In 1851, two missionaries came teaching the restored gospel to those in Suffolk, England. Among the first people to accept their messages was James Hurren, and his brother in law George Reeder Before long, David Reeder, father to George, was also baptized. Two of David’s children, George and Mary, journeyed to Utah in 1853. Three years later, David and his two youngest children left England to join them. Traveling with David were James and Eliza Hurren and their three children. Eliza was David’s oldest daughter. She and James were expecting another baby in less than three months.
In Iowa City, the most important event for the Reeder and Hurren families was the birth of Eliza’s baby, a daughter named Selena. The next day, the Willie company set out with their handcarts. Eliza and Selena remained behind another day and then were “put…into a wagon drawn by a span of wild mules.” Two weeks later, Selena died near Newton, Iowa. Her body was covered with a small cloth and buried in a grave that her family would never see again.
The Willie company reached Florence, Nebraska Territory, on August 11. Although the season was late, the Hurren family was among the approximately 400 members of the company who left Florence on August 16 for the final 1,000 miles of the journey. Robert Reeder, brother to Eliza Hurren, vividly recalled the night of September 3, when 30 of the oxen that pulled the supply wagons were drawn away during or after a buffalo stampede. Because the wagons were too heavy for the oxen that remained, “some of the flour was taken out of the wagons and put on the handcarts according to the strength of the party drawing them.” Robert said that James Hurren was “considered one of the strongest men in the company and had five sacks put on his cart besides two small girls that were not able to walk.”
Robert acknowledged that he was not certain about how many extra sacks of flour were put in James Hurren’s handcart. It is unlikely that a man even as strong as James could pull an extra 500 pounds or that an 1856 handcart could bear that much weight. Regardless of the exact amount of flour on the cart, however, Robert’s memory again shows James willingly doing an additional share of work. Eliza, who was still grieving for their baby’s death, helped her husband pull the cart.