Spens Family History
Nathaniel's Paintings
Bertha Spens Mills
Bertha Spens Mills and Martha Spens Mills

Bertha Ann Spens Mills (1877-1955)

and Martha Spens Mills (1881-1902)

Compiled by Anne Mills Tomlinson and Louise Brown

Edited by Anne Mills Tomlinson, Rose Mills Gardener and Dorothy Lugg

April 5, 1997, small changes 9 March 2013

Bertha Ann Spens Mills, the fifth child and third daughter of Nathaniel and Mary Jane Campbell Spens, was born 6 Oct 1877 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Bertha's father, Nathaniel Spens, had a sister named Bertha after whom this daughter was named. There is little history of Bertha's early life and education. She was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City at the age of 10, on 28 Feb 1888, on the same day her eight-year-old brother, Nathaniel Spens, was baptized. Bertha's youngest daughter, Anne, believes her mother started school in Salt Lake City and attended the country school after they moved to the Round Hills or Mountain View as it was sometimes called. Anne recalls her mother mentioning long division, but is not sure what grade she attained. A girl named Sarah Ann Matteshaw seemed to have been her closest friend. She and Bertha hearded cows together in the Round Hills. According to Anne, they never corresponded in later years--she believes Sarah Ann died at an early age.

Probably a memory triggered by a tooth ache--hers or one of the children's--Bertha recounted her memory as a five-year-old of the visit of her English cousin, Cuthbert Douse, to Utah. Anne recalls, "Mother told us of the man who came to visit and had a terrible tooth ache. He was a hemophiliac and knew that if he had the tooth pulled, he might bleed to death. He supported the pain for a few days. Finally, however, he could bear the pain no longer and went to the dentist. As feared, the bleeding would not stop. Mother said the dentist had them use burlap to stop the bleeding." This was an old technique. First, turpintine was used to cauterize the socket. Then, according to Stewart Seeley, a great grandson of Nathaniel Spens, who was a medic in the armed forces, pine gum and burlap were placed in the socket. Sadly, nothing worked and Cuthbert Douse died and was buried in Salt Lake City. Cuthbert was a son of Nathaniel's sister, Sarah Ann who lived in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England.)

According to Anne, much of the information we have on Bertha's early family life is fragmentary. "Some incident would remind Mother of her home. For example, peaches would remind her of the pickled peaches kept in a crock in the cellar. Peanuts brought back memories of her mother's trips to Mount Pleasant every Saturday and how her mother nearly always bought a large bag of peanuts home. Mother also mentioned cleaning the shoes on Saturday in readiness for church on Sunday."

Granddaughter Dorothy McCarthy Lugg recalls a story told to her by Bertha. "There was a childhood story that Grandma told me when I lived with her for a year. Grandma and some of the other girls had attended a dance. I guess the lads in those days were much like the young men of today--a bit unsure of themselves. A few drinks made them better dancers. Grandma said she and her friends went out to the wagon while the dancing was going on, emptied the liquor and refilled the bottles with cold tea. I remember how she smiled in the telling of this story."

Even less is known of Martha's early life. The seventh child born to Nathaniel and Mary Campbell Spens, Martha was born 30 Aug 1881 in Salt Lake City and baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1889. Bertha told her children about staying with a Danish lady. Bertha was rather quiet like her sister Clara and apparently always liked older people. She reported getting along with this particular Danish woman who couldn't stand Martha because she talked too much. According to Bertha, Martha had a "lovely singing voice" as did her sister, Clara, and most of her brothers. Bertha also told her children that Martha was very timid and was afraid of the dark.

On 31 Oct 1895 Bertha married Robert Mills, the fifth child and second son of Joseph and Jane Wilson Mills, born 13 Dec 1864 in Berkshire, England. Joseph Mills made shoes for a living. They were hand-sewn, and of fine quality. He employed five men in that trade. Both of Robert's parents died at a fairly young age, and the older of the ten children brought up the younger ones. (The children in order of birth were: Fred Mills, Emily Mills Haynes, Rose Mills Pinnell, Beatrice Mills, Robert Mills, Joseph Mills, Arthur Mills, Edwin George Mills, George Wilson Mills, and Maude Mills Weaver.)

Robert, or Bob as he was always called, emigrated to Canada as a young man, where he learned the brick-making trade. Soon after he was joined by his younger brother, Joe, they learned of a demand for bricks in Utah and traveled to Bountiful, Utah where they began working in a brick yard. Later the Mills brothers moved further south to Fairview and then on to Mount Pleasant where Robert met Bertha Spens and his brother Arthur, who came to visit, met Bertha's younger sister, Martha.

