EMMA MARY ANN HOLT OLIVER
Emma Mary Ann related the following in an interview with her granddaughter
Lenore R. Hutchings in 1921.
I, Mary Ann Holt Oliver, was born in Salt Lake City 13th May 1866, in a log cabin
on Sixth East and Third South. where the only cedar tree in the valley grew at that time.
I am the oldest of fourteen children, ten of whom survived to adulthood.
My father, Edward David Holt, was born May 23, 1832 in Broadwinsor,
Dorsetshire, England, and was said to be of Jewish blood1, but he had been raised as a
Christian. He came to Salt Lake as a convert to Mormonism in 1862. Here he married
Mary Ann Miller2. They lost their only child, Joseph, in infancy, and for the
family-oriented Holts and baby-hungry Mary Ann, the only solution and satisfaction was
for Father to take a second wife. On March 10, 1865, he married my mother, Emma
My mother was carefully chosen. She had to be strong, self-reliant, young,
educated sufficiently in the household duties that would fall on a frontier woman, and
capable in book-learning to help educate her children. She also had to have a strong
faith in the gospel, and to be compatible with both Mary Ann and Father.
My mother was a tiny, feisty little woman, only slightly over five feet tall. She,
too, was born in England, on May 8, 18494, in Outwell, Norfolk, and was orphaned
shortly after5. Her grandmother, Mary Tokelove Chesson, raised her.6
Grandmother and granddaughter converted to Mormonism, emigrated to the
United States and then to Utah in 1864. They drove a team of horses and a covered
wagon all the way across the Plains, Mother doing most of the driving. She was then a
strong, mature fifteen-year old.
On arrival in Salt Lake they were approached by Edward David Holt with a
proposal. He asked Grandmother Chesson for Emma's hand. They struck a bargain.
Grandmother Chesson and Mother were planning to continue on to Tooele and open a
boarding house, but they were very short of money. My father, Edward, paid Sister
Chesson "a goodly sum", and she released Emma into his care7. They were married in
the Endowment House on March 10, 1865.
As regular as clockwork the stork came to our home from fourteen month to two
year intervals. To my father this perhaps seemed a natural thing, but to a frontier
woman, it was no easy accomplishment. I was at the birth of Jesse Henry Holt on July
10, 1879. I was just thirteen years old and I never forgot it.
Father's first wife, Mary Ann, or "Ma" as she was affectionately called, was a
No records exist to verify this.
Records show he was married 6 Sep 1856, Bridport, Dorset, England.(Parish
Birth cert 8 May 1850, in poss of Jeanne Davis Cutler
Birth cert of Emma, she was four years old when her father died.
She lived with her Aunt Ann Chapman until the age 13 and then lived with her
Emma Billings' personal history states she was employed initially by Edward Holt, and
married a year after she went to work in his business.
sweet helpful creature. She took upon herself the care of the babies as naturally as if
they were hers. Now that I look back I believe she had a lot to do with the educating of
Mother. It was Mother's duty to have the babies, and Ma's to pitch in whenever and
wherever needed. She managed the house, kept the household accounts and
provided a warm, beautiful home for us. Mother's assignment was to tend the children
and make the clothes for the household. She was really the "Queen Bee" and the
household revolved around her.
We were living in South Jordan when Jesse Henry was born. Father had a
knack of making money, but felt that South Jordan offered better farming land. Also,
we had outgrown our log cabin in Salt Lake.
I never knew when the baby was due, and I don't remember Mother making
many preparations. She kept the well-worn baby clothes in a little tin trunk and sewed
little garments as the old ones wore out. Mary Ann crocheted beautifully and seemed
to be always making booties and sweaters. However, when Mother's bedroom was
cleaned by taking up the rag rug, having me beat in on the clothesline until dust free
and allowing the sun to air it and sweeten it, then taking up the old straw padding and
renewing it with fresh, sweet smelling oat straw - that was the sign. We knew then.
The bedroom was whitewashed, the curtains taken down and carefully laundered,
starched with a fine potato starch and stretched on the Quilting frames - old soft cloths
laundered and sunned and the room was ready for the event.
Usually I was sent to supervise the younger children at the homes of relative or
friends, but today I was asked to stay and help Ma (Mary Ann) and the midwife.
It was July, and the day was almost unbearably hot and airless. Ma developed
a bad headache and took to her bed and I was left to carry on. My job was to notify the
midwife, keep the kitchen stove well stoked and the water boiling in several large pots.
I was to watch several squares of white cloth in the oven. The object was to gently
scorch them but never burn. Also I was to brown several tablespoons of flour in the
I would look in at Mother every few minutes. She didn't send me for the midwife
until the water broke, so things were really going on by the time she arrived.
We had learned to love the midwife. We called her "Aunt." She had been
trained by the Church in midwifery and had seldom lost a baby in birth. She came with
a large wicker basket packed with the necessities which included a jar of sweet oil and a
jar of boric acid to wash the baby's eyes. Also in a clean jar was a large raisin, which
she instructed me to scald with the boiling water and to scald a sharp paring knife.
She carefully sprinkled the little navel, the cord doubled back and forth in as
awkward knot, with some of the parched flour I had prepared. Then she carefully
opened the raisin with the knife and placed only the inner, meaty side over it. She then
clamped the two pieces of scorched cloth over that and bound it on tightly with a woolen
flannel bellyband, which had been carefully crocheted around with the finest silk.
The little bellyband ordeal had Jesse Henry crying again. This seemed to please
her. She told me she felt he was smart to demonstrate the he had good lungs well filled
Parched flour was sprinkled freely again before the diaper was put on and over
everything was places a pinning blanket, especially pleated in front to fit snugly over the
bellyband, and long enough to fold and double back over the tiny feet. A little shirt and a
thin flannel nightgown, a concession, perhaps because of the summer heat and
perhaps because nine others had worn it, completed Jesse Henry's wardrobe.
Summer or winter, it was all the same.
To stimulate the nursing action and to give him some ready food until his mother
could feed him, she finished up with a "sugar tit." It consisted of a fine white piece of
unscorched cloth with a bit of sugar in it, to be dipped into some of the sterile water.
This was to pacify the baby if he cried too hard until his mother's supply was ready.
"Auntie" was paid three dollars, and the price suggested by the Church for the
midwife. This also included visits for ten days, when the mother and baby were
bathed. It the baby were to develop yellow jaundice, she would leave saffron and
instructions to make a saffron tea, usually given the second or third day to counteract
and yellow tinge and to "clear the blood." She would also leave a small amount of catnip
tea to be given to the mother to calm her nerves, and to the baby also if he showed
signs of colic.
Extracted from An Enduring Legacy, Vol 7, Daughters Utah Pioneers 1984, page 70-74
Edited and footnotes added by Jeanne Davis Cutler 1993.