A Schoolmarm All My Life
Joyce Kinkead, editor
Eunice Stewart Harris
[p.111]Although written in 1932, when Eunice Harris was seventy-two, this autobiography contains remarkable details of everyday life on the Mormon frontier. Native Americans and hostilities between them and Mormon settlers capture Eunice’s imagination during her first six years, but it was school that occupied her mind from then on. Schools were primitive in 1866, but Eunice rarely missed class—except for a year when as a teenager she stayed on the farm with her mother; even then, she studied constantly. At age thirteen, she attended high school in Payson, Utah, taught by an eastern college graduate. Three years later she became a student of Karl G. Maeser at Brigham Young Academy during its first year, graduating with a teaching certificate in 1879.
Teaching in her hometowns of Benjamin and Payson for the next two years, Eunice began a classroom career that would span twenty years. Attracted to another student at the academy who was also a teacher, Eunice married Dennison Emer Harris in 1882. Soon afterwards, they were “called” to Tooele, a town west of Salt Lake City, to teach. At the time Tooele was having trouble with “hoodlums,” tough youth gangs, and city fathers thought a strong teacher could tame them. Dennison Harris succeeded.
The Harrises’ life might have remained a series of school assignments had not both husband and wife subscribed to the doctrine of plural marriage; after all, Eunice’s father took two additional wives upon his arrival in Utah, and Eunice had happily played with the children of these marr-[p.112]iages. Dennison’s and Eunice’s decision to take a plural wife came at the height of national interest in Mormon polygamy. Just four years short of the Woodruff Manifesto banning plural marriage in the church, Dennison married a second time.
In many ways Eunice and her husband had a modern marriage, one based on romance. For them, plural marriage was a religious matter, an act of faith. For their partnership, they chose another teacher and proceeded to make the marriage(s) work.
The family opted to leave Zion in 1890 for Mexico, where they could be safe in one of the seven Mormon settlements populated by the families of church members escaping imprisonment for their polygamous marriages. In effect, these families set up a “little Zion” outside the United States, mixing rarely with Mexicans. These outcasts built homes, schools, and businesses. The Harrises—all three of them—found places in the schools with the women spelling each other in the home and classroom; when one was pregnant, she stayed home with the children while the other taught.
By 1903 nineteen children had been born into the combined Harris home. In 1912, after an absence of twenty-two years, Eunice returned to Provo.
In 1833, the Richardson family arrived in Beardstown [Morgan County, Illinois] from Cumberland County, Kentucky, and the children of the Stewart and Richardson families grew to maturity together. In 1837, these two families were united by the marriage of Benjamin Franklin Stewart and Polly Richardson.
Soon after their marriage, they, accompanied by my grandmother, Sarah Cott Stewart moved to Van Buren County, Iowa. Here the gospel found them, and shortly after, mother and grandmother yielded obedience to its teachings and were baptized. At this time mother was instantly healed of an illness of lung fever through the administration of the elders. She got up and cooked their dinner. As the elders were leaving that neighborhood, she and grandmother went to the river, where the ice was cut and they were baptized. Three years later, in [p.113]1844, father was baptized. They did not go to Nauvoo, the gathering place of the saints, but joined this body of the church in their exodus in Pottawattamie County, Iowa.
Father was one of the 144 men selected to go West with Brigham Young to find a place of refuge for the exiled saints. They had had five children born to them: Almeda, Polina, Alvira, Benjamin F., Jr., and Orson. Polina and Alvira died in early infancy. Father, with seven other men, was left out of the pioneer company at the Platte River, in an Indian country amidst dangers, to ferry the saints, who followed that year, over the river. Here he was met by mother and her three children, who had followed the pioneers with the First company, and they traveled the rest of the journey to Utah together, arriving in Salt Lake September 27, 1847. They settled in Mill Creek where father built a saw mill. Here my sister Sarah was born. Shortly after they arrived in Utah, Orson, who was a delicate child, died.
My parents moved to Payson. In 1851, father married Elizabeth Davis as a plural wife. Ten children came from this marriage, seven of whom grew to maturity. The same year, he married Rachel Davis and one child, a daughter, came from this marriage.
In 1853, father, with others, operated a saw mill in Payson Canyon. Mother and father’s plural wife lived in a cabin near the mill. The following story will illustrate the perilous conditions under which the early pioneer lived. I heard the story repeated many times in my childhood.
