Minerva (1828-1918) was the 3rd wife
of our William Adams Hickman
Collected by Mary Ella Hickman Kohlhepp
My parents, Moses and Sally M. Wade were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Ephrem White in Farmersville, Cattaraugus County, New York, just sixty miles from the Hill Cumorah, in the year 1837. I was just eight years old, having been born at this place Sept 2, 1828. In August 1841 we emigrated to Nauvoo and settled down in Hancock County, Illinois. Father bought a farm and we remained on it until 1845. A branch of the Church was organized. Brother Samuel Snider was appointed President. In the fall of 1845 we had to flee for safety, and were driven into the city of Nauvoo by a mob. It was a very distressing time, and also my sister Sara Maria and her husband left. My grandmother died four days later and was buried in the city of Nauvoo, on the lot belonging to Brother Jacob Gates, by the side of his mother, who had died a few days previous. I have always felt that her days were shortened by the mob driving us, or her out into the night, for that is when we had to travel, as in the daylight we would be targets for the mob. Consequently she died a martyr for her religion and the Church and Kingdom. In April 1846 we gathered together what we could find of our belongings that the mob had left us and started to the Rocky Mountains with the Church. We made our way across the Iowa Territory from the Mississippi to the Missouri River. Here my pen fails to write the description of the sufferings of the Saints. The snow, rain and mud with scanty provisions and weak teams seemed to make it harder if possible, but we were all cheerful, though a motley crowd. After toiling all day in the mud and water the boys would have to night herd, while the old folks and girls would try to make things cheerful for the men and boys. Sundays we would lay over when we could find a camping place, and hold meetings. I do not remember having heard a murmur or complaint because of our poverty and hardships. We were all working with a will to get westward, where we could live our religion in peace. About this time, or soon after we crossed the Missouri River. Then came the call for the Mormon Battalion to go to California, or rather Mexico, and fight the Mexicans. The call was obeyed by my brother who enlisted. Father told Mother that it would not do for Edward to go alone, with his poor health, and him only seventeen. So it was decided that Father was to go too. And from what I have been told, Father stood the journey better than my brother, despite his seventy years. Father cared for the sick boy and did not give him the poisonous drugs that the doctor was compelling the soldiers to take. My father, being a doctor himself, understood the medicine, and did not give the poison to the boys. Many of these boys got well, but others fell by the wayside. Some were left at Pueblo and other points of the journey. The able bodied men went on the California, to the end of the journey. My father and brother were with them and were honorably released one year from the time they enlisted, which was the 16th of July 1846. They worked to get means to come to Utah, but on their way they met the express that President Brigham had sent to tell them that they had best not come to the valley unless they had enough provisions to last until they could raise something to eat, for if they did they might starve to death. So my brother Edward let Father have all of the outfit that he could spare, keeping just enough to last him on his return to the settlements of California. Taking horses, mules, and all, Father started for the valley. Some of the company had their provisions packed on wild mules and when they came near where there were wild horses, the mules stampeded and went with their provisions. Father and others of the company divided with these men to keep them from starving, so that when he came to the valley there was no food left. He would sell a horse for a quarter of beef when he could. Sometimes he would go up in the mountains and cut small trees and make brooms of them. In the spring he got some broom corn seed and planted it. It grew nice and then he started to make brooms that were better. It was hard work for everyone to live. There was nothing to buy or sell and all were alike. After Father and Edward left, Mother and I were having our troubles, which ended in Mother's death. There were three companies being made up to go ahead to the valleys of the mountains. Bishop Miller and Brother Emmett were the leaders of the two companies. Brother Emmett had been on this side of the river since Brother Joseph was killed. Brother Emmett was like a lost sheep and did not know where to go, so he stayed with the Indians and lived as best he could with his family until the move from Nauvoo, when he fell in with Bishop Miller's company and traveled with them until spring, when all the companies broke up and went for themselves; this was in 1847. Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball each had a company. I was in Brigham's company, and in Brother Brigham's ten. Father had crossed the Missouri in Brigham's fifty. I could not go on with Brother Brigham's company so had to stay at an Indian school and come on with a later company in 1849. My first awakening to new responsibility was after Mother died. This was done by Martha Bingham, a girl younger than myself. It was when a neighbor woman died and there was none to wash or lay her out. Women far older than we trembled at the sight of death and shrank back saying, "Oh who can take care of her, who can take care of her?" Then Martha touched my arm, "We can take care of her, Minerva, I helped lay out my mother." And the job was gladly turned over to us. From that time on, we were both called on to take care of the dead and dying. On the border of the frontier it was our place to care for death's victims.
She told her story many times to her children, and her daughter Ella quotes from her mother's history more, from the time her Father and brother, Moses and Edward Wade, had left in the Mormon Battalion: The Battalion has been gone two months and now we are moving to Council Bluffs. Big Elk, chief of the Omaha tribe has given us permission to camp there two or three years if we desire. Council Bluffs was first called Kanesville after General Kane. Shortly after our arrival there was a prairie fire. Mother's health was continually failing, and as I raced up and down the steps to the water to help put out the fire I would hear my mother's voice, "Oh Lord, preserve my child, and give her strength to carry water and help put out this terrible fire." We put it out at last by soaking the grass around us and setting a back fire. Mrs. Danes, who is also an invalid, prepared a roll of bread to go under one arm, and a baby rolled in a blanket to go under the other arm and planned to run through the flames if the worst came to the worst. We were thankful to get it stopped, with only the loss of one wagon.
