The Lovedays and Blackers in Almy
What an interesting story it would have been had we been able to have included a relatively detailed account of the long, but
undoubtedly interesting, journey from mid-eastern Illinois to the
west across Iowa, Nebraska, and all of Wyoming excepting five
miles from its western border connecting Utah! So far as we are
aware, not a single person of the three generations involved,
grandparents, parents, nor children left a word in writing of
this experience, nor are there amongst us, their descendants,
anyone who recalls anything that any of them related specifically
about the journey.
Their story could have told us the number of days and nights
spent on the swinging and swaying cars, connected with the
constant rumbling of the iron wheels as they contacted the hard
iron track, just under the floor of the coach they were walking
on, or supporting the chairs they were sitting and sleeping on.
By this early period of railway history, George Pullman probably
did not have too many of his but lately designed and famous
Pullman cars on the road. Even if those modern sleeping cars were
on this train, it is most likely these traveling families would
not have been able to have afforded them. Certainly Pullman's
dining cars had not yet been designed, so their eating would have
had to have been from previously prepared lunches or, perhaps,
some food-stuffs which they might have been able to purchase at
various stopping places while the locomotive was taking on water
and/or coal for another leg of its journey.
Undoubtedly the older children, Uncle George, then ten, Aunt
Sarah Ann, a little over eight years of age and Aunt Mary, five
years old, would have found this a joy-ride - part of the time -
but Tom, just three and baby Maria were yet at an age where extra
entertainment may have been required.
Considering the early years of the railway system, could one
'guesstomate' three days may have been pretty well used up -
probably two nights - before Evanston was reached? A written
account at the time may have reduced the three days to two, but
be that as it may, the party undoubtedly reached their
destination. After they reached Evanston there was yet another
approximately five miles in team and wagon to reach their to-be
homes in Almy. What previous arrangements they may have made to
have someone meet them or to have arranged for their homes or,
perhaps, a place to stay until they could make arrangements for a
home we do not know. It seems we shall continue to wonder about
these matters until we join them over yonder.
Coal had been discovered in Almy about 1867 or 1868, this
prior to when the railroad had become transcontinental after
which the demand for coal increased. Not only was there need for
the locomotives but also the growing industry and the heating of
homes required coal to be shipped. Almy became a busy, small
metropolis. About two miles to the north of Evanston, a vein of
coal was discovered which became known as Mine #1 and eventually
seven mines were dug into the little valley's eastern hills,
covering a distance of five or six miles. Not all were put into
operation at once, but as the first ran out of coal, the system
was extended and a new mine was dug. A spur of the railroad was
extended from Evanston to the mines and parallel to the spur was
a road for wagon and buggy traffic. Facing the road, houses were
constructed as homes for the miners and their families and behind
them streets or access roads were extended toward the west and
bottom of the valley until literally hundreds of houses were
eventually built and occupied. The little valley was - and
remains - approximately two miles wide with Bear River running to
the north away from Evanston, about a mile from the mouths of the
mines. At one time, practically the entire area between the river
and the eastern hillside of the valley was covered with homes and
extended north and south perhaps five miles, enough to house
approximately five thousand people.
Now, back to the newly arrived immigrants: Unquestionably the
real reason for their migration was to find a way to sustain and
provide for themselves and families, particularly so the Edward
Blacker family whose numbers were increasing and whose needs were
multiplying. There was coal mining to be done here in Almy, and
Edward knew little other than coalmining. But the Lovedays:
Grandpa Loveday was a farmer by trade and at heart, but his
previous farming experience seems to have always been for the
other fellow - he had been but an agricultural laborer. Surely,
Almy was not the best place in the world for a to-be farmer. The
7,000 feet elevation and the rocky soil was not overly conducive
to farming - more for ranching. Grandpa Loveday ended up on what
is known as meadowland which calls for many acres for any great
production. Too, Isaac was over sixty years of age - not an ideal
age for heavy work with the soil. His family had grown up and had
left home excepting for his youngest living son who was 21 or 22
years of age. We can contribute the Loveday's reason for coming
to Almy was to be near his family, particularly his daughter,
Althera and this proved to have been the wise thing as we shall
The coal companies, as was customary even in England, provided
housing for the majority of their employees. The houses were
known as 'company' houses which were leased to the workers and
the rental was deducted from their pay-checks. Also, the company
often had grocery businesses and offered credit to the miners and
their families to be paid for at the end of the months, also from
The county provided the schools which naturally were paid for
by the workers by way of taxes. Various churches provided
facilities for their memberships with expenses and upkeep paid by
voluntary contributions. It so happened there was a strong Mormon
element amongst the families of the community and the Almy ward
at one time became the largest ward in the entire surrounding
area. As early as the 1870s the members of the Mormon Church met
in the so-called Old Almy Camp at Mine #1 a couple miles north of
Evanston and by common consent, appointed John Jolley, one of
their members to preside.
With the railroad reaching transcontinental status in 1869 at
Promontory Point at the north end of Great Salt Lake, the
possibilities for shipping coal greatly increased, which in turn,
brought a great influx for needed miners, and the population at
Almy almost overextended itself. Before 1870 had come to a close,
the Mormon Church advised President Budge, president of the Bear
Lake Stake with headquarters at Paris, Idaho, to include this
Western Wyoming area in his stake and officially organize a
branch at Almy, which was done. Woodruff and Randolph, Utah, were
already new wards in the Bear Lake Stake which, itself was also
At about this time, the Almy branch built a new branch chapel
down on the County Road about a mile across the new housing
addition directly west of Mine #5. The distance of approximately
70 miles over dirt roads with a difficult canyon road into
Laketown on the south end of the Bear Lake, prompted a transfer
of the western Wyoming branches of Almy, Evanston and Rock
Springs to the Summit Stake with headquarters in Coalville, Utah,
a close distance by approximately 40 miles. In 1877, Almy was
made a ward with Bishop James Bowns as its first bishop and he
was serving in that capacity when the Loveday and Blacker
families moved to Almy.
Again, returning to our families, there is little to report
excepting eventually, they became settled in their respective
houses. How it was done we don't know, but three houses became
available in a single neighborhood. As one follows the sketch of
the area shown above, leaving Evanston, the road to Almy is
picked up in the bottom right hand corner which first leads to
Mine #1. Leaving the main road and turning to the west on the
County Road for approximately one mile, the road makes a right
hand turn toward the north. After approximately 1/4 of a miles,
another road turns to the west and within another 1/4 mile one
comes to a steel bridge crossing Bear River. Within one or two
hundred yards of the bridge was the house the Lovedays moved
into. Another hundred yards or so on the same side of the street
became the home of the Edward Blacker family and back near the
bridge, but on the south side of the road, was a home Uncle Hyrum
Loveday and family moved into.
These houses were not company houses but privately owned. By
the time of the 1900 census and the Lovedays still being there,
the record reveals the Grandpa Loveday owned the home. The
Blacker family did not remain in Almy that long, but we find no
evidence in the county records of Edward owning property during
the 1880s and 1890s. If we are not mistaken, Uncle Hyrum Loveday
eventually ended up in the Montpelier area, with no record of his
having owned the house in Almy.
So, before fall definitely, and probably as early as spring of
1884, these families became settled in Almy. Grandpa Edward and,
undoubtedly, son George, found employment in the mines and
apparently started working soon after their arrival.
