Our Family Legacy
Bent Rolfsen Larsen was born at Riisoer, Aust Agder, Norway, September 24, 1845, the son of Ole Larsen and Ingeborg Maria Rolfsen. His grandfather Bent Rolfsen was a ship builder.
I am led to believe that the ship building yards or wharf was some little distance from the city, because Bent has often told of the trips he and his brother Andrew made into the great yards where the timber for building the ships was prepared to get loads of waste timber for kindling. They went in their own little family boat. On one occasion when Bent was very small, when they were just a few yards from the home landing, he fell overboard and went to the twenty-foot bottom. One of his mother's brothers saw him fall in. He jumped into a nearby boat and with the aid of a long-handled hook brought him out of the water and gave him a thorough going-over. When he was able to walk again, his uncle told him to go to his mother and tell her to take better care of him, for Uncle Wrold had just fished him up from the bottom as dead as a mackerel and brought him to life again.
He loved the water and ships so much that, during his childhood and adolescent years, he boarded every vessel which came into the harbor and, by permission, climbed to the highest masts.
Ole Larsen, his father, was a cabinet maker, and young Bent and Andrew were employed daily helping polish the newly-made furniture.
He was full of pep and energy and sometimes tried to tease the neighbor girls when they put on their extra finery. On one occasion a fine neighbor girl, Maria Headmark, came out of her home, beautifully veiled, going out on some special occasion, when young Bent peeked from behind a log and said, “Oh, Maria! Would you like me to take that beautiful rag from your face?”
Two old maids in the neighborhood kept a small confectionary which was lighted by candles in the evening. Young Bent and some of the neighbor boys would step in, buy some candy, and as they turned to dash out, with one great puff, a part of the candles were out, and as they scampered away, they heard the two proprietors promising them something besides candy the next time they did that trick.
Not far from the Larsen home there was a small dance house where the young people assembled in the early evening hours, and each time when a young man decided to dance, he stepped over to the proprietor and paid the equivalent of five cents, took his partner and went onto the dance floor. The small boys of the neighborhood wanted very much to dance. They decided that, when the dance floor was nearly filled with dancers, the girls who had not been chosen might be willing to dance with them, so they dashed in as the music began to play, secured a girl, danced until the music was about to stop, then dashed out again.
In those days in Norway, when you arrived at the age of fourteen years you went to the Priest and took your school examination and were graduated at that time. Then each one was prepared to find a livelihood of his own.
After graduation, young Bent went to sea in 1859, as a cabin boy for his Uncle Torgus Thorvalsen on a vessel called Dorthea. The vessel first went to England, then to Gibralter, then to Philadelphia, USA, next to England, then to Sweden. He was shipwrecked in 1860, in the Baltic, near the Russian shore. The vessel went down in the night and the captain and crew reached the Russian shore in lifeboats at dawn. The Czar of Russia was there inspecting his armies. Young Bent so managed it that he got to stand for a short time by the side of the Czar. Thorvalsen got passage for himself and his seamen back to Norway, and they were home again before the end of 1860.
The following is what young Bent says about himself: “In 1861, I shipped on the schooner Tolja; went to the north part of Norway and to Sweden and France, then back to Riisoer. In 1862 I sailed on the bark Regina. On that ship I made one trip to the West Indies, one to Canada, one to France, one to Spain, and two to the Baltic.”
Young Bent was home for Christmas 1863. When he arrived home, he found the Mormon Elders there, and he wasn't pleased about it. Grandfather Rolfsen had died June 16, 1852. Grandmother Rolfsen and her daughters were very active members of the Mormon Church, all rejoicing in this new and wonderful religion. They were among the first to join the Church in Riisoer, Norway. Ole Larsen, Bent's father was baptized July 27, 1863, and Ingeborg Maria, Bent's mother was baptized July 26, 1863.
In the summer of 1864, Bent made three trips to France and one to Holland, and on September 10, 1864, Bent joined the LDS Church.
On April 18, 1865, the Ole Larsen family left Riisoer, Norway for Utah, USA. They came directly to Chicago (I believe via New York). Andrew Johnson and family, old friends of the Larsen family in Riisoer, Norway, were living in Chicago at the same time that the Larsens were. Brother Johnson was engaged in the lathing business and took Martin and Ole as helpers in the same business.
The Johnsons lived on the fourth floor of a building. As Sister Johnson was washing one day, she turned around and found an old gentleman standing on the doorstep. He said, “I would like you to make me a cup of tea.” She said, “I am very busy today,” at the same time offering him money to go to a nearby eating house and get his tea there. He said, “No, thank you. I wanted to drink a cup of tea with you.” He stepped out. She turned back to her washing. She thought the incident very strange. She sent the children to call him back. He was nowhere to be found and no one had seen him come or go.
