Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Version of Elizabeth's Story

After my father retired, my parents put together a genealogical book for each member of our family.  Elizabeth's story is included.  I am not sure who wrote all of it, though my parents did give some references.    Included in the book was a picture of Elizabeth when she was younger.  Unfortunately, I only have the xerox copied version, so it is not the best quality.  But I will include it here along with the history my parents had.  It gives an idea of the many challenges of the Willey Company. 


            Elizabeth Crook was born in Gloucester,  Deerhurst Parish October 7, 1827[1] and was baptized November 4, 1827.[2]  She was the daughter of Margaret Lane and William Crook, a pensioner at the time of her birth.  She and her parents were baptized into the LDS church on August 30, 1840 by Wilford Woodruff.[3]  She was rebaptized November 14, 1847 by Thomas Robins.  When she was about 17 (1845), she gave birth to a little girl and named her Sarah.¹  On October 22, 1848 she married Frederic Panting, a carpenter, in the Deerhurst Church and signed her mark (X) to the parish records.  Apparently, she could not write her name at that time, whether she later learned to write, I do not know.  To that union were born three children, Mary Ann, Christopher and Jane.  The marriage was not a successful one.  In 1852 on May 5 they buried Elizabeth’s oldest daughter Sarah Ann (age 6) and Mary Ann (age 3) followed on May 9.
            According to her son, W. W. Cranney:  “My mother was an English convert of Wilford Woodruff and had separated from her husband, who was a drunkard, who was a wicked vicious man who mistreated her and threatened to kill her.[4]  She was “given a blessing and a promise by Brother Woodruff that she would reach church headquarters in safety with her children.  She was leaving her husband under his threat that he would kill her if she did so.  With fear allayed by Apostle Woodruff’s blessing, she went from her home to Liverpool on the train.  Her husband, who was hunting for her, followed her into the car, where she was settling with her children, a boy 3 (he was actually 5 or 6) and a girl almost one year old.  However, he failed to recognize them and passed by them.”
            “She boarded a sailing vessel at Liverpool in the company of a large number of emigrants and passed through many trials on the long journey to Zion.”4
            In the month of May of 1856 with her two children (a boy 5 and a girl one year) she sailed for America with a company of Mormon emigrants.  They were on the ocean six weeks, then it took them ten days to go to Iowa City, arriving June 26.  There were in the two companies of saints that came from England 1,620 souls.  They had been instructed to prepare to cross the plains with handcarts, which were to be pulled by them.  They waited while men who were sent from Salt Lake City made upwards of 250 carts, dozens of tents, and purchased hundreds of cattle.  On the morning of July 15th, after several weeks had been spent in this preparation, Captain Willie’s Company, consisting of 500 persons, 120carts, 5 wagons, 24 oxen, and 45 beef cattle and cows left Iowa, and started on the 1300 mile journey little knowing what they had to endure.  The first 200 miles was a pleasure trip, for from the starting point to Council Bluffs was settled with kindly people.  Provisions, grass, milk, and honey could be obtained in abundance.  After mending carts and getting fresh supplies at Florence, Nebraska another start was made on August 17.
            On the morning of August 29 they were suddenly confronted with a band of Indians who were on the war path.  All during the summer companies of men, women and children had been killed, one can imagine what a startling thing this was to these emigrants from far away England to be so suddenly confronted by a band of savages on the war path, however; they proved to be friendly to the Mormon emigrants.
            The company moved on unmolested for a short distance when again they were more than startled by coming to the place where the Babett Company had been killed with one exception, a woman, whom they took captive after beating out the brains of her child.  These people had been killed for several days and their bodies left unburied.  After gathering up the remains of the murdered company and burying them, they moved on in silence, not knowing what their fate might be.
            Just before daylight September 4th the red skins stole all the company’s beef cattle.  This was a great calamity as provisions were getting short.  Then several days later they met the sole survivor of the Margets Company, who was on his way to England from Salt Lake.  After killing Thomas Margetts and his child and traveling companions, the Indians took his wife captive, another sad experience.
            At a point three miles west of Florence just at the break of day, they barely escaped being trampled to death by a stampeding herd of buffalo.  By this time traveling over rough country had made the carts become rickety, some of the axels being worn.  This caused great delay and trouble.  September 12, North Bluff Creek was reached 613 miles away from Iowa City.
