The Autobiography of Alma Elizabeth Mineer Felt
The is the last of the “histories” that I’ve discovered in mom’s house. As the last to be posted, and quite by accident, it is also by far the best. If any of you wonder why Grandma Etta Toronto was so well adjusted and loving and kind and funny, it’s because her own mother, Alma Elizabeth Mineer Felt was a total character! She’s so dead-pan funny.
She walked across the plains in 1861 when she was six years old. Her stories of the voyage from Sweden, the Negro cook on the ship, the wagon train, the tragedies of death, and the hostile Indians are utterly fascinating. Later in Salt Lake at age fourteen, She became a dressmaker and made elaborate dresses for Salt Lake’s wealthiest, including, the notorious Madam Kate Flint and her… ahem…, “girls” of the Revere House located two blocks from the Salt Lake Temple. She tells how she became friends with, and ran around with, Brigham Young’s daughters, the “Young girls”, the “Big Ten” and the “Little Ten”. She then became an actress and a singer on the stage of the Salt Lake Social Hall and the Salt Lake Theater. My sister Wendy recently wondered, where was Grandma Etta when my Dad (as he wrote in his journal) stayed out until one or two in the morning as a teenager? Well, maybe it was because her own mother, Alma Mineer, as a teenager, stayed out after the theater closed until four or five in the morning… every night… dancing! And sometimes, even after sunrise.
Here’s a teaser for you:
Our shoes wore out on the way and we continued bare-foot. Our clothes were ragged and in ribbons. We looked like Indians as we came to the end of our journey. We stopped occasionally at the banks of streams and washed up and bathed and washed our clothes. The entire trip was hot dry and dusty with the terrific sun beating on our heads. Of course to me as a child, this had been a delightful pleasure jaunt and I remember it only as fun. We children would run along as happy as could be. My older sisters used to make rag dolls as they walked along for us little children to play with. But to my mother, this long hot journey, with all of us ragged and footsore to the end, and the arrival in the valley of desert and sagebrush must have been a heart-breaking contrast to the beautiful home she had left in Sweden. In the years that followed, we were to live in forts, cellars and dugouts, among hostile Indians [in the Black Hawk War] so that we did not know whether we were ever safe. But to me, and to my mother, the Gospel had been worth all it had cost.
And so, for the latest and greatest of these “can’t put it down” journals, I present to you the autobiography of Alma Elizabeth Mineer Felt, the mother of Grandma Etta Toronto:
ALMA ELIZABETH MINEER FELT
Autobiography as dictated to Alma Keysor Olson by Alma Elizabeth Felt in 1938
I was born in Landskrona, Sweden, May 1, 1855, the youngest of a family of eight. There were two who died in childhood and who were left in Sweden when our family came to Utah. Landskrona was one of the finest cities of Sweden. My father was the conductor of the orchestra in one of the largest theaters in Landskrona.
Landskrona was situated on the bay opposite Copenhagen. In the wintertime the bay would freeze over, sometimes thirty feet deep, and my father with other people of the city would skate across from Landskrona to Copenhagen, a distance of twenty miles across the bay. (It takes five American miles to make one Swedish mile, so the distance from Landskrona to Copenhagen was four Swedish miles or twenty American miles).
Half way across they built a coffee house in the winter time, and when the skaters reached the house they would stop for coffee and buns. The Swedish can make the best buns you ever ate in your life for they are good cooks.
Father made these trips long before I was born. I was the baby of the family.
My father was a very fine violinist, one of the best who ever came to Utah. In addition to being the leader of the orchestra, he also composed music. This was never published. He would write down the notes, and then carry the music in his mind. I do not know what became of the compositions. I have never seen any of them preserved.
When my father was a little boy he was very eager to learn music. His father wanted the older brother to be a musician and bought this older boy a violin. For my father, the younger brother, he made a child’s toy violin by putting strings across a little wooden shoe. My father learned to play music on this little wooden shoe. But when his older brother was away at work, my father would get his violin secretly and play on it.
When my father was twelve years old, my grandfather discovered that the older boy did not know music and was not really interested in learning, so he gave the violin to my father who was greatly delighted.
In addition to his work as leader of the orchestra in Landskrona, my father was also a shoemaker and made very fine beautiful shoes. One has to learn more than one trade in the old country.
We had one of the loveliest orchards at our home in Landskrona. The year before we left we sold twenty pecks of ripe gooseberries, very large, almost the size of a walnut. My sister picked them and sold them. We also raised cherries.
Our home was a beautiful one and a large. We rented two rooms to an old lady. We sold all of our belongings except a few necessities when we moved to Utah and we were able to pay our passage in advance.
When I was five years old, I was out playing on the sidewalk with some other children when a little girl pushed me down on the sidewalk, cutting my head on a sharp stone, causing blood to spurt forth and run down my face. My father carried me into the house to dress my wound which he did with shoemakers wax. I well remember that my eleven year old brother who was holding the candle for my father to see by, comforted me by saying, “Never mind Alma, don’t feel bad. You’ll soon be well again”, and then he fainted.
When I was a little older, mother bought me a primer and taught me the ABC’s. “If you are a good girl and study hard and put your book under your pillow, the rooster in the book will lay a penny” my mother promised me. So I put the book under the pillow and went out to play. When I returned I looked under the pillow and a penny rolled onto the floor.
We had a wonderful vegetable garden at the edge of which were some wonderful gooseberry bushes. When the fruit was ripe on these bushes they would lean clear over the ground. I was very fond of the gooseberries and would go often and sit under the bushes where I couldn’t be seen and pick the fruit and eat it.
One day my father heard me under one of the bushes and thinking it was a chicken that had flown over the high stone wall around our orchard, went into the house and brought his gun. He shot into the bush and I came out in a hurry. Father was thoroughly frightened and picked me up carrying me into the house where he kissed and hugged me. It was many years before he had the courage to tell me that particular story.
When I was only six years old a missionary came to our house and told my father and mother that in America, God and his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, came down from heaven and stood before a fourteen-year old boy called Joseph Smith. They told this little boy that they would give him the only true Church upon the face of the earth which would be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This missionary was a local man who had been taught by the missionaries from Utah.
My mother, one lovely morning, took me alone with her to a beautiful green hill and we both knelt down in prayer. Mother asked God if this Church was right. She told me later that at that moment she felt such a wonderful spirit, as if she were lifted up out of herself and a beautiful power surrounded her and it seemed to her that something whispered to her, “This is the true Church.” She had read the passage in the Bible which says that if one will ask God, he will make the truth known, and she felt that she had the same right to ask.
Later, the children joined the Church also, and all of my brothers and sisters were baptized in the bay. My father, however, hesitated a little about joining the Church. He flet that it was well enough to leave things as they were for the present. He said that he might join the Church later, but that in any event he felt that they should remain in Sweden where he had a good position.
Then, one very cold winter night, as he was coming home from the theater after the performance, he suddenly felt in his finger a painful pricking. It was the opening of inflammatory rheumatism, which spread over his whole body. His fingers and toes curled up and great knots came on his finger joints. He was no longer able to play the violin or to work as a shoemaker or even to go about. He was forced through his illness to stay in bed for six months. My mother cared for him and she had him eat thousands of lemons.
During the time of his illness, he had an opportunity to read the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and other Church works which he had not read before. He became convinced of the truth of the Gospel and he promised the Lord that if he should be made well again, he would be baptized in the bay and would take his family to Zion.
Gradually his fingers and toes began to straighten and he kept his promise to be baptized in the bay. When he came up from the water, his fingers were completely straight and supple and free from the knots of rheumatism.
In 1861, father and mother sold our lovely home and came to Utah. Mother put some bedding — quilts, blankets, and sheets — in a big sheet and tied the four corners into a knot. We also had a wooden chest, bound with metal bands and a lock to stand rough handling. It was about three feet high, three feet wide and four or five feet long. In this mother put our clothing, some dishes, knives, forks, spoons, frying pan, one cooking kettle — the things that she thought we would need on our journey across the plains.
We embarked on a small boat from Copenhagen to Liverpool. The North Sea is very bumpy, and I was so sick on this boat! It just bumped up and down! When I got seasick, I said, “Mother, make them stop the ship. I want to get off.” But they didn’t stop, and oh, how sick I was!
We left for America on May 1st, on my sixth birthday.
At Liverpool, we embarked on “the Monarch of the Sea”. It was called this because at the time it was built, it was the largest sailing vessel afloat, but at the time we traveled in it, it was a very old and rickety ship, and entirely un-seaworthy.
The sea was so rough and stormy that the waves washed over the top of the deck. When the people were frightened, the Captain said, “We’ll land in New York all right. We’ve got Mormon’s on board and we always get through when we have Mormons.” On its return voyage, “The Monarch of the Sea”, loaded with cargo, sank, but the Captain and the crew were saved.
There were many Mormon families on board. Some were from England, some from Scotland, many others besides ourselves from Sweden, and others from other countries. Traveling with us was Mrs. Johnson and her three daughters from our city. The oldest of these three girls, Christina Johnson, was the mother of Lorenzo Stohl.
We were on the Monarch of the Sea six weeks. All of the Mormon families traveled in the steerage. The voyage was very rough. I can remember the chest sliding and banging from side to side across the wooden floor with all of the other chests and trunks with it! I can also remember my mother sitting and clasping her hands and praying that we would get to America safe. She was a very devout and courageous woman.
We slept in bunks on the sides of the boat. In the center we children played during the daytime and ate our meals. Our food consisted of hard tack and a little bacon and coffee. We used our chests and trunks as tables when we ate our food. Sometimes the Captain would be kinder than usual and send down a little soup.
There were a lot of sailors on the boat and they were so good to me. A Negro cook who did the cooking for the sailors and the Captain and who had his kitchen on the upper deck, was very kind-hearted and generous. He used to give me prunes, dried apples, raisins and sometimes cookies, and often a bowl of soup. I was on deck frequently and knew all the sailors and the cook. Sometimes he used to sneak some soup down to the emigrants in the steerage because he felt so sorry for them.
