AGNES ANN FIFE STEWART 1869-1892
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Agnes Ann Fife was born the fifth of nine children on January 11, 1869 in Ogden, Weber, Utah to William Nicol Fife and Diana Davis Fife.
On the hot summer day of September 12, Diana Fife was ironing in the kitchen. The room was reasonably cool in spite of the fire in the stove which was needed to heat the irons. The walls of the house were thick. The house, sheds, and barns were built in a hollow square, like a fort, as protection against the Apaches. Loopholes just under the eaves, were placed at intervals in the house, sheds, and barns. On the inside of the square a porch ran the length of the house to provide shade for the interior of the house. All windows were opened out onto this courtyard, or patio. Since attacks by the Apaches were a constant hazzard for the ranchers, all precautions possible were taken to ensure the safety of the family. The first night that Jane stayed at the Oak Grove Ranch one of the children awoke and wanted a drink. The well was in the patio, so Jane left her room to get the child some water. As she opened the door to the hall, she saw her brothers, Walter and John, sleeping on the floor in front of the outside door. Thinking that they had given up their beds for her and Barnard, she began to feel very guilty. When they heard her open her door, they awakened in alarm. As she began to apologize for taking their beds, they informed her that they always slept in the hall as a protection for the family. This was the house, then, where Diana Fife lived and tried to care for her family according to the standards of cleanliness and order that characterized her life.
Lying on the table near the ironing board was an ever growing pile of blue shirts. They were double-breasted, trimmed with white buttons. Nearly all the cowboys and freighters wore shirts of this type. Since they had to be carefully laundered to prevent shrinking, the cowboys and freighters usually tried to find a woman to wash and iron them. Diana Fife had the shirts for her husband and her two sons, plus a number of extra ones for the freighters who came by the ranch. It was a big ironing and these blue wool shirts, most of them done by now, made the majority of her work.
It was a peaceful day. Only Agnes, who was fourteen, and the nineteen year old Mexican boy who helped on the ranch were at home with her. John and Walter had gone over to the White Ranch to help put up hay and her husband had gone to Fort Bowie. She was not afraid, however, since Geronimo and his Chiricahua Apaches were now restricted to a reservation.
There was a pounding on the gate. Since hospitality was the accepted rule on the frontier, Diana Fife told the Mexican boy to open the gate and let the traveler in. He was a lone Mexican and he was on foot. Tired and thirsty though he was, he still displayed a demanding attitude. Aggie laid out a cold lunch for him on one corner of the kitchen table while Diana Fife continued with her ironing. He had very little to say but watched Diana Fife as she worked. He seemed especially interested in the blue wool shirt she was ironing and the shirts lying on table. After finishing the food laid out for him, he demanded a watermelon. As they had no melons in the house, Diana Fife told Agnes to go to the garden for one.
Just as Agnes was coming into the courtyard with the melon, she heard a shot ring out. The Mexican boy leaped up from the porch where he was sitting and dashed into the kitchen. A second shot narrowly missed the boy as he grappled with the Mexican for the gun. As the two struggled together, Aggie pushed around them to get to her mother. The Mexican tried to shoot her, but the gun misfired because of a defective bullet. As the boy and the renegade Mexican battled for possession of the gun, Aggie reached her mother, lying by the ironing board, and stooped down to help her. Her mother's fears were not for herself but for Aggie. She instructed Aggie to drag her to the adjoining bedroom where she could barricade the door with some heavy furniture. Aggie did as her mother instructed her. Diana Fife did not lose consciousness, but her desire for water grew intense. However, she would not let Aggie go for water. For sometime they could hear the boy and the renegade fighting together, first in the hall and then on the porch. When all grew quiet outside, Diana Fife still refused to let Aggie go for water, for they did not know what had happened, and the Mexican might still be waiting for her. Diana Fife told Aggie that the Mexican took out his pistol and shot her without saying a word or giving her any warning.
What his motive was is still a mystery. As they had never seen him before, it was not for revenge. The only possible motive must have been robbery. He may have decided to steal the blue wool shirts Diana Fife had been ironing.
For sometime Diana Fife was conscious. During this time she continued to instruct Aggie about her plans for Aggie's future which included her returning to Ogden. She faced death calmly, saying that she had led a good life and would gladly face her Maker, since she had nothing to regret. Gradually her strength ebbed away and she was unable to talk.
Aggie was numbed by grief and fear. After about two hours Diana Fife died, and Aggie lay by her side clutching her mother to her, white faced and tearless.
The Mexican boy had gone for help as soon as the renegade had broken away from him. Soon after Diana Fife's death, help arrived, but Aggie was speechless with grief. The ranchers gathered and organized a search for the murderer. Walter and John received the tragic news and returned to try to comfort Aggie. Still no tears or words came. Not until the murderer was brought before her for identification was she able to speak or cry. She seemed numb. When they brought him before her, she said, "Yes, he's the one. I could cut him into little pieces," Then she began to cry.
