The Porter Line

A LIFE SKETCH OF ELIZA MINERVA PORTER BIGLER In a pioneer settlement in Northern Arizona, on the banks of the Little Colorado River, was a town named Sunset. Across the river north-east from the present town of Winslow, Arizona. On November 2, 1879 was born to Samuel Uriah Porter and Mary Minerva Porter, just as the bell tolled to tell the people that dinner was ready, a lovely baby daughter. She was given the name of Eliza Minerva for her mother, grandmother, and aunt. Her parents were very glad she had come to bless their home even though her mother was very sick and it was feared that she would not pull through. The priesthood was called, and they gave her a blessing, and the Lord saw fit for her to live. They lived the United Order in the Sunset Fort. Each doing his share of the plowing, harrowing, cording wool, making cloth, cheese, and butter. They lived there until Eliza was nine months old, when her father’s eyes got very sore and it was feared that he would lose his eyesight. It was decided that they should go back to Salt Lake City to seek medical aid. With a cow and a horse pulling the wagon they set out for Utah.

The horse was called “Old Knitting Machine” because the rugs made from a knitting; machine were sold to buy the horse. This machine was given to grandmother by her mother, and was the only Knitting machine in Porterville at the time. When they arrived in Porterville, grandmother traded the Knitting machine for a sewing machine.

Eliza’s mother and aunts were very good seamstresses and Eliza grew to be one also. They lived in Porterville until Eliza was seven years old.The doctors had done all they could for her father’s eyes, so they moved back to Sunset to finish the colonizing mission that he had been called to by Brigham Young to fill.They lived again there for one year, moving then to St. Joseph, now known as Joseph City. Grandfather’s eyes were so impaired that mother had to take over the farm. Mother said that their oxen Jim and Jerry were so lazy and her arms often ached from whipping them trying to keep them going. Uncle Nathan Porter said that she was the best harrowing hand in Joseph City. She never quit till the hard job was done and she could see the big clods of dirt like her father could, while he could see.

Her father was always called the best harrower in the fort. She plowed and planted the cane, corn, wheat and grain and weeded it, cultivating it often, to keep the moisture in, when it was ready to harvest, she did her share of the cutting of the corn and stripping of the cane. The cane was striped, cut and ground and the juice was processed and cooked to make molasses for winter.

In later years she helped Uncle Nathan Porter make many a gallon of molasses and though tiresome, mother enjoyed it. She only went to school to the completion of the 7th grade, but her ambition was to be a nurse, so when she could get a book on that subject: she would read it. Her father had a sister who was a nurse and in those days a nurses hours were 8 to 35 hours or more without a relief. Her father didn’t want her to be one because of the hard work and besides she was needed at home.Evan though she was given a chance to get the training by a friend and all it would have cost was her books and clothes, be forbade. Children in those days were taught to mind, but Eliza never forgot this ambition. When she was twenty years old her mother and father were blessed with their ninth child, Cyril Victoria. In those days the midwife had to travel far and so Eliza delivered the baby for her mother. When the midwife did arrive Eliza had her mother and the baby taken care of. From what she had read she decided that cleanliness at this time was important, so she gave her mother a bath every day.

The midwife got word of this and gave Eliza a good chastising telling her that she would kill her mother. Eliza felt bad about this but her mother assured her she felt better than she had ever felt before with the other children, so she continued with the baths. Through hard knocks and hard work Eliza became a licensed practical nurse. She helped under many doctors in the Gila and Salt River Valleys as well as in the northern part of the state. She loved the work of helping those in pain and who needed help.

As Jesus said “Do good to all men in need or suffering.” The Lord blessed her in her labors and with the Lord’s help she never lost a case. Never receiving pay for her work to speak of, her only pay was seeing the happiness that she brought to others in need physically, mentally, and spiritually. The next six years the family moved to Heber for the summers and Joseph City for the winters to school the children. Eliza helped cut the corn and put up the crops each fall before school. Eliza never had much time for play. She had a beautiful black pony when she was about 16 years old. They were real pals. Mother told it all of her troubles and it seemed to understand.

