From the Diary of Lucy Hannah White Flake

Chad J. Flake

Chad J. Flake, “From the Diary of Lucy Hannah White Flake,” inSupporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons, ed. Donald Q. Cannon and David J. Whittaker (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 1985), 235–53.

Chad J. Flake was the author of A Mormon Bibliography, 1830–1930, and editor of Mormon Americana, 1960–1980,when this was published. He attended Northern Arizona University and received a BA degree from Brigham Young University in 1953. Chad received an MA degree from Denver University.

When Andrew Jenson toured the various stakes in 1893, advising members to keep diaries, he drew a responsive commitment from Lucy Hannah White Flake. She began a day-by-day diary, while at the same time recording a summary of her life up until that time. The story of her life in Utah, her move to Arizona, and the summary of her life to January 1894 are contained in the first volume of her writings. Two subsequent volumes record her day-to-day activities from January 1894 until shortly before her death in January 1900. [1] The quotations used herein are taken from her three-volume journal, using the punctuation and spelling as found in the diaries in order to maintain the flavor of the original.

Lucy Hannah White was born 23 August 1842 in Knox County, Illinois, the oldest daughter of Samuel Dennis and Mary Hannah White. Her parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before Lucy was born. Her earliest recollection was of being shown the city of Nauvoo from the top of the Nauvoo Temple. Her father was chosen as one of the men who remained in Nauvoo to aid the poorer Saints in preparing to leave for the West. The family crossed the plains in 1850 and settled thirty-five miles south of Salt Lake City in an area which was later to be called Lehi. Here they were reunited with their relatives, only to be separated again in 1853 when they were called as a part of the Iron County Mission. Her mother’s sorrow at having to leave her family after being reunited in Utah previews Lucy’s own sorrow at leaving Beaver some twenty-four years later.

In February 1858 Lucy met William Jordan Flake; they were married 30 December 1858. William Flake was the oldest son of James Madison and Agnes Love Flake, who had converted to Mormonism in Mississippi. Freeing their slaves, [2] they came to Nauvoo in 1844. In 1848 they moved to Utah. James Madison was killed while on the gold mission to California, and Agnes died of consumption while living with Amasa Lyman and returned with him to Utah when the Saints were recalled from the San Bernardino Mission.

Lucy and William started marriage with very few possessions. For the first three months they lived with the Lymans in Cedar City before accompanying them in their move to Beaver. According to Osmer Flake’s biography, the couple had a “bed-stead made with an axe as the only tool, two log benches he made, a frying pan, a case knife he found and for which he whittled a handle, two tin plates, and a spoon that he cut out of wood with his pocketknife.” [3] Though colorful, this seems highly apocryphal inasmuch as both her family and the Lymans were living in close proximity. Lucy merely records “we had very little to keep house with but we were just as happy as could be. . . . my parents lived close by and greatley assisted us” (9).

Lucy’s first sorrow was the death of her second son. William Melvin was born 20 January 1861 and seemed to be a fine, healthy child, but he died 20 March of the same year. Lucy writes, “It seemed my prairs had always been answered before but in his sickness it seemed like my prairs did no good but still I kept trying to get my Hevenly father to here me kept praying but it seemed he could not here me” (10). This was the first of five children to die before their third birthday. Lucy found this very difficult, particularly since none of her mother’s children had died in infancy.

In the fall of 1867 Lucy’s husband concluded to take a second wife. Asked by Eliza R. Snow if she were willing to accept “the principle,” Lucy replied, “I said [I] am quite willing to try. . . . My Mother and sister live in it and I think [I] can do as much as them and besides I wanted my Husband to go into that principal before I was old because I think it right” (16). Of the marriage of William and Prudence Kartchner, O. D. Flake records, “The two women lived in the same house, or in close proximity and often helped each other when their work permitted.” [4] However, this seemingly tranquil and wholehearted acceptance of the second marriage does not accurately portray Lucy’s feelings. She mentions Prudence in her journal in the fall of 1874, but Prudence is seldom mentioned again until the day before Prudence’s death on 7 February 1896, when Lucy writes, “in the evening went in to see sister Prudence she is very low and week I fear she will not recover.” On 8 February Lucy records, “Prudence was very low all night,” and then, “Pa dedicated her and she Passed away like an babe going to sleep” (159). Then follows a description of Prudence’s funeral.

