History of Rachel Rebecca Baird Nelson, by Granddaughter Carol Nelson
My grandmother, Rachel Rebecca Baird Nelson, was born October 29, 1880 at Willard, Utah to a stalwart and faithful Mormon couple, Robert Bell Baird and Ann Gwenthlyn Davis. She was the third child born to this couple. In the family there were eleven children, four girls and seven boys. Four boys and one girl died before the age of eight years old.
Grandma was raised in Willard, in fact she lived there her entire life. Her father worked on the railroad but after working on it for several years, his love for music became a dominant influence in his life. He decided to leave his job of railroading and devote his time to music. So when Grandma was two years old, he took his family which then consisted of his wife, Grandma and two boys and went to Logan to study and teach music. He tried to make a living in his chosen line but being a man with a family, things did not turn out that way. His wife's health became very poor and they had a small son die. So after a year's effort, he was forced to go back to work for the railroad in Willard.
On January 31, 1903 Grandma's father was released from his position as agent at the Willard depot, a position he had held for nearly nine years. He was released because he did not know telegraphy. After that, he worked at several railroad jobs. In the meantime Grandma learned telegraphy and then on March 12, 1906 her father returned to the railroad with himself as agent and Grandma as operator. Grandma's father depended entirely upon his daughter at the station. He wondered if the job was keeping her from marriage, so he asked her, but Grandma assured him that the right man had not come along yet. Grandma helped her father until December 1910 at which time she married John Laird Nelson. When Grandma saw Grandpa she knew he was the one she had been waiting for. It may seem strange that a man 15 years her senior, twice married and divorced should attract her, but nevertheless they fell in love and were married on December 21, 1910 at Ogden, Utah. Grandma's brother Clarence who was 14 years old took her place and he and his father continued on until September 4, 1915 when the office was turned over to Clarence and his father received a pension.
It was October 3, 1911, when Grandma was to realize the great joy of Motherhood. However, the ordeal nearly cost her life. She was just a little whisk of a thing and 31 years old. She became so very ill. Her father and another friend administered to her. Her father had great faith that God would answer his humble and earnest plea for the life of his beloved daughter and her child. Through the Holy Priesthood, he promised her life, health and strength and it was granted. Though my grandpa was not a Mormon, he felt the spirit of the Lord at that time, and acknowledged that there certainly must be something to a religion that could bring back the near dead. He later was baptized into the Church and went to the Temple, which was a great satisfaction to Grandma to be sealed and have their children sealed to them. Grandpa was, however, never active in the Church. After fifteen years he took up smoking again.
Grandma had her first four children within five years which was too fast especially for a woman of her size and weight. She never weighed over 100 lbs. during her entire life. Her second child, who was my father, was recorded as weighing 12 lbs at birth. All together Grandma had five children, three boys and two girls. The last child which was a girl died at birth.
About 1918, which was after Grandma had given birth to her fourth child, she underwent a very serious operation. A growth had developed in her stomach which had to be removed and in the process a new opening had to be made in her stomach. As the years passed by, her stomach shrank to almost nothing. In fact, she could only eat small portions but often.
Before Grandma went into the hospital for her operation, Alfred Gordon, a patriarch, gave her a blessing. He blessed her that she should come home again after the operation. He also blessed the instruments that would be used on her and told her that they would be new instruments, never before tried. Just before the operation a very unusual thing happened, the doctor came into her room and showed her the instruments he was going to use. The doctor told Grandma that this was the first time this type of instruments had been used, thus fulfilling a prophecy made by the Patriarch. Grandma insisted that her garments be left on her during the operation. This request met with great resistance from the hospital staff but she got her way after much persistence. My grandpa, clad in a hospital gown, was also able to go into the operating room and watch the operation which took about 7 and a half hours.
