My husband’s sister, Alicia, found this old newspaper article of one of their ancestors, Almeda Day McClellan. She was born in Bastard, Leeds, Ontario, Canada to Hugh Day and Rhoda Ann Nichols on 28 November, 1831 (Family Data Collection – Births [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA). She married William Carroll McClellan on 19 July 1849 in Pottawattamie, Iowa. She lived to be 101 years old, passing away on 22 June 1933 in Salt Lake City. (Utah State Archives and Records Service; Salt Lake City, UT; Utah State Archives and Records Service; File Number #: 1933002328).
When looking for the source of the newspaper article Alicia sent us, I found the story in church history on LDS.org with the source listed as “Oldest Utah Mother Dies,” Salt Lake Telegram, 23 June 1933, 2:1. It says she was 18 when she and her brand new husband left with the William Snow company from Nauvoo to Salt Lake, and they had a six week old daughter at the time. You can read more about her husband’s story with the Mormon battallion HERE and HERE.
The 1850 census was taken just a year after they arrived in Utah, with their one year old daughter, Mary, and Almeda being 19 years old:
I found them on the 1860 census, after they had been there for ten years and Almeda was then 28 years old:
They also had a whole slew of children in only ten years! Mary was now 10, with siblings ages 8, 6, 4, and 1.
In the 1870 census, Almeda was now 38 and Mary had already married, with new siblings living at home still:
In the 1880 census, Almeda is now 48 with the last of the children growing up:
They lived in Mexico some after that, but she shows up again in the 1920 census at 88 years old, widowed and living with her son George and their family:
She was 98 in the 1930 census living with her grandson, three years before she died:
Here is the article Alicia found and sent us, with more stories I found on another site later:
The caption under the picture says: “Mrs. Almeda D. McClellan, 101, oldest Utah mother and seventh oldest mother in the United States, who died Thursday night. Mrs. McClellan, with 439 living descendants, had the greatest posterity of the 48 oldest mothers in the United States”.
The accompanying article reads thus:
Mrs. Almeda Day McClellan, 101-year-old Utah pioneer, the oldest mother in the United States, died Thursday at 11:50pm at the home of her son, George A. McClellan, 229 Hazel street.
Mrs. McClellan, who last June was given this recognition by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs at Seattle, Wash., also was said to have the greatest posterity – 439 descendants – of any of the 48 oldest mothers in the United States.
The aged frontierswoman, who was married about the time sourdoughs began digging gold in California, in 1849, had witnessed the events of a century of progress in the western United States.
Born November 28, 1831, at Leeds, Upper Canada, a daughter of Hugh Day and Rhoda Ann Nichols, Mrs. McClellan moved to New York with her family and affiliated with the LDS church in 1836. She later moved to Nauvoo, Ill., where her mother died in 1844.
She was married July 19, 1849, to William Carrol McClellan, a member of the Mormon battallion. She and her husband came to Salt Lake Valley as pioneers in October, 1850, arriving with William Snow’s company. Their first child, a daughter, was only 6 weeks old when they began the trek.
After residing in Salt Lake for a year, the family moved to Payson in 1851 and resided there for 25 years. At the request of Brigham Young, they moved to Sunset, Arizona, in 1877, where they took an active part in building that community.
Mrs. McClellan also had resided in Mexico during the civil war of 1912 and a short time later returned to Payson, where she resided until 1916, when she again went to Mexico.
For the past four years she had resided in Salt Lake with her daughter, Mrs. Cynthia L. Bailey, and her son, George A. McClellan.
Surviving are 439 descendants, five sons and four daughters, Mrs. Mariah M. Hatch, Colonia Juarez, Chihauhua, Mexico; Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Rhoda A. Cardon, El Paso, Texas, and Mrs. Sarah Evaline Bailey, Kennilworth, Utah; James J. McClellan, Glenwood, Utah; David A. McClellan, Mesa, Arizona; Samuel Edwin McClellan, Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico; George A. McClellan, Salt Lake, and Charles E. McClellan, Logan; a brother, Lorenzo Day, Hunter, Utah; 33 grandsons, 48 granddaughters, 138 great-grandsons, 136 great-grand-daughters, 35 great-great-grandsons, and 40 great-great-granddaughters.
Funeral services will be conducted at 4pm in the Twelfth-Thirteenth LDS ward chapel. Friends may call at the home of her granddaughters, Mrs. Frank Q. Robinson. 1077 Fourth East street, Sunday from 10am to 330pm.
This page on FamilySearch had an amazing multi-generational picture of Almeda Day (top left):
I found this webpage on rootsweb, with the same family pictures that we have (see below), and stories written by her granddaughter, Zitelle McClellan Snarr. Here is the section on Almeda Day McClellan on that page (the same writing is also on this website):
I’m no artist; but I’m going to try to present a word picture of my little paternal Grandmother, Almeda Day McClellan, who lived to be nearly 102 years old.
Some of this information was obtained from actual contact with Grandmother. Other parts are from her children, my father, George A. McClellan, his youngest brother Professor Charles E. McClellan of Logan, Utah, and other uncles, aunts and cousins. After Grandfather McClellan died in 1916, Grandmother lived in our home at times and she used to dwell in the past a great deal in memory. I can picture her now, standing with her arms folded across her back, her shoulders held erect and with a slight rocking motion, she talked to me as I ironed. She spoke of things that were important to her in years gone by. I wish now that I had been more attentive then, and had been wise enough to question her along certain lines. I was a member of the Pioneer Stake Sunday School Board at the time and often was trying to think out a lesson I had to present. Sometimes I became a bit irked with her for interrupting my trend of thought, even though I did write down many of the things she told me during those years.
“If youth could know what age would crave, full many a penny youth would save” is an old adage and I would paraphrase it to read, “If youth the wisdom of age would crave, more patience with the aged, youth must have.”
