Phillips, Sarah Boden - Biography

Family History of Sarah Boden Phillips

Compiled by her granddaughter, Lola Atkinson Frew (daughter of Aunt Mattie)

Recopied, photos and notes added by D. Clair Phillips, a great-grandson)


As I write this I can see my grandmother now, standing behind the pulpit in our ward chapel, giving a sketch of her life as she did many times on her birthday. She was honored by the whole community turning out to celebrate her birthdays, for she was often spoken of as the 'Mother of Dayton and the surrounding towns.'


Sarah was born at Aberdare, South Wales, on 7 March 1850. Her parents had accepted the LDS gospel but did not have the means to transport themselves to Zion. They desperately wanted to come to Salt Lake City because they were persecuted in many ways for joining the LDS faith. After much pondering and praying they decided that Sarah would be the one to go. She would go to join her married sister, Polly Callan. Polly and her husband Stephan had made the journey two years earlier.


Sarah was just seventeen years old at the time. She had never stayed away from home even for a night. She was frightened and anxious about the long trip and yet was excited and thrilled to be going to Zion. Her parents were supportive and helpful. They told her to be of good cheer for every sacrifice she made for the gospel would be repaid many fold. Other words from her parents were: "You will establish yourself among God's people and help build up a home and posterity to His honor, if you will only prove faithful to the end."


She sailed from Wales on the steamship Manhattan. She was in the company of her good friend, Fannie Morgan, a girl of her own age. Often on the ship they became frightened and would huddle together in some corner to overcome their fear. They, like so many others, were not sailing first class.


They reached New York City on 4 July 1867 only to find they must wait in the harbor because of the National Festivities being celebrated for July. The passengers were not allowed ashore until July 5th.


Sarah and Fannie traveled to Platte City, Missouri by train. There they joined an independent company leaving for Utah. The company was led by Captain Leonard Rice. He was very gracious and kind to his company. He tried to keep everyone in a cheerful mood even though 10 were buried enroute.


They arrived in Salt Lake City on 5 October 1867 just in time to attend the first conference which was held in the Tabernacle on 6 October 1867.


It was here that she and Fannie Morgan went their separate ways. Sarah journeyed on to Brigham City to be united with her sister Polly Callan. And Fannie must have gone to Wyoming, as Sarah and Fannie did not see each other until 30 years later when Fannie came from Wyoming to visit Sarah in Dayton, Idaho. It was a happy reunion.


In Brigham City Sarah made her home with her sister, Mrs. Stephan Callan. While there she also stayed with Jensen and Jones families doing housework.


Before leaving Wales she had heard the elders speak in tongues. This had truly inspired her. One Sunday as she attended church in Brigham City an amusing thing occurred. She began to think how wonderful it would be to hear another such sermon. It happened that a Danish elder was requested to speak that Sunday. He addressed the congregation in his native tongue. She was delighted and listened with rapt attention to every word thinking he was giving a divine lecture in tongues. She had never heard another language except English and Welsh.


Meanwhile Sarah's parents were preparing to emigrate from Wales to Utah. They needed help in order to do it. Sarah rented an acre of land. She also cleared grub sage from a lot earning $4.00 in pay. Every little bit was contributed toward the plans for bringing her family to Utah.


Elias Morris of Salt Lake City sold her father a pass for 7 people, and he paid fare for the other 2, thus enabling him to bring his entire family of 9 to Utah. Her father died the day after they arrived in Salt Lake. This was on 4 September 1868. This left Sarah's mother a widow, penniless, and 7 children to find a home for. Brother Bywater, a missionary friend, gave her $5.00. She spent $2.50 for fares to Brigham City. Here she was united with her two daughters, Polly and Sarah. Blessed, though sad, was their reunion, having lost their father and his protection. (Also, from the history of James Boden and Annora Coleman Boden we read: "At the encampment at Sweetwater, Wyoming, 16 August 1868, her eleventh child was born. They christened it John. The noble mother, though ill nad weak continued on, but the child was unable to survive the conditions. On 30 August 1868 its spirit returned to the heavenly home it so recently had left. The sorrowing parents saw the little body buried by the roadside at the head of Echo Canyon.") With the remaining $2.50 Sarah's mother bought sugar and made candy which she easily sold. She continued in the candy making profession which proved to be profitable enough to make a living for her family. The candy was sold and sent all over. It was a special recipe from Wales and remained in the family being passed down through the daughters. With the income from the candy she was able to buy a log house for their own home; and shortly after began taking in boarders to add to their income. Sarah and the other children aided their mother in every way possible. Through their mother's perseverance she prospered until their funds had grown enough for them to possess a seventeen-room hotel. This was known as the 'Boden House' and was the first hotel in Brigham City.


(This story of the Boden Candy that we know in the family so well is a little different from the 'traded pig' story my grandfather James Phillips, of Dayton, Idaho, used to tell. He told the story that she traded a sow pig she had for sugar to make the first candy! Under the circumstances the above story seems a little more reasonable to me. DCP)


It was here in Brigham City that Sarah met Thomas J. Phillips. His family had also come from Wales and made their home in Brigham. They were married when she was 21 years old. Two children were born to them in Brigham City, a son on 15 October 1871 and a daughter just 13 months later. While the family was young they moved to Clifton, Idaho. Here two more children were born. Finally, they made their home in Dayton, Idaho, just a few miles south of Clifton. Six more children were born to them, thus making a family of 6 girls and 4 boys. Farming had become their livelihood.


(Thomas Joseph Phillips and Sarah Boden were married 17 October 1870 in Brigham City, Utah. Sealed in Logan Temple 25 September 1912.)


When Sarah was thirty-six years old, just 15 years after she and Thomas were married, a tragedy entered their lives. Thomas had gone to Preston for provisions. On the way home his team ran away. He was seriously hurt, having suffered a broken leg. This was the 10th of November 1886, and it was extremely cold that time of year. His leg was also frozen in the mishap and had to be amputated. He just did not respond to treatment and died on 1 December 1886. Sarah was left with 10 children, the oldest being 15 and the youngest 9 months. She, like her mother, struggled to keep the family together. She did so successfully and in a manner which marked her an excellent business manager. She raised her family without losing one.


She and Thomas had acquired a farm and now with the help of the older children she ran the farm and supported her family. Besides running this farm she had the talents of being a wonderful 'nurse and doctor' for many of the small communities in the area. She was called out to administer to the sick in all kinds of weather and for many different types of illnesses. On several occasions she would relate some biographical experiences of her 'midwifery' career. One time on a cold December night, the snow being about 4 feet deep, a man came to summon her to his sick wife. He said she was very ill and needed help immediately. The snow had to be broken for over two miles in order for the team and sleigh to get through and they tipped over several times but finally managed to get there. They found the wife sound asleep. The man was very angry because she had feigned her illness. He even threatened to 'whip' her.


Many times she was summoned out in the middle of the night in weather such as described previously to deliver a baby, attend pneumonia, or to administer to a dying patient. When it was cold there would be hot rocks in the sleigh or wagon to help keep her warm. She was always prepared to go, having kept a little overnight bag packed so there would be no delay if she was needed.


Not only did she enter nearly every home for miles around in time of sickness, but she also took the sick and needy into her home. On one occasion a neighbor told her about a family who was traveling through Dayton in a covered wagon. It was not known where they were going, but they had stopped in the little town because of their sick baby. The father's name was Norman Bliss. Grandma, upon hearing of their plight, went to fetch them. She brought them into her home. She nursed the baby, fed and clothed the other family members and made them as comfortable as possible. The baby had diarrhea and failed to survive. They buried the child in the Dayton Cemetery. Before the family moved on she made certain they had provisions to continue on so their journey would be less worrisome. For many years afterward grandma cared for the grave on Memorial Day as if the child had been her own. (This tradition is still carried on by members of the family still in the Dayton area.)


She administered to the sick and afflicted for about 36 years. It has been estimated she must have brought around 1,000 or more babies into the world. Her first confinement case was twin boys. Their family name was Wickam. One died at the time of birth, but the other, Warren, lived until he was 70 years old. She brought many of her 54 grandchildren into the world. She was very astute and alert to the dangers which lurked at the time of birth, both with the mother and the infant. In my case the physician delivered me, but grandma saved me from severe hemorrhaging. The physician had just finished and had gone outside to get in his buggy when grandma knew that things were not right and called him back. He said then her quickness in understanding the situation saved my life. This incident happened shortly before her death in 1926. She remained very active and led a full, useful life until the end.


Not only did she attend and deliver the babies, but in those days she would make several trips back and forth to look after the mother and baby. This usually went on for 10 days or more in nearly all cases. If she was unable to go she would send one of her daughters. The one who nearly always went was her youngest daughter, Emma. She, like her mother, inherited many of these same service-like qualities.


She was a deeply religious woman, having tremendous faith and trust in the Lord. This was demonstrated in so many ways, but came closely to light in October of 1904. It was a cold and blustery autumn night when grandma and three of her children were sitting in the kitchen around the stove when a knock came at he door. It was Bishop Austin. He came in, shook hands with everyone and sat down exchanging greetings will all. He said, "Sister Phillips, how do you feel about James going on a mission? We, the bishopric, have talked to James, and he is willing and glad to go if you can afford to send him. James is a fine young man and has those qualities which would make a good missionary. He keeps the word of wisdom and does those things which qualify him. Besides he has told us that he has saved his money from last summer so that he can assist with some of the expenses."


"Well, Bishop," said grandma, "I am going to have him go on that mission if I have to sell my last cow. And with us at home putting forth an effort to help, the Lord will do his share. The Lord has surely been good to me and my family, and I love this old world. It's grand to live in."


