Hannah in her
George in his 40's
The Trip to Utah
. . .
The trip across the plains took
several months and many sacrifices. Hannah spent a good portion of
her time just looking
after her children and surviving the brutal conditions of the journey.
Their first winter in the valley was spent in a covered wagon in sub
freezing temperatures. Her valor in surviving those
first few years is nothing short of amazing. I will not go into all
the history surrounding the first days in the Salt Lake
Valley, as this is written in history books.
Much of what happened to Hannah in the years to come would not be
published. She was stoic in her reserve and what
comes down to us is jaded by family privacy. My grandmother always
kept most things about her family to herself and
"didn't want to hang out her dirty wash" regarding the goings on
in her family.
Very little is written about Hannah even by her own husband.
His main concern was writing only about what was happening
within Church history. Other attendant controversies probably precluded
family history from being included in his writings.
Hannah's ethnicity has been a huge bone of contention for succeeding
generations, and it's hard to believe it wasn't a difficult
subject while she was living.
First 'dobie' house in the
17th Ward . . .
George received land in the Salt Lake Valley
and built a small 'dobie' house for himself and Hannah. They continued
on what he could make as a well digger and other trades. Hannah also
took in work as a seamstress.
When one of the hand cart
companies pulled into the valley during the winter, there was a young
woman named Maria Allen
to whom George ministered during an illness brought on by exposure to the
elements. She was near death and asked George
if he would marry her. Hannah agreed to let this take place and
stood for her while the elders married them. Later, George
would also take Hannah's sister Harriet as a polygamous wife, even though
she was already deceased. However, she had
previously requested the opportunity. To this Hannah also agreed but her
daughter Lavina stood proxy in this ceremony..
But it was when George took another woman who was still
living that Hannah's life began to take a sad
turn. George married
Annie Matthews in a polygamous union which displeased Hannah
greatly. She soon realized that she was no longer the favored
wife, through incidents that come down to us in family histories. One that
was related by Sarah Johnson before her death was
of Sarah visiting with Hannah and admiring the peaches on the tree in the
yard. She spotted one peach that she watched until
it was just perfectly ripe and then picked it for her grandmother as a
special gift. As it turns out this infuriated her grandfather
George Morris who had been watching the same peach for his wife Annie.
It is unclear if Annie lived in the same house with George and Hannah
initially, but eventually George moved out of the house
entirely with Annie and moved to St. George, Utah to work on the temple
there. Before he left he locked the cellar door, so
that Hannah would be unable to access the provisions stored there.
Sarah Ann Grow Morris, her daughter-in-law, (my great grandmother)
went to Hannah's home and took an ax to the padlock
George had placed on the door, so Hannah could feed herself and her 10
children. Hannah was pregnant at the time that he left.
George ultimately was to be gone for eight years. In his old age he
was barred from living with his second wife by the federal
law, and was brought up on polygamy charges, from which he was able to
escape only with the testimony of Hannah and his
daughter Harriet. By this time he was an old man. Harriett testified
that he had not lived with her mother for eleven years. This
information he wrote himself in his journal. He was acquitted.
In old age, he could no longer live with Annie because of the law, so he
begged Hannah to take him back. She said to him,
"You may live in this house, but you shall never share my bed
again." George lived with her a short time, providing his own
Later, he took up bachelor quarters until the end of his days, as he felt
the atmosphere the house was not amiable enough to live
Hannah died November 6, 1892 and George died January 29, 1897. Both are
buried in the City Cemetery in Salt Lake City
Utah. Annie Matthews is buried on his right hand and her parents are
buried to her right. Hannah is buried on his left hand.
Six of George's children by Annie Matthews are buried at their feet. Most
of these children did not reach their 12th birthday,
and many were just babies who died of fevers.
After all these many years, there is little known about the perils that
Hannah faced as a wife in a polygamous union. Judging from
her life previous to that time, I would judge she likely fought against
it, because George unlike her father had only one wife until
they arrived in Utah. However, there are sentiments in the family
which many have chosen not to broach regarding George's
treatment of Hannah. Some in the family have said this was not a
happy life for Hannah, but only one chose to write anything
about it. Below is a treatise by Sarah Johnson who was a grand
daughter of Hannah Maria. Others have said they felt it was
unwise to air the tales, but Sarah was brave enough to say what was on her
In Defense of Hannah Maria
Newberry Morris by Sarah Johnson
After reading very carefully the two autobiographies written by my
great grandfather, George Morris, one in pencil the
other in ink (both are now in the genealogical library of the church), I
wish to make the following comments.
My mother, Hannah Maria
Davis LeCheminant, was the first grandchild of George and Hannah Morris.
Never do I
remember her saying anything derogatory about her progenitors and their
polygamous lives until the last year of her
life. Both her father and
grandfather were polygamists. And
she defended polygamy vigorously. But
while she was
living with me during the winter of 1933-34, her mind went back to some of
the things I’m sure she wanted to forget.
