Selections from the Autobiography of Mary Goble Pay

I, Mary Goble, was born in Brighton, Sussex, England, June 2, 1843. My father was William Goble, son of William and Harriet Johnson Goble. My mother was the daughter of John and Sarah Penfold. My childhood days were spent the same as most children[’s]. When I was in my twelfth year, my parents joined the Latter-Day Saints. On November the 5th I was baptized. The following May we started for Utah. We left our home[1] May 19, 1856.

We came to London the first day,[2] the next day came to Liverpool,[3] and [then we] went on board the ship Horizon that evening.[4] It was a sailing vessel.[5] There were nearly nine hundred souls on board.[6]

We sailed on the 25th. The pilot ship came and tugged us out into the open sea. I well remember how we watched old England fade from sight. We sang, “Farewell, Our Native Land, Farewell.”[7]

“Farewell, My Native Land, Farewell”

In his autobiography written in 1912, John Southwell, a passenger on the Horizon, recalled:

The 22nd [of May 1856], the last morning we were to see our native shores, dawned upon us in all its grandeur. It was fair and fine, not a breeze to interrupt our successful boarding [of] the grand old ship as she lay all ready underway out in the open waters, ready to receive her precious cargo. I will give you an idea by the few lines that Elder Silas [Cyrus] H. Wheelock had hastily composed for the departing Saints to sing [up]on leaving our land. It is but a few lines and ran as follows:

Our gallant ship is underway to bear me out to sea.

And yonder floats the steamer gay that says she waits for me.

The seamen dip their ready oars as ebbing waves oft tell,

To bear me swiftly from the shore, my native land, farewell.

As the gay decorated steamer towed us to the Horizon, sound was heard above all other noise and din, “My Native Land, Farewell.”[1]

The hymn quoted by Southwell was actually written by W. W. Phelps and is titled “The Gallant Ship.” It was included in the 1835 hymnal published in Kirtland and appeared in subsequent hymnals through 1940. The hymn was also included in the 1851 edition of the Manchester Hymnal. It was written as a hymn for missionaries departing for their fields of labor. The third verse reads as follows:

I go to break the fowler’s snare,

To gather Israel home:

I go the name of Christ to bear

In lands and isles unknown.

And when my pilgrim feet shall tread

On land where darkness dwells,

Where light and truth have long since fled

My native land farewell.[2]

Saints gathered on the dock sang the hymn for Brigham Young and his companions as they set sail for their first mission to England in 1840. A revised version of the hymn was included in the script of the British Pageant, Truth Will Prevail, in which the lyrics were adapted to reflect the departure of emigrants rather than missionaries.

Mary recalled the hymn sung on the day of the Horizon’s departure as “Farewell, Our Native Land, Farewell.” There does not appear to be any hymn or poem with that exact title or refrain, but the December 1855 issue of the Millennial Star, printed and distributed just after Mary’s baptism, includes a poem entitled “Song of the Saint” by “C. W.” Its theme is the departure of emigrants headed to Zion and it begins with the phrase, “Farewell, my native land, farewell”:

Farewell, my native land, farewell,

Thou has no charms for me—

I go with Zion’s sons to dwell—

’Mongst noble men and free.


Across the mighty deep we roll,

With spirits bold and free:

Blow gently gale, fill every sail,

And speed us o’er the sea.

Adieu to priestcraft, pomp, and pride,

Oppression and distress;

I go the laws of God t’abide,

With those the Lord will bless.

No earthly tie or sympathy

Shall cause my heart to grieve;

I leave them all most joyfully,

With Saints of God to live.

What is the joy the world affords,

What are its happiest hours,

Compared with those consoling words,

“Eternal lives are yours?”

I’ll go to Zion’s peaceful vale,

And learn celestial love,

And there prepare with gods to dwell

In realms of bliss above.

Oh God! preserve us on the way,

Our lives and health defend;

Let angels guard us night and day,

Unto our journey’s end.[3]

Such poetry was popular with the early Saints. On 2 May 1856, two days before the Thornton sailed from Liverpool with members of the Willie company on board, a twenty-year-old girl in the company composed a poem entitled, “Farewell to Thee, England.” It was published in the Millennial Star on 25 June 1856 and includes this final stanza:

Yet why should the thought of this last adieu grieve me,

Oh cannot I part from my own native shore,

Yes, the voice of the Spirit is bidding me leave thee,

Farewell then forever, I’ll view thee no more.[4]

The author, Emily Hill, traveled with her sister and survived the ordeals of the Willie company, arriving in Salt Lake on 9 November 1856. Years later Emily penned the hymn “As Sisters in Zion.”[5]

Before the pilot tug left the Horizon on 25 May, Franklin D. Richards and others held a last meeting on deck, addressing the Saints and leaving a blessing. Years later, Josiah Rogerson wrote, “The clarion tenor of W. C. Dunbar and the sweet baritone of John Kay in the ‘O ye mountains high, Where the clear blue sky, Arches over the vales of the free’ is still ringing in the ears of every passenger [there] that day on the Horizon.[6]


[1] Southwell, 11.

[2] “Collection of Sacred Hymns, 1835, 64, The Joseph Smith Papers,

[3] C. W. “Song of the Saint,” Millennial Star 17, no. 50 (15 December 1855): 800.

[4] Emily Hill, “Farewell to Thee, England,” Millennial Star 18, no. 25 (21 June 1856): 400.

[5] Emily Hill Woodmansee, “As Sisters in Zion,” in Hymns (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 309.

[6] Josiah Rogerson, “Martin’s Handcart Company, 1856,” Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 13 October 1907.

While we were in the river, the crew mutinied and they were put ashore, and another crew came on board.[8] They were a good set of men.[9] When we were a few days out, a large shark followed the vessel. There was one of the saints who died; he was buried in the sea.[10] We never saw the shark any more.

After we got over our seasickness, we had a nice time. We would play games and sing songs of Zion. We held meetings, and the time passed happily.[11] When we were sailing through the banks of Newfoundland, we were in a dense fog for several days. The sailors were kept night and day ringing bells and blowing foghorns. One day I was on deck with my father, when I saw a mountain of ice in the sea close to the ship. I said, “Look, father, look.” He went as white as a ghost and said, “Oh, my girl.” At that moment the fog parted. The sun shone bright till the ship was out of danger, [t]hen the fog closed on us again.

Life aboard the Horizon

Mary and her family spent over five weeks aboard the Horizon. Elder Edward Martin, returning from a mission in England, was the leader of the company of Saints. Jesse Haven, returning from a mission in South Africa, was first counselor, and George P. Waugh, a British convert, was second counselor; John Jaques was historian.[1] Both the Thornton, which sailed from Liverpool on 4 May 1856 and arrived in New York on 14 June 1856, and the Horizon were hired by Franklin D. Richards to carry Latter-day Saint emigrants. Most of the passengers on these two ships were organized into one of the four companies that were caught in the early storms in Wyoming, with the majority of the Thornton passengers becoming part of the Willie company, and those of the Horizon joining the Hodgetts, Martin, or Hunt companies.

With 856 passengers plus the crew aboard the Horizon, space was tight: “The berths for two passengers are about six feet long by four feet four inches wide, lined up like horses’ mangers, two in height.”[2]

The Saints were organized into nine wards, each with presiding officers. Wards combined for Sunday services, but each ward held prayer meetings each morning and evening as well as fellowshipping meetings. Edward Martin wrote to Franklin D. Richards, saying, “I make it my business to visit every part of the ship six or seven times a day.”[3]

A bugle was sounded each morning at 5:00 a.m. (later changed to 6:00 a.m.) and each evening at 10:00 p.m. The passengers prepared their meals in the galley. John Jaques wrote, “Cooking for 800 hungry people at one galley is not a trifling affair, especially when each family or person has a private pot or dish.”[4]

Four couples were married during the voyage. Four children were born, including Nancy Horizon Wilson and William Horizon Paxman. John Jaques notes six deaths, including little Nancy Wilson and two other children who died in Boston Harbor before disembarking.[5]

After a few days at sea, Jaques reported that “the children make themselves happy, both above and below deck. Marbles, skipping ropes, and all the available paraphernalia of childhood’s games are called into request. The older boys amuse themselves by tugging at the ropes with the sailors. So merrily we live together.”[6]

The first day at sea was smooth and quiet. “But what a change the next day,” wrote Jaques. “Sea-sickness changed our countenances to a pitiful, pallid hue. . . . Such a worshipping of buckets and tins, and unmentionable pans, I shall not attempt to describe.”[7]

A few weeks after arriving again on terra firma, Jaques reported, “I think, altogether, that we, on the Horizon had as agreeable a voyage as most emigrants are favored with. We had an occasional rough breeze . . . and split a sail or two, but not a single storm did we experience.” Still, he concluded, “I like the beginning and end of a sea voyage better than another part of it.”[8]


[1] See Olsen, 219; Millennial Star 18, no. 34 (23 August 1856): 542.

[2] Bell, 79.

[3] Edward Martin to Franklin D. Richards, 29 May 1856, in Millennial Star 18, no. 26 (28 June 1856): 411.

[4] John Jaques to Franklin D. Richards, 29 May 1856, in Millennial Star 18, no. 26 (28 June 1856): 412.

