by Martin Calderwood
The ending of this story may be almost anti-climatic, but that was how it was. There were no parades, no grand welcomes and, unless families were already in the valley, there was little more than an orientation and assignments to help the people take their place in Deseret or Zion as fast as possible, thus giving them a sense of family and community from the start. Over the next few decades thousands of immigrant saints, from all over the world, arrived to help build the church and the community. As I wrote this story these people became very real to me so I could not leave them just 'hanging' at the end of the story. Had they been real this is what I believe would have happened to them. Some of the things actually happened to the real Berntsens, who I will briefly introduce next. Also, I took some liberties with these fictional events to highlight and combine the general (or overall) actions of the Mormon Pioneers of that era. I chose 1865 as the year of my setting because it was a year with many challenges and yet enough time had passed that the organization and methods were well established for the stories purposes. There was a real wagon train company that arrived in September, 1865. They fared well but were attacked by Indians (which would not have been part of those represented by Small Bear in this story, who were on the East side of the great divide). Seven men were wounded and one woman, kidnapped and never found. Some of their history can be found at: http://heritage.uen.org/companies/Wc89d833608c52.htm .
As for what happened to those in the story:
Julius Berntsen lived into his mid-eighties. He served as a High Priest in his congregation. He worked as a carpenter and contractor most of his life and took great pride in the many homes and facilities he built with his sons over the years. He traveled back to Norway at age 75.
Trine Bernstein never did 'master' English though her family always suspected that she understood a lot more than she let on. She passed away from pneumonia at age 68. She served in her church and helped raise her grandchildren, whom she delighted in telling tales of the old country and in teaching them Norwegian.
Kris worked alongside his father for many years but finally started his own business in 1879. He married a girl from Richfield, Utah and they raised five children. He remained active in the Mormon Church and served in a variety of callings during his life. He always credited his wife, who survived him by five years after he died of a heart attack at 73, with keeping him active.
Nils finally came to Utah in 1889. He captained his own vessel, which he named The Star of Roken, for eighteen years. During his sailing days he returned to Norway many times. One story that circulates about him is that he was working the rigging in a bad storm and lost his grip and fell down from the second yardarm, landing on a pile of chains. He reportedly got back up and went back to work without as much as a complaint. During his days as a captain he smoked a pipe which, when he returned to Utah, he gave up without a problem. He lived until age 93, outliving two wives and siring nine children all together. He became active as a Mormon at age 64 and went to the temple shortly thereafter. He served two missions as well, one in Denmark and Norway, the other in Wisconsin.
Inga married young Jeremiah Rutgers and they were called to go to Saint George where they raised a family of four children. Inga lost contact with her family in the late seventies and only returned for her father's funeral. The two ran a small store and lived on a farm, experimenting with a variety of crops under the direction of the local bishop. Jeremiah died exactly two weeks after Inga died of cancer at age 70, most say from a broken heart.
Karen and Sven married, and though Sven never was baptized a Mormon he helped the local church and supported his wife and three sons in all they did. All three served missions. Karen sewed while Sven continued to grow in skill and reputation as a Doctor. Together they opened a small hospital where they worked until he retired at age 76, when Parkinson's took its final toll, rendering him too unstable to work. He died a year later. Karen lived fifteen years longer and served as a temple worker. She had Sven's temple work and proxy baptism done for him a year after he died. She then was sealed to him a year later. Karen died of a stroke sitting on her porch on the anniversary of Sven's death.
Bernt served as a bishop and a Stake President and served two missions. His five children remained active in their church and have since served in many leadership positions. He founded the Bernstein Brother's Construction Company which brought the sons all back together. When he retired he carved trolls and skied and told stories like his father. He died in his sleep at age 92, probably of cancer, two years after his wife passed away. Toward the end he claimed that he had talked to Zorf and he apologized to his brother for not believing him for all those years.