Perhaps, before another subject of the family is entered into,
the location of these new homes was originally pointed out to us
by those who were there. Commencing in the fall of the school
year 1937-1938, the writer started teaching in the Almy School
where I taught for three years. Two of our children were born in
the little teacherage which was located on the school grounds. On
a visit by my parents, Thomas and Hettie, my father had me drive
to the spot where their home once was. He was but four when they
moved to Almy and the family left when he was 16, so there was no
question in his mind, for the steel bridge - which when he was a
boy seemed so large, was surprisingly smaller when he made the
visit with us. The entire Almy area which was thickly housed when
he was growing up had completely reverted to rural ranchland with
very little evidence of their having been a town of a few
thousand residents. The family houses just west of the river
bridge had either been moved off or torn down, for by the time of
our visit it was all in pasture land with no evidence, excepting
clearings, where the houses once stood.
At one of the Edward Blacker Family Organization reunions held
in September of 1966 in Evanston, two grave stones were placed in
cement in the Almy cemetery. One was for baby Isaac, born to
Edward and Althera Blacker on 12 October 1884 and who died on the
24th of July 1886. The other was for my 2nd great grandmother,
Ann Powell Danks, born 24 February 1806 and who died on 5 June
1891 in Almy. She was the mother of Great-Grandmother Mary Danks
Loveday - Isaac's wife, and wife of Peter Danks of our direct
pedigree line. She had had a wooden marker at the head of her
grave which had rotted off and fallen over, and after completing
this work the family caravan drove up the County Road to the
steel bridge which we crossed and parked on the road in front of
where the homes of the Lovedays and the Blackers once stood.
Uncle Will Blacker, who was with the group, pointed out the
respective places where the houses once stood, and confirmed what
his brother Thomas had pointed out nearly thirty years before.
Uncle Will was born in Almy and lived in the house of his parents
until they moved to Star Valley, arriving in Afton on Uncle
Will's tenth birthday.
The amount of land connected with each of the homes is not
known. Undoubtedly they were small acreages, but it seems
questionable that any one of them would be at all sizable such as
a meadow where hay stacks would become part of the operation. The
Blackers had a team of horses, for Uncle Will often mentioned
that as he was growing up as a young boy, he would drive the
laboring portion of the family to work in a wagon or buckboard,
and return home to go to school on foot. This was the impression
that was was left.
It may not be unthinkable that the Blacker family may have had
a cow to assist with the feeding of their growing family and that
there was pasture enough for the horses and a cow, if they had
one, for summer feed. Our father, Thomas, on occasion, referred
to the fact that one of his boyhood chores was to cut willows and
stack them for drying to be used for future kindling and quick
fires. While we don't remember him saying as much, it would seem,
with such a task as this, that it would be likely that he would
go further afield than their own property and, perhaps, go at
random along the river banks even were it was the pasture-lands
of nearby neighbors. Dead and dry willows would certainly make
far better kindling wood than green willows, even if they were
allowed to dry for a season.
With the short seasons for growing gardens, a good garden
would have become a challenge. Undoubtedly it would have been
Grandpa Loveday who would have supervised the raising of gardens
not only on his plot, but undoubtedly, would have given counsel
with the Blacker garden. Only the hardy vegetables would have
been profitable in Almy such as carrots, beets, onions, cabbage
and other such mainstays in any garden and perhaps a few
potatoes. The soil was rocky even along the river bottoms, but
less rocky than the higher ground.
We are not sure but that Grandpa Loveday may have had short
stints with work in the mines. While his nature and life style
was not geared to mining, it would seem probably that a little of
it may have been done to supplement family income. There
undoubtedly, were a few farms and ranches left separate from the
houses, on which, perhaps farm help was needed. There are a
number of possibilities he could have turned to without going
down into the mines. Some of these undoubtedly were resorted
We are aware that good health was a scarcity in the Loveday
household. Particularly with Grandma Loveday. Due to her poor
health, granddaughter, Mary Blacker, third child of Edward and
Althera Blacker, became a permanent member of the Loveday
household since her early childhood. In referring to Aunt Mary,
Uncle Will said of her, his sister, "Grandma Loveday took her
(Aunt Mary Blacker Wilkes) when she was a little girl and Grandma
Loveday kept her most of the time. I always thought that Mary was
Grandma Loveday's girl. Grandma raised her. Mother always used to
tell us to never let such a thing happen in our families - that
is, never let some one else raise one of our children". (A direct
quote from a taped interview with Uncle Will on the 27th of July
1965. This interview is so pertinent to the subject at hand that
parts will be copied here verbatim. Designating who is speaking
the initials UW: will indicate Uncle Will Blacker. The initial
'L' will indicate the questioner, in this case, Loyn.)
L: Uncle Will, you were born in 1886 and your folk were in
UW: Yes, and I was the seventh child.
L: The seventh child in the family and four of them, Uncle
George, Aunt Mary, Aunt Sarah Ann and Dad (Thomas) were born in
the old country and Aunt Maria in Illinois before they reached
Almy. If I understand correctly Grandpa Blacker came to this
country first, is this correct?
UW: Grandpa Blacker and Grandpa Loveday came over first (Uncle
Will was referring to his own father here and his Grandfather
Loveday - his mother's father.) and left the women and children
in the old country.
L: Where did they come to and how long were they here before
having their families follow?
UW: I don't know that. They came to go to Pennsylvania. I
don't know whether Dad's sister was in Pennsylvania or not. (He
is referring to his Aunt Fannie who married Thomas Lewis in Wales
and who came to this country. This was mentioned earlier in the
story. L.B.) They went to Pennsylvania because there were coal
fields there and they had been coal miners in the old
L: Did Grandpa Blacker and Grandpa Loveday go back to help
their families come over?
UW: No. Grandma Loveday - I don't know how many children
Grandma Loveday had with her - and mother came over together.
They had a very bad storm when they were on the sea and it took
them six weeks to come from England to this country. The skip
lost its rudder and they drifted back and were buffeted by the
storm and they never thought they were going to land. The sailors
had to take turns working out on the deck of the ship. I have
heard the folk say the sailors would run and hide and the
officers would have to go down to their hiding places to make
them go back to work.
L: Grandpa Loveday and Grandpa Blacker must have been in
Pennsylvania at the time.
UW: I believe they must have been. I believe they went
straight to Pennsylvania. I am not right sure.
L: Aunt Maria was born in Illinois. It is quite a way inland
and her birth was not long after they came to this country. (Aunt
Maria was born 25 May 1883 in Streator, Illinois. L.B.)
UW: Yes, it is. (Inland) I don't remember ever hearing the
details of how they got to Illinois from Pennsylvania.
L: Was it their intention when they left England that they
were going to come as far west as Wyoming?
UW: I don't know.
L: Anyway, they landed in Almy, Wyoming, for you were born in Almy. (Uncle Will was born 10 April 1886. L.B.)
UW: Yes. My brother Isaac, who died as a baby, was probably
born in Illinois, I believe. (Isaac was born 12 October 1884.
L: Our family records show that he was born in Almy, are they
UW: They could be right. They probably are. Uncle Hyrum lived
close by. They all lived close. Uncle Hyrum was one of Mother's
brothers. We had a large house for the time. There were four,
five or six rooms in the house.
L: Was it just a frame house?
UW: Just a frame house.
L: Was the house on the order of the old mining houses of the
time which were owned by the Union Pacific Company?
UW: Yes. It wasn't a company house, however. It was on our own
land and wasn't in the coal mining camp proper. We had to go
about two miles, maybe further than that to take the men to work
in the mines every morning. I remember when I was a little
fellow, at times, I took the men folk to work and then I would
bring the team back and then somebody would meet them at night.
At that time they were working ten hours or more a day in the
L: The location of the home was just across the river bridge
where it presently is of this date of 1965? It is all meadow land
L: These three houses (Hyrum Loveday's Grandpa Isaac Loveday's
and Grandpa Edward Blacker's) were all on the west side of the
UW: Yes, I wasn't born in the old family house. There used to
be a concrete block house built right on the river bank just
after crossing the river bridge. We thought then that Bear River
was a very large river.
L: I've heard Dad talk about the big bridge they had to cross.
This house you were born in - was it on your folk's property?
UW: Not on their property - I don't know whose property it was
on. The folk told me that I was born in the concrete house and it
was torn down. It wasn't there when I can remember.
L: It was probably a neighbor's home who could take care of
UW: I suppose so. There were four or five families right in
there - there was Reece Davis and there was a Bradshaw that had
little places right in there - maybe seven or eight acres. I
remember the time I was baptized, Bear River flooded. We had some
low land and the water flooded the low land and I was baptized in
this backwater from Bear River.
L: Was there any eventful thing when you were very young which
you first remember? What are some of your first memories as you
now look back?
UW: About the first thing I can remember is a time when I was
sick, that would be when I was between five and six years old. I
had what they called that time, inflammation of the bowels. They
say now it is the same thing as appendicitis. The folk thought
that I was never going to live. They sat up with me for nights
and nights. I can remember that when I was getting better that I
had a visit from a school teacher by the name of Luella Parkinson
and she came to sit up with me. I remember one night as she came
into my bedroom I turned over on my back and made out like I was
asleep. I can remember she told Mother, "Will is having a little
nap now and I won't disturb him", but I was there just playing
possum. On my birthday, on the 10th day of April they had a party for
me. Tom went down the string and picked up some of the neighbors' boys and girls and
they had a birthday party. That was about as early as I can
remember, because I remember that I had some presents on my sixth
birthday. Some of them I kept. I think I may still have some of
them yet for I cherished them all my life.
L: Now, you are up to when you were six years of age and time
for you to go to school. The school house was how far away from
UW: It must have been a mile or more away, you know, down to
that old #4 red school house down there that they had in Almy. I
don't know whether it was there when you were there or not.
L: No, I don't remember -. It wasn't as far down as the old
red brick church?
UW: Oh, no. We used to walk, so it wasn't too far. We used to
have a walking trail down the river - it was near where Uncle Ike
used to live. I would say a mile away, maybe three quarters.
L: To the north but on the east side of the river? On what is
now the old County road?
UW: Yes. Of course, at that time they had these little school
houses - this school house was a pretty good size school for they
had about three class rooms as I remember it.
L: Each mine had a school?
UW: I don't know about #7, but they had a school house down at
#5 and #6. Like other coal camps, when the coal would run out,
the camp would move away. There isn't anything there now but just
a few farms.
At this point in the story let us put Uncle Will's verbal
interview to the back burner, for there are other matters of
importance which may be mentioned in an attempt to retain a
degree of normal sequence.
Of first importance may be confirmation of the fact that the
families under discussion actually arrived in Almy. This can be
done so far as the Loveday family is concerned. In an attempt to
find confirmation, a visit was made to the Uinta County court
house in Evanston in search of any type of affidavit to show if
there were land records in the names of members of the families,
and/or to determine if any attempt may have been made for a
change of citizenship. Disappointment was the result so far as
the Blacker family was concerned, but in the Clerk of Court's
office, a record was found where Grandpa Isaac Loveday had
declared his intention of becoming a citizen of the U.S. A photo
copy of his declaration was obtained. This step was taken by him
on the 30th of October 1884. Five days later, his two sons, Hyrum
and Isaac Jr., on the 4th of November 1884, likewise, made
similar declarations. There were no indications of their wives'
At a much later date, in fact, not until the 16th day of June
1890, this same request was personally made by Althera Blacker,
but there seems to be no record regarding Grandpa Edward Blacker.
We can't help but think there must be a record of such a step
somewhere. If he made application while yet in Pennsylvania or
even Illinois, there should be a record of finalization of
citizenship having been eventually granted. This normally would
have been processed in Uinta county, for it requires a period of
a few years for citizenship to be finalized.
Isaac Loveday's declaration of intention to becoma a US citizen
Althera Blacker's declaration of intention to becoma a US citizen
As to ownership of land in Almy, we were unable to find a
record. After the family eventually moved to Star Valley, there
is a record of him selling seven to eight acres, presumably this
referred to his Almy holdings, and if this be true, it indicates,
as earlier stated by Uncle Will, their farms in Almy were such a
Likewise, we found no record of Grandpa Loveday purchasing a
home or land in Almy, but in checking the 1900 Census Record, the
statement is made that he owned his home. There seems no reason
to question the supposed fact that they settled with the intent
of owning their property, but there wasn't room in their
neighborhood for any sizeable acreage.
Their church activity was probably normal for the average
family, particularly under the situation as existed in the Edward
Blacker home. Grandma Blacker was the only member of the Mormon
Church in Wales, and such was the status of the family when they
arrived in Almy. Bishop James Bowns was the only bishop during
the years of their Almy residence.
On the other hand, the Lovedays were all members, having been
baptized while yet in Pontypool in Monmouthshire, prior to their
moving to Mountain Ash. While we have found no record in Almy -
the early records were burned - we have found a few occasions
when Grandpa blessed and/or confirmed his grandchildren, and even
great-grandchildren , as in the case of Uncle George's and Aunt
Polly's older children.
Uncle George did not choose to be baptized until well after he
and Aunt Polly were married - his baptism was in January of 1899,
four and a half years after he was married.
The first Blacker baptisms in Almy were their two oldest
daughters, Sarah Ann, when she was ten, and Mary, a couple of
months prior to her reaching the eighth birthday. This family
double-baptism occurred on the 19th of September 1886. Son
Thomas, the first male Blacker of whom we have record to be
baptized, was baptized on the 10th of September of 1891 on which
same occasion daughter Maria was also baptized, a few months
following her 8th birthday.
We are not aware what the final impelling or converting force
was for Grandpa Edward to join the Church, but he was baptized on
the 5th of June 1892. Uncle Will Blacker has advised us that even
though Grandpa was not a member of the Church, he always attended
meetings and always paid his tithing. Seemingly he was always an
'unbaptized Mormon' even before his joining. It simply is an
impossibility for one to read and to listen with an open mind,
having a desire to know the truth, to not become convinced that
what the Mormon Church teaches is true. Facts are facts which
cannot be long denied if one wants to know the truth. There is
too much clear evidence that there has been a restoration for a
knowledgeable person to deny it and, so, undoubtedly, long before
Grandpa Blacker was baptized, he recognized the truth of the
In 1889 or 1890, the Almy ward building was burned to the
ground with the cause of the fire not being known and a new
rebuilding project was undertaken. We have not been told where
the members met, but undoubtedly a hall of some description was
leased until the new red brick building was constructed. This
remained standing until the mid 1930s. By that time, the whole of
Almy had become dismantled, so to speak, and when this writer
appeared on the scenes, the ward had reverted back to branch
status. The few of the branch were meeting in the small, two-room
school house, rather than in the large, too expensive to
maintain, brick church house. By 1937, the brick building had
been completely leveled, with the materials of the building
reused for the construction of new homes etc.
By 1900, the mines had all closed in Almy and a new mine or
two had opened up in an area known as Spring Valley, about 20
miles east of Evanston. Some of the miners moved there, others to
Cumberland, Sublett, Diamondville, etc.
The homes in Almy were either moved or torn down and the
ground reverted back to pasture and meadows. So it has remained
until the 1980s, when oil companies sent their vanguards in for
oil finding in which, apparently they have been successful and
the area is become again activated by those who are seeking
another kind of 'black gold' from beneath the ground of Almy.
