Karen Karoline Sorensdatter was born September 8, 1833 the oldest child and only daughter of Soren Jespersen and Frederikke Olesdatter at Åby, Århus, Denmark. Karen’s other siblings were: Ole Sorensen (came to America), Jens Sorensen (died young), Niels Sorensen (came to America) and Rasmus Sorensen (stayed in Denmark). Not much is known about Karen’s early years unfortunately.
Karen was married November 14, 1855 to Hans Adolph Thomsen in Åby and also here their first four children were born to them, namely: Mette Marie on June 24, 1856; Ane Marie on May 17, 1859; Jens Adolph on October 22, 1860 – October 16, 1926 and Sofie Frederikke on February 18, 1862.
From a journal kept by Hans Adolph Thomsen, Karen’s husband, we learn that he and Karen joined the Mormon Church in 1861 in Åby. Hans was baptized on the 11th day of August by Soren C. Stark and confirmed the same day by P. C. Geersteen who was the President of Århus Conference. Karen was baptized and confirmed on the 6th day of September that same year, by her brother, Ole Sorensen. Hans and Karen then became active members of the Åby Branch.
Soon the family decided to come to America and join the Saints in Zion, so Karen with her husband and four small children left everything they knew to start a new adventure in America. Hans Adolph Thomsen’s journal states that: “on the 30th of April 1863 traveled from Århus with my family.” Also from Hans’ journal we know that they made 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. From a journal record kept of that voyage we read, “Friday, May 8th, 1863 sailed for Zion aboard the ship, B. S. Kimball, Captain H. Dearborn, with 648 other passengers under the direction of Hans Peter Lund. After six weeks of rugged sailing landed in New York the 15th of June and then continued by rail to Florence, Nebraska.”
It was here that Karen and Hans were greatly saddened by the death of their baby, Sofie Frederikke who died on June 28, 1863 just 8 days before their group, John F. Sanders Company, left Florence, Nebraska. They left from Council Bluffs on July 6, 1863 for the Salt Lake Valley. The other children, much worn from travel and strangeness of their surroundings, fretted when their mother was out of sight, so sacrificing herself Karen walked most of the way between the wagon and the oxen, so the children might see her and rest easier. Tragedy again befell the family when on the 22nd of July, little Ane Marie died and was buried on the trail near Sandy Bluff, along the Platte River in present day Wyoming. The wagon company, with which they traveled dared not stop, so Hans and Karen buried their dead alone. They dug a shallow grave, spread a few wild flowers to soften the fall of earth, said a prayer over the unmarked grave of their little treasure and hurried to catch their group, as their only safety was in numbers.
They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on Saturday, September 5, 1863 and on the 7th, just two days later, their eldest child, Mette Marie died and was buried, close to where Camp Douglas was, leaving only their young son, Jens Adolph, to commence their family life in Zion. The family left the valley shortly after their arrival for the little village of Fountain Green in Sanpete County, about 100 miles southeast of Salt Lake. Here their fifth child, a daughter, was born on June 13, 1864 and according to Danish custom received the names of her sisters who had passed away, Ane Mette Marie Sofie Frederikke. Ane married Rasmus Strate and had three children and died in childbirth when her third child, a daughter, Anna Marie Strate was born on January 28, 1886 in Spring City, Sanpete County, Utah.
There was much Indian trouble in the area, savages raided the herd grounds and drove off many cattle and horses, often killing the herders. So with making a living, standing or riding guard, dispatch riding and chasing Indians, Hans was kept busy while adjusting to a new language, country and religion. Karen I am sure was scared for her family and probably wondered at times, why they had ever left Denmark for this wild and savage land in America. Hans was wounded during one of these attacks and carried the bullet to his grave.
Two more daughters and three more sons, soon came to bless Karen and Hans’ home, making ten children that Karen had all together. These children’s names were: Karoline 1866-1868, Hanssina 1869-1939, Soren Christian 1872-1935, Hyrum Adolph 1874-1892 and my husband Roy’s grandfather, Peder Engmar (Peter Elmer) 1878-1951. Karoline was born in Sevier County while they were at the fort in Monroe when the Indians were really bad, the other four were all born in Spring City in Sanpete County.
I figure the following two pictures one of Karen and one of Hans were probably taken in Spring City or maybe even Salt Lake in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s. They were in a double frame that was in the possession of my husband’s uncle, Gilbert Thompson in 1984 when we stopped by his home in Fruita, Colorado after my father-in-law, Floyd Thompson’s passing.
By 1880 after 17 years in Utah, Karen and her family had a nice home in Spring City, and Karen was content and really starting to enjoy living in America. Karen’s father, Soren Jespersen had come to Utah in 1874, but her mother, Frederikke would not leave Denmark. This next picture is of Soren and Frederikke Jespersen which I am assuming was taken in 1874 shortly before Soren left for America. Our family stories say that Frederikke wouldn't leave Denmark and the family in Denmark say that Soren deserted her and ran off with the Mormon’s.
The Indian troubles had pretty much settled down in Utah and things were going pretty good, but the following year in April of 1881, at General Conference, Hans was called to go and settle in St. John’s, Arizona. Karen I am sure probably wasn't ready or even willing to make another move to an even a more dangerous area of America, but she packed up their belongings and went any way. So in September of 1881 the family left Utah and headed for Arizona, arriving in St. John’s in November.
