by Junius Crossland
In order that children, grandchildren, and all succeeding generations of the family may know and come to appreciate the many virtues of their mother and grandmother, Edna H. Banks, I attempt to write this history. I know at the outset, that I cannot do her justice, but will try to give a true portrayal of her life, especially that part which I have been fortunate enough to observe at close range. As to her early years, I shall have to depend upon what she and others have told me.
It was on Election Day, November 7, 1882, that Edna elected, if that were possible, to be born in the little rural village of Alpine, Utah County, Utah. Her father and grandfather, the town doctor, were both election judges. The young couple, Christopher Charles Hackett and Margaret Elsie Booth, had come to town from their home at the mouth of Willow Canyon for Election Day. When word came that the blessed event was near, the election had to stand still while Christopher made a hurried horseback trip to the canyon for the layette and Dr. Booth took over at the maternity bed. The delivery was successfully accomplished and a choice spirit housed in a perfect body, a first child was given into the keeping of this happy couple.
Edna came of Irish and English ancestry, her paternal grandfather being Irish and her other three grandparents being English. Her grandfather, Richard Thornton Booth and grandmother, Elsie Edge Booth, were converted to the (LDS) Church in their native England, while her father and paternal grandmother, Mary Edwards Hackett, accepted the gospel in Missouri. Since her parents were married in the Endowment House, Edna had the good fortune to be born under the covenant.
Father Christopher Hackett was a man of many talents. He was a tailor, carpenter, miller, miner, and farmer. He was at one time operator of the old Mulliner Flour Mill at the Mill Pond in Lehi. At the time of Edna’s birth, he had charge of a sawmill at the mouth of Willow Canyon. The pursuit of these occupations led him to various communities where employment was to be found. Consequently, when Edna was barely two years old, the family moved to Wellsville, Cache County, Utah, where he was again employed as a miller.
Although Edna was but a young child during the four and one half years spent in Wellsville, she could distinctly remember many experiences she had while there. One especially was never forgotten. But for the hand of Providence, this experience undoubtedly would have resulted in tragedy. While playing near the millrace, Edna accidentally fell into the swiftly flowing water and was swept rapidly toward the penstock, a few rods distant. She was powerless to help herself, but just before the plunge into the penstock, her dress caught on a protruding nail in a plank, which with others line the race. Here she hung precariously with swiftly flowing water tugging at her small frame. Her lusty screams, however, soon brought her father from the mill, and a badly scared child was dragged to safety. We little realize what a slender thread or nail our lives hang on. This nail, also, now doubt, has had a profound influence upon my life.
Father Hackett next accepted employment at Rock Springs, Wyoming, timbering coal mines. Here at almost seven years of age, Edna began her formal education, her first teachers being Emily Rankin and Mary Dixon. It is worth of note that Edna mastered the multiplication tables in her second grade, quite different from boys and girls of today. Here at Rock Springs, she had another never-to-be-forgotten experience, not involving life or limb, but the tender feelings of a little girl. It was the custom at Rock Springs to have a community tree on Christmas Eve. Here the children received their gifts. The Hackett family returned home after the festivities, the children happy with their presents. Uncle Richard Hackett, who was visiting his brother and family now enters the scene. I will let Edna relate the experience:
The Doll That Was Not Mine
The Christmas party ended, we were
That we’d received that Christmas Eve
All that for us was meant.
My Uncle Richard bought a doll
All dressed in brilliant red.
With eyes of brown and curly hair
And hat upon its head.
All unbeknown to us he took
The doll home in a box,
And gave it to our mother dear
To slip into our socks.
And said, “Now both you little girls
Hang up your socks, May be
Old Santa Claus has other toys
Besides those from the tree.”
But I was smart for seven years,
“There’s nothing more, because
That isn’t where we get our toys,
There ain’t no Santa Claus.
But May was only five years old,
And not so wise as I,
So she hung up a stocking big
And off to bed did hie.
