YOUNG JAMES LAIRD
In his youth, James thought his father was a stem disciplinarian and read the Bible too much. When he and his friend
were sent home from school for misbehaving, he dreaded facing his father. Being fi1teen, he felt that it would be easier
to run away and join the Navy than to face his father. He soon found out that he had run from a severe discipline at home
to a more serious form as a sailor in the Irish Navy. Although his family was living in Ireland at this time, they were Scots
and to join the Irish Navy was 'truly an unforgivable sin.'
It was four years before he got a shore leave in Ireland. During those four years, he had developed a strong desire
to return to his home and ask forgiveness from his father.
As he and his friend neared his home, he was not sure how he would be greeted for he had not only run away without
leaving word but had also joined the Irish Navy. He had his friend go to the door saying he had a message from their son
James. His mother was with news of her son. She wept when she realized he was there - and they both wept
when she told him that his father had died shortly after James had left.
James grieved throughout his life that he had been unable to ask forgiveness from his father. In his youth, he had
felt his father was too strict but later had learned to appreciate his parents for doing what they was right.
With his father gone, James decided not to go back to the Navy and to stay to care for his mother. This meant he
was a deserter which carried a stiff It was weeks before he was stopped by an officer and asked ifhe was John
Laird. He told him that his name was James Laird but still the officer took him to the magistrate's office to have his records
They had a record of a John Laird as being a deserter, and the officer felt that James was the same man. James
showed records that he was James Laird, son of Edward and Sarah laird - that his father was dead but his mother still
lived in the area. In addition, all the marks ofidentfication recorded on the 'John Laird"documentwere not in those areas
on James - birthmarks actually on the left were listed as being on the right side. The magistrate released him and he was
free to go home.
Later when looking back, he told his children it was the Lord's work. He was grateful that he wasn't punished as a
deserter He helped his mother at home all summer. In the fall rather than returning to school , he wentto Scotland to earn
some money by working in the coal mines.
It was here he met Michael Rennie (Rainey) and was introduced to the Gospel. Michael invited him to a cottage
meeting to hear the missionaries. He turned to the Bible and through prayer and study gained a new appreciation. The
Bible was not new to him for his father had read to them every day. He was so impressed and excited about what he
had learned that he wanted to share the Gospel with his mother. When he went home to do this, his family were all
against it. The more he talked, the more they opposed him. He finally had to return to Scotland. He was baptized in
MISSIONARY EXPERIENCES OF JAMES lAIRD
To earn money, James wentto Scotland to worK in the coal mines. While there, James became friends with Michael
Rainey (Rennie) who worKed in the mines with him. Michael and his sister Mary introduced James to the gospel. He
was baptized in 1845. James developed a close friendship with Mary and they were married in 1847 by her brother,
Michael, who was an elder in the Church at that time.
In 1853, there was a call for missionaries to serve in Scotland. James accepted a call to serve and Mary took their
two young sons to stay with her family while James was away. Her mother and sister, Elizabeth (Aunt Betly), helped her
so that she could worK and meet the needs of her family. Aunt Betly was a seamstress by trade and loved to sew for
young Joseph. One time when he was all dressed up, they went walking. A stranger stopped and asked him what his
name was. He replied, "I am Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet.' His name was Joseph Smith Laird.
On his mission, James traveled without purse or script. After laboring for sometime, he needed a pair of shoes.
Being without money, he asked the Lord for help. Shortly thereafter, while tracting, a pair of shoes was found in his path
- they were the right size and served his need.
Also while tracking, he and his companion were invited into a home. The family seemed to be enjoying the message
until the father realized ~ was Mormonism. He became angry and drove the missionaries from his home. A few days
later, James was impressed to return to this home to give their crippled child a blessing. Through the priesthood, the
elders blessed the child and she was healed. Several weeks later they returned to the home to see how the father had
reacted to the healing. The mother reported that when the father returned and saw the child, he screamed "Those g-
d- Mormons have been here again. I will kill them if they ever return.' She was afraid for the elders and urged them to
leave. James told her not to be afraid but to let them talk to her husband one more time.
