Pioneer moments: A singular journey

Just months before the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, missionaries sent from Nauvoo converted the Robert and Sarah Ann Robinson Dowdle family in northern Alabama. Within a year, the family set out to join with the body of the Church. Driven by the testimony of the missionaries and having read an incomplete copy of the Book of Mormon, the family headed for Nauvoo. A year was added to their journey when they learned of trouble in Nauvoo and that the Saints had already moved on toward Winter Quarters in Nebraska.

A son, John Clark Dowdle, later wrote of this epic journey. "We traveled mostly on foot . . . making our journey slow and tiresome. Having in addition to this to stop by the wayside to do our living as we went on our werysome journey."Not blessed with the strength of the faithful body of the Nauvoo Saints, they pressed forward alone. There were no evening campfires with song and dance to lift their spirits. When problems arose, it was theirs alone to struggle, without the comfort and aid of a company of fellow travelers.

Finally in the summer of 1847 after two years of travel and labor, the Dowdles arrived in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Significantly, in the month of July, still a season of travel and a half-continent away from the body of Saints who were themselves just entering the valley of the Great Salt Lake.

Then tragedy struck. John Clark wrote: "My father about this time was taken sick . . . no doubt . . . hardships and toil of our long journey was the cause of his days being shortened . . . he departed this life, leaving a wife and 7 children to moan his loss . . .

WTe was left strangers in a strange land, and this not being the worst, entirely destitute of the things of life."

Left to find her own way West, Sarah Ann and the four youngest children began farming in Iowa. The older boys had gone ahead as hired teamsters with other wagon companies. Months turned into a year, then two, three, four and five. Finally in 1852, Sarah saw her family safely reunited in Utah, ending an eight-year struggle, borne on the wings of faith, to join with the body of the Church. (Source: published history of Robert Dowdle, Sr., by Harold L. Dowdle, Stevensons Geneology Center, 1990, Provo, Utah)

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