Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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1849 (age 26), Little, James Amasay (Brigham Young's Nephew)

William Little Jr. had three sons, Moses, Malcolm, and James. The latter is the father of James A., the subject of this sketch. William Little Jr., with his sons, emigrated from Ireland April 11, 1807 and arrived in New York City May 18, 1807. About the year 1815 James, the father of James A., married Susan Young, the daughter of John Young Sr. and Nabby Howe Young. She is also the sister of John, Joseph, Phineas H., Brigham, and Lorenzo Dow Young, five brothers who have played a conspicuous part in the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. On their farm, about four miles from Aurelius, Cayuga County, New York, were born to James and Susan Young Little, Edwin Sabriska, Eliza, Feramorz, and James. The latter was named James after his father, but when about twenty years old he worked in a shop where there were so many by the name of James that to distinguish himself from the others he added Amasy to his name and has since been known on the records as James A. Little.

James was born September 14, 1822. The father was killed by his wagon's overturning in 1822 leaving Susan a young widow with three little boys, James (A.) being a babe in arms. Eliza, the only daughter, had died before the father. After the death of her husband Mrs. Little moved to Munden, Monroe County, New York where, in time, she married William B. Stilson.

[Some of] The James A. Little story follows:

I was bound out at an early age to a Mr. Bouton and his wife, who married late in life and who had no children to soften and tone down their characters. They were Presbyterians and very strict. Mr. Bouton was a kind-hearted man, but quick-tempered, and naturally, under the influence of his wife, who was of a melancholy mind and apt to find much fault about trifles. Her reports of my boyish delinquencies resulted in my getting many serious beatings. There was no love manifested by either of them for me, and as I grew up I longed more intensely for someone to love. There was a void in my young heart which there was nothing to fill, and fault-finding and beating caused increasing discontent in my bosom. When about sixteen years old I declared my independence, in the barn, when Mr. Bouton picked up the end of an ox gad to hit me. The first move I made was in self defense. He seemed amazed and desisted. This created a change in our relative positions and relieved me of much abuse. I remained with him another winter and got four more months of schooling. Considering the stringent code of discipline under which they were raised I think they did very well with me. They trained me in strict principles of morality, and through diligence and perseverance I acquired a good education.

In the spring of my seventeenth year I took my belongings on my back and went on foot to see my uncle, Malcolm Little, in Seneca County and my brother, Feramorz, in Genesee County. I hired out to a widow lady, Mrs. Smith. She had two children, Chauncey, and Emeline. I had been acquainted with them for some years. A strong attachment grew between Emeline, and myself, and she favored my suit. Although I was industrious, moral, and fairly well educated, the mother objected to our union as her daughter would inherit a few hundred from her father's estate, and I was penniless. That winter I taught school. I worked for Mrs. Smith the next summer, then again engaged to teach school in the Pine Wood District. The boys had turned the teacher out the previous winter, and I had learned some lessons in my school the previous year also. So when I discovered mutiny among the larger boys I quelled it with a strong hand, and succeeded in gaining the respect of both parents and children.

I went up to visit my brother, Charles Oliphant, at Rochester and saw my first railroad. The cars were then running between that city and Buffalo. I next got a job from Mr. Carter, a long-faced praying Methodist who cheated me out of my seasons" wages amounting to twelve dollars per month. Always after that if I had anything to do with him I thought he would bear watching. The winter of 1842 was a very severe one. I went out into the country where I met a couple of Mormon elders, the first I had seen. They claimed to know President Young, and were on their way to Nauvoo. I took a notion to visit my relatives in Nauvoo, so a friend and I started and made our way to Chicago, with some unusual experiences. From Chicago we traveled on foot to the head of Steamboat Navigation, on the Illinois River. A canal was being constructed between these points. We found a steamer going to St. Louis without cargo, so we went free. I was young and thought I knew more than I do now, after fifty years of study, and experience. Like most people of that time who knew little or nothing of the Mormons, I was much prejudiced against them. There were some on the steamer, and as I remember, I fairly ventilated my prejudices. When I arrived in Nauvoo I was poorly clad, but as the Saints had colonized the place when driven from Missouri I was about on a level with them. My mother, uncles Brigham, Phineas H., Joseph, and Lorenzo D. were there, and many more of my relatives, but all alike were strangers to me, and it was some time before I could sense the relationship. My mother's sister, Aunt Fanny was the last one excepting my mother, whom I had parted with when I was thrown, a waif on public charity.

