Patty Bartlett Sessions is one of my heroes of Church History. She is the epitome of toughness and faith, the true combination of Brigham’s challenge to “work like it is all up to you, and pray like it all depends on the Lord.” She had a never say die attitude and was tough in a time when everyone had to be tough to survive. I envision her riding a horse at 2 in the morning to go and deliver a baby, and then the next day doing all the work that needed to be done around the house to take care of her 8 children.
Patty Bartlett was born in Bethel, Maine on February 4, 1795. She married David Sessions on June 28, 1812, and they cleared and ran a farm for some years, during which time she had 8 children. Around 1812, she delivered her first baby. A doctor came later, congratulated her, and said, “Must attend to the business.” She subsequently continued delivering children. Often in Maine she would ride horseback as far as twenty miles on deserted roads to deliver a baby and would be summoned at all hours of the day or night. (Compton, p.171)
While she grew up Methodist, in 1834 she was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She and her family then moved to Missouri in 1836, where they lived in Far West until they were driven out by the Extermination Order. Leaving behind almost everything they owned, they traveled to Nauvoo.
Session’s diaries begin with a journal that she received from her daughter, Sylvia, on February 4, 1846. Her diaries provide daily record for over 20 years, included every birth. After 1868, there are gaps in her record, but she continued to record entries in her diary until she was 94 years old, in 1888.
In 1846, the Saints began to head beyond the western frontier into what was then Mexico. President Brigham Young instructed Patty Sessions to go with the pilot company to care for the sick and afflicted, as well as to serve as midwife. She delivered nine babies on the banks of the Missippi, and many others along the trek. Patty’s overland diary begins on February 10: “My things are now packed ready for the West have been and put Richard Binds wife to bed with a daughter in the afternoon put Sister Hariet Young to bed with a son.” Patty was 51 at this time, the casual references to delivering babies are typical of her diary.
She spent the winter of 1846–47 at Winter Quarters, and on June 15, 1847, at 52 years old, Sessions left Winter Quarters for “the mountains.” On September 24, 1847 she arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. “I have drove my wagon all the way but part of the two last (nites) … I broke nothing nor turned over.”
Within one year of arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Sessions delivered 248 babies. She recorded 3,977 births with only “two difficult cases.” She made an average of $2 per birth and continued to deliver babies until she was about 85 years old.
Patty sold her Salt Lake home in 1872 when she was 77 and moved to Bountiful to be closer to her daughter. She writes, “I left the SL City and moved to Bountiful where I am having a house built I move my things into it but it is not finished my house is finished cost me three thousand five hundred dollars 3500 and all paid for I owe no one any thing.” Patty shared how the Lord had blessed her since her arrival into the valley, stating that when she arrived in the valley she had only 5 cents, and how by 1883 she had $16,000 invested in Z.C.M.I.
When she died in 1892 at the age of 97, she was survived by two sons, 33 grandchildren, 137 great-grandchildren, and 22 great-great-grandchildren. She had this to say to her posterity: “I here say to all my children and my grandchildren and great grandchildren, etc, and to all others I have been punctual to my word I never have given my note to anyone Neither have I had any accounts on or any books in any store I have kept out of debt paid my taxes my fasts my donations and my tithing willingly of the best I have. And the Lord has blessed me and prospered me in all I have done for which I feel very thankful, hoping he will continue to bless me while I live both spiritually and temporally, with all that shall be for my good and his glory to give unto me I am now almost eighty two years old February next the 4th I drink no tea nor coffee nor liquors I don’t smoke nor take snuff nor any poisonous medicine. I use consecrated oil for my complaints. Now I say to you do as I have done and as much better as you can and the Lord will bless you as he has me. Patty Sessions.”