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Posted: 1009742078000
Classification: Biography
Edited: 1018558081000

"The Freighter In The Night"

Christian Hansen sat on the deck of the ship where he could see the massive sails towering overhead and feel the salt breeze in his face. As he sat, he thought of his family. He thought of how the missionaries had come to hsi home and how the family had become converted. They had planned to to come to Utah, but they needed the money. However, they had sent their oldest son, Hans (MY GREAT, GREAT GRANDFATHER), to Utah. That was eight years ago and they hadn't heard from him because communication was so bad. "Now," he thought, "we'll be together in Utah if everything goes all right." He said aloud to himself, "It just can't go wrong; I won't let it. We must get to Utah, all of us." Just then his thoughts were interrupted by the call "Land Ho."

A week later, all the family was on a train. The baby was asleep; the other boys were playing on the floor. Dorta leaned back against the seat to rest. It had been a hard week since they left the ship and entered a strange land with a strange people, and the the hardest of all, a strange language. They had to get train tickets, and find their luggage and get it on the train. Christian had not been feeling well. Dorta could see it, though Christian had never said a word. Each day he seemed weaker and sometimes his face had looked so flushed. Dorta had done most of the work herself. Now, sitting by her side, she could see that he was very ill.

That night Dorta sent for the doctor, who was on the train, to see about her husband. The doctor told her that Chrisitan had the black small pox and that meant death. Just then the conductor came and told her that Christian would have to leave the train, so he wouldn't endanger the lives of the other passengers.

"Oh, Christian," Dorta said, "we'll get off the train and stay with you. Someone will come along and take care of us."

"No, you cannot do this," said Christian in a thick, husky voice. "The Lord has made the way open to us to get this far and I know He will want you to go on."

"But Christian, please don't ask me to go on without you." Dorta knelt at this feet and begged him to let them all stay together.

"Dorta, Dorta," Christian shook her shoulders, "Dorta, why should you deprive our children of the privilege of going to Utah?" Then he closed his eyes and prayed, "Pleasee, Dear Father in Heaven, since in Thy infinite wisdom, Thou hast seen fit to take me home, take care of my dear wife and children. I entrust them in Thy care, Amen."

He kissed Dorta and smiled and told the conductor he was ready. As the train pulled off, Dorta felt that she just couldn't go on, but the train went faster and faster, taking her farther and farther away from him. Now her strength would have to come by relying on the Lord.

A week later, the train reached St. Joseph. The city was bustling with activity. People rushed here and there. There were big white-topped wagons slowly moving down the dusty, rutted streets. There were handcarts wit the meager belongings of the pioneers. The bearded men were hurrying back and forth to help the women. Dorta felt very small in this town; she didn't know what to do.

She took her small family behind a store. There, back of a large packing box, they all knelt and prayed. When they finished, she knew she should purchase a handcart. She would put in it what she could, and she and her children would walk to Salt Lake City.

It was too late do anything that night, so Dorta took her family and found a place to stay. After the children were fed and put to bed, Dorta carefully counted out her money. Then she went through her belongings to see what she could possibly leave behind. There were the blue china plates that Aunt Marie had given her. She would sell them. There was the white wool shawl. No, she must keep that for it was all she had left of her mother. The emerald brooch ought to net quite a bit. "But it is the only piece of jewelry I have," thought Dorta.

The next morning Dorta left the children in charge of John, the oldest child, and went to purchase what she would need. She bought the best handcart she could and traded her great-grandmother's emeral brooch for a heavy covering to keep the belongings clean and dry. She made arrangements to go with a handcart company that was to leave in two days.

Then she went to her family and gathered them together. She told them what they would have to do adn that they would all have to walk, except for the baby who was only a year old. She asked them if they would do what she suggested.

"Yes, yes, we'll be so good and do just what you say. It will be fun to walk," the children excitedly answered.

The next two days were very busy for Dorta. She got the children's shoes reparied so that they could start out with the best. She was very lonely and sometimes thought she couldn't go on. Then she seemed to feel Christian behind her saying, "Go on, the trip and everything will be all right."

