Biography of Phebe Phelps Stonebraker

Phebe Phelps Stonebraker
Pioneer of 1850

Submitted by Terry Morby

Phebe Phelps Stonebraker was born June 27, 1833 in Hamilton Country, Ohio of early American stock. Her parents were John and Mary Leachman Phelps. The year she was born, the Kirkland, Ohio temple was begun.

The Leachman’s were early Virginia settlers and owned two plantations, “Pleasant Grove” and “Locust Grove”. “Pleasant Grove” was still in the family as late as 1918. Phoebe used to say her mother was raised a lady and had servants to serve her. Records of these early settlers from Virginia were destroyed in Civil War days when Richmond, Virginia was burned.

John Phelps parents were Joseph and Phebe Ann Place Phelps. The family was in New England long before the Revolutionary War days.

In 1843, Phebe’s parents, her sister Mary, herself and her youngest brother, Alma, joined The Mormon Church. This family was probably converted by missionaries who had been sent out from Nauvoo to preach the gospel. Phebe knew the Prophet Joseph Smith when a girl of ten years of age. Her mother and the Prophet’s wife Emma were good Friends. At one time Joseph Smith placed his hands on her head and she thrilled from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet. She never doubted the Prophet’s mission and she herself was really prophetic. You could not deceiver her.

The Patriarch Hyrum G. Smith knew her well and often visited with her family. He said, “If ever there was a Prophetess in this Church, Phebe Phelps is one.” Many things she predicted came to pass thought out her lifetime. Years before her death when ever she saw a flocks of birds fly over, she would say some day there would be big birds flown by men thru the air. At that time she had no knowledge of their being such a thing as an airplane.

In the year 1849, the Phelps family was in Winter Quarters, Nebraska. (Now Florence, Nebraska). Gigantic preparations were being made for a large migration to the mountains in the west. Most of the saints were in destitute circumstances. Ezra T. Benson, Aspsa M. Lyman, Erastus Snow, and I. A. Appleby were called to take a mission to the states for the purpose of getting aid. Some money was raised. New comers had to be located and looked after. Many were from England and Eastern Cities. They knew nothing of frontier life and did not have the means to continue on. There were crops to be planted and grown, harvested and the products to be sold to the best advantage. The government agents continued to prod the saints off the Indian Lands. Long trains of covered wagons were making there way west. The saints were trying to gather means oxen, wagons and food for the journey to Valley of the Great Salt Lake. It was here that Phebe and Joseph Stonebraker were married June 16, 1848.

Brigham Young asked Phebe and Joseph to marry and continue on to Utah. He told them if they would, he would promise them they would never want for flour, and no matter how poor they were, they always had flour in the bin.

In the spring of 1850 the Phelps family and Phebe and Joseph joined Captain David Evens’ Company at Winter Quarters and started for Utah. This took three months to reach the Salt Lake Valley. They arrived Sept. 15, 1850. This entire company went to Ogden, as they were asked to do. The Phelps and Stonebraker’s settled near where the Ogden depot now stands. They ran an immigrant supply station while there.

Joseph Stonebraker was a miller by trade and helped establish flour mills in Utah. The Lorin Farr Grist Mill was built in the fall of 1850 at what is now 1251 Canyon Road, Ogden Utah. This was a large stone building. The power was supplied by a flume one mile in length. There were four run of burrs made of stone, with a capacity of 10,000 lbs. of flour per day. We find in the records that Joseph Stonebraker was the first miller to grind flour in this mill. John Phelps Stonebraker, the eldest son of Phebe and Joseph, was born in Ogden August 15, 1851. Mary Jane and a son Joseph were also born in Ogden.

When Johnston’s army came into Utah, Brigham Young asked the Phelps and Stonebraker families to go to Fillmore. At this time Joseph married his second wife, Jerusha Emmaline Lane, in March 1858. Phebe was pregnant with her fourth child. She had a hot temper and when she was angry everyone knew it. Joseph and her must have had hot words over his second marriage, as she drove her own team and wagon to Fillmore by herself with son, John tending Mary Jane and little Joseph on the seat beside her.

On November 21, 1858 she gave birth to a daughter in Fillmore, named Phebe Ellen.

That far south, the people had trouble with the Indians. One evening some braves started a fire near Phoebe’s cabin. She was so angry she picked up a pail of water and some sticks of wood, ran out, poured water on the fire and beat out the flames with the sticks and told those Indians in no uncertain terms to go away and stay away. They were highly amused. The next morning they sent her a blanket and said she was a heep squaw. After this, she had no more trouble with them and they often came to help her.

Joseph and his second wife went south at the same time Phebe did and although she did not approve of polygamy, she honored her marriage vows. Joseph and Phebe had been endowed and sealed in the endowment house in Salt Lake City, October 12, 1855.

In 1861 she was living in Deseret, Millard County, Utah. While there she gave birth to another son, Alma, February 14, 1861.

In 1862 the Stonebraker family decided to go back to Weber valley. When they arrived in Ogden, they found their homesteads resettled. Joseph and Phebe continued up the Weber River and settled in Hoytsville, Summit County. Phebe said, “Joseph, here is a place where the drainage runs to it from both sides, let’s settle here”. They took up 80 acres and the farm proved very fertile. They built two log rooms and a lean-to and made a permant home. When they settled in Hoytsville, they were the parents of five children.

