Orville Cox Day b. 1 Jun 1885
Eli Day - Elvira Euphrasia Cox b. 19 May 1864
Orville S. Cox - Elvira Pamela Mills b. 2 Mar 1820
Robert Mills - Rhoda Hulet b. 8 Nov 1795 d. 1 Aug 1837
Elvira Pamela Mills was born in Ohio in 1820 where her ancestors had been among the very first settlers over forty years earlier. At the age of 18, her grandfather, Thomas Delaun Mills, had gone to the "Connecticut Reserve" in Northern Ohio to survey farms for Revolutionary soldiers. After the summer's work as an axeman, he decided he would like to make his home there. For his pay he chose 160 acres on which they had built a cabin in Portage County. He returned East, married Sophia Lattimer, and convinced her to go with him to Ohio. By the time they left they had a baby son, Robert (Elvira's father). Sophia and the baby rode a horse and Delaun walked the entire distance. There were no roads, so the young couple had to blaze a trail through the dense woods as they traveled.
In a printed history of the area, Delaun was called "the Daniel Boone of Portage County, Ohio". The history then adds, "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."
Perhaps the story stemmed from an experience Delaun's widowed sister had with the Indians. Climena Mills Wilcox, with her son-in-law, her daughter and their baby had moved west near Delaun and Sophie. One winter morning at daybreak they saw their neighbors' homes burning and the Indians killing the terrified settlers as they ran outside. Breakfast was on the table and Aunt Climena quickly put strychnine in the cider. Then they all crawled into the potato cellar underneath the floor. The hungry Indians soon sneaked into the house. Not finding anyone at home, they ate the food and drank the cider. It was not long until the family heard kicking and thrashing around on the floor above----then all grew quiet. They loaded the seven dead Indians onto the ox sled, 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!"
Elvira's father, Robert Mills, grew up on the farm and married Rhoda Hulet. Elvira was their first child and she was born March 2, 1820 in Nelson, Portage County, Ohio, in a log house with woods all around. She often talked about the joy of growing up in the woods, especially describing the days of maple sugar boiling. She said the maple trees grew in patches of 5 or 10 acres, with one patch in about every ½ square mile. She thought this was evidence that the trees were set out by human hands, perhaps the Book of Mormon people.
Elvira's mother had rather poor health, and Elvira's father died when she was only seven years old, leaving her frail mother to care for Elvira and little one-year-old Fredrick. They would have been in desperate circumstances, but Rhoda's brother Sylvester, took them under his wing and became like a father to the two children. Incidentally, he also cared for another widowed sister, Charlotte, and her daughter, as well as his youngest brother's son. The children always spoke of him affectionately as "Uncle Vester".
1.2 Conversion and Persecution
About the time of Elvira's father's death, rumors of revelations and visions were abroad in the land, and Sylvester became very curious. In January of 1830 he traveled 175 miles to New York to find Joseph Smith and learn what kind of a man he was. He listened with faith to the accounts of heavenly visitations and wholeheartedly accepted Joseph as a prophet of God. He purchased one of the first editions of the Book of Mormon and was baptized.
In the meantime, Oliver Cowdrey, Ziba Peterson, and Parley P. Pratt went to Ohio as missionaries. Sylvester's family, the Hulets, were among the first to be baptized in October of 1830.
Elvira said Oliver Cowdrey was the best preacher she had ever heard in her life, but she was not baptized until February 1831 at age 11 after they heard Joseph Smith teach that children should be baptized at age eight.
When Jackson County, Missouri, was proclaimed the center stake of Zion, Elvira's mother sold her home and farm and migrated to Missouri, accompanied by Aunt Charlotte and her small son. Sylvester and others of the Hulet family settled near them. It was called the Hulet settlement and Church History tells that the gift of tongues was wonderfully manifest there. But one week, two women who had the gift quarreled. By Sunday they had not forgiven each other and they quarreled in tongues. Elvira said it was the most horrible, evil feeling she had ever felt in her life. Elvira and Sylvester both had the gift of tongues, but after that they seldom used it. Later, the Prophet Joseph Smith visited the Hulet settlement and warned them to be very careful of the gift of tongues, for Satan could use it as well as the Lord.
In 1833 when Elvira was 13 years old, some mobbers had obtained a keg of whiskey. When they had consumed enough to build up their courage, they filled their pockets with rocks. With blazing guns in hand, they rode a mile west into the Hulet settlement. The frightened women ran for their lives through the cornfields into the woods. Charlotte, who was carrying her little sleeping daughter, fell behind the others. Fearing the mob would catch her, she opened a shock of corn, said a silent prayer, laid her baby on the ground, closed the opening, and ran on. Two hours later when things were quiet again, she found the child still asleep and unharmed.
The next day Elvira curled the baby's pretty hair, put on her nice apron, and set her on the gatepost as the leader of the mob came riding down the road on his big stallion. He had sobered up by then and stopped to pass the time of day with Elvira, remarking how pretty the child was. She told him what a harrowing time the baby had endured the night before, and was gratified to see him wipe a tear from his eye.
The Saints were driven from Jackson County October 31, 1833. Sylvester took his family and a few others into a boat and ferried them across the river. When they reached the landing on the Clay County side, a number of mobbers had gathered there and would not let them land. Charlotte, nervous and frightened, wrung her hands and cried, "Oh where shall we go?" A big Missourian with powder blackened face, barked back at her, "Go to Hell!"
Sylvester backed the boat out into the river and floated down stream. He found a place to land where the timber came to the waters edge and they all climbed safely to shore. They were partly hidden under the trees, which also provided some protection from the cold rain, but they did not dare make a fire. Scantily dressed, they huddled together, having only one quilt and a few wraps. They spent a miserable night as the rain turned to sleet and then to snow.
