Maria Sophie Jensen


Maria Sophie Jacobsen (Jensen) was born on October 2, 1864, at Terslose, Denmark, to Jacob and Karen Kirsten Jensen Anderson. She was the seventh child and the youngest in the family of six boys and one girl. As converts of the L.D.S. church, she came with her family to America, destined for Ogden, Utah, but instead they ended up in Big Cottonwood in Salt Lake Valley. Here they decided to register under the name of Jensen instead of Anderson so that they could put the ways of the old world behind them and start a new life.

The family moved in with her mother’s brother, Chris Jensen, in a little log cabin just off 23rd East, which was near the old Hintze place. The family had to work so hard to make a living; and all had to help, so their formal education was limited to just a few grades in school.

Maria was a very lovely young woman, about 5’4″ tall, with golden brown hair, clear blue eyes, and a beautiful figure. The expression on her face was very sweet and pleasant. When she was 18 years old, she became the third polygamist wife of Ferdinand F. Hintze. Her parents did not approve of this marriage, but she went against their wishes and married Ferdinand anyway. They had eleven children: Henry Herriman, Conrad Constantine, Annie Maria, Florentine Camilla, Helaman Ferdinand, Edna Isabella, Ruth Ferdina, Mary Fatima, Leslie Teancum, Reed Roosevelt, and Glenn Jensen. They suffered the loss of two children–Annie, who contracted whooping cough at three months of age, and Reed, who died at four months old from pneumonia. These children were buried at night so that persecutors of polygamous families wouldn’t know about the deaths.

Maria was a fine homemaker and a very good housekeeper. She made all her own quilts from anything that could be sewed. Her delight was making everybody happy. Generosity was a prominent trait, and she practiced this daily, giving whatever she had to anyone less fortunate. Quiet and unassuming, she kept peace by her sympathetic and undemanding disposition. One daughter-in-law, Irene, said if ever there was an angel on earth, it was Maria. The fourth wife, Nora, dearly loved her because of her kindness. One of the sons of the first wife, Ferdinand, said that everyone would rather sit down to her table than to their own. She made a home for all of the other children because children were always first in her life. No matter who they were, she treated them like her own. Her daughter, Ruth, said she was a very lovely person that everyone loved because she was so kind and friendly and jolly. She made friends every where she went, even though she was very retiring. She could be very brave and determined at times, though. One time Ferdinand was punishing one of the boys very severely with a whip, and she jumped between them. In his anger, he knocked her down, but she got right back up and made him stop.

She was not active in community or church affairs, although she was always a good supporter of her family and of all religious activities. She would usually stay home to take care of the family and worked so very, very hard.

Maria was always full of fun and had such a delightful sense of humor. After one Thanksgiving dinner, which was usually held at her home on a big “U” shaped table, the family gathered out by the barn to play ball. One daughter-in-law, Bert, hit a good ball out into the field and started to run to first base when one of the dogs ran in front of her, causing her to fall flat. She was so angry at the dogs that it made Maria laugh so hard that she fell down on the ground and the children had to help her up.

She was such a hard-working woman. She was always the first one out of bed to make the fire and to put the coffee pot on. Then she would go out to milk the cow. This was the usual beginning of the day. She did some farm work, especially picking the fruit. There were a lot of gooseberries that she would pick and then take to Salt Lake City to sell. She never asked for money from her husband. Instead, everything was raised on the farm, or she would sell some fruit, or one of the children would help out. Leslie would give her his paper route money for groceries. She would walk a mile to the grocery store to buy food and then walk back carrying it,

Ferdinand built three homes for his wives very close to one another. This was advantageous for him since it enabled him to see each family every day, but it also provided little privacy for each wife, and the closeness was sometimes a source of irritation. At least, each family was aware of the troubles of each other.

Cottonwood Canal curved its way between the three places and was both a source of fun and fear. There were only little footbridges crossing the creek between the three homes. Almost every child fell into it at one time or another; so, of course, tragedy was bound to occur. Nora’s little Junius was blown off the bridge and drowned. Maria’s Leslie was found lying unconscious with his little head lodged against a rock, but fortunately he recovered. As the children became eight years of age, they were taken out to the canal and baptized, regardless of the weather.

The water from this canal was used for many things–drinking, swimming, washing. Maria had no washing machine, so in order to wash she would build a fireplace of four big rocks, put on a big tub and fill it with water from the canal. She had to haul this water two pails at a time. A step was built down into the creek to enable her to get the water. The clothes were scrubbed with homemade soap on boards. Sometimes it would take as long as three days to do a wash.

