Ane Marie Olsen – 1861 Trail Stories

Ane Marie Andersen Photo

Ane Marie Olsen was born on 12 Nov 1839 in Lova, Bierre, Soro, Denmark, the daughter of Ole Andersen and Bodil Rasmussen.  After joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), the family left Denmark on 7 May 1861 and traveled first to Liverpool, England, where they joined with other Saints from the British Isles, Switzerland and other Scandinavian countries Once at Liverpool, they went on board The Monarch of The Sea.  Ane Marie was traveling with her parents, Ole Anderson who was 59, her mother Bodil who was 53, her brother Lars Morten who was 29, and her younger sister Maren Sophie who was age 14.  Ane Marie was 21.  . The trip to New York lasted for six weeks.  The Monarch of The Sea arrived in the New York harbor on June 19th, where the company was met by some representatives of the church. The next morning they traveled by boat up the Hudson River and took the trains to Albany, New York to travel to Florence (Omaha), Nebraska, where they were outfitted for their trip across the plains.  They started on their long journey from Florence with eighty wagons on their train, and arrived in Salt Lake on September 4th after a trip of three and one-half months.

Following are selected stories written by her travel companions on their trek across the plains:

Gledhill, Sarah S. Moulding, [Reminiscences], in “Utah Pioneer Biographies,” 44 vols., 11:97-100.

When the baby was eighteen days old we started on our journey to Utah. Most of the company had gone on so we traveled alone as far as Omaha, making the trip by train. It was a mixed freight and passenger. When we reached Omaha, we overtook our friends and from there we were to travel by ox-team. The men, including my father, had to go to the corrals and practice driving the ox-teams, as it was an entirely new occupation for them. The idle men of the town hung around to watch and make fun of them, but the Mormons had lots of pep and soon learned. They also knew they would have to walk most of the thousand miles to Utah, but they bravely undertook the task. We came in what was called an independent company but it was well organized, having a leader for every four or five wagons. We had a hard trip but I never heard my parents complain of it when telling me about it later. I was just passed three years of age when we made the trip, and Ida, my sister was about four and half. Mother was not very well when we started on the trip, having just recovered from the small pox and having the new baby. She was very pale but the fresh air seemed to help her a lot and she too was able to walk most all the way. The covered wagon was heavily loaded and the older ones had to walk to make the load lighter. In our wagon were two large wooden boxes of chests filled to over-flowing with clothing, dishes, father’s tools for his business and numerous other articles. In the back of the wagon was fastened the sheet iron stove and cooking utensils and our food. On top of the chests was placed bedding of all kinds and on top of all this we three children had our living quarters during most of the trip. As little as I was, I can remember the noise of the wagon and the jingle jangle of the pots and kettles fastened underneath and at the sides of the wagon, the dust and dirt from the wagons in front of us. We were so thirsty and the only time we could stop and get a drink from the canteen that father carried over his shoulder was when the other wagons stopped. Everyone had been warned to keep up with the wagons and not stray behind on account of the Indians. When we did stop to get a drink I would always have to wait until my sister had her drink because in England the older child was always favored and came first in everything. I can remember how I would dance up and down waiting for her to finish getting her drink and how thirsty I was. The water was warm and never very good and at times it was terrible because they would have to dig a hole to get it and then it would be muddy. The baby cried a good deal of the time from being bounced around in the wagon so much and we two girls cried in sympathy with him. The meals were about the same and very tiresome, the bread was poor and we didn’t have butter. It was hard to bake bread crossing the plains, they would set up the stoves and probably just get a fire started when a wind would come up and away would go the stove pipe. We children often ate vegetables (Potatoes, carrots and cabbage) raw.

At night they had their times of enjoyments, holding meetings and singing songs of Zion. They even danced once in a while. We girls would get out and play with a little girl in the next wagon who had a set of dishes made of lead. The red ants were so bad and mother often had to strip off our clothes to get rid of them and how they did bite.

When we neared Utah, we came to the mountains and someone passed along the word that the wagons would have to be unloaded as they could not cross the mountain passes. Many of the families threw out all their earthly possessions, beautiful blankets and shawls that were brought all the way from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and other places, but the majority kept their belongings. Six years before, in 1855, my mother’s sisters had crossed with all their possessions and had written back to mother to bring all she could as she could get nothing when she got to Utah. So my parents did not unload our wagon as the roads were not so bad and they really had less trouble with the heavy wagons than with the lighter ones. The men would hold on to one side of the wagon and they kept on the road and the lighter wagons would slip and slide and cause trouble.

We children could only look out of the front end of the wagons and all we could see was the ever present thistle and skunkweed that grew just beside the road. I remember getting such a dislike for them and to this day I cannot stand the sight of the color. I just screamed and told mother how I hated them. Mother used to hate the mountains when we first came to Utah and I guess it was because they seemed to shut her away from her folks in England. She finally became acustomed to them and later on she loved them just as we children did.

We reached Salt Lake City late in September.

