Courage, in its various forms, is a character trait that serves a person well in all ages. Certainly, the pioneers required a great amount of courage to do what they had to do. It is no different in more modern times, only the things that we have to be courageous in the face of have changed. In some ways, they are even more challenging than those of ages past. Regardless of circumstances, we can learn from the their examples of courage.
To posses courage, one does not have to be big and strong. Courage can even come in small packages. For example, consider Ester Davis, a small, slender young woman with medium brown hair and gray eyes. The courage she displayed as a young woman was exemplified throughout her life.
As she grew older, Esther too was baptized on February 3, 1850 at the age of eleven. She had a longing to come to America, and to go to Zion In Utah. She worked and saved enough money to pay for her passage on a sailing ship to the new land she had dreamed about. When she was eighteen years of age, her dream came true as she courageously set out on her adventure all on her own.
The George Washington was one of many ships chartered by the Church to bring emigrant converts to America. With three decks, she carried 817 passengers on this trip. Each passenger had 10 cubic feet allotted them for their luggage and a berth. Adult passengers had to pay £4.5 for their passage; £3.5 for those under eight, and one shilling for infants. The cost of passage included provisions for the voyage.
As the voyage began, the weather was stormy and unsettled and many of the passengers came down with seasickness. Some truly had a tough time, being confined to their berths, too unwell to wait on themselves. Esther helped the sisters care for those who were ill, until she became very ill herself. She could hear the people talking but couldn't move or speak. They thought she was dead too. Her spirit left her body and went back to her mother in England. Her mother told Esther that the Lord had a mission for her in Zion to do and that she must return to the ship. That was when one of the sisters noticed one of Esther's eye lids flutter, and knew she was alive. They started working with her and praying. Finally she could open her eyes and speak. They took such loving care of her and eventually she could leave her bed. As soon as her strength returned she again helped wherever she was needed.
As the ships company left the ship, most boarded trains to continue west. Several passengers, including Esther didn't have enough money to continue on. She was a highly skilled seamstress and looked for employment as soon as she could after disembarking from the ship. Esther had learned to spin and weave beautifully. She made her own clothing and took in sewing for others and made silk dresses, wagon covers, horse blankets, and anything else there was to sew.
On her days off she would visit the dress shops where the lovely dresses were made for those who could afford to buy them. She would get the nice scraps of the silk, satin, and velvet or even remnants and made what she called, 'crazy patch work quilts'. The pieces were sewn together around each block. She put a backing on the larger quilts, and because they were very stylish in those days, she had a ready sale for her quilts as soon as they were finished. These quilts and her clothes were all made by hand, when she had spare time or at night by candle light. She even won a first prize with one of her quilts at a fair in New York.
Not far from the home was an old blacksmith's shop, with a beautiful spreading chestnut tree. When Longfellow saw the shop and tree after he had bought the home, he wrote a poem about the shop and called it, The Village Blacksmith which was first first published in 1841.
It took Esther four years to save enough money to come to Utah. By then her sister Amy and her husband, Thomas Fairbrass, had come to Boston from England leaving their mother in England all alone.
Welcome news reached the Saints comprising the flourishing branches of the Church in Boston and other parts of the Eastern States in 1861. Amid concern over the commencement of the Civil War on April 12, 1861 between the North and the South, it was announced that the Church in Utah would send to the frontier two hundred teams suitably equipped to aid in transporting across the Plains those not otherwise provided with means for the journey.
At 7 p.m. the New York Saints arrived in large numbers, and by 10 p.m., with the Boston Saints forming one company, were en-route to Dunkirk, via the N. Y. & Erie Railroad; and the following evening on their arrival at Elmira, Pennsylvainia, the company was there joined by a large number of the Saints of the Philadelphia Branch, forming a company so large that many had to ride in freight or cattle cars fitted up with a single bench placed around the sides.
At 10:15 a. m. Thursday, June 13th, they arrived at Dunkirk on the shores of Lake Erie, and were “dumped off”, with their baggage, into the streets. The call of the government for means for transporting the troops had left but a few spare cars. These could take only part of the company, the remainder having to wait some 22 hours, exposed to the jeers and taunts of drunks and others. After this wait, however, special accommodations were obtained, and a six hour run brought them to Cleveland, Ohio. Only fifteen minutes was given them to change cars, and shortly after coming up with the main body arriving in Toledo. Three hours were spent in getting their train ready which now consisted of two engines, eight freight and twenty passenger cars.
