A Schoolmarm All My Life
Joyce Kinkead, editor

Chapter 11
Elizabeth Frances Fellows Critchlow

[p.102]Mormon missionaries were especially successful in making converts in Britain. In 1837 George Fellows’s parents joined the LDS church, and when he married Frances Goodwin in 1852, the newlyweds lived in George’s boyhood home with his parents (Critchlow, 146). Their second child, Elizabeth, was born in 1855, and even though George had promised his parents to immigrate to Utah after their deaths, he and his family remained in England until Elizabeth was eleven, allowing her to attend school thus beginning a solid education that would set her apart from her fellow teachers in Utah.

Leaving a comfortable residence for the American frontier seemed ludicrous to the Fellowses’ neighbors and to Elizabeth’s mother as well. They owned a comfortable house, cherished family heirlooms and a sense of history and tradition, and made a good living in carpentry and music. They also had a sense of the importance of visiting historical sites, a tradition they continued in America. This was a time when many Britons toured their “former colonies,” Charles Dickens among them. In short, the Fellows family had not seen hardship for a good many generations.

All that changed in 1866 when they immigrated to Davenport, Iowa, where they settled for twelve years. Even though there were no other LDS members in Davenport, the city offered them the friendship of other English immigrants who took in Elizabeth’s ailing parents. Davenport also offered the Fellows children good schools. There, Elizabeth studied German, composition, music, and art, excelling as a model student. In 1872, when [p.103]she was seventeen, her mother died. The following year she began high school; following two years of study, she passed the teacher’s examination.

When Elizabeth was twenty-three, her father decided to get on with their trip to Utah, but she should stay in Iowa and teach, earning money for the family. As soon as the family arrived in Ogden, Utah, it quickly received help from the church and learned that Elizabeth could easily be employed as a teacher locally. Elizabeth lost no time in travelling to Utah, a much easier trip in 1878 as the transcontinental railroad now serviced Salt Lake City. The day after she was baptized in Ogden, she began teaching. For seven years she taught in the local schools; during her first year she caught the attention of forty-six-year-old Benjamin C. Critchlow, a local bishop who requested she transfer to his ward school. Three springs later they married. Benjamin had taken his first wife in 1861, twenty years earlier. The difference between their ages was pointedly illustrated by Elizabeth’s sister’s marriage to Critchlow’s son by his first marriage, which made Elizabeth both a “stepmother” and a sister-in-law to the man.

Much of Elizabeth’s married life was lived on the run; in 1882 the Edmunds Act “forced churchmen to go on the ‘underground'” (Arrington, 181). When she could no longer safely teach school she resorted to living with other families, finally moving with her children to the relatively safe haven of Star Valley, Wyoming, where for the first time she used her married name. An acknowledged musician who loved to accompany her fellow students, Elizabeth must have found it difficult to live in obscurity as a plural wife. Even “on the underground” she continued to give music lessons (Critchlow, 165). Benjamin “divided his time” between his wives in Utah and Wyoming; Elizabeth felt deeply for him as she “cried for joy” when she found he had not died from a nearly fatal illness. When the president of the church issued his Manifesto ostensibly outlawing plural marriages in 1890, it was safe for Elizabeth and her family to return to Utah, where she lived out her life in Hyrum. Whether Elizabeth enjoyed a secure lifestyle after the Manifesto or suffered as the second, and thus “illegal,” wife is not clear. Although she chose to enter into a plural marriage, her autobiography centers not so much on her life as a wife but on her days as a student and a teacher.


I was born December 7, 1855, in the village of Bloxwich, Staffordshire, England. I am the daughter of George and Frances Goodwin Fellows, who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shortly after the Gospel was taken to England [1837].

The L.D.S. missionaries often visited our home. They were made welcome and stayed as long as they wished. We children were always pleased when they came as they were so nice to us.

