This history was prepared by Amy Orme Vowles, whose ancestors, great grandmother Amy Kirby Orme and grandfather, Samuel Washington Orme were members of the Martin Handcart company.
Amy Kirby was the daughter of John Kirby and Charlotte Reddles and was born in England (likely Burbage, Leicestershire) on January 13, 1804. She had seven sisters and five brothers. She married Samuel Orme of Sileby, Leicestershire in 1823. It seems that they moved around somewhat as their children were born at several different places. The first, Sarah Anne, was born at Lee Lais, England, in January 1824. About the year 1831 Amy with her husband and three small children, emigrated to America and settled in Ohio where her father and mother and several brothers were. It is likely that a number of the Kirby family came to America about this time.
On July 4, 1832, her only son was born. All the people were talking about and celebrating the birthday of the nation. It was suggested that the new boy be named George Washington Orme. The mother said he must have his father’s name so he was named Samuel Washington. This was at a place which she pronounced Menta, but as that is not found in Ohio records, it may have been Mentor or Mantau.
About the year 1833 or 1834, she and her husband decided to return to England. They likely lived for some time at Mt. Sorrel, Leicestershire, as their fifth child was born there April 14, 1835. They later moved to Coalville where the husband was a bookkeeper at the Bidland Rail Road Office.
Her husband died February 10, 1842. She was left with a family of eight children. The oldest girl had very poor health and the only son was not yet ten years of age. It was now quite a struggle for existence. As the name of the town would indicate, coal mining was the main industry. It was decided when Samuel W. was old enough he should be a blacksmith. After serving seven years as an apprentice, he began to earn enough to support the family comfortably. In the meantime, however, she had the sorrow of losing her two youngest children and a few years later a daughter twenty-two years of age. All this was a great grief to her for she was very devoted to her children.
She was a very devout member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, and her husband had
somewhat irritated her by telling her while they were yet in America that their Church was not correct. He had been away from home one night to another town in Ohio and had heard two men preach a new religion and he said they have got the truth. He did not remember the name of the Church. After their return to England, he told Amy prophetically that the day would come when she would hear that religion preached and she must join it. He said that she would have a different feeling than she had ever felt before.
Shortly after her husband’s death, she heard that there would be two strange men preach at Whittick, just about two miles away and she said to some of the children, “Let us go and hear them.” When the meeting ended she told her children, “This is the religion your father heard in America because that feeling has come to me and I know it is true.”
In a short time the whole family applied for baptism. The ordinance was performed by James or John Bowers. They hardly got acquainted with the gospel principles and learned of the wonderful prophet Joseph Smith when they heard of his cruel martyrdom. They were anxious to emigrate to Zion and join the main body of the Church, but it was hard to get means together under the circumstances.
Her second daughter, Eliza, married in 1847 and she and her husband started for Zion February 7, 1849. They wanted one of her girls to go with them so it was decided that Caroline should go. The other two girls and the only son struggled on. Mail came very seldom from one country to the other. When they did finally hear from the daughters in America, they were much shocked to hear that Eliza had died of cholera at Grave, Missouri. She left a small baby girl who was still living January 20, 1851. Her name was Jane Holden Knight.
This was grief indeed to Amy and yet thousands of miles separated that tiny baby from her. Caroline had work in St. Louis and the son-in-law was making his way across the dreary plains. He had to entrust the tiny baby to friends no better situated than himself.
In 1856 Amy, with the son and other two daughters, started for Utah. Many weeks were spent in a sailing vessel between Liverpool and Boston. They journeyed from there to Florence, Nebraska, which was not so bad, but now they had no money. There was no chance of employment and winter would soon be upon them. There had been a hand cart company go to the Valley, but this was a little late to start. However, the Church authorities decided that the only thing they could do was to go on. Under the leadership of Captain Martin, the large company started on. Mostly young men and women from Scotland and England were the ones to make up this company that was
ready to face danger. Happily, they went along with their hand carts. As they got into the mountains it became very cold and progress was very slow. Captain Martin decided that the flour must be budgeted, or they would not have enough. Four ounces of flour a day per person was allowed. That meant one pound of flour per day for the Orme family. As the cold increased many died because of lack of food. Very often it was the ones who at first seemed the strongest. Amy seeing her only wonderful boy weakening and noticing that the men died more often than the women, proposed to the girls that they each cut their own rations of food in order to feed Samuel more. It was done. They were terrified one day to find themselves snowed in on the Sweetwater River in Wyoming. They were unable to move. They were hungry, out of food, and hundreds of miles from supplies.
Deaths were frequent and those left were too weak to dig graves for their comrades. A few oxen that were brought along to haul the heavy luggage began to die. As was said years after in a joking way, two or more men would try to hold the oxen from falling over while the others would hurriedly shoot it. They would then divide the animal up into small pieces and distribute it to the hungry crowd. Everything was eaten except the hair and the horns.
One day from the west came a dark spot moving toward the camp. As they eagerly watched the object, they saw that it was a man leading a horse. On arriving he told them he had killed a big fat buffalo and had put on the horse all the meat he could for them. All got a piece of the meat. Just why that animal had not gone with the rest of his kind to winter range will never be known.
The man was Ephraim Hanks, the advance scout of a relief party sent by Brigham Young to meet them. The news cheered them up. They took on new hope, but several days passed before the toiling rescuers reached them. Finally they reached them. Now they began to move slowly on. Finally they reached Salt Lake City on November 9, 1856. Miraculously, this Orme family, consisting of four adult members, came through this ordeal without losing any of its members or having any frozen limbs, they were one of the few families to do so.