Mary Ann Carver Geddes


(Submitted by her granddaughter, Selma Geddes Summers)

This is a task I have always wanted to do yet now I sit down to write the facts of my Grandmother’s life, I feel quite inadequate to do justice to her story.

There are some things about her life that even she has forgotten. There are other things I am sure she would ask me not to write just now. There are many things that should be written but that are difficult to put into this account. I will do then the best I can from my memory of her stories and from~accounts written by others who have seen fit to write of her life.

“It’s a good world, but it takes a lot of grit to get along in it. Sometimes you just have to put a little sand in your shoes.”

Have you ever had Aunt Min tell you this? Then you are one of the lucky ones, for that means you are one of those whose path has crossed the path of a woman whose influence must have made you a little better.

Perhaps you were fortunate enough to spend some time in her friendly old kitchen. Were you tired when you came, or blue, or a little discouraged? Even the sight of the old adobe house with its trim neat lawns and bright flowers must have made you feel a little better and when her white head appeared (it’s been white so long) and both hands were stretched out to greet you, whatever burden you were bearing must have felt a little lighter. And while you rested or unburdened yourself, Aunt Min bustled about and soon you found yourself sitting at a table loaded down with large pink slices of the most delicious ham you ever tasted, tiny new potatoes cooked in milk with sprinkles of parsley and crusty slices of bread fresh from the oven and juicy thick wedges of black currant pie. One’s troubles are never as bad when the stomach is full she often said. And then she listened if you wanted to talk or she told you of experiences that were similar to yours that would help solve your own problems, then she told you of God and you left with a loaf of warm bread under one arm, several jars of luscious jams or jellies under the other, knowing that truly you had been helped by a good woman.

And when you had gone, more than likely, she put her old blue sun bonnet on her white head, tied a bucket round her waist and went out into the hot sun to pick more currants or strawberries or apples, so that the next time you came she would be ready for you.

This remarkable woman was born October 2, 1857, in Kaysville, Davis County, a daughter of John and Mary Ann Eames Carver. Her parents were deeply religious who left England and came to America because of love of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Her only recollection of her Kaysville home was her nightly prayer when she asked Cod to bless “the Weavers, the Carvers, and stubby legged Jones.”

When she was two years old, the family moved to Plain City. Here they lived in a dirt cellar furnished with furniture made by her father’s own hands-table, beds and even a little chair for little Minnie. The cupboards were a ledge dug in the dirt wall. At the side of a fourposter bed made of posts set upright and rawhide strips crosswise to support the tick was Minnies bed. Two poles placed horizontal!:’ one end resting on edge of Mother’s bed, one end driven in the dirt wall and rawhide strips on which the straw tick was placed. The blue and white calico valance was quite stylish as it hung in folds from the high posts and hid the boys’ trundle bed which was pulled out at night and hidden in the daytime.

She loves to tell the stories of her childhood, especially those she remembers of a beloved mother who passed away far too young. She tells of how her mother reared in England by parents who were considered in those days to be financially fairly well off, had the grit and determination to make a good life for her husband and children out in the wilderness. She likes to tell how her mother sold her beautiful dresses that she had brought from England to obtain food for her children and how her mother crawled to the cabin door to milk a cow to obtain milk for her children when she had a new baby, when the father had been delayed. Yet one of the strongest recollections in her life was the suffering of her mother during frequent child birth and it was one of the things which influenced her entire life.

Her early girlhood was spent much as all pioneer children. She helped make soap, starch, candles, she learned to spin cord and knit besides there was milking, churning, sewing, shoe making and cooking to be done. Most of the water was carried from the spring below the hill, but sometimes she would carry water from a well driven by Thomas Singleton because it made better tea than the spring water.

With the other children she helped gather grease-wood for soap because ashes from this bush had more lye content than sagebrush.

From Aunt Rachel, her father’s second wife, she learned much of knitting and crocheting. Years later her children and many of her grand-children’s clothes were made prettier and fancier by her spinner it was always lumpy, but she knit her own stockings when she was ten years old. Her first crochet hook was made from the hard inner core of sagebrush, scraped with a piece of glass. Lucky too are her children and grandchildren who own one of the beautiful hand made quilts she has made.

