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 Emma Jane <I>Stevens</I> Riddle

Emma Jane Stevens Riddle

Original Name Emma Jane
Holden, Millard County, Utah, USA
Death 29 Jun 1954 (aged 86)
Saint George, Washington County, Utah, USA
Burial Saint George, Washington County, Utah, USA
Plot C_31_8_5
Memorial ID 43480 · View Source
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(1)Children by George Franklin Burnham married 27 May 1885 in Logan, Cache, Utah:
Abigail "Abbie" Burnham Hatch (James Ira Hatch)
Victor Stevens Burnham
Walter Alma Burnham (Edna J)

(2)Children by Carl Emil Nielson born: 9 May 1860 Voldby, Aathus, Denmark died 1 Feb 1935 Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico married 4 March 1896
Morgan Leon Nielson
Kenneth Franklin R Nielson
Olea Nielson (Claude Sylvester Rowley)
Lawrence J Nielson
Joshua "Slim" Nielson (Ruth)
Bertha Nielson (1808-1809)

(3)No children by Joselyn Mountchesney Riddle
Daugher of Walter Joseph Stevens and Abigail Elizabeth Holman

Emma Jane Stevens

• Born: November 29, 1867 in Holden, Millard Co., Utah

• Married George Burnham - May 27, 1884

• Married Carl Emil Nielsen - March 4, 1896

• Married J. M. Riddle - March 25, 1939

• Died: 29 June 1954 in St. George, Utah

• Lifelong occupation: Nurse/Midwife

Emma Jane Stevens was born November 29, 1867 in Holden, Millard Co., Utah. She was the daughter of Walter Stevens and Abigail Elizabeth Holman, who were early pioneers of Utah. She was the seventh child in a family of ten children. As a child, she was often ill, having whooping cough, and pneumonia three different times. Because she was a sickly child, she did not attend school on a regular basis. In spite of that, she always had the desire to learn and to improve herself. Because she was at home so much she was taught to knit, make button holes, braid straw hats, crochet, make quilts and pick and card wool. The children were never allowed to "run in the streets or play with other children." Their mother's idea was that if you were able to run and play, then you were able to work. So all the children learned at an early age to work.

When Emma was twelve years old her father moved his family to Fruitland, New Mexico. Emma's two older brothers, Walter Joshua Stevens and David Alma Stevens were already there, having made the trek with the pioneer company down through the Hole in the Rock to Bluff, Utah. There was not enough good farm land on the San Juan River so the two Stevens men with their families traveled further up the San Juan River until they came to Fruitland, New Mexico where there was good land for farming and plenty of water. Here, in 1879, Walter moved with his family. They ran a trading post for the Navajo Indians, raised cattle and farmed.

After arriving in New Mexico, Emma was given the task of driving a team of workhorses while a Navajo Indian held the plow. In this way they plowed the fields to be planted in corn, wheat and pasture. Emma Jane found that outdoor work agreed with her and she began to enjoy robust health. Emma had a great desire to go to Provo, Utah to study to be a nurse and midwife but her father told her he could not afford to send her and that she was needed at home. She was disappointed and unhappy and perhaps thought that life was passing her by. Her younger sister had become a plural wife of Apostle Brigham Young, Jr. and Emma desired independence and an education. As she worked in the trading post she said she would marry the next man who walked through the door. That man was George Burnham, a man almost as old as her father. She married Brother Burnham May 27, 1884 in Logan, Utah. In her life story she states:

I did not love the man, although I liked his family and he was a good honest Latter-day Saint. He wanted me and while I knew I could not be acknowledged as his wife, I respected him. I wanted to go to school and learn something and I thought that while I had to live more or less on the underground, (for fear of the U. S. marshals hunting polygamists) that I could find a place to live, go to work to pay for my schooling and thus have a way to make my living.

George Burnham refused to let her go to school, saying it would cause jealousy in his families and that he did not have money to send. Emma told him she would not ask him for a penny but still he said, "No," so that was the end of her plan.