[5] See Bell, 102.

[6] Millennial Star 18, no. 26: 413.

[7] Millennial Star 18, no. 26: 413.

[8] John Jaques to Orson Pratt, 22 July 1856, in Millennial Star 18, no. 35 (30 August 1856): 555.

We were on the sea six weeks when we landed at Boston.[12] We took the train[13] for Iowa City, where we had to get our outfit for the plains. It was the end of July.[14]

Train Travel

Ships, train passage, and outfitting were all handled by Church officials and the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company. Josiah Rogerson, later a member of the Martin company, recorded these details of the journey from Boston to Iowa City:

July 2, we took the cars from Boston to Albany, passing through Buffalo on the glorious Fourth of July.

We reached Cleveland, Ohio, on the 5th, passing Kirtland with its temple in the night.

Sunday evening, July 6, we arrived at Chicago, Ill., where we stayed all night.

Monday, July 7, we left Chicago early in the morning and arrived at Rock Island in the evening.

Tuesday, July 8, we crossed the Mississippi by a ferryboat and then took the cars from Davenport for Iowa City, reaching there the same evening.

Wednesday, July 9, we were employed in unloading and hauling our luggage to the camping ground on “Iowa hill,” three and one-half miles northwest of Iowa City, Ia., the outfitting point for that year’s Mormon emigration.[1]

Joseph Beecroft noted that the Saints “rode in luggage vans and our seats were our luggage which was in our way. We were uncomfortable in some things, but comfortable in mind. We were cramped with being confined, some slept in the carriages and some laid down on the ground.”[2] The emigrants sometimes slept in warehouses arranged by the Church. The night of 6 July they stayed in a warehouse in Chicago. Beecroft describes the scene: “The floor of the extensive warehouse was [so] covered with human beings that there was scarcely room to put your foot down without treading on someone.”[3]


[1] Rogerson, Salt Lake Tribune, 30 November 1913, 11.

[2] Beecroft, entry for 2 July 1856.

[3] Beecroft, entry for 7 July 1856.

On the first of August[15] we started to travel with our ox teams unbroke[n], and we did not know a thing about driving oxen.[16] My father had bought two yoke of oxen, one yoke of cows, a wagon, and [a] tent. He had a wife and six children. Their names were Mary, Edwin, Caroline, Harriet, James and Fanny.[17]

Life on the Trail

The initial phase of the trail covered 270 miles from Iowa City to Florence, Nebraska, which the company covered in twenty-eight days, an average of 9.6 miles per day.

Traveling across Iowa in August, the emigrants’ biggest challenge was the heat, with temperatures exceeding 100°F. Cooler temperatures in September were broken by a heat wave in early October: Jesse Haven recorded a thermometer reading of 112½°F on 3 October, well past the peak of summer heat. The effect of the heat was often compounded by deep sand, requiring additional exertion for both those in handcarts and those in wagons. “It pulled the very pluck out of one,” remembered John Jaques.[1] The heat was interrupted by fierce thunderstorms unlike anything these European Saints had ever seen. John Southwell of the Martin company remembered this experience: “[There was] one of the most horrible electric storms I ever saw, . . . accompanied by hail and rain. It proved a perfect deluge. . . . In the space of ten minutes the roads became almost impassable, and oh, what a scene to behold. . . . Our tents were rolled up in the wagons. After everyone was drenched and many were unable to move out of their tracks, the captain gave orders to pitch camp and set up the tents the best [we] could in the mud.”[2]

The company spent two days in Florence before setting out for Fort Laramie (not to be confused with present-day Laramie, which is 82 miles southwest of Fort Laramie), a distance of 522 miles. The company arrived after forty-one days of travel, an average of 12.7 miles per day. Nine days after arriving at Fort Laramie, the blizzard of 19 October struck, stopping the company for several days near the Last Crossing of the Platte.

The pioneer trail, particularly across Nebraska from Florence to the Last Crossing of the Platte, was heavily traveled, even well into October, and the company often met other travelers along the road. The Hunt Journal notes that on a single day, 2 October, “A company of mule teams, carrying soldiers, etc., bound for Fort Laramie, passed the brethren at 10 o’clock a.m. An hour later, they met a company of people with ox-teams, who were on their way back to the States from Utah and who gave an account of the poverty of the people there. At noon, the brethren met a company of soldiers and mule teams from Fort Laramie.” Franklin D. Richards and his companions, traveling by horse carriage from Florence to Salt Lake City, report passing not just the four principal emigrant companies, but the Smoot train, Porter Rockwell with several freight wagons, a freight wagon train delivering merchandise to Gilbert and Gerrish, and the Jacob Croft company with Saints “principally from Texas and the Cherokee lands.”[3] Parley P. Pratt and a group of missionaries were among those traveling east during those same months. Captain William F. Raynolds of the US Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, traveling with Jim Bridger, arrived at the North Platte near the last crossing of the Platte on 11 October 1856, eight days before the Hunt company arrived there. He compared the emigrant trail to “any turnpike in the east.” He reported that “we were seldom out of sight of some vehicle upon this great highway. . . . The Platt road is truly a national thoroughfare.”[4]

The members of the company were frequently concerned about Indians. On 5 September the company met “some Californians who reported that Almon W. Babbitt’s company had been attacked by Indians and that two men and a child had been killed; one woman (a Mrs. Wilson) was missing.”[5] Babbitt, former president of the Kirtland Stake and then secretary of the Territory of Utah, was in charge of four wagons carrying government property to Utah. The wagons were attacked by Cheyenne Indians while encamped at Buffalo Creek (20 miles west of Wood River) in Nebraska. Babbitt was not with the wagons during the attack, but later he and two others were attacked and killed by Indians east of Fort Laramie. Thomas Margetts and James Cowdy, along with their wives and a child, were killed by Indians on 6 September.[6]

Samuel Openshaw wrote, “The Indians are very hostile about here. They have attacked some of the immigrants who have passed through this season, and rumor says that some have been murdered.”[7] The killings were done by a small band of Cheyenne Indians in retaliation for the killing of some Cheyennes by US Army troops.

The daily schedule was marked by the sound of a bugle: 5:00 a.m., call to arise and have breakfast; 6:00 a.m., public prayers; 7:00 a.m., break camp. The bugle was sounded for lunch, again to signal the end of lunch, then later to signal a halt for the evening. At 8:00 p.m. the bugle sounded for public prayers, and at 10:00 p.m. it called to put out fires and retire. Years later John Southwell recalled, “Oh, that bugle, that awful bugle. How disgusting it was to the poor, weary souls who needed rest.”[8]

There was the occasional birth along the way. In the Hunt company, Jane Walters was born 6 September, little Edith Goble was born on 24 September, and Ruth Jones was born on 6 October. But the travail of giving birth under such circumstances robbed the events of much of their natural joy: Jane’s mother was trampled in a cattle stampede on 7 October; little Jane died on 5 November; Edith Goble lived less than seven weeks and died on 3 November; Edith’s mother died on 11 December. Of the three babies born on the trek, two died on the trail, along with their mothers.

Death was a part of trail life, even before the storms of late October. On 4 October, sixty-four-year-old Susannah Bruner (or Bryner) died about 1:30 in the morning. She was buried at 8:00 a.m., and the company was underway by 8:30. Then just before midnight of the 4th, ten-week-old Marinda Nancy Pay, daughter of Richard and Sarah Pay, died. On 6 October, John Turner, age forty-two, died. The next day Esther Walters died. On 9 October, John Joseph Wiseman, age five, died “from bodily weakness.”[9]

Despite many difficulties and challenges, there were some pleasant occasions along the Iowa and Nebraska trail. Often, encounters with local settlers were contentious, but John Southwell recalled that on one occasion, “the singing of the young ladies at [the] evening service drew the attention of the kinder disposed people, and in the morning they brought butter and milk into camp and expressed themselves as being pleased with the way we conducted ourselves traveling through the country. At their request, on breaking up camp we sang the handcart song, which pleased them. They bid us success on our journey.”[10]

For these British Saints, many from the crowded and dirty cities of industrial England, the wide-open prairies and fresh air of Iowa and Nebraska were a marvel: “We . . . traveled through a beautiful country where we could stand and gaze upon the prairies as far as the eye could carry, even without being able to see a house. [I] thought [about] how many thousands of people [there are] in England who have scarce room to breathe and not enough to eat. Yet all this good land [is] lying dormant, except for the prairie grass, to grow and decay, which if men would spread themselves and obey the commandment of God to replenish the earth, instead of thronging together in cities and towns and causing the air to be tainted with stinks and giving rise to disease, what a blessing it would be.”[11]


[1] Jaques, Salt Lake Daily Herald, 19 January 1879; see also Olsen, 278.

[2] Southwell, 11; see also Olsen, 278.

[3] Franklin D. Richards and Daniel Spencer, “Journey from Florence to G. S. L. City,” Deseret News, 22 October 1856.

[4] Captain William F. Raynolds, Report on the Exploration of the Yellowstone River (Washington, DC: United States Army Corps of Engineers, 1868), 70–72.

[5] Hunt Journal, 5 September 1856.

[6] See Richards and Spencer, “Journey from Florence to G. S. L. City,” Deseret News, 22 October 1856.

