Thursday, February 24, 2011

Happy 171st Birthday, Isaac Sorensen (1840-1922)!

John Welch IV's grandfather

Isaac Sorensen was a Danish pioneer and musician.  His biography can be found online here and here.  He was once jailed erroneously on a murder charge!

Sixth of eleven children born to prosperous farmers in Denmark, Isaac attended school until age fourteen, and then helped on the farm.  Isaac was excited about the gospel message and was one of the first in his family to join the Church.  As a teenage immigrant, he remembered dancing on the ship deck, and only having sea biscuits to eat.  In Utah, he spent a month as a guard in the mountains watching for Johnston’s Army, journeyed back to Nebraska to bring in groups of poor Saints (returning in the same company as his future wife, although she was a decade younger than him so he didn’t notice her much at the time), and worked on building the railroad.

Isaac and Mary
Isaac reconnected with his future bride when she was spinning wool at his brother’s house, and they married and had eleven children. Mary could not agree with the idea of polygamy, although Isaac had been urged by the brethren to take another wife. One evening he went to a Church dance, leaving Mary at home with three small children. She got ready herself, went to the dance, and left the babies on a bench at the edge of the dance floor. She was asked to dance again and again, and paid no attention to the babies wailing on the side. Finally, Isaac could stand it no longer and said, “Mary, will you go home with me?” They gathered up their children, went home, and that was the end of that.

Isaac participated in the United Order, contributed two hundred dollars to the building of the Salt Lake Temple, and especially enjoyed the dedication of the Logan Temple.  He left a family of five young children to serve a mission to his native land of Denmark in 1879-1881.

Isaac composed a volume of poetry and several songs (including “We Hail the Glorious Twenty-Fourth”), and was the choir leaders for fifty-six years. The Sorensens lived in the same house in Mendon all their married life, and it became a community gathering place, haven for visiting Brethren, refuge for immigrants, and place for rehearsals.  Isaac was a loving father, and helped his children with both their studies and building snowmen.

Isaac wrote a chronicle of the history of Mendon from 1857-1919, which has been a valuable record for pioneer studies.  It encompasses six decades of Mormon frontier village life, and in its current publication’s introduction, Isaac is called “a gifted but disadvantaged historian” due to his lack of educational training.  His history has a scriptural ring to it, with a tone much like Mormon’s annual summaries in the Book of Mormon.

Isaac had an unusual adventure at age fifty, when he and others were arrested on an old murder charge brought by an apostate in 1890.  The case was the death of a horse thief in 1863, nearly three decades earlier.  As a mountain guard, Isaac had helped others secure the thief but was a hundred miles away when the man was killed.  Isaac was jailed for eleven days (bunking with a burglar) until bond was procured, and acquitted after a trial. 

His patriarchal blessing promises the attendance of the Three Nephites and other marvelous things.  The Sorensens’ golden anniversary in 1920 was celebrated with a community program and Isaac (age eighty) and Mary (age seventy) danced the entire evening and enjoyed themselves very much.

I would give him an ipod for his birthday!

Sorensen family c. 1900, Eulalia in middle

1 comment:

  1. I'd give him the chance to go to college: it must not have been very fun to be a "disadvantaged" historian.