Mary Tokelove Chesson
A great, great, great, grandmother of Cora H Farmer, who is gratefully remembered, honored, and revered by a numerous posterity.
Mary Chesson as a widow, sixty four years old brought two orphaned grand children to the wild rigorous desert land which was to be the new Zion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Her great grand children admire and love her for her wonderful example of courage, fortitude, and firm determination to follow the dictates of her heart and spirit against strong opposition of her family and persecution of friends.
Mary Tokelove was born 29 March 1800 at Stokeferry, Norfolk, England, a daughter of John Tokelove & Ann Bird. She married John Chesson July 1822 in London. They had nine children.
Her second daughter, Emily married William Billings. Emma Billings was the only surviving child of this union. Both of the parents passed away leaving Emma in the care of her grandmother. A boy from another member of the Chesson family was also orphaned. He was William Chesson.
When John Chesson died he left his saddlery shop to his wife, which she continued to operate. One bleak rainy day a man called at Mary’s door. He looked cold and hungry and his feet were wet, because his shoes were worn out. She invited him in and took some stockings and shoes from her stock of goods and told him to put them on. Then she fed him before sending him on his journey. He told her he was a Mormon missionary without any money to pay her for her wonderful kindness, but he left her tracts and literature telling about the new church founded by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Mary read these and became convinced of their truth. When the missionaries came again she said she was ready to be baptized.
Henry her son was very much opposed and ordered the men from her home. She told them Henry did not pay her rent. They were welcome to stay. He left in anger and did everything in his power to prevent his mother’s plans.
She joined the church and had a great desire to live among the saints in their new home in America. The ship “Hudson” was soon to sail, so Mary reserved a stateroom for herself, Emma & William. Henry knew his mother would not go without the children. So he told them he was taking them for a vacation and secretly hid them from his mother. When she couldn’t find them, very disappointed and heartsick she canceled the stateroom on the ship and ordered a new consignment of goods for her shop. Still unable to settle down to the old routine, she prayed for help. A voice said distinctly, “Mrs Travis”. Mary wrote Emma at Mrs Travis home telling them to meet her in London. The ship was in dock, repairs still unfinished. The stateroom was taken but she decided to come even if now she would have to take steerage. “Others take it so can we”. She turned the consignment of new goods for the shop over to her son Henry and made preparations for the journey to America, and a new home in the west. The ship “Hudson” sailed 3 Jun 1864. Arriving in New York eight weeks later.
The Civil War was not completely over and guerilla bands were robbing the trains and burning bridges. Mary Chesson along with other Immigrants had to travel in cattle cars and once had to hide in a hollow to keep away from the outlaws and to wait until the bridges were repaired. When they reached Florence, Nebraska at the end of the railroad, they had to buy a wagon, oxen, and supplies with which to cross the plains.
Elder Samuel Neslen, a returning missionary was a very good friend, and he guided the little grandmother and her little ones on their journey. He was aided by another, Elder Rich. He secured a man who needed a way to get to Utah, to drive the oxen and otherwise help them through out their travels. Mary became very ill, so Elders, Neslen and Rich made the arrangements. Brother Parley P Pratt and Elder Neslen administered to her and through the blessing of the Lord she was able to start the journey west while still in bed, but with faith that she would soon be well and strong again.
She carried medicine and other health giving supplies and was always willing to share with the sick and needy. She never turned anyone away. She had her own wagon and two teams of oxen and traveled with an independent group of ten wagons, which followed about a mile behind Captain Hyde’s company.
Mary and Emma would fix a warm comfortable bed under the wagon for Brother Neslen and Rich and the teamster, by laying a feather bed on the ground then pinning blankets around the wheels to keep out the cold winds.
While traveling late one day in Indian country, the bolt that held the wagon tongue broke and they had to stop. Brother Neslen and Rich who were riding with them at the time, tied the oxen to a wheel and hurried on to catch the train. They warned them not to make a light or fire for fear of being scalped by Indians. They huddled in the dark until morning when the brothers came back with the mended bolt. So they started immediately to catch the wagon train ahead. Things went smoothly until they got to Bitter Creek, when one of the oxen of Mary’s team got too lame to travel. The ten independent wagons stayed with her but Captain Hyde ordered his company to move on so Brothers Neslen and Rich had to go with the company train.
The little grandmother became very distressed----she missed the strength and guidance especially of Brother Samuel Neslen. She doctored the crippled feet of the ox--bathed his feet with sage tea without much improvement. She went out alone to pray--begging Heavenly Father to help her. The wagons could not wait too long. They must go on. Next morning a cow and ox were found in a thicket. The ox took the place of her lame ox. The cow was giving milk and helped nourish the babies in the group. When this independent company reached Green River, Wyoming a government man claimed the cow and ox as government property. But by now the oxen were well enough to be hitched to their owner’s wagons and they reached Salt Lake City two days later than Captain Hyde’s train, on 29 Oct 1864. All were met by friends but Mary and her grand children. They camped alone near where the City and County building now stands. It snowed five inches and was cold and uncomfortable.
Brother Neslen hadn’t expected them to arrive so soon so Mary became a victim of a man who traded an old dugout for her wagon and one team of oxen. She gave the other pair to Bishop Hunter to help bring other immigrants to Utah. When Brother Neslen found them he made the trader make it right.
The dugout with its dirt floor was a welcome retreat from the snow and icy winds. Emma and William took turns with their grandmother in sawing wood for the fire place.
Grandmother Chesson showed her resourcefulness and courage in adjusting to these primitive conditions. She mended grain sacks or any other work available and soon made a home for herself in East Tooele.
Emma went to work for Edward D Holt who was running a weaving establishment and on 10 Mar 1865, she married him as his second wife. William went away in search of work or adventure and was never heard from again.
Grandmother Chesson would walk one and a half miles to a bathing resort on the Great Salt Lake, and took care of the bathing suits, cleaning and mending them.
She soaked and hammered barrel staves to make stays or corsets for women. She established a roadside Inn where travelers could stop, feed their horses and get food for themselves. She entered into the life of the community giving help and succor when needed in Relief Society and other organizations.
Mary Tokelove Chesson, lived for 18 years in Utah beginning in a dugout and at her passing 29 Oct 1882 had much of this worlds goods around her and left a numerous posterity who lovingly honor her memory. Her descendants came from her grand daughter Emma who had 15 children, 11 living to maturity.
Many of these grand children have inherited her courage, ambitious enterprise and lofty ideals and are taking their places in building their communities, state and nation in church, business, education, and defense.
Mary was buried in East Tooele as was her son-in-law William Chapman--later their remains were moved to the South Jordan cemetery, near her daughter Ann Chapman’s grave and adjacent to grand daughter Emma and many of her family.
Written by Nellie Oliver Parker.
Great, Great, Grand Daughter.