The Life of Bertha Eleanor Done Mather An Autobiography
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I was born at Smithfield, Utah May 11, 1880. Like Nephi of Book of Mormon fame, I was born of goodly parents, George and Alice Smith Done. Both parents were born in England. My father came to America as a young man, age twelve years. My mother was just two weeks old when her parents, having embraced the gospel left England to cast their lot with the L.D.S. church better known as the Mormons.
I was the tenth child of a family of twelve children and was brought up as were most of the girls of that period and learned to do housework. My mother was an obstetric worker, and was away from home so much of the time that as the older girls of the family married, it fell to the lot of my sister, Donna, and I to take care of the house. I have known times when we hadn’t seen mother for three or four days. Perhaps, she would come home in the night and be gone on another case by morning. She was called by the ward bishopric and the Relief Society. She studied under Mrs. Pratt in Salt Lake City. You may know that we couldn’t help but be left quite often when mother brought into the world over 2,500 children.
If outside chores had to be helped with, it usually fell to my lot to be chosen from among the girls. I was so much stronger than my sister--you could say that I was husky. I helped milk, haul hay, stack hay, stack wheat, pick up potatoes (but I didn’t raise as many as my boys--they raised thousands of bushel). My father was a great hand to give us praise for helping him, which made us more willing to do all we could.
I think that most children get a thrill out of the most simple things. I can remember, when about eight, I used to take the cows up to Hind’s Hill. There would be a large herd of cows waiting to be driven into the hills for their food. At evening, they would be brought back by the herders. We would have to go bring them home. It fell to my lot to have this job, but I got quite a thrill out of it. Even the grass or a willow broken from a bush, a small ditch, or the rocks all seemed to be so different from the same things down in my part of town. I would feel as though I had been to another part of a new country. So much for childhood’s happy days.
I started to school at the age of five years, if I remember correctly. The Chart Class was the smallest grade. My sister, Donna, was two year my senior. She had started a year or two before me. When I joined the Chart Class, she was a fairly good reader. When we got started back to school the following year, the teacher was going to put me in the first grade where I rightfully belonged. During vacation, I had had help with my reading from different members of the family until I could read fairly well too. Of course, they teacher, Bessie Morehead, tried to put me in the grade where I belonged. I kicked up such a shindig, cried out, and said that I could read as well as my sister Donna. So the teacher tried me out and it was in this way that my sister and I were put in the same grade and allowed to go all through the grades together until we graduated form the eighth grade. I have often wondered how I got through or passed for Donna was far the best student--taking all the studies. but I could always beat her at reading and spelling--the subjects that put me on an equality with her in our first days of school--good old days!
I’ll have to travel on. In the old school house that stood on the corner of the public square, Sunday School, meeting, dances and all kinds of socials were held. I remember the Primary Association putting on little plays. Oh, how I wished to be asked to take part. No one ever told me I was a pretty child, maybe it was my looks that kept me from taking part. It rather hurt my feelings but I soon forgot my hurts and enjoyed the entertainment. But, as I got older and was later at the heads of various programs, I always remembered my feelings and tried to see that all had a chance to take part if they would.
My turn came, as they tell us it will if we are just patient--there is always a turning point in our lives. One day a second-hand organ was brought to our home. The fellow that we got it from could play it some. He gave us “Tripping Over the Lawn”, “Roses Waltz”, “Wearing of the Green”. I guess nearly every student of music in that day took these same tunes, but f Paderewski himself had played one of the masterpieces, they couldn’t have sounded more wonderful to me than did those three pieces played from the old White’s Book for the Reed Organ.
I started to take lessons in October the fall before I was twelve years old. I took from Clara White, who later was Clara Sparks. She was a good teacher and I worked hard. I will have to tell you that my father wouldn’t let either my sister or myself go to a dance, party or sleigh ride--no matter how the crowed yelled or whistled--until we had practiced our one solid hour. So place the honor where it belongs. By the following spring , I could play the three pieces named above as well as the fellow who sold us the organ. Let me tell you that I worked on “Tripping Over the Lawn” from 1 PM until 6 PM one day and then found that I had the last half of the piece wrong in time. I soon remedied it after being shown.
In that same year, when twelve, I went in as organist for the Primary with Emma Thornley as chorister and Mary Jane Roskelly as president. I worked in that organization as organist, chorister and taught different classes from 1892 until 1910 without being released. The following year when I was 13, I was put in as assistant organist to the choir. Joseph Newbold was chorister. There were tears over this; I felt I just couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t a good enough musician. My father was determined. The practice room was the east room in Bishop Farrel’s house (Athays now live there by Clate Raymond’s service station.) I believe of all different kinds of music, sacred music was my line. When the chorister put the hymns out of the old psalmody out for me, I was able to play them well enough that the choir was able to sing them the following Sunday. I was praised and encouraged by different members of the choir--especially Brother Jonah Clark. I shall always remember him as one of my most faithful friends and admirers. Bless his heart and that of others, too.
I stayed with the choir as organist, chorister and general aid for fifty years. I was given an honor right after this service. The following was taken from the Deseret News: “Mrs. Bertha Mather will be honored. the Smithfield first Ward will give a testimonial for Mrs. Bertha Mather, Sunday evening, March 23, at 7:30 PM. The following program will be given: Opening song, “Guide Us, Oh Thou Great Jehovah” by choir and congregation. Prayer, Bishop Newton Woodruff. Song, Bertha’s Boys. Sacrament Exercises. Anthem, choir. History of Mrs. Mather and musical activities, Lucille Erickson. Words of appreciation Bishop Hazen W. Hillyard. Vocal solo, Eugenia Lundquist. Talk, President H.R. Pond of the Benson Stake. Anthem, choir. Closing prayer, Mrs. Annie G. Miles.”
A large crowd turned out and they had a very nice time. Nearly all of the boys in the chorus called Bertha’s Boys were there. Come had come from a long way off. Harry De Ryke made me a beautiful cake. He was, at that time, running a bakery in Ogden. The boys sang a song with words composed by Athan Reese and put to the music of “The Teacher’s Work is Done” by Evan Stephens. The anthems sung by the choir were “Gloria” by Mozart, “Grant Us Peace, Oh Lord” by Evan Stephens. These anthems I had led in formal musicals. At that time, the following had been printed in the Deseret News: “Capacity congregations marked the Smithfield Stake Quarterly Conference, Saturday and Sunday, held on the first anniversary of the organization of the stake, it was announced today by Elder Charles A. Callis of the Council of the Twelve. The stake has shown excellent activity in its year of existence, Elder Callis said, and present spiritual conditions are good. Elder Callis especially commended the singing at the meeting and explained that the leading of one of the choirs by a mother of 12 children was indicative of the commendable activity of the stake members.” I only had 11 children, but I raised my brother’s daughter, Aurelia. That is how he got 12.
The night of my testimonial, my cousin John Done and wife and two daughters, Ada and Inez and also Ada’a husband (Taylor was his last name.) came up from Payson, Utah. There were many people from the settlements around. It was an enjoyable evening under the direction of Bishop M. T. VanOrden in the year 1941.
I was asked to give one of the most embarrassing times of my life. There have been so many that is embarrassing that it is hard to choose. Did you ever try to make an impression on the congregation with a song or chorus. You can just feel and see the people as they sit and listen. You can imagine how thrilled they are or imagine cold chills running up and down their spines. but sometimes, the singers fail or it is you. They go so flat that you can hear the sounds for days. If the floor would open up and let you through you wouldn’t have to face the audience and you’d crawl right through. I felt this way one when my sister, Donna, and I were asked to sing for the MIA with no instrument for accompaniment. We practiced long and hard to make the song a great success.. My mother was one who couldn’t see that we weren’t the best looking children there were. Our clothes and all looked just fine in her eyes, but sometimes I wondered if she wasn’t blinded by mother love. Nevertheless, she trained us in the fad of the day--which was that before you started to sing or recite, you were to stand before the audience, give a very graceful bow and begin. We had been shown how to bend just slightly from the neck--not too low, but just right. We arose to sing, but in the excitement my sister, being very timid, forgot to bow and started to sing. I hadn’t forgotten my mother’s instructions and gave one of my most graceful bows. Donna, by this time, wondering what had happened stopped singing. It was terrible! Have you ever been there?! We had to start all over with the bow included. my sister had to cry. It was just awful having to sit there waiting until the program was finished, wishing all the time that we had never been born. How lucky that time heals all wounds. You appear again and again--not all successes by a long way.
I can remember twenty-four choristers I played under. Some were men, others ladies. some were outstanding conductors of the state. I can recall seven different popular orchestras for which I was pianist in the old Hillyard Hall--the building now known as the Main Theater. It was a very popular dance hall and show house at that time. The same troupe would play for a couple of weeks at a time. I played the incidental music for them and also for the singers and dancers. Some very fine plays , minstrels, and all kinds of entertainment were held there and I played for years.
My brother, Nathan and I went from place to place--he as a singer and I as his accompanist for funerals as well as entertainment. I also accompanied the male quartet that he sang in that was so popular and included such singers as Mont Harris, Dave Roskelly, Hugh Rashe and George Douglas. The boys chorus spoken of above included singers who were part of the organization for as long as twenty years. They were a lively bunch and took well with the public. We sang once over KSL. On the road to the station we sang at Davis High School. I believe it was a convention of some king. Both ladies and their husbands were there at the banquet, several hundred of them. The boys sang over KVNU for months. We sang in nearly every town in the valley besides the different wards. We also went to other town outside of Utah. The boys dramatized songs and actively portrayed the words of the songs- which proved to be very entertaining to the public. We sang at funerals, meetings and so on. They were a wonderful group of boys and included five of my own.
When I was about fifteen years of age, I went with the Smithfield choir to Salt Lake City in contest work. We lost, however. We were just one big ward at that time. I later trained different groups of girls for MIA contests. We won once out of several tryouts. I trained mixed choruses and won all through district tryouts, but lost in Salt Lake city. I went with the choir to Logan to a contest when we were all in one ward. I was the accompanist. We tied with five other choirs and had to sing over, if I remember correctly. We all sang so well that the judges couldn’t choose a winner. We all went home happy.
I have lived in Smithfield while nine bishops have presided. I have served under eight. I was baptized June 7, 1888 by Lars E. Danielson and confirmed June 7, by Robert Meikle. I was baptized in the creek up by Mack’s Hill, just east of the bridge that spans the creek. The water was very cold. I married William Mather in the Logan Temple December 21, 1898. eleven children have been born to us--8 boys and 3 girls. I must not forget my niece, Aurelia Done. I took her when she was three hours old, her mother having just died. She has lived with us ever since and is one of the family--a good girl. My children are: Mary Ann Mather Rees, William Mather Jr., Golden Mather (died when five weeks old), George Mather (living in Smithfield), James Mather (Chicago), Nathan Mather (Smithfield), Thomas Edgar Mather (Smithfield), Conrad Harry Mather (Smithfield), Roland Mather (In military service, South Pacific), Alice Mather Barnes (California), Donna Myrle Mather Lower (Ogden), Aurelia Done (Smithfield). Mary is working in Ogden, William is buried in the Smithfield Cemetery. I have 19 grandchildren; 16 are living.
One of the funniest things of my life, I have been asked to relate. I believe I laughed the hardest when my sister and myself, just learning to wash, put my father’s overalls in the boiler and boiled them for some time. When they were washed and dried he put them on. Most of the color had washed out. They had shrunk half way up between his ankles and knees. I told you that he always praised us. He came in where we were and said, “Girls, you sure did a wonderful job.” When we saw him how he looked like a boy that had outgrown his pants. We went into peal after peal of laughter until he walked away disgusted, knowing he was the cause of all the merriment.
I am still ward and stake organist for the Relief society but have had to give up some of my activities because of poor health. I hope to soon be able to go back as an active helper before long. I do some work in the temple. We have three records we are working on. I know that the Gospel is true and hope that all of my children and grandchildren will also have a knowledge of it and take an active part, for there is nothing that brings as much happiness as service in the work of the Lord.
7 January 1944 (Bertha Mather died in October, 9 months later.)