George Francis Spencer was my great-grandfather – and one of the 12 children of John Henry Spencer and Lucy Lodica Elmer – born in Payson, Utah County, Utah Territory on 30 Jun 1870. George’s father was a member of the Mormon sect. Imagine how puzzled I was when I first started studying the census records of that time period….more wives and children and confusion than I could count. It finally dawned on me – my great great grandfather was a polygamist! Accordingly, in the childhood census records of George Francis Spencer, he is always present with his mother and father AND John Spencer’s first wife Jerusha Kibbe Brunson Elmer and her 14 children, George’s half siblings. Whew….Now that we’ve got that sorted out…let’s continue !
Sometime around the time George turned 7 years old, his large family relocated to Thistle/Indianola, Sanpete County, Utah. This is where he met and married my great-grandmother, Sarah Elsie Gardner. The Mormon records indicate that they married 22 Oct 1987 – when Sarah was only 15 years old. However, the 1910 census indicates that they had been married only 10 years – putting the marriage closer to 1900. Sarah was the daughter of Henry Erastus Stanley Gardner and Mary Rosetta Patterson.
George and Sarah had five children:
Earl Francis in 1903; married Margaret “Mollie” Mack; died in Utah County, Utah in 1964;
Mary Lodica “Aunt Marie” in 1905; married first James Patrick Hyland and second Paul Allias; died 1999 in Salt Lake City;
Ernest Richard in 1907; married Mary “Honey” and Cleotha Peterson; died 1960 in Utah County, Utah (my father named after him);
Elmer Bert in 1908; married Peggy Marie Barnett; died in Kerrville, Kerr County, Texas in 1999; and
Pearl Eva in 1914 (my grandmother); married Jose Celestino Montoya; lost her life in a car accident at the age of 34 in 1949.
It appears that the marriage of George and Elsie might have been a rocky one – on again and off again. In the 1910 census they are together – in 1920 George is alone with the four older children and is indexed as divorced – Elsie is in another county with youngest daughter Pearl Eva and is living with another man (Carl Persow) – later she leaves Pearl with her father and goes to California where she died young in 1925. It is assumed that George and Sarah were together until at least 1914, when my grandmother, Pearl Eva Spencer was born. It is not known if the couple actually divorced or only separated. Her headstone carries the “Spencer” name – and she is listed as “wife” of George Spencer on his death certificate. The family story states that George Francis Spencer was a sheep herder – and that Elsie wanted a better life than that could afford her. The 1910 census states that he was a laborer doing “odd jobs”; the 1920 census that he was a laborer working for the “steam railroad”; and the 1930 that he was a laborer working on a farm.
It appears that George Francis Spencer spent the remainder of his years in Indianola. In his old age, George Francis Spencer, was wheelchair bound. His death certificate states that he was “an invalid for 27 years prior to his death.” He lived in the home of one of his sons – probably Earl Francis Spencer – and he had rooms at the back of that house. He died in the Utah County Infirmary at Provo, Utah at the age of 73 on 22 Apr 1944. He had been a resident at the Infirmary for ten months prior to his death.
George Francis Spencer is laid to rest in Payson City Cemetery in Payson, Utah County, Utah.