(as written by Hannah Sessions Burningham )


  In the little town of Radcliff, Manchester, England lived the family of my father, James Crossley and my mother Mary Jarvis Crossley and children Sarah, Hanna, Ephriam and Joseph. 

  Joseph, the eldest, a half brother, was a cripple.  He had suffered from a hip disease when a child and was left a cripple for life, but of a sweet, cheerful disposition.  We were a very happy family and in good circumstances.  My childhood days were happy ones as I ran and played with my companions, carefree and gay, in the pretty little village of Radcliff.  A trim neat little cottage, full of love, comfort and happiness; this was my home. 

  My father and mother belonged to the Methodist Church and took us children there on the Sabbath, until the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to us in the year 1851, which we were eager and glad to accept.  I was then nine years of age.  Many of the Elders came to our home and stayed with us; our doors were ever open to them, and among them came Elder Sessions, President of the Manchester Mission.  I was very fond of him and would creep near and listen to his every word.  Sometimes he would take us children on his lap and tell us stories of his home, andhis wonderful experiences with his work in the Church. 

  He often urged my father to go to America and unite with the Saints in the Rocky Mountains.  This in time my father did, leaving mother and us children to follow as soon as he could make a home for us.  But this was not so easily done as work was scarce and money hard to obtain.  We almost dispaired of ever seeing him again, but after two years the way came to us. 

  The Handcart plan was introduced into England and it seemed so cheap and easy, only nine pounds or forty-five dollars in American money, for each of us.  We were so anxious to join our father and many friends who had gone before, that we decided to go.  Mother was a small frail woman, and there was Joseph, our crippled brother, who could never walk the thirteen hundred miles across the plains, but Hannah and I were strong healthy girls, and Ephriam was quite a lad and very willing to go; so we gathered together what clothing and bedding we would be able to take, and sold our little house and all else we had, and bade farewell to our many friends and merry old England, sailing from Liverpool early in the spring of 1856. 

  We landed in New York City and went to Iowa City, the gathering place of the Handcart Companies.  There we were detained for several weeks for lack of carts and lack of provisions, so it was the last of July before we started on this long and terrible trip, but we knew not then of the hardships that lay before us and started off, happy and gay, singing as we went.  A merrier company could have been found.  There were 584 members in our company that left Iowa City and 146 of this little band was left along the trail on the plains and in the mountains to tell the mute tale of our experiences and the sacrifice of toil and suffering. 

  Elder Levi Savage had traveled over the plains before and he tried to discourage us when we arrived in Florence Nebraska, telling the Captains it was too late for us to make the trip, but we were so anxious to go and in fact there seemed no alternative.  How could we live there all the winter when we only had enough money to take us to Utah. 

  By spring we would be without funds, so we voted to go on as fast as we could.  We were making fourteen and fifteen miles a day over the plains covered with green grass and dotted with wild flowers, and it seemed to easy to us then, but soon the grass turned brown and the flowers disappeared and the plains rose up into the great Rocky Mountains.  Many of the carts gave out and we had to wait for repairs; double up our loads as some had to be discarded and left. 

  It was hard work, we always had to pull Joseph along, but what was that to a girl of fourteen, robust and strong?  All went well until our supplies ran low, then we were put on rations and began to weaken, making travel slower every day.  

  September came and the first frost fell upon us.  Out in the open with few clothes and little shelter, then began our real suffering, but we tried to be brave and not complain more than necessary to each other.  We children felt that we should cheer dear little mother and help her all we could; but poor Joseph -- it was so hard on him, jolting over the uneven road.  He suffered greatly and became so thin and pale.  I would do my best, anything to keep his spirits up, not let him grow sad as he really was a bright, happy, cheerful fellow.  We had always cared so tenderly for him and he missed the good nourishing food and the comforts he had, but he seldom complained, only dwindled away in body and spirit. 

  At Wood River we were overtaken by some Elders from England.  Among them were Franklin Richards and Joseph A. Young.  They encouraged us and promised to hurry along and report our conditions to the Saints and send us food and help.  So we struggled on day by day.  We came to the Platte River's icy waters, and this we had to ford or wade.  Some of the stronger men carried the women and children over on their backs.  Here we met large herds of buffalo the would frighten our cattle and cause them to stampede.  At one time we lost thirteen head which handicapped us greatly as they had been used to pull the provisions, and now we had to take a hundred pounds of flour on our carts to share the load, so we could not make more than three or four miles a day through ice and snow, half starved and half clothed. 

  A terrible disease had crept into our fold and death became a frequent visitor to our little train.  We were obliged to leave our loved ones in graves that markd the path of the struggling band. 