On July 17, 1853, a rainy day, some Indians called at the cabin and wanted to trade for some guns they saw hanging on the wall. Father said, “No,” he did not want to trade them off. They then wanted to see them. Father again refused to part with them. He told them it was raining and he was afraid it would spoil them. He did not want them to know they were almost worthless. The Indians went away apparently satisfied. The possession of the guns probably saved their lives.
The next morning at day break they heard shots and upon investigation found it to be Indians firing from the mountain side. They knew their danger and that their only safety lay in keeping quiet and in keeping out of sight until help came from Payson. They all met at the mill where a consultation was held. One of the men volunteered to make the hazardous journey to Payson for help. Those who remained [p.114]crept cautiously and silently up the creek through the brush where they could better conceal themselves. Help came and they were rescued. That night Alexander Keil was killed by an Indian while standing guard in Payson. They afterward learned that a band of Indian warriors was camped on Walker fiat at the mouth of the canyon below the mill. This was the beginning of the Walker Indian War. In 1855 Walker [also Wahkara] died, and peace was made with the Indians. I remember how I used to tremble with fear when these thrilling experiences were related. In 1854 my brother, Luther, was born, and in 1856 L. N. Dorado, my sister was born.
April 28, 1860, I was born. I was a tiny delicate child and I continued to be delicate until I was three years old. They named me Eunice Polly in honor of my aunt and my mother. I was the youngest of eleven children. When I look back upon my past life, I can understand that I was an indulged and spoiled child. I did not then realize how gentle, sympathetic and kind everyone’s treatment toward me was.
In my childhood mother lived on a ranch, and Almeda McClellan, my eldest sister, lived on [another] ranch about three miles away. I spent about as much time with my sister as with my mother. I was the youngest child and there was no one for me to play with when at home. I loved my sister’s children and we grew up like brothers and sisters.
I was born a little too late to have really sensed or experienced the hardships and privations the pioneers had to suffer a few years before, and a few years after my birth. I never remember a time when we did not have bread, but there were times when my older brothers and sisters were thankful to have greens and sego lilies [now the state flower] to eat. It took true, brave, and courageous hearts, such as my parents had, to endure the hardships and privations and the Indian massacres of the early pioneer days. Indians and Indian warfare were among my earliest recollections. I was born between the Walker and the Black Hawk Indian Wars.
The pioneers did not have the luxuries we enjoy today. I remember when many families cooked over the open fire, with what was called a crane hanging in the fireplace on which the kettles were hung for boiling, and a dutch oven in the hearth for baking.
Very early mother had what was called a step stove, which was [p.115]considered a luxury. It had two holes on the front and a little above two more holes and a small oven for baking. We burned tallow candles for light and one of my favorite tasks was placing the wick in the moulds ready for pouring the hot tallow in the candle moulds. When we had the first coal oil lamps, we thought the light almost dazzling in its brightness.
My earliest remembrance of any clothing that I had is of an indigo blue and white even checked dress that mother made from Dixie1 cotton which she carded, spun, dyed, and wove in the cloth. I also remember a blue and black plaid woolen dress for which she carded, spun, dyed, and wove the cloth. She made all of the cloth for father’s and the boy’s [sic] clothes. My sister, Nadia and I usually dressed alike. I remember the loom in the corner by the window, and the warping bars, as long as a bed, standing against the wall. I loved to watch mother draw the thread through the reed when she would be putting in a new piece of cloth. I was always thrilled when watching the shuttle fly back and forth while she was weaving.
During the Black Hawk Indian War,2 Uncle Jackson, Mr. Hickman, and father united in building a fort, and during the summer of 1865 they all lived there with their families. I was not allowed to stay there very much, but I remember it perfectly, and the picture of the fort with its high walls, and where each family lived, and the kind of house each family had, is still vivid in my memory. Some of the men were kept on guard continually night and day.
It is small wonder that Indians and Indian warfare were the themes of most of my early childhood dreams.
