Family: Jackson Russell Wanlass/Sarah Bell (F13)m. 15 Nov 1845
They Came Alone - the history of Jackson Wanlass and Mary Russell
As told by John & Eunice Hutchings (descendants) and edited by Glen Call (descendant).
They Came Alone
(This story is attributed to John Hutchings and his wife, Eunice.)
Edited by Glen Call
Editors Note: John Hutchings was the son of Mary Wanlass in the
story. He is also my great uncle. Mary Wanlass is my Grandmother's
Grandmother, or in other words, my Great Great Grandmother. I am
going to enter the story exactly as I received it, but the reader
should be aware of a few things.
First, the narration says that Sarah Bell, Jackson Russell Wanlass'
first wife and Jane Bell his second wife were sisters. This comes
from the family story reputedly told by Mary Wanlass that when her
father introduced her to her "new mother". She said "That's not my
new mother, that's Aunt Jane." Genealogy research has shown that
they were not sisters. I personally believe that the use of the word
Aunt in this story implies a close personal friend of the family. I
grew up calling a neighbor friend who came from England, Aunt Audrey,
even though she is not a relative. Also, I have discovered that until
the early 1900's it was against the law in England for a man to marry
the sister of his deceased wife.
Second, the story says that Jackson Russell Wanlass was a coal miner
in England. However, the 1851 census says his occupation was lead
miner. The census also shows his father as a lead miner, but his
father was living in Clarghyll, where there is a coal mine today. It
is almost certain that both men were familiar with both coal and lead
mining. The county of Cumberland has been blessed with coal, lead,
iron and other minerals as well.
Also, the names of the children in the story don't match the family
group sheets that I have been given. I have not finished researching
Lastly, the story says that Alston is near the Scottish border.
Cumberland does border Scotland, but relative to the rest of the
county, Alston is not "near" Scotland. But I should concede that
relative to the rest of England, it could be considered "near"
The original text:
They Came Alone
In the little town of Alston, in Cumberland County, England, near the
Scottish Border, lived the Wanlasses and Bells. They were the
progenitors of the Wanlass, Hutchings, Sharp, Mayberry, some of the
Kirkham and Whipple families, The Giles' of Lehi and the Atwood
families of Pleasant Grove.
The family of Jackson Wanlass and Mary Russell, consisted of two boys
and two girls: William, Jackson Russell, Isabella and Ann Russell.
Two other boys died in infancy. They were named William and Ralph.
On 31 May, 1826 after only 14 years of marriage, the wife, Mary
Russell died leaving Jackson with four small children. He later
married Ann White and it was from this union that the Sharp and Long
Jackson Wanlass Sr. and William Bell were both miners by trade, and
each accumulated a nice collection of minerals. They were honest,
hard working, home loving people, and it was in this peaceful
environment the children grew to maturity.
When William (Wanlass) was twenty-two years of age, he married a
beautiful girl by the name of Isabella Bell. They were blessed with
four lovely children, but as each little spirit came into the world
it was only privileged to stay a little while, then were called back
home. The oldest child, a little boy lived to be six, then he too
followed the rest. The mother stricken with grief, passed away two
years later, so William broke up house keeping, and went back to live
with his parents. By this time Jackson (Russell Wanlass) had married
a lovely girl by the name Sarah Bell, and they were blessed with two
children, a boy and a girl. The boy, who was christened William,
after his uncle, passed away at eleven months, and a year later the
mother died living her husband with the only little girl, Mary, age
three, who lived to maturity, and became the wife of William
The Gospel of Jesus Christ was brought to Alston in the early fifty's
and Jackson Wanlass Sr. and William Bell were the first to be
baptized into the L.D.S. church in that vicinity. Immediately the
spirit of gathering to Zion took possession of them and as money was
very hard to get each family member pledged themselves to help each
other financially if they decided to come to the new world. In as
much as William had lost his family, and had no dependents, he
decided to be the first of the family to try his lick in America, so
he left and took up his abode in Richmond, Ray County, Mo. A year or
two after he arrived he helped to finance the trip of his brother
Jackson and Family. Jackson, by this time had married his wife's
older sister, *Jane Bell, and they had been blessed with two
children: Jackson, who grew to manhood and married Julia Phillips,
and Sarah, who married Millen Atwood. This little family, together
with Mary, who was now eight years of age, decided to migrate to
America and join William.
They left Liverpool, England, 18 Nov. 1856 on the sailing vessel,
Columbia. There were 223 Saints in all in the company, and they
traveled under the leadership of J. Williams. The weather was very
bad, as winter had already commenced, and there was a great deal of
sickness and several deaths during the crossing. However they made
the trip in 45 days, landing at Castle Gardens, New York, 1 Jan.
1857. Castle Gardens is what is now known as Battery Park, and it
used to be an old fort.
Mary remembered how cross the customs officers were with them, and
how they threw everything overboard, including their bedding, because
there had been so much sickness on board the vessel.
After a short stay in New York, they took the train to St. Louis
where they were met by William and a half sister, Ellen Wanlass
Sharp, who had moved down from Canada to Missouri. What a time of
gladness and rejoicing. So much news to be caught up on, as to the
condition of father and the rest of the family.
