Catherine Delphina "Della" Fish Smith

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Catherine Delphina Smith (Fish)

Also Known As: "Della"
Birthplace: Parowan, Iron, Utah, USA
Death: Died in Snowflake, Navajo, Arizona, USA
Cause of death: Myocarditus and general physical debilities
Place of Burial: Snowflake, Navajo, Arizona, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Joseph Fish and Mary Campbell Fish
Wife of Joseph West Smith
Mother of Mary Monson; Joseph Fish Smith; Albert Snow Smith; Lazelle Aikens Smith; Henry Aikens Smith and 3 others
Sister of Mary Josephine Fish; Frances Amelia Carson; Joseph Campbell Fish; John Lazelle Fish and Jessie May Fish
Half sister of Franklin Richards Fish; Eliza Fish; Roland Woodruff Fish; Wilford Preston Fish; Florence Fish and 9 others

Occupation: Teacher; and she was the stake Poet Laureat. Della married Joseph West Smith 10/29/1886 St. George, Utah. They had 8 children.
Managed by: Della Dale Smith-Pistelli
Last Updated:

About Catherine Delphina "Della" Fish Smith

Della Fish was perhaps the first beekeeper in Arizona, and was once attacked by a swarm and never fully recovered. Della was born in Parowan, Iron County, Utah, on June 29, 1864, the daughter of Joseph Fish and Mary Campbell Fish. She married Joseph West Smith as his plural wife, and they had eight children. She passed away just a few days before her 70th birthday on June 17, 1934, in Snowflake, Navajo County, Arizona, and was buried in the R V Mike Ramsay Memorial Cemetery, Snowflake, Navajo County, Arizona. The following information is from Find A



Joseph Fish 1840 - 1926


Mary Campbell Steele Fish 1840 - 1874



Joseph West Smith 1859 - 1944



Mary Smith Monson 1888 - 1983


LaZelle Aikens Smith 1895 - 1970


Agnes Smith Knapp 1907 - 1985

Created by: Bob Rohwedder

Record added: May 19, 2007

Find A Grave Memorial# 19438427


Thanks to Donald Woolley for posting the following information under the Media Tab above as photographs of typewritten journal pages written by Della Fish Smith. I typed it and copied and pasted it here so it would be easier to read. Della Fish Smith was the wife of my first cousin thrice removed, Joseph West Smith. My name is Della Dale Smith-Pistelli.


Della Fish Smith Journal

(The remembrances here recorded are extracted from a journal she began during the latter years of her life.)

"I am only writing a few notes. Joseph W., my husband, has a fine journal, and my children can refer to that. Here are the names of grandparents on my side:

My father, Joseph Fish, was the son of Horace and Hannah Leavitt Fish. He was born June 27, 1840, at Twelve Mile Grove, Joliette, Illinois. My mother, Mary Campbelle Steele, was born in Belfast, Ireland, May 23, 1840. They were married December 12, at Parowan, Iron County, Utah.

My husband’s father, Jesse Nathaniel Smith, was born in Stockholm, St. Lawrence County, New York, December 2, 1834. His mother, Margaret Fletcher West, was born at Benton County, Tennessee, May 22, 1838. They were married at Parowan, Utah, January 22, 1856.

When I was a little girl, I thought my home was the center of the universe. My earliest recollections are of a part of our home where our books were kept, and I was longing for some time when I could read them. My father rented the largest room of our house to be used as a cooperative store. It was called the Parowan Co-op. He was the clerk. After a while he built a frame house near the eastern part of town. Our new edifice was painted white and I thought very beautiful—had a porch on the west and two rooms upstairs. The neighbor’s colored brick buildings seemed rather inferior to me. I had a bedroom in the upper story with my sisters, Josie and Frances, and was quite indignant because they made me sleep alone. When we were moving the furniture, I felt like a grown person when carrying the tea kettle, wash basin, etc., and placing them in the new home. I have forgotten my measure, but it must have made me feel many feet larger than I had ever been before when we were well and comfortably located in our new home.

