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Beckstead, Eleanor (Davis) - Biography

Eleanor Davis Beckstead

I feel that my life has been made richer by knowing this tall, stately, and gracious lady. Her dark eyes shone with kindness, understanding and courage. She was a real pioneer who took plenty of time to study a situation before giving her decision on problems with which she was daily confronted. Having a husband who was quick tempered, who frequently did and said things which he quickly regretted, she nevertheless excelled as a peace maker in her home, and had the ability to choose the right word to fit the situation. To know her was to love her. Friends and neighbors said that she was the most hospitable person they had ever known. She divided her substance with those who were in need, trudging miles through snow to help the sick and needy. At Christmas she assisted her generous husband, George Wesley Beckstead, to prepare a fat beef or sheep and accompany him in delivering it to more unfortunate people in the community.

For several years after the passage of the Edmund-Tucker Bill, and during the polygamy crusade, all the available room in their eight-room adobe house was occupied by leaders of the Church and lay members who were hiding from the deputy marshals. She no doubt remembered her own experience, when she, as a girl of seventeen left a very comfortable home in Llanrwst, Denbighshire, North Wales, to come to Utah as a convert to the Latter-day Saints Church. Stamped in her memory was the suffering she had gone through crossing the plains, hungry, cold and barefoot. This was a constant reminder of her obligation to others.

Eleanor, with her parents, William and Elizabeth Davis, and her only sister Jane, who had been married just ten days to William Lewis, set sail on the ship Samuel Curling, April 19, 1856. They arrived in Boston on May 23rd and travelled by train to Iowa City, then the terminus of the railroad. Here they stayed to make ready for the long journey across the plains. As handcarts were to be the company's means of travel, they had to be built. Eleanor's father was a carpenter and wheelwright and his assistance was needed. He was asked to remain in Iowa City and help those who had not finished their carts. Elizabeth stayed with him, but Eleanor, William Lewis and Jane went on with Captain Edward Bunker's Handcart Company, which was comprised almost entirely of Welsh emigrants. The company was formed in military order for their protection, with William Lewis as captain of 50. William Davis had built the Lewis cart unusually strong so that tent poles and camp equipment, as well as personal belongings could be carried, making a very heavy load. Eleanor and Jane came to William's aid. He placed himself between the shafts and with a woman on each side, they pulled together, the 1,300 miles over hills and dales, mountians and streams, through mud and muck, until they reached the Valley.

Everyone who could walk, waded the rivers and streams; ofttimes the water proved too cold and dangerous for the women. William, being a big powerful man, volunteered to carry them across the streams. He always took Jane first, Eleanor next and then the others. Altogether he sometimes made twenty-one trips. As time went on, their food supply became scantier each day. As they neared Salt Lake, their rations were th ree tablespoons of flour. Eleanor and Jane gave William h alf of their share of the food for they felt they could keep alive onless than a man.

They arrived in Salt Lake City October 2nd, the third handcart company to reach the Valley. President Young was very much affected by their plight and asked the people to share with these half-starved travelers.


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