Today was a very somber but special day for us. My father called recently and told me he had read in the newspaper that there was a new Children’s Memorial Park at the This is the Place Heritage Park Monument in Salt Lake City. Dad wanted me to find out if our little ancestor’s name was listed amongst the many pioneer children that died crossing the plains to Utah. We are having a Christensen family reunion soon and he hoped to have that information to share.
With this mission in mind, my husband and I, daughter, and granddaughter left our home about 11:00 am on Pioneer Day, July 24, 2019 for Emigration Canyon. It took about 45 minutes to drive up to the Memorial Park near the University of Utah. We had high hopes that we would find Andrea on the list of pioneer children. What we saw and experienced was much more than we had ever hoped for.
Andrea was the child of Niels and Christiane Christensen who were from Viborg, Denmark. They had joined the Latter-day Saint Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and in 1857 had traveled with a group of saints across the plains. They had three small daughters when they made the journey. Along the way, Andrea died, and they had nothing to bury her in. They wrapped her in a blanket and put a brass kettle over her head to keep the dirt from her face, placing her in a shallow grave. This information is available on familysearch.org
As we made our way up the hill from the “This is the Place” Monument”, we were awestruck by the beauty of the little memorial to the children. There were beautiful statues depicting what some of the children may have looked like. Large stones bore the names of children who had died on the long trek to a place of religious freedom. We eagerly inspected each one, hoping Andrea would be there. You could feel the spirit and sanctity of the memorial.
Finally, we found the name of Andrea Christensen, and it showed that her age was 1 (one). We were so grateful to have had this experience and so happy that we snapped a picture and sent it to my father as proof that her name is indeed included with the names at the children’s memorial. There were hundreds of names, but this one had special significance to us.
We continued to walk up the hill to the top of the memorial and along the way were kiosks where you could listen to stories of the pioneers. One in particular was very touching to my granddaughter since it was about a girl about her age. She was able to be with the saints when they finally arrived to see the valley. It was a bittersweet story since the girl had left behind a boy she loved and her father died shortly before they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.
It was a very hot day when we left to go to the other side of Utah Valley to find Andrea, but our struggles to climb up in the heat of the day and witness the grandeur of the valley was nothing compared to the sacrifice of our pioneer forefathers. We are so grateful for their faith and fortitude that brought us here to Utah.
We are so glad we were able to find Andrea and hope we will be able to meet her one day and see what she looks like. What a special time that will be. ~Ruth Kongaika