            On the 12th day of September, Franklin D. Richards and his company of 12 returning missionaries from Europe came into camp.  They were very much depressed on finding the saints in such destitute conditions which was caused by the loss of their beef cattle.  All were put on the following ration of flour:  15 ounces for men, 13 for women, 9 for children and 5 for infants.  After learning of the serious conditions these poor saints were in and speaking words of encouragement, singing songs of Zion to them, they left determined to make Salt Lake as soon as possible to give the word to President Brigham Young.
            September 15 they met a large band of Arapahoe Indians, who told them of the Sioux attacking a large emigrant company some distance ahead of them.  Many were killed.  It is evident that the hand of the Lord was protecting them from the Indians.
            September 17th the first frost appeared and the following day a Sister Contwell was bitten by a rattle snake.  She recovered.  The same evening Sister Steward was lost and recovered just in time to save her from a pack of hungry wolves.
            On September 20 (some reports say it was Sept. 30) they reached Fort Laramie where the Richards Company secured what food they could for them and buffalo robes also.  The following day they met and camped with Parley P. Pratt and a company of missionaries going East.  That night the saints listened to a powerful sermon on the gathering by Brother Pratt.  The next morning they bid him farewell for the last time as he was killed shortly after this.
            October 12, Captain Willie again cut the rations to 10% of the flour to men, 9% to women and 6% to children and 3% to infants.  On the 14th another reduction was made and on the 19th the last ounce of flour was given to the starving saints.  The same evening the first snow came and by morning it was18 inches deep on the level.  They were at the three crossings of the Sweetwater.  The Company was already eating boiled rawhide and wild berries gathered from the bushes.  The following morning they came to the first of the three crossings of the Sweetwater all of which must be crossed that day before they could go farther.  The water was deep and the snow 18 inches deep on the banks with a piercing wind blowing from the north.  Without food, freezing, dying, sick, they stood on the Three Rivers not knowing that help was coming, yet into the rushing streams of ice they went, some of them being helped by such men as Andrew Smith, who labored all day long pulling the sick, the dying, and weak saints through these streams, carrying some on his back till every fiber of his body quivered.
             It was here in this hell bound region of Devil’s Bat Gulch and rocky region that the thundering tones of Millen Atwoods voice rang out from those snow clad hills.  “Hold on there Andrew boy, hold on there, my boy.   The Lord knows you have done enough.”  It would take volumes to give in detail the many things that transpired amongst the saints in this terrible ordeal.
            Referring again to the company of missionaries returning to Salt Lake from England with Apostle Franklin D. Richards at their head, traveling by team, they arrived in Salt Lake City October 4, after filling missions to Europe for three years.  They knew the seriousness of the condition of the Saints on the plains, especially the Willie Company without sufficient food to take them to their journey’s end.  A report was made at once to President Young.
            As conference commenced at 10:00 o’clock Monday morning, President Young said, “There are a number of our people on the plains, who have started to come to Zion with hand carts and they need our help.  We want 20 ox teams to go to their relief.  It will be necessary to send two men with each team or wagon.  I will furnish three teams loaded with provisions and send good men with them.  Brother Heber C. Kimball will do the same.  If there are any brethren present who have suitable outfits for such a journey they will please make it known at once, so we’ll know what to depend upon.”  Conference was adjourned until the next morning so as to give all an opportunity to help prepare for this journey.  Such a spirit of brotherly love perhaps was never witnessed before.  It seemed that every man, woman, and child was alive to the situation.
            While the men were gathering up supplies the women were equally busy preparing bedding, mending underwear, fixing stockings, even taking clothing from their own backs to send to the freezing, starving and dying saints on the plains of Wyoming
            That evening the 27  young men assembled with the authorities of the church for final instructions after which they were each given blessings that were wonderful.  They then returned home for a good night’s rest.  At 9 o’clock the next morning 16 wagons loaded with supplies with two mule teams to each wagon started for the rescue work.  They traveled as far as possible each day not stopping for dinner for they knew the stormy weather was at hand.