After I was married in 1925, I became the Corresponding Secretary for the Salt Lake County Board of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and began to realize the importance of recording more of the experiences in Grandmother’s life. If she ever saw me writing things down as she talked, she would stop immediately and move away saying, “What do you want to write it down for? I might be wrong.”
She was a tiny woman physically, but she never asked anyone else to lift the heavier end of the load. She passed through hardships of pioneer life, of relative poverty, nearly all of her days; but Guy C. Wilson said of her, at her passing, “I’m sure there never was a soul who could do that with more grace and courage than Almeda McClellan. She bore the burdens of life without complaint. She was a patient, God-fearing woman.”
Toward the end of her days, her youngest son Charles once asked her what was the greatest trial she had endured in the course of her long life. “Trials,” she mused, “Never had any.” Uncle Charles recalled some of her experiences: she was a frail, delicate baby, only weighed two-and-a-half pounds at birth; as a child she crossed the St. Lawrence River on the ice; lived with her in-laws for a while after her marriage to William C. McClellan who had just returned from the long trek with the Mormon Battalion; started across the Plains for the West by ox team with a five-week-old baby; spent about four years in the United Order up at the saw mill at Sunset, Arizona; pioneered Payson, Utah, Brigham City, Arizona and Colonia Juarez in Old Mexico; lived the principle of plural marriage; raised a family of twelve children, three of them which preceded her in death; and was driven out of her home in Old Mexico at the age of 81 years. “Wasn’t that hardship and trials?” he asked. “Humph!” she responded, “all in the day’s work!” and grandfather added, “what we did was just ordinary. Just what there was to do. You do what you have to do in this life, and that was all we did. We just happened to live in that time.”
Grandmother said that very few of her days or nights were marred by any kind of report of waywardness or willful wrongdoing of any of her children.” The McClellan family are not law breakers. They are not disturbers of the peace. They are good citizens, they take their place among the lifters of the world, always doing credit to the name they bear.” Such were her teachings, coupled with knowledge of the virtues and realities of immortality.
Once, when I was a small child, my mother and father both had typhoid fever. I was sent up to Juarez to stay with my grandparents. I was homesick, and I expect I was a bit of a crybaby. I saw a pretty red Ben Davis apple on one of the fruit trees. I asked for it and Grandfather told me it was not yet ripe enough to pick. Later that day when I was wiping the dishes, I broke the handle off a teacup and Grandfather scolded me for being careless. I went out behind the house and sat down beside a pile of lumber and had a good constitutional remedy. Of course, he would come along and catch me at it. In a few minutes he came by and dropped the pretty red apple in my lap; but the apple held no charm for me now. I felt that Grandfather was so stern, I really was a bit frightened of him, but felt that Grandmother was tenderer and that she had rather a keen sense of humor. That was my childhood judgement. However, I’ve been told that when it came to disciplining the children, Grandfather would talk and reason, maybe swish a little with a willow. His daughter Cynthia told him once that he could accomplish more if he would paddle more and not talk so much. “For a little woman, Grandmother could surely hit hard, across the place provided for paddling,” said Barbara Bailey Ludwig. “She would speak once, get the attention of the child, give him one look, then, if there was no action, she was apt to strike. She believed in strict discipline.”
Let’s begin at the beginning. Almeda Day McClellan was born November 28, 1831, just about a year and a half after the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to Rhoda Ann Nichols and Hugh Day in Leeds County, Canada, in a little township known then as Bastard, near what is now Brockville. Grandmother always resented our asking where she was born, because she didn’t like to mention the name of the place. I’ve been told that the people who lived in that little area were Loyalist sympathizers, hence the name.
Almeda’s grandfather, William Day, had been killed in battle during the War of 1812. Her father, Hugh Day, was only about three years old at the time, but his father’s death in war unquestionably had a profound effect upon his life. He wanted no part of war or army life. Almeda was born in 1831, a sister, Lydia Mariah, in 1833; a brother, William Sheldon in 1835. A little brother John was born, lived only about three hours and died in 1837 or 1838. Then there is a tradition in the family that a little baby girl was born to them about 1844, that she lived a very short time and was named Rhoda Ann Day and died. Those early records were not kept too perfectly.
Grandmother often spoke of a conference of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being held in an unfinished barn there in Canada about 1835. My understanding is that Parley P. Pratt had been there previously to preach the Gospel to the people in that area and that late other missionaries of the church conducted a conference. Her father, Hugh Day, and in all probability her mother too, was baptized December 30, 1836. The only record available for years of any of the sacred ordinances relating to her was that of October 1838, a baptism was performed for her and the Endowment on October 26, 1938. Years later it was decided that she was baptized about November, 1844.
When Almeda was about six years old, the family moved from Canada into the United States, to LeRay, Jefferson County, New York. Grandmother told me that she thought one of the reasons for this move was that the British were drafting young men into the army. So, in February of 1837 they crossed over the St. Lawrence River on the ice in a wagon belonging to Jacob Hatch. They went directly to Almeda’s uncle, Alvin Nichols, who was living in a home belonging to this same Jacob Hatch. They lived there for about a year, during which time the little brother John was born and then died. Almeda’s mother never had good health afterward.
There were not enough Mormons in that vicinity to hold church, so Almeda used to go to the Methodist Sunday School and meeting. She remembered that her father was very strict in his religious behavior and requirements. Before conversion to the Latter-day Saint faith, her father had been a Baptist and her mother a Methodist.
During their five years in New York State, they lived in rented houses and in quite a large town. Part of the time they rented a little place like a doctor’s office or house. Her father did common labor most of the time. In fact, he did whatever he could find to do, though he worked as a wheelwright after they came to Salt Lake.
