CHRISTINE MARIE BERTELSDATTER BIRKEDAL
A UTAH PIONEER
by EUGENE H. HALVERSON
This history will be more like a novel but it is as true as I can make it. I have searched for all the bits and pieces of history, in all the old writings and memories of her. I have always thought it to be quite unfair to only write about the accomplishments of the husband, forgetting about to sacrifices of the wife. During pioneer times especially little of lasting value could be accomplished without the help of a good wife.
Christina Maria and her twin, Zidsel Kirstine were born 11 April, 1825 at Rodding, Fros, Riberhus, Denmark (now called Haderslev, Denmark). They were the 11th and 12th children of Bertel Bertelsen and Maren Jorgensdatter. The tracing of the fathers family gets lost in going back to Sweden. The name is a Swedish name with a Danish spelling. According to the "Rollins Research Report" Bertel is first found in the Rodding 1803 census. Bertel age 22 was living with the Lorentz Haervborn family and working as a servant. Lorentz was a witness to Bertel's marriage to Maren. Bertel was listed as a shoemaker. Life may not have been easy for them due to the number of wars that were fought between Denmark and Sweden with Denmark recently losing most of them. Rodding was a town and a Parish, District of Fros in Riberhus County that was later given to Haderslev County.
Little is known about Christina Maria as a child. She did have some education as was required by Danish Law. Jobs were found for daughters of large families to help the family, I don't suppose Christina was any exception to this. After all a young girl would have to start building a dowry for marriage one day. She learned to cook, make cloth and sew.
Christina and her family lived on the Danish side of the border of Denmark and Slesvig. The site of the 1848/1850 War. A war against Denmark by the Grand Duchies of Slesvig and Holsten and their ally Prussia. We have no records of her father being in either army but he probably was. The last great battle of the Slesvig War was at Isted Heath on 5 July, 1850.
Jorgen Smith (in Treasured Trails) was wounded in the foot in 1849, taken prisoner by Prussia and spent the reminder of the war at a place in Slesvig called Rensborg (Rendsborg) in Slesvig. He must have been released after the war near where Christina and her family lived. It was only a matter of two or three months between the time when these two young people would meet, fall in love and would get married. They were married in the 6th of October, 1850.
How they met will never be known. Here he was either in prison cloths or in a Danish uniform hobbling into town on crutches. And she a 25 year old spinster. Anyway they did fall very much in love and got married. In time they had Four children born to them in a place called Nyby, Ribe county, Denmark, a place near where Christina was raised. Their first child was Theldren Maren (Mary) born 28 July 1851, then Christian 6 Feb. 1853, Bertel Birkedal 18 Sept., 1855 and Maria 22 March 1857. I have yet found Nyby or the Parish nor the records there.
The Elders of the Mormon Church contacted the Smiths and in time were converted to its beliefs. Jorgen believed in this and would do his share, everything the Church asked of him he would do, no matter how difficult his calling might be. And on 22 February 1854 Jorgen and Christina joined the Mormon Church. He served as one of its missionaries in Denmark until he immigrated in 1857. The Missionaries were telling them to leave this Old World and all its troubles "Come to Zion, help us build a City for God", here we can live as brothers and sisters. When Jorgen's mother Maren heard he was going to America, she came to him, cried and tore at her hair. "You're going to live with those wicked Mormons," she cried. Polygamy had already made the Mormons very unpopular with the rest of the world.
They came to America on the Tuscarora, the six of them, Jorgen Smith, Christina Maria Smith, Maren Smith, Christian Smith, Bertel B. Smith, and Maria Smith. After a five-week voyage arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the third of July. Shortly after they were on a train going to Burlington, Iowa.
Baby, Maria who spent two months of her four months of life traveling got sick somewhere along the way and died. Maria died 16 July 1857, within days after arriving here. Then Christina lost another child two weeks later. Bertel died 31 July, 1857. Her heart must have been breaking. We know nothing about the conditions that they endured here. They were waiting and hoping for transportation to Utah. A year later, on 22 September, 1858 Christian, 5 years would die. Kate B. Carter said, times were hard and the immigrants suffered from the lack of clothing and food. We don't know what Jorgen did for a living here in Burlington or in Leharp, Illinois where Susane was born on May 30, 1859.
In 1861 the Mormon Church had very little money to bring the many immigrants to Zion but they had many wagons and oxen in Salt Lake City. So, many young boys were given a calling to go after them. They were the "Down and Back Boy's". These young boys brought over 20,000 Saints to Zion. They considered it an honor to serve. Jorgen also received his calling to be a Down and Back Boy, his calling will be told later in this story.
