Susan Agnes Ivie (1869-1946)

Susan IvieBy Guy Lamoyne Black, great grandson.

Susan Agnes Ivie, or “Susie” as she was sometimes called by her parents, was born September 29, 1869 at Scipio, Millard, Utah.  Susan was born in a large household.  Her father was a polygamist who married two sisters, Malinda Jane Young and Sarah Emily Young.

Susan’s mother was Sarah, the younger of the two sisters.  Susan was the seventh of Sarah’s nine children.  By the time Susan was born, the other wife, Malinda, had already given birth to eleven children.

This large family was living in a small, two-room house in the east part of Scipio; and it was in this house that Susan was born.  By all accounts, Susan was a beautiful child and had a pleasant personality.

One beautiful May morning, when Susan was a small child, her father told Mother Ivie that he was going out to look for a stray milk cow and her calf.  He left before breakfast, and walked down west of Scipio, scouting around for the cows.  He approached a spot now located on Highway 91 west of Scipio, described by Lillie Memmott as the point marked by a “one lane” sign.  Indians, who were waiting in ambush, shot an arrow at him and killed him.

When the Indians found out who they had killed they felt bad because he was their very dear friend and had helped them so much.  The Indians didn’t scalp him on this account (as was their custom).  Instead they dug sagebrush, heaped it in a large pile, and placed his body on top of it as a sign of sorrow for what they had done to such a dear friend.

Dancing was an important and popular part of life in Scipio.  Dances provided a means for young, single people to meet.  James Ammon Memmott was the Scipio dance director for many years.  James would call out the dances.  Susan enjoyed dancing with James, as he was a good dancer.  James’ brother’s wife, Rosa Bell Ivie, was Susan’s sister; the relationship may have been a catalyst for James & Susan to meet.

Susan and James married and moved to a ranch south of Scipio.  Lillie Memmott described Susan’s experience on the ranch as “a real pioneer life.”  The farm was new and much sagebrush had to be removed by hand.  There were no fences and stray cattle wandered on the ranch.  Working on the farm was hard work and a great hardship for Susan.

One year after Susan’s marriage, her first son, Eugene, was born, on July 10, 1889.  She was very proud of him, kept him dressed in clean white clothes, and loved to play with him.  He was her pride and joy.

Susan later gave birth to four additional children:  Calvin, born April 2, 1891; Redick, born January 14, 1893; Agnes Susan, born January 18, 1895; and Bettie, born November 12, 1896.

She loved her children and took good care of them.  She also loved to crochet; it was her frequent pastime.  Eugene reported that his mother was a good cook.  He said she sure had a knack at baking beans and cooking southern-style meals.  He had never tasted beans which tasted as good as her baked beans.  She was neat and clean and kept her children looking nice.  She also took her children on nature hikes and told them stories.  Eugene also reported that she was a very good mother and a beautiful woman, very pleasant and sociable.

When Susan and James had been married for about five years a flood came and destroyed their hard work.  It took all their grain crops, washed away the fences, and flooded their house.  James took his family to higher ground to save their lives.

In about 1893 Susan’s personality began to change.  She began to have delusions, speak incoherently, become excitable, and have homicidal tendencies toward certain relatives.  She also reportedly believed that her husband, James, was trying to kill her.  The family saw marked changes in her habits.

According to findings presented to the Court in 1898 and 1899, Susan had a family history of mental illness.  Those records claim that her brother had killed himself, and that one of her uncles died in an insane asylum.

Susan’s granddaughter, Alice Memmott Adams, in a history she wrote of the life of James Ammon Memmott, also reported that Susan had a brother who killed himself.  Thomas Memmott, James Ammon’s uncle, recorded the suicide of Susan’s brother in his journal.  On Christmas Day, 1890, he reported that Arthur Franklin Ivie, then age twenty-five, went into the barn and shot himself.  Alice claimed that after the brother’s death Susan took to worrying, as he was her favorite brother—implying that perhaps the suicide triggered Susan’s behavioral changes.

Regardless of the reason for Susan’s behavioral changes, it seems clear that by 1898 James was unable or unwilling to continue to have Susan around the home.  James had Susan evaluated by two doctors, C. H. Field, M.D., and Alfred Belity, M.D.  The doctors concluded in a later certificate to the Court that Susan was suffering from a class of insanity they described as delusional mania.

At least one relative reported that Jess Adams, a young man from Scipio, was thrown from a horse and lay in a comma for quite a while.  Doctors were called to see if they could help him.  While they were in town examining Jess Adams, James also had them examine Susan.  The family reported that Susan accompanied the doctors and she never returned home.

On or about November 21, 1898, approximately five years after the first observation of Susan’s behaviors described above, Susan’s husband, James Memmott, commenced a proceeding with the District Court in Millard County, Utah, in which he requested that Susan be committed to the State Insane Asylum.  In his sworn affidavit to the Court at the commencement of the case, James stated:

“I am acquainted with the condition of Susan Agnes Memmott; I verily believe that said Susan Agnes Memmott is insane and a fit subject for custody and treatment in the State Insane Asylum; the said Susan Agnes Memmott is now a resident of Scipio, Millard County, Utah, and can be found in Scipio, Millard County, in said State of Utah, as I am advised and believe.

“I therefore ask that the said Susan Agnes Memmott be arrested and taken before the District Judge of the County in which she should be found, for examination and commitment, or such order as may be proper, and that a warrant be issued to that effect.”

It appears that the proceeding was initially an emergency or temporary action undertaken under the supervision of the George Crane, Chairman of the CountyCommissioners, without the benefit of a Judge.  The hearing was likely held to determine whether to allow temporary confinement while the parties awaited a formal hearing and permanent decision from a District Court Judge.

