Emily Hill

Emily Hill was just twelve years old when she announced to her family that she wanted to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Her cousin, Miriam Slade, had come to visit and was excited to tell the Hill family about a new religion. Miriam invited them to a meeting. Only Emily went to hear the missionaries preach, walking over five miles each way. She said of the experience, “It was indeed as though I had been brought ‘out of darkness into marvelous light,’ and I could not shut my eyes against it.”[1] Her parents would not allow her to be baptized. The Elders brought Brother John Halliday to the Hill home. He bore a strong testimony that touched her older sister Julia. Now she wanted to be baptized as well. The sisters would have to wait until March 25, 1852 to be baptized. Sometime before Emily’s baptism Brother Halliday blessed her and prophesied that she would, “write in prose and in verse and thereby comfort the hearts of thousands.”[2]

 Eight years after first hearing the gospel, Emily and Julia were on board the Thornton bound for America. They became members of the Willie Handcart Company in Iowa City, Iowa. Emily and Julia volunteered to help Martha Campkin, a young widow, and her five small children. Without their help Martha would not have been allowed to join the company.  Emily would be a great help to Martha, tending the children and helping to pull the handcart.

In England Emily had lived in a situation of wealth, education and privilege. The prospect of pulling a handcart caused her to write, “Yet, for the potent reason that no other way seemed open, and on the principle of ‘descending below all things,’ I made up my mind to pull a hand cart. ‘All the way to Zion,'[3]

Emily asked herself, “if it was possible for me, faith or no faith, to walk twelve hundred miles further. The flesh certainly was weak but the spirit was willing, I set down my foot that I would try, and by the blessing of God I pulled a hand cart a thousand miles and never rode one step.”[4]

Residents in Iowa tried to persuade the saints to abandon the journey. Julia and Emily were even handed anonymous notes as inducements to stay in Iowa. Soldiers at Ft. Laramie also tried to persuade the young women to stay.

Emily Hill %22First Rescue%22 by Julie Rogers
Emily Hill – “First Rescue” by Julie Rogers

On October 19, after the last flour rations had been given and as snow began to fall, the advanced team of rescuers arrived. One of them was Joseph A. Young. Emily had known him as a missionary in England. “When Joseph Young saw Emily, he burst into tears. “Why do you cry, Brother Young?” she asked. “Oh, because you look so starved, and the provision wagons are [miles] away,”[5] He gave her an onion from his pocket. “Rather than eat the onion, Emily held on to it. That night she saw a man near the fire who appeared to be dying. Emily gave him the onion, and he later said that it had saved his life.”[6]

In a blizzard on October 23, Julia collapsed from hunger and exhaustion at the summit of Rocky Ridge. It was Emily who lifted her from the snow and got her going again.

Emily, Julia and the Campkin family all made it safely to the valley.

Despite the many trials and hardships she faced, Emily remained faithful to the testimony she had gained as a young girl in England. She died in 1906 at the age of 70. Emily lived to fulfill Brother Halliday’s blessing with her numerous poems. She authored the words to the hymn, “As Sisters in Zion.”

Her hope was that, “each and all of [my children] may seek and obtain for themselves a knowledge of the truth, for I know it can make them wise unto salvation, and may they be willing if needs be to endure reproach and privation…..I doubt not that all my troubles have been for my good.”[7]


[1] Christensen, Debbie J. As Sisters in Zion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012, 4

[2] Allphin, Jolene S. Tell My Story, Too. Tell My Story Publishing, 2012, 41

[3] Ibid., 41

[4] Ibid., 41

[5] Olsen, Andrew D. The Price We Paid. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006, 133.

[6] Olsen, Andrew D. The Price We Paid. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006, 133.

[7] Olsen, Andrew D and Jolene Allphin.  Follow Me to Zion. Deseret Book, 2013, 68.