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Patricia Lyn Scott
Patricia Lyn Scott holds a B.A. in history from Southern Utah University, an M.S. in library science with a specialization in archival administration from Wayne State University, and an M.A. in history of the American West from the University of Utah. She is currently the local government records archivist for the Utah State Archives and provides consultant services and training in every aspect of archival and records management to Utah's counties and school districts. She is the author of the book A Hub of Eastern Idaho: A History of Rigby, Idaho and has written numerous historical articles and papers, including a biography of Eliza Kirtley Royle for the first volume of Worth Their Salt. She serves on the executive committee of the Journal of Mormon History. Scott has done extensive research on Utah women and is currently using the membership lists of Salt Lake City's Ladies Literary Club and the Blue Tea club from 1875 to 1893 to identify non-Mormon women in Salt Lake City. Her interest in Sarah Cooke grew from that research. Sarah's conversion to the LDS Church led her to become a leader in Utah's Mormon community; following her disenchantment with the faith she became a leader in the non-Mormon community. Scott was fascinated by a woman who was obviously deeply respected by both groups.
For thirty-four years, Sarah Ann Cooke resided in Salt Lake City, where she taught music, acted, and became the widow of Utah's first police officer killed in the line of duty. She was a recognized club woman, lecturer, and leader of women's opposition to polygamy. It all began with a "temporary" stop in Salt Lake City on her way to the California goldfields in 1852 and ended with her death at seventy-seven. People of opposing persuasions looked at her with respect because of her accomplishments. First, as a Mormon convert, she taught in Brigham Young's school and performed in both the Social Hall and Salt Lake Theatre, gaining the respect of members of the Mormon community. Then conflicts with Brigham Young and her ardent opposition to polygamy elevated her to leadership in the non-Mormon community. Finally, she became president of the Anti-Polygamy Society and served as a symbol of Utah women who opposed polygamy.
Sarah Ann Sutton was born 15 August 1808, to Sarah Smith Sutton and Thomas Sutton, a practicing attorney, in Leeds, Yorkshire, England. She was the first of three children and the only daughter. She and her brother George were orphaned at an early age and were "consigned to the care of kind and loving grandparents." Her custodial grandfather, George Smith, was an invalid and soon died. In her later life, Sarah recalled playing and romping with him and using "his cane as a pony." She attended boarding school, where she was well educated and received extensive musical training.
Sarah married William Cooke on her eighteenth birthday, 15 August 1826, at the St. Peters Parish Church in Leeds. Marriage records identify William Cooke as a man servant from Manchester. They were married "by license" with the approval of the vicar. William was the second son of Sarah Routh Cooke and John Cooke, born in Pollington, Yorkshire, England, on 28 August 1803. Later Sarah wrote that her cousin Annie served as her bridesmaid and accompanied her on their wedding tour and visits to William's relatives. Her cousin Mary "efficiently superintended" the furnishings and arranged Sarah's new household in Manchester, where Sarah and William arrived "late in September." On her fiftieth birthday she described her thoughts on arriving at her new home in verse,
But when we crossed the lighted hall And reached the supper room Glass, silver, lights and pictures all Make it appear full moon. And these were mine this home my own No thought or wish unkept; My heart filled with grateful love I leaned my head and wept. Yes wept upon the manly breast Of him who these had tried To make a paradise on earth For me his girlish bride.
On 7 June 1827, Sarah gave birth to her first child, William Sutton, in Manchester. She later recalled her joy,
And yet the cup so richly filled Ere twelve month had passed by Was filled yet more with richer store God's gift-parental joy. O blessed day! O happy hour; Anguish replaced with joy When thee I gazed upon my own My first-born beautious boy.
In 1828, the Cookes left Liverpool aboard the American vessel William Thompson for the United States. The ship docked in New York City on 26 April 1828. While the Cookes' particular reasons for emigrating remain unknown, for many English the period between 1750 and 1850 served as a transitional period away from domestic manufacturing in England, with the greatest period of adjustment from 1800 to 1840. In 1828, slightly less than a quarter of the 27,382 people emigrating to the United States were English. For eight years the Cookes lived in New York City. Sarah later recalled that she taught music in "families" and in the schools of Mrs. Starr and Mrs. Putnam. Her husband's occupation is unknown. During this period Sarah gave birth to three children. Within four months of the family's arrival, Sarah had borne and lost a second son, Albion, in August 1828. In October 1830, John Richards was born, and Thomas W. in 1833.
