LEAVITT, Mary Hafen: Oral History 1972


October 25, 1972




Rhoda and Delmar D. Gott are talking with Mary (Hafen) Leavitt on October 25, 1972.

MHL: [Inaudible] Utah, November 5, 1877. My parents were John George and Anna Marie (Stucki) Hafen.

I have many fond memories of my early life. My school days were so interesting. I had teachers that were so kind. I wrote a little history of my life. I’ve got it somewhere, and I was going to write the names of my teachers, so I’d named all my teachers. God made teachers and mutual teachers just like in my history book. They are too numerous to mention here. But I did enjoy them, especially [Dr]. John T. Woodbury, Sr. He was one of my first teachers when I went to Santa Clara, [Washington County, Utah]. He always started out the day with a song, a little song, and I’ve still got several of the songs I can remember. Strange, how we don’t forget our early childhood days.

I also learned to play the guitar when I was real young. My mother was such a lover of music that she insisted we had music in the home. I don’t know how she managed but she got a guitar and a violin. I guess the boys helped to buy it, of course, but they were just children, but she started us right when we were young. But my brother, Albert, played the violin and I played the guitar and we had many happy evenings. We even played for the dance a time or too! [Laughter].

My younger brother, Dr. L. R. [Le Roy] Hafen, of BYU [Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah County, Utah], he was my baby brother, and he also wanted to play the violin. They had an arrangement, and he’d put on the harmonica and they would play harmonica and guitar at the same time. Another thing, we used to go serenading, or what you would call caroling on Christmas Eve. That was our habit. We’d take the guitar and we’d go all over town and sing. We didn’t leave until after midnight and would sing until almost daylight. We enjoyed going around to the homes. My husband [Dudley Henry Leavitt] had a little organ, and a time or two we’d put the organ in the wagon. [Then] we all got in the wagon and drove around town. That was a little easier than walking. We enjoyed it so much.

DDG: Did you have snow in those days?

MHL: Not much snow in Santa Clara, not much. Once in a while we’d have a little. We moved to Bunkerville, [Clark County, Nevada] when I was 14 years old. My father had four wives. The first family had two boys already married and two were about to be married and there just wasn’t room in Santa Clara for all of us. He took two of his families to Bunkerville. And we lived down there. I was 14 years old when we left, and I lived there all my married life. Married and lived there [and] raised my family. [When] they all [were] grown, married, and left home and my husband [had] died, that’s when I came to St. George to live. I had daughters here, and they wanted me to come. Juanita was having fits because I didn’t want to come.

I had hoped I could read this right off but I’m sure I can’t do it. It was quite a sad day when we left Santa Clara to move to a new home, but we soon learned to like it there. Very early everybody was so kind and generous. Mother often said that it was the hand of the Lord that got us down there. [Laughter] She loved the people, and they loved her. And they raised the family there and all of the girls married there. I was the first one to be married in the family. My older brother was older, but I married before he did. We all married Leavitt boys, three of us girls and one boy married Leavitts. The younger boy, Le Roy, married Ann Woodbury.

Where was I?

R:      About you marrying the Leavitt boys.

MHL: I was saying how we girls all married the Leavitt boys. I married my husband, [Dudley] Henry Leavitt, when I just lacked two months of being 18 [years old]. I married on the third of September, and my birthday was November fifth. I was almost 18 when I married. He had a nice little home, just a one-room house, for us to move in to on a 10-acre farm and a few cattle, and we got by all right. [Inaudible]

We had four little girls. We lost our first baby when she was a year and a half old. We had three other little girls. My husband was called on a mission [for

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] when she was just a year and a half old, and we got ready to go. We sold all of his farm equipment, mowing machine, and his rake, some of the cattle to get money enough to go on. Every thing was so cheap. I remember we sold a three-year-old steer for $9. [Laughter] A great big old fat [thing]! Everything was so cheap that he had to sell most everything he had to get the money to go on.

Not having a daddy at night was kind of hard on them. So I tried to teach them different things like the Lord Prayer and the Articles of Faith, and Juanita was quick to learn. It didn’t take her long to learn most of those. We’d sing and we’d do everything to pass the evening. I’d try to pacify them and tell them daddy would be here after a while. She’d say, “I want him now. I don’t want to wait.”

