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History of Mary Givens

1802 - 1873

Mary Givens, daughter of Robert Givens and Martha Givens, was born February 27, 1802 at Stanford, Lincoln, Kentucky. She died August 1873, at Pleasant Grove, Utah, Utah. She was buried August 9, 1873, in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. She married McGee Harris December 26, 1826.

As a girl, Mary was taught thrift and industry. She helped gather flax for making linen and then she spun and wove the flax into yarn. She made her own table linen and bed linen for her trousseau. She made a bed spread and embroidered it before she was sixteen. When she married, her mother asked her how many sheets and pillowcases she had. When she indicated she had 18 sheets and twenty pillow cases, her mother shook her head and went to her own linen closet. She came back with two sheets. She said, "I have counted my sheets and have 62, so I think I can spare you two of them."

Mary was a very popular young woman and had many young men come to court her. She chose McGee for her mate. They settled on a plantation, and with the help of several Negroes, raised cotton and tobacco. Mary was happy when her husband moved to Marion, Illinois, a free state. Mary did not like the slave labor in the South.

When the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visited the Harris family at Marion, they were most welcome. McGee readily accepted the gospel, but Mary was slow to accept. McGee was anxious to join the Saints. Their oldest daughter, Sarah, was married. Mary was determined not to leave her alone in Illinois, and she insisted that their second daughter, Margaret, remain with her sister.

Crossing the plains to Utah and pioneering was an ordeal for Mary. She had been used to a good home and general care of a Negro maid. She walked all the way across the plains, and sometimes carried her youngest child, Emily Caroline. Mary and her husband thought they were well supplied with food and clothing when they started their trek. After sharing with others, the various items reached the minimum amount before they reached Salt lake Valley. One night on the plains Mary heard a noise in one of the wagons, and it was discovered to be a few Indians. After helping themselves to food, they departed in peace. On another occasion Mary noticed a herd of buffalo in a hollow. The men were able to kill a cow.

Mary and her family lived for two years in Salt Lake City, and then moved to Farmington. Here the family had trouble with Indians. On one occasion the men were away getting wood. Mary was making porridge in an iron kettle over the fire. An Indian called Limpy Sam came and demanded the porridge. Mary would not give it to him, telling him it was all she had for her family. He went over to the kettle, and poured it into his dirty blanket. Mary was not to be out done. She reached for some sticks McGee was drying to make single trees for his wagon, and hit Limpy Sam on his back and wrists. Sam ran spilling the porridge. Mary had to clean it up, but she had the satisfaction of knowing he didn't get it either.

Mary and her family moved to Fort Herriman for a few years, then to Springville, Utah, and finally settled in Salt Lake City. Her husband died in 1863. When her daughter, Emily Caroline, and family moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah, in 1870, Mary went to live with them. She wanted something of her own to raise after she moved to the country, so she was given a pig. She often said that the pork in Utah did not taste like it did in the South. So Mary had her pig. She was given her choice of the litter, made a pen for it, and fed it chopped corn from the granary and milk from the cows. When it was slaughtered it was smoked with corn cobs. The pork was put into a separate barrel. It was her pig. Once in awhile she would say to her daughter, "Emily, get a little of my pig for dinner today."

Mary worked with the ladies in the Relief Society. She was a very fine seamstress and assisted in many projects for the poor. She was a wonderful cook. Many women came to see how she made corn bread and grits, but somehow they never tasted like Mary's. She had trouble getting used to the high Wasatch Mountains. She always felt like she was hemmed in and wished she could climb the top of the highest peak to get a breath of good air. Mary was loved by her children and grandchildren and the people of Pleasant Grove admired her.