SARAH JANE FIFE WHITE - 1855-1932
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Autobiographical Sketch of Sarah Jane Fife White
(Written around 1917)
I was born in Salt Lake City Utah, July 10, 1855. I am the daughter of William Nicol Fife and Diana Davis (Davies).
On July 9, 1854, my mother Diana Davis was married to my father Colonel William Nicol Fife by Heber C. Kimball at his home in Salt Lake City. In 1856 when I was a young baby they received their endowments in the old Endowment House. It was just finished. They were blessed with eleven children, five sons and six daughters. I am the eldest of the family. I have only two brothers alive of my mother's family (1917).
My father was educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. After graduating from school, he decided to learn the trade of architect and builder.
My father left his native land, Scotland, when a young man of twenty-one. He had planned to go to his uncle in Australia. He was working in Manchester, England, when he met the elders of our Church at the boarding house where he was stopping. They invited him to their meetings. He was delighted with their doctrine and was soon baptized. In October 9, 1853, he arrived in Salt Lake City. He said he enjoyed crossing the plains although it was a new life. He had some privations to go through. He was a captain of ten in John Brown's company. He was the carpenter for the company.
When he arrived in Salt Lake City, Heber C. Kimball engaged him to build some dwelling houses for him. He went to work the next day. Many of the old buildings are standing today (1917) that he built in 1854-1855.
My mother Diana Davis (Davies) was born in South Wales April 11, 1836. When she was about ten years old, she embraced the Gospel and emigrated to Utah with her father and mother (Daniel Davis and Sarah Thomas) and family, numbering in all 14. They were on the ocean seven weeks. They landed in New Orleans. While they were coming up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers by steamboat, her father was taken sick with the dreaded disease cholera. He was sick a few hours and passed away. He was buried on the bank of the Missouri river. This was a great trial to her dear mother. She was in a strange land with a large family to manage and could not speak a word of English.
They came in the first company of Latter-day Saints that left Wales. The journey across the plains was made with ox teams in George A. Smith's company. After they had made a continous journey coming nearly 7,000 miles, Salt Lake City was finally reached in 1849. There were not any vacant houses, so they lived in a dugout the first winter. This was quite a change from a well-furnished ten room house and a huge farm, but they were willing to forsake all for the Gospel. My mother's father was a farmer, a very good man. He was kind to the missionaries. He emigrated five people besides his own family.
My mother's mother moved to Brigham City with the rest of her family in 1854. They were greatly blessed. She was a good, kind, charitable Latter-day Saint.
Family Reunion, July 10th, 1920 at 725--23rd Street, Ogden
Rear Row: John D. Fife, Valasco Farr, J. Dwight Harding, Oluf Johnson
In 1867 she fell dead when walking home. Some school boys (the Thomas brothers) were walking by her. She never moved or unfolded her arms. The doctor said it was heart trouble.
Father built his first house in the 16th Ward of Salt Lake City. It was a three room adobe, furnished very comfortably with a cupboard and mantle. It was furnished very good for those days. They also had a cook-stove, a luxury at that time. Father planted trees and had a nice garden. It was a great thrill for mother to have such a good home, as she had been without for so long.
Father was called by President Brigham Young in 1856 to move to Ogden to build the Ogden Tabernacle, so I only lived one year in Salt Lake City. Father and mother had to leave their new home, but they were always obedient to those in authority.
Our first home in Ogden was a two room adobe house located between 21st and 22 on Lincoln Avenue about the middle of the block. Our home was furnished comfortable for those days. We had plenty to eat but no luxuries, but we had contentment and union. We lived there five years. My brother, William W. Fife and sister Diana were born in this little humble home. We were a very happy family. We were bless with enough clothes and food to make us comfortable. My mother made our clothes by hand, as there were no sewing or washing machines in those days.
I was taught to knit and crochet and sew when very young. I have spun some stocking yarn and carded batts for quilts. I remember my mother saying that she could not buy a yard of flannel or white muslin to make my first clothes in Salt Lake City. My father was making $5.00 a day so it was not for lack of money, but because there was nothing to buy in that line, so she made my clothes out of some flannel skirts and dresses she brought from Wales. I don't ever remember going without bread; so we were greatly blessed, for there was great scarcity of bread stuff in 1854 and 1855 in Utah on account of the crickets and grasshoppers destroying the crops year after year. Finally the Lord sent the seagulls and they soon destroyed the crickets.
