HISTORY OF MARTHA SMITH
By Martha Smith Riggs
See story: My Mother's 3 Younger Brothers
My father, Charles Pears Smith, was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, on January 9, 1833. When he was 16 years old, he came to America with his mother Mary Pears Smith and four brothers, Thomas, Richard, William and John. His father died of cholera on the ship and was buried at sea.
They landed in New Orleans, La. where the older boys worked on the docks until they earned the necessary money to bring them to Utah.
In the year 1863, Father and Mother were married in Salt Lake City. Mother was born in or near Bradford, Yorkshire, England, on January 5, 1842. She came to Florence, Massachusetts, and lived there six years before coming to Utah. Shortly after the marriage, father, with mother and her daughter, Elizabeth Ann, who was born out of wedlock in Massachusetts, January 5, 1860; settled in the town of Beaver, Utah, where they lived for one year. One child, Charles William was born there, on 24th of January, in 1864.
They, with others, settled in the ferocious "Muddy" country, where they lived in the town of St. Thomas for seven years. Mother was in great demand at public gatherings because of her beautiful voice. Three children were born there: Sarah Cecelia, May 29, 1866; John Walter, July 16, 1868 (died May 18, 1871); and Mary Wilkenson, October 22, 1870.
They went through terrible hardships and were just beginning to reap the reward of their labor, when because of political trouble between the states of Utah and Nevada, they were advised by the Church leaders to abandon their homes, and so the inhabitants of St. Thomas were scattered all over the states of Utah and Arizona. Father settled in a place called Long Valley, later named Glendale, Utah, in 1872. Two children were born there: Emma, born November 28, 1872 and Joseph Wilkenson, August 23, 1874. From there they moved to the northern part of the state, staying in Hoytsville for the winter. They then moved to Bear River where they lived one year. From there they moved to a place called Sucker springs on Henryís Fork, a tributary of Bear River, where they lived for two years. I was born while they lived in this place, in a little town named Randolph, about 30 miles from fatherís ranch. When I was three days old, mother wanted to go home, and so father rolled her and me in her feather bed and tucked us securely in the wagon. Although we went through a terrible severe storm, we arrived home safe, without harm to mother or me, but father nearly froze to death.
As there was no school near enough for the older children to attend, in 1877 we moved again, this time to Ashley Fork, now known as Vernal. We lived at Vernal, near the banks of the Green River for four years, where two other children were added to our flock: Samuel, January 13, 1879 and Thomas Albert, June 4, 1881.
Green River was a very swift, treacherous river, and mother seems to have lived in constant fear of it. One day my sister, Mary, and brother, Joe, went to the river to get water for the house and lost a small bucket in the stream. They commenced calling to father, who was in the field near by, and mother, hearing the screams, thought they said Mattie is in the river. She and my oldest sister, Lizzie, who had married Frank Goodman, and was living in part of Fatherís house, rushed out screaming, "Save my child!" Finally, father made her understand that it was the little brass bucket and not her child that was in the river. All of them then began to wonder where I was. Lizzie finally remembered she had set me to rocking her babyís cradle, and there they found me, still rocking away and wondering why they had all ran to the river.
Soon after this incident, the Goodmanís moved to Wyoming, and we never saw our sister again.
A very wicked man, by the name of Burton, lived a few miles away from us. He sheltered all the outlaws in the country. Through a thoughtless remark of my 17-year-old brother, Charles, one of the outlaws became very angry and came down to our house to kill Charles. Father and Charles had gone for a load of wood, and thinking they might get a shot at a deer that was known to be in that vicinity, they took a gun loaded with buckshot. Father saw the man coming and stepped away from the wagon where he had been loading the wood as Charlie cut it up on the opposite side of the wagon. Father asked the man what he wanted. Taking an oath, he said he had come to kill Charles. Father told him to stop, but the man said he would ride Father down if he didnít get out of his way, and so Father shot him, aiming at his right arm to disable him; however, one of the buckshot entered the manís heart and killed him. Father stood trial and was cleared of all the blame, but he realized it was a bad situation. As Father had been suffering with rheumatism for some time, he decided to move to a warmer climate, and so in the year 1882 we were again on the move, this time to Arizona.
