Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tanner 29: Mary Ann Godfrey DeFriez

Mary Ann Godfrey DeFriez
b. 12 August 1822 Chatham, Kent, England
m. 19 October 1842 Christ’s Church, London, England
d. 22 June 1902 Colonia Morelos, Sonora, Mexico
b. 23 June 1902 Colonia Morelos, Sonora, Mexico
Husbands: (1) Joseph George DeFriez, (2) George Baker
Father: William Hinds Godfrey; Mother: Rebecca Bailey

Mary Ann Godfrey DeFriez (Baker), my maternal grandmother, was a native of England, having been born August 12th, 1822, in Chatham, Kent. Her parents were William Hinds Godfrey and Rebecca Bailey.

About the only incidents I can now recall of her early life, were, that her mother required her, as also her sisters, to commit to memory a certain number of lines of poetry daily; and that when about twelve years of age, she had a severe sick-spell which caused her hair to come out, never again to reappear. This was the cause of her having to wear a wig all her days. As a young girl, a beautiful set of curls adorned her face; thereafter changing to suitable designs to suit her age and the trends of the times. In color, it was dark brown tinged with red. Her eyes were scummed over with a white film, giving them a blue-black hue, but as I remember, she said naturally they were light brown.

She learned music under her father, who was a fine violinist. She accompanied him on the piano. He was, however, very stern and strict, and many times gave vent to his wrath, by slapping her off her stool if she failed to keep proper tempo, and then requiring that she resume without further interruption. She thereby became very adept in her art.

She was married to Dr. Joseph George DeFriez, a practicing Physician and Surgeon, 19th of October, 1842, in London. They moved a few times to more desirable locations. Their last home being a very large house on Bethnal Green Road. Ten children, eight boys and two girls, graced this union.

Grandmother was a painstaking mother, seeing that her children were well cared for physically, but she never indulged them in any way. She told me a neighbor once said to her, “I’ve never heard one of your children cry.” Grandmother explained to me that this was because she looked to their needs and wants.

When her family no longer needed such care, she assumed the responsibility of Postmistress in one of the five head, or largest offices in the City of London. This was housed on the street floor of their home. In this business she was assisted by her youngest daughter, Francis, my mother, lovingly called “Fan” by her father and “Fanny” by others. Mary, her eldest daughter, had charge of the Telegraph Office, a division of the Post Office at that time.

Having been brought up in a God-fearing home, she had a broad understanding of the Bible (having committed to memory many of the Proverbs). But yet, she could not content herself with any of the sects of the day. She joined first one and then another, attempting thereby to satisfy her religious desires.

My grandfather DeFriez was a ranking member of the Free Masons Lodge, and often took grandmother to their Banquets, lawn parties, &c. Also they frequented the High class theaters, and at times visited different Churches to hear the great Divines of the day. In this way she heard a Dr. Adams, whose doctrines appealed to her, and she forthwith affiliated herself with his church. Disappointment again manifest itself. He proved to be an apostate “Mormon,” and while he preached many of our principles, she soon detected his human weaknesses, and his lack of Divine Authority.

About this time her own son, Ebenezer, returned home from a voyage abroad, and a trip to the continent. Having heard the Gospel in a sea-port town in Australia, he had joined the “Mormons” and gone to Utah, and from there been sent back to England as a Missionary.

Now, indeed, had the Restored Gospel in its purity, been brought to listening ears. Grandmother at once recognized it, the True Church of Christ. At last she had reached the end of her quest, and found the Pearl of Great Price. She remained faithful to her testimony to her dying day, June 22nd, 1902, though it cost her loss of husband, home, and loved ones, wealth, position, and all the comforts of life. At first Grandfather was kindly disposed towards the Elders, inviting them to his home. He outfitted Uncle Eb at the best Taylor Shoppe because he felt his clothes were not becoming to or dignifying enough for a Minister, and showed many other kindnesses. But through indiscreet actions on the part of Elder Albert Carrington, then President of the British Mission, he turned against them, forbidding them ever to again enter his door. Mother and Grandmother, however, were faithful to their testimonies, and Uncle Eb was released to accompany them to Utah.

They took passage on the ship S.S. Wyoming, July 25th, 1877, thence to Salt Lake City by rail.

From there they went direct to St. George, Utah, where Uncle Charles was residing. He had left the sea, (having been a sailor for three years), landing at Puget Sound, Washington. He heard of the “Mormons” while abroad, and came to Utah to gain first-hand information concerning them.

He worked for the Bishop at Filmore a year, was baptized there, and called to go to St. George to work on the Temple, where he remained until its completion, consequently was still there when his mother and brother and sister arrived from England, but he was soon called to go to help in the settlement of Arizona.

In St. George Grandmother gave Music Lessons and worked in Church capacities. She married George Baker (as a plural wife). It soon became apparent that Grandmother and Mrs. Baker were of such different natures and dispositions as to make life unhappy for them both, so, while grandmother always retained his name, she did not long make her home with them.

She was at this time, President of the Primary and was teaching the children a Cantata. While seated at the piano with the group about her, grandmother said it seemed as if a cloud passed before her eyes, and she could no longer see the music. Gradually her sight diminished until she could only discern objects; and after months sight faded to a glimmer. This was in 1886 or 1887.

