Snow covered the ground. The night air bit at the noses of about 300 people as they left Social Hall inside Deseret Village at This Is The Place Heritage Park. It was a little past 8 p.m. on Dec. 11.
Realization of the significance of the date and hour, rather than simply cold weather, caused the tears that welled in many eyes. At almost precisely that hour 150 years ago Dec. 11, 1856 one of their ancestors passed that way en route to warmth and safety in Salt Lake City. Mary Goble, a 13-year-old member of the John Hunt wagon company attached to the Martin handcart company, rode by the site, her mother dead in the wagon. Two days later, Richard Pay, another member of the Hunt company, traveled the same road down Emigration Canyon into the valley. Richard and Mary later married and had 13 children, four of whom died in infancy or childhood. One was unmarried when he died at age 22. Descendants of the eight who lived to marry and have children of their own were among those who gathered on this recent December night near where Emigration Canyon opens into the Salt Lake Valley.
Elder Richard G. Hinckley of the Seventy, a family member, addressed the gathering. His mother, the late Marjorie Pay Hinckley, was a granddaughter of Richard and Mary Goble Pay and wife of President Gordon B. Hinckley.
In a reader's theater format, the story of Mary Goble Pay, as preserved in her journal, was presented by four of her grandchildren: Douglas L. Pay, Evelyn P. Henriksen, Dorene P. Lloyd and Joanne P. Baird.
Mary's parents, William and Mary Penfold Goble, joined the Church in Brighton, Sussex, England. They traveled to Liverpool where, with 900 others, they boarded the Horizon and sailed for six weeks to Boston, Mass. They traveled by train to Iowa City, where they were fitted out for their journey by wagon train. The Gobles' youngest child died at Iowa City.
Daughter Mary recorded some of the ordeals of their travel. Of one difficult day, she wrote: "We went back to camp and went to prayers, and sang 'Come, Come, Ye Saints, No Toil Nor Labor Fear.' I wondered what made my mother cry....The next morning my little sister was born. It was the 23rd of September. We named her Edith. She lived six weeks and died."
Edith was buried at the last crossing of the Sweetwater River in Wyoming. In recent years, her grave's wooden marker was recovered and given to the family; the marker was on display at the commemorative gathering.
Mary's journal recounts how her feet and legs were frozen; her sister Caroline and brother Edwin also had frozen feet. Mary wrote of the death of her brother James at Devil's Gate on the plains of Wyoming. She described the singing, dancing and tears that came with the news that Brigham Young had sent teams to help the stranded travelers.
Mary's mother, age 43, died between Little Mountain and Big Mountain, just a few miles from Salt Lake City.
"We arrived in Salt Lake City nine o'clock at night on the 11th of December 1856. Three out of four that were living were frozen. My mother was dead in the wagon."
Mary wrote that early the next morning, Brigham Young visited them. "When he saw our condition, our feet frozen and our mother dead, tears rolled down his cheeks," she noted.
A doctor amputated Mary's toes while women prepared her mother for burial. "When my feet were fixed," Mary wrote, "they (carried) us in to see our mother for the last time. Oh how did we stand it. That afternoon she was buried."
Mary wrote that she had often thought of her mother's words before they left England. "Polly," Mary Penfold Goble said, calling her daughter by her nickname, "I want to go to Zion while my children are small, so they can be raised in the Gospel of Christ for I know this is the true church."
Elder Hinckley said that as he walked from the parking lot to Social Hall where the family's commemorative meeting was being held, he felt the cold weather and thought of "how those people must have felt. Likely, it was every bit as cold, or colder, than it is tonight."
He said that he has read his great-grandmother's story many times. While serving a mission in Germany, he said, he translated it into German to share with members there.
He said that as he has flown across the United States, he has often looked out a plane's window and pictured in his mind wagons and handcarts crossing the plains, and wondered what Mary would have felt. He said that the account of crossing the plains is only a small portion of the pioneers' story.
"Their lives were hard when they got here, too," he said. "When I'm in over my head, and think that things are too difficult, I think of them."
He spoke of Richard and Mary Goble Pay's life together. Mary was 50 when her husband died.
Theirs is a great story, he said, and then asked, "What does it mean to you and to me?" He said that Richard's and Mary's descendants "are obligated, and have a sacred duty, to live the gospel."
"May the Lord bless us that we will honor the legacy that is ours. I'm honored to be a Pay; I'm as much a Pay as I am a Hinckley."
The commemorative program included everyone singing "Come, Come, Ye Saints." A musical medley was performed by family members, along with a few friends. Particularly touching was Rachel Poll Udy's singing of "Farewell, My Native Land, Farewell," which the Goble family and others aboard the Horizon sang as the ship sailed away from England, to which they would never return.