Abigail Starbuck was born on June 1, 1813 to William Starbuck and Esther Coffin.
She was born and raised a Quaker and always retained their way of talking, Thee and Thou, etc. Very little is known of her early childhood, at the age of twenty, she married William Barney Coffin, a prominent young man from North Carolina. To this union was born eight children, four sons and four daughters.
William and Abigail moved to Indiana, here they lost their first child, a little girl of eleven months old. She was playing by the hearth and fell into the fire and died from the burns she received.
William joined the L.D.S. Church. At first Abigail was not much interested in the unpopular church, but by and by she began investigating its doctrine and one year later entered the waters of baptism. Soon after that, their trials and tribulations began. The criticism of their parents and friends were at times hard to take. Today there are letters written to them by relatives entreating them to stay with them in Indiana, but they cast their lot with the Saints and moved to Nauvoo. William and their oldest son, James William fought in the Battle of Nauvoo in the year 1846. James lost his life in the battle at the age of sixteen.
William and Abigail moved out of Nauvoo into Winter Quarters. While here William bought a coat from one of the immigrants. From this coat he caught Small-pox and on June 4, 1850 he died at Council Bluffs from the dread disease. Before he died he called his wife and children to his bedside and with tears streaming down his face he said, "Abigail, this is the true Church, take the children and go on West with the Saints." Abigail and one of the brethren made a casket from rough board and lowered the remains to his last resting place.
Ann Eliza Coffin, William and Abigail's daughter gives an account of these times:
"I Ann Eliza (Coffin) Garner was born of goodly parents in the state of Indiana, at Richmond, Wayne Co, on the 24th of January 1839. My parents William Barney Coffin and Abagail Starbuck joined the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS in about 1845, and was with the Saints all through the trials, mobbing, and persecutions. They came from North Carolina and Indiana, and on to Nauvoo, Illinois in the spring of 1845.
I was but a small girl but well do I remember the suffering and deprivation and sorrows of the Saints. I well remember the army coming into the town of Nauvoo, and hearing them shoot their guns when two miles away from the town, and saw the cannon ball roll past our door. Then the drive from Nauvoo and the suffering that followed. I well remember seeing the mob take possession of the temple, and how they climbed on the outside of the railing that was built around the top about one foot from the edge and marched around the temple. I remember the remark of my dear mother when she saw them. She said, "I wish the old Devils would fall off there and break their necks."
My father was sick in bed for two weeks, but he got right up and dressed, shouldered his gun and went right out into battle and fought the mob. During the skirmish the mob was driven across a slough. While Father was gone a mob came in disguise and told my mother she would have to leave or get killed. Before Father left the Prophet Joseph said, "Go, and not one hair of your head will be lost." So he went and while out a cannon ball passed over his head and knocked his hat off, but the prophesy of the Lord was fulfilled and not one hair of his head was lost. He returned home to his family and shared with the rest of the Saints until driven out of Nauvoo, to Montrose Iowa or Council Bluff in 1847 or 8. He died June 4h 1850 at Council Bluffs Iowa, and his last words to my mother were "Go on to the valley, this is the true church."
Oh what sorrow to be left alone without a father, and have to lay him down alone and go on. We were too poor to go on with the Saints, so we had to stay over for two years until we could get a little better prepared for the long hard journey which lay before us. It was during this time that my father died. The trial was hard. My mother with the assistance of us children, my brother Nathan and myself were all that were there to bury our dear father. We took rough boards and made a coffin as best we could, and Horace Rawson dressed him in his temple robes all but the cap, and dug his grave and carried him and laid him in it. Then to cover him up was worse of all, how we could do it. My mother threw one shovel of dirt on the coffin, then my small brother William and my mother had to turn away. The sound of the dirt on the coffin seemed to tear her heart strings loose, but she had to return to finish the task that seemed more than she could stand. There was no one to preach a funeral sermon or to offer a word of consolation or comfort to us, but the Lord knew best.
When the time came for us to leave Council Bluffs we did so and journey on, walking most of the way. In crossing the Platt River my brother Nathan was washed down stream. My mother stood out on the wagon tongue and threw the whip to him to catch. He missed it the first time, she threw it again and he caught it. She succeeded in pulling him to her by guiding the oxen down stream, and reaching out and getting hold of his hand and brought him to safety. She put him on the upper side of the oxen again, and by holding to them, and with assistance he succeeded in driving them across the stream.
We came to Utah October 1, 1852, in Harris 10 Company, Cutlers Company of 50 and settled in Ogden in 1852."
When Abgail notified her mother of the death of her husband, she was advised to return to her and she would give Abigail and her children a home and money. But Abigail's strong testimony would not allow her to accept this help and turn back.
Two year later she with her family gathered their belongings. With a prayer in their hearts they started their long journey West traveling in the Harmon Cutler Company. Abigail appointed Nathan, her eldest living son, as driver of her wagon, which was drawn by an ox and a cow. During the journey she and her family were many times hungry and cold, but her faith and courage did not falter. During the daytime she was joyful and happy to keep the courage of her family at a high point, but in the solitude of the night her pillow was wet with tears shed for loved ones which were left behind.
At one time the Saints made their camp near a swamp and her daughter Esther, became ill with Cholera. The captain of the company ordered the Saints to go on in order that no one else catch the dreadful disease. He advised Abigail to stay behind; but as the wagons started away, she told her son Nathan, to hitch up the team and they would follow. As soon as they started, Esther began to recover and soon was well again.
Abigail and her family arrived in Utah October 1852. She settled in Ogden and with the help of her family built a home.
She worked at anything she could do to support her family. She knew how to weave and spin, make soap, knit and sew. She not only did these things herself but taught others. She had a few cows and horses. She had the first side saddle in Utah, and used it to look after her livestock. Her boys also worked at anything they could get to do.
Abigail also made her living by doing the work of a doctor and midwife in Ogden and surrounding country. She answered the calls whenever and wherever it was, brought babies into the world and closed the eyes of those who were called by the angel of death. For transportation she used the saddle horse. Many times the cold would penetrate her very bones, but she went on praying that she would not be too late. People paid her in food or whatever they had, and if they had nothing she helped them anyway. Often her living was very slim.
Her son Nathan worked with other men and ploughed a little piece of land. The younger boys looked after the town herd of milk cows, driving them out to pasture in the morning and back at night. One morning there was not a bite of bread to give Wid for his lunch, so his mother gave him a tin cup and told him to milk one half cup from each of the best cows. That was to be his dinner. She then went and told the neighbors about it so they could know he wasn't stealling the milk. They all owed her, and him, so immediately they divided their own meager supply of food with her, and she used to tell that they were never without food.
They would search and find a light colored clay and used it to whitewash the inside of their house.
In the year 1867, Nathan was called by Bishop Hunt to return to Missouri and bring some saints across the plains. While coming back they camped near the Platte River. During the night the oxen swam back across the river. Volunteers were called which Nathan answered. He swam across, gathered the oxen together and swam back using the oxen's tail for assistance.
There was a village called Huntsville up in Ogden Canyon where no white woman ever went alone. One night a call came from there for a midwife. Abigail responded, even against the wishes of her family and friends. She traveled alone up the canyon over the old Indian Trail and arrived in time to help bring Emma Hunt and Maria Slater into the world. They were the first white babies born in Huntsville and were born about one half hour apart.
Abigail moved to Huntsville for a time, with Capt. Jefferson Hunt. Capt. Hunt's daughter Sophronia married Wid Coffin.
Jefferson Hunt moved his family to Oxford, Idaho where there was more room for this family to build homes around him. Abigail and her family went along with them. They moved with them and a short time later moved to Marsh Valley a few miles to the north. Here both families made their permanent home. Finding conditions not too desirable Abigail returned to Ogden, but after a short time she returned to Idaho.
She bought the log house which was built by William Jackson and her son Cyrus Coffin. Here she established a store in one room. Later on it was also used for a school. There were eight pupils. Fred Aldous was one of the pupils (unable to find other names). A lady by the name of Hannah Byington was the teacher.
Abigail traveled to Ogden every two weeks or so with eggs, butter and other things in exchange for soda, sugar, salt, raisins and other necessary supplies for her store. She drove her team, a curly haired white horse and a sorrel, light covered wagon with springs. But mostly she exchanged them for things people sent for with little profit to herself. She was the official shopper for the community, and a great help to the pioneer settlers. She was so pleasant and had been helpful to so many, folks were glad to feed her horses and give her a bed or a meal coming and going. They all felt honored to have her call. She would always stop and spend the night in Ogden with her married children.
It was not uncommon for Abigail to take one or more grandchild with her on these trips, the ones who were too young to work at home. If any of the grandchildren felt a little ill she would send her grandson Frankie out to get "Me horses" and take the sick one and a load of well ones over to Soda Springs for a week's camping trip. The mothers put up a lunch, but Abigail always say there was plenty so they could stay a week. All came home in excellent health after drinking mineral water, living in the open, picking berries, fishing, etc.
She was known from Fort Hall, Idaho to Ogden, Utah as a midwife and doctor. She used Lobelia for everything, it being an emetic, she said it cleansed them all out ready for something else. Because germs weren't to plentiful, most people lived through the treatment. She used herbs as well. Sometimes people came for her with ox teams or horseback, and often she rose through storms and snowdrifts in the night, but always got there in time to save the baby.
One time Abigail took a load of grandchildren to Ogden to see their first circus.
She as known and loved by everyone. She was short, rather stout, and had a round face, was dignified little old lady. Her best dress was black silk, a black straw bonnet and veil, trimmed with flowers, broad ribbon strings that tied under her chin and black gloves.
She as a great lover of flowers and knew the names of most of them. She never ceased telling her children of their beauty and fragrance. In the latter years of her life, she would take her grandchildren and go up into the hills in her old wagon and pick the wild flowers. In the dusk of the evening, she would come back loaded with beautiful flowers and tired children, but singing the beloved songs of her childhood.
She spent her last days with her son Nathan and Daughter-In-Law Chestina in Cambridge where she died the eleventh day of December.
(Taken from writing by Mabel Johnson Coffin Owen and Mary P. Christensen)
Soon after Abigail died a lady by the name of Annie Lard bought her home. Her husband had died and she had no children of her own. But raised a nephew, Maurice Simpson who died in 1918 of the Influenza.
After Annie Lard died the house and property went back to the Coffins. Later this one room cabin was given to the Daughter of the Utah Pioneers and was moved into the Downey City Park, about 1931 or 1932. This group soon disorganized and the Well Child Clinic was allowed to keep their equipment in the cabin. The school nurse was in charge.
The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers was organized February 12, 1933, with Ada Almond as Captain, Ivy Jensen and Lora Pratt as Vice-Captains. The cabin was turned over to them.
An estimate was made of the cost of putting a protective roof and porch on. The estimated cost was one hundred dollars. The beehive girls and boy scouts consented to solicit the members of the community. They were taken by car by member of the D.U.P. Camp Hunt. The money was cheerfully donated and brothers Moroni Almond, Fred Penrose, Roy Salversen and Emil Van Leuven helped with the work.
The lining of the ceiling which was cloth was removed and the new lumber was put in its place by Dan Bloxham and Emil Van Leuven.
May of 1956 Lila Bloxham was elected Captain and work on the cabin began. It was cleaned and relics were put in.
May of 1958 Eliza Olson was elected Captain. More relics were added.
May of 1960 Hazel Van Leuven was elected Captain. Furnishing the cabin was completed. A cooked, food sale was held in the cabin at fair time to pay for the upkeep.
The Cabin has been white washed and thoroughly cleaned each year. The walls and floor has been painted.
The Downey City Park is located on Center Street and 1st West just above the railroad tracks. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Memorial Cabin is located in the City Park facing Center Street. There is a marker in front of the Cabin which was built by Emil Van Leuven. In the base is buried the History of Marsh Valley written by Louis Bloxham, a history of Camp Hunt and one each of the year books to that time.
The instruction Reads:
Pioneer Cabin - No. 269, Erected 1961
This cabin on the first build on the Nine Mile Creek in Marsh Valley, was erected by William Jackson and Cyrus Coffin before 1866. Later it was purchased by Abigail Coffin, who with her sons, Nathan, Cyrus and William were among the first settlers. Others followed. They took up land and built homes, using the cabin for the first school and store. A branch of the Latter-Day-Saints Church was created and in 1891 Cambridge Ward, about 2 1/2 miles north of Downey, was organized with William A. Coffin, Bishop
Hunt Camp Bannock County Idaho
- I personnally visited the cabin in August 1999, Marcia L. Nelson -