Adriana "Lottie" vanDam - 1858-1935.
Like a Quite Stream
By Gwenavere Anderson
Mr. Marsden to Salt Lake City for his pioneer Homestead 40 miles away to get a new rocking chair and some sugar. The drive had been a long one, so he stayed overnight with some friends. As he was starting for home the next morning, he came to a party of Mormon immigrants who had just arrived from their long journey across the plains. He stopped to speak to their captain, and ask him news of the saints farther east. As they talked, a little six-year-old girl ran up to the captain and caught hold of his hand. It was then that he told Mr. Marsden this story:
The family had set out from Holland to come to Utah for their religion. Mr. and Mrs. VanDam, the child's parents, had had a pleasant little home in their native Dutch village, and had been happy there with their four children. But their faith called them to give up home and country. Herbert, the oldest boy, was nearly 11 old enough to help with the younger children on a long way. The family parted from their friends and said on a slow sailing vessel for the new land. The ocean crossed, they started across the plains and wagons drawn by oxteam. Before many miles had been traveled, father of VanDam died, and left the young mother to go on with the children. How tedious and lonely to journey must have been for her. Ill and exhausted from the hardships encountered and heartbroken by the loss of her husband, she never lived to see this Zion of her faith. Before the planes were crossed, she gave up her life soon after another little girl was born. The other immigrants brought the five children and the aged grandparents with them to Salt Lake City .
We don't know how to provide for the family, the captain finished. Sister Thurston has been caring for the baby and she was to keep it and the youngest of the others. The boy can probably work and help us here. But what we shall do with this little girl and her sister, who choose is eight, I don't know. I would be glad to adopt her, but we haven't yet made to our home, and it is hard to see clearly how we are to provide for these orphans.
Brother Marsden's heart was touched as he listened to the story. I have made my home, he said I'll take her home with me and treat her as my own. I'll take her sister, spoke up his companion brother Johnson. If she's aged, she'll probably be old enough to help with the work. That journey to her new home must have been strange and wonderful too little Lottie vanDam. The stretching sagebrush flats were a contrast indeed to the green flowering land of Holland . Sitting up on the high spring seat of the wagon beside the austere though kind pioneered who had resolved to give her home, she must have felt afraid and lonely. In the evening, they arrived at the big Homestead with its log cabin surrounded by young trees. Beyond the house where the sheds and barns and fields of the meadowland. Beyond them, the sagebrush stretched away to the mountains. Here's a little girl, I brought home with me mother, lost these benefactor called as he swung her down from the wagon, her father and mother are dead. My how dusty and ragged, she looks, said mother Marsden come in, child, and I'll clean you up.
But little Lottie only looked in a bewildered way from one to the other. She knew not a word of English and they not a word of Dutch.
She soon learned the language though, for she was quick and bright, and she played and prattled all the day with the Marsden's five year old son.
As Lottie grew up, she worked hard to show her gratitude to the people who had given her a home. The Marsden babies looked upon her as their older sister, and with good reason. She was their fun-loving playmate and patient nurse. Many times, she carried a baby in one arm, while she swept the floors or pounded the dasher of the churned up and down with the other. In return, Mr. Marsden kept his promise to treat her as his own. He and his wife loved little Lottie as a daughter.
Life is not easy in a pioneer ranch house on the edge of the desert. On washdays water had to be carried from the spring below the house. The cows had to be milked, and the big fans of milk put in a little room over the spring, so that the cream would rise. The porches and floors were kept clean by scrubbing them with sand and lie until the boards were quite smooth and yellow.
Law the learned housekeeping by the simple process of experience. Mother Marsden trained her in the rudiments of reading and writing, and for a little while. During one or two winters, Lottie went to school in a nearby town; but as a general rule, there was no time for formal education. There are many other more useful things to be learned how to sell, to keep house. How to weave rug's and make quilts, how to bake and cook and churn and how to care for babies. The workday began when the sun came up or before, and ended after dark. The Marsden children, all younger than Lottie needed care and help them in heart love them deeply and her capable hands tended them patiently.
At last Marsden girls were old enough to help their mother, and Lottie was given the opportunity to go away for a year of schooling. She was so thrilled that her hands trembled and she could hardly fasten the straps of her telescope. When the school year was over, she came back to her faithful duties. She always tried to determine what it was her duty to do, and then she did it.
The Marsden's home was 2 miles from their nearest neighbors, and Lottie had few intimate friends of her own age. 2 miles was rather too far to walk to seek companionship when there was always so much work to be done. If there was a dance or a ward social in the nearby village, Lottie was nearly always too tired to go. She was past the age when married. Probably her friends said, Lottie will make a good wife for some man. She's so sweet tempered and kind and such a capable housekeeper keeper. It seems too bad for her to become an old maid.
Among the many people who came to the Marsden's to visit, or stop to spend the night on their way farther west, there were very few latte's own age. Most of them were much older. In spite of this, she was rarely lonely, she was too busy for that.
