by Martha Sonntag Bradley
and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward
Zina Young Card Brown
The Making of a Marriage, 1908-27
“Our love has grown and flourished until we are truly one.”
—Zina Young Card Brown
[p.405] Of his wife, Zina, Hugh B. Brown would later say, “No man ever had a truer wife, a better companion, nor was there ever a better mother in the world than my wife, Zina Young Card Brown.”1 On each anniversary of their marriage, Zina wrote Hugh a love letter. On their fourth, Zina penned a similar, reflective letter.
My Dear Husband:
This is our wedding day and it is just such a day as it was four years ago, and the roses remind me of it all for I still have some left of the many that were given me on my birthday. You are busy drilling the boys prior to leaving for Calgary and in spite of it all I know that some time during the day you remember this day as the anniversary of the one that stands as the most eventful in our whole lives.
Your birthday letter with the generous gift for me was my best birthday present because it came from the one I love best on earth. I hope you will be pleased with what I buy with it for I am going to spend it as you said to. Thank you sweetheart; you are so generous to me and your love means everything to me.
Zina is sitting on my lap and this at the top of the page is a note to [p.406] Daddie from her. … Remember me to your officers and I hope I can get there before camp breaks. I am ever your own for all eternity.2
This letter, penned many anniversaries later, bespeaks her consuming love:
My Beloved, this day commemorates the most Important day of my life.
At high noon on June 17, 1908 we were married for time and Eternity in the Salt Lake Temple by our Prophet Leader Pres. Joseph F. Smith. … I have been reliving that day.
My darling Mother greeted me with her usual kiss and then sat me down at our dining table on which she had prepared a special breakfast. Said I was not to worry about the preparations for the day in the home. Just to get yourself ready for the Temple. … We returned as “one” in the same carriage after our marriage. The Temple sealing room was packed with relatives and friends. All present said they had never before experienced such a beautiful marriage, for Pres. Smith was so inspired in his talk to us and in giving the ceremony. … All were deeply touched by the Holy Spirit as we listened to his words. After the ceremony the sun shone on us as an omen of our life ahead. Our love has grown and flourished until we are truly one. Each is lost without the other. How blessed we have been. Each of our darling children—our eight special blessings—has crowned our lives with blessings beyond measure. … Each anniversary has brought roses from My Love, a symbol of our love. … Our hearts have grown in understanding as well as love. … Your noble life has become a “Tower of Strength,” not only to me and to our children, but to thousands of God’s other children. May you be spared to live until your mission is complete, with us side by side to the last of this earth’s life. Then on into Eternity. … There are no words to tell you all that is in my heart for you this day. I love you with everything that is in my heart and soul. May God bless you in health and strength and wisdom to carry on your glorious mission here in His Kingdom and in the lives of your wife and children is my prayer in Jesus’ name. Forever lovingly yours, Zina.3
After ten days of visiting and making their final farewells in 1908, the newly married couple returned to Canada to set up house and begin their life together. Zina Presendia and John Talmage, a son of future LDS apostle James E. Talmage, traveled to Canada with them, prompting Hugh to comment wryly: “Our honeymoon was not the kind that is usu-[p.407]ally anticipated by an enthusiastic young couple.”4 Hugh’s five brothers, Homer, Scott, Lawrence, Owen, and Gerald, had plotted mischief for the homecoming and met them at Raley, the train stop closest to Cardston, with a rickety buggy held together with baling wire and rope, drawn by a decrepit, swayback mare. After thoroughly enjoying Hugh’s dismay and embarrassment, the Brown boys trotted out a team of spirited black mares pulling a shiny new buggy with rubber tires. They had pooled their resources and purchased the equipage as a wedding present for their brother.
In Canada Hugh worked as president of the Cardston Mercantile Company, founded by Charles O. Card in 1888, the year Zina was born. A general merchandise institution, it sold everything from toothpicks to threshing machines. His salary of $75 per month did not allow any extras, but within a few months he received a $25 raise. The two young people moved into the small house which Hugh had rented from Charley Burt, furnished with used furniture, including a fold-down bed. Zina planted flowers along the front path and Hugh put in a small vegetable garden in back. They borrowed furniture from relatives, as well as housewares and rugs, and settled into their new home.
In October 1908, Zina learned that she was pregnant and the couple moved in with Hugh’s parents so they could save money toward the purchase of their own home. Although Hugh’s sisters were cordial to Zina, she realized they found her a bit “uppity” with citified airs because she used table linen instead of oilcloth and preferred a china cup to the tin dipper by the sink. Although Zina had been raised in a frontier community, her mother had taken pains to impart the decorum of a well-educated and refined woman. The fourteen Brown children had had little time, struggling to make a farm pay in a harsh climate, for such niceties as English grammar, “which was a shock to Mother.” Queasy during those first days with morning sickness, Zina longed to be with her mother, so Hugh suggested she spend Christmas in Salt Lake City. It would also solve the problem of housing for the time being.
Zina left in mid-December. Rega met her at the Salt Lake train station after the three-day journey and took her to 146 4th Avenue. “Mother was in the kitchen and we hugged & kissed & cried & laughed for, oh! I don’t know how long,” she wrote to Hugh, “then we had [p.408] dinner & talked again, & I have been talking ever since, answering questions & telling about all of you and how I left you all.”5 She repeatedly expressed appreciation for this time with her mother: “I have so much to tell her now and asking her about the coming of the ‘little stranger’ gives rise to so much thought, so many plans. We talk when we are in bed and just feast on each other’s society. I am sure that you and I will ever be glad that I came to Mother this first year of my married life.”6
Eager to share her happiness with Hugh, Zina wrote often and in detail, usually every other day. The nausea disappeared quickly (“Hugh Brown’s wife feels well & fine & her stomach behaves all right now”); but when she experienced abdominal pain, she took to her bed: “Mother says I must keep off my feet, for the third month is the most critical time of the whole nine.”7 For her, the coming child was a sign “that we have shown our love in a tangible way,”8 to which Hugh responded emotionally: “When I think of the condition you are in I love you with a more sacred love than ever.”9 Two days later, he wrote: “I dreamed of you last night with a baby in your arms.”10
Mother and daughter went shopping at ZCMI, purchasing a new brown dress and accessories for Zina. “I wish my sweetheart could see me in my new dress, shoes, gloves, furs & all; but we’ll dress up and have our time together next month, you in your new suit & me in mine. Are you glad I got brown? I think Brown is the nicest color there is.”11 On 30 December she reported: “Christmas we all stayed up until the wee hours of morning filling each other’s stockings. You would never guess what they [her foster sisters] gave Mother, so I’ll tell you. It was a dandy washing machine. We used it for our Xmas tree hanging our stockings around it.” Zina Presendia gave her daughter eight yards of hand-made lace for “tiny clothes.”
But her favorite theme was her devotion to Hugh: On 22 December she worried: “Sun. night I dreamed you were ill and delirious & Mother said I was kind of sobbing in my sleep. … Do be careful, Hugh, and don’t get down sick.”12 Seven days later she wrote longingly,
Dearest, we have grown so to be part of each other that I feel like I am only half here. And when I wake in the night I feel like I could give anything to be able to snuggle up in your arms again and feel your strong arms [p.409] about me too. … Do you know my husband, I am getting such a case on you that I can hardly stand the separation a minute longer. I thought I loved you as much as possible for one to love another, but isn’t it queer how a person’s love keeps on growing ever stronger and deeper?
Zina Brown spent much of the week between Christmas and New Year’s embroidering dainty clothing for the new baby.
We are beginning to prepare for the precious one’s coming. It just seems too glorious to be true. But it is true, and we’ll be the happiest mother and father in the whole world, won’t we dear? I pray all the time that I can keep my body and mind in a condition to bequeath to it [the baby] health of body and intellect and a beautiful spirit. I pray for it to be like you in all your goodness for I want it to be “papa’s baby” and then it will be just as it should.13
Within the week Zina Brown returned to Canada. She must have felt stretched in a game of tug-a-war—her mother had been her confidant, as much friend as mother. Time spent with her was a precious reminder of her youth. Nevertheless, she was deeply in love with her husband, as was he with her. His welcome at her return matched her own happiness with their marriage. One can only speculate if whispered confidences passed between mother and daughter about her husband’s devotion and her satisfaction, but surely Zina Brown’s anticipation of the coming child promised well for the continuation of a happy family life.
Despite ambitions to save for a new house, their finances were tight, and Hugh and Zina were living in Telitha Carlson’s home when their first daughter, named Zina Lydia for her two grandmothers, was born at 2:30 a.m. on 21 July 1909, attended by Zina Presendia. Awestruck, Hugh recorded the event in his journal:
Zina gave birth to a beautiful girl and now I am the proud father. The Lord has blessed me with one of the best women on earth and these 13 months of married life have been a foretaste of heaven in which my joy is now crowned by the arrival of an important spirit clothed in a beautiful tabernacle of flesh of our own offering. All honor be to the Father of Spirits and may he aid us to so live that we may be worthy guardians of others and in faith fully discharge the sacred duty of parenthood.14
[p.410] In a memoir written when he was seventy-seven, he described Zina Lou (Zina Lydia’s preferred nickname) as “the most beautiful child I had ever seen. Her complexion, her features, her verve for life, her long curls, everything endeared her to us beyond anything we had known heretofore.” But when she was eighteen months old, he “picked her up one day and her leg went limp.” The doctor diagnosed polio and told the distraught parents: “She will never walk. That leg will not grow.” Hugh continued:
It was a very heavy blow to all of us. We brought her to Salt Lake in 1914 and had a special operation performed on her foot. She has been lame all of her life but could at least walk. She has made good in spite of it all and has never complained. She is now the mother of two lovely daughters and has been a special blessing to us during her own mother’s recent illness.15
Zina Lou was six weeks old when a chance to buy a home walked straight into Hugh’s and Zina’s life “without knocking or ringing,” in the person of local LDS bishop Dennison Harris. (Six weeks before Hugh’s marriage to Zina, Harris had ordained him to the office of high priest and set him apart as a second counselor in the bishopric.16) Harris now announced: “I want you to get up and dress and go over and buy a house.”17 Hugh accompanied Harris to see a small house owned by Nels Nielson that possessed a modest kitchen, living room, dining room, two bedrooms, and water from an outside pump. The $2,200 price included a large lot; Hugh immediately realized he could sell part of the land to help pay the mortgage.
Hugh, Zina, and the baby took possession on 9 September 1909. They moved their folding bed into the front room to accommodate overnight guests, bought a brass bed for themselves, and became accustomed to having, in Hugh’s words, “a path instead of a bath.” They lived in the house for eight years, adding plumbing and furniture a piece at a time and three more daughters.
Another opportunity came to Hugh in 1909. The Canadian Parliament passed the Militia Act creating the equivalent of the National Guard for Canada. A recruiter came to Cardston from Ottawa in 1909 hoping to raise a squadron of Mormons. According to Hugh, he was “a cocky [p.411] fellow with a little turned-up moustache, a swagger in his walk, and a walking cane which he twirled, on his arm—in every way the kind of a man our young men would not wish to follow.”18 He encountered absolutely no success and, disgruntled, returned to Ottawa to report that the Mormons were disloyal and should be expelled from the country.
At that time, southern Alberta’s representative in Parliament was W. A. Buchanan, editor of the Lethbridge Herald, who knew and admired the Mormon people. He told the House of Commons that if they would permit some Mormon men to be trained as officers, they would be able to recruit as many young Mormons as were available. On his next trip west, Buchanan called on Alberta Stake president Edward J. Wood. Wood then called Hugh into his office and said, “I want to call you on a mission to go to Calgary and train as an officer in the Canadian Army. We will have others go with you at a later date.”19 He recognized Hugh’s leadership ability and realized he could serve as a chaplain as well. Before the war Hugh had often ridden the range on horseback, meeting up with the Northwest Mounted Police, whom he accompanied on occasion and whom he mostly respected. However, he was periodically ridiculed for not drinking or smoking.20 Accordingly, Hugh went to camp several times between 1910 and 1912 along with William Ainscough, Benjamin May, Andrew Woolf, and Hyrum Taylor. He qualified as a lieutenant, a captain, and then a major. Each year they recruited additional men and the Mormon soldiers earned a fine reputation.
In 1910 Hugh and his brothers purchased a thousand acres of land on the old Cochrane ranch, twelve miles north of Cardston. The LDS church had acquired the spread and was selling parcels to interested members. Zina, Hugh, and baby Zina moved out to the ranch and lived in a building which had originally been used as a granary. Here that spring and summer Zina cooked for the ravenous Brown brothers; when Hugh’s twenty-two-year-old brother Owen married Ida Archibald, Zina welcomed her as a sister and fellow cook.
Unlike the co-op where Hugh kept regular, though long, hours, life on the ranch was lonely for Zina. Their small, but adequate home was one of a grouping of three—the others housed the ranch hands. Hugh’s days were spent working the soil, and his evenings were frequently [p.412] consumed by bishopric meetings. Furthermore, he was periodically on active duty at the military school in Calgary.
Reluctant to leave Zina and the baby alone while he was at military school, Hugh suggested that they visit her mother, much to Zina’s delight. All three traveled to Salt Lake City, after which Zina returned with her daughter to Canada. Back in Cardston, refreshed in both body and spirit, Zina wrote Hugh:
A whole day has passed since you left. I hope all of them wont seem so long. But we have got on fine. Stayed in our own little nest last night. Baby had a good night and got up with the meal 7:15 and was good all day. After I had finished my ironing I went to Sister [Edna] Tanner’s [Hugh’s eldest sister] … Wed. morning-Babe and I slept in the parlor and she is there now. The coldest night we have had. We are going to get on fine and work and play all day and we wont get lonesome.21
The Zinas enjoyed visiting friends and relatives during the days and weeks of Hugh’s absence. Zina filled her letters to Hugh with news of little Zina: “When she wants me now she reaches way out and holds out her arms and just coaxes! … She still has a slight cold but feels fine and is as happy as a little bird all day and laughs and plays with us all.”22 The next week she wrote: “I said [to Zina] ‘where is Daddie’ and she hunted all over the room for you and when she couldn’t find you she gave me a questioning look. She remembers you well and I hope she won’t forget you.”23 Three days later Hugh replied: “My Blue-bell and Blossom,” he wrote, “Say, I can’t stay up here another month, I am getting ‘bug house’! My dear ones are always with me in my mind and I long to see them. How nice it would be if I could hold mother on one knee and baby on the other, if we could all go to Sunday school together.24
During his months at camp, Hugh learned military discipline, a new experience for him. Because of his background with animals, he helped care for the horses and often rode the length of the adjacent reservation on his favorite, “Steamboat.”25
Hugh did not return to the Cochrane ranch. Instead, he stayed in Cardston, considering it a better opportunity, and, in July 1910, he took the job of managing the Cahoon Hotel, which boasted a dining room, [p.413] several bedrooms, and bathrooms on each floor. The Browns rented out their home and moved into the hotel’s special manager’s quarters.
In July 1910, Zina became pregnant again. By October she was ill and “feeling fat already.” Again she traveled to Salt Lake City to visit her mother, taking fifteen-month-old Zina Lou with her. She wrote to Hugh:
Mother is singing the “Mother Song” the one we sing together, her lonely heart is so cheered now, your sacrifice in letting me come is a blessing that will reap you a hundred fold dear, and I say it without sentimentality. … No one but Mamma knows that spring will bring us another little “fairy” to our home and I am not going to tell only Aunt Rie [Maria Young Dougall]. She and Mother will wash and anoint me before I leave.26
Zina Presendia attended the births of Zina Lou, LaJune, and Mary. Carol Rae was the only one of Zina Brown’s children to be born in a hospital.
A week later Zina delightedly reported that baby Zina Lou took her first steps and toddled “half way across the dining room I nearly took a fit I was so tickled. I’ll tell her to love me and she’ll put both arms around my neck and just squeeze and kiss me and then pat my back. Mother just worships her.”27
Zina returned from Utah later that fall, feeling rested and stronger. In January, they learned of Zina Lou’s polio. Their tenant’s lease was up, and they moved back into their home, preparing for the new baby’s birth, even though Hugh was still managing the hotel:
Baby and I spend our days and evenings alone most of the time and I know there never was a “Daddie” who will be more welcome home than ours. I can hear Zina talking to herself now. She is in the bedroom; I just went in and there she lay smiling and when I brought her out she laughed and jumped. I put her in the carriage and she is now playing with the stocking darner and her rubber doll.28
In early March, just a month before Zina Presendia’s sixty-first birthday, she underwent eye surgery. Zina Brown wanted to rush to her mother’s side, to comfort and care for her; but she was eight months pregnant. She did the next best thing, writing frequent, reassuring letters. At the month’s end, she sent her mother birthday gifts and a happy note:
[p.414] My Beloved Mother:
For several days I have been thinking of your birthday and wondering how you will spend it. I will be there in fancy … and do wish you a truly happy birthday—and … have just as many more birthdays as you can … full of peace and joy. … I could not think of any one thing … so am sending a number of small ones … perfume … a comb and powder box … and a half dozen handkerchiefs I have worked your initial in. … We are getting on fine but it is lonesome without seeing Hugh only when he runs in for a teency minute as he also stays nights as well as days at the hotel. … I don’t get out much now as everything is so low that it is hard to walk but I am feeling fine.
Yesterday I ironed up the little dresses … so “No. 2” will be just as nicely fixed as was “No. 1” and I want it to be that way with all my “dozen” (for I will be able to have that many if I keep on at this rate, won’t I?) Well, all will be just as welcome as our Zina and no baby ever came to a heartier welcome, did it? … We both wish that it were possible for you to be here when the precious one is born. We have Dr. Lyne engaged … so you mustn’t worry over me a minute. … May your strength return rapidly so that if God is willing we may soon be together. God bless you my noble Mother, the best Mother on earth. Dearest love from your children of the H. B. Brown family.
Ever your own
Four days later she mailed another birthday letter:
Where you are it is spring I hope, and a bright beautiful day. But here the ground is covered with several inches of snow and it is still snowing. Hugh bundled Zina up and has taken her up to Grandma Brown’s. … They all make such a fuss over her she is just being entertained all the time she is there. Yesterday forenoon Sterling [Williams] came and spent over an hour with me. … He held Zina on his knee and rocked her till she went to sleep. … If I can get Ida Archibald for nurse I will. … It will be four weeks Thursday since your operation. Are you able to walk about the room yet? … Oh, I am so glad you have lovely flowers to brighten your room. I long for the sight of a flower. … You will miss greatly the former activities of your school work. … Just read and dream for a while. … Sterling will be in his new home and all fixed so cozy. … And maybe we will be able to get the piano up this spring [before you visit, and] then we’ll have music and games in the evening and Sterling and Attena with all your grandchildren [p.415] gathered round you. … Get some books that are bright and cheery … I must not think of our disappointment in being unable to be together for the birth of my baby but must only think how good God is to spare you to us. My heart is full of gratitude to Him.30
Hugh’s term as manager ended in March 1911; and to their mutual delight, he moved back into their cozy home to await the baby’s birth. The entire family has recognized his life-long devotion to Zina Lou, whom he alone called “Birdie.” He loved all of his children, but because of her affliction and because she was his firstborn, she held a unique place in his heart. According to family tradition, Zina, during the last stages of her second pregnancy, would pat her abdomen reassuringly and coo, “There now, darling, don’t you worry, you’re going to be my little girl.”
The second baby, named Zola Grace for Hugh’s youngest sister, Zola Brown (Hodson), was born on 12 April 1911. Zina Brown felt that, in the absence of her mother during childbirth, angels (including perhaps Zina Diantha) ministered to her. Zola and Zina Brown enjoyed a loving relationship that manifested itself from babyhood. Because Zina Lou’s condition required special care, Zina would simply put Zola on her blanket to entertain herself. “Zola’s eyes would follow Mother around the room,” relates Carol, “but she wouldn’t cry as long as she could see her. She seemed to sense that Mother needed to be doing special things for Zina.”
Hugh’s joy at his second baby’s birth is palpable: “On the twelfth day of April  my beloved wife gave birth to another lovely daughter to be companion to Zina. She is another fair-haired treasure. … Zola Grace is by the grace of God the second of His wonderful gifts to us in our happy married life and may they both live to fulfill the mission of womanhood as completely as their mother is doing.”31 As he called Zina Lou his “Birdie,” he began calling Zola “Blossom.”
In Europe events were becoming increasingly tense. A crisis in Austria-Hungary in August 1914 brought a war that had been brewing for almost an entire decade. Germany dominated the alliance of the Central Powers—Austria-Hungary and Turkey—and France, England, Russia, and soon Italy allied as the Western Powers.
For the Browns, the war probably felt as though it were on the other [p.416] side of the universe. But because of Hugh’s commitment to the military, it profoundly impacted their family. Canadians and Americans most likely knew war was imminent. Nevertheless, the news was shocking. Both countries were unprepared for what was to happen.
After finishing his stint at the hotel, Hugh sold real estate and insurance, and harbored a dream of becoming a lawyer. He had learned of a preparatory course in law offered by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Understandably Zina was eager to spend more time with her mother, and Zina Presendia opened her home to them. Hugh and Zina rented out their house again and moved to Salt Lake City in November 1912. Hugh completed the course in April 1913, and they returned to Cardston where Hugh paid $800 for a half interest in the Cardston Investment Company, with Cardston Stake president Edward J. Wood and Zina’s brother Joseph Y. Card as the other partners. Hugh later recorded, “1913 was a prosperous year for us”32—he finally made some money.
The following February found Hugh and his family once more in Salt Lake City, this time for surgery on four-year-old Zina Lou’s crippled leg. The operation proved beneficial, and eventually Zina Lou was able to walk almost without a limp. Once again Zina Brown was pregnant, and having her mother’s help was a great benefit. The Browns returned to Cardston where their third daughter, LaJune, was born on 27 June 1914. Her delighted father wrote: “My wife gave birth to another girl [LaJune], a beautiful body and lovely bright spirit. We rather expected a boy, but no disappointment was felt as she comes as an additional ray of sunshine into our happy home. We thank the Lord for the spirit of love and peace which has been with us in our married life and these bright jewels bind us together as nothing else could.”33
Although Hugh denies being disappointed with another daughter, LaJune was a rambunctious tomboy, almost as though she sensed permission to be different from her older sisters. With adolescence, however, LaJune discovered the joys of young womanhood and her father began calling her “Queenie.”
Although the Cochrane ranch had been neglected for years, the setting and views were beautiful. The Brown brothers were unable to succeed financially because of crop failures and the high cost of upkeep and repairs, but they retained ownership of it. In 1914 Hugh received a tele-[p.417]gram from Ottawa advancing him to the rank of major in the 23rd Alberta Rangers and asking him to raise a squadron for overseas service. Recalling this time, he wrote: “My wife, of course, was concerned and worried, but she never wavered one bit when she thought duty called me. We raised a squadron of men and … I gave my men their initial training in the army. That was one of the most enjoyable parts of my military career, training those young, raw recruits.”34 Although he was only thirty, he already felt like a father to the young men for whom he was responsible.
After four months of training in Cardston, C Squadron was transferred to Calgary. Before the soldiers left, LDS apostle George Albert Smith and Joseph W. McMurrin, one of the seven presidents of the seventy, conducted a stake conference in Cardston in 1914. Hugh recorded in his diary: “George A[lbert]. Smith gave me a blessing and promised me that I should not have to shed blood or have my blood shed and that I would return to my home in safety.”35 This was a source of comfort to both Hugh and Zina during times of stress and emotional turmoil.
Zina and their three little daughters made lengthy visits to Calgary during the five months that Hugh was stationed at Sarcee Camp. These visits helped to dispel the loneliness of separation. Once both Lydia Jane Brown, Hugh’s mother, and Zina Presendia, Zina’s mother, joined the reunion. These women also attended the laying of the cornerstone of the Cardston temple with Hugh and Zina on 19 October 1915. While in Cardston, Hugh sold his interest in the Cardston Investment Company to Joseph Card and received in return property in town which enabled him to retire the mortgage on his home. In November 1915 Hugh’s military camp was transferred to Medicine Hat, about 200 miles southeast of Calgary. Happily, Zina and the girls were able to celebrate Christmas with Hugh in Medicine Hat, where a fourth daughter, Mary, was conceived. On 22 June 1916, Zina, almost eight months pregnant, joined other wives and partners at the train station in Medicine Hat. Without shedding a tear, she buckled Hugh’s sword to his belt in the traditional ritual of women sending their men to war.
When they reached England, Major Brown and the majority of C Squadron were transferred from the 13th O.M.R. to the Canadian Army’s cavalry depot at Shorncliffe Camp on the English Channel. The [p.418] men joined the reserve regiment of the Fort Gary Horse. Hugh was appointed commander of B Squadron over seven officers and 350 non-commissioned officers, some of whom had joined the old Alberta Rifles from the Cardston district. It was not long before many of these men were sent to France. By October, B Squadron had lost almost all of its men who were fit enough for service.36
Zina Presendia had traveled from Salt Lake City to Cardston to be with her daughter, help care for her three granddaughters, and deliver the fourth on 8 August 1916. When Zina Presendia could not locate the surgical scissors to cut the umbilical cord, she boiled a pair of button-hole scissors and finished just as her son Sterling poked his head into the room. “Anything I can do to help?” he called. “Indeed there is!” his mother answered. “Get in here and hold this baby.” Hugh was in Arras, France, when the cable announcing the birth of his fourth daughter arrived. He promptly sent off a list of female French names, which Zina chose to disregard, settling instead on Mary.
Hugh spent Christmas away from them, but sixty-four-year-old Zina Presendia gave her daughter and granddaughters an unforgettable gift: six weeks in Venice, California. It was a chance to escape both loneliness and the unremitting Canadian winter.
While Hugh was gone, Zina managed the income from his investments and the armed service. It was a comfort to her to have his mother nearby. He returned to Canada in April on board the Olympic, along with about 1,500 other soldiers. The transatlantic journey took six days. The ship zig-zagged across the Atlantic in an attempt to avoid enemy attack. From Halifax to Cardston, Hugh traveled another ten days, stopping in Quebec and Ottawa. On 30 April 1917, Zina placed baby Mary into Hugh’s welcoming arms. It was love at first sight.
Cardston had been “electrified” in 1910; but when outages occurred after dark, as they often did during storms, Zina would shepherd her frightened daughters into the middle of the living room where they would sit in a ring on the floor, her arms encircling them while she recounted favorite stories until the lights came on or it was bedtime. Then she would light a kerosene lamp and lead the parade upstairs where the two older girls shared a room. The younger ones sometimes slept with [p.419] Mama in the big brass bed downstairs and touched the roses on the wallpaper.
Zina had discovered the joy of church service early. She remembered the unselfishness of her parents, their loyalty, and absolute obedience to the call of its leaders. Her observance of her mother’s devotion facilitated an understanding of the role of sacrifice. Like her mother, she also received reinforcement from the church for putting her family foremost. Her first calling had been as Primary secretary at age thirteen.
When she returned to Cardston as a young bride, she was ready for additional responsibilities. The Young Women’s program was her longest love. For more than nineteen years, she served in various positions. When Beehive work was inaugurated for twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls, the Cardston Stake board organized a swarm (regional group) whose members filled “cells” (the equivalent of Boy Scout merit badges) and won honors together. They named their swarm the Mater-Lee in honor of their leader, Mrs. Lee. Zina chose for her name “Aero,” Greek for harmony.
Mary learned to walk early and shadowed Hugh while he was home, following him out to the barn or into the garden. Succumbing to temptation one morning while unearthing some worms, he told Mary: “Hold out your hand, and take these pretty worms in the house and give them to Mama.”
He spent a few days with Zina at Waterton Lake, then settled down for a long winter of church responsibilities (he had not been released as first counselor in the bishopric) and legal studies, often rising as early as 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to study. His daughters remember the crackle and odor of the wood fire he kindled in the kitchen stove, where he stood, book in hand, absently turning to keep all sides warm. Later they would coax him to retell the story of the stove that exploded and sent a red-hot plate hurtling across the room, missing him only by inches.
Hugh passed his first exam in April 1918, an important step toward the Alberta bar, which included an apprenticeship and several exams. Then on 7 June he was recalled to active duty and placed in command of 1,500 men assigned to serve in England. Four months later, he returned to Cardston to find Zina and his daughters recuperating from the flu epidemic that had killed millions worldwide. Fortunately, he had escaped. A [p.420] few weeks later in November, he gratefully noted the Armistice: “And so the great war has ended with victory on the side of the right.”37
The children all survived the flu, though many families were not as fortunate. LaJune and Mary had had the mumps in the late spring of 1917. Mary remembers: “Mama placed us in the large brown wicker baby buggy. … Mother would feed me cornmeal gruel sprinkled with nutmeg, from what we called the drinking cup; it was shaped like Aladdin’s lamp. I remember she had a lovely fragrance about her, and even her breath was sweet, just Mother’s breath.”38
The children were delighted when Zina took out her bone hairpins and shook down her long hair. They begged her to put on a red silk jumper with a full skirt and cream colored lace bolero blouse, then dance around the room entrancing her children with her grace and composure. “She looked like a lovely gypsy princess,” recalled Mary, and she was a glamorous part of “our make-believe world.”39
Living in Cardston were Hugh’s brothers Gerald and Owen, and their wives, Maggie and Ida, and his sister Edna and her husband Nathan Tanner. Zina’s brothers, Joseph and Sterling, bracketed the Browns. Thus there were plenty of cousins for Zina’s and Hugh’s children to play with, while a steady stream of visits and family parties created a feeling of home.
Hugh continued to farm briefly after his final return from war in 1918. Because the lack of money made formal study impossible, he arranged in that fall to serve a three-year apprenticeship to Zebulon W. Jacobs, a Cardston lawyer. Jacobs paid him $35 a month for which Hugh did all the additional work in the office including scrubbing the floor, stoking the fires each morning, polishing the stove, and delivering Jacobs’s mail by hand to save the cost of postage.40 In return, Jacobs, Zina’s cousin, provided Hugh with study materials for the bar—readings on torts, contracts, and constitutional and international law. By the time he passed the bar, Hugh had accumulated a modest law library of his own. He received from Jacobs valuable training in the law, in preparing documents, in researching cases, and sometimes in helping to resolve matters.
Believing that it would be profitable to sell butter, eggs, cheese, milk, and farm produce, Hugh also bought a farm about two miles south of Cardston. But the unusually hot summer of 1919 and cold winter of [p.421] 1919-20 led to the failure of that enterprise, and Zina was more than happy to return to town and the luxury of indoor plumbing. To augment his income, Hugh for a time in 1918-21 sold the Harvard Classics and other books, as well as insurance and some real estate. From her childhood, Zina had learned to be frugal and make do. Gifts from her mother enabled her to dress four daughters. From one satin-lined petticoat, Zina made a blue satin Sunday dress for Mary, a petticoat for LaJune, and panty-waists for Hugh C.
To manage both the farm and his duties in the law office, Hugh often arose about 3:00 a.m., studied until 6:00, then did farm chores, before driving to Cardston to open the office at 9:00. He recalled:
My wife often said that during these years she was only acquainted with that part of my face she could see above a book or a newspaper. I am afraid I was not a very good husband or father at that time. … Not much of my time, if any, was given to my children. They were, of course, in school, and my wife was a great support to me through it all. She believed in me when I, at times, lost faith in myself. She would say, “You must stay with it, we must see it through together. It will be a great boon in our lives to have you become a lawyer, for this will introduce you to many things you otherwise would not get.”41
In 1919 Hugh had been called as a high councilor in the Alberta Stake, a duty that required traveling weekends to individual wards sixty miles apart over unpaved roads. Nor did he realize the burden Zina faced with caring for their children. During the summer of 1919, when Hugh was managing both the farm and law office simultaneously, Zina Lou was ten, Zola eight, LaJune five, and Mary three, and Zina was pregnant again. In a house without plumbing, the daily routine of meals, cleaning, washing, ironing, and housekeeping never ended.
