Friday, March 14, 2014

History of Richard Collings (1818-1891) and Emma Lawrence Collings (1825-1914): Part 1


written by Sylvia Collings Musig

My grandfather, Richard Collings, was born at Marsworth, Breckingham Shire, England, on June 23, 1818. He was the son of Joseph and Sarah Harrowell Collings.

Grandmother, Emma Lawrence, was born in London, November 26, 1825. She was the daughter of Simon and Ann Archer Lawrence.

One of the events of her girlhood that grandmother often related was that of seeing Victoria crowned queen. This was in the year 1837, when grandmother was about twelve years of age.

My grandparents were married May 26, 1844. Grandfather was nearly 26 years old, and grandmother was 18 years and 6 months. Their first child, a little girl named Alice was born May 13, 1845. She died when four years of age.

They joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and in the year 1856, they, with their five children, left their home and loved ones and immigrated to the "Promised Land."

Their children were Louisa, born November 1, 1846; Fredric John, born April 24, 1849; David, born April 19, 1851; George, born August 7, 1853; and Samuel Willard born December 7, 1855.

What courage those brave parents had, what love for the Gospel, that they could undertake such a journey with five small children, the oldest nine and one half years old and the baby only five months.

They embarked at Liverpool, May 22, 1856. They were forty-seven days crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a sailing vessel.

One night, while on the ocean, they were awakened by a great disturbance; the ship was rocking to and fro; the crew was running up and down, and there was such a noise and clanking of chains. The vessel was about to strike an iceberg. Naturally, grandmother became frightened but grandfather, in his cool collected way, said, "just keep calm, there‘s no use getting excited, there's no back door to run out of." They quietly kneeled down and asked God to protect them.

That remark was very typical of grandfather. He and most of their children, all through life, faced their problems calmly. When sorrow or misfortune came to them, they braced up and made no complaint, "there was no back door to run out of."

On June 30, 1856, 856 saints disembarked at Boston. They arrived at Iowa City, then the western terminus of the railroad, July 8th.

Before leaving London, grandfather sent money to Salt Lake City to pay their immigration, with the understanding that they cross the plains with an ox team, but after waiting on the Iowa camp grounds three weeks in the intense heat of midsummer, they were told that they were expected to walk and pull their provisions in a handcart.

As members of the Edward Martin Handcart Company, the Collings family left Iowa camp ground on July 28, 1856.

Grandfather pulled the cart, grandmother carried the baby, Samuel, who was then nearly nine months old, and at times she pushed with one hand on the cart. A little harness was made for Fred and Louisa and they helped pull. Fred was seven years old and Louisa had her tenth birthday one month before the journey's end. Five year old David walked all the way, and little three year old George rode in the cart on the baggage. Thus this brave hearted family, along with the others, traveled 1300 miles over plains and rough mountains.
The handcarts were poorly constructed, and were made of green timber, and they became so rickety on the way that the immigrants were forced to throw off part of their food and bedding which they needed so badly later.

Winter came early that year and found the company with little food or clothing and they were starving, freezing, and suffering from fatigue and disease.

How well I remember hearing grandmother tell the story, how at night the women and children helped scrape the snow away with tin plates so that they could pitch their tents. Often in the morning Aunt Louisa's hair was frozen to the ground.

One morning, fifteen in the camp were dead. The ground was frozen so hard that the wornout immigrants were forced to make graves so shallow that the company was scarcely out of sight when wolves devoured the dead.

When they reached the Sweet Water River, they found a swift current; the was [sic] was waist deep; the river was more than one hundred feet wide and full of floating ice. To cross the torrent meant nothing short of suicide as one sixth of their number had perished from crossing the North Platte eighteen days before. All of the warring elements of nature seemed to be against them. They cried to the Lord for help and three eighteen year old boys of a relief party came to the rescue and carried nearly every member of that ill-fated company across the stream.

