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The Life History of John and Elizabeth "Betsy" Everts Nichols

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1821 to 1909
Location: Ohio, Illinois, Utah, Arizona and Idahomap
Surnames/tags: Utah-Pioneer_Appleton_Nichols_Everts_Mormon_Travels Family_History
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John Nichols and Betsy Everts 2013-04-28

Family History handed down, Author Unknown (A copy of John Nichols' journal is located at Brigham Young University.)
Note author spelled Everts as Evarts

The Life History of John and Elizabeth Betsy Everts Nichols

John Nichols was born July 4th, 1821, in Eddington, Maine, to Robert and Mary Appleton Nichols. He was the fifth child in a family of nine. He moved with his parents to Ohio about 1830 where his Father floated logs down the Ohio River. There he lived the normal life of a child at that time, helping his father log rolling, fishing and trapping.

His oldest sister, Hannah Gott Nichols, who was born in 1812 married Lorin (sp. Loren) Kenney before 1837 and moved from the family.

In 1837, a epidemic of Typhus Fever struck the family causing the death of all the children except John. John was very sick, and the doctor said that John, like all the other children had done, would die about 2:00 AM and that he would call back about that time. An elderly couple was there to watch him while the parents got a little rest. John, like the others, kept calling for a swallow of water, "Just one swallow." The elderly couple talked it over and said that since he was going to die anyway in a few hours, that a drink wouldn't do him any harm. She got a pint cup full of water and raised his head and put it to his lips. He shut his teeth on the cup and drank it all before he would let go. He asked for more and she gave him another cup of water. He quieted down and went to sleep.

Shortly before 2: A.M. the doctor returned. He laid his hand on John’s head and said, "Why, his fever is nearly all gone. I believe he will make it." It was then that the old lady told him that she had given him water to drink. She also expressed the opinion that if the other children had been given water, part of them might have lived.

The Dr. said that he had never allowed any of his patients to have water, but that it might be a good thing. John lived to be 85 and always felt that the cup of cold water saved his life.

Two years later his mother died and his father remarried. John went to live with his sister and husband, Hannah and Lorin(sp. Loren) Kenney. They moved to Nauvoo, and he then enlisted in the Mormon Battalion. But fever struck again, and Lorin went in John's place. John stayed to take care of his sister Hannah and the two children until Lorin returned. He worked on both his own and his brother-in-law's farms until his brother-in-law returned.

About this time, John became acquainted with a young girl by the named of Elizabeth Betsy Evarts. She was only 15, but they were soon married and lived in Nauvoo for about three years.

Elizabeth Betsy Evarts was born June 14, 1833, to Joshua and Charity Arms Evarts in Sutton, Quebec, Province of Canada. Her parents were converted to the Latter Day Saint Church and with their three little girls left their parents and loved ones and started for Nauvoo to join the body of the church, 1838. They traveled by boat down the St. Lawrence River and through the Great Lakes to Chicago. Joshua carried wood to keep the boilers going to pay part of his passage. Elizabeth was always with him clinging to his knees. At one time the boat gave a heavy lurch and a stick of wood fell hitting Elizabeth on the head. She was unconscious for several days, until they arrived in Chicago and the skull bone could be lifted to relieve the pressure. This ran the family short of funds for the rest of the trip, and it was necessary for Joshua to find work. He went to work cutting timber and only worked a few days, when a tree fell on him and killed him. He was buried under a big tree in Dupage Co,, Ill. A few days later the baby, Phylena, died and was wrapped in a quilt and placed beside the road. His grave was covered with rocks for protection against the wild animals.

A few days later the company arrived in Nauvoo. There were no empty houses and the homes were small and crowded. Her mother worked but found it difficult because no one wanted two extra little girls around. Elizabeth was 5 and her sister was 7.

The mother went to the Prophet Joseph and asked his advice on the problem. He suggested that the homes be found for the little girls, and that she works and save, and then she could soon have a home for them. He suggested the home of William Law for the children. Law's would take the oldest girl, because she was large enough to help, but they didn't want Elizabeth. She was taken to the home of Simeon and Kazia Hendrickson. They agreed to keep Elizabeth for two years and her mother could take her at any time. After that Elizabeth had to be willing to go if her mother took her. It proved to be a good home for Elizabeth. The Hendrickson had recently lost a child and showered love and affection upon Elizabeth. Living near by was a family of grand children near her own age to play with.

The Hendricksons were great friends of the Prophet and very good to Elizabeth. She saw a lot of the Prophet, including the tar and feathers, she helped pick off the feathers from the Prophet. She was also present at his last speech before he was killed. Several years later her mother remarried. This man had several small boys and no girls. Elizabeth didn't want to go with her mother, so according to agreement she stayed with the Hendricksons.

