Question: Who was James Faulkner and what tremendous heartache did his family endure on their trek to the Salt Lake Valley?
Answer: James Faulkner was born in 1801 in Meagher’s Grant, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, the son of Edward Faulkner and Margaret Nelson. About 1838 he married Mary Ann Dunbrack who was born in 1818. By 1854, they were the parents of seven children, Rebecca, Stephen, Eliza, Edward, James, Burke, and John.
They were married for about sixteen years when two Mormon missionaries, teaching the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, came to that section of Canada. The Faulkners and some of their neighbors and relatives accepted these teachings, and early in 1855, James and Mary were baptized. They immediately made preparations to leave their home and join the main body of the saints who were gathering in the western United States, a distance of about 4000 miles.
They left Canada May 1, 1855 and journeyed to the Missouri River where the Church had provided an outfitting place for the emigrants. They departed from Mormon Grove, Kansas in the Jacob Secrist/Noah Guymon Company and headed to the Salt Lake Valley. There were 368 individuals and 58 wagons in the company. Jacob F. Secrist died on July 2 and Noah T. Guymon became captain of the company.
Trail excerpts from a letter James Faulkner wrote in 1856: “The second day after leaving St. Louis, our little son James (age 8) was taken sick with an affection of the bowels and died on the 29th of May with cholera and was buried on the banks of the Missouri River. What a trial to his dear Mother. We then freighted on that river to join our company which was at a place called the ‘Mormon Grove.’ We camped there to fit out, four pair of oxen, two wagons, 1200 weight of flour, 150 pounds of bacon. Cost of the oxen from $80 to $100 a pair, wagons $85 a piece. Sugar, tea, apples, buckets and tubs and other necessaries. With these we set out on the 11th of June.
“At this time the children all had the measles. At this place you might look around in every direction, not a bush to interrupt the sight, but the wide open prairie, wet grass in some places up to your middle. We traveled through this wild extended country till we came to a stream called the “Big Blue.’ Here we lost little John (age 2) on June 27th. My wife, Mary Ann (age 37), died July 5th, on a stream called the Little Blue 200 miles from the Missouri River. My son Stephen (age 14) died July 7th, little Burke (age 4) died July 9th, and my sister Nancy died July 10. Her son, Stephen Walsh (age 17), had died on June 29. Little Burke was buried by Nancy’s side on the Platte River. The tears are falling on the paper. So you see I am a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief…
“We started out early every morning and on the 7th of September I was sitting in the front of my wagon passing around a mountain when the first thing that caught my eye was the appearance of the Great Salt Lake. It appeared like a great sheet of glass just as the sun was setting.
“I must come to a close. How do you think I must have felt after leaving my beloved companion and our dear little boys behind. But I rejoice knowing that they died for the Gospel sake. Edward and Eliza are going to school. I want you to be careful how you lift your voices against these people… I am fond of this people and I trust that I may never leave them.’
As they neared Fort Bridger, James Faulkner became ill with mountain fever and his children feared he too would be taken from them. But he recovered from the disease and continued the journey to the valley where they arrived September 12, 1855. The family remained in Salt Lake City during the winter but in the spring of 1856 they moved to American Fork. In the fall, after moving to American Fork, his daughter Rebecca, who was just 17 years of age, was married to John Joseph Peters, a Scotish convert to the Church. After giving birth to her second child, she died on September 22, 1860.
Pioneer Memorial Cemetery, American Fork, Utah
James died December 12, 1862, age 61, and was buried in the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery in American Fork, Utah. He left only two children–his daughter Eliza, who was married to James Welsh, and a son Edward. Edward died February 20, 1868 (age 22 and unmarried), so there was no one left to carry on the family name, but the children of his two daughters have many descendants.
Source: Excerpts from the life story of James Faulkner written by Relva Booth Ross, Family Search.org; FindAGrave; Excerpts from a letter written by James Faulkner, March 1,1856, Great Salt Lake City [Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel].