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Annie Matilda Hurley (1874-1959): Autobiographical Sketch

Brief personal history by Annie Matilda Hurley Howells, evidently written in 1954 for the first Howells family reunion, held at the Fairmont Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. A typewritten copy by her daughter, Evelyn H. Nelson, from which the following is taken, is in possession of W. Bart. Christenson, Jr., Provo, Utah.

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First, I would like to state that I was born a catholic, my father being born in Ireland of Roman Catholic parents, one of a family of four, two boys and two girls. My mother was of the Church of England. Eventually, and in respect to my father’s wishes, she joined the catholic faith, inasmuch as a family was in prospect and it was father’s wish that the children should be of one faith until we should reach an age when some other religion might appeal to our more mature judgment and inspire us more with hope for the future or hereafter. Eventually, and in respect to my father’s wishes, she joined the catholic faith. Before my father died in 1887, he called us all to his bedside and told us that it was not his wish that we follow the catholic faith. But he wanted us to follow some form of religion and always try to be honest and upright all our lives. Eventually, we all fell away from the catholic faith.

I must have been quite religiously inclined, because I joined several different churches, but did not feel satisfied. I always felt like there was something more to religion than I had yet been able to find. Then, one evening I was looking through the ads in the evening paper, and I happened to see an ad which read: A young lady wanted in the ladies and children’ shoe department. So, I said to my mother, “Look here,” and read the ad to her and told her, “I am going right down in the morning and apply for it.” She said, “You might just as well spare yourself the trouble, because that ad has been in the papers several times.” “Well,” I said, “I’m going anyway.” I don’t know yet what made me so determined to go, because I had never had experience in clerking whatever. But somehow, I just seemed to have the urge to go and apply for it.

Well, I went down. It was only about seven blocks from my mother’s home. I went in, and there was a kindly, nice looking man named Mr. Forsey, busy dusting off and shining some shoes to put in the window. “Good morning,” I said. “I read your ad in the paper and just thought I would drop in and see if you were suited with someone yet.” “Well now,” he said. “My wife has a niece who has a lot of experience in this business and wants to work for us.” “Thank you,” I said, “that is all that is necessary to know.” I was bidding him good day, when he said, “Won’t you wait a minute?” So, we talked for a few minutes. Then, I said, “I must be going.” This was a Saturday morning, and he asked me if I would mind coming back on Monday morning.

I went back on Monday morning, and he said, “My wife and I like your appearance very much. So, you will consider yourself engaged for the position.” I thanked him very much, and asked if he would be pleased to put me to work. This was Monday. And Wednesday morning, I said to him, “You hired me to work, and so far I haven’t done a thing but listen to what you have been saying. I must say that I am very interested in what you are talking about. It is a religion of some kind, isn’t it? If it is, it is surely the very thing I have been waiting to hear for a long, long time.” Then he asked me if I had ever heard of the Latter-day Saints. “They call them Mormons,” he said. No, I never had.

Then he said, “What I have been talking about, or telling you about, is ‘Mormonism’ as taught by the Latter-day Saints.” “Well,” I said, “that sounds very wonderful and very convincing. Tell me, where do they hold forth? Do they have a church where a person can go and hear them preach?”

Well, in a day or two, there were two fine looking men that came to the store. They were introduced to me as Brother Rich and Brother Joe Wilde, and they were two of the Mormon missionaries from Utah. It was the religion that they were teaching that Mr. Forsey had been trying to tell me about. Finally, they asked me if I would care to go to one of their meetings with them, as one of the Elders was leaving to return home to Utah, and he was to give his farewell sermon on Sunday. I said I would surely be happy to, so they stopped by to pick me up prior to the meeting.

Of course, we had no transportation of any kind, and, naturally, I wondered how far it was. It proved to be just a half block from our home. But, if I live to be one hundred, I’ll never forget the experience of that meeting. It was just like a film had been removed from my eyes, and I could see clearly now and knew that this was the religion I had been looking for. I have never had the least desire to look further for any proof, for I know it is not to be found.

Of course, then it was that the Adversary got busy. And don’t think that I didn’t have plenty of opposition to fight at home. I was determined that they should hear before they condemned. So, anyway, with patience and long suffering, I finally persuaded mother and the others at home to go to a meeting or two. And, also, I invited the Elders to call the others at the home and talk to the family. Finally, they all came into the church, except one brother. He did come to Utah, and did very well. He had two daughters when he came to Utah, and his only son was born here.

I could go on and on. But, let me say that the most glorious and happy day of my life was the day I went down for the position of “lady clerk.” For, that was how and when I heard of Mormonism. So, I say, God bless the Mormon missionaries. For, it was through Mormonism that I met my husband, father of my children, a man of sterling worth and strong character, honest as steel, one who said what he meant and meant what he said, but still a very humble man and always very appreciative of any kindness shown him. He always said he only wished he had the patience and disposition I had.

In one of the last letters I had from him, when he was on one of his trips up in Idaho and sitting alone in his room with his thoughts, he wrote: “It was in God’s service that I found you, and I pray that it will be in His service that I’ll claim you in the hereafter.” And, I’m not the least concerned but what I will meet him there.

He came from strong pioneer stock. Each one of his family was an outstanding individual, strong of character and purpose—faithful Latter-day Saints and defenders of the church at all times. Thomas F., the eldest of the family of thirteen, a very pleasant person [was] father of a large and outstanding family of his own. Ellen [was] the eldest daughter who never married, but served as a mother to the others after her parents died. She watched and guided them throughout their young childhood. I am sure she will receive her just and well-earned reward. Judah, a very hard working man, married Martha Mellow and raised four children, two boys and two girls. Ann H. Smith, the second daughter, had no family. Amelia H. Johnson, the third daughter, had four children, three boys and one girl. Two of the younger children, Dan and Margaret, never married. But, like the others, [they] were strong personalities.

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