Martha Hamer was born July 1, 1826 in Bolton, Lancashire, England. She was
the daughter of Samuel
Hamer and Jane Thornley. She was
christened in the parish of Bolton le Moors on August 11, 1826.
Martha’s father worked as an engineer, fixing and maintaining
Martha was the oldest daughter in the family. She had a brother, John who was two years old when she was born. The family lived in Bolton, where two more sisters, Nancy and Ellen, and two brothers, James and Samuel were born. In 1835, when Martha was nine years old the family moved to Tottington. Tottington was about four miles north of Bolton. Two more sisters, Jane and Ann, and a brother, another James, were born in Tottington.
In 1838, the British
Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was
opened in the nearby town of Preston. Martha was twelve years
old the year the mission opened. The Hamer family heard the
gospel and were converted. They emigrated to the United States
to join the Saints in late 1840 or early 1841.
The Hamer family appears in the English census in Tottington Mill in 1841. Martha was 14 years old, and working as a stitcher. The record shows:
Saml Hamer, 35, Engineer
The Hamers immigrated to the United
States in February of 1842 on the ship Hope. The
passenger list for the Hope shows:
Samuel Hamer, age 38, origin England, occupation: Miller
The Hope sailed from Liverpool
on 5 February 1842, under Captain Soule. There were 270 LDS
immigrants. The LDS leader was James Burnham. The voyage was
described in several journals: "She got out of dock
on Friday 3rd Feb. and she was towed down the river on
Saturday morning by a steamer about 8 miles and on Sunday
morning we passed the land of Ireland...We saw a number of
fish called porpoises, and on Wednesday 8th we had a strong
head wind, and Thursday 9th it blew a strong gale of
wind...Wednesday the 2 March the same as yesterday. I saw one
flying fish today and one yesterday. Saw a vessel at a great
distance we thought making for England. 30 March Wednesday
morning the steam boat Star arrived and took us
in tow about 9 o'clock in the morning...and took us in tow up
the great Mississippi River and when we got up the river some
distance on Thursday morning the 31 March we came in sight of
a most beautiful country diversified with plantations farm
house, sugar manufactories, and beautiful cottages and wooded
on each side of the river and on 1st April we got to New
Orleans and safe and sound and on the second April we
chartered a steam boat Louisa commanded by
Captain H.C. Cable to St. Louis." (Richard
The company of Saints traveled up the Mississippi and joined
the Saints at Nauvoo. The ship arrived on 1 April 1842.
The History of Joseph Smith records: "About one hundred and
fifty Saints from England, landed in Nauvoo from the steamer
Louisa, and about sixty from the steamer Amaranth."
The Hamers came to Nauvoo, where they lived in a small house on Lot 74, a few blocks from the Nauvoo Temple site, towards the river. Family stories indicate that Martha’s sister, Jane, worked for the Prophet Joseph Smith. Perhaps it was the mother, Jane, who worked there, as little Jane Hamer would have only been six years old at this time. One of the Hamer's next-door neighbors, Sarah Granger Kimball and her seamstress, became concerned about the worn shirts that the men wore when they worked on building the temple. They organized a group of women to sew shirts for the temple workers. This group became the Relief Society.
The Hamer family met a handsome, dark-haired young man at about this time. John Haslam became like one of the family, and went to work with Samuel Hamer doing blacksmithing. The family was saddened when Samuel Hamer died, of “ague and fever” in August 1843. This was most likely malaria due to the damp conditions and mosquitoes near the river. Martha was seventeen when her father died. The family came together during this difficult time to support each other. They were always a close family and stayed together through many trials.
