Friday, May 21, 2010

”We must wait for help or death must come to us. Few of us cared which.” - The recollections of Sarah Crossley Sessions

Sarah Crossley Session, Mary’s daughter, was 14 in 1856 but perhaps the strongest person in that family making the handcart journey.

We felt that he had gone only a little ahead of us, that 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 portion of flour.

I cannot tell you the pang that smote my heart as he counted out the spoons full and when he came to Joseph’s he said, "Oh Joseph died last night didn't he”?  I had lost my brother’s portion and it hurt me worse than it did to first look upon his still white face.

In 1986,  the night I stumbled across Mary’s name in  Handcarts to Zion 1856-60 (by Leroy R. and Ann W. Hafen (Arthur H. Clark Co., Glendale CA, 1981), I called my mother immediately. It was 10:00 PM.

When I asked Mom about it she didn’t have much detail but told me my Aunt Hope Hayes who lived in Soda Springs did.

So late that same evening I called a relative I’d never met nor  spoken to in  my life to ask about Mary Jarvis Crossley and the Martin Handcart Company. Aunt Hope knew who I was and seemed quite amused that I had only just now discovered something important about my family heritage.

… and she sent me copies of all her genealogy and family records regarding Mary and the handcart tragedy.  Aunt Hope’s copies included the following excellent recollection written by Mary Jarvis Crossley’s daughter Sarah which is also online and  linked below.

Sarah Crossley Sessions -  MEMBER MARTIN HANDCART COMPANY, Submitted By Olive Sessions Howell

He [Elder Perregrine Sessions] often urged my father to go to America and unite with the Saints in the Rocky Mountains. 

This time my father did, leaving Mother and us children to follow as soon as he could make a home for us; this was not easily done for work was scarce and money hard to obtain. We almost despaired 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 United States 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 frail woman and Joseph, our crippled brother could never walk across that 1300 miles of plains; but Hannah and I were very healthy and strong girls. Ephriam was a lad and very willing, so we gathered together what clothing and bedding we were able to take and sold our little home and all else we had. We bade farewell to our many friends and merry old England, sailing from Liverpool early in the spring of 1856

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The most famous debate between a Mormon and non-Mormon preacher

The Deseret News announcement of a debate over polygamy between Orson Pratt and President Ulysses Grant’s personal pastor.

And this summary from the Wardell Family Genealogy site:

In August, 1870, Dr. John P. Newman, chaplain of the U.S. Senate and President Ulysses S. Grant's personal pastor, delivered a strong anti-pologamy sermon in his Metropolitan Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

Salt Lake Daily Telegraph editor Edward Sloan proposed that Newman debate polygamy in Salt Lake.

Newman accepted and, when Brigham Young declined to be his opponent, debated instead with Orson Pratt.

The 3 day debate was reported daily in the New York Herald. Edward Tullidge declared that "millions of readers followed the arguments of Dr. Newman and Orson Pratt and it is safe to estimate that quite two-thirds of them yielded to the Mormon apostle. It is reported that Newman never forgave "the Mormons". 


And this from

Salt Lake City l9 January 1871
Elder P. O. Thomassen

Dear Brother,
Thank you for your letter of 20 December. Since returning from my mission in Denmark I have had some amusing experiences, including a few religious ones. I'll try to tell you a little about them.

First, the "learned" chaplain of the American Congress, Dr. Newman, challenged our president to a debate on the frequently discussed question, "Does the Bible sanction polygamy?"

Brigham Young found it beneath his dignity to defend our principle, but sent Orson Pratt in his stead.

The debate lasted three days.

The first two Elder Pratt lathered his learned opponent, and the third he shaved him as smooth as an eel.

I attended the entire debate. Shortly afterward several American newspapers, both in California and the eastern states, wrote things like: "The learned Reverend Dr. Newman recently went to 'the city of the Saints' to convince both the prophet and all true Mormons that polygamy is wrong. He wanted to point out verses in the Bible that forbid its practice.

Old Brigham did not himself refute Dr. Newman, but sent one of his apostles, Orson Pratt, who did it so impressively that we must tell the learned gentleman from Washington the same thing the Savior told the woman: 'Go and sin no more."

- Letters: Scandinavian Saints write about America

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mary Jarvis Crossley and James Crossley – my people

Part I is a work of fiction and other than actual historical figures, the characters are fictional.

The events in part II about the handcart journey are offered as more or less accurate and in sequence.  A more personal and significant source to me came about after I  discovered, during the writing and while scanning the roster of emigrants in Edward Martin's Company, the names of Mary Jarvis Crossley (45) with two sons and three daughters: Mary Ann (23), Joseph (19), Hannah (15), Sarah (12), Ephraim (5) and Mary Ann's son William (1).

At that point something changed for me in the writing of this story. It suddenly became extremely personal and, as I had already invested quite a bit of energy in trying to write about the handcart journey, I acquired a new and more powerful sense of heritage.

Mary Jarvis Crossley was the mother of Ephraim Jarvis Crossley who made the handcart journey at the age of five.

Ephraim Jarvis Crossley became the father of Joseph Ephraim Crossley, who became the father of Joseph Heber Crossley, who was the father of Cora Lanor Crossley, my mother.

Mary Jarvis Crossley is therefore my Great Great Great Grandmother.

Up until the time of discovering this information, I knew very little about my mother's side of the family; where they came from, when and how they joined the LDS Church and how they came to reside in Idaho.

I found a family member, Hope Hayes of Soda Springs, Idaho, who could answer my questions about my Crossley ancestors and also sent me a most precious package of information upon which the events and activities of my fictional characters were based.

I received life stories of James Crossley (Mary's husband and my Great Great Great Grandfather), Mary Crossley and Sarah Crossley Sessions (age 12 during the handcart journey), diary entries from James Crossley and, extremely precious and useful, diary entries from the journal of 19-year old Joseph for May and June, 1856 when the family crossed the Atlantic on the ship Horizon.

In the novel, Rose Blake's journal for May and June, 1856 is based entirely on what is in Joseph's (his last name was Smith as he was Mary's son by a prior marriage) diary.

Joseph died at Martin's Cove and the incident in the novel when Abigail see's  wolves attack Albert's body is based on Mary Crossley  seeing wolves go after the deceased Joseph as the emigrants were leaving Martin's Cove and she gazed back at her son's body.

The handcart story became a story I have inherited; became in that way my own story, helping me, more than a hundred years later, come to a greater sense of who I am.

Part of my mother's side of the family came to Utah in handcarts and part of my father's side of the family, namely Anson Call who is named toward the end of the rescue, participated in helping them get to Utah.

* * *

Words and acts of actual historical persons are quoted and described according to the reference materials utilized in the crafting of the story.

All characters named were actual people with the exception of Turner Cole, Joshua Cole, Jacob Hannah, and the Blake family, Reverend Charles, Oliver Leach, Tommy Brown, Sabina Cole and the Jenkins family which was named in one fictional conversation.

The Rescue Team characters were all actual historical personages as were Edward Martin, James Willie, Franklin D. Richards, Levi Savage and the emigrant families named in the novel.

The words of Brigham Young are quoted based on historical quotations.

Reference works included:
Handcarts to Zion 1856-60, by Leroy R. and Ann W. Hagen (Arthur H. Clark Co., Glendale CA, 1981);

Rescue of the 1856 Handcart Companies, a Charles Red Monograph in 
Western History (distributed by Signature Books, Salt Lake City, UT, 1982);

The Latter Day Saints Emigrants' Guide by William Clayton (printed in St. Louis, MO 1848 and edited by Stanley B. Kimball//The Patrice Press, 1983).