Click on this image to order the book

Click on this image to order the book
The book version of James Gammell's life story is now available. Click on this image.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Maria and Hannah Jane Brown

James Gammell was married five times.  His first wife, Harriet Fitzgerald, died in Michigan in 1848.  His very short marriage to Mrs. Editha Clark of Michigan in November 1849 ended in early 1850.  In October 1851 his third wife, Elizabeth Hendricks, died.  His fourth wife was Susan Maria Brown, and the fifth was Maria's sister-in-law Hannah Jane Davis Brown.

Susan Maria Brown
Maria and her family lived for a time in the Ambrosia Branch of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near Montrose in Lee County, Iowa, where she was baptized in the Mississippi River.  At age nineteen (1850) she crossed the plains with her widowed mother, Avis Hill Brown,(1) and her two brothers, George Washington Brown, age twenty-three, and Sidney William Brown, age thirteen.  Her oldest brother, Isaac Hill Brown, and his wife, Hannah Jane Davis, had entered the Salt Lake Valley three years earlier on September 25, 1847, as part of the Daniel Spencer/Perrigrine Sessions Company.(2)

Hannah Jane Davis
Hannah Jane and her family became members of the Mormon Church while living in West Township, Columbiana, Ohio.  A few years later her father, Isaac Davis, moved the family to Lee County, Iowa, about four miles from Nauvoo, where he bought nine hundred acres of farmland.  At this time many members of the Church had fled the persecutions in Missouri to settle in Illinois and Iowa. Although Nauvoo, located across the Mississippi River in Hancock County, Illinois, became the center of Church, there were also several Mormon congregations organized in Lee County, Iowa, under the direction of Stake President John Smith, the uncle of Joseph Smith.

At the time of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in June 1844, nineteen-year-old Hannah Jane was living in close proximity to Nauvoo.  Here she met Isaac Brown, and they were married in the Nauvoo Temple in spring 1846, before being driven out of their beloved city by intense persecution.  They made the 300-mile journey across Iowa along with hundreds of other Latter-day Saints.  The following spring, while they were camped at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, Hannah Jane gave birth to her first child, Emily Jane.  On May 20, two days after the birth, Hannah Jane’s father, Isaac Davis, died of bilious fever.(3)  Emily Jane died six days later and was buried in a tiny grave next to her grandfather and her aunt Sabina Ann Davis Harrison, who had also died in Winter Quarters in February 1847.(4)

Leaving behind the graves of loved ones, Hannah Jane and Isaac Brown began the trek across the plains with the Spencer/Sessions Company consisting of 185 individuals and 75 wagons.  Although Perrigrine Sessions was a captain of fifty, his company was called “Parley's Company” after Parley P. Pratt of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, who was a member of the company.  Parley was traveling to the Great Salt Lake Valley for the first time, having just returned from a mission in England.  An excerpt from one of the trail journals recorded this incident, “I recollect one day that a large heavily loaded wagon ran over one of Bro. Pratt's little boys, about two years old; he took up the child and laid hands on him, and the child never complained, and soon was as well as before to all appearance.”(5)

For the most part the company followed the trail on the north bank of the Platte River, “sometimes leaving the river some miles, crossing streams and sand hills and passing long reaches without a single tree to relieve the sameness of the river valley.”  Along the way they had access to plenty of buffalo meat and other game.  As the journal stated, “…one Isaac Brown [husband of Hannah Jane Davis Brown] of our fifty was an excellent hunter and kept the camp supplied with fresh antelope meat.”  On the trail they met Willard Richards and other Church leaders from the Salt Lake Valley who were headed back to Winter Quarters to give support to the continuing exodus of Mormon pioneers.  Richards assured them that “they had found the place for the gathering of the saints, that they had laid off a city and named it Great Salt Lake City, Great Basin, North America."  The company arrived in the valley on September 25, 1847.(6)

