BIOGRAPHY OF GEORGE SMUIN: “The Victoria History of the County of Bedford” describes Eaton Bray as a large parish of 2,417 acres and states that “the middle portion of the village is built around an open space containing the village pond, on which four roads converge.” Mention is also made of village pond, on which four roads converge.” Mention is also made of the fact that “the market for straw-plaiting formerly held on Fridays has long since been discontinue.” A further interesting statement is made that “a cart track leads off the market place to the site of the old castle (built in 1221) half a mile westward.”
The principal local industry of Bedford County is given as the manufacture of straw and bonnets, and the statement is made that the “art of straw-plaiting until the late nineteenth century was taught in ‘plaiting schools’ generally kept by elderly women”; that little attention was given to the welfare of the children; and that boys as well as girls were taught plaiting.
The population of Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, England, in 1841 is shown as 1,097. In this village, on November 11, 1844, George Smuin was born. Before his birth, his mother was left to earn a livelihood as best she could, and when George was about four years old they moved to London. It was here that the Mormon Missionaries found them.
In May 1853, when George was 8 years of age, he was baptized by Elder William Hall and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The impoverished circumstances of the little family made it necessary for George to work at an early age. The first work performed by him in supporting his mother was in the mat-making establishment, where children were hired to braid straw. His early contact with the Elders from America inspired him to become even then a youthful assistant in conducting street meetings. He learned to sing, and many times the elders stood him on a box on the street corner, where he sang the songs of his newly espoused faith, and people stopped to listen.
From straw-braiding and other odd jobs, George turned to delivering milk in a residential district in west London. The milkman in those days carried his supply of milk in a huge can attached to a two-wheeled cart. A spigot or faucet allowed the milk to be drawn off into private containers. The early morning call of the individual milk vendor was known in each district, and George developed a good voice, having a natural talent for singing.
As he learned more fully about the establishment of the Church and the opportunities in America, he became imbued with the desire to emigrate. Through frugality and perseverance he managed to save a small sum out of his meager wages; but the desired goal, that of obtaining passage money to the United States, seemed years away. He would first emigrate and then send for his mother, he thought. As he was nearing the age of 19 this urge was constantly with him, but progress was slow.
One morning, as his early cry of “Milk-malk” sounded a warning to the housemaids to put out their containers, he approached a pretentious dwelling where he had dispensed milk for some time. The front door opened and the lady of the house came out, holding in her hand a leather bag, which she proffered to George, with the explanation, “This is for my future husband.” She then turned and went into the house, leaving the young man stammering and wondering. Astounded at such an occurrence, he finished his day’s work and hurried home to his mother, never once having stopped to examine the contents of his mysterious present. When they found that the bag contained money, his first thought was to give it to his mother, but she insisted that he place it with the amount already accumulated. Pouring the coins from the bag, they counted 3 pounds, which to their astonishment brought the amount of savings to the exact cost of one passage to America.
In the late summer of 1864 George secured passage on a sailing vessel, the “Hudson”. Crude indeed were the simple accommodations. Voyagers were obliged to furnish the bulk of food to be consumed in passage. Flour, salt-bacon, smoked fish, dried peas, potatoes, oatmeal for mush and for modifying stale drinking water, and the inevitable back tea comprised the main foods carried aboard. The food stuff was prepared on huge stoves in the galley of the ship. Rations of water were drawn each day. The leisurely voyage of a sailing vessel gave ample time to explore the details of sailor life, and so during 7 weeks spent in crossing the South Atlantic, George many times assisted the ship’s crew at their tasks, learning to tie knots and splice rope, and joining in songs of the sea.
The “Hudson’s” destination was New Orleans, where cargo and passengers were unloaded. A change from the vermin-infested ship was welcomed, but upon their arrival in New Orleans the emigrants going west were forced to leave immediately on a Mississippi River side-wheeler. Baggage and clothes were piled in a heap on deck, and the tedious trip north to Omaha was begun without a chance to change clothes. Conditions on these river boats were disagreeable, but this group of emigrants all succeeded in reaching Omaha in due time. George’s baggage, however, was inadvertently taken off the boat and sent on ahead, and due to some delay in preparations for the journey across the plains he did not establish contact with his belongings until 8 weeks afterward in Salt Lake City.
