Compiled by Kara Seager-Segalla
Posted on worldconnect.rootsweb.com, last updated 2006-01-11
Used by permission
• ID: I0131
• Name: Harriet Vilate PITKIN 1
• Sex: F
• Birth: 30 JUL 1848 in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, USA 2
• Death: 11 MAR 1914 in Tremonton, Box Elder, Utah 2 of "natural causes"
• Burial: A30 59 6A, Logan City Cemetery, Logan, Cache, Utah, USA
• Religion: LDS; original Utah pioneer of 1848
• Occupation: Housewife
• LDS Baptism: 11 FEB 1860 by Thomas Green & contirmed by Peter Maughn Sr.
Harriet Vilate Pitkin, original pioneer of Utah in 1848, compiled by Clara Seager McRae, 1988,
edited with additions by Kara Seager-Segalla, 1999
Before we can begin with the life of Harriet Vilate Pitkin, we need first to see what was happening in the lives of her parents. This will help us understand the circumstances of her birth.
Her father, George White Pitkin, was born 17 May 1801, in Hartford, Windsor County, Vermont. He was the youngest in a family of ten children. His father, Paul Pitkin, came from a family whose ancestors settled in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1659, while it was a new colony. His mother, Abigail Lathrop, was a descendant of the Reverend John Lathrop, who was persecuted and jailed in England for his religious beliefs, and who brought a group of believers to America with him in 1639, to settle in Massachusetts.
The Pitkin family left the east and traveled to Hiram, Portage County, Ohio to establish a new home. It was here that George White Pitkin met and married his first wife, Amanda Eggleston. Hiram, Ohio was located not far from Kirtland, Ohio. It was in this vicinity that George White heard the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had the honor of being baptized on his birthday, May 17, 1831, by the Prophet Joseph Smith. (Joseph Smith was also a descendant of John Lathrop.) The Church was not yet a year old. George Pitkin became a devoted and faithful member for the remainder of his life.
Joseph Smith had led his followers to Kirtland, Ohio in 1831. The Mormon Church was a co-operative society, and much of its organization was taken from the experimental co-operative societies of the time. The Mormons planned to build a great city at Kirtland. They first built a sawmill, a tannery, and a general store. They also built a great stone temple which cost about $50,000. The membership of the church continued to grow, but from the beginning, there was trouble at Kirtland. The Mormons were unpopular with the townspeople and were often treated badly. As mentioned previously George White Pitkin became a member of the Mormon Church. His sisters, Abigail and Laura, also joined the Church and later became the wives of Heber C. Kimball. The rest of the Pitkin family was anti-Mormon, especially his brother-in-law, Silas Raymond, who had married his sister, Rebecca. Silas was a very strong man, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, who had broad shoulders, tapered to his feet. He never boasted about his strength, but it has been said that he could take a 40-gallon barrel of cider on his knees and drink from the bunghole. According to Church history some of the townspeople dragged Joseph Smith out in the night and tarred his month and body. Silas Raymond was among these townspeople and it was his tar bucket and paddle that was used.
George White Pitkin was Sheriff of Portage County and was one of those who helped to clean the tar from the Prophet's body and to clean and dress his wounds. A few days later, George Pitkin hauled the Prophet and his party in his wagon a distance of seventy-five miles. George Pitkin was with the Prophet Joseph Smith during many of his trials. It was always a great comfort to him, years after, to think of the contacts he had made with Joseph Smith.
The Pitkin family endured the persecutions and tribulations, the continual move from town to town, and state to state, along with the other Saints, who suffered for their religious convictions. They settled for a time in Nauvoo, Illinois with other Mormons. It is recorded that while the Pitkin family was living in Nauvoo, they attended the 3rd ward and lived on lot 29 of the Kimball I plat, (see Nauvoo map). Laura Pitkin also lived on lot 29 with the Pitkin family. George W. Pitkin was active in the construction of the Nauvoo House, Nauvoo Temple, and the Seventies Hall. The Pitkin family eventually was driven from their home in Nauvoo and crossed the Mississippi River, January 16, 1846. They finally settled on the Fox River in Davis County, Iowa. It was here that Amanda passed away, leaving George Pitkin with four motherless children.
Harriet's mother, Sarah Ann Huffman, was born July 5, 1827, in Bertie Township, Ontario, Canada. Her parents, George Ransier Huffman and Hannah Johnson, were both descendants of Tory families who fled America to Canada because of their Royalist political views.
Sarah Ann's life was one of selfless service to those she loved. Life was difficult for her family. Her mother was widowed three times, and was responsible for a total of eight children of her own. Sarah was trained early to be resourceful and hard working. Sarah Ann's family was converted and baptized into the L.D.S. Church and made preparations to join the main body of the Church in Illinois. It was while the Saints were living in Winter Quarters, that Sarah Ann Huffman, a girl of nineteen, married a widower, George White Pitkin, on Feb. 14, 1847. George Pitkin was forty-five years old and twenty six years Sarah Ann's senior. With this marriage, Sarah Ann immediately became the mother of four children under the age of fourteen - Martha Abigail Pitkin, Ammon Paul Pitkin, George Orrin Pitkin, and Mariah Laura Pitkin.
The family remained behind when the first group of Saints left the area to travel to the Rocky Mountains. They prepared themselves for departure the following year in 1848. The family spent the winter on Mosquito Creek, near Kanesville, Iowa, and traveled to the Elkhorn River in Nebraska, just west of the present town of Omaha, to join the exodus of Saints.
The wagons were organized into three divisions, under the charge of the First Presidency of the Church. The second division had as its leader, Heber C. Kimball. In Kate B. Carter's, Heart Throbs of the West, it is recorded that this company was comprised of "662 souls, 226 wagons, 96 pigs, 299 chickens, 17 cats, 52 dogs, 3 hives of bees, 3 doves, 5 ducks and 1 squirrel." The date for its departure is listed as May 19, 1848. According to notes left by Joseph Grafton Hovey, however, whose family traveled with the Pitkin family, they left Wednesday Morning, May 31, 1848 at 10 A.M. The Pitkins left with a span of oxen, one wagon, two cows, their food, and seed for the next planting. Sarah Ann was seven months pregnant with her first child.
The wagons continued on to their destination, traveling through regions of buffalo herds and roving Indian bands. Subject to the fluctuating conditions of the elements, plus the dust, mud and general uncleanness of outdoor life, it would have been difficult for anyone to cross the plains, especially a young woman, large with child and in the beginning throes of labor.
It was under these conditions that Harriet Vilate Pitkin was born, Sunday morning, July 30, 1848 at 10 o'clock, the first child of George White Pitkin and Sarah Ann Huffman. The tiny baby, whose birth weight was only four pounds, was named for Vilate Murray Kimball, a wife of Heber C. Kimball. The birth took place in hostile Indian country, near the present town of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, close to the border of Nebraska and Wyoming, in an area the family identified as the "Black Hills" of Nebraska. Scottsbluff, Nebraska is south of the Black Hills of South Dakota, but since Harriet's birth was near this area, her birthplace was probably identified this way. The birthing bed was made of sacks of wheat laid crosswise for a mattress. No doctor or nurse was in attendance. Other Mormon sisters in the group gave aid to the new mother.
The wagon train moved on, leaving behind the Pitkin family. They rested for three days before continuing their journey. When they moved to rejoin the rest of the company, they hid by day and traveled by night, so they would be less obvious to wandering Indians. The trails were rough and rutted, causing the wagon to roll and bounce. The young mother had to hold the infant's head to prevent it from being dashed against the sides of the wagon. Harriet survived, surrounded by the love of her parents and her half-bothers and sisters.
At the time of Harriet's delivery, the family had been two months into their journey. It was almost another two months before they entered Salt Lake Valley. On Sunday morning, Sept. 26, 1848, at 11 A.M., they arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Most of the company stayed at the fort until Tuesday morning. Harriet's family eventually located at Cottonwood, on the Cottonwood Creek, south of the fort.
The following winter was severe and food was scarce. The settlers were plagued by cricket and grasshopper scourges, which ate the crops and made the pioneers live on near starvation diets. Many settlers had to survive on eating roots that were found, such as Sego Lilly bulbs, and green weeds, such as thistles, and even on rawhides. Milk, meat, and a small quantity of breadstuffs were distributed among the poor in such quantities as to prevent starvation. At one point Harriet's family had only one pint of corn meal, which was made into porridge to feed the family of seven for a week. At times the family was so weak they could hardly stand. Until the next summer's harvest was reaped, the famine continued, but the harvest of 1849 was a bountiful one. During that same winter many families were without shelter and fuel. Each family was given a city lot until the sites were exhausted. For most, wagons served for a dwelling during the coldest months and later an adobe hut roofed with unseasoned lumber and thatched with hay or frozen mud. Before summer all were housed in log or adobe dwellings. The fort was broken up and the people moved on to their city lots.
Brigham Young was instrumental in selecting the present site of Ogden, Utah and in encouraging families to settle there. As the first settlers arrived, they immediately sought places where water could be easily diverted from the Weber River and where land could be quickly cleared for gardens. Ogden City was laid out in a grid patter. By 1850, the population of Ogden and surrounding settlements was 1,141. Sometime around the year 1850, the Pitkin family moved north to Ogden. The toddler, Harriet, now became the bigger sister to a new brother, Jay Leonard, born Oct. 11, 1850. The family remained there for two years.
As the shifting frontier moved westward, the Pitkin family decided to move again too, this time to Oregon in 1852. American settlers, who were eager to have the U.S. take possession of this region, poured into the area. Long lines of covered wagons carried thousands of settlers into the valleys. By 1850, soon after the U.S. and Great Britain had settled their dispute over the Oregon boundary, there were between ten and twenty thousand settlers in the Oregon country. The Pitkin family ended up in Waldo Hills, Oregon, near Salem, in the northwest part of the state. Another brother, Jacob White, arrived, living only a short time. He died May 13, 1855. Because of the dampness and rain, which affected Sarah Ann's health, Harriet's family again moved. People were constantly beginning their lives all over again, seeking new opportunities. They left for California and settled briefly in Sacramento, which was first known as Sutter's Fort. The discovery of gold first began in 1849, so the "gold rush" was pretty much over by then, but many newcomers still arrived in their covered wagons called "prairie schooners". They drove their wagons over dangerous mountain passes and through deep canyons to get there. Here, Harriet's oldest half sister, Martha Abigail Pitkin, remained, after marrying Harvey Taylor, who was not a member of the Church. This marriage, of course, was very hard for her parents to bear.
According to oral history, Harriet was sent to the stream to wash some dishes. While she was near the water, she saw something shiny. Picking it up, she took it with her when she returned home. The shiny object, of course, was gold. The family panned for gold for a period of time. Their church meant more to the Pitkin family than wealth, however, and they once again packed their belongings and returned to Utah. Before leaving the fort, they told someone else of Harriet's find. It was reported to have been one of the larger strikes.
Harriet's family settled again in Ogden, but in the spring of 1858, they were instructed by Brigham Young, along with all other Weber County residents, to prepare to leave their home and move south, where a campsite had been selected, west of Provo, Utah. Harriet's family camped in Payson, Utah, just south of Provo. We do not know what type of quarters Harriet lived in, but most people were living in wagons, tents, or dugouts. The drinking water was bad; flies and insects made life generally unpleasant.
Johnston's Army was marching into Utah to put the wrongly reported Mormon rebels under government surveillance. The settlers filled their homes and all public buildings with straw, ready to burn them at a given signal. Grain and other food supplies were taken southward, nothing was to be left for the army to use against the Church members. Martial law was declared. The Nauvoo Legion was to fortify Echo Canyon. People were prepared for war. At the time of this unrest and turmoil, Harriet was ten years old. After living two months under tension and adverse conditions, word was received that peace had been established. The family returned to their home in Ogden. George White Pitkin had planted potatoes before he went south. When he returned, he had a good crop of potatoes that fall.
Soon however, Harriet's family once again moved. This time further north to the beautiful Cache Valley. They stopped at Elkhorn Ranch, later called the Church Farm, late in the spring of 1859. Here they planted grain and vegetables. In the fall the crops were harvested. The winter was severe and many cattle died from being frozen. The cabins offered little protection from the winter elements. To keep the seed potatoes from freezing family members kept them in their beds. One time, during a crop failure, the Pitkin family was hard pressed to save enough for seed for the following year. They had just nineteen potatoes left. Finally in desperation, they ate the insides and cut the peelings into tiny piece for planting. From the parings they harvested nineteen bushels.
The Pitkin family was advised to move closer to Edwards Mill, a little south and east of Elkhorn ranch, for better protection from the Indians. There were also better opportunities to secure irrigation water from the streams than at the Elkhorn Ranch. Wood and timber was available from the river bottoms and the canyon. During the summer and fall, George White Pitkin and his older sons, George Orrin and Ammon built a log house east of the Edward's mill. This site became the Pitkin homestead. The Pitkin family did not occupy their log house until the early spring of 1860. This was the first log house built in Millville, before the settlement was organized or named. The home was a one-room house, where the family ate, worked, played, and slept together. Her mother, Sarah, was so proud of her new home that she would scrub the logs that supported the dirt roof. Many times during their moves, the family only lived in a "dugout" or a place dug out in the side of a hill and covered with poles, branches, and prairie sod. It has been told that rattle snakes were often found curled up in their house for warmth. One day a rattler fell through the roof on to their table. It was said that all of their possession had to be protected against mice and other "critters". The dugout was dark and smelled dank and musty, the way a dirt-floored home often smelled. Other families built homes in two rows, close together, for protection. The nucleus of cabins became known as the town of Millville. It was the last move for Harriet's parents. It was several years before Harriet's family could move out of the log house and move into a substantially built two-story, rock home. The walls of this home were at least two feet thick, which provided good insulation for the spacious living room and kitchen downstairs and two large bedrooms upstairs. Their kitchen had a wood burning cook stove, cupboards, and large dining table, where they spent most of their time, cooking, eating, and studying. The living room had comfortable chairs and a homemade lounge, used for entertaining. There was a porch along the east side and also a separate room at the end. The house was never locked. The old homestead was located at the present site of 136 West 1st South in Millville.
Harriet's father, George, taught school there, since he came from an educated family. He also did his church duties and farmed on a small scale. In the Utah Federal census for 1860, George W. Pitkin's vocation was listed as "dairy". Harriet and her full brother, Jay, spent their childhood in Millville and were raised in the Mormon Church. Harriet was baptized by Thomas Green and confirmed by Peter Maughan Sr. Feb. 1l, 1860 at the age of 12. Their older half siblings had married and settled nearby.
The story of Harriet's courtship is unknown, but at the age of twenty-one, on Aug. 9, 1869, she was sealed in marriage to William Kennedy Robinson in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Harriet's husband was an Irish immigrant, ten years her senior. He had arrived in Utah with the Johnston's Army as a twenty-year-old teamster. Later he was converted to the Church, stayed in Utah, and settled in Logan, Cache County.
The young couple made Logan their home. In the course of time, they became the parents of three daughters. All of their children were born in Logan. There was Maria Vilate, born Aug. 23, 1870; Sarah May, born May 28, 1872, who lived for only two years; and Mary, born April 27, 1874. It is from Mary that our family is descended.
William Kennedy Robinson's main occupation was farming. He was an active church worker and held many positions. He served on the Logan City Counsel and was city marshal. In 1870, he was called on a six-month church mission to visit his own people back east. He visited his brother, John, in Des Moines, Iowa, and another brother, Hugh Jackson in Champaign, Illinois, but was unsuccessful in converting any of his family.
As a wife and mother, Harriet's days would have been long and busy. The course of her time would have been typical of the housewives of pioneer living. Supermarkets were many years away. Each housewife made her own bread, churned her own butter, made her own soap, had her own cows for milk and its by-products, and had her own chickens for meat, eggs and feathers. Everything had to be made from "scratch".
Bedding was made from homespun linen. Pillows and mattresses were made from the feathers of chickens and ducks. Bedding quilts were pieced and stitched by hand. Even the batting, the center layer of the quilt, was often made from their sheep's wool and was carded and made by hand. Crocheted lace, which they made in the odd moments of "rest", produced beautiful edgings for sheets, pillowcases, table decorations, underwear, and dresses.
Harriet was a large woman of medium height, stately and well built. She had dark eyes, dark wavy hair, brunette complexion, high cheekbones and beautiful coloring. She was always well groomed, and wore a watch on a chain about her neck, which she tucked into her belt. She had a lively sense of humor and loved to poke fun. She was intelligent, very exacting and liked to tell stories. She was a good cook and was loved by her grandchildren. She was heard to say facetiously that the reason she was so dark was because of her birth in the "Black Hills."
After being married for only five and one-half years Harriet became a widow. Her husband had gone to the mountains with a group of men to take logs out of Logan Canyon for use in building the Logan Tabernacle. As the men were climbing, a log rolled down "Dry Pine Slide", crushing her husband and causing his death. The accident occurred about 11 A.M., and his body was taken home to Harriet at 2 P.M. An inquest was held, and the conclusion was that no one could be blamed for his death. William Kennedy Robinson died, Feb. 16, 1875. He was 37 years old and left a family of two, his youngest child, Mary, just 9 months old.
Three years after being widowed, Harriet Vilate Pitkin Robinson was advised to marry again, by one of the apostles of the Church. She became the plural wife to Charles Burtis Robbins on Jan. 24, 1878, in the Endowment House.
Charles Burtis Robbins or "Charlie", at age 11, sailed with his parents and other Saints on the ship "Brooklyn" from New York City, around Cape Horn, to California in 1846. His father found a profitable gold mine and became wealthy. At age 15, Charles, along with his family, left San Francisco and returned to New Jersey by way of the Isthmus of Panama. His father still owned a farm and wanted to return and settle his business there. They stayed in New Jersey until the spring of 1853, when they crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. In Sept. of that year, Orson Hyde baptized him. Charles served as a calvary man, obtaining the rank of major in the Utah militia. After serving in the Echo Canyon War, he settled in Logan, Utah, where he opened a mercantile establishment called the "Robbins Commission Merchant Store, Dealers in General Merchandise". Later he served as a city councilman, with Harriet's first husband, and served for many years as the city's first fire chief.
At the time of their marriage Harriet was twenty-nine years of age and Charles was forty-three and a polygamist. Harriet became his third wife. The other wives were first, Jane Adeline Young, niece to Brigham Young; and second, Martha Allen. The three wives had some difficulty in adjusting to each other. A grandson, William Kennedy Seager, remembers his grandmother telling him how one of the other wives chased Harriet with a butcher knife. In 1880, Jane Adeline Young sold her Logan home and moved with her youngest children to Salt Lake, mainly because of her anti-polygamy sentiments.
The home where Harriet and Charles lived was located on Main Street, north of the business district of that day. A United States Post Office was built on the same property many years later. The fire station was next door to their home. It was a two-story building, with the men sleeping on the top floor and the engine and horses on the ground level. The fire engine, at that time, was wood burning with a steam pump to pump water from the irrigation ditches.
Three children were born to Harriet and Charles: a daughter, Harriet Vilate, named for her mother, was born April 13, 1879 and died one year later; an only son, William Kennedy Robbins, named after Harriet's first husband, was born Sept. 7, 1881. Another daughter, Emma Louise, born July 10, 1883. All of the births took place in Logan.
Nine years after the wedding ceremony in the Endowment House, Harriet and her second husband were married again. This time their marriage was a civil ceremony, performed by a justice of the peace on Oct. 15, 1887, in Logan. Harriet became a widow for the second time, when Charles passed away on Nov. 10, 1905. They had been married for twenty-seven years. She lived nine years longer.
Harriet raised her children with a respect and love for the gospel. They went to the fourth ward, where Harriet filled many positions. She was first counselor in the Relief Society, and was a Primary President for several years. Mary, Harriet's daughter, described her home life as being very pleasant. She said that their home wasn't grand, but that her mother was a good housekeeper and mother. Harriet and her family would frequently stay at a two-room cabin, owned by her brother, Jay Leonard Pitkin and his wife, Mary Matilda Henrie. Jay Leonard and family lived in Millville, but had a 320-acre cattle ranch, 22 miles southeast of his valley property. The ranch and cabin could be reached by a steep, winding, wagon trail, following the Blacksmith Fork River, and took a full day to reach. The cabin lay in a narrow valley, called Mill Hollow. It was a lovely, primitive, secluded spot, surrounded on all sides by giant peaks of the Wasatch Range of the Rockies. The sun rose late and set early even in the summers. The long twilight made for delightful, cool playtime and sociable family get-togethers. Harriet Vilate Pitkin Robinson Robbins was an independent woman, but when she became too ill to care for herself, she was taken to the home of her daughter, Mary Robinson Seager, in Tremonton, Utah. She moved there in Dec. of 1909 before she died on March 11, 1914, of natural causes. She was sixty-six years old. She was buried next to her two husbands in Logan, Utah. Their graves can be found approximately 140 feet north of the "3A" painted in yellow on the Logan cemetery road.
A poem written to Harriet V. Pitkin Robinson Robbins by Susan H. Jackman, "a heartfelt tribute of a friend", is as follows:
The casket was beautiful, lovely and fair,
While the jewel within it shone.
The spirit has gone where the holy ones are,
But the earth must return to its own.
She has gone where the portals of Heaven are open,
Where the soul finds its rest and repose.
Here she was faithful, kept sacred each token,
From childhood till life's journey closed.
This life is a school where in we merit,
And earn our eternal reward.
To dwell in the home for the good to inherit,
She has labored both faithful and hard.
She has left on the pages of history a record,
Her children may look to with pride.
She labored for others and put forth her effort,
To be both a counselor and guide.
She was one of the early pioneers of Cache Valley,
Was a staunch and steadfast true friend.
Once stood guard when Indians did sally,
And was able their home to defend.
Now she is gone, for life's work is finished;
Gone to a holier sphere.
She worked for God's Kingdom, for there was joy in it,
Though sometimes she shed better tears.
She no doubt met with a welcome in Heaven,
Though here she was not understood.
We feel that her failings well there be forgiven,
For she truly has tried to be good.
1. Family group sheets of William Kennedy Robinson & Harriet Vilate Pitkin, and Charles Burtis Robbins researched by C. Austin Seager.
2. Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 3, pp. 373-374 - History of Charles B. Robbins.
3. Heber C. Kimball - His Wives and Family, pp. 8, 23, 24 compiled by Kate B. Carter.
5. The History of a Valley by Joel E. Ricks, Ed. Pg. 43-45.
6. Pioneer Women of Arizona, forward page 2, compiled by Roberta Flake Clayton.
7. Utah - The Story of Her People by Milton R. Hunter, pp. 301-302.
8. Treasures of Pioneer History, Vol. 3, p. 338, compiled by Kate B. Cater.
9. 1880 Census of Utah Territory.
10. Later-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia by Andrew Jensen, Vol. 1, p. 433; History of George Orrin Pitkin, half-brother to Harriet Vilate Pitkin.
11. Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 9, p. 467, compiled by Kate B. Carter.
12. Personal knowledge of grandsons, William Kennedy Seager and C. Austin Seager.
13. Family group sheet of George White Pitkin and Sarah Ann Huffman by Mary E. Pitkin.
14. History of Jay Leonard Pitkin by Susan La Nez Pitkin Cragon, his daughter.
15. Logan and Mendon cemetery records.
16. Autobiography of daughter, Mary Robinson
Father: George White PITKIN b: 17 MAY 1801 in Hartford, Windsor, Vermont, USA
Mother: Sarah Ann HUFFMAN b: 5 JUL 1827 in Bertie, Welland, Ontario, Canada
Marriage 1 William Kennedy ROBINSON b: 31 OCT 1837 in Louth Co., Ireland
Marriage 2 Charles Burtis ROBBINS b: 21 SEP 1834 in Reckleston, Burlington, New Jersey, USA