Thomas Blacker and Hettie May Wilkes
I am Loyn Blacker's daughter. He published this history of his parents in 1971 in book form, which was distributed to family members. In an effort to not let this information be lost, my husband, Laron and I decided to put it online. Some of the history was also included in "The Blacker Epic" and "The Wilkes Epic", "From Far Away to Afton" and other histories, so there is quite a bit of duplication. We took the liberty of adding pictures and new information which wasn't available at the time the original story was written.
Please feel free to contact us concerning mistakes or corrections that need to be made.
Ruth Blacker Waite
October 23, 2013
This brief family story is dedicated to a wonderful set of parents and to their family at large, the past and present generations.
The expressions presented in these few pages are but an attempt to portray the story of the lives of our parents, Thomas and Hettie Wilkes Blacker, as I have felt and witnessed in my personal experiences with them.
They were a deserving pair of parents and the lessons they taught and the examples they lived are certainly worthy of emulation. They are a couple with whom their grandchildren and great-grandchildren should become acquainted to get an insight of their struggles and aspirations. To have an honorable family was their paramount goal.
It is to this end that this brief story will enlighten and cause us all to remember what favored posterity we are by having these wonderful people as our forbearers.
While they had a large family, in reality, we who personally knew them are few as compared to the number of their descendants who never had an opportunity of knowing them. Particularly for those who are not personally acquainted with them this story is written to assist all of us to more fully]y appreciate the lives and mission of these two wonderful people.
Thomas Blacker and Hettie May Wilkes Pedigree
"AND A RECORD SHALL BE KEPT"
It has always seemed regrettable that people live and die to have their influence directly affect only those who might abide in the same house, or by personal association of those who may live contemporarily with them. It is probably safe to say that far too many, who otherwise would become an influence on others, fail to do so simply because they become literally unknown almost as soon as their physical association ceases to be a fact.
Undoubtedly it is true that association in absentia does not carry the same effect as association in person, yet, there remains the fact that an acquaintance can be made even in the event of him not being personally present. Our world would indeed, be small were it to be confined to only our association with those individuals or those things close enough to us that we would be able to hear, see or feel. Stories of the great characters of the past often provide a stimuli with an influence toward affecting our lives, and for this reason, if for no other, a recapitulation of one's life should be made available, not only by the individual himself, but it would be well to have the story written by another who sees thru eyes which have observed from the 'outside' so to speak and which, perhaps, are more objective.
To this end I feel a pair of worthy parents should have the qualities and experiences of their lives portrayed for the benefit of others. When the present generation of this family passes there will remain very few who will be able to say they even so much as remember their grandparents. Particularly will this be true of their Grandmother Hettie Wilkes Blacker, for she passed away when the few grandchildren she had at the time were yet very young. Their Grandfather Thomas Blacker lived for another ten years, and during these years several additional grandchildren were born and some of them, with their older brothers, sisters and cousins, will remember him reasonably well.
THE FAMILY'S NATIONAL BACKGROUND
Individuals do not just 'pop up'. This was true of our parents. There is a long family background preceding both - - mainly of English derivation. Genealogy in fact, reveals that we are very close to England. Thomas Blacker himself, was born in Wales with an English background on his father's side and an English background on half his mother's side. The other half of his mother's family has a Welsh background. It is interesting to study our entire pedigree. Four generations back on my personal pedigree chart on my father's side, where four individuals appear within that fourth generation, three were English while the one remaining was Welsh. On the maternal half of my pedigree in that same fourth generation, two of the four ancestors were of England with one from Wales and the fourth was born in the States. Earlier than the fourth generation on the Hunt line of the pedigree, the next four preceding generations were born in the United States, but the next person beyond that on this same Hunt line was reportedly born in England. However, neither his birth date nor place of birth have yet been found. Our second-great grandmother, Duannah or Joannah Beard, is the only representative of the Beard line we have yet found. Her family name is the only name we have on our pedigree which has not been directly traced to the British Isles, yet the name itself indicate there is a very good possibility that it originated in England. North Carolina is as far as we have traced the name.
With such a preponderance of English ancestry in the veins of the Thomas and Hettie Blacker family, we can with certainty, have a pride in the fact that we are of close-in English stock. One has a right to be proud who can trace ancestry to that country for England has had no peer in the history of the world, unless it be the Hebrew nations from which England has its origin, whether she realizes it or not.
THE ISLES - - AN APPOINTED PLACE
England has had a glorious history and tho it is now nearing the end of its mission, it still has much to do as a balance of power in the world. England is old as we count the times of nations. She has become the mother of many nations, the greatest of which is probably our own United States of America. England's history is ancient, in fact so ancient that much of the early history is but little more than tradition. The study of English history is most revealing, for almost beyond dispute is an early connection, in fact, repeated connections with Palestinian Israel which, according to scripture, is the Lord's chosen. The Prophet Samuel, of the Old Testament, some 1100 years B. C. made a promise from the Lord (see II Samuel 7:10 "Moreover I will appoint a place
for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as before time." Four hundred years later (approximately 700 B. C.) the Prophet Isaiah (chapters 41 thru 51) wrote: "Keep silence before me, O Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. The Isles shall wait for His law - -. - - Listen, O Isles, unto me: and hearken, ye people, from afar - - Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. The Isles shall wait upon me, and mine arm shall they trust."
The only large islands in a group west of the Holy Land are the British Isles. Could we conclude that, in all probability, England was and is "the appointed place
" of Samuel's prophecy? Much, much more could here be written of the relationship of England to Israel. That subject would be a book in and of itself, but let it suffice to say that the heritage of one who traces his ancestry into England should be accepted with pride.
ENGLAND'S ROLE AND DESTINY
It is probably safe to say that no country on earth has been so convulsed with constant stirrings of new peoples. Particularly is this true of what we classify as 'old' countries. Modern America could be an exception. As one looks back for an overall view, there is no problem in seeing an Overseeing Power which has directed the comings and goings of peoples having to do with England. Israel was and is a chosen people and a habitation for its people had to be provided and the lot fell to England. England has preserved for us the blessings promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and has brought about the fulfillment of the promise of the Lord given to Judah thru his father, Jacob; "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." (Genesis 49:10). England has also brought about the fulfillment of the promise of the Lord given to King David when he was promised that: "And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever." (II Samuel 7:16). Some may ask, "Was not David's throne and kingdom totally destroyed when the Babylonian army entered Jerusalem, its king Zedekiah tormented by having his sons put to death before him and to add insult to injury, put his eyes out, bound him and took him to Babylon where he died?" This did not prove to be the total end of David's kingdom, for after seventy years a remnant of the Jews were permitted to return to Jerusalem. However, the puppet kingdom they did set up was under the domination of foreign powers such as Babylonia, the Medes and Persians, the Macedonians, the Syrians, and lastly the Romans. Claimants to the Davidic throne were in name only and never again in reality. Mulek of the Book of Mormon, a surviving son of Judah's last recognized king, Zedekiah, became an heir to the throne but his people became extinct. The Savior's genealogy shows that He became the direct heir to the throne, but He was crucified.
Does this all mean that the promise the Lord made to David became nullified? No. The Lord saw to it that a claimant to the throne of David, a daughter of King Zedekiah, be taken to the British Isles by her grandfather, the prophet Jeremiah, where she married an Irish prince. Another daughter, traveling with her grandfather and sister, married into the royalty of Spain and thus the right to the throne of David was taken into European royal families from which the Royal House of England descends. It is reported that the Royal House of Great Britain, the protector of the throne, of David, has long recognized the fact that they are but stewards to the throne promised Judah thru David, and that the time is yet to come when they will be required to turn the reign of government to Shiloh, the Greater King, Jesus Christ, when He comes. Queen Victoria is reported to have said that she had hoped that she would be the monarch who would be privileged to live that it might be she who would turn the scepter of her kingdom to the Savior when He came to rule as King of Kings. ("One Man's Destiny" by C. R. Dickey. Pp 332-333).
ISRAEL IN ENGLAND VERIFIED
That England became the home of Israel there is no question. Early in this the Last Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, the Prophet Joseph Smith recognized the strength of Israel in England, for it was to that country the Lord urged him to first send missionaries other than to the United States itself. Conversion to the gospel was phenomenal in England during the early years of missionary work - - a process to the gathering of Israel - - and during the decades of the 1840s and 1850s there were more members of the Church in England than in all the rest of the world combined, including the United States. In the two decades mentioned, missionaries baptized 77,603 British converts and the most of these people, as families, immigrated to this country, some of whom were our people, in particular the Wilkes family. The Lovedays joined the Church early but remained in England until later when they came with the Edward Blacker family.
THE BLACKER FAMILY OF CLUTTON
Me standing in front of the St. Augustines Clutton Parish church in 1930. Our ancestry were christened, married and buried here since 1695.
Our branch of the Blacker family is first known to be in the little town of Clutton in Somersetshire, England. Clutton is but a small place not far south of the city of Bristol, a seaport town on the Bristol Channel, toward the south and western section of England. Being not far from the busy metropolis of Bristol, Clutton can be termed somewhat the beginning of a pastoral area which leads to rural southern England. Clutton is about fifteen miles to the north and slightly east of the famous Glastonbury Abbey, in the town of Glastonbury, which is purportedly to have been established by England's first Christian missionary in A. D. 36, Joseph of Arimathea, an uncle of the Savior. It was he who took the body of Jesus and placed it in his own tomb.
How long the Blackers lived in Clutton we do not presently know, nor do we know from where they came. A very early geographical center of the Blacker name shows up far to the north, in Yorkshire, much earlier than we have any record of Blackers in Clutton. From that area one branch of a Blacker family was rewarded an estate in northern Ireland by the English king, for faithful valor and support to the British Crown. There is no known connection, however, between either of these of families to the Blackers of Clutton. Such an exploratory challenge still remains for a member of the family to undertake to determine from where the Clutton family originated.
The Blacker Monumental Works in Clutton. The sign indicates that the business was started in 1716. The picture was taken in 2008.
Clutton parish registers, the earliest church records we have of that town, started in 1693 and on January 24, 1695 is the date of the first Blacker entry, a christening of a James, son of a William and Ann Blacker. In such a small community as Clutton, there is a great likelihood that all Blackers living there may have been of the same original family, however, the first proven entry on our direct line
as of this date, 1971, does not show up until on the 26th of October 1718 in the person of my generation's fifth great-grandfather, Tobias Blacker, in the form of a christening date. He had three older brothers and a sister whose first christening date, 1709, which of course antedates Tobias' date, therefore, the date 1709 becomes the earliest date pertaining to our direct family line. Incidentally, this first christening date of 27 November 1709 is for a Tobias, the oldest brother of our Tobias, who apparently passed away as an infant or a young child prior to the naming of our ancestor. With this information it can be seen that our Blacker surname family line dates specifically to 1709, however our direct pedigree line goes only to 1718.
The names of the parents of this family group are known, but there are no proven dates relating to them. Their father, William's estimated birth is about 1683. Someday, perhaps another family member will find his record, probably in the parent register of the Clutton area, or perhaps in a neighboring parish. Clutton's parish marriage records go back only to 1757 which is two generations later than the first christening and burial records of that parish, which is sad indeed for it indicates a possibility of this long period of marriage records having been lost or destroyed. There yet remains the possibility of a contemporary record, a copy of the parish marriage records, being in existence in the form of Bishop's Transcripts. If these exist we haven't explored them, but there yet remains that hope.
What the occupations were of the many families of the earliest known six or seven generations who resided in Clutton, we do not know. Undoubtedly, if this family holds true to form, and we see no reason why it shouldn't, there would be a great variety of occupations. We do know that as early as 1716 the Blacker family started the monumental sculpturing business which in 1930 when I visited Clutton, was known as the F. Blacker & Son Monumental Sculptors of Clutton. This early date of 1716 might indicate that the business was started by our earliest known progenitor, the William whom we mentioned earlier. The F. Blacker of the name of the company and with whom I corresponded for a few years, was Frederick, a second cousin to our great-grandfather, John Blacker. Since Frederick's death in 1948, his son, Charles, and daughter Freida operate the business.
The following, written March 26, 2004 is from my journal while on a trip to England.
"We drove to Clutton, to see where the Blackers on our direct line lived. These are the family members that are the first that can be proven to be our direct line. As we drove along the main road, I looked out to the left, as we passed a sign that read, "Blacker Monumental Works, established in 1716" That was the place my dad had gone to in 1930, but found the owner and distant cousin away from home. It had been established by our direct line, but had later gone to others in the family. I was so surprised, that I burst out crying. We had heard about this place all of our lives, and there it was! The owner in 1930, was a Frederick Blacker, who corresponded with Daddy for many years, and helped so much with the genealogy.
"We parked down the road and walked back. There appeared to be no one at home then either, but a sign in the office window directed people around the hedge and to the door of the house, but no one answered our knock. We were disappointed, but decided to go to nearby Cameley, and hope that someone would be home later. The drive to Cameley, a very small place, was beautiful, and we found the church where Blackers and Naishes had been married, christened or buried. It was a lovely, very quiet place.
"When we drove back to Clutton. Thankfully, Mr. Higgins, the current owner of the business was there. He was very friendly, and showed us through the home, which a William Blacker, one of our direct ancestors had built in 1716. He told us that he had bought the business from the last Blacker to operate it, a Freida Blacker, daughter of Frederick. She had never married, and he had worked for her until she became too old to operate it. It is now not owned by a Blacker, but he keeps the name of the business."
Ruth Blacker Waite
Early in the history of this particular business which is now over 250 years old, there certainly was not room for all sons of all generations to find employment, nor is it likely that a goodly share would have been interested. Our great-grandfather, John Blacker and wife, Maria Gould, took their family of four children to Monmouthshire, then in Wales but now in England. Their next six children were born there including our grandfather, Edward, who later married Grandma Althera Loveday in Mountain Ash, Glamorganishire, Wales. Apparently it was employment which took this family to Wales, for the family is known to have followed coal mining from that time. Whether that trade was followed back in Clutton we are not sure.
At the time my father wrote this history in 1971, he had no access to the immigration records available today. He believed his grandfather Edward Blacker and Isaac Loveday (Edward's father-in-law) had come to the United States ahead of their families, in 1881.
Due to the increased availability of records, it has since been discovered that on June 12, 1881 the manifest of the ship SS Spain, docking in New York City from Liverpool, lists Edward and those who were with him.
The passenger manifest SS Arizona from Liverpool to New York for February 8, 1882, lists the rest of Edward's family.
Edward was not a member of the Mormon Church so it appears that his reason for immigrating was to find work in the coal mines. Edward's son William told Loyn Blacker that Edward went to Pennsylvania to work in coal mines. We do not know when the rest of the family joined him. Their daughter Maria was born in May of 1883 in Streeter, Illinois. They went from Illinois to Almy, Wyoming to work in the coal mines there. They were in Almy by October 1884.
Ruth Blacker Waite
EMIGRATING AND THE CHURCH
Undoubtedly Althera, who married 'out of the Church' remained as faithful as conditions would permit. There is nothing we have found to this date to lead us to think she ever lived in a community in Wales where there was a branch of the Church to which she could attend between the time she married and when they left that country. She was baptized when about nine years of age, certainly still very much under the influence of her parents in Pontypool, Monmouthshire, Wales, where she lived as a girl. The story of her moving to Mountain Ash, Glamorganshire is not known, but it was here that she was married.
Althera Loveday and Edward Blacker about the time of their wedding in October 1873. I took the picture on the right in 1930. It shows # 7 Cliff Street, Mountain Ash where Edward and Althera lived and their three oldest children were born.
It must have been due to the fact that they did not live in a branch of the Church, that she didn't have her children baptized when they became eight years of age, the normal age of baptism in the Mormon Church. In fact, it was not for two to three years following their arrival in Almy that her second and third children, daughters Sarah Ann and Mary, were baptized despite the fact that they had moved into a community heavily saturated with the Mormon Church. Edward George, the eldest son was then twelve years of age, but did not become baptized. Sarah Ann was ten and one-half years old at the time of her joining the Church. If records are correct, daughter Mary made up for any neglect on the part of the older children for she actually 'jumped the gun' a little and was baptized two months before her eighth birthday. Such is possible, for bishops who were 'on their toes' would sometimes recommend youngsters to be baptized a little early if they lived in communities where it may have been deemed too cold to baptize in open streams during winter months. This could be very possible in Almy, for the winters are quite severe.
After these eighty-five years we wonder why the family, if the father had no objections to his children being members of the Church, didn't have the older children baptized when the Lovedays and wife Althera, had their membership accepted in the Almy ward. When it was done, could it have been by the urging of the bishop and his ward teachers who may have visited the Blacker home each month since their arrival in Almy? With Sarah Ann being the older of the two girls, custom was probably followed and she became the first with the Blacker surname to ever join the Mormon Church. If this were not the case, then the honor belongs to Mary for they were both baptized on the same day, the 19th of September 1886. A little over a week less than three years later my father Thomas, one of the principals of this story, became the first male of the Blacker families to join the Church, his baptism being on the 10th of September 1891. There can be but little question that the baptisms of this locality were in the Bear River. It runs within a few hundred yards of the family's old home and within a few hundred yards of the red, brick Mormon meeting house, some two miles north of the upper Almy river bridge, just to the east of the Blacker home. Somewhere along this stream a hole in the river could be found which provided water sufficiently deep to submerge a candidate. The time of the year when both baptismal occasions occurred - - September - - is usually the time when the water is as low as any season of the year.
It is interesting to note that Grandfather Edward, some nine months following his son Thomas' baptism, was baptized himself when he was nine months over forty years of age.
CHORE'S FOR FAMILY MEMBERS
Much more could be written relative to the story of the Blacker family, but the purpose here is to relate the story as it pertains to our father, Thomas. He was about four years of age (2 1/2 years, RBW)
when the family emigrated, so for the first few years in Wyoming he was not old enough to do much other than the light chores his parents would have him do around home. He has told us many times that as soon as he became old enough to gather willows for firewood, he had work to do. He related how, after school hours, he had the chore of taking an ax or hatchet and chop willows for kindling with which to light fires in the stove. Their home was near the river and willows were in abundance for the first few years. The fact that Dad's father and older brother George, were working in the mines would lead us to think they must have had coal available for fuel, however, willows were less expensive and they supplemented the more expensive coal fuel. How many years Dad attended school I do not know, but by the time he was ten or eleven he was working in the coal mines. We have heard him say that during the winter months, even as a boy, he went with his father into the mines before daylight and didn't return home until after dark, so we must be assured his formal education was reasonably limited.
KING COAL AND ITS HAZARDS
Grandpa Edward Blacker soon found that his working days in the mines were limited, for he had contracted what was known as miner's consumption. The dust from the coal pits has taken its toll thru the years, and the Blacker family was not to be deprived of its share. Mine explosions oft times caught groups of miners unaware and brought suffering and death to many, and the Almy mines were no exception. Several years after the family moved to Almy but before they left the mines, mine number five had a terrible explosion in which nearly one hundred miners lost their lives. This was not the mine our family was working in, but the same things could happen and in all probability it made the family the more determined to get away from the dangers mining involved. Also, poison gases heavier than air found pockets in which it accumulated, and men were often trapped and poisoned by it. These traps of death were more sudden in taking their toll, while miner's consumption was just as much a killer, but much, much slower, for 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 to earn a livelihood for one's family, but what else could one do? A living had to be provided for one's family and in coal mining camps other types of work would be very limited.
A NEW LIGHT ON THE HORIZON
It was about six years following the family's arrival in Wyoming that the Territory of Wyoming was admitted into the union of the United States on July 10, 1890. Two months later, the first state election was held under the Enabling Act, and on September 11th of that year Grandpa Edward Blacker was elected, with two other men, as Uinta County's first county commissioners within the new state. The following quotation will the more accurately and authentically describe what brought about a major change in the lives of some of the members of the Blacker family. The quotation comes from an article written and published in Vol. 6, Numbers one and two of the Annals of Wyoming, a quarterly published by the State Department of History at Cheyenne, Wyoming. The writer of the article, John C. Hamm, the first elected county prosecuting attorney of that first state-sponsored county election, writes of the Star Valley area of Uinta county:
"In those early days, Star Valley was an isolated frontier settlement of Uinta County in the first state 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 appraise those quiet pastoral regions of the restless wagging of the outside world. No automobile had as yet 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 a luxury.
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 the roads none too smooth and fords sometimes dangerous were tasks of real hardship.
"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. Arnold.
"There had arisen some dispute over the ownership of a calf in the vicinity of Afton, and the prosecuting attorney (Mr. Hamm, the write of this article) 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 to a spring wagon, and 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 County camped in the open, slept under the wagon or elsewhere as suited convenience or necessity."
It is interesting to note that the writer 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 possibility.
The above quoted paragraphs of this historic 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 with him 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 imagine 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 A1thera 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 and had been buried in a little grave in a newly purchased lot in the Almy cemetery some two to three miles to the north of their home.
To listen 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; Thomas 10 1/2; Maria, a couple months past 8; William, just past 5 and baby Merintha just at 3 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.
This 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 it 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.
WITH UNION PACIFIC
Just when Dad (Thomas) started working in the mines we do not know, but we are aware that he did work in them until the family moved to Star Valley. He couldn't have been more than fifteen or sixteen at the time of the move. Sometime during his teen years, but probably his later teens, he was employed by the Union Pacific Railroad out of Evanston. It is true that the railroad company owned mines in the area, but we do not know whether the Blackers worked in their mines or for another mining company. It is interesting to note that at the time, the Union Pacific was digging the three mile long Aspen tunnel, Dad had a position of guarding. This may have entailed guarding tools and other equipment, but also at the time, there was an epidemic of smallpox in the camp and he had some part in guarding the camp. Of special interest to us is the fact that, as a companion guard, he had a young man two or three years older than he by the name of Herbert Brown, the to-be father of one of Dad's later-to-be daughter-in-law, Mabel. It seems that Dad's age before his family moved to Star Valley wouldn't have him old enough to handle this type of job, and our conclusion is that he must have returned from Star Valley, probably during other than farming months while in his older teens.
FAMILY TIES SUCCUMBING TO MARRIAGES
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 (Polly) Bailey on the 31st of July of the same year. Neither of these couples ever moved to Star Valley for a permanent home, but remained for the time being in the areas of the coal mines.
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, but remain in Almy, but they were not to be left without help.
Aunt Mary, then seventeen years or 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, and also, because of there being nine children in the family until the marriages of 1895, plus the two parents of the house. Even tho it was a five or six room house they would have been crowded.
TIME FOR THE ANTICIPATED MOVE ARRIVES
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 raised in Star Valley, and were returning with their wagons only partially loaded. They 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 and 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 out of necessity, that they would have to remain in Almy for the winter.
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 real eventful trip in which their sleigh and horses had to be left, due to the horses slipping off the road and being unable to get up, the family walked for hours to reach a farm house near the entrance to 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 mail man who came along later in the day, the horses were again hitched to the sleigh and the family later preceded to the Valley reaching Afton on the 10th day of April 1896.
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; but 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 their home.
Althera and Edward Blacker and children about the time they left Almy for Star Valley. Left to right, back row:Sarah Ann, George, Mary, and Thomas. William standing in center. Left to right front row: Merintha, Althera, Hyrum, Edward, and Maria. Baby Fannie standing in front of her father.
They were now in a new world! As we look back from our vantage point three quarters of a century later 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 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's 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 A1thera, could probably be 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 with working with the soil from the life of her father who loved the soil. Too, in all likelihood, even tho 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 had she 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 was not 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 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 was the weaknesses of Mother Nature - - the lack of water during dry seasons, and particularly in Star Valley, the frost, for it is not uncommon 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 head waters 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 himself 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 the moisture.
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, and in these early Star Valley years, Dad 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 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.
LACK OF HOUSE ROOM A PROBLEM
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 a milk house, a short distance from the house to the north toward the corrals. This also had a dirt roof, but the roof was low and in envisioning how improvements could be made, the family decided that if that building could in some manner be attached to the house, it would make more room. Room 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.
Four generations at the side of the log home in which the Blackers lived for several years.Left to right: Althera Loveday Blacker, her father Isaac Loveday, and her daughter Mary Blacker Wilkes. In front, Mary's baby Arvilla.
Deep discouragement was to become the lot of, particularly the parents. There was no money during the first year or two. In fact there was very little money in the entire Valley, and the Blackers probably had as little as any. During the first summer, Grandpa and the boys - - Tom and William - - assisted Oz Gardner to put up some hay on shares, and Grandpa sold his share for $2.00 a ton. There was no money to exchange, so an order had to be taken on the store. The whole community was on a limited barter system in which it was a matter of exchanging one item for another. Grandma Blacker was particularly affected by these hard times, and her children have reported that she often cried long into the nights due to discouragement. It was almost more than she could endure, and then, to add insult to injury, while haying on the job just previously mentioned during the first summer, Uncle Will, less than eleven years of age was run over by the hay wagon and had his hip broken. It wasn't set right and as a result Uncle Will has had to spend the rest of his life partially crippled.
It must have been during the winter seasons of these first two or three years that Thomas returned to Evanston where he found employment with the Union Pacific Railroad company as was described earlier. It must have seemed imperative that assistance be gotten to supplement the meager income the family could gather from the farm. Pioneering indeed proved to be a hardship to the Blacker family.
Despite the understandable days of gloom and possible regrets, there must have been those days when all was not so dark. It didn't come without hard work, but improvements were slowly made in the living quarters as has been indicated. Barns and corrals were constructed and filled with cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, horses, and for them, grain and hay were raised. More prosperous conditions than were evident the first two or three years came as the 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 side. The years '98 and '99 passed by and then the turn of the centuries - - the nineteenth passed into history and the twentieth century was born.
ANOTHER LOVED ONE TO THE CEMETERY
Back in Almy, as it comes to all men and women - - death came to Grandma Blacker' s mother, Mary Danks Loveday in 1902. She was laid to rest in the A1my cemetery not far from the grave of little four year old Isaac Blacker. Her passing broke up the home of the Isaac Lovedays and brought back to the Blacker home in Star Valley, their daughter and sister Mary, who had stayed to help her grandparents. Grandma Blacker's father Isaac, now eighty-one years of age, came to Star Valley to spend the rest of his life with a favorite daughter.
The Edward Blacker family of 1916. Edward Blacker had been deceased for six years. Back row left to right: William, Kemuel, Maria, George, Sarah Ann, Thomas and Hyrum. Seated left to right: Merintha, Althera and Fannie. Fannie and Kemuel were yet unmarried. Mary was deceased.
CUPID A DOUBLE
It seems Mother Nature provides a way for a family to make room in a home as well as to provide necessities. With Mary and Grandpa Isaac Loveday coming to live with them, something had to give to make room. The family was still in the enlarged log house of four or five rooms, but this meant eleven in the dwelling and of this number at least six were adults or nearly so. We don't know that this situation speeded up a romance, but there was a twenty-four year old bachelor in the small community, and a twenty-four year old girl moving into town with her parents, and with this, one will have but little guessing to do to figure what might come next. Also, son Tom, the oldest son at home was now of marriageable age - - twenty-two past - - and he had had his eye on a younger sister of the bachelor just mentioned. Whether Grandpa and Grandma Blacker had anything to do with 'clearing' the house of some of its occupants so there would be turning-around room, we don't know, but it happened. Ed Wilkes, the eligible bachelor, and Mary Blacker started keeping company, and Tom and Hettie Wilkes continued keeping company until their double wedding in the Logan Temple on the 10th of June 1903. Grandma Blacker as most mothers do, questioned the marriage of any of her children, so she questioned these marriages. Usually in any mother's questioning, it simmers down to the fact that she doesn't want to lose a son or a daughter, but uses as an excuse the question as to whether the intended companion is 'good' enough for her son or daughter. According to reports handed down, it seems Grandma approached it from still another angle. "Why did two of her children have to leave home the same time, and most seriously, why did two of her children have to pick their intended companions from the same family?" It was but a question in her mind to which she had to give voice, but the foursome knew she wasn't serious enough for them to consider postponing the wedding.
THE WILKES FAMILY AND A 'HOLD' ON THE BLACKER STORY
Briefly the story of OUR PARENTS to this point has been confined to Dad and his family, with a brief account of the family's background. In order to pick up the other half of the story it becomes necessary to briefly review Mother's family background and her story prior to the above mentioned marriage.
The Wilkes family, as indicated earlier, likewise has its roots in England. In fact, in nearby counties to the English and Welsh homes of the Blackers.
The Wilkes' county of Gloucestershire joins the Blacker's county of Somersetshire on the north and adjoins the Blacker's county of Monmouthshire on the east. Within Gloucestershire, the cathedral city, Tewkesbury appears to be the home of the Wilkes name for several generations. However the wives of some of earlier Wilkes are from homes in Worcestershire, an adjoining county to the north of Gloucestershire. Other than within the larger city centers, these areas are quite pastoral and the countryside is beautiful. Little is known of the occupations of the earlier families, but second great-grandfather William Wilkes christened in 1805, was a masonry laborer according to the 1861 census of England. His son, great-grandfather William Wilkes Jr., born 1827 was a stocking weaver according to the birth certificate of his son, John. The Eynon family, an allied line, appears to have had a strong tendency toward mariners, seamen, merchant service and ship wright, all indicating connections with boating on the canals or boats at sea. William Eynon on our direct line was a coal miner, so it can be seen that occupations were quite diversified.
Center seated: Elizabeth Hunt and William Wilkes Sr., parents of the other four left to right: James seated, Mary Ann standing, William Jr. standing (Our great-grandfather) and Elizabeth (Betsy) seated on right. Picture taken in England before part of the family left for America.
EARLY MORMON BACKGROUND
The Wilkes families have been long-time members of the Mormon Church. The Cheltenham LDS Branch records recorded third great-grandfather, Charles Wilkes and wife, Ann King, as members and their son, William Wilkes and wife Elizabeth Hunt Wilkes and children, as also members of that branch, being baptized in 1848.
It is from these branch records that we are informed that their son, William Wilkes Jr., and wife Elizabeth Haynes or Haines, with their children Sarah Ann and our Grandfather John Wilkes, emigrated to America in April of 1855, which would make Grandfather John Wilkes but two and one-half years of age when they crossed the Atlantic.
Someday a member of the family will search the immigration records to verify their sailing date, for the branch records hardly conform to family tradition, unless the family stayed in the East for a few years prior to their crossing the plains. Almost to a man, the Wilkes' stories of their father quotes Grandpa Wilkes as saying, he with his parents crossed the plains in a wagon train when he was nine years of age, and that he walked a good share of the distance. Where may the family have been between his two and one-half years of age when the branch record says they left England and the 9 years of age when the family claims they crossed the plains? The results of further research will be interesting.
This story was written before my father found the immigration records for William Wilkes and his family. He recorded them in Chapter Three of the "Wilkes Epic" which he wtote after he completed this account. I found an image of the passenger manifest for the William Stetson voyage of 28 May 1855, which listed William Wilkes. I also found the manifest for the Caravan voyage of 21 March 1856 which lists William's wife and two children.
My father with all his many years of research, had never been able to find information concerning how the Wilkes traveled from New York to Salt Lake City. However, with new modern technology and recent access to various records previously not available, we can find information he couldn't. On the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel site, we find that the Wilkes joined with the Jacob Hofheins/Matthew McCune Company of LDS pioneers, which seemed to consist of wagons pulled by oxen. They crossed the plains during the summer of 1857. Journal entries of some of the fellow travelers give us this information...