Before my father’s parents died [1862], Father promised them that he would come to Utah and do temple work for them. In order for him to do this, it was necessary for him to give up a great many things he loved and to make a great sacrifice financially. Father had a good trade and, being a naturalist, had a good garden in which he grew almost all kinds of flowers and vegetables that could be grown in that climate. Father was a lover of music. Besides the [church] organ, he played the violin, owning two of them. We had a piano in our home, and Father taught my sister Ann and me to play it. We had two rooms upstairs which were sleeping rooms and two down, a front room which was a living-dining room and was tiled, and a kitchen which contained a bake oven, grate, sink, etc. and had a brick floor. Our water drained out from the sink, and was carried in from a well (pump) which served several cottages.

Ann and I attended private schools. There, besides [doing our] studies, we did hand work on samplers. We attended private schools instead of the so-called National Schools, because the private schools were considered a little higher class socially, and also because those children who attended the National Schools were required to go to Sunday school, where they were taught the Protestant religion, and Father did not care to have us taught anything but Mormonism.

When the time came for us to leave England, we spent a year making preparation. I stayed out of school to care for my baby sister Georgina so that Mother could do sewing, etc. Many of our friends tried to [p.105]dissuade Father from leaving England, and pointed out all the advantages he would have by remaining. Mr. Foster, a near friend and neighbor, told him that if after living in America a while he wished to return, Mr. Foster would be glad to send him the money so he could come back again. But whether Father would like to remain in England or not, was not to be considered; Father had made a promise to his parents and it must be kept at any cost.

Moving to America and leaving home, family ties, etc. was a very great trial to my mother. Her people were not disposed to see Mormonism as my father’s were and considered this change a foolish move. All this influenced Mother and made it more difficult for her.

When the time came for us to leave, it was difficult to decide what to take and what to leave. After choosing a few of the heirlooms and gathering together what necessities could be taken, we had our remaining belongings sold at auction. Our beautiful piano, grandfather’s clock, book cases which were hand made and polished, and other things were sold for a small part of their value to us. We brought Father’s violins, his lathe and tools, telescope, microscope and cameras.

We took the train at Wolverhampton July 26, 1866, for Liverpool. It took six hours to make the journey to Liverpool, where we were detained for several days before setting sail on the steamer Etna, which was commanded by Captain H. Tibbits.

We started our voyage from Liverpool to New York, August 1, 1866, leaving Liverpool at one o’clock. The voyage was very rough. Some days it was impossible for us to stand up on the deck. We met several sailing vessels bound for New York. Among the things that I remember most were the poor accommodations on the boat, the poor food, the shortage of water, etc. Also the fog horn as we passed the Banks of Newfoundland.

After we had been on the sea fifteen days, we saw a very high light house. Later we saw the tops of houses on Long Island, and a pilot came on board to pilot our ship into the harbor.

On our trip west, we saw many beautiful and interesting things. The suspension bridge near Niagara Falls was so wonderful that we marveled at it, one end being in Canada and the other in the United States. The falls resembled a lake falling over great rocks filling the air with mist and making a deafening, roaring noise. We crossed over into [p.106]Canada and traveled for some time on the Canadian side of the river. We were impressed by the density of the forests and also by the large fields of grain.

We arrived at Chicago August 23, [1866,] where we visited the important sights. Our next stop was Aurora. Our next great sight was the Mississippi River and Rock Island. Here we saw great steamers, boats and large wooden rafts.

When we reached Davenport [Iowa], we inquired for English people and were referred to a Mr. Mackay, a Scotsman, who interested himself in our behalf and found us an empty house to live in until we could get better accommodations. Mother was so ill by this time that we thought it better not to travel farther.