The Captain caught him at this and so he put him in jail. The jail was on the upper deck and I can remember that I used to see his black fingers over the bars through the high opening in the door. One day he died. They told me that the Captain had starved him to death. This must have been true because otherwise he would not have died just from being in the jail.
The body of my friend, the Negro cook, was brought into the kitchen where it was sewed up in a sheet. Then they put him on a long board, carried him to the side of the boat, and slid him into the ocean. I was the chief mourner because he had been so good to me. I cried bitterly.
One day my sister was on deck and one of the sailors who was up in the mast dropped one of the iron spikes on my sister’s head. It fortunately hit side-wise instead of end-wise but it put a deep gash in her head and the blood was streaming onto the deck. The poor boy did not mean to do it, but some of the officers started to beat him. My mother came up on deck, elbowed her way through the crowd to the boy and said, “You leave him alone, he never meant to hurt my child!” Although she could not speak the English language, she made herself understood in Swedish by her actions. They all let him alone and he was very grateful to my mother.
The emigrants washed their clothes on the ship as best they could in the sea water, and they had their lines for drying on the top deck. I can remember seeing the shirts blowing in the wind with the shirt sleeves puffing out full in the breezes.
We finally landed in New York all safe and sound and went to a place called Castle Garden, where all the emigrants landed, and where all the freight unloaded from the vessels was brought for storage temporarily. Castle Garden was located at the Battery, just across from the Goddess of Liberty, where the Aquarium is now. It was right on the water front.
Castle Garden was the dumping ground for all kinds of cargo and it was also crowded with emigrants. The floor was greasy and dirty. Here we had to make our beds on the floor as did all the other emigrants. Mother spread out the quilts and bedding and we all lay down in a row, the children, and mother and father.
My little brother was sleeping next to me on the dirty floor. There were sacks of brown sugar at our heads. In the night he awoke and whispered to me, “Alma, there is a hole in the corner of this sack and I am going to have some brown sugar.” We had not had any sugar or candy all the way over so we got a spoon out of the box and had all the brown sugar we could eat. In the morning we were so sick! We got up, went to the bay and threw it all up and did not care for any brown sugar after that!
From New York City, we traveled by boat up the Hudson and took the trains at Albany to travel to Omaha, the outfitting place for for our trip across the plains. All of us Mormon emigrants were forced to travel on sheep cars so filthy with sheep beans on the floor that we could not even sit down and had to stand all the way. We traveled this distance without a change of cars.
My sister and her husband, who was a butcher, had left Sweden the previous year and had stopped in Omaha to await our coming. How happy we were to see them! They had rented a house in Omaha and we stayed with them and rested a little while until the teams came from Salt Lake City for us. Then my sister and her husband and our family all traveled together across the plains.
The train which came to get us was made up of independent teams under the direction of Captain Murdock. We started on our long journey from Omaha with eighty wagons in our train. There were three ox teams pulling each covered wagon. There were three families using our wagon, so you see it was loaded to the bows with their equipment, baggage and clothing, and it was necessary for us all to walk all the way — men, women and children. We made the trip from Omaha through the perpetual Emigration Fund, and my brother afterward paid our expenses to this fund.
One woman with our wagon had a baby very sick with summer complaint, and she had to ride with the baby all the way. The baby died one day and they dug out a little grave at night by our wagon, put a sheet around her thin little body and laid her in the grave. We did not have any box to put her in and had to bury her that way. When the dirt was put on her, the mother just cried as though her heart would break. We all cried because we could never see that grave again.
We used to start out to walk, getting a head start in the morning after breakfast about a half hour before the wagons started in order to avoid the heavy clouds of dust. We all walked in a body together for safety.
One woman in our party, a woman named Hustmark, who came from the same town as we did, started out one day ahead of the rest… she said she wasn’t afraid of the Indians. But they stole her away. It was said they put her in a saddle and rode off with her. They were crazy about white people. She was never heard of again. Whether she lived with the Indians I do not know. How they would treat her would depend on what tribe it was. Some tribes might have been kind to her if she stayed with them.
I had to walk all the way across the plains because our wagons were loaded to the bows. Our kettles and utensils hung from the back of the wagons. After walking all day, we had our suppers which consisted of hard bread, a little bacon, and a little coffee. When the tired oxen had eaten their suppers we put all our wagons in one round ring, then we put the oxen inside this ring so the Indians wouldn’t steal them.
One night we traveled all night long. The Indians were so bad they had stolen a woman from a train ahead of us, so we walked all through the night to escape them and get past their camps. The journey across the plains was very hard for my father and mother. This night was very difficult for my father to keep up with the wagon train. He kept going slower and slower because of his rheumatism. I kept hold of his hand and tried to help him as much as I could. Finally he could not keep up with the train any longer and he told me to keep hold of back of the last wagon and continue on and he would catch up with us later when we stopped to camp. He was finally left behind.
Soldiers were camping in the hills and had a big bonfire. Father mistook this for our camp and went in that direction. When he got there he was surprised to see so many soldiers. The gentiles were very hostile against the Mormons and he did not know how they would accept him. They asked him what he could do and he said he could play the fiddle so they had him play all night long. In the morning, one of the men brought him to our camp just as we started to travel on. Mother had cried all night because she was afraid the Indians had taken him and she would never see him again. We all thanked our Father in Heaven that he was with us again for the train would have had to start on without him. It was too dangerous to wait for anyone.
Our shoes wore out on the way and we continued bare-foot. Our clothes were ragged and in ribbons. We looked like Indians as we came to the end of our journey. We stopped occasionally at the banks of streams and washed up and bathed and washed our clothes. The entire trip was hot dry and dusty with the terrific sun beating on our heads. The women wore sunbonnets and did the best they could, but mother often told me how she suffered with the heat. We could travel only ten or twelve miles a day.
We used to sleep at night on the ground on the outside of the circle of wagons. For a long way we followed the Platte River, crossing and re-crossing it. This was a wide, shallow river, winding like a snake. When the river was very shallow, the oxen pulled the wagons across and we rode. When it was deeper, the oxen swam the stream and the wagons floated over by placing logs under them, the poles acting as an improvised raft.
When we came to the Green River, we had to cross on a ferry. This is the only ferry crossing I remember. The ferry was pulled from one side of the river to the other by means of a heavy rope stretched from one bank to the other. The wagons were pulled onto the platform and the oxen and wagons were slowly ferried across. When going through the Platte, I can remember the heads of the oxen bobbing in the water.
After three and a half months walking over a hot desert, up the rugged hills and down the hills and canyons, we finally came out of Emigration Canyon dirty and ragged. When I saw my mother looking over this valley with the tears streaming down her pale cheeks, she made this remark, “Is this Zion and are we at the end of this long weary journey?”
Of course to me as a child, this had been a delightful pleasure jaunt and I remember it only as fun. We children would run along as happy as could be. My older sisters used to make rag dolls as they walked along for us little children to play with.
But to my mother, this long hot journey, with all of us ragged and footsore to the end, and the arrival in the valley of desert and sagebrush must have been a heart-breaking contrast to the beautiful home she had left in Sweden. In the years that followed, we were to live in forts, cellars and dugouts, among hostile Indians so that we did not know whether we were ever safe. But to me, and to my mother, the Gospel had been worth all it had cost.
We came down into the little village where there were only a very few little adobe and log houses.
Our entire train camped in the Eighth Ward Square. It was a dirty old place. There was a constant succession of emigrant trains camping there. Some had come in front of us a day or two. Other trains were two or three days behind. While we camped with our wagons in the square, the oxen were taken into the tithing yard back of the tithing office at South Temple and Main Street where they were fed and cared for in preparation for leaving for the east again to bring another company of emigrants.
In a few days we went to live in a little adobe house of two rooms located on East Temple Street, now Main Street, at the spot where the Keith Emporium building now stands. At that time, we could have bought this ground and house, five rods by twenty, for $150. We lived there two months. There were some kind neighbors who used to bring us food, especially carrots. They brought us raw carrots and cooked carrots, and we had carrots prepared in every way so that now I do not care for carrots in any way. I also do not care for eggs, for we had so many eggs at Mt. Pleasant.
While we were in this little house, Mark Croxall and David O. Calder came to my father and wanted him to take over the leadership of the orchestra at the Salt Lake Theater which had just been completed. It was dedicated in 1862, and was one of the finest theaters in the West.
Mark Croxall was an Englishman and played the coronet as beautifully as I have ever heard it played. He was a very polished and cultured gentleman. He later married two of Brigham Young’s daughters — Mary Young, the sister of Marie Dougall, and Carol Young. David O. Calder was also a musician.
But my father had to make a living for our family, and in those days the musicians who were to play at the theater were not paid. So when Bishop Orange Seeley of Mt. Pleasant called on father, and offered him a cow and free land, father accepted these inducements, and he and mother prepared to go to Mt. Pleasant with Bishop Seeley.
Brigham Young encouraged the emigrants to spread out when they arrived in Zion in order to populate all parts of the State. And of course, each of the bishops of the outlying districts made every effort to persuade the emigrants to come with him, so that he could build up his section.
A whole caravan of us traveled back to Mt. Pleasant with Bishop Seeley who had brought a train of ox teams up with him to take back the emigrants who would consent to return with him. We traveled in a caravan, because at that time, it was not safe to go alone in a single wagon for fear of the Indians. Brigham warned all of the Saints to go in groups when traveling through the settlements.
When we arrived in Mt. Pleasant, we found that they had built a fort with big high walls so that the Indians could not get at us as they were very bad there at that time. We lived in mud houses… the mud reinforced with sticks, and built against that walls of the fort… the walls of the fort being made of rocks and adobe with small holes left for shooting at the Indians in case of necessity.
This was the hot-bed of the Utes. Sometimes they were friendly and sometimes they would have a war dance and then they would get excited and go on the warpath. Sanpete County was named for Band Pitch, a chief, ranked with Black Hawk as the two meanest chiefs in this state. But the Indians were natural cowards and would not fight in the open. They always shot from ambush.
We lived in the Fort for two years, then out of the Fort for two years after the Indians became friendly.
