Emma Seraphine Decker

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Emma Seraphine Decker (Smith)

Birthdate: (56)
Birthplace: Parowan, Utah, United States
Death: December 29, 1909 (56)
Taylor, Navajo, Arizona, United States (Breast Cancer)
Place of Burial: Taylor, Navajo, Arizona, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Jesse Nathaniel Smith and Emma Seraphine West Smith
Wife of Zechariah Bruyn Decker, Jr.
Mother of Mary Decker; Zachariah Nathaniel Decker; Louis Addison Decker; Emma Constance Smith; Inez Gertrude Decker and 7 others
Sister of Mary Josephine Smith; Hannah Daphne Dalton; Eliza Snow Smith Rogers; Jesse Nathaniel Smith, Jr; Sarah Elizabeth Smith and 3 others
Half sister of Adelaide Margaret Fish; Joseph West Smith; Susan Janet Jarvis; Ellen Mauretta Smith; Sariah Annie Bushman and 31 others

Occupation: Married Zechariah Bruyn Decker, Jr. in 1869 and had 11 children.
Managed by: Della Dale Smith-Pistelli
Last Updated:

About Emma Seraphine Decker

There is a photo of the Decker home on the the day of Emma Seraphine Smith Decker's funeral under the Media Tab above....the people depicted in the photograph are listed in the caption which reads: "The Zechariah B. Decker home in Taylor, Arizona, taken on the day of the funeral of Emma Seraphine Decker, December 29, 1909. Friends and relatives gathered to pay their respects. Seen here are: Alvin Decker, Z.B. Decker, Wilford Rogers (nephew), Eliza S. Rogers (sister-in-law), Emma S. Smith (mother-in-law), Daphne Dalton (sister-in-law), Connie Decker, Silas Decker, Lorenzo and Alma Decker (grandchildren), in the rear. (Dalton children in front)."

Who ever created the caption was wrong about Emma S. Smith being Emma Seraphine Smith Decker's mother-in-law, because she was, in fact, her mother, Emma Seraphine West Smith, who died in 1910. She is the one in the photo with a shawl over her head and a little girl standing in front of her. Ironically, Emma Seraphine's mother also died of breast cancer the following October.

Emma Seraphine Smith Decker was born 12 August 1855 in Parowan, Utah, and died 29 December 1909 in Taylor, Arizona. She married Zechariah Bruyn Decker, Jr., on October 4, 1869. Her parents were Jesse Nathaniel Smith & Emma Seraphine West Smith.

Emma Seraphine Smith Decker, who was named after her mother but called by her middle name, Seraphine, was born in Parowan, Utah. Her father, Jesse N. Smith, was a cousin of the Prophet Joseph Smith and younger brother to Silas Sanford Smith, President of the San Juan Mission in 1879. Seraphine’s father was often away from home on church assignments or missions, and since she was the oldest child with six sisters born after her, Seraphine grew up doing a lot of outdoor chores around the family farm. She shared a bed with her grandmother, Mary Aikens Smith, who had once been a school teacher and who became her tutor until she could attend school.

When her father left on his second mission to Denmark, he gave young Zechariah Bruyn Decker, Jr., permission to escort Seraphine to school activities and dances. Zach would arrive at the social function with a bag of grain on one arm (it was his ticket in) and Seraphine on the other. On at least one occasion, Seraphine made her dance dress all by herself – from carding the wool and spinning yarn, to weaving it into a woolly linen fabric and sewing it. She loved Zach’s curly hair and kind smile. He was not a man of many words, but he treated her in such a way that she always knew he loved her. They were married October 4, 1869, before Seraphine’s father had even returned from Denmark. Seraphine was seventeen years old and Zach was nineteen.

Their first child – a little girl – passed away in infancy. The cause of the baby’s passing is attributed to “incompetent nursing” according to one of their other daughters. No doubt it was a difficult time for the young couple. But in addition to her heartache, Seraphine suffered from “milk leg” during her postpartum weeks. (“Milk leg” is a condition in which blood clots form in the femoral vein after childbirth and cause swelling and great pain in the leg). It was a dangerous condition that continued to bother her as she gave birth to eleven more children. With the birth of her twelfth child she experienced another particularly bad attack and was bedridden.

