Friday, July 11, 2008

Elizabeth Emma Barker Michaelson (1870-1928)

This article has an unknown author, though clearly it is a grandchild of the subject individual. I do not know when it was written, though some of the details at the end might give some clues to that.

Before reading the article, it might be interesting to know that you are reading grandmother’s own story told in her own words, and in her own way; just as she told it to me on the occasion of a very pleasant visit which I had with her about a year ago. In telling the story grandmother really lived it all over again; at times she would laugh heartily at some incident, again she was very serious. She was a very good story teller too, as you shall see.

I was born April 3, 1853, at Marston Bedfordshire England so they tell me. My father, Thomas Barker, was not a large man, neither was mother a large woman. We were all three rather small. Father was very honest; but at times he would draw hurried conclusions which were wrong and I have never known him to change them. Mother, Elizabeth Thompson, was on the other hand more far seeing and gentle. It was this which enabled her to see and understand Mormonism more readily than he. The first responsibility I remember of having was to carry tracts and literature from the elders in the house to mother where she was making lace; because of course, father would not allow the elders to come to the house at that time.

Mother was strict though you see they looked at things differently then. If parents really loved their children they were strict about their up bringing and training. If parents were indulgent they were sluffing responsibility. I was the youngest of 12 children. Some of the older children were married before I was born. My sister Mary Ann Virgin was a Mormon and so was her husband. The most of the rest of us were Baptists. I went to Sunday School every Sunday. They used to give us little cards for attendance. So many cards and they gave you a hymn book; so many more and you got a New Testament. In this way I won two hymnbooks, a Bible, and a New Testament that I remember of. Then we had to learn verses from the Bible. We learned these by the fire light. I can just hear us all now; getting up one after the other and saying our verse each Sunday like so many parrots.

One never to be forgotten day, mother went to market to sell her lace. I was home alone. I was then five or six years old. I couldn’t go over to the neighbors. I couldn’t go anywhere and there was nothing to do; so I decided to make lace. I knew I was chancing a whipping that night, because no one ever dared touch the pillow where the lace was made. But I must do something so I set the threads used pins just as I had seen mother do many, many times and started a four -inch wide collar. By the time mother came home I had it half done. How many times I washed my hands that day to keep the lace from getting sweaty and dirty I don’t know; but I had kept the work clean. When mother came home, instead of the whipping, I had the privilege of finishing the collar and it was sold with the rest. And from that day on I made lace. I worked mostly with black silk making pieces four inches wide until I was eight years old; then I could do harder pieces. Every evening for a change I could go out and pull weeds, for of course, we stopped to eat, but no play any time. I believe the sun and moon shine brighter in England for I have read by the moonlight more than once. I tried making lace to see if I could, but the pins made shadows. I had no chance to go to school, but I learned to read a little and I learned one poem which I never forgot; A poem, seventy years old and more, but I still remember it.

‘Tis the voice of a sluggar I heard him complain,
You wake me too soon, I must slumber again.
As the door on it’s hinges, so he on his bed,
Turns his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head.

A little more sleep and a little more slumber,
Thus he wastes half his days and hours without number.
And when he gets up, he sits folding his hands
Or walks about sauntering and trifling he stands.

I pass by his garden and see the wild briers,
The thorns and the thistles grow broader and higher,
And the clothes that hang on him are turning to rags
And his money he wastes till he starves or he begs.

I made him a visit, still hoping to find
He had took better care of improving his mind,
He told me his dreams talked of eating and drinking
He scarce read the Bible and never loved thinking.

Said I to myself, here’s a lesson for me
This man’s but a picture of what I might be
But thanks to my friends for the care of my training
Has taught me in time to love working and reading.

Mother and I joined the church the July following my sixteenth birthday. After that I walked sixteen miles to church each Sunday – eight miles there and eight miles back. On conference days we walked fifteen miles and rode three, making a total of 36 miles. But we always felt that it was worth the trouble.

About this time my sister, [Mary Ann?] Virgin ,lost her husband in a tunnel accident. He with others used to go into the tunnel each time after the train went through to make sure that all was safe. One day the train returned without warning, crushing her husband and others to death. The railroad company to partly make amends, asked her what she desired most and she accepted her fare paid to America. She had two boys and a girl left, but the girl died later while crossing the plains. Her brother John, who also belonged to the church, was in New York and he waited for her and they crossed the plains together to Utah. This made it easier for us later on when we came to Zion for we had a place to go.

