The Trek


Elizabeth Sermon

Journal Entry: Martin's Cove

"My husband's health began to fail and his heart almost broken to see me falling in shafts. Myself and children hungry, almost naked, footsore and himself nearly done for. Many trials came after this. My oldest boy had the mountain fever, we had to haul him in the cart, there was not room in the wagon. One day we started him out before the carts in the morning to walk with the aged and sick, but we had not gone far on our journey before we found him lying by the roadside, unable to go any farther. I picked him up and put him on my back and drew my cart as well, but could not manage far, so put him in the cart, which made three children and my luggage. My husband failing more each day, the Captain put a young man to help me for a short time. My other son Henry walked at 7 years old, 1300 miles with the exception of a few miles. . . .

"I will here state there was no time crossing the rivers to stop and take off clothing, but had to wade through and draw our carts at the same time with our clothes dripping wet, had to dry in the sun and dust as merrily on our way we go until we reach the valley, oh, like a herd of stock or something worse.

"My husband's sufferings have always pained me and I can never forget them. Poor Rob's (age 5) feet began to freeze. I cannot remember the place's; it was after wading a very deep river (Platte?) the freezing commenced. We had no wood but sagebrush. I went out and cut the sage to keep the fire all night. Covered them up with their feet to the fire and cut some more and kept the fire as well as I could. My clothes froze stiff. Well, we got through that night. Your father would not walk now. He would get into wagon after wagon, only to be turned out. The cattle were giving out and everyone had their friends, but the friend death, would soon end his sufferings. John (age 9) and Rob had to ride, Henry (age 7) walked, your father would take my arm and walk a little distance, fall on his knees with weakness. We moved from Devil's Gate. I believe it was brother David Kimball who carried us over a river (Sweetwater) and a great many more besides us. My poor husband blessed him for so doing.

"After our food had given out as I said before, we went into our tents to die. I always thought I could get through to Salt Lake City and I tried to encourage my husband, but he was starving. He had always lived good at home. There was a shout in the camp. Brother Joseph A. Young had come on packed mules with Brother Little. Brought flour, meat and onions. I got 1 pound of flour and some meat and 2 onions. I chopped the fat off the meat real fine and made some dumplings. We made a good meal and blessed Brother Little and Joseph from the bottom of our hearts. . . . We had 70 miles to get to the wagons that had been sent from Salt Lake City with food and clothing and some clothing had come for us.

"Your father after having some food and clothes, seemed to revive. He called you to him and told you to be good children and to do all you could for me, and then he said to me, 'God bless you, Eli,' that being the name he called me. 'You have saved my life this time.' I said, 'We must hold out now and get to the wagons,' but we had to go back to the 1/4 lb. of flour and he sank under it. I think he would not have died if he had got food, but he was spared the trial ahead. We went to bed about 3:00. He put his arm around me and said, 'I am done,' and breathed his last.

"I called Brother John Oley. We sewed him up in a quilt with his clothes on, except his boots, which I put on my feet and wore them into Salt Lake City. A coat I put on John to keep him warm, which afterward went to Ft. Bridger. Some friend tried to get it for me but he did not succeed. Father was buried in the morning with 2 more in the grave. I stood like a statue, bewildered, not a tear: the cold chills, even now as I write, creep over my body, for I feel I can still see the wolves waiting for their bodies as they would come down to camp before we left.

"Well, I went again to the cart as all that could had to walk to get to the wagons. Poor Rob had to ride from this time and sometimes John, Henry and Marian (age 3) were with me. When I got into camp I would clear the snow away with a tin plate, gather my wood, get my bed clothes from the wagon. . . . I was to weak to haul much . . . get my allowance of flour and carry the children to the fire, make their beds on the ground, the tent was frozen and ground so hard we could not set it up. I think it was two weeks we were without tents. We went to bed without supper in order to get a little better breakfast. I found it some help to toast the rawhide on the coals and chew it; it helped to keep the hunger away, for I was feeling it rather keenly now. I had to take a portion of poor Robert's feet off which pierced my very soul. I had to sever the leaders with a pair of scissors. Little did I think when I bought them in old England that they would be used for such a purpose. Everyday some portion was decaying until the poor boy's feet were all gone. Then John's began to freeze; then afterwards my own. We kept meeting teams from Salt Lake City now, which rendered all the assistance they could. I remember asking one of the drivers if he could give me a cob of corn to eat. He looked so pitiful and said, 'Oh, sister, I hate to refuse you but my horses haven't enough to eat now, and I do not know how we will get back to Salt Lake.' I said, 'I ought not to have asked you, but myself and children are so hungry.' He said, 'Keep up your faith sister.'

"A loaf of bread would have given me great faith and satisfied a hungry stomach as well, but the bread was not many miles off. We got it and it was the sweetest bread we ever ate. One instance occurred. Poor Brother Blair, a very tall thin man; he was starving and was eating a piece of griddle cake; another poor brother, not as hungry asked for a piece of it. He said, 'I cannot do it, I want it myself.' Poor fellow he died in the night and so one after another passed away. Fathers mothers, sisters, brothers and friends, many, many honest souls laid in mother earth. The brothers kept meeting us and some times we had a good cheery fire built for us when we got into camp. I was terribly put to for clothes to wrap my poor boy's legs in, his feet all gone. I got all I could from the camp, then I used my underclothing until I had but 2 skirts left upon my body, and as such I finished my journey for my wardrobe would not be replenished where I was.

"At last the old handcart was laid by without a regret; we got to the wagons, were taken in and some days we rode all day and got a little more food. A severe storm came up. I think it was on the Sweetwater, but I was so troubled I forget all about the names of places. My eldest boy John's feet decaying, my boys both of them losing their limbs, their father dead, my own feet very painful, I thought, 'Why can't I die?' my first thought of death. Brother Patton took us in his wagon, blessed me for my integrity and blessed us with tea and bread and so with what food was so kindly sent out to us from the people in Salt Lake, our lives were spared."

(Stewart E. Glazer, ed., Journal of the Trail [Salt Lake City, Utah: 1996], 76-80.)

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