They let as many of the smaller children ride as the rickety carts could hold. Each of the boys pulled a cart and carried one of the larger children on his back at the same time. There must have been nearly five hundred people in the company at that time; we can estimate the number of times those three boys crossed the river in order to carry those men, women, and older children and pull their carts across the icy torrent.

The boys who carried the company across the Sweet Water River were: Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Klmball. The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great that in later years all of the boys died from the effect of it. When Brigham Young heard of this heroic act he said, "That act alone will ensure them an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God."

[Editor's note: Check out this article discussing the accounts of the crossing of the Sweetwater.]

Like the children of Israel, these brave immigrants had fled to a promised land where they could worship as they thought right, but no cloud guided them by day, no firy [sic] pillar by night. The waters of the rivers never rolled back leaving a path for them to cross; no manna fell at their tent doors when they suffered from hunger; but their humble prayers were not in vain, and they received courage and strength.

Grandmother often related the following incident which she felt was an answer to their prayer for food and help. Brother Ephraim K. Hanks, while at Provo, was impressed to go to Salt Lake. He stopped over night at Draper. While lying awake in bed, a voice called to him saying, "The handcart people are in trouble. Will you go and help them?" Brother Hanks answered "yes, I will go." The voice called three times, repeating the same words. The answer was the same. In the morning, Brother Hanks hastened to Salt Lake and
two days later was on his way eastward, alone.

Ten miles east of Green River, he met a number of teams that had been sent to the relief of the belated companies but had turned back because of the deep snow. Those in charge had come to the conclusion that the immigrants had all perished. Brother Hanks got some of their supplies and went on his way. Several days later he met other [sic] returning. From them he secured a saddle-horse and pack animal and
went on.

Sixty miles from Devil‘s Gate, he killed a buffalo. He cut the meat in strips and lashed it on his horses. Toward evening, he saw a black streak in the snow. It was slowly moving, he knew what it was. At last he reached the ill-fated handcart camp. Brother Hanks said, "The starving forms and haggard looks of those poor dejected creatures can never be blooted [sic] from my mind." Flocking around him, starving mothers reached out their hands saying, "Please give me some meat for my hungry children." Shivering urchins with tears streaming down their thin cheeks cried out, "Please give me some." In a short time everyone was eating bison.

During the evening, Brother Hank's went from tent to tent anointing and administering to the sick. Some were healed instantly, many drooping spirits took fresh courage.

Grandfather Collings was very sick that night and was one to whom Brother Hanks administered, and he received strength to go on.

After that, Brother Hanks spent most of his time caring for the sick and afflicted. Some days he anointed and administered to as many as two hundred, and in many instances they were healed almost instantly.

Notwithstanding these wonderful manifestations of God's power many of the saints lost their limbs through freezing. Some lost their hands and others their feet.

Their food became so scarce that the company was put on rations, and several times the ration was cut down. At times, the only food in camp was a little flour. A few ounces was alloted [sic] each person for the day.

Now such care is taken in feeding our babies, and the mother's diet is so important, I think of poor grandmother half starved and frozen, walking all day. How did she feed her baby?

The four hundred and thirteen survivors of the Martin Handcart Company reached Salt Lake City, November 30, 1856, true to their religion, and their faith in God unshaken.

While in the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City in 1924, I had as a roommate, an elderly lady with a wonderful personality. I had been in the room only a short time when she asked if I was a Mormon, then if my parents, or grandparents were pioneers. I said, "They were all pioneers," and when I told her that my father's parents were members of the Martin Handcart Company, she sat up in her bed, all interest, and said, "I shall never forget when that company came into Salt Lake. I was only six and one half years old. I stood by my father's side down where the Eagle Gate is now when a relief party brought the Martin Company into the city. Those poor people were so nearly starved and frozen that they scarcely resembled human beings. My father removed his hat, and stood with bowed head, the tears rolling down his cheeks and said, 'Of all the saints who have come to Zion, these brave-hearted people have suffered most. ' "

This remark was familiar to me and I asked, "Was your father President Brigham Young?" She said, "My father was Brigham Young and my mother was Zina D. Young. "

This lady was Zina Young Card.

>>Part 2

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