            Fort Bridger was reached on the 12th, three days later they arrived at Green River and still no word, they had expected to meet the Willie Company at Fort Bridger.  The other companies were behind them.  Fully realizing the conditions of 1500 emigrants without food or shelter and only 6 wagons with supplies for them, they were very anxious to cross the divide between Green River and Wind River before winter set in on them.  After traveling 25 or 40 miles further winter set in on them in dead earnest.  It snowed three days and nights with a howling wind from the north.  The snow was so deep it was impossible for the strongest teams to pull their loads up hill.
            On the night of October 20, they pulled down into a small hollow for shelter.  Just as they were located for the night, Captain Willie and Joe B. Elder came into the camp with the terrible news of the saints freezing, starving and dying east of the ridge.  The boys soon hooked up the teams and were on the way again traveling as far as possible that night, and at day break they were on their way again, traveling till they reached the Willie Company.  That evening, before they had time to get out of their wagons they saw enough to bring tears to the eyes of everyone.  The company now numbering less than 500 had been caught in a place where there was no wood nor shelter from the terrible storm that had been raging. They had been without food for two days and nights and were freezing and starving to death.  Camp wood was soon drawn from the near by hills with the mules.  Fires were built, food prepared and everyone made as comfortable as possible but it was too late for some.  Women wept for joy, men were melted to tears.  Such a greeting was never witnessed before.
            The following morning George D. Grant took 9 teams and 17 men with most of the provisions to meet the Martin, Hadget and Hunt Company, who were further back.  William H. Kimball with the rest of the relief company started for Salt Lake City.  It was late in the day before they could make the start as so many were weak, others dying.  While crossing Rocky Ridge that day many had their feet, hands, and faces frozen.  A terrible blizzard blew all day making it the most disastrous day in the whole journey.  15 persons died that day. 
            October 24, they reached South Pass where at the Allred Camp they had plenty of wood and flour.  The following day they met five teams from the valley.  These teams continued on to meet the other companies in the rear.
            It was on that terrible day crossing Rocky Ridge that my Grandmother Cranney put her two children in a wagon with some sick men as all who were able to still walk did so.  At night when she reached the wagon where her children had been placed in the morning, she found them alive snuggled down between the dead bodies of the sick men they had been placed with that morning, they having died during the day.
            November 2, they reached Fort Bridger where 50 teams met them making it possible for all to ride from there to Salt Lake City.  Seven days later on November 9th they arrived in Salt Lake and in less than one hour after pulling up in front of the tithing office every one of them were tenderly cared for by the waiting saints.
            This scene could hardly be described as tears of joy came to all.  Grandmother with her two babies, Chris five years old and Jane, one year, were tenderly cared for and seemed especially cared for during the entire journey.  This was according to a promise made by President Woodruff, that she and her two babies would arrive safely in Zion.  He gave her this promise before she left England.  My Grandmother married after coming to Logan and reared another family of nine children.
            Among those who sailed from England at the same time were William Wilkes and his wife, Elizabeth Haines, who were also members of her branch in England.  It was this same William Wilkes whom she later married in the Endowment House on September 22, 1859.   She and Elizabeth Haines were sealed to him on the same day.
            “This made her a second wife in polygamy.  Her husband soon became careless and finally went off to California seeking gold against the advice of the church.  This created cause for a church divorce.  In 1862 when my father Dr. H. K. Cranney came to Utah, President Young sent him up to Logan to be the first doctor in that settlement.  Apostle Ezra T. Benson married him to my mother.  She was now separated from Wilkes with two more boys, having four children, three boys and a fine girl, who were known as Chris Panting, Jane Panting, Charles Wilkes, and William Wilkes.  She then in the course on a few years had five sons and two daughters to my father”  “When she was past 50 years of age her last little girl, Clara, was born, who died in infancy.”[4]
            She and H. K. were sealed in the Endowment House on December 26, 1864.  Not too long afterward (in 1868) her husband took a second wife, Elizabeth White.  This plural marriage was one of the successful ones.  W. W. Cranney reports:  “My father’s second wife was almost as dear to me as my own mother and helped teach me to love and respect the church leaders.  Elizabeth Crook’s children called Elizabeth White “Aunt” and Elizabeth White’s children called Elizabeth Crook “Aunt.”[4]

