Oluf Christian Larsen's Autobiography
Autobiography of Oluf Christian Larsen
Larsen, Oluf Christian. Autobiography, (microfilm of typescript) pp. 31-36.
LDS Church Historical Department Archives
In the fall of 1861, a semi-annual conference was held in Christiania where I first had the privilege of looking upon a living apostle. Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich, apostles of Jesus Christ. The president of the European Mission and Charles W. Wediberg of the Scandinavian Mission were present. We had a glorious time together such as never before had been known in Christiania. During the conference I spoke to the authorities about becoming engaged to Emelia. Taking in consideration that I had the opportunity to emigrate in the near future they consented.
After this conference Norway seemed less homelike to me. I now started to work and plan to get money with which I could emigrate in the spring. This was no easy matter as few people were expected to emigrate that spring. I was too proud to ask Emelia's father for the amount necessary for my own emigration. At this time I had not yet asked Emelia's father for her, but I now wrote him a letter asking his consent to our marriage which he never answered. I took his favorable disposition and silence on the subject as his consent. It seemed that every avenue to get money was closed against me as the spring emigration drew near.
When Emelia's father found I had not gotten money he felt very sorry because I had not told him before as I could have all the money I wanted if he had known my condition only a week before. Emelia kept preparing as though everything was sure. A few days before the appointed time for emigrating I was promised money by a good sister from Frederikstad. I immediately wrote President Dorius and informed him. I got answer to prepare myself and come to Christiania at once to help arrange for the Saints who expected to emigrate. The morning of April 12, 1862, the ship expected to leave for Copenhagen where we were to meet the Danish and Swedish emigrants.
The day I parted with the Saints was a day of mingled joy and sorrow as I had become very much attached to the people as they also were to me. We were all inspired with the hope of meeting again as they expected to follow. When I left, arrangements were made for Emelia to meet me at Moss the 12th of April.
The steamer left Christiania 8 a.m. and arrived at Moss about 10 a.m. A lot of boats came out filled with passengers. I stood with an anxious eye in search of the object that almost interested me. It was a happy moment when she and her luggage were safely on deck. I was thankful to God that our time for emigrating had come. The father, brother and Emelia had stayed at Wilberg's overnight and all came out to the steamer to bid us goodbye.
The evening of the 13th arrived in Copenhagen where we remained for two days. I was placed as the head of the Norwegian emigrants and was expected to look after the changing of their money and other business affairs. When all the emigrants arrived we took steamer to Keil via Hamburg by railroad where we went aboard the sailing vessel which carried us across the ocean. It took the ship one day to get ready for sailing during which time we were locating and organizing. The ship was divided into two decks with a row of single bunks on each side and a double row along the center. There were between three and four hundred passengers, mostly Scandinavians. The ship was divided into wards with a president over each. The young unmarried men were in the forepart and the unmarried ladies in the hind part of the ship. I was chosen as captain of the guard [p.31] as we found it necessary to have a certain number of men on guard at night in the various parts of the ship.
This was a hard job as all the able bodied men were enrolled and each should have an equal share of the time to stand guard. The guard was divided into four shifts of two hours each. Some of their duties were to prevent stealing and immorality and to look after the kerosine lights to prevent fire, to help the sick and disabled, bury the dead and to awaken their successors. My duty was to see that the guards attended to their duties and to keep strict account of what was done.
The 19th we were towed down the Elbe River and anchored at the mouth awaiting a favorable wind. A returning missionary, Soren Christopherson [Christoffersen] from Manti, was appointed president over the Saints. We found there were several couples in the company who were engaged and it was deemed advisable that they marry considering the long journey before them. Accordingly on the 20th of April, 1862 there were twelve couples presented themselves for marriage among whom Emelia and myself were one. The same day President J. Vancott who had been among to attend to the organization went ashore to return to Copenhagen. The pilot was taken on board and sails were set for seven weeks cruise across the Atlantic Ocean.
