Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy 194th Birthday, Laura Jones Peters (1817-1899)!

Nita Welch's great-grandmother

Laura was practical enough to pack a trunk for Zion over her husband's objections, brave enough to try and beat him into the baptismal waters, and visionary enough to see angels.  She was also a splendid Welsh horsewoman who could scare away Indians and shear a sheep like nobody's business.  
David & Laura Peters
Laura (spelled Lowry in Welsh) was raised by Welsh landowners in a prosperous home, and even had a pony to ride growing up.  She was known as being an excellent horseback rider even in her later years.

She married David, the owner of a successful textile factory on a picturesque river, and they had three daughters in Wales.  David and Laura heard and believed the gospel message.  Laura recorded in her journal how the gospel “so thrilled my whole being because it gave me a new light on God, thus revealing the God of the scriptures which I had read and thought much about.  The spirit bore witness to my spirit that Mormonism was true.”  She had been suffering from a very painful ailment and was immediately healed when the elders administered to her.

They were ready for baptism, and when they went down to the river, Laura stepped forward.  David was of a reserved nature and hesitated a minute, but believing that men should always be first, stepped past Laura into the water and was baptized, clothes and all.  Laura was therefore the third person but first woman in North Wales to be baptized.  Sadly, their youngest daughter died only a few months after their baptism.

David was ready to emigrate and didn’t want to bother with luggage when all would be provided in the land of milk and honey.  Laura was more practical and said, “David, we are going to a new country and must be prepared.”  She packed two steamer trunks with shoes and other items she felt would be needed (and which were more than useful).  They brought a good supply of Welsh flannel, which was eagerly sought after by the pioneers.

However, Laura was unsure if it was the right time to emigrate.  She was a woman of great faith, and one night she had a vision of three angels, surrounded by a beautiful light, all in white robes.  The center one was taller and spoke, saying, “It is right that you should go and you will arrive safely.”  With that assurance, they sold the factory and paid for the passage of their family, a nephew, and five others. 

The journey was pleasant and four sailors were baptized.  While en route up the Mississippi, a cholera epidemic struck and Laura cared for the sick and prepared the dead for burial, until she too contracted the disease.  Because of her earlier vision, she never lost faith to be healed.  She was so miserable, however, that she begged to lie down and die.  Since many died in their sleep, her husband and a friend kept a vigil on either side to keep her constantly walking and awake, and Laura survived. 

Crossing the plains, a band of Indians rode into camp and demanded items from Laura.  She refused, and an Indian hurled a large stone through the wagon cover at her head.  The stone missed but dented the wagon box.  The Peters continued to resist Indians, initially living in a fort in Utah.  Once Laura had to barricade the door when she was home alone and one tried to come in.  A bronzed arm came through the door’s opening and she ran the back of the knife along the Indian’s arm until he left. 

The Peters added six sons to their family in Utah, two of whom died as children.  In addition, Laura raised several stepchildren after David’s plural wife died in childbirth.  They created a home of culture and refinement.  Laura sewed her Welsh riding skirts into new May Day dresses for her daughters, who were then sorely disappointed that it rained on May Day and the celebration was canceled.  The family moved south during the time of Johnston’s Army, but settled in Brigham City.  There Laura taught the men and women of Box Elder County how to properly shear a sheep, though none could ever finish as fast as she did.  This tiny Welsh beauty with piercing black eyes was remembered for her willingness to take the heavy end of responsibility and for being fearless, prompt and fixed in her activities, devoted, self-reliant, and self-sacrificing.

Happy Birthday Laura!  My gift to you would be some mace to spray at those pesky Indians.

2 comments:

  1. What a remarkable lady! I'd give her a nice comfortable couch so that she could put her feet up and take a break every once in a while.

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  2. Hooray for bold ancestors! I'd give her a crown or maybe a tiara or something to mark her nobility, though I imagine she already has that. I'd wish for her hundreds of bold and noble grand daughters who honor her with their daily acts of courage and strength of character. I know that she has that as I look about me and I am grateful for her welsh blood running in my veins.

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