Elvira Pamela Mills was born in Nelson, Portage County, Ohio, 2 March,1820. She was the older of the two children of Robert Mills and Rhoda Hulet. Her brother Fred was born 7 December 1825.
In 1844, when the Prophet was killed, Fred was working for Father Cutler sawing lumber for the Nauvoo Temple. They did not come west with Brigham Young.
As a soldier in the Civil War, Fred was captured and imprisoned in Awful Andersonville, where thousands died of poor food, exposure, and disease. The prison was a fenced field with guards to shoot anyone who stepped too close to the fence. There, by a miracle a spring broke out on top of a hill, the only place where the water would not be contaminated by contagious disease.
After the war, he married Hattie Helsar. Their two sons never married.
While spinning and weaving wool, grandma liked to tell us stories about her people.
Her grandfather Sylvanus Hulet was one eighth Indian and had been a soldier in the Revolution. He bought land in Ohio in 1814, moved to Nelson, and died there when Elvira was age four.
Her grandfather, Thomas Delaun Mills, died there the same year. At age18, Delaun had come to the "Connecticut Reserve" in Northern Ohio to survey farms for Revolutionary soldiers. After his summer's work as an axman, he chose for pay the 160 acres on which they had built a cabin. He returned East, married Sophia Latimer, and with his wife and baby, Robert, riding a horse, he walked back to Ohio.
The printed history calls him "The Daniel Boone of Portage County, Ohio."It says, "In spite of all the stories they tell about him, we do not believe he killed seven Indians every morning before breakfast, piled them on his woodpile, and set it on fire so the other Indians would not find their bodies and take revenge."
Delaun's widowed sister, Climena Mills Wilcox, with her son-in-law, her daughter, and their baby had moved west near to Delaun. One winter morning at daybreak, they saw neighbors homes burning. The Indians were killing the Whites as they rushed out.
Breakfast was on the table. Aunt Climena put strichnine in the cider.Then they all crawled through the trap door into the potato cellar underneath.In case the baby cried, Aunt Climena kept her fingers on the baby's throat.
The hungry Indians sneaked up to the house. Not finding anyone, they ate the food and drank the cider. Then the Whites heard them kicking around on the floor above.
Soon all grew quiet.
They loaded the seven dead Indians onto the ox sled and hauled them to the river, chopped a hole in the ice, and patiently pushed them in. Aunt Climena dragged the last Indian over by his long hair and said as she pushed him in, "In you go, you old devil!"
In 1794, President Washington sent General Wayne to Ohio to whip the Indians. As they signed the peace treaty he told them, "If you ever begin killing Whites again, I'll get out of my grave and lead an army against you."Some of grandma's descendants are named "Wayne."
Both her father Robert and her grandmother Mary Lewis Hulet died in August when Elvira was seven. Then her Uncle, Sylvester Hulet, cared for his two widowed sisters, Rhoda and Charlotte, with their three orphan children.
Uncle Sylvester was a Lieutenant in the Mormon Batallion. In Manti he had many tiny saws and made combs out of cow's horns. He had no children. He died in Manti in the early fall of 1888.
In Ohio were thousands of mounds built long ago, also an orchard of sugar maple trees planted in straight rows.
They heard the story that Joseph Smith had found a book written by civilized people who once lived in America.In January, 1830, Uncle Sylvester traveled 175 miles to New York to learn about them. There, in March, before the church was organized, he was baptized. He brought a Book of Mormon back with him for the Hulets to read.
When Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson; and Parley P. Pratt came to Ohio as missionaries, the Hulets were among the first to be baptized in October 1830. Grandma said Oliver Cowdery was the best preacher she ever heard in her life.
When Joseph Smith moved to Ohio in January 1831, he told them that children should be baptized when eight, so in February 1831, Elvira, almost eleven, and the other Hulet children were baptized.
Church history says that the Prophet once ate dinner at the Hulet settlement in Nelson.
