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Larsen, Lars Peter and Matilda Knudsen, Life Sketch
Written by Orlon Larsen Nordfelt, son of Charles Larsen Nordfelt.
THE LARSEN-NORDFELT FAMILY HISTORY
By Orlon Larsen Nordfelt
This is a short history of my father’s parents, Lars Peter and Matilda Andersen who came from Denmark. Most of the credit for what information we have available should go to my cousin, Joy Holladay. She made the special effort of using her shorthand ability to record talks given by her mother, (Effie) and my father (Charles) at our family reunions. She also had my father record additional information of a tape recorder. The following is a compilation of this information on a tape recorder. The following is a compilation of this information plus what other information I have been able to obtain from my father, other relatives, friends who have come from Denmark, and genealogy records.
Grandfather, Lars Peter Andersen, was the son of Anders Larsen and Ane Kirstine Knudsen. It was the Danish custom for the children to take as their last name the first name of their father and then add ”sen”, meaning son. This is spelled “son” for those of Swedish origin. If this custom had been carried on in our time my name would have been Orlon Charlesen, meaning Orlon, the son of Charles. How grandfather changed his name to Larsen and then added Nordfelt will come forth in this history.
Lars Peter Andersen was born January 16, 1852, in Elmelunde, Praesto, Denmark. This is on the Island of Moen. It is a small island about 5 miles wide and 20 miles long, located in the southeastern part of Denmark (see the map on this page). My grandparents had so many fond memories of the island and would often talk about “Moen’s Klint.” These are white chalk cliffs on the very eastern end of the island. They are similar to the famous white cliffs of Dover, England. The island is basically a dairy and agricultural area but it is also a tourist spot for the Danish people. In looking at the 1960 atlas I find that Stege, the largest community on the island, has only 2,600 residents.
Grandfather’s father, Anders Larsen, was the overseer of an estate known as the Nordfelt (meaning north field) Estate. His job was similar to the foreman of a ranch. He was in charge of all the hired help in farming and harvesting of the crops and taking care of the livestock. Their methods of farming and harvesting were very crude compared to ours today and everything was done by hand, such as threshing the wheat, cutting the hay, etc. It was the custom then, and is still quite prevalent, to have a home and farm building all under the same roof. The home would be on one end, and hay lofts in the center to act as a divider, and the barn area for the cattle on the other end.
Grandmother, Matilda Sophia Frederika Knudsen, was born April 22, 1852 in Lech, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. She was the daughter of Jens Knudsen and Ane Elizabeth Mortensen. The Schleswig-Holstein area is directly south of the present Denmark/Germany border and has been a disputed area between the two countries for centuries. Grandmother’s parents later moved back to the Island of Moen where they had originally lived. Great-grandfather, Jens Knudsen, was a forest ranger and had served as an officer in the Danish Army.
Grandmother used to tell the story of when she was growing up and she and her sisters would be engaged in family squabbles. Her mother would say, “Oh well, maybe some day there will be an ocean between you.” This came to pass. On of the sisters stayed Denmark, one went to New Zealand and two came to the United States.
Grandmother and Grandfather were first cousins and were married about 1875. Their first two children were born in Denmark. Annie Marie was born January 9, 1877, at Stege, Praesto (Island of Moen) Denmark. Knud Peter (called Pete) was born September 26, 1878, at Oure, Praesto (Island of Moen), Denmark. Grandfather learned the carpenter trade as a young man and then had two years of compulsory military training with the Danish Army. He never forgot his military training and carried himself straight; shoulders back, and were light as a feather on his feet.
Before leaving Denmark, Grandfather and Grandmother lived with Grandfather’s parents. Grandfather’s mother was very ill and was terribly afflicted with eczema. Grandmother and Grandfather were reluctant to leave her but she insisted that they leave and go to the new world where their children would have better opportunities. When they left Denmark in 1880 they had quite a time deciding where to go as Grandmother had sisters in both New Zealand and the United States. They left with the intention of going to New Zealand. When they got to Liverpool, England, they had some financial disappointments and decided to go to America because it would cost much less.
