by Martin Calderwood
On the morning of the second Tuesday of June, 1865, the S/S Charity Hope weighed anchor and, with a few score people looking on and a handful waving frantically at loved ones and friends, the good ship eased away from the docks and slowly coasted away from the shore. The smoke from the boilers rose high and the blast of the ship’s horn rolled through the city and into the nearby hills and mountains. The ship traveled under steam power for the first leg of the journey as the ship sailed down the majestic Oslofjord. The beauty on either side provided a call that had several of the passengers wondering if they had made the right decision. Several of the emigrants wandered from port to starboard, taking in the images one more time.
Finally the sea breezes were felt and the ships sails were raised as the ship rolled out into the open sea. On deck most were silent and like many, Trine and Karen wept. Even Julius allowed a few tears, which he did his best to hide. Never again would they see their beloved land, and for a moment Julius also wondered if he had made the right decision leaving for the unknown land and the hope-filled promises of their new religion. He knew he had chosen right, but still, looking back, his heart was filled with bittersweet memories. When he closed eyes he could still see the small grave of his daughter. It would not be easy but it was right.
Other passengers looked out to sea as if, by straining their eyes, they could be the first to see the new land, thousands of miles away. Bernt drifted toward them, mostly to fight the pain and sorrow he was feeling.
When the sails were lifted fully and the powerful steam engine hit its cruising speed, even though several hours had passed, many of the passengers still clung to the aft rails watching their homeland fade into the horizon. Finally, as the sun began to set, the last of them went below to start their life at sea.
For many of the farmers and city folks who had never been on the water, the hardest adaptation was getting used to the constant movement of the ship. While a few adapted quickly, getting their sea-legs and sea-stomachs after only a few hours, the vast majority spent an appreciable amount of time on the railing or with their arms wrapped around a commode, as their internal organs rebelled against the up-surges and down-surges of the constant motion of the ship. More than once Julius came to their cabin to find his wife or one of his children looking pale.
The smell below deck did nothing to impede the stomach’s need to remain empty. Dehydration became a real danger and those who were well spent much of their time offering liquids and simple foods to patients. Dr. Sven was seen frequently as he administered one of two potions meant to calm the stomach and mind, often with little or no real consequences. Crackers and green tea too were given to calm the stomachs of children, with some positive success. Both Johan and Sigrid were up the second day, causing their brother, who was barely, affected at all, problems and concerns he just did not want or enjoy. Meanwhile the young doctor made several stops at the Berntsen’s area. Karen was particularly hard hit at first, but by the second day she, like many of the others, was beginning to adapt.
They saw Nils a couple of times, especially when he came below deck to clean up after someone who was unable to make it to one of the ships privies. He told the family that he’d acquired his abilities to handle life on the water fairly fast, like his brother, when the Hope had made a short trip to and from Liverpool, England.
“Still,” he complained with half a smile, “this does not keep Seaman Berntsen from getting many of the more ripe assignments.”
Julius, who prided himself on his ‘troll-like’ constitution only threw up once but fought the queasy stomach until breakfast the morning of the second day. From then on he had no problems at all internally, but it did take him almost three days to get so he could walk evenly on the moving deck. His only problem was the fact that neither Kristoffer nor Inga had mentioned this problem in any of their letters.
By the third day, most of the passengers were back to some degree of normality. Legs and stomachs grew used to the gentle rolling motion that was a constant part of life aboard ship. Only the occasional roll or sudden dip caused any discomfort. Only a handful of passengers, including Trine, remained uncomfortable for several days to come.
With the return of a general health, enthusiasm and music returned to the decks, but gradually life fell into a simple routine. Early risers arrived to fix their meals before the sun peaked over the horizon, while those who rose later oft times did their chores before they ate. During the daylight hours the chores were done, food was prepared, and games were played. As the sun went down, music was played, people talked and friendships grew as the small community adapted to its confined environment. Even the Mormons (which when the ship left, numbered fourteen people including the six Berntsens , two couples, a single man who had been a stonemason and a very young looking couple with a baby) found themselves fitting in smoothly as biases seemed to melt away in the common bond of going to America.
Everywhere Johan went he carried his toy troll. As they explored every part of the ship they had access to, the boy would talk to the troll, pointing at different things, holding him up for a clearer view, and several times stopping as if he were listening to replies. Julius was, at first, concerned. Trine reminded him that their son’s life had been changed drastically, and that the only bond he had, other than family, to the past was the troll.
“Things will return to normal soon enough,” she said with a smile.
Reluctantly, Julius said nothing. He actually found himself smiling at some of his sons antics as the day wore on.
The only contention about religion came when one of the passengers accused Julius of having more than one wife, claiming that Karen was not a daughter but secretly his wife.1) For a day the Mormons were questioned and harassed by two men trying to have some sport at the expense of the unpopular religion. When noone else joined in, they gave up and moved on to something different.
Gradually, however, the hours began to pass more slowly, with nothing but ocean to see in all directions. Exploring the ship grew boring, even for Johan and, like many young people he turned to tormenting his younger sister to pass the time. Julius was quick to intervene when he caught the boy, cuffing him lightly the first time and taking him aside to explain why this behavior was not acceptable.
“If it happens again,” his father warned, “I will box your ears and you will sit on your cot for the afternoon.”
The behavior was not repeated.
To help pass the time Julius began to teach his son how to whittle. The first lesson was safety, which Johan learned by sharpening several sticks from the wood box to be used in poking the fire. He was then given a piece of old plank and told to make fire-starting shavings from it. The boy responded well and continued lessons were planned.