The doors of that pioneer home were always open to both friends and strangers. When John Rogers came to spend a few days, Mr. Marston welcomed him with a special pleasure. John was a man of quiet disposition, respected, upright, kindly. He was old enough to be established in life. Humor, intelligence and refinement in a woman meant more to him than pretty close and graceful dancing. Perhaps his eyes followed Lottie as she hurried quietly about the house doing her work. Perhaps, too, he heard how sweetly and patiently her voice answered, the younger members of the family. At any rate, he fell in love with Lottie. He came more and more often to the big homestead, and it was obviously not to talk to Mr. Marston about cattle. After a few months, John and Lottie were married. Very thrilled and happy, Lottie packed her few homespun close to move to her new home in Salt Lake City .
The experience in housekeeping which she had gained in her younger days was very useful to her. John always came to a neat, pleasant little house, a good supper, and a smiling wife. In return, he tried to make the work easy for her. His truest pleasure was to see her eyes shined when he brought home a present for her, a pot of flowers, or a new dress or shawl.
“You look pretty in that,” he said one night, when Lottie was wearing a new grey silk he had bought for her. I love it, but I feel almost guilty when I wear it, John, she answered, thinking of the many handed down dresses she had made over, turning them inside out to hide the faded spots. It seemed almost wicked to her to have the new silk dress all her own. She would have been happier if she had made over one of her old dresses and seen one of her younger sisters in the new silk.
They were a happy together for a few years. All their neighbors were their friends. Lot he's a lovely sense of humor, lightened John's more sober, quiet disposition.
A few years and then lost he was a widow. She had always loved children so much and made friends with them so easily and have none of her own. Instead, she seemed like a mother to all the children in the neighborhood. In the mornings, Lottie hurried about her house, systematically and deftly doing the work. In the afternoons, she often worked in her garden. She seemed to have a special power with flowers, and she loved to plant them and tend them until they came into bloom. Perhaps her ancestors in Holland had been flower growers. The children coming home from school used to run into her yard to tell Aunt Lottie of their little adventures, and to coax her to give them bouquets. They never failed to find her interested in what they were doing, and seldom did one go home without at least one flower. Somehow in the midst of her busy mind, she reserved a place to remember all the little hobbies dear to each one, and even to remember their birthdays. Not long ago, a neighbor who called, found Lottie, after a hard days work packing birthday presents to send to some of the children who had grown up and move to California.
When one of the neighbors and his wife had to leave town before school was out and go to their farm, their children stayed with aunt Lottie in order to finish their school. She made her home so pleasant to them that they hardly missed being away from their own home. She always cared for the neighborhood children while their mothers were busy or ill.
All her life, Lottie has thought of others, before herself. Even as a girl, she was peacemaker of the family. There is never a sickbed in the neighborhood that she does not visit with loving helpfulness. There is never a woman in distress, whom she does not comfort. She is the saving Angel of our neighborhood, one of her neighbors said in gratitude.
Lottie had always been fragile physically. When she was scarcely 40, a very serious illness caused her months of anguished suffering and nearly took her life. Perhaps she would have died, had it not been that she had always lived simply and hygienically. After several serious operations, she recovered, but her hearing was impaired. It grew steadily worse, and soon she was almost entirely deaf. Each Sunday, some of her many friends in the ward would go to church with her and write down the sermon. She bares her sufferings patiently and without complaint. One of her friends says of her, “if most women have endured what she has, they would have been dead 10 years ago.” Her patience and faith have enabled her to bear loneliness and suffering. Undaunted by the misfortune of losing her hearing, she who had loved music and friendly talk went on with her quiet, good life.
Lottie is a frail little woman, but so agile that you would never guess her to be 70. She still prefers walking to writing, even when her walk is several miles long. Anatole France said, “time deals gently with those who take it gently.” Aunt Lottie does not seem so old as her years say she is. She has always been patient and uncomplaining. She has taken time gently. Her hair is gray, but her face still looks at the world with a young interest. She laughs often. In her face, which conceals nothing, are written the joys and sorrows of a sympathetic and sincere nature. The wrinkles on her face are not deep lines, but only the permanent marks of the expressions of her personality.
Her clothes are up-to-date in style, but somehow she has never lost a bit of a quaint old-fashioned look. It cannot be her clothes that give it. It must be the sweetness of her face making one think of patchwork quilts on fourposter beds and of chests of linen scented with lavender.
Somehow, an expression in her eyes dominates her sweet face. There is something behind the smile that seems to be questioning and searching hungrily. They look out from a sensitive, sympathetic personality, shut off in loneliness from the things that are sounding all about her.
No trumpets, ever blare to announce Lottie's accomplishments. No heralds shall turning down the streets. But, for all that, many rise up and call her blessed.
(This story was published in the relief Society magazine, and I copied it from the magazine.)