Hole in the Rock:

Seraphine and Zach had been married ten years when they were called to the San Juan Mission. She was expecting their sixth child at the time, (counting the baby they lost at the first), and their other children ranged in age from seven years down to seven months. They were one of the few pioneers who had a stove in their wagon! When it came time for them to make their descent down the Hole-in-the-Rock, Zach tied their two wagons together and then hitched all six horses to the front wagon while making sure to lock and block the brakes on the hind wagon. One of the brakes broke, however, as the horses began to plunge down the slope. Consequently, the momentum of the back wagon forced Zach to whip his teams along even faster and more recklessly than perhaps he would have liked. One of the horses fell and was dragged along as they went. By the time they reached the bottom of the steep canyon, Zach’s wagons and teams were in a tangled heap.

Seraphine and the children were making their way down the slope as best they could on foot when all this occurred. Watching the horses go crashing down the rocky road sent a wave of panic through Seraphine. She screamed to Zach that the baby was asleep in the hind wagon! Amazingly, the little babe did not even wake during the dramatic ride, but was delivered to his mother’s arms safe and sound asleep at the base of the rocky walls.

After the Hole-in-the-Rock pioneers had made their descent down the rocky canyon, and safely crossed the raging Colorado River, they spent nearly two weeks building a road up the Colorado Plateau. As the Decker's began their upward climb, they fell behind the main group in company with the Jim Decker family and the Mons Larson family. It was bitterly cold, and Sister Larson had carried her two boys – one on each arm - up the Plateau, for their little feet were frostbitten and purple. She no sooner reached the top than was in labor with her third child. Seraphine and her sister-in-law (who had given birth at Fifty-mile Spring) were there to help with the delivery, which was accomplished during a fierce snowstorm. Brother Larson desperately tried to pitch a tent so his wife could have shelter and some semblance of comfort. But she gave birth lying across the spring seat of the wagon as the snow swirled around her. Three days later, the two Decker families and the Larson's packed up and headed after the main wagon train. Seraphine wanted the new mother and her baby to ride in their wagon with them, since they had the comfort of a stove in it, but Brother Larson declined their offer – he did not trust anyone but himself to drive his precious new cargo.

Seraphine and Zach each drove a wagon as they traveled on to Bluff. Unfortunately for Seraphine, one member of the team she was driving was a very stubborn and frustrating mule. At one point along the way, the mule caused the wagon to tip over. Precious grains of wheat, meant for seed in the spring, spilled out all over the ground – wasted! The Decker's did not settle in Bluff, but moved up river to Montezuma Creek. They lived there for two years during which time Zach served as the Presiding Elder of the settlement.


In 1881 Zach and Seraphine moved their family to Snowflake, Arizona. They traveled by way of Fruitland and the old Santa Fe Railroad trail until they reached Brigham City (Winslow) where Seraphine’s father was working in railroad commissary for John W. Young, the railroad contractor. Seraphine arrived at her parent’s home on her twenty-eighth birthday – their journey’s end being a welcome birthday present. While living in Arizona Seraphine gave birth to six more children. Sadly, however, four of her children died of diphtheria in 1887. Yet in spite of her trials and difficulties, Seraphine never complained. She accepted with faith whatever circumstances came her way.

Seraphine served faithfully in many church callings and capacities. She especially loved working with children, and was the Snowflake Stake Primary President at the time of her death in 1909. She died in Taylor, Arizona, at the age of fifty-six from breast cancer after months of suffering and decline. Her passing was keenly felt by those who knew and loved her, particularly her husband of thirty-nine years. Nevertheless, she left behind a legacy of faith and courage and is honorably remembered for her life of service and devotion to God. At the time of her passing, they still had two teenage children living at home.

