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THE LIFE OF M. L. ANDREASEN - by Virginia Steinweg


CANADA 1891-1894


AFTER A long sea voyage and train ride, Lauritz and his father arrived in Winnipeg, Canada, where his mother had found work as an expert dressmaker, and where Mr. Andreasen could tailor. Lauritz attended public school.

Lauritz excelled in gymnastics. In winter he drew admiring groups to watch the spins and fancy figures he executed on the ice. In summer he reveled in swimming. His enthusiasm for diving in unknown waters got him into trouble a number of times. Once he dived too deep and broke an eardrum, which affected his hearing for the rest of his life. "A glass of water" he would hear as "A fly swatter." Another time he dived into a foot of water, which could have proved fatal. On this occasion he injured his back. He learned to carry the resulting neck stiffness in a way that enhanced his dignity. Inasmuch as he never grew beyond five feet seven and one-half inches, and was "young for a long, long time," this proved to be an advantage.

It was in Winnipeg that Lauritz crossed into manhood.

I remember the first long trousers I had. How proud I was! I was now a real man. I was sixteen. I dressed up in the best fashion of the day, which at that time included a stiff "stand-up" collar and tie. It was Sunday afternoon, at which time all the young people paraded around town and down the main thoroughfare to be admired of the opposite sex.


Winnipeg was a comparatively small town in those days, yet it affected a metropolitan air. Though years have passed, to this day the whole event is clear in my mind. As I walked down Main Street, I thought I was the subject of much favorable comment and smiles, and I smiled back the best I knew. I was definitely pleased with myself.

Then a horrible thought struck me. Had the young women I had just passed smiled at me, or had they laughed? Was there anything in my appearance that amused them? I turned the corner, and there in one of the show windows was a mirror, which revealed myself to me as I really was. They had laughed and not smiled pleasantly. I discovered that my tie, on which I had spent so much time to be sure that it was knotted just right, had crawled up above my high, stiff collar—an unforgivable sartorial mistake in those days! I lost no time in getting home by way of the side streets.1

Although Lauritz' inquiring mind was ever at work, he did not make much progress in his religious thinking. He relates:

In Winnipeg entirely different religious conditions prevailed than in Denmark and I received another religious shock. By that time I had decided that religion was not for young people to understand, that the best they could do was to accept what their elders said without question. I was a Christian, and I had been confirmed, and that was the end of all controversy.

But in Winnipeg I suddenly found myself confronted with several denominations, no one of which, had any use for the others, but believed them to be heretical. This was news to me. I had known of only, one Lutheran church, and now I found that there were a dozen different kinds. It was no longer merely


a question of being a Lutheran. The larger question was. What kind of Lutheran? The church I sometimes attended permitted laymen to preach, and they had testimony meetings. In the opinion of some, nothing could be worse.

I had thought that my religious difficulties were over. But I saw now that this was not true. Whatever denomination I should decide to join, somebody would be sure to warn me that I was making a serious mistake. I wondered how a boy, and a mere layman, could decide upon the right church, when learned men differed.

At this time I made the acquaintance of some Baptists. When I casually mentioned this to my consulting priest, he was visibly horrified. Bad as were some of the branches of his own church, their error was as nothing compared to the Baptist heresy. Their whole religion, he assured me, centered in the amount of water used in christening. They believed that much water would assure salvation in baptism, while mere sprinkling would avail little. What good purpose could such a "water religion" serve? It was the rankest of heresies.

That closed this avenue for me. Baptists would not do. They believed too much in water. And yet, as I heard their side, they seemed right to me. But, then, they were probably wrong. The priest had much more education than the Baptist minister. I had better be careful.

Then there were the Methodists. They seemed to have solved the question of baptism. In that church a person could be sprinkled with a little water or baptized in much water. That was a happy solution.

But, no! My adviser did not see much light in joining a denomination which did not have strong convictions on such an important Bible subject and which felt that one method of baptism was as good as another. And, anyway, there were many kinds of


Methodists, and which of these would I join? I was in a dilemma. I knew not which way to turn. At last I decided that I had better leave religion alone, and stay away from all churches. This I did. 2

In Winnipeg, conditions in the Andreasen family were at first much improved over what they had been in Copenhagen. Gradually, however, the old evenings of diversion returned. This, and the fact that the great West beckoned to Lauritz, brought him to a decision, and one summer day he simply started walking west. He took whatever farm work turned up. December found him in the little town of Gretna, near the United States border, where he found work with a tailor.