Joining a company in charge of Brigham M. Young son of Phineas Young, George was assigned, with several other young men, to night-herd the cattle belonging to the wagon train. This company had 36 wagons, with three yoke of oxen to a wagon, some 200 head of steers, and 8 saddle-horses. The first part of their journey took them 5 miles up the Missouri River. They pitched camp on the river bank near great clumps of willows. This first night’s camp, not far from headquarters at Omaha, gave them a chance to check all supplies and equipment and to organize the 132 people into strict disciplinary groups. The Civil War was drawing to a close, and great confusion and depression prevailed in the country.
Early in the morning as the boys were rounding up the cattle, George, proceeding afoot through the brush near the river’s edge in search of some stray cattle, stumbled onto some clothes rolled up in a bundle. Unrolling the bundle, he discovered the complete uniform of a Union soldier, very likely that of a deserter. Glancing down at the ragged, threadbare apparel he was wearing, he divested himself at once of his old suit and donned the full regalia of a Union soldier, to the consternation of his herd-boy companions. he was still a British subject, but the Yankee clothes were a Godsend.
Seven days out of Omaha, on a branch of the Sweet Water River, the company came across the first signs of Indian depredations. A small company of 13 wagons, about 25 people-mostly men, had preceded Young’s Company and had been set upon by the Indians. Their cattle had been stampeded, their wagons burned, and several men killed. The rest escaped and joined a larger company. Examination of the remains of the destroyed wagon train showed that the Indians had poured flour upon the ground and had taken the sacks, had cut all ornaments and trapping from the wagons, and had taken the canvas wagon covers.
As the company to which George had been assigned journeyed westward, large heards of buffalo were sighted but were not molested for fear of a stampede. The autumn nights were chilly, but the soldier’s uniform supplied a great need. It was also the source of constant gibes by a few members of the camp. Arriving at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, the company pulled in close to the soldiers camp there, and George was arrested and taken to the commandant on suspicion of being a deserter but was released when Brigham. H. Young and others testified as to how he same into possession of the soldier’s clothes. He was allowed to keep the uniform and wore it into Salt Lake City, where the company arrived on December 6, 1864.
After George’s arrival in Utah he worked on the railroad and did any other work he could secure, in order to earn money with which to bring this mother and other relatives to Zion. He was finally successful in bringing all of his relatives who desired to emigrate-his mother, his stepfather, Thomas Empey, a kindly hard-working man; his grandmother and her second husband; and a cousin. this meant a great sacrifice on the part of both George and his wife. In 1868, a year before his marriage, he had answered a call to go back across the plains by ox team as a church teamster in order to aid immigrants.
Shortly after his arrival in Utah, George settled in Weber Co. securing a tract of land in the northern part of Ogden, and there met Eliza Gaisford, whom he married on April 12, 1869, in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.
Eliza Gaisford, daughter of Isaac and Ellen Raikes Gaisford (who came to Utah in the Company of Capt. John Tidwell, 7 April 1852, was born on 29 June 1858, in a little adobe house on Canyon road in Ogden, Utah. In June 1858 the family moved to Provo, where they lived 2 years, and then returned to Ogden, driving an ox and a cow hitched to a wagon. That winter they lived in a wagon box at Mount Fort and from there moved out on Washington Avenue near Fifth Street. Her mother died when Eliza was 11 years of age, and she took care of a younger sister brother and kept house for her father for about a year, until he married again. When Eliza was 16 years of age, she and George Smuin were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. They drove an ox team there and back.
To this union were born 14 children-5 sons and 9 daughters-as follows: Ellen, 6 Mar 1870; Susannah 28 Sept 1871; George J. 10 Oct 1873; Rose 17 Dec 1875; Lillie 8 Nov 1877; Henry W. 26 May 1880; Ruth 4 June 1882; Richard 20 Apr 1891; Richard 20 Aug 1884; Pearl 26 Sept 1886; Ralph D. 21 Dec 1888; Myrtle L. 22 Apr 1891; Mabel B. 10 Apr 1893; Viola L. 13 Nov 1894; and Horace L. 16 Nov 1896.
