Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eliza Smith Morris (1865-1951)

Eliza Smith was born September 15, 1865 at Grafton, Washington County, Utah, the daughter of Charles N. Smith and Maria DeGrey. She was the eldest daughter of a family of eleven children, namely: Joseph, George, Hyrum, Eliza, Maria, Charles, David, Martha and Mary (twins), Sarah Ann, and Sophia.

Charles N. Smith had two wives during the time Plural Marriage was practiced in Utah. His first wife, Eliza Needham, has no children and was not of very good health. Finding it necessary to have help in performing her daily duties, Charles sought the assistance of one of the daughters of an English family who just recently had settled in Utah to help his wife. The old English mother gladly consented to one of her daughters helping in the Smith home as they were so very poor. To have her daughter work would mean at least clothes and shoes. So it was that Maria DeGrey went to help in the Smith home. Charles fell in love with her and married her as his second wife. She became the mother of his first child, Eliza, at the age of seventeen.

While yet a very small child, and not within her memory, Eliza Smith's parents and her brothers moved to Rockville, Utah, about two miles from Grafton, where a new home was established. At this particular time, there was still some fear of Indian trouble, and Rockville offered more protection from such trouble. This was Eliza's home until she married and moved to Arizona.

The home where Eliza was born was a one-room dugout and a covered wagon box, which had been lifted from the running gears and placed on the ground. This wagon box made a warm bedroom for Eliza's mother, and it was here that Eliza's oldest brother was born.

Eliza grew to young womanhood under the strict, yet kindly, direction of the old pioneer Mormon parents, attending school, church and amusements in a small one room building.

The conduction of church services has not changed much during Eliza's lifetime. Then, as now, Sunday School was held in the morning, Sacrament meetings were in the afternoon, but the Fast Meetings were held on Thursdays. The fast offerings for the Smith family were not paid in cash but consisted of a small bucket of flour. Eliza remembered their fast offering because food was such a precious commodity in those early pioneer days.

The dances, which furnished the townsfolk an enjoyable entertainment, were of the truest type of old fashioned ones. Admission fee to such dances could be anything the pioneers might have on hand Wheat, corn, pumpkins, homemade molasses, raisins, etc. The music was provided by several men of the community who were talented in playing the "fiddle" and a small portable organ. The musicians received their "pay" from the produce brought in by the dancers as admission. Square dances, quadrille, Scotch Reel, Virginia Reel, Pokka, Schottische and Waltzes were some of the favorite dances.

After half the evening had been spent in dancing, an intermission was held. During the intermission the couples went to their homes to have some kind of light refreshment, which had been previously prepared.

The musicians were invited to join in during the intermission, and they usually returned to the dance with their coat pockets full of cookies and raisins to provide something for their young lady friends and themselves to nibble on during the remainder of the evening.

The Fourth and Twenty fourth of July were holidays always observed in accordance with the fullest significance of each. Home talent programs with stump speeches, readings, and songs were given. A small band stirred the pioneer hearts to the heights of sentiment, both patriotic and religious, with its timely music. Participants and entertainers were conveyed to the gatherings in wagons, and often four horses were used to pull the crowded wagons.

"May Day" was another very festive occasion. A May Day Queen, with all the accompanying ceremonies, was crowned as the highlight of the day. The young people went in large groups to gather wild flowers and later gathered to sing songs and dance.

To Eliza, Christmas was never the extravagant affair it sometimes is now days. As a child and young girl, she never saw a gaily decorated and brightly lighted Christmas tree in their home. She was happy in the anticipation of a filled stocking on Christmas morning. There were no walking or talking dolls, dressed in gowns of ruffles and ribbons. She remembered of having only one small china doll, but it was a precious gift, which she cherished, as long as it was usable.

During Eliza's young years, educational achievement was marked by reading ability and Eliza attained the highest degree by mastering the Fifth Reader, a book now among her collection of souvenirs from "Ye Olden Days". The completion of this test signified that all other eductional requirements had been met by the student, so Eliza's school days were over for awhile. Reading and spelling were her favorite studies.

Children always had many home duties to perform in the way of doing their part of the various household chores. Amusements were few and of a very limited variety ... molasses candy pulls, fruit cutting bees, pine nut gatherings and community dances. The children, however, were not allowed to take part in any activities or amusements without the consent of their parents and then, not until all home duties had been performed satisfactorily. This was a very strict rule in the Smith home and one that Eliza obeyed cheerfully. On the Sabbath, pleasure seeking was not permitted until all religious services had been attended.

One can readily understand by knowing the story of her early years, that Eliza was a dutiful, obedient and parent loving child, and early in life assumed, on her own accord, many family responsibilities. Because Eliza was the oldest daughter, she learned early the skills of housekeeping, This was a delight rather than a burden to her, for "playing house" had always been a childish favorite of hers.

When the Smith family first moved to Rockville, a temporary abode was build to make shift until their log cabin could be completed. The temporary home was built hastily by making forms of rough boards, into which mud was poured and packed to make the walls. A thatched roof provided protection over head and mother earth served as the floor.

After a short time their new home was completed and furnished with the bare necessities, but to the Smith family, it was a comfortable and pleasant home, luxurious as any home in that day. it consisted of one large room on the first floor, and a well built loft with wooden floor and shingle roof. The second floor was used as sleeping quarters for the children and storage room for cherished articles. The pleasant recollection of Eliza's young life was of the times she and her brothers and sisters scampered up the stairs to their beds at night. Eliza remembered that their beds consisted of wool, straw or cornhusk filled mattresses and quilts pieced by their mother and Charles' first wife, whom the children called "Auntie".

The furnishings in the home where Eliza spent her childhood were in accordance with the times and such that adorned every other pioneer home in Rockville. The chairs were made at Springdale by men who were skilled in the art. They were made of green wood and put together with small wooden pegs, instead of nails, and glue, and the seats were formed by woven rawhide. The beds for the older folks were made by hand of available lumber. Hand woven rugs covered the rough wooden floors. A fireplace provided warmth during cold winter days and nights. Some of the preparation of the meals was done in the fireplace.

The Smith home, upon special church occasions, furnished accommodations for most of the church authorities and visitors who came to Rockville. Eliza always managed to establish herself on the lap of Brigham Young whenever he visited in their home. She enjoyed so much helping in the preparation on such happy occasions. The Smith home buzzed with activity on the days preceding visits from church authorities from Salt lake City. Saturday, especially, was a busy day. All the children were given their certain duties to be performed so that Sunday might be observed with the desired hospitality. The home was cleaned and shined inside and out. The "silver" was old, but it was carefully polished. The big brass kettle was scoured until it fairly sparkled. Lamp and fire lighter supplies were replenished by freshly rolled paper. New tallow tips were made in readiness for the eventful visit.

If, perchance, the weather was stormy, leaving the streets and yards muddy, the rugs were taken up and the children were sent to the nearby wash or creek to bring back buckets of clean sand. This was strewn on the wooden floors and left there until the mud outside had dried up. Then the sand was swept out, leaving the floor boards white and clean as new.

Several years after Charles moved his family to Rockville, Eliza's father managed the only store in the small community. It was a general merchandise and cooperative store built at the rear of their home. The general work in the store and the bookkeeping occupied a great deal of her father's time. In order for him to do it well, he arose each morning at 3:00 a.m. and completed his posting. Besides his work in the store Eliza's father fulfilled the calling as bishop of the ward for twenty two years.

Eliza's mother assisted with the work at the store, and also operated the telegraph station with acquired efficiency. "Antie" accepted the responsibility of the household duties of cooking, mending, knitting and sewing for the children. Through the harmonious work and play of everyone, the Smith family enjoyed a humble life of contentment and congeniality. Except for the time when Eliza's father left his family and accepted a call to fulfill a mission, the family was never broken up.

It was during the time that her father was away on his mission that Eliza's mother gave birth to twins David and Martha. The family's happiness was short lived, however, for the tiny babies died in infancy.

When Eliza was fourteen years of age, she suffered the loss of her mother. Her "Auntie" had passed away one year previous, so it was doubly hard for Eliza to lose her mother. Now all responsibilities usually taken care of by her mother and "Auntie" rested on her slim shoulders. Besides not having a mother to guide and instruct her during her young girlhood years, it was difficult for one so young and so small, for she was small for her age, to accept the care of younger brothers and sisters. The youngest child was but three years old, so Eliza learned fast the full responsibility of a mother.

Because of her small stature, Eliza had to resort to many means and tricks to accomplish some of the tasks before her now. it was but a short time before her mother died that Eliza experienced for the first time making a batch of light bread without any assistance from anyone. Her parents were away for the day so Eliza had been left to make the bread. She could not reach the mixing bowl which was setting on the table, and had to put the bowl on the floor in order to mix the bread. Nevertheless, the bread making episode turned out to be very successful, and Eliza was praised by her mother and father on their return home.

When Eliza was twenty years old she married her childhood friend and sweetheart. The lucky young man was Hyrum Boles Morris, Jr. son of Hyrum Boles Morris and Eleanor Roberts. He was born in Springdale, Utah, in 1863, a year or two after his parents had made a trying journey across the plains to Utah.

When the date for the marriage was set, it became necessary for the young couple to be rebaptized, as was the requirement of the Church in those days. So Eliza and Hyrum were baptized in the Virgin River. It was a test for them because the water was so cold and by the time they hurried back to their homes to change into dry clothing, their wet garments were frozen stiff. After these preparations had been completed, the young couple made a forty-mile journey in a covered wagon to St. George, where the marriage was performed in the Temple. So on January 1, 1885, Eliza and Hyrum became man and wife. They returned to Rockville where they made a home for themselves until early summer when they went to the mountains. They had a summer home where they raised a garden, milked cows, and made butter and cheese. It was a pleasant time for the young couple as they worked and played together.

The following fall in November 1885, they decided to move to Arizona. They settled in The Salt River Valley, where Hyrum's parents had moved two years previous. The young couple purchased what necessities they were able to manage financially and started on the journey to their new home in a covered wagon. Their first child, Hyrum Charles Morris, was born to them on March 18,1886, after the couple had settled in Mesa, Arizona.

In 1887, Hyrum was called to serve a mission in the southern states. He willingly accepted the call though it meant leaving his wife and small son for two years. He took his small family back to Rockville and left them with Eliza's father until his mission had been fulfilled. Another son, George Edwin, was born on December 6, 1887, and was fifteen months old before Hyrum returned home from his mission.

After two years of separation Hyrum returned, gathered his family around him, and once again traveled the long distance to Mesa, Arizona.

The region in and around Mesa at the time that Hyrum made a home for his family, was yet quite undeveloped. Those early settlers who pioneered the way for the growth and development of this section of Arizona were endowed with great patience, endurance and faith. As they lived and reared their families, many obstacles were overcome and a great many sacrifices made by those choice pioneers. Regardless of the hardships and privations, Hyrum and Eliza, as did others, found much happiness as they worked and harvested together.

Hyrum engaged in farming, but found it necessary to engage in extra work to help financially. Often Eliza had to take care of the farm work while her husband was working elsewhere. Early in the morning she would carry enough watermelons from the field to sell during the entire day. She worked hard to be able to sell enough melons and molasses to the Indians to purchase their wheat for the winter. When she had to milk the cows, Eliza tied the children, who were to small to care for themselves, by their apron strings to the fence to keep them from being harmed by the cows. But she usually was able to finish all such outside work before the children were awake.

Hyrum purchased unimproved and run down farms in the Mesa area, spent much time and effort working them, and sold the farms. Throughout Mesa, he left farms that were a credit to him and his family, and at the same time brought financial profit to himself. Hyrum enjoyed seeing growth and development and found much satisfaction in improving the farms which he purchased.

On March 1, 1897, Eliza's father passed away and brought much sorrow to her, because she was unable to be with him during his last days. She had last seen her father in 1893 when she and Hyrum had taken their children and gone to Utah, intending to make their home there. They had stayed in Utah only a short time because the property for which they had traded their home in Mesa had not been what it was represented to be. One of their children had been born in Monroe, Utah on September 30, 1893, and then the family decided to return to Mesa.

