Transcript for Elizabeth Whittear (Sermon) Camm reminiscence in Cache Valley historical material, circa 1955
Among one company that arrived were some very dear friends, which I did not expect to see; but which made my heart rejoice. They were Brother and Sister Binder; they have ever been good, kind friends to me and my heart is full of gratitude to them and many others. But I am not telling you about my journey; there are many incidents which I do not remember. We at last bought our cart, paid our emigration from Iowa to Salt Lake City, started with my husband, myself and childredn [children], John, age nine, Henry, seven; Robert, five, and Marian three. Seventy-five pounds of bedding and other clothing, three days’ provisions and one cart with tents and another with poles and bake kettle, my little girl and boy in the cart. My heart was happy and I rejoiced and sang the songs of Zion. My only hope and desire was to reach the Valley where my childredn could be raised in the true Gospel. There was a little I forgot to state, that was our cloth
eing had to be sold at auction on the camping grounds, as the wagon which was to have brought our luggage and the childredn and sick, was loaded down with merchandise. My bed, sixty pounds, was sold for four dollars, my sheets, boots, shoes and my clothing, but a basque were sold. I remember my old dress split every time I stooped. I had no stockings or shoes. Well, I kept up pretty well; work was hard, bed was hard, but still my shoulders were to the wheel and I think I pulled first fate [rate] for a beginner in shafts. They said, “Sister Sermon will get to Zion; she draws well.” I think it was my faith did it mostly, but it weakened some before my journey was completed, but not lost. Each day we increased in miles, and as I thought, journeyed like the Children of Israel, full of good feelings and song. When we got out on the prairie, they emptied a wagon of flour and put one hundred pounds on each cart, which we had to draw, and our children walked. We were very hungry, but did not dare touch only our allowances, one pound for each adult and one fourth for each child. I would make a scone cake, but we could eat it all in one meal. My husband’s health began to fail and his heart almost broken to see me pulling in shafts. Myself and childredn 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 no 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 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 seven years old, thirteen hundred miles with the exception of a few miles, which some farmers who lived between Iowa and Florence, Nebraska, would take up the children that had to walk and bring them along for a few miles, and some of them kindly gave them food to eat which I have no doubt was well received by the way in which it soon disappeared. I felt glad for my boy as I have no doubt most mothers would. 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. I was thinking the handcart system was not very pleasant, yet I thought it was the fault of the captain, but I had to learn that which I had not calculated on. Some days we made good time, some days a cart would break down or a child would be missing or a death or more than one would happen, but in a few weeks we had to witness many deaths, many sorrows. Our food was giving out, cold weather chilled the body, the result death. One fourth pound of flour for adults, two ounces for a child, starvation for us. We had to make porridge with our flour as the allotment was too small to bake bread. Many cruel and painful things happening, the dying and dear all around us, poor souls would sit down by the roadside and would never move again until carried into camp on handcarts by someone. It is a wonder any of us lived through it. My dear husband’s health still failing, a young woman by the name of Caroline Marchant assisted me with the cart. I believe she married a Bishop Herrick of Ogden. I have heard nothing of her since we stopped at the Devil’s Gate to cache the church merchandise. We stayed several days. Not far from here the captain called us together to tell us we must lay our bodies down. Were we willing to do so for the Gospel’s sake? Many poor half-starved men shouted with what remaining strength they had, ‘Aye”. But mothers could not say that and were quiet. We went back to our tents, food would have suited us then. My faith was in my Heavenly Father; I never lost that faith in Him. It is as sweet today to trust and my prayer is may I always trust Him. He is a friend that has never failed. My poor husband’s sufferings have always pained me and I never can forget them. Poor Rob’s feet began to freeze. I cannot remember the place; it was after wading a very deep river, 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 could 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 and Rob had to ride, Henry 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 Kinball [Kimball] who carried us over a river. 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 to 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 camp. Brother Joseph A. Young had come on packed mules with Brother Little. Brought flour, meat and onions. I got one pound of flour and some meat and two 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. Whenever I think of them my heart is filled with gratitude. We had seventy 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 quarter of pound 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 three o’clock. 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 Fort Bridger. Some friend tried to get it for me but did not succeed. Father was buried in the morning with two more in the grave. I stood like a s 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 into 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 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 too 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 the 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 raw hide 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 sould [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. Every day some portion was decaying until the poor boy’s feet were all gone. Then John’s began to freeze; then after a while my own. We kept meeting some teams from Salt Lake City now, which rendered all the assistance they could. I remember asking one of the drivers to 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 hungery.”
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 [David] Blair had been in the life guards in London, I believe, 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 two skirts left on my body, and as such I finished up 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 Sweet Water, but I was so troubled I forget all about the names of the 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 [d]eath, Brother Patton took us in his wagon, blessed me for my integrity and blessed us with tea and bread and so with what food that was so kindly sent out to us from the people in Salt Lake, our lives were spared. On a bright Sunday morning we were met in Emigration Canyon by hundreds of people in buggies and wagons and horseback to see us. We stopped near the tithing house, many had their friends to meet them and take them to their homes. Nobody came for me.