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Elizabeth Simpson Haigh Bradshaw
A Member of the Edward Martin Handcart Company of 1856
Written by her granddaughter, Sarah Astle Call
Elizabeth Simpson Bradshaw, twice widowed, with five of the six children born to her in England, Samuel, Sarah Ann, Robert, Isabella Jane (Belle Jane), Jonathan, little Richard Paul, only 6 years of age, walked across the American prairie pushing all her family possessions in a handmade, wooden handcart.
Elizabeth Simpson Haigh Bradshaw was born at Bolton, Lancashire, England. She was christened at the Bolton Parish Church on the 10th of February 1808, the daughter of Thomas Simpson and Ann Briggs. The Simpson's were clock makers by trade and were the inventors of the famous grandfather clock. They were formerly Yorkshire people, who, at an early date, moved to Lancashire County where they owned and operated large factories in the manufacturing of time clocks.
At the early age of nine years, Elizabeth was left an orphan along with several brothers and sisters. She was reared in the family of an aunt, her father's sister, and little is known of childhood experiences.
In 1836, she was married to William Haigh, and to them were born two children, Sarah Ann and Samuel. Her husband died about 1840. Soon after his death, she met the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was converted and baptized into the Church. She suffered persecution and abuse by relatives and friends for having joined a religion so unpopular as the Mormons.
In 1841, she was given a blessing by a patriarch that proved a great comfort to her. One remarkable statement was that her posterity should never want for bread.
On the 11th of March 1844, she married Richard Bradshaw. The ceremony was performed in the Manchester area. This was the headquarters, as they termed it, for all rites in the Bradshaw family. Richard Bradshaw was also a member of the LDS Church, and they were prepared to leave England for America and Utah, when the news of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith reached them. They were advised to remain in England until affairs quieted down after this great tragedy.
In the meantime, Elizabeth again was called to part with her husband. He died December, 1849, or January, 1850, months before she was to give birth to a son. This son she named Richard Paul Bradshaw because the name Paul was the name Saints called Grandfather Richard Bradshaw. They likened him to the Apostle Paul, as he labored so diligently and faithfully in the Church of his choice, and was so greatly beloved by all. He was a professional player of the flute.
In this, her second widowhood, she was left with three more children; one other son had died at birth. She never gave up the hope of gathering to Zion. She worked, waited, and prayed most earnestly that God would open up the way. The opportunity came, and in May, 1856, she found herself and five children, ranging in age from six to nineteen, aboard the ship Horizon ready to set sail for America.
While they were waiting in the harbor at Liverpool, a row boat was seen to approach the ship, and soon her two brothers came aboard to make one more effort to persuade her to remain in England. They pleaded most earnestly and said, "Elizabeth, don't take these little children at this time of the year and go to those God-forsaken Mormons and to such a despised place as Utah." They promised her she would never want for anything money could buy, as they were financially wealthy and would gladly care for her and her children.
She turned to them and said, "I am going to Zion. The gospel is true, and Joseph Smith is a prophet of God."
Her brothers returned home and she started on the voyage of six long weeks in a sailing vessel. They landed at Boston, Massachusetts, and went by train to Iowa. Here they waited for handcarts to be built that they might begin the trek of thirteen hundred miles across the plains to Utah.
Little could they imagine what was before them in this long journey. Grandmother left with plenty of clothing and other personal belongings, but only enough for necessity could be packed into the one handcart for the family. Most of her supplies were given away to those in need. She did keep her two dresses, and later gave them to her daughters.
The journey, although late in the season, began with unwavering faith and a prayer for guidance. This was the Edward Martin Handcart Company. It was composed of many nationalities; many were from Scandanavia, all with the same religious purpose of gathering to Zion and following the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Much has been written by others of this journey, so I shall write mostly of the personal experiences of Elizabeth and her family. Many were the heart rending scenes she witnessed of death and burial. One place, fifteen were buried in one grave; another time, a two year old girl was buried and the wolves were digging for her body before they were out of sight. Some of the men stood guard over the graves as long as possible to keep the wild animals away.
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