A Life Sketch of Abigail Elizabeth Holman Stevens – grandmother
Written by Laura Stevens
She was born July 3, 1836 at Canaughtville, Crawford Co., Pennsylvania of an industrious and noble family.
The descendants of the Holman name have passed through every hardship of pioneer life. William Holman and his wife, Winifred, came from the North Hampton, England and settled in Cambridge, Mass. Ezekiel Holman was a member of the first Baptist Church of Providence, R. I. These are the ancestors of Joshua Sawyer Holman, the father of Abigail’s mother Rebecca Greenleaf’s ancestors were many of note.
Abigail’s parents joined the church in 1832 and lived in Kirtland, Ohio. They helped build the Temple there, but when the people were driven from there, they located at Nauvoo, Illinois and helped to build that city and Temple. They were very faithful Latter-day Saints. Her father was among the first men called on a mission to the Indians. Their first two children were boys and died in their infancy. The rest, Franklin, Rebecca, John, Amelia, Ezekiel and Abigail grew to maturity.
The Saints were driven by the mob out of Nauvoo, Illinois into Council Bluffs, Iowa. There had to be roads made and a bridge built, before the Saints could go on. So a company of men were sent ahead to make the roads and build the bridge over the Sweetwater River. Her father was put in charge of this work. He was a hard working man and was in the water a good share of the time, while building the bridge. He caught a cold and died November 1, 1846 in Indian Territory, now Florence, Nebraska. His wife and family went to Potawatmi Co.[sic] to teach school for the Indians, and in the year 1849, she and her oldest son, Franklin and daughter, Rebecca, took down with the cholera within five days of each other and died. This left the four other children orphans, homeless, and broken hearted. Amelia married out of the church and went with him but later left him and came to Utah and was rebaptized. Abigail was thirteen years old. The Gospel, being her guiding star sustained her through all the dark days that followed. She came to Utah with her brothers John and Ezekiel the next year, 1850.
Her brother, John, drove a team for Brigham Young on the memorable journey, crossing the plains. He settled in Pleasant Grove. Ezekiel and Abigail stayed in Salt Lake Valley working for different people for several years to make a living. Ezekiel married young.
Then Abigail went down to Pleasant Grove to her brother John. While there, she met Walter Stevens and married him April 27, 1854, not quite eighteen years old. Their first house was built there, which was still standing in 1914. Two children were born to them while living there; Marinda, who died in infancy, and Walter Joshua.
In August 1858 they moved to Holden, Millard Co., Utah where his father's family were and they lived there until 1880. They lived inside the fort, in a two roomed adobe house for several years. In the year 1859, David Alma was born to them. As the years went by, Rebecca Sybil and Mary Thdocia [sic] were born.
They didn't have much money those days pioneering a new place. She carded wool, spun yarn from the wool, and had to make the cloth of various kinds for her children's clothing. She spun yarn and made blankets, clothsuits. There was no such thing as ready made suits those days. She made gloves for men out of buckskins, also made men's and women's straw hats by braiding from three to seven strands of straw with flowers for trimming from straw and horse hair colored various colors. They had to do all their sewing by hand in those days.
Two more daughters, Ardell and Emma Jane, joined their family. Her husband had to wprk hard to support his family. After the town was surveyed, he got logs from the canyon and built a log room out on his lot to live in. There was a loft above the room that the two older boys slept in on a shuck tick on the floor. They had to climb the logs to get to it. The parents bed was a wooden bed they had made, carded with a rope, a tick of shucks and a feather bed on top of the shuck tick. The girls bed was a trundle bed and in the day time it was kept under the large bed and pulled out at night. They managed to live that way for a few years.
Her husband was called on a mission to Pennsylvania after being released as Presiding Elder of the Ward about the year 1871 and he filled that calling honorably. While her husband was away on his mission, she had many more duties to perform and her children were small.
A new baby girl was born in 1870 and that same year she was chosen President of the Holden Relief Society and set apart for that labor by President of the Stake, Thomas Calister, Sr. She chose good faithful women as her counselors and they united together looking after the sick, poor, and needy of the ward. She urged the sisters to do their duty by turning out to the meetings and counseled them to do good to one another and teach their children the gospel. She advised the sisters to start home production, plant mulberry trees and raise silk worms.
The Relief Society got a few silk worms, but they didn't have any success with them. The sisters were very good to donate and they asked the sisters to donate their milk on Sunday for making cheese to sell. Sister Elizabeth Stevens and Lettie Stevens, sisters-in-law, were chosen to make the cheese. They made and sold $88.50 worth. The Society also made quilts to sell.
In 1873, a boy was born to them. In December that same year, the Presidency decided to start a store. It was built about the center of town and Ellen Stevens was chosen clerk, this was before she was married and changed her name. In 1875, the Society donated $38.35 on the St. George Temple. The President of the Stake, Thomas Calister, advised all the Relief Society Presidents to store up wheat in time of need and the sisters donated grain for several years. They were asked to donate the start of their Relief Society Hall. She advised them to donate anything in the way of material to build with or labor. They managed to get it built while she was still President. She taught the sisters to braid from three to seven strands of straw for making hats and she chose a committee for that work. In the year 1876, her tenth child, a boy, was born.
They milked about 25 cows one summer and made butter and put it in a tub of strong brine to keep it good until they got enough to make a trip to Salt Lake City and got a good price for it. He bought a charter Oak Cook Stove with his butter money. This was the first cook stove they had ever had. She had to make her own soap and had to make the lye to make the soap with. They made lye from hard wood ashes.
While she was President of the Society, the organization helped to immigrate a poor family here to Holden, Utah from England and care for them after they got here. The Relief Society also built a house for a poor widow woman.
Abigail's two oldest sons, Joshua and Alma, were called by Erastus Snow, the Apostle, to go to San Juan County to pioneer that place in 1879. They took their cattle and were with the first band of intrepid settlers who located in Bluff, but were not satisfied with location so they went 100 miles farther up the San Juan River into New Mexico.
She was President of Relief Society for ten years. In 1880, they went to New Mexico where she was chose President of the Kirtland Ward. After a number of years they returned to Utah, settling in Manti where they labored for six years doing Temple work.
She died March 5, 1912 while back in New Mexico. Her husband died two years later, July 24, 1914, and his body was shipped back to New Mexico to be buried by the side of his wife, Abigail.