When Maria Linford and her husband John joined the Mormon church in 1842, they paid a heavy price for it. The best customers of John’s shoemaking company (including in relatives) in Graveley, Cambridgeshire, England, were so upset that they decided to “starve him to [give up Mormonism] by withholding our work.” His business suffered great losses, to the extent he could no longer afford to employ his workmen, but John and Maria stayed true to their beliefs, even contributing funds to the building of the Nauvoo Temple. Perpetual Emigration funds became available to them in 1856, and John, Maria, and three of her four sons (the fourth staying behind to serve a mission in the Cambridge Conference) made the arduous journey to join the saints, traveling by boat, ferry, train, and eventually joining the Willie handcart company.
The hunger, fatigue, and cold faced by the Willie handcart company are well known, and the Linfords experienced them. John had fallen ill in Florence, Nebraska, and had been so ill toward the later part of their journey that he was unable to walk, and his family pushed him in their handcart. At the rescue camp site of the sixth crossing of the Sweetwater, John died on October 21st and was buried in a mass grave. The relief wagons arrived from Salt Lake later that evening.
Maria’s economic struggles continued when they arrived in Zion impoverished on November 9, 1856. Maria’s employer did not allow her to even have her sons in the house to visit, let alone live there, and her three boys were split between the homes of two different relatives. Maria was very unhappy with this arrangement.
Out of necessity, on July 26, 1857 she became the second wife of Joseph Rich, 29 years her senior. She married him for time, while Joseph stood as a proxy for her sealing to John. Maria’s granddaughter Eliza M. Denio recounts that Maria worried about her marriage because she was afraid of what John thought about it. But one night Maria had a vision in which John appeared to her and told her understood her reasons for making her choice, and he was pleased with her, which gave her comfort. She was able to live with her sons, and Rich was very good to her boys. As he and his first wife, Elizabeth, aged and suffered deteriorating health, Maria cared for them.
Her husband was called to settle the Bear Lake Valley in 1864. The settlement struggled from crop failures, hunger, and cold, but Maria worked steadily during her time there, serving as ward and then stake relief society president, and being involved in the organization of the primary association. Even in the tough frontier conditions, her granddaughter recounts that Maria was “extremely dignified and lady-like, and very particular about her personal appearance.” She continued to work and serve until her death in October of 1885.
I admire Maria’s steadiness, and the strength it took her to do what was necessary. Her children recall that she did what had to be done “without a murmur.” She suffered for her faith, but she brought about much good.
Linford, Golden C. Linford Family Heritage: George Christian Linford 1877-1933, Alice May Peterson 1886-1971.