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Stories

This is the part of the website that adds the personality.  We want to hear about the specifics of family members.

 
 
 


 
  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 church.

(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 powder keg.

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 later years.

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 age.

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 eating.

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

The End

 

NOTE

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 years ago.

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 Pioche, Nevada.

Devere Byergo

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.

Shon Bjerregaard

 

 
   
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