This Cedar City Pioneer Woman Was Tougher Than All Of Us
When I was a student at Southern Utah University, I would walk by this statue almost every day.
I am embarrassed to say I never stopped to read it. I just assumed it was some pioneer girl or a monument to who-knows what.
Turns out, this statue commemorates an incredible person who endured far more than many of us could even imagine.
Ellen (Nellie) Purcell Unthank was born in England, and from that day forward she endured a series of hardships that make all of my problems look like nothing. Here are the highlights.
At age 9, she watched her father freeze to death on the trek from Iowa to Utah.
Just 5 days later, she watched her mother die the same way.
In the snow with NO SHOES, her feet were maimed with frostbite.
She was rescued and brought to Salt Lake City
She was strapped to a board and had her legs AMPUTATED with a butcher knife & carpenter’s saw with NO ANESTESIA. Again, she was only 9 years old.
Her stumps never fully healed
She was in pain her whole life
- She lived in a one-room cabin with a dirt floor.
- She scraped herself across the ground to get around
A Polygamist wife, she shared her husband with 2 other women
She birthed 6 children(also without anesthesia mind you)
She made a meager existence by knitting socks and cleaning homes.
She died at the young age of 69.
Nellie was respected and stood taller than many of her contemporaries who still had all their limbs. She's an example of grit and determination that persists to this day.
So The next time your car won’t start, or you get passed up for that promotion at work, just think to yourself...
“Did I watch my parents freeze to death, get my legs sawed off with a knife, become a polygamist wife and scrape myself across the dirt floor all day to care for my 6 kids all without an income and dealing with the PTSD of watching my parents freeze to death at the age of 9?”
If the answer is “no”, then you have it a lot better than Ellen (Nellie) Purcell Unthank had it.
Today a monument in her honor is placed on the campus of Southern Utah University as a symbol of strength and perseverance in face of adversity. The statue shows Nellie as a young girl, now with her legs restored and basking in the sun.