Louisa Meletiah Whiting Johnson
Arranged and written by Claudia (Johnson) Whitney
Born the 17th of May 1850, at Manti, San Pete county, Utah, a daughter of Edwin M. and Elizabeth Partridge (Tillotson) Whiting.
In 1849 her parents crossed the plains with ox team. Her Mother with her five children walked most of the way to Salt Lake City; they reached their destination early in November. They were asked by Brigham Young to join a company of forty families, to build a settlement in Sanpete County Valley, which they named Manti. Her father built a dug out on the south side of Temple Hill, about one hundred yards from where the Manti temple now stands. This dug out contained two large rooms. One for living purposes and the other room served as a chair shop, which held equipment for making chairs. He was an expert with this work. He would go to the mountains and select extra fine trees, then would pull them down by and build the chairs from the lumber that was sawed from these trees. After finishing the chairs, he would take them to Salt Lake City and trade them for food. Well it was here that his little daughter was born. She was a beautiful baby with abundant dark hair and large brown eyes. Her birthplace was a humble one, but very comfortable. Her father, later, built a nice large home in the center of Manti. He was a lover of choice flowers and shrubs, so these were planted around the home, which made it very attractive.
These pioneers of Manti and SanPete County, passed through hall the trials and hardships that came to them. Chief Walker came to them with his band of 500 Indians and begged for bread and food, and it was not easy to help them much, as their own food was not plentiful, but they helped all they could, in order to keep peace with the Indians. During her childhood she had plenty of work to do. She said her sister Harriet would glean heads of wheat, which were left in the fields, and after their sacks were filled they would take them to the machine to be threshed, then they would trade this wheat at the stores for shoes or some other needed article of clothing. She also braided straw, which was made into hats.
In the year 1862, she moved to Springville with her Parents where she taught school and was a telegraph operator. She was married to Aaron Johnson Jr., October 8, 1871 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Her life history tells how she and her husband went to colonize on the Little Colorado River, Arizona, and I will not repeat the same story.
In 1902, a year or so after her husband and the boys had gone to Canada, she and the younger members of the family went by train to Raymond, Alberta, Canada. Ten or twelve hundred miles to help settle among the Latter-day Saints on the fertile flower covered prairie land in that district. Living first at Raymond. Three years later they moved to Taber, thirty-five miles northeast on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, where we tried our luck at homesteading a farm near the Belly River, where the wild fruit grew. This is a coalmine and agricultural district. Five years later we came back to Utah, to Mapleton, bought a piece of land, built a pretty house and surrounded it with fruit trees, shade trees, and beautiful flowers. Then later we got the wanderlust, and moved to the Uintah Basin, buying a farm in Altonah, situated on the Lake Fork River. While there I was a teacher in Relief Society, I put on several Old Maid plays with members of that excellent Society taking part. On the death of our sons wife, Rose we returned once more to Mapleton in 1921, to take care of his three motherless children. Again taking up Relief society work in the literary department, and writing original verses of Socials and Old Folks parties. In my 74 year I climbed Mount Timpanogas, over 12 thousand feet, the oldest lady to make the ascent (and by the way, she passed up many young people who could not make it.) We moved around a great deal, but I enjoyed it all. We made our homes attractive with beautiful flowers and also made many good friends. She died in October 1931 at the age of 81 and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery, Mapleton, Utah.
The Little Town of Mapleton 1910
Louisa Meletiah Whiting Johnson composed this Poem.
There’s a pretty town in Utah
Beneath a mountain high,
Where breezes from the canyons
Cool, refreshing, ever sigh.
Once the Red Man built a Teepee
On this our unknown land
Where rabbits and coyotes,
Roamed undisputed, free
Now stands the town of Mapleton
That’s good enough for me.
In the modest town of Mapleton,
Good fellowship is found
Among friends and peaceful neighbors.
If you’ll only look around,
Alfalfa fields abundant,
Rich fields of beets and grain,
Small fruits and yellow peaches
Are shipped from here by train.
And rosy cheeked ripe apples
In orchards here we see,
In the fruitful town of Mapleton,
That’s good enough for me.
