In the late winter of 1868, Lillian Marianna Stratford was born on February 25th to Edwin and Marianna Stratford, in Providence, Cache County, Utah. Edwin and Marianna were emigrants to Utah from Maldon, Essex, England, having left England after their conversion to Mormonism.
At the time she was born, Lillian’s father taught school in Millville, Utah and worked as a farmer. When Lillian was three, her father moved the family to Ogden, the city Lillian would call home for all of her formative years.
Lillian told of a time her younger brother, Albert, caught his head in a rabbit pen door. When Lillian’s mother heard the commotion, she ran for the axe to get him out; but Lillian began screaming, “Mother! Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” Finally her mother stopped and asked, “Don’t do what?” Lillian answered tearfully, “Don’t cut off his head.”
One day Lillian and Albert were taking turns jumping from a fence. Albert had a habit of sticking his tongue out when he was playing. Once he climbed higher than usual. When he jumped, the jar of hitting the ground forced his teeth together and he bit his tongue off. Not just the end of his tongue but about half way back. It hung from his mouth, attached by a small area on one side of the tongue. His tongue was sewed back on without any pain medication. After the minor surgery to his tongue, he had to avoid allowing the stitches to come in contact with food, to avoid infection.
When the doctor first saw Albert’s tongue, he told Lillian’s parents that he was reluctant to perform the surgery, and suggested that they take Albert to a doctor in SaltLake. He even offered to pay for their expenses. Edwin and Marianna refused, saying they had complete confidence in him, their family doctor. The tongue eventually grew together and was normal. Sometimes Lillian’s children would coax Albert to stick out his tongue so they could see his scar. Thalia Baird Black, Lillian’s daughter, described seeing the scar go clear across the tongue.
Lillian lived with her parents in Ogden during the Black Smallpox epidemic. Everyone was quarantined at home. So many died, there were no funeral for anyone, or coffins. The dead were wrapped in whatever linens could be obtained, and were carried to the cemetery in a wagon. The wagon had a bell to warn people to stay away. When people heard that awful bell ringing, usually in the middle of the night, they would know that someone else had died. During the epidemic, vaccination was discovered. The first vaccinations were done by pricking the arm with a needle until the arm began to bleed, then rubbing puss into the blood from a scab, taken from someone who had Smallpox. This procedure was effective, and the disease was brought under control, without any of the Stratford family suffering from the disease.
When Lillian and her brothers and sisters were growing up, shoes were both made alike. There were no shoes for the right foot or left foot. The children wore them on opposite feet each day to wear them evenly.
In Ogden, Lillian’s father became a successful businessman, politician, and church leader. He eventually opened his own furniture business and became comparatively wealthy. He served as a city alderman and as a member of the House of Representatives in the Utah Territorial Legislature. He was Bishop of the Ogden Fourth Ward for many years. He was the close personal friend of many general authorities of the church and other prominent men of Utah.
As the daughter of a wealthy and prominent Ogden citizen, Lillian circulated among the favored circles of society. She was featured on multiple occasions in the Society Pages of the Ogden Standard Examiner.
She was a member of the Coral Club, a group of young people who entertained each other in turn at their parents’ homes. The Coral Club typically enjoyed playing card games such as “Enchre” until late into the evening. The Society Column reported who hosted each meeting of the Club, what refreshments were served, who won each card game, and even commented on the prizes given the winners and the “booby prizes” given to the losers.
For example, in late March, 1892, when Lillian was age twenty-four and still living at her parents’ home, a Miss Cora Stayner entertained the Club at the home of her father, an attorney. “Sixteen interesting games were played. Miss Lillian Stratford and Mr. J. G. Stratford were the winners and accordingly came in for the good things of the first table. Miss Cora Stayner and Mr. Ridges being the losers secured the bounties of the booby table. The cards laid aside, refreshments of a varied and substantial kind were served. After due and proper attention had been given to the edibles the time for dispersing was found to have arrived. A more delightful evening was not spent by the Coral, and Miss Stayner proved herself to be a charming hostess.” When Lillian hosted the meeting at her father’s home on Jefferson Avenue on May 5, 1892, she pleased her guests by tastefully serving strawberries, cream, and cakes.
