On the 22 January, 1849, I started with my wife, my son Joseph, daughters Ann and Mary, . . . On the 23 January we started, all in good health from my brother Samuel's in company with many other Saints from the different branches, on the route to Liverpool, where we arrived the same evening, and put up at Mr. Powell's, Key Street. The next day we moved our freight from the station to the dock yards, and went on board, and stayed until the 1st [of] February when the dock gates were open, and the steam tug towed us out to the mouth of the Irish Sea, where our captain and his wife took sick and kept us there 12 days. He left the ship and returned to Liverpool. On the morning the captain arrived with a fresh supply of water and coal, hoisted sail and put off through the Irish Sea. We sailed all night with a good wind. The middle of next day, the wind arose, the sea hove mountains high, which lasted about 58 hours, during which time there was much seasickness. After this our passage was tolerable comfortable. We had no deaths or births until we arrived to the mouth of the Mississippi. We were 11 weeks and three days out to sea on 10 weeks provisions, and had it not been that some passengers had brought extra provisions, some of our party must have perished. We arrived at the Balize April 18, 1849. . . . [p.4](George Wood's account of the travel up the Mississippi was written at a different time)
We had embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. We had received the ordinance of baptism, accompanied by the exalted satisfied feeling of having done right in the sight of our Maker. The heart-rending goodbye to home-folk, country, friends and associates had been said. It had been hard to say "goodbye" to the graves three children, of our father, and the dear little 10 year old brother John, who had been killed as we worked side by side, and to our mother and brothers, and sisters who could not understand why we should leave the good old primitive Methodist Church of our people and join with the unpopular Mormons. Nor did we need to emigrate to a new land for lack of opportunity or means; for we had means and good businesses in our home land, -- Gretts Green, West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England. But the light of the Gospel and the spirit of gathering led us onward. Myself and wife Jane (who was my cousin), with our two children, my brother Samuel and his wife Jane, and brother Stephen and his wife Mary Ann and his son, had crossed the ocean and came as far as the Mississippi River together. The outstanding incident of this journey I shall relate as accurately as possible.
Hundreds of the Latter day-Saint emigrants had been stricken with cholera at New Orleans and through out the journey up the Mississippi River states, as well as through Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. This was after the first company reached the Salt Lake Valley in 1849. As fast as transportation facilities could be had, they moved on. The party of which I, George Wood, was a member, also composed some others who later became Cedar City residents - Grandma Harris, Henry Leigh, Joseph W. Walker (dad). We had taken passage on a Missouri River steamer and began the journey upstream. This boat was of the usual river type, little or no conveniences. The captain was a brutal, unaccommodating, and a very extremely harsh man.
The usual method of disposing of the dead was to weight the bodies and dump them overboard, and when I and others asked the privilege of removing our dead and burying them on the land, the captain was hateful and mean about it. Several of my dear ones I had to perform this last earthly service for. Others of the party had sustained like losses, and were as anxious as I to bury them as decently as possible. The captain at last agreed to wait, however, and we hired a negro to help dig a trench big enough to put them all in together. We removed the dead from the boat and began our heart-breaking task, but had it only partly done when the whistle blew, for us to come aboard, and the boat began to get underway. All ran hastily except the negro, one woman and myself. I and she stood at the grave side of our dead and watched them go. What bitterness of spirit I experienced only God knows. Was this what I had come to America the home of the brave for? Here was I with two strangers standing beside the open grave. United only in the characteristics which, make earthly bodies. Our common interests, were all lying before us, or fast receding from sight, subject to the whim of a heartless thing in human form. [p.5]
Surges of emotion swept over me, sorrow, anger, love, fear, and despair, but my nearest duty was to protect these rapidly decomposing dear forms of mine from the ravages of wild beasts, heat, and other elements. Perhaps I had been blessed and spared to perform this last service. If I were dead with them our bodies would all rot together. I shuddered to think I had been raised in England, and had come to this. And so I urged on my companions the need for work. I felt responsible for seeing the thing through - - The negro, while of a seemingly stronger character than most of them, needed urging. The woman, sick with sorrow and fear would do her utmost - as I, - to protect her dead. So, as we gathered our forces to recommence our task, Lo, - here came the boat back, easing into the shore and still. A shout went [-], willing hands scrambled over the side and ran to where we stood wondering and astonished at so unbelievable a thing. What had happened? Did the captain have a change of heart? Are you sure he will wait? "Don't worry, he'll wait," one spoke up, and "There are others, and stronger on the boat." "But it takes time to find them out." So we fell to work, and ere long it was finished. We rounded the mound, gathered some loose rock, paused a moment, in silent tribute, and turned and walked quietly back. As the others made their way into the boat I turned, removed my hat, (presumably to wipe the sweat) and silently consigned my loved ones and the spot upon where they lay into the keeping of Him who knowest best. Perhaps each honest soul of all that company did likewise. But the bitter enmity of our enemies toward any they knew were Mormons prevented any demonstration on our part. And so we watched the gravesite until a bend hid it from our gaze.
I was anxious to know what had happened and my friends were anxious to tell me, so as not to attract too much attention from captain and crew, I signed for a couple of the men to follow me and led the way to the quietest spot I could see.
I was told there was immediate dissatisfaction on the part of nearly all of his passengers. There was a whispering and counseling together in groups. Some of the braver ones spoke to the captain kindly, and remonstrated with him over such treatment of fellow passengers. He had already received their fare. Instead of relenting he became sullen and ugly, still traveling upstream with all the speed he could command. At last, failing with kindness, Joseph Walker took it upon himself to try another method. He was a big slow, gentle speaking man ordinarily. Perhaps he was aroused to an unusual degree, but he secured a rope and walked up to the captain. "Now" he said, "we've tried persuasion to see if there is any humanity in your wretched carcass. See this rope? If you don't go back and get those people, I'll hang you from your own crossbeam, and I'll have plenty of help to do so." Such was the power of Brother Joseph Walker, and from there on, he behaved as decently as was in his nature to do. With the result I have already mentioned, a safe landing at Iowa City . . . [p.6]
BIB: Danvers, June Wood. "The History of the Descendants of Nicholas Wood..." (Ms 6728), [George Wood Autobiographical Sketch], pp.4-6 (CHL)