Transcript for Susan M. Witbeck autobiographical sketch, circa 1898, 5-7

While I had been working in Iowa City, preparations had gone ahead for the journey. The handcarts were ready and loaded with our supplies. They were rude two-wheeled carts, with a sort of box on an axel between the wheels. There could not have been a more difficult mode of travel. We would push and pull these carts across more than a thousand miles of trackless plains, barren desert, and towering mountains.

I knew when I left England that ours was to be an handcart company, but it was impossible for me to realize the hardships I had to meet. Misgivings or fear never entered my mind, for it was the only way I could get to Zion, and the journey had to be met with faith and courage.

We left the camp ground on the 22nd of May, and moved out about three miles, where I had a chill. The first week we traveled only from four to five miles a day on account of the rains. Our bedding was wet all the time.

Our company consisted of 150 persons, 69 males and 81 females.

When the weather was good, we traveled from fifteen to twenty and sometimes twenty-five miles a day. We arrived at Florence, a way station, on June 13th. Here we were detained until the 19th on account of rains.

Most often the evenings around the campfire were pleasant, and we were happy.

I remember that one night there was a terrible storm. Our tents blew over, and we sat in Brother Lyman Wood’s wagon. I never heard such thunder in my life, and the rain came down in torrents. There was a wedding in camp that night, a Brother [Elias] and Sister [Elizabeth Smith] Crane, who were not deterred by the storm.

At Florence, they cut down our baggage to fifteen pounds. That included everything but flour.

The first Sunday out we spent on the Elkhorn; the next, at Genoa, on the Loop [Loup] Fork. There the only baby was born to Brother [Heinrich] and Sister [Regina] Muller. It did not live long.

On the 4th of July we traveled sixteen miles before we came to water. We had camped the night before on the sand hills, without water for the stock, and only a little for the people.

On the morning of the 24th of July we were 95 miles below Ft. Laramie.

We stopped at Deer Creek September 11th. We crossed the Little Mountain, and arrived in Salt Lake at three o’clock p.m. September 12, 1857, where we were glad to lay down our handcarts, but sorry to part with our kind captain Israel Evans and his assistant Ben Ashby.

For days before we reached Salt Lake, relatives of some of our group had come out to meet them and take them to the homes of loved ones waiting for them. Our company was constantly getting smaller. As each happy load pulled on away from us, it began to slowly dawn on my mind that there would be no one to meet me, and no home to go to, when I reached my destination. The feeling of loneliness kept increasing, until the last night we camped, before reaching Salt Lake, I could control my feelings no longer, I wandered far away from the camp, threw myself upon the ground, and gave way to all my stored up heartache. It happened that the mules later strayed away, and Captain Evans, going in search of them, heard sobbing. Following the sound, he found me.

Taking me into his arms, he wanted to know the cause of my grief, for I had been cheerful and happy as we traveled along. I opened my heart to him with all its loneliness and fears. He comforted me, and told me I would be welcomed by all the saints, and that many homes would be opened to me, and maybe some proposals of marriage would be made too. He earnestly asked for and received my pledge that I would marry no one until I had been in the valley two years.

All he told me was true, for we are never without friends, when we are among the saints of God.

I slept the first night in Salt Lake at the home of William Clayton; and stopped a few days at the B. Wilton Egeton home. Then I went to Grantsville to live with Brother Martindale’s family. They were very considerate of me, and I stayed there all winter.