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Flora Clarinda Gleason (1819-1900)



  • Daughter of Joel Gleason and Lorena Williams
  • Born: 2 August 1819, Tolland, Berkshire, Massachuseetts
  • Died: 13 August 1900, Monroe, Sevier, Utah
  • Temple sealing to BFJ: 3 February 1846, Nauvoo, Illinois, by Amasa M. Lyman
  • Sealing canceled: 1 February 1849
  • Temple sealing to Abraham Washburn: 11 February 1849, Salt Lake City, Utah
Children of BFJ and Flora Clarinda Gleason:

1. Huetta Clarinda Johnson. b 15 January 1847; d 22 June 1883.


pdfFlora Clarinda Gleason31 - Brief History

From Benjamin Franklin Johnson Family: A Royal Legacy

 Flora Clarinda Gleason, a little girl whose eyes were very, very crossed, was born 2 August 1819, in the southwest corner of Massachusetts, in Tolland, Hampden County, a town of 700 people. Her father was Joel Lo-rand Gleason, and her mother was Lorena Williams.

In 1824, when Flora was four years old, her family moved west about 500 miles to Lenox, Ashtabula County, Ohio, in the northwest corner of the state. Her parents were not together very long because her dear mother died just 16 days after their arrival, leaving her father, Joel, to care for Flora and two younger children, the youngest just three months old.

The next year Flora‘s father married Sarah Vandersburgh. Some-times Flora lived with them, and sometimes she lived with other relatives.

Flora and her father heard the beautiful message of the restored gospel and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Flora‘s baptism took place when she was 13 on 18 April 1834. Asa Blanchard performed the baptism. We do not know the story of their conversion, but it seems reasonable to believe they were taught by missionaries from Kirtland, just 35 miles to the west. History records that the saints lived in Kirtland from 1831 until 1838, with the beauti-ful temple being started a year before Flora‘s baptism.

Flora grew up in Lenox to become a capable and resourceful young woman. She met a young man by the name of Hugh Gillan, who was a good man but not a member of the Church. They became engaged to marry as she happily looked forward to the future. Howev-er, that was not to be, as he died before the wedding took place.

Hugh‘s parents were kind people with two daughters about Flora‘s age. They liked Flora and pleaded with her to live with them and be their daughter. She finally consented.

The Gillans were wealthy people. Whenever they bought some-thing for their daughters, they bought the same for Flora, and she came to have very expensive clothes.

Even though they were not LDS, they took Flora to her church in their carriage. Although Flora lived with the Gillans for two years or more, she longed to be with the Saints and wondered how to tell them of her feelings. It happened that she didn‘t have to, because her step-mother died, leaving her father very lonely. Flora returned home to care for his house.

Friends came during the evenings to dance and enjoy each other‘s company. Her father enjoyed their activities, and even though he may have gone to bed for the night, he would get up, dress, and join the fun. People said he could dance with a glass of water on his head and never spill a drop. People in those days learned to dance with skill and grace from dancing masters.

Flora lived with her father for about a year and then left Ohio to be with the Saints in Illinois. She moved to Macedonia, 21 miles east of Nauvoo, where she lived with a friend. One evening a few days after she arrived, a mob set fire to the house while she and her friend were visiting neighbors. All her belongings were burned, including the clothes given to her by the Gillans.

Next, Flora stayed in Macedonia and lived with the family of Pa-triarch John Smith, the Prophet‘s uncle.

Flora became the Relief Society President in the Macedonia Branch, the second one in the Church. The first was Emma Smith in Nauvoo. Flora wanted to see the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, but she did not go because she felt her clothes were unsuitable. Nauvoo was a large city of 11,000 people at that time.

Flora received a patriarchal blessing from the Prophet Joseph‘s un-cle on 11 June 1844 in Macedonia.

After the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred 27 June 1844, Flora moved to Nauvoo, where she lived with the family of Benjamin Frank-lin Johnson, the Prophet‘s friend, in the Prophet‘s former home known as the Mansion House. She earned her living by making dresses and by sewing. She also learned to be a nurse.

Flora Clarinda Gleason married Benjamin Franklin Johnson as his third wife in plural marriage on 3 February 1846 in the Nauvoo Tem-ple. She was 25, and he was 27.

At this time, the saints were beginning to leave Nauvoo because of trouble from the mobs. Flora and her husband crossed the Mississippi River about 6 February 1846. That night, the river froze solid with ice. She started for Winter Quarters with her husband and his first wife, Melissa LeBaron, and Melissa‘s children. Her husband stopped at Garden Grove for the winter. Flora went on alone, driving her ox team 300 miles west to Winter Quarters on the west bank of the Missouri River in Indian Territory. About 3,500 saints were living there. Men were busy building log cabins and sod houses for protection against the coming winter. Flora, however, had only her covered wagon. The weather was mild until the first part of January, when snow fell along with the temperature, becoming bitterly cold.

Flora‘s first child was born in her wagon 15 January 1847, during the coldest weather. Her child was a beautiful little girl whom she named Huetta Clarinda Johnson. Neighbors brought food. One lady washed Flora‘s clothes and hung them on bushes to dry. Fresh snow fell with the clothes still on the bushes. Flora dressed, went outside, shook off the snow, and gathered in the clothes.

Abraham Washburn was very helpful. He built a cabin for his wife, Tamer Washburn, and their five children. He also built a shelter for Flora.

Brigham Young was living in Winter Quarters and advised the people to gather food and supplies for the journey west. Flora had a problem because there was no dressmaking to be done, and nursing was done without pay. She was very resourceful, however, and found a new trade by learning to make fancy willow baskets. She gathered willows from nearby willow patches, stripped off and discarded the bark, and selected the finest stems to make her baskets. She sent her baskets with men who went into the countryside to trade. They traded baskets for food, and in that way she began to obtain provisions for the journey.

Flora and Benjamin and their family joined the Willard Richards Company, of 526 people, 169 wagons, 515 oxen, 50 horses, 20 mules, 426 head of cattle, 369 sheep, 170 chickens, plus a few other animals. Flora drove her mule team a thousand miles across the plains. They arrived the first part of October 1848. Abraham Washburn with his wife, Tamer, and five children, crossed the plains in the same Compa-ny. They were very kind to Flora.

Flora Clarinda became dissatisfied with her family life. She and Benjamin tried to make a reconciliation; but they were not successful. She laid her case before Brigham Young, receiving a temple divorce 11 February 1849. She married Abraham Daniel Washburn that same day as his second wife in plural marriage and was sealed to him for time and eternity in the President‘s office. She was 28, and Abraham was 43.

The Washburn‘s and others received a call from the Church to set-tle Sanpete Valley. Abraham went with some of the men to investigate living conditions. They found plenty of native meadow grass near the Sanpitch River. They harvested some of it for hay and decided that livestock could winter on the range. They returned for their families and arrived back in Sanpete on 21 November 1849. Both Tamar and Flora came with Abraham. There were 224 people (about 50 families) under the leadership of wagon master and military leader, Nelson Higgins. They camped at the foot of the hill, on the south side, for protection against the chill north wind. This hill was later called Temple Hill, and the town was called Manti. The next day following their arrival, Flora gave birth to her second child, Almeda Marie Washburn, who was the first white child born in Sanpete Valley. That night snow fell knee deep.

Also sharing the valley was a small group of Sanpitch Indians who were poor and did not pose a threat.

Some of the settlers built dugouts, but others had only their wagons for shelter. The weather was unusually severe that winter, as it was over much of Utah. Snow covered the ground three feet deep, with drifts to eight feet. Men and boys shoveled windows in the snow every morning to uncover grass for the livestock. They piled it high on each side to give a little protection from the weather and from wolves and coyotes that roamed wild and free across the land. Even with all they could do, the weather was so cold that many cattle died, including 35 head that belonged to Abraham. Indians used the dead animals for food because they too suffered from the cold and snow.

