The following excerpt is a brief look at the biography of Olive, Aroet’s first wife.
Somehow, along with providing for his family, Aroet found time to help allay Indian troubles in the Salt Lake valley. In recognition of the valued services which Aroet had rendered, he was assigned by President Brigham Young a grant of 160 acres of land in Tooele County, on what was then called Willow Creek, now Grantsville. He moved his family there in the early fall of 1854. Alma, now 18, was still with Aroet and Olive, and continued to be a great benefit to the family.
In Grantsville the family immediately built a two-room house and began to till the land. Aroet eventually sold the home on North Temple Street for $1,200. Those few years were difficult, to be sure. Grasshoppers were still a constant threat, and having enough food was always a concern. Most of what came to the table was hunted game, a catch of fish from nearby streams, and milk from the cow. Indians tormented the pioneers, and made progress even more difficult. Nearby families sometimes woke up to find their cattle gone.
Six months after their move, in the spring of 1855, Aroet was called on a special mission to Las Vegas, Nevada. His assignment was to defend the saints from the Indians, keep the stage line open, and build a fortified station for the protection of the US mail and the emigrants who were passing through Las Vegas in steadily increasing numbers. He arrived in Las Vegas June 14, 1855.
Aroet had spent time away from the family before in defending the settlements against Indians, but never for such a long period of time. The time Aroet spent on his mission was a period of growth for Olive. She was hardworking and diligent in rearing the children and running the household. Alma stayed to help with the farm work. In his first letter home (May 20, 1855, enroute to Las Vegas), Aroet encourages Olive to keep Lucius (almost 5) in school as much as possible. “Do the best you can, trust in the Lord, and all will come out right in the end.” He indulged in a little reminiscing about the fireside chats they had during the previous winter, and expressed his trust that Alma would be able to care for the cattle, horses and farm.
Soon later, Aroet sends a note to update his family on recent events. (June 4, 1855) They had enjoyed good health, and had commenced proselytizing among the friendly indians they had met. His heart is obviously with his family, worrying over their condition and pleading with Olive to write to him.
To this point, Olive had not learned to read or write, but she took this opportunity to apply herself to the task. Her first written words are contained in a letter to her husband dated June 24, 1855. Although she lacked the luxury of formal education, the letters she wrote to Aroet while he served missions in the southern territories show a clear-minded, spirited young woman. She had a spark of humor and enjoyed a good rapport with her husband. As is revealed in Olive’s own pen, she bore the burden of a young mother in newly settled territory with a positive outlook. Uncomplaining, she tells Aroet of her circumstances with honesty.
Through Olive’s letters to Aroet, we learn many details of her life as a pioneer. While Aroet was building the fort in Las Vegas, Olive and Alma continued establishing the home in Grantsville. For all their effort, they had many challenges. The grasshoppers and lack of rain that year were not the only problems, and Olive states it with perfect honesty in her letter to Aroet, dated August 9th 1855:
“I tell you, Aroet, there never were such hard times since I can remember. I hardly know what we shall do for wheat, and we have no garden stuff. Little Jonathan has been sick for three weeks. Your taxes and note must be paid with cash–and nothing else. Alma has the wheat thrashed; there were 16 ⅕ bushels, the same as he planted. We have lost old Rose, she would have made a good winter cow. We tried out her tallow and got 15 pounds. I am running eight dozen candles and making our winter soap.”
Other men–even Olive’s father–had given up with raising wheat and moved back to the city, but Alma and Olive worked hard to keep the farm going and carry on. Since they could not rely on their wheat, Alma took jobs as he could. He spent time harvesting lumber for the mill in the summer of 1855. The family raised a small herd of cattle as well. To keep food on the table, Alma regularly went fishing with other men from the community.
Olive’s neighbors and family were also a strength to her. Townspeople often checked in with her to see how things were going for her as well as her husband. Olive would find a way into the city to see her mother, or her mother would come to Grantsville, as often as they could. In fair weather, they saw each other weekly. Her brother Casper occasionally visited, and Olive’s sister Emeline stayed with Olive from June 1857 until Aroet returned home.
Although life was not easy, Olive remained firm and full of faith. In a letter dated September 23, 1855, Olive further describes her situation and temperament:
“How we are to get our bread, I know not. Alma has made one trip north to sell something to buy wheat, but was unsuccessful. But I expect the way will be opened for us, if we do right and trust in our Redeemer. Alma sold the pink cow to pay the taxes. I did not like it very well, for that cow you always called mine.”
Financial struggles are not the only challenges Olive faced while Aroet was gone. As Olive mentioned in the excerpt above, little Jonathan was constantly cross. He required extra care, and in a August she writes that he hasn’t walked in three months. Jonathan was only 19 months old and Olive had no idea what was making him waste away. Additionally, Olive’s sister Josephine became sick and died just one month before her second birthday. Add to all of this the bittersweet status of expectant mother, for Olive bore another healthy baby boy just a few months later on November 29, 1855: Thomas Whittle Hale.
One more excerpt of her letters, this one dated December 1885, relates Olive’s perspective of the situation:
“I have one of the finest boys to show you when you come. I had the best time I ever had, but had no help until Alma got his sweetheart to come, and they took care of me and everything. I received the $10.00 and the 6 pounds of dried grapes you sent home. I got them when the baby was two days old. It was the only delicacy I had.”
Through the letters she wrote, we also catch a glimpse of Olive’s compassion and concern as a mother. She began sending Lucius to school as soon as he could attend, and remarked at how quickly he caught on to his lessons. Olive mentions each of the children lovingly, helping her husband to catch up on their growth. Olive’s letters brought comfort to Aroet. Even at a distance, Aroet took great care to do what he could for his family. He sent packages to Olive and the children as often as he could. Pine nuts and “dried grapes” were their favorites. In 1856 he made arrangements with several people in town to have the house painted, the well “rocked” and for his family to get new shoes. He wrote his family frequently, and expressed his love for his dear wife each time. Aroet even found ways to tease her from a distance, and the effort was not lost on her. One set of passages is typical of their banter: Aroet described his encounters with some of the friendly Indians, and related to her that a squaw of eligible marrying age was rare enough that it was common for two or more Indian men to fight for her hand. He joked with Olive that he might bring one home for his own. Olive knew her husband’s wit even at a distance, and didn’t miss a beat. “You won’t need me and a squaw to keep you clean, and you needn’t come home if you have another.”
Olive’s kindness and love for her family and friends is obvious through her letters. Noticeably absent from Olive’s writing is any mention of disagreements or petty aggravations. Johnathan was not the only one Olive worried about. In each letter, Olive expresses her hopes and grief over the many good people in her life. She encourages Aroet to write to her sister Mary who needs some cheering up, mentions the friends who have asked about Aroet, and tells him of loved ones who pass away, including a two year old sister, Josephine.
Above all, the remarkable trait of this pioneer woman was that she was uncomplaining and completely supportive of her husband. The challenges Olive faced as she tamed the rugged landscape were daunting, but she was undaunted. In all of her letters, Olive tells Aroet that the family loves him and misses him, and that they pray for his success. ”My prayer is that you will perform your mission in a way that will be an honor to you and your posterity and be pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (June 24, 1855, spelling corrected)