This week I decided to highlight a set of ancestors who plowed through a number of struggles, including a Wyoming blizzard. I've already mentioned John S. Haslam in a previous post but now instead of concentrating on his parentage, I'd like to share a particular episode in his life. With him were two other ancestors, his wife Martha (Hamer) Haslam and his widowed mother-in-law Jane (Thornley) Hamer, as well as his three eldest children, Jane Ellen (age 5), John Joseph (age 3), and baby Samuel Hamer Haslam, and a number of brothers- and sisters-in-law.
|John S. Haslam, Martha (Hamer) Haslam, and child|
Let me back up and give you a little background on the family. John was the son of a servant Betsy Haslam and allegedly King William IV of England (see my post from earlier this month on William IV). At the age of nine, his mother died and he was raised by his uncle and aunt, John and Jane (Haslam) Hardman. He remained close to the cousins with whom he was raised.
William IV died when John was 14. If he was the his son, he was not widely acknowledged and any support would have ended with the king's death. Indeed, locals noted that the Hardmans seemed to have a little more "substance and means behind the Hardman family." But John did, at some point in his childhood, have to work carrying coal in baskets in the mines. About the time of William's death, John was bound over to learn the blacksmith trade. However, Aunt Jane died in 1838 and a year later, John left home to join the British Navy.
|Wood burned with John's brand|
John was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 19. The son of John's cousin Job Openshaw reported, "...When John Haslam joined the LDS Church, my father went to his abode to show him the grievous error he had made by joining the very dangerous False Prophet Apostles Organization, the Mormon Church. At this time, very much opposition had arrayed itself against the Church and they were evil spoken against everywhere…But, instead of my father convincing cousin John of his error, cousin John convinced father that perhaps he was mistaken and he began to see the new light...just previous to Cousin John’s departure for America, John Haslam baptized my father and mother into the church in the town of Bolton, Lancashire, England." Soon after he left for America on the ship carrying Elder Orson Hyde, returning from the Holy Land.
John became close to the Hamers, a family from John's native Lancashire. John began to work with the father, Samuel, a blacksmith. Samuel died of malaria in 1843 but John's connection to the family continued and in 1845, he married one of the daughters, Martha.
|Jane (Thornley) Hamer|
They lived in Nauvoo, near the home of Eliza Granger Kimball, the woman who was inspired to organize a women's charitable group that Joseph Smith organized into the Relief Society. John spent part of his time working on the temple and while I don't know if he could have been one of the men who Sister Kimball saw heading to the temple in threadbare shirts, hearing the history of the Relief Society makes me smile. Perhaps my own family were among the first to benefit from the compassionate service of the Relief Society.
|The site of the Hamers' land in Nauvoo|
With the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and the increasing hostility towards Mormons, the Haslams and Hamers found themselves in a difficult and dangerous situation. They were among the last to leave Nauvoo and were forced from their homes by a mob.
Eventually, they made their way to Winter Quarters. "John’s services as a blacksmith were greatly needed help make wagons for the Saint’s westward trek. Brigham Young asked him to stay at the Saint’s outfitting point." (from http://www.boydhouse.com/alice/Haslam/haslam05johnshaslam.htm) They worked ferrying pioneers across the river, as well as blacksmithing at Winter Quarters, then in Iowa.
One important point related to the blizzard is this: "As John S. Haslem was making wagons for the immigrants, there came a party of trappers that could go no farther with their full wagon as they went off the main roads in their trapping business. So John S. Haslem made a tongue to go in the rear axle of their wagon and a box to put their stuff in so they could ride on top, or in other words, a two-wheeled cart that was high so it would go over the stumps and high roads. These trappers were so pleased they gave him twenty dollars, and about the only money he had seen for a long time, and twenty dollars was a lot in those times. They were starting on their trip at 3 p.m., so John S. told them they had better wait until next morning and sleep in the shop where it was dry, as it was storming. So when the trappers went for their horses at daybreak next morning one had died, and they didn't have enough money, if it was available, so John S. felt so bad for them he asked them how long they expected to be gone. They thought one year at the most, and maybe six months if they got a load of furs that soon. So John S. told them to take one of his horses, as he thought he wouldn't need his team which, by the way, was a good team. So they did and left John S. with one horse." (from account by John's grandson John Henry Haslem)
|Martha's brother Samuel was the model for |
the Trapper statue on the Brigham Young
Monument at Salt Lake City's Temple Square.
The sculptor, Cyrus E. Dallin, the artist
that also sculpted the Salt Lake Temple's
Angel Moroni, was Martha's nephew.
In 1851, the Haslam-Hamers left for the Salt Lake Valley. The lack of a team must have seemed a great trial. John Henry Haslem continues, "But when he decided to start to Utah, he had only one horse and no money to buy a good one, and horses were very scarce. People used mostly oxen these days at this place, so John S. bought a little Indian pony for three dollars and put it with his big horse, and made the big horse pull most of the wagon, which was OK until they hit muddy roads. Then they had to discard most of the load, as the horses could not pull it."