Despite her privileged upbringing and social status, Lillian remained single well beyond the age that most young women marry. She was nearly thirty-eight years old when she finally tied the knot, on November 28, 1906. She did not marry a wealthy or handsome man. Most observers would say that she instead “settled” for Peter Hiskey Baird, a once-divorced wanderer who did not have much money or even a stable employment history. Peter was a tall, lanky, big-boned, pipe-smoking, awkward-looking man, who, by all cursory indications, was anything but an ideal mate.
But Lillian must have seen beyond Peter’s poverty and outward appearance, because Lillian and Peter were truly happy together. Lillian was fond of telling a story about beauty to her daughter, Thalia. Thalia would later opine that the story was a reflection of her mother’s view of other people. It was Lillian’s code of life. A paraphrased version of the story follows.
Mary and June were sisters. Mary was very pretty, but June wasn’t pretty at all. This made June feel very badly indeed.
One day June left the house and walked slowly along the path that led through the garden and past the two big trees at the end of the walk. She was very sad. She hated Mary and was planning in her mind all the mean things she would do to Mary to get even with her. She walked slowly past the pine trees and into the wooded area beyond. Suddenly, she heard a voice calling “June! June!”
She was startled at first, then she saw the dearest little fairy imaginable, dancing along the branch of a tree.
The fairy laughed gaily, and then she said, “I know why you are walking here in the forest alone. You wish you were beautiful like Mary.”
June’s eyes filled with tears. Then the fairy said, “I will help you to be even more beautiful than Mary, but you must do exactly as I say.”
June promised to do just as the fairy told her to do.
“You must go back home and not do a single thing that is mean or selfish for a week. Then come back and I will tell you something else to do.” June didn’t know what good that would do, but she had promised, so she went back home. She did feel a little happier, inside.
As she went into the house, she saw Mary playing paper dolls. She was just going to snatch them away when she remembered her promise to the fairy; so instead she went and got her own dolls, and they played happily together.
By the end of the week, June was much happier. She skipped down the path and all the way to meet the fairy. The fairy was delighted, so she laughed and danced along the branch.
Then she told June, “Continue to do the same thing this week and in addition be willing to help your mother with the work. Don’t ever pout or sulk about the work you must do, and even do something nice for someone else each day without being asked.”
June thanked the fairy and ran every step of the way back home to get started.
She sang and worked and played all week. Then she went back again to the fairy. Again the fairy was overjoyed. She told June that there was one more thing she must do. Besides being kind and unselfish and thoughtful she must spend a whole week without even thinking a bad thought. June agreed.
This was much harder, and it took quite awhile before she could go back to the fairy. Finally, when she knew that she had done as she was told she went again to visit the fairy.
The fairy was very happy, and she told June to walk along the winding path a little farther, to the crystal clear lake, and to look into it. June followed the path to the edge of the lake and looked down into the blue, blue water. There looking back at her was her own reflection, smiling and beautiful.
She knew then that beauty comes from deep inside. It is made up of kindness, unselfishness, willingness to work, little thoughtful acts, and happy thoughts.
For the first thirty months of their marriage, Lillian and Peter lived in Ogden. On October 15, 1908, their oldest son, Floyd Stratford Baird, was born. But when the new baby was only six and a half months old, he contracted influenza and died of bronchial pneumonia on May 1, 1909. The grieving parents buried their son close to his respected grandfather in the OgdenCityCemetery.
After Floyd’s death, Peter took Lillian to his hometown of Erda, where they lived out the rest of their lives together in relative obscurity. In Erda, the couple had two more children, Rex and Thalia. Rex was born January 26, 1910. Thalia was born May 25, 1912.
