True Pioneer Stories at Fort Harmony

A shard found at Fort Harmony.
Could this be a piece of this story?


Findings on the
Blue Willow Plates


A Pioneer Calamity

The most cherished possessions of an old country gentlemen transplanted by his religion from Wales, to a crude, rough-hewn home in an unconquered desert was a bit of fine china. It might be a few thin plates or a dainty cup and saucer from which to sip tea.

About all the dishes in Old Fort Harmony were the brown, thick, clumsy products of our own pioneer potters, or they were plates of tin and cups that were tin cans on which handles had been soldered by the local handyman (not true - we have found several shards of very nice china.).

When Aunt Betsy Williams left the Old County, she brought, as a parting gift from relatives she would never see again, a set of fine English decorated China. They were her most prized possession and whatever else had to be sacrificed to the emergencies of the long journey to Zion, she would never consent for her dishes to be sold or be left by the wayside. They crossed the ocean in steerage, they crossed the plains in an ox train, and reaching the valley at length in safety, they graced her fist log home in Cottonwood Canyon where her husband found work on a saw mill.

A tragic death took her companion away. He fell into the saw and was almost cut asunder. A hurt Betsy gathered up her few possessions among which were her cherished dishes and her four small children, came as a widow, to live among relatives in Old Fort Harmony. Here her dishes gave to her humble cottage an air of aristocratic distinction, for hers was the finest tableware in the entire settlement.

One day word came to the Fort that Brother Brigham” and his party were coming and would spend a day with them. On such rare occasions the Bishop’s tinware was exchanged for Aunt Betsy’s fine China in order that the visiting authorities might be served with befitting dignity. Today, the Bishop’s wife had come for the dishes and the two women had washed and polished them and they were stacked on the table ready to be carried away. The widow’s oldest child Rees, a boy of 10, was playing marbles on the floor.

Aunt Betsy said, “Rees, my boy, you play over on the side of the room. You get in the way when you come around the table.”

Sister Lee, “It was good of you, Aunt Betsy, to let us use your lovely dishes. I am so thankful when the President comes to visit us that we do not have to serve him with our horrible looking things. It would be so embarrassing to give Brother Brigham one of our old yellow crock plates and a salmon can to drink out of. You don’t know how much I appreciate your kindness.”

Aunt Betsy, “Oh well, Sister Lee, you know Brother Brigham and the brethren belong to all of us, and we must all see that their visit is pleasant. I am thankful that I have something that can be used on such occasions. You do have plenty of good foods to serve them with. It would be terrible if they had to come and eat the vitals I could give them.”

Sister Lee: “Oh, your foods will be all right. Anything would taste good off such lovely dishes.”

Aunt Betsy, “You are welcome to use the dishes, but I do want you to be very careful with them. Don’t let the children wash them or handle them. Put them in the basket right off the table and bring them back dirty for I would rather wash them myself. You know I brought them from the Old Country and they mean so much to me. I think it would break my heart if anything happened to them.

(Aside) “Rees, I tell you to stay away from the table.”

Sister Lee, “No, Aunt Betsy, I won’t bring them home dirty, but I promise to wash them myself, and I will be very careful about it too.”

Aunt Betsy, “It is not only that they are lovely dishes, but they are all the dishes we have. What would I do if they were broken? However, could we live without dishes of some sort. Even the Indians have to.” (Here Rees bumps into the table leg and the dishes crashed..)

Picture Aunt Betsy grabbing at them and screaming. She seizes Rees and spanks him–kisses him–spanks again. My son, my son, what can we do? What can we do? How can we eat? There is not a dish or cup left to drink out of. Shakes him–there is not a dish to be bought this side of Salt Lake City, and we haven’t got a cent of money if we were there, etc., etc. (There is plenty of emotions dn hysteria)

Sister Lee (Arms around Aunt Betsy trying to comfort her.) “Dear Aunt Betsy, don’t cry too much about it. We will share our dishes with you. This is a terrible tragedy to you, and it is a great calamity to the entire Fort. However, can we entertain the authority when they come???

This story submitted by Lyman & Karen Platt

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