Mary Ann Ellis Cragun’s Breast Cancer

I often wonder how women dealt with breast cancer years ago.  How was it treated?  How did they cope?  Were there ways to cure it?  My own grandma, Ruby Smuin died of breast cancer weeks after I was born.

I am so grateful for modern medicine and the doctors and technicians who have helped me walk away from having breast cancer.  What a gift I’ve been given!


I found this very interesting cancer story on FamilySearch about Mary Ann Ellis Cragun, mother of the wife (also named Mary Ann Cragun) of LeRoy Barker (Roy), who was a brother to my Great-grandma, Harriet Matilda Barker (my Grandpa Frank Smuin’s mother).   Mary Ann Ellis Cragun lived to be 70 years old.

Mary Ann Ellis Cragun – Cancer
About 1892, Mary Ann [when she was about 37 years old] had cancer in her left breast caused through falling with a box of peaches years before and striking her breast on the box. The cancer had grown so large and pained so much that Mary Ann and Wilford E. would go to the Temple in Logan and spend weeks at the Temple, at which time the pain would be relieved. When Wilford E. was on his mission in West Weber County, the pain got so bad the Mary Ann went to see Dr. Williams to see if he could do anything to help her. Dr. Williams shook his head, he was afraid it had gone into her vitals, and he would not attempt to cut it out.

Mary Ann had heard of wonderful things a Dr. Riggs of Provo had done. The Church Authorities were contacted about Mary Ann’s cancer and they requested that Wilford be released so that he could go with Mary Ann to Provo, but on learning of the marriage of Mary Ann Cragun (daughter of Wilford and Mary Ann) to Roy Barker they were thinking of getting married, President Wilford Woodruff suggested they get married and to take care of the children so Wilford E. could finish his mission. Mary Ann made arrangements for her daughter Mary Ann and her new husband Roy Barker to watch the younger children so that she could go to Provo and be treated.

President Woodruff promised mother that she would get well, so they took the advice and Mary Ann went to Provo and the doctor would put a poultice on her breast. It would draw out the cancer and it hurt so bad that Mary Ann would walk the floor while it was on, and then she got so week all she could do was rock. It drew the roots out. The cancer looked like a big spider, as Mormon Cragun remembered. She had no problems long term from this.

Source: A Type Study of Community backgrounds for Education of Pleasant View, Weber County, Utah, Supplementary Volume 1, by Earl Budge Cragun, 1953, page 55, from Mormon Cragun’s history about them.

Mary Ann Ellis Cragun was born 3 August 1855 in England.  She died 19 March 1926 in Pleasant View, Utah.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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