Robert Michie

Born 29 Feb 1820, Rubislaw, Aberdeen, Scotland
Died 20 Apr 1909, Woodland, Wasatch, Utah, United States


MICHIE is a sept of Clan FORBES.

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Robert Michie
29 Feb 1820, Rubislaw, Aberdeen, Scotland

A Short Autobiography Written by Robert Michie

Transcription of a statement written by Robert Michie in his own hand
shortly before he died in 1909*

Rubislaw Parish Church, Aberdeen, Scotland

I, Robert MICHIE, was born at a place called Rubislaw near Aberdeen, Scotland, 29 February, 1820.** My father [John MICHIE] was a farm laborer and my mother [Agnes MALCOLM] likewise a farm house servant, so I was raised in humble circumstances. At the age of four years I was sent to school and early learned to read and spell in which I took pleasure to be at the head of my class, which I nearly always kept until I was eight years old when I was hired out during the summer to herd cows from May 26 till November 22, then to school during winter until February 2d, hired out until November 22d.

It was during this term I first got acquainted with the milling business for which I had a liking, and after this term I hired out to various farms. Sometimes several years in one place mostly tending cattle, and all other kinds of work on farms until I was 21 when I began to think of what a difference there was made between the single man and those who married. When the best single men could get from 40 to 50 dollars for six months service with board and lodging and bedding, a married man with a wife and children could not get so much for a whole year's work with [only] 17 and a half pounds of oat meal a week and three pints of milk per day, and a small room with a clay floor. I had known men capable of managing any farm and doing all kinds of work who as single men had taken first prizes in the competitions at the different fairs until they were barred from competition in the different fairs. These things made me think of something else.

I first tried to get an apprenticeship as a mill wright but could not find a master and I found a miller who wanted an apprentice and got bound for four years without wages, only board and lodgings. When I had served three years I got an abatement of one year's time, then I could get $150 a year with board and lodging, etc. After working at that business three years I got a chance to emigrate to Africa or Australia. I chose Africa and sailed from London in June 1848 and landed in Cape Town in the latter part of August and soon got employment at my trade but found my employer would not abide by his agreement. Then I tried the tanning of leather but soon left as it was a very nasty dirty business.

I then worked at building a jetty in Table Bay. I was foreman of the loading and hauling department and the time keeper for the teamsters who hauled the materials from the foot of Table mountain to the jetty which job I kept for three months, then I struck work because another man was doing the same kind of work and was getting his board and lodgings and washing and the same wages and when I asked for the same, an advance in wages [and was denied], I left the work.

Quagga I took passage to Algus Bay or Port Elizabeth. There I soon found work on a farm, then to manage an establishment on a wool washing and packing shed which job lasted for three years, when the owner died and the place was sold at auction. I could not buy as I had no friend to back my bid, as the merchants for whom we had worked, the most had died of asthma and the business was disarranged for over a year. During that time I had entered into a partnership with an Englishman and bought a farm. We got more than we bargained for. We bought the Rinderpest [a cattle disease] and lost 23 cows and 16 oxen in less than six months, but we had learned from a German pope that by inoculating with the matter taken from a sick animal would prevent the well from taking the disease or if affected it would get well. We tried the cure and found it had the desired effect and the farmers and neighbors came and had my partner come to them and "end their cattle" as they called it and see them through the effects of the operation. As my partner could speak the language [Dutch], he went and they paid him 4% of the cattle, so we soon had quite a herd again and could trade for horses in the Karroo where the cattle could not be moved to, our part, as cattle cannot be moved more than 100 miles else there will be from 30 to 50 die of every 100. But it did not prove a good trade as the horses took sick of a pest that goes through that portion of South Africa every few years. They first give a cough and in a short time another harder cough and in a few hours they strangle to death. At that time the mules were free from the disease but I suppose that the same disease has taken off the zebras and quaggas as I see they are nearly extinct in Cape Colony.