At an advanced age, Almeda remembered when she was a child she was as curious as the next young one. There was a millinery shop near their place in New York, Root, Hastings, and Marshall was the name of the concern. She used to go and stand looking on. Finally one day one of the women said to her, “Go tell your mother if she will let you come, you can work with me in the shop.” How thrilled she was, for she was sure she wanted to become a milliner, but later in life, she said she guessed the woman only told her that to get rid of her at the time. That experience made Grandmother remember that her father resembled, in appearance, her half-brother, Laron Day, or her half-sister, Rozane (Aunt Zane we called her). And her mother, Rhoda Ann Nichols Day, looked like her son William Day. This helps those of us who have seen these people, a little. Of course, we do have a picture of Hugh Day; but not one of Rhoda Ann Nichols.
Almeda remembered that an aunt once came over into the State of New York from Canada to see them. She told Almeda’s father that if he would come to Canada and pay them a visit she would give him the best cow in the corral. He went, got his cow and a sack of maple sugar that was formed in cones. He came home carrying the sugar on his back and driving the cow. Almeda climbed up on the pigpen to show the other children the new cow. A board broke, she fell into the pen and cut bad a gash in her head. The scar remained with her through life.
A Presbyterian minister came to their home two or three years after they joining the Mormon church and left a Bible for Almeda’s mother and a small New Testament for each of the children.
According to Uncle Charles McClellan “Almeda never went to school until she was seven years old and with the exception of about two weeks, had no schooling after she was twelve. She snatched what she could in those brief years, a few months at a time. They had Cob’s book “Children’s Guide,” probably as a reader. They always had a man teacher in the winter months; but a woman teacher in the summer. One young man teacher, she recalled, was a nice young man, tch! tch! and she was only about eleven or twelve years old. He taught them reading, writing, spelling, geography, arithmetic and they were just beginning composition when he quit. They used a Webster blue-backed spelling book, which Almeda kept for many years. Her youngest son, Charles, learned to spell from it, just as she had so many years before. They were both good spellers, too. Almeda could spell the school down; but her modesty forbade and she refused to spell “breeches.” We don’t know what the penalty for that was. Discipline in school in those days was very strict. She remembered seeing an unruly child stand on a hot stove until his feet were burned.
I have never seen anything that my Grandmother ever wrote. We have letters and cards that Grandfather wrote to us from Old Mexico, but never anything from her that I know of. She was a very good reader, though. After she came to live with us, when she was nearly 90 years old, I used to go to the Public Library regularly for her. I would bring two books, novels usually, in as good print as I could find and she would read them in the next two weeks. Sometimes even before the time had elapsed she would begin to wish I had time to go to the Library and get her another book to read.
I commented to my father one day that Grandmother had always seemed old to me. Father suggested that I figure out her age. I then realized that she was seventy when I was born. Don’t know that she ever went to a dentist, but she began to lose her teeth when she was around fifty and she never had any dentures made for her, got along for the next fifty-two years without them. A common sight, in my memory, was to see her scraping an apple with a spoon or a dull knife. She did enjoy eating most everything.
In 1843, when Almeda was about 12 years old, the family embarked at Sacket Harbor on Lake Ontario, near Watertown, New York and went on by way of the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal to Milwaukee. At Oswego they picked up a small company of soldiers and let them off at Rochester. On the Erie Canal they went by way of a houseboat, sorted of a house on a raft towed up the canal by means of a cable drawn by oxen on the shore from new Rochester to Buffalo. Almeda’s mother was very timid, especially afraid of water. It has been said that she refused to ride on the house boat, so her husband had to hire a team and wagon and drive along the banks of the canal until they reached Buffalo, following the house or tug boats which contained their belongings. Very little is known about their journey on lakes Ontario, Erie and Michigan, but Almeda’s mother said the Devil was in the bottom of Lake Huron and wanted to get them. Superstitions were plentiful in those days. There was a storm that threatened the lives of all of them. Almeda’s father was a poor man. He didn’t have sufficient money to command the best boat in the world, in fact, he got rather a poor one called the “Brig.” Almeda’s mother, still fearful of the water and the storm, when she got down into the boat began to constitutional remedy. A Mr. Wheeler, the tavern keeper, said to Almeda’s father, “Take her off, go back to the tavern and I’ll find you a boat tomorrow.” He was very kind to them and they stayed at the tavern that night. He procured a boat for them the next day, the “Cleveland,” it was called, at any rate a more seaworthy boat. The vessel Almeda’s mother did not want to go on foundered and never reached its port. Later they saw boards and parts of the “Brig” floating about in the water. The storm had not entirely subsided when they embarked the next day and some parts of their boat were torn off.
In the course of that journey, they missed seeing a lighthouse and ran onto a sandbar. Fog is often very heavy in this area. The storm was still raging. The beam from the lighthouse couldn’t penetrate the dark and the mists. Water poured into the holes. Carpenters hastily went to work. They set the pumps going and kept the sand barrels rolling until the boat gradually worked out of the sand. The lifeboats were lowered and kept in readiness to take all to shore if necessary.
They arrived in Milwaukee at four o’clock in the morning and went by wagon to Sun Prairie on Waterloo Creek, ninety miles from Milwaukee and about ten miles from Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. Almeda’s grandmother, Susanna Chipman Nichols, and Grandfather Sheldon Nichols lived at Sun Prairie. Her grandmother was a member of the Church, but her grandfather was a Mormon hater. The Grandmother was a weaver and she had what they called Grandmother’s Loom Shop.
