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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1865 (age 16), Hagell (Naisbitt), Catherine

Mother of 8 Died, Left for Utah next Year, Baby died Enroute
I, Catherine Hagell Naisbitt, was born in London, England, March 28th, 1849, the second child of a family of eight. My parents" names were John Hagell and Mary Eliza Lee. I was barely 13 years of age when my mother died, leaving a family of eight children ranging in age from one week to 14 years. I being the oldest girl naturally felt the loss most keenly. We had planned on emigrating that year, but Mother's death prevented our starting on so perilous a journey, especially with such a young baby. However, the following year, Father sold out his business and we started on what we children thought was to be a pleasure trip, but, alas, the first night aboard the ship proved to be anything but pleasant. We begged Father to take us home, but his reply was "We have no home, we are going to make one in Zion." Little did we realize the hardships we would encounter before we reached there. Shortly after we set sail, the baby, who was only one week old when Mother died, took suddenly sick and died soon afterwards. He was buried in the sea when he was just fourteen months old. We all felt this loss very keenly, especially Father. The name of the ship we sailed on was the Belle Wood. We set sail on the 29th day of April 1865, and were six weeks and three days on the ocean.

Financial Problems, Only One Could Continue
When we arrived in New York, word had been sent from Utah that no wagons would be sent from there as had been the custom in other years. Therefore, only those who had the means could go on. These gave their money to Brother Taylor, who had charge of the emigration and he was delegated to purchase oxen to take us on. Father had enough money to send one, though he did not have sufficient for the whole family. He was, therefore, advised to send me, which he decided to do. He had a wealthy brother in New Jersey who was willing to help him in any way, provided he would give up his religion and keep me with him. When he found Father would not do this, he refused to help in any way.

I never will forget the homesick feeling I experienced when they bade me good-bye. We were detained in Castle Gardens ten days after this, and I can assure you if it had been possible I would have gone back. I did not know his address, however, so, heartsick and weary, I started with the company, feeling that I was leaving all worthwhile behind me. When we arrived at the frontier I found a letter from my uncle asking me to return to those poor motherless children. I was overjoyed at the prospect, but it seems I was destined to disappointment, for when I told the captain that I was going back with the missionaries who were going East from Utah, he said, "No, my girl, there is no going back in this Church." So once more I was headed toward Utah with no prospect of returning to my family in New Jersey.

Crossing the Plains/Food Shortages
Being young and able-bodied, I, with other children, was forced to walk nearly all the way across the plains. We soon became footsore, weary and homesick, thinking of those we had left behind, especially did I think of my father with such a family of small children struggling to make a living in a strange land. We buried many on the way. We were also delayed on the road, as the oxen which we had been given were not broken. When we were about half way across the plains we found ourselves nearly out of rations with a foot of snow covering the ground. Our captain, Wm. W. Willis, told us to try to keep warm, if possible, by lying in bed, for he had not a pound of flour in camp nor could he see the trail, so that unless we had help from the Lord we would perish. We had been living on 4 cups of flour, 1/4 lb. bacon and chip crackers,-that was a week's rations-it kept us alive but we were always hungry. President Young had heard of our predicament and sent a train with provisions to meet us, and much to our joy they reached us about four o'clock p.m. of the day above mentioned. They took on the sick and the old people, leaving a few provisions for those of us who were more able, and moved on to Utah.

In a few more days another mule train arrived which picked up the married people and the small children, So we young people had to wait until the third train came and took us. We did not arrive in Utah until the 15th of November.

Rest of Family Arrives, 1866
My father came out the following year with the children, and though it was only a year since I left them, I hardly recognized them. They had not had such a hard journey as I had, but it was hard enough, and they were so thin and worn as to be almost unrecognizable. But their lives were spared and we rejoiced to be together again. Father, being a baker by trade, commenced making meat pies, taking them from "house to house, disposing of them so rapidly that he decided to open a shop, which he did, opposite the Salt Lake Theatre. This soon grew into a flourishing business and there are perhaps some living who will remember having tasted Hagell's celebrated meat pies.

2 On April 13, 1867, I was married to Henry W. Naisbitt, being his third wife; I, at that time was but 18 years of age. His first wife was a true Latter-day Saint and when on her death-bed, she called me to her and asked me to take care of her family, seven in number ranging from 7 months to 14 years, I felt that I was called upon to go through another case like that of my own mother. As I had no children of my own at the time, my love naturally went out to them, for I felt in a sense that they were my own. The baby, especially, seemed dear to me. However, she died six months later. Six weeks after her death, my first baby girl was born, an event which helped to reconcile us to the loss.

I have had eight children, six boys and two girls, all of whom are living except my oldest girl who died soon after her marriage, and my second boy who died when he was 15 months old. The family that I was left with from the death of my husband's first wife, are now grown and married. They have always shown me love and respect and they are almost as dear to me as my own. I lived with them for three years before their mother died and we were a happy family. Of course it was not always smooth sailing, but it was not harder, it seems, than it is in a good many present day families in which the principle of plural marriage does not enter.

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.