"This after noon we drove five. Miles, and camp for night on a Slough where the road enter the Bluffs, I was call Apond last night about .2. A.M. to administer to Sister Wilks [Elizabeth Haines Wilkes], who was taking very Sick with hard Paines in her Bowls[.] Brothers Forman [Joseph Foreman] and Linyi assised me in the Administeration, to day about 12 o clock I with Brothers [James Henry] Hart and Dusten [John William Dutson] was Call Apond to administer to Brother [Jesse Easters] Muffy [Murphy.] To day about 1. P.M. Sister Brown died from a Sudent fright which was cause by one of the Oxen kicken her Husband as she was look out of the wagon. She saw the Ox kick him, She Spok, there the Ox has kick Mr. Brown, and he will now be layed up from this[.] She fell and inistently dead and did not breath after wards" (Taken from the diary of Thomas Searles Terry)
Ruth Blacker Waite
TO SALT LAKE CITY
It appears that the family emigrated directly to Salt Lake City where apparently they stayed for a time. Grandfather John's father William Sr., became a polygamist and married as his second wife, Elizabeth Crook. This couple had a son Charles in 1859 in Salt Lake City, and a second son, William Richard, in 1861 in Logan. These boys then being half-brothers of Grandpa Wilkes. The fact of the second marriage of William indicates that the family was in Salt Lake before Grandpa was nine years of age.
A couple questions: What were the feelings of the first wife with this plura1 marriage, and inasmuch as the second child of the second marriage was born in Logan, did Elizabeth the first wife, also move to Logan?
THE ENIGMA OF THE ST. CHARLES MOVE
Family tradition says that Grandfather John Wilkes, as a boy, herded sheep on the hill sides of Bear Lake and presumably St. Charles. If this be the case did his mother have her home there? Nothing is more interesting than to try to follow a family from church and public records, but in this case, until more records are delved into - - and surely they exist - - definite answers to many questions cannot be found. In following ward records one can piece a few things together, but even they do not give the answer. However, the St. Charles Ward records are interesting. St. Charles was organized as a branch about 1864 and as a ward in 1877. John A. Hunt, son of our great-grandfather Daniel D. Hunt, and the John A. of wagon train history, and also a half brother of Grandma Elizabeth Hunt Wilkes, is recorded on the St. Charles Ward record as # l and his family follows in numerical order. (Also, John A. was the ward's first bishop).
Following John A's wife and four children on the ward record comes # 7 which is John A.'s father, Daniel D. Hunt, and then in numerical order comes Daniel D.'s wife, Martha Eynon Hunt, our great-grandmother, and then Daniel D.'s children in order of age. By the time the record gets to # 12, we find the name of Martha Elizabeth Hunt, our grandmother who later married John Wilkes, our grandfather. The Hunt family moved to St. Charles when she was just a young girl. By the time the record gets to # 14, we run out of the Hunt family names into others of the ward.
It is interesting to note that Grandfather John Wilkes, whom we have supposed moved to St. Charles early, is member # 108 on the ward record index. He is immediately followed by his oldest son Johnnie, and the other children each in order of age, namely, # 109 John Daniel, # 110 Martha Elizabeth (Aunt Mat) # 111 William Edmond, # 112 Charlotte Ann, # 113 Hettie May Wilkes and # 114 Benoni Gasham Moroni (Uncle Noen). The children's mother, Grandma Wilkes, naturally retained her earlier position on the index as # 12.
Already you readers have questions for which we may not have an answer. The whole thing becomes interesting. The type of index the ward started with and held to for years was by numerical order rather than alphabetical, which means that the twentieth person to have his name entered on the ward records was numbered twenty and then the twenty first person would be numbered twenty one in the index regardless of alphabetical arrangement. Why does not Grandpa John Wilkes show up prior to the time all his six children show up?
Another item of interest is that Grandpa Wilkes' father, William Wilkes does not show up until the membership index reaches # 676 and what is all the more interesting is that Grandpa Wilkes' mother, Elizabeth Haines Wilkes is # 677. This indicates they entered the ward together but much later than their son John. Another interesting observation and one which should have been noted earlier is that Grandpa John's sister Sarah Ann, has # 291 whereas her brother's number, as noted earlier was # 108. Does this mean that she, Grandpa John's older sister didn't come to St. Charles with her brother John? And why were these two children's father and mother not with them and why did they come so much later?
There is no question but that there had been marital problems with William and his second wife Elizabeth Crook who was sealed to William on the 22 September 1859 according to the Temple Index card. As earlier noted their second son was born in Logan in 1861. Apparently she took steps to break the temple sealing for she was again sealed, this time to Hiram Kingsley Cranney, a doctor, on the 26th day of December 1864, this according to temple index records.
A PHYSICAL HANDICAP
Grandpa John Wilkes was a cripple most of his life and apparently from childhood. His right leg and his left arm never developed normally. From the knee to the foot of his right leg his bone remained small, and his foot was deformed in such a manner that he had to wear a highly built-up shoe, and he did his walking on his toe on that foot. His upper portion of the left arm remained likewise, small and was of limited use to him. Family tradition says he had infantile paralysis as a child, in fact, as early as the time when learning to walk. If this were the case, and we have no reason to question it, then he certainly would be handicapped considerably if he did a great deal of walking across the plains as the story indicates. This also indicates that Grandma Elizabeth Hunt Wilkes was indeed, a brave woman in marrying Grandpa Wilkes when she knew he was a cripple and would surely be hindered in his ability to provide her and their family with a living. Surely it must have been in that generation as it has been in the subsequent generation, a very competitive business of providing for a family. Anyone without the full use of his limbs would have a real uphill climb to hold his own with an able-bodied man, unless he otherwise would have been endowed with other outstanding qualities. It is reported that Grandpa Wilkes did have an exceptionally good business head, which was one reason why he found employment in the mercantile business with the Burton Brother's Store and in his later years when he joined Aunt Luella, his widowed daughter-in-law, to operate a grocery business in Pocatello, Idaho.
John Wilkes and Martha Elizabeth Hunt at the time of their marriage in the Endowment House of October 1873.
Adults seated left to right: Jacobine Hemmert Wilkes, third wife of Great-grandfather William Wilkes and her husband. Standing in back: Sarah Ann Wilkes and John Wilkes, William's children by his first wife Elizabeth Haines, Children: James, Sam, Mary Ann and Elizabeth, Jacobine's and William's first four of nine children.
AN ENDOWMENT HOUSE MARRIAGE
John Wilkes and Martha Elizabeth Hunt, she a daughter of Daniel D. Hunt as previously indicated, were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City an the 20th of October 1873. They lived in St. Charles until after their first three children, Uncle Johnnie, Martha Elizabeth (Aunt Mat) and Uncle Ed were born. Someime between 1879 and 1883 they moved to Star Valley. There they built a cabin on the south bank of Swift Creek to the north of the present town of Afton. They were among the earliest settlers in the valley and the cabin, according to family tradition was near the mouth of Swift Greek Canyon where they planted one of the first gardens in Star Valley. It appears that they were confronted with a real problem. During the winter of their first year in the Valley, their horses were poisoned by licking lime from a wash boiler. The folks had by the side of their house, from which they used to mix an adobe for filling the cracks between the logs of the cabin to make it the more draft-proof. Two of their three horses died so it became impossible for them to continue with their homesteading, so the family returned to St. Charles. They stayed there until after their next three children were born, Aunt Lottie, Mother (Hettie) and Uncle Noen. Sometime between January 1887 and January 1890 they returned to Star Valley. They selected an available 160 acres two miles west of Afton to homestead. This means that Mother, one of the principles of this story, was between four and seven years of age when she with her family, arrived back in the Valley.
Before preceding with this phase of the story this may be a good place far a little to be related of the family of Grandma Martha Elizabeth Hunt, who, as stated earlier, was a daughter of Daniel D. Hunt, my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Martha Eynon.
THE HUNTS AND EYNONS OF OUR PEDIGREE
We know but little of the Eynon family line other than that they were from Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Our branch of the family were early converts to the Church and emigrated to this country probably late in the 1840s. Whether they were in Nauvoo before the Saints were driven out we do not know, but we know they had arrived early enough to be in the early wagon trains of 1850.
Under what circumstance Martha Eynon met Daniel D. Hunt, we don't know, but we are aware that in the 1850 census of Utah she is listed as Daniel D.'s wife having been listed from Davis County. With them were Daniel D.'s children by his first wife, Nancy Davis, who was deceased. In this census Daniel D. was listed as 5O years of age, his wife Martha, age 21. Daniel D.'s oldest daughter had married by this time, but his son John A., was 20 and the five younger children's ages were reduced from him down to the youngest, a daughter, who was seven.
Martha's first, a son, was not to be born for another year, but died after living but one day. The next year, 6th of December 1852, Martha and Daniel D. had another son, Abel Moroni Hunt, and for the next ten years had children about two years apart. Our grandmother, Martha Elizabeth Hunt, who later married Grandfather John Wilkes, was child number four and the first daughter. She was born on the 20th of March 1857 in Salt Lake City and moved with her parents to St. Charles, Bear Lake County when she was about seven years old.
DANIEL D. HUNT'S PERSONAL STORY
At the risk of making this story too long I am inclined to think there may be those who would be interested in learning of Daniel D. Hunt's own story, therefore I quote from what is supposed to be a copy of his personal story which was written by himself. The account, plus a few items of genealogy such as names of his wives and his children, with a few dates are also included in the note book which was given us by Mrs. Albert (Bert) Hunt of Salt Lake City when we visited their home in about 1964. The particular record which was turned to us was reported to have been copied from the original record by Helen C. Gamble, granddaughter of Susan J. Hunt (oldest daughter of Daniel D. Hunt by his first wife Nancy Davis) and John W. Cooley, her husband. Quote:
I was born February 1st 1800 in the state of North Carolina, Rowan Co. My father's name was Abel and my mother's name was Joanna Hunt. According to the account of my friends and relatives my mother died when I was only eight days old. She was a very kind and piously inclined woman and she said I would someday do something that would be a great benefit to the rest of the family. After the death of my mother, I was taken about 500 miles distant by my Uncle Gashum Hunt, a son of the great physician Dr. Daniel Hunt. I was treated very kindly by my Uncle Gashum and Aunt Elizabeth. They were very pious Baptists and doubtless lived according to the best light they were in possession of. When I was taken to the house of Uncle Gashum his wife Aunt Elizabeth deprived her own child of suck and let me take its place. In fact their benevolence and sympathy manifested towards me so endeared me to them that I regarded them as my parents. They used to read to us from the Bible and explain the contents which caused me to feel very serious.
"I lived with them and was thus kindly treated till I was 15 years old when in consequence of the death of my aunt, I was left to my own resources under circumstances of great destitution. I immediately applied to a man by the name of Wm H. Moore for employment and hired to him for $6.00 a month. He soon afterwards hired me to go with him on a trip to New Orleans on a flat boat loaded with tobacco (1816). On our return home near Edyville, a little village on the Cumberland River, I was taken very sick and was under the necessity of leaving the boat and returning the remainder of the way by land. We had been absent from home on this trip about 5 months. I was very kindly received by my Uncle with whom I tarried a short time till my health was improved. I then went and boarded with cousin Abel Hunt and went to school. It was taught by Levi Durham. My name previous to this time was Daniel Hunt, after which another D. was added making 'Daniel Durham'. Thos. Durham, Levi's father, was a very fine man. He said he believed the true church would be on the earth.
"I worked at farming with Ezekiel Ellison in the year 1817. In the year 1818 volunteers were called for to go against the Seminolean Indians in East Florida. (I would here say that the first trip I made to N. O. (Presumably New Orleans. L. B.) Cousin Abel Hunt cried like a child saying I would never return. He did not break his fast for about 2 days and nights previous to my departure.
"When I volunteered to go to the army they were again troubled at my departure. However, I went on to Ditto's land and was mustered into service under the command of Capt. Wm Hunter and we marched on through the Cherokee Nation from thence through the frontiers of Georgia from thence to Fort Gadson on the Apilachicola River which had belonged to the Spaniards but was taken by Col. Williams who blowed it up with a hot ball. Gen. Andrew Jackson being in front of us had stationed some regulars to defend the place.
"From thence we went on to Nickersucka, an Indian village. The Indians hearing of the army of Jackson coming, they sent a guard of Indians to kill them in crossing the Oclocna River, but on account of a dance that was to be held at Nickersucka over the scalps of men, women and children they had killed on the frontiers of Georgia, they all left to join in the dance on a certain day.
"Jackson, being in front with the regulars and militia from the frontiers of Georgia. Jackson hearing of the two regiments that were behind, halted till he was overtaken by them with which he was very much pleased. The two regiments under the immediate command of Jackson were from Tenn. The Tennessee Volunteers were all horsemen and they were just in front of the whole army. There were also 1500 Creek Indians with the Volunteers, all footmen. Just as we rode upon the hill this side of Nickersucka, the alarm gun was fired by the Indians who commenced yelling at the same time. They then made for a cypress swamp firing as they ran. Capt. Hunter ordered his men to dismount 15 or 20 of whom lost their horses. My horse was valued at $13O. I also lost my clothing. There was only one man killed whose name was William Tucker. He fell near me. The Creek Indians, however, soon routed them out of the swamp but they fled into another one and they never pursued them any further.
"After the little skirmish was over Jackson exclaimed, 'By the Eternal Gods, the Tennesseans are fair Bull Dogs', We tarried at this place 2 or 3 days during which time there was a regular stampede. Next morning we buried Wm Tucker according to the rules of war. At this place we gathered up about 1200 head or more of cattle.
"We went on 30 or 40 miles and took Fort St. Marks which was held by the Spaniards, meeting with no resistance. We stationed regulars there.
"We went from there to Savannah and took that place. We returned back to St. Marks and returned back to Murray Co., Tenn. via Forts Gadson, Scott, stopping at Columbia, the county seat. From thence to Smith County Tenn., to Uncle Gashum Hunt's place. After tarrying awhile, I went to Tuscaloosa, South Alabama at the falls of the Black Warrior. From thence to Mobile, Alabama from thence to Columbus, Mississippi, from thence to the mouth of the Sipisy on the Tombigbe River from thence to Limestone Co., North Alabama near Athens and went to school. From there back to Smith Co., Tenn. From thence to Fathers in K. Y. This was in 1822 I think. This was the first time I ever saw my father where I stayed 2 or 3 years and then returned back to Smith County and married Nancy Davis 1826. After a few years I moved to Gibson Co."
STARTING A FAMILY
It is regretable that great-grandfather Daniel D. Hunt wrote so little of his family. The above account is interesting of his younger life but we would have so appreciated it if he had continued for the next few years to tell us of his raising his family, and of his coming in contact with the Church and his experiences during the period.
Daniel D. apparently lived in Smith County in which county he was married, for his first child was born there. His next three children were born in Gibson county some 130 to 140 miles to the west of Smith County. Their fifth child was born back in Smith County and their 6th and 7th children were born back in Gibson County. It would be interesting to know why he went back and forth. Whether he was carpentering this early we don't know, but he, later, does list himself in census records as a carpenter by trade. He and his wife, Nancy Davis had seven children, the first and last being daughters and five boys between. Nancy, the youngest, was born in 1842, and between this date and 1845 we have no record of him.
Daniel D. Hunt was appointed a policeman for the city of Nauvoo 19 January 1845.
TO NAUVOO, ILLINOIS
Just when the Mormon missionaries convinced him and his family to become members of that unpopular Church we do not know, but on the 18th of January 1845 they show up in Nauvoo on which date he and his wife - - this time not Nancy but her sister Susan - - each received a patriarchal blessing by the Church patriarch, John Smith.
And Nancy? It is regretable that we don't know excepting that she was dead. The record of the next day tells us that, but of the circumstances we have no word. Perhaps childbirth at the time of the birth of Nancy, their last little girl. She was now just two and one-half years old, now being mothered by her new stepmother, her Aunt Susan. The suggested reason is but speculation but such is possible. Her mother's death records have not been found, but it is more probable than not, that she was buried in Gibson county back in Tennessee before the family moved to Nauvoo.
The following day, January 19th, Daniel D. was appointed a policeman for the City of Nauvoo. The Nauvoo temple was being constructed at this time and with Daniel D. being a carpenter his services were very likely in demand. His family had to be provided for which surely must have been a real challenge to him. As a policeman he probably received a salary. His work as a carpenter was possibly a church contribution, so by putting in two shifts it would be possible for him to accomplish both. Faithful members of the Church were sacrificing to this extent during these dark days of persecution, for they were anxious to complete the temple despite a premonition that they would some day be forced to leave. (As a sidenote of interest I might state that we have in our home a small round wood container, eight and one half inches in diameter by nearly four inches high which Daniel D. personally made from scraps of wood from the Nauvoo Temple)
That Daniel D. was a faithful member of his new church we have evidence in the form of certificates which he received, some of which are shown below:
A certificate entitling Daniel D. Hunt to the privilege of the Nauvoo Temple baptismal font for having paid tithing in full to October 12, 1845. Note that Nauvoo was designated as "City of Joseph" Also note the signature of William Clayton who later wrote the words to the famous Mormon hymn, "Come, Come Ye Saints".
Note that there were phases of activity tithed by the Church. This certificate recognizes 'labor tithing in full' to April 12, 1846.
At 6:55 pm on January 19th of 1846 Daniel D. and his wife Susan entered the Nauvoo temple and she was sealed to him for time and eternity. A few minutes later Susan stood as proxy and had her sister and Daniel D.'s first wife sealed to him also.
The Nauvoo temple records record the fact that, among others, Daniel D. was set apart on the 7th of February to serve as an ordinance worker in the temple. This is most interesting for chronology of temple ordinances gives February 7th 1846 as the last day living endowments were performed in the Nauvoo temple. Sealings were performed in that temple until 22 February 1846. Could it be that the closing of endowment work on that date was not anticipated at the hour Daniel D. was set apart, and perhaps caused by unexpected disruptions on the part of the mob? Or, did Daniel D. assist with sealings for the next two weeks that sealing work was done. If the former was the reason then he would not have had an opportunity to act in his newly assigned calling.
It appears he did not leave Nauvoo as early as many of the Saints did for we have at hand a certificate given him, entitling him to the use of the baptismal font such as the one above, but this one dated April 24th, 1846. Apparently he was still there at the time. How much longer the family stayed there we do not know.
THE HUNT FAMILY IN GARDEN GROVE
In organizing the great immigration movement of the Church toward the West, 'wayside stations' were designated at which immigrants could rest, repair outfits, gather fresh supplies etc. prior to the last 'jumping off place' to the Rocky Mountains. One such was station about 120 miles west of Nauvoo and half way between Nauvoo and Winter Quarters, thus about half way across the state of Iowa. Nauvoo was across the Mississippi River to the east or Iowa and Winter Quarters was across the Missouri River to the west of the state of Iowa. Oft times leaders appointed or called individuals to remain in these places to assist in directing the movement, or to plant crops for food for those who were to later arrive, or to build housing in which emigrants could stay for the winter should they have arrived too late to make the trip to the Salt Lake Valley. It is here at Garden Grove that we next find Daniel D. Hunt. Whether he was requested to stay here we do not know. Such is possible for surely carpenters were needed, and also leaders were needed to handle the affairs of the Church branch which had been established there. Were it not for the fact that he was a counselor in the Garden Grove Branch presidency, it is highly possible he would not have been located as having been there. There is an interesting account of the Garden Grove Branch in "Journal History" as of August 7, 1847, a reprint of which was in the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School, class lesson manual of 1949, "The Gospel In Action" by Thomas C. Romney.
It appears that the Garden Grove Branch was under the supervision of the Church authorities at Winter Quarters, a larger branch about 120 miles further to the west, and as was explained earlier, on the western bank of the Missouri River in Nebraska. "Reports reached Winter Quarters which were derogatory to the character and conduct of the members of the branch - - - which reached the ears of Apostle Orson Hyde".
Briefly the substance of the matter was that Orson Hyde met with the High Council, from which meeting a letter was addressed to the Garden Grove branch presidency dated 19th of July 1847 in which the leaders and the entire branch of Garden Grove were disfellowshipped from the Church.
The reports of dishonest dealings and other derogatory actions reportedly by the Garden Grove branch presidency were carried by "evil and designing persons" who took them to Winter Quarters. On the 4th of August the Garden Grove branch presidency consisting of David Fullmer president, with Daniel D. Hunt, Lyman A. Shirtleff and Duncan McArther appeared in person before the Council in Winter Quarters defending their actions. After being examined thoroughly by the High Council and being found innocent of the charges were restored to full fellowship in all respects both as individuals and as a branch. This experience must have been disheartening to them during these times of sacrifice and hardship to have malicious fault finders make false accusations against them when they were not present to offer a defense. But on the other hand how grateful they must have been to be able to show their leaders that they were justified in their actions and that they were innocent of wrongdoing. Sometimes such a clearance gives one a 'new lease on life' so to speak.
ANOTHER MOVE TOWARD THE WEST
The only information we have to enlighten us on their next move are two little tax receipts. The first is shown below:
Receipt showing great-grandfather D. D. Hunt paid 92¢ for his 1848 taxes. Dates in Kanesville, Iowa 29 May 1849.
What part of the year he had to stay in and around Kanesville to be legitimately taxed the sum of 92¢, we have no way of knowing, excepting one can compare his next full residence and a possibility of an increase in holdings and make his own determination. The 1849 tax receipts were printed excepting for the spaces which normally have to be filled in and it appears as shown below:
Tax receipt to great-grandfather D. D. Hunt showing he paid $1.20. Dated 30 January 1850 in Pottawatami County, Iowa.
This receipt was issued in Kanesville, Iowa on 30 January 1850 and is a payment in full of an account Daniel D. Hunt had there. It is dated the same as the previous receipt. This date is the last we have of him prior to his going to Salt Lake.
Kanesville in Pottawatami County, Iowa is located just east of the Missouri River in the extreme western part of Iowa, in fact, just across the river to the east from Winter Quarters. His tax receipts would indicate he spent the most of two years here, so his stay in Garden Grove back in central Iowa could not have been a great deal more than a year, if indeed that long. Naturally his intentions would be to work himself and family as far west as soon as possible.
ON TO THE SALT LAKE VALLEY
We have no story of their crossing the plains. This is regretable for such a story would be most interesting. By deduction we can determine that Daniel D. and family made the wagon train trip in 1850. As stated above we have knowledge of him being in Iowa on January 30th 1850 as evidenced by his tax receipt. We are also in possession of a receipt which will be shown later indicating that the Hunt family were in Salt Lake City on September 13, 1850. Likewise, by deduction, it appears they traveled in one of three wagon trains of the ten which made the trip in 1850. The first wagon train leaving Kanesville in 1850 left June 3rd and arrived in Salt Lake August 30th. The second left on June 7th and arrived September 9th. The third left Iowa June 12th and arrived on September 12th. There were seven other wagon trains following these first three that year but none of them were in Salt Lake by September 13th.
From Ruth Blacker Waite
My father had never been able to trace this family from Nauvoo to Utah, but again we have learned more from the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel site. There is still some confusion as to when Daniel and Martha were married, whether at the beginning of the trek while he was still married to Susan, or possibly upon the death of Susan from cholera during their journey. All we know is that Martha is listed with their company, not as Martha Eynon, but as Martha Hunt. We do know that about a year later, March 5, 1851 Daniel D and Martha were sealed in a live sealing ordinance in Salt Lake City, either in the Endowment House, or the President's Office.(PO) More history about the Hunts and Eynons are to be found in the Wilkes Epic. Many of us are familiar with two of the children of Daniel's and his first wife, Susan's. They are John Hunt, who was in charge of the Hunt Wagon Train that accompanied the Martin and Willy Handcart Companies, and his brother James A. Hunt, who was sent by Brigham Young with a group of men to the Elk Mountain Mission. They built a fort and worked with the Indians there. James was killed by one of the Indians after being shot in the back. Chapters Six, Seven and Eight of the Wilkes Epic contain much more of these very important and interesting stories.
I found the following exerpt from Elijah Averett's autobiography in the Overland Travel site, 1847-1868:
"In the spring of 1851 , br. Hyde and James Allred[,] Sen[i]or organized a company. Br. Aaron Johnson was Captain of the hundred and I was Captain of the first fifty and Mathew Caldwell of the second fifty. After we were organized Captain Blair and his Company of gentiles joined me and my Company, making (84) eighty four wagons in my Company. We crossed the Mis[s]ouri River and struck out for the mountains. We traveled on until we crossed a little river by the name of Salt River. Here, if I recollect right, the cholery [cholera] struck our Camp. I lost 17 persons in my company. I had a touch of it myself. We traveled on and kept above Fort Carney (Fort Kernay) [Kearney]
We felt that the cholery had ought to stop and brs. Johnson, Hunt, (Daniel D.) [Isaac] Hill and myself went out in the prarie and prayed that the Lord would stop the Cholery, and we had a testimony that it would stop. (They heard a stamping in the grass near by, but nothing was to be seen.) We never had another case in our Company. We saw a great many gentile graves on the road. The cholera had Slayed them terribly. There was wagons, tires, clothing, guns, bedding, boots and shoes scattered along the road. We got along very well. There was one buffalo run through our camp and the dogs caught him and the boys shot him[.] It rained pretty hard on us, and in crossing the North Platt[e] some of our wagons swam, but we got across all right.
After this we had one young man lost one night and part of two days, but he came to camp all right. Nothing else happened that I recollect of worth mentioning of. I only lost two head of cattle in my company.
When we arrived at Salt Lake City my Company was disbanded and went where ever they wanted to. I was Counciled by President Brigham Young to go to San Pete County Utah.
It is from another source that we find a list of names of those seventeen who died, and find the name of Daniel D. Hunt's second wife, Susan Hunt:
From the Valley.
Mr. Lorenzo Johnson, of this place, received a letter, dated G. S. L. City, Oct. 15th, 1850, from Bishop Aaron Johnson, his brother, who left this section last spring with a company of 135 wagons; and in the letter he solicits his brother to have the names published of those who died in his company on the way, believing that it might afford some satisfaction to their friends at this place, or wherever they may at present reside. The names copied from the letter are as follows:
John Shipley, Willis K. Johnson, Adalad Redfield, Thomas Kirk, Ruth Ann Kington, Abel Sargeant, Thomas Sargeant, Alonzo Russell, Polly Z. Johnson, Susan Hunt, Son of Elijah Pond, Eliza Hill, Lester Russell, Sarah M. Johnson, Margaret McDougal Sister Ritchie, Sister Browitt, and a gold digger."
This receipt dated 13 September 1850 at Great Salt Lake City shows that Daniel D. Hunt repaid $50.00 to Curtis Black of Pottawatomi County, Iowa.
This receipt is of intense interest. Reasoning an existing situation from it, we conclude the following:
- That Daniel D. had arrived in Salt Lake City
- That he undoubtedly was paying a debt, either in full or in part to Curtis Black who was yet in Iowa
- That the bearer of the money to Curtis Black would be Orson Hyde, one of the Quorum of Twelve, who apparently was to return to Iowa.
And now to conjecture a little: In order to make the trip across the plains did Daniel D. carry a limited amount of security with him above and beyond what he personally had? Such is good insurance, and if this is the case it indicates that someone - - Curtis Black in this instance - - had sufficient confidence in Daniel D. Hunt that he would loan him a sum of money or perhaps sell him a wagon or a horse, you name it, and not insist on being paid for it until after Daniel D. had reached Salt Lake. If Daniel D. didn't have this amount when he arrived in Salt Lake, from where did he raise it so soon after arriving? Could he have sold something? Other situations could have existed, but be that as it may, let us agree on one definite conclusion, that Daniel D. and family had arrived in Salt Lake Valley in 1850.
Property tithing receipt showing it had been paid in full to October 1850 in Great Salt Lake City. Receipt not dated until March 10, 1852.
Certificate presented to Daniel D. Hunt showing his labor tithing was paid in full to October 6, 1851 in Great Salt Lake City.
ANOTHER ENIGMA - - WHY MARTHA AND NOT SUSAN?
Here are two census records, the first taken in the fall of the year in which they arrived in Utah with a most interesting family entry, and also interesting in that the information was taken in Davis county rather than in Salt Lake. Note the name or the wife, Martha, our great grandmother rather than Susan, his wife of the Nauvoo period and as late as when at Garden Grove, Iowa.
The above 1850 census (Actually taken in 1851 when Utah was a territory) record is the first record we have found that our great-grandmother, Martha Eynon, was married to D. D. Hunt. The branch records of Garden Grove, Iowa shows Susan, the second wife of Daniel D. to be with him in 1847. Could it be that she passed away from sickness or hardship caused by mob persecution? Such is very possible for these people were not treated kindly by the enemy of the Church (According the Pioneer Overland Trail database, she died 27 June 1850 in Iowa. Her death was listed in an article published by the "Frontier Guardian" on 8 January 1851). Where did the marriage of Daniel D. and Martha Eynon take place? We have searched but have failed to find the place nor the date. Also note the variations of ages from one census to the next. Daniel D. in one part of his own record claims 1800 as his birth year while in another place he says 1797. This is an example as to why census records cannot be accepted as reliable. Also, note where Martha's family starts in the 1860 census.
NOTES ABOUT THIS AND THAT
On December 6, 1851, a little over a year after their arrival in Utah, a tax receipt was made by the assessor's office indicating that Daniel D. Hunt had paid $7.60 as his state tax assessment. This was paid in Salt Lake City. There is no indication that he was in Davis County as the census record a year early stated, but it might indicate he was in Salt Lake City. Of this we do not know. To confirm such a belief, however we have a property and labor tithing receipt in full to October 6, 1851 in accordance with vote of conference Sept. 10, 1851 as appears of record March 11, 1852.
Daniel D. Hunt's receipt for payment of $7.60 for Utah State Tax in 1851. The receipt was signed by William Clayton writer of "Come, Come Ye Saints"
Daniel D. Hunt's receipt for payment of property & labor tithing to October 6, 1851. "With vote of conference - Sept 10 1851" is interesting, as also the delayed dating of July 18, 1855.
Daniel D. Hunt's receipt for payment of produce tithing for 1851.
Also on 4th of March 1852 a call was made as shown in this image:
Joseph Young was one of the seven of the First Council of Seventy, therefore a general authority of the Church. Whether Daniel D. was at this time, we are not sure, but for some period of time during these or just subsequent years, he served as president of the 5th Quorum of Seventy which covered a large area, including, we note from correspondence he had, into the Nevada area.
To D. D. Hunt:
Sir: You are hereby notified, that at an election held in Lake City, July 4th 1853, you were duly elected an Alderman of said City.
Lake City, Utah.
Clerk of the Election
The next date we have of him is that he purchased a farm in Lake City, but prior to his purchase he apparently moved into that area as is indicated by the note on the right.
Lake City? Is it new to you? It was to us but with searching in old records we discovered it to be a little town, now gone, in the area of American Fork, Utah. The legal document below shows Daniel D.'s purchase of the farm in Lake City.
Legal documents transfer of property on two occasions. Bottom note certifies that on December 12, 1854, Berrill Covenington transferred all rights to 80 acres at American Fork, Utah to Daniel D. Hunt. It is witnessed by William Greenwood. The document was written on a badly worn scrap of paper, however it was the original agreement.
Elder Daniel D. Hunt:
This certifies that yourself and Elders Levi Richards and Enoch Tripp are appointed to preach the Gospel of Repentance to the people of the 14th Ward of this city, and get them to live their religion.
