Mormon Journeys from England to Iowa: Part 2

This painting shows the original log cabin built on land in Section 28 or 33 of what was then Marengo Township (later Washington Township). The cabin was likely destroyed over time and a frame house now stands at 2485 Highway 6 Trail. (Photo courtesy)

Conrad Riehl and his daughter Elizabeth Caroline

(This week’s segment begins with the Mellor family, along with the rest of the Martin Company, departing from Iowa City in late July 1856.)

The Mellor family had two handcarts and the business also herded about 50 cattle, mostly dairy cows. The plan was to make it to Utah in 70 days, hopefully doing about 18½ miles a day—a 1,300 mile journey.

The emigrants arrived three miles east of Marengo on August 3 to camp for the night.

“They stopped near the home of Carl and Carolyn Schoenborn,” Charlotte reported. “Mrs. Schoenborn invited some of the women and small children to sleep in the basement of their log cabin. Mr. Schoenborn has been helping with some handcart repairs.”

The log home was described as well maintained; the fissures are almost pure white and the trunks are beautifully smoothed. There was about 260 acres of land stretching out from the river with a timber lot on the hill above the house. While they were encamped here, a group of men on horses and two wagons with people from Marengo approached the farm to disturb the camp. Very cool heads kept the disturbance at bay, and the Mormons did not retaliate when all sorts of derogatory things were said about them. The mob’s insults and accusations were met with kindness and soon the antagonists left. The Mormon group softened the somber tone with song and prayer.

The next morning some of the men went into the nearby woods to harvest some birds which were then made into a fine soup.

“Ms. Schonborn invited the women to bake some in her fireplace and do some laundry,” Charlotte noted. Late in the afternoon of August 4, the group set out again, “first across Hilton Creek and then through Bear Creek, which has been described as shallow and muddy”. Here they camped in the woods for the night. The emigrants reached Fort Des Moines on August 13 and continued west to Council Bluffs on August 21.

The report of crossing Nebraska, during which many became ill, several died and were buried along the way, replenished supplies when possible, made repairs, saw buffalo for the first time, and noted the presence of Cheyenne Indians. On October 8, the group camped within sight of Fort Laramie, Wyo. On October 20, the emigrants awoke to snow, which made their journey very difficult. The coming days were filled with much more sickness and death. When shoes wore out from walking, new foot coverings were made from parts of the tents. Many perilous days and nights were spent in the Wyoming area, and eventually a Salt Lake City rescue team was dispatched to escort the remaining travelers to Salt Lake City.

On November 30, 1856, the Martin Company reached Salt Lake City, Utah. They arrived with 104 handcarts still intact and were warmly welcomed into town. The long journey to Zion was over for this group of emigrant Mormons. What a journey from England to Utah in the United States by boat, rail and foot!

Eventually, Charlotte’s parents moved to Warm Spring (later Fayette), Utah. In 1861 the Mellor family welcomed another son, John. The whole family stayed in Utah, each of the children married and started their own family. Charlotte married Henry Roper in February 1857, aged 16. She bore thirteen children, the youngest of whom was only two years old when Charlotte died in June 1886.

Note: The author of this book, JoAnn Mellor Felix, used the memories of Charlotte along with the timelines relating to the Martin Company voyages as narrated by others on the voyage to tell the story of their fourth (maternal) and third (paternal) to write son. Great-granduncle, James Mellor and his family.

A note on the Schoenborn/Schonborn family: Elizabeth Caroline Riehl was born in Illinois in 1842 to Conrad and Anna Riehl. Elizabeth’s mother died when Elizabeth was 13, and her father took her to Iowa, where he bought the piece of land in Section 33 of Washington Township (then Marengo Township). A cottage had been built there, in which Elizabeth lived with her father until Elizabeth married Charles “Carl” August Schönborn in 1863. Charles Schönborn came to America with his two brothers from Austria-Hungary in 1857 and initially settled in Oxford in the Iowa area.

Given the Schönborn history collected by the late Jane Bigbee, daughter Ann and I think it more likely that the people encountered at the cabin in 1856 were Conrad Riehl and his daughter, who were then 14 years old would. Property transactions with Conrad Riehl do not take place until 1858, so there is uncertainty as to who actually owned the hut mentioned in the book. Riehl received the land through a US government land grant and also purchased a section from one John G. Miles. Perhaps the Miles family built the cabin and Riehl came from Illinois with his daughter to inspect the area, which they eventually bought.

In 1863 CASchonborn and Elizabeth married Caroline Riehl and shortly afterwards returned to the Oxford area to occupy this cottage and look after their father, Conrad Riehl, who died in 1870. Conrad Riehl’s will bequeathed the land that belonged to him Sections 27 and 28 to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband C. A. Schonborn. Eventually, Schönborn purchased an adjoining farm to form about 200 acres in what was then the parish of Marengo, as shown on the 1874 plan map.

In 1885 the Schönborn family moved to Marengo and ran a grocery store on the east side of the square. They were active residents of the Marengo area until their deaths: CA in 1926 and Elizabeth in 1913. The Schönborns had eight children: three who survived to adulthood. Anna married JE “Ed” Eckert (the local residents’ grandparents of the late Garth Bigbee, the late Darlene Eckert Sayers and Verabeth Eckert Bricker). Evelyn married Clarence Huber and Wallie married David McLennan. All Schönborn children were born in this log cabin east of Marengo.

A daughter of Wallie McLennan, Katherine McLennan Love, contributed information to the book written by JoAnn Mellor Felix and most likely shared the names of Schönborn since they lived at the cabin and on this land after the Riehls. The author of the book has since passed away. The land owned by CA Schonborn was divided between his children in the 1920s and eventually the property on the north side of what is now Highway 6 was owned by his daughter Wallie Schonborn McLennan and her husband David. They sold the land in Sections 28 and 33 to Leo and Norma Patterson Young in the 1940s, where the Youngs farmed and raised their family. A daughter of the Youngs, Carole, along with her husband Richard Ballard, purchased the land in 1969 and lived there before building a ranch-style house to the east.

This article was compiled by Marilyn Rodgers while reading the book provided by the Ballard family, which was originally gifted to Carole’s mother, Norma Young. Information was also obtained from Ann Bigbee and taken from the 1881 Iowa County History and the 2009 Marengo History (Family Edition). Carole Young Ballard provided oral information. The painting of the cabin is owned by the Bigbee family. Once family members in the area have had a chance to read this book, the plan is to donate it to the Marengo Public Library for loan.