Biography of Rebecca Rocena Beck Berry

Written by her daughter Harriet L. Berry in her 75th year.

In the year of 1840, Orson Hyde was ordained as Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois, and was sent on a mission to Palestine without purse or script, to dedicate that Holy ground for the return of the Jews.

On arriving in Philadelphia, Hyde was without means to cross the mighty ocean. Being full of faith in the Lord’s work, he held a public meeting and told the people of his mission and that he was in need of means to continue his journey. His talk impressed a stranger with a sacredness of his mission. The stranger handed him a purse of gold which enabled him to prosecute his mission to his destination. The only request the stranger made was that he be remembered in the prayer by Elder Hyde when he should stand upon the Mount of Olives. Church History records Orson Hyde in that prayer, pleading with the Lord to remember the stranger who gave the gold in Philadelphia.

“Do Thou, oh Lord,” prayed the apostle, “Remember him in his basket and his store with the needful things of life, and wilt Thou also, oh Lord, bless him with the riches of eternity.”

The stranger was Joseph Ellison Beck, mother’s father. He never became a rich man, but he reared a large family comfortably, always had flour and foodstuff to help his neighbor and a surplus laid away for a time of need. He paid his tithing and always had family prayers. He died full of faith at the ripe old age of ninty-three years, after being ill three days, in Spanish Fork, Utah on the 13 October 1903.

Two years after Orson Hyde left on his mission, in 1842, Rebecca Rocena Beck, the subject of this sketch, was born in Burlington, Mammoth County, New Jersey, on 24 December. In the year 1850, Joseph Ellison Beck with his wife, Hanna Forsyth Beck and six children came to Sale Lake City in James Pace’s company of fifty wagons. They lived in the Ninth Ward of Salt Lake City until 1853 when they moved to Spanish Fork, Utah.

Peace had been made by Brigham Young with the Indian Chief, Soyette. A portion of the land near Spanish Fork was given to the Indians, to be known as the Indian Reservation and was later known as Indian Farm. It was a rendezvous of the Indians; always good fishing and hunting was to be had in the streams and canyons. The goernment sent men as Indian Agents to look after the interests of the Indians.

Joseph Ellison Beck was engaged to teach the Indians how to farm. His two daughters, Margaret and Rebecca Rocena cooked for the agents and Indians. Not having a vessel large enought o mix their dough in, their father hallowed out a tree and set it on legs and often fifty pounds of flour was mixed at a time and baked into bread in what was called a “Dutch Oven.”

Little is known of the childhood of Rebecca Rocena, it being muchlike other young people in the early settling of Utah, growing up with little scholastic training but rich in experience. It was not spent in idleness. She learned early in life the value of time. Something worthwhile must be accomplished each day; thrift and industry were instilled into her by her devout Quaker parents.

In the year 1857 a most terrible tragedy was commited by the Indians, together with a few white men, known as the Mountain Meadow Massacre. A group of immigrants from Kansas were on their way to California. They had poisoned the drinking water when leaving their camping ground and the Indians and their animals were poisoned. Consequently, they followed the immigrants with the above results. All the grown people and all children old enough to tell tales were slain. Seventeen small children were brought to the Indian Farm by government agents and cared for by mother and her sister until their people came for them in about three months.

Mother was married to William Shanks Berry in Spanish Fork, Utah by Bishop Albert King Thurber in 1860. They were sealed in the Endowment house in 1862. They made their home in Spanish Fork and were very happy. Thye lost their first child, William Alfred in 1861.

In the year 1863 the Berry families were called to help settle Dixie. Amelia Shanks Berry, the widowed mother that brought her family across the plains after her husband’s death in Nauvoo, again was called to make a sacrifice, leave her good home and pioneer to the south. Her four sons, William Shanks Berry, John William Berry Robert Madison Berry and families, and Joseph Berry (single) joined the group of pioneers and after many days travel they made their first stop to make arrangements for homebuilding at Middleton, Washington Co., Utah. Mother’s daughter Armelia born there 17 April 1863. They did non remain there for long for they had considerable stock and Long Valley in Kane Co. was more inviting for grazing purposes. There mother did her full part as a pioneer wife; helping in every way that a young, energetic wife could, and made cheese, butter, gardening, raising chickens and pigs. They were again becoming well established. The little town soon took on the name of Berryville (now known as Glendale). They could have been very happy had the indians left them alone, but they kept everyone on the alert, ever a menace to the community, frightening women and children. Men were on their nerve every minute, not knowing what moment they would be shot down.

Another daughter, Hannah Margaret, was born to mother on 9 March 1865 at Berryville.

In the fall of 1865 Grandmother Berry, her sons Joseph, Robert and wife, went to Spanish Fork for the winter. Leaving their mother with her daughter Thirza Thurber, Joseph, Robert and his wife started in the latter part of March for home in Berryville. Having missed the company they should have traveled with, they made the journey alone, and within a few hours drive of their home they were foully murdered by the treacherous indians, it was on the 2 April 1866. It was Sunday morning. Father being much worried knowing it was time his brothers should be home, saddled his horse, and started in teh hopes of meeting them any minute. He stopped to let his horse graze with a prayer in his heart to his maker for the safety of his loved ones. He was shown where their bodies were, for they had been murded by the savaged. Mounting his horse, he soon ran onto a friendly Indian who told him where to find them. The indian went to Berryville to convey the sad intelligence, while father went to Grafton, the nearest settlement for help. Sabbath meeting was in session, word was sent to the church. Meeting was dismissed and a posse soon on their way for the terrible scene, for a terrible scene it was. All indications showed a mighty struggle had taken place; bodies mutilated, teams stolen, featherbeds ripped to pieces, harness cut, everything worthwhile destroyed. Loving hands cared for the bodies and they were lain away in the Grafton cemetery.

Father never lost a minute until he was on his way to carry the sad news to his mother. He had always looked after her welfare. He neither ate nor slept until he was with her. She never shed a tear, but her throat swelled over with her chin.

Some of the arrows that were taken from their bodies were saved and are still in the family. After the bodies were properly taken care of, mother took their clothes and kept them many years in a locked chest, finally dug a hole and buried the chest and all. Through all these trying scenes mother took an active part, ever kind and considerate to father’s mother. She was a devoted daughter, and often remarked, “Grandmother was a real mother to me”. Years after when she came to visit our home for a few hours, if it was wash day, the washing was set aside. Grandmother was entertained until after dinner and she had gone home.

The Indians continued to harrass the settlers, destroying crops, driving off their animals, shedding blood. Finally what is known as the Black Hawk War came on in 1867. Most of the outlying settlements were broken up, the settlement of Berryville was among the group. Settlers fled for their lives, their families taken away first. When the men returned to thrash grain, kill hogs, etcl they were overtaken by a band of indians that shot one man, Hyrum Stevens. To get away in haste, the harnesses were cut off their horses, wagon beds of wheat and pork were left to be destroyed. Hyrum Stevens was placed on a horse in front of father, with the blood spurting from his would at every step of the horse. He begged them to leave him and flee for their lives, but he lived to tell us children of father’s loyalty in that tragic time.

On leaving Berryville, the Berry family camped at Kelsey’s Ranch in Washington Co., and finally came to Kanarraville, Utah. Our people lived in the fort and became real home builders again, they soon began to build on city lots. Brick homes, a schoolhouse and a church were built and before long it became a thriving little city with a post and telegraph office.

The first goods brought in for sale was by a man named Patterson from Pioche. Mother sold his goods for him, taking butter, eggs, cheese and chickens for pay, which made a market for the settlers which continued for many years.

The first summer she daried under the cliff at camp creek was making cheese and butter, industrious and frugal.

When Relief Society was organized she became a teacher, and later became a counselor. This position she held for many years. She was a nurse of no mean ability, studying obstetrics under a Danish lady, Mrs. Jacobson of Cedar City. She was set apart for the position by Apostle Marion Lynn, and was called to assist Dr. Middleton many times in his practice. He paid her a well-deserved tribute at the dedication of the Monument at Old Fort Harmony, as being equal to every emergency. In her practice going from home to home she had good opportunity to show her charitable characteristics.

If she received any compensation it was a meager two dollars. More often she carried dainties, clothing, etc. to her patients, which her family knew nothing about until after she had passed away. Her deeds lived after her. The child that crowned mother’s success as a nurse was father’s fourth son, William A. whom he never saw, born 10 May 1884, by his wife LaVina Sylvester Berry, after he had gone to carry glad tidings of great joy to a benighted world.

