One beautiful spring morning
in Montpelier, Idaho, May 22, 1874, a beautiful daughter was born to Hyrum Smith and Clarinda Bingham Phelps, whom they named Annie
Laura. She was the fifth child of a family of 12. Annie’s brother
Perry was two years older and was very attentive to her. They were
very close for two years then Perry suddenly died of diphtheria. By
the time Annie was four, two brothers, William and Guy, had been born
and she was loving and attentive to them.
In 1978 Hyrum decided to move to Arizona to escape the cold winters,
hard not only for the family but for the crops and cattle. They
spent the spring and summer getting ready to go, then they prepared
three wagons, one for each family and one for supplies. They also
drove 25 head of cattle. Finally on Oct. 3, after disposing of their
property, they started the long journey to Arizona. Guy was just six
months old, Annie was four. When they stopped for the night, Annie
would do all she could to help her mother, even though she was very
young. Even at that age she was thoughtful and considerate of
everyone, a trait which lasted all her life.
When they finally reached the Colorado Rive at Lee’s Ferry, Nov. 30,
1878, they stopped for three days for the arrival of Gove in Aunt
Lib’s family. They arrived in Mesa Jan. 17, 1879.
Their first home was in tents on South Hibbert, just a little south
of First Avenue. There was work for all as they cleared the land,
pulling brush and grasses and piling them to be burned. They met the
native snakes, centipedes and scorpions in this endeavor and got
quite a thrill out of killing them.
Annie’s father dug a well on their place with the help of his sons.
Family tradition says that it was the first well in Mesa. Finally,
they made adobe bricks and built a house, one long room with a dirt
floor and roof. In the middle of the house two walls enclosed what
they called the bath house. Clarinda and her family lived in the
north room, and Mary Elizabeth and children lived in the south room.
It was in this home that Joseph was born. The children spent
evenings parching corn from the corn crib in the hail.
Annie soon was old enough not only to take care of the little ones
but to milk cows, and she got up early and worked late to do her
share of the milking.
Annie was very tender by nature and when her brother Hyrum died when
he was 20 years old, it was almost more than she could endure. The
shock of this loss caused Annie to develop a nervous condition which
developed into Saint Vitis Dance, a condition which was a problem
all her life.
She became acquainted with a shy but handsome young man, John Thomas
Coleman, who had arrived in Mesa with his father’s family in 1887
when John was 17. They had come from Springville, Alabama, just
outside of Birmingham and had endured much persecution as the result
of their being baptized into the LDS Church. Philip Marion Coleman,
John’s father, sent a letter to the Deseret New April 10, 1889, and
the article was in the April 23 edition.
“I reached this place [Mesa] on the 26 ofApril, 1887, and was
well pleased on my first view of the Salt River Valley. I can say my
good feelings increase for this place and its variety of products. I
don’t know of any period of my life when l ever did better in regard
to worldly means. I have a fair chance to increase in spiritual
knowledge. The present prospect for this city is that it will be a
desirable place for residence in the near future. Good dwelling
houses are continually being built, and the talk is now that we will
soon have a large academy built at the expense of the county.
The people all seem to be feeling well, and are looking forward with
great expectation to a prosperous future.
The health of those living in this place and in the valley is
Philip M. Coleman
Very little is known about John after they arrived in Mesa, but his
life was probably not much different from that of any other
teenagers of the time. He was tall, good looking and a hard worker.
He could do almost anything, and the different jobs he held in his
lifetime bear this out. When he grew vegetables, they were the best
and the biggest, ones that his children could take pride in selling.
He had a kind heart and gave much of his worldly goods to helping
those in need. For that reason, he was never a wealthy man. He
shared what he had and taught his family to do likewise, as he had
learned from his father. They never turned away a hungry mouth.
John and Annie began their life together by following the “Honeymoon
Trail” to Saint George, Utah to be married in the LDS temple. Annie
would have it no other way, and John was so in love that he wanted
Annie forever. They were married Nov. 29, 1892. John was 23 years
old and Annie was 18.
Early in their marriage they lived on the corner of Newell
[University] and Grand, and it was here that John Elmer was born
July 31, 1893. He was the first of 14 children and was given
responsibility at an early age and throughout his life.
In 1895 they had moved to a two-room house at the east end of the
railroad depot. Lue Annie was born here Mar 4, 1895. Then Hyrum
Smith Coleman came into the picture Nov. 23, 1896, but lived only 18
months, dying of unknown causes. On Aug. 14, 1898, Annie gave birth
to a third son, Philip Marion, named for Grandfather Coleman. At
this time they were living in “nice big tents” on Calvin Phelps’
When Philip was a baby, the family moved to a 40- acre ranch located
on Horne Lane. It was here that three more children were born, Minnie
Bell, May 30, 1900; Carl Mabry, Jan. 25, 1902; then Naomi, Dec. 20,
1903, the seventh child in eleven years.