Lucy’s not mentioning Prudence at family gatherings, church meetings, parties, and other such functions, leads one to feel that she largely ignored Prudence. This estrangement can also be detected in subtle passages of the diary. In discussing a trip back to Utah in 1878, Lucy records, “we were just our own familey” (26). Concerning a visit of Edward Stevenson to Snowflake, Arizona, she records, “Brother Stevenson preached in Beaver in pourfull sermon on polygamy and retrenchment in the Sisters Hall 26 years ago. That surmound gave me great comfort. It was healing balm to my soal. He said polygamy is the greatest trial our Hevenly Father has in store for his daughters” (141). After the death of their mother, Prudence’s four daughters refused to move to the ranch if Lucy were going to live there also. So Lucy remained in town for the first month of the summer. A reconciliation seems to have been accomplished since she did move to the farm later in the year, but both families continued to have separate homes in town, and it is doubtful that the girls spent another summer on the ranch as long as Lucy lived. They were, however, finally included in family gatherings such as that of the Christmas of 1897.

As a result of accepting polygamy, William was eventually arrested and was sentenced to six months in the Yuma prison. Polygamy, therefore, was an ambivalence in Lucy’s life. On one hand it was a visible acceptance of the will of God; on the other hand it was a practical hardship to be dealt with every day.

In 1877 William was called to help settle northern Arizona. This was a severe blow to the family for several reasons. First, they had worked hard to provide themselves with comfortable surroundings both in town and at the ranch. Second, there was the sorrow of leaving her family, particularly her mother, with no idea of how long they would be away. Finally, it was difficult because in 1873 William had been called to explore northern Arizona and had concluded that it was not very fit for colonization. He then had been promised by Brigham Young that he would not be expected to settle in Arizona. As Lucy summarizes it, “Oh the thought of leaveing my poor Widowed Mother who had stood over me night and day in my dreadfull sickness and never gave me up when all others did it was cruel it seemed to me and William said he had rather go to England” (21). But, like others before them, they accepted the call and began selling their property and disposing of their cattle and sheep.

The trip to Arizona was a difficult journey. Leaving Beaver in November, they traveled over the Buckskin Mountains of northern Arizona in deep snow. Early in the trip their two oldest girls contracted diphtheria, and Prudence herself had three very bad spells of sickness. At the death of a child in the group, Lucy was called upon to wash the body. “They called on me to wash it the watter would freeze as quick as it touched the child it was the first time I ever washed the dead” (23). The drive was very difficult for the livestock, so they were forced to abandon them, leaving their son Charles and a hired hand to take care of them until the spring. Lucy relates, “After this was all over and so much anxiety and care and leveing Charles had work and constant strain on my nerves and strength I took down sick and was several days could not get out of bed” (24).

Arriving at the Little Colorado settlements of Brigham City and Sunset, the group rested for a few days and then continued up the river twenty miles to start a new settlement, which they named Taylor. After the fifth dam was washed away, William concluded that it was not a good place for a settlement and made a trip to the Silver Creek Ranch, which he had seen in 1873, to see if it were available. The ranch, owned by James Stinson, was located in a valley to the south. During William’s three-week absence, their son, George, became ill. Lucy’s narration of this event is one of the most sensitive passages in her diary:

I did all I could with medicen and also with faith my prairs did not seem to be herd but several times each day I went a way from my wagon in secret and prayed our wagons was our home often had the Elders administer but it seemed they had no faith I was sad indeed away from home and kindred and my Husband a way my Dear sons James and Charles was willing to do all they could and for a long time I did not blow out the candle at night and the boys would tell me when I wanted them they would stay with me I was so tired out they did stay with me one at a time through the night on the morning of July 6th 78 I was so deep in sorrow it seemed I could not bare it any longer I went out in some brush out of site and asked my father in Heven to take him home for I could not bare it any longer my burden was hevier than I could bare that prair was simple but from my hart I wint to him he breathed afew times and passed a way so sweetly my own hands made his clothes dressed him fixed some paint and painted his coffin in one hour after he passed away his Father came (26).

William Flake purchased the Silver Creek Ranch from James Stinson for $12,000 (Lucy has 1,200 in her diary), and three families moved from the Taylor settlement. A humorous anecdote is noted in O. D. Flake’s biography:

“Now Mr. Flake, [Mr. Stinson talking] there is just enough water here for this small farm. If you will keep the place for your family alone, you will have a fine place, but if you let anyone else in, you will all starve.” Flake said, “You could not give me the place, if I had to live here that way. I am going to have a town and farm all of the land.” Stinson then answered, “You won’t have enough water. I use it all, and then don’t have enough in the dry season.” To this Flake replied, “When the Mormons come, the water will increase.” Shortly after that the rains came, and it kept coming. They had a hard time gathering the barley and beans, and lost some on account of rain. Stinson said, “I wish the hell the Mormons had stayed away until I had my crop gathered.” [5]

The purchase of Silver Creek Ranch necessitated William’s return to Utah for more stock. Knowing of Lucy’s homesickness, he allowed her and all the children except James to return to Utah.

When William had pulled his stock out of the United Order at Taylor, he was accused of being an apostate, a designation which troubled him greatly. On this return trip to Beaver, the company met Erastus Snow a few miles below Brigham City. William counseled with Apostle Snow concerning moving to a new location, relating a dream he had had, in which Brigham Young appeared to him. In his dream he told Brigham about purchasing the ranch after which “President Young ran his hand in his pocket as if to pull out money he said Bro Young I don’t want money I want to know if I done right” (27). After relating this dream to Erastus Snow, the Apostle replied that that was all the counsel he needed. William continued to Utah to secure stock while Apostle Snow continued to the new settlement to organize a ward and stake. It was Erastus Snow who gave the settlement its name: “Snow” in honor of his being the Apostle in charge of the Southern Utah-Northern Arizona colonization, and “Flake” to honor its founder.

In 1880 the stake and ward Relief Societies were organized in the Snowflake Ward and Stake. [6] During the organization of the Society, Lucy was made first counselor to Mary J. West, a union which sustained her during many of her dark periods. When Mary J. West was put into the stake Relief Society twenty-six years later, Lucy was made stake Primary president. In these capacities, the sisters would travel great distances, sometimes with a male driver, but most often on their own. Some of these visits are recorded in Lucy’s diary as follows:

11 January 1896: “Myself and first councler Sister Willis Went to Shumway and met with the Primary” (156).

24 January: “we went to Pine-dale and met with the primary at four o clock that evening after meeting we Sister Willis she went with me on some of the sisters then after dark we went to the dance” (p. 158).

5 June: “Myself Sisters Willis Belle Flake and Basheba Smith we started for Woodruff nine o clock in the Morning” (180).

6 June: “Erley in the morning we started for St Joseph arrived in Hole brook a little after eleven. . . . We ate a lunch then started for St Joseph where we arrived half past three at four went to Primary” (180).

They returned on Monday, 8 June. In one of their subsequent trips to Joseph City, in which they had to cross the Little Colorado River, the river was so high that they had to wait until someone came along who could drive them across the river. On 27 June “half past eight Sisters Willis Belle Bashey Smith and myself Satarted for pinetop went to Showlow stoped tow hours . . . arived at pinetop just after sundown” (183). They continued to organize the Primary there before continuing to the Ellsworth settlement, two miles south. They returned home on Tuesday.

Lucy was always critical of her own performance, particularly during stake meetings. On 29 May 1897 she records, “I with my councilors had to preside [at the Primary Conference] I made such a poor out of it broke down and almost cried and felt so shamed to think I made such a poor out but I am wery Week I tried to put my trust in our Hevenly Father but perhaps I was lacking on my part” (240).

In October 1897 she, along with William, Albert Minerly, and William Willis traveled to Tuba City about 150 miles to the north. William performed his duties as home missionary while Lucy organized the Primary at their conference. On this occasion she felt better about her performance: “I presided the Lord helped me and things went off nice” (236). On 11 September 1898 she and Fanny Willis went on an extended trip, stopping at Pinetop, then on to Adair (a settlement which was north of Showlow but which no longer exists), Ellsworth (also no longer in existence), and Woodland (a dependent branch south of Showlow, later incorporated as part of Lakeside), then back to Ellsworth and Adair, returning home on 15 September. In a later trip to Pinetop, 12 September 1899, she records, “The bishop said the people was so dissatisfied he did not think it would do any good to try and have any primary” (378).

In addition to her work with the ward Relief Society, Lucy worked as a Sunday School teacher both in Beaver and Snowflake. She received a great deal of satisfaction in her church work and on the whole seems to have had a good opinion of her performance, always, of course, giving the credit to her Heavenly Father.

Her most memorable religious experience was a trip to the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in April 1893. The family went by wagon to Beaver, where they stopped for a few days in order to wash, iron, and mend their clothes. In company with many of Lucy’s relatives from Beaver, they continued to Milford by wagon and then “took the cares [train]” (52) to Salt Lake City where they stayed with other relatives. There they attended conference and on 6 April Lucy and William attended the “Great council meeting,” the first of thirty-one dedicatory services for the Salt Lake Temple (53). On 8 April they attended another session in the temple with the Beaver and outlying wards. Of these experiences she records, “After being absent from Salt Lake so many years to go to that Grand Tabernicle and here that great Organ it brings tears of joy to my eyes. . . . The Temple was grand and butifull its descriptio[n] had been given to meny time for me to describe it or even try but it is beond discription butifull in every part” (53–54).

On that same day they did some temple work. Concerning this, Joseph F. Smith said to them, “Isent that nice Brother Flake yor names Will go on the record as the first work done in this Temple that is a great credit to you” (55). He then led them on a tour of several different rooms and gave them temple cards so that they could attend a session the next morning. After spending several days in Salt Lake City participating in the various meetings during the dedication and in visiting relatives, they returned to Beaver on the train. On 18 April they started back to Arizona. “We dared not stay any longer,” Lucy records, “for fear the Big Colorado would be so high we could not cross it” (56–57).

Throughout her life it was Lucy’s religious work that sustained her, but it was the day-by-day drudgery which gradually took its toll on her health. Because they had the only house of any size in Snowflake, there was always a multitude of guests. Army officers from Fort Apache and travelers from “every station in life partook of their hospitality,” recalls O. D. Flake. “Although the greater majority were strangers they had never met before, they often supplied whole families for long periods of time. Don’t ask me how they did it. I was there (part of the time) but I do not know. A quilt on the floor was our lot; in a year or two, when we had more room, and I could sleep on a bed stead (home made), they often brought in a stranger to share my bed. Sometimes, when there were many of them, I was told to put on my clothes and go up, and crawl in bed with the Hunt boys.” [7] Their son John tells that he never knew who would be in his bed when he returned late. On one such night, going to bed without any light to see, he inadvertently got into bed with two women but was happily able to slip out in the morning before they awakened. [8]

Besides the labor of having many guests, the quantity and variety of the everyday work, often with only primitive tools available, made life hard. In addition to the usual housekeeping, including the almost daily churning of butter using milk from as many as nine cows, which she often had to milk alone, Lucy made all the family clothes as well as the blankets and mattresses, using both feathers and corn husks. She also made the usual household furnishings such as rugs, curtains, cushions, and endless “Tidys” (coverings for just about everything). The woolen clothes usually began with raw wool which she picked, carded, spun, and dyed. Much of the sewing was for other members of the family. In addition to working in the house, she incubated chickens and eventually sold their eggs; raised ducks, pigs, and the family garden; husked and shelled the corn; made candles and cheese; and did other chores too numerous to mention.

