Annie is our link to the pioneer era--she crossed the plains as a child, and my grandmother knew her as a child.
She had dark hair and penetrating black eyes. As a young girl, Annie attended school in England where she learned to knit, and would then walk home with her mother from the factory. She used to carry the knitting bag around her neck and one day while she was sweeping the floor, the knitting needle ran into her hand and a neighbor had to pull it out. She remembered hearing the vendors cry “One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!” and going out to buy some buns.
She and her older brother Joseph left England with their mother Elizabeth to join the Saints, leaving her father behind. Annie turned eight years old while crossing the plains, and had to ride most of the way due to illness. She cried when her mother remarried, but Charles Fox was a wonderful stepfather who adopted Annie. The family settled in Franklin, Idaho, where Annie read the Book of Mormon by the light of the fireplace, had the chore of carrying in wood, and was a good speller and great reader. She belonged to a spinning bee club and could spin three skeins a day.
The summer she was fifteen, Annie and her family worked at the railroad workers’ camp in Kelton. Annie did the dishwashing. When she left for camp, her childhood sweetheart Lafayette Hatch gave her a ring. At age seventeen, she studied Morse code and telegraphy for a month in Logan, and became a pioneer telegrapher earning twenty dollars a month. With the money she bought a feather bed and a sewing machine for her trousseau. Once she had to step over the body of a murdered man in the Franklin depot to tap out a message to officers in Logan to come investigate the murder; no one else could send the message. She continued to operate the telegraph from her home until it was taken over by the railroad, serving from 1870-1911 in that capacity. Annie enjoyed visits with other telegraph operators, and in later years they also ran the line to the post office so she could confer with her daughter Della, the postmistress.
Both single and married men courted Annie. Lafayette’s father Lorenzo Hill sought her as a potential plural wife, taking her to a military ball in Logan and purchasing fabric for her, but she was devoted to her childhood sweetheart and chose the son. Despite that, her in-law relationships were good; Annie cared for Lorenzo Hill when he was older and declared that her mother-in-law Sylvia was a saint for the lovely way she accepted polygamy.
Annie experienced her life’s two greatest sorrows around her thirtieth birthday—first the death of her infant son Arta, and then living in polygamy. Lafayette took a second wife Sarah, a former housemaid, who caused much tension in the family due to her infertility and jealous nature. Annie cried every Thursday night when Lafayette stayed with Sarah. The persecution during the polygamy raids was also stressful. However, operating the telegraph allowed Annie to send and receive coded messages to notify settlements of imminent deputies.
|Hatch family c. 1900, Annie seated, Blanche on far left|
Lafayette left his young family for a mission in England (where Annie’s estranged father slammed the door in his face), and Annie met him in Pennsylvania at the end of his mission to do some genealogical research. His ship was six days late returning and she and her mother had time to do more sightseeing than they’d intended.
|A lace tablecloth that Annie worked as a bride on display at the Hatch House in Franklin, Idaho|
In her fifties, Annie was thrown from a buggy and broke her shoulder. That same year she went with her husband and daughter Blanche to visit the Lewis & Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon, and was shaken up as the train had a head-on collision. After the death of her husband, Annie lived in Salt Lake and enjoyed temple work and genealogy. She kept up with the latest fiction, styles, and recipes, and on laundry day would make rice pudding. She always had a formal English garden of hollyhocks and peonies, was neat as a pin, and smelled sweetly of rice powder. She owned one of the first radios, saw a plane in the sky, traveled to California in the 1920s, and noted the sinking of the Titanic in her journal. Unita Welch has Annie’s journals in her possession as well as Annie’s black print dress and button collection. She liked to select, wrap, and send Christmas gifts, a trait carried on by her granddaughter Unita.
|GMW with Annie's dress|
Her son Fayette recalled that Annie was the happiest- dispositioned woman he had ever known, and said, “She was some woman as far as I am concerned, and still is.” I would give her email--I think she'd really enjoy that newfangled technology!