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FERRELL, Maggie Anna: A life history

Maggie Anna Ferrell was born September 20, 1847, in a small house on the outskirts of Sugar Grove, Butler County, Kentucky. She was the daughter of John Bell and Frances Jemima Sweatt Ferrell, both born in Lebanon, Tennessee, and both loyal Southerners. Maggie’s father was very likely named after John Bell, a noted Tennessean who was the Independent Candidate for President of the United States in the same election race that featured Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas as the principal contenders for the presidential office.

Maggie’s mother was born on a large plantation and was waited on by Negro slaves all her childhood life. She was the daughter of Robert Pierce Sweatt and Elizabeth Glenn, wealthy land owners in Tennessee. Frances’ mother died when Frances was only about 2 ½ years old, but Frances did not lack for care. She never even had to comb her own hair until after her marriage. Her first husband, James Crawley Pemberton, died in the Civil War, which war also cost the Sweatts all of their earthly possessions. By the end of the Civil War, Frances’ father had died at Lebanon, and her young husband had lost his life from pneumonia while working in the Ambulance Corps of the Confederate forces. He literally worked so hard and long that he wore himself out, leaving Frances with three young children: Leona, Nancy and Willie.

Frances married John Bell Ferrell February 13, 1866, and they became the parents of 8 children: John Robert and Martha Jane, who both died as infants; James Scobey; Mary Francis; Benjamin Pierce; Maggie Anna; Sally Cleora; and George Wesley, who also died in infancy.

Thus, Maggie Anna was the ninth of her mother’s eleven children. She weighed only three pounds at birth and could be held in one of her mothers hands. But she was a healthy baby and grew fast. However, she had not reached her first birthday before she was stricken with Meningitis. When the doctor was called in he told her mother that they might just as well hit Maggie Anna Ferrell Orr (little Maggie) in the head because there wasn’t anything they could do to save her. But this baby was most precious to her mother and finally the doctor admitted that there was a new serum he could try but that it wouldn’t do any good. However, the doctor was wrong because with love and prayer they saved the baby’s life and she grew healthy and strong.

Then when she was still a small child she was stricken once again with meningitis and her head and body were twisted and bent, but again her life was preserved, although for months her head was bent backward and she was hardly able to walk. Her family teased her for being stiff-necked. Her father used to tell her that she held her head like the old horse shoer, Riley McCord. But soon she was well and strong and enjoying her play with her sisters and brothers. One time, when she was about four, she and Scobey were out in the yard digging for angleworms with a grubbing hoe. Her brother was swinging the hoe, and Scobey’s next blow struck her on the chin, giving her a very bad cut which left her scared for life.

It was hard for the Ferrells to make a living in Tennessee, where over 454 battles of the Civil War had been fought. And so, in 1880, John Ferrell concluded that he might make a better living for his family if they moved to Illinois. Maggie never could recall how many days they traveled but it was a slow long journey to her.

One evening they were camped by another party of travelers and were wondering who they were and what their names were. Maggie, in a childish six-yea-old voice piped up, “Oh that’s Mrs. Icy Bobbit.” For years afterward her father, who was a great tease, would repeat this tale on his beloved little daughter and laugh heartily. He thought it was a great joke.

Soon Maggie was in regular attendance at school in Illinois, where, under such teachers as Mr. Simmons and Mr. Mitchell, she went as far as the fifth reader. When Maggie was in school children didn’t go by grades; they went by the books they are able to read. The fifth reader was considered quite advanced in those days, for very few went to school even that long. Maggie was a pretty little girl with pigtails, whose favorite pastime was ball playing. She was so adept at playing ball that when they chose up sides she was always chosen first. During these school years one of her best friends was Zella Knave and they had wonderful times together. During the week, Zella was away at another school and Maggie was very lonesome, but on weekends they played jacks from morning until night, hardly stopping even to eat their meals. Zella gave Maggie some jacks with her ball, which was a wonderful thing for a little girl to have in those days. Her brother Ben who was just two years younger than Maggie, learned to play jacks with her and they played every time they had a spare moment. Mother Farrell must have had a hard time to get them to do their work.

Christmas Days were happy days for the Ferrell family and there was one Christmas Maggie especially remembered, for very early in the morning she went over to Zella’s and they set off fire crackers, which was the usual practice in the South. They didn’t have snow, jingle bells, and cold weather as we do here. But they had wonderful times and loved Christmas days.