When morning finally came they were hungry as well as cold, and decided to separate among the settlers and seek employment and shelter. Rhoda Hulet Mills had a good Massachusetts education, and decided to teach a "Dame's School".
She and Elvira and Fredrick walked until they found an old abandoned house where a family lived in a new house nearby. Rhoda knocked on the door and asked the lady if she could teach school in the old house for the winter. The lady, a Mrs. Griggs, said she would have to ask her husband when he returned home. Then she invited them in and made them welcome as was customary with pioneer people when strangers came to their door. She fed them a generous breakfast of corn dodgers and bacon. Imagine how good those corn cakes and greasy meat must have tasted to the poor chilled family who had been out in the rain and cold, terror-stricken all the night long. It probably didn't even bother them that Mrs. Griggs spat tobacco juice over the skillet or knocked away the dogs that kept sticking their noses into the meat.
Seven-year-old Fred quickly made friends with the Griggs' son, who was about the same age. They chopped wood together and in a few hours became good playmates. In the afternoon when Mr. Griggs came home, his young son ran to him asking, "Daddy, can this little Mormon boy come and live with us?"
Mr. Griggs answered rather gruffly, "I dunno, we'll see." As he turned toward them, Rhoda and her children were startled to recognize the same man, who the night before had said, "Go to Hell!"
Grandma Rhoda must have breathed a sigh of relief when he grudgingly agreed to let them live in the old house for the winter. His heart evidently softened considerably, for he dragged and chopped wood for them and sent 4 or 5 children to Rhoda for schooling. He paid her generously, mostly in beans, corn meal, and bacon, and recommended her as a fine schoolmarm. Eventually, he secured a number of other pupils for her from among his friends.
The Griggs had five girls and two of the little ones became great favorites of Elvira. She washed their heads regularly, thereby getting out the lice, kept their wavy locks in ringlets, fixed over their dresses, keeping them neat and pretty, and fussed over them as only a baby-loving girl of 13 can. Elvira never forgot one day when she had the three-year-old looking especially pretty. Mrs. Griggs said, "You'uns can have that young-un fur yours if yous' wants her." Some gift! As long as they stayed at the Griggs place Elvira claimed the little girl for her very own both night and day.
As always, the time came when the Mormons were told to move on and it was a wrench for Elvira to part with her little proteges. Twice afterwards she was given a similar "gift" and each time she had to leave behind a child she had come to love dearly.
Their next home was in Far West, and it was there Rhoda's frail body gave out. She was laid to rest somewhere between Clay County and Lima, Illinois. Elvira was 17 years old when she became an orphan and once more lived with Uncle Vester. Soon after this, Christian Whitmer died and Sylvester married his widow.
1.3 Early Church Leaders
Elvira told the following story about Sylvester's mother-in-law, "Mother Whitmer": David Whitmer invited Joseph and Oliver to live in his parent'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. While there they often skated rocks on a pond. Mother Whitmer, with five grown sons, a husband and many visitors to care for, often grew very weary. She felt a bit resentful when she saw Joseph and Oliver skating rocks on the pond, thinking they might just as well have been carrying her a bucket of water or chopping some wood. She was about to order them out of her house, when, one morning just at daybreak, she had a remarkable experience. As she came out of the stable with two full buckets of milk, a short, heavy-set, gray-haired man 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", and he turned the leaves of the golden plates one by one.
Many people would look at Grandma Elvira rather skeptically when she told this story, and she knew they did not believe her. She decided not to tell it anymore, but in 1900 B. H. Roberts printed it in his "New Witness for God." She was so happy to have the story verified that she gladly told it over and over after that.
Elvira was also well acquainted with 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. However, if he did his best they would be protected. He hid them in various places, for a time under the hearthstone, and then in a hollow tree. Mrs. Harris lived three miles away and had a great curiosity to see the plates, and she began searching in every hollow tree she could find. One day Moroni met her and warned her to go back or something bad would happen. She refused to turn back and Moroni disappeared. Soon the biggest, blackest snake she had ever seen came after her and she ran, abandoning her search.
1.4 Miraculous Healing
Elvira, along with the other women of the Hulet household, heard the shooting at the battle of Crooked River when Philo Dibble was shot. He passed their house and staggered on. Elvira and a few other women followed him home to offer their assistance. She was present at the administration to Brother Dibble when he was miraculously healed. She said it was her first opportunity to witness the ordinance of administration and also the first healing in this dispensation.
Elvira was among the Saints at Far West when Colonel Hinkle promised they would be safe from the Missourians if they would deliver up their arms and ammunition rather than try to defend themselves. She often told how cold that late October day was. She remembered wondering why Hinkle carried his coat on his arm all day instead of wearing it. Later she learned it was a sign to the mob not to shoot him. She heard his speech to the mob and the Missouri Militia when he betrayed the brethren. She heard him say, "Gentlemen, here are the men I agreed to deliver to you." When she heard the exuberant shout of the Missourians her heart was heavy with unspeakable apprehension. It was a bitter pill for the Saints to swallow to realize that Hinkle was a Judas who had betrayed their trust. About 80 of the leading brethren were taken into custody. A deep depression settled over all of the Saints.
In the midst of the gloom and darkness, a ray of gladness came into Elvira's life. A few days after the betrayal, Uncle Sylvester was at work near Far West when a stranger fell in with him and began talking about all of the excitement in Missouri.