[7] Samuel Openshaw diary, CHL, MS 1515, 7, entry for 13 September 1856; see also Olsen, 296.

[8] Southwell, 23.

[9] Hunt Journal, 9 October 1956.

[10] Southwell, 21.

[11] Openshaw, 9.

My sister Fanny broke out with the measles on the ship,[18] and when we were in Iowa Campground,[19] there came up a thunder storm. It blew down our shelter made with hand carts and some quilts. The storm came and we were there in the rain, thunder and lightning.[20] Fanny got wet and died the 19th of July 1856. She would have been two years old on the 23rd of July. The day before we started on our journey, we visited her grave.[21] We felt awful to leave our little sister there.

We traveled through the States until we got to Council Bluffs.[22] I think that was the name. It is in Wyoming.[23] Then we started on our journey of one thousand miles over the plains. It was about the first of September.[24] We traveled from 15 to 25 miles a day. We used to stop one day in the week to wash, and [we] rested on Sunday to hold our meetings. Every morning and night we were called to prayers by the bugle.[25]

The Indians were very hostile as they were on the warpath, so our Captain J[ohn] Hunt[26] had us make a dark camp. That was to stop and get our supper, then travel a few miles and not light any fires but camp and go to bed. The men had to travel all day and guard every other night.[27]

One night the cattle were in the corral made with the wagons, when one of the guards saw something crawling along the ground. All in a moment the cattle started. It was a noise like thunder. [The guard] shot off his gun when the animal jumped up and ran. It was an Indian with a buffalo robe; he dropped it. Mother and us children were sitting in the tent. Father was on guard. I tell you, we thought our time had come. But Father came running to tell us not to be scared for everything was all right.

We traveled on till we got to the last crossing of the Platte River.[28] That was the last walk I ever walked with my mother. We caught up with the handcart companies that day. We watched them cross the river.[29] There were great lumps of ice floating down the river. It was bitter cold. The next morning there were fourteen dead in camp through the cold.[30] We went back to camp and went to prayers. They sang, “Come, Come, Ye Saints, No Toil Nor Labor Fear.” I wondered what made my mother cry. That night my mother took sick. The next morning my little sister was born. It was the 23rd of September. We named her Edith. She lived six weeks and died for want of nourishment and was buried at the last crossing of the Sweetwater.[31]

Edith Goble


Mary Penfold Goble was approximately four months pregnant when she and her family boarded the Horizon in May 1856; by the time the Hunt company left Iowa City, she was six months pregnant. She gave birth to little Edith on 24 September in Nebraska. Edith died forty-one days later on 3 November at 9:00 p.m. while the company was camped on Greasewood Creek.

Edith was twenty-five days old when the blizzard hit the company on 19 October. From that day until Edith’s death, the weather was unrelenting: “October 20: This morning the ground was covered with snow. . . . It commenced snowing again at 3 p.m. October 21: The snow was about 8 inches deep. October 23: The weather was very cold and frosty. . . . The camp was still detained because of snow. By this time several of the cattle had died. October 24: A very cold northwest wind was blowing, and the snow was quite deep. October 25: The snow drifted by the effect of a cold and strong wind. October 28: The weather continued cold.”[1]

The company resumed travel on 29 October; fresh snow fell on 1 November, and on 2 November the snow was “6 or 7 inches deep, and the weather was very cold.”[2] The next evening little Edith died. Presumably she was buried either that night or the next morning; the company did not leave camp until 3:00 p.m. the next day.

Regarding Edith’s death, Mary (Goble Pay) later wrote, “When my little sister died at Sweet Water [Greasewood Creek], Bro. [Richard] Pay helped my father when she was buried by the roadside. I felt like I couldn’t leave her, for I had seen so many graves opened by the wolves. The rest of the company had got quite away when my father came back for me. I told him I could not leave her to be eaten by the wolves, it seem[ed] too terrible. But he talked to me and we hurried on.”[3] Mary may have called the camp where Edith died “Sweet Water” because Greasewood Creek was the only source of good water along a twenty-five-mile stretch of road between the North Platte River and the Sweetwater River.

Three of Mary’s granddaughters—Evelyn Henrikson, Dorene Lloyd, and Joanne Baird—related the following regarding the death of Mary’s sister, Edith:

Our dad [Mary’s youngest child, Phillip LeRoy Pay] told us that when the company moved on, William noticed that Grandma wasn’t with them. He found her sitting on Edith’s grave crying. She told her father that she couldn’t leave her baby sister there to be dug up and eaten by wolves like she had seen before. Her father told her that Edith was now in Heaven and she was ok. Grandma knew all that but still could not leave the grave. So he helped Grandma gather rocks and sagebrush to cover the grave. Then they built a fire on top of the rocks so that wolves couldn’t smell the body and the baby would be safe. Only then could she force herself to travel on.[4]

The concern about wolves was genuine. Elizabeth White Stewart recorded, “Another sad event, one night a father and little son went out for wood to make a fire. They never returned. One leg was found in the father’s boot. Wolves had eaten them.”[5] Jonathan Stone of the Martin company was also apparently attacked and killed by wolves near the last crossing of the Platte.


[1] Hunt Journal, 28 October 1856.

[2] Hunt Journal, 2 November 1856.

[3] Holograph, 7.

[4] Evelyn Henrikson, Dorene Lloyd, and Joanne Baird, “Richard Pay and Mary Goble,” 11 November 2018, unpublished document in possession of the author.

[5] Stewart,

My mother never got well. She lingered till the 11th of December, the day we arrived in Salt Lake City, 1856. She died between the Little and Big Mountains. She was buried in Salt Lake City Cemetery. Her age was 43 years. She and her babe lost their [lives] gathering to Zion in such a late season of the year.[32]

Lost in Snow

The Larsen manuscript and the Pay and Bowers transcripts include information, not included in the holograph, that describes the incident when Mary was lost in the snow and her feet became frozen.

This incident probably took place on 2 November. On 1 November it began to snow again and “the road led through poisonous creeks of water.”[1] The company camped that night at a location with no water. The next day, Sunday, 2 November, the company traveled just four miles and camped near Willow Springs, “where the snow was 6 or 7 inches deep, and the weather was very cold.”[2] Mary may have walked toward Willow Springs in search of fresh water on the evening of 2 November.

Patience Loader of the Martin company explains the desire for fresh water in her account describing her arrival at Willow Springs: “We traveled on and got into camp. There were five or six brethren [from the rescue company] with their wagons camped there. They had been and got quantities of wood and they had already made a dozen big fires for us and there was plenty of lovely water. That was a great treat to us for we had had nothing but snow water and that did not taste good as we had to melt it over the campfire. It tasted of sagebrush, and sometimes of cedar wood smoke.”[3] If this incident took place on 2 November, as supposed, little Edith died the following day.


[1] Hunt Journal, 1 November 1856.

[2] Hunt Journal, 2 November 1856.

[3] Petrit, 79.

Last Crossing of the Platte

Travelers bound for Oregon, California, or Utah all traveled essentially the same route from Nebraska to central Wyoming. The route followed the Platte River to the confluence with the North Platte, then followed the south bank of the North Platte to present-day Casper, Wyoming. At Casper, the trail crossed the North Platte and continued through Wyoming to South Pass.

The river crossing near Casper is often referred to as the last crossing of the Platte. The water could be “swift, deep and shockingly cold,”[1] making the crossing treacherous. When the vanguard pioneer company arrived at the crossing in 1847, Brigham Young had a ferry constructed, and the Church continued to operate the ferry each season until John Baptiste Richards succeeded in building a bridge in late 1852.

Richards’s toll bridge was downriver (north) about a mile from the ferry crossing. It was generally known as Reshaw’s Bridge, derived from Richards’s French pronunciation of his name. Near the bridge was a cluster of buildings that included a trading post, several small houses, and a military post referred to in the Hunt Journal as “Ft. Bridge.” The military post was officially Camp Davis, named after secretary of war Jefferson Davis.

Passing by here in the summer of 1856, J. Robert Brown, traveling with a trading company, described the scene: “There are several very good log buildings here; these are used as a store, dwelling houses for the traders, blacksmith shop, etc. There are about thirty lodges belonging to the Crows and Sioux, the soldiers live in lodges also; there are only fifty-eight of them here now.”[2]

During the summer the bridge toll was six dollars per wagon. Although the toll may have been less late in season, it was apparently beyond the reach of the participants in the Hunt company, let alone the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company’s handcart companies. However, one fifty-six-year old man from the Martin company, after seeing the crossing, determined to take the bridge: “Bro [Jonathan] Stone an aged gentleman who crossed the River on the Bridge to avoid wading was benighted and supposed[ly] lost his way [since] he never came into camp again but this morning an English boot with a [human] foot in it was brought to Camp by Bro Jos[eph] Mc Murran [McMurrin] which were identified as all that was left of Bro Stone. It is supposed that being very fatigued [he] had lain himself down to rest and was attacked and eaten by wolves.”[3]


Mary recounts the plight of Stone in her 1908 letter to Samuel Stephen Jones (see appendix 2), where she recalls that her future husband, Richard Pay, was the one who discovered the body.