  Lower and lower our rations became and no food or help in sight.  We were finally rationed to one tablespoon of flour to each person a day, no salt, nor sugar, nor meat.   Mother would make a gruel of this and we would drink it and be glad to get this much. Once in a while we would have to kill one of our cattle which were used to pull the supply wagons in the train.  This would give us only just a small taste and would add some small weight to each loaded cart. 

  Many were dying each day, and men and women who had started well and strong, were dropping out.  Each morning we wuld dig a grave and bury our dead before we could break camp.  Was it any wonder that our dear brother Joseph was strickened with this terrible disease?  We each gave him our clothing to keep him warm, but when morning came we found him dead, his suffering over; he was gone, frozen stiff in his bed.  We were so calloused and numbed with our suffering that the sight of death, that I think we were almost glad that he was gone, as we all looked forward to the end and felt he had only gone on a little ahead of us and we would soon be with him.  I did pray though that the commissioner of provisions would not know of it until I had received Joseph's spoonful of flour.  I cannot tell the pang that smote my heart as he counted out the spoonfulls and he came to Joseph's name, he said, "Oh, Joseph died last night, didn't he?   Well that will be one spoonful less."  I had lost my dear little brother's portion and it hurt me worse than that first look upon his still, white face had done.  

  We left him by the roadside.  There were five deaths that night and the ground was so frozen that we could not dig a grave, so we wrapped them in a large blanket and left them by the side of the trail, but before the train was out of sight the wolves had reached it.  This was an awful thing for mother to bear, but she did not complain of the Lord and did not lose faith.  She felt that it had been a merciful hand that had bereft her of her son rather than a hard one. 

  We neared the Sweetwater River and our provisions were gone.  We found a small ravine, since named or called Martin's Ravine, here we made our camp in the lump of willows that grew close together, and settled down -- we could not go further, we must wait for help or death to come to us, and snow had fallen on us.   We had camped in a circle so we did not know which way were to go nor the direction from which we had come.  Here we were -- lost, starving, and buried in two feet of snow. 

  Three days we lived through this and then as the sun set from over the rim of the ravine there came a covered wagon and men breaking a road for the horses and wagons.  Such cries of joy were never heard, I'm sure.  We laughed and cried together.  Here was help and food coming!  We were cheered but could eat only a small portion or we would have all died, as several did.  In the morning there were thirteen dead and two more died during the day while we were preparing to go on.  They were all left in one large grave. 

  We started on with new hope and courage.  As we came to the South Pass the weather moderated and we did not suffer so much.  On the 30the day of November we arrived in Salt Lake City, what was left of us.  We were met by our dear father and many friends, in fact, most of the city came to look upon the suffering of this company and give them aid, to take them into their home and nurse them back to life from the very jaws of death through which we had passed.  

  I lived with my father and mother for several days, then Elder Sessions came and asked to be permitted to take one of us to take care of as he felt very near to my father for his many kindnesses to him while on his mission in England, so I was permitted to go with him.  I lived with his sister and she cared for me very kindly and brought me back to health, although I never did fully recover my former strength as long as I lived.  I have [not] always been a weakling but the handcart company did affect my life.

  I lived most of the time with Mr Session's family and at the age of eighteen I was married to him.  I think I had loved him from my very childhood, and although I was his fourth wife and many years younger I was the happiest woman in the world.  

  I went to live with his other wives in a large white house, until some years later when Ester, his youngest wife, and I lived together in a log house of six rooms.   Here I had my family of eleven children and Ester had ten.  We loved each other dearer than sisters.  She always cared for me tenderly, allowing me to do only the lighter things about our home, while she did all the heavy work.   For seventeen years we lived together in perfect happiness, then we were given a nice new home of our own, but we parted with many regrets and always remained the dearest of companions. 

  I was left a widow at the age of fifty, with my family in comfortable circumstances and the loving companship of the other wives.  There were six of us at this time and we have always been a great blessing to each other. 


  This is the story of my mother, always faithful, sweet and gentle.  She lived to the age of sixty-three and when the winter which she so dreaded came, her frail body could take no more.   She was brought to rest in the Bountiful Cemetery, January 28 1906, beside her husband and several children who had gone before.   We who are left can thank our Heavenly Father for having so grand and noble mother.  Frail and gentle, patient, unselfish, cheerful always.  These are the dearest memories of our lives.

Hannah Sessions Burningham  

(Note;  I was faithful to the spelling and formatting of the story as it was received.  I added one word in brackets to assist the sentence to be consistent with earlier part of her account.  This story was received by my husband as a copy, typewriter formatted.)   ...... Lietta Ruger, August 6, 2011  






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