When the father returned and saw the missionaries, he ran for his gun declaring he would kill them. James stood
up and raised his arm and said, "I command you in the name of Israel's God and by the power of the Priesthood, put down
that gun.' The man just laughed, but the gun fell to the floor. He became helpless. The Elders administered to him and
commanded Satan to leave. The man became normal again. After his mission, James returned to his home in Scotland.
James took Mary and theirtwo sons to Ireland to v i s ~ with his family. When they arrived, they found that preparations
had been made for a revival to be held on the Laird Estate. James' brother-in-law, Alexander Donaldson, and a local
parish minister had invited people from all around to come to the meeting to be held in the barn on the estate. Many
came. While their guest speaker was delivering his sermon from the Bible, James kept calling attention to the errors in
his message. The speaker became so angry that he wanted James to be put out - since ~ was Laird land they couldn't
do that, but his mother and sisters were humiliated to tears. James answered many Questions and was able to explain
the gospel to those who would listen. Mary related to her children how proud she was of James and the way he
conducted himself. Unhappily though, James' family was not impressed and wanted them to renounce Mormonism.
Disappointed, James soon took his family back to Scotland.
MARY RAINEY LAIRD
Given as pari of program honoring women throughout the 8g8S.
My name is Mary Rainey laird. I was bom in ScoHand and baptized into the church in 1842 when I was 16 years
old. A young man named James Laird came from Ireland to work in the coal mines with my brother. Our friendship grew
and we were married in 1847.
In 1856, we gathered our things together and prepared to go to America. Our family had grown to include two sons
and a daughter. We arrived in New York in June 1856 and then traveled by train to Iowa city.
We were to be part of a handcart company, but when we arrived the handcarts were not ready and we had to wait.
While we waited, our family was assigned to Capt James Willie's company. We left Iowa City in the middle of July. The
first part of the journey was pleasant but we soon found out that the handcarts had been made too hurriedly. They began
to break and some had to be discarded. Some Indians drove off our beef cattle and we came close to being trampled
by a buffalo herd.
We suffered greaHy from the cold and from lack offood. On October 16, while in Wyoming, the last of the food was
given out and 18 inches of snow fell. Many people died.
When I left ScoHand, I brought three special things with me - a pretty set of baby clothes, a new suit for James and
my new green silk dress. When we reached Fort Laramie, I traded the baby clothes for a quart of sugar because my milk
was not enough to keep baby Elizabeth alive.
Our company got trapped in deep snows in the mountains and would not have survived if Brigham Young had not
sent help. We had been without food for two days. We both shouted and wept for joy when we saw the supply wagons.
After reaching the valley, we were sentto Spanish Fork to help colonize that area. While there, a neighbor was called
to go on a mission and James and I were asked to help keep the farm going while he was gone. He needed a suit and
so James loaned him his suit. It was hard work and when the elder returned he was unable to pay James or replace the
suit he had used.
In 1859 James and I went to the Endowment House and were sealed for time and eternity by Brigham Young. I cut
up my new green silk dress to make temple aprons. I was able to give many of my neighbors a piece.
And so the three special things I brought with me were not used in a way that I had planned, but they were used in
a way to serve the lord.
JAMES AND MARY RAINEY lAIRD
The Journey to Zion
Mary Rainey was baptized in 1842 at age sixteen. While she was studying the gospel, she had prayed for a sign to
know whether the gospel was true. At a testimony meeting, she was given the privilege of speaking in tongues. She
never doubted after that.
James Laird had come from Ireland to Scotland to work in the coal mines. One of his fellow workers was Mary's
brother, Michael and he ate his meals at the inn where Mary was working. Their friendship grew. One day James fell
asleep at the table and Mary poured satt into his open mouth. At this time Mary and Michael introduced James to the
gospel who readily accepted n and was baptized in 1845. His friendship wnh Mary grew into affection and they were
married in 1847 by Michael Rennie, then an Elder in the Church.
