Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Maria Jarman DeGrey (1865-1953) Autobiography

It was in the picturesque village of Cudleigh, Devonshire, England that I first saw the light of day. My mother was Maria Bidgood, a wonderful character, the daughter of a well to do farmer. My father was William Jarman. Neither of them was satisfied with the religions of their day, and kept looking for that which they thought was lacking. Mother was impressed with the baptism by immersion as taught and practiced by the Baptist Church, but in that phase only. She began investigating the "Plymouth Brethren" religion. While at one of these services, she met William Jarman, a widower with a small son. A short time after, in April, 1862, they were married. They lived happily together and in 1864 my brother Albert Edward Jarman was born. Soon a series of misfortunes overtook and almost wrecked the little family, until they were forced to move from Exter to Cudleigh. Here I was born, the thirteenth of September, 1865.

While living in Cudleigh the family came into the possession of an interesting pamphlet entitled "The Faith" by Orson Pratt. They wrote to Liverpool for further information. The president of the mission sent Elder William McMaster to them. In a short time both father and mother were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, and soon became anxious to emigrate to Utah. From mother's history I quote: "Within a month we had sold our possessions and started across the Atlantic, a pleasant voyage of six weeks." I was but five months old at that time.

We landed in New York City but did not tarry; instead we continued on to Albany, New York, where my parents worked two years saving money and making preparations to go on to Utah. I was almost three years old when we crossed the plains. We came by railroad from Albany to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. There we joined the Murdock Company and traveled from there to Salt Lake City by team, arriving at our destination the tenth of August, 1868.

My father found employment with the Jennings Mercantile Company. In a short time he was able to purchase three houses. We were doing nicely when the old trouble flared up and in 1869 mother was compelled to get a divorce. She soon had three children to support for a son, John Bidgood, was born to her after she obtained her freedom.

Our first home in Salt Lake City was built of adobe. It was located on the southwest corner of Sixth East and First South.

As mother of necessity had to earn our bread, she got a position in the millinery department at Auerbach's store, which she held with honor. It fell my lot to help her all I could. I washed the dishes while still so small I had to stand on a box to reach into the dishpan. Our neighbors were very kind and often ran in to see how we three youngsters were getting along. Aunt Polly Smith lived nearest to us. She has told me, many times how sorry she felt for the little girl who had such great responsibilities. Mother sold the adobe house to a Mr. Marshall for $1,200.00, but kept a pile of rock that had been hauled from Red Butte Canyon. She purchased a city lot, and from these red rocks built a new home. Thomas Jones, a mason by trade, did the building and finished it by 1870. This house still stands solidly on its foundation a 723 East First South, a fitting monument to Mr. Jones and the good builders of his day.

It was in this house that mother went into the millinery business, making it possible to earn a living and be home with her children. Her hats looked beautiful on the shining rods placed in the large bay windows. She was an expert at her trade, having been apprenticed for three years to a millinery establishment in Tivertin, England, and thereafter holding many responsible positions in her native land. Women in the neighborhood wore her hats proudly. Among the ladies who bought from mother were Lillie and Jessie Knight.

When I reached eight years of age I helped with the family finances by becoming a nursemaid to the Dunford children whose father managed the Dunford Shoe Establishment. Later I cared for the W. W. Riter children. Mrs. Riter wanted me to go with them to California, but mother said she could not let her only little girl go so far away. She gave me a city lot adjoining hers and told me that when I became old enough to marry, my house could be built upon it, then she would always have me near her. I was surely proud of my possession.

I had only one term of schooling in my life, but it was duly appreciated. My teacher was T. B. Lewis. The schoolhouse was located in the Twentieth Ward. It was such fun. I worked hard, staying in at recess to get my lessons. Mr. Lewis called me his best pupil and I stood at the head of my class. I remember that Maggie Basset was a pupil at that time.

We lived in the Eleventh Ward. When I became mutual age, I joined the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association and became secretary, performing my duties to the best of my ability.

About this time I learned from my mother the art of dressmaking and started working at my profession. I would go into the homes and work all day for $0.75 in cash. Not much for these days but a considerable wage at that time. Imagine my delight when the price was raised to one dollar a day and my dinner. The world was looking up for me. I now paid the tax on my lot.

In 1881 mother married Robert Henry Ford. I could not be happy under the same roof with him, nor could he be happy with me; so I went, by invitation, to the home of my girlhood friend, Mary Peterson, where I stayed until I found work. Dressmaking was slack and I needed a place to live so I did housework. This did not appeal to my fiance, Samuel DeGrey, so he took me to live with his Aunt Selina Hall. Here he would come to see me. We sat on the front porch and he would humorously tell me the happenings of the week.

From my childhood I had known and admired Samuel DeGrey. He was born in Dudley, Staffordshire, England, the second of November in 1861. He came to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake with his parents, Alfred DeGrey and Ann Maria Raybold, crossing the plains by mule team. When wood was not available along the barren stretches, they burned "buffalo chips".

Mother, having made her own choice for a son-in-law, was opposed to my marriage to Samuel, but for me he was the only one. We were quietly married on March 20, 1889, by Bishop Alexander McCrea (or McCrae). We each had our honeymoon apart from the other; I at his Aunt Selina's and he at the home of his parents.

While yet a boy, Sam, as I always called him, was a gardener for Brigham Young. He often told how he gathered the vegetables and fruits and took them to the big kitchen in the Lion House to be divided.

Our first home was one room in the Taylor house at 748 East First South, then owned by Mr. Wickens. We paid seven dollars a month rent. It was a good sized room and we were quite comfortable. Oh, it was good to have a place we could call home, where we could live normally together. It was here that our first baby was born, December 24, 1889. He was an adorable baby and we named him Alfred DeGrey.

My husband was then working as assistant blacksmith in the shop of the Oregon Shortline Railroad Company. His salary was small and we had added expense with the baby. This touched mother's heart, so she forgave us and offered us a little house in the rear of her home rent free. We gladly accepted her kind invitation and moved in.

Brick has always been a favorite building material for homes in Salt Lake City. Before Sam and I were engaged he learned to make brick and had enough laid by to build a house. Soon after moving in mother's little place we were able to purchase the needed materials to go with his brick, and began building our home on my lot. When it was completed it was a well-built, square, one-and-one-half story house with dormer windows. When two rooms were finished we moved in. Sam planted climbing roses at the door, and many different varieties of flowers around the yard. We felt sure that our vegetables, next to Brigham's, were the sweetest and most tender in the Valley. Honest pride of possession was ours, but funds were almost depleted. Then a lady from the East came to Salt Lake City for her health. We rented one of our two rooms to her for ten dollars a month and felt that we had made a bargain.

On the first of May, 1892, our second child, a baby girl, was born. We gave her the name of May. She had the prettiest dark blue eyes and grew so beautifully. She talked at an early age, learned to pronounce long words, and was adorable. She only stayed with us two years dying May 17, 1894. We were all heartbroken at her passing. It was not until six years later that another child, Sidney DeGrey, born January 20, 1900, came to comfort and solace us. Alfred was so glad to have a baby brother, and Sam and I gave liberally of our affection to our two sons and had much enjoyment with them.

In time my husband became a first rate blacksmith. We finished our house and were very comfortable.

Each year the Oregon Shortline Railroad sponsored an excursion for their employees and their guests. I seldom went on these gala occasions, thinking my home and family came first, but I do remember what a good time we had when we took our boys to Lagoon on one of these festive events. I shall never forget the music of the band, the gay laughter, the doughnuts, and the pink lemonade (made mostly with tartaric acid and flavored with lemon juice), nor the long-sleeved, long-shirted bathing suits worn by the bathers. A few ladies wore hand knit woolen stockings with elastic round garters to hold them in place; the up-to-date ones wore "boughten", sometimes called "store made" cotton hose.

For our summer vacation we sometimes left the hot noisy city and retreated up Nephi Canyon to the farm of Sam's cousin, Tueson Vickers, to enjoy the coolness of the canyon breeze and [to have a] good visit with our relatives.

Once they invited us to spend Christmas with them. The boys still talk of the snow in the canyon, how it clung to the trees and glistened in the sun. They enjoyed coasting [sledding] down the canyon slopes and over the creek with their cousins. Alfred thought he could coast down alone, but when the runners hit a snow-covered rock the sled stopped short. Alfred went on into the creek and got a good dousing.

On Christmas Eve there were bright red apples, molasses popcorn balls, red and white striped stick, and many things to delight both children and grown ups. It was indeed a nice Christmas.

In 1919, mother, at the age of 87, rented her home and came to live with us. On February 5, 1924, she died. We and many, many of her friends mourned her passing. That same year we moved into her home and rented ours. Twenty one years later, December 6, 1945, my beloved Sam went on ahead to prepare another home for me. Since then I have lived alone in the red rock house. Instead of shining rods holding mother's hats, I have an easy chair in the bay window where sometimes I sit in the sunshine and reminisce, but mostly I am busy keeping house. I am now 84 years old (1949) and am grateful that I can do all my own work.

My youngest son, Sidney, and his wife, Eva Lund, live in Denver, Colorado. He writes such good letters to me. Once when he was discouraged I wrote and encouraged him. He was so built up and happy about it that he wrote a poem, "I got a letter from my mother and I'll keep it all my Life" and sent it to me.

My son Alfred and his wife, Jenivee Kuhn, live close by [and] often come to see me. I would indeed be lost without them.

I have two grandsons and one granddaughter to cheer me and send me their pictures.

All my life I have loved the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It has never been my ambition to be a leader in the church organization. I never had enough courage to stand before an audience and bear my testimony, but I have thrilled to the testimonies of others. My duties as I saw them were to be a good daughter, a good wife, a good mother and grandmother; to love my neighbors and help the needy and afflicted. My two joys outside my home are to attend the meetings of the Relief Society and the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.

by Alfred DeGrey

The nicest thing about my mother is her friendly, fascinating personality.
All who meet her are drawn to her.
She has no enemies.
There has never been room in her heart for hatred, nor does she carry a grudge.
She is generous and gladly shares with those in need.
She is modest and good. Just a fine Latter-Day Saint Woman.

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