Our mud houses had dirt floors and our beds were a pile of straw in the corners with a sheet over them, and some bedding for us. We used the chest which we had brought from Sweden for a table and father made us some rough three legged stools.
In this fort there was a big creek that ran through the middle of the enclosure so that we had plenty of good clear water. We also had a log house in the middle where we went to school on week days, and to Sunday School on Sunday morning so that we would grow up to be good children. Here we learned to read and write and spell. We all sat on a long rough board with another long rough board as our desks. We used slates and pencils to do our school work. McGuffey’s reader and speller were our text books.
Our teacher was Orson Hyde’s wife — an old lady who had been sealed to him. She had eagle eyes too. She would give us a good slap on the hands with an old ruler. I suppose we were mischievous and mean in those days just as children are today.
I was clever at spelling and could spell down the whole class. The teacher would start me at the bottom of the class but I would always get to the top. I could spell them down, I remember, on “Mississippi”, “irrigation”, and other long words. But altogether I had only about six months schooling.
When we first came to live at Mt. Pleasant, all the clothing we owned was worn out from the long journey crossing the plains. We did not have enough supplies or clothing with us. Mother made us stockings out of gunny sacks and other material. In warmer months we went barefoot until finally we got leather at Mt. Pleasant and father made shoes for us and for others.
In our little room mother would do all of our cooking in a fireplace and it tasted good for we were always hungry.
In the winter, we children built snow houses and played in them. My first Christmas in the fort, my brother made me a little wooden sled and my sister made me a big rag doll. I was very happy!
One day, my big sister died in the fort. My mother made a dress out of a sheet and my brother made a coffin out of some rough boards. They dug her grave and buried her outside the fort. When I looked down into the grave they had dug, I saw a great big scorpion. They buried her and I saw them cover her with dirt so I cried as though me heart would break.
For two long years I never went outside the fort because the Indians were so bad. Two years before we came to Mt. Pleasant there had been a terrible tragedy at Salt Creek where the Salt Creek monument is now erected. Salt Creek is very narrow with a small road and a creek at the side with high sage brush and willows lining the road. The mountains are perpendicular and are of salt. This is where they get their name, Salt Creek.
Two years before we came, a family wanted to go to Sevier. They were taking a boy to his folks in Sevier and were attacked by a party of ten or twelve Indians. The boy managed to hide in the brush and saw the actions of the Indians and afterwards escaped to tell about it. The Indians first killed the man and then they abused the woman and finally thrust a cedar post through her body, held her aloft on the post and all danced around her.
Later a man walked though Salt Creek to go to Sevier and the Indians scalped him and took off his arms and legs and left him dying in the road.
In the fort were the “minute men”, so called because they were in their saddles instantly when the drum would sound the alarm that the Indians were upon us. Among these were the four Ivy brothers whose father had been killed by the Indians and cut in four pieces. They vowed to protect any others who were ever in danger from the Indians.
After we had lived two years in the fort, the Indians became more friendly so all the families moved out and each family took up a piece of land. During the two years we lived outside the fort, my father built two houses in Mt. Pleasant. I and the other children helped him make adobe. I made the dirt for the bricks by mixing clay and sand. He mixed it with water and formed it into bricks in the mold or trough by pouring in the wet clay mixture. Then he turned the brick out on the ground to dry.
Our house was built of logs with a little adobe room which was made of adobe bricks my father made. We had a cow, pigs, a lamb and chickens and mother let me milk the cow night and morning and help her with the butter churning. I also saw my brother-in-law, the butcher, kill and cut up the pigs and cows and to this day I can name any piece of meat and tell what part of the animal it comes from just from the things I learned as a child.
My mother made sugar from carrots and beets by grating them up and boiling down the syrup until it was like molasses. How good it did taste! She also made choke-cherry and service-berry jams and jellies. We children went in parties to the canyon at Mt. Pleasant where these fruits grew wild and picked them in our buckets. Then mother boiled them down and added the sweetening she had obtained from the carrots and beets. These jams and jellies did taste so good.
We also made our own candles. When my brother would kill a beef, we would try out the tallow from the fat in the fireplace, then we had candle frames with cotton string through the center of each and we would pour the melted tallow into these frames and thus make our candles for lighting.
Earlier, before we made candles, we used what we called a “bitch” for lighting. This was a button wrapped in a rag, floating in a saucer or cup of melted tallow. When lighted, a flame would burn from the button. I remember studying my lessons by the light of a “bitch”.
I helped father and mother plant potatoes, corn, peas and other things, and I learned how close each should be planted. We had them in nice straight even rows so that we could be proud of our garden.
We made our own soap with grease and lye in a big kettle cooking over a fire. Then we poured it out into a big tub to let it dry. Before it was too dry, we took a knife and cut it into bars. We also used to put wood ashes from the fireplace into a tub and cover the ashes with plenty of clear water from the creek. We would skim off the refuse from the top and let the ashes settle in the bottom. Then we would pour water off later. We would put these clean, fine, white wood ashes in the tubs of water for washing our clothes to soften the water and help cleanse the clothes, and these, with the home-made soap, got our clothes sparkling white and pretty.
In the old country mother had learned to color cloth and this came in very useful. My sisters were very very good at spinning on a big wheel. We had our own sheep and we carded wool, spun it, and wove cloth. I learned to spin when I was still very young. Mother would color the cloth red, or green. She used the bark of trees to color the cloth orange. She used the bark of Quaking Aspens and other trees. I can remember that our dresses for winter were always very pretty. One time in particular, we had dresses of red and black stripes which were very pretty.
We also made rag carpets on a big loom. We got our cotton warp from Cedar City where there was a cotton mill. Mother was very good at setting the warp on the loom. Then we threaded the rag through a wooden shuttle which we slipped back and forth to make carpet.
Mother also knitted our stockings and gloves and I also learned to knit. Later when we lived in Salt Lake, either mother or I could knit a pair of socks a day on large needles, or a pair of gloves a day for the miners.
We made our own starch from potatoes. We would have potato scraping bees. The scrapers would be made of tin with holes punched through to make them rough. They did not have any handle but had to be held up by the top. All the women in the neighborhood, and the girls too, would gather at one of the houses and grate potatoes after they had been washed clean and peeled.
We would cover the gratings with clear water and let it settle. Then we would strain the bulk off, put fresh water on, and finally strain several times through cloths with fresh water. At length it was left to dry in the tub and what remained was fine, white, pretty potato flour. We used this for thickening and for making blanc mange and other puddings — it was similar to corn starch but tasted better than anything we have now. We also used this potato starch to starch our clothes and make them crisp and stiff.
For food we had beets, peas, and plenty of eggs and butter, milk and cream. We had our own cow and there were not that many of us in the family so we had plenty of milk. Mother also made a most delicious cheese from sour milk… similar to Roquefort, but oh, so much better. We raised squash also and hung this out to dry in chunks strung on strings. Then we used it in the winter time by putting it in water to soak and then baking it and mashing it like sweet potatoes and serving it with butter.
Another food we enjoyed very much was pig-weed. This grew in abundance between the sage-brush and we could gather all we wanted for the pigs and also for ourselves. It is more delicious than any spinach you ever tasted and just as good for you.
There were also very large mushrooms that grew around the corral. After a rainy night, they would pop up like magic in the morning, great big ones like a saucer! I never see such big ones nowadays! I would go out and gather these in the morning after it rained. We would clean them and peel off the outside then fry them in butter and pour cream over them just before serving. Oh, how we loved those big whoppers!
We also liked Sego roots. These are like small onions in appearance but do not taste like onions. They have the most delicious, rich, sweet taste. The Indians used to come with them in a bag and sell them to us for bread, sugar or butter. The Sego bulbs have to be dug when the flowers are in bloom in the spring. The Indians used to have a way of digging them with hickory sticks when the ground was damp after a rain. They grow quite deep down in the ground. We ate them raw and enjoyed them very much as a delicacy. There is the poison Sego, but this grows with a stalk. You will know the real Sego with the edible bulb by its beautiful white blossom, the State flower.
My mother used to bake the most delicious “salt rising” bread. It is made by mixing bran and shorts with salt and water. The bran comes first from the wheat, then the shorts before the kernel is reached. This mixture is placed in the sun in summer and before the hearth in winter where it will ferment and rise up. Then it is put in a skillet with a lid and hot coals are piled underneath and on top and in this way it is baked.
One time my mother had just baked two lovely loaves of salt rising bread and had left me alone while she went to a neighbor’s. Soon after she had gone, a big Indian Chief came into our house. “I want bread”, he said. Oh, I was so afraid! I told him, “You have one loaf and me one loaf.” “No, me two loaves.” and with this he pointed his bow and arrow at my face, so I said, “Take them.” I ran up to the neighbors a block away where my mother was and fainted dead away. He probably pointed the arrow at me just to frighten me so that I would give him the two loaves.
He was a very big handsome fellow. The ordinary bucks dressed with blankets around them and no feathers in their hair. He did not have any blanket but was dressed in buckskins with many beads around his neck and around his waist and with feathers along the top of his head and down his back, and also crosswise over his head. That is how I knew he was a chief.
The Indians were great beggars. We were told by Brigham Young to feed them and then they would be good to us. They had their tents up in the hills and they called them Wickiups. The squaws would come to the door every day with their papooses on their backs and beg for bread, butter and sugar. It was very hard for us to keep the Indians and ourselves also. The little papooses were strapped on a board and their mothers carried them on their backs. The Indians would steal if they came to a house and found no one around. But if someone was there, they would beg. The chief who asked me for the two loaves of bread might have stolen me away if he had wanted to, but at that time the Indians were friendly.
As you can see, I learned to do many things. I even helped with haying in the fields. One day I was helping stack hay on a hay-rack when my brother pitched up a bundle of hay and with it a big blue snake as big around as my arm and over a yard long. It soon got out of the way. They never hurt you so I wasn’t afraid.
