Taken from “Legacy”, a Brimhall family history by David Jex Brimhall
by Tryphena M. Brimhall Garff
November 18, 1937
Rachel Ann Mayer was the oldest of a family of eight children. Her parents were descendants of the early settlers of Pennsylvania and of German descent. She was born February 9, 1829 at Bucyrus, Crawford County, Ohio, daughter of George Mayer and Ann Yost Mayer.
After six children were born the family moved to Logansport, White County, Indiana; and in the father’s journal it says they were very prosperous.
George Mayer was an expert wagon and plow maker and held important military offices.
Rachel Ann received some education and studied as an apprentice tailor, which was very beneficial to her in later years. Her father became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on November 11, 1843; and the family joined him in his belief. They moved to Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois in 1844. He was a guard at the Nauvoo Temple. His wife and all the children over eight years of age were baptized into the Church.
While at Logansport Rachel Ann’s father made 22 wagons and sold them. He also disposed of his property while there. He purchased equipment to move West with the pioneers, and on April 22, 1846 they left Nauvoo equipped with three yoke of oxen, two cows and plenty of everything they could comfortably take. They traveled in Brigham Young’s Company and Heber C. Kimball’s ten. Brother Kimball was ill, and George Mayer took charge of the ten wagons, leaving Rachel Ann to drive the wagon that carried the Mayer family, which she did from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City. She would always get out of the wagon when it was going up hill and climb in again as it was going down, thus making it easier for the animals. Her father says in his record: “Rachel Ann, my oldest daughter (she was then 19 years of age), drove the team of large oxen. She had become a great teamster, and Berg and Buck, the oxen, became very obedient to her commands. They were the best oxen I ever had and always willing to pull when they were able.”
They arrived in Salt Lake Valley in 1848, and on account of there being good pasture for the animals, the family located in Session’s settlement-some distance north of Salt Lake City.
Rachel Ann had experienced much responsibility in driving the oxen and taking care of her mother, while the younger sister, Mary Ann, helped the father with the other oxen and wagons; and she continued to take the responsibility of the family while their father and sister got out logs to build a house. However, before a house could be built, a sister was born in the wagon box, now Mrs. Deanthia Lollin, 238 South Main Street, Salt Lake City. The family had had the sad experience of burying their only son and brother, Benjamin, on the plains. Later, however, another son and brother, George Jr., was born in Salt Lake.
During the time of the gold rush in California, George Mayer made 110 pack saddles and sold them to the people who were en route there. The saddles sold at from 2 to 5 dollars each. He obtained one and one-quarter acres of valuable land near where the City and County Building now stands. Lot No 5, Block 37, 9th Ward.
Ail of these vicissitudes and moves in life made of Rachel Ann a woman prepared for the frontier life with its many sacrifices and hardships.
In 1853 her father was called to preach the gospel in Switzerland. He opened that mission and remained there for four years. When he returned he seemed almost a stranger to his family. During his absence, Rachel Ann conceived the idea of earning money to help support the family. She went to work for a neighbor, Mrs. Rhodes, who took in members of the legislature as boarders. Rachel met one, George Washington Brimhall, a member of the Legislature from Iron County. She was married to him by President Brigham Young February 2, 1852. He had been previously married in the East and was separated from his wife with two children on account of the gospel. From this union there were ten children: George Henry Brimhall, Emma B. Robertson, Emer M. Brimhall, Orilla B. Boyack, Omer Brimhall, Ruth Rose Brimhall, Prudence Brimhall, Ether Brimhall, Tryphena M. Brimhall Garff, Grace Brimhall Calderwood.
Rachel Ann Mayer Brimhall, the mother of these ten children, was brunette with large brown eyes and kindly face. She was 5 feet 6 inches tall and quite heavy with a stately carriage. She often mentioned the fact that she was a slender person until about forty years of age. She was a woman of high ideals with great determination and strong emotions of love, joy, and sorrow. She was ever obedient to the cause that made her a pioneer.
