Thursday, August 26, 2010

FH-Ann Rogers Taylor

My name is Ann Rogers Taylor. I was born in England in 1822 and married James Whitehead Taylor in 1839 when I was 17 years old. When we were young, James heard the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the apostle Parley P. Pratt. He and I joined the Mormon Church when I was 20 years old, in June of 1841, and ever after James was engaged in that work. He was a good man and had the gift of being able to know and understand things that I could not. He was converted by the spirit of the Lord, aided in its purpose by two of our neighbors who were also blacksmiths, and also by a dream James had wherein he saw the destruction of the wicked. He understood plainly that the only escape from that destruction was by going into the waters of baptism. Perhaps James' faith was greater than mine. His faith was in his God and his compelling urge was to do God's work. My faith was in the God of the Bible and in my husband, and my love was for our family and our neighbors. Many times I felt that the Mormon God deprived me of my husband.
I was bitter about the Mormons. James knew it, and these feelings caused some unhappiness between us. We left the grave of our little Joseph in England, disembarked from Liverpool on September 24, 1848, and traveled across the ocean on the Sailor Prince. I saw miracles on that voyage, one being the time when we were becalmed for many days. My husband was asked to pray before we went to our berths, and he humbly asked our Father in Heaven to give us fair winds. Just as he did so, the captain who was just above us on the poop deck began cursing and blaspheming. We went to bed early and when James appeared on deck early the next morning, the sailors shouted, "Hurrah for Mr. Taylor! He is the man when you want anything you must ask him to pray." One of the sailors became very ill on the crossing and I nursed him back to health. He told me if I wanted to earn money I should hire a Negro woman to do the washing for the captains and mates of seagoing vessels. This I did, and after five years, James and I had earned enough money to buy a wagon and two yoke of oxen for crossing the plains. We were in New Orleans for just a few months, then moved upriver to St. Louis. The cholera was very bad in New Orleans, and worse in St. Louis.
After five years in America, we went upriver to Keokuk, and from there left to go West in the St. Louis Independent Company. I had twin babies somewhere west of Winter Quarters, and they died of scarlet fever. We left them in an unmarked grave, unnamed. They were the only deaths in our wagon train--good news for everyone else, but they were my children.
Crossing the plains, my little daughter Margaret fell off the wagon tongue and was run over by both wagon wheels. I thought she was dead, but James administered to her, and at dinner time the next day she got out of the wagon herself and ran after her father to see some missionaries that were camped a little way off.
We were so low on food that one day after we passed Bridger, all we had left were two biscuits apiece. A man drove a flock of sick sheep by and he skinned some of them and cut them up and gave portions to us and others. It helped, but that night James told me to give one little biscuit apiece to the children, he would have nothing, and he did not know what we would do afterward, only that we must trust in the Lord.
James' brothers were supposed to have gone ahead and should have met us, but all we could hear was that the Indians were so bad they were not allowed to come out. Then a man came into our camp asking for someone named Taylor and he told us that James' brother William was at Bear River waiting . It was more than a day's journey away and James asked the man if he had any provisions. He did, and James came back to the wagon and told me to give the children some more supper. The next morning we passed by some missionaries going to England. James knew some of them and asked if they had seen William. They said William was just behind them. James ran to meet his brother, and then we did have a feast of fat things.
We stayed a little while in Salt Lake, during which time James was ordained a Seventy. Then we left to settle in Lehi, 30 miles to the south. James built our home which was the first house built on a city lot after it was laid out as a city. Two adobe rooms.
When we reached Lehi, we had four living children and had buried three others. James started the first Home Dramatic Association in Lehi during the winter of 1854-55, and I was a member. I had a leading part in their first performance, "Priestcraft in Danger."
James was called on a mission in 1856. He took little bedding with him because he wanted to leave us as comfortable as he could. However, we were not very comfortable. He left me with no money and only fifty pounds of flour in the house. My only real help was my oldest son Samuel, age 16. The first winter was bad. We were cold and hungry, the children had no shoes, and we had no money to buy any. Our neighbor's ox died and I asked permission to skin it. Samuel helped skin the ox and we dried and tanned the hide the best we could. With that leather I made the children moccasins. The moccasins warmed their feet but stretched to twice their original size when they became wet.
I spent many hours helping the sick and those who were in need. When my neighbor's baby died and they were unable to afford burial clothes I gave my little daughter's only shirt to dress the dead baby.
The fat from the ox I used to make candles which I needed for light while I sewed at night. When I ran out of thread, I was under the necessity of walking to Salt Lake City to buy another spool which cost me fifty cents.
Samuel and I plowed and planted our field together, but the following year there was a grasshopper invasion. We fought the grasshoppers by walking up and down the rows and killing what we could. We saved a small corn crop which was husked, ground in a coffee mill, and made into bread. It was our first bread in weeks. We had been living on dried fish and buttermilk. A neighbor had planted a potato patch in an old willow patch. The willows sprouted when the potatoes started growing, making it nearly impossible to dig the potatoes. I arranged with the neighbor to let us dig the potatoes on shares and by that means we got enough for our winter supply.
There was a smallpox epidemic in Lehi and I vaccinated nearly every child in town.
Those things I could do. I could not be happy about the Mormon Church taking my husband. First Mormonism took his heart and his time. Then it was the call to Zion, twice leaving my dead babies, and then being left by James for those years of his mission to England. I know he wrote in his journal, "...oh how I wish that I could say as for me and my house we will serve the Lord but I cannot for it seems as though I should have to go and be with very few Exceptions alone in the Kingdom of God..." It was hard to know he didn't feel I was good enough for heaven, particularly because I sometimes wondered if I was even good enough for earth. But what more could I have done? I left everything and everyone I knew in England. I bore fourteen children, pioneered a cold, hard country; tried to be a good neighbor, and kept my family together the only way I knew how to do it. Knowing what I do now, if I were God looking down from Eternity upon Ann Rogers Taylor, I believe He would tell me, "Even if someone else might have done better or been happier, you did everything you knew how to do. You kept your family together. You were faithful to your husband. You held a place in time so your posterity could be born in freedom and know the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness. It was a hard time to live. Not many could have done as well as you. You say you resented the Mormon God and you loved only the God of the Bible, your family and your neighbors; yet, I am the God of the Bible, and to love your fellow man is the best way there is to love me. You are my daughter and I love you."
I hope my posterity knows that I not only suffered for the benefit of my children; I also suffered for their children, and for their grandchildren, and for theirs.
[Interpretive biography by Anne T. Chambers]

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