Along with the other children she went to school under Mr. McQuire and took turns with what few books and smooth boards to write on that were available. In the winter there were shoes to wear made from leather from hides her father took to town, but in the summer she and her brothers and sisters went barefoot to save the shoes.

Her first pair of button shoes were purchased at a Store owned by Jappa Folkman. It was in an adobe house that has since been destroyed. It was there too she tasted her first piece of peppermint candy which Mr. Folkman broke up and passed around for all to taste.

Some of her earliest recollections are of the days when the railroad first came in 1869. The school children saw the smoke rising from the engine stationed at the Utah Hot Springs. They made one bound out of school, ran across to the Hansen’s and stood upon a shed to get a better view. On the way back, Mr. McQuire waited at the door and as the children filed past each received a crack on the hand. Next day, however, school was dismissed so that all could go to the Springs and see this new wonder.

Another exciting event was the day the smoke could be seen at Promitory Point where the railroads met and the golden spike driven.

She also likes to tell how the grasshoppers came and she says “sharpened their teeth on the fence at night to be ready in the morning”. The grasshopper plague lasted for about seven years. She says, “We drove grasshoppers when they were little, we drove them when they were big, from morning until evening with the exception of a few hours during the middle of the day at which time hoppers would rise, circle about in the air with a humming sound much like the noise of the airplanes you now hear overhead. They were in such numbers they shadowed the sun making a shady spot on the ground below. At night the group would light on fences covering boards until it looked black with their bodies. The settlers tried to plant fruit trees and bushes, currants, gooseberries and such to replace the natural shade the hoppers destroyed but it seemed almost a losing battle. She remembers covering a lone strawberry plant almost ready to bear to save the fruit for her sick mother only to find in the morning the grasshoppers had crawled under the pan and eaten the entire plant. Brokenhearted she went to her mother who told her not to worry, God would take care of things and sure enough He did, she says.

When she was 12 years of age her mother died, leaving John, George, Minnie, Willard, Joseph, Parley and Nancy. Nancy passed away when she was 11 years old with inflammation of the bowels or appendicitis. Although Aunt Rachel was very good to the children it seemed that her brothers turned more and more to sister Minnie and continued to do so all the days of her life and she has lived to see them all pass to their reward.

At 15 years of age, she began her public career as a teacher in the Sunday School. John Spires was the First Superintendent, Mr. Boothe Assistant. The Bible, Testament, 1st and 2nd Reader were the text books used. She remembers her Father going to Salt Lake to buy books. He took with him a big barrel of molasses, corn and wheat which had been donated by townspeople to be exchanged for books. She taught Sunday School from 1872 until 1879, teaching Book of Mormon and Arithmetic.

In 1875 the M.I.A. was organized in Plain City and she was among its first members. By this time she was a lovely young lady of 18 years and she had a great dramatic talent. The best entertainment of the day was the dramas enacted by the young people and in these she always had a leading part. Her eyes still sparkle when she gives small excerpts from these old plays. Another popular form of entertainment was the band concerts and the young neighbor of the Carvers, William Geddes took a leading part in these. William was a steady quiet boy who paid court to her in great seriousness. But there were other young men who too sought her hand and it wasn’t until she was almost 20 years old she decided that William was the man to whom she wanted to entrust her life. She married him in August of 1877 and went to live in Salt Lake where her husband was working as a stone cutter on the L.D.S. temple. This was a special mission and the men who received their call from Presided Brigham Young were required to stay there and only return home on special occasions. Her husband became an expert stone cutter. It was particular work done with a chopping knife and dust blown away until the desired shape was obtained. Some of the balls on the outside of the temple were made by William Geddes.

It was in Salt Lake that her first baby Elizabeth was born and in a few short months died. This too was another experience that was to have a direct influence on the activities of her entire life. Because of her mother’s difficulties in child bearing and her own difficult time at Elizabeth’s birth, she was always and forever trying to find ways and means of helping at the time of birth. It became a common thing in Plain City to “run for Aunt Min when a new baby was coming to town.” How many times she helped at the coming of a new life would be impossible to estimate. It has been said that she helped at the birth of children in practically every family in Plain City.

She was familiar to all the early doctors of Ogden and they came to rely on her to such an extent that many times before a doctor would make the long trip to Plain City from Ogden with horse and buggy, they would instruct patients to have Aunt Min come and see if the services of a doctor was necessary and then if she said it was essential, the doctor came.

