Joseph Henry James (1855 - 1908)

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         MEMORIES OF

MARY ELIZA BLOOMFIELD JAMES

Written by her granddaughter Agnes Johnston Rose

Mary Eliza Bloomfield James was born on 21 January 1864, to John Bloomfield and Harriet Wilkinson Bloomfield, in Hyde Park, Cache County, Utah. She was the third child. She had two older sister, Ellen Marie Bloomfield, Elizabeth Salome Bloomfield, and a younger brother John Parley Bloomfield. Her oldest sister (Ellen Marie) died near Omaha, Nebraska, on their trek across the plains.   When Eliza was four years old her mother died. Her father later married Elizabeth Ann Barton Ashcraft who was also widowed. There were also children from that union, and Elizabeth Ann had children from here first marriage.

When Eliza was eleven years old her father and family were called to Obed, Arizona as pioneers. After they had been there for a while the town was ill with chills and fever. There was no one to care of those who were ill.   The people of Sunset, Joe City and Brigham City towns nearby came and took the sick home with them, where they cared for them until they were well.

They stayed in Sunset and lived the united order with about six hundred other saints. This is where she met Joseph Henry James. I loved to visit Grandma and listen to her tell the story of their romance:

She said he would come to their home and she thought he came to see her, but he "ups and marries my sister!" Then she would go on to tell how the "old fool kept coming back," (to court her). She said he asked her to marry him, and she thought about it and decided she might not get another "chance," so she married him (at age 14)!!!!

When they went to get married they lived in Sunset, Arizona and the closest temple was in St. George, Utah. They went by team and wagon. When they got to Lee's Ferry at the Colorado River, the ferry to carry the wagon across was on the other side. So, Grandpa left her and walked a mile upstream, to swim across the river. He did this because the current was so strong that it would carry him down stream a mile by the time he was across the river and he would be at the place he needed to be to get the ferry. Grandma said she was so afraid as she watched him bob up and down in the water as he swam across the river. As she told it she said "I still get goose bumps when I think of what might have happened to me if he hadn't made it." She would be alone and a long way from any form of civilization, also there was problems with Indians, in those days. He did make it and brought the ferry across and got her and the wagon safely across the river. They were married in the St George Temple on the 10th of January 1878.

When Eliza was only 20 years old and had three children they moved to Mexico. This was when polygamy was outlawed in the United States; they went with several other families and settled in the Hawk Valley, Colonial Juarez, Colonial Dublan and Colonial Diaz areas. She said when they first got there; they were living in their covered wagons. They would hang their grain in the trees, so it would be safe from varmints, and also Mexicans. In the morning they would find a hole cut in the bottom of the bag and the grain was gone. One night while the children were sleeping they even came in and stole the blanket off their bed.

Smallpox broke out the first year, adding to their hardships. Her oldest daughter came down with it so Eliza took her new baby to her sister to care for him so he wouldn't get it. Besides nursing her own family, Eliza found time to care for many others who were ill.

The little colony, with all the grit and determination of early pioneers, stuck it out and finally prospered in spite of all their difficulties and hardships. They accumulated land herds of cattle, orchards and a sawmill in the nearby mountains. Joseph had built a home for each of his wives; I was told that the river made a fork so he built a home on each side of the river.

At times Eliza would scrape the last bit of flour to mix a batch of bread for her large family. Grandpa would come in and cut the dough in half telling her of someone who had no flour left and he would take them the dough. She said that they never went hungry; that somehow by the time they needed more flour it was there. Eliza was left a widow at a very young age (44). Grandpa (Joseph Henry James) was on the mountain where they cut logs and rolled them down to the bottom of the mountain to a catch pond, where they loaded them on wagons, and took them to the sawmill.****

He was there checking on things, and saw a log rolling down the mountain that was going to hit one of his workers who was deaf. Grandpa jumped to push the worker out of the way of the log, but was not quite quick enough and it hit them both and they died instantly.

