Life Story of Cyrus Tolman


"Having done a good work for the living and the dead, your kingdom shall be great and of thy glory here, there shall be no end."

These words are taken from a blessing given to Cyrus Tolman. Cyrus felt the importance of doing temple work. In the words of one of his granddaughters, "Cyrus had a very strong testimony of the church. He was a very righteous man and was great in doing temple work."

Mary Jane Gorringe Tolman, a daughter-in-law of Cyrus, tells in her story of Cyrus, writing to members of his family and asking that all who could, meet him in Logan, 10 May 1887, to do temple work. Those who did go spent two weeks at the temple for this important work. We could all gain from this example of our ancestor.

Cyrus Tolman was born 6 April 1820 to Nathan Tolman and Sarah Hewett, at Hope, Lincoln County, Maine. They lived near the woods and the fine fishing of Maine so the boys learned hunting, fishing from time they were small.

In 1837 the family moved to Iowa where Cyrus with his two brothers, Judson and Benjamin, heard the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were baptized. If Cyrus, Judson, or Benjamin had just left a record of why they only joined the church! Why not their parents, their other four brothers, and their four sisters? What happened to the rest of the family? We can only speculate and will have to wait until a later time to know.

In Iowa, Cyrus was charmed by a lovely 15 year old girl, Lydia Ann Kasbeer (or Casebry) and they were married 23 March 1843. The following year Julie Ann was born 1 May 1844 in Wapello, Iowa. Cyrus, his wife, child and mother all moved to Center Point. His father, Nathan, had died shortly before and his mother could not make the trip alone.

Cyrus and his family built a little cabin down the lane by the graveyard on a flat of ground surrounded by a picket fence with a large oak tree in the corner. When Lydia Ann was 18 and pregnant with her second child, she was thrown from a sleigh and died in premature childbirth. (After her death, she appeared to Cyrus in a dream and told him to re-marry, because their daughter, Julia, needed a mother. The floor of the house was made of hewed logs and there were big cracks between the logs. She held out her hand and there were two peas in it. She told him that these peas represented his life. She threw them on the floor and they went along the log for quite a way, then one pea dropped in the crack, then the other one. Cyrus always knew that Alice Bracken, his second wife, would die first, then he shortly after.) The baby girl, whom they named Lydia Ann, lived one day. Cyrus' mother, Sarah Tolman, lived with them and kept house and cared for Julia Ann. One night when Julia Ann was sick with "putrid sore throat," she and her grandmother were sleeping on a pallet on the floor in front of the fireplace, when a spark from the fire ignited a woolen cape spread over them. They probably would have been badly burned if Cyrus had not awakened and extinguished the fire.

Sometime after Lydia Ann died, Cyrus dreamed he was out walking with his baby in his arms. The shawl around the baby slipped off and fell to the ground. A beautiful young girl picked up the shawl and gently wrapped it around the baby. When he awoke he said, "That young lady is to be my baby's step mother," and when he met Alice Bracken, he recognized her as the girl in his dream.

Alice Bracken was born in Northumberland, England. Cyrus and Alice were married in the fall of 1847, before her fifteenth birthday, and were in Nauvoo prior to crossing the plains in 1848. So the sweet girl-wife also became a step-mother. In 1848 they immigrated to Utah, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in September. Alice was expecting her first baby so that thousand mile trip must have been very difficult. "The next company that came after Brigham Young's company was the company with which they started West. But, Alice's father did and they, not used to digging a hole and putting them in a cold grave, returned to bury her father properly." They came to Salt Lake City with Brigham Young's second company on his return trip to Salt Lake in 1848.

The company often met around the campfire in the evening, singing and dancing. They knew want and hunger. Once they were six weeks without bread. They lived on greens and sego roots. Alice learned to card wool, spin the yarn, knit the socks, gloves, mittens and make anything that was needed. She learned to dye the yarn by making the dye from brush or bark. Sewing was all done by hand. Sometimes there was not enough clothing to make the necessary changes when one set became dirty so Alice would stay up at night and wash and iron while the children were asleep. Her light was the light of the fireplace, her thread, the ravelings from a cherished piece of cloth. She made soap, first making the lye from wood ashes. Fortunate indeed were they when there was enough fat or rinds of some kind to make soap sufficient for their needs.