Grandma was a very faithful member of the Church. She would always run for the Elders before she would go for a doctor, she had that much faith in the Lord. One dark night while recovering from the operation, she tried very hard to get enough strength to pray. She was in very critical condition for about a week. As she started to ask her Father in Heaven for strength, she said that a bright light filled her room and she head a voice calling to her, "Lay still and save your strength, you do not have to pray for they are praying for you at home." At this same time her two oldest children, Carma 6 years old and Baird 5 years old, were out in a field praying for the recovery of their Mother. Grandma did recover from the operation and lived for a long time afterwards.
While Grandma was recovering from her operation, she made a promise to the Lord that she would visit the sick and the elderly people after she was on her feet. Grandma was one who loved to visit older people. She would take one lady at a time and every Wednesday afternoon she would do what she could for her. Her first lady was a Sister Morgan who never learned to read. Sister Morgan would save up things for Grandma to read to her. She read many a pioneer story. It was through reading these pioneer stories that perhaps Grandma got interested in genealogy. After Sister Morgan died, Grandma took another lady by the name of Sister Edwards who was blind. Grandma would also read to her and take her for walks. Grandma took care of Sister Edwards for several years. When Sister Edwards died, Grandma found Sister Woods, a lonesome old lady. Grandma brought a little happiness into her life. Then there was Sister Barnes who was dying from cancer. She was in pain much of the time but when she saw Grandma coming her spirits rose. She looked forward to seeing Grandma each week for it was such a joy to have her come. After each visit Sister Barnes seemed to feel so much better.
Gradually Grandma's interest turned toward genealogy. In her patriarchal blessing she was told that the archives would be opened unto her which certainly came to pass. She got very little support from her relatives. She spent at least fifteen very active years doing research. Among her papers are many letters of correspondence especially to Scotland where many of her ancestors lived. Grandma used to have many dreams of people coming in train and bus loads to a station but were not able to get out at the station no matter how they tried. There were discouraging times in this work but she would have another dream and back she would come. She was a member of the Genealogical Society for many years and she came often to Salt Lake City and the library. Through her, many people who have passed away were able to have their work done here on earth.
Grandma was always very active in the Church. She was organist in the Relief Society for 40 years and a visiting teacher for many years. After Grandpa passed away in 1939, Grandma was left with little or no income. But what little she had, she gave her share to the Church. Grandma was a very stalwart member of the Church.
In Grandma's patriarchal blessing it said that she would have the companionship of heavenly influences to be round about her day and night to help her solve her troubles and difficulties and that the Devil would not have power over her. She was sealed up against the hour of destruction and with the power to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection, clothed upon with glory, immortally and eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom. This was because of her great faith.
Before my Grandpa passed away, he suffered great pain. Seeing how he suffered, Grandma did not want to go through the same thing. She used to pray to the Lord to spare her from pain when she had finished her mission on earth. Her prayers were indeed answered. A year before she died Grandma had a stroke in her home late at night while alone. She was able to get to the phone and call out faintly for her son Roy who lived just up the street. The operator heard nothing more than the name Roy. She searched the phone book for a Roy and finally found a Roy Laird Nelson listed and called him and told him what she had heard. Immediately Roy dashed to his mother's house to find her lying in bed unconscious from the stroke. Somehow she had got to the phone and called the name Roy and found her way back to bed. A blood vessel near the eye had broken and the doctor said it would take nine weeks for her to come out of it if she was going to. Through the faith and prayers of her family she did come out of it but she was never quite the same. The few remaining months that she lived, Grandma lived in the homes of her children for she was not able to care for herself no longer. She enjoyed being around her grandkids. They were something very special to her. She loved to play checkers with them. The Sunday before she died, Grandma was staying with her daughter, Carma, in Salt Lake City. She was feeling quite well but she kept saying "Going up there" and she would point toward the sky. She was taken back to Willard the Sunday evening and Monday night she was taken to the hospital with a case of quick pneumonia. It was the following day, July 20, 1954, that she passed on, suffering no pain during her period of illness. Thus her prayers were answered. She was buried on July 23, 1954.