This story is of Mary Wilkinson Smith, written by her daughter Martha Riggs Smith
Grandmother Smith said her first home was shared with her mother-in-law. She married Charles Pears Smith in Salt Lake City and a year later went with him to Beaver, Utah to live. It was a small settlement in the southern part of Utah, where his mother lived in a one room, a small one at that. Her husband placed a wagon box by the end of the house and used it for a bedroom–but they cooked and ate in grandmother’s house until he could build mother a log house. This was made by placing logs, one on top of the other with notches out near the end so they would fit fairly good together. The space between the logs were filled with small pieces of wood called "Chinks." These were plastered over with mud, making the room warm and comfortable.
This room had a window which mother enjoyed very much, because she could hang some white curtains up, she made them from one width of petticoat and had room on the sill for a pot of geraniums. Mother told me that when she got lonesome for friends and comforts she had left behind, she would stand by the window and water the plants with her tears, she wasn’t very friendly with the people of Beaver, who were mostly frontier families and did not approve of her city ways.
Her next home was way out in Nevada, it was a stockade, made by digging a trench in the earth and in placing posts in an upright position filling up the trench to the level of the ground, then weaving strips of cowhide between the posts near the top; this drew them closer together as the hide dried. A coat of mud plaster made a comfortable home for cold as well as hot weather. The roof was made by placing small poles from wall to wall them covering them with willows, then dirt, bear grass woven in and out, then with a coat of mud on top of that.
This room had no windows, and was lighted only by the open door which made it very gloomy, until father added another room made of adobe. And this one had a window in it. Once again, the little white curtains were brought out, starched and ironed and hung. Soon there were flowers blooming in this precious window. Mother lived in this house for several years, then moved around so much, she forgot where she lived next.
Mother said the next house she remembered was a house of two rooms, made of logs with a window in her room where she could again have whiter curtains. I am sure they were not the small curtains of Beaver FAME, for too many years had elapsed and too many trips had been made for them to have lasted so long. There were no flowers in the window, because the temperature had dropped so far below zero that flowers would freeze, as this house was built on the bank of Green River, one of the coldest spots in Utah.
After the Green River home her next house was built on the banks of the San Francisco River in New Mexico. This was her "Lumber Salt Box" home, made with the front wall higher than the back. The roof was composed of lumber lapping over each other, sloping from front to back. It was not a successful roof, I remember it leaked badly. The windows were small and high without sills for a pot of flowers to sit on. When the inside of the house failed her, mother turned to the outside of the house, she just had to have a touch of beauty, so she decided to plant a wild grapevine at the corner of her home and train it over her window where it would look beautiful. She dreamed of the sight–lovely purple grapes hanging down over that window making it pretty on the outside. But alas, her dream failed, it was in vain. Shortly after the vine began to put forth leaves, her face and arms began to burn, it was then she discovered she had planted poison Ivy, so this vine had to be removed and mother said she had to be content with nothing but a Hop Vine.
Four years later, mother found herself in Arizona, living in another "stockade" on the Gila River and the house had no window. The roof was made of pummy, instead of bear grass. This was flattened canes, after the juice has been squeezed out to make into molasses, and did not turn the rain very well, so again mother had a leaky roof. What a shame, how many disappointments can mother endure and still be patient?
After two years of this she found herself way out in the Sulfur Springs Valley, in the most satisfying home she was ever in, since she was a girl living in Massachusetts, or at least since she was married. It was composed of three rooms, two made of lumber and one made of logs, with a lovely window and a sash that could be raised, facing the east, with a lower half sash. How nice to see the breeze billowing and blowing out the curtains although they were quite skimpy, they were later replaced by "Knottingham Curtains of lace.
Well do I remember the day one of her neighbors came in to visit her and seeing the precious curtains, she said, "Well Mrs. Smith, I see you have curtains on your windows. I thought as I came up the path they were lace, and I just couldn’t believe it." And the look of pride and joy that shown on mother’s face as she said almost in a whisper, she was so full of emotion. "Yes, Knottinghams."
I believe all the hardships and disappointments that mother has endured through the years were all blotted out in that one moment. First looking at her neighbor and then at her lovely curtains gently moving in the breeze, in back of the small table covered with a pretty cloth and posts of flowering plants.
Mother enjoyed this home for many years, then after the family was grown and her children had gone away, and father had grown too weak to run the farm longer, they sold everything they had and left their "Mountain Home" along Turkey Creek, where the boys had enjoyed their childhood days, and moved to the town of St. David, Arizona, a hundred miles away. They bought a small home of two rooms, close to some of their children and settled down once again to "House Keeping." This house had two windows in it where mother could have her pots of flowers and her dear "Knottingham Curtains" until they just hung in shreds.
After father’s death, mother became unable to care for herself, and so I, her daughter Martha, moved her into my home, into a large room with an east window that I covered with some dainty dotted swiss curtains that one of my sisters had given her. The window sill was filled with some prized flowers.
Mother loved to sing and she had once belonged to the Salt Lake choir and could sing so high and clear. She did miss all this happiness when she came away to Arizona, but she always sang in Church in her latter days, even using her small hymn book which she carried in her pocket.
My heart and eyes are full as I see her sitting in her rocking chair knitting and singing some of her old English Ballads, famous in the olden days. I thank God for a mother who brought a little beauty and culture into our lives that otherwise would have been drab indeed.
Family Stories & Histories