Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.


The raising of silkworms to the production of silk was a subject that was very dear to the heart of Pres. Brigham Young, and almost from the first settlement of the Territory he had advocated it. He planted mulberry trees and established a cocoonery on his farm in quite an early day. Silkworms were raised at Santa Clara before they were at St. George and I remember seeing a shawl and a pair of ladies mitts that had been knotted by Sister Lydia Young, from silk raised and reeled by her mother, Sister Lydia Knight McClellen, mother of Jessie Knight, whose home was at Santa Clara. In the spring of 1875 Sister Caroline Jackson sent for eggs and raised some silk worms. She interested my mother, who lived neighbors to her, and she took some of the eggs and raised some worms. I well remember it, as I happened in just as they were hatching and she said, "Don't you want a few Loty?" I replied that I had no place to put them (as we had only one room of our home completed.) But she said, "Here take this, it will give you a chance to practice raising them and will not require much room." As she spoke she handed me a small mulberry leaf about an inch in diameter with what appeared to be a few tiny worms on it. I took them home and began feeding them. And they moulted, or cast their skins, which they did about every ten days they seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. My husband advised feeding them to the chickens, but my curiosity prevailed, as I wanted to see them spin their cocoons, but by the time they were ready for that, they covered a space of more than a yard square, and seemed to be insatiable as to appetite, devouring such a quantity of leaves that I could scarcely supply them, having a baby to care for, and not having leaves of my own, having to go to the neighbors to gather them. A number of people raised a few but it was more out of curiosity than anything else.

In the year 1877 Sister Stringham came from Salt Lake City and bought silkworm eggs for the purpose of starting the silk industry in St. George. My mother, Ann C. Woodbury became greatly interested, and she, with many others, worked hard to make it a success.

When Utah became a state, the Legislature established a silk commission and appropriated funds to be used as a bounty, 25 cents per lb. to be paid for all cocoons raised. My Mother was appointed head of the commissions, and worked faithfully to promote the industry. Reels were purchased and teachers hired to instruct the people in reeling the silk. Classes were formed and a great deal of silks was reeled. Several hundred yards of silk were woven on hand looms, but it was very difficult to secure services of skilled workmen who understood the business, and lack of capital prevented the purchase of suitable machinery. The bounty was withdrawn about 1905, the commission was discontinued, the Legislature feeling that if the industry could not become self-supporting in that length of time, that is was not likely to prove profitable, as a consequence the industry languished. A great many cocoons had been grown in Washington County and quite a surplus paid out yearly for bounty during the life of the commission, sometimes a market could be found for the cocoons, but not always and people became discouraged as the profits were often uncertain. -Eleanor C. W. Jarvis

Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.


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