Elizabeth Betsy lived with, Papa and Ma as she always called them, until her marriage at 15 years of age to a staunch L.D.S. by the name of John Nichols age 28, on July 19, 1849. Two years after their marriage, and while they were still living in Nauvoo, Elizabeth's grandfather Evarts, who was very bitter against the Mormons, sent his youngest son, George, and another man by the name of Riggs, to Nauvoo to get Betsy and bring her back to Iowa. "Willing if possible", he said, "by force if necessary". When they found her married, they wrote to her grandfather asking what to do in that case. He wrote back "Bribe the husband and bring him if possible, if he won't come, get rid of him and bring Elizabeth Betsy".

But Betsy wouldn't go or let John go. She felt they would kill him if he went to Iowa. She had known a similar case that had happened to the husband of one of her stepsisters. Her stepbrother had taken her husband for a boat ride on the Mississippi, and the husband never came back, so Betsy said, "No, she would go with her husband".

About this time, Riggs got very sick, but wouldn't have a Mormon doctor. Being very sick several days, he called Betsy to his bed and took hold of her hand and said, :"You could cure me, if you would." "But, I am a Mormon", she said. He then said, "You are a good Mormon, I put my life in your hands." She said "All right", then she went into the other room and prayed for help. She then called John to gather a lot of smart weeds. They put it in the boiler and boiled it then gave him a pint of the liquid to drink, then soaked and steamed his body in the balance. Then they put him back in the bed. John administered to him. He went to sleep and slept for 15 hours, when he awoke, he said he was, as well as ever and told George Evarts, "We might as well go home, George, I will never lay my hand on a Mormon to harm them."

All this time, John and Betsy had been preparing to come to Utah. Finally, they were ready to start, but were delayed several months on account of the arrival of their first child, a girl, May 21st, 1852. They gave her the name of Mary Elizabeth. They left for Utah when their baby was three weeks old, on June 18, 1852. They endured all the hardships of crossing the plains by ox team.

They came with the Miles Standish Company, in company with 100 wagon outfits, burying their dead, who died from cholera, morning, noon, and night. They made a corral of their wagons at night for their stock and as protection from stampeding buffalo and Indians. They stood guard and took turns at night. They used buffalo chips for wood, drove their cows all day to draw the wagons and milked them night and morning for food.

Upon their arrival in Salt Lake City, October 1, 1852, they were sent by President Brigham Young to Fillmore to help strengthen the settlement. The Fort needed to be finished as the Black Hawk Indians were giving some trouble. They went with 10 other families and everyone large enough to use a gun was given one and a guard stood watch while the others worked on the Fort. John stood guard every other night for three years.

Betsy's mother had arrived in Fillmore before 1851, so mother and daughter were reunited again after three years. Life in the Fort was not an easy one. The Fort was laid out so that Chalk Creek ran through it. All the water had to be carried up the hill to the homes that were built on the west side of the Fort. There was some farming land east of the creek and this served for gardens, some corn for bread, and some sugar cane for sweetening. Pigs and chickens were allowed inside the Fort. The cattle and work animals had to be herded out for pasture. It was while living in the Fort, that John and Elizabeth lost their little girl that had crossed the plains. On January 28, 1854, an armed guard of 20 men guarded while a grave was dug, and Mary Elizabeth was laid to rest. Hers was the eleventh grave in the Fillmore cemetery.

Betsy Elizabeth tanned hides and made clothes for the men during all of this time. On September 11, 1854, another little girl came to gladden their hearts. They called her Kezia Emily in honor of the lady who had been so good to Betsy. She was one of the first babies born in Fillmore.

After the Indians became more friendly, small farms were started. By this time, John had one ox, and a man by the name of Charles Williams had one ox, so the two men got in one acre of wheat, built a ditch 8 miles long to irrigate the grain, cut it with a scythe, and thrashed it by stamping and beating it with sticks. It yielded 50 bushels. Then came three years of grasshoppers and no crops.

On October 30, 1856, a son was born to them. They called him John for his father. He was a sickly little fellow. For a year or so, they had small crops, then the crickets came.

About 1856, John was called to come up to Cottonwood Canyon and help cut stone for the foundation of the Salt Lake Temple. For two years he cut the stone into blocks for moving. All the pay they got was the food for the family. It was necessary to have something to get clothes from, so Betsy Elizabeth made buckskin gloves and work clothes for the men cutting stone. She was paid for them. She also had two good cows, and since the feed was good, she made butter and cheese and sold to the church.

On January 6, 1859, a little girl was born whom they called Louisa. She died a few months later, July 24, 1860.

About this time, it was decided to try and put a dam across the Sever river near Deseret. If this could be done, water could be got out onto the land. For 7 years, the men put in dams only to have the high water wash them out.

Elizabeth had taken her cows and ranched up Oak Creek Canyon each summer. Everyone lived in shanties. If there were children, these shanties were built with a lean-to of brush at the back. These lean-tos served as a hiding place for the children in case of an Indian attack. The Indians would not stoop to molest a squaw, but would steal a child, if possible. One morning just as Elizabeth was going out to milk the cows, she saw a party of Indians coming toward the shanty. Quickly the bed was pulled out and the three children pushed through the opening into the lean-to with the warning not to make a sound. A cloth was given the oldest girl to muffle any sound that the baby might make. The bed was put back into place, and Elizabeth hurriedly put bread, cheese, butter and several pans of milk on the table. When the Indians came, she told them to eat all they wanted. "They ate everything in sight and patted her on the back and said, "Winno squaw. We come again."

Some hours later this same party of Indians killed three men over in Round Valley. These men had been out on their farms. The women and children were living in the settlement for safety.

Elizabeth, her mother and several other women ranched on shares for several more years. John and Elizabeth and her mother then settled in Deseret.

July 18, 1863, another son was born, they named him Simeon Hendrickson, for the man who gave Elizabeth such a good home. This was soon after they moved back to Deseret.

March 22, 1866, another son was born to them. He was named Albert Robert, after John's father. This was Elizabeth's seventh child, and when he was 8 days old, Elizabeth, had a paralytic stroke. She lay for eight days in a death like condition. Everyone felt that she was dead except John. He would not let them bury her, until he felt that she was dead. Elizabeth could hear and know all that was going on but could not move.

Finally, the sheriff was called, and he took John away so that his wife could be prepared for burial. They started to fix her for burial, then one lady said she saw her move a finger. That broke the spell, and she rose up and told them to wait till she was dead to bury her. She had lost the entire use of her left side and was bed fast 18 months. This stroke claimed the use of Elizabeth's left side. Never again could she take a step or move her left arm. She had to be dressed and undressed, lifted up onto her bed at night.

Kezia, now 11 years old, took charge of the family and work, and with the help of kind neighbors, they managed. Elizabeth gradually regained her strength, but not the use of her limbs. By this time, John was herding the Church sheep, and took the little boys with him, even the baby, as soon as, he could eat solid food.

On June 22, 1868, another boy was born to them. They named him James Francis for John's two Grandfathers.

At this time, they had moved back to Fillmore. Elizabeth now had two little adobe rooms, but what a palace beside any other home she had had. She had learned to do a great many things with one hand and could milk with one foot and drag the other by steadying herself with a chair while she took the step. She learned to do all kinds of work, cooking, sewing, washing, ironing, cutting fruit for drying, preparing vegetables for cooking with the help of the children, who had to kneel on the floor, day after day and hold the sewing over the arm of her chair while she stitched. She did her own sewing.

On April 10, 1872, a little girl was born. She was given the name of Eliza Ann as a token of love Elizabeth had for a lady of that name who had been most helpful during Elizabeth's affliction. Eliza was a sickly child. Elizabeth sat over her cradle almost day and night for three years, then a change came, and she got well.

Kezia had married when Eliza was 13 months old, but with the help of one of the boys, Elizabeth kept her home going. Kezia still helped her mother all she could, but had her own family to take care of.

In 1878, John was called by Brigham Young to move into Arizona to help colonize that country with Mormon people. So, November 2, 1878, John Nichols and family, James Owens and family, Horris Russell and family, and William Teeples and family, left from Fillmore by wagon and horses. At Kanosh they were met or joined by several other families. There were about 30 wagons all heavily loaded and drawn by from 4 to 6 horses to the wagon equipped with a large barrel on each side for hauling water on the desert. Each man had a crate on the back of his wagon with a few chickens and on another wagon a box with 2 pigs. The cattle and horses not in the harnesses were driven by the younger boys, the teams driven by the men and older boys.

When they left Fillmore, they were told to have food and seed for two years, all kinds of tools, farming equipment and all kinds of animals. It took 6 weeks to make the trip from Fillmore to a place called St. John's, a possible three or four hundred miles, and another two weeks from there to a place called Shilo.

It was necessary to have a special wagon for Elizabeth as she had to sit in her rocking chair and have her bed made on boxes, as she couldn't get down to the ground as the rest could. John and one of the boys lifted her in and out of the wagon three times each day. She assisted with the cooking that her son Joshua was doing. She enjoyed the trip but was disappointed with the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry. It seemed very small when compared with the Mississippi near Nauvoo.

Elizabeth and her six-year-old daughter Eliza, were the only ones allowed to cross the river in a wagon or to ride around the narrows on Lee's Backbone.

The company arrived at Shilo, December 24, 1878. All the little stockings were hung up at night and in spite of how the parents felt about it, they were still empty in the morning.

John set out first thing in the morning and soon found a "Bee Tree”. Soon all had all the fresh honey they could eat. The large boys went hunting for wild turkey and others put up some swings in the big trees. There were two fiddles, an accordion and several harmonicas in the company. The folks of Shilo were invited to come and all danced on the ground by moonlight. The company wintered here in tents.

About two months later the company broke up in groups of two families in a place. The Teeples and John and Elizabeth Nichols went to a place called Pina now Mesa. There were five or six families already there. There was a public well and corral. The new settlers had pigs and chickens. There was a big garden for all and corn and cane were planted. The river was full of humpbacked fish, so they had all they wanted.

President Young had told Elizabeth to take along her ranching equipment and to teach the women wherever she stopped how to make good cheese and butter. This would help the food supply and could be sold to the soldiers stationed at Fort Apache to hold the Indians on their reservation. This would save freighting and the money the government paid would help the people out.

A log room was built to be used for church and other occasions. Small cabins were then built, and a late garden planted. At this time the Mormon people were having trouble getting their grain ground.

There was a grist mill, but if the owner learned it was a Mormon, he would not grind grain or sell flour to him. So, the Mormon people had to grind their meal in the coffee grinder or go 150 miles to Salt River for flour. That meant a real trip with horses or oxen.

About that time, President John Taylor; 1880, came and John was asked to go back to Utah and sell his sheep he had leased to a man in Tooele by the name of Calwell and use the money to buy the Phoenix Grist Mill.

Elizabeth at this time, had several sores come on her paralyzed leg. The doctor called it milk leg. They were very painful, in fact, so painful it was necessary to soak and do them every few hours day and night They continued for fifteen years, and Eliza was the only one who could dress them for her. She sure did suffer all those years. The sores finally healed, but the leg was more or less painful.

As the married daughter lived in Fillmore, all the family came back to visit. They arrived back in Fillmore, January 15, 1881.

John's band of sheep had been caught in the mountains in a blizzard and all had died but about 300. With no sheep to sell to raise money, John rented a band of sheep to try and build up a band. He rented the sheep from Robinson and Holbrook. The two older boys were now married and took their wives with them out to the camp. The herding was left to a younger boy and the losses were very heavy. It took most of the 300 sheep to make up the losses and satisfy Robinson and Holbrook.

John and his boys decided that there was a chance to make some money with a sawmill furnishing lumber for a mining camp. The tunnel had to be curbed and the camp houses and dining room built. One-third of the pay for the lumber was to be taken out in products from a store in Deseret. The two-thirds was to be paid as son as the ore could be sold to a large company. John had mortgaged his home to buy the sawmill. At the end of six months the company took bankruptcy still owing the Nichols for all that lumber. The mill was no good out at Swazy, so they moved it to Pine Creek. Business was dull and unsold lumber pile up and there was no more money coming in.

The families needed money to live, so the sawmill was idle. During all of this, Elizabeth with her youngest daughter Eliza was left to care for the chores and the 4 city lots. These lots were planted to fruit and while Eliza picked and carried in the apricots, peaches, plums, and apples, Elizabeth could cut and get large quantities of fruit ready for drying. The mortgage fell due and there was no money to pay it. Finally, after several turns the home was saved. John was half sick with work and worry and stayed home and took care of Elizabeth while Eliza went out to work. This was about 1887.

In 1895 Eliza married John Jackson, but still helped care for her parents. Sometime after this, John had a serious sick spell and his mind never fully recovered. The boys decided to send the parents to Idaho to live with their son Albert. They lived there about a year during which time Eliza and her husband had moved to Idaho also, Eliza then took her parents to live with her. John never regained his health after his severe sick spell, even though he lived for seven more years. He died January 18, 1905, at Eliza's home. He was buried in the Archer Cemetery.

Throughout his life he had always been very kind to his invalid wife and his family. He was willing to make any sacrifice for them. He was honest with his fellowmen and tried to live his religion to the best of his knowledge.

In the spring, Elizabeth wanted to return to her home in Fillmore. She lived with her son Joshua for about three years. She deeded Joshua the property for taking care of her. In 1909 she wanted to come back to Idaho and live with her daughter. Eliza came for her and brought her to her home. Elizabeth only lived about two months after her return to Idaho. She died sitting in the chair in which she had spent so many years of her life. She died August 26, 1909 and was laid beside her husband in the Archer Cemetery two days later. She had lived the last forty-three and one-half years of her life as an invalid, too helpless to walk a step alone or to dress herself. She bore her affliction bravely and patiently and was always ready to help the poor and needy, she found willing friends everywhere. She was faithful to her convictions and was a good wife and mother. Her posterity can be very proud of her. Her life was indeed an example of physical and mental courage.



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