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Pansy's History: The Autobiography of Margaret E. P. Gordon, 1866-1966

Pansy's History: The Autobiography of Margaret E. P. Gordon, 1866-1966

by Margaret E.P. Gordon, Claudia L. Bushman

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Margaret "Pansy" Gordon's life covered a remarkable span of years and territory. She lived one century, and the years took her from England to residences in British Columbia, Salt Lake City, and an Ojibway village on Georgian Bay; back to Utah and then Canada to homes at the shore of Bear Lake, on an Alberta farm, and in a prairie town; and to Los Angeles


Margaret "Pansy" Gordon's life covered a remarkable span of years and territory. She lived one century, and the years took her from England to residences in British Columbia, Salt Lake City, and an Ojibway village on Georgian Bay; back to Utah and then Canada to homes at the shore of Bear Lake, on an Alberta farm, and in a prairie town; and to Los Angeles for the last decades of her life. She had gone to British Columbia as the daughter of an Anglican missionary to the Tsimshian Indians. She lived in Los Angeles as a Mormon missionary assigned to work as a genealogist. Her personal journey through repeated frontier adventures, religious service, and economic challenges is as worth noting as where she went, but it would be far less engaging if she did not write about it so well. Her memory for detail and her felicity in putting it to paper will reward those who delve into her "Family History," as she titled her memoir. Claudia L. Bushman, descendant of Pansy Gordon, author of numerous books, taught American studies at Columbia University for many years and taught Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University from 2008 to 2011. She has included letters and other documents that complement this memoir.

Product Details

Utah State University Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Edition
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Pansy's History

The Autobiography of Margaret E. P. Gordon, 1866–1966

Utah State University Press

Copyright © 2011 Utah State University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-87421-784-1

Chapter One

England, to 1876

Introduction to My Autobiography—

One of the greatest pleasures of my childhood was listening to father & mother tell stories of their own youthful years. My mother was a particularly charming raconteur, always thrilling me with her vivid pictures of the Past.—It is fortunate that we both so enjoyed this pastime, or much of the valuable information I have gleaned would be lost.

My father was not so lavish with his tales, but gave glimpses of his home & earlier years; which are valuable to me now & which I will weave into this story with the events connected with his later years—

What follows is really only a glimpse of my life and as it is from Memory—only the highlights are recorded—but it will ^give^ my children and their children some thing of the experiences which helped to make so many interesting years.

My Father

Henry Schutt born 6 Jan 1839 [died 1900] was the only son of George Shutt [1803–1869 and Elizabeth Wilby, 1804–1862] Grandfather Schutt was a foreman in a d[e]pt of the famous Priestly Woollen Mills at Bradford Yorkshire England—A position which required a keen knowledge of textiles & color—He was an expert in his line, producing many new & beautiful shades. When I was about two years old I wore a dress & coat of a rich soft Woollen Material A beautiful crimson shade which he had originated. & given me—

He was very ambitious for his two children giving them splendid advantages. His daughter Mary Jane ("Polly") [born 1840, married Edward Handforth] was a brilliant girl and made a very successful business Woman. The two, my father & she graduated from—Islington College London. Aunt Polly with honors; receiving their Sheepskins from the famous Dr. [Frederick] Temple [1821–1902] Arch Bishop of Canterbury [from 1895].

It was grand fathers intention that his Son should enter the Civil Service, & he passed the necessary examinations, but some conditions arose which prevented him from doing so or following that course & he turned his attention to teaching—which profession he followed.

Volumes could be written on his success in this profession. He was one of those rare teachers, who could so enthuse his pupils that many of them reached heights of success. The wonderful fund of information he possessed & which he so unstintin[g]ly used in illuminating the text created a desire for knowledge in the hearts of his boys & girls which led them in ma[n]y cases to careers of great usefulness.—No teacher ever left a deeper impression in the hearts of his students—They loved him!!! Long years after when his name happened to be mentioned—One would invariably hear, "He gave me my Start—What I am I owe to Mr. Schutt."

His method of discipline consisted of so enthusing his classes, they couldnt help but work. He simply couldnt punish—Children who were brought in had little to fear. I have ^seen^ urchins sent in for correction stand & give him a friendly little smile & he would either put his hand under their chin & look into the face or twick an ear & say, "Ee you little rascal run off & get to work"—Out the little Sinner would Scamper feeling well paid for his little trip to the—Principal.