The feverish condition of the nation upon the outbreak out of the war was indicated to the Saints the next day, when they saw a gallows furnished with a noose and an inscription which read "Death to Traitors."
They reached Chicago, Illinois on Saturday afternoon, and there was another tedious wait in a large warehouse for nearly six hours. While waiting, they were subject to the profanity and abuse of a number of drunken men, so that it was a welcome relief to be on their way again, bound for Quincy, Illinois.
Sunday afternoon found the company pleasantly engaged in a large wooded area, making tea and chatting merrily with one another and having a general good time. The opportunity was occasioned by the breakdown of one of the engines, causing a six-hour stop-over. Arriving at Quincy the next morning the company was transferred to the steamer "Black Hawk". It steamed down the Mississippi River to Hannibal, Missouri, where they unloaded their baggage into a large shed by the river's edge. At this place a glimpse of the realities of the war was experienced. The "Home Guards" (loyal to the Union) were at their quarters guarding a cannon captured from the secessionists and one of the rebel officers was confined in a room of the depot. Excitement filled the air and reports of the actions of large numbers of rebel troops in the interior of the state; burning bridges, firing into railroad trains, etc.
The run of some two hundred miles from Hannibal to St. Joseph, across the State of Missouri, was an exciting one, as most of the towns through which they passed were under guard by Union troops, as also were the railroad bridges. Nearing Chilicothe, now under martial law and presenting the appearance of a captured city, all business being suspended, armed soldiers patrolled streets. The train was stopped and army officers and guards inspected the train, and then stationed sentinels at each door before allowing the train to proceed. A train a few hours previously had been fired upon, and they saw some of the bullet-riddled cars.
The road-bed was in such a horrible condition that passengers and boxes were thrown around and shaken as if on a ship in stormy seas. During the night they arrived at St. Joesph, and in the heat of a sultry morning they removed thier baggage from the cars to a large building by the river's edge, where lay the steamer "Omaha", which was to convey them up the Missouri to Florence, Nebraska.
The day was spent in loading the freight, which with nearly all the passengers was destined for Salt Lake City. St. Joesph, as well as other places in Missouri, was a divided community, a Confederate flag having been hoisted just previous to thier arrival, by its supporters, and after much excitement was pulled down by the Unionists. Suspicion and antagonism prevailed; citizens were armed and no man's life seemed secure.
The next day, June 20, 1861, they arrived safely at Florence, and the "Church teams" were soon busy hauling the passengers and their belongings to the many deserted and unfurnished houses in that vicinity; houses which proved very acceptable places of shelter and were free to all.
The following Sunday the Saints gathered beneath a bowery and were addressed by Elders Joseph W. Young, Jacob Gates, and others relative to the next stage of the journey, and the arrangements therefor and regulations to be observed.
The next week was spent by the emigrants, teamsters, and presiding officers in arranging the details of the company organization, purchasing supplies, oxen, wagons, manufacturing tents, breaking in cattle, collecting such cash from the emigrants that they could advance to purchase needed groceries, bacon, etc.
The next day the loading up of Captain Joseph Horne's Company commenced. The passengers assigned to his company had their baggage taken to the bowery, weighed, and properly loaded into the wagon. They were only allowed to take about 70 or 75 pounds of luggage. The company drove out some three miles to the place of rendezvous, there taking their first lesson in camp life, such as getting water, fuel and cooking with the camp fires. The organization and fitting out of Captain Horne's Company continued the remainder of the week.
Breaking camp at 6:50 a.m. they followed in the wake of Captain Murdock and Captain Eldredge's trains. After the noon break, they started out ahead of the Murdock Comapany and passed through to the corral formed by the wagons of the Eldredge company.
During the following nine days they came to the Platte River, experiencing the heavy dews of this locality, crossed Loup Fork with its sand bars, passed by a ranch where hostile Indians had run off all of their cattle. They also met U. S. troops from Fort Kearney en-route to the east on their way to war.
