Between 1840 and 1890, at least 85,000 LDS emigrants braved the treacherous oceans. Some 50,000 of them crossed the water in sailing vessels.
From 1840-1868 virtually all LDS emigrants crossed the Atlantic and Pacific in sailing ships. There were 176 known voyages under canvas.
Church leaders were well aware of the hazards of an ocean crossing - they chartered only the most seaworthy ships, and in a fifty year period not one LDS emigrant company was lost in the Atlantic. The only shipwreck that took LDS lives occurred in the Pacific and five members died.
Members were organized into companies and wards on the ships with their own leaders. Passage was sometimes terrible with the storms, etc. - then people were confined below decks. Great faith was evident with each crossing and courage and endurance of all kinds was shown. A handbill published in Bolton, Lancashire, England in 1839 read, "Men of Bolton - Think of mourning England and suffering Englishmen, Think of your own wretchedness and your own wrongs. Think of the iniquities which government is daily perpetrating."
A letter to Lord Normandy in 1840 stated, "Many families that have even work or part work have to live the last three days in a week on stolen turnips or on potatoes. Others, they cannot rest at night through hunger. This, my Lord, is not an exaggerated statement."
In 1836, there was a depression which, says a modern historian, "In intensity and duration ... competes with later rivals for the title of the Great Depression." In Birmingham, where the already minimal wages were reduced by 1/3 to 1/2 and many were unemployed, a speaker at a protest meeting in 1838 declared, "There are thousands of mothers and children crying for bread and cannot obtain it."
Great unemployment was in Birmingham and Manchester in Lancashire as well as other large industrial cities in England at the time. Quoting, "At this moment suffering under circumstances which are beyond human endurance...perishing for lack of the necessities of life."
Food prices were extremely high. So England in the 1830's and 40's was a fertile soil for the gospel of Mormonism. Methodists, in particular, found Mormonism congenial and appealing.
The Elders were painting a wonderful picture of Zion and the situation in America as being so much better than in England. People were excited to try their best to be able to go and start fresh in a new country.
None were to go "in haste, nor by flight", but after careful preparations. Pains were to be taken to leave no debts. All were to go to Liverpool to embark. They were to go in companies and protect each other from those who would take advantage.
"While the route through New Orleans was 'much cheaper' than that through New York, it will never do for emigrants to go by New Orleans in the summer on account of the heat and sickness of the climate. It is, therefore advisable for the Saints to emigrate in autumn, winter, or spring."
They were told to "obtain a letter of recommendation from the Elders...certifying their membership", and they were to "conduct themselves as Saints."
The August 1841 edition of the Millennial Star carried further detailed instruction to emigrants. They were to take no furniture except beds, bedding, and cooking utensils. They were also to take plenty of good stout clothing and bedding. They were advised how to pack, and what to expect in freight charges. From Liverpool to New Orleans would be approximately 5 pounds for adults, 3 pounds under 14 years, and infants up to one might go free.
It was under these circumstances that many of our ancestors from England came to make their decision to come to Zion here in the United States. And by understanding these circumstances we can learn more about our ancestors and their experiences.
One such emigrant and convert was Sarah Pidd. Sarah was born in Whaplode, Washway, Lincolnshire, England (map), 4 March 1825. She was the daughter of Adonijah and Ann Forman Pidd. She had 1 brother, 2 sisters, and 1 half-brother. Her father died when she was 8 years old so her mother was forced to go out to work leaving young Sarah to care for her brother and sisters. The days were very long and the work very hard but she tried hard to do her best.
The baby took sick and died leaving fewer mouths to feed but their situation went from bad to worse when their mother married a man who was mean and abusive to the children. He had a small orchard with fruits and nuts but he would not allow the children to go into it and pick anything to eat. When he would go to work the mother would let the children go in and get what they wanted and then she would rake away their footprints before he got home.
She often told him he would meet a bad end for the way he treated them and he did. He was crushed to death at work.
By this time Sarah was old enough to be put out to work and learn a trade. She was apprenticed to a seamstress and learned dressmaking and tailoring. This was to be useful to her for the rest of her life. While learning this trade she met the Mormon missionaries and learned about the gospel. She converted from Methodism to Mormonism and was baptized. She heard all the wonderful things about living with the Saints in Zion and started to save her money. When her sister, Elizabeth, found out that Sarah was going to emigrate, she talked her into waiting for her so that she could go too,
Sarah agreed and while they saved and waited, Sarah made many beautiful dresses and clothes for them to take with them. Just as soon as Elizabeth had worked out her bond, they bought their tickets. Now, when tickets were bought in England it was understood that this paid for the whole way to Utah. Many were surprised and disappointed to find out that they had to walk across the plains and could not ride.
When Sarah and Elizabeth said goodbye to their Mother neither one of them thought that it would be the last time either would see her in this life.