Johan changed his name to John five years after their arrival in Utah. He followed in his father's footsteps and was a master carpenter. He worked on many projects and traveled for the church, helping build chapels throughout Utah. He also made skies and helped start the fledgling ski industry in the state. He married late in life (age 41) to a woman half his age. Of the boys, he was the only one to marry another Norwegian. They had six children. He lived to be 79 and to his dying day insisted that Zorf was very much alive. He would frequently tell stories to the family and helped preserve many of the tales his family now cherishes. His wife remarried at age 62, “for companionship.” As for Zorf, he was never heard from again until he showed up in Sigrid's on the porch of home when she turned 95.
Sigrid lived to be 101 and it was her memories that were recorded for the family’s posterity. Like most of her family, she remained loyal and active to the Mormon church, serving on boards and general woman's callings three times. She and her husband were married 84 years and they raised five children of their own and adopted four children of a neighbor couple who were killed in a car crash in 1901. Some of her family claim that she knew where Zorf was all along but she denied it, claiming he surprised her when he showed up. She maintained he was “as real as any troll could be” and made sure her brothers carved copies of the troll for all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Meet the 'Real' Berntsen (Bernson) Family
Julius and Trine Kristiansen Berntsen immigrated to Utah from Royken Buskerud, Norway, arriving April 24, 1907 after less than a two months journey. They arrived on the SS Cymric in Boston Harbor and took the train to Utah. With them came their children Karen, Inga, Kristoffer, Anne, John (Johan), Carl (Karl) and Sigrid. The settled in the southern end of the Salt Lake City area where they used their skills as farmers and carpenters to make their way in their new home. The brothers formed the Berntsen Brother's Contractors Company and worked on everything from private homes to the officer’s club at Fort Douglas. They were also key players in building the ski industry, especially Karl and John, along with a dozen other young men from Norway. Karl was particularly well known for his jumping. The all made skies as well.
Like the character in the story, Trine did not master English and I patterned the character after her. Julius was a fine story teller and told many stories to his children, which some say he made up as he went. They continued to follow some Norse customs and though they may not have claimed that trolls were real, they told the tales.
Several of the family Americanized their names during WW II, in part because some thought their names sounded too Jewish and Carl's oldest son, Donald, was almost denied entry into the medical field because of it.
Of the family members, my maternal grandfather, Carl Bernson, was the only one to marry another Norwegian girl, Eva Stromness, whose parents emigrated from Norway. She was born in Utah on September 29, 1897. It is, so we claim, for this reason that our family ended up with two house trolls, Maas, from the Bernson side and Glucgh/Gluck from the Stromness clan. With their help, family memories have been opened and, along with a lot of research and speculation, have helped create a large variety of tales stemming from our Norwegian heritage.
All the Berntsen/Bernson children stayed active in the Mormon/LDS faith though the same cannot be said about their children and great-grandchildren. I have remained a active member and so have been able to paint the rich traditions and doctrines of this church, one of which is a mandate to find and know your ancestors through genealogy. It is my hope that this story has inspired you to seek out your forefathers and learn of your heritage and family traditions because, whether we knew them or not, they are responsible for making us who and what we are today. In my case, I thank them for it.
Thanks also to Martin Eidhammer, a dear friend, for asking me to write this story. The experience has been eye-opening and uplifting.
Happy searching and researching! I hope you find great joy and satisfaction from your efforts.
One of the sites that greeted the Pioneers.
The Salt Lake Tabernacle under construction in 1865. C. R. Savage photograph.
The Salt Lake Tabernacle today, home of the world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
This story was written for entertainment and information purposes only and was not sold or used for profit in any way. Sources and sites have been listed as best as possible, if any were missed it was due to human error. My thanks to all who put their information on the internet for the public use. If you discover or identify a source or site I missed please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will insert the additional information at the end of the story to give credit where credit is due. This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone other than the Berntsen/Berntson clan, who were used as patterns in the story, is purely coincidental.
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