POLLY DERBY MECHAM
Mecham Family Stories
MECHAM FAMILY STORIES
The following story, typical of most of the MECHAMS and their large
families, was told by descendants of MOSES MORONI MECHAM, son of
L. MOSES WORTHEN MECHAM and ELVIRA DERBY:
"He was born in July of 1845 (at the MECHAM settlement) in Lee County,
Iowa, just across the river from Nauvoo. He was twelfth in a family
which would eventually number seventeen children. The parents of
MOSES MORONI having lost their Iowa mercantile business and other
possessions to the mob, soon began to prepare to follow the departing
saints. The large family moved from Lee County several miles west to
Bonaparte, Van Buren County, Iowa in 1847, which was the year Brigham
Young led the pioneers west to the Salt Lake Valley. WILLIAM WALLACE,
another son, was born April 22 of that year and died three months later,
so his mother ELVIRA (sister of POLLY DERBY MECHAM) was in no condition
to undertake the long trip westward that summer. Within a few months,
however, they did again journey west through the lush farm land of Iowa.
They traveled 130 miles to Council Bluffs, which was located near the
banks of the mighty Missouri River, and was the "jumping off" point
for the trip across the western plains.
Three healthy children, CELESTIA ANN MECHAM, an adorable and intelligent
little girl; JOHN DERBY MECHAM, who could have passed for MOSES MORONI's
twin; and beautiful dark-haired DONNA MARIA MECHAM (who was said to look
just like her grandmother SARAH CURRIER DERBY), were born at Council
Bluffs. At last, in 1853, when MOSES MORONI was eight years old, his
father and mother were prepared and ready to go. The family was anxious
to be on their way, having seen so many of their relatives and friends
make their departure...
After arriving in Salt Lake City, the MOSES MECHAM family didn't stay
long there because they were needed in Utah Valley, where they settled
first in Lehi, MOSES taking charge of the toll gate at the Jordan
Narrows for about a year... (later) they moved some 20 miles south to
Provo where MOSES WORTHEN MECHAM taught school for a number of years...
the family then moved to the mouth of Provo Canyon where MOSES WORTHEN
MECHAM became tollkeeper for the local government, which was charging
travelers a fee in order to make improvements on the Provo Canyon road,
which led to the Wallsburg and Heber areas.
(While in Provo) MOSES had his feelings hurt through a misunderstanding
with a leader in the Church which he couldn't bring himself around to
forgiving. This caused him to lose the gift that he had been blessed
with from the time of his conversion, that of speaking in tongues...
(After he moved to the mouth of Provo Canyon), along with his duty as
tollkeeper he found time to plant an orchard and garden. The young
trees had just started to bear good when a flash flood cut a channel
through his little farm, destroying most of it. This experience humbled
him and gave him the spirit of forgiveness, and immediately he became
very happy in his associations with his brethren (in the Church)...
A few nights before his death he told his daughter Martha that she could
speak in tongues if she had the desire, which she immediately did,
strengthening the testimony of the family. On the evening before his
death he was very happy, singing and speaking in tongues.
He died July 22, 1879, being buried in the Provo City Cemetery.
ELVIRA died April 28, 1886."
"I WALKED TO ZION: TRUE STORIES OF YOUNG PIONEERS ON THE MORMON TRAIL (1994)"
a book by Susan Arrington Madsen, contains a short biography of
LUCINA MECHAM (BOREN), a daughter of ELVIRA DERBY and MOSES WORTHEN MECHAM,
born 11 Mar 1841 in Lee County, Iowa. She crossed the plains in 1853 in
the John Brown company, with the rest of her family, when she was 12 years
old. LUCINA wrote:
"Just a short time before the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed, he came
to our place in Nauvoo, Illinois. He took me on his knee; I was too
young to remember what he said, but I can remember him holding me on
his knee. When we were out playing and he happened to pass, everyone
stopped playing to watch him until he was out of sight. I shall never
forget when Mother took me and my baby sister, ELVIRA, to see the
Prophet and Patriarch Hyrum Smith after they were killed by the mob.
Mother did not want to take me, as I had no shoes, but I wanted to go.
She said, 'I will take you so you can always remember you saw the
Prophet and his brother.' The night they were killed, the dogs were
howling all night. The people of Nauvoo beat their drums to let the
mob know we were on the lookout for them, and now I am eighty-three
years old, but I cannot help crying whenever I hear a dog howl or a
"While we were in Nauvoo, I was burned very bad, then caught cold
and was very sick. Father was not home. Mother sent for the elders,
and a Brother Goddard came and administered to me. Then he told mother
to wilt a cabbage leaf and put it on the burn, and I would be all right.
