My mother died when I was twelve years old, and I lived with an elder sister, Belle, who sold the place and rented one little room for the two of us. During this time my sister Jane wrote to me in care of a friend, Agnes McKay, urging me to attend the "Mormon" meetings and investigate their religion for myself.
This I did secretly--going to the meetings when my sister supposed I was attending night school. I was able to attend several meetings conducted by the "Mormon" elders before my sister discovered my deception, which she finally learned from the factory girls. Thinking she was doing the proper thing, she gave me a severe whipping and warned me not to go near the elders again. However, this only served to strengthen my determination to find out for myself all about the "Mormons" and "Mormonism."
I still continued my secret correspondence with my sister Jane, who lived in Holyoke, Massachusetts; and she sent me money to pay my passage across the ocean. I remember going to the bank and getting the money which I concealed in the bosom of my dress in the day-time and in my shoe at night. Very soon after this I left my sister Belle's home. We had eaten breakfast, and I left as if I were on my way to the factory. I saw the clothes spread on the green to bleach (she had washed the day before) and I picked up my night-cap and slipped it into my pocket. This was all I took with me except the clothes I stood up in.
I went directly to my friends, the McKays, who informed me that the next sail-boat would not leave for two weeks. I couldn't go back home to Belle, so my kind "Mormon" friends, the McKays, hid me up for two weeks in the home of a widow who boarded me: the McKays paid her for her trouble. During this time the McKays outfitted me with clothes for my journey.
Bills had been posted and rewards offered for my capture, so, fearing detection, I disguised myself when I went to the sail-boat. Just before boarding the ship I posted a letter to my sister Belle telling her not to continue her search for me as I was on my way to America. I crossed the gang-plank and entered the ship. Then I went below into the steerage until the ship had started.
I then went up on deck and took a last fond farewell of my native land. I was overcome with conflicting emotions as I saw it disappearing from my sight. For, though I was glad and eager to come to America, where I could learn more about "Mormonism" and join my sister Jane, yet I felt sad to leave forever my native land, my brothers and sisters and friends. I extended my [p.380] arms and cried, "Good-bye forever, old home"; and the ship, the Isaac Wright, bore me off.
Soon after leaving I became violently seasick and lay on the bare deck for relief. Having taken nothing with me except my clothing, I had nothing to lie on. A young woman came near me, saying, "How's this? Haven't you any folks to look after you? But no, I mustn't talk; I must do something."
She went to the cook-room and made a little tea and toast. As I partook of it, my stomach became settled, so that I could get up and around. Soon I became more adjusted to life on board ship. From Liverpool to New York, we were on the sailing vessel six weeks and three days.
When we landed at New York the McKay girl's folks met us there. A large crowd was present as we were getting off the ship. I kept saying aloud, "O have you seen my sister?" I hadn't heard the popular song then being sung, entitled, "O Have You Seen My Sister?" At once some one in that great throng caught up the words and sang it while the whole merry crowd began singing and laughing.
I took the train from New York to Springfield, Massachusetts, where my sister met me. Words cannot express the joy of our meeting. I went with her to her home in Holyoke. There I remained with her and a group of emigrant girls. We worked in a factory, earning the money to pay our way to Utah. . . . [p.381]
BIB: DeWitt, Margaret Watson, "Autobiography of Margaret Miller Watson DeWitt," Relief Society Magazine 16:7 (July 1929), pp. 380-81. (CHL)