Martha Ann Waite Owens
A biographical sketch of the life of my sister, Martha Ann Waite Owens, by Joseph Waite. Hyde Park, Utah. March 1, 1917.
The subject of this sketch was the first child and only daughter of John Waite and Sarah Noble Waite. Born March 2, 1843 at Gosberton, Clough, Lincolinshire, England.
The Waite family had lived in the Parish of Gosberton for two generations back. The Noble family can be traced back to the town of Wyberton, about a ten mile distance. Both families were known to be honorable, industrious, and a hard working people, which made it possible for them by their economy and frugality to make a respectable living.
Grandfather Waite, in religious matters leaned toward the Methodists, and was a member of that society up to his death, which occurred at the age of 88 years. Grandmother Waite, whose maiden name was Anne Davis, died ten years previous at the ripe age of 85 years.
Grandfather Noble was a Protestant and died at the age of 70 years. Grandmother Noble died at the age of 37 years and left a family of six children, three boys, three girls. The oldest was only 12 years old and youngest a baby.
Father, John Waite, had five children, four boys and one girl. I am not sure of the exact date when the Latter-Day Saint Elders came down to Gosberton Risegate, however, the parents of sister Martha Ann were among the first in that vicinity to accept the gospel as taught by the Mormon Elders.
She being a girl of about 10 years old accepted the gospel with all her heart and faithfully maintained and lived up to its precepts. Ever ready to bear her testimony to its divinity all the day long, which brought down on her devoted head the Jeers and ridicule of her companions at school.
Martha Ann was very studious and plain spoken at school. She worked hard and faithfully at her lessons. "Always prepared", was her motto. By her constant application to her books she became among the foremost in school. It became a noted fact that she always stood at the head of her class, which fact caused much jealously and hatred from her classmates. This little black-eyed Mormon girl with small classic features and black curly hair, which out rivaled the shine of the ravon's wing, had much to contend with on that account. However, when the time came for a spelling match at the week's end, they all forgot that she was a poor little Mormon girl. They only remembered that she was a very good speller and that the side that was fortunate to choose her was sure to win, while the opposite side would meet defeat. I remember distinctly as a small boy sitting many times and watching the long line of boys and girls spelling or missing the words, but there she stood calmly, anxiously, and with determination flashing from her black eyes waiting for another word. As soon as the word was given it was spelt. The murmur of satisfaction was whispered "Patty has won again". But past is all her fame, the very spot where oft she triumph is forgot.
What was true about her spelling will hold good in Arithmetic. Her classmates knew where to go. for assistance. The slates would be passed under the desks while she worked many a hard long example for her school friends.
She had one true and trusted friend, Mr. George Fox, the teacher, who always was very proud to exhibit her work to visitors.
After school was ended, she remained at home and faithfully complied with her church duties. She passed a very good voice, and was rated as a nice singer. Her voice would be heard every Sunday afternoon and night in the meetings. The meetings were held in her father's house for many years. She was Branch Clerk and Treasurer and kept all the church books and funds up to the time she left for 2ion.
She would go out with the Elders when they held open air meetings to sing for them and distribute tracts and sell church books. She deprived herself of the joy of the world for the Gospel sake. She seemed to be almost the village scribe, for whenever anyone wanted a letter written or read she was invariably sent for and she cheerfully responded. So by doing she made friends. Her services were appreciated, if her religion was not.
She, like all other girls had her love troubles. Her first love was a young man that was a member of the church, very zealous and faithful. I believe they were promised to each other. He, however, emigrated to Utah and promised to send for her in the near future. However, men sometimes break their promises. This young man was not an exception to that rule. After arriving in Utah, letters came with regularity for some time. It was the old, old, story. He loved another, but he was gracious enough to still remain a corner in his heart for her. Would she take second place? That question was answered in the negative. I do believe it was the man she had lost faith in and not the principle.
She became an apprentice dressmaker to a Mrs. Willows for one year. She then became a full fledged dressmaker, that was before sewing machines were invented and all sewing was done by hand. Martha became an accomplished needle woman and worked around in the neighborhood for one shilling per day and three meals.
On April 10, 1865, Martha, with the rest of her family suffered the loss of her father. She was much devoted to him and no father was more devoted to his daughter. It seemed that her prospects of ever coming to Zion were further away than ever. The fact of losing her father by death rested very heavily on her. Her sorrow was intense for some time.
