Mary Ann Rich (Phelps) (1829 - 1912)

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Birthplace: Groveland, IL, USA
Death: Died in Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho, USA
Managed by: Duane Michael Scott JOHNSON
Last Updated:

About Mary Ann Rich (Phelps)

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868 Charles C. Rich Company (1847) Age 17

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Mary Ann Phelps Rich, wife of Apostle Charles C. Rich, was born Aug. 6, 1829, near Peoria, Tazewell county Illinois, the daughter of Morris Phelps and Laura Clark. Her parents became converts to "Mormonism" in 1831 and moved to Jackson county, Missouri, where they secured an inheritance.

They were expelled, with the rest of the Saints, from Jackson county in 1833 and were living in Clay county, Missouri, in 1834 when Zion's Camp arrived. On that occasion the Prophet Joseph preached in her father's house. The Prophet placed the little girl on his knee and blessed her, an incident which she cherished in her memory.

In 1836 the family moved to Caldwell county, Missouri, where they became subject to the continued persecutions of the Saints which followed. In the fall of 1838 her father, together with Parley P. Pratt and others, was arrested and thrown into prison in Richmond, Clay county. Every two weeks the mother visited her husband in prison, taking him provisions as the prisoners were not provided with food fit to eat.

In the spring of 1839 the Phelps family was forced to leave their home in Missouri with the rest of the Saints who fled to Quincy, Illinois. On this journey Mary's mother drove her own team. After a short sojourn in Quincy, Sister Phelps returned to Missouri for the purpose of assisting in the liberation of her husband, who, in the meantime, had been moved from Richmond to Columbia. Sister Phelps took a most heroic part in bringing about the escape of her husband, and the other prisoners, which event took place from the Columbia jail on Independence day, 1839. The story of this liberation forms one of the most interesting chapters of Church history.

When Mary was about twelve years old her noble mother died, leaving five children, the youngest a babe, eighteen months old. Later, when her father married again, Mary went to live with some of her mother's relatives in Iowa where she worked at wool spinning. She was fifteen years old when the Prophet Joseph was martyred and she saw and heard him deliver his last address to the Nauvoo Legion.

In her diary Sister Rich says, "When the Prophet Joseph found he had to go to Carthage he wanted a man by the name of Rosecrantz, who was well acquainted with the governor, to go with him. He sent a messenger asking me if I would go and stay with Mrs. Rosecrantz, while her husband accompanied the Prophet to Carthage. On their way they called at the gate, with their company, and the Prophet Joseph asked me if I would bring them out a drink of water. This I cheerfully did and the Prophet said to me, 'The Lord bless you, you shall have a disciple's reward.' This was the last time I ever saw him alive." Mary was present at the time the remains of the martyred Prophet and his brother were brought to Nauvoo and with her father went to the Mansion House and viewed the remains.

On January 6, 1845, after considerable deliberation, Sister Mary embraced the principal of celestial marriage, being sealed to Charles C. Rich as his third wife, with the full consent of his first wife, and lived at Nauvoo, in the hope of soon moving to the Rocky Mountains, where they could enjoy the rights and liberties of their religion. During the winter of 1845-46, the Temple having been completed, Sister Rich, in common with her husband and his family, received her endowments in the Nauvoo Temple. So anxious were the people for this privilege that Temple ordinances were given night and day, except on Saturday and Sunday.

On Feb. 12, 1846, Sister Rich left Nauvoo for the journey across the plains. She stayed a week with her uncle Ezra T. Clark, who lived seven miles from Montrose, Iowa, after which she was joined by her husband and his family and then started on their journey westward. Arriving at Mount Pisgah, Iowa, the company halted for one month, when it was decided to leave a portion of the main company at this place, and Bro. Rich was appointed to act as a counselor to Bro. Wm. Huntington who had been appointed to preside over the Saints at Mount Pisgah. Soon afterwards Bro. Huntington died, and the responsibility of caring for the settlement fell upon Bro. Rich.

Sister Mary spent the winter of 1846-1847 at Mount Pisgah,enduring many hardships, the Saints suffering very much from chills and fever which caused the death of about seventy persons during that winter. In March, 1847, most of the Saints at Mount Pisgah moved to Winter Quarters, where the main body of the Church was located, and in the following June (1847) Bro. Rich and his family left the Missouri river to continue their journey westward, Bro. Rich being in charge of the company.

It was a rule among the Saints, that if any one hired a man or boy to help them cross the plains, they should keep this hired help until after harvest the following year, so that no one would be homeless or hungry after reaching the Valley. In order to save this expense Sister Mary and another of her husband's wives (Emmeline) volunteered to drive an ox team each on the journey. This was hard work, but instead of murmuring they frequently made the air resound with their songs of joy, for they were going to the Rocky Mountains where they would be free to live their religion and be acknowledged as wives.