About this time, my parents were advised by the Apostle Erastus Snow, then presiding over the LDS Colonies in Mexico, to pay a visit to their parents in St. George, in the hope that the trip would prove beneficial to my elder sister, then an invalid baby.

After staying in Dixie for some time, they made preparations to again return to Mexico, taking grandmother with them her sight having totally failed.

Were it possible to have two mothers, I should feel that blessed person, for Grandmother, though blind, was my mother’s nurse and my caretaker at birth. My memories of her are interwoven with my early life. I just can remember her at the table a few times, but she became so self-conscious that she preferred eating by herself, therefore, almost as far back as my memory runs, it was my duty and privilege to take Grandmother’s serving to her, before I ate, and ‘ere I had finished, see if she desired anything more. I was likewise trusted to lead her without the house whenever she wished to go. In short, I grew up with her. She never failed to be helpful in some manner or other; e.g. she and I almost daily peeled a pan of potatoes for mother to cook. After the weekly washing was done, she folded many of the clothes and often held the baby. When father brought home a wild turkey, she would strip all the larger feathers for pillows. And for past-time, before we had an organ, she would knit—principally with two needles—a ball of yarn, then undo it and do it over—though she did knit wrist-bands for herself.

From her I learned to do simple knitting. Again she would hem pieces of cloth to use as handkerchiefs—it was remarkable how uniformly and neatly this was done.

As I grew older, she would have me read a poem to her, a line at a time, and repeat until she memorized it.

For a few years she used to go, occasionally, to our neighbor, Hannah Jane Spencer’s home and visit for hours together and play her organ.

My brothers, like all youngsters, were up to snuff sometimes. We had no screen doors in those early days, and sometimes a hen became troublesome, but if ever one began picking, Grandmother would at once move in that direction and shoo it out, by waving a handkerchief. One day mother was away, George and Will thought to have fun, providing themselves with sticks, they tapped on the doorstep. Grandmother took it to be chickens, so out came her pocket handkerchief, but shoo as she would, that old hen still pecked away. At length she moved her chair along until she reached the door, and remained on guard until mother’s return.

Patient, kind, long-suffering, thoughtful, cheerful, considerate, loving, humble, meek, sympathetic, willing, faithful—and many other adjectives could well be used, in an effort to describe her sweet disposition and gentle nature. She took great pride in personal neatness, was always clean looking and prim. Each Sunday she would dress as if expecting to go out for the day.

In the late fall of 1896, we moved to Colonia Juarez. Father at once procured an organ, which proved a real companion for Grandmother. She played by the hours, and was a marvel to all who were priveleged to hear her. Though she regretted not being able to teach us from notes, she taught us the scales and chords in all keys, and also simple tunes.

With my father to do her bidding, she delivered my mother with five births beside my own. Grandfather had imparted knowledge which made her equal to this task.

On Sunday just two weeks to the day before her death, Bishop O.P. Brown spent the time between Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting (then held at 2 p.m.) with her. After a brief exchange of greetings, she entertained him by reciting “The Broken Crutch” and “The Miller’s Maid,” which consumed more than an hour—two poems she had learned in her youth.

She always observed the Monthly Fast, and was true to every principle of the Gospel. Her language was couched in the best of English, her words flowed freely and with no grammatical errors; expressive and well accented, her diction seemed perfect.

She possessed a large vocabulary, hence a great variety in wording. To listen to her or converse with her was music to one’s ears. No one ever visited her who did not feel blessed for having done so.…

Grandmother never wore common-day clothes on Sunday, she varied her garb from week to week, and was extremely methodical and orderly in all she did, having a place for everything, and everything in its place. No matter what article she wanted she knew just what part of which trunk to feel for it.

No one ever meddled with or disturbed her belongings, but many times I’ve stood by and watched her while she took out the things she wanted, noticed how everything was placed with precision, and marveled at her ability to judge size and space and fit things in with exactness. It was inspirational to watch her fold different articles of clothing, and her arrangement of the same in putting them away.

Her end came peacefully, though unexpectedly, in the twilight hour. Most of the family had gone to an evening meeting. I had been in her room shortly before, but noticed nothing unusual, except that she had seemed a little weary all day. As I finished my evening chores, I felt impressed to go to her, and was surprised to hear a wheezing, rattling sound in her throat. I called Mother. Grandmother tried to talk, but her tongue seemed partially paralyzed. (This, however, had happened at least twice before in years passed.) She raised her right arm, placed it over her breast, as a peaceful calm spread over her countenance. “She has gone to sleep,” I said. But it was the sleep of death.

Fenn, Grace Jarvis. “Mary Ann Godfrey DeFriez Baker.” in Margaret Jarvis Overson, George Jarvis and Joseph George DeFriez Genealogy. Mesa, Arizona: 1957, ii:35–39.

Editor's Note: Grace Fenn notes that Mary Ann DeFriez (Baker) wrote the hymn, "Master, the Tempest is Raging." I'm not sure where her information came from, but it is not true. Here is a brief biography of the woman who wrote the song, and some notes about the writing of the song.

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