Again, let us return to the story of our family. Others of the
living family may have known, but during the younger years of
this writer's life it had not registered, if indeed I had heard
that Grandpa Blacker had had a little experience in the political
life in Almy. This has since been confirmed by Uncle Will
Upon being accepted as the principal of the little Almy school
in 1938, it naturally fell to my lot, when the keys were turned
to me, to inventory supplies, books, etc. in the school's supply
room. There had been a series of paper-back quarterly historical
papers published by the State Department of History mailed to the
schools for, particularly the teachers to become better informed
on facets of the history of the state. They were under the title
"ANNALS OF WYOMING". While I browsed through various numbers of
the publication, there was little or nothing in them that was of
value to the school children, so they were not put to use. It had
to be at least a year later when one day, as I was glancing thru
them, in noting the Table of Contents, I took note of a title,
"Official Uinta County Visits Star Valley". The fact being that I
was somewhat acquainted with Star Valley, for that was where I
was born and lived my first twelve years, I turned to the
article. To my great delight, I discovered some family history
which I had not known. The portion dealing directly with Grandpa
Edward Blacker will be copied verbatim:
"OFFICIAL UINTA COUNTY VISITS STAR VALLEY"
By John C. Hamm
At the first State election held under the Enabling Act on
September 11, 1890, I.C. Winslow, John Sims and Edward Blacker
were elected commissioners of Uinta County, Wyoming. John R.
Arnold, present veteran jurist of the Third Judicial District,
was elected county clerk, and the writer, John C. Hamm, was
elected county and prosecuting attorney.
(By way of explanation, the date of the article was 1929,
thirty-nine years after the event. Historically, thirty-nine
years is a very brief space. To the youth looking forward, it is
an interminable wilderness of time. When it is behind, we wonder
at the swiftness of its passage. LB)
In those early days, Star Valley was an isolated frontier
settlement of Uinta County in the first stages of subjugation by
the hardy Mormon pioneers. No telegraph or telephone line had yet
penetrated the primeval precincts of the lovely vale of Afton and
Auburn, to apprize those quiet pastoral regions of the restless
wagging of the outside world. No automobile had gotten beyond the
fantastic vision of the early dreamers. The slow transport of the
work team and the farm wagon was the vehicle of necessity. A
spring wagon or a buckboard were luxuries.
No wonder those early settlers clamored for the improvement of
their roads and bridges. Their butter and cheese and occasional
meat products had to be brought to market over the mountain to
Montpelier, then to Evanston, Almy and Red Canyon, - appalling
distances when the means of transportation then in vogue are
considered. There were no coal camps at Kemmerer and
Diamondville, and the long hard drives over roads none too
smooth, and fords sometimes dangerous, were tasks of real
So it was determined in the summer of 1891 that an official
trip of investigation by the Board of Commissioners was
necessary, and John Sims and Edward Blacker were designated to
make the inspection with the cooperation of their clerk, Mr.
There had arisen some dispute over the ownership of a calf in
the vicinity of Afton, and the prosecuting attorney was called
upon to investigate the affair in the local justice's court to
see if a felony had been committed. Hence the all around utility
and economy of the official visit.
This August representation of the dignity of official Uinta
County, the first of its kind in the history of the valley, drove
a team of cayuses hitched to a spring wagon They were piloted by
Archie Moffatt, a noble son of that virgin land, who was
returning to his home in the Valley, after having delivered a
load of butter and cheeses to residents of Evanston, Almy and Red
Canyon, who had become acquainted with the excellence of those
products of the early valley days. On the trip, Official Uinta
camped in the open, slept under the wagon or elsewhere, as suited
convenience or necessity.
On the way out, the route chosen was up the Thomas Fork to
determine whether this were the more feasible site for a county
road into the valley. This route brought us out on the ridge at
the southern extremity of Star Valley where we intersected the
old Lander Trail at what was early called Sublette Pass." (Annals
of Wyoming, Vol 6, No. 1 and 2, 1929. Pp. 192-3).
I was saddened the day I first read the article, but in the
intervening time - nearly 45 years - I have been led to multiply
my disappoint to where it seems a crime that Mr. Hamm failed to
write on further word of their Star Valley experience, but
rather, permitted himself to spend the entire balance of his
article in reviewing - much imaginative - of what had earlier
transpired at the historic spot he referred to, the aspen grove
which surrounded the junction where the Old Lander Trail bisected
the proposed road into Star Valley. The entirety of this story
which was so interestingly started, resulted in what, in history
past, his mind's eye could see. For our purpose here the writer
tells us nothing further which could be applicable to our story.
He leaves us at the verge of the Valley. Why his title? And yet,
we are grateful for him having opened to us another chapter of
Grandpa Blacker's life. We have learned enough that we, too, like
Mr. Hamm, can use our 'mind's eye' in tying together the past
with then, then, future.
Well over ten years ago (1971) this writer had occasion to
dwell upon the very subject at hand in writing "The Story of
Thomas and Hettie Wilkes Blacker". Again is the copying
"BORN OF GOODLY PARENTS"
It is interesting to note that the write (Mr. Hamm) mentioned
the cayuses which nomenclature may not altogether fit the team of
horses being used. As we now envision in our minds this trip, we
can wonder whether or not the spring wagon and team of horses
belonged to Grandpa Blacker. He had such an outfit and it seems
more likely that one of the commissioners, if he had possession
of such equipment and horses, would use it. Just a
The above quoted paragraphs of this historical visit can stir
in our imagination, a dream that must have entered into the mind
of Grandpa Edward as he viewed for the first time lovely Star
Valley, which later was to become his home. Already he had tired
of the mines, not only tired of them but, perhaps, more
particularly saw the handwriting on the wall that he would soon
be forced to leave his employment in them. Undoubtedly he dreamed
of the day when he would be able to take his family, particularly
his sons from the 'mines of death' that they would not have to
spend their lives working in the dust of the coal pits.
Upon his return from this first trip to Star Valley, we can
image the scene in the home of that family as they gathered that
evening around him in the flickering light of the well-trimmed
kerosene lamp. Grandma Althera was, that night, a relatively
young 39 1/2 year old mother of eight, with her ninth to be born
only five months later. All eight were not living, for sadness
had come into their home seven years before, when her little two
year old son, Isaac, just older than her then, three month old
son, William, had died. He had been buried in a little grave in
the newly purchased lot in the Almy cemetery some two to three
miles to the north of their home.
Listening to the report of their father that night, were
Edward George, age 17; Sarah Ann, age 15; Mary, not to be 13 for
another five months (actually Mary may not have been home that
evening for she was living with her grandparents, the Isaac
Lovedays, nevertheless, she certainly belonged to the Blacker
family); Thomas, 10 1/2; Maria, a couple months past eight;
William just past five and baby Merintha just at three years of age. Perhaps the two
youngest found more interest playing on the board floor with
their playthings, or perhaps, they had been put to bed by their
older sisters, but undoubtedly, those from eight years and up
were listening with eyes and ears wide open.
The first evening of this supposed home family meeting was too
early for plans to have materialized. This was a night for dreams
- for discussion - to see the reactions of family members who had
no way of envisioning the Valley excepting seeing, in their
minds, the picture Grandpa Edward could portray to them. The
intent, at this point in the story, is not to cause the reader to
think the family was ready to pick up everything and make the
move to star Valley the next morning. This was not the case, but
undoubtedly, was the beginning of planning for a future move.
Actually it was not for yet another five to six years before the
actual moving transpired." (Born of Good Parents, pp. 7 & 8).
