By Rebecca Langford
Madeline was 16 years old when she crossed the plains with her parents who were the first family baptized into the church in Piedmont, Italy by Lorenzo Snow and his fellow missionaries. Her ancestors were cruelly persecuted followers of Jesus Christ who dated their origin from genuine descendants of the Primitive Church. Madeline's grandfather, John Combe, was a religious man and hungering to be fed "the bread of life" went to church regularly. He emerged therefrom unsatisfied and would sometimes comment on the differences of the teachings of the day to those of the Savior and His Apostles. When on his death bed, he told his daughter, Pauline, "Take heed to my words and remember what I say...that the old may not, but the young and rising generation will see the day when the gospel shall be restored in its purity and powers. And in that day....remember me." It is noteworthy to me that Madeline's grandparents were born about 1805 when Joseph Smith was born.
When Madeline's mother was 15 years old in the spring of 1820, she went with her father down into the plains of Piedmont, Italy to take charge of the silk worms. Each had a cot in the large and spacious hall where they were tending the silk worms. One day, about a week before the silk season was over, she had been reading the scriptures about the life of Christ and His Apostles and the gospel as they taught it. At night after retiring to her cot, she laid there pondering upon what she had read and wishing that she had been living in those days when the whole space of the hall became as light as noon day. She arose in a sitting position as she felt a heavenly influence pervading the room. Feeling this influence, she began singing a sacred hymn when twelve personages, dressed in white robes, appeared and formed in a semi-circle by her cot and joined in the singing. At its conclusion, they and the light vanished. This left a vivid impression in her mind and a foreshadowing of things to come.
After joining the church, Madeline's parents and the rest of her family made a long, difficult and trecherous journey which took a total of 8 months before they joined the saints in Mormon Grove. While at the grove, many were stricken with cholera. Elder Joseph Hall, who was the appointed commissary at the camp, states that out of over 300 victims, only three survived. Madeline was one of the three. "While at Liverpool, President Franklin D. Richards visited us and promised our mother that she should see all her family safe in Zion. When she saw me writhing in agony, she was must distressed and wondered what she had done to forfeit that blessing. After John Taylor administered to me, he told my mother that I should recover and she would see all her family safe in Zion." All of these promises were verified in spite of many incidents that happened on the way to try their faith. One such incident nearly cost them all their lives when a freight wagon on which they were riding completely capsized, nearly crushing four children and Madeline's mother. Madeline and her twin sister, Emily, were nearly smothered under sacks of flour, but were rescued -- and all settled safely in Zion.
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