Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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1853 (age 15), Davis (Carter), Sarah

I, Sarah Davis Carter, was born September 15, 1837, in Herefordshire, Stokes Lane, Eng. My father, William Davis, was born in 1805 and my mother, Elizabeth Bishop, was born in 1815.

I was the fifth child in a family of nine. At the age of eleven years, I went to live with my Uncle Thomas and Aunt Bessie Davis, staying there until I was fourteen. While living there, I did all kinds of housework: washing, cooking, scrubbing and nursing children. I was taught the strictest economy in all things. This experience and knowledge was a blessing to me, as it proved to be of great value all through my life. Our drinking water had to be carried a distance of over a mile. This my aunt did, carrying most of it on her head. This habit, formed in her youth, brought her a virtue which stayed with her all through her life because at the age of eighty, she carried herself as straight and graceful as any young girl. It was while I was still living there, that I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by Elder Wilford Woodruff.

After two years of saving, we were able to start on our way to Utah in the spring of 1853. There was Mother and Father, Ted William, John, Elizabeth, Rhuben, Levi and myself. Eliza was married to John Nott and did not come. While crossing the ocean on the ship Windermere, smallpox broke out. My two brothers, Rhuben and Levi, both died from this dreadful disease and were buried in the sea. It almost killed my mother to see those two darlings, with weights attached to their feet, slide into those shark-infested waters.

When we landed at New Orleans, those of us who had smallpox, including Mother, my two brothers and myself, were taken to a hospital for about three weeks. Those who did not have the disease were escorted by the elder who was in charge of this company of Saints, to a place where the emigrants were accommodated until they could again get started on their journey West.

As we all know, those who had smallpox in those days were left with unsightly scars on their bodies, and so the elder who accompanied these saints to the emigrant home would not be seen with them. He made them walk on the opposite side of the street, some distance behind, and told them to watch him so they would know where to go. He also instructed them not to speak to him nor allow anyone to know that he knew them or had any connection with them.

This provoked my grandmother. She resented such rude treatment, to think that this elder was ashamed to be seen with the saints because they had these pits in their faces. And so she made this statement: "He shall die in a ditch." This remark was literally fulfilled, for even though he served as a missionary for the Mormon Church, he became a drunkard and died in a gutter.

After the quarantine was over at the hospital, while very weak from our sickness, we followed the company of saints up the Mississippi River. It was eight days and eight nights on the steamboat that carried that valiant band of people a little closer to their hopes and dreams. Without bedding of any kind and scarcely enough clothing to cover our bodies, we lay on the rough hard boards of the deck of that steamer at night. We had very little to eat and the cook, seeing Mother so weak and frail, would often bring her some warm soup or gruel which she appreciated and enjoyed very much. Mother only weighed about one hundred pounds.

The Trek
Catching up with the saints, we immediately made preparations to start the journey across the plains. There was only one wagon for the ten of us to carry bedding, food and clothing; so you can see there was no room for anyone to ride. Mother and all walked every step of the way. It was a rough hard journey and only with the help of our Heavenly Father did we ever reach the valley. Father was a large powerful man and when night came, he would take Mother in his arms, weak and weary from a hard day's trek and hold her close to him. This seemed to renew her strength and courage. They were a happy, loving couple and I never heard an unkind word pass between them.

Getting Lost
On one occasion my sister Elizabeth, another young lady and myself, and our boy friends ... started out in head of the company, thinking we could follow the road and like all young people our age, we thought we were perfectly able to take care of ourselves. But instead, we became lost entirely. After traveling a long time, we came to a mountain which we climbed with difficulty, hoping when we reached the top we would see the company, but instead we saw a band of Indians. Not knowing whether they were friendly or hostile, the young men told us to wait behind some bushes while they went down to the camp for some water, as we were thirsty and our tongues were swollen and we could scarcely speak. Our boy friends returned with an old squaw and the water. Nothing ever tasted so good in our whole lives as that water did. With difficulty, we explained to the squaw we were lost and could not find our way back and she, with as much effort, made us understand that, for my petticoat and my sister's stockings, she would help find our way back. This we gladly did and she showed us the way we should take.

We reached camp just at dark and just as a company was being formed to search for us. Never again did we venture away by ourselves. The journey was a hard one but I never heard my father or mother or any of the Saints complain.

In October we reached the valley, footsore and weary, but very thankful. That winter, we lived in one room in Cottonwood Canyon. By spring of 1854, we moved to Kaysville, and we worked very hard to build us a home.

Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.