[1] “Crossing the North Platte River,”

[2] J. Robert Brown, Journal, Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT, quoted in “Reshaw’s Bridge” at

[3] William Lawrence Spicer, Reminiscences, undated, CHL, MS 14688, entry for 20 October 1856.

We traveled in the snow from the last crossing of the Platte River. We had orders to not pass the handcart companies. We had to keep close to them so as to help them if we could. We began to get short of food. Our cattle gave out. We could only travel a few miles a day. When we started out of camp in the morning, the brethren would shovel the snow to make a track for our cattle. They were weak for the want of food as the buffaloes were in large herds by the road and ate all the grass.[33]

The Rescue


The first three handcart companies left Iowa City on 9 June, 11 June, and 28 June, respectively, with a total of 820 Saints. At about the same time that these companies left Florence, Nebraska, resupply wagons left Salt Lake City headed east. The first resupply wagons met the first handcart company at Deer Creek, about thirty miles east of present-day Casper, Wyoming, on 31 August, forty-two days after the handcart emigrants had left Florence. Additional resupply wagons met the companies at Pacific Springs, just west of the Continental Divide near South Pass. While there were some logistical issues with these first companies—they were larger than anticipated, handcarts were not ready for them when they arrived in Iowa City, and the resupply provisions “were rather short”[1]—the coordination with the resupply trains was remarkably smooth.

When the third handcart company arrived in Salt Lake on 2 October, there was a festive mood in the city—it was thought that the emigration season had ended successfully and that the handcart experiment had proved workable. Until Franklin D. Richards arrived two days later, no one in Salt Lake apparently knew that there were still about sixteen hundred emigrants on the trail for whom no resupply trains had been sent. His report ignited urgent action—the Willie company was already forty-eight days out from Florence and probably already near the end of its food supply.

The initial rescue party left Salt Lake City on 7 October, the same day that a cattle stampede damaged William Goble’s wagon and killed Esther Walters while the Hunt company was near the Platte River just west of Scott’s Bluff in present-day Nebraska—more than five hundred miles separated the rescuers from the Hunt company. This initial rescue party was under the direction of George D. Grant. The forty-four-year-old Grant had arrived in Salt Lake on 4 October with Franklin D. Richards after completing his service as a missionary in England. The party consisted of about fifty men, six of whom had returned from England with Grant just three days earlier and consequently knew some of the emigrants still on the plains. The men had between sixteen and twenty-two wagonloads of food and supplies, each drawn by four mules. Numbers vary in different accounts, perhaps because the composition of the party was not entirely static.

On 14 October, when this first rescue company was just east of Fort Bridger, Grant sent four express riders (Joseph A. Young, Cyrus H. Wheelock, Steven Taylor, and Abel Garr) east on horseback to locate the companies. When the storm came on the evening of 19 October, the rescue party was just east of South Pass and the Hunt company was trapped in the snow on the east side of Platte, about 170 miles away.

The express riders met the Willie company on the 19th, and the main rescue company reached them two days later. Grant left six teams with the Willie company and set out with eight wagons in search of the Martin, Hodgetts, and Hunt companies. Meanwhile, the express team was still heading east to locate the companies, with instructions to go to Devil’s Gate, where it was expected the companies would be found. Grant met up with the express team at Devil’s Gate on 27 October, with no sign of the missing companies. Grant then sent Joseph A. Young, Dan Jones and Abel Garr further east in search of the emigrants.

Young, Jones, and Garr found the Martin and Hodgetts companies on 28 October at Red Bluffs, sixty-five miles east of Devil’s Gate. The three then “started full gallop for John Hunt’s camp 15 miles further.”[2]

The trio reached the Hunt company in the evening. Captain Hunt was not with the company, having gone to the Platte Bridge to purchase cattle to replace the many that had died, and no one recognized the rescuers, thinking they were mountaineers. Puzzled by their reception, Young, Jones, and Garr pitched camp near the river and somewhat away from the Hunt camp. Later in the evening someone from the Hunt company wandered down to the rescuers’ camp, recognized Brother Young, and “made a rush for camp, giving the word; soon [they] were literally carried in and a special tent was pitched for [their] use.”[3] The Hunt Journal entry for 28 October reads, “The weather continues cold. Brothers Joseph W. Young and two other brethren [Daniel Jones and Abel Garr] arrived in camp in the evening from the Valley. This caused a general rejoicing throughout the camp, though the tidings of the snow extending westward for forty or fifty miles was not encouraging. The handcart companies had been supplied with food and clothing and the condition of the wagon companies would be reported to the Valley speedily, as the brethren traveling with teams were also getting short of provisions.”

The Hunt company began moving the next day, 29 October, having successfully purchased “15 yoke of new Cattle” for thirteen hundred dollars from John Baptiste Richard at “Ft. Bridge”[4] and arrived at Devil’s Gate at about 8:00 p.m. on 5 November. It was a very difficult week of travel, with very cold weather and limited food. The company spent three days at Devil’s Gate, unloading the wagons and consolidating into fewer wagons. Then the company began leaving Devil’s Gate at noon on 9 November, with some wagons leaving the next day.

The rescue party lead by George Grant was only the first of many groups to assist in the rescue. Speaking in general conference on 30 November 1856, Brigham Young said, “Our messengers have been traveling from here to the Platte, back and forth between Bridger, Green River and the Sweetwater; and scores of men have been riding by day and night, without having enjoyed an undisturbed night’s rest during the last two months, only occasionally snatching a little sleep when sitting by the camp fire. They have been riding by day and night, hurrying to and fro and laboring with their might.”[5]


[1] “Official Journal of the First Handcart Company,” reprinted in Hafen and Hafen, 213.

[2] Daniel W. Jones, Forty Years Among the Indians (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1890), 65.

[3] Jones, 67.

[4] Thomas Foster Thomas Jr. to Brigham Young, 31 October 1856, CHL, CR 1234 1_b0003_v0003.

[5] Deseret News, 10 December 1856; see appendix 5 for text of complete speech.

When we arrived at Devil’s Gate it was bitter cold.[34] We left lots of our things there. There were two or three log houses there, and we left our wagon there and joined teams with a man by the name of James Farmer. He had a sister Mary [who had] frozen to death.[35] We stayed there two or three days. While there an ox fell on the ice, and the brethren killed it, and the beef was given out to the camp. We made soup of it. My brother James ate a hearty supper and was as well as he ever was when he went to bed. In the morning he was dead.[36]

Devil’s Gate

The Hunt Journal on 5 November 1856 reads as follows:

The company started at 11 o’clock a.m., passed Independence Rock at 2 p.m. and arrived at the log house at Devil’s Gate at 8 p.m. Here Brother Hodgetts’ company [was] encamped. [The Martin company had moved to Martin’s Cove the day before.] Brother [George D.] Grant and other brethren from the Valley were stopping here to give the emigrating Saints instructions in regard to their further journeyings to the Valley. A meeting was called which was addressed by Brothers Grant, Cyrus H. Wheelock and Robert T. Burton. Brother Grant informed the emigrants that they would have to leave their goods at this place (until they could be sent for), such as stoves, boxes of tools, spare clothing, etc., and only take along sufficient clothing to keep them warm [and] their bedding. He wanted four or five wagons and teams to assist the handcart companies and he expected them to take only about half the number of wagons along. All present expressed their willingness to do whatever was expected of them. The distance traveled during that day was 12 miles.

The “log house” referred to the abandoned Fort Seminoe. Charles Lajuenesse built a fort near Devil’s Gate in 1852 but abandoned the fort in the fall of 1855. While the Hunt Journal uses the singular “log cabin,” Mary and others refer to more than one cabin. Patience Loader recalled that at least one structure was partially torn down for firewood: “Brother George Grant . . . told us all to stand back, for he was going to knock down one of those log huts to make fires for us. He said, ‘You are not going to freeze tonight.’ . . . He raised his ax and with one blow knocked in the whole front of the building, took each log and split it in four pieces, and gave each family one piece.”[1] Josiah Rogerson remembered “eight or ten log cabins.”[2]

George D. Grant, captain of the rescue party, left twenty men—seventeen from the wagon companies and three rescuers—at Fort Seminoe to guard the baggage left behind by the emigrants. The twenty-man guard, including thirteen from the Hunt company, had just twenty days of rations to last them the winter and were reduced to eating old moccasins and even an old buffalo hide rug. “There was not money enough on earth to have hired me to stay,” recalled Dan Jones. “I had left home for only a few days and was not prepared to remain so long away; but I remembered my assertion that any of us would stay if called upon. I could not back out.”[3]


[1] Archer, 84.

[2] Josiah Rogerson, “Martin’s Handcart Company, 1856,” Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 24 November 1907.

[3] Jones, 72.