Life, undoubtedly, went on much the same as it had since their
arrival in Almy. Again we repeat that little Isaac, when but two
years of age, passed away and was buried in the Almy cemetery in
1886. Nearly five years later, his great-grandmother, Ann Powell
Danks, wife of Peter Danks who had been buried in Pennsylvania in
1873, was buried not far from Isaac's grave. After the Blacker
family had moved to Star Valley, Isaac's grandmother, Grandma
Mary Danks Loveday passed away 14th of April 1902, and was buried
in the Almy cemetery next to her mother just mentioned, Ann
With Grandpa Isaac Loveday, having become a widower again, as
just mentioned, this seems to be an appropriate place to copy,
verbatim, the article relating to him in the book, "Progressive
Men of Wyoming" referred to much earlier in this history.
Actually, the representative of the publishing company who
printed the book, the A.W. Bowen & Co., of Chicago, Illinois,
apparently solicited the many subjects of the volume from over
the entire state of Wyoming which, undoubtedly, was a business
project. Undoubtedly, the purchase of the completed volume was a
prerequisite to the luxury of having a biography included, and
yet we are pre-supposing. If Grandpa Loveday obtained a book, it
has probably become a treasure in the home of one of his
descendants. The account follows:
One of the most skillful and prosperous farmers in Uinta
county is Isaac Loveday, who resides five miles west of Evanston.
He was born in Wiltshire, England, September 14, 1821, and is a
son of Solomon and Mary (Godin) Loveday, the former of whom was a
son of Jonathan and Sarah Loveday and was a farmer by vocation.
Isaac Loveday, naturally enough, was reared to agricultural
pursuits, and his youthful days were so closely occupied by his
duties on the home farm that little opportunity was afforded him
to acquire an education; nevertheless, he attended the common
school for a season or two and learned what little was absolutely
necessary for him to know in carrying on the calling which was to
be his life work.
For some years he worked as a farm hand for his neighbors in
England, and also passed a few years in Wales, engaged in the
same capacity. In 1880, Mr. Loveday came to the United States,
with the hope of improving his circumstances in life, and in this
hope he has not been disappointed, as from the start he has met
with encouraging success. For the first year after his arrival
America, he worked on a farm near Honesdale, Pa., and then
went to Illinois, where he was employed in the same occupation
about a year and a half, when he came to Wyoming and entered the
ranch on which he still lives, west of Evanston.
The marriage of Mr. Loveday took place in Wales on August 5,
1849, with Miss Mary Danks, a daughter of Peter and Anne (Powell)
Danks, natives of Wales, and to this union there were born seven
children, namely, Hiram, who is married and who is farming in
Idaho; Merintha Althera, married to Edward Blacker, a farmer in
Star Valley; Kemmel, living in Diamondville; Fannie E., wife of
Thomas Lewis, of Cannonsburg, Pa.; Thomas, who was born in Wales,
February 25, 1859, also died in that country when nineteen years
of age; Isaac, who is a farmer, is married and is living in Cache
Valley, Utah; Sarah A., who was born in Wales, October 25, 1865,
and there died July 1, 1866.
Mrs. Mary (Danks) Loveday was born in Wales in 1832, a member
of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, her remains being
interred in the cemetery at Almy, Uinta County, Wyo.
Of the Church of the Latter Day Saints Mr. Loveday and his
surviving children are also faithful adherents, wherever they may
live. Too much credit cannot be given to Mr. Loveday for the
energy and perseverance he has exercised since becoming a
resident of Wyoming, and his fortune is of his own making. He is
a good citizen and is greatly esteemed by his neighbors and from
such men as he, it may be said, the greatness of a state is
derived". (Progressive Men of Wyoming, pp. 867-68).
It would seem that Grandpa Loveday deserved every plaudit the
writer of the above article wrote of him, despite the fact that
all his possible holdings in Almy would have been acres that
could have been counted on his fingers and, perhaps, not
impossible to have been able to have confined to one hand.
Flattery was a sales gimmick on the part of the salesman, as can
be confirmed by other biographies in the same volume. This is not
to demean Grandpa Loveday. Members of the family who were very
well acquainted with him have spoken highly of his 'green thumb'
and of his meticulous gardening habits and practices which made
it a crime on the part of a weed to show as much as a green leaf
within the garden fence line. Other than a good-size garden spot
at his home in Almy, he may have had a small amount of soil which
provided pasture for a cow or two. The publisher's representative
didn't overestimate - Grandpa Loveday was as successful as anyone
could be under the same circumstances, probably more so than most
would have been.
Uncle Will Blacker, who lived neighbors to the Lovedays, said
their health was not good, especially Grandma Loveday's. Shortly
we will return again to our interview with Uncle Will who will
advise us of their need to have Aunt Mary Blacker (Wilkes),
during her girlhood years, spend all her time with them, rather
than with her own family.
Relative to the Blacker family, let us return to their story
to see what is transpiring. To do so, more quoting from "Born of
Goodly Parents", this following their decision to move to Star
Grandpa Edward's decision to move his family to Afton came too
late to be able to take his entire family with him, for his
oldest daughter and second child, Sarah Ann, married Archibald
Durie Nisbet on the 30th of June 1895, and her brother, George,
married Mary Bailey on the 31st of July of the same year. Neither
of these couples ever moved to Star valley for permanent homes,
but remained for the time being in the areas of the coal
Grandma Althera Blacker's parents, Isaac and Mary Danks
Loveday were in poor health at the time to which we are referring
and in making plans to leave Almy, it was concluded, for the
present at least, that they would not follow the Blacker family
to Star Valley. They would remain in Almy, but they were not to
be left without help. Aunt Mary, then seventeen years of age, was
selected to remain with her grandparents. Actually, she was the
only one of the family who, due to age and experience, would be
able to carry such a responsibility. Aunt Maria, the next in line
for such a responsibility had just reached thirteen years of age,
and therefore was too young. Also, it may have been Mary's choice
for she had stayed with her grandparents a goodly share of her
girlhood years, probably because of the help she could give them.
Also, because of there being nine children in the family, until
the marriages of 1895, plus the two parents, even though it was a
five or six room house, they would have been crowded.
With Mary remaining in Almy and the two children having
married, there yet remained six children who went with their
parents to Star Valley. What prompted them to start their move in
the fall of the year 1895, we don't know. It seems that it was
the wrong thing to do and even Providence seemed to step in and
hinder them from completing the trip. Two friends of Grandpa
Blacker, Archesio Corsi and Archie Moffatt, from Star Valley, had
been to Almy and nearby settlements with their freight wagons of
cheese, eggs and farm produce. They were returning with their
wagons only partially loaded and agreed to take the Blacker
family's furniture to the valley. They were to lead the way and
Grandpa and his family were to follow shortly after. As the
family reached Randolph, Utah, a settlement some thirty miles
from Almy, Uncle Hyrum, then just four years of age became
seriously ill. It was felt wise to return to their home in Almy
into which Uncle George and Aunt Polly had moved upon the
departure of the family. With their furniture and much of their
clothing on the way into the valley, they were, indeed, much
handicapped, but felt that out of necessity, they would have to
remain in Almy for the winter." (Pp. 8 and 9).
Perhaps, at this point in the story we might pause to review
some of the actual concern the family had endured with their
mining occupation. As stated, the decision to leave Almy
permanently did not develop over night. It was as though the
handwriting was on the wall. Coal mining had been good to the
family, for it provided a living but it had a price. How long the
problem had been with him we are not prepared to say, but we are
aware that it had been showing its toll through the years and the
Blacker family was not to be deprived of its share of such
Mine explosions oft times caught groups of miners unaware and
brought suffering and death to many and the Almy mines were no
exception. During these years of which we are writing - the first
half of the 1890s - Almy had reached and probably passed its
zenith of population as well as its overall potential. Coal
mining camps are sometimes known to be short-lived for the simple
reason that their coal supply is not inexhaustible. Such
conclusions were foreshadowed, for by this time, the first mines
open as early as 1869 had long been closed and new ones opened,
going north along the valley's east hills where the last of the
coal veins were located.
