ELIZABETH WHITE MERRILL

by Elizabeth White Merrill

 

Iwas born in a little log cabin in Lehi, Utah, February 7, 1853. My mother, Elizabeth Turner Thomas buried her first husband, James Madison Morehead just across the Mississippi River after they were driven out of Nauvoo by the mob.

 

After many hardships and much sickness, she came to Utah with two children, Preston and Ann Morehead, in Aaron Johnson's company with her brother, Preston Thomas in 1850. After she had been here about two years she married my father, Samuel Dennis White. I was the only child of that marriage.

 

My father took his other family - he was a polygamist - to Cedar City in 1854, but my mother decided not to go with him to that new country. We moved to Cedar Fort in Cedar Valley west of Lehi. We lived there until the soldiers came in - Johnson's Army when we were advised to move. We moved south to what was known as Provo Bottoms where we lived for about two months. Later we were called back. On our way we stopped at Lehi over winter.

 

The next spring my brother, Preston Morehead, and my sister Ann's husband, Harrison A. Thomas, bought a farm at American Fork. At that time the boys had been married about two years. Preston married Cardelia Smith; Harrison married my sister Ann. The boys were just like brothers - always worked together until they came to Cache Valley.

 

They sold their farm and moved to Smithfield, Cache Valley, in 1861 the much talked of Cache Valley. Mother and I had always lived with Preston and Harrison. I stayed mostly with my brother and mother with Ann who was one of the most devoted daughters I have ever seen.

 

I grew up with the young folks of Smithfield where I attended the first school and Sunday School started there. In those days the seats were split logs smoothed off with a broad-ax. We had only one or two readers in the entire class. There were more spellers than readers at that time. We had to memorize the whole spelling lesson. We did not begin reading until we got through the speller.

 

When I was about sixteen my mother became very eager for me to have an education better than I could get at home so she went to Logan and made arrangements for me to go to the high school; that was the highest school in Cache Valley at that time. I studied at high school two years. Mother learned to weave when she was a girl in North Carolina. Her father was a large land holder and owned many Negro slaves. There was an old negro mammy for the all the weaving for the plantation.

 

Grandfather said to mother, "Although you are the only girl we have, you don't know what may happen. I want you to learn to make cloth from the wool and cotton."

 

Mother learned to weave, therefore, and when she left nearly everything in Nauvoo and lost her husband and her son, Samuel, and her brother Joseph while crossing the Mississippi River, she blessed grandfather's memory, for she made her living while residing at Winter Quarters by weaving, as she continued to do after she came to Utah. When I went to school in Logan she helped to pay for my board by weaving. Brother Preston also helped. He was a noble brother to me and Harrison Thomas was just as good. I named a son after each of them and they are worthy of the name - both of them.

 

When the Young Women's Retrenchment Society was started by Brigham Young, he called Sister Eliza Snow to come up to Cache County. Sister snow had a relative in Smithfield by the name of Evan Green. He had a daughter, Lulu, well educated for that time. She is a poetess. She has written many poems for the different church papers and magazines. Sister Snow had her chosen and set apart as president of the Retrenchment Society. Sister Green chose Sister Sorathers for first counselor and me as second counselor.

 

We worked together in harmony for about two years. I learned many fine lessons from her. She was a pure, polished lady. Lulu was called to Salt Lake City to edit the Women's Exponent. She afterwards married Levi Richards. She became the mother of the well-known painter, Lee Green Richards. After Lulua left Smithfield, Adeline Hatch Barber was put in president of the Relief Society.

 

She chose me as first counselor. I worked with her several years then the Young Women's Mutual Improvement association was started. I was called to be assistant secretary. My mother was made president and served nine years until her health failed. We moved away to Oxford where we lived two years on a farm in the red clay hills east of the tracks. We then traded our claim for a farm on Cub River, making the trade with Nate Hawkes. We lived on that farm for 19 years after which in 1905 we moved to Preston where we have lived since.

 

While living on Cub River, I was chosen as counselor to Susan Marie Stephenson who was president of the Relief Society of the St. Joseph, afterwards, Mapleton Ward. I acted in that position until we moved away.

While living in Mapleton, I held at one time the office of President of the Mapleton Primary Association. I was chosen by sister Lucy Parkinson, who was then stake president of the Primary Association.

 

We lived in the Preston First Ward, when we reached Preston. I was soon made a worker in the Primary and became first counselor to Louise Smith in the first ward Relief Society, Bell Daines being the other counselor. After two years, Sister Smith's health failed and she resigned. We moved to the Preston Third Ward where I acted as teacher in the Relief Society until I was called to the Stake Board and worked with Nellie Head. I remained on the stake board for three years. At that time I felt that I was unable to keep up with the visiting to other wards and not wishing to stand in the way of younger and better help to our beloved president, I resigned. I had enjoyed the work greatly, the board seemed to be so united and enthusiastic about their work.

 

I often thought if I had the opportunity when I was younger how I would have enjoyed it; the sisters of the board all seemed to be so willing to listen to our President and the counsel of the Stake President, Taylor Nelson, a true Latter-day Saint who met with us often with his counselors and gave us encouragement and counsel. I resigned with the best feelings to all with whom I had worked, and with my faith stronger.

 

Since resigning I have acted as Relief Society teacher until it became hard for me to walk around the beat. My love for the work of Relief Society however, is as strong as ever.

 

When I was eight years old, my brother, Preston, and Ann's husband, Harrison Thomas decided to move to Caches Valley. They said they would bring Cordelia, Preston's wife, and baby, Madison, four months old and myself. Mother and Ann were to stay in American Fork until the boys built a house. Ann and mother kept Ann's two children, Mary Ann (Mayme) and Joseph H. Joe was then days younger than Madison.

 

So we started out from American Fork one bright day in April 1861, with two loaded wagons and two good horse teams. When we got over on the divide near Collinston - that is where Clarkston now is - we found the snow to be two feet deep. We had a time getting over the divide. We only succeeded by hooking both teams on a single wagon. We would go a mile or two and then the boys would go back for the other wagon. I think I was born a rover. It was all a great adventure to me. I never get tired of traveling.

 

We got to Mendon at last. We had a relative there by the name of Winslow Farr. They wanted us to locate at Mendon. It did look good to the boys, but they decided to go on. We got stuck in the middle of the street, but finally got out and went on to Wellsville where we had another relative, James Leishman, who went to Cache Valley from Cedar Fort. He wanted us to stay there. We stayed a week, then started on to Smithfield, where our dear Uncle Claybourn Thomas lived.

 

We got mired in the streets of Logan, but finally got out again and went on through Hyde Park to beautiful Smithfield. There was a crystal clear stream of water running through the town with great cottonwood trees on each side just leafing out. I doubt whether heaven will look any fairer to me. We all felt - "This is the Place."

 

Uncle Preston Thomas had settled at Franklin, Idaho, he wanted our folks to go on up there, but Uncle Claybourn was at Smithfield and in addition many of our friends from Lehi, so we located there. Preston and Harrison rented a one room log cabin from Sam Taylor. Then Harrison went back to American Fork for his wife, Ann, and their two babies, Mayme and Joe, and mother.

 

The boys went to work - put in a garden and some grain and then went to the canyon to get out house logs. They built them each a good-sized room 16 feet apart, then enclosed the space between the two houses for a granary and a bedroom for ma and me.

 

Those were such busy, happy days. Although the boys and others had always to take their guns with them and take turns standing guard for awhile after we came, for the Indians were hostile. After they found out that we were their friends they quieted down.

 

There was a chief by the name of Washakie who was very friendly with the whites. Uncle Preston was always very friendly with the Indians. He often had the chiefs to dinner with his family. I have eaten dinner with the Indians many times as a child. I always thought it was quite an honor. They had a lot of trouble with strange Indians as Franklin was the outside town to the north.

 

I grew up in Smithfield; went to Mrs. Aiken's school. She taught in her one room log house. We all lived in the Fort. The houses were built around a square plot with doors all toward the square.

 

At that school was a boy two years younger than I was. He was large for his age and I took an interest in him. He seemed so bashful that I looked out for him in the little games. The teacher called him her little hero. He always answered questions and read so loud she could hear him. We went on together to the next school and the next as they came along. He was not such a rattle-brain as I was. Books were very scarce; he learned faster than I, as he was always in my class. As we grew older I helped him with geography and he helped me with arithmetic. He seemed afraid of any of the girls but me. He had a friend by the name of Sammy Hendricks. They lived together - were real pals. I had several boy friends and went with one and then another - never seemed to settle on any of them.

 

When Orrin Jackson Merrill, my little boy friend grew up, he began asking me to go places with him. We would pick out a girl for Sammy and the four of us would have a fine time. I never thought of marrying him then, but as time went on we seemed not to enjoy ourselves with anyone else, so after going together occasionally, we began to think we could not get along without each other.

 

When he was 19, we decided to get married. We lived in Cache Valley over a hundred miles from Salt Lake City. We got ready. There were no showers of Trousseau Teas in those days - just getting married seemed to be enough.

 

Note: Elizabeth Merrill died September 22, 1932.