(as written by Hannah Sessions Burningham)

The Life of Mary Jarvis Crossley

 Mary Jarvis was born November 25th, 1811 at Huddersfield, York, England.   She was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Jarvis.  Very little is known of her girlhood days, but she was married to a Mr. Smith, by whom two children were born; Mary Ann in September 1834 and Joseph on November 20th, 1836.  She was married to James Crossley April 16, 1840.  After this marriage were born seven children as follows:   Hanna, Sarah, William, Elizabeth, Ephriam Jarvis, Emma and Mary. 

    About 1846 Mormonism was preached to this happy little family.  It was a strange new story, but it rang true and soon found an echo in the faithful mother's heart.   She was the first to embrace the same.   Sometimes her husband would laugh at her earnestness and sincere predictions, but many came true.   She often said "James, you shall yet see as I do and be baptized and shall go to the new Zion established in the top of the mountains."  This promise was fullfilled in 1847 as James Crossley joined the church and in November 1854 emigrated to Utah, eager to make a way for his family to follow and to prepare a home for them. 

    Two years later the Handcart plan was presented to the Saints in England as well as the Scandinavian Countries.  Many considered it a splendid opportunity and hundreds flocked to the seaport towns eager to emigrate and join the westward trek to Utah. 

    It had been a long lonely wait and Grandmother Crossley's heart filled with joy at the thought of Zion, the Latter-day Saints and her loved one waiting for the day when she could join him.  She did not hesitate long but felt that this opportunity had been sent by her Heavenly Father so she sold all her possessions but those chosen few that could be carried easily on a handcart, and with her five living children made a fine little family to start the journey.  Mary Ann was a woman now and Joseph, who had been a lifetime cripple, was a brilliant student and a school teacher as well as an expert writer in shorthand.  Hannah was a carefree young woman and Sarah and Ephriam, a lad of but a few years, were full of courage and energy. 

    It was a beautiful spring time, the month of May when they bid adieu to their many friends and the beloved land of their birth, for as Mother said "All Englishmen love England!"  But a call stronger than the love of home and friends was ringing in their ears.   Five weeks were spent on the ocean but it was not an unpleasant journey and the ship "Hudson" carried them safely into New York harbor.   They were then taken by railroad and sometimes by boat until the finally met with the Saints gathered at Florence, Nebraska: now the city of Omaha. 

    There was a long delay before carts could be furnished and day by day slipped by and midsummer was passed before they were at last loaded and ready to start.   It was there that Grandmother's first great sorrow came into her life for Mary Ann, her oldest child had lost heart at the sight of the poverty and hardships that surrounded her and her faith wavered.  She was twenty-one years of age and could choose for herself, so she would return home to her friends and relatives as it meant comfort and ease which she was ready to grasp at the price of her new faith.  She promised to return to her mother in a few years when the path would be trodden smooth and a home prepared, but the mother knew it was a last farewell and her heart was rung.   Mary Ann begged to take Sarah back with her as she was so fond of her, and once grandmother thought it might be well, as there would be a tie there and Mary Ann would have to return with her younger sister, but Sarah would not go as she was so anxious to go to Utah and her father, so the parted never to meet again. 

    About this time an Elder of the Church named Levi Savage arrived from Utah and begged the pioneers not to start but wait for the spring as it was so late, but these eager Saints knew not the trials that lay before them nor dreamed of the sufferings they would have to endure so they heeded not the good advice.   Happy and gay they started out, the ill-fated Martin's Handcart Company on July 28th, 1856.  

    Much has been written and told of this courageous band but never in the annals of history can you find a more pathetic experience.   Even the story of the Children of Isreal in their march to the promised land fades when compared with these Handcart pioneers.   Moses their leader had delivered them out of bondage and slavery and God had promised the richest land in the earth to have and to hold at the end of their journey.  He opened the windows of Heaven and while they slept at night He showered them with manna.  Not so with these struggling souls.   It was a new land, a strange land, awaiting them.  A desert they must by their own effort conquer and make blossom and produce or they must starve.   But they had the promise of religious freedom, the opportunity to help build a Zion in these last days and mingle with God's chosen people.  That was enough.   It was a strange pilgramage, this handcart train.  Men, women and children shared the load alike lending their utmost strength to roll the carts over the uneven ground; a cart loaded with all their worldly possessions but the most precious treasure they carried with them was the implicit faith in God and the undaunted courage to endure for that faith. 

    The first few weeks were not so bad.  They crossed the plains and waded the streams and rivers with good cheer and happy songs.   At the evenings around the camp fires they would dance and sing, all sorts of fine entertainment to keep the morale of the hard working company where it should be, at a high standard.  

