Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Marie Johansen Syndergaard, Pioneer of the Month - February 2010

Marie Johansen Syndergaard (wife of Andrew Jensen Syndergaard, Daughter of Niels and Christana Johansen)

Marie Johansen was born on June 2, 1850 in Aalborg, Denmark and died April 6, 1924 in Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County, Utah.

Her father and family joined the L.D.S. Church in 1860.  The family left Denmark for America in April 1862.  They came across in a sailing ship, on which there were no conveniences and sanitary conditions were bad.  They were nine weeks crossing the ocean.  She often spoke of the seasickness of all the folks on board.  She and another girl about her own age were the  only ones who were not ill during most of the voyage.  She liked the ocean, the trip was a great adventure for her, aside from being presed into service in caring for the sick.

The family came across the plains in the Harriman Company and arrived in Utah on October 5, 1862.  She walked all the way.  The company was met in Immigration Canyon by some of the earlier settlers.  Mother orode into town, the campaing grounds which were located where the Salt Lake City and County Building now stands.  This was her  first ride during the long journey.  Here they visited with her aunt (Grandmother's sister) and family, who journeyed on to California the next day and were never  heard from again.

The family was sent to Lehi to settle, where they stayed for three years.  At that time, there was still much excitement about the Johnston Army that had camped on the shores of Utah Lake-Cedar Fort.

The family moved from Lehi to Mount Pleasant in 1865.  Here they were really pioneers.  It was a barren country, inhabited by Indians who were hostile to the whites.  They lived in a fort to protect themselves from the Indians.  All work done outside the Fort was done in groups, such as going to meadows for hay, farming, hunting, gathering wood and provisions.
As soon as the settlers were able, they built homes and moved away from the fort.

Grandmother Johansen died leaving 6 children.  Mother had to assume the responsibility of taking care of the children.  She spoke of the terror she suffered nights when all the men were called out to fight the Indians.  One night, Indians came to the window, it was a full moon and she saw them and heard them talking.  The beds were on the floor back in the  shadow where they could not be seen.  She said she held her hand over the mouth of the smallest child for fear  it  might make a sound.  The Indians left without molesting them but that period of time had seemed like an eternity to her.

Grandfather Johansen had been a professional weaver in Denmark, so it was  possible for him to weave carpets, rugs, cotton materials such as tablecloths, etc.  From the sheep, they clipped the wool, washed, carded and spun it into yarn which was made into woolen cloth for suits, men's suits, dresses, children's clothes, wool blankets, etc.  The yarn was also made into stockings and mittens.
In the season of harvesting sugar cane, Grandfather and the boys operateda molasses mill.

He also did carpenter work and made tables, chairs, dressers, beds, etc.  Bed springs being an unknown item at that time, thebeds were  made with round  knob pegsall around the side and end rails, back and forth, cross ways and lengthwise, rope  or rawhide was laced to make a foundation for straw mattresses and feather beds.  The furniture was nice enough to be used even in this day.

Grain was harvested by  scythe or cradle scythe.  The women were inlisted to help  bundle the grain.  There was much waste so women and children gleaned the fields after the harvest.  Mother did much of this helping to provide winter flour for the family.

They also gleaned bits of wool from the brush where the sheep had ranged during the summer and early fall.  This would provide an extra of warm knitted stockings or mittens, or wool bats for quilts.  They died the yarn sometimes into fancy tied and dyed designs.

Besides gardening and raising, poultry, the women made their own soap, lye from wood ashes for softening water for laundry, starch, candles.  Also, the women did family sewing and tailoring.  They did the curing of meats from home slaughtering and from meat from the hunt, rendering of lard and storing food for winter, such as dried fruits and vegetables such as corn and peas, etc.

In the community, there was a tanner  who prepared the skins of the deer.  Mother made buckskin gloves from these skins.  This enabled eht men to do much heavy work during the cold winter months, road building, cutting timber.  Many expressed deep appreciation for this.

She also did fine needlework, eyelet embroidery, tatting,  netting or filet lace, crocheting, knitting (stockings for the family), carding wool, spinning and weaving the yarn into homespun from which warm suits and clothing was made, tailoring even men's suits, and homemade blankets.  she was a leader in every phase of industry and my earliest recollection is of folks coming to her for help.

Marie Johansen married Andrew Jensen  Syndergaard on October 18, 1869.  They were married in the Endowment House in  Salt Lake City, Utah.  She took with her, her two youngest sisters to care for.  To this marriage, 13 children were  born.  She cared for many  more children, sometimes taking in whole families when the mother had died.  Thus, it became necessary for her to spend many nights spinning and weaving, sewing and mending after having done a hard days work.

After the Indians became friendly, they used to camp in our yard when they came into town in the winter to beg.  In cold weather, they made their beds on the kitchen floor and roasted their meat over the fire in the kitchen stove.  They depended on her for most of their provisions.  This was not always a pleasant ordeal but it was better to have their friendship.  Old Santaquin, Nephi Indian Jim and Joe used to bounce the children on their knees and hum weird songs while father and mother finished their evening chores.  It used to take days to get rid of the sage brush smell after these visits.

Because mother was a good cook and always had good things to eat, our home was the meetingplace on Sundays.  The grownups ate and went to church and the children in the neighborhood were all taken care of.  Mother sometimes in a half joking and half pensive way wondered what could be done about saving her, while she washed the pots and pans and cared for the children while the Good Folks Worshipped.

She never attended school in America but she spoke good English, perfect enunciation and read and wrote.  She always said that America was her adopted country and she would learn its language because  it  was her language.  She was a keen mathematician, always figuring a problem mentally before others could write it out and she did this with speed and accuracy.

She had a hard life but with all a remarkable logic and philosophy.  She was a hard and  conscientious worker.  Her motto was "What was worth doing at all, was worth doing well"  and she always managed to do it just a little better than anyone else.  She would never spend time sewing cheap materials.  She had a contempt for shoddy things.

She did her part in caring for immigrants that came.  This was not always a pleasant task because the old sailing vessels that brought the emigrants were infested with all kinds of vermin which made it impossible to make the trip without being contaminated.  This was a hardship to the families who took them in.  The first job being to get them cleaned up.

No one ever left her home hungry.  She fed everyone, a kindness that was too often taken advantage of by many.

Author:  Elizabeth Jensen Syndergaard, originally typed October 22, 1964; 7th child of Jacob John Heidemann Jensen and Elizabeth Hansen; wife of Neil Anthony Syndergaard, 9th child of 13 children of Andrew Jensen Syndergaard and Marie Johansen.

Retyped by:  Carolyn Syndergaard Caddis, Granddaughter of Annie Elizabeth Jensen and Neil Anthony Syndergaard, June 24, 2005.