She said that time and again. [Laughter]

DDG: How old was she?

MHL: She just did want to wait for me to put her off. She wanted him now.

R:      How long was he gone?

MHL: Two years, a long while. Just three months after he left we had a new baby born. That was a boy. That really was something that the children just really went up over, especially Juanita. I like to tell this on her. She came to the bed one day and she said, “Oh, Mother, isn’t he sweet? Let’s surprise Pa with another one before he gets back.” [Laughter]

R:      That’s cute!

MHL: The time passed fast after we had the new baby, we had more to do. Then, of course, the time went and he came back in two years. We had a happy home life most of the time. We had a new baby about every two years, and we had ten of them. We always had our home evenings. We talk about them now, but we had them in our day. We didn’t call it home evenings but that’s what they were. Two of the boys learned to play the violin, the older boys, and the girls all played the piano. We had a piano later. At first we just had an organ, a little organ. We were about the only ones in town who had a piano. The young folks would gather there in the evenings, and we‘d have socials. Mr. Fordham was one of the teachers at school. He had the chorus. He’d often bring the chorus over to our place to practice because we lived quite close to the schoolhouse. He’d bring them over.

R:      He was a good music teacher. He was mine.

MHL: He was a good teacher, he really was. He‘d take them in groups and teach them. Each one didn’t have to play their own piece. As I said the two older boys played the violin, the two younger boys, Lance and David he got them a trumpet. They often would play their duets. The girls did the piano. We even had the lovely home evenings. Nobody knows how I enjoyed those things, because I couldn’t tell anyone, but I really did. Two of the girls were taking piano lessons and one, Aurora, would get up at five o’clock in the morning to do her practice. I would lie there and enjoy that music every morning. She got to be quite proficient at the piano, she very good at it. I told you about going serenading or caroling on Christmas evening. Most every Christmas we made that a habit.

We had good health as a rule, and all the children were born at home with the help of the good midwives who came so faithfully for ten days to wash the baby and clean up the mother and so forth. I must mention their names. Aunt Mae Bunker was our first one that I had with my children for the first two or three ones. Then Hattie Irv, and aunt Mariah Leavitt, and Lena Leavitt. Those four women took care of me through all my childbirths. You can’t imagine that they only charged $3. Sister Bunker only charged $3. for each baby, and she’d come for ten days to take care of us. Talk about a mission of mercy! That was their mission of mercy to the faithful. The last two or three babies cost us $5., $10., or $15. The last two cost $15. We had the ten children at such a price as that. I never had a doctor in my home for any of my children. We never did have a doctor. It was too far to come from St. George.

I did fall and break my leg one time, but I couldn’t get to the doctor. We had a man there put slats on it, tied it up, and wrapped it up for me, and it got well, finally. [Laughter] I went on crutches for a long while. We had some big builders who came to town, and they built a lot of big houses. They got the idea they’d build tall house because they would be cooler. [They thought that] in that hot country we needed tall buildings. So all of their buildings were tall. I was washing a ceiling, and I had a table and I put a chair up on top of the table and I got on top of the chair to try to reach the ceiling. I just reached a little too far and fell and broke my leg. We got by without the doctor. I wonder how we did, the Lord was on our side, and I know that.

We never had a baby born but what my husband always administered to me before the time came for the baby to be born. He was always there with every child [except] when he was on a mission. With that little boy he just wasn’t there then, but he was a faithful man. He had the gift of healing it seemed to me. He was called on all over town around to different places. Often a knock would come at the door in the middle of the night, and then they say, “Henry, come quick, my mother wants you, she’s awful sick.” He’d get up and wash his hands and face, comb his hair and away he’d go.

DDG: About how many people lived in Bunkerville then?

MHL: How many? I don‘t know, I never counted them! [Laughter] I imagine 400 or 500. It was quite a nice little town.

DGG: How about today?

MHL: Many have moved away, but there are a lot of them coming back again. They are building new homes there now. Dixie Leavitt’s been down and built four or five new homes in town. So I believe it will come back better again. They‘re staying mostly on the prosperous side of Bunkerville.

All my children married good companions, and all of them were married in the Temple. I have 50 grandchildren and they were all married in the Temple [except] four of them. There are two of them married out of the church. [They] haven’t joined the church yet, but I’m still hoping. Do you know Dudley?

R:     Yes

MHL: His daughter Bonnie married a man out of the church, and they‘ve [not] joined yet.

R:      Is she in Cedar [City, Iron County, Utah]?

MHL: She may be there now. They’ve been in Europe for several years. But they transferred to the United States. When I was there a month or two ago, they didn’t know where they would locate for sure; but they are not going to go back to Europe. As to the number of my posterity, I told you I had ten children and 52 grandchildren. We had 55 but we lost three, and 160 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. That’s Juanita’s boy, Ernest, he’s the grandfather. My husband died in Bunkerville when he was only 75 years old, in December 1944. So in about a year or so I moved here to St. George to make my home.

I had children here, and they insisted on me coming. Most all of my family had quite a good education. Dad and I didn’t have anything, but we decided that we were going to give our children a better chance. So we went to see that they got to BYU. There were seven of them [that] graduated [from] there, seven of the ten. One got married too young and another went on a mission. Dudley left [school] before the mission but then never finished college.

R:      He is doing well.

MHL: He is doing okay. But all the others taught school awhile. The last one had to retire this year. That was Daisy Weber, she taught all through the years.

Juanita started them out. I guess you know she was a widow for about 10 or 12 years. And during that time, she went to school and got so she taught and she had the children, one or two of them, come to live with her each winter and she took care of them, would feed them and I guess she’d clothe them and see that they got through college. So that way they all got through college at the Y [Brigham Young University.] They were so generous when one would finish school and start teaching, she would help the next one that came along. She’d send her a little money to get them into school. They never asked for a dollar back, just gave it to them freely. When Dudley wanted to go on a mission, there was a problem where the money was coming from. Francis spoke up and said, “I’ll send in $40. a month out of my check. You could depend on that.” So he did and I guess he never got his money back. [Laughter] But they were that way. They were ready to help each other. It was always that way.

I wrote the names here. I thought it would be all right to give the names of the family. Juanita now lives in Salt Lake [City. Salt Lake County, Utah]. She married Will [William] Brooks. She was married to [Leonard Ernest] Pulsipher first, and he only lived one year. He had cancer and died in one year. He lived to see the first baby born and then he died the next month. [It was] a terrible time.

The next is Charity, she married Vernon Rowley. They are now on a mission in the Central States.

Carl and Aurora Allan, they’ve lived in California all their married life. But now they’ve moved to St. George. They’ve got a nice home here now.

Melvin, the oldest son lives in Nampa, Idaho. He’s still there. He had several boys that are there and their two sisters have moved up to Idaho [to a] different place. He says he likes the farm better, so he farmed.

And the other boy, Laurel, too. He taught several years, but they are farmers now.

Francis, he’s in Sacramento, California. He’s in the school business. He got a school job. I don’t know what you call it. He oversees the financial status of the schools. He goes all up and down the coast.

Dudley lives in Cedar City and he’s in the life insurance [and] real estate business. Daisy Weber she lives in Mesquite, [Clark County, Nevada].

Mary and Frehner are both in Mesquite. They have nice homes. Daisy taught school and Eva Miles, she lives in St George, taught school. That’s the number of the children. Eva taught several years, and so did all of them except Mary. She married when she was about 18, and she was like me and she had 11 children. It is an outstanding family, the Frehner family. Most of them live in [Las] Vegas, [Clark County, Nevada] now.

R:      Sister Leavitt, didn’t you used to sing with the Swiss group that used to sing? Weren’t you with them?

MHL: Yes.

R:      I wish you could still sing a Swiss song.
MHL: I don’t sing at all anymore.

R:      Now who was the ancestor who was Swiss? Your mother?

MHL: Yes, all of my parents were from Switzerland. Ernest Reber and Frank Staheli and Tobler, they were all Swiss people. We learned to sing as children before I left Santa Clara. When we got old we formed a group and sang quite a bit and entertained at different places.

R:      You can’t do any of your Swiss speaking or singing?

