Thursday, June 25, 2009

Malissa Kaziah Rollins Life History

Melissa Kaziah Rollins Lee and daughter Mary EttaI Malissa Kaziah Rollins Lee, was born in a wagon box under a sycamore tree, in the forest covered mountains above San Bernardino, at Cajon Pass, California on July 13, 1851. My parents, James Henry Rollins and Eveline Walker Rollins, were camped there at the time of my birth with a company of Latter-Day Saints who were emigrating from Utah to California under the leadership of Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich.

The emigrant party camped at Cajon Pass for 3 months and during that time, my Father taught school to the small children. When we moved down into the valley, my Father helped lay out the city of San Bernardino. Our family lived in California for 7 years. We lived, at first, I think, in a small, one roomed log hut. My Father began the construction of a new home not long after our arrival and I can remember playing over its foundation with my sister, Nancy. The new house was of adobe with a front room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen.

I remember my mother as being a nice looking woman, pink of cheek, eyes of dark blue, dark brown hair, and with the air of freshness about her. Father was of the same complexion. He was part owner in a store in California and prospered in that business venture. There were three children in the family older than I: John Henry, Mary Amelia, and Nancy Eveline.

While I was quite young, young Amasa Lyman one day took a group of children of Mary’s age for a ride in his wagon. Nancy cried to go along with the rest, and Mary took her with them. The wagon tipped over on a ridge and everyone was tumbled into the dry creek bed. Some of the children were hurt. Nancy’s head was bruised behind the ear. Our family doctor was in San Francisco, so it was necessary to call in another one. He tried to administer a great deal of medicine, which Nancy refused to swallow, and complications arising from the neglected bruise caused her death. This was indeed a sad blow for us all. She had been a promising child. President young remarked upon her uncommonly brilliant mind. Very vividly I remember a certain day when Nancy, in a dainty white cap, played with me around the house foundations. She stopped, looked up at mother, and said, “Mama, I will never live to see this house finished”. “Why, Nancy!” was the remonstrative response. Before the house was completed, Nancy had passed away. There was no graveyard, and father buried her in the southwest corner of our lot.

The first twenty-fourth of July celebration held in San Bernardino was an exciting affair for me. It was held in commemoration of the day that the first Saints arrive in Utah. Memory portrays clearly the bowery and barbecue which were located at a little distance from the city. Mary and the older girls marched to it carrying banners and I marched behind with the younger children.

The first big earthquake known in San Bernardino came just after we had moved into the adobe house. The small trees we had set out in front of the yard almost whipped the ground, and the water in the front ditch splashed over the ditch bank. Grandma Walker, who was visiting with mother at the time, was carried from the house for it appeared likely that the walls would be shaken down. We were all very frightened. Great faults opened up in the valley floor.

One sunny afternoon, I ran into our front room and found Amasa Lyman, Charles C. Rich, and father, sitting by the table counting stacks of gold pieces and gold slugs of all sizes. Then money was placed in an eight-cornered box approximately fifteen inches wide and five inches high. How I wanted to touch one of those shining coins, but father looked at me very sternly and said, “Lissie, don’t you touch that!”

Spanish ladies would come around to the doors with bags full of silk cloth to sell to the womenfolk. Somehow they asked mother if I wouldn’t dance for them. I think I was four years old. Encouragement was offered in the form of money. After I had danced for their pleasure, the Spanish ladies threw gold pieces worth two dollars and fifty cents and some coins less valuable on the floor at my feet.

Frequently I ran across the public square to the big house where lived my Aunt Dee (Dionitia), and I would sometimes stay with her all night. Grandmother Nancy Walker lived with her. Aunt Dee was one of Amasa Lyman’s wives. She had no children of her own, but Marian Lyman, a young boy who later became an apostle, lived with her until his marriage.

One day Sister Mary prepared to go buggy riding with her beau, and I cried very loudly to go too, but Mary would not hear of it. Nevertheless, when no one was watching, I climbed into the buggy, and hid under the spring seat. It was very fine to ride along and see the beautiful flowers that grew by the roadside, very fine for the first few miles, and then my presence was discovered.

