This article originally appeared in Vol.65 No.1 of Pioneer Magazine.
by Susanne Lunt Peterson, granddaughter
Sarah Ann Lunt, the daughter of Edward and Harriet Wood Lunt, was born in Manti, Utah, on August 11,1858. Sometime during her early childhood, her family moved to Nephi, Utah, where she grew up. She was the youngest of seven children, four boys and three girls, and at an early age she learned to card, spin, and weave the wool that was turned into clothes for herself and other family members.
Sarahs formal schooling was very limited, and she often said, “If my school days were all summed up, they would not exceed three weeks.” In spite of this, she learned to read and did all her own letter-writing. Her two older brothers were stockmen, and, as a teenager, she spent much time cooking for them on their ranch. She was unusual in that she knew no fear of man or beast. At one time while she was on the ranch an angry steer attempted to gore her, and she felled him with a stone.
Henry Lunt2, one of the original settlers of Cedar City, made regular trips to and from Salt Lake City, often calling on Sarahs father Edward in Nephi. In early April 1877, on his return from general conference, Henry stopped in Nephi for a visit. While there, his team turned short and broke the wagon tongue. Getting it repaired delayed his journey for hours, making it possible for fifty-two-year-old Henry to meet nineteen-year-old Sarah and for them to become acquainted with one another. The next time Henry passed that way—in October 1877—he asked Sarah to marry him, and she agreed, returning to southern Utah with him. They were married January 16,1878, in the St. George Temple.
Following their marriage Sarah took charge of the family’s hotel at Cedar City where they lived. Henry’s first two wives, Mary Ann and Ellen, had previously taken care of the work, but were now at an age where they could no longer easily do it Ellen also ran the family’s telegraph office and was one of the original telegraph operators in the Utah Territory. Sarah found the hotel work engaging and satisfying, and from the beginning she was close to Henry’s other wives, especially Ellen.
Things went well for Sarah and her new extended family until the raids on polygamy began in the early 1880s.
To help Henry avoid prison, Church leaders called him on a two-year mission to England, and he took Ellen with him. Following his return home, things were no better, so Apostle Erastus Snow told Sarah, “It is your job to take your husband and go to Old Mexico where you can acquire land as a place of refuge. Pres. Porfirio Diaz is willing to allow us to live our religion.”
In response Sarah said, “Brother Snow, do you know what you are asking of me?
This hotel is the only means of support to the entire family. My husband is blind, and I am the only one in the family who is able to run it. We have no means, and my oldest son is only eight years old.” He said, “Sister Lunt, I feel it is the will of God that you should go, and the Lord will open the way if you will but obey.”
Sarah prayed and fasted and thought it over until Apostle Snow came again. She was strong willed and did not act on anything until she knew from God that it was right. She and Henry left Cedar City late in the evening of November 16, 1887. There were no farewells; only the most trusted friends knew that they were leaving. Their party was small, consisting only of Henry, Sarah, and their four sons – Edgerton, Broughton, Parley, and Edward. The family took the southern route by way of “Dixie” – the area surrounding St. George.
Beyond Toquerville and Virgin City the family found lodging at North Creek in a two-room log house which had been used by campers as a kind of way-station. During their stay Sarah discovered that all her sons had lice. Broughton later wrote, “I well remember the days of scrubbing and cleaning until the pests were exterminated. Then came the measles. The remedy was sheep-berry tea—which did all that any highly advertised patent medicine could do. It cured the measles.”3
When the weather permitted, the family moved on, arriving in February 1888 at Moccasin Springs, Arizona, where they stayed at a stock ranch operated by Christopher Heaton. Sarah’s fifth son, Heaton, was born there. When he was three weeks old the family journeyed on byway of Kanab over the Buckskin Mountains to House Rock.
On their way, they were joined by Henry and Ann Gower Lunt’s seventeen-year-old son, Oscar. Shortly after, while the family’s wagon was slowly traveling down one of many steep descents, Sarah was thrown from the wagon with the baby. In trying to protect the baby in the fall, Sarah hurt her ankle quite badly. Henry had her sit on a stone and then administered to her. She recovered sufficiently to continue the journey although she remained lame for months.
Sarah had a natural horror of crossing the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry, likely remembering the 1876 drowning there of Lorenzo W. Roundy. The family’s route meant they had to cross at the upper ferry—and that they must first go over Lee’s Backbone, a very dangerous and steep mountain. Broughton later wrote:
“I will never forget as we started down the ridge with steep canyons on both the north and the south sides, Oscar fell from the wagon, lodging on the tugs of the team on his back. The brake came off and the horses were unable to control the wagon. No matter which way it went it meant certain destruction. Luckily, Oscar regained control and all was well.”4
Although several men had to hold the wagon from tipping into the water as the family was ferried across the Colorado, the Lunts crossed safely and began their trek down the Mormon Corridor in eastern Arizona, arriving in the Snowflake-Pinedale area in late spring 1888. Here, they were joined by Ellen, Ann, and Anns family, although Ann would return temporarily to Cedar City with the family’s buggy, rejoining the others later in Mexico. The Lunts would remain in Pinedale until the summer of 1889, working for fellow Mormons in the area and preparing for the remainder of their journey.
In late autumn 1889, the family finally reached Deming, New Mexico, the last US town before their crossing into Mexico. There they stocked up on a few things, as far as their meager means allowed, including two cast-iron cook stoves, two rockers, and a half dozen chairs.
Upon arriving in Colonia Diaz in December, the family had to leave their only team of horses. The two geldings were old, and nothing but mares could go on from there duty-free. From Judrez to Pacheco was the hardest end of the journey, as the notorious San Diego Canyon had to be scaled. The Lunts managed to acquire the assistance of lumber haulers, arriving at the town site of Pacheco on January 21,1890, just as the sun was setting in the west.5
Other colonists soon arrived: the Scotts, Farnsworths, Rowleys, Cooleys, Blacks, Heatons, Porters, Carrolls, and many others. A log school and church were quickly erected. A ditch from Water Canyon was eventually dug, but in the meantime all water was either carried or hauled in barrels from the streams a mile away. Although the Lunts were members of the Pacheco Ward, they lived on a ranch outside the town and lower in Corrales Valley where their stock could graze.
The year 1891 was marked by severe drought, and food became very scarce. Fall also came early, and the com did not mature. The family’s only good team of mares had to be sold to make ends meet, and all their suckling colts had been killed by mountain lions before the first season was over. During this time most Saints in the colonies were destitute. In the Pacheco area, the Lunts were the only ones who had come.
The year 1892 was even more desperate than the previous year, and flour was not to be bought The Lunts’ cattle were dying of starvation, but the family saved enough com to dry it and turn it into meal. People would come to Henry and say, “Brother Lunt, have you any more meal you could lend me? My family hasn’t a dust of breadstuff in the house.” His reply would be, “Ah, dear brother, you will have to see Sarah.”
Sarah’s sons remembered well their mother bearing testimony that she had always shared with those in need, dividing her store of meal “down to the last mixing” and trusting that the Lord would somehow open the way for her to feed her own. Just after the last dust was divided, Albert Farnsworth came in to town from working on the “Mafiana Railroad” with two four-horse wagons of flour. By that evening, Sarah had 1,000 pounds of flour in her house that her neighbors had brought to her in payment for the commeal she had shared with them.
In 1899 the Lunts’ home in Corrales burned down. Because Henry and Ellen were now old and Henry had been neatly blind for several years, Sarah wanted to build a brick house large enough for them and her own family to live in. Perhaps remembering with fondness her years in Cedar City, she also wanted the home to have a few spare rooms for passers-by, as it seemed there were always travelers looking for accommodations. The family built a two-story home with nine large rooms—and had it finished and paid for in eighteen months. Sadly, Henry passed away in January 1902, two months before the home was completed, and Ellen died in May 1903, having been able to enjoy the new home for only a brief time.