Soon after her marriage she went with her husband to Iron County and was among the first settlers of Parowan. Next they moved to Ogden, Weber County, and were among the early builders of that city. Later they were sent on a mission to the Little Muddy Mission and were among those who first settled the Moapa country. In 1865 they moved to Spanish Fork where she said, “This is enough, we will remain here,” which the family did. By this time her father had taken a second wife and moved there also.
While her husband and sons made a house and obtained a good farm and raised the crops, Rachel Ann and her daughters did equally as great a part. Besides keeping up the regular housework, she taught her children to read, write and do some arithmetic, and gave them a great desire for education. She was very resourceful and always made money. She made men’s suits, bound shoes for the shoemaker, and made gloves from buckskin. She dried the peaches, apples, corn and apricots, and always tended a large flock of chickens, besides the cows and making butter. In fact she always had some product to send to the Spanish Fork Coop in exchange for the things that were needed at home.
While her husband was in Echo Canyon during the Johnson Army episode, she made shoes for the children from old boot tops and used a bell strap for the soles. She supplied her family with molasses by boiling the melon juice down. She fashioned and made nets for the fishermen. In many ways her life was a joy and with that joy came many trials and sacrifices.
Rachel Ann did not have the opportunity for a higher education, while her husband was educated in letters and music and was always being called into public affairs, which left to her the responsibility of the home and family. She was from sturdy German descent, and he from the English and French.
One of the most trying occasions of her life that she often mentioned was when she attended the First Legislature Ball. Her husband loved to dance, and she had never learned how. Everybody danced with his own partner. She made a resolution then that her children should not suffer such humiliation, and that they should be educated and be able to move in any society. Her resolution was accomplished, as six of her family were teachers, two having college degrees- the oldest, Dr. George H. Brimhall, President Emeritus of the Brigham Young University, and the youngest, Mrs. Grace B. Calderwood who was graduated from the B. Y. U. The other children chose different occupations.
Rachel Ann Brimhall believed firmly in doing one thing at a time, so the family all knew there was a special day when mother made the soap, rendered lard or tallow, made candles, put a new leash in the loom for a new carpet or piece of cloth, and so on.
She had that something that drew people around her and made them depend upon her for counsel and assistance. She was hospitable to a fault, as her home was always so full that she hardly ever was able to leave it- the only occasions being Zebedee Coltrin’s annual dinner, the fourth of July, the old folk’s annual party, and an occasional trip to Salt Lake City. She always went to the polls to vote, and she went to help her children in times of sickness.
The things she loved to do best were read and sew. She would read, in later life, wearing two pair of glasses and a magnifying glass.
Having been trained by a tailor, every garment she made had a tailored finish. For this she received much praise, and it was a great asset to her in rearing her family. She knew textiles, and people often came to her to decide if cloth was genuine or shoddy. She would sew even when she needed someone to thread a package of needles on a spool of thread. She would break off a length of thread taking one needle at a time.
She studied the value of plants and herbs for medicine and coloring. For her oldest son she made a suit from a piece of canvas and colored it with oak bark. She was very proud of him in that suit, on the 4th of July, but more especially because he could read the mottoes on the banners better than the other boys. She had taught him to read and recite.
She used plantain leaf for the bee sting, rhubarb root for physic, catnip and sage teas for colds, cold water packs for headache and fever, the yolk of an egg and salt made into a paste for poison-insect and snake bites, and salt and water packs for bruises.
Rachel Ann Brimhall knew the scriptures well and loved them, so much that three of her sons were named from the Book of Mormon and two daughters from the Bible. At the age of 66 she was left a widow, and at the age of 78 her eyesight was almost completely gone. During the following ten years she had every comfort and convenience desired, excepting her sight. When she could no longer keep up her home, her daughter, Mrs. Boyack took her to the Boyack home. There Orilla and her husband David D. Boyack, were very kind and considerate of her until Orilia was taken ill and passed away.
Mrs. Brimhall then was taken to her own home where her youngest daughter Grace and her husband, John Calderwood, were very fond and painstaking in their care of her until she passed away at the age of 88. Five of her children had gone before, although she reared them all to manhood and womanhood. Her five living children were all present at the time of her death.
