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Alfred Davis
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ECP Missionary Letters
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William Thomas Woodland



Margaret Bateman       Alfred Oxenbould Davis

 By Susan Woodland Howard

            Margaret Bateman was a bright-eyed, black-haired girl affectionately called “Maggie” all of her life.  Her children and grandchildren, including my own mother, remembered her for her flashing black eyes.  She was the youngest child of Mary Street Bateman and Thomas Bateman. 

            Margaret’s first-born child was my grandmother, Eva Davis Penrose.  I have memories of Grandma bragging to me that her mother was a BATEMAN.  I was a young child at the time and didn’t know why this was special—I later assumed it was because Margaret was born at Winter Quarters in Iowa after the Mormons fled Nauvoo.  

            Margaret was born 30 June 1849 at Little Pigeon, Pottawattamie, Iowa.  Her parents joined the Mormon Church in the late 1830’s in Manchester, England, and were among the first English converts to travel to America to help settle Nauvoo, Illinois.  They had left Nauvoo and were preparing to travel west to join the Latter-day Saints in Utah.  Margaret was barely a year old when her parents and seven older brothers and sisters left Kanesville, Iowa with the James Pace Company on 11 June 1850.

             After arriving in the Salt Lake Valley 15 Sept 1850, Maggie’s family eventually settled in what is now West Jordan.  She had been too young to remember the sight of buffalo and Indians on the Overland Trail, but she did remember well the local tribe that had a part to play in her early life in Utah.   The following is Margaret’s story as told by members of her family.[1]

Challenges of Pioneer Life

 The Indians were very hostile to many settlers when they first began building homes in the Valley, but for some reason they were kind and friendly towards the Bateman family.  They often came to Maggie’s home.  Mary Bateman warned her children never to turn them away without some food or clothing, but never to let them in the house.  Maggie was always very fond of Indians and when anyone asked her why, she remarked that she felt they had saved the lives of family members several times. 

            One of the stories Maggie told was about going to the neighbors to get a little start of fire with her sister.  Once there they were warned that the Indians were coming for revenge because one of the braves had been killed.  Maggie and her sister Martha, then 10 and 12 years old, hurried back home but found themselves alone in the log house.  They heard the sound of the howling Indians as they approached.  Martha grabbed the ax and Maggie dived into bed and pulled the covers over her head.  Their mother and brothers in the fields heard the ruckus and came running to scare the Indians away.

            Margaret was only three when her father disappeared at sea while returning from a trip to England.  Her mother, Mary Street Bateman, raised her family alone.  Her older children helped her, but little Maggie must have learned at an early age to be self-reliant.

             The winter of 1855-6 there was very little food in the valley because of drought and the plagues of crickets that had come to devour the crops.  That winter was the harshest one the settlers had experienced since settling in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. They had to break the ice in the river so the cattle could get water and many of them fell in.  Maggie and the rest of the children were sent out to dig sego lilies down in the slough in the early spring.  Sego lilies were reeds like flags or onions.  They pulled them up and took bulbs home and cooked them for food.  (Sego lily, Calochortus nuttallii, is now the state flower of Utah.)  The local Native Americans regarded the bulb-like roots as a great delicacy and taught the pioneers how to use them for food.  Presently they serve mainly as gopher food.

            At the time Maggie began school, all the pupils met in the same room for instruction. At age 4 or 5, Maggie was the youngest child, while other of the students were in their 20’s and even 30’s.

            For fun the children played with balls made out of bladders.  They also loved candy pulls.  One night they had a candy fight and when it was over they had to carry seven buckets of water to wash all the candy out of Maggie’s black hair.

            Maggie loved to tell about her first pair of red shoes.  Her mother traded wheat for them.  It rained on the first Sunday she wore them so she begged her brothers to carry her both to and from church so the new shoes wouldn’t get wet.  She wore them till the soles fell off.  It took another sack of wheat to replace them.

             Maggie’s family neighbors and friends loved her for her wonderful personality, keen wit, and happy disposition; and wherever she went she was always called “the life of the party.”


