Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rhoda Hulet 1795 -

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

Rhoda was born November 8, 1795; the Thanksgiving month, in Lee, Massachusetts. She was the 4th of nine children: four sisters and four brothers. During the 18th & 19th centuries (1700-1800's), Americans normally had very large families (anywhere from seven to 17 children). The reasons for this were two-fold: 1) There were virtually no contraceptives or birth control. 2) The early Americans were mostly an agrarian society. Farm work was back breaking manual labor. They usually had to clear the land of trees, which consisted of chopping them down, and uprooting the stumps, then they had to cultivate, sow, weed, and harvest. The more sons you had, the better off you were.

The women and daughters were put to work doing laundry, which was an all day affair, cooking from scratch (most of their food came from the farm), sewing (the women usually made their own clothes), and other sundry household duties. Everyone was kept busy, and the idler was not welcome in this setting. In other words, children were considered an asset, rather than a liability.
Another problem the early settlers faced was lack of proper medical care. Children mortality rates were high, due to such diseases as typhoid, cholera, smallpox, malaria, and a myriad other problems. It was not uncommon for a large family to have several of their children die before they reached the age of 12. And many of the families lost their mother during childbirth. It almost became rare for a mother to outlive the husband. When you're having large families, at least one of the pregnancies ended up in complications. It was difficult to survive such circumstances.

But Rhoda held her own. She had to as she was competing with eight other siblings for attention. Nevertheless, she was described as a frail child, and this carried over into adulthood as well.
The history of Rhoda is sparse, and we don't know much about her childhood in Massachusetts, or how she came to meet Robert in Ohio, the first child of Delaun and Sophia Mills. But suffice it to say that they did so. They tied the knot in 1819: she was 23, he 27. A late start for those times, but they made a go at it.

Living in primitive conditions in Ohio was hard, and her husband, Robert died a couple of years after their second child was born. The records don't show how he died, but one can confidently assume it was from some disease, or possibly an Indian attack. Regardless, 34 is a young age, even back then. This left Rhoda a widow with two children to support. Remember, there was no life insurance, social security, or pensions. With her frail health, she was in no way prepared to run the farm properly. Her two children (Elvira was 7 years old at the time of her father's death, and Robert Frederick, who went by "Freddy", was only two), were not old enough to help much.

Thank goodness she had a younger brother, Sylvester, who took pity on her and invited her young family to move in with him. He also had a farm in Portage County, and his small cabin was already home to not only his young family, but to Rhoda's older sister, Charlotte and her daughter, as she also had become a widow because of her husband's premature death. The home was crowded with the three families living together, but they somehow managed to make things work. They might not have had all the trappings of a civilized world, but they were blessed in the knowledge that they had a warm & secure home, one in which love pervaded.

Elvira, Rhoda's firstborn, described a happy childhood where laughter and play made up a large part of her early years. It was fun to help gather in the buckets of maple syrup from the many maple trees surrounding the farm, and to smell the aroma as they boiled the mixture in a large tub outside the cabin. She commented that she believed the ancient Book of Mormon people had planted these trees, as they were found in square 5 or 10 acre sequences throughout the land, with meadows in-between.
Most of all, seven year-old Elvira was in charge of baby-sitting her two year-old brother. She enjoyed it most of the time, but he did provide some frustrating moments, like when he insisted on trying to climb into the pig pen every chance he got. The little piglets were too big of a temptation for the little guy, and it was all Elvira could do to keep him out of mischief. The pigs provided smoked ham during the long winter months, and their cow, Bessie, provided them with milk, butter, and for a real treat, cottage cheese. Uncle "Vester" (a shortened name for Sylvester) had a few chickens which provided their eggs, and with a large vegetable garden in the back yard, they were able to pretty much take care of themselves.

A trip into town every so often kept them in stock with such items as sugar, coffee, beans, salt, and other needed products. All of their furniture was handmade, so the only things they needed from the store were items they couldn't make for themselves; e.g. plows, pots & pans, needles, and other assorted items.
Not only was Sylvester Hulet a good man for taking in two widowed families, but his wife must have been a saint. After all, how many women would put up with two other families living in their small homes?

In January, 1830; three months before the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, Sylvester heard rumors about a young man who claimed to have seen the Father, and His beloved son, Jesus, in a vision, as well as translating some ancient writings written on gold plates. His curiosity piqued, 29 year old Sylvester Hulet walked 175 miles to New York to meet Joseph Smith personally, and find out if this story was believable. Upon shaking Joseph's hand, he recorded that a strange but satisfying feeling pulsed through his being. He knew immediately that something special belonged to this man. After conversing with the young prophet and reading one of the first editions of the Book of Mormon, which he purchased, Sylvester requested and received baptism.
Sylvester was then able to convince Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson, and Parley P. Pratt to accompany him back to Ohio, so that his family and friends could hear the good news. Elvira later recorded that "Oliver Cowdery gave the greatest sermons that she had ever heard in her entire life."
Just about everyone in the Hulet family accepted the divine message, including Rhoda, and were baptized into the Church in October, 1830. At the time, Elvira was ten years old, and although she believed the word, Oliver Cowdery thought the children should wait until they become adults to join, when they could make a more mature decision. But in February, 1831, just four months later, permission was given by Joseph Smith to baptize children as early as 8 years old, as this became the age of accountability.

Things like this were not unusual in the early Church. The Lord gave Joseph line upon line, precept upon precept, until the fullness was obtained. The fledgling church was too young to endure everything at once. This probably explains why the Church was called "The Church of Christ" until April 26, 1838, a full 8 years after the Church was organized, to give it its official name: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
And why the early saints were sometimes found baptizing for the dead in the Mississippi River the wrong way. Men were being baptized for deceased women, and vice versa. Wilford Woodruff had the Saints redo it the proper way when the Saints reached Salt Lake. There were a lot of new things the early Saints had to get used to, and some of them were not easy.