They came to Utah in the Spring of 1861. To Salt Lake City and then on to Springville where they were sent to Fountain Green. Fountain Green wound claim the life of another of their children, two year old Susane died 17 June 1861. The journey to Zion was a terrible experience for Christina. Only one child, Mary, the oldest survived; four of her children were buried here and there along the way.
Another child was born a few months later here in Fountain Green on September 13th 1861. He was named Jorgen (Jack--John) after his father. While living in Fountain Green Jorgen accepted a calling to bring more immigrants to the Territory. Christina was left alone to care for her two children for at least four or five months. Artie Smith Taft wrote, "The men were told by Brigham Young that if there were widows or girls old enough to marry, they should marry them. This was when he married Mette Maria Wilson and Wilhelmine Pedersen. Artie also said that, "Grandfather said that Christina Maria and he (Jorgen) were separated over little difficulties with his third wife. (Mette Marie).
Christina was dreading something like this, so, when he introduced them to her. Christina said "If she comes in one door, the children and I will go out the other." And they did. Each child carried a bundle of clothing on the end of a stick like a hobo in Huckleberry Finn carried. She didn't know what to do or where to go. She planned on asking her parents in Denmark for help but she was about to become a mother again. This would be my wife's great grandmother Christena Marie (Stena) was born one month after she returned, on March 22, 1863. Still suffering from the lose of her children, all buried here and there she now had to face losing her husband. This was so unfair, she knew she was no match for a little slip of a girl who was only half his age. Three wives in a one or two room house must have been quite an adjustment. What once belonged to Christina was no longer hers. Even Jorgen must have felt some discomfort with one wife older than he, one wife who thought he no longer wanted her and another wife who dreamed of having a young handsome husband of her own. Most all the farms here were taken up by other settlers so he along with other men began looking to the south, in unexplored areas of the Territory.
So, in January, 1864. Jorgen Smith with ten other men came to Richfield looking for good land and water for a new settlement. By spring he loaded up most all he owned in his covered wagon and his two new wives off to Richfield to build a new home. This left Christina and her three children feeling like he had forgotten them. It must have been a terrible time to be left all alone, wondering if she would ever see him again. The Indians were restless and were soon on the warpath, the Blackhawk Indian War was on and many terrible things were happening, stock being stolen and setters being killed.
Jorgen didn't forget Christina and he visited when he could but it was hard. Christina in Fountain Green gave birth to twins. Wilhelmine and Caroline on 11 May 1865. But it wasn't until the spring of 1867 that they were brought to Richfield with the others. Christina and her children were very happy to be here with the rest of the family. It was crowded but there was a wooden house and a rock house. Ethel Taft Peterson said, "The rock house had stairs built on the end of the house so that they entered the attic from the outside for more bedrooms."
Everything Christina owned was old and ragged and there were no stores in Richfield. But Warren Snow had brought a wagon load of store boughten cloth to Glenwood. Her daughter , Mary who was now 16 desperately wanted a dress made from this calico cloth. But their was a war on. It had been going on for two years now. Brigham Young had forbidden travel between settlements unless they had an armed escort. Ignoring the rule Christina gave Mary her permission to accompany their neighbors, Hans Peter Petersen and his wife, Amalia, to Glenwood early in the morning of March 21, 1867, without an escort. As the wagon was going over a small dugway at Blackridge, they were spotted by the Indians. Chief White Horse (Shena-Vegan), the cruelest and most daring Indian in the Territory, was herding stock he had stolen near the river. The three were killed and terribly mutilated. We have a story about Mary and the Blackhawk War. Christina would blame herself for letting Mary go for as long as she lived. How did she ever survive the agony of losing Mary and being driven from her new home by a large scale attack by the Indians. Rye tells of her father's (Jorgen's) premonition at the time of the massacre. As he lay on the bed he said, "Something has happened to Mary, I can see her slumped on a horse and someone is holding her". This was the way she came home. Mary is buried in the old Richfield Pioneer Cemetery West on Center Street where the football field and tennis courts are. Christina seemed to just fall apart, she felt the mother's guilt of allowing Mary to go off with the Petersen's.
The war was all around them settlers being shot and farms being sacked and burned. Jorgen a captain in the Richfield Militia was not only responsible for his large family but also for the defense of Richfield. Brigham Young now ordered the complete evacuation of Southern Utah. The families were scattered and taken north. The Smiths went to Ephraim. Now their were three wives and children living out of the back of a covered wagon. This was where Christina gave birth to her last child, Joseph, June 6, 1867. They later moved back to Fountain Green to live until the war ended.
