Byam, Susan Mariah Yocom – Obituary

Mrs. Susan Yocum [Yocom] died at the home of her son, Alva, three miles west of town at the advanced age of 79 years, Sunday [December 25, 1909]. She had lived in the valley since 1876. She was loved and esteemed by a host of friends.

The following appeared about three months later:


On Christmas Day, 1909, this good pioneer woman died. She was born on the other side of the continent in hearing of the restless flow of Atlantic’s wave; born in the very heart of education, culture, and refinement; born in the city of Boston, January 26, 1831; to spend her life on the frontier among pioneer people; and finally to die and be buried just over the mountain chain which bars from view Pacific’s ceaseless tide.

Her maiden name was Susan Maria Byam. In early life she moved to Ohio and there she met and married Edwin Yocum; and then and there she joined her love, her hopes, her ambitions, and her life with his.

They wandered westward and finally settled in Kittitas Valley, Washington, in a beautiful place on the banks of Manastash Creek, near where the pellucid waters of that stream join the Yakima River. There they established their permanent home. And there they lived together with their children, until the husband and companion of her early womanhood died.

It was on Wednesday, October 16, 1885, that tender neighbor hands, moved by loving neighbor hearts, softly laid the manly form of Edwin Yocum in the grave just across the brook from the home in which they lived. And there on the same spot, in the old home, Grandma Yocum was living with her youngest son Alva, at the time of her death.

She came to Kittitas Valley with her husband in October, 1876. They came from Puget Sound over the Cascade mountains by way of Snoqualmie Pass. They came on horseback, each of them, husband and wife, with a child riding on behind them. They had two packhorses which carried their bedding and household goods; not very much as compared with the many implements and conveniences of the modern housekeeper, but enough for that sturdy, hopeful, and self-reliant couple as a foundation upon which to build a home worthy of their pioneer class; that character of home from which the loftiest emotions, the best sentiments, and the truest patriotism spring.

She was the mother of eight children. She shrank from no duty of womanhoods, of wife or mother. For seventy-nine long years she met and fulfilled all the demands of her existence. She was one of nature’s heroines. She made no pretense of pharisaic excellence, but modestly and womanly she gladly yielded her exacted contribution to the sum of human good. She recognized no creed and was bound to no dogma or conventionality of church, but her heart shone full with the sunshine spirit of the Great Nazarene Peasant, and she recognized the hand of her Creator in every flower and blade of grass, and she saw the smile of God in every star.

Little children rejoiced at her coming and elder people gave her glad welcome to their homes. She made her way to the bedside of sickness and pain and into the homes of grief and distress, and she diffused consolation, help, and good cheer wherever she went.

She seemed to be everywhere at Christmas time, and every little acquaintance received some token of her loving remembrance. The present generation will grow old, but as the weight of years press down upon and bend their forms, and the snows of accumulated winters whiten their heads, many an one who knew her in their younger lie will still pronounce the name of Grandma Yocum with lingering love and filial reverence.

And thus she lived and thus she died. Born in the bright New Year’s dawn of 1831; died just as the assembling shades were turning for the requiem of the year 1909. We are wont to hope and to believe that her departing spirit caught not the strains of the requiem, but instead was lulled by the tingle of Christmas melody and in the embrace of that swelling symphony was borne away from its tenement of clay towards the pearly heights of its eternal abode.

To live as she did live, to perform as she did perform, to fulfill the arduous duties of wife and motherhood==it’s enough to raise a monument of glory above the humblest grave. The chaste marble with magic hand has been fashioned, the painter’s art has been fatigued, the minstrel’s genius has been exercised in illustration of heroic deeds of men upon the field of battle and their achievements in the forum and the senate, and pyramids and mausoleums have been built to commemorate and perpetuate their glory; but no monument of bronze, no monolith of marble, illustrated the sanctity and terrestrial glory of the motherhood of men. Heroes and law-givers dazzle the world with their achievements and their final resting places, marked with extravagant creations of genius, become Mecca for pilgrimages of devotion for future generations unto the utmost reaches of all time; but the mothers of those historic personages sleep in unknown, unmarked and forgotten graves. Oh Mother! chastest, sublimest, divinest word that was ever coined! Around thee circle what fond, what slender, what inspiring memories! Without thee, language would be dull and dead as ashes.

Mother-who will presume to illustrate her exalted station? Who will presume to produce an adequate monument to her glory? The attempt is vanity. The hand of Phidias falls palsied at his side. The cunning vanishes from the brush of a Zeuxsis. The lips of a Homer are dumb.

Genius pauses to ask the momentous question: From the contemplation of what fair Goddess, coeval with Himself, did the great Creator receive inspiration to conceive and to create woman form, so copiously endowed with divine attributes-chastity, love, kindness, tenderness, forgiveness, charity, mercy, sympathy, fidelity, modesty and beauty, and give her to the world to become the companion and mother of man? She came commissioned to follow him far into the dark shadows, and to gently lead him away from the idols of his passions, his avarice, his lusts, and turn his face towards God.

The temples of her worship are not of marble or bronze or brass, but of the human heart that throbs with the warm, rushing blood of life, and in through them her glory will ultimately shine in the redeemed and bettered citizenship and civilization of the world. And in that lustrum of glory every devoted mother of man will have a place.

The great Oregon poet has made us debtor to a tribute in language that can never fad:

The bravest battle that was ever fought,
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of the world you’ll find it not;
‘Twas fought by the mothers of men,
Nay not with cannon or battle shot,
With sword nor nobler pen,
May not with word of thought,
From mouth of wonderful men;
But deep in the walled up woman’s heart-
Of women that would not yield,
But bravely, silently bore her part-
Lo! There is in the battle field.
No marshaling troops, no bivouac song,
No banner to gleam and wave,
But oh! These battles they last so long,
From baby-hood to the grave.

A noble mother has fallen. Her battle of life is ended. Grandma Yocum is dead. She lived, labored and she loved; and in return she was loved and revered by all who knew her.

Ellensburg Dawn, March 3, 1910
Contributed by: Shelli Steedman

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