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Sarah Thompson Phelps
by Barbara Ann Phelps Allen, a granddaughter

Grandma was born March 20, 1820. Her parents were James and Leah Lewis Thompson. When she was four years old, her father died leaving her mother with seven small children, making it necessary for her to start out early in life making her own way. In spite of poverty, she succeeded in acquiring sufficient education to be able to teach school.

When she was eleven years old, the gospel came into their home. She, together with her mother and other members of the family except one brother, joined and were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints. After they joined, their friends turned against them, and from then on their trials began. They were driven from place to place and finally forced to flee to the Rocky Mountains. She was brave and courageous as a young woman.

She taught school when she was a young woman. It was customary for teachers to board among the homes of their pupils, which she did, and in doing so she learned many of the plots and schemes of the mobs to assassinate the Saints. She kept the saints posted, and when the final plot came for the general roundup of the saints, she made a dash on horseback to give the alarm to her people. She was followed for five miles one time, but her horse being fastest, she made her escape. Another time when she was teaching, she went to a home to collect her pay, and the people refused to pay. They said their intentions were to drive all the Mormons out and take the crops that they had recently harvested. She told them what she thought of them. While she was speaking, a voice came to her telling her to leave the next morning as soon as she arose. She did, and as she was leaving, she saw the mob coming and they tried to kill her.

At the time of Haun’s Mill Massacre, she lived but a few miles from the mill on the creek; some of those who were fortunate enough to get away came to her home. While the mob was going through the country, they crossed the creek where Grandma and all the women were washing clothes. She told many times how they looked, saying they had their faces painted and were disguised in every imaginable way. Some of the women were so frightened, they fainted, but grandma shouted, "Hooray for the captain!"  Two of the men rode up to her and asked if she wasn’t afraid of them. She said she hadn’t been raised in the woods to be afraid of owls. They asked her if she didn’t recognize them, and she said she did not. They told her she should, they were her old neighbors. She then asked them what they intended to do, and one replied, “Kill everyone on the creek.” Grandma asked what they had done that they should be killed. Their reply was they did not know, they were only obeying orders. On two different occasions, she was chased by a mob who tried to shoot her, but their guns refused to go off.

One time when they had been driven from their home, she said they had traveled all day in the rain driving their cattle. She had on a sunbonnet that was quilted so that cardboard slats could be inserted. The rain had dissolved the slats, and the front of her bonnet flopped in her face. She was soaked to the skin, weary and tired after plodding the mud all day. As they were passing a farm house, a lady saw her and invited her into her home to dry her clothes and get warm. She was taken into the parlor by the fireplace. There were two young ladies and their boy friends sitting there, and when they saw grandma they burst out laughing. She said she was nearly in tears; she looked them in the eye and said, “You must have been born in the woods.”

Grandmother and her mother were charter members of the first organization of the Relief Society in Nauvoo that was organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

As a young woman, she was loyal to the church and all the leaders. She was personally acquainted with the prophet and during her life, she never tired of relating the stories of the early rise of the church, the wonderful manifestations as well as the persecutions, they had to endure.

The last time she saw the prophet was when he was being taken to Carthage jail. She said quite a number of people were standing in groups along the sidewalks. He stopped to get a drink of water and turning to them to tell them good-bye, he said, “Remember, if I never see any of you again, I love you.”

March 27, 1842 Grandma married Morris Phelps, a widower with five children. She was at the meeting when Sidney Rigdon made his claim as rightful leader of the church. She, with hundreds of others, declared that when Brigham Young arose to speak, the mantle of Joseph Smith was upon him so that he looked like Joseph, and his voice was the voice of Joseph. The saints were assured that Brigham was the one to be their leader.

A short time after Grandma was married, Grandpa was called away and a young woman came to stay with her. They moved everything into one room to make it appear that the house had been vacated. One night when a mob made a raid on the little town, some entered her home (the vacant room), built a fire in the fireplace and spent the night. Grandmas and those with her heard them tell the awful things they had done to the helpless. She had piled everything against the door so it couldn’t be easily opened. The mob wasn’t aware that someone was in the other part of the house.

Troubles of a different nature came into Grandma’s life after her marriage. Her first two baby daughters died, one Laura Ann, being little more than thirteen months. She was buried in Nauvoo cemetery, and Sarah Diantha lived but two days and was also buried in Nauvoo. After she died, Grandma had trouble with her breast. Dr. Wooley said it would have to be taken off, but she refused, saying she would die first. The brethren fasted and went to the Temple and prayed until they had a testimony that she was healed. While they were praying, her breast started to discharge and continued until the core fell out of the sore.

