Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tanner 15: Margaret Jarvis

b. 28 November 1857 Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
m. 1 March 1878 St. George, Washington, Utah
d. 12 January 1934 St. Johns, Apache, Arizona
b. 12 January 1934 St. Johns, Apache, Arizona
Husband: Charles Godfrey (DeFriez) Jarvis
Father: George Jarvis; Mother: Ann Prior

Shortly before Charles and Margaret Jarvis married, Charles DeFriez changed his surname to Jarvis. Technically, Margaret should probably be called Margaret Jarvis Jarvis. It's easier to just call her Margaret Jarvis. Don't confuse her with her daughter, Margaret Jarvis Overson, who wrote the following biography of this wonderful pioneer woman.

Margaret Jarvis was born in Boston, Massachusetts, November 28th, 1857, the sixth child and third daughter of George and Ann Prior Jarvis, English Emigrants who had left their native country and arrived in America a few months previously.

Immediately following her birth, the mother was very ill of fever for three months and could never nurse the baby. They were very poor, work was hard to get and wages small. They were located in an unhealthy part of the city, unable to pay for better quarters, or hire help. A woman who lived in adjoining rooms helped Margaret’s brother George and sister Annie feed and tend the baby in the day time, and the father took charge at night. Thus the little one had a poor chance to make a start, and was a very delicate child. When she was about three years old the family started for Utah, but not being financially able to procure a good wagon and team, were obliged to share a wagon with another family. The other man drove the team and his wife and family rode, but Margaret’s parents had to walk most of the way across the plains, and her father carried the little girl. After they arrived in Salt Lake City and were beginning to do a little better financially, a call was made by President Young for volunteers to go and settle Dixie (St. George). George Jarvis was one of the first to volunteer.

Margaret was still a small, delicate child when the family arrived in St. George. It is generally understood that the St. George Mission was one of the hardest in the Church, and because her father was in poor circumstances, it was extra hard for his family. They did not have enough food to satisfy their hunger, even the coarser kind, for part of the first years. Margaret told of the first time she remembered tasting a cookie. It was given her by a neighbor—she thought she had never eaten anything so good. She says that during her early years she was often hungry and cold, and many times her stomach turned at the things offered her to eat: bread made of cane seed, or corn bread.

Her schooling amounted to almost nothing, having very poor teachers, and no text books. Each child brought the book or books obtainable, and her only book was a small speller. However, she learned to read well, do a little figuring, and write a fairly good hand. She did not enjoy to write, because spelling was hard for her. So that by the time she was a young woman, she had known little else than poverty.

She had learned to spin yarn and knit stockings and do plain sewing besides the necessary house work and cooking.

Charles and Margaret lived with her parents after their marriage March 1st, 1878, until they moved to Arizona in the fall of 1879. Up to this time in her life, she had been the pet of the family because of her delicate health, and being twice the baby. (Her mother having buried at four months, the next child younger than herself.) She never had much responsibility because they had little, and there were older and younger children more fit than she.

Landing in Snowflake a total stranger except for her brother and wife, with a year old baby, their partly built home some blocks from neighbors, her husband away at work, no fences or trees, only the natural wild condition of the country, she must have suffered greatly those first months, even years. But she stood it bravely. In early years she grieved for her kindred. In later years when she could have gone and lived among them she said, “No, my home is here, and they have theirs. I don’t want to go to them now.”

Charles was a good provider, though he was away from home a great deal. She always had what she wished and needed to get along with. Of course, she had to put up with pioneer conditions, poor houses, sometimes poor food, because there was nothing better to be had, no doctor or help in times of sickness. But if she had serious sickness, which happened many times in bearing eight children and raising seven, she had great faith, and would pray to her God, and call the Elders, and her prayers were answered many times.

