Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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1867 (age 15), Larsen (Winters), Johanna Kirstine (Denmark)

Johanna Kirstine Larsen Winters was born August 22, 1852, in Aalborg, Wisterhassing, Denmark.

To England
In the year 1867, on the 5th day of May, I left my native city Aalborg, on board a steamer to take us to Copenhagen, and there to meet with other emigrants from different parts of the country. That little sea is always rough and I was the first to turn sick. However, we landed the next day about noon and were met by a number of missionaries who took us around to see the city. The same afternoon the emigrants from other parts had arrived, and we were ordered to board a large steamer to take us across the North Sea to England.

To America/Niagra Falls
So we, the Mormon emigrants, were loaded on one end of the deck with our belongings, and two hundred cows on the other end to be shipped to England-and the poor cows were just as sick as we were. We landed at Hull, England, and went from there by railroad to Liverpool, where we had to wait about ten days while the steamer Manhattan was under repair. This ship was to take us across the Atlantic Ocean. When at last completed, we were taken on board and all were happy and thankful to get started. At about midsea a heavy storm arose and for three days and nights it seemed as though the steamer might capsize at any minute. The captain told some of the missionaries that he never had met with bad luck yet when he had Mormons on board. He said, "There is something peculiar about you Mormons, anyway." The storm abated and we landed in the New York Harbor on July 4th, but were not allowed to go ashore until the 5th, when we marched up to Castle Gardens for official inspection; from there we traveled through the states partly on steamboat and on the railroad. We crossed the Niagara River on the hanging bridge, which, of course was a great wonder. I had read about it being completed, but never expected to see it; and about half a mile or so after crossing, all our belongings were dumped in the wilderness, there to await another train from the opposite direction to come and pick us up. We wandered around for several hours looking at the falls and the barren waste. As far as the eye could see, there was not a spear of grass or weeds or anything that showed sign of life.

Train to Nebraska/Measles/Wanted to Die
At last we could see the train at a distance, it soon reached our camp and we began to load up as fast as possible. Apparently it was an old work train, but we were glad to get aboard. I was feeling somewhat ill before the train started. I had evidently been exposed to something during our travels, and in a few minutes developed a high temperature and begged for water. There was ice water in the car, but the brethren said not to give it to me and I said, "Mother, for your sake do give me a drink, I am dying." She did not say a word but brought me a drink of ice water in a large tin cup. I drank that and asked for another and she gave it to me. I then went to sleep-I don't know how long I slept-my mother woke me and told me I had had a long sleep. She said that we would soon be at North Platte. I was then completely covered with measles and very weak when the train stopped. Our belongings were all dumped off as usual and everybody began finding their own. My father put up the tent and Mother made a bed for me and it seemed such a relief to lie down on something besides a hard board seat. I felt like "now I can die and be happy." But, oh, such a disappointment. Mother just came in and said, "Now, Father has gone to get some of the brethren to administer to you and you will soon feel better." I turned my head to the wall of the tent and cried, for I was sure if they administered to me I would recover and equally sure if they didn't I should die. I felt that it was too hard to try to live again.

Disappointment - The Money Sent Ahead for Supplies was Squandered
The brethren came; they promised me health and strength, said I would be able to do my part while crossing the plains and reach Zion safely. I had a good night's rest and felt better although very weak. There was little food in camp and nowhere we could buy any. By this time all the younger children in the company were sick and it began to look as if we should all perish. Means had been provided by the heads of every family to cover all expenses from the time we left our old homes until we should reach Salt Lake, as there would be no Church teams to meet the emigrants that year. The money was forwarded and men sent from Salt Lake to make the purchases, one man to buy the provisions and another to buy the oxen and wagons and a few cows. All were supposed to be at the Platte Station at the time of our arrival. There was nothing, not even a message.

Brigham Young, Jr. Helped Solve the Problem
Brigham Young, Jr. was with the company, returning from his mission to England; he was such a kind, fatherly man. His brother, Joseph A. Young, and wife came to North Platte to meet him and with them our wonderful Captain Rice who was to lead us across the plains. A meeting of the brethren had been called and each man according to the number in his family put up enough to buy a few sacks of flour from the nearest point, which was divided every morning, a pint cupful for each adult in the family. Two children had already died and a number more were not expected to live. It was train time, again everybody waiting and watching, and sure enough it was loaded with wagons, oxen and a few milk cows. Everybody got busy unloading and putting the wagons together with Captain Rice there to help them. But no provisions, nor a word from the man in charge had come. Brigham Young, Jr. had sent several telegrams to different parts of the State of Maine where he was ordered to make the purchase, but no reply. The situation was becoming alarming-children sick and dying. The oxen were numbered and corresponding numbers were drawn by the brethren, so each man had three teams. The cows were sold to anybody who had the money. My father paid $90.00 for the best one, the others were sold for less, and all were anxious and willing to help feed the sick. It was now towards night and a message to Brigham Young, Jr. came from ""Mr. Man" from the east. (I shall not mention his name.) The message said that when he got there he saw a large stock of bankrupt goods advertised for sale at a bargain, so he bought the goods with the money belonging to the company on the strength of getting the same amount that he had coming to him in the adjoining state, but failed to get it and said he dared not come back without the provisions. Brigham Young, Jr. called a meeting of all the returned missionaries so each would know what had happened.

My father said the suspense for a few moments was terrible. At last, Brigham Young, Jr. asked the returning missionaries if they knew of any in the company who had any surplus means. A Brother Neilson from Sanpete said, "Yes, there is one man, but I doubt whether he will let it go now." Brother Young told him to call the man and talk to him. They told him what Brother Young wanted to see him about and he said, "Yes, I have a little more money left, there are seven of us in my family, besides I paid the emigration for twenty-one poor persons, including teams and provisions until we reach Salt Lake. I have money left, but not one dollar more for that man to handle."

Brother Young then said, "Will you lend it to me?" He said, "Yes, provided you promise to purchase the provisions yourself," which he did. Brother Young and another man left the same night for the east and returned on the third day with the provisions which were distributed according to numbers in each family. Captain Rice ordered all to pack up and hook on to the wagons. He said "We must pull out of this death hole if it is only half a mile." Ten children had already died and were buried there, besides an old lady eighty-two years of age. We had been waiting there three weeks-it did seem good to get into fresh air and to obtain a drink of fresh water. Captain Rice was a wonderful man-he seemed to know every inch of the road between North Platte and Salt Lake. We had to walk; few were allowed to ride. He said the oxen had all they could do to pull the load. The feed was beginning to dry up.

Forced March
The captain said we must cover at least thirty miles a day in order to reach Salt Lake by October Conference, which must be done. A certain number of the younger brethren were to take turns herding the oxen at night, and before starting in the morning the hymn, "Come, Come Ye Saints" was sung and prayers were offered by one of the brethren. Then we started out to walk ahead of the teams. We were not allowed to walk behind because of Indians. We made aprons of burlap sacks and picked up fuel as we went along, mostly buffalo chips or anything that would burn. If there were streams to cross, the captain would pick us up, one in front of him on his horse and another behind him and keep on going back and forth until all were across. Every day was about the same only the farther we got, the more rough and rocky the roads seemed to be; sometimes we would find some old Indian sandals and tie them under our shoes to ease our feet a little. At times some of the returning missionaries would walk along with us telling some of their experiences.

One of the brethren asked us one day if we ever sang, "Think not when you gather to Zion your troubles and trials are through. That nothing but comfort and pleasure are waiting in Zion for you." I think he had a purpose in doing it-we looked up the hymn and at least it gave us food for thought and study. Things went along as usual. The days getting a little shorter and the nights colder and longer. It seemed like we were traveling up hill all the time. We got up one morning and found the ground completely covered with crickets. They would hop into our pans and kettles over the fire as fast as we could flip them out with a fork. We traveled in crickets for two days. They would crush under the wheels like so much sand or gravel. Once in a while we would see a deer or an antelope.

It was within the next day or two we were camped on a large open flat, the oxen were brought to camp as usual and yoked up ready to start and prayer was offered by Brigham Young, Jr. Just then we all noticed at a distance something like a small campfire in the direction which we were traveling. There was no sign of anything else to be seen, the fire increasing in size and the wind bearing right toward us. The captain ordered the oxen unyoked. The oxen were driven in an opposite direction for fear of a stampede. The fire was now coming close and the heat from it could be felt. Brother Young stepped upon the highest part of a wagon tongue, raised his hand and said, "Brethren and Sisters, stand still, we are not here to be destroyed." He still stood there. All at once he pointed to a little cloud not much larger than a man's hand and said, "There is our deliverance." At the same moment a terrific peal of thunder was heard and a flash of lightning seen and then the rain poured down. We then thanked the Lord for our deliverance, and went on our way rejoicing. We traveled on as usual making over thirty miles a day. All went well until it commenced to rain. It rained steadily for four days. It was difficult to find anything to make a fire with. Then it turned to snow, which was worse. For three days the ground was covered with snow, the poor oxen could find nothing to eat except the tops of dry bushes and a few branches on the side hills, but still we had to travel. The nights were cold and the days grew shorter. A few cases of mountain fever developed, my father was one of them. There was not much left at this time that the sick could relish, only milk, and everyone who had any were willing to divide. Brother Young was handy with his gun; he would kill a deer once in awhile and divide it among the sick for stew or broth which was a great help to them.

Crossing the Green River
We now traveled on until we reached Green River. At this point Brother Lewis Robison from Salt Lake was running a ferry boat. It was then arranged that the few small rigs drawn by horses or mules should be taken across first on the boat, then the women and children. The oxteams had to cross the stream and the driver with them. The water was high and swift. The oxen had to swim and pull the load. The captain on his horse followed each wagon across to steady it and keep it from turning over. There were fifty wagons, two yoke of oxen on each wagon.

I do not remember how long it took us from there to Salt Lake. We traveled late and early. We reached the old camping ground on October 5th at 11 o'clock at night. But oh, how strange the next morning after the captain had gone! Brigham Young, Jr. had gone, and Joseph A. had gone-we all felt like a flock of sheep without a leader. About 10 o'clock the next day Brigham Young, Jr. and others came to camp to pay Brother Jensen the money which saved us all from perishing while crossing the plains. (End of autobiography.)

Johanna Winters story after her arrival in the Valley is continued by Elizabeth Winters Tueller:
In Salt Lake City the Danish immigrants were told that Bear Lake Valley was being settled and that there was land available for homesteading. At St. Charles, Bear Lake County, Idaho, the Niels Larsen family met Soren Peter Sorensen, a young man who had lived with Johanna's people. He told them that Ovid was a Danish village and he knew of a vacant house. Niels had been suffering with mountain fever and was eager to get settled, so the family moved into the log house which had a dirt roof and floor.

At the age of fifteen Johanna worked for a neighbor where she earned a dollar a week. Her first week's wages bought a spool of thread, and in the next five weeks she earned a pair of slightly worn shoes. She met Frantz Winters, a convert from Denmark who was teaching school in Ovid, and when she was eighteen years of age, married him. Soon they built a two-room log house in Montpelier, where he taught school for one year. He then managed the Co-op Store, and needless to say it wasn't a thriving business, as all the people were poor immigrants with very little means.

Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.