Through Fifty Years
Estelle S. Harris
October 12, 1931
So many things have happened in the short lifetime that I have lived that it is difficult to select what might be interesting to a reader.
If one looked ahead fifty years it would seem impossible for as many changes to take place as in the last fifty years. Kerosene lamps have been displaced by electric lights. Horse-drawn vehicles have given place for automobiles—I had never ridden in an auto until after I was married. I had never seen or ridden on a train until I was in my teens or had I seen or talked over a telephone. Radium and x-rays have come into use.
During my girlhood days antitoxin was discovered. Later came the vitamin theory of food. Today we are able to clothe ourselves in artificial silk, and to use numerous synthetic products.
The first successful airplane flights have been made, and we were in Paris when Charles A. Lindbergh made his non-stop flight from New York to Paris. The Graf Zepplin has flown around the world.
All of these things show the wonderful advancement made in a comparatively few years.
My father seemed especially proud of me, the sixth child, when I was born with curly hair. He loved to make little curls and call attention to them. You can imagine his disappointment when one cold wintry morning my uncle made a fire in the grate and, as usual, took me out of bed and placed me in a rocking chair by the fire, while he went out to milk the cows. My parents were soon startled by my cries and ran to the room where I had been taken, to find I had rocked the chair over and was in the fire. Of course, I was badly burned, especially my head, and as father picked me up he cried, “She has lost her curls.”
I well remember when five of us children were ill with the measles and the baby would bring us some things to eat. As soon as we were better she took the measles and in a short time died. So death came into my life early. Then the friends made the clothes and good Brother Anderson made the coffin and lined it with white outing flannel, using brass tacks to hold it in place- - quite a contrast to the soft restful-looking caskets of today.
For many years we had an Indian boy live with us. You may wonder why, so I shall explain.
Early in the settlement of Dixie there were more Indians than now, and one tribe of Piutes were leaving that vicinity. The father and mother of this Indian boy, Lorum by name, were dead. They were going to bury Lorum with his mother so they would not be bothered with him. My grandmother heard of this and it was more than she could bear, so she sent word that she would give them a donkey if they would leave Lorum with her. This they did, and my grandmother made my father promise to always find him a home.
Lorum’s life was always very pathetic to me, because he left school before he could read or write, as the other children made fun of him. No white girl ever felt like going out with him so he grew up to be the chum of those who would associate with him. His friends consisted of boys who liked to drink, and they stayed with him as long as his money lasted.
Naturally he could not go back to the Indians and live as they did, so he was always a lonely creature.
My father had cattle, and in the summer we went to a ranch on Kolob mountains where mother made cheese and butter. How well I remember the big vat used to warm the milk, and the cheese presses, and the shelves in the milk house with its pans of milk, waiting for the cream to rise so it could be skimmed off in a jar and soured for making butter, and the old-fashioned churn with a dasher that we would pull up and down counting so many hundred then watching to see if the butter had come. And on cold mornings churn, churn, churn, until we felt we couldn’t lift the dasher once more, but we would and after what seemed an eternity mother would say, “I think we had better add a little warm water.” That was usually the magic charm that brought the butter.
The spring was some distance from the house and we had large brass buckets to carry the water. The water ran thru a wooden trough and emptied into a barrel, which made it easier to get a bucketful.
We enjoyed riding horses out in the pasture. Along one of the streams in the mountain valley willows grew. Their tops frequently came together to make room-like places. The children of all ages gathered here from all around to play “polygamy.” They had all heard of the officers trying to find some of the men; these stories made very exciting dramas.
One day we all thought the world was coming to an end. This came about, because of a spectacular storm with heavy clouds traveling close to the earth with terrible reverberating thunder and lightning, then a downpour of rain. I think my sister had dreamed the night before of such an event, and she was terrified when the storm began. As I remember, our bed was in a wagon box with a wagon cover over the bows. It was near the house, but that night we all stayed in the main log house.