[p.116]Schools in those pioneer days were very primitive and not very well equipped. My First school teacher was Aunty Betsey Gardner, a very dear, gentle, refined lady. Our schoolhouse was one small log room, and I am sure that it did not have a dirt floor. The benches were made from slabs with the smoother side up for seats and heavy wooden pegs for legs. Our school equipment consisted of a slate, a pencil, and a blue-backed elementary spelling book. We spent most of our time making pot hooks3 on our slate preparatory to learning to write.
One of the greatest thrills of my childhood and perhaps of my whole life was in 1867, when I was seven years old, when my brother drove up to the door of the little schoolhouse and asked if I might be excused. Father’s sister, Lucinda Wilson, with her son and his family had arrived from Iowa on their way to Oregon and were at mother’s home on the farm, and they had sent for me to go and meet them.
When I compare my childhood with the children of today, I wonder how I and the other children could have been so happy and contented. I never had other than a rag or a wooden doll. The wooden dolls were made by having the head made round in a turning lathe and then painted, and having a rag body attached. A doll buggy was unknown. We loved our rag dolls then, just as much as children now love their beautiful dolls with real hair and that can open and close their eyes and say “mama.” We had our little parties where kissing games were indulged in.
As I was returning from school one day, I saw the peeling of a red apple curled on the snow. I thought it was the most beautiful picture I ever saw, but I was filled with indignation at the wanton waste of throwing the peeling of an apple away when they were so scarce. It was my pride that kept me from picking it up and eating it.
There were not many changes to break the monotony of the hum drum life everyone lived. There was the old-fashioned dance, when the old, the young, and the middle-aged danced together. On special occasions, about midnight, they would have intermission, when all would go and have a big hot supper and return and dance until near [p.117]morning. There were many social parties and very often the theatre. Every little town had its theatrical association. Even when I was a child I was thrilled with the theatre.
In 1862, a town located a mile north of our farm, which was named Benjamin in honor of my father, was laid out. After the Indian trouble was over a number of families settled there. All had large families.
A few uneventful years passed for us. We children worked a little, played a little, attended the small schools in the neighborhood a little, and enjoyed being together. We were growing and developing and living our lives much the same as other children did in rural districts. We loved one another and enjoyed associating together. When Auntie went to Benjamin, my life was quite solitary most of the time.
Father built a little schoolhouse in Benjamin and the different families united in hiring a teacher and all of the children attended the school.
Among the teachers was Mr. Hudson who taught us to sing geography. Now when I want to recall the capital of a state, which seems to have gone from my memory, I can run the tune in my mind and it immediately returns.
Timpanogos was not so famous nor so well-known then as it is today, but I admired it and I loved to watch the last rays of the setting sun on its lofty peaks. As I grew older these solitary walks became a sacred hour to me, for in them I received inspiration for the dreams I dreamed, and the castles I built for my future, and the things I wanted to do in life.
In the fall of 1873, when I was thirteen, I went to Payson and attended what was then called high school, with J. L. Townsend, a graduate from an Eastern college as teacher. School was held upstairs in the assembly room of the city hall. Mr. Townsend insisted on its being kept scrupulously clean. We had imported patent benches, and the walls were adorned with steel engravings which he himself made with a pen. We thought it was grand, and it was unusual for those days. Every morning he would write a proverb or a sentiment on the blackboard and give a five or ten minute talk on it. These talks were called “Moral Lessons.” I did not at that time realize the impression these lessons were making on me, but as I look back I can see that they had a great influence for good on my whole life. The two years I spent in this [p.118]school was the gayest period of my life. Girls, in country neighborhoods, were then considered young ladies when they were thirteen and fourteen years of age.
The winter of 1875 and 1876 I did not go to school, but I lived on the farm with mother and studied at home. This was a very profitable year for me. There was not often anything in a social way to take my attention. Books were my companions. I loved them and I studied them. Orange Warner, my brother-in-law and I would study out difficult problems together. I was especially interested in the study of grammar. I memorized all the rules in Pineas Grammar, and this was a great help to me in all my future school work. I not only knew when a sentence was written in bad English, but I knew why it was incorrect.
In the fall of 1876, when I was sixteen, I went to Provo to attend school at the Brigham Young Academy. Most of my life had been spent on a farm, and I now remember how I trembled when I realized how unfitted I thought I was to attend a school like I imagined the Brigham Young Academy was.
