Mary Jane Walter Speirs
Mary Jane Walters Speirs was born on the Isle of Jersey, England,
Dec. 1, 1850. She was the daughter of Asa Walters and Sarah
Jane Westcot. She left the Island when sixteen years of age with her parents and
three brothers. On the 26th
of June they sailed on the ship “Constitution” for the . They sailed from United States
with 457 British, Swiss and German Saints who were in charge or led by Harry H.
Cluff. They arrived in Liverpool, England Aug. 5th after which
they continued by rail to New York . Benton
During the time they were on board the ship, the Saints were called to have their prayers night and morning. At one time there was a great storm during which time all the people were shut down beneath the deck and the waves washed over the deck. This storm lasted several hours. It took six weeks to make the journey across the
One young sister was left at
because she was ill. From New York they went two
miles to the Benton and stayed there a
week so the Saints could get cleaned up and rested. Capt. John Gillispie was in charge of the
company about to leave for the West.
There were 54 wagons and oxen with about 500 immigrants, which left Platte
River August 24th. Benton
While crossing the plains it was the custom to make a corral by placing the wagons in a circle. The oxen were quartered inside the corral. During the evening the Saints would sit around the campfire and sing the songs of
and visit or perhaps dance. Some of the teamsters had instruments, which
they would play. It was here that Mary
Jane learned to dance. No one was
allowed to leave the camp. Prayers were
said morning and night. Everyone had to
be in bed by each
night. The wagons were heavily loaded
and her father was ill. She walked from Zion
to Fort Laramie .
They arrived in Salt Lake ,
Sept. 15th. On Salt Lake City Sept. 16, 1868 they went to
Tooele and lived there.
She married William H. Speirs in the Endowment House in 1873. They moved to
in 1880. Mary Jane is the mother of ten
children. Bear Lake
Following is a sample of some of the routine duties of my mother.
In our younger days, water was not obtained by turning on a tap. We got water from a nearby ditch, which came from
When this ditch was dry, we would have to go about a block away to get
water. On wash days we carried water
from the ditch and heated it on the stove in a wash boiler, buckets and
pans. Our stove did double duty by
cooking our meals, heating our water and keeping us warm in the winter. In the wintertime we melted snow in order to
obtain our wash water. Mother put lye in
the wash water to soften it, after which she would skim the scum from the top;
then the water was ready for the family wash. Bennington Canyon
Sometime during the busy morning, while feeding and dressing her children and stoking fires with wood that burned all too rapidly, Ma found time to sort the dirty clothes. They lay in piles on the kitchen floor and the little ones jumped and rolled on them.
All these years Ma had a washboard and tub for her washing machine. It stood in the middle of the kitchen, flanked on two sides with tubs of rinse water sitting on backless chairs. The second rinse was colored a pale azure with a few drops of Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing. Cleanest white clothes went in first—baby’s flannels, pillowcases, bath towels. Then after scrubbing the clothes on the washboard, Ma would wring the clothes out by hand and put them into the boiler with some soap and lye to bleach and sterilize by boiling. After this process the clothes were lifted with a stick and drained a few minutes, then put through the two rinses. Then they were ready to hang outside on the lines and occasionally some on the fence.
Several batches of clothes went through that water—hand towels, dish towels, long underwear, then the sheets, colored clothes that didn’t fade, next stocking and colored clothes that did fade, and finally the overalls.
Sometime during this constant activity, Ma found time to make starch and cook it into a thin paste to stiffen our dresses and shirts.
Ma loved to hang the clothes out on a bright blowy day but quite often the snow piled high and a lot of shoveling had to be done first. She would have to go in and warm her hands often and then the clothes would be frozen before the last of them were hung up. The underwear looked like beheaded stiff men. If the wind didn’t beat out the frost before we needed the garments, we brought them in and melted them enough to hang on lines over the stove to dry.
When the weather became warm the ditch water would be full of wigglies (mosquito larvae) which we had to strain out. Sometimes we kids would put a horse hair in the watering trough and wait for it to turn into a snake. I guess bacteria grew on the hair, causing it to move, but for a long time I thought we were making snakes.
Ma made the clothes for all her family. This required many, many hours of night-time sewing.
Saturday night was the night we all had a bath in the family wash tub. The youngest child would be bathed first, then the next youngest and on up to the eldest of the family. This was quite an event.
Sundays we attended Sunday School and meetings. Even Sunday was not a day of rest for Ma as it was no small task to get her family ready for church.
Ma always had good meals on time and served regularly three times a day.
Ma gave birth to and nursed and raised ten children. She never had electricity, a telephone or even a gas mantle lamp. She loved to read but had very little time to read. Her life was mostly hard work, but she got a lot of satisfaction in seeing her family clean, healthy and happy. She wouldn’t have traded her children for the best automatic washer on earth. Of that I am sure.
William A. Speirs