Mr. Mackay told us of a house and four acres of land that were for sale. The house was situated one mile north and two blocks west of his home. Mr. Mackay took us to see it. The house had been formerly kept for a pleasure garden by an English family. It seemed to be an ideal place. The house contained six rooms, and there was a wide veranda. There was an avenue of cherry trees going from the back door to the well, which was the center of a summer house covered with clinton grapes and honey-suckles. There were seats that were enjoyed in the summertime. Also there were a large asparagus bed, all kinds of small fruit and an orchard. A branch of Duck Creek ran through a corner of the lot. There was a barn on the place, and there were a horse, cow and chickens. An osage orange hedge ran along the east side of the lot and there was a pasture on the west. We were all delighted with the appearance of the place.

Father bought the home September 10, 1866. We were all anxious to get into it. Uncle John Goodwin was with us and also Fred Hurtnole, a young man with whom we became acquainted on the ship. Father told him that he could make his home with us until he could do better. He stayed with us for several years. Uncle John Goodwin got work in a store in Rock Island and left us.

My brother Willie and I started to the North Davenport No. 4 school. It was on Locust Street and was so far from our home that we always had to take our lunch. Miss Ella Simons was my teacher. I was in the B Room. I liked the school very much. The children were all so nice to me. Others who attended this school were George Ade, later a [p.107]writer, and Howard Myton who afterward came to Utah and became an Indian Agent. The town of Myton, Utah was named for him.

Mrs. Noelte came to the school and taught us German. Mr. Pratt came to school twice a week and taught us writing. It is the Pratt system (of writing) that I have always used. We also had singing and drawing teachers. After I reached the Grammar Room, we had an organ and I played while the children sang.

I enjoyed the fall and the long walk to school before Christmas, but after Christmas the weather became very cold, many degrees below zero at times. Then I wished we lived in town nearer the school. Father was employed at the depot, more than two miles from home. During the cold weather he had his cheeks and hands frosted, and he suffered a great deal with the cold. He decided it would have been better to have rented a small house in town, where he would always be near his work, than to buy a place so far away. He was on the way to Utah, and to own, rather than to rent, a place like that was a hindrance.

Father taught us the Gospel and subscribed to the Deseret News, which was then a weekly paper [published in Salt Lake City], so we could keep in touch with what was going on with the Church and get the weekly sermon that Ann or I would always read aloud to the rest of the family. Father had all the Church books, which we all read.

My sister Ann attended school one year and I stayed at home and helped Mother.

A festival was held every year in honor of the poet Robert Burns on the anniversary of his birth. Our neighbor, James Baker and family, invited Ann and me to go [to the festival] with them. We enjoyed it very much. The ladies wore long Scotch plaid dresses. There was a program and dancing, and Scotch cake (short bread) was served with treacle (molasses).

We came to the United States shortly after the Civil War. There was a large Orphan’s Home in Davenport. About six-hundred children, many of whose fathers had been killed in the War, lived there.

Mother became very ill with dropsy. [She] continued to get worse until she died April 15, 1872.

I was still attending school at the North Davenport School. It was in the Grammar Room when many visitors came and visited. A nice program was carried out and several girls sang the song “Millie Gay.” I [p.108]accompanied them on the organ. Mr. Nagle and Mrs. Curry were my teachers. I always liked to go to school.

From the time I arrived in Davenport until June 26, 1873, I attended the North Davenport School No. 4, with the exception of one year which my sister Ann went to school and I stayed home with mother. On that date, the closing exercises of the ninth grades of the eight school districts in the city were held in the Burtis Opera House. The girls all wore white dresses. My uncle John’s wife, Hattie Goodwin, who was now living in Rock Island, made me a very nice dress of Victoria lawn. During the program, my classmates from No. 4 sang a song and I accompanied them on the piano. Also my dear friends Frankie Irish and Janie West sang a German duet, which I also accompanied. At the close of the program we were presented with our diplomas.

I commenced going to High School in the fall of 1873. It was held in an old building on Harrison Street near Fifth Street. This was much farther from home than the grade school. When the weather was very bad I walked across the Mississippi River, over the swing bridge, to Rock Island, and stayed with my Uncle John and Aunt Hattie. The second year the high school moved to a new building. The teacher training school, which Georgina attended later, was in this building. Lizzie Hooley was my principal companion during my high school days.

