Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happy 180th Birthday, Agnes Martin Hunter (1831-1869)!

Gayle Wells' second-great-grandmother

Agnes had a hard life: she worked in the Scottish coal mines as a child, survived smallpox, was badly burned while pregnant, watched children die, endured a perilous sea voyage, and then died as a young mother.  Yet she was well-loved by her husband and appeared to him on his deathbed.
Agnes' mother Mary also worked in the Scottish coal mines, and Mary’s unstable romantic relationships resulted in several half-siblings but no consistent father figure for Agnes. Agnes joined the Church shortly before her twentieth birthday, and a year before her marriage to a fellow convert, Ebenezer.  A missionary at a Church meeting performed their marriage.  The newlywed Hunters held Church meetings in their home and gave money to the branch.

The trials were many. Agnes survived a family smallpox episode in 1854, and she was badly burned when her clothing caught fire in 1856; she was pregnant at the time.  Ebenezer noted in his journal that a cinder fell from the fire and landed on her gown while she was helping the children dress one morning.  Two of her children died of a fever on the same day in 1860. While emigrating to America in 1863, their ship encountered fierce storms, had a fire on board where it looked as if all might perish, they narrowly missed being wrecked by running into a large iceberg, and they arrived at New York in the middle of a Civil War battle and the passengers had to be routed inland out of danger.

Agnes was excited to join her mother, Mary Bathgate Shelley, and younger sister in Zion, and stayed with the Shelleys until their home in Utah was built.  She was sealed to Ebenezer in the Endowment House, but died after suffering severely for several weeks with a uterine inflammation.  On his deathbed almost half a century later, Ebenezer said, “Nannie [his nickname for her], I knew you’d come!”

Agnes was eulogized (possibly by Ebenezer) as follows:

She was not so beautiful of form or features it is true
If form an artist’s vision, or a sculptor’s eyes could view,
Her tresses were not silky, like the breezes blown about
Her eyes were not the violet ones, the dreamy blue or brown
Her form not straight or graceful, her name of great renown
Her dress was not quite up to date, latest styles not known
But just to meet her was to love her
Just to be with her a joy
She was kind to all the friendless,
To the wayward girl and boy
And her face, though plain of features
Wore a look almost divine
For the love she bore to all the world
Made her countenance to shine.
And her smile would cheer the saddest
Smooth the heart so crushed and sore
And to those who really knew her
She was beautiful and more.

I would give her an insurance policy!


  1. Wow, what a hard life!
    Nice eulogy, except I made Jed promise if he ever wrote a eulogy for me that it wouldn't begin with how I wasn't beautiful.

  2. oh, man! i know exactly how she feels-- our laundry room flooded today!

    what a hard life!

  3. That was a beautiful poem.
    I'd give her access to modern medicine, in the hope that it could have saved her children's lives, and possibly hers as well.

  4. So she was only 38?! That was a lot of gunky stuff packed into a few years. I love that he wrote a poem for her -- I'd love to remembered as one who accepts everyone.