SEVENTH HANDCART COMPANY
by Eugene H. Halverson
"Our mother, Christiana (Christensen)(Pedersen) Twede (5 March, 1835--24 December, 1898) was born in Oudrup, northern part of Denmark. She was a daughter of Christen and Anna Marie Poulsdatter Pedersen.
"Mother lived a quite and peaceful life on the Farm with her parents and one brother, two brothers and one sister having died.
"They belonged to the Lutheran Church of which the Pastor was the village school teacher.
Theirs was a life of peace until the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ came to the village. After hearing their teachings and carefully reading and comparing of their literature with the Bible. She (Christiana) and her mother were converted to its truthfulness. Her father, (Christen) was very much opposed to their teachings. Mother had a little chest by the bake oven where she kept her tracts and books. Her mother (Anna Marie) told her to read and study but to close it when her father came around. This made her sad as she loved her father and did not like to displease him. But as her testimony grew and she received the spirit of the gathering, she knew she must obey its promptings. So she told her father, she had joined the church and was going to America. Her father walked the floor, wringing his hands and weeping bitterly. He told her, if she tried to cross the ocean in a sail boat, she would be lost at sea or if perchance the boat landed, the Indians would then kill her. Her mother promised her husband that as long as he lived she would stay with him, but if she lived longer than he, she would then go to America.
It was in the fall of 1856 that Aunt Christiana decided that she must go to Zion. She left the Bol Farm (father's farm) in Oudrup in the winter of 1856 journeying to Copenhagen. She boarded the ship L.N. Hvidt to Britain 18 April 1857. At Liverpool she boarded the Westmoreland with 504 other converts on 25 April. The ship arrived 31 May 1857 after a five week voyage to Philadelphia and then by train to Iowa City arriving 9 June and leaving June 15th 1857 for their long walk to Utah.
The Perpetual Emigration Fund was exhausted and only those who could pay their way and were in good health would be allowed to go. It didn't say what the ocean voyage cost but the train ride was $12.50 and the handcarts trip cost fifteen dollars.
Disease and the change of diet had taken its toll. Lives were lost both on the ocean and the train. They looked so unhealthy that Council Bluffs sent out officers forbidding them to enter the city. At Florence a vote was taken to see if this group could go on. It was unanimous they would go on. The Company was reorganized under Captain Christian Christiansen with four sub-captains one of these was C.C.A. Christensen. He painted several famous paintings of this Company.
CHRISTIANA PEDERSON STORY;
"My cart not only contained my belongings, but often a sick child. After their days journey the younger women gathered buffalo chips to make the fire to prepare the meal. After which they would gather round and sing a few songs and say a prayer of thanksgiving. They then retired to their beds on the ground. Their rations became low one day the Captain killed a crow that they cooked. The question was asked, "Why don't you kill a buffalo?" He said: "They had to be very careful, if they were to fire in the midst of a herd, they would stampede and kill them all. They had to wait until the main part of the herd had passed.
At night tents were pitched in a circle, with the fires on the outside where they cooked their meals. The smoke kept the mosquitoes away. Until they reached Wyoming they burnt buffalo chips. Aunt Christiana said "At days end the younger women would gather buffalo chips and serve a meal. After they would sing songs, pray and then retire. Sleeping on the ground. A whistle a five was a call to rise and cook breakfast, a song, a prayer, instructions and another day of toil would begin. (Most would walk in wooden shoes or woolen socks, some barefoot. There were cactus, thorns and sharp stones along the way. It was a long 1110 miles.)
CAPTAIN LARS CHRISTIAN CHRISTIANSEN JOURNAL;
"Our rations were very small and I was hungry most of the way. Often a brother or a sister dropped, fainting by the roadside, for our two wheeled carts were heavily loaded. I had to often go back after a hard day's to bring to camp those who had given out along the way. If there were not room on their cart, we younger men had to carry them on our backs. We always carried the sisters, the old folks and the cripples across the rivers. There was one child born and several deaths. There were many graves. There were thousands of carcasses of dead cattle along the way. An old man named Christian Folkman was lost for three days and when found was very weak, having nothing to eat but wild berries. After making camp one night, I was sent for water. The river was a long way off and before I could get back heavy darkness overtook me. I was obliged to stay in the woods until daylight. It rained torrents all night. The next day we ran out of water and men were put to work digging holes in the ground, but no moisture was found.
At dark we came upon a roilly creek. Children were sent ahead to bring water to their poor fainting mothers. I saw men snatch these cups from the children, drinking a swallow or two, then others did the same thing. By the time the cup reached the mother, it was empty. Once we made camp without water and I dreamed of water all night. There seemed to be less rest for young men than anyone else. At night we had to stand guard.
LIVY OLSEN STORY;
"The cart was pulled by my father. It contained not only all our food and supplies but also the buggy in which I took my first long ride across the country. It was necessary to eliminate all weight possible in making up loads for the handcarts. As a result cooking equipment was kept down to the absolute essentials; one skillet was assigned to the use of nine families. Under those regulations each family was allotted to specified amount of time, amounting to so many minutes. At that time they would have to surrender it to the next in turn regardless of the fact that their bread was not yet baked. As a result many times the handcart families would eat bread hardened on the outside and doughy in the middle.