On a cold winter night of February 26, 1846, while they were camped on the bank of the Mississippi River, she and eight other women gave birth to babies; hers was Hyrum Smith Phelps. The family was en route to the Rocky Mountains. They started in 1847 but stopped at Mt. Pisgah for two years. They did not reach Salt Lake until September 25, 1852.

They settled in Alpine and suffered many hardships along with other saints. My father, Hyrum, said she never knew what it was to have a good time, but always enjoyed herself by doing good to others. Said father, “I never knew her to have a house of her own that had anything better than a dirt roof.” He went with her many times to the canyon to gather service berries to dry to make something extra for Christmas. He said he had gone to bed many times while she washed and mended his clothes.

In 1865 President Young called them to help settle Bear Lake, Idaho. They settled in Montpelier. Grandma’s daughter Olive tells of their severe hardships there. Their cattle and horses died from starvation and cold, all but a cow and a span of horses. Grandma did the weaving and other things while Aunt Martha, Grandpa’s third wife, took care of the children.
Morris Phelps died in May, 1875, so in October 1878, in company with her son Hyrum, she left Montpelier for Mesa, arriving in January 1 879. She was made president of the first Relief Society organized in Mesa.

She lived with us most of the time, but as a midwife, she was gone a lot. She was a large woman and weighed about 210 pounds. Mother did her sewing. I think she used the same pattern for all her dresses for years. Nowadays they would call them princess style. I slept with her most of the time. I remember in the coldest weather, she would sleep with her feet out of the covers. She had asthma, and the only thing that gave her relief was to smoke a plug of tobacco. About 4 a.m. she would begin to wheeze and cough, and in order to get relief, she would get up and smoke her pipe, which I had to light for her, and I took a few puffs until Papa found out.. He ended that.

When she was called out in the wintertime to deliver a baby, we would hear the rumble of a wagon in the distance, and it never failed to stop at our house. Wind or rain, it was the same. Mother (Mary Elizabeth Phelps) would get up and help her get off. When she left, she would be wrapped in a heavy shawl. Sometimes she would go before she was needed and stay a week or two, and always ten days after. When her job was finished, she would nearly always be given a five-dollar gold piece.

She did her spinning in the summer time out under the shade of a tree, and often the Indians passing would stop and watch her. After the yarn was spun, she would knit socks. She also knitted in the summer while she made soap. It would take all day and sometimes longer to make a batch. She told of her experience in making soap while crossing the plains. She said one day as they were traveling, she prayed that the Lord would teach her to make soap. She came across the bones of a buffalo that still had marrow in them. She gathered them up and collected ashes from the camps, put them in a kettle, poured water on them and boiled them. After she poured the water off into another kettle, put it over a fire, and when the water boiled, she added the bones and boiled it until it became soap. After the women saw her soap, they were always on the lookout for green bones.

Grandma used to make straw hats for the Barnett boys. She would get a bundle of wheat straws, select the ends of a uniform size, soak them in water and braid with about six straws. When the hat was finished, it was larger than anyone could buy.

Grandma dearly loved the Prophet Joseph Smith. In winter time we would sit around the fire and listen to her tell of the suffering and persecution of the saints. In her later years, she seemed to lived in the past.

She was a great reader. It seemed to me that she read the Deseret News from cover to cover, as well as story papers and novels.

She was quite a superstitious woman and would tell spooky stories such as evil spirits working her loom at night, and if one would turn out of a funeral procession, they would be the next one to have a death in their family. The night her daughter Amanda died, an owl hooted on the roof of the house just above her bed. She called Mother and asked if she heard it. I heard it too and was frightened. She worried and said she knew she would hear bad news, and she did.

She had a very dear friend, Grandma Everett. The last time she talked to her they agreed that the one who died first would tell their folks on the other side how they were getting along. They both died in the month of January. Grandma Everett died January 1 , and Grandma January 31, 1896.

She was loved by everyone who knew her and was known as Aunt Sarah. In 1870 Eliza R. Snow came to Idaho and organized the Relief Society and Grandma was made president. About 1873 Apostle Charles C. Rich called her to be a midwife and set her apart as a nurse and midwife. She was promised that if she was faithful she would never lose a mother . She delivered 580 babies and never lost a mother. Of her seven children, only two outlived her, Hyrum and Olive.