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
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
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
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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