Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lauritz Nicolaisen Smith and Maren Kirstin Mikkelsdatter





Lauritz was 5 feet 6 inches with curly black hair and blue gray eyes and never weighed more than 120 pounds.  This photograph was taken in Iowa as he prepared to serve his mission in 1876.  He would have been about 46 years of age.

Autobiography of Lauritz Smith

I was born October 5, 1830 in Hjorring, Hjorring, Denmark of goodly parents and raised in the Lutheran Church. I obtained a common school education and I first heard the truth, or the beautiful message of the restored Gospel in the spring of 1851, from my cousin, Christian Peter Neilsen.  I was ordained a teacher in November 1851 and ordained an Elder in April 1852, and labored as much as time permitted with the local Elders.   I labored as a missionary during the winter of 1852-1853 in the northeastern part of Vendsysel, and after that traveled in company with President Willard Snow, Hans Peter Jensen, John E. Forsgren and Svend Larsen on board “Zion’s Love" from Aalborg to Copenhagen to attend the April Conference. After this Conference I went to Schielesvig-Holstein, where I was kindly received by Elder Jorgens and his family and other Saints locally.  I will here remark that Brother Jorgins was called to Copenhagen to attend a special meeting by President Snow. On his return from that trip he was taken sick with cholera and on his arrival in Flensborg he telegraphed to Schiesvig for his wife to join him.  He died a few hours after her arrival. This took place in May of 1853 and caused great sorrow to the family and the Saints in the vicinity.  During the following summer I labored for the spread of the gospel as much as my time permitted me but at that time all religious meetings not Lutheran were forbidden and the holding of such meetings was punished by imprisonment and fines. I left Schlesvig in the latter part of December 1853 and joined a Danish emmigrant company at Gluckesvig, Holstein and crossed the sea to Hull, England and then by rail to Liverpool. We sailed from Liverpool January 3, 1854. I married Marie Christine Christensen from Stenbreen in Vendsysel with President Christian J. Larsen officiating. We arrived at New Orleans February 20, 1854 and were attacked by cholera from which many laid down their earthly tabernacle awaiting a glorious resurrection as we sailed up the Mississippi River.  We stopped at St. Louis,  Missouri one month where many more died with cholera. We then traveled by river steamer to Westport, west of the present site of Kansas City where we received our wagons and oxen. Our Journey across the plains and mountains was quite successful. We arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah where we have lived every since. I was appointed a teacher in the Draper Ward in 1856 and appointed Sunday School teacher in 1854. We were the only Danish family in Draper for many years. In due course of time I was ordained a Seventy and was later set apart as one of the seven presidents of the 73rd Quorum of the Seventy. In 1876,  I was sent on a mission to the states during which time I labored in the Northwestern States during the winter of 1876-1877 but owing to my poor health I was counseled by President J.A. Little to return home. After my return, I was called to labor as a home missionary and was thus engaged for 6 years and 6 months. I enjoyed my missionary labors and was blessed in my work. I have been a member of the Presidency of the Scandinavian Saints in Draper from the time when Scandinavian meetings were commenced there. I am the father of 15 children, namely 9 sons and 6 daughters.



There is much that Lauritz doesn't tell in his short autobiography.  His story of coming to America and eventually Draper, Utah is an unusual one.  He had became acquainted with Maren Kirstin (called Mary Christine in Utah) Mikkelsdatter.  Her family along with many other Saints were planning a trip to the Salt Lake Valley.  President Snow went to Lauritz and asked him if he was going to Zion as was his sweetheart.  Lauritz wanted to go but he had a major problem.  Denmark had compulsory training for all young men and Lauritz had been drafted into the Danish Army.  The Army still had a claim on him but his testimony and desire to come to America were too strong for anything to stand in his way.  He prayed to the Lord for help.  It was in December of 1853 when Lauritz went down to the river, took off his clothes, and left them and his Army uniform along with his watch and money on the river bank. He left a note saying, "All I hear in this place is war.  I have gone to a better land."  He then left his foot-prints going into the water and swam the river to the other side where friends were waiting for him with the clothing and personal attire he would need.  The Army, thinking he had drowned, dredged the river for his body.   Lauritz had gone to join the Danish emigrants that were assembled at Glustadt and with them crossed the North Sea on the ship "Jesse Munn" going to Hull, England and then by rail to Liverpool.  Here the group would board the ship "Benjamin Adams."  There they would have to show passports of which Lauritz had none.  He would board as a member of Maren's family but without a passport and as a deserter.  He did not know how he would get by the inspector who had been checking everyone's paperwork carefully.  He remained in line but as Maren, her sister, and her parents showed their passports the inspector passed by Lauritz without asking for his.  He felt the Lord had answered the prayer in his heart.  When the ship landed in New Orleans, the inspector stated he had checked him and told him he could depart.  His prayer had been answered again.  He had worried that he would be sent back to Denmark.