Here bright eyed romping children,
And Lads and Lassies meet,
At Sunday School and Mutual
Or on the quiet street,
At basket ball or social,
Or in the mazy whirl,
Each lad is gently courteous,
Seeing safely home his girl.
And the music of our orchestra,
Make happy moments flee,
In the opera house of Mapleton
That’s good enough for me.
When the Bishop makes an urgent call
The Elders are on hand
To guild aright the people,
Dwelling\in this quiet land.
Where the Mutual and the Boy Scouts
Meet promptly once a week
Each earnest youth or maiden
Culture and wisdom seek
And Relief Society Sisters
And all the distress they see,
Of the pleasant Town of Mapleton
That’s good enough for me.
I want to add more to these histories because I feel that they are not complete, since Grandma and Grandpa Johnson lived with us after my Mothers death. I learned to know and love them well. I have also been able to learn a few things about them, while they were here in Canada.
In Taber, Alberta, the old timers that knew them well think very highly of them. I have heard so many interesting stories, and how well Grandpa was know for his plays, so many people, here had the privilege of acting in those plays and it seems to be something that they never forgot. The first play that was put on in Taber was, “Kathleen Mauvornean”, My father and mother had leading parts in this play, and I imagine this is where they fell in love with each other. A few years ago I had to go in Alec Long’s office to have some legal papers drawn up, and when he found out that I was a Granddaughter of Aaron Johnson, he was just delighted and right there he told me stories and experiences for an hour or so, he told me that if I would come back some day when he had more time that he would tell me more, and also he was going to go through his papers and give me a lot of old programs and bills and an old deed, with comic writings on them, of Grandpa’s but he died soon after this and I have been back several times to see if his son, (who took his place) would find them for me, but he always says that he has not had time to go through the papers.
One story Alec Long told me, was about a little skit that Aaron used to put on between acts. He had a big machine, that resembled a grinder, and a man name3d Walton would put an old woman in one end, and then he would say to Aaron, “Jerry, turn the crank”. Jerry would turn the crank, and grind and it would sound like bones being ground and then out the other end would pop a beautiful girl, this always brought a lot of applause from the audience, they sure loved it. He said that Aaron recited “Brigham Young’s Ultimatum”, at the 24th of July celebration at the river. These are Mr. Long’s words, “Aaron was a born actor. He was either putting on a play or rehearsing one. He taught elocution, a very good humorist, and remembered by many.” He also said that he and Aaron were very good friends, and after Aaron went back to Utah that they corresponded for years.
He told me that Aaron was the first postmaster in Taber and he had a little one room building on the same street as the Railroad station. He got a lot of little empty boxes and he put them all around the sides of this room. In this way he was able to keep the mail sorted. Up above the window where he passed out the mail he had a sign that read, “Put the King’s Head on Your Letter’s”. Under this sign he had nails where he hung letters with stamps from other countries.
Charley Edward’s also tells me more about this post office. He said that Aaron was also the dentist for the townspeople, he had some forceps and he had a little cubbyhole closet in one corner of the post office where he took his patients. Charley Edwards in describing the cubbyhole said, “There was just room for Aaron Johnson, the patient and an apple box.” Charley had a bad tooth that had to come out so he went to Aaron, and it was just about noon, so he told Charley that he had to go for his dinner and so while he was gone Charley could go down to the beer parlor, and get two or three big slugs of beer, so it would deaden the pain, so he did and when Aaron came back, he then took the tooth out. Charley was very ill afterward, so Aaron spread newspapers around on the floor and charley lay down. Aaron had to step over him in order to get his work done.
Aaron Johnson and his older boys came to Canada in 1900. They loaded their worldly goods in a freight car. The boys rode in the car with their belongings and Aaron rode up in front. Uncle Lewis tells me that they almost froze to death. It was bitterly cold and their bread froze and they had to try to eat it that way. They lived in Raymond for three years then they moved to Taber and at that time there were only seven other families living there. He started Homesteading on a section of land one mile west of Taber, this place was named the Johnson Addition (and it is still referred to by that name). He built a four room house on that place tow of those rooms on a second story and that house still stands today, it has been fixed up many times. During the time he was in Taber he put on many benefit plays, for the Mutual and other organizations. He traveled with his troupes of players to many of these outlying towns. His name is well remembered in Canada. In November 1908 he states that he and Leland arrived in Mapleton from Canada. Grandma and Bryan followed later.
