handcart girl, 6/6/06, 11:59 AM,  8C, 6351x11827 (2953+2360), 150%, studio setting,  1/12 s, R28.1, G7.7, B18.0

Susan Melverton Witbeck
Susan Melverton first heard missionaries teach the restored Gospel when she was only 12 in Somerset, England. Eventually she joined the Church without the knowledge or permission of her grandparents, with whom she lived. When her grandfather learned what she had done, he gave her the cruel ultimatum to renounce the Church or look for a new home. Susan says, “I loved and adored my grandparents, but I could not deny my religion. I knew it was true,” The saints took her in and she made many dear friends. Then in 1857, she left her native England, all alone, the only member of her family to make the journey. She knew full well that when she arrived in America she would be pulling a handcart, but, as she said, “It was impossible for me to realize the hardships I had to meet. Misgivings or fear never entered my mind, for it was the only way I could get to Zion, and the journey had to be met with faith and courage.”
When she arrived in Iowa City, Susan had journeyed as far as her funds would take her. She had nothing left. A vote was taken among the emigrants what to do with collected funds remaining among the company. It was voted to use the funds to assist someone in traveling on to Utah. “Again,” Susan wrote, “I found I had many friends, for I was chosen to be that one, as I was young, being only eighteen years of age, and alone, with no one to protect me.”
She recounts one night on the plains taking refuge in Brother Lyman Wood’s wagon from a terrible thunder storm. “I never heard such thunder in my life,” she said, “and the rain came down in torrents. There was a wedding in camp that night, a Brother [Elias] and Sister [Elizabeth Smith] Crane, who were not deterred by the storm.”
Susan records that for days as her company approached Salt Lake City, excited parties would come out seeking their loved ones traveling with the company. Day after day the handcart company became smaller. Then Susan writes, “As each happy load pulled on away from us, it began to slowly dawn on my mind that there would be no one to meet me, and no home to go to, when I reached my destination. The feeling of loneliness kept increasing, until the last night we camped, before reaching Salt Lake, I could control my feelings no longer, I wandered far away from the camp, threw myself upon the ground, and gave way to all my stored up heartache.”
It just so happened that very night that the Captain of the company, Israel Evans, was out in search of stray mules when he heard the sound of sobbing. Following the sound, he found Susan alone in the darkness. Taking her into his arms, he inquired the cause of her uncharacteristic melancholy. She opened her heart to him “with all its loneliness and fears.” Captain Evans comforted her, and told her she would be welcomed by all the saints, and that many homes would be opened to her, and maybe some proposals of marriage would be made too.”
The next day Susan came into the Salt Lake Valley, and discovered that all he had said was true. There was a family there to take her in and it turned out to be none other than the family of William Clayton—the man who wrote “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” Susan would go on to marry John Witbeck and bear 11 children. She died surrounded by friends in Manti, Utah. “We are never without friends,” Susan said, “when we are among the saints of God.” And so it is!
For more stories by Glenn Rawson visit, www.glennrawson.com or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Glenn-Rawson-Stories/ or www.historyofthesaints.org or listen live at http://tunein.com/radio/Sunny-103-1031-s129587/ or http://www.ezrockradio.com/
Artwork by Al Rounds


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