Mary Aspinall Harding


Mary Aspinall Harding

By her daughters Phyllis Harding and Vera H. Bennett

Grandma Mollie Harding

Mother’s life story begins in beautiful England.  “Oh, to be in England now that April’s there.”  (Robert Browning)  She often quoted to us in the springtime.  “England has such lovely hedgerows, such pleasantly winding paths, and oh, the perfume of roses!  One just doesn’t get the perfume here in Canada”, I’ve heard her say time and time again.

Love of flowers is an integral part of Mom.  Our earliest recollections were ones of her tending her flower garden outside of her houseplants indoors.  And even in her eighties she still loves taking care of her plants and bringing her favorite blossoms into the house for a floral centerpiece of her table.

Mother, Mary Aspinall, a Lancashire lass called Molly, daughter of James Aspinall and Sarah Hayes Aspinall was born on the sixth day of February, 1882 in Pennington a little hamlet of the borough of Leigh, Lancashire, England.

Leigh with its surrounding hamlets was set on a low level plain with mountains to be seen only on the far distant horizon.  This busy farming community was also a coal mining center and a location for silk and cotton mills or spinning factories.

The house in which Mother was born was a white washed adobe house of six rooms.  On the ground floor were the parlor, dining room and kitchen with all the bedrooms upstairs.  The house joined a hay barn at the rear with the shelter for the livestock farther back.  The house was built on a piece of land called Aspull Common Farm, land attached to which is now under the “Flash”, (a body of natural run off water).

The Common was land owned by the government and set aside for the farmers who owned the surrounding farmlands to build their houses on (in a row) and to afford a place for the children to play.  The farms around the common belonged to the gentry, the term applied to farmers who owned their own land.  John Hayes, Mothers grandfather, was on of these.  He had owned this home and farm until his death when these became the property of his youngest child, Sarah Hayes Aspinall, and her husband, our Grandma and Grandpa Aspinall.

Mother was the fourth child of a family of six children.  They were:

Lucy born 3 April 1874

Hugh born 21 December 1877

John born 12 December 1879

Mary born 6 February 1882

William born 29 October 1884

Amy born 18 June 1895

All the children were born in Pennington except Amy who came along eleven years after Bill.  She was born in Howebridge when her mother was forty-eight and one half years old.

Mother always remembered the day her brother Bill was born although she was only two years old at the time.  The doctor came downstairs after the baby had arrived, patting his pocket and saying:  “I’ve got him here.”  This must have startled her so much she never forgot it.  She and her brother Bill were very devoted companions all through their childhood, always playing together and getting along well with each other.  But her brother Jack, two years older than her, she classed as a “Queer One”.  He was the one who later at the age of sixteen ran away, presumable to sea, and was never heard of again.

Mother never knew her grandparents on either the Aspinall side or the Hayes side.

Her paternal grandfather, Hugh Aspinall (December 1808 – June 1888), died when she was only five years old.  As he lived in Lowton she doesn’t remember him.  Her paternal grandmother, Mary Caldwell, (September 1810 – January 1873) had died before she was born.  These grandparents both died in Lowton, their birthplace.

Hugh was a silk weaver.  He had old looms handed down from past generations located right in his own home.  He became a very well to do man working in silk weaving factories in Lowton.

The first Mormon missionaries to England traveled without purse or script.  One day Hugh invited two of these missionaries into his home for a meal.  As there wasn’t enough food prepared to go around the two youngest children in the family Lucy and James (Mother’s father) had to eat bread and milk.  Consequently Mormons were never very popular with them.

Mother can remember, however, that this Aunt Lucy was the best woman she ever knew.  She held family prayers in her home.  She was good to everyone.  The house where she lived after her marriage was called “The Twelve Apostles” as twelve oak trees grew along the front of it.  When one tree blew down the family named it Judas Iscariot.  Her home was located at a place called “Golborne”.  Mother when a young girl stayed with her in the summer holidays.

Her maternal grandfather John Hayes (January 1803 – November 1881) was nearly seventy-nine years old when he passed away.  This was just a few months before Mother was born.  One morning some time before his death he was heard raising a fuss because he couldn’t get his pants on.  When his daughter went up to his bedroom to see what was wrong she found he had both legs in one pant leg.

Mary Kay Hayes, his wife (August 1800 – December 1882) died before Mother was a year old.  Mother’s favorite aunt on the Hayes side (her mother’s sister) was her aunt Mary.  Another of her mother’s sisters Elisabeth Hayes Southern was very rich.  She gave her poor Sarah a sixpence once and told her not to spend it foolishly.  This aunt lived in Victoria; BC for a while but went back to England.

John Hayes was born and raised in Pennington in probably the same house in which mother was born.  Mary Kay Hayes was also born and raised in Pennington and came to live in this house when she was married.  They raised their family there.

Besides farming, John Hayes used to act as carrier between Bolton and Warrington, for these were the days before railways and the only means of conveyance were a horse and cart.  There was no parcel post, either, and so he used to be a general utility man for the district.  He used to take orders from the people round about for anything they required, be to hair ribbons or groceries; he used to make his purchases at Leigh, Bolton or Warrington, and bring them back home with him.  (This information is taken from a Leigh Paper clipping, 1937).

He was the father of seven children.  Our grandmother Sarah Hayes Aspinall was the youngest child.  When she married James Aspinall from nearby Lowton she couldn’t leave her folks as they were old and needed her.  All her brothers and sisters had settled on land of their own by this time.  When her parents died she inherited the house and the farm.  However, as her husband hadn’t liked living with these folks he began going to a “pub” a short distance from their house in the evenings.  This public house known as Robin Hood and Little John had a gaily-printed sign outside bearing these words:

Come all ye jolly archers stout and good

Pray call and take a glass with Robin Hood

If Robin Hood be not within

Then take a glass with Little John.