I could tie a bundle of wheat as good as any man and I knew how to cut potatoes for planting. One time I helped my mother deliver a cow. And I remember how the cow looked around at us as if she were so grateful with that look in her big brown eyes as much as to thank us. I was just about ten years old then.
But life at Mt. Pleasant was not all work and no fun. We had much pleasure. We had parties in the log school house and how they did swing the girls around at the dances! We had theaters too, and had our own stock company. Father got two or three others and formed an orchestra to play for the dances and the entertainments. My oldest sister used to play the guitar and sing when they had concerts. It was she who taught me to play the guitar.
When I was eight years old, they told all the children over eight to be baptized in Sanpete Creek, so father said I could go. When I got out of the water, my sister was there and helped me dress. The Bishop told us to come to the church at night, so I went all alone to be confirmed. None of my family knew where I was. After I was confirmed, I was so tired I went to sleep on the front bench. My family hunted all over town for me. They were afraid I might have been taken by an Indian. At least they came to the church just as the man was putting out the last candle and they found me peacefully sleeping on the bench. I wanted to be a Mormon girl.
My sisters and I gleaned the wheat each year after it had been cut and stacked. We, with the other girls of the neighborhood went through the fields gathering up all that had been left along the ditches and in the fields. We used to wear bags tied to our waists and we would break off the heads with our hands and drop the heads of wheat into our bags.
One time when we were gleaning, the bigger girls persuaded another little girl and myself to go into a field of sugar cane, into the center and steal a watermelon for them. They were fourteen and fifteen and we were ten. We went into the field but the farmer found us out and took after us. My friend dropped her melon in her fright, but I hung on to mine and ran like a deer. I had bare feet, but our feet had become so toughened that we would run over the wheat stubble and never feel it any more than if it hadn’t been there. So I got back to the girls with my melon and the farmer must have grown tired of chasing me for we did not see him afterward.
The summer before we left Sanpete, it was very dry. We knew that Brother Brigham Young and many of his Apostles were coming to town and we made great preparations for them. That summer I gleaned ten bushels of wheat and with it bought ten yards of calico cloth from a woman who had brought it with her from Omaha. I was then ten years old and this was my first calico dress.
Of course in Mt. Pleasant in those days we did not have any stores and that was the only way I could get the material. It had a white background and was covered with house-flies of every color… black, pink, brown, blue, green! It was the oddest thing. My sister made it for me to be ready for Brigham Young’s coming and I was the belle of the ball in very truth. My sister put all ten yards into the dress and the skirt was so full I could raise it from both sides to meet way over my head.
My sister also made me a fancy straw hat which was the prettiest thing. I just wish you could have seen the pretty hats we made of straw. We had straw cutters which we would put through the wheat straw and down through the middle. Then we would pull it down all the way through and it would cut the wheat straw into four thin strips instead of one. Then we would soak the straw in water and braid it. We could make plain or fancy, wide or narrow braids. And we also made fancy things of straw for trimmings… we braided into ribbon to make bows and into flowers and even birds and all sorts of fancy trimmings. And they were such beautiful hats.
My sister made me an extra fancy hat when we knew that Brigham Young was coming… we were all pleased that he was to come. We built a bowery before his arrival with branches of trees on the top but no branches on the side. It was supported by poles. In the bowery, seats were made by putting rough boards supported on saw-horses at the ends.
When Brother Brigham and his Apostles and party arrived, the streets of our little village were lined with children to welcome them because everyone loved Brigham Young. As they came along in their wagons, we all waved our handkerchiefs. Brigham Young was in a carriage with black curtains. We were all dressed up in our best to greet our leader.
Under the bowery of evergreens, we held Sunday School and all of us children attended. After Sunday School President Young asked all the children to come up and shake hands with “Brother Brigham”. He was always very kind and affectionate with children. When I went up to him, he put his arm around my neck and kissing me said, “You are a sweet, beautiful child.” I suppose he must have told the other children the same thing, but it made me very proud and happy.
Between Sunday School and evening meeting, there was a banquet served in the open just outside the meeting house on a specially prepared platform. The tables were made with boards on saw horses and the benches for seats the same way. There was a lovely spread for our visitors for all the best cooks of Mt. Pleasant had prepared their finest.
I remember a little boy went up to President Brigham Young as he sat at the head of the table and handed him a small fried chicken which he was carrying, tied up in a bandanna handkerchief, and he told Brigham Young that his mother had prepared it specially for “Brother Brigham.” President Young took the chicken and placed it on his plate and put his arm around the little boy. “You have a kind lovely mother” he said to the boy. Children always liked and trusted him because he was so kind.
After the banquet they held a meeting in the late afternoon in the meeting house which I attended, still dressed in my new calico gown and straw hat. Before dismissing us, Brother Brigham said, “All you brethren who have teams, put the covers on your wagons and take your families and follow us from place to place around this valley and I promise you in the name of Israel’s God, he will water your crops.” It had been a very dry summer and our crops had suffered for want of water, but when we left the meeting house, the rain came down in torrents, and my new dress and hat were drenched. I knew then when only a child that he was a prophet of God and I have never forgotten that testimony.
The men who had teams, took their families and Brigham Young had said and they all started out after the meeting to go to the next town. The valley was like a bowl and around it were Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete, Manti, Springtown, Ephraim, Gunnison, Fort Bend and other villages.
At that time we did not have a team and there were others who were too poor to afford a team. But those who went made quite a train as they started for the next settlement.
In 1866 the great Black Hawk war began. One family moved north of Mt. Pleasant to Thistle Valley, against the Bishops orders. Thistle Valley was a very desirable place. There was a clear cold spring in the center, and very fine grazing land all around. This family thought they could settle in Thistle Valley and make friends with the Indians. The day they camped there, the Indians came in large numbers. The family fed them generously and talked to them, “You good Indians, we feed you. We give you supper tonight. You come get breakfast tomorrow. You good Indians.”
The next morning the Ivy boys of Mt. Pleasant whose father had been quartered by the Indians and put in a gunny sack, began to get worried about the family and they went up to Thistle Valley to see if they were all right.
They found that the father, mother and children had all been butchered in a gruesome way and the parts of their dismembered bodies strewn around their camp. Their wagons and belongings had been burned and the Indians had taken their cattle.
After that, the Indians became worse and tried to drive the white people out of Sanpete. In the Spring of 1866, Brigham Young sent down an army of men from Salt Lake City to help the Sanpete men protect the people and that was the beginning of the Black Hawk War. Brigham Young had warned the people never to go in any part of the state except in caravans for protection. He had told them that otherwise they would meet with grief because the Indians were tricky and not to be trusted.
The white people were down in the center of the valley fighting and the Indians were around the rim at the top. I was told that the Indians tied themselves to their horses so that if they were shot and wounded their horses would carry them away. One of the white men was killed in this battle, in Thistle Valley — Valley of Alpine.
My father’s family decided to leave Sanpete. We got out as quickly as we could, traveling all night over a rough road. I remember the high sagebrush on either side of the road. The morning we went through Salt Creek Canyon, the largest battle ever fought in Thistle Valley of Sanpete County was being waged.
After driving all night long we got to Spanish Fork. In Spanish Fork Canyon, the Whites and the Indians were also in a big war. We camped outside a house in Spanish Fork for a little rest after our hurried rough trip traveling all day and night. But the man who lived there came out and told us that his son had just been brought home from Spanish Fork Canyon scalped and killed by the Indians and he warned us that it would be best for us to hurry on as fast as we could. We left the next morning and traveled to Lehi and from there to Salt Lake City.
We stopped to camp and rest and to feed our oxen near the point of the mountain on State Road just south of where Draper is now at the place Porter Rockwell had there. He lived there with his family. I remember that he was tall and slender and had long black hair. He always wore long hair. He was a fine man. He had been the friend and body-guard of Joseph Smith right up until the time he died. I do not remember whether he had a corral for the accommodation of travelers or not at his place, but I remember that our party camped there.
We did not stop in Salt Lake City but traveled right on through to Brigham City where we lived for a year.
In Brigham City we lived in a dugout near a creek. The floor had walls were of clay and the roof was of board slabs overlapped so that the rain would not come through. Dirt was piled on top of the slabs.
Mother kept our dugout clean and dry. She was very much a lady always, very refined, and she always made the best she could of what little she had to do with. She used to think I was a harum-scarum child and too full of fun and laughter. She often told me to smile instead of laughing aloud.
To make our dugout more home-like mother would wash sand from the creek bottom and scatter clean white sand over the clay floor. Then we picked wild currant leaves from the bushes on the banks of the creek and spread these over the floor and we had a pretty green carpet.
In our one-room dugout we still used the chest we had brought from Sweden for a table and father made us three little three-legged stools. At this time my brothers and sisters were all married except one and she was working in the city. So I was the only child at home with my father and mother.
Father and mother slept on a bed made of four posts and cross-bars of wood with criss-crossed interlaced rawhide instead of springs and with a straw mattress. Because our single room was so very small, it was necessary for me to sleep on a pile of straw on the floor under their bed. My pile of straw was covered with a sheet and I had quilts over me. In this way we lived for a year in Brigham City.
The entrance to our dugout was down some stone steps and the dirt was piled high on each side of the steps and banked up the sides of the door. One day I remember a big blue snake came down over this bank of dirt, poked its old head in the door and waved its head around. It was a yard long and as big around as my arm, but I was not afraid of it. We were never afraid of the blue snakes — only of the rattlesnakes that stayed up on the hills among the rocks and did not come down by the creeks.
You remember Brother Valentine who was the president of the German Mission three times? His mother lived near us in Brigham City, just about a block away. She had known my mother in the old country and use to often bring us something to eat. She would bring milk, butter, vegetables or eggs. If she hadn’t been so kind I do not know what we would have done… probably starved to death. She was a plural wife, the third wife, but they had plenty and she shared with us. We had been neighbors in Sweden and she surely proved to be a good neighbor to us in Brigham City.
It seemed that father just couldn’t seem to get a start at anything to support us in Brigham City. He was a musician and not adapted to a life of farming. He played in the theater where the City and County building now stands in Brigham City. The family of Lorenzo Snow and some of the Smiths played in the theater there in dramatics. Father played there for a whole year for nothing. It was the custom to play music to engage in dramatics for no salary and then occasionally they would give a benefit and turn over the money to one of the players or musicians.