At Sun Prairie, Almeda’s father secured a small plot of ground which he farmed. He built a little log house and worked for others in the community when he could. Part of the time Almeda worked for her mother’s oldest sister, Lydia Nichols Brazee. The Brazee and Adams families were living there at the time. There was a hard wood grove near the little log house and Almeda recalled that in that grove her Uncle Alvin Nichols killed two deer, which helped the family out with food. She also talked about the numerous rattlesnakes they had there–said they used to kill them and feed them to the hogs! ! Here they were living when the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred on June 27, 1844. Her mother took it very hard and cried a great deal. Her faith in Mormonism was very strong and she wanted so much to go to Nauvoo. In the fall Almeda’s father sold what he could, gave away the rest of their belongings and they moved, part of the way by boat on the Mississippi River, to Nauvoo. They arrived there October 8, 1844. Their mother’s health was now very poor. Almeda said her Mother was privileged to go to the Nauvoo Temple but once, whether that was just to see the building as it was progressing-to witness a baptismal service for the dead or to take part in it, we do not know. Baptisms for the dead were about the only ordinances then being carried on. The first meeting was held in October 1845. She died in childbirth on November 9, 1844 at the age of 31, and was one of the first to be buried in the new cemetery at Nauvoo. Her principal ailment had been a weak heart.
Before Almeda came to Nauvoo, she had not been to any Mormon meetings, although her parents belonged to the Church. The first meeting she attended was one staged by the children of the neighborhood and was rather strange play for her. One little girl stood up and pretended she was speaking in tongues. The parents overheard and so ended the first Mormon meeting for Almeda. Later, when she attended a Fast and Testimony meeting and some woman really did speak in tongues, Almeda was frightened until one of the brethren gave the interpretation.
The worshiping assemblies of the Saints in Nauvoo were usually held in a building provided for that purpose, but several times Almeda went to the Temple to attend meetings. She helped sew temple clothes, garments, etc. She sewed a beautifully fine seam by hand. She said that they were always careful not to let the younger children know anything about the temple clothing. She didn’t think she wanted to go to the temple to do work then. She didn’t understand it and at 14, according to the ruling today, she would hardly have been old enough to go through at that time. She said some young girls had “blabbed” to her about temple work and it had created a sort of prejudice in her mind. There was no mother to reassure her; but Brother Heber C. Kimball promised Almeda’s father that he would live to do temple work in the valleys of the mountains. Almeda did work for her mother and other members of the family in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1874. (There were proxy baptisms performed in the Endowment House, but no proxy endowments.) Almeda was baptized June 1847; endowed 8 March 1852; sealed to husband 8 March 1852; also 9 October 1871 in the Endowment House. Hugh Day died January 19, 1886, before the Salt Lake Temple was completed, but he was able to work in the Endowment House.
After their Mother’s death, the family moved out of Nauvoo and lived on a farm with her mother’s cousin, Chester Southwick.
In March of 1845 they went to live with Almeda’s mother’s uncle, Steve Chipman. He lived between five and ten miles from Montrose on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. Almeda’s family was in poor circumstances financially. Her father did wagon repair work during the summer months and in September Uncle Steve Chipman’s family and Almeda’s family moved together to Little Pigeon Creek (now Crescent), Pottawattomie County, Iowa, about seven miles from Council Bluffs. (Little Pigeon Creek emptied into the Boyer River.) They built a little log house and planted a garden the following spring of 1846. The Chipmans came west before the McClellans and the Days did.
At Florence, Nebraska about September 7, 1847, Hugh Day married Susannah Judd Boyd, a widow with two children, a son John and a daughter Susan, and to them were born the following children: Rodazene, Arzo, Rosana Content, Florena, Hugh, and Laronzo. (Rodazene, Florena and Hugh all died in infancy.)
The Day family lived at Florence that winter and went back on the farm in the spring. Almeda’s Uncle Alvin Nichols had been almost like a mother to the children after their mother died, but he got married just before Hugh Day did. Said he couldn’t stand by and see any other woman come and take charge of things in place of his sister Rhoda Ann. “But,” said Almeda, “we children didn’t fly away from home because we had a stepmother. She was good to us. Uncle Alvin asked my brother William to come and live with him and father let him go; but my sister Maria and I stayed with the folks until we were married.”
During this time Almeda’s health was very poor. She suffered from what they called scurvy or sometimes blackleg. The flesh was swollen and the legs ached and burned. Some of those who were sorely afflicted with the disease had the flesh literally rot on the bones. There were many ill at that time and some deaths occurred, she remembered one by the name of Turley. After living on the farm for about two years, her health improved. She was probably better nourished. She said she used to walk half a mile to get to her meetings. Her sister Maria seemed to have fairly good health; but the brother William was more like Almeda.
About October of 1847, while they were living in Florence, Nebraska, William Carroll McClellan came home from the Mormon Battalion trek. Almeda didn’t remember of seeing him before he went away, but his mother had nursed her through a siege of scurvy, she called her Minta instead of Almeda. Someone has said that William had been sort of engaged to Lois Ann Stevens, who later married Guy C. Wilson’s father, but Almeda declared that she didn’t know that she was breaking up any engagement at the time. There was not much courtship between her and William, he had to be away working most of the time. She did know him for a couple of years before they were married July 19, 1849. William had turned twenty-one years old the May before and Almeda was seventeen years, seven months, and 21 days old.
When they were first married; they lived with William’s family. It was a large family and there were grown young people. There were just two log rooms for the family and the newlyweds, no door to divide the two rooms either, all open like one big room. What would you think if you were a new bride and had to sleep four couples in a room and on the floor at that? They lived together until William built a little log house up the creek from his father’s place for their temporary use. They moved into it in November.
Once while she was living with the McClellan family, William’s father came in with an article of wearing apparel that needed some repair work done, I don’t remember now whether it was a button or a string that was missing whether it was a tear that needed mending; but he was quite put out because it hadn’t been taken care of. William’s mother was so busy all the time and Almeda felt sorry for her. She spoke up and said “I can mend it for you.” She was startled when he turned on her and in rather a sharp tone replied, “Almeda, didn’t anyone ever tell you that ‘offered service’ stinks?” Grandmother talked on the moral for my special benefit. “Keep your eyes open, when you see an opportunity for service, give it.” Her eye would twinkle, as she added, “I never offered to do anything for him again.”
