I like reading stories about my ancestors. This one written by my great-great grandfather, James Humphries, I find interesting.
I, James Humphires, was born on the twenty-eighth of March eighteen-thirty two in the town of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, England. My father’s name was Giles Humphires and my mother’s maiden name was Elizabeth Love. They had born to them ten children, as follows: John, William, George, Charles, Deborah, Thomas, James, Thurza, Jobe, and Matilda. I was the seventh child and I can truthfully say that my parents were good honest people. I shall scarcely say anything of my early life, but when I was nine years of age, though young, I labored and boarded and clothed myself ever after. In my early teens I was somewhat given to roaming until I was eighteen years of age, then I wanted to see the extent of this little world, so I made up my mind to go to Australia.
Australia then was very young and the government wanted volunteers to settle the country. Just my chance, but... along came an obstacle, they only wanted married people. I was only past eighteen and not married so I applied for passage and went to courting a young lady, just past sixteen years of age. I told her of my intentions and we both soon agreed on one point, that was to go. I was nineteen years of age on the twenty-eighth of March, eighteen-fifty. That August of the same year we were married. In one week from that time we left home for the far off country, never to see father, mother, brothers, or sisters again in this life.
We were three months on the water. We landed in that far off country about the first of December, eighteen-fifty. We had just six shillings in money to start through the world with. We prospered pretty well, but in eighteen-fifty-four along came the Elders preaching Mormonism. I accepted also my wife, and were baptized the fourth of November, eighteen-fifty-four. In the beginning of eighteen fifty-five, I was called with eight others to go to Zion, and was to be ready in April. Me and my wife and two children (George William, born eighteen fifty-one and Eli, born eighteen fifty-three) were ready and soon on the ocean.
When we had been out three days I was ordained a teacher. There were about thirty-five Saints from different parts of Australia, and I can truthfully say I did my duty as a teacher to the best of my ability. When we had been at sea four weeks, my wife was taken very sick, the baby had to be weaned, it was taken sick. They, the baby and it’s mother, were sick for four weeks. But when being at sea five weeks, the ship sprung a leak. The captain put down two large pumps, and they never stopped night or day for five weeks. It got so bad after five weeks, and we were near the Sandwich Islands so we had to call in, but on entering the ship was very low and it began to sink, but we were all saved. All the money I had in the world was a copper cent; I spent it for my sick baby, but by morning he was a corpse. We fixed him up the best we could and took him up into a volcano hill and laid him away, which is the hardest thing to do in my life.
Most of the little company had money, and the next ship that came along took the passengers for California. Me and some others stayed there. I stayed eight months. After being there six months, my wife began to prove unfaithful. I labored hard when I could find work. When being there eight months, me, my wife and little boy shipped again for California. We reached California in about two weeks, having a very rough passage. When being there about two weeks, my wife apostatized, and taking the little boy, went back to the Sandwich Islands, got married to the one she loved, and they went then to Sydney.
Then I was alone in the world, in a strange land, no friends or acquaintance. I only had twenty dollars so I took my blankets and went sixty miles into the mountains for work. I got work making shingles, and did pretty well, worked for four months, and then my face was set Zion-ward again. I shipped to San Pedro, ower California. It was then one hundred and twenty miles to San Bernardino. I tied my blankets together and tramped it. I stayed in San Bernardino, then there was a call made by Brigham Young to come to Utah and fight for Johnson’s army. I worked and got two horses, and just as I was ready to leave, Spaniards stole all I had. I had two acres of fenced land, I sold that for two hundred and fifty dollars. I again tied my blankets, but hired out to drive a herd of goats; just two of us crossed the desert, about five hundred miles by foot. We were in the desert three months. We reached the forks of the road, just west of the Mountain Meadows. My companion took the meadow road and I came down the Clare Canyon.
I came on foot alone through where St. George now is, and then through where Washington now is, and over the Black Ridge, where I found an Indian trail and came to Cedar City and on to Parowan on the third day of April, eighteen-fifty-eight. I stayed there all summer, not being satisfied. I again found a friend indeed, a stranger, he took me in and gave me work all winter. Then I came to Salt Lake and while there I was ordained a seventy. I then came on to Ogden, Utah.
From the time I left my home in Australia to the time I got into Salt Lake was three years and eight months. After being in Ogden for a time I married again, a young lady on the twelfth day of May, eighteen-sixty-one. Her name was Dorothy Malissa Allen. We were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake.
In the fall of eighteen-sixty-one there was a great call by President Brigham Young to settle the Dixie Country. All of my wife’s folks were called. In the spring of eighteen-sixty-three I was on the road for Dixie, a volunteer for that country. In two and a half years in a row people had to eat cane seed flour and broom seed flour and each was twenty dollars a hundred pounds, to be paid for from our future crops.
I had to work very hard on ditches and roads. Ditch tax was five to ten dollars per acre. After living in Virgin City for about three years, I was appointed sexton; soon after I was appointed secretary of the United Order. In eighteen eighty-four I was set apart as ward clerk, on account of George Isom’s death. In eighteen eighty-six I was ordained a High Priest under the hands of Apostle Francis M. Lymon. I labored as ward clerk for twenty-three years without receiving one cent. The next two years I received thirty-five dollars one year and forty-five dollars the second year. The wards were broken up and I was set apart as Presiding Elder, not receiving any pay and I am still sexton, not during thirty-five years as sexton did I receive one dollar.
Now I am seventy-nine years of age. Last year I lost all my crops with frost. We have had nine children, five sons and four daughters, born to us as follows: James, Joseph William, Charles, Edward, Sarah Elizabeth, Thurza, Mary Matilda, John Allen, Deborah Ella, and Franklin Love Humphires.
August 24, 1916
I have been very sick several days. Today I am very sick. It seems my last days have come now. I want to ask our children, one and all, if I am taken, I beg you one and all to look after your Mother. Do not let her want, do not make a slave of her, she labored and suffered for you. Now my wish is that your Mother’s last days be her best days. I may yet live, live or die, may the blessings of God rest down on you all.
(He never wore glasses and wrote a good free hand. He was never bedfast. Uncle Joe was there the evening before he died and he was sitting in a chair and talked freely and fluently. He died the sixth of September, nineteen twenty-three in Hurricane, Washington, Utah.)