Bodil Mortensen

"The Steps We Have Taken" by Julie Rogers
“The Steps We Have Taken” by Julie Rogers

The Mortensen family heard the call to gather in Zion but they had to travel at different times.  Bodil Mortensen left her family at age nine to go to Zion.  She was left in the hands of her parents’ friends,  Jens and Elsie Nielson, who were from her home country of Denmark.  Her older sister had traveled a year before and was already in the Salt Lake Valley waiting for the rest of the family to join her.  The rest of Bodil’s family planned on making the journey the next season.  One of Bodil’s responsibilities was to care for Niels Nielson, the 5-year-old son of Jens and Elsie Nielson.  Bodil and Niels had happy experiences as well as tragic ones as they traveled together.  During their journey on the ship they watched many dolphins appear on the water.  They also experienced a young boy die on the ship as he fell from the top deck to the bottom.   After arriving in America they traveled by train to Iowa City where they built their handcarts and prepared for their trek to the promised land.  Bodil turned 10 in Iowa City.

"The Gathering - II" by Julie Rogers
“The Gathering – II” by Julie Rogers

Winter storms began early that year and slowed the travel of the Willie Handcart company.  The cold was intense and they had very few provisions left  at the base of Rocky Ridge.  Captain Willie left the company to find the rescue wagons and brought provisions before starting up Rocky Ridge.  Rocky Ridge was a long hard journey.  The distance was about 15 miles, including a two-mile stretch in which the trail rose more than 700 feet in elevation.[1]  The snow was already more than a foot deep, a blizzard was raging, and the temperatures were freezing.  Bodil was exhausted and weak.  The young girl struggled on her way, hoping to reach Salt Lake City to be with her sister.  Bodil traveled with 5-year-old Niels up Rocky Ridge.  When they arrived at camp, in the wee hours of October 24, she must have been sent to gather firewood.  All she could find was twigs of sagebrush.  The next morning she was found sitting down,leaning against the wheel of a handcart, twigs clutched in her hands, frozen to death.

Bodil’s parents, her brother and a younger sister traveled to Utah the following year in a wagon company.  They passed Bodil’s grave without knowing of her death.  They arrived expecting to find their daughters together.  The family was unprepared to receive the news that Bodil had died the pervious year.[2]  The news was devastating and Bodil’s mother was never the same and died after suffering a nervous breakdown.

We will see a grave marker in Rock Creek, Wyoming where she and others were buried.

Grave marker for 15 members of the Willie Company who were buried in Rock Creek, WY
Grave marker for the 15 members of the Willie Company who were buried in Rock Creek, Wyoming

[1] Allphin, Jolene S., Tell My Story, Too, Tell My Story Publishing, 2012, 77-79.

[2] Alliphin Jolene S., Follow Me To Zion, 2013, 92-93.

Monument to the 15 members of the Willie Company who were buried at Rock Creek Hollow, Wyoming.
Monument to the 15 members of the Willie Company who were buried at Rock Creek Hollow, Wyoming