In 1855, a letter from President Brigham Young to Elder Franklin D. Richards in England, read ' In regards to foreign
emigrants for another year, have them take the Northern Route through New York and Chicago to Iowa Cijy, the western
terminus of the Rhode Island railroad. There they will be provided with handcarts on which to haul their provisions and
clothing. We will send experienced men to aid them. They will walk and draw their carts across the plains. Teams will
be provided to haul the aged and infirm. Cows to furnish milk and beef for meat will be furnished. Now gird up your loins
and come while the way is open."
The following spring 1856, James and Mary completed their plans to 'gather to Zion.' On May 4, 1856, they wnh their
three young children, Joseph, Edward and baby Elizabeth, boarded the ship 'Thornton' on their way to Zion. They arrived
in New York Cijy on June 14.
While in New York Cijy, they called upon his uncle, John Laird, who had been living there for several years. Being
an oyster man, John was out at sea at the time of their visn. His housekeeper told them she was sure that Captain Laird
would make n worth their while if they stayed in New York. Though this was a temptation, they fett that they needed to
continue on to Zion. They went by rail to Iowa Cijy.
Three handcart companies (totaling 816 people) using 164 handcarts had left Iowa Cijy in June. So when the Willie
company (500 people) and the Martin company (576 people) arrived ready to leave, there were not enough handcarts
ready for them. The rush to make enough resutted in using unseasoned timber and Intle or no iron to support the axle
or wheels. Many were made right on the campground. Some of the handcarts weighed only 60 pounds. The Willie
company left Iowa City on July 15 and the Martin company on July 28.
The Lairds were assigned to the Willie company. The main hardships of the e a ~ y part of the journey were the
midsummer heat and the dust. Any rain made the dust into mud making n difficutt to walk. The heat soon dried out the
timber used for the handcarts causing them to loosen and come apart. They were often patched with rawhide. These
repairs used up precious time.
They reached Winter Quarters, Nebraska on August 11. There was much discussion as to whether to wan until
spring because of the lateness of the season and the repairs needed for the handcarts. Levi Savage who had been over
the route, advised them strongly that such a journey this late in the season should not be undertaken. His reasons
included because the emigrants did not know the terrain nor the difficutties associated with handcart travel. A meeting
was held and a vote was taken. !twas decided to leave. Most in the group were anxious to reach Zion and fully expected
to make it to the Valley before winter set in. Other groups had left this late in the season and made n through without a
great deal of difficutty. They also had inexperienced emigrants. Elder Savage was rebuked by the other leaders for not
having enough faith. He was overruled but he added, 'What I have said I know to be true. But if you are going I will go
with you. I will help alii can - will work, rest, suffer, and if necessary, die with you. May God in his mercy bless and
It was necessary for the company to be put on rations very early in the journey because Indians had run off some
of their cattle. The of seventeen pounds for each person including bedding was not enough for comfort. It was
scarcely enough for survival.
In early September, the company narrowly escaped a buffalo stampede. After this they found that thirty oxen were
missing. Several unsuccessful searches were made for the oxen. In light of these difficulties, a meeting of the whole
company was called and the leaders urged that the spirit of "grumbling, strife, pilfering, and disregard of counsel" must
be replaced with a spirit of "contentment, peace, union and obedience." President Willie went on to say that he "would
like to see all the grumblers, pilferers, liars, and so forth if any were still so in their hearts to immediately stand by
themselves aside from the rest so that the brethern might better know them." He continued and asked for a sustaining
vote of the leaders but asked them not to raise their hand until they meant in their hearts. All hands were raised.
Immediately after this, the brethren yoked up many of the cows in place of the missing oxen. Cows are not as strong as
oxen so they lightened the loads of the wagons by dividing up and distributing some 6000 Ibs of flour on the handcarts.
James was called as an assistant to Captain Willie to help the weaker members of the company. After carrying his
family across the streams, he would also help carry others. He was careful to remove his shoes and stockings but others
were not. This kept him from colds.
