HISTORY OF MARY LARSEN WILLARDSEN
(SISTER OF CHRISTIAN JOHN LARSEN)
by James L. Willardsen
Mother was the daughter of Lars Johansen and Anna Margaret Sorensen.
She was born in Graceby, Jutland, Denmark, on August 2, 1836. She was the
youngest of eight children, six boys and two girls. Two of her brothers were
the first of the family to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It was not long however, until the whole family joined the Church. Mother was
baptized on January 1, 1852, at the age of 16 by Knud Brown.
On November 24, 1854, a group of about 300 saints set sail from Copenhagen,
Denmark on board the steamer Cimbria, bound for Utah in America. They arrived at
Frederikshavn on the east coast of Jutland at ten o'clock on the morning of the
twenty-fifth where one hundred forty-nine more emigrants from Aalborg and Vendsyssel
Conference came on board. Mother and her brother Jon were two of the passengers
on board. The voyage was continued on the morning of November 26, but on the
morning of the 27th, at 2:00 A. M. , the wind turned southwest and began to blow
so heavily that an experienced sailor deemed it necessary to turn back and seek
the nearest harbor, Mandal, on the southern coast of Norway. This romantic
place and its surroundings were as much a curiosity to the Danish emigrants as
the shipload of Mormons was to the people of Mandal. Here they remained several
days. On the 7th of December, the weather seemed more favorable, but towards
midnight, the wind became a terrific gale which shattered the ship's bulwark and
broke a number of boxes. About 2:00 A.M. of the following day, the captain
decided to go back to Mandal from where they had come the previous day, but as
the waves produced by the wind and strong currents made it too dangerous to turn
the ship in the direction of Norway, it was necessary to go back to Frederikshavn,
and they arrived there at 4:00 P. M. on the 9th of December. By this time the saints
were suffering severely. It is said that on their trip crossing the North Sea they
experienced one of the worst storms ever that made the life of an emigrant company
upon the water miserable. The saints bore their hardships with great fortitude
and patience. While here, a number of meetings were held and the emigrants went
on shore to refresh and rest themselves. On December 20th, a third attempt was
made to reach England. During the night of the 21st - 22nd a worse storm than any
of the preceding ones arose, threatening the ship and all on board, with utter
destruction. For many hours the noble Cimbria fought her way against the raging
elements, but at length was compelled to change her course and for the third time
the company was turned back. While the captain and crew began to feel discouraged,
the saints continued cheerful and thankful for their preservation. About 2:00 A.M.
on the morning of the 22nd of December, the wind suddenly changed to the north and
they immediately steered for Hull, England.
On December 25th they continued their journey by rail from Hull to Liverpool where
they joined two smaller companies. They remained here for about two weeks. The
presidency in Liverpool had chartered the ship Helois to take the Scandinavian Saints to
New Orleans, but because the company had been detained so long on account of the
storms, the Helois had been filled with other passengers. The James Nesmith, together
with Captain Mills was secured for their transportation instead. Four hundred and forty
emigrating saints set sail from Liverpool on board the James Nesmith on January 7, 1855
and arrived at New Orleans on February 23rd.
Then most of the Scandinavian Saints went on board the large steamboat Oceana and
sailed up the Mississippi River. Seven of the group died on this trip. On the 7th of March
they arrived at St. Louis, Missouri. Here the company was divided. In one of the camps,
cholera broke out and a number of the group died at Leavenworth. From there the journey
was continued to Salt Lake City, the arrival date being September 7th, 1855.
Mother endured hardships and trials with the rest of the group without complaint
during the hard eleven weeks it took to cross the North Sea. She became very sick but
her thought's were these as she expressed them, "I had embraced the true Gospel and I
felt that I was in the hands of the Lord, and it did not matter whether I lived or died. "
Mother walked across the plains. She and a girl friend started to walk ahead and
traveled all day -- on the wrong road. However, two men on horses were sent
in search of them. When the girls saw the men they thought that they were Indians.
Her parents and the rest of the family had emigrated the year previously and had
settled in Weber County. All of them took an active part in the Church. Some were
made bishops and some were made stake presidents. Later they moved to Spring
City, Sanpete County.
Polygamy was practiced and many were willing to enter into that order of marriage
because of the principle. They felt that it would advance them and ensure them the
blessings of the Lord. Mother's sister, who was older than she, together with her husband
desired Mother to be one of their family so she married James M. (Jens Mathias) Black.
Of the five children born to them, two of them died. She found it difficult to provide and
care for three children with no consideration, and she was advised to leave her husband.
She married Father (Christian Willardsen) in the Endowment House on July 13, 1867,
and was sealed to him by President George Q. Cannon. She and Father had seven
children, three girls and four boys. Father and his first wife had talked of taking another
wife, and it was she who suggested that he marry Mary Larsen as his second wife and
help to rear her three children.
These two wives got along exceptionally well and were like two sisters, always
considering each other's feelings and many times plotting together to get a favor for the
other. Mother told of times when they were rearing their families that each of them
would have babies near the same age. They lived in the same house and to keep the
rooms warm in winter they had a small opening in the partition between the two rooms
where a small stove was placed, and in this way the babies were kept warm. While the
boys were too young to help with the farm work. Mother helped Father pitch hay, shock
grain, etc. while the first wife did the housework and took care of the children.
At the time when the Church asked the members to store wheat. Mother did her part
for the Relief Society by going out and gleaning wheat in the fields. Mother served as a
Relief Society teacher for about thirty years. She was much concerned about the welfare
of her children and whenever she saw them complying with the will of the Lord,
she was not slow to express her joy and appreciation of the same.
Of the 12 children that she had, only six survived to adulthood and five of them
married, all in the Temple. In order of age they are: Mary Ann Allred, Rasmena Oviatt,
Christian Willarsen, Caroline Braithwaite, Andrew Willardsen (unmarried), and
James L. Willardsen who at present (in 1961) is the only survivor.
When Mother was 77 years old she suffered greatly with a tumor. The operation for
the removal of an eight pound tumor was very successful. The doctors and nurses were
In 1918 the Willarsen Reunion was held at the Monroe Hot Springs. Although Mother,
at the age of 82, was the oldest member in the family, still she joined the others in the
sports and made it possible to say that everyone went in the pool that day.) Mother a
great woman of great faith, very devoted to her religion, and self-sacrificing, died on
March 17, 1920, at the home other daughter Mena Oviatt.
HUSBANDS AND CHILDREN
Jens (James) Mathias BLACK (1818 - 1892)
Erastus BLACK (1857 - ?)
Mary Ann MargaretBLACK (1859 - 1927)
Rasmena BLACK (1860 - 1945)
Sarah BLACK (1862 - ?)
Mary BLACK (1863 - 1869)
Christen WILLARDSEN (1836 - 1897)
Lena Amelia WILLARDSEN (1869 - 1869)
Christian WILLARSEN (1870 - 1944)
Caroline WILLARDSEN (1874 - 1944)
Hyrum WILLARSEN (1875 - 1884)
Sena Lorette WILLARDSEN (1877 - 1878)
Andrew WILLARSEN (1878 - 1942)
James Louis WILLARSEN (1880 - 1969)
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