At this time Grandma’s sister and her husband kept it.  Grandma could remember distinctly the arrival of a company of red-jacketed bowmen, led by a member of the Royal Family, reining in and with one accord accepting the invitation of the sign.  She could also remember Market Street in Leigh being so narrow that when a load of hay was taken through it the hay would reach the shops on either side, and anyone lying on top of the hay could see right into the upstairs rooms.  She remembered too, the coming of the first railways through Leigh.  (These reminiscences were taken from a write up in a 1937 Leigh Newspaper on the occasion of Grandma’s nineteenth birthday.)

Grandpa Aspinall’s visits to the “pub” eventually led to heavy drinking, which habit brought, through ensuing years, much unhappiness to his wife and family.

Our grandpa, James Aspinall, (24 January 1846 – 9 August 1909) was born in Lowton, Lancashire.  He was the youngest of his family, a good-looking, well-educated man and a well-informed and intelligent conversationalist.  He was also very talented.  He could play the piano and organ (Mother remembers the organ they always had in their parlor).  He could play the violin having taught himself to play.  He had a fine bass voice often singing at concerts as well as in the church choir.  He had an excellent library of classical books and enjoyed studying them.

He trained as a member of the Home Guard.  When in uniform which included the Busby (the helmet of bear skin) his hair could be seen to be the same color.  His eyes were dark hazel.  He was not tall, about five feet seven inches in height and of stocky build.

Before his marriage he worked as a pavior (paving with rocks).  He helped lay the first train track through Leigh.  He was a railway employee at the time of his marriage to Sarah Hayes.

(With his good looks, education and talent he could have made something of himself but because of his drinking habits the family was often ashamed of him.)

Our grandma, Sarah Hayes Aspinall (17 January 1847 – 4 June 1941), was a slender woman of medium height.  She had lovely light brown hair, blue, blue eyes and a thin patrician nose.  She also was quite well educated having the advantages of education at a private school at Lane Head.  Women in the community where she lived looked up to Sarah and asked her advice because she had had a better education than many of the other farmer’s wives.

She had two sisters who with her were called “The Bonnie Wenches”.  They sang in the choir at Leigh Parish Church where the family attended.  She owned a grand piano inherited from her father.  It was probably through her interest in music that she met James Aspinall.

After their marriage at Pennington Church, as he worked for the railway company, she did most of the work on the farm.  Mother can remember as a very young girl being out in the field with her mother as she planted potatoes with a shovel.  Perhaps to help keep the children contented she sent her oldest child Lucy with a “Hapenny” to the store to buy some candy but Lucy had most of it eaten before she got back.  Mother remembers also her family having to go a quarter of a mile for water from a natural cave.

Mother remembers her “one and only” doll given to her by a gypsy.  This doll had belonged to his niece who went to America.  She remembers when just four years old her mother had some rich friends come to see her.  These visitors put tiny Mother up on the grand piano and gave her a penny to sing to them.  When older, in a singing class at school the principal asked her to sing stating that both her mother and father were good singers.  When she sang and went off key, the class laughed at her.  This hurt her feelings so much she never sang again until she became a grown woman.

In one of their homes, a house in Leigh, the corner of the back garden joined the corner of a cricket field.  She and her brothers used to watch the cricket matches.  During one match Jack had a tooth broken off by a cricket ball.  Mother remembers they lived on a street near a railroad and canal.  The front of the house was right on the street.  The family earned a little money taking rags to a paper mill.

When her father had had to give up Aspull Common Farm because of the gradual approach of the waters of the “Flash” he bought a small farm at Lodstock but the family didn’t stay there long.  Because of her husband’s drinking up his earnings and not being able to pay his way, Sarah Aspinall had to make several moves with her family to new locations.  Mother, just home from school one day heard a couple of women who had just attended a close-out sale of their land and belongings (they kept only the furniture) saying that Mrs. Aspinall was a good hard working woman but her husband was a good-for-nothing blankety-blank.

They lived in homes at Westhaughten, Leigh, Howebridge, Atherton (after Mother had left) and later back to the house at 7 Aspull Common, Leigh. Amy, of course, was the only one left at home by then.  This house was within fifty yards of the old spot where Grandma Aspinall was born.  Grandpa Aspinall died in 1909 after having been helpless for years suffering from a stroke.  Grandma had earned her living doing such things as taking in washings.  When Amy married Tom Mann they lived there with Grandma.  Grandma died there on Wednesday, June 4, 1941 at the age of ninety-four.  In spite of her many years of hard work Grandma had enjoyed good health.  At the celebration of her ninetieth birthday she had a birthday cake with ninety candles on it.  It was decorated in re, white and blue on account of the Coronation of King George the Sixth and Queen Elisabeth.  When this royal couple visited Leigh, Grandma’s was given a special place of honor, as she was Leigh’s oldest citizen.  Grandma was known to hundreds of people as Aunt Sarah.  When she passed away she left behind fifteen grandchildren none of whom she had seen as they were all in Canada.

When “Molly” was five years old she started to school.  She loved to learn and was always rated as top scholar in all her classes.  She was especially good in arithmetic.  Her favorite subject was geography.  She was educated in the school near her home as high as they thought there.  (England Church School at Westhoughten).  She went to school until she was eleven years old and in Standard Six, (equivalent to about Grade 8).  At this time her family moved to a house in the country at Howebridge where there was no school close by.