1.5 Orville's Parents
This stranger was Orville Sutherland Cox, the fifth of twelve children, born November 25, 1814 in Plymouth, New York. We know little about his early childhood, but his father died when he was 15 years old and he was "bound out" or apprenticed to learn the trade of blacksmith under a Deacon Jones, who was considered an excellent man and a pillar of the church. The agreement was that Orville was to work obediently until he was 21 in exchange for room and board, clothes and three months of school each winter. In addition, Orville would be taught the trade of Blacksmithing. The pious deacon did not keep his part of the bargain. Orville got no schooling at all and one pair of pants was all the clothing he received during the first three years of his apprenticeship. Food was limited, too. The women folk ran a dairy, but he was never allowed a drink of milk, which he loved, because the Mrs. said it made too big a hole in the cheese.
He did get plenty of abusive treatment, though. As for learning the trade, he was only allowed to do the hardest and most menial tasks. He was taught to blow the bellows, using the heavy tongs and sledge; that was all his master would allow him to do. Deacon Jones sometimes went to distant places and Orville secretly used the other tools of the trade and practiced the things his keen eyes had watched the deacon do. He even made himself a pair of skates from pieces of broken nails he had carefully gathered and saved.
Once in awhile he got a chance to show off his skill and it was a welcome relief from the monotony of the bellows. One day oxen were brought to the shop to be shod that had extremely hard hooves, called "glassy hooves". Whenever the deacon tried to drive a nail in, it bent. Orville straightened out the nails over and over, as they were precious articles in those days and must not be discarded merely because they were bent. Finally young Orville begged, "Let me try." He shod the oxen without bending a single nail; thereafter it was his job to shoe all of the oxen that came into the shop, whether they had glassy hooves or not.
After working for Jones a little over three years, Orville came to the conclusion that about all he would ever get from him was more harsh treatment. During one of the Deacon's visits to a distant parish, Orville gathered together his few belongings, a lunch, a homemade gun he had fashioned from discarded parts, and "hit the trail for the tall timber", thinking that would be the least likely place that he would be discovered. Making his way toward the Susquehannah River, he came to the Tioga, a branch of the Susquehannah. As he looked for a way to cross or float down the river, he discovered a log canoe, "sug out" as it was called, frozen in the mud. He decided to confiscate it as a "contraband of war" and pried it up. He was soon floating and paddling down toward the junction of the Tioga and Susquehannah. There he boarded a boat--a stern-wheel packet and saw an orange for the first time in his life among the cargo.
A free man! He felt sure his pursuers would not overtake him now. Food was no problem for him since he was a good shot and game was plentiful. What adventures he had the next few years we can only imagine! As he neared his 24th birthday, Orville was a thorough frontiersman, a lumberman, a splendid blacksmith, a natural born engineer and an all around good fellow. He was a self-taught man and some considered him a genius. He was six feet tall and solidly built.
1.6 Orville Meets Elvira
Orville's travels eventually took him to Far West where he happened upon Sylvester Hulet who was at work near the town. Orville began talking about all of the excitement in Missouri. He said he had been in these parts only a few days but had heard about the awful Mormons. He rejoiced that the leaders of this gang of outlaws, thieves, robbers, murderers and traitors who were in rebellion against the government of the United States and whose president had defied the Missouri State Militia, had finally been arrested.
Uncle Sylvester, being a quiet man, let the stranger talk on and on, elaborating about all he had heard of the terrible Mormons. Finally he asked Sylvester if he knew anything about these strange people. "Yes, I know something about them," he answered. "Would you like to go to their city and see it?" Assuring him there would be no danger since the Mormons had been disarmed, Orville eagerly followed Sylvester.
As the two men came in sight of Far West, Sylvester pointed and said, "There it is, the Mormon city." "Where are the fortifications?" asked Orville.
Sylvester again pointed, "Those three wagons loaded with lumber and that pile of logs."
Orville threw back his head and laughed, a genuine hearty Cox laugh. "If what I've heard of fortifications can come from stuff like that, I wonder if the Mormon crimes have been equally enlarged."
"Very likely," came the terse reply.
"I'd like to get acquainted with the Mormons."
Then Sylvester admitted that he himself was a Mormon and added that he would be glad to have him as a guest in his home for as long as he liked.
(Orville was a thorough frontiersman. He was six feet tall and solidly built.) When the good-looking young man entered the house of the Hulets--the home of widows and orphans--he was immediately attracted to the fair Elvira. She quickly decided he was the best looking man she had ever seen. And who could resist him? He was not only tall and handsome, but he was so cheerful, his laugh came so easily, his wit flowed so readily. He had a natural perceptiveness and soon realized the truth of the whole situation of the Mormons and the Missourians. He was appreciative of the hospitality of the Hulets and made friends with the neighbors, freely lending a helping hand wherever needed. He soon won the hearts of the people in the community. He felt a strong liking for these outcasts and recognized their desire to be true Christians. He came to the conclusion that the real foundation of the hatred of the people of Missouri toward the Mormons was the issue of slavery. Since he agreed that the United States was no place for slavery, he felt the Mormons were kindred spirits of his and he stayed on.
It didn't take long for Orville and Elvira to fall in love, but when he asked her to marry him she refused because he was not a Mormon. She assured him she would gladly become his wife if he would get baptized into the true faith. What the young Elvira didn't know was that Orville had a strong streak of the Cox stubbornness in his makeup and he coldly replied, "I wouldn't think of trying to buy a woman's love or get her for a wife by joining her church."
Elvira's heart sank at his rebuff, but he remained his laughing, teasing, good-natured self. The pall of sadness his flat refusal to become a Mormon had caused soon dissipated and life seemed rosy to Elvira again. He was Uncle Vester's genial friend and he mingled freely with the Latter-day Saints in meetings, dances and other gatherings.
When the Mormons were driven from Far West in the winter of 1838-39, Orville helped the Hulets, who traveled east 200 miles through the cold and mud. He was always singing and laughing and was a joy to have among them. They made their home in the Morley settlement 30 miles south of Nauvoo. In the meantime, Orville's mother, as well as several of his brothers and sisters had heard the restored gospel, were baptized and settled nearby in Lima. Still Orville would not agree to be baptized.