My disappointment was most keen,
When I awoke next day.
The lovely doll with flaxen curls
Following the brief stay of a year and a half in Rock Springs, the Hackett family moved to Provo, Utah, where carpenter work at the Brigham Young Academy and at the State Mental Hospital was to be had. Edna entered the Parker School, which happened to be on the same block as the family home. Her teachers here were Jeannette Findlay and Annie Gillespie. Edna enjoyed her schoolwork here and made many friends she always remembered.
In 1892, the lure of the little mountain village of Alpine could be no longer resisted, and once more a home was established here. By now Edna had two sisters, May and Maude, and two brothers, Charles and Richard. Housekeeping was set up in the old Booth house, Edna’s birthplace and that of her mother. This move was followed by another into a house belonging to Alfred Hoyle, situated just east o f the present Alpine Ward Chapel.
Edna found educational condition not so favorable in Alpine as in Provo. In her Treasure of Truth book under the caption “My School Days,” I find the following, referring to the Alpine school: “This was a mixed ungraded school which was held in the meeting house. Long tables were used for desks. Half of the pupils sat with their backs toward the teacher. Each class in turn would march to a bench under the front of the room for recitation periods. John Alan Vance was the teacher. Samuel R. Brown assisted him by taking groups into the vestry for class recitations. We marched to and from classes to the tap of a hand bell. When I entered the seventh grade, Arthur Done came to Alpine to teach. He had a very attractive personality and exceptional methods of discipline. He exacted neatness and accuracy in all our work and really transformed the atmosphere of the Alpine schools. I really thought that I was important when he invited me to assist him with the report cards and other school work.”
Perhaps I had better finish the story of Edna’s elementary schooling before going back to pick up the thread of her other girlhood activities. Again, I will let Edna tell it.
“During the early summer of 1897, I had the opportunity of going to Salt Lake and living at the home of Prof. David R. Allen. That fall, I began eighth grade at the Sugar House school with Joseph B. Ashton as teacher. Late in October, I returned to Alpine, where Henrick Hansen was village school master that season. I was the only pupil in the eighth grade and to recompense him for the extra grade I made, I assisted him in teaching and gained much valuable practical experience. I finished the grade work before the school year expired and left for Salt Lake in March, 1898 to live again at Allens’. They offered me a three month vacation trip to Yellowstone Park with their family. They gave me my board and $1.50 a week until we left on the trip, after which I had all my expenses paid.
“A few days prior to leaving, I spent three days at American Fork taking the County eighth grade examination, word of which reaching me after all the other pupils had taken it. Joseph B. Forbes conducted a private one for me.” Needless to say, she passed the test with flying colors. In those days, to be an eighth grade graduate was a real accomplishment.
Leaving Edna’s educational career for the present, I think it best to go back and bring some of her other experiences up to date.
Although Father Hackett was a good worker, skilled in several lines, it was not always that he could find employment in a small community like Alpine. And when he was hired the wages were quite inadequate for the proper support of a large family. It cannot be said that there was actual hunger in the home, but the fare consisted of the cheapest of foods. Milk, eggs, meat, and many foods that are now considered essential to a well balanced diet were in short supply. I have heard Edna say that if there were not enough eggs or meat to go around, her mother and the girls went without.
To help with the family support, Edna worked for others whenever possible. She went regularly one day a week for two or three families at twenty-five cents per day. The housewives in these homes would crowd everything possible into this day that time would permit, such as washing, ironing, scrubbing, cleaning, baking, etc., all for the twenty-five cents. Edna worked a summer or so for Aunt Vene Booth, down the Creek at fifty cents a week. She picked strawberries and currants at ten cents per crate and ten quart crates at that, walking two or three miles each way to her work. She was rated as the best picker in the town. She spent a school year with an old Danish couple, Frederick and Henreika Beck. The old people treated her well, and she had good food and plenty.
