Silas Derryfield Smith (Excerpts from his own story)

Silas Derryfield Smith married Maria Elisabeth Bushman 21 November 1888 in St. George, Utah.  She is the daughter of John and Lois Bushman.

The Family of Jesse N. Smith, ed. Oliver R. Smith and Dorothy H. Williams, Jesse N. Smith Family Association, Snowflake, Arizona, 1978, pp. 79-84.

Smith, Silas Derryfield b. 1867 new suit 1912  Smith, Silas Derryfield b. 1867 d. 1956, Mesa

Silas Derryfield Smith (Excerpts from his own story)
I was born in Parowan, Iron County, Utah on Sep. 9, 1867, the seventh child and second son of my mother. I was named Silas for my uncle and grandfather, and Derryfield in memory of my grandfather’s birthplace, which was Derryfield, Rockingham County, New Hampshire (now called Manchester).

I can remember helping to burn the sagebrush in Parowan, Utah as the land was being cleared for cultivation, and oh, how tired I could get. At harvest time, as father and others cradled the grain, I worked helping to rake it in piles. We boys had lots of fun riding the young unbroken steers; as they were yoked to a plow, they could not buck. Often six or more yoke of oxen were required to pull the big plows in breaking up new ground. At potato-digging time all the family would go out to help. Those potatoes baked in the coals from the brush fires were so good along with the noodle soup Grandmother West made.

During the pioneering days in Snowflake I was the oldest boy at home in my father’s family. Joseph W. And Jesse N. Jr. Had married and had their own holdings. I was 14, Walter 10, Samuel F. 8, and Robert C. 7. We were the force of farmers in the Jesse N. Smith family in 1881. With this array of help, I marvel how we ever did the work we accomplished.

Fields had to be fenced, homes built, ditches dug. All the livestock was turned out on the open range if the grass was plentiful. Often they had to be herded and watched every day. During the busy seasons we would take our beds and camp out with the horses where the good grass was plentiful, so as to get them back to work early in the morning. Otherwise we would have to walk until we found them, which often took a good share of the working day.

Pa took time to plan our work and show us how to do it. Every one of the men folks big enough to handle a shovel or pound a stake, had to work on digging ditches and building fences or other public works. All the land under cultivation was fenced with a stake -and-rider fence made from the posts of the cedar trees that were plentiful near by. Later each man fenced his individual farm land.

Several families had boys like us, so it was decided to allow 25 cents an hour for a boy’s labor and 50 cents an hour for a man [on the public works]. I declare now that was unfair. Of course, boys are boys and play much. The men leaned on their shovels and talked, always complaining of the boys’ working. Finally we boys suggested that we measure off half the distance a man was to do. As we did that amount, it surprised some of those “sore heads” when some of the boys did as much work as a man in the same time. My father’s labor account was always fully paid.

When I got married it just seemed that I was needed more than ever to help, so I just continued on. Therefore, when Father said that I had better have my little corner all to myself, I thought it didn’t seem possible for my little brothers to handle it all alone and expressed my fears. Father said there had never been a failure and I had better be getting something for myself. That was a real test and trial. I had no concern or worry for myself, but only for the families’ sake. I had killed the pigs and divided the meat, harvested and divided the potatoes and other produce for the three mothers for so long, it seemed almost a part of me, and I thought who could do it so well? But everything went on under the management of a wise and good father. I found my problems now was to adjust matters for the management of my own affairs, without Father’s watchful eye. I began to realize that while father was not present much of the time in the fields, it was his knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that was the backbone and mainspring–I was but a small factor of it all.

Being reared in polygamous families, we were not ignorant of the joys and sorrows and responsibilities and the importance of entering into that sacred order of matrimony. In the early days of the Church those in authority preached and exhorted much upon the blessings, the glory and exaltation that would come to us and our posterity by obeying and living in that family relationship. In my early childhood good men preached about the nearness of the end of the world. I wondered if I would have a family. My mother set for me the example to pray for the things our hearts most desired, and true to precept and example, my childish petitions were that I might live and raise a large family. My father declared he would remain in prison rather than to submit or give up to a God-given principle, sanctioned and revealed by God to the Prophet Joseph Smith. When his prophet says it is the will of God that this practice be withdrawn, then we must receive it and obey.

