Thursday, June 24, 2010

John and Karen Knudsen

This is the story of the lives of  my beloved grandparents, John and Karen Knudsen by Lucille R. Seely; written in approx 1965

John Knudsen was born October 17, 1828.  Karen was born January 28, 1829

Long long ago in the far away country of Denmark, lived a happy family - a father and mother and two small daughters - four and six years old.  The father, John K. was born in Oslo, Norway, but after meeting Karen and she had to become his wife, they settled in Vaile, Denmark.

John was a tailor by trade, and a good one.  He made a good living for his family.  Karen was religiously inclined but wasn't satisfied with her religion.  In the course of time some Mormon missionaries, representing a new religion, Latter Day Saints, visited their home and Karen became very interested.  It was so clear to her that this was what she had been praying for.  The more she investigated, the more positive shw was that it was the truth.  She tried to get her dear John to go with her to the meetings, but he refused by saying, "these missionaries are just trying to break up my family".

Poor Karen, how very sad she was and how she prayed for the Lord to help her and open John's eyes and heart so he too could see this was the true religion.  Her prayers were finally answered as John began to treat the missionaries with more kindness, and soon accompanied Karen and the little girls, Hannah and Marie to the services.  Karen was overjoyed one morning when John very seriously told her he felt in his heart and soul these missionaries were true messengers from God, and when it could be arranged, they would both be baptized.

After their baptisms they could think of nothing except preparing themselves for the long journey across the ocean so they could be in Zion with the body of the saints.  Their friends and family thought they had taken leave of their senses, but they were willing to face anything that might come for the sake of the Gospel.

It must have been hard to leaave their homeland.  Karen spoke often of her beloved Vaile, where lily of the valley and other beautiful flowers grew wild in profusion.  But the decision had been made, so they disposed of their home and belongings and were soon on their way in a sailship.  Karen was pregnant with her third child when she embarked on this perilous journey.

When about midway,  many of the children became ill and little Hannah was one of these, and after a few days she passed away and had to be lowered into the mighty Atlantic.  What a trial this was for poor John and Karen, but they bore it bravely and I have heard my Karen say that when it came her turn to be called to the great beyond, she would try to find her little Hannah.

Days and weeks passed and finally after riding the calm and rough sea for six weeks, they landed in New York.  The next problem was to get transportation.  They came across the plains in 1864.  A son was born enroute.   The following is excerpts taken from the book "Knudsen Chronicles pages: 104- 115:  The son was John Knudsen, Jr..  Records indicate they were at Bitter Creek, Wyoming.  Karen's granddaughter, Lucille reported, "The day her baby was born, Grandmother mixed some bread."  

After about two and half months on the  trail, the wagon trains arrived in Salt Lake City.  The family didn't remain in Salt Lake Valley but soon settled in Provo where Karen and John again made their living as milliner and tailor.  They wanted to stay because they enjoyed city life, but their plans changed when Brigham Young called them to make their way to Mt. Pleasant, a small settlement in Sanpete County, Utah. 

A fort was built in Mt. Pleasant in 1859.  The inside of the thick walls served as the back wall of each of the living quarters, which were all sixteen feet square.  All their doors and wondows faced Pleasant Creek, which ran through the center of the fort.  A bridge crossed the creek about halfway through the fort.  Close to the bridge was the long, earthen-floored, one room schoolhouse run by A.B. Strickland and Mrs. Oscar Winters.  A huge fireplace in the east end of the schoolroom served for both heat and light.  The same building served as chapel, theater, dance hall, and meeting house.

When the John Knudsen family reached Mt. Pleasant, they lived in one of the sixteen-foot square rooms in the fort.  The exact date of their move to Mt. Pleasant is not known, but John's beginning date of service in the infantry of the Home Guard was 1 April 1866.

Their daughter, Johanna, then six years old, died 14 July that year, and was buried in one of the first graves in the  Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.  Boundaries were later surveyed and changed slightly, so the burial place was lost.  This was a source of great sadness to Karen, who wanted to know exactly where her daughter was buried so she could take flowers.  Their third daughter, whom they christened Anna Johanna, was born in Mt. Pleasant on 8 December 1866.

By the time the final peace treaty ending the Black Hawk War was signed in 1872, many settlers had already erected homesteads outside the fort.  The Knudsen family lived in the fort until John Jr. was about six years old in 1870, so the family was among those outside the fort before the final peace treaty was signed.  Karen gave birth to another son, Andrew, on 21 July 1870. 

Family stories indicated that John Sr. traded their feather bed for a city lot with an adobe house which lacked a roof.  This entry in the book Mt. Pleasant confirms that fact:  "about this time John Knudsen Sr. purchased his city lot, giving their choice feather bed in payment."  Their property was located at what is now Third South and Second west, quite a distance from the protection of the fort. 

John Sr. and John Jr. worked together to cut straight willow, weave them together, and plaster them with mud to make a roof. 

Earning a livelihood on the farm was not easy for the tailor and  the milliner, former city dwellers.  Making the transition from lush, green, rain-blessed Denmark to the dry, thirsty fields of Sanpete County must have been very difficult.  John, Sr. never did adjust to farm life in rural Utah.  He continued to carefully stitch articles of clothing, sometimes seated on a table or bench with his legs folded in front of him in what we would call 'indian fashion'. Most often, he made burial clothes for people in Mount Pleasant and nearby communities.

With young John's help, Karen managed the home and fields.  Native bunch grass and sagebrush had to be grubbed out slowly and painfully before crops could be planted.  Planting, weeding, irrigating, and harvesting required long hours of hard physical labor. 

