July 24th is Pioneer Day. This day is set aside as a time to honor the Pioneers who traveled across the united states to Utah so that they could have religious freedom as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (mormons). Many of my ancestors were Pioneers. They joined the church in England and went through many hardships in order to settle in the west.
I have often thought about the sacrifices they demonstrated and the courage they must have had. My great, great Grandfather was Samuel Lane Crook from Apperly, Gloucestershire,England. His family listened to the message of the missionaries and were baptized. His sister Elizabeth Crook Panting and Samuel were able to buy passage on the ship “Thorton” to come to America. I have always been fascinated by their stories.
Here is a small account of Elizabeth’s story.
Elizabeth Crook Panting was born 7 May 1855. She married Frederick Panting. He was considered the “town drunk.” When Elizabeth joined the church he was quite upset. Elizabeth secretly saved up enough money to buy tickets for her and her children to leave for America.
As they boarded a train to begin their journey. Fredrick came looking for them. Elizabeth was scared of what he would do to them. She prayed and asked God for help. A thought came to her to exchange bonnets with the woman sitting next to her and ask another family to watch her children. As her husband walked the aisles of the train before it began to move, he looked back and forth at the faces looking for his wife. He had a gun only half way hidden in his pocket. He stared Elizabeth in the face and then walked on by unable to recognize her. The first of many miracles in her journey.
After crossing the Atlantic Ocean and traveling further across their land of promise by steamboat and train, Elizabeth, Christopher (5), and Jane (1) began their handcart trek in Iowa City, Iowa.
Elizabeth was privileged to experience another miracle during her journey to Zion. She told the story of this miracle to her daughter, Jane, repeatedly throughout her life. As Jane (Panting Bell) grew older she told this story to her children and grandchildren:
As the Willie Company traveled along the plains, they had many trials which slowed them down considerably. Little Jane rode in the handcart and was very ill. Her mother didn’t dare to stop to take care of her as she pulled her handcart along. She would call to her son, Christopher, to ask if Jane was dead yet. When they reached Ft. Laramie, the expected provisions were not waiting, and they had to continue on with reduced food rations. On October 14, after another reduction was made in rations, Elizabeth went out to gather some buffalo chips to make a small fire to warm what little food was left for her children. She had on a long, full apron and had almost filled it with the buffalo chips when a man came up to her suddenly (and seemingly out of nowhere) and inquired as to the circumstances of the company. Elizabeth told the man that most of them were starving and were in great need. He asked her to follow him, saying perhaps he could help a little. Shaking the buffalo chips from her apron, Elizabeth followed the man. They went over a small hill out of sight of the camp, where he led her to a cave where a lot of dried buffalo meat was hanging. Elizabeth told her granddaughter, June Cranney Monson, that there were shelves of books on one side of the cave that looked like the Book of Mormon gold plates. She said they looked as if they were sealed. The man loaded as much meat in Elizabeth’s apron as she could carry and told her to share with the other people. Then he led her out of the cave and to the top of a small hill and pointed out the camp below, cautioning her not to get lost. As Elizabeth turned back to the man to thank him after she had looked where he had pointed to the camp, he had disappeared. She looked for the cave and could not find any trace of it, but she still had the dried meat. She went back to camp and divided the meat out to the ones that were in the most need, no doubt saving lives. The Martin handcart company were stranded in a place called Martin’s Cove, Wyoming. Many of the members never made it that far. the rest of the company were taken on to Salt Lake City. My great,great aunt eventually lived in Logan, Utah where she married and had nine more children. Elizabeth has been a great example in my life. I have thought of her courage, faith, and strength many times in the last few years.
My own challenges seem small compared to what she faced. As she demonstrated continuous faith on her journey, she was blessed.
I am so grateful to have such a strong example in my life. Thank you Aunt Elizabeth. Miracles do happen. God does bless our lives. He does know our needs.