Many varied incident happened on such a journey and the character of men and women were brought the light of day. Some were satisfied under all conditions while others were never satisfied. Some with large families of small children were to be pitied, especially in case of sickness, as there was no dainty food to be had but the sailor's provisions was all. We had quite a spell of sickness on board and I was necessitated to superintend the burial of seventeen person before we reached New York. As there was no rain we were unable to get fresh water and our supply became very foul before reaching shore. At last, seven weeks after we left the Elbe, we sighted shore, the tops of the mountains of the promised land, which made our heart rejoice exceedingly.
When we landed in New York City we were all ushered into Castle Garden, a large amphitheater building down near the battery. Here the doctor's examination took place and we were pronounced free from contagion. The nest day we boarded the train and rolled westward. This was during the Civil War and the railroad companies were not very particular what kind of cars they furnished. All kind of rolling stock was used for passengers. Here was another trial for grumblers and fault-finders because there were no upholstered seats for our use. When they came into a car they were obliged to stay. Now there were no warm breakfasts nor dinners to be had and there was very little chance to buy anything on the road. We at last reached Quincy, Illinois where we took steamers down the Mississippi to Hannibal where we stopped a day and had a rest. Those who had money could also get a good meal. There a train was patched up to take us to St. Joseph, Missouri, where we agin took a steamer up to Florence, Nebraska. From here we were to begin our tramp across the plains.
The church agent who had been working all summer preparing for the emigrants, had not been able to get tents to accommodate all the emigrants as they came in such great number. Some, consequently, had to camp with nothing but heaven as a canopy until tents were made. This was soon accomplished as hundreds of young ladies were set [p.32] to work sewing. This also gave a good opportunity for grumblers. It was very uncomfortable to be out in the hot sun. Then at times drenched in rains as if the heavens opened. Women, men, children, trunks, bedding and clothing were all moved about in the muddy, dirty water. Some were drying, some laughing and others were cursing. The sun would them come out with its extreme heat sending steam and fog heavenward. A general washday then generally followed including also drying and brushing. It seemed that God sent the people something to do to keep their minds occupied.
Our companies were soon furnished with tents but as other companies came they had the same things to endure that we had. There never before had been such a large company of emigrants on the prairies and we had to stay for several weeks. Living on the open prairie under such circumstances was something unknown to the people coming from Europe. It was connected with a great deal of inconvenience for all and suffering for others and was a use for discontent and fault-finding by the faint hearted. The provisions were chiefly flour and bacon with very little sugar. Beef was almost out of the question. We got a very little once a week. Having nothing to do people got restless and some ventured over to Omaha, five miles distance, to seek work although warned and advised not to do so. When they returned to camp they often brought a plug of tobacco or bottle of liquor with them.
Omaha seemed to be, at that time, a resting place for the weary and discontented coming from Europe and the east as well as the apostates who left Utah with the emigration teamsters. These apostles [PROBABLY MEANING, Apostates] were generally loaded with untruths and rumors about Utah and her people. The fain-hearted were easily deceived and captured by them. Several of this class left the camp and stayed behind. The faithful people enjoyed themselves by playing games, singing, holding meetings, etc. In this way kept up a good spirit. The teamsters from Utah then finally came.
Among the emigrants were several who had money so they could buy oxen and wagons of their own. These parties were supplied and organized into companies with guides and guards and pulled off toward the prairies. They had a great many difficult experiences in store which they had not dreamed of. They were entirely unacquainted with driving oxen and most of the oxen bought were unbroken. As young cattle essential for the journey it was a wonder they could make any headway at all. Ropes and men were a requisite and there was more leading than driving. Every day, however, gave both men and teams more experience and made them better acquainted with one another thus making better headway.
