Like her mother and her mother's people before her,
those inexhaustible blondes who stake their claims in
verdant prairies, Marina was cut from Minnesota, the
soil and the starry night. Instead of growing up inquisitive
and restless, she had developed a profound desire to
stay, as if her center of gravity was so low it connected
her directly to this particular patch of earth.
from: State of Wonder
by: Ann Patchett
Today we Stephensons should remember GUDRUN HALLSDOTTIR.
Gudrun is My Builders great great grandmother on his mother's side.
Gudrun was born in Iceland on August 8th, 1794
Gudrun died Oct 16th 1869 at age 75.
And though I only have a notebook with carefully indexed pages of pedigree charts and short family histories, where they are available..I am in awe by what I have deciphered just by crunching some numbers and dates on the charts.
Gudrun married Jon Oddsson in 1822 and proceed to start a family.
Now, you moms out there...hold on to your hearts here...
Gudrun had 5 children, all daughters, all a year apart, and all of them died within days of their birth.
And yet Gudrun didnt give up..
on the sixth try she had a daughter who survives!! Finally!! They name her Gudrun Jonsdottir and she lives to the ripe old age of 90! Whew!!
And still our birthday girl wants a bigger family and so they try again....5 more times...and five more times she gives birth to children and looses them all within days of their birth.
On the 12th try she has a boy...Jon Jonsson...who survives and immigrates to America with his sister, mother and step-father.
For yes.... the plot does indeed thicken.
Jon Oddsson, Gudrun's husband dies when Gudrun is pregnant with Jon (jr) Jon Sr. drowns while fishing...I can imagine the many fishermen in Iceland and the many perils this livelihood involved.)
Then a few years later, in steps a younger man-Loftur Jonsson-first he's the hired hand to help out the needy widow...and then......
I'll quote from the short history in my notebook...
"Loftur took over her estate, and her financial condition improved so much that she depended on him to the extent that she felt she could not get along without him. She found him absolutely trustworthy and very industrious.
Loftur had a great future in the fishing industry; he decided to devote his entire time to his own interests. He told Gudrun of his plans and gave her notice that he would be leaving. She pleaded with him to stay. Secretly, she found herself very much in love with this handsome young man. Although she was much older, she felt she could make him happy, so she proposed marriage to him, offering him half of her estate.
They were married Oct 27th 1836. On July 22, 1853 they joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saint, and soon there after Loftur became a branch president."
In 1857 the couple and the two children made the monumental decision to leave Iceland and head for America- more specifically Utah. The journey first landed them in New York and then they went on to St Louis. There they encountered some sort of delay which required Loftur to look for work, and soon he was working as a carpenter and making better money than he dreamed imaginable. They stayed in St Louis for two years before finally being ready for the long and arduous trek west. They were placed in a company and all their belongings were in handcarts and this little family walked every step of the way west, resting only at night and on the Sabbath. The company consisted of 59 wagons, 104 yoke of oxen, eleven horses, 35 cows, and 41 head of young cattle that were driven loose. They had provisions for 75 days. It was recorded that there were 9 different nationalities represented in this company of trailblazers..English, Irish, Scotch, Welsh, Danish, Swedish, Norwegians and Icelanders; they also had a few Americans from the Eastern, Middle and Southern states.
The history, I have quickly learned, turns to the saga of Loftur...and not the quiet, stalwart woman behind the scene..but its definitely a story of struggle, and hardship. The weather was and is always a challenge in the deserts of the west as well as having to dealing with crop failures and the Indians. The history writes of several moves in the small community of Spanish Fork and of living in a log or adobe cabins that gave "some" protection from the Indians.
Gudrun lives 10 years in Utah before she dies and is buried in Spanish Fork, Utah.
None of us can really begin to imagine the life of a pioneer women. I dont even want to. Remember-pioneer stories make me uncomfortable.
But knowing that my children have the blood of this great pioneer woman running in their veins is a comforting and heartening thing!
Wish her a happy birthday today--she deserves it!!
photo: Iceland by Sverrir Thorolfsson