A Few Paragraphs taken from Grandma Janet Mauretta Johnson’s History. (Written by her daughter Margaret Fife Jensen)
Enough cannot be said in praise and appreciation for those brave, courageous Pioneer Mothers who helped build up the waste places for coming generations, shoulder to shoulder with their husbands, willingly faced privations and hardships, even death.
Janet, the 3rd wife of Jesse Nathaniel Smith was one of those women. She was born just 6 weeks after her father, Joel Hills Johnson and Mother Janet Fife Johnson crossed the plains into the Valley. She was born into a large family; consequently she learned many skills to help make the living. She learned to card, spin and weave wool. She wove the cloth for all her sheets and pillow cases, towels, table cloths, etc., and her wedding dress.
Janet had many suitors but did not consider any seriously until Jesse J. came to woo her. He proposed to her under her father’s apple tree. She accepted him on the condition it was agreeable with Aunt Emmie, his first wife. The day she was married in the Endowment house, Heber C. Kimball whispered to her that she was getting the right man. After moving to Parowan, they had been married two years when Jesse N. was called on his 2nd mission to Denmark. Five weeks later their first, a baby girl was born.
Jesse N. had been counseled by Brigham Young to bring home another wife, which he did. Augusta Maria Outzen was her name and she was received with love and confidence into the family circle. Later her second daughter Ellen Mauretta was born. She died when 11 mos. old, August 1, 1872.
The call came six years later to go to Arizona and start pioneering all over again. Jesse N. was advised to take Janet and family with him. These were dark days for her, having just buried her little girl, and being called to leave her dear home and facing she knew not what. Who cannot say it took the fortitude of a Pioneer and the courage and strength of a true Saint to give up all and say, “Yes, I will go with you.”
On Dec. 3, 1878, they started. There were five children, the youngest but three months old, all in one wagon together with provisions and a few household effects. It took six weeks, facing all kinds of inclement weather, traveling in mid-winter through barren wastes, making new roads as they went. Their first shelter that winter after they arrived was a wagon box, this being their only home until logs could be cut and hauled from the mountains 20 miles away. Their first home was two rooms with no furniture. They soon had chairs, tables and benches built from sections of split logs and boards. Apostle Woodruff came to stay with them one winter. Janet couldn’t give him a private room but she felt he should have a desk to write on, so she made a large bench for a writing place. Elder Woodruff said, “Sister Smith, you could make a palace out of a shovel.”
Jesse N. went back to Utah for the rest of his family; she shared her small house with them, also using extra wagon boxes and tents until another home could be built. Janet said: “Nursing seemed to come natural to me; I was set apart by Apostle John Henry Smith to be a midwife and nurse in the community.” For 20 years she helped bring hundreds of babies into the world besides taking care of the sick everywhere, like an administering angel. She always went wherever she was called in humility and depended on the Lord to help her. Her prayers of faith healed the sick when no other power could save them. She received little or no remuneration, yet in the years that have gone by, she has been remembered in the hearts of many, whose pain has been soothed and who found comfort through her administration.
Besides her nursing away from home, Janet raised a family of twelve daughters and one son. She also helped her husband’s other families throughout their sicknesses. On account of public duties, Jesse N. was away from home much of the time, so Janet and her little girls were left to their own resources.
A natural bon home maker in every sense, she was creative, artistic, clean and orderly. She never spared her strength for the comfort and well being of her family, friends and neighbors. She was a cook of rare skill. The contents of her pantry might have been likened to “Old Mother Hubbard’s” cupboards, but she seemed to have the magic power to find enough to make such good wholesome things to eat. She was a splendid gardener, and always had extra for unfortunate neighbors. Her beds of beautiful flower were known and praised all over the countryside.
She knew how to make hats, and sold them for extra money. She made and sold hundreds of yards of rag carpets and rugs. She sewed all of her children’s cloths; half-soled and repaired shoes for her children and the neighbors; made tallow candles and soap. She was unusually skillful with her needle. She spun yarn, knitted and dyed the stocking; also crocheted hoods and shawls which her children wore. She was generous to a fault, and would give of her substance when actually in need herself.
Notwithstanding her many duties, she always took time to teach and train her children, instilling in them habits of industry and helpfulness. She never spoiled or pampered them. She was careful about their moral training, teaching them by example and precept to be honest, upright and loyal citizens. She was very active in civic and church work. She also cared for her aged Mother Janet Fife Johnson, the last 15 years of her life; six years of which she was helpless, but never did a Mother receive a more kind and tender care.
The last 35 years of her life she suffered severely from rheumatism, but still maintained the independence of her former years by doing her own work, with the help of some of her grandchildren. When she became to lame to walk, she pieced many quilt blocks and made quilts for her grandchildren.
When she could no longer read or sew, she told stories of the pioneer days and sang songs to amuse the children.
This mother was one of the many hundreds of unsung heroines who faithfully and undauntingly trod the seemingly endless train made by those pioneers who built up the frontiers. Their toil, unselfishness, trials, courage, faithfulness, can never be overestimated. What a priceless heritage they have bequeathed to us their descendants.
Here is a eulogy by a son-in-law, Nephi Jensen: “Such was the faith of this noble Mother. A courageous Pioneer, a true friend of humanity, a self-forgetting angel of mercy, a devoted Saint who bequeathed to her numerous posterity her sterling quality of greatness. They owe her an everlasting debt of gratitude.”
Through all her strenuous work and hardships she always turned to God in whom she had perfect trust and confidence. She worked shoulder to shoulder with the one to whom she plighted her troth, and to her and her children, his life and work is a sacred memory.
May God bless the memory of this noble Pioneer Mother