About the Collection

James Farmer

by Jeffrey S. Hardy

See Diary

James Farmer was born to James Farmer and Mary Bellamy on 12 June 1825 at Leicester, Leicestershire, England.  Coming from a poor family, James had to start work at the young age of nine to help feed his four younger siblings.  During his early years he was disinclined towards religion, but became interested after attending a meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in September 1842.  He investigated further and was baptized on 10 December 1843.  He was then called to labor as a missionary in Leicestershire and was successful in converting a few souls, including Ann Webster, whom he later married on 21 June 1844.  Soon afterwards his employment at Rawson and Co., a hosiery manufacturer, was terminated on account of his being a Mormon.  The following years were difficult for the young couple, suffering from hunger and persecution, as James continued his missionary labors.  In 1850 Ann became ill with typhus fever and died on 21 September 1850.  She remained faithful to him and the church until the end.

After the death of his wife, James was called to labor full-time as a traveling elder.  He readily accepted, recording later: “In all things I intended to obey the word of the Lord.” 1  He and his companions met with great persecution and many trials.  Farmer wrote that during one meeting, “after preaching about ½ hour…a man of the name of Coleman and 2 others began to curse me with abusive language, stopped my preaching and began to knock me about….The whole town was in an uproar and it seemed as if the devil was let loose for the people raged as though they would devour me.” 2  On several occasions he was even stoned.   But he was also able to accomplish much good; he baptized many people and healed many more from various afflictions.  Soon, however, he began to consider emigration to the land of Zion.

On 17 January 1853, James, along with over 330 other saints, set forth from Liverpool under the leadership of Moses Clawson on the ship Ellen Maria.  On March 6 they landed at their destination, New Orleans.  From there they journeyed up the Mississippi to St. Louis, arriving on March 9.  There the saints organized a wagon company under the leadership of Jacob Gates to make the long trek to the Salt Lake Valley.  The 33 wagons and 262 people in the company embarked on 3 June 1853.  The journey was difficult, the saints being oppressed by fierce storms, plagues of grasshoppers and mosquitoes, and packs of wolves. 

Upon arrival in Salt Lake at the end of September, James found employment as a mason.  On 10 October 1853 he married Harriet Bateman, also from Leicester, England, in the Fourth Ward school room.  In December they moved to Ephraim where he obtained 13 acres of land to farm.  But they soon returned to Salt Lake City so that Harriet could give birth to their first child.  Soon after birth, however, Harriet died.  The young baby died a few weeks later. 

After this trying episode James worked for the federal government as a surveyor.  On 1 December 1856, James married Sarah Broadbridge, a recent immigrant from England.  She was born 6 February 1835 in Barking, Essex, England, to William Broadbridge and Magaret Williams.  They eventually had seven children, all of them boys.  He decided to settle down once more to raise a family, and moved to Manti, where they resided for eight years.  They then were called to Monroe and joined the United Order, remaining a part of it until it was abandoned.  In Monroe he held many important church callings and was ordained to the office of high priest. 

At the age of 55 James was called to return to Great Britain as a missionary where he served from 1880–1882.   He was president of the Leeds Conference and converted many people to the church during this time, and arranged emigration for many saints.  Upon his return to Utah he worked for the Deseret News.  On 10 March 1865 he also took another wife in polygamy, Jane Blain, who bore him four children but died while giving birth to their last child in 1873.  James died at home in Monroe on 27 March 1908.  


1 James Farmer, “Diary 1851–1853,” p. 13 [not a dated entry], MSS 1433, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

2 Ibid., 22 July 1851.


Ancestral File. Salt Lake City:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002. 3 November 2003 available from http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp.

Andrus, Hyrun Leslie, and Richard F. Bennett. Mormon Manuscripts to 1846: A Guide to the Holding of the Harold B. Lee Library. Provo, Utah:  Brigham Young University, 1977.

Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies.  Provo, Utah:  Brigham Young University Press, 1977.

Farmer, James. “Autobiography and Diaries, 1851–1858, 1881–1882.” MSS 1433, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

________. Diary of James Farmer. Provo, Utah:  Brigham Young University Library, 1938.

“History of James Farmer.” n.p., n.d. (BX 8670 .A1a no.428). Americana Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University).

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868. Salt Lake City:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003. 31 October 2003 available from http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearch/.