A True Pioneer Woman
Charles Coulson Rich and his first wife Sarah DeArmon Pea chose Mary Ann Phelps to be Charles's third wife. She was born on August 6th, 1829 in Tazewell County, Illinois. Mary Ann's father is Morris Charles Phelps who was born in Massachusetts to Spencer Phelps, Jr and Mary Keneippe and as a small child he moved with his parents to Geauga (now Lake) County, Ohio. At age 19 Morris made the journey from Ohio to Lawrence County, Illinois to visit family. While there he met his future with Laura Clark. They were married two years later on April 12, 1825. Her mother, Laura Clark was born in Connecticut to Timothy Baldwin Clark and Mary "Polly" Keeler and moved to Ohio with her family as a small child too. (Note: Mary Ann's family is also quite prominent in the early history of Mormon faith. I will share small parts of it here but otherwise I have no plans at this time to go any further with research at this time.).
The photograph above of Mary Ann was taken about 1887. The photo is courtesy of Shelley Felt.
Mary Ann traveled with her parents from Illinois to Jackson County, Missouri in 1831 where they joined a colony of Mormon Pioneers. It is while her family is living in the Zion's Camp in Clay County, Missouri in 1835 that Mary Ann met the Prophet Joseph Smith. In her autobiography writes, "...the Prophet Joseph coming and preaching at our house, which was the first time I ever saw him. While at our house, he put me on his knee and blessed me, and I know him ever afterwards, and he always remembered me.".
During her family's time in Missouri, her father Morris Phelps was called upon for a mission to Kirtland, Ohio. He left his wife and three children with no means of support. Her mother Laura Clark Phelps taught school and practiced obstetrics (most likely as a midwife). Morris stopped in Chicago to visit Laura's parents and while there converted her mother, father and siblings them to Mormon faith. After which Laura's father Timothy and his wife Mary and the rest of their family moved to Missouri to help Laura with looking after her own family. Morris continued on to Ohio where he preached and helped to finish the temple there in Kirtland.
When Mary Ann's father returned to Missouri after completing his mission in Ohio he purchased 80 acres in Caldwell County. The persecution of the Mormons in Missouri continued with death threats, burning houses in the Mormon communities and other violent crimes. In 1838 her father Morris Phelps along with Parley Pratt and several other members of the church were arrested and jailed in Richmond, Clay County, Missouri.
Mary Ann was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints on her tenth birthday, August 6th, 1839. Two years later on February 2nd, 1842 Mary Ann's beloved mother died leaving five children the youngest child was about 18 months old. When her father remarried later that same year, Mary Ann went to live in Iowa with some of her mother's family.
Charles and Mary Ann were married on January 6th, 1845 in Nauvoo, Illinois when she was 15 years old. In the winter of 1845-1846, with the completion of the Nauvoo Temple, Mary Ann received her endowments. It was during this same winter that the men and women of Nauvoo spent weeks building wagons, making clothes and storing provisions before fleeing Nauvoo, Illinois because of religious persecution. When the Mormons left Nauvoo and traveled to Winter Quarters, Nebraska where the majority of the Mormon community gathered in anticipation of the move west to Utah. On June 21st, 1847, Charles and 14 members of his family including his parents, all six of his wives and six children as well as another 111 people started out from an outfitting post at the Elkhorn River. Mary Ann volunteered to drive one of the wagons in her husbands wagon company. They arrived in Utah on October 2nd, 1847.
Mary Ann along with two of Charles's other wives Emeline Grover and Harriet Sargent would travel to Southern California in the spring of 1851. It was here in San Bernadino, California that four of Charles and Mary Ann's children were born. William Lyman was born in August 1852, the twins Minerva Marium and Morris Marion were born in August 1854 and their son Amasa Mason was born in October 1856. In a letter to his wife Sarah D., dated July 2nd, 1855 from San Bernadino Charles tells her about the death of his son Morris from the flux. See the letter below from Excerpts of Letters from Charles C. Rich to his Family.
Between 1857 and 1864 Mary Ann would live first in Centerville, Utah and then moved south to Provo, Utah. Charles and Mary Ann welcomed a daughter, Paulina Phelps Rich on April 21st, 1859 in Centerville, Utah. Paulina died on October 8th, 1860 of "brain fever" in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1864, Mary Ann followed her husband to Bear Lake, Idaho where he was charged to building settlements for the Church. It was there in Bear Lake that the last three children of Charles and Mary Ann were born. They are Ezra Clark who was born on August 18th, 1864, Edward Israel who was born April 9th, 1868 and Jacob Phelps who was born on December 4th, 1874 and died on December 11th, 1874.