Sister Rich relates that she had never enjoyed good health until she started on that journey; she felt so well during this hard trip that it seemed a pleasure for her to do anything in her power to help her husband and the rest of the company. When they reached the South Pass, they were met by President Brigham Young and a "company of pioneers returning to Winter Quarters. President Young reported that a Stake of Zion had been established in the Great Salt Lake Valley and informed Bro. Rich that he had been appointed first counselor to John Smith, the president of the Stake.

President Young spent one day with the company and his words so encouraged the weary travelers that they continued their journey with increased joy, although the roads were terrible, the mountains steep, the teams weak and the weather cold. The company arrived in the Valley Oct. 1, 1847. Sister Mary relates that when they arrived at the camp of the Saints in Great Salt Lake City her skirts only reached to her knees, for in driving her ox team over difficult parts of the road her clothing had caught in the brush many times, and parts of it had been torn away.

Bro. Rich and his family immediately upon their arrival tried to make a comfortable place for Nancy Rich (mother of Charles C. Rich), who had been seriously ill on the journey and who died Oct. 5, 1847, she being the first Latter-day Saint to die in Salt Lake City. Sister Mary writes, "During that winter (1847-1848) we had a hard time, as provisions were scarce, and there was a big family of us, my husband having six wives and six children, but we were all willing to help him. We had to live on rations, or we would not have had bread stuff to last us till harvest; but the winter was mild and in the spring we dug segoes and cooked greens, which helped us in our privations.

In 1851 Bro. Rich was called to assist in making a settlement for the Saints in southern California, where converts from the Southern States and the Sandwich Islands might make their homes. Sister Mary accompanied him on this mission and thus became one of the first settlers of San Bernardino, where she resided about six years and then returned to Salt Lake City in June, 1857.

After that she lived at Centerville, Davis county, and the following spring (1858), with the rest of the Saints from Salt Lake City and the northern settlements in Utah, participated in the move south and located in Provo. In due time, however, on the return of the Saints to their homes, she moved back to Centerville.

In 1864 Bro. Rich having been called to direct the making of settlements for the Saints in Bear Lake Valley, Idaho, Sister Rich moved with him to Paris, where she made her home. Here she experienced many hardships and found the cold very trying, especially after having lived in the mild climate of California. In fact the winter of 1864-1865 was so severe that some of the settlers held a meeting wherein they requested Bro. Rich to release them from their obligations and allow them to establish themselves in a warmer climate.

Bro. Rich, however, told them he had no right to hold them there, as for himself and his family, they would remain, since he had been sent to colonize the country and proposed to do so. Bro. Rich's motto was always "Church work before private work." So Sister Rich lived and raised her family in Bear Lake Valley, enduring all the hardships incident to the early settlement of the country. Her husband died Nov. 17, 1883, but she was left in comfortable circumstances and used her efforts and means to educate her children.

Her declining years were peaceful and happy. She was the mother of ten children, four of whom died in childhood. The names of the others are as follows: Mary Ann, William L., Minerva, Amasa, Ezra and Edward. Sister Rich died April 17, 1912, at the age of 82 and was buried in the family burial place at Paris. She lived a life of usefulness and was honored by those who knew her. She was familiarly known by all as "Aunt Mary."

Birth: Aug. 6, 1829

Death: Apr. 17, 1912

Wife of Apostle Charles C. Rich


Family links:

Spouse:
  • Charles Coulson Rich (1809 - 1883)
Children:
  • William Lyman Rich (1852 - 1928)*
  • Amasa Mason Rich (1856 - 1919)*
  • Edward Israel Rich (1868 - 1969)*

Burial: Paris Cemetery Paris Bear Lake County Idaho, USA

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Mary Ann Rich's Timeline

1829
August 6, 1829
Groveland, IL, USA
1845
January 6, 1845
Age 15
Nauvoo,Hancock,IL
1848
September 25, 1848
Age 19
Salt Lake City,Salt Lake,UT
1850
May 15, 1850
Age 20
Salt Lake City,Salt Lake,UT
1852
August 9, 1852
Age 23
San Bernardino,San Bernardino,CA
1854
August 1, 1854
Age 24
San Bernardino,San Bernardino,CA
August 7, 1854
Age 25
San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, United States
1856
October 25, 1856
Age 27
San Bernardino,San Bernardino,CA
1859
April 21, 1859
Age 29
Centerville,Davis,UT
1864
August 18, 1864
Age 35
Paris,Bear Lake,ID