One pleasant afternoon just after sunset, as winter yielded to the warmth of spring, people heard a strange buzzing sound as hundreds of rattlesnakes began crawling from hibernating dens in the hillside above into the valley below. Men lit pine-knot torches and worked through the night destroying the snakes. This continued for several days and nights until the snakes quit coming. Remarkably, no one was bitten, even though snakes crawled inside dugouts and wagon boxes, where several were found on dressers and even inside cupboards.

Abraham and Flora built a house in 1850 on the south side of the hill near the west end directly across the street, east from the Town Hall. The next year, Flora‘s third child, Louisa Ann Washburn, was born 29 September 1851. Her fourth child, Hyrum Smith Washburn, was born two years later on 20 July 1853.

Abraham served as a city councilman in the first city council of Manti, which was organized on 6 February 1851. Dan Jones was the first mayor.

The Walker War began in 1853 near Payson. This skirmish was between the settlers and the powerful Ute Indians. There was a great danger to the people in Sanpete Valley. The settlers built a fort in Manti, where the Washburn‘s stayed before building a new home on First East, one half block north of Center Street. It had one large room with a large adobe oven along the west side.

Flora baked bread every week, 40 loaves at a time. When the bread was done, she baked cakes, pies, and gingerbread. She stored the bread in a clean barrel in the cellar, where there were large and small barrels, and where they stored jars of preserves for the winter.

Four more children came to bless their home. Philena was born 6 April 1855, Parley Pratt on 15 July 1857, Lorena Eugenia on 10 January 1860, and Orson Pratt on 7 March 1862.

Flora was 41 years old, and her family included 8 children from newborn to 15. She taught each one the value of work by sharing her daily tasks of pioneer life. She would make dough. The children would scrub their hands and put on an apron before receiving a piece of dough to knead for a long time. They rolled the dough very thin with a rolling pin, cut it into squares, and baked it in the oven. It was fun working together sharing daily activities.

She baked crackers for men who left home to take care of other duties. One story says her crackers were given to teamsters who went back on the pioneer trail to bring emigrants to Utah.

Flora made baskets and was often seen braiding straw while walk-ing along the street. She taught her daughters those skills, and together they braided straw and made baskets that they sent to many parts of Utah for sale.

She entered homemade articles in the County Fair in Manti each year and won many prizes with her hats, lace, and other handwork.

Two young married couples, the Willardsons and Scows, emi-grated from Denmark. They could not speak English and had no place to live. Flora shared her home by hanging blankets from ropes to divide the one large room into three sections, one for each family. They shared the same fireplace for cooking and got along well together even though they could not speak the same language.

Other immigrants came, and Flora gladly taught some of them to earn a living in this new land by spinning yarn and knitting socks for sale in Salt Lake City for 50 cents a pair. She taught them to weave cloth, braid straw, and make hats. They were very grateful, often weeping with appreciation.

She traveled with one of her older daughters and her son Hyrum to Utah Valley, where they dried fruit and bottled jam from peaches, apples, pears, and plums boiled in molasses. They even dried wild ground cherries.

Flora was among the first to bring fruit trees to Manti in the 1860s; she also brought berry plants, flowers, and ornamental shrubs. She grew apricots, peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, gooseberries, and currants, and other garden vegetables.

Her two oldest daughters decided to marry two handsome brothers from the community, Zenos and Alphonzo Winget. Unfortunately, they had no suits for the wedding, so Flora and the girls made suits for them by spinning yarn, dyeing it, weaving it into cloth, and sewing the cloth into suits. It took a month of steady work. Then the two couples were married 5 January 1866 in the Washburn home. Flora prepared a wedding dinner for more than 200 guests. They gave a public dance that evening, again serving refreshments.

Flora became Relief Society President in Manti. The ladies en-joyed such a good feeling of kindness that they looked forward to the meetings. In class they studied the gospel. On work days, they knitted socks, braided straw and sewed hats, cut, braided, and sewed rags into rag carpets, and made heavy warm quilts. They often began at 10 o‘clock in the morning and ended with a dance late in the afternoon, at which time, the musicians received a meal for their pay.

