SARAH HOLYOAK JAMES
written by LaVon Gurr Hansen, a great‑granddaughter*
JOSEPH JAMES was born February 28,1830 at Halse,
Somersetshire, England, to Mary James and Joseph Jury out of
wedlock. But Joseph said his father and mother were
married, that they ran away and were married out of the
church. His brother, Francis William, was born about 1832
who as a young boy went to sea with an uncle as a cabin boy
on a ship. He took sick and died at sea. He also spoke of
his mother having twins, that were born dead or died shortly
after. He often said in later years that his own two
daughters, Sarah and Mary, had the same names as his
mother's twins. Joseph's father deserted them before the
twins were born and his father's name was never mentioned in
the household again, and, supposedly, Mary died of a broken
heart. So Joseph grew up under the name of Joseph James,
the name of his grandparents on his mother's side of the
family, who reared him to manhood. They were Benjamin and
Elizabeth Richards James.
His grandfather, Benjamin James, died in the year 1834 at
Somerset England when Joseph was only four. His
grandmother, Elizabeth, remarried to a man by the name of
Barnes. Joseph spoke of him as a very good man. Joseph, as
a young man, had smallpox. He was put in a hospital next to
a man who had erysipelas, which he also contracted. After
recovering from both of these dreaded diseases his face was
left scared quite badly, especially his nose, which he wore
a white bandage over to his dying day. His daughter,
Mary, put a fresh clean bandage on the day of his funeral.
She said the scars weren't as bad as he thought, but due to
this he never had a picture taken of himself.
When Joseph was about twenty years of age he moved with the
family to Cardiff, South Wales. Shortly after arriving
there, he met Elder John Chugg from whom he first heard the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. From that time on he began to
search the scriptures. He investigated the principles of
Mormonism and was soon convinced that they were the
principles of salvation. On Feb.13, 1852 he was baptized
into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by
Elder William Jenkins and confirmed by Elder Joseph
Chambers. He labored faithfully and diligently in his
calling in Whales until the 1st of February , 1854, when he
took passage on the ship "Old Galconder" and sailed for the
United States, taking nine weeks to cross the Atlantic
When the company reached New Orleans they were detained
there to wait for another company of saints who had been
delayed on account of having much sickness and trouble at
sea, taking them thirteen weeks to cross the ocean. This
second company for which they were waiting came on the old
ship "Windemere." This company had been quarantined at St.
Louis on account of an epidemic of cholera, causing further
delay. These two companies were to travel together across
the plains. Their provisions were to be hauled by ox team
and the people were to walk. Joseph, who was traveling
alone was assigned to travel with the Holyoak family.
wife of Joseph James, was born August 4,1835, in Yardly,
Warwickshire, England to George and Sarah Green Holyoak.
Her parents were members of the church and so were all of
their children, eight in number, Sarah being their sixth
child. Except for the fifth child, Daniel Holyoak, who died
and was buried in England, the remainder of the family
emigrated to Utah. She was baptized a member of the Latter
Day Saint church January 7th, 1848, by Elder Thomas Trusteen
and confirmed by John Taylor. The Holyoak family lived in
what was called "Rose Cottage" in Yardly Wood a suburb of
Birmingham. Climbing roses covered most of the house. The
yard was full of beautiful flowers and the grass was green
almost all year. From this lovely home and beautiful
surroundings the children inherited a love for flowers and
beauty. They were also taught to be industrious and
Sarah had three brothers and three sisters; William, born
April 12, 1825 in Yardly, Warwickshire, England; Mary, born
March 25, 1827, in Solihull; George, born September 1, 1829;
Ann christened February 3, 1832, in Yardly; Daniel Eli,
christened April 27, 1834, in Yardly; Henry, born March
5,1839 in Yardly; and Hannah, born March 25,1841 in Yardly.
They kept an open house for the elders and their home was
also a regular meeting place for all the saints in their
locality for years prior to their leaving England in 1854.