G. S. L. City W. Woodruff
Nov. 4th, 1856 F. D. Richards
Whether Daniel D. and family were still living in the American Fork area two years later we don't know, but he received a mission call - - probably what we today would call a short term mission which is as shown on the right. This might indicate that Daniel D. was again back in Salt Lake City. Note that he was called by two members of the Quorum of Twelve.
In the mean time, while family life continued with the most of the Daniel D. Hunt family members, oldest son John A. was called by the Church to serve a mission. This could have been as early as 1852, however we do not know the date. It is reported he and his companion left Salt Lake with a limited amount of means and arrived in Philadelphia with eleven cents between them. There appears but one way the two could have reached England and that would have been by finding work. There is a possibility that they worked on the boat for their transportation, for it would have taken a long time to have saved up enough for their tickets. Be that as it may, they did reach England where he served a successful mission and was released sometime in the spring or early summer of 1856, for he had found his way back to Iowa City, Iowa by mid summer.
We are not aware of the details as to how or why he was selected to become the leader of a wagon train, the last one of the season. The season was becoming so late that even before they started there was a question as to whether it was the right thing to do. Immigrants from Europe, as well as eastern United States were responding to the call of the missionaries to gather to Zion. They were coming by the hundreds and in such numbers, there were no housing facilities for them in Iowa, 'the jumping off place' for those heading for Utah. The local wagon and hand cart suppliers were over burdened in Iowa City in their efforts to provide equipment for those desiring to cross the plains during the summer of 1856, and thus hundreds of people had to wait. This was the first year an attempt had been made to have handcart companies make the trip. On June 9th, the first handcart company left Iowa City. The company was made up of 275 people, 4 wagons to carry tents and other supplies, and 52 handcarts. On June 11th the second handcart company left consisting of 222 people with four wagons and 48 handcarts. On June 23 the third company left with 300 people, five wagons and 60 handcarts. On July 15th the fourth such company with 500 people, five wagons and 120 handcarts left Iowa City.
Far more people were arriving daily than the immigration officials had anticipated, and preparations were not keeping up with the demand. Hundreds of people were waiting and anxious to get going. With no accommodations for them for the winter in Iowa City, the officials decided to take a chance and have one more handcart company leave July 25th. This was the Edward Martin company, the largest yet, with 575 individuals, seven wagons and 146 handcarts. On July 30th, a wagon train with 150 people and 33 wagons left, and on the next day, August 1st John Alexander Hunt left with his charge of 300 people and 56 wagons. Many of the people did not speak the English language coming as they did from the Scandinavian countries. John was well aware of their lateness and realized the hazards being taken. Just a young man, unmarried and 26 years of age, with such a responsibility! Before the trip was to be over this young man would be much older by way of experience, than the more than four months of time the trip would require. Many of the previous wagon trains were making the entire distance to Salt Lake Valley in two and one-half months, and almost all were making it in three months, but not so with the last two wagon trains. They had problems ahead, part of which was the fact that they were behind the Willie and Martin handcart companies, the last two to leave from Iowa that year. Knowing that two wagon trains were behind them, their leaders would be able to suggest to the stragglers of their companies that help was coming from behind. When the wagon train caught up with the folk who were having problems keeping going, there was nothing to do but help them. This was particularly true of the last wagon train, for what man would drive off to let die those who were old and tired, or perhaps so sick they could not go on? This was the lot of John A. Hunt. Could it have been this last wagon train which President J. Reuben Clark had in mind when he wrote that classic "To Those of the Last Wagon" which has be come so noted throughout the Church? Only one other time in the history of Church immigration had a wagon train left so late in the year, and that was one year earlier, when a train left as late as August 5th, however it was much better equipped and it arrived in Salt Lake City on October 24th, 1855. Not so with the Hunt wagon train, for other than being less prepared, winter set in on the plains unusually early this particular fall and it was not until between December 10th and 15th that this last wagon train reached Salt Lake.
A much longer story could be written by giving more known details of the trip. For our purpose here let us but call attention to the situation as it existed, and state that probably no group of people in all migrations have ever experienced the ordeals that these over 1,500 people endured. This included the Willie and Martin handcart companies, and the Hodgetts and John A. Hunt wagon trains. Literally hundreds died from starvation and cold. Many were so badly frozen that they were maimed for life. As an example, one of the cooks of the John A. Hunt wagon train, years later wrote that she witnessed both feet of a little nine or ten year old girl actually drop off by the jolting of the wagon as it rumbled over the frozen ground.
Many who went out from Salt Lake to assist those who were on the plains under these unfortunate circumstances, have written that suffering was so terrible that they would have to walk away from it because they were unable to bear to witness it. Help was sent out and because of it, hundreds of lives were saved. Our hands and hearts go out to these hardy, faithful souls who have done so much that we might have this haven of rest we enjoy. Though he is not here, we salute one of our own family for the hardship he endured for his wagon train members, for the Church, for all mankind and for us, his family members. Words are not adequate to express our feelings.
Whether John A. had heard of a sorrow which came to his parents' home while he was away we do not know. Somehow, by mail, he must have heard but mail did not travel at the speed of today. Undoubtedly he had heard that his younger brother, James Wiseman Hunt had been called by Brigham Young to serve on a mission among the Indians in the Elk Mountain Mission of southern Utah. A group of missionaries went together in the spring of 1855 prepared to build a fort which they did, and also prepared to farm to an extent to provide themselves with food and other necessities. This was done, but the Indians refused to become friendly and one day, even tho the missionaries were near the fort, a son of the chief shot and killed James Hunt. Before the fracas was over two other missionaries were killed. All three were buried in that area and of late date the Daughters or the Utah Pioneers have erected a monument to their memory which is shown on the right.
Daniel D. Hunt, father of James writes of his son, " - - was a faithful son to do what he was called on to do and was called on a mission in May 1855 to the Elk Mountain Indians and was killed by one of the chief's sons on the 23rd of September. Fell a martyr for the cause of Jesus Christ and his innocent blood was spilt with two others for the cause of Truth."
What a tragedy it must have been to his family, but how grateful his parents must have been to know that they had a son who was willing to serve a mission and willing to offer his life and give it for the cause he represented. Truly the Master said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for a friend."
AGAIN TO THE HUNT FAMILY IN SALT LAKE CITY
1856 Territorial and County Tax receipt dated 31 March 1858, Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.
On the 14th day of October in 1858 the Hunts became the owners of a home in Salt Lake City which very well could have been their last home in the Salt Lake Valley. We read from the legal document of transfer that a lot, approximately 80 ft. by 160 ft. was purchased for the price of $265.00. This property was in the near vicinity of where the Union Pacific railway depot presently stands.
The Hunts were faithful members of the Church as might be indicated in the following recommendation which Daniel D. was permitted to take from one ward to another as moves were made.
The above letter indicates that Daniel D. Hunt and family lived in the 7th ward of Salt Lake City at one time. His history indicates he moved considerably. Such a letter was of value as a member moved from ward to ward.
A legal document showing transfer of property in Salt Lake City dated 14 October 1858 to Daniel D. Hunt. The lot was approximately 80 feet by 160 feet and was in the vicinity of the present Union Pacific railroad station.
TO ST. CHARLES IN BEAR LAKE COUNTY
Headstone marking the greave of Daniel D. Hunt in the St. Charles, Idaho cemetery
Whether it was by assignment from the Church or for personal wishes we do not know, but about the year of 1864 John A. Hunt (of wagon train history) with his family who had been residing in Grantsville, west of Salt Lake City, left Utah. to settle on the shores of beautiful Bear Lake. With him went his father, stepmother and most if not all his brothers and sisters. The settlement of St. Charles was laid out, and under the direction of Charles C. Rich, a member of the Quorum of Twelve and Church assigned colonizer of the Bear Lake Valley, set apart John A. Hunt as branch president of the newly organized St. Charles branch of the Church. By 1877 the branch grew to the status of a ward, and John A. Hunt was set apart as the first bishop of St. Charles and served in that capacity for many years.
Great-grandfather Daniel D. Hunt, lived but two years following their move to St. Charles, and passed away on the 7th of October 1866, and was buried the next day in the new St. Charles cemetery, one of the earliest burials there. Great-grandmother Martha Eynon Hunt became a widow when but a young woman of 37 years of age, and remained a widow for the next 42 years until her passing in St. Charles on the 12th day of May 1908. She had a heavy load to bear following the passing of her husband. Left with her were her four living children, Abel Moroni Hunt then 14, Gashum Alma 11, Martha Elizabeth 9 (later to become our grandmother), and Charlotte just past five. Martha's first son, Mormon Brigham, born in Salt Lake City in 1851 a year following their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, passed away when one day old, and her fifth child Abraham, born in Salt Lake City in 1859 likewise passed away when one day old.
On a few occasions we as a family have purposely driven to the lovely cemetery in St. Charles on the slopes of the west hills from where one can view beautiful Bear Lake, just to pause in reverent respect to these noble ancestors who struggled as they did in order that we, their descendants might enjoy what we have today. Having become almost personally acquainted with them from their history which we have been able to glean, a bit here and a bit there, we feel we can appreciate them greatly. If any of you readers of this account desire a profitable and interesting hour, drive to near the center of that cemetery and pause before their markers and ponder and reflect over the story of their lives. You will thrill by it and perhaps a kerchief will become handy. What a different world we live in from the world in which they lived. God bless their memory.
The Afton grade school which we older kids attended. Also note the Star Valley Stake Tabernacle in which we attended conferences and other such meetings. The regular ward meeting house is just off the picture to the left.
AGAIN TO THE STORY OF GRANDPA JOHN WILKES AND MARTHA ELIZABETH HUNT
Grandma Martha Elizabeth Hunt, following the death of her father Daniel D. Hunt when she was nine years of age, lived her girlhood years in St. Charles with her mother, and as indicated earlier in the story, later married John Wilkes. Together with their six children they returned to Star Valley in 1888 and we are now back to our story where we left it.
During the intervening years from the time the family had left, a few other families had moved to the Valley. As stated, the homestead was to the north of Swift Creek and later was bordered on the west by the main road to Grover and the Lower Valley. It is very likely that at the time the homestead boundary was made, the road was not even surveyed. It is the writer's understanding from what has been left us from the former generation that the first log house must have been located on the south east corner of the homestead. It is my understanding that the house was near where the Gardner mill pond was near the mouth of Swift Creek Canyon. Could this thinking be in error? The reason for this doubt is that my earliest memory of the old homestead north of Swift Creek, then an old log house, was located on the southwest corner of the homestead next to the road on the west of the farm, and about one-eighth mile from Swift Creek separated from it by a swale. As kids walking to and from school, the log house then seemed old, but as I remember it there was no dirt roof on this house. If my memory serves correctly there was a log house to the back, serving as a shed, which had a dirt roof. If my memory is correct, could this have been the original house?
At the time my father wrote this story he confused the placement on the original Wilkes cabin built between 1879 and 1883 with a log house on a farm they purchaed in 1898. He later learned that the first cabin was on the south side of Swift Creek and the farm was on the north. The farm house is the one that they saw when they walked from their home north of Afton to school.
The following list shows a timeline of their moves form 1879 to 1898.
- 1879-1883: Cabin built south side of Swift Creek
- 1879-1883: Returned to St. Charles
- 1887-1890: Moved to 160 acre homestead two miles west of Afton
- 1893: Purchased two lots in town
- 1895: Granted title to homestead west of Afton
- 1895-1896: Moved onto the lots in Afton
- 1898: Purchased 189 acre farm north of Swift Creek and east of the north-south road
(Ruth Blacker Waite)
Whether Mother (Hettie) could have remembered her very early childhood while yet in St. Charles we do not know. With the date of the second move to Star Valley being between 1887 and 1890, Mother would have been about four to seven years of age. There could be a possibility that her memory would include some vivid experience of St. Charles, however as I compare my own memory when I was at that age there is a good possibility that she may not have remembered.
Mother has related to us some of her memories of living in the dirt-roofed log home and of their experiences with friendly, and sometimes as she remembered, not so friendly Indians who would come to their home. These Indian visits would frighten the children to the extent that they would make it a practice to hide under the beds in order to escape the Indians' notice. Their garden has often been reviewed by Mother. Also, their going to the foot hills and into the canyon in search of service berries and other wild fruit. She remembers her father killing a bear which had wandered down from the hills, either out of curiosity of what humans were doing, or in search for food which it may find in the garden. Its visit may have been one of just meandering thru on its way to a possible more rewarding area.
Why these stories of our progenitors are not started while assistance is close at hand, is an interesting question. Perhaps each of us has repeatedly said to ourselves, "I must inquire and get these things recorded or it will be too late", but continue to reason, "I'm so busy today that I will have to wait until tomorrow". Then only to find that, as we return from taking the particular person to his or her final resting place, we face the bare fact that the job of recording the story was never done.
The Burton Brothers store, originally the first store in Afton and in which Grandpa Wilkes and others of his family clerked. Aunt Luella Wilkes is in the dark skirt second from the right. It is here Dad and Mother did a good share of their shopping during the early years of their family. This is as I remember the store between about 1912 and 1919. In the accompanying story I relate of buying a pin for Mother. Aunt Luella, who waited on me, took the pin from the glass-top display in the center.
The town of Afton as I remember it during my early school years. Grandpa Wilke's home was just beyond the last store (Ed Lewis') on the left side of the street.Burton's store was directly across the street from the Wilkes' home. Our home was two miles directly ahead (north) on the left side of the road.
Until the time of my own recollection of Mother, the story of her life is in reality, quite limited. We are aware that Mother's father was a cripple from childhood as stated earlier. This disability proved such a handicap that he was limited in the type of work he was able to do. Despite the fact that Afton became a farming community, it was impossible for him to follow that line of work, but rather, found employment in town. Quite early in the history of Afton, the Burton brothers founded a mercantile store which included both dry goods and groceries, and it was here that Grandpa Wilkes found employment and became one of the first to sell goods over the counter in the town of Afton.
It was during these early years that the Wilkes obtained a sizable lot on the corner across the street to the west from Burtons' store, which was the northern most corner on the east side of the main block in center downtown Afton. A nice frame house was built on the lot, and to the extent of my memory was always painted white, It was sufficiently large to comfortably house a family of up to seven children which they had living at home at one time, plus of course, the parents. Nine children were born to Grandpa and Grandma Wilkes. Sarah Leola and Nettie Viloa were born on the homestead. Johnnie, had married before they moved to the new house and Nettie died when she was five, so they brought six children with them to the new house. Mabel Luella was born in 1899 in town.
Our mother Hettie, therefore would have spent a few if not several of her girlhood years in the Main Street home. It is most likely that for the last few years that while she was at home prior to her marriage, she assisted with the duties of a boarding house business. With a large family the limited income which Grandpa Wilkes in his handicapped condition could bring in, a supplemental source of income was found by enterprising Grandma Wilkes.
The home was not without its problems. The children were by nature, loving and kind and surely the rigors of pioneer life were contributing factors to this spirit of family life. Grandma Wilkes had an added problem - - one which many women have had to face - - but hers was doubly hard, for her husband as stated earlier was handicapped physically. He also had a second problem which brought concern to her and her family. Grandpa, despite all the good qualities, did considerable drinking of intoxicants, and as a result would often be inebriated when he returned to his home, day or night, from an uptown saloon. The story is not fully known but undoubtedly this weakness also affected his employment, thus certainly his income was affected, so as always, the original cost of a drink doesn't reveal the full cost. Deep concern was caused in the home and this weakness became a burden to Grandma and the children. For this reason, boarders were taken in which meant that rooms had to be provided for the overnight stayers. Some stops were for overnight only, but others became permanent boarders for as much as two and three years at a time. Meals were served to the boarders which required a lot of help from, especially the girls.
Due to the noble influence of their mother the children were regular attenders of the meetings of the Church and participated in its activities to the extent the programs of the Church afforded.
Mother's natural desire, as is the desire of any young person, was to be a friend and have friends, and these she had in abundance. Undoubtedly most of the social activity of that period was closely connected with the Church, and she with her brothers and sisters mingled with the other young folk of the community. Occasional dances and home parties were about the extent of their entertainment. Clothes for such events became a problem to the Wilkes family, particularly to the girls, so as family tradition has it and it is certainly conceivable with this particular family, oft times in order for one of the girls to attend such a social event, it was necessary for her sister to remain at home for there was but one dress between them. This was an actual fact, and while Mother and Aunt Lottie were two years apart in age, their social activities oft times coincided. Because of the closeness of their ages these two girls became very attached and each was willing to take her turn in permitting the other to wear the dress. The fact that Aunt Lottie was more than two years older than Mother, but did not marry until nearly a year and a half after Mother, may be an indication that the dress may have fallen to the lot of Mother more often than to Aunt Lottie.
Mother attended school only thru the fourth grade, which for a girl was not an unusually short period for that time, but it undoubtedly indicates that help in the boarding house was needed. Aunt Lottie probably had completed the schooling she had secured by this time if not before, and in all probability she, as other members of this type family, helped in the profit making establishment, even tho it was in the home. This could have made the business competitive to a down town hotel which probably wasn't in existence, especially during the early years of this particular boarding house adventure.
It is possible that one or both of the girls may have on occasion, gone into other homes for domestic employment, but this could not have been too common a practice with them or such information would have been handed down. One can easily see where with sufficient home work as certainly existed, there was little opportunity for out of home work.
As the girls reached into their late teens there were undoubtedly side glances made at them by the boys of the community, for this is normal, but just how popular the Wilkes girls were is a matter which seems to be closed to history. Undoubtedly, they could not be classified in any other category than normal.
They certainly were not forward girls, for by their very dispositions they were quiet and reserved. Due to the fact that I am so closely related to Mother and Aunt Lottie, it may be that a little bias enters into my conclusions, but certainly no one could say that either of them was anything other than attractive or good looking. Their conservativeness, if ever a handicap, was certainly temporary, for most young men when such time comes for them to settle down and select a companion, turn from the more wayward and choose the more quiet and reserved type. In the case of the two sisters it was but a matter of them biding their time, and whether they knew it or not, their future was 'doomed'.
As was noted earlier in this story, a young man came into the life of Hettie Wilkes. The marriage of Thomas Blacker, 22 1/2 years of age, and Hettie Wilkes, 18 1/2 years of age, was performed in the Logan Temple on the 10th day of June 1903. From that time on they will make a combined story, which in one respect, will become difficult. Writing of two individuals with their individual characteristics and experiences will require a degree of separation. However, the lives of a father and mother cannot be separated to a great degree.
A WRITER'S CONFRONTATIONS
To write the story of any parent, a son or daughter has certain confrontations to meet, for a restraint must be imposed lest the story fall into one of two categories neither of which would be unbiased. Either the writer will be prone to embellish his narrative because of his natural affection, or on the other hand because of modesty he restrains his natural desire to express his feelings. Thus he fails to write a realistic picture, and thereby fails to present an adequate story of the life of a more deserving parent.
The challenge to write some where between these two extremes here mentioned, is hoped to be met, and so such a goal has been set. Certainly I sense certain inadequacies which are peculiarly my own, and which undoubtedly, will come to the attention of those who may take time to scan thru this which will be written. No other purpose influences me to write other than to fulfill a long postponed desire to record my feelings toward our parents and a few of the memories which cane to mind. In as much as Mother passed away nearly ten years in advance of Dad, I should first like to make a brief comment on her effect on me personally.
Many stories are written of mothers which would lead one to think perhaps, that a mother was of another specie which might be half way between her mortal children and glorified angels. It is true one may be free in his terminology to accurately describe his mother as "My Angel Mother". Yet he should certainly be aware of the fact that even mothers are human and are just as subject to mundane frailties and weaknesses as most other folk. In our thinking of the term 'angel', we unconsciously picture in our mind an image of perfection in all particulars. Mothers in reality, don't claim this of themselves despite the fact that their children without exaggeration can sense near proximity to this condition in some of the motherly traits. Another virtue which is rather characteristic of a high percentage of mothers, is patience which, nears the superlative degree attributed to the noted man of patience, Job. Unselfishness, another virtue, is almost unlimited in the lives of most mothers.
After this nearly quarter century of years since Hettie Wilkes Blacker left us, some might be willing to assay to what extent she used the virtues mentioned above. Some of us children who knew ourselves best, are the first to realize she failed to produce perfect children. Heaven forbid that she be judged solely from the fruits of her labors if perfection in at least this one of her children, the writer, is to be the sole basis by which she will be judged. Certainly justice will hurry to her rescue, for with all the many influences which might prey upon children in this wide world, a mother will not be held solely accountable, for many influences are beyond her jurisdiction and even beyond her notice. In the isolated case of our mother, the odds were against her in what she had to work with, for her children as all other mother's children, were endowed before birth, with certain inalienable qualities which were granted us before the world was. Consent was given each of us to do with them as we would when we came to the earth. Freedom of choice was our inheritance. Hettie Wilkes Blacker had such disadvantages with which to contend. She knew in theory, which way we children should go, but other than example and persuasion which are powerful teachers, her children's ultimate destiny was left to a great degree to their choice. It is doubtful that anyone ever desired her children to be more honorable and upright than Mother. Her whole life was for her family. She loved her husband and she loved her children. She was without question, an influence for good and even after this quarter century, her influence is with us to assist us and it is doubtful if her influence will ever be wholly eradicated, for she still lives in her children, her children's children, and now into the third generation descending from her. So it will continue even thru the eternal generations to come.
TO HOSPITAL AND LAST LOOK TOWARD HOME
Even at this close date it would be a revelation to her to have the privilege to sit amongst her descendants. She would have enjoyed a satisfaction only mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers know. She was little different than other good women for she loved her family and they were very dear to her. Why she was not permitted to enjoy them longer we will not know. Her passing was untimely - - certainly it wasn't planned by us, her survivors. She actually went to the hospital for the last time with a premonition that she would never return, but her family did not concur with her feeling. As she looked back to her home which she loved as no other place on earth, it was a look of farewell, so it was reported by Dad who attempted to console her in her farewell feelings. She had always been apprehensive of the hospital, but she went because her condition required attention. She entered the hospital for corrective surgery which was not to have been of a fatal nature.
After a few days in the hospital she must have been led to suspect that she was wrong in her feeling that she was not to return to her home, and that Dad's assurance and the assurance of other members of the family who had expressed their sureness of her quick recovery, were right in their calculations for her operation was successful. Her quite rapid recovery was as pleasing as she, the family and the doctors could have hoped. Upon frequent examinations the doctor pronounced her recovery developing so satisfactory that on the morning of October 11th, 1947 the doctor assured her that she could leave the hospital the next morning. Family members visited her during that day and all were happy with the prospects of her anticipated return to her home.
GOOD NEWS REACHES US IN ONTARIO
We were living in Ontario, Oregon and were kept informed of her condition by various members of the family. Uncle Arch Nisbet, his son John, and daughter-in-law Lucille, visited her the day before. They made inquiry the morning of the 11th prior to their visit to Uncle Arch's daughter Elva, who lived in Ontario. They advised the family at Rupert that they would pass the good news of recovery to us when they arrived in Ontario. After their arrival there they telephoned from Fred's and Elva's home and reported Mother's successful recovery, and told of plans for her return to her home the next morning.
We all rested easier because of the good news and spent a pleasant evening with the assurance that Mother was doing well. We were unaware of what was actually transpiring back in Rupert. We later learned that during her last day at the hospital, her condition had suddenly deteriorated and clots had formed in her blood stream which almost, immediately changed her condition from satisfactory to critical.
THESE ALARMING NIGHT TIME TELEPHONE GALLS
Back in Ontario we had retired when out of the quietness of the night the telephone rang. A telephone call during the night has always been alarming at our house. It is probable that it is normal for anyone to wonder "what is the matter" when the phone rings after bed time. The reason for the call this particular night was not anticipated. It rang two or three times by the time Mabel got to the phone. She was nearer to it and usually answered the phone, so it was not an unusual thing for her to have answered it this particular night.
The call was from Doctor Moellmer of Rupert, Mother's doctor, who reported to Mabel that Mother had just passed away. This was about 12:30 am of October 12th 1947. Mabel immediately called me to the phone passing the shocking news on to me as I went thru the hall to the telephone. I was so stunned I could hardly speak. Upon saying "Hello", Doctor Moellmer repeated to me the fact that Mother had just passed away and that it was a shock to everyone including himself. He gave in some detail the facts pertaining to the blood clot and her condition during the afternoon and evening a few hours previous. He assured us that she had not suffered a great deal and that she had been in a coma since shortly after the blood clot had been detected by the nurses and doctor. All was done that could have been done, the doctor reported.
WORDS CANNOT EXPLAIN
As was previously stated, the doctor's message was a shock which cannot be adequately described, for words from my vocabulary do not convey the full import of the message. They but tell facts but do not include the feeling. Most of you readers have undoubtedly, experienced a somewhat similar shock so it is not necessary to attempt a long explanation. There comes a time when most of us have to experience the passing of our mothers. Certainly were a choice given we would postpone such events until we were forced to face reality. We have to recognize the fact that these flesh-forms wear out, and that passing into immortality is such a blessing that we concede, accept the loss as irrevocable and preferable to seeing our loved ones endure the torture and other vicissitudes which so often accompany age. It has long been known that there is no other escape than for the good Lord to bring relief thru the channel known to us as death. This is good, and what a blessing to the aged, but Mother was not in this category. She was yet a relatively young woman as compared with the present longevity of life known to so many. A month and a week more to pass before she would have been sixty-three years of age. To us we had anticipated another ten, maybe twenty additional years which seemed to have been not unreasonable. She was too young, but the doctor said she was gone.
It is true she had had a strenuous life from girlhood, but despite wear and breakdown the human body is endowed with such recuperative powers that it can withstand, and oft times even improve, despite a vigorous, active life. Mother had been a part of real arduous pioneer life of which we in my generation but read about. She was a young girl when her father and mother and older brothers and sisters moved into the unsettled area of Star Valley. Growing up under the pioneer conditions of her girlhood, plus the tremendous responsibilities she chose to accept in delivering into the world, and the raising of, twelve children, only one of which did not grow to maturity, became the career of Hettie Wilkes Blacker. To add to this the fact that she was a farmer's wife during the years she was mothering her family, was recognized as one of the most arduous of vocations. The fact that farmers as a whole were probably the last large segment of the country's population to modernize homes and enjoy the luxuries of what we are prone to call modern day living. More details of this will be reserved for a more suitable place in this brief story.
Over the phone the doctor continued to relate the cause of her sudden passing. Clots had been suspected by the nurses when unexpected pain caused Mother to grimace. And while every effort was made and all was done that could be done, her life ebbed away, which was indicative of the fact that her mission here in this mundane world had been competed.
O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING?
Without her we have come to appreciate her the more, and while we did not have the power to wish her back that she might have enjoyed her home and family longer, we oft time felt that she had been denied the longings of her heart. Actually her health had been relatively good, in fact considerably better than our father's, and it was just understood that she would live to become a widow. As earlier stated, she had known what real toil and hardship was and she had left it behind her as it were, for Dad and Mother had retired and moved to town where life would be easier. She and Dad had been sufficiently successful that it was now possible to live for the rest of their lives in a modest comfort from the savings of their labors. Contemplated income could and would and did come from their farm thru rental to others, plus the sale of their holdings in the form of livestock and machinery. They had no overhanging debt for even their recently purchased home in town was clear of all indebtedness.
At the time of their retiring it was not their intention to become idle. This they could not do for it has become a known fact that active people cannot quit, nor would either of them wish to. Certainly a housewife has full time duties, and these were Mother's to the end, but she did have a little more time to reminisce over her past fifty-eight years, for she was that age when they left the farm. They had been married about six months less than forty years, and of this long time together they could reminisce. Those forty years had brought much happiness to them, and an occasional problem, but they had each other for which they were grateful. To them that day in June of 1903 was the beginning of their home, their family, their kingdom.
On the tenth day of June 1903 Thomas Blacker and Hettie Wilkes, by the covenant of the Holy Priesthood which act no man could put asunder, excepting themselves, providing each remained worthy of that great blessing, were married for time and eternity.
And so, Thomas and Hettie Wilkes Blacker undoubtedly left that sacred Logan temple hand in hand to commence a kingdom of their own and surely Heaven's blessings were with them.
THE START OF THEIR HOME
Hettie and Thomas with their first child Thomas, LeRoy about 1905. Little boys in those days often wore dresses.
Just how long after their marriage it was before they returned to the Valley we do not know, but it is most likely that it was within the next few days. Undoubtedly they had previously made plans for a house in which they would start their home. It is understood they first lived in a neighboring house to the Blacker home, but it was not long until they moved to a home on the old Burton ranch to the north and west of the Blacker homestead across Salt River, into a log house where they worked for the Burtons. This area consisted most1y of meadow and pasture lands and provided plenty of work winter and summer. It was while living in one of these two mentioned houses, undoubtedly the latter, that their first child Thomas LeRoy, was born - - March 26, 1904 - - and where family life with children started. It is understood, and how natural, Mother arranged that her first arrival be born at her parent's home in Afton.
Many and many a time have the folk told of the fact that they were not alone at the house on the Burton ranch, but that a family of skunks had occupancy under the board floor. From their windows when all was quiet, they would watch the little striped youngsters play in their yard, only for them to scamper back under the house when the door was opened or a visitor came into the yard.
A HOME OF THEIR OWN PURCHASED
Naturally it was the intent of the young couple to secure a piece of property as soon as they possibly could, for they sensed that there was security in obtaining a piece of Mother Earth, so the day came when their dream was fulfilled. They used their labor savings to make a payment on forty acres of ground one mile east and one-fourth mile north of the Blacker home where Dad had lived for some six years prior to their marriage, first as a senior teen-ager and into his early twenties.
On the new farm was a two room log house into which they moved. Whether their second son Theodore, was born prior to buying this farm we don't know but I suspect that he was. On Christmas day of 1905 he was born, which probably was the finest Christmas present Mother ever officially received. We can visualize Dad and Mother with their two babies in a home of their own despite the fact that it was a log house. If it weren't an improvement over the log house on the Burton ranch from where they had moved, it surely must have seemed so from the fact that it was their own. Log houses were not a new type of house for either of them. It is very probable that was the type house Mother was born in and certainly it was log houses both of them moved into when each of the families moved to the Valley.
LIVESTOCK AND CHORES
Undoubtedly by this time they must have had a few cows, and certainly a team of horses and a buggy or/and a wagon. They would have has set of sleigh runners onto which the wagon box could be placed when winter time changed their way of transportation. Winters in Star Valley were winters indeed, for they were long and cold. It was not uncommon for the winter season to begin in earnest in November, and last well into April the following spring.
Hard work was the lot of folk living on the farm during these years when they were starting for themselves. When Mother learned to milk cows we do not know. I don't recall that she ever told us of her first experience. It is not likely she had much if any, experience while living in her father's and mother's home. It is possible and quite probable, that they had a cow in town during the years when she was still with her folk. However, it is most likely the animals were taken care of by the boys of her family. Mother assisted with the milking as early as I can remember, and she was a very good milker. Naturally, this was long before milking machines were ever dreamed of by most of us. Dairying was the crux of the economy of the Valley and it was not long before the dairy herd grew to where Dad couldn't take care of the milking alone, and there was no one but Mother to turn to. Twelve to fourteen cows was considered an average size herd for two to care for. This meant six to seven cows each night and morning. Holsteins were Dad's choice for they were hardier for the climate of Star Valley than some of the breeds of smaller animals. Dad had an unusually productive Holstein cow by the name of Irene that required to be milked three times each day. She was a wonderful cow, but contracted hoof rot and it became necessary to keep her close to the barnyard for she was unable to walk to the pasture with the other cows. She was given special attention such as being led to special grass spots about the yard and staked out to graze. I can well remember Dad and Mother doctoring Irene's hooves, and shall not soon forget the lysol odor which accompanied her treatments. She finally grew worse until such time that she was unable even to stand up, and due to the family's love for her, they doctored and cared for her by carrying feed to her. During cooler weather they covered her with a horse blanket to keep her warm. She continued to worsen and eventually died.
To us as kids as I now look back, our parents must have been considered a good looking couple. Dad has always had reasonably black hair and may have stood about five feet nine inches tall, and I would estimate his weight to have been between one hundred forty to fifty pounds. His shoulders were slightly rounded by what we have always considered the hard work he did all his life. We considered Mother an attractive woman, and I suspect others not so close would consider her such. She was probably about five foot six inches tall. Her hair was not so dark as Dad's but medium brunette. Her skin was relatively fair and yet I do not remember Mother ever being sunburned such as some of us with light complexioned skin. In her younger years she was not large by any means. Probably about 120 pounds. Both Dad and Mother had what we considered good singing voices, yet neither played instruments except that Mother chorded considerably on the piano. For many years Mother wore her hair in a roll high on the back of her head and it was not until late in her life that she had her hair cut. She retained her bob long after most other women had theirs cut. Both Dad and Mother enjoyed good health for the most part, especially during their younger lives as I remember them. Both were very hard workers and it couldn't be said of either of them that they didn't do their share.
"Store boughten" clothes were mainly but a dream during the early years of their lives. Other than some under clothing, and perhaps some denim overalls for Dad and us boys, there was but little clothes purchased ready made. With all her otherwise occupied hours, sewing and mending had to find a place in Mother's time schedule. As the family increased, so of necessity did it become necessary for additional sewing to be done. Mother was an expert seamstress, either by hand which certainly she originally had to do, and also later when they were able to get a treadle sewing machine.
All was not to be smooth sailing for this young couple - - it seems that was not the plan - - for vicissitudes and sorrows were to be sprinkled among the pleasures. Sorrow that really tore the hearts approached when the baby, Theodore, contracted a severe case of whooping cough. After all that could be done, the little boy at the age of one year seven months and six days, passed away on the 31st of July 1907.
Naturally there were tears, for in our own personal experience we learned that it does not take long for a new born babe to seemingly reach into ones heart and become so attached that its severance pulls at the heart strings to cause indescribable pain. Certainly the loss of a babe does not detract from the crown of a parent. Probably at the moment, Dad's and Mother's first thought of anguish would naturally be: "Could we have done differently to have saved the baby?" which is unfair chastisement but they couldn't help but wonder. It is said that "Every noble crown is, and on earth will ever be, a crown of thorns". Not that the thought brings solace, but that it brings us face to face with reality. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh", and so these young parents undoubtedly found comfort. Had they not been taught all their lives that they would yet have the privilege, if they proved faithful, to come face to face and literally have their child in the hereafter? Up to this point it seems the both of them had qualified themselves for this great blessing. They were active members of the Church and conformed to its principles even to being married in the Lord's house, which sealed them together as parents and their children to be, to them for time and all eternity. How much more comfort this concept had to them than had they believed that this would be the last time they would see Theodore.
The little boy was taken to the Afton cemetery following services, and he was placed in a spot where his mother and father and others of the family could go back year after year as their desires would lead them, perhaps to drop a tear and place a flower.
Mother Nature too, has a way of healing wounds, for these parents were expecting another arrival within four or five months. Actually but four months and thirteen days awaited until their third child was to be born, and while another cannot, nor is it intended, to take the place of a deceased child, it does provide a distraction in parents' minds of the former baby and keeps their thoughts on the one to be. So, on the thirteenth of December 1907 their first little "red-head" was welcomed into their home.
Fortunately for us as children, our parents were most considerate at the time each of us was born, for they seemed to accept us as we were. None of us came but that we were welcome, even despite the fact that some of us were red heads. Mother used to smilingly relate that early in their married life, Dad had said that if he ever had a redhead he would keep the little one's head shaved. Later she often jokingly chided him by calling his attention to the fact that he had difficulty even keeping the youngster's hair cut.
HOME LIFE CONTINUED
We suppose the home was much the same with the two children as it was with the earlier two, for the same number of beds were required. Naturally the difference between our ages had been expanded for Roy was four years, all but three months, older than I. While we older ones of the family were babies I don't recall of any of us having a special crib, but rather, partially due perhaps to the fact that we were all breast fed as babies, we had our sleeping quarters between Dad and Mother in their bed. We in my generation as adults, would find a bed uncomfortably crowded with three even tho one were a baby, and it seems as tho this would have been the same with the previous generation. Babies in my parents' home were sufficiently close together that no one of us youngsters had a chance of becoming large before we were crowded out of our infant bed between parents, for a new child every two years was a rather regular thing.
In April of 1910 on the 20th day, brother Fred was introduced into the family, he likewise being born while we were living in the log house on the forty acre farm previously described. It was just prior to this that Dad and Mother purchased the adjoining forty acres connected to the north of the farm from a Mr. Howland, and it subsequently became known to the family as the Howland Forty. In the southeast corner of that forty was the old Howland house, also, as I recall, built of logs. This old house became a blessing to the family at a later date as shall be noted hereafter. The price of the new farm was frightening for the big sum of eight hundred dollars was required to complete the transaction, and for ownership to change hands. This amount required sacrificing, but additional land to the first forty acres was certainly deemed desirable, for pasture land was needed as well as additional land on which to raise feed. It was all and more than one forty acre farm could do, to raise sufficient feed for the long winters that are the lot of that valley. Later pasture land was rented a mile and a half to the northwest down on the slough and river bottoms, where the cows were taken each summer morning and brought back in the evenings. It was very convenient to have a pasture for the horses which were so necessary to have close to home, plus a pasture into which the cows could be turned at night. So the Howland Forty was divided by a fence, and a pasture was formed on the east portion next to the road, and the back twenty acres was added to the original south forty to be used as farm land for the raising of additional hay and grain.
GOOD FORTUNE IN A CATASTROPHE
On a Saturday afternoon in August of 1910, Mother had gotten the four month old baby Fred to bed, in order for her to do the Saturday afternoon house cleaning. As is quite typical of a warm August afternoon in Star Valley, a dark cloud arose out of the west and cast its shadow over a goodly share of the valley. There had been no rain and Dad was binding grain on a farm near Afton, and Mother was alone with her three children. Probably more to occupy our time than anything else, and perhaps to get us from under her feet, or to get a couple eggs for a cake which Mother may had planned to make as a special treat for Sunday's dinner, she had Roy take me to the hay barn and other sheds to search for eggs. Chickens then, during the summer months, ran loose and every egg-gathering time became a game-time to search in the hay or the tall grass or weeds for a nest in which a hen may have placed that day's egg. There seemed always a contest between chickens and their owners, for invariably a hen by nature, wanted a nest of her own which would not be disturbed. She, at a certain period when she knew best, became broody and sat on her nest of ten to a dozen eggs to hatch babies of her kind. It was preferred by the farmer to keep things a little better organized and supervised, that a broody hen might sit on the farmer's selected eggs for better breeding purposes in nests especially prepared. There the hen could receive better care during the three weeks which were required for her to hatch the eggs, so it became a constant chore-game to be on the look out for egg nests. Normally chickens had their regularly selected nest-sites, and it would be to these same nests that the chickens would go day after day, to deposit their eggs. Eggs from regularly established nests such as those in the chicken coop were to be gathered as well.
Memory doesn't serve so as to be able to recall how long Roy and I may have been from the house on our egg-search. As we were returning, and as we neared the house, a terrific bolt of lightning and an almost immediate roar of thunder came out of the sky, The door to the house was open and Mother was kneeling on the floor with her pail of warm, soapy water. She was scrubbing the floor with that most prominent cleaning tool, a scrubbing brush. Her scrubbing came to an abrupt stop for she was momentarily stunned by the lightning. As she realized what had happened, she raised herself to her feet and waved for us to stay back. We don't recall hearing her but her motioning indicated that she was aware the house had been hit by the lightning and that it was burning. Assuring herself that Roy and I would stay from the house, she hurriedly turned and rushed into the bedroom where Fred the baby, was sleeping on the bed. It seems that it was in this end of the house the lightning had hit, and already the flames were licking along the ceiling, and sawdust insulation which had been placed above the ceiling between the joists was trickling down onto the bed, burning as it fell. A spark had already fallen on Fred's forehead and it burned him sufficiently severe that it left a scar which remains to this day, more than sixty one years later.
To enter a burning room and rescue a person today merits an award and the laudings of local, state, and even national leaders. To Mother, as to almost any mother, there was no other thought than that her baby must be reached regardless of peril.
The details of the next few moments are not remembered by me for I was less than three years old. Undoubtedly Mother rushed from the burning holocaust to her two children who were on the outside, only to find that the trusted friend of the two boys, who had accompanied them to the barns for the eggs, and who was returning to the house between the boys had been instantly killed by the lightning which so ruthlessly found the gable end of the house to be its connecting agency on its thrust to the earth. Fate that day, tho merciless in one sense, was exceedingly merciful in another sense, for no human life had been taken, but the body of the dog lay dead as a witness of the death-dealing power of a bolt of lightning.
NEIGHBORHOOD FRIENDS COME RUSHING
The alarm of the burning house soon spread, for neighbors saw the billowing smoke and flames. Tho the very closest one was less than an eighth of a mile away, and three or four other neighbors were but a quarter mile away, there was no time for any assistance other than moral. Locomotion was either by foot or horseback and by the time the fastest reached there, the house was beyond where one could enter its door to pull from its burning rooms a single item. It had within minutes reached the state of a burning inferno. Just how Dad learned of the fire I do not know nor do I recall how long it took him to unhitch his three horse team and mount one and ride it the couple miles to his burning home. There must have been moments of terrible anxiety between the time he first saw the fire to be his home and the time he became assured that his wife and children were safe from harm. Temporal belongings, tho it be a home and its contents, can be replaced. This thought became the abiding concept in the lives of Dad and Mother, for they have always been well aware of other values in life above and beyond that which was inanimate.
Losing their home, however must have been a real concern to our parents. The home they had loved as any of us love our home was now in ashes. All clothing other than the Saturday ragged clothes which each of us of the family had on our bodies was gone. Back in those years any better clothing was reserved for Sunday, for clothing was not so plentiful as it has become of recent years. I do not recall where we went that night, but of course, the family was not without friends. I suspect it would be more likely that we went to Mother's parents' home in Afton for a temporary stay for undoubtedly, there would be more room for a family in their home than in the more crowded home of Dad's folk, for Grandpa Blacker was quite critically ill for he lived but another three months. Too, there were yet five children at home and they had not yet built their new home, but were still living in the three or four room log house, so from this perspective it appears that it would have been to the Wilkes' home the burnt-out family would have gone. Naturally there were other homes of relatives and friends where they would have been welcomed, so we can't conceive of the folk being concerned as to whether there would have been a place for us to stop that night nor the nights to come.
Long since the time of the fire we have heard the folk discuss the big-heartedness of the neighbors of the valley, for clothing and other necessities were freely given and much more offered. Fortune was with us in the fact that, as stated earlier in this story, there was an old house on the Howland Forty which was but a quarter mile north of the old home. Mother and Dad set right to work to clean it up and repair it to a livable condition, so the family moved into this house until time would permit the building of a new home. Undoubtedly it was but a few days before the temporary quarters were in order and we moved into it. With the daily chores which had to be done on the farm, the closer the family could stay to the corrals the better and easier it was for all concerned. This situation was not so handy as formerly, for now it was necessary to go a quarter mile to get to the barns and corrals. Particularly during the winter time, it must have been quite a chore, especially for Mother to assist with the milking and the other chores. We must not overlook the three children she would have to leave at the house alone, Roy less than six, I was just over three and Fred the baby, considerably under a year old. Naturally Roy became the baby sitter for perhaps an hour morning and evening during the winter time and stormy weather. In good summer weather the 'brood' would be taken with the folk to their chores -- maybe only to add to them.
A NEW HOUSE FOR A NEW HOME
After the long winter of 1910 and 1911 a new frame house was started in the spring and the following summer was a busy one for Dad and Mother, for they assisted with the new house whenever possible. The debris in the yard from the burnt remains of the old house, as well as the new had to be cleaned away. It was on a board whether from the old house or the new I do not know, that I fell. In the act of falling, naturally threw my hands forward to catch myself and I fell onto a nail in a board with such force that the nail went thru the palm of the hand until it could be seen from the back. Another concern for the folk, but with a doctor's care it eventually healed without permanent damage.
Just when we moved into the new house I do not recall, but undoubtedly it must have been in the fall of 1911. Undoubtedly every effort was expended in order to be in before another winter, in order to be closer to the chores. Only part of the house was finished at first, for time as well as money only permitted enough to be completed to make it livable. In fact, it was not for a few years later that all of it was completed.
Home built in 1911. There were no trees nor shrubbery about the home when the family left Afton in 1919. Picture taken about 1946.
Inside from the back open porch was the kitchen. I can picture it now as tho it were but yesterday, what with the range on the north end of the room over which Mother cooked. In the northeast corner of the house was the only finished bedroom - - in fact - - the folk were not accustomed to a home with more than one bedroom since they were married. Mother's and Father's bed was in the northeast corner of the room, and an old dresser was next to the south wall at the foot of the bed on which stood the coal oil lamp which gave the light when needed. On the west wall was a new arrangement into which our bed, to be known as the kid's bed, could be lifted up into the wall. As I remember the bed wasn't operated as much as it originally had been planned, for with the bedding and straw mattress and the constant use it was much easier for all concerned to leave it down most of the time. There still remained an aisle between it and the folks' bed and this was all that was needed.
This straw mattress - - we knew it by the name of 'straw tick' - - what a bed it made! No kid should be denied the privilege of sleeping on or in a straw mattress. It was nothing more nor less than a big sack made out of a type of ticking the shape, of a regular mattress. Along one edge a hole was left thru which straw could be pushed in. After the tick was made it was taken to the straw stack which every farmer had - - oat straw was the better - - and the finer straw was pushed into the mattress until it rounded up almost like a balloon. Those of you who have not experienced one, keep in mind it is as wide and as long as a normal bed. When it was filled it would be as high as a six year old's head. The opening would then be closed by whatever means one wished. Maybe it was by a series of safety pins, maybe sewed or maybe a deluxe one would have buttons or a series of snaps to hold it closed. The mattress would then be carried to the bedroom, preferably by two people, not necessarily because of the weight but because of the bulk. We kids could hardly wait until bed time. The thought just strikes me - - I don't know whether any parent was wise enough to practice it, but you know how hard it is to get kids to bed on Christmas Eve. I wonder if any parent had thought of filling the straw tick on the day before Christmas. No kid would want to wait up for Santa Claus if he had a bed to climb onto - - the word "onto" was used wisely for little kids had to have help. Getting onto the bed the first night after a new filling was a 'ball' literally. With the help of one or both parents, the rounded part of the straw ball would be pulled to the edges in an effort to square it off. By wiggling around, a little one's nest for the night could be formed. About as long as I can remember there were always three of us in a bed and for each of the three of us to get our little nest formed, it was a delight. One of the problems was to get enough straw to the end of the mattress, so the head would stay higher than the body, or at least on the level with it. The two sleeping to the edge of the mattress would have to make sure their respective nests were deep enough so there would be no danger of falling off the bed during the night, and the one in the middle would not want to make his nest so deep that the two on the outside would roll in on him. He was usually the younger one and was purposely put in the middle so he wouldn't fall off the bed, but he could get in a bind, literally, if the others rolled in on him.
With use of course, this mattress of straw would get firmer and firmer. As a general rule this making a new mattress would be done usually in the late fall for winter use, and then perhaps again in the spring. I won't mention the absorbtion qualities of a straw tick, for babies back in those days or nights, didn't have the modern plastic containers mothers put around the big part of the baby in these modern times. After six months, usually a straw tick was ready for a replacement. This really was an advantage a straw tick had over the regular cotton mattress. Keep in mind these were the days prior to inner spring or foam mattresses.
Back to describing the floor plan of the new house: Joining the bedroom to the south and also on the east side of the house was the living room into which was the front entry door. This led to a small open porch with board steps to the path leading toward the road across a little footbridge which spanned the ditch just on the inside of the fence. Just over the fence was a platform on which the milk cans were placed, which was elevated so the milk man would not have to lift the cans up onto the wagon. To the side of the milk stand was the wooden mail box. In the living room just mentioned, was the nearest thing we had to a central heating plant and that was a wood heater. It may have been so constructed, as was the range, to have been able to burn coal, but there was never a bucket of coal burned in our home as long as we lived in Star Valley. Wood was the only source of fuel. To the west of the living room, but with its entrance emerging from the kitchen, was the pantry where the foodstuffs were kept, whether they be canned or dried or fresh, and where the breadbox, and flour and sugar supplies were kept. All of our regular meals were on the kitchen table, and only rarely when special company came, was the living room used as a dining room which really was its original intent. Later a nice dining table and chairs were in the dining-living room but even then its use was for special eating occasions and for occasional Sunday dinners.
In the southeast corner was space left for a bedroom which was not finished for a few years. The parlor which was in the southwest corner of the house, was separated from the dining-living room by a double sliding door, which was pushed back into the wall when it was opened. The parlor, likewise was not finished for a few years after the first part of the house had been completed. When the parlor was finished it was used but occasionally, for this became the room set aside for special visitors. It was in the parlor that the new Kimball piano went - - this of course, also later.
Brother Alma was the first of the family to have been born in the new house, for it was on the 16th of June 1912 that he was introduced to the family - - another redhead and another boy - - already five with four of us living.
It was either at the Howland house or very soon after we moved into the new house, that I created concern for Mother. She had a pan of boiling water on the stove, and out of curiosity I reached up and pulled it down upon me. Mother was there to give me immediate attention, but I was quite badly burned on the face, and even to this day carry a scar around my eye, particularly on my eyelid.
Eventually the lock of hair was located and divided between my father's children. (Ruth Blacker Waite)
Another early recollection which had to do with me was of Mother calling while I was playing with my brothers in a pile of sawdust near the wood pile. The folk had made arrangements with Uncle Hyrum Blacker to stop while on his milk route one day to cut my auburn hair for the first time. Uncle Hyrum had become known as the best of our family barbers. I had gotten along in years but the folk had not ever had my hair cut, but had let the auburn colored ringlets hang to my shoulders. I do not know how old I was even tho I remember the occasion, but I must have been between four and five years of age. Could it be that keeping ringlets on me was Mother's way of contesting Dad's threat that any red haired youngster, should he dare show up, would be kept shaved? With both of them having long since passed away this may be one question which will remain unanswered. It seems from this late date that Dad must not have objected overly at the color of my hair, or he wouldn't have tolerated it as long as he did. I can remember sitting in the high chair with Uncle Hyrum, assisted by a pair of barber shears which he brought along, clipping the curls and otherwise making a boy out of me. Just where the single curl or ringlet is, if it is still in existence, I do not know. For many years even until I grew to adulthood, Mother had the ringlet between a couple pages of her big Bible. Probably somewhere in the family that piece of hair might still exist.
MODERN CONVENIENCES? NOT YET
There were many little incidents which happened in the normal process of living that could be mentioned, in which either or both of our parents had a roll. As is readily understood by us, but probably not fully appreciated, are the luxuries we enjoy during the decade of the present 1970s. Life in the decades before 1910 and the one following was little different from what life had been like during the centuries prior to that period. Just a word relative to household activities within the home: Certainly there was no such thing in any home in our area as running water in the house. The running ditch of clear water excepting during spring runoff and stormy weather, was the source of all water in the home. In a large pitcher or bucket on a piece of home made furniture we called the wash-stand, was the supply of water which was used both for the purpose of washing hands and face, and also, for drinking. Usually a dipper hung on the wall near the water bucket for those who had use for water, and with this the water would be dipped into the wash basin or drunk from to satisfy thirst. Many homes would have no place to throw the dirty water excepting to take the wash pan to the door and give the water a toss into the yard. This always created a back yard problem in that there was a muddy spot in the yard for youngsters, as well as oldsters, to get their feet into. It also left a musty odor when the spot dried, plus an attractive spot for flies. In the winter time this practice created a build-up of dirty ice in the yard. While it could not prove a health hazard, it usually was the last spot in the yard in springtime for the snow and ice to melt, due to the fact that it had built up into a mound which was slower to melt than the surrounding snow. Also the site was unsightly until a new snow storm covered it up with white fluff.
Nearly as long as I can remember the wash stand had an eight to ten inch diameter hole in its top. The stand was a box with a door in the front. Inside it was a large bucket. The water from the wash basin would be poured into the bucket through the hole. This eliminated the constant throwing from the back door the used water. But it required watching the water level in the bucket and emptying it when it became full. Usually, at our home the bucket was a large wooden candy bucket which was made to be waterproof.
Mention was earlier made of the big, old, black, Home Comfort range which was indeed a thing of beauty with its bright shiny steel trimmings. There was nothing in the home with more utility, for beside its great use of cooking on its top and in its oven, it kept the kitchen part of the house warm during the winter months when warmth was so appreciated. To my knowledge, no fuel excepting wood ever was placed within its fire box. As I grew older I saw coal at the school house, but never at our home so long as we lived in Star Valley. Nearly every range during those years had a reservoir to the off side of the range from the fire box. This reservoir I would guess, held approximately five gallons of water which was nearly always sufficiently warm for culinary purposes such as washing hands and faces, and washing of dishes etc. The water, naturally was kept warm but it was so far from the fire box that it did not get near the boiling point, but it was very handy to have a supply of relatively warm water. Naturally the tea kettle on the top of the stove provided the hotter water, which was so often needed for the purposes just mentioned as well as for cooking. Up the back of the stove at eye level, was a warming oven on either side of which were pull-down lids over spaces where dishes of food could be kept warm. These were ideal compartments for Dad's, as well as our cloth gloves or mittens, to dry when they became wet.
It was likewise on this stove that Mother would prepare her water for wash day which usually occurred on a Monday. Early Monday morning, if not the last thing Sunday evening, the copper, brass or galvanized boiler - - probably more often copper than not - - would be filled with water. To those who may not be acquainted with a boiler, and I suspect many of the present generation may have never seen one, the boiler was a container somewhat in the shape of an elongated oval-ended tank which stood approximately, as I picture one in my mind, about eighteen to twenty inches high, possibly twenty-four inches long and twelve to fourteen inches wide. As one looked into it from the top it would have the shape of a miniature oblong race horse track. It would hold approximately eight to ten gallons of water when full. At the top or near the top on the outside of either end was a handle with wooden grips by which the boiler would be lifted, and naturally, there was a companion lid to cover it. One would place the boiler on the front of the stove if that area was not already being used for cooking purposes, to heat the water. Otherwise it would be left on the side of the stove to warm up as best it would until such time as the front of the stove over the fire box was made available. Bringing the water in from the ditch was naturally a big chore, and Mother did her share until her children became of age that we could either assist or do it for her. Of course Dad, when not otherwise busy would assist, but it was so often the woman's or kid's chore. Carrying water in summer time was not so bad, but the labor and discomfort of the chore became increasingly great as the winter weather came on. Then the water in the ditch would freeze over, and this required what was known to us as the water hole, to be opened each morning. As the snow and ice built up it often became necessary to actually have to cut ice and snow steps down to the water level. After cutting the newly formed ice which froze during the night and throwing it out onto the snow, the buckets would have to be taken down into the ice water and filled. Then they were taken to the house where they were emptied into the boiler, and another trip made for additional water, and then again repeated until sufficient had been carried to the house. Not only the boiler was to be filled, but usually a round galvanized tub holding about twice twice as much as the boiler held, was filled for extra water.
My early recollection of Mother's wash days was her placing a tub on two chairs or a box, and then placing a brass washboard on which she would lean over and rub and rub in an effort to clean the clothes in the warm, soapy water. Prior to her washing, or in some instances after the first washing, white lye from a can and shavings from a bar of soap were added to the boiler which was still on the stove. Then the clothes were put in the boiler and would literally cook in boiling water for ten or fifteen minutes. Then they would be taken out and run over the scrubbing board. As could be expected the clothes were so hot that it was necessary to take a stick (usually an old broom handle) to handle the clothes, but as could be expected, the hands took hold of the clothes as soon as the heat would permit. This heat with the strong solution of lye, was very hard on the hands. By the time the clothes had gone from one tub thru another tub of rinse water, and each piece wrung by hand, Mother's hands would be rubbed bare and it was not uncommon to see them so raw that they would bleed.
We, with our automatic washing equipment should appreciate it more than we do. What a world it would be for Mother to return to if it were now her privilege to return. Her washing methods did improve little by little from the days of the washboard, however what a wonderful advancement it was from the old washboard method when the folk bought their first mechanical washing machine. I remember well when they purchased a washing machine in which the hot water from the kettles on the stove was poured in. Then the clothes were fished out of the boiler with the stick and carried in a pan to the washing machine where they were placed. The lid was put down so the three or four finger-like spicates turned back and forth stirring the clothes in the water. The motivation or power used to generate this action was done manually by pushing and pulling a wooden handle back and forth, which was located above the lid of the washer. In order for us little ones to reach the handle to operate it, it was necessary for us to stand on a chair pulled up to the side of the washer. Naturally we were cautioned to keep our clothes and fingers out of the greasy gears nearby. While this machine took some of the drudgery out of the wash day, it was still necessary for Mother to take the more soiled clothes out and touch them up with extra attention on the scrub board. When the water in the washer was ready for emptying, a stop was pulled from the outside of the washer's bunghole, and the water would stream into a bucket placed to catch it. This process required two or three buckets full of dirty water which had to be carried out to the spot in the yard where the waste water was thrown.
Monday was a day we were all pleased to have over. Certainly Mother must have felt that way, not only from the physical exertion, but from the steamy atmosphere which prevailed throughout the house. After the washing was done and the hand wringing was over, the clothes had to be hung on the line, and particularly in cold weather this was a cruel experience. This was nearly always done by Mother for she was quite particular as to how the clothes should be hung. We youngsters didn't often get to do it excepting perhaps, the colored work clothes or rags which so often were hung along the fence because the line space had been used up with the white clothes.
Also what a natural thing it was when there was so much warm soapy water that the floors should be scrubbed. Mopping with a hand mop was very often quite inadequate to a woman's meticulous way of washing a floor, so down on her knees, Mother would go with a bar of soap, ofttimes home made, and a scrubbing brush. I am sure she with many another woman, actually wore more linoleum out by soap, water and scrubbing brush than was ever worn out by the rough, careless feet of their youngsters. All this added up to real hardship on wash day.
I don't recall of Mother ever having a gasoline driven motor on a washing machine. This could have been a possibility, but I am sure she never had an electric motor driven washing machine until we moved from Star Valley. There was no electricity on the farms in Star Valley until after the time we moved. There was a little electric generator plant on upper Swift Greek which generated electricity for the town of Afton not long before we left, but none reached the rural areas at that time.
THE KEROSENE LAMP
You can gather from the foregoing paragraphs that there were no electric lights in our home during these several years. Kerosene or coal-oil lamps, as we called them, were the normal source of light in the homes after dark. This proved to be another almost daily chore, for in order to get the maximum light, the wick was turned up until the chimney became darkened with smoke. Very regularly the chimney had to be washed and the oil replenished in the oil base container of the lamp. Plus the wick in this process had to be turned up and trimmed to make it possible for a smooth top flame after the lamp was lighted. Reading at night was done mainly around the table on which sat the lamp. There were too many shadows about the room to find respectable reading any distance from the source of the light. Oft times two lamps would be placed on the table when the table was extended, this to give sufficient light at the table ends. Lighting was being improved as other improvements were made in other fields, and what an advancement it was when Dad and Mother purchased a gas lamp. I can still see the expression of satisfaction on all our faces the evening when our new gas lamp was lighted. This was a new concept in lighting. Gasoline was used in the container instead of kerosene, and then by a hand pump which came with the lamp, air was pumped into the gas chamber to create pressure. This pressurized vapor gas then followed the tube to a mantle. In the case of our lamp and most others, two tubes led from the gas chamber to two separate mantles. The mantles when new, came in a small package and appeared very similar to a small cloth bag not over an inch and one half to two inches long. At the open end of the mantle or bag was a string, which when the open end of the mantle was fitted over the end of the gas tube, would be tied tight so the mantle would hang from the open end of the tube. Prior to its being lighted with the gas fuel, it was necessary to burn the mantle by lighting a match to it, and a white-appearing ash (It seemed nothing more than white ash) would remain as the mantle. This was exceedingly fragile and would crumble if anything touched it. After the mantles were prepared in this manner the gas fumes would be released by a valve on the main stem of the lamp, and with the use of a burning match the mantles would ignite. At first the light was not overly bright, but as the mantles warmed up, an additional amount of gas fumes could be added by turning the valve further open, and the entire room would light up about as brightly as any modern day electric lamp is able to lighten a room. What a lamp! It was a real step in the improvement of lighting a home, and our whole family was as proud as a peacock when we got ours, for not all families had one. Most of such lamps still had the handicap of shadows about the room for the lamps were made to sit on the table, but it was not long until it was seen beneficial to hang the lamp from a hook in the ceiling. This would put it above the traffic of the room and eliminated many of the troublesome shadows. This bright, white light was a far cry from the orange light from the kerosene lamp, and so the introduction of the new lamp into our home was a delight to all of us. Naturally there was still considerable care that had to be given these lights, and they never became the ultimate in ease of care that our present day electric lighting has provided.
During these years of which we have been speaking - - 1910 to 1916 - - the folk with the rest of us, had the only kind of transportation that any had in the valley, that of a good team and buggy, wagon or sleigh. Dad always prided himself on his team, and so any traveling that was done was by that method. In the summer time it was a two seated white-top buggy. When this outfit was used it was mostly with Dad driving, but on occasion Mother would drive Whitie and Prince, the team of white horses Dad had for several years.
While speaking of Whitie and Prince and Mother driving, I might call attention to the only method used during the early years of which I remember of planting grain. It was far from the modern grain drills of the present day. Before even Roy was able to drive a team, Dad would take the back seat out of the white top buggy and dump two or three hundred pounds of oats, or barley as the case may be, into the bottom of the buggy under the place of the removed back seat. Mother, and sometimes us kids, would sit in the front seat and drive the buggy up and down the field, moving over into the field a limited distance each trip up or back, and Dad would kneel near the grain, and by hand broadcast the grain onto the ground. After the field was finished, it was then necessary to hitch the team to a harrow and harrow the grain into the ground by which process a surprisingly high percentage of it would be covered with soil. Thus, providing conditions were right, the grain would germinate and after a couple weeks green sprouts would make their appearance - - thus the beginning of a grain crop which would be cared for during the summer months resulting in a harvest during the latter part of August or early September.
The team was also used during winter time on the feed yard, and while we boys were too young, Mother would often drive the team around the feed lot while Dad pitched the hay or straw onto the bare ground, or on the white, clean snow of winter time. As soon as Roy became old enough to do the driving, Mother was relieved of this chore so she would be able to take care of her own work in the house. Haying time likewise, called for Mother's assistance when we boys were too young to handle the horses. Whether it was assisting when the hay was thrown onto the wagon by hand, or after when the hay loader was used, Dad had to have assistance with the driving of the team and Mother was there most of the time. Even after Roy became old enough to drive the horses in the field, it was necessary for Mother to drive the team when unloading the loads of hay by rolling them into the barn or onto the stack. Later the derrick was used with nets to raise the hay onto the stack.
