Margaret Miller Watson

The following is quoted from the Sesquicentennial Celebration held July 24 and 25, 1997, in the Brigham Young University Stadium. As Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, was introduced, an account was given of Margaret Miller, his great-grandmother:

“In the spring of 1848, recent converts Charles Stewart Miller and Mary McGowan Miller, left their native Rutherglen, Scotland, to join with the Saints in Zion.


So this family with eleven children could earn their means to make their way to the Salt Lake Valley, they stopped at St. Louis. A plague of cholera struck the area, and within two weeks, four of the family members died including the parents and sons, William and Archibald.


So many died from the epidemic, the surviving sons had to dismantle the family’s oxen pens to make caskets for their parents and brothers.

The nine remaining children, including young Margaret Miller, left St. Louis in the spring of 1850 and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley later that year.


Tonight we welcome Margaret Miller’s great-grandson, Thomas Spencer Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church.”


Speaking at a Utah Statehood Centennial Fireside on June 16, 1996, President Monson spoke of his great-great-grandparents, Charles Stewart Miller and Mary McGowan Miller:

“They came from Scotland in 1849 and joined a group of Latter-day Saints in St. Louis. Charles and Mary, and two sons died within two weeks of each other. My great-grandmother, Margaret Miller (Watson) was thirteen at the time. The nine surviving children made their way across the plains to Utah, arriving in the fall of 1850.”


Margaret married Alexander Watson, known as “Sandy,” and was sealed in the Endowment House on November 8, 1855.


Together they raised twelve children. Their third child, Margaret Ellen, married Thomas S. Condie. Their daughter, Gladys, married G. Spencer Monson. Their son is Thomas S. Monson.


Their twelfth child, Annie, married Clarence William Poulton. Their daughter, Agnes, married Melvin L. Woodbury. They had three children: Joan, Barbara, and Craig.


Agnes Woodbury recalled some memories of Margaret Miller in her biography.


“My Grandmother Watson lived next door to us on the south. Her home was on the corner of 5th South and 3rd West. It was made of adobe and very well insulated. Our home was not separated by a fence from Grandma’s house, so we had a big yard where we could play baseball, hide and seek, and lots of other fun games. When we were little, we never went very far from home.


I remember Grandma Watson as a very loving, but strict individual. She was Scottish and very proud of it. She would sit in a little rocking chair on the back porch and rule the neighborhood. She died in 1918, and we all missed her for a long, long time.


None of us had the privilege of knowing our Grandfather Watson. He died before my mother was married. She told us that he was a very handsome man with thick snow-white hair, and everyone knew him as “Sandy” Watson. He was known by many of the Utah Indians as their very true friend. They would always come to visit him when they had to travel many miles to get supplies. He always gave them food to take home. He owned half of the full block on which we lived, and he gave enough property to the L.D.S. Church to build the Sixth Ward. He was given the deed to the land by U. S. President Ulysses S. Grant which I have in my possession now.


Two of Grandma Watson’s sons, Uncle Hugh and Uncle John, lived all their lives in the family home, being a great help to their mother after their father died. Uncle Hugh was a tremendous help with the housework. He didn’t have a vacuum, so when he had to clean the rugs he would mix a big handful of salt with a little water to hold it together. Then he would take handfuls and throw it over the rug. He would let it stand for a short time, then sweep it with a broom. There would never be any dust because it was damp and the rugs always looked clean.


It seemed that every night, the members of Mom’s family who lived nearby would always gather at Grandma Watson’s house just to visit and discuss the events of the day. We were always a very close family.”


Barbara Benson and her mother, Agnes Woodbury, had an occasion to visit President Monson in his office in November, 1995. They had just been to see the church film, “Legacy,” shown in the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. They commented to him on what a remarkable story of courage the film depicted. President Monson commented that he and they also had a legacy every bit as profound and faith-promoting as had been shown in the film. He then recalled the story of Margaret Miller, their common ancestor, and how she had lost so many members of her family to the cholera epidemic. The nine surviving children had somehow made their way to the Salt Lake Valley. Not much else is known about Margaret Miller, but what we do know leaves a lasting and profound impression.


Margaret died on June 5, 1918, in Salt Lake City, Utah.


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This biography was compiled from the following sources:


Monson, Thomas S., Personal recollections.


Sesquicentennial Celebration, July 24, 1997, BYU Stadium.


Utah Statehood Centennial Fireside, June 16, 1996.


Woodbury, Agnes P., Personal biography.