My husband, Richard, and I had been anticipating our ferry ride to Gotland, Sweden for months, and at 6:30 a.m. we bounced out of our hostel beds in Stockholm, Sweden so excited for the day ahead. We hopped on the #65 bus, and transferred to the designated ferry bus for the hour-and-a-half ride to the ferry terminal, which was jam packed with other enthusiastic travellers, many of whom were darling little two or three-children families.
Along with the hundreds of vacationers, and their vehicles loaded on the bottom decks, we boarded this immense ferry and at exactly 12:25 p.m. we were off crossing the Baltic Sea for the three-and-a-half-hour voyage to Gotland, Sweden. This island is the birthplace of my Great-great-grandmother Catherina Margaret Claesson, as well as my Great-grandmother Anna Catherina Augusta Lundquist.
Our ship’s able captain easily navigated this huge ferry through the gigantic stone islands (which reminded us of our very own Peggy’s Cove) out to the calm sea. The sky was clear and blue with barely a ripple on the immense ocean beyond . . .
Our journey back in time
In my mind’s eye I can imagine a sunny first day in June, 1882, over 141 years ago. Young seventeen-year-old Anna and one of her younger sisters, Johanna Mary, just twelve years old, boarded the tall ship accompanied by other recent converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with a pair or returning missionaries, bound for Zion.
And, I can imagine the tearful farewell as they hugged their sweet, widowed mother, Catherina Margaret Claesson Lundquist and fifteen-year-old sister, Julia Josephine, at the Gotland harbour in Visby, not knowing when the little family would be reunited.
Catherina’s 31-year-old husband, Carl Gustaf Lundquist, had died on September 23, 1874, almost eight years earlier. She struggled to provide for her young daughters, which she was able to do with the financial support from her deceased husband’s family.
Probably the happiest day for the family was when Catherina heard the message that missionaries taught about the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the four Lundquists were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in May 1880, they were filled with faith, hope and joy. They also were saddened when their Lundquist family disowned them, thus cutting off their main source of sustenance.
Many other people that heard the young missionaries were thrilled with their new knowledge of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Church leaders encouraged new members to move to Utah, where Zion was. And so, Catherina and her daughters saved and saved. When Anna was just seventeen years old it was decided that she and her twelve-year-old sister, Mary, would accompany a group of newly converted Swedish Saints and make the long voyage to Utah. Their mother, Catherine, and little-sister Julia would come when they had saved enough money.
As the time approached for Anna and Mary’s departure, they didn’t have the twenty-five dollars that they still needed (which today would be equivalent to about one thousand dollars). What could they do? Although girls did not cut their hair in those days, Anna had her hair cut very short, and she sold it. People bought thick, beautiful, long hair and had wigs made, and Anna’s beautiful hair sold for twenty-five dollars, the exact amount they needed to pay for both Anna and Mary’s voyage across the Atlantic.
Examples of sacrifice continue to inspire for generations
Anna’s sacrifice to get both her and Mary to Zion is such a beautiful story of faith, sacrifice and obedience, a story that has blessed my life, and has inspired generations of Anna Catherina Augusta Lundquist’s families. It is a remarkable true story of covenant making and covenant keeping.
I love what my Grandma Anna Leah Anderson Hamilton said of her mother Anna Catherina, that ‘her hair was always lovely, but when it went pure white, it was gorgeous and it was her crowning glory.’ Grandma said that ‘we thought Mother (Anna) was blessed with beautiful hair all of her life because of her willing sacrifice to get the needed money for her fare to Zion.’
At least six generations have been blessed because of Catherina’s and Anna’s examples of covenant making, and of covenant keeping- the joyful, correct path that will take us back to our heavenly home.
This pioneer story, that I first heard as a child and have never tired of reading and retelling, has been such a strength to me as I have contemplated the sacrifices that I need to make in my own life to follow my Heavenly Father’s will.