Looking Backwards in 1938- The Burlington Relief Society
by Francis Preator and Iva Henderson
On this, the 17th of March, 1938, the birthday anniversary of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we gather here to pay homage to its members who have passed on, and to those who are now so ably carrying on in this great work. What could be more fitting and proper than to turn the pages back and enjoy a few reminiscences of the past presidents and members of our Burlington Ward.
Our local Relief Society was organized about the year 1893. Sister Abbie Neves was the first President. Sister Cynthia Packard, counselor, Sister Sylvia Griffin, second counselor, Sister Nan Nelson, Secretary.
Sister Neves officiated as president until the time of her death. Although in later life ill health and advancing years prevented her from taking full responsibility, her ardor for the cause did not diminish, and it was her wish that she be allowed to serve in this capacity as long as she lived.
Her many acts of charity, and her ability to care for the sick endeared her to the hearts of the pioneers of this community. Sister Neves was never known to refuse a call to those in need. She nursed in places many miles from home, traveling by team and wagon or buggy or on horseback. It was often necessary to ford swollen streams, or go out in blizzards and sub-zero weather.
Her granddaughter, Cynthia, tells an interesting story. One day Sister Neves was called to attend a young expectant mother at Cody. Cynthia was a small child at this time, and as there was no one but her grandmother to care for her it was necessary that she accompany her grandmother on this trip. After reaching Cody it was decided to bring the patient to Burlington. Enroute, a bad storm came up and darkness overtook the weary travelers. The patient became very ill, and the party was obliged to stop. A crude tent was erected over the wagon tongue, and here a child was born.
Another time, Mrs. Neves was called to nurse a stricken sheepherder and stayed out in the badlands in a sheep wagon for two weeks. Sister Neves was nearly always present at the arrival of the new babies, and was a master hand at attending the expectant father. She was present at the birth of Dan Johnson’s first offspring. Many have wondered what happened to Dan’s hair- the story goes that in his anxiety he pulled it all out on that fateful night.
Another time, Sister Neves was called to assist at the birth of a very poor family, and when the baby was born there were no clothes or blankets to wrap him in. But such trials did not daunt our good sister. she took off her own shimmy, wrapped the little one warm and cozy.
And so let us pause to pay tribute to Sister Neves, the first President of the Burlington Relief Society.
Sister Packard and Sister Sylvia Griffin too left their footprints in the sand of time. Sister Griffin was first and only organist for many years, and her music brought comfort and cheer to many grief stricken pioneers.
The Relief Society made the first American flag ever flown in this community, the occasion being the first 24th of July celebration held here. The flag was fastened to a pole and the pole wired to the side of a hayrack, which was filled to overflowing with merry makers headed for the Jim Shelmerdine ranch up the Greybull, the scene of the celebration. Mr. Shelmerdine said it was the biggest thrill of his life when he saw the flag flying as the party drove up.
Another gala social event for the Relief Society ladies was the time they served dinner to the men who had hauled the logs to build the first church house.
Another responsibility the Society had at this time was laying out the dead and packing the body in ice (when it was available), making the burial clothes, and caring for the grief stricken family, while Brother Neves made the casket.
After Sister Neves passed away, Sister Anna Lafollette was sustained president. Sister Lafollette only served for a few months.
Sister Margarete Preater was the third president, with Sister Lena McIntosh and Sister Chancy Dustin. This was during the flu epidemic and their services were called for 24 hours a day. They were indeed angels of mercy; they cared for the sick and dying, laid out the dead and took food and clothing to those in need.
Their first call came from the George Baker home where a daughter, Mae, was the first victim. The next day a son, Bill, died. From there they were summoned to the Marshall Stewart home where the mother was stricken and died, and the rest of the family were ill at the time. After the good sisters had prepared the body for burial, Dick Neves carried the children and they and Mr. Stewart went in for a last look at their loved one.
Then the ladies answered a call to the Dan Shaffer home where the mother, Mrs. Dan Shaffer, had passed away, leaving a family of, all children to be cared for. Then they did what they could for the sorrowing family and hastened to the Doctor Reser home where Mrs. Reser had been stricken, also her baby daughter.
Many people were afraid to go out to nurse the sick, fearing they would contract the disease themselves. But the faithful sisters fearlessly answered their calls of mercy, and despite their constant contact with the influenza, none of the gallant nurses were stricken, although several lost loved ones during this time.
Sister Preator assisted at the first case in the community at which Doctor Carter was the attending physician. W.S. Myers was they patient. She also, along with many other Relief Society sisters, helped to care for Sister Abbie Neves during her long illness before her death.
Sister Preator and Sister Lafollette with their counselors left a record which is a challenge to those who now carry on the work.
Our reminiscences would not be complete without mention of the work of Sister Hannah Dustin and Sister Jane Johnson and their work among the sick. They were called day and night to help those in need.
When Sister Rachel Snyder took over the duties of president in 1923, with Sister Ellen Yorgason and Mamie Neves as counselors with Iva Henderson as secretary and organist it soon became evident that Sister Snyder was fully capable of handling the responsibility. Her kind heart, warm sympathy and capable hands inspired those under her direction and many things were accomplished.
Sister Harriet Johnson succeeded Sister Snyder. Many changes had taken place since our Relief Society was organized. The workers were no longer forced to endure the hardships of the past, and the membership had increased until there were many hands to do the work. Modern methods were introduced as time went on.
The Presidency next fell into the capable hands of Sister Mary Cottrell in the fall of 1935 with Ethel Riley and Ruth Eastman as counselors, Rosell Yorgesen as secretary, Iv a Henderson chorister.
Upon the retirement of Sister Cottrell, Sister Sara McIntosh took up the torch which continued to light the way. It was during World War II and relief was sent to many of the Saints in foreign countries. And as always the Relief Society stands as a haven to comfort those in need. May we continue to carry on in this great work.