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A Young Girl’s Courage

by Hattie Esplin

My grandmother, MARGARET WEBSTER ESPLIN, crossed the plains alone at the age of sixteen. I remember her well as I was sixteen years old when she died. She had coal black hair, piercing black eyes and a genial smile. She used to come to see us when we lived on a farm below the town of Orderville, Kane County, Utah, and we had to talk real loud as she had lost most of her hearing during a siege of measles when a child.

Grandmother was born in St. Helens, Lancashire, England on December 2, 1836, the daughter of Henry and Ann Rigby WEBSTER. She was the eighth child in a family of fifteen. All of the family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in England. Margaret being baptized 21 March 1848 at the age of 11 years. She, with her parents, ten brother and sister–four having died in England–crossed the ocean on the ship Josiah Bradley, one of the vessels chartered by the Church to take care of the emigration. This ship sailed from Liverpool 18 February 1850, and after eight weeks docked at New Orleans, April the 18th. The family sailed up the Mississippi to St. Louis and then traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Here the father died of cholera in December, 1850.

The mother and children stayed in Winter Quarters until 1852. During this time, Rachel, 18 years of age, and Henry Edward, 14 years old, died. Preparations were going ahead to make the journey to Utah. Margaret, age 16, was working for the family of David Dixon who wanted her to accompany him across the plains. Mr. Dixon told her he would get her mother’s consent and duly informed her that she had given her permission for Margaret to go on ahead of the family. Later she found this to be untrue.

After their arrival in the valley with a company of 1852, Mr. Dixon decided to go on to California and asked Margaret to become his wife. She refused and found work with a family living in Mill Creek where she stayed the winter. In the spring she went to American Fork and in the fall returned to Salt Lake City. her mother, brothers and sisters, who came in the Uriah Curtis company, arrived in the valley October 1, 1852, and immediately began searching for Margaret. They had a notice given out in conference asking for information regarding her whereabouts. Strangely enough Margaret was in the meeting but did not hear what was said concerning her. A short time later she met one of her brothers on the street and soon was reunited with her family in Big Cottonwood.

During the time Margaret had been living with other families, she had received several offers of plural marriage but she refused all of them, saying she was going to marry the first single man she met. This proved to be John Esplin, a young convert from Scotland who had also come alone, he being the only member of his family to join the Mormon faith. This young couple helped to settle Nephi, then moved to the Muddy Mission and from there went to Long Valley where they lived twelve years in the United Order. They were the parents of thirteen children. Margaret died at Orderville, Utah, February 18, 1908 at the age of 72 years.

From DUP Lessons for January 1959, “They Came Alone” p. 289