"I was a six month-old baby at this time. My Mother had spent two or three months in the voyage the strain had depleted her strength that her milk for me had dried up. In my hunger I would keep up a low whimper instead of crying. My father would stand this as long as he could and then would push half baked bread dough down my throat.
ANNIE ANDERSON (JENSEN) STORY;
"We had to pass the Johnston's Army that was coming to kill the Mormons. Some of the teamsters were kind and some were very cruel, they had big long snake whips that could reach over six or eight teams of oxen, hitting us in the face. My face was struck and was bloody sore for two weeks. We got up very early in the morning and traveled until 10 or 11 o'clock at night so we could stay ahead of them. Provisions that had been left along the way for our company were taken back to Salt Lake for fear that the Army would get them.
JACOB BASTIAN STORY;
Their Captain Christian Christiansen, was the idol of the company. When offered a horse to ride, he refused saying : "How can I judge how much my people can do or how far they can go when they walk and I ride." At night he would endeavor to keep up the spirit of his company by telling jokes or singing songs, to prevent anyone from becoming disheartened or despondent. Often at the end of a days travel when the roll was called, some would be found missing. Volunteers would be called to search for them, Bastian being young and strong was usually selected. Many times when the company would encounter streams, he with other, men would stand in water up to their armpits for hours passing the woman and children over their heads.
This was the year that Johnston's Army was sent to Utah and they were coming close to Captain Christiansen's Company. One day a Captain from the Army had noticed one of his mules was too sore-footed to travel, and knowing the Mormons were in need of food said they could have it if they came and got it. As Bastian and another man came to get it, a stage from the west arrived. The diver shouted: "News from Utah! The cursed Mormons have massacred at Mountain Meadows a whole company of people, men, women and children. The enraged soldiers came to the Danes saying: "Shall we run a knife through them, or shall we shoot them down like dogs?"
A protector came, Sergeant Anderson, and said, "Are you Indians or what: "Can these poor Danes help what people have done a thousand miles from here?" I will kill the first man who molests them."
At Loup Fork friendly Indians helped them cross the river. Some of the women had to cross on horseback clinging to the back of these half naked savages. The journey from here to Fort Laramie took them almost a month. The road was rocky and hilly. Their food supply was almost gone. The Handcart Company traveled much faster than an oxen pulled wagon train.
The Mormon War or Buchanans War had already started, 7000 U.S. Army soldiers were marching to Utah. Major Lot Smith and his men were waging guerrilla warfare against the Armies supply wagons. The Militia gave the army no peace. In a series of hit and run raids, entire Army Trains were captured and burnt, thousands of cattle and mules were stolen and taken to Utah. All the grass and feed for hundreds of miles was burnt, as well Fort Bridger and Fort Supply that were burnt to the ground. A scorched earth policy like Napoleon faced in Russia. Most all of the Army's oxen and mules died of starvation. Johnston's Army was delayed one full year and almost starved to death in Wyoming.
At South Pass on the Continental Divide, the Company ran out of food again. Luckily they met a wagon train loaded with flour and was able to purchase some of it. A kindly old man killed a skunk to eat but was run out of camp for his efforts.
They reached Fort Bridger before it was burnt and obtained a final supply of food. Just before entering Salt Lake City they were met and were given fresh bread, cake and fruit. The people of the valley made a sacrifice to do this. This was the year of the grasshopper and there was little flour to be had. Weeds and thistles had been part of the table menu for long time. Aunt Christiana arrived in Salt Lake 13 Sept. 1857. They were gaunt, sun-burned and always hungry, but they were in better health than when they got off the boat. A big Swede by the name of Hulberg had pulled his wife and two children most of the way here. Blisters, accidents and deaths had been a part of life. A baby girl was born in the willows by the trail, both survived and came to Utah. Another baby died and the parents returned to Missouri alone.
"It was a backbreaking and disappointing task. Each day seemed longer and more difficult than the last. The afternoon sun was settling over the unmistakable and shimmering surface of what had to be the Great Salt Lake they had heard so much about.
The seventh Handcart Company arrived one day later than the sixth even though they started three weeks earlier. No one knows how many died along the way, some say ten percent that would be 33. The Third and Fourth Handcart Companies were caught by winter in Wyoming, one third of the Saints froze to death. Many more were maimed by the cold. Their frozen feet and fingers would thaw, the parts would simply fall off leaving them crippled for life.
There were 330 saints, 68 handcarts, three wagons and ten mules in our Company, the Captain kept a journal but no log. There is no complete list. The book, Pioneer Heritage, lists her as Christiana Pedersen, 22. Little was told of their entry into the valley. The Deseret News only wrote about the approaching United States Army but they did say "All in excellent spirits, time and cond