Soon after the Mountain Meadow Massacre, word came from President Young, "to your tents, O Israel!" In seven days from the day that the call was received, we were on our way to Utah. Many of our possessions had to be left in California. The dining room table was left piled high with dishes. Father had taken from the store, his share of the stock and this comprised about 4 loads of goods. For me, that was a wonderful journey from California to Utah. We camped one day at the Mojave, the site being around the point of a mountain. my brother, Henry, who was 19 years old, was in a great hurry to reach Salt Lake City, and when camp broke up, he started ahead of the other wagons with Mother, my 2 and 1/2 year old brother, and me.

Three span of mules pulled our wagon. presently, we neared a large prominent rock by the roadside. As the wagon drew alongside of it, 2 big Indians jumped out from behind the rock, and while one grabbed the lead mules, and turned them so the wagon wheels cramped dangerously, the other drew his bow and arrow upon Henry. Daubed with brilliant paint and wearing bright feathered headbands, the Indians were a terrifying sight that struck dreadful fear into our hearts. Mother caught up little brother Watson and jumped over the wagon wheels, and I followed. John Henry coiled his black whip with the loaded butt and raised his arm to strike one of the savages, but Mother cried out, "don't touch them or they will kill every one of us! "at that moment the company drove in sight, and the Indians fled up the mountain.

A child was born to Mother that night, but it did not live. Father had intended to go back to his old home in Salt Lake, but because of Mother's grave illness, he decided to stop for awhile in Cedar City. There were no empty houses or even rooms to rent in Cedar, and after staying for a few days in our tents and wagons, we moved on to Parowan. there we remained a year.

Before going on with our experiences in Utah, I want to recall a droll incident that occurred before we had arrived in southern Utah. In the course of our journey over the mountain and prairie, we encountered a long steep hill. Grandmother Nancy Walker declared that she would in no wise ride down the hill and so she began walking. But before the fat little lady had covered more that a few feet of the downward path, she stumbled and fell and rolled right down to the very bottom of the hill. Although we were very alarmed for her safety, grandma got up laughing, and evidently suffered no injury.

President Young sent word to Father in Parowan that he desired him to go to Minersville to be the Bishop of that settlement. So, you see, Father never reached Salt Lake City with his family. For 11 years, he served as Bishop of Minersville. Not far from there, the Lincoln Mine was opened up, of which Father was part owner. He assisted in molding out bars of lead from the ore. these were the first lead bars ever made in Utah. During the Indian war, Brigham Young, the Church President, bought the lead for it was needed in the making of bullets.

The four wagon loads of merchandise from the store in San Bernardino were gradually traded off to the Minersville people for whatever they had. The clothing situation was acute among the settlers and they were in rags. The new materials were accepted joyfully. Father bought one of the 2 or 3 houses which comprised the Minersville community, our house was located in a pretty spot near a stream of water.

When President Brigham Young was returning from one of his trips to the south, he stopped at our home. I remember one thing which he said to Father, "Come out here, Henry", he said, "and I will show you something". I followed the 2 men outdoors to hear what the President was going to say. "The day will come when the railroad will run along here", and the President pointed with his finger along the valley where the mountains began. That prophecy has been fulfilled to the very letter. Today the railroad course runs exactly where Brigham Young said it would. I have seen the rails and I have ridden on the train. At the time of his speaking, I don't believe the iron horse had even been brought to Salt Lake City. The President was a friend of little children. He called me his little granddaughter, and let me listen to his watch tick, when I occasionally sat on his lap.

Before father went to California with his family, at the time I was born, a young lady, Hannah Hulme, came to work for my mother. Hannah was an emigrant from England. The emigrant converts were distributed in the early days of Utah, among the Saints until they found a home or were able to care for themselves. When father planned the journey to California in 1851, Hannah wanted to go also, and upon the advice of President Young, father was married to her, the wedding day being March 3, 1851, in Salt Lake City. When I was a small child, I didn’t know which of the two women was my mother. The English lady was very lovely and fine looking.

I was a very happy girl in my youth, and made many childhood friends. So far as clothing was concerned, I was better equipped than any of the girls around me. My things were so pretty! I had shoes when all the other girls had to go bare footed.
The Navajo Indians were a constant menace, and at every opportunity, stole our cattle and horses. President Young thought it advisable that everyone should learn how to shoot a gun. Even we young girls were instructed in that art. I helped make bullets from the lead father took from the mine.

