ELIZABETH GRAHAM MACDONALD WEBB BROWN - 1874-1904
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Orson Pratt Brown's Third Wife:
1874 in St. George, Washington County, Utah. Her father is Alexander Findlay Macdonald, born 11 September 1825 in Kintail, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland. Her mother is the third wife, , born 18th of May 1841 in Annon, Dumfries, Scotland. Bessie was the third of four daughters. Bessie's sisters were Margaret, Annette, and Maude. Bessie's paternal grandparents were Duncan MacDonald and Margaret MacRae of Scotland. Her maternal grandparents were William Atkinson and Margaret Ashbridge of England.
1851 May 20th Elizabeth Graham, born 12 January 1831 in Perth, Scotland, married Alexander F. MacDonald in Scotland. They had eleven sons from 1854 to 1871. Bessie was named after her father's first wife Elizabeth Graham because she had had no daughters of her own.
1856 January 20th, Alexander married his second wife Sarah Johnson born 1839 of Liverpool, England, in Springville, Utah. [no children] Members of Sarah's family forcibly took her to Nevada where she married another man, had two daughters in Nevada and Sarah and the children died soon after.
1864 October 22nd Alexander married his fourth wife Agnes Aird of Glasgow, Scotland. They have two daughters and four sons, Agnes and Flora (twin to Arthur), and four sons, Wallace, George, James Alexander, Arthur (twin to Flora). (In 1898 Agnes was murdered in her home in Colonia Garcia.)
On this same day Alexander married third wife . They had four daughters. While living in St. George, Utah, Lizzie Atkinson Macdonald gave birth to her third daughter, the subject of this biography, naming her Elizabeth after herself and adding "Graham" to honor her husband's first wife, Elizabeth Graham.
1870 August 1st Alexander married his fifth wife Fannie Van Cott of Salt Lake City, Utah. They have three sons, John, Scott, Byron, and two daughters, Lucy Lavinia and Flora Hermosa.
1885January, after much tribulation and under the advice of the church leaders, A.F. Macdonald moved to Mexico due to 1884 indictments issued for his arrest because of his practice of polygamy.. Bessie was approximately ten years old.
1887 December 5, A.F. Macdonald was released as the Maricopa Stake President.
1892 May 9thBessie married Pardon Milo Webb. To that union were born three daughters. Pardon was the son of Pardon Knapp Webb and Margaret Kay Webb. Pardon Knapp Webb assisted in bringing immigrants to Utah. He was an early settler of Payson, Utah and pioneer of Arizona. He was counselor to Bishop C.B. Hancock, and city councilman at Payson.
1893 March, Bessie's first child was born (perhaps stillborn).
1898 Bessy divorced Pardon Milo Webb, it is said that he had a mean temper and was taken to drinking. Bessy left Lehi, Arizona, and then with her two daughters moved to Colonia Garcia to be with her father after her mother, Agnes Ayrd MacDonald, was murdered by some Mexicans in her three room log home there.
[Later she went to Colonia Juarez to attend the Juárez Stake Academy to study nursing and soon met Orson Pratt Brown.]
1901 Bessy Macdonald and her two daughters join Orson's family.
Orson described his marriage to Bessie as follows: "About five years later, discussing this matter of plural marriage, my wife Matty said to me. I believe that you ought to get another wife and there is Bessy Graham Macdonald Webb. I believe that she would make a fine wife to you and a fine addition to our family. We kneeled down to pray about it. The next morning not having had any previous social contact with Bessy Graham Macdonald Webb, I said to my wife Matty, "Well, I don't hardly know her, not withstanding I think that she is a wonderful and very fine woman"
So I went down to her father's [fifth wife's] home where she was staying with her Aunt Fanny [Van Cott Macdonald]. I said to Aunt Fanny, "Where is Bessy?" She is down in the garden with her father." So Aunt Fanny called Bessy in and told her there was a man there to see her. I sat down and talked to her, my object of being there, saying, "My wife Matty and I, after consultation, have decided to enlarge upon our family and we had decided upon asking her to join our family group." She said, "This is a surprise to me, I hardly know you."
I asked her if she would consider the matter and then I said, "I will be back here to see you at 6 o'clock this evening." I then went and discussed the matter with my wife and she was perfectly willing also.
When I returned to the MacDonald home that evening and discussed the matter with "Bessy" Graham Macdonald Webb she said, "I have discussed this matter with my father and I have prayed about it to the Lord and I am willing to accept your proposition." And the next night at ten o'clock in the presence of my wife Matty, we were sealed together by one having the authority [on January 15, 1901 in Colonia Diaz]. My wife, Mattie took Bessie by the hand and gave her to me, and sealing being performed by Bessie's father,Bessie was the only child of A.F. MacDonald to marry in polygamy.
Orson said of his marriage to Bessie that "another blessing came to me for in her I found one of
the most noble souls I have ever known; a wonderful counselor, splendid mother and a worker in the church. She brought peace and harmony into my home."
1901 February - Orson to Preside Over Colonia Morelos.
"Orson wrote, "I had been called to preside over the new colony at Colonia Morelos, Sonora, a few days later by President and Helaman Pratt. I took Bessy Macdonald and her two little girls, Elsy and Margarite, who were five and three years old. I was installed as Bishop at Colonia Morelos. This was in February 1901."
[Shortly after relocating in Colonia Morelos, Bessie's father Alexander F. Macdonald visited his daughter. Alexander served as a surveyor for the Church. Seeing the hard situation she was living he gave her $5 dollars to buy some desperately needed household items for her new home. A while later when Alexander was leaving Bessie he asked her if he could borrow the $5. back. (This story is remembered by Duncan Brown, Bessie's grandson)]
1902 Bessie's daughter Marguerite recalls that Joseph F. Smith, then President of the Mormon Church, was visiting the Macdonald home in Colonia Garcia. A.F. Macdonald provided his comfortable red velvet house slippers to the visiting president, and young Marguerite, unhappy at seeing someone else with her Grandpa's slippers on scolded President Smith, saying, "Off trodes shun," which translated means, "Take off Grandpa's shoes!"
1903 Alexander Macdonald became very ill. He and Lizzie went to El Paso to seek medical help, with Agnes Ayrd's son Jim Macdonald driving the wagon. The doctor informed them that he had Bright's disease in an advanced stage, and little could be done for him.
They took the train home as far as Nuevo Casas Grandes but could go no further. They stayed at the home of Mr. Elldredge, editor of the El Progreso newspaper. Mac, as he was called went into a coma and died shortly after being placed in bed. Helaman Pratt, a member of the stake presidency living in Colonia Dublán took care of the funeral plans.
Eliza Skousen wrote: "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 Mattie's [Romney] (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 [Macdonald] (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 Romney, his first wife, Jane Galbraith, the second wife, and dear Bessie Macdonald, 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." (Excerpt from ELIZA SKOUSEN By Max B. Skousen and Meryle Gelisse. Circa 1971 Page 5).
Eliza Skousen wrote: "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 Mattie's [Romney] (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 [Macdonald] (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 Romney, his first wife, Jane Galbraith, the second wife, and dear Bessie Macdonald, 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." (Excerpt from ELIZA SKOUSEN By Max B. Skousen and Meryle Gelisse. Circa 1971 Page 5)
"Eliza found special companionship in her sister-wife, Bessie. 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. 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." (Excerpt from ELIZA SKOUSEN By Max B. Skousen and Meryle Gelisse. Circa 1971 Page 6)
The next summer , Orson was able to give Eliza some exciting news. He felt that it would be all right if she took a trip to Alpine, AZ. She packed her things, tucked the baby in her arms, and made the rough journey to Colonia Juárez 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 wean my baby and I will never nurse him again.’
So I said, "Well, Bessie, I will wean 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 Bessie 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." (Excerpt from ELIZA SKOUSEN By Max B. Skousen and Meryle Gelisse. Circa 1971 Page 6)
Bessie died at the age of 30 in Colonia Morelos, Sonora, Mexico. She left two daughters and two sons. Bessie was buried the the next day on 24th of October 1904 close to the homesite where she had lived for three years.
Orson left this tribute to Bessie in his Journal & Reminiscences of Captain Orson P. Brown: "The death of my wife, Bessie Macdonald, at Colonia Morelos, was one of the severest blows in all my life, for she was one of God's noble women and a wonderful counselor and companion; God bless her memory."
(On August 1905 Pardon Milo Webb died in Prescott, Yavapai, Arizona.)
Thirteen of August of 1912 the Brown family along with all the other residents of the Mexican Mormon Colonies decided to flee to the United States for safety because of the probable danger from Mexican revolutionaries. Orson was probably in El Paso on Church business when his wives were forced to leave their homes. Jane Galbraith Brown "was on her own with her little family of 7, ranging in ages from 3 to 14. She packed up what she could, loaded her children onto a wagon pulled by mules, and started the exodus out of Mexico. Ronald, her older son who would have been 14, drove the wagon. At one point, a wheel hit a chuckhole, the wagon tipped over and William Galbraith, 7-year-old twin brother to Pratt Orson Galbraith, fell and was caught under the hub of the wheel and crushed to death. Jane tried to free him using her bare hands to try to dig him out. Ronald unhitched a horse tied to the wagon and went for help. The little family was devastated by what they saw and experienced in this tragic accident."
Grief-stricken, Jane sent a telegram wire to Orson who was in El Paso, asking that he come and help. Orson sent a wire back that he could not come, for her to bury Galbraith next to Bessie in Colonia Morelos, and to then meet him in El Paso. So Jane and her family buried little William Galbraith Brown next to Elizabeth Macdonald Brown, third wife of Orson Pratt Brown, who had died there in October 1904. Then Jane and her little family of 6 resumed their very difficult and dangerous journey to El Paso.
[Looking for photos of these four as teens or adults]
Bessie's Four Children Raised by Grandma Mac (Elizabeth Atkinson Macdonald)
As the children grew, each of them was given chores by that became their responsibility. There was no running water so Elsie and Marguerite carried water from the creek up to the house. This was quite a distance and the return trip was uphill all the way. They carried a small, galvanized tub between them and a bucket on each side. When they got a little bigger they were allowed to take clothes to the creek and wash them there.
They also learned to scrub the pine floorboards on their hands and knees because Grandma Mac wouldn't allow them to use a mop. The floors had to be scrubbed with lye soap and they had to be careful no line or tide marks remained.
There were chickens and livestock to feed. As the children grew older they helped milk the cows. The little boys helped care for the animals and Donald once exclaimed, "Damned if I'm ging to feed all those pickens and chigs!" The cows were milked in the morning and then turned out to graze during the day. In the evening they would come home, the cowbells hanging around their necks ringing and clanging as they walked. The children would throw hay out of the manger onto the ground, then they would have to scatter it about for the cows to eat. One time as Marguerite went to scatter the hay two of the cows had locked horns and proceeded to but her right out of the way. Only her pride was hurt, but it was a frightening experience.
Praying for the Cows to Come In
Grandma Mac was a woman of great faith. When the cows were going to have calves and could no longer be milked, Grandma Mac would turn them out to pasture in the foothills. When it came time for them to calf, in family prayers Grandma Mac would pray, "Put it into the hearts of the cows to come home." Sure enough, the cows would come with their baby calves. Marguerite said she never doubted for a moment that those cows would come home.
One time four of the cows had calved, but only three calves came in with the cows. As the children tried to put the animals in the corral the mother cow who had lost her baby kept running away and would not go to the gate. Marguerite followed her, and some distance away a tree had fallen across the path, and the cow had hidden her calf under the tree. The mother began licking her baby, and soon the little calf got up on its wobbly legs and followed its mother home.
For chewing gum the girls learned to pick the hardened sap from the bark of the pine trees. They never knew if the sap was going to be bitter or pleasant to the taste. If it was too hard the sap would crumble in their mouths, and they would try to soften it with saliva so they could chew it into a ball. In the process of chewing it the crumbs would stick to their teeth. Once it was formed into a chewable ball their jaws were so tired they were almost ready to spit it out.
Darkness came early in the evenings in Garcia. When the cows were milked, the chores done and the supper dishes finished, one of the favorite pass times was to gather around the organ and sing. Elsie and Marguerite took turns playing the organ. Neither girl had had music lessons, but they played by ear.
Even though life was hard and everyone had their struggles, there were many happy times too. Weekly dances were held at the church house for children and adults, but just as today, the children were not allowed to attend the adult dances until they were fourteen years old. Everyone danced to the music provided by the fiddle and the organ. Plays were also produced in which the community people participated. Men also played baseball, and sometimes the married men played against the single men.
Occasionally Grandma Mac would make trips back to Arizona to visit. The children would stay in Colonia Garcia and were cared for by neighbors there. There were no clothes to be bought in Colonia Garcia, so Grandma Mac would bring material back with her to make dresses for the girls.
Whenever he could Orson Pratt Brown came to Garcia to visit Grandma Mac and the children. He loved to sing, and Elsie would play the organ. Orson was a generous man, and whenever he had any money he would always spare what he could and give it to Grandma Mac.
Exodus of 1912
Troubles arose for the Saints in Mexico During the Mexican Revolution. In 1912 the Saints were forced to flee from their homes and make their exodus from Mexico. Elizabeth and her grandchildren were among them. They only had about a three-hour notice to make ready to leave. Most of the Saints were only able to come out of Mexico with the clothes they were wearing. Before leaving, Grandma Mac had a large hole dug by the grainery and there buried a trunk containing Grandpa Mac's journals and records that he had brought from Scotland. (She thought were going to be away only a few days.) She worried and worried about it, wondering if she had done the right thing, but one night she felt Grandpa Mac lay his hand on her shoulder and pat her. From then on she was relieved of her anxiety, for she felt that he was telling her that it was all right.
Return to Lehi
Grandma Mac's daughter, Maggie was living in Lehi, Arizona, so, Following the Exodus, Lizzie and the children returned to Lehi to live. The children were now 17, 15, 10 and 8, and Elizabeth was 71 years of age, quite a responsibility for a woman of her age.
Life continued to be hard, and there were many struggles. Each of the children learned the value of hard work. Marguerite said she could remember Grandma Mac gathering eggs and taking them to the store and trading them for 50 cents worth of meat. She would make stew out of the meat and stretch it as far as she could. Marguerite said it was the best stew she ever ate.
As difficult as it was, Grandma Mac insisted that the children go to school and get an education. They attended Lehi Elementary School and later Mesa High School. Marguerite said they always brought their friends home and Grandma Mac always made them feel welcome. All four of the children graduated from Mesa High School. Duncan, the youngest, was an outstanding athlete, and he attended the University of Arizona for two years and was then given a football scholarship to Iowa State in Ames where he graduated. Both Donald and Duncan became successful farmers and businessmen. All four of the children married and raised lovely families.
Marguerite dearly loved her Grandmother Mac and had great respect and admiration for her. She expressed appreciation for the many things she learned from her grandmother and the principles she taught her. She said, "Grandma Mac was a woman of integrity and strong moral courage. Grandma often said 'there is no substitute for honesty.' She lived what she taught and she taught what she lived."
(Lizzie) Grandma Mac's Death
Each evening Grandma Mac would walk over to her daughter Maggie's home to get a pail of milk. One evening as she was returning home she stumbled and fell. An intestine ruptured, and she passed away that night while undergoing surgery at the Community Hospital. Thus, on February 4, 1922, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Atkinson Macdonald's sojourn on earth ended, and she died at 81 years of age. As her family was preparing her for burial they found her clothes neatly in order, for she had made them, and folded inside was an envelope containing one hundred dollars in currency for her burial expenses.
Funeral services were held at the Lehi Ward Chapel in Lehi, Arizona. Bishop John Jones presided. Those who spoke at the funeral were Daniel P. Jones and Joseph E. Robinson. She was laid to rest in the Mesa Cemetery.
Bessie Graham MacDonald Webb Brown could not have found a better person than Grandma Mac to raise her children."
PAF - Archer files = Alexander Findlay Macdonald + Elizabeth Atkinson > Elizabeth Graham Macdonald + Orson Pratt Brown.
Many thanks to Duncan Brown, Jr. for sharing photos of Elizabeth and her four children, family group sheets, and other information.
Memories of Elizabeth's granddaughter, Marguerite Webb Brown Shill, recorded and written by Betty R. Shill.
"Recollections of Elizabeth Atkinson Macdonald" by Nelle Spilsbury Hatch
Thanks to the Macdonald Family website: www.afmacdonald.com for added information about Bessie, Orson, and their children, added here by Lucy Brown Archer.
Thanks to Max B. Skousen and Meryle Gelisse for their work on the biography of Eliza Skousen Brown Erickson Klein.
[Bracketed] information, photos, corrections, and bolded names added by Lucy Brown Archer
Copyright 2001 www.OrsonPrattBrown.org