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Copy of History of Martha Ann Smith Harris

By Carole Call King

(Used by permission of the author)

The content of this article was prepared for submission to the International Society,
Daughters of Utah Pioneers, to be included in a book about Pioneer Women. The article
that was published is very short, and probably had input from other sources also.

History of Martha Ann Smith Harris

Name: Martha Ann Smith Harris
Birth Date: 14 May 1841, Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois
Died: 19 Oct 1923 Provo, Utah County, Utah
Parents: Patriarch Hyrum Smith and Mary Fielding Smith
Arrived in Salt Lake Valley 23 Sep 1848, Heber C. Kimball Company, wagon
Husband: William Jasper Harris
Marriage: 24 Apr 1857, Salt Lake City, Utah
Death of spouse: 24 Apr 1909 Provo, Utah County, Utah
Their Children: Born Died
 1. William Jasper Harris, Jr. 4 Aug 1859 23 Aug 1926
 2. Joseph Albert Harris 19 Aug 1861 28 May 1911
 3. Hyrum Smith Harris 15 Aug 1863 24 /Feb 1924
 4. Mary Emily Harris 23 Oct 1865 25 Nov 1947
 5. Franklin Hill Harris 11 Sep 1867 5 Feb 1947
 6. Lucy Smith Harris 10 Mar 1870 26 Jul 1903
 7. John Fielding Harris 28 Jun 1872 28 Nov 1946
 8. Mercy Ann Harris 30 Mar 1874 23 Jan 1905
 9. Zina Christine Harris 13 May 1876 16 Mar 1958
10. Martha Artimissa Harris 27 Jun 1879 12 Aug 1965
11. Sarah Lovina Harris 8 Dec 1882 21 Apr 1961


By Carole Call King, great granddaughter

Martha Ann Smith was born 14 May 1841 in Nauvoo, Illinois, during a tumultuous time in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her childhood days were spent amid scenes of persecution and hardships which resulted in the martyrdom of her father, Hyrum Smith, and his brother, the Prophet Joseph Smith, at Carthage Jail 27 Jun 1844.

Even though she was a small child at the time her father was murdered, Martha remembered the sorrow and suffering of her dear mother when she heard the news. Martha was just recovering from the measles. Some friends wrapped her in a blanket and carried her to the Mansion House to see her dead father and uncle.

Martha Ann had good memories, too, of Nauvoo. She always remembered the visits to her loving grandmother, Lucy Mack Smith, and all the Smith family. She remembered their family dog, Tig, who could carry a basket with a note in it to the store and bring home the groceries.

Because of mob violence Mary Fielding Smith and her large family, along with several others living with them, 18 in all, were forced to leave their lovely home in Nauvoo on 8 Sep 1846. Martha Ann remembered: "We left our home just as it was, our furniture, and the fruit trees hanging full of rosy cheeked peaches and apples. We bid good-bye to the loved home that reminded us of our beloved father everywhere we turned."

The children were taken across the Mississippi River in a skiff to Montrose, Iowa. They and their mother spent the night huddled around a campfire on the bank of the river as they listened to the bombardment of the beautiful city of Nauvoo.1

Without provisions Mary could not take her group to the West. They stayed in Winter Quarters, Nebraska, until the spring of 1848. Martha Ann's Aunt Mercy Thompson and Uncle Joseph Fielding and their families were with them.

In the spring of 1848 they left Winter Quarters and started their long journey across the plains in the Second Division with Heber C. Kimball. There were 662 people in the large group with 226 wagons. Mary's group was in the Fourth Company with Cornelius P. Lott in charge of their ten.

Martha Ann was seven years old and she helped all she could as she gathered wood and buffalo chips to burn for fuel, and took her turn at driving the loose cattle. There were many hardships along the way from hunger, heat and cold, and being poorly dressed for the conditions, as well as the numerous problems with their wagons and oxen. Captain Lott was not at all sympathetic with them.

Many times difficult problems came up and Martha Ann saw her mother kneel in prayer for help and guidance. Her petitions were anwered miraculously in many cases. Martha never forgot the faith of her mother or the answers to her fervent prayers.

Martha had beautiful golden hair. Indians who visited their camp offered her mother their best pony for Martha's two long braids. But Mary would not even consider of cutting her little girl's hair. 2

On 23 Sep 1848 at 10:00 o'clock at night, Martha Ann and her family entered the Great Salt Lake Valley. They settled at East Mill Creek, six miles south of Salt Lake City, where by hard work and good management they soon built a home with two small adobe rooms.

