William Jones brought his wife, Mary Ann, and four children to America from England in 1856. They were members of the Hodgett Wagon Company which traveled in tandem with the Martin Handcart Company that year. His 19-year-old daughter, Louisa, wrote of their conversion and immigration, and the faith of her father. The following are excerpts from Louisa’s account:
We listened to the missionaries of a new church. “Mormons” they were called. We knew it was true and were baptized. My father became an Elder and home missionary in Devonshire. Most of our friends and loved ones turned against us because of our beliefs. My father longed to go to America to be with the Saints and to be taught first hand from a prophet of God.
We left the ship on the 23rd of May 1856. America! We made it. The land of promises, hopes, freedom and dreams . . . the sound of [America] was wonderfully exciting.
We started out with much hope and promises for a new life in Utah and plenty of provisions, we thought. However, before we reached Devil’s Gate, the provisions were very low, [and] the ox team gave out.
Because of the constant exposure to the cold, wet and snowy nights, father took cold . . . He laid in the wagon, being too weak to walk. We had to keep up with the rest of the company or perish. Mother tried to drive the oxen, but it was too much for her. She had a stroke and also became an invalid. My older brother, Robert, had been left a cripple since he suffered Meningitis as a baby. So the arduous task of driving the oxen fell to me. If we were going to live, I had to do my part. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. My hand, once so delicate and frail [that] could tap out telegraph messages in what now seemed a dream or another life, now bled in open sores from roping and handling the oxen.
Father suffered in desperate pain now. One night, after our company had traveled two days from the Platte River, he begged mother to have me drive to the side of the road and let him die in peace. We had very little left of our provisions. . . . Father called our family to his wagon and said, “I have pointed you Zionward and I want you never to turn back. God is in his heaven and all is right with us whether we are in this earth or out of it. God will be with you. If you stumble and fall back, pick yourselves up and go on again.” . . . We rolled him in half of our wagon cover and buried him in a shallow grave. The ground was frozen and we simply had no means or time to do more. Seven others died that night and were buried there. That same night there was a terrible storm that dropped almost a foot of new snow. The next morning I managed to yoke up the oxen, but my grief was so strong I flung myself over my father’s grave and sobbed until the others pulled me away. . . . I put on my father’s boots, slicker and hat and drove the slow plodding team in danger of freezing and starving. . . . I shared what rations we had with the starving children who had lost their mothers and whose feet were frozen and toes gone.
The rest of the Jones family arrived safely in Utah. Louisa married John D. Oakley, had a large family and continued in the faith of her father and the call to “no toil nor labor fear.” Louisa also served as a midwife. She said: “I delivered a hundred or so babies. The price was $3.00 to take care of mother and baby for ten days. . . . If the family was poor I did not charge them. When Thanksgiving and Christmas came, my family made sure the sick people had a good dinner. We furnished dinners every day to some of the chronic invalids.”
Genesis 45:24: . . . See that ye fall not out by the way.