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Biography of Catherine McKay Grow

Compiled by her Granddaughter Kathryn Jensen Ensign

Biography of Catherine McKay Grow
Compiled by Kathryn Jensen Ensign, Granddaughter

Catherine McKay was the youngest of a family of 3 boys and 3 girls, of William McKay and Ellen Oman, all born in Scotland.  Catherine was born in Jannett town about 1 mile from Thurso, Cathness Co. Scotland on May 1 1850.

The McKay family was the first family, in their area, to be converted to Mormonism, that very unpopular religion that caused so many heart aches, in the families   Their home was always open to Missionaries, until they left for Zion and American.  It was March 1856 when at last the McKay family was ready to leave Scotland.  It was no easy thing to do, to part with their little home and everything near and dear, excepting their religion, knowing they would never return.

Catherine was five years old when they left Scotland.

The journey to Liverpool seemed endless.  Mormon converts from other towns joined them.  At the dock, the sailing ship "Thornton", commanded by Captain Collins was waiting.  It was May 3, 1856.2 Elder James G. Willie was in charge of this company of saints.  When the Thornton finally docked at Castle Garden, New York, after six weeks of poor food, smelly drinking water, and badly ventilated unsanitary quarters, the McKay family walked down the gang-plank on emaciated, trembling limbs, happy and thankful to have their feet on solid ground once more.

The plan was that they should go right on to Zion with the people who had crossed the ocean with them, 1) the James G. Willie Handcart co, but when Grandfather William went to the Post Office for the money from his employer, in Scotland, he was stunned speechless to find nothing but a letter from the builder saying that he had gone bankrupt and had no money to send.  It is hard to imagine the sorrow and hurt of the McKay family. 2 At this time they did not know the hardships that the Willey Handcart Co would endure and the blessing of not being able to travel with them. 4 William found the President of the New York Branch of the Church, who advised him to go over to Williamsburg and apply for work.  William and Isaac (sixteen) and David, (twelve), all went to an employment agency.  This sadly left Ellen and the three girls in an upstairs, bare tenement room.  Isabel was fourteen and found work in a little shop that sold milk.  Williamena (Ena) got a place as a nurse girls.  Catherine and her mother Ellen stayed in the tenement room.  At last, after two years of hard work and economy, they left New York for Iowa.  It took one year in Iowa--everyone working--to acquire two steers, two cows, and old ox, and one wagon, and provisions  The roads were very bad from Iowa City to Council Bluff, or Florence, as it was then called.  Fifty wagons under the command of Captain James S. Brown were waiting in Council Bluff for the ten wagons to join them.

When the company reached Fort Laramie, father William went to the trading post to try to buy some flour.  To his great surprise and actual joy he found a young man who had crossed the ocean with them.  Father William not only go some four, but a gift for mother Ellen.  They reached Salt Lake late one October Evening in 1859.  They traveled on to Ogden where they met Bishop Bunker, who had previously been on a mission in Scotland.  He welcomed them warmly and urged them to remain in Ogden. 2 Their first home was a sod dugout. 1 Ellen and the little girls, Ena and Catherine gleaned wheat in the already harvested field.

Catherine lived in Ogden until she was about 17, when she moved to Hunstville to keep house for her brother Isaac.  She had been a Sunday School teacher in the 1st Ward in Ogden.

She and John W. Grow met, fell in love and were married the following year in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah, 8 November 1869.  John was almost twenty-one and Catherine was eighteen.  There were eleven children born to this marriage, seven boys and four girls, eight living to maturity.
Lena Favorett - born 2 Sep 1871 in Huntsville, Utah
John Moyer - born 25 June 1874 in Huntsville, Utah
Mary Janett - born 1 Sep 1876 in Huntsville, Utah
David Henry - born 8 Nov 1878 in Huntsville, Utah
Charles Isaac - born 3 Nov 1880 in Huntsville, Utah
William Angus - born 17 Jun 1883 in Huntsville, Utah
Catherine Rosell - born 3 Apr 1885 in Huntsville, Utah
Arthur Wilford - born 15 Sep 1887 in Huntsville, Utah
Lorin McKay - born 16 Sep 1889 in Huntsville, Utah
Clarence Oman - born 1 Oct 1891 in Huntsville, Utah
Isabell Ena - June 12, 1894 in Huntsville, Utah

They built or bought a little house in the southeast corner of Huntsville, in which the eleven children were born.  The house was from (it may have been logs under the frame.)

The older children slept in the attic which was entered by a ladder up to a board door the size of a window.  The stove pipe ran through the floor in the center of the room and into the chimney.  This gave them their only heat.  The boys slept on one side of the room, the girls on the other, and the small children in the back room with their parents.  Most of the furniture was homemade.  A boy stood on end to hold the wash basin and soap; cooking utensils were kept in the inside.  The box furniture was covered with bleached muslin trimmed in Catherine's knit lace; even the window curtains were trimmed full length in this lace.  The ticks and pillows were filled with fresh straw after each thrashing.  Later when Catherine raised geese and ducks, they had lovely pillows and ticks; often before this the pillows and ticks were filled with feather from the wild birds John W. brought home for them to eat.

A willow fence about a yard east of the house was built to protect the garden. Trees were planted on the other side and watered by buckets drawn from the well. 3

Catherine was a beautiful shy young lady with black hair and hazel eyes.  She was very timid in public.  When she was called on to speak or pray in Relief Society meetings her voice would tremble, although a humble, sincere prayer would flow from her lips as she was full of faith and humility.  She was always found in the background, helping in the corner, never in a conspicuous place.  Whenever there was sickness, or need, there you would find her doing anything to help in the sick room or doing the other needy work.  She was very sympathetic and kind to all.  She was always warned, in a dream, when sickness or death would come to them. She was spiritually strong and full of faith and thankful for all blessings.  She taught her children in a Heavenly Father to whom they could go for help and blessings.

There was many years when they seem to never be free from illness.  No doctors were used.  They used herbs and whatever they had.

Favorett was nineteen years old and the first, in the family, to come down with the flu, during the epidemic of the cold winter of 1890.  She died Jan 9, 1890.  She lay dead in one room and father, John W., delirious in another, all the beds upstairs were full.  Catherine carried a baby in her arms, trying to do for the others.  Favorett would fast every Sunday morning before going to Sunday School.  As John W. was Constable and had to be present at dances and such gatherings, she always went with him and when young men asked to take her home she would say "no, I am going with Pa".  They attended all the christmas dances and parties, during the hollidays, before she came home and to bed with the flu.  This was almost more than John W. could stand, as they were together so much.

William Angus died at age three.  He was stricken with convolutions.

Catherine Rosell died at age 11.  A beautiful brunette, well and happy until stricken.  When she was about gone Catherine felt she couldn't part with another of her family, so Rosy said well then call the Elders, but on man will have to leave the room. She was brought back to life only we saw her suffer so much that they were glad to ask for her to be released from her suffering.  She was buried with a beautiful doll that her brother Isaac brought to her when she was sick.  This was their lesson in asking "Thy will not mine be done."

Clarence Oman died at age 2.  He had beautiful hair and large blue eyes.  His cause of death is unknown.

Later when John W.'s appendix broke, Catherine had burried so many family, that she was frantic.  Mary Jane or Minnie arrived at their home and found Catherine in teats.  Dr. Edward Rich was just leaving.  He said John W. was very ill but as he had lived such a clean life, he stood one chance in 100.  Minnie said "Mother, I feel sure he will recover, but we must exercise faith and you can't do it feeling as you do.  She looked up at me thru her tear filled eyes, like an innocent child that had been assured, dried her tears, and carried on.  He did recover and lived many years.

John W. had to go away to find work to get money to buy things that could not raise, so Catherine was alone much with the chores and the children.  In addition she was never free from relatives and friends.  Where she put them all and how she fed them will always be a mystery. 1  Isabell told that her father carried their money in a pouch on his belt and when Catherine would wonder what they were going to feed all these people with he would shake it and say, "It is not empty yet Kate so don't worry." 4  Everyone was always welcome.  Their table was always set and the yard full of horses to feed.  Many people from other states called there while looking for their cattle.

Catherine scrubbed the rough floor by sprinkling it with white sand and dipping in water the brush she made by twisting a bunch of oat straw.  The lye used to soften the water was made from ashes placed in a barrell and covered with water.

About 1892 or 3 they built a Log House, two big rooms down and two up facing west to the street and joining the old house. Isabell was the only child to be born in that house.

This was their home until the family were all married and John W.'s health was keeping him from being very active.  They bought a house on the east side of the square. 1

In John W.'s later years he never wanted to be separated from his dear wife, Catherine.  Whenever she left home he waited on the front porch for her return. 3  He died 3 April 1916, eight years prior to Catherine's death which occurred on 19 February 1924.  They are buried in the Huntsville Cemetery.3

1. Mary Jane Grow Halls, daughter of Catherine McKay Grow.

2.  THE MCKAY FAMILY, by Isaac McKay, brother of Catherine McKay Grow

3.  Biography of John W. Grow, compiled by Audrey Fuller Robertson, g granddaughter

4.  Coments by Kathryn Jensen Ensign

Linked toCatherine McKay

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