Of our home on the banks of the Green River, I remember several interesting things. I remember the great banks of snow on each side of the path that led to the barn and corral and the noise of the breaking of the ice in the river that sounded like shots from a gun. I remember the holes cut in the ice so Father could catch fish in the winter. I also remember seeing them drive the wagons across the river on the ice.
There was an Indian reservation near us. I remember the Indians coming in their bright colored blankets on their ponies to buy vegetables from the farm; and how, when their chief came, he always insisted on fatherís Squaw, as he called mother, coming out and waiting on him. Chief "Colorough" had two sons. He came one day with a pony just loaded with beautiful blankets and tanned hides to exchange for my sister, Sarah, for a wife for his boy. How scared poor Sadie was. Father told him he had already given her to a white man when she was grown up.
The outstanding experience on the trip to Arizona was the crossing of the Buckskin Mountains over what they called the Hogsback, and the fording of the Colorado River at Leeís Ferry. Part of the road over the mountains was along side a peak composed of shale rock and the only way to keep the wagons from falling to the canyon thousands of feet below, was to tie ropes to the upper side of the wagons and wrap the other ends of the ropes around pine trees, letting out the slack as the team moved ahead. My sister, Sarah, drove the teams while Father and Charlie held the ropes. As long as I live, I will see my mother standing by the roadside with tears streaming down her face and with us smaller children hanging to her skirts. I can hear the screeching of the horses iron shoes on the shale rock and fatherís low voice saying, "Steady Girl! Steady Girl!" as the horses slid from one ledge of rock to another.
We crossed the Colorado River on a flat boat that was fastened to a cable stretching from one side of the river to the other.
We stopped in Winslow, Arizona for several weeks while the horses were resting from the long hard trip. Father and Charlie worked for the railroad and mother took in washing. While in Winslow, father heard of a Mormon settlement being opened up in New Mexico, and so instead of going on south to the Gila River, as he intended, we went east into a valley on a tributary of the Gila River and settled in Pleasanton, a very beautiful country but badly infested with renegade Indians, led by the noted outlaw, Geronimo.
We lived there four years. Hyrum Leroy, motherís eleventh child was born there June 22, 1884.
Father and Charlie hauled ore from the Currey Mine to Silver City and brought food and supplies back. Father soon started farming, but Charlie kept on with the freighting. He had some narrow escapes from the Indians and had some horses stolen, but he was never injured.
The Indians did so much killing near our town that the Church leaders asked the people to go to more thickly settled communities, and so Pleasanton was abandoned. Some of the settlers went north, some to the colonies in Mexico, and we went to the Gila River settlement in Arizona.
As we were the only family going to the Gila, we had to make the rather dangerous trip alone. We had no trouble at all, but it was only through the protecting care of the Lord that we were not all killed.
We stopped for noon lunch and to water the cattle at a place called Ash Creek. Some soldiers who were camped there begged father to stay all night as some Indians were supposed to be hiding in a range of mountain we had to pass through. Father asked mother what she thought about staying there, but she said no, she had a very strange feeling that we were to go on. As father always had great respect for motherís hunches, we went on, traveling all night. We arrived in Solomonville in time to get the word of the complete annihilation of the soldiers at Ash Creek.
Father rented a place in Pima for a month or two while he looked around. He finally bought a farm in Curtis, or Eden, as it was later named. People were suffering with Malaria and our whole family became ill with chills and fevers. We never fully recovered as long as we lived thereóa period of two years.
Two of my sisters were married there. Sarah married Parley P. Sabin, October 19, 1887 and Mary married Charles R. Plumb in March 1988, just a few days before we moved again to the Sulfur Spring Valley near the Chiricahua Mountains, where we lived a good many years.
