Sometimes Heaven Smiles Down on Us: Elizabeth Degen Bushman, My 3rd Great Grand-Mother


It’s Memorial Day Sunday, and this afternoon after church, I cut some beautiful flowers from our yard and headed to Lehi, about 20 minutes from here, to visit the graves of many of my beloved Bushman and Smuin ancestors who are buried in the Lehi City Cemetery.

One hundred and forty years ago this week, Elizabeth Degen Bushman departed this life.  I sat by her grave, and thought about those fitting words on her headstone:  “departed this life,” which description feels right to me.  We don’t just “die.”  We depart for another place, where we carry on.

I enjoyed my visit with Elizabeth today, thinking about her life as a mid-wife in Lehi 100 years ago, wondering which of all the lives represented in that cemetery, she brought into the world.  Her grand-daughter, Mary Elizabeth Bushman Smith wrote of her:  “She lived a most useful life, was beloved by everyone in Lehi, and her great faith [was] an inspiration to all who knew her.  In her later life Elizabeth Degen Bushman became the good Samaritan of every village they lived in. She was an exceptionally gifted nurse and was renowned as the loving, successful midwife of the town of Lehi. Because of her reputation and affection, it was said she served as midwife at the birth of almost every baby born in Lehi during her life there. Nearly every family in Lehi had an Elizabeth named in memory of her.”

From Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 6, p.485-486
Elizabeth Degen Bushman was born September 12, 1802, in Holstein, Basselland, Switzerland. Her father was John Casper Degen. Her mother died in childbirth when Elizabeth was four years of age and a year later her father married again. Six children were born of this union. In the fall of 1816 Mr. Degen brought his family to America.

Elizabeth was married to Martin Bushman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1827. He was the son of Abraham and Esther Banks Bushman. They made their home in Lancaster until 1840 and during the years seven children were born to them. That year the Mormon missionaries came to their home and brought the gospel to them. Feeling their teachings were from the Lord they accepted them and soon moved with other Saints to Nauvoo, Illinois. After the exodus of the Mormons from that city the Bushmans went to Hiland Grove, Ohio and here they planted crops and stayed a number of years. In the fore part of 1851 they arrived in Salt Lake City.

One week later the family made its way to Lehi and there Elizabeth began her service as midwife in the community. She brought three hundred and fifty seven babies into the world and the most she ever received was $2.50, for more than two weeks work. Most of the time she walked on these errands of mercy but sometimes she rode on an old hayrack. The last visit she made was during a rainstorm. A cold developed and she never got out of bed again. She was ill six weeks and then was called home May 21, 1878, at the age of seventy-six years.


The account in The Bushman Family:  Originally of Pennsylvania and the Rocky Mountain States by Newbern Butt, 1956 gives the following information:

Martin was an excellent farmer, but the expulsion from Nauvoo and the hard journey across Iowa had left him with almost nothing to continue the journey to Utah. He worked out again in 1849 to earn clothing for the family and returned in the winter. All of the land available was put in crops in the spring of 1850 so that they would be assured of food for the planned trip to join the Saints in Utah in 1851. Jacob and Sarah went to Missouri in order to earn whatever they could to help, and Sarah taught school in the winter. They felt that they were greatly blessed when they were able to start across the plains with a good supply of food, a wagon, two yoke of oxen and two yoke of cows. The trip across the plains was uneventful and their food just barely lasted until they reached Utah.

The Bushmans stayed in Salt Lake City for one week, and then went to Lehi where their old missionary friend, Elisha Davis lived. There were only 30 families living in Lehi at that time. At this place they were welcomed to the use of a vacant log hut which belonged to Abraham Hatch. Martin and Jacob helped with the first harvest in Lehi, and later cut grass for their cattle from the common pasture of the lower field. The following spring he bargained with Hatch for a farm, and built himself a new log home where he lived a short time before he built his adobe home in which they lived until his death. In 1854 he helped built the mud wall around the town.

After visiting my Bushman and Smuin relatives at the cemetery and after driving down every lane (because it was simply so beautiful to be there), I headed home, thinking about Martin and Elizabeth.  Several years ago I found the home they built in Lehi and took some photos of it.   Instead of getting back on the freeway, my car headed to the southwest side of town and I tried to find my way to their home.   I pulled over to look up a photo of it I’d posted here on Sept 12, 2013.  With that photo in my palm and a hand on the steering wheel, I prayed that I might find and recognize the home.  I remembered it was on a north west corner of an intersection, but I wasn’t sure where.  I drove up and down quiet neighborhood streets, trying to feel my way there.

Then suddenly I looked up and found myself right in front of the Bushman home!  I pulled over and grabbed my camera, hoping to photograph it without intruding on whoever might live there.  The home looked like it had been empty for some time.  The grass was long and the windows looked darkened.  I wanted to look in the windows to see the interior, but as I approached the front door, I heard voices–there were several teen-aged boys inside.

Bushman Home, Lehi

Retreat, or be bold?  I decided to be brave.  I held my phone with an old photo of the home I found in a book on John Bushman (a son) and the ones I had taken several years ago in my hand and knocked on the door.  A young man answered and I asked if I might take some photos of their home–explaining that my third-great-grandparents built it long ago. I showed him the photos in my phone and boldly stepped inside (I so badly wanted to be inside Elizabeth’s home, even if for just a moment).  I quickly saw that they were in the middle of moving in and unpacking boxes and furniture.  I glanced around the rooms, noticing the beautiful dark woodwork and trim, the original wood floors, the stuccoed walls.  This was Elizabeth’s home and I was in it!

