Sunday, October 25, 2009

How are the classes going?

Just finished 3 credit hours (yes, college credit hours) in one weekend - gotta LOVE University of Phoenix continuing education courses! Of course, there IS an outside assignment to finish in the next 3 weeks, but really...

When I am done with this semester, I am buying myself an entire Wonder Woman outfit - complete with go-go boots, lasso, and invisible airplane.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Handcart Trek Pictures

Our son Calvin is on a pioneer handcart trek reenactment with our Stake. In order to go the youth had to be between 14 and 18 years old. Everyone had to wear period clothing and each person could only bring 15 lbs of personal property. They keep their clothing and personal items in 5 gallon buckets and have to pull them in their carts. They are hiking 25 miles over 3 days, camping out in tents, and cooking for themselves. The 200 youth are split up into families of 8-10 youth with each group supervised by a married couple (Ma and Pa).

One of the handcarts from above.

Calvin has been so excited. He got his clothes together and packed, and was even up before my alarm went off at 4 am, ready and waiting to head to the church at 4:30 am on Thursday.

Calvin is walking at the back, farthest right in black hat and suspenders.

DH and I got to go yesterday and help with some of the activities. I was there to teach the youth how to sew on buttons. DH helped them learn to use a cross-cut saw. Others were there to let them try things like milking a cow, making butter, washing clothes in wash tubs, throwing hatchets, shooting black powder guns, playing pioneer games, braiding rugs, splitting wood, etc.

Calvin is between the trees to the left.

Last night they made camp, fixed their dinner in dutch ovens, and then had a dance. They had all been taught to square dance in preparation for the trek.

Calvin farthest right, at back of group.

Today they're hoping to make it to "Salt Lake", and then they'll take apart their handcarts, and then they'll climb back into their vans and suburbans to come back to reality.

Calvin is far right of picture pulling at the front.

It was such a great opportunity for them to get a little taste of the 1,300 mile trek that our ancestors made about 150 years ago.

Calvin, bottom left.

All of these pictures were taken by an Arizona Republic Photographer and published online at

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Pioneer Heritage

A statue commemorating Mormon handcart pioneers on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah

Our Stake (A group of congregations or wards, generally about three thousand to five thousand members in five to ten congregations.) at church is getting ready to take the youth on a handcart trek. My son Calvin is the only one old enough to go. I was telling him about the ancestors that we have who were among the original handcart pioneers. He claimed that I'd never told him the story. So I decided that I'd better put it here, in writing, for the rest of posterity.

"Peder Mortensen and mission: Peder Mortensen never expected to be a Utah Pioneer or a survivor of one of the most infamous and ill-fated handcart companies in the history of the western Mormon migration.

Peder’s livelihood and destiny had been carefully scripted by his patriarchal ancestors. As a devout Lutheran, he made a living as a cooper, shoemaker, and landowner in the village of Harbolle, Denmark, located on the southwest end of the Island of Mon.

Although Peder was a cripple, he and his wife, Helene Sandersen, and their eight children, created a comfortable middle-class lifestyle on the inherited farm from his father’s line.
Their thrifty and industrious lives drastically changed in 1855 when missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Soren P. Guhl and Elder Scoby, visited their village of Harbolle.

Morten, Peder’s oldest son and a biblical scholar studying for the Lutheran ministry, listened to the missionaries with great interest. Morten first thought he could entrap the missionaries into declaring their “Golden Bible” to be a fraud. Instead the missionaries baptized all the Mortensen family members over age eight; Peter (50), Helena (47), Morten (28), Anna (24), Anders (22), Hans (18), Lars (13), and Mette (10). Seven-year-old Maria and four-year-old Caroline were baptized later.

Soon after its organization, leaders in the LDS Church asked the church members to gather together first in Independence, Missouri, then in Nauvoo, Illinois, and finally in Salt Lake City, Utah. Peder and his family responded to the doctrine of “the gathering” by selling their farm and traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark to await passage to America.

During a month-long stay in the Danish capitol, the Mortensen family became acquainted with Scandinavian Mission President Hector C. Haight, who asked Morten to remain in Denmark and serve as a missionary.

Haight, recognizing a hesitance to split the family, made a solemn promise to Peder that Morten later recorded in his journal. “If you will consent to his staying and filling a mission, I promise you in the name of the Lord that you will, everyone of you, reach the land of Zion in safety, and God will protect you on sea and on land,” Haight said.

Morten stayed in Denmark as a missionary and the Mortensen family sailed to America aboard the steamship Thornton on May 4, 1856. Once in America the family traveled by both train and steamship to Iowa City, Iowa where they joined a company of 500 people, 120 handcarts and six wagons under the direction of James G. Willie.

The Willie handcart company is listed as the fourth handcart company to arrive in Salt Lake City as part of a new, cheaper method of people-powered travel proposed by then LDS Church President Brigham Young and financed by a revolving endowment known as the Perpetual Emigration Fund. Wooden handcarts, modeled after carts used by street sweepers, measured six to seven feet long, carried 500 pounds of trail provisions, and could be alternately pushed or pulled.

Still possessing sufficient funds from the sale of his farm to purchase ox teams and wagons for his family to ride to the 1400-mile trek to Salt Lake, Peder Mortensen gave his money to the Perpetual Emigration Fund allowing his family and three other families to make the handcart journey.

Peder, disabled by rheumatism, rode the entire trip on a handcart pulled by his children. Peder’s daughter Mette wrote about the journey in her diary. She described walking to the point of Fort Laramie as “monotonous.” But after Ft. Laramie Mette said, “They cut the flour rations and it began to snow.”

All but two of the ten handcart companies deployed between 1856 and 1860 completed the trail with few problems. The fourth and fifth companies, known today as the Martin and Willie companies, left winter quarters in August 1856, too late to begin a trip across the plains. The blizzard of October 1856 caught both handcart companies west of present day Casper, Wyoming. Despite heroic efforts by company members and Utah rescuers, about 200, or one-sixth of the companies died and dozens were maimed by frostbite and deprivation.

Every member of the Mortensen family survived the journey west without lasting injuries from the cold. Mette wrote she believed their safe arrival in Salt Lake fulfilled the promise they received from Hector C. Haight, Morten’s mission president, and Morten’s willingness to serve the Lord.

On December 1, 1856, Peder Mortensen and his family settled in Parowan, Utah." Morten is my great-great grandfather. We come through his daughter Diantha Elizabeth Mortensen.

(Thanks to for posting this story. I've had a hard time finding it online, so I wanted to post it where we'd be able to locate it.)
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