This is Sarah Ferguson McDonald, a pioneer in the 1850s crossing the plains at the Platte River. Her husband James McDonald had contracted cholera the day before, helping another sick pioneer the cross the river. It was a fast-acting disease, and he was dead that morning. Sarah was left to bury him alongside the river after putting her children to bed. As she stood in the rushing water to wash the off the dirt and mud from the grave, she pondered for a moment how easy it would be to let the water take her away to her husband. She was brought back to her surroundings by her small child calling to her from the wagon. The next morning she packed up and continued to travel to Zion with her children.
I chose April as my model, because she has always struck me as a woman of beauty and strength. She travels on in her life, despite hardships and downfalls, including losing her baby daughter. She and her sweet spitfire daughter Oakley, also pictured, would have made great pioneers.
I have enjoyed speaking with several of Sarah's ancestors after painting this. I know that her decision to endure to the end despite the death of her husband and the hardships of pioneer life was invaluable to her young family and all those who followed.