Some of the things I remember about Grandpa Johnson. I always felt that he was a well-educated man. I don’t think he had too much schooling but I felt he was mostly self-educated. He was a good reader and I felt his philosophy of his fellow men was good. He couldn’t stand to hear gossip or people who talked against the Church or anyone who acted like hypocrites. He was an animal lover and could not bear to see any cruelty done to animals in fact he judged people by their treatment to animals. He was always willing to help anyone with elocution, and many people made themselves better in this art because of him. He was always the actor, even in his ordinary life, many is the time I heard him quote parts of a play very dramatically. He was quite an artist in many ways. I remember I used to visit him often in his little room in the orchard, (his little hide away). He used to tell me many interesting things; I loved to visit with him. He liked to paint and he seemed to like to paint the mountains where he had been. He loved music and always had musical instruments in his home for his family to use, most of them were pretty good musicians. Before they moved to Altonah, Grandpa had a big upright grand piano. It just about filled one room so when they went to Altonah, they let us use it. We took the legs off and stood it up on the back in one corner. It was difficult to play in this position, but we did enjoy it. I remember when Grandpa and Grandma came to help us after my mother died. Grandpa was very kind to us children, and how kind he was to Leo. Leo loved him a great deal. Sometimes I wonder how Leo would have got along without him. He gave me a diary of his also a book of poems. I know he loved his family and wanted the best for them. His peculiar traits were in wanting to be different than others. He would buy a pair of high top boots and then cut the tops off. He bought a new hat and then cut holes in it. (This might have been for comfort) I often saw him use a nail or binder twine to hold up his suspenders. He had a huge safety pin that he liked to use somewhere on the front of his shirt. He used to say; “I live on water cress in the summer, and success in the winter.”
Grandma Johnson was a hard working woman. She loved flowers, trees and vines to brighten her homes, and no matter where she lived, no matter how difficult to grow things, she always had her yard full of beauty. She was a woman that could always see beauty, even when there didn’t seem to be any. She made every place seem beautiful by her description.
She knew hard times for she was always by her husband helping to colonize hew towns, and always was she the pioneer. I don’t think she ever let the horses pull her small weight, up hills or in difficult places.
She was a very literary woman. She read a lot and was very well versed. Like Grandpa, she knew a lot about elocution, and often took leading roles. She helped many people out in elocution and I imagine she assisted Grandpa in his drama work in many ways. I think she often sold books from door to door (canvassing she called it). I think she must have been rather a good salesman, because she was sold herself. She loved animals and was very considerate of them. When they came to help us after my mother dies, I was too young at the time to realize how hard this must have been for her, (maybe I was just thoughtless). She was 70 years old and not well, she used to get so tired so my Father built a little bunk for her in the corner, by the kitchen table where it would be handy for her to lie down often. Then later my Father built a small home for them on our home place, by the orchard and yet they could be near us. Grandma used to make such good potato soup, but se used to make corn meal mush for supper and I thought that was so strange. She made soda biscuits so often and I got so tired of them we had lots of cream and I suppose that was easier for her than mixing bread (however, I learned to mix bread and gradually learned to take care of things.)
Grandma loved little Mryle so much (she was only four years old at the time of my Mothers death.) She taught her little pieces to say in programs, songs to sing, and little dances, she was quite a little performer and we all loved her so much. Once when I was young, Grandma took the part of Hagaar in the Wilderness, and I was Ishmael, she had a little jug and I was terribly thirsty and she would keep lifting this jug to my lips and I wondered shy no water ever came out. She was a wonderful storyteller, she used to tell me stories most of the day, and different ones each time. I know she could have filled a large book with her stories. (I am not able to remember them and how I wish I had written them down at the time.) We took Grandma and Grandpa to Yellowstone Park one time. They enjoyed this trip so much. Grandma would walk right up to the top of those long stairways without stopping to rest, she had wonderful endurance.