It seemed that Father couldn’t get anything to do and we had such a hard time to get along. After we had been there a year, they gave a benefit for father. He was very popular because he had always played at the theater and also at parties everywhere around the town for nothing. The place was packed at the benefit but when it was over, Father did not get one cent of the money. We never knew who took it.
After that, Father in indignation, packed up his violin and said, “I’m off to Salt Lake.” And off he went leaving mother and me in the dugout until he should get work and send for us.
I can remember well how we lived there, with our chest for a table and our stools and our bed. Up on legs standing against the wall and fairly high, was a small home-made cupboard or a box in which mother kept a few tine dishes and some knives and forks and wooden spoons that she had brought from Sweden. For tin cups we used tin cans. We had a few plates of china that had survived our travels from Sweden. We did our cooking over a small tin stove and we had one kettle which had to be used for cooking everything we had to eat.
Father rented a place in the Ninth Ward in Salt Lake… it had one room upstairs and one downstairs. He started to work at his trade of shoe-making and also at playing the violin. Very soon he sent for Mother to join him, which she did, leaving me to stay in the dugout and to bring down our things as I could get a chance with anyone who was coming to Salt Lake.
I lived alone in the dugout except that occasionally one of my sister Mary’s girls, who was about my age, would come over to stay a night with me. I was never afraid, although I was less than twelve years old. Whenever I could find someone coming down to Salt Lake who had room for a few of our things, I would come down with them and bring a little at a time. I made twelve trips down and back until everything was taken down.
I had always had a weak stomach and I could not ride in the heat under the cover of a covered wagon with the jolting over the rough roads without becoming sea-sick and vomiting. So I was sick all the way down and back on every trip. But I did it anyway.
It was while we were living in the Ninth Ward that Father organized his band in 1867… and he had plenty of places to play! This was the first string band ever organized in Utah. In 1912 the Deseret News published the following article about father’s band:
THE MINEER BAND
Among the musical organizations of the earlier days of Utah, none perhaps is better remembered by the older residents of the city than the orchestra organized in 1867 and directed for many years by Andrew Mineer. The orchestra was considered the best in the territory at the time of its existence and its services were in constant demand for many notable occasions, balls, weddings and other social functions.
Of the members of this organization, only one is living today, Magnus Olsen of this city. The others are in the picture as follows: George Hedger, flutist; James Currie, ‘caller’, whose fame was widespread as the factotum who make ‘square’ dances what they were in those olden days; Mr. Toozer, coronetist; Andrew Mineer, leader; Mr. Toone, cello. Magnus Olson is the central figure in the back row. In later years he assumed direction of the orchestra and the fame of the organization was continued under his leadership, playing for parties, balls, and the more important functions of the city, also being an attraction each season at the well remembered Garfield Beach.
Ill health caused him in late years to lay aside his beloved violin and he is now enjoying his days with the pleasant memories of the times gone by. The photograph reproduced above was loaned to the Christmas News by Mrs. Elizabeth M. Felt, daughter of Andrew Mineer.
Deseret News, Saturday Dec. 21, 1912.
Annie Bourne’s brother-in-law and brother were in the orchestra. It was always first choice for parties and dances, and they played at all the wards. When President Grant sees my father’s picture on my wall, he says he never danced after better music when he was a young man.
We got on better after we came to Salt Lake. Besides organizing his band to play at parties and dances, Father also had a little shoe-making shop on East Temple Street, where he made shoes. He made all of our shoes when we were in Mt. Pleasant. I went barefoot until we got leather there and then Father made shoes for us and for others in the Fort. Father was a very fine shoe maker. He could make such dainty, fine, perfectly finished shoes, just beautiful!
But for all the work that he did, Father had to take tithing scrip, both for his shoe-making and for his playing. I can remember how as a child I used to walk from our home on Seventh East to the Tithing Offices at Main and South Temple where the Hotel Utah is now, to get the things for our Tithing Scrip.
At the Tithing Offices they had meat, vegetables, eggs, butter, cheese, flour, and all the things that people made and gave as their tithing, such as socks that the women knitted, and put-up fruit, and cloth and so on. But it used to be awfully hard to get the things you really needed and wanted for the scrip.
After Father had organized the band, and started shoe-making, he had a chance to buy a piece of land and a house at Seventh East and Second South for $150… it was between Second and Third South, so we moved to this place.
Father’s band played at weddings and parties, especially dancing parties in all the Wards. In those days, the dancing used to keep up ’til midnight, then they had a bite to eat, and then went right on dancing ’til three or four O’clock in the morning or even later. I can remember many times walking home with my beaus when the dawn was breaking in the East. But dancing was just about the only fun we had. Sometimes it was even broad daylight when we would be going home.
When I was about fourteen years old, I learned dressmaking. I worked for nothing as an apprentice to Mrs. T. B. H. Stenhouse for six weeks. She wanted me to stay for six months, but I couldn’t see the fun of working six months for nothing and I decided to get out where I could make some money.
Mrs. Stenhouse had her millinery and dressmaking shop on the east side of East Temple Street, between First and Second South. She was a French woman, very aristocratic and over-bearing in her manner. She was not attractive in appearance. She was light complected and coarse looking with a big round face. She was very excitable and very bossy, and things had to go her way or she made a terrible fuss and there was the devil to pay. She was a good dressmaker and a hard taskmaster. I learned a lot from her. She used to put a lot on me when she found out that I had ability in cutting out, fitting and sewing. I had made my own clothes as a child, so I already knew something about sewing. I used to fit the bodices for her.
The women wore basques in those days, and we used to cut out a paper pattern and then fit a gray lining to their figures at the top. It had to be pinned and fitted with darts until there wasn’t a wrinkle anywhere, not even under the arms. It came in snug and tight over the bust and down to the tiny waist, and came down to a point in the front. I used to fit these lining bodices for Mrs. Stenhouse.
Mr. Stenhouse was quite a fine looking man. As I remember him, he had gray whiskers and slightly gray hair. He was tall, and stately looking, very refined, and very brilliant. He married Belinda Pratt for a second wife. She was the daughter of Parley P. Pratt and was young and pretty. But Belinda soon left him because Mrs. Stenhouse put up such a terrible row. Belinda later became the fourth wife of Milton Musser.
Mrs. Stenhouse later apostatized and wrote a book about the Mormons called, “Female Life Among the Mormons”. Mr. Stenhouse also apostatized and wrote a book called “The Rocky Mountain Saints”.
After I had worked six weeks for Mrs. Stenhouse, Mrs. Haight came to Salt Lake City. This was about 1869 or 70. She established a dressmaking shop on First South between East Temple and State Street, on the north side of the street. She was one of the finest dressmakers who ever came to Salt Lake and she did dressmaking here for many years later establishing her shop in the Templeton Hotel when it was built.
When she came, she got all of the “fast women’s” trade. She did the dressmaking for Kate Flint and her girls. Kate Flint operated the Revere House, located on Second South between East Temple and State Street opposite the Wilson Hotel. As far as I know, this was the only house of prostitution in the city at this time.
Mrs. Haight was a Catholic. She was a very great stylist and had many original ideas for very beautiful clothes. I learned a great deal from Hrs. Haight. When I first went to her, she asked me if I could make buttonholes, and I said that I could. She tried me out. I was very expert at buttonholes and I could make them just perfect, so she put me on buttonholes at $4 a week which was much better than nothing which is what I received at Mrs. Stenhouse’s establishment. Annie Bourne also worked for Mrs. Haight. I worked for her regular for a while and then later when I was dressmaking for the Lawrences, Kimballs and Walkers, I worked for her off and on when I could between times.
As I said, we made all the dresses for the girls at the Revere House. Kate Flint, the Madam, used to come to our shop to be fitted, and one of the girls — “Molly-Are-You-Dead” — used to come also, but the others did not come to the shop that I remember. Somebody had to go to the Revere House to fit the others and to deliver the dresses. I would not go into the house at all, but usually Annie Bourne would be the one to go. She used to say, “Why should I care? They won’t hurt me. I’ll go.” She told us that the girls were very pretty, in fact gorgeous looking, and that the rooms at the Revere House were very elaborately and beautifully decorated for that day.
I knew Kate Flint because she came to our shop. She used to support a man named Bob or Robert Houghton. He used to go to all the Mormon Ward dances and parties and was accepted everywhere. I have danced with him many a time and did not know of his connection with Kate Flint until later.
I also knew “Molly” who came to the shop to be fitted. She was a big, fine looking blond woman, with a beautiful figure of the buxom style. She got her peculiar name because she had been sick once and had been in a trance or coma and had been given up for dead. Then when she was laid out in her coffin, she came out of it and sat up. So they called her in fun, “Molly-Are-You-Dead.”
In later years Kate Flint retired and bought herself a small house on the West Side and lived very quietly. She became quite fat and dumpy in her later years and walked with a cane. I remember once she came to the Bureau of Information at the Temple Grounds when I was working there in later years and I took her around the grounds and showed her the buildings. She was dressed very plain and was very stout.
Everyone said that she had very beautiful girls in her house. But she herself always said that one thing she had never done and never would do, was to take an innocent girl into her house. She would only take those who had already started on the downward path. This was well known by all the people in Salt Lake and she was respected for it.
I helped make dresses for Kate Flint and for all the girls at the Revere House. We made very beautiful dresses for them, just as elaborate and expensive as the ones I made for the Kimballs, Lawrences, and Walkers, the elite and wealthiest of the city at that time.
Kate Flint was a very beautiful woman. She was petite and had a lovely shape. She was very good looking. She had dark hair and dark eyes and she painted some. In her manner and in her dress she was never brazen on the street but in fact was just the opposite and always gave the impression of being very modest.