Molly worked at home for two years.  One day she got into mischief with her brother Bill and got spanked.  When she stopped crying and began to laugh her mother was so provoked she almost spanked her the second time.  Amy was born in Howebridge two years after they moved there.

Howebridge was quite a historic site.  An old castle, called in Mother’s time Ole Hall Mill, was erected in the days of the Picts and Scots.  It had been destroyed but part of the moat remained and many ancient trees.  “Lions Bridge” crossed over the moat.  Two stone lions guarded each end of the bridge while two stood at the middle, but the ravages of time had worn away the lion’s faces and manes when Mother played around them as a child.  Lord Littleford, the man who owned the land round about the castle and bridge, had a steward to take care of his holdings.  Grandpa Aspinall had a job here at this time as one of his “farm agents”.

When mother was thirteen years old she left home to work for Mrs. Speakman, a wealthy widow who owned both farming lands and coalmines.  She lived in a big mansion called Bedford House.  She had had a stroke and couldn’t use her right hand.  In April of the year 1895 Mrs. Speakman drove out to the Aspinall home in her landau to get Mother to help her for a couple of weeks while on of her maids went on holiday.  A few weeks later Mrs. Speakman came again to get Mother to come back and remain on her household staff permanently.  Mother left this time never to know home life with her mother ever again as she only got back to her own home as a visitor after that.  On her afternoons off she walked the distance from Bedford House to her home to see her mother.  As Amy was born in June of this year, Mother never really knew this sister so much younger than herself.

Other members of the Aspinall family had worked for Mrs. Speakman.  Her father at one time worked at the Speakman Coal Mines “above the pits”.  Her sister Lucy had been employed at Bedford house as the cook.  Her brother Jack worked at the house as an errand boy.  He had to do such things as clean shoes and help the nurse push the wheel chair around.  Mrs. Speakman had promised to send him to night school so that he could get a job I n an office, but she kept putting him off as she liked having him around to help her.  When he was sixteen years old he could take this no longer.  One Sunday Mother saw him leave Bedford House as usual to go home.  But he didn’t reach home and none of the family ever saw him again.  Mother had to go to his room, pack his belongings and take them into her room.

The Aspinalls were members of the Church of England.  Mother went to Sunday School and church as a child to the chapel located in Leigh.  The children first attended Sunday school classes then were marched as a group to church and sat in the back pews.  A man with a long stick stood in the aisle to poke them if they weren’t quiet.  Mother was a spiritually minded child.  She believed in God and had been taught to pray to Him.  But she was disappointed with her minister when she attended her confirmation classes at the age of thirteen who didn’t give her the spiritual food she was hungry for.

It was at this early age that she now began earning her living.  She first worked as an “under” housemaid.  At eighteen years of age she became a housemaid and a waitress.  Then at the age of twenty she, against her own wishes, was made cook when her sister Lucy gave up the job.  She remained at this until she left to come to Canada.

In the morning the servants wore print dresses white aprons and white caps, in the afternoon they had to change to black dresses, white aprons and white caps.

Mother who had always been so fond of eating bananas but rarely ever had the chance, had said that when she began to earn money of her own she would buy a bunch of bananas and eat her fill of them.  One day she bought several pounds of them and sat down in the park to enjoy her treat.  But to her disappointment she could eat only one of them after all.

The holiday trip best remembered by mother that she took while a working girl was a trip she took one summer to the “Isle of Man”.  She loved the water; and especially enjoyed boat riding.

Mrs. Speakman had one or two trained nurses taking care of her all the time.  She had a bed set up in her library with a commode beside the bed.  She would spend her time doing needlework with her left hand.  When the nurse had a day off Mother had to take care of this woman who weighed over two hundred pounds.

However, Mrs. Speakman paid Mother’s way to night school where Mother learned dressmaking, cooking and laundering.

Mother’s closest friends working along with her at Bedford House were Nellie Unsworth Tunnicliffe who later moved to Rhode Island, USA and Mrs. Blood’s mother who moved to South Africa.  They both corresponded with mother in Canada.

When Mrs. Speakmans mind became “unsafe” the family put Mother in charge of the money for the household shopping.  The family consisted of four sons.  Harry, the oldest, was married.  He was overseer of the mines.  He was knighted by the King in the First World War.  Ernest, overseer of the farm, was part owner of a foundry.  He was a stammering bachelor and though “Our Mary” was the nicest, best-looking girl on the staff. (This opinion was overheard by one of the maids and relayed to Mother)  Tom and Edgerton were away at school.  Harry gave Mother fifty pounds English money, when she left England to come to Canada.  She had worked for this family for fifteen years.

This is the story of how mother was converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Her sister Lucy Aspinall had met two Mormon missionaries at a home of a widow lady who took in boarders for a living.  Lucy often went to help this woman with her work.  One day Lucy sent Mother a note asking her if she would go to a “social” with her on Saturday night, which she did.  Although it was an informal gathering of Mormons in which not one word of their beliefs was mentioned Mary Aspinall came away from there a different person.  She knew that she at last had found what her soul had been searching for:  “the peace that passeth all understanding”.  The next day being Sunday, February 1904, she went to their church service which was held in a large rented hall.  President Heber J. Grant, then a young missionary in England, spoke.  After this she knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the despised Mormons had the truth.  She never went to any other church after that day.

On the 13th of July 1904 she was baptized a member of the Church in a public bath (an indoor swimming pool).  Her sister Lucy was baptized the same day.  They are the only members of the family to join the church.

Here is Mothers “The Story of My Conversion”, re-written word for word from a copy in her own handwriting.