They left Liverpool, England February 17th, 1854 on the ship
"Windemere" with a company under the leadership of Elder
Carnes. They had a very rough, tedious and sometimes
dangerous voyage. The ship, an old sailing vessel, was not
in the best condition, and at times would spring a leak and
all who were able would have to dip water to save their
lives. When they arrived at the Irish Channel one old
gentleman died and was wrapped and sewed in a blanket and
slid into a watery grave; but since he was one of the church
members, a short funeral service was held. Although Sarah
was quite young this scene was impressed upon her memory.
After this there were storms at sea; the waves seemed to
rise mountains high and the ship seemed like it would be
swept away. It tore down the rigging and split the sails to
ribbons. During a storm a fire broke out, which
stove so badly that they were unable to do any cooking.
They had some dirt on board the vessel which they made into
a mound, built a fire on it, then laid some old pieces of
iron on top of it on which to cook and were compelled to
cook in this way the remainder of the trip.
conditions traveling on the sea was very slow. Their
provisions grew short and they had to put out signals of
distress and got some assistance, although they found other
vessels who were not able to assist as they were in about
the same condition on account of the storm.
broke out at this time and eleven died from this dreaded
disease and were buried at sea. The captain became very
discouraged and gave up all hopes of ever landing.
They held a
special prayer on the ship and the storm ceased, which
brought new hope and all the members of the company got
busy, making wagon covers and tents for their journey across
the plains. They were thirteen weeks crossing the ocean.
arrived at New Orleans, Sarah remembers her father gathering
up their family and taking them out to get a breakfast which
certainly was a treat. They thought they could now go out
and get their food but when they returned to the ship they
found five men on board stealing their carpet bags and
baskets and clothing. After these men were ejected from the
ship, the ship was tugged back into the ocean and remained
there until they could get a steamer to take them up the
Mississippi river. They were not allowed to land at St.
Louis but were sent to Branshire Island because a false
report had been circulated they had cholera aboard. This
rumor no doubt was caused by the fact that they were near
an old ship which had passengers with cholera and a number
of them had died.
sister, Mary Knowles, died while here from an injury
received before leaving England. She left a husband and two
small children, a boy five and a girl three. They obtained
another steamer to take them up the Missouri River to where
they were to land. They arrived after nine weeks of a hard
perilous trip‑‑some tired, sick and hungry. Here a young
women, whose parents had died, and who had been given to her
father, died and was buried in the hollow of a tree which
they covered with dirt‑‑the tree served for a coffin.
preparations had to be made for crossing the plains: wagon
covers and tents to be completed, provisions gotten, wagons
and wild Texas cows and steers had to be utilized with
green, ignorant English drivers, unaccustomed to handling
either cattle or wagons. With the assistance of some Texans
they were able to hitch them up but it can hardly be
imagined how they traveled. Wagons were capsized at times
and women and girls who were able, had to assist in holding
the oxen, etc.
the plains many walked nearly all the way‑‑(only while
crossing deep streams and in case of sickness they rode).
They waded through small streams and many died on the way,
including Sarah's mother and her sister Ann. They died of
mountain fever and were sewed in quilts and put in hastily
dug graves and covered with dirt. This was a very sad
thing to leave their loved ones like this and hurry on. They
were buried in Nebraska just ten days apart, leaving Sarah
the oldest of the girls left, and she had the care of the
family, also of the two motherless children of her sister
Mary. It was a great responsibility for one so young and
About this time her father met a company of men, apostates,
who were on their journey back, had become discouraged and
had forsaken the saints and were returning. They tried to
persuade her father to go back as they claimed they had been
greatly deceived by the elders and found the Mormons a bad
lot; but her father would not listen because he said, "You
men have told me many times it was true and bore your
testimony to me. Now you say it is not. Which shall I
believe? I will not return, I will prove for myself because
I cannot depend upon your word."
JOSEPH and SARAH JAMES. It was on this long trek across
the plains that Joseph became attracted to Sarah. They
suffered all the usual hardships of not having enough food
or water, and having sore feet from walking. They were in
constant fear of Indian attacks. After a long hard journey
for about three months, they arrived in Salt Lake City
September, 1854. They came with the David Jones and Darwin
On Oct. 3, 1854 Joseph James and Sarah Holyoak were married
in a covered wagon, in Salt Lake City, by Elder Philip
Sykes. Sarah's wedding gown was a clean calico dress. Here
they parted with the motherless Holyoak family who had been
called to go south and settle in Parowan, Utah. They were
without anything to start life except a meager supply of
clothing. Joseph walked to Farmington where he obtained a
job. Sarah followed as soon as she could get a ride and
joined him. They both worked for their board and room, with
a family who were keeping a sort of boarding house, which
they kept until the hard part of a severe winter was over.