Nearly a year had passed when he again asked Elvira to become his wife. She decided that Mormon or gentile, he was the only man for her and she accepted his proposal. They were married October 3, 1839 by Elder Lyman Wight in Elisha Whiting's home.
Three days later the newlyweds drove 20 miles to the city of Nauvoo and called upon the Prophet, Joseph Smith. Orville asked to be baptized into the church. His request was granted and the Prophet himself led him into the waters of baptism. Elvira was overjoyed to realize he had been converted long before, but didn't want the reputation of joining the Church just to get a wife. It is a good thing Elvira was not as stubborn as Orville or the course of history might have been changed for all of us, their descendants!
1.7 Malaria Fever
Orville proved to be a faithful Saint, full of love and zeal. He was everything Elvira had hoped for in a husband. She soon became pregnant, but the spring of 1840 brought serious problems for the happy couple. Elvira was stricken with the dreaded lowland disease, malaria fever. With many of her friends and relatives she alternately froze and shivered with exhausting chills, then burned with intense fever. She suffered several months and when her little son was born he only lived a few hours. Elvira was too near death herself to express any sorrow, and seemed not to care if she lived or died. Orville was in much the same condition, having contracted the fever himself.
This was the time of the remarkable healings in Nauvoo and Montrose. While we do not know for sure, it is probable this healing power extended through all the Mormon settlements. The young couple could well have been among the members that were so miraculously healed. We do know they were always full of faith in the power of the Lord through the Priesthood. Elvira expressed the belief many times that her baby could have lived had he been taken care of; but there was no one well enough to care for the sick.
After the plague of fever abated, the Mormons enjoyed a few years of peace and Orville and Elvira relished these years of wedded bliss. They were both industrious, delighted in building a modest home and loved each other dearly, as well as the two children that came to bless their home. Adelia was born the first of December 1841, and Almer, the first of April 1844. Elvira enjoyed staying home with her little ones, but her husband was a public figure. He often went to Nauvoo for Priesthood meetings, practiced with the famous brass band of the Nauvoo Legion, and visited with the Prophet Joseph, whom he came to love and admire deeply.
1.8 Trouble in Nauvoo
The presidential election of 1843 was a time of bitterness in the country. Fear of the abolition party fired the jealousy of the slave owners and the Southern sympathizers. Murmurings against the Mormons began again. The bitterness reached a climax in June of 1844 when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered at Carthage. Elvira and Orville shared in the sorrow when they learned of that outrage. Doubt and gloom settled over the group of 20,000 Mormons, but gradually hope and faith grew and the strong belief that God was over all carried them through their distress. It was a time of terrible suffering and anguish for all who had come to love and depend on their young prophet.
The mobbers continued their harassment of the Saints. They burned Orville's grain at the Morley settlement and he and his little family fled to Nauvoo. In August of 1844 the leadership of the Church was uppermost in the minds of the members. Orville attended the meeting that Sidney Rigdon called and listened to his arguments that he was Joseph's successor. When Sidney finished and Brigham Young arose and began speaking, Orville suddenly turned and looked around, for he thought he heard the slain Prophet's voice. As he turned, Brigham looked so much like Joseph, that for a moment he thought the Prophet had returned. His features and form, as well as voice, were just like Joseph's. Orville was mystified. Gradually the similarity in voice, face, and height, disappeared. His mind comprehended the miracle and he knew that he had witnessed a manifestation of the power of God to show the people that Brigham Young was the chosen one to lead the Saints.
Uplifted in spirit, he returned to his family and related the experience. Elvira readily accepted his testimony that the Quorum of the Twelve, with Brigham as their leader, was the head of the Church. This assurance removed much of the gloom and the burden of sorrow for the lost Prophet. They knew that the Lord still cared about His people, and that whatever happened in the future, He would protect and guide them and provide a leader.
1.9 Leaving Nauvoo
For several years the leading men of the Church had talked of the valleys of the Rocky Mountains as a future home. In the School of the Prophets articles were read regarding the great Western Country that a few hardy travelers and trappers had partly explored.
The spirit of adventure was strong in Orville and the blood of hardy pioneers coursed through the veins of his dauntless wife. They subscribed to a magazine that thoroughly explored the subject of migration to the west, the dangers of the plains, rivers, animals, Indians, and how best to overcome these dangers. It discussed how to organize companies, how to select camping places, how to night-herd cattle and almost every aspect of migration.
The young couple found these magazines very valuable and kept them for future reference throughout all of their moves. They were probably as well prepared as anyone in 1845, both mentally and physically, to undertake the hazardous journey to the great unknown West. They were anxious to find a place of freedom to worship in safety from mobbers and unfriendly neighbors.
While they were in Nauvoo, Orville and Elvira received their endowments in the temple, which uplifted their spirits and gave them much comfort during the trials and hardships ahead.
In February of 1846 Brigham Young started west, and others who were prepared began leaving at that time. After a few days the river froze over, making crossing somewhat easier. Mobs were harassing and pillaging all of the Mormons who, from poverty or sickness, were slow in leaving Nauvoo. Orville was appointed as one of the rear guards of the city and helped throw up a breastwork for protection. It was at this time Orville and Mr. Browning (father of the great gun manufacturer of Ogden) got an old discarded steamboat shaft in a deserted blacksmith shop and manufactured two cannons that were so effectively used by Daniel H. Wells at the battle of Nauvoo (Sept. 12, 1846). They loaded them with scrap iron and fired at the ranks of mobbers and held them in check until the last of the departing Saints crossed the Mississippi River and landed on the Iowa side. Most of the saints had gone by then, and it was the old, sick and poor who were mostly left. It was this group, while they were across the river from Nauvoo in desperate straits, that had the quails come to feed them. On October 9, 1846, they were camped along the river bottoms near Montrose, Iowa, in a pitiful state with little shelter or food. To their amazement, a flock of quail landed in their camp. Tired from flight, the quail were easily captured, then cooked, providing much needed nourishment for some 600 destitute people. Brigham Young, upon learning of their desperate situation, sent supplies and men to help them continue on to Winter Quarters.