As early as the year 1851, President Brigham Young came to Ogden and organized two Bishop’s Wards-the South and North Wards, the Ogden River being the dividing line. Erastus Bingham was appointed Bishop of the North Ward. On account of trouble with the Indians a fort was built around part of the ward and was called Bingham Fort in honor of Bishop Bingham.
Weber Stake was organized in 1877 and was divided into wards, Daniel Thomas being the first Bishop of the Lynne Ward. This ward comprised a territory of about four miles long and over a mile wide. The county was sparsely settled at the time, there being about 10 houses on each side of the road between the railroad tracks and Five Points, and the same number on Washington Ave., or Main Street as it was then called. Most of the settlers east of Main Street were Scandinavians. The houses were built of logs and adobes. The meeting house, which was also the schoolhouse, was situated on Second Street, about two blocks west of Main. In those days the general and stake authorities were frequent visitors and had to be brought from Ogden by someone in the ward. They were always entertained at a dinner or supper, in which all joined. When President John Taylor or some of the apostles came, meetings were held in two sessions, and people came from surrounding settlements.
During these years George Smuin sang in the Ogden Tabernacle Choir and in the ward choir and served in various capacities in the ward secretary of the Sunday School, assistant superintendent of the Sunday School, president of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association. In the year 1886 he was chosen and set apart as first counselor to Bishop Daniel Thomas, which position he held until the death of Bishop Thomas. At that time he was made Bishop of the Lynne Ward, being ordained to this office 19 Jan 1891, by Apostle Franklin D. Richards. Rasmus Christofferson and Walter W. Crane served as counselors.
Soon after this, orders came that the schoolhouse should not be used for religious meetings. Other quarters were sought, and a hall on Harrisville Ave. was purchased and remodeled, and this building was used as a meeting place until the ward was changed from the Lynne Ward to the Fifteenth Ward in 1923 and new chapel erected.
Bishop Smuin and his wife, together with the other workers of the ward, were always happy when entertaining. They would come with baskets and boxes of food, and banquets were freely enjoyed by all members of the ward. Brother Peter L. Sherner owned a grove of poplar trees, which he offered as a recreational place for the ward celebrations. On the 24th of July all would gather at the meeting house early in the morning and march to the grove. Jesse Brown, a member of the Moron Battalion, marched in front, and Alexander Brown made a speech about how they and their father, Captain James Brown, were the first to plow a furrow of ground on the site of Ogden city.
George Smuin established the first nursery and fruit farm in this part of the county, having the only hothouse in the north end of the city. He furnished trees and plants used in beautifying the city. His main help in the nursery was his eldest son, George, who was about 18 years of age. In those days there were few places for the young people to find entertainment on holidays, and very often they would go to the canyon for recreation. On July 4, 1892, George and the other young people of the ward went in wagons to Ogden Canyon to a place just above where the dam is now. Here, while engaging in water sports, he was seized with cramps and was drowned. His father never fully recovered from this shock, and after this took very little interest in the nursery, turning his attention to the raising of fruits and other farm products. He also built a large reservoir (or pond as it was called) to store irrigation water and in the winter stored natural ice in a large ice house. He supplied the city for a number of years with ice.
A year and three months after the death of the son George, the baby girl, Mabel, died. The remaining four sons and eight daughters are all still living, with the exception of Lillie, who died in may 1939. At this writing there are 42 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild.
For more than 17 years Bishop Smuin was indeed a father to the members of the old Lynne Ward, always assisting those in need in a temporal as well as a spiritual way. He was possessed of an unusual amount of energy and industry and gave freely of his time and means. Whatever he undertook to do he wanted to do with all his might.
He served in a number of civic positions, being a member of the Ogden City Council from 1887 to 1889.
After his release as Bishop of the Lynne Ward in 1908 (at the time of the division of the Weber Stake), he did very little active work owing to ill health. He passed away at Ogden, Utah, on January 22, 1913, at the age of 68 years.
In the 1890 Ogden City Directory, George and his step-father Thomas sold general mdse, at 2469 Washington. In the 1890-3 Directories the either ran or owned Lynne Nurseries, 460 Washington Ave. bet Fourth & Fifth.
[part of the above history was compiled by Marvel M. Burk, a granddaughter of George Smuin, from biographies written by Viola Smuin Young and Ralph D. Smuin]