The war ended four years later in 1871 while living in Fountain Green. Christina would lose another child here. Caroline died while they lived here. She was one of the twins who was born here four years ago. Her sister was Wilhelmine. Caroline I'm told was hungry and went into the fields looking for something to eat. She thought she was eating a bulb of a sago lily, but the bulb was from the Pioneers called a "False Sago Lily". Caroline died 29 April 1869. Both she and her sister Susane are buried in Fountain Green in still unmarked graves.
In 1871 the Smiths moved back to Richfield to their old home. The Indians had left everything alone and it was just as they had left it. The settlers planted their crops and waited for a prosperous year. The town was growing as never before. Then came the grasshoppers, wave after wave of them. The farmers tried to crush them with large rollers and with fire, but nothing worked to stop this terrible scourge. Families were reduced to near starvation. They had nothing to sell. Clothes were made from tents or wagon covers and it was common to see men attending church in buckskin clothes. Those who had spinning wheels spun and wove cloth. The Smiths were better of than most. But with the coming of the United order everything was given to the Church.
The ladies did seem to get along most of the time. At times they were very fond of each other and at other times jealousy raised its ugly head. In those days a feather tic was given to the wife who was sleeping alone. After sleeping on this feather tic for two long weeks, Christina picked up the old tic, opened Mette's door and threw the tic at her and said "Here's the tic, I want my man."
Christina owned a copper tea kettle that began leaking. Jorgen who was an excellent tinsmith took it away to repair it. When it didn't seem to ever come back, she asked him why he didn't bring it back. He said Mette wouldn't let him. She grabbed him by his beard, pulled him off his chair, and all around the room. The kettle came back. We will talk about this kettle later in the story.
All of Jorgen's children were required to begin working outside the home. His oldest son, Jorgen, age ten was sent to Monroe to work in the home of the father of George Hunt. Wilhelmine worked in the home of Jim Peters. The children, because of the times and conditions, received little education.
Wilhelmine died in 1882 at age sixty-five. She was a wonderful woman and became a friend to all who knew her. For one who was well-educated and used to servants, she adapted well to her new life style and harsh living conditions. She used her wealth to pay the passage for many emigrants, for her church and to help her husband. All their cattle, had been lost to the Indians at Richfield. Family history saved by Lars Peterson said she left Jorgen well fixed.
Polygamy had been outlawed by Federal Law and these laws were now being enforced. Jorgen couldn't live in the same town with two wives anymore. He had to leave and take one wife with him. Christina knew that it wouldn't be her, her children were raised and Mette's children needed a father. But it still hurt to be cast off like an old shoe. Christine was given the house and one-third of all Jorgen owned. but that didn't help. Christina's life was never an easy one, only four of her ten children lived to be adults. The hardships of pioneer life had killed six of her children. She never accepted polygamy, but tried to make the most of it.
After enduring all this she had to watch her husband go off with another woman. Ethel Taft Peterson said, "When it was time for Jorgen to leave, Christina walked up to Jorgen, looked him in his eyes, then put her hands on his chest and gave him a push, "Go, she said, "Take her and go, don't come back." Then she picked up her copper kettle and said, "Here, take this with you, Go".
All of Christina's fears had now come to pass. Her husband was gone and she loved and missed him very much Her oldest son, Jorgen and her daughter Wilhelmine, had left for New Mexico. Jorgen had taken her youngest son, Joseph with him.
Christina was left in the care of her daughter, Stena and a couple of Mette's daughters, Maria (Rye), Mary (May), and Dena. These girls married at an early age.
Christina's daughter, Stena and her husband, James Nielson lived nearby, their daughter May who was now thirteen would care for her grandmother. May tells how her grandmother in her loneliness would often cry at night. She also tells how Christine accepted going totally blind. Recently I found an autobiography of May's husband, Peter Fredrick Jones, he said, "I met May Nielsen while playing at dances at Spring Glenn, she was living there with her Grandmother who was blind. She had five brother's who I had to fight to show them my intentions were honorable. I know Christine lived in Spring Glenn and before that possibly Winter Quarters with the Nielsons because May was there and May was always with her Grandma.
May took her two grandmothers to a musical concert. One grandmother could see the performers with their fancy clothes and beautiful instruments, while the other, (Christina) was enchanted with the sound of the music. After telling each other what each had heard or seen, they argued who was the better off, the one who could see or the one who could hear.
