Mary Jane "Mamie" McRae was born 23 May 1876 in Charleston, Wasatch County, Utah. She was the second daughter and sixth child of Joseph and Maria Taylor McRae, and granddaughter of Alexander McRae who was with the Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. Her father was brought to Liberty Jail to be blessed by the Prophet and he gave him his name.
Her grandmother, Eunice Fitzgerald McRae, made many a visit to the Jail to carry messages and notes of importance, hidden or sewed into her clothes, which the Church Authorities had given her to carry to the Prophet, who was in chains. Many a time notes were also carried in the baby's clothing and also food was sent to them in this manner. The testimony that her grandfather received from the close association with the Prophet, and his spiritual power and influence, was always a guide in his life.
"Mamie's" father attended a Conference in Salt Lake City, planning to buy lumber and return with it to complete their home, but instead, he returned with a "Call" from President Brigham Young to a thirteen-year mission to pioneer Arizona. Her mother's dream of living in Utah, the land of Zion, was crushed when her father returned home with this "call." She could vision a land only of desert and rattlesnakes, desolate and lonely.
Through their faithful willingness to answer the "call", they secured heavy serviceable wagons and made preparations for the journey southward. The Company left Utah 17 January 1877, under the leadership of Daniel W. Jones as Presiding Officer. Many Jane was eight months old.
On 6 March 1877, they arrived at Fort McDowell crossing on the Salt River, and crossed the river where the Lehi Ward now stands. It was here that Mary Jane took her first steps.
Here they met lots of Indians who soon became too friendly. They always wanted to pick Mary Jane up. This worried her mother as she was afraid they might steal her. One day as an Indian woman visited their camp, she gave the baby a little basket she had woven. This is still in the family's posession.
They lived in tents with brush tops, drinking water from the river until a well could be dug. They took out a canal and raised crops of corn, sugar cane and garden vegetables in abundance. They remained here for nearly six months.
President Young wrote that he would like at least part of the Company to go further south and settle on the San Pedro River, so that others would follow and in time establish colonies in Mexico. Seven families left Lehi the last of August, traveling at night on account of the intense heat and feeling less danger from the Indians. They arrived 29 November 1877, and established a settlement near what is now called St. David. They camped in tents on the west side of the river close to where the Apache Powder Plant now stands. They planted gardens and got water from the springs nearby. When Mary Jane was old enough to be weaned, all the milk they gave her was goat's milk which she did not relish. A man living near who had lots of goats, gave them goat meat to eat but was thought to be very cruel as he would throw the goats from one pen to another.
A rock fort was built where they lived for protection against the Apache Indians. Later, her father built a two-room adobe house where they homesteaded for a number of years.
At the age of three, Mary Jane made her first public appearance and was a great lover of poetry all her life. She was called on to recite for all social gatherings and could give appropriate readings for any occasion. It should be remembered that at this time there were no pianos, no radios, or televisions, and the only means of entertainment were to use their own talents. As she and her sister were the only girls in the family, they had to spend nearly all their time helping their mother with the household duties, consequently had to commit their poetry to memory while performing these duties.
One day while all of the older members of the family were attending a meeting at the Fort, her mother sent Mary Jane for her father as she was about to give birth to a child. It seemed a long half-mile to a child of less than six years of age, who had to go through a field of sagebrush and mesquite, never knowing at what moment an Indian might attack her. This baby was named Parley Taylor; "Parley" after Parley P. Pratt, and "Taylor" for his mother's maiden name.
On 3 May 1887, at the age of eleven and while she was at school, there was an earthquake. It was at recess time and most of the children were playing on the east side of the building. The whole front of the building fell and many cracks were made all the way through, so it was unsafe for school to be held. No one was injured, but all of them certainly had a terrible fright. Mary Jane remembered this incident all of her life.
In November of 1888, when she was twelve years of age, her mother took her as baby-tender on a trip to her old home in Utah to visit relatives she had not seen for twelve years. Milton was the baby and her brother Charles was not very well. This was really a thrill as it was her first train ride. They had to take a feather bed and bedding, and also a basket of food to last for the four-day journey. One of her fondest memories of this visit was the apple cider and cheese which they had at the home of her grandmother. One day her brother Charles, when addressing her, called her "Mamie", which was her nickname. Her grandmother scolded her, saying: "Don't you let them call you "Mamie", it's a mean, nasty, ugly name." Regardless of this experience, she was known by this name all her life. They visited there until the last of March.
When a young girl, she loved to dance and their home was the center of all entertainment as it was the largest in the Valley. She often told of rolling up the hand-made carpet, sweeping out the straw that was used for a padding. Young and old alike would promenade and square dance to the music of the fiddle of Jim Christensen. After the dances were over, fresh straw had to be put down on the floor and the carpet tacked back in place again.