Jumping ahead in Almy's history to 1900, its mining days had
about ended, and the whole populous had to move on - not all in
one day, but gradually. New mines were being opened up in other
area such as Spring Valley, where for but a few years there was a
coal supply. The Cumberland, Glencoe and Kemmerer areas opened
up. While the Rocky Springs mines were opened as early as the
Almy mines, their supply was greater and remained in production
much longer. Coal mining in Superior, Wyoming, a few miles
northeast of Rock Springs opened - each of these mentioned coal
towns becoming an eventual home of the next couple generations of
the Edward Blacker family, particularly son George's family and,
for a time, daughter, Sarah Ann's family, however, the latter
soon pulled away from that occupation.
But, back to Almy: Probably the one greatest single event of
discouragement to the Edward Blacker family, beyond the already
recognized health factor, was the devastation resulting, not in
the mines that the men folk of the family were working in, but
that of a neighboring mine - Mine #5. On the 20th of March 1895,
at about 5:45 p.m., just a few minutes before the day shift was
to leave the mine and the night shift to come on, the regular
routine of the mine was interrupted by three devastating blasts.
Flames and dust shot out of the mouth of the mine, which sent
timbers and other debris followed by billowing smoke which could
be seen all over the valley. This which could be seen was but
evidences of what had transpired lower in the mine. The blasts
were so severe, that so far as is know, every man who was in the
mine at the time was killed. The catastrophe occurred, as stated,
but a few minutes before the day crew was to leave the mine and
prior to the night-time crew entered. Many and many are the
stores told including the reports that some of the usual day crew
had felt impressed to not work that day or, of some, who had left
Few families in the community were not affected directly, and
seemingly, the Edward Blacker and Isaac Loveday families, so far
as is known, were among the few, having no immediate family
members working in #5.
Following the blasts and as soon as the flying debris and dust
and smoke cleared sufficiently, the men outside the mouth of the
mine, including many of the on-coming shift who would have been
victims had the blasts occurred but a few minutes later, at the
risk of their lives, formed rescue teams and entered in search of
victims. Sixty-two casualties - husbands, fathers, brothers, sons
and close relatives - few families of the community escaping
relationship, and probably no family escaping who did not have
close acquaintances and friends.
The coal company did all they could to assuage grief, but this
kind of grief cannot be taken from survivors of such calamities.
The company provided caskets for the dead and prepared the bodies
for burial and then the dead where taken to their homes, or homes
of relatives or friends, to await the funerals. Some of the dead
were shipped out of town, some to nearby Evanston and other
places for private funerals.
Funeral services were held in the Almy Ward church for
thirty-three who were to be buried in the local cemetery. Almy
was very much a Mormon community and from Church headquarters in
Salt Lake City came announcements of their deep concern.
President Wilford Woodruff was president of the Church at the
time and the First Presidency sent the following official
representation to the funeral service: Joseph F. Smith, Franklin
D. Richards, Seymour B. Young and Edward Stevenson.
With thirty-three caskets, there was little room left on the
inside of the chapel, so most of the mourning families and,
certainly their friends, were seated on chairs forming rows one
behind the other. Bishop James Bowns, the Blacker family's bishop
and probably the bishop to most of the decreased, conducted the
service. Other officials, including the General Authorities, sat
behind and used the pulpit in proper turn. The choir leader was
James Hood. In song and sermon the grieved were comforted as best
as possible in that funeral setting. By far the majority of the
mourners, due to lack of space, experienced the funeral from
outside the building.
After the services the caskets were again placed in the wagons
and taken to the waiting graves, most of them being in the Almy
In addition to this single devastating event which affected
decisions of mining families who were on the verge of 'having
enough', with the Edward Blacker family fitting into that
category, there were other mine hazards. Included were the cases
of dangerous gases, heavier than air, which found pockets in
which it accumulated and often trapped and poisoned men. These
traps of death were more sudden in taking their toll, while
miner's consumption, such as Grandpa Blacker was experiencing,
was just as much a killer, but much, much slower. It would take
many months and years to disable a man to the point that he had
to leave his employment. In addition to this resultant end, the
latter would torment him day and night for years to come, only to
be relieved by a merciful death, which would eventually bring
relief to the sufferer.
One can quite easily imagine what concern, what grief and
heartache would become the lot of one's loved ones as they
witnessed him having to struggle to get air into the closing and
wasted-away portions of his lungs which are so necessary in
transmitting life giving oxygen and other air ingredients into
the blood stream in order to sustain life. What price to pay for
the privilege of employment! But a means of livelihood was
essential - a living had to be provided for one's family and in
coal mining camps other types of work are very limited.
The decision to move had been made, in fact they had already
made a start to go to Star Valley, but circumstances brought them
back for the winter. Undoubtedly, they may have given the
anticipated move a second thought. It was to be farming and stock
raising at approximately the same elevation they had been
accustomed to in Almy. One hundred sixty acres this time, not the
small six or seven acres they had had for the last eleven or
twelve years. Even so, their little acreage in Almy could be
classified as a 'luxury' acreage. Wages from the mine provided
their living - not the acreage - even though it may have
supplemented those wages just a little.
Again, back to some direct quoting:
It was not until April of 1896 that they again started for the
Valley. They had experienced a heavy winter and made the trip in
a sleigh with three horses, two pulling the sleigh and the third
being led behind. After a very eventful trip, in which their
sleigh and horses had to be left on the road due to the horses
slipping into deep drifts, and being unable to get up, the family
walked for hours to reach a farm house near the entrance of the
Valley. This walk was almost more than some of the family could
endure, but they did reach the farm house. With the help of the
mailman, who came along later in the day, the horses were again
hitched to the sleigh and the family later proceeded to the
Valley reaching Afton on the 10th day of April 1896.
This family picture was taken in 1895 just prior to their moving to Star Valley. Aunt Sarah Ann and Uncle George were ready for , or just previously married. Mary remained in Almy with her grandparents. Only the six younger children migrated to Star Valley with their parents. Front standing: Hyrum, Fannie Seated left to right:Merintha, Althera, William, Edward, Maria. Back row: Sarah Ann, George, Mary, Thomas Kemuel the youngest child was born two years after this picture was taken.
With snow yet on the ground in the valley they drove to their
new 160 acre snow covered farm to the little dirt roofed two-room
cabin which was to be their home. No one had been living in the
house during the winter, into which, we presume the freighters
had put their furniture several months before. With no one having
been around, it was necessary, even in April, for them to shovel
the snow away from the door in order for them to step down into
They were now in the new world! As we look back from our
vantage point three quarters of a century later (at this writing
an additional more than 10 years. L.B.) it seems that it would
have been a frightening world to have awakened to the next
morning. Eight souls for which to provide and the pay-check cut
off. No livestock on which to depend on for food. Three horses,
yes, and horses were necessary, but there was no feed in the
pastures for it was yet too early for grazing. Maybe Mr. Stewart,
the original homesteader from whom Grandpa purchased his
homestead right for the sum of three hundred dollars for the 160
acre farm, had left a little feed in the form of hay. We don't
know, but maybe he didn't. The family situation was noticed by
neighbors. Coming to their rescue was Oz Gardner, a neighbor
one-half mile away who loaned the Blacker family a cow and enough
hay to feed it. This indicates that, perhaps, there was little or
no hay for the horses.