She couldn’t remember things that were happening currently, but
events of by-gone days were very clear to her.
She told me things about her
grandmother Morris that gave me great respect and admiration for her.
reading George Morris’s complaints, I feel that I must tell her side of
the story. My mother said, “My
Morris was an angel.” And
from other things she told me, I think I can understand why Hannah refused
to let her
husband share her bed when he had been forced to leave his plural wife
after having lived with her “exclusively for
Mother said that her
grandfather was always partial to his plural wife.
He showed it in many ways. One
remembered: when he bought
dress material for his two wives, he always bought better and prettier
material for his
plural wife. She recounted an
incident she remembers distinctly: One
day as she was going through the yard to visit
her grandmother, she spied a single, beautiful peach on a little tree.
She wanted to please her grandmother, so she
picked it and took it in to her. When
her grandfather found out what she had done, he was furious.
He was waiting
for that peach to get perfectly ripe for his wife, Anne.
It was the first peach that tree had produced, and it was special.
While reading his
autobiographies, I discovered a few fact that might account for George’s
George Morris couldn’t have known Anne Mathews longer than 2˝
months before he married her because as
recounted in his ink copy P. 127, Anne arrived in
Salt Lake City
Oct. 4, 1863, and he had her sealed to him Dec. 26,
1863. That would have been
their marriage date. Anne was
23 years old, George 47. At
that time Hannah would
have been two months pregnant with George’s 12th child.
It is understandable why his
family would resent this marriage. He
couldn’t adequately care for the family he already
It is apparent that George
Morris did lead an arduous life. He
was a hard worker, and he was resourceful.
He was a
devout Latter-day Saint, true to the faith.
He had many misfortunes. It
would seem that all his life the devil had been
trying to destroy him. Five
times he had a miraculous escape from death.
Twice he nearly drowned in an icy river.
Once he barely escaped death while digging a well, another time
while cleaning a well. Trouble
often hit him. As he
says: “Whenever prosperity has smiled upon me for a season, adversity
has stripped me of all earthly means and
leveled me down again.”
But Hannah Maria Newberry
Morris led an arduous life too. She
bore and raised 12 children under the most adverse
conditions. And "SHE WAS
Comments by Sarah
LeCheminant Johnson, daughter of Hannah Maria Davis LeCheminant, who was a
Lavina Newberry Morris Davis, oldest child of George and Hannah Maria
I too, have read the autobiographical
sources written by George Morris. One thing that struck me was the
fact that he seemed
to be ashamed of Hannah and her family. There was never anything written
of any substance about her or her family. My
guess is that George was somewhat embarrassed about her ethnicity and that
of his in-laws. Why do I say this? Because it
is an interesting aside that there are two halves of the Newberry family
who were separated by 1848 by the rugged Rocky
Mountains. The half who remained in Iowa still thrive there. They
knew and accepted the information regarding the ethnicity
of the Newberry family, while the people in Utah only whispered about
it. Luckily, it was like trying to keep a squirmy, willful
child seated against their will. The truth has won out in the persona of a
proud, gape-grinned child.
However, even today many of the Utah family have tried to suppress
the information, or have conveniently decided to ignore
it - or worse yet - vote it out of existence. Their logic is, if it
can't be documented with census or other records, it isn't true.
My response to this is, there were no records before 1790. The
Native people were struggling to acculturate themselves in
order to survive, so there won't be any record, unless they stayed with a
tribal group. Their tribal groups split off and
intermarried with other tribes and white folks.
It is sad in a day and age where we claim to have the utmost
tolerance toward all people, we must admit many of our
forbearers weren't that enlightened. To protect themselves, many native
people claimed to be white. It is analogous to seeing
a large, vicious dog chasing you. Wouldn't you would run up a tree
and hide in the branches? In essence, this is what our
family did to protect themselves.
Joseph Smith's church began with the express tenet of returning the Book
of Mormon to the Native people. That mission
changed dramatically when Brigham Young took the Saints to the Great
Basin. There WERE native people who were LDS.
They dressed after the fashion of European settlers, but
their native roots began on the Atlantic seaboard, up and down the
continent. Our Newberry family was among those, perhaps not
considered full blood by custom, but Native American all
the same. They became Yankees in the fullest sense of the word, and
Christianized long before Joseph Smith received the
message of angel Moroni. Perhaps it was because of blood, the
attraction was so strong, or perhaps they felt a greater
protection enfolded and enraptured in the theology of the
charismatic Joseph Smith.
George had another cross to bear which he did with more detail regarding
his brother Joseph Morris, who challenged
Brigham Young for the position of leader. It was an unsuccessful
bid, and he paid with this life. For more information
on the Morrisites click