This is a Pioneer Day tribute to Martine Larsen, my great, great, grandmother.

Martine was only 5 when she travelled with her family and other saints from Denmark to the United States. Her father, Peder, was a cabinet maker, and her mother, Ane Kirstine Nielsen was a seamstress. Both provided their goods to Danish royalty.

Martine had her sixth birthday on May 27, 1856 while aboard the ship Thornton. She had learned to tap dance and entertained the other passengers with her dancing.

On July 5th, in Iowa City, while her family and others made handcarts and sewed tents, her mother gave birth to a baby boy, Lars Julius. She enjoyed taking care of her baby brother while others prepared for the long trek ahead with the Willie Company.

At Florence, Nebraska, the group determined that they could not stay the winter there, so they pressed on. On Oct. 1st, they reached Ft. Laramie, but supplies there were inadequate. Their rations were cut, and they were beginning to weaken. They were forced to leave bedding and other items behind to make the rest of their trek easier.

On Oct. 3rd, about 21 miles west of Ft. Laramie, Martine’s father died. Two weeks later, near where the Martin’s Cove Visitor Center now stands, her baby brother, only 3 months old, also passed away. Although rations were further reduced and the cold and snow were getting worse, Captain Willie returned on Oct. 21st with the first company of rescuers. Martine’s sister, Anna Sophie, also passed away that day.

In spite of the raging blizzard, the group continued on and climbed Rocky Ridge on Oct. 23rd. This 15-mile stretch required 27 hours for some of the saints to complete, and 13 died upon arrival. Martine, her mother, and her brother survived, but her brother Niels, became sick and weak and died about a month later. Martine cried and also wanted to die, but she pressed on with her mother, and they eventually arrived in Salt Lake and later settled in Manti.

Martine later married William Bench and raised 10 children. She supported the family alone when her husband served a two year mission in England. Martine became a skilled and caring nurse, and while caring for a sick family when she was in her 60’s, she accidentally got some type of poison in her eyes and became blind. She continued attending meetings and working in the temple for the next 24 years and passed away in 1933 at the age of 83. There is a monument to Martine Larsen Bench in Manti, Utah.

Martine and many like her that valliantly press on in doing good and in faithful obedience, in spite of significant challenges, is inspiring to me. Happy Pioneer Day!

My source for information about Martine is a book called Tell My Story, Too, by Jolene S. Allphin.

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