Eliza Jane Cheney Rawson was born August 29, 1837 to Eliza Ann Beebe Cheney and Nathan Calhoun Cheney. Shortly after their marriage, Eliza's parents had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved to Kirtland, Ohio where Eliza was born. Eliza states that although she and her sister were too young to realize it, their parents suffered much persecution there. Once, Nathan was held captive by a mob for two weeks. During this time the mob tried to frighten Eliza Ann by spreading rumors that they were coming to burn her house. She went into the woods and found a hollow log that she could hide her girls in. However, the mob let Nathan go, and the family was happily reunited. During this time, they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois: 'We were with the first to go to Nauvoo and among the last to leave, as my father was called to look after the aged and widows and get them started on their journey.' In 1845, the family left Nauvoo for Bensport, where they lived for two years. They then moved to a location near St. Joseph, Missouri. Finally, in the spring of 1850, the family joined the Saints to make the trek west to Utah. Of this trek, Eliza said, 'We all enjoyed the journey very much [. . .] it was a great pleasure to be with the church again.' They settled in Centerville, Utah and were beginning to build up a farm when their mother died in 1851 and their father died in 1852. Eliza 'worked out' for five years until she married William C. Rawson on October 12, 1856 in Farmington, Utah. They became the parents of seven children and one adopted son. Eliza and William lived in Payson and then in Ogden, and in 1876 they moved to Harrisville (later called Farr West). They were active in church service: William served as a bishop and a councilor for many years, and Eliza Ann was involved with the Relief Society. When William died on April 26, 1891, Eliza was left to care for her four children left at home and to earn a living. After her home in Farr West burned down, she went to live with her daughter, Eliza Jackson, in Ogden, Utah. Eliza died on November 29, 1922 after she fell and broke her hip.
Eliza's autobiography is part of a collection of biographies on the Cheney family. It is five typewritten pages long and was written in March of 1919. There is a note at the end of the manuscript stating that it was copied from a book of Eliza's, Historical Letters and Sketches 1841-1919, by her daughter, Elizabeth Garlick. Rather than writing an in-depth account of her life, Eliza gives broad outlines of events and tells stories of her experiences. She spends the majority of the autobiography talking about experiences from her early family life. For example, she tells about her brother being run over by their wagon on the trek west. He was driving the wagon while her father rested, and he fell out and was run over. Although the case was grave, Eliza said that they could not leave him for dead, and so some priesthood brethren administered to him. He recovered and was able to run and play during the rest of the journey. Eliza describes their family's log cabin in Centerville in detail. She also lists the many housekeeping duties she performed after her marriage: making shoes, cloth, clothing, bedding, carpets, straw hats, soap, candles, butter, and cheese. She mentions her service in the Farr West Relief Society as a teacher, as treasurer for 28 years, and the supervisor of their granary for 26 years. At the time she wrote the autobiography, Eliza had been a widow for 28 years. She concludes by saying, 'for 32 years of my life I have paddled my own canoe.' Priesthood blessing