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History of Hans Peter Larsen

By Himself

I, Hans Peter Larsen, son of Lars Rasmussen and Christiana Peterson, was born September 24, 1835 in Lillebrande, Falster, Denmark. My father was a miller by trade. At the age of seven, I started school and remained there until I was fourteen, then at the age of sixteen I went to sea as a cook on a Merchant Vessel named “Thor” with Captain Neilson.

The trips were mostly between Denmark and England. They would take a cargo of wheat over to Hull and the load a cargo of coal from New Castle. Our ship would tie up in the winter and I would return home until spring.

During one of my visits home, a neighbour woman asked me if I had seen any Mormons over in England. I had never heard of Mormons and did not know whether they were animals or humans. She told me about some Elders who had come into the district and were holding private meetings. This got my mother quite interested. There was just one family of Mormons in our town by the name of Rasmus Mickleson. One day, the wife of Mr. Mickleson came to our house to visit. I decided to have some fun with her so I started to tease her about Mormonism, but she knew more about the scriptures than I did so I had to give up. When she left she told us she would let us know when the Elders visited her, and we could come and have a chat with them. So mother and I went down one evening.

The president of the Conference was there, a man named John Swenson. He explained the principles of Mormonism in a very clear and pleasant way. I sat there and could not help but admire him, and everything he said seemed reasonable to me. I couldn’t find any fault with him or his religion. It seemed as though he carried a sweet influence with him whether in speaking, praying, or singing.

The impression I received that evening never left me. I asked for some Mormon literature and read it eagerly. From that time on, I was a constant visitor at Mr. Mickelson’s home. He was ordained a Priest, and he would explain the gospel to me.

I knew Mormonism was true, but my people were so against it I didn’t know what to do. I decided to ask President Swenson to help me out of my difficulty. He told me to be humble and prayerful and the Lord would show me whether Mormonism was true or not. But for some time, I could not bring myself before the Lord in prayer. Finally I decided to leave Mormonism alone as I did not feel that I could leave my country.

But still the feeling hung with me that Mormonism was right. I couldn’t get rid of it. Once when talking with Elder Swenson he sort of ridiculed me for being in such a state of mind so I decided to humble myself and do as he told me.

Accordingly, one evening I went into the orchard to pray. An unseen power seemed to take possession of me and stopped my tongue. I did not know what to do to free myself. I was in an awful state of mind, but I continued to struggle to pray and in a short time the evil influence began to leave me and a peaceful calm feeling came over me. I never felt so happy in my life. I know it was the Spirit of the Lord, and I then knew what my duty was. I then went into the house and to bed. I slept peacefully all night. The fear of leaving home and country left me, and I was ready for baptism.

I was baptised by Rasmus Micklesen on November 9, 1852, at the age of seventeen. When my mother heard about it, she was nearly heartbroken. The man for whom I was working was also very bitter against us so I decided to leave town. I went to a neighbouring town and obtained work with a farmer who was a Mormon. They were very kind to me. I had been there just a little while when they began making preparations to come to Utah. As he was seventy years old, he felt he was too old to make the journey alone so he told me to come along and help them and he would pay my way.

In the fall of 1854, we left home and went to Copenhagen where the Norwegion and Swedish saints were to gather before starting. We took passage on the steamer “Simplids” under Captain Hansen. We made our first stop at a little place and waited several days for the Yeallanders. We then started once more. A terrible storm arose forcing us back to a landing on the coast of Norway. We stayed there eleven days. The people were very kind to us. Soon we took our leave and crossing the North Sea, landed at Hull, England. From there, we went to Liverpool by rail. Arriving there, we were taken to an emigrant hotel, where we stayed a week waiting for a vessel to cross the Atlantic.

We left Liverpool on the ship “James Nesmith,” taking six weeks for the trip across the Atlantic. The first mate on the ship hated the Mormons, and made it very unpleasant for us. He tried to stop our holding meetings, but we appealed to the Captain and he gave us permission to hold our meetings every Sunday. The mate, to get even with us, served us very poor food and little of it.

