Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Life Too Short: Biography of a Small Child

(A somewhat fuller story can be found on Keepa here. Below is the version published as a Salt Lake Tribune column on 3 March 2012, offered as a lure to Keepa’ninnies who may not have been readers in 2012.)

How do you write the biography of a child who died so long ago that no one remembers her, or how she sounded when she laughed or what she liked to do? Utah’s past is well stocked with the short lives of children who left little mark in this world, no matter how great a hole they left in their families when they died.

Anne Maria Jewkes was born in Fountain Green, Utah, on September 18, 1866. Her parents were Samuel Jewkes and Mary Nash Gardner, emigrants from England who met in St. Louis and married after they reached Utah. By all accounts, theirs was a happy family.

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Utah’s Civil War Veterans

First published as a “Living History” column in the Salt Lake Tribune, 8 October 2011.

One hundred and fifty years ago, the American Civil War was well under way. The Union and the Confederacy had fought the First Battle of Bull Run and a number of lesser skirmishes; the bloodbaths of Antietam and Shiloh and Gettysburg were still in our future.

Utah’s direct involvement in the Civil War was minuscule. Some 106 cavalrymen under Lot Smith served for 90 days guarding western mail and telegraph routes. The 3rd California Volunteers under Patrick Connor built Fort Douglas on the bench east of Salt Lake City. A minuscule handful of Utahns individually joined eastern regiments.

But while Utah sent few men to fight and die on either side of the conflict, Utah’s Civil War heritage is much broader. After the war, hundreds – more than 1,500 – veterans who had served in units raised in other places settled in Utah to make this state their home for decades. These men are part of our Civil War heritage – not because they went out from us to serve, but because they brought the legacy of their service back to enrich the life of Utah.


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Samuel Henry Sharman’s Amphibious Vessel (Utah History)

Samuel Henry Sharman, age 21, arrived in Utah from Montana in 1900, filled with dreams and determination. An early adopter of the automobile, Sam opened his own dealership in Salt Lake by at least 1906, selling first the Maxwell and later Cadillacs and Chevrolets.

For recreation, Sam liked to hunt ducks on the Great Salt Lake. Although he lived at the north end of the Salt Lake Valley, he had ties to the Duckville Gun Club based in the Bear River Bay to the north.

And that bit of geography between his home and his favorite hunting grounds was a bit of a problem. He had his automobile, of course, but it still took a couple of hours out of his hunting day to drive to Corinne. It might have been faster to go by water, but between dry land and the nearest open water lay an ever-changing borderland of marsh and mud flat.

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Lucinda (“Lu”) Lee Dalton: One of our Mormon Poets

“I was born in the year 1847 on a plantation in Alabama,” Lu Dalton began her autobiography. Her family moved to Texas where her parents (John Percival and Eliza Foscue Lee) were converted to Mormonism in 1849. The family came to Utah in 1850, moved on to San Bernardino in 1851, and settled in Beaver, Utah in the winter of 1857-58. Her parents “were so poor,” she wrote, “that sometimes we wanted bread … But during the deepest of his poverty, my father, determined that his children should not be ignorant as well as poor, at the close of his day’s work patiently taught us.”

Lu was far in advance of other children her age when she entered the public school, kept there at the considerable sacrifice of her mother. “Thou I did not then know, I now know how she sat by her candle far into the night while I slept, to keep up with woman’s everlasting work so that she could still spare me, her eldest daughter (her mother’s right hand) to attend school. I was not ungrateful even then, for I loved my books and came to know the head of the class as my rightful place.”

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Hortense McQuarrie Odlum: From St. George to Manhattan

This was one of my Salt Lake Tribune columns, published 14 April 2012

Hortense McQuarrie, red-headed granddaughter of early St. George mayor Robert Gardner, married Floyd Odlum, a struggling Salt Lake attorney, in about 1915. After a year of marriage and the birth of Stanley, the first of their two sons, Floyd gave up his failing corporate practice for a position as clerk in a Manhattan law office. The family’s first day in New York was inauspicious: while Floyd was introduced to his new firm, Hortense passed the hours in Grand Central Station, with a screaming three-month-old baby and all the family’s possessions: a single suitcase and two boxes of books.

