(1859-1924)  daughter of Elijah Averett

By her daughter, Blanche Hansen

My mother, Maria Janette Averett, was born March 20, 1859 in Ephraim,Utah. She was the daughter of Elijah Averett and Johanna Christine Neilson. As a little girl she was left to care for the family of smaller children, while her mother helped earn the livelihood. I remember hearing her relate the following incident: One day while her mother was gone, the child discovered a keg of wine stowed away in a corner. Being curious, she decided to taste it. She had no way of knowing that the liquid sucked directly from the "bung" is much more potent than when poured first into a glass, so she just stooped down and drank some of the wine right out of the spout. In a short time she became very happy and when her mother returned and learned what had happened, she was shocked at such behavior. She scolded the child soundly and promised, "Just wait 'till I tell your father." Maria waited in terrified anticipation of what might happen when her father learned of her disgraceful conduct. When he arrived she was cold sober, but when he heard the story, he just laughed and said, "was it good, daughter?" Never again did she have any desire to imbibe.  

Maria had very little opportunity to go to school. She would work in people's homes and with what she earned she paid the teacher for her lessons in simple reading, writing, and arithemetic. They didn't have free education in those days.

When Maria was about thirteen her father was called by Brigham Young to help develop the Dixie country in southern Utah. They had lived for awhile in Provo, while her father worked as a stone mason on a factory. He lived in Washington for awhile, built the fort at Pipe Springs. Then he finally settled in Kanab. Here, at the age of seventeen, she was married to my father, Wilson Glenn Shunway. They had to live with his family with scarcely any room for privacy. Their first son, Wilson Averett, was born in Johnson, April 22, 1877. Soon after, with no home and no place to turn, the young couple were in despair. A kind man, John Seaman gave her husband work on his saw mill at upper Kanab. Maria went along as a cook for the hands. Her second son was born there and was named Wallace Everett, the second name began with an "El"so the two boys wouldn't have the same initials. His first name was for Sir William Wallace, the Scottish hero she had read about in a book. The little family lived for awhile at Pipe Springs, where Maria "waded in the slop to milk the cows." One day while living there, every man in the place was called out to chase Indians who were giving them a lot of trouble.

 It was in this part of Utah that her brother Elijah was killed by the Indians. She was the only person left in the settlement. She spent the night along with just her babies but said she felt no fear. Such courage and fortitude marked her character throughout her life.

On December 14, 1879, Maria's husband took her and their two children to Arizona. They settled for the winter at Grand Falls on the little Colorado about twenty miles below what is now Winslow, Arizona. Here her husband built a house out of 14 foot logs and covered it with flat sandstones. This way they were fairly comfortable that winter. She entertained President Wilford Woodruff in this place when on one of his visits to Arizona.

The family lived in Concho, Arizona for a few years. Her third son, Clarence was born there. Life was a struggle and they endured some hardships for awhile. Lliving in a dug out with a dirt floor and roof. The roof leaked so much that her husband held blankets over her and the children during one storm. They later built a log cabin in one corner of the fort or stockade, which protected the community from Indians. There they were comparatively comfortable. My mother made some very dear and lifelong friendships while living there. Despite the misery they endured, they enjoyed many pleasant and friendly associations. The community organized a choir. I remember a few of the songs she refered to later, such as Goin' Homeand Hard Times, Come Again No More.

In 1883 the family moved to Shumway. They lived there the rest of her life. There was always much hard work and to make ends meet. During the years in Shumway, Mother bore two more sons and four daughters. She suffered much in childbirth and had one stillborn child. She suffered for over thirty years from gallstones, without knowing what caused the excruciating pain she so often endured. Many times I was sent running for the elders to come and administer to her, because the pain was so severe that we thought she couldn't bear it. I've known her to take laudanum (a poison) to deaden the pain and for some reason it helped. In those days there was nothing like asprin to relieve pain. I would go to a neighbor, Brother L.D. (Hood) Rhoton, who was capable of great sympathy and faith. He would come quidkly and lay his hands on her head after the oil was used. After his prayer of faith, the pain would leave instantly and she would lie quiet, weak, and perspiring. My father earned the necessities of life by farming and sometimes hauling freight to Fort Apache. He did this so that we might have a few of the nice things. Mother added to the income by boarding the school teacher and serve seven meals or provide a bed for travelers passing through Our mother read as many good books as she could obtain. She took several magazines. I remember the "Woman's Exponent", which preceded the Relief Society Magazine. She took the Designer, Today's Magazine, Comfort, and some others which have all long since ceased to be. She loved beauty to a great degree and always had house plants and flowers wherever she could get water to them. For many years she tore and sewed rags, which she had woven by a loom into bright new carpets. These were padded underneath with fresh straw and for awhile were a luxury to walk on. Mother was always painting the woodwork, and calcimining the walls, trying to bring beauty into her drab surroundings. How well I remember the thrill of our first wallpaper, the first linoleum, and the first Axminister rug called an "art square." These she got with her own hard-earned savings. She had a dresser bought second handed which held a full length mirror and there were two slabs of marble over the drawers. Father gave the seasons crown of apples for an organ made by Daynes and Romney of Salt Lake City. Mother was very proud of all these things.  

In those days when quilting was the chief activity of Relief Society, Mother was a faithful and diligent member. Later in life she participated in the more extended program of Relief Society when she was in the presidency. She was president of the Primary for some years. She was quite interested in genealogy, which at that time had some connection with the Relief Society. She made many yards of hairpin lace for me, for which I was to help fix up her genealogy. The pedigree then was in the form of a wheel. She hated to write but did write some letters of inquiry to relatives about their genealogy. I wish I had been more diligent and written her personal record while I had a chance to get it from her own lips.

Our mother was a kind, and sweet-dispositioned person. She was loyal and hospitable to her friends, ready to do her part in any church or community activity. She was always punctual and insisted on her family being so. She was faithful and devoted to her husband and family and always had their confidence, love, and respect.

When I was a child, Mother had a device known as a stereoscope, something like the Viewmaster of today. Through it we-would get realistic views of many scenes such as flowers., landscapes, famous buildings and showplaces.

Mother said, "Why there are beautiful places and things in this world that we never dreamed of." She was soon to get her chance to glimpse some of these things as well as to see her first and only big city. For finally the disease she had endured resulted in a jaundiced condition. A doctor was brought quickly from Winslow. He diagnosed gallstones and said that an operation was necessary. At that time Los Angeles was the nearest place where five doctors and equipped hospitals could be reached. She went to Los Angeles where her stones were removed. While there, she visited a sister whom she had not seen for many years. She hadn't even seen her own mother, who lived in Kanab, Utah. Kanab wasn’t far away but was separated by the Colorado River. The Colorado River was a great barrier since the Navajo Bridge had not been built. Finally, her mother at age 87, passed away January 31, 1924, without mother getting to see her again. The reunion was to be sooner than she knew. On July 22, 1924, at the age of 65, Maria Janette Averett Shumway went to meet the Mother she had so longed to see. There also, she would see beauty of which she had never dreamed.