Philena Cox Esplin

The family lived in Manti some distance from the center of town. They had to cross the creek with only a log for a bridge, so it was not safe for a child to cross it alone. One morning a boy about fifteen years old came to their place on an errand. When he was leaving, grandma (Mary Allen) asked him to help mother (Philena) across the log on her way to school. He said he would be glad to. She wore her hair in two long braids down her back. She was very proud of her nice wavy hair and long braids. On the way, the boy took his knife and cut off her braids. Mother said she felt so badly she cried and cried. She dreaded going on to school but couldn't go back alone. At that time girls didn't wear their hair cut short. When she returned home that evening her mother was very much provoked about the hair cut but all she could do was to trim it even, which only made it shorter, and tell her it would grow out in time. Mother said she cried and coaxed to be allowed to stay home until it did, but she had to keep on going to school, which was a very hard thing to do.

Mother learned to knit at five or six years old. Her mother would measure off so much yarn which she must knit before she could go out to play. She also learned to spin yarn when she was very young. She was not tall enough to turn the big wheel of her mother's spinning wheel without sometimes throwing off the band. Her father, Orville, made her a small wheel which she could turn more evenly and without throwing off the belt; thus she could accomplish more.

At that time everything was sewed by hand. Grandma used to take her sewing with her when she visited the neighbors, leaving mother to tend the children and do the housework. One time she was making buttonholes and couldn't remember how. Her father was handy at most things so he showed her how to make a very nice buttonhole. Mother said he was a very kind, understanding and patient man. She once said he could concentrate so completely when he was reading that he didnít realize a thing that might be going on about him, no matter how much the racket or noise.

The first time mother was left to finish the wash alone, her mother told her she had made enough starch for Aunt Lizaís washing too. (Aunt Eliza was grandpa's 3rd wife and lived near by.) When she sent for the starch there wasn't any left. Mother had starched everything in the wash including woolen hose and all the underwear.

When mother was about 5 years old she fell, hurting her knee cap so badly she was lame the rest of her life and suffered greatly from the injury.

Mother was about eleven when her parents were called to the Muddy Mission in Nevada. Before they crossed the desert her father obtained some watermelons. After they ate them he carefully saved the rinds and cut them in small pieces to hold in their mouths. It kept them from getting so thirsty. It was so far between watering places that many people and many animals perished from thirst, so they had to be very careful with what water they could haul. Fairview, where motherís family lived before going to Nevada, was high and cool a good part of the year. Most of their clothing was made of wool and they really suffered from the heat. They had been used to clear cool water in Sanpete Co. In Nevada the water was warm and roily which added to their discomfort. Grandma Cox, also her mother Grandma Allen, and many other people became ill with malaria. (They called it chills and fever). Every other day they would have an attack of it which made them quite weak.

Mother said the first time she met father was when her people lived at Overton, Nevada. The Esplin's lived at St. Joseph. (It is now under the waters of Lake Meade.) Father brought grist to be ground at the Overton flour mill. Mother had come to the mill with her father and she noticed this young man carrying the sacks of grain. He failed to notice her then. Later when the people from the Muddy were moving to Long Valley in Utah, they had to make the roads passable as they went. At that point mother's family was ahead of the Esplin's. They were fixing a piece of road at Elephant's Gap. When the Esplinís drove up, father noticed mother for the first time. She had several pigs in the wagon with her and a small one on her lap. She drove one of the teams all of the way. She did the cooking, dishwashing and helped take care of the children.

Pres. Young advised these people to go first to Mt. Carmel, as it had been abandoned because of Indian trouble. Mother's family and the Allen family lived together in the same small cabin. Dancing was about the only recreation. Mother loved to dance but father only went along because she enjoyed it so much. Later he told her they would not go to any more dances. He always worked late so he would rather read. Once they lived near a dance hall and she could hear the music and the dancing. She said that some times after she went to bed she lay there and cried because she was missing the dancing.


Abridged from history written by Philenaís daughter, Mary E. Chamberlain