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Stories from and about the family

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Larus Christian Christensen

with emphasis on second wife

Elsa (Kjerstine) Bjerregaard

In the northern most part of Denmark in the province of Hjorring near the town of Taars on the 2nd of August 1825 Larus Christian was born.

His father, Christian Larsen Christensen, was a Dane also born in Taars but his mother was a foreigner, Ingerbord Coserun, from Finland, who died when the boy was about three years old.  She bequeathed him his Finnish-looking eyes, a love and talent fro music, and an aspiration for learning.  She was a educated woman whose father when he was five years old and so began his study of music.

His father raised him in the Lutheran faith and his only formal education was for one winter season in order to receive his confirmation at the age of 14, at which time he was considered to be a man and receive his pipe.

On December 7th, 1847 at the age of 22, he married Jensine Helena Sorensen in Taars.  His occupation at this time as that of stonemason but his love and hobby was music and he furnished the violin music for many country dances.

Six Years after his marriage on January 5th, 1853 we find his record of baptism into the Latter Day Saints Church.  At this time he had two children, Marianne and Soren.  Their faith in the new religion crystallized their determination to make a home in the "land of the west" as he called it.

On November 22nd, 1854 they embarked for American.  They were joined by his brother and his family and left the port of Frederickshaven but floundered in fierce storms and were forced to return.  Many of the saints defected because of the hardships and anti-Mormon ridicule and demonstrations.  But Larus and his brother with their families set out by sailing vessel again in a second attempt to reach Liverpool.  This time strong winds drove them up north along the coast of Norway and they had to return to Frederickshaven again.  After a third trial and more than a month of stormy sailings and disappointments, they arrived at Hull, England.  On Christmas in 1854 they took a train to Liverpool where they made final preparations for their ocean crossing.

His wife Jensine suffered all these hardships and disappointments while in the last few months of pregnancy.  On January 8th, 1855 they sailed from Liverpool bound for New Orleans, and another daughter, Sara Marie, was born that same day.

A month later they experienced the first great grief of their lives.  Their little son Soren, age 3 who even then was playing a violin his father had made for him , was taken ill and died.  He was buried at sea. 

They arrived in New Orleans on February 23rd, 1855 from where they went by steamboat up the Mississippi River to St. Louis.  The culminating test of their faith and stamina came then when cholera broke out in the two boats.  Larus' brother, his brother's wife and one son died from the dreaded disease.

Either at St. Louis or just shortly after they left there for the journey west to Utah, their baby daughter, Sara Marie, died and they buried her in his violin box which had been fashioned into a coffin.

After arriving in Salt Lake City they stayed for a time until he was directed to settle in Box elder where they arrived on April 13, 1855.  During the next few years of hardship and near famine they had another daughter and son who both died in infancy.  Later on in the better and more prosperous years they had three more daughters, Lena, Fredrica and Serena who all lived to maturity along with Marianne.

Using his skill and training as a stonemason, Larus established an adobe yard wish was his occupation for a number of years.  He built himself a large home and a 2 story barn.  The parlor of his home he made large enough to hold dances and parties for other in the community, for which he furnished violin music.  Later on he gave dancing lessons to the young people there, teaching them the square dances, the schottish, mazurka, polka and waltz.  All the happiest memories of his children were wrapped up in music and dancing.

Sometime in or just prior to the year 1858 an immigrant group arrived in Brigham City, Utah and as was his custom, he shared his home with them.  So it was he met a dynamic little woman named Elsa Christina Bjerregaard, who was less than five feet tall.  He was a stalwart six-footer.  She told her daughter years later that he said "I think I want you," and because he looked and acted better than any one else she knew, she accepted him.  Thus inauspiciously, without any fanfare or romance, he took his second wife.  To this union 10 children were born.  Three boys died in childhood, Joseph, Ephraim and Eli.  Of the 7 who lived to maturity there were 2 daughters, Christina and Jorinda Helena: and 5 sons, Christian, Fredrick, Moses, Lars Peter and Aaron.  At the encouragement and insistence of their parents that all studied music on various instruments. 