Julius found himself whittling small toys for the dozen young children on the voyage, and doing minor repairs for one passenger whose trunk was falling apart. With the help of the mate who had first shown them the ship, Julius obtained the few items he needed to reset the hinge, shore up one side and reinforce the bottom while securing the sides to it. He also spent time playing cards and talking when he was not watching the children, chatting occasionally with Nils, who managed to find needed work near where the family was on as many occasions a he could. As a concerned father, he also watched his daughter’s interest in Sven start to blossom.
By the end of the third day Julius was teaching some of the twenty-three children on the ship how to whittle while, from time to time, telling them the stories “A Troll and the Hare” and the “Legend of the Wooden Snowman.” Sometimes he helped Trine with the food, Other times he just talked with the men of the ship about dreams and plans. Many, he learned, had family in the Northeast parts of the United States. They discussed the recent War Between the States. Several were interested in the fact that Julius and his family were going west into a new territory. A few even listened to some of the ideas the Mormons had about life and God. Most were polite, but declined to listen to the new world religion’s wild and unusual claims.
The biggest draw started the second day when two of the ship’s American crew, including a big man who had once been a slave, held small classes on how to speak English. It had been sparsely attended while the passengers adapted to ship life. Julius felt strongly that since he was going to be in a new land he had to speak their language, so he started attending whenever he could, right from the beginning. Trine, however, felt little need for the strange language. She would learn it in Utah but not until. She preferred to make it necessary for all her friends and children to remember their native tongue no matter how much English they learned. Julius did not press the issue, knowing how stubborn she was He simply took it upon himself to teach her a word here or phrase there. The first ones he taught her were “How much does it cost?” and “Where is the lavatory?” He also traded for some common coins and bills from one of the sailors so he could start to understand the money.
It was mid-morning of Wednesday the 25th, of what was considered smooth sailing and calm seas, that the ship’s bell rang urgently, telling the passengers and crew to assemble on the deck immediately. In minutes everyone was assembled under the canopy of the food area. Captain Harbormiester strode in, flanked by his mate and an officer they did not recognize.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began, “if you will look off the port side, toward the bow you will notice darkness on the horizon. It is a storm that we have been trying to circumnavigate - that’s go around, for you youngsters,” he added with a kindly smile, “for the last ten hours. It does not appear that we will be able to do this, so passing through the storm is our only alternative if we are going to stay on time.”
There was a general murmur of concern that passed the group.
The Captain continued. “For most of you this will not be a pleasant experience and so for the next hour I want all of you to take care of any of your personal needs. Eat something light, take care of your 'privates' and then I want all women and children to go below deck. I will refrain from giving the strap-in order for as long as I can. There is no certain way to tell how long we will be in this storm, but my gut and what I am seeing say that this will not be a pleasant few hours. I assure you that it is NOT a hurricane, but it is a potent hurricane with a lot of moisture in it. It will likely last for the next ten to fifteen hours but I have seen it take a ship a full day to get through a storm such as this. We’ll hit the worst part in about five or six hours. If that worst part lasts longer than eight hours then God only knows how long we’ll be in the storm. So rest assured, we’ll deal with things as they develop. Regardless of the storm’s duration, I expect the deck to be lashed with rain the entire time so follow orders and you will be come through this in good condition.”
The Captain paused again and looked over the group.
“Once your families are taken care of, I now order all able bodied men to report back here to help prepare for the storm. I especially need those with carpentry and metal shaping skills. I will have the ship’s bell rung four sharp bursts followed by two short ones. Report immediately. Now, see to your families and those single men, get something to eat, then report. I have something for you to do. Questions?”
Bernt’s hand shot up. “Sir, I want to work with the men. I am good with wood.”
The second mate, the one they did not recognize, pinned his gaze on the young, fresh-faced speaker. “What’s yer age, boy?”
Bernt glared back undaunted. “Fourteen, almost fifteen, sir!”
“And yer good with wood?”
“Yes, sir,” he said looking at his father for confirmation.
Julius nodded. “It is true sir.”
“You’ll do. Join us when the bell rings. Now go!”
For the next hour and a half the ship was alive with activity as crew and passenger alike prepared for the storm. With each passing mile the ship began to feel more of the effects the storm was having on the waves. It was a relief for many to be below decks, sitting on their cots or on the deck between them.
Like most of the passengers, the Berntsens had eaten sparingly, and had secured in their berths crackers and water and some bread and dried fish on which they could piece. Julius took several minutes to show and re-show both Trine and Karen how to secure each other into their beds.
“It’s just like tying up Bretta when she tried to wander around,” he said to Trine then, turning to Sigrid added, “That cow was a rover, was she not?”
Sigrid giggled and climbed up next to her mother on her bed. “Don’t worry, Momma, I will take care of you.”
“Don’t worry,” echoed Johan, “Mr. Troll. We will be fine. Papa says this is a good ship and you have seen it so you know it is too. But just in case you are worried, I will hold tight to you until the storm is over.”
Julius smiled. “Just hold on tight, Momma, and you will be fine. Karen, watch your mother and help with the little ones. We will see you soon.”
Trine smiled weakly and allowed her husband to kiss her lightly on the cheek, something she rarely permitted in public.
Julius made sure everyone knew about the extra woolen blankets that had been distributed to keep the families warm and dry. Barrels full of rags were brought in to provide a means of drying things. He saw to it that buckets were emptied and given a small amount of fresh water in the bottom to catch the waste and make it easier to dump, all the while reassuring them that things were going to be all right.
As the time wore down, Dr. Sven came around offering a dark rum tonic to help calm the stomach and nerves of the passengers. He required that everyone have a sip or two of the thick, sweet liquor, including children and the Mormons. Julius insisted that they would be fine without it and that they all needed to keep their vows. Finally, Sven relented but he left a jug of it behind, just in-case.