In a few days, through the help of Robert Sharp, Ellen's husband,
Jackson succeeded in obtaining a lease on some ground. He
immediately commenced clearing it for farming. At this time the
question of slavery was at it's height, and there was a great deal of
contention and unrest among the people. It was unwise, and even
unsafe to express one's opinions too openly unless one was fully
prepared to back their statements by force. One day, soon after they
arrived at their new home, Jackson rode his mule into town to get
some groceries. A large crowd were gathered in the public square,
some were shouting, some were cursing, and Jackson decided to see
what it was all about. He hitched his mule to a tree, and walked
into the crowd.
The sight he saw chilled his blood. A negro slave, stripped to the
waist, his hands tied high above his head, and with blood streaming
from a dozen deep gashes, had swooned under the blows and a big
burley white man, with a whip in his hand stood grinning, waiting for
him to revive. All the anger that the man could hold, burst forth,
and Jackson brushed men aside and strode into the ring. With
clenched fist he shouted: "How would you like that?" The crowd was
frozen, silence was supreme for a second and the ship dropped from
the hand that held it. The man was white as death, and stood as if
paralyzed. Then came shouts from the crowd: "Kill Him, string him
up!". But fortunately for Jackson, the crowd was about evenly divided
as to which side they were on.
As the crowd, closed in on him, Jackson felt a heavy hand on his
shoulder, and was jerked around to find himself facing Maj. Sievere
from whom he had leased the farm.. He was white and trembling, for he
realized what Mr. Wanlass had done and how the crowd were responding
to it. However, his quick wit saved the day. He stuck out his hand
and grabbed Jackson's hand and shook it vigorously and said: "How are
you Mr. Wanlass I'm so glad to see you. You must come to my house
and see the folks". No one suspected but what they were old friends
though Maj. Sievere just did this to quell the riot. He himself was
the owner of about fifty slaves and was considered one of the
wealthiest men in the county. Jackson acknowledged the hand of the
Lord in his delivery, because the next morning he learned that an
innocent man had been hung, several people had been hurt, and some
fires had been started by the mob because of Jackson's actions.
Jackson had been a coal miner in England and he found it extremely
difficult to adjust himself to a life on the farm. The ground that
he had been trying to make produce food looked more favorable for
coal to him, so he finally gave way to his impulse and started
digging into the hillside. He had not dug long until he struck coal.
At this time little interest was taken in his find as wood was
plentiful and much cleaner to burn. Also their fireplaces burned the
wood more readily, therefore it became necessary to haul the coal to
the city to sell it. He hauled it by donkey cart, where it sold for
from seven to ten cents a bushel. Mary helped her father by pushing
the little homemade car in and out of the mine. In crawling behind
the car the coal, skinned her knees and to her death her knees were
black from the fine coal dust under the skin.
Shortly before the twins Sam and Annie were born, Jackson mounted Old
Bobby, the mule, and made his usual, Saturday trip into town to
collect for the coal he had sold and to buy same groceries. On the
way home he suffered a stroke which paralyzed his left side and his
speech. He managed to hang on to the faithful old mule, and the
animal finally got him home. The family heard them come, but when
the usual call of "Hello" was not heard, they were frightened. The
unrest was as bad before the Civil War started as after, and they
were afraid it was bushwackers, or renegades. Finally the donkey
brayed and this gave them courage to open the door. Jackson had
fallen from the donkey, and was lying on the ground. They dragged him
into the house. As he could not speak or move, they knew he had
suffered a stroke. It took Mary and her mother months to nurse him
back to partial health but he never was able to do much work again.
The strain and anxiety of all this proved too much for the mother.
She herself took ill, and in spite of all the family could do for
her, she gradually grew worse. She passed away 6th of June, 1862 and
was buried in the Richmond Cemetery.
While she lay dying, the battle of Lexington, Mo. was being fought.
From their little cabin in the woods they could see the shells
bursting and men running. They were so frightened they didn't dare
go for help, and they probably couldn't have found it if they had
Now Mary had to assume the role of mother and housekeeper. What an
enormous responsibility for a girl of fourteen. The twins were four
years of age, a little sister six, her brother nine and a bedridden
father. However, with all this added responsibility, she never lost
sight of the fact that they had left their home and comforts in
England to go to Zion, and up until now, they had gotten only as far
as Missouri. She couldn't forget how her step-mother had pleaded to
go on, and even on her death bad she turned to Mary and said, "Don't
give your father any peace until he goes to the Rocky Mountains". So
she vowed within herself to take the children to the Rockies even if
she had to go alone.
She told her father what she intended to do with such earnestness
that he believed she, meant it. So in spite of the pleadings of Maj.
