History of Mariah Davies Davies
In 1854 Mariah Davies left her native Wales and sailed across the ocean to New Orleans. From there she travelled up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Kansas City where she embarked for Salt Lake City by ox team. Since no known photograph exists of this great grandmother of ours to show her form or features, and since no written record of her life could be found, the reader must take the liberty of creating an image of her from the meagre information available. From the diaries of her husband and her oldest son we find mentioned a few personality traits that will help do this. This attempt to write about her is not perfect not complete and many details have been left out, but it will help to make her a reality to us, her descendents.
Mariah was born into the Church of England to parents of strong religious convictions on April 15, 1833. They were Henry and Martha Davies of Carmarthen. The family's faith was shaken in their ancestral faith, however by the preaching of Mormon Elders travelling throughout Wales in the 1840's. They accepted this new and unpopular religion as did their children. Mariah had a sister, Eliza, and a brother William. Henry also had been married previously.
Mariah grew up in Carmarthen and at age 19 was baptized into the Church on February 10, 1852. Her brother William was also baptized that day. The parents had had this ordinance preformed in August 1851. Another person (important in Mariah's life) was also baptized that same night: John Johnson Davies. Although the location of the baptisms is not given, it could be assumed that they took place in the River Towe, after dark, to avoid the mobbings that were common at that time in Wales. Carmarthen is situated on this river and it runs from there into the sea. These young people were able to endure the ridicule heaped upon them by former friends and associates because they knew they had done the right thing.
Their courtship seems to have been happy and they spent some time at the beach. John was soon called to go out with the Elders to preach and also to help with the singing. Later in his life he said that these were his happiest days. Knowing the hardships Mariah later endured, she probably felt the same way about those early days in Wales.
Their wedding was set for October 3, 1853, in Carmarthen. Her parents must have attended as well as her brother. If John's family was present [it] is not known, but since he seemed to be on good terms with his mother, at least, some of them must have attended. It is not known if any of John's family ever accepted the Gospel, or even how they felt about his membership in the Mormon Church. The wedding itself sounded lovely. There was singing, speeches, recitations, toasts, and poetry composed by the Elders. Mariah was now twenty years old and John was twenty-two.
She settled into her housekeeping and like all new brides set out to impress John by fixing him all the favorite foods of the Welsh people. This included roast lamb or beef, mutton stew, Welsh rarebit (consisting of melted cheese and butter mixed with beer and served on toast). Salmon from the rivers of Wales was also a favorite as well as bara laver, a vegetable dish made from seaweed.
The yearning to emigrate to Zion was constantly with this young couple. It was the topic of their conversation by day and the desire expressed in their prayers by night. Even Mariah's parents, though aging, were anxiously waiting for the right opportunity. Some of their friends and relatives had gone and were urging them to come. One wonders if the Perpetual Emigration Fund became the means that made it possible for them to finally emigrate.
Their turn did come and they must take advantage of it. Arrangements were made, bags packed and they were off to Liverpool. They arrived on February 2, 1854, and two days later boarded the Golconda with 460 other Saints of various nationalities. Here they were organized into groups much like a branch organization today. Each family was responsible for their own food and "housekeeping." Several returning elders were aboard and acted as leaders to the Saints. Before leaving Liverpool they were furnished with enough canvas to make a wagon cover and tent. They cut and stitched these items aboard ship and had them ready for use upon arrival
Mariah's young husband enjoyed the crossing immensely, but she was expecting her first child and likely didn't share in all his enthusiasm. Too, she had her parents to look after and try to make comfortable. But the brass band on board cheered her as she joined in the singing and dancing after chores were done.
Six weeks later, on the 18th of March, they arrived in New Orleans where they stayed for a few days before boarding a small crowded steamship bound for St. Louis. It took until April 10th for this part of the trip to pass. Mariah had to use water directly from the muddy river for cooking and drinking. The mud was so thick she had to let it settle in a bucket before using it, but even that didn't help much. The water problem, along with the noise of the band, the singing, the crying babies, the shouting sailors, the noise of the steam engine, and floating logs striking the boat with great force was all hard to endure. But the sickness that now began among them made it even harder for Mariah. She was beginning to learn that "gathering to Zion" often meant hardship and sorrow, sacrifice, and before long her own life would include all these.
April 10th found her in St. Louis, 1200 miles from New Orleans, but conditions were not much improved. Sickness was still prevalent and they had to stop several times to bury their dead on the banks of the river. St. Louis was a filthy, noisy port, and she was crowded into an old hospital building with all the other shipmates for two long weeks. However, the people of St. Louis were much kinder and more helpful to the Saints than in other places in Missouri, so their stay was not unendurable. On April 24th, they boarded a steamboat headed for Kansas City, or Westport as it was called in those days. Again they had to stop and bury those dying aboard. There were no coffins after they left St. Louis, so they did the best they could without them. From St. Louis to Kansas City was about 400 miles by water.
Upon arrival they moved from the boat onto a camping place called McGee's Plantation. This was located on the west bank of the river and proved to be a good area. But Mariah's mother and father both became ill with Cholera at this spot and died. They were buried here (probably without coffins), just 12 miles from Independence. Henry was 65 years old and Martha was 59.