Five years later, Floyd was vice president of his principal corporate client. He then founded his own investment company. Weeks before the 1929 stock market crash, Floyd sold half of his company, pocketing $14 million as virtually everyone else was losing everything. He made other canny moves, and by 1933 he was one of the ten wealthiest Americans.

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“This Is a Comfort to Me”

Joseph Fenwood Wakefield, age 33, was killed in action in Germany on 1 December 1944. He left a widow, three children, and his widowed mother in Taylor, Arizona.

Before his body could be returned to his family for reburial at Phoenix, Arizona, in 1948, Fen lay in the American military cemetery at Margraten, Netherlands.

Fen’s mother, Eliza McCleve Wakefield, took steps early in 1946 to have his grave at Margraten dedicated by a priesthood holder. She wrote to John A. Widtsoe, who had confirmed a young woman whom Fen had baptized in Snowflake in 1940, asking how that could be done. The apostle suggested she write to the European Mission President, and furnished that address. Sister Wakefield wrote, and her request was forwarded to Cornelius Zappey, president of the Netherlands Mission.

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Jane Carrington Young and the Folklore of Bosom Serpentry

This began as a Keepa story here; below is an abbreviated version published as a Salt Lake Tribune column years ago.)

Jane Carrington Young lived in a home on Salt Lake’s North Temple, on the block where the LDS Conference Center now stands. Hers was a comfortable home, as houses in Territorial Utah went, and she enjoyed the respect of her community as a wife of Mormon apostle Brigham Young Jr. and daughter of former apostle Albert Carrington. But in 1883, Jane was not a happy woman.

For at least 15 years, she had experienced peculiar sensations in her abdomen, sometimes painful but always unsettling. Some historians today think she may have suffered from a gastric ulcer, but Jane did not have the scientific knowledge to diagnose her pains that way. She had a more colorful explanation:

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James Ellingham Hart: Without Purse or Scrip in Salt Lake City

Although the practice has generally passed away, for much of this country’s history it has been customary for businessmen and private citizens to assist the charitable work of ministers by volunteering services to the clergy. Because ministers – poorly paid at best – devoted their lives to the betterment of society, it was felt, society could afford to ease their way.

Mormon missionaries benefitted greatly by this custom during the 19th century. Traveling “without purse or scrip,” in the Biblical term, they sought the hospitality of strangers for meals and to provide shelter as they traveled, distributing tracts and preaching their brand of gospel.

One of the missionaries to appreciate the kindness of strangers was James Ellingham Hart. In his late 30s, he was a missionary in eastern Tennessee from 1895 to 1898. He claimed never to have slept a night out of doors, but always to have found shelter and a meal freely given. Railroad conductors, he said, gave him free transportation and sometimes paid his hotel bill.

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A Gathering of Presidents, 1928



European Mission President John A. Widtsoe, and no doubt many other Latter-day Saints, were extraordinarily pleased to see this photograph in a London newspaper in September 1928 – it was taken at the conference of mission presidents (and their wives) of the various missions in Europe at Meudon, France, and signaled a new friendliness toward the Church in the British press.

(I need to work on identifying those pictured. I know who was at that conference, but have not yet attached names to faces here.)

On the Eve of “100 Years of Mormonism”

Sometimes it feels lazy to post a plain document rather than writing a story and incorporating bits of that document into it. Other times, reading a document the way it was written feels more immediate, more exciting. I’m going with the latter this afternoon, sharing a letter by Levi Edgar Young, who was one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventy, and who played a significant role in the production of the first Latter-day Saint movie, 1913’s “One Hundred Years of Mormonism.” All but a short sequence from that movie has been lost, but here, at least, we see some of the hopes embodied in that new art form:

Levi Edgar Young to First Presidency, 27 January 1913

[letterhead: University of Utah, Department of History]

January 27, 1913

My dear Brethren:

In June of 1912, you requested me to help prepare a Scenario of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I went immediately to work on it, and in August, you listened to the reading of some one hundred scenes, which could be adapted to the film of a Moving Picture. The Utah Moving Picture Company of Los Angeles began producing the scenario, and after many months of hard work, and the expenditure of a goodly sum of money, they have finished the film.

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