So far as poverty and sickness were concerned we could not have been worse off, and live. I found my mother in very poor circumstances. Her husband, William B. Stilson, had left home several years before, and had not been heard from. My first effort was to find labor and get something to live on. I applied to the Messers. Laws who were men of considerable business. They set me at very heavy work, breaking hemp. They were to pay me fifty cents per day in cornmeal, and I was to board myself. The weather was very warm, and besides, cornmeal of itself would not sustain a man under such labor. It was about ten o'clock A.M. when I concluded to do the work. I labored until noon, went to mothers for some dinner, and decided not to go back again as such labor would not supply the necessities of life, to say nothing of its comforts.

I recollect seeing my oldest brother, Edwin, but once in Nauvoo. My uncle Lorenzo D. Young, who lived out east of Nauvoo about sixteen miles, came into Nauvoo about this time, and I went home with him. He had been driven out of Missouri, and, like most of the Mormon people, was in indigent circumstances. A part of his family was then sick. It wasn't long before I moved Mother out there, and put up a log cabin near Uncle Lorenzo's. I sought something to do that would better our circumstances, and made a contract with a Mr. Maynard to do a job of work for a good cow, at twelve dollars. I did part of the work, but as it was not pressing, I did not finish at once. [He left Nauvoo, joined the Army, and participated in the Mexican War in Texas before being discharged as a mail clerk.]

I think it was the first day of September, 1848, that I arrived at my brother's in St. Louis. He was still in the grocery business and still keeping a boarding house. I do not think I was very well-fitted for the business, but I worked into it the best I could. Soon after, the Saints were driven from Nauvoo. I heard of their going into the wilderness the winter we lay on Aransas Bay. It appeared, before leaving Nauvoo, Mother married Alonzo Pettingill, and as near as I can learn, left the camp of the Saints when on the march west, and came down to St. Louis to find means of subsistence. There I found them on my arrival from the south. Feramorz and I were prejudiced against the Mormons, and as a consequence, more or less against our relatives who belonged to them. I was a confirmed skeptic so far as the Bible and sectarian religion were concerned. After awhile, as opportunity offered, Father Pettingill and I had some conversations on the doctrines. He found it a little difficult to get along with me.

In February, 1849, Father Pettingill took cold and came down with lung fever. We had the best physicians, and did all we could for him, but in a few days it was evident that his end was approaching. He seemed fully aware of this and I felt a strong desire to know if the principles he had taught me sustained him in his last hours. I sat down by his bed and talked over matters plainly with him. Calm and resigned, he testified that he had the most implicit faith in the principles he had advocated, and his appearance indicated that his words were in accord with the sentiments of his heart. After I had received a testimony of the Gospel, I would have expected that any dying, faithful Latter-day Saint would bear the same testimony as Father Pettingill, but at the time his testimony made a strong impression on me. He passed away, and was buried in a graveyard in St. Louis, without anything to mark the spot where lies the remains of a faithful, good man, my father in the Gospel.

After studying over the subject a little longer, I concluded to be baptized.

As fast as I could understand, I endeavored to conform my life to the principles I had adopted. I do not recall of any special change in myself at once or of receiving any direct testimony of the truth of the Gospel, but there appeared to be a new current of light and truth flowing into my mind. Not long after my baptism, the spirit of gathering began to work on me. My mother was anxious to gather to the mountains, and certainly the way was opening up for her to do so. I had several hundred dollars in our trading concern, and proposed to Feramorz to draw out what was necessary to take Mother and our half-sister, Cornelia, and go into the mountains. There had been, in the few months previous, frequent cases of cholera in the city, and I had an attack that was checked by a timely dose of medicine. As if to drive me out, there was a marked impression on my mind that if I remained I would die of the cholera. I fitted out with a wagon and two yoke of oxen, necessary provisions, and a reasonable amount of money for future expenses. I started for Council Bluffs, in company with John Gray and family, his single brother, Benjamin, and their mother, and John Russell, her son-in-law. Being inexperienced, we all overloaded our teams, and soon had to begin to lighten up by trading things to the people of the country for supplies, or cows that could supply us with milk, and carry themselves. For some money and articles we could part with, I purchased a pair of steers, and two cows. Not being acquainted with the country, instead of taking the usual route up the Missouri River, we struck up the country by Salt River for the Mormon road across Iowa. We encountered much bad road, and experienced great difficulty and fatigue, that we would have avoided had we traveled the usual route.