I used sometimes to go to play an hour with my cousin Julia McGregor. Aunt Sarah always told me when the hour was up long before I was ready to go. Julia was very pretty and it seemed rather unfair because I was not but what seemed worse still that she had such a loving disposition that was so far from me.

Josie and Frances thought me somewhat unruly at times, and once when I was misbehaving, they locked me up in the stairway. In an instant I flew up the stairs. It happened there was a ladder at one of the windows which was open. I went down the steps and flew into the kitchen like a whirlwind. The folks were amazed, thinking for a moment that it was an apparition, as they thought me so secure on the stairs. Needless to say, I was locked up again and the ladder taken down. To take revenge I took what I supposed were their love letters and mixed them all up together because I could not read them.

Josie and Frances were such good companions that they did not need me to play with them very much so I generally played with my brothers, Joseph and John, which perhaps accounted for me being such a tomboy. I would very often run races with our neighbor children and could climb as high as the best of them. Thought myself the most fortunate child in town when, after much teasing my parents allowed me to attend school. My first reader was kept as a sacred treasure for many years.

My mother suffered a long illness with heart trouble. While at times she could not do much for me, she frequently let me put my book on her lap and helped me puzzle out the words. She died when I was nine years old. I remember hearing my father’s step on the stairs as he came to the bedside saying, “Girls, your poor mother is no longer.” We wept bitterly and surrounded the bedside in a few moments. Aunt Eliza put her arms around us and said, “I will be a mother to you.” She has fulfilled her promise to the letter for no own mother could care for us more tenderly than she has done….she cared very tenderly for my mother during her illness.

When the funeral services were over it seemed like life was begun over again, house cleaning, friends calling, sorting clothes, etc., etc. The intense sorrow was partly forgotten but long years can always tell what a lonely feeling it is to see a mother laid away in the earth.

I attended the district school—there was no other—and usually won first place in spelling matches. The school room was simply the church house. There were not desks but benches were arranged around a long table. We had slates and pencils to use for writing. The boys always kept their knives sharp enough to sharpen pencils for me. Orice Slack especially was on the lookout for mine. All the secrets were passed around our crowd greatly to the embarrassment of the child who was the culprit. When a boy sent a note that did not suit me, I’d pretend I could not read it (a little liar, eh!)

My most intimate girl friends were Sarah Mitchell and my cousin, Julia McGregor. Sarah’s mother died soon after mine did. Julia could sing—so could Sarah—which made them wonders in my estimation.

At school there was a girl near my age named Della Mortensen. Her father took a leading part among the musicians. Of course, she inherited some of his ability. Here were three girls all able to sing while I could not which made it rather lonely for me and had it not been for the fact that my school work kept alongside theirs, I would have felt like a cast-off when they went to music practice.

At one time Mrs. Watson’s mother, Sarah Clark, hired me to work for them. Mrs. C. was able to do sewing for me to pay. They were well and fashionable made, my dresses were, and made some of the girls become envious.

Of our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Newman, I do not much remember except Mr. Newman had an ear burned off, and he was a curiosity to all the children. One of his girls, Leithe, I think her name was, used to come often to play with us. As she grew older she went to Pioche to work. After her return she thought herself quite an accomplished young lady. One day she told us how she learned to wear corsets and was gallant enough to show us how tightly they could be laced. She would tie the strings to the bedpost and pull with vim until her waist would look much smaller.

Grandma was a very cultured and dignified woman and tried hard to make me walk the straight and narrow path. Grandpa did lots of outdoor work yet found time to teach me many things about astronomy. Sometimes of an evening he would take me out and with his astronomical instruments, teach me many lessons about the heavens which were so interesting to him. Am sure with out his teaching I could not have been so interested about stars as I was when I took moonlight strolls with young men.

My father held the position of sawyer in a steam saw mill in the canyon and Aunt Eliza went to cook for the men. I was taken along, do not know what for unless it was to see how much gun I could pick and tell the folks about the tall trees I had climbed. Then I used to watch my father and think him the most wonderful man in the world because he could wield a saw. Then he always found time to read good books after reading the newspapers. Of course when the snow fell the mill was closed and we would go back to town.

As I look back now I very much regret that my delight was less in the home work and not so much in the forest. However, it was a happy summer, never guessed there was anything more beautiful in the whole world than the flowers and trees around us. I tried to describe it to my friend, Sadie Smith, when I got back, but my vocabulary was insufficient for the task. She was one of the sweetest girls I ever knew, and a friendship grew up between us that lapse of time could not efface.

I never saw Father too poor to send his children to school. He was a teacher himself, sometimes. In those days everyone paid h is own tuition. People paid for their children as best they could. Some found enough cash and some would give a load of wood, a sack of grain, or vegetables, etc. Father often kept booking classes of a winter evening for people who had no time to attend district school.

While we all thought Aunt Eliza was the very best of step mothers, Father wanted another wife and so married Adelaide Smith, or more properly speaking, he wanted to live the law of Celestial marriage.

When he decided to move to Arizona he took her and one son, Horace, my brothers, Joseph and John, and in connection with Jesse N. Smith, John R. Hulet, and others with their families moved to Arizona. A Small settlement had been started by Bro. William J. Flake in Snowflake. Father put up a long cabin and started a small farm as did all the men who came with him.

Aunt Eliza remained with her mother’s folks, and the old home was sold. My eldest sister was married to John Barraclough of Beaver and the next sister, Frances, to Sam Carson of Parowan, at that time. Of course Jessie remained with Aunt Eliza, but I spent the most of the time with Aunt Elizabeth in Kanarra and in Toquer with Grandma.

In about a year Father came for us. He had a big lumber wagon, and we filled it. There was food, bedding, furniture, etc. I do not know wherever we put it. Of course, we had a double wagon filled to the very brim. After we had been on the way for a day or so we were joined by a man and his wife who were going the same way as we were. The journey was a quiet one and it took us four weeks to arrive in Snowflake though we had had no trouble on the way.

It seemed very strange to leave a large frame house and come to a log cabin of two rooms already occupied by Aunt Adelaide. Joseph and John had a large wheat bin which they used for a bedroom; so we go along after a fashion. Joseph and John were so happy to see us they hardly knew how to act.

Aunt Janet had a home not far from ours, and the next evening I called on her. That evening I will always remember, the Hunt girls, May Annie, and Belle called to see me. Not find me at home they came on up to Aunt Janet’s. It seems I had been so lonely and out of place I hardly knew how to act, and to have entire strangers call because they thought I would feel strange made a very deep impression on my memory. Years have passed, yet they have grown better and dearer to me.

Things moved along rather slowly, but poverty makes every one move that way, does it now? Anyway, we had a religion that gave us comfort and now was the time to live it. I was often with Sadie Smith when we were in Parowan, but she was living nearer to me here. I became acquainted with all the young folks and went to dances like I was paid for it.

In the fall I went with Brother Amos Rogers and his mother to Parowan. There were others in the company. It took us a month to go in a big lumber wagon with horses. On the whole, the trip was pleasant but uneventful. However, when one has traveled that way a while, a rest is splendid.

I had been gone only a year so was hardly prepared to get such a hearty welcome as I did from Frances. All our folks were nice to me, but Aunt Annie Burton could do the most next to Fran. She was a frail little woman but could confer more favors on people than many strong people can. Auntie Barton displayed the same old-time thoughtfulness and invited me to good dinners frequently.

I used often to go to Aunt Eliza’s mother’s home. She married another man, Brother Mortensen, after Brother Lewis died, and they lived on a farm one mile and a half from town. I got so I could walk it and not half try. Sister M. made me thing I could use a sewing machine, and she wanted me to keep in practice. She always paid me, and I enjoyed the visit so it was all very pleasant. After a time I went to Beaver where my sister Josie lived. She was having bad health after losing a sweet little boy baby.