The envy of the village was the woman who could afford a real factory made washboard. Many times it was loaned to a neighbor and was sent to someone living many miles away by the stage driver, who kindly took it there one day and brought it back the next.

Alice Bracken's first child was born at Fort Bridger, Green River, Wyoming, 6 September 1848. This was the son whom they named Cyrus Ammon. Alice was only seventeen. Her bed was in a wagon, her attendants were her husband and an inexperienced mid-wife.

The following year found Cyrus and Alice, Cyrus Ammon, and Julia Ann in Tooele, Utah, along with his brothers Judson and Benjamin. A pioneer monument in Tooele, Utah, has inscribed on it the following:

Camped on this spot September 2, 1849,

John Rowberry, wife and 5 children;

Josiah Call, wife and 5 children;

Cyrus Tolman, wife and 2 children;

Judson Tolman, wife and 1 child;

Capt. Wright, wife and 1 adopted child;

Samuel Mecham; Benjamin Tolman; Robert Skelton;

These first white settlers went to Tooele Valley with a view of finding homes and establishing a permanent settlement. After exploring the lower part of the canyons for springs and trees, they decided to settle on a small stream just south of the present city of Tooele. Bishop Rowberry, Cyrus Tolman, and others were sent into this area to make a survey and to determine what could be raised. Their report to Brigham Young was that sheep and cattle would do well. Therefore, Brigham Young sent an exploring party into the canyon to locate saw and shingle timber. The explorers returned to Brigham Young with a discouraging report. They apparently found no shingle timber. Shortly after this time Cyrus was in Salt Lake and talked to President Brigham Young. President Young told Cyrus of the report of the explorers, "Cyrus laughed at the story and said there was both saw and shingle timber in the canyons, and right there a bargain was made to have a load of this kind of timber delivered to Salt Lake City. A few days later Cyrus fulfilled the contract to the satisfaction of Brigham. Apparently Cyrusís early experience in forestry in Maine was of great help to himself and to others. It is regrettable that we do not have in Cyrusís own words some of his training and experiences in Maine and Iowa and of the later exploring and settling that he did in Utah and Idaho. He was about seventeen when his family left Maine. He was twenty eight when he crossed the plains and twenty nine when he entered Tooele. He must have felt a great deal of personal pride in being able to make good his promise to Brigham Young to bring saw and shingle timber out of Tooele.

They built the first log cabin in Tooele. Cyrus plowed the first seven acres of land and planted winter wheat. Cyrus and his brothers obtained timber from Settlement Canyon, Middle Canyon, and Pine Canyon, and ran a very successful mill. Thus began the first industry of Tooele County. "At the next meeting of the Provincial Council of the State of Deseret, 24 November 1849, Ezra T. Benson, Anson Call, Josiah Call and Judson Tolman were granted rights to saw the building timber in Settlement Canyon, Middle Canyon and Pine Canyon."

Indians, wolves, and rattlesnakes were plentiful in the Tooele Valley and added to the hardships and terror of the families.

Their little cabin was built like a dugout with the back end leaning against the hillside. The roof was sod and blended with the hill behind. At one time a cow was grazing on the side of the hill and walked out onto their roof. It fell through the back end of the house. Another time a rattlesnake was found hanging from the ceiling of their home.

An incident is told of the first Christmas in Tooele. There was not a doll or a stick of candy in all the town, yet the children were happy and well. In the afternoon of Christmas the families decided to get together and have a social and dance. There were thirty two people in attendance. They had no musical instruments so one man who was a good whistler whistled the tunes while the group danced. They all had and enjoyable time.

William Augustus was born 29 August 1850 in Tooele. Alice Ann was born 3 June 1852 in Tooele.

One of the severest trials of Alice Brackenís life was when Cyrus married his third wife, Margaret Eliza Utley on June 25, 1853, just five years after their immigration to Salt Lake. Margaret Eliza Utley was born 25 April 1835. Her father was Little John Utley. Her mother was Elizabeth Rutledge from the Rutledge line that helped draft the Declaration of Independence.

Margaret was among the mourners who gazed for the last time upon the beloved Prophet Joseph Smith and the Patriarch, Hyrum Smith, at the Mansion House in Nauvoo, Illinois. Margaret said a sob was heard to go up from the mourners which was echoed down through the years. She was also present at the special conference called to appoint a new leader for the young Church. She saw the mantle of the prophet rest upon Brigham Young.

As well as suffering from jealousy (that almost took her life), Alice was worried about how Cyrus could provide for another family. Alice was proud and wanted her children to be well dressed, have a comfortable home, and be educated.

Both Alice and Margaret were good women and each was kind and thoughtful of the other. Both were loved and mothers by the two families of children.

Margaretís first home was a small log cabin on a creek just below the city of Tooele. She moved into the cabin before it was finished. A cold November snow storm came up so she hung up a quilt to keep out the snow.

The following additional children were born to Cyrus and his two wives in Tooele:

Sarah Bell 21 May 1854 to Alice Bracken

Margaret Elizabeth 17 Oct 1854 to Margaret, died Oct 1854

John Albert 15 Sep 1855 to Alice Bracken

James Milton 18 Nov 1855 to Margaret Eliza

George Calvin 18 Feb 1858 to Margaret Eliza

Joshua Alvin 28 Mar 1858 to Alice Bracken

Alvaretta Jane 18 Nov 1860 to Alice Bracken

Little John 08 Sep 1861 to Margaret Eliza

Hanna Lovina 08 Nov 1861 to Alice Bracken (died age 3)

Johnson's army was sent to destroy the Saints in Utah because of false rumors circulated in the east by the enemies. In 1857 Cyrus took his wives and children with all they had and fled south with what they could haul with them in a wagon. They drove their cattle and other animals ahead of them and left their growing crops with enough men to burn them and their homes if it meant letting them fall into the hands of their enemies. In 1857, Cyrus took Margaret, and undoubtedly Alice, (the record is not specific) and their children to Richfield, Utah, because of the threat of Johnson's army. They apparently returned to Tooele soon after this because two of Margaret's children were born in Tooele; George C., born 18 February 1858; and Little John, born 8 September 1861.

Judson Isaac, Alice Bracken's twelfth child, tells in his history that Cyrus with his family and others "were called by Brigham Young to go down to what is now Richfield to make a settlement there, but the Indians were so bad, they would repeatedly run off our stock, and when finally some of the settlers were killed, Brother Young advised that all return to Tooele." This could have been in 1857 as referred to above or it is possible that Cyrus took the two families to Richfield at another time.

The reason for the supposition that Cyrus took his family to Richfield a second time is that Margaret had a child born at Fountain Green, Sanpete County, 12 December 1864. Fountain Green is south of Tooele, about half way between Tooele and Richfield. Then Margaret had three more children born in Tooele, giving her a total of nine children.

Cyrus settled Margaret and her little family in a dug-out, a hole in the ground crudely roofed over, at Richfield, Utah. This little hovel had a crude dirt floor and walls (there was no cement in those days) and the roof was covered with poles to support willows, then straw and soil. When it rained it leaked like a sieve. Alice and her family lived in similar humble circumstances.

These were days of anxiety and fear when they never knew what moment, day or night, they might hear the alarm and must rush mothers and children to the fort. Indians were constantly attacking the settlers in the new area. A few men would be left to protect the women and children while the young and able-bodied men went to fight the Indians. Often casualties occurred on both sides. Alice tells of the killing of Mary Smith and J.P. Peterson and his wife. The Indians stripped them of their clothing and horribly mutilated their bodies.

Wiford Richard was born 12 December 1862 to Margaret at Fountain Green, Utah.

Mary Eliza was born 7 Dec 1864 to Alice Bracken, but died at 3 months.

Joseph A. Tolman was born 11 May 1865 to Alice Bracken, but died at age 11.

Cyrus moved Margaret and her family back to Tooele in 1867 on to a ranch he had previously purchased at Rush Valley, forty miles south of Salt Lake City. It was good country but water was scarce. Sagebrush grew twelve feet high. Timber was near by. The foothills were covered with cedar not more than ten or fifteen miles away.

Martha Ann was born 27 July 1867 at Tooele, Rush Valley to Margaret Eliza.

Aaron Alexander was born 16 April 1867 to Alice in Richfield. When the baby was just three days old the Indians forced the settlers to abandon their homes. Alice had a bed in a wagon box full of potatoes when they started out for a new home. They had to leave furniture and other properties but that was of little consequence when it meant getting to a place of safety. When they camped the first night Alice took a hard chill, but new-found friends took her in. They put her in a comfortable bed, doctored her with what simple medicine that they had and the next day she was able to travel.

They made it back to Tooele and built a new two-room log cabin. They built up a good orchard with pretty shrubbery and flowers.

Orson Parley was born 10 September 1873 to Margaret Eliza. Orson always wanted to go on a mission and said he was going to when he became 19. He died of diphtheria at age 19.

Maggie Belle was born 26 April 1877 in a three room log house in Knowllen. They later purchased the farm across the road with a large adobe house, leaving two rooms of the old house standing, which the boys used as a bunkhouse. The boys were in the horse business and owned many fine horses which ranged in the surrounding country, particularly in Skull Valley.

Rush Valley was wonderful country, good climate, good rich soil, but sad to say, not water sufficient for the farms under cultivation. Year after year it seemed to grow worse and finally the boys ceased farming and went into the freighting business. They hauled ore from mines located in Bry Canyon to the smelters in Stockton.

Cyrus and Alice lived in Tooele until 1881 when he got the pioneering spirit again and decided to move this family to Goose Creek, Idaho, in the Oakley Valley. Alice was fifty years old and Cyrus was eleven years older. It would be difficult to move onto new land that was still covered with sagebrush. Goose Creek was also near to Marion, Cassia, Idaho. Alice and Cyrus had a total of fourteen children. Cyrus was a patriarch of the Church in Marion for years.

While preparing for this journey their daughter Alvaretta became sick with a fever, probably typhoid. Alice doctored her with simple remedies but she gradually grew worse. When the time came to start Alice said, "We will have to delay starting." However, the rest of the company were all ready to go and they persuaded Alice that traveling, even though Alvaretta was to stay in the wagon, would do her no harm. They started early in October but Alvaretta didn't improve and after several days she couldn't retain anything she ate or drank. The jolt of the wagon seemed to be more than she could stand and Cyrus could have to stop and let her rest a while. He administered to her several times, pleading with God to spare her life.

One day she had been worse than usual and he had to stop more often. The rest of the company traveled on but made an early camp to wait for Cyrus. It was almost dark when they arrived in their camp. Alvin asked Alvaretta if there was anything he could do for her. She answered, "Yes, if you will go to the river and catch me a fish I believe I could eat a bit of it." He hurriedly did as she bade him and soon returned with a trout. He asked Alice to cook all of it and there would be enough for her and Cyrus too. But Alvaretta said, "No, this fish was sent to save my life. Cook jus a little piece of it now and save the rest of it for me tomorrow."

Alvin went to catch some fish for the rest of the family but he didn't catch another fish. The whole company camped there a day or two longer so that Alvaretta could gain more strength.

The day they arrived in Oakley Valley the weather was hot and dry, the dust five or six inches deep. There were no trees or green shrubs. The town consists of a post office and a grocery store. The grocery store was owned by George Grant who eventually married Alvaretta.

Their home was a two-room log house. It was a heartache and disappointment for Alice but she did all she could do to make the home pleasant and home-like for the family. Her other sons would all have homes close by.

Cyrus made a journey across the valley to an old ranch known as the Land Ranch to obtain cuttings from some old poplar trees and to get rose bushes. The soil was fertile and there was an abundance of water.

It was difficult to educate the children. It was two years after they moved there that a school was finally built. The men went into the canyon, cut and hauled the logs, built the schoolhouse, hewing the logs on the inside. The flooring, windows, and doors were hauled from Kelton, Utah--over 70 miles away. The schoolhouse served as a church, school and dance hall. It was fourteen by twenty eight feet.

The next grave question confronting the pioneers was finding a market for their produce. There was no railroad in the valley. The grain had to be hauled by team and wagon to the mining roads that the people of today would say were not roads at all, but just trails through the sagebrush and over the flats.

The road to market required crossing the great Snake River by ferry boat. One time the boat broke loose from the cable, drifted down the river a short distance, then in some miraculous manner, reached the opposite shore and all were saved.

Another time when the boys reached the river, on their return journey, the weather was very cold and the hour somewhat later than usual. They signaled and called, but Mr. Star would not bring the ferry boat over for them, so they had to camp at the river's edge all night. The weather was so cold they were afraid they would freeze to death in bed in their wagons so they would go out and run up and down the road until they were warmed up, then cover up in bed, fall asleep a while only to wake before long, shaking with the cold and would have to get out and run again. Next morning the river was frozen over so they walked across on the ice and helped Mr. Star cut the ice in front of his ferry boat as he brought it over to ferry their teams and wagons across.

Alice and Cyrus would have an occasional trip to Salt Lake to conference or sometimes to work a while in the Temple. They were present at the laying of the capstone of the Salt Lake Temple, April 1893. How thrilled they were on that occasion when the thousands standing near the Temple of God waved their white handkerchiefs and shouted, "Hosanna, Hosanna, to God in the Highest."

Cyrus would visit Margaret Eliza sometimes every six months or perhaps once a year. She decided to mover her family to Star Valley, Wyoming. In September of 1887 they pulled up stakes and moved everything they had. Cyrus came from Goose Creek to help. From the histories and records available Cyrus stayed in Star Valley for a time and then went back to Goose Creek where he lived most of the time until he died.

In the year 1884 all the farmers in the Goose Creek Valley suffered severe losses from ravages of wild rabbits. With the determination to overcome the enemy, all the men and boys who could hand a gun met at a designated place. Then they divided into two companies and went out to kill the rabbits. The company killing the greatest numbers were the lucky ones and the losing side had to give a supper and dance to the victors. This bit of competition encouraged even the businessmen to take part.

On the morning of 13 January 1885 more rabbits than ever had been killed. Then they prepared to go back to their homes. But, alas, fun and laughter can soon be turned to sorrow. When George S. Grant went to climb into the wagon to return home he placed his gun in first. The trigger caught on a seat spring and the gun discharged killing George instantly. George was married to Alvaretta. They had one child and she was expecting another.

Alice and Cyrus were much consoled in their declining years thinking of their children and grandchildren. They were so proud when Judson, youngest of the boys, filled a mission to the Southern States. Alex took care of them and the farm while Judson was away.

The testimony that God lives, that He rewards those that diligently seek Him, was always with them. It seemed to cheat death of its sting.

When Alice became very ill and felt she would soon die Cyrus said to her, "Goodbye Alice, I will soon be with you." She died on 23 August 1901 and Cyrus died 18 September 1901 in Marion, Idaho. His funeral was held 21 September 1901 and he was buried in the Marion City Cemetery. Margaret Eliza raised her family most of the time by herself and died 30 May 1902, less than a year after Cyrus.

Mary Elizabeth Glenn, a granddaughter of Cyrus, leaves the following description of Cyrus in his later years: "He had white flowing hair and it was a little curly. He was not a large man, about average in height, sandy complexion and grew a beard which was white on his whole chin. It was not a goatee." Cyrus was described in another history ad a "congenial frontiersman." He was an experienced pioneer, slow to talk, stout of heart and strong of arm, full of wisdom and good counsel. He was one of those men who could not tell the world what to do, but could show them how to do it.

His life proved to be true. He was a true pioneer and he loved nothing better than to move into new country. Alice and Margaret had to have the same pioneering spirit. No doubt it was harder for them than for anyone. The moves probably involved many hardships with young families to care for and provide daily needs. They were not free to come and go as a man. To Lydia Ann Kasbeer, Alice Bracken and Margaret Eliza Utley we owe a great tribute.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Cyrus Tolman who had the courage to cross the plains, to build homes in the wilderness for his families, to be loyal to the leaders of the Church, and to be loyal to the testimony that he had. He has given us a great pioneer heritage. There are many things left unsaid about him, but we do no have a written history from him. What were his deep feelings for his wives and children? What hardships, disappointments, and accomplishments were a part of his life? What tests of faith, spiritual experiences, fulfillment of duty did he experience? We can only guess from the bits and pieces of pioneer history written about him and others.

Cyrus had a strong testimony of the gospel. He labored in every way possible to further the work of the Lord. He was very industrious and it was said that he could do the work of two men. He provided for his families to the best of his ability. He did much good in his Idaho Community.

(This information was taken from the histories of Margaret Eliza Utley, Judson Isaac Tolman, earlier history compiled by Joyce Hanks and Carma Jenkins, published in the December 1986 Tolman Family Magazine, and Tolman Book of Remembrance by DeVon Mecham; History of Tooele County; My Father's House, a book written and published by Charles Rendell Mabey; and research done by Alvin and Phyllis Tolman. We are always eager for additional history and pictures on Cyrus from any family source.)

Taken from "Thomas Tolman Family Magazine," December 1997, pp. 17-23.

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