MHL: I could if I had the voice. I still know the songs. [Laughter] I’d be ashamed to hear my voice, and I could hardly sing one verse. I don’t know.

R:     Try it. That would be nice to hear it again. They had such a nice group.

MHL: [Inaudible]

[ sings a Swiss song.]

R:     Thank you that’s sweet!

MHL: [Inaudible] I liked to sing and it has been my hobby, I guess, all through the years. Every song we heard, we’d learn it and get together and sing it. Then we would write them in our notebooks. I had two notebooks full of songs. [Laughter] After The Ball, oh, that was a great song for years. That was the nicest song! How I loved to dance to that music.

DDG: Tell us about some of the balls, the dances you had here where you lived. Tell us about some dances where you lived.

MHL: Dances? Our main musician was Brother Barnum. He played the accordion. DDG: What was his first name?

MHL: Just an accordion, and no accompaniment. Then later on we had violins, and we had an orchestra.

DDG: What was Brother Barnum first name?

MHL: I think his name was Elmer Barnum. His brother was James Barnum. James was our choir leader. They were all musical, the Barnum family. We had a lot of nice people [in] the choir. We wouldn’t think of having church without the choir singing all through the meeting. Here they sing maybe once a month. [Laughter] I don’t know why they have a choir if they [don’t] sing. We’d sing every Sunday with our babies in our arms, a lot of us.

DDG: You must have had your own choir at home.

MHL: Oh yes, we did have a nice choir in Bunkerville. Yes, at home we had a chorus of Leavitts!

R:     Sister Leavitt, did you feel that was quite a sacrifice when your husband left on his mission?

MHL: No, he was willing to go, he was just so pleased, and he wanted to go.

R:     And you too?

MHL: I, too. I was well cared for. I had a little income all the time. That is, we had our own food, you might say. We raised most every thing we ate. We had the garden, and we also had butter and eggs. We even made little cheese and we got along just fine. And all the neighbors were good. They’d bring me load of hay or a load of wood and the deacons would come on Saturday and chop it up. We got along just fine.

R:      How did he get along financially? Who kept him?

MHL: As I told you, we’d sell a critter, or something, every once in a while and I really don’t know. There were quite a lot of donations too, which people were sending us, a few dollars. When he left, he had quite a list of quite a few that gave around a $100., I think. They were all very generous in those days to help each other.

DDG: When you were in Bunkerville did you ever—

MHL: [Inaudible] they didn’t have to have very much money. They didn‘t do like they do now. They let them go without the money all they could. They just went from door to door and expected the Lord to give them food from the people. But they don’t let them do that any more. But they were supposed to be without purse or script in those days. So they didn’t need a lot of money.

DDG: Sister Leavitt, since you were born in Utah, and then you moved to Bunkerville, when you were in Bunkerville did you celebrate July 24?

MHL: Oh yes, more maybe! They were all Mormon people who lived in Bunkerville. Goodness yes, we celebrated made the 4 of July and the 24, especially—


MHL: I’d go to the chapel and sit on the steps and sing, and the boys would play the guitar. We just had a good time up there in the evenings. Nothing very outstanding. There was always plenty to do. We always had to work. Mother always said that idleness was the devil’s workshop. She would see to it that we had something to do all the time. I was always knitting or crocheting or something. Even when I went to see my girlfriends, I had my work in my hands.

R:      You’ve noticed great changes, haven’t you?
MHL: I should say!

R:         In 95 years?

MHL: We always had a big lot of peaches in the fall. [My] father was a peddler. He did quite a lot of peddling. He’d go to the orchard and get a wagonload of peaches. We’d sit all day in the shade and cut [them and] put them out to dry. When they were dry and boxed up, he took them to Beaver, [Beaver County, Utah] or somewhere and traded them for the cheese and clothing. He would come home with bolts of cloth. He would dress us from fruit, dried fruit. Every year we looked forward to seeing those nice bolts of cloth come in for our dresses. [Laughter] Father was quite a good manager. He had the store too, the first store in Santa Clara. I guess it is still the only store there, the Hafen store. His granddaughter has it now, McArthur.

DDG: How many children did you father have?

MHL: I really haven’t counted them up. I know his first wife had 11, Mother had seven, and my Aunt Annie, she had seven and Rosina only had two, Charles and Ella Perkins.

