Elizabeth Jackson, with her husband Aaron, and three children, ages 2, 4, and 7, were in the Martin Handcart Company. Years later she recorded her story. “I have a desire to leave a record of those scenes and events, through which I have passed, that my children, down to my latest posterity, may read what their ancestors were willing to suffer, and did suffer, patiently for the Gospel’s sake” (Kingsford, Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson. Leaves from the Life of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford. Ogden, Utah, 1908).
During the trek, her husband, Aaron, became seriously ill. Elizabeth recalled the last crossing of the Platte River:
“My husband attempted to ford the stream He had only gone a short distance when he reached a sand bar in the river, on which he sank down through weakness and exhaustion. My sister, Mary Horrocks Leavitt, waded through the water to his assistance. She raised him up to his feet. Shortly afterward, a man came along on horseback and conveyed him to the other side of the river, placed him on the bank, and left him there. My sister then helped me to pull my cart with my three children and other matters on it. We had scarcely crossed the river when we were visited with a tremendous storm of snow, hail, sand, and fierce winds.”
I find it hard to imagine being in a storm, wet from the crossing and exhausted from a day of pulling, with no shelter or warmth waiting, let alone adequate food, and three young children who need you to take care of them. Aaron Jackson was carried into camp. He was unable to eat and that night, next to her in the tent, he froze to death.
Elizabeth remembered, “I called for help to the other inmates of the tent. They could render me no aid; and there was no alternative but to remain alone by the side of the corpse till morning. . .Of course I could not sleep. I could only watch, wait and pray for dawn. But oh, how the dreary hours drew their tedious length along.”
The next day he was wrapped in a blanket and placed in a pile of thirteen others, and covered with snow as the ground was too frozen to dig.
“He was left there to sleep in peace until the trump of God shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall awake and come forth in the morning of the first resurrection. We shall then again unite our hearts and lives, and eternity will furnish us with life forever more.”
She added, “I believe the Recording Angel has inscribed in the archives above, and that my sufferings for the Gospel’s sake will be sanctified unto me for my good.”
A few days later, at the Red Buttes Camp she recalled, “The male members of the company had become reduced in number by death; and those who remained were so weak and emaciated by sickness that on reaching the camping place at night, there were not sufficient men with strength enough to raise the poles and pitch the tents. The result was that we camped out with nothing but the vault of Heaven for a roof and the stars for companions. The snow lay several inches deep upon the ground. The night was bitterly cold. I sat down on a rock with one child in my lap and one on each side of me. In that condition I remained until morning.”
Olsen, in his book The Price We Paid, wrote, “Widowed, camped in miserable conditions, and unable to protect or provide for her three young children, Elizabeth was at the point of despair. Then at her time of greatest need, she received divine help.”
She wrote: “It will be readily perceived that under such adverse circumstances I had become despondent. I was six or seven thousand miles from my native land, in a wild, rocky, mountain country, in a destitute condition, the ground covered with snow, the waters covered with ice, and I with three fatherless children with scarcely nothing to protect them from the merciless storms. When I retired to bed that night, being the 27th of October, I had a stunning revelation. In my dream, my husband stood by me and said—‘Cheer up, Elizabeth, deliverance is at hand.’”
Although the storms did not abate, 17 miles east of Martin’s Cove, the rescue wagons arrived. The company was limped into the cove for better shelter. Still, with difficult, crushing days ahead, Elizabeth recognized the power that sustained them:
“We camped for several days in a deep gulch called ‘Martin’s Ravine’ [Martin’s Cove]. It was a fearful time and place. It was so cold that some of the people were fearful, and nothing but the power of a merciful God kept them from perishing. The storms continued unabated for some days. . . .When the snow at length ceased falling, it lay thick on the ground, and so deep that for many days it was impossible to move the wagons through. I and my children with hundreds of others were locked up in those fearful weather-bound mountains.”
In her record, Elizabeth testified, “It was in obedience to the commandments of the true and living God, and with the assurance of an eternal reward—an exaltation to eternal life in His kingdom—that we suffered these things. I hope, too, that it will inspire my posterity with fortitude to stand firm and faithful to the truth, and be willing to suffer, and sacrifice all things they may be required to pass through for the Kingdom of God’s sake.”
All of the quotes from her story come from the first cited source. Her story, including her life after the crossing, is one of many related in the book, The Price We Paid.