Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy 212th Birthday, Nicolai Sorensen (1799-1887)!

John Welch's great-grandfather

Nicolai is the other half of the love story.
Malena & Nicolai Sorensen
Nicolai (spelled Nikolaj in Danish) was the third of four Lutheran children raised in Denmark.  His father Soren was fearfully remembered by a neighbor an abusive, stout butcher with a taste for liquor.  Nicolai and his family took care of his aging parents in their later years, and as Soren’s mind weakened, he had to be locked inside the house.

Sorensen farm in Denmark
As a young man Nicolai played the violin in an orchestra in Copenhagen’s Tivoli Park.  He worked for the Danish government as an insurance agent checking registration forms of inns around the country.  He had a large sixty-acre farm about fifty miles southwest of Copenhagen, with a dairy business and a wheelwright shop where he made everything from spinning wheels to wagons to coffins.  There he and Malena raised ten living children to be industrious and musical.  Nicolai was a community overseer, and since he owned a horse and wagon, it was his responsibility to transport neighbors.

As the family learned of the gospel, Nicolai was initially opposed to the missionaries and threw whitewash at them to get them to leave.  Eventually, however, he converted along with his family and other townspeople, and they came to America.  Along the trail, Nicolai volunteered to ride back to search for a lost child.  When he brought the child back, he was commended for his brave kindness and told by Elder Cowley to ask for anything his heart desired and it would be granted.  Nicolai requested that he and his wife Malena never be separated in this life. 

He used his wealth to bring his family and friends to Utah, and instead of complaining about living far below the comfortable status he’d had in Denmark, Nicolai always fervently thanked the Lord for bringing him to Zion.  He made spinning wheels in Provo at one point, and moved the family south to Fillmore with the approach of Johnston’s Army.   The Sorensens settled in Mendon, where Nicolai built a two-story rock house.

Malena, who had been ill for several years, died at ten o’clock one morning; Nicolai told his sons to construct two coffins, as he would be joining her shortly.  He sat down and finished some paperwork, then lay down upon his bed and died about three in the afternoon.  They were buried in the same grave.  Interestingly, when Sorensen relatives back in Denmark heard that the couple had died the same day, they assumed that it was due to an Indian massacre.  This legend passed down orally for more than a century, and was told to American descendants who went to visit their Danish homeland in the 1980s.

I would give him a new violin!


  1. Nicolai Sorensen is one of my ancestors. I had never heard of these stories about his father and his life in Denmark. Thank you for sharing.