Born: 22 Oct 1860 in Åby, Århus, Denmark
Married: 15 Dec 1889 in Bush Valley, Apache County, Arizona Territory to Sarah Etta Mortenson
Died: 16 Oct 1926 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah
Buried: 19 Oct 1926 in the Salt Lake City Cemetery
Oldest son of Hans Adolph Thomsen and Karen Karoline Sorensen
I have never seen a life story for Jens and so I decided to write one up myself. If anyone that is reading this notices any errors or anything they think needs added to his story, please let me know.
Jens was the third child of his parents. His parents had heard about the Mormon’s and soon listened to some missionaries and were both baptized in Denmark in 1861. By 1863 they had gathered enough money for the family to leave and go to Zion. So Jens along with his father, mother and three sister’s left from Denmark and made their way to England and the port of Liverpool. From Hans A. Thomsen’s record book he states: “30th of April 1863 traveled from Aarhus with my family. Making their way down the coast of Jutland to the River Kiel then across the sea to Hull, England and from there through England to Liverpool where they were housed in a large barn like structure for two days, along with many other Saints.”
Hans was 28, Karen was 29, Mette Marie was 6, Ane Marie was 3, Jens Adolph was 2 and Sofie Frederikke was 1, when they left Liverpool for New York City. They sailed onboard the B. S. Kimball, leaving Liverpool on May 8, 1863. After a crossing of approximately 5 weeks they arrived in New York Harbor on June 13 and were permitted to come ashore on June 15, 1863.
There were 657 members of the Mormon Church onboard this vessel. Four deaths occurred during the crossing and two babies were born and a number of couples were married during the voyage. In the evening of the same day they were allowed off the ship the emigrants continued by train to Albany, New York. The company then proceeded to Florence, Nebraska from which place the journey across the plains was to begin for them. Jens and his family crossed the plains in the John F. Sanders, Company in a wagon drawn by oxen leaving on June 6, 1863 and arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in the first week of September, a journey of almost three months.
We know from Hans Adolph Thomsen’s journal that they lost their three little girls to death along the way to Zion. I am sure this was a very traumatic time for young Jens. He may not have known exactly what was happening being as young as he was, but I am sure he would have noticed the somber countenance of his parents and others who lost children along the way. He would have also realized his sisters were no longer with them in their wagon.
From a letter dated March 25, 1900 from Hans Adolph Thomsen in Colonia Pacheco, Mexico to a Brother Petersen, Hans wrote the following about the crossing to Utah. “We got on a steamboat on the Missouri River, where a little boy drowned. Kjarkens Tims came to the river where we left the steamboat and went to Florence. We waited there while everything was finished to depart across the country with ox teams. I had a little girl who died there and an older one died when we had traveled about 200 miles. Our oldest daughter died when we were between Salt Lake City and Lehi. Over 60 children died in this company. On this trip our Captain’s name was John Sanders from Fairview, Sanpete County. We arrived at Salt Lake on the 5th of September.”
They had left Denmark a family of six and by the time they arrived in Utah and were on their way south to Sanpete County, they were down to just the three of them, Jens, his father, Hans and his mother, Karen. A new country, a new language and a new religion. They soon found them a place and settled in the little town of Fountain Green. Soon more children arrived to not replace, but to help with the loss of the three little girls. The first child born to Hans and Karen after they got to Utah was a little girl, who as was Danish costume was given all the names of her sisters who had died before she was born, thus Ane Mettie Marie Sofie Frederikke, fifth daughter of Hans and Karen was born on June 13, 1864 in Fountain Green. She died in childbirth with her third child. Followed by Karoline who died when she was two, Hanssina, Soren Christian, Hyrum Adolph (murdered by Apache Indians when he was 18) and Peder Engmar (Peter Elmer, my husband, Roy’s grandfather).
For the next 18 years the family lived there in Sanpete County or at the fort in Monroe, as Indians were still rather wild during this time.
