One day while Harriet was alone with her baby boy, she saw a rather fierce-looking Indian at her door, demanding food. She gave him three small biscuits, which was all she had. But he, angry and disbelieving, drew his bow and pointed an arrow at her heart. Fearing for her life and the life of her 3-month-old child, she suddenly remembered that her husband’s large mastiff dog was in the next room.
Signing to the Indian that she would look for more food, she released the dog, gave it the order to attack and unleashed it on the intruder until he begged for mercy. In keeping with her kindly nature, she cleaned and dressed the man’s wounds before sending him on his way.
This noble, tireless woman died in 1871 in Salt Lake City at age 68.
Harriet’s daughter, who went by Clara or Clarissa, married Brigham Young when she was 16. She was considered a beautiful girl, small in stature, rather retiring in nature, gentle and charitable to all. She was a great reader and loved the arts.
In the early days in the valley, Clara rescued a tiny Indian prisoner, saving her from a gruesome death. She named the girl Sally and raised her to womanhood. Sally then attempted to rejoin her people, but the hardships of their life contributed to her early and sorrowful death. Clara also raised five children of her own and was a loving, devoted wife to her husband. When Clara died in her old home on State Street in Salt Lake, she was the last of the three original pioneer women who entered the valley together.
Ellen Sanders’ people came from a small village in Norway. Her nature was kind and sympathetic, but her moods were extreme, taking her from great merriment to melancholy. She possessed an intelligent mind and a brave heart.
She emigrated with her family to America at the age of 13, but a year after their arrival, her mother died. Scarcely three weeks later, her father also died, and the children were left to the mercies of those around them, dwelling with relatives and others who spoke their native tongue.
It was not until 1842 that Mormonism was preached to them in LaSalle County, Illinois. Ellen joined the church with her brother Sondra and, later, her sister Harriet. The little family of four children made their way to Nauvoo and worked in the dwellings of members there. In January 1846, Ellen and Harriet became wives of Elder Heber C. Kimball.
Ellen continued to suffer the challenge of great loss. Three of her four children died before adulthood. She lived in the Bear Lake Valley for many years, patiently serving those around her.
It was not until 1871 that she returned to the Salt Lake Valley.
These three women were invaluable in nursing the sick men and animals during the hazardous journey, and not one person died before reaching their goal. The men had their hands full, removing big rocks, cutting back brush and building roads through the mountain wildernesses.
It was from the summit of Big Mountain that the little company first saw the valley. As the little group entered the valley through what was later called Emigration Canyon, they saw “several small willow-fringed creeks flowing out of the canyon mouths,” according to "The Life Story of Brigham Young." But the sweeping expanse was largely empty and desolate.
Gates describes the overwhelming experience with vivid sensitivity in "The Life Story of Brigham Young": “Men may plough and build, but women and children give life, cohesion and glory to these outer substances. Harriet Young, wife of Lorenzo Young, cried out at the desolation about her. ‘Weak and weary as I am,’ she said to her husband, ‘I would rather go a thousand miles further than stay in such a forsaken place as this.’ But she was a heroine and quietly accepted her lot. Ellen Kimball said nothing, but she worked with zeal to make a home in the wilderness. Clara Decker Young, Brigham’s lovely young wife, said, ‘I am satisfied. We enjoyed the social life of Winter Quarters; but things do not look dreary to me here. There are no trees, but they can be planted.’ And she went calmly to work making a peaceful home out of the wagon boxes.”
That evening a gentle rain fell, accompanied by the applause of thunder, and “washed the entire valley as a benediction on that first Pioneer Day” (see "Brigham Young: An Inspiring Personal Biography").
The magnificent, historic exodus was well on its way. But the first steps had been taken, the first eyes had beheld and the first hearts had embraced. Among these were what Gates called a “trio of lovely women.” Her words in "The Life Story of Brigham Young" of gentle tribute and praise can sing softly to our hearts today — more than 160 years after that remarkable time and those remarkable people:
“They were a type of all the gentle, patient and sympathetic wives and mothers who were to follow in their footsteps. They imparted to that pioneer camp the halo of their refining influence.”
Has it not always been thus, where noble women lead the way and beckon us to follow?
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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