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 11), 1855, 1865, Burges (Slater), Elizabeth (Crossed 3 times)

Elizabeth Burges Slater was born August 3, 1842, in Tudinfield Marchfield, England, daughter of Peter and Ann Margaret Esplin Burges. Her mother passed away shortly after Elizabeth was born, but a way was provided for Elizabeth's care. Just before her passing, Peter Burges and his beloved wife had accepted the Gospel under the teachings of James Hawkins.

With his girl of three years, Peter Burges decided to leave his native land and migrate to America. There he would meet the Saints. Brother Hawkins volunteered to care for Elizabeth during the long voyage across the ocean, a period of ten dreary weeks in a sailing vessel. Landing in New Orleans, the company continued their journey up the Mississippi River by boat to St. Louis.

Upon arriving in St. Louis, Peter Burges, a merchant by trade, rented a two-story building from Mary Ann Farthington and opened a store. Needing someone to care for Elizabeth, Peter married Mary Ann. However, this arrangement proved unfavorable because she was not of his faith, but was a member of the Josephite Church. Ever hoping and praying that some day she would join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, father and daughter kept close to their religion.

First Trip
In the year 1853, when Elizabeth was eleven years old, the family joined an oxteam company and crossed the plains to Utah. Upon their arrival, a store was again set up in a one-room dirt-roofed log hut. Many hardships were encountered during the trek across the plains. Often it was necessary for members of the company to help a comrade along his weary way and to receive as his reward the blessing from that eternal source that makes all things possible.

Second Trip (Going Back to St. Louis), 1855
Life in Salt Lake City for the Burges family lasted only two years. As polygamy was being practiced by some of the Saints in the Valley, and fearing that her husband would take up the practice, Mary Ann persuaded him to return to St. Louis where the family could again establish residence. They left Salt Lake City by oxteam at night to avoid any questions that might be asked which might hinder their flight. Elizabeth, who was then thirteen years of age, told the following story:

"We were traveling east on our return trip and had just arrived at Fort Laramie. We were anxious to keep on the trail and to push on, when we met a scout. He advised us to stay there for a few days as some hostile Indians were roaming the area. It was during this wait that an army of 1,500 Indian braves went through Fort Laramie. My step-mother, in a joking manner, told an Indian chief that he could have me. This he did not take as a joke, but followed our wagon for days, making it necessary for me to hide in the top of the wagon and keep out of sight. It was while trying to avoid getting caught by this Indian that I slipped and fell from the wagon, taking all the skin and part of the flesh from my arm. After this accident, Father bargained with the chief and made him see I was not to be taken away."

Back again in St. Louis, Peter opened a mercantile business. Education for Elizabeth was out the question, as her duty was to care for her four brothers and sisters. She performed the daily household tasks of washing, ironing, sewing by hand and cooking meals. Often she walked long distances to market, or to grant some request of her stepmother. Never failing or shirking her duty, she learned these arts well and her deft fingers prepared her for the life that followed.

Five years after the family returned to St. Louis, a young engineer from Boston arrived. Elizabeth, then eighteen years of age and a beautiful young woman, became well acquainted with him, and she found him to be a man she could admire and trust. They were married September 27, 1860, in St. Louis. As Thomas Slater was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elizabeth's happiness was complete.

This devoted couple lived their first years together when trouble and contention engulfed the nation, but it did not mar their joy, for peace and plenty were theirs. On March 21, 1861, a daughter whom they named Emily, was born, and on June 14, 1863, their son Peter came to increase their happiness.

Third Trip, 1865
It was in 1865 that Thomas, Elizabeth and their children left friends and relatives to join the Saints in Utah, thus making three trips for Elizabeth across the great American desert. Concerning the trip, Elizabeth wrote: "Our journey was a long hard one. We only took the necessary things like bedding, clothes, food and cooking utensils. We secured passage on a boat to cross the Missouri River. It was while on this voyage that our infant son fell ill with scarlet fever, a fever that burned until the flame of his mortal existence went out, and only a cold waxen form was left in my arms. How could I bury him in the muddy waters of the great Missouri? I begged the captain to pull to shore and let us go on land long enough to bury him. My request was granted. As we started to dig a grave, a man came to us and said,"Oh, lady, don't bury your baby here, let me take it to Pink Town." I had only time to hand him the small box and walk up the plank to board the boat with a prayer of thankfulness in my heart to God for His blessings, for I know He had sent the stranger to us in our trouble and distress." Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 9, p.73 The Slater family was forced to stop, as their oxen gave out. Already a stampede of cattle had taken the toll of thirty head. Rest and a chance to shape things together seemed the most logical thing to do. The food supply diminished and not an ounce of flour could be bought. Several days went by. Quoting again from Elizabeth: "Then one day we met a wagon with two men riding in it on their way to Utah. They offered me and my small daughter a ride with them if I would do the cooking. This seemed to be the best thing to do. Thomas stayed to repair his outfit, and two months later joined me in Salt Lake City." Upon his arrival President Brigham Young called the Slaters to go into Ogden Valley and settle. So in the fall of 1866, they came to what is now Huntsville.

"We lived with Joseph Wood and family that first winter. The two families making a total of twelve persons living in one room. The snow that winter was six feet deep; calico $1.50 per yard, tea $6.00 a pound and flour $13.00 a sack. In the early spring we rented a log hut in the center of town."

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.