Jane Manning was born in Wilton, Connecticut in a free black family. She heard the LDS missionaries preaching their message in 1842 and wanted to be baptized. Many of her family joined at that time as well.
She organized her family, and together with the missionaries, they set out for Nauvoo. They took a boat to Buffalo, New York, but because they were black, and no one believed they were free, they were separated from the others. They were forced to walk the rest of the way, being over 1000 miles. “We walked until our shoes were worn out, and our feet became sore and cracked open and bled until you could see the whole print of our feet with blood on the ground. We stopped and united in prayer to the Lord. We asked God the Eternal Father to heal our feet and our prayers were answered and our feet were healed.”
While crossing a river without a bridge, they were neck-deep in the water. “We went on our way rejoicing, singing hymns, and thanking God for his infinite goodness and mercy to us, in blessing us…protecting us…and healing our feet.”
As they entered the city of Nauvoo, they were directed to the Mansion House where Emma warmly greeted them inside. The Prophet sat next to Jane and listened intently to her story. Upon hearing of the entire ordeal, Joseph said, “God bless you. You are among friends, now you will be protected.”
Her family all found homes and jobs to perform, but Jane was invited to stay with Joseph and Emma. She lived comfortably with them and many others who were in and out of the prophet’s home.
After the martyrdom, Jane lived in Brigham Young’s home until she met and married Isaac James, also a member of the Church. Jane gave birth to a son, in Winter Quarters, before they all set out west in one of the advance groups.
Life was not easy those first few years in the valley. Jane comments, “Oh how I suffered of cold and hunger,” but she was always willing to share with her friends and neighbors.
The James family settled in the First Ward where six more children were born to the family. They managed and prospered quite well. After twenty years in the valley, Isaac left the Church and Jane, leaving her to remain faithful, which she did. Twenty years later, he would return to her, and the Church. She accepted him back, took care of him, and buried him.
Jane Manning James remained active in her faith, and true to the Relief Society. She worked on special projects, donated toward temple building funds, and contributed to the Lamanite Mission.
Her faith never failed her. She requested numerous times to be sealed to her family. It was never granted; however, she was able to be baptized for her kindred dead. At this writing her temple work, as well as much of the work for her family, has been completed.
She dictated her own biography later in life and wanted her testimony to be remembered. “I want to say right here, that my faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is as strong today, nay, it is, if possible, stronger than it was the day I was first baptized. I pay my tithes and offerings, keep the word of wisdom, I go to bed early and rise early, I try in my feeble way to set a good example to all.”
When Jane died in 1908, President Joseph F. Smith spoke at her funeral.
Can I just say how grateful I am that her story has been recorded and kept so we all might remember the great sacrifices made by such a stalwart woman. Jane kept her covenants, even when it appeared everyone was against her. Her strength of faith and determination exhibited is an example to me.