Aunt Julie Thompson befriended me, as she did all her relatives, and cared for me very tenderly all the time. She paid my tuition to the Methodist school, said she would not do it for a Mormon school. I was delighted to get anything in the book line so went to work. Josie helped me to get some books, and I went to work harder than I had ever done before. The teacher of the Primary department was called away at Christmas time, and I was chosen in her stead. We had short hours, from eleven until twelve A.M. and from three to four P.M. Then I had classes in the high department. It was a very happy winter but was extremely cold. The snow fell deep. Skating and sleighing were in order generally.

Of course I lived with the Barraclough's. Joie was not strong, but I tried not to be a burden to her. I got an early breakfast so I could wash the dishes and sweep. We had no outside chores to do.

Of a surety the school was the most wonderful thing of the hour. My wages were small, but it meant cash each month, and I felt grateful to my friends for all they did for me.

When Uncle Mahonri learned that I was teaching with a Methodist in a Methodist church house, he thought it time for me to be somewhere else; so when he came to Beaver on business he invited me to go home with him to Panguitch—thought I would be better off among the Mormons. School was out, and as he had always been very tender of me, I gladly accepted his invitation. He had a good carriage, and the horses were not slow. The journey was a pleasant one.

Uncle had two wives. They each had comfortable homes. Aunt Emily’s children were all boys and Aunt Ellen’s were all girls. I lived with Aunt Emily, and if I had been her own daughter, she could not have been kinder to me. And the boys—well, they thought girls should be treated like fairies and proceeded to spoil me.

Uncle Mahonri was first counselor to Jesse Crosby of the stake, and I became acquainted with many of the leading families. I think ti must have been through Uncle’s influence that I was asked to teach a summer school. Be sure I gladly accepted the position and only regret that I was not better qualified.

Aunt Emily was a very frail woman, had to be in bed some during the day. She used often to tell me lessons of our gospel and counsel me in the way a young girl should live.

In the fall a man came to ask if I could teach school during the winter. He was the Bishop of Upper Kanab and lived a few miles from a town. It was so far from a school that his children could not walk it very well in the winter as the snow generally fell quite heavily. He had a wagon to take me in, and if I would go, he would give me twenty dollars a month for three months. He said he would take me to his home, give me board and lodgings, and take me back to Panguitch when school was finished. After counseling with Uncle and Aunt, I accepted the position. Robert E. Robinson was the man’s name. Brother R. had two wives and twelve children, that is, twelve school children and a few married ones. The house was a large one, plenty for two families, a school room and a long porch.

The firs wife’s children consisted of both boys and girls, the other all boys. I lived with the first wife and found her to be a most lovable woman of the Latter-day Saint type. Well, the other wife was, too, for that matter, but I did not live with her so much.

I began work at once. The winter was a cold one, but the boys kept plenty of good wood so we got along very well. The students were of the very best type and studied diligently. They were respectful to me and their mothers—seemed to view with each other in treating me kindly.

During the holidays the parents and young people from neighboring places seemed to view with each other in trying to make everybody happy. Candy-pullings, parched corn parties, sleigh rides, dances, etc., were in order. I enjoyed them all, especially the latter.

Altogether the winter was a very happy one. My only regret was because I could have been a better teacher however, I did my best.

The Robinson family was a most excellent one taking all in all. Years have passed, but I have never seen one of them since I bid adieu to them up there excepting as Brother Robinson took me to my station.

My father wrote me in the spring that Brother and Sister John Hunt of Snowflake were in Utah and would bring me home with them in their wagon if I would meet them at Johnson on their way home to Snowflake. Brother Robinson was as willing to take me there as to Panguitch, and so I said adieu to the family I had learned to esteem so highly.

According to appointment, we were met by Bishop Hunt who transferred my luggage to his wagon, but just now I cannot see how he got it all in. Besides himself and Sr. Hunt there was a young woman whom he introduced as his wife but I might call her Sarah. She was the daughter of Brother Crosby of Kanab.

