Transcript

Transcript for Goodwin, Betsy Smith, "Handcart Speech," Woman's Exponent, 1 Sept. 1888, 51

. . . we camped six weeks, waiting for the hand carts to be completed, and it was the first week in August ere we rolled out of Iowa to cross the dreary plains for our home with the Saints in Utah. My little brother [Alexander Joseph Smith] used to travel twenty and twenty-four miles in a day. We soon got used to travel, and while fair weather and full rations lasted we were all right. We traveled five weeks, never stopping for Sunday; then we were in the buffalo country; our cattle that hauled the provision wagons, and the cows were stampeded, and we camped there five days trying to find the cattle; most of them were never found; our captain then thought we had done wrong in not stopping to worship on Sunday. After that we kept the Sabbath day of rest for all.

Each cart had to its load of luggage one hundred pounds of flour, on account of our loss of cattle, now we were, in September, on half rations and cold weather. But we never forgot to sing, "Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear." With great zeal and fervor, many fell by the way, hoping to rise in the First Resurrection of the Just. God grant it! I will not dwell on the hardships we endured with hunger and cold, but I like to tell how many a storm raged to the right and to the left of us, and did not molest us. One circumstance I remember very clearly; my mother [Margery McEwan Smith] was taken very sick with cramp cholera, a very fatal trouble then; we all felt bad about mother. I remember thinking, "Others are dying, and mother may die, and what a dark world it will be without mother," and as I gathered the dry sage to make a fire, I was crying. Mother met me and asked, "What is the matter?" I told her how bad I felt. She said: "Do not feel like that, but pray for me; you and all the rest, and we will get through. I have just been asking God to spare our lives, so none of us will be left on the way; and no matter what trials we have when we get to the valley, I shall never murmur or complain." God heard us, and I can say she kept her word. We lived, and are living yet.

One more incident I will relate: One evening we camped near a marshy meadow, which abounded in springs and poison parsnips; every one was elated; we had something good to eat. Alexander Burt was among the first to find them; he came to our camp fire and commenced to unload. Mother said: "Brother Burt, what have you got?" They are parsnips, Sister Smith, a sort of white carrot; put on the pot and let us have a good mess." "I will do that," said mother, and we cooked and ate our fill of poison parsnips. I confess we felt like we had eaten rocks, so heavy they were, and not only us, but the whole camp ate of them. Our captain arrived late at camp that night, and when he found out what we had been eating, he groaned aloud, and cried, "Put them down, each one contains enough poison to kill an ox." We were glad we had eaten ours, for we would not have dared to eat any after that; he said it would be one of the providences of the Almighty if we were not all dead by morning. We did not realize the truth of his words until next morning one brother died; we supposed he had eaten of them after he knew better. Now we had one quarter of a pound of flour a day, with neither salt or soda; some could hardly wait to cook it. It was October, stormy and cold. Soon the flour was all gone. Then there were crackers for two days; then the blessed boys of Utah met us with provisions. They gathered our wood and made our camp fires, and let us ride in their wagons; they found time to do a little sparking, also, and many a noble son and daughter can say, "My mother was a hand-cart girl."

Three miles this side of Green River, as I was walking ahead of the the carts, leading my little brother, encouraging him along with a story of what we would get when we came to the valley; he said: "Oh, Betsy, I wish when we get to that creek we would meet Bob." "Well, come along, may be we will;" and when we got to the top of the bank, we looked down and saw a team with only one yoke of cattle on; we had never seen the like before, so we waited on the top until they would pass; and it was our brother; he stared at us, and when he halloed we knew his voice. He jumped off and brought Mary Jane and Euphemia in his arms; they had come up with the cart while little Alex and I waited on the bank. How we wept for joy. The cart was tied behind the wagon; little Alex climbed in the wagon, as happy as a king's son, instead of being a poor tired child. The next question was, "Where is mother and Mary?" "They are behind somewhere, you will find them by the road." Mother was still sick, and when she stopped to rest, she had to lie down, she could not sit up; some had died that way; they would go to sleep like a tired child and never wake up. Mary was afraid mother would, and tried to arouse her by telling her there was a team coming with only one yoke of cattle on. "Well, never mind; Mary, don't bother me." "Well, mother, the man is running this way; mother, it surely is Robert!" "Oh, no, Mary, that would be too good to be true." Well, she was soon convinced with tears and kisses; he helped her in the wagon; then she said, "I could not be more thankful to get into the kingdom of heaven than I am to get in this wagon."

Then explanations followed. He told how he had been sick with the mountain fever; how he had got our letter saying we were coming, and as soon as he could walk, he prepared to come and meet us; he got cattle from one, wagon and cover from another, provisions from others. So we proved, "God helps those who help themselves."

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