Grateful to partake of the grateful water of the Pawnee Springs, they gathered wild cherries, fought mosquitoes, and viewed distant prairie fires. Moving on, they finally came in sight of Chimney Rock. That evening they camped near Chimney Rock. Some were allured by its seeming nearness and waded across the river and toiled on and on until wearily and faint they reached its base. After carving their names on the rock, they gave three cheers for President Brigham Young and the Pioneers. After experiencing other adventures, they returned to camp.
A few days later they could again obtain wood in lieu of "buffalo chips" for making campfires. Esther was assigned to take charge of the children old enough to watch for fuel along the way. The children picked up sticks when in tree country; or when in buffalo country, they picked up buffalo chips. Laramie Peak, like a distant cloud, came into sight, and after Fort Laramie they encountered rough roads, scarcity of feed for the animals, and crossed and re-crossed the river.
While traveling along a rocky road a fatal accident occurred to a faithful old lady - Sister Mary Ann Foreman, from the Dover, Kent, Branch. She slipped from the wagon and was run over. She only lived about an hour after that. That same evening, without change of clothes, or a coffin or a box, she was laid to rest in a shallow grave. After a few words of consolation and a short prayer, a buffalo skull with a penciled epitaph to mark for a brief time her resting place. By the starlight the wagon train again rolled out while the moon rose over a distant hill.
With the snow-capped Wind River Mountains in sight they looked with interest upon the waters of Pacific Springs wending their way westward and finally emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
After crossing the Green River they made their first camp in the Utah Territory. From there they wended their way by Ham's Fork, past Fort Bridger, across Bear River, through Echo Canyon and East Canyon to the summit of the Big Mountain. With varying emotions, the emigrants obtained their first sight of their long sought for promised land, the Salt Lake Valley.
On Friday morning, September 13, 1861, Captain Joseph Horne's Company broke camp for the last time and rolled into Salt Lake City. The trek ended as all emigrant trains did, in the 8th Ward Square, where the City and County Building now stands.
Esther had walked most of the way so that her sister who was not well and had two children could have her turn riding in the wagon. After arriving in Utah she came down with Mountain Fever and was terribly ill for a long time. Because of this illness, her hair turned completely white at twenty-three years of age.
Soon after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, she met a man by the name of Henry Woollacott. He and his wife, Martha had emigrated from England to Utah in 1854. He asked Esther to be his second wife. She talked to the church authorities and was ecouraged to marry him. They were married in Salt Lake City on February 22, 1862. At the time Esther was 22 and he was 35.
Esther lived in the same home with his first wife, their children, and his mother but they were not kind to her. She had a little boy, Albert James, on January 13, 1863. Unhappy and mistreated, Esther left with her baby and was granted a divorce.
Soon after their marriage Samuel and Esther moved to Spring City, in Sanpete County, Utah. There he farmed extensively and they owned a fine home for the times. During the Black Hawk Indian War in Southern Utah between 1866 and 1868 he was a Captain in the Territorial Militia.
During that time, Esther and Samuel had their first three children: Stephen (1 Apr 1865), Chauncy ( 8 Oct 1866), and Rebecca Penninia (26 Sep 1868). Samuel's daughter, Hettie, got married in February of 1867 and his son, James, died in September 1868 at the age of 16.
Now the Pioneers had the U.S. Government to contend with besides the Indians. But the people won as God had sent them to the West so they could worship in peace. They were raising fine crops and fruit of all kinds. Factories were built so they could make the clothing, machinery or most anything they needed. So life was much better for the people now. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, people could come to Utah from the east by train.
Two more years had passed by. Samuel and Esther were sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on May 23, 1870. Another baby boy, Adolph Lesseau (15 Aug 1870), blessed their home.
Another little girl, Margaret Elzira (30 Sep 1872), and two more boys, Ivan Danzoff (9 Jan 1875) and Marion (12 May 1878), were born, and that made a family of seven children. The older children were a great help when their father had to be away. No matter what Samuel had to do or where he had to go, Esther never complained as she was still left alone quite often, with the children. Her husband had been hired by the government to work with the Indians to try to keep peace among the pioneers and Indians and among the different tribes. He spoke the Indian language very fluently. He loved the Indians and respected them. The Indians loved him and treated him as one of them.
