Restored cabin a remnant of faith

Wilford Woodruff, the Church's fourth president, left behind many remnants of his faith and hard work.

These range from significant contributions on the many-spired Salt Lake Temple to volumes of journals that form a backbone of events in Church history, and to the fruit of his extensive missionary labors - generations of faithful descendants of those he helped convert.One nearly forgotten remnant - one far different from the temple but of equal eloquence regarding his faith and hard work - is a log cabin standing on a byway in rural Utah.

The 20-by-40 foot, two-family cabin is on Randolph's Main Street, located some 75 miles northeast of Salt Lake City. Elder Woodruff, then of the Council of the Twelve, lived in the house at times between 1872-76.

Today, thanks to efforts of community leaders and volunteers in Randolph, the cabin has been restored and is open as a tourist attraction. Mayor Douglas Bingham said the timbers hewed by the 65-year-old Church leader and his son, Wilford, remain solid. They expect the cabin will last many years.

The cabin was to be dedicated May 29, and will become a community center and site for historic presentations, some of which will depict the Woodruff family.

During the past four years and under the direction of Church preservationists, community volunteers dismantled the two-room cabin log by log and restored it on a rock-and-cement foundation. They added new cedar shakes, rebuilt the chimneys and chinked the logs. The women in the community whitewashed the interior with lime and insisted on lace curtains for the windows.

Wilford's wife Sarah Brown Woodruff, who made her home in the cabin, may well have had lace curtains, even on the frontier. Skilled with her hands, she learned to weave linen from flax and made elegant woven straw bonnets. Before moving to Randolph, she also crafted fine, embroidered gloves that sold in Salt Lake City for $7-$15.

Many hardships preceded her move to Randolph. When she was born in 1834, her parents had already accepted the gospel. In 1836, her father, Harry, took part in Zion's Camp. In 1837, the Brown family was mobbed and lost all of their belongings, probably in Missouri. They endured the hardships of refugees. In 1851, they felt the desire to "gather with the Saints," and began the trek west on a steamer for St. Louis. Their steamer, the ill-fated Saluda, exploded en route, and she was among the injured. The violent explosion took the life of her father and severely handicapped her brother.

Sarah quickly recovered from her injury and arrived in Salt Lake City in 1852, a year ahead of her family. She was married to Apostle Woodruff in 1853.

The Randolph chapter of the Woodruff family really began in 1864, when Elder Woodruff accompanied Brigham Young to Bear Lake Valley in northern Utah to visit the early settlements there. The Paris (Idaho) Stake was created in 1869 and the next year Randolph was settled.

One year later, in 1871, Wilford and Sarah moved to Randolph. He bought 20 acres and later added another 40 acres. Elder Woodruff's son, Wilford Jr. and his wife Emily, accompanied them and lived in the other end of the cabin.

Sarah became the village school teacher and went with her husband as he traveled about Bear Lake Stake preaching. He was often away doing missionary work and serving in his calling.

Randolph's bitter winters did not endear the area to the Woodruff family. Early weather records, for example, indicate the severity of the cold. In neighboring Woodruff, a village 10 miles to the south named after the apostle, a minus-50 degrees was recorded one January day in 1899, according to William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service.

Leaving Randolph late in 1871 to return to Salt Lake City nearly cost the apostle his life. (See accompanying article on this page.)

On Sarah's 39th birthday, Jan. 1, 1873, he installed two floors, probably for the two sides of the cabin. He noted, "Sarah was vary poorly through the night." A month later, Wilford and Sarah's last child was born there, Edward Randolph, who lived only a few days. Sarah nearly died at his birth.

But Wilford found much to enjoy in Randolph in the summers. His journal is filled with entries of fishing and hunting. A typical entry, one for Sept. 6, 1873, reads, "I took Sarah's family & Emily & her family in a waggon 13 miles above the saw Mill. I Caught 30 trout, 3 ducks & 2 sage hens."

He often traveled throughout Bear Lake Valley preaching and organizing. On one occasion, in May of 1874, he rode around the valley and organized the settlements into the United Order, in which the saints' property was held in common.

The Randolph chapter ended for the Woodruffs in 1876 when Wilford Jr. moved the family to Smithfield, Utah. Elder Woodruff became president of the Council of the Twelve in 1880, necessitating his living in Salt Lake City for the remainder of his life.

However, the tradition of hard work in the Woodruff family continues. President Woodruff's only surviving grandson, Wilford Weeks Woodruff, 82, farmed in Smithfield most of his life. He is the son of Newton and Elizabeth Susan Weeks Woodruff, (and grandson of Wilford and Sarah). He is now in a rest home in nearby Logan, Utah.

Brother Woodruff said his father was glad to move to a more temperate area. His grandfather, he said, "worked so hard he'd make himself sick."

"He didn't stop until he got through with a job. He'd go like crazy till he got through.

"My father was a hard worker, too. It kinds of runs in the family. One day I watered [irrigatedT for 23 days and never turned the water off. We had a steady stream of water if we wanted, and when we got through, it was time to start again."

He said the family's tradition of hard work overcame his grandfather's love of fishing. "We were so busy we never stopped to go fishing," he said. "I caught a few bass once when I was a kid, but I've never caught a trout out of a stream yet."

Brother Woodruff excused himself from the interview, saying, "I'm so busy now; I've got to go to work."

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