At this time there was great interest and activity in the plan of the Saints to come west. Nearly everyone was getting ready in some way to make that great trek. William’s father and Almeda’s father cooperated in building wagons, the former doing the woodwork, and the latter, the ironwork. They helped many of the Saints fit themselves out for the journey.
William and Almeda moved back down to the McClellan family home in April and the first child, Mary, was born May 11, 1850.
William’s father had intended to head west in the spring of 1848, leaving quite a farm fenced for his son to take advantage of. The California Gold Rush, changed a good many plans. William and his father were kept so busy helping them to get outfitted and it meant more income and the possibility that if they kept on the job a little longer, they could make the trek together. William sold their house and corral for a cow, a pig, and a coat. He had gotten hold of an old 3-1/4 wagon, which was not considered to be worth fixing up, and he went to work at it in odd moments. He fixed the wagon with every convenience that was available to anyone in his circumstances. He really had a fly outfit.
In 1924 Uncle Charles still had in his possession a table his father had made more than seventy-five years before from a hardwood board that was made to stick out from the back end of the wagon for Almeda to use as a bread board, wonder if it still exists? (1958)
Their comfortable covered wagon, with its special side door, which was to be Almeda’s home for a good many months was drawn by three yoke of oxen, or as William tells us in the record which he kept, “The wheelers were a pair of good strong oxen (two-year-old steers) in the middle was a yoke of cows, one of them giving milk, and the leaders where made up of a pair of young steers, hardly broke to work at all when they started, and they caused a lot of petty trouble for a time ‘till steady work quieted them down.” These he drove all the way to the Valley.
They left home the 12th or 13th of June 1850 and traveled in Joseph Young’s company of 100. William Snow was Captain of one 50 and James McClellan of the other 50, and Amos Stoddard Captain of their 10. The two companies of 50 kept close together. The Captains carefully supervised the travel and the outfits. They drove the sheep and cows just ahead of the Company, which helps us understand why they were so long on the way.
William, Almeda and baby Mary, and Almeda’s sister Marie rode in William’s wagon. In addition to their regular load, William had about 400 pounds of glass and nails as freight, which they took on at the ferry for A. 0. Smoot and J. L. Haywood, who were willing to pay $24.00 per hundred pounds. This enabled them to get clothing and other needed articles that it would not have been possible for them to get otherwise when they reached the end of their journey.
Almeda nursed not only her own five-week-old baby, but at times two others, as well! Aunt Lane, William’s baby sister who was born on the way, and Almeda’s stepbrother, Arza Day. Uncle Charles comment to this was, “Evidently I come of good milking stock.” Almeda said she drank lots of tea so she would have plenty of nurse. Baby Mary kept well on the trip and liked to travel. Sometimes she would constitutional remedy when they stopped. She wanted to keep going. She liked the white ox.
Almeda tried to walk some, but each time she got so far behind that William had to pull out and wait for her. She never was much of a walker. She did most of the cooking along with her other duties.
Between the Platte and the Missouri Rivers it was damp and their drinking water often was stagnant, and they couldn’t always boil it for protection, I’m sure. The Platte was bad, muddy water and there were literally millions of mosquitoes. Cholera broke out in their camp. William was stricken and had a siege of it. There were several deaths. William’s little brother Jimmie, 2 years old, was among them. He was buried there on the trail.
On the river LaBonte in the Black Hills, near what is now Casper, Natrona County, Wyoming, William’s mother gave birth to a baby girl, Cynthia Selena. It was she who Almeda nursed part of the time during their journey.
There were some deaths on the way due to lightning. Electric storms always bother the cattle. The men would have to hold their arms over some of them during a thunderstorm and gently rub their necks until the excitement subsided. They were always afraid of a stampede. Once the wolves attacked and seriously injured one of William’s cows. They brought her on to the Valley and sold her for beef. They received about $10.00 worth of straw for her. They didn’t see many Indians on the way, only a few Sioux who were very picturesque.
After nearly four months on the road, they reached Salt Lake about October Conference time. What faith! What courage! What an achievement!
They camped a few days on the lot where Barnett Rigby lived, near what is now Third South and Second West; but baby Mary and William’s little sister Selena had the whooping cough. Naturally they wouldn’t be very welcome any place where there were other small children, so they had to make a move. William borrowed a team from Barnett Rigby and hauled wood from North Canyon on shares for a few weeks, they went into Little Cottonwood Canyon with William McBride and James McClellan to burn and bury charcoal to be used later as fuel in their blacksmith shop. Almeda and little Mary went with them and lived in the wagon box until Christmas, when they returned to Salt Lake and rented a cabin, which was but a little better than the wagon box, but it did have a small stove in it and they were quite comfortable until March of 1851 when they moved to Payson. It took eight days of hard work to make that journey.
Almeda had five children before she ever owned a stove. How proud she was of that Charter Oak wood burning stove. My father says he learned his ABCs from printing on it and a wooden packing box, which stood to the side to hold the firewood. Prior to that time Almeda had cooked and baked over a campfire or in a cast iron bake or Dutch oven, over oak or hickory coals in the fireplace. If they didn’t have any baking powder, they used saleratus for soda or leavening in their quick breads. She made her own soap, cooking it in a big iron kettle out in the yard and making it fragrant with a little of the mint that grew by the ditch bank. She heated water for washing and boiling her clothes in that big iron kettle then rubbed the clothes clean on a scrubbing board, sometimes in a wooden tub.
Almeda received her Patriarchal Blessing from Isaac Morley in March of 1854.