Orville and Elvira and their family were part of this group, one of the last families to depart. It isn't known just when Elvira and the children crossed the river, but it was probably with relatives and friends while Orville remained behind to help guard the city. They crossed most of Iowa and settled at Mt. Pisgah, where Orville served as a counselor to Lorenzo Snow, the president there. He was an enthusiastic devotee of President Snow, as well as Father Morley, and often said he would follow their leadership anywhere. (Mount Pisgah was a semi-permanent settlement or way station from 1846 to 1852 along the Mormon Trail between Nauvoo and Council Bluffs, 153 miles west of Nauvoo, about two-thirds of the way to Council Bluffs.)
1.10 Close Call
In the winter of 1846-47 an incident happened which almost cost Orville his life, although it was typical of pioneer times. They were in Mt Pisgah, Iowa. Two of Elvira's Whiting cousins had a shop in which they manufactured chairs. Orville and the Whiting brothers went down into Missouri with ox teams and wagons loaded with chairs to sell. They started home with loads of bacon and corn and other foodstuffs badly needed by the suffering Saints. They were almost home when a terrible storm struck. They weren't sure if it was a blizzard or a hurricane or a cyclone or all three in one. Thick clouds of darkness suddenly descended on them. There were no tornado cellars or any kind of shelter nearby. The cold was intense and the wind seemed to come from every direction.
They were all skilled backwoodsmen and while they knew they were very close to home, they also realized they were hopelessly lost in the swirling wind and clouds of snow. They and their oxen were freezing and their only hope was in making a fire and camping on the spot. Everything was wet under the snow and the violent wind seemed to grow fiercer by the minute. They unyoked the oxen, thinking they might be better off on their own, and then began searching for some dry fuel in the darkness with frost-bitten fingers. The best they found was damp and poor enough, but they were desperate. They had only three matches between them and those matches would be considered very primitive by our standards.
Inside a large wooden bucket they carefully laid their kindling. Turning another bucket over it to keep the wind out, they huddled around, lifted the top bucket a little and one of the Whiting boys struck a precious match. It flickered, flared a moment against the kindling and was blown out by a draft of wind. Another match was lit, but it died out almost before it even sparked. Only one match remained to save the three men from certain death. Their fingers were so numb they could hardly hold anything and every minute increased the numbness. "Let Orville try", one of the brothers said. "He is steadier than we are." So Orville, keenly sensing his responsibility and with a prayer in his heart, took the tiny splinter of wood, struck the match and held his breath. It caught! It blazed! The fire lived and grew! The oxen came near to warm themselves. (Their noses and feet were frozen, but in time they grew new hooves and their noses healed up.) When the storm abated the men found they were only a few rods from their home fences. Their families rejoiced greatly to welcome them home as they had feared the worst.
1.11 Journey West
The Saints expected to make the great journey to the West in 1846, but sending 500 volunteers to the war with Mexico depleted the number of able-bodied men and they were delayed for a year. The Whitimg boys, as well as Sylvester Hulet and Amos Cox, Orville's brother, were drafted into the Mormon Battalion. Orville remained behind because he was busy making wagons for the trek west. It was told of him that one day he found a linch pin and said, "I will just make a wagon to fit this pin," and he did. He prepared very good and serviceable outfits as far as his limited means would allow.
By early summer of 1847, he had two home-made wagons without brakes (which were not needed on the eastern end of the journey). He also had two yoke of oxen, three yoke of cows, a box of chickens and bedding and food to get his family across the plains. During the year they spent in Iowa waiting to start the long journey, Orville was busy making wagons (mostly wheels) and raising grain in the summer. Elvira kept busy sewing, growing a garden and caring for her children as they camped in a wagon or a tent. They must have felt to rejoice when the word finally came that they could at last begin the journey west in June of that same year.
They traveled in the Charles C. Rich company of 100 wagons and Orville was appointed captain of one of the tens. Elvira was pregnant with their fourth child, but drove one of the teams across the plains. It's amazing that she didn't lose the baby during that bone-jarring ride!
The sameness of day after day on the seemingly endless prairie became very monotonous and terribly wearing. One day the monotony was broken when Orville was on a buffalo hunt and the cattle stampeded. The incident made for some excitement, as fear gripped the company. Fortunately, no one was hurt and they were able to round up all of the cattle after a few hours.
After leaving the Platte River, while traveling along the Sweetwater, the company met General Kearney and his company of Battalion scouts with their illustrious prisoner, the great path-finder, John C. Fremont. He, with his little band of men, had helped free California from Mexican rule. In the rejoicing that followed the Californians enthusiastically proclaimed Fremont governor. When General Kearney arrived, he expected to be governor by right of his generalship. He was very angry and had Fremont arrested and sent to Washington. Among Fremont's guards were Sylvester Hulet and Amos Cox. They had traveled many weary months in unknown, lonely country. The Rich company was also travel weary. To meet relatives and friends so unexpectedly was an unspeakable joy to both parties.