Then Joseph went North to Ogden to try his luck. He found a
very poor but charitable man by the name of Samuel Sunfield,
a widower, who needed someone to keep house and care for his
two motherless children. Joseph sent for Sarah. She got a
ride with some folks going farther north and when they
forded the Weber River she had such a good feeling come over
her she felt like she had arrived home, or to the promised
land. She was left on Main Street, as it was called then,
not knowing a living soul nor even knowing where to find her
husband. Thomas Jenkins came along and took her and her
possessions in for the night and next day she was reunited
with her husband. They lived with Mr. Sunfield where Sarah
kept house, cooked and cared for the family until that fall
when Mr. Sunfield remarried.
Joseph bought a small lot on Wall Avenue between Grant and
Lincoln. Here he built a one room sod house with a willow
and dirt roof and a dirt floor and an old piece of cloth for
a window. He made a bedstead of poles fastened together
covered crosswise with willows. He worked for enough straw
to fill a tick for a mattress. Joseph carried slats from
Mount Fort and build a door, three stools and a table. They
only had one camp kettle. They had to use it for cooking,
washing and all other household chores. They even loaned
it to the neighbors. Their prize possessions were their ax
and gun. This was Sarah's first home in America and they
lived there until October when they moved to a two-room
adobe house which they had built. It had one light window
in each room.
Sarah bore six of their thirteen children here: Joseph
Henry, October, 22, 1855; William Francis, April 30, 1857;
George Richard, May 4, 1859; Edward Benjamin, December
11,1860; Charles Willard, September 9, 1862; and Sarah
Hannah, September 20, 1864.
The next thing was the terrible event of Johnson's army.
The men were called to go to Echo Canyon to protect the
lives of their families. The ammunition was very scarce,
guns were mostly old flint muskets that were almost
impossible to fire at all. Next came the move south to
Payson, but soon the conflict was closed and the people
returned home again and peace reigned. Surprisingly,
Johnson's army proved a blessing to them instead of a curse
because clothing could be obtained and they now began to
prosper. The women began to learn to spin, make sandles and
soap, braid straw for hats and various other things to
supply their needs.
The year 1861 was a very trying time for this good family.
The hardest thing for them was the death of their baby,
Edward Benjamin, when he was only nine months old. They did
not have enough to eat and suffered from the severe cold.
The children were barefooted and often cried for bread. The
crops were washed away with high water. Joseph rented
another farm and when the crops were ready to harvest the
grasshoppers came and destroyed everything again. This was
a bad winter for everyone.
Joseph assisted with the construction of the first road
through Ogden Canyon; helped dig the first irrigation
canals; battled the troubles with high water and the
When the Ogden tabernacle was being built Joseph made five
thousand adobes by hand and donated them. At this time all
the family had in the house to eat was a little bran
bread. One day while working on the adobes Joseph become
so exhausted from hunger he couldn't go on. He sat down in
the shade of a tree and feel asleep. When he awoke he saw a
very large bird coming down towards him. It came very low
and dropped a fresh ear of corn at his feet. He thought it
was the best food that he had eaten. As he ate the corn a
voice seemed to say "This is a sign that you will never want
for food again." This promise came true. This was a very
marvelous thing as no corn had yet been raised in Utah.
When he returned home Sarah came to meet him to tell him he
could get some flour at Taylor's mill. It was very late at
night when he got home with the flour but Sarah made some
bread and woke up the children to have something to eat.
Sarah was very anxious to go to Salt Lake for semi‑annual
conference. They only had one ox and it was lame so Joseph
thought that it would be impossible for them to make the
trip, but Sarah was determined to try. She worked hard all
summer making hats, spinning yarn and knitting stockings.