After attending high school two years, I took the Teacher’s examination and qualified to be a school teacher. I was unable to get a school in which I could teach at once, so I went to work at Grooms Store at Rock Island. Father sold our home and rented a house on Front Street near the bridge. The money Father received for our house was much less than he had paid for it.

In the winter of 1878, I went with the Pearsalls to Mount Air, Ringold County in western Iowa. Lucy and Lizzie Wooton Pearsall were my father’s second cousins. Their husbands, Isaac and Samuel Pearsall, were glass blowers. They had bought a farm at Mount Air. I stayed at Mt. Air and taught school there for one term and arranged to teach there the following winter.

While I was in Mount Air, my sister Ann convinced Father that this was the opportune time to go on to Utah. Fearing that he might be in Utah some time without work, Father decided that I should remain [p.109]in Iowa and teach school for a time and they would go on ahead. I consented to this, and Father, Ann, Willie and Georgina went on to Ogden in August, 1878, while I remained in Mount Air.

In the fall, Father took very ill and Ann asked Mr. Job Pingree of the board of trustees whether I would be able to get a job teaching if I came on to Ogden. He answered that if I would come to Ogden, I could begin teaching as soon as I could get there.

I arrived in Ogden November 26, 1878, and had a very happy reunion with the family. Father had recovered from his illness. I found my family living in part of Carnele Stephens’ house. Arrangements were made for me to teach school in the second ward at Ogden.

I was baptized a member of the L.D.S. Church December 8. My baptism took place in the canal in front of Hadlock Hall where the First Ward L.D.S. meetings were held. There was ice in the winter.

The next day I began teaching as assistant to A.D. Rogers at the Second Ward School, west of what is now Ogden City Hall. I taught here one term. The spring term I moved to the First Ward School at the request of Benjamin C. Critchlow, who had recently been made bishop of the First Ward. I remained at this school three years, and then taught for a number of years at the Second Ward School. During this period, I also taught two summer terms at Eden and one term at Lynne.

I was married to Benjamin Chamberlin Critchlow on April 5, 1881, in the Salt Lake Endowment House by Elder Joseph F. Smith, who afterwards became president of the Church. As this was a plural marriage and was made secretly, I retained my maiden name and continued living at home and teaching school until May, 1885.

In May of 1885, I left home and went to live at Mrs. Mary McFerson’s at Kaysville. Here I lived in comparative obscurity on account of conditions which prevailed with reference to plural marriage. About this time a great “Crusade” was inaugurated by the government against the Latter-day Saints, and hundreds of men and a number of women in the territory went to prison because of the harsh manner in which this law was enforced, and many persons went into hiding, or “on the underground,” to avoid arrest.

I moved to Hyrum October 6, 1885. On December 21, my First child was born. I named her Georgina Bolette. During this stay in Hyrum, I used Frances for a surname and afterward the name of Mas-[p.110]on. My second child, George Quincy, was born September 27, 1887. On May 1st, 1888, my infant son George contracted spinal paralysis and died May 21.

In the fall of 1889, we left for Star Valley, and arrived at Afton, in Star Valley, Wyoming, September 12, 1889. Our home at Afton consisted of two rooms and an attic. Here for the first time we took the name of Critchlow and I lived with my husband without fear he would be arrested because of his plural marriage. Wyoming was a free territory and the laws enacted for Utah relating to plural marriages did not apply. Star Valley had been settled chiefly by Mormons who had brought their plural families from Utah to avoid prosecution under the laws of Utah territory. The little home in Afton, humble as it was, was home to me and my children for the next six years. My husband divided his time between my home and his other home in Ogden as best he could.

After the [Woodruff] Manifesto, prosecutions in Utah for plural marriages stopped and people were allowed to live normally. My husband asked me to decide where of all the places I had lived in I would like to have my home. I chose Hyrum. We arrived in Hyrum August 1, 1895, and there I have lived ever since.