The Ferrells were a religious family. Mother Ferrell attended the Christian Church and the whole family went to the revivals that were held near their home. Mary Francis, or Fanny as they lovingly called her, nearly joined the Methodists. But all the hollering and yelling didn’t appeal to Maggie and she had no desire to join them. Then one day Maggie and the children came home from school with the news that the Mormon missionaries were going to preach in the schoolhouse that evening. Supper was hurriedly finished and all the family went to hear the young Elders. John Angus Vance, a young man from Alpine, Utah , was one of the Elders and Elder Jenkins from Nephi, Utah, was the other. When the meeting was over, Mother Ferrell remarked that that was the very best Gospel sermon she had ever heard preached. Her neighbors jeered and said, “Why, you wouldn’t believe anything those Mormons said, would you?” But Mother Ferrell ignored their scorn and invited the Elders to come to her home and teach her family the gospel.

Although the Ferrells were very poor, and food and sleeping space were limited, they gladly gave to the Elders the best they had. Mother Ferrell had been taught to cook in the South and she made beautiful fluffy biscuits for the Elders, and there was a lovely pie on the table for them too. However, there wasn’t enough fine food for the missionaries and the family too; so the family ate cornbread. They also gave up their beds and slept many a night on the floor. “Maw and Paw,” as the young ones affectionately called their parents, did all they could for the Elders.

Although the Elders’ visit to the Ferrells occurred nearly forty years after the Mormons had been driven from Illinois by the cruel mobs, there was still a lot of resentment in Illinois against the Mormon people. However, just as soon as Maggie heard the Elders preach she felt good about their message; somehow she knew it was different from the other religions that she had heard. A few months after hearing the missionaries, April 13, 1888, Mother Ferrell, Leona, and Scobey were baptized and confirmed members of the church. Shortly after this, Leona and her husband, Joe Benson, took their three children: Zella, Willie and Anna, and left for Alpine, Utah, where Elder Angus Vance lived.

Maggie tells of the night Leona and Joe left on the train and how bad the family felt about their going. Utah was still considered the big, wide, wild west. Leona gave Maggie a little pecan nut when she kissed her good-bye-by and Maggie put it in a box and cherished it until she got her chance to come to Utah. They all wanted to come at once but they had very little money and it was necessary that they save what little they could and come one or two at a time. As soon as James Scobey had enough money he joined his half sister at Alpine. By then, Leona and Joe had built a two-room house on what is now the Davis Strong place in Alpine. And shortly after Scobey joined them he secured a job with the Deseret Livestock Company at Skull Valley and sent enough money to his folks for Father Ferrell and Ben to join them. When they arrived in Alpine, they went to the home of Henry Moyle, whose father had just passed away that day. Brother Moyle sent for Leona to come up to his place and she was really surprised to see her father and Ben there. Very soon Father and Ben were also employed for the Deseret Livestock Company at Skull Valley and enough money was sent to Illinois for Mother Ferrell and the girls (Fanny, Maggie and Sally or Sarah) to come to Utah. The older half sister, Nancy, was already married. She and her husband later joined the family at Alpine but did not stay very long. They were homesick for the South and went back.

When Mother Ferrell and the girls received the month to come to Utah they had to dispose of their property and most of their personal items. There was no money to have them shipped to Utah. They had to bring enough food to last all the way to Utah for there were no diners on the train then, and Maggie says that even if there had been they would not have had enough money to buy the meals anyway. They could also bring a few hundred pounds of personal things with them on their tickets. Mother Ferrell had a brand new sewing machine that she wouldn’t part with, and the feather beds (3 of them) and the dishes and bedding and clothes had to be brought also. When they were finally packed and ready to leave, Charles G. Hyde, a missionary from Utah went with them to Dupucin, Illinois, where they were to board the train for Utah. At Dupucin they stayed with some Saints for two or three days and were very well treated.

There was not enough money to pay for sleepers on the train, and so they had to sit up all the way. Maggie, who grew very tired and wanted to go to sleep, crowded a man right off the seat. Fanny was very embarrassed and reproached her younger sister for what she thought was an unkind act; Maggie was only fifteen when she came to Utah and was very tired and sleepy. She just had to be a little bit comfortable to get any rest. Altogether, they had a very exciting trip.

In May 1889, there was a very happy reunion at Alpine when all the family finally got together. They rejoiced that they were all in Zion at last. They stayed at Leona’s small house until they rented the old Mason house. Maggie went to work for Murinthia Vance and lived with the Vances and went to school later she lived at the home of Bishop McCoulough who she said was one of the most wonderful men she had ever known. Father Ferrell also went to work for the Bishop. Bishop McCoulough had the mail boxes on the front porch of his house and Paw brought the mail from American Fork to Alpine with a horse and buggy.