It was quite an experience that spring of 1880 as they crossed the stormy Atlantic Ocean. They were out to sea several days on a small steamer when their ship lost its propeller and drifted helplessly to the north for many days. They were put on rations because their supplies were so low, and became very worried about their outcome. Finally, a large steamer picked up their distress signals and came to their rescue off the coast of Newfoundland. A tow line was attached to each side of their ship and it was pulled by the larger ship. The Atlantic decided to show them what she was really made of and during the storm one of the tow lines broke. This left their ship to dangle and dodge about like a fish on the end of line for a couple of hours. The ocean was so rough that Grandfather took hold of a bar on the upper berth, braced his feet, and stayed rigid like this during the crisis to keep Grandmother and the two small children from rolling off the bed. When the storm was over he could hardly let go of the rod because he had held on so long and so tight. They had a hard time getting signals to the larger ship but finally succeeded and were pulled up along side until the storm subsided and repairs could be made. It took them six weeks to cross the ocean.
During the crossing little Pete, who was just over a year old, was very ill with pneumonia. The ship’s doctor told Grandmother to wrap him in cold sheets. The thought came to her that this would surely kill her baby. She got an old woolen blanket from her trunk and had Grandfather go down into the engine room and wring the blanket out in hot oil. She then wrapped Pete in the blanket. He got well and lived to be nearly 21 years of age.
Their second son, Albert Andreas, arrived 12 days after they reached their destination. He was born June 15, 1880, in Spring Valley, Minnesota. Spring Valley is about 75 miles southeast of Minneapolis and in 1960 had a population of 2,628. They arrived in Minnesota right at the time of a big building and population boom in the Minneapolis area. Grandfather got work with the contracting firm of W.F. Petty and Son. He worked for them for a few years until this building boom was over. He was made a foreman while working for them. A son, Rudolph Christian, was born November 10, 1881, in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and a daughter, Alma Amanda was born there August 12, 1883.
After the building demand was over in Minneapolis, the family moved about 50 miles to the northwest to the little farming community of Silver Creek, Minnesota. Silver Creek is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Here Grandfather purchased about 40 acres of land. He had really looked forward to owning land of his own in this new world. Their next two children were born in Silver Creek. A daughter, Laura Christinia, was born March 17, 1885. She lived only a few months and died July 20, 1885. My father, Charles Conrad, was born June 29, 1886.
One day a tornado came very close to their home. They had never been in one before and did not know what to expect. While all their neighbors were huddled down in their storm cellars, Grandfather and Grandmother sat up in their home. It was lucky for them that their home was not completed and they had boards over the windows at the time. The next day Grandfather went to St. Cloud, which is about 18 miles northwest of Silver Creek. He said he had never seen such destruction!! The tornado had just about destroyed the entire town. Trees, houses, and cattle were all tangled and twisted together. It had taken big trees and twisted them right out of the ground. Can you imagine how he must have felt after seeing this?
It was in Silver Creek that Grandfather met Hans Dittlesen. He was to become a choice friend of their family. Hans, a young man, had just come over from the old country. He had a job clearing the underbrush about that area. Hans expressed his desire to learn the carpenter trade and Grandfather agreed to teach him. The two of them would build houses for the new settlers and when there were no homes to build they would work on the farm land.
Everything had to be kept in barns in Minnesota because of the severe winters. The snow piled so high they could walk right over the fences on the frozen snow. Lines would be stretched from the house to the barns so they would not get lost in one of the terrible winter blizzards. There were people in the area who were frozen to death because they would get lost going only a short distance from their homes. It would get so cold and the snow would freeze so hard (40 to 50 below zero) that they would drive with their horse and sleigh right over the top of the deep snow. They would use a one-horse cutter sleigh with a high dashboard in front. This dashboard kept the horse from kicking snow into the front seat. One night Grandfather got lost while driving with his horse and sleigh in one of these blizzards. He just hung the lines across the dashboard of the sleigh, wrapped up in his big bear skin coat, and turned the horse loose. The horse, having a remarkable sense of direction, took him home safely. It got so cold in Minnesota that the bedding would freeze to the walls when the bed was pushed too close.