Sievere, who even offered him half interest in the coal holdings, the
father sold all he had for enough money to buy a wagon, a yoke of
young steers, a yoke of Cows, and a few provisions. Aunt Ellen Sharp
made the children some new clothes, and helped them with their
Finally when all was in readiness, they bade goodbye to their loved
ones and started the journey west. An emigrant train of non-Mormon
settlers going to Oregon to escape the ravages of war, had been made
up at St. Louis, and Jackson made arrangements to go with them as far
as Iowa. Here he expected to join a company of Saints. Soon after
they started, the father suffered another partial stroke of the left
side, which made him entirely bedfast and it was necessary for them
to drop behind until he was able to travel. They were detained for
more than a week. and by the time they were able to continue their
journey, they were so far behind they never did catch up with anyone,
so they pressed on alone. The three small children were placed on
the backs of the oxen, and the nine year old boy acted as co-pilot.
Day after day they trudged through a country overrun by lawless
renegades ? men who had deserted both armies and were foraging for
themselves. They pushed on until the last settlement was left
behind, and nothing but a treeless and trackless wilderness lay
before them. When they reached the Platte River, they should have
crossed, but instead they continued on the west side which,
unknowingly, isolated them from the whites and led them through
They saw Indians every day. Sometimes they were talkative and
friendly, while other times they were sullen and painted with war
paint. On several occasions young warriors would rush upon them,
shout, and wave blankets at the cattle to stampede them, but the
cattle only shook their heads, blinked their eyes and plodded on.
The Indians would laugh and ride away. Many times the cattle would be
driven off in the night, but in the morning they were always found in
a nearby wash, of behind a hill. When they made camp at night, the
Indians would come from every direction and sit around their fire, or
on the wagon tongue. Mary's only fear was that the tongue might break
under their weight, then they would surely be stalled.
The hand of the Lord was manifest in their behalf throughout the
whole journey, but more especially so on several occasions. The
Indians knew her father was bedfast because they would raise the
wagon cover and look in. In poor English they asked if her pappy was
sick. When she nodded, they would ride away, only to return later
with rabbits or wild ducks for her to cook for him.
Whirlwinds are very common on the plains, and one evening, when they
were camped on the banks of the Platte, they encountered an extra
strong one. It picked up Annie, one of the twins, and dropped her in
the middle of the river. The other children screamed, and Mary, who
was getting supper, turned around just in time to see Annie drop.
She immediately plunged in, clothes and all and brought her out.
How, she did not know, because she knew nothing about swimming, and
her brother was busy tending the cattle. Whenever they camped by
water they let the cattle drink as often and as much as they could
because sometimes it was a long time between drinks. The little
black heifer, that helped pull the wagon each day was the one that
supplied the twins with milk, and the only feed she got was what she
could forage at night. After the twins were fed the remainder was
put in a jar, and at the end of the day it was taken out in the form
of butter, thus rough road did the churning.
Along the way they gathered buffalo chips for fuel, and put them in a
sack which hung from the back of the wagon. If wood was plentiful at
the next stop they saved the chips for the campsite where there
wasn't anything to burn. Buffalos were plentiful and several times
they saw great herds. On one occasion a herd came directly toward
them and as they neared the wagon they parted, going on either side.
This made the cattle very nervous and Mary was afraid they would try
to get away from the wagon, but they soon quieted down and stood
while the herd passed.
Days wore on, and so did weeks, with the same anxiety and routine
until finally what first appeared as clouds on the Western horizon
afterward took the from of mountains. Each night they would be a
little closer and the mountains seemed to get higher until finally by
continuous plodding, they reached the foothills.
The wagon by this time showed signs of wear, and the cattle were poor
and tired. The going now was harder than ever because the grade was
steep and rocky. Happily, when the summit was reached, and they
started down the other side, they met the first white man they'd seen
since they left Missouri. The man was Fred Trane, from Lehi, and he
was driving a freight wagon back to Omaha, Nebraska, he told them the
name of the canyon they were in was Echo Canyon, also that he knew
their Uncle William Wanlass in Lehi. He also said the quickest way
to reach Lehi would be to cut across the pass to the head waters of
the Provo river, then follow the river right into the valley. They
did as he suggested, and while the road was very poor and scarcely
used, they cut several days off their journey. Upon reaching the
valley, by still following Mr. Tranes' directions, they soon came to
Lehi and found their Uncle William's place. Words cannot express the
joy and gratitude at the meeting of these two families, and for the
first time in months they slept without fear of the Indians, or their
cattle being stolen in the night.
William's home was located on the corner of First South and First
East, and for a few days they truly enjoyed a well earned rest.
Uncle William helped them to build a little dugout on his property,
and this, together with their wagon, served as living quarters for
the first winter. In the spring they secured a vacant spot on the
corner of Third East and main Street, and with the help of Uncle
William again they built a larger dugout which was to be their home.
It was twelve feet square, and six feed deep. They dug down three
feed below the ground level, and the walls, which were made from the
mod removed from the excavation, extended three feet above the
ground. A pole was placed across the top of the walls in the center,
to hold willows on which was placed mud. A mud fireplace was put in
the west end, and in the sough was a small window, and a door, over
which they hung blankets to keep out the cold.
The father recovered a little, and was able to do a few odd jobs, but
he was not able to speak very plainly, and it was hard for him to
walk. He only lived a year after his arrival. He died 31 Oct. 1864,
and was buried in the present cemetery. At that time the people were
buried in rows and the graves leveled so that the Indians wouldn't
molest them, as a result, no one could ever find his grave.
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