Mary Goble was 13 years old in October 1856. She came with the Hunt Wagon Company across the plains that year and was among those caught in the violent storms of Wyoming. The journey had already been a tragedy for her family. Her two year-old sister Fanny had died in the campground at Iowa City before they ever set out on the trail. On November 3, her baby sister Edith passed away. Having seen what the wolves did to the graves, it was especially hard for Mary to leave her. She lingered at the grave, grieving, until her father came and insisted she journey on. On November 5, her brother James ate a hearty meal and went to bed, never to wake up again.
It was near Devil’s Gate when Mary became lost in a wilderness of snow. Her legs and feet were badly frozen before the men of the camp found her. They rubbed her legs with snow to thaw them out. Mary described that the pain was terrible.
It was December 11, 1856 when Mary’s mother passed away between Big Mountain and Little Mountain, just outside of Salt Lake City. That night at 9:00 pm they came into the City. “Three out of the four children that were yet alive were frozen,” Mary said. “My mother was dead in the wagon. Bishop Hardy had us taken to a house in his ward and the brethren and sisters brought us plenty of food. We had to be careful and not eat too much as it might kill us—we were so hungry. Early the next morning, Brother Brigham Young and a doctor came….When Brigham Young came in he shook hands with all of us. When he saw our condition—our feet frozen and our mother dead—tears rolled down his cheeks….The doctor wanted to cut my feet off at the ankle,” She said, “but President Young said, ‘No, just cut off the toes, and I promise you that you will never have to take them off any farther.’ The doctor amputated my toes using a saw and a butcher knife. The sisters were dressing mother for her grave. My poor father walked into the room where mother was, then back to us. He could not shed a tear. When my feet were fixed, they carried me in to see our mother for the last time. Oh, how did we stand it? That afternoon she was buried.”
Mary came very near losing her legs in the ensuing months, but by faith in God and his Prophet, her legs were saved–though she would have to learn to walk all over again.
It was November 1909, 53 years later, when Mary attended a reunion of the handcart survivors. She met friends and they had a good time talking over the incidents of their trip across the plains. But then she said, “It made me feel bad. It brought it all up again.”
Today we keep bringing it up. Every year we tell their stories and take our youth out onto the trail. Why are we doing this? Is it a good thing? Mary Goble Pay asked the same question and gave the answer. She said, “Is it wise for our children to see what their parents passed through for the Gospel? Yes, I think it is.” And so it is.