Sarah Holyoak was born August 4, 1835 in Kingsnorton, Warwickshire, England to George Holyoak son of Issac Holyoak and Ann Bird and Sarah Green daughter of Daniel Green and Mary Hipkiss.
The Holyoak name was derived from a large grove of oak trees near Birmingham that was considered to be holy.
Sarah had four brothers and three sisters. William born 12 April 1825 in Yardley, Warwickshire, England; Mary born in Solihull 25 March 1827; George born in Solihull, 1 September 1829; Ann was christened in Yardley 3 February 1832; Daniel Eli christened in Yardley 27 1834; Henry born in Yardley 5 March 1839; and Hannah born 25 March 1841 in Yardley.
The Holyoak family lived in what was called "Rose Cottage" in Yardley Wood a suburb of Birmingham. Climbing roses almost covered the house, the yard was full of beautiful flowers, and the grass was green almost all year. From this lovely home and beautiful surroundings the children inherited a love for flowers and beauty. They were also taught to be industrious and religious.
The Holyoak family listened to the Mormon missionaries and soon knew that what they preached was true and were baptized. Soon after joining the church they immigrated to America to join the Saints in Utah. They sailed from England in 1854 on the ship Windemere. They had a lot of trouble and sickness at sea. They were thirteen weeks crossing the ocean. When they got to St. Louis they were quarantined with cholera. It was in July 1854 that they started across the plains with another company of Saints who had been waiting for them to get out of quarantine. In this other company was a young man traveling alone, so he was assigned to travel with the Holyoak family. His name was Joseph James. It seemed like it was fate for him to travel with this family, for he fell in love with their daughter Sarah. They hadn't gone very far when her sister Ann and mother died of Mountain Fever on the plains of Nebraska. They were sewed in quilts and put in a hastily dug grave and covered with dirt. This was a very sad occasion to leave their loved ones like this and hurry on. The family never forgot this as long as they lived.
The family suffered all the usual hardships of not having enough food or water, and having sore feet from walking. They were in constant fear of Indian attacks. After a long and tiring journey they arrived in Salt Lake City 30 September 1854. They came with the David Jones and Darwin Richardson companies.
In a covered wagon, wearing a freshly washed calico dress for her wedding gown, Sarah married Joseph James 2 October 1854. They were married by Elder Sykes. Here Sarah had to part with her beloved family as they were called to go to the valley of Little Salt Lake, now Parowan, to help colonize that community. Here the motherless family settled and endured the rugged life of pioneers.
Sarah and Joseph started their married life with no worldly goods except what few clothes they had. Joseph walked to Farmington where he got a job. Sarah followed as soon as she could get a ride. Here Sarah and Joseph worked for their board and room through that very severe winter. As soon as the weather was good, Joseph went north to Ogden. Here he met Samuel Sniffield a widower who needed someone to keep house and care for his motherless children. Joseph sent for Sarah. She got a ride with some folks going farther north. She reached Ogden late at night and stayed with the Thomas Jenkins family. The next day she was reunited with her husband. They lived with the Sniffield family. Sarah kept house, cooked and cared for the motherless children until that fall when Mr. Sniffield remarried.
Joseph had acquired a small lot on Wall Avenue between Grant and Lincoln. Here he built a sod room with a willow and dirt roof, and dirt floors. He made a bedstead of poles fastened together and covered crosswise with willows. He worked for enough straw to fill a tick for a mattress. A chest that they brought from England, served as a table, and stools were made out of slabs. They had only one camp kettle to use for the cooking, washing and all other household purposes. They also loaned it to neighbors. This was Sarah's first home. It was here in this sod room with a few additions that Sarah bore six of their thirteen children. Joseph Henry born 22 October 1855; William Francis born 30 April 1857; George Richard born 4 May 1857; Edward Benjamin born 11 December 1960; Charles Willard born 5 September 1862; and Sarah Hannah born 20 Sept 1864.
The year 1861 was a very trying time for this good family. The hardest thing for them was the death of their baby, Edward Benjamin, who was only nine months old. They never had enough to eat and they suffered severely from the cold. The children were bare footed and often cried for bread. The crops were washed away with high water. Joseph rented another farm and when the crops were ready to harvest the grasshoppers came and destroyed everything again. This was a bad winter for everybody.
When the Ogden tabernacle was being built, Joseph became so exhausted from hunger he couldn't go on. He sat down in the shade of a tree and fell asleep. When he woke up he saw a very large bird coming down towards him. It came very low and dropped a fresh ear of corn at his feet. He thought that it was the best food that he had ever eaten. As he ate the corn a voice seemed to say, "This is a sign that you will never want for food again." This promise came true. This was a very marvelous thing as no corn had yet been raised in Utah. When he returned home Sarah came to meet him to tell him he could get some flour at Taylor's mill. It was very late at night when he got home with the flour but Sarah made some bread and woke the children up to have something to eat.
Sarah was very anxious to go to Salt Lake for the semiannual conference. They had only one ox and it was lame so Joseph thought that it would be impossible for them to make the trip. But Sarah was determined to try. She worked hard all summer making hats, spinning yarn and knitting stockings. She also worked for a man that wove cloth and gave her cloth for her pay. Joseph raised broom straw and made the first brooms by hand in this area. He also worked for combs. They would trade these things for other things they needed. By borrowing the neighbors ox which was very lean, they were ready for the trip by the first of October. Their wagon was made of slabs put on the running rears for a wagon bed. Picture in your minds them heading to Salt Lake to conference in this kind of wagon with one lean ox and one lame ox. They took with them all the things they had made and worked for to trade for things they needed. In Farmington they traded some combs and brooms for fruit. Sarah saw to it that every seed and pit was saved. How thankful they were that they had saved these seeds and pits for they proved a lasting blessing and benefit to them. With these seed and their six acre lot on Wall Ave., they started an orchard, which was the first best orchard in Weber Co.. They obtained from the mountains small fruits and vines, strawberries, raspberries, sand cherries, gooseberries which Joseph cultivated and grafted, and they bore a large and as good a crop as the regular berries and grapes. In 1869 the railroad arrived and soon after they had sale for milk, cream and fruit which also helped build up the city of Ogden. Real hard times were over and were able to assist those in need.
Sarah died 25 October 1916 and was buried by her beloved husband in the Ogden Cemetery.