In 1896, on a little tract of land inherited from the Booth estate, situated in the “North Field,” Father Hackett built a single room on it, Edna and May helping him. It was constructed of pine boards set upright with an adobe lining. To this room was added a small building he had used as a carpenter shop. This latter structure was used as a children’s bedroom. A quilt was hung up to substitute for an outside door. The family, including the parents, now numbered nine, all housed in these two rooms.
Few worthwhile lessons are learned in the lap of luxury, but many such are learned in the lap of necessity. The lessons of thrift, economy, work, sacrifice, sharing one with another, Edna learned well in this humble home: lessons that stood by her throughout her life. Even when blessed with plenty, she religiously practiced these homely virtues.
One of Edna’s most outstanding characteristics was her ability and willingness to assume responsibility. Whatever she felt her duty to do was done in spite of all obstacles. I shall take occasion to relate illustrative instances of this trait as I proceed with my story. Mention has been made of her three-month trip to Yellowstone Park with the Allen family. Early in the journey, Mrs. Allen suffered a broken arm in an accident. This left Edna, who was fifteen years old, in full charge of the meals. As was characteristic of her, she accepted this responsibility and did a fine job. On one occasion, however, when taken to task by Prof. Allen for letting a piece of venison spoil, she broke down in tears. The men in the party brought in so much game and fish that it was hard to take care of it all without ice or refrigeration.
Returning from the Park, Edna writes in her book, “I had an ardent desire to attend school so my parents arranged for me to live at my Uncle John E. Booth’s a Provo and work for my board while going to the BYU.” As she was six weeks late entering, the Algebra teacher tried to discourage her from taking his class, but finally consented when told that A. L. Booth would help her. Before the end of the year, she was put into a more advanced class. Further to show that Edna would allow no obstacle to stand in her way, it might be remarked that the only school clothes she had for the first semester was a pink baby flannel waist and a skirt.
Lack of funds forced her to discontinue her educational work for a year and a half during which time she was clerk in the Alpine Co-op store and Post Office. Here, as on many occasions, her ability to assume responsibility stood her in good stead. Though only a girl, she had much of the buying to do and the postal reports to make out.
In January 1901, Edna enrolled at the BYA for the second semester. She and Edith Devey kept house in an upstairs room.
With only a year and a half of schooling beyond the eighth grade, Edna took and passed the Utah County teacher’s examination and was given a school at Alpine, teaching the first three grades – a girl of only eighteen. When the county superintendent, James L. Brown, visited her school he had some rather severe criticisms to offer on her methods. She accepted his suggestions in good part, however, and promised him that his next visit would find her a better teacher, and it did. By taking extension courses and summer school and profiting from her own mistakes, Edna became an excellent teacher as many of her pupils still testify. Three years were spent teaching in Alpine. Edna then accepted a school in Lehi under the principalship of George N. Child. She taught fifth and sixth grades in the Central School building for four years. She was rated as one of the best teachers.
I have mentioned previously Edna’s sense of responsibility and loyalty to duty. I think the following is a fine example of these traits. After I had become attracted to her, I frequently stopped in her schoolroom after dismissal for a little visit and to walk home with her. She often had a stack of papers she had taken in during the day to check. I tried to persuade her to scuttle the papers and walk and talk with me, but never once would she do it. Every paper had to receive her painstaking criticism. Most girls would have ditched the papers if there were an opportunity for a half hour with a beau, but not Edna. Her sense of duty would not allow it.
Father Hackett had the good fortune to fall heir to a portion of his brother’s estate, and with the money, four brick rooms, a hall, and of all things, a bath room and tub, the very first in Alpine, were built. One of the new rooms was a parlor, popular, but little used in those days, a master bedroom, to borrow a modern term, and to upstairs bedrooms, one for the girls and one for the boys. All this happened in 1899. Now the members of the family could move about without having their elbows in each other’s ribs.
