Benson, Kersten Erickson, Kersten E. Benson biographical file, 1-3.
Recollections of Kersten Erickson Benson coming to Zion in 1857.
We were 11 days going from Philadelphia to Iowa City by Rail and while on this journey, I got seperated from the company and was left behind and lost, a young girl in a strange land—no friends and could not speak English or make my wants known.
I was telegraphed for and found by the description of the clothing I wore, and made to understand by the hands of a watch that I could go to my company by train at 6:30 that night.
At Iowa City we were organised as a hand cart Company under Captain C[hristian]. Christiansen. There were about 100 hand carts with 3 ox teams to help the sick and weak and carry some supplies and the tents. We were only allowed to take 15 pounds weight of clothing to each person—And our new clothing and even Bed clothes had to be left laying on the ground as we left our camping place—for no one would buy them from us[.] This was a very great trial to me, having brought good new clothing from Denmark to leave on the ground for Strangers to take.
We then Started for Florence Nebraska each hand cart had 6 persons, but I was assigned to a cart having only 4 persons, an old couple, a sickly girl, and myself—We were heavily loaded with provisions, and myself and the old gentleman were the pulling team. We travelled through a settled part of Iowa for 3 weeks, burying by the roadside some of the aged and young who died by exposure and hardship of the journey. We arrived at Florence in the latter part of June and laid over one week to rest.
This 3 weeks hardships had proved that my Father and Mother and Grandmother, who was 75 years old could not stand the journey, and it was decided that they stay behind in Omaha—I came to the conclusion that I could not leave my aged parents in a strange country and so made up my mind to stay with them. The Captain of the Company, C. Christensen, came to me and advised me to leave my parents and promised me if I would do so, God would bless me and them and preserve us—This was a very sore trial to me. But I put my trust in God and the promises of His Priesthood. and He has brought them to pass—
And on the 15 of June 1857 we started on the plains, a day I shall never forget—full of sorrow in parting from my parents—
About the fifth day out, I was so worn out pulling over the rough roads—up hills—and through the sand and discouraged because I did not believe that I could stand the journey, and I came to the conclusion that I might as well die there as suffer longer—and I was lonely for I had no relatives in the company.
So I purposely staid behind while the company were travelling and laid down in the grass expecting to die there—believing there was no one behind me and I would not be found. Soon after the Captain came along and found me and helped me along and promised me that when we came to a hill or sand, he would come and help me pull. And he kept his promise and helped me[.] Soon after this the old couple who were with my hand cart died and I was changed to another cart that had 6 pullers, and my task was easier than before.
It was now July and August and very hot on the plains—and my Shoes were worn out. And we had to get Raw Hide from the dead cattle along the road and make shoes for ourselves, so as to be able to pull and crossing the Creeks and Rivers would make the Raw Hide Soft and the hot Sun and Roads would make them hard and our feet were nearly all the time sore and bleeding.
I being alone, and having no bedcloths, had to sleep in an old Shawl in the tent and coming through the Mountains the nights were cold and freezing, and having to get up in My turn in the night to bake My bread I was very often too warm on one Side and Much too cold on the other Side.
When about 200 Miles from Salt Lake City we were overtaken by the US Army under General Johnstone [Johnston] going to Utah to war with our people but they treated us kindly—and the Army was a Blessing to our people in Utah.
About 2 weeks journey from Salt Lake City, the Relief teams came to our help, and oh how thankful I was to be allowed to walk and not have to pull the cart, for I was sick and worn out with the journey.
We arrived in Salt Lake City Sep 13, having been 5 months on the road and when I Saw how poor the people were in clothing for they were ragged I could not help remembering the good clothing we had left behind.