Stories from the Muddy

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Naomi Dovie Henderson Lewis

The history of Naomi Dove Henderson was written by her oldest sister, Sivilla Henderson Jones.

            Naomi Henderson was born October 23, 1894, on a farm near Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee.  She was christened Naomi Dove, and was affectionately called Dovie in her youth, but she preferred to be called Naomi, and Dove was finally dropped from her name.

            Naomi was the fifth child of James Wesley and Annie Caroline Smith Henderson whose children were Sivilla, James Woodard, Walter Sidney, Naomi Dove, and Margaret.  Naomi was small with glossy black hair and sparkling eyes of medium brown.  She was physically very quick and active.  She had an amiable disposition and was kind hearted and sympathetic to all, even to animals.  She was especially attentive to the unfortunate birds and animals.  Children in distress received her special care.

            From her earliest childhood she had a firm disposition and strong will to do what she thought was best.  This caused her parent much concern, for they did not always agree with her.  For this reason, she was many times disobedient.

            The farm home, a log house where Naomi was born, has been burned, only the chimney remains, but the knoll where the house stood, surrounded by evergreens, shrubbery, flowers and native grass is a veritable fairyland to this day in 1953.  When this writer visited the spot in 1946, she could see in fancy, Naomi, the 'little busy-body,' caring for the little chickens, the kittens and her favorite puppy.  She never cared for dolls, but enjoyed real live play things.  She was an independent child, never asked others to do for her what she could do for herself.  Her brothers and sisters often called her 'mean,' because she wished to do as she pleased.  Her mother once said she was less trouble as a child than the other children because of her independence.  She asked for less attention, even when ill.

            Naomi was brought up in a strict home.  Her parents were devout Baptists and they requested their children to join them in studying the Bible, in observing the Sabbath Day, and in attending to personal prayers.  The blessing on the food was always pronounced by Father.  A religious spirit pervaded the home and us children.  We children were taught to follow strict rules of moral conduct and to aspire to a respectable standard of living.  Ambition for higher education was ever instilled in the mind of each of us.

            The children in this family learned early in life the necessary lessons of economy.  Naomi was taught before she left the parental roof how to spend money to the best advantage and how to cook and sew.  At the age of sixteen, she was able to make her own clothes and helped sew for the other girls.  She was always fond of pretty clothes and was considered a 'classy' dresser.

            Her education began at six years of age in Liberty Grove School near Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee.  She was a bright, quick student all her school days.  She was blessed with a keen perception and good memory, which made it possible for her to have spare time in which to have fun in the classroom.  She was mischievous and loved to play jokes.  This part of her disposition did not please the teachers; however, she was loved by the teachers, students, and all who knew her.  She was high spirited, fearless, and adventuresome. 
When she was about eleven years old, her mother saw her on the fence of the corral where she was climbing on a young mule without bridle or saddle.  Mother screamed, the mule bucked, and Naomi slid off easily.  She was quicker than the mule and was soon out of his way
Our brother, Walter, tells of when Naomi went with him to feed the pigs when was about seven years old.  She told him she would like to ride one to see how fast it could run.  She rode the pig, learned its speed, and as a result carried a scar on her chin for life.  She enjoyed her school life and graduated with honors from the eighth grade.  In those days the eighth grade diploma meant a great deal the way a high school diploma did later.  She was very interested in grammar and used it correctly in every day speech.  She did not like to read, and especially did not care for books of fiction.  Her spare time was used to do kindness for a neighbor, to create beautiful things with her hands, and later in helping her husband on the farm.

            Her devotion to her father was most admirable.  To her, he was the embodiment of love, kindness, and perfection.  When she did the family ironing, she did Daddy's clothes a little better than the rest.  When it was her turn to cook, she planned meals to suit his taste.  If his feelings were hurt, she was the first to comfort him.  He held a place in her heart that could not be filled by anyone else, not ever Mother.  It was evident their admiration for each other was mutual.  In looks and personality, she was the image of her mother.

            The Elders of the LDS Church visited our home when she was about four years old.  Mother had read the Bible all her life and hunted for the church that was based on Prophets and Apostles like the one Jesus organized when he was on earth.  The LDS Church is.  Mother's testimony affected the whole family, and we were all baptized in time.

            The subject of religion was much discussed in the Henderson home and Naomi was conscious of the comparisons between the teachings of the LDS Church and other churches.  She was a favorite of the missionaries that visited our home, and they willingly answered her questions.  She was converted and baptized in the Forked Deer River in Jackson, Tennessee, July 4, 1910, at the age of fifteen.

            In the spring of 1912, Naomi and the rest of our family, moved from Tennessee to Provo, Utah, where we lived one year before going on to Salt Lake City.  Naomi and Father obtained work.  She was employed as a saleslady at Auerbach's Department Store, and while working there, she had a frightening experience.

            One evening after she left the store, she was leisurely walking up the street to catch the bus and noticed a man with a very suspicious expression, following her.  She immediately began to figure how she would get away from him, but saw her bus approaching and hastened to catch it.  After she was seated, she looked to see where he had gone, and saw him standing near by looking at her through the window.  The family was very upset when she told us and Father cautioned her about what to do in the future.  We were afraid because she was a very attractive girl, and small.  She was vivacious with a winning smile and cheerful countenance and raven black hair.  We were afraid the man would try to contact her again.  She was thereafter alert, but he didn't reappear.

            When Naomi was young, 'touch and catch' games were very popular among the teenagers, especially at lawn parties.  She was lots of fun because she was hard to catch, strong in physical balance, and quick to dodge the assailant.  She would stoop under the arms of the taller ones and dash away.

            While visiting her older sister in Overton, Clark County, Nevada, in 1914, Naomi met Clarence Arthur Lewis.  A friendship began which developed into romance.  She spent six or eight months, I don't remember now, in Overton where she met all the boys in the neighborhood, and dated several of them.  But she seemed to encourage Clarence most, and for doing so, her sister called her on the carpet more than once, because Clarence was a stranger to her sister.

            Naomi left Overton for her home in Salt Lake City and said she would stay away from Clarence for one year to see if they really loved each other.  Absence made their hearts grow fonder, for in October of the following year, Clarence traveled to Salt Lake to claim her as his own.

            Naomi was working at Auerbach's store at the time of their marriage, October 9, 1915.  They spent a week or two visiting friends and relatives in Salt Lake.  They purchased beautiful new furniture while there and returned to Overton to make their home near town, on a farm Clarence leased.

            Although reared in the city, Naomi seemed to love every minute on the farm and every experience in those days.  She loved to be with Clarence and accompanied him wherever he went.  Being quick in thought and action, she was able to accomplish her housework, and have time for activities outside her home.  Besides aiding her husband with such help as a city girl might do, she kept busy in activities of the Church and community.  She was engaged in the MIA work of the ward.

            She took many roles in plays and was otherwise helpful in the dramatic department.  She enjoyed taking the part of the comedienne and was good at mimicking the Negro girls, old mammies as well.  She could mimic their comical native expressions, which added much to the amusement of a particular play.  Once, when she was taking the part of a Negro servant, something went wrong behind the curtain and when the people became impatient and the cast was jittery, someone said, "Naomi, do something."  She parted the curtain and poked her little black face through, which attracted the attention of the waiting audience, and when they began to clap their hands, she laughed so hard it made them laugh.  Then she stepped out and cavorted around a few minutes, anything to take up the time, then she began to wonder what to say.  Slowly she said, "Folks, if you will gi me yo' attention, I'se guina sing a little ditty entitled, 'De bumble Bee Backed Up To Me and Pushed.'  Without singing, she bowed and backed through the curtain.  Incidents like this are included in this sketch for her children so they may know her as she really was.
Naomi reveled in the beauty of nature and loved to be outdoors.  She loved space, the sunset, the rain and snow, the mountains, the fields and forests, flowers, the many colored birds and butterflies.  Above all she loved people, and people loved her.

            Horseback riding was her favorite sport, and she loved horses from her childhood.  When she was too small to speak plainly, she would say, "I love black hoises best."  Clarence gave her a riding pony for a wedding gift and told her the pony's name was "Dovie."  Dovie was swift on the hoof, but never traveled too fast to please Naomi.  She cherished this lovely horse and rode it with pride and joy the rest of her life.  It seems when people have perfect lives, they are always short.

            Although so full of fun that she seemed to enjoy every day of her life, she was very sincere and conscientious.  She was thorough in all her undertakings, and most appreciative of every kindness extended her.  She was deeply religious and very forgiving.  She had a sharp temper, but never got out of control.  When she was angry she didn't quarrel, her words were few and final, and full of meaning.  She often said, "We should try to follow the admonition: 'A soft answer turneth away wrath.'"

            Clarence and Naomi didn't start their family immediately, and she said, "It will be a sad life for Clarence and me if we never have children."  At last the happy day came and Lorean was born May 7, 1917.  Clarvid Arthur followed on July 27, 1918, and Caroline on January 21, 1920.  Naomi didn't care how many babies she had as long as she had them, and Clarence seemed just as happy.

            Clarence told Naomi he thought they should buy a farm with a big house, for the prospects now seemed there could be a dozen or two babies.  They looked the country
over to locate a good farm, suitable to their needs and wishes.  In 1918, they purchased the Sparks Ranch, which had fertile soil, a large home in a picturesque setting, and was convenient to schools for they now expected a large family.  They were both so excited and happy as they began to improve their dream place.  This was the climax of Naomi's expectations, a farm of their very own with beautiful horses and other animals and fowl.  For two years Clarence and Naomi planned and worked on their new place and their dreams were coming true.

            In the fall of 1919, they made bigger plans for the following year, they knew they must have more money to meet expenses.  A new baby was due in January 1920.  Naomi was well and active and there was no hint of tragedy approaching.  Clarence worked terribly hard at this time, and Naomi had all she could do to care for the house and two little children, Lorean and Sonny, as Clarvid was called.

            The new baby, whom Naomi wished to call Carolyn, was born January 21, 1920.  Naomi was so happy with this beautiful baby, her first with blue eyes like her daddy's.  Everything went well and happy for several days after Carolyn as born, then Naomi started a temperature and was too sick to get out of bed.  Her doctor advised Clarence to take her to a good hospital where she could have better care.

            Clarence took her to the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, where many doctors tried to diagnose her case, and many treatments were experimented, but nothing would cure her.  At first, she seemed to have blood poisoning, that was cleared up and the fever left her.  Then a blood clot seemed to exist, for she lapsed into unconsciousness.  The doctors were still baffled and unable to do anything for her, and told Clarence to take her
home and give her the best care possible.  They gave the impression that they believed there was no hope of recovery.

            Naomi was brought to her older sister who had moved from Overton to Delta, Utah.  Clarence provided help for the house and the sister gave all her time in caring for Naomi.  As time went on, she became weaker and weaker.  One day she suddenly became conscious and talked freely of her illness, of the heavy expense she had caused Clarence, of her ambitions for her children, and her appreciation for the care she was given.

            She lost her sight.  "She kept saying, "I wonder why I can't see?  Won't I ever be able to see again?"  It appeared the clot had moved, pinching the nerve controlling sight.

            Sunday afternoon, July 3, 1920, her brother, Woodard, who had been attending school in Chicago, arrived to see her.  She said, "Woodard, I've been patiently waiting for you to come, for I have wished so much to see you, and now I can't see a thing."  She talked freely with him, telling him the details of her illness, how she had been to the hospital and how she hoped to improve so she could go home.
            After this conversation, Willard told Naomi he would let her rest awhile, for she was becoming tired.  Woodard suggested that a phone call be made to Clarence, asking him to come, for he could see that Naomi was very sick.  When it was mentioned to her that Clarence be called, he would be so happy to talk with her, which she had not been able to do for several weeks, she said not to call him, he was too busy to wait until he was finished threshing his grain.
            The next day, Sunday July 4, 1920, at 10:00 a.m., we called Dr. Charles of the Delta Hospital out to the farm.  He spent an hour or more with Naomi.  He told her he could not determine why her vision was obstructed, and advised her to go to Los Angeles.  She told him she didn't feel she could make the trip, her strength was gone, even though he assured her he could have a Pullman Coach prepared so the journey would be easy and comfortable.

            Right before the doctor left, Naomi said, "Sis, do you think I will ever see the children and Clarence again?"  This was the first time in five month's illness that she expressed doubt about getting well.  Her hopes had remained strong, but as her condition was growing worse, she realized that she must go, and her concern was more for her family than for herself.

            When the doctor left, about 11:30 a.m., Naomi was resting on her right side and seemed to drop off to sleep.  A constant watch was kept over her while a tray of food was being prepared for her lunch.  She did not rouse to eat, but about 1:00 O'clock in the afternoon, she turned over on her back, folded her hands and passed away without a sound.  Her beautiful life, well lived, was finished far too soon.

            Clarence and his sister, Maybelle Conger, came from Overton to accompany the body, which was prepared by a mortician from Eureka, Utah.  The funeral was conducted in Overton by Bishop M.D. Cooper of the Overton Ward.  Banks of flowers expressed the love and sympathy of the many friends of the family, and burial was at the Overton Cemetery.
            The three little children were cared for by members of the family until Clarence met a lovely girl, Lillian Condie, who helped reestablish his home.  The children never felt the loss of a mother due to Lillian's care.  Throughout eternity, Naomi will be grateful to this courageous woman who so tenderly mothered her children.

            I, Naomi Lewis, look forward to knowing my name sake.  I've always wondered how things would have been different in my dad's life, my mother's, mine and my brother's lives if Naomi Dove Henderson had lived.

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