LIFE STORY OF HENRIETTA McBRIDE BELNAP
Henrietta McBride was born on 1 September 1821 in York, Livingston, New York, the oldest of 8 children born to her parents, James McBride and Betsy Mead. She and her parents joined the LDS Church in 1833 in Chautauqua County, New York.
In order to gather with other Latter-day Saints, Henrietta’s family moved first to Kirtland, Ohio in 1837, then, due to persecution, to Missouri in 1838, and then, again on account of persecution during the winter of 1838/1839, to Illinois. Her father became ill during the spring of 1839 and was unable to work. He died on 13 August 1839 in Pike County, Illinois a few weeks before Henrietta’s eighteenth birthday. Five months later her mother gave birth to another child. Food was very scarce and Henrietta, as the oldest child, would find what little work there was to help get food for the family.
In the spring of 1841, Henrietta’s mother relocated the family in Iowa on the west bank of the Mississippi River about 4 miles from Nauvoo. While her mother remained in Iowa until the Saints were driven in 1846 to the Missouri River, Henrietta may have moved to Nauvoo to work, for on 27 April 1845 she witnessed there a lease made by her aunt Martha McBride Knight Smith.
In the spring of 1846, Henrietta, in company with her mother and part of her family, headed West across Iowa under the leadership of Brigham Young. (Her brother Reuben, who had left the Church, had gone to Missouri; her brother George stayed behind until the fall of 1846 to work as a cook on a riverboat steamer.) Henrietta’s family suffered miserably in the trek across Iowa. When they were about 30 miles from the Missouri River, Henrietta’s brother Harlum enlisted in the Mormon Battalion, leaving the family with barely enough provisions to last 5 months.
Henrietta’s family located in a grove near the Missouri River called Davis Camp, 3 miles north of what was later called Kanesville. Here her brothers James and Oliver built a log cabin and put up hay to feed their stock. By the first of December 1846, the family’s provisions were almost gone. The nearest place in Missouri where more provisions could be obtained was about 75 miles away, although they had no money to buy food. James and Oliver hitched up 2 yoke of oxen and started for Missouri. The weather was very cold and they decided to stay in a place called Iris Grove, where they got work gathering corn. In 2 weeks they had earned a load of corn and returned home. The next year the family planted a crop of corn and raised enough for a year’s provision.
In the spring of 1847, Henrietta’s grandmother, Abigail Mead McBride, emigrated to Utah. The following spring her brothers George and Oliver left for Utah, leaving behind Henrietta, her mother, and her brothers James and Nathaniel.
While still living on the banks of the Missouri, Henrietta gave birth on 16 April 1851 to Annetta McBride (Smith). The child’s father, according to some family records, was named Wells Smith.
Henrietta crossed the plains in company with her widowed mother, Betsy Mead McBride, and her brothers, James and Nathaniel, in 1851. Which company they traveled in is not presently known. (It is presumed that Annetta was with Henrietta and not with a wet nurse, although Annetta’s name does not appear in any records as having crossed with Henrietta.) They started for the Salt Lake Valley with 1 wagon, 1 yoke of oxen, and 2 yoke of cows. They had traveled about 150 miles when their cattle stampeded. They lost their oxen and a cow so that they had to leave their wagon behind. Another man in the company lost part of his oxen. Henrietta’s family hitched their cows with his oxen and continued on. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in the fall of 1851.
In Utah, Henrietta, her mother, and her 2 brothers who crossed the plains with her initially settled in Farmington, Davis, Utah, where Henrietta got work to help the family. Henrietta helped her mother weave cloth and make clothes for the family. On 31 December 1851 Henrietta was rebaptized in the Farmington LDS Ward.
On 26 June 1852 Henrietta was married polygamously as the second wife of Gilbert Belnap by Brigham Young in the President’s Office in Great Salt Lake City, the same day Gilbert’s first wife, Adaline Knight Belnap, was sealed to him. (Gilbert’s first wive Adaline was a first cousin to Henrietta.) Henrietta and Adaline were very close, as were their children. With her marriage to Gilbert, Henrietta moved to Ogden, Weber, Utah. Gilbert’s 2 families lived in a log house on the southeast corner of the intersection of Grant Avenue and 26th Street.
Henrietta’s daughter Annetta died on 26 November 1852 and was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery in the Gilbert Belnap family plot. Less than one year later, on 31 August 1853, Henrietta gave birth in Ogden to William James Belnap, her first child by her husband Gilbert. Henrietta gave birth to her second son, Oliver Belnap, on 20 September 1855 in Springville, Utah, Utah. Gilbert had been called to serve as a missionary in the Salmon River Mission and Henrietta had gone to Springville to be at the home of her mother at the time of confinement.
Gilbert Belnap returned from his mission in 1857. Henrietta and Adaline were resealed on 17 July 1857 to Gilbert Belnap by Brigham Young in the Endowment House, the same day on which Henrietta received her endowments (she had previously been sealed to Gilbert in 1852 but at that time had not been endowed). One month earlier, on 5 June 1857, she had given birth to her third son, Francis Marion Belnap, in Ogden.
