Hans Peter Larsen
Hans Peter Larsen, of Mendon, is one of the oldest men in the valley, and notwithstanding his great age, he is quite active and still chores about his place, and takes pleasure in caring for his garden. His mind is clear and his memory is unusually good, and he talks very intelligently of the events of his early life, and of pioneer days in Utah and in Cache Valley. He has always been faithful in the discharge of every duty. He told us the story of his life, and we should like to tell it as he did but space will not permit, but we will try and tell the chief events of his life, as he told them, and in his language as near as possible.
I was born September 24, 1835 in Lellbunder, Denmark. When I was sixteen years old, I went as a sailor on a Danish ship plying between Denmark and England. We would take a cargo of wheat over to Hull and then load a cargo of coal from Newcastle. Our ship would tie up in the winter on account of the ice, and I would return home until spring.
One time when I was at the home of a neighbor the woman asked me if I had seen any Mormons over in England. I had never heard of the Mormons and did not know whether they were animals or humans. She talked about some Elders who had come into the district and held private meetings, and got mother somewhat interested. She said they would be back again soon and invited us to come over and hear them. Mother went and took me along with her. One of the Elders was a young Swedish man named Johannes Sorenson. They held a meeting and Sorenson talked. I was interested right from the start, and while I was not religiously inclined, what he said seemed to impress me. He seemed so sincere and earnest. After the talk, he sang a hymn and it seemed to me I had never heard anything so beautiful.
When we got home, my mother asked me what I thought of it, and I told her I liked it. When she saw I was interested it seemed to turn her against it. After that whenever Elder Sorenson came, I made it a point to see and talk with him. When spring came, I made up my mind not to go to sea again as I knew if I did I would be a Mormon and I somehow seemed to know it was true. Yet, I could not make up my mind to join the Church. My parents were both opposed, and most of my friends. Under these circumstances I was in sore distress to know just what to do. I went to Elder Sorenson in my perplexity, and he told me that there was nothing he cold do, and advised me to go and ask the Lord for wisdom. I had never prayed in my life, but make up my mind I would try, so I went out in the orchard and kneeled down and tried to pray, but an unseen power seemed to take possession of me and stopped my tongue. I did not know what to do to free myself. I was in an awful state of mind, but I continued to struggle to pray, and in a short time the evil influence began to leave me and a peaceful calm feeling came over me. I felt that I never was so happy in my life. I seemed to know that it was the spirit of the Lord. I knew now what my duty was and I went to the local Elder, a man named Rasmus Mickelson, and told him I was ready for baptism.
I had hired to a farmer, a very hard man, and when they found I had joined the Mormons, my condition was not improved. My mother advised me to leave him and go where I would be better treated, and I did so. This time I went with an old Mormon couple, who were preparing to go to America. They were kind to me. When they left for America, I went to another man named Jens Skrader, also a member of the Church. They treated me like a member of the family. They were preparing to come to Utah, and Brother Skrader told me if I would look after his family on the trip, and drive their team across the plains that he would pay my fare. I was glad of the chance, so I agreed.
My mother felt very bad when she knew that I had joined the Church. It must have been a sever trial to her when I left to cross the sea. I never saw any of them afterwards.
We left Copenhagen in the fall of 1854, on the ship Simplidi with 400 Danish saints. We had hardly got to sea when a terrible storm arose which buffeted us about terribly and compelled us to put back to port. We waited several days and put to sea again. Another storm came, worse than the first and we certainly expected to go to the bottom. The captain about gave up hope. We lost our bearings and were driven up the coast of Norway where the captain recognized the coast and worked his way into Fredrickstad harbor. We stayed there for eleven days and put the ship in shape, and went to sea again. Another storm came up but we made out to get across to Hull, England where we landed and took a train for Liverpool. We were in Liverpool a week when we took the ship James Nesmith for New Orleans. We were six weeks on the voyage. The first mate was from Missouri and hated the Mormons and made it very unpleasant for us the entire voyage.
The first Sunday when we were holding a meeting, he came and stopped us, but we appealed to the captain and he gave us permission. The mate then got even with us by giving us poor food and not enough of that. At New Orleans we took a boat for St. Louis where we arrived without incident. There we were met by Erastus Snow and Milo Andrus, who took us in charge and aided us in buying supplied for the journey across the plains. We then took a boat for Atchison, Kansas. It was in March and the weather was very cold. We had no tents or shelter and were dumped off the boat into a grove of woods where we had a hard time until we got tents made. We had plenty of wood, which was a great blessing. When our tents were made we were quite comfortable. Cholera broke out in camp.
We got work for the men preparing the ground for a warehouse. We were there ten weeks. Brother Andrus was away buying cattle, and we made wagon covers, etc., for the journey. As soon as the cattle came we started across the plains. We were not familiar with driving cattle and we had a terrible time for a few days. It took four of us to one yoke of cattle. (The cattle did not understand Danish.) We reached Salt Lake in the fall of 1855, having been nearly a year on the road.
Brother Skrader wanted me to go with him to San Pete, but I wanted to stay in Salt Lake, and earn a yoke of cattle and a wagon. I hired to a man named Gordon at Cottonwood and worked for him two years and got nothing. He cheated me out of my wages. I took it to the authorities but he would not do as they advised him. I then went with Alex Hill. He was very kind to me and when I came to Cache in 1859 he gave me a yoke of cattle and wagon and fitted me out. I was out in Echo Canyon during the war, and was one of the company that received Governor Cummings when he came into the territory.
I came to Cache (Valley) with James Hill and Isaac Sorensen. We located at Mendon. I married Elenor Shelton in 1875 and we have had twelve children, and raised two others. We have nine children living. We have thirty grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
I have always been active in a church way, and have held many offices and been a constant worker for years.
The neighbors say that Peter Larsen has always been a good husband, a good neighbor, and a good man. What more could they say than that.