In 1845, nineteen year-old Martha agreed to marry John Haslam. They were married by John’s good friend, Orson Hyde, in St. Louis on March 4, 1845. John and Martha came to Nauvoo to start their marriage in July or August of 1845. This was a difficult time for the Saints as they worked to finish the Nauvoo Temple under increasing persecution. John and Martha were blessed to receive their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple on January 30, 1846. Their first child, Jane Ellen, was born the next month. In February, the Saints began to leave Nauvoo. By July, most of them had left. John and Martha, and their new baby were still in the city in September of 1846, when the mobs decided to drive the remaining few Saints from the city. It must have been a terrifying time for the new mother. John, and two of Martha’s brothers operated cannons during the Battle of Nauvoo, fighting the mob militia. An eye witness records, “Our devoted city was defended by about 150 poor, sickly persecuted Saints, while it was cannonaded by about 1,500 to 2,000 demoniacs, in the shape of men, who had sworn to raze our temple to the ground, to burn the city, to ravish our wives and our daughters, and drive the remainder into the river.” Some of the brave women in Nauvoo were said to have helped gather up cannon balls in their aprons. Other sisters assembled on porches out of range of the guns, listening to every sound of the conflict. One sister wrote, “The anguish and suspense of those dreadful hours can never be told in words. And I will never forget the unflinching faith and courage of that devoted group of women. They never thought of fleeing or turning away.” Church News, 9/14/96. The Saints were forced to surrender and escape across the river, with very few possessions.
The family made their way to Winter Quarters, a journey of 300 miles. The journey across Iowa territory was difficult. “Refugee camps of five to six hundred dispossessed men, women, and children, including those who had been left as too sick to travel, were scattered along two miles of riverbank above Montrose, Iowa. Most people had only blankets or bowers made of brush for shelter and little more than boiled or parched corn to eat. On 9 October, when food was in especially short supply several large flocks of quail flew into camp and landed on the ground and even on tables. Many of them were caught, cooked, and eaten by the hungry Saints. To the faithful it was a sign of God’s mercy...Rescue teams arrived in time to save the Saints from starvation and winter exposure. The poor Saints were dispersed throughout various camps in western Iowa. A handful made it all the way to Winter Quarters.” (Church History in the Fullness of Times)
The family built a one-room
cottage of logs. John used his blacksmithing skills
to help outfit the Saints for their western trek at
Brigham Young’s request. John and Martha’s first son, Joseph, was born in Winter Quarters
in 1848. John and Martha’s brother, Samuel, helped operate a ferry to
help the Saints cross the Missouri River. The Council Bluffs
Ferry, also known as Ferryville,
was opposite the river from Winter Quarters.
The Haslam and Hamer families are found living together in the
1850 census in Pottawattamie County, Iowa:
A second son, Samuel Hamer Haslam, was born in Ferryville in 1851. That year the family decided that it was time to cross the plains to Utah. Martha’s mother, and brothers and sisters prepared to cross with the Orson Pratt company.
Martha had a new baby, a three-year-old son, and a five-year-old daughter to care for as they crossed the plains. Most of the trip was in mud, and then snow. Martha’s sister would recount how difficult it was to walk in their long skirts, “They were always frozen with either snow or mud, as they couldn’t get them dry at night around a campfire. Many nights they were forced to sleep in their wet clothes as they were short of bedding, and all through Wyoming it was snow sixteen inches deep at times and the men pulling handcarts through it.”(John Henry Haslem)John and Martha had the only wagon in the group, so it was used for the sick and little ones. The family nearly starved to death in Wyoming. Martha's daughter, Jane Ellen remembered "walking most of the way across the plains with her mother and four-year-old brother, hand in hand, and caring for another baby brother. She related many faith-promoting stories and said that "only through the help of the Lord were their lives spared." (Gerald B. Haycock, on file at Land and Records Office, Nauvoo)
John Haslam and Martha Hamer Haslam
The Haslam family was
growing. A daughter, Martha Ann, was born in 1852. A son,
Thomas was born in 1855. Elizabeth came next, in 1857. Another
son, Brigham, was born in 1860. He was the
first of Martha’s children to die as a child.
1860 census, Salt Lake City, Utah
A year later, in 1861, William was born. Mary was born two years later, in 1863. Joshua was born in 1865. Finally, Ruth was born in 1867. Martha was the mother of eleven children. She had six sons and five daughters. The last baby, Ruth, was a difficult birth for the forty-one year old Martha. Martha died ten days after the birth of complications due to childbirth, on June 6, 1867. The baby only lived for three months.
Her pictures show a
beautiful, clear-eyed young woman. She raised a righteous
posterity. Her life was one of courage and obedience to gospel
John Haslam, Martha Hamer Haslam, and Mary Ann Kay Haslam