She lived in Moab, Utah for a year then went back down to Fruitland, New Mexico to her parents home. Here, on March 3, 1886, Emma had her first baby, a daughter. She was named Abigail after her mother. For over two years she moved first one place, then another to escape the U. S. marshals. Brother Burnham took Emma and her baby to Bluff, Utah where she lived one and a half years. Here her second child was born, a son named Victor. Shortly after this, her mother Abigail persuaded Brother Burnham to let Emma go to Provo to school. The two small children were left with Burnham's first wife. Emma got her nursing certificate. She then moved back to her parent's home in New Mexico. While living there, a family came through on their way to Old Mexico and the Mormon Colonies. They needed her midwife services and said they would pay her way and also the two small children if Brother Burnham would let her go. He agreed, she packed a few things, and went as far as Gallup, New Mexico. The woman was delivered of still born twins. When she recovered they no longer needed Emma. With the money she had earned she bought a train ticket and rode the train to Deming, New Mexico. She went through the customs house, took out colonization papers and crossed the border into Old Mexico. After a perilous journey in a wagon with her two small children she arrived in Colonia Dublan in the summer of 1891. Her two older brothers, Walter Joshua and David Alma had moved to Mexico to colonize a few years previous to 1891. Emma arrived in Colonia Dublan August 2, 1891 and on October 2, 1891 her third child was born, a son she named Alma. She began her midwife practice relying on the Lord to help her and by listening to the promptings of the Spirit, she brought many babies into this world.

In 1892 Emma and her family moved to Juarez where she lived in her brother Walter's house. She lived there two years after which she bought two lots. Because she did not make enough money to barely live she was not able to build a house on the lots. From her history:

In the fall of 1983 I was called to go to Colonia Dublan to care for a lady. I left the two older children with my brother's wife. I was gone several weeks and when I got back there stood a one-room house on my lot. I asked my brother if he had built it. "No I did not. Didn't you know about it being done?" "No, I did not know a thing about it," Emma replied.

As it turned out Brother Carl Emil Nielsen and some of his carpenters had built the house. He explained that he had some lumber on hand and no use for it and he could see that they were all crowded into one small house. He thought he would do a charitable act and build a small house for Emma. Before she moved in Emma went to see Brother Nielsen and thanked him for his generosity and said she would pay him for the house. Brother Nielsen would not hear of it. Emma moved in and had a porch built across the front, which she used for a summer kitchen.

As soon as Emma moved into the little house, Brother Nielsen began to show small favors to her children. From her life history Emma writes:

He was kind to the children ‘til they loved him. And no sooner was it noised around that I had been divorced from Burnham that he commenced to call on me, and through his kindness to us, I thought he was an ideal man, and his wife and I were friends. So early in the spring of 1895 we were married, and I simply idolized the man. We never had a quarrel or argument.

Emma had a very heavy practice. There were no doctors in the country and Emma was sent for in all difficult cases. Emma went horseback in the dead of night many times, in all kinds of weather to deliver babies. She was set apart for that work by the Apostles and told to not charge much for her services because the people were in poor circumstances. She was told to rely on the Lord in all cases and was promised she would never lose a case. This proved to be true; she only lost one case in Mexico. After six years the president of the mission told here she could raise the prices. After that she charged ten dollars to deliver a baby, instrument cases were higher, and if she had to stay over for a time, she was paid one dollar a day.

Emma Jane had a son named Morgan Leon born 22 November 1896. Another son, Kenith Franklin was born 2 July 1898. After the birth of Kenith Franklin, Emma took her family and went to Fruitland, New Mexico for a visit with her parents. She stayed with them a year. Her sons worked on the farm. She cooked for the threshers and helped with the housekeeping. When she left to go back to Mexico, her parents got her children warm underwear, suits of clothes, shoes, stockings, caps and also a dress for Emma. After Emma returned to Mexico, there was lots of conflict between the families. Emma's two older children Abigail and Victor both left to go to work for other people. The ninth of July 1901, Emma had a baby girl. She was named Olea. She was born in Dublan. Also in 1901, Brother Nielsen decided to move his families to Garcia, up in the mountains. Emma did not want to go. She preferred to stay in Dublan and make what money she could at her midwife practice. However, Emma finally agreed to move. After the move, the problems with the families continued. A baby boy named Lawrence Joy was bon in Colonia Garcia September 21, 1903. On July 14, 1905 another baby boy was born. He was named Joshua, also born in Colonia Garcia.

Emma and Carl Emil moved to Madera where he worked. They lived in a tent and were there ten months. When they left Madera Emma was expecting again. This time she felt something was wrong. She decided to go to Fruitland, New Mexico to her parents home so her mother Abigail could care for her during her confinement. She and her family went back to Fruitland, where a baby girl was born. She was named Bertha. She was a sickly baby and only lived a year. While Emma was at Fruitland, the Patriarch came to a quarterly conference. Emma Jan received her patriarchal blessing. She was told that the Lord had seen her sacrifices and had accepted of them and that her sins were forgiven. Many more blessings were promised her. She was counseled to return to her husband, to be kind and submissive, to be humble and prayerful, to be brave and to trust in the Lord. Emma followed this council and returned once more to Mexico.

She was there but a short time. Her baby Bertha continued to be sick. Emma secured tickets from Deming, New Mexico to Bluewater, New Mexico. After a long and troubled trip, she and her children finally arrived at her youngest brother's home in Bluewater. Not long after she arrived there, Bertha died and two years later, Kenith Franklin died of diabetes.

Emma bought a ranch in the Zuni Mountains about ten miles from Bluewater. She and the boys worked hard to improve the ranch. During this time she also had a midwife practice. Emma's sons Victor and Alma worked for a logging company up in the Zuni Mountains. One morning as they were preparing breakfast, Victor suffered an attack. He fell to the floor and could not be revived. He had received a call to serve a mission and was engaged to be married. This was a severe trial for Emma. Not long after Victor's death, Emma sold the ranch and her small home in Bluewater and moved to Blanding, Utah. In Blanding she took three girls who were her oldest son Morgan's children. His wife had passed away leaving the girls without a mother. Emma raised Amy, Alberta and Grace Nielsen. Leaving Blanding, Emma moved to St. George, Utah to work in the temple in 1938.

It was in the Saint George Temple that she met J. M. Riddle. He asked her to marry him; she agreed. They were married by the Bishop in St. George (Editors's note: Carl Emil Nielsen died in 1935, three years previously). They then went to Blanding. Emma had a ruptured gall bladder and had emergency surgery. When she recovered they returned to St. George, Utah. They were sealed in the St. George Temple. They were happily married for 14 years.

Emma died 29 June 1954. She was 87 years old.

Children of Emma Jane Stevens and Carl Emil Nielsen:

Morgan Leon Nielsen – born, 22 Nov. 1896 in Colonia Dublan – died, May 1977.

Kenith Franklin (Frankie) – born, 2 July 1898 in Colonia Dublan – died, 31 July 1911.

Olea Nielsen Rowley – born, 9 July 1901 in Colonia Dublan – died, 1994.

Lawrence Joy Nielsen – born, 21 Sept. 1903 in Colonia Garcia – died, 7 Aug. 1929.

Joshua Nielsen – born, 14 July 1905 in Colonia Garcia – died, 7 July 1975.

Bertha Nielsen – born, 8 Aug. 1908 in Fruitland, NM – died, Sept. 1909.

This history was transcribed by Charles C. Farnsworth from a history written by Emma's granddaughter, Gloria Nielsen Hampton.





  • Maintained by: Crystal Burnham
  • Originally Created by: Utah State Historical Society
  • Added: 2 Feb 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 43480
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Emma Jane Stevens Riddle (29 Nov 1867–29 Jun 1954), Find A Grave Memorial no. 43480, citing Saint George City Cemetery, Saint George, Washington County, Utah, USA ; Maintained by Crystal Burnham (contributor 46590834) .