In the year 1889, father got the contract of carrying the mail from the famous town of Tombstone, about 60 miles away, to a place called Rucker Canyon, about fifteen miles from our home. That helped us live until he developed a farm and orchard. My brother, Joe, who was only 14 years old, carried the mail by horseback. He would leave home Sunday afternoon and stay all night at the Post Office at Rucker. Monday he would take the mail to Tombstone; return to Rucker Tuesday, and come home Wednesday morning. He did this for a year. Father then got a Post Office at our house, called Wilgus. The mail then, in 1890 came from Wilcox by way of Dos Cabezas to our post office, thence to Rucker.
Through these years, we had some very exciting experiences when Geronimo would make his raids through the country on his way to Mexico from his reservation to the North. One of these remains in my mind quite distinctly.
All the men folks were away. Father had gone to Bisbee, Charlie was in the mountains cutting wood; and had Joe and Bert with him, which left mother at home alone with the younger children. Sam, the oldest boy at home was ten years old. All went well until one morning one of our neighbors who lived about a mile away, came by and told mother the Indians had killed some people just over the mountains. He asked her to come to his ranch and stay until some of the men came home. She said she was not afraid, but that evening, just at dusk, she had to send my brother Sam and me to the creek for water. As we were coming back we thought we saw something that looked like a man stooped and running from the creek to a clump of oak brush at the back of the house. Rover, the dog, who had gone with us took away and ran after this object barking fiercely. Mother called my sister, Mary, who lived near us, and she and her baby came running over. They put out the lamps and stationed Sam at the window with a shot gun that was almost heavier than he could lift, telling him to shoot if he saw anyone coming near the house. They fastened the door and waited in mortal terror, while the old dog was still keeping up a terrible barking at the back of the house.
Mother finally decided the safest thing to do was to leave the house, as she was afraid the Indians would set fire to it. Taking some quilts and with Sam lugging that gun, we crept out of the front door and started for the neighbors, but then we remembered they kept two fierce mastiff dogs and always turned them loose at night, so we decided to crawl back into some heavy oak brush and stay there all night.
As soon as it was light, we went back home and found everything just as we had left it. Father came home that night and laid in wait in the brush at he back of the house for a mountain lion. That was what made the dog bark.
In the year 1890, father succeeded in getting a public school established at Wilgus, with a young man by the name of C. L. Prouty as teacher. There were nine pupils, the right amount for a school. There were eight Smiths and a Fife boy, who rode five miles from his home each day. Five of the children belonged to our family, and three were from a neighbor family of the same name.
The school lasted only one year, as the Fife boy left. Joe got a chance to work for his board in a district farther down the valley, and we got one more year of school. When he was sixteen years old, he went to work for the C.C.C. Cattle Company and never went to school again.
Those would have been very lonely years for me if it hadnít been for the many outdoor activities we had. I, with the help of my younger brothers, milked a corral full of cows every night and morning, besides doing the heavy work in the house, as motherís health was not very good for a few years. I did the laundry and house cleaning.
Our household did not work on Sunday, and though we had no church to go to, father and mother would spend the afternoon reading, after she had cooked an extra good dinner.
The boys and I soon tired of the reading and away we went, following the little mountain stream, or climbing the mountains near our home.
Another relaxation we had was singing. In the winter we gathered around the fireplace and in the summer we sat outside and mother led us in songs that filled in otherwise lonely evenings. We had dances two or three times a year, and how we did plan and prepare for them.
In the year 1892, a family by the name of Moore moved into our neighborhood. They had three school age children and so we again had a school. This time our teacher was Brannick Riggs, son of a neighbor. He seemed very stern. I had a terrible fear of him, never thinking then that I would one day marry him and find he was a very kind person at heart. He crowded an awful lot of work into the seven months of school, for he felt we had lost so much time and were so far behind. The next year our teacher was an old gentleman by the name of Raven, and when I say gentleman, I mean just that. We all loved him and were disappointed when he had to give up teaching because of ill health.
