Grandma Norda is one of very few (the only one that I know of) who can tell a story about her grandmother and her journey across the plains as part of the Willie Handcart company. Over the years I've related this story in Primary, Sacrament meetings and even Stake Conference and I've heard the story told in General Conference and Church-wide firesides.
Grandma's grandpa Southworth was also a young pioneer. Chester Southworth III crossed the plains as a young 9 year old boy with the John B Walker Wagon Company.
Grandpa Emmett once joked that the Emmetts were
Agnes Caldwell Southworth
Born: 1847 Died: 1924
Children's Story: Nine year old Agnes was a member of the 1856 Willie Handcart Company. She was blessed by the forethought and preparation of her mother and did not suffer as much as others.
Biography: © 1994 Deseret Book Company. All rights reserved.
Parents: William and Margaret Ann McFall Caldwell
1856: James G. Willie Handcart Company
Age at time of journey: 9
Although only tender years of age, I can yet close my eyes and see everything in panoramic precision before me-the ceaseless walking, walking, ever to remain in my memory. Many times I would become so tired and, childlike, would hang on the cart, only to be gently pushed away. Then I would throw myself by the side of the road and cry. Then realizing they were all passing me by, I would jump to my feet and make an extra run to catch up.
Of the long cold journey, the suffering, and hardships, enough has been told and written, of that terrible night when fifteen were frozen and buried in one grave. My sister Elizabeth Caldwell had her foot frozen. Two of her toes were amputated upon our arrival in the
Winter came in October with eighteen inches of snow, but in spite of this we did not suffer from hunger, due to Mother's careful and frugal planning. In Iowa City Mother sold a quilt and a bedspread for the sum of twenty-four cents. With this she bought food. She had a way with Indians: she traded trinkets for dried meat, which proved to be of great help to us on the journey. Frequently it would be stormy so that a fire could not be built; then mother would allow each of us to have a piece of dried meat on a piece of bread. As food became more and more scarce and the weather colder, she would stew a little of this meat and make a delicious gravy over it. I guess the reason it tasted so good is that we were allowed only a small portion at each meal.
One very cold night, some young men were on guard. Mother prepared some meat broth, thickened with flour, and a little salt; she gave each one of the young men a half pint. They often declared it saved their lives and never before or since had anything tasted so good.
For baking, Mother dug a hole in the ground. The food was placed in a heavy iron kettle with a tight lid on, then set in the hole and covered over with buffalo chips, which were set afire. This produced a nice, even heat, baking the food evenly.
One day we came to a section inhabited by rattlesnakes. Two of us, my friend Mary Hurren and I, would hold hands and jump. It seemed to me we were jumping for more than a mile. Due to the protecting hand of the Lord, we were not harmed.
The 30th of September we stopped at a station in
Just before we crossed the mountains, relief wagons reached us, and it certainly was a relief. The infirm and aged were allowed to ride, all able-bodied continuing to walk. When the wagons started out, a number of us children decided to see how long we could keep up with the wagons, in hopes of being asked to ride. At least that is what my great hope was. One by one they all fell out, until I was the last one remaining, so determined was I that I should get a ride. After what seemed the longest run I ever made before or since, the driver, who was Heber [William Henry] Kimball, called to me, "Say, sissy, would you like a ride?" I answered in my very best manner, "Yes sir." At this he reached over, taking my hand, clucking to his horses to make me run, with legs that seemed to me could run no farther. On we went, to what to me seemed miles. What went through my head at that time was that he was the meanest man that ever lived or that I had ever heard of, and other things that would not be a credit nor would it look well coming from one so young. Just at what seemed the breaking point, he stopped. Taking a blanket, he wrapped me up and lay me in the bottom of the wagon, warm and comfortable. Here I had time to change my mind, as I surely did, knowing full well by doing this he saved me from freezing when taken into the wagon.
Agnes Caldwell and her family arrived safely in the
Source: "Autobiography of Agnes Caldwell," typescript of interview conducted by Vera Southworth Fife, her daughter. Original in files of Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum in