Our Family Legacy
Flora Clarinda Gleason was born August 2, 1819 at Tolland Birkshire, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Joel Gleason and Lorena Williams.
Flora’s parents moved to Lenox, Ohio in 1824. Her mother died sixteen days after their arrival there, leaving a baby two weeks old. Her father married sometime after this, a woman named Sarah or Sally Vanburg.
Flora lived sometimes at home and sometimes with relatives during her childhood. Early in her young womanhood, she went out to nurse under the doctors. She also took up dressmaking as a side issue to keep herself employed when not nursing. She continued as a nurse for many years.
In her young womanhood she was engaged to be married to a young man by the name of Hugh Gillon, and she looked forward to their future with much happiness. He died before their wedding day.
Flora joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and longed to gather with the saints at Nauvoo, but the parents of her dead sweetheart pleaded with her to come and live with them for awhile. She finally consented and lived with them perhaps two years or more. They had two daughters who were young women, the family was wealthy and when they bought anything for their own daughters they bought just the same for Flora. The girls had everything they could wish for, many changes of the finest clothing, and when they went to a ball or dance they would change clothing two or three times during the evening, a complete change of expensive clothing or ball costume that must harmonize perfectly.
The Gillon family did not belong to the L.D.S. Church, but Hugh Gillon, before his death, and his people after his death would take mother in their carriage sometimes several miles to the L.D.S. Church and they never raised any opposition to her religious belief. She had a longing to gather with the body of the church but often wondered how she could get a reasonable excuse to leave those dear kind people who loved her and wanted her to stay with them always as their own daughter. Finally her father came for her and wanted her to go home with him as her stepmother had died and he was lonely. She went with him and kept house for him for nearly a year.
Flora’s father was very fond of the society of young people, and often when a crowd came in to spend the evening if he had retired for the night, he would get up, dress, and join in their games and dancing. In those days people learned to dance under dancing masters who taught them to dance with grace and skill, Flora Clarinda said that her father could dance with a glass of water on top of his head and never spill a drop.
After those months at home with her father she gathered with the saints at Macedonia, twenty-two miles from Nauvoo, and she lived with Patriarch John Smith's family. John Smith was an uncle of Joseph Smith the prophet. He gave Flora her Patriarchal Blessing which is still treasured in the family though it is old and worn with its more than ninety years.
When Flora Clarinda first came to Macedonia she stayed a few days with a friend and while they were out visiting a neighbor one evening a mob set fire to their home and everything that Flora owned was burned. She had seven silk dresses burned in that fire besides beautiful slips, stockings, shoes, and slippers and many other valuable things.
She had a longing to see the Prophet Joseph, but did not go to Nauvoo because of losing all her best clothing.
While living in Macedonia, Flora Clarinda was chosen president of a Relief Society which was organized there, shortly after Emma Smith was chosen at Nauvoo. Flora was the second President of a Relief Society in the L.D.S. Church.
After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Flora lived with the family of Benjamin Franklin Johnson in the Mansion House in Nauvoo, the former home of Joseph Smith. She did dressmaking to earn her living.
Flora received her endowments in the Nauvoo Temple and was married there to Benjamin Franklin Johnson December 1, 1845.
Flora went through the trials and persecutions of that time, and when the saints were compelled to leave Nauvoo, she with B.F. Johnson, his wife Melissa and Melissa's children started among the first for the Rocky Mountains. Flora and Melissa loved each other. Flora often said that Melissa was as fine a woman as ever lived. She also said that Melissa's death was partly due to the conduct of her husband. On the way, before reaching Winter Quarters, B. F. Johnson lagged behind and let Flora travel on with the company they had started with. She expected every hour that he and the rest of his family would overtake them, but Mr. B.F. Johnson had decided that he wanted another wife and continued to stay behind to do the courting.
Flora arrived at Winter Quarters where the saints were stopping for the winter, and found that the men in camp were building houses as rapidly as possible for their own families and also for the people who came later. They were housing everyone as fast as possible. But the winter was on and some were not yet provided for. Abraham Washburn began building a chimney in a house so Flora Clarinda could have a shelter from the cold and storms but before the chimney could be completed on January 15, 1847 her first child was born while she was still living in her wagon. (Clarinda Huetta who became the wife of Zenas Wingate)
One neighbor woman did her washing and others brought her cooked food. During the first week after the baby's birth a snow storm came on and Flora's washing which was hung on the brush had not been gathered in, so on the seventh day she dressed herself and went out and shook the snow from her clothes and brought them into her wagon. The blessing of God was with her and she did not suffer any bad effects from this dangerous experience.
Early in the spring of 1848 Flora Clarinda traveled on with one of the companies to Salt Lake City and she never saw B. F. Johnson from the time he first lagged behind until long after her arrival in Utah.
To get provisions to travel with from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City was a problem, there was no dressmaking to be done and nursing was done without price so Flora had to learn a new trade. She went to the willow patches, gathered willows, stripped off the bark, selected the finest ones, and learned to make fancy willow baskets. She sent them with some of the men in camp who went off to purchase food. They sold them for food and in that way she procured provisions to travel on.
Flora Clarinda had become alienated from her husband on account of his conduct. She laid her case before President Brigham Young. Johnson at first refused to sign the divorce and sent it back to Salt Lake City unsigned, but President Young said, “I will see that he does sign it.”
Flora Clarinda Gleason was married to Abraham Washburn February 11, 1849.
Abraham Washburn was called to go and help start a settlement at Manti, Utah. Men went into Sanpete County, looked over the country, put up some wild hay, and found plenty of grass in the region of the Sanpitch River and decided that stock could easily winter out on the range. The first company of settlers arrived at Manti November 21, 1849. Flora’s second child was born the next day, November 22, 1849. Almeda Maria Washburn was the first white child born in Sanpete County. She married Alphonzo Wingate. The night after the baby's birth the snow came knee deep, and during that winter the thirty-five head of cattle which Abraham drove on the range to winter died.
Flora Clarinda's first home was on the south side of the Temple Hill toward the west point where the first settlers built their first homes. The place was infested with snakes, and one morning Flora found a large rattlesnake on her mantle piece.
Later Flora lived in the fort. Her house was on the exact spot where now stands the little old rock school house, just north of the court house and directly across the street east from the Manti City Hall. Several of her children were born there. The last was Lorena Eugenia Washburn Larsen born January 10, 1860. Within the next two years Abraham built a home for Flora Clarinda, one block east and one and one-half blocks south of the Manti City Hall. Abraham owned the strip running straight through to Main Street. The Main Street side is now, in 1932, filled with business houses.
In the early days in Manti there arrived from Denmark two newly married couples, Christian Willardson and wife; and Brother Scow and wife. They had no place for shelter and couldn't speak a word of English. Flora saw their condition and through an interpreter she told them she would divide her one large room and let each couple have one-fourth and she and her family would live in one-half of it until they could do better. They gladly accepted the offer and lived there for some time, the three families cooking over one fire place. Neither they nor Flora could speak a word to each other but it created a friendship which lasted for life.
Flora was president of the Relief Society in Manti for years. They held their meetings and socials in the old Council House on the northeast corner of the public square. On work meeting days, both mothers and daughters would assemble. When a rush of work was on they would meet at ten o'clock in the morning and something like the following work would be engaged in: tidy and lace making, spinning wool yarn and knitting men's socks, braiding straw, and sewing hats for men, women, and children, carding wool bats with hand cards, and making quilts, cutting and sewing rags for rag carpets, piecing and making quilts.
On such occasions they would. have a picnic luncheon at twelve or one o'clock, then continue work until late afternoon. Such a good feeling of helpfulness and kindness prevailed on those occasions that they were looked forward to with pleasure. Very often such days ended with a dancing party in the evening. The musicians usually furnished free music, if they were given a good meal during the evening.
Flora taught many an emigrant woman to earn a living in this new country by spinning yarn and knitting men's socks which found ready sale in Salt Lake City for fifty cents a pair. She also taught them to braid straw and make hats and to spin yarn and weave cloth. They often smiled and sometimes wept with gratitude and thanksgiving for such a friend in this new and far off country from their native home.
The pioneers of Sanpete county held yearly County fairs. People would bring in all their home made products, everything that their hands or the soil could produce. There was always a fine display. In the fine arts department you would find tidies and laces, crocheted, netted, and knitted. Also drawn work and all kinds of needle work. Fine straw hats trimmed with straw trimming, with an art rose here and there, and men's and boys’ best hats and work hats all made by the ladies of those pioneer days. Flora did a great variety of work and took many prizes at the fairs.
