Peder Mortensen, 1806

Peder MortensenBorn: 28 Jan 1806, Haarbolle, Fanefjord, Prst, Denmark

From the site

Birth: Jan. 28, 1806, Denmark
Death: Apr. 9, 1866
Iron County
Utah, USA

Born at Haarbulle, Fanefjord, Praesto, Denmark

Son of Morten Pedersen and Karen Hansen

Married Helena Sanderson, 09 Nov 1827, Haarbulle, Fanefjord, Praesto, Denmark

Children – Anna Kirstine Mortensen, Anders Jorgen Mortensen, Hans Jorgen Mortensen, Lars Mortensen, Metta Kirstine Mortensen, Mary Mortensen, Caroline Mortensen

After arrival in Parowan church leaders advised the family to use one surname. They all changed to Mortensen.

Members of the James G. Willie Handcart Company of 1856

Family links:
Lene Sanderson Mortensen (1808 – 1890)

From the website My Ancestors… All Part of Me:

Peder Mortensen was the only living child of Morten Pedersen and Karen Hansen. (Morten was married 3 other times and had more children with his other wives.) He was born on 28 January 1806 in Haarbolle, Franefjord, Praesto, Denmark, which is located on a small island called Moen.

Peder and Helena were marred 9 November 1827 in Haarbolle, Denmark. The couple had nine children, eight living to adulthood. Their children were: Morten, Anne, Anders, Hans, Peder (who died at age 10 in Denmark), Lars, Mette, Mary and Caroline. All the children were born in Haarbolle.

Although crippled at a relatively young age, he was industrious and made a living as a cooper, making wooden barrels, tubs and buckets, and a shoemaker. They also kept animals such as cows and sheep. Helena, or Lena as she was known, was a talented homemaker, wife and mother. The Mortensens were a typical middle class family and lived comfortably, yet they had to work hard and be industrious and thrifty.
Peder played the clarinet and the whole family enjoyed music and dancing.

The family was religious. The studied the Bible and Peder very often prayed for the Lord to send his servants to them so “they could become his disciples in very deed.”

In 1855, the first Mormon missionaries traveled to Haarbolle. When they first came to town, Morten and Anders went to a meeting held by the missionaries. Morten was studying for the ministry in the Lutheran church and attended due to curiosity, taking Anders along for company. After hearing the teachings of the Elders, the brothers were convinced that the Lord had restored His true church. When they returned home, they told their family of their feelings. Peder was skeptical due to the negative reports he had heard about the Mormon Elders. Anders replied that these Elders were what Peder had been praying for and he encouraged the rest of the family to attend the next meeting.

The family did attend and were converted. Morten was baptized 12 February 1855, Anders was baptized 13 June 1855 and Peder, Helena, Anne and Hans were baptized on 16 June 1855.

After the whole family was converted, they began to be persecuted by their neighbors and felt anxious to migrate to America. In fact, one night, an angry mob came to the home but the mob dispersed when the leader suddenly collapsed at the gate. The family was lucky to own desirable property and was soon able to sell their land and obtain sufficient funds to travel to America.

The family left home on 31 March 1856, arriving in Copenhagen on 23 April 1856. While there, the Scandinavian mission president, Hector C. Hate, approached the oldest son Morten and asked him to serve a mission. The family wanted so much to travel to Utah together. The mission president promised them that if Morten fulfilled a mission that the entire family would reach Zion (Utah) in safety.

Peder, Lena and Anders on Thorton Passengar listThe Mortensen family left Copenhagen on the steamship “Rhoda” which traveled to Keil, Germany. The family then went by railroad to Hamburg, by steamer to Grimsby, England and then by railroad to Liverpool, England where they boarded the ship “Thornton” with about 600 Saints from Europe.

The Saints on the ship were under the leadership on James G. Willie with Miller Atwood, John A. Ahmanson and Moses Cluff assisting. The ship left on 4 May 1856 and arrived in New York on 14 Jun 1856.

Peder, Lena and family on the register for the ship, “Thornton.”

Closer view.

The saints were brought by tug boat to Castle Gardens where they were welcomed by John Taylor and Nathaniel H. Felt. Three days later, the family traveled to Ohio and then to Chicago, Illinois. From there, the company was divided and traveled to Iowa City, which was the Western terminus of the railroad at the time and the appointed place for the Saints to prepare to cross the plains.

The family still had plenty of money, enough that they would have been able to buy a wagon and team to take them to Utah, but the Saints were advised to use handcarts which were less expensive. Although Peder was lame and would not be able to walk the trip and their youngest daughter was only about 5 years of age, the family took the advice of their leaders. They were also able to “loan” money to three others, money that was never returned, but surely appreciated.

The family had traveled with dishes, linens and trinkets from home that they hoped to sell but the people around Iowa City were aware that the Saints could only take a few pounds of luggage and waited until the items were abandoned instead of buying them. The Mortensen boys locked up their things in their large steamer trunks and put them into the Mississippi River, saying, “If they get them, they’ll work for them.”