Now in my seventy-second year, my heart swells with gratitude and my eyes are blurred with tears of thanksgiving when I think how blessed I was in having had the opportunity of attending that wonderful school where I was privileged to be under the influence of Karl G. Maeser,4 that great educator and character builder. He was a teacher as well as being president of the school, and I had the privilege of having him for teacher of several classes each year. He labored unceasingly to keep the school thoroughly democratic. He strove to make simplicity, humility, and a common brotherhood and sisterhood the slogan of the school. He wanted all to be peers while in school. He used to say to the girls, “If any of you have jewelry, please leave it home.” His students almost deifed him. In his child-like humility and devotion to his religion, to me he seemed really divine. Even the walls of the old B.Y.A. seemed sacred. I attended this school three years.
[p.119]In the fall of 1878, Dennison Emer Harris, a young man from Monroe, Sevier County, entered the school and took a seat just across the aisle from mine. We soon became acquainted and a warm friendship sprang up between us and we very often studied together. He would help me with knotty problems in arithmetic, and I would help him in diagraming and analyzing difficult sentences in grammar. Friendship was all that was allowed between boys and girls when students at the B.Y.A. in Brother Maeser’s day. We enjoyed each other’s friendship until the end of the school year, when I graduated from the normal department [teacher education] and [he] returned to his home in Monroe. During the school year, 1879 and 1880, he taught school in Richfield, Sevier County, and I taught in Benjamin.
In September, 1880, I went to Provo to visit my dear friend and cousin, Melissa Stewart, where I again met D. E. Harris. After a separation of more than a year, we met soul to soul. Our time together was short as I had to return home the next day, and he had to hasten home to make preparations to go on a mission in two weeks. [He served a mission in Ohio and Michigan for two years.]
During the school year of 1880 and 1881, I taught school in Benjamin, and in 1881 and 1882, I taught in Payson until the first of April. I then had an opportunity to go to Monroe, Sevier County and teach a spring term. Monroe was the home of the Harris family, and as I desired to get acquainted with the family before becoming one of its members, I went.
I traveled from Juab, the railroad terminus with Bishop Harris, my intended father-in-law. He was a good conversationalist and a splendid story-teller. I stayed in the Harris home for several days while I was locating a boarding place.
At the end of school term, early in July, I returned home, traveling in the conveyance Bishop Harris sent to Juab for his son, Denny. In Juab we met, after our long separation, where we had a short, but very joyous and happy visit. We made plans for our marriage. As he was anxious to return to school the coming school year, we planned to be married just before the opening of school.
August 24, 1882, we were married in the old Endowment House in Salt Lake City, he being twenty-eight years of age, and I, twenty-two.
August 27, 1882, he again entered the Brigham Young Academy as [p.120]a student, and I started on my duties as home-maker. Here we spent two happy months when he was given a mission to go to Tooele to be principal of the schools.
The schools and social life of Tooele, at this time, seemed to be dominated by a spirit of hoodlumism, and the leaders of the town appealed to Bro. Maeser for help to get a teacher who was strong enough and who was enough of a leader to control this element and to lead them to higher ideals. Bro. Maeser told them that he had a young man in school who had just returned from a mission, who was qualified for the position if he could be induced to accept. Apostle F. M. Lyman,5 who lived in Tooele, said they would call him as a missionary to that work. Under these conditions he consented to go, although it was a trial and a disappointment, as he felt he needed more education.
On Tuesday, Nov. 7, 1882, we arrived in Tooele, where we received a hearty welcome from every one we met. A lovely little home was all ready for us, so we were soon settled. The following Monday we opened school with me as assistant teacher. The whole town seemed interested in the starting of the school. The opera house, which was also used for a dance hall, was fitted up with maps, charts, and imported benches, and here the school was opened. Most of the young people of the town, and some married men attended. We also had a music teacher. Everyone treated us with the greatest kindness and consideration. They were very appreciative of the influence for good my husband and the school were having on their sons.