The Bishop said, "Now Sister Phillips, would you like a week to think about it?"


Grandma replied, "No, in all my life I have wanted to have a boy worthy of going on a mission, so he can go."


A few weeks later a letter came for James to go to the Southern States Mission. He and grandma were so happy to receive the call. He left on 4 November 1904. (James was my grandfather, and we always enjoyed hearing him tell of his experiences while on his mission. I left on my mission in November 1953. DCP)


Grandma was a prayerful person, and she always said her prayers were answered.


She always looked on the bright side of life. She had never turned a hungry person from her door, so she felt that her son would not go hungry in the mission field. I do not think he did. He returned home in safety. The family was extremely proud of him. They were unaware that he had any musical talent, but on returning they discovered he could sing and play the guitar, entertaining them on many occasions. This pleased grandma so much.


She was an excellent cook and housekeeper. Although her home was of modest means she always could accommodate a large gathering; and did so many times, for everyone liked to eat at her house. The food had a special flavor and quality. She seemed to always be able to put another plate or two on the table. There is a quotation from the Bible in Matthew 25:40 which says: ". . verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." This quotation seemed to be a guide for her life.


After her family was grown and most of them having established their own households, she boarded school teachers who were teaching in the little town of Dayton. She made many lasting friends and acquaintances with this group. Her youngest daughter Emma continued going this for many years.


Toward the end of her years the Dayton Ward would give her a birthday party every year. The whole town would turn out to celebrate. Many people from surrounding communities would also attend. A gift was usually presented at the time.


The following is taken from a newspaper clipping in the Preston News, Preston, Idaho. (The date is missing.)


"On Saturday afternoon the most successful party of the season was given in the Dayton Ward meeting house for 'Grandma Phillips.' This was given by the people of this place to show their appreciation for her life of service to them. A nice program was given at 6:30. Charles Jones gave the address of welcome. Mabel Law Atkinson made the presentation speech which was a lovely wristwatch contributed by everyone in the ward. Glenda Phillips gave a biography of her life. Grandma Phillips and Susie Archibald furnished some of the humor in this biography.


Joseph Hansen of Logan, formerly of this ward, gave a beautiful talk on the service lived by 'Grandma'. How she had entered nearly every home in this place and administered in time of sickness and death. These beautiful lines were composed by himself and his wife.


On this glad day we gather here,

Fond greetings bring from far and near.

To a sweet soul we love so dear

              Grandma Phillips.


When want came knocking at the door,

When days were dark.

Who calmly toiled and bravely bore?

              Grandma Phillips.


Who ne'er had hardness in her heart,

Whose words have never left a smart,

Who always played the Christian part?

              Grandma Phillips.


When years were lean and seasons dry,

When well laid plans had gone awry,

Who still looked up to one on high?

              Grandma Phillips.


When to our home the stork did fly

Who heard the babe's first infant cry?

              Grandma Phillips.


Who's been a mother to us all?

Who gladly came at every call?

Who soothed the pains of great and small?

              Grandma Phillips.


When toes stuck out and knees were bare.

When tables held but scanty fare.

Who's willing hands came helping there?

              Grandma Phillips.


When death came in where none could save.

When hearts were wrung beside the grave,

Who taught us hope, who solace gave?

              Grandma Phillips.


When toils of life for us are o'er

When we arrive at heaven?s door

What angel fair will we adore?

              Grandma Phillips.


A banquet was served to more than 300. This was followed by a dance in the evening. A number of out-of-town friends and former members attended."


The speech made by Mabel Law Atkinson when the watch was presented to Grandma is also recorded: "Sister Phillips, you are looked upon as the mother of the Dayton Ward. Today we are trying to show you our love and appreciation. You have a place in all our hearts and we feel that we have a place in yours. Your life has been one of service. You have shown us the way to happiness and we want to let loving service bring us the happiness that is has given you. And now in behalf of the people of Dayton I present you with a little token. It is given in the spirit of love and gratitude to God for giving you to us. This little book contains the names of the babies, boys and girls and men and women who are giving you this token. We want you to wear it and we hope it will serve you as faithfully as you have served us. Keep it on your arm and let each tick bring back the memory of a friend and remember that we feel: that of all the scores of mothers we think that we chose the best that Heaven had to offer." (Mabel Law Atkinson)


On 5 December 1926 her sweet full life came peacefully to an end. The physician attending her said she was just worn out. She was buried in the Weston, Idaho cemetery. How often on Memorial Day, myself and others of her grandchildren, place a bouquet of flowers on her grave. The memory of her sweet spirit, her strong character and her loving service to others still lingers in our hearts. Should we need an example of one to follow? it would be Grandma Phillips.



Phillips, Thomas Joseph

Boden, James

Coleman, Annora

Boden, Sarah


Thanks to D. Clair Phillips of Dayton, Idaho, for sending the pictures and the biography of Sarah Boden Phillips. (Email address -