When I was about fifteen years old, I joined the Relief Society as did all girls at that time. At the weekly meetings, each girl would spin about four skeins of yarn with her wheel. The spun yarn was colored, woven into cloth, and then cut and made into dresses. When the cotton factory was put into operation at Beaver, we sold the raw wool and bought machine woven cloth. While I was still in the Relief Society in Minersville, I was asked to donate a white cake as part of the refreshments for a social. The whites of forty eggs went into that delicate creation. Sister McKnight, the president of the society said, “That was the best cake I ever tasted in my life!”
The young folks of my day enjoyed themselves in many different ways, but the main pleasure for all was horseback riding. Most often, we would group together for our rides. Sometimes, we took a lunch and picnicked in some likely spot. I rode in one twenty-fourth of July horserace and won.

My school days continued until I was 16 years old. The last year, I attended school in Beaver. Not long after my return home, I became the bride of John Nelson Lee. The summer previous I had visited my Aunt Jane Lee in Panaca, Nevada and had there become acquainted with George, Columbus, and John Lee, 3 brothers. John was not home very often, as he operated a stage between Panaca and Paranagat Valley. My visit was a gay one. Dances were held in the largest rooms of the few pioneer homes. At my Aunt's house, I first saw cheese put down in brandy -- a method of keeping cheese that was new to me.
Malissa Kaziah Rollins
After my visit was over, I did not see John again until in December, 1868, when he stopped at our house on his way to Beaver, where he was bound to buy a load of flour for his Mother. The beautiful span of big, black horses, which he drove, belonged to him, bought at the price of $500, money he had saved up from the stage business. The wagon was a new one of good make. When John entered our house, I was at work in the kitchen. Whether it was the dress that caught his eye or not, one cannot say, but John prolonged his visit for several days, and we were married on December 30,1868. The flour money was spent for the wedding, which was a very fine affair to which everyone in Minersville was invited. The ceremony took place at noon, and at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we sat down to a sumptuous wedding dinner. My beautiful wedding dress, a white silk tulle, daintily striped in blue upon which was scattered tiny pink flowers, Mother had bought from an actress. In the evening, we gave a wedding dance, which was very grand and did not let out until morning. Grandma Walker made her last appearance in public at my wedding. She was, I believe, 90 years old.

After remaining with my folks a week, John and I went to Panaca, Nevada, to live. For a year before we moved by ourselves, we lived with John's Mother in the hotel, which she owned and managed.

When the fourth of July came along, Sister Lee (Atchison) and I made a flag. The first ever floated in the public square, Grandma Lee bought the material for it.
My first child, Jennie Eveline, was born on March 6, 1870, in our new house. I was very ill for three months after her birth. There were no doctors in the country at that time. I was moved down to Grandmother Lee’s home so that she could wait on me. When John came home with a load of lumber one evening I was nearly dead. John asked for a prayer circle to be held every night for a week. That last night, when the singing was being done, I joined in the chorus: “Arise, my soul, arise, Shake off the guilty fears; The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears.”

From that hour I began to improve. My father brought Aunt Gilbert, wife of Sidney Gilbert, down to Panaca to care for me. John rode over to Minersville on a horse to see me while I was still convalescing and on his way narrowly escaped being killed from lightning which struck the ground only a few feet from him.

John was a farmer on a small scale. He planted the first wheat raised in Panaca, harvested his crop, and took the grain to Parowan, where it was made into flour. When he took his load to Parowan, the Indians were in an unfriendly mood so he had to be constantly on the alert.

Our first home, we thought was very nice. It contained two rooms, a front porch, and a basement. The walls were made of adobe brick.

