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The Life of Fannie Young Perry
By David Ririe

In the days when I was a boy most Sunday School classes had two teachers. One of my classes was taught by the wife of Ransom Harris and Grandma Perry. One would teach the lesson and the other kept order until about half of the class period expired. Then the roles would reverse and the second speaker generally told faith-promoting stories. I loved that class and was shocked one day when a boy who preceded me in the class said Grandma Perry was mean. I could not believe that such could be true. I still do not believe it. I do believe if a student acted up in class she wouldn't have tolerated it. Knowing the person who spoke disparagingly about her I feel sure he was well out of line. I loved to be around Grandma Perry. She was smiling, loving, positive, and fun.

Fannie Young was born on the eighth of September 1858 in Sessions, now Bountiful, Davis County, Utah. Her parents were Thomas Young and Martha Webb Campkin. Thomas Young was considerably younger than Martha Campkin whose husband had died while they were migrating to Utah to join the saints. Martha finished the journey with her children as part of a James Willie handcart company. I was told that Thomas Young assisted Martha during the journey. They were married on the fourteenth of September 1857. Fannie was the oldest child of this marriage. She had two brothers, Thomas Harvey and Albert Herbert, and several half brothers and sisters. Prior to her marriage to Henry Morgan Perry on the twenty-fourth of February 1881 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City she taught school in the tiny village of Mantua, Utah.

In Uncle Albert Perry's book, "They Come," we get many insights into her life after she was married and entered family life in which she gave birth to ten children and raised eleven to adulthood.

Uncle Bert described Grandmother Perry as being quick as opposed to Grandpa who was careful and deliberate. She was according to Bert, active and resolute. I can testify personally to the quick, active part. One day as a very small boy I went with Mother and Grandma to a field of peas where they were picking peas for the meal to follow. The hands of both women literally flew from plant to plant as a steady stream of pea pods fell into their aprons. With the same quickness the peas were shelled.

Grandma must have been of strong, adventurous character to leave her more settled comfortable surroundings and travel to Rudy, Idaho, which was practically unoccupied by humans at the time. The nearest neighbor lived a half mile away and the next two neighbors lived a mile beyond that. Into this environment she came with her three small children. How hard she must have worked as she cooked, washed clothes, kept house and did other household chores with virtually no conveniences such as indoor plumbing. The first home had a dirt floor and only one room.

She planted a garden and milked the cow so Grandpa could work late. In Uncle Bert's book he said that she became terribly homesick. He said that at rare intervals she saw the neighbors and at even rarer intervals went to Rigby or Eagle Rock. For a view into her life I quote directly from Uncle Bert's book, "They Come."

She often said, "If only I could see my mother for a little while.”

A cedar tree stood near the house. A swing was placed in it to amuse the children. Watching them play made her feel better.

As they played she read, sewed, or wrote letters. Often she played with the children.

One day she took a walk and laid baby Leslie on a blanket under the cedar tree. She tried to read but the book didn't interest her. She started a letter, but gave that up. Uneasy and restless she looked at her sleeping boy and then up at the tree. "Oh that my boy may grow up as strong, dark and handsome as this tree. So steadfast in purpose. So self-reliant, so protective to the weak and they who are low in spirit." Then she thought how like my life is this tree. Anchored to the same spot; planted where it has to look at the same things, day after day, week after week, year in, year out. I should think it would like to move at least once.

Then she wrote:

    This tree that lifts its arms up high
    And bends its back to the breeze
    Twisting its toes firm in the soil
    Nodding at other trees;
    This tree that chills through winter's snow
    And sweats 'neath a summer sky;
    Were I a tree, ('tween you and me)
    I'd go elsewhere to die.

On the way to the house she became tired and rested with her little boy. She watched big storm clouds in the east and wrote. She was disappointed when they moved away without rain or thunder.

    I like to watch big thunder clouds
    That roll and clash on high
    Much better than the little ones
    That dirty up the sky.
    I like to watch big willows bend
    Beneath a wind-blown tree;
    But there must be more beauty there
    Than my untrained eyes can see.

A little later she watched the river not far from the edge of their homestead. She wished a little boat would come and take her to her mother. Again she wrote:

    Oh, could I up and his away
    To somewhere that's nowhere
    And leave the whole and everything
    And stop where I'd be there;
    Oh, could I only. Well so what
    Here' s hope and love and fear
    And joy and hate, ah fiddle-de-dee
    I might as well stay right here.

And stay she did and together the Perrys built a home from practically nothing through their hard work and intelligence.

The nearest school was in Rigby, six miles away when the family first settled in Rudy, so Grandma taught the older children the alphabet, to read some, to write their names and sing songs. It was two years before the first school was established which Grandpa taught in an old abandoned house from ten to twelve each day. His pay came only from donations.

Uncle Bert said, "The union of Henry and Fannie Perry was of a father who worshipped everything good and a mother who loved beauty.