When the war broke out in Mexico (when Poncho Villa raged in 1911) it was close enough that her sons would get on the roof and could see the fighting. The U.S. Government arranged for them to come to the United States. They took only their clothes they were wearing and one change of clothes, they were told that they would probably be able to go back in a few days, but never went back.   They went by wagon to the train stop, and on the train went to El Paso Texas.   In El Paso they had nowhere to stay so it was arranged for them to stay in a lumber yard, there was so many that their bed rolls were touching, and when they got up they would have to roll up the bedroll to have room to walk. I remember Grandma saying that there were women, who gave birth there, and you would see blankets held up for privacy, and soon you would hear a baby's first cry.

In the morning when they had stayed in the lumberyard, people were staring at them and commenting, that if they were Mormons "where were their horns!"   Well, Grandma being the quick wit that she was said "Oh! They dehorned us when they put us on the train, so we wouldn't hook each other to death."

They could see that they would not be able to go back to their home in Mexico, so Eliza decided to take her family to live in Ramah, New Mexico where her brother, John Parley Bloomfield, and father John Bloomfield lived.   They arrived on 11 September 1911. They went by train from El Paso to Gallup, New Mexico and her brother John and his wife Alice met them in a wagon and took them to Ramah. They went from Gallup to Ft Wingate where they stayed overnight with Amila Kirk and family, leaving there about noon traveling over the Zuni Mountains to Ramah.* When she got to Ramah they lived most of the winter with her brother John and his family, then moved to the "Relief Society House" which was on the church property. * They worked hard at any job they could to make a living, all pooling their resources to survive. That winter two of Eliza's daughters had Typhoid Fever (Jessie and Bertha). Eliza's stepmother (Elizabeth Ann) died 13 September 1913, so she moved in with her father to care for him. There was only one bed for five of them, so two of the daughters (Jennie and Hattie) slept on the floor by the fireplace on a rug and used coats for their covers.*

Eliza worked in Zuni during the winter, she ran the laundry and taught the Zuni Children how to darn their socks.*

In 1915-16 she moved to a sawmill near Greer, Arizona, her sons who were still at home worked on the sawmill. Eliza was sick in bed for nine months with rheumatic fever, so they moved to Springerville and stayed with her married daughter Nellie and Eliza's Daughters did the cooking for the men who worked on the sawmill*

Grandma had 14 children of her own, two died while they were in Old Mexico and were buried along side Grandpa James, and his third wife Orpha.* When one of her children died leaving 6 orphan children, she raised them. One of them was so grateful that when he grew up and owned a sawmill, he saved all the best knotted pine and built her a new home with the interior all lined in beautiful knotted pine. It was a one bedroom with indoor pluming and a nice living room and a kitchen/dining room. He also carpeted the living room and bedroom.   When Blackie (nickname for Heaton James, her grandson that built the home,) asked her if she would live in a new house if he built it for her, she told him she would if he would put lots of windows in the bedroom. Grandma was used to sleeping on her screened in porch, summer and winter alike. When they moved to this home there wasn't enough bedrooms for everyone so she put her bed on the front porch, and she was afraid she wouldn't be able to get used to sleeping in the house. So many times, when sleeping on the porch she would wake up in the morning and had ice cycles hanging from her hair, this was from her breath during the night, being covered all but her nose and mouth so she could breath, and the moisture gathering around her face and freezing.    Burrrrrrrr

I am told by one of my cousins (May White age 97)** that she was at Grandma's one day about two weeks after the house was finished. She asked Grandma if she was ever going to move into her new home. Grandma replied that she couldn't until her stove was moved in (It was an old iron wood cook stove) So May and her friends moved the cook stove in the house for her, and she moved into her new home.   At first she slept with all the windows opened, but one time during the winter, she admitted she shut the windows and actually felt good to be in a nice warm bedroom.

My earliest memory of Grandma James (Eliza) was when she was going to have her 78th birthday. There was much talk about her going to have her 78th birthday, as that was very old in those days (1942). She was the oldest person in our town (Ramah, New Mexico).

I remember visiting her at her old home She was quilting, and I exclaimed how short her thread was.   She told me she could get a lot of stitches out of the remainder of the thread on her needle, and she proceeded to show me she could! (just one of many examples of how frugal she was).

I do not remember my Grandma James ever being able to walk any further than her chicken coup ~ probably 75 to 100 feet. She could not walk to her nearest neighbor. She had bantee (bamtam) chickens, to give her something to do, and she used their eggs however small they were. It was fun at Easter she would give us some to boil and color, along with our regular eggs. She always had a table full of houseplants, and birds.  She had Canneries and Parakeets.   Sometimes it was so exciting they would have two or three eggs in their nest, and a few times they even hatched and she raised the baby canneries.

I remember a picture of Grandma in coveralls - and was told that she was Jack in the play - Jack In The Beanstalk. I heard that they made up their lines as they went along. She had a quick sense of humor and a quick reply to any given situation so I can see her being able to do that.   I remember once she was splitting wood for her cook stove, apiece flew up and hit her arm, giving her a good bruise. She immediately exclaimed: "I'll kill my fool self before I die!"

Mary Eliza made one trip back to her old home in Mexico, with two of her daughters and her grandson, Heaton James and his family. Everything had changed so much since the 40 years when she had left it, only the house and the apple orchard was still remaining, the mountains had been cleared from all its timber, and the river that ran past the house had long since dried up.***

Seventy-five years after she was married in the St George Temple she went back there and with forty-two of her great grandchildren and a number of her grandchildren took pictures in front of the Temple. This picture was of her daughter Nellie's family.

Few people had more zest for life than this little lady, who stood less than 5 foot tall and weighed an average of about 86 pounds. She loved to go to the dances and rodeos and whenever someone would come to visit her and cheer her up, they would leave feeling that she had cheered them up more.

Grandma was a lady of great faith. She believed in prayer and the power of the Priesthood. She had a stroke at about age 84 or 85. It left one of her hands weak, and she exercised it with a soft ball, squeezing it and regained her strength, but I remember a time when she was very ill, she would not stay with anyone, in their home, she wanted to be in her own home, so her daughters and grand daughters would take turns staying with her. Often two would stay so if she got sick or had a bad night the younger one would go to get help. One night Aunt Mame and I stayed with her she was having a bad night, so I went home and got mom. Grandma wanted a priesthood blessing. Mother (Jennie Johnston) went and knocked on Bishop Mangum's door (it was about 1 or 2:00 a.m. and he got someone to come with him and gave her a blessing. She rested well the rest of the night. That is just one example of many when a blessing made a difference for her.

One time she was very ill she had been so sick that she didn't get out of bed for two weeks. There happened to be a doctor in town visiting with friends (the Voghts) a mile south of town. Someone decided to see if the Doctor would come and check on Grandma and see if there was anything he could do. He told us that we should call in her family, that she probably wouldn't live more than 24 hours. So the sisters that lived in Ramah, called the other brother and sisters, to come and say their last goodbyes to Grandma. Grandma, seemed to know just what was going on and told her children that if they would fast and pray for her she would get up out of her 'sick bed' the following day. So that is what we did, I think I was maybe 11 years old, which would make her about 85 years old, Her family and towns people-I think most of the town were related to Grandma, and even if they weren't, she was "Aunt Liza" to them held like a prayer meeting at the church, which they only let adults go to, and true to her word, and faith, Grandma got out of bed the next morning and had us push her around town in a wheelchair, so she could thank everyone for fasting for her. She made a special effort to thank the children, she seemed to know that they were fasting and praying for her. She was better from that time on, and lived another eight years.

Eliza lived by herself except for a short time when she was recovering from an illness, until about two months before her death on 8 Feb 1957. at age 93, then her daughters took turns staying with her. Her posterity at the time of her death was: 14 Children, 81 Grandchildren, 251 Great Grandchildren, and 60 Great Great-Grandchildren. Making a total of 426 descendents.

Compiled from the following sources:
Memories of her grand daughter Agnes Johnston Rose
History of Jennie James Gallagher Johnston
**1998

***Article in Belen News Paper on her 91st birthday.

****This story has another version to it. The way I remember hearing it is that the logs
were rolled down the mountain to a river, which carried the logs to the Saw Mill, but after visiting the area in Mexico, I am convinced that this is not correct, as there is no river at the bottom of that side of the mountain

 

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