One of James' tasks was to bury those who had died during the night. One morning when Captain Willie came to
say that there were more to layaway, James was concerned. He was losing strength and it frightened him. He had
hoped his strength would last until he was able to get his family safely to the Valley. He had never refused to help before,
but he told Captain Willie he was "afraid to use the shovel this morning." Captain Willie gave him a handful of corn saying
to eat and come and help. James was about to eat when he looked at his family. He often shared his portion with
them. Mary told him to eat and go for she that she would not make anyway with the baby nursing. Often after
nursing the baby's mouth would be streaked with blood. James walked to her and put the corn into her lap. He picked
up the shovel and went to help. Strength came to him and remained with him during the rest of the journey.
At one of their night camps, James noticed that one of his Scottish friends was missing. He remembered that earlier
Brother Booth had been ill. Mary and the children were safe in camp, so he went back to find Brother Booth. About a
mile back, he found him down and too ill to walk. There were others almost ready to give up. Full of compassion for them,
he wondered what could be done. An idea came to him - " to box their ears and stir their blood." He gave them a "Scofs
blessing." It saved them. He carried Brother Booth most of the way back to camp. The wolves were howling nearby but
James had deprived them of a meal that night. Brother Booth survived and frequenUy told the Laird children that their
father had saved his life. James gave the to the Lord.
One night President F. D. Richards came into camp with friends in a light wagon on their way to the Valley. They
promised to go to Fort Laramie to purchase some buffalo robes and other supplies and have them ready for them at the
fort. Then they would hurry on to the Valley to send relief trains back with more supplies.
A few miles before reaching Fort Laramie, the group was during a great hailstorm. After this storm, the nights
became very cold. At Fort Laramie they found that Pres. Richards had got some supplies including 60 buffalo robes but
had been unable to get enough for all. While at Fort Laramie, Mary found a captain's wife with a baby and traded the baby
clothes she had brought from ScoHand for a quart of sugar. The baby was weaned and lived on sugar water until they
An early winterset in, and snow began to fall. Mary had strapped baby Elizabeth to her back to help keep her warm.
She wrapped 4-yr-old Edward on the handcart as warmly as possible and 6-yr-old Joseph had to run along beside to
keep warm. Still they suffered intensely from the cold and shortage of food. They continued to pray for relief from the
storm or for strength to endure.
After crossing the river, the company stopped for rest. A fierce wind from the North came as a blizzard. Handcart
covers and tents were ripped to shreds. The company increased their prayers for courage and strength to meet the
seemingly endless hardships.
On October , food rations were cut again and a week all had been portioned out. Captain Willie and
Joseph Elders had set out earlier to see if they could meet the rescue party coming from the Valley. When they met the
party, they were near collapse and told the rescuers where their company was camped and that they had been without
food for at least two days.
The rescue party hurried on to meet the company. On the evening of the third day after Captain Willie had left, the
company Sighted the rescuers. Word spread like wildfire and all who could leave their beds ran to meet them. There
were shouts of joy and prayers of thanks. Grown men wept along with the others. Food was given to everyone. The
Lairds were able to enjoy the food and Baby Elizabeth went off of her sugar water diet.
The supply train numbered 250 teams and men. Some continued on to help the Martin company who were about
100 miles behind them. They, too, had doled out the last of their rations a few days before being rescued.
The Willie company arrived in Lake City on November and within an hour every person was in a warm home
receiving the care they needed. Bishop LeonardW. Hardy of the Ward cared for the Laird family. Earlier the bishop's
family had adopted a 9-yr-old boy, Richard Winmill, whose parents had died at Council Bluffs. Richard was the first to
take a basket of food to the Laird family. Fifteen years later, he married ' baby" Elizabeth. She became mother to fifteen
In Captain Willie's report to President Young, he had high praises for James' help and usefulness. President Young
called him in to thank him and offered them care for the winter. James thanked him saying that he didn't want to be a
burden to the church, but he did want a place to work. Bishop Hardy was told to give James a place to live and work.
He sent the Lairds to his farm in Parley's Canyon.
JAMES AND MARY RAINEY LAIRD
After arriving in the Valley in 1856, James and Mary Laird with their three children spent the winter on the Hardy farm
in Parley's Canyon. In the summer of 1857, they moved to the Spanish Fork area. Two daughters were born here. It
was here, too, that they traveled to Lake City and received their endowments and were sealed by Brigham Young
in the Endowment House. The green silk dress that Mary had brought from Scotland was cut up to make temple aprons.
She was able to give pieces to several neighbors.
While in Spanish Fork, James was ordained a High Priest at the age of 35. Also while there, a call came for
missionaries. One of the farmers that was called made arrangements with James to help with the farm work while he was
gone. James was to be paid when the farmer returned. He also needed a suit, and so the last of Mary's special items
from Scotland, a fine suit for James, was given to him with the promise that it would be replaced when he returned.
The work turned out to be The farmer's wife was a tough boss. Among other chores, James milked the
cows. Mary did the laundry for the farmer's wife in return for milk for her children. When the Elder returned, the wife
refused to let him pay James nor would she let him replace the suit. James and Mary considered it a donation towards
missionary work rather than argue with them.
From here the family moved to Heber City in 1861, where James found good work. A son, James, was born to them
on Christmas Eve, but was taken just a year later when he became ill with diphtheria. After this, they purchased land in
Parley's Canyon in a very small community called Mountain Dell . They built a home close to the trail and operated a way-
station for travelers. Three more daughters were born here. Besides farming, James and his sons hauled freight from
Park City to Lake City. They also acquired some mining property.
One evening when James and the two older boys were gone with a load to Lake City, Mary was curling
Elizabeth's hair after the younger children had all been put to bed. The door opened and in came Joe, an Indian boy who
had been raised by a white family, and four of his friends. They were drunk. Fearing what they might do, Mary said that
James and the boys would be back soon. Joe told her she lied because he had seen them on their way to Lake City.
The room was warm and one of the Indians got sick. Mary opened the door and told them to leave. Joe did take them
out but Mary and Elizabeth stayed by the windows with guns until just before daybreak when a traveler came by. He
stood guard until James returned. James went to find Joe and ask him about scaring his family. Joe said he had actually
saved them for the others wanted to kill them.
Sorrow came to the Lairds while at this home. In the year of 1871, there was a diphtheria epidemic and three of their
daughters died within one month - 12 yr-old Mary, 7 yr-old Harriet, and 3 yr-old Sophia. After this, they moved to
Goshen, where their last child, Alex, was born. In the same year, their oldest son, Joseph Smith Laird, married Persis
McGhee in the Endowment House. They had two daughters when tragedy struck. Joseph, who had walked across the
plains when 7 years old and was with them when they were trapped in the snows of Wyoming, died in 1876 at the age
Shortly after this, James and Mary moved back to their canyon home. In 1878, the dreaded diphtheria came again
and took 8 yr-old Sarah. After this, Mary's heaith failed and she suffered from neuralgia of the heart. They had buried
six of their ten children, five while they were still children.
Also at this time, James sought permission to hold Sunday School in the home of their daughter, Elizabeth (Winmill).
Each week they would carry chairs to Elizabeth's for the meetings. In 1879, the Mountain Dell Branch was organized with
James as Presiding Elder. Shortly, a log structure was b u i ~ for them to hold their meetings that served them for many
years. This building also served as a school. By the end of 1880, there were 95 church members in Mountain Dell plus
a few non-members. A ward was organized in 1882. James was called as a counselor to Bishop Hardy.
In Mary's patriarchal blessing tt states how she would have the power to administer to those around her and that the
angels of mercy would be wtth her. James' blessing promises him that he, too, would be able to administer to the afflicted
and they would be healed under his administration. They both were called on frequenUy to help those in need.
Mary's blesSing goes on to say 'You shall live on earth as long as life is sweet unto you.' In 1883, Mary passed away
and James followed just a year later. Their challenges of this life were over and they left a legacy of fatth and endurance.
THE RENNIE (RAINEY) FAMilY
(further research since this writing uncovered further details - this information is added at the end)
Mary and Michael Rennie (Rainey) were children of Hugh and Elizabeth Crealman Rennie. Hugh was bom in Derry,
Ireland of Scottish descent. He fell in love with Elizabeth Crealman of Newton Derry. Their love blossomed but her
parents would not accept Hugh. They had chosen a young man of their social standing and marriage preparations were
being made. This was all against Elizabeth's wishes.
One night while in her room upstairs, Elizabeth was awaken by a pebble against the window pane. When she looked
out, there was Hugh. He implored her ifshe loved him to come away with him. Elizabeth climbed out of the window. They
rode away and were married that night. They went to Scotland to live.
Hugh was the athletic type being fond of boxing and wrestling. He held the championship among his fellow workers.
He often made extra money in the ring until he had an accident and broke his leg. While he was hospitalized, his doctor
and a young intem were making visits. For the benefit of his student, the doctor handled Hugh roughly and hurt him.
Hugh reacted by landing a blow to the doctor. The two fought back and Hugh was left on the floor with a broken back.
He never walked again. He bum a wagon that he operated by hand to carry him back and forth to work.
Shortly after the British Mission was opened in 1637, the message was taken to Scotland. Several members of the
Rennie family readily accepted Mormonism.
Michael, a son of Hugh and Elizabeth, and his family became zealous workers in the Church. He became one of the
local leaders and performed the marriage ceremony in 1647 for his sister, Mary, to James Laird whom they had
introduced to the gospel.
Michael and his family wanted to emigrate to America. They worked and planned for ij. An Elder, about to be
released, persuaded them to consider traveling to America with him. Michael sold all of his belongings, which gave him
enough to take his family to America. They gave their money to the Elder who was to check passports and purchase
passage for the family. But when the Rennie family arrived at the station, the Elder was gone. He had used the money
to purchase fares for a widow and her 12 year old daughter.
What a blow to this family. Some of the family were so disappointed, they had feelings of doubt, but Michael urged
his family to stay strong. A year later, on his death bed, he bore his testimony to his family, again urging them to stay by
the Church for he knew that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet and that their Elder was weak.
Michael's two older daughters, Joan and Elizabeth, went to work for a wealthy lady who eventually took them to
Canada. James and Mary received a letter from Joan saying that she had married a Mr. Campbell and Elizabeth had
married Quentin Valentine.
When James and Mary Rennie Laird were preparing to emigrate to America, they promised Joan that they would
find the Elder who had wronged them and have him tried before Brigham Young. When James found him, the ' poor
creature was going through hell with the widow that he had married.' When James said that he was going to take him
to Brigham Young and have him retum the money, the Elder replied 'Brother Laird, if I could undo what I did to Michael
Rennie, I would be willing to be skinned from head to toot.' He never did repay the money. James and Mary decided not
to divulge his name to friend or family and to let God be his judge. James wrote to Joan and explained the situation and
The following infonnation was gleaned from Scottish civil and census records and early Scottish Mormon records:
Hugh Rennie b. 10 Mar 1789 Belfast Parish, Belfast, Antrim, Ireland d. 3 May 1858 M i ~ o n , Glasgow, Lanark, Scotland
Elizabeth Crealman b. 22 Mar 1789 Kingreach, Macosquin, -, Ireland d. 20 Jun 1853 Glasgow, Lanark, Scotland
(furlher research indicates that Kingreach is a mis-spelling for Ringrash in Derry County which is near Newton)
Michael Rennie performed the marriage of James Laird and Mary Rennie on 20 Aug 1847 in Dairy, Ayr, Scotland.
Michael Rennie married Elizabeth Barclay on the 8 Jun 1838 in Kilbarchan, Renfrew, Scotland. They went on to have
nine children. Michael died 21 Jul1871 at Annick Lodge, Irvine, Ayr, Scotland and Elizabeth died at the same place on
12 Apr 1874. Annick Lodge is a colliery - a group of homes owned by a coal company for the use of their workers.
Their daughter Elizabeth, married Quinton Ballintyne on the 31 Dec 1863 in Irvine. They are on the 1880 Ohio census.
In the summer of 1881, Michael's daughter Agnes visited with James and Mary Laird in their Mountain Dell home.