Jens, father, Hans was a soldier in the Black Hawk Wars there in Utah and was wounded quite severely. The following is the story as told by his daughter, Mary Ann Thomsen Hawkins, who gave the story as told by her father. “After being hit by a flying arrow, he dropped to the side of his horse thus using the animal as a shield to his body, but was shot in the thigh that held him to the horse. He was very weak from loss of blood and prayed for strength to get through.” From another source the following is told: Journal History, page 3, April 5, 1868 states, “A company under Frederick Olson, numbering 22 men and 4 boys with 15 wagons were on their way to reopen one of the settlements in Sevier County. On April 5 near Rocky Ford on Sevier River early in the afternoon they found they were being followed by the Indians. They immediately corralled their animals to prevent a stampede and prepared for an attack. An express was started to Gunnison and Richfield, one man to the former and two to the latter. On the express to Richfield one man, Adolph Thomsen, was mounted on a tired horse which the Indians soon detected, pursued him and he had to turn back. Another party of Indians tried to cut him off, when five men from the camp came to his rescue; but not before he received a bullet in the right thigh and an arrow in the left side. He had to have part of his right foot amputated because the bullet in his thigh cut cords, nerves and veins running to his toes. “
Jens would have been eight years old when his father was wounded during the war, yet another traumatic event in this young boy’s life. Things were not easy in the territory of Utah during his growing up years. In the spring of 1869 the Thomsen’s moved to Spring City, also in Sanpete County, where Hans acquired a lot. Though badly crippled he managed with Karen’s and Jens help to fence his lot with poles cut and brought from the hills and to support his family.
In 1875 Jens, father, Hans was asked to take a wife in polygamy, Jensine Christensen. This woman had been married previously in Denmark, but her husband was a drunk and very abusive. She had a young son who was just an infant when his father came home drunk one night and killed him. Soon after she meet Mormon missionaries, joined the church and came to Zion.
Hans and Jensine had two daughters together, Mary Ann Thomsen, who was born a couple of weeks after Peder Engmar and Christena Alvina who was born two years later. Now the family was up to eight living children. Karen and her children lived on Polk Street and Jensine and her girls lived on Walnut Street just around the block from each other.
Hans was called during General Conference to go to St. Johns, Apache County, Arizona on April 6, 1881 in Salt Lake City. Soon afterward accompanied by his 21-year-old son, Jens and 9-year-old Soren, they started for St. Johns. When they reached the Colorado River it was too high to cross. They turned back and worked some time in a valley at or near Pioche on a railroad grading job. They had left Spring City on September 20, 1881 and arrived in November of 1881 in St. Johns.
Early in the spring of 1882 Hans, Jens and Soren returned to Spring City for the rest of the family. They traveled down to St. George where they stopped and did some temple work. They had two four-horse outfits with wagons loaded to capacity with household goods, machinery and supplies driven by Hans and Jens, also a camp wagon with a single span of horses driven by Karen. They had some saddle horses and twenty or thirty head of cows and heifers driven by Hyrum and Peter. From St. George they traveled through Kanab, Fredonia, Kaibab Forest and Horse Rock Valley to the Colorado River. It was a time of high water and they had to use a small boat because the big ferry was unmanageable in the swollen stream. They had to unload everything, take the wagons apart, load them on the boat, ferry across, unload, reassemble the wagons, take the goods across and reload them, then swim the horses and cattle across. After the river crossing came the long hard pull out of the canyon over Buckskin Mountain and the rocky ridge call Lee’s Backbone. They reached their destination in St. Johns the latter part of May 1882.
In 1884 Hans was again asked to take another wife in polygamy, Elizabeth Pedersen Nielsen. They were married in St. George and this time she was a widow woman from Denmark who had six children. Hans and Elizabeth never lived together as husband and wife, but Hans furnished a home for her and her children and took care of all of them. These six children considered Hans their father and they and their descendants, thought the world of him for taking them all in.
There were now fourteen children in this family and Jens was the oldest, Thomsen boy, but two of the Nielsen boys were slightly older then him. These boys would have all started working at a very early age, helping with the farming, and the day to day chores to keep everyone feed, clothed and a roof over their heads.
Hans was called again on February 18, 1885 in St. Johns to go to Mexico and the colonies there that had been set up for the Saints. Hans, took his wife, Elizabeth and two of her children and left for Mexico on March 22, 1885 and arrived in Colonia Juarez Wednesday, July 22nd having stopped along the way to work at various places. Seemingly they arrived just in time to assist in laying out the now present site of Colonia Juarez. As Fred Nielsen stated, “with a tool 16-foot-long of his own design and making Thomsen and Brother Moffat surveyed the ditches for the town and I was stake boy.”
In January of 1887, Hans returned to St. Johns for Jensine and their two daughters and started for Mexico. They stopped in Deming, New Mexico for three months where Hans hauled freight. While here they lived in a tent and daughter Mary Ann, told of an earthquake which rattled the harness hung on a stake near the tent. In 1889 Hans returned to St, Johns for Karen, their three-year-old granddaughter Annie, sons Hyrum and Peter and step-son Fred Nielsen; all began their journey down to Mexico. Karen drove a span of mules with the camp wagon. Hans drove a four-horse outfit, while the boys handled the loose horses and cattle.
