Mary Jane (1840-1923) was the 10th wife
of our William Adams Hickman.
Mary Jane Hetherington Hickman
by Edna Hickman Day
Mary Jane Hetherington Hickman was born in Oswego County, New York, March 20, 1840, a daughter of Joseph and Rachel Hetherington. She was the youngest of four children.
The children lived with their father in the woods, and many times Grandmother entertained us children with tales of how they gathered sugar maple sap in little pails and boiled it in a huge kettle and made it into sugar and how, one day, she burned her mouth because she just couldn't wait until the sugar was ready to eat. When she was a small child her father married again, a widow, Caroline, who had a number of children. The family later moved to Dodge County near Milwaukee.
News of the gold strike in California penetrated into their home and finally her father decided to try his luck in this fascinating and dangerous adventure. In 1852, he started with his family for California. At first the party traveled with three neighbor families who were, also, bent on striking it rich, but, when they crossed the Missouri river and arrived at Winter Quarters they traveled with the Mormon immigrants. Notes which were taken by father at one time say, "Camp divided and part came on. One captain was named Winters," and a further note said, "We all came with emigrants from Garden Grove."
Grandmother at one time bought my cousin and me a notebook in which we were to recount some of her adventures as she told them. Careless and thoughtless child that I was, I let that book get away from me, but, I was only eleven and I never thought of Grandmother passing on. Now I can only recount from memory some of the things she told me.
She said her father died on the plains from cholera and was buried along the trail, and the stepmother, with the three stepchildren, (Harriet had grown up and been left behind in Wisconsin), and her own family journeyed on. 'At one time a huge dust cloud was seen in the distance and the experienced men knew what it was. They hastily formed a ring and drove the cattle inside. The dust storm approached and a dark moving mass emerged; a great rumbling was heard and soon a stampeding mass of buffalo engulfed them.
Grandmother said the people were beset with fear of the Indians and once, when they believed an attack was imminent, her stepmother took the feather beds and placed them on the sides of the wagon, thinking that the arrows of the Indians would not penetrate the feathers. Death that year was rampant among the people. They died by the score with the dread cholera, and it was a common sight to see dead bodies partly dug up and devoured by coyotes. One night they made camp after dark, and although the ground was very uneven they had to make the best of it. In the morning they found they had camped in a graveyard and the unevenness of the ground was due to the hastily made graves where lay loved ones of those who had passed that way. When they arrived at the Platte River they were compelled to swim their animals and float their wagons across.
One boy, by the name of Hunsaker, boasted that he was not afraid of Indians, and that he would kill the first Indian he saw. The older men tried to reason with him, but, he had made his boast and was determined to carry it out; so he killed the first Indian he saw--a squaw. The Indians immediately demanded that the boy be surrendered, and, to save the whole party from annihilation, the wretched fellow had to be sacrificed. He was never seen alive again, but a scouting party found his body tied to a tree. His fingers and toe <p.155> nails had been pulled out, his skin cut in shreds, and pine splinters were stuck in his body and set on fire.
Grandmothers folks came to Bingham Fort, between Ogden and Weber, where they lived in a log cabin all winter. In the spring, the stepmother was determined to push on to California with their friends, but, she did not wish to be bothered with Grandmother and her younger brother, so they were bound out to work for their board and keep, and the party resumed its way. A few days later her brother, Smith, ran away and made his way to California, so Grandmother was left alone, orphaned, a stranger in a strange land.
She often told incidents of how they gathered sego bulbs for food; how she made a ball dress out of a piece of rag carpet, and how she had mountain fever and lay for weeks in an old wagon bed with little care, save from a child of the family, who would bring her a little food and some water in an old wooden butter bowl. The water would soak the salt out of the wood and when she placed the drink to her fevered lips it was like brine to her taste. She also told an interesting story of how some men skinned the horses of a dead Indian Chief, and were compelled to sew the skins back on the horses.
The woman, with whom she was staying, was ill and Grandmother was left alone with her. A couple of Indian bucks came to the door and asked for food. The family was short on rations and did not have any food to give, so Grandmother told the Indians to go away, but upon learning there was no one in the house except a child and a sick woman, they brushed her aside and came in to rummage in the cupboard. Grandmother had heard that if she displayed no fear of the Indians they would not hurt her, so seizing the broom she turned on the Indians and began to beat them. Now, according to the rule these two Indians should have turned and fled, and that was what Grandmother confidently expected them to do; but, instead one seized her by her arms and shook her until her teeth rattled, and shoved her into a corner; when they proceeded to finish their plundering, Grandmother always laughed the heartiest of any one in the group when she told how frightened she really was for she thought her end had surely come.