“To tell the story of my conversion to the Church I think I’ll begin with my childhood.  My Mother taught me to pray as soon as I could speak, a set prayer such as “Now I lay me down to sleep” or something like that: but I soon prayed for what I wanted or needed.  When I was four I remember praying for a dog that I loved and my prayer was answered, and so on through the years.

“We belonged to the Church of England as it was called and so when I was about thirteen I attended confirmation classes.  When as a baby you are baptized (sprinkled) your godmother if a girl baby, promises certain things in your name and when you are old enough you take those promises yourself at confirmation.  The vicar has classes for those to be confirmed.  He started to tell the meaning of the altar and so in, and I remember shaking with eagerness thinking I would learn all about the belief of the church and meaning of everything but I was disappointed.

“When I was fourteen my brother Jack who was sixteen, left the place where he was working on Sunday morning and was never heard of again.  My father tried to find out where he had gone; thought he had stolen away on a ship as that is what he wanted to do.  Nothing was ever heard of him.

“When I was twenty years old, my sister Lucy was acquainted with some spiritualist mediums and she heard of what the spiritualist mediums could tell you.  So she got something that my Dad had that had been my brother’s to take to her.

“She told her that she saw him hid behind a coil of ropes; described the suit he had on, a navy blue with a dark red thread here and there; and what is the matter with his front tooth, it is broken off. (It was.  He was hit by a cricket ball, when we were watching a match, I was about ten and he was twelve.)

“It shook the foundations under me (as it were) it spiritualism was true but I prayed as I always did when in doubt to know if spiritualism was true; and I worked up with the conviction that it wasn’t but I still didn’t realize that the church, too, was wrong.

“About two years after, my sister Lucy had met some Mormon missionaries; she went sometimes to help a widow lady who took in boarders for a living, and two of her boarders were Mormon missionaries.  They weren’t very young, both married, one was a butcher from Raymond and the other a barber from Salt Lake.  I hadn’t seen them but had heard of these Mormon missionaries who were polygamists and enticed girls to Salt Lake etc.  My sister sent me a note asking me to go with her to a social on Saturday night.  I said, “Il’’ bet anything it is those old Mormons!” in a voice of scorn and disgust.  I forgot to mention that I had been praying for some time for “That peace that passeth all understanding” that the Vicar asked for us every Sunday in the service at the conclusion.

“Anyway, I went’ didn’t know a soul, only my sister.  It was a social, not a work of their belief mentioned, thought some of the girls were laughing at me.  We came down from that room into the crowded a street (it was Saturday night), walked home alone about a mile and a half never touched the ground, or so it seemed, I was jostled in the crowd but never felt it.

“The next morning I went to their meeting, it was in a large hall and President Grant was the only speaker I remembered and he spoke on spiritualism and said that the devil will tell ninety nine truths to get in one lie.

“I knew then, as I often say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the despised Mormons had the truth.  I never went to any church in England after that except the upper room that smelled of smoke etc. but when we were there the spirit of the Lord was present in rich abundance.

“This is my testimony for which I am eternally grateful.”

Signed “Mary Aspinall Harding

After mother and Lucy had become members of the Church, Lucy wanted her father (who had had a stroke and had been helpless for a long time) administered to by the Elders.  But their mother said, “No, he might get better and go back to drinking again.”

Six years after Mother’s conversion to the Church, when she was twenty-eight years old she left her beloved England from the port of Liverpool to sail to Canada.  It was the year 1910.  She left her mother and sister Amy behind.  Her brothers Hugh and Bill and sister Lucy were already settled in Canada.

While on board ship something happened which tested her faith to the utmost.  She fell in love with a Mr. Goodfellow, a wonderful man but not a member of the church.  He continued to correspond with her after the “parting of their ways” but “a power stronger than herself compelled her to write to him and call it off.”

Mother arriving in Canada at Montreal travelled across the continent by train.  Another English girl Emily (Ashton was her married name) traveled with her stopping off at Burdett, Alberta.

Mother went to her sister Lucy, now Mrs. Lawrence Peterson, living in Barnwell, Alberta.  In a few weeks she found a job.  First she worked in Taber for a woman with several children.  The job was so nerve-racking she quit.  She told the woman:  “If you had taught your children to be obedient they wouldn’t be so troublesome.”  Next, she worked for a woman in Welling who had a new baby, and then she worked for Bishop Johnson in Barnwell.  The next place was at Lawrence Peterson’s sister’s home.  She stayed there until her employer died of heart trouble.  Next she moved to the Wilde’s home in Welling and helped Sister Louise Wilde who wasn’t well.  Sister Wilde’s son Arthur was married to Lawrence Peterson’s sister Mary.  This Art Wilde was the same man who had worked with our Dad for three years on the railroad in Utah as section hand just before the turn on the century (around 1896).

At this time, in the spring of 1912, Mary and Art Wilde lived on a farm in Taber near Milton and Josie Conrad’s farm and only a few miles west of the John James Harding homestead.  One day in Welling, Sister Wilde decided she would go visiting.  Taking Mother along for company, she drove by horse and buggy to Taber to her son Art’s home.  There she found his wife Mary taking care of a little two-year-old girl, Iola Harding who had lost her Mother a short time before.

It so happened that the young widower, John Harding, with his four year old son Willie with him, decided to visit the Wilde’s home that same evening to see how Iola was getting along.  Mother, seated by the window saw John Harding coming across their front yard.  “Oh, what nice eyes this man had”, she thought to herself.

When alone with Mother, Mary Wilde told her how much this man needed someone to take care of his home.  Mother felt so sorry for the motherless children she later allowed the Wilde’s to make arrangements for her to work for him.