The Mortensen family left with the rest of the Willie Handcart Company on 15 July 1856. The group endured many trials as they traveled to Utah, including loss of oxen and rationed food supply, to harsh conditions due to the lateness of the season.

The crossing at the Platt River was especially hard on the company. It took many tries to find a suitable area to cross with their handcarts. Anders recalled crossing some 90 times in the freezing water. Helena recounted, “We walked by the river day after day burying our dead who gave their lives for the Gospel. We wept as we went on our journey. We went before the Lord, and pled with him to make good his promises which were given by his servant back in Old Denmark. How we implored him to raise the sick, and give us strength to carry our burden without complaint, for we had the lame to haul on our hard carts, the maimed to care for, and our beloved dead ones to bury by the wayside.”

After crossing the river and getting into the mountains, the company encountered severe snow storms and the company’s food supply was basically a few ounces of flour per person each day. Helena remembered an old pin cushion she had brought from Denmark which was filled with bran. In their desperation, the cushion was torn apart. Helena made dough with the bran and it was baked and eaten. They also would take pieces of rawhide off the hand cart wheels and boil them in water to make soup. To further supplement their food, Lena would gather berries for juice, herbs for teas, soups and stews and even mad a warm barley drink from small amounts of rationed grain.

Lena was a strong woman who encouraged her family along the trek. Once her son Hans left his hand cart and felt he could go no further. She gave him something to drink and some dry biscuit and said, “Be brave, my boy. We must go on.” After a short rest, Hans took up his hand cart and the family caught up with the rest of the company.

Peder used his shoemaking skills to make sure that his children always had something to protect their feet from the cold ground, using whatever material he could find.
Although many of the members of the Willie Handcart Company were buried on the way to Utah, but the entire Mortensen family (minus Morten who was still serving in Denmark) reached Salt Lake City, Utah on 9 November 1856 feeling very blessed. Morten would join the family three years later.

Only a few days after arriving in Salt Lake, the family was advised to travel to Southern Utah and make Parowan their home. With their hand carts, the family traveled to Parowan and arrived 1 December 1856.
In Parowan, Peder took up shoe making again and continued to make sure that his girls had good soles on their shoes, which was not always common during this time. Lame for the remainder of his life, Peder was transported to and from church in the same hand cart that carried him across the plains to Utah. Neither held any major positions in the church, but were faithful members and regularly attended their meetings.
Peder and Helena were sealed in Salt Lake City on 14 October 1859 at the Endowment House. The couple spoke Danish to each other, but tried to speak mainly English to their children and grandchildren.

After suffering greatly from some sort of heart problem, Peder died, “full of faith,” on 9 April 1866 in Parowan at the age of 60. Before he died he asked his daughter Mary to take care of her mother, which she did.
Lena had a pleasant disposition and did not like arguments. She loved to dance and would dance for her children and grandchildren. She was neat and taught her daughters to keep a tidy home. She also was independent, even later in life when being cared for by her children. In fact, she once turned down fast offering money from her bishop, asking him to give it to someone who needed it. She knew her children would care for her and that is all she needed. She was very hospitable and loved serving everything from cookies to fine meals to her family.

Lena always wore some type of small cap and when she went out she had a fancier bonnet with ribbons and trimmings.

At some point, Lena suffered a stroke leaving her left hand useless.

1870 US Census Helene with daughter Mary's family1870 and 1880 Census records showing Lena living with her children in Parowan.

1880 US Census HeleneBefore she passed away, her daughter Mary asked what she could do to make her happy. Lena said that she wanted all of her girls around the table once more. She loved her family dearly and left a large posterity. Lena died on 24 August 1890 at the age of 82. Her grandson, Anders, said of her: “No more faithful soul than she ever lived, may her memory ever be sacred.”

(Quotations without citation in this history are from a short history of the Mortensen family written by Anders Mortensen, son of Anders Jorgen Mortensen. Other information was taken from several DUP histories.)

Peder Mortensen Grave

Burial: Parowan City Cemetery
Iron County
Utah, USA
Plot: 10-03-01

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5 Responses to Peder Mortensen, 1806

  1. David Mortensen says:

    The text mentions the oldest son Morten, however the listing of children at the top of the article omits mention of Morten.

  2. chashathaway says:

    Good point! I’ll have to look into that.

  3. Nanette J. Clarke says:

    Peter & Lena had an older son Morton P Mortensen born in 1828 (not listed in your list of Children). Morton did not emigrate with the family in 1856 but stayed in Denmark and served a 3 year mission. He emigrated in 1859.

  4. Chas Hathaway says:

    Thanks, Nanette! That’s great information–good to know. I’ll have to update that.

  5. Tamara Wilkinson says:

    I just found out this is my relative!!!! He is my great great great great grandfather!!! I’m planning on a trip to Denmark to see where he came from.

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