Historical Pioneer Biographies
Mary Goble (Pay)
Born: 1843 Died: 1913
Story: Thirteen year old Mary and her family were with the
1856 Hunt Wagon Company which accompanied the Martin Handcart Company.
She suffered severe frostbite and would have lost her feet were
it not for a miracle.
Biography: © 1994 Deseret Book Company.
All rights reserved.
Born: June 2, 1843, Brighton, Sussex, England
Parents: William and Harriet Johnson Goble
1856: John A. Hunt Company
Age at time of journey: 13
When I was in my twelfth year, my parents joined the Latter-day
Saints. On the fifth of November I was baptized. The following May
we started for Utah. We left our home May 19, 1856. We came to London
the first day, the next day came to Liverpool and went on board
the ship Horizon that eve.
It was a sailing vessel, and there were nearly nine hundred souls
on board. We sailed on the 25th. The pilot ship came and tugged
us out into the open sea. I well remember how we watched old England
fade from sight. We sang "Farewell Our Native Land, Farewell."
When we were a few days out, a large shark followed the vessel.
One of the Saints died, and he was buried at sea. We never saw the
shark any more.
When we were sailing through the banks of Newfoundland, we were
in a dense fog for several days. The sailors were kept busy night
and day, ringing bells and blowing foghorns. One day I was on deck
with my father when I saw a mountain of ice in the sea close to
the ship. I said, "Look, Father, look." He went as white as a ghost
and said, "Oh, my girl." At that moment the fog parted, the sun
shone brightly till the ship was out of danger, when the fog closed
on us again.
We were on the sea six weeks, then we landed at Boston. We took
the train for Iowa City, where we had to get an outfit for the plains.
It was the end of July. On the first of August we started to travel,
with our ox teams unbroken and we not knowing a thing about driving
When we were in the Iowa campground, there came up a thunderstorm
that blew down our shelter, made with handcarts and some quilts.
We sat there in the rain, thunderstorm and lightning. My sister
Fanny got wet and died the 19th of July 1856. She would have been
2 years old on the 23rd. [She had broken out with the measles on
the ship, and was thus in a weakened position.] The day we started
our journey, we visited her grave. We felt very bad to leave our
little sister there.
We traveled through the States until we came to Council Bluffs,
Iowa. Then we started on our journey of one thousand miles over
the plains. It was about the first of September. We traveled fifteen
to twenty-five miles a day. We used to stop one day in the week
to wash. On Sunday we would hold our meetings and rest. Every morning
and night we were called to prayers by the bugle.
The Indians were on the war path and very hostile. Our captain,
John Hunt, had us make a dark camp. That was to stop and get our
supper, then travel a few miles, and not light any fires but camp
and go to bed. The men had to travel all day and guard every other
We traveled on till we got to the Platte River. That was the last
walk I ever had with my mother. We caught up with handcart companies
that day. We watched them cross the river. There were great lumps
of ice floating down the river. It was bitter cold. The next morning
there were fourteen dead in camp through the cold. We went back
to camp and went to prayers. They sang, "Come, Come, Ye Saints,
No Toil Nor Labor Fear." I wondered what made my mother cry. That
night my mother took sick, and the next morning my little sister
was born. It was the 23rd of September. We named her Edith, and
she lived six weeks and died for want of nourishment.
We had been without fresh water for several days, just drinking
snow water. The captain said there was a spring of fresh water just
a few miles away. It was snowing hard, but my mother begged me to
go and get her a drink. Another lady went with me. We were about
halfway to the spring when we found an old man who had fallen in
the snow. He was so stiff we could not lift him, so the lady told
me where to go, and I would go back for help, for we knew he would
soon be frozen if we left him. When I had gone, I began to think
of the Indians and began looking in all directions. I became confused
and forgot the way I should go. I waded around in the snow up to
my knees and became lost. Later when I did not return to camp, the
men started out after me. It was 11:00 o'clock before they found
me. My feet and legs were frozen. They carried me to camp and rubbed
me with snow. They put my feet in a bucket of water. The pain was
terrible. The frost came out of my legs and feet but not out of
We traveled in the snow from the last crossing of the Platte River.
We had orders not to pass the handcart companies. We had to keep
close to them so as to help them if we could. We began to get short
of food; our cattle gave out. We could only travel a few miles a
day. When we started out of camp in the morning, the brethren would
shovel snow to make a track for our cattle. They were weak for the
want of food as the buffaloes were in large herds by the roads and
ate all the grass.