[1] Deerhurst Parish Register
[2] Deerhurst Parish Register
[3] Glouchester Branch Records
[4] Wilford Woodruff Cranney’s life history written by himself

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Better Understanding

     Last night I read some comments to a blog about the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies.  I was amazed at how negative the blog and the comments were.  The common conclusion was that the members of the handcart companies continued on in the journey and into danger because of their determination to “follow the leaders.”  The implication was that it was not a wise thing to do. 

     I think that these bloggers have missed several points.  First, many did stay and did not go on.  They came later and all was typical with their journey to Utah:  people died along the trail no matter how they traveled.  What if…..all the members of the Willie and Martin handcart companies had stayed in Iowa?  What would have happened to them?  Perhaps the area could handle a 100, but could it have absorbed—sheltered, clothed, and fed over 1,500?  What kind of clothing would those people, who traveled lightly to begin with, have had that would have lasted through a winter in Iowa and then across 1178+ miles to Utah the next spring?  Second, there was not a thriving modern metropolis in Ohio at that time.  There were no hotels, motels, empty available rentals for them.  In fact, one journal mentioned that there wasn't even a shed available for them. The saints, when they arrived at present-day Coralville, Iowa, did not have anything to shelter them.  They were living out in the open, with much rain I might add, for at least the first six days .  The people went to work sewing tents, which were not completely ready for 10 days.  I don’t think I would like to live in a tent through a winter in Iowa or Nebraska.    Third, Nebraska was worse.  It was the wilderness!  It definitely couldn't have absorbed all these pioneers for almost a year.  Fourth, Levi actually warned them and they were appraised of the dangers ahead.  Obviously, they had the freedom to choose to stay or not.  Even as late as Florence, Nebraska, the saints were approached by the brethren to see if they wanted to stay there or to go on.  William Woodward wrote, “Many of our company agreed to leave the company.”  Levi Savage reported that “Many are going to stop.”  The saints were instructed to seek their own answers from the Spirit.  My great grandmother was one who chose to continue on.    Why?  As an intelligent woman, she weighed the situation.  As a saint, she sought the Spirit and was led.  Was it about following the leaders?  Partly, yes.  Entirely, I think not.  I think it was more about following the direction of the Spirit for her.  Fifth, the Willie Company actually would have been in Utah before the snow came, had they not had innumerable delays caused by weather, a lost brother and lost cattle.  The greatest enemy was the lack of food, greatly accented because of the loss of the cattle.  Added to that was the lack of waiting supples at the various way stations along the way.  Since the leaders didn’t know that these people were coming, supplies had not been restocked after what was supposed to have been the last handcart company of the seasion.

      In total, 68 people of the Willie Company died.  Twenty-four died on the journey from England to the western borders of what is now Nebraska.  Fourteen more died before any snow flew.  These people died because of exposure and lack of food.  The rest, 30, died from the added exposure to the extreme weather of Wyoming.    That means that less than half of the deaths were caused by the "lateness of the season."  Yet, the lateness of the season has always been blamed for all the deaths.  In actuality more people would have died in these companies had there not been bad weather.  The urgency of the situation would not have pressed upon the saints in Utah as much had there not been this concerned. They knew that snow was imminent and that Wyoming was treacherous in wintertime.  How much longer would it have taken to get those supplies to the handcart companies if there had not been this concern.  

     As in so many cases in history and our own personal lives, what we often feel is God's lack of love for us, actually is His love for us demonstrated.  In our extremities, we receive the blessings of trials.  In the aftermath, we begin to understand them as a remembrance rather than a forgetting by the Lord.

