Additional History Information of
GEORGE (JORGEN) CHRISTIAN STEPHENSEN
AXELINA MARIE PETERSEN
(Jorgen and Axelina are Von Christensen's Great Grandparents, their daughter
Alvina Stephensen, my grandmother, her son James Christensen is my father)
ADDITION taken from book “Early Settlers of Levan” by Don Marlin
Thirty-eight year old Jorgen Steffensen, thirty-three year old Axelina Marie, eleven year old Steffen, four year old Victor, and twenty one months old, Alvina, joined a company under the leadership of President Jesse N. Smith, who after a successful mission to Scandinavia was returning to his home in Utah as the leader of 348 immigrating Saints, and from then on their every move was coordinated.
They boarded a ship in Copenhagen, on July 5, 1870, crossed the North Sea, and arrived in Hull, England three days later, on the evening of July 18th. That same night they took a train to Liverpool, arriving there in the morning of the 19th.
On Wednesday morning, July 20th, the company, together with seven English Saints and two returning missionaries boarded the steamship “Minnesota,” which sailed from Liverpool that same afternoon. Besides the Scandinavian Saints there were 350 non-member Irish and German emigrants on board who, however, were entirely separated from the Saints during the voyage.
Although many of the captains and their crews were not L.D.S., none-the-less, when the emigrants boarded each ship that had been commissioned by the Church, the ship, along with its captain, crew and passengers were dedicated to the Lord and instructions and rules were given.
The ship was divided into eight districts, each with a president. People were quartered in bunks and were assigned different tasks for the voyage. Someone was in charge of the singing, which they did a lot of, the dances which were held on deck most every day, the exercise program, games and entertainment of the children throughout the day. A cook was provided but the kitchen workers were chosen from some of the brethren and rations were ample.
The following rations were listed:
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.
Meals were nicely prepared in the following routine: Sunday, sweet soup; (as a note from Von Christensen. I remember my mother, Vera Mangelson Christensen, preparing Sweet Soup which was served cold and I remember contained raisins and fruit in a thickened juice. There were probably other items, but I don’t remember.)
Monday, pea soup; Tuesday, rice; Wednesday, rice; Thursday, pea soup; Friday, barley mush; and Saturday, herring and potatoes.
One journalist recorded:
“The captain chose the route north of Scotland as he thought the colder climate would be better for the passengers. The weather was fair and favorable during the entire voyage. Three meals of warm food were served each day to all. We had preaching and administered the Sacrament every Sabbath and also preaching on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The officers also stood their posts, as men of God, so that all was peace and harmony during the time.”
Council meetings were held each night at which time the problems that 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.
After a successful 12 days, 3,000 mile voyage, the “Minnesota” arrived safely in New York on Monday, the 1st day of August 1870 at 10 a.m., and now “President” Jesse N. Smith had become “Captain” Jesse N. Smith, who continued to guide the movements of the Saints.
Elder Smith, who was in charge of their company, kept a journal of their progress:
August 2nd … was a busy day getting everyone through customs, with the returning missionaries taking care of all those non-English speaking people. They took a train to Philadelphia arriving there about 3 a.m.
August 3rd … At Pittsburgh they transferred again but not until they had slept one night in some poor boarding houses.
August 4th … they boarded the specially marked “Emigrant Train” cars which were more filthy and crowded than the ones they had before. A brutal Station Master started the train before all of the emigrants were aboard and some of them were left standing on the platform.
“Understand that it was terribly hot, and imagine a crowded train under these conditions: There were no plush padded seats, only wooden benches set against the walls of the spring less railroad cars. The immigrants had to furnish their own food and water.
Against one wall in the center of each car were two small wooden closets marked, ‘Men’ and ‘Women’, each of which was nothing more than an outhouse on wheels. Everyone desiring to use the facility looked down into the hold and through the dust caused by the updraft of the swiftly moving car could see the speeding railroad bed below ”
August 5th … they crossed the Mississippi River and at 3 a.m. they chugged into Chicago.
August 6th … traveled through Iowa and arrived at a train depot across the Missouri River from Omaha in the P.M. Crossed the Missouri River on a ferry boat.
August 7th … no trains were moving and it doesn’t record where those weary people slept.
August 11, 1870, Thursday … Theirs was the longest train ever to ride into Salt Lake City. They were met at Kaysville by the First Presidency with another group joining them at Woods Cross. They were housed in the Tithing Office in Salt Lake City until relatives, friends and assignments were all correlated into some kind of order.
They boarded the train the following day and after an uncomfortable ten-day ride to Salt Lake City. (The transcontinental railroad had been completed just a little over a year before, on May 10, 1869, north of Ogden and within a week Brigham Young had crews building a rail line to Salt Lake City.) President Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells, George A. Smith and other Church leaders met the company between Ogden and Salt Lake City, and on their arrival in Salt Lake City the emigrants were received by Bishop Edward Hunter and others.
The trip took twenty-one days from the time they left Liverpool to the time they arrived in Salt Lake, and although the train ride was uncomfortable, it would seem almost incredible and not nearly as uncomfortable as the two-month, 1,300 trek across the plains with an ox cart company, or those who had pulled a handcart.
Most likely, they were met in Salt Lake by relatives from Levan. Uncle Soren Thompson and his family were already living in Levan, and Axelina’s mother Karen, who had come to Levan before them, and probably went to meet them.
The Danish emigrants had a language barrier – very few of them could speak or understand English for a number of years, and for a number of years George was the bishop for the Danish Ward and they met in the Tithing Office. There they conducted their meetings in Danish. Eva Taylor Stephensen was sent to play the organ for them to sing. George and Axelina always sat on the front row. In church on Fast Sunday, instead of talking, they would bear their testimony by standing and singing a Danish hymn. They both had clear, beautiful voices. Axelina was always dressed primly in dark colors with a little bonnet on her head. Wherever Axelina went she wore her bonnet and often came to the Taylor Store with a basket of eggs to exchange for the items she needed.