I never saw the original home, but I do remember the final home that they occupied. It was beautiful with wonderful lilac bushes and flowers around it. Inside was a pantry in which was a large crockery jar that had what seemed to me to be an inexhaustible store of home made cookies. She was a good cook and I remember enjoying the meals at Grandma Perry’s. As I ate the garden vegetables - squash was my favorite -I suppose because someone told me it was Grandpa's favorite vegetable - I enjoyed my stay with them. As I watched Grandpa eat I sometimes wondered how the food reached his mouth through the moustache he wore. Another thing I remember about her kitchen was the delicious honey which she served to me while it was still in the wax comb. A beekeeper, Grover Mobley, pastured his bees on a part of the farm and paid for the privilege with honey. It was the most delicious honey I ever ate.

To me Grandma Perry was the most beautiful of all women. I recall once that I hurt Grandma Ririe's feelings when I said I wanted to go to Grandma Perry's rather than stay with her. Don't get me wrong. It was a difficult choice for I loved both of them and they were always loving to me.

To further show the discouragement and loneliness that she overcame so valiantly I quote once more from Uncle Bert's delightful, insightful, and well-written book:

Mother woke up crying. Tears as obscuring as an ocean spray blinded her eyes, ran off her face on the pillow and had been for hours. The pillow was wet, her hair damp and her head throbbed. Presently she began to sob, jerky, twitching sobs, shaking the bed.

Dad opened his eyes, listened for a minute, then jumping out of bed asked horrified, "Mother, mother, what in the world is the matter. Why are you crying?" It was some time before Mother could control herself enough to talk.

"Take me back," she sobbed, "take me back. I'm so sick and tired of living in this wilderness. I can stand it no longer. Take me back where there's singing and music and dancing; take me back where there's books and learning. Take me back where there is culture and something to look forward to. There is nothing here nor never will be. We left a nice home and I came up here with you braving the hardships without a murmur. I have given you four sons and four daughters. What is there for them here. What is their outlook? No chance for higher education, and the coming generation is no better than the prairie they live in. Take me back, take me back”.

Dad was kind and considerate, but now he was humiliated. He had worked hard, oh so hard, too. To go back to Utah was as far from his thought as anything could be. "What could I do down there now? No place for us around Brigham city. If we went to Ogden or Salt Lake what could I do to feed and clothe a family? But I'll think it over.

Dad was bewildered. He dressed, went outside with the boys and started to do the morning chores. The boys could see something was wrong but said nothing. They knew enough about raising a family to know that all fathers worry about money matters, and they supposed that was what bothered him, so they went silently about their work.

Mother reached for her apron, wiped her tears, dried her face and looked in the mirror. "I’m sorry I let go like that. But maybe now I’ll feel better.” She arose, dressed and went into the kitchen, washed her face and hands and started preparing breakfast.

Dad had already started a fire in the kitchen stove. She leaned over to pick up some wood to replenish the fire when something wonderful touched her heart. "Oh, she exclaimed in delight. Something is and something will be.”

A half an hour before, she was in the depth of despair. Now when despair took flight, she watched it until it got to be the size of a period, then forgot about it forever. She forgot about going back. She forgot about books. She forgot about music and song and dance. When the men folk came in for breakfast she was radiant, smiling and singing. She threw her arms around Dad's neck and kissed him. Why? Why the sudden change. Why was she years younger in the space of an hour? Why? Because she knew she was again to act as a go-between mortality and the Throne of God. …… Little Verna was coming.

Also coming was Aunt Velda. The last baby turned out to be twins, different in appearance, but joyful and happy to the family.

Uncle Bert wrote, "After a few weeks Mother forgot all about going back home; all about the music, the opera, the plays. All about books, the dance and laughter."

She found joy and satisfaction in her ten children and in service to family and Church. She also raised Fred, Aunt Melba's son. She enjoyed him in her old age and after Grandfather died she went to Pocatello and cooked and kept house for a number of boys so Fred could get a better education. Fred and one of his roommates, Leslie Larson, worked for my Dad during summer vacations. Both of them expressed gratitude to Grandma for keeping house for them and aiding them in getting an education. I remember seeing Grandma's face light up as she talked about the boys she was helping through school. I'm sure Fred was a comfort to her and her days at the University were happy days because of her service.

She was a wonderful pioneer woman.

Grandma loved to be around her family members and to have them around her. I wore out pairs of mittens that she made for me at Christmas time. She knitted them for the grandchildren and proudly stated on occasions the number of grandchildren she had. She was a tender hearted person. I remember once coming into a room in her house and she was in tears. When I asked the reason for her tears, she sobbed, “It is my birthday and I have heard from all of my children, but one.” Of her it truly could be said that she loved every one of her descendants and wanted us to be true to the ideals of faith, love, loyalty and beauty for which she literally gave her life.

Grandma Perry died on the sixteenth of May 1937. She and Grandpa are buried in the Rigby Cemetery.

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