DDG: [That’s] 27.

MHL: How many?

DDG: [That’s] 27 children.

MHL: [That’s] 27 children.

R:      Can you think of anything else that you wanted to talk about on the tape? There may be something that you’ve forgotten.

MHL: I know I wrote down something on the back of this envelope. If I can find where it is! I was going to name how many bishops I had in my family; eight bishops, ten relief society presidents, and 35 college graduates. Then [there is] my Temple work. I’ve just done it since I [moved] to St. George. I just spend my time at the Temple. My mother was so enthused with Temple work. When it first came out and they could do their own families, they stayed right with it until they got all the progenitors done that they could get a hold of. She’d go day after day. I got quite impressed with it and have tried to do a little of it myself. So far I’ve done 5,800 names.

R:      Has anyone done more than that?

MHL: Oh yes!

R:         Have they?

MHL: Yes, I’ m sure. I know Chris Reber, he had 9,000 that I know of, but he worked all through his life. [The families] paid him for doing it. That was his livelihood.  Of course, I didn’t get paid for mine. But he did. I know mother gave him $25. to do some for her on the Reber line. Her first husband was a Reber, and he died ten days after he was married. So she felt like she’d like to do a little on the Reber line. I know she gave me $25. to do some for her.

R:      I think that is a remarkable record that you have.

MHL: Oh, not as good as some people. [Laughter]

R:      You have a very remarkable family.

MHL: Yes, I think they are all doing quite well. I’m quite proud of them.

DDG: How many hours a day do you spend at the Temple?

MHL: I go in for two sessions. I go in at 10:00 and 12:00. I take two sessions each day. I try to go every day. My daughters see that I get there. Then they don’t have to arrange about how I’ll get there. They’re always there to take me.

[Laughter] They have always been good children.

You don’t remember “The Windows of Heaven”, do you? I was at that meeting when they had President [Lorenzo] Snow gave his talk on that. I remember him saying he came from Modena, [Iron County, Utah] in a buckboard with someone that had gone over and picked him up. We didn’t have cars like we do now. He said that all along the road he noticed dead cattle. There had been a terrible drought, no grass and no food for the cattle.

He said he noticed cattle that were starving and dying on the road, and he was just impressed to talk about the drought. So he promised the people if they’d pay their tithing and offerings and do the church’s duty like they should, he promised them that the windows of heaven would open and they would have plenty to sustain life again. He told them, “Go ahead and plant your crops again, and the [inaudible] will water them for you. I promise you.”

The dry land in the picture, I have seen it since, showed them planting in dry soil. The rains descended and watered all those crops. They had a good abundant crop. I’ll never forget that conference. We generally went to the conferences in Bunkerville. We belonged to the St. George stake.

R:      You came up from Bunkerville?

MHL: Yes, we came nearly every conference. We wanted to come home anyway, kind of homesick. [Laughter]

R:      How was your transportation? In a wagon?

MHL: Just was in a wagon. We had food and our bedding in a big box and camp-out on the way. We’d have [to camp-out] two nights before we got here.

DDG: About how old were you when President Snow came down here that time?

MHL: I don’t remember. It was after Henry came [home] from his mission. I don’t remember the year. I wish I did.

DDG: Were you in your 20’s? Were you about 20, or 22, or 25, or more?

MHL: My age?

DDG: Yes.

MHL: I was older than that. I must have been 30 or 35, because I was 50 when I fell and broke my leg. [Laughter]

R:      That was an experience to remember, wasn’t it?
MHL: Yes, I hobbled around on crutches.

R:         [Inaudible] but I mean when President Snow—

MHL: I’ll tell you [inaudible] yes, it really was. I can remember on the way home, my husband was talking about what a wonderful sermon that was. He said from now on, we had been paying our tithing, but now it is going to be more so, strict to the [inaudible]. [Laughter] He always was a good tithe payer. If people think they can’t afford to pay their tithing, they better check and see if [inaudible] if they didn’t pay it.

R:      You’ve been blessed at your age, you are well and you look good. MHL: I feel just fine.

R:      We appreciate this nice visit with you. Thank you so much.


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