Journey of the Big Green Box—
Far away over the ocean in a country called Denmark, was the small village of Haverup. It was about ten miles from the town of Sorø, the county seat of Sorø County. The big city, and the capitol of Denmark is Copenhagen, on the Island of Sjælland and is about fifty miles away from the town of Sorø. In that small village of Haverup lived the family of Nicolai and Malena Sorensen. There were seven boys and four girls. The boys were: Peter, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Christian, and another Christian who died when a small child. The girls were: Sophia, Christena, Mary and Larsine.
When the family heard the message of the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints they were much impressed and joined that church. Isaac was 15 years of age. After the family joined the church the younger children were no longer welcome at the village school so they stayed at home and Isaac taught them some reading, writing and arithmetic. Even their relatives and friends wanted nothing to do with anyone of that Sorensen family. Of course Nicolai wanted to take his family to Utah to be with the other Saints who had found a home free from persecution.
Nicolai was an industrious and well to do man. He owned a large farm, was a wheelwright or carpenter with a workshop of his own and processed insurance papers. Some of his boys took care of the farm with the help of an overseer and some worked in the carpenter shop. Isaac the fifth child loved the land and the soil so he was one of the farmer boys. Peter the second child was a carpenter and was good at making spinning wheels. Mother Malena did not have very good health so besides her older girls she had maids to do the cooking and look after cleaning in the house.
The farm was sold as was the carpenter shop and the family made ready to leave Denmark. Nicolai had Peter and some of the other boys make a large box of hardwood put together with strong iron bolts. It was painted green and that is how the big green box came to be. In this box were put the best clothes and the family heirlooms. It had a lock on it and Nicolai kept the key. They also made a smaller box and painted it brown. It was like a cedar chest of today.
The big green box traveled along with the family. First in a wagon drawn by horses to Sorø, then by train to Copenhagen where it was put on board a sailing ship [L. N. Hvidt]with the family bound for England. [Landing at Grimsby, then by rail again to Liverpool, England.] The ship went to Liverpool, England where it and the family were transferred to a ship sailing [Westmoreland] for America.
The crossing of the Atlantic Ocean was a very rough voyage and many people on board were seasick. The ship rolled many times in the big waves and rough weather and even through the big green box had been tied down it broke loose and rolled around the cabin floor. Nicolai and Stina were two of his family who were not very seasick. Nicolai had some money so he paid the steward to let him boil some water in a teakettle for their drinking water and to make some tea or coffee to warm them up in the mornings. Malena was sick most of the way and was grateful for the tea or warm water.
They disembarked at Philadelphia and after signing some papers and paying their debts went by train to Iowa. The green box went with them. In Iowa they purchased a wagon and two teams of oxen with which to make the long journey to Utah. One of the teams had never had a yoke on before so it was not taken off at night for fear the oxen would run away. The green box and the smaller brown box were put in the covered wagon, the family ready, having joined the Matthias Cowley company and when the other wagons and families were ready the wagon train was on its way. Isaac walked along by the oxen with a stick to keep them going. There were many hardships for the family to endure on the journey but Nicolai never complained. The boxes were bounced around in the wagon and sometimes when crossing a river the water ran in the wagon and they got a little wet. Nicolai was a good Latter-day Saint and happy to be going to Utah to be with the Saints there.
They arrived in Salt Lake City in September 1857, having left their home in Denmark in [April] May, 1857, and spent the winter on a small farm rented from Alexander Hill Jr. Now the green box thought it was home but more journeys were in store for it. The Sorensen family lived there in the covered wagon doing the cooking outside on a small fire, until the approach of Johnston’s army when they moved south to what is now Salem. The green box traveled with them because it was such a good storage place for clothes and precious heirlooms as well as bedding.
They returned again to Mill Creek when other families returned to their homes and the army established Camp Floyd. In 1859 Nicolai and sons Peter and Isaac had gone to Cache Valley. Later that year after the fort was built Nicolai moved his family to Mendon, a settlement on the western side of Cache Valley. The family now consisted of Nicolai and Malena with their six sons and three daughters, Marie, now called Mary, having remained in Mill Creek to work in the Hill household. In 1860 Mary married William Hood Hill, son of Alexander Hill Jr. The green box went with the family to Mendon.