Hansen, Martin, “A Synopsis or Sketch of My Life” 

So in the spring of 1861, we were ready to leave for Utah. We yoked and hitched our cows and cattle on the wagon, and a small company of Saints started for Utah. Ole Petterson [Peterson] and family coming with us; we had a very pleasant time crossing the plains. While us children had to walk nearly all the way, we surely had a good time. At night around our camp fires, having all kinds of games, singing songs and telling stories to one another. When traveling along, in the day time, we very often run across berries of different kinds, wild currants, both yellow and black, and also choak cherries [chokecherries]. I remember one day a bunch of us boys and girls made up our mind that we would go barefooted and left our shoes and stocking in the wagons, and lit out ahead of the company. We got quite a long way when we spied a large bunch of choak cherries a little ways off the roadside. It was loaded with cherries. Well, nothing would do but to have some of those bushes which we broke off until we had our arms full. By this time, the wagons had got quite a ways ahead of us and the road took a turn, so we thought we could cut across and head them off and save time. But we had not gone far before we came to a little nole [knoll] facing the sun when one of us spied a large rattlesnake. I laid my bushes down to kill it. Before I could do so, we heard the rattling of snakes all over. We were right in a rattlesnake den and we were all barefooted, but we got away from them all right. But we run into something worse. We run into a bunch of pricklypares [prickly pears] and we sure had a time of our life pulling those prickly things out of our feet and hands and out of one another. We could not sit down to pull them out for fear of getting them somewhere else, places I do not care to mention. But we got back to the road again all right, with thankful hearts.

The wagons by this time had got quite a start of us and it took us quite a while to catch up. We did not try leaving the road barefooted any more. It was some lesson to us all.

When we neared the valleys of the mountains, we met the soldiers of Johnson’s Army returning from Utah on their way East. Then soon after that we arrived in Salt Lake City.

Aveson, Robert “Leaves From the Journal of a Boy Emigrant [2],” Deseret News, 12 Mar. 1921, 4:7.

Another Sad Story

The second story, which is also one of sadness, occurred in the year 1861, while on the plains en route to Utah. One of the families in the immigrant train had the misfortune to lose a child by death. Before the train started early one morning, my informant noticed a man walking slowly along with a dead child in his arms; his wife following him, carrying a pick and shovel with which to dig the grave. They wended their way a short distance from the camp to the edge of some low hills; and after a short pause, the bereaved father commenced to dig a grave. The mother sat down on the grass, her head bored [bowed] down, her eyes bathed in tears. Ah, it is only those who have passed through similar scenes of grief that can fully realize the pangs of sorrow endured by those parents! No doubt it was one of the greatest trials in their lives. While the grave was being dug, the heart broken parent observed his partner through life in great distress and almost overcome with grief. He paused, offered words of encouragement and tried his best to console her, saying: “Cheer up, lass, cheer up. Let us look on the bright side. It is a severe ordeal to pass through. Don’t you remember the elders in our home town telling us that our pathway would not always be smooth, that we might pass through fiery trials. Our child was very dear to us. The last sad rites will have to be performed. We must complete our task. The grave must be dug and the child buried. How often have we sung that beautiful hymn:

“Think not when you gather to Zion,
Your troubles and trials are through.”

And leaning toward his wife he kissed her and said: “Be comforted my dear girl. Let us trust in the Lord—He can all our sorrows heal.”

Then he completed the digging of the grave. They wrapped the dear little corpse in a sheet, covered it in a blanket, and placed it in the new grave. After which the parents knelt down by the little mound and offered a brief prayer, then with tears in their eyes, slowly retraced their steps to their camp wagon.

Summers, Mary Elizabeth Jones, “Life History of Mary Elizabeth Jones Summers Written by Herself,” Upper Snake River Valley Histories, David O. McKay Library, B.Y.U. Idaho, Rexburg, Idaho.

In June of 1861 the Mormon people were requested to migrate to Utah. My parents, with a company of emigrants that had just arrived in America, were loaded on cattle cars and sent to Florence, (now Omaha) Nebraska. They were told that cattle cars were good enough for “you terrible Mormons.” Thus began the long trek to Utah.

I was born while my parents were crossing the plains on the 2nd of August, 1862, at Goose Creek, Nebraska, in the Ox team company of Homer Duncan and Joseph Horn with John Bybee driving our wagon. Next day while riding on a high spring seat the nurse fell asleep, fell to the ground and broke her neck. She was buried at noon, and the company moved on with sad hearts for one of their kind benefactors. . . .

My parents arrived in Utah on the 13th of September, 1861.

Ward, Marjorie, “Mary Ann Hobbs,”Biographies of Pioneers of Malad Valley, #47. 

When we left our home in the old country, I had all of my children with me and was happy, but now I am alone. Dave was my baby when we crossed the plains. We had lots of trouble, many took sick and died. They had to be buried there on the plains with nothing to make their graves but a rock or piece of iron. My baby did not escape the disease as we trudged along in the hot sun. Sometimes we would ride a short distance. My baby was very sick. An epidemic of black measles had broken out. Every day seemed to find him worse, but we never gave up hope.

One day the captain of our company came to me and said, “Sister you cannot carry that child another day, you will have to stop here with him for he will never live” . . . I could not think of doing that, so I knelt in humble prayer and asked God to make my baby well. We went to bed that night and when morning came my baby was much better and I was able to go on again. In a short time he was well. I thank my Heavenly Father for that and other blessings I have received. And never have I neglected to say my prayers since then.

We arrived in Salt Lake City in the fall of 1861 after a long and tiresome journey.