When he was gone Julius invited his fellow church members, and those who wanted to join him and his family, in prayer and supplication to God for their safety. In a few minutes all the Mormons and a handful of others knelt in and just outside of the Berntsen’s berth while Julius offered the prayer.
“O Lord,” he said reverently “our God. We approach thee in reverence to plead for our safety this day as we enter this great storm. We know that thou can calm the storm and protect us with thy might. We know that thou art powerful and all mighty. We ask, if it be thy will, that this good ship and all those aboard be preserved in all ways and that her good crew will be able to do what it necessary to keep us and themselves safe. We give thee all glory and thank thee for thy mercy and do so in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
As Julius rose to his feet signaling the end of the meeting, the bell rang, calling for the men to come on deck. After another gentle pat on his wife’s cheek he smiled and whispered that all would be well. He then turned quickly and strode out of the berth, giving his son little time to hug his mother and the others before having to run after his father, proud of the fact that he was big enough to work as a man.
Trine watched them leave then gathered her children around her on her bunk to sing songs and pray. Around them others settled down as the first surges of the waves moved the ship heavily from side to side.
The men were quickly divided into two groups. Julius and those with woodworking skills were assigned to follow the second mate, a sailor with the last name of Stromness. The seasoned hand lead them to the ship’s stores where timbers and shoring supplies lay stacked at the ready. Patches, tar and braces were all readied in preparation.
Stromness was very confident the items would be used sparingly if at all.
“But…” he explained evenly, “even in these types of storms the winds and the waves can do tricky things. And, the sea is full of the unexpected. Our Captain is the best, so have confidence in him and the Hope. Still, throw up where you stand and don’t get caught below deck if ordered out.”
Julius and those with him began to work helping the dozen or so crew members prepare the ship for emergencies. As a father, Julius was sad that his son was not in the same group.
Meanwhile, other men were shown life boat operation and floatation devices, while others were shown bilge pump operation and other emergency procedures. Two of the men, with metal-working skills, were taken to the boiler room and shown how the massive engine worked. Earlier, the single men had taken down the tarp and secured the cooking area and some of the other loose items on deck. During their labors, all the men were assured, and reassured, that the likelihood of needing their services was low. Still, they were told, it paid to be prepared.
“When this is all over, we’ll get drunk and have a few laughs,” promised Stromness as he worked alongside his crew. “Just follow my orders and, if all goes well, in a few hours, you will be in the arms of your little women and sleeping again on a peaceful ocean. Now everyone grab something solid and hold on! NOW!” he ordered grabbing hold of the beam above him.
Men, young and old, grabbed at anything they could that was secured and solid just as the ship bucked and keeled to the starboard. A few of the slower ones slammed into the hull or tumbled to the deck but aside from a few bruises everyone came out unscathed.
“You get to where you can feel the big ones coming.” he bragged slightly. “I think you all better just hold onto something as much as you can,” his words froze briefly as his eyes grew wide “... Like NOW!” he shouted dropping to his knees and hugging the nearest support.
Again the ship rocked up and down as the waves slashed against the bow. This time most of the men remained in place. One lost his grip and slammed his head hard into a support pillar, cutting his forehead. After a quick check the man, a tailor from Oslo, was sent to the galley where Sven had his office.
“We’re turning into the storm,” explained Stromness softly as he watched the man leave. “The Captain will be giving the strap down order soon if he hasn’t already.” He paused briefly and looked around at each man and boy. “I know we didn’t talk about this in any of our meetings and on this ship we all do our part, but still I thank you all for your willingness to lend a hand. Now, I need to see to our comrade but I will be back momentarily. Mr. Larsen, you’re in charge. The rest of you stand ready, listen carefully and most importantly, hold on. Let the crew do their jobs and if necessary, follow their orders to the letter!”
Below decks in steerage, time was being measured in bumps and tips as the ship rode out the storm. Once or twice, as they entered the heart of the storm, the ship rose and dropped like a duck searching for food. The occasional cries and shrieks of surprise were echoed by the occasional creaks and pops of the heavy ship.
For some, like young Johan, it was the ride of their lives. It reminded him of being tossed in the air and caught by his father when he was younger. Still the constant motion had its negative effect on even the hardiest of stomachs and even the most excited children began to grow queasy.
“Momma!” called out Johan suddenly, “if I close my eyes my tummy doesn’t feel so bad!”
A very uncomfortable Trine closed her eyes tight and held on. To her surprise she did feel just a little better.
Four, then five, then six hours passed. Sigrid slept while Trine lay, wondering if a little rum might help her sleep. Johan lay quietly talking to his troll reassuring the toy and himself that it would be over soon. Karen lay awake and was the only one who noticed the sudden stillness that lasted for several heartbeats.
“HOLD ON!!” Bellowed a voice.
Karen braced herself as the ship lurched, rolled port, dropped, and settled on an even keel in less time than anyone could scream. For a moment all seemed frozen in time, then a loud crash reverberated through the ship. Children cried, a woman screamed, and several men gasped or cursed. Metal creaked and wood moaned then fell silent. In the distance a cracking boom was heard and the ship righted and slipped forward smoothly as an eerie silence filled the lower decks.
The silence lasted for several minutes as the ship moved on buffeted only lightly by the storm outside. Crew and passengers held their breaths and assessed damage and emotions. As the seconds ticked by, gradually soft moans, prayers of gratitude, and gentle tears of relief began to fill the silence. A few people unstrapped and began to pick up from the deck the strewn and scattered personal items that had been poorly secured. Others lay huddled and afraid that this was just a lull that would end with tragic results if they moved.
