Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Jensine Hostmark Grundvig: Zionward
 


Jensine Hostmark Grundvig: Zionward

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 19, 2009

Jensine was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1837, her parents’ youngest child. Her father died when she was 4, her mother when she was 12; she probably spent her youth in the household of one of her much older brothers. In1857 Jensine was married to Frants Christian Grundvig, a young joiner who had come to Copenhagen a few years earlier to learn his trade.

A year later their son Severine was born. Although Jensine was to bear to at least three more children in the next few years, Severine was her only child to live past birth, and she devoted herself to his care.

In 1860 an unusual interest in religion swept through Copenhagen, according to Frants’s reminiscences, and the young couple was caught up in the wave. Frants was especially interested in the preaching of the Mormon elders visiting Copenhagen. After having what to him was a dream with religious significance, Frants was baptized as a Latter-day Saint in 1860. Jensine required more time to think and decide; a year later, she, too, was baptized. At least one of her siblings, her next older brother, Carl, had joined the church earlier, and soon emigrated with his young wife and children to Utah.

Their conversion would uproot the Grundvig family. Frants was called as a missionary to work in Nestved, about 50 miles from Copenhagen. The only way to support him financially was to sell his carpenter’s tools, leaving the family to face an uncertain post-mission economic future. Jensine and Severine remained in Copenhagen while Frants served in Nestved for about a year, and then in Christiania (now Oslo) in Norway, where he served for another two years. Jensine supported herself and son by making and selling ladies’ gloves.

Frants was released in the early spring of 1865, and Jensine joined him in Christiania to prepare for emigration. (She joined him in Norway, and in fact he had been sent to Norway in the first place, to avoid being drafted into the Danish military.) Jensine is the one who came up with a plan to earn money for their emigration: She learned from another woman how to make “electrical belts,” powered by batteries – in that generation, a popular folk belief was that electrical current would cure rheumatism and other ills – and sewed enough of them, which Frants sold door-to-door, to earn their passage money in only a few weeks.

Jensine was a fine singer, having sung with a choir in Copenhagen. She also sang while the family was in Christiania (whether for a church choir or in a professional way, I do not know). Frants recalled that on the family’s last night in Christiania, Jensine sang a solo composed by the great master Ole Bull, for which she was “greatly applauded.” The family also had a photograph taken before they left for the New World.

The Gundvigs sailed with other Mormon emigrants from Christiania back to Copenhagen, where they visited quietly for some ten days, then sailed to Hamburg. There they boarded the ship “G. S. Kimball” bound for New York.

It was a difficult six-week ocean crossing. An epidemic of measles struck the emigrant children, eventually killing 32 of them. Severine caught the disease, too. Jensine nursed him day and night. He survived, one of only two or three children on the ship to have caught the measles and lived. The Grundvigs arrived in New York harbor on June 14, 1865, traveled by railroad to the end of the line near the Missouri River, then traveled by river boat to the Mormon outfitting point at Wyoming (a site near Omaha, Nebraska, not the western state).

There the emigrants, nearly all Danish, were unexpectedly delayed due to uncharacteristically poor emigration planning that year. No down-and-back wagon companies had come from Utah to ferry emigrants to the west, and no one had purchased wagons or cattle for emigrant companies. For six weeks, agents scoured the region to purchase the necessary equipment. Few wagons could be found, and none of the Danish brethren were at all familiar with oxen and had to be taught how to drive them. The emigrants were told that due to the scarcity of transport, most of their goods would have to be left behind; the Grundvigs, along with everyone else, disposed of their property at a great loss – residents in the area, having grown accustomed to such “fire sales” on the part of emigrants, would pay virtually nothing for goods they knew would be abandoned if not purchased.

Finally, Miner G. Atwood was appointed by church agents to lead the Danish emigrants to Utah. He had less than 48 hours notice of his appointment before departure. Probably no man in the history of Mormon emigration hustled harder to outfit his company, and then to shepherd the emigrants – whose language he did not speak – overland to Utah. Some of the emigrants of that company, not understanding the handicaps under which Atwood worked, and not appreciating the necessity of his continually pushing the emigrants to move faster and travel more hours in a day than usual due to their late start (it would be well into November before the company reached the Valley), have left unflattering accounts of a harsh taskmaster. In hindsight, though, he seems to have done no more than was necessary for safety, and no emigrant accused him of objective wrongdoing, nor of demanding more than he contributed himself.

When Atwood arrived in camp to organize the company, he discovered it was necessary to purchase more supplies, at relatively high prices due to the urgency of the situation. He assessed each family a certain amount based on family size – the Grundvigs’ share was $50. In order to raise that amount, Frants sold his pocket watch and Jensine contributed her jewelry – including her wedding ring. Finally, the company moved westward.

