Christopher Jensen Kempe



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About Christopher Jensen Kempe


Having been raised in Norway, where fish are common, my Grandmother loved to eat fish and she did not get them often as the were not in stores except rarely. One time a shipment cam in from the rail-road and grandma got some. It was codfish and did it smell awful but how she enjoyed it. We were afraid that it would make her sick because it smelled so bad.

SOURCE: "Christopher J. Kempe family step by step". Compiler: Reese, Ellen Greer, 1890-1963. M270.1 K32 r. Page 138


Wheelright [carriage maker], farmer, carpenter.

SOURCE: Various histories and census entries.

Biographical Summary #1:

"...Christopher Jensen Kempe (1837-1901) was born 26 June 1837 in Isterod Birkerod Sogn Frederiksburg amt Danmark (as given in his diary), commenced school at the age of 7 and was educated a Lutheran. He was soon putting in long hours as a carriage maker apprentice. His little spare time was spent working or reading novels, showing him a much better way of life than what he encountered in his daily life. His mother, Ane Kirstine Nielsen, disappeared after his birth, and the records have failed to disclose what happened to her. She is not mentioned in Christopher's diary. His father was Jens Rasmussen. The genealogist found that the census records indicate he was raised by Zidse Marie Christiansdatter who lived in various households supporting her grandson from work with her hands which probably means sewing or spinning or some such work." His grandfather died less than a year after Christopher was born.

Quoting Christopher (at the age of 22): "Mrs. Espelund lent me the Skandinaviens Stjerne Vol. 1. In No.333 I found a piece written by Apostle Erastus Snow entitled "The Importance of a Virtuous Life." I read this to all my associates stating that if ever I could find a people like this, I would be willing to go to the ends of the earth to join them. A few nights after this I was shown in a vision the street, road, house, and room where a meeting of the Latter-Day Saints was to be held. And on the next Sunday (this was Wednesday) this vision was literally fulfilled and the road and place as naturally known to me as if had been there hundreds of times. I went there twice to meet and the third time, February 16th 1859, I was baptized by Elder Swen Olsen Hiegg also confirmed by him in the house of Brother Teachem."

He was very soon called to be a missionary and spent the next six years in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Because he would not forsake the gospel, his uncle withdrew his $60,000 inheritance, but this did not trouble Christopher. Upon being released from his mission he wanted to marry before coming to Zion, so, upon the advice of the church authorities, on 17 March 1865 he married Anne Ongerod whom he did not love but agreed to marry on condition she use her money to help poor saints emigrate to America. She paid for about 17, some to Utah, some only to Wyoming, and left money for others to come the next year. They left Copenhagen the 4th of May, 1865 and arrived in New York City the 14th of June. Christopher wrote of the ocean trip:"While peace and good will reigned among the saints, the others lived more like cats and dogs together; some had disputes and engaged in fights, others played cards and swore while some preached, and altogether there was a real pandemonium." Anne had contracted smallpox on board ship and died in Quincy, Illinois on the 22nd of June, so Christopher who was captain of ten crossing the plains, arrived in Salt Lake City, again single, on the 8th of November 1865.

Not long after arriving in Salt Lake City Christopher married Oline Olsendatter (spelling as in his diary) whom he had baptized in Norway. Three months later (it being the time of plural marriage in the church) he married Ane Dorthea Johnsen (spelling as in his diary) whom he had also known in Norway. It was difficult for Oline to accept a second wife, but they soon became the best of friends and learned to laugh together and to share each others sorrows.

In Salt Lake Christopher labored on the tabernacle. Paul found the following quotation in "Utah- a Portrait" recently: "I work on the Tabernacle; my wages are 5 dollars so that in 2 days I can earn all we need in a whole week and in 14 days I can provide for the whole winter. But the good times which we enjoy here have brought not a few Gentiles into the valley who would enrich themselves at the expense of the people. Danish LDS convert Christopher J. Kempe, 1865."