How Mother did all the work she did on the outside and still care for the house and her family has been a marvel to us all. Keep in mind, at the beginning of the day and at its close she would nearly always have her share of ten or twelve cows to milk by hand, be it in the corral in the summer time or the barn in winter time. Her life wasn't easy by any means, but she was always willing to do her share and more. It is all the more remarkable due to the fact that it was during these very years that new babies were arriving quite regularly - - an average of one every two years.
It is not my intention to infer that Mother was a great deal different from many other farm women of the area and of the time. Until most of the housewives had children sufficiently old to share with the outside work, it was quite customary for women to assist their husbands if they had work which was more than a man could do. Always there were those job that one could not do by himself. Sometimes neighbors would exchange work but this was not the rule around our place. It is quite evident when speaking of work that Dad was a very busy man. Farm work was not easy during those years. The soil in the valley was quite rocky. This contributed to manual labor, for each spring the plowed fields would be cleared of rock. This meant taking the team and a set of wagon gears with a series of loose two by six boards the length of a regular wagon box. These would be placed in the form of a box with two boards for side boards. Back and forth over the field the wagon would go with the rocks being thrown on from both sides and the back. Dad and us boys, almost as early as we would be able to pick up a rock and throw it into the wagon were on the job. Dad always used a five or six tine fork and would take one side of the wagon with Roy on the other side and me at the back. Later when Fred became old enough to help he would assist Roy or wherever there were more rocks. The wagon would be driven to a rock pile and by the turning of the dump boards the rocks would fall to the ground. With the dump boards it was not necessary to throw each rock one at a time out onto the pile. This chore became a most tiring job and one we all disliked.
Mention must be made here of Dad plowing the ground. During the early years that I can remember, Dad had only the hand plow. The plowing usually was done by three horses, but I do remember at times there were only two horses. With the hand plow it was necessary to go around the plot of ground, for the plow share went only one direction. It was a matter of going round and round, and when the field was finished, there was always a dead furrow in the center. This became a little problem for it had to be filled as completely as possible so that the water wouldn't run down into it, instead of over the field where the plants needed water. This was filled as much as possible by harrowing and leveling with the level. Naturally the plowing was done with Dad walking behind. In order to hold onto the plow handles to keep the plow upright, and in a plowing position, it was necessary to tie the harness reins together and have them around his back. By the turn of the body he would be able to turn the horses one way or another. Naturally it was often necessary to grab one line or the other by letting go of one handle, to free the hand needed. In rocky soil, which most of it was, plowing was a hard, tiring job.
Hauling of barnyard fertilizer also was done by hand. During the winter time the milk cows were always stabled in their individual stanchions. In our case the cows were tied to their manger by a rope around the neck. A manure toboggan, a home made type of sleigh with runners was used, and left over night in the back of the barn, and each morning the barn was cleaned. A single horse would be hitched to the toboggan and the cleanings from the barn would be thrown into it and the load would be hauled out into the field and scattered by fork. Other than this chore, the keeping of the water holes open during winter freezing weather was no little chore. Trails into the water hole was a bigger chore than the water hole itself. The trail had to be sloping gently down, for the cows and horses would not drink all they needed unless they were free to get to the water. They were afraid of falling on the slick ice and snow.
All these chores and many more added up to a lot of work for both Dad and Mother, and this was especially so when we younger family members were too small to be of much assistance. Kids don't stay small long and for the last, few years they were in Star Valley, we three older children became able to give quite a lot of assistance.
EARLY CHURCH ACTIVITY
As long as I can remember Dad and Mother were active in the Church. During these early years the programs of the Church were much more limited than presently. While we were yet in Star Valley, Dad was Stake Superintendent of the MIA This naturally required meetings with stake board members, plus visits to the several wards in both Upper and Lower Star Valley. His transportation was back to the white team of horses and white-top buggy. I remember on rare occasions when he would go horseback, but this was not often. During winter times, naturally, his traveling was by sleigh. Night time winter traveling was cold and hard on both horses and humans. As early as I can remember Dad had a long, heavy, brown, fur coat which gave a lot of protection when driving in the cold. Other passengers in the sleigh could sit down on hay or straw which was put in the bottom of the sleigh box. When necessary they had heated rocks to keep feet warm and blankets and quilts were essential with which to cover up. The driver usually was unable to get all this protection, and often had to stand or sit on the side of the sleigh box in order to handle the horses. This depended a lot on the spirit of the horses. The horse Whitie, was more docile and quiet by nature than Prince, who was highly spirited and he had to have attention most of the time.
I don't recall that Mother held a Church position during these years unless it may have been with Relief Society teaching. She was a very quiet and retiring type of person and always preferred to remain in the background. This should be no reflection on her for two reasons, first, that the Church was not stressing the activity of today. Sunday School and sacrament meetings were about the only Sunday meetings, and perhaps Relief Society on a week day. There wasn't the demand on people's time. Secondly, the folk who then lived in the country and depended on that day's transportation didn't participate in Church activity as much as country folk do today with our present means of travel. MIA was a Sunday evening meeting. Music and drama were MIA activities, but there was a limited amount of sports activity. There was an exception which I remember well, and that was the MIA baseball team. This could have been on a stake basis, however several of the wards had their own baseball teams. The Afton Ward had a prominent team and it went all out. For several years the team played all over the valley. The players had their white baseball suits and looked the part of a professional team. Dad was manager of the team, and among the players were Uncle Brig Gardner, Frank Gardner, Will Hale, a couple Calls, etc. The Church at this time attempted to set aside a half day a week for a family day on which the family would go to such events as the baseball games. We enjoyed these get togethers and well remember the baseball games, and traveled to Fairwiew, Grover, Auburn and the Lower Valley, etc.
Also, during these early years President Joseph F. Smith asked all homes to hold Family Home Evening. While considerable stress was placed on it, the Church organization didn't have the facilities for follow-up, but for a period we had home evenings together, and I remember we kids would make candy or had popcorn as refreshments which were prepared during the afternoon.
HABITS AND IDIOSYNCRASIES
In all of our homes there are quirks or peculiarities which become a part of us, sometimes unwittingly and other times without regard but knowingly. None of us as children grow up in a home without realizing this of our parents, just as our children are well aware of some of the problems which disturb us. As attention was called earlier, we are all aware our parents were not perfect despite the fact that they were good parents, even the best of parents. Without any purposeful intent of belittling or finding fault in mind, the beautiful story of the song of the 'mote' and the 'beam' I feel it would not be unfair to call attention to a mote or two with which our parents lived. Were each of us as good in our day with our privileges and advantages as they were in their time, we would be better than we are. Dad and Mother had a few problems with which they had to work, and to a great extent, we are witnesses that they overcame them to a great degree.
Dad loved candy. As long as I remember, whenever he went to town be it back in the horse and buggy days or of later years, and especially earlier, he would have a sack of candy in his coat pocket. Chocolates were his favorite. No one could give him a better birthday present than a box of chocolates and he recognized the better quality ones. Due to the fact that they didn't melt, plus the fact that he could leave a mint in his mouth without losing his sweet tooth, he had a mint either on him or about the house. When we were younger he and mother used to go to town in the white top buggy on a Saturday afternoon, and almost invariably he would bring candy home with him. Dad was very strict and I don't ever remember of one of us kids asking him for a piece. We knew he had some, but we would wait until he offered us some which usually was after supper just prior to our going to bed, maybe even after we had had our Saturday night bath. Very often we knew he had some in his coat pocket hanging in the closet or on the wall, but I don't remember that it was a temptation to us kids to attempt to 'borrow' a piece even when he was not around. It wasn't ours and we knew that we were not to touch it.
Dad had false teeth quite early and he seemed to always have a problem with them, especially his bottom teeth. From the time he got his first set it was common for him to either have his bottom plate in his pocket or in the cupboard. So often, when he didn't have a knife to cut it in small pieces, he would scrape an apple against the sharp edge of his upper plate. One of his favorite ways to eat an apple was to cut it in two and then take a case knife and scrape it until the end of the knife was full of scrapings, and would eat without have to chew it. Many a smile or outright laugh we had when he sneezed, for his teeth would come out of his mouth with the breeze resulting from the sneeze. We probably didn't see all the times when he was milking that they fell into the bucket of milk. I mentioned we smiled or laughed - - this was true, but it depended on the temperament he was in.
While we are talking of Dad we might continue. He was an extremely hard worker and a1ways an early riser, and after he got up he was restless until every one else was up. We always accused him of getting the birds up. He didn't enjoy seeing any of us idle, and probably we exaggerated a little when we accused him of sending us out to dig a hole in the ground and fill it up again, rather than to have a few idle moments. It probably was not quite that bad, but such a statement is not far from the truth. He was particular and thorough and he expected the rest of us to be like him. He was as quick to lose his temper as one who had red hair, but his was black. I don't recall one of his children ever speaking back or sassing him more than once, and if and when that was done, it was when the youngster was small and didn't realize what he was doing. We respected him and did what he asked us to do when he asked us to do it. It was furtherest from our mind to ask him why when he wished something done.
I really feel that he never realized the fear that he put into us until later, and he felt badly about it for it made it difficult for us to confide in him for fear we would be criticized. Mother has told me that in his later life as we were growing older, that he would weep because he wanted to be more one with us. I am not inferring here that Dad was a tyrant. We loved him and we appreciated him more and more as we reached maturity. His judgment was good and his counsel was sound. Frankly it is difficult to explain the real situation. No one ever treated us better and if there ever was anything we needed, he would be the first to help us get it. Probably he became a little firmer than he normally would have been, because Mother may have been a little too easy with us. Probably Mother's strongest tool of disciplining her children was, "If you don't do it I will tell your dad." Actually this was a means of escape from her full responsibility in disciplining us early enough and thereby, made an unfair situation for Dad.
The above may have been a weakness of Mother's, but she had many virtues to offset it, if it was a fault. She was most unselfish. She would deny herself, probably to a fault, of the things she needed in order to give to her husband and children. To me as a child, this was most noticeable in some of the things pertaining to our meals. As the family increased in number, oft times some of the niceties which we may have had to share was purposely taken from her share to add to ours. If a certain dessert was quite limited, she would dish out a larger share to Dad and then divide the balance equally among the children in proportion to age - - the older ones getting just a little more than the next younger. Her share would be not more than the least, if she kept any for herself. At times I know she would have loved it as much as any of us but she denied herself of a portion when the supply was limited. As an example, when Dad distributed our share, Mother later would often share her portion with one or more of us kids, particularly if we had received a special assignment of work. Her sacrificing for us children was noticeable to us at the time even tho we were just children, despite the fact that she would not be influenced much by any persuasion on our part by way of suggesting that she think more of herself than she did.
It is not my intent here to point out of faults or weaknesses. At times we recognized these weakness of our parents, but even at the time they certainly didn't lessen our respect. Again as an example: The Church was not as strict during these years of which I am writing, I do remember Dad occasionally having a cup of coffee, but this ceased early. I don't recall the reason for his quitting. Certainly the Word of Wisdom is adhered to much more closely today by good church members, than it formerly was. Mother loved her tea. She felt she had to have it. Many, many times we older children remember her saying that she was "quivering and just had to have a cup of tea." There are a lot more serious infringements of the standards of Mormon living than a cup of tea, but this is one that Mother was always cognizant of, and one she was always determined that some day, she was going to do something about. Undoubtedly she had the habit earlier, perhaps even from her home as a girl. Due to the fact that her father was born in England and her mother was but a generation away, it could have been an old English custom that persisted in the Wilkes family. Her father certainly made no claim to be an observer of the Word of Wisdom, and with her Mother operating a boarding house, tea was most likely a common household item. Mother's case was certainly not an isolated one during these years of the early nineteen hundreds even with faithful members of the Church.
A PRESENT FOR MOTHER
Mother's unselfish spirit had implanted in me a desire to do something for her by way of a gift, but it was not until I reached about eleven years of age that I had money enough to do something about it. With the first two or three of us children, it was the policy of Dad and Mother to give a choice to us of a new born animal when we reached ten years of age. When Roy reached ten, his choice was a calf. When I reached ten I concluded that I wanted a sheep. I had always been a lover of lambs and had tried quite unsuccessfully to raise 'bum' lambs which were occasionally given us kids by Mr. Charlie Cazier. One winter he had purchased hay from Dad. On an occasion or two when he had a little lamb whose mother may have died or was unable to provide sufficient milk for her lamb, Mr. Cazier would bring the it to us when he came after a load of hay. We were never successful in getting one to survive, however so when it came my turn to select an animal, Dad and Mother purchased a half grown sheep from a man who had a farm herd who lived in Grover. I remember going with Dad in a sleigh to Grover and bringing it home, and thereafter tending to it. The fact that it was alone at our place without other sheep wasn't inducive to a profitable enterprise for Mother Nature has a way of prohibiting natural increase with but one small animal. After keeping it for some length of time, probably partially from the counsel of my parents, the sheep was sold and I received $22 for it, which money I put in the bank on a checking account. On Mother's birthday on the 19th of November 1918, I went to Burton's store during a school noon hour and told Aunt Luella who was employed at the store, that I wanted to get something as a birthday present for my mother. I suspect she may have inquired as to what money I wanted to spend, this I don't recall, but she suggested that I might buy Mother a nice looking dress pin to wear on her blouse or dress. She had one that cost $2.00, which I paid for with my very first check - - and by the way, there was no sales tax in those days. The final amount was the exact price of the pin. Aunt Luella put the pin, after wrapping it in tissue paper with a red ribbon around it, in a small paper sack which I guarded during the afternoon of school and on my way home. After reaching home I waited for a chance to be alone with Mother, and then presented to her what I suppose was my first personal birthday gift to her. Tears came to her eyes when I presented it to her, and she kissed me is about all I remember about it, but she appreciated it as she appreciated anything else any of us ever did for her. I remember well that this was just a week and a day following the surrender of the German army in World War I.
CHRISTMAS AT OUR HOUSE
There are many things too numerous to mention which happened in our home, but one annual occasion which I remember was Christmas time. The big Christmas tree which Dad annually brought home with him on one of the loads of wood from the canyon, has remained a memory. It would be stood in the southeast corner of the living-dining room with its top usually touching the nine foot ceiling. From this point on Mother usually did most of the directing if not most of the work. Bright, sparkling tinsel would be strung from branch to branch over the front of the tree. Then would come the long strings of snow-white popcorn which Mother had popped on the wood burning stove, and which she and we kids had strung together by needle and thread. A few beautifully colored glass balls would then be hung here and there from the tips of some of the branches of the tree. Lastly were snapped onto the tree the gayly colored candles which were held by the metal holders. Attached to them were the little spring clamps which would bite into the small branches. These clamps were necessary to hold the approximately four inch long candles in an upright position. Candles on a tree was the ultimate, for we never even so much as dreamed that someday there would be a string of electric Christmas lights. In the evenings and particularly so on Christmas Eve, the candles would be lighted by Dad and Mother. Usually the main light of the room was not so bright that it interfered to any degree, but if it did, the lamp was turned down a little and we all stood or sat back from the tree and enjoyed the sight of the flickering flames from the candles. We watched with interest, the chasing of shadows about the walls of the room as the little flames would flicker with every moving current of air.
Another item of interest to us kids was the little, three cornered triangular bag which Mother had previous1y made for each of us. The ones I remember most distinctly were made of oilcloth. They were quite simple to make, for Mother would take a square piece of oilcloth and place the two opposite diagonal corners together, and with her treadle sewing machine sew up the one side. This would leave the top open, the edges of which would probably have been hemmed prior to the sewing. The end product was a triangular pocket, at the top of which would be placed a string for tying it onto one of the larger and lower branches of the tree, and would serve as a container for Christmas candy and nuts which Santa would leave. Oft times Santa would place an orange - - the only orange of the year - - at the top, which normally would finish filling the container. As we grew older the little three cornered bag was replaced by a stocking. I suspect that the real reason from changing to a stocking was due to the fact that it would hold more than the bag.
After the long, black stockings were resorted to, it was found that the limbs of the tree were either not strong enough to hold them when filled, or that those that were strong enough were too close to the floor, not allowing the stocking to hang its full length. Instead of hanging the stockings on the tree, and with no fireplace in our home, two chairs were placed with their backs toward each other. A round stick such as a broom handle bridged the top of the two chairs, and the stockings were hung from the broom stick. The longest for the eldest was first, and then on down to the shortest. Mother was, of course always present to direct the arrangements. As kids we often wondered why Mother and Dad never insisted on having a stocking for them. I suspect we took it for granted that Santa's visit was only to the kids. Santa to us kids was real, but it was always a mystery to us when we went out to do chores Christmas morning, as to why we were unable to see reindeer or sleigh tracks on the snow-covered roof of the house.
THIS TIME A GIRL
On the 3rd of September 1916 Mother did something she had never done before, and that was to present the family with a baby girl. Six boys without interruption had been born and now came the seventh child, a girl which they named Afton. Tradition has it that Dad had said that he was going to have sufficient boys to form a baseball team, for he had been managing the Afton Ward baseball team for several years. He had a goal of a team of his own, so Mother cooperated and started raising boys. Afton slowed down the making of the team somewhat, but before the family was entirely completed there were born to Mother and Dad enough boys to make a full team - - nine, plus three girls. As mentioned earlier one of the boys, Theodore had passed away when but a baby. Believe you me, the little girl was welcome and for the first few years she was probably called Sister as often if not more so, than Afton. I well remember the day she was born and also a morning or two after when Dr. West, after making an early call at the home, stopped his open car and let some of us ride on the running board for we were on our way to school. If I remember correctly this was the first ride I ever had on a car.
DAD IN THE NATIONAL GUARD
Among the many concerns that come to a family, there are usually one or two of the unusual which show up. One that was certainly different to this family was Dad's joining the National Guard about 1913 or 1914, and the Afton unit being called to Cheyenne in preparation for action because of border troubles with Mexico. The whole affair seemed most interesting to us kids during the summer months when occasionally we would drive to town with Dad and Mother to watch the men with their drilling. We had never seen anything before that pertained to the Army and it was interesting to see the men march in unison and at times to the music of a band, and to see them with the colorful flag flying in the breeze. There was a National Guard man from out of town they called Major. I do not recall whether it was his name or his title, but he worked during the summer getting young men, many of them farmers and family men, to enlist and come to the aid of their country, Among them was Dad, and we were as proud of him in his uniform as any kid could have been with a dad in the unit. Most of the drilling was done on the main street and in the evenings just prior to sundown.
The day came for their departure. There was some real concern. I have thought since how ridiculous it was that fathers of families who had farms were called to leave home. In our case there was the farm of eighty acres and a herd of probably a dozen cows to care for and milk, plus the irrigation, which resulted in an almost impossible task for Mother. Roy, the oldest help at home to assist Mother was only about nine years of age. I was but six or seven. It was a sad day when the group left Afton, for our family was not the only family affected. There was a goodly number of men who had to leave in similar circumstances.
It is my understanding that later, word was sent to the governor of Wyoming reporting cases of hardship having been incurred by the men folk going from home. It was but a short time, with in a week or two, before the men with large families were released and were permitted to return to their homes. Father was one of them and it was a relief for the family, not only from the standpoint of the relief he gave with the work at home, but also there is a concern when soldier boys go off to war.
A VACATION TO BEAR LAKE
A year or two following the Army event the entire family went on a trip of a few days in the white top buggy pulled by Whitie and Prince to Saint Charles, the town where Mother was born. It had been a long time since Mother had visited with Aunt Sarah Allred and cousins, as well as her half-uncles and families, so this particular trip was made. This was a real experience for us kids, as I am sure, it was for Mother and Dad. Arrangements had been made for some of the neighbors to take care of the milking and other chores, and we took our respective places in the open buggy. We each had our usual places to sit in the buggy just as we did around the table. There is a little less disappointment and other problems when each of us know where our place is, whether it be in a white top buggy of anywhere else.
The buggy had as a permanent fixture or set of fixtures, roll-up canvas shades such as a window shade, which in case of the need of protection from the hot sun or a storm, the shades could be rolled down as the need required on both sides and the back of the buggy. Dad, the driver, sat in the driver's position on the right hand side as one faced the horses. Along side the driver's position was the hand brake, which was a lever-like piece of metal with a handle, which when pulled would pry a brake against each of the back wheels. The brake was lined with leather, which when the brake was applied, would clamp against the metal tire of the buggy so tightly that they could cause the wheels to slide. The lining of the brake, of course had to be kept in repair, for the rubbing of it against the tire would cause the lining to wear out. Also, on the side where Dad sat was the whip-holder into which the handle of a horse whip would stand in an upright position. This was close to the driver who could use it if it became necessary to urge the horses on. Mother sat in the front on the left hand side and we kids sat in the back seat. Usually Mother had a baby on her lap and there was room for a little youngster between Dad and Mother. The back seat would accommodate three quite nicely, particularly if not adults. There was a little space between the back seat and the endgate, and in case of necessity a youngster could sit on the floor, but I doubt that this was necessary on this particular trip. This would have been before Afton was born and possibly even before Hyrum was born. Care of the younger children had to be remembered, for a wheel hitting a rock, or a quick jerk or lunge by a horse could easily throw a little one from the buggy.
On this particular trip it had been arranged that we should get to the Halfway House between Afton and Montpelier. Mother's brother, Noen Wilkes and family were operating it and living there, so it was a pleasant visit for both families. The trip on to St. Charles was without any unusual incidents so far as I recall. We arrived at Aunt Sarah's home toward evening of the following day, and later in the evening went over to Ernest Allred's home for a visit. He was Mother's cousin. We stayed in St. Charles two or three days where we enjoyed fresh corn and raspberries. Mother had often told us of these delicacies that were grown in St. Charles, and what a pleasure it was to have our first contact with them. Other than the Allreds to visit, Mother had two or three elderly uncles. As I recall they were Uncle Bee, Uncle Gash, and Uncle Dan. They had never married and lived in a log house apparently 'batching'. Uncle Bee (Benoni) and Uncle Dan were full brothers, sons of Mother's grandfather Daniel D. Hunt and his first wife Nancy Davis, and were well up in their seventies at this time. A younger half brother, a full uncle of Mother's, Gashum was younger and probably in his early sixties at the time. I remember very well our visit to their little log house, for at the time Dad tied the team to the fence which was alongside their yard. We found them sitting in the shade of the house from the afternoon sun. One or more of them had a cane.
Our stay in St. Charles was all too short for it was a beautiful place. Bear Lake itself, with its blue waters was thrilling to see. Cousin Ernest and boys were haying, and we went down to their hayfield which was a distance from their house to watch them at work one afternoon. As all trips must, this one came to an end, and we started home one afternoon reaching Montpelier where we spent the night with Dad's Aunt Margaret (Maggie) Pugmire. I remember breakfast the next morning probably better than any other part of our visit with her. Why, I don't know, but I particularly remember the bowl of cooked rolled wheat which I didn't overly relish. We must have spent the night of this new day at Uncle Noen's at the Halfway House on the way to Star Valley, for if I remember correctly, we arrived home in Afton shortly after noon, say two to three o'clock. This was a memorable vacation for the family. I do not remember the family ever going on another vacation where we spent overnight together away from home.
FIRST WORLD WAR
After the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, even little rural Star Valley felt its effect. For three years before this, the conversation was often turned to the war as it was raging in Belgium and France, and of the Kaiser's powerful armies and of how they were beginning to overrun western European countries. When the U.S. declared war it came closer home. There was talk of even older men, such as Dad, being drafted. Many of the young men of the valley had been called up to reinforce the standing army of the U. S. in preparation of national defense if things got worse. President Wilson said he would keep this country from war, but conditions worsened until it became evident the U. S. couldn't keep from becoming involved.
Food for our allies was needed, and the government called on all farmers to raise all the food possible, particularly wheat. Even though the climate in Star Valley was not conducive to raising wheat some tried it. Certain foods became rationed. Folk at home were to tighten their belts and were to buy government bonds. It was recommended to be sparing with wheat bread, and corn bread was suggested to become a substitute. Bran was recommended to be used with the flour and nothing was to be wasted.
The daily newspaper, the Deseret News in our home, had its pages full of war news. Dad and Mother joined in the war effort to follow as many of the suggestions as possible. Dark bread interspersed with cornbread became part of our menu. German atrocities filled the news. In the meantime, since earlier describing the utilities of the home, the telephone came to the farms of the valley. Neighbors talked over the phone of the war conditions, and we kids cuddled down in our beds a little deeper as we heard the folks talk about the war. As I look back on these years they become even more interesting. I realize this is the story of my parents, but let me quote from my personal story of my life relative to this period of about 1916, 17 & 18:
"The stories told of the German atrocities in the latter part of that war seemed horrible to us, and they really affected us children. After the United States declared war it really seemed a lot closer to home. As brave as I tried to be, I was always frightened to go alone into the dark. I always imagined I could hear German soldiers in the dark places, and wouldn't have been surprised had they at any moment come out and stuck me with a bayonet and carried me off. I was only ten years old and of course my imaginations were exaggerated to what really would have happened. My imagination seemed to work its best while I was cleaning the horse barn and watering the horses. This usually was quite early in the morning (just as the day was breaking during the winter time). At this time Dad, Mother and Roy were in the cow barn milking some distance from where I was. There was a shed with an open door a hundred feet or so away from the horse stable, and as it was getting light I could distinguish the black opening quite well. I don't know how the German soldiers were able to stay in that cold shed morning after morning during the winter of 1917 and 1918, nor do I now know why they were standing there waiting for the chance to charge me, nor do I know why they would have wanted to have carried me over their shoulders with me threaded on a bayonet, but at that time I was sure they were very much interested in me. I was quite satisfied that the winning of the war depended to some extent on my bravery and their success in my capture. During the day time I would investigate the shed to see if I could find anything the Germans left behind, but they were always careful enough to never leave behind so much as a track. That was an example of the power of imagination, but it was very real to me. I suffered the agony of fear, and it couldn't have been a great deal worse had it been the actual thing."
While our immediate family was not directly affected, Uncle Earl Cazier was called into the service, and served in France for some time. On Mother's side of the family, Uncle Loraine Brown was also called to serve in the Army. They were happy days when these families were reunited again. On November 11, 1918, Dad had Roy and me go to a canyon with team and wagon and bring home a load of shale for the floor of a garage he had built for our new car. On our return, we saw a car go by with a string of cans tied to a wire dragging behind. This was the first indication that we knew that the Armistice had been signed. By telephone the folk learned of it. Prior to this time and during the heat of the war, probably about the time of the declaration, the folk took us to town where a rally was being held. The towns people hung from a beam by a rope the effigy of the Kaiser and burned it. Even in little, quiet Afton hatred toward the leader of the German people worked them up to such a pitch. The Savior's dictum to love your enemies, so often becomes overlooked and appears at times to be asking the impossible. Someday this will become a fact.
If my memory serves me correctly it was in the spring of 1917 that a car salesman succeeded in getting Dad and Mother to buy our first car, a beautiful Grant Six, meaning a six cylinder car. The first time we kids saw it was at noon one day when the salesman, Dad, Mother and the younger kids came to the Afton school house and picked us up. They were wanting to take a little ride, but Dad was busy with his spring farming and felt he couldn't get away without having Roy go home to keep his team busy harrowing a plowed field. We rode with them home where Roy stopped off to harrow, but the rest of us rode down to the Lower Valley. The car had a collapsible top and the top was down on this particular trip. This was, by no means, one of the earlier cars to be owned by residents of the valley, but it was early enough to be far from the last to be owned by a resident.
DAD HEARS A PROMPTING
The wagon and team of horses were used a lot during the summer months. On the farm there was the rock hauling, hay hauling, and grain hauling. In fact, as can readily be understood, if anything was hauled it was likely to have been done by a wagon. When we were small we became quite daring, in fact sufficiently daring, to stand on the felloe of the wagon wheel. The felloe is the wood that goes around a wagon wheel just inside the iron tire. Our feet would be at the bottom of the wheel and we would put our head into the wheel at the top against the felloe, letting our body bend out a little to bypass the hub of the wheel. This became a little daring to a five or six year old kid, especially when the horses started and the wheel would turn. Naturally, the one doing the trick would turn round and round with the wheel. This was fun, and we knew dangerous, so we were always cautious. Little guys who didn't handle themselves just right had no business doing it - - maybe we older ones didn't either, and we were cautioned by our folk not to do it. One day while hauling some hay from the yard which was close to the house, Dad would throw the hay onto by the wagon and then tell the horses to start up to go to the next pile. Many, many times we have heard him bear this testimony: He started the horses and he heard a voice, he says just as plain as he has ever heard any voice, and it said, "Where is the boy?" He immediately said, "Whoa" and the horses stopped. He walked around the wagon to find Fred, and there he was with his feet on the felloe, but his head was not high enough to reach the felloe at the top opposite where his feet were, but his head was between the spokes. Dad says he cringed with fright when he saw his position, for if the wheel had turned two more inches Fred's head would have been crushed between a spoke and the wagon standard - - the cross piece on which the wagon box rests. Fred had seen us older ones do it, and when by himself, decided to try it. Since that experience no one has ever been able to convince Dad that there is no such thing as "that still, small voice" which prompts when necessary and when we are deserving.
THE 1918 SPANISH INFLUENZA - A KILLER
A period of deep concern to the family was the fall of 1918 and winter of 1919 when the country was swept by one of the most devastating diseases that certainly has come into the lives of this generation. Many deaths in almost every neighborhood of the country occurred, and it became so frightening that people would go to almost no end to keep from becoming exposed to its germ. Schools and churches were closed for many weeks in an effort on the part of public officials to keep it from spreading, but it seemed spread it would. Doctors were worked until they could go no longer or/and they themselves would become stricken with the disease. Funerals were not held. People would die and the bodies would be taken directly to the cemetery. In many instances people were so sick the burial of the dead had to be delayed.
During the fall months of 1918, Dad went out amongst the neighbors considerably and helped. We kids all had a relatively slight case of it, and Mother and Dad nursed and cared for us. The odor of body wastes was almost unbearable and even body odor from the fever which produced perspiration of the sick patients, was very noticeable. It became a common practice in the homes to pour liquid formaldehyde on the stoves to create a disinfectant gas in an attempt to kill the germs by fumigation. This odor was about as bad as the odors from the patient. As patients died or recovered, their clothes were either burned or heavily fumigated.
Whether Mother had the flu in a milder form I don't recall. Undoubtedly she did. We were all well aware that she would seldom give up to go to bed for any sickness. As the winter progressed, it was felt that perhaps Dad either had it lightly or had become immune to it. But one morning in January, and I can remember it as though it were yesterday, we finished feeding the cattle and horses out in the feed lot. It was customary to scatter the hay from the sleigh to the fresh snow. Dad complained that he was not well. Roy and I finished the chores and unharnessed the team. Mother got a pan of hot water with mustard and had Dad put his feet in it for some time, then helped him to bed. As the days passed he became so serious that it looked as if he would never recover. Some good neighbors, May Hale in particular, who had had experience with nursing, came in to relieve Mother who had sat up with Dad until she was literally worn out. The doctor occasionally came and he kept in touch by telephone when he couldn't come.
