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What was life like for Saints sailing from England to Zion? A pioneer's journal recounts details

I, Mary Goble, was born in Brighton, Sussex, England, June 2, 1843. My father was William Goble, son of William and Harriet Johnson Goble. My mother was the daughter of John and Sarah Penfold. My childhood days were spent the same as most children[’s]. When I was in my twelfth year, my parents joined the Latter-Day Saints. On November the 5th I was baptized. The following May we started for Utah. We left our home  May 19, 1856.

We came to London the first day,  the next day came to Liverpool,  and [then we] went on board the ship Horizon that evening.  It was a sailing vessel.  There were nearly nine hundred souls on board. 

We sailed on the 25th. The pilot ship came and tugged us out into the open sea. I well remember how we watched old England fade from sight. We sang, “Farewell, Our Native Land, Farewell.” 

After we got over our seasickness, we had a nice time. We would play games and sing songs of Zion. We held meetings, and the time passed happily.  When we were sailing through the banks of Newfoundland, we were in a dense fog for several days. The sailors were kept night and day ringing bells and blowing foghorns. One day I was on deck with my father, when I saw a mountain of ice in the sea close to the ship. I said, “Look, father, look.” He went as white as a ghost and said, “Oh, my girl.” At that moment the fog parted. The sun shone bright till the ship was out of danger, [t]hen the fog closed on us again.


Mary and her family spent over five weeks aboard the Horizon. Elder Edward Martin, returning from a mission in England, was the leader of the company of Saints. Jesse Haven, returning from a mission in South Africa, was first counselor, and George P. Waugh, a British convert, was second counselor; John Jaques was historian.  Both the Thornton, which sailed from Liverpool on 4 May 1856 and arrived in New York on 14 June 1856, and the Horizon were hired by Franklin D. Richards to carry Latter-day Saint emigrants. Most of the passengers on these two ships were organized into one of the four companies that were caught in the early storms in Wyoming, with the majority of the Thornton passengers becoming part of the Willie company, and those of the Horizon joining the Hodgetts, Martin, or Hunt companies.

With 856 passengers plus the crew aboard the Horizon, space was tight: “The berths for two passengers are about six feet long by four feet four inches wide, lined up like horses’ mangers, two in height.” 

The Saints were organized into nine wards, each with presiding officers. Wards combined for Sunday services, but each ward held prayer meetings each morning and evening as well as fellowshipping meetings. Edward Martin wrote to Franklin D. Richards, saying, “I make it my business to visit every part of the ship six or seven times a day.”  

A bugle was sounded each morning at 5:00 a.m. (later changed to 6:00 a.m.) and each evening at 10:00 p.m. The passengers prepared their meals in the galley. John Jaques wrote, “Cooking for 800 hungry people at one galley is not a trifling affair, especially when each family or person has a private pot or dish.” 

Four couples were married during the voyage. Four children were born, including Nancy Horizon Wilson and William Horizon Paxman. John Jaques notes six deaths, including little Nancy Wilson and two other children who died in Boston Harbor before disembarking. 

After a few days at sea, Jaques reported that “the children make themselves happy, both above and below deck. Marbles, skipping ropes, and all the available paraphernalia of childhood’s games are called into request. The older boys amuse themselves by tugging at the ropes with the sailors. So merrily we live together.”  

The first day at sea was smooth and quiet. “But what a change the next day,” wrote Jaques. “Sea-sickness changed our countenances to a pitiful, pallid hue. . . . Such a worshipping of buckets and tins, and unmentionable pans, I shall not attempt to describe.”  

A few weeks after arriving again on terra firma, Jaques reported, “I think, altogether, that we, on the Horizon had as agreeable a voyage as most emigrants are favored with. We had an occasional rough breeze . . . and split a sail or two, but not a single storm did we experience.” Still, he concluded, “I like the beginning and end of a sea voyage better than another part of it.” 


The following passage comes from Rescued: The Courageous Journey of Mary Goble Pay.

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