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Annie Hicks Free
written by herself, April 9, 1931
I was born in Barking, Essex, England, on the 8th of January 1837, the younger daughter of Daniel Hicks, a sailor, and Hannah Wenlock Hicks. I knew very little of my father's family. My mother was born of Scotch and English parents.
Father being a confirmed invalid, I had, as it were, to keep and care for myself, assuming the responsibilities of a woman when I was a mere girl. As a child, I was very devout, praying and asking God for guidance and firmly believing that he would protect me from all wrong. And surely, I have been saved many times from most certain evil.
I was alone, or rather away from my own people at the time I first heard the Gospel and I think I loved it the first time I heard it; it seemd so quiet and pleasant to me. I embraced the Gospel and was baptized on the 17th of January, 1855, in the White Chapel Branch in London. Shortly after my baptism, before I had been confirmed, my relatives sent me a terrible book against the Mormons, marking it in places for me to read. The tales were so wicked, I was afraid I had done wrong and decided to ask the Lord to direct me aright. I fervently pleaded with our Father to answer my prayer that night as my confirmation was to take place the following morning.
I immediately was comforted by a wonderful dream. A book (The Book of Life) was opened to me and the leaves were turned in rapid succession until the page with my record was found. On the page was my name without a mar or blemish against it. A loud clear voice spoke to me saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." I was overjoyed at this revelation and have never doubted the gospel from that time on. You may be assured I was confirmed the next day feeling perfectly happy and satisfied. From then on my relatives were unkind and cruel to me. I worked very hard to obtain enough money to come to America. I would knit from early morning until evening in the London workshop.
On the 25th of May, 1856, I sailed for America on the ship Horizon, beginning our journey to Zion. I crossed the plains with the belated Handcart Company of Edward Martin. We underwent numerous hardships and lost many of our good and faithful band on the road. I reached the valley on the last day of November 1856, with not a friend to meet me--but I am still here with the saints and many friends in the valley of the mountians. (Annie Hicks was taken to the home of Brother Ellerbeck where she did housework for which she was paid 75 cents per week. She also did their knitting, sewing and embroidery work. This insert was taken from, Our Pioneer Heritage, page 184.)
I was married to Absolem Pennington Free, a Patriarch of the Church on March 5, 1857, and am the mother of seven children, all of whom are living. I am also proud of my thirty-four grandchildren and the thirty great grandchildren.
(Annie was a gifted writer, she was the author of many beautiful poems. For many years she was secretary of the Farmers Ward Relief Society and her records were kept beautifully. A sacred hour was held in her home every Sunday to which all of her grandchildren were made welcome. Always she was dressed in her best gown with a white apron. Then she would play on the organ and we would sing, after which she would read the Scriptures. These were wonderful experiences to me as a child and it was then I learned to love and to read the Bible. This insert taken from, Our Pioneer Heritage, page 184)
I have been asked to relate an incident or two that might be of interest to you. One which I recall very clearly, occured as we crossed the Platte River. The stream was very strong and the water bitter cold, making it very hard to cross. In the company was a widow with her family. Her oldest boy, a fine young chap, had started across the river with his handcart but the current was so strong that he was borne down stream. Seeing the boy's condition I ran down the bank of the river and went out into it in time to catch the boy and his handcart. I helped the boy to shore but he was almost frozen. In the evening when the company made camp, the boy's mother was going out to gather chips of wood but the boy insisted upon going himself. When he had been gone a long time, a search was made for him and he was found frozen to death with his sticks in his arms.
ANNIE HICKS FREE TESTIMONY
Testimony of Annie Hicks Free written at the age of 61 years - about 1898 - probably at Salt Lake City. In possession of Helen LaRae Free Kerr. The letter is in good condition and is written in ink on two short lined sheets torn from a notebook. I don't know if it is part of a journal or not. If Annie Free wrote a journal it has never come to light and no one I have talked to ever knew of it. The sheets have been laminated for protection. There is no date, no signature, no title, no pagination. On the back of the second page is a note in pencil in my mother's (Myrtle Joy Free's) hand: "written by Annie Hicks Free who crossed the plains with the Edward Martin Handcart Co. M. J. F.
"Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you," was the promise of our great Redeemer, though I at the time not knowing that the promise was in the scripture. But I will tell you of the knowledge that was given me of the saving power of baptism for remission of sins or the entering into a new life. I was baptized on the 17 of January 1853 and was to be confirmed on the Sunday following. My people heard of my baptism and sent me the vilest books against Mormonism. Told me that I would be ruined for life if I joined the Mormons. I was afraid I had done wrong but having no earthly friend I took my case to the Lord. I knelt beside my bed and I prayed with all my soul that our Father would hear and answer my prayer. I said, "Dear Lord, do not let me do wrong. Let me know tonight, Dear Father, let me know tonight." I believed with all my heart that I should be answered. And this is what I dreamed. I dreamt I stood in the door of the house where I lived and at the end of the street was a large crowd of people and in the midst a tall man with a stand like a music stand before him and on the stand a large record book and it seems to me that I can still hear the swish of the heavy leaves as he turned them. He held up the book with its leaves as white as snow not a mar on them. And his voice rang out clear and strong: this is the way walk ye in it. When I awoke I laughed for joy to think I had been heard and answered. My folks in the morning wanted to know what I was going to do about Mormonism. I said I have had the knowledge given me that I am right and I will stay with it till I die. That is 61 years ago and I am here (meaning Salt Lake City, Utah).
Annie Hicks Free died August 27, 1926, 89 years of age.
"As I Remember"
by Albert Philips on August 31, 1926
She was a pioneer of Utah. Seventy years of her life had been spent in the Salt Lake Valley. When a girl of nineteen years, she left her home in England, leaving father, mother and all that she might come to the Promised Land. On that long journey she endured hardships that are almost unbelievable, for she was with the last company of Handcart Pioneers under the command of Captain Edward Martin.
Monday she was laid to rest in the City Cemetery. This was Mrs. Annie Hicks Free. She had aided in every way possible to make the Salt Lake Valley and Utah what they are today and she lived to see the City, to which she came as a girl, grow from a straggling hamlet to one of the most beautiful cities in the land of her adoption.
The story of the handcart brigade has been told and retold and yet it can never be told as it was, of the horrors of the long 1300 miles. The story is pathetic in the extreme. Take the history of Mrs. Free. It is similar to others told me by the pioneers. The company of which she was a member, when it left Florence, Nebraska on Aug the 25th, 1856 consisted of 576 persons. They had 146 handcarts and 7 wagons. When the company arrived in Salt Lake City on Nov 30, 1856 after more than three months on the journey, it had been reduced to a handful of people. Their handcarts had been left scattered along mountain and plain and many, many graves dotted the praire and range, where a devoted poeple had joined the great majority in their effort to reach their Mecca in the Mountains.
Relief parties had been sent to meet the several companies of the handcart brigade and the one under Captain Martin, which was afterward known as the belated company, was reduced by death to a handful.
Daniel W. Jones who was a member of the relief force said, "They had given up all hope, their provisions were exhausted and most of them sick and worn out. That night several members of the company died." And this was what this aged Pioneer who has just passed on went through in order that she might worship her God as her conscience dictated. Her memory will always be cherished.