Thomas "Fitz" Fitzgerald wasn't looking for love in July of 1895 when he disembarked the train in Price, Utah. He was looking to fleece sheep. Word around the mining communities was that Price was the next big place. Set perfectly in eastern Utah. Surrounded by red rock cliffs and canyons for the mining of ore. While simultaneously being serviced for trade with regular outbound wagon freighters heading to nearby Fort Duschene and beyond.
The burgeoning town would be perfect for an experienced cafe/saloon owner and pharmacist to hang his shingle. Before his first year he had acquired three buildings. Two he leased for the groceries and butcher shop. The third he retained for his establishment, Fitzgerald & Co.
An additional draw toward Price was his family. The 'Co.' in the Fitzgerald & Co. enterprise belonged to Thomas' brother-in-law, Thomas Murphy. Who had married Thomas Fitzgerald's sister Isabelle and had moved west for health reasons.
I presume it felt good to be near family after his father's death, while residing in the West that he had come to love.
Thomas was a long standing Catholic. Settling in Mormon centrist Utah might seem risky. Perhaps in some cities and towns in the state it was, but Price, from the very beginning was abundantly diverse. For Thomas that diversity spilled into marriage. For in the mercantile, just a few steps away was 24 year old, Lorimine Christine Nielsen. A Mormon immigrant from Hryoing, Denmark. Though Thomas was twenty-one years her senior and a devout Catholic, he found a charm and similitude about her he couldn't deny.
John Dennis Fitzgerald described his mother's appearance, in Papa Married a Mormon as,
"Her long corn-colored hair hung in two thick waist-length braids. Her hazel eyes showed curiosity when she saw the stranger and her small mouth crinkled into a smile producing two dimples in her cheeks."
What Thomas and Lorimine (Minnie) may have lacked in age and religion, they made up for in life experience and civic dedication. Thomas was a first generation American. His parents emigrated from Ireland before the Irish Potato Famine. They settled in upstate Pennsylvania and as a family remained there for decades. Yet, Thomas was blessed with intense wanderlust and spent his early adult years roaming the West and Northern Countries. Lorimine (Minnie) on the other hand was the immigrant. Born in Hyroing, Denmark in 1871, she was the baby of ten children of Niels Christian Nielsen and Karoline (Caroline) Andersen. Most likely the Nielsens had been practicing Lutherans before she was born. However, they had joined the Mormon church, and were sending her older siblings one by one across the ocean to America to join the growing Mormon community in Utah. Eventually little Minnie arrived with her parents. Whether they walked the miles across America or took a train is unknown. Eventually the majority of the Niels Christian Nielsen family arrived and settled in Emery, Utah. I presume it was this rugged migrant spirit that formed the basis of the shared love of Thomas Fitzgerald of Pennsylvania and Minnie Nielsen of Denmark.
Their courtship was brief, lasting less than a year. In October 6, 1896 they eloped to Salt Lake City, Utah, to be married by a justice of the peace. Upon return to Price they set up home and housekeeping. Thomas returned to his cafe and saloon business. Minnie bore six children, Isabelle, William, Thomas, John, Charles and Gerald. Both Minnie and Thomas were socially and civically minded and did much to enhance and grow Price, Utah into the beautiful city it is today. They remained married until 1937, when Thomas passed away. Minnie would live only three years longer and join her beloved husband in death in August of 1940.
Their love story was the impetus for the 1955 publishing house bestseller, Papa Married a Mormon. Thomas did find his gold in his choice of wife.
#PriceUtah #Book #mining #history
Obituary Minnie Nielsen Fitzgerald, August 7,1940
Family Search: Niels Christian Nielsen and Karoline Nielsen, Sena Christina Nielsen
Handwritten biography by Belle Fitzgerald