• Diana Boley

Strength Through Stories

I find strength to carry on through stories of my ancestors. Anne Margrette Ohlsen is one of those people. She went through a lot of trials in her life. I love sharing her story.

If you listen to episode 1 of my podcast, you will hear me tell her story. If you watch it on YouTube, you will even see me wear a pioneer bonnet!


The following is how I tell it from her perspective.

My name is Anne Margrette Ohlsen. I was born in 1819 in Norway. I came from a poor family. We mainly ate fish, potatoes, milk, and bread with a little bit of butter. I worked for a very rich family. They paid me one time every year. I got two dresses, a pair of stockings, two pairs of shoes, and $9 whole dollars! Can you believe it? $9 dollars! I was really good with my money and put it in the bank.


While I was working there, I met Lars Jacobsen. He was so handsome. We fell in love and were married. We were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. We named her Mary.


When dear Mary was two years old, cholera broke out in our town. Lars got very sick and died that night.

I was heartbroken. I tried I could to have the disease to have it take me, too. But in time my heart healed and I married another man named Embreth Hansen.


Later, we Embreth and I decided to go to America. I had saved up enough money so we could travel very comfortably. My family was very angry and they tried to take my daughter Mary away from me. But, we decided to travel to America anyway. We were asked to give part of our money to another family so they could come also.


When we got to Nebraska, we did not have enough money for a team or a wagon, so we joined what was called a handcart company. A handcart is pulled by hand. There are two wheels on it. Embreth and I, we pulled the handcart together.


My little Mary was only six years old and walked most of the way. After traveling for some time, my dear Embreth he became sick and could not pull the cart. I had to throw away many of my beautiful things so I could make room for him to ride in the cart. I pulled the cart, by myself, with him riding inside behind me.


One morning, I slipped quietly out of bed to make breakfast. When I tried to wake my dear Embreth up, I found he had passed away during the night. I had to bury him in Wyoming and finish my journey without him. I paused one last time at the grave of my husband to say goodbye.


Then, looking to the west, Mary and I walked on. We didn’t have much food, only about one tablespoon of flour to eat each day. My dear Mary would say, “Oh Mother. When we get to where we are going, can I have all the fish and potatoes I want?” I was heartbroken, as a mother, not being able to feed my child.


Eventually, we made it to the Rocky Mountains. Even though all my trials, I was happy to be gathering with other people of my Christian faith.

Every time I tell Anne’s story, I cry. She is such an inspiration to me. She is an amazing woman, with amazing faith.


Eventually, Anne married another man, named Rasmus Englestead, who is my ancestor. And is one of my great-great-grandmothers. She had more children and lived a long and productive life. Anne’s posterity now number in the thousands.

Because of her faith, hope, and perseverance, I know I can carry on.


The courageous example of Anne, and many others like her, can inspire us all to be better, to do better.

When our hearts ache, our feet are tired, or we face a fearful future, we can remember inspiring examples from the past and those around us and carry on.


When I think of Anne, I imagine her stepping one tired and exhausted foot in front of the other. Slowly walking all day long, every day across the wilderness.. into the unknown. I’m sure she was tired. Bless her dear heart And because of her journal, we know she was hungry.


Sometimes I can imagine her looking up at the Rocky Mountains. Oh my goodness, her heart must have felt so heavy. She had traveled so far.


As you listen to my podcast, you will hear stories from other mamas who, like my ancestor Anne, have been through tough times. I’m sure that when Anne was walking across the plains, she didn’t think “I’m doing this to inspire my descendants so that they will carry on in their trials.” She probably was just hoping and praying to get to her destination.


If you are having trails in your life and need strength to carry on, I challenge you to find a story of someone who inspires you, like Anne has inspired me. And read that story or listen to it. Learn from this person, and draw on their strengths as you go through your trials.


HUGS! - Diana

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