When the United Order was established Larus joint it and was assigned the task of erecting and operation a molasses mill.  He fashioned much of the machinery himself, and once at Conference time he carried on foot a piece of machinery from Salt Lake City to Brigham City.  Even after the United Order was discontinued, and he had suffered quite a financial loss because of it, he continued to operate the molasses mill until his son, Lars Peter, had his left hand mashed in it.  He lost all of his fingers and part of his thumb.  The physical loss was a terrible heartbreak but even worse was the fact that he was an accomplished violinist and could no longer play.  After a period of depression and bitterness he studied trumpet and played in one of the early orchestras with his brother at Saltair in its heyday.

As the area prospered in later years Larus developed a business of repairing watches, clocks and musical instruments.  He was commissioned to install the large clock in the Court House and all during the rest of his life he was the inspector and caretaker of the clock.  He continued this profession until he was 84 years old.

After the manifesto, like many others who were practicing polygamy, he was sent to the State Prison for a period of six months.  While there he made a violin from native timber using only a pocket knife.  He was also allowed to play his own violin to entertain the others who were there for the same reason.  His second wife, Elsa Christina, later told her children that when he was released from the prison the official said "You can go home now Brother Christensen.  You've fixed everything that needs to be fixed."  So apparently he was also allowed to use his skill at repairs in many ways while he was there.

When Larus was about 50 years old, he took a third wife, Melvena Christensen, by whom he had 7 children.

As his sons reached manhood they built and operated a Dance Academy on Main Street and their home was no longer used for this purpose. Music remained his hobby and love, and until just before his death he would sit in the orchestra pit with his sons and enjoy the music and dancing of the younger generations.  His special happiness lay in the traditional invitation to play for the children's Christmas parties given each year, and the last Christmas before his death on June 9, 1908, he preformed for the children.

After her husbands death, the second wife, Elsa Christina, continued to live in the old home with her daughter Jorinda.  She had mothered, reprimanded, guided and inspired her own 7 children along with the four daughters of the first wife.  She also helped do the same for the children of the third wife, the boys of whom especially spent almost as much time with her as with their own mother.

Her life was full of hard work and difficulties, but eventually became very satisfying and rewarding.  She lived to see her oldest son, Christian, establish a music business and then become an accomplished orchestra leader who played on tour in Utah and all over the nation.  Her second son, Fred, became a fine cellist and established a dancing school in Boise, Idaho and later another one in Seattle, Washington.  Her third son, Moses, conducted a dancing school first in Boise, Idaho and later on in Portland, Oregon.  There he was one of the organizers of the Portland Symphony Orchestra and great joy was hers when his son, Victor became a concert violinist at the age of 12.

Her fourth son, Peter, whose tragedy in losing his had made him very close to her heart, became supervisor of music for the Salt Lake City schools.  He was organizer of the Salt Lake City High School Band which went to the International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 where they won honors for music and drill.  Subsequently he also entered the dancing business and opened a studio in Salt Lake City.

Her fifth son, Aaron, died at 17 years from complications following on of the earliest appendectomy operations in the area.  Her daughter Jorinda, was a pianist and played for the dancing classes before her marriage.  She and her older sister, Christina , established homes and families and remained in Brigham City many years.

The sons Moses and Peter in later years were instrumental in forming the Dancing Masters Association of America at which they served as president and secretary. This group sponsored the introduction of ballet to this country.

The last achievement in a life of love and service to children came when Elsa Christine accompanied her son Peter on a tour of many states with a boys band comprised of news boys and so-called "bad boys".  She was foster mother, nurse, confessor and at times wielder of the switch and keeper of order.  But they loved and honored Grandma Christiansen.

She died in Salt Lake City, Utah while visiting at the home of her son Peter, but she was buried in Brigham City.  She was a tiny woman with a giant, vital spirit whose life started widening circles of beauty and good beyond her dreams.

Written in January 1970 by Delome Billings, Wife of William E. Billings who is the son of Jorinda Helena Christensen Billings, who gratefully acknowledges some data was taken from histories compiled by Iris Carver and Lorenzo Olsen of other branches of the family.

 

 

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