Mother went through the tragedies of pioneering without complaining, many times sharing food and clothing with those less fortunate. She emulated the teachings of her master; her left hand knew not what her right hand did.

Her ability to manage affairs was a wonderful gift and she used it for the benefit of those who came her way, whether friend or stranger. Much credit is due her for father’s success in making his large family comfortable, she carded wool, spun, wove both clothing and carpet, knit, made soap, candies, vinegar, water softener from roots, quaking aspen asher, and cheese and butter by the hundred pounds which she took to Salt Lake each fall for sale; brought back supplies for the year. There was no task to hard to undertake, when there seemed no way to do it, she would make a way.

When left a widow with her children to rear and educate and send her son on a mission, she never used a penny of their capial stock in sheep and cattle herds. She made the interest carry them through. She cared for the three adopted children that were left by the death of their mother, Diamtha Allen, father’s plural wife. They many times testified, “that mother was all that a mother could be to them,” and to her credit she never struck one of them.

She lived a second time in plurality and if there was an unkind word spoken between father’s wives we children never knew it. Aunt LaVina said, “your mother was a most wonderful woman and I don’t think I could of stood your father’s death but for her, she was a devout Latter-day Saint.”

In the year 1884, Father was called on a mission to the Southern States. The evening before starting, the ward gave him a surprise party and a purse of money, which was customary. The morning before leaving, 3 April he came and he had a handful of silver. He gave each one of his children a piece, with a kiss. The larger ones a dollar and the smaller children fifty cents each. He said, “Now always keep this and you’ll never be without money.” That request has been granted. The time came for leaving and teh team and buggy waited and waited, finally drove on without him. Everyone wondered, after some time lingering in the house, it seemed impossible for him to bid his familygood-by and he slipped out the back door and was gone riding his favorite mare someone had saddled for him, the only one we know of that he really bid good-by was grandmother Reeves, she was impressed to follow him.

He arrived safely in the mission field, Chattanooga was his headquarters. Prejudice was strong against the missionaries and the church. Independence Day was near, there was much excitement in that part of the country, the elders were adviced to do little proselyting until after the 4th of July, and conditions became more calm. Father took advantage of the condition and went to find his friends and relatives, Tennessee being his native State. He soon found a few of them, well-to-do financially, several merchants, all made him welcome. His stay was altogether too short, but promising to return, he reluctantly left them, for he must be at his master’s work.

A meeting had been appointed at the Condor Farm, Lewis County. Four elders had arrived to conduct the meeting, Sunday, 10 August at 10:00 A.M. All preparations were being made to open, hymns selected, when a masked mob burst in upon them, and began shooting. Elder John H. Gibbs was shot, and a gun was pointed at Elder Thompson (father’s traveling companion). Father wrenched the gun from the mobocrat, another friend shot him. As he swooped to the floor, the two sons of sister Condor came with their guns. Young Hudson, a son by a former marriage shot the leader of the gang, Dave Hinson. Young Condor was also shot, a bullet pierced Sister Condor’s hip, making her a cripple for life. She was holding a baby on her lap but it was not hurt. Brother Thopson escaped through the back door and hid in a cornfield and for days he dared not venture out. When the saints tried to track him, he evaded them thinking that they were the mobacrates. When found he was almost insane from fear and lack of food and water. He afterwards said he owed his life to father.

It was a trying time for the Saints and relatives. Much caution, scheming and praying was endured, to lay the bodies away until they count be sent home.

President B. H. Roberts was disguised as a ruffian to be able to get the bodies on the train. Willis E. Robinson an elder laboring in the neighborhood, was released to accompany the bodies home. The railroad would not let the bodies be put inside the car, consequently they were tied or strapped to the top of the car. Brother Robinson sat four days and nights without a wink of sleep watching those caskets for fear of them falling off. He did not dare sleep, for months after, through eyestrain, he wore a black bonnet in a dark room, his eyes continued to be very weak.

It was two weeks after the assassination before father’s body finally reached home. When the terrible news of the tragedy came, Mother was dairying on the mountain with her family except her daughters Hannah and Mina who were home with Aunt LaVina.

The news of the tragic affair was first sent out by the Stake President who sent Brother Richard Palmer and others to convey the news to father’s family. Grandmother Berry was visiting at our home with Aunt LaVina, when brother Palmer, after greeting them soon mentioned the death of grandmother’s sons by the indians which soon opened the way for him to say, “Sister Berry, we are very sorry to say we are on the same sad errand today. Your son William has been murdered.”