The men in the Battalion hadn't had word of their families for more than a year. Tears of joy and sorrow were freely mingled. Amos learned that his little daughter had died. Sylvester's wife had gone to New York to join her family and the Whitmers, so Sylvester decided to join the Saints going west, and obtained his discharge from General Kearney. Amos continued east to join his waiting family in Ohio
The prairie was so level that it was a great relief when they sighted Independence Rock and then Chimney Rock. They were both considered great landmarks and lifted the spirits of the weary Saints. They were sure they were nearing the Rocky Mountains and the children were especially excited at the thought. However, when they found themselves surrounded by mountains they almost wished again for the level plains of which they had grown so weary. The steep cliffs were treacherous and seemed ready to fall and crush the footsore travelers. Such sights were soon very daunting to people who had been raised on the plains.
In October 1847, after four months on the trail, Apostle Rich and his company rolled into the valley of the Great Salt Lake just a few days behind Jedediah M. Grant's company of 100 wagons. Salt Lake was quite a thriving city by that time, and it grew considerably during October and November as other companies of pioneers arrived.
1.12 Settling in Bountiful
Houses were needed for the growing population, and since Orville was expert in handling lumber he was immediately sent into the canyon for logs. Among other timbers, he brought down a magnificent specimen of a pine for a "Liberty Pole" which was raised on Pioneer Square. It was the first pole to carry the stars and stripes in the city, although one had been raised earlier on Ensign Peak.
Orville quickly built a log house for his family. He built it well and had it ready for a son to be born to them on November 29th. The baby, Orville Mills Cox, was the second white boy born in Utah.
They moved to a farm north of Salt Lake City early in the spring of 1848 to a settlement called Sessionsville (present day Bountiful). Orville was the first Bishop of the ward there, dug the first well and began his first irrigation ditch. Ditch making became his hobby and he was wonderfully gifted with the ability of laying out the route for ditches and canals without the use of instruments of any kind. He gauged the level of the land with his naked eye and was more successful making ditches that carried the water with an even fall than many surveyors. Elvira was proud of his abilities and often bragged about his expertise in ditch-making and also his talent of handling logs and using lumber that others discarded. She bragged, "Orville can go into the timber after it's been picked over by others and get out a better set of house logs than any other man who has had their first choice." While they were in Bountiful crickets ate much of their crops. Along with the other settlers they battled them in every way they could devise. Finally the gulls came.
1.13 Colonizing Sanpete
In the fall of 1849 they were called to go with Father Morley's company to colonize the valley of Sanpitch [Sanpitch was the original name of the valley, named after Chief Sanpeetch. Click here to see a a short history of Manti and Sanpitch. -- Paul R. Day]. They arrived at the future site of Manti on November 19th of that year and spent a very hard winter. The journey from Salt Lake took a month. They had to break new roads, build bridges, and then make dugouts for their families until they could build more substantial homes. It began to snow before they arrived at their destination and it snowed heavily all winter. It was May before the snow was gone and they could begin to plow and plant. They had to ration their food supply and lived on about one fifth as much as one would ordinarily eat. However, they counted their blessings as they did have some food, shelter, friends among the Indians, each other's love, three little ones and good health. Above all else they were away from mob violence.
Elvira said the first ten years they were in Utah they were always hungry and always on rations. It was not that they did not raise enough grain, vegetables and meat; it was because they divided it with neighbors who had less. Each year hundreds of Saints crossed the plains and had to be fed. Usually Orville divided his crops in half. He gave one half for tithing and split the other half in half again for the ward poor. There were always needy ones to be helped and always they must give to the Indians.
Another son came to bless their home in Manti, March 24, 1850. On May 15th of that same year, they found an eight-foot rattle snake coiled inside the cabin above the door and window. They managed to kill it, but about the same time other snakes were found in the cabins, tents, cupboards, and even in the beds. A battle began with these dangerous reptiles that lasted all night long. It was estimated 1500 snakes were killed that night, but no one counted. They built bonfires and burned them as they were killed. Mercifully, no one was bitten and the next day it was learned that the rocks and ledges on Temple Hill were the home of the rattlers and many more snakes were killed. Long after the temple was finished, an occasional snake was found and killed.
Orville built a rock house with a basement in Manti that was still standing nearly a hundred years later in good condition. They had five more children in Manti, but were grief stricken when little Sylvanus only lived one month. Elvira and Orville had implicit faith in the principles taught by the Prophet, Joseph Smith, as well as Brigham Young. By mutual consent they entered into polygamy and Orville took two more wives, Mary Allen, who was the granddaughter of Isaac Morley, and Eliza Losee. In the early 1860's they moved to Fairview, about 30 miles south of Manti. Orville built each of his wives a house. While there Elvira had her last child, Elvira Euphrasia, my grandmother.
1.14 Elvira the Nurse
Elvira was a natural nurse, and was called in on all kinds of sickness. She seemed able to instinctively diagnose a disease and apply a remedy. Often she relied on inspiration to aid her in caring for the sick. In Manti the Bishop set her apart as a midwife, promising great blessings in regard to the work. She clung to those promises from the Priesthood, striving always to live righteously and do her part toward their fulfillment, which were verified in many instances. She knew the value of herbs, probably handed down to her from her ancestors. Her keen mind was open to new information and she remembered and used the new remedies. She went among the sick with little or no compensation and was never known to refuse a call, even to suffering Indians. Usually she worked eighteen hours a day and if she was up all night, she worked the next day just the same.
It was the Indian custom to kill the old useless grandmothers. Chief Walker decided his mother had lived long enough and started on her with his butcher knife. She was the mother of seven Indian Chiefs and was not as feeble as Walker had supposed. She managed to get away and hid in the cattails by Sanpitch Creek for a week. She went to Elvira for help, who washed the seven big infected cuts on her arms and breasts with warm water and plastered them with home-made salve of equal parts of mutton tallow, beeswax, and soft pine gum. The poor old lady healed, but thought it was terrible that her son considered her no longer useful.
