Saturday, May 7, 2011


Relationship:  George Christian Stephensen and Axelina Marie Petersen are my 
great grandfather and grandmother

George (Jorgen) Christian Stephensen was born 3 February 1833 in Aasted, Hjorring, Denmark. He was the son of Ellen Kristensen and Steffan Jorgensen. Very little is known about his younger days in Denmark but we assume they were happy ones filled with work. His emigration record lists him as a laborer.

George (Jorgen) Christian Stephensen

He married Axelina Marie Petersen, 25 December 1857. She was born 20 August 1836 in Tolne, Hjorring, Denmark. She was the daughter of Karen Margrete Mathiesen and Peter Christian Hansen. Her father died 14 April 1838 when she was only two years old.
                                                             Axelina Marie Petersen
To this marriage was born a son, Stephen, 2 April 1858. Stephen was a healthy, robust baby. Then a lovely little girl, Margretta, was born 14 May 1860, and then two more boys were born, George and Peter. Margretta, and the two boys passed away while they were still infants. Not much is known about these three children.

A son, Victor, was born 28 April 1865 and a daughter, Alvina, was born 19 November 1868. This made six children that were born to them in Denmark.

It was about this time that the Mormon missionaries became very active in Denmark. At the General Conference of the LDS Church held in October 1849, Elder Erastus Snow of the Council of the Twelve and Elder Peter O. Hansen, a Native Dane, were called to do missionary work in Denmark. Elder Hansen arrived in Copenhagen May 11, 1850 and Elder Snow arrived on June 14. Together with Elder George P. Dykes, they started preaching the gospel.

The first baptism took pace August 12, 1850 when 15 persons were baptized by Elder Snow. On Sunday September 15, a meeting was held in the rented room in Vingaardsstraede, and on this occasion the first branch of the church in Denmark was organized with Elder George P. Dykes as president. Membership of the branch totaled fifty.

Missionaries were sent to all parts of the country. Different members of the Stephensen and Hansen families heard the message and were receptive to it. George and Axelina heard it too.

At this time George held a position as constable in the local police force. He and his deputy were sent to break up a meeting of Mormons that was being held. They came walking into the meeting with these intentions, prepared to disperse the group, but when George saw his wife, Axelina, sitting near the front holding baby Stephen in her lap, he decided that they should sit down quietly at the back of the hall and listen. The speakers were two missionaries of the Mormon Church. They were former residents of Denmark who had embraced the gospel and had come back to their native land to preach and convert others.

At the close of the services, George escorted his wife and baby home. Axelina told him that she believed what the missionaries had told them and persuaded him to allow the Elders to visit their home to tell them more about the gospel. As a result of these visits, the couple became converts of the Church and were baptized 25 March 1859.

The first Danish converts to emigrate left Denmark January 1852, another group left in March of the same year and a group of 294 left in December.

Axelina’s mother and another widow joined the church. The emigration records show that Karen Margrete Mathisen, age 64 and Mariane Pedersen, age 70, widows, sailed May 8, 1865 on the ship “B.S. Kimball”. Why Karen Margrete dropped her married name of Hansen we do not know.

George and Axelina must have been corresponding with her mother and an uncle, Sern Thompson, during this period, trying to make up their minds what was the best for them to do. Sern Thompsen and his family had emigrated to Utah in 1862 and Axelina’s mother had emigrated in 1865. George and Axelina finally decided to emigrate, too. They sold most of their worldly goods and borrowed money from Sern Thompsen in order to pay their passage. We find this entry in the Aalborg Conference records.

The ship “Minnesota” sailed from Liverpool on July 20, 1870. From the time, in Denmark, when they had decided to emigrate until they arrived in Salt Lake City, they were under the direct supervision of emissaries of the Mormon Church.

Someday we may find a journal or record that tells more about this journey but for now we assume that the trip was similar to others that have been recorded. On the ships provided by the Mormon Church living conditions were average for the time. The Saints were quartered in bunks and the rations were ample. One ship lists the following rations: pork, beef, peas, potatoes, beans, barley, rice, prunes, syrup, vinegar, pepper, coffee, tea, sugar, butter, rye bread, sea biscuits, water, flour, salted herring, salt, and oil for the lamps. A cook was provided by the ship that some of the brethren acted as assistants. It also said that the meals were nicely prepared in the following routine: Sunday, sweet soup; Monday, pea soup; Tuesday, rice; Wednesday, rice; Thursday, pea soup; Friday, barley mush; and Saturday, herring and potatoes.

Ship "Minnesota" which the Stephensen's traveled on

During the day, the children passed the time playing games. Council meetings were held each night at which time the problems which arose were discussed and plans drawn up for their solution. Sanitation and sickness were two of the main items. Details were assigned to scrub the decks three times a week and the ship was fumigated twice a week. Meetings were held so the Saints could worship and partake of the sacrament and where they could hear words of comfort and encouragement. In the morning and evenings the Saints assembled for prayer and most everyday they would assemble on the deck for dancing and exercise.

                                                           On deck of ship Minnesota 

The ship “Minnesota” was met in New York by Captain Jesse N. Smith who immediately took charge of the emigrants. They made the trip from New York to Salt Lake City by rail, arriving in Salt Lake City on August 10, 1870. The trip took 21 days from the time they left Liverpool to the time they arrived in Utah.

