Sophies Story

Sophie Catrine Wilhelmine Klauen (mother of Emma Sophia Petersen, who married F W Cox) was born 17 August 1824 at Vor Frelser, Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, and christened 29 October 1824. She died 17 Mar 1898 at Fairview, Sanpete, Utah and was buried March 1898 in the Manti Cemetery, at Manti, Utah. (Some information shows Sophie as being ‘from’ or ‘of’ Sjaelland, which is the name of the big island where Copenhagen is.

Her father is Jochum Fredrick Klauen (per the parish record of Sophie’s birth); her mother is Sophie Brigitte Catrine Moller.

The following (in blue) is written by a granddaughter, Mary Smith Westover, daughter of Albert Smith, Jr. The black print has been inserted as taken from other contributors.

“When she was young girl Sophie married a man by the name of Peterson (Peder Tang Pederson). He worked as a delivery man and was able to provide a nice homestead. They had seven children, three boys and four girls. When her children were all small her husband died at the age of 39 (records show he died 8 Aug 1853)) of cholera, a contagious disease, and she was unable to see him (the body) after he died. (Cholera is a very contagious disease and to maintain a ‘check’ on the possiblity of its’ spreading, no one is allowed to view or be near the deceased who has died from a contagious disease).

“While she was grieving over the loss of her husband Sophie had a dream. She saw two men very clearly and they were coming down the road each with something like briefcases or books. In this dream a voice told her that when these two men came to her she should listen to them. She thought about the dream a great deal. And she felt they had a message for her.

“About 2 weeks later, she was out by her well, and she saw two men approaching, each with a suitcase. She recognized them immediately as the men in her dream.

“She asked them in and they told her they were Mormon missionaries with a message for her. She did listen to them, then they promised her that if she accepted the gospel and lived it, that she would have the privilege of shaking hands with a prophet of God. She was baptized on December 27, 1855 by C. W. Hoshmark and confirmed by L.S. Skooby on December 30, 1855. She moved to Hogstarkjob Branch January 5, 1856. Later she sold her homestead in preparation to go to America.”

“Sophie left Denmark and with her five children (two had died in Denmark) sailed on the ship Thornton on 4 May 1856.

“Thursday, May 29, 1856. Sophie Pedersen’s (Petersen’s) son Thomas, who was then 8 years old (records show he was 7) fell from the upper deck through a hatchway (a distance of abut 20 feet) and ‘very much fractured his skull’ he had hit hard but help was administered immediately by the doctor who believed he was out of danger. (Most of this information taken from notes by Mary Smith Westover- some from family histories, and Diary of Peter Madsen).

Monday, June 2, 1856 (Journal of James G. Willie) “With all the attention and care bestowed upon the young sufferer, Thomas Pedersen, of Sjaeland, Denmark, died this morning. At 3:00 p.m. his body was brought forward to receive its’ burial. A prayer having been offered up to God by President Willie, Tomas’ body “was given up to the great deep”.

The passage took forty-one days and the ship Thornton arrived at New York City on 14 June 1856. They traveled by rail from there to Florence, Iowa, and at Florence they spent several days building carts and fixing old ones.

About 100 Scandinavian emigrants constituted the fifth division of the fourth company of the handcart emigration which, under the direction of James G. Willie, left Iowa City, July 16, 1856.

“Sophie joined the Willie Handcart Company and with her children pushed and pulled the handcart across the plains. She had plenty of money to get her to Salt Lake, but she trusted two Elders with her money and they betrayed her trust. However, she never doubted the church. Sophie had plenty of clothes for herself and her children, but she had to leave many of them (clothes) behind when she joined the handcart company. “She was determined to go to Zion and she never lost faith. Sophie believed the Lord would help her reach her destination.

“As they left Iowa in August 1856, the sun was hot but she had a nice umbrella over her children. One day the captain came along and took the umbrella and broke it over his knee and threw it to the side of the road. Only the necessary things were allowed to be taken in this company.

Many narratives have been written and reported on about the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies and their histories. I shall not include them with this short history of our Sophie. However, I must comment that she was a very brave, strong woman to have been able to complete that journey and endure the hardships. I must also belatedly and silently commend her for the strength, love and determined perseverance it took for her to care for four young children, one of them barely a baby, through the unspeakably hard and difficult journey to ‘their Zion’. There is a plaque at Martin’s Cove Visitor’s Center near Casper, Wyoming that shows the names of those pioneers who were in the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies. Sophia Catrine (Catrina) Wilhelmine Klauen Petersen and her children are listed on this monument. What an honor to be descended from such strong, brave people. (Coleen)

“There were 500 people in this company which included the 100 from Scandinavia. From Iowa to Missouri the roads were good and game plentiful. When they were 300 miles west of Florence they just escaped being trampled by a herd of buffalo.

“On October 12 it was decided that an ounce of flour be apportioned to each one. On October 14th another ration was made, then on the 19th the last of the flour was given out. The snow was 16 inches deep on the level. They were compelled to make camp on Sweet River.