Sanpete County was very fortunate for in the sixties there came from Britain a convert to the L.D.S. Church, a man named Tatten who came to live in Manti. He was a professional hat maker, who made fine beaver hats for men, women, and boys.
Flora Clarinda had a large adobe oven at the west side of her house where she baked forty loaves of bread at one baking, she baked once a week and as the bread was removed from the oven she would put in pies, cake, and gingerbread to last the week. The bread was put into a fine clean barrel in the cellar where large and small barrels and jars of preserves and jam were stored for the year-round use.
Fruit was scarce in Sanpete, but in the years immediately after the Black Hawk Indian war Flora took Hyrum, her oldest son and one of the girls and with an ox team went to Utah county and dried fruit and put up preserves and jam made of peaches, pears, apples, and plumbs boiled in molasses. Often wild ground cherries were used, both dried and preserved. Flora was a pioneer in bringing fruit trees, berry plants and ornamental shrubs and flowers into Manti. In the sixties they had apricots, peaches, gooseberries, currants, both the english and black, and strawberries, and some tomatoes.
Abraham and the Wingate boys, his sons-in-law, owned and operated a molasses mill and many a candy pulling party was held at his home and at the neighbor's homes also.
In the early days when men and teams were sent back on the pioneer trail to bring emigrants to Utah, Flora Clarinda always baked racks of crackers. After Flora had prepared the dough, every child that was large enough was washed perfectly clean, dressed in a clean apron, the dough was cut in pieces and put onto clean white mixing beards and each child was given a clean white wooden potato masher or rolling pin and the dough was beaten for hours. Flora supervised the work and often turned the dough while it was in the process of being beaten. Afterward it was rolled, cut, and baked.
In December 1865 after Huetta and Almeda had become engaged to Zenas and Alphonzo Wingate the bride grooms-to-be were confronted with the problem of new wedding suits for themselves. They discovered that there were no suits to be bought, nor cloth to make them and their problem was indeed perplexing. Flora Clarinda and her two daughters, the two brides-elect held a council meeting and it was decided that the girls should spin the yarn and Flora would dye it and weave the cloth for the boys' wedding suits. The work went forward rapidly and before the end of that month the result of their labors was two fine men's suits made of homemade jeans, all the work having been done by Flora and the girls from the wool rolls which were carded at a carding machine to the last finishing touch on the suits.
The two young couples were married at the Washburn home January 5, 1866 on Alphonzo Wingate’s birthday. He was nineteen years old on that day and Almeda was just past sixteen years.
Zenas was twenty-three and Huetta was nineteen years old.
This wedding was a big event. More than two hundred guests were served at the wedding dinner. Flora Clarinda had the supervision of the whole affair and was assisted in the work by her family. The Wingate boys gave a public dance in the evening and again refreshments were served.
Thomas Bowles came from Nephi in a sleigh and brought his family to be at the wedding. He had planned to get a joke on the grooms and take the brides for a sleigh ride as soon as the ceremony was over and leave the grooms to receive the congratulations of the assembled people.
So he brought his sleigh to the porch and stood just inside the front door so he could be ready for a dash to the sleigh. He had told the girls before hand his plans and supposed. they would accept the plan which he had laid, but they told their sweethearts and when the girls started for the door a large man whom the boys had appointed for the purpose put his arms around Thomas Bowles while the newly weds got into the sleigh and drove away.
I (Lorena) was just about six years old when this wedding occurred. I had never been to a dancing party but was promised that I could go to my sisters wedding dance, but I fell asleep early in the evening and did not awaken until the next morning. My brother Orson, who, was two years and nine months my junior had been to the dance and told me what a wonderful time they had had.
He said that there were three men sitting on the stand with fine fiddles making beautiful music and another man just standing there who was calling the dances.
When the Black Hawk War was on Flora did a lot of cooking for the soldier boys who were camped in the little fort just back of her place. All the people who lived east of the Washburn place were advised to move onto the same street for fear of an Indian raid. One day we saw a company of horsemen coming around the point of Temple Hill and the children of the neighborhood supposed they were Indians. They ran to the Washburn home and Flora put them into her large cellar, but she soon found out that the horsemen were a scouting party.
