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March 19, 2019

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Isabella Jane Bradshaw Astle
A Member of the Edward Martin Handcart Company of 1856
Written by her daughter, Sarah Astle Call

Isabella Jane Bradshaw
Isabella Jane Bradshaw

Isabella Jane Bradshaw Astle was born March 14, 1846, at Bolton, Lancashire, England, the daughter of Richard Bradshaw and Elizabeth Simpson.

Her early childhood days were lived in England with her widowed mother, as her father died when she was four years of age.

She attended a school for girls and at the age of eight years, surprised her mother by making the announcement that she was promoted to the "Big Girls School" to continue her schooling. She was making rapid progress with those several years older, when at the time she was ten, the family decide to immigrate to America and join the Saints in Utah. Before leaving England, she was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The story of events during this journey of the Edward Martin Handcart Company has been told in the life of her mother that has also been written. However, it might be well to say that she walked every step of the thirteen hundred miles and often helped push the handcart, as some of the older ones pulled it along. They would sing the Handcart Song, "Some must push and some must pull, as we go marching up the hill."

After arriving in Utah, she worked whenever possible to help care for herself and help her mother. The wages paid were very small and did not consist of money, but such things as a pound of butter, a little flour or a few vegetables. In this way, all helped to do their share in providing the necessities of life for the family.

While very young, she learned to sew and knit. A little later, to card wool and spin yarn. For a short time she attended school taught by George Osmond at Bountiful, Utah. He said of her, "This little English girl was, of all pupils that I have ever taught, the most intelligent and advanced for her tender years. It was surprising to see her holding her own with those several years older." (These remarks were made at her funeral service.)

At the age of sixteen years, in 1862, this family was asked by the Church to go to Cache Valley and help pioneer that country. They located at Hyrum, Utah, where she was active in Church and community life. She loved to dance and to sing, especially the hymns of the Church.

She became an expert spinner of yarn on the old spinning wheel, and this is how she earned her living, taking her "wheel" with her. Sometimes she worked by the day and at other times by the week or month, but at night returned home to spend the time with her mother, or take part in the activities of the people.

John Astle
John Astle

Here she met the young man, John Astle, whom she later married, December 9, 1866. He, too, was a convert to the Church and a recent emigrant from Nottingham, England.

Their first home was a one room log building on a few acres of choice ground her husband had purchased for a few bushels of wheat that he had received as a wage for work. They also owned the first cook stove in that community. Father (John Astle) had made a trip, by ox team, to the Missouri River to meet a company of Saints. While in Omaha, Nebraska, he purchased the stove as a wedding gift for his "bride-to-be".

In the summer of 1867, they were called by Brigham Young to move to the Bear Lake country, in Idaho, and again help pioneer a new place. Obedient to the call, they packed up their few belongings that filled but one half of the wagon box, with a pig, two sheep, and a few chickens in the other half.

They located in Montpelier, Idaho, where the seasons of the year were short and their crops were frequently frozen. It was really hard times. Sugar, if it could be purchased at all, was one dollar per pound and other articles at a proportionately high price.

Great inducements came to return to Utah, but the call had come to them from the authorities of the Church, and to follow their leaders' advice was first and foremost to them.

Mother (Isabella Jane) often recalled incidents in their life at Montpelier. She attended church wearing her mother's wedding dress, with moccasins on her feet or else carrying the only pair of shoes she owned and walking barefooted or in her stocking feet until with sight of the Meeting House, as it was then called.

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