Thursday, March 22, 2007

Serena's Trek West

Serena's Trip To Utah on the ship “Benjamin Adams”

Serena (Tarjer Serene Torjussen) was born and raised in Nipe, Norway. She was educated at home by a traveling teacher for all but her last year. For a year she commuted two days a week to a Lutheran school in Risor, eight miles away. Serena tied for first in her class. At age 16, after being confirmed in the Lutheran Church, she permanently moved to Risor, beginning work as a maid. As a maid Serena met Captain Evenson. She married Henrik Evenson at age 18. Together they had five children. Henrik, and one child died at age 3 1/2, before Serena and her four children left for America, a place that she had dreamed of since childhood.

Another ship, the "Jesse Munn" transported about one- half of the Danish Mission emigants, a ship that two of Serena's daughters, Serena Andrus and Annie Francis reported that their mother had traveled on. Whichever ship Serena sailed, her ship left Liverpool, and arrived in New Orleans. with daughter Marie, age 3, dying in route, and buried at sea. The "Benjamin Adams" passenger list marks Marie's death as taking place in March, 1854. The "Jesse Munn" did not list its passenger deaths.

The large three-master Benjamin Adams,, hailing from New York, was built with three decks, a square stem, and a billethead. Among her owners were the Drummonds, including the master, Gilbert C. Trufant, William Tapscott, and George B. Cornish- all prominent in the Yankee sea trade. After fourteen years of service the Benjamin Adams was lost at sea in 1866.

Shortly after the organization of the Mormon Church, the Missionary system spread to all parts of the world. In 1850 the first Elders were sent to open a Mission in the Scandinavian countries. Elder Erastus Snow. President of the Mission arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark June 14, 1850. The Elders immediately started preaching the gospel to these people. Numerous converts were soon made in Scandinavia, especially Denmark.

Serena's husband Henrick Evenson was 4th man to join the LDS Church in Norway, Serena was the first woman to become a member in Norway with Henrick and Serena being baptized on 25 Jun 1852. They planned to join the rest of the Saints in Zion but the week they were to leave his ship (of which he was the captain) sank and he was drowned within sight of his home.

Henrik lost his life when his ship sank, on the way back from England, just before his planned departure for Zion. All that Serena received back was his coat, watch and chain, which was made from her hair, woven with golden threads. Serena kept the chain until her death.

A parallel existed between Henrick's tragic death, and Serena's life. Both were on sinking ships. Serena's daughter Serena Andrus reported that her Mom's ship was sinking on the way to England. She was sitting calmly, knowing the Gospel would save her. "Woman, are you crazy? Don't you know that the ship is sinking?" Serena smiled and hummed her tunes saying, "If there is anything to my religion, there is everything. I am not afraid, what good do you people do, running around getting into each others' ways?"

Serena Andrus and Annie Francis' story goes on to detail how few personal items that their mother was able to transport to Utah. Serena was required to leave quilts, bedding and much more in New Orleans, and other points before reaching their wagon train's jumping off point. Due to Serena's trek west, and her memories created from it, she always assisted new arrivals to Spanish Fork, taking them in, and others as well, as she was assisted in those early days. Serena was always a very giving person.

According to the history of Denmark the newly converted Saints had been much persecuted by the political actions of others. LDS members were made subject to all manner of poor treatment, so they were very glad to leave for Zion, passing through hostile ports of call. The first Company of 300 Danish Saints (which likely included Serena and her children) left their homeland from Copenhagen on 20 December 1852. The voyage over the North Sea was rough and uncomfortable, but they finally arrived at Liverpool, England in the forepart of January, 1854. Elder Hans Peter Olsen, a missionary resuming from the island of Bornholm, presided over the emigrant company. After landing at a Port along the coast of Germany on January 1, 1854, they took passage on the steamship Eideren by way of Kiel, Gluckstadt, and Hull, finally docking at Liverpool (England).