The Sorensen family together with other families moved their things even the big green box and the small brown box into the fort which had been constructed prior to their coming to Mendon. Each family lived in a house built in a row on the south side of the public park. The Sorensen family had three rooms with dirt floors and a fireplace in each room. It was necessary at that time to build houses this way to protect the families from the Indians. The Bannock and Shoshone Indians would steal anything especially the children. They did not like the settlers and tried every way to make them leave but Brigham Young had told his people to try to get along with the Indians. The Indians raids became less and less as the years passed.
In 1864 the old fort was broken up when the families moved out and built homes on city lots. The town of Mendon had been laid out so the people could leave the old fort. They were mostly log houses with nice doors and wood floors. The green box was glad for the wood floor.
In 1867 many rock houses were build and Nicolai with his three sons, Isaac, Jacob and Christian build a rock house where the family of Nicolai, Malena and six children moved in. Four of the children had married and had homes of their own. Now the green box thought it had a permanent home, which it did for a few years.
In 1869 Isaac married Mary Jacobsen and took her to the one room log house he had built next door [south] to Nicolai’s rock house. Mary and Isaac helped Nicolai and Malena all they could. Isaac and his brothers farmed the twenty acres of land given to each of the original settlers with some hay land all of which they homesteaded, and also helped Nicolai their father with his farm. Mary cooked most of the meals for all of them. She also did much of the washing and cleaning of the house, as Malena was never very well. The boys of the family had married, also the girls who helped some of the time. The brothers of Isaac whose wives helped were, Mary, Abraham’s wife, Susan, Jacob’s wife and Mary, Henry’s wife while Isaac’s sister Sophia and Christina helped but Larsine [missing].
Nicolai was not so well to do now money-wise but he never complained. He was so thankful the Lord had brought him, his wife and their family to Zion. The Sorensen family all being farmers had horses and cows. Grandma Malena was not very well and she loved to go for a ride to Logan, Wellsville or just around Mendon to visit friends or relatives. Of course grandpa Nicolai was dressed in his best dark suit and grandma Malena in her best black silk go-to-meeting dress. She always wore her little black bonnet with ribbons of purple and pink. It also had a small bunch of artificial flowers on one side. One Sunday after all the meetings were over they thought they would like to go over to see Henry and Mary. They went in a nice clean buggy with the top down, as it was a warm sunny summer day. The horse was a sleek well-kept horse with a shiny coat and it’s mane and tail had been combed and curried. As they drove into the yard at Henry’s place someone took their picture. They were such a proud good-looking couple.
When Isaac’s daughter Malena or Minnie as she was called, eleven years old and Hannah or Nan was nine years old every evening after their own dishes were done they went to their grandpa Nicolai’s to do the dishes there. On Saturday very often they were sent there to make beds, wash dishes and clean the house. Sometimes they even had to wash clothes on a washboard in a tub. Their Grandma Malena sometimes gave them a stick of candy or a new ribbon for their hair.
My great grandpa Nicolai and great grandma Malena died the same day in 1887. Great grandpa Nicolai was 88 years old and great grandma Malena was 80 years of age. They were both buried the same day, April 2, 1887 in the Mendon Cemetery. Their headstones are still in place marking their last resting place. The big green box went to the home of Isaac and Mary where it remained as long as Isaac and Mary were alive. Isaac passed away first and when Mary passed away in 1935 the green box went to the home of her oldest daughter, Minnie Hill. It was brought to Salt Lake to Minnie’s home in a truck where it stayed until she passed away in 1945. Ten years it was in Minnie’s home moving whenever she moved to wherever she moved. It then went to her oldest daughter Eva Hill Syndergaard until 1985. During that time it moved from 828 East 2nd South to 2209 South 5th East, from there to 4354 Hermosa Way, Holladay. Now, thought the big green box, my traveling is over and I can rest, but when Eva’s husband died, her son married and was sent to Korea in the Army, she decided to sell the big house and move to 2728 Wardway. The green box rested there until 1985. It has finally found a place in West Valley at the home of Joseph Syndergaard, son of Eva Syndergaard. Perhaps its long journey from Denmark is over. It is still strong and painted green, the original paint even though the lock is long gone. The bolts are tight and it is a good storage place for quilts and blankets.
One hundred thirty years later, after two ship rides, a train ride and two big truck rides it has found another home. Maybe it will stay here for many years. Only time will tell that story. Will it still be the big green box?(1)
- Eva Hill Syndergaard, The Journeys of the Big Green Box, Unpublished typed manuscript.