Miriam Angeline Works was born on June 7, 1806 to Asa Works and Abigail Marks. She grew up in Aurelius, New York and was the second of 9 children. Her father, Asa Works, enlisted as a Revolutionary War soldier under General George Washington at age 11, where he was no stranger to privation and hard labor. The life skills he gained in his youth certainly helped him in his later years as he joined the Saints in the persecutions in Illinois (1).
Miriam was 18 years old when she married 23 year old Brigham Young. She is described as being gentle and having beautiful, blonde, wavy hair and blue eyes (2). Brigham was working at the pail factory near the Works’ home. His employer, Charles Parks, was a family friend. “Brigham and Miriam became acquainted, he walked her home, they sang together and discussed life. At the age of twenty-three Brigham borrowed a horse and carriage from William Hayden’s father, rented a house up the road, and married Miriam” (3). They were married October 8, 1824 in the local tavern and joined the Methodist church that same year. They led a simple, hardworking life together. Brigham supported the family with his work as a carpenter.
In 1829, Brigham, Miriam and their daughter, Elizabeth moved to Mendon, New York, just 15 miles from the home of Joseph Smith. He built them a home and woodworking shop on his father’s property next to the stream in which he and Miriam would later be baptized. Their daughter, Vilate, was born the next year.
Brigham and Miriam joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the year 1832. Brigham was first to enter the waters of baptism in April. It was a cold, snowy day (5b) Although she was also eager to join the Church of Jesus Christ, Miriam chose to wait an additional three weeks to be baptized on May 1. Perhaps the idea of waiting until it was a little warmer was appealing to her.
Soon after her baptism, Miriam contracted “consumption,” better known today as tuberculosis.
When Miriam got sick, much of the responsibility for caring for the home and their two daughters fell to Brigham. “As she became progressively more bedridden, he regularly prepared breakfast for the family, dressed his daughters, cleaned up the house, and carried his wife to the rocking chair by the fireplace and left her there until he could return in the evening, when he cooked supper, got his family into bed, and finished the household chores… Years later, he teasingly boasted that he could beat most of the women in the community at housekeeping” (4).
Miriam died at age 26, 8 Sept 1832. Elizabeth was 7 and Vilate was 2. “‘In her expiring moments,’ Brigham says in his history, ‘she clapped her hands and praised the Lord and called upon Brother Kimball and all around to praise the Lord’” (5b).
Following her death, Elizabeth and Vilate were taken in by Brigham’s long-time friend, Heber C Kimball and his family. Brigham gave away almost all he had and left to begin preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ (5b).
Susa Young Gates and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Life Story of Brigham Young (1930), 19
Brigham Young: The Man and His Work by Preston Nibley