The voyage was awful for Sarah and she wondered if she would live to see land again. They were on the ship for ten weeks. They landed in New Orleans and enjoyed sightseeing in that city while there. They left New Orleans and traveled to Missouri where they stayed for some time. Sarah found work and did sewing for people who lived there. They were almost persuaded to stay there and not go on to Utah but they were determined to finish what they had started (map of the Pioneer Trail).
They were each allowed to take one trunk. But they were not allowed to ride on the wagons, they walked every step of the way. Sarah always had a good outlook on the things that happened while crossing the plains. She said that the young people tried to make the best of it and have a fun time, talking and playing games while walking, singing, and enjoying each other's company. They had their sad experiences as well as their frightening ones, but they chose to try to make it a good experience.
Indians raided their camp and frightened them, prowling around their tents at night to see if they could steal anything. Giving the Indians so much of there food to keep them from hurting anyone that they had very little to eat themselves. They would receive a slice of bread each day. Lizzy would say in the morning "Oh Sarah, I think I'll eat all of mine. I'm so hungry." Sarah would say, "Don't Lizzy, you'll be more hungry before the day is done." At noon Lizzy would say, "I'm so glad I didn't eat it all."
One day the wagon train passed a place where trappers had some jerky for sale. Sarah reached in her pocket and pulled out some gold coins that she had brought from England and told the man to take what he wanted. The man was so surprised he didn't know what to say.
When the train would come to a river or stream of water, the men would have to carry the women across. The girls had no trouble as they were little and didn't weigh a lot. All the men would try to get a small woman to carry. When it came to the larger women the men would draw straws to see whose turn it was. There was one particularly heavy woman in the group and most of the time the men would fall in the water and get her wet anyway. They would all laugh and have a good time and tease the man who got the long straw.
The wolves and the coyotes would howl at night until it was very difficult to get any sleep. One was always afraid of dying on the plains and being left for the wolves. This was a nightmare for Sarah and others.
When the train reached Salt Lake it pulled into the old tithing yard in the fall of 1853 and everyone went their separate directions. Sarah and Elizabeth were left to themselves. They had no relatives here or sponsors of any kind so they were left to find their own way. The girls weren't there long when a couple of men came along and asked if they wanted to come and work for them in their homes. Elizabeth went one way and Sarah went another.
Sarah used her sewing abilities to help out in this homeland to make some extra money for herself. She was treated very kindly and liked living there. Elizabeth married a man she had met on the ship coming over from England and asked Sarah to come and live with her. Sarah only stayed a little while because her brother-in-law asked her to be a plural wife and Sarah couldn't bring herself to do that to her sister. She met a man by the name of Joseph Griffiths and she became his second wife. She was resigned to her marriage, Joseph was a kind man and a hard worker. She was determined to make the best of things.
She had three children by him. Josiah (Ed. Note: Possibly Joseph Griffiths?) died at birth, Lucy Ann and George Henry.
Not long after George was born Mr. Griffiths was taken ill and died (cemetery marker) leaving a large first family and Sarah's little family. Sarah left her children with the first wife (Ann Roberts) and went out to earn a living by sewing for people in their homes. Sometimes she would be gone for several weeks at a time and then would go home to her children. During one of these times away, little George, who was three years old, had an accident. Ann, the first wife, was making soap and put the boiling mixture on the floor to cool. George was tugging on her skirts and crying wanting to be put to bed and she was reaching up on a shelf for something. She turned and George was knocked off balance and he fell into the vat and was burned so badly that he died the next day. The doctor that they sent for was a Mr. William Smith and he cared for the boy as best he could.
Sarah was so grieved she would not leave her daughter, Lucy, anymore. From then on she took her with her wherever she went.
After a few more years of working and after the older boys in the first family had grown enough to work and care for their mother, Sarah decided to marry Mr. Smith, the doctor. He had children from his first wife who had died and they had fallen in love.
Sarah and William were very happy and Sarah was a good mother to her step-children. They both filled voids where loved ones had been taken. They lived in Union (map; see also Union Ward) in an adobe house and continued to work hard weaving and sewing. They were blessed with things that made life comfortable and enjoyed their family.
They had twins, a boy and a girl, Isaac and Sarah. Isaac died after only a few weeks (cemetery marker), but Sarah seemed to thrive and they grew very attached to her. Life seemed to be going very well for the next few years. William would take care of people when he was needed. He was especially good at setting bones and even helped the Indians when others would not.
When little Sarah was 8 years old she became suddenly and violently ill and died in just a few days (cemetery marker). This was traumatic on all the family as she was such a sweet little girl. William and Sarah never really fully recovered from the ordeal. Lucy was then the only surviving child of Sarah's and stayed close to her mother throughout her life. Lucy had fallen in love with her step-brother, Hyrum, the son of William and his first wife, Mary. They decided to marry and live close to their parents (family picture). This was a comfort to them especially to Sarah, and she spent the remainder of her days there in Union.
Sarah passed away September 16, 1910, at the age of 85 outliving William by 17 years.