Word began to spread that the worst of the storm was over. After about ten minutes one of the crew came through, shouting that they were in the last of the storm and that the strap in order was lifted. Injuries from the final kick, he said, were to be reported immediately and would be treated in order of severity. Passengers were encouraged to remain in their berths but were told that if they did not mind the rain they could now go safely on deck. To everyone’s surprise the worst traumas below consisted of two broken fingers, a badly sprained ankle and a score of cuts and bruises, on a dozen individuals. Concerned families were told that their men would remain at their posts for at least hour after they exited the storm, which the Captain estimated would be about two to three hours downwind.
When asked what had caused the sudden lurch, the crewman said he was not sure but that sometimes the end of a storm has a few surprising punches that it just has to get in before it lets go of a ship.
“It was either that or we hit a troll,” he said with a sinister voice that actually made some of the nearby children giggle.
Johan looked at his toy in alarm. “It wasn’t a troll.” he said solemnly after a brief consultation with his toy. A few of the adults chuckled. Johan just clutched his troll and walked quickly back into the berth without another word.
Julius and the other men with carpentry skills were pulled out of their stations and hustled to the boiler room where they learned that the furnace had ripped free and damaged the engines. The fire had been contained quickly, but not before one crewman had been severely burned on his arms and chest.
“It looks like the hull was weakened, here and here,” said the chief mechanic, “when the boiler gave. The damage is too extensive to be able to repair it here, we need to do what we can to secure the room and re-enforce the hull as quickly as possible. I figure that it will take several hours, so I want you to go back to your families for a few minutes to make sure they are well. I then ask you to return here as quickly as possible. The captain has a standing order that no man will be kept away from an injured family member so if you don’t find that your family is fine, send word and you will be excused.”
Julius and Bernt were relieved to find the family all safe. Only Trine’s stomach remained turbulent as she sat silently in her bunk. The men found the conditions below deck to be vile and smelly. The stench of human waste and vomit permeated the area, even much of the clothing stank of it.
The crew who occasionally passed through reassured everyone that bucket, brush and other cleaning supplies would be made available as soon as the sea calmed completely down. It was explained that everyone would have to use sea water to clean and even rinse their clothing since the extra days added by the storm and the damage it caused would put a strain on the drinking water supply. They also told the passengers, in general terms, about some of the damage and what was going to be done. They also spoke of a general gathering regarding details as soon as they could arrange it.
Johan sat quietly next to his mother. He was pale but otherwise unhurt. Karen was sore and had a large bump on her head where it had encountered the side of her bunk. She reported that her head hurt but was not throbbing. As for Sigrid, who had probably been the only person on-board who had slept through the worst of the storm, she was just excited to be free of her restraints and she ran, barefoot, up and down the deck, heedless of what she was smelling, hearing or stepping in.
As the family took a few minutes to talk and share news, Nils arrived, with the Captain’s permission, to check on his family. Nils was soaked and bruised. There were several cuts and scrapes on his face and arms and his hands showed signs of rope burns and other trauma testifying just how difficult it had been and how hard he had worked.
After hugs and several reassurances Nils made a special point of asking about Karen, saying he did so at the request of the doctor. Karen told her brother to report her wound and to tell him that she wanted it looked at as soon as possible.
Julius looked at his daughter who smiled back demurely.
“I will be fine, Papa.” she said properly. “He is much too old for me (she paused) but he is handsome.”
Her father raised an eyebrow and shook his head. “We best be getting back,” he said after a moment’s pause, before giving a quick opinion on the damage and what would happen next. He said that he expected someone from the crew would be down soon with additional details.
The two men left quickly to go to work. Nils lingered a little longer, then hurried back to his duties after leaving his own reassurances that things would be fine.
Over the next few hours, as the ship weathered the last of the storm, crew and skilled passengers 2) worked steadily to repair the damage and prevent the spread of the storms effects. It was determined that there was nothing that could be done, while underway, to repair the damage. Plans and alternatives were set into motion and work began bring the ‘bark-rigged’ ship under sail. Inspections were made from stem to stern as every seam and support was checked by those who knew. During these efforts two hairline fractures were found where boards in the inner hull had been stressed during the storm. These too were quickly repaired.
Meanwhile, others of the crew set the rigging and prepared the ship for full sail. As the last few rain drops fell, the tarp was set up and the cooking area was restored. Gradually passengers began to drift out onto the deck, and soon food was being prepared. Everyone’s spirits began to rise as an atmosphere of celebration and gratitude permeated the ship. Food and liquor were shared and flowed freely as many enjoyed their first hot meal for over twenty-six hours.
Julius and his son finally joined the family about an hour after sun down. They were sweaty and tired, and never had a beer looked so inviting as Julius was offered a drink, which he politely refused. Bernt too, was offered a rewarding drink for working like a man during the hours of crisis and repair. He followed his father’s lead but did sneak a sip or two to quench his thirst.
The two mates arrived about half an hour later to make several key announcements. When they were done with their planned speech’, they were kept busy explaining and re-explaining the rules they would have to live by during the next few days under sail. For example, it would become a general rule of thumb that beers and wines would be used to help conserve water by all those twelve and up. The mate, possibly in deference to the Mormons, said it would not be made mandatory unless the stored water levels dropped below a predetermined level. Personal washing was to be kept to a minimum and there would be no more cleaning with anything other than sea water. Everyone agreed to be careful and save as much as they could. The mate also apologized for what the brine would do to their clothes and skins let alone the taste that would linger in things as the days past
As the evening’s ‘celebration continued, the Captain temporarily rescinded the No Mingling rule, so crew and passengers could exchange words of gratitude and joy. Crewmen were allowed ten to twenty minutes, over several shifts, to mingle before, reporting back to their duties. This was of a particular delight to Julius and his family as Nils once again joined them for a few minutes (almost twice as long as their first visit).
As the evening wound down, the captain himself found his way down to the party. He announced that, after reading the stars and taking their bearings, he had learned that the ship had only been blown a few score miles off course. “With the wind blowing as she is, I reckon that we will be back on course by tomorrow night, if we keep the angle I have set and the good Lord is willing. If all goes well we will arrive in New York only six or eight days late 3).
At eight in the evening on June 23rd the Charity Hope moved forward under full sail toward America. It was planned that she would be back on course in less than twelve hours by traveling an almost parallel course north-westward, to where they would bear due West on a direct path to the harbor.
Over the next two days the passenger area was scrubbed from top to bottom and stem to stern. Due to the risk of disease, the passengers chose to work through the Sabbath. They did pause, at the insistence of several passengers and the captain, to hold a communal worship service. At first a couple of the Mormons felt very uncomfortable worshiping with “Gentiles,”4) but Julius was insistent that they all worshiped the same God and that He had seen them all through the storm and deserved their gratitude.
“God has given us all another Sabbath, it is the least we can do to honor Him together,” said Julius. “Don’t matter what church you belong to for that.”
The service was simple and reverent. Julius was asked to pray and the Captain ,who was a lay minister in his church, gave the sermon - which surprisingly sounded a lot like what the Mormon Elders had said regarding God’s Love for all his children, finding the truth, and serving your fellow beings. He also thanked all the passengers who had helped keep his ship afloat and said that if any of them needed jobs they were welcome to sign on. He closed by reading several passages from the Bible including, John 10: 9 - 14. 5) The final prayer was given in German by a large sailor who worked on the ship. It was followed by handshakes and embraces and a meal, prepared by the doctor/ship’s cook, of fresh meat and fruit.
When the service was over, everyone returned to work, especially cleaning. By the end of the day the smell of salt and moisture permeated the air. Gradually, over the next few hours, as the day waned and the weather warmed, the doors were opened to allow air to circulate and dry the area. Still. the briny smell lingered in the wood and bedding. Some passengers, that night and beyond, chose to discard the bedding and sleep in their clothing, as needed, to keep warm.
The third day found the smells mostly dissipated. But as one problem faded another leapt to the forefront as the youngest passenger, a baby girl, Elina Johnson, just under a year old, became sick with dysentery. Within hours the child was dehydrated and taking up all of Sven’s time. The next day a woman from Oslo took sick and in the late afternoon a sixteen year old boy fell victim to the dangerous disease. The end of the day found both the infant and the boy confined to their berths with Sven spending most of his time with the baby. He ordered that the boy and the women be forced to eat and drink as much as they could even if they lost the food or liquid immediately. The baby received cloths soaked in milk and water. She was also kept moist with warm, damp towels.
Trine volunteered to take care of the boy while ordering Karen to keep Johan and Sigrid topside as much as possible to avoid their being exposed to the disease. Others chose to sleep elsewhere as well, especially after two more passengers fell ill. Many of the passengers worked together to help with food and other needs of the families of those who were sick.
The hours dragged on as a sixth passenger became ill. Sven ordered that the waste buckets be dumped overboard and cleaned out after every use. Water was rationed for most of the passengers, while the sick were given as much as needed. Sven counted them lucky that only a handful of people were sick. He had heard of much worse. Still, he knew that all he could do now was keep the patients alive until they reached New York where they could see real doctors. He did not give up, but stayed with the sick, letting some of the passengers cook for the crew and officers of the ship. It was fortunate that one of the passengers had cooked in a hotel and so was familiar with cooking for large groups. Cooking on a moving ship presented a big difference with all the movement, but the passenger recruited help and passable meals were made.
The baby continued to decline in health, but the woman from Oslo showed some signs of improvement by actually keeping food down. The fourth day the baby, whose name was Elina, showed very little movement and took nothing but a few cloth drips of water. Her skin was dry and Sven told the family that there was nothing more that he could do and that they should prepare for the worst in a matter of hours. Passengers came and went, offering condolences and a few suggestions as the small family huddled inside their room. The young Mormon couple, who had a baby of similar age, stayed close. They left their own baby with friends a few cabins down to avoid excessive exposure. Tears were shed on many levels and an air of gloom hung inside the ship belying her name.
Trine finally worked up the nerve to visit the family. As she walked into the small room, her mind suddenly recalled something she and her family had been taught by the missionaries who had converted them.
“Julius,” she said calling her husband who was lingering nearby, “didn’t the Elders say that the prophet and others healed the sick just like our Jesus did, something about a prayer of faith?” 6)
Julius nodded and quickly took off at a fast trot toward the bridge, disregarding all the rules about where passengers should stay. Two crewmen tried, politely, to stop him but he pushed pass increasing his speed. He found the captain sitting on his chair looking out over the ocean. He exploded to his feet as Julius burst onto the bridge.
“What is the meaning...?”
Julius quickly explained his idea. “Captain, you are a good Christian man. You must allow this!”
“But you’re a Mormon.” The name carried a bitter taste.
“Yes and a Christian and I have faith. Do you?”
“Not in you and your heathen beliefs. My minister warned us about you and I only let so many of you on my ship to get you out of my homeland.”
“Did you ask God about what your preacher said? I asked Him about the Church of Jesus Christ and I learned for myself it is true.