We made very lovely dresses for her and for the girls. We made daytime or street dresses and also some of the ball gowns with trains. I suppose they had parties and dances at the Revere House. I never knew of these girls attending dances outside of the house. I remember making dresses for them of pink and of blue grosgrain silk, of black, navy, bottle green, and the wine and red colors. We always made their dresses with long sleeves and never anything lower than a V neck.
I remember Kate Flint herself used to be very particular about her dresses and no matter how much time it took, the dresses for her had to be just as beautifully finished on the inside as on the outside. Every seam had to be covered with a little narrow bias piece hemmed down on both sides. Her dresses could have been worn inside out they were so perfectly finished. She had very good taste too, and not extreme. She was a little thing. She was elegant and we liked to work for her. She paid well for her clothes and the clothes of her girls.
When I was fifteen, I began to sew for wealthy people. I sewed for Mrs. Kimball, and Mrs. Lawrence of the Kimball and Lawrence store, an for their children, and also for Mrs. Fred Walker, and her girls. They all treated me lovely. I was necessary to them because I could make them pretty clothes.
I also sewed for Mrs. McKimmon whose husband ran the McKimmon stables, and for Mrs. Daft, a little widow lady who contributed liberally to establish a home for old people, The Sara Daft Home.
I would get out early in the morning and wade through the slush and snow, sometimes up to my knees, to get to work at eight O’clock. Then I would walk back home again at night in all kinds of weather after finishing my work for the day at 6 or 7 O’Clock at night. Sometimes I would have to walk as far as fourteen of our long blocks to get to work.
Sometimes I would have to work late when the lady was in a hurry to have her dress finished for some special occasion and then often she would have me taken home in her carriage. Mrs. McKimmon especially used to often send me home in a hack from her husband’s stables. The McKimmons lived on the west side of Main Street between Second and Third South near the stables.
The stables had sort of a half circle sign in front of them. They used to have beautiful horses. They rented them out for horseback riding. They had many covered-in carriages with drivers. Hacks were used to call them. The drivers were in uniform or livery. These carriages were usually rented out for funerals and people used to pay a big price to have plenty of hacks if they could afford it. The McKimmons did not have any children and Mrs. McKimmon’s old bachelor brother lived with them. Since she did not have children to care for, she used to like to sew to take up her time and she used to help me by basting up seams and doing other sewing that she could.
When I was fourteen I was also sewing in the home of Mrs. Fred Walker. She did not go out very much to balls and parties. She was more of a home body. She was a good wife and mother. I used to make all her clothes and also all the clothes for her seven children. She used to let me, even when I was so young, go down to Walker’s store and pick out whatever I wanted in the way of materials and trimmings to make up dresses for her little girls. She would leave it all to my judgment and I used to make them such pretty clothes.
She would also leave me almost entirely alone when I was sewing in the upstairs rooms. Sometimes I would work for as much as a week at a time and she would never come up to see what I was doing. Of course I was conscientious and she knew she could depend on me to keep busy and do my very best. When she would come up she would examine the things I was making for her children and say that they were very beautiful. She was a homebody and she liked to cook even though she had plenty of servants and could have had more if she had wanted. She really was a splendid cook.
When I sewed for her family, the oldest daughter was about fifteen, my own age. I made the girls some very beautiful dresses. In those days children’s dresses were made with the waist and skirt separate and with the skirt shirred into a tight waist. They were trimmed with ribbons and laces and beadings and embroideries, insertions and braids.
I made them many pretty silk dresses for their children’s parties. I remember especially how pretty they looked when I made them all lovely white coats. These were made of Merino cloth, a diagonal weave woolen in white. They were interlined with wool and lined with white silk. Then I made trimmings for them of swansdown. Another year later, when ermine came in, I made trimmings of white ermine with little black tails. They all had white coats for winter, the Walker children, and they looked very pretty indeed. I went down to the store and picked out the ermine to trim them. The coats were straight, very much like little girls’ coats today with turnover collars.
The Kimballs and Lawrences were considered the next richest families in the city and I sewed for both of them. I sewed a great deal for Mrs. John Kimball for about five years, from the time I was fifteen until I was twenty. She was Julia Lawrence before her marriage and was the sister to Henry W. Lawrence. John Kimball and Henry Lawrence married sisters of each other. John Kimball married Julia Lawrence and Henry Lawrence married the sister of John Kimball so they were double brothers-in-law.
At the time I sewed for her, Mrs. Kimball was a widow, John Kimball having died. She was sparking two men, a floor-walker at Walker’s store named Ford who was blond and very handsome and tall, and a man who had come to Salt Lake who was named Colonel Patrick. They both used to come and visit her and take her to parties so she wanted lots of pretty ball gowns.
She used to be very good to me. Often she used to get me to stay late to do up her hair when she was going to a ball at the Walker House (then the City’s leading hotel where the wealthy Gentile travelers stopped.) I would do it up very pretty. It was the fashion to have a chignon of false hair at the back attached to a net. And then I used to do up the front hair in rows of little puffs and pin them with hairpins, and she looked very pretty.
When I stayed late to sew or to do up her hair for a party, she would ask me to stay all night and would have me sleep in her bed, and then she would get in beside me when she came home from the party. I’ll never forget how soft it was to sink down in the huge bed of soft feathers after I was so dead tired at the end of a hard day’s work!
The Kimball home was beautifully furnished in the style of that day. It was two story, and was located nearly on the corner of Fourth South and Main Street on the East side of the street. There was a hall through the center with a sitting room on one side and a parlor on the other, and with the kitchen and dining room further back. The bedrooms were on the second floor. It was considered a very fine house.
Mrs. Kimball had three children — Blanche, Florence and John, and I sewed for the two girls also.
Almost everything was hand sewing in those days, and I used to sew until I got pins and needles in my shoulders. The dresses were so heavy with all the whalebones and stiffening, and lining, and heavy silks, and trains, that they used to be very tiring to work on, and I used to wonder how they carried them around.
I used to charge on an average of $1 a day which was high in those days. Most dressmakers got only 50 cents a day. But I worked for the very wealthiest and most fashionable people in town and I could make specially pretty clothes, so I could charge more and they were willing to pay it.
I sewed for Mrs. Lawrence and also for her seven children. The Lawrences did not have such a fine home as Mrs. Kimball. They lived on Third South between Main and State on the the South side of the Street in a one-story house which was not especially impressive. She had very lovely children, Mrs. Lawrence did, and she was a good mother.
As I said, I sewed for Sarah Daft, a little widow who lived on Main Street on the West side, between Second and Third South, near the Walker house.
I also sewed for Mrs. Patten who ran the Walker House, Salt Lake’s leading hotel. I used to go to the hotel to sew for her. She had a room just across the hall from the one occupied by Ann Eliza Webb after she left Brigham Young, and before she went East. Mrs. Patten was also a singer and she sang in the Messiah at the Salt Lake Theater. Altogether I was kept very busy, and sometimes I had to get Annie Bourne to help me with the plainer sewing. I did the cutting and fitting always.
I used to sew for weeks at a time for the families of Orson K. Whitney. The two families lived in two houses close together.
Sometimes the ladies wore overskirts of silks, or less expensively, of tarleton. These overskirts were looped up in the back to form a bustle effect, and were often worn with colored sashes frequently striped. In about 1873 and 4, the fashion of the Elizabeth ruff collar came in, with a low “V” neck in front, and with bows and long streamers of multi-colored ribbon at the “V”. I made many of these stand-up pleated ruches, and they were very becoming.
The ladies who went horse-back riding all rode side saddle in those days, and for this sport they wore long skirts of heavy wool material.
The shawls in those days were usually scarfs, about three feet wide, and striped, which were worn thrown over the shoulder with the fringe hanging down. They were made of Merino wool. Some of the fashionable women brought Paisley shawls with them from the east, but I did not remember these on sale in the Salt Lake City stores in the early 70’s.
When we made street or evening dresses, we lined the skirts with buckram to the knees to give them body, then lined the entire skirt in addition. The bottom was bound with velvet all around the inside, by hand.
When the ladies went to balls in the Walker House ballroom, they wore gowns with trains. These had to be cut so that they hung just beautifully, and they were elaborately trimmed from the floor to the waist. I often made pleated ruffles… the edge of the ruffle would be bound with bias and corded. Next there would be a little puff, and then the entire ruffle would be most carefully pleated by hand, because we did not have any pleating machines.
The tops of the dresses were made in basque effect, and boned with as many as 40 whalebones in a single basque. They had to fit perfectly without a single wrinkle. They were pointed in the front at the waist, but had a squared back. Both basque and skirt were trimmed with many ruffles, pleatings, puffings, and other types of trimming. Sometimes it took me 12 to 14 days to make a single dress.
It was the Gentiles and the Apostates who attended the balls at the Walker House as well as the wealthy travelers passing through the city.
Sometimes I helped Alice Decker to make costumes for the Salt Lake Theater. She was the grand-daughter of Brigham Young. I also was the first demonstrator on the Singer Sewing Machine, demonstrating and selling these in the early 70’s in a sewing machine shop located upstairs about where the Z.C.M.I. Drug store now stands on the west side of Main Street.
The sidewalks on Main Street were of dirt. Even into the 80’s it was only in front of the more important and progressive business houses that there was a board sidewalk. Sidewalks and streets would often be a perfect sea of slush and mud and snow. Even though we wore high top laced boots, our stockings would still get wet and muddy above the boots.
The buildings on Main Street, or East Temple Street, as it was called were mostly lumber shacks, the awfullest looking assortment of tumbling down places you ever saw. There was a ditch between the sidewalk and the street, and the snow melted down into the ditch. The ditches were also fed from City Creek, and sometimes there were fish swimming down the street.
When we drove along in a wagon or a carriage, it would frequently mire right down to the hubs of the wheels. Crossing the streets at the intersections was terrible.
Wages at this time were low as you can judge by the wages of dressmakers 50 cents and $1 a day. Most people got paid all or part in scrip which had to be traded at the Tithing Office or turned in with difficulty and at a discount at the stores. But even though wages were low, prices were high. Coffee was $1 a pound, flour $20 a hundred pounds, and sugar was $1 a pound. It was very hard to live. We used molasses instead of sugar, and we were fortunate to have some flour left over from a year before the drought. We also paid $1 a yard for calico.