Bertha was 18 and Robert was 28 years of age at the time of their marriage. According to the marriage license, Robert Mills was residing in Pleasant View and Bertha was from Mount Pleasant, both in Sanpete County, Utah. They were married by Justice of the Peace Henry N. Lewis in Manti City, Sanpete's County seat, in the presence of witnesses Annie Spens and Edwin George Mills. Their wedding reception invitation read as follows:

Mrs. and Mrs. Nathaniel Spens request the pleasure of your

company at the wedding reception of their daughter, Bertha,

and Robert Mills at their residence at Mountain View on

Thursday Evening, October 31, 1895, at six o'clock.

Sarah Ann Matteshaw, Bertha's dearest friend, was a witness at the marriage of Bertha's cousin, Mary Campbell, to David Garlick in 1895 at Fairview and most certainly attended Bertha's wedding.

Six children were born to Bertha and Robert Mills while living in Utah, four of whose brief visits to earth were recorded only in the cemetery book. Their first son, Fred, named after Mr. Mill's eldest brother, was born 18 Dec 1896 and died the same day according to entry number 133 in Book Three. Fred was buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Block 55 Lot One. Edwin (on the cemetery record it was Edward), their second son, was born and died on 9 Nov 1897 according to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery entry number 180 and was buried in the same lot. On 31 Dec 1898 a third baby was born, thought to be a son. No name is given for this child in the cemetery records nor in family records. Cemetery record entry number 245 states that "a baby belonging to Bertha and Robert Mills was born and died on the above date" and buried in the same lot.

This last baby's grave was beside the still settling grave of Bertha's youngest brother, Robert William, age 12, who died 21 Mar 1898.

In 1900 Nathaniel and Mary Spens sent out wedding invitations similar to Bertha's for her sister, Martha, announcing Martha's marriage to Arthur Mills on 3 Jan 1900. Martha's invitations referred to the Spens home in Round Hills rather than by the earlier name of Mountain View or Mountainville. Martha and Arthur were married in Mount Pleasant by Justice of the Peace George Christenson. Witnesses were James Spens and Bertha Mills. According to Martha's sister, Sarah, "Such a time we had! A large supper for all the friends and neighbors and a brass band played for the dance."

Arthur was the seventh child of Joseph and Jane Wilson Mills. Arthur's mother died while he was still young and his father died when he was about 13 years old. His sister, Rose, took George, Arthur and Edwin; and Maude went to his sister, Emily. In 1891 Robert and Joe sent money to help Arthur come to Utah where they were working, making bricks. Adding their own earnings, Arthur and Edwin both came, finally arriving in New York after a very rough voyage. Each began the journey wearing two heavy woven suits and a "terrifically heavy woven overcoat" to increase their luggage space. They traveled by train to Utah where they expected to be met by Joe and Bob. However, Joe and Bob had made several previous trips to the Rio Grande depot having expected them many days earlier and finally left instructions and directions with the night watchman. Arthur and Edwin were directed by the night watchman. They followed the railroad tracks to the brick yard and were frightened by the croaking frogs, thinking there were game animals all around them!

According to Ted (Edwin), brick making work was too hard for Arthur. He left his brothers in the Salt Lake area and went to San Francisco where he joined the Ringling Circus and went with the circus to Australia for a couple of years. When he came to visit a number of years later, his brothers were in Sanpete County. It was at that time that he met Martha.

After Martha and Art were married, they lived with Bob and Bertha--two brothers married to two sisters. The house was divided so they each had their own rooms. Their house was on Birch Creek, thought to be near their brick yard. It must have been quite a lonely place.

Finally, Robert and Bertha's tiny daughter arrived on the 22nd of March, 1900 and Bertha named this baby Mary Jane after her oldest sister. Little Mary Jane stayed but one day and was also buried in Block 55 Lot One, and recorded in entry number 299 as "Mery Gens" by the Danish man who kept the books at the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Robert paid $3.25 to the Cemetery office for the interment of his little daughter. Bertha knew that "children were an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). She had been taught that little children the Lord called home were with Him, safely waiting for their parents to come later. Yet, she must have cried out in her heart, begging the Lord to send them a child with an earthly mission.

On the 13th of Sep 1900 Richard Ray Mills was born to Martha and Arthur Mills. Finally a child blessed this home, cheering two mothers' hearts, for Bertha must have rejoiced in her sister's baby. Awakened by a baby's cries, however, Bertha may also have wept in the night for her own little babes as Martha rose to care for Ray.

Imagine the joy Bertha and Robert must have experienced when their fifth baby, Viola, born 10 Nov 1901, was allowed to linger on this earth. How tender and miraculous Viola must have felt in Bertha's long-empty arms; how this tiny babe must have soothed her sorrowing heart. Now there were two babies in the home and Martha was again with child.

