Friday, March 11, 2011
Story of Irish Endurance
With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, I thought I'd share a story of endurance from my own Irish ancestry. My ancestress Mary Rennie was born and raised in Ireland. She married James Laird of Scotland, and they were early members of the LDS church. They decided to come to America to join the other members of the church in Utah. They packed up what little they could bring. Mary's treasures were a new suit for James, a beautiful green gown for herself, and a precious baby's layette. Their son, my ancestor Joseph Smith Laird, was only 7 years old at the time of this voyage. They came to America by boat, then began the trek overland. They had joined the ill-fated Willie Handcart Company, which started out too late in the year. One of the jobs James was given during the trek was to help bury the dead. Unfortunately, the going was so slow that rations were very scarce, and one morning James felt unable to carry out this duty. Captain Willie gave James a handful of corn and requested that he eat, then come help bury those who had died during the night. James looked at his family--his wife Mary, oldest son Joseph, and the other children (the youngest of whom was still an infant who was breastfeeding). He knew they were hungry, too, so he gave them the corn and went to help. He recorded in his journal that he was not unbearably hungry for the rest of the journey. At one of the stops along the way, Mary knew she needed to buy a sugar teat for the baby, since her own milk supply had dried up from lack of nutrition. To do this, she traded her precious baby's layette for a sugar teat from a captain's wife at the fort. Treasure #1 of 3 gone. After the ill-fated group arrived in Utah (and surprisingly, all of the family arrived alive), they settled in the valley. Not too long afterward, one of the neighboring farmers decided to go on a mission, but didn't have clothes worthy of such a thing, so the Lairds gave him James' suit that brought from Ireland. They were never repaid. Treasure #2 of 3 gone. As the saints built the Salt Lake Endowment House, the request went out among the members for help getting temple clothes. Mary cut up her beautiful green gown to make temple aprons. Her final treasure brought with her from Ireland was gone. She had sacrificed all of her Earthly treasures, but did so without complaint. More babies were born to the family, but sickness was very unkind in the valley, robbing the Lairds of nearly all of their children. Mary eventually could no longer handle all of the deaths of her children, and her broken heart succumbed to the desire to join them in death. Because of the family's endurance of unthinkable trials, however, a part of Tooele and a part of Box Elder County were settled by their descendants. The LDS population in Utah would not be what it is now without these courageous souls who found their faith in Ireland and followed it to an unknown land, risking, and eventually losing, everything. Their strong Irish blood runs hotly in my veins, and I am grateful for my Irish heritage, not just on March 17th, but every day.