Celebrating my Great Grandmother’s Birthday

Today is my third great grandmother Lizzie’s birthday! She would have been 157 years old. I am sad when people say that their lives have no meaning and they don’t matter. It is only because they can’t see the big picture! Each of us does make an impact–especially with our children, grandchildren and future generations. I love this woman and feel connected to her even though she died 30 years before I was born. The more I have studied her life, the more I love and respect her. It is because of how she dealt with the problems that came her way, not because her life was perfect.

Happy Birthday Grandma Lizzie!

Elizabeth Kenney Stevens

Lizzie’s Early Years

Lizzie was the oldest child of six and she was cheerful and kind. She laughed and smiled as she helped her mother cook, tend her brothers and sisters, take care of the farm, and make clothes for her family. When she was young, the dam above her town broke and the flooded everything. Her family had nothing and had to move to another town and start over. The people in her new town helped them with food and clothing and temporary housing until they could get situated.

When Lizzie was ten or eleven, a silver mine was discovered in Pioche, Nevada and it quickly became a large town. Her father decided to fill their wagon full of produce and to drive it to Nevada to sell it to the miners. His wagon broke down along the way and he was stranded for a few years. 

While he was gone, Lizzie got a job at the local general store as a clerk to help support her mother. She made cheese and buttermilk and fresh bakery items and sold them to the traveler. Her boss had a son named Joshua Stevens who was six years older than Elizabeth. They had gone to school together in the same one room schoolhouse. He had been gone for a few years but was quickly smitten with Lizzie who had grown into a beautiful young lady with blonde hair and beautiful eyes. 

Marriage and Honeymoon

After a summer courtship, the married in the fall. Joshua told her he had been asked to go with a group of missionaries called to start a new settlement to be located in southeastern Utah.  Joshua’s brother David and an uncle of theirs would also be going with them. They were to meet up with the group outside of a town called Escalante and they would make their journey southeast toward Colorado across a short cut. It was only supposed to take six weeks.

When they arrived, they found the shortcut was impassable. With snow covering the mountains over the way they had come and many of the pioneers had already sold their property to make the move, they voted to continue on through the red rocks and twisting canyons of modern day Grand Escalante Staircase. They blasted an unconceivable road and it took them six months instead of six weeks.

Map of the road Joshua and Lizzie Stevens took
It is the only pioneer expedition that went East.

What impresses me about Lizzie is her ability to be happy despite her circumstances. She was a young girl of 16 years old. She had never been more than ten miles from her home. She learned quickly to cook over an open fire and sleep under the wagon on the hard ground. She probably got scared with the coyotes wailing at night.  As their food ran out, she had to eat beef every day and what little greenery she could find along the trail.

Gunfights in New Mexico

After they made it to the new settlement, Joshua and David decided to settle further upriver in New Mexico. She was the first white woman in the area and may have felt scared or out of place, but she rolled up her sleeves and helped to make a home for her family. The area quickly became overrun with outlaws as it was a few days ride from Durango Colorado and there were many marshalls in the area. One particular outlaw threatened Joshua and David and took over their home when they were gone. A gunfight followed leaving David badly wounded and Joshua with black hands and a scar across the forehead. I can’t imagine the worry she felt as this went on.

Moving to Northern Chihuahua

Eventually, Lizzie and Joshua moved to the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. Eventually she had fourteen children and raised thirteen to adulthood. She cooked, cleaned, gardened, canned, carted wool, spun wool, and made all the children’s clothing and household items. They built a nice life for themselves down there and then she lost her husband prematurely when he was murdered by strangers during the Mexican Revolution.  She had to leave her comfortable home and all they had worked for twenty years.  She moved back in to the States where she eventually died at the ageof 84. She was alone for thirty six years and did her best to be a good example to her large family. 

Why Her Story Speaks to Me

I admire her faith and obedience. I admire her kindness and good nature. I admire her willingness to work hard and to not complain. I want to be more like this woman and I celebrate her life.

3 thoughts on “Celebrating my Great Grandmother’s Birthday

  1. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing with me. She is an amazing, inspirational for sure. So wonderful that you feel connected to her and honor her by remembering her life and sharing it with others. ❤️

    Like

  2. A very touching story of your great-grandmother Lizzy! She reminded me of my grandmother Emma, who had sixteen children. Like Lizzy, she was a hard-working woman. Greetings from snow-covered Canada!

    Like

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