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MARY ELIZABETH HOLDAWAY CONRAD--By Grandson, Grant Tell Muhlestein
· 2013-07-02 06:12:07 GMT+0000 (UTC) · 0 Comments
MARY ELIZABETH HOLDAWAY CONRAD--By Grandson, Grant Tell Muhlestein
Mary Elizabeth Holdaway, born 12 Sept. 1856 to Shedrick Holdaway and Lucinda Haws, was reared in a large pioneer family where work and austerity gave demands to all family members. Mary Elizabeth carried the attributes of a true pioneer throughout her life. She was frugal, but generous, and no visitor ever left her garden (after her family was raised) without taking along a bouquet of flowers, or something from the fruit and vegetable garden. She was a great lover of all kinds of plants, and learned the art of grafting so that seedling fruits could be grafted with better varieties if they did not produce a better kind than anything in the fruit orchard.
Grandfather, Charles Conrad, born 12 Nov. 1831 to Charles Ferdinand Conrad and Sarah Adams Bitely, saw this Mary Elizabeth Holdaway as a child – attractive, brown eyes, curly dark hair, and a winsome smile – and vowed that he would wait until she grew to womanhood at which time he would marry her. When this young lady reached seventeen years and ten months, they were married the 10 Nov. 1873 in the Salt Lake Endowment House.
My mother, their first child, was born 21 March 1875 and, like her mother, learning, as well, to care for their food and clothing needs. Grandfather was a self-made veterinarian and often cared for sick animals through a full night. His clients promised grains or fruits at harvest time and often this fell through, so grandmother was compelled to grow and produce most of their food needs.
Grandfather had acquired considerable land in the North-East part of Provo. They built their home on the corner of 7th East and 8th North – a large one-story, double-brick home with a small fruit-and vegetable cellar. This was a double-brick construction and the lumber came from the Shedrick Holdaway Lumber Mill in South Fork of Provo Canyon – a very hard and sturdy native pine almost impossible to drive mails into or to cut with a saw once cured, as we found later when the ceilings were lowered and rooms built in the attic area. This high-ceiling home was cool both in summer and winter. Good home-produced foods seemed to keep the family in health. There was plenty of milk and cream and home-churned butter. The grains were taken to the Mill and used in their natural state. Grandmother was an excellent cook and seamstress – providing wholesome food for the family and clothing for all.
The landmark for the Conrad home was a huge cottonwood tree which was planted by nature long before the white man had made inroads to the West. This tree provided the Conrad home with shade and comfort in the summertime. When the home was finished, one of the first things planted near the large cottonwood tree were some black walnut seeds. One grew vigorous and tall and provided the family with much enjoyment each year. As the grandchildren came to visit grandmother, they would ask to crack nuts under the Cottonwood – sitting on a large stone bench that surrounded it.
The soil near the home was quite rocky – being the residue of streams that once came over the area. In fact, my father-in-law, Gordon Phillips, sold sand and gravel from an area which he purchased from the Conrad estate just north of the Conrad home. They had seeds of select cantaloupe and watermelon brought from Kentucky. Grandmother would save seeds from the cantaloupe with the smallest centers and the most meat, and the thin-rinded melons with the best flavor. As a child I remember the strong and pleasant odor of the melons as grandmother cut them open to serve to her guests or relatives. The sweetness and perfume of those days seems to be missing in the melons we purchase at the markets today.
They kept both beef and dairy cattle and, of necessity, a herd bull – one of which was notoriously mean. On one occasion grandmother had to cross the pasture where the bull was kept and he was aroused and came at her loudly bellowing. When he got too close, she fell to the ground, lying on her back, and, as the bull charged her, she would kick him in the mouth and continue to push herself toward the barn area where the hog pen offered some kind of retreat. She reached the pig stye at the moment when the bull had stopped to appraise this strange woman’s actions, and she was able to get over the wall and fall to the ground and gratefully mingle with the hogs.
When their sixth child, Angus, died at the age of eight-months, grandfather brought home a buck fawn deer which grandmother breast fed until it was weaned. This fawn grew to maturity and loved grandmother, of course, but he was hard to control since few fences would hold him and he was mean with strangers – and especially with the boys who came by and threw rocks and sticks at him. One day some boys up on the “university” property threw stones and one struck him in the head and he fell to the ground dead, thus he provided meat for the Conrad family for some time.
Grandmother loved to share plants with anyone who showed and interest in them. She grew many kinds of perennials and always had colorful annuals. She was able to plant sweet peas in the late fall and give them winter protection and have them grow and blossom for Memorial day. Often the hundreds of peony plants she grew would not quite make their blooming coincide with Memorial Day and, if they were early, she would cut the buds and put them in cold storage at the “Ice Plant.” But she could usually provide her “customers” with some flowers for this occasion. Any money she received for flowers, roots, vegetables or fruit was put into a jar in the kitchen to pay her taxes in the fall.
Grandmother gave her five sons, Charles, Warren, Arthur, Milton, and Lewis their “inheritance” as young men who wished to establish themselves in a new land in Canada (Taber, Alberta). She gave her daughter, Eva, a like stipend so she and Uncle John Walker could purchase a home in Provo. Aunt Alice Bertin was given a piece of ground west of the home which land was now too much for grandmother to care for – this land was mostly pasture-land, yet, as the city drained it to put in streets, Alice was able to sell lots to private individuals as well as Brigham Young University.
Grandmother had a flare for words and was a natural born poetess. She would get inspiration in the night (in her later life), get up and write these thoughts. She wrote a poem based on her experiences through the early years of ehr life and entitled it, “The Pioneers” which describes their simple pleasures, entertainment, dress, customs, and dancing (beneath the drip of candles). When my mother and I came out to Utah in the fall of 1935 so I might attend the university, she was still working on and revising this bit of prose. Grandmother was invited to recite this poem to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and went to Salt Lake City to give it but was disappointed by another taking too much time and they had to delete her from the program.
She was beginning to ail when mother and I arrived in the fall of 1935. She was unable to care for her garden and home, yet she taught me how to irrigate, and we were able to harvest the fall crops and enjoy the “fruits” of her labor. Mother was her constant nurse during her terminal illness37 and although she was suffering, she never complained. Mother and I had a prayer at her beside every night. We, her descendants, appreciate the faith and love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which she instilled in all her family, whom she dearly loved, and her effort was expended in their behalf and for their happiness. A great and monumental heritage. 

Related people

Mary Elizabeth Holdaway

Posted By: David Conrad

  1. Website: Charles Ferdinand Conrad;

Updated: 5-31-2015
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