Her new employer had a house with two rooms.  Besides the two children he had his brother Roy and his nephew Dean Harding living with him.  Dean slept up in the attic.  John and Roy slept in the kitchen on a folding bed, which folded up into the wall.  Mother and the two kids slept in a tiny bedroom.  Roy teased Mother because she propped a chair against her door every night.

In a short time the children loved her and were calling her “Mama” in public.  Their father learned to love her, too.  When he proposed she “wasn’t particularly thrilled”.  His tears convinced her of his love and because she felt sorry for him and the kids she accepted his proposal of marriage.

John Harding and Mary Aspinall were married on the 10th of January 1913 in the Salt Lake Temple.

They went down to Salt Lake City by train in the latter part of December 1212, taking the two children with them.  Dad sold four cows to pay for the trip.  As Mother took sick on the way down, when they finally arrived in Provo at Grandpa and Grandma Harding’s home she had to go to bed for several days.  Then finding out that the temple had closed for the Christmas holidays, they stayed on in Provo until it re-opened in January.

Mother remembers Grandpa Harding as a gruff old man with a white beard.  She also remembers Dad’s Aunt Maria who lived nearby bringing over some delicious winter pears for them to enjoy.

Before the wedding in Salt Lake City they were given the hospitality of the home of Dad’s Aunt, Mary Evans Taylor.  When they came out of the temple Dad’s sister Iva Harding met them with the children.  She then took Bill and Iola back to Provo with her while Mother and Dad stayed with Dad’s uncle, Edward Harding in Salt Lake City the first night.  Then they visited with a friend of Mother’s who had come over on the same ship with Mother from England to marry a missionary.  The next day Mother and Dad returned to Provo, presumably by train, to pick up their family for the return trip to Canada and to their little house on the Taber homestead.

Mother loved this home.  It was here that three of her four children were born.  (Taber’s doctor, Dr. Hamman, attended her for all her confinements.)  When Norman was born 31 October 1913 Aunt Sarah came out to help while Mother was in bed.  When Vera was born 12 September 1915 Aunt Lizzy Aspinall was there to take care of Mother. Dad hired a Barnwell girl, Rose Henderson, to help with the housework for a while.

Because of the increased size of the family now, Dad had the little house enlarged after moving it south to a new location behind a nice windbreak of trees.  This new house had three bedrooms on the east with a spare upstairs bedroom besides.  The former large kitchen became the dining – living room, the tiny bedroom became the kitchen with just enough room for the kitchen range and Dad’s built-in cupboards and washstand.  Adjoining this was the “Back room” where was located the sink and pump over the natural well in the basement.

In the winters the family lived in their small town house, an old harness shop Dad had got from Uncle Earl.  It had one huge living room (the shop part) and two rooms, the kitchen and bedroom behind.  It was here that Baby Mary was born on 25 January 1919, here that she died during the flu epidemic of that year, 10 April 1919 and here that the funeral was held.

Phyllis, Mother’s fourth child was born prematurely on 29 April 1920 just after the family had moved from town back to the farm for the spring and summer.  Sister Longden, mother of Johnny Longden, the now famous jockey, came out to be with Mother for a few days.

Having already lost one daughter, mother’s faith was tested to the limit when Phyllis at two years of age became critically ill.  Since the doctor had the baby put in the Taber hospital so that she could have constant attention.  Mother took Vera along for company and stayed in the town house during the period Phyllis was under the doctor’s care.  When the Doctor (Dr. Roy) told Mother there was little hope of saving her baby Mother went to the Lord in fervent prayer that the little life could be spared.  Mother had always been afraid to bear her testimony in public but she promised the Lord that if He would restore Phyllis to her health and strength she would bear her testimony whenever the opportunity presented itself for the rest of her life.  This she has done.  Innumerable people have been influenced by Mother’s testimony that she knows “beyond the shadow of a doubt” that the gospel is true.

The old surrey took us back and forth to church in our childhood days pulled, of course by Dad’s best-behaved team of horses.  Mother often sat on the back seat with the younger children as one or two of us usually went to sleep with our heads on her lap during the long, tiresome ride home.

Mother helped Dad as much as she could on the farm while her health lasted.  She shoveled wheat in harvest time, burned weeds in spring planting time. She tried to drive four horses on a harrow once.  When the horses stopped to eat (in hard times the horses got little feed) she couldn’t get them to go again.  When Dad came to see what the trouble was he found rocks Mother had thrown all around the horses and Mother mad and almost in tears.  That was her one and only attempt to drive horses.

Mother had only two hired men to “bed and board” while she was raising her family.  One was Vernon Biglow who stayed through one summer and the other was Leo Whitelock who helped Dad one season.  Mother’s biggest job of the year was the feeding of the threshers.  She was always glad when they had come and gone.

She saw many years of hard times when crops were eaten by grasshoppers, burned by drought or flattened by hail.

In England Mother had only heard thunder rumbling in the dist ant hills and wasn’t prepared for the vivid flashes of lightning that frightened her so during the summer storms on the prairie.  She laughs at how she used to duck her head down lower than her steel bed posts so that they would get hit instead of her.

Mother’s only vacation trips in those days were the berry picking excursions Dad took her on down to Chin Coulee about twelve miles south west from the farm.  He would hitch up a team to the wagon or surrey, load up his wife and excited kids with several syrup pails full of food besides lots of empty lard pails to pick the berries in (Saskatoon’s or chokecherries) and away we would go at break of dawn.  The only time we ever saw Mother astride a horse was when Dad was transporting her across the creek so that she could look for berries on the other side.  She liked to go “swimming” with us at the close of the afternoon in Chin Lake as we freshened up before starting for home.  (Mother actually did learn to swim later on in life after she was fifty years of age when Phyllis and Vera took her with them into the main ditch on the irrigated farm.)