The next year, the school board again hired Mr. Riggs, who helped me to realize the ambition of my life -- to understand some of the classics of literature. A post office gathers a great deal of trashy reading, and I had devoured them all, yet I knew there was something better, but I did not know where or how to obtain it until he led the way.
Mother always took in a little washing from men and had laid away quite a little sum of money. I had an ambition to go to school, and I asked her to lend me the money to go to the University at Tucson, where I could take a preparatory course and then teach school. She treated it as a joke, and it crushed me so completely that I never tried again.
She took my youngest brother and went to Salt Lake city for the winter. Sam and I went to the little town of St. David and attended school, as there was no school at Wilgus again that year. I lived with my sister, Sarah, and Sam lived with my brother, Charles, who had married Ida Smith and was living in St. David.
In all the years we had lived at Wilgus, we had been deprived of the association of the Mormons and the privilege of attending any of the church organizations, and so I thoroughly enjoyed myself that short winter. In April, mother came home and sent for Sam and me to come home.
That spring, Brannick made me the proposition of marrying him and going back to Valparaso, Indiana to school, where he wanted to brush up on science and mathematics preparatory to teaching in the University of Arizona. Before he could arrange his business so that he could go, he and his brother Jim decided to buy a sawmill, and so once again, I was disappointed in my desire to go to school.
We were married November 16, 1896 and I became a ranch woman in the winter and lived at the sawmill in the summer for ten years.
Our first child was born August 24, 1897. We named her Mary. Benjamin, our 2nd child, was born October 19, 1899. The third child was born September 27, 1902, we named him Walter. Our 4th child, Thomas was born March 28, 1904.
We sold the sawmill in 1904, and I spent the winter at Thatcher, Arizona where I boarded two of my brothers, a niece and a friend who attended Gila Academy, while my husband ran the air compressor in the mine at Paradise, Arizona. The next year he worked for the Copper Queen Copper Company, estimating timber and seeking for a feasible route for a railroad from Chihuahua, Mexico to Sonora, Mexico. This took about two years during which time I lived with my bachelor brothers Joe, Sam and Bert, on a ranch near the Chiricahuas.
While traveling in Mexico, my husband came to the little town of Colonial Juarez, a Mormon settlement in Chihuahua, and decided to buy us a home there.
For a number of years my husband had been studying the principles of the gospel, and had finally decided the Mormons had the true gospel of Christ, and in the summer of 1906, he came home and brought us down to St. David, on a visit where we were baptized. He, I, and our oldest child, Mary, were baptized on the 8th of September 1906. We did not move to Mexico until March of the following spring.
We owned some mining stock and other property that we disposed of for several thousand dollars. Following the advice of a very unscrupulous Bishop, who was later disfellowshipped, we put this money into property in Colonial Dublan.
For the next two years we went through terrible poverty and hardships. Our son, Brannick, who was born August 29, 1907, died on the 21st of November of the same year. We were all sick most of the time, caused from under nourishment and poor housing conditions. Our money had gone into worthless land, and my husband found it hard to get work that paid very well. He finally went to a mining town called Dos Cabezas and worked there until he became so ill he had to come home with a very bad case of yellow jaundice. While he was sick he decided we should go to the temple as soon as possible and not wait until we had built us a new house as we had planned. This was in December 1908. We took all four of our living children and made that long trip to Salt Lake City in the company of about 25 other saints who got conference rates.
Satan seemed to be determined on punishing us, for our two small boys took sick just after we had finished our temple work, and we were detained a month in Salt Lake City. We had to borrow money to get home. However, we made it and never regretted the trip, especially as my husband died a few years after that. We had the satisfaction of knowing our temple work was done.
