The pioneer suffered much tribulation and many trials. Their faith and courage is a strength to all of us. A wonderful example is Eliza Chapman Gadd. This is her story as found in ‘Tell My Story Too’ by Jolene S. Allphin.
Eliza Chapman Gadd did not belong to the Church when she joined the Willie Handcart Company with her husband and eight children. She wanted her family to remain together and followed the desires of her husband, Samuel, to emigrate from England to America. Eliza and Samuel came with their children, Alfred (18), Jane (16), William Chapman (11 or 12), Samuel (10 or 11), Mary Ann (7), Sarah (5), and Isaac and Daniel (1 year old twins). Little Daniel died October 4, just a few days after the company reached Ft. Laramie. The extra supplies that were expected were not there. Rations were cut and the Gadd family pressed on. Five days later, October 9, Samuel Gadd, Sr. died of pneumonia, leaving Eliza to bring the family on. (Samuel had contracted a cold while on guard duty at Iowa City and had never gotten better. He had also carried women and children across the Platte River many times).
The weather for the Willie Company was reported as “splendid” at this time, but the freezing blizzards of an early and violent winter were just a little over a week away. The Gadds had no time to grieve, as they had to push on. Ten days later, the storms descended and the last of their rations were distributed. Another member of the Willie Handcart Company, John Chislett, writes of this time: “…we were overtaken by a snowstorm which the shrill wind blew furiously about us. The snow fell several inches deep as we traveled along, but we dared not stop, for we had a sixteen-mile journey to make and short of it, we could not get wood or water…” The storms continued to beat down upon them, and the Willie Company finally came to a halt at the sixth crossing of the Sweetwater on October 20. They were surrounded by deep snow, dying people and cattle , and the stark reality of no provisions.
Captain Willie and Joseph Elder left to try to find the rescue part that they were confident was coming. Indeed, they found them, and brought back as much as they could on horseback. It was now increasingly urgent that the company move on, as hungry, cold and destitute as they were. they had to head out toward the most difficult part of their journey to Zion, the formidable Rocky Ridge, in a blizzard. Eliza gathered her children together and pushed on. On October 22, they reached the base of Rocky Ridge and camped for the night. Levi Savage wrote on that day, “The wind blew bleak and cold and firewood was very scarce. The Saints were obliged to spread their light bedding on the snow, and in this cold state endeavored to obtain a little rest.” October 23, he continues, “we buried our dead, got up our teams and about nine o’clock a.m. commenced ascending Rocky Ridge. This was a severe day…[the teams were] perfectly loaded down with the sick and children, so thickly stacked I was fearful some would smother.”
Just before daylight, on October 24, the last of the Willie Company reached Rock Creek. Little ten-year-old Samuel joined his father and baby brother in death this day, leaving the Gadd family bereft of yet another member. Samuel was buried in the common grave at Rock Creek with the others who died there. Levi Savage writes, “Few tents were pitched, and men, women, and children sat shivering with cold around their small fires…It was certainly heart rending to hear children crying for mothers and mothers crying for children.” In Eliza’s biography, she said “that of all her children, Samuel was the most anxious to reach Zion, but it was not to be.”
Eliza had also endured becoming snowblind during the blizzard and was blind for three days. Her 7-year-old daughter, Mary Ann, was the one she trusted to lead her while she helped to pull the handcart mile after freezing mile. In the biography of Mary Ann Gadd Rowley by her daughter, Mary Luella Rowley Laws, we read: “Mary Ann, with only rags covering her feet, led her snowblind mother for three days as she pulled the handcart. During this time she carried an ox hoof and at each camp she would roast it and eat the part that was roasted. This was all she had to eat during those three days.”
The rest of this large family made it to Zion. Eliza apparently felt differently now about her husband’s relision. She was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints one week after her arrival in Salt Lake.