Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy 189th Birthday, Jane Stewart Robb Muir (1822-1907)!

Anna Hatch Cramer's great-grandmother

Jane (also called Jean), was a hard-working Scottish pioneer.  But we can still relate: she dated a guy her boss disapproved of, a lawyer tricked her into signing away an inheritance, and she boiled down water from the Great Salt Lake to make salt.  Well, maybe we can't quite relate, but she's inspiring nonetheless.
Jane and William Muir

Jane was the middle of five children, but her father died when she was very young, and she was raised in Scotland by a kind stepfather.  She was a deeply religious girl and attended church services throughout her youth.  Jane went to school until age thirteen, when she hired out to domestic service and earned twenty-four pence a week. 

Jane was baptized at age twenty, and met fellow convert William Smith at church.  The family she worked for wouldn’t let her out at night to see him, so she would steal out after they retired.  One night, William came as usual and waited in the barn for her to come out and let him out.  Unfortunately, this night she went straight to sleep, and William was locked in the barn until she let him out in the morning.

They married just prior to sailing to America.  Jane grieved the loss of her two children who died while William was serving in the Mormon Battalion, and delivered another baby only three weeks after walking across the plains. She purchased her first dishes with the money she earned gleaning barley, and William brought her back some gold he’d panned at Sutter’s Fort.  She was often a single parent, as William was gone on missions and travels.  One trial while he was on a mission to England was that the family had only green willow to burn for cooking and fuel.

Jane lived in polygamy as the first of William’s four wives, bearing a dozen children and raising the children of the second wife who died young.  Jane had a large home in Woods Cross where she boarded many traveling men, schoolteachers, and railroad workers.  She worked in the flax fields and at the molasses mill.  She was also a prize-winning seamstress and made coat trimmings by sewing goose down on linen tape.  At that time, the Great Salt Lake was not very far from their home, and Jane would boil the water down and skim it for salt.  She served for many years as a Relief Society counselor and president. 

 Jane's brother William migrated to South Carolina, and when he passed away, Jane was his only living relative.  The state wanted his property but first had to notify the living heirs, so a devious lawyer brought papers to Jane to sign. She was prompted to destroy them, but he picked up the papers in a hurry and immediately left.  He had tricked her and she had signed away her rights to the estate.  In 1867, her husband William traveled to South Carolina and then to Scotland to further settle the Robb estate. 

In her later years, Jane recalled to a child her early days in the Church: “They killed the Prophet in cold blood.”  Jane was remembered, notably by a step-child, as follows: “I came to appreciate her strength of character.  She was truly a noble woman, quiet, prudent, and thrifty.  In all of her years she was loyal to her husband, faithful to her children, and gracious to all comers.  She was in every sense a just and righteous woman.  In her relations with the other wives of her husband, she was kind, tolerant, cooperate, and understanding.  Jane proved the dignity and fidelity of her character.”

Given how many children and guests she was surrounded with, and the hard physical labor of working the fields, I would give Jane a day at the spa--she deserves some R&R!


  1. I'd get her in touch with a good babysitter so that she could have the day off.

  2. let me see... i would give her a nanny or something to help her with all those kids! :)

  3. a good bernina sewing machine!

  4. William S. Muir was my grandfather too!! My great-great-great-grandmother was his second wife, Mary Ann Berry Muir. I have a special appreciation for Jane Robb Muir because she cared for Mary Ann's young children after she died a young death.

    I found this blog by googling Jane's name. I'm so happy to have found it! You appear to have a lot of stories about her that my side of the family doesn't have. Perhaps we have stories and that you don't have. If you're interested, email me at Thanks!

  5. You may want to see our William S. Muir family history coloring book that was made for our 2011 family reunion:

    Our children descend from his 2nd wife, Mary Ann Berry, as can be seen from our pedegree chart at:

    Wanless Southwick -