1865 was the beginning of the Indian wars on the Plains, which would become worse and terrify overland travelers in 1866 and 1867. The Grundvigs’ company was wakened on the night of September 17, near Fort Laramie, to the alarm that Indians were driving off their cattle. Some 22 head were discovered to be missing the next morning; a few were recovered by men sent out to look for strays. From then on, the company posted stronger guards at night – stronger, but more exhausted, as Atwood pushed them to travel as far as possible during each day.

On the morning of September 22, west of Laramie, the company passed through some hilly country on the road. Jensine, walking, as she did every day, grew weary, and Frants stopped with her to rest a while. Ordinarily this would have posed no problem – the company stopped at noon, unhitching the cattle to let them feed and rest, and any stragglers would have plenty of time to catch up. But on this morning, while Jensine and Frants lagged about a mile and a half behind the wagons, a band of Sioux, hiding in the hills along the road, swept down between the Grundvigs and the wagons. Their targets were the loose cattle being herded by a group of boys to the river’s edge. The emigrants, however, saw the Indians coming and ran out of camp with their own weapons, and drove the attackers back down the road … directly into the path of Jensine and Frants.

Two of the Indians grabbed hold of Jensine, and passed her to a third who slung her face down over his horse and rode off. Frants chased after him on foot, calling for help, and fell as if dead from an arrow that pierced his left hip. The emigrants saw what was happening. Several men tried to go to the rescue, but Atwood restrained them, fearing both for the lives of any would-be rescuers and for the safety of the emigrants and cattle left behind. Besides, there were only two horses in the company, so no realistic pursuit was possible.

When the Indians had gone, carrying Jensine with them, Frants pulled the arrow from his hip and crawled toward camp. Rescuers placed him in a wagon where he rode the rest of the way to the Valley, his terrified 7-year-old son by his side. When the company reached a telegraph station, word of Jensine’s kidnapping was sent back to the soldiers at Fort Laramie, who rode out to look for her. They did not find her.

Jensine was never heard from again.

Frants was crippled for two years by his hip wound, until a doctor, probing the hip, discovered that a piece of the arrowhead had broken off and remained inside. After it was surgically removed, Frants recovered.

Frants married again in the Valley, first in 1866 and again in 1874. When he went to the Endowment House with his bride in 1866, he asked to have Jensine sealed to him. Asked whether she was dead, Frants had to say that he did not know. The recorder went for advice from Daniel H. Wells, who was presiding in the Endowment House that day. President Wells came to the door of the room and locked eyes with Frants for a few moments, then nodded, and said “His wife is dead.”

Severine lived to adulthood and raised a large family; through him, Jensine has many living descendants.

Jensine Hostmark Grundvig is the only Mormon emigrant ever to have been taken by Indians in the entire history of Mormon overland travel.

UPDATE: Reader tkangaroo informs me in this comment that his ancestor, Elizabeth Brettle Cottle, was also captured by Indians, in 1866. More research on the horizon …



19 Comments »

  1. Ardis!

    Wow! What a blessing to read this post! (sorry about all of the exclamation points). My grandmother told me this story once. Jensine is my Great-Great-Great Grandmother. For years, I’ve been looking again for this account – as I only have been able to remember what my Grandmother said to me orally (and a lot of the details were lost – I was probably 10 when she told me about Jensine).

    Can you direct me to where you found this information? Thanks again for the post!

    -Catania

    Comment by Catania — March 19, 2009 @ 8:03 am

  2. Check your mailbox, Catania — I’ve written to point you toward my sources. Exclamation points are fully justified in a case like this! :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 19, 2009 @ 8:26 am

  3. “When he went to the Endowment House with his bride in 1866, he asked to have Jensine sealed to him.”

    Wow, this story took me by surprise. I was expecting a story of faith that took a new convert from Scandinavia to Salt Lake. I didn’t expect to read of the horror of an Indian raid, and certainly not the bittersweet account of the husband and son who were left behind.

    Comment by Hunter — March 19, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  4. Great story, Ardis. Heartbreaking to consider that most who lost loved ones along the way knew the fate of those lost to disease or accident. It must have been bittersweet for Frants at the time of his later sealing to hear Elder Wells pronouncement.

    The friction between the emigrants and the company’s leader is reminiscent of my own ancestor’s story. They joined the church in Bornholm, Denmark, in 1854, and after much persecution, emigrated in 1857. They were part of a handcart company that year. The first leader of the company did not speak Danish, and there was much difficulty on the first half of the trek. The emigrants could not communicate their concerns, and he seemed indifferent to their problems. Later, a group of missionaries passed the company, and after some consulting, one of the missionaries who spoke the language was appointed to lead the company the rest of the way to the Utah.