Johnson’s Army

            Maggie and her mother were in Brigham City when word came that Johnson’s Army was on the way to Utah to take over the territorial government—a frightening prospect for the Mormons who had endured difficult times in Missouri and Nauvoo.  In 1858 Brigham Young ordered all the women and children to move south to escape while the men were to remain behind to burn the farms and homes should the Army actually try to enter Salt Lake Valley.  Maggie, a bare-footed eight year old, and her mother walked from the City to Payson, more than 110 miles to the south.

             In 1862 Mary Bateman and her children were able to obtain 160 acres of land in West Jordan where they built a log cabin.  A few years later two of her sons built a large beautiful house where Mary lived the rest of her life.  

             Maggie attended church meetings in a stone building in West Jordan.  She also participated in other activities there, mainly dramatics and music.  In 1960 the building was still standing.  The DUP purchased it for an amusement and relic hall.[2]


             At age 18 Maggie was a high-spirited fun-loving girl—a regular newspaper because she loved to keep up on all the gossip in West Jordan.  Her favorite activity was to instigate shivarees for newly married couples and crash their wedding receptions.  She reportedly even got the Bishop’s wives (Bishop Gordon) to join her on these escapades.

             “When a couple was “shivareed” the serenaders carried tin cans, pans, bells and horns, in fact anything by which they could produce a noise.  Maggie and friends met after dark at some designated place, then quietly surround the house where the reception was being held, and at a signal from the leader they broke into a deafening clamor.  This would continue until they were invited into the house and treated to the delicacies of the wedding supper.  They often remained the entire evening playing jokes and amusing the guests with an impromptu program.

             “Despite all this mischief she was very well liked and had a truly winning way about her.  Her roguish smile and hearty laugh were so contagious no one could resist her.  Although she would walk a mile in winter to get friends to join her in a shivaree, she would walk twice that distance to help a friend in distress.”[3]


Maggie and Alfred

            Alfred Oxenbould Davis was the fifth of seven children (fourth boy) born 20 August 1847 in Aston or Handsford, England to John Catley Davis and Phoebe Oxenbould.  John and Phoebe joined the church in 1850, immigrated to the US and traveled to Utah in 1859.  Alfred’s mother and two of his siblings died of cholera shortly after arriving in Florence, Nebraska in 1854, when he was not quite seven years old.  His father married Caroline Young Harris in 1860. 

             Maggie and Alfred married 2 October 1872 when she was 23 and he was 25.  The photograph we have of him shows that he was a handsome man with black eyes and a black moustache with just a bit of curl. Probate Judge Elias Smith performed the ceremony at the home of Elizabeth, Margaret’s sister (Mrs. Philip Margetts.)

             Alfred and his brother were the first telegraph operators in Alta, Utah, employees of Union Pacific Railway.  When the telegraph first came to Utah, Brigham Young called several young men to be trained as operators.  Perhaps Alfred had been one of these. 

             Alfred left he house before dawn to go to work and didn’t return until after dark.  He told the story that one time two bums came into the office and held him up, broke into a locked desk, and threatened to heat the poker and run it down his throat.  Some customers approached just in time to frighten the men away.

             The couple’s first child, Eva Catherine Davis, was born 9 July 1873 in Alta.  At first her parents believed she was the first child born in what was then a mining town and they planned on naming her Alta.  Before that happened, they discovered Eva was actually the second child born there.  A later fire destroyed Eva’s birth records. 

            Margaret and Alfred had eight children, three boys and five girls, all of whom were born in Utah.  They were

Eva Catherine Davis, 9 July 1873, Alta

Alfred Fredrick Davis, 22 November 1874, West Jordan

Victoria Davis, 1876, Corrine  (Victoria died around nine months of age.)

Thomas Catley Davis, 14 May 1879, Corrine.

Mary Maude Davis, 24 September 1881, Logan

Lettie Pearl Davis, 1 July 1884, West Jordan/Midvale

Vilate Davis, 29 October 1888, Midvale

Raymond Davis, 7 October 1892, Midvale.