     During my life, I have often made decisions that others may consider foolish.  I have made choices based on what I knew at the time and what the Spirit led me to do.  Those choices often have led to difficult and challenging trials, but that did not change the truth that it was the right thing to do.  I would hate for my posterity to judge me so harshly as the handcart pioneers have been.  I would hope that future generations would understand that they too will have to make difficult choices—and those choices often will lead to difficult times.  I have come to believe that difficulties are not the enemy necessarily.  They can lead to strength and to faith.  This was the case for Elizabeth.  Her faith continued on strong and endless. 

I have always believed that those experiences of the handcart saints were not to build their faith, but ours. What they went through was for usTheir descendents, many whom I met on set, were sterling.  They have the “power” of their ancestors to call upon when needed.  I have Elizabeth to help me when I am weak, when I am failing, when I could, and probably would, otherwise give up.  Her example, her experiences, her faith are my rescue.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Exciting News

I live over 500 miles away from the Utah Valley, so even though the movie is playing in theaters there, I have not yet had the opportunity to see it.  Yesterday, my husband, a high councilor, visited a ward in our stake.    We learned that that ward is going to have the opportunity to see the movie--at least the youth are--soon!  I hope that means our ward will also have this opportunity.  I am anxious to see it.  My two children, who were extras in the movie, attended the premier.  They said that it was very spiritual and touching. 

How could it not be?  With true experiences of God's love during impossible trials, combined with the gifts and talents of T. C. Christensen to portray them, "17 Miracles" has to be one of the most moving movies we will ever see.  As I watched from the background, I saw the dedication, spirit, and talent of T. C.  His work as a director is meticulous.  He takes whatever time is required to get all the possible angles, details and viewpoints.  He is a master storyteller with a camera.  After spending three weeks on set, I had no doubt that this movie would be a stunning success.  From all reports, it is.

I took several pictures of T. C. "at work", but for some reason my camera had a problem and only gave me an "error" for about 3 days taking.  I am disappointed in the pictures that I lost.  However, on the last day that I was on set, we were at an area that looks very similar to Wyoming.  At the end of a long day, T. C., typical of him, was visiting with cast members.  He wasn't too busy or too rushed to take time for people--even a lowly extra.  I managed to get a picture with him--he graciously posed with me.  Duane, another extra who took the picture for me, also wanted one with T. C.   

I should mention, that T. C. always appears so calm, so collected, so casual that it would probably surprise an observer that he is also a perfectionist in his work.  He doesn't come across as an intense type A.  Very congenial and with a sense of humor, he promotes comfortableness on his sets.  Make no mistake, the professionalism is there abundantly.  It is seen, if one looks carefully, in the manner that the staff (is that the correct name for all the people who work on the set?) carry out T. C.'s directives.  They do it quickly, quietly and without any complaint or division.  It was amazing to see such unity and cohesiveness among so many.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More Descendents

Here is another picture of Eileen, who came to the LDS Movie Studios, one day.  Doesn't she make a beautiful pioneer?  I thought she looked so dignified.

My daughter, Tanita, and her family came from Wyoming to participate one weekend.  I imagine that after a day’s walk, the pioneer women may have looked very similar to how we did.  Hopefully, there were many “sisters” who stood by each other during the difficulties of the trek.

We were “dirty” thanks to Annie, the costume genius, and her crew.  They would use costume “dirt” to put on our clothes.  Then spend half the night washing the clothes so they would be clean the next morning for whomever wore them.   The make up people would dirty our faces, necks and hands.  They did a good job!  We certainly look like we have had a rough day on the trail.

Granddaughter Amy with her father,  Scott
To right:  Grandson Chris with Bro. Penrod

I had to bring this picture of Marina up close to show her disguntled face.  I am not sure why she was feeling the way she was at the moment, but I can imagine this type of face evident on many pioneer children's faces over the months of travel.  She looks like she has had enough.  I can imagine what the mother's suffered, watching their children in those conditions-- losing them to the weather, the hunger, the vicious Wyoming terrain.  I grew up in southern Wyoming.  I "know the territory."  It is harsh and difficult.  The wind never stops blowing.  The winters can be, and usually are, brutal.  There was every winter, while I was there, usually at least one or more days with the weather at -50 degrees, that is 50 below 0.  Add the wind chill factor; it was unbelievably cold.  Even bundled up with our modern warm clothing, we would be cold.  How did any of the pioneers survive?  We know the answer....God.

