Bodil Malene Mortensen

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Bodil Malene Mortensen

Birthplace: Systofte, Bjorup Maribo, Denmark
Death: Died in Rock Creek, Wyoming
Place of Burial: Rock Creek, Wyoming
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Neils Otto Mortensen and Mary Christena Olsen Mortensen
Sister of Hans Peder Nielsen Mortensen; Mary Wardell; Anne Margrette MORTENSEN; Hans Peder MORTENSEN and Maren NIELSEN (MORTENSEN)
Half sister of Joseph E MORTENSEN

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Bodil Malene Mortensen

Mormon Pioneer:

"...Friday, 24th. Reddin N. Allred & others with 6 wagons came to camp this morning to assist the Handcart Company on our journey to the Valley. It was concluded to stay in camp today & bury the dead as there were 13 persons to inter. William James, from Pershore, Worcestershire, England, aged 46 died; Elizabeth Bailey, from Leigh, Worcestrshire, England, aged 52 died; James Kirkwood from Glasgow, Scotland, aged 11 died Samuel Gadd, from Orwell, Cambridgeshire, England, aged 10 died; Lars Wendin [Venden], from Copenhagen, Denmark, aged 60 died; Anne Olsen, from Seeland, Denmark, aged 46 died; Ella Nilson, from Jutland, Denmark, aged 22 years, died; Jens Nilson, from Lolland, Denmark, aged 6 years died; Bodil Mortinsen from Lolland, Denmark, aged 9 years, died; Nils Anderson from Seeland, Denmark, aged 41 years died; Ole Madsen from Seeland, Denmark, aged 41 years died; Many of the Saints have their feet & hands frozen from the severity of the weather..."

SOURCE: James G. Willie Emigrating Company, Journal 1856 May-Nov., 16-53. Retrieved from:,18016,4976-7439,00.html

-------------------- Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel 1847–1868 James G. Willie Company (1856) Age at departure: 9 with Jens Nielsen family; died enroute 24 Oct. 1856

Find a Grave

Birth: Aug. 5, 1846, Denmark

Death: Oct. 24, 1856 Atlantic City Fremont County Wyoming, USA

Daughter of Neils Otto Mortensen and Maren Kristine Olsen Hansen

Biography - Niels Otto Mortensen was born on the Island of Falster, Denmark, July 1, 1819, to Martin Neilson and Mary Christina Olsen. Their children were Margaret, Balena, Hans Peter, and Mary. They joined the church in Denmark.

Of their daughter, Bodil, they lovingly combined her first and middle names into the nickname "Balena." She was the fourth of their five children. Bodil's father, Niels, was a weaver by trade. He also dug wells. He had a particular way of bricking up the well as he dug. He said that he would use an iron ring the size that he wanted the well to be. He would lay the brick on the ring and then start to dig under the ring. As the ring and the brick settled into the hole, he would lay more brick and when he got the well dug down to the water, it would already be bricked up.

When the LDS missionaries first came to Denmark, Bodil's oldest sister, Anne Margrette, was the first in the family to become interested. At first her parents did not approve, but they later investigated the Church and were baptized along with Anne and their son, Hans Peter, in November of 1852. When Niels heard Elder Erastus Snow preach about the gathering of Israel, he told his children he always believed that he was one of the children of Israel being gathered to the mountains.

In 1856, Bodil emigrated in the care of her parents' friends, Jens and Else Nielsen. Bodil's older sister, Anne Margrette, had crossed the plains and mountains to Utah the previous year. Bodil's parents, Niels and Maren Mortensen, and other siblings, were still in Denmark, planning to make the journey the following season.

Peter Madsen, one of the Danish Saints in the Willie Company, kept a daily diary for most of the trip. He wrote, "The saints were joyous and bid the saints of Copenhagen a hearty farewell... The company was happy and thankful; a good spirit and order prevailed." They traveled by train and ship until they arrived in Liverpool, England. On May 1, 1856, they boarded the ship ‘Thornton', "... a large three decker from America, commanded by Captain Collins. [They] joined the company of 608 English brothers and sisters who had gone on board before [them]."

One of Bodil's responsibilities was to care for Niels Nielson, the 5-year-old son of Jens and Else. This must have been quite an adventure for Bodil and Niels. As recorded by Peter Madsen during the month of May, they passed huge icebergs and a damaged ship "not worth retrieving." That was a day selected for worship, prayer, and fasting. Many talks were given and Elder Ahmanson told his Danish flock that they "were highly favored of the Lord." That night "... a fire broke out and burned between the decks, but the Lord preserved us so that the fire did not over power us. An English boy who had stowed away on the ship was discovered. He had accompanied us without permission and ticket. For this action he would have been punished and caused to bear a wooden jacket or barrel; but since he was a member of the Church he was forgiven."