It was not long until it looked as though the mistake of their
lives had been made. Wife and mother, Althera, could probably be
the most responsible in the move for she wanted freedom from the
fear she had lived with as to the safety of her men-folk in the
mines. She had also observed the safety encountered and the
satisfaction derived from working with the soil, from the life of
her father who loved the it. Too, in all likelihood, even though
she was the mother of ten children at the time, she wanted her
boys in work other than what they seemed destined to do if they
stayed in Almy. Now she was free of that concern, but she had
been so accustomed to a weekly or monthly income from the work of
the mines, that she could have overlooked the security that
working for 'old King Coal' had given them. Just as regularly as
the clock went around was income being received. Perhaps it had
not been all she needed, but there was some and it provided
security. She could go to the company store and draw groceries
even upon unearned money. With work, there was food and clothing
for her family. Had she thought what would happen with the pay
check cut off?
We are sure she had but maybe they didn't realize how seldom
income would come in when they got to Star Valley. It is true
they could milk a cow, but the cow had to be fed and the cow
could die. They could plant a garden and live from its fresh,
healthful, tasty vegetables and fruits, but there were the mice,
the squirrels, the gophers who probably liked vegetables better
than humans. If the vegetables were there, they came easier to
the rodent than to the caretaker of the garden. There were the
insects, the plant diseases which had to be contended with, and
most seriously of all, there were the weaknesses of Mother Nature
- the lack of water in the dry seasons and, particularly for Star
Valley, the frost. It is not uncommon there to have frost every
month of the year. Yes, Jack Frost seemed to enjoy creeping down
from the tops of the high surrounding mountains during the nights
in his playful gesture of tingling the ears of humans and plants
alike. Also, as the warm days of summer came with their soft, and
sometimes not so soft, breezes the ground steadily lost its
moisture and in order for the plants to thrive, moisture had to
be provided. Ditches had to be plowed from one high area to the
next in order to run the clear cool water onto the dry soil. This
became a neighborhood chore, for all the farmers in one area
would join together to make a main ditch leading all the way from
the headwaters near Swift Creek Canyon a few miles away. The
water from there had to be apportioned among the four or five
ditches leading to the various areas of the valley and this
required engineering and maintenance. When the water in the main
ditch eventually reached the private farm itself, then it
remained up to the farmer to distribute it from one knoll to the
next and this, in and of itself, was a little engineering feat of
its own. The principle of irrigating was that if water could be
gotten to the high places, it could be led to trickle down the
slopes so that every blade of grass or grain would benefit from
Grandpa Blacker was not a farmer, nor a cattleman, nor a
horseman and it seemed it didn't come easily to him. Also, due to
the fact that his health was far from good, as mentioned earlier,
a great amount of the farming program on the new farm fell to the
boys. In these early Star Valley years, Dad (Thomas) became the
head engineer. He was sixteen and the next in line son was
William, then between ten and eleven years of age.
It is questionable that everything went as smoothly as it
might have done. Such is usually not the case with farmers who
are poorly equipped with machinery and experience. How soon they
bought a cow of their own we don't know, but it is not likely
they got into the milking business in a big way overnight. Things
like this take time and in the meantime income became a
nightmare, not so much for it but for the lack of it. Probably
more concern was felt by Grandma Althera than by anyone else.
First it was difficult for her because it was her disposition to
become concerned, and secondly, she was faced with real problems,
as has been explained.
No housewife would find her lot easy, who had to house her
family of eight in a two room log house. The floors were of rough
boards and these are not easy to keep clean under the best of
conditions. There couldn't have been much floor space left to
view with the furniture and eight pairs of shoes standing on it.
Bed-down time was undoubtedly a challenge, for most of the
children had to sleep on the floor. It so happened that the
former owner had built a small shed, which technically was called
the milk-house. It was a short distance from the house to the
north toward the corrals. This also had a dirt roof, but the roof
was low. In envisioning how improvements could be made, the
family decided that if the building could, in some manner, be
attached to the house, it would make more room which was so badly
needed. So planning and engineering were put to use and it was
decided that if the roof of the milk house could be raised to the
level of the roof of the house, and the several-foot space
between the two could be enclosed and roofed, the added section
would supply at least a couple additional bedrooms. How soon this
project was completed we have no way of knowing, however, it is
very possible it was not done for two or three years following
their moving to the Valley. (Born of Goodly Parents, pp.
Let us get some 'on the scene' comments from Uncle Will
Blacker who was ten years of age when the trip from Almy to Afton
was made. The following direct quotations comes from the taped
personal interview in July of 1965, part of which has previously
been quoted: (The initials, L. for Loyn; UW: for Uncle Will.)
L: "- - - Now, you were getting up to about the time your folk
were beginning to talk about moving to Star Valley.
UW: Well, yes, I remember when Dad was elected county
commissioner. He and our neighbor, John Sims, were on the
commission and they went over to Star Valley with a team and
buggy and they put that road thru from Afton thru Nield String,
over to the west hills. It didn't go all the way over, but just
to the road where it turns off to Fairview. Dad and Sims forced
the road over to the west hills while he was on the board of
commissioners. I was just a little boy, but I remember about them
going and then about this time Dad had been over, and we had
Archie Moffat and Archiso Corsi who used to come out to Almy and
peddle cheese, butter and eggs and sell to the mining camp. They
used to buy them in Star Valley and bring them up to Almy with
horses and wagons and they were good friends of Dad's, and Dad
had been up to the valley, so he decided that he would like to go
there, because he had been hurt in the mines two or three times
and he decided he would like to do something different than just
mine all his life. And the funny thing about it was that when
they decided to go over there, that Archiso and Brother Moffatt
loaded on part of our furniture and took it in their wagons. They
started and we were to catch up with them and meet them at
Randolph. They used to stay at Andrew Kennedy's place and a Mrs.
Morgan's, whose husband got killed in number Five explosion and
was a neighbor of ours. After we got abut half way down to
Randolph (Randolph was about 30 miles north and west of Almy,
L.B.) my little brother, Hyrum, took sick and we had tot urn
around and go back. We had to go back to George's and Polly's who
now were living in the old house. We went back and stayed all
winter with them, but the bad thing about it was that so much of
our furniture and some of our clothes and the girl's dresses were
gone so were in a heck of a shape. (Chuckling).
L: That was in the fall you were attempting to move, and you
stayed until the next spring. Do you remember the trip over?
UW: Oh yes, it was just in the spring of the year and we were
in a sleigh and at first we didn't have any trouble. We used to
go to Randolph and stay all night and then sometimes we would go
to Garden City. Dad had some friends in Garden City and the we
went to Montpelier where Aunt Sarah Ann and Uncle Tom (Danks)
used to live.
From Montpelier to Star Valley we had a little trouble. Father
was a 'green-horn' about horses. He didn't know much about horses
and it was in the spring of the year and the roads were getting
pretty soft and there was a lot of snow and one of the horses
stepped off the road. Of course he couldn't get up, for when he
fell the other horse pulled the sleigh right onto him and he
couldn't get up. Instead of us going to work and pushing the
sleigh back off of him so he could get up, Dad just rolled him
over and rolled him down in the gully and he was clear out in the
snow then. He couldn't get up - I remember then - we had a rope
and tied the rope onto him and to the other horse. In pulling
him, with his struggling, he pulled the other horse down. We had
three horses - we were leading one horse behind us. Instead of
staying with the sleigh like we should have done, why, we hit out
to walk and we walked for a long ways and we got over to Nield's
ranch - it took us all day. Fannie and Hyrum were little tots and
- I'll never forget - Mother and Dad carrying these two little
kids. Dad carried Hyrum on his back. Where he was holding him on
his legs, after we got down to the mail station we stayed for a
couple of days for Hyrum couldn't walk. The mail man, when he
came along, found the horses off the track - the sleigh was on
the road - and he made a road around the sleigh and he stopped
and brought our bedding and he brought our grub box and brought
it to us where he used to change horses.
