Widgets Magazine

Jul 24, 2013

Pioneer Day in Utah

Today is a holiday for the state of Utah. It is Pioneer Day and it commemorates the day that Brigham Young first looked over the valley and said, "This is the place!" We have many pioneer ancestors in our family lines and I wanted to share a story with you in honor of this special day.

One of my favorite stories is actually from my sweetie's family tree and it didn't have anything to do with the Utah pioneers. It happened during the Civil War and it goes something like this:

While Alex was away in the War, Mary Ann moved with the children back to her father's home in Chattam Hill. Her two sisters' husbands were also away fighting in the Civil War and all three girls with their children moved back into their father's home with his second wife, Martha Jane. All together there were 31 people living in this house. 

Perhaps their home looked something like this one.
The Union Army, in an effort to win the War, had started the campaign of burning the homes and farms of the people. The people in Chattam Hill could smell the burning coming closer and closer. Martha Jane is the narrator of this story.

We had all just finished breakfast when these soldiers rode up and shouted for everyone to get out of the house. I was speechless with fear. I went first and told the children to follow and stay by me. As all the children and all of us came pouring out, you should have seen the shocked speechless faces of the men. One of the soldiers said, "How many more are there? Where are they all coming from?"

We started counting noses to see if anyone was missing and would have to start over. Then I would ask the children if anyone was missing and they would start counting and moving round to see and asking me all kinds of questions, "What are the men going to do, Aunt Jane?"

Little Jim didn't know where his cat was and wanted to go find her and they all agreed he should. Then one of them said, "Maybe they are going to burn the house down like they did the O'Bryans." Then I had to try and do the impossible, keep them quiet and from going back into the house, for they all remembered something they wanted. They couldn't let it get burned up.

All the time the soldiers were gathering pine cones and chips from the wood shed and piling them under the porch. All this time I was sick. I was never so sick in my life. I wished Mother Nancy was here. She would have known what to do. 

Some of the little ones were using my legs for a hugging post, they were so frightened. Some of the children said to the men, "Go home, we don't like you here!" Another child said, "Go home to your children, we want our papa home." "We want our grandpa home too." "You couldn't hurt us if they were here." "Our soldiers are better!" One of the men said, "That's right, Lad, always stick up for your own side and your own General Lee." The Sergeant said, "We won't hurt any of you, we are just following orders." Then he called out loud, "Is everyone out? Better get out!"

Oh, how I was praying with my eyes opened. What can we do to stop this? Oh, angel of mercy, help us! Then Mary Ann came to the door, our own sweet Mary Ann. One of the grandchildren said, "Grandma!" Then there was silence. There at the door was Mary looking just like Grandma Nancy Pritchett. I always knew Mary Ann resembled her mother, but she was so much like her then that I, too, thought it was the children's grandmother. Merciful heavens, she even spoke and moved like Grandma Nancy.

Union Soldiers but not the ones from the actual story.
It seemed like Nancy had come to save her home. Mary Ann spoke very little, but looked straight at the soldiers; her face and eyes did the pleading. Then the sergeant gave the orders for the men to ride on. They all seemed glad to oblige. Not a thing was touched on the place except the chips and pine cones they had been piling under the porch to start the fire.

Mary Ann later said, "I could not follow the others out. I went to Mother's chair and knelt down and prayed for mother to help me know what to do and say. At first I was frightened. Then I became calm and said, "Mother, what shall I do? What would you do if you were here? Help me to save the home we all love. The home you and Pa built. Where we were all born. A home we need for so many of us." Then it seemed that mother was with me as I went to the door. I was frightened no more. It did not seem like I was speaking, but I was. When the men left, I went back into the room and thanked my Heavenly Father for my many blessings and for his help.

I do believe in the power of prayer and I am grateful for all of these ancestors who sacrificed for us. I wish more of them had written down their stories so we could have them today. That's one of the reasons I blog every day. I always want my kids and my grandkids and my great-grandkids to remember the things we did.
Not that they are nearly as cool as this story...

1 comment:

LeAnn said...

I really enjoyed reading the story. It was such a heart wrenching and heartfelt post. I can't imagine going through an event like that.
I too posted a story about an ancestor of my husbands. It is so fun to find these stories. I really love family history.


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