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Synopsis

In 1860, William Jefferies has been serving as a full-time missionary for the Mormon Church in his native England for over four years when he concludes he should marry and emigrate to Zion where he can worship without fear of opposition or discrimination. He marries Mary Frances, the daughter of Mary Ould, a faithful Mormon woman in Bristol, and for whom William had long nurtured a secret love. In April, 1861, they marry amid unusual circumstances. Despite the opposition of Mary Frances' tyrannical, non-member father, they plan to emigrate. When they leave Bristol, the couple is joined by Mother Ould, her son James, and daughter Laura. They travel by train from Bristol to Liverpool to await emigration. Arriving in Liverpool, the new family prepares to depart the bustling seaport. They board the Manchester, an American packet ship, and the ship moves to anchor in the Mersey to await departure. Here, Father Ould, discovering his family is fleeing his tyranny, brings police officers to try to find his wife and children. The family narrowly escapes.

Finally setting sail, the Manchester begins a four-week voyage full of adventures. From detailed, real descriptions of life aboard the vessel, the reader will feel what it's like to live in steerage: how the Saints organized, their accommodations, their activities, the violent storms they endured, and the tragic deaths. They land in New York, only to be met by hostile US troops on their way to war.

Clearing immigration through Castle Garden, Ellis Island's predecessor, the family departs by train with their fellow emigrants on an adventure-filled ten-day journey by primitive rail to Florence, Nebraska Territory. On the journey they encounter and experience the emerging Civil War first hand, narrowly escaping attack by a hostile mob. After the perilous train journey to St. Joseph, the family boards a steamboat for the final three-day trip to Florence where they await the formation of wagon trains headed west to Zion. They soon find themselves deeply involved in preparations, worried, yet excited, about the adventures awaiting them on the trail westward.

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