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Mary Campbell Spens Biograph
Mary Jane Campbell Spens

A year after Maggie’s death, Nathaniel sought a third wife. He most likely met Mary Campbell during a visit to American Fork to see his daughter, Elizabeth--the Campbells had settled in American Fork. Nathaniel married Mary Campbell in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on his 31st birthday, June 21, 1869. That same day Nathaniel had Jane Ann Burnhope sealed to him first. According to the Endowment House records, Joseph F. Smith performed the sealings for Nathaniel, Jane and Mary. Maggie was seemingly forgotten, her temple ordinances left undone.

Like Nathaniel, Mary was no stranger to sorrow, having witnessed or been told of the death and burial of eight of her twelve siblings in Scotland, many to smallpox. Although the smallpox vaccination was available to baby Princess Victoria, obviously it was not available to everyone. Also, Mary, like Nathaniel, had been sent to the registrar, however, on a much sadder occasion. The reader will recall that 22-year-old Nathaniel reported the birth of his niece, Margaret Leck, in 1860 in Glasgow. Thirteen-year-old Mary was sent to the registrar in 1864 just four days after her brother James had reported the death of their seven-year-old sister. The cause of the death was smallpox. Mary tearfully reported that smallpox had now taken her nine-year-old brother, Alexander.

Mary and her twin, Joseph William, were born October 4, 1848 in Oakley, Saline, Fifeshire, Scotland, her parents, Thomas and Elizabeth Smith Campbell, having joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in February of that same year in the Dunfermline Branch. Her Grandmother Mary Durham Campbell was baptized in April, 1848 so Mary was the third generation in her family to hear and accept the gospel. The Campbell family's church records were later transferred to the Oakley Branch where Mary's father, Thomas Campbell, was ordained an Elder at Bathgate on September 15, 1850. In 1852 their church records were transferred again, first to the Falkirk Branch and later to the Bathgate Branch. The children were baptized some time after age eight. Mary was baptized in the spring of 1866, probably at Bathgate, at age 15.

On May 25, 1866, Mary Campbell, almost 16 years old, with her parents, Thomas and Elizabeth Campbell (both age 45), her 18-year-old brother, James, and three younger sisters, Annie (9 years old), Martha (4), and Jane ("an infant" of two years) sailed from Liverpool by way of London to America, arriving in New York July 5, 1866. The Emigrations Records indicate that this family sailed on the ship, "American Congress," with Captain Woodward, and that Brigham Young, Jr. was the church agent. Thomas Campbell was a laborer and his son, James, was a miner according to the register. For two years after their arrival in America, the family lived in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, sixteen miles up the Monegahala River from Pittsburgh. On August 10, 1867 Mary's brother, James, married Elizabeth Burnside. James was a figure skater and loved the winters in Pennsylvania where he could cut his name in the ice. Mary and the other family members may not have been so inclined to enjoy the cold weather and more anxious to move on.

Move on they did, probably by train, to Laramie City, Wyoming where they joined Captain W. S. Seeley's train. At that time Laramie, Wyoming was the terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad. With the help of the Church's Perpetual Immigration Fund, on August 1, 1868, the Campbells began the last part of their journey to Salt Lake City (Deseret News 17:227 Aug 29, 1868). Thomas Campbell, wife and three young children (Mary, Martha, and Jane); James Campbell, wife and child (Thomas); and John Burnside, wife and six children traveled in the same company. On August 6th Wm. S. Seeley sent a list of Saints in his train and wrote the following message to George Q. Cannon from Benton, Dakota Territory:

"The health of the Saints is generally good, and they are all in good spirits in the expectation of soon reaching Utah; We have had one death which please insert a notice of" (Deseret News, Aug 19, 1868).

On August 29, 1868 they arrived in Salt Lake City, having walked much of the way:

"Another Train In.--Captain Seeley's ox-train of 89 wagons got in this afternoon. He brought with him 272 passengers. The trip was made in four weeks, the train having left Laramine this day four weeks at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. There were four deaths during the trip, one of an aged person and that of three children who died of measles (Deseret News 17:227 Aug 29, 1868).

Upon arrival, the Campbells camped in the Tithing Yard and depended on the Bishop's storehouse for supplies. After three months at the Tithing Yard, Brigham Young asked Thomas Campbell to take his family to American Fork.

After moving to American Fork, Thomas Campbell and his son James worked in the mines. From Vera Elizabeth Young Allen's story of her mother, Jeanne Campbell Young Marcroft, we learn a little about pioneer life in American Fork. Thomas and James worked together, hauling logs from the American Fork Canyon. They built two dugouts, which were their homes:

"The lights they had in these homes were made of greased rags pulled through the hole of a large common button. One half of the rag was placed in a tin saucer full of tallow grease, and the other half sticking up out of the button was lighted. These homemade lights were called 'Bish lights.'"

Later Vera relates that Thomas made some candle molds out of tin and he and Elizabeth made their own candles, as did most other families in the area. Jeanne goes on to describe the sitting room and the bedrooms:

"The sitting room contained one table made from large tree limbs; one wooden cupboard made from boxes with shelves, with little white curtains used in place of doors; three chairs and one high stool, all made of tree limbs; and two large soap boxes. At the end of the room was a dirt fireplace. The walls and ceilings were smoothed by scraping the earth with a sharp board. The floors were a clay substance from the American Fork Canyon made into a form of cement. The two bedrooms had beds made of tree limbs and ticks made from straw."

Elizabeth Campbell learned how to make cattail rugs, which were placed in the bedrooms on the floor. The cattail stocks were soaked in salt for 24 hours, according to Jeanne, and while they were still damp, braided into small rugs, round in shape, and placed in the bedrooms and by the cupboard and table. After about six months, when the rugs began to look shabbly, new ones were braided to replace the old ones. Mary's mother was particular that everything looked neat and tidy. And, like generations before her, she taught her daughters the art of homemaking. For Mary and her sisters this included learning how to make cattail rugs as well as how to polish the tin dishes with wood ashes.

Jeanne explained the kitchen and the art of pioneer cooking to her daughter, Vera:

"The kitchen had a fireplace in the wall and the cooking was all done in a large kettle hanging from a chain over the fireplace. The bread was baked in this kettle. The kettle was about two feet in diameter and over a foot deep. It had a large bale and a cover. The bread dough was molded into large round loaves and cooked in this kettle."

It was in American Fork that Mary learned how to make her own gum from milkweed pods. The pods were broken open in the morning and left in the sun all day. In the evening, the milk had formed into a rubber substance, which was gathered and chewed for gum, according to Jeanne.

(Many years later, on February 15, 1882, James Campbell, May’s brother, purchased that ground on the old bench in American Fork for $5.00. This land is described as "beginning at NW corner of Block 47 Plat 'A' running South 500 claims then East 742 clms to what is known as the North Field Water Ditch, then then along the west side of said ditch north by westerly to a 4 rod street then due west 381 claims to Camp Street--NE 1/4 Sec. 14 T.5.S.R.1 E. Salt Lake Meridian." James sold the land Nov 8, 1884 for $250 and moved to Mount Pleasant.)

Thomas and Elizabeth Campbell's stay in American Fork seems to have been a preparatory time. They were called to live the United Order. After those efforts failed, they began to rebuild their lives. Thomas and Elizabeth Campbell renewed their faith, as did many of the early Saints, through rebaptism on February 13, 1869 in the American Fork Ward. Their son, James Campbell, and his wife, Elizabeth Burnside Campbell, were also rebaptized on the 13th, as was Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth Burnside. This was just two days before Thomas and Elizabeth Campbell, John Mason Burnside and wife, Elizabeth Burnside, and James and Elizabeth Campbell went to the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Mary's own original baptism date is not complete but she was also rebaptized four months later by Brother Shelley on June 19, 1869, two days before her own marriage to Nathaniel Spens in the Endowment House. She was 19 years old. Not too long after Mary married, her parents moved to Salt Lake City and lived just east of Liberty Park in what was later called Old Rock Row.

A year later, on the 25th of August, in the 1870 Census (page 184), Nathaniel and Mary are living in American Fork. Not only are Nathaniel’s two girls back with him, but he and Mary have a baby, James. It appears that the family was away when the Census was taken. Perhaps a neighbor was questioned and provided the census taker with the surname of Spencer rather than Spens. Nathaniel and Mary’s ages were most likely estimated as they are shown as being only two years apart in age. Finally, James is recorded as being born in February rather than March. It is noted in the census that the mother could neither read nor write.

In addition to raising Nathaniel's two little daughters, Isabella and Elizabeth, whom Mary willingly took into her arms and heart, she bore Nathaniel twelve children. Their first son was born March 13, 1870, in American Fork and named James in the traditional Scottish pattern, after Nathaniel's father. When James was born, there were twenty other families living in the American Fork area, all farmers. Their immediate neighbors, according to the 1870 Census, were the Laycoxes and the Bloods.

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