The Dauntless Dane of Sanpete County.
Early in 1857, a trim sailing
vessel under full canvas, glided stately out of a bay in
Denmark, bound for America. For one individual aboard, young
Andrew Bjerregaard, born June 6, 1851 in Aalborg, the embryo
of a destiny, and varied career was beginning to form.
After disembarking at New
York harbor, the Bjerregaard family headed straight-a-way for
Missouri. There was a brief period of re-grouping and
outfitting, then in the year of 1857 or 1858, they joined a
creaking wagon-train of hopeful souls, and rumbled westerly
out of Missouri to Brigham Young's newly found, and so-called
"Land of Zion." Many were leaving the east for the west to
avoid religious persecution, which flourished at that time,
and to a new way of life, some to find financial security, and
a few for just plain adventure.
For the Danish immigrants,
the thought of establishing a home in a new land with all the
opportunities afforded, was wonderful. The Bjerregaard family
was anxious to reach the recently established Salt Lake City,
in the territory of Utah, or "Deseret," as the Mormons chose
to call it. After many wearisome weeks filled with numerous
adversities, the wagon train reached the Mormon strong hold,
with six-year old Andrew.
A short time for resting from
the plains crossing was enjoyed and welcomed in Salt Lake,
while the next move for some of the members was being
evaluated by the Church leaders. Finally the decision was made
and the Bjerregaard's, along with others, were dispatched to
one of Brigham Young's far away areas to colonize and help
build the little settlement of Ephraim, which was established
in 1854, about 110 miles south and east of Salt Lake City.
It is only speculation, and
an uncertainty of reason, as to why his parents would leave a
child with another family, after having taken him on such a
perilous journey to an unknown wilderness, and among strange
people. This happened to young Andy. It is also theorized, and
with reason, that a conflicting opinion arose over the idea of
polygamy, which was then advocated by the Mormon Church. It is
believed the Bjerregaard family would not conform to this co-habitive
way of living, so as a result of this contention, the family
moved back to Missouri, leaving Andy in the care of another
family at Ephraim. The senior Bjerregaard's were
disillusioned, and disenchanted with the doctrines of the
(Many years later, while on a
trip back east, Andrew surprised his aged parents with a
visit. They had not seen him since leaving him in Utah as a
small child, however, his mother exclaimed "Oh, its Andrew!" A
tearful but happy reunion followed.)
As Andrew was entering into
his formative years of boyhood, tension was building in
Sanpete County between the Indians and settlers. Numerous
depredations had been inflicted on outlying farms and
ranchers. Isolated cattle and sheepherders had been massacred.
Brigham Young's policy toward the Indians was one of
appeasement. He advocated it was better to feed, than to fight
them. In a way, this was understandable, for at least a
two-fold reason. First, the Indians vastly outnumbered the
settlers, and secondly, to have trouble with them would hamper
colony expansion that was being established throughout the
Territory of Utah at that time. The situation then, at this
point, in Sanpete County was akin to a lighted match over a
And then it happened-the
seemingly inevitable. The Black Hawk War of 1865 to 1868 had
its beginning. This was the turmoil that was going on when
Andrew Bjerregaard was trying to accumulate a herd of cattle
on his own. Constant Indian attacks and the threat of total
annihilation kept him and the townsmen continually on guard
while trying to eke out a livelihood at the same time. At and
age when most boys are indulged in play, Andrew realized that
with him, it was either "sink or swim." He had to think, work
and assume responsibilities of a man. In short, he was a man
many years before he should have been.
The treaty with Black Hawk
had been signed in 1868. It was about this time Andy decided
upon entering the freighting business. Settlers needed
clothes, tools, equipment and almost everything. Here was an
opportunity to make big money if only he could get started
right. He had saved a little from his "hiring-out" and had
managed to buy a pair of oxen from a man in the small
settlement of York, (later becoming the present town of Mona,
Utah) approximately forty-five miles from his home in Ephraim.
Andy had to go there to collect his stock. Undaunted by the
still raging aftermath of the Black Hawk War and with the
hills and canyons full of warriors, he decided to make the
trip by himself, traveling by night and hiding by day. The
weather had turned cold, being late fall and he had scarcely
worn enough clothes to keep warm. His only food on the trip
consisted of raw potatoes bargained for from a farmer along
the way. After suffering bitter cold, hunger and fear of being
detected by Indians, York was finally reached and Andrew
claimed his prize oxen.
Thus his freighting business
was started, which took him to the hell-roaring mining camp of
Pioche, Nevada. By late 1891, a branch-line of the Denver and
Rio Grande Western Railroad had been completed from Thistle to
Gunnison Valley, Territory of Utah, passing through Sanpete
County. Thereafter, long-haul freighting by wagon was, for the
most part, finished in that locality.
Deprivation in his early
youth eventually molded Andrew Bjerregaard into a shrewd and
tactical businessman. One venture led to another, so that by
the turn of the century, his enterprises included farming,
livestock, freighting, owner of much real estate and,
eventually, banking was undertaken.
Bjerregaard accomplished much
good in the community of Ephraim. He frequently gave help to
young folks and organizations, but since he was an "outsider",
(a name the Mormon Church chose to give a non-member) and also
since he chose not to always give to the Church, his many
philanthropies seemed to go un-heralded.