Ill health dogged our every footstep until our eldest boy, Ben, contracted Typhoid fever in February and almost died. As soon as he was able to travel in March, 1910, I carried him on a pillow and went to El Paso where my husband had opened a real estate office. We lived there until the spring of 1911 when we went back to Mexico again. This time we bought a home in Colonial Juarez where we were very happy. My husband had secured work at a sawmill in the mountains.
We thought we were settled for life in that beautiful little valley, but it wasnít long until the revolution broke out and all Americans were ordered out of Mexico. Once again we were on the move, this time in double quick time, leaving everything we had behind us but one small trunk and a suitcase, to start life all over again with six children, as a daughter had been born in Colonial Dublan, the 12th of December, 1909, named Martha, and one named Rhoda was born in Juarez on the 22nd of February, 1911.
We settled in El Paso where my husband had again opened a real estate office. We were doing well financially and were very happy when death suddenly struck our family again, this time taking our beloved husband and father, with the dreadful disease, smallpox. I was left frightened and alone with six children ranging in ages from fifteen to a baby of two, to rear. Being a very obedient wife, I was badly unprepared for such a responsibility. My husband considered that my duty was in the house while his the financial responsibility.
During the five years between his conversion and his death, my husband made remarkable progress in the gospel. At the time of his death, on the 19th of March, 1913, he held the office of a seventy and was preparing to go on a mission.
As fast as he learned the principles of the gospel he lived them. At his funeral, Apostle, Anthony W. Ivens, said we might have known that he would leave us soon for he was only preparing for a mission farther on, and Iím sure that was the truth, for in his rational moments he made death such a beautiful thing to me. He said he knew he must die, but it was only like the passing of a day when I would come to join him. He told me to go to some Mormon community to raise the children and not back to his people. They were wealthy and would have set me up in business where I could soon have become wealthy.
I sold everything in El Paso, with the help of my brother-in-law, William Riggs, settled all the business there and moved to St. David, Arizona, May 13, 1913, where my mother lived. I was allowed to draw money enough from the Riggs estate to buy five acres of ground and build a nice home. Although grandfatherís will stated that the estate was not to be divided until after Grandmotherís death, which did not occur until many years later.
With the help of my brother, Bert Smith, and brother-in-law, William Riggs, I established myself in St. David. With what we could raise on the five acres, supplemented by a small income from some property I rented in El Paso, we managed to live very nicely and to keep some of the children in school or on missions.
Mary, my oldest daughter attended school in St. David one year where she finished grade school. She then went to Thatcher where she entered the Church Academy and made her four-year course in three years. She then attended the Flagstaff Normal for two years. Because of political trouble in the school, she quit school and spent two years in the California Mission under President Joseph E. Robinson. By that time, the trouble had been overcome at Flagstaff, and she went back to school to complete her work. She then taught school in Miami, Arizona for two years, where she married J. Urban Larsen: a mining engineer.
My oldest boy, Benjamin, went to school in the winter in St. David, and worked for the Riggs family in the summer; first for my sister-in-law, Rhoda, and then for William. He attended the Gila Academy one year, and started on his second when he was drafted into the army of World War One. He never went to school anymore. He did not marry, but performed two missions, one for two years and one for six months. He died March 19, 1935, when he was 35 years old.
Walter, the third son was a cripple from birth and so never married. He attended school in St. David, and an auto mechanic school in Los Angeles. Because of his health he could never work hard, but he became a wonderful truck and bus driver.
Tom, the fourth child completed high school and performed a mission. He then married Carrie Miles. They had four children; one child, a son named for his father, died in infancy. Tom is an operator in the Apache Power Plant.
Martha, the fifth child, finished high school in St. David, and then trained for a nurse in St. Maryís hospital in Tucson. After graduation, she nursed for a number of years, followed with a mission in Hawaii. She married Leonard Neagle and has four children.
Rhoda, the youngest child, took a commercial course and then married Anthon Turley. They have three children.
I am in my seventy-sixth year at the time of this writing, and I feel that I have had a very successful life, for my children are all good citizens and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is more to me than financial success.
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