Each wife had her own land with horses and cows and chickens, but the big farm itself belonged to all of them. Maria knew animals, especially a good cow when she saw one. She would take care of the cows and wouldn’t let anyone help or touch them. One time one of the cows died, so Ferdinand went with her to buy another one, which they found, a pure bred Jersey, for sale for $75. Ferdinand thought that was too expensive and wouldn’t buy it; but when they got home, she convinced him that it was just what they needed, so he went back and bought it. It was a wonderful cow, and all its calves were heifers. Maria loved to dip a slice of bread in the thick cream and sprinkle sugar on it.

Her house had a big kitchen and a big square front room, 24′ by 24′, two bedrooms on the north, and a lean-to on the back. Because the living room was so large, many dances were held there. One time President Joseph F. Smith came to one of the dances and danced with Maria while Ferdinand’s brother-in-law, Jim Nielson, played the violin for them to dance.

When it was Ferdinand’s turn to stay at her home, there was a big bed in this front room for him to sleep. He would come to the house about every third week and stay a week at a time. The children were happy when he came because their mother cooked especially good meals for him while he was there. She always had good meals, but they were special when he was there. The parents spoke in Danish when they didn’t want their children to understand what they were saying.

One time rats dug a hole through the back bedroom floor. When the family found this hole, they thought they had driven the rat out; and then they put a piece of tin over the hole. Helaman and Leslie slept in that room. Helaman was quite a disciplinarian to his brother so when he went into the bedroom and saw that the rat was still there, he called Leslie to come in and shut the door. Then Helaman picked up the broom and started to chase the rat while Leslie yelled at the top of his voice. Maria was out in the kitchen, and she thought that Helaman was beating up Leslie. She pounded on the door and called out for them to stop. When they finally killed the rat, they opened the door to find her crying, so they had to put their arms around her.

During the flu epidemic, the married children, Henry and Helaman, brought their families over to their mother’s home, where Maria took care of them. All of them were sick except Maria. Irene was expecting a baby any day; so everyone was worried about her, but she came through alright. Everyone slept on the floor in the big front room. There was no inside bathroom, so they improvised by putting a curtain up in one corner by the baby grand piano. Finally, Maria said she was tired and wanted to lie down for a few minutes, but she was down longer than that because the flu finally caught her. Leslie took care of the family then. During this time, he had a lesson in scrubbing the floor. He was mopping with a mopstick and bucket of water, but Helaman said that was no way to scrub. Helaman took the bucket of water threw it on the floor, then took the broom and swept the water out of the door. Leslie came behind and mopped it up. Everybody laughed so hard.

Maria was a mother to the Armenian converts. Most of them came to her place when they first arrived. She also would cook for all the hired help. Sometimes she would fry Danish pancakes for as many as 26 people, so you can see that she spent a lot of time cooking.

This was the time of polygamy, the period in which the Mormons were being persecuted and raided because of their belief in polygamy. On many occasions Ferdinand had to hide as did Maria and Nora.

One of the first places where Maria was sent to hide was at Herriman, Utah. Here her first child, Henry, was born on February 29, 1884. His birth was not recorded and in later years it was very difficult for him to prove that he had even been born. From here, she returned to Big Cottonwood and then went to live in a house on 19th South and 8th West. To further conceal her identity, she took the name of Jackson. The children were so trained that when a stranger came down the street, they would quickly run into the house to tell Maria so that she could disappear. Her place of concealment was the alfalfa field behind the house. It was at this house that Conrad, the second son, was born on April 29, 1887.

At one time, she and Ferdinand were hiding in their alfalfa field in Big Cottonwood when his father came hunting for him. Ferdinand thought it was a deputy–(he imagined he could hear the holster slapping against his leg). Both he and Maria remained hidden, but that night he ran all the way to Salt Lake City to evade his imagined pursuer. His father never did find him.

During this time Ferdinand was taken to court, and Maria was subpoenaed to testify against him. When she didn’t appear, the case was postponed until she could be apprehended. In the meantime, Ferdinand discussed the case with his lawyer and was advised that if he left the county, he could not be persecuted. So it was then he was again called on a foreign mission by the church.

Henry wasn’t able to see his mother except at certain periods. She had to hide from him because of polygamy. After 1897, mothers were not supposed to be living with their husbands, so they had to hide out until that was settled, and after that the wives went back to their husbands. Henry was kept by his Grandpa Jensen, who learned to love him and wanted to keep him. They told Maria that she couldn’t have him back, but of course she did.

When the families became too large, Ferdinand decided to move two of the families to Idaho. Maria refused to go, but Nora sold her property and went. Maria died from convulsions on August 15, 1923, in her home. She was 58 years old. She was buried August 18, 1923, in the Holladay cemetery (4900 Memory Lane, Salt Lake City, Utah).