Life was hard and lonely for Christina, she became very ill for awhile and even lost her memory. May Nielson Jones tells of how she used to cry and feel so depressed and lonely. Her death was slow and sad. But she did become well again, her mind was keen. She would sit at her spinning wheel and sing Danish songs and she would take her knitting wherever she went. Christine was always clean and neat and seemed to enjoy herself when and where she could. She would make noodles when eggs were priced low, they were hung on the clothes line in a flour sack to dry. She was remembered for her Danish Dumplings and delicious puddings.
Spring Glen must have been good to Christina but she had to returned to Richfield in about 1898, without money or means to care for herself. Her son-in-law James Nielson whom she was living with had gambled away all of his property in Richfield and Spring Glenn leaving the family near poverty. Somehow Christina must have asked Jorgen for help at this time. This is when Mette Marie buys the rock house from Jorgen and Christine for $500.00. All three of them sign their names on the deed in the Wayne County Court House 10 May, 1898, witnessed by H.M. Hansen, County Clerk. I believe Christina would only receive a portion of it but not many men would give help and money for a wife who he had already divorced and settled with. I believe he still loved her and the Christina knew it.
She was 75 years old when she passed away on 28 December 1900 and was buried in Richfield Cemetery as Christina Maria but a granddaughter (I am told by the Taft's) took up her headstone and replaced it with one bearing her twin sister's name, Fidsel Kirstine. This was done in the 1930's, now this stone being replaced by the Taft family with a Christina Maria stone again.
Due the genealogy mix-up Christina Maria not only suffered in life but in death as well. I believe that she must have known that the stories, genealogy and the sealing would eventually be corrected. This is something that the family has been fighting over this for at least 60 years now. A fight between those who personally knew her and those who believed in what Hans N. Ogaard brought back.
There are many records showing that Christina Marie was his wife.
#1--The Tuscarora shipping records page 6 in Treasured Trails; written as Christina M. Smith.
#2--Jorgen Smith's handwritten records page 26 in Treasured Trails; He wrote it as Christine M. Berkedal.
#3--A letter from Genealogical Society, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 11 July, 1966. (a partial reprint of letter)
Dear Sister Davis;
For your information we are sending a card for Christina Maria, which is her self endowment card, her sealing to Jorgen Smith is recorded and also the witnesses. Furthermore, as no sealing cancellation has been found and this marriage was performed while both parties were alive, this marriage will have to be accepted---etc..
#4--Her name was written as Christina Maria Smith when she was married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah, 10 May, 1898.
#5-- She signed her name as Christina M. Smith on Warranty Deed #360. The first line reads; "Jorgen Smith and Christina M. Smith his wife, grantors of Notom, County of Wayne, State of Utah, hereby convey and warrant to Mette Marie Johnson, grantee--etc."
#6--Mack Taft said, "The proof is on films, M 183395, and H 90076 in Church Records but you must have a Temple Recommend to see them." He said, "Ardella was to young to know her Grandmother personally as Mother (Artie) did." Right now in the Genealogy Archives Jorgen is supposed to be married to four wives and that is ridiculous, Jorgen knew who he married. His first three marriages were performed while all parties were still alive. The last was after all had died and was in error.
Christina Maria Bertlesen Birkedaul; Sealed to Jorgen Smith 16 August, 1862 by W. Woodruff, witnessed by D.H. Wells and S.L. Sprague, (Endowment House Book D Sealing, page 95, number 4967).
Metta Maria Villardsen; Sealed to Jorgen Smith 21 February, 1863.
Wilhelmine Petersen; Sealed to Jorgen Smith 30 January, 1864.
Zidsel Kristine Bertlesen Birkedaul; Sealed to Jorgen Smith 26 April, 1937 by Ardella Smith Davis.
#7--Ethel Taft Petersen has provided the following Richfield Cemetery records page 52 and 53 states; Christina Maria Smith, buried 29 December, 1900, lot 10, block 3, born 1 April 1824, Denmark, died 28 December, 1900 of old age, general debility. Today the stone at cemetery lists her as Fidsel Kristina Smith, wife of Jorgen (Richfield Monument 896-4031 or 896-5290). Ethel said, "This is an old stone, but not a 1900 year old stone. I suggest someone else had the small flat black granite stone placed later." Ethel also said, "I have seen her death certificate with her name written as Christina Maria witnessed by her daughter Christena Marie Smith and her husband James Nielson but I can not find it now." The Fidsel stone is now being replaced by one with Christina Maria Birkedaul Smith by the Taft families.
#8--The Nielson records states; Christina Maria named her daughter, "Christena Marie Smith" after herself.