It is difficult to write the biography of a child. If you knew her, you could write of what she liked to do and remember the things she said. But from the distance of 140 years, and without the memoirs of family who knew and loved her, what hope is there for a historian to memorialize her life? Still, I’ll try – our Mormon past is well stocked with the short lives of children who left little mark in this world, no matter how great a hole they left in their families when they died.
Anne Maria Jewkes was born in Fountain Green, Utah, on September 18, 1866. Her parents were Samuel Jewkes and Mary Nash Gardner, emigrants from England who met in St. Louis. Samuel (then married to Sarah Knight) had joined the Church in 1851; Mary in 1848. Sarah and Mary were good friends, and sometime after they all emigrated to Utah, Samuel and Mary were also married. Several accounts note that this was a happy example of plural marriage, that the two wives loved each other and the plural families lived happily together all their lives.
Samuel had been both a miner and an engineer and was sent to the Iron Mission at Cedar City. When that Mission failed, Samuel moved his families to Fountain Green, in Sanpete County, where Anne was born. She had quite a few older siblings, and her older brothers helped their father establish the family’s two mills (one a sawmill, the other a grist mill) on the watercourses near Fountain Green. Coming after Anne were two younger brothers; although she wasn’t much bigger than they were, perhaps she was old enough to help with their care in limited ways.
Although Anne wouldn’t have remembered it, the family lived in Sanpete County during the Blackhawk War, and their lives must have involved tension and perhaps fear until that conflict was settled while Anne was still a baby.
The family was quite musical. Samuel formed a choir in Fountain Green, one of the first and best in the Territory, despite his having at first nothing but his own voice and a tuning fork to give his singers their notes. His son, Samuel Richard, later organized a band in the same town; when printed music was unavailable, he wrote out by hand all the parts for the various instruments. From this we can surmise that Anne was surrounded by home-made music all her young life, and that perhaps she also sang as a child.
Ownership of a sawmill meant that Anne’s father had access to lumber. Anne was born in this pine-timber home built by Samuel Jewkes in Fountain Green; in recent years, the house was moved to Old Deseret Village in Salt Lake City. Last summer, Keepa’ninny Maurine and I walked through the very doorway that Anne must have toddled through during her earliest years (the Jewkeses sold the house to another family in 1869), without our giving a thought to a little girl neither of us then knew.
Anne was baptized on March 31, 1875 – age eight and a half. Since she would have been baptized outdoors in a stream, perhaps even in the millrace of one of her family’s mills, that early spring baptism was no doubt the earliest the ice could be broken or the cold snow-melt water flow. It couldn’t have been very warm even in the open air, much less in the water where the child was immersed.
I cannot state with certainty why Anne died there at Fountain Green on April 10, 1875. Her death following her baptism by so few days, you have to wonder – did she take cold from that? Had she already been ill, with her early spring baptism a hope for restoration to health, or a resigned recognition that the little girl was already dying? Or was it some totally unrelated illness, or an accident of some kind? I can’t answer; I can only report that she did die, and that she was buried beneath this stone, now broken and virtually unreadable, in the Fountain Green cemetery.
Anne’s stone has been broken long enough that its transcription does not appear in any of the databases that I know how to search, nor on any family history site so far found.
But I can recite to you the epitaph it once carried, along with Anne’s name and the dates of her short life. I can do this because a visitor from California jotted the epitaph into his pocket notebook, along with one or two others from that cemetery, when he visited Sanpete County in 1877. His interest was not in the Jewkes family, not in Anne herself, but in the language recorded on the stone – his notebook for his time in Utah records many such bits of speech that he found amusing or ungrammatical or full of the flavor of Mormonism.
The visitor was one whom you have heard of, whose life story you may have seen in the past few days on PBS. He was John Muir, the Scottish-born naturalist whose love and enthusiasm for nature helped to preserve the land we know as Yosemite National Park – supporter of the 1899 National Park Bill which protects the great Sequoiahs, and co-founder of the Sierra Club.
Muir spent a few weeks in Utah in the summer of 1877, mostly to get a feel for the geography and flora of Utah’s mountains, but also to make some trenchant – even pungent – observations of the Mormons. (His was an odd mix of admiration and revulsion, and I’ll share some of his thoughts with you in future posts.) His notebook is not a diary and does not often include full paragraphs or even complete sentences. Readers can in part trace his movements from his undated notes. I cannot tell exactly when he visited Fountain Green, or why, but while he was there he walked through the small cemetery and noted the new stone for Anne Maria Jewkes.
Muir recorded her epitaph [image 16] as:
I learned what I could
While I stayed with you here
But my Father has called me away
For some noble work He has for me to do
And you see I had for to obey
Thank goodness for the ungrammatical, rustic poetry composed by a grieving family in the effort to make some sense of the death of their eight-year-old daughter. God bless Anne Maria Jewkes, and all the other little Mormon children whose lives are unknown and whose graves are unremembered.