Miriam Billingsley Adair
by Maud Bliss Allen

Miriam Billingsley, daughter of Elijah Randolph Billingsley and Emiline Northcott was born the 31st of January 1829 in Mississippi and was one of the early Pioneers of Utah, arriving in the valley in September 1847. She was baptized into the church on the 9th of September 1845 in Kentucky.

Her father Elijah Randolph Billingsley was born in East Tennessee the 20th of November 18--, his parents were Jediah and Miriam Randolph Billingsley. The Randolph family is direct descendants of Chief Powhatan thru his daughter Pocahontas, or Lady Rebecca as she was called in England. He was a southern judge, who moved when she was very young to Kentucky and where she spent her girlhood days, upon his lovely southern plantation. Here she began to develop her talent. The old faithful Negro slave, a favorite in the Billingsley family used to get his old violin, take her out to the rear of the home and teach her to sing and dance, while he would play the old southern melodies on his fiddle.

The old Judge was very stern on the subject of dancing and while she was learning these fancy steps and dancing as fast as her feet could step, the old slave would say, "Keep agoin' miss, keep a goin' your old friend won't let any body git yah." He enjoyed teaching the old Southern songs and with her lovely voice she would sing them thru and thru. She as the pet of everyone and in the kitchen the old southern mammy, who did the cooking would stand her on a high box and teach her to cook. From her she learned to make the good old-fashioned molasses cookies and cakes and many of the old Southern dishes famous everywhere. One song she sang so often and so beautifully was "In the evening by the moonlight, you could hear those darkies singing."

The Elders of the Latter Day Saints Church were traveling thru Kentucky and she was converted to the church. He father was very opposed to this and Brother Kimball and Woodruff said to him, "You will yet walk 50 miles to have me baptize you", and this prophecy came true a short time afterwards. While living in Mississippi near the Indians she learned to talk the Chickasaw language and always delighted in counting to one hundred.

The Billingsley family moved to Nauvoo with the other saints and suffered the hardships and abuses that were heaped upon the faithful Mormon colony. From here they were forced to move and next made a home near Council Bluffs. One day as she stood by a campfire with her sister and older brother, as they were camped near the side of the road, along came a team of mules hitched to a wagon driven by a young man who was driving for the Ira Eldredge Company. This driver was George Washington Adair. When she saw him she said that is the man I am going to marry and so it proved, as they were married near Mt. Pisga. A year later their first child was born and was named for her grandmother, Emiline Northcott Billingsley.

Upon arriving in Salt Lake in September 1847 they spent the first winter in a log cabin on the North side of Pioneer Square. When it rained she would have to hold a quilt over her baby so the child would not get wet. The next spring they moved to Sugar House Ward and lived in a dugout on the north side of the hill of what is now 21st South. That year with a nursing baby she passed thru the siege of the crickets living on sego roots and pigweed greens and other wild roots.

When she wold get so hungry she could stand it no longer she would go to her trunk where she had a piece of beef tallow wrapped up in a piece of cloth and take a bite of it and chew and chew it. These kept her from starving to death. At the end of six weeks she went to fast meeting and when she and her family returned there on the table was a plate filled with slices of new bread and butter and on this they feasted and thus brought to a close a six weeks fast. They were never able to find out who was so wonderful as to leave this meal for them. It was like manna from heaven.

They next went to Provo. It seemed they were always pioneers. In about the year 1861 her husband went to Minersville to work. When she went to see him she drove her own team of oxen and took her family. On this trip the molasses spilled all over the bedding and such a job to clean it all up. While living in Minersville she used to card the wool and so her husband made her a loom.

Brigham Young advised them to raise cotton in Dixie and here she spun and wove the cloth for their clothing. In the Relic Hall is a pair of hand made britches that she raised the cotton, wove the cloth and stitched every stitch by hand. They were worn by George Washington Adair. She also did the most wonderful needlework and was a fine tailoress. She made the burial clothes for the men and this was done all by hand. She used to take great pride in her beautiful flower garden. She wrote many poems and her dialogues and plays were used in their entertainment. She taught school in a log house with only a dirt floor. The lessons she learned in the south from the Darkey Mammy she put into practice and was known as the finest cook in Utah's Dixie. Christmas was never Christmas without her molasses cakes and cookies.

She took an active part in the Primary Organization, also the Relief Society. She had a remarkable memory. She made use of the plums, currents and berries that grew near and made the finest jam. When they would get hungry for meat, she would have them kill a squirrel or hare and cook it for their dinner.

Besides her own eleven children, she raised a grandson whose mother had passed away. She took him at the age of ten days. Later she was so unfortunate to loose another daughter and another grandchild was left in her care. These children were raised as her own and were given a mother's care and love.

She was always thrifty making her own rag carpets and beautiful bed spreads. They had very little to do with, and so made her own furniture and picture frames. Her son Jedediah Adair was born in a little house built of cedar logs in Washington County before St George was settled. Miriam used to dye her own clothing, making her own dyes of herbs. Nadder-root boiled to which was added alum for red; indigo tied in a cloth for blue. She would take rabbit brush blossoms or onionskins for yellow; cottonwood leaves for brown, using chamber-lye to set the color.

In 1875 they went to Orderville and lived the United Order. She passed away at the age of 84 in Sevier Valley having spent a useful life in benefit to her fellow men.

Written by Maud Bliss Allen thru an interview with her son, Jedediah Adair and wife.