Before they moved to Jackson County, her Aunt Harriet Streeter Mills, in May, 1831, gave Elvira a book to write in as a journal or diary. In this she wrote genealogy, poems, patriarchal blessings, etc. She received her own patriarchal blessing from Father Morley in Far West in 1837.
[Note by Esther Smith, daughter of O C Day: Elvira Pamela Mills and her husband, Orville Sutherland Cox, are our pioneers who arrived in Utah in 1847. She brought 10 common pins across the plains. Two years later she still had those same ten pins. She hated laziness. My Dad, O. C. Day, often told how as a four-year-old visiting her house, she would give him a cookie, then a bucket to gather kindling. When the bucket was filled with wood chips, she threw it back into the yard and handed Dad the empty bucket to refill.
She never wrote a diary nor a journal nor her life story. She did, however, keep a little scrapbook (about 6X9 inches, tan colored) that she cherished. It had Elvira�s and Orville�s hair when they were young twined into a love-knot. It had poems that she enjoyed, written in her own hand-writing.]
Before our home was burned October 18 1953, we had the book microfilmed. It is listed in the genealogy library under "Album." [ Genealogical Library Film #000040, �Album of Elvira Mills Cox�.]
Before the mobbers rode against the Mormons in Independence, they had a keg of whiskey. Then with pockets full of rocks and guns blazing they rode a mile west into the Mormon town.
The frightened women ran for the woods. Aunt Charlotte, carrying her sleeping girl, fell behind, so she opened a ripened cornshock and with a silent prayer laid the baby on the ground. Two hours later she found her still asleep.
Next day, 13 year-old Elvira curled the baby's pretty hair, put on her nice apron, and set her on the gate post as the leader of the mob came riding down the road on his big black stallion.
"Come over here," said Elvira. When she told him about the little girl he wiped tears from his eyes.
The night of October 31, 1833, the Mormons were driven from their homes in Jackson County by mobs. The Hulets got into a boat to cross to the north side of the Missouri River into Clay County.
A man with guns met them at the shore and said, "You'uns can't land here."
One woman, wringing her hands, said, "Oh, where shall we go?"
"Go to Hell!"
They floated on down the river and landed at a grove of leafless trees,which would give them some protection from the cold night wind. Afraid to build a fire, they huddled together for a little warmth. The rain turned to sleet and then to snow.
Next morning they separated to hunt work for winter food and shelter.
Grandma Rhoda, with a good Massachusetts education, decided to teach a"Dame's School." So with her two children she walked till she found an old abandoned house where the family lived in a new house nearby.
She asked the lady, "May I teach school in your old house this winter?" He paid Rhoda for teaching his children, a hundred pounds of corn meal for bread, a ham, side meat, and he got his neighbors to send their children to her school.
He was the same man who told them, "Go to Hell!"
The Whitmers lived there in Clay County. After Christian Whitmer died, UncleSylvester married his widow.Grandma stopped telling a story of Mother Whitmer 'till 1900 when B. H.Roberts printed it in his "New Witness for God." Then she said, "I'm so glad I can tell it again."
David Whitmer had invited Joseph and Oliver to live in his father's home while translating the Book of Mormon. When Oliver's hand and Joseph's eyes grew tired they went to the woods for a rest. There they often skated rocks on a pond.
Mother Whitmer, with five grown sons and a husband to care for, besides visitors, often grew tired. She thought they might just as well carry her a bucket of water or chop a bit of wood as to skate rocks on a pond. She was about to order them out of her home.One morning, just at daybreak, she came out of her cow stable with two full buckets of milk in her hands, when a short, heavy-set, gray-haired man carrying a package met her and said,
"My name is Moroni. You have become pretty tired with all the extra work you have to do. The Lord has given me permission to show you this record," turning the golden leaves one by one.
Grandma knew the Martin Harris family.
The Angel Moroni had warned Joseph Smith that if the plates were lost through any carelessness of his, he would be cut off, but if he did his best, they would be protected. For a time, they were hidden under the hearth stone. Then, fearing the mob would find them, he hid them in a hollow tree.
