Awaken the Dead
November 6, 2007
“My Faith”: Margaret McNeil McCulloch
12 January 1855
Margaret McCulloch gripped her husband’s hand tightly, unbuttoning her coat a bit to accommodate for the change in temperature. The air in New Orleans wasn’t nearly as biting as the chilly wind they had left behind in Scotland the previous November. They were approaching the harbor1 now and Margaret could hardly wait to step off the ship onto land for the first time in six weeks. It had not been an easy voyage for her. The Clara Wheeler had returned to port just six days after departure, due to incessant head winds and rough weather. In addition, twenty children and two adults had been laid to rest at sea when a case of the measles broke out soon after the ship left Liverpool.2
Margaret pulled her thoughts away from the grief of losing so many. So this is America, she thought, leaning out over the side of the ship to see better. It was different than she had imagined. She had read about the “Crescent City” and its curving neighborhoods that bordered the Mississippi, but she was unprepared for the loud, chaotic mixture of dark- and light-skinned men and women pushing through the streets, some shouting and advertising slaves to sell.3 She squeezed John’s hand tighter, and he finally pulled his eyes away from the scene before him to search her face, giving her a tired but comforting smile.
Margaret released her grip on John’s hand for a moment and pressed her hand gently to her stomach, which was growing larger with each day. She felt a tiny flutter inside her. My son, she thought. My son needs to grow up in America.
Having just celebrated her 21st birthday on January 1,4 Margaret felt a bit overwhelmed. Will John really be able to find work in Kentucky? she wondered. Ever since her baptism just four years before,5 Margaret and John had struggled to find a way to join the Saints in America. She remembered her conversion to the Church with fondness. Walking the ten miles into Edinburgh was not a burden for her, for she loved so much to hear the apostles speaking and teaching about the gospel.6
When she married John in 1852, Margaret had known that their lives would not be easy. John was a coal miner by trade,7 as were Margaret and her family. Ever since she was a child, she had worked in the pit, carrying the coal on her back to the surface.8 Though the work was dangerous and difficult, it had opened an opportunity for them to mine coal in the Appalachian Mountains. She only hoped that they could earn enough money to join the Saints in the West.
Within a few months, Margaret and John settled in Coal Port, Kentucky, where their first son, George, was born May 23.9 Life in a new country was difficult for Margaret, however. The labor in the coal mines was taxing on the young wife and mother, and she missed the companionship of her family very much. Within a short time, John and Margaret had sailed back to Scotland.10
1 May 1860
Margaret felt ill. The voyage on The Underwriter11 had not been as difficult as the journey on the Clara Wheeler five years before, but she was expecting her third child at any time and the constant tossing of the ship did nothing to ease her nausea and discomfort. She also had two young boys in tow, both of whom were as anxious to reach land as she was. George was nearly five now, she realized. They had been away for a long time.
Margaret looked down at her two-year-old, Charles, the only one of their children who had been born in their native land,12 and ruffled his hair. A lump gathered in her throat as she thought of Scotland, the country she would never see again. She thought of the large bowl that once sat on their kitchen table, into which they had put whatever money they could spare for the family to sail to America.13 It had taken five years, but they had finally saved enough money for the family to join the Saints.
Impulsively, she nudged John and the two of them lifted the boys up so they could get their first glimpse of America. This time, it was a different picture for her entirely. New York was a massive city, very different from New Orleans. But they would not be here for long. There were 594 Saints on board, though they had lost four along the way, and nearly all of them were headed onward to Utah.14
Margaret glanced at her parents, Charles and Marion, and joy swelled in her heart as her mother turned to her, tears filling her eyes. How grateful she was that the family was together again in America. They would be soon be joining the Saints in Utah.
27 August 1860
Margaret cradled baby Maria in her arms, the daughter born just twenty-two days after The Underwriter reached New York.15 She gently pulled Charles along the trail, his little head drooping with the fatigue. Realizing that he would soon fall asleep, Margaret picked him up and placed him beside George, who was already sleeping, in the handcart. She glanced down at her feet and tried not to grimace, as she always did when she looked at the bloody, callused soles.16 We’re almost there, she thought. Captain Robison said we would be in Zion today. Maria stirred in her arms and Margaret patted her back, pulling the tiny bonnet more securely over the infant’s head. She glanced behind her to see John and her father pushing the handcart together, the hot sun causing sweat to dampen their necks. Her mother walked nearby, holding the hand of another little girl in the company. They had been traveling for nearly eleven weeks, and the August heat was unbearable.
As they neared a bend, one of the members of the company let out a cry of joy. Margaret lifted her head and met John’s eyes. He and Margaret’s father began to push the handcart with greater strength and resolve. Margaret clutched Maria to her chest and began to walk a bit faster, ignoring the sharp pain in her feet. It’s just around this bend, she thought. We’re nearly there!
She turned the corner and suddenly got her first glimpse of the valley beneath them. A city seemed to have blossomed in the midst of a desert. It was nothing like Scotland, but Margaret didn’t care. John had reached her now and was standing beside her. They stood together, not speaking, just looking at the Salt Lake Valley that would become their home. Margaret broke the silence.