They had a wonderful dog that hated the Indians. If Samuel was gone, Esther was always watching for those few Indians that from time to time would ride to people's homes and just walk in, helping themselves to what ever they wanted; usually food.
There was a gang led by an old squaw that everyone called 'Old Sally'. They never took anything except food, then they would leave. They were called 'renegades' because they were somewhat wild. One time the renegades went to the little store. People would take small buckets to the store and buy syrup by the pound from a larger bucket. One of the store clerks had waited on a customer and left the lid off of the large bucket, and a mouse got into the syrup and died night before . The lady working in the store, didn't know what to do. The group of Indians, let by Sally, came in and wanted food. Sally spied the syrup bucket. She wanted that, but the clerk said it wasn't good as a mouse fell into the bucket of syrup and it would have to be thrown out. Sally fished the mouse out, licked the syrup off the mouse, threw it outside, put the lid on the bucket and was tickled that she had a real prize. No doubt the Indians were hungry as game was now either shared with the settlers or had left that part of the country.
The Indian braves saw the pretty shirts that Esther made for Samuel. They wanted shirts like his, with ruffles down the front and around the cuffs. So Esther made them some after they got the material for her. With all those little ones, she stayed up after they were in bed sewing shirts.
One morning the family was sitting around the fireplace getting dressed and a knock came at the door. Esther went to the door to see who was there. It was a stranger who asked her for a needle and thread, he wanted white thread. She got it for him and he pulled his robe back and pinned it to the inside of his lapel. Esther said the skin under his robe was as white as the driven snow. He gave the boys a lot of good instructions. He told them not to do things they shouldn't. After he left, he'd only been gone a moment, they thought he would have been off the doorstep at least. They went outside to look for him. The house was on a hill so they could see in every direction, but they couldn't see him anywhere. He just disappeared!
Having sold their farm in 1888, Samuel and Esther took the younger children and moved to Coyote, in Garfield County, where they purchased another small farm. Early in the spring he fell from a haystack and broke several ribs, which never healed and made him ill most of the time. Nevertheless, they moved to Coyote on the 12th of May. He lived little more than a month and died on June 27, 1888.
On May 3, 1890, Esther and her son Chancy traveled by wagon to the Manti Temple and did the endowment work for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Then on January 7, 1893, they returned for the sealing. Chancy acted as proxy for Mr. Longfellow and Esther was proxy for his wife. Seeing that this important work was done for the Longfellow's was typical for Esther. She would be mindful of those people who helped her as she journeyed from England to bring her dream of life in America true.
Esther had the knowledge of how to make and use the most healing salve. It seemed to cure most anything. Then all the families would get a jar or can of it. Her daughters never learned how it was made. No one knew how it was made, as she took that knowledge with her to her grave.
In her later years she was such a sweet patient little lady. Always so neat, and her hair was always combed so neatly.
In December of 1910, a few days before Christmas, Esther became very ill and the family was summoned to come as quickly as they could. She was very ill but she prayed that she would not die on Christmas Day because she did not want to spoil it for the grandchildren. Her prayers were answered and she lived until the day after. Esther died at Marion, Cassia County, Idaho on December 26, 1910.
Margaret's husband, Wallace Warner, and Adolph made the casket, and Rebecca and Margaret lined it neatly and put a pillow in it and covered it with pretty white cloth, The ladies sat up all night after bathing and getting her ready for burial. They didn't have mortuaries in those days, so to keep her flesh from going dark, they used cloths rung out in a solution of formaldehyde and placed on the exposed hands and face The funeral was a day or two later. It being winter, there were no flowers. She was buried in the Marion Cemetery.
The world is a much better place for having had a courageous lady, like Esther Davis Frost, here for 71 years, 8 months, and 2 days.
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This story comes from two life stories of Ester Davis Frost. One by her granddaughter, Viola Warner McKendrick, and the other by her grandson, Ira L. Frost.
The definition of courage is from Wikipedia
voyage of the George Washington is from the diary of Amos Milton
Musser posted at
journey from Boston to the Salt Lake Valley is from the Journal
History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13 Sept.
1861 posted at