Mrs. Harris, living a mile away, had a great curiosity to see the plates, so she began looking for them in every hollow tree. Moroni met her and warned her to go back or something bad would happen.
"I won't go back."
The biggest black snake she ever saw came after her.
In the Hulet settlement in Clay County they had the Gift of Tongues almost every Sunday. During the week two women, who had the Gift, quarreled. By Sunday they had not forgiven each other. They quarreled in the Gift of Tongues in church. Grandma said it was the most horrible evil feeling she ever felt in her life.
Church history says Joseph Smith visited the Hulet Settlement and warned them to be careful of the Gift of Tongues, for the devil could use it as well as the Lord.
Grandma Rhoda, not yet 42, died in Far West, August 1, 1837, a martyr for her faith.
When the Mormons were driven from Far West in the winter of 1838-39, and our folks traveled east 200 miles through the cold and mud, Orville helped them, always singing and laughing. Though she loved him Elvira refused to marry him for he was not a Mormon.
They lived in the Morley settlement, 30 miles south of Nauvoo, partly in Hancock and partly in Adams County.
Elvira married Orville October 3, 1839; he was baptized October 6.
In Bountiful in 1848 Orville S. Cox was the first Bishop. Crickets destroyed their wheat; but they say Brother Shoemakers' crop came up again and they harvested 15 bushels per acre; again, ten bushels; a fourth time, only three inches high, five more bushels.
In pioneer Utah, grandma was set apart as a midwife. She was often asked to choose a name for the baby: thus, "Pamela De Fries," "Rhoda and Sophia Stevens," "Climena Mower," "Homer Sidwell," etc.
Usually she worked 18 hours each day; if up all night, she worked the nextday just the same.
When Chief Walker asked Brigham Young to send Mormons to settle Sanpete, he asked if he could marry a white woman.
"Well, if you can find one that will have you."
In Manti his heart was captivated by the flaming red hair of a fifteen year old girl. She had washed the dishes and cleaned up the house while the rest worked in the field. Through the open door she saw Chief Walker coming, all dressed in his feathers and finery, and followed by fifty slaves with fifty horses.
"Yours," he said, pointing. If she would marry him she could be his headwife, mistress of the others; or he would get rid of the others and she could be his only wife.
What dared she answer?
If she said "No" he might kill her and her parents and all the Whites.
"Why, I can't, I'm already married."
Who dared she claim? Perhaps her sister's newly married husband.
"Peacock!" said Walker as he jabbed his big butcher knife clean throughthe table. He left.
She ran to the field and told her father. He told Bishop Morley.
"Mustn't lie to an Injin; mustn't lie to an Injin; have to make it true." Peacock and his wife consented, so Morley performed the ceremony. Then they sent a young man on their fastest horse to Salt Lake to tell Brigham. He changed horses at Nephi, Payson, Provo, Lehi.
"Eat a bite and sleep a bit; I'll have you called," said Brigham. And in a few hours, "Tell the Manti people to barbecue a beef for the Indians. And send the young couple to Salt Lake,"
So, as they said, "They put a beef plaster on Chief Walker's broken heart."
The Indians came galloping into Manti dragging a nine-year-old Indian boy they had kidnapped and lassoed. He would run just as fast as he could, but fall and be dragged. He never cried lest they kill him.
How the crual Indians did laugh!
The poor little orphan would beg a bit of mush from the Whites. At night he would build a tiny fire in the sage brush, then carefully scrape away the hot embers and lie down to sleep on the warmed ground. One cold freezing morning he did not appear. The whites were much surprized to find an Indian could be frozen to death.
The Indians' custom was to kill the old useless grandmothers. They built a "pigpen" house and shut three old squaws in it to starve. In a few days they had died. The whites dared not interfere.
Walker decided his mother had lived long enough and started on her with his butcher knife. She was the mother of seven Indian chiefs. But she was not as feeble as he supposed. She got away and hid in the cattails by Sanpitch Creek for a week.