Martha's due date drew near. Dr. Winters was called when there seemed to be problems and someone provided some medication for Martha. Bertha told her children years later that Martha was all swollen and that there had been some kind of poisoning, possibly related to the pregnancy and miscarriage. Those who grew up in Mount Pleasant heard other stories. Some say that Dr. Winters loved Martha and when she refused to leave Arthur, Dr. Winters poisoned her. Dr. Winters was said to be very crude, but very smart "if you could get him to attend to his business." He was known to say that the cemetery was full of his mistakes. For reasons unknown to the writers, Martha's second child beckoned her from beyond the veil to a brighter world. Martha died on 19 Apr 1902 and was buried April 22, 1902 in Block 34 Lot 4 N.E., the Mount Pleasant Lot owned by her father. Martha's sister, Clara, a child of 11 years, heard Arthur say after the funeral, "Thank goodness that is over," and wondered at his anger. Arthur's loss was consolable only with an exceeding amount of time. Little Ray was gathered into his father's arms and also into Bertha's and Robert's arms and hearts.

Bertha helped care for Ray who was nineteen months old when his mother died. Then Robert Leslie arrived, born 3 Aug 1903. He too, stayed to be nurtured on Bertha's breast and carried on the shoulders of his grateful father. These three children in her arms were hers to help find their way on earth. Robert must have rejoiced in his little family and Arthur must have spent every possible moment with his little son.

In 1904 Bertha agreed to move to Canada with Robert and they began the journey by train.. Bertha's youngest daughter, Anne, mused, "It must have been hard for Mother to leave her large family and move to Canada, where she had no friends or family." However, Lethbridge was close to several Mormon settlements initiated under the direction of President John Taylor in 1886 when anti-Mormon persecutions were at their peak in the United States (Arrington, ). Bertha must have hoped for a kinship of belief with some of the people in the area.

Among their personal belongings were at least six painting by Bertha's father, Nathaniel Spens. Included in these paintings were a picture of a cow watering while a young man and woman looked on, an oriental landscape scene, a pioneer landscape scene and a signed painting of two women carrying baskets of fish along the ocean shore.

Arth had not remarried. When his brother, Bob, moved to Canada, Arth also moved to Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada to be close to his brother and surely to provide Ray with Bertha's gentle mothering. Arthur was a good step-dancer in his time and even in difficult times he could find ways to be outwardly cheerful.

Bob's and Arth's brother, Joseph Mills, lived in Canada, too, and united his family with the Latter-Day Saints in Lethbridge. Later Joseph moved his family to High River. Bob and Arth worked for a brick company, all the while anxious to open a brick yard of their own. Looking back, Bertha often remarked that the family's most properous years were in Lethbridge.

Rose Arba was Bertha's first child born in Canada. Rose was born on 8 Dec 1905 in Lethbridge and was but a few months old when the family moved to High River where Bob and Arth opened their own long-dreamed-of brick yard. These two brothers joined their brother, Joe, and his wife, May, and family and the three brothers shared a piece of land, building at least two homes and the brick yard on the property. They built the racks and kilns and had high hopes.

High River was a place of sorrows--sorrows that drowned those high hopes. A baby girl was born to Bertha and Robert on 22 Aug 1907 but before her parents could name her she slipped away, at the age of three days (25 Aug 1907). A son was born on 11 Jul 1908 and his visit to earth was even briefer. His spirit soared, leaving the clay behind to crumble in the earth. He returned to his heavenly home the same day he was born. Bertha found some comfort in visiting the two little graves and rejoiced in her three growing children--four counting Ray. Then the river lived up to its name and a flood came and washed away the loaded kilns. The house was also flooded and Bertha sorrowed over the loss of her few cherished things. Rose recalls hearing that some of the paintings by Bertha's father were damaged or lost in that flood. Bob, Joe and Arth sorrowed over the loss of their homes, brick yard and income.

Bob and Arth moved their families to Moyie where the men would work in the mines and hopefully get a new start. Joe and his family also moved; however not with Bob and Arth. Instead Joe and May moved to Coalhurst where he had a big garden and raised chickens.

Bob must have harnessed the draft horses to the loaded wagon early in the morning. After the family was tucked safely inside the wagon, Bertha requested that Bob make one last stop at the little cemetery on the way out of High River. Together they grieved silently over the two tiny graves. Bertha sorrowed over no longer being able to visit these little graves--she was leaving two more children behind, a reminder of their four children buried in far-off Utah.

The mines in Moyie were closing and many families had already moved on. Upon their arrival, the Mills family found that those who inhabited the house previously had departed in a hurry, leaving their personal things in the house. Rose recalls that her family didn't stay long either. By the fall of 1911 they had moved again, this time to Basanno where Rose began her formal schooling and Arth and Bob opened another brick yard.

Bob and Bertha lived in a one-room home with a tent for more sleeping space. Arth and Ray had their own tent. Bertha was known to say, "Bassano was a God-forsaken place--just bald headed prairie and no trees."

Anne writes, "Mother's life in Bassano wasn't easy. We had few conveniences. We did have outdoor plumbing--a pump a distance from the house. There was no electricity so the washing was done on a wash board for a long time and later in a hand-powered washing machine. Mother raised chickens and turkeys and had a hand in the garden as well as the ususal household chores. She really had little spare time, but I never heard her complain. "The family was not very affluent but that they were happy. There was not a Mormon Church so we attended the Presbyterian Church and Mother gradually drifted away from her church."

Dorothy wrote, "Mother (Viola), at about age eight as I recall her telling, was sent in the night to get a doctor for her younger brother, Les who was running a very high fever. Having lost six babies, Bertha must have feared the worst. While Grandma (Bertha) waited, an elderly neighbor came in and started to fry onions to make a poultice for Les's feet. Mom said the odor in the room as the fever was drawn out was terrible but Les's temperature went down to normal. Viola's night bike ride must have been terrifying for her at that age."

Eighty-three years later, Rose clearly recalled Glenn's birth and babyhood. "One night when I was seven, I was sent out to Uncle Arth's tent for some unknown reason. The next morning I was awakened and told that Mama had a new baby--Glenn Ervin was born in Bassano on May 3, 1912." (Bertha knew her grandmother's maiden name was Irvine but she didn't know how it was spelled.) When Glenn was still very small, he became ill and went into convulsions. Rose was sent by bike to summon the doctor in town. The minister learned the baby was sick and came to offer his support. The doctor warned that Glenn might go into convulsions again and the minister and his wife stayed the night so Bertha would not be alone. Bob was working out of town at the time.

The children continued to grow. Ray was more like an older brother than a cousin to Bertha's children. He was quite a cartoonist and used to draw cartoons of his father, Arth. He drew cartoons of (for) the younger cousins as well, apparently blessed with some of his grandfather, Nathaniel Spens' art talent.

Telegrams were the only way Nathaniel's family could communicate quickly with those so distant from Mount Pleasant--in Burlington, Wyoming and in Alberta, Canada. Sadly, telegrams were most often the pronouncement of a death in the family. Bertha saved five telegrams that had been delivered to her door over the years. The first announced the death of her brother, James:


Correspondance between Bertha and her family kept the family bonds strong. The following letter from Nathaniel is a follow-up of the telegram message and indicates a closeness in the family. This letter is one letter from her father (her mother did not read or write) that Bertha saved:

Mt Pleasant Utah Sept 23rd 1913

Mr. and Mrs. Mills

My Dear Son and Daughter

I am glad to say that we are well and so is all the family but we have some Bad News from Manmouth that James Spens was struck with Applexea and died. When they got him home and sent us word of his death and they were Burein him on the Tuesday, the 23rd and they saw that it was to short a time and they made it Wednesday the 24th to give them more time but we saw that we would have to keep him till Friday so you can see how they have done in there Trubel at this time. Tom Spens went over to see to things. We sent word to Alx but got no answer yet. Nathaniel is all by his self to look after it and he can get to our Place at once. Mother she feels very bad about James and not feeling well anny way and for my self I have been feeling very poorly in deed and I suffer lots of pain but I feel a littel better now. Sarah and Webley is well and so is Clara and Roy and so is Tom Spens and family and so is Mary Jane and family. We are having sum Rainny weather just now we had Snow on the mountain and Frost it was very cold here at this time but we got all our grain in the grainory but there are a great many of them has got their grain spoild with the Rain. The folks all thought that you could not get home so they sent word to Annie and Alex to see if they could get here by Friday so they made it Friday we all send our kind love to you all young and old

From a loving Father and Mother, Nth Spens rite soon.

Every Monday was wash day for Bertha and June 22nd, 1914 was not to be an exception. Heavy with child Bertha set about filling the tubs. Anne Winnifred Mills decided to arrive that day--she quite naturally changed her mother's plans as children are wont to do.

On her 14th birthday, Viola received a beautiful broach from her cousin, Ray Mills. Dorothy describes the broach which was later given to her by her mother, Viola. "It was an old-fashioned oval with a filigree edge and an oval solid section that has a small stone in the center. It appears to be a pale sapphire. It was lost in the yard when we were children and the back pin broke off. When I first went to work, I had it repaired for Mom and before her death she gave it to me. I treasure it very much and plan that it goes to Viola's youngest granddaughter, Lisa, Larry's daughter."

Rose recalled that Grandpa Nathaniel Spens had been sick some time after Anne was born and that the family had taken the train down to Utah to visit Grandpa who was not expected to live. (Nathaniel Spens died 25 November 1916.) Rose had only dim memories and recalled visiting Aunt Mary Jane and playing with some boy cousins.

The children were growing up. From the Bassano, Alberta newspaper, called the Bassano Mail issue March 16, 1916 on page 1 the school class standings for month of February 1916 were printed as follows:  Grade Ten: Viola Mills - first of six students; Grade Seven: Ray Mills - last of five students; Grade Six: Leslie Mills - sixth of eleven students; and Grade Four: Rose Mills - fifth of twelve students.  It is not surprising, then that  in 1916, when Viola finished school in Basanno, she went to Normal School in Calgary for a few months. She had to work for her board while training to be a teacher. Viola began teaching in a one-room school in Galarneauville at age sixteen--almost seventeen. She taught here one year, living alone in a teacherage at Galarneauville, a small settlement some distance from Bassano. Les was an apprentice at the Basanno Newspaper and often took Anne to school on the handlebars of his bike.

In 1916 when Rose was 11, Aunt May became ill and Uncle Joe Mills asked Bertha to care for their toddler, Lewis. Bertha and Bob agreed. About that time Bertha contracted typhoid fever while working in the hospital kitchen and was hospitalized, leaving most of the responsibility of caring for Lewis to Rose. One day Anne went to visit her mother at the hospital. Bertha saw her youngest child and immediately sent her home, asking, "Why did Rose let you wear that hat?" Rose didn't know that Anne was going to make a hospital call!

Bob was more careful than Arth not to dip too deeply into the financial backing of the brick yard, even to the point of going without at times. All the family worked and although there was always sufficient to eat, the food was plain--no money was wasted. More rooms were added on to the house until there were three bedrooms and a kitchen in addition to the main large room. Anne and Rose shared one bedroom and one bed, Glenn and Les had a bedroom and Bertha and Bob finally had their own bedroom.

In November 1916, the Mills family was notified of Bertha's father's death. There was no letter or telegram found among the family keepsakes referring to Nathaniel Spens's death. However, Bertha had saved several newspaper clippings concerning his death. Rose recalled feeling badly about it because her mother was feeling badly.

In 1917 Viola taught in a one-room school at Olin Creek, a small farming community in the foothills. Here she met Peter Andrew McCarthy (born 24 May 1898) and they were married in 2 Jul 1920, when Viola was 18.

A second telegram, sent by Bertha's sister, Annie, found in a little box of Bertha's keepsakes, announced the death of another of Bertha's brothers:

May 25, 1920 from Burlington Wyo to Mrs. Robert Mills in Bassano ALEX SPENCE DIED AT 7 AM Mrs. (Annie Elizabeth Spens) Rasmussen

A third telegram brought the forbodding news of Bertha's mother's impending death and was sent by Bertha's brother-in-law, Tom Burnside:

1921 from Mount Pleasant to Bob Mills in Bassano "MOTHER NOT EXPECTED TO LIVE COME AT ONCE T J Burnside

The telegram was followed by a letter from the family written by Tom Burnside who explains that the others were too upset to write:

Mount Pleasant July 28/1921

Mr. and Mrs. Bob Mills

Dear Son and daughter and Family (interesting salutation)

I am righting you to let you no how we ar all. I am sorow to inform you that your mother past a way to day the 28th at 2 15 o clock. She has suferd afuel for a bout 2 weeks but Past Pecefuely a way at the last.

We was awfuley sorow to hear you could Not come Your Mother Wold of liked to of seen you as well as all of us. it is shure to bad we live so far a part but it cant be helped.

Lizzy Chesnut and Aunt Jen and Tom and Nathanl is hear and all of the girls but you. they ar going to hold the Funarl on Satrday 30 (or 31?) I am righting this in a hurrey the rest of them are up set. Can you Noatfie Ather dos he live Near you hoping this will find you all enjoying good helth

We Will right more Latter

We sind Love and Best Wishes for your selves and Family

We remain your Loving Brother and Sister

M J and Jn T Burnside  (Mary Jane and Thomas John)

"It must have been hard for mother to be so far away from her family. She was so fond of them all." Anne goes on to say, "She always read all the letters from them to Dad and they would talk over old times."

Bassano was supposed to be a boom town, but it didnt turn out that way. In the 1920's because of a poor market for bricks, Bob Mills got a job with the Canadian Pacific Railway in Calgary where he would continue to be employed until his retirement at the age of 76 years.

Robert Leslie Mills graduated from high school in Bassano and went into the local newspaper office to learn the trade. He stayed there about two years, but as there was no chance of advancement, he decided to go into the business himself. In 1922 at age 20, Les bought the weekly newspaper in Carstairs, a small town about 40 miles north of Calagary, and became its editor. He also met his bride in Carstairs.

In 1924 Bob moved his family to Calgary where he was already working, and Bertha's life became much easier. Anne recalls, "The family graduated to indoor plumbing and electricity which meant electric washer and tap water. Natural gas instead of coal and wood were used for heating. There was easy access to the city by street car and good neighbors close by. It made a great difference in both convenience and a fuller social life."

Ray married Margaret Isabel McDonald in 1924 and it was about that time that Arth felt free to seek a companion. He moved first to British Columbia where he married Catherine and later moved to San Francisco. Some time after Ray's first daughter, Margaret Martha May Mills, was born in 1926, Ray moved his family to British Columbia. Anne who was about fourteen at the time recalls how much they all missed Ray. News came in 1928 that Ray had a second daughter, Norma Audrey Madeline Mills. Arthur remained in San Francisco and is buried there in 1942.

Bertha made her second trip back to the states in 1935 when her sister, Annie was sick. Bertha went to Burlington, Wyoming where other family members had gathered or were living. It was a sad experience because Annie (Elizabeth Annie Spens Rasmussen) could not speak to her after thirty years of separation. She did see her sisters Clara, Sarah, and Mary Jane and brothers Nathaniel and Tom.

Another letter from Tom Burnside was kept by Bertha. This letter was written in Mt. Pleasant Feb 24, 1936 to Mr. and Mrs. Bob Mills. Tom expresses his deep feelings for family by writing the words of an old song:

Dear Folks

My Hart is Sad to Night dear Tom

While thinking of the Past

The Past when all Was brite dear Tom

But days like those cant Last

I Never can forget thos days

I see them thrugh Memerys Page

When you and I Ware Boys

You wanderd far from Home and friends

and all We hold Most dear

But to those friends My Hart Still Binds

Thrugh all those Bygone years

in happy dreams I See your face

Wich makes My Hart Rejoice

and all our fun and practick trace

When you and I Ware Boys

Well folks you May think I got started oof on the rang foot When I Started this Letter But I dident. I just thought that old Song Just a Bout Coverd all I wanted to rite. Mary J says You Better Rite to Bob and Bert So I new she had told you all that Was Worth telling No use telling it all over agane So I got Started of on a difernt track

Just got to thinking of When We Was young thare has been many Snows fell Since We all used to gether at the old home down at the Round hills and the Many happy times We had thare if you could come hear Now you Wold Not Now the old Place the old House is falling down the dalus Was Just Maid out of Sand and thay ar crumbling Rit down So W have got to tear it down Before it falls and gess Sarah has Roat to you"

A fourth telegram found in Bertha's keepsakes announced the passing of Bertha's brother, Thomas, and is one more affirmation of the importance of her family of origin:

Feb 21, 1939 7:03 a.m.; from Burlington, Wyo FATHER (Thomas) PASSED AWAY MONDAY NIGHT 20TH SEND WORD IF COMING N B Spens

Bertha had lost many loved ones but the greatest loss was yet to come, and sooner than expected. Her dear Bob died suddenly of a heart attack on 12 Dec 1944 after enjoying only four years of retirement. His death came one day before his 80th birthday. "Dad was never sick and it was a real shock to us all, but of course it was hardest on Mother." Uncle Than and Uncle Andrew came up for the funeral--what a reunion after nine years of separation.

Anne noted, "Dad was a quiet man. He read the paper from cover to cover, and was always interested in the world around him. If one of us asked his advice, it was usually well considered, and worth following." Anne goes on to say, "Dad had a great sense of humour and enjoyed music and movies. He loved his children and grandchildren and was able to converse with them on their individual level of understanding. In his younger days, he played his violin for dances. He also played the bones and flute."

Anne concludes, "Dad worked hard all his life. He provided us with a good education, a respect for hard work and a deep regard for family."

It wasn't long after Bob's death that Bertha began suffering from arthritis. Even so, Bertha went to Utah to visit her family in 1948. Rose and Anne and their children went down to Utah to bring their mother back home. Anne recalled, "When I saw her with her sisters she seemed like a different person. She seemed so happy." She must have yearned at times to be surrounded by her sisters and brothers. After Bob was gone there was no one who really knew her people and no one to share the news from home--no one to remember with. "Even so, Bertha managed fine on her own," according to Anne, until her arthritis became acute. She prefered to stay in her own home but she suffered a lot with arthritis and never regained her former good health.