Her philosophy of life was to live to help others and make them happy. She never would allow anyone to speak evil of those holding authority in the Church. If she thought that any of her children were doing wrong, she would talk to them about it, no matter what position they were in. She had a good memory and loved to recite poems and passages of scripture which she had learned when she was younger and had her sight.
Rachel Ann was thrifty and a good manager. She held on to her farm which brought a good price during World War I. The Spanish Fork Junior High School now stands on the corner where her home was.
The Relief Society Sisters of the First Ward of Spanish Fork prepared her for burial, and she looked like a beautiful queen resting among banks of flowers. She was buried in the Spanish Fork Cemetery beside her husband.
BIRTHDAY OF RACHEL ANN BRIMHALL February 9,1940
A tribute written by Wells and Mark Brimhall sons of George H. Brimhall
Grandma Brimhall was a mother to me. A woman who unselfishly labored in the interest of others to make them happy. She was the most resourceful person I ever knew. At the occasion of an emergency, should anyone be hurt by accident; or become suddenly ill or an important decision to be made in the family group Grandma was the one whom we all sought quickly and by her good judgment and inspiration of practical suggestions, as what was best to do, to meet this sudden situation, we all usually accepted her suggestions and everyone acted under her leadership.
The real home to me in my boyhood days to manhood was at Grandma Brimhall’s. She was surely an inspiration to me. How thoughtful she was of our welfare, and how we children conducted ourselves.
When Saturday night came Grandma would say to Wells and me, “Now you boys fill the reservoir with water and put on the brass kettle and also the five gallon can of water so you can have your baths. You will find each of your clean underwear and socks rolled up and put in the bedroom window.”
When Saturday night came, we each would always find our little parcel of clean and mended socks and underwear in the deep window seat. When departing for our bed upstairs, the last words from Grandma to us were, “Goodnight,” and “remember your prayers.” I used to enjoy making the fire in the morning, and sweeping the floor before Grandma arose,
Grandma followed up our daily activities and was anxious that our conduct would be the best and always saw that we hardly ever missed a Primary, Sunday School or mutual.
I can hardly remember of Grandma going to church. My recollections of her Sundays are that of her reading the Book of Mormon which I believe she read through dozens of times, and I enjoyed hearing her relate stories from the Book of Mormon.
Once I remember, when a man called at her home, and in his conversation with her he was saying things against some of the authorities of the Church, and I remember Grandma saying, “I don’t like the way you talk, and you should not speak evil of the Lord’s anointed.” That statement greatly impressed me then and I have often thought of it since.
Grandma taught me how to read and write some before I went to school, and I can remember how I used to read from the little book of mine called “My Pet Pony” which I have until this day. I would read it to her while she was weaving carpets in the little adobe shop, and when I came to a word that I couldn’t quite pronounce she would help me as I would spell the words out to her. As I have said before that Grandma was very resourceful, I have watched her make hominy, as she would get the lye from wood ashes to soak the kernels of corn in to remove the hulls. I have watched her make cold tablets from pine tar-sugar, turpentine and cayenne pepper.
Grandma was foresighted and could see the end of a situation from the beginning. She usually had a reserve, and could meet most any situation even to giving the old Roan cow, fat salt bacon when she became ill, for I have helped hold the cow as she put the fat bacon down her throat.
We children all know how Pa used to bring several parties with him when coming from Provo, and without Grandma knowing anything about them coming; well she would busy around and get supper for the crowd. Sometimes she would say, “I will just have to give you what we eat,” though she would feel that she should have something a little extra.
While Grandpa was alive Grandma usually prepared special side dishes for him and we children were instructed to leave those dishes alone. You know Grandpa didn’t have any teeth then.
I remember that the last words Grandma Brimhall said to me when I left for my mission to California; they were, “Remember your prayers, and consider well what you do before you do it.”
Her life’s work has surely been an inspiration to me throughout all my life. Her unselfish service and devotion to her own family, and the grandchildren she mothered and cared for, can not be surpassed; and may we all continue to honor her memory through meeting annually on similar occasions.