Nancy Ella McNees was born March 4, 1852 in Salisbury, Tennessee. She was the youngest of twelve children born to Richard NcNees and Nancy Johnson. She was born into a fairly wealthy family who owned a large plantation with cotton being their main crop. When she was three months old, her father died, and at age five, her mother died. The family property was sold and the money divided among the children. Guardians were appointed for the younger children, with Nancy, and two of her sisters, going to live with her older sister and her husband. One of her sisters died shortly thereafter.
Then came the civil war. Her family had moved to Des Arc, Arkansas shortly before the war began, and as southerners, they supported the Confederacy. Several of her brothers joined the army, along with two brothers-in-law---including the husband of her sister she was staying with. Nancy was about eleven years old when the war started, and in her life story she states, “I remember very trying and dangerous times” (Our Golding Heritage, p. 4).
Northern army soldiers, “Yanks,” as they were called by the Southern folks, camped about six miles from the NcNees home. In times of war, behavior that is not condoned during peace time, seems to become common place. Nancy recalled, “Drunken soldiers often came to the house and bothered the girls. Through their treachery, they nearly caused starvation in the land. They destroyed everything we had. A crowd of them would come into our yard and shoot our chickens and pigs. They even killed our milk cows and left the small children without milk. They would then cut off forty or fifty pounds of the choicest part of the meat and leave the rest where it fell. They even took their pocket knives and slit great holes in the cloth on our loom that we had carded, spun, and woven. I could relate many more such things but will not. All my life I have thought the Civil War a cruel and unjust war. But in later years, I have decided that it must have been right and just or the Lord would not have permitted it. . . I was young, and it is hard for me to remember the particulars of the ending of the war or the assassination of President Lincoln. I do know that of my brothers who went to war, five never came back. Whether they were killed in battle or not, we never knew, but we never heard from them again” (Heritage, p. 5-7).
Nancy continues, “An orphan misses the happy, carefree pleasures of this life when deprived of mother and father. My childhood was sad, but, to a certain extent, it was made up to me when I became acquainted and fell in love with my life’s partner, Sebron Golding” (Heritage, p. 9). They met at a revival meeting, corresponded for a while, and married 23 March 1871. She stated, “I was troubled a great deal after my marriage about religion. We belonged to the Methodist Church and had been married by a Methodist minister, but I didn’t feel satisfied with what that church taught. . . After our first baby came, I fretted more than ever. I was desirous that my baby should be brought up in the right church. . . . But I was not satisfied, so one night in my prayers, I asked the Lord to show me in some way if I belonged to the right church. That night I dreamed of seeing a lot of people being baptized in a way I had never seen before. . . . I was anxious the next day to learn which church baptized in that way. . . . I was very disappointed to learn that none of the churches baptized in that way, because I was sure that my dream was an answer to my prayer” (Heritage, p. 9-10).
“Then, sometime later, two Mormon elders came to our home. Their names were John McCalister and Henry Boyle. They talked to me about the Mormon Church and explained their principles to me. When they told me about baptism by immersion, I was sure theirs was the right church. . . . we all went to the river again and were baptized into the Pleasant Prairie Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have never been sorry one minute, and I have received many blessings in my church” (Heritage, p. 10).
Many people joined the Church in the Des Arc area, and like many in their day, desired to “come to Zion.” Nancy, her husband, and two small children, left with twenty six other families in April 1877 and traveled by wagon across the southern prairie states, finally arriving in New Mexico. The journey was filled with trials and afflictions. There was a lack of food with hunger making tempers run high. Death took several members of the wagon train, including a new baby of Nancy’s in-laws. Her oldest daughter, Ada age four, was run over by the wagon resulting in a broken leg above the knee. During a dust storm, the wagon train took shelter in an Indian village. One of the Indians had red blotches, and ten days later, small pox broke out among the wagon train members. They weren’t allowed into settlements, several people died, and they were delayed in New Mexico for awhile. Some of the travelers ended up staying in New Mexico, but most continued on to Arizona. By the time they arrived, they were destitute and some were on foot. Most of the group stayed in Arizona, but Nancy and her family moved north to Utah.
After moving around to several different locations in Southern Utah, they settled in Cainsville. Life there was difficult and hard, and they were unable to work out a life’s substance there. In 1902, they left and moved north, eventually moving to Wellington, Utah. Here Nancy spent her remaining years as the wife of a civic-minded husband who was also a patriarch at the time of his death. In 1909, she and Sebron were called on a mission to work in the Manti Temple for two years. Her husband died in 1925, and Nancy lived as a widow for another nine years, dying on 11 December 1934. She was buried next to her husband in the Wellington Cemetery.
Nancy had nine children, eight who lived to adulthood, married in the temple and were active in their community. Today, her family numbers over two thousand, most of whom are active members of the Church. Through all the trials of her young life, the troubles later on, and the afflictions of life common to her time and place, Nancy put her trust in God and remained true and faithful to her faith. She left a great legacy to her descendants and is truly one of the great mothers of Zion, who with her husband, will stand triumphant at the last day.
“And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in they youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day. . . . And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; . . . yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me” (Alma 36: 3, 27).
Barton Golding, editor