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My Grandmother’s Grandmother

Posted by Paul On June - 26 - 2009

 

This is a brief story of my grandmother’s grandmother – Maria Normington Parker:

A SKETCH I N THE LIFE OF MARIA JACKSON NORMINGTON PARKER, MY MOTHER’S MOTHER
BY

ANNIE HILTON BISHOP
WRITTEN JUNE, 1929

Maria Jackson Normington Parker was born in Burnley, Lankershire, England.  Her mother’s name was Jane Thornton. At the age of four years she commenced working in a factory, and had little or no, opportunity for schooling.  Her parents were good honorable people.

She married Thomas Normington in Burnley and they had four children, three girls and one boy.  The girls were: Mary Ellen, who married Thomas Cook and lived in Taylorsville Utah; Lovenia, who married William Wright and lived in Duncan [Utah] and later in Virgin City; and Hanna, who married David Ott and lived in Duncan [Utah] and later in Tropic Utah
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When the Gospel was taught to them they gladly embraced it and put forth every effort toward immigrating to Zion.  Grandmother left her little ones at home in charge of the oldest girl and worked with her husband in the cotton factory as a weaver to help obtain means with which to emigrate.  They were a happy family and were comfortable in their home.  Her husband was kind and considerate.

Two of her brothers, Robert Jackson and William Jackson, joined the Church and came to America.  They all crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the sailing vessel “Horizon”, which left Liverpool May 22, 1856, and reached Boston, June 30 – six weeks later.  They arrived in Iowa City, Iowa, July 8.

At this special time converts in Europe had written imploring letters to President Brigham Young and others pleading with them to assist them in some way to emigrate to the valleys of the mountains.  In response to these requests the First Presidency of the Church sent out the epistle dated October 29, 1855 – a part of which read: “Let all the Saints who can gather up to Zion, and come while the way is open before them.  Let the poor come also; let them come on foot with handcarts and wheelbarrows.  Let them come to Iowa City, Iowa, there let them be provided with handcarts on which to draw their provisions and clothing, then walk and draw them, thereby saving the immense expense for teams and outfits for crossing the plains.  There will, of course, be means provided for the aged, inform, and those unable to walk.”

This handcart project became very popular and the result was that there were so many came, that when the Normington Family reached Iowa City on July 8, they immediately set to work preparing for the long overland journey before them, including the making of handcarts which were not ready for them because the number of emigrants was so much larger than had been expected and the other three companies, which went before them, had used most of the handcarts.  Thus much precious time was lost which should have been spent in traveling, and the provisions were used which should have been for their journey.

At last, July 28, 1856, the Martin Company started westward from Iowa City.  It consisted of 576 persons, 146 handcarts, 7 wagons, 6 mules, 50 cows and beef cattle.
One of the handcarts weighed about 15 pounds and the wheels were wide enough apart to go in the wagon road if there was one.  As a rule the man would pull and his wife and children push or walk along.  Thus my grandmother and her husband and little children traveled the first lap of their journey – 300 miles to Florence – where they arrived August 11, 1856. [About 20 miles per day]

At Florence, the two sections of Martin’s Handcart Company were consolidated into one as a protection against the Indians and crossing the mountains and plains, and on August 25, the company rolled out of Florence.  Fort Laramie was reached six weeks later.

Thus far the journey had not been more fatiguing than might have been expected, but with brave hearts they traveled on, often singing:

“For some must push and some must pull,
“As we go marching up the hill,
“And merrily on the way we go
“Until we reach the Valley, O!”

Grandmother was a good singer and had a jolly, cheerful disposition, so she enjoyed the singing.  Her favorite song was “Come, Come Ye Saints”.  The little song expresses the spirit of the handcart emigrants, in spite of the fatigue and hunger; for although at this time the daily ration of one pound of flour for each adult had not been cut down, they were always hungry, and so at Fort Laramie they were glad to exchange their watches and other valuables for extra provisions.

Soon after leaving Fort Laramie it became necessary to cut down the rations.  The pound of flour was reduced to ¾ of a pound, and later to ½ a pound, and still later to something less, or nothing at all.  Still the company toiled cheerfully on through the Black Hills country, and there was a spirit of helpfulness in the company, and the treasures, extra bedding etc, that could be spared were cached or abandoned along the road to make the loads lighter for the weakened travelers.

They were compelled to ford rivers and the exposure, fatigue and lack of food so weakened the travelers that slow progress could be made. About this time the baby boy, one and a half years of Grandmother’s died, and she was permitted to ride one-half a day with her dead child, until the company stopped and it could be buried.  Soon after, a new baby was born to her, which also died.

On the morning of October 19, the beds of the company were covered with four inches of snow.  The storm and wind were bitter cold and as they were camped on the banks of the Platte River they were obliged to ford it.  It was deep – up to the wagon beds – and some women and children were carried across by the men, but most of the women tied up their skirts and waded across.  The storm continued for several days until the snow was fifteen inches deep on the level, but still they struggled on, strong in their faith in the glorious Gospel and their hoped for a new life in Zion.

