Catherine was born on 17 August 1838 in Borland, near Dysart, Fifeshire, Scotland. Her parents were James Cunningham and Elizabeth Nicholson Cunningham. She had 6 siblings: Robert, Alexander, George, Elizabeth, Margaret, and Joseph A. She worked in mills and factories in Scotland from the age of twelve until she left the country. Her family immigrated to America in 1856. Having joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they traveled in the Willie Handcart Company, arriving in Salt Lake City on 9 November 1856. Catherine was 18 when they finished their journey. Shortly after getting their bearings, Catherine’s family was sent to American Fork to settle there. Three years later, on 7 March 1859 in Salt Lake City, Utah Catherine married Arza Matson Adams along with her sister wife, Marilla Olney. She and her husband had 11 children together: James Arza, Elizabeth Ellen, Charles Franklin, Beulah, Agnes, Alexander, Margaret Ann, Phoebe, Mary, Isabell, and Daniel Erwin. She spent the last part of her life caring for 5 grandsons after 2 of her daughters passed away. She died on 10 December 1912 in American Fork, Utah.
This manuscript is a biographical sketch numbering 4 photocopied typescript pages entitled, “Life Sketch of Catherine Cunningham Adams.” It is written by Catherine’s granddaughter, La Belle Andersen Ingersoll. The biography covers Catherine’s birth and her family’s conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as they housed the missionaries for a time. When Catherine was 12, the family, now converted, set out from their home in Scotland for the United States, boarding the ship, “Thornton,” along with 500 other converts. They landed in New York 6 weeks later. Much of the rest of the manuscript is written about their hard journey to Salt Lake City, Utah with the Willie Handcart Company in the Winter of 1856. It details the terrible weather the company encountered on their trek, and how dire their situation was, given their lack of food and proper clothing. Upon their arrival, Catherine and her family were sent to live in American Fork. The manuscript also touches on Catherine’s married and maternal life, mentioning her polygamous union to Arza Adams with her sister-wife, Marilla Olney, and the number of children – both hers and the children of her children – she raised.