Constant Ann Stephens was born February 17, 1849 at Council Bluffs, Potawattamie Co. Iowa, the daughter of John Stephens and Elizabeth Briggs. She was the ninth of twelve children.
Constant’s father had a farm at Council Bluffs. She crossed the plains at the age of two, arriving in Utah October 14, 1851. Her father was a Captain of ten in the Orson Pratt Company. The family resided in Weber County. Her father built the first reservoir in Weber County in 1856.
Marriage to Orson Hyde Eggleston
On December 4, 1864, in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the age of 15 years 9 months, 17 days, Constant married Orson Hyde Eggleston, son of Samuel Eggleston and Lurania Powers Burgess. They were sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 18, 1867. After her marriage, she and her husband resided in Ogden, Utah. She was the mother of eleven children, only five of the children were alive at the time of her death.
In 1876-1877 her husband was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Michigan. In the fall of 1877 they moved to Eden, Utah, where her husband was postmaster for three years. He also served as Counselor in the Bishopric and Clerk of the Eden Ward. He also held the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain in the Utah Militia.
The family moved to Star Valley, Wyoming about 1886. They settled at a small town called Afton. Here her husband earned his living by practicing dentistry. Constant Ann soon endeared herself to all the people there by caring for the sick. While the family lived in Afton she delivered over 500 babies to the women of the community. Horse and buggy was her transportation as she spent her time among the sick. I remember my father (William Jesse Eggleston) telling of his mother, her horse and buggy, her coming and going at all hours of the day or night. Always the welfare of others was her first concern.
A note of interest from A History of Star Valley 1800-1900:
“Medical doctors were few and far between. The settlers had to be resourceful and depended heavily upon the skills of mid-wives and home nurses. Cynthia Hunt Miller, Constance Ann Stephens Eggleston, and Elsie Fluckiger Roberts are names which frequently surface in the early accounts as such women. The risks of long distance emergencies are illustrated in the story of little Alfred Kennington: ‘Alfred was a little boy running barefooted up and down the garden irrigation ditches when something stung him on the instep. Father at once sent for Connie Eggleston, who said she had to have some medicine from the drug store in Montpelier. Frank Bracken, half-brother to Alfred borrowed a little wild black mare from Egglestons and rode to Montpelier in five hours (45 miles), got the medicine and rode back in seven hours on the same mare. Alfred died before Frank was out of sight, but there was no way of stopping him. They never did find out what bit or stung him. He was the first person buried in Afton.”
She was the first of her husband’s three polygamous wives, the other two were Mariett Orantha Forley, married July 11,1879, and Anna Christine Johnson, married February 10, 1881.
My Personal Thoughts about Constant
The family story I knew and what is indicated in the following account is that Constant married Ether McBride after Orson died. It was some time later before I realized that she married Ether McBride in 1904, when Orson was still alive. (Orson died in 1917 in Afton, Wyoming) An obituary and a life sketch given at her funeral also said that she married McBride after Orson’s death. Other relatives told me that she divorced Orson in 1902.
I have not seen documentation for the divorce, though I was told it was for reasons of abandonment or non-support. Descendants of Orson and Constant don’t seem to have the best of feelings about him. Possibly they need to feel justification for her leaving him. The non-support allegation may have been simply legal grounds. Polygamy was illegal long before 1902, but in Wyoming polygamist families were somewhat left alone.
Orson had separate homes for each of his wives. Even if living with one of the other wives, Orson would have been next door and in frequent contact with Constant and her children. It must have been a financial burden to support three families. I have also noticed a pattern of sons of polygamist wives taking care of their mothers, so I wonder if Orson expected his adult sons to care for wives he was not living with. Maybe the fact that Orson did not physically live with Constant and left much of the physical and financial support to her sons was the basis of the non-support claim. Or possibly Constant was just tired of being a polygamist wife. She had known Ether McBride earlier, so I wonder if some contact with him occurred before and encouraged the divorce.