    Hot dry winds were responsible for the many delays in repairing the carts which were made of unseasoned wood and fell apart so that evenings were spent in make-shift repairs and sometimes it became necessary to discard their carts and double up with another family.
Soon the provisions ran low and every day or two there would be a cut in their rations, until hunger was an added discomfort and then in early September as they strugglled toward the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the first breath of winter sent a freezing blast with a heavy mantle of snow. 

    Do we really see this pathetic picture?  Four hundred souls half starved, scantly clad, some barefooted and no sign of shelter of any kind, laboring over the hard frozen ground, pushing, pulling with all the human strength they could gather until dusk released their burden and wet and cold they laid their weary bodies down upon the hard cold ground to rest as best they could.  Joseph, the crippled boy, had started out bravely, but the hardships soon sapped away his strength and day by day his suffering increased until his poor frail body could stand no more.  The story of his passing has been told in a poem by Hanna Sessions Burningham:   (note; see Hanna's poem at end of the story)

    This death occured November 5th, 1856, only a few days before the train was caught in Martin's Ravine where they were camped three days lost and snowed in, until the rescue party from Salt Lake found them and  helped them into the valley arriving November 30th. 

     Their first home was in Willard or Three Mile Creek nearby, then two years later they moved to Fillmore.   There too, they were unsuccessful and went on to Camp Floyd and finally to Bountiful where they remained for some years establishing a brewery, for my grandfather was a brewer by trade.  Here he was successful for sometime.  Grandmother Crossley's health was never restored after the terrible strain she endured crossing the plains and there was always the need of help in the home after her family was all married and gone.   She was never able to do much in a civic way nor to help in the Church Orginazations.  It required all of her strength to manage her little home and care for her family.   Never did she complain of her condition, never did her faith in the Gospel waver in the slightest.   She was a good neighbor and a faithful friend and loved by all who came in contact with her humble, sweet, gentle disposition. 

    While living in Bountiful, Mary Bently, an English convert came to make her home with them and help with the household duties.  She was a fine type of womanhood and after a short time grandmother suggested to her husband that he should consider the principle of pologamy.  She felt that as her daughters, Sarah and Hannah were both living in it that she also wanted to be with them and persuaded Grandfather to marry Mary Bently.  This was finally arranged and grandmother goon (??) passed on happy that her dear husband was left in the care of so kind and fine a companion.  

    On may 1st, 1880 she was laid to rest in the Bountiful Cemetary. 

                                                                                            ..............Written by Hannah Sessions Burningham 

                                                                            THE    HAND   CART   TRAIL
                                                                                        (poem by Hanna Sessions Burningham)  

                                                                      The sun hung low o'er western hills,
                                                                               A ball of fire it shone
                                                                       Sending forth a rosy, golden hue, 
                                                                               To tint the distant snow-capped peaks
                                                                       And bathe the desolate plains a mellow pink 
                                                                               As if it fain would go to rest
                                                                       And leave the world uncheered and bleak
                                                                                Gathering strength it sent its firy rays
                                                                       To warm the heart of man and beast
                                                                                 Who strayed within its path and leave
                                                                        A comforting memory while night should last. 

                                                                       A stranger scene one could not find
                                                                                A plodding train of emmigrants
                                                                       In a barren desolate wilderness
                                                                                An ice-bound valley ' tween snow
                                                                        Clad mountain peaks, 
                                                                               Formidable that seemed to say
                                                                       "Thou shalt not pass." 

                                                                      The road they trod and struggled o'er
                                                                              Was rough and stony in summer days, 
                                                                       And now the snow had partly covered o'er
                                                                               But had not softened that beaten trail. 
                                                                       Bloodstains in the sleet and snow
                                                                               Bespoke the suffering some endured, 
                                                                        As they trudged on with bruised and bleeding feet. 

                                                                       A halt was called and evening camp prepared, 
                                                                               Their tottering carts a lonely circle made
                                                                        But soon a fire was kindled bright
                                                                                Round which they crowded in deep pathos
                                                                       To warm their tired aching limbs
                                                                               And dry their meager tattered clothes
                                                                        While nights dark wings the day enfolds

                                                                        An evening meal was then prepared,
                                                                              With rations low, it need be scant, 
                                                                       One spoon of flour for each they had
                                                                               And mixed with snow a pastry broth was made, 
                                                                        Thankful to their God for that -- their beds were laid
                                                                               Then one by one they went to rest
                                                                         Beneath the stars that smiled above
                                                                                And tried to tell them "God is Love."