In the spring of 1858 Henrietta and her family left their home in Ogden as participants in the “Move South” on account of the approach of Johnston’s Army. They resided for a season in Springville in Utah Valley. On 31 October 1860 Henrietta gave birth to her last child, Isadora Estella Belnap, in Farmington.
Henrietta was a woman who never complained, although she was moved from place to place. About 1863 Henrietta moved with her 4 children from Ogden to Huntsville, Weber, Utah in Ogden Valley. She was moved there by her husband to homestead land and care for sheep. With the help of her eldest son William James, they cared for the land and the sheep.
After a few years, her husband Gilbert sold the land and sheep and moved the family back to Ogden for a short time. (William, now about 12 or 15 years old, stayed in Huntsville and worked for his board and clothes.) Henrietta lived in Ogden with Gilbert Belnap’s other family in a log house situated on the east bank of the Weber River near the present-day 24th Street viaduct.
Henrietta and her 3 youngest children were next moved to Hooper in the early spring of 1868 where she helped her husband establish the residence requirements on 160 acres which Gilbert was purchasing from the U.S. Government. Henrietta and her family used a wagon box for their first home, which was set on the ground among sagebrush. It contained their bed, clothing, and meager supplies. Without a camp stove, their cooking and baking was done over a campfire in a frying pan, kettle, and bake kettle, using cut sagebrush for fuel. They had no artificial light, not even a candle. During the cold weather they would go to bed to keep warm. They melted snow for water or carried water from a distant spring.
During the summer of 1868 Gilbert built Henrietta a log room. It was located on the western part of the 160 acres her husband was homesteading. Conditions eventually improved. Her husband and his first wife’s family moved to Hooper and the log house was replaced by an adobe structure. On 16 February 1872 Henrietta received a Patriarchal Blessing in Hooper at the hands of John Smith.
Henrietta had a natural ability to teach. She taught the first school in Hooper, initially in her home and later in a log room a short distance west from her home. Here she had benches made out of split logs. Henrietta drew on a board the face of a clock with two hands on it. The board was nailed on top of a post as a sundial. When the sun shone, she would teach the children how to tell time. While her small pupils were learning to write by tracing over letters on a slate, Henrietta would have others stand and read. She taught her students the times tables and told them stories from the Bible and about the pioneers. She passed around the few available text books.
Her students remembered her as being a kind, gentle, and efficient teacher of children of various ages. Henrietta made a sundial so she could tell the time of day. The school children brought fruits, vegetables, and molasses to pay for their instruction. In 1878 Henrietta earned $25 per quarter for her teaching. (Henrietta may also have taught school in Springville while she was living there.)
After Henrietta’s son Oliver lost his first wife in 1894, Henrietta took in Oliver’s son Wilford, then 3 years old, to care for him. As her grandson Wilford grew older she would start out to visit her neighbors and relatives carrying with her a little stool. They would walk until she was tired, then sit on the stool to rest, then go on. She would walk one and a half to 2 miles. In the fall and winter of 1896 and 1897, another young grandson, William O. Belnap, lived with Henrietta and Wilford.
Another grandson, Mead Belnap, remembered he and other boys stopping into Henrietta’s home on their way home from school. Henrietta would have a pan of hot corn bread (“corn dodgers”) and molasses for them to eat, which tasted very good.
In the summer of 1897 Henrietta went with her son Oliver and his family to Moreland, Idaho, where they arrived on 13 July 1897. While going through the hardships of building up a new part of the country yet again, Henrietta cared for 5 of her grandchildren.
As she grew older, Henrietta was bothered with rheumatism, which caused her fingers to twist and swell. In the fall of 1898 Henrietta’s health failed and she came back to Hooper. She went to live with her daughter Isadora Estella Belnap Stoddard. Her last days were spent in pain and suffering, although she never complained. Henrietta’s husband died on 26 February 1899. Six months later, on 5 September 1899, she passed away in Hooper at the home of her daughter Isadora at the age of 78. Her funeral was held in the Hooper Ward chapel and she was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery, next to her pioneer husband of 46 years.
All of Henrietta’s children were married in the Endowment House or an LDS Temple and had large families of their own. Her posterity today numbers several thousand and are scattered around the globe. Henrietta appears to have been particularly musically gifted. Likewise, many of her descendants have excelled in various musical fields. Others have excelled in medicine, sports, and law.
(Written by Brent J. Belnap. Submitted on behalf of the Belnap Family Organization to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1995.)
Name: Henrietta McBride Belnap
Born: 1 September 1821, York, Livingston, New York
Died: 5 September 1899, Hooper, Weber, Utah
Parents: James McBride and Betsy Mead
Pioneer Arrival: 1851
Company: Unknown company (by wagon)
1st Spouse: (Unknown)
Children: 1. Annetta McBride, born 16 April 1851
2nd Spouse: Gilbert Belnap
Married: 26 June 1852, Great Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
2nd Spouse’s Death: 26 February 1899, Hooper, Weber, Utah
Children: 1. William James Belnap, born 31 August 1853
2. Oliver Belnap, born 20 September 1855
3. Francis Marion Belnap, born 5 June 1857
4. Isadora Estella Belnap, born 31 October 1860