By 1851 the Browns were settled in Utah County.  The widow Avis Brown was living with her children, Maria, Sydney, and George, and according to the census, her son Isaac H. Brown’s family was living in the house next door.  Hannah Jane Davis Brown, twenty-five years old, is listed, along with her three-year-old son, Isaac, and year-old daughter Hannah Jane.(7)  Isaac Brown, who worked as a freighter and could have been traveling at the time of the census, was not listed.  The more logical explanation is that he had already died or was missing.  Isaac was reportedly killed by Indians while building railroads in Nevada.  Another version of the story claims that Isaac was actually killed by his partner, and it was blamed on the Indians.  It is estimated that Isaac died sometime between 1850 and 1852.  The actual date and specific circumstances of his death are unknown. Even his wife didn’t know the full story. Hannah wrote that she “lost her husband sometime in the 50's.”(8)

On August 11, 1851, James Gammell married Susan Maria Brown as a plural wife.  (In the early days of the Mormon Church men who had the financial means to support more than one wife were sometimes asked by Brigham Young or other Church leaders to enter into plural marriage.  The practice was formally discontinued in 1890.)   On this same day James was also sealed to Elizabeth Hendricks, his third wife, and to his deceased wife, Harriet Fitzgerald.  One year after the death of Elizabeth Hendricks, James married Hannah Jane Davis Brown as a plural wife on October 7, 1852.(9)
  1. Avis Brown was converted to Mormonism and baptized in 1838 in Chautauqua County, New York. Maria was baptized in 1840 in Ambrosia.  (See “Ambrosia Iowa Branch Register”, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)
  2. See , Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel (1847-1868). Avis Brown and her children traveled in an unidentified wagon company (1850).
  3. Bilious fever is an archaic medical term that could refer to malaria or typhoid.
  4. “Biography of Elisha Hildebrand Davis”. (Elisha is the brother of Hannah Jane Davis.)
  5. Source of Trail Excerpt: Smith, Jesse Nathaniel, Journal of Jesse Nathaniel Smith, The Life Story of a Mormon Pioneer, 1834-1906 [1953], 11-12.
  6. Ibid.
  7. U.S. 1850 Census, p. 127, image 256. (This is actually an April /May 1851 enumeration.)
  8. Hannah Jane Brown, letter to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
  9. IGI Extracted Marriage Records.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Funeral at the Bowery

Less than one year later the same guests who attended her marriage at the Bath House gathered on Sunday morning, October 19, 1851, in the Bowery for the funeral of Elizabeth Hendricks Gammell.  The mother of a three-year-old son and an infant daughter, she was just twenty-three years old.  Orson Pratt preached the funeral sermon.(1)

The Old Tabernacle and Bowery
as it appeared in the heart of Salt Lake City between 1847-54
Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
In public domain

In the above photograph the Bowery is the crudely built structure on the right.  The street in the foreground is South Temple Street.  On the square now known as Temple Square “an immense shed had been erected upon posts, which was capable of containing three thousand persons.”  It served as a temporary place for religious worship and public gatherings.(2)  The Old Bowery, as it came to be known, measured one hundred feet by sixty feet:

It consisted of posts set up at convenient intervals around the sides of a quadrangle, the tops of the [one hundred and four] posts being joined by poles held in place by wooden pegs or lashed in position by rawhide thongs, and upon this skeleton-roof, willows, evergreens, sagebrush, and other shrubs were piled, resulting in a covering which was a partial protection from the sun, though but a poor barrier against wind and rain.(3)

That first winter (1847-48) in the Salt Lake valley, nineteen-year-old Elizabeth Hendricks married Frederick Nantz Bainbridge, age twenty-three, who had crossed the plains at  the same time in the Edward Hunter/Jacob Foutz Company.(4)  Not long after their marriage, Bainbridge grew disenchanted with the hard labor required to survive in the Salt Lake Valley.  As Drusilla Hendricks wrote, he had his heart set on greener pastures:

When hard times came on and he had to irrigate, he could not stand it so he wanted his wife to go back to the States with him or to California.  But she knew too much to do either.  He did not think that the Lord required him to stay here (Salt Lake Valley) without bread or to irrigate and he would not stand it.  I told him we would have to stand up to our rack, hay or no hay, and if he could not do it, he would have to start and take himself off, but that he could not take my daughter, so he left.(5)

Frederick Bainbridge went to California at the time of the Gold Rush (1849), and for the next twenty years he moved from mining town to mining town.  He was never heard from again.  Some sources say that he died in 1877.(6)

In contrast, four discharged veterans of the Mormon Battalion who were already in the Sacramento area and were working at Sutter’s Mill when gold was discovered on January 24, 1848,(7) ignored the chance to make a fortune and returned to their destitute families in the Salt Lake Valley.  However, they did take home with them $17,000 in gold dust, which they freely contributed to the economy of the State of Deseret.  Instead of being circulated as coin, most of the gold was kept in a reserve fund and paper currency was issued.(8)

It is interesting to note that James Gammell, as far as we know, never ventured to the gold fields of California.  Instead, he seemed content to stay in the Salt Lake Valley to carve out a life for himself and his family there, in spite of the lure of gold just eight hundred miles away.  In 1849 and 1850 an estimated ten to fifteen thousand gold seekers passed through Salt Lake City and provided an economic windfall for the Saints.

When Fred Bainbridge and Elizabeth Hendricks (or Libby, as she was called) separated, Libby returned to live with her family and helped them run the Warm Springs Bath House.  She and her son, James Wesley Bainbridge, lived there until she met and married James Gammell.

James Wesley Bainbridge, born October 21, 1848,
son of Frederick Nantz Bainbridge and Elizabeth Hendricks
Courtesy of Karen Bainbridge DeBow

Elizabeth Gammell, born July 23, 1851,
daughter of James Gammell and Elizabeth Hendricks

In April 1851,(9) James Gammell, living with his wife, Elizabeth, and two-year-old stepson, James Bainbridge, was the supervisor of roads and actively employed in the building of the new city.  On July 23, 1851, one day before the fourth anniversary of entry of the first group of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, Elizabeth Harriet Mahala Gammell was born.  Apparently Libby, whose health was fragile, did not recover from the birth of her daughter, and she died three months later.  She was likely buried in Block 49, the first pioneer cemetery in the Salt Lake Valley.(10)  The remains of nine adults and adolescents and twenty-three infants were unearthed during the excavation for an apartment complex on this site in summer 1986.  Plans were to re-inter the remains in the Pioneer Trails State Park at the mouth of Emigration Canyon and to reconstruct the old pioneer cemetery faithful to the original configuration.(11)
  1. Journal History of the Church, October 19, 1851.
  2. Edward W. Tullidge, History of Salt Lake City, pp. 56, 59, 737.
  3. James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, pp. 201-2.
  4. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868. No other members of Fred Bainbridge’s family were traveling with this company, which arrived on October 1, 1847.
  5. Robert Raymond, ed., Historical Sketch of James Hendricks and Drusilla Dorris, chapter 9.
  6. See Karen Bainbridge DeBow’s website:   Frederick Bainbridge married Elizabeth Almira Pond on 25 Feb 1849. She was possibly a plural wife, but this marriage ended as well when he left Salt Lake City.
  7. One of the men was Henry Bigler, who recorded the discovery of gold in his diary on that day. The diary is now on display at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.
  8. Jean S. Greenwood, The State of Deseret, pp. 67-71.
  9. Utah became a territory in September 1850. Its federal census began in April 1851, taking two months. The 1850 census, therefore, is actually an 1851 enumeration.
  10. The cemetery was located between Third and Fourth South and Second and Third West.
  11. Deseret News, Section B, page 1, Sunday, March 8, 1987.