Tryphena Maria Cox Sidwell

Picture if you can a spry elderly lady, one who is hardworking, ambitious, willingly gives service and has a genuine love for her family and friends and you will have a good start in picturing Tryphena Marie Cox Sidwell.

Tryphena was born on the 26 of January 1859 in Manti, Sanpete, Utah. She is the ninth of eleven children born to Orville Southerland Cox and his wife Elvira Pamela Mills. Orville practiced plural marriage with Elvira being his first wife.

Orville and Elvira came across the plains, entering the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. In 1849 they moved to Manti. In 1860 Orville moved his family to Fairview, Sanpete, Utah. In 1865 they moved to the Muddy, a branch of the Virgin River in Nevada. Here he assisted in surveying and making irrigation ditches. The Civil War of 1861-1865 had made it impossible to get anything made of cotton, so Brigham Young had called for settlers to go to the Muddy. Orville S. Cox moved his three families down there. The soil was very rich, but there was so much quicksand that it made it almost impossible to build a dam that would hold irrigation water without washing away the soil.

The summer heat was severe, the drinking water bad, there was much sickness. In 1869 Elvira and her children returned to their old home in Fairview, Utah.

As a youth Tryphena spent time living in dug-out type homes; homes made from a cave dug into the side of a hill. This type of house was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It usually had a dirt floor which at times was Tryphena’s job to sweep. She tried to do so without creating too much dust.

As a pioneer child, she had to walk. To ride in a wagon or on a horse was a luxury she did not often have. Most children went barefooted during the summer to save on the cost of shoes for the family. Shoes were handed down through the family and repaired often to keep them usable.

Not much is found on Tryphena’s school days. It would be fair to assume she probably attended off and on much the same as her siblings did.

Cows and other animals were part of life for the Cox family. The children had responsibilities to help in their care. Milking the cows and making butter and cheese. Sheep were sheared, the wool being processed with the help of the children into thread and then fabric to use in making clothing. Chickens provided eggs, meat, and feathers for bedding.

Indians were a part of life for families living on the frontier and the Cox family had its share of contacts, good or bad, with them. A great grandson, Lloyd D. Smith, recalls Tryphena telling him this story: “I can remember when she, Tryphena, told about an Indian Brave that came to their house wanting food. How her mother gave him bread and sent him on his way. And how the Indian became threatening and demanded more bread. How frightened they all were! How her mother drove him off with the broom. She said that her mother believed in President Brigham Young’s admonition that it was better to feed the Indians than to fight them. But her mother wouldn’t put up with any nonsense.”

On September 5, 1877, Tryphena married Condersett Rowe at Manti, Utah. To this union one child was born, Wayne Condersett Rowe, born 31st August 1878. Sadly he died in an accident on 22 July 1890. Condersett and Tryphena divorced sometime before 1883.

Tryphena’s brother-in-law introduced her to his brother William Sidwell, a widower with 2 living children, Nora and Wilson. They were married 8 May 1883 in Mount Pleasant, Sanpete, Utah.

Not much is found about Tryphena’s life over the next 22 years. She and William lived in Fairview raising a family of 9 children, 6 living to adulthood. William died on 12 January 1905. He tended the horses at Schofield mine. He thought the train was going forward, instead it was going backward. It knocked him down, running over him and cutting off one leg. The doctor took 30 minutes to get there and by that time he had lost so much blood that he died in St. Mark’s hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tryphena was left to raise their 6 living children. In 1909 with her family which now included son-in-law Samuel S. Smith, they chartered a car (possibly a railroad car) and moved from Fairview, Utah to Jerome, Idaho where Samuel ran his own contracting business building roads and such. They arrived 4 March 1909. They found sage brush desert, but with wells and city water tower. Tryphena is recorded as having said, “Pioneering in Jerome in 1909 was child’s play compared to settling on the Muddy. Wind, sand and poor roads were very unpleasant, but we got used to them.” Samuel often employed one or two of Tryphena’s sons.