The fifth telegram saved marks the death of Bertha's sister, Mary Jane Spens Burnside:

May 23 1953 from Mount Pleasant to Calgary "MOTHER PASSED AWAY TONIGHT FUNERAL TUESDAY OR WEDNESDAY. From Harry Burnside

In October, 1954, Bertha suffered a stroke. When Anne and Frank went to visit, they noticed that Bertha was somewhat confused. Not long after this time, she fell. Her foot slipped under the furnace and was badly burned. Her children worried until Bertha went to live with Anne and Frank. Bertha was an independent person and not really happy away from her home, so Viola decided that she and Pete would buy Bertha's home from her and live in the family home with Bertha. The family agreed and Bertha went home. Anne recalled, "Mother made the doctor promise not to take her to the hospital and he kept his word." Bertha died at home at 8:25 p.m. on 18 Mar 1955. "She was buried in the Mormon faith as we thought she might have wished."

About Bertha, Anne writes, "Mother made our house a home where we felt secure. She was always there when we needed her. She was capable and good natured, always willing to help in any way she could. Mother's life was always centered around her home and family. She and Dad never went anywhere if the family couldn't go too. She was always doing something for someone. and I think, in her own home with her family gathered around and letters from her father's family, she had a good life."

Viola (1901-1984) and Peter McCarthy lived in various places in Alberta and raised eight children: Marjorie Rose, James Robert, Kenneth Allan, Viola Patricia, Dorothy Eileen, Ray Lloyd, Elizabeth Joan and Lawrence Peter. In 1960 Viola and Peter lived at 910 8th Avenue S.W. in Calgary in the Mills family home.

Viola was very placid by nature and a great reader. She suffered a stroke in 1984 and died six months later on June 30th of that year. Her children grew to adulthood. Marjorie married Joseph Samulenok after WWII and they had four sons, Robert, Joseph, Donald and David and five grandchildren. Marjorie died of lung cancer 7 Oct 1989. Jim married Ilene Robinson in 1959 and they had one son, Douglas. Jim was killed in an accident in June 1960 when Doug was three weeks old. Ilene raised Doug in Calgary where he has continued to live (as of 1997). Doug married and had three children. Allen has not married and lives in the family home in Calgary--the home Bertha and Bob bought in 1927. Patricia married Albert Hartley and had two daughters, Linda who married Frank Clark-Jones and had four children (a daughter followed by fraternal twins--a boy and a girl--and another son) and Cheryll who married and had two daughters. Dorothy married John Lugg in 1950 and adopted two children, Bruce and Christy. Christy has one son, James. Ray married Catherine McDonald and they adopted one boy, Andrew. Elizabeth (known as Betty) married George Taylor and had six children; Stephen, Sharon, Michael, Jeff, Richard and Brian, and eight grandchildren (as of 1997). Larry married Donna shortly after his father, Bob, died in 1966 and they had two children, Lisa and Shawn.

Dorothy writes, "Like our grandparents and aunts and uncles, we were raised on a lot of love and caring and not much money. It was a time when not many had money or a steady job so we thought we were doing fine. We were blessed with a mother (Viola) who had time and talent for her large family. I remember the shadow plays that were performed behind the bed sheet hung in the archway with a lamp behind. Marj was operating on Jim who lay on the ironing board. In silhouette and with a large butcher knife, she cut my brother open and proceeded to pull lengths of Mom's rug material from behind him. I thought it was real and the show ended with me howling loudly. Mom taught us to make paper beads from bright magazine pages and make gifts for birthdays, etc. She never stopped being a teacher. She was a great reader and as she jokingly said, "From a match box to the catsup if there wasn't a book around."  Dorothy goes on to say, "Dad (Peter) was like one of her children when it came to having fun. He had been orphaned at age 14 when his father died, his mother having died when he was three years old, and he had never really had a family life. Our house was where all the children gathered to play bingo for jelly beans when the weather was inclement. Dad had a few of his so-called 'magic tricks' for the unwary. Many a new child to our home saw stars up the coat sleeve or fell for the soot-under-the-saucer trick. We were blessed with our parents. Although there was little money, there was always sufficient food to go around and, at Christmas, very generous grandparents, aunts and uncles made Santa look great."

Robert Leslie (1903-1982) married Helen Alfrey (born 25 Aug 1907) on 19 Apr 1928. They had one son, James Robert, who was a mortician. Together with advertizing from the local business firms, job printing, wedding invitations, etc., Leslie built up a business that he and his wife managed for more than 40 years.

Les was a great booster of the town where he made his living. he was a scout leader, promoted a drop-in centre for the men in the town, and served as mayor of Carstairs for 18 years. Les retired in 1966. He died of pneumonia 3 Jan 1982.

