Pioneer Day – Ann Jewell Rowley

Today, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrate "Pioneer Day."  You might be wondering what that means.  On July 24, 1847 Brigham Young and many early pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after spending months walking hundreds of miles.  Many family members were buried on the side of the trek westward as they went in search for peace to practice their religious beliefs. 

My own ancestors were among these faithful pioneers that have blessed my life.  I love to hear about the stories of the Mormon Pioneers as they share their trails, struggles, triumphs and deep faith for Jesus Christ.  One of these stories has been shared of a faithful women named Ann Jewell Rowley.  She was part of a well-known handcart company under the direction of Captain James G. Willie. 

Here is an excerpt from her personal journal:

Ann Jewell Rowley

"Our handcarts were not designed for such heavy loads and we were constantly breaking down. They had been made of green lumber and were affected by the weather. Rawhide strips was used to wrap the iron rims to the wheels and the wood would shrink and the rawhide would come loose. It hurt me to see my children go hungry. I watched as they cut loose rawhide from the cart wheels, roast off the hair and chew the hide.

There came a time, when there seemed to be no food at all. Some of the men left to hunt buffalo. Night was coming and there was no food for the evening meal. I asked God's help as I always did. I got on my knees, remembering two hard sea biscuits that were still in my trunk. They had been left over from the sea voyage, they were not large, and were so hard, they couldn't be broken. Surely, that was not enough to feed 8 people, but 5 loaves and 2 fishes were not enough to feed 5000 people either, but through a miracle, Jesus had done it. So, with God's help, nothing is impossible. I found the biscuits and put them in a dutch oven and covered them with water and asked for God's blessing, then I put the lid on the pan and set it on the coals. When I took off the lid a little later, I found the pan filled with food. I kneeled with my family and thanked God for his goodness. That night my family had sufficient food." Ann Jewell Rowley's journal

I was touched by this amazing story.  While living in Pennsylvania, our family became close friends to an awesome family that was a descendant of Ann Rowley.  I was so excited to see a living representative of such a faithful women and to see that her legacy of faith continues through her living descendants.  After hearing this story, I wanted to bring it to life and like it says in the bible found in Malachi, "to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers."  I felt impressed to create a scene for my portrait studio that would depict this time period and then photograph one of Ann's descendants.  Here are a couple images from that inspiring photo session.  Pictured below is the great, great, great… granddaughter of Ann Jewell Rowley.  I am sure her great…grandmother is smiling down upon her and excited to see her great…granddaughter carry on the flame of faith.

Ann's story is depicted in the movie "17 Miracles."  Here's the trailer from this awesome movie!

(Special thanks to the very talented, Joy Van Ruler, for the beautiful hand-painted backdrop and to Heather Matheson for the awesome costume created.  Also, a special thanks to the Hickman family for sharing their family's legacy with me!)

ATTENTION!!  Are you a descendant of Pioneer ancestors?  With a unique story?  We are looking for families that have primary aged children that would like to be a part of a special project.  Contact me at or comment on this blog post with your story!  We'd love to have you join us in this unique adventure as we follow the prophet Malachi and turning our hearts to our fathers.  Contact us today!