Abraham earned a living by operating a tannery and shoe shop. In pioneer days, before about 1840, shoes were the same with no differ-ence between the right and left shoe.

Abraham and his sons-in-law also owned a molasses mill. They held many ―candy pulls‖ in their home, where friends and neighbors made molasses candy, and everyone enjoyed eating it. Molasses was a special treat used instead of sugar, which was scarce and very expensive.

The Black Hawk War began in May 1865 against the powerful and dangerous Ute Indians. It was necessary to always be on guard against the ever-present danger because trouble could appear suddenly without warning.

One day, the family went to the saleratus beds south of town to gather a load of alkali (that they used as a substitute for baking soda, as well as for making soap by mixing with lye and animal tallow). They noticed horsemen about a mile away and supposed them to be hostile Indians. What a spot to be in. Hurriedly, they climbed onto the wagon and raced for town as fast as the slow-moving oxen could go. Their concern was unnecessary because the horsemen were a scouting party and intended no harm.

Some of the Indians worked for Flora‘s husband before the war and learned to respect him for his honesty and kindness. One was a chief named Indian Joe. One time, Indians drove away some of the settlers‘ cattle. Indian Joe turned back those with the Washburn brand out of respect for his good friend. After the war, Indian Joe met Flora‘s sons in Grass Valley where he greeted them with hugs. In the town of Monroe, Indian Joe‘s son, who was also a chief, gave Flora‘s husband his finest buffalo robe as a token of friendship.

Flora cooked for militiamen who camped a block from the Wash-burn home. They had come from Utah Valley to help protect the settlers. One morning, two of them, Mr. Vance and Mr. Houltz, ate breakfast at the Washburn home. Later that same day, they were killed by Indians at Twelve Mile Creek, south of town. Hostilities were intense for three years, and then gradually ended by the summer of 1869.

Abraham and Flora Washburn moved to Fort Alma (now called Monroe) in the spring of 1872, when she was 51, and he was 67. Along the way, they passed holes dug four years earlier by men who fought in the Battle of Cedar Ridge, which is now within the city limits of Vermillion. That was the battle where Chief Black Hawk received a mortal wound.

Moving to Alma meant using pioneer skills once again to establish a new town. Alma had first been settled back in 1864, but was abandoned three years later because of the Black Hawk War. A few families resettled in the spring of 1871, and by July 1872, about 80 families lived in town.

Abraham and Flora built a house in the southwest part of town, possibly about 300 West and 400 South.

Joseph A. Young was appointed to preside over the settlements in Sevier Valley, and Moses Gifford became the first presiding Elder in Monroe. Sevier Stake was organized 24 May 1874, with Joseph A. Young as the first Stake President. That was the year the first arrests were made for the practice of plural marriage, with nine-month prison sentences administered harshly by Federal Authorities in the prison at Sugar House, near Salt Lake City. This could have been a worry for Flora, Tamar, and Abraham.

The United Order was organized about 1874. Abraham was as-signed to be in charge of the order tannery in Glenwood, where several men worked under his direction. In addition to tanning hides, they purchased shoemaking equipment from Salt Lake City and made shoes because the need for them was so great.

The St. George Temple was dedicated 6 April 1877, the first temple in Utah, with Wilford Woodruff as temple president. The Monroe Ward was organized that year, with Dennison L. Harris as bishop. President Brigham Young died 29 August 1877. Three years passed before John Taylor was chosen to succeed him.

Flora went to the St. George Temple in June 1878 to perform tem-ple ordinances for her parents and other deceased members of her family, what a joy that must have been for her!

One evening, Flora dreamed that her deceased stepmother came and asked if she would do her temple work. Three nights she came, each time repeating the request. The third night Flora promised to do her work, and the dream never came again.

Marguerite Ogden remembered a story that Flora began to wonder if she should be sealed to Hugh Gillan, to whom she had been engaged as a young woman, but who died before their marriage. While ponder-ing in her mind, he came to her, saying that he would discuss the matter with those in authority in the spirit world. He would return if the answer was yes. He never returned, and that seemed to settle the question in Flora's mind.

