Margaret and Thomas Kirkwood were among the first people in Scotland to be baptized into the church in 1840. They became the parents of six children, James being the third son. James’s father Thomas and two sisters died in 1852. His mother Margaret was determined to get her remaining family to Zion. The day before leaving for England, 11-year-old James was baptized.
President James E. Faust related the story of young James. “On the trip west, James was accompanied by his widowed mother and three brothers, one of whom, Thomas, was 19 and crippled and had to ride in the handcart. James’s primary responsibility on the trek was to care for his little four-year-old brother, Joseph, while his mother and oldest brother, Robert, pulled the cart. As they climbed Rocky Ridge, it was snowing and there was a bitter cold wind blowing. It took the whole company 27 hours to travel 15 miles. When little Joseph became too weary to walk, James, the older brother, had no choice but to carry him. Left behind the main group, James and Joseph made their way slowly to camp. When the two finally arrived at the fireside, James, ‘having so faithfully carried out his task, collapsed and died from exposure and over-exertion.’ “
“Margaret wept at the loss of her precious son.” James had given his all to help his brother Joseph. His sacrifice would not be in vain. Little Joseph Smith Clements Kirkwood would grow up to be a successful farmer in American Fork. He married, had six children and remained a faithful Latter-day Saint. He would be remembered for his industry, honesty and honor.