      While Alfred was stationed at Battle Mountain, Nevada, his letters to Maggie described what a cold, remote, lonely place it was, and how lonely and miserable he was so far from his wife.  (Dorothy Woodland, his granddaughter, was able to read some of them years later.  She said she cried at how miserable he was.)


Vilate’s Memories

             Vilate, Maggie’s youngest daughter, came into the world with the help of Maggie’s midwife sister-in-law Miranda, wife of Samuel Bateman.  Maggie told Vilate that no matter how hard things were, they had to share whatever they did have with any Indians who came to the door.   The family never had any trouble with them.  At that time the Indians had free transportation on flat cars and so could go anywhere they wanted.  Vilate remembered many of them with papooses strapped on their backs.[4]

             One of her early memories is that the house was so crowded that four of the younger children slept in a long bed on the kitchen floor.  One night when Vilate was about five (about 1893) a man stole into the house after everyone was asleep except Vilate.  He took some bread from the breadbox and then walked over to a shelf close to the little girl.  He stepped over her head to reach for it, but the shelf was full of knick-knacks and shells that he knocked down onto a trunk, thus awaking the whole house.  He ran.  Vilate had been too frightened to make a sound during this whole time.

             Alfred had to quit his job with Union Pacific after he developed arthritis so severe that he couldn’t wear shoes most of the time.  A friend in Montana offered him a job until his feet got better—a saloon in Butte where Alfred could do odd jobs wearing slippers on his feet.  He earned enough to send some money home to his family.

             One day Alfred awoke not feeling well and stayed home from work.  When he didn’t show up, his friend stopped by and found his lifeless body in his room.  His friends in Butte dressed him beautifully and sent his body home to West Jordan with a red carnation clasped in his hand.  Despite their thoughtfulness, the family redressed him in his temple clothing for burial.  He died 15 Feb 1896 in Dillon, Beaverhead, Montana.  His youngest child, Ray, was only four years old. 

             Just before Alfred died, Maggie was stricken with typhoid fever, which resulted in the loss of most of her hair.  She had lain in bed with a high fever for weeks, and although she still wasn’t well, she was able to attend her husband’s funeral.  Maggie was a widow at age 46.  

Mary Street Bateman had died five years earlier in 1891.  Maggie wasn’t alone, though—she had brothers and sisters to help her through these bad times.  Her brother William came to help her with the family for a time.  He thought he might help out by offering to take Maude to live with him, but Maggie cried and cried.  Maggie said all she had were her children.  Maude stayed with her mother. 

            Maggie worked hard to take care of her family, undoubtedly with much help from the older children.  She ran a community grocery store in the front of her home where she sold bread, cakes and staples.  The family lived in rooms on the side and back.   

Eventually they had to sell the store.  The family moved into a large home on State Street in Murray that they turned into a boarding house.  There was a restaurant below on the first floor.  The girls did the cleaning and bed making before they went to school and later helped prepare meals for the boarders.  They had to get up early and clean 15 rooms, pitchers, wash bowls, and empty the slop jars, all before going to school.   

            Later in the afternoon they helped prepare the meals for the boarders.  There wasn’t a lot of meat for the family because the boarders were served first, but Vilate remembers that they got plenty of good-flavored gravy. 

            Maggie didn’t often get angry, but when she did, she was a “holy terror.”  Generally she had no special trouble with the guests until one fellow asked for a room, and then also asked for one of the girls.  Three times Maggie told him to get out.  When he wouldn’t leave, she took him by the seat of the pants and his collar and threw him down the stairs.   

            Maggie and the older girls also took in sewing and were known for their beautiful work.  They had two “machines.”  Most of their customers came from across the alley and were girls from “the red light district.”  Vilate delivered the finished dresses and the “girls” always paid what she asked and gave her an extra quarter for a tip that she turned over to her mother.  Sometimes the dresses were sent back four or five times to be mended, as at times they had been torn to pieces.  

