Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Getting from here to there

OK, obviously the topics for ol' Myrt's columns are affected/effected by current events whether global, national or personal. Right now my son-in-law is looking into purchasing a new van to replace the one totaled in the car accident last month. In the wee hours of the morning, when I tend to think about our ancestors, this topic prompted a lot of ideas and metaphors to run through my mind. Here's a bit of this morning's ramblings:

It was only 3 weeks ago that I flew from Florida to Utah in less than a day, concerned that there was an unscheduled layover in Denver. Ha, what an ol' softy! That trip was nothing compared to the less comforting modes of transportation considered normal by my UK-born paternal ancestors, who eventually arrived in the Utah Territory before the striking of the "golden spike." That arrival qualifies them as "Utah Pioneers" and me for membership in the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP). It was the first lineage society I ever joined. Back in 1993, my research was greatly aided by the work of others, though I was careful to spot-check many details for accuracy.

My ancestor Thomas WASDEN (born 29 June 1821 Laughton, Yorkshire, England) and his wife Mary (born 25 April 1816 Thrybergh, Yorkshire, England, daughter of James and Hanna [Heaton] Coucom) were the parents of my paternal great-grandmother, Eliza Marie (Wasden) Memmott Weiser.

Eliza was born in Utah, but her older sister Ellen's typed recollections of the journey to America are found in the vault at the LDS Church History Department. Also FHL US/CAN Film 908075 Item 4. Notes reproduced from a mimeograph copy of the typescript include this descriptive intro:

"Ellen Wasden (1848-1920) was born at Rotherham, England, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Wasden. Her parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and immigrated to the United States in 1855. They lived a few years at Cincinnati, Ohio, and then joined a Mormon pioneer company and migrated to Utah in 1859. They settled first in Sevier County, Utah, and then, because of Indian troubles, moved to Ephraim, Utah, and later to Gunnison, Utah. She married Theodore Edward Christensen (1845-1917) at Gunnison in 1865. They had nine children."

In preparation for my DUP application, ol' Myrt here discovered a series of books titled OUR PIONEER HERITAGE, ©Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. Volume 12, Sailing Vessels and Steamboats from 1850-1859, Company E explains Ellen Wasden Christensen was born at Rotherham, July 15, 1848. This excerpt is from her journal:

"I left England April 26, 1855 on the William Stetson ship setting sail from Liverpool. It was a small sailing vessel with 700 people aboard and we reached New York in May, landing at Castle Garden. I had such glorious ideas of the New Country, and these dreams of America were somewhat shaken when I viewed the awful place with such a fair sounding name - Castle Garden.

But it was a relief to get on land and quit the little vessel which had been a scene of much discomfiture and peculiar experiences. We were on the water about a month. And the meals, for several days I did not care to eat and there was never a time when I felt very hungry, but hungry or not, there was but one cooked meal in three days and this bi-weekly affair was prepared while the vessel was rocking and the galley, so the kitchen was called, was in a state of shifting scenes and sometimes the sea was too rough for any culinary work at all. It was a time of picnicing without the usual picnic zest and spirit.

We were all anxious to set our eyes upon the promised land, but landing at the unkept immigration quarters was enough to dispirit the bravest heart. Then when we knew that the untried dangers of the trackless plains lay before us and our journey had just begun, we raised our petitions to the Keeper of all for strength to the end."

Later in Ellen's journal she describes the journey westward. Her parents stopped about 2 years in Ohio, and then in St. Jo working as a postmaster and school marm to earn money to outfit the family for the trip westward.

I wonder how Thomas picked out his covered wagon. Did he kick the wheels as my son-in-law does when considering the purchase of the family's new car? I know for sure they didn't have GMAC financing in the 1850s.

Ellen was just a girl of 8 years when the family took the final trek across the plains. She explained that at night the wagons would be drawn together in a circle for protection. Ellen says that on good nights, her mother would spread a quilt on the ground for them to lay on. She gathered her children under another quilt, snuggling together to gaze up at the stars above, comparing them to the candles on the Christmas tree "at home in merry old England." Things had been better there.

At home there was enough food, and things weren't so dirty from the dust and storms of travel on the open prairie. Ellen remembers that her mother had given her one bar of soap, but she never chose to use it. I thought this was a child-like tendency, until her journal went on to explain she kept it wrapped up safely, only daring to smell its clean fragrance from time to time.

You can see it was our family who invented the slogan "Calgon, take me away..."

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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