Rachel Dena Beckstrand 1876-1966

Rachel Dena

Rachel was born 11 April 1876, a daughter of Elias August and Henrietta Cecilia Ahlquist Beckstrand. She was the fifth of ten children born to her parents.

Rachel said, "The most important event in my life was when I realized I had been born into a good family with a kind father and mother, good sisters and brothers. We spent the evenings playing school; my mother was the teacher. She told us stories of the boys and girls where she lived across the ocean in Sweden. She sat by the fireplace knitting socks with long legs that would cover our knees. She also knit mittens for our hands. She made a tassel with the wool yarn and put it on the back so they would look very nice."

Rachel was baptized on 11 April 1884, in the warm Springs (a natural spring located about four miles southwest of Meadow) by her father, Elias August Beckstrand. She was confirmed by Hiram Bell Bennett on 15 April 1885.

Her first schooling was in the log schoolhouse in Meadow. She said, "I attended school in the Old Log House down to the bottom of town. My father brought me a slate and slate pencil from Salt Lake City. I learned to write on it. I attended school in the meeting house and later attended the Millard Stake Academy in Fillmore for one winter."

Rachel went to Salt Lake City with her sister, Albertina, to learn dressmaking. Albertina became a very fine dressmaker. Rachel claimed she wasn't as good, but she always made her own dresses.

Her schooling continued in Provo. Rachel writes, "I went to Provo and attended the B.Y.U. My brother, Heber, was with me. Father took us up in the wagon and it took two or three days to get there. Heber was called on a mission in the late winter to the Southern States Mission. He served there for thirty-six months. I went on in school and completed my normal course. I was graduated in Teachers Training with the class of 1897.

I had a chance to teach in the BYU Training School and also a chance to teach in Richfield. I was persuaded to accept the primary school in Meadow. That was in 1987. I was hired to teach in Meadow District School as assistant teacher to Jesse J. Bennett who was principal. He had served a mission in Samoa and had attended B.Y.U. for two years.

"Our school numbered about seventy students and we taught in the church house. Jesse was in the south end and I was in the north end. Our school wasn't noisy. At the time I was teaching school, I was also teaching Primary class in Sunday School.

"A year and a half passed and Jesse and I were married in the Manti Temple on 21 December 1898. We traveled by horse and buggy to and from Manti in a snow storm. One of our friends, Joseph Christensen and family, gave us a grand wedding dinner. We continued teaching many years in Meadow, Kanosh and Oasis."

Jesse and Rachel were the last teachers in the church school house. They marched their school of eighty-five pupils to the new school house. Jesse taught in the northeast room and Rachel in the northwest. As the population of Meadow increased, the third room was finished and another teacher was hired.

In 1898, Jesse J. made the adobe for a new house and had them burned at the same time Joseph Stott and Joseph Beckstrand made their brick and built their homes.

When Rachel was teaching school in Meadow, before she was married, she went home for lunch one day and found Peach Indian in the house waiting for her. His horse was tied at the gate. She prepared lunch for him and herself which they ate after she asked the blessing on the food. Then Peach said, "Rachel, Hunckup doesn't have a squaw. Would you marry him?" Rachel said, "Peach, how did Hunckup get it into his head to ask me? I can't; I'm teaching school." Peach said, "He heap like you. He will build a log house of you. He has thirteen horses and the boys will get more." Rachel said, "How would I get down here to teach?" Peach said, "You ride horse." Rachel said, "Peach, I don't want to marry and Indian. I want to marry a white man. Tell Hunckup to go get himself a squaw and I'll always be good and kind to him. Tell Hunckup, don't come and steal me." Peach said, "No Rachel. Hunckup no stealum you. He good man. He going to be the chief." Peach untied his horse and walked her back to school.

Rachel and Jesse were the parents of six sons: Jesse Lamar (16 June 1901), Leeman Bell (6 January 1904), Marvin Elias (6 May 1908 and died 9 June 1908), Lowell Rex (13 February 1910), Ivan Osborne (28 November 1912), and Vance Wilson (9 June 1916). All the Bennett sons who lived to adulthood attended college. Four of them graduated and went on to specialize in their chosen fields. Lamar became a medical doctor and later specialized in psychiatry. Leeman and Lowell gained prominence in the education field. Vance taught school for two years and then became a flight test engineer with Douglas Aircraft. Ivan remained on the farm and was owner of a small merchantile establishment. Rachel spent many hours caring for Ivan's three small daughters and son while their mother operated the store. While Vance was gaining his college education, to help out financially, Rachel went to Provo and cooked and cared for several boys who also attended college. She was aware of their spiritual, mental and physical needs. She cared for them like their own mothers would and they have never forgotten. Vance wrote, "I would never have made it through school if it had not been for my mother."

Rachel taught in the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association, served on the Relief Society stake board, and was president of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. She also served as president of the Primary in 1910, serving three years and was called as president again in 1942, this time for four years. During the years she served as Primary president, she also served as the Guide teacher (eleven year-old boys). She received an award from the Primary General Board for fifteen years of service in Primary. She always said that she loved to teach.

Rachel and Jesse spent two winters working in the St. George Temple. During that time she did endowment work for over two-hundred women. When they returned from St. George, Rachel was called as the training teacher in Primary. She also served as the theology teacher in Relief Society. There two teaching positions she filled to the best of her ability for five years ans was released at the age of eighty. She continued to serve as a visiting teacher in Relief Society.

Rachel was a great teacher and story-teller. She would rather study and discuss the Gospel than anything else. She was free-hearted, unselfish and kind. She was always preparing big meals for church visiters, visiting relatives, friends or just passers-by. She was a true friend to the Indians. Her son, Leeman, remembers when he was a boy on holidays, their front lawn would be filled with Indians. They would sit there until his mother fixed each one a plate piled high with delicious food.

Rachel died 25 December 1966, in Salt Lake City.

Histories Compiled and Edited by Sue Anne Beckstrand Thompson
Our Beckstrand Heritage: Christina Beckstrand Pehrsson, Karl Johan Beckstrand, Elias August Beckstrand and their families
(Logan, Ut., self published, 2003)