“There is nothing like that anymore. We have all we need from the Lord.”
“I am not going to argue with you, sir. There has been much said that is not authentic, by those who are misinformed. I believe many of their hearts are good, so I do not condemn. They can learn as I did that the words I speak are true. Will you join yourself with us and give your permission?”
“Not to Mormons.” The Captain’s tone was less strident.
“It is not just for the Mormons, but we must be there. I know this to be true.”
“And if I forbid you?”
“Then the baby dies.” Julius was very surprised that those words left his lips at that moment. He was even more surprised at what came next. “That would not be...Christian. What does Christ say about your enemies?”
Stunned, the captain was silent for several long minutes. He released a slow, submissive sigh as something touched him inside that he could not explain at that moment. “A prayer of faith, you say?”
“By all of us.”
“By all of us,” He repeated as he considered his next words. Then smiling he continued. “This is the ship called Charity Hope! We must hold on to that. I will have faith that your concern is genuine, and we can talk later about your beliefs. Let’s go, sir. I will put out the word for those who wish to join us.”
“Thank you,” was all Julius said as he glanced heavenward and hurried after the Captain.
When Julius picked up the baby from her mother she felt like a warm bag of flour. He noted with alarm that she was slightly blue in color.
The captain frowned and looked around the twenty or so people gathered around the Johnson’s berth. “Thank you all for coming. I invite all of you to kneel down and join with us to implore God to help this child.”
“We would like Mr. Berntsen to say the prayer,” said Mrs. Johnson.
Julius blushed. “We should all join in. I can say the words but Mr. Johnson, Captain, if you will all help me hold the baby I think we can do this. We just hold the baby in a cradle made by are hands while I say the words but I think it would be good if the captain and you, Mr. Johnson, say a few words also. All of us together might be heard.”
The captain harrumphed slightly then smiled. “All of us.”
Hans Johnson looked uncomfortable. “I do not know. Maybe you two pray. I will have faith in your words.”
“As you wish,” said Julius. “But you must help us hold your daughter.”
“Yes, Hans, join in, please,” said his wife wiping a tear from her eye.
The three men formed a triangle linking their hands with Julius supporting the tiny head.
“Let us pray.” said the captain solemnly.
Everyone bowed their heads and it seemed that the entire ship grew suddenly silent.
Julius bowed his head and was silent as a small tingle of anticipation and perhaps dread filled his body. Finally he opened his mouth and spoke in a soft but firm voice.
“Oh Lord, God.” he prayed. “We take this child, Elina Johnson, in our arms united in our faith as followers of thy son. We plead with thee for thy Son’s sake and through thy Priesthood that thou wilt look down in mercy on this child and this family. They have given up much and to lose their child is a sacrifice that is too much for them to bear. Please heal this child. Raise her from her affliction and give her a long life with her family in this new world. We know that thou and thy apostles healed the sick and that all thy prophets have as well so please hear our voices and feel of our hearts and look at our faith and grant of this boon. We ask in the name of thy son Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Julius was silent for a moment then looked at the Captain. “Your… Um, your turn.”
The captain looked stunned then smiled. “Oh God,” he began, “we cry for thy mercy on this child that she not die and be thrust from her families bosom. Heal her and we will praise thee forever. In your holy name, Amen.”
Julius pulled back and gave the baby back to her father who cradled the silent infant as he carried her back to her mother.
“It is in God’s hands,” said the doctor as he walked over to join the captain and Julius. “We all do what we can. I wish I had your faith.”
“You can,” said Julius with a weak smile. “Talk to me sometime.”
The passengers dispersed quickly, most going topside, leaving the baby to sleep in her mother’s arms. Julius thanked the Captain and watched him leave, then slowly turned and walked toward the stairs extending his hand to his wife as he passed their berth. She rose and took it and the two strolled to the stairs.
Just as they took the first step up they heard a whimper and a soft cry followed by a loud whoop from the doctor who had remained behind to check the baby and try to feed it something.
For a second they stood frozen in their places as the baby began to cry.
“Praise the Lord,” whispered Julius looking heavenward.
Trine just patted him on the arm and whispered, “Let’s go find our children.”
They found Johan at the rear end of the ship. He was hanging on the rail crying and yelling that they had to stop the ship. It took several minutes but Julius and Trine learned that Sigrid and Johan and a couple of the other children on the ship were playing hide and seek. He was searching for Sigrid when he decided to show his troll the ocean and the sunset. One of the children, trying to get home free, had pushed or bumped his as she ran by and he had lost his grip. The toy, he said, had fallen off the end of the boat.
It took all the rest of the day to calm the boy down, mostly because he insisted the troll itself was real and that it would likely drown in the ocean. Johan talked in animated phrases how it his conversations with Zorf he had learned that the trolls had or were working on a tunnel from Norway to America that went under the ocean and that Trolls had already been to America. The boy insisted that without his companion he would never learn the true story about how Leif Erickson had taken the first troll to America and how the trolls had traveled the full length of both North and South America over the centuries. Julius an Trine and patiently let the boy spend his anguish, listening to the wild imaginings of the boy as Trine gently held him in her arms while his family looked on. Finally, as lights-out approached the exhausted boy fell into a fitful sleep. Trine gently laid him in his bed and covered him then turned to her husband.
"What are we going to do?" she asked glancing over her shoulder at the boy. "Perhaps I should have left the troll home after all. I did not think it would get lost, and he did love it so."
Papa Berntsen patted her arm. "I have an idea. But I must find Nils. Let me go out before it gets any later."
Mama nodded as he kissed her cheek. "Hurry back, the bed is lonely without you."
