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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14 – Louisa Miller Belleston

I added this story as I think it is important for us to understand alittle bit about the Perpetual Emigration fund. The Perpetual Emigration Fund was organized by Brigham Young to assure that all worthy Saints, regardless of economic circumstances, could come to Zion. Members paid into the fund what they could afford, drew what was needed and endeavored to repay any differenceas soon as possible after arrival.

James Thomas paid into this Fund sufficient to provide an outfit for the journey across the Plains. Then, after making a visit to London to bid farewell to his family there, the Bellistons packed their provisions and took the train for Liverpool, the most common point of departure for Mormon Emigrants to the United States. They left three children buried in England and took with them four living children: William Robert, age nine; Thomas, just turned seven; James Thomas Jr. just five and Louisa Maria, not yet six months old. They sailed on 15 February 1853 aboard the sailing vessel Elvira Owen, in a company of 343 presided over by Joseph W. Young.Six weeks later they arrived in New Orleans.

It is a credit to the masterful organizing efforts of presiding Church authorities of that time that so few lost their lives in the crossing. Many immigrant vessels were lost at sea, but of 333 transatlantic crossings of Mormon emigrants, not one vessel was lost. Most in that time had never traveled far from their homes and were ill prepared for such a journey. They suffered great hardship, sickness and disease. But their faith sustained them.

For many, the sea voyage was more frightening and dangerous than crossing the Plains in a covered wagon. Everyone was seasick, especially in storms. In the cramped, dark, suffocating cabins, the odors and misery were extreme. Food was never ample and never appetizing.Rations consisted of beef, pork, peas, beans, potatoes, barley, rice, prunes, coffee, tea, rye bread,herring and oil for the lamps. Space for so many humans was inadequate. Beds were uncomfortable. Germs of all kinds thrived in the close quarters. It was a test for the hardiest.But it was often fatal for the infirm and for children, who were buried at sea encased in a canvasshroud, after a simple service.

The Saints on the Elvira Owen landed at New Orleans on 31 March 1853 and departed as soon as possible up the Mississippi River. This journey too was difficult. River paddle wheelers made about six miles per hour against the river current. Fire, collision and exploding boilers were dangerous and threatening. In the forty years between 1810 and 1850, more than 4,000 people lost their lives in steamboat disasters. But the Bellistons apparently made it to Keokuk without serious incident. They were among a sizable group who disembarked at Keokuk, Iowa,across the river from Nauvoo. Here they acquired the ox team, covered wagon and other supplies arranged through the Perpetual Emigration Fund.

For this one year the staging point for LDS immigrants was in this new city, where the pioneers found work building city streets and other improvements while awaiting assignment to acompany for the journey across the Great Plains. Their company was to follow the trail of the Nauvoo refugees across Iowa to Council Bluffs, and from there to the Valley.

Journey to Zion:
The company with the Bellistons reached the Salt Lake Valley on 6 October 1853, just under eight months from their departure from England. No modern city welcomed them. The Pioneers had arrived only six years before and the desert was still waiting to blossom. They had been a long time without the comforts of a home. They were greeted by friends from England,the William Reeves family, and moved in with them. When the Reeves moved, they continued to occupy the home which belonged to Orin Woodbury until they were able to build their own small adobe home at 268 West 6th South in Salt Lake City. James Thomas had worked in the adobe yard and sold adobes and had also made enough for his own home. He traded work for other supplies and finally traded his best suit of clothes for enough lumber to finish the house.

Sadness came to the family while they lived in the Woodbury house. William Robert died soon after his tenth birthday, just three months after their arrival in the Valley. Death struck again shortly after they moved into their own home, taking their second daughter, little two year old Louisa Maria, who had been named for her mother, Louisa. This left only two of their seven children living, until the birth in 1855 of Emily. Later, in a dugout in Payson, where the family had fled from Johnston’s Army, Joseph Ephraim was born. Sarah, their last child, was born in Nephi in 1864. Although it was not unusual in their time to lose children to untimely deaths,these deaths brought with them great sadness.

It is likely the family would have continued to live on their property in Salt Lake City,had it not been for Johnston's Army. When this large militia approached the Valley in 1857 to put down a phantom "rebellion" of the Mormons, Brigham Young dug in his heels and sent his own militia out into Echo Canyon to prevent their entry. James Thomas joined this force of 1200 men, which successfully stalled Johnson's advance. But in May of 1848, when Johnston's Army entered the Valley, the Bellistons and many others left their homes and moved away from the city. Later James sold that house, which had cost about $400, for a mere $100.

They moved to Payson, piled all their worldly belongings on the ground under the wagon cover, secured a small lot and proceeded to dig a hole in the hillside, surround it with homemade adobes and cover it with a sod roof. In this makeshift home with a dirt floor, Joseph Ephraim was born a few weeks later. One year later, James Thomas sold the dugout for a pig valued at$20 (which was promptly butchered for meat), paid Edward Jones $80 for a lot at 225 South First East in Nephi and built another home, where he and Louisa lived until their deaths.

If you would like to read more aout Louisa and her family, as this represents just snippits taken from it, you can read more by going to Many more stories can be found on the site that I found this story which is "The Sons of Utah Pioneers" found at

1 comment:

  1. Louisa Belliston was my Grandmother, with a few Great's added on. They were an insiration for sure, like many early pioneers, giving up so much to be able to gather together with the Saints.


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