On August 29, 1902, the home of Ezra Carter Foss (1833-1919) and Emily Cheney Foss (1851-1929), of Farmington, Utah, caught fire, when a deficient kitchen flue allowed sparks from the stove fire to reach the walls of the upstairs story. When it was discovered, the cry of “Fire!” went out through the streets and the neighbors rushed to see what they could do.
The fire had gained hold unnoticed upstairs, but the main story was still relatively smoke free when the fire was discovered, so men were able to enter the house and carry out most of the furnishings downstairs before they were driven out by smoke.
Upstairs, though, was a different matter. Moroni Secrist (1850-1906), the Fosses’ bishop, climbed atop the porch at the front of the house and entered a window to an upstairs room. The smoke there, however, was so dense that he was pulled out by men behind him before he could do anything. He did, however, grab hold of a tablecloth that covered a table near the window and drag it, along with a few books that rested on it, out of the window as he was pulled to safety. The corners of the tablecloth were tied into a knot and the bundle tossed onto the pile of household goods in the yard.
The Fosses were grateful that so many of their possessions were saved. The house, though, was a total loss, and they moved temporarily into a vacant house while their own was rebuilt. Their house guest, a Farmington woman who had leased her own home that summer and was living in Salt Lake City, but who stayed with the Fosses while visiting in Farmington, went back to Salt Lake that night. She had to – her clothing and everything else she had brought with her had been burned in an upstairs bedroom.
Some time later the guest returned to Farmington and called on the Fosses to see how they were recovering after their loss. She told them that she could cope with the loss of her clothing – including “a nice plush cape” of which she had been fond, but oh! she regretted losing the books that had been on the table in her bedroom.
That’s when Emily Foss remembered to tell about Bishop Secrist’s aborted attempt to remove articles from the upstairs bedroom. She had found the knotted tablecloth while sorting out her own rescued belongings, and now she returned it to her one-time houseguest.
And that’s when Aurelia Spencer Rogers (1834-1922), who had founded the church’s Primary program in Farmington in 1878, learned that her journals, including the records of the first 20 years of the Primary’s history, had been saved.