Julius smiled and winked then turned quickly to leave. As he walked toward the stairs leading to the main deck he smiled again as he heard the cry of a baby. The infant, Elina, was growing stronger minute by minute and her cries for food and attention were an almost always welcome message to the weary passengers in steerage. Julius was actually pleased he had an excuse to leave the area.
It took several minutes and a handful of inquiries to find Nils, who was just getting ready to go off duty. Within minutes the lad returned from the engine room with a foot-long pine log about four and a half inches in diameter. The two talked briefly as father filled in son about the various matters that might concern him. Before they parted Nils looked cautiously around then gave his father a quick hug before heading to the crew quarters below decks. Julius watched him disappear into the shadows then walked to the cooking area where, by the light of one of the ship’s lanterns, he pulled out his knife and began to whittle. By morning he had a good start on a new troll for his youngest son.
Over the next two days the ship moved swiftly with a good wind at her back, pushing her smoothly toward the New World. Passengers began to fall back into a simple routine, especially as those who had been sick continued to improve. Eline began to eat solid food again, and the others were seen on deck absorbing the healing rays of the sun. The bond that had began to be forged during trials faded, but remained vital as the passengers and, by now some of the crew, mingled and talked sharing dreams and traditions. Julius found himself answering questions about his faith and he and the captain frequently talked about life and what their plans were for the future. Families ate together. Games and recreation were active and all inclusive. Any fears and bias vanished under the weight of shared challenges.
The informal English class also took off in earnest as the passengers realized that America and all her challenges were getting very close. Some of the crew had mentioned to Nils that there were some, in America, who thought nothing of taking advantage of innocent newcomers. Nils relayed this information to his father who quickly confirmed the report by talking with the other passengers, many of whom had worked and saved for years and who had letters and reports from those who had gone before. Most of the people had been hesitant to believe that there were any problems in their Land of Promise and had not even discussed their fears, even among themselves.
The area of focus started with the American money. It was not complicated, but what was considered fair prices for goods and services, especially food, lodging and transportation were discussed. Julius was never sure if other ships offered this service, but he was grateful that the captain was a good Christian and did what he could. Other things they learned were how to locate, by name, certain types of establishments: food and hardware stores, boarding houses and more. Even the children were taught to ask where they could find a toilet or tell someone, like a police officer, that they were lost.
The only person who did not seem at all interested in participation in the class was Trine. She said she simply felt that if she learned too much of this American language she would lose her roots, and she did not want that to happen to her or those she loved. She would let Julius and her family handle things, but when they talked with her they would have to speak the language of their birth. Still, with Julius’ tutelage she quickly picked up a few basic ideas which, for the rest of her life, she kept to herself unless absolutely necessary.
During this time, Julius took every opportunity to work on the new toy for his son. By Sunday he had shaped the wood into something that resembled the original toy in many ways.
Sunday, July 2nd, church service was joyous and more raucous as the Captain led the passengers and crew in a chorus of hallelujahs and shouted praise. Julius, his family, and most of the other Mormons joined in, but were somewhat uncomfortable with the carrying on. After the main meeting the Mormons met quietly in the Berntsen berth where they partook of the Lord’s Supper and whispered a few heartfelt testimonies of how they were converted to the church and how they felt about Joseph (Smith) and the other Church leaders. Even Karen, who had been very impressed by her father’s blessing, gave a few short words about how she was learning and wanted to know like the others did. She was assured that she was still young and had plenty of time to learn and she was promised that if she lived her faith she would know for sure someday that it was right.
By the evening meal Julius had finished the new toy. When the family went up to supper he lingered behind and when they were out of sight placed the toy on his son’s bunk. He then went up and helped his wife prepare some bean and barley soup. Around them, families talked and joked and shared the camaraderie that the storm and illness had created. Now the steerage passengers were more like a large extended family, when they had been strangers just nineteen days ago. The Berntsens shared soup so that none remained and finished the last of their fish. By choice they drank water to keep hydrated, passing on the liquors and wines that flowed freely among many of the group. Trine gave each a slice of apple and a lemon wedge, given to them by a family from Sweden, to help them remain healthy. She even exchanged stories and humor with some those that sat nearby while her husband entertained the children and some of the adults with a story or two about his great-grandfather and a troll named Zeka.
For some reason, Johan was very anxious all through the meal. He squirmed and wiggled until he swallowed the last bit of food, ignoring all around him. He listened impatiently to his father’s story and was soon bothering his mother with his desire to go below. His mother was concerned that he was feeling sick, but he told her that he just felt that he should go down there. Finally she gave him permission and he darted off like a shot and disappeared below. Julius, when he noticed the small commotion raised by his son, excused himself quickly and followed the boy down anxiously to see his reaction to the new troll.
“Zorf!” He heard the boy cry as he reached the bottom step. “I knew you’d come back!”
Curious, Julius cautiously parted the curtain and peered inside. Johan was all but dancing around the room holding aloft his troll, his old troll. Julius was so surprised he stepped back and bumped into his son Nils.
“Off da.” exclaimed Julius with a start.
“I take it Johan found is troll,” said Nils with a smile.
Julius was confused and said so.
“Oh, I found it between the two aft lifeboats. If I had not been as tall as I am, and standing where I was when I glanced over, I would never have seen him.”
Understanding showed in Julius’ eyes. “What did you do with the other troll?”
“I…um... I gave it to the Johnsons for their baby. I told them that every child should have a troll to watch over him or her. They’d left so much behind I thought it was a good idea. I hope you don’t mind.”
Nils smiled back. “You know,” he said softly, “I am going to want you to make one for each of my children, you know.”