Hugh’s and Zina’s first son, Hugh Card, was born on 22 October 1919. Mary, then three, recalls that night. “Because I was the youngest, my white cast-iron crib was in Mama’s room so when she started in labor in the night Daddy lifted me from the crib and took me to the bedroom which Zina and Zola shared, placing me between them and I felt so crowded I couldn’t go back to sleep, and oh! I was so happy when Daddy came in to tell us we had a big brother. But I was disappointed when he [p.422] showed me the tiny red-skinned baby with big ears.”42 Hugh recorded the event in his journal: “My wife gave birth to a beautiful son, fair hair, blue eyes and white skin like his sisters. He is a joy to the household and the cause of continuing thanksgiving to his parents. May we have wisdom to care for, train and direct the footsteps of these precious jewels so that our old age may be made glorious by the knowledge of their worthy achievements and faithfulness to the truth.”43
That winter was extremely cold and Zina was delighted to move from the farm. The family had definitely outgrown the cozy home in Cardston, however; and Hugh made arrangements in 1919 to purchase a two-story Victorian-style house for $4,600. Their new home seemed like a castle to his daughters as they explored the empty rooms and discovered treasures—left by a “princess”—a shell-covered box lined in pink satin, a round blue purse with a mirror, a tortoise shell comb and brush, and a dark green taffeta dress. Zola told her younger sisters that on the other side of the door leading to the attic a snaggle-toothed witch was waiting to snatch them away. “I especially remember the fluffy yellow chicks which Daddy kept in an otherwise empty room upstairs, so they wouldn’t freeze during the winter of 1921,” Zola recalls.44
Hugh completed the first half of his final exams in Calgary in April 1920. Exploring possibilities in Lethbridge, Hugh figured he could meet with greater opportunities in a more populous city.45 Zina was in full agreement. Zina’s brother, Joseph Young Card, purchased their Cardston home and the Brown family moved to Lethbridge in January 1921. Moving the heavy oak Chickering piano proved to be the most difficult part of the move. It took four men to load the piano onto a wagon and a double team of horses to transport it up the hill. With money from the sale of the Anderson farm and cattle, the Browns bought a modern bungalow at 638 15th St. South in Lethbridge from F. S. Swanson for $12,600.
Almost immediately after moving, Zina became pregnant. Hugh transferred his clerkship from Zebulon Jacobs to Hjalmar Ostlund, a Lethbridge attorney, and continued preparing for the second half of his final exams in Calgary. He took them successfully in April 1921. On 20 July thirty-seven-year-old Hugh B. Brown was “called to the bar by Mr. Justice Stuart, being introduced by Mr. McKay of Calgary.”46 In his [p.423] journal he recorded: “I am at last a barrister with authority to practice in the Supreme Court of Alberta. We had some little difficulties during the time I was a student but were blessed of the Lord and are better off financially than when we started to study. My wife has been a very faithful support and help in all of the course, and I hope to make good in this profession.”47 He immediately opened his own office and tried all cases that came to him. “Within a matter of weeks Mr. Hjalmar Ostlund … was suddenly taken ill … and asked if I would come and take charge of his office during his absence. … [and] share his fees … this was a real break for me as he had a large clientele … he stayed away six months. When he … [returned] he was so well pleased with what I had done that he offered me a partnership.”48
During the next five years, Hugh tackled a diversity of cases. One, which he recalled with a trace of satisfaction, involved a doctor from North Dakota who bought a large farm in Alberta and sent his nephew there to run it on a share basis. Eventually, however, the uncle decided he was getting the short end of the deal and refused to compensate his nephew, who in turn employed Hugh to file suit against the uncle. Hugh traveled to North Dakota, where he employed a court reporter to take the uncle’s deposition. “During the trial, the uncle contradicted his earlier statements, and I [said] ‘In North Dakota you said thus and so, but now you are saying the opposite. When are you lying, then or now?’”49 The uncle became so agitated that he fell out of the elevated witness box. Hugh caught him as he fell and carried him into the judge’s chambers. “I was particularly pleased to win the case because,” Hugh later remembered, “it was taken to the supreme court [in Calgary] on appeal.”50
Then, on 10 November 1921, Hugh was called as the first president of the newly created Lethbridge Stake. Nine days later he wrote: “My wife gave birth to our sixth child, a fine 8 lb. boy for which we thank the Lord. We have decided to name him for his two grandfathers, viz., Charles Manley Brown.”51 Baby Charles was born breach, and it was a long, difficult delivery. The rest of the children had been “farmed out” to friends and neighbors that day and were particularly happy that evening to tiptoe one at a time into Mother’s bedroom for a look at their new brother and a kiss from Mama.
The “Big Four,” as Hugh referred to his four daughters, made friends [p.424] with the similarly aged daughters of Thomas Walburger: Beatrice, Clara, Dora, and Hazel. Zina Lou was twelve, and the eight girls enjoyed visiting and attending ward functions together. Zina installed a special taffy hook on the back porch and would pull the taffy to a manageable consistency before apportioning it into the girls’ scrubbed and buttered hands.