He was a man of broad education in the truest sense A trained mind & remarkable memory—with a breadth of understanding which made him a real encyclopedia to his family & friends. In my teaching & church work I was so accustomed to running to "Pa" for any information I needed—that when he died I was indeed bereft. For a long time after I would find myself starting to go to him for the solution of a problem & would then realize with a shock he was gone.—I must seek out for my self the facts I needed. As he would have wanted me to do.

In his Youthful Years he was some what of a sport inclined to be a little gay. & rather a source of concern to his staid & Puritanical Parents. But his vices led him no farther than an occasional "wild party." with drinks & cigars for gentlemen only.—He adored his mother & when she died, while he was a young man, he kept solitary vigil in the room till the funeral—sitting all night alone, where he could look at her face. An unusual thing to do—

In 1865 he was Married to My Mother Eliza Brereton Venables-Vernon [1838–1903]—She was quite a different type from the girls he had mingled with—Merry, & full of fun—high spirited & social in her instincts Yet far removed from the free & easy crowd that had composed his circle—So in spite of the opposition of her mother who would not speak to him for a year after the wedding she married him. From then on he conformed generally to her ideals, became a model husband & an indulgent father.

Now I must speak some what of my Mother—When it comes to expressing what she meant to me I am at a total loss—I have not language to portray the loveliness & goodness of her—The beauty of her Soul—the kindness of her heart—the integrity of her spirit.

The hopes she had for her two little girls—the dreams she dreamed through the years—and the practical plans she made for their welfare.

I was a grown woman with three children when she left us. And I was indeed bereft—but her example & oft expressed desire that we should carry on & give of our best to the Service of the Master—has been my guiding star,—& I hope to be worthy to render unto her an account of the efforts I have made—when I am again united with her.

The Vernons

This is an ancient & noble Family—tracing its origin as far as we know now to the town of Vernon in the Duchy of Normandy, France. Descending from the Lords of Vernon. William De Vernon founded & richly endowed the Collegiate Church of St Mary in Vernon 1052—where he is interred.

His two sons, Richard & Walter De Vernon came over with William the Conqueror—& fought with him at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. & are enrolled on the Memorial record of the Battle Abb[e]y.

The oldest son Richard—Lord of Vernon—was created Baron of Shipbroke becoming an English landed proprietor The family has an unbroken line to the present & carrying the title—Many sons have carried branches far & wide,—the principle seats of them being at Cheshire (Northwick). & Derby—The roll in the Church of Dives, Normandy of the companions of William in the conquest of England in 1066. By M. Leopold Delisle–member of the French Society of Archeology as found in Burkes "Vicissitudes of Families" Vol. III, P. 423.

Dives, a small town close to the Sea Coast in the Department of Calvados in Normandy. This town of Dives is of high note in French and English history—for it was nigh to it—at the mouth of the Dive [River] that William the Conqueror & his companions in Arms met for the subjugation of England. A fête was given there in August 1862 to affix in the old Church there a new & carefully compiled list of the Companions of William the Conqueror in his conquest of England—A companion record to that of Battle Abb[e]y—with this difference—The latter being the roll of those who actually fought at Hastings while the one at Dives is that of those who assembled for the expedition, & were otherwise engaged in furthering the conquest. This roll was created by the French Society of Archeology—in august 1862—with permission of Mgr Didiot, Bishop of Bayeux. M. De Caumont being Director of the Society—M. The Abbè Menier Vicar of Dives & M. Le Compt Foucher De Cariel member of the Counseil Général for the Canton.

________________ On this list is found the name of Huard de Vernon

an ancestor of ours.

My grand father Joseph Venables Vernon was of this family He was born in Winsford Cheshire England 16 Feb 1808. [died 1873] his father was Thomas V. Vernon [1740–1780] mother Rebecca [Henley, born 1765]. We know nothing of his earlier years, because when he married my grand mother Margaret Senior—he was repudiated by his family & as far as we know had no further association with them.

He was a man of culture & broad Education & extensively travelled. Where he received his Education we dont know. On his trips to far lands China, Japan, India ect ect he brough[t] home many lovely Souvenirs. He seems to have ^been^ a civil Engineer—And he may have had money from his people for at one time he ow[n]ed large iron works, employing many men. On his works was made the first locomotive that went out of Hull. At a great celebration it was christened "the Vulcan," my grand mother officiating—breaking over it the bottle of Champagne.