They traveled by way of Fort Apache, on down the White and Black Rivers to Gila, which was so high they could not cross with the wagon. Here they ran out of bread so Hans swam his horse across, went to San Carlos and brought back 50 pounds of flour. They traveled about fifty miles off the direct route to visit Jens, who was hauling lumber with a big team of horses, named Tip and Snip, using two wagons so as to haul more each trip.
Jens, now called Jim, was now in his twenties and he was hauling lumber, working as a cowboy and any other jobs he could find, but he was soon to find a young girl who would try and settle him down to one place. Sarah Etta Mortenson was almost 13 years younger than Jim, but their families had known each other since at least 1863 as they crossed on the same ship and with the same wagon company and all lived in Spring City at one time.
Sarah and her family had left Utah after the 1880 census and went to Arizona where they lived in Bush Valley in Apache County. I am not sure exactly how or when Jim ran into the Mortenson family again, but on December 15, 1889 in Bush Valley he and Sarah were married.
Jim was off working most of the time and was never really at home much to help Sarah with their children. Jim and Sarah eventually had eleven children in their 37 years of marriage, before Jim died. Their children were: Violetta who was born in Bush Valley February 9, 1891; Caroline who was born in Luna, New Mexico June 19, 1893 as was James Adolph Jr. on August 17, 1895 and Elmer on December 2, 1897; Ernest and Etta who were twins were born down in Colonia Oaxaca, Sonora, Mexico on September 7, 1900 as was Mable Sophia on June 24, 1903; Clara Vernell was born in Douglas, Cochise County, Arizona on January 7, 1906 as was Ida Leona on August 15, 1908 and Zina on July 24, 1911 and Floyd M. on August 18, 1914.
While Jim’s parents were living in Mexico on a cool Sunday morning, September 19, 1892 renegade Apache Indians raided the ranch where Jim’s parents, his little brothers, Hyrum, age 18 and Peter, age 14 and his little niece, Annie, age 6, were living. His father, Hans had left early Saturday morning to go with others to help harvest crops at the different ranches in the area, so Karen and the children were there by themselves. Hyrum and Peter had gone out to do their normal morning chores, feed and water the animals, while Karen and her granddaughter, Annie were inside getting breakfast ready. Suddenly shots rang out and Hyrum fell dead in the corral and Peter fell has well. Karen and Annie ran out when they heard the shots. I can only imagine her horror to see both of her young sons lying in what she was assuming was death out near the corrals. She hurriedly hid little Annie under her dress when the Indians noticed her and came and bashed her head in with a rock. Somehow little Annie stayed under her skirts. Peter who was not dead, but severely wounded had somehow managed to drag himself under the chicken coop.
When the Indians came out of the house after raiding it, and saw that one of the boys was no longer lying where he had fell, immediately saddled up and took off in case he had gone for help. Little Annie had crawled out from under her grandmother’s dress when Peter motioned for her to come to him. They hid there for a while until they were sure the Indians were gone, before they went for help. Peter was shot and had lost a lot of blood and so could not go very far before he told Annie she would have to go on without him. Remarkably it was Sarah’s father, James Mortenson, who was also living in the area, who felt prompted that something was wrong at the Thomsen Ranch and found little Annie in the dusk of the evening, walking towards him all covered in blood. He sent out the alarm to all the adjoining ranches and got a wagon and went for Peter, who lay almost dead for over a month before he was finally able to get up and around again.
In 1910 Jim and Sarah and their children were listed on the federal census in Whitewater which is about 30 miles north of Douglas and where Sarah continued to live until the day she died on November 26, 1957. She is buried at the Whitewater Cemetery on Mormon Road in Elfrida, Cochise County, Arizona.
Jim did not have an easy life; from the time he was small until he was a grown man tragedy seem to dog his every footstep. We do not know his mind or what demons he had to deal with, but it seems to have caused him to wonder off on his own more and more frequently.
Sometime around 1914, Jim left home again and where he went is not exactly known at this time, but he ended up in Salt Lake City and that is where he was living when he died on October 16, 1926 and was buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery which is up in the avenues area of Salt Lake. He was at the County Infirmary when he died and a stranger was the informant on his death certificate.
These next two pictures are of Jim and Sarah, not sure when they were taken but you can tell they were older.
A number of years ago Wallace and Ruth Thompson, grandson of Jim and Sarah, ask me if I could help them locate his grave because they were going to be coming up from Arizona and wanted to go and see where he was buried. I was able to find his grave and he did not have a tombstone at that time, so Wallace and Ruth had one made for him so that others could now find his grave. The following is a picture of that tombstone that I took back in 2014.
Aren’t we glad we were born during this time, our trials maybe be different, but I am not sure I could have dealt very well with what Jens/Jim had to deal with from a very young age. Never judge someone if you have never walked in their shoes, we don’t know what they may have gone through.