                                                        Ship Minnesota in background

We assume that friends and relatives met the Steffensens when they arrived in Salt Lake City and that they were encouraged to migrate to Levan to settle, for that is where the Sern Thompson Family had gone. We do not know where Karen Margrete had been but we do know that she lived with George and Axelina in Levan when they had settled there.

                                                                   Train cars of the 1870's

The Stephensens were among some of the first settlers in Levan in its present location. The first settlement of Levan was about four miles southwest of its present location. It was moved closer to the mountains to take advantage of the water supply. The first year the Stephensens lived in a dug-out located about where the Romaine Mangelson home stands today. One child was born while they were living there. It was a boy, Martinus, who was born November 16, 1871. George bought a lot one block east and two north of this home and he, with the help of Victor and Stephen, built an adobe house. This consisted of one room with the roof made of willows to support sods. There was a fireplace which supplied heat and a place to cook their food. George also owned the lot to the north of the house; this is where he had sheds for his animals.

When Martinus was about two years old he slipped and fell near the fireplace and his night clothes caught on fire. At the time Axelina was across the street in the shed milking the cow. The little boy was so badly burned that he died a short time later. The house was later rebuilt and consisted of two rooms. This house was also made of adobe. The ‘dobe was made of clay from clay pits northeast of town. The clay was hauled in, mixed with straw and water added by tromping it in with bare feet. The mixture was then shoveled into molds and allowed to dry.

Five more children were born to the couple. Joseph, 10 November 1874; George, 10 March 1876; Martin, 29 January 1879; James, 29 July 1881; and Caroline, 15 August 1884. The couple, as most of the early pioneers, saw extremely hard times. Axelina would glean wheat along the fences, they could hunt deer and usually had plenty of meat and bread. They owned a few sheep. They planted a garden and had a number of fruit trees and several hives of bees and a cow. Axelina carded wool and spun her own thread and wove cloth for clothing. George and Axelina used to shear sheep. The boys often went with them to help. They worked very hard to support their large family. Axelina worked right along with George milking cows, taking care of the animals and orchards. They both enjoyed good health and hard work was a way of life with them. All the children who grew to adulthood were strong, robust people. It is said that George could stand with both feet in a half-bushel measure and shoulder a two bushel sack of wheat with one hand.

Later on, all the boys went shearing sheep almost every spring. There was a large shearing shed down on Meades flat where many herds were brought for shearing each year. Axelina and a woman, Trina Larsen, would shear along with the men for $.15 a head. They worked hard to take care of their family and replay Sern Thompson the money he had loaded them.

George and Axelina went to the Endowment House and had their children sealed to them on 25 October 1875. In Church, one fast Sunday, instead of talking, they would bear their testimony by standing and singing a Danish Hymn. They both had clear beautiful voices.

Axelina’s mother, Karen Margrete Mathiesen, lived with them these years. She was 69 years old when they came to Levan. She had a little room built south of the larger house where she slept. She was a great comfort to her daughter, and helpful with the housework and care of the children. Victor’s wife, Annie, said Grandma Karen Margrete was the sweetest, dearest person she had ever known. She died in Levan, Utah on 16 May 1893 at the age of 92 and is buried by her daughter.

George owned the field just north of the home and there he had his sheds and stored hay. He had what he called a ‘hackle machine’ that was like a large knife in a frame. He used to push his hay in and out it so it made better feed for the animals. He owned a team of horses called “Jane and Billy”. He plowed an area around a homestead northeast of town but for some reason he never filed on it.

According to Inez Sorbe, a granddaughter, in order to file on land it had to go through a Bishop’s Court. The business was very “hush, hush” but it is believed that George and his boys couldn’t raise the money for the filing fee. The homestead George was going to file on later belonged to the Francom family. He did own a field of about 20 acres north of town and west of the highway.

They planted an orchard on the lot where they lived and had a few hives of bees. One day when George was plowing in the orchard he tipped one of the hives over. He was stung so badly he almost died.

Stephen and Victor went to work on the Railroad. Stephen married Ophelia Nielsen (Tillie). Victor was good to the family and bought cloth for dresses for Alvena. Stephen was the oldest son. He was killed 13 July 1889 while working on the railroad. Victor was then prevailed upon to quit the railroad for fear he would be hurt.

Many of the grandchildren remember the orchards, bees, and the good apples. Julia and Jim lived just a half a block away, and Cecil and the other children would spend much time with George and Axelina (Grandpa and Grandma), having breakfast with them. He remembers Grandpa and Grandma saying the blessing on the food in Danish. They taught him many Danish words and expressions.

George died on 17 November 1913 at the age of 80 and Caroline, their youngest daughter, and her family moved in with Axelina to take care of her. One day, when Axelina went to move one of the cows tethered in the orchard, she became entangled in the rope and broke her hip.

Later Caroline and her family moved to Garfield and took Axelina with them. It was in Garfield that Axelina (Grandma) died on 18 January 1921 at the age of 84. Her body was brought to Levan and she was buried next to her husband.

One son, Joseph Hyrum, went on a mission back to Denmark. Here he met his wife, Marie Nelson. She came to Utah and they were married. Joseph said that the spelling of “Stephensen” should be with the “en” ending. The Swedish people use the “ON” spelling and since we are Danish the “EN” ending is the correct one to use.

1 comment:

  1. It is fun to see the train and boat pix. It makes these people seem more real.