Sunday, September 30, 2018
From Family Search.org
I am including an article from the Church News (date unknown) written by Joseph Lundstrom and titled Pioneer Mother Lives Precept ‘Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go’. “How is Ma? Is she better?” The large sleepless eyes of the little girl searched the face of her father as he looked out of the wagon. Six children stood in front of him. The oldest was 13. Orson Spencer smiled a smile of comfort at his children. “She’s better. We’re going to take her over to (Bullocks’) cabin. You children be good and stay in the other wagon.” For nearly a month, ever since they had left Nauvoo, mother Spencer had lain ill in the wagon. For the last ten days it had rained and snowed unceasingly. The temperature was down to 10 degrees below zero. It was too hard to keep her warm and dry in the wagon, with only a canvas top. Once things got wet, bedding, clothing, it was impossible to get them dry again. Consider Turning Back Once Orson Spencer had suggested that his wife and children return to (New York) to the care of her family where she could regain her precious health, her strength. But Catherine Curtis Spencer knew that this could not be. When she and her husband had joined the Church, her family disavowed her. Said her father, “You may return home only if you renounce ‘Mormonism.’” Orson Spencer turned from his children to his sick companion. A kettle, set under a hole in the canvas to catch the rain, was beginning to overflow. He emptied it and hurriedly put it back under the hole. Once more, Orson Spencer spoke to his wife. Would she consider returning to her father’s home so that she might live to rear her family? “Bring the Bible,” Catherine Spencer said to her husband. He opened a trunk and brought out a worn leather-bound scripture, being careful to keep the rain from splashing on it. His hands touched the book with affection. His father had given it to him the day he graduated from theological seminary, one of the top members of the class. Scriptures Supply Answer Catherine Spencer smiled bravely at her husband. She was a small but sturdy woman, reared in a home of refinement, culture and affluence. Her husband, how sorrowful he looked, she thought. Not as he had once appeared, while preaching in the Middlefield Baptist Church as an ordained minister. Even the governor of Massachusetts had been a member of his congregation then. “Read the first chapter in Ruth,” she asked. Orson Spencer’s eyes filled with tears. He could hardly see the print , but he knew the words: “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:” A small, frail and tired hand reached out and found Orson Spencer’s hand. He held it tightly, shivered in the cold and listened to the beating rain on the canvas wagon top. “I would rather abide with Church, in poverty even in the wilderness, without their aid, than go to my unbelieving father’s house and have all he possess,” whispered the mother. A night or two before she died, she said to her husband with unwonted animation, “A heavenly messenger has appeared to me tonight and told me I had done and suffered enough, and that he had come to carry me to a mansion of gold.” They took Catherine to a nearby cabin. Before she died she called the children to her and gave them a kiss. “Oh you dear children, how I hope you may fall into kind hands when I am gone,” she said. To her husband she said, “ I love you more than ever, but you must let me go.” Asked if she had anything to say to her father’s people, she replied, “Charge them to live the gospel.” The cold, tired body was returned to Nauvoo and buried at night, beside the grave of their (eighth) child, a little (girl) who had lived only 13 months. There were few in Nauvoo who mourned. Those who cared had been driven out. On To Winter Quarters Motherless, the children and their father found their way to Winter Quarters, 150 miles away. Here a cabin was built by Orson Spencer – not for himself, but for the children alone. He had received a call to serve a mission in England to edit the Millenial Star. Soon other huts mushroomed about and by the time snows fell again the next winter more than 3,000 refugees had crowded into 700 log and sod buildings. During the summer 500 hundred of the able-bodied men had marched away to do battle in a war with Mexico. They left Winter Quarters singing “The Girl I left Behind Me.” It was the start historic march of the Mormon Battalion. From somewhere Orson Spencer managed to get 10 cows, a donkey, a few supplies. He asked neighbors, James and Mary Bullock, to keep an eye on his children. The o ldest was now 14. Answers Mission Call Tearfully he embraced each one and then set out for England, he was to remain away for one, two, and three winters. But that first winter was the hardest. The donkey and all but one of the cows died. Food was scarce, and they were finally limited to cornmeal. Wilford Woodruff learned of the children’s plight, admired their pride and furnished them flour and pork. Then they came down with the measles. Letters arrived from England, but no money. Brigham Young called on the children. “Would they care if their father remained in England another year?” he asked. The children could go to the Rocky Mountains, he would help them. “If it is thought best,” said Ellen, the eldest, “we would like it so, for we want to do for the best.” The others voiced their agreement. So it was that they crossed the plains walking most of the way, the wagons were too loaded with precious supplies to carry those who could walk. It took five months to make the trek. They reached the Salt Lake Valley. A year later their father returned to them. The third oldest child, Aurelia, lived, matured and grew to womanhood. She married Thomas Rogers, settled in Farmington, raised 12 children and died in 1922, she was 87. In 1878 she helped organize and was set apart as the first president of the first Primary in the Church. Today Aurelia Spencer Rogers is recognized as the “Mother of the Primary.” One wonders: What would have become of this great lady – a daughter of Zion and a mother in Israel – had her own mother, Catherine Spencer, that night on the wintery plains, decided to return to (New York) and her father’s home?