Chapter 1 (partial)
Hans Peter Madsen and His Family in Denmark (1826-1875)
For generations, the forefathers of Hans Peter Madsen were furniture craftsmen in the village of Orsbjerg near Odense. Hans' father, Mads Pedersen, and his grandfather, Peder Hansen, before him were well-known "møbelsnedker" who specialized in wooden cabinets and fine furniture. The family was famous for their "Perlemorkiste" which were hand-crafted chests inlaid with mother-of-pearl and intricate wooden designs.
Odense was the third largest city in the Danish kingdom and was always an important market center for export. The Madsen family homestead near Odense was part of the landscape described as the "garden of Denmark" by the fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen who was a contemporary of Hans Madsen. Funen (Fyn) is one of the largest of the Danish islands and is still characterized by half-timbered cottages in red, white or yellow colors, fertile fields and large oak forests. Numerous castles, manor houses and water mills dot this lovely undulating landscape.
Hans Peter Madsen was born June 18, 1826 and was the fourth of ten children of Mads Pedersen and Mette Nielsen. Hans was said to have been an unusual child who liked literature and the natural wonders around him more than the practical, day-to-day operations of the family furniture-making business. As a young man, Hans apprenticed in the shop surrounded by older family members. His true nature was given to discussions of religion, politics and philosophy that he had become acquainted with in the "Folkehøjskole" (Folk High School) that had been introduced in the mid-1800's.
It was understood that Hans would join his father, four uncles and older brothers and cousins in the family's growing furniture-making business rather than 1pursue higher education at the University. In 1851, at the age of25, Hans Madsen made a momentous decision that would change everything-he married Louisa Katrina Christina Tetzner.
Louisa was the second of three daughters born to Christian Wilhelm Tetzner and Anna Sophie Mordhorst. She was also born in the year 1826 and grew up in a prosperous German family in Krusendorf in the Prussian province of Sch1eswigHolstein which borders Denmark on the south. This proper merchant-class Tetzner family was shocked when Louisa announced that she was pregnant with the child of her Danish boyfriend, Rudolph Wilstad, who had come to work in the neighboring town of Stohl. When Rudolph left the area without Louisa, her marriage plans were not realized and she left her home in disgrace. On August 11, 1849, Louisa gave birth to a son whom she named August Christian Emil Tetzner. She took her baby and the dowry trunk of silk dresses that her parents allowed her to keep and journeyed to Denmark in search of Rudolph Wilstad.
While in Denmark, Louisa met Hans Madsen and they were married in 1851. About that same time, Hans' father died and as an inheritance, left him a minor interest in the family's furniture business. Hans had legally adopted August Christian and was delighted with the birth of Peter Wilhelm Madsen on November 4, 1852. Fredericia, the city of Peter's birth, had become Danish again in 1850 when the troops ofthe new Danish monarch, Frederick VII, defeated the Prussians. In 1864, a combined Austrian-Prussian force crushed the Danish armies bringing Fredericia and the surrounding area under German rule once more. Because of the events, P. W. Madsen would describe his own nationality this way: "I am Danish by birth, German by compulsion and an American by free will and, choice."
[Not to take away from the dramatic flair of P.W.'s statment, it appears that it may not be entirely accurate. Although Prussian forces did occupy Fredericia after the battle, the terms of the peace treaty in 1864 ceded to Prussia the area of Sønderjylland, a territory whose border began below Kolding, some 20 miles to the south, leaving Fredericia under Danish control. Sønderjylland, populated mostly by Danes, was not returned to Danish jurisdiction until 1920, after World War I.]
Two years after Peter's birth, missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contacted the Hans Madsen family. Louisa was impressed by the simple truths of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and was excited to be baptized into the Mormon faith. Hans was not as eager. The family traditions of religion were firmly established and the reputation of the Mormon Elders was still being hotly debated in the Danish parliament, the "Rigsdag."
While the Danish Constitution allowed religious freedom, it took many years before the common people became thoroughly acquainted with it. This accounts for the violence and persecution to which the Elders and Saints in Denmark were subjected after the gospel was first introduced in 1850. The opposition was so widespread that Elder Erastus Snow wrote LDS Church leaders, "To embrace the Gospel [in Denmark] is almost equal to the sacrifice of ones' life; and to travel and preach it, a man carries his life in his hands." In order to avoid exciting the people to mob action, many of the early converts were baptized late in the evening or at night. Homes of the new LDS converts were attacked and it became the saying that "to join the Mormons was to have one's windows broken."
Louisa Madsen's desire to embrace the religious truths that she had learned from the Elders was not to be denied. Hans gave his permission for her to be baptized on March 28, 1857, but he remained steadfast in his own faith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denmark had grown to over 5,000 members during that same year-Mormonism had spread to the smallest hamlets throughout the Kingdom of Denmark. The harvest of converts was most abundant in the compact villages. By 1900, Denmark yielded 23,533 new members, which was more than half of the conversions in all of Scandinavia. Over 10% of these Danish Saints came from the area around Odense. By 1875, the Danish Mission was divided into nine conferences with 106 organized branches. In a report to Apostle Franklin D. Richards, Elder Andrew Johnson wrote the following:
The good order in the meetings, the due respect paid to each individual officer in his place, the manner of keeping records and books, and the peace and union which pervade the hearts ofthe Danish Saints are not surpassed in the oldest conference in England. The Saints here are very punctual and prompt to respond to all calls from the authorities, liberal in their donations, and strong in faith.
On January 7, 1856, Richard Madsen was born to Hans and Louisa. The sudden death of their infant daughter, Maren Kristen Madsen, in 1857 caused Louisa to plead with Hans to join with the Latter-day Saints and emigrate to Utah where their family could be sealed for "time and all eternity."
After many years of investigation, Hans joined his wife as a member of the LDS Church. This was an important element in the overall plan that Louisa had developed for the Madsen family's future. She was convinced that Hans' position in the family business was not improving fast enough. She encouraged him to establish his own furniture-making firm and to prepare for the "golden opportunities" that awaited them in America.
By the time August Christian and Peter Wilhelm Madsen were baptized, the publication of The Book of Mormon in Danish had become one of the most striking aspects of LDS activity. Not only were the missionaries involved in the distribution of this material, but the congregations were also instructed to use a portion of their tithing fund to buy a supply of books and tracts. Hans Madsen became excited with the assignment as a local missionary to distribute this literature as widely as possible in order to teach the Gospel and correct misunderstandings about the Church. A major disappointment to Hans during this time was that he was unsuccessful in bringing the gospel message to his extended family.
For the first years of the Danish Mission, Hans and the other local brethren made a substantial contribution to the missionary effort. Some of them served five years or more before emigrating to America. Until 1860, the Saints in Utah sent only 13 missionaries to Denmark. These Elders, along with the local brethren, traveled without "purse or scrip" and enjoyed an intimate household contact with the Danish people. The air of persecution seemed to invigorate both the missionaries and their new converts.
The reading of the Book of Mormon in their native language had a profound impact on the families in Denmark. By 1881, more than 8,000 copies had been distributed. In a letter to Brighan Young, Elder Erastus Snow wrote:
As the Saints began to peruse its sacred pages, the Holy Ghost descended upon them, and bore record of the Book of Mormon in a marvelous manner, speaking to some in dreams, visions, and divers manifestations, which caused our hearts to magnify the Lord.