Martin & Elizabeth Bushman Home, Lehi (32)In the next few minutes, I explained who I was and how I was related to their house, telling them I’d just come from the cemetery, visiting these ancestors who had built it. Than, bravely, I asked if I might just stand there a minute and look.  When I showed them my phone with the photos, the mom, Ellora, noticed the name on my blog:  Ann Laemmlen Lewis.  “Is that your maiden name?” she asked, pointing to it.  “Yes,” I said, “Laemmlen.” She looked up at me, then she asked, “Do you have a brother who was a Bishop a few years ago in Cedar Hills?”  “I do,” I replied, to which she exclaimed, “He performed my marriage!”

We became friends quickly after that.  I was praying the whole time that they might let me walk through the home, and then she asked if I’d like to do just that.  She told me she and her family are renting the home from a couple named Candis and Andy, who own and restore old pioneer homes.  I told them I have information about the Bushman family they might enjoy knowing and she gave me their contact information.  Then we took a tour.  I was thrilled, almost to tears.  We went up the old steep original stairs and down a long hall on the very back of the home, going into each bedroom and the bathroom off that hallway.  We went out on the balcony over the front door.  They showed me the attic and the original beams and roof from inside.

Martin & Elizabeth Bushman Home, Lehi (10) Martin & Elizabeth Bushman Home, Lehi (27)

We went outside and they pointed out the 2 “original” lilac bushes in the front and back yards.  I was quite overwhelmed with joy.  In the cemetery, as I thought about Martin and Elizabeth, I wondered, “Do you know I’m here” and “Do you know how much I love you?” This miracle, of walking through their home today was an answer to that prayer.  They opened their door for me today!

Below is a photo I took of the front room, looking south.  Ellora let me take lots of photos, but then she did something even better.  By the time I arrived home, she had sent me a text with a link to photos Candis  posted as they showed the home for rent.  I will include some of those photos below and post all of them in an album on FB (link below).  What a thrill it is to see this home restored to it’s glory!  It has been the best Memorial Day Ever, and we still have another day to go.  I was thrilled today.  And grateful–so grateful to feel Elizabeth’s love for me in a very real way as it felt like she welcomed me right into her home.

Martin & Elizabeth Bushman Home, Lehi (3) Martin & Elizabeth Bushman Home, Lehi (30)

Here are photos of the home restored:

Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 54     Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 52

Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 47     Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 46Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 49  Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 59Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 01 Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 02 Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 06    Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 07      Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 23Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 12      Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 16           Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 44Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 22  Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 26 Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 30     Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 31       Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 32 Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 34     Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 40Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 37        Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 38        Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 24       Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 25 Bushman Home, Lehi 2015 39Martin & Elizabeth Bushman Home, Lehi (7)

There are more interior photos on my Facebook site for Descendants of Charlotte Turley Bushman:

If you are a Bushman or Turley family member, please send a request to join the group.  I post interesting family information there from time to time.

Here is the street address of our ancestral Bushman home, if you’d like to drive by:Martin & Elizabeth Bushman Home, Lehi (29)

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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5 Responses to Sometimes Heaven Smiles Down on Us: Elizabeth Degen Bushman, My 3rd Great Grand-Mother

  1. Bethany Jensen says:

    Elizabeth Degen is my 4th great grandmother and we named our son Degen after her. Thanks for posting this, I love learning more about her!

  2. Becky ( Bushman) Shields says:

    My niece Bethany Jensen sent me this link. She said ” I would love it ” and I do !!! This is so wonderful and greatly appreciated. I too have been to the Lehi Cemetery and visited their sacred graves. I have come to realize and appreciate in very small way how very difficult it was for my direct Ancestor John Bushman and his family to move to Joseph City, Ariz. and sell everything so they would have nothing to return or come back for. I have come to realize you can’t sell your FAMILY or connections and there would always be people and loved ones to come back to. John was the ONLY one from his family to leave LEHI as I understand it. He had been in partners with his family ( brother Martin I believe ) and sold his shares to leave. He left beautiful, productive land in Lehi to go to the desert or Ariz. He was a FAITHFUL, OBEDIENT man who honored his CALL from his Leaders . I traditionally take the Joseph City exit as I would go to Snowflake, Az. to visit my parents Nephi and Maxine Bushman. We have a very rich Heritage of which I am very grateful for and value. It sounds like you will be making GREAT SACRIFICES as well as you answer the CALL to serve as Mission President soon. I pray for Temple and Mission Presidents daily. They have a tender spot in my heart. My parents served 6 Missions and were in the Aba Nigeria Temple Presidency when it opened. Thank you again for sharing this wonderful experience so that I could walk beside you , Elizabeth and her son John and family who I have no doubt LOVED THIS HOME. I would love to visit this home. Thank you for the pictures, esp. the address . I would love to take your course on line as well. Best wishes on your new ADVENTURE.
    Gratefully yours,
    Becky (Bushman) Shields

  3. Roger Grant Bushman says:

    Please sign me up.

    • Hi Cousin! Click on the FOLLOW button on the blog if you’d like to know when I publish something here. Another place you might like is a Facebook group I started for Descendants of Charlotte Turley Bushman. I post things about Charlotte & Jacob’s descendants there from time to time.

  4. Pingback: John Bushman b. 7 June 1943 | Ann's Stories

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