Thursday, October 13, 2011

John Roberts and Eliza Marie Sorensen (Parents of Carrie Roberts)

John Roberts, son of Hugh Roberts and Mary Owens, was born March 16, 1849 in Eglwysbach, Denbighshire, Wales.  John Roberts married Eliza Marie Sorensen (Larsen) on July 9, 1874 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah in the Endowment House.  Eliza Marie Sorensen (Larsen), daughter of Lars Christian Sorensen and Karen Marie Pedersen, was born April 15, 1858 in Vensesild, a suburb of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Together, John and Eliza Marie had twelve children named, Carrie, Owen, John, Hugh, Eliza, Mary, Nora, Milford, Dora, Lyman, Marie and Elsie.

Hugh Roberts' shoe shop in Wales

During his childhood John Roberts worked with his brothers and sisters in assisting to support the family, often helping Hugh Roberts who was a shoemaker.  Hugh and Mary (Owens) Roberts had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, so as their children attained the proper age, they were baptized members of the church.  The persecution of the saints in Wales had reached such a point that their lives were sometimes in danger. Consequently, John received very little education in the common schools, as he was molested terribly by his associates and he remained away from school to avoid their taunts. As a result, John’s schooling throughout his whole life was one of experience, but he was one who lived and learned.

When John was fifteen, Hugh and Mary Owens Roberts emigrated to America.  John was Hugh’s only son to come to Zion as Robert, John’s brother, preferred to remain in Wales. The Roberts’ family arrived in Salt Lake City in 1864 after a 
hard and strenuous journey across the plains.  John had walked all the way. Times were hard and during the first winter John hauled wood for a man, from a nearby canyon, taking every third load as his pay. Circumstances grew no better by spring so Hugh decided to move the family to Smithfield, Utah, as conditions there seemed more favorable for making a living.

In Smithfield, John was engaged mostly in farming and logging in the canyons. He always had time to perform his duties in the Church, having taught the deacons for several years and was active as choir member. John loved music very much. It was a natural gift and art which had been developed as a child in his home, as all Welsh children are taught good music from their infancy.

Eliza Marie Sorensen (Larsen)
Eliza Marie Sorensen (Larsen), daughter of Lars Christian and Carrie M. Abrahamson Sorensen, was born April 15, 1858 in Vensesild, a suburb of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.  When Lars Christian Sorensen and his family came to America, they discontinued the Danish patronymic naming convention which would have resulted in their children having the last name of Larsen and retained the last name of Sorensen for all future generations.

In 1863, when Eliza Marie was only five years old, her family emigrated to Utah. They crossed the ocean in a sailing vessel, one month being required to reach New York, arriving April 1863. The following October the family arrived in Salt Lake, after a very hard journey across the plains. They traveled by ox team in Bishop Preston's company.

Early Utah dugout home.

In 1864, Lars Christian Sorensen moved his family to Smithfield, Cache, Utah.  Their first home was a dugout.  During the first few years in Utah, family endured untold hardships. Eliza Marie learned to spin the yarn that her mother made into Eliza Marie’s clothes. A calico dress in those days was a much coveted article of clothing. Eliza Marie’s first calico dress cost seventy five cents per yard. Eliza Marie was baptized a member of the Church July 8, 1866.

Eliza Marie received a patriarchal blessing the age of 12 wherein she was told that she would become a singer upon Mount Zion.

John Roberts and Eliza Marie Sorensen (First Wife)
John Roberts married Eliza Marie Sorensen Larsen on July 9, 1874 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah in the Endowment House. 

John Roberts and Eliza Marie Sorensen

The couple then established their home in Smithfield.  Eliza Marie would often get up an hour or two before waking her children and walk up the hollow at least a mile to pick wild berries to stew for breakfast.   She did all her sewing for many years by hand in poor lamp after the children were in bed.  Eliza Marie loved to sew and she schooled her daughters in this art.

Eliza Marie was called to sing in the Choir and served faithfully for many years.  She had an alto voice.  Amid all their trials and hardships John and Eliza Marie attended faithfully to their religious duties, always going to their meetings and choir practices, traveling over bad roads thru stormy weather and good. 

 Polygamy was generally practiced throughout the Church at this time.

John Roberts and Fannie Lazell Akins (Second and Plural Wife)
John Roberts married Fannie Lazell Akins (his second and plural wife) on April 7, 1881 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah in the Endowment House.  Fannie Lazell Akins, daughter of Benjamin and Levenia Noble Akins, was born September 21, 1862 in Smithfield, Cache, Utah. 

Together, John and Fannie Lazell had thirteen children.
With plural marriage being against the civil law, it became necessary for John Roberts and his families to seek new homes as the United States Marshals had been sent to molest and imprison all polygamists. Many were the nights John spent away from home in secret places to avoid the marshals, even remaining in hiding for several days at a time.

To gain more security from the officers of the law, the John Roberts moved both of his families to Bear Lake Valley, Idaho, arriving there September 7, 1883. They located on a farm John had previously purchased. It was at night when they reached their journey's end with no one to greet or welcome them. They built a camp fire and ate a supper of hot milk and bread which had been purchased on the way. Their supplies had run low from their three day journey. A rude house without doors or windows sheltered them that night and amid the howls of coyotes on the near-by hills, they spent their first night on the ranch.

For a long time one cow furnished a scanty supply of milk for the two families and their main diet besides milk consisted of bread, butter at times, and potatoes, with wild game occasionally. Sickness came often and even death, but thru their courage and faith they were able to withstand all of the trials.

One time Eliza Marie became suddenly ill.  Her husband, John Roberts was working in Liberty, Bear Lake, Idaho and only the children were at home.  She was suffering from intense pain; her muscles were stiff and rigid.   Her son, John said in the usual sympathetic way, "What can I do, I can ask Heavenly Father to make you better." Her son, John laid his hands on mother's head and uttered these words in simplicity yet in great faith, "Heavenly Father, bless mama and make her better." Immediately Eliza Marie’s body relaxed, her pain left her and by the time her husband, John Roberts reached home, she was resting.

The original farm was made up of 160 acres and purchased for around $400 to $500. Years later 320 acres more were homesteaded above what was known as the Miles Creek Canal.

John spent all his spare time in the canyons getting out material for building barns, fences, corrals, etc.  On the additional land John built one of the best farm houses in that part of the valley and put into it all the conveniences and comforts within his means. This Eliza Marie’s first home after the original two-room log house in which both families had lived together for several years. John also purchased the Peter Beck Home adjoining his land and Fannie lived there. John's first machinery consisted of a mower, a cradle and a scythe. But at the time of the sale of his farm, he had every kind of farm implement and tool necessary to carry on the work of a modern up-to-date farm. The machinery was always the best and was well cared for. John was considered one of the most successful farmers in Bear Lake Valley. His crops were among the best and his livestock often won prizes at the county fairs.

For many years there was no money with which to transact business. John often paid a bushel of wheat for a dance ticket. At one time he drove a herd of sheep thru the mountains to Smithfield, Utah to obtain money to liquidate some of his debts.

The John Roberts Family: L-R Back Row:  Milford, Hugh, Eliza, Owen, Carrie
Front Row: Dora, Eliza Marie, Elsie, Mary, John, Lyman

In 1889, Eliza Marie had been suffering from ill health for many years when she was advised to go to the Temple and be baptized for her health. She testifies to the great blessings she received there from. Eliza Marie’s health was much improved and she was able to perform her duties as a mother.

Working' bees were organized among the neighbors for the purpose of building fences and other work.  As John became more prosperous, he was able to make yearly trips to Brigham City, Utah to purchase fruit which took about a week to go and return. It was a thrill for the children to see John return with a load of fruit.  John always worked to fill the bins and cellars with supplies for the winter for both of his families.  He also regularly went to Salt Lake City for General Conference in the spring brining along one of the children until each had had his turn. John hauled rock for building the Logan Temple and was present at the dedication of both the Logan and the Salt Lake Temples.

In 1900, John built a reservoir on his land, enabling him to retain the spring flow for his land and especially for his garden. He took great pride in this and often he would show visitors thru the garden pointing out the fact that there were few weeds. Many vegetables were sold in nearby towns, especially Montpelier, Idaho.  When Lanark Ward was organized, Father was made leader of the choir, which position he held for many years.

In the fall of 1902 John moved Eliza Marie to Paris, Idaho so that all of his children might have the opportunity of attending the Fielding Academy. Fannie remained at her home adjoining the ranch.  John and the families travelled between the two homes almost daily.  John was a firm believer in education and delighted in his children's scholastic achievements; four of them received college training.

In 1908 Eliza Marie and Elsie, went to Stirling, Alberta, Canada, to visit Carrie (Roberts) Passey, who was living there, she enjoyed every day of the month she visited.
John joined the Bear Lake Stake Choir after moving to Paris, Idaho. He had a wonderful bass voice, being able to sing lower than anyone else in the choir. John loved good music, he disliked ragtime and jazz. His idea of a pleasant evening was one of music, especially singing.  All of his children are musically inclined.

Bear Lake Stake Tabernacle, Paris, Idaho
In the fall of 1917, John sold his farm as his sons, Milford and Lyman had been called into the armies of the United States in World War I, and John could no longer run the ranch without them.  John purchased a home in Paris, Idaho for Fannie and took a well-earned rest. John loved the Gospel and taught his children the principles of the Gospel and delighted when he saw his children in the line of duty.  John and Eliza Marie made several trips to Salt Lake and Logan Temples and performed work for their kindred dead.

In the year 1921, Eliza Marie was ill for about six months. Specialists were consulted and everything medically was done for her.  John Roberts had great faith in the Elders and asked them to bless her often. All of her children can testify that Eliza Marie's health was restored by the power of the priesthood.
On August 20, 1923, the Hugh Roberts Family Association was organized at Logan, Utah with a large representation of both branches of John’s family participating. John was unanimously elected the first president of the association. He was very happy on the occasion of that reunion of the extended family.

In the fall of 1923, John’s health broke down entirely. He had been suffering for many years from Bright's disease.  John and Eliza Marie had been to October General Conference in Salt Lake City, they stopped along their way home to visit family members staying for many days in each stop.  Shortly after they had arrived home, John said to Eliza Marie, "Well, I have been to see all my children living outside of Bear Lake and I feel that something is going to happen." Within a month he was dead. His old ailments appeared with complications and after less than one week of illness he passed away.  During his last days, his knowledge of the Welsh language, his mother tongue, came back to him and he talked as fluently in Welsh as he had done as a boy.

John Roberts died December 3, 1923 in Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho.

Eliza Marie (Sorensen) Roberts died September 19, 1933 in Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho.

Fannie Lazell (Akins) Roberts died October 4, 1933 in Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho.

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