In 1866, there was an epidemic of yellow fever in Memphis, Tennessee, and there were not enough carpenters to make coffins. Ole Larsen took his family and went there. He and Bent went to work in the coffin factory. On September 24, 1866, Jorgine Marie and Elin Marie Larsen [Bent's sisters] both died of yellow fever, and on September 22, 1867, Ole Larsen, the father, died of the same disease.
In September 1868, the family came to Utah with the last ox team sent out by the Church to bring emigrants to Utah. [They had taken the train to Fort Laramie, where the team picked them up. See the history of Ole Larsen and his wife Ingeborg Maria Rolfsen.] When the Larsen family was ready to start with the ox team train to Utah, there was also a mule team group in camp which had been sent back by Brigham Young to bring freight to Utah. It was found that they lacked one teamster for the homeward journey. Young Bent volunteered, although he had never handled mules before. The other teamsters showed him how to harness the team and hook them onto the wagon. Things went smoothly that first day until they camped. The mules were unharnessed. Bent, being a little slower than the others, didn't know what to do next. When he looked up, he saw all the other teamsters astride their mules going to the river to water them, so he lost no time getting onto one of his mules and followed. But alas, young Bent slid right over the mule's neck and went headlong into the river amid shouts of laughter from the other fellows.
The mule train moved over the pioneer trail in record time. The teamsters were a wholesome, friendly group. The evenings were spent sitting around the campfire, singing love songs and telling stories. However, some of the fellows knew where the candy boxes were stored among the freight, and they felt that they, donating their time to come on this long journey, were entitled to some of the sweets. So occasionally the candy boxes were opened up and the boys had a sweet time out there on the desert where the coyotes howled while they ate candy. They fully expected a reprimand from Brigham Young when the freight was unloaded, but Brigham never mentioned the loss of the candy. The boys said he was really a man.
The following entry is found in the record Crossing the Plains, Genealogical Society Film No. 298-441: “Bent Larsen and Ole Larsen, church emigrants, members of Captain John C. Holman's ox train, arrived in Salt Lake City September 25, 1868.”
After the Larsen family arrived in Utah in 1868, they settled in Fountain Green, Sanpete County. They secured a city lot and a house. The city lot was square. Early in the spring they hired a neighbor's team to plow the lot in preparation for a garden. The four boys and the mother were all on the scene.
In 1871, the whole family moved to Monroe. Each of the four boys had a twenty-acre lot in the heart of Monroe field. Bent and Martin were the farmers, and very progressive ones, too. The great sacks of grain in the autumn gave evidence of their thrift and industry. (To this point, written by Lorena Larsen, wife of Bent.)
The following quote is taken from Bent Larsen's history: “My first wife Juliana Maria Sorensen was born on the plains on the banks of North Platte River near Wood River, Nebraska, July 20, 1857. The midwife was Mother's sister, Stena Christiansen. Her mother [assuming he means the new mother] rode [in the wagon or the handcart?] one day and baby was allowed to ride and then the mother had to take her place pulling [the] handcart. They arrived in Salt Lake City on September 16, 1857. Julia was baptized on April 4, 1865 in Monroe, Utah, by Brother Richard Davies. Julia was the oldest of five children.”
Bent was married to Juliana Maria Sorensen in the LDS Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Utah, by D.H. Wells on June 30, 1873. Julia was not yet sixteen years of age. They first lived with Ingeborg Larsen, mother of Bent. She was very kind to her first daughter- in-law. They loved each other.
Bent built one of the nicest houses to [that] date at 200 East and 300 North (southwest corner.) They built their happy home, little dreaming of the trials and sacrifices of pioneer life and adherence to their religion. They lived there all their lives.
They were parents of three children: Mary Ellen born March 9, 1874, died March 29, 1874; Julia Marie born April 23, 1875; and Gertrude Bentina born July 3, 1878, died August 29, 1878. Then a call came to Bent to take a plural wife. Bent and Julia talked it over and chose Lorena Eugenia Washburn, a good religious lady, born January 10, 1860. She was about two and one- half years younger than Julia. So Bent courted Lorena and they were married on February 25, 1880 in the St. George Temple by J.D.T. McAllister.
Three other wives were sealed to Bent Rolfsen Larsen with his first wife Juliana Maria acting proxy for all three wives' baptisms and sealings. Loise Hedermark, born April 1846, died 1883, baptized and sealed March 3, 1891; Anne Marie Alm, born in Riisoer, Norway, baptized and sealed March 6, 1891; Matte Heiby born 1845, died 1859, baptized and sealed March 4, 1891. Sealed by Andrew Tompson.
“On June 10, 1902, I, Bent R. Larsen, received my second endowment in the Manti Temple by John T. McAllister and also my two living wives and three dead wives.”