The Indians weren't quite as bad here as they thought they would be, but water was harder to come by and their animals would get run off quite frequently by the Indians. I am sure Karen was ready to go back to Utah and her snug little home in Spring City, but instead Hans was called to go and settle in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico, just 4 years later. Hans went down first and found them a place and then came back for Karen and their children. Once again Karen packed up their few belongings and loaded their wagons and this time headed for Old Mexico. I so wish Karen had kept a journal so I could have known her thoughts, but if she ever did it did not survive.
They first lived in Colonia Juarez until Hans was able to find the family a place to rent. Hans was able to rent a ranch known as the Pratt Ranch which was located in Cave Valley in Chihuahua, Mexico. From what I have heard and been told, it was off a ways from most of the other ranches in the area so I can just image how scared Karen must have been. Their older children were starting to get married and so most of them stayed back in St. John’s or were still up in Utah, though some of them did come to Mexico for a short time. The only ones really still living at home were Karen, Hans, their two youngest sons Hyrum and Peter and their granddaughter Anna Marie Strate. Anna’s mother had died in childbirth when Anna was born and so Karen had taken her to raise.
Hans farmed and had a few cattle and as was the custom the men would come and help each other plant their crops in the spring and harvest their crops in the fall. Karen cooked for her family and any of the men who would be there to help with the planting and harvesting, etc. Karen would put up vegetables, make cheeses, sew and all the many other chores a farmer and ranchers wife would be called to do. I can only image how lonely she must have gotten out there all by herself, with not another woman around to keep her company other than her little granddaughter. I know that at least once and maybe twice she was able to go back up to Utah to visit with some of her family that lived up there.
Most of the Indians in the area were Apache and the majority of them in the states had been put on reservations, but every now and again some would sneak away and go raiding down in Mexico or hit a lonely ranch that the Indians knew no one would know about for some time, if they were to attack it. As most of you know the Apache were a blood thirsty lot and didn't really care who they killed or burnt out. All of these things Karen would have known about and worried about I am sure. How she went to sleep at night thinking about all of these things is beyond me.
The following picture was taken of Karen and her granddaughter Anna Marie Strate in the spring of 1892 in Colonia Juarez, Mexico when Anna was 6 years old.
After this picture was taken was probably the last time Karen felt safe and secure. The Apaches had been raiding more and more and the family was hearing of ranches being burnt, cattle being run off and people being killed. By September of 1892 it was harvest time once again and Hans knew he had to leave to go and help gather in crops around the area. The men who had come to help with their crops including Hans, all left Saturday evening after they were finished at Karen and Hans’ place, to go to the next ranch to help with the crops there.
Sunday morning came bright and early and after the family kneeled down for morning prayers, the boys Hyrum who was 18 and Peter who was 14 went out to get all the chores done, milking the cow, gathering the eggs and feeding all the animals. Karen and little Anna were in the house getting breakfast ready for them. Suddenly shots rang out disturbing the quiet Sunday morning. Karen ran for the door and saw Hyrum shot and killed as he was coming back from the corral, then next Peter as he came out of the chicken coop. Both her boys dropped and she knew they were both dead. She ran back in the house to little Anna, but an Indian came running through the door carrying out food and clothing and knocked her down. Another Indian grabbed little Anna and was getting ready to kill her when another Indian shouted. Little Anna ran back to her grandmother who picked her up and was turning back to the house. Peter who was not dead, but severely wounded had somehow crawled over to the chicken coop and had crawled underneath it.
The Indians probably thinking he had gone for help decided to get out of there quick. They turned around to finish off Karen and little Anna but only saw Karen standing there. An old squaw who was with the bucks came out of the house and picked up a large stone and hit Karen in the head with it. As Karen was falling Peter, who could not save his mother, saw that little Anna was hiding under her skirts. Somehow Karen kept her skirts down so that the Indians did not see the little girl, the old squaw bashed in her head once more with the large rock and that last blow ended the life of a wife, mother and grandmother, September 19, 1892 at the Pratt Ranch in Cave Valley, Chihuahua, Mexico.
After the Indians left, Peter got Anna’s attention and had her come over to the chicken coop and she crawled under there with him. They stayed under there until they were sure the Indians were gone, then somehow Peter got up and started walking, holding on to little Anna. Can you image how scared that little girl was and even that 14 year old boy. Peter was only able to go so far, before he set down and leaned against a tree. Little Anna set down beside him, all of a sudden their old dog showed up and set there with them. Peter told Anna to take the dog and start walking towards the Williams Ranch for help. Little Anna did that but how in the world a little six year old girl who had just seen her grandmother and uncle murdered was able to do so is almost mind boggling to me.
James Mortensen who lived at the Williams Ranch had felt like something was wrong over at the Thomsen’s and had saddled his horse and was headed that way when in the evening dusk he saw the little girl and her faithful dog walking towards him. Word was sent to Hans Thomsen and the next day his wife, Karen and son, Hyrum were buried. Peter was laid up for over a month or more before he was able to regain his health and strength, but lived to be 73 years old. Anna’s father Rasmus Strate came from Utah as soon as he could and took Anna back home with him, he had remarried and was able to now take care of her himself. Anna was 71 when she passed away.
The newspapers in the area and even in Salt Lake said that the Indians that raided the ranch and some in the surrounding area were led by a renegade Apache, named the Apache Kid. The following is a picture of him I was able to find online.
So ended the life of a remarkable woman, a wife and grandmother and mother of ten children who buried three of them in less than three months, another that wasn't quite two years old, and one who was murdered right in front of her. How these pioneer woman did all they did and suffered all they did is a feat that I am sure most of us would fail at miserably.