The students all wanted to celebrate at the end of the first term with a dance. The regular dance hall was being used for the school, and the seats were screwed fast to the floor. This necessitated using a small school house for the dance, which prevented having any invited guests. This aroused the anger and indignation of the toughs who did not go to school. They assembled their forces to the number of eight or ten. These hoodlums, about eleven o’clock, with their coats turned inside out, with paper collars standing up, and with blackened faces like negroes, came into the dance singing darkey songs to the accompaniment of clappers, and stationed themselves in the center of the room. [p.121]They came with the determination of breaking up the dance and they succeeded. The manager of the dance went to them quietly and said, “Boys, we can’t have this,” and asked them to leave. The leader of the gang struck him a blow that knocked him down and said, “Well, take that then.” Each of the toughs, before the school boys realized what it was all about, selected his man and knocked him down. A terrific fight followed. The girls were frightened into hysterics. They were screaming and clinging to me and to one another, and tried to conceal themselves as best they could.
Men on the outside heard the tumult and came running. Girls were crying and screaming, men and boys were shouting. All was excitement and panic. The toughs hit the school boys’ faces until, with their torn coats, their disordered hair, and their bloody and dirty faces, it was hard to distinguish which was which. The toughs were finally overpowered and put out and order was restored, but there was no more dancing.
That night the backbone of hoodlumism was broken in Tooele. The spirit of the bully was quelled and his power gone. It was not, however, without further struggle on his part, but he lost out.
Owing to the condition of my health [pregnancy], at the end of the first term, I discontinued teaching.
On June 19, 1883, my first child, a son, was born to my husband and I. We gave him the name of Dennison Emer, his father’s full name.
In November, 1883, I had the joy of having my parents visit us. The assistant teacher was leaving and mother remained with us for a while so I could help with the school until another teacher could be obtained.
After having two very successful school years, my husband asked for release from the mission that had been given him, as he wanted to attend school at the B.Y. Academy the following year.
Early in June, 1884, we moved from Tooele. He went to Monroe to visit his father, and I went to Benjamin, my old home. I was again an expectant mother, and it was planned that I stay with my sister, who was a nurse, until after the birth of my child.
August 29, 1884, another son was born to us, and we named him Franklin Stewart6 in honor of my father. The first of September my husband entered the B.Y. Academy, and a month later I joined him [p.122]with my two children. I was tied quite closely at home, but I had the companionship of my husband and my babies, and I was contented.
At the close of the school year, my husband accepted the position of principal of the Payson City schools for the coming year. We rented a house in Payson and began keeping house the last of June. April 9, 1885, I was again a mother—my third son whom we named Leo Lott. My children were coming close together, but my health was good and I was strong. We both wanted a large family.
Plural marriage was then practiced by our people, although the persecution against it, by the so-called “Liberal” [non-Mormon] party was very bitter, and men were sent to prison daily for practicing it. My husband and I both believed this principle and both desired to practice it. We believed that every one has the right to receive inspiration for his own guidance. We both felt within our very souls that the time had come when it was our duty to obey that principle no matter what results might follow. The call had come and we must obey it. I am thankful I felt it as strongly as he did, otherwise, when the test came, I might have faltered.
I was thankful to my Heavenly Father for a husband who had the courage and strength of character to do what his conscience bade him.
July 28, 1886, my husband married Annie Jane Wride, as a plural wife, in the Logan Temple. I want to bear my testimony to my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren that I know to the very depths of my being that this order of marriage is true and that it was revealed from God, and I thank my Heavenly Father for this testimony. Let me say to you, as my mother said to her children: “Never say you do not believe it, nor try to tear it down, for it is one of the principles of our revealed gospel, and is divine, as are the other principles. Rather say you do not understand it.”
One of the greatest blessings God ever gave me, and the one for which I am most thankful is for a husband who had the courage to en-[p.123]ter into this principle when he felt it his duty even though prison bars were staring him in the face, as soon as he took the step; for the courts were sending men to prison daily for polygamy, and that he was wise enough, big enough, just enough, and that he had the strength, humility, and manhood enough to live it successfully.
[They built a house in Payson in 1887, but Dennison was called on a mission to Kansas for two years until illness brought him back to Utah—incognito. A fourth son was born in as many years.]
During his [Dennison’s] absence, the court had found an indictment for polygamy against him, which meant five years in the penitentiary if they found him.
It seemed there were only two courses for us to choose between and be safe. One was to go to Mexico where all of the family could go, but where the prospects financially were not very good, or go to Canada where a man could take only one wife. We chose Mexico where we could all go and live in peace, the principle which we had entered at so great a sacrifice together.
