January 16th marks the anniversary of the birth of Samuel Eggleston, son of Samuel and Lurania Powers Burgess Eggleston. His birth, life and death occurred during a very dark time and place in the lives of his family and the larger community of Latter-day Saints. Early in 1846, the Saints were forced to leave their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois. The Eggleston family were not among the first to leave. They stayed until sometime in the spring of 1846 according to Samuel’s account. They may have stayed longer than others for financial reasons, or to help with the completion of the Temple which was dedicated May 1, 1846.
The Egglestons traveled to Winter Quarters in Nebraska, where the Saints had gathered to prepare to go further west. Small cabins were built where they spent a miserable winter. There was inadequate food for the many refugees camped there. There was also much disease which was easily spread. Many people died during that year, especially the very young and very old.
Birth of baby Samuel to Lurania and Samuel Eggleston
Lurania Powers Burgess Eggleston, who was 38 years old at that time, gave birth to a son on the bleak winter day of January 16th. Patty Sessions was a prominent midwife during that time. Fortunately for us, she kept records in her diary and an account book. Her notation under the date of 16 January was “Put sister Eggleston to bed with a son Samuel E.” “Putting to bed” was her way of noting the confinement and delivery of a baby. Patty’s account book showed that Samuel Eggleston paid $2.00 for her services January 16.
The birth of this child must have brought great joy to the family at a time of great suffering. He was given the name of his father – Samuel. He may have also been named after Samuel H. Smith who along with Orson Hyde had introduced the family to the Restored Gospel. (They had named their last born son Orson Hyde Eggleston)
Death of baby Samuel at 7 Months
Any joy brought to this family by this baby was turned to sorrow seven months later. We do not know the exact circumstances. Whether he was sickly his entire life, or whether struck with a sudden illness, we can’t be sure. We do know that a shortage of food probably meant inadequate nutrition for his mother Lurania. Also we know that in the close quarters of this makeshift community, diseases spread easily. Whatever the cause, this little baby of seven months departed this life on August 2, 1847. This was not the first baby this family lost. Their first child Dwight died at about one year old, and their second son Benjamin lived only a few weeks.
Little Samuel was buried in the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery in Winter Quarters. Most graves there are unmarked; however, records were kept. His grave has a number #208. There is now a marker in the cemetery with names inscribed for all of those who died during the time that the Saints lived in Winter Quarters.
The location of Samuel’s grave is under a stone walkway near the sculpture of a father and mother standing above the grave of their child. I find the location and that sculpture rather fitting. It helps form a picture of the grieving parents, Samuel and Lurania, saying goodbye to the child they had for such a short time.
Notes & References:
Mormon Pioneer Cemetery, Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, USA Grave #208 35007063
Diary of Patty Bartlett Sessions (page 29 of microfilm) indicates birth January 16, 1846. This has been published as the Book, Mormon Midwife 1846-1888 Diaries of Patty Sessions, by Donna Toland Smith, Ed., University of Utah Press 1977, Library, Page number: 33, 70: birth: 16 January 1847; Winter Quarters, Douglas, Nebraska, United States under date of 16 January (1847) “Put sister Eggleston to bed with a son Samuel E” Patty Sessions Diary was also published in Utah Historical Quarterly Vol X 1942, p. 94.
Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah has the wrong birth date for Samuel of 16 August, 1846, which has been used in other databases.
Orson Hyde Eggleston’s Family Bible lists: Samuel Eggleston Jr. born Jan 16th 1847 at Winter Quarters Omaha Nation Nebraska. died in same place Aug 23rd 1847.