Since the organization of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April 1830, men have sacrificed their time, their money, and even their lives to build up the kingdom of God and to spread the gospel to others. Many of these sacrifices were made possible by strong, devoted women who were equally committed to their faith. Huldah Meriah Clark Ballantyne was one such woman.
Huldah, her parents (Gardenar and Delecta Farrar Clark), and her five sisters were converted to the Church in New York. Driven from their homes by mobs, they joined the Saints migrating to the Salt Lake Valley. While traveling with the wagon train, Huldah met a young Scot, Richard Ballantyne, one of the officers of the pioneer company. Huldah and Richard grew to love each other. In Winter Quarters, Nebraska, on February 18, 1847, they were married by Heber C. Kimball.
The couple’s first home was a shack on the east bank of the Missouri River. When winter passed, the wagon train continued west. Huldah gave birth to their first child, Richard Alando, in their covered wagon on June 1, 1848.
Life was hard in the Great Salt Lake Valley. While Richard struggled in the fields to raise crops, Huldah worked inside, trying to stretch their meager supplies into enough food for their family. She learned to use sego lily roots, thistles, and weeds in preparing meals. Potatoes were mixed with flour to make bread.
Huldah and Richard fought storms, grasshoppers, and drought. Despite their constant work, they experienced repeated crop failures. Although they had barely enough to live on, Richard was inspired to start a Sunday School for the children of the valley. With Huldah’s help, he cleared land and built an adobe house. When he grew weary, Huldah quietly encouraged him and worked beside him. She helped him select music and lessons for the Sunday School. For over a year Sunday School was held every week in the Ballantyne home.
At a special conference held in Great Salt Lake City on August 28 and 29, 1852, Richard was called to serve a mission in Hindoostan (Hindustan), India. For four years the Ballantynes had been hungry. Their clothing was inadequate to protect them against the harsh winters; they had no money and little food. With Richard gone, life would be even harder. Yet Huldah did not hesitate in supporting her husband in this call. She immediately began to prepare clothing for Richard, darning his socks and scrubbing and mending his white shirts. When she discovered that his one suit was totally threadbare, she ripped out the seams of her best homespun skirt, made from material that she had woven and dyed herself. She took Richard’s measurements and carefully tailored a suit for him. That suit was to last him throughout his mission.
Richard was gone for three years. By herself, Huldah cared for their three small children, tilled the land, and made all of the family’s daily necessities. She carded wool and extracted dyes from roots, leaves, bark, vegetable peelings, and cochineal bugs. From beef and mutton tallow, she fashioned her own candles. Scraps of fat, rind, and meat trimmings were saved to make into soap. After soaking and drying potatoes, she grated them to use as starch.
Throughout her life, Huldah quietly loved and took care of her family. She did not serve a mission or even travel far from her own home after she settled in Utah. Yet her influence was deeply felt in the lives of her husband and nine children.