1854 (age 15), Neilsen, Rasmus and his son Christian
Difficult Boat Trip
I was born in the City of Middlefart, County of Fyen, Kingdom of Denmark, Aug. 16, 1839. (Middlefart, County of Odense, Island of Fyen, Denmark.) My father was Rasmus Neilsen, called Rasmus Closemager because he made clogs. Mother's name was Maren Christensen from Langeland, Denmark. My father, while serving as a soldier in Odense, at the same time learned the trade Clog Making, and there got acquainted with Mother, and at the close of his service married and settled at Middlefart and worked at his trade. My earliest recollections are Father making the wooden part and Mother making the leather tops. They used to work until midnight and early in the morning until they got money enough to buy a farm about four English miles east of Middlefart. While working at his trade my father employed help, one Emil Engebret from whom I got my middle name and to whom my father sold his business in Middlefart. It was on the farm in the latter (early) part of the year 1850 (1851) that the missionaries of the Latter-day Saints found us. We soon joined the Church and next year sold the farm and moved to Frederica in Jutland where Father worked at his trade until the fall of 1853 when we started for Utah. After the families left the farm, I stayed one summer herding the cows and one year in a chickory factory in Frederica, my sister Marie working in a pin factory. While on the farm we lost a baby sister, Hanna Maria died 1851 and at Frederica John, younger brother, died 1853.
My father was president of the first organization in Frederica. I have my father's journal which he kept on the journey from Denmark which I will translate and make a part of this:
From Frederica we journeyed Dec. 19, 1853, by ferry from Frederica Strib, from there with two wagons to Odense, 2 o'clock p.m.
Dec. 20. We lay in the hotel till 8 o'clock, then to Nyborg on two wagons, arrived 1 o'clock. On the road visited we our son Hans. We took steamboat Nyborg to Korsor, 8 o'clock, then with two wagons to Roskilde, arrived 2 o'clock a.m. Dec. 22: 8 o'clock took train for Copenhagen.
Dec. 25. Christmas day we took steamer to Travemunde, took 26 hours. Same evening we rode to Lubeck. Travemunde is a small city, but Lubeck is about like Copenhagen.
Dec. 26. We traveled on the morning 14 miles to Altona. We lay there three days. We had our bills paid and had a good time; saw many wonderful buildings and ships. We came through one end of Hamburg. It is curious to see people living 7 or 8 stories up in the air. We get tired of looking up at them. Do not know how large Hamburg is. We went through but one end, but Altona is about the size of Copenhagen. We bought many little things here that were cheap.
Dec. 30. From there by train to Gluckstadt. There we found our company who left Copenhagen the day after us by steamship by way of Kiel and train to Gluckstadt. We were 400 quartered in a large hall and lay in straw on the floor. We got dinner four times; the rest we provided ourselves with food. We lay there to the 7th of January, for the ice was covering the harbor and drifting in the strand. We can see over the strand one mile to Hanover. Here many things were cheap, such as factory shoes. Living was dear. We bought many things here, and if we had known we could have saved half by buying here instead of home.
Jan. 7. 6 o'clock a.m. we went on the steamship Tounsit with our things. It was wonderful to see the ship breaking through the ice. Nearly all were seasick. The bad smell from the machinery, and the stormy weather, and the North Sea that is always rough ... (Cannot read this line) ... We were on the water 58 hours and arrived at Hull, England, 4 o'clock after having sailed 150 miles.
(I will here give my recollection of that trip from Germany to England. The ship was a merchant vessel with no accommodation for passengers, and they were stored away in the hold, and when the storm came they had to shut down the hatches, and that nearly smothered them. I and two other boys, one I learned was Peter Christensen from Nephi, was hid on deck near the boiler under some canvas and stayed there all night. In the morning when they took the hatches off, the steam came up as from a manure pit, and the refuse and liquid was six ins. in the bottom of the ship, and the sailors drew it up in buckets next morning. I think a child died that night. I wonder Father passed over that night so lightly, and I recollect it so distinctly, that I got but little of it.)