Maggie really enjoyed her work for Bishop McCoulough, and also her church work. Shortly after moving to Alpine she became assistant secretary in the Alpine Ward Primary which had Sister Edwina Booth as President and Minnie Moyle as secretary. Maggie and her sister Fanny used to sing duets for all the ward activities. When the day came for the rest of the family to be baptized there was much discussion and joking, for they were a fun-loving family and Father was always teasing. Many times in the early days of the Church, baptism records were lost; and when people went to the temple for endowments they had to be baptized again. Therefore, Maggie said that as long as they were going to baptize her twice anyway they might as well do it twice the first time. A dam was made across Dry Creek and Albert Marsh did the baptisms. While he was baptizing Maggie, he caught his foot in a tree root and stumbled and fell, and Maggie, who was not completely immersed that time had to be baptized again. Fanny said, “Well it serves you right for saying what you did.” Fanny, Sarah, Maggie, Ben and Father Ferrell were baptized the same day. Maggie was confirmed by David Adams.

Maggie loved to go to Church and to Mutual and really had a wonderful time at the Ward dances and all the weddings. She was a very pretty small girl with a slender waistline, and the boys liked her. The winter she lived at the Vance home she had the privilege of taking piano lessons from Alma Vance. This was the only chance in all her life that she ever had to study music and she loved it.

Then one winter she lived at the home of Clestia Rollins Nash and worked for them. She was a good worker and did everything she was told to the best of her ability. About this time Fanny and young Jeff Vance fell in love and planned a large wedding. Scobey, was in Salt Lake City going to the Latter-day Saints college. He, Oscar Vance, and a young man named James Orr from Clover Creek, out in Rush Valley, were all staying at the home of Grandma Vance. Scobey invited his friend James Orr to go with him out to Alpine to Fanny’s wedding and James answered, “Well, why not! I might meet my wife out there.” To which Scobey promptly replied that he had a very pretty little sister who would like to meet James.

So Scobey and James came out to Alpine to the wedding. When Maggie met James she really did like him and the feeling was the same with James, because he always said that he fell in love at first sight with this pretty little Southern miss, that was having such a good time at the wedding. They danced together that night, Maggie liked to dance and was a very good dancer. She always liked to dance with Elder Vance, he being the missionary who first brought the gospel to the Ferrells in the Southern States. And Elder Vance was the main reason they settled in Alpine. Maggie said that she went out with Angus Vance once. Maggie was very happy to have good friends in Alpine. Her best friend was Mary Lee Wilson, a young convert to the church from Tennessee, who also had came to Alpine to make her home. Rose Adams, was also a good friend of Maggie. For over a half a century Mary Lee Wilson, Mary Lee Myers, and she remained very close friends.

In the summer Maggie went to Salt Lake to work for Lillie Henefer and went with James Orr while he was going to school. They sometimes went to shows in the evening but on Sunday afternoons they went to meeting in the tabernacle on Temple Square. One night along about midsummer, James gave Maggie an engagement ring and they planned their wedding for the fall. They were very young and much in love. This was in the summer of 1891, and James came in from Clover Creek one night and brought a ring for his bride. It was a beautiful ring she says, a narrow golden band with three sets and some pretty green leaves around the sets. Maggie was so very happy and so proud of her ring. (Young Althea, years later accidently burned it up while burning papers.)

On October 14, 1891, Maggie and James had everything packed and ready for their wedding day. They traveled on the train to Logan and were married in the Logan Temple. They married for time and all eternity by Apostle Marriner W. Merrell. It was a wonderful day and they were happy to at last be together. After being married in the Temple, James’ brother Richard came to Logan and took the young married couple to Avon, Cache County where James had a position as school teacher. Their first house in Avon was a seven room frame house that they shared with James’ brother and his wife Emma.

The next year on the tenth of October 1892, a little black haired daughter was born. She had big brown eyes and was a very pretty baby. They named her Maggie Elizabeth, after her mother and her Grandmother Elizabeth Orr. Maggie and James were happy living at Avon. He was a very good school teacher and all respected him. Maggie was a very good housekeeper and an excellent cook. The happiest time they had at Avon was when they had their neighbors in for an evening of home dramatics. And they liked to sing together. James could play the guitar and they spent many cold winter nights enjoying their own entertainment.

In April 1893, they left Avon in a covered wagon with a group of neighbors to travel down to Salt Lake City to the dedication of the Temple. Wilford Woodruff was then the President of the Church and he was going to dedicate the Temple. On the way it started to snow very hard and the snow was deep. The men had to hold on to the side of the wagon to keep it from tipping over. The roads were very narrow and steep. They were concerned about the safety of baby Maggie who was just seven months old at this time. It was a very eventful trip down through Sardine Canyon in the snow and cold. It was 25 miles to Brigham City. At Brigham City they took a train to Salt Lake City. Salt Lake was crowed with Saints who had came for the dedication.

They left baby Maggie with Leona Benson while they went to the Temple. While in Salt Lake City they also had a picture of the baby taken. They were very proud of this young daughter. James taught school about six years at Avon. During these years five children were born to Maggie and James. Althea was born the 1st day of April 1894, Malcolm the 30 of April 1896, and then the twins Elwin and Ella were born on the 4th of July 1898.

James spent the winters teaching school and sheared sheep in the spring time at Five Mile Pass. While here in Avon, Althea and Maggie came down with Diphtheria and only the careful nursing of the faithful mother and the prayers of the family saved these two little girls lives. Maggie was a very good nurse and took good care of her babies.

In the spring of 1899, Maggie moved her small family back to Alpine. Ben came up to Avon and brought them all to Alpine in a wagon. Here at Alpine they made a home with Grandpa and Grandma Ferrell until the father came to join them after finishing with the sheep shearing. They bought a small house on Highland and James taught school at Highland. Ethel was born at Alpine 29th of June 1900, Buelah was born 7th of April 1902 in Highland, James Ferrell on the 6th of July 1904, but he lived only six months and they buried him at Alpine.

Another son was born, Charley Glenn on the 12th of March 1906, and then Leona on the 29th of June 1908, Lucille 24 of August 1910, Mary Carol 16th of July 1913, Ivan Copeland on the 9th January 1916, this making thirteen children in all. A large family to care for and get to school. Maggie went to church when she was able and was very capable in the positions that she held to help her husband who was presiding Elder of the Highland Branch. Maggie could lead the singing, help with the minutes and often teach a class. She also helped with James’ school teaching, often helping to scrub the school room and help with his home preparation.

Her husband had a bad heart and he was not able to do much hard work, during the last few years that he served as a teacher and finally he was not able to teach at all and it became necessary for the family to live on what he took from his small farm or just what he was able to pick up doing off jobs when he was able to work. Malcolm tells of the times that his mother went out into the hay field with he and Elwin to help haul the hay although at the time she was expecting a baby.

Maggie was a hard worker and kept her house immaculate, her meals on time and she managed to cook good meals although the food was often very scarce. It has often been said by the people that knew Maggie very well that she had the cleanest and neatest children that attended the Highland school The little girls had thick long dark braids and their hair was kept so shiny and clean. The girls always had smiles on their faces because their hair was braided so tight. There was no quarreling or fighting in the home (at least not within Maggie’s hearing range). It was usually quiet and peaceful, a home where they had family prayer morning and night.

In January of the year 1916, James was stricken with appendicitis and was taken to the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City on the Denver Train. He was so ill that he had to be taken on a cot in the baggage coach by his son in law Stephen F. Beck. After the operation he lived about eleven days and Maggie took a room near the hospital to be near him and stayed with him all the time. It was thought that he would recover but his heart was too weak and he died February 8th with his beloved Maggie by his side. He loved to have her by him. And during their married life if his wife was sick, he would spend the hours by her bedside holding her hand and he loved everything that she did. His children say that he was always saying good things to her and praising her for the things that she could do so well. This loss of her husband was a great sorry to Maggie, they brought him home on the train and the snow was so deep that they had to bring him to Alpine for the funeral in a sleigh. The snow was so deep that it was difficult to even find the location of the burial plot in the Alpine cemetery.

At this time Maggie, Althea and Ethel were married, and this left 10 children at home. Malcolm and Elwin were able to take jobs to help their mother, but the struggle was a hard one with all the little ones at home. Ivan was only a year old at this time. Maggie sold her farm at Highland and moved to Lehi. Here she started to take in a few boarders to help with expenses. While in Lehi she lost her grown son Elwin at the age of 22 years with Brights disease. He had been a great help to his mother. He would often give her all that he made. Ella and Buelah both worked in Lehi and also helped support the family. Malcolm says that although they gave their mother all they could he now realized how pitifully small it was and often wonders how she ever managed to get along.