Lucy’s diary reflects the effect that this work had on her.

11 October 1895: “John and me milked as usual then got breakfast then went and picked sixteen Ducks then came in and done up my work” (134).

18 April 1897: “I work hard am tired all the time but if I don’t work I would study till I would go crazy so it seemes I have to work in order to keep from doing worse” (234).

25 May 1898: “I have worked so hard all day til 6 o clock cleening then cleaned the cupbord the doors and meny other cleaned my bed stead and floor I’m very tired” (308).

23 December 1898: “I made 17 pies done up all my work nice . . . came home and fixed a cushion for rocking chair and now 11 o clock I must go to bed” (341–41).

13 April 1899: “Done up work cleaned kitchen floor made pie and after went to sisters meeting. . . . I bought screen to make me some screen doors as I never had any. . . . it seems we have worked hard and we ought to have some comforts in our declining years” (357).

14 April: “Done my ironing and other work and was dredful tired” (357).

On 22 December 1899, during the month before her death, she records: “Swept both floors and chored a round the house most all day. . . . We have concluded to have a Christmas Dinner here at our Home for the Familey” (390).

23 December: “I made some pies ironed a little cooked beets done up my work and finished Joel mittens knit them this week and Reginold a pair of Stockings I think that is good for a person that is called sick” (390). She carried this heavy workload almost to the end of her life.

Besides the hard work, the weather made living on the frontier hard. Inadequate heating and poor insulation made the house uncomfortable during much of the year. Lucy talks of the heat in summer but is more affected by the cold. On 25 January 1898 she writes, “Last night was the coldest night we have had I sewed today it seems like we cannot leave the fire it is so cold” (286).

26 October 1899: “It is very cold last night was the coldest this fall . . . this house is very cold” (384). But it was the spring season that was the real problem. In the spring, in the vicinity of Snowflake, the wind blows for about three months. It begins in March and blows almost continually (at least during the day) until well into June. This often makes it necessary for farmers to haul the first hay crop during the night to try to keep it from blowing away. Local residents feel that by June all the dirt from Snowflake has been blown to Holbrook, only to be replaced by that from Taylor and Shumway.

Lucy was bothered greatly by the wind. Following are a few of her many (almost daily) references to the constant wind.

15 June 1895: “It seems dreary when the wind blows and everything is makeing a rackit” (113).

5 May 1896: “I washed and it is a dredfull day I could not hang out one peace” (175).

6 May: “Wind very bad could not hang out my clothes yet” (175).

7 May: “The wind is dredfull” (176).

9 May: “The wind blows very hard in the evening it was very cold we suffered with the cold coming home” (176).

10 May: “Brother Flake and John Started for Apache this morning with freight and the wind blows very hard I am on the place all a lone it seems like this country was going to blow a way” (175–76).

2 June 1898: “The wind blows very hard to day I feel quite miserable” (309).

The wind particularly bothered her when it was combined with her loneliness and her poor health.

13 March 1898: “The wind blows all to day—I did not go to meeting it blows so hard” (295).

16 May: “The wind blew all night and today it is just fearful we have not had such a day this spring the men folks can t work it look like it would tare the trees all to peaces” (307).

12 October 1899: “It is lonely when it is such stormy wether” (382).

Offsetting the loneliness and the ill health brought on by overwork and the weather was her association with family and friends. January 1896 (pp. 152–59) provides a sufficient sample to see that these associations were apparently important to her peace of mind:

1st: “We all our familey took our food and went over to Marys and had a familey dinner there Was fifty two of us . . . eleven that did not belong to our familey.”

2d: “I fasted and went to fast meeting and Sisters meeting.”

3rd: “I was invited to spend the day at Sister Frisbys to day also Mary.”

5th: “Sister Whipple has been spending a few days with me . . . after meeting went to help wash and change Sister Oakley.”

6th: “In the evening went to conjoint meeting.”

7th: “Mary came and spent the day with me in the evening helped to make up a diagram for our department in Sunday School for three month.”

8th: “All well but John . . . we expect William home to day this is seven days he has been gon In loking over some of my papers or letters I find Charles Confermation also a letter he wrote me.”

9th: “I invited Belle and her children to come and spend the day and they came.”

10th: “William took me up to Brother Whipples I spent the day.”

11th: “Myself and first councler Sister Willis Went to Shumway.”

12th: “We are prepareing for a review in Sunday School.”

14th: “Aunt Mary came and slept with me last night today I went and helped Elsie to quilt.”

15th: “This afternoon I went and set with Mary her baby is quite poorly.”

16th: “This is Sister Gemima Smiths birthday . . . after the meeting was out we had a pass around.”

17th: “Brother Flake came home this evening feeling first class. I was called to go to a prair meeting for Sarah Freeman.” [9]

18th: “William is going to Woodruff as home mishonary I with my counclers went to Taylor to meet with the Primary.”

19th: “This is Ward Conference I was called to represent the Releier Society of this ward.”

20th: “William came home this afternoon.”

22d: “William and myself are invited to Brother Ramseys birthday supper.”

24th: “We went to Pine-dale and met with the Primary.”

25th: “Came home this afternoon at three o clock stratened up the front room then met with the Primary in this place after supper got a note from Maria Bushman Smith that her mother was here and it was her birthday they wished me to come and spend the evening.”

26th: “We went to Sunday School . . . in the evening the Sisters had officers meeting. . . . Sister West came home with me from afternoon meeting and took supper.”

28th: “Elsie and her girls spent the day with me.” It is on the days that she did not have visitors or did not go visiting that she talks of loneliness and ill health. Such a picture reveals the common lot of many pioneers.

A fellowship similar to her immediate family and friends was the unity of the sisters of the ward. Although this unity was important to Lucy, it was her association with Mary J. West which provided her with endless pleasure and spiritual aid. She had served as Mary’s first counselor in the ward Relief Society from its organization until November 1895. On 17 November she records that Sister West had been chosen second counselor in the stake organization (140). Commenting on this on 1 December, Lucy states, “Sister West is a dear good women she is the Warmest friend I have and it was a seavear trial to us both when she was chosen to fill her new place as second councler in this stake” (146).

Again, on 23 February 1896, Lucy records, “I went to my dear Sister Wests We went up stares and prayed together I was feeling very much tired in my feelings after we had prair Sister West said she felt impressed to bless me which she did and she gave me one of the greatest blessing I ever got” (163).

13 September: “Went to Sunday School after it was out went up and saw Sister West we went up stares and had secret prair together” (197).

7 January 1898: “Went up to My Dear Sister Wests and we talked and then went up stares and poured out our soles in prair. . . . I put my hands on her head and blessed her and she blest me” (282).

On 5 May 1899 she records, “My Dear Friend Sister West came and stayed till six o clock we had such a good visit talking over our past life and labors to gather We have been one for 20 years” (359).

On 28 September she spent the day with Sister West before her departure for Salt Lake City: “It seemed hard to say good by” (380).

1 October: “When it [teachers meeting] was out went to Sister Wests House. She had gon it seemed so sad to have her go” (381).

On 29 October she records, “I wrote a letter to my Dear Friend Sister West it seems lonely without her” (384).

It is not mere coincidence that Lucy died soon after Sister West departed for Salt Lake City. In a letter from Mary J. West to May H. Larson, Mary states, “We have heard several times that sister Flake was not well but when Annie said in her letter that their play was put off on account of her serious illness and told us how bad she was I felt like a bolt of electricity had struck me, and I can hardly think of any thing else. Oh! We have been together so much I can almost feel her by my side, encouraging me on to good works. She always called me the comforter, but not so—she never knew how much comfort and support she was to me. . . . I felt like I was encircled by a bond of gold when she was near me” (396). [10] The loss of the spiritual union between these two women undoubtedly had an effect on Lucy’s illness as she did not have someone to raise her spirits and bolster her with the fortitude to continue.

Harder to bear than the daily hardships of the frontier and even the loss of Mary West was the death of Lucy’s son Charles Love Flake. Charles received a telegram concerning an outlaw wanted for killings in New Mexico. He and James, his brother, attempted to arrest the man, and in the struggle James was shot in the ear and Charles in the neck. Charles lived for an hour and a half. “No other person would not be missed more or caused more sorrow than did his death,” Lucy records (49). His untimely death was a terrible blow to Lucy, one she could not forget. In the autobiography, even the sorrow at leaving Charles on the Colorado River as they were moving to Arizona was colored by her feelings concerning his death. In the letter from Mary J. West to May Larson, she continues, “But if her work is unfinished she will yet live. Yet I thought for several months before I left that she was not so ambitious for the future as she used to be and she told me once that sometimes she wanted to see Charley so bad she could hardly endure it” (396). [11] Each year on Charley’s birthday, Lucy would mention Charley’s name, something she did not do for her other dead children.

Poor health was always a problem for Lucy. In 1874 she had an illness that kept her in bed for weeks. At one point her children had to be kept from her for three weeks, and her husband was recalled from a mission working on the St. George Temple. She did no housework for four months. The nature of the illness is not clear. Some of her statements in her daily diary concerning her illness include the following.

29 March 1895: “I was sick all night was very sick all day Friday Did not eat one bit nor drink and was sick all night” (100).

12 July 1895: “I did not feel very well and at night was very sick with sick head ache” (p. 118). The headache she often had is similar to a migraine and seemed to get progressively worse as she aged.

1 February 1896: “I am feeling quite poorley with pain in my sholders and back I beleave my liver is affected also my kidneys have sent for some Medicen to salt lake” (159).

5 February: “Yesterday worked very hard and went to bed with the sick-head ache and was dredfull sick threw up” (160).

2 June: “I fell very tired and my back aches very much to day but I have my work to do” (p. 179).

25 November: “I tried three times to get up but was so very sick could not set up sick to my stumick and dizzy could hardley open my eyes and such a head ache” (208).

11 January 1897: “I was sick in bed all day with a bilious spell and sick head ache” (218).

2 May: “The Bell rang for afternoon meeting my head ached so bad I did not go” (235).

9 June: “I was very Sick all night Pukeing and purgin and very sick all day” (242).

2 June: “The wind blows very hard to day I feel quite miserable I have so much pains and aches since conference” (308).

13 June: “I had a very sick head ache last night” (310).

5 December 1898: “Have been lame in my back and hips for a month” (338). In the spring of 1899 she went to St. Johns to see a dentist and had all her teeth pulled—a result of the deterioration of her health.

Finally, there is the drudgery of living on the frontier. She relates traveling during the winter, having gone between Snowflake and Beaver nine times—four hundred miles and a difficult road to travel. Traditionally these trips were made during the winter since all were needed on the farm during the summer.

11 September 1896: “It seems so lonely I can hardley endure it sometimes it seems like I cant stand it . . . if it was not for the consolation we get in prair we could not stand our trials but our Hevenly Father is so mercifull we don’t have to call on him in vain” (196).

6 January 1897: “It has froze in the kitchen nights all this week” (217).

30 December: “It takes so much time chooring no one to bring in a stick of wood or any choores at all” (276).

21 January 1898: “Jeff Adams and his companion came here last night and this afternoon they commenced to repair our Well it caved in two years agoae and We had no use of it since” (285).

18 August: “The wether is very warm and flies are very bad one can hardley write” (322).

30 January 1899: “I boilt over pork brian and melted snow to wash with” (p. 346).

A fine example of her coping with such situations seems to be summed up in an entry for 17 April 1899: “I don’t feel well had a very bad head ache all night did not sleep till after 12 o clock cleaned a chicken churned done up my work and got dinner it dont do any good for me to feel bad I have to work” (p. 357). Again on 29 September: “I was in much pain all night but had to church and Wash when I got done could hardley hold up and layed on the bed most all the afternoon and had a hot feavor and it lasted most all night I have to much hard work to do and work to hard” (p. 380).

As the year wore on, her diary entries became more and more of a combination of her hard work and her loneliness.

9 October: “The wind blows it seems lonesome up hear now” (382).

10 November: “I don’t feel well done up my work and was sick the rest of the day” (386).

13 November: “Was on my feet all day putting things in order it takes so long” (386).

7 December: “Worked so hard yesterday am sick today” (389).

The diary breaks after the eighth, and she does not attempt to catch it up except for this entry: “Dear Journel since I wrote last I have been very sick took sick on the ninth of this month had been feeling very bad for a week was very sick. . . . I got worse and worse will the Twelfth that morning I changed for the better but was very week but have been improving slowly” (390).

But this improvement was not to continue. Lucy Hannah White Flake became ill again after the first of the year and died Saturday, 27 January 1900. The exact nature of the illness is not known, but it has been suggested by many who have read the diary that it was a combination of hard work, loneliness, the death of her son Charles, the loss of the ministration of Mary J. West, rigors of frontier, and her chronic headaches and other health problems. The final entry in her diary is 31 December 1899: “I went to Sunday School this is the first time since Conferance I invited Samuel Smith and John Rodgers home with me they came and we had good visit and went to meeting this closes the year with all its cares and sorrows and its Joys we will say good bye” (391).


[1] The original holograph volumes of the Lucy Hannah White Flake Diary are located in Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. I have used the pagination from the typed manuscript hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[2] They freed all of their slaves but two: Green, who entered the valley with the Vanguard Wagon Train of 1847 in order to build a home for the family, and Liz, who stayed with the family until the death of Agnes Love Flake in San Bernardino.

[3] Osmer D. Flake, William J. Flake, Pioneer-Colonizer. (Phoenix: Published by the author, [1948?], 30–31.

[4] Flake, William J. Flake, 49.

[5] Flake, William J. Flake, 74–75.

[6] Although the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been organized in Nauvoo in 1842, its implementation in the West was very slow. The first Societies were formed as early as 1853 but continued sporadically through 1857, when the Utah Expedition interrupted again. In 1866 Brigham Young recommended that Societies be organized in every ward and branch, and in 1877 stake organizations were beginning to be formed. Although the range of the Relief Society work was broad, from silk culture, cooperative stores and granaries, disaster relief, cultural halls, suffrage, donations to hospitals, and later on, war work, the Society on the Arizona frontier seemed more modest, with spiritual comfort being the most important facet. Snowflake Stake would later, however, purchase a woolen mill as part of its activities.

[7] Flake, William J. Flake, 75–76.

[8] Interview with John T. Flake.

[9] The use of Brother Flake instead of William predominates the last part of her diary. One can only speculate on its reason. Was it due to age and a less intimate relationship? or was it that the Church terminology had begun to dominate her writing? or was she just following the convention common to the nineteenth century?

[10] Extracts of Mary J. West’s letter to May H. Larson dated 30 January 1900 were copied into the third journal by Roberta Flake Clayton; hereafter cited as West to Larson, letter.

[11] West to Larson, letter.