“My faith,17 we’ve made it” she said, embracing her husband.
23 November 1927
Margaret McNeil McCulloch, age 93, answered death’s call on Wednesday evening from the effects of old age. She and her husband, John Black McCulloch, first settled in Logan, Utah, where they were among the founders of Little Scotland there.19 They later moved to Rexburg in 1883 or 1884, where they lived the rest of their lives.20 She and her husband raised nine children: George, Charles, Maria, John Henry, Isabelle, Alexander, Margaret, Agnes, and Annie. Following her husband’s death in 1893, Margaret lived with a son or daughter in the area.
Margaret remained faithful to the Church throughout her life. When her granddaughters were small, she took them to primary and taught them to love the gospel. Despite her efforts, both granddaughters later fell away from the Church and married outside of it.21
Years later, her granddaughters returned to the Rexburg area, insisting that they were members of the Church. When their bishop was unable to find their records, they told him that years ago their grandmother had had them baptized in the Rexburg Tabernacle. The bishop discovered their records and found they were, indeed members of the Church. The sisters were able to do all of the temple work for themselves and their families before they died.
Though fifty or more years had passed, the granddaughters still remembered what their grandmother, Margaret McCulloch, had taught them about the gospel, and they knew it was important to get their work done.22
Margaret McNeil McCulloch was buried on November 26, 1927, in the Rexburg Cemetery, next to her husband. Her death was quite unexpected and the funeral well-attended, “for everyone knew and loved ‘Grandma’ McCulloch.”23
Ancestry.com. 2007. The Generations Network. 18 October 2007.
Gave me ship logs, pedigree charts, and census documents.
BonnieRuefenacht.com. 9 September 2007. Bonnie Ruefenacht. 18 October 2007.
Helped me to find another pedigree resource for the McCulloch family.
Clan Moffat Genealogy. 2002-2007. Clan Moffat Society. 18 October 2007.
Gave me another resource to look at for McCulloch pedigree.
Clements, Louis. Personal interview. 13 Oct. 2007.
Helped me to look for resources in his library.
Scan Education. 2007. The Scottish Archive Network. 22 October 2007.
Gave me information about coal mining in Scotland during the 1800s.
Eastern Idaho Death Records. 2005. Idaho Falls Regional Family History Center. 18
Gave names of mother and father and where obituary was published
Ellis Island.org. 2000. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. 18 October 2007.
Located all passengers that came to New York between certain years.
Family Search.org. 2005. Intellectual Reserve, Inc. 18 October 2007.
Helped me to find records for the McCulloch family.
Heritage Getaways. 2007. Utah State Office of Education. 18 October 2007.
Gave me information on handcart pioneers.
ImmigrantShips.net. 1998-2007. Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild. 18 October 2007.
Helped me to find ship names and passenger lists.
International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers “Margaret McNeil McCulloch.”
Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude. Salt Lake City: Publisher’s Press, 1998
Published a very informative article with personal info about Mrs. McCulloch.
Izatt, Reed. Personal interview. 20 October 2007.
Gave me personal stories about the McCulloch family in Scotland.
Moncur, Blair. Personal interview. 17 October 2007.
Gave me good sources and story about McCulloch’s granddaughters.
Moncur Family Records. 7 April 2006. Blair Moncur. 9 October 2007.
Gave me baptism, endowment, and sealing dates for Margaret McCulloch.
Mormon Immigration Index. 2000. CD ROM. Family History Center, David O. McKay
Library. 18 October 2007.
Gave me histories of Clara Wheeler and Underwriter ships.
“Mrs. Margaret McCulloch Answers Death’s Call.” The Rexburg Standard. 1 Dec.
Listed specific information about her funeral and how the community loved her.
Reclus, Elisée. Fragment of a Voyage to Louisiana. Reclus Collection. 18 October 2007.
Gave a wonderful history of New Orleans in the 1850s.
Robison, Daniel. “Autobiographical sketch.” Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847
1868. 18 Oct. 2007
Gave a better understanding of handcart company’s experiences.
The Ships List. 18 October 2007. S. Swiggum. 18 October 2007.
Gave me a list of passengers on ships in the 1850s and 1860s.
1. New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1857
2. Mormon Immigration Index – Personal Accounts
3. Fragment of a Voyage to New Orleans, Elisée Reclus
4. Eastern Idaho Death Records, Special Collections
6. Interview with Professor Reed Izatt
7. Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude
8. Scan Education: Coal Mining in Scotland
9. Ancestry.com: Personal Member Tree
10. Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude
11. Ancestry.com: New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
12. Ancestry.com: Personal Member Tree
13. Interview with Professor Izatt
14. Mormon Immigration Index: Personal Accounts
15. Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude
16. Autobiographical sketch of Daniel Robison
17. Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude
18. Obituary, The Rexburg Standard, Dec. 1927
19. Professor Izatt’s memories
20. Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude
21. Personal interview with Blair Moncur, former bishop
22. Blair Moncur’s memories as granddaughters’ bishop
23. Obituary, The Rexburg Standard, Dec. 1927