ELIZA SKOUSEN BROWN ABBOTT BURK - 1882-1958
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Orson Pratt Brown's Fourth Wife:
Born: June 15, 1882 at Springerville, Apache, Arizona
Eliza Skousen Brown lived 75 radiant but trying years. Raised in the primitive poverty of the frontier in eastern Arizona, wearied by the struggles of hardship in her early married life in Mexico, two tiny boys dying with polio, driven from her home by revolution, deserted by her husband while pregnant with her sixth child, and struggling to raise her rambunctious family, Eliza was known as one of the most generous, outgoing, friendly women in the world. Though she was sometimes badly treated, she never held a grudge, never criticized her circumstances, church nor neighbors. Her vivacious nature kept her young in spirit. Because her love for others glowed through and was embodied in her features, she was as beautiful at 60 as she had been at 18, if not more so. As the beauty of a flower reveals the love of God, Eliza matched her glowing spirit by a trademarkshe always wore a flower in her hair.
Eliza Skousen was born June 15, 1882 in Springville, Apache County, Arizona. She was the fifth child of a stern but spirited crippled mother, the plural wife of . Her father had seven children by his first wife, Sidsel, so Eliza became the twelfth in the brood. Eliza's own mother, Anna Hansen Skousen, was thirty-seven when she was born, her father was fifty-four. Her parents had migrated to America from Denmark twenty years before as Mormon converts. They had gradually prospered at Draper, near Salt Lake, so that life had become fairly secure. However, just 6 yaers before Eliza was born, they had been called as colonizing missionaries to settle the high plateau country of eastern Arizona. The united order established at St. Joseph failed and the family tried to make a new start from scratch at Springerville, which is on the Little Colorado, a stream which flows north out of the Grand Canyon.
So, through no selection of their own, Eliza's parents were in very dire circumstances. Yet, it is interesting to detect the power of such a spirit as hers, flowering in a love of simple pleasures and glowing in the union she felt with her brothers and sisters. She describes her youth in the following words:
LIFE AT SPRINGERVILLE
"The Little Colorado River ran through our field. I remember that I loved to go to the river to fish, play and pick flowers. I also herded the cows away from the corn and wheat. When my feet became so sore (she had no shoes much of the time) that I could not walk, I had to crawl on my hands and knees. The grain had to be protected or we would have no wheat for winter. We children learned early to do our part, to take responsibility while young, which is fine for all. I still get a thrill when I see the river.
"I remember the house, the clean yard, the beautiful wild rose bushes on each side of the path leading down the little hill to the well. There was a large water ditch, close by the house. The water was so clean and clear, we played in it and how we had fun. Our house was a two room, log cinched and plastered house. There was no carpets on the floor, but the floors were always pretty and white. Mother scoured them with sand and cold water.
"My mother was very neat and particular. She walked with a crutch, since an injury she received when seven years old. But, she could get around very
quickly. She could walk up and down the cellar, which had nine steps, with a pan of milk in each hand.
"I remember Ella, Erastus and Orson walking to school. The three bread and molasses lunches were carried in a five pound lard bucket. Erastus tied his books up in his handkerchief to carry them to school. I learned to say the alphabet backwards from Erastus' Blueback Speller. Erastus worked for Mike Phelps, a cattleman, who was a neighbor. The Phelps boys and Erastus often went fishing in a creek of the Little Colorado. They caught many little minnows which mother cleaned and fried very crisp. Then father would eat the whole fishhead, fins, tail and all.
"In the fall we would all go down to the Colorado River when we kids gathered black walnuts acorns, and pinenuts. We roasted the acorns and pinenuts. We gathered many sacks of nuts and stored them away forwinter. After supper and school, we gathered around the fireplace and there was an anvil and a hammer. We would crack walnuts and eat parched acorns and pinenuts. Erastus was the expert cracker. He could crack a walnut so half a "goodie" would come out. When we'd get a half a nut we would hurry to mother with it. She was always busy spinning or cording wool or other household duties long after supper, working in the firelight.
"I started to school when 9 years old. The school house was a small adobe house with plastered walls. It was in the Mexican part of town and both American and Mexican children went to the same school. I remember the first lice I ever saw. A Mexican girl sat across the isle from me. She had lice in her hair. Our teacher, John Bunch, was a very handsome, kindly man, with blue eyes and dark hair.
MOVING TO ALPINE
Eliza did not go to school long, for the family soon moved from the 5,000 foot level of the Arizona plateau to the 8,000 foot level of the heavy timbered upper valleys of the White Mountains. Bush Valley, later called more romantically, Alpine, was 28 long, hard miles uphill to the Southeast. But to the gang of Anna Skousen's kids, the move was a great event. Ella, the oldest was by now 19, Erastus was 16, Orson was 13, Anna was 11, Eliza 9, Melvina was 6, Esther was 4, and baby Danaboe was 2. Eliza describes the exciting day of the move from open country to mountain meadows as follows:
"We were so thrilled, as children are when moving. My sisters and I helped to drive the cows and horses. We had two teams and wagons. When we came into town, just as the sun was setting, we saw a very beautiful field of grain. Grass and flowers were everywhere. We saw a pretty running stream going into a pond of water. A man was leading a big, fine horse to the stream. This picture was so beautiful that I will never forget it. By the time we finally arrived at our new home, it was dark. The next morning I heard father say to mother, 'this is our paradise.' I did not realize just what this meant until I returned home from the dry lands of Mexico, for then I truly saw how beautiful it was."
Eliza lived in these mountains for the next seven years, until she was sixteen. It was here in the isolated simplicity of the Apache frontier that she rounded out her dynamic vivaciousness. Her mother called her "Leesa" rather than Eliza, which seemed to fit her tomboy, outdoor girl makeup. She was a great one for riding bareback, with hair flying, as the horse was run at full speed, jumping logs and creeks. She often drove a team hitched to a
wagon or buckboard. She was her father's helper, for in a family of six girls and two boys, the girls worked the fields with their brothers. From time to time it was her turn to drive the team for harvesting or cultivating. She herded the sheep, using a rifle to kill or frighten wild animals away from the stock. She took her turn at shearing sheep, carding wool, making yarn and bats for quilts. She did her chores, which included bringing in the cows and milking them. She would go out in the pasture and timber country to find them calling, "come Bossy, come Bell, time to milk." As they would come running, she would slow them down so they would not hinder their flow of milk. As her mother would remind her, "Never run a milk cow."
But all of "Leesa's" work was not in the fields. Her mother, Anna, was a tailor by trade, having learned the skill in Denmark before coming to Zion. Eliza watched her mother make suits for the men, dresses for the girls and women, and even straw hats from the new wheat straw. Her mother would trade the fruits of her skills for many necessities. Though she had a precious sewing machine, the girls were not allowed to touch it for fear that irrepairable damage might be done. So the girls sewed by hand, mostly rag rugs for carpets. Carpets were a real necessity in the bitter cold winters. The bedroom floors were first covered with straw, then loomed-rag carpets were tacked over the straw. Once a year the rugs were pulled up, cleaned and tacked down again over fresh new wheat or barley straw. The floors were thus insulated against the 8,000 foot high, Alpine winters. For the kitchen floor, river sand was used as a scouring agent to keep it clean and white. In those days, sand was the scouring for such tasks.
The family had a sunken, dirt cellar which kept the food and milk fresh and cold. Eliza often marveled, watching her mother, Anna, going up and down the cellar steps, crutch under one arm, balancing two pans of milk, one in each hand.
Spring cleaning was truly a task which took most of the season in those days. Straw mattresses were emptied and refilled with new, clean wheat straw. Feather mattresses, which were for the adults, not the children, had to be fluffed and aired. Eliza continued her schooling in a one room house in the little village of Alpine. She finished the eighth grade before leaving for Mexico.
Her father's other wife, Sidsel, had moved to Mexico with most of her children when Eliza was still a very little girl. So it was quite an event when in the fall of 1898, three of the children, now adults, came to Alpine to visit.
They were Hannah, Mary and Jim. The latter, named after his father, James Niels Skousen, had just returned from, a mission in Denmark. Eliza became especially excited when she learned that she was to go back to Mexico with them and would live with her brother Daniel and continue schooling. Eliza was sweet sixteen and just about to start moving up in the world.
LIFE IN MEXICO
The Mormon colonies in Mexico were beginning to flourish by the time Eliza arrived. In twelve years, the people had begun to establish some of the comforts that go with prosperous farms and orchards. The central colony was Juarez, 17 miles up into the Sierra Madre foothills from the second largest colony, Dublan. Most of the people living there had come because
of the problems with polygamy in the States. Eliza lived with her half-brother, Daniel, in Colonia Juarez, attending school for one year. When Daniel's first wife, Mallie, had twin girls, Eliza willingly gave up school to help out for awhile in the home. However, Mallie was sick for a long time, so Eliza remained home to help car for the six children.
It was during this period that she met a young man by the name of David Fife. Later, as she was able to work in the home of others, including the home of the stake president, Anthony W. Ivins, the romance with Dave began to get serious. By the time Eliza was 19, she was very much in love with the young man. She got to see him only on special occasions because he worked for a big rancher, Loren Farr, up in the mountains at Pachecho. After he had proposed and she accepted, he made plans to hunt for greater economic opportunities and then return for her. He left in May with the promise to be back by October. As Eliza and Dave bid farewell, he promised that he would soon be back with enough money to marry her. "Write to me," Eliza pleaded. "I will," he called as he galloped down the street. However, week after week went by and no mail came. Eliza's world began to collapse. Everyone noticed the absence of her usual cheerfulness. One day her brother-in-law, Ernest Taylor, counselor in the bishopric, took her aside and helped her see the necessity of living above disappointment. She accepted the lesson and found it a needed one for many of the experiences which followed.
Eliza welcomed an invitation by her eldest half-brother, Peter N. Skousen, to come to Dublan, 17 miles east, to stay with his large family, of his second wife, Annice. After spending the summer there, during which she was able to take classes in dress-making, she returned to Juarez to work for the Ivins. She was now a very pretty twenty year old and bearing up well with her inner ache for David Fife.
One day she received word that her sister, Hannah, wanted her to come over to her house right away. Upon arriving, she was surprised to be introduced to a fine looking forty year old man. He was , bishop of the little Mormon colony of Morelos, many miles to the west in the State of Sonora, Mexico.
Unknown to her, Bishop Brown had observed her the previous Sunday walking to church, wearing an attractive white dress and hat. Orson had three wives and explained that he would be greatly pleased to have Eliza for the fourth. Even though plural marriage had been terminated in the States twelve years before, polygamy was not illegal in the Mexican colonies and permitted by the church until 1904.
Eliza describes the experience as follows:
"He was a fine looking man. He had blue eyes, black hair and a mustache, which was very popular then and he was a very good Mormon. He was very popular and also very courteous to everyone. As was the case for all of his life, he had and still has a great host of friends. Well, he wanted to see me. So, we visited and I thought he was so grandand he was. Then he asked me to marry him. I said, "I don't know if I want to. I do not know if it would be right." Orson's understanding answer was, "Pray about it and so will I. If you have a peaceful, undisturbed feeling within, it is right."
Eliza met the situation with mixed emotions. In the colonies, it was a great honor to be chosen by a man who was already well established, mature, and prominent in the church. Yet, she still felt her deep love for Dave. She did not want to say yes if her sweetheart would return. So, she finally responded by requesting that he write to her father, James Niels Skousen, in Alpine, Arizona. Orson wrote and Eliza also sent along a letter. The answer soon returned, giving the fathers consent. As Eliza had prayed, she felt she should go ahead. The two were sealed for time and all eternity by Anthony W. Ivins, who held special keys for this sealing work. As they faced each other, kneeling before an altar, Bishop Brown gave her their first kiss. They were married September 3, 1902.
Just as a note in passingnothing was heard of David Fife for another year. Eliza was attending a dance, holding her first baby in her arms when Dave walked in. His first words were, "Why didn't you wait?" Eliza responded emphatically, "Why didn't you write?" As Dave stood, heartsick and remorseful, he looked at the others in the room and mornfully proclaimed, "To think she might have been mine." David Fife remained unmarried for the rest of his life.
EARLY MARRIED LIFE AT MORELOS
That year had been very eventful for Eliza. She remained in Juarez for several months, and then Orson took her to Morelos in a white-topped buggy, pulled by two white horses. The first night but, they slept on the ground. The moon shown as bright as day. To Eliza, it truly seemed like a new world, with everything so new and beautiful. However, compared to Juarez, Morelos was little more than a frontier camp. Eliza describes her first view of her new home:
"When we came into Morelos, it seemed to be all mesquite shrubs and trees. Then I saw a shack here and one there. We stopped at Aunt Matties (Orson's first wife). She was living in a two room, red brick house. It was a Thursday. She had been washing. Here again the sun was so beautiful, but there were no flowers or springs or streams of water. But, to me it was grand for I had a fine, good-looking husband and a nice family. But, there were shacks for homes built of octillo and mud plaster. My house was one room. Bessie (Orson's third wife) also had a one room house. There was a space between her house and mine. We had a smooth clean yard, but no lovely wild rose bushes or any flowers. But, I was truly happy. Everybody was like one big family. I love his other wives, Mattie, his first wife, Jane, the second wife, and dear Bessie, the third wife. I was number four. I loved all of his children. Our church was one long adobe room. It had a dirt floor and roof. It was the school as well."
Eliza found special companionship in her sister-wife, . Between their two little houses, they shared an open space where they did their washing and most of their visiting. Bessie had not been married to Orson for long, having one child by him and two from a previous marriage. As Eliza soon became pregnant, Bessie was the one standing by to help her through her first experience of motherhood. Eliza wrote of her association "I loved Bessie more than a sister. She was the best soul I ever knew. My baby was born August 27, 1903 on Bessie's birthday, so I asked her to name my baby. She named her Gwendolyn, one of the characters in a book she had just read." The middle name of Skousen was added by Eliza.
The next summer, Orson was able to give Eliza some exciting news. He felt that it would be alright if she took a trip to Alpine. She packed her things, tucked the baby in her arms, and made the rough journey to Colonia Juarez to visit her many brothers and sisters while she waited for Orson to come and arrange transportation. However, Orson's arrival brought sad news. There had been some illness back in Morelos and Bessie was in need of help. He said, "Eliza, you had better come home with me to help Bessie. She is not well and needs you. You will wait and go see your mother some other time."
Eliza took her great disappointment in stride. She writes, "So I went home with them and when the wagon stopped by the front gate, Bessie came out to meet me. She said, 'Oh Eliza, I am so glad that you did not go home.' The next morning, Bessie did not get up. She had four small children, having given birth to a new son, Duncan, eight months before. We got a nurse for her and I thought everything was going as well as could be, but one day, tears came to her eyes and she said, 'Just think, Eliza, they tell me I have to ween my baby and I will never nurse him again.' So I said, 'Well, Bessie, I will ween Gwendolyn and nurse Duncan.' We were getting along fine until early one morning I was called, 'come quick, Bessie is dying.' I went right in and she was breathing her last. Her eyes were just closing when I cried, 'Oh Bessie!' She heard me, made a sound and was gone."
This was a great loss to Eliza. As Orson and the neighbors gathered around, a sister Jameson remarked that she and her husband knew when she had died, for shortly after her passing, about 5:00 A.M., Bessie's face appeared at the foot of the bed and Bessie spoke these words, "I have found a better way." Sister and brother Jameson were lying awake talking about it when the knock came to the door informing them of her passing.
The following year there was no chance of going to Alpine as Eliza was expecting another baby. The little girl was born September 26, 1905 and named Anna Skousen Brown after her grandmother
The next year Eliza moved back to the larger colony of Dublan, where she was delighted with her first son, Otis Pratt Brown, born September 6, 1907. When again pregnant several years later, she hoped for a little baby brother for Otis. It was double delight when, the baby was not only a boy, but was born on her husband's birthday, May 22, 1909. Orson, away at the time, was pleased upon his return with his, new birthday present.
She named him Orson Erastus Skousen, calling him by his middle name, Erastus.
When baby Erastus was just a toddler, 16 months old, Eliza had the first of her two great tragedies of losing a child to polio. Erastus had been such a beautiful, healthy baby. Yet, in one agonizing week of the most painful form of polio, the baby was dead. It all happened so suddenly. Eliza's own story can best tell the mother's grief.
"It was a Sunday that I had left the children playing in the yard for a little while. As I came home through the gate, my baby Erastus ran to meet me. I picked him up and he doubled up backwards, his head and feet almost touching. Oh, my! What a shock!
"I called my neighbor, sister Milicent Jameson (the one who had received the manifestation at the death of Bessie in Morelos). She made a pack of hot hops and bran. I never saw anything dry so quickly as this wet pack did, his fever being so high. She stayed with me until his father came, which was not long. We sat up all night, not knowing what it was he was sick with. Finally we were informed that the baby had infantile spinal menigitis. He was sick for ten days, having one convulsion after another.
"By the end of the first week, on the following Sunday night, Orson said, 'Eliza, he has suffered long enough and he may be maimed if he should live. Don't you think we should have the Elders come and didicate him to the Lord? If it is the Lord's will, He will take him out of his suffering. I will stay with the baby while you go tell Bishop Thurber.' The Elder s came and administered to him. After they took their hands off the baby's head, he relaxed and I could put his arms by his side and straighten out his legs for the first time since he was stricken. As I suddenly realized what I had asked of the Lord through His servants, I went out by the well and cried unto the Father who had sent him to me 'Father, if I have any more children you want to take, please don't let them suffer as this baby has.'
"I went in and found the baby still resting so peacefully. At 5:00 A.M. Monday morning, Orson called me and said, 'He has just passed on.' 'Why didn't you call me,' I asked. Orson answered, 'He passed on so peacefully we would not want him bothered or disturbed.' So, I washed him and dressed him for the last time. He looked so sweet in his little white suit. One of the songs sung at the service was 'Nearer My God To Thee.' Some days later I was so lonesome for my little baby. I walked out to the little grave in the Dublan cemetary. I sat by the side and sang over and over again, 'Nearer My God To Thee.' That was the last time that I wept for little Erastus. From then on I had peace."
Eliza soon found that she was again pregnant. Just 9 and a half months after the loss of her baby, she gave birth to another son, Francisco Madera Brown, born May 24, 1911. Three weeks later, her half-brother Jim asked her to move to Colonia Juarez to take care of their aging father. James Niels Skousen, who was 83 years old and getting very feeble. She took her four children, 8 year old Gwen, 6 year old Anna, 4 year old Otis, and the baby Frankie, and moved into Jim's old home. The next ten months Eliza spent some of the happiest days of her life. Her two cows, Jersey and Babe, and her chickens went along also. So, with a lovely, irrigated garden spot and a wonderful orchard of fruit trees, she felt they were living in a paradise. Compared with Morelos, they truly were. Eliza wrote of these days in the following words:
"We were so happy in our new home. I thank my dear brother, Jim, for it. To see the children pick and eat the fruit was so wonderful. This was the first time that they had had such a garden and such fruit. Father would take the cows to the pasture and get them at night. He said, 'Now daughter, you must not chop the wood. I will do that.' 'Alright, father,' I said. So one morning he was trying to chop wood. He finally came to the house and said, 'Well, daughter, you will have to chop the wood. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.' He came right up to me and looked right into my face and said, 'When you were a child, I took care of you. Now I am a child. You take care of me.'"
Then tragedy struck again. When baby Frankie was just 10 months old, he was stricken with polio in the same way Erastus had been. Eliza was shocked with grief. However, the prayer she offered at the death of her other son was granted, for this baby died more peacefully in only three days, on Sunday, March 17, 19l1.
Although living conditions had never been so fine as they were in Juarez, the political situation was becoming alarming. Revolution in Mexico was always a threat and never very far away. There had been a number ofincidents which increased the threatening storm and made the safety of the Mormon colonies very precarious.
One night, the year after Frankie's death, Eliza was awakened by a loud knocking on the door. A Mexican runner carried a message that everyone must leave within 24 hours or the cannons aimed at them from Casas Grandes would "blow them off the map."
Eliza's daughter, Gwen, tells us of the incident of leaving Mexico. "I was only 8 years old that fateful night when mother softly said, 'Gwendolyn, are you awake? We must get ready to leave. We can take one trunk, one roll of bedding, and one lunch box. Get dressed quickly. We will pack the trunk by lamp light. When it is daylight, we will take care of the animals and fix our lunch box. And you may take one doll.' Remembering our gun, mother exclaimed, 'Oh, the gun! Soon the rebels will come through Juarez to disarm everyone. Where can we hide it? I know, up the fireplace chimney with the can of bullets.' We often wondered who the first rebels were to camp in our home and build a fire, but we had no feelings of guilt at what might happen.
"At daylight, Anna, age 6, and Otis, age 4, were awake and up. 'Anna, Anna, come quickly,' I called. Out we ran to our favorite apple tree. It was July and the apples were deliciously green. We dug a hole and quickly filled it with apples so we would have some when we returned in a day or twobut it was not until fifty years later that I returned. We were so sure that we would only be away for a few days. Mother slipped out the door as she quietly gave the orders, 'Turn out the pigs and the cows and gather the eggs. We will fry some of the chickens for our lunch.'
"Our mother's great faith sustained her throughout the day and the long night of train travel as we were stopped again and again by rebels enroute to El Paso, Texas. At last we came to the bridge between Mexico and El Paso where we were stopped one more time. Only the intervention of United States border guards brought us on across the bridge and into El Paso safely. Many of us were housed in an old unused hotel near the tracks. Grandfather Skousen had the only set of bed springs to rest upon. We children enjoyed the sounds of the trains and the taste of the new foods which were brought in daily for two weeks by the Red Cross."
RETURN TO ALPINE
Eliza, thirty years old, with three children, was now without a home. Her older brother, Erastus Skousen, hearing of her plight, sent word to her that she could come and live with him in Alpine, Arizona. They boarded a train at El Paso to Holbrook Arizona. They then traveled by wagon, camping out several nights, finally arriving in her little mountain community of Alpine. What a great reunion there was.
It had been twelve long years since Eliza had been home. Her little stern, crippled mother, Anna Skousen, now 67 years old, was overjoyed at the reunion.
Thirty-eight year old Erastus and his Dannish wife, Nicolena, lived on the old Skousen ranch with their four small children, with Eliza and her children there was quite a household. During the year and a half she lived with her brother, life was very full. The companionship of effervescent, spirited Eliza was particularly enjoyable for Nicolena, and she was a laughing, happy angel. The two young mothers were always busy making quilts -- about twenty in all. One week, "Aunt Nicolena would cook and Eliza would care for the children. The following week, the jobs would be exchanged. Erastus had partitioned off part of the log house, putting two beds in it for his sister's family. He treated everyone alike, buying for Eliza's children the same as he did for his own.
During this time, Eliza occasionally heard from her husband, Orson, who was having a difficult time getting re-established. Finally, in the bitter mountain cold of January, 1914, Eliza received an exciting letter from him, instructing them to join him,
El Paso, Texas 1/10/1914
Dear Eliza and Children:
I am very sorry to tell you that it is impossible for me to go after you but I want you to come here immediately with the children. I have accepted a position that will last until spring when I hope to go to Utah. I am very disappointed in not being able to see your mother and the other folks, but if I leave I will lose my job. I am enclosing a telegram. When you get to the railroad, send it so I can meet you at the depot. Give my love to the folks and start just as soon as possible. I am sending you $50.00 with lots of love. As ever. Orson.
HARD TIMES IN PROVO
There was another great reunion as mother united with her husband and children with their father. The family remained in El Paso for six months and then they all moved to Provo, Utah. This was in July, 1914. Eliza was three months pregnant. After getting settled, she took a job in a grocery store, but since the children were small, she decided to do something where she could take her children with her. So, during the hot summer months or August and September, she went to work on a berry farm, then picking cherries and finally peaches. On the berry farm, she kept Otis in front of her and Anna and Gwendolyn on either side, picking raspberries from 6:00 A. M. to 7:00 P.M. The noon lunch was bread with raspberries and sugar.
After school started and the harvest was over, a real crisis occurred. Her husband, Orson, yielded to a temptation of another woman and became so involved that he finally left and went back to Mexico. Eliza's children were ll, 9, and 7 years of age and another baby would be born in December. Eliza had to do anything she could find to get by during the winter months. Her sister sent stocking legs from which she made stockings so the children could go to school. She found a two room house with Abbie Young, a nurse, so when the baby was born December 24, 1914, sister Young took care of Eliza. When the doctor learned of the situation, he did not charge anything. The baby girl was
named Elizabeth Brown and called Bessie. The next year, Eliza made stockings in her home where she could watch the baby. Her 10 year old Anna would sell tie stockings. The other two made out well picking fruit during the summer. Their fortunes began to change when they moved into a big house near the B.Y.U. campus. After considerable remodeling, they took students in as roomers.
Eliza loved everyone of her student family. But, when the war came, they boys volunteered and the girls went home, so she moved into a smaller house and went to work for the government as a kitchen helper, feeding the R.O.T.C. boys.
When the terrible flu epidemic hit in 1918, Eliza, a registered nurse, had to help the sick until she and all her family became ill. As she began to recover, she was out in the field helping the sick for more than a week at a time. There were testimonies born afterwards of those who owed their lives and the lives of their children to the prayers and ministrations of Eliza Brown.
One of her husband's sympathetic cousins introduced her to another cousin, . He and Eliza were married in September 2, 1920. She had obtained a civil and church divorce from Orson on May 12 of that same year. Thirty-eight year old Eliza moved 100 miles southeast of Provo to Sutherland, Utah to the fine home of her husband.
The twenties rolled by rapidly as the children began to really grow up. Her only boy, Otis, had to become a real farm hand along with her husband's two boys. There were many events which came with raising youngsters and working in the church. When Bessie was 5, she was thrown from a running horse who then stepped on her head. But time and prayer brought healing. Gwen married in 1923 and Otis married in 1930. Shortly afterwards, Eliza's second husband died. After his death, Eliza moved back to Arizona. In the summer of 1932, in the heart of the depression, she returned to visit her brother, Erastus, and his family, at Alpine and while there, she married Parley P. Burk, February 17, 1933. However, this marriage was an unfortunate one and a civil and church divorce was obtained in 1938.
THE HAPPY LAST TWENTY YEARS
Eliza's first twenty years and her last twenty years were her happiest. Carefree and young during the first twenty, she found security, safety and happiness with her daughter, Anna, the last twenty. From 1941 to 1958, she lived most of the time in Mesa, helping to raise Anna's only child, Steven Petrie. Since she had not been able to be home much when raising her own children, due to the necessity of working it was pure joy to her to raise Steven for she had time to love and watch a sweet child grow, to spank and to spoil by turns, and to train him to "walk uprightly" so as to become the great missionary he was.
During Eliza's prolonged last illness and while taking x-ray and radium treatments, she managed to serve three terms as a stake missionary. Due to her weakened condition her last term was difficult, but with pale face and slowed step, she kept going, answering all objections with, "If I don't do this I will die. I am not afraid to die, I am just
not ready." Finally she became bedfast. Many who came to see her remarked, "I was the one comforted." As the pain became more intense, she often declared, "If I want to go where my Savior is, I must learn to suffer." Not long before her passing, she was given a dream vision, in which her father, James Neils Skousen came to her and said, "It's all right daughter, it's all right!"
Eliza never forgot her first husband, Orson Pratt Brown. Although he had wronged her greatly, she never criticized him to her children. Orson went to Mexico and endured a prolonged struggle with repentance and forgiveness. When the cleansing came, he became fully reinstated in the church and a great power once again in doing good among the saints. Many bore witness to the great power of his testimony and the strength of his humility which had been learned through bitter lessons. He died in March 10, 1946. Eliza later, went to the temple and renewed the marriage vows to Orson, the father of her children and her beloved companion for all eternity.
She finally passed away March 24, 1958. Her life long friend of the Alpine country, Ida L. Hamblin, wrote the following verses:
A FLOWER IN HER HAIR
The life of Eliza has left a strange impression on me. As I have traced her life from Alpine, Mexico, Provo and Mesa, with the tribulations and struggles which could have made her bitter, I have marveled at her radiant life.
As I rested the other day, with my eyes closed, a scene was opened before my eyes. I saw a view which I did not at first recognize until the vision continued for some time. It was the James Skousen home in Colonia Juarez, about 1911, when Eliza was living there with her four children. The scene was vividly clear. The bright sunshine, the blue sky, green apple trees and the children playing in the yard was all in three dimensional clarity.
Eliza was standing in her yard picking a bouquet of roses. She went to the back of her house to pick some flowers which grew in clusters which I could not recognize. While she was picking the flowers, I was shown flashes of brief scenes her husband, Orson, with his mustache.
Eliza interrupted her flower gathering to settle a dispute with two of her girls who were playing on the front lawn. They must have been Gwen and Anna. The girls were particularly sweet, but one seemed to give a little more trouble, being more aggressive. After being corrected by their mother, the dispute was settled and they were back to play. Eliza turned to the house, a little sad, until she noticed one of her roses which was a beautiful red and perfect in structure. The rose reminded her of the goodness of the Lord and she was filled with thanksgiving.
She looked at her bouquet gratefully and held it close to her bosom, then walked into the house, humming a tune. She put them (the flowers) in a bowl on the table.
Next I saw her preparing dinner, setting the table. I smiled when the dog came yipping at the back door with a injured foot. She rushed out to take care of him and while doing so, something on the black, wood stove boiled over. She let out a gasp and cleaned up the mess. She was singing all the time, dressed in a long dress down to her ankles. Her face radiated her love of people and cheerful nature. As she called the children to dinner, she wistfully glanced up the road, hoping that Orson might be joining them. I saw a tear come to her eye, but it was quickly wiped away so the children could not see.
This was followed by scenes of her ironing with her old fashioned irons. She treated the clothes gently for they were thin and worn. As she noticed the frail clothing, she also noticed the roses and bent over to smell them.
She seemed to see into the roses and a flood of inner understanding seemed to sweep over her. She walked over to the bedroom door, opened it and went over her sleeping children, kissing each one, just as she had kissed the roses earlier. A tear drop fell from her eyes. Quickly, I saw an overplay of the scenes that were passing through her mind, like wiping dirty noses, pulling fighting kids apart, holding them for long hours when they were sick, protecting them. Then she thought of scenes of caring for the roses, watering, weeding, pruning and so forth. There is a lot of trouble getting roses and raising them, but they are worth it. As she returned to her sitting room, she picked up the clothing and started mending. She started singing -- and I could hear her -- the familiar song, "There is Beauty all Around When There is Love at Home."
As the peaceful scene continued, understanding of the great gift of love, even in adversity, which Eliza understood began to flood my mind. God lets us see the miracle of a full bloom of a rose in this life so that we may taste in this little way the beauty of the full bloom of all his creations. The Lord's children who are nourished by an inflow of His love are His beautiful roses. He gives us love that we may have it to nourish others. As this thought came, I noticed the roses in her bowl began to sparkle and light came from them, brightening the whole room. So it is with the love that God gives us, we are prepared to bloom in His eternal creations for all time.
Rags do not seem to matter. It is how our faces shine from the love that is planted in them. Just as the roses made the whole room beautiful, faces which radiate the love of God will make the whole celestial kingdom bloom with glorious light and beauty.
Then I saw Eliza reach over, pick a blossom from the vase, and tuck it in her hair. She "leaned" back, in her chair, closed her eyes and reverently enjoyed the warmth of the spiritual blessing. At this point, there was another overplay. A Christmas tree, all covered with tinsel, candy, lights, and ornaments appeared. All of a sudden it was as if someone pulled a veil off of it and with it came all the artificial ornaments. The interpretation was given that we veil the true meaning of the Christmas Tree of Life with shallow, false satisfactions. As the tree, in all of it natural splendor began to shine just as the roses had done. A white bird took a rose in its beak and put is on top. Eliza knew the secret of the true Christmas tree God's love. The impression was given that this little message of love should be included in the section of the Skousen Book which has to do with the amazing life of Eliza Skousen Brown. It was a wonderful privilege to get better acquainted with this vibrantly lovely woman.
The Children of Eliza Skousen and Orson Pratt Brown
Born: 27 Aug 1903
Died: 1 March 1999
Born: 26 Sep 1905
Died: 27 Jan 2001
Born: 6 Sep 1907
Died: 17 April 1987
Born: 22 May 1909
Died: 10 Sep 1910
Born: 24 May 1911
Died: 17 March 1912
Born: 24 Dec 1914
Died: 14 July 1999
PAF - Archer Files = James Jens Niels Skousen + Ane Kirstine Jorgensen Hansen (Hanson) > Eliza Skousen + Orson Pratt Brown
Max B. Skousen and Meryle Gelisse, c.1971
Copyright 2001 www.OrsonPrattBrown.org