Many strange things come from my sub conscious mind—things I heard when a child It seems he failed in his iron business—lost every thing—very probably he was a poor business man not the type to make so big a concern pay. I don't know what he did then, but as long as he was home they lived in comfort & had Servants to wait on them—He was particularly charming to the ladies & my grand mother who was a Jealous high spirited woman was often driven to fury over his little pleasantries—such as kissing the governess ect—but he adored her & his children—At one time grandmother left, & went down to the sea shore for several months—He kept the children all quietly at home stayed there with them—I have read letters written to her by Uncle John [John Venables Vernon, 1832–1857] & Aunt Chrissy [Christiana Venables Vernon Smith, later Aunt Fewson, 1830–1920] then children, telling their mother that their father grieved & wept—& never went away from the house—telling her of the cute little tricks of the baby—which I think was Aunt Emmy [Emily Ann Vernon Jackson, 1844–1934]—begging her to come—telling her how they all loved her—& were doing every thing she would wish them to do. They wrote that Father talked to them always about her all the time—Said she was the most beautiful & best woman on earth—They would plead with her to come home to them & make them all happy again—I never read sweeter or more dutiful letters

Evidently she got over her Anger—& returned for they all met her & had a wonderful reunion. Life never seemed to run very smoothly for those two for grand mother had a difficult disposition but was a true & good woman—& Grand father was not of her class. & it may be she never quite measured up to his mental & social needs.

In [about 1851] He heard the gospel. It came to him I think it was John Taylor who converted him—I remember my mother telling of being woke up & wrapped in a blanket & taken down to the drawing room—to hear John Taylor tell of the Martyrdom of the prophet & his part on that awful occasion. All the family & the Servants were in the room & heard the thrilling recital.

He only & his eldest daughter "Chrissy" [Christiana Venables Vernon] accepted the truth—Seeds may have been planted in my Mothers heart, for many years after, when I was twenty years old she too yielded obedience to its call. Grand mother was bitter, her Soul was never touched & she never accepted the gospel.

Then more sorrow came to that home! The spirit of gathering seems to have taken hold of grand father at once, he wanted to come to the "Valley" as Utah was then called, but grand mother's heart was hard & unyielding She would let him go alone before she would accept Mormonism—which in despair he prepared to do, feeling certain I am sure that it would be only a short time when his loved ones would join him & they would all be "happy in the Valley"—He was a devoted father & nothing but his great desire to be with the Church of God could have tempted him to leave them. Aunt Chrissy was his pride—though her high spirit & dominant character often caused him anxiety—Eliza, my mother was his comfort—upon her good Judgement & tender sympathy for her mother he depended greatly for the well being of the home. Over & over he begged her to be gentle with her—& take good care of his little Emily then seven years old & his two year old baby boy Horatio. His young Son John aged 1811—(My mother was 14, Chrissy 21), was some what head strong, but the idol of his mothers heart. It was a terrible time to leave—going away to join a despised sect—& leaving a family when they most needed his care. His wife never forgave him—her heart was filled with bitterness towards him. The children were divided too, Chrissy the Eldest adored her father & had accepted the gospel also. She was prepared to leave all & go with him, but he constrained upon her to stay home & help care for things till all would come. Alas! the dream was never realized. & I believe he became a broken hearted man as a result.

President John Taylor [1808–1887] & he left England in 1852—going by Sailing Vessel to (I think) New Orleans, Taking a river Route up to Saint Louis—There they equipped themselves with every thing necessary for the long drive over land to Salt Lake City. They bought a large canvas covered buggy (a democrat) & a good team—also parts of the necessary machinery for a sugar factory—which they planned to erect, & later did, thus laying the foundation of the now famous Sugar industry

From Saint Louis they Journied up to Washington & called upon President Buchanan paying their respects to him—took in the sights & then started on the long trail West which to them was pleasant & untroubled as far as dangers from Indians was concerned—they reached "the Valley" [____] 1852.

Grand father was over joyed—his heart full of the Wonderful future when his loved ones would come. He bought a farm South of Salt Lake, later known as Calders Farm—& now [1928] Nibley Park. He knew nothing about agriculture—so traded [the farm] for a flour mill in City Creek Canyon—He knew less about that sort of business—so eventually traded that for a team of mules— later they went—& he seemed totally unable to cope with the life of that pioneer time—He was a Marvelous speaker Once after he had addressed the Saints in the old Tabernacle President [Brigham] Young arose & said "When ever I hear Bro Vernon speak I am always reminded of the music of well tuned strings." Repeated failures to induce his wife & children to come—seemed to grieve him so deeply—he lost all interest in Every thing—he became a sad & disappointed man—


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