HISTORY OF SARAH VAN WAGONER ** WIFE OF JOHN BOYLSTON FAIRBANKS
Sarah Van Wagoner was born at Wanaque, Pompton Township, Berger County, (now Passaic
County), New Jersey, the 11th of July 1822. She was the third daughter and
youngest child of Halmagh John and Mary Van HoutenVan Wagoner. They were both of Dutch
descent. Their ancestors came from Holland in the early 1600s. The Dutch people
bought their land from the Indians, thus avoiding fierce combats and ill feelings. They
owned large tracts of land. When I was a child, my grandmother took me on her lap and
said, "My dear, when Grandma gets her property, you nor your children will ever have
to work hard as we do now. We will have all the money we need." When their family
decided to go to Nauvoo, they left their property in the hands of supposed friends. When
they took the deeds back to claim the property, a law had been enacted in New Jersey. If
land was left for twenty years, no claims could be brought against it. So we lost the
property. The Van Wagoner home in New Jersey had been remodeled, but the beautiful
hand-carved walnut staircase, the antique cupboards and the doors and many other parts
have been preserved. My father and brothers have visited this home.
Grandmothers father was a farmer and among other products, he raised flax. Her mother would weave linen for table cloths, towels, sheets, etc. She colored some for her childrens dresses. The children thought cotton dresses were nicer because to them it was a newer material.
The Dutch people were hard workers and thrifty. They had always been taught economy. The girls were taught to card and spin, weave and sew, to mend, darn and patch and care for their things.
Grandmother wove a beautiful linen bed spread in a very intricate design. It is over a hundred years old. She made a marvelous carpet of wool. She carded the wool from sheep they raised. Colored in several colors, spun into heavy yarn, she wove it into a carpet. She gave this to Sarah, for a wedding present. Grandmother Sarah gave this carpet to cover one of the rooms in the Nauvoo Temple.
My Grandmother and her sisters would sit and tell stories of their younger days and laugh until tears fill their eyes. They must have had a very happy childhood. Their brother John was apprenticed out for seven years. He learned the carpenter trade and the Wheelright trade.
One day, my grandmother noticed a strange young man across the street. He was tall, slender, good-looking with a noble bearing. Grandmother rather glibly remarked, "Thats the fellow I am going to Marry." She met him soon after at a cottage meeting. It was the beginning of a romance. and John B. Fairbanks became a frequent visitor at the Van Wagoner home. They were married the 31st of August 1844.
The Van Wagoners had one problem, Sarahs grandmother was about eighty years old. Her name was Ann Roome Van Houten. They did not want to go away and leave her alone and felt the journey would be more than she could stand. They were thinking of putting a bed in the wagon so she could ride lying down. About two weeks before they left she was taken suddenly ill and died, and was buried by the side of her husband. She had been baptized into the church.
The Van Wagoner family and the Fairbanks family who had joined the church left New Jersey with some other families in 1844 to make their home in Nauvoo with the saints. Here John Boylston Fairbanks built a beautiful two story brick home which was furnished well. Their first child was born here, the 27th of June 1845. He lived only six hours but was blessed and named John Joseph Fairbanks. While in Nauvoo Grandfather worked on the Temple in 1844 and 45. John and his wife Sarah received their endowments the 21st of January 1846 and were sealed the 23rd of January, 1846. They consecrated their property in Nauvoo to the Church.
On Saturday, the 25th of April, 1846, they left their home and the beautiful city of Nauvoo for the West, where they hoped they could worship God according to the dictates of their conscience, unmolested. They crossed the Mississippi River in May and traveled to Winter Quarters. Here they spent the winter.
They built a saw mill and a grist mill. They knew these homes were only temporary but they built well for many people would follow after them. They would need comfort and rest, before starting on a longer and more difficult journey. Some lived in dugouts. They made caves in the sides of the hillsjust any kind of shelter for the winter. They made their own furniture, beds, tables, benches, etc. Grandfather mentions building a chimney and shingling their roof. Grandmothers Mother, Mary, died in October, 1846. Sarahs second child, little Harriet was born in November one month before her father, Halmagh John died 4 December 1846. (Death dates on Headstones at Winter Quarters.) Grandmother was quite ill all winter, Patriarch John Smith, father of George A. smith, came and gave her a blessing. He said her days should be prolonged upon the earth, that she should live to raise her children in the fear of the Lord. She began to recover from that time and was given health and strength to walk. They left Winter Quarters the 17th of June, 1847, for their long journey across the plains and into the Valley of the mountains.
They were in the 4th company of 10, Grandfather Fairbanks, Captain; in the second company of 50, Brother Snow, Captain; and third hundred, with J.M. Grant as Captain.
They arrived safely in the valley October 6, 1848, with the winter before them. That winter they lived in the wagon box. It was a mild winter and they did not suffer. In the early spring they moved into their own log cabin in the first ward. Uncle David Fairbanks, Grandfathers brother, was appointed 1st Bishop, and Grandfather was ward clerk. Here two sons, Henry and Nathaniel were born. President Brigham young advised the people to move into the country. Grandfather, his brother David, and a number of friends went as far south as Payson. There the water was so scarce they were not allowed to settle. They went about three miles east to Pondtown (Salem) and camped near some springs. They made a dam and planted a garden and put in crops.
That winter the Indians were very troublesome. It was unsafe for so few families to live by the Springs, so they all moved to Payson. The men built a dam in Payson Canyon that retained the spring runoff. This helped to conserve and increase the water supply. Payson became their permanent home. Grandfather built a large two-story adobe house. They now had six children: Harriet, Henry, Nathaniel, Sarah, John, and Mary. The tenth of August, 1857, their four-year-old daughter, Sarah Ann, died. The next year, 1858, Grandfather was called on a mission to the White Mountains, and Grandmother was left with five small children and a baby three weeks old.
In this year Johnstons Army came to Utah. It was called the year of the move, for the people in Salt Lake City were asked to move South, leave their homes to be burned in case the Army was hostile.
August 6, 1859, their second son, Nathaniel was run over and killed.
Grandmother would card and spin her own yarn, color it and get it ready for the weavers. The girls were happy with their new striped dresses. Like other pioneer women she made soap, candles, carpets, made lye from wood ashes to soften the wash water, did her own sewing, knitted stockings, etc. For Christmas she made and dressed rag dolls for the girls, jumping jacks and handmade toys for the boys. Their sweet meats were molasses candy and fried cakes.
In 1858 the Relief Society was organized with Sarah Fairbanks as Treasurer. This position she held for twenty years. Payson was divided into four districts. They were called "wards," but all functioned under one bishop.
Grandfather filled three missions and his wife had the care and responsibility of the home and family during his absences. She was left a widow with eight children, four sons and four daughters. The oldest son and oldest daughter were married. She had eleven children, six boys and five girls; eight children survived her. She taught them obedience to the principles of the Gospel and instilled into their minds faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. She lived a long and useful life and died February 8, 1898, at Payson.
Mary Van Houten, wife of Halmagh John Van Wagoner, died 4 October 1946. Journal
History Tragedy at Winter Quarters, by Andrew Jensen.
Halmagh John died January, 1847, at Winter Quarters. John B. Fairbanks Diary.
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