When the news reached Kanarraville, brother Ford and escorts started for mother’s Dairy. They came by way of Coalbed Dairy, Sister Priscilla Roundy, Bishop Roundy’s widow, was dairying there. They persuaded her to go with them and take over mother’s Dairy, which act was providential. It was early morning when we noticed the covered wagon coming up the trail a half mile or more away. When mother saw them, with a moon she said, “They’re bringing father home.” We scarcely know how we lived through those trying two weeks, not knowing how his body would be recovered or how many more lives would be lost. The elders were in great danger every minute, the Lord alone would help them recover the bodies. They worked under cover of darkness to accomplish their terrible task, finally on 25 August his body arrived. With grateful yet sad hearts we thanked our Heavenly Father that he was home.

Elder Mathis F. Cowley (later an apostle) and elder Eardly were sent by the Church to speak at his funeral. A real funeral it was, people for miles around were here showing the esteem and consideration for father and his family. The church also had a massive stone monument placed at his grave. Funeral services were held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for the two departed elders, decorated with flowers and photos of the departed.

As time wore on there was much praying, thinking and planning for mother. Father has provided two comfortable home for his families. While he was with us he kept us under one roof saying, “When I am at home I want my family with me.”

He was superintendent of the Kanarra stock herd which kept him away from home much of the time. The many and varied weighty experiences mother had gone through fit her for problems facing her, and well did she do her duty. She was the mother of two sons, John William, filled a mission in the Southern States and was Bishop of the Kanarra ward for sixteen years. Two daughters were clerks, four taught school and the other on a mother of twelve children. Making eight children. They have all held positions in the different auxilliary organizations of the church.

During the crusade of the Church by the government in the years 1883-84, mother’s home was an asylum of refuge for those who may come, stranger or friend. In the alter part of December 1888 mother’s brother John F. Beck, came to her home late at night in a heavy snow storm, riding a horse. He was forced to leave his home for concience sake, the deputy sheriff were hounding every family that was living the growing principal of our religion. He remained at her home until the storm abated then got work at Silver Reef, a thriving mining camp, from a friend of the family Andrew Gregerson. Holding himself aloof from the men he was working with, their conduct often offensive, after several months something was said. One of the men vulgarly insinuated that uncle was a Old-co-hab, he had no sooner said it until he was on his back on the floor.

Summer was here, and he saddled his horse and came to mother’s window at night. The two of them left for the Kanarra mountains, she piloting the way across the Cedar mountains to the highway, returning safely alone, not one of the family the wiser. It was hardly safe for man to be alone at that time on the mountain, so uncle gave himself up and went to the penetentiary for six months thinking he could provide for his families at home.

Mother was a very courageous disposition when Jesse F. Williams, a twelve year old neighbor boy accidently shot his hand to shreds, mother was the first person to go to his aid. She adit o him, “You have shot your hand.” He replied, “Yes but I won’t have to husk corn any more.” She remained with hi until a horseman rode to Silver Reef to get Dr. Afflick. When he came there was not a man in the room who could hold the hand while Dr. Sawed and sewed it. Mother stepped up, took the hand, and held it until it was dressed. She went every morning to care for it until it was healed. When the boy came out of the anesthetic he asked who had been sawing.

Mother had suffered from the effects of a Goitre many years. In September 1903 her sister Lucella wrote her that there was a specialist in Provo on Goiters and advised her to come and have it treated which proved fatal. Blood poison set in and she passed away, a most dreadful shock to all, at the age of sixty one.

She had enjoyed excellent health all her life, scarcely knowing what the tired feeling meant until middle age, often remarking, “I feel like I could turn the mountain over.” She was brought home by her son accompanied by her daughters Lucilla and Mina. Her sister Lucilla Snell and daughter Margaret, her brohters, John F. and Alfred Beck and daughters Armela and Harriet and they with their husbands from Loa,

Her decendants number ten children, sixty-eight grandchildren, one hundred twenty-seven great grandchildren. A total of two hundred thirty.

Many loving tributes were paid her by loving neighbors and she was lain away by the side of her loving martyred husband in the Kanarraville Cemetary.

Should there be any errors in this, they are of the head, not of the heart.

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