The wife of the doctor (who said he could help father) wanted the horse, so Eliza’s father asked her about it. Eliza was brokenhearted to part with her pal but she knew that her father needed the help as well as the rest of the family and so she agreed to give him up. In the summer of 1900 mother developed insomnia. She couldn’t sleep night or day. She lost weight and got so weak that the doctors told grandfather and grandmother that he advised a change in climate, for sometimes this would cure the disease. So grandfather wrote his sister Nancy Cluff in the Gila Valley and asked if Eliza could come down and live with her for her help. Aunt Nancy wrote back that she would be glad to have Eliza come and stay for the rest of the summer. So on July 20th her Uncle Ira Porter came from Joseph City with 2 riding horses and a pack horse and they started their trip over the old Apache Trail which the pioneers traveled when they settled that part of the country. It was a very beautiful country, streams cold and clear, with trout in them darting to and fro.

They camped on the banks of the White River one night and had a good trout supper. On July 23rd, three days after they had started they arrived in the town of Central in the Gila Valley, tired but glad to get to their destination at the Cluff Ranch at the foot of the Graham mountains. The climate moved to be a blessing to Eliza for she slept through that night and every night after. The next day being the 24th of July a big celebration was held in Central. Several of Eliza’s cousins lived there ,as well as a brother Wilford. So they went and spent the day having a wonderful time.Eliza began to gain weight and the color began coming back into her cheeks. She asked her uncle which was the best ward in the valley as she wanted to join the best one. He told her the Central ward of course. The young people and the old. So on Sunday she and her brother Wilford attended Sunday School. After the meeting the Bishop, Edsil M. Allred asked her if she would teach theology class with her cousin David Cluff.

This was a surprise, and she said, “Why brother Allred, I’m not a member of the ward yet” but he said “That’s alright you soon will be and your uncle and aunt have recommended you and he is a member of the stake Sunday School board.” She accepted and was put in July 29th 1900, serving for four years. It was July 24th 1901 just one year after she went to the Gila Valley that she met a young returned missionary of the southern states who’s name was William Bigler. He asked to be her escort to the dance that night and from this their friendship grew and developed into love for each other. It was during this courtship mother said that she tasted her first banana, oh what a horrible taste. But she, soon learned to like them. William told her that while he had been on his mission, one night he lay on his bed wondering who he would marry. He made it a matter of prayer and he said that that night he dreamed that he saw her, then that day he had gone to see the program and there she was sitting on the stand. He knew that she was the one he would marry and would be the mother of his children. On March l2, 1902 they were married. at his father’s home by president of the stake Gordon Kimball. As the President of the church advised the young people all to be married first before the journey to Salt Lake to the Temple because it was so far away. They went to Utah by train and on April 10, 1902 they were sealed for time and all eternity in the Temple of the Lord.

They honeymooned in Nelphi, visiting his people for two weeks and having a wonderful time. Mother said that “Then his grand-father saw her he stood looking at her for a while and then turned and said “Why, Willie, why didn’t you marry a woman, not a skin-pole.She’ll never be able to stand hard. work and motherhood.” Mother never forgot this. The Biglers are all large people of German descent. From there they went to Joseph City to see mother’s parents. They stayed four weeks then returned home to Central. Nine children came to bless their home.

  1. Elva Minerva on October 4, 1903
  2. Elm Elizabeth on March 2, 1905
  3. William Kenneth on April 19, 1907
  4. Leola Mae July 13 on 1909
  5. Elsie Pear on November 14, 1911
  6. Alma Edwin on November 25, 1913
  7. Laureld Arthur on February 9, 1916
  8. Loretta Ila on October 26, 1918
  9. Athena Marie on April 27, 1921

Their father had contracted malaria fever while on his mission and every summer for 12 years he would have many spells along with enlargement of the liver. He came near to death several times and the doctors would give him up for dead. But through the power of the priesthood and the faith of his loved ones he was restored to health. The doctors advised mother to take him to a higher climate.

The doctor once said, “tell a Mormon he’ll die and he’ll live in spite of it all. In April, 1923 mother and father packed up their belongings in two wagons, sold their home, and started for Heber, where their oldest daughter lived. They arrived in Clay Springs on April 19, 1923, their oldest son’s birthday and spent the night at the home of one of mother’s old friends, Amanda Rogers Brewer and family. They had a party and candy pull to celebrate. The next day they went to Sunday School and Church and visited end enjoyed the day’s rest. Then on to Heber to their daughter Elva’s and family who were very glad to see them.

They lived the rest of the summer and winter in an old log cabin of Brother James Shelley’s, their son-in-law’s father. Mother set to work chinking up the holes between the logs with mud and straw. She dyed burlap sacks for carpets and put dry straw on the sub floors and dirt floors, covering the knot holes with a piece of board. She stretched the sacks she had sewn together over the straw and tacked it down. She tacked cheese cloth and paper on the walls and ceilings, making a comfortable home for her family. Father end Kenneth worked for the forest service using their beautiful span of horses; Old Prince, Colonel, Babe, and Doll. Mother said they were the envy of all who saw them.

The next spring, 1924, father and mother moved their family to the old Levitt ranch, now known as Burger, or Crandall ranch and helped to farm it. They kept their eyes open for a farm to buy. Fathers health continued to improve day by day. He heard of a homestead that two of the Levitt brothers had, but couldn’t seem to make anything grow on the land they had cleared. Father went to see them about it.They told him if he could make anything grow on the land they would sell it to him for 150.00 and half of the first year’s crop. So Father talked it over with Mother and they decided to try it.

The Lord truly blessed them and they set to work clearing off the cedars, Junipers, rabbit bush, Pinion pine, and regular pine trees. Piling and burning the small branches and sawing the large logs for winter wood. Next came the plowing, harrowing and planting of the seed. Late hours and long ones were spent with Mother and all helping as much as we could. Then a fence was put up to keep the cattle out. The Lord blessed them with a bumper crop and half of the crop was given to the Levitt brothers along with the S50.00, and one tenth of the crop was sold for tithing money.

They built a one room house on the ranch with the closest neighbor 3-miles away. They were happy and thankful to the Lord for his blessings to them. Going to church on Sunday was always Observed. On Sunday a wagon was hitched up with all aboard and they drove 5 miles each way to partake of the sacrament and to renew their covenants with the Lord. It was there in this home that sorrow came to father and mother and family.

Their daughter and sister, Elsie Pearl was called to her heavenly home on April 25, 1925. She had contracted the flu during the first world war and it left her with leakage of the heart and inflammatory rheumatism. Mother knew she had suffered long and the Lord’s will was acknowledged. They laid her to rest in the Heber cemetery on April 27, 1925. Mother and Father knew they would see her in the next world because they had been married in the Holy Temple of The Lord. This fact made it easier for them to bare the load of sorrow placed upon them. Mother always wanted a bigger home but she never complained. Four beds in one room with a huge bin for beans and corn storage for winter under each bed springs placed across the top. In the late spring of 1928, Mother’s dream began to be realized. They dug the trench for the foundation of a new home. Mother helped as well as the children.

With a horse team and wagon, sand, water, cement, and lumber were hauled five miles to make the foundation and then the sub-floors. Finishing nails, lumber etc. were hauled from Holbrook some 50 miles distant. They traded beans or corn for these things needed to build a home. It was when the sub-floors were down that another sorrow came to Mother and family. One that seemed too big to bear. On August 15, 1928 just a little over two years after the death of her daughter, her beloved husband, helpmate, and companion was taken from her (killed by lightning).

Mother had always been taught Thy will not mine be done, so she knew the Lord needed him for another purpose. On August 17, 1928 she laid him to rest beneath the ground and sky he loved so well. Mother knew she had a greater load placed upon her shoulders now, being both Father and Mother to seven children. She was determined that the home they had started would be finished, so with the help of a carpenter, Mr. white,whom she hired, and hard work of all concerned, the home was completed.

Many times she would wonder how the materials needed would be obtained, but the Lord was and is mindful of those who keep his commandments and serve him. This Mother always did, and taught her children to do the same. Mother took in washings and ironing’s to get the essential things of life so badly needed. She spent long hours scrubbing on a scrub board and ironing with the wood irons, six days a week, lots of times. Selling eggs, chickens, butter, milk, and vegetables in season. She taught her children the responsibility of helping to make an honest living and to always do their part and duty to each other and to pay an honest tithing to the Lord.

Three years later sorrow came again to Mother. On July 8, 1931 her mother who had been living with her was called to her heavenly home by death,s angel. A short time later Mother’s youngest daughter was taken ill with polio and spinal meningitis, she was near death many times but through her prayers, the priesthood and the prayers of others she was helped. She devoted her patient care to work to keep things going and all she could to make her child comfortable.

Medicine mounted up the bills to be paid. Never murmuring or complaining, for two years Mother made bread, butter, cheese etc. and other things and sold them to the doctor and others to pay for the bills. This child, through the help of the Lord and priesthood, and faith and prayers and medical care, got well and has a family of her own today. I know this to be true because I am that child.