Mariah had expected to have her mother with her when the baby came. Now she must manage without her. They had purchased their wagon while in St. Louis for $67.00 and paid another $12.00 to have it freighted to Kansas City. Their team of oxen cost them somewhere between $75.00 and $110.00 per yoke. These prices were higher in 1854 than previously due to the immense immigration to California and Salt Lake that year. Everything was ready when the word to go finally came. Her baby was due any day now so it wasn't surprising to find her in labor at the end of the first day out. The tent she had helped sew aboard the Golconda now provided the privacy and shelter she needed as she gave birth to her first child. The little girl arrived between midnight and 1:00 A.M. and was promptly named Martha after her grandmother.
The next morning at 8:00 A.M., Mariah and daughter climbed into the wagon and travelled 25 miles. She shared this wagon with six men and three women. Ten people were assigned to every wagon that was in that company. When they arrived at Fort Kearned [Kearney?] three of the men left the group. Of the three men remaining in the wagon, one died and the other two were sick, so John was left to do all the driving and he was suffering from a large boil under his arm.
Mariah had many of the same experiences that other pioneer women had crossing the plains. She gathered buffalo chips for cooking fires, lived through stampedes, accidents, illnesses, and learned to suppress her fear of an Indian attack. She found diversion around the fire after the evening meal in dancing and singing with the others.
The long, tedious journey ended early in October when she entered Salt Lake Valley. With a grateful heart she thought of her parents left behind on the plains of Missouri and rejoiced that her husband and daughter had been spared to see this day. It had taken nearly nine months to make the trip thus far but her travels weren't exactly over as will be seen as the story unfolds.
Elizabeth Davies Williams, Mariah's beloved cousin from Wales, visited her at the Emigration Square campsite and invited her to stay with her. She gladly accepted this invitation and remained there until after Christmas. John found work and they decided to leave for North Ogden after April Conference, 1855. This they did and planted and harvested their first crop there. They planted again in 1856 but didn't harvest as grasshoppers had destroyed almost everything in the northern settlements that summer. Food was so scarce they found themselves digging for roots to sustain life. To make matters worse, the winter of 1856-57 was the worst in the history of the area. Snow started falling in November and covered the ground six feet deep all winter. Cottonwood trees were chopped down for food for the animals, but they were often too weak to be able to get them. As the animals died off their hides were used for food by the settlers.
Little Martha was only two years old at the time. Sometime during the winter Mariah gave birth to a still-born child, neither the date of birth nor the sex of the child is known.
The summer following this terrible winter was a productive as the winter had been destructive and they enjoyed bounteous harvest. In September, 1857, another daughter was born to Mariah and was named Sarah Jane. The following May this family abandoned their first home and joined the other settlers in their move south because of the difficulties with Johnston's Army. They bought a lot in Spanish Fork, and prospered enough from the produce of their garden to buy a yoke of cattle and a wagon for their move back home. Many of the North Ogden settlers never returned after their move south, but John and Mariah did in the fall of 1859, after staying one and a half years in Spanish Fork.
John Henry joined his sisters on the 17th of April, 1860, followed by the birth of Henry William on the 20th of July, 1862. In February, 1863, little Sarah Jane died and was buried in North Ogden. The reason for this death is unknown.
In the fall of 1864 they left their home for Kanarraville. They travelled as far south as Wales (also known as Coalbeds) where they again stayed with relatives, Thomas John Rees and Margaret Davies Rees. (John refers to Thomas as his brother-in-law).
The spring of 1865 found Mariah moving farther south with her husband. This time to the present site of Monroe where Phillip was born, December 21, 1865. They attempted to take up land in Monroe, but the Indian raids became so troublesome they decided to leave. They left Monroe for Kanarra in 1866.
Mariah was now the mother of 12 year-old Martha, six year-old John Henry, four year-old Henry William, and David Phillip, one year-old. At this time they owned one yoke of cattle, one cow and one wagon.
Upon arriving in Kanarra Mariah found herself again staying with relatives; this time the father of her cousin Elizabeth, William R. Davies. As soon as spring came, this settlement was advised to move one mile to the south, so Mariah was on the move again. Men from New Harmony joined the Kanarra men and moved the entire town in one day. Here John bought a farm and they began their new life. Another baby girl had arrived in the meantime, and she was named Rachel Elizabeth, their 7th child.
From the diary of her husband we quote the following: "The night of May 16, 1869, my wife was taken sick and at 4 o'clock in the morning she gave birth to a daughter and at 7 o'clock she died." Her baby was given the name Margrette Alene and was called "Maggie."
Mariah was 36 years old when she died; she had been married 16 years; given birth to 8 children in four different areas, hundreds of miles apart. She had travelled oceans and rivers, mountains and plains; she had lived in tents, wagons and dugouts; she had buried two children; [buried] a father and mother in unmarked graves on the plains; she had braved stampedes, storms, hostile Indians, and fought grasshoppers for her very survival. But, through it all, she remained true to the faith that had brought her from her beloved Carmarthen, to find her own personal Zion here in the tops of the mountains.
Typed in by Joseph F. Buchanan - 17 June 1996 - updated 1/14/97
Histories of my ancestors (index)