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Guest Post: Addie May Wood and the Value of Education

By: Grant Vaughn - May 02, 2011

Grant Vaughn is a fairly new Keepa’ninny. He blogs at Passionate Moderate Mormon.

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Whenever I walk down South Temple past Temple Square, which is fairly often as I work in downtown Salt Lake City these days, I think about my Great-Grandmother, Addie May Wood (1880-1909), who walked down that street bawling her head off one day in May, more than a century ago.

In the school year of 1900-1901, Salt Lake Academy, the precursor of LDS Business College, held its classes in temporary facilities in the Lion House, also on South Temple, and Social Hall, to the south half a block down State Street. Addie May was so fortunate to be a student for much of that year. She had a basic education that had been provided by her mother, not as home school, but because her mother, Adelaide Ridges Wood, was the first public school teacher in South Davis County. And going to school in the City, even for only one year, was a great thrill for Addie May.

Addie May had the misfortune of being the oldest child with no brothers until she was thirteen years old. As her family farmed in South Bountiful, now North Salt Lake, up on the hill as the last farm east, she had to do a lot of “boy” chores to help her father: plowing, harvesting, and slaughtering pigs and calves (she said she couldn’t eat that day because all she could smell was calf). She prided herself in her misery that she was a real “cracker-jack” on the farm and referred to herself as “Addie Boy” doing her masculine tasks.

She wanted so much to go to college in the City, and begged her father the summer of 1900 to let her go. But he needed her on the farm. One day late in September, she made one more try, confident because she had prayed hard that morning. Her father was eating breakfast and finally he said “yes” to her pleas.

Her schedule was to get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning, do her homework, and then at seven she would head down to catch the Dummy – that’s what they called the Bamberger train into the city. She started the year late and worked with President Joshua Hughes Paul to find the right level of lower classes that she could take. She loved school and the Dummy only left her twice all that winter. She hated to miss a week just before the holidays when the college was closed because of smallpox. School started up again, but smallpox still raged. The students and faculty conducted a fast and there were no more closures that year.

Then spring came. Addie May once again tried as hard as she could to stay in school, but her father needed her on the farm. Finally, she had to respect his firm decision and withdrew from her classes. In her words:

So [Monday] May 6th 1901 I went to school to say good by to my dear teachers and school mates especially Grace and Ada and the rest. Well it was a very sad parting. And I shall never forget it for the tears would come in my eyes when I would tell the teachers good by, but the worst of all was parting with dear Grace Stringham. How she did hate to leave me! She followed me down the street for a short distance and we were both of us crying and then try to laugh, for the people were staring at us so. Well I could not stand it any longer so I threw my arms around her neck and gave her a good hard kiss and went as fast as I could tears streaming down both cheeks. She said, “Good by you old sweet heart!” and went back to school crying.

The Social Hall frame stands just across from my bus stop. I’ve been to a few receptions and luncheons in the Lion House. And whenever I walk down South Temple towards where the Bamberger station was on Third West, I can’t help but think of those tears.

[photo: Addie May Wood Peterson in her 1903 wedding photograph]



16 Comments »

  1. Ardis,
    A sad time in a young lady’s life, but with her ancestral strength she surely overcame it. If I have it correctly, she was of the Wood family that founded Woods Cross and are represented by a small cemetery surrounded by banks and other businesses on 500 West in West Bountiful. She also was the granddaughter of the great organ builder, Joseph Harris Ridges who not only brought the first pipe organ to Utah from Australia after trying his hand as a miner with moderate success. He built the first great organ in the tabernacle and which still stands as the main section of pipes today. Of course, needless to say, you also have these stalwarts as your progenitors. Why not brag a little?

    When my wife and I were just starting in the Archives, our first assignment was to gather all we could on the history of the organ. Reading Joseph H. Ridges’ story was an exciting experience.

    Comment by CurtA — May 2, 2011 @ 9:17 am

  2. Thanks for this. And I loved the modern-day personal connection to the story. Too often, the past gets obscured by all that concrete and all those high-rises.

    Comment by David Y. — May 2, 2011 @ 9:21 am

  3. Yes, and yes. Those are her grandfathers. Daniel Wood of Woods Cross and Joseph Ridges of England, Australia (hence, the Adelaide name), and Salt Lake City – and the organ builder. Her father was George C. Wood. I was trying to concentrate on the female story, kinda hard to be a male feminist, ya know.

    So, Ardis, we’re related? You’re holding back on me?

    Comment by Grant — May 2, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  4. Loved the story. We all take so much of our lives for granted and when I hear of those who came before, I’m somewhat ashamed of myself. I too worked on my Dad’s farm in Oregon as a young girl, but I can remember Mom coming to the field to get me for,all the unimportant things, like softball practice or a game.
    Thanks for the quick inspiring story!
    DeeAnn

    Comment by DeeAnn Peterson Turner — May 2, 2011 @ 9:32 am

  5. Not that I know of, Grant! Curt is from up in that part of Utah so he’s familiar with a lot of local history and local families.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 2, 2011 @ 9:40 am

  6. It looks like Addie’s friend Grace married Don Byron Colton who served six terms as a United States Congressman from Utah, six years as the president of the Eastern States Mission, and was serving as director of the Missionary Home in Salt Lake City at the time of his death.

    For some reason I’m not getting a link to work, but if you google Grace Stringham Colton, you can see a couple of pictures of her choral group, the Maids O’ Maeser, including one from 1910.

    Thanks for the guest post, Grant. Very touching story.

    Comment by Researcher — May 2, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  7. As poignant as the ending of her brief time at school, I think the most touching detail for me is that Addie May valued education purely for the experience of education — she wasn’t at school to earn a credential, and school wasn’t a stepping stone to something else. She was studying for the pure joy of learning.

    Here’s to you, Addie May.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 2, 2011 @ 9:55 am

  8. Aunt DeeAnn! (yes, my mom’s dear little sister). Thanks for reading and commenting. And much credit is due to you for connecting me with Addie May’s journal. And I should mention Cousins Shana Peterson Davis and Debi Peterson Harrison who also worked on this project!

    And Researcher, thank you! Yes, I found Grace on newfamilysearch marrying Don Byron Colton. I’m so glad to hear more of that story.

    And Ardis, yes, I agree she wanted education for education’s sake! (but also to get off the farm, I’m pretty sure.)

    Comment by Grant — May 2, 2011 @ 10:13 am

  9. I’m hoping for a “Part II” Did Addie ever get to return to an education? Did she raise children who valued education? Darn it, I want more than just a short story!

    Comment by Clark — May 2, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  10. Oops! Sorry, Grant (and Ardis), I was not reading carefully enough and didn’t write carefully either. But Grant, if you do not have Joseph’s history–about five typed pages–I have it, and can get it to you. Also, I note (more carefully) that George Cotton Wood’s older brother Peter, married Launa Pace, daughter of Edwin Pace, first Pariarch of North Canyon Stake and my wife’s great-grandfather.

    Comment by CurtA — May 2, 2011 @ 10:59 am

  11. Well, Clark. Thanks for the interest. I have a DVD disk with her complete story, or as much as we know. So, give me an address at my e-mail grant.vaughn@gmail.com and I’ll send you a copy. Sadly, she was not able to continue her education. But happily, she married Bennett Peterson in 1903, had five children, one dying in infancy. Then tragically, she died in 1909 leaving four little children, one of whom was my grandfather, Glen Wood Peterson (1907-1987), who didn’t have any memory of his mother. (He did get a good step-Mom in Florence Pulley and eleven (!) more step-brothers & sisters). I don’t think Addie May’s children got much education. But some of her grandchildren did. And many of her Great and Great-Great grandchildren are well educated. (We’re all pretty smart, regardless).

    Comment by Grant — May 2, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  12. Nice story. I love these family history stories that bring these ancestors to life for us. Too often, they are just names on a page, so I love it when we can find more about them to bring them to life for us.

    Thanks for sharing, Grant, and look at how interconnected so many of these K’ninnies are. CurtA helped me with an important journal I needed for some of my research, just from something I posted here in a guest post. I love this little community!

    Comment by kevinf — May 2, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  13. CurtA- I have to get home to check my Ridges file, because I can’t remember if I have that history from Joseph. I do have the “Silk and Cactus” Ridges Family book by Kenneth L. Gray. You can e-mail me at the address above. Thanks!

    Comment by Grant — May 2, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  14. I really enjoyed this story about my Great-Grandmother too! Thanks for sharing this story…. I’m so grateful that someone in our family is so involved in our ansestors, when the rest of us fall short..(speaking only of myself). Thank You, Big Brother!!

    Comment by Sabra Collins — May 2, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  15. Thanks, Little Sister!

    Comment by Grant — May 2, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

  16. I’m not familiar with any Wood families, but knew of several South Davis people named Stringham and Pace. I used to drive along Fifth West in Bountiful every day and always looked for the cemetery. I’m glad to know this part of the Wood family history.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — May 2, 2011 @ 9:49 pm

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