Having considerable leisure time, I read a great deal, especially atheistic literature. I was greatly delighted whenever I found something that might be used to puzzle or disturb the primitive faith of some of the good people in the neighborhood. Among them was a young minister in whom I was particularly interested. I believed him to be honest and sincere. He was a great stickler for the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

I well remember when I first noted in the Bible that God not only fed the Israelites manna during the forty years they were in the wilderness but also preserved their clothing and shoes so that they did not wear out. The reading is:

"I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot" (Deut. 29:5).

Some such arrangement would, of course, be necessary, for there was no opportunity in Israel's forty years of wandering to replenish their wardrobes. But I had never known of this arrangement before, and it seemed an excellent opportunity to harass my young ministerial friend.


It did not take me long to get to his residence. I led the conversation around to the Bible, which was always a welcome subject to him. I then stated my new "find" and asked him whether he believed that. He was a little taken aback, for neither had he read it.

"Does it say that in the Bible?" he queried.

We read the statement.

"Well," he said, "I do not know anything about how this was done, but whatever the Bible says, I believe."

"You really believe that neither the shoes nor the clothes of the Israelites wore out for full forty years?" I asked, to make sure I had an unqualified statement from him.

"Yes, I believe all that is in the Bible," he came back. "I cannot understand it all, but I believe it."

Then came my crowning argument. I had conceived a bright idea, and out it came.

"Do you mean to tell me that you believe that their clothes did not wear out for forty years? What happened to the clothes of a baby newly born? Am I supposed to believe that as he grew older, and his clothes did not wear out, they grew as the boy grew? You don't really mean that the garments grew with the boy? Tell me, do you believe that?"

"I suppose so," he answered weakly, his faith dimming a little.

I went away happy. I had gained a great victory. I had shown the fallacy of unquestioned faith in the Bible. I was a hero.

Then, as I began to think, a queer, sinking feeling suddenly overpowered me. I remembered how it had been in homes I knew. When the older boys outgrew their clothes, the smaller ones inherited them. Might the Israelites not have followed the same custom? Instead of the clothes growing with the boy, were


they simply handed down to the next smaller one? My "smartness" which I had so much admired did not look so smart now. Had I simply made a fool of myself? Apparently.

I was not as happy as when I started out. But I had learned a lesson, an effective one that I would not forget. And the solution to this particular problem was so ridiculously simple! Perhaps in the future I had better not be so sure of my own smartness;

perhaps it would be better to do a little thinking before speaking. 3

The reason why M. L., as we shall henceforth call him, had so much spare time for reading was that his work was not at all taxing. The "tailor" who accepted his services—despite M. L.'s being only the son of a tailor and not really knowing the trade—merely wanted him to sew yards and yards of silk material into the lining of bulky buffalo coats. Then their owners would ride the train across the border to the town of Neche, and sell the silk.

Eventually the "tailor" and two other men started a real smuggling business. M. L.'s part was to drive a team of horses pulling a sleighload of goods down to a road supposed to be exactly on the border. At a prearranged time, often midnight, men from the other side would receive the cargo and hand over the correct amount of money. M. L. stayed on his side of the line, the men stayed on theirs, so they could swear that they never crossed the line.

One week, however, the men on the other side shortchanged on their payments, and soon stopped placing orders for goods altogether. M. L. was assigned the task of seeing what could be done. He tells what happened:

I went over to Neche and went into a saloon, that being the most likely place I would get the information I wanted.


In a little while a man came over and started a conversation with me. I was evidently a stranger in town, he assumed, for he had not seen me before. And what might have brought me over this time? I told him all I knew and how crooked the men had been with whom we dealt, and how they had defrauded us. I told him all about our smuggling, not having a very clear idea that it was an unlawful business. He seemed to be interested, and I told him everything. What were the names of the men I was after? I told him the names they had given us, but that we suspected they were not the right ones.

When I told him that one of them limped a little on the right leg, he was certain he knew. Then he spoke up freely and gave me a lecture on smuggling. He said that I was evidently a "greenhorn" and not a criminal, but that he would advise me to get out of town immediately, for he was going to round up the guilty men, and naturally I would be caught with them. I was scared when I found out what I had done and the seriousness of it. I got back to Gretna as soon as I could, gathered together a few of my belongings, and that same night left on the Winnipeg train for parts south.4

M. L. Andreasen was about to begin his almost seventy years of residence in the United States.

1 M. L. Andreasen, A Faith to Live By, pp. 166, 167.

2 Ibid., pp. 58, 59.

3 Ibid., pp. 32-34.

4 Andreasen, autobiographical manuscript.

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