Mother always loved gardening.  She made our old farm as dry as it was, blossom not only with flowers but also with wonderful things to eat.  Her specialty was raising tomatoes.  Every year without fail we enjoyed the earliest, largest, most delicious tomatoes in the district (because of her constant care in potting out, pruning and staking her plants), first on the dry land and then on the irrigated farm.  She did this yearly until after she was eighty years of age.

After she sent us off to school across the prairie she dispelled her loneliness with hard work.  She churned with her big wooden barrel churn, washed clothes with the hand-operated washing machine on the back porch and ironed with the heavy flat irons heated on the kitchen range.  She mixed bread in a huge enamel bread pan and put out six loaves together in the big black dripper.  Dad bought her a bread mixer with a hand crank once but she didn’t like it.  She followed her English way of airing all bedding out on the clothesline once a week.  Of course, her kids had fun running up and down between the blankets.  She was a skillful seamstress.  She could make a dress without a pattern just by seeing the style of it in the Eaton catalogue.

Mother did as much canning as she possible could.  She wasn’t able to buy much fruit in the early days but we usually had plenty of rhubarb from the garden, which she put into the fruit jars with serviceberries to serve as our main fruit supply.  We enjoyed her chokecherry jelly for dessert too.  Tomatoes, of course, were plentiful.  Mother often had to “salt down” our supply of corn and string beans in crooks to preserve them, as we didn’t have as many jars as we needed.  Dad managed to have a root cellar full of good potatoes for winter with a few red beets and carrots as well.

For a few seasons out on this dry land farm we enjoyed strawberries from a nice patch Dad got started.  But the “Dry Years” ended production.  We soon were forced to leave this home to seek a better living on an irrigated farm.

The acquiring of this new farm and getting located in a home there took several years to accomplish.

In the latter part of the nineteen twenties the Sugar Factory officials were experimenting with sugar beets in the Taber area.  Father tried two acres of beets on his homestead farm.  (By this time he had surveyed the land and had dug an irrigation ditch across our land bringing it along a “fill” from the neighbors ditch.)  When thinning time came Dad blocked the beets while Mother and Norman crawled along the rows to thin and weed them.

The Taber Irrigation District was organized at this time and the church authorities, the Stake Presidency in Lethbridge, were advising the farmers to get a piece of land, irrigated land, and to keep it.  In 1929 Dad borrowed money and bought eight acres one and one half miles south of Taber where Mother’s home is now located,

During the summer holidays of 1930 we lived at the dear old homestead for the last time.  It was in the spring of this year while Bill and Dad were out putting in the crops there, that dad was kicked by a horse and suffered a badly fractured leg.  When Bill brought Dad to town in our Car Mother was at a Primary Officers meeting at Elizabeth Pierson’s home.  She missed the excitement of getting Dad on to the living room couch and of summoning Dr. Brown.  Later Dr. Brown arranged for dad to be taken to the Galt Hospital in Lethbridge, which at that time was the closest hospital to us.  Mother has always expressed gratitude for the many friends who came to offer assistance at that time.

Because of Dad’s injury and his being on crutches most of that crop year he was unable to take care of his new irrigated farm and of course, suffered financially as well as physically.

For the next few years he kept his family at the town house.  Many times during this period Mother had her daughters walked the two miles and back to the farm to take care of the big garden they had planted there.

Between 1931 and 1932 Dad bought an old house from the abandoned White Ash Mine site and had it moved in two sections to the irrigated farm.  From the back section Dad fixed up a two-room lean-to in which he and his sons batched.

Dad also had the barn moved from behind our house in town to the irrigated farm. As the men had young Norman riding on the top of the barn as it was being moved, to help clear the wires over it at the railway crossing corner, Mother stood at the window a half a mile away praying that he wouldn’t get hurt.  As she prayed, Norman was flipped by a cable from his 30-foot high position.  Miraculously he caught a hold on the framework of the barn as he fell and hung on until rescued.

When Jennie and Bill were married on 26 April 1933 they lived in two rooms of the house during the winter months then moved out to the dry farm.  In the spring of 1934 Mother moved from the town house for the last time.  She began living at the irrigated farm although the old house was still in a very poor condition.  When the men were busy she and her daughters had to carry water from the irrigation ditch for washing.  Drinking water was hauled from town until a cistern could be built.

Iola and Calvin, who were married on 20 June 1934, lived in the town house until after Dick was born May 1935.  Iola set up her beauty parlor in the big living room.  Dad eventually sold this house, as he couldn’t get satisfactory renters for it. Our dear old homestead house burned down one summer while Bill and Jennie, Iola and Calvin were both living there.  Meanwhile, in 1936, Dad had had the house on the irrigated farm remodeled to include a basement, a kitchen and pantry, two bedrooms with closets, dining room and a living room.  When a kitchen sink with an inside water pump was installed Mother had a much more comfortable home.  She and dad surrounded it with trees, flowers and lawn with fruit trees and the vegetable garden in the back.

During the Second World War, President Edward J. Wood advised Dad and Mother and others assembled in the temple at Cardston one day to have their homes dedicated to the Lord.  On February 19, 1941, the family sat together in a circle in their kitchen, (the longest room in the house) and Patriarch t. W. Harris dedicated this home with Bernice Bodie acting as scribe.

Mother and Dad had the joy of having a son, Norman; go on a mission to Samoa in 1939-1941 (he finished his mission in California due to the outbreak of war with Japan).  They also had the joy of having a daughter go on a mission to Eastern Canada (Phyllis 1947-1948).  Mother was very ill in bed when Phyllis left home.  Mother and Dad were present at the temple when their daughter Vera was married on 29 June 1949 and when Norman was married on 2 July 1953 as they had been also when the older children were married.

