October 7, 2013

Emily Steele Showed She Was Made of Steel

In the Wild West era, young women often had to do some heroic things to survive under harsh conditions.  To thrive and remain pure and virtuous took extra pluck and courage.  Two stories in Emily’s young life showed that she was willing to do amazing things to both survive and survive intact.

Once she and her father Mahonri Steele were visiting her cousin’s family, the Bringhursts in La Verkin, Utah.  Emily and her cousin Linda Bringhurst wanted to visit some hot springs nearby.  Mahonri asked Linda’s dad to take them, which he agreed to do.  Mahonri left his team of ‘spirited’ horses and a buggy for them to use to visit the springs while he attended to some business.  One had to cross the rough Virgin river in order to reach the springs.  Mr. Bringhurst ended up being too busy to go, and after enduring hours of coaxing, he allowed Emily and Linda to use those rambunctious horses to reach the springs.  Mahonri would never have let Emily and Linda take those horses alone to cross that rough river.

Arriving at the crossing point, the girls saw a fast moving treacherous river flowing under cables outlining where an old swinging bridge had once hung.  The bridge was long gone, but the cables remained, hanging about 20 feet above the turbulent water.  The girls urged the horses forward into the rough water until mid stream a wheel caught and the horses were unable to budge the wagon.  Stuck in the middle of the raging river with no one in sight, Emily knew she must do something.  Leaving Linda to calm the agitated horses, Emily climbed up on top of the wagon and grasped the dangling cables.  She climbed up into the cables and managed to cross the 150 foot span to the other side.  Rips in her clothing and scratches on her skin showed the difficulty she endured to reach shore.  She lost nearly all the skin on her hands in the effort.  I can’t imagine how she hung, perhaps upside down in her long dress and petticoats, hanging from cables and climbing across the underside of a bridge as she listened to the rushing water dozens of feet below her.  Reaching shore, she ran for help.

When Emily retold this story, she always emphasized that she had been more afraid of her father’s wrath than hurting herself crossing the river.  When she later showed her adventurous husband Alvin the cables now hanging below a newly-built modern bridge, he shook his head and said, “You had more nerve than I would have had.”  

Emily was a pretty girl and attractive to young men.  Having been raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she was committed to remain chaste until she married.  She also sang with a travelling performing group, which meant she also gained the admiration of young men in many areas of the state of Utah.  She determined to always date in groups, knowing that doing so would give her a measure of protection.

One evening, she went with a group to a party 7 miles away from her hometown of Panguitch, Utah.  One young man in the group bribed the rest of them to leave him alone with Emily once the party ended.  They left his horse behind for him and Emily, expecting them to catch up.  When Emily realized she was now alone with this young man whom she barely knew, she was angry and afraid.  She mounted his horse and caught up with her group, leaving him to walk the seven miles back to town in the dark.  

Emily showed courage and pluck in these circumstances, showing that she would do whatever was necessary to survive and keep her honor and virtue intact.  

Sources:  Jensen, Alvin Moroni.  "My Life Story." 1974.  p. 13.   Found at http://johnsonfamilyhistorystories.blogspot.com/2013/08/alvin-moroni-jensen.html
Washington County Historical Society:  Hurricane/LaVerkin Bridge http://www.wchsutah.org/roads/hurricane-laverkin-bridge.php

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