Bjerregaard became one of the
settlers and landowners of Mayfield and Christianberg,
communities built on twelve-mile creek, twenty-two miles south
of Ephraim. He extended his domain still farther south into
the Willow Creek area, now known as Axtell.
As he sat his horse atop a
bluff overlooking the rich, fertile lowland, his eyes were
traveled slowly up and down the Sevier River. He noticed a
settlement or two up-stream and a few more vaguely discernible
in the distance down-stream. Eventually his gaze came to an
abrupt halt at the confluence of the river and Willow Creek.
This was it! A large area of loamy, virgin soil just for the
taking. The availability of water made this land more
priceless than gold. This is where he would homestead a
section-160 acres-40 acres each for two of his sons and two of
his daughters. Andy had married pretty Caroline-known as
Betsy-Whitlock, and to this union ten children had been born.
Half turning in his saddle,
he noted lush, summer rangeland across the valley in the
mountains to the east, which he acquired to add to his already
established empire, and his eventual title of "the
cattle-baron of Willow Creek."
Although not a large man,
what he lacked in physical bigness he made up for in many
ways. He was too active and ambitious to get obese, but rugged
and hearty. Possessing all the needed qualities a pioneer
frontiersman had to have to survive those abusive years. He
loved life and living, but not to the point of over-indulgence
and squandering of time and money.
He rode for cattle each fall
up to the year before his death in 1932, at the age of 81, and
always enjoyed hunting deer each year during season and with
rather good luck, selling the deer hides and giving the money
to his grandchildren. His one excessive indulgence was the
rolling of many "Bull Durhams" cigarettes in his lifetime.
This old Western standby was his favorite, even when the
financial stage was reached that he could afford
"tailor-mades." Although being shrewd, efficient, thrifty and
somewhat of a taskmaster, he displayed a grand sense of dry
humor. All this is encompassed in a story told of him in his
One day he met one of the
town "sports" on a street in Ephraim. The man, who had been
imbibing and was feeling pretty high said to Bjerregaard,
"Andy, why don't you loosen up, spend some of your money, and
have a good time?" "You know silver dollars were made round to
roll." Andy retorted. "Like hell they were, they were made
flat to stack up."
One of the great highlights
of Andy's life when at the age of eighteen he attended the
ceremonies of the driving of the golden spike at Promontory,
Utah, May 10, 1869, which joined the Union Pacific and Central
Pacific railroads. Bjerregaard, as other pioneer frontiersmen
and cattlemen, were individualistic, but had many virtues in
common, courage, determination and stamina, which boils down
to one word, -guts. A quality largely lacking this day and
At one time during the course
of interviewing his descendants, his use of domestic animals
was mentioned. It was noted that when he needed milk for
himself and families, he simply cut a wild range cow from the
herd, roped, tied and milked her. He would also butcher choice
cattle from his herd to be shared with the families for
Andrew Bjerregaard became
president of the Bank of Ephraim, which position he held for
quite a number of years up until the time of his death. His
wife Betsy, had died in 1930.
One night in April of 1932,
while living alone in his home, he was attacked, murdered and
an attempt made to burn him. The man accused of this crime
(Draper) and Andrew, had previously had words over a daughter
of whom Draper had been seeing, and had been told to stay
away, apparently, this had infuriated him (Draper).
The events surrounding the
trial were exploited by an article in a cheap pulp magazine.
The facts of the case were distorted beyond decent
comprehension. However, Draper was sent to prison for a life
term. About five or six years later his name come up during a
board of pardons meeting. Legal wheels were set in motion for
his release. While whatever machinations, if any, were in
progress, members of Bjerregaards family was constantly trying
to block Drapers release. Although the state Board of Pardons
may have been satisfied that his debt to society had been
paid, Bjerregaard's family had not.
The family effort was met by
temporary success, but developed that an annual pilgrimage had
to be made in order to keep Draper in carcerated, so that at
leased a semblance of his sentence would be carried out.
However, the State seemed determined to affect his release, so
after about nine years served for one of the most heinous,
brutal and sadistic crimes that one man could perpetrate upon
another, Draper was turned free. His freedom was short lived
however. It can be called fate, retribution, or whatever you
please, but by some power, his crime caught up with him in all
its' fury. A few years after his release he became a fatal
victim of burning himself.
And so, the little boy from
Denmark, who became colonizer, freighter, cattle baron, and
banker, who helped tame the wilderness and who carved such an
indelible and lasting impression on a generation to come, was
eventually avenged for such a senseless and unnecessary demise
This story was written by
Donald F. Kraack, whose wife was the granddaughter of Uncle
Andrew. It was published in Saga (a western magazine) some
I found through my research
that Uncle Andrew was between twelve and fourteen years old
instead of six as the story stated, when his father, mother,
and two youngest brothers went to Missouri sometime between
the spring of 1862 and the fall of 1865.
When hauling freight to
Pioche Andrew picked up the Mormon Road, that goes south out
of Salt Lake City all the way to San Bernardino, California.
He picked up this road somewhere around Levan, Utah and
followed it to where the Pioche/Salt Lake road branches off to
I also know of several
corrections to this story.
Andrew was born and lived in
foulum not Aalborg.
The port of entry into the
United States is also noted as New York City. They actually
arrived in Philadelphia and this is proven by the ship
registry for the Westmooreland. (See "Family Update" page for
a scanned copy.
Their first destination city
was also Iowa and not Missouri. It is amazing how much we
have learned about our family in the past year.