After the war, Dad, who had never been free from debt, finally finished all his land payments and began to prosper.  Mother was able to have electricity in her home with her first electric washer and refrigerator, also propane gas with furnace and kitchen range.

Mother’s two most anxious times were when Dad had his first operation for ulcers in 1941 and his second in 1951.  When he had a stroke the morning of 21 April 1955 and passed away it was a terrible shock for Mother but she had faith that “it was for the best”.

As Dad had promised Phyllis that he would provide for her if she stayed at home to take care of him and Mother, Phyllis faithfully did this, staying on alone with Mother after dad passed away.  She has devoted her time to making Mother’s life as happy and comfortable as possible – sewing all her dresses, cooking, chauffeuring, doctoring her through long nights of pain and sickness.  Mother has often expressed her thankfulness for Phyllis.

Some of the sayings Mother used to quote to us were ones used by her own mother to describe her, such as: “You’d go through a hedge if the devil stood in the gap.”

Your head is full of jolly-robins.

A word to the wise should be sufficient.

Remember your failing!

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve.

Hard work never killed anybody unless it fell on top of them.

They (parents) are making a rod for their own backs.

Be thankful for small mercies!

Let that be a lesson to you!

When Mother got irked over anything the strongest words she ever used were:  “Shoot the shoot” or “Northumberland, Cumberland, Durham” or “Drat it” or “Dash” or “Land of Goshen”.

At night to her children at bedtime she said:  “To bed, to bed, curly heads” and sang, “The moon has his eyes on you, so be careful what you do.”

Mother’s favorite color was yellow.  Favorite candy – peppermint humbugs.  Favorite pastimes – reading and gardening.

Mother was remarkable o\in her way of being self-educated.  She knew the names of countless authors, could quote from memory poems “galore” as well as Bible quotations; she was a “walking dictionary” to her children constantly amazing them with her knowledge of the English language.  (She even wrote some poems of her own).  She had a profound knowledge of the gospel and was quick and eager to take part in class discussions.  It bothered her very much when her memory began to fail.

Mother was able to do a little traveling in the latter part of her life.  Her first trip to Waterton was in 1932 when she was invited to go along with the Bee Hive girls as chaperone because she had furnished them with over one hundred names for baptisms at the Cardston temple.

While serving in the Relief Society Stake presidency she took a trip to General Conference in Salt Lake City with some other sisters of the ward, traveling by bus.

She saw Edmonton, Banff and Lake Louise when Vera was attending the University of Alberta Summer School about 1945, traveling by bus and train.

She and Dad went by train to Victoria, BC to visit with her brother Hugh, Lizzie and family in 1948.  (In July or August).  In October of this same year they went by car to Winnipeg to meet Phyllis who was returning from her mission in Eastern Canada.  Dad had bought our first new car, a Kaiser, for this trip.  His nephew, Ken Harding, drove the car for him.  They enjoyed this trip so much they got Ken to drive the car again the next summer, 1949, to Victoria, BC.

In 1951, Mother and dad went o Utah with Jennie and Bill and had a good visit with relatives.

The last longest trip Mother took was to Kimberly, BC in October 1960 for the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Uncle Reed and Aunt Sarah.  She traveled with her son Bill in his car along with other members of the family.

But Waterton Lakes National Park always remained Mother’s favorite place to go.  In the Centennial Year of 1967 when she was eighty-five years old she enjoyed every minute of her two-night stay there.  She traveled by car with her two daughters Phyllis and Vera along with Dennis Bennett and the four Bennett children.  She also enjoyed her visit to Writing-On-Stone Park the same summer.

In 1969 she traveled by car to Waterton for a two-night stay going with Phyllis and nieces Mary and Metta Jo.

Mother had relatively few accidents in her life.  Back in England in her girlhood she broke her nose but she cannot remember the details of this accident.  However, she can still feel the crooked place along the bridge of her nose.

Once in her early-married life she kicked a pig that had the audacity to venture into her garden but she paid for this act with a dislocated toe joint.  The “bunion” as she called it that developed caused her considerable misery though a long period of her life.

In the summer of 1950 she broke her arm when she tripped and fell in the barnyard while she was out taking care of the chickens. This accident happened, she laughingly recalls, on Friday, the 13th but the break healed up nicely without complications.

In 1967 she cracked a bone in her leg when she fell in Vera’s kitchen and wore a cast for several months.

As a young girl in England, Mother had been very anemic and for a long period of time was given an iron tonic.  However, this medicine had ruined the enamel on some of her best teeth.  She had to have many teeth pulled.  All of her upper teeth were removed and a false plate was put in.  She kept some of her bottom teeth until the 1930’s but when they were extracted she couldn’t afford a false plate.  It wasn’t until the 1940’s after the war, that dad could afford to buy her a one hundred dollar complete set of false teeth from our dentist, Dr. Lynn.  However, Mother stuck the bottom plate up in the cupboard and never used them she had gone too long without bottom teeth and the false ones felt terrible and looked terrible.

Mother’s health began to give out during the hard anxious years on the old Homestead.  She used to get strange sinking spells when overtired which frightened the whole family.  As one doctor told her they were caused by her heart, many times when we got home from a school and called “mama, where are you?” and didn’t get an immediate answer we became alarmed until we found her. A later doctor, however, told her that her heart was perfectly all right, that the spells were caused by nerves.

Her first experience on the operating table was for a minor operation – the removal of her tonsils by Dr. Wines about 1939 or 1940.