   Maggie also remade men’s pants into little boys’ pants, charging 35˘ per pair.


Fun-loving Cousins

            In spite of the hardships and hard work, the Davis family had fun together.  Maggie—the good sport—was always joking.  She continued to perform and provide entertainment in the local ward.  As the children grew, they joined in:  they all had beautiful voices, dramatic talent, as well as a love for comedy.  Their reputation for fun-- “if you want to have fun, invite the Davis’s”--got them invited to many private gatherings as well.

             One of the Bateman cousins, Juliaetta Bateman Jensen wrote:  “Our city cousins loved to visit us in the country and we loved to have them; George, Minnie and Ben and handsome cousin Pouncefort of the Margetts family.  They, too, had great talent.  It seemed to me they lived in such a gay, happy theatrical world.  Father and Mother loved to have them come. 

            “Also talented in acting were Aunt Maggie Davis and her children Fred, Eva, Maud and the others.  When they came to visit us, the farm took on a new life.  We rode horses, played ball, and went in swimming in the canal.” Juliaetta’s father, Samuel also permitted the children to play baseball with their Davis and Bateman cousins after Sunday School.  “Father was no tyrant.”[5]   

One of her grandchildren shared her memories of Grandma Davis:  “Grandma lived in a small frame house in Murray, and I remember going on the streetcar with Mother to visit her, I still remember her flashing black eyes, and all the children avoided doing anything wrong so that we would not be the recipients of one of her glances. We had such good times on her front lawn in the summer, making home made ice cream, and having the chance to lick the dasher on the hand turned freezer. We do not have ice cream like that anymore. Grandma died when I was eight years old, I am so glad that I knew her, even if it was for so short a time.”[6] 

Around 1902, when Vilate graduated from “high school” (eighth grade) Maggie sold the rooming house and paid $50 for a little house that had to be moved from the Murray Smelter to Elm and Center Streets (later Wasatch Street) in Murray.  The house had only two rooms and here Vilate lived with her mother and her younger brother Ray.  

            Maggie died 3 March 1917 at age sixty-seven “just worn out.”  Her funeral was held in the Murray First Ward on March 6, services conducted by Bishop D. R. Brinton.  Her March 7 obituary stated that “there was a wealth of beautiful floral offerings and the attendance was unusually large.”  Speakers included her nephew Daniel Bateman and principle speaker, President Charles W. Penrose of the LDS church First Presidency, father-in-law of Maggie’s daughter, Eva Davis Penrose. 

            “All paid glowing tribute to the life and character of Mrs. Davis, a faithful worker, especially in the Relief Society, and in addition Prest. Penrose preached a doctrinal sermon on the resurrection.”[7] 

Susan W. Howard

June 13, 2006 


[1] Adapted from Life Story of Alfred Oxenbold Davis & Margaret Bateman, written by members of the Vilate Davis Chadwick family, October 1991, copy in my possession and also on file with the Daughters of Utah Pioneer Histories.

[2] The building is not on the online list as a DUP Museum.  Perhaps someone can confirm whether it still stands.

[3] Quote from Life Story, see footnote #1.

[4] Vilate Davis History, family history from Vilate Chadwick Davis, Maud Davis Reynolds Salisbury, and Vilate’s daughter Jean Vilate Chadwick Viertel, 1991, copy in my possession, and “Dusting Off the Old Ones” by W.B. Clark.

[5] Juliaetta Bateman Jensen, Little Gold Pieces, Salt Lake City, 1948, pp 145, 152.

The Margetts cousins were the children of actor Philip Margetts and Elizabeth Bateman Margetts.  Elizabeth was Margaret’s oldest sister.

[6] Life Story of Dorothy Eva Penrose Woodland, copy in my possession.

[7] Deseret News, 7 March 1917.




Jump to Chapters

Challenges of Pioneer Life

Johnson's Army


Maggie and Alfred

Vilate's Memories

Fun Loving Cousins


Their Vital Records

Their Descendants