After they arrived at Liverpool additional misfortune overtook them. As the emigrants boarded their ship (the Jesse Munn would make sense here, since it left on Jan 3, though the Benjamin Adams was cited) an examining physician declared fifteen unfit for the voyage and would not permit them to sail with the rest of the company, with the understanding that they would be sent on to New Orleans when there were fit to travel. (Serena may have been in this group of 15, if so the problem of Serena Andrus and Annie Francis' report would be resolved.) During the two-week wait to leave for America, the greater portion of the children in the company were attacked by a fever: twenty-two of them died.

On January 22, the second half the group went aboard the ship "Benjamin Adams" with Hans Peter Olsen in charge of the 384 Scandinavian Saints, together with a 14 Germans, 12 Swedes, 48 Norway, 11 England, 60 Ireland, 3 Scotland and 282 Demark. Under the command of Captain John Drummond the full-rigged Benjamin Adams sailed from Liverpool on 28 January 1854. According to the day by day account of Rasmus Nielsen (which is recorded in Vol. 10 of the book, "Pioneer Heritage"), who was one of the Danish emigrants, describes the sea voyage as quite a pleasant one, with the exception of some sickness. The food was plentiful and good. Church meetings were held regularly to give courage to those who were weak in the faith and to stimulate the faithful ones. Although the fifty-three-day passage was described as "very pleasant and prosperous," there were eight deaths (two elderly adults and six children), two births, and nine marriages. Among the six children who died was Serena’s daughter Tomine Marie. The vessel arrived at New Orleans on 22 March. They were 53 days in crossing.

On March 13, the "Benjamin Adams" neared the mouth of the great Mississippi River. They had a little difficulty in landing owing to fog and other conditions, but on March 22 they docked at New Orleans. The were amazed at all the strange sights, especially the selling of the Negro slaves, some for $25.00.

Just before any ship arrived in New Orleans, the passengers were told to look out for thieves who would board the ship posing as friends of a passenger in order to gain access to the belongings that were still below decks. Four men would be stationed to guard each hatchway with instructions to let no one but passengers go below. They were kept busy, for there were always a number of thieves doing their best to get by the guards.

Unfortunately, many of these faithful people were not permitted to reach Utah. From "Treasures of Pioneer History," (page 14) "of all the companies which crossed the plains in 1854, the Scandinavian Saints suffered the most with cholera; yet the mortality had been even greater among them while journeying up the rivers on the steamboats and while encamped near Westport, than after they got fairly well out on the open plains. Scores of emigrants succumbed to the disease, and many were buried by their surviving relatives and friends, without coffins. So great was the mortality among these saints from the North that of the 700 souls who had sailed from Copenhagen the previous winter, only 500 reached the place of their destination."

On the 25th of March, the company continued the journey from New Orleans by the steamboat. "M. Kennet," and arrived in St. Louis, Mo., on the 3rd of April. During the passage up the river considerable sickness prevailed and fourteen more of the emigrants died. From St. Louis where many members of the Church resided at that time, the emigrants continued the journey up the river April 5th, to Kansas City, where they arrived April 10th.

A Welsh Saint, Joseph Evans, recorded his impression of this trip up the river:

"We stayed in New Orleans a few days to get ready to travel up the river again. About the last of March we started for St. Louis in a small steam boat and we was crowded. Now we are going, yes faster and faster. The steam boat a puffing and snorting and pushing hard against the stream. But oh, what a dirty water for us to use. We dip it up for to settle it, but it don't get much better. Never mind, we will do the best we can with it. I must drink it, anyhow, because I am very thirsty. And what a rackity noyes it made me shudder. The Captain a shouting and the watter a splashing and the band a playing and some of us singing and some of the sister a washing and the babs a crying And the sailors a talking and many of them a smoking and all of us trying to do something and the boat a tuging and snorting when traveling up the Missouri river also the Mississippi. Indeed it was a great site to us to see such forest of timber and land. What a wonderfull stream this is -- going in such a force, takeing down some very larg logs. They some times strike the boat with tremendous blows, but we got through all right. We got to St. Louis about the 10th of April 1854. And we was glad to get there. But what a dirty looking place this is to be shure."