From 1850 to 1875, Almeda gave birth to twelve children, seven boys and five girls:
Mary Almeda born 11 May 1850 Little Pigeon, Pottawattamie, Iowa; died 27 Oct 1889 William Hugh born 24 Mar 1852 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 11 Apr 1901
Maria Matilda born 2 May 1854 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 26 Jul 1940
Cynthia Lovesta born 2 May 1856 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 30 Sep 1956
James Jasper born 28 Dec 1858 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 17 Apr 1938,
Sarah Evaline born 10 Feb 1861 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 18 Feb 1949
John Henry born 12 Apr 1863 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 5 Jul 1872
David Alvin born 16 Jun 1865 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 4 Jan 1953
Samuel Edwin born 23 Jul 1867 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 27 Apr 1957
Rhoda Ann born 23 Jul 1867 Payson, Utah County, Utah
George Alma born 23 Jul 1867 Payson, Utah County, Utah; died 27 Dec 1963
Charles Eli born 23 Jul 1867 Payson, Utah County, Utah
Other mothers were losing their little ones with one disease or another while Almeda seemed to be very fortunate. She lost one little son, John Henry, at the age of nine and he had a bad heart from the beginning. Some of the neighbors wondered why it was and one woman came to Almeda and said, “What is the matter, you don’t lose any babies. Maybe it is the plain living.” “As much as to say we didn’t have enough to eat! I didn’t cram a child with cake and pie, but they had what they wanted to eat. Maybe it was plain food. I find no fault with the way I had to live. They seemed hard times, but we lived through it and did pretty well. Most of us lived alike in those days.
“I always kept my children’s feet and legs warm. Though we had a large family, William was a good provider, always had a good garden. When he could, he bought sugar by the sack and cloth by the bolt. We usually grew some sugar cane and made it into molasses. We knit every pair of stockings the twelve children wore. I never did much weaving, but I’ve done plenty of carding and spinning in my day. My girls learned to knit by the time they were eight years old and that relieved me considerably. If I had two dresses for any of my babies, I was doing well.”
Almeda never had a sewing machine until after her twelfth child was born, it was a Wheeler and Wilson and she never learned to use it. The girls did the sewing on the machine. Styles may come and styles may go, but the nightcap and shimmie would have gone on forever, as far as little Grandmother was concerned. She made the shimmie by the same pattern for 90 years and made them by hand until she was past eighty. (In my cedar chest I have the shimmie and nightcap she was wearing at the time of her death–she had not made them but they were the same pattern. I still have them in November 1964.)
I asked my father George A. McClellan, if he could remember what they used to have to eat when he was a child. (Grandmother said once the leanest days she remembered were those in the Order at Sunset, there they frequently had carrot soup, and darn thin at that.) Father said when his mother was cooking, they might have a little salt pork, hashed brown potatoes or an occasional egg for breakfast. The noon meal was their heartiest, dried corn or beans. Lots of squash, they even dried it for use in the winter. In the late fall they killed a pig or a beef. Chicken, wild turkey and antelope added to the variety of their meat. The vegetables were onions, carrots, and rutabagas. In Payson and again in Juarez, some fresh fruits in season or dried apples, peaches and apricots in the winter time. She made the best molasses cake and you could go to her place most any time and have a slice of it or ginger and molasses cookies. Quick breads, soda or baking powder biscuits, in those earlier days baked in the Dutch oven. Their supper was frequently lumpy dick, milk with a little flour stirred into it, and never mind the lumps, or corn meal mush and milk, sweetened with a little molasses. “Oh, of course, bread and milk, part cream, if I could sneak it off the pan without getting caught,” father said.
When Grandmother came to live with us after Grandfather died. She said she didn’t like Campbell’s soup because old man Campbell kicked their dog. It seems that when they first went down into Old Mexico, Father and his brother Ed had malaria. They took the boys up in the mountains to Cave Valley. There was a man named Campbell living in that vicinity. He came to call on them once while the boys were ill. The folks had a dog, old Zip. He was a pretty good watchdog, and when Mr. Campbell approached the house, the dog ran out at him and barked. He kicked the dog and Grandmother never liked him after that. In fact, many years later she didn’t even like “Campbell’s Soup”!
William married Elsie Jane Richardson in polygamy on April 14, 1873. Almeda went to the Endowment House with them and placed her hand on his. She said, “I never regretted the fact that they were married, and I told Elsie so.” Of that union there were eight children born:
Laura Catherine McClellan born 9 June 1874, Payson, Utah, Utah, died Dec. 12, 1895 Lorenzo Carroll McClellan born 17 Nov. 1876, Payson, Utah, Utah
Wilford McClellan born 7 Aug. 1879, Sunset, Arizona
Orson Wells McClellan born 17 Nov. 1881, Brigham City, Arizona
Earl Joseph McClellan born 28 Mar. 1884, Pleasanton, New Mexico
Minerva Jane McClellan born 1 Mar. 1887, Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
Lois Elizabeth McClellan born 23 Oct. 1889, Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico,
died Jan. 1, 1892
Alta Willmerth McClellan born Feb. 4, 1893, Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
Much of the responsibility of rearing her children fell upon Almeda’s shoulders. William was a hard-working man, always with chores to do. He was an Army man, stern, though kind, and as such, commanded the respect of his family. He marched with the Mormon Battalion when he was only 18 years old. He took an active part in the protection of life and property against Indians; was a member of the town council, Colonel of the First Regiment, Second Brigade of the Nauvoo Legion. In 1863 he left home to meet the incoming immigration of the Saints, and about seven months of the years 1866 and 1867 were spent looking to the safety of Payson, Goshen, Santaquin, Pondtown or Salem and Benjamin. (He received a small pension in later years for his part in the Indian War, after his death, Grandmother still received about $30 per month. Uncle Charles used to take care of the business end of it for her.) When William was free from guard duties, he worked at farming, carpenter and millwright work. He superintended the erection of a meetinghouse in Payson and the building of a canal out of the Spanish Fork River.
