shook hands with me. I could see she was a natural leader because when there was to be a change of games they always asked Mandy what to play next, and this made me like her all the more.
I knew I was in love with her, and I also knew that it was against my religion to marry out of the church. The nearest missionaries that I could visit were 50 miles away and I was about to walk that distance to talk to them about it, but decided to go to the Lord about it. In answer to prayer a voice said to me as plain as though someone were standing behind me, which said, "Which is worse, to marry her and take her among the Saints where she can accept the faith, or leave her here where she won't have the chance of hearing it?" I concluded then to marry her if I ever got the chance." Later, Robert had the chance to talk to Mandy privately. He said,"Mandy, I'm smitten on you and was wondering if there was any chance for me." She seemed to feel the same, and they were married in about a week. Robert and Amanda lived in Canada until their first child, Martha, was born. When Robert began preparing to return home, Mandy refused to come because she had heard that anyone who went among the Mormons and did not join the Church would be killed. Robert swore to her that this was false and that she would be made welcome, which she was upon their arrival. She found all the reports about Mormons that she had heard were false. Mandy was baptized 28 May 1871, and she and Robert were sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City 5 Jun 1871. Ten more children were born to them in Mendon, Cache County, UT.
Robert recorded his testimony- "My testimony is that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and the only president of the Church I have not been acquainted with. Brigham Young was the smartest man we had. I proved him to my satisfaction to be a cautious man. I've never had a doubt, from the day I was baptized to today, that the Church was true- not a doubt. I came to Utah for the gospel's sake....I have believed in a Savior ever since I can remember anything and have never had a doubt and have believed, as the Savior said, that the Father was a being as well as He. I read every bit of the Book of Mormon when I was little and don't believe Joseph Smith made a bit of it up, but I believe he found it just as he said he did."
Amanda died 11 Mar 1903. Robert died 19 Jan 1936.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A few months later, Robert's family moved south to Spanish Fork, where Robert's mother died suddenly. The cause was attributed to her exposure in the river when their wagon had overturned. Robert continues- "In the spring of 1859 my father, two sisters, and two other couples and I moved to Mendon, Cache Valley, and settled there. After our crops were planted I got a desire to see Logan, so I took a four-horse team and a crowd of young folks and went to the settlement, and was quite disappointed as there were just a few wagons with no kind of a town. Providence consisted of several families camped in the brush hiding from Indians.
As soon as there were enough settlers in the valley, there was organized a Minute Company for protection to the citizens. We would take turns standing picket guard watching for Indians and in case there was any, our duty was to arouse the other Minutemen and all go to protect the settlement upon which the Indians were preying. One night, as some of us were standing picket guard, we saw what we thought was a cloud of dust in the valley. We were just getting ready to sound the alarm when we discovered it was just the moon shining through the clouds. It was a good thing we discovered our mistake, because if we had once started we would not have stopped until we had the whole valley aroused."

Monday, August 24, 2009

After arriving in the Salt Lake valley, Robert remembers the following:
"There was a fort constructed, and within the fort we built a house from adobe brick. We planted 20 acres of wheat, but never harvested it the next fall as the now-famous crickets destroyed it. I remember my stepfather, sister and myself making instruments similar to huge fly swatters. We would walk through the grain with these instruments, killing and frightening the crickets. The battle was rather discouraging, and one day after a hard struggle we looked back and saw the crickets were as bad behind us as they were in front of us. Father cried like a baby and said, " It's no use, we're goners."
The next year we moved to Millcreek, hoping to escape the crickets, but when the grain and other crops came up they cleaned us out again. We raised our potatoes and planted corn where the grain had been and had a good crop which we gave away. At the time when we thought our cause was lost to the crickets, I was herding cows and suddenly saw swarms of seagulls gorging themselves on crickets and then coming to the streams and disgorging them. Then we knew our crops were saved."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Here is a recollection of Robert Sweeten's about his experiences coming to Utah:
"Every night we would pull the wagons into a large circle and form a corral for protection against the Indians, and as an enclosure for the animals. The kids would play around the wagons and campfires. After supper the older folks would get out the fiddles and have dances around the fires, some of them dancing in bare feet as they had no shoes.
I walked most of the way across the plains with but an occasional ride. One time, while I was driving two yoke of oxen so my step-father could ride and rest awhile, I stepped on a prickly pear, and being barefoot, ran the needles in my foot and Mother had to pull them out.
Our only means of crossing rivers that were too deep to wade across was to chop down trees, chain them together, and make a raft upon which we would pull one wagon across at a time. We were crossing a narrow deep stream one time, and they were just starting to pull our wagon across when Mother shouted for them to let the children out before crossing. We got out, and when the wagon was halfway across it flopped bottom-side up in the stream. Everything we owned was in the wagon, and Mother jumped into the water to save what few things she could.
While following the Platte River we saw many buffalo, sometimes in herds so large we had to stop the company and let them go past. One day I became lame from walking so much and fell behind. Suddenly, I heard a strange noise, and looking up, I saw a large buffalo bull intently watching me. His fierce snorting frightened me into screaming, which attracted the attention of the driver on the last wagon. He shouted at me to run, but I was too frightened to move. Some men came back and were going to shoot the animal, but the captain stopped them, saying that Brigham Young's orders were to shoot the animals only to be used for food.
My first sight of Brigham Young was when we met him at the Green River when he was on his way back to get his family and assist more Saints across the plains. As we reached the top of Big Mountain we could see the lights of another camp ahead of us, so we came down the mountain at the head of Emigration Canyon in the dark. The Canadian wagons were lower than the American wagons so they struck stumps the American wagons would pass over. We had to chop off all the stumps our wagons struck.We finally reached the company ahead and camped with them for the remainder of the night, and traveled together the next day. During the day the call was passed down the trail- 'There is the Great Salt Lake.' We reached Salt Lake that night and camped with Brigham Young's company. The kids played high spy in the grass and sage."
More to come!