I got my feet frozen and lost all of my toes. My brother Edwin got his feet frozen bad. My sister Carrie’s feet [were] frozen.[37] It was nothing but snow. We could not drive the pegs in for our tents. Father would clean a place for our tents and put snow around to keep it down.[38] We were short of flour, but father was a good shot.[39] They called him the hunter of the camp, so that helped us out. We could not get enough flour for bread as we got only a quarter of a pound per head per day, so we would make it like thin gruel. We called it “skilly.”[40]

Well, there were four companies on the plains.[41] We did not know what would become of us, when one night a man came to our camp telling us there would be plenty of flour in the morning for Bro. Brigham had sent men and teams to help us. There was rejoicing that night. Some sang, some danced, some cried. Well, he was a living Santy Claus. I have forgotten his name, but never will I forget how he looked. He was covered with the frost, and his beard was long and all frost.[42]

Ephraim Hanks and Arza Hinckley

The story of Ephraim Hanks’s participation in the rescue was first published in the Contributor in March 1893 and was written by Andrew Jenson. Jenson begins his narrative with this paragraph: “In June, 1891, when visiting the Sevier Stake of Zion in the interest of Church history, I became acquainted with Elder Ephraim K. Hanks, who resides in Pleasant Creek, (in the Blue Valley Ward), now in Wayne County, Utah. He related to me the following.”[1] He then writes, in Hanks’s voice, a detailed account of Hanks’s experience with the Martin company.

An additional account is given by Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul, daughter of Arza Erastus Hinckley, and is recorded by her son, Earl S. Paul.[2] Both this account and Jenson’s account were written long after the events had taken place, and both are based on recollections of what was told to them—in Jenson’s case by Hanks himself; in Paul’s case by the daughter of Arza Hinckley. Hinckley gives a brief firsthand account of the events in a reminiscence written around 1874:

I went out and met the first hand cart company 400 miles and traveled in with them. Started out again to see the last hand carts. 2 weeks later as Pres. B. Young carriage went out as far as Big Canyon Creek [East Canyon] where on the following he took very sick and as soon as he was able to ride returned home. 2 weeks later I started again to meet the last Co. of carts in co[mpany] with Dan Johnson each with 4 mules loads of provision and medesons [medicine] for the sick. When at Bridger Ft. there came a blizzard which detained us a few days. The first night out from there one of the mules died in D. J [Dan Johnsons’s] team. Next day we met 2 companies on their way home that had been out to near the Pacific Springs and could not hear any thing of the h[and] carts but after my making some persuasions they went on to camp one way and waited there until they heard of the carts then went after them. Dan and I went on to Green River where a team over took us when they took D. J. load and he went back to Bridger as his was large mules of Pres. Young and was not used, [to] being out doors at night. We met the handcart folks at Ice Springs on Sweet Water River, from there in to Salt Lake City. Eph Hanks, one of my battalion chums spent much of our time while in camp in administering to the sick. Ephraim was a man of great faith.[3]

Sometime after the initial rescue party left on 7 October, probably about 27 October, Ephraim Hanks set out to help in the rescue in response to a call by Heber C. Kimball to send additional assistance to the emigrants. He was apparently not part of a formal rescue party but may have met up with others on the trail. He traveled as far east as Pacific Springs, where he encountered severe weather but found no sign of the emigrant companies.

Present-day Wyoming wilderness. The wagon companies passed through treacherous terrain to reach the Salt Lake Valley. Courtesy of Jim Black/Pixabay.Present-day Wyoming wilderness. The wagon companies passed through treacherous terrain to reach the Salt Lake Valley. Courtesy of Jim Black/Pixabay.

Arza Hinckley was working as a teamster for Brigham Young in 1856. In late July of that year, Arza left Salt Lake as part of the resupply party that traveled four hundred miles east to deliver food to the first handcart company. He then stayed with the company, pulling a handcart much of the way and letting emigrants ride in his wagon. He had been back in the valley only about two weeks when Brigham Young asked Arza to drive him east to help in the rescue of the Willie and Martin companies. They traveled only as far as Big Canyon Creek (East Canyon), where Brigham became very ill and they returned to the city. A few days later, Arza Hinckley and Dan Johnson left with two wagons of supplies pulled by Brigham Young’s mules and headed east.

According to Paul’s account, Arza and Hanks traveled together from Green River and on 10 November made camp early in the day, presumably to rest the mules. Arza stayed with the wagons and teams, and Ephraim went to hunt a buffalo. Ephraim succeeded in shooting a buffalo, skinning it, and loading his packhorse with meat, a remarkable feat. It was about an hour before sunset when he saw a long black line to the east and realized it was probably the handcart company. He rode to the company as they were setting up camp for the evening and distributed the meat, to the great joy of the emigrants. Paul states that Ephraim returned to Arza that night, and the two of them drove their provision wagons to the emigrant camp early the next morning.

Although some members of the Grant rescue party were traveling with the emigrants at this time, provisions were very scarce. There were nearly a thousand emigrants in the three companies (Martin, Hodgetts and Hunt) and only a few rescue party members with limited supplies at this point of journey. The members of the rescue party had been stretched to their limits and were in jeopardy along with the emigrants. Food was being rationed until additional relief wagons could reach the emigrants, but the location of the relief wagons was unknown. Hanks’s buffalo meat was cause for genuine rejoicing, as was the news that additional supply wagons were nearby.

Hanks and Hinckley both stayed with the emigrants during the remainder of the journey. Hanks used his considerable wilderness medical skills to help the emigrants: “Many such I washed with water and castile soap, until the frozen parts would fall off, after which I would sever the shreds of flesh from the remaining portions of the limbs with my scissors.”[4]

Elizabeth Sermon of the Martin company corroborates this primitive surgery: “I had to take a portion of poor Robert’s feet off which pierced my very soul. I had to sever the leaders with a pair of scissors. Little did I think when I bought them in old England that they would be used for such a purpose.”[5]

Years later, in a letter to Wilford Woodruff, Hinckley suggested that Hanks might be a good candidate to serve with him in his mission among the American Indians in Arizona: “I believe . . . with such a man as Ephraim Hanks, if we were as well united in faith and feelings as we were when we were out to meet the [Martin] handcart company, that we would be willing to keep going south” and preach to the remaining Indian tribes.[6]


[1] Andrew Jenson, “The Belated Emigration of 1856,” Contributor, March 1893.

[2] “The Handcart Companies of 1856 and Arza Erastus Hinckley,” CHListHH, M273.41 P324 1980.

[3] Arza E. Hinckley, Autobiography (1874), 2, CHL, MS 10863.

[4] Jenson, 204–5.

[5] Elizabeth Whittear Sermon Camm, Reminiscences, in Joel Edward Ricks, Cache Valley Historical Material (ca. 1955), excerpts at .

[6] Arza Hinckley to Wilford Woodruff, 15 January 1883, in Joel Hinckley Bowen, Arza Erastus Hinckley, 1826–1901 (n.p., repr. 1999 by Gene and Mary Kay Roskelley Sorensen with additions by Patra Anne Hepworth), copy in possession of author.

We traveled faster now that we had horse teams,[43] and we arrived in Salt Lake City at 9 o’clock at night the 11th of December 1856.[44] Three out of four that were living were frozen. My mother was dead in the wagon.[45]

Bishop Hardy[46] had us taken to a house in his ward, and the brethren and the sisters fetched us plenty of food. We had to be careful and not eat too much as it might kill us as we were so hungry.

Arrival of the Hunt Company

Most members of the Martin company arrived in Salt Lake on 30 November, but the wagon companies traveled more slowly since they had ox teams rather than horses. They stayed some days at Fort Bridger, where the animals could rest and feed and where some of the weakest Saints could gain strength before the last difficult leg of the journey.

On 3 December 1856 the Deseret News contained the following notice:

CAPS. HODGETTS AND HUNT’S COMPANIES.—A few have been brought in from the only companies still back, but the remainder are unable to come in without assistance. For this reason some 60 horse and mule teams, mostly with two spans to a wagon, left this city on the 2nd inst. with a supply of provisions and forage expected to be amply sufficient for all wants, as the out-going wagons will load back with persons, and will probably be able to bring in all who can endure the journey, or are not needed to help take care of animals that may have to be left at Forts Bridger and Supply until spring.[1]

The mentioned teams and wagons that left on 2 December were the last rescue group to leave the Salt Lake Valley and departed nearly two months after the first rescue company had left.

The Mormon, a Church newspaper in New York City, in a story published on 21 February 1857, quoted from a letter written by Brigham Young that was dated 6 December 1856:

“The last of our hand-cart emigration arrived on last Sunday, the 30th ult. The so-called independent company [that is, independent of the PEF], with ox trains, have not arrived; but are supposed to be at Bridger’s Fort; sufficient assistance has gone to their relief to bring them all safely into the city. The weather has been steadily cold since the first of November, and considerable snow south and in the mountains, but not much in the valley, or on the line of travel as far east as the pass, except on the mountains, where it has been somewhat difficult to keep the roads open.”[2]

The final entry in the Hunt Journal is dated Monday, 15 December 1856: “The remainder of the saints arrived in Great Salt Lake City today, the emigration being now completed.”[3]


[1] Deseret News, 3 December 1856.

[2] Mormon 3, no. 1 (21 February 1857), .

[3] Hunt Journal, 15 December 1856.

The next day the bishop came and brought a doctor. His name was Williams.[47] He amputated our feet. The sisters were dressing mother for her grave. My poor father walked in the room where mother was, then back to us. He could not shed a tear. When our feet were fine they packed us in to see our mother for the last time. Oh, how did we stand it? That afternoon she was buried.[48]

• • •

Caroline “Carrie” Goble Bowers and Mary Goble Pay.Caroline “Carrie” Goble Bowers and Mary Goble Pay.

