Ellen Parker (Wife of James Done) A Pioneer History

jansnow

Woodland Hills, United States

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Artist's Description

Ellen came to Utah in 1856 and was a pioneer of a handcart company. She was born in England. Working in a silk factory in England, she and her father and family members saved their money to come to America. Ellen’s father died just before the trip began, her mother Esther, two mall daughters Ellen and Priscilla, and a step-daughter Caroline began their journey when Ellen was 9 years old.

They left for England in March of 1856 and were at sea for nine weeks. After arriving in Boston they took a train to Iowa. For three weeks there was a delay while a handcart was being made for them to travel across country. This delay would place them in the Emigration Canyon mountains for three weeks in freezing weather. Looking over the land they traveled Ellen began to cry. The grain was still scarce and they had to use squash in their bread as a flour substitute. This did not seem like the “Land of Zion” to her.

Many were the nights that the Indians danced and war hooped around the small groups camp and sometimes the pioneers were killed when they tried to protect family members. One day they pulled their handcarts over a rise and saw two tribes of Indians warring on the flats. There were over 700 of them fighting. Three Indians came and smoked the peace pipe with the handcart company and said they would be protected from danger. The company Captain said later that he was still uncomfortable about the situation and had them bake enough pancakes in the morning to last them through the following day and night so they wouldn’t have to stop to make a cook fire.

Esther pushed a handcart clear across the plains. One evening she noticed the cart was pulling so heavy she could hardly manage it. If anything the cart should have been lighter because she noticed little Ellen was not resting inside! Frantically she hunted for her for over an hour and finally found Ellen curled up asleep in the road!

With the continual walking and pulling of the handcart their shoes began to deteriorate giving hardly any protection to the bottoms of their feet. Ellen, nine years old, came across a large bed of prickly-pears, so she took of her slat bonnet and that of her little sister’s and tied them around her feet, she proceeded to carry her sister, three years old) across the wide patch.

Hardships were many. Upon leaving England this company was 700 strong and arriving in Salt Lake city there were less than 200 who could barely move. The men had to stand guard all night then travel all day with very little food. One dreadfully cold morning they buried 15 souls in one grave topped with rocks so the wolves wouldn’t dessicrate the grave.

Ellen married James Done July 14, 1863. She was sixteen years old. Ellen always had good taste in choosing and making clothing, always applying her own handwork for the special touches. Some women felt these things were too fancy for the West, but Ellen felt if she could make them, she was entitled to do so. Her children would go out and glean wheat, but also find nice long wheat straws to do fancy work for others, or for trade of something she could use to make into something special. Crocheting and embroidery were considered too special and fancy for western people to indulge in but Ellen had hers anyway! She was a fastidious woman in every way and always took special care of herself, her family and her home. She taught herself to read, and had beautiful penmanship.

After her husband James died she went out nursing, mostly in Salt Lake City and worked with the doctors there. She supported herself and her children in this way. In her final years she lived with her daughte,r Maude Dudley in Salt Lake City. Ellen had a stroke and died November 8, 1932. Ellen worked hard all her life, but she always kept herself looking beautiful, just like the lovely ladies you would see in pictures hanging on the wall in a beautiful frame.

I honor you at this time dear Great-Great-Grandmother for the wonderfully rich heritage I have been blessed with by you and our other ancestors.

Artwork Comments

  • Judi Taylor
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  • jansnow
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