Martha Ann was taught to work from an early age. She learned to knit stockings as her mother measured off so many yards of yarn each day which had to be knitted up before Martha could have her supper. She was also taught to spin. At the age of eleven she could spin four skeins of yarn a day. She learned to weave the yarn into cloth--blankets, sheets, jeans for men's clothing, and linsey-woolsey with cotton warp and wool for women's clothing. She dyed the wool with peach leaves, red madder and indigo to make real "dyed in the wool" stripes and plaids for dresses for herself and others.

There was very little time before and after school. She herded sheep on the hills east of their home, many times barefooted, until her feet would bleed. Martha and her friend, Jane Fisher, were allowed to glean wheat in the field owned by Jane's father. They worked hard and gleaned enough wheat to buy their winter dresses.

On 21 Sep 1852 when Martha Ann was eleven years old, her beloved mother died in the home of Heber C. Kimball after an illness of about two months. Mary Fielding Smith was 51 years old. This was a great shock for Martha and her brother, Joseph F., who would turn fourteen three weeks later, and for Hyrum's other children. Life became even harder for them.

A lady named Hanna Grinnels, always called "Auntie." who had lived with the Smith family for many years and had crossed the plains with them, took care of the children. They loved her next to their mother. She kept up the home and cared for the family for a little over a year, when she died. Martha then went to live with her mother's sister, Mercy Fielding Thompson, in Salt Lake City, where she attended school.

Her brother, Joseph F., was sent as a missionary to the Hawaiian Islands at age 15. He loved his younger sister and felt responsible for her. The letters he wrote to "Marty" are full of fatherly advice on how she should behave. An excerpt from a letter written to her from Lahaina, Maui, on 3 June 1855, when Joseph was 17 years old, shows his concern:

"...Marty, I see that you are gaining fast and I hope and pray that you may improve untill you become pirfect. you said Marty that you went to Helens to stop and that things did not go rite so you left, well that is with you, but be kind and mind that you donot do any thing to hurt others feelings, if they hurt yours. be shure and do that and then you will be blessed and no one can find falt with you make yourself contented whare ever you may be and putup with every thing that you can. if youhave any tryals to put up with, you must remember that it is to try you and to see whether you are Smith grit or not, but sho your Smith. and that good too when it comes to the pinch, but have patiance and long suffering, be a Mormon out,and out, and you will be blessed..."

John, the oldest son of Hyrum and Jerusha Smith, married and took his wife to live in the Smith home in East Mill Creek. Martha Ann went to live with them until she married.

Martha Ann met William Jasper Harris and they became dear friends. His mission call to England made her realize that she would have to endure another difficult parting from somebody she loved, and that she would soon be lonely again. But she worked hard to help his mother, Emily Harris Smoot, prepare clothing for his journey. Heavy hand-knitted stockings, brown homespun clothes, provisions and bedding were made ready.

Twenty year old William went to the Endowment House to receive a blessing and be set apart for his mission to Great Britain. To his surprise, President Brigham Young asked himif he had someone he thought enough of to marry. William said, "Yes, I have."

Brigham Young told him, "Go bring her here right soon and be married before you go!"

That afternoon, Martha was astonished when William came rushing in the house and said, "Get your sunbonnet, Martha, and come with me. We are going to get married!"

So they were married. Martha Ann was not quite 16 years old. Heber C. Kimball performed the ceremony in the Endowment House on 21 April 1857. Two days after their marriage, William left his young bride in care of his mother and started on the long journey across the plains with a handcart company of 70 elders.

Martha Ann lived with William's mother, Emily Harris Smoot, plural wife of Bishop A. O. Smoot. There were 16 in the Smoot family and much work to be done. Martha Ann worked hard in the home, helping to spin, weave, make butter, cheese, milk cows, and do many other household chores to earn her board and clothing while her husband was gone.

William was called home after 18 months on his mission because of Johnston's Army invading the valley. After he came home, he and Martha continued to live with the Smoots for another two years as William worked on the farm and Martha went on with her duties.

One day as William was plowing a field he was struck by lightning. The man he was working with was also hit and was killed instantly. His frightened team of horses dragged William all around the field. he was found unconscious by Martha's brother, Patriarch John Smith, who happened to ride that way for the first time in three years. William was taken home and Martha Ann nursed him back to life, though he was never very strong after that.

Four months after this accident their first son was born, 4 Aug 1859. They named him William Jasper Harris, Jr. Soon after the baby was born, William and Martha Ann moved into Salt Lake City where William made his living freighting goods with team and wagon for a period of time, then was a policeman.

Four more children were born to them, three boys and a girl.

In 1866 William was called as a First Lieutenant to fight the Indians in the Black Hawk War. For the three months he was gone, Martha Ann supported and cared for their family of five young children.

