Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lovenia Nicholson Sylvester Berry's Biography

I, Lovenia Nicholson Sylvester Berry was born on the 24th of June, 1854, at Springville, Utah County, Utah, the eighth child of James and Rebecca Nicholson Sylvester. I lived with my parents in Springville seven years and I remember the hard times there. One winter we had to ration; my father and two older sisters gleaned twenty bushels of wheat and had it ground into flour which had to last all winter. Mother would make small biscuits and we could each have two a day. Mother said after times were better we still wanted our two biscuits.

When I was seven years old I moved with my parents to Gunnison, Sanpete County, Utah, where my father was advised to go by the Church authorities, because he was a blacksmith and one was needed in that place. The settlement was first made along the Sanpitch River where it was very muddy. In the spring the water over-flowed the banks and it went all over the country. We had to move out of our nice log rooms onto higher ground. The settlement was later moved on the bench where it still is.

I was well acquainted with Black Hawk and his squaw. My father and mother were in the choir and they used to have choir practice at our place. Black Hawk and his wife used to come and listen to them sing and were very interested. Mrs. Black Hawk was very pretty. I well remember when the news came to Gunnison that Mr. Lowry, from Manti, whipped an Indian boy and the Indians had gone on the warpath. The war went on for two or three years. The war was raging during the time we lived in Gunnison and a fort was built for protection of the settlers. They were all counseled to build their houses in such a way that the back of each house formed a part of the wall of the fort. A space was left between the houses which was roofed to form a kitchen for each family. At the back of the wall were port holes which could be used to shoot through if necessity demanded. There were four gates to the fort and these were guarded both day and night, also two picket-guards were stationed outside of the fort on the hill west of Gunnison and these had bunches of straw with which to make torches in case any evidence was given of the approach of Indians. If such a thing happened the picket-guards would light their straw so the gate-guards could see and be getting prepared for fear of a break on the town. They could not call because they did not want the Indians to know they had seen them coming and, in fact, they were often too far away to be heard.

The men had to go in groups to put their crops in, in order to be protected from the Indians. In fact, all their work had to be done in crowds; wood hauling, going to the mill at Manti or traveling in any form. Anyone who disobeyed counsel "to travel in groups" was endangering his life and those of his dear ones. All the towns above Gunnison on the Sevier River were broken up on account of the Indians running their teams off, breaking into their towns, etc. The men from Gunnison had to go and bring the people down. I well remember seeing the ox train coming into town with the up-river people and each family had to take another family for the winter, my father took two families. The John Angus' family lived in our home with us.

At the close of the Black Hawk War, and the last season we lived in Gunnison, before time to harvest our beautiful waving grain, the grasshoppers came and literally mowed our fields. This was so discouraging that all the young men went to work on the railroad that was just being run into Salt Lake Valley. About this time my father went over to Nephi to take charge of the grist mill owned by my brother-in-law, Joseph Birch. We all went with him and stayed about two years. While living in Gunnison, at the age of fourteen years, my partner and I took the prize for the best waltzing.

In 1868 Joseph Birch came to our place and wanted my father to move to Dixie where he had been living for some time. He offered my father some land and water and was anxious for us to move there as he thought it offered considerable inducement. My father was converted and we were soon ready to go. We settled on a place called Bellerue, now Pintura, and began the construction of a home. We children worked hard as well as our parents. The soil was good for all kinds of fruits, vegetables, etc. In time we made a comfortable home and pleasing surroundings.

Father was a faithful man and would administer to us in case of sickness and invariably we would feel better. We always had family prayer and a blessing on our food. He was presiding Elder there for many years and was very careful to keep the commandments of the Lord. He always held Sunday School and such religious meetings as he could, with six or seven families, for they all belonged to the Toquerville Ward. Perhaps the worst drawback of all was the meager chance for an education. There were no schools to speak of so our parents tried to teach us all they could. My parents were both good singers and lovers of music. In Father's old age he learned to play the organ which he had purchased for the family's entertainment. The whole family could sing together while one played the accompaniment. Father also had a violin which we danced by. There were few young people there in those days and we would meet at each other's home and enjoy ourselves, sometimes dancing in our big room while my father played the violin.

I used to go to St. George to visit my sister, Mary. I once worked about a year in my Uncle Birch's shop making men's clothing. I was well acquainted with quite a lot of young folks there and we had good times together. When we first came to Dixie we would take walks on the hills and sometimes we would visit the caves under what is known as "Peter's Leap", a place where they used to let their wagons down with ropes, on their way to Southern Utah, there being no roads constructed at that time. It is located northwest of Bellevue and the cave under the rock is possibly one hundred feet long. "Peter's Leap" is situated on a creek of the same name and it flows east into the North Ash Creek. It's name was given in honor of Peter Shirts, we were told.

In my girlhood home we learned to work; we pieced quilts. We got wool, washed, carded and spun it. The Washington factory furnished the warp and color and wove our filling into cloth which made us quite pretty dresses. We carded and spun yarn enough to make my father and brother each a suit of clothes. I have never had prettier dresses or any that wore as long as those homemade ones. We knitted our own stockings and socks.... The hospitality of our family ran high, everybody from rain soaked strangers to aristocratic people stayed at our free tavern. Some evenings we spent in great pleasure and congeniality, and others weren't so pleasant, but we had a wonderful chance to study human nature.

After regular calls from William Shanks Berry for a year or more I finally decided that he was trying to get acquainted with me with intent to marry, and being favorably impressed with him and learning that his wife was willing for our marriage, we went to the old Endowment House in Salt Lake City and were sealed for time and eternity on the 22nd of June, 1874. We made our home in Kanarra, Utah. Four children were born to us before he left on his mission to the Southern States and one child about six weeks after he left. My husband left on the 3rd of April, 1884. He had not been gone long when he wrote home. His letter seemed sad. He had had a dream he didn't like and was afraid something was going to happen at home. He said to tell the girls to keep off the horses. He had been gone a little over four months when he was killed by a mob at Conder’s farm, Cane Creek, Lewis County, Tennessee. We at home felt sad as if something had happened, but did not hear of the terrible occurrence until three days later. I was sitting in the doorway mending a dress for one of the girls when I saw three men approaching the house. They were Bishop Willis of Kanarra and Bishop Lunt and Brother Palmer of Cedar City. When I first saw them I became very nervous and weak. They came into the house, sat down, and were talking about Grandmother Berry's other boys who had been killed by the Indians. Grandma Berry was with me at the time as an afternoon caller and they talked to her at first. Bishop Lunt, who had broken the news about the drowning of Bishop Roundy in the Colorado River a short time before to his family, said he was on the same kind of an errand today. "Elder William S. Berry is no more for he has been shot by a mob in the missionary field." Grandmother Berry was a great help to me and my family in this great trouble. She would tell us to brace up and have courage in our afflictions. She had borne so much of sorrow that she had learned how to endure it.

William and his companion, Elder Gibbs, were killed on the tenth of August, we got word on the thirteenth, and my husband's body arrived in Kanarra on the twenty-third and was buried on the twenty-fourth. Brigham H. Roberts and others expected great difficulty in getting possession of the bodies which had been buried in Lewis County, Tennessee, for three days. B. H. Roberts disguised himself and let the reins of his horses loose, in this way the Lord aided him in procuring the remains of the two Elders and to ship them to their respective homes. Elder Cowley accompanied my husband's body from Salt Lake and preached the funeral sermon. Sometime later twin boys were born to the wife of Willis E. Robison, one of the missionaries who helped bring the bodies to Utah. They named them Gibbs and Berry.

No will had been made by William so the property was probated and fairly divided. My husband's brother, John Berry, my parents, sister and everyone was so kind and good to me. My five children were all under ten years of age but through careful management the property left me by my husband has been the means of raising our children.

I was called to preside over the Kanarra Ward Relief Society about 1889 and continued in that office some nine years. After my children had married I was persuaded by my sister to go to St. George and work in the House of the Lord. She had a large record of Sylvester and Nicholson names, so I used to go there every winter and work in the Temple for our dead kindred. While my mother was living I would go with her to the Temple. I have done many Berry names and a great many sealings for our dead.

The winter of 1912, on the seventh of December, while moving to St. George to do Temple work, the spring seat of our wagon was thrown out, and I was thrown against a rock breaking both my wrists. They took practically all winter to heal. I sold my home in Kanarra and bought one in St. George to be near the Temple. On February 15, 1924, I was set apart as an ordinance worker in the St. George Temple by President David H. Cannon. I was a Temple ordinance worker ten years. I stayed until December the 7th, 1934, when, through an accident, I had both wrists broken in the same place, on the same day of the same month as they were before. I couldn't go anymore after that. I was then 80 years of age. During the time I was working in the Temple a prize was offered to the older women for the one keeping her hair looking the nicest. To my delight I was chosen to receive the prize, which was a permanent.

I can count my many blessings and my faith in the Gospel is strong and unwavering although many trials have come my way, not only the death of my husband in early womanhood, but the death of two married sons, one died of pneumonia in 1927, and the other was killed in the Castle Gate coal mine disaster on the 8th of March, 1924; also an infant grandson, Arthur, died. I had one son and two grandsons who filled missions for the L.D.S. Church.

After being hurt I made my home in Hurricane with my daughter, Emma, who has been very kind to me. I have two other children living, my eldest daughter in Cedar City and my oldest son is now in Colorado. I have twenty-three grandchildren and twenty-nine great-grandchildren. I will be 84 years old in June 1938. The people of Hurricane have been very kind to me and I have enjoyed their society very much. (End of Journal)

Late in March 1955 Lovenia Nicholson Sylvester Berry passed away, having celebrated her one hundredth birthday June 24, 1954.--Phyllis W. Heaton

This copy was given to Pat Miller from Dolores Van Wagoner , Lovenia Berry’s great-granddaughter.


Anonymous said...

This is my second cousin three times removed. I discovered this branch of my family about a year ago and have been fascinated ever since!
Helen B - Sheffield,England

BruceCrow said...

Thanks for sharing. It means so much when relatives come for a visit. There many of you relatives who I am sure would love to know that you are there.