    Comment by kevinf — March 19, 2009 @ 9:05 am

  5. President Wells came to the door of the room and locked eyes with Frants for a few moments, then nodded, and said “His wife is dead.”

    Fwiw, I love this simple statement. It literally brought tears to my eyes, since I read it not as a statement of fact but as a recognition of the yearning of a wonderful man to be sealed to his first great love – and the compassion to make it happen regardless of whether she was living or had died.

    Truly, sometimes sticking to regulated, administrative practice is less important than following the Spirit and ministering to a hurting soul.

    Comment by Ray — March 19, 2009 @ 11:10 am

  6. Sheesh! Losing a loved one in death seems so much more acceptable than this.

    Comment by Rick — March 19, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

  7. I’m full of admiration for the second wife- that must have been a difficult experience for her wedding day.

    Amazing story, thanks!

    Comment by Anne (UK) — March 19, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

  8. I discovered while researching Jensine that her brother’s family was not completely listed on the Overland Trails database (which I’m going to write about very soon, if you don’t know what that is). So I poked around to find enough information to get them all added. They went through heck to get to the Valley — they need to be remembered.

    Thanks, all. I’m glad you’re moved by the story. Me, too.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 19, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  9. Thank you for sharing Jensine’s life story. Frants must have been devastated.

    Comment by Justin — March 19, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

  10. Thanks again, Ardis. A tragic story, but one it were well the whole church knew.

    And Catania, I think you should feel free to add as many exclamation points as you want. If this woman were my ancestor, I’d probably have written my comment in my best H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N imitation.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 19, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  11. i was anticipating a ‘little house on the prairie’ ending, but the real ending is like a slap. what courage and determination they showed. i would have been the most worthless pioneer imaginable.

    Comment by ellen — March 19, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  12. ellen, if you are the ellen I think you are, you are a wonderful pioneer in your own right.

    If you are a different ellen, oh, well. :)

    Comment by Ray — March 19, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  13. “you are a wonderful pioneer in your own right”

    thanks, ray, but how long do you think mr. atwood would have put up with my whining for a wi-fi signal? ;)

    Comment by ellen — March 19, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

  14. WOW! I have never heard this story before. Jensine and Frants life journey is one of complete devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Once they made their baptismal covenant, they had no idea what was ahead! But they followed the Lord’s commandment to “endure to the end”.

    Jensine was an elect lady. I believe her life mission was to ensure that her husband and child’s feet were firmly planted on the path to Zion – both physically, and spiritually. They chose to honor her ultimate sacrifice by finishing the journey, and staying true to the church and their covenants. By doing this, they ensured her posterity would have the blessings of the Restoration and the opportunity of exaltation together, forever.

    It’s humbling to think about, but each day we are living off of the legacy someone else created before us, and in turn our daily choices are creating a legacy that future generations must depend upon. Let’s hope our legacy will be as honorable as Jensine and Frants. Thank you for telling their story.

    Comment by Mormon Soprano — March 20, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  15. Mormon Soprano, your comment was caught in the spam filter for hours (I don’t know why). Sorry for the delay in posting, and thank you for such a nice comment.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 20, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

  16. Sadly, Jensine is not the only one who was carried off by Indians. My great-great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Brettle Cottle was kidnapped by Indians.

    Her daughter, Annie Jane’s journal tells of the their mother being carried off after their grandfather was mortally wounded. She relates that she and her brother ran for the wagon train, tells of the multiple arrows in her back that were incredibly painful, but half stopped by the fact that she was wearing overalls.

    No one ever heard from Elizabeth again. Her death date is often listed as 1866 because that is the day she was kidnapped. She is mentioned briefly here:
    http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneerdetails/0,15791,4018-1-33535,00.html

    Comment by tkangaroo — March 23, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  17. I’d never heard of Elizabeth Brettle Cottle, t, thanks for the pointer. I’ll learn more about her.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — March 23, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  18. thank you for posting this…

    Jessine and Frantz are my GGGG Grandparents, The only surviving child, Severin is my GGG Grandfather. Thank you for sharing the whole story…Severine would Marry Cathrine Alphina Palmer, together they had 13 children, My GG grandfather Severin F. was the oldest.

    Comment by Yvonne Grundvig — July 15, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

  19. Jenine Grundvig is my GGGG grandmother she is such a inspiration to me Thank you for writing this!

    Comment by Rose Unferdorfer — May 22, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI