Polly Benson History
Written by her granddaughter Ella Grace Bown (July 15--July 24, 1963)
From the list of passengers of the ship Confidence of London, which sailed to New England on the eleventh of April 1638, we find the names of John Benson, his wife Mary Benson and children under four years of age, John and Mary.
John was born in England about 1635 and he lived in Hull, Massachusetts. The name of his wife is not known, but they had seven children, the last being William, who became our ancestor. He was born about 1680 and married Elizabeth Stetson. A record shows one son from this union, whose name was William, born April 18, 1710, at Rochester, Massachusetts. He married Elizabeth Ellis. Their second child was a son, Stetson Benson, born March 2, 1741, at Rochester, Massachusetts. Stetson married Bathsheba Lewis. They became the parents of Benjamin Benson and he became our ancestor. He was born August 5, 1773.
It seems that when Benjamin joined the Church of Jesus Christ of later-day Saints, his family disowned him. He was not mentioned in any wills or history. It was just said, "he died young," but the fact remains that he married Kaziah Messenger on the fifteenth day of December 1795 and to this union was born twelve children, six boys and six girls. Polly, the tenth child became our grandmother and was born February 12, 1816 at Bath Seneca County, New York, where the family lived.
After the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, missionaries were sent out to seek out the honest in heart, and they entered the state of New York. One night Polly Benson saw, in a dream, two elders who taught her the restored gospel, and she was converted before they called at the home. So very vivid was the dream, that some time later when these two elders called at the home, she recognized them, calling them by name. On another occasion, elders who had visited with them left to travel to some distant place and were to be away for some time; but a short time after they had departed, Polly came running into the house saying, "The elders will be back tonight." Her mother said, "Polly, what prattle is this? Those elders have no cause to return here tonight." Just before dusk two weary travelers were seen coming over the ridge and down the dusty road. The elders had returned and the family was converted. It was February of the year 1832 when this Benson family was baptized, and they, along with other converts, were persecuted until they moved to Kirtland, Ohio.
When the Prophet Joseph Smith received revelations concerning the center stake of Zion and the New Jerusalem, these people were among the emigrants who made their way to Jackson County, Missouri, a distance of one thousand miles, with an ox team. It was during this journey through Indiana when Joseph Bartholomew joined the Benson family.
The Bensons were millwrights and built flourmills; they also farmed. They selected a homestead on the Big Blue, about five miles from Kansas City and the same distance from Independence. They were a large family and set to work building a home, stables, pens and sheds. They cleared the land of trees and brush and were soon established in a home, becoming independent and well-to-do. They had fat hogs, cows, sheep, chickens, etc. Crops were mostly harvested; the barn was full of hay and feed.
They had lived in Missouri little more than one year when a friendly neighbor came rushing to their home just at dusk and said, "Flee for your lives; the mob is coming." Their meal was cooking on the fire; oxen and cows were in the stable, hogs in the pen, chickens in the coop. Butter and milk were in the nearby spring to be kept cool. Snatching a wrap or quilt, they ran into the woods and hid in the thickets on the Big Blue. From here they watched the destruction by the mob as they pilfered, destroyed and burned their home and property. This was the thirty-first of October, 1833. The next day they moved across the Missouri River out of Jackson County. They never returned to that home. On the first of November it was cold and disagreeable, too, but they moved on into another county to start over and built anew.
Being ambitious, they soon obtained a job building mills. Here they remained until the Saints were driven from Missouri, this time moving into Illinois and settling in Warsaw, Illinois, about six miles south of Nauvoo. Here again they cleared land and began to build homes.
A fond attachment was growing between Polly, a daughter of the Benson family, and Joseph Bartholomew, who had joined this family in Indiana when he was twelve years of age. They were married on the tenth day of December 1843 in Hancock County. A new home was established and on the twentieth of August, 1844, twin boys were born prematurely and lived but a few hours. They were named Joseph and Hyrum, for the Prophet and his brother. Grandmother had ridden a horse many miles that day over rough country and was exhausted and ill at the end of the journey. The twins were buried in the cemetery at Warsaw, Illinois.
Joseph Bartholomew farmed and did part-time work for others; he also worked on the Nauvoo temple. Joseph and Polly knew and loved the Prophet and heard him preach and teach the people many times.
It was late afternoon of the twenty-seventh of June, 1844 when the Prophet and his brother Hyrum were martyred; although the sun was shining, such a heavy gloom filled the atmosphere, the sun's rays could not penetrate it. This was not imagination, but a real condition. Polly sat in that solemn assembly on the eighth of August, 1844 when Brigham Young succeeded Joseph Smith as president of the church and saw the mantle of the Prophet fall on Brigham Young and heard him speak with the voice of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
They were living at Mackinaw, McLean County, when a son, whom they named John, was born on the eleventh of September 1845. Persecutions were severe and the Saints were preparing to leave Illinois. The mobocrats liked Joseph because he was fearless and an earnest worker. Because of his great ability, they wanted him to work for them, but only on the condition he must first denounce and quit the Mormons. Grandfather knew the teaching of Mormonism to be true, so refused to do so. Then they threatened him, but unafraid he put Grandmother in the covered wagon with their five-month-old son, and she drove the ox-team across the frozen Mississippi River, the only time in history when this could have been done. This was in February 1846. He followed behind with his trusty shotgun. Grandmother was worried and feared the mob might shoot, and she knew if they did, Grandfather would fire back; but not a shot was fired and they arrived safely on the Iowa side of the river. From here they traveled to the western border of Iowa. Here they planted crops and collected equipment for the journey to Zion and were preparing to cross the plains with the first company, but bad luck struck and they were stranded when one of their oxen died.
Mary Kaziah was born at Little Mosquite, Potawatamie County, Iowa on the twenty-ninth of April 1847 and would have been born on the plains had they gone with the first company, since they left the first part of April. A son Joseph was born on January 5, 1850 and George Marston, another son, was born at the same place on November 5, 1851. They lived at Little Mosquite, Iowa, for five years. The Big Mosquite River was just back of their farm. Grandmother and her little daughter Mary would cross the river on a fallen tree to get Potawatomi plums, which grew along the river bank. The neighbors had some fierce dogs that would frighten them. Large black walnut trees grew by the house. The nuts were gathered and put under the corncrib in sacks to dry.
John and Mary would fish in the Big Mosquite River. John caught large green frogs for bait and Mary would hold them in her apron. One day her mother came and found her holding her apron up and, thinking it unladylike, asked her to put it down. Mary hesitated, looking at her mother, then John, undecided what to do. Her mother became impatient and at her sharp command, down went the apron and out jumped the frogs at her mother's feet.
Some women had large looms on which they wove materials for clothes, etc.
At last all was in readiness for the westward trek, furniture, bedding, clothing, and provisions were collected and packed into the covered wagon. Fine oxen to pull the wagons were well trained. Grandfather, Grandmother, her sister Electa, and their four children were ready and eager to start the trip to Utah. Wagons were put on the flat-top boats and ferried across the Missouri River the tenth of June, 1852; the children swung under the wagon to ride across. They traveled for days along the Platt River. As they stopped for noon or to camp for the night, they picked buffalo berries, which grew along the banks of the big creek.
They traveled ten wagons to the train. One day just after they started moving along the trail, a woman in one of the wagons shook her tablecloth out the rear of a covered wagon. The oxen became frightened and ran away scattering pots, pans and everything. When the teams were quieted, the pots, pans and other things which had been scattered had to be recovered, as others could not be obtained for they were far from any stores. Some days water was scarce; also fuel, and they gathered buffalo chips to burn. They passed many interesting landmarks on this long, tedious journey, which lasted eighty-nine days, or two months and twenty-seven days, arriving in Salt Lake valley on the sixth of September 1852. Here they remained a night or more before going on to Provo to join Grandmother's brother Jerome's family and her mother Kaziah Messenger Benson, who had come at an earlier date and were living on the Provo River. Grandmother, her sister Electa, and the children remained here to visit while Grandfather went on to Springville to make a home for them. As soon as the log house was ready, they moved to Springville. Four children were added to the family while living here, twin girls, Elizabeth Almira and Eliza Elvira, born July 25, 1854; William Orange, September 6, 1856; and James Orson, December 19, 1858.
Life here was hard. They went to Hobble Creek to wash their clothes, without even a scrubbing board, so the clothes had to be rubbed with fingers and hands, and sometimes even rubbed on a rock. The wet clothes were carried home and hung to dry. Sugar or any sweets were very scarce, and at one time a syrupy liquid fell and settled on the leaves of tress. The leaves were carefully picked, rinsed in clear water and the water boiled down, forming a sweet syrup.
Grandmother wove, sewed, raised a garden, milked the cows until the girls were old enough to take over that chore, skimmed the cream from the milk, and churned the butter. Theirs was a very busy hard life, but they were always happy.
The call came often to help other emigrants on their journey, and while Grandfather never went to meet them, he often sent teams and provisions.
They lived in Springville almost nine years before leaving for Warm Creek -- later named Fayette - in answer to a call from Church leaders. The trip took a week. They arrived the eighth of April, 1861, near the close of day.
This was a beautiful, peaceful little valley when those weary pioneers entered and prepared to camp for the night, on the north side of the creek just east of where the canal now runs. They remained here one or more nights before going on south to Hog-Wallow, to be in the Fort for protection from Indians, but in the spring of 1862 they returned to Warm Creek. Several moves to the Fort were made. In 1866 they moved to Fort Hog-Wallow, but as soon as it was considered safe, they returned to their homes in Warm Creek. During the summers the families moved into the fort, the men returned to Warm Creek to tend their farms.
While they were living in the fort, Grandmother became very ill with a high fever and for a time it was feared she might not recover. Through faith and prayer the fever subsided and she slowly recovered her health, but not before the fever had caused every hair of her head to fall out. In relating the events of her illness, my mother said her head was as bare as the palm of her hand. She wore a pretty cap to hide the baldness until hair grew back, and it was soft and silky just like a baby's hair. Her illness lasted a long time and robbed her strength, also. It was some time before she could get about very well, and before she could, the children helped her to the river where she sat at the washtub and did the family wash. The children carried the clothes to her, also filled the tub with water, emptied it and did all they could to help. She was very ambitious and never shirked a duty.
When they came from Springville they brought a sheep, which they called Willie, and Grandmother sheared it twice a year. Often a small flock of sheep was driven through the valley and she and her elder son John went gleaning the little tags of wool, which were caught and held fast on the brush as the sheep passed by. John was not too happy with this task, but Grandmother aimed to glean enough wool to make the stockings for the family. This wool was washed, corded, and spun into yarn, dyed with homemade dyes and knit into stockings. What a task it must have been. Later, other sheep were acquired; Grandmother also went shearing sheep on shares, or for a share of wool, taking her small sons along to catch the sheep for her. In telling me about it, she said, "they always caught the biggest, fattest sheep for me to shear." The wool was washed, picked over for straws and other foreign things, then corded into little rolls and spun by the twin girls into yarn, next dyed and woven into material for their clothes. Grandmother made her own dyes-yellow, green, red, blue, black, purple, orange-all the colors she used or needed to make beautiful cloth and clothes for her family. She wove carpets, rugs, blankets and coverlets, besides the cloth for the family clothing.
Those first years it was a rare occasion when a peddler came that far, and then all he had was the "refuse," a word they used to describe what he had left to sell, what no one along the way had chosen to buy. Nevertheless, it was always a great day when one arrived in town.
The coverlets, which Grandmother wove, were very artistic as to design and combination of color. Her son Joseph helped her with designs.
All sewing was done by hand and much in the evening by candlelight or light from a strip of cloth with one end laid in a dish of oil, the other alight. This was called a "bitch." Candles were homemade of clean mutton oil called tallow or other suitable fats. It was melted and molded in metal candle molds, it being quite an art to make them. Quilts were pieced from tiny scraps of cloth; wool was corded into bats and used for the filling, the quilts beautifully quilted.
Grandfather and his sons were expert hunters and fishermen, providing meat and fish for the family. Venison was cured and dried; called "jerked venison." Fish was salted and dried for future use. A good vegetable garden was always planted and cared for, the early years by Grandmother; then when Grandfather retired from the farm labor (turning it over to his sons), he took over the care of the garden. Each fall seed was carefully saved and stored to be planted the following spring; squash was peeled, sliced and dried; root vegetables and cabbage were harvested and buried in a pit, made for that purpose, where they kept fresh for winter use. Wheat and corn were made into flour and meal; and fruit was dried or boiled until very tender, the liquid strained off and boiled down to form a sweet pleasant-tasting syrup, which Grandmother called "beet molasses." Some sugar cane was raised and molasses made.
They also had hives of bees; and one year the bee inspector called, condemned the bees saying they were diseased. He poured coal-oil on them and burned the hives, bees and all. Grandmother felt very bad to lose their bees, also very sad the bees were so cruelly destroyed.
The girls, when old enough, milked the cows; and the milk was strained, set in pans for the cream to rise to the top, and carefully skimmed off and churned into butter. The butter not needed for the family was sold or traded to peddlers for merchandise. Buttermilk was used in making bread, and clabbered milk was made into delicious cottage cheese.
This was a very industrious family. The floor of the cellar and dugout room was tamped until it was firm, then washed off and kept very clean; also, the log house was kept very neat and clean. Clean ashes of cottonwood were used to soften water, also in making soap. The fat from beef, hogs, etc. was cleaned and used in making soap.
This family was true to the Church, always attending meetings and accepting any call to serve.
When the Relief Society was organized on the twelfth of September 1875, Polly Benson Bartholomew was chosen to serve as Second Counselor to President Jane Ann Metcalf Bown. After the death of President Bown (1894), the Relief Society was reorganized in June 1895 with Eliza R. Metcalf Bartholomew, President, and Polly Benson Bartholomew, First counselor, a position which she held for many years. Grandmother bore her testimony many times, testifying that she had known the Prophet Joseph Smith and heard him speak on many occasions.
When the Manti Temple was under construction, she donated food and clothing for the workers; and when it was dedicated, the halls were carpeted with many yards of carpet, which she had woven and donated. She attended the dedication service and was privileged to hear the heavenly choir sing. She performed much vicarious work for her dead ancestors and loved ones.
She, with her youngest son, James, who had not married, carried on after the death of her husband, which occurred on the twenty-eighth day of May, 1901; and she did her own work.
The fall of 1912 her eldest daughter, Mary K. and granddaughter Madge came from their home in LaGrande, Oregon, to spend the winter with them.
On the nineteenth of December 1912, after eating her supper, Grandmother walked into the living room and feeling tired, lay on the cot in the corner of the room. She then complained it was difficult for her to breathe. Her granddaughter, putting her arm under her shoulders, raised her a little. She then remarked, "Look at all those people; aren't they beautifully dressed," as she indicated where they were. In seconds she was gone, at the age of ninety-six years, ten months and twenty-four days. She was laid to rest in Fayette cemetery beside her beloved husband. Hers had been a life of many hardships, but she had reared a family of faithful Latter-day Saints. She had been industrious, energetic, very resourceful, never discouraged, artistic, and ever faithful with a strong testimony which endured to the end. Her memory will always be loved and revered by her friends and posterity.
The Bartholomew home was a stopping place for church authorities on their way to communities in southern Utah and Arizona. They were always welcome at their home; in fact, for many years a room was reserved for them. Grandmother was an excellent cook, and with the help of her daughter Elizabeth, served many a delicious meal to those noble visitors and enjoyed their testimonies and inspired counsel and advice.
Grandfather sometimes spoke about political affairs of our state and nation while speaking in sacrament meeting. Grandmother was not pleased and told him if he spoke about "Polly-e-ticks" again in church, she would leave and go home. This held for a while until one day Grandfather got carried away while speaking and mentioned "Polly-e-ticks." Grandmother immediately left the meeting. Grandfather remarked, "I guess I have offended my good lady." Grandmother in telling about the incident said, "Why couldn't they have given me some name other the Polly?"
The first summer they were in Fayette they had a big company dinner in the large dugout room on the twenty-fourth of July.