The "Benjamin Adams" departed England on January 3, 1854 for America.  Lauritz and Maren were married on January 15, 1854 in mid-ocean by Christian J. Larsen.  Maren had made Lauritz a new shirt from her petticoat for him to be married in.  (Note:  The manifest papers for the "Benjamin Adams" do not show Lauritz as a passenger but the captain's log does record their marriage at sea.)  Lauritz talked very little about this part of his life and often worried that word would get back to Denmark that he was alive and that he would have to return.  During his delirium before he died he talked in fear that they were coming to get him, yet he and all those who knew his story felt that he had done the right thing.  Not wanting to be identified and being a blacksmith, Lauritz went by Smith in the United States.  This proved to be a problem when later doing family research.  A genealogist in Denmark, Ellen Christensen, identified him in the Hjorring Parish Registers as a son of Jens Nicoli Christensen.  Mary's father was Mikkel Christensen and according to patronymics, this would make her surname Mikkelsen or as a female Mikkelsdatter, but after joining the church she did as many of the Saints in Utah did and used her father's surname.

On February 4, 1854, Maren's sister, Ann Kathrine died and was buried at sea.  They arrived in New Orleans on February 20, 1854  where Lauritz found employment and worked for a month loading 150 pound sacks of sugar on ships in order to earn money for their passage up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri.  While in New Orleans, a cholera epidemic broke out and many died.  Lauritz caught the disease and he was very sick but got well and was able to leave with the rest of the group. They stopped at St. Louis for a month as more people were stricken with cholera and then made their way to West Port just a bit west of Kansas City.  They began their journey across the plains and were assigned to drive a yoke of oxen but while fording a stream the wagons were having trouble so Lauritz got out in the icy water to help the wagons across.  Because of this and his weakened condition from the cholera, he developed rheumatism and suffered so that it was necessary for him to lay down in the wagon.  Mary's father and mother also became sick and although Mary had never driven oxen, she did so as well as looked after their care while driving the oxen most of the way.  They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on October 5, 1854 on Lauritz's 24th birthday. Lauritz could hardly stand but sought work anyway.  The granite quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon needed workers but when Lauritz applied for the job the boss asked how he could do the work in his current bent position.  At first he had to crawl over the rocks but as he worked his back straightened and he became well again.  He worked in the quarry for about 2 months and then was directed to the office of Brigham Young who asked him if he had a trade.  Lauritz had to converse with President Young through an interpreter as he did not yet speak the English language.  Lauritz told him he was a blacksmith.  President Young asked if he knew anything about farming and Lauritz told him a little bit.  President Young told him to go to Willow Creek (now Draper) and get a piece of land and build on it and stay there.  He also told him that they needed a blacksmith in that area.  To Lauritz, this was a mandate from the Lord and he did exactly what Brigham Young told him to do.  He was the first Scandinavian settler in the community.  He bought a farm, built a blacksmith shop on the land and stayed the remainder of his life so seriously did he interpret the advice of Brigham Young.  It is said that he was uneasy when out of Draper for even a short visit.


Lauritz's father had been a blacksmith and as early as age 8, Lauritz began learning the blacksmith trade under his father's instruction.  His formal schooling came to an end when he was 14 and he then became a blacksmith apprentice which required several years of hard work.  When he completed his apprenticeship he worked in Germany, Holland, France and Denmark.  In doing so he helped support his mother along with his two brothers as his father had died in 1845.

Lauritz standing in the doorway of his blacksmith shop in Draper.  His son, Neph, works in the background.

Lauritz in turn, taught the blacksmith trade to three of his sons.  He was known as an excellent blacksmith and often there was a line for his services.  He often worked into the night as his customers slept on straw pallets in the shop with Mary serving them breakfast in the morning.  Lauritz was a hard working man at the forge and anvil.  He made chains, sharpened plow shears, made wagon irons that were the iron tires on wooden wheels of wagons, made horse shoes and horse shoe nails, and shod horses plus many other jobs which were essential to the lives of people in those days.


 Mary was born to January 14, 1827 in Boller Mark, Taars Parish, Hjorring, Denmark.  She along with her family were instrumental in Lauritz's arrival in America.  She was of great support to Lauritz and bore him five sons; Joseph Michael, Lauritz Heber, John Hyrum, Brigham, and David J who passed away in infancy.

