Mary Ann Holt was born 11 January 1840 in Johnson County, Illinois, the sixth child of James and Mary Payne Holt. Three of the children had died, so she was the third of the living children. Her father had accepted the gospel and was baptized in October 1839 and her mother followed three weeks later. They were anxious to gather with the saints, so James sold his farm in the spring of 1840, shortly after Mary Ann’s birth and they started for Nauvoo. They got as far as Pleasant Vale Stake in Pike County when one of their horses died and they had to stay there for the winter and the next summer, renting a farm and raising crops.
In the fall of 1841 they started again for Nauvoo, arriving in good time. James worked in the temple quarry and hauled rock and boated lumber to the temple until 1844, when he was called as a missionary to go to Tennessee. This left Mary Ann’s mother to care for the farm and the children and to endure the persecution heaped upon the saints in Nauvoo.
From Mary Ann’s own narrative as given to Quincy R. Barker on March 8, 1913 we can read the following:
“My father James Holt was born in Tennessee (North Carolina) February 10, 1804. He was a very large man, raw boned, light complexioned, but grey ever since I can remember. My mother was Mary Payne, and of their ancestors I know nothing. I lived at Nauvoo, Illinois at the time of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The only relative I remember seeing was Mothers sister Nancy. At the time of the martyrdom, father was out on a mission. He said to one of his companions, ‘Boys, the next word we get will be that the Prophet is dead or taken.’ The word came he had been killed and all the missionaries were immediately called in.”
The James Holt family witnessed the turmoil that was resolved when Brigham Young was chosen as the successor to the Prophet. Shortly after that, James Holt with his family left Nauvoo in company with a number of Church members under the direction of James Emett. They had decided to go West and locate a gathering place for the Saints. They went up the Iowa Rover and met 5 miles above Kitchen’s Settlement. There Mary Ann’s mother died from a dose of Lobelia the doctor had given her when her stomach was too weak to stand it. Mary’s casket was made by cutting down a large tree and hewing out the coffin with an adze. They buried her between the bank of the Iowa River and a large tree, thinking the wolves would be less likely to dig up the body than if they left her out in the open. Less that a month after Mary died, her son Leander also passed away at the site above Kitchen’s Settlement.
Again they traveled up the Iowa River. James married Parthenia Overton 11 February 1845 and the children fared better. Mary Ann reported: “Father soon married again to have someone to help care for us children. This wife was Parthenia Overton, about 25 years old. She had no people except a sister in the company.”
The suffering was great throughout the camp. They ate squirrels or any wildlife edible. The women cooked greens and roots and had meager corn rations, or an ox that had died of fatigue and starvation. The women and children suffered starvation and fear, not knowing when or if they would be massacred by savages or unprincipled whites.
As we read the history of James Holt, there was much dissention and moving back and forth over a period of years and it wasn’t until the summer of 1852 that they set their course for Utah, and arrived in Ogden Valley on October 2 7, 1852. They were the last company of emigrants for the season. They came through Weber Canyon to Ogden Valley and stayed at Farr’s Fort at the home of Arnstead Moffet. Within a few days they went to North Ogden and James bought a farm and his first home there from Asaph Rice. Parthenia and Mary Ann were very sick with mountain fever most of that winter, but in the spring, their health returned. In 1853 the children had whooping cough and Mary Ann’s brother Joseph succumbed to the disease. He was 5 years old. The very next week, Clarissa (2 Months old) died of the same malady.
Mary Ann’s life was certainly full of trials and tragedies for such a young girl. She often told her children about walking most of the way across the plains by the side of the wagon, sometimes barefoot. At the age of 16, she met William Barker, whose family had crossed the plains from Iowa, and had arrived in the valley in 1849. Mary Ann and William were married in the Endowment House on October 5, 1855 and located in North Ogden where William was asked to take charge of a day school. Life wasn’t much easier as they first lived in a dugout in the hill east of town. Their first child Clarissa was born July 11, 1856 but died December 18th that same year. They moved from Ogden to Mound Fort where William Frederick was born on September 27, 1857 and Harriet Matilda on September 23, 1859. After James Albert was born on March 29, 1861, they returned to North Ogden. Mary Jane was born February 5, 1864 and Lenora June was born June 16, 1867.
At one time their little boy Albert was playing with the other children in the sand of a dry ditch away from the home. The other children went away and left him alone. Finally a squaw came along and found him, picked him up and took him with her. He was gone the rest of that day and all night. The men of the community were out all night with their lanterns hunting for him. Toward noon the next day, some of them went down to the store and told about it, and also whose boy it was. A number if Indians were in the store standing around and the men remembered afterwards that as soon as they heard whose boy was missing the Indians disappeared, one at a time until they were all gone. Along in the afternoon an old squaw came to the Barker’s home carrying the child. They had taken him as a hostage for provisions, flour, etc. They did not know whose child he was or they would not have taken him. The Barker family was always kind to the Indians, giving them food and clothing whenever they were in need.
The year after George Franklin was born on September 29, 1869 the family moved back to Ogden to the corner of 12th Street and Washington Avenue. At the time of the smallpox epidemic they moved down below the Mound. Here Mary Ann’s husband William was called on a mission to the state of Minnesota. He left April 19, 1881, leaving Mary Ann and a family of eight children. He was summoned home six months later because of the death of their son Albert who died from Typhoid Fever and Pneumonia. An older son, William Frederick had died of the same disease just two years previously in 1879.
William bore testimony of miraculous escapes from enemies of the Church while on his mission by obeying the promptings of the spirit. After returning home he was very active in the Church and community, and Mary Ann was always supportive of his activities.
In 1899 they sold their place to James Iverson and moved to Pleasant View located on the main road to hot springs, a few blocks west of the school house. William’s health began to fail and Mary Ann nursed him through more than a year’s illness and he died November 19, 1902. After his death Mary Ann continued to live there until she became ill and passed away at the home of her daughter, Sarah Ellen Taylor on February 22, 1916 at 76 years of age.
Mary Ann had given birth to 13 children but only 6 had grown to maturity and married. She had devoted her life to her family, enduring hardships and proving herself a true pioneer. Her family record is as follows:
Mary Ann Holt Barker: Born January 11, 1840 in Johnson County Illinois;
She died February 22, 1916 in Ogden, Weber County, Utah
Parents: James Holt and Mary Payne (Or Pain or Paine)
Married: William Barker, Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Utah
His death November 19, 1902, Pleasant View, Weber County, Utah
Children Date of Birth Married
Clarissa Ann 11 July, 1856 Child: Died 18 Dec 1856
William Frederick 22 Sept, 1857 Died 17 Sept. 1879
Harriet Matilda 23 Sept. 1859 25 July 1878 to John Smith
James Albert 29 Mar. 1859 Child: Died 31 Oct 1859
Mary Jane 5 Feb. 1864 Child: Died 18 Mar 1864
Sarah Ellen 17 June 1865 13 Dept. 1883 to Joseph E. Taylor
Lenora 16 June 1867 21 Jan 1885 to Simeon Farley
George Franklin 29 Sep 1869 6 May 1892 to Eva Shaw
LeRoy 18 Jan. 1871 20 Jan 1892 to Mary Ann Cragun
Leonard Overton 11 Apr 1873 Child: Died 22 May 1877
Amy 25 May 1876 Married to Thomas Seville Johns
John 3 Dec 1877 Child: Died 4 May 1878
Fidella 25 Oct. 1880 Child: Died 14 Apr. 1884
Mary Ann and William are buried in Ogden, Utah.