Council Bluffs, Oct 13, 1848. My mother died today. I had to wash and dress her, most of the women were ill. I am alone now, the only one left of the family of six Mormons who left New York together. I would like to go back, but always I hear my dear mother's dying words, "Minerva, promise me that you will go on with the Saints, that is the only thing I ask. Promise me--then I can die in peace. It is the only thing Granny would ask. Promise me, Minerva!" For a moment I almost hated the religion that had robbed me of my grandmother, my father, my brother, and now my mother. I bowed my head, could not answer. "Minerva, promise me----I----must----hear you----" I looked into her earnest waiting eyes, and would have been glad to die just to make her a little happy. "Yes mother, I promise you that I will go with them, and that I will stay with them as long as I live." That was the end, except that the pleased smile stayed on her face. With those who live in camps in the wilderness there is no keeping the dead for days; they are immediately buried. Not only did I have to prepare my mother for burial, I had to dig her grave. As I worked to prepare her resting place, strange thoughts came to me. I had joined this church in childhood and from the day my father had embraced it there had been bitterness, hardships, and sorrow. My grandmother had died for it. My mother had paid the forfeit of her life as a tribute to it. I wondered why it should be required that I go on instead of returning as my sisters had done. But as I worked all the bitterness seemed to leave me. I lifted my head, and I knew that I too loved this religion as my parents had, and as my grandmother, and that I too would gladly give my life for it. Before I had finished my task of digging in the hard frozen ground, several wagon loads of new converts from the east drove up. A man in the first wagon jumped out and came to my aid. "Who are you digging this for?" he asked. "My mother." "Poor child! Poor child!" was all he said, but he helped to make the burial of my mother a memory of sadness mingled with the flavor of human kindness. After mother's death I took care of Mrs. Danes, who had never been able to get around after the fire. Her husband had gone to Missouri to work and earn something to live on--and that he might have enough so that they could go on with the pioneers the next spring. We left a man to do the chores, but he soon left and I have had all the work to do. My Father left plenty of food for my mother and I, but one cannot eat food with others going hungry. It belonged to the camp as long as it lasted. It has long since been gone and our victuals are of such poor quality that I have scurvy so bad the flesh has rotted off my feet and ankles. I have no shoes to wear, and it is so cold I have to wrap my feet in rags when I go out in the snow to cut and carry wood. Mrs. Danes is continually growing worse, and unless it is possible to get better food for her I fear she will soon pass on.
Feb. 1849. Mrs. Danes died. Sickness fills our camp. Martha Lewis, a girl younger than myself stepped up to me, "Come on Minerva, you and I can dress her and lay her out."
"Yes, Martha, we can do it."
Martha later married Sanford Bingham. And I married May 1st, 1849 to William Adams Hickman, the man who helped to dig my mother's grave. I am not his first wife, but in order to keep my promise to my mother I feel that it is what I am meant to do. From the day Mrs. Danes was buried Martha and I have had to take care of all the dead and the dying. I was seventeen when I went on with the pioneers, to fulfill my promise. I walked most of the way across the plains, and often at night had only a handful of grass for stew for my evening meal. My grandmother's teachings, and my own experiences were of great help in the wilderness of the West. I was called on to make men's clothing and women's dresses before ever sewing machines existed. Life was a continual lesson in thrift and want. When I was thirty-five I was left a widow, and with six children moved to a little settlement north of Ogden, known as North Ogden. There my brother Edward had obtained land at Pleasant View from his Captain Brown, of the Mormon Battalion. For years I was the only doctor in the community. Not the kind of doctor with a title and a degree, but a midwife, who wrestled for life, and then worked to preserve it. My degree was torn from the hard school of necessity and experience, and a term of nursing in the first hospital in Salt Lake City. I joined the S.L.C. Board of Health in the year 1851. My pay for nursing a mother through confinement, cooking, washing and caring for the family for ten days or more, was at first only three dollars, yet there were men who envied me that, for they could not do as well. Sometimes at the end of a long day of strenuous labor I would be given a little cup of molasses to take home to my children. There was no employment or income for those pioneers, except what they dug from the soil in produce--so that was often my pay. I was thankful to be able to provide for my family, although it was hard to leave them alone so much of the time. When the railroad finally came through my two sons got work. The railroad brought unheard of luxuries to us in our destitution. I had one of the first sewing machines in our town, and one of the first two-story houses. I made most of the adobies myself. At last all of my children married off except Mary Ella, my baby girl. Ella, as we call her, was fifteen when I had an opportunity to go to work at Fort Hall, in Idaho, where I was called Dr. Wade. It was easier work, and better pay than I had ever had before. I sent Ella to the Sacred Heart Academy in Ogden, and rode away with my heart empty. I rode alone on horseback to Fort Hall before the railroad came through Pocatello, and before there was a town there. I did not fear the Indians. It was terribly lonely. I missed Ella so much, she was born after my widowhood, and of all my children seemed to be just a little more mine, for I have been both father and mother to her. Besides, she is my baby. Minerva Wade Hickman lived to be ninety-one years old, she died in North Ogden January 23, 1918, having lived alone thirty-five years, except when her children or granddaughters were visiting her. This history was copied, and written from her records by her daughter Ella Hickman Kohlhepp.
--University of Utah, Marriott Library Special Collections,
Ms. 584, Hope Hilton Papers, Box 2 Folder 2.
To learn more about Mary Ella, Minerva, and the Wade Family, click here. To see Moses Wade's 1830 Book of Mormon, click here. To learn about William Adams Hickman and his families, click here. To learn about Hope Hilton's Papers at the University of Utah, click here. To return to the Hickman Family index page, click here.