One summer I stayed in town and helped my older sister dry the fruit. She had a beaux who would come and help us cut the fruit. He would sit cutting peaches and sing “Where Did You Get That Hat?” My job was to spread the cut fruit out on long boards, which were placed on saw horses in the sun. How we envied the ones who could sit in the shade and cut while we had to stand out in the hot sun and spread.
There were twelve children in our family. Five died, one older than I and four younger. Three were babies, while the other two were ten and fourteen.
My first school was the vestry of our meeting house. The teacher was a man of very little training and no experience in teaching. There were only two teachers for all the children in the town. We were not graded until I was in the eighth grade, when we had a real teacher. I learned to read from a large chart, the first page of which had rat, cat, fat, sat and some other members of the at family, along with the a, b, c’s. The teacher had a long pointer and it was his custom to have us hold out our hand for him to rap if we did anything wrong.
The year I was in the seventh grade, I attended school in Sandy, where I lived with my sister. This happened to be the Pioneer Jubilee Year, 1897. Here I saw my first train and rode on one to Salt Lake City, which appeared as a fairy land to me as there were so many new and interesting things.
When we reached Milford, the terminus of the railroad, and the train was coming in, they told us to get out of the way so the train could turn around.
The next year I finished the eighth grade at home, the first class in our little town to be graduated and I was the valedictorian. How proud we were! We felt we had accomplished something out of the ordinary.
One winter in our hometown there was a contest in singing for all types of voices. I won the contest for soprano voice and some said it was because a young man who went with my sister was one of the judges. His sister was one of the contestants.
Another contest, I enjoyed as a girl, was a waltz contest. My girl friend and I tied for that prize, but some time later in Huntington my partner and I won first place in a similar waltz contest.
While still in the grades, I was suffering with the toothache and was unable to go to school. I often saw my hands itch to do things. This must have been one of those times, for I sewed enough blocks for a quilt cover, although I had a bad toothache and could not use a thimble.
As there was no dentist in any of the small communities, it was quite an event when a traveling dentist came to town. He certainly did the extracting of teeth in a wholesale manner. Of course later some teeth were filled. The bishop of our ward acted for the dentist during these long absences. His only qualifications were a pair of forceps and a strong arm and these he certainly had.
Away to School
My father had one habit that was very exasperating. As the members of our family reached the time for them to go away to school, they were very anxious to go. Mother would get our clothes ready, but when we would ask father if we could go, he would not tell us but would say, “I’ll see.” Perhaps a day or two before school started father would say, “Tom (or John) is going to Cedar (or Lund). You had better get your things together and go to school.” He wanted us to go, but liked to keep us in suspense as long as he could. Of course sometimes our going depended on selling livestock.
We had plenty of dried fruit but there was little demand for it, or rather the roads and distances were prohibitive for a cash market, so it was usually traded to peddlers who came to our town for salt, potatoes and flour. Our ready cash came from the sale of part of our herds.
All the children went away to school and it was a great sacrifice for my parents. I think the children are all indeed grateful for the opportunity that was given them. When compared to the advantages the young folks have now it was very little. It did take us out of a very small village and gave us many opportunities that the young people who lived at home never received. Many of them married and settled there and there remain. After all the children had gone to other places one woman said to mother how terrible it was to have them all away. Mother was always ready with an answer. “I should very much rather have them all away and doing well than settle down here without anything.”
One year I stayed home from school and made the layette for a new member of the family that was expected. My mother was miserable, so I did all the sewing and then took care of her and the baby after the midwife stopped coming. She came ten days to bathe mother and the baby. How different the care she had and that which I have had. Mother never had a doctor or a trained nurse with any of her twelve children.
After I had spent one year at the B.N.S. at Cedar City I planned to study vocal and dressmaking in Salt Lake City. My aunt was one of the finest dressmakers in the city, and I was to work with her. I had been there only a few weeks when I took Typhoid Fever and after a long siege, I was able to go home and convalesce. The year following I went to Cedar City to school.
When I was running for secretary of the student body, the party I was affiliated with were telling of my qualifications for the position. Being small in stature they said good things were done up in small parcels. The opposite side said so was poison. I was a member of the chorus and often sang solos at school functions as well as in church.
On a Sunday evening, we went to the Manavu Ward to attend a farewell for Frank Jr. prior to his leaving for the Mission Home. How my heart was torn to think of him going away to Germany for two or more years and not be able to see him during that time. I was proud to have him go but my heart ached, too. I was sorry that I could not be home when he would leave for his mission but we had to leave after his farewell in order that Frank could attend the meetings in Pasadena. Frank Jr. left Monday morning for a ten-day stay in the Mission Home and sailed July 1, from New York on the S. S. George Washington.
June 14, 1931 we left for trip to California. Frank to attend meetings of the Western Division of the Association for the Advancement of Science at Pasadena and the N.E.A. at Los Angeles, and incidentally a vacation. We had bought a new Ford Sedan to use on this trip. We took some food and bedding so we could stop at auto camps if we desired thus making us independent of hotels. As the weather was very warm at this time of year we traveled two nights to Pasadena trying to rest part of the day in Las Vegas. It was so hot there. We found an attractive auto camp, the Gypsy Trail at the outskirts of Pasadena and here we made our home while there. We attended several lectures, some were illustrated. On June 18 we had dinner at the Maryland Hotel as it was our twenty-third wedding anniversary and we wanted to celebrate in some way.
We drove to the top of Mt. Wilson where the largest telescope in the world is found, having a one hundred inch reflector. It was a very interesting trip, giving us a marvelous view of the cities along the coast as we drove up the winding road. Myriads of lights dotted the landscape, it was like the heaven inverted and we were gazing at it with a telescope.
We visited the Huntington Library and Art Gallery and enjoyed the fine paintings there. We went to Los Angeles, from Pasadena, then south to Tia Juana and Aqua Caliente where the great horse races are held. We spent some time in San Diego and Long Beach going from the latter place for a day’s trip to Catalina Island. We rode out into the ocean in a glass bottom boat in which we could see the coloring of the sea fish and vegetation which was marvelous. This was enhanced by a diver showing his skill in going down under the water and bringing back shells, which he tried to sell.
We kept as near the coast as possible in traveling north as it was much cooler than inland. We had delightful times in the following places- - Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Pacific Grove, Monterey, Carmel by the Sea. This latter place was just as picturesque as any painting I had seen of it. The gnarled and twisted trees were evidences of the struggle they had made to survive. We would sit on some rocky point and watch the ocean as it dashed against the rocks. On July 4 we left San Francisco, on the hottest day they had had in years, for the redwood drive to the Northwest. I think I should never tire seeing those gigantic sentinels. In some ways they gave me the same feeling as when I first viewed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, it is one of mute admiration and an overpowering feeling of one’s insignificance.
In Portland we visited with Aunt Jen (Mrs. Geo. V. Hamilton) and Den, Frank’s brother. We visited Baker, Boise, Twin Falls and Pocatello on our way home. We called at Logan and brought Mildred, who had been visiting there, and her cousin, Marian, home with us, reaching Provo, July 11, 1931. We drove 4059 miles and the expenses of the gas, oil, etc. for the car was $65.00.
The next week we moved to Aspen Grove to spend five weeks at our summer cabin. I took a class in Sociology and one in Tennyson which was given at the Alpine School. The only real drawback to studying at Aspen Grove is the poor light which hurts one’s eyes if much reading is done.