The Cookes then moved to North Carolina, "where they remained ten years but ardent in their abolitionism were uncomfortable for the antagonism it excited." Sarah bore three children there. Their first daughter, Sarah Ann, died shortly after birth in 1838; their second, Eve Anna (nicknamed Lilly), was born in 1843; and a son, Edward, was born in 1845.
The Cookes next moved to Iowa, where they lived for five years, first in Davenport and then in Dubuque, where Sarah "taught voice and instrumental music." She reportedly had "a large patronage." She bore her last child there, Richard, in 1848. Their eldest son, William Sutton, married one of Sarah's music students, Lucy Rutledge, a recent English immigrant, on 26 December 1849. Sarah's first grandchild was born on 16 August 1851, just one day after her birthday, and was named Sarah.
In the spring of 1852, "California fever" was at a high pitch in Iowa, and the Cooke family decided to join the march westward. Sarah later said of her family during the journey, "They were comfortably provided and had a delightful journey of two months." Lucy documented their trip west through a series of letters she wrote to her sister, Marianne, who lived in Rockingham, Iowa. They were later published "for the benefit of her family" in 1923 and republished in 1985 as part of Kenneth L. Holmes's Covered Wagon Women. Lucy wrote that William, her father-in-law, had secured twelve young men as paid passengers traveling to Sacramento, California, along with the ten members of the two families: William and Sarah (she called her in-laws Ma and Pa throughout her letters); Lucy, twenty-four; William Sutton, twenty-five; John Richards, twenty-one; Thomas, nineteen; Eve Anna, ten; Edward, seven; Richard, five; and baby Sarah.
While William Sutton started the passengers toward Council Bluffs, Iowa, in April 1852, William Sr. drove Lucy, Sarah, and their children seventy miles south to Davenport in their "two-horse drawn wagon" with a "covered top and laden to the bows." They were placed on the steamboat Golden Era to sail down the Mississippi River to St. Louis and then up the Missouri River to Council Bluffs. William Sr. then took the team and joined the others on their trek across Iowa.
The trip to St. Louis was uneventful. Then, on 10 April, Sarah, Lucy, and family boarded the steamboat Pontiac 2 and sailed up the Missouri River to Council Bluffs to join the rest of the party. They were charged $70 for their passage, but were short of funds. Sarah put down $30 with the rest to be paid in Council Bluffs and with John working for part of their passage by helping the captain. Homesick, missing her husband, and remembering her life in Dubuque, Sarah lamented, "I wish we had never started."
The trip was long and tedious but far from uneventful. Lucy wrote that Sarah was downcast and "thinks she shall never be happy again." Lucy added, "I think she would have me believe it was entirely on William's account that they take this move but I cannot quite think so as of course it was as much for her other sons."
On Sunday, 27 April, the Pontiac 2 ran aground and began to sink. Though it was "only about 3 feet under water," the boat owner evacuated the women. While Lucy wrote that "none of us seemed very terrified," she clearly noted the cold, the wind, and the rain. Because the first yawl was full, they had to return to the "ladies cabin," being told they "would be perfectly safe." In an hour the steamboat began breaking apart and a second yawl was sent. Lucy wrote, "After much struggling we managed to get in but we had a good load[,] most of the passengers wanting to be among the first to be on terra firma." The river was very rough; four men had to row the yawl to the timbered shore. Not until dusk was all baggage removed from the boat. The captain then refused to charter the first boat that arrived on the scene and it left with only a few passengers.
The Cookes booked passage on a second boat, the Midas, and boarded it around 9 P.M. Lucy noted that they were "fortunate in having paid the capt of the Pontiac [only] $36 for he would, not have returned any had we paid the $70." The Midas captain agreed to take them to St. Joseph for $2 each, but Sarah told him she only had $5 left and might have to stay in St. Joseph for a while. The captain agreed to accept $3. They stayed on the boat that night and left the next morning, arriving in St. Joseph about eleven o'clock on Tuesday morning, then engaging another boat to go on to Council Bluffs.
They remained in St. Joseph for three days and then boarded the Robert Campbell. Lucy wrote, "We were very slow and every few hours got stuck on sand bars." It took three days to reach Council Bluffs. The first night they got stuck on a sandbar for eighteen hours. A similar problem the second day delayed them for six hours. All men and horses were put ashore to pull the boat off the sandbar. They finally arrived on Saturday afternoon, 3 May. They hoped they would be met by their families but had to wait an additional one and one half hours. Their families had not heard of the fate of the Pontiac. Lucy described the town: "This Kanesville is a poor little mean place. I don't think there's a brick house in it. Most of them are log cabins."
Wednesday night the reunited group borrowed a piano, held a concert for others traveling to California, and raised money for their journey (clearing $23). The Cookes left Kanesville on 9 May, and traveled eight miles that first day. Mr. Cooke "resolved not to travel on Sundays unless obliged" and attended religious services when possible. They started their mornings early to allow them to rest during the heat of the day. The journey was hot and dirty, the air thick with mosquitos. Lucy suffered with a sore throat and swollen tongue for most of the trip. She recounted that she had "lost my taste ... I just [had to] live on chocolate and currant bread."
They arrived in Salt Lake on 8 July 1852. William and Lucy were tired of traveling and decided to stay in Salt Lake City until spring. Lucy wrote that "I was very much pleased with the appearance of the place." William found a position during the winter to haul lumber from the mountains to a sawmill. A Mr. Roberts, a former Iowan neighbor, persuaded Mr. Cooke to take his passengers to California and leave Sarah and their children in Salt Lake City until he could prepare a home for them in California. Mr. Cooke stayed in Salt Lake City for ten days before resuming his journey with his five passengers. John Richards and Thomas were left to care for the family. John was provided two horses and a wagon. Lucy wrote that she hoped "the responsibility will have a good effect on him" and noted that Sarah had located a small house "in town." She described the Mormons as being "as hospitable and kind as any people I ever met."
Lucy and William lived with Mr. Roberts and then moved to a house close to the sawmill eight miles from the mountains. William and John worked together in hauling logs to the sawmill for cutting shingles. Lucy wrote to her sister that they would not go to California "if [William] can make a living here" and that they could live in Utah for four to five years. At the end of October, Lucy stated that they had "done better than Ma has in the city for John makes a poor one at providing for a family" and added that she "[doesn't] think he's lazy but they manage so poorly so that whenever we go to see them they have nothing but bread and potatoes."
In September 1852, Sarah was baptized into the LDS Church. She was a woman "of strong religious sentiments" and was said to have "possessed a deep and almost ideally conscientiously religious nature." She "had studied the subjects of the Jewish dispensation and had thought considerably about the second coming of Christ." Sarah had read and studied the "Voice of Warning" pamphlet by Parley P. Pratt and other works, and "gradually accepted it all heartily and conscientiously." The Cookes had originally been Episcopalian, but had become Baptists in Iowa "from deep conviction and conscientious scruples." Lucy wrote at the end of October that she witnessed the baptism and that John and Lilly were to be baptized the next Sunday. She added, "My only fear is that she will influence my dear William," adding that she was "glad that we live away from the city as that is a good excuse for not attending their meetings." It was later written that Lilly had originally prayed that "her Heavenly Father should not permit her mother to become a Mormon." John was employed by Brigham Young to haul wood from the canyons for $2.50 a day plus the boarding of his horses. While Thomas worked in the mill with William, Lucy noted, "He does not seem to like the Mormons though as he's Ma's favorite ... she is anxious he should be connected to her faith."
Mr. Cooke's letters from California reported that he supervised a farm not far from San Francisco earning $75 a month. He had not yet learned that Sarah had joined the Mormon Church, but Lucy noted that, "I guess he'll not hesitate to join them for he said before he left he was almost a Mormon." He sent Sarah "a lot of new music." Because they did not own a piano Lucy reported they "all went to the [home of] Governor Brigham Young to try it."
Sarah was quickly becoming part of the community. On 13 October 1852, Sarah became a member of the Deseret Dramatic Association. It was founded on 20 February 1852 by thirteen men meeting at the home of William Clayton "for the purpose of organizing a theatrical association." The Deseret Dramatic Association would eventually claim over one hundred members, "only ten of whom were actually actors who received public notice or appeared on the stage, while others formed the production staff."
In 1852, the Social Hall was constructed on State Street between South Temple and First South. It was intended for plays, musical recitals, dancing, and other public gatherings. Lucy wrote that when the "Music Hall" was finished "a room [would be] assigned [to Sarah] to teach music" and that Brigham Young had "bought a superior English piano and melodeon for her use in the hall." As a pioneer music teacher in Salt Lake City it was said as long as Sarah lived, "[She would] stamp the imprimis of her strength and versatility of gifts, upon young and old."
Excerpted from Worth Their Salt, Too Copyright © 2000 by Utah State University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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