L: Would that have been what we knew as the 'half-way'
UW: No, that was past the half-way house. It was closer to the
valley, down where the old Brooks place was - the old Cousin's
L: You were then getting close to the Valley?
UW: Yes, we walked and we walked and we walked and it was
snowing. The wise thing would have been for us to have stayed
where we were until help came. When the mail man came he changed
horses and he drove on down to town, so Dad told him to send
somebody up to help us, so Hy and Sam Kennington came with a team
and went on and got the horse up out of the snow and brought our
sleigh down to us and then they took us down to Star valley. I
remember when landed in Afton it was on my birthday - the 10th of
April and I was ten years old.
L: That would be 1896. Well, Grandpa had been over to the
valley and proved up on a homestead?
UW: He didn't take up any land, but he bought a homesteader's
right. I have heard Dad say that he gave him $300 for the
homestead right of 160 acres.
L: That was the old home two miles north and one west of
UW: It was known as the Stewart homestead for a long
L: For the benefit of those who don't know where the old
Blacker home is, you were a mile and three quarters north of
Afton and one mile west.
L: At the time there were 160 acres and the log house was on
UW: When we got to the house we had to make steps thru the
snow down to the house.
L: Was it just a two room log cabin?
UW: Just two rooms and how they ever got along with the family
with just two rooms. I can remember when I was just a little kid,
how Mother used to cry because there were pretty hard times in
Star Valley at that time. There was no money. Father was used to
getting a pay check from the mines. When we went down there,
there was nothing coming in and mother used to cry because we
didn't have any money - we just didn't have any money for there
wasn't any. I remember when we went to Oz Gardner's place to help
him put up some hay on shares. When the hay was sold, Dad sold it
for $2.00 per ton and we had to take a 'due' bill - that is an
order on the store because they didn't have any money. When they
sold anything they had to take it out on a 'due' bill on the
store for there was no cash over there. This summer when we were
putting up hay, I got run over with a load and I got my hip
broke. It was never set right and I have been a cripple all my
life from that time on.
L: What age were you then, Uncle Will?
UW: Between eleven and twelve years old.
L: That was the next year after you moved.
UW: Oz Gardner was very good to us. He had some cows and after
we got over to Star Valley he gave us a cow to milk and he
furnished us some hay to feed the cow until we could get started
L: When you got there, was the land on the farm under
cultivation? Had it been plowed and developed?
UW: Some of it had been cleared.
L: A good share of that farm is down in the meadows, that is,
pastureland down on the river bottom.
UW: Yes, there were springs down in there. Some of the land
was clear, but I remember us going out and clearing the sage
brush off after it was plowed up.
L: Now, Grandpa Loveday went over with you? Or, at least, he
got over there later and lived with you?
UW: They were in Almy and they stayed there until Grandmother
Loveday died - just how many years it was, I don't know. It
wasn't too long because we were still in the log house. We
actually stayed in the log house a long while. The first man who
built the log house built a milk house just a little ways away
from the house. It had a dirt roof on and (the folk) they raised
the roof up on the milk house to be even with the roof on the
house and they connected the two houses together which gave us
more room. When we went down there first there were quite a few
of us and they just had the two rooms. I remember they had to
make beds on the floor every night for us kids to sleep because
they didn't have room for beds.
L: The floors, of course, at that time were probably wood and
I suspect it was just a board floor.
UW: Yes, just a board floor but with the other rooms connected
on. Mother lived there until Dad died.
L: That was in 1910 when he passed away.
And so, to retain a degree of sequence to the family story, we
leave Uncle Will's taped interview of July of 1965. His further
comments will be picked up as a continuation of this story
It had to have been during the winter season of the next year
or two following their arrival in Afton - 1896 - that our father,
Thomas, returned to the Evanston area for work, undoubtedly, to
supplement the little income the family had been receiving from
the crops and livestock of the farm. Unquestionably, as the first
two or three years passed some progress was made in stocking the
farm with animals such as a few cows, chickens, pigs, etc. It
probably was not more than a winter or two at most that Tom
returned to the Evanston area, but it is known that he was
employed as a guard on the Union Pacific railroad. At that time,
the company was drilling the Altamont tunnel thru the hills south
and east of Evanston, which actually shorted the main line of the
railroad several miles.
We do not know the full particulars of the guard job, however,
there was a small-pox epidemic and part of the time the guarding
had to do with matters pertaining to it. What other guard work
needed being done is not known. There very well could have been
other work than guard work, which our father, Thomas, did while
away. It is of interest, that he had a guard companion whom he,
undoubtedly had known before, for he too, had grown up in Almy.
The companion, Herbert Brown, later married and had a daughter
named Mabel Brown to whom Thomas, years later - nearly forty
years later - became father-in-law. A small world!
Back in Star Valley, time proved an ally to the Blacker family
and conditions improved. More prosperous conditions than were
evident the first two or three years came as a result of their
labors. Child number eleven arrived on the 28th of October 1897,
and he was named Kemuel from a family name on his mother's
The years 1898 and 1899 passed and then the turn of the
centuries - the nineteenth passed into history and the twentieth
century was born.
As it comes to all, back in Almy, as had already been alluded,
death came to Grandma Blacker's mother, Mary Danks Loveday on the
14th of April 1902. She was laid to rest in the Almy cemetery at
the side of her mother, Ann Powell Danks, and near the grave of
little two year old, Isaac Blacker. Her passing broke up the
home-life of the Isaac Lovedays and brought to the Blacker home
in Star valley, their daughter and sister, Mary, who had remained
in Almy to assist her grandparents. Grandma Althera's father,
Isaac, now eighty-one years of age came to Star Valley to spend
the rest of his life with a favorite daughter.
Picture taken while visiting the Brooks home in Wyoming around 1906. Will Blacker with shot gun, Ed Wilkes with guitar, his wife, Mary Blacker Wilkes and baby Arvilla on chair. Kneeling front: Mr. Brooks with sheep and dog, Thomas Blacker in hat near door holding 9 month old, Theadore. 2 ½ year old Leroy standing on stool with feet just above sheep’s back Back: Mrs. Brooks in doorway. Hettie Wilkes Blacker at front doorway with high crown straw hat. 19 year old Merintha Blacker with bamboo fishing pole, Brig Gardner with right hand on fishing pole. 1 ¾ year old Delos Gardner held in left arm of father with face behind mother’s high crown hat. Maria Blacker Gardner in white blouse, dark skirt. 14 year old Fannie Blacker in white dress and bonnet, 9 year old Kemuel Blacker. Grandpa and Grandma Edward and Althera Blacker
Edward Blacker holding garden produce, carrots, turnips and possibly red beets, assisted by a grandchild. This picture was taken before his death in Afton, November 27, 1910, a year after his daughter Mary Blacker Wilkes’ death, and six months after his father-in-law, Isaac Loveday’s death.
The Edward Blacker and Althera Loveday farm 1.75 miles north and one mile west of the intersection 4th Ave and Washington Street in Afton. It is on the southwest corner of the intersection of Allred Road and Kennington-Burton Lane. The house was built in about 1912-13. Photo was taken in August 2012.
The Edward Blacker and Althera Loveday farm in August 2012.
The Edward Blacker and Althera Loveday farm in August 2012.
The Edward Blacker and Althera Loveday farm in August 2012.