Mary knew how to cord, spin, and weave sheep wool into cloth.  She also grew food for her family.  She grew apples and other fruits and vegetables.  She also had a milk cow.  She would save scraps of cloth and make quilts.  Some cloth scraps were torn in strips and then wound into a ball which she would embroider making colorful play balls.  One time Lauritz had Gurnsey Brown come to cut the grain and none of the men showed up to bind it so Mary left her housework and went out to work in the field.  Gurnsey thought she would never keep up with him, but though Mary was behind at the start, she was there to pick up the last swath of grain as Gurnsey cut it.  She was always more than willing to go into the fields when help was needed.

Part of the reason for her hard work was her way of life as a child in Denmark where she worked long hours with her family.  She would get up early in the morning and help with breakfast and then go out with the others to rake hay or bind grain after it was cut.  There were no trees for wood so she would go where the ground was wet and soggy (they called these bogs) and would cut the bog moss and dry it in the sun, then store it for warmth and cooking.  She said it burned slowly and made a lot of smoke but it was the best that they had for fuel.

Mary, in 1866, encouraged Lauritz to take a second wife, Johanne Kirstine Jensen, who was also from Denmark.  Mary and Lauritz were kind and helpful to the Scandinavians moving to Draper including Johanne.  She was much younger than Mary and bore Lauritz 12 more children two of whom died at a very young age.  She and Mary were very close and the children all claimed that they had two mothers.


At first both wives lived in what was known as the Pine Tree house.  All of Mary's sons were born in this home.  It is no longer standing but got its name from the giant pine tree that grew from a seedling brought down from the mountain by Lauritz and planted when the house was first built.

As his family grew, Lauritz built this saltbox house with the blacksmith shop nearby.  There were five rooms on the bottom floor and two bedroom upstairs, one for boys and one for girls.  This home is still standing, used as a home,  and is on the National Historic Register.

At the time of the Edmunds Tucker Act, Mary's two oldest sons built another home for Mary and Lauritz leaving Johanne (Hannah) the larger home for her large family.  The new home was built just north and east of the location of the Pine Tree house.


This home is also still standing and the owners are descendants of Mary and Lauritz.  


It has received special recognition by the Draper Historic Preservation Committee and this plaque is located in front of the home on Relation Street in Draper.


It sits far back from the street in a park likt setting and has an addition or two added since Mary and Lauritz lived there.  Unfortunately, many lots along Relation Street are now being subdivided and new very large homes are appearing and the street is losing some of its charm.

There is an interesting story told about this home. About the year 1897 on a Saturday, lightening struck the big poplar tree that was in front of this house.  It split the trunk of the tree and it went over into the house through the transom above the door, then along the wall into a box of papers in the bedroom, scattering plaster all around and riddling the papers into little pieces.  It looked as if a nest of mice had been chewing for days.  Mary left everything just like it was and the ward learned about it at Sunday School the next morning.  That Sunday afternoon, the people of the community came to see what the lightening had done.  Luckily, no one was hurt and there was no fire.  Melissa Ann Fitzgerald was about 12 years old when this happened.  She later married Lauritz's grandson, Joseph Lauritz Smith (son of Joseph Michael Smith) on November 27, 1906 and she and Joseph bought the home and moved into it as Mary and Lauritz were unable to manage by themselves.  Lauritz went to live at Hannah's house and Mary went to live in her son, Joseph Michael's home with his family where she occupied a room in the back part of their home.  Melissa Ann Fitzgerald Smith lived in that home until her death in February 1982.  Melissa would often laugh and say that she never dreamed that she would one day live most of her life in the home she had toured after it had been hit by lightening.  


This image comes as a double, but it was taken at a Smith Family Reunion in 1908.  The baby on Lauritz's lap is his great grandchild, Elma June Smith, daughter of Joseph Lauritz and Melissa Ann Smith.  Elma June is my husband's grandmother.


Other pictures were taken on that special day.  Mary and Lauritz are shown with their four living sons.  Joseph Michael Smith stands on the far left side by his mother.


This is a four generation picture taken that same day.  Lauritz once again holds Elma June with Mary by his side.  Melissa Ann stands next to her husband, Joseph Lauritz Smith, who stands next to his father, Joseph Michael Smith, and his mother, Celestia Ann Brown Smith.  What a treasure!


This statue was made in honor of Draper's Danish Blacksmith, Lauritz Smith.  It stands in Draper City Park.


This clipping includes a biography written about Lauritz at his death on June 16, 1924.  He is a man to be honored who served as the Stake Patriarch for the last 19 years of his life.  He showed care and courtesy for his family and his neighbors.  Mary passed away almost a year earlier on January 2, 1923.  Johanna  (Hannah) lived until November 27, 1935.


He is buried in the Draper City Cemetery along with his wives.


Their graves surround this memorial.



1 comment:

Nancy Hicks said...

Wow what a story. So much information there. Ive heard that he was a illegal emigrant but not all the details. What a blessing. I need to read it again to catch it all. Thanks so much!!