A brief and incomplete History of Myrtillo Shaw and Harriet Orilla Austin

Prepared by a grand daughter, Orilla Shaw Norseth.

Myrtillo Shaw gif

  My grandfather, Myrtillo Shaw, was oldest child of John Shaw and Polly Marie Fox. He was born August 1st 1841 at Victor, New York.

 In 1842, at the age of 25 years, Myrtillo Shaw was married at Bennington to Harriet Orilla Austin, who was at that time 19 years old. Harriet Orilla was born in Wyoming County, New York, on February 3, 1820. Her parents were Robert r. Austin and Harriet Rhodes Austin.

 In 1842 Myrtillo Shaw along with others of the Shaw family joined the Mormon Church and were baptized at Bennington, New York. His wife, Harriet Orilla was baptized also at that time, although she was the only member of her family to join the church and she was baptized against the wishes of her father. Their first child, Francis Shaw was one year old at that time. the second child, Harriet Orrilla, was also born at Bennington.

 In 1844 Myrtillo and his wife, along with several other members of the John Shaw family, moved to La Harp, Hancock county, Illinois. Harriet's father, Tobert Austin, who was not a member of the Mormon church, traveled after them for miles pleading with his daughter to come back with him.

In 1845 another son was born at La Harp, Ill. before they moved to Nauvoo. At Nauvoo they built a home and helped under the leadership of Joseph Smith to build the city. In 1846 they were driven out by the mobs. Before they moved one of the mob saw Harriet Orilla standing in the door way of her home and shot at her. He missed her, hitting the casing of the door. she and her husband took a cow, an ox, an old wagon, and what things they could carry and started west. Before they were out of sight they turned and saw their home in flames. Their fourth child, a girl, was born in 1848 at Council Bluffs, Iowa. this meant they had four small children to care for on the journey west. My father, Francis Shaw, who was the oldest child, turned seven years old just about a month before they arrived in Salt Lake Valley.

 Some where on the way to Council Bluffs or after leaving it, I am not sure which, Myrtillo took very ill and they could not go on with the other wagons. In the morning his wife looked out of the wagon and there stood a strange man on the wagon toque. He said, "You have a very sick husband". She answered, "Yes". He took out of his pocket a box of medicine and said, "Give him this and he will get better". She did not like to give strange medicine from a stranger, but he assured her that it would make her husband well and told her how to give it. She got out of the wagon to see where the man had come from or where he had gone but there was no one in sight in any direction. She gave her husband the medicine and the next day he was better and they were able to join the rest of the company. Harriet said she knew the man was an angel from heaven.

 Some members of the John Shaw family decided not to go on to the Rocky Mountains but stayed in Illinois where some of their descendants are still living today.

 Myrtillo and his family made the trip across the plains in the Lorenzo Snow Company arriving in Salt Lake in 1848, just one year after the first migration under Brigham Young. When nearing the end of their journey near the Weber River they received orders to await the arrival of a company under Brigham Young which was following. Both companies then continued their journey to Salt Lake city, arriving Sept 20, 1848. Myrtillo was 34 years old and his wife Harriet Orilla was 28 at the time.

 An old city plat shows that the John Shaw family owned two lots at 9th and Main Street.

 They no doubt suffered many hardships that winter, as 1848 was the year the crickets destroyed the crops intended to feed the new immigrants arriving from the plains.

 After arriving in Salt Lake one of their oxen died. Harriet cut a piece of the hide off to make some handles. In doing so she got blood  poisoning in her hand and arm. She lay for days with her arm so swollen that she could not lift it. Then one day a voice seemed to say to her, "Fry some onions in lard and put it on your arm". As soon as her husband came in she told him and he fried the onions and put them in a sack around her arm. She was soon at ease and had the first sleep she had had since the pain started.

 At Salt Lake City the fifth child, John was born on February 17, 1850. That spring they moved to Ogden, Utah and located at Farr's Fort. John shaw located in the south row of houses, their house being the third from the southeast corner of the fort. Myrtillo built his house in the north line of the fort towards the west end, immediately west of the "Mill Creek" bridge.

Farr's Fort an early History of Ogden, Utah

The fort was built with log cabins on each of the four sides of the square, placed close together with the door of each house opening on the inside of the enclosure. There was a road through the center of the fort from east to west.

 Later the family moved from Farr's Fort and built a home with a mud roof and dirt floor about 3 blocks east of Washington Avenue on 22nd street. In this home their ninth child was born. He was named Myrtillo after his father. There was a very bad rain storm at the time and the roof leaked. A bucket had to be placed on the bed to catch the rain and mud while grandmother was giving birth to this child. When the baby was only 3 weeks old they moved with the general migration to Provo to evade Johnson's army. Nine children and the youngest 3 weeks old!

 When they returned they helped to build the fort on Washington Avenue between Canyon Road and Fifteenth St. They lived there for some time and then built a home on the northeast corner of 17th St. and Washington Aveue. In the spring there was a flood from the Ogden River and their home was washed away. Harriet Orilla and some of the younger children had to get out on the oxen's back.

  Later they built another home on the east side of Washington Ave. between 15th and 16th St. where they lived until the time of their death.

 The family carded and spun all the wool that made their cloths, from the underclothes to the outer garmants. They raised sugar cane to make molasses which they used for sugar. They lived sometimes on roots of plants, such as sego roots. Many times they did not know what they would have for the next meal but always said, "The Lord will provide".

 Myrtillo had been ordained an elder while they were in Nauvoo. Later he was ordained a High Priest. While they were living in Ogden he was called by Brigham Young to fulfill a mission to New York. Harriet Orilla accompanied him to New York.

 They had 12 children, 10 of whom lived to manhood or womanhood. One girl died at age 2, and one boy, the last of there children, died when 2 month old.

  Their faith, courage, and devotion was of the highest, both to their religion and to their children. They sacrificed everything for the gospel but were still happy and contented with their lot because they had many testimonies that their religion was true. They were always helpful to those who were ill or in need, and no Indian ever left their door without something, no matter how hard their circumstances were.

 Harriet Orilla died May 21, 1891 at the age of 71. Myrtillo lived almost three years longer, dying in January 1896 at the age of 82.

 Harriet's last moments were very peaceful. the last words she said to her husband and children as they stood at her bedside were, "Be faithful, be faithful".

Retyped from a document obtained from the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers by jirvinh August 30th 2012.