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 Rebecca <I>Nicholson</I> Sylvester

Rebecca Nicholson Sylvester

Thorne, Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England
Death 9 Feb 1904 (aged 84)
Toquerville, Washington County, Utah, USA
Burial Pintura, Washington County, Utah, USA
Memorial ID 53629 · View Source
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Daughter of William Nicholson and Maria Cawkwell

Married James Sylvester, 27 Feb 1838, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Children - Ann Maria Sylvester, Rebecca Sylvester, Joshua William Sylvester, Martha Sylvester, Emma Sylvester, James Sylvester, Eliza Sylvester, Lovinia Nicholson Sylvester, Roseinia Sylvester, Altheria Sylvester, Joseph Sylvester, Joshua William Sylvester


Written by their daughter Roseinia Sylvester Jarvis 19th July 1909

My mother Rebecca Nicholson Sylvester had eleven children six of whom are now living, of whom I will tell later. My mother was a wonderful woman, I believe she possessed all the good qualities. She was the eldest daughter of William and Maria Calkwell Nicholson, a blue eyed, fair haired, beautiful child, who attracted attention where ever she went. She received a fair education, excelled in needle work, made white shirts and worked samples at the age of eight years. Like her mother was quick in all her movements and very active.

At the age of 16 she met my father James Sylvester who was an Apprentice in the cuttlery [sic] business at Sheffield, Eng. and who began paying attention to her. Her father jokingly said that he would be proud of such a son in law. This made her feel that she would never speak to James again, but afterwards he gave her a lecture telling her she was too young to think of beaux, and such nonsense, which made her think just the contrary. After three years of courtship the happy couple were married and started on lifes journey together, Rebecca was so youthful looking that she began to wear caps to make her look older.

They lived in Sheffield for some time and always ate Christmas dinner with her parents. On one occasion James was called on to do the carving, while doing so he stood up and some one accidentally moved his chair, so when he sat down again it caused a mighty crash among the plates set before the fender to keep warm.

While living in Sheffield, England, they were blessed with five beautiful children, viz., Ann Maria, Rebecca, Joshua, Mary and Emma. Ann Maria died at the age of seven and was buried in England. About this time they heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints preached, which struck them very forceably [sic] and after much careful study in comparing the doctrine with that taught by Christ or with the Church of Jesus Christ of former days, they were both thoroughly convinced that it was the right one, so they quit the Methodist Church and joined this with which they remained firm and steadfast to the last, never regretting or wishing for anything better, for to them it was the plan of life and salvation, also exaltation and eternal life, though all in all it was a great trial for them to leave their parents, brothers, sisters, friends and country and chance it in the wilds of America, but this was the appointed gathering place for the Saints and there was no sacrafice [sic] too great for them to make for the Gospel's sake.

Rebecca's parents were opposed to them joining this new church and on one occasion when they were talking against them going to America, Grand Pa Nicholson told little Josh. that if he went he would be drowned in the sea or killed by the Indians, to which Josh. answered, "Grand Pa, you lie, the Lord will take care of us." Grand Pa pretended to be dreadfully shocked and told him not to come for the present as usual on Saturday, so he stayed away for a while, then Grand Pa sent for him to come and often laughed at the child's earnestness and ready answer.

Mother said she hid her Book of Mormon for fear her father would make fun of it, a step she regretted all her life, as he was a deep thinker and a liberal minded man and would have enjoyed reading it, as it contains a history of the Ancient Inhabitants of America, and accounts for the wonderful discoveries of Ancient Cities in ruins, and shows that the mounds being unearthed reveal a higher state of civilization than that found among the American Indians, all of which would have interested him she knew.

After they decided to come to America, they began to save money for this purpose. In the mean time, father became a local preacher, and finely [sic] the President of the Branch at Sheffield asked him if meetings could be held in their own room, and of course they consented, mother taking pride in getting the room ready for that purpose.

While still in England they lost their oldest child Ann Maria, aged seven, in 1849. Father and Mother with their four remaining children, embarked for America in the Ship Zetland. They were in the docks for two weeks, and then six weeks crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Mother was very sea sick, and the voyage was rough, but with this exception all went well and they finally reached the shores of America, strangers in a strange land. They entered a sailing vessel and sailed up the Mississippi River as far as St. Louis, where an old friend met them and insisted on them going home with him until they found a house to rent, which they did.

Father soon located his family in a comfortable home and went into business, buying up 2nd hand furniture & stoves, repairing and selling them again. He made money fast. Mother assisted him some and also taught a little school in the afternoons, part of the time, but money making was not what they had left their home and relatives for, it was for the Gospel's sake, purely. They were reminded of this fact in a remarkable way, as the cholery [sic] broke out and people died like rotten sheep. Father went among the sick administering comfort to the Saints, especially, and helping to bury the dead etc. Finally mother was seized with it and carried to the hospital, where she lay for six weeks, hovering between life and death, and then she said to father, "Live or die, I will take no more medicine and you must get me away from here." Then father took her home, her poor bones had worn through the skin and she was in a pitiable condition, but through the administration of the Elders and the blessings of God she was healed.

Father, and his little eight year old daughter, Rebecca, did the work, washing and all, as they could get no help, there were so many afflicted. On one occasion, while mother was so low she was visited by a heavenly messenger, who told her among other things, that she should get better and go to the Valley, and there do a great work, but charged her not to tell. When father came home that night he seemed extra anxious and downhearted, so forgetting the charge, she told him about her vision, when almost immediately she was seized with a dreadful cramp, even her tongue cramped so that she could not speak. After the Elders rebuked the evil power she got relief, and the promises were afterwards fulfilled to the letter.

During the three years stay in St. Louis, James and Eliza were born and Rebecca and James died, and were burried [sic] in the same grave. By this time father and mother both felt that they were ready to come on to the Valley, as the gathering place of the Saints was called.

Father sold out his business and bought two yoke of oxen & a wagon and started across the plains, with a company of saints, a distance of a thousand miles. As Mrs. Buxton, a widow with two children, Elizabeth & John, lay dying, she begged of mother not to leave her children behind, but, to bring them to Zion, also another friend and widow, made the same request about her only child, (Lemuel Hague) so mother left her feather bed, dishes and many other useful things in order to bring those three orphans, but she willingly made the sacrifice, thanking the merciful God for sparing her own life and those of her children. Crossing the plains Joshua was run over by the heavy wagon, but after being administered to, by the Elders, was soon all right again.

In the year of 1852, after a long weary journey, they arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. They first settled in Provo, but afterwards moved to Springville, where they resided for nine years. During this time, their daughters, Lovinia, Roseinia, and Altheria were born, also their son Joseph. James and Rebecca were sealed in Provo in the office of George A. Smith on 6 March 1855. They were later endowed and resealed in the Endowment House on 3 June 1865, sealing at that time performed by Wilford W. Woodruff.

They endured many hardships incident to Pioneer life, such as Indian Wars, grass hoppers, crickets etc. At one time father felt that he could not stand to see his family in poverty, suffering for the necessaries of life, and so decided to leave them for a time and go back to St. Louis, where he had made money so easily & make money again and return with it to his family, to this plan mother was opposed as she feared he might die there, but father was about to go when he had a dream, which warned him not to go. He thought the Savior or a heavenly messenger appeared to him from behind a large rock surrounded by a halo of light and said "I came very nearly reporting you to the Father." My father answered and said, "Do you think the Father knows of me?" The messenger answered, "Do you think the Father who marks the sparrow's fall, does not know his children?"

My father awoke with the impression that it was wrong for him to look back and long for the flesh-pots of Egypt, as it were, so settled down and made the best of what this country afforded, until better times came, but he had always provided well for his family, and it ground him to see them short of clothing. Mother could stand it better, she had, some times, to put us to bed while she washed and mended our clothes, but she always managed to have us clean for Sunday. People wondered how she did it, but they did not know of the hours she spent at home mending, making over and washing in order to keep us so. We had plenty to eat such as it was, squash pie and melon preserved in beet molasses were among the delicaces [sic], but we had bread, milk, butter and meat, also vegetables in plenty.

Again at the time of the gold fever in California, when so many went to seek their fortunes, my father thought of going, but was again warned by a dream. This time he thought he saw a great fire or light and many men were lighting their torches by it. They then started off in the darkness, when one after the other of the torches went out and the men were lost in darkness. He awoke with the impression that the Church was the fire or light and that those who left for the sake of gold would loose [sic] the spirit of the Gospel and fall away into darkness, which they afterwards did. He seemed to be with those who started out with torches and as one after another went out he looked back at the fire burning so brightly and wished himself back. After this warning he tried to think less of wealth of this world and prize what he had, the true Gospel as some thing more precious.

My father had always desired to live in a warm climate so when the call was made for the Saints to settle the Southern part of the State of Utah, he volunteered to go. There was also another reason for him wanting to go, as their oldest daughter Mary had married Joseph Birch who was called to go, so father sold out at Springville and started with his family in ox teams. He had considerable stock and as it was late in the fall he concluded to winter at Gunnison, it being a warm, open Valley; and then go on in the Spring.

That winter the new settlement of Gunnison was visited by Apostle Orson Hyde, who advised all who were there to remain. Father went to him and stated his condition, to which Apostle Hyde replied, "Bro. Sylvester stay here and make your mark," so father bought land and built a two roomed log house that winter. In the Spring during the high water season, the Sanpitch River overflowed its banks and spread over the Valley. It was 2 ft. deep in our house, and covered the garden stuff which was looking so fine before. It was then deemed necessary to move the town from the river bottom land to the Bench land. Father, with all the rest, tore down their newly built log houses and moved them to the new town site. He at first worked at blacksmithing, but it did not pay, so he sold his tools and bought land. He kept buying and fencing land until he owned about 100 acres and raised about 10 or 12 hundred bushels of grain per year, besides root crops such as potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, artichokes, etc., which made excellent cow, sheep & hog feed. He was prospering finely when the Black Hawk Indian War broke out, which necitated [sic] another move. This time into a Fort for mutual protection against Indian rades [sic]. The log houses were built a little distance apart with the space between filled in with a high rock wall, in which was left a small gate way, through which we passed to the Corrals outside, and which were all locked at night, so also were the four wagon gates at the North, East, South and West sides of the Fort. The Fort formed a square which contained all the houses and people of the town.

The war lasted four years and during all that time, father, his hired man and brother Joshua were minute men subject to a call to fight at any minute night or day. Joshua was in the cavelry [sic] and was out on duty most of the time, leaving his young wife Christena almost frantic.

Father belonged to the home Guard and spent about two night a week guarding the town, these were fearful times. All the settlements on the Sevier River were broken up after they had been raided and robbed of their horses and cattle; the people of these towns were in such a helpless condition that the two towns Gunnison and Manti took the people of the Sevier River District and housed and provided for them until such time as they could return to their homes. Father took a family of eleven, man, woman and nine children whose name was Brown, he built a house for them by his own in the Fort and helped take care of them. Besides this father had to furnish horses and provisions for the Soldiers, several times taking a horse from his work team. After the War he built a rock house on his City lot at the upper end of town and was comfortable again.

Father could not give up the thoughts of Dixie, his daughter Mary and husband were constantly pleading for him to come, so he finally sold out his lots and house, but could not sell his field land, as it was on Indian Reserve and he could not get a Government Title, so he left it and never realized any thing for all his hard work.

He arrived at Kanarra in July 1868, left his children there while he and mother went to visit St. George and on their way back located and started a new home at Bellvue. He pitched a tent and made a nice bowery in front, then came and took us all down. Mother said it felt like home as soon as she set foot on the place. The tent, bowery and wagon box gave us shelter until late in the Fall when we moved into the Basement Story of our new rock house, which was completed by Spring.

Father then cleared the land of oak brush and, with the help of one hired man and we children, fenced with rock wall and planted 5½ acres of land into lucerne and vineyard by the second year. We children, three girls and one boy helped pile and burn the brush, helped load and unload rock for the house and fence, and to cut and plant grape cuttings, afterwards to sucker them and tie them to stakes, also helped to plant corn and cane crops, helped make molasses and then made candy and helped to eat it, helped to plant the orchard and later to pick and pack the fruit for market and dry and take care of the rest.

Thus we were generally useful and all took a delight in helping father who was always good and kind, always appreciative and tender of us, but never exacting or hard. Mother too helped outside as she tended the garden after father planted it, and finding that the outdoor exercise agreed with her best, she left the house work, cooking and sewing to the girls, and spent most of her time in caring for the garden, fruit etc.

We usually milked five or six cows and raised our own meat, beef, pork, poultry etc. This with the choicest of fruits and vegetables furnished us with a good living, but it was more difficult to get clothes. So mother began knitting the home made socks, for which the peddlers gave a good price and she also taught we girls to knit, and our winter evenings were generally spent in knitting men's socks, while father read to us.

We used, also, to assist our neighbors, some times who ran a hotel, and in this way got a good course in Domestic Science as she was a fine cook and able teacher. Through all these busy times mother took time to teach us reading, writing & spelling, as we had no schools at first, and thus we grew up natural and free, a very happy family. Father always played some musical instrument and we had much singing too, especially when friends would come in. First he played the accordian, then the violin and then the organ. He would go to the organ when he came in to rest, and he and mother would sing hymns on Sunday afternoon and evenings. Story of the organ always trying something for advancement. [This last penciled in at end of paragraph.] Then often traveling musicians would stop there over night and have a musical evening, which father enjoyed so much.

In winter time our house was seldom free from company, for it was always open to the poor who could not go to the Hotel next door, who refused shelter to all who could not pay, so we used to say that the Hotel Keeper took the money while father took the gratatude [sic] and blessings of the people, but some paid so we managed to live and was loved and respected by all. Some times, after many years men have called at our door and said "Mrs. Sylvester I called here when I was broke and hungry and you fed and warmed me and now I wish to pay you for it," mother would have forgotten the circumstance but, they did not, the fire and light was always free. If people had their own provision they were all right, if not that too, was furnished. For many years after we children were grown married and gone, father and mother remained there in the same old way.

Mother always kept extra clothes & bedding for poor travelers who came in wet and cold and saved many from freezing to death in that bleak place in winter, for while the Summers were so pleasant, the seasons so long that Tropical fruits could be raised, still the winters were extremely cold, as the wind blew so much from the cold snowy north, causing real blizzards. On dark & stormy nights kept a light in the north window that could be seen for miles.

One beautiful mild morning on the 19th May 1888, when mother got up as usual, but with the feeling "How beautiful and calm every thing seems this morning, it seems as still as death." The sun was bright and shining in at the window and she was impressed with the feeling of serenity, so she said to her little grand daughter, who was visiting with her, and to whom her grand Pa had said the night before, "You sleep with grand Ma Emma and I will sleep in the little bed room," "Come Emma, we have over slept, let us dress quickly and get grand Pa's breakfast." When she went into the kitchen she found there was no fire, a thing unusual, as father always started the fire before going out to do the chores, but thinking he was not feeling well as he had missed making it once before lately on this account, she got his breakfast before disturbing him. She then opened his room door and spoke, but as he did not answer, she went and turned down the bedding when she saw the gastly [sic] look on his face. He was still warm. Little Emma ran for their son Joseph, their daughter Altheria and husband, who were soon there. They worked with him for some time thinking to bring him to, but it was in vain, the spirit had taken its flight.

It seemed that every body was kept away that morning, as his friend Owens, always called on his way to the field, but this time got to the gate and then turned back, and another friend Mr. Dutton, who had camped near by and had been in the evening before, singing and playing the organ with him saw father go around the house and pile up some lumber, and then just as he was going back in the house, he spoke to him, but father did not answer him, which hurt his feelings, as he said of all his friends he loved father best, so Dutton said to his boy, "Come let us go, I feel there is some thing wrong as Bro. Sylvester did not answer," but he wrote to mother and said "I will never forget the look he gave me."

Father had taken off his shoes and coat and layed down with his hand under his head and went off without a struggle. This was a terrible blow to mother and we thought she would go too for a time, for she fainted time & again. I stayed with her that summer and took the care of house keeping off her, and she worked in the garden and finally felt better. Sister Mary stayed with her about two years and then we persuaded her to give up house keeping and live with her children, which she did, renting her place, but before leaving she prepared extra clothing, bedding and table linen to be used in case her friends came or any poor travelers wet, cold or in need. She lived 16 years after father died and did much good among her children, grand & great grand children. Besides working in the temple for hundreds of her relatives and friends. The last winter of her life she stayed with Sister Altheria Gregerson at Bellvue. She was a great help in many ways, up to the last. The grand children all loved her and went to her to get their buttons sewed on, their toys mended etc. She took great comfort with the baby and would sit and rock the cradle and sing and read for hours. She also enjoyed talking or conversing with the travelers who came in, as Sister kept Hotel. She often met old friends and some very nice people, who marveled at her intelligence and mental activity at her advanced age.

On the evening she was taken ill she conversed on the leading topics of the times with such intelligence that the gentleman remarked "What a wonderfully bright old lady she was." After retiring she took a chill, sister Altheria did all she could for her, but pneumonia set in, Dr. Higgins came but said he could do no more than what had been done. 3 times pneumonia after grandfather died. [This written in the margin.] Her children were soon sent for and were at her bedside, all but, Mary Birch, whose husband was very ill at the time. Mother knew us all up to the last and was happy and cheerful and looked forward with hope and joy to the meeting of her parents, brothers, sisters, husband and children on the other side. There was nothing unpleasant about her two weeks sickness, her breath was sweet, her voice clear and she sang very distinctly the following song;

When the lamp of life is waneing [sic], weep not for me
When the languid eye is straining, weep not for me
When the feeble pulse is ceasing, weep not for me
'Tis the fettered soul releasing, weep not for me.

and the following;

One there is above all others, Oh, how he loves
He has love beyond a brother, Oh, how he loves
Earthly friends may turn and leave you
One may soothe, another grieve you
But this friend will ne'er deceive you
Oh,- how - he loves.

The Evening before she passed away she called us around her bed side and ask each of us to speak and tell her how we felt towards her as our mother, if we were satisfied. We did so, praising her example and teaching. After which she exhorted us to be true to the Gospel, be united, hold together and be charitable towards each other and be an honor to our name. She had so much vitality that it took several days longer for her to die than the Doctor thought it would. The night before she died she took a cramp in one foot and leg which was very severe. The next morning at day light we all stood around her bed and saw her go to sleep. All who saw her said they never saw a more beautiful corpse. We layed her by fathers side and erected a beautiful marble monument to mark their resting place just west of Sister Altheria's house at Bellvue, Wash. Co., Utah. She died 9th Feb. 1904.

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, James Jepson Company (1852)


Beloved Wife of James Sylvester




  • Maintained by: SMSmith
  • Originally Created by: Utah State Historical Society
  • Added: 2 Feb 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 53629
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rebecca Nicholson Sylvester (8 Mar 1819–9 Feb 1904), Find A Grave Memorial no. 53629, citing Pintura Cemetery, Pintura, Washington County, Utah, USA ; Maintained by SMSmith (contributor 46491005) .