Saints without Halos
Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton
Lucy White Flake: Pioneering Utah and Arizona
[p.72]Lucy Hannah White was born in 1842 in Knox County, Illinois, the oldest of Samuel and Mary Burton White’s eight children. Her grandparents and parents had joined the Church in England and emigrated to the United States to be with the Saints. Lucy was baptized in the ice-covered Missouri River when she was seven years old and walked across the plains with her family when she was eight.
Shortly after their arrival in Utah, the Whites, including Grandfather White and Lucy’s uncles Dennis, Joel, and David, were called to settle a new community thirty-five miles south of Salt Lake City. In her 1894 autobiography, Lucy recalled that they “camped at a butifull spring one mile from the Jordan River. That place is now called Lehi. We spent the winter there, built log houses in the shape of a fort.” In the spring a town was surveyed and permanent homes were built. “My Father built two log rooms a little distance apart and afterwards closed it in and made another room. We felt thankfull and happy in our new home. We did not have much to eat, but we always had bread.” Lucy’s mother, who had been a schoolteacher, “taught me my letters out of the Bible as [we] had not school book.”
[p.73]Lucy was ten when she was rebaptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1852. Her father, a counselor in the bishopric, always attended general conference, but returned somewhat shaken after the October 1852 conference, “and told Mother he was called to move south three Hundred miles. Mother felt dredful bad for she been seperated from her people so much and now we were setled so near them she thought it was cruel she had to go away so far.” Mary gave birth to a son on October 14, and on November 7 the family loaded their possessions into wagons and “started to go where we were called Ceder City Iron County. Uncel Joel White and Uncle David Savage [and] Grandma White went also. We were three weeks on the Road and very cold wether.”
The Whites were part of a large group of settlers sent south in 1852 to reinforce Cedar City and Parowan, where the danger of an Indian uprising had increased. Lucy found nearly all the residents of Cedar were “from the old World” and “were so differant from what we were used to when they talked to us we could not understand half [of what] they said. Oh! I was home sick, but we were called and had to make the best of it.”
Samuel White purchased a farm and built another house. Lucy attended school in a log cabin which “had no floor or window. Logs with holes boared in and legs put in was our seets.” Her father raised sheep, and Lucy learned to spin yarn.
In 1857 the Reformation arrived in southern Utah. “We were called on to repent from all our sins. If we had stole or injured any body we had to make it right. Then we were cathicised [catechized] then rebaptised for our sins. I was then fourteen. Was baptised in February. The chunks of ice was running in the Mill race where we was baptised. These were very inthuseastick times. Many confessions were made.”
Five months later word reached Utah that President James Buchanan had ordered federal troops to Utah to put down an alleged “Mormon rebellion.” Brigham Young ordered the missionaries home and directed the abandonment of several outlying settlements. Lucy’s father and Uncle Joel were sent to help bring the Saints from San Bernardino, California, back to [p.74]Utah. When they returned, they brought word of “a good stedy young man” named William Jordan Flake. “While all the others were so Wild and rude, they had much to say of this young marts good qualities and good behavyour. I said I want to see this young man when he comes.” Two weeks later Lucy got her wish. William arrived driving a herd of stray horses up from San Bernardino. Uncle Joel invited him and several others home for the evening. Lucy noted, “We all liked his aperance very much.”
Tall and well-built, William Jordan Flake was nineteen years old. His parents had joined the Church in Mississippi, moved to Nauvoo, and in 1848 arrived in the Great Basin. In 1851 the Flake family helped settle San Bernardino under the direction of Elders Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich. William’s father was killed when he was thrown from a mule, and his mother died of consumption in January 1855. Elder Lyman looked after William, his brother, and his sister.
On 30 December 1858 William and Lucy were married by Elder Lyman and moved in with part of his family. When the Lymans moved fifty miles north to Beaver three weeks later, William and Lucy went with them. In the spring Lucy’s parents also moved to Beaver. William freighted for Elder Lyman and was gone much of the time, so Lucy lived with her parents until October 1859, when the young couple bought a log house and “went to Houskeeping.” Their first child, James Madison Flake, was born the next month. “We had very little to keep house with but we were just as happy as could be. We loved each other and loved our home and felt truely thankefull.”
