It’s not easy to find a “Maiden Aunt”, the #52Ancestors prompt for this week, in my family tree. You see, we Mormons are marrying people. However, there are a few. There is no special reason why I chose to study the life of Lydia Jemima Daines. She is simply the first woman I found in my family tree who lived long enough to come of age, but remained single. That said, I am glad that I chose her, because I have enjoyed acquainting myself with her story.
Lydia is the daughter of my great-great grandparents Robert Daines and Jemima Seamons. I wrote about Jemima in an earlier post. Lydia’s sister, Caroline Daines, is my great-grandmother who lived in the same house as my dad, Louis Albert Kirby, when he was a boy.
Lydia was born in and lived her entire life in Hyde Park, Utah. Based on what my dad and grandma told me about Hyde Park, during Lydia’s lifetime (1870-1939) the town was close-knit and nearly everyone was related to each other. Hyde Park was only 10 years old at the time of her birth as it was first settled in 1860. According to her nephew, Marriner Daines Morrell, “Nearly every family in town had a herd of cows.”
“Early in Aunt Lydia’s life,” wrote Marriner, “She was a school teacher, and a good one. For years she taught in Hyde Park Elementary School….one winter…she taught in a little country school out some miles from Preston, Idaho.”
“My first school teacher was Lydia Daines, and the school building was a rock structure at Hyde Park, one big room with several grades to a teacher so that one would recite once in the morning and again in the afternoon. I kept plenty warm as the only heat came from a big round stove in the center of the room, and my desk, which was shared with another girl, was close by.”
As an adult she lived in “the old Daines family home,” (as described in a biography of Lillian Morrell) with her mother. At about 1908 Lydia’s widowed sister, Mary Ann Daines (Morrell), and her four children, Marriner Daines, Hattie, and twins Lillian and Lyman Daines, moved in. Also by that time their mother Jemima was “an invalid and bedridden,” Marriner wrote. “I remember Mother and Aunt Lydia combing her hair.” The old home had a north part and a south part. Lydia lived in the south part of the home. Also by this time Lydia was working as the postmistress of Hyde Park and maintained the Post Office out of this home.
Lyman described what life was like in the “old home,” the one Lydia lived in:
“In the old home, we lived under the same conditions as the early Pioneers. We drew water from a 60-foot well southwest of the house. We had coal oil lamps for our lighting system. We milked cows and stored the milk in the cellar. The cream that rose in the pans, we churned into butter. Each Saturday, we heated water on the stove in the kitchen, cot the little round tub out, and had our weekly scrub. by the kitchen stove. We had a two holer in the back of the lot down by the granary which had awfully cold seats at times. Mother’s big worry was that we might tip the lamp over and set the house on fire and so it was a constant worry for her. Thank goodness this never happened.”
In about 1914 Mary Ann received an inheritance from her dead husband’s estate of $5,000. Marriner wrote:
“Somehow Aunt Lydia came up with five thousand dollars and with the $10,000.00 she and Mother built a sort of duplex house. Mother’s part had a large kitchen, a good-sized livingroom and a bedroom on the first floor. She had a bedroom upstairs and one-half share in a small nook where there was a toilet. Aunt Lydia had a large kitchen, a livingroom with a fireplace, and two upstairs bedrooms. They had an equal share of a bathroom on the main floor. They each had a coal bin in the basement. A large laundry and a storage room in the basemen was shared.”
Lyman wrote of this house:
“We were certainly glad when the new home was completed with its modern conveniences. Mother had the west side and Aunt Lydia had the east side where she kept her Post Office. The north bedroom upstairs was sort of reserved for Uncle Frank and Aunt Nettie. Later Uncle James moved in with us and occupied the north room.”
With all this family around Lydia certainly didn’t lack for company. She was involved in her nieces and nephews lives, at least those that lived under the same roof. She taught Lillian to play the organ. Marriner certainly admired her charitable spirit:
“Aunt Lydia was one of the most generous, helpful, christian persons I ever knew. Any time on of her brother or sisters, or a friend needed help she never hesitated to do all she could to help them. I do not know what mother and her four children would have done without her. When Mother was in Logan working, which was most of the time, Aunt Lydia always saw that we had a good noon meal. At times, when Mother was out of work, she saw that we never went hungry. When Uncle James’ store burned, and he was out of work and had poor health, she had him come and live with her.”
Lydia had to provide for herself. She did so in a variety of ways. She worked as the Postmistress and, according to Marriner, “Her salary was determined by the number of stamps she cancelled each day….Many days her income was less than a dollar. If she ever got up to $5.00 a day it was a time for celebration.” The household “always had a big garden….Aunt Lydia always did the work of planting, watering, and weeding. She had tow chick coops. They were always full of laying hens. She would take eggs to Brother Lee’s store and exchange them for flour, meat, coaloil, cloth, or whatever she needed.” Also according to Marriner she had a large raspberry patch and would sell whatever excess she harvested.
Lydia’s life was certainly a full one. In addition to serving her family she also spent many years in the service of her community through the LDS church as shown in her obituary. Surely she ascribed to this scripture: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;” Doctrine and Covenants 58:27.