Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860
In the summer of 1860 the author of these recollections, Mary Ann Stucki, then six years old, walked beside her parents’ handcart from Florence (Omaha), Nebraska, to Salt Lake City, Utah. The family, converts to Mormonism, had left their comfortable home near Bern, Switzerland, to make the long journey to the Mormon Zion. Nearly eighty years later, Mary Ann Hafen published this account of her life, giving us an unparalleled, candid, inside view of the Mormon woman’s world.
Called to go with the Swiss company to settle the “Dixieland” region of southern Utah —a hot, dry, inhospitable land—Mary Ann’s family lived in thatch, dugout, and adobe houses they built themselves. While still hardly more than a child, Mary Ann cut wheat with a sickle, gleaned cotton fields, made braided straw hats for barter, and spun and dyed cloth for her dresses. Always sustained by her faith in the church, she took part in a millenarian scheme that failed—a communal order—and entered a polygamous marriage, raising almost single-handedly a large family.
Mary Ann Hafen has left an authentic, matter-of-fact record of poverty, incredibly hard work, and loss of loved ones, but also of pleasures great and small. It is a unique document of a little-known way of life.