To the Mountains, 1849
When we struck the road across Iowa to the Bluffs we found many people traveling west, and a fair road. I have no dates of these moves. We left St. Louis quite as soon as the grass began to grow, and we probably arrived at Kanesville about the first of June. There I recollect seeing Uncles Phineas H. and Joseph Young, and their families. I did not visit long but soon crossed the Missouri River and encamped with the others who were gathering to organize for crossing the plains. I perfected my outfit as well as I could under the circumstances. It was a good, average outfit. I think we remained in that camp two or three weeks before we were instructed to move on across the Elk Horn River. Then I was organized in Lorenzo Clark's ten, Enoch Reese's fifty, and Capt. Perkin's hundred.

The first serious difficulties encountered after starting, were stampedes of our cattle. These sometimes occurred when traveling, but more generally while encamped with our cattle in a corral formed by our wagons for safety; they were sudden, unexpected and dangerous. We found the best remedy for night stampedes was to tie up our cattle separately outside our wagons. These stampedes were so dangerous and frequent that they overbalanced our fear of Indians, and the tens were directed to travel and camp by themselves. I think our ten had one stampede after this and the trouble ceased. In the hundred, one or two persons were killed and some injured. Sometimes cattle were seriously damaged. One of my oxen was so seriously injured that I could not work him for some time, which weakened my team. The difficulties that ordinary emigrants passed through in crossing this thousand miles of desert can never be understood except by those who pass through them.

Our ten traveled very quietly together. In it were John Lytle and family, whose eldest daughter I afterward married; the Gray and Rumel families; Thomas Judd and family; a man by the name of Porter and family, and others whose names I do not recall. We encamped on the bench near the mouth of Emigration Canyon the evening of October 16, 1849. We had the first intimation that we were near civilization in the morning when we looked for our cattle and found them in a stray pound. They had wandered for feed and found it in a field of grain. We knew nothing of the probabilities of this. When we camped our cattle were returned to us without expense. We drove into Salt Lake City, which comprised houses enough for a respectable village had they been closer together, but they were scattered over a large area of ground. I had but little recollection of my relatives, as it was several years since I had met them, and my acquaintance with them in Nauvoo was quite limited. There were no familiar faces except those who had crossed the plains with me. Several of Uncle Brigham's families occupied a row of log rooms on one end of which was a large kitchen. I think the adobe house, afterwards known as the "White house on the hill," was enclosed so as to afford some shelter.

I soon found an adobe house of one room in which I located Mother and Cornelia, and called it home. My cattle, necessarily in poor condition, were turned out for the winter on the range about ten miles from the city, north. Like others, I had yet to learn how to live in a country so strange and peculiar. I had been in only a few days when Uncle Brigham sent for me and expressed a wish that I come and work for him, and attend to the business connected with daily wants of his families. At that time gold was more abundant in the country than the necessaries of life. Consequently food and clothing were high. I forgot the wages he offered me, but I told him I considered it too low to live in that country, and sustain my mother. I think I went without wages being agreed upon.

On December 16, 1849, Mother got up a little dinner to which Uncle Brigham was invited, and I was united in marriage to Mary Jane Lytle Our little supply of food and comforts which we had brought across the plains were soon exhausted. Food was scarce and much of the time that winter we lived on shorts, bread and a little tea. I worked early and late for Uncle Brigham, and I sometimes ate at his table which helped to keep up my strength. After a little I obtained a house with two rooms, and I lived in one, and mother in the other. Our housekeeping outfit consisted principally of the following articles: a camp-bake-oven, a teakettle, a pan or two, two earthen plates, two knives and forks, and two cups and saucers. The crockery I paid a high price for. We lived in a log house, and I created a pole bedstead in one of the corners. My father-in-law had been in the drivings of Missouri and Illinois, and had made the exhaustive journey across the plains, and had but little with which to dower his daughter, but I think she brought with her a feather bed. Such marriages were common in those times and probably quite as happy as those in which wealth has formed an important factor. (D.U.P. Files)

Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.