On one occasion Abraham took the whole family out to the saluratus beds, just south west of Manti, while he got a load of that alkali which was used for soda and for making soap when combined with lime. While he and the boys were loading the wagon he discovered horsemen a mile away and supposed they were Indians. In a minute he had all the children in the wagon and made the oxen run all the way into Manti. Again the horsemen proved to be only a scouting party.
One night Flora Clarinda dreamed that her old sweetheart, Hugh Gillon, came and begged her to be sealed to him. She told him she could not as she was already sealed to Abraham. He said he was going to ask the authorities of the Church if it could be done. If it could, he would let her know.
Three nights in succession Flora dreamed that her stepmother came and asked her to do her temple work and the third night she gave her promise that she would and she never dreamed of her again.
Flora and her daughters hired Sister Crain, who had braided straw for many years in England, to braid straw for them and they made hats, mostly ladies’ hats and sent them to all parts of Utah, they always found ready sale for them.
The Washburn family moved from Manti to Monroe in April 1872 and on November 30, 1872, Flora Clarinda was chosen by Joseph A. Young, Stake President of Sevier Stake, to preside over the first Relief Society in Monroe, which was organized that day.
Monroe was a very new place then, some of the people were from Springville, some from Fountain Green, and quite a group from Utah's Dixie. Each group of people were a little clannish, feeling that their group was a little superior to the others. President Joseph A. Young seemed to understand. this, for he called Flora to one side and said, “You choose your officers, one from each group so you will have harmony in this organization. His suggestion was adopted with good results.
About the same routine of work was adopted in the Monroe Relief Society as had been carried out in the Manti Society, but on a smaller scale.
There were no doctors in Monroe and as Flora was a nurse, nearly everybody who became ill came to her for advice and help, which she readily gave. She was called and went out at all hours of the day and night to help people in sickness and death, no matter what the sickness might be.
When calls came on dark stormy nights, and the people with sickness were living anywhere from an eighth to a mile away, she would dress, put on her wraps and taking up a cudgel which she had for dark night traveling, she would go out walking the middle of the street. The stick in her hand helped her to feel her way in the darkness and would answer for a weapon of defense in case of necessity.
She not only cared for the sick but cared for the dead and assisted in making their clothing, she was a friend to the needy and a mother to the whole community, often leaving her own sick children to the care of her husband., who was also a nurse, while she went out to help her neighbors in their need.
Flora had a special method of helping the poor. If there were able bodied men in the needy families she, with her helpers, would look around to try to find employment for them, and if they failed to find employment for such individuals they would tell them they would lend them the money and they could pay it back as soon as they were able. She said it robbed people of their independence to live on charity if they were able to work, that it was better to lend means to them and let them keep their independence and self respect.
While Flora was president of the Relief Society hundreds of dollars were given to the worthy poor. The Relief Society bought about sixty sheep which they let out on shares to Alma Magleby. They with the help of the Mutuals and Priesthood built the Relief Society Hall. The Relief Society was to occupy the lower part, the Priesthood the upper part, and the Mutuals had access to both parts.
When the Manti Temple was built the Monroe Relief Society was called upon to furnish an all wool carpet for one large room. The members did most of the spinning and the wool having been made into rolls at the carding machine at Manti, Flora dyed the yarn and wove the beautiful carpet.
Her son Orson took it to Manti and delivered it to the Temple committee, though when Brother Maben saw it, he wanted it to adorn his own home.
There was a little yarn left over which was made into a rug about a yard long and two-thirds of a yard wide which was in the Relief Society Treasury until after Flora Clarinda's death when it was presented to Almeda M. Wingate, her daughter.
Flora Clarinda presided over the Monroe Relief Society for twenty-five years. She never made a charge for any of her services to her towns people or others. She devoted her life to the service of God and her fellow men.
Flora Clarinda died August 13, 1900 at the home of her daughter Almeda in Monroe. At her funeral August 15, Sister Casto, a worker at the Manti Temple, arose and spoke in tongues. When it was interpreted it was as if Flora herself was speaking, saying she was pleased with everything that had been done and said, “I am now going to my Father, and your father; to my God and your God.”
feel free to contact
me with any questions or comments.