Mason, Jennie Edith Bell, “Elizabeth Panting and Jane Panting Bell, biographies.”
[Elizabeth Crook Panting]
In the month of May 1856 with the two children, [Christopher (5) and Jane (1)] she sailed for America with a company of Mormon emigrants. They were on the ocean six weeks, then it took them ten days to go to Iowa City.
After three weeks of preparation in securing oxen, beef, cattle, making tents and 250 handcarts, the Willie Company of 500 emigrants started on their perilous journey of 1300 miles, July 15. The country for 200 miles was beautiful, grass for the ox teams used for hauling their provisions and the beef cattle used for food. It was like traveling through meadows. This country was settled, so mild honey, game and fish were plentiful.
At Florence, Nebraska a stop was made for several days, mending carts, getting fresh supplies and making final preparations for one of the most remarkable journeys ever recorded in history.
Starting Aug. 17, on the morning of Aug. 29, they were suddenly confronted with a band of Indians who were on the war path. All during the summer, companies of men, women and children had been killed, one can imagine what a startling thing this was to these emigrants from far away England to be so suddenly confronted by a band of savages on the war path, however, they proved to be friendly to the Mormon emigrants.
The Company moved on unmolested for a short distance when again they were more than startled by coming to the place where the Babett [Babbitt] Company had been killed with one exception, a woman, who they took captive after beating out the brains of her child. These people had been killed for several days and their bodies left unburied.
After gathering up the remains of the murdered company and burying them, they moved on in silence, not knowing what their fate might be.
Just before daylight, Sept. 4, the red skins stole all the company's beef cattle. This was a great calmmity as provisions were getting short. Then several days later, they met the sole survivor of the Marget[t]s Company, who was on his way to England from Salt Lake. After killing Thomas Margetts and his child and traveling companions, they took his wife captive, another sad experience.
At a point three miles west of Florence, just at the break of day, they barely escaped being trampled to death by a stampeded herd of buffalo. By this time traveling over rough country the carts became rickety, some of the axels being worn into causing great delay and trouble. Sept. 12, North Bluff Creek was reached, 613 miles from Iowa City.
The rations was cut at this point to 15 oz of flour for men, 13 oz for woment and 9 oz for children.
This was caused by the loss of all beef cattle. In the evening of the same day, Apostle Franklin D. Richards with a company of returning missionaries from Europe drove into camp with a light traveling wagon.
After learning of the serious conditions these poor saints were in and speaking words of encouragement, singing songs of Zion to them, they left, determined to make Salt Lake as soon as possible to give the word to President Brigham Young.
Sept. 15, they met a large band of Araphoe Indians, who told them of the Sioux attacking a large emigrant company some distance ahead of them. Many were killed.
It was evident that the hand of the Lord was protecting them from the Indians.
Sept. 17, the first frost appeared. The following day, a Sister [Elizabeth] Cantwell was bitten by a rattle snake. She recovered. The same evening, Sister Steward [Stewart] was lost and recovered just in time to save her from a pack of hungry wolves.
The Company reached Fort Laramie Sept. 30, where the Richards Company secured what food they could for them, also buffalo robes. The following day, they met and camped with Parley P. Pratt who delivered a powerful sermon to them.
October 12, Captain Willie again cut the rations to 10 oz flour for men, 9 oz to women and 6 oz to children and 3 oz to infants. On the 14th another reduction was made and on the 19th, the last ounce of flour was given to the starving saints. The same evening the first snow came and by morning it was 18 inches deep on the level. They were at the three crossings of the Sweetwater. The Company was already eating boiled rawhide and wild berries gathered from the bushes.
It was on this day that my Grandmother went out to gather buffalo chips to make a fire, and a man appeared to her and said that he had heard that her company had been put on rations, and were short of food. She told him they were very short of food, and he told her to come with him, and they went a short distance to what seemed to be a cave. In this cave there was plenty of dried meat; he filled her apron with the meat and she was so happy to get it, she turned to go. And then, remembering she had not thanked him, she turned and he had disappeared, and the cave had also disappeared. She took her meat back to her Company, and the leaders told her the man must have been one of the Nephites.
The following morning, they came to the first of the three crossings of the Sweetwater, all of which must be crossed that day before they could go farther. Here they saw the river filled with slush and ice. The water was deep and the snow was 18 inches deep on the banks with a piercing wind blowing from the north. Without food, freezing, dying, sick, they stood on the banks of the three rivers, not knowing that help was coming, yet into the rushing streams of ice they went, some of them being helped by such men as Andrew Smith, who labored all day long, pulling the sick, the dying and weak saints through these streams, carrying some on his back till every fiber of this manly body quivered.