At that summary hearing, the doctors provided their certification, and three witnesses testified.  The three witnesses were Susan’s husband, James Ammon Memmott, Thomas Ivie (presumably Susan’s older brother), and Heber Matthews.

Based upon the doctor’s certifications and the testimony of the witnesses, George Crane issued a warrant of commitment, finding Susan to be insane and sending her to the State Insane Asylum.

A few months later, on February 8, 1899, Judge E. Higgins held a further hearing.  As a result of that hearing, the Judge confirmed the decision of George Crane, and permanently confined Susan to the State Insane Asylum, where she would reside for the rest of her life.

The location to which she was transported, and would live throughout her life, was the territorial insane asylum, the UtahStateHospital located in Provo, Utah, and built in 1885.  It was “eight blocks from the nearest residence and was separated from the city by swampland and the city dump.  The message this reveals about the prevailing attitudes regarding mental illness is unmistakable . . . .  From its origin the purpose of the Hospital was to treat the mentally ill and to return them to a normal level of functioning.  In spite of their best efforts, however, in its early days the facility was little more than a human warehouse.”

Despite her mental illness and the undoubtedly difficult circumstance of being warehoused in a government facility, Susan maintained her custom of neatness throughout her stay in the Hospital.

On July 22, 1925, Mrs. Laura Olding, Matron of the Hospital, reported that Susan “is clean and tidy in her habits and is a good worker.”  Multiple reports in later years confirmed the Matron’s comments regarding Susan’s cleanliness and industrious nature.

Unfortunately, though, later reports also confirmed the Matron’s observation that Susan “talks to herself but her talk is senseless.  When spoken to or asked a question she will usually answer.  She cannot carry on any intelligent conversation.”

“She does not know the month or the day.  She has a great desire to steal and hid[e] things away.  She also inflicts wounds on her legs with pins or anything she can get to hurt her legs.  At times she will fight but she is usually quiet.  She is a large fleshy woman and is generally quiet and obedient to the orders of the Ward Attendants.”

In July, 1925, Susan would have been 55 years old.  She was reportedly five foot tall and weighed 148 pounds.  She could see and hear well, but did not have any teeth.  She was reported to have ongoing delusions and hallucinations; and she chattered to herself most of the time.  She was diagnosed with manic depressive psychosis, Dementia Praecox personality (a pre-1952 synonym for schizophrenia), and advanced dementia.

A later progress report, by Doctor E. G. Meriwether, on June 1, 1937, listed the following in his annual progress notes:  “Patient is retarded, dull of comprehension and has been in the hospital 39 years.  She is listless, apathetic, but seems contented, is cooperative, likes to play in the water but takes care of personal wants.  Physical condition is apparently good but mentally and emotionally she shows much deterioration.  The patient is practically a dement and shows no improvement.”

In 1926, Susan’s mother, Sarah Emily Ivie, died and left a small estate.  The estate was probated, and on May 21, 1930 the Utah State Board of Insanity received a letter from the estate attorney informing it of the death of Susan’s mother.  Enclosed with the letter were two checks payable to the UtahStateHospital for the benefit of two of Sarah’s heirs.  Those two heirs were Susan and a mysterious second patient at the hospital named Parley Peck.

Initially, it was difficult to explain the relationship between Parley Peck, Susan Agnes Ivie Memmott, and Sarah Ivie.  However, with some research it became obvious that Parley Peck was Susan’s nephew (her deceased sister Martha’s son) and Sarah’s grandson.  Parley was placed in the UtahStateHospital sometime between 1920 and 1930.

Beginning in about 1940, more extensive medical and laboratory records were kept which showed that Susan was having ongoing problems with high blood sugar.  One report on May 19, 1942 listed her blood sugar as 294 mg/dl.  In addition she was suffering from what might be characterized as ongoing yeast infections, perhaps occasioned by high sugar content in her urine.  She was also severely overweight, reaching a weight of 189 pounds in August, 1941, despite her small five foot tall stature.  Obviously, she was suffering from uncontrolled diabetes.

On March 25, 1946 Susan died.  The official cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage due to arteriosclerosis (years earlier she had been diagnosed with hypertensive heart disease); though we must suspect that diabetes was also a contributing factor.  She was buried in Scipio, Utah beside her husband, James Ammon Memmott.[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.  Ancestral File and Susan’s headstone list her birth date as November 26, 1869; but her death certificate and Utah State Mental Hospital records show her birth date as September 29, 1869.  Her marriage license does not clarify the matter; it simply says she was eighteen when the license was issued on September 6, 1888.  If the marriage license correctly stated her age, she was born between September 7, 1869 and September 6, 1870.  The September date is used here because it the only date on an official vital record, although the matter could be debated.  Marriage License:  Millard County, Marriage License for James A. Memmott and Susan A. Ivie, 6 September 1888, Millard County Utah, Marriage Licenses, Vol. 1, p. 49.  Family History Library Microfilm Roll No. 482022.  Death Certificate:  Susan Memmott, Death Certificate, Registrar’s Vol. 43 No. 67, State File No. 146, Board of Health File Number 50, Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Salt Lake City, Utah.  Also available from: Susan Memmott, Death Certificate, Series 81448, Entry 20712, Utah State Archives Digital Collection, <> accessed 23 August 2007.  Electronic image in the possession of Guy L. Black.  Grave Location and Cemetery Directions:  Grave locations for James Ammon Memmott and Susan Agnes Ivie are plots 46-1-20 and 21 located in the Scipio Cemetery, Scipio, Utah.  Cemetery is located 1 mile north and ½ mile east of Scipio.  Obituary: Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 28 March 1946, page 18, column 2.