The trip seemed delightful. The team was fine and well mated. The driver knew exactly how to feed, curry and drive it. I think it took two weeks for us to reach Snowflake. After having been gone two weeks for more than two years, it seemed good to be back again. My brothers, Joseph, John and Horace, had all grown so much, and Jessie was vying with them though she was very frail. The house had been enlarged. A nice lumber floor had been put in the kitchen. There had been only the ground before—and the welcome the folks gave me made me thing that Arizona was not a bad place after all.

The Smith, Hunt, and Flake families especially helped to make things happier for me. Belle Hunt and Sadie Smith soon became my dearest and most confidential friends. As I look back on those days, it seems like all of the young folks were of the most trustworthy character.

We used to go horseback riding, the boy and his girl on one pony. There were no carriages in town, but a wagon would hold more people; so, of course, it was filled to the utmost. A few times a hay rack was used.

That summer, Brother William J. Flake asked me to teach school for $20.00 a month. He said that he had $60.00 that was to be used for such a purpose. Of course, it needed no urging, and I began at once. My pay came promptly, and I have always been grateful to him for helping me get a start.

Jesse N. Smith, Jr. had been the teacher and was to teach again during the coming season. There was one large school house with two apartments. Jesse would teach in one, and I was asked to occupy the other with the smaller children. My sessions were not as long as his, and he was kind enough to let me take some of his classes.

At that time we were in Apache County, and whoever taught school was required to go to St. Johns for examination unless he had a diploma. Not having one, I went to try my fate. Something happened that the man in charge could not get there so was given a diploma, a temporary which lasted for three months. Teaching was my chief occupation generally, but in the summer when there was none, I helped more with the housework. Aunt Eliza thought I was a good dressmaker, and so she kept me at the machine a great deal.

My father always had lots of books and papers in the home, and we all used them considerably. My bother Joseph liked to read better than he liked to go to a dance. I liked both.

Father was a stake secretary. It is said that he made a splendid success of it. He also kept a journal which he allowed us to read when we cared to. He was a gifted man in letters and had taught school some when h e was younger.

My sister Jessie was a frail little girl, but Aunt Eliza cared for her so tenderly that she kept along fairly well. Joseph and John very early learned to do farm work. As I look back, it seems like they never did anything really bad. At any rate they grew to be good men. They thought themselves quite important when they were large enough to escort me to parties, and I felt honored with having them for escorts. Aunt Adeliade’s sons (all she had) Horace, Silas, and Joseph S., were not very large when I was at home, but they were very gallant to us.

My father had a small organ which none of us could play; so he loaned it to Mrs. H. Bigler. She could play but had no instrument to use her fingers on. She was living with Brother and Sister Minnerly. She offered to give me lessons if I would let her have the organ at Sr. Minnerly’s. Of course, the lessons began at once. She must have been a good teacher, for when she went away, I was asked to play for the choir and later appointed organist for the stake.

The Hunt girls were the chief singers of the town, and they often gave me a suggestion which helped me along. I liked so much to dance that it was unpleasant when asked to play for dances. At last I agreed to play half the time and dance the other half. I was always paid for it.

Joseph W. Smith asked to see me home one evening when we had been out somewhere on an errand, and on the way home he asked me what accomplishments in my estimation it would take for a husband. It nearly took my breath away when he asked if he could be mine. However, I decided to think seriously on the subject and give him an answer later. I kept on thinking for three months. In the meantime I kept going out with different young men to see if I should find any that would suit me better.

Not finding one, I decided to say “yes” after counseling with my parents. I had always thought that the man I married must be a thorough Latter-day Saint. Joseph said that he had always tried to be one and if I thought him worthy we would be married. He had been married to Nellie Marsden in Parowan seven years before and had four children. The eldest one a boy had died in infancy. Father and Aunt Eliza were quite willing to the match, and so we began making preparations for our wedding in the fall. We had been taught the law of Celestial marriage from our childhood. Both our parents had practiced it, and our church still called it a part of our religion. To be sure there was a great sentiment against it in Utah, but we deemed it unjust and unworthy of loyal citizens. However, we did not go around telling people of it.