I remember my first calico dress in Mt. Pleasant cost me $1 a yard for ten yards, for which I gave the equivalent of wheat. And my first calico dress in Salt Lake also cost $1 a yard. It was brown with some kind of spots. Another thing that helped us to get along was the fact that we had a goat that I milked morning and night. She gave very rich milk and we also churned butter from it.
The Salt Lake House on the east side of East Temple Street between First and Second South, was one of the leading hotels. Ferramore Little ran it. He had two daughters who were very fashionable. They were Mormons, and were considered among the wealthy families of the city then. Mrs. Little, his first wife, was a Decker.
The Walker House was a very fashionable hotel for the Gentile travelers. They were usually well fixed and they associated with the wealthy Gentiles and Apostates of the city. The ballroom at the Walker House was very plain with white ceiling and walls. It was wide and long and had rooms at the sides. Ann Eliza Webb had a room at one side of it and I used to sew for Mrs. Patten in her room just opposite. Ann Eliza lived there for a while after she left Brigham Young.
The Jennings home was a very beautiful mansion located west on South Temple near the depot. It was set back in the yard and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Their gardener was our neighbor. He came from England and he kept a most beautiful place for them.
I well remember Auerbach’s store when it was located on the west side of Main Street. It was a long narrow store with counters on each side and nothing in the middle. My mother and I used to work for Auerbach’s, that is, we would make gloves and men’s hose and sell these to Auerbach’s in trade for merchandise.
My mother and I could each make a pair of stockings in a day, or a pair of gloves. The stockings were knit of black wool and were knit on coarse needles for the miners. The gloves were made of buckskin and were plain for the miners also. We furnished our own material and sold the gloves or the hose for $1 a pair in merchandise. Then Auerbach’s sold them to the miners for $1 a pair in cash or gold dust. Greenbacks were not worth so much.
In this way mother and I bought enough “beaver” which was what we called a very thick broadcloth to make us each a coat. I made the coats. I started this work for Auerbach’s when I was about fifteen years old in 1870. I also earned enough there to buy goods to make Father a suit. This was the first suit he had after coming to America. His old suit was very worn so we cut it apart for a pattern. We had bought a sewing machine. Father planned the suit and I did the stitching. He was very clever and when we got the suit finished it looked just as good as a real tailored one. Father was very pleased.
I also bought some shiny black woolen material similar to serge to make a dress for Mother.
Wherever I was sewing, I always stayed home on Saturday to wash and iron the clothes for the family, to scrub the board floors of our home, and do other necessary weekly cleaning.
Auerbach’s used to have lovely silks and fine materials of all kinds, some of them imported. I remember Samuel and Fred Auerbach very well. They were both very fine men and were nice and friendly to everybody. Samuel was the quiet one but always pleasant. Fred was the lively one and was always talkative.
In merchandise they had piece goods, and notions, and later dishes, jewelry and other merchandise. I do not remember that they carried groceries in the early 70’s. They may have carried other merchandise that I do not remember. I know it was considered a fine store for women’s merchandise.
I also sold some flowers to Auerbach’s. When I was about sixteen, Zina Young was about a year older, Brigham Young sent us to Brigham City to learn the flower making trade from my sister who lived there. It was always Brigham Young’s idea that our community should be self-supporting, and that we should make in home industry all the things that we needed. He always encouraged home industry. He also would have liked to have his children learn trades so that they could have been self-supporting, but most of the girls didn’t take much to that.
Zina was an ambitious one. We stayed three weeks with my sister, Mrs. Mary Stark. While I was there I learned to play the guitar. This was later useful to me because I gave lessons on the guitar. I had already learned the dressmaking by this time.
My sister had brought instruments for flower making with her from Sweden. She had cutters the shape of flower petals and little instruments with different size and shape balls on one end which were pressed into the palm of the hand to shape the material that made the flower petal.
We made flowers of fine swiss, which had just enough crispness. My sister had a block of lead about ten inches square. The layers of swiss were placed on this, then the cutter pressed down into the soft lead cutting the fabric into the shapes of petals for the various flowers.
We made red roses, pin roses, yellow roses, heliotropes, lilies of the valley, all of them just as real as the ones they brought from the east already made! My sister used to send to New York for the materials. At the base of the roses we put the little cups of green and we covered the stems with the effect of moss so that when finished they looked exactly like roses.
When we returned, Auerbach’s bought all that both of us had made. Fred Auerbach said they were just as lovely as those they bought from the east, and that he would take all we could make. They were to be used in the millinery, and it was the fashion in those days to have them look just as real as possible.
After I married and my children were grown up, all of them worked at Auerbach’s at one time or another. My daughter Louie was the mail order clerk for many years. She knew color combinations, and how much material to send for a dress, and she used to be able to please the customers who wrote in from the country. When she could not get what they wanted in Auerbach’s she shopped around the other stores and then sent it out from Auerbach’s. She worked there for several years until she married. My boys Joe and Lamont were cash boys.
When the store began to carry a line of ready-to-wear, mostly blouses and skirts, they used to tell me to bring them anyone I knew to be qualified for alteration work. The Auerbach’s always liked to employ Mormon people. When they needed more help, they used to send up to the Bishop’s Building and ask if they had some nice reliable girls registered that would like a job. They knew that the Mormon girls had been taught to be honest.
We used to have lots of fun when we were young and the five years from the time when I was fifteen until I was twenty were among the happiest of my life.
During that time I went on the Salt Lake stage. The Prophet Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both loved the drama. They felt that it was educational and that it taught refinement and culture. Brigham Young was so interested that he took part in several plays in Nauvoo — one in particular that was called Pizzaro, in which he played the part of a high priest. Joseph Smith however took no part in any plays.
After they came to this valley in the wild desert, Brigham Young felt that the people needed pleasure as well as hard work so he built several places of amusement, the Social Hall first, and then the Salt Lake Theater, and other places of amusement. It helped to keep the Saints from getting discouraged. He was surely a wonderful leader.
In the Salt Lake Theater the people could gather for the recreation they needed in the drama and the dance. For dancing, an improvised floor was laid over the seats in the parquet.
President Young wanted plays that would teach culture so he gathered together a very fine stock company consisting of David McKenzie, John Lindsay, James Hardy, Phil Margetts, John C. Graham and a Mr. Thorn. A brilliant cast of women headed by Aseneth Adams, mother of Maud Adams, Mellie Colbrook, Margaret Romney, Margaret Clawson, Lizzie Platt and others carried off the honors for the ladies. Many stars traveled through Salt Lake but there were none better than our own stock company. They played such plays as Hamlet, Macbeth, Richelieu, Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and many other great plays.
They would have two plays in an evening, a drama and a short comedy. As a fill-in between the plays, James Hardy would sing a song and Martin Lindsey and Tody Clive would dance the Highland Fling in costume. When I was fifteen years old, I decided I had talent and wanted to act and become a great star, so I asked for a part in a play, but they would only let me be a “supe” — a peasant or a court lady to stand around and look wise. I was paid fifty cents a night which was good pay at the time.
When we played Macbeth, we had to dress up as witches with gray wigs which hung over our faces. Brigham Young’s girls thought it would be great fun to dress up in disguise and be some of the witches and help us sing our spiky songs. One night I had a big chunk of spruce gum in my mouth and “Punk” Young said, “Liz, give me some gum.” I told her that all I had was in my mouth. She said, “I don’t care.” So I gave her half and she said, “Oh, how good!” I first became acquainted with the Young girls when we were on the stage in Macbeth and they later became my best friends.
In the theater, President Young’s daughters would sit on the east side of the dress circle, the “Big Ten” or older girls in front, and the “Little Ten” behind them. The strangers who came to the city, either to live here or passing through, used to sit on the west side of the first dress circle so they could gaze with curiosity through their opera glasses at the beautiful daughters of Brigham Young. For they were beautiful and were beautifully dressed. I used to peek through the curtain and see the audience and watch their actions. That is how I know.
Many great stars came overland from the East or the South to make personal appearances in the Salt Lake Theater. Among those I remember most vividly were Booth and Barrett, Ward and James, Otis Skinner, Henry Ward, Louis James, John Drew, Henry Miller, Julian Elting, and Joseph Hackett. Some of the ladies were Mrs. Schiller, Sarah Bernhardt, Billie Burke, Blanche Bates, and Nazimova. Some of the grand opera stars I have heard sing are Schuman-Heinke, Galli-Curci, Adeline Patti, and Grace Moor.
Sometimes I helped Alice Decker to make costumes for the stars who appeared at the Salt Lake Theater. I remember especially well a musical comedy called “Ice Switch” in which about twenty of us girls danced and sang. We were dressed in tarleton on which stars were pasted and our skirts were very full and stiff and stood out straight all around. We were the ice fairies. We sang, “Mimi, Mimi, what’s the matter? Have you seen the frozen man?” The stage scenery was painted to represent icicles. Nellie Colbrook, who was the star, wore a yellow dress with spangles all over it, which I had put on by hand.
Our dressing rooms were upstairs at the Salt Lake Theater, and they were not heated. There was a stove in the Green Room, however, and we were permitted to go there if we would be quiet while the stars were studying or rehearsing their parts. So when we were ready, we waited in the Green Room for our cues.
Often after the theater closed at 11 O’clock, we used to all go dancing, boys and girls together who had been in the play. Sometimes we girls would bring some lunch with us to the theater to eat after the show before going to the dance, and sometimes we would all go to Greenick’s restaurant on Main Street and have a midnight supper before going to the dance. Then we would dance until 3 or 4 O’clock in the morning and sometimes until daylight. We always walked to the dance and then walked home again… sometimes as far as fourteen blocks in all kinds of weather and with our feet deep in snow or mud. But we had fun anyway, and we must have been pretty healthy because I don’t remember getting colds from it.
