Karen Marie Nielsen Jensen
By Harriet Lucinda Whiting Jensen, daughter-in-law
Her Early Life
Karen Marie Nielsen was born Jan 6, 1845, at Torslev, Denmark. She was the daughter of Niels Pedersen and Maren Andersen, the seventh child in a family of eight. Her oldest sister died. She began working away from home when she was twelve years of age. When her mother died when she was fourteen, Karen Marie was obliged to support herself from then on.
She lived with "fine folk" as she termed them, but they were very hard on her and only allowed the children a certain amount to eat. Many times she was hungry, but the door was always locked and nothing was given them to eat after the five o'clock supper. The bread was cut thin and only two tiny slices given to each child. She stayed with this family a year and was paid about $8.00 for her work.
At fourteen, children went to the Priest to be confirmed. He lined the boys on one side and the girls on the other and talked to them for a time; then the next Sunday they were allowed to take the Sacrament and given a book. The Priest wrote in the book that they had been confirmed and this was their reference book. No one would hire a person without this reference. At that time, they were hired for a certain length of time and if they left before the time was up, they would not get a reference and could not get another job.
Karen worked at one place two and one half years, but it was such hard work. She was forced to go into the field to work along with the men as well as do the housework. During the harvest, they had to get up at 3:30 or 4:00 o'clock in the morning and get breakfast, and after breakfast, milk as many as ten cows and take care of the milk; she also did the churning. She put up lunches for a ten o'clock lunch, and then came home at noon and milked the cows, washed the dishes, and put up an afternoon lunch, while the men folks took a rest and nap. Many times she helped bind grain until 10:00 o'clock at night. It was at this place that her health broke and she contracted something similar to asthma that bothered her all her life.
One fall, about November, she spread over four hundred loads of fertilizer called “marigal,” a clay that was dug up from the ground. It was unloaded in piles, and the workers had to spread it and break it into pieces. Many times it was very cold, and the fertilizer was so heavy that she thought she would never get it done. But after the day’s work was done, she thought nothing of walking a mile (a Danish mile is four of our miles) to a dance and back again. Finally, she made up her mind that she would quit the farm work and go to the city. She found that this was also hard work because the family she worked for lived in four large rooms and every week the rooms were given a thorough house cleaning. She scrubbed the floors with sand.
While working in the City, she met Hans Peter Jensen, who worked at the same place. They were married Nov. 5, 1869. They were baptized into the Church Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) at 12:00 midnight, March 5, 1871. It was so cold her clothing was frozen stiff before she could get to the house, a short distance away. Choosing this time of night was necessary to avoid trouble from mobs. They left Denmark to come to Utah in June 1871 and arrived in Salt Lake City, July 24th of that year. From here they went to Spanish Fork, Utah, probably to be with many other families from the Scandinavian countries. After about a year, they rented a farm down by Utah Lake. While living here, two children were born and one of these died. Eight children were born to them while they were living in Spanish Fork.
They were always poor, but the hand of the Lord was with them. He was ever first in her sight and she was blessed by her obedience to Him. She was always a faithful mother as well as a helpmate to her husband, and was loved fer her helpfulness and charity. Her smile was an integral part of her and her jolly laughter always rang through the air.
She carded sheep's wool and from this knitted all her children’s stockings, gloves, sweaters, and wove the cloth for their clothing. She also made piece-blocks, quilts, and rugs, and quilted for other people; she nearly always had a quilt on in her later years. In this way she earned money to buy Christmas presents for all of her family and especially the grandchildren. When she passed away, she had quilts to do for her neighbors. These worried her up until her death because they weren't done.
She loved to dance or be with the crowd out having a good time. She and Hans used to go down to the dance hall in Spanish Fork and watch the young people dance. This was while they were in their seventies. She loved the jolly things in life, and always tried to see the bright side of things.
She was a faithful worker in the church and, for years, was counselor in the Mapleton Relief Society. She stayed at home and took care of things while her husband went on two missions to his native land. By this time the boys were big enough to assume much of the work.
She never forgot a grandchild's birthday and her pennies were saved to bring them joy. She loved their noise and laughed at the things they did. There was always candy or cookies for anyone who went to her home.
She and Hans moved back to Spanish Fork for their later years. They had a little home at 479 North 500 East. It was here that she took ill and was in bed about four days before her death. She didn't seem to be in any pain, just exhausted from the toils of a life well spent. She slept her last few days peacefully away. Her death occurred March 9, 1926, at age 80. She was buried in the Spanish Fork cemetery.