Father has told me that Grandfather’s shop, where he kept his tools, had to be just so. If there was anything left laying around and one of the boys were to walk over it, he would speak sharply. “It’s ten times easier to step over that thing than it is to pick it up.” If Almeda saw a task yet undone that William had told the children to do, she would say, “Your father told you to do it. You know what you will get when he comes!” Because their father was stern and they didn’t like to be spoken to sharply, they tried to do what they knew they should. My father has also said, “Mother never went out gadding around much.” Fast Meetings at one time were held on Thursday and she attended them and usually the Sacrament Meetings on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. While Sunday School was going on she might be seen taking a plate containing something good to eat to a sick neighbor. She usually attended Relief Society meetings and would come home with an apron full of carpet rags to sew. She said she always paid her dues and donations to the Relief Society whether she attended all their meetings or not. They had old time visiting days and quiltings, and she helped about with the sick. “When Charles and I were little, we had to go with her most of the time, if she went. We always hated the quiltings, like poison. We were in misery until she went home. I guess that was why she didn’t go as much while we were young,” said father.
In her modest, retiring way, she endeavored to hold her home together. She and William tried always to be fair with their children and never show any partiality. “No two children are alike,” said Almeda, “they are all different in disposition. No two of my twelve were alike. You have to treat them all differently.” To illustrate, “My Will and Jim were both sitting on the fence one afternoon. Three or four little fellows were playing in the street. A difference arose and they commenced to quarrel, you know children will spat. Jim urged them on. He wanted to see which could whip the other. Will sat and looked on for a while. He would grin occasionally, but he couldn’t stand to see them get serious and he stopped the scrap, and by talking to them in his way, he settled their dispute. I don’t know what he said, but it was the expression on his face, plus what he said that stopped the scrap. Jim wanted to see the fight. Their dispositions were different.”
During the April Conference in 1877 the family, together with a son-in-law, George W. Bailey, and others, was called by the General Authorities to go to Sunset, Arizona and join the United Order. Almeda still had seven of her children at home and it seems to me that this call would certainly be a trial to the mother of seven, to expect her to give up her home and her friends and take the family into an unsettled country, to pioneer all over again, to say nothing of the problems they faced by becoming members of the Order. But in all her life, when the word of the Lord came through His servants, Almeda never questioned the rightfulness of the thing; so she said, “Let’s go.” They began another trek toward the south. Almeda drove the light spring wagon part of the way.
On their way south they stopped at Grass Valley, Piute County, Utah for a few days where Almeda’s three eldest children, Mary, Will, and Maria, with their families were then living. She enjoyed that short visit with them before going on into the wilderness. They then proceeded to Sunset, Arizona. William, being a timber man, was assigned to the sawmill up in the mountains. The journey, which would now be a matter of a day by automobile, consumed eight weeks by ox team.
When they reached headquarters at Sunset, Arizona on the Little Colorado River, an appraisement was made of all their property by Captain Lot Smith and his committee in charge, and it was all turned into the organization. After a few days there adjusting matters, the family was sent on into the Mogollon Mountains where Warren Tenney and William took over the running of the sawmill for the United Order at Sunset. This was near what is now Winslow, Arizona.
The Order did not expand, dissension and discontent crept in. Although this was the order of the government under which Enoch of old and his people made such a phenomenal success in life, and maybe the one which God’s chosen people will have to adopt some day, the people in those days evidently were too human to live up to it. The Order ceased to exist, the mill was closed and Almeda’s family returned to the settlement for a short time. In the breaking up of the Order, William was one of the first to leave. They crossed the Little Colorado River, went west to Brigham City, Arizona and William worked for a short time for the railroad company at Winslow. Then they moved to the Apache Indian Reservation at Forest Dale where they engaged in farming, stock raising, and trading with the soldiers at the fort.
Grandmother told me of an interesting experience she had with the Indians from Fort Apache while living in Forest Dale. Once the Indians got some whiskey from the White Man at Sho-lo Ranch; there was a shooting scrape that really started a fracas. The Indian mothers were afraid their little ones would be killed and brought about seventeen of them and put them down in her cellar where they stayed until things quieted down.
There were five of Almeda’s children still at home then. The older boys were farming and freighting. It seemed Almeda was constantly fixing provisions for a freighting trip. She had plenty of work to do, yet found time to read to the two younger boys, my father and Charles, at night. She would sit in a rocking chair and by the light from the fireplace read “Red Robb, the Boy Road Agent,” “Rob Roy,” by Sir Walter Scott and other tales of interest to the boys. There was such a rough element in that part of the country, Almeda thought, and she read to keep the boys in at nights. Finally the Government required the white people to move off the Indian lands and William and Almeda went to Pleasanton, New Mexico where William was made the Bishop.
Then came the raids, the Edmunds Tucker Bill was passed in Congress. Officers were searching everywhere for men with families like William’s. About February 1885 he became alarmed and went over the border into Old Mexico. He was back and forth occasionally, but kept pretty well out of sight. Almeda’s boys assisted the two families to move over the border. They arrived in Colonia Juarez, Old Mexico in the spring of 1886. They were financial wrecks, but ready to start over again. Almeda lived in a one-room rock house and a tent. Dave made his mother a stove out of bricks in front of the house. William engineered and the boys built a little rock home for their mother down by the old mill site. At one time they went into Mary and Al Bagley’s little lumber house in the new town site. Uncle John Hatch later bought that house. William and Almeda bought up on the ditch bank next to Uncle Ed’s, here there were three rooms of lumber and a lean-to of logs. The boys kept urging their father to build himself and their mother a better home. Grandfather continually said, “I can’t afford to do it.”