It was about this time when cholera visited the staving suffering camp, and one night grandpa Normington and sixteen others died and were buried in the same grave.

Their clothing and shoes were worn out and they had very little bedding and practically no food.  Grandmother tired to eat dirt to satisfy the pangs of hunger.  She walked until her feet were so terribly frozen and sore she could walk no more.  Then she crawled along on her hands and knees, and when her hands were so frozen she could use them no more, she went on her knees and elbows, until even after many years a the time of her death, there were great scars on her knees and elbows from this awful experience.

Grandmother was so overcome with the hardships, starvation and grief that when the relief wagons came she was unconscious, and almost out of her mind.  She remembered nothing of the last part of the journey.

A company of missionaries, returning to Salt Lake in October 4, reported the terrible condition of the handcart company they had passed.  Conference, which was in session, was adjourned and President Young called for 20 teams, loaded with provisions, to leave this next morning to meet the emigrants.  John Parker furnished one team loaded with provisions and his son, William Parker, drove the team.

It was into this wagon that grandmother, was unconscious, and her three little girls were loaded, and finally, on Monday, November, 30, 1856, the weary survivors reached Salt Lake City, after having spent more that four months of marching and toil, pulling handcarts.  Only about 300 of the original 576 reached the valley.  Some turned back, but most had died of privation by the wayside.

Grandmother was taken to the house of John Parker, and nursed until she recovered.  Then she went to his farm over Jordan, near Taylorsville, where she cared for the home work and three little girls herded sheep and cattle.  Later – in 1857 – she married John Parker who became my grandfather.  She had two children, Richard, and Maria Parker, who was my mother.  She had many hardships and trials and was all alone with no mid-wife or help, except a bachelor named Rogers, when Uncle Richard was born – Grandfather had been detained at his saw mill because of heavy snow.
In 1863 John Parker and his families were called on a mission to Dixie to raise cotton, fruit, etc.  They left their comfortable homes again and moved their cattle and sheep and went to build up and redeem a rough desolate waste.  The roads were, in places, almost impassable.  The Virgin River was a small, grassy-banked stream with large cottonwood trees along its edges.  Soon after, the settlers arrived there was a rain each day for 40 days and the stream increased until there was ample water for irrigation.  The building and constant breaking of water ditches was one of their great trials.

Trees and seeds were brought from Salt Lake and plated.  Thomas Woodbury made a nursery at Grafton which supplied the country.

Grandpa Parker located at Virgin City, where he built homes for his families, and he was appointed the first Bishop which position he held during the united order and until his death.

Grandmother lived in a “dug-out” at first and later in a log house.  She was thrifty and industrious, and helped in every way to build up their homes in the new country.  She washed and scoured the wool, then carded and spun it and dyed it with dock root or madder and wove into cloth for their dresses and suits, which she also made.  They raised their own cotton.  She sewed, knit, tatted and netted.  She was able to make the most of all she had, and soon was comfortable in her new home.

She was a most faithful Latter-Day-Saint and felt that the Gospel, for which she had endured so many trials, was the most glorious of all blessings.  She was never heard to censure any one for her trials nor complain because her lot was hard.  She had a cheerful, jolly disposition and she loved a good joke and loved to sing the songs of Zion.  She sang in the choir for many years.  She was generous and always was willing to share with others and help those in need or distress.  She lived and taught the Gospel and raised her family to be good, staunch, honorable Latter-Day-Saints.  She was a loving, affectionate mother, but was firm and strict in having her children obey.

She had the gift of faith and was a most unusual prayer.  I have heard it said that no one could pray like she did; she seemed to actually see and talk with her Father as she expressed her gratitude and thanks and asked for the blessings she needed.  She had the greatest scorn for any little, low, or dishonorable trick or trait.

Several of her teachings about housekeeping have become maxims in our family.  She was a good housekeeper and taught neatness and thoroughness in doing all work.  The following are some of her saying:  “Sweep the corners and the middle of the floor will sweep itself.”  “Keep the door yards clean, –more people pass by them than come in.”  “Bottom it good,” –meaning to wash up well with much water all the dirt loosened in scrubbing a floor.

She suffered three paraletic [paralytic] strokes, which were the direct cause of her death, which occurred in Virgin City, Washing County, Utah, March 19, 1881.  She was buried in Virgin City.  She was dedicated for death by apostles Francis M. Lyman and John Henry Smith.  Uncle Richard Parker is now the last and only one of the entire family who is alive. Maria Jackson Normington Parker was indeed a true faithful pioneer Latter-day Saint, and all but a martyr to the glorious Gospel she loved.

Many of the dates and details of this sketch are history furnished by Andrew Jenson, Assistant Church Historian.