In 1858 I was in the move South. I was only three years old so cannot remember much about it. I remember my mother telling how near my brother and I came to our death. We were living in a thatched house made of rushes and willows. Mother was washing. We were asleep on the bed when a spark from the stove-pipe fell on the roof of this crude house setting it on fire. Mother was about a block away at a spring of water rinsing her clothes when she looked up and saw her house on fire and a wind blowing. She ran with two pails of water but dropped them before she reached the house, but to her delight some next door sisters were carrying bed and children through the door. My brother was burned on one arm. I did not get burned at all. They had a large box of flour and another box of ammunition. They carried water from the spring and saved the flour and ammunition. Almost everything else was burned. All the men in the camp were in the mountains getting wood. Mother met father and cried and said, "Oh, William, all we have is burned but our dear children and flour and some of our bedding." He said, "Never mind, thank God we have you and the children safe." They soon were called back to their home in Ogden. They had left it filled with straw ready to set on fire if Johnston's Army got possession, but the Lord protected his people. They felt to rejoice when they returned to their homes in peace again.
Reunion, July 10th 1932, Ogden.
Last Family Reunion with their Mother, July 10th 1932.
I continued to live in Ogden all my childhood and girlhood days. I was baptized in Ogden River when nine years old by Jeffery Dinsdale and confirmed by Bishop Chauncy W. West on the banks of the Ogden River the same day and from that time have continued to be an active member of the Church.
We moved in 1866 to a large adobe home on 22nd and I lived there 10 years. It is still standing opposite the Tabernacle on the east corner (1917). I spent many happy days there and some sad. I was married from that home to Barnard White May 1, 1876, in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah, by, President Joseph F. Smith.
The first school I attended was a private school taught by a Miss Coventon in one of her father's rooms fixed up with crude benches. She taught us to read and write and we used to sing the multiplication table. She also taught us how to do some sewing. The house was located where the Reed Hotel now stands (1917). I was about six years old. There were no free schools then. The next school I attended was built just where the Elks building stands, the first school house built in Ogden City. It was a two story adobe school house, one big room upstairs and one down. I started to this school when about seven years old. Rose Canfield was my teacher for many years. I loved her very dearly. I felt very bad when I was promoted to go downstairs with the larger boys and girls. Brother F. A. Brown was our teacher. Our schools were not graded as they are now. I did not have the advantages the children have today, or I might be able to write a better sketch of my life. When I was fifteen years old, we were blessed with a graded school or high school. It was held in three rooms in the court house. Professor Moench was the principal. How pleased I was to attend a school where order and quietude prevailed! My parents could only afford to let me attend two years, as they had to pay $8.00 a quarter and buy our school supplies, so where there was a large family, they could not afford to send too many to school at once. After I quit school, I learned the dressmaking business. I had made my own dresses since I was fifteen years old with a little instruction from my mother. I followed dressmaking till I was married.
I feel that if I had the advantages that the young people have today I might be able to write a better sketch of my life and do more good, for I know we are all blessed with talents. When I was a child, I loved music and singing and longed for an instrument. I would have liked to play the organ.
I remember when there was only one organ in Ogden. My father promised me an instrument as soon as he could spare enough money to buy one. I was so pleased when he finally saved several hundred dollars. But then he got a call for a mission to Scotland and so the money had to be used in other ways. I was disappointed and never had a chance to develop that talent.
Last Reunion attended by Sarah Jane Fife White, July 10th 1932.
Sarah Jane Fife White, surrounded by grandchildren.
I was a teacher in the Sunday School in the Third Ward for many years. Brother Thomas D. Dee was the superintendent at that time. I joined the first Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association organized in Ogden. I acted as secretary for many years in the Third Ward. I joined the Relief Society in 1870.