Their marriage was close and affectionate, but Lucy was troubled about their religious differences. “William was not religous, being brought up in California after he was twelve and haveing no father to teach him,” she wrote. “This was some what of a trial to me but I loved him and prayed for him in secret.” Whenever the teachers spoke to William, “he would say he was going to be religious when he got old.”
In January 1861 another son was born, but William and Lucy’s joy turned to grief as they watched their sick baby suffer. Day after day he grew weaker and weaker. “It seemed like my [p.75]prairs did no good but still I kept trying to get my Hevenly Father to here me. Kept Praying but it seemed he could not here me.” Finally, on March 20 little William died. “His death was the first trial of my faith. It seemed my prairs had always been answered before.”
Nevertheless, Lucy continued to pray and pleaded with William to join her. But praying did not come naturally to him, nor did he share Lucy’s desire to be sealed in the Endowment House. In July William left on a three-month freighting trip west. In October Lucy attended general conference with her parents. William arrived during their stay in Salt Lake City. Lucy was very happy to see him and overjoyed when he reported, somewhat dismayed, that their bishop had invited them to go to the Endowment House. “He was so surprised he knew not what to say. If the Bishop had told him he wanted him to go to England he could not [have] felt more surprised. He tried to get excused. Said he did not think himself worthy, but the Bishop would not let him off so he came and told me. I thanked my Hevenly Father. Knew it was in answer to prair. That night I was so thankfull I hardly slept. The 9th October 1861 we received that great blessing and was seled for time and all Eternity.” Lucy returned to Beaver with her parents, and William to his freighting. She did not see him for almost three months, until Christmas day.
The Church frequently called on William to freight goods to Utah from California and immigrants from the East. In December 1869 Lucy pleaded with him to pray before he left on his next trip. He promised he would when he got home. Lucy remembered the promise through the winter, and when he returned in March, “he knelt down and praid his first prair I ever herd him pray and I was thankfull and happy to know he was trying to do his duty a little better.”
Of the decision to enter plural marriage in 1868, Lucy wrote little—simply, “William concluded to take another Wife. I was quite willing.” But Lucy’s daughter Roberta recalled it in more detail, the way she must have heard her mother tell it many times. One night, after complimenting her cooking, William sat down with Lucy, took her face in his hands, and [p.76]asked,
“Lucy dear, could you share your husband with another woman?” I thought at first he was joking. and laughingly answered sure, if I could still retain first place in his affections. He bent his head over until his lips met mine. Each kiss carried the same thrill the first one had. He stood up, and pulled me to him and I noticed a seriousness about him that I had never seen before, as he said, “Lucy I have been counselled to take another wife, if you are willing.” I could not speak, nor could I keep the tears out of my eyes. “Don’t try to answer me now,” he said in his gentlest voice. “I think I know how you feel. I have been struggling with myself for a week, trying to bring myself to ask you this. Think it over, pray over it as I have and then let me know.”
Lucy struggled for several days. She poured out her heart in prayer. She went to her mother—who gently refused to advise her. When William returned from his next trip, they put their five children to bed and took a moonlight walk. They sat down on a log and William put his arm around her. Then she asked,
“Will, who is the young lady we are going to marry?” I felt his strong frame quiver, his arm tighten about my waist, heard the catch in his voice as he gasped, “WE?”
“Yes, we.” I answered in a voice I hardly recognized, so full was it of unselfishness and self-mastery. “We, of course,” I went on. “We were made one a long time ago, you and I,—who are we going to marry?” I asked again.
“Are you sure it is the right thing for us to do?” asked William in a trembling voice, and then I loved him as I never had before because I knew that he had been true to me. Then he told me his struggle had been as hard as mine. If he did not believe the principle was from God, he would never have considered it, but as there was no compulsion to entering into it, he had battled with himself to see if he were good enough to undertake it. I told him no one was more worthy, no one could make a better husband.