                                                                        While each heart breathed a prayer of faith
                                                                               And trust in Him, to help them through another day
                                                                         And ease their burdens on their way
                                                                                Ere sleep did overtake. 
                                                                        The fire died low, the embers paled and faded
                                                                        The distant howl of wolves rang out
                                                                                And pierced the silence of the night. 

                                                                        A Mother sat beside a bed
                                                                               Where lay her son, her eldest one
                                                                        His strength was spent, the sparks of life was 
                                                                                ebbing fast. 
                                                                        A crippled boy whose life had sheltered been 
                                                                                With comfort and with tender care
                                                                        Through all his years 
                                                                                 He could not stand the cruel test
                                                                        And death was drawing near. 

                                                                         Unselfishly each child had shared
                                                                                 A portion of their scanty clothes 
                                                                          To wrap the wasted body in. 
                                                                                  It was so cold they huddled close for warmth
                                                                         But bade their brother rest and sleep. 
                                                                                  "They need not fear,"  the mother thought
                                                                         For in her heart, she knew the truth. 

                                                                         Her son would sleep eternally e're
                                                                                 Morn should come, 
                                                                          And so she watched and murmured not
                                                                                 But thanked her God, whose gentle hand
                                                                          Should gather home her dear loved one
                                                                                 And felt assured that soon they'd follow him. 

                                                                        Her thoughts turned back in memory 
                                                                                 And dwelt upon the last two years 
                                                                         In merry England's sunny vale
                                                                                 She bid her husband a fond adieu
                                                                        And sent him forth to make a home
                                                                                  Among the Saints in distant land
                                                                        A land of promise to all God's men. 

                                                                        Alas!  Her haste was wrong, now all was lost
                                                                                 She'd never see that little cot
                                                                        Awaiting in the promised land. 
                                                                                 She'd never plant the climbing rose
                                                                        Beside the door; 
                                                                                  Nor watch the golden grain wave
                                                                         In balmy breeze at evening time, 
                                                                                  Nor feel those strong arms round her clasped, 
                                                                         Holding her to one, she loved, most dear.

                                                                        "Oh, loved one, please forgive, " she cried, 
                                                                                  I know we ne'er shall meet again 
                                                                        I am to weary to struggle on 
                                                                                  But we shall wait for you above
                                                                        In that last meeting place of love. 
                                                                                   Oh, please dear Lord, make haste
                                                                        And take us .... (?)

                                                                        And as her thoughts ran back and forth
                                                                                  Death's hand in silence had passed o'er. 
                                                                        She raised her eyes to look again
                                                                                  The spirit of her son had gone. 
                                                                        She felt for breath, but none was there. 
                                                                                  Then gently but with steady hand
                                                                        She closed his eyes and said "Farewell." 
                                                                                  But still watched on till break of dawn. 

                                                                        Kind hands there bore her son away
                                                                                 And strove to make a grave for him 
                                                                         But frozen earth as hard as stone forbid
                                                                                 And they must hasten on their way
                                                                        So in a blanket snugly sewed 
                                                                                 They left him by the lonely road and 
                                                                        Struggled on
                                                                                  Nor turned to see the pack wolves who 
                                                                         Long e're the train had passed from view
                                                                                  Had found their prize and gorged themselves. 

                                                                      Day by day the train moved on
                                                                                 Until at last their plight was known
                                                                      And strong men sent to aid them in 
                                                                                  To Zions land of peace and rest 
                                                                      United with the ones loved best 
                                                                                  They murmured not this sore tried band
                                                                       But worshiped Him who calms all fears
                                                                                   And thanked their God throughout the years
                                                                       That life was spared and faith unchanged. 

                                                                       "Dear Lord, who blesses us with faith
                                                                                 Though mine is weak and very small 
                                                                       I fain would learn a lesson here
                                                                                 And give my thanks to Thee for all. 
                                                                      And as I journey o'er lifes path 
                                                                                 Made rough at times by petty trials
                                                                      I beg of Thee to give me grace
                                                                                 To see Thy loving hand reach out 
                                                                      And fill my heart with lasting faith." 

(Note;  I was faithful to the spelling and formatting of the story and poem as it was received.  I put into italics the very few items I added) 
This story and poem was received by my husband as a copy, typewriter formatted.   The poem appears in the story, and I shifted the formatting to add the poem at the end of the story believing that such adjustment to the formatting distracted less from the story and the poem.)   ...... Lietta Ruger, July 28, 2011

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