About this time I met a Mormon Elder, or rather their books, and read them and took their advice and betook myself to prayer and got a satisfactory assurance of the divinity of the mission of Joseph Smith and his work and in 1854 in December I was baptized, the same day my partner, James Cook, and his wife were baptized and they kept steady to the gospel while I stayed by them. At first, after being baptized, I felt like I would take a wife and settle down in that country, but soon as it was known that we had been baptized the neighbors began to sneer and make sly remarks and soon began insults and I concluded to start for Utah.

I tried to persuade Mr. Cook and family to come, but they would not, but they made such arrangements so I could come and I sailed from Port Elizabeth in the end of October 1856 and I landed in London January 1857, and having accepted an [money] order on a Lawyer in Canterbury I had to go down there to collect it. I there met the woman [Frances POTTS] who became my wife and the partner of my life for 47 and 1/2 years and we raised six children (and they are all Mormons) and we lost four in their infancy.

(The end of the statement written by Robert Michie.)

*The statement has been transcribed as written, retaining the original grammar and punctuation. Words in brackets have been added and where deemed necessary for clarity.

**Udny parish record: 1820 - "On the 26th of February John Michie, then resident near Aberdeen, had a son by his wife Agnes Malcom, baptized by Dr. Kidd and named Robert before witnesses James Calder and George Webster both living near Aberdeen." Robert liked the idea of having been born on a leap-day, and always said his birthday was February 29, 1820."

(Additional comments added by Hilda Michie, granddaughter.)

The foregoing is a history of the life of my grandfather, written in his own hand just before he died. I wish to add a few things which I know about my grandfather, some were told to me by his daughter, Alice, others I heard from my father, and I heard grandfather tell some of the things himself.

When Grandfather Michie was a boy, probably in his teens, he worked on a farm near his home in Scotland, evidently with another boy. They got their board, lodging and a very meager wage. They seldom got an egg to eat as they were a luxury kept for the boss and his family. Grandpa's fertile imagination figured out a solution to this problem. With a fine needle he pierced a tiny hole in the end of an egg or two and inserted a hair from a horse's mane. When the lady who cooked for the family broke an egg and discovered the hair she was thoroughly amazed. Not being able to figure out a solution as to where it came from, she removed the hair and decided such eggs would do for the hired help. Thus Grandpa and his partner in the trick had eggs to eat.

My mother said that Grandfather pulled this trick again when living in Heber, [Utah], and had a lot of fun watching people's astonishment when they found a hair in an egg, and their efforts trying to solve the mystery. One of Grandpa's neighbors made this remark, "It's beyond the comprehension of man."

While in Africa or on board ship, he met a young man by the name of Thomas White. This young man had a sweetheart in England. It happened they were traveling on the same ship back to England and Mr. White invited Robert to go with him when he went to call on his sweetheart, Alice Potts, whose family lived in Canterbury. He did so and there met Alices's sister, Frances Potts, who became his wife March 16, 1857, and on March 28, 1857, they sailed from Liverpool, England for America on the ship George Washington.

I heard my grandmother [Frances Potts Michie] say the Elder who had the saints in charge held a meeting on board ship and promised them that if they would do right and be prayerful they would have a safe and quick journey over the ocean. They made the trip in 21 days and the captain said it was the quickest trip the old ship had ever made and he had traveled the ocean for years. The usual time required for those old sailing vessels was six weeks, some required eight weeks. This was a testimony to all the saints. Grandmother also said she was sick the whole of the way. How thankful they were to get to land. They arrived in Boston April 20, 1857, where all were required to pay a certain sum which left grandfather practically penniless. However, he was able to get employment, the most important was as a foreman in a salt mill which hired quite a group of girls.

In the fall of 1858 their first baby was born, a girl whom they named Agnes Catherine Harriett. Another little girl was born two years later whom they named Eliza Ann Helena. They stayed in Boston about four years and by that time had saved enough so they could buy supplies and equipment to make the trip across the plains and come to Utah.