“At the October 1856 Conference in Salt Lake word was received of the condition of the company, and help was sent to them. The company lost 1/6 of it’s members. After several more days travel and almost untold suffering and hardships this company of handcart emigrants finally arrived in Salt Lake Valley on 9 November 1856. About sixty of the emigrants died on the journey across the plains, among whom were a number of Scandinavian Saints.

An article in the November 2005 Ensign (October 2005 Conference addresses) by Kathleen H. Hughes “That We May All Sit Down in Heaven Together” Tells of the heart wrenching experiences of Julia and Emily Hill who in addition to their own near-death experience helped others survive this devastating portion of the journey, including a young mother and her children. I have wondered could this young mother have been our Sophie? We have no way to know.

More from Mary Smith Westover:

“Grandmother and her family were sent to Manti. She knew no one (there). Albert Smith who later became my (Mary Smith Westover) grandfather took Sophie and her children and gave them a place to stay. Sometime later she went to Salt Lake to the Endowment House and received her endowments. (This was on 14 Feb 1857).

“While in Salt Lake City she went to Conference and President Heber C. Kimball came down from the stand and walked down the aisle. He turned and walked back a few steps, stopping by her. He shook hands with her and said: “The Lord is well pleased with you. He spoke in English and she in Danish, yet they understood each other. She thought of the promise the Elders made to her when she was in Denmark and she felt it was a great testimony to her. She never forgot it to her dying day.

“In 1868 her oldest son Peter went with others to help some immigrants cross the Green River. He was on a raft with the cattle when they went to one side and tipped the raft over. Peter hurriedly wrote a note and put it in his vest pocket, before he reached the bank he got cramps in his leg. He took his vest and threw it to the bank but the note fell out. They hunted many days for the body but were unable to find it.

“This worried grandmother so much that she was unable to sleep. One morning as she was busy doing her work, she heard Peter coming up the walk whistling as he always did when he was happy. She went to the door and saw no one. She then knew that he was alright and happy. So she never worried about him anymore.

Sophie was married to Albert Smith Sr. on 2 November 1888. There were more children born to this marriage.

“Grandmother was good to grandfather's children by his first wife. Her husbands’ son Azariah was ill most of the time and she did every thing she could for him.

“Sophie was the mother of 14 children and all but 3 of them died before she passed away. My (Mary Smith Westover) father was named after his father and was the 3rd child of this marriage. He was an only son as two sons died while in their infancy. Grandfather also died before she did, but he left her well provided for with a nice home.

“Later, Sophie was persuaded by her son, Otto, to deed the home to him. She was so good and trusting, that she trusted every one. Otto poorly repaid the kindness by turning her out and sending her to the old folks home. He never gave her enough money for her next meal.

“Grandmother lived a wonderful life, and was always ready to help others. Her road of life wasn’t strewn with roses but she never complained. She was disappointed in her son and her heart was full of sorrow when she passed away and was laid to rest by her husbands’ side in Manti Cemetery.

“Her children and children’s children should live lives worthy of such a mother and grandmother.”

Written by a granddaughter Mary Smith Westover, daughter of Albert Smith Jr.


Coleen Midgley Cox Winward, Great-grandaughter of Fredrick Walter Cox, and Emma Sophia Petersen, and a great-great granddaughter of Sophie Catrine Wilhelmine Klauen and Peter Tang Petersen.

Mary Smith Westover, daughter of Albert Smith, Jr. Granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Sophie and Albert Smith.

Ruby Belle Reusch Whiting, Granddaughter of Emma Sophia Petersen and Fredrick Walter Cox. Emma is a daughter of Sophie Catrine Wilhelmine Klauen Petersen Smith and Peter Tang Petersen.

Bernice Mikelsen, also a descendant of Sophie. Bernice lived in Salina, Utah.


Ruby Belle Reusch Whiting mentioned she had gone to Manti, and had taken pictures of the old Fredrick Walter Cox home, and while there, she went to the cemetery and looked for the grave of Sophie Catrine Wilhelmine Klauen Petersen, but couldn’t find it. When Ruby remembered Sophie had married Albert Smith, she then found the grave.

Ruby Whiting said she had spent some $300 on research in Denmark and had not been able to get very much! However, Sophie’s mothers’ Klauen line does go back quite a ways, and the name changes to Klau or Klou and there was a young boy of 15 years that came from Iceland. Isn’t that interesting? So, it looks like we are part Icelandic.

Note from Bernice Mickelsen: “I feel we surely should try to find something on the Petersen line, because it is the blood line.” .

Inasmuch as it appears that the entire Willie and Martin Handcart Companies both suffered much of the same tragedies and deprivations, it does not seem to warrant another ‘ amateur history’ at this writing. For more information on the Willie Handcart Company’s journey across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley you may wish to refer to some of the articles and books that have been professionally written covering their histories.

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