In the spring of 1866 he moved to Provo where he worked at his trade, and in 1872 moved on to Richfield where he started on regular farming and worked in many church callings, often as clerk. Three years were spent in the United Order which he described as "the most terribly abused organization ever commenced in the Church but in reality the best system, if carried out correctly, that God ever revealed."

Then, as they were getting nicely settled ((1880)) they were called to leave to assist in the settlement of Arizona. It was an arduous trip over roads that were mere trails, snow clad mountains and trackless deserts but slowly, and surely the Kempe's with their teams, covered wagons, some cattle, mothers, and children (about 11, and Leila was just 5 weeks old) traveled on to reach a barren, undeveloped, and unsettled land. They arrived the latter part of September. Christopher said,"for 3 years I labored in St. Johns under the most terrible temporal suffering I have ever known. I labored by day, farming, and at night, running a little graham mill and by living on graham bread till I had to get home on two sticks and suffered all the time from indigestion and rheumatism." At this time his wives were sewing, mostly for Mexicans.

In 1884 he moved to Bush Valley where he was indicted for polygamy and spent 22 months of a 3 1/2 year sentence in the Detroit House of Correction in Michigan. Shortly after returning from prison he was called to go to Concho to settle where he, on the 29th of December 1886 was ordained a bishop for the Concho Ward. He stated:"I soon found however that this was the most disagreeable position I had ever held and that to satisfy all parties in a small place was next to an impossibility. My store business was one of the greatest obstacles. If ever I asked any of the saints to pay their bills, I was no good, but as long as I could trust them I was a very good bishop."

He went to Chicago on a business trip and spoke of seeing fearful skeletons from prehistoric ages which he said he really doubted ever existed which was a mastodon as big as three elephants on top of another. A good hotel and board was less than $11.00 He also saw a talking machines, a phonograph, was quite a wonder to him! All the while active in church activities, at the age of 61 he was called to Denmark on a mission. What faith and devotion to leave his family for two years. There were no telephones, and slow mail systems with probably weeks at a time between letters, persecution! He was considered one of the best missionaries in the field.

Just a few months after returning from his mission, while hauling hay, the team ran away and he was thrown out, run over, and severely injured, suffering intensely for two weeks before he passed away 30 September 1901 - age 64. He had shortly before been made a patriarch. He is buried in the Concho Westside Cemetery. He preceded both his wives in death by about six years. Olena died 16 December 1907 - age 64. Anna died 26 January 1907 - just a few days under 70.

Although he never attended school after he finished grade school, and he did not attend a college or a university, he was well educated. His letters show his fine use of the English language, which was not his native tongue and his surprisingly extensive vocabulary. He liked to read, write, and study. He often read at night in bed. He taught himself shorthand. He made time to reach for more knowledge. He was a fluent church speaker and often used his self developed talent, as he wanted very much to teach and explain the gospel. He wrote three letters to the Deseret News which were published and kept a diary twice during his life and was often the clerk for various organizations in the church. He was an affectionate father and husband although I suspect he sometimes neglected them in his ardent pursuit of church work, especially the third wife. He was an ambitious, earnest, hard-working man, who dedicated his life to the cause of righteousness."..."

SOURCE: Descendants of Ruth Leila Kempe Dewitt daughter of Anna Dorthea Johnson and Christopher Jensen Kempe. Compiled by Edit Wert and Ruth Wake. Date: 1994.

Biographical Summary #2:

"...Christopher Jensen Kempe (1837-1901) was born a Lutheran in Denmark. He apprenticed as a carriage maker. He liked to read novels, and when he was about about 22 he read something by apostle Erasmus Snow about being virtuous, and was impressed. Shortly thereafter he had a dream and was shown where the Saints would be meeting. On Sunday he went there, and was baptized a few weeks later. His uncle then withdrew a large inheritance. C. J. Kempe was a missionary in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. On his mission he was chased by a man with a large butcher knife who wanted to make "mince meat" out of him, and was also imprisoned on a minister's false charge, but he forged on and had good success. Upon his release he wanted to go to Zion. Local church leaders wanted him to marry an aristocratic young lady names Anne Ongerod, which he did not want to do, but agreed to do so if she would pay for poor saints to go to Zion. They took the ship "Aurora" and then the "S.B. Kimball" to America, accompanied by Daniel Wells, George Reynolds and others, but Anne died of smallpox at Quincy on the way west. C. J. Kempe crossed the plains with pioneers under Captain Miner Atwood as part of Elder Smith's independent company, and the group dealt with such challenges as another man's wife being carried off by Indians. In Salt Lake City he married Olena Olsen (Oline Olsendatter), who he had baptized in Norway, and who had been disowned for joining the Church, and who was on the ship with C. J. Kempe and Anna. Shortly thereafter he also married Anna Dorthea Johnson, a plural wife. Olena was usually in town, and Anne was usually on the farm. C. J. Kempe worked on the construction of the Tabernacle, moved to Provo, and then to Richfield to farm. They lived the United Order, which he considered a good principle that was terribly abused. Then, called through the wilderness by wagon to St. Johns, Arizona, led by Jacob Hamblin, the family was off to a very hard life platting land, digging irrigation ditches, building a gristmill, sawmill, and school, and organizing a militia. The locals were not friendly, and the Mormons were very poor compared to the Mexican sheep owners. However, the federal government intervened to give him two years of free room and board in a Detroit penitentiary, for polygamy (he opined that the judge fined them $500 because the judge needed whiskey, and observed that the prosecutor could not even stand due to an immoral disease). Then he was on to Concho, Arizona to be a bishop. This was a difficult calling for him, especially since as a store owner he found church members believing he should be lenient in expecting payment for goods. Olena came with him, but Anna stayed in St. Johns. He had not been formally educated anywhere, but was a well read man who spoke good English. His peach orchard was famous for delicious fruit, and he ran the ACMI (Arizona Cooperative Mercantile Establishment, the Arizona equivalent of ZCMI). At 61, C. J. Kempe was called on a mission to Denmark. Shortly after his return, he was injured by a runaway team while hauling hay, and died two weeks later.

SOURCE: Ruth Wake's book Our Heritage, Book 2: Christopher Jensen Kempe Wives Anne Ongerod, Olene Olsen, Anna Dorthea Johnson; Daughter Ruth Leila Kempe.

Biographical Summary #3:

"...Christopher Jensen Kempe (1837-1901) On Wednesday, May 10th, the ship with its precious cargo, sailed from Gluckstadt, and as the captain thought the colder climate would be better for the passengers, he chose the route north of Scotland. With the exception of one single day's storm the weather was very fair and favorable during the entire voyage. The captain was kind to the emigrants and the sick received good treatment. Three meals of warm food each day were served to all. Three adults died on the sea and about twenty-five children died of measles and scarlet fever.

Besides the Scandinavian Saints, a number of other emigrants crossed the Atlantic on that ship. "While peace and good will reigned among the Saints," writes Elder Christoffer J. Kempe, "the others lived more like cats and dogs together; some had disputes and engaged in fights, others played cards and swore, while some preached, and altogether there was a real pandemonium."

On June 14th the ship arrived in New York harbor, and the following day the emigrants landed at Castle Gardens. In the afternoon most of them continued the journey by train and then traveled via Albany, Niagara, Detroit and Chicago to Quincy, Illinois, where they arrived on the 20th. Here they were ferried across the Mississippi River and then spent two days and nights in the woods on the Missouri side without tents or other shelter, while the rain poured down in torrents. They had in a hurry fixed some small huts of brush, very little shelter. The unpleasant delay was caused by the bridges on the railway being washed away, so the trains could not proceed. Finally the traveling was resumed on the 22nd, the cars conveying the company being very commonplace and dirty. The emigrants reached St. Joseph the following day. On the 25th they started by steamboat up the Missouri River and arrived at Wyoming, Nebraska, June 26th, bringing with them the corpses of three persons who had died on the steamer. Four others had died between New York and St. Joseph.