She also worked for a man that wove cloth and he gave her
cloth for her pay. Joseph raised broom straw and made the
first brooms by hand in this area. He also worked for
combs. They would trade these things for the things they
needed. By borrowing the neighbors ox which was very lean
they were ready for the trip by the first of October. Their
wagon was slabs put on the running gears for a wagon bed.
Picture in your minds them heading for Salt Lake to
conference in this kind of a wagon with one lean ox and one
lame ox. They took with them all the things they had made
and worked for to trade for things they needed. In
Farmington they traded some combs and brooms for fruit.
Sarah saw to it that every seed and pit was saved. Also
some of the combs they traded in Salt Lake City for dry
goods, unbleached muslin, calico, thread, needles, and
buttons. How thankful they were. The seeds and pits which
they saved proved to be a lasting blessing and benefit to
With these seeds they started an orchard, having a six acre
lot on Wall Avenue between 27‑28th Street, which was the
first and best orchard in Weber county. They obtained from
the mountains, small fruits and vines, strawberries, and
cherries, goose berries, which Joseph cultivated and
grafted, and they bore a large and as good a crop as the
regular berries and grapes. In 1869 the railroad arrived
and soon after they had sale for milk, cream and fruit which
also helped to build up Ogden. Real hard times were over
and they were able to assist others who were in need.
Sarah and Joseph had seven more children after the six that were
born in the one room sod home. Mary Elizabeth, June 17, 1866;
Abinadi, March 28, 1869; Moroni, Feb. 18, 1871; Frederick, Feb.
22, 1873; Heber, Dec. 24, 1874; Hyrum Robert, Feb. 21,1878; and
Harriet, Jan. 14, 1881. Through all their hard times the very
hardest was the death of seven of their precious children.
George Richard died when he was ten years old, Richard Benjamin
was ten months old, Moroni was eight years old, Frederick was
one and a half years old, Robert was sixteen years old and
Harriet the youngest was only four weeks old. Joseph Henry,
William Francis, Charles Willard, Sarah Hannah, Mary Elizabeth
and Moroni all married and raised wonderful families.
They lived all their married life in Ogden except the first
winter when they lived in Farmington. Joseph died November 19,
1893 and Sarah died, October 25, 1916, leaving only two sons and
two daughters to mourn her demise. They were both buried in
the Ogden city cemetery.
This is an account
of Joseph James death, taken from the Millennial Star on
November 24, 1893.
Our ranks are
being thinned out. Elder Joseph James, another of our sturdy
veterans has passed to the spirit world after a useful,
well-spent life. On November, 1893 he was taken sick. His
disease developed into typhoid pneumonia. After severe
suffering he succumbed to the fell destroyer on the 19th
service which was numerously attended was held November 20th,
1893 at the family home. The speakers on the occasion were
Elder Lorin Farr, George G. Bywater, C.F. Middleton, Thomas
Doxey and Bishop Robert McQuarrie. They all spoke of him in
high terms and of commendation of the life and character of the
deceased. The speakers had been acquainted with him for many
years and knew of his honor, truth and fidelity; ever ready to
visit and administer to the sick, to feed the hungry, clothe the
needy and do all that was in his power to relieve their
suffering. His good deeds will live in memory of hundreds who
knew him in life and mourned him in death. On September 7, 1873
he was ordained a member of the Seventy‑Sixth Quorum of
Seventy. On May 1, 1890 he was ordained a High Priest. All
these positions he filled with honor and to the satisfaction of
those to whom he was responsible. He leaves a widow, 5 sons and
2 daughters. He was the father of thirteen children, ten of
whom were sons. He has thirty eight grandchildren.
Joseph Hall, Millennial Star.
NOTE: This account
was written by LaVon Gurr Hansen, who used the following
histories and sketches as source material:
1. An account
compiled by Margaret Gurr Hamblin, a great grand‑daughter of
Joseph and Sarah James, who referenced histories and family
records of a daughter, Mary Elizabeth James and an account by a
granddaughter, Bathsheba James Gurr.
2. A life sketch
of Joseph James by Rodelpha Singleton James a granddaughter
in‑law, and wife of Charles W. James, a grandson.
name Holyoak was derived from a large grove of big oak trees
near Birmingham. These trees were considered to be Holy.