Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lars and Bodil Madsen ~ Pioneers of the Month ~ September 2010

Lars Madsen, the progenitor of this family, was born in Svinninge, Osherred, Denmark, on April 19, 1795.  Until he left Denmark for the United States, he lived in the old family homestead and cultivated the surrounding fields.  His family consisted of his wife Bodil Nielsen and the following children:

Mads Madsen                                                    born July 20, 1830

Niels Peter Madsen                                            born September 17, 1832

Anders (Andrew) Madsen                                    born March 3, 1835

Anne Margrathe Madsen                                     born October 29, 1837

Jocobine Madsen                                               born June 23, 1840

Niels Madsen                                                     born August 29, 1843

Lars Christian Madsen                                        born December 29, 1847

At the time the Mormon Elders visited Denmark, the Madsen family were devout Lutherans.  Each Sunday they walked nearly two miles to attend church in Asmindrup.  Among the missionaries who first called upont the family were Hans Peter Lund, Lars Erickson, and T.D. Falstead.  Since Lars and Bodil always welcomed them, they came frequently to their home and by 1854, the entire family had become members of the Latter Day Saint Church.  Soon a branch was organized in Osherred with Lars Erickson as President.

The next year in 1855, Lars decided  to sell the farm, put some money in the perpetual emigration fund,  and emigrate to the United States to join the Mormons in Utah.  The farm was to be paid for in three yearly payments, so only a part of the family could emigrate each year.  Disposing of his property, he sent five of his children ahead to prepare the way for the rest of the family.  On November 23, 1855, Niels Peter, Andrew,  Margrathe, Jacobine,  and Niels, left from Copenhagen to begin the  long journey to America.  At this time Niels Peter, the oldest of the group, was only 23 years old and Niels, the youngest was but 12.  Lars and  Bodil's courage and faith were unwavering as they watched their young family depart.

Some months later Lars, Bodil and Christian, their youngest child, began their journey to Utah.  They arrived in Philadelphia and then took the train to Iowa City, Iowa, where they remained for six weeks, making preparations to cross the plains.  In july they joined a large ox-team company, under the command of Captain William B. Hodgett, and started on the long arduous trip to the wild and unsettled West, where they were to endure many unforeseen hardships.  No doubt they would have reached their destination much sooner had they not encountered along the way a destitute handcart company led by Captain Martin.  They had camped at a fording place on the Platt River and were ready to cross the river when the handcart company arrived.  Filled with compassion, Captain Hodgett's company took many of them into their wagons, knowing the extra load would be a heavy burden for their own people and exhausted oxen.

Towards the end of October, as they neared the Red Buttes both companies became snowbound.  A relief company sent to rescue them from Salt Lake City also became snowbound near Devil's Gate, Wyoming.  When a small group from the relief party finally succeeded in reaching the emigrant company, they found them suffering from the effects of the bitter cold weather and insufficient food.  The temperature had fallen to eleven degrees below zero; food rations had been reduced to less than one half the amount necessary to sustain life.  Stared and weary, Lars, sixty-one years of age, became ill and a few days later he died.  He was laid away as well as could be under the circumstances by fellow travelers at Devil's Gate, near the head of the Sweetwater River and Martin's Ravine.

Leaving a husband and father and most of their belongings at the Gate, Bodil and Christian, on November 9, boarded one of the relief wagons and continued their journey to Utah.  The two young men driving the wagon in which they rode preferred to go down the Weber river and left the main company.  They had to cross the Weber River many times and at places the ice was broken and the horses could not pull the load up the bank so they were compelled to unload and reload the wagon several times.  Bodil reached East Weber on December 21, 1856, ten days later than the company which had taken a more direct route to the Salt Lake Valley.

Learning of her arrival, Niels Peter, who was living in Kaysville, drove an ox team to Weber to meet his mother and brother.  Bodil returned with him to his home (a dugout and a wagon bed), to recuperate for the winter, before the family moved again, this time south to Sanpete County.  Though she had lost a husband and all of her belongings, she rejoiced at being united with her children once again.  In March, 1857, the oldest son, Mads, who had stayed in Denmark to collect the  final payment on the farm reached Utah.  Crossing the plains during the summer months with Captain Cowley's company, he entered the Salt Lake Valley, September 13, 1857, bringing with him a wagon, a yoke of oxen, and another family.

Mads married Ellen Hansen in Brigham City, Utah.  Ellen was the daughter of Hans and Kristen Nielsen.  Mads and his wife, Ellen and Mads' mother, Bodil left Norhern Utah during  the "Big Move" and headed for Sanpete in 1858.

The above biography is taken from the Madsen Family History.

New Family Search records Bodil's death to be 18 December 1883.  She died and is buried in Mt. Pleasant.


  1. Great story! Thanks for sharing online:)

  2. Thanks for sharing the story of my ancestors! This is pretty accurate!