While here we had several visitors at our cabin. Mrs. Amy C. Merrill and Betty Jane from Washington D.C. stayed a few days with us. Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Roberts from Los Angeles were also guests. Frank’s mother and sister Ireta with her three children came to see us. One evening we entertained all the faculty at a melon festival. Many novel and interesting stories were told. One afternoon Arlene talked to several girls who had been to New York and she got the New York bug in her bonnet and decided she would spend the following year there. A week after we moved down to Provo she left with Mr. and Mrs. Harold Bentley for New York City. I was very anxious for her to have the experience of being a year in New York but of course was loathe to have her away for another year, as she had spent two years in Colonia Juarez teaching. She was fortunate in being able to live at International House where students from all over the world live. Columbia University Book Store supplied her with a few hours of work each day until a place at the New School for Social Research was available. She was able to take several post graduate courses at Columbia during the year.
Autobiography of Frankie Estella Spilsbury Harris
I was born in the small town of Toquerville, Washington County, Utah on Feb. 17, 1884 in a family of twelve children, six boys and six girls. My father was George Moroni Spilsbury who was born in Salt Lake City on Oct. 30, 1852. He was a stockman and a farmer. His parents were George Spilsbury and Fanny Smith Spilsbury who were converts to the Church in England. They came to Nauvoo and knew the Prophet Joseph Smith. George was a stone mason and helped build the Nauvoo Temple. George Moroni lived to be 87 and his father lived to be nearly 95.
My mother was Roselia Jocosia Haight Spilsbury, born in Cedar City on Oct. 22, 1854. She was one of the first telegraphers in southern Utah, and also taught telegraphy. Her father, Isaac Chauncy Haight, was born in New York State and met his wife, Eliza Ann Price, while he was on a mission to England. Both of my grandfathers were called to southern Utah where they went through the hardships of settling a new place.
My childhood was spent in Toquerville. Our culinary water ran in open ditches and we had no refrigeration, electricity, or central heating in our homes. I started school in one end of the ward house in Toquerville. We later had a regular school house. Instead of grades we were classified by the reader we were able to read.
I spent one winter with my sister in Sandy when I was in the seventh grade. I later attended the Branch Normal School (now the College of Southern Utah) for two years. I attended the B.Y.U. and finished a kindergarten normal course. I taught for one school year in Price, teaching a first grade class.
When I was a child we spent our summers up on Kolob Mountain where my mother put butter in crocks and made cheese which lasted us for the winter. My father took his cattle to range on the mountains. One of the games we played there was polygamy. There were a lot of willows around the stream where we hid and the “marshals” would come looking for us. We used to raise cane and would go where they were boiling down the juice to make molasses. We took the skimmings and had candy pulls. We also played run sheep run, hide and go seek, and many other children’s games. We had to make our own amusements because there was no amusement in town. Watermelons were plentiful and we had watermelon busts frequently. We all learned to ride horses and my father always had a fine team of riding horses.
I remember once when we were up on Kolob my brother was thrown from a horse and cut his lip and Mother had to sew it up with an ordinary needle. We all prayed about that and he was healed. We always had family prayer in the home.
While attending the B.Y.U. in 1905 I boarded and roomed in a place in Provo with several other people. One of the boys who lived there invited several friends to come in and visit one night after Church. My future husband was among these fellows although he was with another girl at the time. While I was in Miss Reynolds’ English class he used to come and knock at the door and ask to speak to Miss Spilsbury. When I went to the door he’d ask me for a date. At the end of the year I went to Prince to teach and he went to the A.C. in Logan. We corresponded during the year.
We met in Salt Lake City over the Christmas holidays, and went Christmas shopping. After shopping all day we went to my sister’s home. I gave him Browning’s poems and he gave me Tennyson’s. Then he said: “Could we go on reading these poems together the rest of our lives?” So on Dec. 23, 1907 we were engaged to be married. Then I went back to Price and he went back to Logan. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 18, 1908.
Soon after we were married we went to Logan. He had been living at President and Mrs. Widtsoe’s home during the year, so we spent several weeks there before going to Canada where his family had a big wheat farm near Cardston, Alberta. We stayed there a few weeks before we crossed Canada to Ithaca, New York. The first time I rode in an automobile was in Winnipeg where we rode in a sight-seeing automobile. We spent three years in Ithaca where Arlene, our first daughter, was born. My husband received his PhD there. The first year we lived in an apartment with another couple where we cooked on the same stove and shared a bathroom. We cooked and heated with anthracite coal and also used Kerosene lamps.
We returned to the Agricultural College (now Utah State University) in Logan where we spent ten years living on the campus. Our five children were born on campus: Franklin Stewart, Jr., Chauncy Dennison, Helen, Leah Dorothy and Mildred. My husband was first an agronomist and then head of the experiment station. He was later Dean of the School of Agricultural Engineering and Mechanic Arts.
In 1921 we went to the B.Y.U. where he was president of the University. My husband and I and our six children all received bachelors’ degrees from the B.Y.U. and are all lifetime members of the Alumni Association. My husband and I have both received Distinguished Service awards from the B.Y.U. Alumni Association and he received an honorary Doctor’s from B.Y.U. and U.S.U. Father and sons went on to receive PhD’s degrees and one daughter, Arlene, has an M.A.
While we were at Provo, my husband went to a Pan-Pacific Conference in Japan and gave a paper. He traveled around the world on this trip visiting different countries.
One night in Provo, Frank had gone to a meeting and I was in a great deal of pain, probably from gall bladder trouble. I thought I was going to die, but my sons, Frank and Chauncy, prayed and I got well. Another time Chauncy was riding a bike up University Ave. and was knocked off his bike and unconscious for some time. We also prayed a great deal at that time.
While at B.Y.U. we were active in school activities. I was president of the B.Y.U. Faculty Women, as I had been of the U.A.C. Women’s Faculty League and A.C. Women’s Club. I was one of the charter members of the Alice Louise Reynolds Club. I have worked in the ward Primary organization and in the stake Relief Society and MIA organizations. I also belong to different clubs, including Cleofan Club, and the Friendly Circle, and the Bryant S. Hinckley Church History Group. One of the Heritage Halls at B.Y.U. was named for me in 1954.
In 1927 I met my husband in Paris and traveled all over Europe. We’ve traveled in Mexico, Canada and the United States with our family. In 1939-40 we spent a year in Iran where my husband was adviser to the Shah in agriculture. In 1950-52 we spent two years there and he started the Point-4 work in Iran.
After 24 years at the B.Y.U. we left in 1945 for him to be president at the U.A.C. We were there for five years. In both of these positions we were close to the students and went to their programs and encouraged them in their activities.
In our own family we have tried to live the principles of the Gospel and set an example to the children. They were taught to do the things they were asked to do in the Church. We have always emphasized in our home how important religious activities were and have tried to set the example.
Biography of Estella Spilsbury Harris
As printed in the brochure on the dedication and naming of 22 buildings at the B.Y.U. on May 26, 1954. One of the Heritage Hall Buildings was named for Mrs. Harris.
The most successful life in the life of service. There is no greater joy, no greater achievement, than that of helping others. Few women have devoted themselves more willingly, more completely, or more effectively to family and friends than has Estella S. Harris.
Frankie Estella Spilsbury Harris was born in Toquerville, Utah, February 17, 1884, to George Moroni and Roselia Haight Spilsbury. She was one of a family of twelve children. Her childhood was similar to that of most children reared in pioneer ranching communities and exposed to the wholesome influence of a large, congenial family. Through her work and play in this environment she learned some of the great values in life; above all, she learned that true happiness comes from making the most of every opportunity and from helping others. Family life was a cooperative affair, all the children helping in drying fruit, gathering water cress, bringing in water from the ditch, washing clothes by hand. Picnics, horseback and hayrack rides, winter candy pulls, barn dances, and other recreation were family and community efforts, with everyone contributing his part. It was through participating in these activities hat Estella developed a pattern of life which has made her loved by all who have associated with her.
Her schooling began in Toquerville, where each student was graded according to the reader which he was using. She felt she had received a great honor when she was permitted to go to Sandy, Utah, to live with her sister and attend the seventh grade there, her first “real, graded school.” The following year she returned home, where she was graduated from the eighth grade as class valedictorian. For two years she attended the Branch Normal School in Cedar City, now the College of Southern Utah. She spent part of one winter in Salt Lake City studying dressmaking and music; but she had to discontinue her studies when she became ill with typhoid fever. Shortly after her recovery, she was called back home when a brother and a sister died from the same disease. In 1905 Estella entered the Brigham Young University, where she was regarded by faculty and classmates alike as a very capable and energetic student. She belonged to various social and cultural campus groups. During the summer vacation of 1906 she made her first trip east, visiting Chicago and many places of importance in Church history. In 1907 she was graduated from the BYU with a Kindergarten Normal Diploma, and then for one year she taught school at Price, Utah.
She married Franklin Stewart Harris in the Salt Lake Temple, June 18, 1908, culminating a romance begun while both were attending the University. To them were born two sons and four daughters, all of whom have distinguished themselves by graduating from the BYU and becoming life members of the Alumni Association, by making contributions to their church and society, and by having praiseworthy families. Besides rearing her own children, Sister Harris helped to rear a niece, Nancy Fay Becraft.
Her oldest son, Franklin Stewart Harris, Jr., PhD, is a professor of physics at the University of Utah. His first wife, Mabel Bost Harris, the mother of three children, died in 1950. His second wife, Maurine Steed Harris, had three children by her prior marriage, and one child has been born to the new union. Franklin, Jr., has distinguished himself by writing numerous articles, including a series on science, “Exploring the Universe,” for the Improvement Era; one of his recent publications of note is The Book of Mormon, Messages and Evidences.
Chauncy Dennison Harris, PhD., was a Rhodes scholar and is now teaching at the University of Chicago as a professor of geography. He married Edith Young; they have one child. Chauncy, too, has published several scientific articles and edited several books.
The four daughters are Mrs. Roscoe A. (Arlene) Grover, M.A., of Salt Lake City, who has eight children; Mrs. Ralph W. (Helen) Jenson, of Berkeley, California, who has three children; Mrs. Vernon D. (Leah) Jensen of Baldwin Park, California, who has three children; and Mrs. Ralph O. (Mildred) Bradley, of Salt Lake City, who has nine children. It will be seen that not the least of the accomplishments of the two sons and four daughters is that they already have thirty-one children of their own.
As a modern mother and homemaker, Sister Harris is a fine example to the young people of the Church. Much credit for her children’s success in education must go to her, for she constantly taught them the value of a university education and of the intellectual life. When travel interrupted her education, she assumed the responsibility of giving them formal training. Notwithstanding her many duties in and out of the home, she found time to live the life she taught, graduating from the BYU in 1941, along with her youngest daughter, with a B.S. degree. Her efficiency as a home manager is well known by those who are acquainted with her and her family. Because of her well-directed energy, she has been able to give much of herself to others without neglecting her own home.
As a wife, Sister Harris has exhibited and outstanding loyalty and has been a constant companion to her husband. She has traveled with him on many of his trips throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. When he was in various parts of Europe and the Middle East on agricultural and educational assignments for the Government, she chose to be with him even though her choice sometimes meant endangering her health and assuming added burdens. In 1927 she met Dr. Harris on his return from the Orient, and they traveled throughout Europe, visiting missions of the church and living for some time in Paris. In 1939 she went to Iran with her husband, who served as advisor to the government of that country. World War II made it necessary for them to travel around the world under difficult conditions in order to get back home. Ten years later they returned to Iran, Dr. Harris serving as director of the American program in that country. The forty or fifty families of American specialists, including a number from Utah, frequently called upon her for help in solving social and other problems. During her two-year stay in Iran she had the privilege of visiting many of the European countries again. During the last part of the summer the Harris’s had as part of their assignment a visit to Palestine and Jordan, where they gained an excellent understanding of the conditions in the Holy Land.