For a time Mother and we boys did the chores and the milking. I hadn't started to milk but Roy was doing some, but this became too hard on Mother. We got a cousin, Frank Walker who was about three years older than Roy, to come and help with the milking. He lived about three quarters of a mile to the south of us. Roy and I took care of the feeding. To add to our problems the winter was very cold.
Each night Mother would remind us to pray as we had never prayed before, that the Lord would spare our father for we all needed him so badly. One night as he reached the crises, she had us all go into his room for us to say goodbye. Even the doctor did not know whether he would live till morning, and it was this night if ever in our childhood we ever prayed for anything, it was that Dad would live. I was past ten years of age and old enough to fully realize the seriousness of Dad's condition. He was too sick for us to go into his room, but this night Mother led us to his bed side to kiss him good night and maybe goodbye. Never before had we such a hard thing to do. Words cannot adequately tell - - one has to experience it to get the feeling. Mother's eyes were red and so were ours, for the doctor had said that this was the night for the crises to pass. The bedroom was quiet, for each of us wanted to cooperate all we could. The gas light in the living room was humming and kept bright all night, but the coal oil lamp in the bedroom was turned down low. Due to the fact that there were only two bedrooms in the house, Dad had been moved into the small bedroom which normally Roy, Fred and I used. I don't recollect fully, but it seems that we older boys had a bed made up for us in the parlor, which was off the living room. The two beds in the other room which was known as Dad's and Mother's bedroom took care of the smaller children and Mother. This night however, was another night Mother never went to bed. If she dozed at all it would have been in the hard, rocking chair that she used so often to rock her babies in.
Up to this date we never knew what it was to have an upholstered rocker, chair or other piece of furniture in our home, for it was most humble as to conveniences.
As Mother came into the bedroom early the next morning to wake us up as usual to go out to do the chores, we were almost afraid to hear the news, but it was good news. Dad had lived thru the night and while he wasn't out of danger by any means, he had passed the crises and there was hope. The Lord had heard our prayers and our father was still with us. What a relief, and what a relief it must have been to Mother! She was a woman of faith and she was grateful as were we children.
One doesn't become so sick as Dad was and recover at once. It was weeks before he was able to be up and to be able to take care of his responsibilities. This we didn't mind, for he soon got sufficiently well that at least he could engineer the home and the chores from his bed and chair.
These weeks were an ordeal for Mother, for she was then carrying George who was born on the 8th of March, just a couple of months later than Dad's illness. It was during Dad's recovery that Mother had Roy and me drive in a sleigh to Afton to the drug store, where we bought a gallon of an orange drink for Dad, who as he was recovering, longed for a tasty drink. Also on this same trip, we were to stop at Call's Furniture Store to bring home a new, beautiful, brass bed which she apparently had seen and liked, and probably even made arrangements to buy. This brass bedstead was Mother's and Dad's and remained in their home, I am quite sure until after Mother passed away some 38 years later.
STAR VALLEY FAREWELL
For some time there was conversation about finding another home than in Star Valley. It seemed to stem particularly, from Dad's interest in gardening, and the fact that the winters in Star Valley were both long and cold. How long this undercurrent of dissatisfaction went on 'under breath' so to speak, we kids may not have known. Certainly it was talked of by Mother and Dad until, after Dad made a trip or two to southern Idaho with a couple neighbors and friends. They were all looking into the possibilities to sell the home in Star Valley and purchase a farm near Rupert, Idaho, a place which seemed a long way away to us kids, and which proved to require considerable time, expense and effort.
The Star Valley farm home was sold. A forty acre farm - - a choice one - - so far as soil and its layout was concerned was purchased for a figure of $17,000 with $6,000 as a down payment. It was located one mile south and one fourth mile east of Rupert. As to the amount the Star Valley farm sold for I do not now recall, but certainly it was not in the amount of the new home.
To Mother and Dad the planning and the effort involved, and the concern of moving their family and belongings was nothing less than a major event. In those days folk in these western valleys were quite stable, and moving from place to place was uncommon, particularly was this so of the families in Star Valley. The world in those days was a big place and two hundred and fifty or more miles was a long way. All the Holstein cows, dry stock and calves were sold for it was the chore of hand milking which was another reason for leaving. The folk realized that with a family of seven children, milk would be a necessity even in Rupert, Idaho, so a couple Jersey cows were purchased before the move. Lady was purchased from George Hepworth of Grover, and a purebred cow whose name after these more than fifty years I have forgotten, was bought from Heber Burton. An Idaho law required that all cows had to be tested to be free from tuberculosis, or TB as it was known, so Roy and I drove the two cows to Afton a week or so before we left, to the veterinarian who made the tests. The cows were free of the disease and thus cleared for moving.
To make a long story short it was decided that Dad would haul Roy, me and the cows in the sleigh from our place to Fairview at the southern end of the Valley. We would lead Brownie, one of our horses. Then Roy and I would take the animals by foot to Montpelier, Idaho, some fifty miles from Afton. The next day the furniture would be hauled by team and sleighs to Montpelier where all animals and household goods would be loaded on a railroad car and be shipped to Rupert. In as much as it was planned that two days would be required to get the cows to Montpelier, whereas the team and sleighs would require but one day, both groups of us would arrive in Montpelier the same evening.
On or about the 27th or 28th of December 1919, more likely the earlier date, Dad and Mother got Roy and me up very early in the morning of a clear day. By bright starlight and lantern, the two newly acquired Jersey cows were led to the manure pile outside the horse barn. The evening before the sleigh had been backed up against it where it served as a ramp for the cows to walk up into the sleigh box without them having to be lifted. With the cows in the sleigh, the horses Snap and Star, were hitched up, and Roy and I bid farewell to Mother (the kids were not yet up) and the old home that had been so dear to us all the years of our lives. Dad took us some eight miles to the mouth of the canyon south of Fairview. We were dressed to take the cold weather, and with the aid of extra quilts or blankets we made our journey with the white frost of the very early morning air clinging around our clothing. With the horses warming as they traveled they also became white with the hoary frost. Daylight crept upon us and by the time we reached the 'getting off' place it was about sunup. Brownie had been led behind the sleigh to be used by us as we would wish during the next two days of driving the cows. Brownie was classified as a work horse but she would also permit us to ride her.
Dad with his team and sleigh turned back home where they would load the sleighs. Uncle Hyrum Blacker was to take his outfit to assist and be ready to leave early the next morning, thus giving us a day's start ahead of them.
With the deep snow on the ground, there were but two tracks where the sleigh runners packed the snow on the road, so each cow had a track. Roy followed one and I the other, the cows being abreast of each other, and we took turns leading Brownie by the bridle reins. Our trip really was quite uneventful. The day was bright and cold and we did very little riding the horse because it was so cold. We had sandwiches in our pockets but they froze so that we ate but little of them. Our aim was to get to the Halfway House some twenty five miles from Afton, which was still being operated by Uncle Noen and family. We wondered if we were ever going to get there. There was very litt1e traffic on the way so we were very much by ourselves. Due to the fact that we did not know our way well enough to recognize where we were, we hoped often that the house ahead of us was to be our stopping place. As the sun lowered, the shadows of the hills began to deepen and we wondered if we would be able to reach our stopping place before dark, but we did. The house showed up and we recognized it from the previous trip we made, some six or seven years before when we went to Bear Lake.
After putting the cows and horse in the barn, Roy milked Lady (we called her Laid for short). The other cow was dry and Laid almost. We spent the evening with Uncle Noen and family. Rhena and Ruth popped and candied some popcorn and their little brother John played about the house and particularly on a beautiful rocking horse which he had gotten for Christmas a few days before. We had a pleasant evening but, when bed time came we found it easy to go to bed and to sleep.
Early the next morning we started the last half of our journey. It was cold, but clear and dry, and we didn't think it was quite so cold as it was the day before. We were deeper in the mountains and it was a more interesting walk. We enjoyed the sights of the trees, a few rabbits, and other mountain scenery in winter time. Probably a little before mid afternoon we were able to see the break in the mountains which opened into Montpelier Canyon, the scenery had been beautiful but after fifty miles of walking in below zero weather, we were happy to see we were as near the end of our trip as we were.
In the neighborhood of four-thirty or five o'clock - - this was midwinter so it wasn't too long before sundown - - we reached Montpelier. It looked a large place to us. Several years before we had been through the town, in fact stopped there one night, but we were unable to remember much about the place for we were much younger then. The town looked black and smoky, and if I had been entering London, I wouldn't have felt a great lot differently than I did. Of course Roy was the older, so probably I didn't have to be quite so concerned.
We had been instructed to go to Thatcher Kimball's place, they being old friends of the folk, in fact old neighbors. We found their place, tied the cows and horse to the sleigh box in their yard, went in and waited for the folks. We had not long to wait, probably a half or three quarters of an hour, when they drove up. It seemed good to get back together again. They had but little trouble on their way. The two year old colt Dan, which was tied to the rear end of the sleigh, didn't want to cooperate all the way, but after some little dragging they said he preferred following. It must have been a long, hard day for the family for they were now fifty miles from where they were that very morning. Their trip couldn't have been overly comfortable during those many hours for certainly they were crowded and some of the youngsters were young. George the baby, was just nine month old, and Afton, the only girl of the family of six of us then living boys, was only a little past three. Sitting under cover in order to keep warm in a sleigh which was overly crowded with household and personal belongs of a family on the move, could have been nothing short of an ordeal. The team, Snap and Star, full brothers, were large and strong and were Dad's pride. They were the sons of the old brood mare named Beauty. Dad reserved her purposely for the foal she could produce despite the fact that she was a cripple with a large front foot which was a handicap to her to the extent that, since I can remember, she had never been harnessed as a work horse.
Behind the folk came Uncle Hyrum Blacker, Dad's brother, with his sleigh load of our furniture and other household belongings which couldn't be gotten in the first sleigh. What a chore such a move as this was, probably not fully realized by us children despite the fact that each of us played quite an important part in it. Mother and Dad undoubtedly, would have been much better authorities on the subject than I, for a move is not easy at any time. To make such a major move as we were making was a real chore, particularly, during the winter months of deep snow and cold, frosty weather and with the mode of transportation then current during winter weather.
THAT BIG BLACK TRAIN
There is not too much to say regarding the evening spent at the Kimballs as I now recall. We had our supper in the front room and spent the first part of the evening with Dad and Mother visiting with the Kimballs. We older children would halt whatever we were doing and run to the younger ones and, on occasion when appropriate say, "Listen, did you hear that big train whistle? We are going to ride on that big puffing train tomorrow and go a long, long way." Then we would return to our play again until another toot would ring through the frosty night air. The train was probably the biggest single attraction to us in our move, and the subject had been discussed for weeks prior to our leaving home. Not that even we older ones knew much of what we were talking about, but probably more from our repeating what we had been told by those older and with much more experience. To us kids the train was probably the ultimate in the achievement of man up to that time. No such thing was ever in Star Valley, and when Montpelier was ever mentioned the thought of "That is where the big trains are", was uppermost in the minds of us kids. Now that evening, we were in Montpelier with the trains.
A PASSENGER AND A FREIGHT TRAIN
Undoubtedly the night was spent without any major incident. I remember some of us, if not all the kids, slept on the floor in the living room, and very early the next morning we were up ready for another most eventful day. It must have been around eight o'clock for it had just gotten light, and at that time of the year eight o'clock is quite early, that we bade leave to the Kimballs and drove in the sleigh to the railroad depot to board the train. The plan was for Mother to take all us kids, other than Roy, with her on the train to Rupert, and Dad and Roy would stop behind to load the furniture in one end of the railroad boxcar and the animals in the other end. Somewhere in between the two loaded ends Dad and Roy were to camp throughout the entire trip, which would last probably a couple days and a night. As to the actual length of time I do not remember. Such a trip to them, while certainly a new experience, would not be the most pleasant for we must keep in mind that this was mid-winter. It probably took the most of the day for them to load and anchor everything for the long, rough trip, for box cars on freight trains are not always handled with the ultimate of smoothness and gentleness. After they were all loaded they said goodbye to Uncle Hyrum who was to return with his outfit to Afton and his home. The train began moving, with the big double door just slightly ajar, Dutch, the family's beloved dog, panicked with the movement of the train and crowded himself thru the little crack of the door. The train was on the move and there was no chance to get Dutch back. Dad and Roy did not know whether he would ever be heard of again, but we learned later by letter that the dog did locate Uncle Hyrum and returned to Star Valley with him. This was a real concern to them, and great disappointment to all of us. It is probably common for every family to have had one outstanding dog. Dutch would certainly have that distinction with the Thomas Blacker family. There were sad hearts in the family when we learned that Dutch decided not to stay with us. He was a faithful friend and such a worker for the family. Every animal had real respect for Dutch - - horses or cattle. He had one fault, that of being overly severe, particularly with cattle. He had been taught to heel or attack from the rear of the animal and he occasionally would grab one animal by the tail and break it. What a wonderful help a good dog is when animals insist that they go where they are not wanted. Dutch was very capable and realized what was wanted of him. Many a time we have witnessed his responding to a call to go after a particular animal, and even when the voice could not reach him because of distance, he would respond to the wave of the arm or a white cloth. One particular occasion I well remember was the summer Dad had rented the Alf Anderson farm on the foot hills a mile to the east of our home. Neighbor's cattle had gotten into the field and Dad sent Dutch after them. Dutch would race several hundred yards and then stop to look back to see if he was expected to continue, and as Dad would say, 'Go get them Dutch', he would run pell-mell in their direction. He got so far away the voice would not carry, and Dad standing on the front porch, took a white cloth, which when waved, would be a signal. On again Dutch would go until he had driven the cattle from the field. Other than being of real value to all of us, Dutch was a real pal to us children unless perhaps, it would be following an encounter with a skunk. Even then he was willing to associate with us, but under those conditions we became particular with whom we associated.
At the time Dutch deserted Dad and Roy in Montpelier he was getting quite old so no attempt was made to bring him to Rupert at a later date. He spent the remainder of his few years with Uncle Hyrum.
TO RUPERT - OUR FIRST TRAIN RIDE
Now back to us boarding the big, black marvel, the train! Dad helped us get on the train and got us all settled and from then on it was Mother who took charge of her brood. George was the baby and ten nearly months old. Afton, number two from the youngest was a little over three. Then came Hyrum who was well over five, Alma seven and a half, Fred nearly ten, and lastly I came next, who was just slightly over two weeks past twelve. It wasn't possible for the seven of us to sit in adjoining seats, for seats had been otherwise taken before we got on the train. I don't remember just who sat where but I would suspect, knowing Mother and her concern over her brood, that two or three of us older ones would have been together and she would have had the younger ones. We were from the country and were very timid and acted the part well, so our moving back and forth from our seat to Mother's was not often. With a bunch of youngsters, of course Mother soon learned her way to the rest room, and if she didn't personally take some we older ones received the assignment. What the conductor thought when seeing Mother and her six board the train we never leaned, but I am sure as he helped us off at the end of the journey he couldn't say that we had been a problem.
Whether the first train ride affects others as it did us I don't know, but I suspect each of you know to what I am referring. I can recall that day as though it were yesterday. I suspect some of the train officials wondered, when a mother and six little ones got on the train to spend the day. They could have had some concern, for a woman with six kids could have created a commotion, but this family was too timid to put on a show for other passengers to witness, and anyway we were probably so awe stricken that we 'froze'.
The train started - - it was quite a sensation. We could feel the powerful engine start tugging to get the cars rolling. We were moving - - gently moving - - and the first and second grade reading stories actually came to life for we were riding on the big, black train. It was a wonderful sensation - - and oh, what a pleasure it would have been if we could have had our friends and neighbors back home witness us, or if I could have dropped back into the fifth grade at the old, white school in Afton to be able to tell the kids of our experience.
As we left the railroad yards of Montpelier, we saw the buildings near the tracks and the business buildings a little further away, and the homes still further away, move backward as it were. By the time we reached where there were fence posts, we could more readily realize we were moving, for we saw post after post passing, and then as though they were enlisted men in a regimented army, an officer passed in the form of a telephone pole ever so often. The whistle blew as we neared crossings and we were off as big as life itself.
It was not long, however before the entire car of folk had to witness a sad but interesting scene which kept us settled in our seats. At the front of the car some five or six seats ahead of us was a mentally sick lady who was being taken to the insane asylum at Blackfoot. If my memory serves me correctly, she had some means of being attached to the officer with her, for while she was able to stand up she wasn't at liberty to get away from her seat. She became irrational at various times, and stood and spoke quite loudly as if into space. Some of her comments were quite funny, but yet half frightening, for her countenance was not one of peace and contentment but one of concern, and even pitiful in her 'blankness'. She called aloud time after time to whoever she may have been addressing and said, "Don't tackle a woman with a black shirt tail." We older ones were interested and concerned, for we had heard of 'crazy' people but this was our first experience. We probably didn't realize that her condition was an illness and that she was on her way to a hospital where she wou1d receive help. The officer in charge of her took her off the train at Pocatello.
It must have been about noon or a little after when we arrived at Pocatello. Other than the lady they were taking to Blackfoot, there were a number of others who got off, and it was here that there became empty seats close to where Mother was sitting, so from there we were able to sit together. Mother had a lunch of some kind for I remember we occasionally walked up to where she was sitting to get a cookie or something of that nature.
From Pocatello we went on to Minidoka where we had a change of trains to make, and after a short wait we were again on our way westward. The world was already beginning to look different. As we neared Pocatello and then from there on west, the snow was lessening and lessening until it had disappeared entirely. What a world from snow banks into the land where there were none was really something. What a transformation! How much was it like the birds who have spent the summer up north only to wake up one morning and find that the planned migration to the south had been delayed a few days too long. After the late start they flew southward from the land of snow into a more southern clime. As the miles were traversed the bare ground, and with it, warmer days were enjoyed. As with the first season birds fly south for their first time so, for the first time, we found delight in seeing a warmer climate. The marvel of it was that the change had came within a few hours. We could hardly realize that such a change could be made in such a short time. In the neighborhood of two to two-thirty in the afternoon the conductor advised that we were nearing Rupert our destination, and so we each made preparations to get things together, and to put our top clothes and overshoes on. While we could see we didn't need our over shoes Mother told us to put them on for they would be easier to carry that way than in packages or under our arms. From the train window we could see the farms and farmhouses and could see we were nearing a town. The day had gone by so quickly - - it had been a marvelous experience - - and one which we shall never forget so long as we live.
RUPERT - - WE ARE HERE
Rupert! This was the call of the conductor as the train slowed to a slow pace, let off some of its steam, and blew its whistle as though it were announcing a great event, which, to us it was indeed.
As our first train ride came to an end, we stepped out in front of the Rupert passenger depot into a bright, unseasonably warm sunshine, and found Uncle Will (Dad's brother) standing to welcome us to Rupert. From one brother in the morning to another brother in the middle of the afternoon - - and what a difference of atmospheres. Why one would insert such a thought in here of such a far different topic, I even wonder myself. But the thought has so often occurred to me - - the transition at death - - from mortality to immortality - - the parting from the living members of one's family to the going to your loved ones who are deceased, whom we are told reside in a lovelier atmosphere. In case of the latter, the transformation was instantaneous, where as from Montpelier to Rupert we spent a goodly portion of the day. From deep snow on a cold, frosty morning to the bright sunshine of an unseasonably, warm afternoon on the next to the last day of the year 1919.
After getting us together Uncle Will led us behind the depot - - actually to the front from the standpoint of people of the town - - where he had tied his team of gray horses. Into his wagon we either climbed or were lifted depending on the age of the youngster.
Mother must have found relief, for her concern and responsibility of taking care of her family on such a trip was certainly a new experience for her. Knowing her nature as I do, I am sure the day had been of real concern to her.
To touch bare ground was a thrill and to us kids it seemed like a paradise. Never before had we made such a transition - - it was like a dream. Uncle Will, Mother and the baby sat on the spring seat which stretched across the front of the wagon. The rest of us stood or sat against the sideboards of the two layer wagon box, and started toward Uncle Will's farm home. We went west from the depot on the dirt road to what is now 'F' street, where we turned south across the railroad tracks to what is now called 100 South. When we reached there he turned west, but as we got onto that road he pointed behind us to the east and showed us where our new home was going to be. It was three quarters of a mile to the east, and we were able to see the big trees around the yard. What a thrill - - a home with big trees! We had never had anything like this in Star Valley - - never a big tree in our yard to climb.
We traveled to the west for one-half mile and then turned to the south on what is now 100 West, and traveled south about four miles. It was quite a long ride but it was a pleasant one. Even tho it was winter it was quite comfortable, especially with our winter coats on. After the four and one quarter miles we turned into a place with a fairly attractive white house with an open porch most of the way along the south side. An attractive two-storied red barn housed the horses, a couple of cows and a calf or two. The whole place was really inviting indeed, but to be able to jump out of the wagon onto the dry, bare ground was probably the most impressive experience of all. At this point I again might digress from the story to mention that some forty seven or forty eight years later, our daughter Ruth, with her husband, Laron Waite and children lived in this same house as renters. Our visiting with them at this subsequent date brought many memories of nearly a half century earlier.
Undoubtedly we looked rather countryfied with our heavy overshoes and clothing, for they all seemed so unnecessary in this new, sunny clime. Aunt Ella and her children, who were yet quite small, Roderick, Kem, and I believe Worth was the baby, came from the house to welcome us and it was good to see them. We hadn't seen any of them for over two years, so the children were not acquainted with us, but Aunt Ella and Uncle Will of course, were familiar to us older ones. The sun had not yet gone down so we had a chance to play and explore Uncle Will's place and visit with them until milking time. They had a black, gentle cow which I had occasion to milk several times a couple months later.
As has been mentioned several times in this account, the weather had been unusually mild that winter, even for Rupert. In fact we have seldom, if ever had a winter so nice since. We could actually play in the sunshine with no overshoes and with but a light jacket, and at times, not even that was required. Thus it was that we came to the close of one of the most unforgettable days in my life. I suspect if Mother were here, she would say the same thing. On the 30th day of December 1919, Mother and her children, excepting Roy who was to arrive with Dad two days later, was prepared to start the first night in a new land where she was to make her home.
It was not until New Year's Day of 1920, that the muscles of the big, black locomotive brought into Rupert a boxcar load of farm animals and household goods with Dad and Roy. Thus the family was again complete and it was on this day that Mother and we children saw for the first time our new home. We youngsters were so excited we probably never noticed just what Mother's feelings were as she stepped into the new to us, but several years old home. We all noticed one great advantage over what we had been used to, and that was the fact that now we would have electric lights. Never before had we had such luxury. Now by the push of a button on the wall, or in the case of the living room, the pulling of a string, we could turn black darkness instantaneously into a brighter light than we had normally had. The fact was that the family had come to the end of a chapter in our lives relative to the almost daily chore of filling the lamps with kerosene, or as we then knew it, coal-oil. To offset this wonderfu1 blessing of electricity, we, and particularly Mother, would miss the roominess of our home in Afton. Our new home was a very small one. The Afton home had a nice size kitchen with its adjoining pantry, a nice size living room, and an adjoining parlor and two bedrooms. Here we would be required to be confined to a three room home which consisted of one bedroom, a reasonably good size living room and a relatively small kitchen. Fortunately, in the new home, there were two screened-in porches, one at the front of the house and one off the kitchen at the rear, but even with these, the family became extremely crowded. Crowded conditions with nine in the family does not make for easy housekeeping, and such was certainly the case for Mother.
WHAT-WHERE IN A LITTLE HOUSE
This picture taken in 1971 shows the home some fifty years after it was moved into by the family. The house has been added to and both former screened-in porches have been closed in thus making it appear considerably longer than originally.
With such a small house there remained but little choice as to what went where. As they walked into the house it did not take the folk long to determine the possibilities offered for arranging the place into a livable home. George the baby, was still sleeping with Mother and Dad - - what a comfort to modern day babies this would be if the practice were still continued - - certainly much less crying of babies and fewer times mothers and dads would have to get up. We were all accustomed to crowded beds and knew of no other way. Even with three sleeping in a bed, it was necessary for three beds for all to sleep at once, and this of course was the usual practice probably more so back in these 'good old days' than the present. But back to the problem facing the folk on that comfortable mid-winter day - - January one of 1920.
Three beds and but one bedroom. As I picture it now in my mind, it couldn't have been over a ten by twelve, maybe fourteen foot room. Other than a bed this room had to contain closet space for the hanging of clothes for the entire family. There was no such thing as a wardrobe, but a pole had to be placed from one point to another in the open room from which certain suits and dresses could be hung. Over which perhaps, a couple boards could be placed to serve as a shelf for the thousand and one things which could be stored there. Nails or hooks were in abundance on which coats, overalls, shirts and sundry other items had to be hung in order to keep them off the floor or furniture. To cover the unsightliness of such a clothes storage, a piece of print cloth was usually used. This was draped nearly to the floor, and behind it and on the floor were placed, or with us kids, thrown, any extra pair of shoes. Usually each of us had a pair of what we called Sunday shoes. To get it out of the way of traffic, a sack of flour or a sack of sugar was stored within this make-shift closet. This was not only for the benefit of the home personnel in the form of humans, but also those loving little creatures, the mice which seldom waited for invitations to frequent, if not inhabit the same dwelling. So much of food for humans was also their choice, and oft times it was hard for the human to get to the food first, especially was this the case with flour or other wheat products or almost any other dry foodstuff.
So in this room with all else that was added was space for one bed and this was assigned by the folk to the smaller children who were crowded out of Dad's and Mother's bed by the last arrival. Each of us in our day, took our respective turn to be with them. The most recent to have been crowded out of the big, brass bed was Afton, who was then but little more than a baby - - perhaps three years of age. It was necessary for the next two just older than she, Hyrum and Alma, to be bedded down with her.
Now, no other bedrooms but two beds to go! Absolute necessity assists a great deal in making certain decisions, so in this case it was decided the living room would to have to share the big brass bed. Here was to be Dad's and Mother's bedroom - - their private bedroom - - of course to be shared with baby George. One feature this bedroom did have which we thought was marvelous, was the convenience of the light. The switch on this light was a pull-chain switch to which a long string was attached, and the end of the string was tied to the head of the bed. This meant that when the baby fussed, or for any other reason that Dad or Mother had to get up during the night - - and this happened quite often with the small children - - they had but to reach up and throw an arm around until it draped over the string and on the light would come. This was deluxe lighting of which we had never known before.
To this point there yet remained three family members without a bedroom and the house was full. Had there been room in the kitchen it may have been considered, but this was out of the question, and so there was no place to go but to the front open porch for the third bed. We were yet dependent on straw ticks so the moving of mattresses was not a major problem. The old, white, iron bedstead was set up and that night Roy, Fred and I had our bed. It was always understood that the youngest had to take the middle sleeping position so the older ones could keep him from falling out of the bed. This position did have its advantages and they weren't imaginary but very real. The guy in the middle had the option of sleeping in any direction. He didn't have to sleep parallel with his two bed companions, for in case he wanted to become restless for any cause at all, he could kick his way crosswise. With kicking and pushing he could usually get them to move to the extreme edges of the bed and by so doing could enjoy up to at least fifty per-cent of the bed space. So often this was done unknowingly, but at times it did require Dad and Mother to go to which ever bedroom was having the problem, to get the center occupant back in his proper position. As we children got older it did become a matter of give and take with the third bed partner. When he became restless we gave him all the room he wanted. At the same time, he took all he could get. What a life, but we all survived.
Another advantage the center sleeper enjoyed was the warmth of the position during particularly cold winter weather. Whether Dad put canvas around the end of the porch on which the bed was placed the first winter, I don't now recall. This was eventually done, and it did at least keep the wind out to a degree. The mild weather of which has been described was not a permanent thing. Even later we had winter weather, and at times during the following years we were on that place we had real wintry weather. I well remember a cold spell during the next winter or two when it get down to 30 below, It was during this type weather that the center position on the open porch was at its height of pleasurability. Certainly no such thing existed as an electric blanket or an electric sheet. These things were not so much as dreamed about by most of us. To keep warm, bedding had to be added to the point that it was almost necessary for our parents to help us in and out of bed. Heads were kept under cover, until of necessity we had to scramble for air. Perhaps a light blanket could be kept over the face during the night, but air had to go thru, and it was not uncommon for white frost to have gathered about the head of the bed before morning.
In less than a year's time, Merintha, a second sister came to live with us and what do you suppose we did? We 'moved over' and made room for her. This necessitated crowding a second bed into the small bedroom in which Afton and George slept. Now there was but walking space in that room between the beds. But we slept and we lived and when it came to babies, this was not the end. It literally seemed the whole spirit world clambered to come to live in that little house, but we were happy and we lived. Now back to our moving into the home.
Into the kitchen went of course, the kitchen table and the old, big, heavy Home Comfort range which had been indeed, such a comfort to us during the cold winter days of the yesteryears in Star Valley, and which was among the household goods which were brought to Rupert. The front room heater was set up, as would be expected in the front or living room-bedroom combination, as also the round dining table and chairs. Around the kitchen table were placed chairs on either end and to the side toward the center of the room. A long bench suitable for three to sit on, at the side of the table next to the wall, so the table when not in mealtime service could be pushed back to the wall to make more room. As I remember, we didn't have an upholstered piece of furniture when we moved, but the folk got one while living in the house of which we are discussing. The sofa was a sleeper with wooden arms, and the upholstery was leather. This piece of furniture stayed with the family for several years. One piece of furniture which was used considerably was the little, wooden rocker on which all the babies in their turn, were rocked. Such was the house the Thomas Blacker family moved into.
THE BACK YARD AND PORCH
On the outside we all gloried in the fact that there was a small orchard, a far thing from anything of that nature in Star Valley. Both Dad and Mother took great pride and showed real pleasure in their anticipations for the time when we would be able to pluck from the trees, apples, pears, prunes, plums, cherries etc. In the northwest corner of the yard was a chicken coop with a high, wire net fence forming a yard for chickens to the front of the coop. Backed up to the north fence of the front yard and half way between the house and the chicken coop was the family 'rest room' which was not an unusual thing in those days, for modern-day indoor plumbing was little dreamed of. Certainly our family had never had such conveniences nor would they be our lot for several years to come.
On the back porch was the nearest thing to indoor running water that we had ever had, and that was a pitcher pump. This was a 'sawed-off' hand pump, with its piping coming right up thru the floor of the porch. The pump rested on a bench-like cabinet which was about 26 to 28 inches high. On the cabinet top was room for a couple buckets for the water to be pumped into. In the summer time this outside cabinet or bench was used as our regular wash bench or stand, on which the wash basin was placed from which we washed our hands and faces. In the winter time the washstand was in the kitchen where the water would not freeze. We had a regular hand pump on the back porch of our Star Valley home but the porch was not screened in, such as this one.
From the back door of the porch was a board walk to the back gate some fifteen to twenty feet which opened into the back yard. An old smoke house stood in the northeast corner of the front or main yard in which the house was located, and had previously been used as its name would indicate, for the smoking and curing of meat. To us its main use was to be for small tools and a coal house. It was in this home that we first used coal, for wood was the fuel used in Star Valley.
From the yard in which the house was located, we went thru the small, swinging gate at the end of the board walk as described, into the back yard which led to the barns and corrals. From the main road passing in front of the house, a lane fenced on both sides led past the east side of the house to a gate hinged to a post which was planted at the northeast corner of the smoke-house. The gate became an extension of the fence separating the front and back yards. Within the back yard and approximately one-hundred feet to the west of the gate just referred to, was a granary with the door on the north side. From the northwest corner of the granary, ran the fence which formed the east of the corrals. Along this was another hand pump with a large, metal tank into which we pumped by hand all the water for the cows and horses. The day we moved to the place was the beginning of about ten years of pumping water for the livestock, and at periods we had a good many head of cattle and horses. Unless one has had experience with such a hand pump he will never realize the chore folk had in supplying water to the farm animals.