Lucy spoke of the fine points of William’s future bride, eighteen-year-old Prudence Kartchner, and then cried herself to sleep. Eventually, she was able to console herself with the thought “I had had ten years of blessed association with my man. That could never be taken from me. I was his first, and for ten years, his only love. If in that time I had not found a place in [p.77]his heart and life that no other could fill—then I had failed.”
In her own reminiscence, Lucy recorded the events surrounding the October 1868 marriage. “Sister E[liza] R. Snow asked me was I willing. Said yes. She asked do you think you can live in that principal. I said am quite willing to try. My Mother and sister live in it and I think [I] can do as I was willing and she said Sister you shall never get old and she gave me a great blessing and ever[y] time she saw me that day she blest me.”
In the spring of 1874, William and Lucy “went in the United Order. Put in all our property. William was asined the stable to take care of.” But in the fall he was called to work on the Saint George Temple. Lucy became seriously ill, and after several requests William returned to Beaver. When the United Order disbanded in 1876, William “gave up the stable … [and] commenced to work on his farm.” By the spring of 1877, “We had a fine large house. We had geese, ducks, hogs, chickens, horses, and cows. We thought we was fixed for life.”
Then William went to the dedication of the Saint George Temple where he was called on a colonizing mission to Arizona. He had been a member of the 1873 expedition that had been unable to locate a suitable site for settlement in Arizona, so the prospect of leaving their comfortable home in Beaver for that desolate region was not appealing. “They gave us six months to get redy to go. … The thought of leaving my poor Widowed Mother … was cruel it seemed to me and William said he had rather go to England. He felt dredful bad but we was called and there was no other way.”
In August Roberta was born. In October William rebaptized his family “as we wished to go and work in the Temple and it was council for all to get baptised before going. … I was adopted to my Father and Mother. … This labor was a great comfort to us. … We recieved our second Washings and anointing. They said as we were coming a way so far we could recieve them but they never had given them to any one so young. … We were in Heven sure when we were working in that Holy place but when we get out Satan dubles his forse on a person trying to make up for the good one recieves.”
[p.78]Returning to Beaver, William and Lucy sold their farm and in October 1877 loaded their eight children and belongings into five wagons drawn by nine yoke of oxen and seven span of horses. They also drove two hundred head of cattle and forty horses with them.
The weather “was dredful cold, colder than it had been. … Prudence had three very bad spells of sickeness. We had five men besides our familey to do for. Most all the work fell to me. I stood and washed clothes when the snow was very deep all day. There was a child … died. They called on me to wash it. Watter would freeze as quick as it touched the child. … Our stalk [stock] was so poor we had to leave them” on the range with Lucy’s fifteen-year-old son Charlie. “On new years day the frost was so thick in the air we could hardley see the lead horses on our Wagons. … One day we onley traveled one mile.”
After three months the party arrived at the Mormon settlement of Allen’s Camp on the Little Colorado River. Roberta wrote that “the water in the river was so muddy that a barrel full of it left overnight would produce only about six inches of water clear enough to use for culinary purposes.” Five times flash floods washed away the dams constructed by the Allen’s Camp United Order.
William became so discouraged that one day, according to Roberta, he “saddled up his horse, bade Lucy good-bye and told her there must be a better place in Arizona and if there was he would find it.” Commented Lucy, “Some was tried with this, and said he was going to postitise.”
Then three-year-old George fell sick. “I did all I could with medicen and also with faith,” Lucy wrote.
My prairs did not seem to be herd but sevral times each day I went away from my wagon in secret and prayed. … Often had the Elders administer but it seemed they had no faith. … On the morning of July 6th ’78 I was so deep in sorrow it seemed I could not bare it any longer. I went out in some brush out of site and asked my Father in Heven to take him home for I could not bare it any longer. My burden was hevier then I could bare. That prair was simple but from my hart. I went to him. He breathed a few times and passed a way so sweetley. My own hands made his clothes, dressed him, fixed some paint and painted his coffin. In [p. 79]one hour after he passed away his Father came. Had been gon three weeks. Had not herd from us or us from him. I truley was thankfull when he came.
