“The Mormon Boy’s Gift,” Ensign, July 1998, 63–65
In the spring of 1853, a small but devout party of emigrants set out to cross the plains to establish a religious colony in Oregon. Although they followed the Mormon Trail much of the way, they had little goodwill for the Mormons, who, according to reports in the East, were said to be a barbaric band of religious fanatics.
As the wagons neared the fork where the Utah and Oregon Trails divided, a series of disasters hit the Edmund Richardson family. As the family crossed the Platte River, their wagon overturned, nearly drowning their daughter; in addition, most of their belongings were lost or damaged. Soon after, their wagon began to fall apart, and then their oxen died. The family struggled onward by dividing what remained of their belongings among other wagons and by using their milk cow to pull their own broken-down wagon.
Unfortunately, the family’s problems slowed the progress of the entire group, and members of the wagon train decided they must continue on without the Richardson family or risk the safety of all. The leader of the pioneer band, a Reverend Whitworth, suggested that with care, the Richardsons might be able to survive the coming winter months among the ferocious Mormons in Utah and then continue on to Oregon to join their friends the following spring.
With heavy hearts, Mary and Edmund bade farewell to their traveling companions, and the family limped south toward the Great Salt Lake. Their progress was painfully slow, and their fears of Indians were intense. Nevertheless, the family felt the hand of the Lord guiding them from the moment they turned south.
On the evening of 3 August 1853, the Richardsons made camp on the west bank of the Jordan River, hoping their location would put them a safe distance from any Mormons yet provide them with safety from Indians. They had scarcely settled for the night when the approach of a rider filled them with apprehension. Their fears were calmed, however, when they discovered the rider to be a barefoot boy on a small pony. It seems the boy’s mother had noticed their arrival and had sent him over with a pail of milk. The family was surprised, thinking it strange that such a gift would come from a Mormon. Shortly after, another neighbor invited the family for supper. The Richardsons worried that their hosts might be offended upon learning that they were not of their faith. Later, Mary stated it was the best meal she had ever eaten. Other invitations followed, including an offer of employment for Edmund in the local flour mill.
These overtures of friendship so impressed Edmund and Mary that they accepted an invitation to attend Church services on Sunday. Edmund said that he heard the first real gospel sermon of his life in that meeting. The family was baptized two months later.
Today, thousands of descendants of this pioneer family are grateful for the trials that brought the Richardsons to the Salt Lake Valley and for that unknown woman who put her son on a pony with a pail of milk.