Just to the north of the pump and tank of water was the gate thru which the corral was entered. The gate's north end was attached to the corner of the barn, a rather tall building but only large enough to accommodate about six head of cows. To the east of the barn was stacked the hay, and still further to the east, along the north fence line of the back yard, was an old shed which was used as a garage. Naturally at first, we didn't have the car for it was left in Star Valley due to the season of the year, and our transportation to town was done either by walking or by going by horse and wagon.
Arrangement of yard and floor plan of house of our first home in Rupert. 1920-1924. Now 100 South 25 East.
The farm was of forty acres and one of the best in the area, and was unique in that it had as near perfect sub-moisture from underground as any farm could have. To the reader who may not be acquainted with such a term as sub-moisture, I might explain. As we all know crops need moisture and the providing growing crops with moisture is usually done by applying water by one method or another from ditches or wells. In certain areas, and this was true at this time with this farm, the subterranean or underground water rises near enough to the surface that moisture will seep from underground sufficient1y high that the roots of the plants will be able to reach it. More often than not with the 'sub' - - the term by which such moisture is known - - coming that near the surface, there is danger of there being too much moisture, which then brings salts and alkali to the surface, and farm land can be ruined. It happened that this farm was so situated that during most of the summer months the moisture was almost ideal, and but little irrigating had to be done other than once or twice in the late spring months. This condition proved a very valuable asset to the farm. We understand this condition doesn't necessarily hold true at this time of writing (1971) for the underground water level has been altered due to drainage and deep well pumping, which has been going on during the intervening 50 years.
Dad had always enjoyed gardening and with our coming to Idaho he soon got into gardening in a big way. To the east of the house there was a sizable plot, perhaps from an eighth to a quarter of an acre, which during the first summer he planted into raspberries, dew berries, black-caps, currants and strawberries etc.. This little project later proved to become one of the most labor generating projects one can think of. During the next couple or three years, during the midsummer months every able bodied person of the family who was sufficiently large enough was drafted into berry picking. Probably more than any one person, Mother was in the berry patch. This became a real hardship for her during these years, for all this was in addition to her taking care of her family. Other than for our own use, the berries were sold, which assisted to a degree the family income.
Farming in the Idaho manner proved to become a real concern to the folk due to the fact that the monthly milk check, which was but routine to the home in Star Valley was practically cut off when there were no cans of milk to sell. It was dairying which Dad wanted to get away, from which he did for the first year or two in Rupert, but the resultant lack of income had a rather drastic effect on the family's living standard, and probably Mother felt the 'squeeze' quicker than anyone else. Every means of producing something which was saleable was resorted to, and so, the berries. When the fields permitted, we boys were routed into the berry patch, but Dad and Mother had the brunt of it. The berry plot of ground was on a rise above the sub level. This plot required irrigating and weeding, but in the main the berry picking was the big chore. Mother undoubtedly, picked more berries than any two of the rest of us. On a few occasions hired help had to be secured who would pick on shares, but mainly the family took care of it. It was soon learned that this type earning a living was more difficult, more tiring, and considerably less secure than the milking of cows. The two Jersey cows which were brought to Rupert were kept in production as much as possible. As money would permit, another cow or two was purchased to increase milk production. For the first year the two cows produced more milk than the family would use. Due to necessity, as much of the milk was saved and disposed of as possible, and this created another real chore, especially for Mother. Richard T. Astle, a counselor in the Rupert Ward bishopric and operator of a small grocery business on the south side of the city square, agreed that he would handle all the butter Mother could make, so the family was in the butter manufacturing business with one employee, Mother. Large, flat, bright tin pans some twelve to fourteen inches in diameter and three to four inches deep were secured. The rich Jersey cow milk, as it was strained thru a cloth strainer, was poured into the pans and they were set about the shelves in the house, but usually on the shelves on the back porch, for the cream to rise. Each milking time the cream was scraped from the top of the pans into containers, usually of crockery,and as the cream soured to the proper degree it was placed in a churn - - a deep crock which had a wooden lid over its top, with a stick, perhaps a part of a broom handle, threaded thru the hole of the lid. At the bottom of the stick - - we called it the plunger - - was a flat cross-piece of wood which when lifted and lowered by hand, would churn the cream until butter would form. Mother often had us kids start the churning process but as we felt the butter coming it would be turned over to her to finish. I don't wish to infer here that Dad was not a part of this butter project for he was, but it seemed Mother was the key man in the operation. When the butter formed, the buttermilk was drained off. The butter was then put in a bowl where it was to be worked with hands and a butter paddle until the water and milk residue was crowded out with only the pure butter being left. Clear, cool water was poured over the butter and it was worked again. This rinsing cleared the butter of any remaining milk and the water was drained off. Salting to the proper degree was included in the process, and the butter was then ready for the mold. Butter making by this process or extent was not new to Mother, for she had always made the family's butter, but if I recall correctly, she had never made it up for sale. The first time or two the one pound rectangular cubes were made, they had to be weighed as Mother made them up, but as soon as a wooden butter mold could be gotten, the mold held the proper amount, so it was no longer necessary to weigh it. The mold was a small, box-like container with one side open. On the side opposite from the opening was a small hole thru which a stick was inserted. A small piece of wood the size of the opening was attached to the stick so it could serve as plunger. Butter was worked into the mold until it was full and compact. Air spaces, of course, had to be worked out so the full weight would be there. Printed paper wrappers with Mother's name and the weight etc., had been printed up. The plunger was then used to push the butter out of the mold and onto the wrapper. The pound of butter would be placed squarely and subsequently wrapped. A dozen or perhaps a couple dozen pounds of butter would then be taken to the store, and for the most part, exchanged for groceries and other sundry items handled by the store.
How Mother ever got all done which she had to do is more than one can know. As much as possible we other members of the family assisted, but work on the farm took considerable of our time. Farm work in which row cropping was included was certainly a new type of farming for all of us. It was this first year that we were all broken into beet thinning, which with beet hoeing, became almost a full time summer's occupation for each of us boys for the next several years. With this type work, appetites were developed and as a result food had to be prepared and dishes had to be washed etc. Mother's oldest girl during these years was four and five years of age. To relieve the help situation to a degree, at times Dad would have me or one of the other boys stay in the house to assist with the dishes and other household chores.
It need not be detracting from Mother to say that she was not a domineering type woman, and while her personal opinions and decisions were respected by her husband and children, she was never one to assume any position other than wife and mother. She fully expected her husband to have the role of family leader, which he was. Mother's nature was one of mildness and one of cooperativeness, and she recognized that in any home, a wife was to play the roll of partner, carrying her full share of the combined efforts of a father-mother team. Such was the situation in our home. Mother was fortunate in the fact that her companion was a man who led his family in nearly all decisions that were made. By this it is not meant that Dad was arrogant and unmindful of the feelings and counsel of Mother, should it be that she could not concur in his decisions. He was considerate, but sensed his responsibility as father of the family and head of his home. Whether such a roll as Mother played made her life easier than it would have been had she been required to become more dominate and make the decisions which her companion should rightfully make, we may not know for a surety, however it is only reasonable to suspect that it did. Certainly her reliance on Dad and her faith in his ability to govern the affairs of the family left her more time for her family responsibilities. She was a real mother to her children and a faithful companion to her husband. No children had a better mother than we, and no husband had a more loyal and faithful wife than did Dad. She brought to her home a temperament of which her inheritance had exemplified, and one which was to mellow the temperament of her companion. Such a combination seemed to have been arranged by some Guardian Angel who may have had the assignment of a Cupid. This is not inferring in the least, that the temperament of Mother was more desirable than that of Dad's temperament. Certainly it was different and it seems that a combination of the two temperaments in any home will become a desirable combination.
DARK DAYS - - THE DEPRESSION OF THE EARLY 20s
Before the harvest of the first year, the depression following World War I had developed and farm prices became so affected that crops had very little value. When we first moved to Rupert the price of alfalfa hay, for example, was soaring as high as fifty dollars and more a ton. Dad was on the buying end for we had the three horses and two cows, but by a year from then the prices were depressed. The potato prices which soared during the fall of the year the folk bought the place, but a year and two years and three years later they could hardly be given away. It was the second year later that farmers formed an association of which Dad was a member, and potatoes were shipped directly to Chicago. After the potatoes were sold on a consignment basis in Chicago, the total income from them was not sufficient to pay the shipping charges, and the railroad company sent a statement showing a balance due. The farm economy had collapsed and the Blacker family was right in the center of the squeeze. The much publicized depression of the thirties ten years later, was like a Sunday School picnic so far as it affected the Blacker family, as compared to the affect of the hard times of which I am referring. Perhaps the folk when they were children, and especially Mother as a little girl, during her family's pioneering days in Star Valley, undoubtedly knew hard times. Due to her age, she never realized the hard time responsibilities such as the family endured during 1921, 22 and 23. Living had to be made simple and the things we had had to be made to last such as our clothing. This all brought on more stress and concern to the folk and it seemed the additional work which it brought fell to Mother, until it seemed she had more than her share.
Clothes had to be passed from one of the children to another, and this not without Mother's mending them time and time again. Far into the night would she darn stockings and patch trousers both at the knees and the seats. Quilts had to be made for the four or five beds. Before these hard times were over two beds had to be crowded into the small bedroom and two were made up on the open front porch. Winters were not all as mild as the first winter and there was more expense entailed with heating and keeping warm.
With the making and selling of butter it became a necessity to buy a cream separator, operated of course, by hand. All the cream possible was saved and family use of milk became that of separated or skimmed milk. Probably we didn't appreciate the lack of nutritional value that skimmed milk possessed, but it was this milk that we almost solely used for drinking purposes and other table use such as with cooked cereal and cooking.
The Grant Six, the first car the folk ever bought, was brought down from Star Valley in the spring of 1920 and used but a little. Due to the expanse of operating, it was put into the home garage. Each wheel was jacked up and blocks of wood were put under the axle so the tires were free from weight, and the car was thus in storage for an undetermined length of time. With this type of transportational means having become too expensive, we had to revert to the horse and wagon days. At first we had nothing but the big, lumbering beet wagon with its drop sides. Such a high wagon was too high for anyone but a man to climb into it, so whenever Mother or the children went in it it was necessary to take a stool or a chair to step upon to get in and out of the wagon. Usually it was a chair for it gave Mother a place to sit. For a couple of years, whether on a Saturday or any other day of the week, it was used for shopping and delivering butter to town, and on Sunday the family rode to and from church. Often when Mother didn't go and others of us had to go to town for shopping or to church, and there wasn't too much to take or bring, we walked. The folk bought us kids a sturdy little wagon which we quite often would pull by hand to town when we had butter to take or groceries to bring home, which would be too heavy to carry. We lived a mile and a quarter from town.
On the first Sunday in January of 1920 the Blacker family attended church in this, the Rupert Ward building. Regrettably no picture has been found showing it as it then was. This building is presently owned by the Spanish Assembly of God Church and is located on the corner of A and 2nd Streets. It is on a higher foundation than it was when at the old location where the present Minidoka Stake House now stands. Originally there was a belfry on the top of the entrance foyer and the building was without the two wings extending out from each side.
About one year later, the ward was divided and the family attended church in the Lincoln Hall on the Rupert Square until the First Ward church was built. After the family moved to the home west of Rupert in 1924, we again became members of the Rupert 2nd ward, and attended church back in the original building, which by then had the wings built to it. In about 1938 the building was moved to its present location and the stake house was built in its place. Dad and Mother were members of the Rupert Second Ward from 1924 to the time of their passing away, and attended church in the Stake house. Each of their funeral services was held in their own ward in the Stake house.
Minidoka Stake house and home of Rupert 2nd and the Rupert 5th Wards, is located on the spot where the original Rupert Ward was located. The original building subsequently became the home of the Rupert 2nd Ward. This building was built during 1939 and 1940.
Even back in that period the church kept us busy. Priesthood meetings were held on a week night, and as I remember it was mainly on Monday evenings. Also we regularly attended MIA on another week night, I think usually Tuesday. For at least one season Dad served as MIA superintendent in the Rupert 1st ward, and of course, he also attended regularly.
Before the days of the beet wagon transportation were over, Dad purchased a small buggy, but this was not used for long. I don't recall why it wasn't used longer, but I do remember that Dad had a runaway with the horses which was attributed to Star, the high-spirited horse.
I don't recall for sure but I am under the impression that the road one mile out of town to where we turned east was graveled, but the one from the corner to the house one-fourth mile east was but a dirt road. Big poplar trees were a common thing back in those days - - the early 1920s - - and there was a row of them for a full half mile on the east side of the road, plus a row of them on the opposite side of the road for the last half mile going out of town. Walking at night along this stretch of trees, and particularly where the trees were on both sides of the road, sometimes caused us kids to become a little leery of the shadows, especially when alone, and we weren't ashamed to admit that our steps became just a little spryer and faster than normal. The shadows of the trees on a moonlit night were a wonderful stimuli to a kid's imagination, and on a dark night, one's imagination literally ran away with him. Usually no one caught up with him who may have been walking behind and what a breathtaking few moments one would endure if someone ahead, not quite so frightened, and going slower was run into. In my particular instance it was about this time in my school career that we were reading Icabod Crane. Could it have been some such street which caused to have developed in Washington Irving's mind the theme of his story which he wrote nearly one hundred years earlier? Regardless, it seems human nature is little different from one generation to the next, nor a century apart.
THE FARM LOST
During these few years the family continued to increase. As earlier stated, Merintha came and then in July of 1923 a pair of twins, Earl and Verl, were born. It was questionable that their coming eased Mother's responsibility nor Dad's nor for the rest of us, but they were welcome.
Due to the economic conditions it became necessary for the farm to be turned back to the former owner for there was no chance to meet the payments on the place. Even if it had been possible it would have been unwise, for there was still an indebtedness of eleven thousand dollars, and farms had become devalued to where this balance was actually more than the place was worth. Arrangements were made to lease the farm after it had been turned back, which we did for a couple more years. The old home in Star Valley was turned back to us, and Dad and Mother concluded that the only thing for them to do was to return to Star Valley. This they preferred not doing unless necessary. Living with little income between harvests and a limited income due to the lack of price for crops caused real concern. It looked as though the family had run into a solid brick wall and there was no way to turn to bring about immediate improvements.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In the latter part of 1920 or 1921 the Rupert Ward was divided which created another challenge. We lived in the area of the Rupert First Ward which retained Bishop David Borup, the bishop of the original ward. A counselor in the old bishopric and merchant who purchased Mother's butter, Richard T. Astle, was made bishop of the second ward. This ward was to remain in the old church building which was located on the site of the present stake house across the corner from the court house. This division required members of the First Ward to find a new location for their meetings, and so a dance hall known as the Lincoln Hall on the second floor of a building on the north side of the Square in Rupert was leased for church services. It was a large, open hall and in order to have class work in Sunday School, wires were strung across the hall on which curtains were hung, which when drawn, would separate one class from another. A few benches which were normally used around the dance floor for on-lookers were available for church seating purposes, but in the main, folding chairs were used. At this time this area was a part of the Blaine Stake which had its headquarters in Carey.
Shortly after the ward was divided, work on the new church house - - now the Rupert Ward - - was begun. This building was built during the depression of the early twenties, and it was a major undertaking for money was not plentiful by any means. Dad and Mother contributed to the building, both in money and in work, and as the building came near to completion funds were used up. Special assessments had to be made to complete it and to furnish it with chairs.
I remember well the struggle to raise money for the seating. Each family was assigned to raise as much as they could toward providing a chair for each member of the individual family, and this was a real challenge for the Blackers. It was on this project that a real test was made. I remember Dad and Mother discussing it, and they decided that though they had but one dollar of money to their name, that it should go for the chairs. Where or when they were to get more to care for the family, they didn't know. They knew a way would be provided if they did their best to take care of church obligations. Both Dad's and Mother's patriarchal blessings had promised them that they would have the necessities of life provided for them, if they served the Lord. Dad's blessing stated, "You will be blessed and prospered temporally and spiritually in your basket and in your store. You will never want for bread and no one shall ever be turned hungry from your door. Your bins and barns shall be filled with plenty. Your flocks and herds shall be fruitful and bring forth their increase in the time and season thereof. You will be liberal with the means that the Lord blesses you with and live up to every financial calling of the gospel to the satisfaction of your brethren who preside over you." What a promise! Why should they hesitate or question the promise of the Lord?
A portion of Mother's blessing reads, "Your life has been very precious in the sight of the Lord. He has given your guardian angels charge concerning you. They have shielded, guarded and protected you thru dangers seen and unseen, and thru the blessings and mercies of the Lord your life has been preserved up to the present time. If you will reflect back, dear sister, upon your past life, you will realize that the hand of the Lord has been over you for good. You have been very faithful and devoted in your labors thus far, and the Lord is well pleased with your integrity. Your record is clean, pure and spotless before the Lord. You will be blessed and prospered temporally and spiritually in your basket and in your store. You shall never want for bread and no one shall ever be turned hungry from your door."
Their decision to give their last dollar to the call of the Church was a decision based upon absolute knowledge that they would not have to be concerned for the welfare of themselves nor their family. I often ponder if were I put to this same test, would I put off till a time when I had more before I would give to this extent? If I did give, would I offer but half of it and by so compromising feel I extended myself in being so generous as to give half of my last dollar? I have never had a test of finances to this extent, but were I called to do so I hope I would never do less than my parents did for certainly they set us all an example of faith and trust and devotion.
THE LORD HEARS AND ANSWERS
The giving of their last dollar was done during summer time when there could have been no anticipated income from the sale of their crops. There was no employment available where Dad could go the next morning and charge for his services. The little weekly cream check was most limited, and essentials were depending on what it could buy, and it would be a whole week before another one would be available.
Prayer in the home, both morning and evening, had always been the practice. We children were taught that our individual prayers were always used as a means of thanking the Lord for the blessings we were enjoying, as well as to ask the Lord to be mindful of our needs. Morning prayers had been offered on the Monday morning following the Sunday on which the last dollar had been given. We had arisen from our knees and had sat up to the table for breakfast when a knock came at the back door. There was a man - - whether Dad had ever met him before I don't know - - but he proved to be a farmer about a mile away by the name of Mr. Dowd. He had been disappointed with some help he was expecting, and he needed a man to help him fill his silo with corn from his field. Within minutes Dad was on his way to a job of several days. While our parent's confidence in the Lord helping them was sure, probably this answer to their morning prayer was faster than they anticipated. Despite their faith, surely their hearts beat a little easier that day, for they had again been made aware that their needs and the needs of their family would be taken care of. They had confidence in the Lord when He said, "Prove me now herewith - -". Malachi chapter 3.
EMPLOYMENT A NECESSITY
With regular income from the farm being inadequate, it became necessary that Dad find employment which he was able to do during winter time. Most if not all of the work he found to do was on a potato sorting crew where he served as foreman. This was not easy for him, for by standing over the sorter on which the potatoes moved, the men had to pick out those which would not qualify to become number ones. This required reaching over the table and plucking this potato and that, and after hours of remaining in this position, one's back naturally would ache. Dad suffered considerably but he continued on for a couple winters. One winter our cousin Delos Gardner, whose folk had moved to Rupert but later returned to Afton, remained for a couple months and stayed with us. While we were already crowded, he put up with that inconvenience as long as there was work that winter. His staying with us was a help to the folk for he paid board and room, and while it may have meant a little extra work for Mother it was hardly measurable.
MOTHER'S HEALTH A CONCERN
It was during the extreme stress of these years that Mother's health began to cause us all concern. She had more to do than she was physically able and things looked pretty dark for the family. Her trouble was aggravated by the enormous amount of worry she naturally had to cope with, plus the long hours of hard housework which no one else could do. Dad recognized the need for organization, and we boys were to do more house work, more baby tending, more berry picking etc. as stated earlier, in an effort to relieve Mother of some of her exhausting and tiring chores. Naturally, Mother would have had difficulty to attempt to stay on the side lines watching when there was work to do. This was not her nature for she had to be in the very midst of any household work. Perhaps it was easier for her to do it than to sit by and watch others who were learning. The lessons however, were good for us kids and they have been most helpful to us.
As related earlier, Mother was not without her weaknesses. Another one was that she was not the organizer that Dad was. Dad had everyone working when he was around, but Mother would do two men's work rather than assign too much of it to her children for fear of overworking us. However I don't think she was disappointed in her children's willingness to assist her. We all realized her condition and most of us were old enough to rally to her aid and assist wherever possible. The twins 'took a lot out of her' for they were born during this period of extreme depression and they required a lot of care. Verl had difficulty adjusting to his milk formula, and it took a long time to find a way to get it to agree with him. Too, back in those days there was not the perfected baby formulas on the market as there are today. Even had there been, it would have been impossible for Mother to have gotten them for the family was living with very little income with which such things could have been purchased.
ANOTHER REVIEW OF RESPONSIBILITIES
Ten children at home, plus Dad and Mother, in a little three room house with no modern conveniences. There was no such thing as a refrigerator to keep food, the washing of clothes having to be done in a washing machine operated by hand, with water having to be heated on a hot coal range. All meals, and they had to be sizable, were cooked on the Home Comfort Range which was brought from Star Valley. As stated earlier a cream separator had been obtained. In the winter time there was no other place for it than in the kitchen. It would freeze were it in any of the barns or sheds. The theory of getting away from milking had to be reversed. It was seen that income was necessary the year round, so milk cows were added as Dad could arrange to get one here and another there, plus the fact that not all the offspring from the cows proved to be bull calves, so the few heifer calves, within a couple years developed into the production program, and the dairy herd was slowly increased.
Conditions forced Mother to ease up on her butter making and in lieu of butter, the cream was taken from the milk and permitted to sour, and was sold as sour cream to the cream stations which were located in town. This didn't require quite so much work on the part of all concerned.
Another item which was a constant torment during the summer months to add to the already enough and more than enough work, was the problem of flies during the later summer and fall months particularly. There were no such things as sprays or insecticide such as we have today - - indeed today's world is a different world in many ways. The fly problems were not due to what one could term as unnecessarily unsanitary conditions. It was just a part of the way things were. Naturally everything that could be screened was screened. Porches and doorways had to be screened in an attempt to keep flies on the outside, but they invariably found ways and means to get on the inside. Especially during the fruit and corn season were the flies bad, and some years worse than others. Fly traps of all descriptions were used such as screened cages into which flies were encouraged to enter thru a tunnel into a square or cylindrical screened-in area from which they were unable to find their way out. Rolls of sticky paper with a sweet syrup on them would entice flies and the flies would get stuck. These were hung from the ceiling. In the cooler morning the flies would congregate up under the eves, of particularly the porch. When flies are cold they are unable to fly so in this condition, while still clinging to the walls or under the eaves, they were vulnerable to any attack. Rolled up pieces of newspaper would make a reasonably good torch when lit, and so the flies could be burned. With considerable care, the number of flies which entered the house could be kept to a minimum. However at every meal during fly season, there was the constant shooing and waving of arms, with or without a cloth in the hand, to torment the tormenters so they would not land on the food. Such periods of fly fighting caused extra effort and concern to the entire family.
At this particular period of time, Mother was quite free from outdoor work which included the barnyard chores with which earlier she helped so much. We boys were now large enough to take care of the milking. When Dad was not working, he was in the garden or in the field with one chore or another. With boys a certain amount of supervision was essential, and while it really wasn't a serious problem, yet when Dad was not at home Mother was in command. She would tolerate more foolishness from us than Dad would, and if the truth were known, it is likely that we took advantage of her good nature. One of the best 'whips' Mother had at her command in order to get us to do the things we should, was for her to say, "I'll tell your Dad when he gets home." Mother did a limited amount of light spanking when some of us got out of hand, this particularly when we were small, but she was always careful that it wasn't overly severe.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE PUMP
One of the chores which we kids disliked probably more than any other was pumping the water for the cows and horses. Oft times the chore fell to the younger ones, for pumping was done at milking time, and only the older ones were able to do that. Pumping was rather difficult for the younger ones too, for a good share of their pumping, of necessity was by hanging on the handle and riding it down, and then pushing the handle up to ride down again. To keep the pump going for fifteen to thirty minutes at a time, which was necessary especially after the herds increased, was real tiring. Most of the time two or more children would line up and take turns. This was one real advantage the Blacker family had - - that there were enough of us to get the job done if each of us had the will to cooperate at the same time. Our parents were not so blessed that their offspring didn't have the ability to complain and grumble a little, which I suspect is rather normal among most kids. It seemed, particularly during more comfortable weather, that one or another of the pumpers would 'horse around' a little, and be inclined to torment another or all the others just enough to agitate small family skirmishes at the watering trough. As in any organization there was one character amongst us, if not two, who proved to be just a little more astute than some of us duller ones. It was rather interesting to note that these 'flashes' of superiority appeared to rotate from one to another. As we look back it is quite apparent that no one of us had a monopoly on know-how for encouraging the other to do just a little more than his share. Sometimes it was easier to do more than one's share than it was to get the other to do his share.
The older ones, due to height and weight, had the advantage, but it became the usual custom to take turns by counting the number of strokes each was to take. It made a difference too, as to the amount of water that would come out by the length the pump handle traveled - - that is whether the handle went up and down the full distance it was able to, or whether it was just jiggled a little. It was simpler and faster to take small strokes than the long ones. More out of mischief than anything else, short strokes were sometimes succumbed to by the younger ones, which was cause for upsetting the older ones who were participating. If the reader was not one who may have been in the line-up, he will not realize the aggravation to the others it was for one of the pumpers to have had to leave to go to the 'restroom'. Usually the ones who used this excuse to get out of pumping realized that it was more for convenience than necessity. By the way, the term 'restroom' or 'bathroom' wasn't used by any of us in those days. In fact, most of us had never dreamed there would some day be a room in the house which would be used for present bathroom purposes. The standard term used for such a place by most common folk, and most of us were among the most unenlightened, was 'the house out back' because these places were usually to the back of the residences. To shorten that term, the shortened version 'back house' was used by common folk such as our family. The more sophisticated folk termed them 'privies' indicating it to be a place of privacy or a private place. It was interesting, and was a matter of fact, that if a fellow left while pumping water, or doing any other chores, it would require much, much longer than if the same guy had to take leave while playing an interesting game. Actually these little buildings became a harbor from labor, and the abuse of this principle caused many a loyal, steady pumper of water to become disgruntled with his brother.
PUMPING, A LESSON IN COUNTING
It became a practice that one hundred strokes would constitute a 'turn' at the handle. For the younger ones, fifty or seventy-five may have been their share because of their height and weight. The little guys at the time, and for a few years later, were of course Alma and Hyrum. Fred and I were older but still light enough in weight that we would partially jump and the handle went up and then ride the handle as it came down. It was always a delight to have Roy free from other chores so he could help, for he was a lanky guy and it seemed so much easier for him than for the rest of us. We usually had his help during the noon time - - you see this pumping chore came around three times a day - - morning, noon and evening, and usually it was done before breakfast, before dinner and before supper. So often we would come in from the field tired, hungry, and weak, and it was a bigger chore to get the pumping done than this little story might indicate to those who have not lived during the pumping-by-hand age. All farmers didn't have this chore, for many got gasoline engines and later electric motors to do the job but during our growing up our folk were sufficiently fortunate not to be able to afford such a luxury, and also, work was good for growing boys.
RUN, ALMA, RUN
We often made fun doing this work, at least at times especially when three or four of us got at it. Quite often one would grab another's hat and throw it in the tank of water, or one or more would try to mix up the pumper with his counting. I shall always remember one day when Roy was helping us pump and it came Alma's turn, but Alma didn't think it was quite time. Roy became rather insistent and Alma started to run. Alma was the foot racer of the family, and even when small could often outrun us older ones, but due to Roy's long legs and he being seven or more years older than Alma, little Alma hardly had a chance. As mentioned, Alma started to run and with this gesture Roy started after him. Some fifty yards away from the pump was a low fence between the back yard and the berry patch. This fence had mesh wire along the bottom and two barbed wires stretched along just above the mesh. It had been used quite a lot for crawling-thru purposes, and not kept up, for there were no cattle to be fenced on either side. Away Alma flew taking easily two steps or more to Roy's one, and even at that the little guy hardly had a chance. Isn't it interesting how a sports fan will usually cheer for the under dog? We back at the pump stopped work to see the fun, and we hollered, "Run, Alma, run!"
Just as Roy was about to grab him, under the fence Alma rolled and as he went under, Roy went over the top of the two barbed wires. By the time Roy hit the ground, Alma had turned and was back thru the fence and on his way to the pump. Roy was defeated, for Alma got back to the pump much quicker than Roy and was pumping away like a good boy by the time his pursuer got back. It was far more exciting to witness that race, than to read about it in such an account as this. The rest of us delighted in the little guy getting the breaks, and by the time Roy returned he had become so unprovoked, that he didn't lay a hand on Alma. Roy was always the most even tempered of any of us, so quite often, he was probably taken advantage of. Due to his being nearly four years older than I, and I was the next in age, he usually was able to hold his own, even with the disadvantage of his even temperament, at least that was always the way we kids felt about it.
So much for this little side incident, and perhaps the question, what does all this have to do with our parents? Well, these were the kids they claimed as their own, probably because no one else wanted them. Parents are that way and one wonders why but it seems that is the way nature made them. We kids were very fortunate, for I think each one of us realized we were born of goodly parents. Following the time when the twins were born on July 17th 1923, there were ten children at home, plus Dad and Mother. With the possible exception of the parents, there wasn't one of us but would scare himself if he suddenly glanced into a mirror, if he didn't pause just a minute beforehand and say to himself, "Now, don't be alarmed at what you see, it is just one of the Blacker kids. You are safe at any time for no one but your parents wants you, how blessed you are!"
THE FAITH OF A MOTHER
"You are by nature kind and sympathetic. You will be kind to the poor, visit the sick and the afflicted, comfort those that mourn. You have been, and will continue to be, a kind mother, a devoted wife, a kind friend and neighbor, and there is no blessing, dear sister, that your heart can desire that shall be withheld from you. You are spiritually minded and will take pleasure in meeting and associating with your brethren and sisters in the congregation of the saints. You will become a fearless advocate of the gospel principles and as you grow in years and in experience, your faith and testimony of the Gospel will grow stronger and stronger. You will have remarkable faith in the healing ordinances of the gospel and because of your kind and charitable acts that you will perform among your friends, many will arise and call you blessed."
The above are the words of an inspired patriarch to Mother in a blessing given on the 11th of February 1918 at Afton, Wyoming. I well remember the occasion when stake patriarch Thomas Walton stopped at our home late in the afternoon of that winter day and spent the night there. By lamplight in our living room he gave both Dad and Mother their patriarchal blessings. While giving one, the other wrote the blessing in long hand.
The point being attempted here is that the blessing described Mother as she really was. This was demonstrated time and time again during her life. One occasion in which there was great concern as to the well being of her baby was back in the spring of 1920 just two or three months following our arrival in Rupert. Dad had returned to Star Valley on a matter of business relative to the farm and its disposal. Mother remained in Rupert with her family. George, who was the baby nine months of age when we moved, contracted pneumonia three different times in about as many months. This literally exhausted Mother, for she was his constant nurse and spent days and nights with him. On a couple occasions his condition became so critical that the family thought there was no chance of saving him, but Mother would not give up. She remembered her patriarchal blessing wherein it promised her "there is no blessing - - that your heart can desire that shall be withheld from you." Surely to have her baby live was the desire of her heart, and she was promised she would have it - - there were no exceptions made and because of this she had a claim to this particular blessing.