Marriage to Ether McBride
Constant married Ether McBride on September 22, 1904 in the Logan, Utah L. D. S. Temple and resided at American Fork, Utah. There she continued caring for the sick and won the love and respect of all who knew her.
Thaya Eggleston Gilmore included some information in her book, which she indicated was told to Virgie Stoffers by Mary Jane McBride Cunningham, daughter of Ether McBride, on September 7, 1958 at her home in American Fork, Utah:
“After grandmother Eggleston’s marriage, the family lived at Eden, Utah. They lived about a block from the Ether McBride family. The two families were very good friends and a great bond was formed between them. When grandfather took his third wife, Anne Christine Johnson, a young Norwegian [she was Danish] girl of 17, grandmother took her into her own home and shared all she had with her. Teaching her how to cook, sew, and care for a family. Sharing with her when her own belongings were very scant and small.
“Later after the family moved to Star Valley a man hurt his leg very bad while working in the logs. Grandmother realized the need for something to be done right away, and amputated the man’s leg and dressed it very carefully and continued caring for it, thus saving the man’s life. Later when a doctor finally saw the leg, he was amazed at the care that had been given it and declared that it had received professional care. Grandmother was a registered nurse. She continued her practice long after she left the valley and resided at American Fork.
“After her husband’s death and the death of Mrs. McBride, she married their neighbor of years gone by, 22 Sept. 1904, a respected citizen, Ether McBride of American Fork, Utah, and spent many happy years with him. His family received her as one of their own and she was loved dearly by all of them. She won the love of all who knew her.
“Grandmother treated a lot with different herbs and other natural means. Seeming to have an uncanny knowledge in the care of the sick. When she attended at the birth of a child, she not only took care of the mother but also took care of the family and seen that everything was taken care of, very often for very small wages, if any. She was very apt in the capacity of a nurse and was the means of bringing into this life some 500 babies.
“Regardless of what grandmother was doing or how old her dress, it was always spotless. She was very neat and clean and always loved order in everything she did. She was a good neighbor and a faithful Latter-day Saint all her life and remained so to the end.”
Death of Constant
Constant McBride died July 16, 1926 at American Fork, Utah.
“Tributes Paid Pioneer at Final Rites”
Last respects were paid to Mrs. Constant Ann Stephens Eggleston McBride, Pioneer of this city, Sunday July 18, at the funeral services held in the First Ward Chapel. Bishop James T. Gardner was in charge. The opening song “When First the Glorious Light of Faith,” was rendered by the Chorus. Maurice Madsen pronounced the invocation, followed by a song “I Need Thee Every Hour”. The Biographical sketch of Mrs McBride was given by E. J. Seastrand who also told of the high esteem in which she was held by all who know her and or her untiring service for the sick and afflicted, her unselfish labors in his immediate family during their sickness. H.S. Rasmussen spoke telling of her worth as a true neighbor and friend. A vocal duet was sung by James Martin of Salt Lake, and Mary Hansen of Payson, entitled “Sometime, Somewhere.” William S. Robinson, the next speaker consoled the family and explained the resurrection and his assurance of Mrs. McBride’s salvation through her faithful life of unselfish service to her family and to all mankind. Bishop James T. Gardner in closing thanked all who had assisted during the death and at the funeral services in any way and confirmed the remarks of the former speaker and added his knowledge of Mrs. McBride’s worth in the Ward and in his immediate family. The benediction was pronounced by D. W. Jones.
Interment was made in the city cemetery where the grave was dedicated by Dan Stephens of Ogden. The profuse floral offerings and large attendance bespoke the sympathy of the townspeople and the high esteem in which Mrs. McBride and the McBride family is held.
This biography was originally written by Virgie Eggleston Stoffers; edited in 2003 by other descendants, with minor editing by the author of this blog. It is included in the book The Joseph Eggleston Family, by Karen Eggleston Stark, p. 418-420.