The following document is a report of the San Juan Stake Relief Society quarterly conference held November 27, 1888. The San Juan Stake, organized in September 1883 in San Juan County, Utah, was led by pioneers who had reached the area in 1879–1880 as participants in the arduous Hole-in-the-Rock expedition to the far southeast corner of Utah. The expedition took its name from a cliff that the settlers descended by lowering their wagons over a very rough road that took them over a month to build. Historian Andrew Jenson wrote, “These pioneer settlers experienced more hardships than any other colony known in the history of the Church who have founded settlements in the Rocky Mountains.”1
Expedition member Jane McKechnie Walton, along with her husband, Charles, and their three young children, settled in what became Bluff City.2 She filled a dual role as president of the Bluff Ward Relief Society and, beginning in 1885, as president of the San Juan Stake Relief Society.3 Other members of the pioneer company included Kirsten Nielson, who served as first counselor in the stake Relief Society presidency and later as president of the Bluff Ward Relief Society; Eliza Redd, a counselor to Nielson in the Bluff Ward Relief Society; and Mary N. Jones, who served as a counselor in the San Juan Stake young women’s organization.4
The San Juan Stake infrequently entertained visitors from Relief Society headquarters in Salt Lake City. According to local records, the first member of the Relief Society Central Board to visit the area was general president Zina D. H. Young, who visited in 1889, four years after the stake Relief Society was organized.5 Although Relief Society officers from Salt Lake City could only occasionally travel to distant Relief Societies, reports of local proceedings published in the Woman’s Exponent helped women throughout the church, particularly in outlying areas, feel connected with each other.
Jane Walton presided over the November 27, 1888, stake Relief Society conference and received reports from individual ward Relief Societies. The presence of the stake presidency and three bishops, along with officers of the stake Primary Association and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, reflects the cooperation between male and female leaders in the work of this society. Stake Relief Society secretary Sarah Jane Perkins Rogerson recorded the conference proceedings in the San Juan Stake Relief Society Minute Book6 and then sent a somewhat revised and abbreviated report to the Woman’s Exponent. The published report is featured here.
san juan stake.
The Relief Society of the San Juan Stake held their conference at Bluff, Nov. 27th, 1888, Prest. Jane M. Walton presiding. Choir sang, “The Coming Day.” Prayer by Prest. [Francis] Hammond. Singing, “Devotional Hymn.”7 A goodly number of the brethren were present, including Prest. F. A. Hammond and Counselors,8 and the Bishops of the Mancos, Burnham and Bluff Wards,9 Prest Moiselle M. Halls and Mary N. Jones, of the Stake Presidency of the Y. L. M. I. A.; also Prest. Julia Butt, Stake Prest. of the Primary.
Prest. Walton hoped to be dictated by the right spirit while sho [she] endeavored to address the conference. Considered it a great blessing to have the privilege of holding Relief Society conference. It made her heart feel warm to see the sisters; felt that the Spirit of God had been with us during our conference so far. Knew of a surety that every principle of the Gospel was true; would rather die than deny the truth.
Minutes of the former conference were then read and accepted.10
Prest Abigal Stevens of the Burnham Ward, said it gave her pleasure to report her Society. The sisters felt well and united: they held one testimony and two work meetings each month. Desired to continue faithful and true to the end.
Sister Neilson reported the Bluff Ward Society. Said the sisters had done as well as could be expected, owing to their few number. “If we will listen to the teachings and instructions of those in authority we will be blest; realized there was a great mission for the sisters to perform.[”]
Prest. Walton then resigned her position as Prest of the Bluff Ward, as she had moved from that place.11 Prest. F. A. Hammond honorably released her, and then made a few needed explanations.
Coun. Moiselle Halls reported the Mancos Society; said the sisters felt more united than at last conference; held testimony and work meetings regularly; were storing up grain. “The teachers are very diligent.”
Bishop [Jens] Nielson felt to return Sister Walton a vote of thanks; knew she had done a good work, and had been very kind to the sick.
The Society at Bluff was then organized as follows: Ki[r]sten Nielson, President; Agnes Allen [Allan] and Eliza Redd, Counselors; Jennie Allen [Johanna Allan], Secretary; Ordella Allen [Ardell Allan], Treasurer.12
Prest. Hammond moved that Sister Kisten Nielson be honorably released from acting First Counselor to the Stake President. Martha Hammond was then sustained as First and Josephine Wood as Second Counselor to Prest. Jane Walton.
The general and local officers of the Relief [p. 134] Society were sustained. Coun. Martha Hammond spoke a few minutes, giving good counsel.
Coun. Wm. Halls said his advice to the sisters was, to devote themselves to their office and calling. Prayed God to bless all who had been called to fill the different positions.
Prest. Hammond felt to endorse all that had been said by the sisters. Prest Walton adjourned the conference. Choir sang, “Improve the shining moments.”13 Prayer by Bishop Geo. Halls.
Sarah J. Rogerson, Stake Sec.