BARNES, Emily Stewart: Recollections

This article originally appeared in Vol.65, No.2 (2018) of Pioneer Magazine.

Compiled by Twila Van Leer

Perhaps the most- revealing glimpses of life in early Kaysville were written by Claude T. Barnes, based on the diaries of and extensive personal interviews with his mother, Emily Stewart Barnes. Emily was a child of five when she and her seven- year-old sister Susannah arrived in Utah Territory in the summer of 1851 with their parents, William Stewart and Mary Ann Marriott Stewart. The Stewarts, along with two other adult family members, determined to settle in the area that became Kaysville.

One of Emily’s first Kaysville memories was an early morning just three days before Christmas, 1851.

She woke to find her mother gone, and she and Susannah were dressed and sent to the nearby cabin of “Sister Payne,’2 who invited the two girls to “Come in and look behind the door!’ There was their mother in a bed. “I was going to jump into the bed,”

Emily later wrote, “when they all cried out, ‘No! Look and see!’ There was a baby brother and such a little red face! Mother called him Hyrum.” Emily remembered that when Hyrum was only three weeks old, her father put straw in the box of the wagon that had brought the family to Kaysville and took the family to a party at Hector Haight’s cabin. “And away we [went],’ she said, “laughing and talking.’ As the family traveled home after the party, she and Susannah fell asleep in the wagon box but were awakened by coyotes howling. Noting that “the folks were careful to shut up the calves and chickens and make them safe from wild animals,’ she insisted that, hearing the distant coyotes, “we children [were similarly] kept safe in our little wagon box room.”

The family lived in one of three one-room cabins that Emily’s father and her uncles, John Marriott and Robert Burton, had built in a row. “Our house was built with big logs,” Emily remembered, “with a place for the door and a hole left for the window. There was no door or window to put in, so they hung rags as best they could. It had no floor and there were open cracks between the logs along the walls.” The roof was also formed of large logs and topped with rushes. Large piles of dirt were placed outside the walls to keep the worst of the rain out.

Inside, the children slept with an umbrella over their makeshift bed, keeping them as dry as it was possible to be. Emily wrote, “What fun we thought it to lie in bed with a large umbrella over us. But what a cleaning up after a storm was over! We would house clean, get some clay and whitewash the walls, scrape up all the mud from the floor, and put the bedding out to dry.”

Through that same winter Emily’s father was busy making shoes. He sometimes used dog leather for children’s shoes, and they were prone to shrink, warp, or crack if they got wet. Emily recalled once walking to a childhood party during a rainstorm- and subsequently watching her shoes fall apart during the party.

After roughing it during their first winter in Kaysville, the family moved to a new cabin in March 1852.

“How sister and I did jump around!” Emily said. “We were so happy.” Although their new home was larger, much warmer, and much more secure than their temporary home, it was hardly luxurious. Emily writes, “We did not have a stove to cook on, only one little black kettle and one frying pan. We had a tinder box with a lid that shut down. We would save every piece of rag with which to make tinder.” If they failed to keep the tinder alive, they ran with the box to a neighbor’s house to retrieve live coals. Light was created by putting a twist of rag into a plate with some grease—and, said Emily, “We thought it a beautiful light.”

Food preparation was a major task. When Emily’s mother made bread, she had to bake it one loaf at a time since she owned only a single frying pan. And since the family had no stove or oven, the bread was baked over coals. Emily’s mother had to prop the pan on its side to brown the top of the loaf. Later, she acquired a pan with a lid, enabling her to put coals on top to appropriately brown the loaves she made. We had a pan with holes in it; and after putting a white cloth [over the clabber], we would put some large rocks on it to hold it down.

Naturally, Emily said, “when our neighbors wanted to make cheese we would in turn take milk to them.”

When she was about nine, Emily’s job was to bring the cow in for milking. Herd master Hector C. Haight agreed that the animal should graze in the common field, but it had to be taken to the field in the morning and brought home again at night.

The summer of 1855 was the source of Emily’s worst childhood memory. Grasshoppers came, she said, “and devoured nearly all the wheat.” This brought a bout ensuing scarcity, especially during the winter of 1855-1856. Food was so scarce,” Emily declared, that we all lived on weeds and roots—and many nearly starved to death.”

Despite the challenges of what Emily termed the grim years ‘during the mid-1850s, the Kaysville Saints found ways to enjoy life. “At the Haight home, the folks spent many pleasant hours dancing at the house.

“We had no sugar,” Emily remembered, “no tea, no pepper, no fruit of any kind; but we did have squash, potatoes and corn, as well as salt from the lake.” When it was time to replenish supplies of cheese, she said, “we borrowed milk from our neighbors so that we would have enough.” She continued,

“We had a tub that we kept for the purpose [of cheese-making]. We would get all the milk warm and put it in the tub; then we would cut a piece of rennet’ as we called the inner skin of a calf’s stomach, and let it soak in a little warm water overnight. In the morning we would pour this water into the milk, which in a little while would set up like clabber. Then we would dip off the whey for which parties,” Emily wrote. “We even had a dancing school.” If the number of dancers outstripped the capacity of a given home, the dancers drew numbers and took turns on the floor.

Once when Emily was invited to a dance, her only dress had just been washed and was still wet. So she wore her mother’s wedding dress, which was of gray and red shot silk.3 It was a little too long, she said, “and I had big, heavy shoes. I went to the dance silly-like.”

In 1869 Emily married John Richard Barnes as his third wife. She reared eight surviving children under trying circumstances.4 But they were a close family, and her children became capable and responsible men and women.


  1. Memories of Emily Stewart Barnes gathered here come from ClaudeT. Barnes, ed. The Grim Years (Kaysville: Inland, 1964).
  2. Probably Catherine Nichols Payne, first wife of William Lauder Fay ne. The couple were converted in Shropshire, England, and immigrated to the US in 1843, joining the body of the Saints in Nauvoo.They traveled overland to Utah in 1850 and settled in what became Kaysville in late 1850 or early 1851.
  3. Shot silk, sometimes called ‘changeable silk,’ is silk woven of two or more colors. As a rule, the weft yarns are of one color and the warp of another. Emily here notes the two colors of her mother’s dress. Clothing made of shot silk appears to change color as light hits it from different angles.
  4. Emily’s first child was born dead after seven months’ gestation, Emily later wrote that the premature birth may have been ’caused by some grief.’

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