The first day of May in 1876 I was married to Barnard White, a man of my choice. I was married in Salt Lake City in the Endowment House by Pres. Joseph F. Smith. My first home was on Grant Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets opposite the Grant school. It is still there, a little four roomed frame house. We furnished it comfortably. I made a rag carpet and some rugs for my dining room and kitchen. The walls were white but I always loved my first little humble home. My first three children (Ada, David, Joseph) were born there. My next home was on 24 Street between Wall and Lincoln. I lived there three years. One son (John) was born there. In 1884 we moved to Perry, Box Elder County. We thought the farm the best place to raise a large family. We were blessed with four daughters and six sons, and a dear friend died and left a little girl so I mothered her. Two of our dear little girls died when babies. It was one of the greatest trials I had at that time, so our adopted daughter was a great comfort and a companion to my oldest daughter, for there is 18 years between my oldest daughter and youngest. I am blessed with eleven grandchildren (1917).
My father occupied several Church and political positions in Ogden City. In 1882 he moved to the Oak Grove Ranch near Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona.
On September 12, 1884, my mother was shot by a Mexican. She was in her own house ironing when he came and asked for food. She was shot without warning while her daughter Agnes was getting a melon from the garden for the Mexican. (He was a renegade from Tombstone, named Jesus.) She lived for two hours but did not seem to suffer much. She was buried on the ranch in Cochise County, Arizona. Her assassin was caught in the mountains the next day and hanged (at the Fife ranch) on an oak tree, so that was a satisfaction that he could kill no more. She was a faithful Latter-day Saint and a faithful wife and loving mother of eleven children. She was very exemplary in all her life and acts. She was loved most by those who knew her best.
I was a Sunday School teacher for many years in the Third Ward. I held that position for a short time after I was married. At that time my husband's aged mother lived with me for five years. She died in her ninetieth year. During the years she lived with me I was tied at home. I was secretary of the Y.L.M.I.A. for several years, but before my third baby came I resigned. I always belonged to the Relief Society since I was married and attended when I could. I was always pleased to see the Relief Society teachers. I was a worker in the Perry Relief Society for many years. I was made president in 1910 and held that position until we moved back to Ogden in 1912. I have not had much time or desire for public life, but I do love the Relief Society and the sisters. I would like to spend my last days in temple work when I get my family all raised and able to care for themselves. I think we must not neglect our dear children for anything, for I think God will hold us responsible if we do not do our duty.
White Family Reunion July 10th 1932 at Ogden
Seated: Mary Lucina Fife Hutchins, Sarah J. F. White, Valasco Farr, Mrs. Walter T. Fife, Mrs. John D. Fife, Kathryn White, Jane White, Marian Parkinson.
Internment of Sarah Jane Fife White
My husband was a self-made businessman interested in the lumber, machinery and mercantile business and in farming. He was also bishop of the Third Ward for fifteen years. He was ordained a patriarch April 21, 1901, after an honorable release by President Joseph F. Smith. He held that position until his death in March 8, 1912, in Ogden. He was buried in the Brigham City Cemetery.
My dear husband's death was a great trial to me, as we had lived together thirty-seven years and spent many happy days and some sad ones; but we have to acknowledge the hand of God in all things. My desire is to live a life worthy of meeting him hereafter where we shall never be parted again.
I have passed through many trials, but the Lord has always given me strength for my burdens and I thank Him for his mercies and many blessings bestowed upon me from my childhood to the present time. I desire to spend the latter part of my life in the House of the Lord doing work for my dead friends and relatives and doing kind deeds to all around me.
Sarah Jane Fife White continued to live in the Ogden Sixth Ward and served as counselor in the Relief Society for many years. She was very active in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.
She loved to travel and visit with her children and relatives in the Pacific coast states and Arizona. In 1927, she traveled throughout the eastern United States with her daughter, Ada, and granddaughter, Bernice. Many of the summers she spent with her youngest daughter, Ruth, and her family at Franklin, Idaho.
David and Ada lived near her. She was active until a few weeks before she died on September 14, 1932 at her apartment in Ogden, at the age of seventy-seven. The funeral was held in the Ogden Sixth Ward, and burial was in the Brigham City Cemetery.
PAF - Archer Filesstudents.cs.byu.edu/~heath/family/white/c2786.htm
The civil marriage certificate of Barnard and Sarah Jane Fife White showing their remarriage in 1886Diana Mary and the Polygamy Crusade
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