The men all walked and drove the oxen and the women who were able walked, too. Because of improper food, little Eliza Ann Helena became ill and died, 26 August 1861, and was buried somewhere on the [banks of the] Sweetwater [River, in Wyoming]. Grandpa made a little casket for her out of part of his wagon box. Short grave-side services were held as the caravan had to go on. Grandpa stayed behind to carry rocks and pile them on the grave to keep the wolves from digging up the body. He didn't get into camp until one o'clock in the morning. They arrived in Salt Lake City in the fall of 1861, sometime in September or October.

I heard Grandpa say he walked every step of the way from the Missouri River to Salt Lake City, 500 miles, barefooted when his shoes wore out there were no more to be had. This little poem fits his trip very well: Mormon wagon train to Utah

My boy, I walked across this plain
Where now the cars rush by;
I walked across the barren plains,
Where now the airplanes fly.

You cannot know how far it is,
With hills and deserts whirling past.
My steps have measured every rod.
My body bedded on the sod.

You cannot know how far it is.
You hear the throbbing motor's sound.
I've listened to the throbbing cart wheel's creak,
The tramp and tramp of bandaged feet!

I know how far it is!

A few weeks after arriving in Salt Lake City, their third child and first son, Robert Moroni, my father, was born. Soon after, they lived in Malad, Idaho, for a time and then moved to Nephi, Utah, where two more children, Harriet Frances and Alice Matilda, were born. After living a few years in Nephi, grandfather returned to Sugar House to run a flour mill and salt refinery. Here three more children were born, John Thomas, Mary Ellen and Della. They lived for a time at Mountain Dell, a place near Parley's Canyon, and there their son William George was born. Their last child, Christiane, was born at Woodland, Utah, where they later moved.

Grandfather was a miller by trade and moved to all these different places in order to find work. He lived in Heber, Wasatch County, [Utah], for several years and ran a flour mill there. For a time he farmed on Bench Creek and this [incident happened] when he was living there:

During the summer time, the settlers turned their horses and cows out to graze on the nearby hills and mountains. One time Grandpa was out looking for his horses in these mountains. He was following a sort of trail up over a ridge. When he reached the top he stopped dead still. Only a short distance ahead of him there stood a large black bear staring him in the face. The bear was just as surprised and shocked as he was. For a few seconds neither made a move. Finally grandpa said, "Hello, Mr. Bear, what are you doing there? If you'll let me alone, I'll let you alone." At this the bear whirled and bounded off into the nearby timber. Woodland, near the Michie homestead

Grandpa returned to Woodland, took up a homestead there and farmed the latter part of his life. He built a nice home and when too old to farm he still raised a nice garden with currants, gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries. He also kept several colonies of bees and supplied his married children and their families with honey. As a hobby, grandpa made grindstones and willow baskets. I remember my mother had a nice clothes basket and an egg basket that he had made. Grandpa also had a blacksmith shop and did his own blacksmithing, also did it for others, too.

Robert Michie had a good education for his time. He wrote a good hand and served as ward clerk on several occasions. In Woodland he had charge of the tithing barn when people used to pay their tithing with farm products instead of money. He was a faithful Latter-day Saint, always kept the word of wisdom and always had family prayer in his home. He never swore as many others sometimes did. One thing he used to say while praying was this: "Help us always to remain steadfast to the truth."

Grandpa was ordained a Seventy 19 February 1886 by B. Riches and while in Heber was Senior President of the 20th Quorum of Seventies. He was a High Priest when he died. He was postmaster in Woodland, Utah, from 1893 to 1901. He was loved and respected by all who knew him.

Robert Michie died April 20, 1909, at Woodland, Utah, and was buried in the Heber City cemetery beside his wife, Frances, who had died 23 Jul 1904.

More about Robert Michie:

Frances Potts, wife

Robert and Frances' Emigration to America, 1857

Robert and Frances' Trek to Utah, 1861

Robert Michie and Frances Potts by Della MICHIE HORROCKS, daughter

Robert MICHIE by Glen A. LAMBERT, grandson

Robert MICHIE by Yvonne JONES PERRY, great granddaughter

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