President Harris gives much credit to his wife for his success as a public servant, and in particular for his success as a university president. From 1921 to 1945, a period of twenty-four years, she was the First Lady of the BYU campus. During those years she entertained thousands of people in the president’s home and won the name of a most gracious hostess. Almost always at her husband’s side in reception lines, she helped create an atmosphere of informality and genuine friendliness. She dedicated herself to the University and always managed her household duties so that she could attend campus functions. She took time to visit the wives and newborn children of faculty members and concerned herself with their welfare. She is still a frequent campus visitor, renewing old acquaintances and making new ones. When her husband went to the Utah State Agricultural College for a five-year term as president of that institution, she also immediately won there a place in the hearts of the people.
As the wife of a university president, she was deeply respected and loved by faculty, students, and citizens because of her warm friendliness, enduring influence, and high principles.
Her contributions to the Church and to the community are many and varied. In the Church she has worked in the Sunday School, Relief Society, Primary; she had been on MIA Stake Boards in Provo and in Logan. She has been active in civic, faculty women’s, and AAUW groups. She has given many book reviews, informative lectures about her travels, and talks on practical problems in home management. She helped organize the Alice Louise Reynolds Club, serving as president of the Friendly Circle Chapter as well as of the Central Committee. She has been president of the BYU Faculty Women, the USAC Faculty League, and the USAC Women’s Club. Always concerned with the importance of the home, she was instrumental in getting her brothers and sisters to establish at the BYU a collection of books on home economics in honor of her mother, Roselia Spilsbury. This endowment now comprises numerous volumes.
Today, at the age of seventy, she is still active, still deeply interested in her children and grandchildren, still anxious to help others. She teaches the good Christian life, as most modest people do, by living it.
Estella Spilsbury Harris
1370 East South Temple
Written for Biographies of Member of Federal Heights Ward,
June 1963, p. 124-25
I was born in a typical Mormon village in southern Utah, Toquerville, February 17, 1884. This village or town, as we called it, had ditches along the street where the water for culinary use and irrigation ran. Wood was used in fireplaces for heating the rooms, and in the cooking stoves which had a reservoir on one end for heating water. The houses were lighted by kerosene lamps.
My parents were George Moroni Spilsbury and Roselia J. Haight. My father was born in Salt Lake City on October 30, 1852, and my mother was born in Cedar City on October 22, 1854. They were married January 1, 1874. Their parents later moved to Toquerville where my parents lived all their married life and where their 12 children were born.
My grandfather George Spilsbury and his wife Fanny Smith were born in England and were converted to the church there. They emigrated to America and lived in Nauvoo and knew the Prophet Joseph Smith, arriving in Salt Lake City October 3, 1850.
My mother’s parents were Isaac Chauncy Haight and Eliza Ann Price. He was from New York State and arrived in Salt Lake City in 1847, and she was from England where he met her while on his mission there and converted her. Both grandparents lived in Salt Lake City until they were called to settle southern Utah.
In my father’s family only seven of the twelve children born to them lived to maturity, four of them served missions for the Church. All of the children went away from Toquerville to get more education than was given in our local schools. Not many of the young people then were able to do this.
I attended school at the Branch Normal in Cedar City, now called Southern Utah College, and the Brigham Young University where I took a course in Kindergarten and Normal and finished in 1907. I taught in Price during the school year of 1907-8.
