Transcript for Peck, Lisa J., "Jennette Eveline Evans McKay," pp. 16-19
Papa worried that this type of [handcart] travel would be too much for Mama, but she bravely reassured him the Lord would see her family through. We were on the Lord’s mission, and He would provide a way for us to accomplish the task that lay before us.
Nevertheless Papa decided to travel by wagon. He wanted the protection the canvas could provide. He was also determined to leave in the early spring as an added measure to guard against the forewarned diseases. It took my family three years to get everything together in order for us to leave. The new language, different land, and new customs were all very overwhelming at first. Mama talked constantly about how much better it would be when we reached Zion, and we believed her. When at last our family had the provisions and equipment we needed, we set off with “a good team of horses to pull the wagon, a cow tied behind to furnish milk.”
My family set off from Florence, Iowa in the private company of Captain Philip H. Buzzard, whose name did not inspire confidence. We sought a place to live and work a long with the honest in heart. We left in the early spring of 1859. We traveled, mostly walking through the heat, dust, blisters, aches, and fatigue. The physical excursion proved exhausting. I thought we were struggling and hungry, but little did I know. The Saints who had traveled on the ship with us, around six hundred of them, would not wait to go to Deseret, and had left us behind. We heard reports back that 145 of those people died on that trek, including my dear friend, Elizabeth, from the ship. This news haunted me for years.
During the days on our trip when I was overcome with heat, I would remind myself of our friends and days like October 14, 1856, when the skies opened up, sending snowflakes down on the travelers. The temperature had dropped, and bitter cold seeped into their bones and joints, making their very souls turn into brittle icebergs.
To add to their misery, news came that the much longed for rescue wagons would not reach them for yet another eight to ten days. That meant they had to go another hundred miles before they received food. Supplies had shrunk down to mere scraps of food and starvation was so severe it drove some to boil their shoes and eat them. Others could not keep themselves from gnawing the flesh on the joints of their fingers.
Dreams of food plagues me at night as I slept on the cold, rocky ground. As time passed, thoughts also came when I was awake. As I walked beside the wagon, straining to cross deep ravines, my mind pondered the next time I would be able to sink my teeth into a fresh biscuit or a sweet dessert or maybe an apple, orange, or peach.
When the hunger seemed too much, I focused my attention on a blade of grass or a shimmering leaf in a tree or some other beauty in nature, and then found my energy restored enough to go on.
I played with friends I had made. My eyes now have a tear as I think of their beautiful, happy faces and the games we used to share. We spent much time together laughing, and as we grew hungrier and tired, we talked about what our favorite meal was and what we would eat first if we had a feast laid out before us.
We also passed time by discussing the possibility of a transcontinental railroad across the country. The men often engaged in conversation about where the railroad should go. Sometimes we joined them in finding our favorite spots, other times arguing with whoever joined in the discussion as to why a particular location was not good.
We could feel God’s active influence in our lives as he put his arm around us. I knew that our hardships were a small price to pay to show our alliance to him, the Almighty. It was a privilege to be involved in such a noble cause.
It took my family three years after leaving Wales before we rolled into Great Salt Lake Basin. When we did, it was worth all the misery and hardships we had gone through. Little did we know what miracles and trials laid before us.
Whatever was in store, I looked forward to being out of the wagon, off the trail, and eating good vegetables like lettuce, carrots, broccoli, and fruits like apples, pears, and plums. I dreamed of taking a warm bath. I anticipated living in a cabin, which I prayed would be built quickly. Anxiousness filled me, as I wondered what we would encounter. I feared the Indians after hearing many a horror story from the boys on the trail. I hoped that rather than find these stories true, they would prove to be stories the boys told to scare. In my new home, I pictured picnics by the streams, dances at the churches, and many fashionable dresses for me to wear.