A second daughter, Ada Melissa, was born on April 19,1872, and on October 8, 1873, Ida Dionitia was born. We moved to Minersville, when they were small, for we thought we could do better in Utah. Our ranch in Clover Wash was sold. Mary Etta, our fourth girl, was born April 6,1875. My first son, John Raymon, was born on August 28, 1877.
I was set apart as president of the first Retrenchment Society in Minersville in the year 1877, and worked in that calling for four years. A very peculiar incident occurred on the day that I was called to this new position. Some of the official ladies from Salt Lake City stopped at my house one Sunday when there were paying a visit to our ward, and I decided it would be best to stay home from church and prepare a nice meal for my company. As I was standing by the cook stove, a voice spoke in my right ear, saying, “You will be called to an office today.” Then the urge came to me to attend church, and I made ready and went. As I neared the chapel, I could see the Bishop standing on the church steps. When I came up to him, he said, “Sister Lee, they have been waiting for you.” Then he explained that they desired me to be President of the Retrenchment Society. I was set apart by Bishop McKnight.

About 1876 my husband and I were called to draw out our interest in dividends from the cotton factory in Washington, Utah, which had ceased to operate. The cotton for the mill was grown in Muddy Valley. After we had concluded our business in Washington, we went to the Clara to get a load of fruit, and then drove to St. George to see the temple which was under construction. When we turned our horses homeward, I became seriously ill. At the home of Thomas T. Jones, we stopped and fed the horses some green lucerne. We watered the hoses when we reached Leeds, and one of the animals took with colic. The journey was continued but the horse suffered so much that we had to send back to Leeds for help. The horse died, and we were forced to continue to Bellview with half a team. There, Brother Lee hired a horse, so that we could go on to Minersville. I was deathly sick, and before we got to Hamilton’s Fort, I fainted away. When my senses returned , Mrs. Roundy, of the Fort, was feeding me Raspberry Leaf Tea. In Parowan, we rested with a cousin for a few days, and then went on home.

My husband couldn't get work in Utah, and after 4 years, we moved our family back to Panaca. George, my brother-in-law, moved to Bunkerville. we bought his Panaca farm, and moved into our permanent home after renting for a while from Mrs. Kane. Our purchase consisted of five lots, and an adjoining forty acre field. we paid for the place by selling produce. The last payment consisted of our only team and wagon loaded down with vegetables. We had lost 2 fine horses. The poisoned water that ran into our meadow from the silver tailings at Bullionville caused their death.
One fall, John harvested ten tons of cabbage. Trying to find a place to store it was a problem. When the cabbage split open, we made sauerkraut, which filled three forty-gallon barrels. We sold the kraut at 55 cents a gallon. All the gardens we raised were fine.

Aunt Dee came to live with us before we bought the farm, and she remained with us for 17 years. Four years after she came, I was chosen President of the primary. President McAllister, of St.George, Thomas Terry, of Enterprise, and Sam Lee of Panaca, set me apart for that calling. I chose for my counselors, Sisters Annie Matthew’s and Mary Gentry. We taught as best we could in the absence of outlined lessons, such as are used nowadays. Eliza Snow's poems, the Bible, and the Book of Mormon, were studied.

I taught the girls to work samplers, the primary fair was a means of exhibiting the children's work, and we presented several of them. My group of primary children braided the first maypole of Panaca. When I was released from the presidency, I was immediately chosen as first counselor in the new organization. I served in that capacity for 5 years. My term as President lasted for 17 years.

On October 22,1905, I was set apart as second counselor in the Relief Society. Five years later, August 7,1910, I was made first counselor, and on September 3, 1911, I was set apart as President of the Relief Society by Bishop N.J. Wadsworth. My position as President ended when I was called to labor in the St. George Temple.
After John and I had been married for a good many years, the anniversary of our wedding was a few days distant. My grown daughters, Jennie (Jane), and Ada, interrupted my reverie to ask if they could go help their friend, Miss Wedge, who had sickness in her family. I readily consented. A few days later, I was requested to prepare supper earlier than usual for my husband, as he planned to go ward teaching. Toward evening, a white-topped buggy drew up in front of the house. In the driver’s seat, were Charles Ronnow, and my Primary counselor, Annie Matthew’s. The latter came in to ask if I wouldn’t attend a meeting which was being held in the Ward Chapel. John and I hurriedly got ready, and rode up to the chapel. I found there, to my astonishment, a table the length of the room, spread with every thing good to eat, and all around were the men and women of Panaca. “What does it all mean?” I exclaimed. It was a perfect surprise party in honor of my wedding anniversary. The whole affair had been arranged by my two daughters, whose time away from home had been spent in planning for it. The food was furnished by the guests. Jennie had a speech written out for me to read to everyone. I had a lovely time.
My daughter, Ada, was married when 17 years old to Charles C. Ronnow, the ceremony being performed in the St.George Temple, on April 6,1888. Ada was a very faithful girl, her married life was of brief duration, for she succumbed to influenza on February 18, 1889.