The next day, they drove five miles to Saint Joseph and buried their little child. On July 19 William moved his family to Silver Creek. When they arrived, Roberta reported, “all who were able jumped out of the wagons, rushed to the stream, bathed their faces and drank the first clear water they had since they left their home in Beaver.” When William and Lucy later met Elder Erastus Snow, who supervised the Mormon colonies in the area, “William told him what he had done and Elder Snow said, ‘I wish we had hundreds just like you.'” Then the apostle proposed the new settlement be named after the two of them; thus Snowflake, Arizona, received its name.
But Lucy’s initial enthusiasm for Snowflake was tempered by the spring winds. In her 1896 diary, for example, she wrote:
Monday, March 2, the wind blows all the time day and part of the time nights and I feel nearly sick.
Tuesday, April 14, the wind it blows night and day, it is just fearful, The sand drifts like snow. … It seems lonely and dreary when the wind blows.
Thursday, April 16, all well but the Wind gets worse and worse, night and day.
Saturday, April 18 [William] and John came home this morning. The Wind was so bad Thursday they laid up all day and could not travel. The wind blows very little today which is so nice. I cleaned up all the rooms and had a bath and am going to town.
Sunday, April 19, today is fearfull the Wind blows so bad.
Thursday, April 30, this ends the month and I dont beleave there has been one day that the wind did not blow. It has damaged the crops and covered them with sand, filled up the ditches, and made it very unpleasant. [Only] our Hevenly Father nows what this wind is for.
Monday, May 19, I am on the place all alone. It seems like this country is going to blow away.
Friday, May 15, the wind blows fearful. The sand almost blinds one. The children cant go out to play.
Occasionally depressed by the unremitting wind, Lucy kept busy with close family ties and callings in the Relief Society, Primary, Sunday School, and Religion Class. William [p. 80]served as first counselor in the bishopric for thirty-five years.
When federal prosecutions for plural marriage reached into Arizona, William declined several broad hints by the sheriff that he could avoid arrest. Instead, he served six months in the penitentiary at Yuma, returning in good spirits and “so fat … he had to ware Osmers Pants.” (Osmer was their stout son.) Lucy recorded with pride that the Relief Society planned a combination coming-out and birthday party for William: “Sent invertations to all the setlments around, had such nice picknick, esays, songs, speeches, a sketch of his life,” complete with a band, and “you never saw a purson so surprised in your life.”
Lucy’s autobiography and journal provide illuminating details of early Arizona life that would otherwise be lost. Among the routine activities she chronicled one spring were: whitewashing the house; gardening and irrigating; gleaning wool from carcasses along the trail followed by the sheepmen, then picking, washing, and carding it to make a mattress; making underwear, shirts, and carpet rags; tending grandchildren; and preparing meals for her husband and growing sons. On one occasion she set down her day’s tasks, which were typical of Arizona pioneer women generally: “I will just write my morning chores. Get up, turn out my chickens, draw a pail of watter, watter hot beds, make a fire, put potatoes to cook, brush and sweep half inch of dust off floor. … feed three litters of chickens, then mix bisquits, get breakfast, milk besides work in the house and this morning had to go half mile after calves. This is the way of life on the farm.”
Lucy’s pioneering life was not easy. Five of her thirteen children died in infancy or childhood, and Lucy herself died at fifty-five. Still, the struggle for survival did not absorb all of her energy or prevent spiritual fulfillment: “William and me fasted and went to fast meeting. Had a very good meeting. Uncommon good one. Such a good spirrit there. The Sisters had a good testimoney meeting in the afternoon. Twenty two pressant. I presided as Sister West was absent. It is a nice day and all is well.”