Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy 185th Birthday, Sylvia Savonia Eastman Hatch (1826-1904)!

Nita Welch's great-grandmother
A smart, spunky, independent pioneer woman.  Don't mess with the glint in her eyes!
Third of four children raised in New England by James and Clarissa Eastman, Sylvia knew the alphabet before she was three years old and learned to read at an early age.  She had an excellent memory, did much sewing, and remembered being very lonely as a child as her ill mother rested and she went to watch her father in his shop.  Her childhood Sundays were also remembered as boring, since her parents did not attend any church, but kept the family home reading the Bible. Sometimes Sylvia and her brother would go upstairs and turn the chairs upside down and pretend to be riding horses.  

As a teenager, Sylvia boarded with a cousin ten miles away for further schooling, and after her homesickness wore off she became well-educated. Her parents joined the Church and the family gathered to Nauvoo when Sylvia was sixteen, but Sylvia herself did not want to investigate the gospel until she was older (she was baptized right before her marriage in Utah). The family suffered on the trail and her father died in Winter Quarters.

After she came to Utah, Sylvia made her living sewing white linen shirts to sell in stores. She and her mother used the wagon boxes for beds, a buffalo robe for the door, and a small piece of glass sewed into a piece of cloth for a window. Sylvia helped turn the adobe for this first Utah house.  

Sylvia met widowed Lorenzo Hill Hatch on Christmas day, and married him two months later. They came from a common Vermont background and had an affectionate relationship. Her mother Clarissa lived with the couple until her death at age ninety. Sylvia was wholly committed to the gospel and lived happily in polygamy as Lorenzo took two other wives. Her daughter-in-law Annie called Sylvia “saintly” for how well she coped with polygamy, although later biographers have speculated that the somewhat premature end—by pioneer standards—to her childbearing coincided with Lorenzo’s other marriages, and there may have been some issues there.
Sylvia surrounded by her children

The Hatch family was called to move from Lehi, Utah to Franklin, Idaho. Lorenzo served as a mayor in both cities, and Sylvia was a competent helpmate and hostess in his responsibilities. However, Lorenzo moved his two other wives north first, and Sylvia was not about to be left behind.  She showed up unexpectedly at the unfinished house in Idaho intended for her and her children, and put buffalo robes up over the doors and roof to keep out the winter. Her independent and spunky nature was often evident.

When Lorenzo served a mission to England in the 1850s, the family suffered hunger and ate sego lily roots to survive.  Sylvia kept the farm running, and when Lorenzo returned from his mission, he found Sylvia behind the plow in the field, preparing for planting. She sold butter and eggs and ran the “Mormon Hotel”—essentially hosting any visitors who came to Franklin. She also went to cook for the railroad workers one summer. Sylvia owned the first hand-sewing machine in Franklin, Idaho. She loved to read and write and had a pleasing disposition, unruffled by frequent Indian visitors. She hosted Brigham Young and other apostles, and served as a Relief Society counselor to Elizabeth Fox; their children Lafayette and Annie would marry.

Nevertheless, Lorenzo’s long absences took their toll—besides the mission, he spent twenty-four years colonizing in the south with his two other wives. Partly for health reasons, Sylvia stayed in Idaho with her mother and children (and sometimes children of the other wives, helping to raise several not her own). Sylvia showed loyalty and love in separation and tribulation, although she was unconvinced by Lorenzo to move south. She corresponded with Lorenzo and he called her “staid and devout,” yet also noted once in a letter to his son that “it has been many years since any counsel has been sought at my hand by [your mother].”

In her later years, Sylvia wanted to downsize and her son Hezekiah moved her to Logan. Lorenzo and his wife Catherine rejoined her there after his mission release in 1901. They served together in the Logan Temple. A year before Sylvia’s death, Lorenzo noted that he had gotten her an “invalid chair.”

I would get this spunky lady her own car!  It's a wonderful day that two pioneer third and fourth "greaties" from different Hatch lines share birthdays.

1 comment:

  1. I'd give her a blog to share her opinions with the world!