Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Historical Pioneer Biographies

Fanny Fry (Simons)

Born: 1842 Died: 1916

Fanny Fry (Simons)Children's Story: Fanny was sixteen when she left England without her mother in 1859. While pushing her handcart west she had a mishap which had surprising results for the rest of the company.

Biography: © 1994 Deseret Book Company. All rights reserved.

Born: September 6, 1842, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Parents: John James and Ann Toomer Fry
1859: George Rowley Company
Age at time of journey: 16

Fanny left England with her brother, John, and her sister, Sarah. Their father had disappeared at sea and was presumed dead, and their mother remained in England another five years before joining them in Utah. Fanny describes her feelings as her mother helped her pack for the journey:

I could not describe my feelings while these preparations were going on. It seemed that I was in a complete daze or dream from which I expected to awaken and find it all a delusion. My feelings at this time can better be imagined than described. Mother had her photograph picture taken and gave one to each of us, and it was a prize to me, for it was five long years before I saw her again. The three young people safely crossed the ocean on the ship the William Tapscott. Fanny describes one incident:

We had one slight storm lasting only six hours, just strong enough to rock the boat nicely. I remember Jimmie Bond, for he was such a jolly fellow. His wife was lying sick in her berth; he was kneeling at an unlashed trunk when the ship began to rock. It pushed him under the berth and back again in quick succession, and he was singing all the while, "Here we go, there we go again," the trunk following him each time. It was quite laughable to those looking on, but not, I suppose, for Jimmie.

Fanny's brother, John, remained in New York for a short time to work, and Fanny and her sister traveled to Florence, Nebraska. Fanny joined a handcart company while her sister, Sarah, traveled with another company. Well, we started from Florence, Nebraska, on the seventh of June. That memorable day I shall never forget in this life. We traveled three miles the first day. Brother Coltrin pulled the cart in my place, and I walked beside him. He felt so sorry for us because he knew what was before us and we knew nothing of it, he having just made the journey.

There were fifty-eight handcarts, with an average of three to a cart. Our rations when we started was a pint of flour a day, and we had some bacon and soap. These items soon gave out. We had to take a cold water wash for the want of a vessel to warm the water in. And not having soap, we were worse than ever. At the Elk Horn River, my feet were so swollen I could not wear my shoes. Then when the swelling went out, my feet were so sore from the alkali that I never had on a pair of shoes after that for the entire journey.

After a while we recovered our usual spirits and enjoyed ourselves evenings around camp visiting each other, with singing and other amusements. There was one song we would sing which would make the shivers creep over me:

Do they miss me at home? Do they miss me?
It would be an assurance most dear
To know at this moment some loved one
Were saying, "I wish he was here,"
To know that the group near the fireside
Were thinking of me as I roam.
Oh, it would be joy beyond measure
To know that they missed me at home.

I recollect one day the captain put me to a cart with six people's luggage on and only three to pull it-a woman, a lad of sixteen, and I, seventeen-and there was nine days' bread. All grown people were allowed twenty pounds of luggage apiece and their cooking utensils besides. That made quite a load for us. I know it was the hardest day's work I ever remember doing in all my life before or since. We had to pull up quite a long hill, and part of it was steep. In climbing we got behind one of the teams for the oxen to help us, for it was all we could do to keep it moving. Captain Rowley came up and called us lazy, and that I did not consider we were at all.

While pulling this heavy load, I looked and acted strange. The first thing my friend Emmie knew I had fallen under the cart, and before they could stop it, the cart had passed over me, and I lay at the back of it on the ground.

When my companions got to me, I seemed perfectly dead. Emmie could not find any pulse at all, and there was not a soul around. They were, she thought, all ahead, so she stood thinking what to do when Captain Rowley came up to us. "What have you got there, Emmie?" he said. "Oh my, Fanny is dead," she said. It frightened him, so he got off his horse and examined me closely but could not find any life at all. He asked Emmie to stay with me and he would go and stop the company and send a cart back for me, which he did.

When I came to myself, my grave was dug two feet deep, and I was in a tent. The sisters had sewed me up to the waist in my blanket, ready for burial. I opened my eyes and looked at them.

I was weak for some time after. I did not fully recover during the rest of the journey. Through it all I found I had a great many friends in the company.

Soon, the handcart company began running out of food. They made some soup that made everyone ill, and the entire company was in a very desperate condition. They decided to stop and camp until they could obtain more food.

On the morning of the fourth day after camping, one of the brethren related a dream he had that night. He told us that the Church teams would come that day, and just before we could see them we would hear a gun fired and they would come in sight. I think it was in the afternoon that we heard a gun shot, and in a minute the teams came in sight, six in number.

Oh, I will never forget that time, especially the next few minutes; they seem so plain to me even now. I think that some of the faces of the men are stamped on my memory forever. The teams came trotting down the hill. The wagon master decided he would have some fun with us, so he told the boys to shout "Hurrah for Pikes Peak" and then drive on past us. They did so. Oh, how our hearts failed us! We had all got out to the road to meet them and had made an opening in the circle of carts for them to drive in. Men and women threw themselves on the ground, begging for a crust for their last meal. It was a sight that none who witnessed it will ever forget. The wagon master, poor fellow, was melted to tears.

"Boys! he said, "I can't stand this; drive in." They drove in, and then we began to scramble into the wagons. "Stand back, brethren and sisters, until we can get the horses away, and then we will give you all you can eat." The teamster told us when that was gone to come and get more and to eat plenty-that if they had not brought enough they could send to Salt Lake City and get more. We were to have all we could eat, and we did from that time to the end of the journey.

The day we were going over Big Mountain, I was learning to ride horseback, and a nice picture I looked, I can assure you: an old sunbonnet on my head all torn, an old jacket, and my petticoat tattered, and my feet dressed in rags. That was my costume. I was riding in advance of the entire company. I saw a wagon coming towards me; I rode on, and the wagon was passing all right. When about past, I saw some well-dressed ladies sitting in the wagon, and one of them cried, "There goes my sister." The next thing I knew I was in the wagon in my darling sister's arms. Oh the rapture of that moment! It was blessed to me, I will say. Sarah had arrived in Salt Lake City sometime since and got rested, and now Brother and Sister Eddington were coming with her to meet me and the handcart company. They had heard that the company would camp in the canyon that night, and they had come prepared to stay all night with us and fetch some of us. They brought with them a quarter of young beef, half a lamb, pies and cakes that I was to divide among my friends.

Fanny Fry arrived in Salt Lake City, on September 6, 1859. She married John Zundel, and they became the parents of one daughter. After John's death, she married Gustavus Simons, and they had three children. Fanny earned extra income for the family by nursing the sick and weaving carpets. Fanny died December 22, 1916. She is buried in Payson, Utah County, Utah.

Sources: Fanny Fry Simons. Journal, holograph, in possession of her granddaughter, Georgia Hansen, Spanish Fork, Utah.

See also "Journal of Fanny Fry Simons." In An Enduring Legacy, 6:178-212. 12 vols. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1983.

pp. 76-80 I Walked to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers on the Mormon Trail.

Source: I Walked to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers on the Mormon Trail © Susan Arrington Madsen. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. http://deseretbook.com ISBN 0-87579-848-9