It is now October 1906.[49] Fifty years ago we left our homes over the sea for Utah. Quite a few of us that are left have been to Salt Lake City to celebrate our Jubilee.[50] We met in the 14th Ward assembly hall.[51] We held three meetings. President Joseph F. Smith and the Relief Society furnished us a banquet. We had a very good time. I stayed with Anna Pay Kimball.[52] We met the captain of our company, Brother John Hunt, [and] met some of the people that came in our company. We were happy to see one another and talk of the times that are gone.

My sister Carrie and her husband went up to the city with us. Her husband came in Captain Ellsworth’s handcart company.[53] We went to conference [for] two days and then went to the cemetery to find my mother’s grave. It was in Lot 2, plot C. It was the first time I had seen it, for when she was buried our feet were so bad [that] we could not go to the funeral, and [then] the move came, and we moved south to Nephi.

No one knows how I felt as we stood there by her grave. There were Alma, his wife, myself, and Ethel, one of George’s daughters. There were three generations.[54] Our mother was a martyr for the truth. I thought of her words, “Polly, I want to go to Zion while my children are small, so they can be raised in the Gospel of Christ, for I know this is the true Church.”

Mary Goble Pay with children and grandchildren.Mary Goble Pay with children and grandchildren.

Now there are 31 grandchildren [and] 26 great-grandchildren living, and 15 are dead. There are three of us living—my brother, sister, and myself. . . . I think my mother has her wish. My brother and three of my sons have [ful]filled missions,[55] and some of her grandsons and [grand]daughters are workers in the Church. They are all members of the Church. I now have six sons and one daughter living, four sons are married, and I have eleven grandchildren. I am proud of them all. I am the mother of thirteen children, ten sons and three daughters. My brother Edwin is the father of fifteen sons and daughters. My sister Carrie is the mother of nine—five sons and four daughters. My sister Harriet is [also] the mother of nine—seven sons and two daughters. [56]

• • •

Nephi, Oct. 1908. Have been to our Handcart Reunion.[57] I met quite a few old friends. Went to conference. My brother and I went to see my mother’s grave. They had renumbered them. It is plot F, Lot 8 or 12.[58] We will have it fixed [and] leveled and [have] grass sown on it.

• • •

Oct. 21, 1909. Went to Sunday School and was asked to relate incidents of our journey across the plains. I told them we had the first snow storm the 22nd of September, 1856.[59] There were fifteen who died through crossing the River Platte.[60] Sister McPherson[61] sat by me. She said, “My mother was the fifteenth one that died.” They were laid side by side and a little dirt [was] thrown over them.[62]

• • •

November. I have been to our reunion. I met Bro. Langley Bailey.[63] Had a good time. Told of incidents of our trip over the plains. It made us feel bad—it brought it all up again. Is it wise for our children to see what their parents passed through for the Gospel? Yes.


[1] William Goble is listed in the 1851 Brighton post office directory as a “Fruiterer & Greengrocer” living at 53 Russell Square in Brighton, Sussex.

[2] The Brighton station of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway was located less than a mile from the Gobles’ home. The fifty-five-mile trip to London ended at London Bridge station. The next day the Gobles left London from Euston Station, about three miles from London Bridge, on the West Coast Main Line for Lime Street Station in Liverpool.

[3] Liverpool was a principal Atlantic seaport of England. The Liverpool Mercury for 21 May 1856 includes notices of commercial ships sailing to Port Natal (South Africa), Australia, Trieste, Genoa, Naples, Le Havre, and Constantinople. The paper also notes preparations for a great public holiday on 29 May 1856 to celebrate the end of the Crimean War. The celebrations were to include “a public demonstration of the children educated in the town” and a regatta on the River Mersey. In the mid-nineteenth century, Liverpool rivaled London in wealth. Nathaniel Hawthorne, already a successful and well-known author, was the US consul in Liverpool in 1856.

[4] By Mary’s accounting, the family arrived in Liverpool on Tuesday, 20 May 1856, and boarded the Horizon that evening. The ship left the dock on Friday, 23 May, and anchored in the river. It was brought into open sea and officially began the voyage on Sunday, 25 May.

[5] By 1856 steamships were crossing the Atlantic regularly. The passage by steamship took about ten days, compared to thirty-seven days for the Horizon, but the price of passage on a steamship was far too expensive for most immigrants. It was not until 1863 that a majority of immigrants traveled to America by steam. See Edwin C. Guillet, The Great Migration: The Atlantic Crossing by Sailing-ship Since 1770, 2nd ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963); and The Geography of Transport Systems, .

[6] The Horizon was a US registered ship of 1,775 tons under the command of Captain W. Reed. It sailed from Liverpool on 25 May 1856 with 856 Saints and arrived in Boston on 30 June 1856 after thirty-seven days at sea. While nearly 75 percent of the passengers received financial assistance from the PEF, the Gobles paid their own way, sending nine pounds in advance to reserve their passage and paying the remaining 26.50 pounds upon boarding. They held ticket 144. The ship register lists William Goble as a “Greengrocer” and Mary Goble, age twelve, as “Spinster.” For rosters and information on each ship see Saints by Sea database at Original source information in British Mission Emigration Register (BMR), CHL.

[7] See Sidebar 1: “Farewell, My Native Land, Farewell.”

[8] The mutiny took place while the Horizon was still in the River Mersey and before the captain had boarded. Heber Robert McBride remembered, “When we got out on the river and cast anchor . . . the sailors and the ship officers got into a quarrel and began to fight. This almost frightened some of the emigrants to death, but the first mate ran into the cabin and came out facing the men that was after him with a pistol in each hand caused them to stop very quick. He told them the first man that moved he would shoot him down. He stood there and kept them back till a signal of distress was sent up and it was hardly any time before boats came alongside with policem[e]n and all the crew was put in irons and taken to shore.” Heber Robert McBride, Autobiography, 5–9, 15–16, CHL. John Jaques also recorded the incident. See Millennial Star 18, no. 26 (28 June 1856): 411–12.

[9] John Jaques was particularly complimentary of Captain Reed: “As regarding our Captain, I can speak nothing but good. . . . He acted like a man and a gentleman.” John Jaques to Orson Pratt, 22 July 1856, in Millennial Star 18, no. 35 (30 August 1856): 556.

[10] The death mentioned by Mary was probably that of George Baker, age twenty-seven, from Brighton, who died on Sunday, 1 June 1856. See Sidebar 2: Life aboard the Horizon.

[11] See Sidebar 2: Life aboard the Horizon.

[12] On Monday, 30 June 1856, the steam tug Huron towed the ship to Boston’s Constitution Wharf and the passengers disembarked, ward by ward. They had been at sea thirty-seven days. John Jaques recorded on Sunday, 29 June 1856, “While the doctor was passing the passengers, the captain and his family came on board. Meeting on the main deck at 3 p.m. Three cheers for the captain and three for the officers and crew. The captain responded and said that this company of emigrants was the best he had brought across the sea. He complimented them on their good behavior and said that we sang, ‘We’ll Marry None But Mormons,’ and he said he would say that he should ‘Carry None But Mormons.’” He added, “Seventeen years later [1873] Captain Reed crossed the continent, not by handcart, but by rail, and called on a few of the emigrants residing in Salt Lake, whom he carried across the Atlantic. Very much pleased was the old gentleman to see them.” Bell, 100, 106.

[13] Like ship travel, train travel was uncomfortable, with the emigrants traveling in boxcars while sitting on their luggage.

[14] Jesse Haven reported a temperature of 108 degrees in Iowa City on 22 July 1856. Haven, 22 July 1856. Traveling in such hot weather, it is not too surprising that the emigrants could not appreciate the risk of leaving so late in the season.

[15] The Hunt Journal records that the fifth wagon company left on 1 August 1856 with about three hundred emigrants and fifty-six wagons.

[16] Many of the Saints had little or no experience working with oxen, and the learning curve was necessarily steep. Ruth May Fox recalled, “Imagine if you can these would-be drivers, who had, perhaps, never seen a Texas steer before, go though the procedure for the first time of yoking their cattle. Truly no rodeo could match the scene. The men had to be instructed in this art and some did not learn very quickly.” Ruth May Fox, “From England to Salt Lake Valley in 1867,” Improvement Era, July 1935, 408–9, 450. Managing unruly oxen was both challenging and dangerous. The Hunt Journal notes that on 7 October some of the oxen began stampeding. “Sister Esther Walters . . . was knocked down and so badly injured that she expired in a few minutes . . . leaving a babe four weeks old.” The Gobles’ wagon was broken in the stampede and had to be repaired before they could continue.

[17] The Goble children (and their ages on the trek) were Mary, born 2 June 1843 (age thirteen), died 25 September 1913; Edwin, born 29 September 1845 (age eleven), died 27 October 1913; Caroline, born 21 January 1848 (age eight), died 14 February 1922; Harriet, born 31 May 1850 (age six), died 20 June 1890; James, born 23 May 1852 (age four), died 6 November 1856 (at Devils Gate, Wyoming); Fanny, born 23 July 1854 (age two), died 19 July 1856 (at Iowa City, Iowa). Edith was born 23 September 1856, died 3 November 1856 (near Greasewood Creek, present-day Horse Creek in Wyoming).