We decided that he, Annie, and Emer, her two-year-old son, should go to Mexico at once, and that I should return home and say nothing about where I had been until they were safely out of the country.7
Diaz, Chihuahua, Mexico, January 14, 1890
Soon after my husband arrived in Mexico he began teaching school with Annie as assistant teacher. During the three months he had been there he had a little house built and all ready for me to move into. After our long separation I was so happy to be reunited with my husband I did not notice that our floors were bare, that our furnishings were so meager, or that our woodwork was without paint. There was a dearth of these conveniences in most of the homes in Colonia Diaz. True, our table was not spread with many delicacies, but we had plenty of good substantial food, which was partaken in love, contentment and peace, and we were all happy and satisfied.
[p.124]We had come to live for an indefinite period in a strange land among a people who spoke a different language, and under another flag. We wondered what effect it would have on the lives of our children. Little did we think that fifteen years would have passed and that those boys would have grown to manhood before they again saw our own American flag, or that they would stand with uncovered head while singing in Spanish the national hymn and shout, “Vivi Mexico!” while the red, white, and green was being unfurled.
Annie’s health, not being very good [pregnancy], I took her place in the school room soon after my arrival. The people tried to express their appreciation of the school and the opportunities their children were having by giving us the warmest and most sincere friendship we could ask for.
Owing to an epidemic of la grippe, the school closed for two weeks and my husband made a trip to the upper colonies. He was so favorably impressed with Colonia Juarez that he bought a city lot with a young orchard and several acres of farming land and decided to locate there. Here we found a very intelligent progressive people who had left their homes in the United States for the same reason that we had, whom we learned to love as real relatives. We did not have time nor could we at that time afford to build two houses, so we all lived under one roof in the true patriarchal order. We did not mind this inconvenience, but were all contented and happy.
At the beginning of the school year, 1890, my husband opened school with Annie as assistant teacher. I kept the home.8 The school was held in an all-purpose building, being used for all church activities, for school, and for an amusement hall.
The persecution against polygamists in the United States was very bitter and Mexico offered a refuge. There were now seven Mormon colonies in Chihuahua: Diaz, Dublan, and Juarez in the valley, and Cove Valley, Pecheco, Garcia, and Chiuchupa in the mountains. New families were arriving in Mexico almost daily and were settling in the colony that best suited their circumstances. At the beginning of the [p.125]school year, I again became assistant teacher. Annie kept the home. There was no one else to take the place. I enjoyed it and was glad to be of service.
The school was growing. The people had built an addition of two rooms to the building which made it more convenient. There were now three grades. All of the young people of the town and some from other colonies were students, making it very interesting and encouraging, as it was a great uplift to the social environment of the community. Truly the colonies had a wonderful group of young people with high ideals and ambition for intellectual advancement. We had a very pleasant, happy, and prosperous year. That year Lillie Bunell, a very gentle beautiful girl, came to live with us.9
Word had reached the colonies a few days before that a band of renegade Tomoche [Commanche?] Indians had attacked and robbed the custom house at Columbus, located at the international boundary line, and they were headed, in their flight, for the Sierra Madre mountains.
On this Saturday morning some men from Juarez, who had been riding in the mountains, ran into their camp. The Indians said they were planning an attack on Juarez. They immediately brought the word to town, and the meeting was called. It was feared they might carry out their threat and the town was ill prepared for an attack. All of the women and children were ordered to be kept strictly indoors.
We had a small farm about two miles up the river, and Denny and Frank, our two oldest sons, aged ten and nine years, had gone there to get the horses. We were filled with anxiety, as it was supposed this was the route the Indians would take if they came to make an attack.
All the families who lived on the outskirts or edge of the town were ordered to move in, and we were asked to open our homes to them. We had two families besides our own large family. When night came it was a problem to find places to make beds, as no one wanted to sleep downstairs. However, it was not so difficult as it otherwise would [p.126]have been, had not every able-bodied man and boy who was old enough, been ordered out with his gun to stand guard.
The next day being Sunday, all the men were advised to take their guns to church. As we were walking to church with a gun along, we were reminded of the early colonization of America. We talked of the conditions that then existed—of John Alden and Priscilla—of Miles Standish, the Indian fighter, and compared our present condition to theirs. The Tomoches passed on to their rendezvous in the mountains without molesting us, but the watchfulness was continued for several days.
[Annie had a daughter who died. Dennison built a separate house for her.]
October 16, 1894, another son was born to me and we called him Karl, in honor of Karl G. Maeser.
At this time Brother Eyring, a very broad-minded philanthropic man, began agitating the question of our schools being supported by an income tax. He advocated the plan, that if one man was blessed financially above another it was his duty to help educate the less fortunate brother’s children. By the way, Bro. Eyring had the largest income of any man in the colonies, and not many children to educate. He carried it through, and our schools thereafter were supported by the income tax. It was reputed that nearly every one was honest and conscientious in reporting his income.
Bro. Maeser came to Mexico and organized the church school system, with the Juarez Stake Academy in Juarez, and a seminary in the other colonies. We all rejoiced that our children could now have the advantage of, at least, a high school education in this far off isolated section. My husband was principal of the Academy. We did not have much money in Mexico, but we did have a progressive people and good schools; those are the most essential things in a community that is swarming with growing children.
July 24, 1899, my seventh son and ninth child was born. He was a strong child. We named him Sterling Richard.
At the end of the school year, 1901, Denny graduated with the first class to graduate from the J.S.A., which was then only a three year [p.127]course, but thereafter the course was four years. Frank dropped out of school for two years to help his father in the store.
In the colonies the Academy graduation exercises was the most important and most popular event of the year. The patrons of the school and those interested in educational affairs came from all over the colonies for that occasion. Of course all of our family were thrilled because we had one, the first to graduate from high school, a member of the class. it was quite an event, and at that tune almost meant more than graduating from college did later. One of my ambitions was realized. As soon as the graduation exercises were over Denny had a position offered him in Douglass, Arizona. I was surprised when his father consented for him to go. This was our first trial in having any of our children go away from home to work. He laid the first twenty dollars he earned away to pay his fare home if he got homesick.
At the end of the school year, 1903, Frank graduated from the Academy. Some of my dreams were beginning to come true. Two of my sons had graduated from high school. They both had a great desire for higher education or to go to college, and we encouraged them in their ambitions. All the early part of the year their father and I had been discussing it privately, and wondering if sending those two young unexperienced boys off alone was just the right thing to do. They had always lived in an ideal environment, except among the Mexicans. We prayed about it, and we talked about it. We felt that they had been properly taught, and we believed that every child should have his agency and choose what his life should be, and that it was the parents’ duty to help him as far as consistent. We wanted to be wise, and we knew they would meet conditions and temptations that they had not met in the environment of the Mormon colonies.
August 20, 1903, they left with our blessings for Provo where they were going to attend the Brigham Young University. Denny was twenty years old; Frank was nineteen. I had been having ambitions, had been building castles, and been dreaming dreams of what I wanted my children to do for twenty years. Two of my sons had started off to college, and I felt that some of my dreams were coming true. How lonesome, and yet how happy I felt; how I rejoiced in their letters; no one but an anxious mother can understand. We gave them a fine social party the night before they left as a happy send-off. I had a desire, a [p.128]hope, and a prayer in my heart that every one of my children might have the opportunity of going to college, and that hope was realized although we lived on the frontier for twenty-five years.
With our school and our social environment it was a desirable place to live, even if we were seemingly shut off from the rest of the world.
2. “The Saints faced the most serious Indian uprising in 1865, when a minority of Indian militants rejected the reservations solution and began guerrilla warfare. A young Indian outlaw by the name of Black Hawk, with a hard core of perhaps thirty leaders and two or three hundred warriors, conducted a four-year campaign against the Mormons that resulted in the death of seventy white men, the loss of two thousand head of horses and cattle, and the abandonment of twenty-five settlements” (Arlington and Bitton, 156).
4. Maeser is often mentioned in Mormon diaries as a stellar teacher, “the best educated man in Utah.” Brigham Young asked him to establish an academy in Provo in 1875-76. “An experienced teacher from Germany,” Maeser was “one of the founding fathers of higher education in Mormon country” (Arrington and Bitton, 143).
6. Franklin S. Hams received a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1911 in agronomy; he was a professor at Utah State University, well-known internationally for his work in irrigation and dry farming. He became president of Brigham Young University in 1921 and later served in the same role at USU (1945-50).