When Jetta Pearl Stewart was born in Milburn, in 1890, she was seventh in the family of ten. Her father was engaged in farming and a variety of related enterprises and he was determined that his children learn to work. Her mother kept an immaculate house and taught Jetta to wash dishes, draw water from a well, turn a washing machine crank, sweep carpets, mop, dust and iron. She also learned to cook, making chocolate pudding and potato soup as her favorites.
She inherited musical ability from her father’s family. At only age three, while sitting on her grandfather’s lap, she could sing beautifully. Her father recognized her abilities, so when she turned eight, he arranged for her to go to other towns, as far away as 22 miles, and be taught to play the piano.
The town of Milburn purchased a large upright, six-octave organ with dark wood, a mirror and heavy ornamentation. She became the first organist in Milburn when she was nine, watching her father who was the chorister. She had to sit on a book to reach the keys.
Jetta continued her music studies and played a piano solo at Manti for her eighth grade graduation. Then at 14, she went to Provo to attend Brigham Young University where she studied piano, private voice and choir. In her third year she sang a solo, “This Would I Do,” to a student body of 1,600 students.
In a tragic accident in 1908, Jetta lost her beloved father and had to leave school for a year. However, the following year she attended a summer session at the University of Utah and studied to teach primary school. She signed up to teach at Mayfield but was persuaded to cancel her contract and teach third and fourth grades in Elsinore. Her salary was $55 per month and she paid $16 for board and room. She lived with two other fellow teachers.
In Elsinore, she met Chris Marquardson who later became her husband in January of 1911. One of their wedding gifts was the piano her parents purchased when she was 14, a gift from her mother. That piano was used to give piano lessons for 25 cents per hour. If a student couldn’t pay, parents traded baked bread or sewing for the lessons.
Silent movies were held weekly at the Opera House in Elsinore. Jetta played for the movies. The film came in on a train going to Marysvale and would have to be returned to the train station the next day. Jetta never had a preview of the show. She placed a variety of musical selections on the music rack of the piano and tried to match the music to what was showing on the screen.
Her life was filled with music. She was organist for the Elsinore ward for many years. She also played in an orchestra for dances. She often sang or played for funerals—sometimes she was one of the speakers. She participated in programs honoring soldiers leaving for World War I. She was also pivotal in the activities of the Singing Mothers. As an influential and intelligent member of this group, Jetta was given the honor of speaking at the National Federation of Music Clubs Convention in Salt Lake City April 7, 1939.
As South Sevier stake Relief Society president for six years, she was able to go to Salt Lake City for the LDS General Conference. She was extended the privilege of giving the benediction in the LDS Tabernacle Oct. 6, 1938. She was always grateful for this singular opportunity.
Jetta passed away in 1982, but left her three children, LaVon, Max and Joyce, as well as numerous other posterity and friends, a legacy of faith, service and a love of music.