IINELLE KEZIAH SPILSBURY HATCH 1887-1979
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Orson Pratt Brown's wife Eliza Skousen's Half-Aunt
Nelle Keziah Spilsbury Hatch
Nelle is the daughter of Alma Platte Spilsbury and the first of his three plural wives, Mary Jane Redd (parents Lemuel Hardison Redd and Keziah Jane Butler). Nelle was the fourth of fourteen children. Nelle's father had been indicted on April 10, 1885 in the District Court at Phoenix, Arizona for unlawful cohabitation. The next day A.P. Spilsbury and George T. Wilson were each sentenced to six months imprisonment. The following day (April 12, 1885) they were taken to Yuma prison. Alma had returned from his term in the Arizona territorial prison only a year and a half before Nelle's birth. By 1891 this family was residing in Mexico. Nelle spent the summers of her youth with her family on the near Colonia Pacheco from 1891-1899, and the winters in Colonia Juárez.
Nelle took her part working with livestock and in the fields, attending school as opportunity permitted. She loved the outdoors and said that she spent large amounts of time with her father on the freight road and in the corn and potato fields. At the age of sixteen she was driving a four-horse wagon full of lumber down from the mountains to the valley below.
Nelle early discovered that she loved schoolwork. She graduated from the Juárez Academy in 1906 as valedictorian, a student of Guy C. Wilson. Before graduating, she had sometimes acted as a scribe, recording blessings for , a Stake Patriarch. Macdonald was fond of young Nelle and once said to her, "there is character in that handwriting." The remark had a profound influence on her and encouraged her to commit herself even more to the pursuit of knowledge. After her graduation, she taught school both in the colonies and in communities in Utah. Always, she communicated to her students her own deep love of learning.
She was teaching in Charleston, Utah at the time of the Exodus. Nelle then returned to the colonies where she helped with the schooling of the children of others who had crossed back into Mexico. She was there during the difficult days of the Revolution when the colonies were occupied by troops and subjected to the experiences some of the accounts in "Stalwarts South of the Border" tell so well. Typically, she made the most of it. From her own life sketch she wrote: "Five years of teaching in the high school during the hectic revolutionary days gave me a chance to work in many fields and develop skills that normal times would not have offered. In fact, my work with young people in the ward and school so filled my life and afforded me so much genuine satisfaction and enjoyment that I passed up several opportunities to marry."
Ernest had married Lillian Rebecca Haws on May 15, 1901 in Naco, Sonora, Mexico.
Lillian died from puerperal fever on April 29, 1916 after the birth of their sixth child, Ernest Herman Hatch, on March 27, 1916 in Colonia Dublán, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Shortly after Lillian Rebecca Haws Hatch died, "Pancho Villa made his hit-and-run attack on Columbus, New Mexico, and the Punitive Expedition of 12,000 U.S. soldiers under General John. J. "Black Jack" Pershing, was engaged in the famous but unsuccessful manhunt for Villa.
In November 1916, Ernest Hatch was ordained a High Priest and made Second Counselor to Bishop John J. Walser in Colonia Juárez, a postion he held a short time. With a partnership offer from Lillian's brothers, Jim and George Haws in Mesa, Arizona, in the dairy and poultry business, he moved his family there for five years.
At the end of the first two years, prospects for accumulating property, machinery, and teams were good. Yet life was lonely. He needed a companion, his children needed a mother and home life. In El Paso, Texas on August 19, 1918, Ernest married Nelle Keziah Spilsbury, an associate teacher from the JSA and one month later they were sealed in the St. George Temple, Utah. Home life for Ernest went on as though uninterrupted. Nelle not only took on the task of caring for Ernest's six motherless children but raised to maturity three of her own. She continued to teach at the JSA and worked in a number of church positions.
The first crisis in their life came when Ernest contracted the Spanish flu and narrowly escaped death in the epidemic that swept the country, leaving countless victims in its wake. The only reason he survived was his intense desire to live and his faith in the power of the Priesthood. Nelle's first daughter, Ernestine Hatch, was born May 25, 1919.
When the partnership with Lillian's brothers dissolved, Ernest was in possession of a forty acre tract of land, and his share of cows, teams, chickens, and sheep. When an offer came to take over a couple of farms in Colonia Dublán, he accepted. He left Nelle to dispose of his farm to the highest bidder and went to put in his first crops.
Then the bottom fell out of everything. The Depression following World War I struck, farm after farm went falling to the hands of receivers, banks closed their doors, and Ernest and Nelle's valuable farm, almost overnight, became a liability. Even cotton produced on this farm was sidetracked on an eastern market demanding demurrage. On top of it all, his crops in Dublán failed.
At the end of two years their rosy dream of a model dairy and poultry farm, fed by rich yields from the farm, collapsed, and with things going from bad to worse, they moved their family to Colonia Juárez. Their farm in Mesa, their Ford car, machinery, most of his teams and cows were lost in the final settlement. With their family they settled into a happy home and began again from scratch. From that time there was no direction to go but up. Nelle's first son, Garth Spilsbury, was born July 29, 1923.
One by one they tackled the problems besetting the half-paid-for Junius Romney orchard. Coddling moth left its pollution in every apple, killing frosts could in one night wipe out a crop, and apples shriveled on the trees during the dry season. Finding himself in the vicious circle of needing a fruit crop to buy spray material, smudge pots, and sink a well, how could he get these things until he had a fruit crop? Yet, whipping one problem after another, they soon realized they had made the best investment in life.
Among the many challenges that Ernest faced was that of the death of his parents. His father, John William Hatch, died January 22, 1932, at the age of eighty-two, after suffering a heart attack. Maria followed her husband and was laid to rest at his side in the cemetery of Colonia Juárez on July 27, 1940. They were the parents of fourteen children: Lillian Maria Hatch, Minnie Almeda Hatch, John Alma Hatch, Ernest Isaac Hatch, Mary Agnes Hatch, Rhoda Evelyn Hatch, Myrtle Hatch, Pearl Hatch, Cynthia Irene Hatch, George Lynn Hatch, Frances Fern Hatch, Elmer Hugh Hatch, and twins Charles Hatch and Carroll Hatch.
In 1932 Ernest and Nelle entered the fruit market in Mexico City with the first carload of apples to be shipped from the colonies since 1896 as an exhibit in the Coyoacan Fair. They re-established the quality of colony fruit and opened up a market that has since steadily grown and still flourishes.
With their original orchard paying off, other orchards on both sides of them were purchased and soon yielding handsomely. This family was soon enjoying the fruits of labors, though going through "the narrows" had taught them many lessons such as the worth of a dollar and the value of family unity in solving family problems.
During those years of pulling himself up by his "bootstraps," their last child, Madelyn Hatch, was born October 19, 1925. Ernest had taught school a couple of years to keep his family eating, had filled a six months mission in California, had continued as Sunday School Superintendant, promoted the Boy Scout program, and had acted as water master for the East Canal. His family followed his example and filled positions in church work along with him. He was released from the High Council to be First Counselor to Bishop Anthony I. Bentley in 1934.
[Nelle was installed as Juárez Stake Relief Society President during 1933 and served for twenty-two years. She retired from her profession as a teacher in 1939. Her first counselors were Lucy Bluth and Rosena N. Farnsworth.]
In September, 1937, he was set apart as Bishop of the Juárez Ward with David Samuel Brown and Velan Call, and later Willard Shupe as Counselors. He was now in a position to continue a rehabilitation program that was still in progress (in 1966). Blackened walls of burned buildings from the Mexican Revolution of 1912 dotted the town, homes were windowless and porches were sagging and floorless.
The elementary school building (original Juárez Stake Academy and the only church house the Ward had known) was remodeled into a modern, one-story building. Church functions were moved to the Ivins Hall in the Juárez Stake Academy building, which did service until October, 1966 when a new chapel was built.
Home rehabilitation began with his own home by removing the rotting roof and changing it into a Spanish style residence, adding a sleeping porch and a kitchen, and commencing a system of landscaping around the grounds that is still in progress.
Ernest's term as Bishop ended in October, 1944. The remainder of his life was spent serving as High Councilman. His sons took over the management of his orchards. Life ended for him October 7, 1952 in Dalhart, Texas, where his tired heart suddenly stopped. Leaving a posterity that now numbers eight children, forty-three grandchildren, and thirty-two great-grandchildren, he was buried in the Colonia Juárez cemetery October 11, 1952. Typical of the regard in which he was held by the Mexican people, is a remark made by a neighbor boy: "I have lost a father, adviser, banker, neighbor and friend."
Ernest was a member of the JSA first graduating class in 1901, he was the first to have a daughter graduate, and the first to have a granddaughter graduate, from the Juárez Stake Academy. An officer in both Stake and Ward MIA, six of his children have been Ward Presidents, and one has been Stake Superintendant. One daughter is currently Stake Primary President, having served first as Ward President. Two of his sons are eminent physicians, one of them a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, a daughter an accredited nurse anesthetist, a grandson an oral surgeon, a son-in-law a dentist, and a grandson-in-law a dermatologist. Himself a teacher, four of his children have done service in the classroom, while two have made it a career. Himself and one son having served as Bishop of the Juárez Ward, another has served in two Bishoprics. Himself a missionary, a son and daughter and two daughters-in-law have filled full time missions while two sons have served as Mission Presidents, and his thirteenth grandson is now in the mission field.
All his posterity can truthfully say, "We are following in your footsteps."
Nelle was sixty-five years of age when Ernest died. She had already begun writing a history of the community that had been so much a part of her life. After her husband's death, she devoted herself to the project. Colonia Juárez, An Intimate Account Of A Mormon Village was published in 1954 by the Deseret Book Company which also hosted a large author's party for her. Nelle quickly became an acknowledged authority on the history of the colonies and was often consulted by graduate students and others who wished to know more about the Mormon experience in northern Mexico. Richard Estrada, who had read her book while a student at the University of Chicago, taped several interviews with her concerning the Mexican Revolution, depositing the materials at the library at the University of Texas at El Paso"
Beginning in1954 Nelle S. Hatch spent twenty-five+ years, through the 1970's, compiling the biographies of the Mexican Mormon colonists of pre-Revolutionary Mexico. These were individuals she had personally known in the colonies. At the suggestion of Marion G. Romney of the Mormon Church's First Presidency, Nelle enlarged the project to include as many as possible of those who colonized northern Mexico.
In 1964 she published Mother Jane's Story, a moving history of her mother's life. At this time she also published a few articles in Church magazines. And, as earlier indicated, in these years she commenced acquiring materials for the collection of the biographies in Stalwart South of the Border. This last project was frustrated by declining health. She had suffered from a variety of maladies for years. But loss of hearing and, at last, failing eyesight were most difficult to bear.
Nelle was always a master story teller. She reveled in the history of her church and her pioneer heritage. In a visit with her in the early 1970s, she told me [Carmon Hardy] how desperately anxious she was to finish the compilation of biographies on which she was then working. It was to be the final tribute to her beloved colonies, her last story. Although her mind remained alert, the growing impairment of her sight and hearing made work on the book difficult. In January, 1979, she suffered a stroke that left her unable to speak. On August 29, 1979, well into her ninety-third year, she died and was buried in the cemetery at Colonia Juárez. So passed one of the last stalwarts south of the border.
Nelle's work was edited and compiled as "Stalwarts South of the Border" for publication by Blaine Carmon Hardy, at the behest of Nelle's daughter Ernestine Hatch. "Stalwarts South of the Border" was finished in time for the Mormon Colonies Centennial Celebration in August 1985.
The above biography was written in parts by Nelle Spilsbury Hatch and and published in "Stalwarts South of the Border, pages 7-10 and 241-246 with some additions and photos included by Lucy Brown Archer.
NELLE SPILSBURY or NELLIE SPILSBURY
There seems to be some confusion between Nelle Spilsbury Hatch (1887-1979) and Nellie Spilsbury Romney (born around 1915) :
Nelle Keziah Spilsbury Hatch (1887-1979) had a brother named(he married Martha Alice Acord July 11, 1907) they had a daughter who they named Nellie, born around 1915-1917. This Nelle Spilsbury may still be living.
There are several conflicting sources that state the same birth date and marriage date, for both women, among other similarities, but differ in the following:
At the end of May 1985, we went to the colonies in time to attend the closing and graduation program of the Academy. Nelle's class of 1935 was having their fiftieth anniversary of their graduation, and the students Nelle taught in Kindergarten were graduating. There were 33 graduates in 1935, and nearly half of them were present at the reunion. Nellie Spilsbury Romney and others in Colonia Juárez planned the reunion. They had a very lovely dinner and party at Nellie's home, the big palace on the hill that Donn helped them build. It was really worth the effort to go and be there, because the renewal of such good friendships is wonderful. The graduation program and exercises was May 31, 1985.
Another of the outstanding experiences of our lives was our attendance at the Centennial Week commemorating the arrival of the first colonists in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. Jerald Lynn Taylor, Nelle's brother, was stake president, and they assigned committees a number of years ahead to plan and carry out this marvelous celebration. They held Centennial activities during the whole year, but the main events were held during the week of August 5 to 11, 1985. They did a very wonderful job of caring for and entertaining the more than three thousand people who went down to celebrate with those who were still there. The first big event was an outstanding parade. Many families made floats for it and they did a marvelous job.
Nelle Keziah Spilsbury Hatch co-authored "Stalwarts South of the Border" with , and wrote the biographies for several of the colonists.
Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Professor of Western American History at Brigham Young University, is the author of Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet.
PAF - Archer files = Nelle Keziah Spilsbury < parents Alma Platte Spilsbury + (1) Mary Jane Redd > (Nelle's sister) Sarah Ann Spilsbury + Daniel Skousen < James Niels Skousen + (1) Sidsel Marie Pedersen; wife (2) Ane Kirstine Jorgensen /Hansen/ [Hanson] > Eliza Skousen fourth wife of + Orson Pratt Brown.
Pioneer Life in Utah. By: Peter Howard McBride
Academia Juárez, Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, 1901-1976. Printed in 1977. Page 9, 20,
"Stalwarts of the South" Compiled and Edited by Nelle Spilsbury Hatch and B. Carmon Hardy. Pages 241-246, etc.
www.familysearch.org has had much conflicting information submitted.
A History of Colonia Dublán and Guadalupe Mexico, by Wayne Dunham Stout (1894-1981) Page 41.
"Academia Juárez - Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, 1901-1976" Page 49. See for early photos of Nelle Keziah Spilsbury.
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