Mary Ann spent the reminder of her life in Bear Lake where she raised her family and after Charles died in 1883, she did what needed to be done to educate her children. She endured many hardships in Bear Lake and found the winters there to be difficult and harsh after living in the much milder climate of San Bernadino, California. In the later years of her life she would spend the winters in Ogden, Utah living with either her son Edward or her son Ezra, both of whom were doctors.
In the last years of her life, her son Edward asked that she write her autobiography. The family hired a stenographer and Mary Ann would talk for an hour or so every day until her story was completed. In 1911, Mary Ann's health began to decline not from medical issues but from being "worn out" Edward said. She was in her early 80's and she had been through so much in her life. She traveled across the United States by wagon trains and hand carts from Illinois to Missouri and back to Illinois. Then from Illinois to Iowa and once again back to Illinois. From Illinois to Utah and from Utah to California and back again to Utah. She then went from Utah to Idaho. She was the mother of ten children, four of whom died in infancy or early childhood. Mary Ann was married for thirty eight years to an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, a man she shared with five other women. Mary Ann was a true pioneer woman in many ways.
Mary Ann Phelps Rich died on Tuesday, April 16th, 1912 according to her death certificate but her tombstone has her date of death as April 17th, 1912. Also two of her obituaries that I found online gave her age as 75 but she was actually 82 years old.
Source: Charles C. Rich and his Six Wives, Complied by Nina W. Palmer
Arrington, Leonard J., Charles C. Rich - Mormon General and Western Frontiersman, Brigham Young University Press, pp. 291-308 (https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE96564&from=fhd : accessed 4 September 2014).
Bureau of Land Management, "Land Patent Search", digital image, General Land Office Records, (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=MO1290__.118&docClass=STA&sid=j3zukud4.2sq : accessed 1 March 2015), Morris Phelps (Caldwell County, Missouri) Document Number 8533
Cole, Zula Rich, Morris Calvin Phelps, Valiant Hearts: With Undaunted Faith and Devotion, digital images, pp. 17-19 (https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE1673476&from=fhd : accessed 4 September 2014)
Felt, Shelley Image of Mary Ann Phelps Rich c.1887 digital image (https://familysearch.org/photos/images/1181999 : 10 March 2015.
Felt, Shelley Image of Mary Ann Phelps Rich Obituary digital image (https://familysearch.org/photos/images/10653864 : 4 September 2014)
"Idaho, Death Certificates, 1911-1937," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FLTQ-WLZ : accessed 11 March 2015), Mary Rich, 16 Apr 1912; citing Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho, reference f 2072, Department of Health and Welfare, Boise; FHL microfilm 1,509,277.
"Mrs. Mary A. Rich", The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 April 1912, p. 14 , col. 4; digital images (http://www.newspapers.com/clip/1964731/pioneer_woman_is_called_by_death/ : accessed on 10 March 2015)
"Mrs Mary A. Rich," The Ogden Standard, 20 April 1912, p. 5, col. 1 and 2; digital images (http://www.newspapers.com/clip/1964717/pioneer_woman_pioneer_days/ : 10 March 2015)
Palmer, Nina W. compiler, Charles C. Rich and His Six Wives pp. 96-233 digital images (https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE4786662&from=fhd : accessed on 1 March 2015)
Rich, Charles C., Excerpts of Letters From Charles C. Rich to his Family page 7 (https://www.gengophers.com/book.html#/book/17880?page=21&given=Mary%20Ann&surname=Phelps%20Rich&startYear=1829&endYear=1912 : accessed 10 March 2015)
Rich, Mary Ann Phelps, Autobiography (1829-1846) "The Life of Mary A. Rich," typescript, HBLL (http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/MRich.html : accessed on 4 September 2014)
Rich, Mary Ann Phelps, Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, Charles C. Rich Company, (https://history.lds.org/overlandtravels/companyDetail?lang=eng&companyId=250 : accessed 4 September 2014)
Rich, Mary Ann Phelps, Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, Amasa Lyman/Charles C. Rich Company, (hhttps://history.lds.org/overlandtravels/companyDetail?lang=eng&companyId=422 : accessed 4 September 2014)
Unknown Compiler, - Excerpts of Letter From Charles C. Rich to his Family, page 7, (Original Location: Logan Family History Center, FamilySearch International; http://www.familysearch.org/ : accessed 10 March 2015)
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