Flora was the first Relief Society President in Monroe, a position she held for 25 years. She and the Relief Society Board worked to earn money to buy 60 sheep, which Alma Magleby kept for them. The sheep provided a little money each year for Relief Society expenses. There was a need for a place to meet, so the Church built a hall on Main Street. The Relief Society used the ground floor, the Priesthood used the upper floor, and the young men and young women used both.

There were no doctors in town. Flora served as doctor as well as nurse. Many people with sickness came to her, which she readily helped, going all hours of the day and night carrying a stick for protec-tion and also for finding her way in the dark. She sewed burial clothing and prepared the dead for burial. We are told that she also taught school.

All the other children were married by 1880. Flora and Abraham were growing older. Three years later, her oldest daughter, Huetta Clarinda, died, leaving a husband with three young children. Their eight-year-old daughter, Zennia Meleta, came to live with Flora and Abraham.

Apostle Albert Carrington ordained Abraham a Patriarch on 17 August 1887. Abraham gave 162 blessings during his years of service.

Flora and Abraham enjoyed two more years of married life before she became a widow on 17 June 1886. Flora was 65, and Abraham was 81.

Abraham‘s first wife, Tamar, lived in Monroe for a short time and later moved to Nephi. She died the same year as Abraham (on 4 September 1886), and is buried in Nephi.

Tamar was a gracious lady with many fine qualities. Her grand-children called her "their Quaker grandmother" because she belonged to the Quaker religion before joining the LDS Church, and she contin-ued to wear a little Quaker bonnet to cover her hair.

Several General Authorities of the Church went into hiding be-cause the danger of being arrested for the practice of plural marriage was so great. The Manti Temple was being constructed. The Monroe Relief Society was asked to furnish an all-wool carpet for one of the large rooms. Members spun wool into yarn. Flora dyed it and wove it on a handloom into a beautiful carpet. Her son, Orson, delivered it to the temple by team and wagon. Brother Maben wanted it for his home, but of course, it went into the temple. A little yarn was left over, which the Relief Society ladies made into strips for the Relief Society hall.

The Manti Temple was dedicated on 21 May 1888, upon the spot selected in ancient days by the Prophet Moroni. Some at the dedication were privileged to see with spiritual eyes that the prophets Joseph, Hyrum, Brigham, and some of the early apostles were present. Some heard beautiful voices singing in a heavenly choir above them in the back of the room. Some saw a halo of heavenly light around the head of the speakers.

In November 1889, Flora‘s 15-year-old granddaughter, Zennia Meleta, went home to care for her stepmother who was ill with typhoid fever. Her stepmother recovered, but Zennia became ill herself with the same disease and died.

Flora lived 14 years without Abraham, spending the last few years in the home of her daughter, Almeda, in Monroe. She was cared for tenderly and spent much of the time sitting in a large high-backed chair. She reached the age of 80 before passing from this life on 13 August 1900. Her funeral was held outdoors on the lawn. She was buried beside her husband in the Monroe City Cemetery, where a small white stone marks her resting place.

Flora Clarinda Gleason was an inspiring lady who met every chal-lenge of pioneer life. She accepted the gospel as a young woman of 13, and developed a strong testimony of the gospel. She married and became the mother of eight children. It was a privilege to write her life story in 1989 using a biographical sketch written by her daughter, Lorena Washburn Larsen, a Washburn family book, My Life‘s Review, by B. F. Johnson, family records of Marguerite Winget Ogden, and history books. We appreciate these people very much for preserving Flora‘s story as an inspiration for us (Ogden, Bruce, Introduction).

31 Taken from the following: Ogden, Bruce. Flora Clarinda Gleason Johnson Washburn. Unpublished, 1989, revised 2009. Copy in possession of the BFJ Family Organization.

Nichols, Ann. Flora Clarinda Gleason. Unpublished, Mesa, Arizona. Copy submit-ted to and in possession of the BFJ Family Organization. Edited by the BFJ Genea-logical Research Committee.