Early in the morning of the third day, Dorta got up and got the children ready. This was the day they were to leave St. Joseph and travel west. The children were all excited and thrilled at the prospects of something new. Each step nearly broke her heart because she was going farther and farther away from where she had last seen Christian.

The days were hot, and Dorta sometimes felt as though she couldn't go on. When she felt like this, she would stop and offer up a silent prayer. Then she would go on.

The children were excited because each day they saw new things and had new experiences. Dorta made friends with other people in the company. These new friends were kind and each day she felt more secure and less lonely.

Sometimes they had to cross rivers; other times there was nothing to see but low rolling hills covered with grass. At last they came to the mountains. Here they traveled the narrow wagon trails wich at times took them along precipes and at the foot of cliffs. It was hard, sometimes pushing and sometimes pulling the handcart. John was such a help and comfort to her. All day he helped push or pull the handcart and never complained.

Finally, they reached Salt Lake valley and Dorta thought she could have a rest, but the Church asked her to and help settle Bear Lake valley. Here, the authorities felt, would be more opportunities for her and her children. Dorta thought that she just couldn't go any farther. Then she heard Christian's voice saying, "Go to whereever the Church sends you. The Lord will provide for you." So Dorta took her children and traveled to Bear Lake and arrived there in the same year, 1866.

I was about two years later and Dorta and her sons were settled in Bear Lake. They were having a hard time. They couldn't seem to make any gain. Then John decided he would leave Bear Lake to go find work.

In Montana, some miners had discovered gold and flour was being freighted to the mining camps.

John walked for two days - or was it three. When he reached Salt Lake City, he was cold and hungry. He saw camp fires and he timidly approached them. The fires were at a freighters camp. There were the big gray canvas-topped freight wagons that were operated by rough ragged men.

"Please, may I stay and get warm by your fire?" asked John in a very frightened voice.

"No, you sneaking foreigner," roared a big gruff voice.

"Sure ya can!" yelled another. "Get warm all over," and he pushed John so near the fire that sparks burned his coat.

John brushed the tears away with his rough sleeve and stepped to the other side of the fire.

"Get out of the way. Ya don't need to take all of the heat. Beat it." John was yanked by the shoulder and thrown away from the fire. The men roared with laughter.

"Leave the kid alone," someone said in broken English.

"Why should a foreigner come horning into our camp. We'll teach him!" was the reply.

When John could stand no more of their treatment he started to walk away. As he neared the edge of the camp a hand was placed on his shoulder and a voice said, "You can share my blanket son." John whispered a "thank you" and his heart was full of gratitude. Once under the warm blankets he was soon asleep.

In the morning John got up to help the man who had befriended him. This man wore the same type of clothes as the rest of the freighters, but John thought he had seen this man before.

As they were eating breakfast the man looked at John and asked, "What's your name, son?"

"John Hansen," was the reply.

"Hansen, Now that's funny. My name is Hansen too. There are so many Hansens and Petersons and Jensens around here."

"Yes," said John, feeling very lonely and homesick.

"Where'd you come from?" asked Mr. Hansen

"I walked from up Bear Lake country. I'm looking for work. I came from Denmark two years ago."

"I came from Denmark, too." There was deep interest in his voice. "What's your father's name, John?"

"My father's name was Hans Christian and my mother's name is Dorta." John's heart was beating wildly with excitement.

"It is, It is!" the big man yelled. "Oh, John, I'm your brother, Hans, who left home ten years ago."

Excitement filled the camp. The rough freighters caught the feeling of the two brothers.

After much talking, laughing, and some crying, the brothers, walking arm in arm, started the long trip back to Bear Lake country. Dorta would never have to worry again.

"The Freighter in the Night" is a story written by Barbara Lee Gerber of Logan, Utah, based on true life incidents in the life of Christian and Dorta Hansen. Records show that Dorta Hansen and her four boys entered Salt Lake valley on October 22, 1866.
SubjectAuthorDate Posted
Jerry_Windley 1009742078000 
DarleneNewman... 1514034644000 
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