July 18, 2011

Ellen Breakell Neibaur's Precious Shoes

By Melanie Jensen Johnson
This story has been a favorite of my kids for years.  One of my good friends told me that this little story spoke volumes about the character of our Ellen.  I must agree.  I retell it here gladly.
Ellen and Alexander Neibaur both came from wealthy families, so their needs were always met.  When the gospel came to their little town of Preston England, they came to know of it's truthfulness and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1838.  They were some of the first to immigrate to America, to join the Saints gathering to Zion.  They settled in Nauvoo, home of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  They became good friends with Joseph and Emma Smith.  Alexander, fluent in 7 languages, taught Joseph German and Hebrew. 

When the Saints were driven from their homes in Nauvoo by angry mobs in 1846, Ellen had a ten-day old baby and six other children.  Ellen was in no condition to travel and soon became sick.  When they reached safety in Winter Quarters, a sister cared for Ellen, putting her to bed and caring for her baby until she was better.  They joined the Brigham Young Company crossing the plains.  Ellen drove a pair of lead cows most of the way, standing next to them to guide them along.  Some of the time, she held that tiny baby in her other arm, as the baby was sick a lot of the time.  Camping each night, Ellen milked the cows and prepared their meals. 

After reaching Salt Lake City, they struggled to survive living in a tent for the first year.  Often they went to bed hungry.  But they settled in and Alexander established himself as a Dentist and the family had food once again.  As he began to bring in some money, he bought Ellen a new pair of shoes.  Hers had worn completely out walking the long way to Utah.  Ellen was so happy to have new shoes that she began knitting herself a pair of stockings to wear with them.  Using light blue and white stripes, she soon finished her stockings and wore them happily.

Not long after, men came knocking on her door asking for donations.  A new company of pioneers were coming into town and they were gathering supplies for the refugees.  Alexander told the men that they had nothing to give.  "Yes, we must give something," she said.  Ellen took off her lovely new stockings and shoes and gave them to the men. She wrapped her own feet in rags once more.  It was hard for her to give up her shoes, but she remembered how kindly they had been received when they arrived in the valley.  And all the kindness the saints had shown her all along the journey west. 

When the next company arrived, the people of Salt Lake came out to meet them.  Ellen was overjoyed to see one of her old friends from England among the Saints.  Looking down, Ellen noticed that her good friend was wearing the very shoes and stockings she had donated a few weeks before. Her sacrifice had become a great blessing to not just any newcomer, but to a dear friend.  

Disclaimer:  Author did her best to tell this accurately using the resources available at the time of writing, and is solely responsible for content.


Carpenter, Ellen Wilde.  'The Story of Ellen Breakell Neibaur.' Neibaur Family Web Page.  Bev Matheson.  17 July 2011 http://www.neibaur.org/journals/ellen.htm

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