Surely, Bodil and Niels were saddened as a young boy fell down from the top to the bottom deck and died four days later. He was buried in the same manner as the others who had died previously. This included being wrapped in canvas and the American flag, and being then deposited in the ocean.

Bodil and Niels had happy experiences, as well as the tragic. After arriving in America, they traveled by train to Iowa City, where the Saints built more handcarts, sewed their tents and prepared for the trek to their promised Valley. Bodil turned 11 years old while crossing the State of Iowa, during the first 300 miles of their 1,300 mile handcart trek.

Winter storms began early that year and slowed the travel of the Company. By October 20th the company was stopped near the sixth crossing of the Sweetwater River and the base of Rocky Ridge. The cold was intense. The only remaining provisions were a few hard sea biscuits left over from the ocean voyage. The pioneers were in a very weakened condition. Captain Willie and Joseph Elder left to go and find the rescue wagons to get some help. The rescue party had also stopped to wait out the storm. Captain Willie returned with some help and the company resumed their march on the 22nd of Oct. What lay immediately ahead on the following day was the treacherous ascent of Rocky Ridge to the summit, and then on to the camp at Rock Creek Hollow. The distance was about 15 miles, including a two-mile stretch in which the trail rose more than 700 feet in elevation. A howling October snowstorm blinded nine-year-old Bodil Mortensen as she climbed.

Bodil made that fifteen-mile journey with the rest of the Willie Company on October 23, 1856. The forced march (they could not stop or they would freeze to death) took some of the pioneers twenty-seven hours. While adults wrestled handcarts up the steep trail, Bodil and others fought their way through the snow, wind, and freezing temperatures to get to Rock Creek. Sister Nielson was struggling to pull her husband, who had become unable to walk, in the handcart. Many families became separated that day as some lagged behind or went ahead. Exhausted and weak, Bodil and Niels struggled on their way, Bodil hoping to reach Salt Lake City to be with her sister.

In an account written by Christina Madsen, daughter of Ole Madsen who also died at the Rock Creek camp, we learn that Bodil "sat down by the side of the road... she was so hungry, she also died that same night. They who died that night were laid in a small ditch with their boots or shoes on and covered."

History of the James G. Willie Handcart Company - Many of those who crossed the plains were only children. One of those children was Bodil Mortensen, age ten, from Denmark. Bodil Mortensen came alone, before her family to join the Saints in Salt Lake City. Her older sister traveled a year before her and was in Salt Lake. Bodil joined the Willie Handcart Company with a family from her country Denmark. Winter storms began early that year and slowed the travel of the company. Rock Ridge was along hard journey for the children. The distance was about 15 miles, including a two-mile stretch in which the trail rose more than 700 feet in elevation. It took some of the children 27 hours to reach the camp.

The snow was already more than a foot deep, a blizzard was raging, and the temperatures were freezing. A howling October snowstorm blinded ten-year-old Bodil Mortensen as she climbed with several other younger children, shivering and hungry, up the snow-covered slope of Rocky Ridge. Bodil was exhausted and weak, the young girl struggled on her way, hoping to reach Salt Lake City to be with her sister. Bodil was apparently assigned to care for some small children as they crossed 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 leaning up against the wheel of a handcart, twigs clutched in her hands, frozen to death.

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, James G. Willie Company (1856); Age at departure: 9

Family links:

  • Neils Otto Mortensen (1819 - 1912)
  • Mary Christena Olsen Mortensen (1811 - 1862)
  • Hans Peter Mortensen (1844 - 1891)*
  • Bodil Malene Mortensen (1846 - 1856)
  • Mary Mortensen Wardell (1850 - 1878)*

  • Calculated relationship

Burial: Rock Creek Hollow Atlantic City Fremont County Wyoming, USA

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Maintained by: SMSmith Originally Created by: Matt Misbach Record added: Oct 16, 2009 Find A Grave Memorial# 43176240

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Bodil Malene Mortensen's Timeline

August 5, 1846
Systofte, Bjorup Maribo, Denmark
October 24, 1856
Age 10
Rock Creek, Wyoming
October 24, 1856
Age 10
Rock Creek, Wyoming