Rasmason, Margaret Henrietta Meads
Margaret (sometimes spelled Margarett) Henrietta Meads, the first child of Nathan and Rebecca Henrietta Foscue Bentley Meads, was born on 23 January 1862 in Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory. Nathan, Margaret’s father was from England and had converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1849 in his native land. Rebecca, her mother, was a formerly enslaved biracial LDS convert from Mississippi. Margaret was born shortly after her parents arrived in the valley and settled into the Salt Lake Eleventh Ward. The Meads family remained in their home a few blocks from the city center throughout Margaret’s life.
The Meads were faithful Latter-day Saints. Margarett’s father served as a high priest in the church’s lay priesthood and her parents were endowed and sealed in the Endowment House in 1863, the first documented case wherein a formerly enslaved person received full temple rituals. Margaret was undoubtedly baptized and confirmed as a child, likely when she turned eight years old, but the dates of those ordinances are not listed in the Eleventh Ward’s membership record book. Margaret is, however, listed as a church member and she was rebaptized in 1876 following her fourteenth birthday.
All federal census records describe Margaret as white and her Latter-day Saint membership records offer no hint that her fellow congregants suspected otherwise. Even still, one biracial member of another congregation did make an appeal in 1885 to Latter-day Saint leaders for temple admission and cited Margaret’s mother’s temple sealing as a precedent for allowing a person of mixed racial ancestry to receive temple rituals. That appeal prompted Joseph E. Taylor, acting Salt Lake Stake president and Margaret’s local leader, to claim that Margaret and her siblings were “very dark” in appearance, an indication of their apparent Black-African ancestry. It is an indication that Taylor at least was aware of her mixed racial ancestry. He wrote to church president, John Taylor, referring to Margaret’s family as an example of those “who are tainted with that [negro] blood,” but who had previously received temple rituals. Joseph E. Taylor, nonetheless seemed satisfied with Margaret’s apparent racial passage, noting that she was married to a white man. There is no evidence that Margaret was aware of this appeal or that it had any influence on her own faith journey.
Margaret had two sisters and two brothers, but all her siblings died in childhood. At the age of eighteen, on 25 November 1880, Margaret married a neighbor and fellow Eleventh Ward member, Hyrum Hans Rasmussen. The couple made their home in the Eleventh Ward near their respective families. They had six children together, three boys followed by three girls: Hyrum Lewis, Oscar Joseph, Franklin Henry, Florence Rebecca, Lillian Bertha, and Maggie Viola. The Rasmussens brought each of these babies to the elders of their congregation to receive blessings and record their births. All the Rasmussen children lived until adulthood except for their eldest daughter, Florence, who died as a two-month-old infant in 1886.
Soon after the birth of the Rasmussens’ last child in 1892, Hyrum abandoned his wife and children, vanishing from Salt Lake City. At the time that he disappeared, Margaret was left with five children to support and raise, all under the age of twelve. Margaret’s mother, Rebecca, had died in 1881, just two months before her first grandchild was born, so Margaret could not call on her for help with the children. However, her father, Nathan, who had remarried and had two young sons, generously opened his home to Margaret and his grandchildren.
After Hyrum Rasmussen left his family, Margaret changed the spelling of her last name to Rasmason, a variant that all of her children used as adults. All of Margaret’s children were baptized and confirmed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an indication that despite her difficulties, Margaret remained a committed member of her faith.
On the 1900 census, Margaret listed her occupation as “Dress Maker.” Her mother had been a seamstress and must have taught her daughter the craft. It is possible Margaret supported herself and her young children with this trade. She also described her marital status as “widow,” sidestepping an explanation of her actual position as a married, but abandoned wife. After her father died in 1894, Margaret continued to live in his home which she shared with her stepmother and two young half-brothers.
Margaret’s relationship with her stepmother may have been strained because when her father died, Margaret started legal proceedings which petitioned the court to name someone other than her stepmother as the administrator of Nathan Meads’ estate. Margaret argued that since she was Nathan’s child and was a member of his household at the time of his death, she had a legal claim on his home. Margaret maintained that the “property …was acquired” by her mother, Rebecca Foscue Meads. Margaret lost her bid and Nathan’s widow received the inheritance to support his two minor children.
By the summer of 1910, when the census taker again visited the family, Margaret had moved to the home of her married daughter, Bertha Rasmason Johnson. The Johnsons lived in the Avenues area of Salt Lake, just a short distance from Margaret’s family home. Although only forty-eight years old, Margaret was blind and would no longer have been able to make a living as a dressmaker. In addition to blindness, she was stricken with paralysis as a result of being in the last stages of “chronic myelitis” (inflammation of the spinal cord) which was the cause of her death on 1 November 1910. She is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Her grave marker bears the inscription “Only Sleeping.”
By Tonya S. Reiter
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection. Eleventh Ward, Part 1. CR 375 8, box 1894, folder 1, images, 479-480. Church History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection. Eleventh Ward, Part 2. CR 375 8, box 1895, folder 1, Image 15. Church History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah.
“In The Courts, Divorce Proceedings.” Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah). 2 November 1901.
“Rasmason.” Salt Lake Tribune. 2 November 1910, 14.
Taylor, Joseph E. to John Taylor. September 5, 1885. Church History Library. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah.
United States. 1800 Census. Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City.
United States. 1900 Census. Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Ward 5.
United States. 1910 Census. Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Ward 4.
Utah. County, District, and Probate Courts. Probates. Series 1621, Box 73, Folder 27. Utah Division of Archives and Record Services. Salt Lake City, Utah.
Utah State Board of Health. Bureau of Vital Statistics. Certificate of Death. Rasmason, Margaret Meads. File Number 1501. Utah Division of Archives and Record Services. Salt Lake City, Utah.
Utah Department of Health. Bureau of Vital Statistics. Utah Death Index, 1847-1966, Rasmason, Margaret Meads. Permit Number 19333, Death Certificate Number 22333. Utah Division of Archives and Record Services. Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rasmason, Margaret Meads. FindAGrave.com.
 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Eleventh Ward, Part 1, CR 375 8, box 1894, folder 1, images 479-480, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Eleventh Ward, Part 2, CR 375 8, box 1895, folder 1, image 15, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 United States, 1800 Census, Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City; United States, 1900 Census, Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Ward 5; United States, 1910 Census, Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Ward 4.
 Joseph E. Taylor to John Taylor, September 5, 1885, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 Bureau of Vital Statistics, Utah Death Index, 1847-1966, Florence R. Rasmason, Utah Division of Archives and Record Services, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 United States, 1900 Census, Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Ward 5.
 Utah, County, District and Probate Courts, Probates, Series 1621, Box 73, Folder 27, Utah Division of Archives and Record Services, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 United States, 1910 Census, Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City Ward 4.
 Utah State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Death, Margaret Meads Rasmason, file number 1501, Utah Division of Archives and Record Services, Salt Lake City, Utah; “Rasmason,” Salt Lake Tribune, 2 November 1910, 14.
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