Karen and John were thrilled when their daughter, Annie, who married Magnus G. Rolph, gave birth to a beautiful, dark-eyed baby girl whom they named Etta Althea.  They welcomed a second granddaughter, Ena Lucille, on 8 March 1890.  This blond, blue-eyed baby was born at Karen and John's home.

However, a tragedy occurred when Annie's third daughter, Anna, was born on 27 September 1891.  Annie probably contracted 'childbed fever' caused by lack of cleanliness on the part of the midwife.  During her illnes, Karen helped Annie in every way she could and also took care of the three little girls.

In her lifestory, Lucille wrote. "Mother was very sick, and Grandma and Grandpa Knudsen stayed close by.  Grandma told me lots of times of bringing me to see my mother.  I climbed on the bed and loved her so hard, and Grandma said to Mother, "I better take Lucille away, as it's too hard on you."  My Mother replied, "let her love me, I'm afraid she won't have me  very long."  "She told her mother, 'you take my little girls, and if possible, raise them together', and Grandma did.  "Our dear Mother hung on for about three weeks, and then the reaper came and took her away."

John and Karen became substitute parents to the newborn daughter and her two older sisters. 

Lucille's remembrances of her grandparents: Karen was a good housekeeper After the beds were made, and that was early, nothing could be laid on them; not even a hat. She insisted on everyone wearing an apron. Then she cooked a meal, her cooking utensils were always washed and put away before the meal was served.

Sunday was the girls' day off. All Karen asked of them was that they attend Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting. If they did this they could go to the depot and see the trains come and go. Really a highlight in their young lives.

above is Karen and John (center front) at the 1914 Pioneer Celebration

John and Karen had five children, but only the two sons lived to raise their own families.  The posterity from the three granddaughters they raised: Etta R. Peterson, Lucille R. Seely and Anna R. Gunderson was much greater than that of the sons.

John and Karen were now getting along in years and Karen often said she was so tired and ready to go to meet those who had gone before.  Thirty years after the death of her daughter, Annie, she passed away quietly at the age of ninety three and was laid to rest beside her daughter and her daughter's  husband Magnus Rolph.  She was buried on John's birthday.

John lived five more years with a granddaughter, Anna and her husband, Vern Gunderson.  He was very lonely for Karen after their long life together.  He enjoyed visiting the Manti Temple, which he helped to build.  He was a faithful tithe payer.

In January, 1926, John attended church and within a week he was also taken home to join Karen.  He was buried on January 28th, Karen's birthday.

God bless the memories of these two noble pioneers and all who sacrificed to make this desert blossom as a rose.   ~ Lucille R;.Seely

Postscript:  In 1966, Ruby Knudsen Wiseman, in doing genealogical research, discovered Uncle Andrew Knudsen was the only child sealed to John and Karen.  Arrangements were made to complete the sealings in the Salt Lake Temple.  Chesla S. Patterson would stand for her grandmother, Annie Knudsen Rolph.  Present were Ruby K. Wiseman, her husband and Chesla K. Patterson.

During the sealing ordinance, Chesla felt the pressure of a loving caress on her hand.  She quietly looked to see from whence it came.  It was then she realized who that person was; and for the first time felt the living presence of her grandmother.  Tears of joy fell from her eyes as she whispered a prayer of Thanksgiving to her Heavenly Father for the heritage that is here because of the sacrifices made by her beloved great grandparents, John and Karen Knudsen.

Another spiritual experience by Ruby Knudsen Parken Wiseman

"After I had been working in genealogy for a while, I was having a rather hard time finding leads to

Grandma's family, so I wrote to her granddaughter, Lucille Rolph Seely, who was reared by her.  I asked what information she had to help me in my research.  She wrote back to tell me about a  little black book where Grandmother kept information of the Temple work they had done, but Lucille felt sure the book must have been lost because she hadn't seen it for many years.  Then, in a few weeks, I received a package in the mail containing the little black book!  A lady brought the book to Lucille in a store one day an said, "This must be your Grandmother's."  "This book proved to be a gold mine to me in finding those of Grandma's loved ones who needed their Temple work done.

"Some weeks later, I found myself waking every morning about two or three o'clock with my thoughts on Grandma and Grandpa.  After several nights of this, I wondered why.  Was it possible they were trying to tell me something?  I spent many hours trying to find the answer.  Then the thought came to me that their older children had not been sealed to them!  Uncle Andrew, their last child, was born  after  they themselves were sealed in the  old Endowment House where, at the time, only couples were married and sealed.  He was born under the covenant, but what of their other children?.... I finally  concluded the other children must not have been sealed to them.  Father was the oldest living child and married in the Manti temple after its dedication in 1887.  Anna, the next child was married in the Logan Temple before the Manti Temple was in use.  The two girls who were born in Denmark both died very young; the one was buried in the ocean and the other died shortly after they went to Mt. Pleasant.  My grandparents probably thought their own sealing would automatically take care of the sealing of their children to them.

"When I made out a family group sheet and put it in the library to be processed and checked, I knew they had made me understand what they wanted, and my nights were not disturbed again.  I am so grateful to know that communication can come through from beyond the veil so important missions can be accomplished.  It was a marvelous experience to be part of this reunion at the time the sealing was performed in the Salt Lake Temple.  As I have done endowments and sealings for their nieces and nephews, I have experienced such a joy in this work, and I have felt their presence and help in many ways."