There was no formal church organization in Jerome, Idaho when they moved there. When a branch was organized, Tryphena served as the first branch clerk, her son-in-law Samuel Smith as Branch President. In 1914 she was called as Relief Society President of the newly Independent Jerome Branch. She continued in this calling when the Branch became a ward in 1916 and as ward clerk for a while where she continued to put her organizing and record keeping skills to good use. When the new Rock Church building was completed in 1920 she was its janitor for a number of years, her pay was $20.00 per month.

Tryphena Sidwell kept a diary which covers the years from 1921-1948. It is very thorough and gives us a good insight into her life during this time. She lived in Jerome, Idaho from 1909 to 1921 and then moved with the Smith family to Council, Idaho where they lived until the death of her son-in-law Samuel S. Smith in 1923. She moved to Manti, Utah 5 October 1924 where she and her sister, Euphrasia, bought a house. She lived there until she moved back to Jerome in October of 1933, where she lived with her daughter, Flavia Smith, until her death in 1952. Her family was always very helpful and supportive to her in many ways,

From Tryphena’s diary we also learn of her love for gardening. Whether she was living in Jerome or Manti, she always grew a large garden of fruits, vegetables and flowers. She preserved much of her produce but always had plenty to share with family, neighbors, and friends.

Quilting is often mentioned in her diary. She was always making or helping to make quilts. She writes about it only taking her a day or two to put one together. Rarely did she earn any money, but joy was found in teaching quilt making to others.

If Tryphena wasn’t gardening or quilting, she was often found sewing something for herself or more likely someone else. She frequently sewed temple clothing for others while living in Manti and was known to bring home the men’s temple clothing used at the temple to repair and wash.

Tryphena also enjoyed a good book, going to movies and plays. She enjoyed handcrafts such as crocheting, knitting, and tatting. While in Jerome, she was very active in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers organization.

While living in Manti, Tryphena could be found serving at the temple 2 or 3 days a week doing temple work for her own ancestors and many, many others. You can find record of those she did temple work for in her diary. She loved the time she spent serving in the temple and still had time to do all the other things she needed and desired do to. A story of a special experience Tryphena had in the temple is related by great-grandson, Lloyd D. Smith: “Great Grandma did a lot of temple work in the Manti Temple. During one period of time, she indicated that they did the work for many Indian names. One session she had performed the work for an Indian girl. As she was going down the stairs in the temple, an Indian girl approached her coming up the stairs. When they met, the Indian girl thanked her for doing the work. Great Grandma then proceeded down the steps. After taking a few more steps, Great Grandma turned to look up the stairs to see the Indian girl again. She was gone! Grandma said that it would have been impossible for the girl to make it to the top of the stairs and be out of sight. Great Grandma always treasured that memory and told it often.”

Tryphena’s life was not without its trails but she put her trust and faith in God and tried to enjoy each day. She found great joy in her family, in doing things for them and they in turn helped her in many ways also. Because of the diary she kept telling of her daily activities and expenses we can see that she lived a very full and caring life surrounded by family and many friends. Tryphena died on 13 October 1952 and is buried in the Jerome Cemetery in Jerome, Idaho. (You will also find her listed on a head stone with her husband William in the Fairview, Utah lower cemetery. William is buried in Nephi, Utah)

Compiled by Jill Graham, a great-great-granddaughter of Tryphena Cox Sidwell, August 2009.

Along with a copy of Tryphena’s diary, the following books were used:

  1. The Family History of Samuel Sober Smith and Flavia Rebecca Sidwell
    Compiled by Lloyd D. Smith, 2008
    Legend eXpress Publishing, Mesa, Arizona
  2. The Sidwell Saga, by Wayne and Rebecca Sidwell
    November 1998. Printed by: The Author
A big heartfelt thank you is given to these two authors for their many hours of research and for the writing of their memories of Tryphena so that we of younger generations may know her also.