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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Making a Living and Rearing a Family

Drusilla Hendricks with her granddaughter Elizabeth Gammell
and Elizabeth's husband, Eli Harris
c. 1868

After the death of his wife Elizabeth in October 1851, James Gammell left his daughter Elizabeth (Libby), just three months old, in the care of her grandparents, James and Drusilla Hendricks.  Drusilla reared her daughter’s two children, James Bainbridge and Elizabeth Gammell, as her own.(1)  The Hendricks moved to Springville in 1858 when Johnston’s army arrived in the valley, then later returned to Salt Lake.  In 1860, when Libby was nine years old, they moved to Richmond, Cache Valley, Utah.  James Hendricks died July 8, 1870, and Drusilla on May 20, 1881.  Both are buried in Richmond.

James Gammell continued to be involved in various business pursuits in order to support his growing family.  Seven children were born within the next five years - four to his wife Maria and three to Hannah Jane.  James often left home for months at a time on trading expeditions, not leaving much time for family matters.  But a letter written to his sister, Jane, gives us a rare glimpse of his tender feelings for his children: 

When this old hulk is layed away, there will be a lot [of children] left to laugh or cry as they may feel…  Jane, I am proud of them.  They are all smart and will pass in a crowd.   My oldest daughter. whose mother died in Salt Lake is married and got one child.   She has done well… My other children with their mother home I left in Utah are all well.   I have not saw [sic] them for seven years but hear oft from them. [During an 1869 expedition in Cache County, Utah,] I made my home at Liby’s [sic] and had a great time with my Grand daughter.(2)

Earning a living in the Salt Lake Valley during the early 1850’s was a challenge for James, as it was for most Mormon families in those early years.  Most were dependent on their own labor and ingenuity for food, clothing, soap, and other supplies, which they had to produce at home.  Ready-to-wear clothing, like men’s pants and broadcloth coats, was simply not available.  Products shipped overland from St. Louis were too expensive for most families, who had little or no money.  In this cashless economy, commodities and labor were the typical currency.  Farming was another challenge in this arid climate.  Some years the agricultural surplus wasn’t sufficient to yield a profit.  The harvest of 1855 was especially poor.  Another grasshopper infestation, like the one in 1849, plus a late season drought, reduced the harvest by one-third and even by two-thirds in some counties—all this in a year when the influx of new emigrants was more than 4,000.(3)

When he first settled in the Salt Lake Valley, James found employment as a contractor on public works projects like roads and bridges.  Fortunately he had useful skills that were desperately needed, and he made a good living, reportedly as much as $10,000 a year.(4)  In between working on public projects, he was involved in freighting and Indian trading.  He regularly traveled beyond the Salt Lake Valley on business ventures, bringing back supplies to sell or trade. Despite his considerable entrepreneurial skills, James had financial struggles.  Early Salt Lake County Court records reveal that at times he found himself at the mercy of his creditors, his customers, and even the tax assessor.  A summary of the next five years includes several lawsuits connected with his business dealings, as well as the births of seven children.

1852 – James’ wife Maria bore her first child, Jeannette, on September 25, 1852. Jeannette was James’ third child, but she was the first one that he would raise to maturity.  (Their maternal grandparents raised his first two children.)  The family was living in the Salt Lake 17th Ward, where records show that the baby was blessed on December 28, 1852.

