Mary Hurren left England at the age of seven, accompanied by her grandfather, David Reeder; his children, Caroline and Robert Reeder; her parents, James and Eliza Reeder Hurren; and two little sisters, Emma and Sarah. A third sister, Selena, would be born in Iowa City while the Willie Handcart Company made final preparations for their 1,300 mile march through the wilderness to the valley of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Mary walked most of this way.
Mary made friends with Agnes Caldwell from Scotland who called their journey “the noted tramp across the desert waste” headed for “the promised land.” The girls had many good times together. After leaving Iowa City, they “had plenty of time to see the country we were passing through to run here and there and to explore this and that. There were many things to catch the eye in this strange land. . . . When we started out on the trail each morning there was always something new to see. Maybe it was a bird running along the road which we chased but never did catch. There were always flowers and pretty rocks to pick. This land was so different from the one in England that it kept us interested.” (Emma James Willie Company)
Agnes Caldwell told of coming to a section of the country inhabited by rattlesnakes. She and Mary would hold hands and jump over them. Agnes said, “It seemed to me we were jumping for more than a mile. Due to the protecting hand of the Lord, we were not harmed.” However, as early winter storms set in, Mary’s feet froze and there was no more skipping and running here and there.
Mary’s father, noted as the strongest man in the Willie Company, was also remembered for his extraordinary cheerfulness, hope and faith, encouraging those around him to make the best of their circumstances, reminding them to think of the opportunities ahead in Zion and to remember the blessings in store for those who endured and tried to serve others. Mary’s grandfather Reeder and Aunt Caroline died on the journey, as well as her baby sister, Selena, who had only lived 2 weeks. One of Mary’s playmates died and was buried in a common grave with 12 others at the Rock Creek camp (represented in painting).
Mary’s father later wrote, “With all our trials, our weary traveling, burying our dear ones, piling our clothing and bedding by the wayside and setting fire to them, we have never once felt to murmur or complain or regret the steps we have taken.”
Upon reaching Utah, a doctor examined Mary’s legs and said she could not live unless they were amputated. Her father protested, “This little girl didn’t walk a thousand miles to have her legs cut off. If she dies, she will die with her legs on.” The family moved to Brigham City where an elderly lady, Mrs. Snider, advised wrapping fresh beef steaks on her injured limbs for three days. James walked to Ogden and back to obtain the meat. After the three days, Mrs. Snider treated Mary’s feet and legs with ointment. After two years, Mary was able to walk again, but her feet hurt her all her life.
Mary married Joseph M. Wight and became the mother of thirteen children, as well as a little orphan girl she took in. Mary was noted for her skill in fine handiwork and in nursing the sick. When President Heber J. Grant attended her 88th birthday party, she remarked that she had shaken the hand of every modern-day prophet to that time except Joseph Smith.
Ephesians 5:8: ye are light in the Lord: walk as children of light.