After sixteen years of hard work but enjoyable living, Hyrum decided again to leave the Salt River Valley. This time he and Eliza planned to make their home in a cooler climate, and so they moved to Lovell, Wyoming in 1901. The journey took them three months by wagon. Then, because the severe cold of the winters proved to be unfavorable to them, Hyrum again returned to Mesa after only four years in Wyoming.

In 1908, one of Eliza's great desires was realized when her son, George Edwin, was called on a mission to the Samoan Islands. This happiness turned to grief when the young missionary succumbed to a fever and was buried in the islands.

During the following years joy and sorrow were closely interlaced in the strands of Eliza's life. In October 1908 Wilmer died at six.

Eliza was left for the second time to care for her family when Hyrum was called to fulfill a mission in the Northern States in 1910. He was unable to complete his mission because of ill health and returned home in 1911. Three years later a second son was called to the Southern States Mission. So closely following all this happiness, Eliza lost her companion and sweetheart, when Hyrum died in December 1914.

Then during the first World War Eliza, like thousands of other mothers, sent two sons to fight for freedom and right. On October 21, 1918, shortly before the armistice was signed, Joseph was killed in action. Lawrence returned home to his wife and helped soften the blow of the loved one lost in the war.

Within the next thirteen years, Eliza lost three daughters: Manila, who died September 23, 1922, leaving two baby girls, Wilma and Geraldine; Mabel Morris Rollins, who died September 12, 1932, leaving two sons, Charles E. and Morris Rollins, and Sophie Robbins Carlin, who died December 23, 1935, leaving a daughter, Betty Robbins, and two sons, Patrick and Michael Carlin.

After her husband's death, Eliza moved away from the ranch home located south of Mesa back to the old town home. at 228 West First Street, which had been previously owned and occupied by the family. Even though ail her children were married, Eliza was never quite alone, as some of her children lived with her, and she always had grandchildren to love and "spoil". During the later years of her life Eliza felt she would like to return to Utah where she would be able to be with her brothers and sisters. Because of the closeness of her own children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Eliza was never able to stay in Utah even for visits for any length of time. The high lights of her reclining years were the frequent visits by her children and their families. The grandchildren loved to go to Grandma Morris' home to sleep in her feather bed and listen to her bedtime stories. It was a great event to eat at Grandma's home, she made the best pie in town, a reputation established long ago.

Eliza's staunch, unfaltering faith was the strengthening factor in her entire life. The sorrows and hardships were lessened by this same faith, and Eliza was able to encourage others to the same heights. She was one who used her faith to make a happy home for her husband and her children; to bring in sunshine when the dark clouds hovered overhead, and to guide and instruct her children to the same unchanging faith.

And in words of her daughter, Genevieve, her character is etched in the passage of time... "At the age of 68, Mother courageously faces the daily tasks of like, keeps a spic and span home, visits her friends and attends to her religious duties... On her 80th birthday, Mother held openhouse, with her daughter and two daughters in law, and granddaughters as hostesses. Hundreds of friends called during the day, and Mother enjoyed visiting with them all. She is still able to care for herself, doing her own cooking and cleaning her big home as she has done in the past years. Her health is fair, but she is unable to walk very much and is confined close to home. Her mind is clear and her memory is excellent... At the age of 85, she is still sweet and gentle, always a pleasant companion. She has twenty grandchildren and twenty eight great grandchildren ... that alone is a symbol of wonderful womanhood and motherhood. She is a shining star in our horizon. "

Eliza passed away on September 8, 1951 at Mesa, Arizona, and was buried there on September 10, 1951 as a dedication to a life of hardships and happiness ... much happiness.

Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust (Since He who knows our need is just)
That somehow, somewhere. meet we must. Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress trees! who. Hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mounful marbles play!
Who hath not learned. in hours of faith.
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever Lord of Death,
And Love can never lose its own!

John Greenleaf Whittier.

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