On April 21, 1853, James Gammell, plaintiff, filed a lawsuit against James Bridger for trespassing and for seizing “upon the above named goods ($500) without due process of law.  Settled by the Partys [sic] May 2, 1853.  The plaintiff is to pay the cost to Sheriff.”(5)  This case was most likely related to the animosity between Bridger and the Mormons that festered in the summer of 1853.  (At that time the Mormons had jurisdiction over Fort Bridger, which was a part of the Territory of Utah.)  “Mormon leaders were convinced that Bridger was engaged in illicit trade with the Indians, especially guns and ammunition, and that he had stirred hostility among the Native Americans against the Mormons.  Mormon leaders revoked Bridger's license to trade and issued a warrant for his arrest; however, before the posse's arrival Bridger had fled.”(6)

1853 – William Andrew was born to Hannah Jane on July 25, 1853 according to Salt Lake 19th Ward records.  (At this time James was also stepfather to Hannah Jane's two children, Isaac Davis Brown, age five, and Hannah Jane Brown, age three.)  Maria’s second child, Samuel, was born on September 26,1853.(7)

Notice in the Deseret News, December 22, 1853

On July 4, 1854, James Gammell sued John H. Bleazard for $424 worth of beer at seventy-five cents per gallon.  James demanded per written agreement $364 and the costs of the suit.  Bleazard paid for eighty gallons ($60), but refused to pay the rest of the money.  On February 21, 1855, the two men appeared in court again. This time James Gammell was the defendant, and John H. Bleazard the plaintiff.  Bleazard demanded $366 “for goods sold and delivered and labor performed.”(8)  Finally on September 29, 1855, James Gammell, plaintiff, demanded payment from John H. Bleazard, who still owed $368 for the beer from July 1854.  (Sorry, I don’t know what happened to the money or the beer!)

1854 - Maria’s third child, Avis Josephine, was born on April 17,1854, and blessed in the Salt Lake 19th Ward on April 19, 1855.  James and Hannah Jane’s second child, Mary Edith, was born on October 11, 1854, and blessed on Nov 11, 1854.(9)

In the fall of 1854, James must have been gone on a trading expedition.  From Hosea Stout’s diary entry of January 23, 1855, we learn that James had just returned to Salt Lake: “Mr. James M (sic) Gammell returning from a trading tour some 600 miles S.E. reports that a small party of Whites have been killed by the Indians near the Devil’s Gate [Wyoming], as he learns from the Indians.”

Another lawsuit was filed on May 25, 1855, by Plaintiff , C.A. Perry of C.A. and E.H. Perry, merchants, vs. James Gammell, Benjamin Simms, and James Simms, demanding $2,035.54 for goods delivered.  The list of goods included whiskey, eggs, shoes, socks, brandy, matches, tin buckets, four guns, four yards of red flannel, tea, a bushel of oats, sugar, shoeing horses, flour, bullets, lead, coffee, blankets, robes, and tobacco.

1856 – Maria’s fourth child was born on February 14, 1856. He was named James after his father. Francelia, third child of James and Hannah Jane, was born on May 13, 1856.

Several years later on June 6, 1859, James Gammell was named as the defendant in another lawsuit brought by the County Assessor for delinquent taxes.(10)  In August of that same year James was named in another court case, which will be discussed later.
  1. 1860 U. S. Census, Cache, Utah Territory, Post Office – Brigham. Jas. Hendricks, age 52, Drucilla Hendricks, age 50, Jas. W. Bainbrage, age 11, Elizabeth Bainbrage, age 9.
  2. James Gammell, letter to his sister, Jane, January 1, 1870. (James refers to his granddaughter, Drusilla Elizabeth Harris, one year old.)
  3. Arrington, Leonard J., Great Basin Kingdom, pp. 148-150.
  4. Walker, Joseph C., manuscript “History of the Mormons,” p. 42.
  5. Salt Lake County Court records, 1853.
  6. Despain, S. Matthew and Gowans, Fred R., “Jim Bridger”, Utah History Encyclopedia.
  7. Salt Lake 19th Ward Records, pp. 9 and 11, FHL film #0026706. Samuel apparently died in early childhood. He did not appear in the 1860 Census.
  8. Salt Lake County, Utah, Probate Court, civil and criminal case files, series 373, entries 623, 828, 482.
  9. For both births see Salt Lake 19th Ward records, p.11, film #0026706.
  10. Salt Lake County Probate Court, civil and criminal case files, series 373, entry 1741.

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