All during her married life until her family was raised, they had a great deal of company. Many times at Quarterly Conferences, they had a houseful. In those days, people from other settlements would bring a team and wagon, and often a bed, and come on Friday and stay until Monday. Sometimes the Jarvis’s had beds on all the floors, in the yard and in the wagons, and two, three or four tables full for each meal. Charley would provide the food, and he loved to entertain, and Margaret was a good cook and enjoyed to show off her art. Plum puddings, mince pies, delicious cakes, toasts, meat pies, &c.

Margaret Jarvis held a number of offices in the Church, Counselor in the Stake Primary, Ward Relief Society President, Relief Society Teacher, Sunday School Teacher for many years, and always a member of the Ward Choir. She loved to sing—knew hundreds of songs and sang as she worked. She also loved to read, especially stories and poetry, which she memorized, also church literature, lessons, &c.

She also enjoyed to have a garden, trees and vines, and she planted and cared for it herself, and gathered the fruit. This was hard work for a woman, but Charley always worked in an office after they lived in St. Johns, and his legs bothered so he could not get around well for such work.

About the year 1897, she began having spells of terrible cramps. In the spells which sometimes lasted a week or more, she was unable to eat, and suffered intensely. At first no one seemed to know the cause, but later it proved to be gall stones. She finally had to submit to a serious operation to have them removed, after suffering nearly 25 years. However, she completely recovered from the operation, and enjoyed better health thereafter the remainder of her life.

In 1910, she was chosen by the Relief Society of the St. Johns Ward to go to Salt Lake City and take the course in General Nursing and Obstetrics, being offered by the Church Relief Society for the benefit of the members everywhere, so that in each settlement someone with training and understanding would be available to help people in time of sickness. The Relief Society offered to pay part of the cost of tuition. She went, taking Lois, who was about sixteen years old, with her, and leaving her husband and son, Albert, to manage at home.

This seemed the opportunity she had craved, for she took right up with the work and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. She learned the medical terms, and made such rapid progress, that it seemed a marvel that a woman of her age and previous lack of education and technical training could obtain such wonderful insight and understanding of modern practice in the time allotted for the course. When it was through, she passed the Medical Board Examination of the State of Utah with high points, and returned home ready at call to help in sickness whenever she was needed. She presented her Certificate to the Medical Board of Arizona, and was readily accorded a certificate to practice Nursing and Obstetrics in Arizona also. Her calls were many. She lived fifteen years after her husband’s death, lived alone in a home she built, and went whenever or wherever called, night or day. Her grand-daughter, Leola Jarvis was the second baby she cared for, and her Great Grand-daughter, LaVell Jarvis was the 272nd one and she never lost a case.

She attributed this to the blessings of the Lord. She had some unusual and abnormal cases when she was alone and could get no help, but through her faith and the blessings of the Lord, as she always said, they got along without a loss. She was a veritable Angel of Mercy in many homes. Especially was she depended on and appreciated among the Mexican mothers of the town, to whom her skill and jovial personality were such a comfort. Many of them depended upon her implicitly.

Dr. Margaret Jarvis, as she was lovingly called by those who knew her best, was five feet three inches in height, normal weight 165 pounds and over, (quite plump), blue eyes, clear complexion, pleasant face, and beautiful, soft, dark brown, wavy hair, which later turned to silvery white. She kept her plump form and erect carriage to the last. She loved to walk—would take long strolls for the pure joy of walking in the fresh air and sunshine, observing the flowers, birds, rocks, etc.

Two weeks before her death she waited on her grandson’s wife with her third child, and when she was through with the case, told some friends that she hadn’t a case promised at that time. She said, “Since I have been practicing I have always had several cases ahead, but just now I haven’t any.” In two or three days she was stricken, and it was soon evident that her sickness was serious. She lived only twelve days. The morning before she died, she sang the first verse of a favorite hymn, “The morning breaks, the shadows flee.” The next morning, January 12th, 1934, she passed away about sunrise.

Overson, Margaret Jarvis. George Jarvis and Joseph George DeFriez Genealogy. Mesa, Arizona: 1957, ii:61–65.

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