Sunday, May 10, 2009

Anna Lundahl Johnson

Anna Hansdatter Lundahl Johnson
30 September 1816 - 14 March 1866

Today is Mother's Day and I have a lot of mothers. Aside from the usual Mother's Day activities with my family, I thought I'd remember one of my other mothers. This is a small glimpse of the life of my great-great-great-great-grandmother. I quote from an account of the events from one of her great-granddaughters.

"Twice the Little Swedish Mother and her three daughters had been at the pier ready to board the vessel for America, and twice they had been forced to return to their home by a despotic man who once was the head of the family.

Par Johnson could have been a well respected husband and father, had it not been for the weakness he had for drinking to excess; on those occasions, which were becoming more and more frequent, he was a harsh and cruel companion in the home, bringing only misery and sorrow to the family. Anna Lundahl Johnson, the mother of these three daughters, had put forth to help him to be a better man, but to no avail, until finally she was forced to leave him and sue for a divorce.

The Johnson family lived near Malmo, Sweden; in the latter part of 1849, two Mormon Elders came to the home and when Anna heard the Gospel Message that they brought, she knew in her heart beyond a doubt that she had found the true word of God and soon thereafter she became a members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She opened her doors to the Elders and Saints that they might hold meetings in her home. Par Johnson's anger knew no bounds because of these contacts with the Latter-day Saints; he had no use for the Mormon Elders nor the Church they represented. Par Johnson had no legal right to interfere in their lives; he had forfeited all claim to his family through his own conduct.

In 1855, Christena Johnson, the eldest daughter accepted the Gospel at the age of 13, having been converted by the teachers of Elder Nels Nelson (brother of the man she married a few years later).

Religious persecutions soon began; the Elders were banished or cast into prison, without even as much as a fair hearing; and those people who had befriended the Elders received a like punishment. Because of her kindness to the Mormon Missionaries, Anna Lundahl Johnson was cast into prison, where she was confined for 14 days on a diet of black bread and water. At the end of the 14 day period, her daughters--Christena, Hannah and Caroline (then aged 15, 9, and 5 years respectively) waited outside the prison gate for their mother, not knowing whether she would come to them alive or not, fearful lest her prison treatment might have caused her death. Anna's eyesight was partially impaired because of her long confinement in the dungeon cell; likewise her health was impaired because of her long lack of proper nourishment.

For the third time preparations were under way for a company of Saints to leave for America and Anna and her daughters again began to make their plans. This time they must be sure that Par Johnson did not discover their intentions. Friends helped them--first one of the daughters was taken to Denmark; a short time later, Anna and her youngest daughter, Caroline made their way to Denmark; Christena had been down to the board to see her mother and sister off. On her way back she met her father; of course she was asked what she was doing down there; Christena was employed at a clothing factory and made the excuse of an errand. Her father then asked where her mother was--she couldn't possibly tell him that her mother had gone to Denmark -- he would soon follow the family there, so she was obliged to tell him a falsehood, which troubled her conscience for a long time. She told him that her mother had gone to America--had left the week before. A few days later, Christena and this family of friends joined Anna and her daughters in Denmark. The united family came to America on the sailing vessel "Monarch of the Sea."

Two whole months on the sea, through fair and foul weather. At the end of that long and perilous journey--exhausted and bewildered, they reached the shores of America; their journey led them to Florence, Nebraska, on the Missouri River. Upon arrival at that point, the journey over land across the plains began. And here the Johnson family found themselves like others of the company, without accommodations over and across the long dreary miles to Salt Lake City. So it was that Christena and her mother and two daughters walked the entire distance across the plains, or most of it."

by Meltrude Hunsaker Stohl 1954

Grandmother Anna and her daughters Christena, Hannah and Caroline walked across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. Anna married a man named Peterson and settled in Sanpete County. She died a few years later and was buried in a paupers lot in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

I am so grateful to my grandmother Annie and her daughters for suffering hardship and persecution and martyrdom for the faith that they knew was true.

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