We left England July 28, 1868, and set sail for America. On the way I became ill, very ill, and they expected it to be fatal. I had been unconscious for some time and just as I came to, they offered me a cup of tea. It made me angry. “If I can’t get well without tea I’ll die,” I told them. That made me try still more to get well, just to show them I could without the tea, and so I did. I have never once broken the word of wisdom since I joined the church, though we had tea all the time until then.

We crossed the Mississippi in a flat boat and I with others walked to Omaha. In places we walked for miles over swamps. Willows had been cut in places to keep us out of the mire. From Omaha to Ogden (Utah) we went by rail and my old sickness returned all the time we were on the cars. Arriving at Ogden we waited a week at the tithing yard while we got word to the folks at St. Charles (Idaho). John Parker, the brother, told his neighbor, Beers, who was going down to Ogden for freight to look out for us folks. Then, he deciding that he couldn’t wait to see us - he started out to meet the wagon, and we met on the road. Then we fed the horse and had a good meal and real time before going on to St. Charles. We arrived at St. Charles, August 28, 1868.

One of the first persons I remembered clearly was a young slender, beautiful woman, rather dark complexioned who had two small children. Her name was Nellie Michaelson. About two months later she grew ill and died and her older son also. From then on, the young widower and his baby had my sympathy. He was poor, no one seemed to care for the baby properly; and he was losing what little bit he had earned. By Spring I began to think that my sympathy for his was beginning to resemble this love they talk about. That summer my sister, next older, Susannah, came over from England, and lo and behold! We both fell in love with the same man. I was puzzled. I had loved him first because I knew him first, but she was older; then, too, he came to see us both it seemed, and I didn’t know which one he wanted or whether he cared for either of us. (At this point in the story, grandfather, who had been listening to the story broke out laughing, and they both laughed quite as if it were the first time they had met instead of eight years after their golden wedding anniversary. “How could I tell,” he demanded, “When I wanted them both and didn’t have money enough to buy one marriage license.”)

Nevertheless with the help of our Heavenly Father we found the way and we were both married the same day. She first and I second; but it has never mattered to me that I was third wife instead of first. Susannah took charge of the baby, but we both loved him. We had him together you see.

For about 22 years we lived at St. Charles. Our children were about the same age. She had twelve children – nine boys and three girls; while I had eleven girls and two boys – thirteen in all. When the fight of polygamy grew strong enough we had to separate, and I came to Star Valley (Wyoming) locating South of Thayne. Life was pretty hard going then. We all did our best working in hay fields, pulling weeds, anything for a dime or two, and even then the children had to go barefooted to school and Sunday school at times. I gave them a little schooling the best I could, but even then only the youngest one succeeded in reaching college.

I made butter and sold it for eight cents a pound. Eggs were six cents a dozen. But we paid out tithing.

At one time just before the last cow went dry, I only got one quart of milk to a milking. I strained it in a quart bowl, and still made butter ,which was of as good a quality as before. I always felt it was because I paid my tithing.

At the time of the famous Indian scare, I went up with my family for a few days to stay with your mother who lived at Afton where she does now.. Later we moved up to Dry Creek for a few years and then went to live in our old home north of Afton where the rest of the children grew up.

That is about all I think of now. I have always tried to live my religion and do my duty. I have found pay in sacrifice. I have always tried to return good for evil, and have taught the children to do likewise. I was promised early in my married life that I should be able to cure the sick of my own household with fasting and prayer and it has been done many, many times.

Thus grandmother ended her story with a sermon just as she lived the life of a true Latter Day Saint up to the last. Besides the commendable work of rearing her large family she has been a real church worker. She was Relief Society teacher, including also, Secretary – treasurer work, for over forty years. She in connection with her husband has done a great deal of temple work at the Logan temple. The last five years she spent in her beautiful modern home at Afton, where she said she was always comparing the changes that had come about during her lifetime and thinking how much different her last home was from the first one. It was here she died in the evening of July 24, 1928, after a serious illness which lasted ten days.

She had thirteen children, forty-three grandchildren and thirty-eight great grandchildren; of this number five children, three grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren preceded her to that other life. She is survived by her husband, her sisters, Susannah, and Percilla Clark, and the following children; Emma Gardner, Mary Ann Turner, Mercy Taysom, Joseph Michaelson, Bertha and Lydia Michaelson, and Lois Wilde.

"She leaves us for a well earned greater Life
Leaving as a heritage, unsurpassed wealth,
To be handed down to her posterity, for all
Years to come.”

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