All was not work, however, and in the summer time a favorite fishing place for the family was Troller Lake. Here they would fish for mackerel, pike and eel. Albert and Pete enjoyed fishing in the eddies along the Mississippi River. The logs would pile up in the bends of the river and they would walk out of them and fish in the holes.
It was during their stay in Silver Creek that my grandparents met Parley Christiansen, a Mormon missionary from Mayfield, Utah. We all owe a special thanks to him as he brought the Gospel to our Grandparents. Grandfather quit smoking and they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There was so much discrimination against the Mormons that the children were taught to say their prayers and to bless the food but were told not to say anything about the Church to their playmates.
Finally, after they had a crop failure, they decided to move to Utah where they could enjoy their new Church. Apparently a plague of chintz bugs had destroyed the crops. When Grandfather sold his farm in Silver Creek he got enough money for them to get to Utah and was to have had the balance of the money sent to him. The man who purchased the farm was not able to raise the additional money and wrote asking Grandfather to sign over the deed to him so he could go to the bank and borrow the money. Grandfather thought he could trust this man and did as he was asked but he never heard from him again. This left them with serious financial problems.
The family traveled from Minnesota to Utah by train. At that time the train track was not completed down through Sampete County so they went to Nephi, Utah. Here at Nephi a relative, “Uncle” Nielsen met them and took them from Nephi to Shumway. Shumway was the name of a farming area about 2 miles southwest of Ephraim. Here Uncle helped Grandfather build a home.
During the winter of 1887 and the spring of 1888 Grandfather got a job working on the Manti Temple. He was a very good carpenter and talented at doing finishing work. He could turn out fancy staircase banisters on a wood lathe and do it accurately without using calipers. Grandfather worked 10 hours a day on the temple (this was a standard workday.) for $2.50 a day. Half of this was paid in money and the balance was drawn in produce. The people didn’t have enough money to pay all their donations in cash to build the temple. They would donate their produce (butter, eggs, milk, meat, flour, etc.) just as they did their tithes and this produce was used to help pay the temple workers.
Their daughter Annie, who was 10 or 11 years old at the time, did not have much of a chance for schooling. She just didn’t have the suitable clothes to go to school. Each day she would take a lunch up to her father and would sit and watch him do this beautiful finishing work in the Terrestrial Room of the temple. These were to become cherished memories to her. The temple was dedicated on May 21, 1888 by Lorenzo Snow.
Due to the loss of their farm money it was extremely hard for the family in Manti. They had no furniture and used boxes for tables and chairs. Grandfather would work on the temple during the daytime and then spent a few hours, each night, building furniture for their home. He made beautiful furniture and carved fancy limb and leaf designs in it with wood chisels. Even though they had hard times their family kept growing and son, Harry Frederick, was their first child to be born in Utah. He came to the February 15, 1888, in Manti.
After the temple was completed in 1888 the family moved to Ephraim, Utah. Here they lived in three different homes in four years. The first home was just north of where the train depot now stands. It is the second house north of the corner. The next home was in the east end of town. It was located on the southwest corner of the block and the home faced south. East and north of the home was a granary and east of they was a lean-to. Grandfather had his work bench under this lean-to. The children enjoyed watching him work there and would play in the ribbon shaped shavings made by the wood jointer. From this home they moved to a home on the south end of town. It was an adobe home with a porch along the front of the home which faced west. The children would sit on this porch and watch the train track being put down between Ephraim and Manti. They were not allowed to go over where the work was being done but could see it clearly from their home. It was interesting for them to watch the tracks being laid and to see the train going back and forth over them.
Just a little information about Grandpa and Grandma at this time of their life: At this time they were both 36 years of age. Grandpa was about 6 feet tall, slender built with brown hair, a red beard and blue eyes. He was a very strong person and extremely fast. It was this quickness that earned him the nick names of “The Flying Carpenter” and the “Minnesota Rustler.” My father, Charles, said that there wasn’t anyone who could keep pace with Grandfather when it came to carpenter work. Grandmother was short (about 5 feet 2 inches) but was quite a stout woman. She had black hair and black eyes with a fair skin. She too, was very strong for a woman, until her later years when she had sickness.
