Jane was born in England in 1815, and raised by her grandmother in extreme poverty. She never had the chance to go to school and worked hard to support herself. She married William James in 1836 and they were blessed with eight children. They learned of the gospel in 1854 and after much praying it was confirmed to her “to leave all we had, and with an almost invalid husband and eight children, brave the journey to an unknown land and a wilderness.”1
William wanted to wait but Jane felt that they needed to go before the children began to leave home. They sailed for America on the Thornton in 1856. The family experienced their first tragedy when their infant daughter died near the end of the journey, but Jane “felt not to murmur against the will of Him who gave.”2
Once in Florence the family began preparation for the journey west. It was late in the season and a meeting was held to determine if the company should begin the journey west or wait until spring. Much emotion filled the room about the decision to be made. Jane’s daughter Emma looked to her mother for an answer.
“I was frightened. Father looked pale and sick. I turned to Mother to see what she was thinking and all I saw was her old determined look. She was ready to go on tomorrow. There were many others like her. We really didn’t have much choice.” 3 Jane responded “We must put our trust in the Lord, as we have always done.”4
The family pulled out with the Willie Company on the trail to Zion. At the beginning of the journey the children write of “many things to catch the eye in this strange land . . . always something new to see. This land was so different from the one in England that it kept us interested.” 5 They also tell of meeting Indians.
“One day a group of Indians on horseback rode up and followed along with us for a while . . . One of the Indians seemed fascinated by the contraptions being pulled along by people. Finally his curiosity got the best of him. He leaped off his horse, ran over to one of the carts which was being pulled by a woman and her daughter and gave it such a hard push that it nearly ran over them. The woman and girl screamed and got out the shaft as fast as they could. The Indian pushed the cart for a little ways, and then apparently satisfied; he jumped on his horse and rode off.” 6
The happy times would soon be replaced by the cold and snow of an early winter. Cold and snow descended on the company, as they struggled to keep moving forward. A small rescue group from Salt Lake City had arrived to help, but the company was much larger than the few rescuers could help. The day after the rescue wagons came; the company crossed Rocky Ridge, the most difficult section of the trail. Father William and son Rueben (13yrs) were given burial detail that morning. Jane stayed behind to help. The other 6 children started after the Company.
After the sad work was complete, Jane, William and Rueben started on their way. William soon collapsed and was unable to continue. A daughter Mary Ann (11 years) tells of her mother’s dilemma. “Mother was placed in an awful position, her husband unable to go farther, and her little children far ahead hungry and freezing; what can she do? Father said “Go to the children; we will get in if we can.” 7
Jane left Reuben with his father and hurried to find her children. The eldest Sarah (19 yrs ) tells “She found us on the river bank. We were too frightened and tired to cross alone. We had forded this river before many times, but it had never seemed so far across. It was about 40 feet, I guess, to the other bank. The water was icy and our feet were frozen numb. Cold and miserable, we reached the other bank, put on dry clothing, and joined the rest of the company.” 8
Once in camp, the family waited anxiously for word about Father and Reuben. Sarah goes on with the story “Since there were some who had been a few hours behind us, we felt they would come with the next group . . . Towards morning some of the captains who had gone out to gather up the stragglers came into camp bearing the dead body of my father and the badly frozen body of my brother Reuben. . . Father’s body, along with others, who had died, were buried . . . I can see my mother’s face as she sat looking at the partly conscious Reuben. Her eyes looked so dead that I was afraid. She didn’t sit long, however, for my mother was never one to cry. When it was time to move out, mother had her family ready to go. . . Our mother was a strong woman, and she would see us through anything.” 9
The family made it to the Salt Lake Valley, including Reuben though his injuries would plague him for the rest of his life, on November 9, nearly 5 month after their journey on the Plains of America began. The family worked hard and prospered in Zion. Jane died at the age of 96. Sarah writes “She left a great posterity to revere her memory and give thanks that she had had the determination to come to Zion.” 10
1 – “The Price We Paid”, pg 198
2 – “The Price We Paid”, pg 198
3- “Tell my Story, Too”, pg 58
4- “Tell my Story, Too”, pg 58
5- “Tell my Story, Too”, pg 59
6- “Tell my Story, Too”, pg 59
7- “The Price We Paid”, pg 148
8- “The Price We Paid”, pg 148
9- “The Price We Paid”, pg 149
10- “Tell my Story, Too”, pg 60