After the theater sometimes Alice Decker (who made costumes for the players) used to say to me, “Come on Liza, I’ll fix you up.” Then we would go to the wardrobe room and she would give me a fancy overskirt to put on over my white percale dress, and a striped sash to wear with it, and she would get dressed up the same. Then we would put beads and junk around our necks and she would say, “We certainly do look swell!” Then we would be off to the dance. We danced in the different wards, wherever a party was being held. Sometimes it would be so cold that the snow would just click under your feet.
The thirteenth Ward had a hall for dancing. The Eleventh Ward meeting house was not built then. The Eighth Ward had a large adobe house as an annex that we could dance in. The Twelfth Ward had a good stone building and annex. The Fourteenth Ward had a dancing hall. The Christensen boys later gave dancing lessons in the Fourteenth Ward hall.
The earliest place that we had for dancing was the Bowery at the south-east corner of the Temple Block. It was covered with branches of a tree and had a floor of boards.
Later, we went to Ballo’s Hall, which was the largest dancing pavilion in Salt Lake City when it was built. It was located on the north side of Second South two and a half blocks west of Main Street. I do not know whether Dominico Ballo owned the hall or not, but he was the leader of the band that played there, so it was called Ballo’s Hall. His orchestra was on a platform at the south side as you entered and there was a dressing room at the back of the orchestra.
When we used to go to Ballo’s Hall, the girls of the well-to-do apostles would gather in one group at one end of the hall and we poorer girls would gather in another group at the other end of the hall. There were two daughters of Brigham Young, and the girls of the Wells, Cannon, Little, Clawson and Ellerbeck families in the wealthy group. They were all dressed in poplin silks, which came in first before the grosgrains. They were like butter-flies, in all colors of those pretty silks, and such lovely dresses!
We poorer girls had white percale dresses with tarleton overskirt “tuck-up” tucked up in the back like bustles. Our tarleton skirts were various colors, mostly pink and red. Even in those days there was class distinction, just as there is today. But the boys used to come and ask us to dance, as well as the richer girls… they used to think we were just as pretty and just as good dancers.
The first band that played in the Social Hall was led by Mr. Ballo. Charles C. Thomas was the first leader of the band in the Salt Lake Theater, and after him came George Careless, who was a little man. Willard Weihe was the next leader after Careless.
When we danced in the Bowery in the Temple Grounds, a man named Pitt led that band. Then in 1867 my Father’s band was organized, as I have said, and they played in all the wards of the city. President Grant has told me many times that he never danced after better music. In speaking of father, he has said many times, “He surely could play the violin, bless him!”
I have always found great joy in music. In the early days there were such musicians as Blind Giles, father of John Giles, Brother Speery, Mark Croxall, Magnus Olsen, Sure Losen, George Hedger, Brother Toone, Antone Pederson and others.
Brother Ridges and others built the Tabernacle Organ. The first leader of the Tabernacle choir was Bill Reid, then James Smith, Evan Stevens, and Brother Sands. The first Tabernacle Organist was Jos. J. Daynes who played for many years.
I learned to play the guitar when I was fifteen, and afterward gave music lessons on the guitar. I could also sing well, although I had very few lessons.
When Colonel Patrick came to Salt Lake, I made dresses for his sister who came with him. She was a very stout woman and was difficult to fit, but I succeeded in pleasing her so well that when they went back to Omaha, she asked me to go with her and she promised to give me the best musical education and have my voice trained if I would just make her clothes for her.
Of course I was delighted, for this was my dream, and I hurried home that night walking on air to tell my father and mother of my wonderful opportunity. My father agreed with me immediately. He said, “Now this is your big chance, and you must study hard and make the most of it.” But my mother would not listen to it. She said, “Do you think I left our lovely home in Sweden and walked across the plains, lived in dugouts and forts to let my daughter go back to Babylon?” So of course I did not go, because I adored my mother and would not have thought for a moment of doing anything contrary to her wishes.
Mrs. Kiimball had heard me sing, and one time she said to me, “Miss Mineer, I want you to make yourself a pretty dress with a train, and then I want you to come and sing to entertain my guests when I have company from the East.” So I made myself a lovely dress of shiny silk braize — white with a little green check. I made it with a train and tuck-up, and a ruffle at the bottom. Then I often sang for her guests and played my own accompaniments on the guitar or piano and they would gather round and sometimes join in. They seemed to like my singing. Evan Stevens said that I had a most wonderful voice, with both high and low range. And I loved to sing!
I sang Handel’s Messiah under Professor Chareless, at the Salt Lake Theater. I also sang in many of the wards of Salt Lake. Some of these songs were my favorites: “Some Day I’ll Wander Back Again”, “When Other Lips and Other Hearts”, “The Blue Alsatian Mountains”, “After the Days Have Sung Their Songs of Sorrow”, “Where My Love Lies Dreaming”, “Mary and John”, “After the Ball”, “Sweet Spirit Hear My Prayer”, and “My Heart is Sad With Its Dreaming”.
I was prima donna for the Willard Weihe benefit concert just before he went east to study advanced work on the violin. Anton Pederson played my accompaniment and Willard Weihe played the obligato on his violin. We had part of the concert and then gave the audience recess for refreshments which were fruits and doughnuts. This concert was held in the 19th Ward. Among others, I sang on this occasion, “Sweet Spirits Hear My Prayer”, “Tis the Last Rose of Summer”, “A Switzer’s Farewell” and “Tapping at the Garden Gate”.
The house was packed and Willard Weihe got the money for his trip to New York to finish his musical education. He was seventeen at that time, and was married to one of Orson Pratt’s daughters, Merinda. He came to Utah when he was about thirteen.
My father used to invite every musician he met to our house. We especially love Anton Pederson because he was Swedish.
Evan Stephens used to say that with training I could have gone to the top. He composed two songs for me, and used to sing them with me in the various wards as duets. They were “Sweet Birds” and “Ever Constant Ever True”.
I also belonged to the Mendelsohn Club, the members of which were George Pyper, Bud Whitney, John Spencer, Alfred Derrick, Agnes Olsen Thomas, Nellie Bruce Pugsley, Helen Whitney and Elizabeth Mineer.
We sang in the Social Hall, in the Tabernacle at conference time and in the Salt Lake Theater between plays.
At one time I had the opportunity of singing for President Garfield. At that time he was staying at Garfield Beach for his health, remaining there for quite some time.
There was at that time a large timber building at Garfield Beach which was used as a sort of hotel. It had a very large parlor and it was here that I met President Garfield.
There was a beautiful beach at Garfield… a lovely bathing place with a long, sloping gradual beach. It was a favorite place for outings because at that time there was no Saltair. There were no trains and people went out in the “horse and buggy” manner.
Mrs. Louie Felt and I went out in a buggy. I had my little girl Louie with me — she was two years old at the time in 1878. President Garfield had my little girl on his lap, and I was singing and humming at the piano. He brought his chair and sat down beside me and said, “Please sing me a song.”
So I sang for him some of my favorites, “Switzers Farewell” and “Sweet Spirits Hear My Prayer.” He complimented me on my lovely voice.
Later, he went back east and was vice-president and then later became President, and after that was assassinated. Singing for him has always been a pleasant memory for me.
I was well acquainted with Brigham Young’s family. Often I used to stay at the Lion House with Fran Folsom, the sister of Amelia.
President Brigham Young was a good husband and an indulgent father. Some of his children were talented in music and he gave them all the advantages he could. The first musicians in Utah who taught President Young’s children music on the piano were first Mrs. Lockley, then Charlotte Cobb, and Mrs. Cook.
As I remember President Young in my girlhood days, he was ordinary size, broad shouldered, fair complexioned, blue eyes, blond hair, and had a wonderful personality. He was always a perfect gentleman, a statesman, an organizer, an architect and a wonderful teacher, and above all a prophet of God sent by Him to build up this country of sage brush and wild Indians. He loved everything that was grand and beautiful.
President Young built a school-house east of the Bee-Hive in through the Eagle Gate where his children and others attended school. He was a great lover of children and would always notice them. He did not think parents should whip their children to make them mind. He said that children had rights as well as parents and that there were milder ways to make them understand.
I well remember President Young in the Tabernacle, first in the old Tabernacle, which was in the southwest corner of the Temple Block. This we entered by going down some steps as it was built partly below ground. I also remember him in the new Tabernacle which was built later.
Whenever there was a disturbance of any kind in the Tabernacle, as soon as President Young took off his cape that he always wore, and put his elbow on the pulpit and looked over the congregation, a deep silence would come over us all and we were all attention. He rarely preached a Gospel sermon, but gave us instructions we all needed in those early pioneer times.
He traveled from east to west, north to south, and visited the valleys that were settled to encourage the Saints and he taught them many things about colonizing. President Young always said the Heber C. Kimball was his prophet, and he loved to hear him prophecy.
Brigham Young was very indulgent with his children. He never refused his children anything that I know of.
I well remember Ann Eliza Webb. Ann Eliza’a mother got up the match between Ann Eliza and Brigham Young. She was a very ambitious woman. I think she thought that Ann Eliza was so pretty that she would soon supplant Amelia and become the favorite wife. But Brigham told her before he married her that he would not live with her. He built a home for her on South Temple and Second East on the southwest corner where his daughter Mrs. Empey lived later. She never had any children. I think that Ann Eliza was bitterly disappointed when he did not pay any attention to her. She filed her divorce suit and she went to live at the Walker House.
I used to sew for Mrs. Patten in the room just across from Ann Eliza’s and I have often seen her go into her rooms with a man named Maxwell who was reported to be her lover. He later traveled with her on her lecture tours all through the East and helped to get up her book with all the mean things about Brigham Young.
I was married to Joseph H. Felt in the Endowment House in 1876. I have had six children of my own, four girls and two boys. During my lifetime I have adopted four children and have placed them all in good homes. Even after I was married I always made my own living. I did four things: Millinery, Dressmaking, Teaching Guitar, and Making Burial Clothes.
My two oldest darling girls have passed beyond so I have now only four children. I have twenty-four living grandchildren, four who are happily married, and thirteen great grand children. I adore them all and whenever I go to see them, I am received with open arms. I am very much loved by my posterity and friends. My last days are surely my happiest days.