Regetta Maria Nielsen Thurston, Autobiographical sketch.
View this source online
When I landed at New York I had no clothes only what I stood up in and no money. My baggage went with the other company's baggage and I could go no farther. I was placed in a hard position. In a strange land among strangers, no money, no clothes, and could not speak the language. At six o'clock that evening the company was to leave for Florence, Neb. by rail. I asked H. P. Lund for help to go with the saints and he answered me that I did not belong to that Company so could do nothing for me. The Company went on and I was left alone in Castle Garden not knowing where to go or lay my head that night. While standing there an Apostate came up and asked me to go home with him and keep house for his wife until the other ship came in. I accepted the offer. Every day after my work was done I would walk down to Castle Garden to see if the rest of the Company had arrived. Five days passed before they arrived. When they came the first one I met was my lover. I need not say how happy we were when we met or how we acted. But will leave that to your imagination. I lived in hopes that he could help me to Florence as I knew he had money. But unfortunately for me he had given all he had to a poor man and his family just 1/2 hour before. So I asked the President for help and he said he had no help for me. I was left once more to go back to that place where I had stayed until I could go farther.
I stayed there 2 weeks longer and will say it was the hardest 3 weeks I have ever spent in my whole life. My virtue was sought in every way by that rascal. But the Lord kept me from temptation and harm. There was a Dutch emigrant that had concluded to stay in New York with his daughter who was living there. So I got his ticket to come on to Omaha with the man and his wife I was working for and stayed with them until I could get away. As a last resort to accomplish his vile purpose he got his wife to go see some of her friends. She finally consented to go. When we were alone he wanted to buy some wine. I did not know what to say so I thought a minute and said yes. As he went out the front hall to buy some wine I went the back way out into the pouring rain and ran as hard as I could. I finally came to a blacksmith shop where I in-quired my way and how far it was to Florence. They told me to keep right on the way I was going for a few miles and I would get there all right. I went on a short distance when I caught up with two men with covered wagons and ox teams. They offered me a ride and asked me where I was going. I told them in my broken language, my circumstances and where I wanted to go. They told me they were there to meet the emigrants and help them to Utah. I got up into the wagon but had not gone far when I looked out and saw a man coming on foot as hard as he could run calling to the bretheren to stop. I knew him and asked the brethren to help me and not let them take me back again. They assured me they would and for me not to be afraid. They had quite a time with the man but succeeded in keeping me out of his clutches and I came on in safety. I reached Florence and went to Elder Wm. Cluff of Provo, who I knew would see to my welfare. He was at the church store. He sent me to live with a family named Thompson one of his acquaintenances until the church teams was to leave. After staying there two days I was walking along the street when a man spoke to me (as he could see I was an emigrant) and asked me to go with him and his wife across the plains to take care of her as she was in a delicate condition and told me to speak to Elder Cluff about it which I did. Elder Cluff said it would be alright so gave me a feather bed, bolster, and a pair of blankets. I went with Cederstrom and wife leaving Florence July 25, 1863 for our long journey to Utah. Arrived at Salt Lake City September 25, 1863.
After we had traveled about one week Cederstrom put me to driving the oxen. He had two yoke of oxen and one yoke of cows. I had nothing on my head, a low neck dress with short sleeves, and my shoes were almost gone to walk across the plains in the hot sun. He was a lazy man but good hearted and good enough to have me drive for three weeks, through streams and all kinds of roads, and gather fuel as I drove along to cook our meals, until Captain Peter Nebeker told him that if he did not get out of his wagon and drive his own team he would expell him from the company. For he would not have his Company dis-graced by having him sit in his wagon and have a young girl drive his team. So Cederstrom drove his own team but I had to gather fuel (buffalo chips) and get the water just the same. The only communications we had of other companies that were ahead of us was on buffalo skulls on which they had written and left by the roadside. We read on one of a stampede of the cattle dated July 28, 1863 where 9 were killed and 13 wounded. A few days later we came across a woman and 4 or 5 children whose husband had died after having been wounded in the stampede and was unable to go on. She had buried him alone by the roadside and was waiting for the next company to come along. She was a Danish lady and told me of some that were in the company that I knew. I described my lover and asked if he was there. She told me one young man got killed that answered his description. From then I was almost beside myself with grief believing him dead. I had my duties to attend to so next day as I had been gather fuel, I had my lap full of chips and went up to the back of the wagon to put them in and fell unconscious on the ground. The wagons drove on and left me lying there. How long I lay there I do not know. Nor I knew nothing for three days. When I became conscious again I found myself in another man's wagon. He was Brother Elias Edwards from Goshen, Utah. I was so weak I stayed in his wagon for a few days. He did all that he could for me and gave me the best he had to eat and nursed me back to health again. From that time on he payed me marked attention and helped me every way he could. When I was able to walk again I went back to Cederstrom's wagon again and stayed with them until we reached Salt Lake city. During our journey my clothes were all in rags, my feet were blistered to the ankles, my hair had fallen out from the effects of walking all the way bareheaded in the sun and my sickness. I took my bolster and emptied the feathers out and made me a dress sack out of the ticking. This with what remained of my dress constituted my wearing apparel or costume. We were now nearing Salt Lake City and I was feeling bad because I looked so bad that I prayed to the Lord to open the way for me to get something to wear. I knew not how it would come but I trusted in the Lord and had full confidence in him and knew it would be given me. When we arrived at Ft. Bridger, where the Johnson army had been some time previous, I went out by myself at noon in the sagebrush where no one could see me. I stopped and right in front of me lay a five dollar green back. I picked it up, it was folded together 8 times. I know the Lord led me to that place in answer to my prayer. With it I bought me a dress and a pair of slippers of a girl my size that fit me very nicely. I was now prepared to enter Salt Lake City. I cannot describe my gratitude and thanks at that time to my Heavenly Father for his kindness to me. On the evening before reaching Salt Lake City, Brother Elias Edwards asked me to be his wife. Thinking my lover dead I consented the next evening, as I wanted a little time to think about it. That morning the Elder that separated me from my lover at Liverpool and would give me no help in New York, came to me and still insisted that I should go here with him and be his wife. I answered him flatly No. For after his cruel treatment to me, and also telling me my lover was dead, I could not marry him under no consideration. My second choice then wanted me to go with him to his home in Goshen, Utah. I told him all my circumstances, that I had had more than one offer of marriage and I did not care for any of them. My heart was still with my first lover and as yet I did not love any one else, but as he had been so kind to me and I had promised him to be his wife, I would go home with him on those conditions. I went and we were married September 28, 1863.