Before Julius could answer, Johan darted out from behind the curtain and ran headlong into his brother. The troll sailed up into the air as Johan fell forward. Reacting quickly Nils deftly grabbed the troll out of its flight and, in one smooth move, handed it to his brother as he could sit up and cry out.
“Glad all is well,” said Nils with a soft chuckle. “I suppose I had better get back to work. Captain Harbormiester has been very tolerant of my visiting with you because we are family, but I dare not abuse his good faith. Give Mother my love.”
Julius nodded and peered at Johan as the boy stood still clutching his troll tightly to his chest.
“I will never let you go again,” he chanted several times, then turning to his father grew as serious as he had ever become. “Oh papa, when I saw him hit the water, I was so afraid and so sad so I prayed and prayed and prayed and I had the feeling I would get him back. My prayers were answered!”
Taken slightly aback, Julius patted the boys head. He wanted to tell his son that this was not the way God worked, and how Nils had found the troll, but just as he was about to speak the flickering light of the constantly moving ship and the passing of a shadow made it look to Julius as the troll had given him a wink.
“Come on son,” he said finally, “let’s go show your mother and the others.”
Delighted to oblige, Johan sprinted ahead of his father, who followed slowly, still shaking his head and wondering exactly what had just happened.
The next day was, for the most part, uneventful as the Hope sailed toward the American Coast. An excited rumble flowed through the ship as the first seagulls were spotted on the afternoon of the third. Families began the task of packing those things they did not need, and the slow process of saying farewell began. Meals and other impromptu gatherings were jovial and relaxed, as the air of anticipation and, in some cases, fear began to build. The store of spirits was passed around liberally and a few went to bed feeling less than themselves. Even, to the delight of some of the men, one of the ‘non-drinking Mormons’ fell into old his ways and had several cups of wine before being taken below by his very disgusted and angry wife.
Early Tuesday morning, some of the passengers began to filter toward the bouncing bow in hopes of the first to spot land on the horizon. The darkness and shadows of land appeared in the late afternoon, and by dusk people were swearing they could see the coastal lights flickering in the distance. These lights grew more and more pronounced as the night passed.
By mid-morning they could make out the skyline, and see both Fort Wood and Ellis Islands inside New York Harbor.7) The area was alive and on the horizon a half dozen other ships could be seen moving toward the busiest port in America. Birds and small craft came out to escort them in, and word was sent ahead regarding the ship, her status, and who and what was aboard. Sails were lowered and the ship was rigged to coast in and be eased into an awaiting dock. Word came back that Company officials would be there to assess the damage and get repairs started as fast as possible.
Captain Harbormiester sent his words of farewell and gratitude via some of his officers. He reminded them that they were starting their new lives on the Fourth of July, America’s Birthday, and he bid them to remember that this was a grand omen and that fate had given them a fortuitous blessing. He also suggested that they stay near the harbor to watch the celebration if they could. He concluded his message by relaying to them that he would focus his energies on completing his job and get them safely to shore.
Below deck, the final processes of departure also began. Personal items were stored and final packing completed among shared embraces and occasional tears as people realized that this was i, in most cases, the end of their association. The bittersweet anticipation filled everyone’s minds as they slowly prepared to leave The Hope. Even many of the higher class passengers came down to say their good-byes, because of what they had shared.
For the crew of the ship it did not matter what day it was. Lines and sails had to be stowed. Hundreds of tasks, small and great, had to be done before the ship would be safe within the harbor. Even the greenest of recruits was now a veteran and each had tasks to complete before anyone could even set foot on shore.
While the crew worked, excited men and boys clung to the rails of the bow and port side of the ship and clutched their hats as the ship moved smoothly through the organized chaos of the harbor. The ship came within a hundred yards of Fort Wood and her star shaped walls, still manned with a small detachment of soldiers, somehow gave comfort to those who passed. Most of the women stayed a respectful distance back citing the belief that proper women did not take part in such spectacles, though a few got as close as they could by using the guise of dealing with careless children and over exuberant spouses or sons.
Footnotes (hit "back" to get back to the text):
1) The history of Mormon polygamy began with Mormonism founder Joseph Smith stating that he received a revelation from God on July 17, 1831 that some Mormon men would be allowed to practice "plural marriage". The practice officially ended with the Manifesto published in 1890 and has not been practiced by temple worthy members of the church since. There is still much confusion on this topic and there are many splinter groups which continue to practice “plural marriage,” but where the practice is still part of the doctrine it has not been an officially practiced ordinance since 1890. Those who do enter into it are usually given a chance to repent or face removal from the rolls of the church through excommunication.
2) Many of those who left Norway and Europe in general, during this period, were skilled craftsman and artisans from the lower and middle classes. Most of them easily found jobs in America which, as a rule, welcomed these men and women and their accompanying skills.
3) It was originally planned for the Charity Hope to arrive in New York Harbor on June 27th , fourteen days after departure. The storm and repairs put her new arrival time somewhere between July third and fifth, 1865.
4) Mormons frequently referred to non-members as ‘Gentiles’ and still do to some degree.
5) Many people at the time mistakenly believed that Mormons were not Christian and worshiped Joseph Smith. This has never been the case according to their doctrine/statements. This scripture was often used to ‘preach against the heathen Mormons’ without being direct or confrontational. Most converts ignored these efforts.
6) James 5:5
7) The Statue of Liberty was completed in France in 1884 and it was not put up in New York Harbor, until 1885. It was dedicated October 18, 1886. Until then Fort Wood Island (with it’s its 1812 built fort with star shaped walls) was one of the sights people saw as they entered New York Harbor. Ellis Island was not used until 1892.
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