Mother always said the reason she got ulcers was because without bottom teeth she couldn’t chew properly.  As early as 1932 she began to have severe gastric disturbances.  Finally about 1946 she was sent to Lethbridge for x-rays and an ulcer was located.  After following faithfully a diet treatment given her by Dr John Muth she was soon completely cured.

However, worse trouble showed up now in the form of gallstones.  She was ill with gall bladder trouble in April 1947 when Phyllis left on her mission.  Mother suffered so terrible from these painful attacks that she willing submitted to an operation in 1947 (by Dr. John Muth), which was completely successful.

Her later years have been marked by suffering mainly from arthritis especially in her knees.

Mother’s life was pretty lonesome out on the Old Homestead.  Visitors were “few and far between”.  She and her sister Lucy had only a few rare visits back and forth.  Her brother Hugh’s wife, Lizzie, with two children came and spent part of one summer with her during World War One while Hugh was in the services.  Her brother Bill’s wife, Betty, with two children spent a week with her one summer.  Her English friends, the Longden family and Ivy Biglow came to visit once in a while.  But the visits we children remember the best are the once from Aunt Ruby’s family when Uncle Earl drove them out in his old Gray Dart and Mother made a big freezer of her delicious home made ice-cream.

When living in town Mother had good neighbors.  She had Aunt Ruby Harding, Aunt Sarah Harding (until she moved to British Columbia), Dolly Haynes (for a few years), Laura birch and Annie Bland whom she loved to visit.  When her sister Lucy was taken by death in 1923 at was a sad blow to Mother.  Then when Sister Birch, Sister bland, and Aunt Ruby died (1936) she wept bitterly because the few women who had become close to her in her life were all taken away.

At her home on the irrigated farm she was again blessed with good neighbors.  Along with John and Ruth Haynes, dear Grandma (Mary) Haynes became her closest friend.  At the time of Dad’s passing dolly Haynes was again her neighbor, living just across the road from Mother.

Mother was a dedicated church worker.  She especially loved to teach.  She started out as a Sunday school teacher assisting Sister Hannah Russell, with the Kindergarten class of the Taber Ward Sunday School.  She served as a Sunday school teacher (teaching almost continuously from 1922, when her children were young, until she was seventy-five years old – almost 35 years).  She was first sustained in this capacity on 2 April 1922 (while Dad was serving in the Sunday School Superintendency as Counselor to Eddie Price) and released 1 January 1930.

On 30 November 1924, she was sustained as Second Counselor in the primary with Elizabeth Pierson, President and Emma Conrad, first counselor.  She was set apart on 7 December 1924 by George W. Birch.  She was released 8 September 1929.

She taught a Trail Builder class in Primary from 15 September 1929 to 25 January 1930.

She was very interested in Mutual Improvement Association activities taking part in many of them, including debates.  The judges gave the decision in her favor in one important debate simply because she stamped her foot to emphasize her point.  She was an active member of the Special Interest class in MIA teaching the lessons herself for a year or two.

Mother was an active Genealogical Researcher and supplied many names for temple work.  She served on the Ward Genealogical Committee for many years.  In this capacity she was given the responsibility one year of distributing family record books to the members of the ward.  As these heavy books had to be picked up in Lethbridge and she had no car, she prayed that a way would be opened that she could get them.  Her prayer was answered.  A member of the ward who owned a car knocked on her front door one morning to inquire if he could bring the books to Taber for her.

Mother taught in Relief Society for several years’ first teaching Literature lessons, the Theology lessons.  Then she received a very important call to serve in the Lethbridge Stake Relief Society Presidency with Ida Wood as President.  Mother was First counselor, Ethel Hall as second Counselor.  She was sustained on 13 august 1933.  She was released in September 1948.  A party was given in Lethbridge to honor this retiring Stake Board and a presentation was made of a china ornament and a book.

Mother along with her other duties was, of course, helping Dad those seventeen ears he served as Ward Clerk in the Taber Ward.

The last position Mother held in the church was Relief Society visiting teacher.  She served in this position until she was eighty-three years old and too crippled to get in and out of a car without help.  But she still continued to go to Sacrament Meetings and on the fast day stand and bear her testimony that she knows “beyond the shadow of a doubt” that God does live and he does indeed hear and answer our prayers, that Jesus is the Savior in the world and that Joseph Smith restored the True Gospel in this last dispensation.

Mother lived her religion too.  For example she would run across to the neighbors to get their washing off the clothesline when a dust storm sprang up when she knew the mother wasn’t home.  She took care of Aunt Ruby’s twelve children; meals included when needed, or would take Grandma Lyons out for a week’s rest on our farm.  When President David O. McKay issued the wish; “Every member a missionary”, mother after she was eighty years old walked one half mile in order that one of her neighbors could be asked the golden Questions:  “What do you know about the Mormons?” and “Do you want to know more?”  The neighbor didn’t want to hear about Mormonism but Mother said to us later; “Now, at least, I’ve done my part.”

Mother always encouraged her family to never think ill of anyone.  She had a kind word and a happy smile for everyone – a true advocate of love and peace among men.  Because of these characteristics and a lively sense of humor she was loved in return by scores of friends young and old who affectionately called her aunt Molly.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. air conditioning in murrells inlet
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 16:16:12

    Good day! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after looking at many of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!


  2. Jill Cross
    Jun 21, 2014 @ 23:39:38

    We own number 5 Aspull Common, and it is built on the site of three of the cottages, number 7 being one of them………..Sarah’s presence was always there!!!. I nearly called it Sarah’s Cottage. Now we live in the USA and cannot believe I am reading this ….amazing!!!!!


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