Elvira claimed that since the pioneers had so little sugar to eat, wounds would not heal or knit. She carried two pounds of sugar across the plains and made it last for two years, using it for medicinal purposes only. She put pounded sugar and rosin in a wound to help it heal. She had some three-sided surgical needles and white silk thread which proved very useful for sewing up wounds. She used peach leaves and bark from young peach shoots to make a tea for sore throats. She kept dried bundles of herbs hanging in the attic for winter use: yarrow for headache, horehound for colds, catnip and peppermint for stomach ache, rhubarb roots for constipation, burdock roots for boils, etc. Do we have any better remedies today?
1.15 Orville the Engineer
Orville was very resourceful and ingenious when it came to solving problems that the colonizers seemed to encounter at every turn. The following story is told of him: When "City Ditch" needed to be built all the men and boys in town were called to help work on it every day until it could carry water. It was springtime and the ditch had to be finished before the fields could be plowed and planted. The men turned out with picks, plows, crowbars and shovels. There was a rocky point at the head or beginning of the ditch that had to be cut through which was "hard pan," about like cement. They soon realized a plow couldn't touch it, so they began prying the gravel loose with picks and crowbars. At that rate it would take six weeks to do six rods, and the ditch would never be ready in time. To the consternation of the others, Orville just watched them toiling and sweating and never offered to lift a finger to help. Without saying a word he turned and walked off, leaving those hardworking men angry and astonished. His going seemed to discourage and dishearten them for the task. They kept plugging away, though, loath to admit defeat.
Early the next morning Orville showed up at the ditch site with a long string of oxen hitched to a plow, but it was a different kind of a plow. He had found an 18-foot pitch pine log, bored holes through it and put stout oak sticks in for spikes. He had eight men grab hold of those spikes (like they were the plow handles) to hold the plow level, loaded more men on the log for weight, then he spoke to the oxen. The gravel started to fly and he plowed up and down the ditch line four or five times. It seemed the ditch was made in no time. The men said Orville accomplished more in half a day than all the rest of them could have done in six weeks.
When asked why he hadn't told them of his plans in the first place, so they wouldn't have been so discouraged, Orville said he knew it wouldn't have done a bit of good. He wasn't the Bishop, and even if he had been, the men would have just hooted at plans like that. That was the way of Orville Sutherland Cox. He did not believe in wasting precious time talking and arguing about a matter. His way was to go to work and do something about it.
1.16 On to Nevada
In 1865 Orville was advised by Lorenzo Snow to move to the Muddy, a branch of the Virgin River running through Moapa Valley. Elder Snow asked him to assist in surveying and making irrigation ditches there. The soil was rich, but quicksand made it very difficult to build a dam that would hold, or to irrigate without washing away the soil. He went southwest some distance, and eventually moved his family there. For over six years he labored, engineering a number of dams that would hold against the floods and treachery of quicksand. He had only crude home-made plows and a few other tools to work with and no cement or modern building materials. He also built comfortable cabins, cleared the land, planted crops and helped build three towns.
Three of Orville's children died during that six-year period and Elvira's health broke down. She was not well when they moved to the Muddy, and the intense heat along with the alkaline water, was more than she could tolerate. She returned to Fairview with her younger children after a couple of years.
Financially, the growing Cox family's prospects were more promising than ever before. The large orchard and a vineyard they had planted were just starting to bear. Then a new boundary line was run between Utah and Nevada, which gave that section to Nevada. Nevada demanded back taxes, which amounted to more than their houses and farms were worth. All the settlers were in the same predicament, so Brigham young said, "Come home to Utah."
The family did not hesitate to obey the counsel of their beloved leader, and packed up what they could carry with them to return to their old home in Fairview. They left their comfortable living quarters, beautiful peach orchards, fields of cotton, cane and wheat in "the most fertile of lands." For almost seven long years they had toiled and sacrificed to make it "blossom as the rose". They left it all to Nevada to pay the back taxes the state demanded.
On the way back to Fairview Orville's group came across one company who had learned how to build dams in the quicksand of the desert. They persuaded Orville and some of his sons to join them there in an abandoned settlement in Kane County. There they began the engineering of irrigation canals and dams, cleaned and repaired the deserted cabins and made the place habitable. They named it Mt. Carmel. When the former settlers heard they had built dams that would stand, they returned and demanded, "Get out, this belongs to us!" The weary pioneers picked up and moved again, leaving others to enjoy the fruits of their hard labor.
They stopped a few miles farther up the valley in a pleasant narrow cove and went to work to build more dams, more ditches and more cabins. In one place the water had to be carried across a gully, and it gave them more trouble than all the rest of the canal. After awhile, Orville, without a word or a consultation with anyone, went into the timber and found a very large log, felled it and hollowed it out into a huge trough. He placed it across the gully and it reached far enough to secure a solid bed above the quicksand. Over thirty years later this "Cox Trough" was still a successful flume.
1.17 Next Stop, Orderville
In 1875, under the urging of Brigham Young, Orville took some of his family and helped organize the town of Orderville, where they attempted to live the United Order of Enoch, but Elvira stayed in Fairview. For twelve years he labored joyfully and unselfishly in the "Order", and the town grew and thrived. When dis-satisfaction and dis-union broke the Order up, the property was supposed to be divided among the settlers, but Orville came out with very little. So many had gone into it with little or nothing, and those who had put in the most seemed to come out with the least. Orville was well along in years by this time and was not able to start over again to support his large family. His health was broken and he could do little more than advise his sons. His second wife, Mary, and her family located in Huntington, Emery County. Eliza, his third wife, moved to Tropic, Garfield County, where she died of cancer. In 1887 Orville returned to Fairview, where Elvira lived among her children. He was an invalid for a year, and on July 4, 1888 he laid his exhausted body down to rest. His passing was peaceful and quiet. Elvira and Mary were with him at the last as well as many of his descendants.