One evening, the men of the house were not home, Lillian heard a commotion in the horse barn. Opening the barn door she saw that it was on fire and the horses were already beginning to panic. With a prayer in her heart, Lillian ran into the barn and spoke quietly, reassuring the animals with confidence. Since horses that become excited are seldom saved from a burning building, it was a miracle that they calmed down and allowed her to lead them out of the barn to safety while the barn burned completely to the ground.
Lillian always scrubbed on the scrubbing board and had her laundry on the line by 10:00 A.M. every Monday morning. The neighbors could count on the regularity of this couple so much that if the laundry was not on the line by that time the neighbor would get in the buggy and come to see if everything was okay. If by chance she was running behind, she would take a dry sheet and hang it on the line to let the neighbors know everything was okay. She ironed with several flat irons that she placed on top of the stove. She would rotate the irons so as to always use a hot iron. This is probably where the term “too many irons in the fire” came from.
Later, Lillian and Peter were sealed in the temple.
After Evan and Thalia were married, they brought their children to see Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Baird very often. Evan and Thalia’s children had fond memories of their visits with the Bairds.
Even though Lillian only had a dirt floor in her house in Erda, it was very clean. She packed it down well. Lillian taught her granddaughter, Eva, how to combine spices together while cooking to make the food taste just right. She also taught her granddaughter, Beverly, to sew.
One year, when their grandson, Richard Evan Black, was staying with the Baird, Lillian became very ill. Richard was afraid she would die. Fortunately, her time to leave earth was not yet.
Her husband died on May 10, 1949. Lillian, who was devoted to her husband, did not live much longer. She also died on December 16, 1951. Lillian and her husband were not remembered for their great accolades or accomplishments in life. Instead, they are remembered for their quiet example, their love of family, and their love of truth and honesty.
They loved the desert, the quiet of their home, the lake breeze, the bigness of the moon on the desert, and the stars, the night noises, the nighthawks, and the howl of the coyote. They loved people and though neighbors were scattered at Erda, they were never lonesome. People came often because they knew they were welcome.
Their ambition could be described best by the saying: “Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.” All who knew them, rich or poor, good or bad, loved Peter and Lillian and felt at home in their house. Everyone.[i]
[i] Vital Records, Cemetery, and Obituary Sources: Birth Certificate: No birth certificate available. No governmental entities in Utah were required to report births prior to 1898. Birth date is from interpretation of secondary sources. Secondary sources include her death certificate, obituary, grave marker, and two self-reports during her lifetime. Secondary sources disagree somewhat on her birth date. Her death certificate (reported by her son, Rex Baird) and her obituary list her birth date as February 25, 1869. Her grave marker lists her birth date as February 25, 1868. She self-reported that she was age thirty-eight on her marriage license in November, 1906 (meaning she was born in 1868). Also, an 80th birthday party was held for her and her husband on February 29, 1948 (meaning she was born in 1868). Finally, the birth certificate for her daughter, Thalia Baird, indicated she was forty-four years old in May, 1912 (indicating she was born in 1868). Clearly, she understood her birthday to be in 1868. Marriage License: Salt Lake County, Application Number 3322, Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, Salt Lake City, Utah. A copy of the certificate is also available on Family History Library Microfilm Roll No. 429065. Death Certificate: Lillian Marianna Stratford Baird, Death Certificate, Registrar’s Number 324, State File Number 51-182313, Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Salt Lake City, Utah. Also available from: Lillian Marianna Stratford Baird, Death Certificate, Series 81448, Entry 23630, Utah State Archives Digital Collection, <http://historyresearch.utah.gov/indexes/index.html> accessed 23 August 2007. Electronic image in the possession of Guy L. Black. Grave Location and Cemetery Directions: Tooele City Cemetery, 361 South 100 East, Tooele, Utah 84074. The grave locations for Peter Hiskey Baird and Lillian Marianna Stratford are: 2-20-6 and 2-20-5. To get to the cemetery: From I-80, once in Tooele, follow Main Street to 400 South and turn left; drive one block.. Obituary: Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, (Vol. 337, No. 77, 102nd Year), Dec. 16, 1951, p. B7.