After a short time in Salt Lake, she returned to Plain City to the two room adobe house her husband had built for her and here she has spent nearly three quarters of a century. Her hone was built on the spot which had once been the camping ground of an Indian tribe, but the Indians gave them very little trouble now.

In 1879 she became Secretary of the Y.L.M.I.A. She was editor of the paper known as the “Enterprise” which was read at Conjoint meetings. After this position she became First Counselor in the same organization. In 1906 she became Superintendent of the Religion Class for one year then became President of the Plain City Relief Society from September 5, 1907 until December 2, 1911.

At this time the Relief Society was an organization which was primarily interested in taking care of the sick and those unable to do for themselves. Aunt Min was one of the first women to see in this organization an opportunity for women to, as she said “improve their minds and further their education that they could become better wives and mothers”, and she was one of those who were instrumental in planning and beginning classwork in Relief Society.

In 1911, she was released from the Presidency of the Relief society that she might spend more time with her ailing father.

In February, 1912, she became an aid in the Stake Board of the North Weber Stake which position she held for 12 years.

In 1882 her husband was called to fulfill a mission for the church in Scotland. She was happy that he had this opportunity to serve the church and she took care of their home and little family while he was gone in cheerfulness and love. He returned in 1884.

If there were hardships in her married life or moments of discouragement, never have you heard her speak of them. Nothing but words of deep devotion, love and respect for every member of the entire family have ever passed her lips.

Fiercely loyal she has been to every one who bears the Geddes name, yet her own family would be the first to tell you that if they needed correction or chastisement they need look no further than home to receive it, for she has been one to council and advise, instruct and scold if need be, every member of her family even down to the third generation. Wise has been her council and direction. Never has she discussed the problems or imperfections of any member of her family with any other member.

She has had an almost Christlife virtue of seeing some good in the worst of us. Intensely religious herself, she was always tolerant when she sought to understand the other fellows point of view.

After the death of her husband in 1891 leaving her five children and another little soul on the way, her need for the grit and determination she was born with was greater than ever, for it was not easy for a woman to make a living for a family in those early days.

She did much hard work and early trained her children that it was by the sweat of the brow that there was bread to be eaten. More and more she turned to the kind of work for which she was a natural and it became a common sight on the dusty roads of Plain City to see Aunt Minein summer a blue sunbonnet on her head, in winter a knitted shawl around her shoulder-stramping from one end of town to the other, tending the sick, the dying, and the new born. Usually under one arm was a loaf of fresh bread, in her hand a pot of warm gruel, in her apron from a hot water bottle to a bottle of castor oil. Down the middle of the dusty road she trotted to bring comfort and aid to those who needed her. Morning, noon, or the dead of night, cold or heat, snow or rain made no difference to her and Aunt Min became an “Angel of Mercy” to a whole community.

She labored long and hard to get the money necessary for her children’s living yet money for moneys’ sake has never meant a thing to her. She was as proud of the home her husband built her as had it been Buckingham Palace. The new things her children bought her in her later life meant more to her for the thoughtfulness in their hearts than the convenience it meant to her. She gave of her means as freely as she gave of her time and talents.

She has always been an admirer of others life herself who could take adversity and make of it a triumph, and she has always had an open heart and home for those who wished to come to her for help in any moral or spiritual sickness as well as physical illness.
Her natural sunny disposition has been lightened by a ready wit and a quick tongue. As a girl she was vivacious and her quick wit is best described by a story she tells of a conversation between she and her husband. He once said to her, “MinnieYou’ll have to admit I’ve been a good husband to you, I’ve never said a cross word to you in my entire life”. And then she answered, “Well, I’ve been a better wife than you have a husband then, for I’ve had to say lots of cross words to you”.

Nearly a century of living has dimmed her eyes and slowed her feet, but for you who would still find the time from the hectic living of this day and age to sit at her feet for but a few moments, you would find that you came away from her more akin with the Lamb for didn’t He say Himself, “Even as ye have done it unto the least of Mine, Ye have done it unto Me.” So pause for a moment and lend an ear for there is much you can learn from she who has lived with Sand in her shoes, Healing in her hands, Wisdom in her head and The love of God in her heart.