As soon as the ranchers of the Sulpher Springs Valley received the word of Diana Fife's death, they rode out in all directions in search of the Mexican renegade who had murdered her. By morning the tragic story had been carried from ranch to ranch and all the cowboys and ranchers were searching for the murderer. About nine o'clock a posse came upon Joie, an Italian vegetable gardener, who was on his way to Fort Bowie with a load of vegetables. They asked him if he had seen a Mexican that morning. He told them that he had overtaken such a man who had asked for a ride. He had told him to get into the back of his covered wagon. Immediately the members of the posse looked inside the wagon. At first they saw no one. Then digging down among the cabbages, they found the cowering Mexican. Then taking him on horseback, they headed for the Oak Grove Ranch. As soon as they arrived, he was positively identified by Aggie and the Mexican boy as the person who had murdered Diana Fife.
Frontier justice was swift and not delayed by the evasions of legal proceedings. When Colonel Fife arrived shortly after the Mexican was brought to the ranch, for all he was grief-stricken over the death of his wife, he was demanding vengeance upon his wife's murderer. A hurried parley decided the fate of the Mexican, who, it was found, was a renegade from Tombstone by the name of Jesus. He had a receding forehead, the mark of a criminal in their eyes. As the crowd gathered, the men demanded the death penalty for the murderer. Finally it was decided that they should take the law into their own hands and hang the Mexican. A rope was placed around his neck and he was conducted to the oak grove where an appropriate limb was selected and the rope thrown over it. A cowboy pulled the rope and the ill-fated Mexican was hanged.
Two stories are told of what happened at this point. One story is that the sheriff rode up just as they were going to hang the Mexican, and he told the cowboys and ranchers to go ahead with the hanging. The other story is that he rode up just after the Mexican had been hanged. When he asked who was responsible for the hanging no one answered. Since no one would take the responsibility for the hanging, he told the men to take the Mexican's body away. A friend of the Fife family, by the name of Jim Maxwell, cut the Mexican down and dragged him away. The murderer was buried in a shallow grave, covered by rocks in the lonely hills some distance from the ranch.
The coyotes dug into the grave. A few years later when Phebe Abbott Brown Fife, Colonel Fife's second wife, was living at the Oak Grove Ranch, her daughter Cynthia, who was out walking in the hills, found the skull of this Mexican. She brought it to the house on the end of a long stick. Colonel Fife kept the skull and brought it to Ogden. He gave the skull to Dr. Allen of Ogden. In later years, Dr. Ezra Rich had the skull, according to the last reports we have of it.
Diana Fife was buried under a big oak tree in the oak grove. The services had been simple but filled with sorrow. When word came to Ogden of her death, her oldest son William left Ogden for the ranch. He took with him the temple clothes needed for her burial. When he arrived he and his father opened the grave and had the doleful task of placing the temple robes inside the casket.
Colonel Fife was unable to leave the ranch at that time to return to Ogden with Aggie. Therefore, she returned with her brother William.
After a number of years in Arizona the Fife family returned to Utah. Colonel Fife had had the misfortune of having his leg broken by a runaway team of horses. This accident caused him to be lame for the rest of his life.
Mrs. Myrl Roll, who was a Riggs and now lives in the vicinity of the former Colonel William N. Fife ranch, has given information upon the exact location. Colonel Fife once owned Sections 13 and 14 of Township 17 S.R. 28 East, located in Cochise County. Mrs. Roll has kindly drawn on a large scale map sent to her the location of the foundations of the Fife house and the grave site.
Fife Peak can be seen on most highway maps, and is thought to have been named after Colonel Fife. Fife Peak is approximately three miles south-east of the old Fife house site. Fife Canyon is also seen on the large scale map and extends from his former land holdings to the southeast.
On the map, the arrow should point more to an area approximately one-half inch lower and then one-half inch to the right. The former Fife ranch is not far from State Highway 181 near where it turns into the road leading to the Chiricahua National Monument.
Agnes Ann Fife married Samuel White Stewart.on September 23 1891 in Draper, Utah. Samuel is the son of Isaac Mitton Stewart and Elizabeth White Stewart..
After Agnes's death, Samuel married Ella Marie Nebeker on September 19, 1894.
Here is a different version of Agnes's last year: "Agnes Ann Fife was engaged to marry Samuel Stewart but was killed in a runaway 13 August 1891 in Draper, Utah. They never married. That story is on page 148 of Barnard White book.
Grandma Parkinson said that after the horses started to run away with Aggie in the buggy Samuel yelled to her, "Don't jump Aggie!". She thought he said, "Jump Aggie!" and she jumped, her dress caught in the wheel and she was killed. She is buried next to William and Diana in Ogden City Cem. --The "BARNARD WHITE FAMILY BOOK" by Ruth Johnson and Dr. Glen F. Harding 1967 BYU Press. Submitted to this site on July 5, 2008 by Vicki Lien Holley of Ogden, Utah.
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