It was wonderful to see so many ships in the English Channel. In Hull we were but three hours. We went the same evening by train to Liverpool. I think Hull is about the size of Copenhagen. There are ships here in the harbor by the 1,000. It was bad we went through England in the night, as we passed many trains and cities and through tunnels and over rivers and lakes. We rode the 44 miles in 7 hours and arrived in Liverpool 8 o'clock a.m. 19th of January. Here we got beds; the first we have had since we left Copenhagen. We have had to lay on straw, on boards and boxes, and have had many trials. Many are sick, but my wife and children are well. We are furnished here our food coffee and white bread for breakfast, soup with beef and potatoes for dinner, cakes and coffee and white bread for supper: as much as we want and good grub. Here cotton goods are cheap, so are lemons and citrons, porcelain and glassware, but eating is dear. We bought much factory and little things thread in all colors. There is no end to see in Liverpool. It has 500,000 inhabitants and is several miles in circumference. It has many large stores and factories and buildings not equalled in Denmark but the most wonderful is the shipping. I think there are 100 harbors and 1000 ships in each. I cannot describe all there is to see great butcher shops, beef 7 cents, pork 6 cents. We do not see rye bread at all but wheat bread everywhere. They mix oat and cornmeal together. We lay in Liverpool 15 days.
The 22nd which is Sunday. We went aboard 10 a.m. the large three-masted ship, Benjamin Adams. We have good accommodations and good beds. We got our provisions 2 1/2 lbs. white bread, oatmeal, wheatmeal, tea, sugar, salt more than we need and 8 gal. water. We can go ashore each day if we want to. People bring things to sell. We can now have meetings, sing, and pray as we will.
The 27th. We towed out of harbor by a tug about two miles and lay there. Was visited by the Rector and 4 families. Sixteen persons had to go to land and remain till the next company. The English missionaries visited us but the worst was we could not converse with them, Bro. Richards, president of the English Mission, and Brother Kahn. And we have been in meeting with the Saints in England. Brother Wancot from Copenhagen is here. We here bought canvas for $1000 for tents in America. It is cheaper here than in America. Now that we have rested we have had conference and been laid off in 5 districts with a president for each; Anderson Jargensen from Jutland, Lasstroni Winberg from Sweden, and Kalply from Norway. Many spoke and much good instruction given from time to time. We are 400 Saints and about 150 Irish Catholics and some first cabin passengers; I don't know how many. It is beautiful to lay here on the sea between Liverpool and Brunswick. The water is as broad as Little Belt, 2 English miles. Brunswick is a city like Copenhagen. The ships cruise between there by the hundred. In the evening it is beautiful to see the gaslights on both sides of the channel. Children and grown people go barefooted. The weather is like the last of May in Denmark. We are sitting here to sail and hope the wind will soon blow from the East. Myself and wife and all five children are all well. Thank the Lord there is now no sickness aboard.
The 31st we got 5 lbs. of beef, very good food. A ship left Liverpool for Amsterdam on the 17th with 600 passengers. Two days after, it was lost and 450 perished and 150 saved. One of them who was saved I have talked with. He said they drifted one whole day then struck a rock close to shore and the ship went to pieces by the waves in one hour. He lost all he had except the clothes he had on. He is going again. Such accounts we hear often in Liverpool.
For Thursday, which is Kidamas Day (or Hidamas), Feb. 2, 1854, came a steamer and towed us from England, 7 o'clock a.m. Beautiful, clear weather as in Denmark midsummer. Now, may our heavenly Father give us a safe journey, good wind, luck and health to get to America. The boat towed us 76 English miles and left us at 9 o'clock p.m. Then all sails were set but little wind. We sailed all night and at noon the 3rd we went by Shetland's large mountains and sand banks. The weather is calm and the 16 big sails cannot move the ship but lay as still as in a wood.
Saturday we had a head wind. We cruised but did not gain any. On Saturday night and on the 5th which is Sunday we had gone back to where we saw the large banks we had passed. May God protect us that we do not come to harm. Most of us are a little seasick as the sea is rough. We hope it will soon be better. The wind is not so strong today. I, my wife and children are nearly well and I think the wind will soon be favorable.
On Sunday morning we passed a large cutter drifting without man or sails. It had been lost in the storm Saturday night. It looked awful to see the water washing over it and the sails and rigging hanging in the water. Who went down with it the Lord only knows. Sunday evening we had a large meeting and wedding of 6 couples; V. Andersen, N. Larsen, and N. Neilsen from Jutland, August Neilsen and Rapsel Wingberg from Sweden and C. Krupe from Copenhagen.
Sunday the 12th. Wind southeast, the best wind we could have. The ship travels fast with 19 sails. This evening it is a pleasure to be out. We had two meetings today with large attendance.
Thursday the 16th. The wind southwest. The ship is very uneasy. The weather is mild. Wednesday morning saw we a large white mountain south of us. It belongs to the Portugese Islands. We saw a ship like ours but we sailed past it. So, we can see our ship is a good sailer. We have not seen many ships lately.
Monday, 20th. Wind was still and we got so warm that we must lay off our clothes. We got extra provisions, 5 lbs. beef. We saw a large steamship today.
Tuesday, 21st. Wind easterly and but little wind, though we sailed well. We got extra beef, 1 lb. each. We have mild wind. We are sewing our tents for the plains.
Wednesday, March 1. Hardly any wind. Come very little way. Have our tents ready.
Thursday, March 2. Wind still in the forenoon. In the afternoon blew from the north and rained, and we sailed beautifully. The sailors have been smoking the cabins on account of health in the.... Wind northeast, right in our backs. We saw many kinds of fish, sharks, whale, flying fish.
Sunday, 5th. My wife lost five twenty dollar gold pieces which we were sorry for.
Monday, 6th. Morning saw we land. It is one of the West Indian Islands. We saw 4 ships. My wife found the lost money for which we are pleased and thank the Lord. The three islands we saw were St. Domingo, St. Thomas and St. Cuba. They belong to our fatherland and are 200 Danish miles from America. They are south of us. Wind is east and we are sailing good.
Wednesday, March 8th. This morning we saw Cuba to the north of us with very high hills. We were but 1 mile from land. The air was not dear so we could see but sand banks. Wind east. Good sailing.
Thursday, March 9th. Saw we again Cuba's high mountains that went above the clouds. Such sight have we never seen before. The air is not clear so we cannot see if the land is fruitful, but they are way above the clouds so they are hardly inhabited. Wind easterly and we are sailing good. We see ships now every day. This afternoon we had council meeting. The presidents reported their districts. Some are weak in the faith; and some have not means to take them through. Hans Jensen from Jutland don't know where he is going and J. Jespersen the same. Some lack a little and some have none at all. President Olsen gave much good counsel. We must keep each other spiritual as well as temporal. Want no one to stop at New Orleans as it was a robber town but go as far as St. Louis where there were 4,000 Saints. Meeting adjourned till Saturday.
Saturday, March 11. Northeast wind and sail northwest very well. An outgoing ship reached us today at noon with Dutch aboard. We were so near that the Captains spoke to each other. They were about half as many as we. It had three masts was less than our ship. We saw a brig, two masts, no passengers, but in ballast. Five o'clock was council meeting. The Saints felt better spiritually but several were short temporally. President Olsen said that all should try to come up the river from New Orleans to St. Louis and wanted the Saints in meeting tomorrow to see about the needy and help them.
Saturday, March 18. Tonight the wind was so strong that we had to take in all the sails. The wind is not so heavy, but a head wind, so we have to cruise. Yesterday little Christine's eyes were so poorly that she was quite sick. She is today a little better. Thank the Lord the rest are all well. Many of the Saints are not well. Some are so weak they cannot walk. Some have their feet swelled that looks like dropsy. Many are much tired over many things that transpires among us. The wind is again still so we are drifting back.
Sunday, March 19. We have a good wind from southwest, but so foggy we can't see far. Water is as muddy as at Liverpool. We keep on sailing back and forward. The Lord knows why He will not allow us to land. We sail now south then north then east and west. Today we are fasting and praying for the unclean spirits that many among us are in possession of, that the Lord will soon allow us to land. For 8 days we have not got any nearer. Our prayer is that the Lord will have mercy and compassion on us. Four o'clock came a war vessel loaded and went ahead of us to America's land. Five and one-half o'clock we first saw the mouth of the Mississippi. We cast anchor and lay there till morning.
Up the Mississippi River
Monday, March 20. We have splendid weather, a little foggy. Saw many birds and fish, especially untold seal and many ships. Seven thirty o'clock came a beautiful steamship like a three-story building and took us in tow. Great relief to our hearts, it is six weeks and three days since we were towed out of Liverpool harbor. We have been about 8 weeks on the ship. We rejoice now to see the end of the long sea voyage. Ten o'clock it left us and another with three other ships and took us along. The beautiful steamship took us and three others and towed us up the Mississippi River. It was grand to see land on both sides. We were but a gunshot from land with land on both sides. It is like a large swamp full of trees. Some large and some small trees are floating in the water. Several light- houses and a town we passed. It is still weather and very warm. Here it is many mosquitoes. We travel easterly higher up the river. We came to small houses and cattle and beautiful green trees. Eight-thirty o'clock all five ships tied up till morning.
Tuesday, March 21. Six o'clock sailed the steamship with all 4 ships. We saw today many nice residences and plantations, 2 forts right across from each other, several good harbors and trees full of oranges; great many wild turkeys. We saw many wolves and ducks and many birds we did not know. The land is very flat but little improved. The water is fresh in the river and runs constantly out in the Spanish Sea. A great many trees float out with the stream. A good deal of it is taken to land. After 10 o'clock we passed a large grove on fire. It looked like a great illumination in the night.
Wednesday, March 22. Six o'clock we began to sail. Last night we had the hardest thunder, lightning and rain that I ever saw. We saw today many beautiful gardens and sugar plantations. Horses were small. We saw cows and sheep. It is a beautiful sight, so level and flat, so green and fruitful it looks with pretty groves on the plantations. Saw we the black slaves at work, 30 to 50 in a gang. On the steamship are 6 blacks. They do the heaviest work. They buy them here for $25 each. Half that we have seen are black. We ran aground but after a couple of hours hard work came off again. We see harbor of New Orleans 3:30 o'clock. Two agents from Zion, Brother Brown and one other, came aboard to get help for us, and brought word from Zion that all was well. They took us to a store where we could buy things. A brother Olsen together with the agent found soon a steamboat that we will take tomorrow. Great many came aboard to us.
Thursday, March 23 We went in the city and bought things for the journey. Powdered sugar is cheap 4 cents lb., rice, 1 cent lb., butter, 12 1/2 cents lb. Two o'clock we went aboard the new steamship. The blacks carried our luggage from one ship to the other. The sailors on the new ship are better to us than the old. The blacks are polite and the folks in the city are accommodating.
Friday, March 24. We got our provisions aboard and enjoyed ourselves in the nice weather about the city to see the many black people, and especially in the harbor we saw many wonderful.... on the ships, especially steamers. The city and streets are not so pretty, but the harbor and the shipping is a delightful sight. It is quite warm here to go about the city. Potatoes are not to buy. They cost $7.00 a barrel. Fish we can hardly get with money. Dress goods are dear. A pair of boots for myself cost $16, but groceries are cheap, such as sugar. Iron ware is dear. Grain is dear.
Saturday, March 25. It is raining so we must stay aboard. The marshals have hard work to get all aboard to get ready to sail. Five o'clock we sailed with the new ship. It was nice to see beautiful meadows on both sides of the Mississippi River with woods and buildings. But both land and water are cursed and for that reason it is very unhealthy. We ran aground tonight and had to have help of another steamship as before, that and ours worked all night and got off at daylight. My wife took sick 11 o'clock this evening with cramps in hands and feet and so hard taken with diarrhea and vomiting and at 2 o'clock the 26th of March, which is Sunday, she could not talk but went quite dark on her hands and feet, likewise eyes and mouth and cold all over her body. She soon got some medicine but did no good. She could not stand to have the clothes on her which we dearly wanted her to have on to keep her warm, but she held her hands in the air as if pointing toward heaven, but now she could not speak. I gave her a little wine, sugar and water as long as she could swallow. Sunday, March 26th, she died peacefully. The ship carpenter made soon a coffin for her and in the evening at 9 o'clock the ship came to land and we carried her a distance in the woods, 10 men, and dug there a grave for her and buried her there in all quietness where she can rest in peace till we see each other again in the resurrection.
Monday, March 27th. Quite early we ran aground but came loose with our own help. There are already three dead this morning. The Lord help and have mercy on me and my children. Note: This is the last my father wrote. The next day, 26th of March, he died and I made an entry in Danish that I will now translate.
Tuesday, March 28, 1854. Now I will begin to write what transpires at this time. Great sorrow rests on my mind. I am now both father and motherless. Today 1 o'clock died my father, calm and peaceful. My youngest sister is very sick of the same sickness. All is now turned over to Christian Andersen and I think all will be done for the best. May all be done after the Lord's will. O, God, protect me and my brothers and sisters. 5 o'clock died my little sister. This evening thunder and lightning very strong and rained all night. 8 o'clock was Father, Neils and Trene buried in one grave by Jens Hansen and Blake a short distance in the woods. Christiana is not well but I don't think she has that sickness so I think she will get well.
This is all of Journal in this little book that has come to me through my sister Maria, who preserved it and gave it to me. I think there was another page or two giving the account of the death of my sister Christiana but I can't find it as the book is in poor condition. Anyway Christiana died the next day, was buried on the banks of the Mississippi River. The bank where Father was buried was so low that water stole in the grave and they weighted the coffins down with logs to hold them while they covered them with earth. We continued up the river (April 1) to Kansas City and camped a short distance from there at Westport where we stopped for some time, perhaps a month. There we got our outfit of teams and made ready for the journey across the plains.
There the measles broke out in camp. I took them and having no care came near dying. I was bathing in the creek when the measles broke out on me and was sick all the way over the plains. In fact I have never got well of that to this day. They left me with a cough and weak lungs. I do not recollect any of the journey until on the Platte where the buffalo were so numerous that they had to corral the cattle to keep them from going with the buffalo. 13 were killed near the camp. I was getting a little better and went to see the nearest one, then asked to go to the river to bathe. They took me there where the water was but 6 inches deep and left me to bathe. I fainted and could have drowned if someone had not seen me and helped me out. I do not recollect any more of the journey till we got nearly to the Valley. When we got in the mountains I could get out of the wagon in the evenings.
There are more writings in my father's book that I do not think best to translate. On a separate page he had account of all the births and deaths. They are in the journal as they occurred up to his death. There had died 46 and after that many more died. I think about half of them that started died. Then there is the expense account, part of it, for Christian Andersen or such part of it as he thought for his best interest, the account of those my father helped, whole or part. I do not know what Father was worth or what he sold the farm for, but I know what he did with some of his means. He helped in whole or in part, Peter Madsen and family, Christian Andersen and family, C. Larsen, $112.00, Jens Jaspersen $300.00. These two accounts in the book, Anna Burk, Peter Johnson's wife and one other whose name I forgot. Pres. Olsen got $100.00 to buy sugar at New Orleans to be divided and paid for when divided and some for steamboat hire for those who were short. I got this from Olsen before he died. None of this have we ever got back except a hundred and fifty dollars from Peter Madsen. I would not care for what went for the good of the company and to help the poor.
Fishing for a Living
We left Andersen, and settled at Provo, I living with Henry Nelson for about two years who made his living by farming and fishing. We fished with hook and line and sold the fish. There were plenty in those days.
In 1856 I went to live with A. C. Wilkins. Worked for my board and clothes. I sold John Wilkins a feather bed for a colt but when it was 2 years old got its leg broke and had to be killed. Then I got 2 steer calves to raise me a yoke of oxen. This was the time of the grasshoppers (1857). One summer I was fishing with a seine at the mouth of Provo River and our principal living was fish. I was sent a loaf of bread made of bran but I did not eat it. We lived on greens, roots and fish. There were 6 or 7 companies with seine fishing.
I had not got strong yet from my sickness of the measles. I did not seem to grow as I ought and it was several years before I could run or take as much exercise as other boys of my age, but I got stronger each year and did not get my growth till 25 years old.Source: Pioneer Handcarts 1856 - 1860 © Steve Pratt