It was while attending Brigham Young University in 1905 that I met Franklin Stewart Harris who had come from Colonia Juarez. We had some dates that first year, but more in the following year. On June 18, 1908 we were married in the Salt Lake Temple. He was anxious to continue his education beyond a Bachelor’s Degree so he felt that Cornell University at Ithaca, New York was the place to go. We had to borrow money to go but we have never been sorry that we did. We stayed there for three years where he got his PhD in 1911. We couldn’t afford to come home during the three years we were there. Ithaca is a beautifully situated college town with deep gorges along the campus and Lake Cayuga below. We enjoyed many long walks along the beautiful campus wheeling Arlene.
My husband’s life was devoted to education spending 11 years in Logan as a teacher and administrator then twenty-four years as President at Brigham Young University, and five as President of Utah Sate University.
Our life was a very happy one with our six growing children. We took many trips to interesting places in the United States and from Canada to Mexico. At Aspen Grove we had a cabin and spent several summers there where the children could take classes and we could be together enjoying the beauties of Timpanogos, and being around the bonfire telling stories and singing songs.
My life was one with my husband trying to help him succeed in his strenuous administrative positions he held. There were many compensations in this life of service, one of which was having the Church authorities in our home. Knowing them as sincere members of the Church and their deep humility was an inspiring experience for the children.
In both universities we tried to show our interest by attending the student activities and commending them for their performances. As the wife of the President I was anxious for the wives and the women teachers to feel they were a part of a big family so I called on the new members as they came and visited the families with new babies or in time of illness or other difficulties. When we left the Brigham Young University in 1945 I knew quite intimately all the members of the faculty and their families.
Our first child was born while we lived in Ithaca, New York. The other five were born while we lived on the campus at Logan, Utah. They are Arlene H. Grover born May 25, 1909, Franklin S. Harris Jr. born May 24, 1912, Chauncy D. Harris born January 31, 1914, Helen H. Jenson born December 26, 1915, Leah D.H. Jensen born September 14, 1918, and Mildred H. Bradley born March 8, 1921. My husband and I and all the children graduated from the Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s degree and are all life members of the Alumni Association. Arlene has also received a M.A., Frank Jr. has received a PhD and filled a mission, and Chauncy has received a PhD, and was a Rhodes Scholar. My husband also two honorary Dr’s degrees.
Having traveled extensively in Europe and around the world there remains nostalgic memories of beautiful art, in paintings and buildings and the visit to historic places. In Iran the Persepolis where golden plates were found which had been placed there about the time Lehi left Jerusalem, and the beauty of the marvelous blue tile mosques are remembered as well as the loyalty and kindness shown by the Iranian people. In Italy and Greece the work of renown artists in painting, sculpture and architecture stands out. To spend Christmas Day in Bethlehem and Jerusalem was an event not to be forgotten. I found Singapore most interesting and Hong Kong a shopper’s paradise. I was thrilled by the beautiful gardens in Japan and fortunate to have the clouds lift from Mount Fujiyama just as the boat left the harbor. I felt privileged to visit the tombs of great men-artists, poets, authors and statesmen. The long voyages on the ocean were replete with the ever-changing hues as well as the serenity and violence of the water. In India besides the beauty there was poverty and suffering.
All these places were wonderful and enjoyed, but, the people, after all, were the most interesting. Their lives, their beliefs, their desires, and their failures and their eternal hopes were inevitable recorded in my memory. All this travel and experience with meeting people increased my knowledge and sympathy and interest in humanity. It was made more so because my husband was with me and he was a good traveler. “Above all nations is humanity.”
I have been president of: U.S.U. Faculty Women’s League, B.Y.U. Faculty Women, A.C. Woman’s Club, A.L.R. Friendly Circle. I am now a member of Cleofan, Bryan S. Hinckley History Group. I have been a member of the Stake Board of the Relief Society, and the Y.W.M.I.A. I have worked in the Ward as an officer in the Primary and the Relief Society. Now I am a Relief Society visiting teacher and am helping to organize a library in the ward Sunday School.
I am interested in keeping records and in visiting my children and in helping them in what ways I can.