Grandfather and Grandmother went through the Manti Temple for their own endowments on February 20, 1889. It was at this time that Grandfather decided to change his last name from Andersen to Larsen so that he would have the same last name as his father. This was in keeping with the American custom. He later added the name “Nordfelt” (now he was known as Lars Peter Larsen Nordfelt). As was mentioned earlier, Nordfelt was the name of the estate in Denmark where his father worked as an overseer. The people of Sanpete County, Utah were just about all Scandinavians and I guess they were having trouble with their mail, etc., and it became the custom for many of them to change their last name to correct this problem they were having. From what we can find out, Grandfather just changed his name and there was never any legal recording of it as there should have been.
Grandfather’s carpentry work in Ephraim increased until it finally reached a point where he could not do all the work by himself. He had kept in touch with his good friend, Hans Dittlesen, who was still in Minnesota. He decided to write and ask Hans if he would like to come to Ephraim and work with him. Hans came and lived right in with the family. He slept upstairs with the children and Charles remembers Hans telling him and his little bother Harry to be quiet so he could sleep.
Effie Christina was born in Ephraim on April 27, 1890. A young girl, Carolyn Hansen, was hired to come and help them. She lived in with the family. Her parents were the first people Grandmother and Grandfather met when they arrived in Utah. Carolyn and Hans got along very well and were later married. They named their first girl Effie, after this little baby who was the cause of their getting together. Their second child, a boy, was named Harry.
At times the people there showed their prejudices. When Grandfather brought Hans to Utah the people of Ephraim were really upset with him because Hans was not a member of the Church. Grandfather would say, “Well, who knows but what Hans could be just as good a member as some of us.” Hans did join the Church so Grandfather was right. Grandfather was the first man to introduce the use of thin wire nails to Ephraim. The old-timers criticized him saying that they wouldn’t hold. He had to convince them that they would hold better than the old type. He built the North Ward Chapel, a school house, and many homes in Ephraim. He got in an argument with the school board because he hung the outside doors of the school to swing out. He had a hard time convincing them that public buildings should have their doors hung like this as a safety factor.
Grandfather kept his dream alive of owning farm land of his own and in the summer of 1892 the family moved to Gunnison, Utah. Their property was in the northwest section of town. There was a home and about 40 acres of farm land. A canal ran near the home and most of the land was above this canal. The canal was scheduled to be moved higher which would have put all of the land so it could have been irrigated, but this did not materialize. One time Harry was pulling little Jennie in a wagon and Jennie tipped into this canal. Luck had it that there was just a small stream of water at the time. This same little Jennie Matilda, their last child, was born to them while living in this home in Gunnison on January 13, 1893. Effie said she could remember a sick baby in a hammock hanging somewhere in the house and was told later that it was Jennie when she had the rickets. Charles remembers that he started school here in Gunnison while living in this home.
There was speculation that a canal would be built to irrigate some land in Axtel. Grandfather decided to get in on some homesteading and built a home between Redmond and Axtel., Utah. Here they were to live for five years, but no canal. There are so many fond memories of the days on the flats of Axtel. Effie used to enjoy going with Charles and Harry when they would herd cows down by the Sevier River. If she saw an Indian coming toward the bullberries she would scamper for home. There were many coyotes in the area and they were always getting in the herds and killing the little lambs. The children had to walk about a mile and half across the open flats to go to school. They held both their school and church in the same log house. Sometimes they would hold dances in their different homes, having to move out all the furniture from the living room to make enough space available. Kris Tinker, a neighbor, would come and play the accordion.
One opening day of school Charles, Harry and Effie reported to their teacher. She asked Charles, being the eldest, who their father was. He said, “Lars Peter Larsen Nordfelt.” Little Effie said, “It ain’t neither, it’s “Laws Pata.” This was Lars Peter with a good old Danish accent.