Maggie then moved to Provo and took in boarders. She boarded the railroad men and how they did love to stay at Maggie Orr’s. The food was so good and so plentiful and the house so clean. While in Provo she worked as a practical nurse helping Dr. Westwood, Dr. Karl Beck and Dr. P. Kelly. She was a good kind nurse, being very careful to keep things clean. This wonderful nursing ability that she had was a great help to her children. She went to their homes and nursed them in times of child birth and sickness.

When death came to the families of her two daughters Maggie and Ethel, she was there to comfort and help. Her sorrow at the death of her grandchildren, Feryl, Ray Lee, and Ethelyn and Eugene was as deep as the two mothers. She brought a warm loving heart with her into the home of trouble, often saving lives by her careful nursing. Vern Beck often said that she saved the life of his son Kenneth with her great skill. I will always remember the wonderful feeling that came into our home as grandma entered the door. Even before she took off her coat and put her bag in her room, we knew that everything would be all right. Grandma knew how to organize and get things done. She enjoyed good health and would work from early morning until late at night never stopping to rest. She was too good to us and praised us when we did our work well and so it was so easy to work with her. She could fix such good meals and fix a meal so fast. She was never too busy to come and help when she was needed.

One of the saddest experiences in her life was when her beloved son Charley was killed in a car accident on 14th of January 1939 at Provo. Charley was such a happy cheerful person and loved to tease his mother and dance her around the room. He was really missed by his mother. He had three children when he died: Bobbie, Donald and Margene, a little baby about a month old.

One of the nicest experience that happened in Maggie’s life was the friendship of Mary Lee Wilson Myers. This friendship started when Maggie was a young girl of fifteen or sixteen in Alpine and then continued all the days that she lived as a neighbor to Aunt Mary in Highland. For 68 years this friendship has continued all the days of her life. Malcolm remembered well the time when these two put on a home dramatics play in the Highland Branch and Maggie had to keep saying “Lack A Daisy Me”.

For the last 30 years of her life she made her home in Salt Lake City most of the time. In Salt Lake City she supported herself by doing housework and nursing in her most efficient way. Housekeeping to Maggie was a talent. Something that she found great joy in doing. She was often critical of those who could not keep a lovely home. One of her most enjoyable talents was crocheting, she liked t sew and embroidery and knit. But the hours of her last few years was spent mostly crocheting. Many items of art were made by her busy quick hands that we never allowed to lie idle in her lap.

She had lovely hands that did good for all the ones she loved. She crocheted each daughter a stole of exquisite beauty of which she was very proud. And it gave her great joy to have her daughters wear them when they visited her. She used to average at least 10 to 12 hours a day crocheting in her nice apartment at the Kimball Apartments at 140 North Main Street in Salt Lake City. Prior to living at the Kimball Apartments, she lived in the Oxford Apartments. It was such a treat to visit her in her immaculate apartment and we were always welcome to come and have dinner or lunch with her and she was so glad to see us.

For a few years Grandma made her home with her sister Fanny in Salt Lake and they enjoyed each others company. She has greatly enjoyed the visits of her brothers Scobey and Ben. Scobey has faithfully visited his sister week after week and she always knew just when he was coming. There has been a great friendship between Maggie and her brothers. And she loved to visit with her sister Sally in Ogden. Maggie was welcome in the homes of her nieces. And she loved to be at Lillie Carson’s at Provo. She made her home with Lillie and was treated well.

The highlights of Maggie’s later life were her visits to California to stay a week or two each year with Buelah and her family. She looked forward each year to this visit. And the last few years of her life were saddened because she was unable to make this trip to California. She missed Buelah and Niel, they were good to her when she stayed at their home.

Maggie is survived by 8 daughters and they have been very good to her these many years. Although three of her sons were taken from her she had never lost a daughter. And she was so proud of her two tall good looking sons and was so happy in their presence. She spent the last three or four years in a lovely rest home where she was well cared for. She loved the hours that her children came to visit. At the time of her death she had 43 grandchildren and 90 great grandchildren and two brothers Ben and Scobey.

We loved our Grandmother very much, we were proud of her and loved her for her kindness to us. Her unselfish endeavors to make one feel that she loved them. But most of all we are proud of her fine heritage that she gave us, a keen intellect and healthy body and the example of cleanliness and industrious way that she had about her. She lived a good life and we should follow her fine precepts.

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