[18] In a letter addressed to Franklin D. Richards, written and mailed from Boston on 30 June, John Jaques reported, “The measles appeared on board on May 29 and many of the children and some adults have had the disease, but we have to record no deaths from it.” However, the next day, while still in Boston, Jaques recorded, “Bro. Palmer’s child died this evening of the measles.” Bell, 106.

[19] The campground was about three and a half miles northwest of Iowa City in an area now preserved as Mormon Handcart Park located in present-day Coralville, Iowa (just off Mormon Trek Boulevard). Several interpretive signs have been placed in the park. Saints from the Horizon arrived on 8 and 9 July; Saints from the Thornton, most of whom were organized into the Willie company, had arrived at the campground on 26 June and did not leave until 15 July, so for six or seven days, there were over sixteen hundred emigrants living in the campground.

[20] The storm occurred the day the emigrants from the Horizon arrived at Iowa City, and the Gobles apparently had not yet purchased a wagon, and so found shelter where they could.

Elizabeth White Stewart, a member of the Hunt company, recorded, “When we completed our journey to Iowa City we were informed that we would have to walk four miles to our camping ground. All felt delighted to have the privilege of a pleasant walk. We all started, about 500 of us, with our bedding. We had not gone far before it began to thunder and lightning and the rain poured. The roads became very muddy and slippery. The day was far advanced and it was late in the evening before we arrived at the camp. We all got very wet. The boys soon got our tent up so we were fixed for the night, although very wet.” Elizabeth White Stewart, “Autobiography,” in Ancestors of Isaac Mitton Stewart and Elizabeth White, comp. Mary Ellen B. Workman (n.p., 1978), excerpt at Peter Howard McBride remembered, “The night we arrived in Iowa, there was the worst storm I ever have experienced, thunder, lightning, rain coming down in torrents. There were wagons to take our bedding and luggage to camp three miles away, but we had to walk. Parents lost their children and children their parents, but we finally got settled in tents for the night.” “Journal of Peter Howard McBride,” in Our Pioneer Heritage, comp. Kate Carter (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1970), 13:360–63, excerpts available at

[21] A plaque in the Mormon Handcart Park identifies a pioneer burial ground where some of those who died at the campground were buried.

[22] The company passed through Council Bluffs, Iowa, and ferried across the Missouri River on 27 August 1856, to Florence, Nebraska (now part of Omaha, Nebraska). It covered a distance of 277 miles in twenty-two days, an average daily distance (including rest days) of 12.6 miles.

[23] Council Bluffs, Iowa, is located on the east bank of the Missouri River, just across from present-day Omaha, Nebraska. Known as Kanesville from 1848 to 1852, Council Bluffs was considered the beginning of the pioneer trail for both Mormons and other immigrants heading west.

[24] The company “commenced to move out of Florence at 8 o’clock a.m.” on 31 August. Hunt Journal, 23.

[25] See Sidebar 4: Life on the Trail.

[26] The company was originally led by Dan Jones (returning from a mission to Wales and distinct from the Daniel W. Jones of the rescue party), but he was asked to travel west with Franklin D. Richards. On 10 August, John Alexander Hunt was appointed captain and on 14 August, Dan Jones left the company. Hunt was born 16 May 1830 in Gibson County, Tennessee. He was baptized in March 1843, and in 1850 he made the journey to Utah. In 1852 he was called on a mission to England and returned in 1856 with many of his converts. He was twenty-six years old, single, and a returning missionary when he was captain of the wagon train. He died in St. Charles, Idaho, in 1913, the same year that Mary Goble Pay died.

[27] There was good reason to be concerned about American Indians, because a band of Cheyennes had killed several travelers in retaliation for the killing of some Indians by US troops. The Hunt company first learned of the killings on 5 September when the company met “some Californians who reported that Almon W. Babbitt’s company had been attacked by Indians and that two men and a child had been killed.” Hunt Journal,

5 September 1856. See Sidebar 4: Life on the Trail.

[28] Though generally referred to as the last crossing of the Platte, this is actually a crossing of the North Platte River near present-day Casper, Wyoming, about 625 miles west of Florence, Nebraska. The company covered this distance in 48 days, averaging 13 miles per day. See Sidebar 6: Last Crossing of the Platte.

[29] The Hunt company reached the ford about two p.m. on 19 October. The Hodgetts wagon company “had just forded when we arrived and the handcart company crossed directly afterwards.” Hunt Journal, 19 October 1856. Years later, Elizabeth White Stewart of the Hunt company remembered: “We finally reached the last crossing of the Platte River. We were then about 500 miles from Salt Lake. Our company camped on the east side and the handcart company passed over that night. All our able-bodied men turned out to help them carry women and children over the river. . . .The snow fell six inches during that night; there were thirteen deaths during the night. . . . The snow continued falling for three days.” Stewart, excerpt at

[30] Accounts regarding the number of deaths vary, but Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson of the Martin company recalled, as Mary did, that fourteen died during the night of 19–20 October. Leaves from the Life of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford (Ogden, UT, n.p. 1908).

[31] Mary combines some events in this paragraph that were actually several weeks apart. Edith was born 24 September in Nebraska; the Hunt company reached the last crossing of the Platte twenty-five days later, on 19 October, having traveled approximately 350 miles since Edith’s birth. On that day they helped the Martin company cross the Platte among lumps of floating ice and slush. A storm began just as the Martin company completed the crossing, with a fierce wind, snow, sleet and hail. On 20 October the Hunt Journal records, “This morning the ground covered with snow which prevented the company from moving.” The Hunt company stayed at the crossing for three days, trapped by the storm. They began fording the Platte about 1:00 p.m. on 22 October and camped about a mile beyond the crossing. Edith died at Greasewood Creek on 3 November. See Sidebar 5: Edith Goble.

[32] The Larsen manuscript includes an additional paragraph at this point in the narrative: “We had been without water for several days, just drinking snow water. The captain said there was a spring of fresh water just a few miles away. It was snowing hard, but my mother begged me to go and get her a drink. Another lady went with me. We were about half way to the spring when we found an old man who had fallen in the snow. He was frozen so stiff, we could not lift him, so the lady told me where to go and she would go back to camp for help for we knew he would soon be frozen if we left him. When she had gone I began to think of the Indians and looking and looking in all directions. I became confused and forgot the way I should go. I waded around in the snow up to my knees and I became lost. Later when I did not return to camp the men started out after me. It was 11:00 p.m. o’clock before they found me. My feet and legs were frozen. They carried me to camp and rubbed me with snow. They put my feet in a bucket of water. The pain was terrible. The frost came out of my legs and feet but did not come out of my toes.” See Sidebar 6: Lost in Snow.

[33] The express riders from the rescue company made contact with the Hunt company on the night of 28 October just about a mile from the last crossing of the Platte, where they had been trapped by snow after crossing the river. Traveling with the assistance of a few members of the rescue party, it took the company eight days to reach Devil’s Gate. The Martin company traveled a few miles ahead of the Hunt company. The Hodgetts company was between the Martin company and the Hunt company (see Hunt Journal, 5 November 1856), although their location is sometimes difficult to ascertain since there is no separate camp journal for the Hodgetts company. In a report to Brigham Young dated 2 November 1869, George Grant states, “Met br. [Edward] Martin’s company at Greasewood creek, on the last day of October; br. [William B.] Hodgett’s company was a few miles behind.” George D. Grant, “The Companies Yet on the Plains,” Deseret News [Weekly], 19 November 1856, 293. Appendix 4 gives a comparative chronology of the Willie, Martin, and Hunt companies, as well as this initial rescue party. See also Sidebar 8: The Rescue.

During this difficult stretch of road, the Hunt company draft animals became so weak that it was difficult for the company to make much progress through the snow and cold. The Hunt Journal reports that on 3 November “fourteen or fifteen oxen were left on the road.”

[34] Robert T. Burton of the rescue company recorded the following on 6 November 1856 at Devil’s Gate: “Colder than ever. Thermometer 11 degrees below zero. . . . None of the companies moved, so cold the people could not travel.”

[35] In the Larsen manuscript this name is rendered as Barman, but on close examination of the holograph it appears to be Farmer. James Morris Farmer (age thirty-nine) and his wife, Mary Ann Biddie Farmer (age twenty-six), together with three daughters (ages twelve, ten, and seven) and James’ sister, Mary Ann (or Mary Jane) Farmer (age twenty-six), were members of the Hunt company. However, none of the Farmer family died on the trek. Some lists include James Barman and his sister May (or Mary) as members of the Hunt company, but the only source for this appears to be the transcripts of Mary’s autobiography. They do not appear in the Pioneer Travel database of company members. See Riverton Wyoming Stake, Remember: The Willie and Martin Handcart Companies and Their Rescuers—Past and Present (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1997), E-24.

[36] According to Mary’s granddaughters, “Edwin, 11, slept with his four-year-old brother, Jimmy. Edwin tried to wake him in the morning, crying, ‘Jimmy, wake up! Jimmy you are so cold, please wake up. Oh Jimmy!’ but Jimmy had died in the night. . . . Edwin had horrible dreams of that terrible night his entire life. He would cry out in the night, ‘Jimmy! Jimmy!’ His wife would wake him and say, “It’s OK, we’re home, all is well.” Document in possession of author.