During that trying experience her testimony of the gospel strengthened, and her love and faith was stronger than before in the great latter-day work. In fact, she seemed to have been transformed from a number of the family to the head.
Mother followed nursing after father's death, which business took her away from home a great deal of the time. For that reason, Martha seemed at the head.
As the years rolled on, Martha became quite useful in the church branch. Her merit was recognized by traveling Elders and more so by Elder L. V. Shurtliff. They became very good friends and talked and sang "O 2ion, when I think of thee, I long for pinions like a dove, And often sigh to think that I should be, so distant from the land I love". Subsequently, Elder Shurtliff, who had been president of the Weber Stake of Zion for many years, was transferred from the Nottingham Conference to the London Conference and corresponded occasionally.
It was in the year 1869, the month of September, a letter came from London which bore the good news that mother, Martha, and two brothers were to come quickly. Passage had been arranged for the four to gather to Zion.
No bride on the morning of her marriage looked more happy than did Martha.
We sailed from Liverpool on the steamship, Minnesota, Gurons Line, on the 4th of October, 1869. Martha was sick the entire trip across the ocean, twelve days. However, we arrived in New York and after Martha was well we took the train for Utah. We arrived in Ogden on the 29th day of October, 1869.
Our intentions were to go south, via American Fork to some friends whom we knew in England. However, Brother Brigham Dudley of Willard went down to Ogden to try to secure a family to rent his farm the coming season. My brother, Levi, and myself were sturdy healthy looking boys. Bro. Dudley spoke to me and asked me if I wished a place to work. I answered him in the affirmative. He said he had a farm in Willard and would furnish all the land we could tend and team, etc. I found Levi, Mother and Martha, and we soon agreed to go with him. We piled our trunks and everything we had into his wagon and were soon on the way to our unknown home.
Feeling grateful in our hearts for the good friend the Lord had sent to us in the person of Brigham Dudley. We arrived at the farm late at night, about midnight. There was a bed in one corner, which Mother and Martha slept in. The boys occupied the floor. We had our own bedding. The last thing the England people think of doing at night is locking the doors. When Martha went to shut the door it fell down.
Oh, what a change in her countenance. I really believe that she wished for the green lanes of Bonnie England. The poor girl was indeed disappointed. However, we consoled her with the statement of Bro. Dudley, that if we didn't t like the place he would take us back to the train the next morning. We piled all our trunks against the door in lieu of a lock and retired to bed. Next morning Bro. Dudley took us to the fort and gave us a square meal.
On our way down to the hot springs station, my brother and I thought that probably the prospects would not be any better for us, for we sensed the fact very keenly that we were strangers in a strange land and we would not afford to throw away the offer of Bro. Dudley. After a few minutes of conversation with Martha, she yielded to our way of thinking and said that if we felt that way she would have no more to say. Bro. Dudley turned the team around and came back to the farm. Martha went to work for Sister Dudley for a season. We all fully agreed that the Lord had a hand in keeping us at Willard.
In the Spring of 1871, Martha Ann became the wife of Owen Owens of Willard, one of the most honorable and upright men that I ever knew. Their married life was one perpetual joy. Many children blessed their home. Four girls and one son, Jesse Waite Owens. There were two or three that died in infancy.
Martha became a Sunday School teacher, also Assistant Secretary in the Relief Society and an honored member in the same. Her life was not always strewn with flowers. Sickness and death came unbidden to her home several times. The Government passed laws which made her husband a criminal and liable to imprisonment on conviction and her dear self a ...??, which prayed very heavily on her mind. To see her husband hunted and driven from home for carrying out the higher law, even the law which God had revealed anew in this dispensation which law she conscientiously accepted and believed in, to be branded as a wanton was more than her sensitive nature could stand. Her health was undermined and her spirit broken.
In the Spring of 1888, I think, she moved with her husband and family to Star Valley, Wyoming. There they built a home in a lovely vale of the mountains.
The Spring had passed and the Summer was waning when death claimed her as his own. She found life's burden too heavy, and being tired and weary laid it down to rest.
She died in full fellowship in the church. A faithful Latter-Day Saint, a kind sister, a lovely maiden, a pure high-minded woman, and a true and devoted wife and mother.
Her deeds live in the hearts of those who know her best, I don't think that she had an enemy or a foe. She indeed was a peacemaker.
I remain you affectionate Uncle, Joseph Waite