Bent and Julia had eleven children. Bent and Lorena had nine children. Bent, then, was the father of twenty children. Children to Juliana: Ellen Maria, Julia Maria, Gertrude Bentina, Mena (Minnie) May, Clara Helena, Oliver Christian, Jennie Victoria, Hannah Olevia, John Rolf, George Martin, Anthie Ingeborg. Children to Lorena: Bent Franklin, Ida Lorena, Charlottie Eugenia, Enoch Rolf, Floy Isabell, Pearl, Ella Almeda, Clarence Abraham, Fern Emma.
On July 6, 1881, a surprise letter came from Salt Lake City, Box B. It was a call from President John Taylor for a mission to Norway. Bent was to arrange affairs and leave on August 12, 1881. He sold part of his farm and left to answer the call from President Taylor. (From Bent Larsen's History.)
From the History of Scandinavian Mission of the Church, Historian Andrew Jensen, November 5, 1881, comes the following (book owned by Soren Christiansen): “Thirty-eight Elders from Zion arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark as LDS missionaries to the Scandinavian Mission. Bent was assigned to Norway.”
Bent filled a successful mission. He was baptizing in the ocean and cut his foot badly on glass. Due to LDS persecution, he could not call a doctor, so infection developed and he suffered terrible pain. An LDS member took him in and nursed him until he was well. He always had a bad scar on the right foot outside of the knuckle of the little toe. Shoes rubbing on it caused bad callouses which he had to keep trimmed. He always cut his shoe over the scar.
While on his mission, he contracted a bad cold and developed bronchial asthma, from which he never recovered. He suffered with this for forty-five years.
His son Oliver says, “Father lost his health and wealth while on a mission, but not his faith he kept that to the end.”
The following quote is from Andrew Jensen, LDS Church Historian: “On June 15, 1883, Bent Larsen was one of thirty-eight Elders who were released after successful mission. Lars Peter Christensen, President of LDS Branch in Denmark, was one of the Elders, [grandfather of Mary Graham Christensen, the wife of Oliver C. Larsen, the son of Bent and Juliana). Five hundred three saints immigrated to Zion at the same time as the elders returned. Hans O. Magelby was the leader of this company from Scandinavia which set sail on the steamers Pacific and Milo. After a rough voyage, they arrived at Hull, England, on June 18, 1883. The company went by train to Liverpool, England. Here they were joined by one hundred seventy-one British Saints, making a total of six hundred seventy-eight Saints and forty-four missionaries. On June 20, 1883, they arrived in New York on the steamer Nevada.” (Entry in G.S.film #298,435, European Immigrants - Crossing the Ocean: “Bent Larsen age 37, returning missionary, June 20, 1883, sailed on S.S. Nevada.”)
On July 8, 1883, they arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah. (I [Lorena?] have the cravat he wore. It was bought at the ZCMI in 1881 and willed to me by B.R. Larsen.) His homecoming was a happy one. Lorena had given birth to a new baby while he was on his mission. Bent Franklin was fourteen months old at the time of his father's return.
The wives worked hard to help sustain their husband and children. Ingeborg Larsen and Julia's mother Anna Maria A. Sorensen and her brother Chris helped a great deal. Martin and Ole were also helpful. Julia made gloves, sewed, embroidered, washed, and ironed. Lorena helped, too.
Upon his return home, Bent kept on with his religious duties. A Patriarchal Blessing was given to Bent R. Larsen by Patriarch M. O. Perkins at the St. George Temple on January 25, 1875. Also a Patriarchal Blessing was given by Abraham Washburn September 21, 1885.
The following quote is from Bent R. Larsen History: “I, Bent R. Larsen, was ordained an Elder on February 13, 1871, in the Salt Lake Endowment House by M. J. Smith. I was set apart as President of the Elders Quorum of Sevier Stake in Richfield and also rebaptized. On October 26, 1884, I was ordained a Seventy in Granary Hall, Monroe, Utah, by Hans P. Miller and Hans O. Magelby and Thor Thurston, and received into the 41st Quorum on the same date. On January 22, 1886, I was ordained a High Priest by A.K. Thurber, F. Spencer, and William Preston. I was set apart as second Counselor to Bishop Cooper [Thomas] at Monroe, January 22, 1886.”
Bent Rolfsen Larsen was a father-Patriarch to his family and their families, administering in authority of [the] Priesthood which he held. He was very good to visit in the evenings and was very concerned about his wives, his children, folks, and neighbors in times of sickness and trouble.
Bent Rolfsen Larsen was sealed to his parents January 28, 1914.
Bent did much missionary work in the Manti Temple and also in the Salt Lake Temple. He was a Ward Teacher as long as he lived. He gathered Temple donations as long as they gathered them.
Other church offices he held: Presidency of Young Men's Mutual in 1878, Acting Bishop of the Monroe Ward, worker in the Salt Lake Temple for two and one-half years, mission to help build the St. George Temple.
Bent Rolfsen Larsen died of pneumonia in Salt Lake City, November 7, 1926, and was buried in the Monroe, Utah Cemetery.
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