After crossing the Atlantic, we came up the Gulf of Mexico to the mouth of the Mississippi River; from there to New Orleans, then to St. Louis, where we were met by Erastus Snow. We gathered our necessary supplies, changed steamers, and started for Atchison, Kansas. It was in the month of March and the weather was very cold. We suffered terribly until we made shelter for ourselves. Cholera broke out in camp and many of the saints died. We stayed at Atchison, Kansas for ten weeks. All the men the could work were there getting the ground ready for a warehouse.

A man by the name of Milo Andrus went to buy cattle and wagons for us; and as soon as he arrived with them, we started across the plains. We were not familiar with driving cattle and we had a terrible time for a few days. It took four men to a yoke of cattle (the cattle did not understand the Danish language).

We arrived in Salt Lake on the ninth of September, 1855, having been nearly a year on the road. Brother Skrader wanted me to go with him to San Pete County, but I wanted to stay in Salt Lake and earn a wagon and yoke of cattle. I hired out to a man named Gordon and worked for him two years, but it proved all for nothing as he cheated me out of my entire wages. During this time, I became very homesick and discouraged as I couldn’t as yet speak much English.

James Hill and Issac Sorensen were going to Cache Valley, and they gave me a wagon and yoke of oxen and took me with them. I appreciated this very much, and we settled together in Mendon in 1859. We were close friends all our lives.

I was in Echo Canyon during the war and was in the company that received Governor Cummings when he entered this territory. Before Johnson’s army came to this territory, President Young ordered all the people north of Salt Lake to make their home in Cedar Valley. The family I was living with went to Spanish Fork until all was settled. Then I went to live with Alexander Hill who was very kind to me. I was treated as one of the family. Then I came to Cache Valley with the above mentioned brothern.

In 1862, President Young called a company from Cache Valley to go to Omaha and bring back the emigrants waiting to come to Utah. I was one of them. We didn’t have enough wagons to make a company of our own so we joined a company in Ogden making thirty wagons. Our captain was a man named Henry Miller from Farmington, Utah. He organised our company into groups of ten wagons. I was in the first ten. Each of these groups had their own captain. I was chosen captain of the first one. Our rations were very meager on the road, consisting mainly of flap jacks fried in bacon grease and coffee made from peas. We had neither groceries or fruit. Mendon people furnished nearly all the supplies. To lighten our load going to Ogden, we left flour at different places and picked it up when we returned. We arrived at a landing of the Missouri River, having to stay there several days until the emigrants arrived. When they came there were so many more than we expected that we had to overload our wagons with their luggage and all who were able had to walk most of the way. This was very hard for them as they were used to working in offices and no walking.

Our Captain gave us orders to walk all the way and be very kind to the cattle as they had to work when they returned to the valley. We journeyed along the Platte River for a way, then entered Wyoming.

While there one night, I could see that Captain Miller was worried. Soon he came to me and said, “Captain Larsen, I would like you to go through all the wagons and see that the load of each is divided evenly.” Some of our oxen were getting very poor. He also said to me, “I want you to look after the sick and I charge you not to let any people leave camp to walk ahead of the train wagons as is their custom because we are in Indian territory and the Indians may kill them. My reply to Captain Miller was this, ”I have walked every step of the way thus far, took my turn standing guard, taking care of the sick, but I will do my best.“ And I did. I walked all the way to Salt Lake City, arriving there as near as I can remember in the month of September, 1862. We didn’t lose one oxen on all our journey due to the wise management of our Captain, Henry Miller.

When Mendon was first settled, a fort was built and all lived there together as a protection against the Indians. For a time, they lived the United Order. The settlers engaged in farming and cattle raising. Cache Valley was very beautiful and had some of the best farm land to be found anywhere in the world. The cattle could graze knee deep in the grass.

I was married to Eleanor Shelton in the old Endowment House in Salt Lake City, by Daniel H. Wells on December 6, 1875. We have had twelve children, eight of whom are still living. We have also raised two others. We have 31 grandchildren and five great grand-children. I have always been active in Church and Civil affairs, and a constant worker on my farm for years. I am now, in February, 1928, residing at Mendon, Utah, and am in fairly good health.

Additional Notes

by Elizabeth Larsen Pehrson

One day a group of men went into the Canyon to get logs to begin the construction of a meeting house. Shortly after they had gone to work it was discovered that they had forgotten to take a lunch with them. Hans Peter Larsen was sent to take something to them. While he was on his way, a blinding snow storm came up. The trail was soon covered and he was hopelessly lost. He wandered around for what seemed hours, and finally he became so cold and exhausted that he was about to give up. He prayed earnestly for help. Suddenly, the snow parted and looked like a long tunnel with a little cabin at the end of it. He was able to make his way to it and was taken in, warmed, fed, and put to bed for two days while his frozen feet thawed out. The cabin was located just above town, but he had lost the sense of direction and didn’t know where he was.

While many men were living in pologamy, he had remained unmarried and was batching it with Hans Jensen. Brother Jensen was later excommunicated from the Church, but they always remained good friends.

On December 6, 1875, he married Eleanor Shelton in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City, Utah. He was forty years of age, and she was not quite seventeen. Her parents had joined the church in England. They were on their way to America when Eleanor was born. This event took place in Philadelphia. They remained there about a year before continuing their journey. Her father, Richard John Shelton, was a blacksmith. Her mother, Mary Wann Shelton, was a beautiful woman with a lovely singing voice, and a marked talent for nursing. On several occasions, she set broken bones with very successful results.

Hans and Eleanor began their married life in a two-roomed log cabin. Later-on, they built a larger and better frame house in which they lived the remainder of their lives.

Their first child died in infancy and Eleanor took a baby whose Mother had just died, and nursed it as her own. She raised him until he was eight years old. His name was John George. At this time, his father married again, and took John to his home. Eleanor grieved very much over this, but he came to see her quite often and always caller her Mother. When he grew up, he went East to study Civil Engineering and became very successful. Every Christmas as long as she lived, he sent her a substantial gift of money.

They were almost self supporting as they raised their own flour, meat, butter, eggs, milk, honey, fruit, and vegetables. Conditions were changing rapidly, and both he and his wife did their full share in building up churches, schools, and roads. He was President of the High Priest’s Quorum for many years. While helping to build the meeting house, he fell from the roof and seriously injured his back. He also suffered severe attacks of gull stones until under the administration of Bishop Henry Hughes, he became healed.

One day, he descended a well for the purpose of clearing out some dead leaves. He got into some quick sand and began to sink. His wife and daughter, Lucy, threw him a rope, and with great difficulty pulled him to safety.

One year at a twenty-fourth of July celebration, they had four of their children poisoned. The refreshment committee made a large quantity of ice cream which they sold during the afternoon. In some way, it became contaminated and contained ptomaine poison. There were only two families in town who did not have some one sick that night. One of our neighbours had invited friends to help the celebrate, and they, too, had partaken of it. It was a warm night, and ten of them took blankets and laid on the lawn. All the doctors and nurses from the surrounding towns worked frantically all night. There were no fatalities, but many were very near death for several hours.

When Hans’ wife was fifty-eight, she was obliged to submit to a very serious operation for hernia. Her main concern was how her husband was going to get along alone. He was now eighty years old, and all of their children were married. He knew how to cook very well, and his children and the neighbours helped out. She lay in the William Budge Memorial Hospital for a month, but made splendid recovery and enjoyed fairly good health after.

At the time of the big Centennial celebration at Logan, he was the oldest pioneer in Cache Valley. He rode in a carriage as an honoured guest in the parade.

His wife died May 11, 1928, and on September 22 of the same year, he followed her. If he had lived two more days, he would have been ninety-three years old.

They were both buried at Mendon, Utah.

Four children had proceeded them in death. They were survived by eight children, thirty-three grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.