And this brings us to the Wyoming blizzard. Here is John Henry Haslem's account: "If my memory serves me right, Granddad’s (John S.) wagon was the only one in the company. All the rest were handcarts. So the wagon was mostly full of ill people and small children too small to walk. So they plodded on as best they could, until their horses gave out, and they could only make a few miles a day. So the rest of the company could go faster, they went on and said they would send someone back to rescue them. They expected to find help at Ft. Bridger, Wyoming, but no one was there to send back. Because of such slow travel they were getting short of food, and lived on nothing but the wild game they would shoot. But about now they ran out of ammunition so they couldn't get what few rabbits and deer were there. So for many days all they had to eat was the old bones the coyotes had left. They would mash them and crush them with the back of an ax, and boil the marrow out of the center in a big thirty-gallon iron pot. As long as they could see one bead of grease on the soup they ate it, and it saved them from starving for many days (and that was a testimony to them that the Lord put something in the soup to keep them well). But with that diet they soon got so weak they could go no farther.
They came to an old trapper's cabin built of just logs with nothing in the cracks. But it had a fireplace in the end, so they filled the cracks as best they could with cedar bark, and moved their bedding and grub boxes in— which was all they had room for, by the time twenty or more people got in. They all had to sleep in one bed on the floor, while one sat up all night to keep a big fire to help keep warm, as it was one of those Wyoming blizzards that are so common at that time of year. By now they had lost their hope of being rescued, as they had prayed for so many days, and the hunger pains were so bad. They decided this was the end. But they would be in the cabin with a little protection from the weather and their corpses would be found. But this night they prayed extra long, then all went to bed, except the oldest woman was to sit up and keep the fire going. As she was watching the fire she heard something behind her, and there was a big white rabbit she said was nearly as big as a sheep, standing on its hind legs, on the foot of the bed where the boys were sleeping. He stood there while she woke the boy to grab him, and she was so sure he would get away. As she woke the boy, he grabbed it, and it didn't get away, so they cleaned it and put it in their thirty gallon pot that was already hot on the fire. They started to eat the soup almost before it boiled. They said that was the best meal either of them had ever tasted, even though it was only rabbit. He lasted them two days. The storm quit and here came the trappers with John S.'s horse and quite a little surplus corn they had traded for from the Indians. That lasted until one of Brigham Young's rescue wagons came with food to last the remainder of their journey."
The Haslam-Hamers settled in Salt Lake City, where John worked for the Church balcksmith shop and the family owned land. After Martha's death in 1867 and John's marriage to Mary Ann Kay, John and his brother-in-law Samuel were called to settle in Panaca, Nevada ("the Muddy Mission") with their families. They lived there until circumstances were such that the settlers had to return. John served as an usher in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
|John S. Haslam|
Martha Hamer (left) and Mary Ann Kay (right)
A few things that stand out about John and Martha and Jane's lives are:
1) A sister in Relief Society this Sunday said that sometimes we serve and sometimes we are the service project and that's alright. The Haslams and Hamers may have benefited from the early efforts of the Relief Society. They had to rely on the mercy of the Lord to find sustenance and strength to endure on the trail. John served the trappers by loaning a horse and later had the kindness returned to him when he really needed it. They needed the charity of the rescue wagon drivers. Their need for charity doesn't lessen the Haslams and Hamers but attests to their faith and to their ability to recognize the tender mercies in their lives. I recently had the opportunity to help a homeless person by letting Mom know that there was a camp near home. We threw two bags with food and other useful items over the fence. Later, we returned and saw that the items were being used. It was a lifting experience to know that someone had food, clean socks, a warm hat, and so on because I chose to do something simple. On the other hand, I remember a time when I was about to be laid off and fearful, I started eating less and less. Sometimes I went to sleep with my stomach growling. Eventually, my mother found out my situation and came to my aid but before that I was given service. Some of the brothers from church showed up on my doorstep with a big bowl full of fresh fruit and candy, foods that I craved but couldn't buy. I still remember clearly eating a banana first and how I realized that I had never fully appreciated how wonderful that fruit smells and tastes. Having to be served didn't degrade me but lifted me because I have used that experience to learn and grow in gratitude and humility.
2) John and his family suffered from the lack of a horse. Did John ever regret his charity towards the trappers? What must he have felt when the very trappers who took the horse that they had needed were the ones that bridged that gap between the time that they ran out of rabbit soup and the time the rescue wagons appeared? It strikes me that John's kindness was returned in such a startling and vital way.
3) The Lord provided in His own way and His own time. The Haslams and Hamers did not escape hunger and despair and cold. They suffered it and it ultimately made them stronger and more grateful when they were rescued. However, the tender mercies did come. They came in the form of the ability to keep going on so little, a cabin where they could at least be warm, a very large rabbit when they were preparing to die, trappers with a favor to return and a surplus of corn, and finally the rescue wagons that they had looked for and despaired of ever finding.
Next week's challenge is: "Week 6 (Feb 5-11) – So Far Away. Which ancestor is the farthest from you, either in distance or in time/generations? Which ancestor have you had to go the farthest away to research?" (No Story Too Small) I'm excited! The next post will take us to Russia and Germany and to a family history experience I had just this last year. See you soon!