The children had to create their own amusement. They swam in the river and enjoyed hunting for magpie eggs. They would blow the yolks from the magpie eggs and string them on strings like beads. The also caught magpies and would teach them to talk. One of these was kept for years and it became a real pet of the family. Pete built a large cage for the magpie and it would occasionally clean this pen in a very ingenious way. It would push the excess food to the edge of the pen and then, being trained to talk, would call for the chickens. The chickens would then come over and peck the edge of the pen clean. The little girls, Effie and Jennie, had many play dinners with roseleaf tea and bullberries. There were the matchless mud pies with ***** willows for raisins. They also gathered rocks and stored them under the stairway on the side of the house to “peterfy” (petrify). The family had a pet dog they called “Old Spring.” Charles and Harry would cut the wire grass and pile it high on their little wagon. Old Spring was then used to be a horse to haul the “hay” home. Old Spring got used to them and would sit around and watch them play but would take off just before hauling time came.
During this time at Axtel, Albert penned this famous quote: “It was the year of 1896 that we were all in a hell of a fix.” What a fix it was!! All nine of the children got the measles. To make it worse, Grandfather was away from home working. Grandmother had to depend on Annie, the oldest, to help her but then Annie got them too and was more seriously afflicted than any of them.
It was necessary from time to time for Grandfather to go to other towns around the area for work. While he would be away Grandmother was left alone with the children and all of the chores to do on their farm. Grandfather would come home on Saturday nights to be with the family for Sunday. When he and Old Kate (their big black horse, and pet of the family) would drive into the yard, Grandfather could hardly get out of the buggy because he was so doubled up with lumbago. This is a rheumatic pain in the loins and the lower back. Grandfather had an old bear skin coat that he got in Minnesota. When he would come home on cold winter nights after a long buggy ride, he would have his storm collar up, his cap pulled down and his red whiskers would be as white with frost as Santa. He would first warm his hands and then thaw the icicles out of his whiskers.
It was quite a job for Grandfather and Grandmother to provide for this family of 9 children, but they never went hungry and were always warm. They raised sheep and would sheer them in the spring to get their own wool. Grandmother would wash the wool, dry it, and then would card it smooth with carding paddles. These were shaped like ping-pong paddles, only square. They were just large wire brushes. Grandmother would then make wool yarn with the use of an old fashioned spinning wheel. With this yarn she would knit their wool clothing—warm but itchy! They didn’t need much closet space because they didn’t have many clothes. The ones they did have were worn a couple of years and, if still good, were handed down to smaller children to wear. The children went barefoot in the summers, sometimes wearing moccasins made of overall cloth with heavier material for the soles. A string was attached to the heel to tie around the ankle to keep them on.
The family was very industrious. They always raised pigs to kill and would kill a sheep once in a while for variety. The Danish people didn’t waste anything. Grandmother would clean the pigs’ entrails and would use these as casing and would stuff them with her delicious pork sausage. She would make head cheese from the pig’s head and would clean the feet and make pickled pigs’ feet. The boys would blow up the bladder and use it like a football. After pigs were killed they were scalded in boiling water and then the hair was scraped off and used to mix in plaster. So you see, not much was wasted—just the squeal. There was also a smoke house where they cured the hams and shoulders of the pork.
Water for domestic use was hauled from the river and their drinking water from a well in Axtel. They finally drilled a well but it wasn’t very good for drinking but did take care of their other uses. They used this water for their small garden and their milk cans were placed in tubs of this water to keep it cool.
I guess it is hard for us to imagine the conveniences that we have today that just weren’t available in those days. Charles says it was quite an experience when he and Harry were baptized. He was about 10 and Harry 8 years old. Gustov Johnson took them to a clear water slough in Axtel to baptize them.
As mentioned before, their horse, Old Kate, was really a pet of the family. She was large and not too fast but very dependable. Grandmother said that when she was to be resurrected she wanted Old Kate to be there with her. One time the horses were turned loose to go down to the river for a drink. They wouldn’t go because Old Kate stopped in the middle of the gate. When one of the boys went to see why they weren’t going he found little Jennie right between Old Kate’s hind legs. After Old Kate died they got two “grays.” They were lighter, faster and very sturdy but no horse could replace Old Kate.
Charles relates that one of his fond memories was the time Pete took him on a pole cutting expedition up to Yogel. This is up Soldier Canyon just east of Salina. They used these poles to fence a pasture on their farm land in Axtel.