Five years later sorrow came again on November 29, 1936. The angel of death took her Father, the holder of the Melchezidek priesthood that had been so much strength to Mother. She saw that he was laid to rest beneath the cedar tree they had picked just two weeks before her mother passed away. Mother sensed the absence of her father and priesthood keenly. Many times she would get up when sickness arose and get the consecrated oil and rub over the foreheads and pray to the Lord for his healing power, and many times we were made whole and well. She always taught her children to pray night and morning, in family and in secret prayer. A little over two years later Mother moved from the ranch to Heber, not being able to run the farm by herself and letting her two sons Alma and Laureld and their wives live at the ranch.

Her home in Heber needed and took many hours of hard work and labor to fix it up like she wanted it. But she had spent many hours constantly digging, pounding, painting, planting, and watering until it was a garden of Eden and a paradise to all who came to see it. Mother was told that fruit could not be grown in Heber and this was a challenge to Mother. She planted many fruit trees and flowers around the home to prove that it could be done. With her efforts and courage she used smudge pots at night to save the fruit. Many are the buckets of fruit that have been picked, bottled, and eaten from the trees that they said could not be grown.

She enjoyed working in the soil and having beautiful flowers. Life wasn’t a bowl of cherries for Mother, she was near death many times but the Lord spared her life. It was in March or April of 1955, while mother was smudging the trees to save the fruit, that one of the pots was accidentally tipped over, throwing burning oil over her legs from the knees down, but the spirit said “don’t go to the doctor but put cat-tail and Vaseline on it. This she did. Under no persuasion from her sons would she go to the doctor. They were quite put out at her but later her son Kenneth went to see the doctor, to see if he could get medicine for it and was told that they could be thankful that she would not go , for before they could have gotten her there she would have died of stagnation of the blood (blood clots).

She spent three long months in bed and arm chair before this burn healed enough to spend the winter in Mesa doing Temple work again. In the fall of 1955 she sold her home in Heber to a Despain boy and bought a trailer house from her son ,Kenneth. She brought it to Mesa where she could be near the Temple that she loved so much and not bother anyone as she said. Mother longed to return to live at the ranch and the home which she and her help-mate had worked so hard together to make. She said it made her feel closer to her beloved husband and God. So after taking care of her grandchildren while her daughter was in the hospital, she returned to the ranch home she longed for On June 6, 1956.

The children didn’t want her to be there alone and it was decided that one of the grandchildren would stay with her. Mother thought this an imposition on her part. June 9, 1956 she started cleaning the yards, she couldn’t stand filth, she had. only been there three days when the hands of fate reached out for her in fire. The three homes burned to the ground. She was caught in the bedroom of the big house but managed to crawl out on her hands and knees to the outside. Being badly burned over 75% of her body with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns and losing consciousness. Mrs Nunn and son coming from Holbrook saw the fire and went to investigate, found her unconscious with her clothes still smoldering. They put out the fire and wrapped Mother in a blanket and left the son there while she rushed to Heber for help.

Her cousins, Jay and Lavine Crandall, and her nephew Junior (Cyril) Porter rushed her to the Holbrook hospital, she walked from the car into the hospital without assistance. Doctor DeMarse looked at her and shook his head and started dressing the burns as best he could. Her sons, Laureld and Alma, arrived and helped some. Then all the children were contacted, The doctor said that he didn’t think that she could live until they could all get there. Sunday morning June 10th all were there but two and they arrived at 5 and 7 PM. Her heart and will were strong. She suffered much that long week. On June 15, 1956 at 4:30 a.m. her husband’s 83rd birth-day, the Lord called this nobel daughter, mother, and wife to her eternal home and the reward she so nobly had earned.

On June 17, 1956, Father’s day she was laid to rest by the side of her beloved husband, daughter and grandchildren who had preceded her,in Heber cemetery, neath the whispering pines,cedars, and the clear blue sky, at the close of a perfect day for those who awaited her over there and what a multitude waited, Mother did the Temple work for about 6,000 people, what a glorious meeting! She was a mid-wife for 56 years, delivering approximately 500 babies into this world. Administering to the sick, those lain to rest and others too numerous to mention, where ever she was called to labor or live. Mother served as 1st councilor in the Relief Society and YWMIA for four years each. Theology teacher for four years. Religion teacher for two years. Visiting teacher in the Relief Society for 63 years. Sunday School kindergarten teacher for 48 years. Secretary of the Relief Society for 18 years.Temple and genealogy worker for 14 years. She has left behind a great posterity of descendants. May we all live worthy to enter that heavenly and great reward as she has so worthily done and as she said before passing.