Several of the emigrants had only paid their fare to New York and therefore had to remain in that city for the time being. Elder Thos. Taylor, who was emigration agent for the Church, however, subsequently succeeded at a considerable sacrifice in completing arrangements so that all could proceed to Wyoming. But as the Church did not send any teams to the Missouri River that season to assist the poor Saints to reach Utah, and the price of oxen was much higher than in past years, some of the emigrants had to remain on the frontiers until the following year.

Elder Taylor arranged matters as well as he could by purchasing oxen, and loading each wagon with 1,000 pounds of freight and 2,000 pounds for the Saints, three yoke of oxen being provided for each wagon. In this way about 150 persons were taken across the plains who otherwise would have been left on the frontiers. The price of a wagon at the outfitting place that year was $200 in greenbacks ($100 in gold), and a yoke of average oxen cost $150. It took about five weeks before everything was in order for starting the journey across the plains.

During this time the emigrants at Wyoming suffered much on account of the excessive heat and a few of them died. A Danish brother, Lars Petersen, about 30 years of age, who had assisted about twenty poor Saints to emigrate, was accidentally drowned in the Weeping Water, a stream near Wyoming, where he, together with others, went to bathe. He was buried June 29th, with much expression of sorrow by the sympathizing Saints. On the 31st of July most of the Scandinavian emigrants left Wyoming in a company consisting of forty-five ox-teams. The company was organized August 1st by appointing Miner G. Atwood, captain; Charles B. Taylor, assistant captain; Anders W. Winberg chaplain and interpreter, Johan Swenson commissary and assistant to Winberg, and John Gindrup secretary. The following were appointed captains of ten: Hans C. Hogsted, Hans Hansen, Christoffer Jensen Kempe and John Everett.

At first the traveling was slow, as the roads were bad on account of the great amount of rain that had fallen. On September 19th the company passed Fort Laramie, and three days later, when stopping at noon for lunch and rest, and while some of the brethren were driving the oxen to the watering places, fourteen or sixteen well-armed Indians suddenly sprang forth from their ambush in the woods and tried to take the cattle, but when the brethren opened fire upon them and the frightened oxen ran back to the camp, the theft was prevented. Seven of the brethren, however, were wounded by bullets and arrows, and a woman by the name of Grundvig, who was lingering some distance behind the train, was taken captive and carried off by the Indians. Her fate has never become known. The wounded brethren all recovered from their wounds. Some days previous to this affray, the Indians, who this year were very hostile and had killed a number of travelers, stampeded the oxen of the company while grazing at night, but after two days' search the animals were all found, except three head.

SOURCE: Utah, Our Pioneer Heritage. Retrieved from: (Website link no longer available)

Biographical Summary #4:

Stake and Ward Officers of St. Johns Stake

Kempe, Christopher J., Bishop of the Concho Ward, St. Johns Stake, Ariz., from 1886 to 1895, was born June 26, 1837, in Isterod, Frederiksborg amt, Denmark, the son of Jens Rasmussen and Anne Kirstine Kempe. He was baptized Feb. 16, 1859, ordained to the Priesthood, did local missionary work in Denmark and came to Utah in 1866. He was ordained a High Priest and Bishop Dec. 29, 1886, by Erastus Snow. He died Sept. 30, 1901.

SOURCE: Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia. Volume 4

Additional Sources:

  1. A family group sheet has the following sources for this family:
  2. Kemp family record in poss of Ralph W. Evans 943 Lake St.
  3. Fam Rec of Pratt G. Greer, 216 Arsona Street, Holbrook, Arizona
  4. Family Record of Pauline McCleave 321 W. Buffalo, Holbrook, Arizona
  5. Patriarchial Blessing of Christopher J. Kempe.
  6. Letter of Christopher J. Kempe to his wife "Anne Dorthea" in possession of Ben E. Lewis. 2840 N. Provo, Utah.

