LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND — Whilst Sea Trek 2001 essentially commemorates the 85,000 of 19th century saints who left their native lands of Scandinavia, Continental Europe and Great Britain, it is worth sparing a thought for those loved ones who were left behind, and also those who, in later years, after the huge emigration process had officially ceased, remained here in obedience to the instruction of the prophet.
The early saints sacrificed much for their faith. They often left behind family members, sometimes parents or siblings, as well as the extended family. The parting was thus a bittersweet experience for the emigrants, eager to gather to the Zion with those of the same faith, but sorrowful at the parting with friends and family.
Widow Mary Ann Weston Maughan, who emigrated in May 1841, wrote: "The last and hardest trial was to take leave of Father, Mother, brothers and sisters. My dear good mother was most broken hearted to see me go. . . . My two little sisters clung around my neck saying, 'We shall never see you again.'
"I had not told them this for I knew the parting from them would be very hard. Little Jane wanted to come with me but this was impossible as she was only eight years old. . . . Oh, the grief and sorrow of this time I can never forget." (Journal and Autobiography of Mary Ann Weston Maughan, cited in Mormon Immigration Index.)
A decade later, the scenes were still the same. In January 1851, another widow, Jean Rio Baker, emigrated with her seven children and a daughter-in-law on the ship George W Bourne. She wrote: "I took leave of every acquaintance I could collect together, in all human probability, never to see them again on earth; I am now (with my children) about to leave forever, my native land, in order to gather with the Church of Christ, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, in North America." [One of her children, Josiah, died during the voyage.] When Joseph Fielding took his wife and two young children back to America in 1841 and sailed from Liverpool on the Tyrian, hundreds of members came to the docks to bid goodbye to the Fieldings and the more than 200 other emigrating saints. As the ship slipped anchor those on board began to sing to those they were leaving behind: "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord." On the shore, hats and handkerchiefs were waved in fond farewell. With all eyes fixed on the retreating vessel, the last words heard by those on the docks were: "When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow." Observing this scene, Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote: "Soon all was a dim speck upon the ocean. A few moments more and they were vanished from view on the wide expanse and lost in the distance. May God speed them onward in their course, and land them safe in their destined port."
Communication thereafter could only be by the occasional letter, before a proper postal system was in place.
The Earnshaw family was from Clitheroe, Lancashire, England. Mother, Alice, and her two adults sons, John and Mark, were all members of the Clitheroe Branch. When, in 1854, they were being encouraged to "gather to Zion," the family did not have sufficient funds for all to go. It was decided that Mark, the younger son, should go first. The plan was that he would be able to send money home from his earnings in America, so that the others would soon join him. They did not expect the parting to be long.
Mark was one of 2,109 members emigrating that year. He set sail from Liverpool on Nov. 27, 1854. He had a tough time crossing the plains and it was not until August 1855 that he finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Conditions there were not good; plagues of grasshoppers had recently devoured most of that year's crops. Money was scarce and even labor was paid for in kind. Mark wrote home in December 1855: "I shall never rest content till I get you in my presence and I will make every exertion that I can to get you here." He went back to St. Louis, Mo., to try to earn more money. It was a slow process and the years rolled on. Money at home was tight and the family could not take advantage of the Perpetual Emigration Fund, which had been suspended for a time. John Earnshaw was out of work because of a slump in trade. In 1861, he wrote to Mark, "It would be a happy job if we could pack up our alls and off the mountains. We have got the will and disposition, the only thing lacking is money. However, we must not despair but do our best."
It was 1861 before there were sufficient funds for John Earnshaw and his mother to emigrate with her granddaughter Sarah Ann Dyson. John wrote to Mark in June 1861, "I am happy to inform you we are on the shores of the American continent." John married a woman he met on board ship and decided not to travel further. Only mother, Alice, and her granddaughter Sarah Ann went on to Florence, Neb. Together, the pair crossed the plains. Anxiously awaiting their arrival in Salt Lake after a separation of seven years, Mark was distressed to learn that his mother died just a few hours before reaching her goal of Zion. In the end, only Sarah Ann made it to the valley.
Sea Trek participant Kristen Winmill, of the Lincoln 2nd Ward, Rocklin California Stake, said that as she recently visited the home area of her Danish ancestors, she was forced to ask herself: "Why? Why did they leave this beautiful land with its lush green fields and forests? I've come to know why: Because they believed the gospel. They had a testimony of Jesus Christ. They were following their God to leave their homeland because of Zion. They built Zion. We will be able to teach our children that we came from a wonderful legacy and that in future years they, too, will have the opportunity to stand up for what they know to be true."
Sister Winmill knows something about the feelings of leaving behind loved ones. To come on the Sea Trek expedition, she had leave behind her two children, three and a half and two years, with her mother in Idaho. "It was very hard to part with them, even though it will be for only three weeks. I miss them very much." Recognizing that today's descendants of these early emigrants are deeply indebted to their emigrant ancestors, the Sea Trek 2001 organization has paid tribute to both those who pursued the goal of gathering and those who stayed behind to help the Church flourish in Europe, "both contributing in heroic ways to the building of a thriving worldwide Christian religion." Sea Trek 2001 Chairman William K. Sadlier said that the special events in each of the ports "are our way of saying thank you; giving something back to these lands that provided so many thousand emigrants to build Zion." The specially commissioned oratorio, "Saints on the Seas," also recognises those who remained by its concluding song, "Good Winds," where descendants of Church members whose families remained devoted through generations of time join the soloists on stage.