Mary Fielding Smith
We all grew up with the wonderful stories of Mary Fielding Smith showing her true womanhood as she crossed the plains. We applauded her courage, determination, and her success. In the book, “ The Women of Mormondom”, written by Edward W. Tullidge in 1877, and edited by Eliza R. Snow, we get the full account. Enjoy!
“In the spring of 1848 a tremendous effort was made by the saints to emigrate to the valley on a grand scale. No one was more anxious than Widow Smith; but to accomplish it seemed an impossibility with her family—her sons John and Joseph, mere boys, being her only support. But, she determined to make the attempt, and trust in the Lord for the issue. Cows and calves were yoked up, two wagons lashed together, and a team barely sufficient to draw one was hitched on to them, and in this manner they rolled out from winter quarters some time in May. After a series of the most amusing and trying circumstances, such as sticking in the mud, doubling teams up all the little hills, and crashing at ungovernable speed down the opposite sides, breaking wagon-tongues and reaches, upsetting, and vainly trying to control wild steers, heifers, and unbroken cows, they finally succeeded in reaching the Elk Horn, where the companies were being organized for the plains.
Here Widow Smith reported herself to President Kimball, who consigned her to Captain—-‘s fifty.
Said the Captain: ‘Widow Smith, how many wagons have you?’
‘How many yokes of oxen have you?’
‘Well,’ said the captain, ‘it is folly for you to start in this manner; you never can make the journey, and if you try it you will be a burden upon the company the whole way. My advice to you is to go back to Winter Quarters and wait till you can get help.’
Widow Smith calmly replied: ‘Captain, I will beat you to the valley, and will ask no help from you either!’ This seemed to nettle the old gentleman, and it doubtless influenced his conduct toward her during the journey.
As they journeyed on the captain lost no opportunity to vent his spleen on the widow and her family; but she prayerfully maintained her integrity of purpose, and pushed vigorously on, despite several discouraging circumstances.
One day, as they were moving slowly through the hot sand and dust, in the neighborhood of the Sweetwater, the sun pouring down with excessive heat, towards noon, one of Widow Smith’s best oxen laid down, rolled over on his side, and stiffened out his legs spasmodically, evidently in the throes of death. The unanimous opinion was that he was poisoned. All the hindmost teams of course stopped, the people coming forward to know what was the matter. In a short time the captain, who was in advance of the company, perceiving that something was wrong, came to the spot. Probably no one supposed for a moment that the ox would recover, and the captain’s first words on seeing him were:
‘He is dead, there is no use working with him; we’ll have to fix up some way to take the widow along; I told her she would be a burden upon the company.
Meantime Widow Smith had been searching for a bottle of consecrated oil in one of the wagons, and now came forward with it, and asked the other brethren to administer to the ox, thinking that the Lord would raise him up. They did so, pouring a portion of oil on the top of his head, between and back of the horns, and all laid hands upon him, and one prayed, administering the ordinance as they would have done to a human being that was sick. In a moment he gathered up his legs, and at the first word arose to his feet, and traveled right off as well as ever.
On the 22nd of September the company crossed over “Big Mountain,” when they had the first glimpse of Salt Lake Valley. The descent of the western side of “Big Mountain” was precipitous and abrupt, and they were obliged to rough-lock the hind wheels of the wagons, and, as they were not needed, the forward cattle were turned loose to be driven to camp, the “wheelers” only being retained on the wagons. Desirous of shortening the next day’s journey as much as possible, they drove on till a late hour in the night, and finally camped near the eastern foot of the “Little Mountain”. During this night’s drive several of Widow Smith’s cows, that had been turned loose from the teams, were lost in the brush. Early next morning her son John returned to hunt for them, their service in the teams being necessary to proceed.
At an earlier hour than usual the captain gave orders for the company to start, knowing well the circumstances of the widow, and that she would be obliged to remain till John returned with the lost cattle. Accordingly the company rolled out, leaving her and her family alone. Hours passed by ere John returned with the lost cattle, and the company could be seen toiling along far up the mountain. And to human ken it seemed probable that the widow’s prediction would ingloriously fail. But as the company were nearing the summit of the mountain a cloud burst over their heads, sending down the rain in torrents, and throwing them into utter confusion. The cattle refused to pull, and to save the wagons from crashing down the mountain side, they were obliged to unhitch, and block the wheels. While the teamsters sought shelter, the storm drove the cattle in every direction, so that when it subsided it was a day’s work to find them and get them together. Meantime, as noted, John had returned with the stray cattle, and they were hitched up, and the widow and family rolled up the mountain, passing the company and continuing on to the valley, where she arrived fully twenty hours in advance of the captain. And thus was her prophecy fulfilled.”