When we arrived at Devil's Gate, it was bitter cold. We left lots
of our things there. There were two or three log houses there. We
left our wagon and joined teams with a man named James Barman. We
stayed there two or three days. While there an ox fell on the ice
and the brethren killed it, and the beef was given out to the camp.
My brother James ate a hearty supper and was as well as he ever
was when he went to bed. In the morning he was dead.
My feet were frozen, also my brother Edwin and my sister Caroline
had their feet frozen. It was nothing but snow. We could not drive
out the cold in our tents. Father would clean a place for our tents
and put snow around to keep it down. We were short of flour, but
Father was a good shot. They called him the hunter of the camp.
So that helped us out. We could not get enough flour for bread as
we got only a quarter of a pound per head a day, so we would make
it like thin gruel. We called it "skilly."
There were four companies on the plains. We did not know what would
become of us. One night a man came to our camp and told us there
would be plenty of flour in the morning, for Brother Young had sent
men and teams to help us. There was rejoicing that night. We sang
songs, some danced, and some cried.
We traveled faster now that we had horse teams. My mother had never
got well; she lingered until the 11th of December, the day we arrived
in Salt Lake City, 1856. She died between the Little and Big Mountains.
She was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. She was forty-three
years old. She and her baby lost their lives gathering to Zion in
such a late season of the year. My sister was buried at the last
crossing of the Sweetwater River.
We arrived in Salt Lake City at nine o'clock at night the 11th
of December 1856. Three out of the four that were living were frozen.
My mother was dead in the wagon. Bishop Hardy had us taken to a
house in his ward and the brethren and the sisters brought us plenty
of food. We had to be careful and not eat too much as it might kill
us we were so hungry.
Early next morning Brother Brigham Young and a doctor came. The
doctor's name was Williams. When Brigham Young came in, he shook
hands with all of us. When he saw our condition-our feet frozen
and our mother dead-tears rolled down his cheeks.
The doctor wanted to cut my feet off at the ankle, but President
Young said, "No, just cut off the toes, and I promise you that you
will never have to take them off any farther." The doctor amputated
my toes, using a saw and a butcher knife. The sisters were dressing
mother for her grave. Oh how did we stand it? That afternoon she
We had been in Salt Lake a week, when one afternoon a knock came
at the door. It was Uncle John Wood. When he met Father he said,
"I know it all, Bill." Both of them cried. I was glad to see my
Instead of my feet getting better, they got worse until the following
July. I went to Dr. Wiseman's. But it was no use-he could do no
more for me unless I would consent to have them cut off at the ankle.
I told him what Brigham Young had promised me. He said, "All right,
sit there and rot. I will do nothing more until you come to your
One day, I sat there crying, my feet were hurting so, when a little
old woman knocked at the door. She said she had felt that someone
needed her there. I told her the promise that Brigham Young had
made me. She made a poultice and put it on my feet, and every day
she would come and change the poultice. At the end of three months
my feet were well.
One day Dr. Wiseman said, "Well, Mary, I must say you have grit.
I suppose your feet have rotted to the knees by this time." I said,
"Oh, no, my feet are well." He said, "I know better, it could never
be." So I took off my stockings and showed him my feet. He said
that was surely a miracle. Mary Goble married Richard Pay in 1859,
and they made a living ranching in Nephi, Juab County, Utah. She
and her husband became the parents of thirteen children, ten sons
and three daughters. Mary learned the Indian language so she could
communicate with the many Indians who visited their home. The couple
frequently gave the natives fruit and chickens to eat. She once
drove Chief Blackhawk out of her orchard with sticks and stones
because he was picking too many of her peaches. Mary was left a
widow in 1893 with nine children still at home. She earned extra
income as a midwife and a nurse. She died September 25, 1913, in
Nephi at the age of seventy. Her granddaughter, Marjorie Pay Hinckley,
is the wife of President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sources: Mary Goble Pay. Autobiographical sketch, typescript. LDS
Church Archives. See also "My Story." In Treasures of Pioneer History,
pp. 91-95 I Walked to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers on
the Mormon Trail.
Source: I Walked to
Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers on the Mormon Trail © Susan
Arrington Madsen. All rights reserved. No part of this book may
be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in
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