Sunday, March 22, 2015

Smith, Joseph Michael and Celestia Ann Brown

Joseph Michael Smith 1856-1948

Joseph Michael Smith was born February 1, 1856, the oldest son of Lauritz and Mary Kristene Mikkelson Smith. They settled in Draper in 1854 having made the trip from Denmark the previous year.  He had four brothers, all born in Draper.  Their first home was close to the old Draper Fort. Later the family moved to the eastern part of town on a government homestead.  Joseph Michael first went to school in an old adobe house, then when the Draper Wardhouse was built, he attended school there.  He had many teachers, including the famous John R. Park who taught at the University of Utah.  Since he was the oldest boy in the family he was often kept out of school to help his father in the blacksmith shop and on the farm. He helped his father bring wood down from the canyon, coal from Wanship, and charcoal from Rush Valley.   He had many narrow escapes with runaway horses, snow slides and falling rocks.  During the Blackhawk War, he and John Fitzgerald rode horses around the town to watch for Indians so that the towns people could be prepared in case of attack.  As a business venture, Joseph, his brother Lauritz and James Jensen owned and operated a saw mill at the mouth of Big and Little Willow Creek. From 1874 until 1879,  Joseph worked as a stone cutter at the LDS Temple Quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  President Brigham Young promised not a single life would be lost while working at the quarry and Joseph witnessed this. Once he and three others were sent up the canyon to gather firewood. They heard a snow slide coming and ran quickly to the side of the mountain.  An avalanche of snow passed them like a flood of running water, taking everything in its path, including a huge tree which only seconds earlier they had been cutting.  They were covered with snow from the raging mass as it passed them, but no one was injured.  One day he and seven other men were working in a sixteen foot square pit when above them a trolley broke lose and a large four ton block of granite fell from about ten feet above.   It landed in the middle of the small pit but miraculously none of them were injured.  Once a difficult large one hundred foot high rock facing south needed to be split, making it necessary to require a scaffold for the men to stand on while drilling the holes to split the rock. To do this the men standing on the ground would drill holes by hand in the rock as high from the ground as they could reach.  Into these holes they would stick crow bars and on these crow bars a plank was placed, making a scaffold for another set of men to stand on and work.  They repeated this until as many as four sets of men were working on the face of the rock.  This was very dangerous, not only for the scary uncertain scaffold they stood upon, but bits of rock and dust were falling continuously.  Most of all was the uncertainty as to which way the rock would fall when it did split. The only protection afforded the men was to jump into large piles of brush and pine boughs which were placed in various places nearby.  Joseph recalls a time when a particular rock required two men to drill the holes, one to hold the drill and the other using a sledge hammer.   The fellow using the hammer was quite nearsighted and accidentally missed the drill and hit his companion on the head.  It knocked him unconscious and sent him rolling down the hill. It was a blow that could have easily killed him, but after several days he was able to resume his work. Joseph attended the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple on April 6, 1898 and testified “he was one privileged to hear strains of Heavenly music and witness with his eyes, cloven tongues of fire coming from the lips of President Wilford Woodruff as he offered the dedicatory prayer.”

He helped with the digging of the East Jordan Canal and helped build many bridges in the area. He was a fancier of fine horses.  Joseph loved sports and was active in baseball. On the Draper team called the Red Sox, he played catcher behind the home plate. Joseph never used a mitt in catching the ball and his fingers were injured many times, causing his knuckles to be out of shape for the rest of his life.  Their team was never beaten except by one Salt Lake team whose pitcher was Heber J. Grant.  Even in later years he remained an avid baseball fan until ill health prevented him from regular attendance.


Joseph Michael married Celestia Ann Brown on January 9, 1879 in the Salt Lake Endowment House.  The sealing was performed by Daniel H. Wells.  Celestia, whom he called “Lettie,” was born December 3, 1859.


They built a home in the eastern part of Draper on Relation Street, appropriately named since it was populated by numerous descendants of his father, Lauritz Smith. He constructed an all granite retaining wall around his residence and later erected a monument of granite near it.


Here they raised fourteen children, seven girls and seven boys.  He was an ardent farmer and horticulturist.  Much of his Draper farm was planted in beautiful fruit trees and bushes.  He sent to the Eastern States for many new varieties of fruit trees and other plants.  His children were kept busy picking the many apples, peaches, pears, prunes and dewberries, and in helping to haul them to the Salt Lake market.  He would leave home at 3:00 am to be on the market at 5:00 am.   Sometimes there would be as many as seventy crates at one picking.   He was also the fruit tree inspector for Salt Lake County for many years.  This required him to travel to Salt Lake City many times.  Often he would take his wife and children along to do shopping while he attended to business.

Joseph Michael was called to be a Sunday School teacher in 1872 at age sixteen, and a Ward Teacher in 1873.  He labored in these capacities almost all of his life.  He was also called to the Presidency of the MIA and the Superintendency of the Sunday School.  He was ordained an Elder in the 15th Quorum of Elders, which comprised the towns of Draper, Sandy, Union, Butler, Granite, and Crescent, from 1879 to 1887.  He was a Ward Clerk for a number of years.  He was ordained a Seventy in 1887 and a member of the Quorum Presidency.  In 1890 he was ordained a High Priest by Francis M. Lyman and served on the stake High Council of the original Jordan Stake for 25 years.

In 1924 he was ordained a Patriarch by Richard R. Lyman following in the footsteps of his father, Lauritz Smith.  He did most of the baptizing in the Draper Ward for many years.  He labored for six months in the California Mission and was a Home Missionary for thirty years.  He took part in community activities and enjoyed participating.  His grandchildren remember well his entries in the Fourth and Twenty-fourth of July parades. He won first prize in his category when he put together a pioneer covered wagon rigged in great detail with a plow, wooden wash tubs, an old time churn, and other relics.  Lettie, decked out in authentic pioneer bonnet and dress, drove the team.  Joseph, with shotgun over his shoulder, walked alongside singing, “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”  Some of his children and grandchildren followed.  His beloved wife, Lettie, passed away at the age of 55 on April 1, 1914.   Eight years later, he married Annie P. Larsen on Sept. 20, 1922 in the Salt Lake Temple.  Joseph Michael Smith died on February 20, 1948 at the age of 92.  At the time of his death, he had sixty-four living grandchildren.  He is buried in the Draper City Cemetery.

---1. H. Rosetta Smith Fairbourn, his daughter,"At the Temple Quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon", printed in Ila Mae F. Dahl, "Histories - Biographies and Other Writings", (self published 1995) 2. Draper Historical Society, "People of Draper 1849-1924", Vol. I, (Salt Lake City: Agreka Books) 603. Copy in Family History Library, S.L.C., Utah


Celestia Ann Brown was born December 3, 1859 in Draper the second child of Joseph Gurnsey and Esther Brown.  She was blessed by her grandfather, Ebenezer Brown when eight days old and given the second name of Ann after her Grandmother, Ann Weaver.   Her father nick named her “Lettie,” which she became known by all her friends and relatives.  She was a very devoted daughter to her parents, dignified, and carried herself with grace and charm.  She was courteous, cheerful, patient and kind to her younger brothers and sisters.  She married Joseph Michael Smith on Jan. 9, 1879 in the Endowment House by Daniel H. Wells because the Salt Lake Temple was not completed yet. They established a homestead in the eastern part of Draper.   They kept active in their church responsibilities, and as children came they were always taught and encouraged to do the same. They had fourteen children, seven girls and seven boys.


Celestia raised her large family in a day when there was no electricity, no automobiles, and all food was cooked on a coal or wood burning stove.  She made her own washing soap from animal fat scraps and lye.  The clothes were washed on a wash board.  The wash water had to be heated on a stove, and then the clothes were hung on a clothes line to dry.  This was extremely difficult during the winter because the clothes would freeze stiff as boards when pinned to the clothes line and it was very difficult to get them dry.  Her daughter,  Rose, wrote of her mother sitting by her bedside for hours and keeping hot packs on her ears because of her frequent earaches.  Celestia was a very good housekeeper.  She had “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  She taught all of her children to work.  As for being a cook, she was one of the best.  Together with her husband, they worked things out in the most desirable way to care for their fourteen children.  Though things both in living quarters and scarcity of needful provisions were sometimes hard to obtain, their family never went hungry or insufficiently clothed.   She was a schemer when it came to making over and using hand-me-downs.  She was a good student, and was taught by Dr. John R. Park.  He roomed and boarded with them for some time while he taught school.  When Dr. Park left Draper, he became affiliated with and taught at the University of Utah.   Celestia was a very good reader and seldom was there a word she couldn’t spell.  She spent many hours at leisure times reading to her family.   Rose said she was about 5 feet 2 inches in height and of medium build.  She had brown hair and blue eyes.  She was a very tidy person and with not a very substantial wardrobe, she kept herself well dressed with the clothes she had.   She was clean and neat.  She was never seen coming from her bedroom after a nights rest,  when she was not fully dressed.  She always washed and combed her hair before beginning her morning’s work.  She always wore a clean tie apron, which she made use of in many ways.  Oft-times as she went into the orchard, it served as a basket to carry back to the house apples, peaches, tomatoes, potatoes and firewood.   Most of her father’s family lived in Kanab, Utah because they were called to settle that area by Brigham Young.  They would come to visit Salt Lake at General Conference and other times.  They would always stay at Celestia’s home.  She never complained about the extra food or work that caused her.  She always encouraged and welcomed her children’s boy and girl friends into her home.  She let her children have birthday parties and other gatherings.  She would have a freezer of homemade ice cream and cake.  In the summertime she treated them to grapes and watermelons and many fruits that they raised on the farm.   In her days, people made their own carpets.  When article of clothing became unwearable, they were cut into carpet rags.  These averaged about one inch wide and then they were all sown together in long strips, and then wound into balls.  When there were many pounds of balls, they were taken to an Old Danish couple who had a carpet weaving loom.   They were woven into a carpet, the size depended on the amount of carpet balls one brought.

When Rose was in her second year of high school, Celestia became very ill.   She had Rose hold her hand and feel her heavy heart beat near her throat.  She then told her, “My dear, I don’t think your mother is going to be with you very much longer, and I want you to try and remember, don’t do the many things I have tried to council you against over the years.   Promise me you will never do or say anything you will be ashamed for Mother to hear or see you do.  Heed the council of your dear father, always remember your prayer to your Heavenly Father.  I know you will do this. You have always been a sweet and respectful daughter to your parents and we love you dearly.”  These were some of the last words she spoke.   She died at the age of fifty-five on April 1, 1914.   Rose tried to do as she asked, and later wrote,  “I hope I may live worthy of meeting her some day and I can tell her I kept my promise.”

---1. Jennie Brown Hollist and Imogene Brown, "Ebenezer Brown and His Descendants", (Ebenezer Brown Family Organization), 122-123. 2. Harriet Rosetta Smith Fairbourn, "My Two Mothers", written December 1984 at 84 years of age, copies given to children and grandchildren. Copy with Ronald Holt and Carolee Holt Kenison.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Thanks for posting all this family history. Toby needed a good "faith of our fathers" to share at Pack Meeting tonight and the stories about miracles in the quarry are perfect to not just keep the Scouts' attention, but also inspire them to have faith in the prophet's words!