She came for help to grandma, who washed with warm water the seven big matterated cuts on her arms and breasts, then put on home made salve of equal parts mutton tallow, bees wax, and soft pine gum.She kept saying, "Walkarrah, Walkarrah!" She thought it was terrible that he considered her no longer useful.
Grandma brought two pounds of sugar across the plains. It lasted two years and was used for medicinal purposes only. She had some three sided surgical needles and white silk thread which proved most useful for sewing up wounds. But since the pioneers had so little sugar to eat, wounds would not heal nor knit. Grandma put pounded sugar and rosin in a wound to make it knit.
They boiled beet juice from garden beets to get beet syrup. They pounded corn stalks and twisted the corn stalks by hand to get the sweet juice. We children were still chewing and twisting corn stalks after 1890 for the sweetness. They got sorghum seed and raised sorghum cane for molasses.
In Manti in 1854 when Uncle Orv (Orville M) was six, he was kicked by a horse and brought to grandma for dead with a five inch gash in his head.
"He'll be all right," she said. "Bring me my hussif (housewife) so I can sew it up without hurting him while he is still unconscious."
She had a natural gift with the sick. She used peach leaves and bark from young peach shoots to make a tea for sore throat. She kept dried bundles of herbs hanging in the attic, for winter use: yarrow for headache; hoarhound for colds; catnip and peppermint for stomach ache; rhubarb roots for constipation; burdock roots for boils; etc. What better remedies do they have today?
Grandma raised madder roots for red dye; she got yellow from rabbit brush and golden rod flowers; brown from pine bark and bark from squaw berry roots; she kept a dyepot for blue.The valentine poem said,
"Roses are red, violets are blue,She tied corn husks tight around woolen yarn before dyeing it to give home knit stockings a mottled appearance.
The dyepot stinks and so do you. "
About 1862, grandpa moved from Manti to North Bend, now Fairview.
During the Civil War, cotton goods became very scarce. So Brigham started the cotton Mission down on the Muddy, near Boulder Dam, 100 miles from Saint George. Over a mountain of sand where wagon wheels sank six to ten inches, down cliffs where they took the wagon apart and let each wheel down with a rope,they traveled only eight or ten miles a day.
In 1865, with wives Mary and Eliza, and sons Al, Delaun, and Walt, Grandpa moved to the Muddy. In 1868 Elvira went.
"Army Grasshoppers" caused several famines in Utah. After eating everything green in one valley they seemed to send out scouts and then flew many miles in great clouds that darkened the sun.
About September 1st each hopper dug a hole and laid hundreds of eggs, and died.
On the Muddy, hoppers took everything. But potatoes came up again and made a fair crop. They saved barely enough wheat for seed. But what of next year when all those eggs hatched?
The people fasted and prayed.
September turned excessively hot. Hen's eggs buried in the sand cooked in an hour, and tasted delicious.All those grasshopper eggs were melted.
Eating potatoes and milk with no bread for six months became very monotonous.
People lived on the bench to avoid mosquitoes and sickness, and farmed the rich lowland soil.Squaws helped pick cotton. Grandma kept saying, "Hurry, Tryphena."The squaws made a little song:
"Sun gone awayand home they went.
Neenie pike way"
Four children died on the Muddy; Philemon age 13, two of Eliza's babies, Lucinda and Sarah Jane, and Mary's Lucy; grandma became very ill from bad drinking water and heat. So after two years she moved back to "North Bend."
In 1872 Grandpa moved to Orderville with Mary and Eliza. It was not so easy there. So each year grandpa took down a load of wheat and a long bolt of cloth from Fairview. The cloth, woven at home, came from their own sheep. If weaving was not all done and the loom and spinning wheel put away by Christmas, Aunt Phena felt pretty bad.
In Orderville, the flume across a gully leaked and washed out. Grandpa got a big pine tree, chopped a trough, and put it there. After 70 years it was still doing good service.
When Sanpete was surveyed, the people of Fairview were told they owned city lots on the West Hills and someone else owned their homes. So grandpa homesteaded 160 acres north west of town to save the land for the owners. He built a house three blocks north of his old log home, and grandma and Euphrasia slept there to fulfill the homestead law.