While Joseph was south he became interested in mining. The lure took him away from home a great deal of the time. By this time, Joseph had a claim of his own he was working on. He wanted to stay and work and prove up on this claim, but she wanted to go back to the farm. After Joseph proved up on his claim, he sold it and built Phebe a new two-room log home across the road from the original one. This house was later covered with wooden siding and then painted. She made quite a paradise of the place, planting many trees, roses, hollyhocks, etc. with violets and other small flowers near the house.

In 1864, William James was born, then in 1866, Hester Ann was born, in July 1869 Barbara, and in 1871, Effie was born. These last four children were born in Hoytsville.

Phebe was a wonderful homemaker. She had bright colored rag rugs on her floors and crisp white curtains at the windows. They were probably made of cheesecloth or something similar, beds made up nicely, rockers well dressed with crazy patch cushions and pads, and always a well ironed tablecloth, it were only muslin. On the east wall of her kitchen, above her flour bin, she had a piece of chicken wire and into this she fastened all the pretty cards she ever received. It was a pretty picture to behold. She was an excellent cook. She made a spice currant cake that was something to be proud of.

She was a proud dressy woman and always wore lace at her neck and sleeves of her princess style dresses, this style of dress sited her, as she was short and slightly plump. She had a rather ruddy complexion, dark curly hair, twinkling blue eyes, and was a perfect cut-up. Some of the settlers would call her that “tony” Sister Stonebraker. She was a beautiful woman.

One time when the second wife was with Joseph in Hoytsville, Phebe told him to leave and take Jerusha with him as her house was crowded with growing boys and girls and there was not room for a second wife. This must have turned into a bitter quarrel, as Joseph took his 40 acres of the farm for his share, leaving her 40 acres, and then left. He gave his 40 acres to his son; John and John took this land and kept it. During the following years this couple did not make a permanent home together, but they did visit back and forth as often as possible. We do not know anything about the second wife but presume she lived with Joseph in southern Utah. It was rumored there was a daughter born to Joseph and Jerusha but this has not been proven.

In the spring of 1873 Phebe made a trip to Eureka to see Joseph. Hester Ann was going on seven years of age. Phoebe had just barely gotten there when Hester Ann became very ill, so Phebe did not stay long. She started for home, and when she got to Provo, Hester Ann passed away. She was driving a team of horses hitched to a wagon so she did not have the time or means to bring her home to be buried. She buried her in the Prove City Cemetery on June 17, 1873. It must have been heartbreaking for Phebe to go home and leave her there.

It was due to Phebe’s hospitality and courtesy that the three Sargent brothers and their uncle were inclined to settle in Hoytsville. One of these brothers, William, became the bishop of the ward. She told them the land was good, irrigation easy, and the settlement needed more good settlers. Phebe was always helping other people who were ill or needed assistance of any kind. When epidemics hit the town, she would go and assist. When she came home she would take a bath in the lean-to and change her clothes before going around her family. This way she spared them many illnesses.

After Joseph went south to make his home he became a mail carrier at Mommouth, Juab County, Utah. He died their June 6, 1895. Phebe had his body brought back to Hoytsville and buried in the family plot. After his death, the second wife left Utah and nothing more was learned of her where abouts.

Phebe really enjoyed her later years in life. She had many good friends in Coalville, and often went into the office of George Beard and Alma Eldredge for a chat. Also President Cluff was a dear friend. Bishop Irwin Crittenden and others with him would visit with her, sit in her dressed up rockers around the fire, if cold, and listen to her pioneer stories. She could be very entertaining. Dr. French from Coalville would call to see her on many of his trips up the valley, admiring her pictures, and at the same time finding out how she felt. She would tell him, “I will likely die of a stroke”, and she wanted to die suddenly without being a bother to anyone. She was a very prayerful woman and prayed that she might not be a trouble to anyone. She was eighty-five years old when she died February 16, 1918, just the way she wanted. Dr. French was with her and said, “Grandma’s prayers are answered”. She only lingered two days, unconscious all the time.

She was buried by her husband Joseph in the family plot in the Hoytsville, Summit County, Utah cemetery.

(Written by youngest granddaughter Clairane Gunn Fawcett. Part of this information comes from oldest Granddaughter, Lovisa Stonebraker Calderwood who passed away August 1, 1964)

Phebe’s parents, John and Mary Leachman Phelps, and Son Alma left Utah and moved to California. (We have no record of the year). They settled in the San Francisco Bay area. There is very little information about them, only that their son was 18 years old at the time they left Utah. After they got settled in California he fell in love. His mother opposed the marriage, so he and his sweetheart left California and went up the coast to the state of Washington. They were married and made a home if Garfield, Washington. He owned a large dry farm and some of his family live there. Mary Leachman Phelps died August 15, 1873 at Bodega, California, and was buried at Spring Hill, California. John Phelps came back to St. George, Utah, and the temple records show that William was sealed to his wife’s mother, Kexiah Shaw on May 1, 1879. She died in 1846 in Connecticut.

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