One Thanksgiving Day, a committee of four of the boys called on their father and Ed acted as spokesman. He told his father what they had come for. There were some of the same excuses made, but Ed insisted that since several of the boys owed their father money and as they could do the work, they could afford it. So Grandfather surrendered. Dave hauled the rock and made the foundation, his son David hauled the brick and Ed went to work with the lumber. On Thanksgiving Day of 1908 members of the family gathered together in the partially finished home for the traditional dinner. Trestles were set with boards reaching across the rooms for tables. That was the best and most comfortable home Almeda ever had. There wasn’t any central heating, of course, in Old Mexico they didn’t have such cold winters. There was no indoor plumbing, not even any water piped into the house. No telephone or electricity, but it was still a comfortable home and when war broke out in 1912, Almeda and William hated to leave it.
When the trouble came, they were given about half an hour to pack one small trunk and get ready a small roll of bedding, which was all they were permitted to bring with them. The trouble was brewing in their immediate vicinity and the Authorities of the L.D.S. church and the officials of the United States government told the people if they remained in the colonies, they did so at their own risk. It was impossible to protect them down in that land. Past eighty years of age, Almeda and William left their property, the best home they ever owned. They went by team to Dublan where they took the train and came back to Payson, Utah where they spent the greater part of the next four years, always hoping that things would be settled and permit them to return to their home.
In 1916, they did return to Old Mexico. The day after they arrived, William slipped and fell while walking along the ditch bank. He was confined to his bed a short time until his death on April 28, 1916.
Almeda returned to Utah once more and stayed with her children, Cynthia Bailey and her daughter, Barbara Ludwig, in Salt Lake; Charles and Josie in Logan, and she spent some time with my father and mother in Salt Lake. In 1922 her daughter, Mrs. John Hatch, came and once more took her back to Mexico. There she resided until late September 1929, when at the age of 98 she made the trip back to Utah with Uncle Charles in an automobile. I was with Mother, having just come home from the hospital with our first child, Gerald, born October 4, 1929. She walked over to the bassinet and looked down at the little mite. He weighed 5 pounds 12 ounces at birth and had lost the 12 ounces, so he wasn’t very big. She shrugged her shoulders and asked if that was the best I could do. One of the other granddaughters had just given birth to an eleven-pound boy and she had seen the fat little butterball just before she came to Salt Lake City.
On July 19, 1931 the 82nd anniversary of her marriage, a celebration was held in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City where about two hundred of her descendants gathered to do honor to her. Her birthday coming in November, it was thought wise to hold the celebration in the summer time in order that more of her numerous posterity might be with her.
On November 29, 1931, the day following her one-hundredth birthday, a reception or open house was held at the home of a granddaughter, Vera (Mrs. Frank Q. Robinson), and about a hundred relatives and friends called to wish her well. At the time of her 100th birthday, a photographer from the newspaper came to take her picture. He questioned her saying, “To what do you attribute your long life? What did you do, and what did you eat?” She replied, “I took care of my work and tended to my own business, I ate anything I could get.”
In June of 1932, at a Convention of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs held in Seattle, Washington, she was honored as the oldest mother in Utah and was awarded a certificate, as was each oldest mother in the other 47 states. According to the report, she was the seventh oldest mother in the United States at that time and was said to have the greatest posterity of any of the mothers. She had nine living children, eleven of her twelve had lived to rear large families; a total of 435 descendants at that time. She had gone to live with Aunt Nellie McClellan that fall, 229 Hazel Street, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
On November 28, 1932, the one-hundred-first anniversary of her birth, she received the members of her family and friends who could call on her. In March of 1933 she was down for ten days or two weeks. She had a touch of bronchial pneumonia, but she was not ready to give up yet. Life was still dear to her. She said she wanted to get up just once more, and she wanted to see whom they would put in as Patriarch of the Church in April Conference. She recovered sufficiently to be up and about the house.
About the 1st of June her left leg commenced to swell. She sat about with that leg propped up on a pillow on another chair part of the time, yet continued to try to get about on it. Her daughters, Eve and Cynthia Bailey, came and stayed right there with her for a couple of weeks. On Wednesday, June 21, circulation in the right leg ceased. She went down about 8 a.m. and all that day she lay and cried with the pain. We finally got Doctor Ralph Cornwall toward afternoon and he gave her some morphine powder to quiet her nerves, but it didn’t take affect. She was so determined that she wasn’t going to take morphine. That was admitting weakness and she certainly didn’t want to become a dope addict. About 4 a.m. Thursday morning they called for the doctor again. She was suffering such intense pain. Every breath she drew was tortuous, agonizing pain. There was a thrombosis above the knee and if you have ever had a blood clot, you know what pain is. Dr. Ralph Cornwall said it was one of the most painful experiences one can have. With every pulsation of the heart it was trying to force circulation past the clot into her leg. They gave her a hypodermic which took effect about 6:30 a.m. She never rallied after that, just breathed away at 11:50 Thursday night, June 22, 1933. The body was viewed at the home of her granddaughter, Vera Robinson on Saturday. The funeral service was held on Saturday, June 24, 1933 in the Twelfth-Thirteenth Ward Chapel under the direction of Bishop Howard H. Hale. She was buried in the City Cemetery by the side of her father, Hugh Day, who had been dead for more than fifty years.
Surviving her at that time were 439 descendants: 5 sons, 4 daughters; 33 grandsons, 48 granddaughters; 138 great-grandsons; 136 great-granddaughters; 35 great-great-grandsons and 40 great-great-granddaughters.
Minor editing of spelling and grammar made to original manuscript by Celia Turley & Maria Bloomfield, June 1997.
I found her Utah death certificate:
On Find-a-Grave, I found her headstone:
That site also had more pictures of her: