A PIONEER MOTHER
By Malvina Crane Seely, 1924
This story has to do with a woman, a pioneer mother, who came and spent her life here, doing her bit to make this site a habitable spot through more than fifty years. But her life here was typical, reflecting the lives of other women, and therefore it may have a direct bearing upon the subject which is engaging the thought and interest of this pioneer Historical Association, though it is written as a tribute to her memory.
The beginning of her existence was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, on an oblong island in the ,Baltic Sea, in a Christian home of the common people. The educational and social conditions surrounding her young life were typical of the country where she was born. She was given schooling and religious instruction, but also was taught how to work with her hands, this being thought an essential part of a girl's education in that country, for they kept no "hothouse plants" over there. It was neither thought wise nor sensible to coddle and pamper young people in that land, where thrift, economy, and hard work are characteristic of life among commoners.
Therefore, in later years, it was said of her, "There is not a lazy bone in her body." This was a high tribute, since it has been said, "every man is naturally lazy."
A time came when the community was shaken with religious fervor. A young preacher, from another part of the little kingdom, had come over to the island and was preaching a strange gospel, telling of the advent of a new prophet, the finding of some gold plates, and the visitation of a veritable angel, known as Moroni. Several times she heard the young preacher, liked his manly appearance and forceful manner of reasoning, was converted to his views, and later became his wife. It is quite a familiar story, common enough in human life, but its outcome was far from what she was expecting and hoping it would be, for at that time she did not have the slightest desire to leave her native land.
But somebody has said, "There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will." Did God, in the beginning, shape each human life, as a whole, and in all its phases? In a little book, I read: "The decrees of God are, His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass." Wise men have called that "fore-ordination." We may call it God's certain control of His own universe. In consonance with this, a profound thinker (Horace Bushnell) has said, "Every life a plan of God,"
If that is true, then this pioneer's life was a plan of God, and no mistake was made in her leaving her native land. It is pleasant and comforting to believe that-it is difficult to disprove it-yet I am not wise enough to assert it as a fact. At any rate, and without spending further time on this abstruse point, a day came when she must quit the old friends and scenes for the new world.
We need to keep her background and training in mind, the pleasant home and dear friends, in order to understand and appreciate the severe sacrifice she was called upon to make. By this time, after eight years in her own home, there were four little children around her. Think of starting on a journey, six thousand miles long, with such a brood. Remember, too, that this was before the age of steam, when vessels were driven by wind, and when it literally took months to cross from England to New York.
Setting out from home and kindred early in April they made Liverpool in safety, and there took ship for New York. Reaching that port, weary and worn out, after eleven weeks on the turbulent Atlantic, they took a few days of rest before crossing the states to the Missouri River. Now they were fronting the howling wilderness, with more than a thousand miles separating them from the land of Zion, the center of all their hopes, where were the prophet and the stately temple, and the haven of peace and rest about which so much had been told them by Apostle Erastus Snow. The journey across the plains had to be made in prairie-schooners, or on foot, for many of the emigrants had to walk the entire distance. The schooners were drawn by lumbering oxen, four or six to the wagon, rendering progress slow and tedious.
It took six months to make a journey which now can be made in sixteen days. .But, for several years, imperious duty had been calling, urging that the sacrifice be made, and their pious souls often had felt this imperative call to migrate to Zion. Therefore, when the order came, requesting them to move, they were ready to obey the prophet's command, and lost no time in setting out for the land of promise.
Suffice it to say that, after reaching Salt Lake City, they were sent up into this mountainous region to make a new home. They had nothing with which to begin, save courage and hope, and willingness to struggle for daily bread. But they were young and youth can remove mountains, conquer lions, subdue wild savages, and make of a wilderness a fruitful field. And, if this was to become a habitable region, such work must be done.
Our first home was in the fort, in a little hut of one room, where we spent the winter. But, while we were living in the hut our father had bought a lot where he dug a cellar, into which we moved in the spring. Not for long was he to live with us in that dugout. For, like all ambitious and energetic men, he was struggling to get ahead, working like a slave and undermining his health. There are landmarks here attesting his energy, one of which is the old Social Hall. But, after midsummer, he was stricken with typhoid fever and died, thus leaving his delicate wife with her children to shift for herself.
A life of terrible struggle now began. Her chief concern was how to secure food and clothing for her children. No money had been left to supply these pressing needs by her husband. For her, therefore, the future was dark, dismal, unpromising, the (sun?) itself seeming to have gone out of her sky. And yet, she did not despair, because she was a firm believer in God. She had been taught to believe that God helps those who help themselves. It was her duty, therefore, to go to work and help herself. But what could she do? Somebody had said, "Where there's a will, there's a way."
She could remember Ruth, the Moabitess, who went into the field of Boaz to glean wheat for bread. Why not follow Ruth's example? She could see no other way. But what should she do with her children? She could not take them into the field. The answer was, "where there's a will, there's a way." Her will, therefore must find the way. Hence, leaving the babies in care of her eldest child, she took her boy and went into the field to pluck golden heads of wheat from the stubble. In this manner she solved that first perplexing problem-the problem of food for herself and children-and in the solution she found the key to success.
It was a slave's life, but she who was living it was not a slave. She was free and independent, as were our American ancestors, after the Revolution; because of her own efforts she had won freedom. In like manner she won success in other respects. With her own hands she made clothing for herself and children, carding the wool, spinning the yarn, weaving the cloth out of which necessary garments were made. And her success in these things brought peace and happiness to her stricken heart.
Happiness does not come from without the soul, but from within, from conquering self and achieving success. She found peace and happiness in useful work, not in dressing and fussing and gadding, but in doing her God-given duty. Living in a hovel, on the bare ground, with scant furnishings, was quite different from her former home, yet she made no complaint. She was a pioneer mother, living in a new country, and must adjust herself to surrounding conditions. In doing this she was only following the example of others.
Therefore we owe them a debt which we never can repay. About all we can do is to hold them in everlasting and grateful remembrance. For, without their self sacrificing toil, what would have been our lot in life?
Taken from Mt. Pleasant History, Hilda Madsen Longsdorf pp 330-334