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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1861, Sanderson, John and wife, Rebecca Wood

Rebecca Wood was the wife of John Sanderson of Yorkshire, England. Both had heard the gospel message but Rebecca was not fully convinced, therefore was not baptized at the time her husband became a member. In 1850 the Saints were urged to make preparations to join the body of the Church in Utah. John left his family in England and journeyed to Zion. They were the parents of two daughters, Sarah Ann and Rhoda. Rebecca and her family were devout Baptists and she felt she could not accompany her husband to America and live the religion in which he had found so much joy.

After his arrival in Utah, John went to Cedar City where he remained until 1855 when he was called on a mission to England. In the meantime, Rebecca had been studying the principles of Mormonism and through the efforts of the missionaries was now prepared for baptism, January, 1856. Immediately, Mrs. Sanderson and her two daughters prepared to leave for America. They sailed on the Enoch Train and six weeks later landed at Boston, Mass. They went as far as Iowa City where they camped until the first handcarts were made ready to cross the plains, then traveled to Florence, Nebraska in Capt. Edmund Ellsworth's company, arriving July 12, 1856. Here Mrs. Sanderson secured employment and decided to await her husband's return from his mission.

Late in 1859 John returned to America. They did not have sufficient money to pay the expenses of the trip to Utah, so John went to St. Louis where he worked until the spring of 1861 when the Sandersons left Council Bluffs in David H. Cannon's Company. Before reaching their destination, one of John's oxen died. This loss crippled his team and made it difficult for him to keep up with the company. Captain Cannon suggested that he start earlier in the morning and all would camp together at night.

One day as they traveled alone, they came to two roads, one leading up a slope of a mountain and one leading around it. The father determined to go up the hill. Rebecca kindly advised taking the lower road as it seemed to be the one most traveled. "No." declared the father. "I have been this way three times before and I know this is the Old Mormon Trail." They could see no sign whatever of the rest of the company. The wolves howled near the wagon and the mother and father kept candles lighted all night. When morning came, the "woman's intuition" urged the father to go back. She knew they were lost but the will of the father dominated and they continued the old trail, traversing rough roads and through deep grasses.

One morning the father went out to find the cattle, but returned to say they were lost, he couldn't find them anywhere. Leaving the girls in the wagon, afraid to move, the mother declared she'd find them. They were gone some little time when they returned with the cattle. On a Saturday morning they could see the valley below. The father recognized it as Big Sandy Station, then a relay station. The mountain was steep and dangerous and the mother and children walked while the father, with log chains, kept the wagon on the unused road. The family came out of the canyon into the valley and learned that Captain Cannon's group had not yet arrived. That night there was much rejoicing when they were united with their company. They arrived in Salt Lake Valley August 27, 1861.

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.