[37] Although Mary does not mention it here, Harriet may have also suffered frozen toes. One family record states that Mary, Caroline, and Harriet all lost toes to gangrene. Jerry Garret, “Penfold—Goble Family History” (typewritten manuscript dated 22 June 1992, in possession of the author), 5.

[38] This is corroborated by Elizabeth Stewart: “The ground was frozen so hard they could not drive the tent pins, so they had to raise the tent poles and stretch out the flaps and bank them down with snow.” Stewart,

[39] The company roster shows that William brought two shotguns and a rifle on the journey. See “John A. Hunt Company Report, 1856,” CHL, CR 1234 5,

[40] “Skilly” was a British term for a weak broth, typically made with a little oatmeal. It was often served on ships and was standard fare for prisoners on ships in the nineteenth century.

[41] The Willie company arrived in Salt Lake City on 9 November 1856, the same day the other companies began moving out from Devil’s Gate. After emptying the wagons at Fort Seminoe, most of the handcarts were left behind and the essential supplies were transferred to wagons. From Devil’s Gate to South Pass, over nine hundred pioneers were strung out in a line that was often several miles long.

[42] At this point, Mary’s holograph shows this addition in pencil: “His name was Eph Hanks.” Although the company had been with members of the rescue party since 28 October, food was scarce and no one knew when they would find additional relief wagons.

[43] The Larsen manuscript includes these sentences inserted at this point: “My mother had never got well; she lingered until 11 December, the day we arrived in Salt Lake City, 1856. She died between the Little and Big Mountain[s]. She was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. She was 43 years old. She and her baby lost their lives gathering to Zion in such a late season of the year. My sister was buried at the last crossing of the Sweetwater.”

[44] The Hunt Journal notes on 11 December, “The snow was 6 to 10 inches deep in G. S. L. City. Some teams arrived from Ft. Bridger.” On 12 December it notes, “The snow was 10 to 12 inches deep in G. S. L. City and it was still snowing.” The last of the wagon companies arrived in Salt Lake on 15 December 1856.

[45] In a letter to Samuel S. Jones dated 18 October 1908, Mary wrote, “Our mother never got well. She lingered for 11 weeks and died the 11 December 1856, between the Big and Little Mountain[s] about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. She was buried in the City Cemetery. I rode in the same bed with my dead mother till 9 o’clock that night.” See appendix 2.

[46] Leonard Wilford Hardy, age fifty-five, was the police chief of Salt Lake City and bishop of the Twelfth Ward. A native of Massachusetts, he was baptized at age twenty-six by Orson Hyde on 2 December 1832 and accompanied Wilford Woodruff on a mission to Liverpool in 1845, laboring in Manchester and presiding over the Preston Conference. He arrived in Utah on 14 October 1850 in the Wilford Woodruff company. On 17 December 1856, the Deseret News published this report: “Bishop L. W. Hardy reports the new arrivals to be in fine spirits, notwithstanding their late hardships; and those who so liberally turned out to their relief report themselves ready to start out again, were it necessary. But few in the two rear companies were frosted, and of those only one or two severely. Bishop Hardy at once threw open his doors to the family in which were the ones most severely frosted, and under his judicious nursing, without amputation, they are rapidly recovering; though the one most frosted will, perhaps, be somewhat crippled in her feet.”

[47] This was likely Ezra Granger Williams, who was a physician and surgeon in Salt Lake City at the time. The son of Frederick G. Williams (who served as a counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency), Ezra was born on 17 November 1823. He was baptized by Joseph Smith in the Chagrin River in Kirtland and confirmed by Hyrum Smith in Hyrum’s home on 14 April 1832. He arrived in 1849 in Salt Lake City, where he practiced medicine until 1860. He later moved to Ogden.

[48] The Larsen manuscript replaces this paragraph with the following: “Early next morning Bro. Brigham Young and a doctor came. The doctor’s name was Williams. When Bro. Young came in he shook hands with us all. When he saw our condition, our feet frozen and our mother dead, tears rolled down his cheeks.

“The doctor wanted to cut my feet off at the ankles. But Pres. Young said no just cut off the toes and I promise you, you will never have to take them off any farther. The pieces of bone that must come out will work out through the skin themselves.

“The doctor amputated my toes using a saw and a butcher knife. The sisters were dressing mother for her grave. My poor father walked in the room where mother was, then back to us. He could not shed a tear. When our feet were fixed they packed us in to see our mother for the last time. Oh, how did we stand it? That afternoon she was buried.”

[49] The holograph says “1896,” but this was crossed out, and “1906” had been written above it.

[50] The jubilee was organized by the Handcart Veterans Association and held 3–5 October. It received extensive newspaper coverage that included stories from many of the pioneers. It concluded with a Friday night meeting in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, where Utah governor John Cutler addressed the participants. The Jubilee chairman was Samuel Stephen Jones, who was nineteen when he emigrated with the Martin company. Mary traveled from Nephi to attend the Jubilee. See Handcart Veterans Association scrapbook, 1906–1914, CHL MS 11378.

[51] The Fourteenth Ward building was located at 142 West 200 North in Salt Lake City.

[52] Anna Sinclair Pay Kimball was Mary’s daughter-in-law. Anna Sinclair was born in Moroni, Utah, on 14 October 1864 and married George Pay, Mary and Richard’s second child, in 1883. George died in 1894, one year after Richard’s death. Anna then married Charles Spaulding Kimball, a son of Heber C. Kimball, in 1900. Charles died in 1925, leaving Anna widowed again. Anna died at eighty-four as the result of an automobile accident in 1949. She was buried next to George Pay in the Vine Bluff Cemetery in Nephi.

[53] On 19 January 1867, Carrie married Jacob Bowers, who was ten when he walked across the plains as part of the Edmund Ellsworth handcart company. He arrived in Salt Lake on 26 September 1856, just two days after little Edith Goble was born on the trail in Nebraska.

[54] The three generations were Mary Goble Pay, her son David Alma Pay (born 25 May 1873), and granddaughter Ethel Pay (born 4 October 1862, daughter of George Edwin Pay).

[55] Mary’s brother, Edwin, served in Liverpool (1890–91). Her three missionary sons were Edward (England, 1898–?), Jesse (Central States, 1898–1900; and Southern States, 1925–26), and LeRoy (Southern States, 1906–8). While in England, Edward baptized Mary’s aunt, Emma Penfold Simmonds, and at least one of Mary’s cousins (Emma’s daughter), Ada. Ada immigrated to Utah in 1909, crossing the country by train in four days. She lived with Mary in Nephi until she married in 1912. See Jerry Garrett, “Penfold—Goble Family History” (typewritten manuscript dated 22 June 1992), 6,

[56] At the date of this entry, the four Goble children who survived the trek had forty-six children between them.

[57] After the success of the reunion in 1906, the Handcart Veterans Association voted to do annual reunions.

[58] Now Plot F, Section F, 11/12. The marker is approximately forty feet east of the cemetery’s Main Street, between 310 North and 330 North.

[59] The Hunt Journal notes that the weather on 23 September 1856 was “cold and frosty” but makes no mention of a storm on the 22nd; the first snowstorm was the night of 19 October.

[60] As noted previously, there are various accounts regarding the number of emigrants who died.

[61] Jane Ann Ollerton McPherson was sixteen when she emigrated with her family. They sailed on the Horizon and were part of the Martin company. Both of her parents died on the journey. She moved to Nephi, where she met and married James Ramsey McPhereson. She died in 1933 at the age of ninety-two and is buried in the same cemetery as Mary Goble and Richard Pay. Jane Ann’s sister, Alice Ollerton, died the day after the family reached the Salt Lake Valley; she is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery next to Mary Penfold Goble. Jane Ann’s daughter Bertha McPherson wrote a short biographical sketch of her mother in 1950 in which she says, “Several times I asked mother to give me some information so that I could write a sketch of her life, but she always answered by saying, ‘My life has been very uneventful.’” Bertha McPherson, “Jane Ann Ollerton McPherson” (unpublished manuscript),

[62] On 15 April 1933, Harry Mills, a rancher near Casper, Wyoming, chanced upon some human bones in a small gulch near the North Platte River. Excavations over the following days revealed nine skeletons: five men, three women, and an infant. One of the skeletons was in a sitting position, suggesting that he had frozen. These may have been members of the Martin company. The remains were reinterred in Potters Field in the Highland Cemetery in Casper. The find was reported in the Casper Tribune Herald on 16 April 1933 and 17 April 1933 and discussed in the Wyoming Trails Newsletter 17, no. 3 (March 2005). Information courtesy of R. Scott Lorimer.

[63] Langley Bailey was a member of the Martin company, one of the four sons of John and Jane Bailey. Langley was eighteen during the trek but weighed only sixty pounds upon arriving in the valley. The family settled in Nephi, where Langley became a patriarch years later. He spoke at the funeral of Mary Goble Pay in 1913. His great-granddaughter Margaret Dyreng Nadauld served as Young Women General President from 1997 to 2002 and spoke of her great-grandfather in the general Young Women meeting on 27 March 1999.