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Pioneer Heritage

Last week I was asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting and the subject was Pioneer Heritage. I do have pioneer blood running through my veins — it was fun to learn more about them and prepare a talk. I am grateful for my ancestors and am still in shock at the trials they had to carry.

Below is the story of my great-great-great grandmother, Maria Bishoff. It was adapted as a first-hand account, but it was not originally written this way. But I think it gives a clear description of the heartache they had to bear as they followed the prophet. Enjoy!


My name is Maria Jensen.  I was born in Denmark in 1842.  Out of the twelve children born to my parents, only five survived.  When I was eight years old, my parents came down with typhoid fever.  My father died first, then thirteen days later, my mother passed away.  Less than two weeks later, my older brother, Lars, died.  Two months to the day after Lars passed away, my six-month-old baby sister died also.  This left me, along with one older sister and one older brother, as orphans.  My uncle, a weaver, became my guardian, but I was not happy there.  I was made to work practically as a slave, and was punished often.

I lived in those conditions until I was nineteen years old.  At that time, a young man named Jacob Bischoff came to be an apprentice to my uncle.  Jacob could see my plight and was extremely helpful to me.  He treated me with such kindness that we soon fell in love and were married.  Eleven months later, twin boys were born to us, followed by a daughter and then another son.

Just five years after our marriage, Jacob and I joined the Mormon faith.  We immediately became outcasts, the subject of much ridicule and persecution.  Jacob and I decided to emmigrate to America to be with the Saints there.  We took our four small children (the twins being just four years old at the time) and sailed to America.  There we joined a wagon train.

Things went fairly smoothly for our small family until shortly after leaving Omaha, Nebraska.  Measles broke out in camp, and all four of my babies died within eleven days.  The children were buried in makeshift coffins and were scantily clad.  I could scarcely stand the thought of their little cold, bare feet.  Grief-stricken and brokenhearted, we continued on our way to the Valley, arriving in October of 1867.  As soon as we arrived I knitted a pair of little stockings for each of my four babies who had died.  I wanted the stockings to be buried with me when I, too, passed on.

We arrived in the Salt Lake Valley just eight months after our baptism in Denmark.  Jacob found a home for us in Big Cottonwood, and it was there, about a month after we arrived in the Valley, that another child was born.  We moved to Fountain Green, where four more children were born to us.  Then, in 1874, just seven years after we arrived in the Valley, Jacob became ill.  He and I talked the matter over and agreed that he should travel to Salt Lake City

for proper medical care.  A bed was made for him in the back of a friend’s wagon, and Jacob was driven the 125 miles to Salt Lake.  He was given the best care possible, but did not get well.  Instead, on September 15, 1874, Jacob passed away.  We were unable to attend his funeral, as we didn’t receive word of his death until ten days after his burial.  Jacob was laid to rest in the Salt Lake Cemetery.



Maria was a stalwart and courageous woman who raised her children with determination and faith.  She lived to be 55 years old.  Shortly before her death, Maria had Jacob’s grave moved to the Fountain Green Cemetery, where she now rests by his side.  As requested so many years before, the four pairs of little knitted stockings were tucked in beside her.

(from a biography of Maria Jensen called, “The Last Wagon.”)

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