A few days later they joined the first LDS company that had crossed the Atlantic in the "Jesse Munn", it leaving Liverpool on Jan 3, 1854. Serena and her family met in Westport, now a part of Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, had been selected as the outfitting place for the Saints who crossed the Plains that year, and the Scandinavian emigrants made their encampment near Westport, situated a short distance south of the Missouri River.

After merging with the "Jesse Munn" company from St. Louis, the two companies were amalgamated and organized for the journey across the Plains, May 9th. Hans Peter Olsen was chosen leader of the amalgamated company and Christian J. Larsen as chaplain, while Bent Nielsen was chosen wagon master, Jens Hansen camp captain and Peter P. Thomsen captain of the guard. The company, which consisted of sixty nine wagons, was divided into six smaller compares with ten or twelve wagons and a captain in each company. To each wagon were attached four oxen and two cows.

There were also in the company a number of reserve oxen. From ten to twelve persons were assigned to each wagon. Elders Carl Capson, Anders Andersen, Peter Beckstrom, Jens Jorgensen Anders W. Winberg and Valentine Valentinsen were appointed captains of the six divisions. Oxen, wagons, tents and other traveling equipment which the emigrants bought in St. Louis and Kansas City or vicinity, cost more than had been expected, on account of which a number of the emigrants ran short of means all were unable to furnish a full outfit. The more well-to-do, however, among whom we might mention Bro. Bent Nielsen from Sjaelland and Peter P. Thomsen from Falster, contributed freely of their means, 80 that none were left in the States through lack of money. Toward the close of May, another camping place was chosen about eight miles west of Kansas City, from which place the emigrants commenced their long journey over the Plains on Thursday, June 15, 1854. There were only 69 wagons to haul the needed supplies for this large group of people; consequently most of them walked, and they could make just as good time as the slow oxen.

This company of emigrants traveled over a new but shorter road than previous companies had done. After traveling about twenty miles from Kansas City, a halt was called because nearly all the teams were too heavily loaded, owing to the fact that the emigrants had taken too much baggage along, contrary to instructions or counsel given. At the suggestion of Bro. Olsen some of the brethren went to Leavenworth City, about thirty miles from the camping place, to consult Apostle Orson Pratt, who, in his capacity of emigration agent, had located temporarily in said city. Elder Pratt advanced the company sufficient money to buy fifty oxen, after which the journey was continued. A few days journey west of Fort Kearney the company, on the 5th of August, met Apostle Erastus Snow and other Elders from the Valley who had been called on missions to the States. Elder Snow held a meeting with the Scandinavian Saints and addressed them in their own language, which caused great rejoicing in the camp. Of all the emigrant companies, who this year crossed the Plains, the Scandinavians suffered the most with sickness (cholera), and during their temporary sojourn at the camping place near Westport, as well as on the steamboats, fatalities were more numerous. Scores fell as victims of the dreadful disease and many of the Saints were compelled to bury their relatives and friends without coffins on the desolate plains. So great was the mortality among them that of the 680 souls who had left Copenhagen the previous winter only about 500 reached their destination. The others succumbed to the sickness , mostly chlorea, and other hardships of the journey. The 500 survivors reached Salt Lake City, Oct. 5, 1854.

Sources: (now defunct)

"Life of Archibald Gardner" by Delilah Hughes, with a chapter
the 'Wives of Archibald Gardner', page 168-178, written by Annie
Gardner Francis, provides added details of Serena's life. Abstracts
have been placed in email format for Gardner family members only.
and confirm your Gardner descendant status. An appropriate
abstract of Annie's review should be emailed within 30 days.