Rose Arba (1905-) finished high school in Bassano and joined her father in Calgary where he was working and she attended business college. She worked many years in the business field. Rose married Cyril William Gardener (born 22 Nov 1906) on 26 Jun 1939 and had one son, William David Gardener 15 Dec 1946. Rose always had an interest in gardening and filled her yard with flowers every summer. In later years, Rose worked in Sears garden shop where she slipped on water spilled on the floor, and broke her hip. This accident triggered arthritis which has dominated her life style. On Dec 8, 1995, Rose celebrated her 90th birthday. Presently (1996) Bill and his wife live with Rose and Cy, and assist them as needed.

Glenn Ervin Mills (1912- ) took high school in Calgary and worked with his father, Bob, for seven years. He then worked with Canadian Pacific Railway until he joined the Air Force where he served four years. Like his grandfather Glenn had trouble with his eyes. While Nathaniel Spens had only one wandering eye which became increasingly difficult to direct as he aged, Glenn had trouble focusing his eyes together. In the Air Force he was told that glasses would do him no good as he had 20-20 vision in both eyes. Because he couldn't focus his eyes, he couldn't join the air crew. Either eye could be out as little as 10 degrees or as much as 45 degrees. His cousin Ray Mills had inherited this same eye problem, similiar to their Grandfather, Nathaniel Spens.  When Glenn returned home, he worked as a chief engineer in a packing plant and then in an explosive plant for seventeen years. In 1940, Glenn married Jean Sayers. They had one stillborn child before they were divorced in 1949. In 1952 Glenn married Kathleen Oats Steves, a war widow with two sons, Lampbell and Kenneth. Kathleen died in 1989.

Glenn changed his name from Ervin to Irvin and often wondered where such a name came from. When he learned in 1996 that it was actually spelled Irvine and that it was his great grandmother's maiden name, he understood a little more about his mother's effort to maintain her roots. His name finally had some meaning.

Anne Winnifred Mills Tomlinson (1914- ) finished high school in Calgary which included business training. She married Frank Tomlinson (born 1 Nov 1913) on 28 Oct 1935 and had four sons: Gerald Frank Tomlinson, born 29 Jan 1939; a stillborn baby boy born 8 Nov 1940; a son adopted at age two, Anthony Robert, born 8 Mar 1947, and Robert Kent born 21 Jan 1947. In October 1995 Anne and Frank celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Like Rose, Anne reports, "I am fond of gardening."Of her husband, she said, "Frank has a flare for wood-carving."

Ray Mills, the only son of Martha, carried his grandfather's artistic trait. Like his grandfather he was artistic and remembered for his ability to entertain by sketching and cartooning. According to Sharon Perry, Ray's descendancy include two daughters, five grandchildren, eleven great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild (as of 1996). Ray's daughter Margaret Martha May Mills married George MacPhrson Ruiz in 1954 in British Columbia and had five children: 1) Richard George Ruiz married Carol Able in 1975 and had three children, then married Susan Margaret Boyle in 1986; 2) Frederick Daniel Ruiz married first Diane Jones in 1974 and had one son, Daniel, then married Bettie Darla Gallaugher and had a second son, Donny, in 1994 (Fred and Darla later separated); 3) Sharon Blanche Ruiz married William Frederick Perry in 1975 and had three children; 4) Audrey Madeline Ruiz (named after wonderfully fun Aunt Audrey) married Mark Ernest Leslie in 1979 and had three children (in 1995, Audrey married Corey Wilfred Fredrick Foley); and 5) Ronald John Ruiz, born 1964 and has not married to date (1996).

Ray (Richard Raymond Mills) was born 13 September 1900 in Mount Pleasant, Sanpete, Utah and died 8 March 1979 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and is buried in Ocean View Cemetery, in Burnaby, British Columbia.

This history of Bertha and Martha Spens is based on research; Bertha's personal keepsakes; the writings of Anne Tomlinson, Jean M. Averett and Dorothy Lugg; and conversations with Anne Tomlinson, Rose Gardener, Glenn Mills, Ila Jensen, Alvin Wilcox and Reta Briggs. Dorothy remarked, _After reading all that has been gathered on my ancestors, I have a proud feeling coming from such a background._ Each individual's help was appreciated and very much needed to bring Bertha and Martha's lives into focus. Although I, Louise, never knew them, through the opportunity to compile their history I have been touched by their courage and fortitude, their sorrows and joys, and their unity and peace. I have a deep sense of gratitude for these relatives.

Additional Sources of Information

Film 0484813 Mt Pleasant Cemetery Records, Book Three.

Marriage records for Sanpete County, Utah

Edwin George Mills recollections as told to Jean M. Averett by Dr. Mills.

Recollections of Anne Tomlinson, Rose Gardener and Dorothy Lugg and other relatives

Arrington, Leonard J., _Historical Roots of the Mormon Settlement in Southern Aberta.

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