Just after the turn of the twentieth century the Noroeste rail line was completed as for south as Terrazas, and the rail company advertised their road as the opening up of one of the best hunting grounds in America—the Sierra Madre Mountains—to both small- and large-game hunters. The Lunt home was on the route where hunters were outfitted after quitting the wagon road and entering the mountains. And it was the only place in the entire area where people could get hotel accommodations.
At the time of the exodus from the Mormon colonies in 1912 Sarahs son Broughton was in the Mexican town of Toluca as a full-time LDS missionary. Rey L. Pratt was president of the Mexican Mission, and most of his twenty-two missionaries were from the colonies and were dependent on their families. Hearing that the colonists had been removed to El Paso, Texas, President Pratt immediately went there to see what could be done. Sarah met him and gave him $50 to give to Broughton, saying, “I want him to stay as long as he is needed. We will get along all right”
In the summer of 1913, although the Revolution continued, Sarah thought it her duty to return to Mexico and put Clarence and Owen in the Juarez Stake Academy. She was made matron of the Ivins Home which had become part of the school and where many student boarders lived.
In 1919, she again returned to Colonia Pacheco. To go back to the devastated home in Corrales where she had spent so many struggling but happy years was a trial that few women could endure. Her once beautiful home was a pile of rubble with only parts of the walls standing. Fences were gone that once enclosed fertile areas. There was no stock on the range to be looked after or bring in profit, no bawling of calves. All was silent except for the chatter of local inhabitants who gathered to greet her. A few homes of her friends had escaped the forest fires that had swept the town. But the once beautiful two-story church to which she had contributed so much was a skeleton with a leaky roof and glassless windows.
Undaunted, she moved into the adobe home of her son Heaton, which had not been destroyed. President Anthony W Ivins visited the town in 1920 and made her youngest son, Clarence, bishop of the Pacheco Ward with Harlo Johnson as his first counselor and William Jarvis as his second. Sarah re-fenced the fields, obtained more cows, and resumed making cheese. She was happy again. To once more be back where her husband and Ellen were buried was very important to her.
During the late summer of 1921 her health began failing, and four of her sons visited her, trying to persuade her to let them move her to Arizona where they now lived. She declined, saying,
“I want to stay right here. If it is the Lord’s will that I should live, He can make me well here, and if my time to die has come, I want to die and be buried here.”
She told her sons that she had had a dream. In it, she entered a deep canyon and as she traveled through it, the walls became higher and steeper until she reached a point where it looked as though she could go no farther. Just as she was about to give up, the canyon walls suddenly opened into a beautiful valley. She said,
“I don’t know whether it means I am going to get well or pass to the other side.”
On Christmas Eve 1921 family members gathered at her bedside and watched over her for the next three days. During the evening of December 27 she died with her husband Henry’s name on her lips, gazing heavenward. Throughout the long years of the Revolution, most currency had lost its value, but Sarah had knowingly and carefully laid away forty silver dollars in a baking powder can, hidden in her flour bin, to pay her burial expenses.
- This account of Sarah’s life is based on and excerpted from the history written by Sarah’s second son, Broughton Lunt. Available online at the Las Colonias—The Mormon Colonies in Mexico website.
- Despite the same surname, the families of Henry Lunt and Sarah Lunt were apparently not related.
- Broughton’s own remembered experience as recorded in the history of his mother. The herb he refers to is Viburnum lentago, commonly known as nannyberry, sheepberry, or sweet viburnum.
- Broughton’s own remembered experience.
- The Pacheco townsite was situated in the upper Corrales Valley of the Sierra Madres mountains—at an elevation of 7000 feet.
- “Lunt Home in Mexico,” WikiTree, photo with notation and caption.