This remarkable woman is Melissa Burton Coray Kimball. She was a newlywed at 18 years old and wished to join her husband, Sgt William Coray on the Mormon Batallion trek. She was accepted as a laundress for the soldiers and was allowed to go on the march.
She was attached to the Mormon Battalion and walked the whole way… She looks very tough, and she was! She trekked a good part of the way while pregnant. Their baby, who lived only a short while, was born in California. Their adventure was far from over. They still had to get back the Utah to rejoin the Saints. They made a difficult crossing of the Sierra Nevadas, losing five members of their party to an Indian raid. There were no roads for much of the trip, so they had to build the road for their wagons as they went along.
There is a mountain peak called Melissa Coray Peak in the Sierras honoring her accomplishment there. She marched all the way from Nebraska to San Diego to Northern California and then back over the Sierras to Utah! What a woman!
Her husband, William Coray, who she had accompanied with the Battalion passed away only months after arriving in Salt Lake. Later, she married Heber C. Kimball’s son, William H. Kimball, and they ran the hotel and stage/pony express stop at Kimball Junction, at the top of Parleys Canyon in Utah.
“Holding On, Letting Go”: Melissa Burton Coray
Painting by Sara Croft depicting Melissa grieving over her dead baby son, William Coray Jr.