While I have it in mind, I would like to reveal another facet of Edna’s character and that is her unselfishness. Her earnings were usually turned over to her mother. This was true even after she began teaching school. An then, if she needed a little change, she asked her mother for it. Her real test along this line came when her father went on a mission to the Northern States, leaving a family of nine children and one to be born during his absence. The family had practically no income except Edna’s school checks. Edna sent her father what he needed and the rest went to the family except the little she had to have for her food and rent. She and Edith Devey were keeping house while teaching in Lehi. It was not until her last year of teaching in Lehi (1907-8) that she felt that she could spend a little extra on herself.
From a child, Edna was religiously and spiritually inclined. To her, the Church and her religion were a way of life. They entered into every phase of her living. Her whole existence was influenced and enriched thereby. They became the measuring stick of all her activities. To become aware of a commandment of the Lord was to live it: there was no compromise. Tithing to her was ten percent, not two percent of her earnings. Fasting was twenty-four hours, not just breakfast.
Edna accepted willingly various church appointments and filled every one faithfully and well. In her many teaching assignments, every lesson was prepared with meticulous care. Often times she would spend many hours in the preparation of the lesson for a thirty or forty minute class. No detail was slighted. She complained that the lesson material was too extensive, for her sense of thoroughness would not allow her to omit a single thought. I tried to prevail upon her to touch only the highlights in a long lesson, but she felt that everything outlined in the lesson was there for a purpose and must be presented.
I would like to relate an incident to illustrate her loyalty to the Church and to an office she held. I was keeping company with her at the time. She was a counselor in the presidency of the Lehi Second Ward YWMIA. She with Effie Wernick and Edith Devey had living quarters at the home of Mrs. Wilcox. On a particular Sunday evening, the Mutual was conducting the meeting. I came to see Edna at her boarding place a little before meeting time. As the hour for church approached, she began to get ready to go, but I said I didn’t care to go to church that evening and asked her to remain home. She replied that she was counselor in the Mutual and her president expected her to be present and so must go whether I did or not. So she and Edith left, and I stayed with Effie, but in a few minutes, she came back and believe me, I got what was coming to me. I thought for sure this episode would terminate our courtship, but happily, we were able to patch up the breach. I, of course, was decidedly in the wrong. And may I say here, that I have never know a person with a higher sense of duty and of right than Edna possessed. I can’t now recall a single instance in all my experiences with her that she ever elected any other path than that of duty and right. I admit now to my shame that upon an occasion or two, I have suggested to her that she depart a little from strict duty, as in the above case, but she never once yielded. The only question that ever arose in her mind was, “What is right?” This determined, her course was clear.
The Lord tells us that we will be rewarded for our righteous desires. If that is true, Edna will have a rich reward for her main desire in life was to learn the gospel and live it. Her many teaching positions in the Church helped her study and learn. She was a leader among her sex in expounding the principles of the gospel. This was especially true in her many years as theology leader in both Stake and Ward Relief Society. She could hold her own with the best of the men scriptorians in the Sunday School classes.
There was scarcely a time after Edna became old enough that she did not hold one or more positions in the Church. She held every office there is in the ward MIA. She was Beehive leader in the Stake when this work was first begun. She was ward secretary and ward and stake Theology leader of the Relief Society. She was on the Stake Religion Class Board and taught on the ward genealogical committee. She taught Sunday School classes, the first one being her own group of young people in Alpine. All of these callings were filled faithfully and well.
I come now to the end of this sketch prior to Edna’s marriage. I know there must be many interesting and inspiring episodes in her life that should be recounted, and I regret that this history was not written before she passed so that these could have been included. But I would like to testify to her children and grandchildren down through succeeding years that you have a most wonderful ancestor in the person of Edna Hackett Banks, after whose example you can safely pattern your lives. I know that if you could have known her as I have, you would hold her in the highest esteem. This may seem an exaggeration, but in my opinion, she lived about as perfect a life in mortality as anyone could be expected to do.