I never suffered any more pain, and I have had faith in the elders ever
"The day we left Nauvoo, we had not had flour for weeks. Father
purchased a little white flour and Mother made some light bread. We
children were so anxious to eat we would keep asking how long it would
be until we could eat. Our dear patient mother did not get angry with
us as most mothers do, but when we did get to eat, what a feast it was:
white bread and milk from old Muley! Never have I had such a dinner.
"One day a woman came to Uncle EPHRAIM with a pig's ham to sell.
Aunt POLLY, his wife, said she did not have anything to pay for it.
Afterwards Aunt POLLY said (the real reason she didn't buy it was) she
did not like the looks of it. In a few days a friend told Aunt POLLY
that the pig had died of 'collory' (cholera?) and the woman had said it
would be good to kill the Mormons with.
"We moved to Kanesville, now Council Bluffs, Iowa, where my father
took up some land one and one-half miles from Kanesville. We had just
got settled when a flood came and took about everything we had. We
then built a house on a hill, where we had to carry water three-fourths
of a mile. I well remember how frightened we were going through the
woods, as some of the men had killed a wildcat. We picked grapes,
strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, elderberries,
also walnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, and butternuts. Thus I earned
my first pair of shoes. Up to this time my mother had made moccasins
out of buckskins.
"We moved to Kanesville, Iowa, in 1847. My mother cut her hand
very badly, and her only sister, Aunt POLLY MECHAM, came to see her.
She took Mother to her place for three weeks. While she was there, my
brother made her a cupboard, and we girls bought and filled it with
dishes, and oh! how happy she was when she returned.
"In the spring of 1853 we started for Utah. We went a long way on
a raft. I was always afraid of water. We crossed the Missouri River
on a ferryboat, which frightened me very much, as the water was very
"We left the Missouri River July 18th. My father started with two
wagons, one yoke of oxen, two yoke of unbroken steers, and four cows.
The man that sold Father the oxen had stolen them, and the man that he
had stolen them from came and took them from us, so we only had one
wagon and the cows.
"The Indians were on the warpath, so we all had to travel together
for safety. We were stopped once by the Indians. I thought there were
one thousand of them! They could easily have killed us all, but we
gave them provisions by robbing ourselves and then suffering from want
"We children had to walk most of the way. We stopped one day each
week for wash-day, and we were always allowed time to keep ourselves
clean. When we camped at night, the first wagon would stop. The next
wagon would stop at his side, and so on, till they were all in a circle
making a corral of the wagons and we would stay inside for safety.
After supper and the animals were taken care of, we would sit around
the fire, sing songs, tell stories, and those that were not too tired
would dance. One brother had a violin, and he was very good at it for
"My sister SARAH and I stopped to rest one day, and the wagons
passed us. SARAH said she was not going any further. I begged her to
come with me, but she said she would rather be eaten by wolves than go
on. She tried to get me to go and catch the wagons, but I told her I
would not leave her. Then she said, 'I will not see the wolves get
you, so come on, let us go to camp.'
"When we were three days from Salt Lake, my cousin DANIEL MECHAM
met us with a load of food, flour, meat, and vegetables. And what a
godsend it was, for we were out of food. The next day Brother Allen I.
Stout, a friend of ours, came with another load of food. We all rode
in the extra wagons to Salt Lake. We arrived October 16, 1853."
LUCINA MECHAM later married William Jasper Boren, July 3, 1859, in
Provo, Utah. They became the parents of thirteen children, living in
Wallsburg, Utah County, Utah. LUCINA became a midwife and delivered
over five hundred babies. At the age of fifty, she took music lessons
and became the ward organist. She also ran a small mercantile store
and worked in the Manti Temple. She died June 21, 1925, at the age of
eighty-four. Source: "Journal of LUCINA MECHAM BOREN" in TREASURE OF
PIONEER HISTORY, 6:301-348.
One night SARAH MECHAM BURDICK (daughter of ELVIRA and MOSES MECHAM,
and sister of LUCINA MECHAM BOREN, above) was in a very depressed
spirit; she was going to have a baby (the tenth child, I believe). Her
husband, who was a shoemaker, was a drinker and she felt that she just
couldn't go through with the ordeal. After praying one night, she had
a dream and a woman came to her by the bed and Sarah said, "Why Donna,
are you dead?" (the woman was in the very likeness of Donna who was
Sarah's younger sister). She answered, "No, I am your grandmother DERBY."
Her grandmother filled her with courage and she didn't worry any more
about her condition. Some time later when a group of Sarah's sisters
were discussing how sorry they were that they didn't have a picture of
their grandmother DERBY, Sarah spoke up and stated she looked just like
Donna and she told them of the dream. (She was tall, dark complexioned,
and very good-looking).
SARAH CURRIER DERBY's spinning wheel:
Donna Maria Mecham had an old spinning wheel which was given her by
her mother (ELVIRA DERBY MECHAM), who in turn had brought it across the
plains. ELVIRA's mother had given it to her. (It had belonged to her
mother SARAH CURRIER DERBY, who had died when ELVIRA was only two and
POLLY DERBY was three months old. SARAH's sister ANNA, the stepmother
who raised ELVIRA and POLLY, had given it to her). DONNA was a
good friend of Lucy Young Gates, to whom she presented the spinning
wheel at her request. Later Lucy gave it to the Church Museum on the
Temple block in Salt Lake City, and it is still there today.
Here are a few more faith-promoting experiences from the extended family:
Leonidas Smart Mecham was the son of Leonidas Americus Mecham, who
was the son of Leonidas Clinton Mecham, oldest son of LEONIDAS MOSES
WORTHEN MECHAM and ELVIRA DERBY. Leonidas Smart Mecham, or "Lon" as
he was called, was serving a mission, traveling "without purse or scrip"
through South Dakota towards the east with his companion. He recorded:
"Late one evening we had traveled far into the country and were unable
to find any place for shelter. Being very tired and weary and no homes
in sight, we decided to sleep under a bridge which was located in a
gully, in the foothills about ten miles from the nearest town, we
learned later. It looked as though it would storm shortly and the
bridge looked to be the best shelter. During the night I was startled
by a voice saying to me, 'Get out from under this bridge, you are in
danger.' My companion was still sound asleep so I quieted myself down
and went to sleep again. The second time the same startling voice came
to me with the same message, being even more penetrating. I couldn't
go to sleep this time so I awoke my companion and asked him if he had
heard the voice and he said no, that I was imagining things. He almost
immediately fell to sleep again. Before I was even drowsy the command
came again with no doubt left in my mind as to its source. I shook my
partner and told him to grab his hat and bag and run. We no sooner
reached the incline on the other side of the bridge when down the ravine
came a rushing torrent of water, taking trees, bridge and everything
with it. Evidently one or several clouds had burst farther up the
hills and this was the result."
Incident in the life of Joseph Mecham, Jr., as told to Eliza A. Parry
Hoyt in Snowflake, Arizona:
"He was a man of distinct personal cleanliness, patience and faithfully
zealous -- was about 80 years of age, attended faithfully every temple
session and Sabbath day gathering. Being blind, constant attention was
required and he appreciated a listener to his narratives and was alert
in memory and recital of his life's events.
"He said that in his teens he had acquired the habit of the use of
tobacco and was a constant user of it and coffee. His wife had plead
with him to refrain but he was so addicted to it that though he
sometimes quit for a time he would soon succumb and even increase in
"After the death of his wife, whom he adored, and the total loss of
his sight he became even a heavier user, justifying himself that he
found comfort in it. On occasions he expressed an intent to cease
their use but out of sympathy for him some of his children told him to
not be so foolish as to quit when he had so little to comfort and give
him pleasure in life.
"Through the solicitation of a friend he was induced to go to the
temple where he spent several months in endowment work; however, he was
very unhappy in the work and decided to go to Idaho and visit his boy
and then on to Kansas to a daughter, and had resolved he would never go
back to the temple unless he had rid himself of his bad habits. He was
on his way to Idaho and was, as I recall, stopping off at Ogden when he
was shown a vision of his kindred dead. He said it seemed as though
they extended as an army way up into the canyon and had massed
themselves to protest against his fleeing from the temple work in their
behalf. He was greatly impressed with this manifestation and again
renewed his effort to overcome his deterring habits, but found himself
unable to resist. He went on to visit his son in Idaho and from there
to the daughter in Kansas. His efforts to overcome were countered by
this solicitous daughter who thought her father could not live without
his stimulants and was entitled to them for their comfort sake.
"One day when she had gone away and he was alone in his room meditating,
as he so often did, he resolved to make a proposition to the Lord. So
he knelt by his chair and told Him that if He (the Lord) would take
from him these appetites he would covenant to never touch them again
and go back to Salt Lake and go on with the temple work. He arose
from his knees and went out on the porch to sit where he loved to
listen to the birds and answer their calls. As he sat there he felt a
sensation on the crown of his head about the size of a fifty-cent
piece; it seemed to penetrate through his entire head, abdomen, arms
and legs, and leave through his extremities a surging, cleansing
feeling, almost akin to burning. At first he said he was frightened,
fearing he was undergoing a paralytic stroke, but it passed and he felt
himself capable in his body and mind, and from that moment the desire
for coffee and tobacco were no longer a part of him. He returned to
Salt Lake and continued to do his work in the temple for many years."
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra Shuler Bray