Biographical Summary #5:

1899-1901 LDS Mission

Page 59

He finished an honorable, full term, 2 year mission and signed in at the Salt Lake city office March 27, 1901. He may have visited with some of his friends in the vicinity, but no doubt he thought much more about getting home and so took the train to Arizona. Here the Concho folks were sure to have given him a big party.

When he returned from Detroit years before and needed transportation from Holbrook to Concho Nat Greer loaned him a horse to ride.

No doubt he plunged into the work of putting in crops with joy and zest but when home only six months he was busy hauling hay and the team ran away and he was thrown out, run over and severely injured. After suffering intensely for 2 weeks, he passed away Sept 30, 1901, too young for his ambitious soul, only 64 years old; just in the prime of life some would say. He was buried in Concho...

An honor came to him shortly before his death. He was made a Patriarch, and set apart by Apostle Mathias F. Cowley, Sep 5 1901. There is not any record of any blessings, given by him being sent to the office in Salt Lake City. Of course there wasn't much time between this and his death. He would have honored the position. He himself received 2 patriarchal blessings.

He precede both his wives in death by about 6 years. Olena went, from Concho, to spend some of the winter months with here daughters in Thatcher, AZ and took ill and passed away Dec. 16, 1907 age 64 years. Anna also was visiting her daughters in Mesa, AZ and she became ill and died 26 Jan 1907 age 70 years.

page 155

In 1899, the LDS church called Christopher Kempe on a mission. He spent about two years in Norway in the mission field, returning to Concho in 1901. Shortly after and while trying to climb up on a load of hay, his team of horses started up with a jerk. He slipped and fell under the wagon. Two wheels passed over him. He lived for 14 days in extreme pain and died in Oct. 1901.

To his marriages, 16 children were born, three dying in infancy–one in Utah and 2 in Concho, both of whom were buried in the same grave. 3 died during youth and the youngest girl, Jennie, died at 18. The remainder of his family lived to adulthood, married and most of them raised large families, but only one son lived to marry and carry on the name of Kempe.

SOURCE: Unknown.

CENSUS: 1870

Name: Christopher Kemp

Estimated birth year: abt 1837

Age in 1870: 33

Birthplace: Denmark

Home in 1870: Provo Ward 3, Utah, Utah Territory

Race: White

Gender: Male

Post Office: Provo

CENSUS: 1880. Richfield, Utah

Name: C. I. Kempe

Home in 1880: Richfield, Sevier, Utah

Age: 43

Estimated birth year: abt 1837

Birthplace: Den

Self (Head)

Spouse's name: Oline

Father's birthplace: Den

Mother's birthplace: Sweden

Neighbors: View others on page

Occupation: Farmer

Marital Status: Married

Race: White

Gender: Male

Household Members:

Name Age

C. I. Kempe 43

Oline Kempe 37

Joseph C. Kempe 13

Helena M. Kempe 10

Ovidia S. Kempe 7

Otto H. Kempe 4

Nelson E. Kempe 2

CENSUS: 1900, Arizona

Christopher J Kempe

Home in 1900: Coucho, Apache, Arizona Territory

Age: 66

Estimated birth year: abt 1834

Birthplace: Denmark

Relationship to head-of-house: Head

Spouse's name: Allena

Race: White

Immigration year: 1866

Household Members:

Name Age

Christopher J Kempe 66

Allena Kempe 56

Charlotte Kempe 19

Geneva Kempe 16


Name: Chris J Kempe

Arrival Date: 21 Mar 1901

Age: 63 Years

Estimated birth year: abt 1838

Gender: Male

Port of Departure: Liverpool, England

Ship Name: New England

Port of Arrival: Boston, Massachusetts

Last Residence: Bergen

Final Destination: Concho, Arizona

Citizenship: Naturalized Citizen

Microfilm Roll Number: 44

SOURCE: Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1943


Christopher Jensen Kempe的年谱

Birkerød Sogn, Frederiksborg Amt, Danmark
Birkerød Kirke