Rebecca Ann Cherry Porter, Pioneer, Wife of Nathan Tanner Porter.

(Note: This history was written by Edna Margaret Porter, daughter of Aaron B. Porter Sr., and granddaughter of Revecca Cherry Porter.  It is provided us by the Clements’ family web site, which we acknowledge gratefully for their generosity in sharing:  Minor corrections have been added by Roger Porter.)


Rebecca Ann Cherry Porter, daughter of Aaron Benjamin and Margaret Telton Cherry, was born April 5, 1830 in Falmouth, Pendelton County, Kentucky. The eldest of a family of nine children; she spent her early childhood in the Kentucky plantation home, but at the age of ten her family moved to Adams County, Illinois. Here her parents heard from the lips of Joseph Smith the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The family was baptized into the church in April, 1846, by Elder Orson Hyde. With the exodus of the Saints from Illinois they left their home, where Rebecca had spent her young womanhood, and made preparations for the long journey to pioneer the way to the Rocky Mountains region and to establish a home in the unknown West. They left Council Bluffs June 20, 1847, with a pioneer company presided over by Captain Charles C. Rich. The Cherry's were well to do and their outfit was one of the best in the company. They had three well stored wagons, several yolks of oxen and a team of horses. Rebecca drove two yolks of oxen on one of the wagons all the way across the plains. She prided herself with being able to care for her own oxen and to yolk and unyolk them as rapidly as any man in the company.

In telling of that long journey with all its trials and hazards, Rebecca never spoke of it as sad and wearisome. It was her great adventure. She was thoroughly converted to her new religion and she had all faith and confidence in the leaders who were guiding them on this long and often times perilous journey. But she was seventeen, and all the seriousness of their undertaking could not keep out the thrilling adventure and romance that belongs to those years. She loved the great outdoors. She always said she loved to do "men’s" work, to care for cattle, to milk cows, to set camp for the night. But along with that she loved the womanly arts too. As a child she learned to sew a fine seam, to knit stockings, mittens, garters and fine laces. Before she left her Illinois home she had set herself to knit 50 yards of fine lace for her trousseau. The lace was to be used on the flounces of a four-poster bed and on her pillowcases. Stored handy by in her wagon were spools and spools of thread, and when a rest time or delay came, out came the needles and on went the lovely knitted pattern of lace. (In the pioneer relic cabin in Centerville some of that lace is to be seen.)

There were plenty of young people in the company with them and she sang and danced in the evening twilight. Then after a prayer to God for protection, she slept the refreshing sleep of tired youth. Every morning was a new adventure, and with the reins in her hands, her face to the west, and her wagon wheels rolling over the new made trail, she dreamed of a home beyond the far away mountains and of the man who might build it for her. Not far out on the plains she met that man in rather an exciting and alarming situation. In crossing the Platte River her oxen became entangled so that they couldn't forge forward, and despite all Rebecca's efforts to right them they became more and more entangled, and oxen, wagon and all were being taken down stream, when a young man on horseback dashed in, untangled the bewildered animals and guided them safely across. He was a stranger to her, having ridden up on an errand from one of the Tens in the rear, and so the grateful words of thanks of the frightened Southern girl and the quiet words of assurance from the dripping Northerner were their first introduction. That night when Rebecca recounted her adventure to her girlfriend she finished with a, "Right now I am setting my cap for that curly-haired chap." And right now by another campfire the "curly haired chap" was certainly not forgetting the incident. His buckskin trousers were drying and shrinking, slowly shrinking, and he knew he had better keep them on and stay not too close to the fire and keep stretching and tugging at them or he would never get them on again. And pants were pants to young Nathan Porter. He had only one other pair - Sunday-to-meeting ones that he had bought in Pennsylvania while he was on a mission there. But his worry may have been eased a bit with the memory of the service for the tall dark-haired southern maid.

The trek to the mountains was fraught with the usual scares, a buffalo stampede that stampeded their frightened animals, some treacherous river crossings that nearly overturned the well-stored wagons and, saddest of all, the illness that befell some of their number and the never to be forgotten sorrow of a loved one in a roadside grave.

They arrived in Salt Lake City, October 1, 1847. At least the plot of ground that lay before them had been given that name, but the building of the new city consisted only of one half-built log house and a few half-finished adobe walls marking the line of the fort, the houses being erected after the manner of block houses for defense against Indians.

The Cherry family lived in the Fort that winter, but in the spring of 1848 they moved twelve miles north and settled with O.M. Duell and some others on Duell Creek, building for themselves that summer a two room log house. That fall, after the crops were Nathan Porter and Rebecca, their interest in each other having grown ever since that first meeting on the river, were married on November 12, 1848. The young couple lived in a cabin in the fort in Salt Lake City that winter, but in the spring of 1849 they procured 10 acres of land, adjoining the Cherry property on Duell Creek. Other families soon came out to this fertile tract of land with its three lovely canyon streams and they named the place Centerville, which was for Nathan and Rebecca their home place for life. After planting their newly acquired farm that spring they worked hard to build themselves a house. Nathan procured timbers from the nearby canyons and, assisted by neighbors, built a little hewed log cabin. How arduously they worked for its completion, for Rebecca was soon to become a mother and the house must be in readiness before the baby came. On the 10th day of November they moved in and five days later a baby girl was born. They named her Sarah Jane. The following year her husband procured twenty acres of land a short distance west and built a little house of sun dried bricks. Here on April 27, 1851, their son Aaron was born. A few days later Rebecca contracted childbed fever and lay dreadfully ill for days, and as a result of this illness she was unable to bear another child. The next year, 1852, her husband was called to go on a mission to Gibraltar. During the four years he was gone she cared for herself and children as these pioneer women so willingly did. She was a splendid weaver and spent much of her time at the loom weaving materials for all their clothing, sheets and bedspreads and later wove yards and yards of rag carpet.

In the fall of 1857, Johnson's Army came to disrupt the peace of the pioneer communities, and at the command of Brigham Young, the Porter family with all of the others, left their homes and went South, hardly daring to hope they would escape destruction. But through wise advisement the crisis was passed and the people came back unmolested to the home they had left.

With Rebecca's full consent her husband married Eliza Ford and the two wives lived together in the same house for over thirty years. They accepted plural marriage as a sacred principle and tried to live it as it should be lived.

In August of 1860 the little daughter, Sarah Jane, was taken ill with fever and died October 15th just one month before her twelfth birthday. Four years later when the first Sunday School in Centerville was organized, with Nathan Porter as Superintendent, Rebecca was chosen as a teacher, a position she held for many years. The first Relief Society organization was made in 1869, with Mary Ann Harmon as president and Rebecca Porter as one of her counselors. She held this position until March, 1880, when she was released to become the president of Centerville's first Primary Association, an office she held for twenty years, being released in March 1900. Her work in church organizations helped fill the vacancy in her life that a goodly number of children, for whom she often wished, would have filled. Her son, Aaron, married Rebecca Poole and their splendid family of twelve children was a great joy to her.

Her husband died April 9, 1897 and seven years later her son, Aaron, who had moved to Idaho some few years before, was stricken with pneumonia and died November 7, 1904.

Through her life, Rebecca Cherry Porter was an ardent and active member of her church and her community. She died of illness incident to old age at the age of 92 on the 2nd day of December, 1922, and was laid to rest in the Centerville Cemetery.