An amusing thing happened to her one time. She wanted to go to an opera, or some grand performance that was being presented in their locality, so she asked Aaron if he would stay with the children. He said he would so she went, thinking how wonderful it would be to have a night out. She sat in a balcony and as she settled herself, she looked down on the people below and there she saw Aaron, he had beaten her to the performance. Some of her poetry has been used for a long time and she loved her children also.
Clippings taken from the Springville newspaper regarding Aaron Johnson Jr. and Louisa M. (Whiting) Johnson.
“Aaron Johnson and family will leave Mapleton for Alberta, Canada this week. It is a local tradition at Mapleton that Aaron change his place of abode every new moon, or thereabouts. One morning a few weeks ago when Aaron went out to feed his horses, he felt that old familiar feeling coming over him, but as there seemed to be no new places within reach, he put the idea from him and determined to stay where he was, but he didn’t feel well. Mental unrest, with symptoms of spring fever, manifested itself. Dull aches attended the labored workings of his thought machine and he felt bearing down pains in his lower jaw. His wife donned him with bitters and the neighbors sent in sarsaparilla. The local thespians urged him to put on a home talent play and try to feel better. It did no good. One day he went to Provo and the evening thereof was a happy one. While in the County Capitol he met Jesse Knight, who told him of the new town of Raymond. Aaron recovered instantly. There was a new place and he could move. And he did move. Aaron has been a useful citizen for Mapleton and we will miss him.”
Many questions are asked about the old cottonwood, the only one left of the many, which grew along the banks of Hobble Creek at the time of the pioneer in the month of September 1850.
It looks much as it did when it first offered its shade to the first settler 71 years ago. Not much larger in girth; not quite as fresh and green, but the same contour in general. One large limb was blown down 20 years ago, and about that time some person built a fire at the base, which nearly burned into its vitals, but it still stands and seems good for another generation. Thirty-five years ago, Louisa Johnson wrote an allegory on the old tree, which was published in the Lady’s Speaker, issued by the YMMIA and we deem it quite fitting to reproduce it again at this time.
“Dear Old Tree! Thou are ages, in the sere and yellow leaf, yet we love thee. Thou hast withstood the strong winds from the western Lake, and also the fierce blasts of each winter; firm standing and deep rooted, were once flowed the clear waters of Hobble Creek. Night birds sang a welcome to the pioneers of 1850, from thy branches. Each spring the birds mated and nested and reared their young in thy branches; Antero whispered love to Meana Moonbeam in the shade of thy branches.
“Where are those hardy men who camped under my spreading branches so long ago? Who plowed the land with meek eyed patient oxen; who built the log cabins and guided the water upon the thirsty soil and produced the white Man’s food? Their children are grey; some are missing; but their grandchildren pass merrily by me, in strange, whizzing cars; with happy, laughing girls, in gay gauzy robes and bright boys who go hurrying past, not even giving me a glance. I have almost forgotten the “good old buckskin days.”
This is taken from Grandpa Johnson’s conclusion of his life Story:
Help the children that are left of mine,
To grow in grace – each day in grace divine!
Help us all to grow in grace Divine!
May our children never, never, be led astray.
Lord, help them to walk in “Zion’s Way!”
Help us all to walk in “Zion’s Way!”
Help us all to love the author of our Salvation,
To be strong pillars of this Great Nation!
Tis sweet to know, that Christ was once a boy,
And taught peace, Righteousness and Joy!
Tribute to his wife:
“To the Dear Mother of our children
Louisa’s love for flowers cannot be surpassed.
Her nature is joyful!
Sweetness is in her Soul!
At times, joy bursts forth, like springtime!
Deep love was born with her.
‘She loved much.’
She was always happy, while tending her flowers and garden.
She has a way all her own.
Brown was her hair – tinged with gold!
Brown were her eyes.
Bright flashes of wit, she had,
And when with her,
Life was too short
Even with the nights thrown in.
Added by Jennie V. Johnson Hardin