1841 - 1928 (86 years) Submit Photo / Document
Set As Default Person
||SMITH, Josephine Donna |
||10 Mar 1841
||Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, United States
||29 Feb 1928
||Berkeley, Alameda, California, United States
||Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, Alameda, California, United States
||28 Oct 1932
||Reviewed on FS |
||Joseph Smith Sr and Lucy Mack Smith
||19 Aug 2021 |
||SMITH, Don Carlos, b. 25 Mar 1816, Norwich, Windsor, Vermont, United States d. 7 Aug 1841, Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, United States (Age 25 years) |
||COOLBRITH, Agnes Moulton, b. 11 Jul 1811, Scarborough, Cumberland, Maine, United States d. 26 Dec 1876, Oakland, Alameda, California, United States (Age 65 years) |
||30 Jul 1835
||Kirtland, Geauga, Ohio, United States
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
||CARSLEY, Robert Bruce, b. 6 Jun 1833, New Bedford, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States d. 14 Aug 1905, Manhattan, New York, New York (Age 72 years) |
||21 Apr 1858
||Los Angelas, Los Angelas, California, United States
||Yes, date unknown
| ||1. CARSLEY, b. 1861, Los Angelas, Los Angelas, California, United States d. Bef 1865 (Age < 3 years)|
||24 Jan 2022 |
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
- Ina Coolbrith, celebrated California Poet laureate, 1814-1828, was born 10 March 1841, in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. Her father, Don Carlos Smith, died of pneumonia in August 1841, when she was about six months old. Her mother, Agnes Coolbrith Smith, left a widow, with two small daughters, Agnes Charlotte, 10, and baby, Josephine, fled the beleaguered city of Nauvoo, in the fall of 1846, with the man who became her second husband, William Pickett. They settled for a time in St. Louis, Missouri, where Ina's twin half-brothers, Don Carlos, and William Pickett Jr., were born in 1847. In 1850, Pickett took his family on west to California.
As a young girl she rode horseback over the Sierras, into California. The family settled in San Bernardino where they struggled to establish a new life, in a new land, living some of the time in Las Angeles, later in San Francisco. William Pickett, Josephine's step-father dreading that persecution would follow them, had insisted his wife never divulge that her first husband had been a brother of the Mormon Church founder, Joseph Smith. Josephine had been named after her Uncle Joseph, but throughout her life she too kept the secret, except for a very few individuals from whom she extracted the promise not to publically divulge her identity.
Young Josephine married Robert Carsley on 3 March 1856, about a week before her seventeenth birthday. For a time she was blissfully happy, however it did not last. Her husband became extremely violent toward her so that she finally moved back to the Pickett's. She suffered much harassment by her enraged husband, and in December 1861, she obtained a divorce. Late in 1861 her poem, "In Memoriam" appeared; the only recognition to its being written by her was the single name, "INA".
Though her poetry contains exquisite phrases with unusual depth of emotion, she revealed very little of her own deepest grief to anyone, never speaking directly of specifics of her troubled life. However, later in her life, when someone wondered about her biography, she is quoted as saying that it was not needed as "it was all in her poems." (p. 73)
Her only child died in early infancy; it is speculated that the poignant lines of her poem, "The Mother's Grief" may have been in reference to that tragic loss, but it is not possible to even date the year of the poem's creation. Here is a short excerpt from this poem:
"To-day no shafts of golden flame
Across the sill are lying;
To-day I call my baby's name,
And hear no lisping replying:
To-day-ah, baby mine, to-day-
God holds thee in His keeping!
And yet I weep, as one pale ray
Breaks, with a fond endeavor,
To where the little restless hands
Are crossed in rest forever!"
Beyond this oblique poem, she left no personal information regarding this child, but from context in this poem, we assume it was a boy.
In a day when divorce was uncommon, Ina felt she needed to make a new start, so she decided to move to San Francisco, change her name, and find employment. Here began her most trying stage of life. She did not go alone, the Picketts, William, her mother, and her fifteen year old half-brothers decided to go along. When Mr. Pickett left the family, not to return, and her sister's husband died, Ina took on the burden of supporting her extended family. Her sister suffered an extended illness which ended in her untimely death at the age of 37. Though Ina was sick herself from exhaustion, anxiety, and sorrow, she met all of her challenges with amazing patience and courage, raising her sisters children, comforting and caring for her aging mother, who also did all she could to comfort her grandchildren in their loss of parents. Ina maintained close association with her half-brothers both of whom died leaving no posterity.
In due time, after her move to San Francisco, she become a much respected librarian in Oakland, a position she held for many years. She worked hard to encourage and establish literary clubs and organizations, serving in many leadership capacities in these organizations. All the while, she continued to produce exquisite prose and poetry, earning needed income by selling her work to various publishing outlets, even while coping with her own failing health. She experimented with poetic styles, always seeking to improve her capacity to convey her often deep messages. She inspired, befriended, mentored and was herself mentored by many noted authors of her day such as Bret Harte, Juaquine Miller, Mark Twain, Jack London and many others.
Ina had a very strong personality and was not shy about expressing her opinions. She made loyal and exciting friends and she also made some enemies. Even those who were annoyed at some of her opinions had to give credit to her for talent in her craft.
In 1915 Ina Coolbrith was recognized by her peers as Poet Laureate of California. This was an honorary title which was finally made official when on 26 April 1919 the following resolution was filed with the California Secretary of State:
Senate concurrent resolution, no. 24-Relatives to Ina Coolbrith of San Francisco, California, being given the honorary title of the Loved laurel-Crowned Poet of California.
WHEREAZE, Ina Coolbrith of San Francisco, California, has brought prominently to the attention of the world the glories and beauties of California's fruits and flowers, its climate, its scenery, its wealth and possibilities, through her many brilliant poems, and has contributed to the high standing of our literature, thereby winning the admiration and gratitude of all loyal Californians, and is truly deserving of our most favorable recognition and mention, therefore be it
RESOLBVED BY THE STATE, THE ASSEMBLY CONCURRING, That Ina Coolbrith be hereby recognized and given the honorary title of the loved Laurel-Crowned Poet of California." (p. 317)
Ina Coolbrith died 29 February 1928, ten days before her eighty-seventh birthday. She was buried beside her mother in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.
Her funeral was attended by two hundred people. Among the mourners was a cousin, J. Winter Smith, who confirmed to those who inquired whether the rumor was true that she was really related to the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith. J. Winter Smith had been a faithful friend and visitor of Ina. He explained that Ina told him that she had promised her mother not to let the relationship be exposed to the public; she said for her own self she would not be adverse to it being known, but because of the promise, the family secret was kept for eighty years. Ina told him, "When I am gone you may tell the world, if you care to." (p. 372)
Ina Coolbrith was the first woman poet laureate in the United States. Many precious manuscripts of her writings and those of her famous friends were destroyed when her home was burned during the famous San Francisco Fire. Fortunately many of her poems may be found by searching online. Reading her poetry is a both refreshing and challenging. Her poetry gave the depth that provokes our revisiting her for the deeper meaning that resides there still. Indeed, she and her poetry are worthy to be remembered and valued.