Without my father’s advice and counsel and help, I could not have accomplished this step. I praise and thank my father. He said when I told him of my plans to take a second wife, “God bless you, my son. It is a joyful feeling to my soul to know that my sons are willing to walk in my footsteps. There will be trials and hardships that you cannot comprehend now, but if you are true and faithful to your covenants, no power on earth can stay the blessings in store for the faithful.”

My father had moved his wife, Janet, and her five daughters to Snowflake in 1879, a year before he moved my mother; so they were acquainted with everyone in the village. Across the street lived a Swedish family, the Larsons. My sister Susie and Ellen Larson were playmates. When I arrived Susie could hardly wait to have me meet Ellen. When we met, Susie said, “Silie, this is Ellen.”

I had little time for play or recreation. If I went to a dance, I went with my sisters, Sadie or Susie. One time Susie had a partner, so Aunt Janet urged me to ask Ellen to go with me, assuring me that all I had to do was ask Sister Larson. Well, I washed up, blacked my shoes with the moistened soot from the underside of the stove lid, and put on my Sunday suit. Now I questioned in my mind, “Is she going? Maybe she already has a partner?” In fear and trembling I approached the Larson home. It was dark and the lamps were lighted. As I neared the door, fear overcame me and I ran back to the shadow of our house. Standing in the dark I wondered if anyone h ad seen me and thought of how they would laugh. I never could stand ridicule. I ventured again and was just ready to knock on the door when I heard someone walking toward the door and I ran back across the street. Then I laughed at myself for being so timid. Once more I walked up to the door and knocked like a man. Someone called, “Come in” and just as I was going to open the door, it was opened from the inside and I nearly fell into the room. I think it was Ellen’s brother Jim that snickered. As the door closed, I pulled my hat off. There sat Sister Larson and her children, Emma, Alof, Jim and Ellen. All were busy. Ellen says she was darning a stocking.

I said, “Sister Larson, can Ellen go to the dance with me?” What a load was off my chest! I was still standing and after a moment of Swedish chatter she said, “Yes, she can go. Sit down.”

I had to take hold of the chair to keep from falling. After a few minutes, which seemed like hours to me, Ellen was ready. She didn’t seem so pleasant about it and I learned later that she had said “NO.” But at the time I could only understand what was said in English by her mother. I dropped my hat as I jumped from the chair. They were all good enough not to laugh out loud. We hardly spoke as we almost ran to the schoolhouse, but by then the ice was broken and we had a good time.

I think my action that night made a favorable impression on good Sister Larson and she encouraged Ellen in my favor; and that won the fight, as there were both young and old men seeking to get her for a wife.

As Ellen began showing more interest in me, I began to feel more save against all rivals. The childish sparking days grew into more serious courtship. We often strolled to a spot where three cedar trees grew on the west side of town. There we exchanged confidences; there was no hugging, or necking, ore spooning. Often before leaving this retreat we would kneel in prayer, asking our Heavenly Father to protect and guide us. We talked of the future and exchanged ideas; we both agreed that someday we would live the principle of polygamy.

She had become very dear to me and was in her fifteenth year when she promised to become my wife. I was sure, that with all the allurements of rivals, she would not break that promise. Shortly after our engagement her father moved his family to Graham County, Arizona. We agreed to mingle with other young folks and go with them if invited.
During this time of correspondence, there came to Snowflake a splendid young lady, Maria Elizabeth Bushman, from St. Joseph, Arizona. The young people of these towns mingled in celebrations of when coming to conference. She came with other young people to celebrate. I succeeded in getting her to let me be her escort to the dance and we became very much attached. In my correspondence with Ellen I told her of the occasion and of Miss Bushman being my partner at the dance and how I admired her.

Now came the most tremendous shock that had ever come into my life. In answer to that letter Ellen said, “I have been thinking seriously about this matter of you taking a second wife and if you are determined to do so, I must ask you to excuse and relieve me now from going any further.”

Well, I was sick and heart-broken, yet I dared not tell anyone, not even my mother. Alone I pondered and visiting the little cedar trees, I poured out my soul in prayer. I really felt like saying, “Ellen, I will do anything or go anywhere for you.” But my letter read thus, “Ellen, your letter breaks my heart. We have well understood this matter and have been in agreement in contemplating and planning a plural family; it is my purpose to continue in that determination, come what will.” I read and re-read the letter before mailing it.
Sooner than I anticipated, an answer came, a short note with this message, “Oh, Silas, I love you. Forgive me, I wanted to try you to see if you would give up a principle for a poor simple girl like me. I would not have wanted you had you not proven to me that you are a man. The man I want my husband to be. I love you more than ever. Your Ellen.”
The load was lifted; at the little trees I expressed my thankfulness. Although Satan attempted to create anger [in me] for being played with, I finally wrote to her saying, “All is well; may God grant us courage to proceed.”

Smith, Silas Derryfield & Maria Bushman Silver Anniversary

Silas and Ellen Smith

I spoke to my father about getting married in the fall as Ellen’s brother, Lehi, was planning a trip to Utah then. Ellen could come to Snowflake with him and we could travel in that company to St. George to be married. My father said, “Don’t you think you are rather young?”

I replied, “I’m as old as you were when you married.”

“Well, I was considered to be a man and you are just a boy,” he said. Then I reminded him that I got a man’s pay working on the ditch and when I married I would be a man. At that we both laughed.

When I was 17 I hardly weighed 100 pounds, but at nineteen I had already grown and was five feet nine and one half inches and weighed 175 pounds. Father agreed to my getting married [Nov. 10, 1886} and I began making plans to travel with the company going to St. George, Utah in the fall.

The same love burned in my heart for Maria as ever came in the love affairs with Ellen. That does not mean that I loved Ellen less, nor Maria less. The heart of man grows and expands with knowledge and understanding of the correctness of the plural wife system. I do know and now assert that we did start our family right, and that pure sincere love as always burned in my soul, and I thank my Heavenly Father for it.

Now you children will want to know something of my courtship with Maria. Under existing conditions a married man could not openly court a young unmarried girl. Yet all the little confidences in love making had in a way to be duplicated and the sweet words, “I love you,” had to be said. And in some hallowed secret place we bowed in reverent prayer seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. [The marriage took place in the St. George Temple on Nov. 21, 1888.]

Smith, Silas and Maria

Maria Bushman and Silas Smith

Circumstances made it necessary for me to take Maria and her family to resettle in [1905 in Uintah County], Utah. There, once again, to experience the rigors of homesteading under severely trying conditions. These were difficult times for polygamous families. Ellen, with her family, was left at the old home in Snowflake. This separation of my two beloved families with rapidly maturing children, created a situation I could not resolve. The dream of reuniting my two large families in one household was never again realized.

Smith, Silas Derryfield family

Silas Derryfield Smith Family

In 1911 I once again rejoined my wife Maria in Utah. Not having a job or business I rented some farms in Salt Lake County and worked at farming and agency work. In 1918 I advised my wife, Ellen, to sell the property in Snowflake and move to Salt Lake City, which she accordingly did.

Smith, Silas D. , Ellen and children

Silas, Ellen and their children

In 1929 all of Ellen’s children were married or living away from home, I was working in California, so Ellen moved to Monticello, Utah where Mons was living on the homestead that his brother Alof had originally filed on. I joined them soon afterwards. We were honored on our golden wedding anniversary in 1936 by our children. This grand celebration was held in Snowflake. Three of our oldest children were also celebrating their 25th anniversaries. Another grand celebration was held for us in Snowflake in November of 1955, when our children again honored us on our 69th Wedding Anniversary.

Ellen and I moved to Mesa after receiving a call as temple ordinance workers.

Smith, Silas Derryfield Smith b. 1867

Silas Derryfield Smith

Editor’s Note: The following information is added by Derryfield N. Smith, Ethel Smith Randall, and Seraphine Smith Frost.

Our father spent much time gathering genealogical data of his father’s numerous family. He made a genealogical book for each of the five families, and was enthusiastic in promoting family reunions and family unity. He continued very active in church work as secretary of the High Priest Quorum of Maricopa Stake, as a temple worker, and as a ward teacher until the last day of his life.

On Feb. 26, 1956, after a day of Sunday worship–priesthood meeting, Sunday School and sacrament meeting–Silas came home a bit weary, but ate his evening meal and planned to meet some of his brothers and sisters in the evening as his sister Margaret from Salt Lake City was visiting in Mesa. He went to his bed and lay down to rest and was seized with a terrific pain in his chest. He called for his beloved Ellen. Clarence and Seraphine Frost were also at the house and they all answered the cry for help. This struggle lasted but a short time, until he breathed his last and passed away. He was 88.

The funeral was held in the Fifth Ward in Mesa. A huge crowd filled the chapel and recreation hall. Many tributes and eulogies were given in honor of his noble and eventful life. Another service was held in Snowflake and burial was in the Snowflake Cemetery.


About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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