Personal History of Sarah Almira Leavitt Redford
I was born May 24, 1866 at Wellsville, Cache County, Utah to Thomas Rowell Leavitt and Antoinette Davenport Leavitt. We lived on a farm between Wellsville and Logan, Utah. My father was a polygamist. I was the third child of his second wife who had a family of nine. My schooling was very limited, but by actual experience of working and being with different people gave me what education I got in my youth. At age 13, I was working for a woman at a place across the field when I heard screaming. Going to the door, I saw Jeremiah and Alfred running towards me. They told me that our mother had just died giving birth to her 10th child. She passed away before the child could be born. Sometime after, Father told us that our mother came to him and she had a baby in each arm. She said, “Thomas, these are your children you have never seen.” He always felt that had she lived she would have had twins.
How I needed my mother at age 13 and the next few years growing up. I never knew what home was after my mother died until I got married. I was old enough to work away from home and that’s what I did. I would go back to Ann Eliza Leavitt’s to help when a new baby came or I was needed otherwise. I always loved and respected my father.
Our recreation was skating, sleigh riding and dancing. Shoes were hard to get, so whenever possible we carried them and went barefoot. We would skate awhile, then run and sit down and wrap our feet in our skirts to warm them, and then up and go again. One time when I was going to visit my father, Grandma Leavitt and my brothers and sisters, I dressed up as a tramp and pulled a cap well down over my head. When I stopped at the gate, I pretended I couldn’t open it. Alfred and Jerry were playing in the yard. When they saw me trying to open the gate, Jerry called, “Push.” I went in and when I neared them, I raised my hand. Jerry said, “Don’t hit me!” I burst out laughing and it was I who nearly got a licking. I loved my brothers and sisters very much, and the many good times we had.
When I was 19 years old, I met a fine man by the name of John E. Redford. His mother died when he was 6 months old. He had been raised by his grandparents. We decided we would make a home for us. On May 20th 1886, we were married in the Logan temple. In those days, it took nearly a whole day to go through a session. We went to the temple at 9 o’clock in the morning and didn’t get out until 5 in the afternoon. That evening, we had a very pleasant time. We received many splendid gifts, danced, sang, and had a merry time. My husband had bought a house and we moved in and started out on the great voyage of matrimony. We lived in Wellsville until our third child was born. My husband worked as a day laborer, getting work wherever he could. In the spring of 1891, we left Wellsville and he went to work at a saw mill in San Pete County. We waited three days for the wagon and team that was going to the mill. It was loaded with mill machinery. It was a two-decked wagon. Across the middle was the large saw. Sarah Durfey and her two children, my husband and myself and three children all piled on top of the machinery to ride the mountain road for ten miles with nothing to hold onto or lean our tired backs against. The new mill site was further on and there was no road for a wagon. The driver unhooked and took Mrs. Durfey and her two children on the horses and left our family to get to the camp the best way we could, and night was coming on. We started on to the mill site, so tired we could hardly move. It was getting darker all the time and no road, only a trail. We struggled on, trying to reach the mill. When the driver with Mrs. Durfey reached the mill, some of the men asked where we were for they knew that my husband had left to bring his family. He told them we were coming on foot, and they kindly came to meet us and help us on. They would call out and my husband would answer, and that’s the way they located us in the mountains that night. How tired and relieved we were when we reached our destination. Supper was soon supplied and we spread our bedding out on the ground for a welcome and much needed rest. We stayed in this place all summer. My husband cut logs and helped with the sawing.
Before winter set in, a man took us to Park City. We stayed overnight with Mr. and Mrs. Willard Sorensen. The next day, my husband found us a place to live. He worked at odd jobs all winter. Another time when my husband was working in the timber at San Pete, we were living in a small settlement. The men were working in the mountains and in the mill. It was a beautiful morning in late spring. I decided I would do my washing, so putting clean clothes on all three children, I gathered up all else and had the wash hanging on the lines. It was clouding up a little and looked like a storm might be coming further up the mountain. I was busy working when a man on a horse, riding swiftly, stopped at my door, and yelled at me to get out, that a flood was coming down the canyon and we were right in its path. My baby was asleep on the bed. I ran and grabbed him up, and somehow managed to get our two little girls by the hand, and out we went into the pouring rain. It was like a cloud burst. The children all started crying and who could blame them. I started to climb the side of the mountain, but with the children kept slipping. I looked around and saw some young men. I called to them to come and help me with my children. They did and we made it up the mountainside and got under a big tree, soaking wet, but not any too soon. I could hear the frightening roar of the flood before I saw it coming. Who could describe the horror, the terror, the awfulness, the appalling fear of a flood as you sit helplessly by and see everything you own swept away by its muddy, raging waters, ruthlessly tearing up and carrying everything in its path. All lost everything they had. It was as though there had never been a settlement. When my husband came to what was his home, he didn’t know but what his little family had perished in the flood, until someone told him they had seen us going up the mountain. That was where he found us, soaking wet, but safe. Yes, who can describe a flood. More so, who can describe the unspeakable joy and breath-taking relief when we know that we as a family were spared and were safely together.
We stayed under the big tree until it stopped raining and the flood had worn itself out. It hadn’t lasted too long, but long enough in its terror and awfulness. The people, as soon as they could, began hunting to see if there was anything they could find of their belongings, but nothing was found but a quilt bedded in mud. We stood in awe and wondering how we could thank our God for His love and mercy in our safety and deliverance with nothing but what we stood up in. We were so thankful that the horses, mules and wagons along with the men were saved.
We decided that the only thing we could do was go back to Wellsville, where we started all over again. Many of our friends and relatives had left to go make a new home in Canada. Father had died in Cardston, Alberta, Canada on 21st of May, 1891. We now had four girls and one son. More people were moving to Canada, so we decided we would make the move also. My brother, Alfred and his wife, Mary Ann, and Ephraim Haslam and his wife Clara were getting ready to go, so we decided to go with them. We had one team of horses, Bill and Bess, and a white pony, and what household goods we could load on our wagon. There were four wagons in our small caravan – Alfred’s, Haslam’s, Jimmy Shaw’s and ours. We made the trip safely. Long, weary miles, yes, but the Lord blessed us all the way. We arrived in Cardston, Alberta, Canada the 24th of July, 1897. It was a time of rejoicing. I was again reunited with my brothers and my sister Margaret Leavitt Workman.
We moved into a log house owned by Dudley and John (my two youngest brothers), where we lived until my husband took up a homestead in Leavitt, some six miles west of Cardston. My brothers took our faithful and noble horses and turned them loose for a well-earned rest. Bill and Bess – what a fine team they were, and our family thought a great deal of them. As there were no fences in those days, and the grass was so thick and lush, when we wanted them they were way up in the foothills of the mountains. Our children had always been taught to call their parents “Father’ and “Mother”. We lived for awhile with Dudley and John and they started calling me “Mother”, paying me one of the greatest tributes a sister ever was paid. They continued to call me “Mother” until they passed away.
My husband went to the mountains and got logs to make us a home. How happy we were to once more get into our own home. He took up freighting from Leavitt to Lethbridge and up into the Crow’s Nest Pass. Years of hard work were ahead trying to get the necessary things of life, and give the best we could to the new country we had moved to, to make our home and raise our family. It wasn’t all work, as we enjoyed visiting with my brothers and their wives and families. Our home was not a mansion made of wealth. No, but there was more family wealth of love and good family unity than many a money mansion home could have held. The door of our home was always open to everyone. Many is the time, they would all come for a family reunion. How happy we were that they felt welcome to come any time.
The years roll on. We now have 9 children. Our oldest daughter was married six weeks before our last baby was born. We never could find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow no matter how hard we worked, but no family was blessed with better health and strength than our nine children were, as well as my husband and I. We enjoyed so much the blessings and privilege of going to the temple. After we moved from Leavitt to Cardston, my husband was appointed a Temple Officiator, which he enjoyed so very much. Little did I know on the morning of July 30th, 1941, as my husband kissed me good-bye before going to the temple for his day’s service, that I would never see him alive again. He died in the temple of a heart attack while in the service of his Heavenly Father. As one of the counselors to the President said, “Brother Redford not only died in the harness, but right up in the collar.”
The biggest part of me passed away with my husband. He truly was one of God’s noble men. For fifteen years, I have been alone, although no mother ever had better love and care that I have been given from my family.