June Bushman Smith, wife of Bishop Hyrum Smith, was Zina’s closest friend in Lethbridge, and the two families frequently gathered for Monday night family home evening programs of songs, dances, and readings. The children enjoyed hearing Zina read from James Whitcomb Riley. Zina possessed a fine soprano, and Hugh often convinced her to sing “Sweet Genevieve” or “A Little Gray Home in the West.” Then the children would beg Hugh for “The Dancing Animals,” so a sheet was strung between the colonnades. The children tore or cut farm animal silhouettes from the newspaper and pinned them to the sheet. Hugh made their shadows dance by waving a flashlight back and forth behind the sheet.
During quarterly stake conferences, the Browns hosted visiting general authorities. The children looked forward to those visits when Zina made two kinds of cake for Sunday dinner and used a hand-painted china cake dish. Mary especially remembered the visit of Charles W. Nibley, then second counselor in the First Presidency. He was a tall, stately man, and she felt honored to be assigned to shine his shoes. Upon his departure he pressed a coin into her palm and said, “Here is a nickel for a very good little girl.” It was not a nickel but a shiny half-dollar. She thought he must be the wealthiest man in the church.
Between 1921 and their move to Salt Lake City, Zina Presendia managed to visit Canada at least twice a year, usually staying for a month at a time. She captivated her granddaughters with stories of her youth living in the Lion House with her mother, Zina D. H. Young, and her father, Brigham Young, of Indians, and of pioneering in early Cardston. She had taken up the study of phrenology and impressed her grandchildren as she “read” the bumps on their heads. She also sweetened their porridge with sugar, a treat when their own mother exercised sterner control. Zina Brown was not able to visit Salt Lake City as frequently, especially as her family increased, but she usually accompanied Hugh to the [p.425] church’s general conference. They would stay with Zina Presendia, visit friends, and shop for items difficult to purchase in Canada.
Meanwhile, as Zina Lou led a procession of siblings into adolescence, Zina Brown continued to cope with the demands of a large family. By the age of twelve, all the children had had tonsillectomies, in addition to having chicken pox, mumps, and other childhood diseases. In April 1922, as Zina and Hugh were preparing to leave for April’s general conference, Zina bent down to kiss the children goodbye and noticed that six-year-old Mary’s face was covered in red splotches. She quickly discovered that Mary’s entire body was covered with the rash. Removing her large-brimmed hat, she calmly informed Hugh that she suspected Mary had scarlet fever. Hugh traveled to Salt Lake City alone, while Zina and the children went into quarantine. The three older girls stayed with friends.
In a rare introspective mood the day after his fortieth birthday, Hugh wrote:
I have passed another milestone in life. Yesterday, the 24th, was my birthday, being my 40th. I had thought that I would have made more of a mark in life than I have done and no doubt could have done if I had taken advantage of all my opportunities. I find now that my plans, hopes, and aspirations are centered in my family. The Lord has blessed me with a most devoted and capable wife. In all of my travels I have never seen one who could so fill the place of wife and mother. Our six children are well and happy and we feel greatly blessed in them. I give considerable time to the church and public work but I am more than compensated in the joy that comes from service.52
Zina subsequently suffered two miscarriages, then gave birth to a healthy daughter, Margaret Alberta, on 9 January 1927. Hugh marveled at his wife’s motherly capabilities, and years later recalled:
We had the usual colds and childhood diseases, such as chicken pox, mumps, measles, and so forth. But all in all we enjoyed good health. The children all participated with their mother in doing the housework, and we lived a happy life. I give to my wife the credit for the spirit of our home and for the love that predominated. Never once during my life with Zina, which now exceeds sixty years, did I ever hear her raise her voice in the [p.426] home to any of our children. Yet she always had complete obedience from them and exerted a tremendous effect upon my own life as I observed her charity, her love, her kindness, and her devotion.53
If the children quarreled, Zina would seat them on opposite sides of the room facing each other and tell them not to laugh. Soon they would be laughing out loud, their differences forgotten. At other times, simply looking at the offender with tear-filled eyes would produce hasty contrition.
Zola has vivid memories of a severe storm in the late summer of 1923 when she was twelve. Her father
had gone to Cardston on business and took Zina Lou and LaJune with him. I was playing the piano when a tremendous clap of thunder shook the house and knocked the lid off the bottle Mother was washing at the sink. A neighbor rushed through our front door shouting “Your house is on fire!” and quickly ushered the three younger children out of the house and across the street to his home. The fire was soon contained but I wasn’t; it was such a shock that I had to stay home from school the next day.54
By 1925 Hugh was earning $25,000 a year from his law practice and finally experiencing financial stability. But their daughters would soon be young ladies and had few Mormon friends. The ever-obedient stake president, Hugh wrote to his former mission president, and now church president, Heber J. Grant, in 1925 and told him of their concerns: “We would like to move and get established while our children are still young enough to have meaningful associations with other LDS people.” Grant wrote back immediately: “You are at liberty to move any time you desire. We understand the situation and will reorganize the stake as soon as you advise us of the time of your leaving.”55
The next phase of change was rapidly approaching.
2. Zina Y. C. Brown, Letter to Hugh B. Brown, 17 June 1912, Salt Lake City, Utah. Unless otherwise noted, copies of all correspondence between Zina [p.427] and Hugh Brown are in the authors’ possession. For Hugh’s first involvement in the military, see pp. 410-11 of this chapter.
29. Zina Card Brown, Letter to Zina Young Card, 30 March 1911, Cardston, Canada, Zina Young Williams Card Collection, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.