Martina Marjorie Halseth Bitner was born in Akers, Akershus (Christiana Oslo), Norway to Peder Eriksen Halseth and Martha Katherine Johnson on August 19, 1847. When six years old, Martina was sent to a boarding school and remained there for nine years. As a teenager, Martina listened to Mormon Elders teach the gospel and secretly attended their Church meetings. She was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was fifteen years old and greatly desired to emigrate to America with other Mormon Saints. Her parents were greatly opposed to this and told her if she left, she would never be welcomed home again. Martina's daughter wrote that 'This was no deterrent for that indomitable girl.' Martina was strong willed and prepared for the journey to America. She sailed on the B.S. Kimball from Copenhagen on May 4, 1865 and arrived in New York on June 14, 1865. Of the 557 aboard, 3 adults and 25 children were buried at sea. Upon arriving in New York, Martina learned that she still had 2,000 miles of country to cross before she reached the 'promised land.' She was shocked, but continued forward with fortitude and faith'characteristics she embodied throughout her lifetime. After a trying journey across plains and through mountains, the party arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on November 8, 1865. Tears were shed as the valley did not appear as glamorous as imagined. They were greeted by President Brigham Young and W.W. Riter who shook the hand of each pioneer. Martina was taken into the home of Elizabeth Boyce of Big Cottonwood who did all she could for the young pioneer girl. Breneman Barr Bitner caught Martina's eye one day at Church after which they began their courtship. As polygamy was practiced at that time, Breneman already had one wife before he was married to Martina by Wilford Woodruff in the Endowment House on April 10, 1866. His first wife passed away that following September, and he was married again to Sarah Ann Osgathorpe on June 4, 1869. Martina and Breneman had 10 sons and 2 daughters. Martina worked hard in her home and on the farm her husband built. She raised her children with faith. She passed away on June 7, 1912 after an illness from uremic poisoning.
This collection contains seven typed pages written by Madeline Bitner Wirthlin, the youngest daughter of Martina and Breneman Bitner. Two pages of family pictures are also included at the end of the short biography. There is a brief description of Martina's parents and their courtship and life together. A note is included that all of Martina's family most likely joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later on. Martha endured hardships while crossing the sea and plains to arrive in Zion. The group endured hot dusty days and attacks by Indians. They received help at the Sweetwater from Saints sent by Brigham Young. Martina worked hard cooking, cleaning, and providing a home for her family. The family's first home on the farm was a two room adobe in which 18 of Breneman's 19 children were born. Later, he built a large, two story brick home. Martina had a beautiful singing voice that was passed on to her daughters, many of whom participated in plays and operas in Salt Lake City. Martina and Breneman lost their daughter Florence to spinal meningitis when she was 18 years old. In his journal, Breneman recalled their prayers and administrations during her illness and their sorrow and loneliness that followed her death. Martina worked hard to learn English after she arrived in the Salt Lake Valley as her husband wanted no foreign accent in his family. Breneman and Martina taught their children the value of work and they all received an education from the 28th district school in Holladay. The Bitner household was well organized and ran in an orderly manner. On bath night, there was a standing joke between mother and daughters which follows: The girls would say, 'I washed down as far as possible and up as far as possible.' Martina would then reply, 'Now don't you think you had better wash possible.' Martina's daughter recalled no negative feelings toward polygamy in their family. Breneman took both wives, both carrying babies, to ward parties and danced all night. Martina was faithful to her testimony throughout her life and left a strong legacy for her posterity. Her daughter recorded that 'Mother loved everything pertaining to the Church. [Mother] said, “It is not our responsibility to know what the authorities are doing with our tithing; our only duty is to pay it honestly.'' The biography is enjoyable and full of descriptions of life as a pioneer saint and life on a farm. A sweet tribute is given at the end to the Bitner name and to Mother Martina. Mormon Pioneers, Frontier Life, Pioneer Life, Trek