One night a mountain lion, prowling around hunting fresh mutton, woke them up.
"Don't stop to dress; grab your clothes and come," said grandma.
Next morning the mutton was gone.
About 1876 with rabbits and deer so scarce, the hungry Indians under Chief Black Hawk decided to help themselves to the white men's cattle. Grandma and Euphrasia were working in the garden. They heard Father Kelsey coming up the west Sanpitch road, his oxen galloping with half a loadof hay, yelling at the top of his voice, "Get your guns and go! Injins are killing the herders and driving off the cattle! Get your guns and go!"
He drove into his yard (later Sorenson's) grabbed his gun, jumped on his mule, grabbed his frying pan, and back west he rode beating his mule with the frying pan.
The three herders died full of arrows. The cattle were stampeded over the divide into Thistle Valley and farther. Few cows were ever recovered.
After the order broke up in Orderville, Mary moved to Huntington; Eliza moved to Tropic; and grandpa, old and worn out, to Fairview. He had pioneered Lima in Illinois; Salt Lake, Bountiful, Manti, Mayfield, Gunnison, and Fairview in Utah; St. Thomas, St. Joseph, and Overton in Nevada; and Glenwood, Mt. Carmel, Orderville, and Tropic in Utah. He had seen the mantle of Joseph fall on Brigham and had been the first bishop of Bountiful.
He brought across the plains blacksmith tools, gimlets, saws, and augers; he made ox yokes and bows, sawed lumber, made nails, horse shoes, and barrel hoops and repaired wagons and guns.
Gunpowder was made from sulfur mined in Utah, with charcoal, and saltpeter crystalized from barnyard manure. Bullets were made from Utah lead; but caps must be brought from St. Louis.
Uncle Sylvester had a turning lathe and a scroll saw. He made spinning wheels and looms, wooden buckets, tubs, churns, and barrels, and butter bowls.
Grandpa died in Fairview July 4, 1888.
In August, her boys sent grandma back to a big Mills reunion in Ohio. There her Uncle Homer read a lot of Mills genealogy he had gathered.
"What are you going to do with that genealogy?" she asked.
"Here Elvira, you may have it."
That was the beginning of our Mills genealogy.
In 1892 grandma was still saving every scrap of bread for fear of famine. She toasted it in her oven and hung it in flour sacks in the attic.
She saved quaking asp ashes in barrels of water and used the water to make soap with fat and tallow she had saved.
We grand children visited her by the dozen. First she gave us a piece of squash pie or a cookie. Then she gave us work.
We helped make tallow candles; we brought wood to boil soap. At age four, we could wind yarn into a ball or stamp on wool to clean it in a home made tub with home made soap, and afterward pick the dry chunks of wool to pieces. At seven we could card it into bats for quilts; at ten, card the bats into rolls for spinning; at eleven, knit socks; at twelve, spin; and at thirteen we could weave.
We peeled sweet thistle tops and ate them, dug segoes, found "wild tomato flowers" and ate flowers, buds, and tender leaves. We dug long "Indian potatoes."
Little Homer Sidwell, age five, used to sing:
"Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the jews,
He took off his slippers and put on his shoes."
Grandma prized very highly the 1847-1897 gold medal given her in that jubilee year.
She often sent East to a factory for "thread ends" two to four feet long, which we children pulled out, and threaded all her needles on.
She considered "shiftlessness" a major sin. But she was very generous.She was slim and tall, five feet six or seven inches, with gray eyes and straight gray hair that had been black.
She was bedfast for several years before her death 18 February, 1903. She was buried beside her husband in the old Fairview grave yard.
We loved her.
-- Orville Cox Day, Grandson --
From Nauvoo Records Office:
|Person ID||I42580||Early Latter-day Saints|
|Last Modified||07 Feb 2007|
|Family||Robert Frederick Mills|
|Family ID||F3620||Group Sheet|