Saturday, March 14, 2009

I have a picture of my grandmother, Emma May Robinson, taken before the turn of the last century. She is with her parents and all of her siblings. She was the eighth of ten children, born February 15, 1894, to Fanny (Mary Frances Adams) and Jackson Lafayette Robinson. In this picture her brothers stand in the back row: Bill, George, Allen and John. Her eldest sister, Martha is also in the back row on the left. In the front row are Sarah, Emma (age 4), Tamar on her mother's lap, and Isabelle.
Grandmother's birthplace was a little place called Defeated Creek in Tennesee. It was near the Cumberland River. Everyone in the photo is solemn, unsmiling as with most photos in that time period. When she was very young, missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints taught the family the Gospel, and those who were not married and who were old enough (eight years old or older) joined the church. A little while later, if I remember right, when my grandmother was about nine years old, the nuclear family moved to Utah and settled in a little town called Joseph, two hundred and fifty miles south of Salt Lake City.
My great grandfather, Jack Robinson, was a farmer. In Tennessee he had grown tobacco, but in Utah he had to switch to food crops. The Utah winters wouldn't support growing tobacco, even if the church had approved. My grandmother said her mother never could give up her "chew" no matter how hard she tried. She was a devoted member of the church never-the-less, and lived to be seventy-eight. I don't know whether my grandfather was able to give up his cigars. He outlived his wife by three years, long enough to see me born. He died in 1943.
My great-grandparents were married in 1876 when Mary Frances was fifteen years old, and Jack was twenty-two. They were very poor in worldly goods. They were poorly educated as well. I believe they could read and write. They raised their children as well as they knew how, but they were captives of the traditions they had grown up with, and many of the practices of that time are now considered abusive. Grandma told us stories of being shut in a dark closet with the admonition to not let the boogey man get her as a small child. Later her father called her names when she went out with friends. She blamed that treatment for some of the situations she found herself in as a young woman.