“His Watchful Care,” Friend, July 1997, 12
Eliza wiped her brow as she began the evening meal. It seemed only yesterday that she had been in the cool, green Sussex countryside of England, among her beloved family and friends. Her husband, Edward, had owned a large fishing boat. Life had been pleasant and secure. Eliza smiled as she fixed dinner a short distance from the railway tracks. She thought back on the day the missionaries had taught her family the restored gospel. Accepting the gospel truths had added the missing spiritual knowledge their lives had lacked.
With Eliza’s conversion came an intense desire to join the Saints in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Whenever she had a farthing or two after meeting household expenses, she put them into her “emigration fund” and dreamed of the day they would sail to America.
Her reflections were interrupted as little Keziah and Keturah called to her to share their discovery of a pretty pebble. Her daughters, aged four and two, were truly a delight to her. Their simple joys at seeing gophers, sunflowers, and buffalo as they crossed the United States made their trip bearable. Still, Eliza worried about their future.
If not for the gospel, the future would have been very bleak the day a violent storm had sunk Edward’s boat, even though it had been secured to the dock. With the irreplaceable loss, Edward had carefully weighed their alternatives and decided to go to America. Eliza remembered how her heart had leaped at the prospect of a home where their children could grow up within the shadows of the temple that was being built.
Friends in England had scoffed at their “foolishness”. So what if they had run into a bit of bad luck. That was no reason to abandon their home and livelihood and head off to America. Didn’t they care about their children’s future? Why, Edward, Jr. was only six weeks old. Surely he would never survive such a journey! Besides, they had no money except the little that Eliza had managed to save.
But Edward and Eliza were determined. By selling their household goods, they raised enough money to travel from Sussex to Liverpool and to partially secure passage to New York aboard the Hudson. To help pay the rest of their passage, Edward worked on the ship as a cook.
Eliza’s thoughts again returned to the present as the sun began to set. She called her daughters and husband to eat the meager meal of ash cakes, jerky, and dried fruit.
Upon arriving in New York, she had written to their families in England that she and Edward and the children were all well and that the six-week crossing of the Atlantic had been uneventful, in calm weather, and with no awful sickness.
Indeed, the real challenges had begun after they’d arrived in New York. In order to get to the Missouri River, where they would be outfitted with a small wagon, they had to ride the train in open cattle cars because all other kinds of cars were being used in the Civil War. At times there was barely standing room in the cattle cars! Some passengers sat in the doorways, their legs dangling precariously over the edge. The pungent odors of so many people traveling in such crowded conditions, mixed with the stench the cattle had left behind, made the journey very unpleasant.
Not only were the cattle cars crowded and uncomfortable, but also dangers abounded. Once, sparks from the wood-burning engine flew wildly about and set some of the passengers’ clothing on fire. Fortunately the flames were quickly smothered by nearby travelers.
Times like this evening, when the train stopped for a while, were a blessing—families could eat together away from the noisy crowds and the heat and smell of the cattle cars. Keturah and Keziah especially enjoyed running and stretching their legs, breathing fresh air, and not worrying about soot or sparks from the engine. Even baby Edward cooed and smiled when Eliza placed him on a blanket in the cool shade of a bush before preparing dinner.
The call of “All aboard!” interrupted their meal. Hastily the family gathered their few belongings, and Eliza told Keziah and Keturah to take their father’s hands.
Turning to pick up baby Edward, Eliza’s heart leaped into her throat. Her precious babe was not where she had laid him just an hour earlier! Keziah and Keturah said that they hadn’t moved their baby brother while playing. Frantically the family began to search the nearby bushes. While she searched, Eliza fervently prayed for Heavenly Father’s help in finding her son.
“All aboard!” sounded in Eliza’s ears again. The train was about to leave!
Suddenly a flash of lightning lit the sky, and she saw where her sleeping son lay. Scooping him up, she gratefully thanked Heavenly Father for His loving and watchful care.
It didn’t matter to Eliza that she had sacrificed much for the gospel, or that she would ride many more miles in cattle cars before walking west alongside a wagon for hundreds of miles more. She was just grateful for the gospel and the knowledge it gave her of a loving Heavenly Father Who was watching over her and her family.