Grandfather decided to trade his equity in the home in Gunnison for a farm south of Scipio Lake. He had given up on the canal being built above their place in Gunnison. The family spent their summers on this new farm the first two years. These were quite successful farming years but then they had some years of crop failure and Grandfather sold it. It seems that this was a good move because Grandfather was a very good carpenter but he surely didn’t seem to have much success at farming, as hard as he tried.
The measles of 1896 left Pete with a bad stomach and he gradually got worse until he died July 19, 1899. He was almost 21 years of age. The funeral services were held in Redmond. The casket was taken in a white top hack form Axtel to Redmond and the family followed in wagons. Pete was buried in the Redmond cemetery.
The family moved to Redmond in 1900 and lived here a couple of years. They first lived in the old Anderson home by an old crippled tailor while building their home. The family was always doing nice things for the old tailor. He had come to their home in Gunnison to sew suits for the family when they lived there too. He would sit on the tables to do his work. While living in Redmond, Grandfather got a letter from his father in Denmark. He sent him about $150 and a picture of himself. He had sold something and said he wanted to share the profits with Grandfather.
The family made their last move when they went to Salina, Utah in the spring of 1902. Here Grandfather set up a planing and saw mill. That opening day was something else! The manhole plug blew out of the boiler when it was steamed up. This scattered the spectators in every direction. Grandfather worried about the family living in the old house which was directly behind the saw mill. He knew that if a blade should come loose it, could fly right through the window into the living room. This very thing happened one day as Grandmother sat by the window spinning yarn. It shattered glass all around her and in her lap. It was fortunate that she was not injured. She never sat there any more while the saw mill was operating.
Grandfather finally started a nice home for the family. It was a lovely home with tall trees, lawn and flowers. He was not able to finish the home before his death. A railroad was constructed up Salina Canyon and numerous teams of horses were used to do the grading for the railroad bed, etc. These horses polluted Salina Creek. At this time many people were using this creek water for drinking water. They would put the water in large wooden barrels and the mud would settle to the bottom. When this water became polluted a typhoid epidemic broke out. Many people died of it. Grandfather had an attack in 1904 and finally died of his second attack on October 31, 1906 at the age of 55. He was buried in the Salina Pioneer Cemetery. Charles almost died with typhoid, too. He was about 17 years old at the time. He was so sick he laid on one side for 4 weeks without being able to be moved. This caused his ribs to be caved in on that side. After Grandfather died, Charles took over the saw mill and took care of Grandmother and his sisters. Charles was 18 years old at the time.
Annie was the first of the children to be married. She was married to Hans Peter Johnson on February 20, 1896. Rudolph married Oleana Peterson in the Manti Temple on November 11, 1903. Amanda married Brigham Wentworth Casto in the Manti Temple on June 3, 1908. Harry married Loa Casto the following year on July 2, 1909. The family was now getting smaller and smaller. The only ones home with Grandmother were Charles, Effie and Jennie. This was some change from her family of 9 children on the flats of Axtel. Charles married Ethel Amanda Curtis in the Manti Temple on October 19, 1910. Ethel helped take care of Grandmother until Grandmother died the following spring, March 30, 1911. Grandmother was almost 59 years of age. She had experienced very poor health since Pete had died, suffering from heart trouble, dropsy and rheumatism. Grandmother was buried by the side of Grandfather in the Pioneer Cemetery in Salina.
Jennie went to school at Snow Academy in Ephraim, Utah for a couple of years. She got her teaching certificate and taught school in Orangeville, Emery County, Utah for one year. She then got a job teaching in Santaquin, Utah in the fall of 1913. Effie went with her and they rented a room to board the school teachers. This enabled the two sisters to be together. Here they were to meet their husbands and in 1917 they were both married. Jennie married Henry Alonzo Bylund in the Salt Lake Temple on June 27, 1917. Effie married Isaiah Cornelius Holladay on August 22, 1917, in the Salt lake Temple.
The final member of the family to be married was Albert. They had almost given up on him. He married Edith Emery McKean in St. George on February 9, 1926. Albert was 46 years old when he was married.
At this writing only two of the children are still alive. Charles, the only remaining son, is 86 and Jennie, the only remaining daughter, is 79.
Signed Orlon L. Nordfelt
July 7, 1972
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