Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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Christopher Alston, 1864 (age 10)

Christopher Alston was born September 8, 1853, at Southport, Lancashire, England, the son of James and Ann Molyneux Alston. He was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by John Alexander in 1861. He married Annie C. C. Smith in Salt Lake December 7, 1874. Mrs. Alston was an adopted daughter of Apostle Orson Pratt. She died June 12, 1917. Mr. Alston died in 1930 at the age of 77 years. Mr. Alston wrote the following concerning his life:

To America with his 8-year-old Brother
My father, James Alston, died May 26, 1863, leaving five children, the eldest ten years and the youngest two years of age. My mother, being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, desired to gather to the place appointed for members of the Church to assemble and settle, to make homes and build up a community here in Salt Lake City and the country adjacent north and south. Father's mother and brothers, who were also the executors of Father's will, were very strongly opposed to the children being taken to that wicked place where those "awful Mormons" lived. So Mother was under the necessity of making private arrangements to send my brother, eight years, and myself ten years of age, with a friend, paying a part of his emigration costs for caring for us on the journey. We were out on the Atlantic Ocean before my grandmother and uncles knew that we had been quietly sent away to the United States of America during the Civil War, leaving our mother with three small children; the eldest of the three a cripple on crutches; the youngest a child in arms. We emigrated in 1864, sailing on May 21st on the ship General McClellan. Aboard this good ship on this memorable trip was Sister Eliza Allen, mother of our neighbor, Mrs. John A. Pressler. She was a fine example of young English girlhood.

Ship hits Iceberg - Doesn't Sink
During our voyage there was one birth, one death and one marriage. One night, in a dense fog, our ship struck a monstrous iceberg and was nearly wrecked, but was miraculously saved. It was a fearful experience. Everything that was not lashed down tight was thrown from side to side - people, utensils and luggage in one great pile. The rattle of pans, dishes and baggage, and the cries of women and children, the shouts of men, the commands of officers, the banging and bumping of the ship against the iceberg made it seem as if two monsters were trying to beat each other to pieces and the great floating mountain of ice would overwhelm the sturdy ship and sink her in the deep sea with all on board. But it was not to be so, we were in the hands of the "Master of ocean and earth and skies."

To Wyoming, Nebraska,
We arrived in New York June 23rd, 1864. There we took steamer and traveled up the Hudson River into Canada to avoid the Armies of the Rebellion, broken bridges, uptorn railways, etc. incident to a war, which was raging in the States between the North and the South, with blood and rapine in all the land. We arrived in Wyoming [Nebraska], near Omaha, July 3rd, after going by rail and another steamer up the Missouri River. There we were met by the teams of oxen and teamsters from Utah preparatory to making an 1,100 mile trip, which I walked the whole way.

The Trek
On this trip we experienced some severe trials and hardships. One night after the tents were set up and the camp was asleep, there came up a fearful wind, then rain in torrents, and every tent in camp was torn down except the one we were in with my sick brother. My brother was taken very sick on the way. Our tent had been improvised from two quilts and staked down so firmly the wind could not get under it.

Crossing the prairie there was no fuel other than buffalo chips with which to cook our little meals of bread and meat. Think of cooking your supper, after a long day's walk, over a fire of "chips" with the wind blowing over the great plains, and sometimes rain putting out the fire, and going to bed without any supper, getting up in the morning at daylight to find everything soaking wet and nothing to burn to cook your breakfast with, hooking up the oxen and traveling until noon, trying to find some dry "chips" to make a fire to cook dinner! Such was our life on the plains before we reached the mountain country where we procured sticks to use with the "chips."

Big Reception - Mouth of Parley's Canyon
Captain Joseph S. Rawlins was in charge of our company. We arrived in Salt Lake City September 20, 1864. I was then eleven years old, having celebrated my birthday twelve days before arriving here. I must relate the welcome I received on the first day and night in the Salt Lake Valley. In the morning, about 11 o'clock, we came out of the mouth of Parley's Canyon, where we were met by a number of men and teams. The first words of greetings I heard were, "Come here my boy and hold your cap." I came near the wagon from which this voice came. There was a man kneeling in the bottom of the wagon on some straw, and the wagon was nearly filled with peaches. He scooped up his double hands full of peaches and put them into my cap, then scooped up another handful and put them into my cap also, and it was full of lovely peaches, the first I had ever tasted in my life. "There" he said, "now eat those." He kept handing out peaches until his load was given away. I ran to our wagon where my brother lay very sick and gave him some peaches, then divided the remainder with the teamster and my custodian, John Ollerton, who had brought me from England, then I ate the rest. Now imagine, if you can, an eleven-year-old boy who had walked 1,100 miles and had an 1,100 mile appetite, and had never tasted a peach before in his life, having half a dozen nice peaches to eat!

Sugar House
We traveled down the Sugarhouse street for four miles. There we were met by my uncle - my mother's brother - who took us home to his place where they were threshing, and where a thresher's dinner had just been served. We washed and sat to a table - the first time since leaving England - and ate a most glorious dinner not sitting on the ground and eating out of a camp skillet with a butcher knife. In the afternoon we watched the threshers finish threshing the wheat. My grandfather, John Molyneaux, had gleaned a pile of wheat which they threshed without taking any toll. That pile of gleanings turned out to be ten bushels. That was a custom in those days, never to take toll for threshing the wheat that had been gleaned by men, women or children.

Sugar Cane/Molasses/Watermelon
In the evening my cousins, Walter and James Wilson, took me up to a big molasses mill run by a big water wheel, where molasses was being made. The furnace fire under the boiler lighted the yard. Lanterns were placed here and there so the men could work during the night. Girls and boys had numerous small fires, where they were making molasses canes from the skimmings which the men tending the boiler had given them, and all of the "kids" wanted to give the immigrant boy some of their candy. Then my cousin peeled a stalk of sugar cane for me to eat, and he said, "Christopher, you stay right here, we are going across the road, we will be back soon." They crossed the road, climbed a fence and ran down into the field and came back with big ripe watermelons, and they had not planted those melons. I was given a big section of a luscious melon to eat, and I thought "This is Zion;" most truly and I was in ecstasy.

Mother Comes Following Year
My mother and the three small children, before mentioned, came to Utah the following year, having similar experiences, trials and hardships.

I attended school with no books, excepting a primary grammar brought from England; Paul Leichtenburg was my teacher. I went into the canyon with a yoke of oxen to take out logs to sell for fuel etc., to help make a living for my mother and fatherless brothers and sisters, I being the eldest of the five children. Later, I attended school at night, Professor Lucien W. Peck being instructor. He gave me special permission to come in late when I did not get home from the canyon in time for the opening class work.

March, 1869, went to Promontory to work on Pacific Railroad; was then fifteen years of age, the smallest boy with the largest team on the whole line from Omaha to San Francisco, being twelve oxen or, as we termed it, six yoke.

I have since been engaged as a carpenter, building throughout the city and state mills, bridges, homes, hotels, factories, meeting houses and helping on the Salt Lake Temple.

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.