Pioneer Women by Roberta Flake Clayton. Privately Printed, Mesa, Arizona: [n.p.,] 1969. BX 8670.07 .C579p also Americana BX 8670.07 .C579p, pp. 584-588.
Emma Seraphine West Smith is the mother-in-law of Maria Elizabeth Bushman Smith.
Emma Seraphine West Smith
The West’s and Coopers are found among the builders and founders of many localities of the South, Emma Seraphine’s parents were Samuel Walker West and Margaret Cooper. She was born 3 January 1836 in Benton County, Tennessee.
Not long after Joseph Smith had organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wilford Woodruff came to Tennessee preaching the restored gospel and the Wests accepted the truth.
The first child born to this family after their acceptance of the gospel was Emma Saraphine. Margaret thought her tiny daughter would be a natural born Latter-day Saint. Subsequent events proved that Emma was a righteous Israelite indeed.
The Wests moved to Nauvoo, Illinois and Emma remembers how closely her father was associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith giving him much financial support. She saw and mourned with all the Saints at the time of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith. They suffered through the trying scenes during the Mormon exodus from Illinois.
In the migration to Salt Lake City, Emma tells of the pleasure in the campfire dances where they learned the cotillions and steps of the square dance. She and her brother John were beautiful dancers. This relaxing entertainment helped to ease the hardships of the journey. The Garden Grove Company the Wests traveled with reached Salt Lake City in late September of 1851. They camped on the banks of the Jordan River but were soon given a call to go to Southern Utah, Parowan, Iron County, where they arrived in late October.
In this town the widow Mary Aikens Smith and her two sons, the younger son, Jesse, soon caught the interest of the sweet sixteen-year-old Emmey, as she was called, and this couple was married in Parowan 13 May 1852. Their life together was happy and full of love despite the hardships and privations in their pioneering. Nothing gave her so much satisfaction as to see honor and trust come to her husband.
For many years this village of Parowan was to be Emma’s home. Here all her nine children were born, and it was here her husband brought three of his four other wives. Emma believed in practicing all the principles of the restored gospel and (The Law or Sarah or) polygamy as taught in the Bible and by the Prophet she accepted. She could never conceive of anything base or degrading in the great man she loved, her loyalty and trust in her husband were supreme; each time he chose to bring a new wife into the family circle, he had the consent of each one. Jealousy and selfishness had to be overcome by loyalty and unflinching devotion to a righteous cause.
Twice Jesse Nathaniel Smith received mission calls to Denmark. This brought more work and sacrifice to Emma but it was not her nature to complain. One winter the children had no shoes to wear, bread and molasses was their lunch, breakfast was nothing more than a thickened porridge thinned with a pint of milk, for dinner a few potatoes were added to the porridge. This kind of ration was all that a family of three women, seven children, and an adopted big boy had to subsist upon. As though things were not bad enough, Old Line, the cow, fell and broke her neck. Amid tears the stricken family tried to think that the porridge and potato soup were just as good without the milk.
That Christmas the children hung up their stockings, but when they awoke their stockings were empty. Emma wept over their disappointment, but composing herself, she found from somewhere just one apple which she divided among the little folks.
Every day and far into the night this mother worked to provide for her family, splints of pitchy wood were lighted and held, at night, by the older children while Emma did her spinning. Even sorrow and death had to be a part of that winter’s experience.
Emma’s sister Margaret and the second wife of Jesse N. Smith died leaving two children to Emma’s care. These children she loved and brought up as her very own. Then Uncle Silas, Emma’s brother-in-law, lost both of his wives. Arrangements were made and Emma her mother-in-law, Mary A. Smith, moved into the Uncle’s home where the two women cared for the children of four mothers until the return of Jesse N. from the mission field.
Now that the father was home he prospered in his work so that his family could have sufficient food and clothing and he brought his third wife, Janet M. Johnson, into the family circle. In 1868 he returned to his mission field leaving his family in better circumstances than before; their oldest daughter, Saraphine, was married in 1869. After he had finished his mission in 1870, he returned home to care for his family. Emma’s load was lightened, as they could afford more and better things, she was neat and tidy in her dress–she loved lace and dainty things–and was so happy when her loving husband stroked her wavy hair, telling her that she was prettier than ever before. Jesse brought with him from Denmark his fourth wife, Augusta Maria Outzen. She was unaccustomed to this new environment and Emma had the opportunity of making her happy and comfortable as circumstances would permit.
Parowan was emerging from the rigors of pioneering when the Smith family was called to go to Arizona to help in the colonizing of that country. Emma remained in Parowan with Augusta until 1880; Jesse had located his wife Janet and children in Snowflake in January 1879. He was called to be president of the Eastern Arizona Stake. He sold all his property in Utah. The graves of two infant daughters, his wife Margaret, and his beloved mother were all that he left in Parowan, all of his married children followed him to Arizona.
They began at the grass roots, living in tents and wagon boxes until some log cabins could be built. Emma’s health was well broken from the hardships endured while the long missions were being filled, but the work must be done and with a gracious spirit she did her part. Emma was a mother of great faith, hope, and charity; obedience was always taught and required of her children. The promise for disobedience was often administered with a switch and the children discovered that that promise never failed, yet she was a mother who understood the full meaning of mercy and her merciful tears did more than the oiled switch in establishing true repentance, so her children testify.
Faith promoting stories, learned in her childhood and told to her children, strengthened their courage and made a lasting impression upon them. One experience as a child in her Tennessee home: A spring of water some distance from the house furnished the water used in the home, it had to be carried in buckets. At night Emma was afraid to go to the spring for water and finally her mother said to her, “Emmey, if you will go with a prayer in your heart, you will not have any fear and nothing will hurt you.” In doing this as her mother suggested, Emma declared her fears vanished and courage and trust were felt ever after.
When her mother, Margaret Cooper West, heard of “The Celestial Marriage System,” polygamy, that was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, she said it was a wicked and devilish thing and if an angel declared it unto her she would not believe it. However, no angel appeared, but a vision opened to her view, her mind expanded in understanding, in her words she saw the visions of greatness wherein great blessings came through obedience and sacrifice in that it was as much for the women’s exaltation as for the man and that the plan of exaltation by obedience and sacrifice were the great redeeming and ennobling opportunities ever revealed from heaven to man; and “Oh how the Devils raged.”
The magnificence and great exalting attainments connected with this manifestation converted Margaret to the principle of plural wives, she now encouraged her children to practice it and also her husband.
In Snowflake, Emma’s home was across the street from the Swedish family of Larsons. There were two sons and two daughters, the oldest girl, Emma, became the fifth wife of Jesse N. Smith, 28 October 1881, and the next one, Ellen Johanna, married Emma Seraphine’s son, Silas D. 10 November 1886.
This young vigorous woman took over the heavy work in Emma’s home, they were a mother-daughter combination. By the children in the families they were designated as Aunt Emma or Aunt Emmey and Aunt Em. In fact, most everyone addressed them by those names. These two women always lived in the same house. After the husband’s death, the older Emma preferred living with the younger rather than live in any of the homes of her own children.
The older Emma, due to her age and affliction, required care and attention. Love and loyalty grew up between these two women of vastly different ages, the sacrifice of each grea to be a bond of affection and esteem.
Emma was faithful in attending to her church and performing any commission given to her. She was sustained as president of the Eastern Arizona Stake Relief Society 1 July 1883, her counselors being Lois B. Hunt and Frances White. The stake was divided in 1887 and she was retained as Relief Society Stake President of the Snowflake Stake with Emily J. Lewis and Sarah Driggs as counselors. Through the years her counselors changed but she held this position until 11 August 1905. Her diligence in meeting appointments could not be excelled. It took many hours of tedious travel, with horse drawn buggy or wagon, to visit the scattered wards. The love she fostered for others, the faith, integrity, and goodness which were a part of her, she instilled into the lives of the women she labored with.
No one more honestly deserves the beautiful title “MOTHER” than did this frail little woman. From her teens until her death 15 October 1910, she brought glory and sanctity to the greatest gift that has been given to womankind, that of motherhood. Every child had an intimate place in her heart, many of them not her own. The beauty of a great soul was found in her.