It was here in this hell bound region of devils Gat[e] Gulch and Rocky Region that the thundering tones of millen Atwood's voice rang out from those snow clad hills, “Hold on there, Andrew boy, hold on there, my boy. The Lord knows you have done enough.” It would take volumes to give in detail that many things that transferred amongst the saints in this terrible ordeal.
Referring again to the company of missionaries returning to Salt Lake from England with Apostle Franklin D. Richards at their head, traveling by team they arrived in Salt Lake City, Oct. 4, after filling missions to Europe for three years they knew the seriousness of the saints on the plains. Especially the Willie Company without food sufficient to take them to their journeys end, So report was made at once to President Young.
As conference commenced at 10:00 o'clock Monday morning, President Young said, “There are a number of our people on the plains who have started to come to Zion with hand carts and they need our help. We want 20 ox teams to go to their relief. It will be necessary to send two men with each team or wagon. I will furnish three teams loaded with provisions and send good men with them. Brother Heber C. Kimble will do the same. If there are any brethren present who have suitable outfits for such a journey they will please make it known at once, so we will know what to depend upon.” Conference was adjourned till the next morning so as to give all an opportunity to help prepare for this journey.
Such a spirit of brotherly love perhaps was never witnessed before. It seemed that every man, woman and child was alive to the situation.
While the men were gathering up supplies the women were equally busy preparing bedding, mending underwear, fixing stockings, even taking clothing from their own backs to send to the freezing, starving and dying saints on the plains of Wyoming.
That evening the 27 young men assembled with the authorities of the church for final instructions after which they were each given blessings that were wonderful. They then returned home for a good nights rest.
At 9 o'clock the next morning 16 wagons loaded with supplies with two mule teams to each wagon started for the rescue work. They traveled as far as possible each day, not stopping for dinner for they knew the stormy weather was near at hand.
Fort Bridger was reached on the 12th, three days later they arrived at Green River and still no word. They had expected to meet the Willie Company at Fort Bridger. The other companies were behind them. Fully realizing the conditions of 1500 emigrants without food or shelter and only 16 wagons loaded with supplies for them, they were very anxious to cross the divide between Green River and Wind River before winter set in on them. After traveling 25 or 40 miles further, winter set in on them in dead earnest. It snowed three days and nights with a howling wind from the north. The snow was so deep it was impossible for the strongest teams to pull their loads down hill.
On the night of Oct. 20, they pulled down into a small hollow for shelter, just as they were located for the night, Captain Willie and Joe B. Elder came into the camp with the terrible news of the saints freezing, starving and dying east of the Rocky Ridge. The boys soon hooked up the teams and were on their way again, traveling as far as possible that night, and at day break they were on their way again, traveling till they reached the Willie Company. That evening, before they had time to get out of their wagons they saw enough to bring tears to the eyes of everyone. The Company now numbering less than 500 had been caught in a place where there was no wood nor shelter from the terrible storm that had been raging. They had been without food for two days and nights and were freezing and starving to death. Camp wood was soon drawn from the near by hills with the mules.
Fires were built, food prepared and everyone made as comfortable as possible, but it was too late for some. As women wept for joy, men were melted to tears. Such a greeting was never witnessed before.
The following morning, George D. Grant took 9 teams and 17 men with most of the provisions to meet the Martin[,] Hodget[t] and Hunt Company, who were still further back.
William H Kimball with the rest of the relief company, startedfor Salt Lake City.
It was late in the day before they could make the start as so many were weak, others dying.
While crossing Rocky Ridge that day, many had their feet, hands and faces frozen.
A terrible blizzard blew all day, making it the most disastrous day in the whole journey. Fifteen persons died that day.
Oct 24, they reached South Pass where at the Allred Camp they had plenty of wood and flour. The following day, they met five teams from the valley. These teams continued on to meet other companies in the rear,
It was on that terrible day, crossing Rocky Ridge, that my Grandmother placed her two babies in the wagon with the sick and dying while she faced the terrible blizzard all day long, as there was room only for the sick and dying in the wagons. These two babies, Chris and Jane kept from freezing to death from the heat of the bodies of the sick and dead in the wagons.
November 2, they reached Fort Bridger where 50 teams met them, making it possible for all to ride from there to Salt Lake. Seven days later, on Nov. 9th, they arrived in Salt Lake, and in less than one hour after pulling up to the front of the tithing office, every one of them were tenderly cared for by waiting saints.
This scene could hardly be described as tears of joy came to all. Grandmother, with her two babies, Chris, five years old and Jane, one year old, were tenderly cared for and seemed especially cared for during the entire journey. This was according to a promise made by President Woodruff, that she and her two babies would arrive safely in Zion, before leaving England.