Born: September 6, 1848
Died: November 18, 1924
Member of the Willey Handcart Company
Mary Ann Gadd Rowley, daughter of Samuel Gadd and Eliza Chattman, (Chapman) was born September 6, 1848 in Harwell, Cambridgeshire, England. When seven years of age she left England with her parents for America and Mormonism. They were two weeks crossing the ocean. They arrived in Iowa City the latter part of June or first of July. They left Iowa City in Captain Willey’s handcart company for the long trek across the trackless plains. Mary Ann passed her eighth birthday on the Platte River. They company expected to reach Salt Lake City before winter set it, but it came much earlier than usual, and was very severe and many hardships were endured. Mary Ann, with nothing but rags on her feet, led her mother, who was snow blind for three days as she pulled the handcart.
She carried a piece of an ox hoof for three days and at each camp she would roast it and eat the part that was roasted and then carry it to the next camp and repeat the process. This was all she had to eat during those three days. Her father and two brothers died and were buried on the plains.
They arrived in Salt Lake City in November 1856, and later went to Nephi where she did housework and tended babies for her board. Her mother and brothers and sisters gleaned wheat and threshed it to make bread, and braided the straw into hats which were sold to help make a living. Later she was working at Bishop Udell’s waiting on tables. The authorities were there for dinner one day, and when she came into the room to serve Bishop Udell said, “This is one of the handcart girls of Captain Willey’s belated company.” President Young laid his hand on her head as he looked at her, and said, “Somebody will have to pay for this.”
At the age of 16 she was married to John Rowley and together they pioneered and endured the hardships of the early Utah settlers. She was the mother of 12 children, seven sons and five daughters.
In 1889, she left her mother and with her family started for Old Mexico. She drove a team practically all the way, over rough roads and through dangerous streams with her baby in her arms. When they crossed Lee’s Ferry they drove their outfits onto the boat and were ferried across, then the boat was anchored and the team driven onto the bank. When Mary Ann’s team reached the bank, she and the children were still in the wagon, and they discovered the boat was not anchored, and had begun floating down stream. Her husband turned pale and began urging the team to pull. They had to work hard but finally got the boat onto the bank and safely anchored. She said it was through faith and prayers they were saved, as it was more than a team could do without help.
They arrived in Mexico in the fall of 1889. In a strange land of strange people, and as far as they could see, nothing but mesquites (a thorny bushwood). Soon after their arrival there, one of her married daughters died, leaving two babies and this added to the gloom and desolation, but through it all she would kneel and pray to God for strength and thank him for his blessings. They cleared land and planted grain and with rock and adobes built them a house. In 1893 her husband died leaving her with little to live with and a large family to raise, but through her splendid influence and her faith in God they all grew to be splendid men and women and good Latter-day Saints.
The little town of Colonia Diaz grew and prospered, and in a comfortable home with beautiful surroundings with her children about her, she was happy until July 1912, when she, with the rest of the Saints, were driven from their homes by Mexican bandits.
Mary Ann, in company with some of her children, returned to Utah. She lived in Provo for a few years, then went to Blanding, San Juan County, Utah, where she again found peace and comfort in her little home until May 1924. She returned to Provo to visit some of her children. While there, she took sick and died with cancer of the liver, November 18, 1924.
She worked as a Relief Society Teacher for a number of years and was always willing and on hand in sickness or trouble.
Source: Copy of typewritten manuscript found in the genealogy book of Fern Laws Palmer, great granddaughter of Mary Ann Gadd Rowley through her daughter Eliza Jane. Word document was typed 1-27-06 by Deniane Gutke Kartchner, 3rd great granddaughter of Mary Ann Gadd through Fern Laws.