Eliza Chapman Gadd did not belong to the Church when she joined the Willie Handcart Company with her husband and eight children, but she wanted her family to remain together and followed the desires of her husband, Samuel, to emigrate from England to America in 1856. The Gadd family left behind their fairly prosperous living, and the branches of the Church where Samuel had been the presiding elder during the 15 years since his baptism in 1841.
Samuel Gadd, Sr. caught a cold in Iowa City, Iowa, as the family prepared to walk the last 1,300 miles of their journey. Samuel’s cold turned to pneumonia as he took his turn staying up nights on guard duty and assisted his family and many others in the numerous crossings of the Platte River. Ill and broken-hearted, he buried his little toddler, Daniel, on October 4. He would succumb to death himself 5 days later, leaving his family to face the first winter blasts on October 19. Express riders from the advance rescue party sent from Salt Lake City would also meet them on this day, bringing the first rays of hope.
As the Gadd family crossed the Rocky Ridge in a blizzard on October 23, Eliza became snowblind, in which condition she remained for three days. She became dependent on her 7-year-old daughter, Mary Ann, to hold her hand and lead her up the steep trail as she assisted the older children in pulling the handcart with her other hand. The Gadd family biography states: “Mary Ann, with only rags covering her feet, led her snowblind mother for three days as she pulled the handcart. During this time she carried an ox hoof and at each camp she would roast it and eat the part that was roasted. This was all she had to eat during those three days.”
Samuel Gadd, Jr., age 10, assisted his family all he could at this time, carrying and helping save the life of his baby brother, Isaac, who was surely feeling the loss of his twin brother, Daniel. After crossing the Rocky Ridge and reaching their camp at Rock Creek Hollow, Samuel left his sightless mother and precious siblings in the hands of God and made his final sacrifice. He was buried at Rock Creek with three other children and nine adults who had made similar sacrifices. Samuel’s mother later made the statement that of all her children, “Samuel was the most anxious to reach Zion, but it was not to be.”
Eliza Gadd reached the Salt Lake Valley safely on November 9, 1856, with her remaining children and a softened heart toward her husband’s religion. She requested baptism one week later and remained a faithful member of the Church for the rest of her life.
1 Samuel 1:15; 2:1,2,4,9: I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit . . . but have poured out my soul before the Lord. . . . My heart rejoiceth in the Lord . . . I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. . . . they that stumbled are girded with strength. . . He will keep the feet of his saints . .