Sunday, December 5, 2010

James Ephraim Madson

  • Name: James Ephraim Madson
  • Born: January 21, 1844 Bjerrede, Terslev, Denmark
  • Died: March 23, 1914 Salem, Utah
  • Related through: Erin's grandfather James William Madson

James Ephraim Madson was born January 21, 1844 in Bjerrede, Terslev, Denmank. The first record we find of him is his baptism in the Terslev, Soro, Denmark Parish Register on April 8, 1844. His name was listed as Jens, son of Mads Jensen and Bodil Marie Jacobsdatter. Bjerrede is found in the Parrish of Terslev and in some records we find the name Rodemose (which means swamp) – probably the name of their farm. He had twin older sisters and one younger sister. He also had an older half-brother from his mother’s first marriage.

James as a young child with his parents
Mads and Bodil and twin sisters
Kirstine and Ane.
He was baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints March 28, 1866. Family tradition says that he was disowned by his family in Denmark. However records show that his mother was baptized in Denmark. At any rate he was the only one in his family to come to America. One cousin said she remembered Grandfather Madson saying that when he left home he could not look back at his mother or he would not have been able to go. At that time he said, “I have a choice, I can be better or I can be worse and I’m going to be better.”

The emigration record of 1866 gives Jens Madsen, age 21, of Sealand, a laborer deposited an amount of money and he sailed on the ship "Kenilworth" with the same company of Saints that included his future wife (but they were not to meet until they arrived in Spanish Fork, Utah later. He sailed May 25, 1866 with only a small wooden box, made with wooden nails to hold his belongings.

Jens landed in New York, July 17, 1866 and arrived (in the Joseph Rawlin's Company) in Salt Lake Valley, Utah on August 1, 1866. He worked for a family in Ogden the Christmas of this same year, and not being able to speak any English it must have been a lonely one. He spent Christmas day as a woodcutter in Ogden canyon with a lunch of bread and water. At a later date his daughter-in-law, Emma Tanner Madson, asked him if he, at that time, regretted having joined the Church and leaving Denmark. She remembered him abruptly replying, "Don't ever even think such a thing Emmy. The gospel of Jesus Christ is worth any sacrifice.'" We can be grateful for his dedicated faith, integrity and perseverance.

When Jens came to America he changed his name to James Ephraim Madson/Madsen. Two of his sons used the spelling Madson but all the others took the accepted spelling of Madsen. Mads Jonathan and William Hyrum’s families use the son spelling.
He was ordained to the office of Elder after receiving the Melchizedek priesthood on July 6, 1869. This same day he and Birgithe Jensen were married and sealed in the Salt Lake Endowment House. They also received their endowments this same date. Daniel H. Wells performed the marriage ceremony. Birgithe's parents, Poul Martines and Mette Kjerstine Olsen Jensen were also endowed and sealed this same date. James and Birgithe had nine children – eight sons and one daughter.

James Madsen family 1893

He worked on the railroad in Spanish Fork, Utah, for a time and was working there according to a record of March 31, 1869. In later years he had a farm and home in Salem, Utah. He apparently was very exacting and meticulous about work on his farm. He was always cut a stick to measure the onions; those of proper height were pulled and sold.

When work was to be done, church or community, James and his boys were there. The Church was everything. He said he would do it all again. It was probably impossible to find a discrepancy between the way this man lived and the way he believed.

James’ finances are not completely known to us but we do know some things. When he came to the United States one wooden box contained all the belongings he brought from Denmark. However after his death when his farm and home were sold sometime in 1915 each child inherited enough to make a real change in their way of living. Two of the boys built nice homes in 1916. And in 1919 each child received about $50 for a relative in Denmark.

He passed away at his home in Salem, Utah on March 23, 1914, or carcinoma of the stomach. He was 70 years old.

Some quotes attributed to him follow:

“If that’s the way the Lord wants it that is the way it’s going to be.”

“The secrets of life are secret because so few people ever really find them out.”

“Some very special people will come from the shadows of these mountains” (the mountains around Salem).

“If this counsel or work be of men, it will come to naught. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”

This article is based on information written and compiled by Hattie Madson Knight, 1976, and from information from “A Good Man and a Good Woman – Paul Martinus Jensen and Mette Kristine Olsen” compiled by Rae Madsen Kern and family, 2004.


  1. Hi I came across your blog and I am trying to figure out if we have common ancestors. I was trying to find information on Ane Madsen, she was born December 30 1830. I think she might be the sister of your ancestor, James Ephraim Madson. Do you happen to have any information that might confirm this?

  2. James did have a sister named Ane. She was born in March of 1840 and she stayed in Denmark and never came to America.

  3. Hi, I am a descendant of James from his son Enoch Martinez. I would like to get in contact with the publisher of this blog to get copies of any journals or other records from our common ancestors. Please email me at Thank you for this blog. It has helped a lot.

  4. Hi Erin, We put my fathers DNA for Family Tree DNA and came up with a huge match of DNA to Rae Christine Madesen (Kern) Grandaughter of James Ephraim Madsen as 2nd to 4th Cousin (the DNA indicated 3rd or 3rd once removed). We are delighted to inform you that the paper trail stacks up that Rae Christine Madsen b1924 is from Bodil Marie Jacobsdatter b1806 Vollerslev Praesto, Daughter of Anne Kirstine Thomasdatter daughter of Thomas Sorensen & Bodil Christensen in Gorslev Praesto, and my father is also from that pair! If you like I know research that I have confirmed and that line now goes back to around 1600 - email me at hej -at- arkitek - dot -org. for more!
    From Janet Henriksen