BIOGRAPHY OF PENINAH S. COTTON WOOD
Peninah was born 12 March 1827, in Johnson County, Illinois. She was the daughter of Caleb Cotton and Nancy Meredith. Her grandparents were Samuel Cotton and Sarah Crouch and James Meredith and Nancy Fulkerson. The last mentioned was a full blood Indian. She was very proud of her race. She was the first of her blood to enter plural marriage in this dispensation, and as far as we can find in history, she was the first of the descendants of Lehi to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Cotton progenitors came over on the Mayflower.
She was the youngest of twelve children. She was an orphan at the age of nineteen, when she married Daniel Wood on 21 January 1846. Her marriage took place in the Nauvoo Temple, four months prior to the dedication, 30 May 1846. She was present at the dedication as her husband was one of the secret guard.
Her first child was born 27 January 1847 in Kanesville, Iowa, while they were being driven westward from their homes by the mobs. In the early days of the church they made home after home, only to be driven from them, further and further west, by their enemies.
In February, 1846, Brigham Young began making preparations for the great exodus west, to the place where the Saints could live in peace. By the first of April 1847 Daniel Wood and family, consisting of his first wife, Mary Snyder and her five children, his second wife Peninah and her three month old baby, were ready to start the long journey. All the heavy work of preparation fell on Peninah, because Mary had been a semi-invalid since the death of her son in 1845. Peninah first came into the Wood home as a hired girl to care for Mary and her children. Her kindness and efficiency had made Daniel love her. So they had been married, and she continued to nurse and care for Mary for many years, until her death in October, 1873. Peninah loved and cared for Mary's children as though they were her own.
Quoted from Daniel's history:
We had two wagons, one carriage, four yoke of oxen, four cows, one span of horses, food enough for a year. That was all we could haul. We often hitched the cows to the wagons to rest the horses. The wagons were loaded heavily with furniture, utensils, clothing all kinds of provisions, and bedding. Thus the journey began.
One day our President called us to a halt to tell us that he had been given orders to get five hundred men from our camp of Israel to go fight the Mexicans. After a few days the number was furnished. That meant the women would have to drive the wagons. These five hundred men were the Mormon Bat.
Our travel was slow for we were heavily loaded and there were no roads. When our supplies were getting low, our Pres. prepared a company of nine wagons to be sent back to Missouri for supplies. Since I hadn't a dollar in my pocket and my provisions were short, I decided to return with them to get a fresh supply. We found it necessary to part with clothing, furniture etc. to exchange for food-stuff. Leaving my wives and children in the howling wilderness alone, I trusted God to protect them.
On our return, as we were nearing camp, my two wives and my son, John came to meet us with tears of gratitude in their eyes. They were so happy to see us back safely.
Traveling on thru the middle of Sept. we came to an Indian village where there were some half breeds called the Sioux tribe. Here Pres. Young called us to a halt and prepared to winter in this place. The Saints named it Winter Quarters (Near Omaha, Neb). I was advised to stay behind and plant and provide provisions for the Saints. This is the reason I did not come into Utah with the first company in 1847.
Early in the month of April, 1848, as soon as the grass was grown enough to feed on we began to make preparations for our journey. We had three wagons, four yoke of oxen, three cows, a span of horses, a carriage in which Mary rode with the small children. One wagon was equipped for three pigs, a pen with 24 chickens, three geese. Yes and we had a cat, and we made a place for her. She was or pet. One of the other wagons was equipped with furniture, food and clothing. The third wagon was loaded with farm equipment.
Peninah was a God send to these people as Sacagawea, the Indian maid had been to Lewis and Clark's expedition. She knew berries and plants that were good for food and medicine. And she made moccasins, gloves and clothing from skins and from cloth she wove herself. She also had to drive one of the wagons.
It was a sight to see our wagons correl in a circle for the night. With the greatest of care, each one found his place.
After traveling safely across the plains, we landed in Salt Lake Valley 23'July 1848. Not two hours had passed after landing, before we were planting corn and potatoes, etc.
In the fall of 1849 we moved to what was called North Mill Creek, where we made our first home, a log house 14 ft. by 15 ft. By the 15th of Nov. we were settled in this log home quite comfortably. Peninah's second baby was born 8 Dec 1848. Though she was expecting this baby she had driven a wagon across the plains, all the way.Quoted from her son Joseph C. Wood's history:
She and her husband lived one year in this cabin on the upper road (14th E.) on the side of Mill Creek, where Heber C. Kimball's Grist Mill was built, years later. There the wolves howled at night, and bear were often seen. She helped colonize Woods Cross when their were only six families there. She bore seven children, six boys and one girl.
She went thru the cricket famine, then the grasshopper famine, which lasted three years. She knew no fear, and was never sick until she reached the age of 44 years. She was 54 when she died of a tumor caused by the hardships and poor care in childbirth.
Home made cloths were part of her house work, making he own cloths as well as the childrens. She took worn out cloths to make caps for the boys and bradded straw hats for the menfolk, her daughter and herself. (Many times she made hats for the men who were hired to help clear the land.)
She helped milk cows, drove the ox team, was a excellent hand with horse teams, and had a very tender feeling for dumb animals. She knitted the stockings for her family, from wool off her own sheep. She did washing and carding and spinning the wool in warp, as it was called then, to the loom to make cloth from which their cloths were made.
She was a lover of horses, taking a horse-back ride for an outing, going sometimes into Salt Lake City and back in one day. I, her son J. C. Wood have made this trip with her as a growing boy.
She knew how to strike a steel on a flint, or rub two boards together to start a fire, as matches were unknown. She could cover a pine knot up in the hot ashes and coals so it would keep a fire for days.
She made mocasins for shoes, homemade brooms to sweep the crude floors. She doctored the sick horses and cows and raised motherless colts many times. She made tallow candles, knew how to braid rope, made heavy thread for the mens clothing, and kept house with only a fireplace for heat and cooking. She baked bread in an old iron kettle on thee hot coals. She made hominy out of corn and cloth out of hemp,and cured all kinds of meat. She always took the wild animals that were killed to rend out grease for leather and harness oil.
Her summer times were always busy with planting her own kitchen garden, and caring for it, drying all kinds of fruits, making her own molasses, syrups, sour kraut and pickles, for their supply during the long, hard winters. She knew how to make her own gloves, and those for the menfolk as well.
She was a real colonizer and was never known to quarrel, never having much to say, but as brave as a mother lioness. And as for determination, she learned her alphabet with the little children, all at home except the last child. Struggling with it continually, she mastered the undertaking until she could write to her folks in the east, and read their letters. She also studied the Book of Mormon which was her favorite book. She prefered reading to attending meetings or gatherings. She attended on Relief Society meeting in the new ward of West Bountiful, and on returning to family said, "Well I think I have heard more of the bad things of our neighbors than I wish I had."
She spent her evening knitting by candlelight or patching or braiding straw for hats, never idling one moment of her time. She was always an early riser. She always said, "Come Children," never using the word go.
She is the mother of one of the very few living children that was brought from the east to Utah--in fact we only know of one other. He is D. C. Wood of Blackfoot, Idaho, 88 years of age.
She never knew anything but continual want, but she was never known to complain or speak of rude things. She was as honest and true as it is possible for a human to be, a true Christian. She was always humble and prayerful, and was not able to endure a liar. She was a true Christian colonizer and I know that God loves her.by her son Jos. C. Wood written by his daughter Kate W. Anderson 18 May 1934
Retyped from a copy by
Norma Jean M. Wood
12 September 1990