Isaac Sorensen and the Sorensen Family: Rhoda Kay Sorensen
Rhoda Kay Sorensen was the second child and second daughter of Thomas Kay and Sarah Riley Kay; both parents had lived in north central England. Thomas and Sarah Kay were the parents of eleven children. At the age of five, Rhoda Kay Sorensen started school in a girls’ private school and stayed there until age thirteen. She was taught reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, grammar, geography, music, sewing, knitting, and all kinds of fancy work including tatting, crocheting, and embroidering. She also had private piano lessons.
At fourteen, Rhoda was an apprentice for six months in a dressmaking establishment, and three months shirt hand, sleeve and bodice hand, and a trimmer. At the end of a year, she earned three shillings (or seventy-five cents) a week. Rhoda had a very long walk to and from work, and one day she heard her father say it wasn’t worth her shoe leather at those wages, so she began carrying her shoes and walking barefoot. According to her family, she had a natural gift for design and style and wanted to learn more, however, at that small wage she didn’t stay long, but at the age of eighteen she went back as forewoman at a salary of thirty shillings a week, which was considered good wages at that time.
After three years, she went to a business house in Harrogate (1892). While working there, she was sent to London once or twice a year to get the latest styles, and then she would have to draft the patterns and supervise having them made up.
While at Harrogate, Rhoda met her friend, Hannah Acomb (Aunt Nancy Larsen). Rhoda Kay Sorensen had a very successful career. Later on, the Walkingtons’ business burned down, and Rhoda had to live in their dwelling house. Aunt Nancy was living at the same house helping to take care of the children and keep the house in order. Rhoda and Aunt Nancy quickly became friends, and that friendship lasted throughout their lives and continued in the lives of their children.
According to Rhoda’s family, one day she heard her daughters talking about a bizarre new religion which was preached in their area. Out of curiosity, Rhoda decided that she would go to one of the religion’s cottage meetings. She mentioned these meetings to her aunt Nancy and found that she already knew who the Mormons were and what they were about. In time, they attended the Mormon meetings and were very interested. Rhoda told the Sorensen family about her decision to join the LDS Church. Her decision to join the Mormon faith was full of contemplation and prayer before she gained a testimony and understood Mormon teachings.
On February 11, 1893, Elder Joseph Salisbury baptized Rhoda and confirmed her as a member of the Mormon church the following day. She received much disapproval from her parents (who were both Methodists). Rhoda’s parents did not understand why she would join the Mormon religion.
In time, Rhoda Sorensen began her journey to Utah. She sailed from Glasgam, Scotland, on the steamship Furnisia on April 30, 1896. According to the Sorensen family, Rhoda watched the shoreline as long as she could see, then fainted away, falling against some hot object on the deck. When she opened her eyes, a young Mormon elder was standing by her. The Mormon elder was her soon-to-be husband who was returning from a mission to Denmark. She did not see him again on the crossing because she had been transferred to the sick cabin, and he was traveling second class. She saw him once more when he changed cars at Ogden and not again until the following August.
In Glasgam, Scotland, she had met Brother and Sister Jenkins and their daughter, Lena, also a Sister Moor. Brother Jenkins had filled a mission in Wales and Scotland, and his wife and daughter had made a visit and were returning home with him. Sister Moor had been on a visit to her parents in Denmark. They were all great company to Rhoda, who was very ill for most of the crossing. They arrived in New York on May 11th, spent one day in New York City exploring, and then took another boat to Norfolk, West Virginia. From there they took a train for St. Lewis, Missouri. They spent part of a day exploring, then left by train for Salt Lake City, Utah, arriving there on May 18th.
At that time, Aunt Nancy and her parents had joined the LDS church and come to Utah and settled in Granger. They had invited Rhoda to make her home with them until she was settled. While living with the Acombs, she formed relationships which lasted throughout her life. Their relatives in Salt Lake City, Utah, received her as a daughter. These people were Uncle John and Aunt Lucy Acomb, Auntie Elizabeth Buttle, Aunt Liz and Uncle Will Martin, and the Snaars. Rhoda Sorensen made sporadic visits to them, and when they came to visit Aunt Nancy, Rhoda and her family were included. Rhoda always referred to Aunt Nancy’s parents as Dad and Mother Acomb.
Aunt Nancy had a brother named Jack. He and Rhoda Sorensen had planned to get married until an accident occurred where he was killed. He was bringing in the cows from the pasture one evening when his horse stepped in a gopher hole and threw him off and caused a head injury. When it grew late and he didn’t return, they started searching for him. While Rhoda was living in Granger, she came to Cache Valley, Utah, on the train to visit Brother and Sister Joseph Salisbury in Wellsville, Utah. At that time, the tracks turned east at Mendon, Utah, and went to Logan, Utah. The train station was far east of Mendon. Brother M. D. Bird went down to pick up the mail to take to Wellsville and he offered Rhoda a ride to the Salisbury’s.
Brother Jenkins persuaded Rhoda to come to Logan, Utah, and open a business, which she did in October 1896. She rented a room in the second story of one of the business houses on First North in the First Ward. She had a very good dressmaking business and had quite a few young ladies as interns. She made good friends with many of the elite of Logan. All the ladies who could afford it were eager to have a designer make their dresses. Many of these people were friends throughout her life.
Rhoda was married on February 16, 1898. Her husband worked for the Sydney Steven’s Implement Company. Grandfather Sorensen was called on a Mormon work mission to build Logan Mormon Temple, so in August of that year, they had to come to Mendon to live. Rhoda and her husband had six children, three girls and three boys, two of whom died: Hilda at four years old and Isaac shortly after birth. Their new home had three rooms, and to help make ends meet, they rented out the large front room. Aunt Nan and Uncle Bert Whitney started their married lives there. Their first child, Glen, was born there. Aunt Nancy and Uncle Pete also started their lives together in that room.
Rhoda held many positions in the church ward. She enjoyed working with Sadie Baker in the M.I.A. and with Uncle Peter Larsen in religion class and genealogy. She enjoyed the Relief Society Visiting Teacher Program and was magazine representative for over twenty years. She was the first one called by her church to direct the Cradle Roll, the forerunner of Junior Sunday School. She did a great deal of temple work. She helped to lay out scores of dead women in the days before undertakers did it. She was interested to help with civic duties during World War I.
Her husband died in November 1938, and Rhoda Kay Sorensen was left alone. Rhoda took care of her husband through his last long illness. He was only in the hospital two or three days before he died. They both enjoyed many things together; each loved music and cultural activities. She had favorite songs which she loved to have her husband sing. “Asleep in the Deep” and “The Lost Chord” were two of them. Some of her favorite church hymns were “Nay Speak No Ill” and “Should You Feel Inclined to Censure.”
Born: May 29, 1870, at Rawcliffe, Yorkshire, England. Died: February 25, 1949, at Mendon, Utah.
Children of W. I. and Rhoda Kay Sorensen:
Alice Kay born November 23, 1898, died October 13, 1967.
Hilda Mary born April 14, 1901, died May 5, 1905.
Rhoda Louise born January 31, 1904, died January 31, 1985.
Isaac William born January 24, 1906, died January 24, 1906.
Thomas Kay born October 17, 1909, died December 12, 1994.
Frederick William born August 10, 1915, died July 26, 1986.