The family had to move to larger quarters, so in 1904 they moved to
a house near the corner of Main and Hobson, then later to a home
where Pioneer Park is now located. Here Annie gave birth to four
more children, Lottie, Oct. 24, 1905; Minerva, Mar. 22, 1908, Joseph
Paul, July 30, 1910, and then Oliver Lee, July 12,1912.
Just after Oliver was born, John decided to homestead a place
southwest of Chandler. A well was dug on the property, but the water
was so alkaline that it wasn’t fit to drink, they had to haul all
the water they used. Shortly after the move to Chandler, Annie
miscarried and lost a child. Life for her became very hard. She had
no running water; washing was done on a board, and cooking for her
large family was a monumental undertaking. However, she had a very
loving family, and her Phelps family were “real good and thoughtful
of her and were a big help.” In twenty years of marriage, Annie had
given birth to eleven children and lost two, and she still suffered
from the nervous disorder of her youth. She loved kids and never
once did she voice regrets about her life.
Chandler was just a stopover. Because of the water situation, the
family returned to their home on Main Street in Mesa.
Halloween Night, 1912 tragedy struck once again. John and Annie’s
dream house burned to the ground. The story has it that the kids
were getting ready to go “trick or treating” and they were outside
when the fire started in Elmer’s room. One of Elmer’s friends was in
the room changing his clothes, he was known to smoke, and some
surmise that he left a cigarette lying around. They had to rebuild,
and this time it was an adobe house. It was four big square rooms,
and later John added porch all the way around the house.
John was a good provider of food, but he certainly took in all the
stray and lonely people. Many times he picked up a hobo on the way
home for whom Annie fixed a meal, but she was always cheerful about
it and wouldn’t have it any other way. John was a scratch dirt
farmer, he made money from tilling the ground and selling the
produce. He would cut hay for people or any other type of job he
could muster. He tried to grow vegetables on his Main Street
property, but the ground was too bad. he cleared some land down in
Lehi, and there he grew some of his best crops. The kids were always
involved with cleaning and preparing the vegetables for market.
Annie and her sisters made their own soap. They saved up bacon
grease and other fat products, then made the soap using lye. Aunt
Lou and Annie made “pert” near all the soap.
Washing was done in the back yard in No. 3 wash tubs. One tub, the
black tub, was filled with water and propped on three or four large
rocks placed over an open mesquite or cottonwood fire, which was why
it was black . Lye was added to soften the water producing a white
foamy scum which was skimmed off before the soap was added. The
clothes were soaked and prodded, then the more seriously soiled were
rubbed on the board. Two rinses, one clear and one blued, took the
soap out and the bright Arizona sun did the rest. Annie’s washing
was always neat and clean.
August 14, 1913, Lue Annie, called Lute, married Ralph Vince
Matthews. She was just 18 when they married. Late in 1914 a typhoid
epidemic cut a wide swath through the Valley, taking many lives.
Three of the Coleman children contracted the disease, Philip, 16;
Carl, 12; and Lottie 9. Carl died first, Nov. 15, 1914. The last
time the doctor came to see Carl, he started to leave, then turned
to Annie and said, “Mrs. Coleman, this looks like it.”
One month later Annie was standing at the foot of the bed of a very
sick and dying Phil when she heard him say, “See, mother, there’s
Carl right there reaching his hand out to me. he’s right there
waiting for me.”
Annie endured much. Lottie escaped death, but did suffer a great
deal. She lost all of her hair and lost so much weight that Naomi
remarked that when she put her socks on after her recovery, they
fell clear to her ankles. Lottie fully recovered and lived a long
and fruitful life.
Jan. 20, 1915 Annie gave birth to her twelfth child, Morris Wayne.
By this time her health was deteriorating. At times she could hardly
breathe. Even with her sickness she still desired to have one more
child, and she did, July 6, 1917. They called the baby Iris. Naomi
said, “Mother had a kidney infection called uremic poisoning. Some
of her sisters died of the same thing. I remember how scared we all
were about it. I was hanging out a few clothes and she was sitting
in the back door where she could breathe better. She was having an
awful time breathing, and I just kept watching her and watching her.
My heart just cried out to her. I could hardly stand it. I was such
a little girl and I didn’t realize things were happening like they
were. I was only about fourteen years old.”
One month later, August 8, 1917, Annie passed away in the home of
her sister, Lucretia Pomeroy. The listed cause of death was “Brights
Disease,” also called "Dropsy" back then, an accumulation of body
fluids in the tissues usually caused by cardiac insufficiency. Lute
and Ralph and Elmer and Mattie, who were married November 1919,
moved in with John to help with the kids. In 1920, John married Ann
Brimhall Jones, a widow, affectionately known as Aunt Ann. They
moved to Lehi and spent many years there, then moved further east
out on the desert. later they moved to a home on 20 acres east of
Stapley on University. John passed away Aug. 12, 1938.