What a legacy of faith, courage and devotion he left for us, his posterity. The following are some of the towns and cities he assisted in founding: Lima, Illinois; Pisgah, Iowa; Salt Lake City, Bountiful, Manti, Gunnison, Fairview, Glenwood, Mt. Carmel, Orderville, and Tropic of Utah; and St. Thomas, St. Joseph, and Overton of Nevada. He always seemed to be in the forefront when there was hard work to be done. If he could advance the cause by one iota, no matter what the cost or loss to himself, he considered he had been eminently successful. Never was there a murmur from him.
1.18 A Model of Service and Industry
Elvira was not one whit behind Orville in industry and service to others. She was a comfort and strength to the sick and down-hearted. Courage, cheerfulness, and helpfulness were some of the strong characteristics that made her a source of inspiration to everyone. She was very outspoken, never hesitating to give a word of rebuke or of praise. She was eager to learn and willingly taught others. She often quoted, "The idler shall not eat the bread of the laborer", and "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." In her opinion hard work covered a multitude of sins. If she heard someone being criticized for a fault, she would speak up with, "Well, at least they know how and are willing to work," or some similar remark.
She was always willing to help others who had a need, but did not neglect her own family. she taught them to work and get joy out of it. She loved to read and felt a responsibility to teach others since there was a scarcity of schools. During the winter evenings each child in the family had an allotted duty carding wool, spinning yarn, knitting socks, etc. While they worked Elvira or one of the older children gave out words to spell and sums to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. Their pen was a charred stick or coal and their blackboard was the broad hearthstone by the fire. When spelling and arithmetic were over, they read histories, Shakespeare's plays, Scott's poems, or the Book of Mormon. In later years when schools were more available, they still read together in the evenings.
Elvira was very hard-working as well as thrifty. She saved every scrap of bread, toasting it in the oven and hanging it in sacks in the attic, for fear of famine. She saved every bit of thread even if it was only a foot or two long. Her grandchildren remembered threading needles for her when they visited, as her eyes grew dim. She was a loving and generous grandmother, and taught the children to be industrious. Grandson, Orville Cox Day, said the following about her:
"We grandchildren visited her by the dozens. First she gave us a piece of squash pie or a cookie and then she gave us work. At age four we helped make tallow candles, brought in wood to boil soap, wound yarn into balls, stamped on wool to clean it in a home-made tub with home-made soap and afterward picked the dry chunks of wool to pieces. At age seven we could card it into batts for quilts; at ten we carded the batts into rolls for spinning; at eleven we knit socks; at twelve we spun; and at thirteen we could weave. We always knew grandmother loved us and we loved her."
We do not know why Elvira never joined Orville in the Orderville years, but we do know she remained a faithful and loyal wife. She stayed in the Fairview home and with the help of her children supported the family, mainly by farming the land. In 1878 her youngest son, Amasa, who was seventeen, took over the farming and his mother's life was made easier. When Orville returned to Fairview in 1887 Elvira cared for him until he died the following year. Amasa then convinced his mother to take a much needed rest and she traveled back East to her childhood home in Nelson, Portage County, Ohio. She greatly enjoyed visiting relatives and friends. A Mills reunion was held while she was there at which her cousin, Homer Mills, read a history of the family he had compiled. He had also gathered several hundred names of his ancestry.
"Homer, what did you gather all those names for?" asked Elvira.
"Oh, I don't know," was his answer, "I guess I gathered them for you. Here, take them." She did so most gladly, and returned home filled with a desire to do temple work and her interest never lagged.
In 1895 she got pneumonia and for three months was very near death. She recovered enough to be up and about but never regained her strength. It was a great trial to her that her hands, which had labored so faithfully in the service of others for so many long years, must now be idle while other hands must care for her needs. She often pleaded with the Lord to take her home, but prayed more earnestly that she might retain her mental facilities. The last plea was granted. In the early morning of February 3, 1903 she asked to be turned over, and then drifted peacefully back to sleep. While the family was eating breakfast she slipped quietly to her reward.
1.19 The Legacy of Orville and Elvira
The legacy Elvira Pamela Mills and Orville Sutherland Cox left to us is of infinitely more value than any amount of riches they might have amassed, had that been their goal. Once they accepted the restored gospel they abided by its precepts with total devotion and commitment. Their faith was tried and tested time and time again, but they never faltered. Driven from their homes in Missouri and Illinois, they un-complainingly followed their leaders to the West. Although they found a refuge from the mob violence, their lot was not to settle down to a life of ease and prosperity. Time after time, just as it seemed they "had it made", they must pull up stakes again, leave their earthly possessions behind and build anew. This they did willingly for they had an abiding testimony that they were in the service of the Lord. They did not murmur nor grudgingly obey, but pressed forward cheerfully and valiantly to work and serve wherever and whenever they were called. Truly, they were great and stalwart pioneers, as they set an un-equaled example of showing faith in every footstep!
1.20 Children of Orville Sutherland Cox
1.20.1 Elvira Pamela Mills
Robert Fredrick 28 Jul 1840
Adelia Belinda 1 Dec 1841
Almer Bingley 2 Apr 1844
Orville M. 29 Nov 1847
Delaun Mills 24 Mar 1850
Fredrick Walter 4 Sep 1852
Philena 21 Jan 1855
Sylvester Hulet 12 Sep 1857
Tryphena Maria 26 Jan 1859
Amasa Bernard 25 Mar 1861
*Elvira Euphrasia 19 May 1864