Gertrude Maria Wroldsdatter
by Loretta Luce Evans
Gertrude Maria Wroldsdatter was born on the 8th or 9th of January 1799 in Risør, Nedenes, Norway. Her parents were Wrold Knudsen and Ingeborg Maria Envoldsen. She married Bent Rolfsen on 25 Jan 1820 in Risør, Aust-Agder, Norway. They had ten children. (The county of Nedenes was changed to Aust-Agder in 1801.) Bent died 16 Jun 1852.
Gertrude Maria joined the Mormon Church on 24 Apr 1853. Many of her children also joined. Canute Petersen described in his journal the first missionary meeting attended by Gertrude and her daughters:
"After the close of the meeting, a very respectable widow, named Gertrude Maria Rolfson and three of her daughters came and shook hands with us and thanked us for our very interesting talk. She told us that her house would always be open for us. We gladly accepted her kind offer and visited the family many times, in fact, it afterwards became our stopping place. Brother Carl Wideborg baptized four women of the Rolfson family and for this was imprisoned four days – a day for each. Other members of the family also soon joined the Church."
In the early spring of 1857 Gertrude and her daughters, Gertrude Maria and Ellen Gurina Rolfsen immigrated to America. They first sailed from Christiana (Oslo) to Copenhagen. Lars Christian Christiansen described the voyage from Copenhagen to England:
"When we left Copenhagen everybody was dressed in their best to bid goodbye to their friends. While the ocean was calm and still everybody felt happy for they were leaving Babylon, singing the songs of Zion. But a very few of the company had ever been on the water before. Everything went on smooth until we got on the North Sea, then the sea and the waves did roar and beat on the ship and almost everybody became very seasick."
They arrived in England after four days at sea. In Liverpool they boarded the ship Westmoreland, which departed on 25 April 1857. Almost everyone was from Denmark, Sweden, or Norway. The group of 544 people was headed by several returning missionaries. The day before they left, Gertrude’s daughter, Ellen, married Carl Christian Nicholas Dorius. He was a missionary from Utah who had helped convert some of Gertrude’s family in Norway.
The voyage to America took thirty six days. They landed in Philadelphia on May 31st. The tedium of crossing the ocean was relieved to some extent when we were not too seasick.
"We danced on the deck. The captain amused himself by throwing small cakes on the deck and watching youngsters scramble for them. The Saints on the ship were divided into four wards, each with a president. We held ward meetings, also general meetings. We often amused ourselves by watching the big fish and sea animals rolling in the water."
After landing in Philadelphia, the group took a train to Iowa City, Iowa. Gertrude and her daughters joined the Seventh Handcart Company, headed by Christian Christiansen. Most of the people in the Christian Christiansen handcart company were Scandinavians (Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes). They numbered about 330 souls, including a girl with a wooden leg and a 60-year-old blind woman.
Because the Perpetual Emigrating Fund was exhausted, the emigrants had to purchase their own outfits with pooled resources. They had 68 handcarts, 3 wagons, 10 mules, and 1 cow. The cow soon died but others were purchased along the way. Likewise, the travelers purchased a fourth wagon and oxen to pull it.
Gertrude was fifty eight years old when she made the journey. Pulling a filled handcart must have been strenuous. There were times when water was difficult to get. Meat ran low. They passed large herds of buffalo, but the men were afraid to shoot any, because the noise might cause the animals to stampede. They finally killed one that had been separated from the rest of the herd.
"At one point, some of them were so hungry that they killed, cooked, and ate a crow. An old man, unacquainted with American wildlife and with no sense of smell, bludgeoned a skunk to death with his cane and brought it into camp. All the others scattered."
On the 20th of July at Wood River Sister Anna Marie Sorensen slipped away from camp and under the cover of some willows gave birth to a baby girl. The next morning she approached camp, carrying the baby wrapped in her apron. The captain allowed her and the baby to ride in the wagon for a few days. Both mother and daughter survived. This baby girl, Juliana Marie Sorensen, later became the first wife of Bent Rolfsen Larsen. Bent was Gertrude’s grandson.
A group of relief wagons met them east of South Pass, and the weak and sick were taken on to Salt Lake City. The pioneers were able to purchase some flour from the relief wagons and later at Fort Bridger. As September came, cool nights, occasional rain, and hail made travel more difficult. Thirty miles from Salt Lake, wagons loaded with bread, cake, and fruit met the company. As the train crossed Big and Little Mountains, the people had to help the exhausted mules reach the summits. Then, with the Danish flag flying from the lead handcart, the company arrived in Salt Lake City on September 13. One emigrant said that the first time he saw his image in a mirror, he was shocked at how tanned and skinny he was. Approximately 15 people died on the journey.
After arriving, Gertrude settled in south-central Utah. In subsequent years many of her other children also immigrated to Utah. She died in Ephraim, Utah, 19 Jan 1888.
|Owner/Source||Loretta Luce Evans|
|Linked to||Gjertrude Maria Wraaldsen|