I had been a busy worker in the ward for years. I was chosen to be the stake secretary for the Relief Society. The president, Emma S. Smith, always wanted me to go with her on her tours around the stake which afforded me an opportunity of learning many of the very best people and helped me with an ability of knowledge which I could otherwise not have acquired.

Then I became first counselor to Phoebe Kartchner in the Young Ladies of the ward. I learned to love her very dearly as well as the others in the association. I was kept busy in the Primary as well.

In childhood I aspired to be a writer. This has been only partially realized, partly on account of having the proper training and largely on account of having the ability. However, what a little gift I did have was appreciated and used to the fullest by my home people. It seemed I was asked to write something for nearly every occasion. That accounts, largely, for the poor quality produced, for I did not get time to think thoughtfully as I should, just rushed on from one page to the next.

(The remainder of the journal is concerned with small day-to-day happenings.)"

The following is also from Donald Woolley:

Della Fish Smith, who was honored as Poet Laureate of the Snowflake Stake at a special meeting in July 1928, did not appear to a passer-by as one who lived where her utilities consisted of a woodpile, a deep well, a kerosene lamp and a wood stove. Surely a more fitting environment for one who possessed such great literary and musical talents, yet was handicapped with a delicate, almost fragile body, would have been a life of physical comforts.

But such was not her lot in life. Besides bearing and raising eight children with the usual pioneer chores of heating water drawn from the well, scrubbing clothes by hand, sewing all the family clothing, gardening and canning, she taught school for seventeen years. She had an alert mind, was an avid reader and was well informed in the use of the English language.

In spite of her busy life she was most generous in sharing her talents. Nettie Hunt Rencher wrote: "We had lived in Snowflake quite a while when Joseph Fish and his family came (1884). This was a real addition to the town for his daughter, Della, was a school teacher and could play the organ. She owned an organ which they brought with them. She was the first organist in the ward, the first piano teacher, and many of our best musicians had their beginnings with Aunt Della."

Her son, Lazelle, wrote: "During the lean years which were rich in growth of character and service but limited in material resources, Mother became a beloved figure in Snowflake and the surrounding community where, despite the enormous demands made upon her time and stamina by a large family and limited means, She was constantly sought after because of her literary talents."

Indeed there was seldom a family birthday party, school graduation, funeral or a major town celebration without a request for Aunt Della to write a special poem or play to fit the occasion. All relied on her willingness to share her talents even though it often meant that she neglect her own chores to meet a deadline. Many of her family members, friends and former students continued to ask for her help in her later years.

Service was the key word of Aunt Della's life. Her great influence for good as a teacher is evident in the following quote from her obituary in the Snowflake Herald: "Her professional success was exceptional. She won the hearts of her students with an effectiveness that is rarely equaled and never surpassed. Many of our leading citizens still boast of their school days under the tutelage of this gentle spirit."

In spite of her declining health, she served several years with her husband as one of the first ordinance workers in the Arizona Temple after its dedication in 1927. Della Fish Smith passed away June 17, 1934, at the age of seventy years. Her witty yet gentle disposition, her desire to share with others, and her loyalty to God and her fellow man had made her friendship a treasure to all who knew her.

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Catherine Delphina "Della" Fish Smith's Timeline

June 29, 1864
Parowan, Iron, Utah, USA
June 22, 1873
Age 8
October 29, 1886
Age 22
July 21, 1888
Age 24
Snowflake, Navajo, Arizona, USA
May 17, 1891
Age 26
Snowflake, Apache, Arizona, USA
September 23, 1893
Age 29
Snowflake, Navajo, Arizona, USA
October 19, 1895
Age 31
Snowflake, Navajo, Arizona, USA
March 27, 1898
Age 33
Snowflake, Navajo, Arizona
October 9, 1901
Age 37
Snowflake, Navajo, Az