Jennie was a very faithful girl, also. She was interested in dressmaking, so we sent her to Salt Lake, where she remained for 6 months, and learned how to cut by the model. After returning she took in sewing, and it seemed as if she could cut out any kind of pattern. She was joined in matrimony to Joseph Wadsworth, on June 17, 1889, in the St. George Temple on April 13, 1890, 6 weeks after the death of her husband, the bride joined her companion in the spirit world. An infant child preceded her in death by a few days.

On January 16, 1894, my husband and my son, Jimmy, went out into the mountains after wood and sawdust. John spent an uneasy night in the hills, and arose at 3 o' clock in the morning to make preparations for the homeward journey. After the two had started back with their load, a near tragedy occurred. Jimmy reached for a heavy bedding roll, which was slipping off the wagon, and he was pulled with it over the wheels. John grabbed the boy, in time to save him from being crushed to death. The two arrived home in the forenoon, but my husband was too upset by the morning's experience to feel like working, so he lay down on a quilt behind the stove to rest.
He sent Jimmy to feed the stock. Ice had frozen over the large meadow pond, and skaters spun smoothly over its surface. Probably, Jimmy let his attention wander to the activity down in the meadow, or he may have been dreaming about the date he had for the evening with a pretty girl. His feet slipped, and he grabbed a hayfork for support. While he was gone from the house, Lester came in with a pair of shoes to be half soled. He went down to the corral, in search of Jimmy. In a few minutes, he was back, explaining that Jimmy was lying on the ground, and would not speak. The ensuing hour was indeed hard. We thought our son had broken his neck, but upon examination, we found two long scratches over his chest, and a small round wound under the breastbone. He probably fell on the hayfork. After this sorrow, the streaks of gray began to show in my hair.

We were doing very well on our farm in these years. In addition, John had a profitable business in selling ice to Delamar. He cut the ice from his pond, in condor canyon. The vegetables were sold in Pioche. Despite our reasonable amount of prosperity, and against my arguments and pleading, my husband and oldest son Raymon, decided to move to White River, 75 miles away, where a Mr. Horton, was offering a ranch for sale for $10,000. I would not go at first, but John and Ray started to the ranch with the team. Before they reached Pioche, one of the horses died and another one had to be bought. I took this as an ill omen. I moved my family over to White River. The land was supplied with water from a large spring. The boys fenced, grubbed sagebrush, and broke up the soil for planting. after 2 hard years, the ranch had to be abandoned for the hordes of jack rabbits ate up every blade of grain and green that raised above the ground. When my husband took me in the buggy to see his nice field of young grain, our approach frightened such a multitude of rabbits from the field that a great dust was raised like that caused from a large herd of sheep. My husband felt very down hearted we had not only lost on the ranch, but the children had been kept out of school for 2 winters. I came home first to put them back in school. Our house was rented to my son-in-law, so my family and I were obliged to live for awhile in my son's home. Everything seemed to go wrong.

Along about this time, we sent our son. Peter Leroy, to Reno, Nevada, with Raymon. Peter was a perfectly developed, and a beautiful young man, but a childhood fall had injured his mind, so that he was always just a small child in his intelligence. When Peter was a young baby, he had fallen out of his sister's arms onto the rock hearth of the fireplace. The fall probably caused a blood clot to rest on his brain, the doctors could offer no help. He was in a sanitarium at Reno only a year when we received word of his death, on April 25,1903. I grieved very much over this, and it has been a source of worry and trouble to me always.

My husband and I were called to labor in the St. George Temple, in October of 1912. We were ordinance workers for 2 years. A few weeks after our return home, my husband was stricken with paralysis, and 11 days afterward, passed away, July 21, 1914. I soon returned to the temple, but came back to the funeral of my son, Melvin, who died on November 18, 1914 as a result of ruptured appendix. Melvin strained his side while assisting to care for a young boy who had accidentally killed himself on a duck hunting trip.

My vacations home from the Temple were very lonesome, and of short duration for the old home seemed too empty to endure. On one of my returns to the Temple, I was among the very first to arrive upon the scene of a terrible accident. The stage that my son-in-law drove had tipped over and crashed down into a boulder-strewn gulch, and scattered about lay the dead and injured. Through it all, the Lord sustained me in my efforts to administer aid.

For ten years, I was an ordinance worker, and acted as a proxy for over one thousand dead, who had not had the privilege of going through the temple while living. I was married to Charles M. Heyborne, on October 31, 1921, in the St. George Temple, and Cedar City, Utah, became my home for the next twelve years. The infirmities of old age advanced upon Mr. Heyborne, and I, my days of active service drew to a close, and I went to live with my children until my health should improve.

Five Generations Malissa Keziah RollinsI have worked as a teacher in the Relief Societies of Panaca, St. George, and Cedar City. As a member of the Daughter of the Pioneers, I was enrolled first in St. George, and later in Cedar, where I served as chaplain for two years.
I have had 11 children, 6 of whom are boys. All of my children lived until they reached maturity. The living sons and daughters are: Ida D. Hollingshead of Caliente, Nevada; Mary Etta Cox of St.George, Utah; John R. Lee of Brigham City, Utah; Luverna Edessa Mathews; and Lester E. Lee, of Panaca, Nevada; and Porter l. Lee, of Caliente, Nevada.

I am grateful for my wonderful parents, who passed through all the persecutions for the Gospel’s sake, and for having been born in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I feel firm in the belief that this is the one and only true church upon the earth, and I pray that this belief will remain with me in strength and steadfastness throughout all the days of my life.

Signed, Malissa K. Lee Heyborne

Malissa R. Lee died September 1, 1949, at the age of 98. She left 3 sons, 3 daughters, 58 grandchildren, 182 great-grandchildren, and 83 great-great-grand children.

Tap Roots
By LaBerta Bobo

Poem reprinted from the Ensign Magazine Sept. 1988, p.7
I, Malissa Kaziah Rollins Lee, was born in a wagon box under a sycamore tree somewhere beyond the Cajon Pass and the furrowed trails that led to Caliente Town. A billion stars reach out to shine upon the sagebrush silence of a heritage.

I, Lissie Lee of four, dance in patent leather shoes while gold and silver coins are flipped upon a well-worn floor. I sparkle as I wrap the silken goods about my waist and wait for our Spanish friends to cheer.

I, Lady Lee, now with summers adding to seventeen am decked in my white and blue silk tulle as I become a radiant bride and I am moved to unfamiliar trails. I learn to card and spin and weave the yarn and bake a cake with forty whites.

I, Malissa Lee, am caught in heritage that rides the miles through treacherous hills carrying broken dreams and whispers of regret.

I remember Nancy Lee, child of light, lying in a shallow grave in the southwest corner of our lot. And I remember Jimmie, silent on the ice with a hay fork caught in his side. And then my dear and precious Peter with sickness of the brain from a fall upon a hearth—only five remain to follow my shadow.
Now I shake the dust of time and marvel at my ninety snows.

I, Malissa Kaziah Rollins Lee, bend toward the mother tree and join the tap roots of my sycamore as I feel the slow and throbbing heart sound in my trunk. I hear my own name summoned in the wind voice of the night and pass my history to the tender roots I leave behind.


  1. I've never known much of the history of my Lee family (or famLee as we say). I appreciate those that have taken the time to post the stories of my family. Interestingly, I was born 107 years after Malissa, in San Bernardino California, on July 5, 1958. I have always felt a connection with this particular relative. I am the daughter of Leo J Lee, son of John Raymon - Malissa's oldest son.

  2. This is an awesome blog. One of the best I have found. Good work. Thank you so much. I am a relative of James Watson Rollins, James Henry's son. Are you going to do one on Mary Elizabeth Rollins?