High water was the cause of the train not coming from Utah before. A great deal of snow had fallen during the winter and rain in the spring causing the rivers to be too high for the teams to cross. For weeks they had to wait for the water to lower. At last they came which caused rejoicing by both teamsters and Saints. The teamsters being you men they all gave vent to their feeling of joy by yelling, jumping, swinging their hats, capering around and with an occasional pistol shot. This was an unusual sight for the Europeans to look upon. There was a string of sixty or seventy wagons, each drawn by three of four yoke of oxen. The teamsters were ragged and dirty with broad brimmed slouchy hats, many wearing one shoe and one boot of which were often ragged. They had a brace of two or three pistols and a large bowie knife strapped to their waist and carried a 15 or 20 foot [p.33] whip in their hands. Thus they came in a cloud of dust. This was a terrorizing sight for those who never before had seen such a thing. Many different comments were made some favorable, but most unfavorable. Some thought, if this was a sample of the Mormon in Zion the evil reports about them must be true and "God pity the emigrants. Others were more sensible and held forth correct ideal of the condition and said we could not expect a different appearance of men and boys who had to be prepared to fight savages and who had traveled thousands of miles through dust, rain and mud. In this way their appearance was argued in every direction. The young girls especially who had figured on meeting some nice young men from Zion were disappointed very much.
As the company drove up and formed a circle with their wagons and the people were amused and astonished to see the teamster taking their stand and causing by command these long strings of brutes to take their exact places in the circle. It was as good a circus performance for us to watch. In a few moments the oxen were all unyoked and the guards on horseback drove them off to feed. The teamsters then hurried to the creek and washed themselves and some took time to put on a better suit of clothes while the others more anxious hurried to shake hands with the emigrants. They were soon scattered over the camp inquiring for relatives and friends among the company and emigrants inquiring for friends and relatives in Utah. Thus there was talk and chatter in every direction mingled with joy and laughter. Friendship and brotherly love was soon exhibited by all parties. The emigrants soon began to realize that these rough looking men were our deliverers and guardians and expected to carry us through seen and unseen danger across the wilderness to out destination among the mountains. The more we realized this they more they became a subject in our petitions to God. In this way our hearts were filled with love and respect for them so that even their shortcomings were overlooked.
The companies from the west now began to arrive fast, one after another and everybody was busy and especially the leaders. There was no time to stay longer than necessary. The wagons should be loaded and a certain number of person assigned to each. The number was generally 15 with one tent to each wagon. Two or three baking kettles went with each wagon as well as bedding and luggage allowing a certain number of pounds for each person. Those who brought more than their allotment had to pay extra for overweight. New trouble came that emigrants had not anticipated for the luggage generally outweighed the allotment. Everything should be done in a hurry and it was sometimes hard to decide what to throw away. Such things as mattresses, feather beds, trunks, boxes and unnecessary utensils had to be discarded. As many of the Danish people had supplied themselves with many pairs of fine new wooden shoes they had also, to be sacrificed although it was quite a trial to some.
One woman in our company had a spinning wheel along. The neighbor told her to throw it away as there was plenty wood in Utah. The woman cried very bitterly and said if her wheel could not be taken along she also would stay. The woman, however, came along but the wheel had to remain. The day of loading and packing was a busy one. It passed with little friction as the mind of all were filled with anxiety about getting on the road leading toward the mountains. There were near seventy-five wagons in our company. Our captain, Joseph Horn, was an experienced hand on the plains. The day we left [p.34] camp was one of rejoicing as the slowness with no progress for several weeks was very tiring. . . .
. . . We were all eager to get into [p.35] the open Valley and when there on the bench all eyes were directed toward Great Salt Lake City which at that time was hardly visible from that distance. With light, yet tired and faint steps we passed by the penitentiary through Sugarhouse into town where streets everywhere were lined with people to see the emigrants. In the afternoon about 4 o'clock, September 29th, 1862, we arrived on the Eighth Ward Squared, it being nearly six months since we started on our journey from Norway. [p.36]
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