Here we all are, excepting Chris.  I am not sure where he was.  Note that Marina finally found her smile.  What an experience it was.  Did the pioneers have days that they were able to smile?  Did they have times of laughter and fun?  Of course!  Remember the dancing?  Though I wasn't in the scene, there was a dance scene taken.  There must be laughter!  There must be joy!  Life, even with challenges, trials and burdens has bright bursts of sunshine.  It had those moments for them and for all of us.  We only need turn our face toward the Son to find them.

Hate to admit it but I am a great aunt.  Have no clue how that could have happened so quickly!  Here are some of my nephews who participated.  Jonah (left) and his brother, Tristan (below), were vacationing in Utah and came to be pioneers for a couple of days.  
In the picture below of Jonah, notice the big white screen on the upper left of the picture.  This was a screen used to reflect light for the scene.  It seemed to do the same thing for the movie camera as it would for still photography in a studio.  The sunshine was bright so I was surprised that they needed that.  I imagine that it helped to direct the light where it was desired.


Though he was very busy, Bryce, another nephew came one day.  We had a great time visiting and discussing many subjects--which is why I only got one picture of him.  I did manage to get the three cousins together!

Bryce with his ever-present smile

All these people, too, are descendents of Elizabeth's.  Her influence extends to the latest generation, as family members pass down the heritage she left.  This, then, the reason we all wanted to be in a movie that honored her story.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Elizabeth's Story

My daughter told me that I needed to put Elizabeth's story on this blog.  There is some "creative license" in the movie apparently which deviates from the story as we, our family, have it.  Actually, as far as we know, Elizabeth could not read or write.  Interestingly, however, in an account of her terminal illness, a friend wrote that she took Elizabeth some books to read.  Did she learn to read later in life?  Did she know how to write but just never "had time" to sit down and write her experiences?  Or was it too painful to recall? 

Whatever the reasons, her stories have only been passed down orally through the generations.  How I wish that we had her own recorded history of these events!  But since we don't, I will here give the accounts as recorded by others.  Where I have sources, I will indicated them.  If any descendents happen to read this and have different accounts, I would appreciate copies of them and, if they wish, will be happy to post them on this blog.


My own personal experience with Elizabeth's story was from my mother's telling.  As I remember the story as my mother told it:   While in England, Elizabeth was given a blessing by Wilford Woodruff before leaving for "Zion."  In the blessing she was told that she and her children would reach the saints in Utah safely.  Elizabeth left England under the threat of her husband, who was a drunkard.  He had told her that he would kill her if she tried to leave.  As she sat on the train with her two children, Jane and Chris, he boarded and started walking down the aisle of the train looking for her.  He reportedly walked pass her three times, looking directly at her and yet, not recognizing her.  This was the first of the miracles that protected her and her children.  While on the handcart trek across America, the Willie Handcart Company endured great deprevation.  Eventually, there was so little food that without a rescue, they all surely would have died.  During this dire time, Elizabeth was approached by a well dressed man, who handed her a package of something wrapped in newspaper.  When Elizabeth opened the package, it contained some meat.  When she looked up to thank the man, he had disappeared.   The newspaper was from England, dated just a few days before.  (This is what I remember my mother telling me, however, I may not be remembering right. I was, after all, young.   It is very different from the other accounts I will be posting later.  My sister also remembers it a little differently!)  Elizabeth one day put her children in a handcart that was loaded with the sick.  That evening when the company stopped, she went to get them. She found her children nestled among the people in the cart, all of whom were dead. 

Regardless of the exact details, it is very apparent that Elizabeth was a very special daugther of God.  She stayed true to her faith and covenants throughout many challenges, disappointments, trials of great magnitude and life experiences.  The help and protection she received from God is a testimony of her commitment to Him.  Her blessings in trials have lifted the spirits of her posterity.  Her endurance has encouraged the weakest of us.  Her faith has supported not only her descendents but also others who have had the opportunity to hear of her life.  How I love Elizabeth!