In 1867, after living eight years in Salt Lake City, William and Martha Ann moved to Provo where her husband was called to serve as one of the bodyguards for President Brigham Young. They sold their home in Salt Lake and purchased the corner lot on 2nd South and 3rd West in Provo, where a two room adobe house was built. The family endured many hardships making a new home.

Six more children were born to them in Provo. All thirteen family members lived in this two room house until the youngest child, Sarah, was nine years old and a larger and better house was built.

Martha always worked hard to support her family. While she was in Salt Lake she paid $30.00 and gave six weeks work to learn the glove-making trade. For twenty years she made forty to fifty pairs of gloves each fall and sold them for prices up to $7.00 a pair. She bought buckskins and beaver furs from Indians as they passed through on their way to winter camp. Some of the hides she tanned by herself, but for the finer gloves she had the hides dressed at Provo Woolen Mills. She made hundreds of pairs of gloves--some beautifully embroidered and beaded--also the high gauntlets and work gloves. People came from all over to buy them from her.

For many years she went among the sick to help, being called out at all hours of the day and night. She always tried to meet the needs of others, often giving of her own scant supply of clothing and food to help.

At one time she was confined to her bed for six months because of a splintered bone in her knee. It was broken and reset twice and put in a cast. When she was able to get up, she walked with crutches for 18 months. After that she was able to walk on her own but her knee bothered her the rest of her life.

For many years Martha Ann was recognized as an authority in making temple aprons and laying away the dead. She gave many temple aprons away, and also sold them to the General Relief Society in Salt Lake. She made hundreds of them, sending twelve finished aprons every two weeks to the Women's National Relief Society, Burial Clothes Department.

In 1898 Martha fell and broke her right arm. She suffered severely for many months, not only physically but emotionally. There was so much work that had to be done. With her lame right arm and hand it was amazing what she accomplished. She knit and crocheted many beautiful shawls, bootees, caps, mittens, and stockings. She pieced and quilted many wonderful quilts. She was never idle--always thinking of the welfare of others.

In 1903, Martha's daughter, Lucy Harris Simmons, died during childbirth at age 33. The baby she bore died the same day. Two young children survived their mother: Edna May was four years old, and Arthur was two and a half. Martha Ann took them into her home and loved and cared for them as her own children until they were grown and married.

Two years later another of her daughters died. Mercy Harris Dennis was 30 years old, and left two young children.

On 23 April 1909 Martha's husband, William, was run over and killed by a team of runaway horses. The shock of his sudden death was extremely hard on her. Just three days before his death they celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.

When her granddaughter Edna May gave birth to a baby girl two days after the death of her husband, Martha took them both into her home and cared for the baby while Edna May worked in a store. She continued to care for the baby until shortly before her death when Edna May remarried and took the baby with her. It was hard for Martha Ann to give the baby back to her mother, she had enjoyed her so much. She nurtured three generations of babies, giving to each the same love and care.

All her life, Martha Ann was faithful to the principles of the church. She paid an honest tithing no matter how little or how much she earned. She obeyed the teachings of the gospel and had a very strong testimomy of its truthfulness. She witnessed many miracles and healings during her long life.

Surrounded by a large, loving family, Martha Ann Smith Harris died on 19 Oct 1923 at the age of 83 years and 6 months. She is buried beside her husband in the Provo City Cemetery.

  1. Martha Ann Smith Harris Centennial letter to her posterity, 22 Mar 1881.
  2. "History of Martha Ann Smith Harris," by her daughter, Sarah Harris Passey, unpublished typescript, p. 4.
Copies of letters written to Martha Ann Smith Harris by Joseph F. Smith, Julina L. Smith, and others, in possession of Carole Call King [ Note: these since have been donated to the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ]
Heart Throbs of the West, vol. 9, compiled by Kate C. Carter, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah, c 1948, pp. 469, 510
"History of Martha Ann Smith Harris," by her daughter, Sarah Harris Passey
Journal History of the Church: Deseret Evening News, 20 Oct 1923
"Martha Ann Smith Harris Centennial Letter to her Posterity," 22 Mar 1881
Mary Fielding Smith, Daughter of Britain," by Don C. Corbett, Deseret Book Company, c 1966
Personal Ancestry File of Carole C. King
"William Jasper Harris 1836-1909" by Carole C. King [ Copy provided on this website

Submitted to Daughters of Utah Pioneers, June 1995 by Carole Call King.


[This article was prepared by Carole Call King for inclusion in a work entitled Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude, published by the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Publisher's Press, 1998. All the articles submitted for this publication were edited down to very short entries. None of the contributors to the book received a byline, and in many cases, the articles combined input from more than one source. We are using this complete version with the permission of the author. The book has a very comprehensive collection of brief biographical notes on women who were Utah Pioneers.]

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