When she was seventeen, her father decided to move to the Gila Valley in order to give his children better advantages in school. They arrived in Safford on 20 July 1893, and stayed there until December. Then they moved further down the river to the town of Thatcher. A home was built and the children started to school.
Mary Jane attended the Gila Academy in Thatcher, where she took a teaching course and also taught classes. She was respected and honored by her students; adopted a love for her teachers, Karl G. Maeser, Jr., and John F. Nash. At this time her mother became very ill as she had been in poor health for a long time, so Mary Jane had a great responsibility with teaching and assuming all the household duties.
She was a faithful Church worker and was well loved as a Y.L.M.I.A. President. It was while directing a play for the Mutual that she met her husband-to-be, John Sidney McGuire. After a short courtship, he left for the Southern States on a mission. They corresponded during this time and after his return, they were married 28 November 1900. They made their own wedding cake together, she adding the ingredients and he doing the stirring, which took two days to prepare and bake. After the ceremony, she discarded her wedding dress for a house dress and apron, as she still had the responsibility of her mother's care, which she assumed until her mother's death on April 19. They continued living in her father's home until January of 1902, having the care of her father and younger brothers.
After their first child, Clare, was born January 26, they moved to Bisbee where he was employed in the mines. While living there, they saw the need of an organization of the Church, so Sunday School was held in their home.
Four more children were born to them: Sidney Kilby, Florence, Louis Taylor and Ellen. Not only did she have the responsibility of her five children, but also that of her brothers, as they had come to seek employment in the mines.
They lived in Bisbee and South Bisbee for ten years, then moved to Pomerene, Cochise County, Arizona where 160 acres of land were homesteaded. Here four more children were born: Annie, Florette, David and Mary, the latter two dying in infancy.
Few women accomplished more work, both inside and out, than Mary Jane. Cooking had to be done on a wood stove, washings were scrubbed on a board (using her own homemade soap) as there was no electricity in the Valley at this time. Water was hauled in barrels for eight years from the neighbor's a mile away, until her husband dug an artesian well; even then the water had to be carried from the well for all household purposes. The days were never too long for her to work for the family.
Although being burdened down with the cares and duties of motherhood, she always found time to serve in the Church, teaching in the various organizations and acting as counselor and president of the Relief Society for many years. In all of these duties, she was always dependable and faithful in her work.
She was set apart to work among the sick, make burial clothes and lay out the dead. Her husband, who was counselor to Bishop R.L. MCall, had the responsibility of making the coffins as there was no mortuaries in the Valley at this time. She would always assist him, lining the coffins and making clothing, sitting up night after night with the sick, and even at the services she would be called on to speak. The small community learned to love and depend on her for her faithfulness and untiring efforts.
She underwent many of the hardships of the early pioneers, being thrifty and economizing in every way she could in feeding and clothing her family. Although her home was teeming with children of her own, she never made any other child seem unwanted. She even cared for her brother's children after his wife passed away. It was a joy for neighbor children and nieces and nephews to go to their home. Her kindness always made them feel welcome to help themselves.
Although many hardships were endured, she always managed to make the best of it, always having a cheerful outlook on life. She had many experiences to prove this. They had to go to the nearby town of Benson, three miles away, by horse and buggy to do their shopping. Just before entering town, they had to cross the railroad tracks. One day, as she and her daughter Florence drove into town, the horses had just stepped over the tracks when the tongue dropped down, leaving the buggy stalled. A passenger train was fast approaching, so she screamed for help and some men near by, seeing their plight, grabbed the tongue of the buggy and pulled them to safety just as the train sped by. When she returned, she laughed at this experience.
Another time she had a money order which had to be sent off that day, so she walked the three miles to Benson hurriedly as the Post Office closed at 5 p.m. She arrived at the office exhausted, just as the window was closed in her face. Having known the postmaster for years, she tried to appeal to him, but all was in vain as he refused to send off her order. Her life was filled with similar experiences.
On 3 June 1929, the family sold their home to Walter Fenn of Pomerene and moved to Mesa, Arizona, where the children could have better advantages and they all could work in the Temple which had been recently dedicated.
Mary Jane devoted the rest of her life to doing genealogical work; her interests were not only for her family, but in that of her husband's as well. Through her efforts, a great research work was done and thousands of names were cleared for Temple Work. She also assisted in these ordinances.
After a full life of service to her family, the Church and her associates, she passed away 17 January 1954, in Mesa, Arizona and was buried there. January 17 was the date that one of her great missions in life began, when they left the Great Salt Lake Valley to answer Brigham Young's "call" to settle Arizona; and also, when her call came to leave this earth, it was her mother's 109th birthday anniversary. Her passing was mourned by all who knew and loved her, but her life will ever remain a sweet memory and benediction.