A Woman of Courage and Faith

Written by her son, John Clifton Moffitt

The First Years of Evelyn's Life

The Civil War had ended, & slowly this nation was beginning a long period of economic, social, & political recovery at the time Evelyn Amelia Cox was born December 8, 1866. Compared to modes of living more than a century later, life then was drab & uninviting.

Evelyn was the baby of Frederick Walter Cox, Sr. & Cordelia Morley Cox, & was the youngest of all of the big Cox family (four wives and many children who lived in the "big Cox house" in Manti). She was the only child born in that house after her father returned from a Church mission to England in November 1865.

Evelyn was born & lived her early years at a time when the pioneering spirit was dominant. Her father, Frederick Walter Cox, was converted to the Mormon Church & was baptized in 1834 by Thomas B. Marsh. Her mother, Cordelia Calista Morley, was born November 28, 1823, at Kirtland, Ohio, & as a child knew Joseph Smith intimately. Soon after the organization of the Church, the Morley family was converted to the Church principles & doctrine as advocated by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith lived for a time in the Morley home.

As a young child, Evelyn learned of the incidents her parents had endured in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, & Missouri. She learned also of the hardships that were common in the lives of the early settlers of Manti.

She remembered well of the Indians coming to the "Big House" in which she spent her girlhood & of the role her father played in listening to the demands made by these threatening people. Her respect for her father's skill in counseling with the Indians was increased when on one occasion her sisters, with others, were in the hills gathering berries for home consumption. They were accosted by the Indians with an intent to kill them, until their leader recognized one of Frederick Walter Cox's daughters, thereby, preventing any harm to the girls.

Evelyn in the Big House

Frederick Walter Cox, Sr., returned from his Church Mission to England October 3, 1865. Evelyn was born December 8, 1866, in the "Big House". It was in this house that she grew from birth to young womanhood. It was the only house which clothed the home of which she was a part until she & her mother, Cordelia Morley Cox, moved into a small house across the street corner from her only brother, Francis M. Cox.

Evelyn was very much a part of the family of the four wives & their children during all of her girlhood years. It was in this house that she received much of her formal education. Her sister, Rosalia Cox Driggs, was her most constant teacher. It was Rosalia, with some help from the other older children, and from her mother, who at one time herself was a teacher, that she learned to read & mastered the elements of mathematics.

The "Big House" & the people therein offered reasonably good opportunities for learning for this youngest child of the Cox family. Her father, Frederick Walter, was a good musician, & after long hours of daily toil, he assembled his family & taught them music throughout the evenings. When Evelyn was past ninety years of age, she continued to sing many of the songs she had learned as a youngster at the family hearth. At no time would she overtly display her gleeful feelings more than when through all her adult life she sang the songs she learned as a young girl.

There were other social & educational experiences that influenced Evelyn's life. Her sister has written the following: "Mother (Cordelia Calista Morley Cox) had read a good many stories in her girlhood, & when the neighbor children found what interesting stories she could tell them, her evenings were not spent alone. As soon as the chores were done, the dishes washed & the evening's work over, they gathered at our corner fireplace & eagerly listened while mama told story after story. She repeated them evening after evening until the children practically knew them all off by heart. Then they would hang up the bed curtains & give a dramatic performance of them." (Early Pioneer Life in Manti, Utah, as lived by the children of Frederick Walter Cox, believed to have been written by Therissa Emerette Cox Clark. On file at Brigham Young University Library.)

Evelyn's mother, Cordelia, was a cultured lady, & portrayed a genuine interest in the educational welfare of her baby girl. In describing Cordelia, the above writer said she was "a noble woman who had many friends. She was ready to mingle with people in public life. This was probably the result of habit, as she had been her father's (Isaac Morley) secretary, & had traveled about with him while he was giving patriarchal blessings. She was his scribe. She taught school in the Morley Settlement (before coming to Utah), & after they came to Manti. Later she served as secretary to the Relief Society for fourteen years.

The Early Manti Economy

Among the many things that Evelyn learned while she lived in the "Big House" was that of learning to work. Her parents came to Manti, arriving October 4, 1852. They had learned much of providing for themselves & their children before & after they were driven from Nauvoo, & this independence was applied during the decades following their arrival at Manti. Food necessarily was scarce at times due to the invasions of grasshoppers or the severity of the weather. One of the children who crossed the plains with her parents wrote, "Needless to say it was hard to get along in this new country. We younger children didn't realize the many hardships & self-denials of our dear parents. Even actual necessities were scarce. It was hard to live without bread (but) the greens which sprang up so miraculously at the foot of Temple Hill & grew so thrifty that we gathered them day after day...."

"Like most children we hungered for sweets. Our parents tried to fill this need by crushing watermelons, cornstalks, & beets (when these were available) & boiling them down into molasses which was also used to make cake, butter custard, & other simple foods."

"There was no fruit in Manti until we had lived there many years.... Unless one has been without fruit for many years he cannot sense the longing for it to growing children. The older girls have spent the whole day picking two quarts of wild currants that we might have them. Only someone famished for them could tell how good they tasted."

"We used molasses a lot for sweetening & flavor. We used salt rising bread until way into the eighties, as we raised everything necessary for it here at home. Flour & water & a pinch of salt was all that was needed. We refined salt by dissolving rock salt made by breaking the rock salt from the red point near the south entrance to Manti."

Providing the necessities of life for the large Cox family in Utah's economy for more than a quarter of a century after Isaac Morley (Evelyn's grandfather) & associates led the first settlers to Manti required a great deal of ingenuity & hard labor.

The challenge was not only that of providing food for the large Cox family, but also the clothes needed to cover their bodies was a problem of great magnitude.

When Evelyn was a young girl, Brigham Young, as a part of his program of self support, advocated the production of silk where it could be provided in the various settlements. He urged the people to raise mulberry trees that would enable cocoons to grow into silkworms, & from these acquire silk that could be used for clothing or for other purposes. The Cox people responded favorably to the Church President's request, & the Cox house became one of the major spots in the production of silk during much of the 1870-1880 decade. Evelyn learned how to produce & use silk in that economy.

With the aid of a picture of the old Cox house & an accompanying story, the Salt Lake Tribune, January 19, 1972, reported some facts about the production of silk at that place at an early time in Utah history.

Children in their young years learned to work & became a valuable asset in the pioneer economy. When Evelyn was ten years old, a centennial exhibition was held in Salt lake City for the purpose of displaying the materials created from the silk that was produced. The Cox home was a major producer of silk.

The work in the Cox house for Evelyn & her sisters involved much more than learning how to produce & use silk. Clothes must be provided. The Cox family raised enough sheep to provide clothes for the large family. The girls learned how to wash & clean the wool, then to sort it in order for the best wool to be made into shirts for the brothers & into flannel for dresses. They made their own underwear. They made linsey-woolsey sheets & they made jeans (heavy cloth) for trousers for their father & their many brothers.

Evelyn learned how to use carding machines & during her girlhood she learned & operated extensively one of the three looms & one or more of the light spinning wheels that were fixtures in the house for many years. She learned how to knit socks & has told how she knitted pairs of socks for her brother Frances, & occasionally to trade a pair of her knitted socks for some other article of clothing, & on rare occasions to sell for a modest price.

Evelyn, many times, declared she was a grown adult before she had her first pair of "store" shoes.

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