Reference List:

Daphne Decker Bushman, “Emma Seraphine Smith Decker,” unpublished history from the files of Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Ellen Johanna Larson Smith, “Biography of Mons Larson, Pioneer,” unpublished history from the files of Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Francine Decker Holt, “History of Zechariah Bruyn Decker, Jr. and Emma Serphine Smith,” unpublished history from the files of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Louis A. Decker, “Brief Sketch of the Life of Zechariah Bruyn Decker, Jr., son of Zachariah Bruyn Decker and Nancy Bean,” unpublished history available in the LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Decker articles by C.S.M. Jones LLC, Family Heritage Consulting for Hole in the Rock Foundation

SOURCE: http://trekholeintherock.blogspot.com/2010/01/decker-zachariah-bruyn-jr-and-emma.html

From Ancestry.com:

In August of 1885 Zachariah and Seraphine Decker were living on the Phoenix Park Wash in a small log cabin, about 35 miles west from Snowflake, a small Mormon settlement in Northern Arizona. Zachariah had his bands of sheep feeding on the tall grown grass that so luxuriantly carpeted the forest. Summer was delightful in the cool pines.

Today Zachariah was riding for lost cattle. The two older boys were herding the sheep over in the next valley. Night was falling. Seraphine had just finished reading a book her mother had sent up from town, she needing a pail of water to finish the evening work. She took up a wooden pail and her baby and walked quietly to the willow shaded spring, their only source of water supply.

When she reached the spring she set the baby on a grass patch and stooped to fill her pail. The willows opposite her parted like a curtain and in the mirror surface of the water Seraphine saw a frightful figure, an Indian woman, an Apache squaw. Her dress and her hair were drenched with perspiration, her body was fatigued, her face lined and weary. She had been running. Seraphine started. The squaw signaled for peace and silence and begged for water. In almost inarticulate English she said, "Geronimo warpath. Killed son. Kill me. Kill you. Run, run." She took a large drink from the pail and disappeared as silently as she had come.

Seraphine ran to the cabin, gathered all her possessions into the covered wagon, hurriedly got the horses from the pasture and was ready to take her three small children to find the boys with the sheep, when she heard the sheep bells ringing. Through the trees came the sheep, the boys and Zachariah. What a relief! "Zachariah," Seraphine began, half sobbing, "I know," he broke in, "I saw her too, on the hill before she came down here. She said, "Geronimo kill son. Run."

"It is a full moon, Seraphine, and we will travel now." After loading their meager belongings, the little cabin was bare except for the crude cupboard shelves and a very small iron stove that had cost so much labor to bring from Salt Lake City to Arizona. There just wasn't room for the stove, and besides what harm could come to such an inanimate thing?

It was thirty-five miles to the little town of Snowflake, but they would try to make it to the Decker Wash, a distance of ten miles or more. The full moon shone like day on the lurching wagon, the cows, sheep, dogs and horses of the ranchers. The animals seemed to sense danger and moved along without murmur or disorder. At least the children slept. Zachariah rode ahead, a loaded sixshooter in his belt and a loaded No. 20 rifle over the saddle. Seraphine drove the team and the two boys on horse back followed the animals. Over their saddle fronts were loaded rifles.

When dawn and sunrise came, the forest was so unmolested that it seemed foolish to have had such apprehensions. Within two days Zachariah had occasion to return to the cabin on the Phoenix Park Wash. The door was off its hinges, the window broken in; about the cabin were hoof prints of Indian ponies and moccasin tracks. Inside the cabin the cupboard shelves were broken down and the little iron stove beaten into small pieces as though it had been savage joy to hear the metal break.

Oh, yes, indeed, it was a happy and grateful family that that night gathered around the hearth at the Decker Wash and gave thanks to God for the warning of the Indian woman.—Mae H. Decker.

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Emma Seraphine Decker's Timeline

August 12, 1853
Parowan, Utah, United States
March 1862
Age 8
October 4, 1869
Age 16
July 10, 1871
Age 17
Parowan, Iron, Ut
May 29, 1872
Age 18
Parowan, Iron, Utah, United States
October 27, 1873
Age 20
Parowan, Iron County, Utah Territory, United States
July 2, 1875
Age 21
Parowan, Iron County, Utah Territory, United States
January 11, 1877
Age 23
Parowan, Iron, Ut
August 10, 1879
Age 25
Parowan, Iron, Ut