ESTHER (HETTIE) JEREMY
Written by Irene Edwards
Edited by Elease W. King
Mrs. Esther Jeremy Davis, widow of Captain David L. Davis, and daughter
of the late Thomas E. and Sarah Evans Jeremy, was born in the Parrish of Llanybyther, Carmarthen Wales May 12, 1846. Her father, raised on a farm, was a man of learning
and was cultured and refined. He was a
graduate of Carmarthen College in the year 1820 and was educated for the
ministry, being a member of the Baptist
Church. Shortly after his marriage to Sarah Evans, he
heard the principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
expounded by Dan Jones, a traveling Elder of the Church. He believed them to be true and was
baptized. His conversion made him one of
the first converts to “Mormonism” in Wales.
On 26 February 1849, he immigrated to Utah with his family to Utah with his family. They were the first company of Latter-day
Saints from a foreign land, immigrating to Utah for their religion. Dan Jones was closely associated with the
Prophet Joseph Smith. Before his
martyrdom, the Prophet told Brother Jones that that he would return to Wales to preach
the Gospel and that there were many who would accept its principles and be
baptized into the Church. Capt. Jones converted thousands of Welsh people.
Esther Jeremy Davis had a charming personality, was talented and became
well educated, loved and respected by all.
At the age of three, she emigrated to Utah with her
parents. They arrived in New Orleans June 1849 and journeyed up the Missouri River
to Council Bluffs. While on the river, cholera broke out. There were 249 passengers and one-third were stricken with the dread disease. Three of Esther’s sisters died and the boat
would stop each day to bury the dead.
Over 100 had died along the way.
When crossing the plains, they suffered terribly from cold and hunger;
seventy of their cattle died one night from the extreme cold. They arrived in Utah October 29, 1849. The family settled with the Welsh saints in
the old 16th ward. In 1850, they moved into a house on 6th
West between North and South Temple. The house was made of posts in the ground as
supports and the roof and walls were of willows woven like a basket. The house was plastered on the inside and
outside, which made it quite comfortable.
When Johnson’s Army was coming, the people were advised to go south,
which they did, settling in Salem. One of the most vivid memories when Esther
was eleven years old was when she narrowly escaped being kidnapped by the
Indians. She (with other girls) was
gathering sage-brush for fuel, when all of a sudden two Indians came riding up on their horses. The Indians reached down from their horses
and savagely attempted to grab the girls.
Instantly one of the men in the camp close by heard the screams of the
girls and could see what the Indians were trying to do. They came immediately and frightened the
Indians off. She remembers coming back
to Salt Lake
when the army had left for Camp
Floyd. She remembered the little cat she had that
she brought back with her which lived for eleven years.
During these days, they endured many hardships; flour was $30.00 a
sack. Later, Esther’s father was called
on a mission to Wales. The mother had to sell two dinner sets, nine
valuable shawls, and many other articles which she had brought from Wales in order
to buy food and clothing. She proved to
be a good manager and when the father returned home, she had paid off all the
family debts. Esther used to knit
stockings and dye the yarn that her mother had carded to make wool cloth. The family made their own candles and churned
their butter. As a young girl, Esther
carried many pounds of butter and dozens of eggs to the Tithing Office for tithing. She didn’t have any shoes and on her way to
the Tithing Office, she would run barefoot around the foundation of Temple Block
before the adobes were added.
Memories of the plague of grasshoppers were distinct in her mind. She said they came in hordes or clouds
blocking out the sun. They came into the
houses and destroyed clothing. Later,
hordes of grasshoppers flew to the Great Salt Lake
and were drowned. The waves washed the
bodies up on the shore in heaps five feet deep.
The people would drive to the lake and load their wagons taking the heap
of dead grasshoppers home to boil down for grease to make soap.
Esther Jeremy married David L. Davis on Thanksgiving Day 29 November
1866; the ceremony was performed by President Heber C. Kimball. Esther was about 20 years old. After the marriage, they arrived home driven
by Esther’s father in a wagon pulled by oxen.
There, they had a specially prepared dinner to celebrate the joyous
occasion. She remembered well the dried
beef and soup which was served. To have
that much food was a real treat. Esther
was David’s second wife; his first wife, Hannah Jeremy (Esther’s sister) died
soon after delivering their only child who also died.
Esther and David had eleven children:
David J. (Dewey), Thomas, Harry,
Edith, Mabel, John Douris, Walter, Hazel and
They lived in a home on South
Temple between 1st and 2nd West. In 1884, they moved to a larger home at 43
North 1st West which they thought was a mansion. They celebrated their fiftieth wedding
anniversary 29 November 1916, in their new home on Capital Hill, a spacious and
beautiful home for the period.
Esther recalled the explosion of powder
on Arsenal Hill (now Capitol Hill) in the early 1880’s. Two boys were out rabbit hunting when their
shot exploded the powder house. The only
thing which was found of the boys was a shoe with some flesh inside. Windows were broken throughout the city,
particularly large store windows on Main
boy living over on “B” street was killed by falling rock which was thrown over
a mile by the blast.
During the dread epidemic of diphtheria, the Davis’ lost two boys within two days, Harry
age 16, and Walter age 4. The same week
Esther delivered a baby girl. During a
Relief Society Testimony Meeting, Sister Morris who had lost nine children was
there. Sister Zina
Young spoke in tongues; the interpretation was for them not to grieve, for
their beloved children were alright and would be waiting for them.
Esther also recalls going to the Depot to see the first train come to Salt Lake
with all the cheers and excitement. The
bands were playing and flags were flying making a great celebration. Both she and her husband attended the
dedication of the Salt
April 6, 1883. They have done much temple work in this and
the Logan Temple.
They both attended many socials and parties in the old Social Hall and
the first performance in the Salt Lake Theater.
Her husband, David, was a merchant and a High Councilor in the Salt Lake
Stake of Zion. He acted as Home Missionary for the whole Salt lake
Valley Stake. He was for many years, President of and
director of the Cambrian Society and was well-known in business circles. He was known throughout the Intermountain
West as the “Navigator of the Great Salt Lake”
and everywhere was recognized as one of the authorities of the islands in the
lake. He was one of the first LDS to
navigate the Lake and explore the
islands. It was an acknowledged fact
that his knowledge of the lake was greater than any man in Utah.
Many distinguished guests were entertained and enjoyed the hospitality
of their home, including William Abraham, Member of Parliament, James Wignall, also an M.P., Professor Wm Ap Madoc, conductor of the
Eisteddfod given in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1903. The great Welsh music composer, Dr. Joseph
Parry was also a guest and allowed his piece, “Make New Friends, But Keep the
Old” to be sung in the Davis home before it was published.
Esther and David’s son, Dewey, and daughter, Mabel,
filled honorable missions. During
the Spanish-American War, Dewey was wounded in the Philippine Islands and died
from the effects in 1911. Both Esther
and her husband enjoyed a trip with Senator William N. Williams and friends
from Salt Lake City to California.
They drove over the San
Francisco Bay Bridge the day it was opened, which was
then the longest bridge in the world (seven miles long). Their daughter Esther, who married Edwin
Willard Stephens, son of Judge and Mrs. F. Stephens, had a most beautiful
lark-like voice, and was well known in the West including California, where she and her husband
moved. She was very popular in music
circles served in prominent positions in the Church.
After sixty years of married life, Esther’s husband, David L. Davis,
passed away 20 April 1926. They were a
devoted couple and were outstanding in the Church and community, doing much
good. David was a devoted father and
husband and loved his children. The
reader is encouraged to read the condensed version of his journal which among
other things, describes their suffering while caring
for the two precious boys who were dying of diphtheria. Journal
of David L. Davis, by Naomi M. Cottam, available at
the Daughters of The Pioneers Museum.
Esther was known as “The Good Samaritan” in truth and deed. She was a friend of the needy, mother to the
motherless and no deserving person was turned away from her door. Esther Davis witnessed a great change from
the first year they arrived in Salt
Lake City in 1849, through her 90 years. From covered wagon to the aero plane which
she had the privilege of riding in before her death.
She dressed with care and distinction.
She was a bright, vivacious and a woman of courage and endurance. She was alert to the very last of her days. She was Esther Jeremy Davis.