Elizabeth Jackson

Elizabeth JacksonElizabeth was the oldest of 11 children. She was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1847 when she was 15 years old.

Elizabeth married Aaron Jackson on May 28, 1848. They began their emigration to America eight years later, in the spring of 1856, with their three children, ages 2, 4, and 7.[1]

Elizabeth and her family together with her sister joined with the Martin Company.  Elizabeth’s husband, Aaron, became gravely ill on the trek.  On the last crossing of the Platte River Elizabeth wrote “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.”[2]

Once in camp, Aaron continued to struggle.  Elizabeth wrote “His condition now became more serious. . . . I prepared a little of such scant articles of food as we then had.  He tried to eat but failed.  He had not the strength to swallow.  I put him to bed as quickly as I could.  He seemed to rest easy and fell asleep.  About nine o’clock I retired.  Bedding had become very scarce, so I did not disrobe.  I slept until, as it appeared to me, about midnight.  I was extremely cold.  The weather was bitter.  I listened to hear if my husband breathed–he lay so still. I could not hear him. I became alarmed.  I put my hand on his body, when to my horror I discovered that my worst fears were confirmed. My husband was dead.  He was cold and stiff—rigid in the arms of death.  It was a bitter freezing night, and the elements  had sealed up his mortal frame.”

“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.”

“When daylight came, some of the male part of the company prepared the body for burial.  And oh, such a burial and funeral service.  They did not remove his clothing—he had but little.  They wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in a pile with thirteen others who died, and then covered him up in the snow.  The ground was frozen so hard that they could not dig a grave.  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.”[3]

A few days after the death of Aaron, members of the company were so weak that there were not enough men with strength to raise the polls and pitch the tents.  She wrote, “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.”[4]

“When I retired to bed that night, being the 27 Oct., I had a stunning revelation. In my dream my husband stood by me and said, ‘cheer up, Elizabeth, deliverance is at hand.’” The next day the advance rescue team found them. The family was helped into the Salt Lake Valley and arrived in November 1856.[5]

Elizabeth H. JacksonElizabeth later wrote: “I will not attempt to describe my feelings at finding myself thus left a widow with three children, under such excruciating circumstances.  I cannot do it.  But 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.”[6]

Elizabeth’s suffering and sacrifice strengthened her faith.  She said: “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.  And I wish them to understand, too, that what I now word is a history of hundreds of others, both men, women and children, who passed through many like scenes for a similar cause, at the same time we did.”

“I also desire them to know that 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 faithful to the truth, and will be willing to suffer, and sacrifice all things that they might be required to pass through for the Kingdom of God’s sake.”[7]

[1] The Price We Paid at 408 (e-book version)

[2] The Price We Paid at 400/Tell My Story, Too at 227

[3] The Price We Paid at 500-501

[4] Tell My Story, Too at 228

[5] Id.

[6] The Price We Paid at 502

[7] Tell My Story, Too at 228