“Father make my children worthy to enter thy kingdom and sit and stand at thy throne. The thoughts of you, Mother bring memories of sunset, Of laughter and love at the close of the day. I see a small child with her hands clasped before her, as I knelt at your knee while you taught me to pray. When I think of her smile it reminds me of sunlight, Her sweet tender voice like the song of a bird. Mother still rules in the hearts of her children, We treasure your memory, each look and each word. When I think of your hands, once so soft and so dainty, made rough by the toiling for those you loved best. I know that your burden though sometimes too heavy, Was borne without mummer, She would not do less. With courage undaunted though gentle by nature, She blessed our dear home with refinement and cheer. So now I pay tribute to an Angelic Mother, An angel of mercy I shall always hold dear. Now let us pause for a moment, those memories to treasure. My head bows in renewing my promise. To plant my feet firmly and never retreat.”

Story and Poem by Athena Marie Bigler Rogers.

Jacob G. BIGLER was FIRST president of The JUAB STAKE By Preston Nibley Jacob G. Bigler was a convert to the church, a friend and Confidant of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pioneer of Nauvoo, pioneer of Utah, early settler of Nephi and first President of Juab Stake. Jacob G. Bigler was born on a farm in Harrison County, West Virginia, on April 4, 1813. He was the son of Mark and Susanna Ogden Bigler.

The parents and sisters of Jacob Bigler joined the Church in 1837 and the following year the family moved westward to Missouri to unite with the main body of the Saints at Far West. Jacob was baptized at Far West on June 10, 1838. The Bigler family were among the thousands of Latter-day Saints who were driven from Missouri during the winter of 1838-39. They made their way to Quincy, Illinois, where their father died On September 23, 1839. In the spring of 1840 Jacob moved his mother and sisters to Nauvoo, JACOB BIGLER was married to Amy Loretta Chase, on June 18, 1844. He labored on the Nauvoo Temple until he left for the West in the spring of 1846, when he departed with the first company of Saints.

They arrived on the Missouri River in August and Jacob established a home at Council Bluffs (later named Kanesville) until 1852. In 1850 he was elected Probate judge of Pottawattamie County, Iowa. In June, 1852, Jacob Bigler and family joined a company of Saints who were making their way across the plains to Utah. They arrived in Salt Lake City in October, and the following month moved to Nephi, where they established a permanent home. Jacob Bigler was set apart as Bishop of Juab County, by Apostle George A. Smith.(a brother-in-law) shortly after his arrival in Nephi. The following year he was elected a member of the Territorial Legislature and he served in this capacity for six terms, in 1855 he was elected mayer of Nephi. Two years later he was called on a mission to the British Isles. He returned home in 1863, having labored in England, Ireland and Wales. THE Juab Stake Tabernacle was begun in 1860, under the direction of Jacob Bigler and completed in 1865 under the supervision of Bishop Charles H. Bryan.

When Juab stake was organized in 1868, Jacob Bigler was chosen as president. A High Council selected at the same time consisted of the following brethren:

  • Samuel Cazier
  • David Cazier
  • Timothy S. Hoyt
  • William H . Warner
  • Timothy B. Foots
  • Samuel Claridge
  • Edward Cokey
  • Matthew McCune
  • Jacob Bigler Jr.
  • Israel Hoyt
  • Andrew Love
  • George Kendall

President Bigler served as president of Juab stake until 1871, when he was released to join the Southern Mission. He reached St George, where he learned that he had been elected a member of the Legislative Council and that that body was to meet in January, 1872, in Salt Lake City. He therefore returned home and was released from the southern mission. Jacob Bigler was ordained to the office of patriarch in June 1878. He held this position until his death on February 27,1907, at the age of 93.

My GREAT GRAND FATHER JACOB BIGLER  had five sisters, Sarah, Malissa Jane and Bathsheba W. (who married George A. Smith, Grandfather of president George Albert Smith) on 25, July 1841. Matilda, who married John S. Martin,and Nancy, who married Josiah W. Fleming.

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