Grandmother was married when about eighteen years of age to William Adams Hickman in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. She first lived in West Jordan and two sons were born to her, Hyrum Smith, who was later killed in a mine, and my father, J. B. Hickman. Afterwards, they lived at Camp Floyd where the soldiers were encamped. Her marriage was not a happy one, and she left my Grandfather and went to live in Stockton, Utah. This was a mining camp and there were only thirty families there, although there were many miners who did not have families. This gave her the idea of running a boarding house, but, before she could start such an enterprise, she must have means; so, pluckily, she went to work over a <p.156> wash tub to get her start. Although she was strong, she tells of how her arms ached so that she could hardly sleep from washing the flannel shirts worn by the miners. While her days were mostly occupied with washing; oftentimes, her nights were spent at the bedside of the sick, for she had a natural aptitude for nursing and the doctor was many miles away. He charged such an enormous price per trip, people soon began to say instead, "Run for Jane, or Aunt Jane." She never charged a cent for her ministrations and often she left her clothes in the water while she wiped the suds from her arms and ran to help out in an emergency. Her funds grew slowly, but she made enough to buy a house. It was quite a wonderful house made of adobes, the roof covered with mountain rush and topped with dirt, and no princess ever reigned over a palace more graciously than Grandmother graced that home before General Connor, claiming that he owned the title to the land upon which the house was built, compelled her to pay for it over again.
Meanwhile, her boys were growing up and there were other children needing scholastic attention, so Grandmother together with a storekeeper, James G. Brown, started the first school in an old store building. When Grandmother had procured the means to start her boarding house she did so, and she was very successful because she fed and mothered the miners as if they had been her own children. She would have grown wealthy had it not been for the fact that she fed all the hungry whether they had the money to pay or not. Several young women from Tooele worked for her, one of them being Libby McKellar Russell.
At one time, as an example of her motherly qualities and kindness, Dr. Emil B. Isgreen, then a boy of sixteen years, had been working in Tooele. It was a terribly cold winter night and when he arrived at Stockton he was nearly frozen. He had no money and could not possibly have made it to Tooele; so he stopped at "Aunt Jane's." She took him in, fed him and gave him dry clothes and let him stay there until he was able to go home. The Doctor still talks of her kindness and particularly remembers her delicious pumpkin pie. He always said that she saved his life; and, at one time just before her death, he called on her and brought her a box of candy and she jokingly said to him, "Why did you do this?" He said, "Just to try to partly repay you for that wonderful pumpkin pie you gave me one time." On many occasions she gave flour, potatoes and other necessities to the needy.
One day, after Grandmother's baby boy had grown up and married, a friend happened to see an item in the newspaper stating that a man by the name of Smith Hetherington had been killed while carrying dynamite up a mountain side. Noting the similarity, Grandmother was convinced that it was her brother, whom she had not heard from since he was fourteen years of age. She communicated <p.157> with the postmaster of the city where he had lived and got in touch with the widow and family. Shortly after she made a trip to California to visit with them.
After she gave up the hotel business, Grandmother went out nursing. She acted as midwife and practical nurse for many years working in Stockton, Ophir and Mercur, as well as Tooele. Many times she rode a work horse for miles in all kinds of weather. She worked in homes where the dread diseases of diphtheria and smallpox were raging and sometimes all the members of the family would be ill at one time, but she never left them until they were all well.
During all these years, Grandmother had never heard from her sister left in Wisconsin, but, again, a friend brought a newspaper clipping to her, advertising for one Mary Jane Hetherington and by this means her sister traced her. It seems that some Mormon missionaries had called at the sister's home and she had enlisted their aid in finding her baby sister. They were united after fifty years. Grandmother made a trip to Wisconsin to visit with her and relatives and stayed three months.
Grandmother spent the remaining years of her life in Tooele; but, her friends in Stockton never forgot her; and, on her 75th birthday they gave her a surprise party and all the town turned out. She was always industrious and spent much time piecing quilts and tending her lovely flower garden. One day while working in her garden, and in the act of returning the hoe to the shed, she fell and broke her hip. She never recovered from the accident and passed away May 29, 1923 at the age of 83 years.
Although, not an extremely religious woman, her entire life was the essence of the true spirit of religion. She lived the principle of her brother's keeper, giving charity to all with no thought of reward. Truly the words of the Savior, "Inasmuch as you do it unto the least of these, my children, you do it unto me," was applicable to her life. She was a true pioneer and the hardships she endured only tended to develop her character until she developed into a woman beloved by all with whom she came in contact.
--Kate B. Carter, ed., Treasures of Pioneer History,
Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Vol. 3, 1954, pp. 153-157
Fall Causes Death of Tooele Octogenarian
(Special to the News.)
TOOELE, May 30.--Mrs. Jane Heatherton Hickman, 83, died Tuesday at the home of her son, James B. Hickman in this city. Sunday morning while in her flower garden Mrs. Hickman's ankle turned and she stumbled and fell breaking her leg. Monday morning a specialist from Salt Lake together with local physicians set the bone, but due to old age she was unable to survive.
Mrs. Hickman was born in Oswego county, New York, March 20, 1840. She with her father and their own company traveled the pioneer trail westward. Her father, Joseph Heatherton died at Elk Horn, Lake Flat near the Mississippi river. Mrs. Hickman had two brothers who went on to California but both are now dead.
Mrs. Hickman has been a resident of Tooele county for the past 50 years, moving to Stockton in 1873, she engaged in the hotel business and was known among her associates as "Aunt Jane." Mrs. Hickman was the mother of two sons, Hyrum S. Hickman, who was killed in an Ophir mine and James B. Hickman of Tooele. Twenty years ago Mrs. Hickman moved to Tooele with her son and has made her home here since.
Funeral services will be held in the South ward chapel Thursday, May 31, at 2 p.m.
--Deseret News 30 May 1923
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