I remember distinctly on the occasion when Dad was to Star Valley as mentioned, that George had worsened. Mother was working and praying for George as she held him and alternately lay him on the brass bed in the living room. She was desperately attempting to keep his lungs clear when the little fellow appeared to be breathing his last. His little body stiffened in the last throes of life, and Mother cried with all the anxiety of a mother under such circumstances, "He is going, he is going, Oh Father let us keep him!" All our prayers echoed with Mother's during these moments when it looked as if George had left us. Mother worked with his little body and his breathing started again. She continued to work with him until normal breathing was restored, or as nearly restored as possible when a baby's lungs are as congested as was his.
Before his sickness, George was becoming the pride of the family for he was taking his first few steps, and was just beginning to control his walking when he was taken down with his first attack of pneumonia. The doctor's help was of course secured, but in spite of all the care possible he was again taken down by the second and then the third case of pneumonia. Today George and the rest of us can attest to the fact that he is alive due to the constant, untiring efforts and faith of his mother.
AND THE WINDS CAME
The extreme open winter of the first couple months following our arrival was replaced by days and days of extreme wind in the spring. The field to the west of our home had been planted to sugar beets the year before, and as it was being worked up for another crop, the soil was in the finest shape for the wind to stir up dust. It seemed there was to be no end to the dust for day after day the air was filled with it. If air got into anything, then dust got into it also. We breathed dust day and night for we were right in its path. As a general rule the wind would go down in the evening but by noon again, the next day it was going full force. In any home flying dust was not pleasant to contend with, for it penetrated into every nook and cranny. Wet cloths were used to cover breadboxes and pans of milk. Even tightly covered cans of milk or cream had to be covered in an attempt to keep out the dust, and all this amounted to extra work, It seemed the end of the wind would never come but it did. Summer came and then the fall and winter again, and so the four years passed that we were on the Condeaux place, for Mr. Condeaux was the owner from whom the folk purchased the farm. As before stated it was turned back to him and was leased and farmed for a couple additional years.
AN ACCIDENT AND A THUMB
Troubles don't come singly. A family with ten children, by the law of averages, will sooner or later experience accidents. Frankly the family had been quite free of accidents and particularly so of any serious ones, but our turn came.
After having ridden to school in the school wagon for the first year or two, the school district purchased a school bus - - what a difference from the horse-drawn outfit. The school bus with seats - - benches - - going the full length of the bus with a bench on either side and the third down the middle was a real modern way of transportation. In bright weather, the canvas curtains could be rolled up, and in stormy weather they were buttoned down to keep the wind and storm out.
Returning home one afternoon following the close of school for the day, the bus was traveling east from the school house - - Pershing - - on what is now 1st Street toward the road which goes south - - now South Meridian. No gravel was on that street at the time and the wet, muddy road was slick. The fence of the Kelley farm was close to the bus and wagon tracks, and as the bus slowly crawled along the muddy street it slid into the fence. Brother Fred was sitting on the side next to the fence and had his arm over the back of the seat with his hand on the outside of the bus. At the very spot where Fred's hand was, the bus hit a post and literally crushed his thumb between it and the side of the bus. He was rushed to a doctor as soon as possible.
At first the doctor had some hope of saving the thumb, but within a few days there developed 'proud flesh' and after a long, painful period of waiting for it to heal the doctor reported there was nothing else to do but to amputate the thumb at the middle joint. Surely this loss has been a handicap throughout Fred's life, but it seems we learn to live without some of our body members when we have no other choice.
TIME FOR A DECISION
The spring of 1924 came, and Dad and Mother concluded that there was no future to continue to lease the farm, for the struggle was not bringing results to which they felt they were entitled. They concluded that they would take their family back to Star Valley and give up their Idaho venture. In the mean time, Uncle Brig and Aunt Maria Gardner and family had likewise purchased a farm near Rupert. They had turned it back and returned to Star Valley and had found conditions better there than in Rupert, so their move was serving as a guide to the folk. Uncle Will had been forced to give up his farm because of the depression of the early 1920s, and he had turned to finding employment on the railroad, and had moved to Heyburn to be near his work on the section.
Others, many others, had lost their farms and had to go elsewhere, so it was not a unique situation in which the folk found themselves. The banks over the country, then not secured by the U. S. government, folded up due to the depressed conditions. The Farmers and Merchants Bank of Rupert in which the folk had their small occasional bank deposit, was locked up by the decision of its stockholders due to the loss of assets. As conditions were getting to the point where the bank could not remain solvent, its manager, a Mr. Ritchie, was having difficulty with his own personal finances. It became necessary for him to secure a loan, but in order to do so he had to obtain the signature of someone who was willing to insure its repayment. His story to Dad was one of full assurance that he personally would be able to handle the situation, and so he persuaded Dad to sign his note. After the 'crash' Mr. Ritchie quietly moved from the area, and whether Dad ever heard from him again I am not aware. I think contact was eventually made, but the cosigner had the note to pay which was still an added burden. Throughout all of Dad's life he was a man of his word. I have never known of an occasion in any business transaction or in any other regard when he failed to do what he agreed to do. His integrity among friends and neighbors and any who knew him was above reproach. He occasionally came out on the short end of a transaction, but I have never known of him to take advantage of anyone. He was liberal with what he had and gave of his means to assist others who could use his help. Many and many a time he shared what he had with parents of missionaries whether they were in dire circumstances or not. Often he would, unnoticed, take his purse from his pocket and take a dollar or two or three from it and quietly slip it into the hands of a brother or sister, and would say, "Send this on to your missionary." Many families have been able to attest to his liberalness in this matter.
The decision to return to Star Valley had been made probably during January or February of 1924, but it seemed Providence had a place for the family in the Rupert area for these plans never materialized. Word to the effect that they were about to leave Rupert reached Richard C. May, the superintendent of the local area of the Amalgamated Sugar Company. He had become acquainted with the folk, both from Church activity and due to Dad being a sugar beet raiser. Whether immediately or, in due time, I am not aware, but he approached the folk with a proposition which was eventually to change their plans and their entire future.
A NEW HOME
The Amalgamated Sugar Company had previously purchased a number of very choice farms in the Rupert, Paul and Pioneer area at the time the Paul sugar factory was built, and had placed on these farms choice renters or farm operators. At this particular time the May family was living on one and during the previous season the older boys of the family farmed it. For one reason or another they were not planning to continue to farm it the next season and so the company was going to need a renter. This particular place was offered to Dad.
The problem of making another decision fell to the folk, and after looking into the situation, they decided they might accept the offer to see how it would work out. The decision was not a hasty one, for inquiry had to be made of the Lord and it was not for several days that they were fully impressed that this was the thing for them to do. I well remember the enthusiasm of us kids when Mother told us the house seemed to be as big as a school house, and that it had ten rooms in it. There were two stories with a wide hallway running the full length of the house on each of the floors, the downstairs as well as the upstairs floor. After the folk made their decision to move, we kids could hardly wait until we saw the home and until we could move into it.
What a different home situation this was to be for all of us. A house with ten rooms, and seven of them being bedrooms, plus a large screened-in front porch and the floor of an open porch reaching three-fourths across the back of the house which was about eight feet wide. Seven bedrooms and each of them with a built-in clothes closet! It was almost unbelievable. What a far cry this prospective new home was from the little three room home we had spent four years in! No wonder we kids had dreams of getting lost, but what dreams Mother must have had!
ONE'S FIRST VISION OF THE NEW HOME
The home west of Rupert as it appeared when the family moved into it.
One's first view of a new home often remains with him thru life and such was the case in this instance. As we neared the farm we could see the big, two storied house. It was painted white but clearly showed evidence for the need of fresh paint. Blinds were drawn or partially drawn on most of the windows, but the size was the impressive thing to us all. Before we reached the farm we could see that the yard and corrals were not equipped even so well as their counterparts on the place we were leaving. Perhaps the cow and horse barn was the first to meet our eye. It was an old shed with a sloping roof, and there was a door in either end, one to the south and the other in the north end, each of which gave entrance to the inside. After reaching and examining it, we found two stalls for two teams of horses were to the south end of the barn, the end nearest the house. Beyond the horse stalls were stanchions for six cows. These were interesting and different from what we had been accustomed to for both at the place we were leaving as well as the barn in Star Valley the cows, were tied in the stalls by a rope around their neck. This barn had regular upright stanchions made of rough two by fours with the one on the right side made to swivel at the bottom and to open at the top. This allowed the cow to get her head in over the manger. Then the stanchion was closed so the cow could not get her head out until released manually. The animals, when in their stanchions faced the east on which side were feed-windows which opened and closed on hinges. These were closed during cold or otherwise inclement weather. These windows faced the hay yard where feed for the animals was stacked. The barn had been there for several years and had remained unpainted since it was built.
The fences of the large corral had not been kept in good repair. In fact, they had to be repaired before they would hold cows for they had but two or three wires which would keep horses from straying, but certainly no cattle. The corral was between the barn and the house, and within the corral and to the south and slightly west of the barn was a pump. Prospects for pumping water on the new place were the same as the old, and we couldn't help but notice that the water tank on the new place was much larger than the one we were leaving. The tank was round with about a four foot diameter and a depth of approximately three feet. To us kids we could readily see that it would hold several strokes of water. Close to the pump was an old chicken coop which had been made of heavy, used, twelve inch plank taken from a bridge or some other structure over which wagons had been run. The planks had been worn in some instances, practically half way thru by horses and wagon wheels. The roof of the chicken pen which was facing east was likewise made of plank with a couple feet of straw piled on it. There was a fence about eighteen inches away from the back of the coop with straw having been tromped down between the back of the shed and the fence to insulate the coop from the west winds. The long way of the chicken coop was from north to south with the door being in the front and east side.
To the direct south of the coop was an old, open shed - - open to the east - - in which sometime a limited amount of machinery may have been stored. To the immediate south of this space was an old, unpainted building which had served as a granary. It had an oval roof - - with a little more slope than enough to drain water to the north and south from the center at the top. There was no joint in the crown of the roof for the boards were bent to make the oval, and this was covered with an asbestos or heavy tar paper to keep the moisture out. We continued to use the granary for several years, in fact, also all the other buildings. Adjacent and still to the south of the granary was a little building which appeared to have been used as a small bunk house. It was only about ten by twelve feet, but there was evidence that a stove had been used in it. It had a sloping roof to the west with windows in both the east and west side. This we fixed up as the milk house. It was here that we did the separating of the milk during the first few years we were there. Directly to the south of this building, was the garage which had previously been used as an apparent one room house. Wall paper was still attached to parts of the walls. It had a gabled roof with the slopes to the south and to the north. The drainage from the north slope went between the garage and the milk house. The garage door for the car opened into the back yard to the east. There had been windows in it but they had been boarded up and a side door led one out the south side of the garage just behind the outdoor privy which was located next to the south side of the garage. Later a fence was built from the southeast corner of the garage to the east thus separating the yard in which the house was located from the back yard where the machinery, cars, wagons etc. were located. On the extreme east of this back yard was the pigpen. This consisted of a small, enclosed building opening into a small, open runway fenced in by a solid board fence. No paint had touched any of the outdoor buildings and they were all old and very much weather-beaten.
The back yard and corral arrangements at the farm three miles west of Rupert between 1924 and 1937 with few exceptions. The sheep as shown in the extreme back were there for only two or three years. In 1930 the old chicken pen was converted to a calf pen.
The cow corral as indicated on the above plan. Hyrum is shown with the cow.
The floor plan of the downstairs and upstairs in the house west of Rupert from 1924 to 1931. The downstairs was remodeled in 1931.
WITHIN THE HOUSE
As one walked to the house from the back yard as just described, two steps took him on to the porch which had a board floor some eighteen inches to two feet off the ground. Another pump which provided water for the house was stationed on the east end of this uncovered porch. Two doors provided entrances to the house from the north, one in the middle of the house which led directly into the down stairs hallway which was about five feet wide running all the way thru the house to the front door. The second door at the back of the house was toward the west, and led to the kitchen which was the north and west room of the downstairs part of the house. The kitchen was a large room, probably twelve by fifteen feet with a double window to the west. All around the inside of the room up about four feet from the floor was wainscoating of tongue and groove wood with a wooden cap forming a small ledge at its top. The wainscoating was to protect the walls from normal usage in the kitchen. To the south of the kitchen was the living room separated by a double door. The same chimney was used which was located in the wall, the kitchen range being piped into it from the kitchen side and the living room heater from the living room side of the wall. It was in these two rooms where the family did most of our daytime living, most of the time being spent in the kitchen.
Each of these two rooms had a door which led into the wide hallway described earlier. Along the walls of the hallway near the kitchen door our work clothes, or chore clothes as we called them, were hung when not in use. Across the hall from the kitchen and in the northeast corner of the house was the pantry with its window to the north. The pantry was large enough for a good size table as well as shelving in the end. It was here that the food was stored, and where foodstuffs from the table between meals went, which was not put in the little kitchen cabinet where the dishes were kept. Large pots and pans, flour, sugar, etc. were stored in the pantry. The large earthen jars in which loaves of homemade bread, pickle crocks, etc. plus pitchers or bowls of milk, the bowl of butter, and fruit jars were all to be found in the pantry. Here were kept the parts to the cream separator after being washed and while they were awaiting evening milking time.
Across the hall from the kitchen but to the south of the pantry was a bedroom in which the children just above baby age slept. Also, it was in this room where, in the summer time or when additional room temperature was not needed, that we older ones went for our private baths in the round galvanized tub. Water would be carried from the range in kettles or pans from the stove reservoir for our bath of the week. In winter time when heat from the stove was required, the living room was cleared for privacy. On occasions when not convenient to heat the room to normal temperature, the baths were taken, but please be assured it didn't take so long under such conditions. The waste water from the tub or from the wash stand which was located in the kitchen where our regular washing of face and hands was done, went into an area in the back yard where it was disposed of by throwing it on the ground.
The fifth room an the ground floor was in the south east part of the house and was Dad's and Mother's bedroom. It was straight across the hall from the front or living room and both doors of these rooms entered the hall at the base of the stairway which led to the upstairs. Again there was a five to six foot wide hallway running the full length of the house. On the west of the upstairs hall were two large bedrooms. On the east of the hall were three bedrooms, nice sized but somewhat smaller than the other two across the hall. As stated earlier the front of the house on the ground floor was a screened-in porch.
Such was the place to which the Blacker family moved in March of 1924. The farm land itself consisted of 80 acres of heavy, clay soil and was considered one of the better farms of the Pioneer District of the entire Minidoka project. From this time onward, certainly Dad never had to look further for employment to keep him and his family busy.
THE MOVE TO A LARGER HOUSE AND FARM
A move from one home to another is never an easy thing. First, there are always memories. Despite the hard times that were endured in the time we spent in the home of over four years, there were certainly periods with their happy moments. This is true of life in general. There are always things for which we can be grateful despite one's adversities, and so it was with us in this case. Secondly, in any move, there is the actual work of moving. There was no big truck to back up to the front door, in fact due to trees, fences and the yard in general, even the wagon could not be backed up to either the front nor back door. The back gate was the closest it could be gotten. The household furniture, including the heavy Home Comfort range, had to be carried out to and manually lifted up on the bed of the high beet wagon box. In one respect we were fortunate in the fact that there was not a refrigerator, no freezer, no automatic washing machine, and the like, which today we do have as necessary household equipment.
Full details of the move will not be attempted in this story. Suffice it to say the majority of the needful household items were taken on the one load. However it did require two or three trips to get all belongings out to the farm, including the machinery, the livestock feed on hand, the little coal that was left in the bin, and other miscellaneous items, nor were all these moved in the one day.
The horse or two not pulling the wagon were led behind for the four and three-quarter miles and we kids drove the five or six cows. The fact that our new home was exactly three miles west of the northwest corner of the courthouse yard required our driving the cows thru some of the residential area of Rupert, past the Lincoln Elementary and high school, and on out west to the new place. These days of moving were big days for Dad and Mother. Mother in particular still had her hands full. Her health was somewhat better than it had been for some time, but there was the directing and packing of her household items. We must not overlook the fact that the twins were less than nine months old and could not be neglected. They were still in arms and a couple or three months from walking. Were some of us older ones girls, we may have been a little better able to assist with the babies. However, we had been taught to do all types of house work, and were quite well qualified to assist wherever asked. Roy had graduated from high school in the spring nearly a year before, and was now working away from home. I do not recall whether he was able to be off work the particular day of the move or not, but I, the next older, was well over 16 years of age. The younger boys were each two years younger than the one before, so there was now considerable help in the family. Afton, the oldest girl, was now seven so she was old enough to do a lot of baby tending.
We all pitched in and the major part of the moving was accomplished in the one day. It could be well said that there was a tired family who went to bed the first night in the new home, but what a change it was to be able to literally spread out.
A NEW ERA
The family's move to its new home was the beginning of a new era. Things of necessity would be different, for not only the home was different in all aspects, but we now found ourselves in a new neighborhood and in a new ward of the church. All the children from the eighth grade down would go to the Pioneer grade school located one-half mile west and one mile north of our new home. A school bus took them and then returned and picked up us high schoolers and went on into Rupert to our regular school. Of course Mother and Dad entered into the school program by continuing to keep their tribe dressed in suitable school clothes, and encouraging us to do our home work. Mother continued in her role as 'school lunch maker-upper'. The latter was no little task in and of itself. There were five of us going to school, therefore five lunches were prepared each morning. Home-made bread was the only bread we knew during these years. During those years we were not sufficiently sophisticated to even know whether there was such a thing as bakery bread. But as I now look back, there surely must have been plenty of it on the market, but we were sufficiently well off that we didn't have the money to be able to afford it.
One can but imagine the bread baking that had to be done in our home and, naturally, Mother did it all. We kids had never been taught to actually mix and prepare the dough for baking, however at times we would pan the bread and, put it in and take it out of the oven. These occasions were usually when Mother was out of the house.
Talking of lunches for school: the smaller children had lunch pails to carry their couple sandwiches and probably a home-made cookie as a piece of dessert. We in the higher grades didn't want to be bothered with a lunch pail, in fact it just wasn't the thing to do. Big, strong, growing-up boys during those years, left lunch pails to the girls, or to an occasional boy who would be classified as a 'sissy'. In spite of all Mother's persuasion and counsel that any lunch would be better kept in a lunch pail, we couldn't be persuaded, but instead, wanted it wrapped in paper. On occasions, following a shopping trip to town by Mother and Dad, there were pieces of brown or white wrapping paper. These then served as wrapping paper for our sandwiches, but usually our lunch wrap was confined to the old newspapers. As long as I can remember, the folk subscribed to the Deseret News which was printed in Salt Lake. The drier sandwiches did quite well with newspaper wrapping, but a jam sandwich often had the imprint of printer's ink on it when lunch time came around. We always liked a jam sandwich to more or less serve as a dessert, but the egg sandwiches or the warmed-over potato sandwich kept better.
As we look back we wonder of our sanity. Not only did we want our lunch wrapped in paper, but we wanted it sufficiently small that we could slip the whole thing in a back pocket. Hands were for marbles and tops and an occasional book, but certainly not for a lunch. It was not an uncommon thing to overlook depositing one's lunch on the shelf in the clothes hanging area as one hurried to class following the bell. Already after playing marbles on the school ground, the lunch had taken the shape of the body at the point where it was stored. In cases of not leaving it on the shelf during the class hours of the morning periods, and it having remained in the pocket until noon, it became a delight to look upon when it was called to complete its mission of satisfying hunger. Fortunately trousers in those days were not so form fitting as they are now but even with the advantage of loose pants it was not an uncommon sight as we opened our lunches at noon to find both sandwiches as flat as one pancake. Our parents' kids did have the good fortune of having little, frail-appearing buttocks - - not only in appearance but actual - - which certainly proved to be a blessing when it came to our lunch carrying habits. Despite such an advantage, some of us were most anxious to see the day when we would be able to fill out sufficiently to be to be safe in wearing a belt. This certainly would require a protrusion somewhere below the belt, but still high enough to keep the legs of the trousers from getting underfoot. Personally, how proud I thought I would eventually become if and when I was ever to 'fill out' enough to keep my two back pockets from overlapping when being worn. This was of such concern that an odd stocking, or at least a couple large handkerchiefs stuffed in either or both of the back pockets improved the general appearance. As I presently sometime see an overly developed lady in slacks walking down the street, I think what an envy she would have been back when we kids were having problems with our back pockets.
Could it have been that our lunch carrying ability due to our anatomy was a result of physical inheritance from past generations? Or was it due to our diet of the hard-time years of the then recent past, and even extending to the time of which is being written about. Actually we always had plenty to eat despite the fact that skim milk was an important part of our diet. Cream was too important to the family's income for us to have free access to it, and too, some of us preferred the taste of skimmed to whole milk and especially to the taste of cream itself.
Back to school lunches: By the time Mother got the five lunches put up - - there were six lunches the year before - - and prepared breakfast and got the smaller ones dressed, she had a day's work accomplished even by the end of her first two hours of the day. What a relief it must have been when the last of us left the door for the school bus. Of course, there was no idleness to be anticipated during the hours we were away, for she yet had about four children at home and had to make preparations for the school tribe when we returned.
MUCH WORK EVEN WITH LARGE HOUSE
To keep up such a large house was another real task, but Mother had one consolation and that was that she had room. However that was about all that could be said about it. Other than a closet for hanging of clothes in each of the bedrooms, there was no drawer space other than a little dresser in each bedroom. There was no such thing as a linen closet in the house. The furniture left by the May family included a dining room table, a buffet, and six leather-seated chairs. There were also three or four dressers in the upstairs bedrooms. We bought the furniture on a drawn-out payment plan to help furnish the large house. This with the furniture we owned made the house somewhat livable.
With a bed in every one of the seven bedrooms there were a lot of beds to make. As I look back on the situation I wonder why the folk didn't insist that each of us older children make our own beds at the time we got up. But, it was Mother who did the bed making most of the time. The work alone of keeping the bedding clean would have been quite a project and they were kept clean. When we were younger we never knew what it was to have sheets on the bed, but rather we had light blankets next to us with heavier blankets and quilts over us but they were always clean. Other than climbing the stairs to keep the rooms clean and to make the beds Mother invariably would make the rounds at night to see if her brood were comfortably in bed and asleep.
THE HOUSE UNCOMFORTABLY COLD IN WINTER BUT NO CORPSES
In winter time there was no heat in the house other than the coal range in the kitchen and the heater in the living room which oft times was only used on Sundays. The pantry and all the bedrooms were without artificial heat, and in cold weather those rooms were not the most comfortable. Of this I personally, am a witness. Despite the glowing description of the first winter in Rupert, I must state that all winters were not like that first one. During the cold months of many a winter the temperature drove the thermometer mercury way down toward the bottom. We soon learned that while there never has been a great deal of snow during most of the winters, there was a variety of temperature throughout a year's time.
The bedrooms, and particularly the upstairs ones, became so cold that one could almost knock his breath off as he exhaled. To get warm, as one climbed into bed, meant a lot of quilts on top and a lot of shivering underneath until friction from shivering would warm the bed sufficiently to make the intending sleeper comfortable, or at least, partially comfortable. I don't recall that the folk ever carried a corpse down stairs any morning, but it has been a standing bit of merriment amongst those involved, to hear the comments of the in-laws who years later married into the family and spent a winter night upstairs. They would remark the next morning, "Are you sure you haven't lost one of your kids by freezing during the years?"
Again, as a special witness, I can report that none were frozen to the point that burial was necessary, but believe me, it really took a special courage to crawl out of a warm bed and sit on its side to dress the next morning. "Well", said others, "Why didn't you go down stairs to dress where it was warmer?" Our I only answer would be, "It wasn't any warmer down stairs than up stairs in the early morning, so why prolong getting dressed?"
THE CLANKING OF THE STOVE LIDS
It was always customary for Dad to be the first one up. Usually we heard him as he shuffled the iron lids around on the top of the old range, and as he crunched up the paper to put in the bottom of the fire box. Then he would break the wood kindling which was followed by either sagebrush or other bits of wood, and then the coal followed by the crackling of the fire. As soon as he closed the noisy lids again we could expect him to come to the door in the down stairs hall way, and call upstairs for the ones he wanted up to get out to do the chores. One consoling thought was that we wouldn't find it much colder outside unless the wind was blowing.
Even tho the cows may have stayed in the barn all night, it was not much warmer in there, for the old barn with its warped sideboards and knot holes and other cracks, always allowed for plenty of healthful ventilation. Thank goodness the cows were warm blooded animals, and it was most comforting to cold hands to put them up between the cows' udder and her leg. Many a freezing finger got a 'lift' from the warmth of a cow, but in order to get the work done one couldn't spend too much time trying to keep warm. The day for the milking machine was still many years in the future and all milking was done by hand.
As a general rule Mother would be up soon after the fire got started, for with the lunches to prepare plus breakfast, and getting the younger members of the family up and ready for school, she had to be 'up and at it'. If it has not been stated before in this story it must now be stated that no one has ever been able to say that Mother was not willing to do her share and more of anything that needed to be done about the home whether it was on the inside or outside.
OUTDOOR FACILITIES GRADUALLY IMPROVED
Prospects for the family economy to improve had naturally brightened with the move to the larger farm, giving larger quarters for possible increase in livestock, particularly milk cows. While finances didn't permit immediate purchasing of additional cows, it did make it possible for the herd's own increase to be kept and occasionally a new animal was purchased. Those who had lived on the farm previous to us were not dairymen as could be seen from the facilities provided. Fencing had to be improved immediately in order to keep the animals confined to a corral. There was no outside shelter for the animals excepting as the cows could get limited protection from the west winds and storms by moving in close to the east side of the chicken coop, and certainly there was not room for all.
As stated earlier, the barn which was nothing more than a sloping roofed shed, had stalls for four horses and six cows. As soon as the herd increased to more than six cows the additional ones were tied in the horse stalls for milking and even overnight stabling. Eventually twelve cows were stabled at a time. Naturally at harnessing time when the horses had to be put in the stable, the cows in those stalls had to be turned out.
Mother always kept her eyes on the work outside, and during the busy farming periods of the year, she would often go to the barn and give the rest of us a hand and milk two or three cows. This was particularly true during spring farm work, harvesting, or irrigating season when one or two of the regular chore men were in the field.
OUR FRIEND THE PUMP
Pumping for the livestock became even a bigger chore than it had been on the old place. Naturally we boys were growing and each of us became a little more fit physically to do the job, but believe me during those years there was absolutely no need for any other exercises to keep the family fit. Every muscle of the body was used at the pump. Especially the smaller boys had to jump up on the handle of the pump and literally ride it down in order to have weight to keep the stream of water running. The tank was large and the cattle and horses always seemed thirsty. In the summer, particularly at noon time, it was hot to do the pumping but far more limited suffering was incurred during the cold of winter. Tho it did give us a chance to get the blood circulating the cold metal pump handle always remained cold. After pumping until one was exhausted, he would be replaced by another of us who had no where to go but stand and shiver next to the chicken pen to await another turn. The one big consolation we had, was the fact that we knew Mother would have a meal ready for her hungry brood when and if we did get the chores completed and went thundering into the house. We were assured of one thing at the conclusion of a pumping period, and that was by the time we returned to the tank there would be room for additiona1 water.
THE GARDEN SPOT
Dad in the garden in 1928 or 1929. Note the straight rows which were characteristic of his gardens. The extreme right shows a couple of rows of raspberries and next to them four rows of strawberries. The garden supplied most the the family food needs for an entire year. Weed and Dad did not inhabit the same garden.
We were now farming in a big way for the times, for eighty acres was a sizable farm when it was considered that row crop farming was nothing more nor less than a big garden. Too, the plot of ground west of the house was sizable in and of itself, probably a hundred yards square or there abouts as I presently picture the spot in my mind. Due to the fact that Dad was always interested in gardening, every inch of that plot was used. It was plowed and harrowed by regular farm equipment and horses, but from that point on everything was done by hand. At first the north side of the garden was reserved for early vegetables, and therefore this was worked down as smooth as a floor by shovel and hand rake. Dad being as meticulous as he was, did most of this work, however the rest of us were busy out on the farm proper. Due to the size of the garden spot it was found more practical to cut the length in half. Part of the garden was in the west half and the other part in the east half with a ditch for irrigating each half on the west of the particular portion. Thus a small ditch was run thru the center to the south for the lower portion of the garden. The garden rows were running east and west and the main reason for the ditch in the center was to shorten the runs of water down the garden rows. The rows would have been too long for good irrigating were the garden not divided.
As the garden was planted with the early plants such as radishes, lettuce, onions, carrots, garden beets etc., it would become necessary to prepare the soil toward the south to make room for peas and beans and early potatoes, then into several long rows of later potatoes the full length of the garden. As Dad neared the street side of the garden, space was reserved for a couple rows of raspberries, and a few bushes of a wide variety of other berries such as red and black currents, goose berries, blackberries, dew berries, black raspberries, plus seven or eight rows of strawberries. Preparing the soil as Dad did was a major undertaking for he did it all by hand. Dad delighted in doing this type of work and hesitated using immature help, for he questioned that younger folk yet had the touch for good gardening. There was a lot of hard work in such a garden as he had, for the high spots had to be pulled down into the lower spots and pulling dirt by hand with a hand rake or throwing it by shovel was and is no child's play.
Mother was seen quite often talking with Dad in the garden, and oft times assisting him when planting time came. Dad was the gardener and Mother had every confidence in his judgment as to what should go where. During those planning meetings in the garden it is most likely that she didn't change his previously prepared plans for arranging the garden a great deal. Three or four years after our first year on the place, an orchard was set out on the north side of the large garden spot. Mother took a real delight in the orchard containing two or three types of apples trees, a pear tree or two, plum trees, cherry trees of two or three varieties, a couple apricot trees, etc. Mother had either remembered the orchards of Bear Lake country or she remembered her folk talking about them, probably the latter, for she wasn't very old when her parents left Bear Lake, but she had always wanted an orchard. She had enjoyed the little one on the first Rupert home south of town and she looked forward to the time when this new orchard would come into production. Nothing like this was possible in Star Valley due to the high altitude, and she had dreamed of having one in Rupert.
One of the memories we can look back on was usually about mid-morning or a little closer to noon-time when seeing Mother, as we looked up from our work in the field, out in the garden gathering vegetables for dinner. We could always expect a big, nourishing dinner when and if we got to the dinner table, and we usually did, and so often Mother would comment on the fact that everything she had prepared for the meal came out of the garden excepting, and she would name them, "Salt, pepper, and flour from which the bread was made."
MORE ABOUT THE DINNER TABLE
It was during these years when we kids were working so hard in the fields from sunup to sundown, and then sometimes longer, that we really appreciated the good cook that Mother was, and she cooked in abundance. Oh, what a terrible habit it was, and is, to eat, for it caused Mother so much work. But by the same token, what a pleasure it was to put our feet under the table and sit on the bench along the back of the table or in a chair on the other side or to the end. During these early years on this farm, the table was near the south west corner of the kitchen, and Dad's place was on the north end of the table. Going clockwise around the table from Dad, were the twins in their high chairs, or in a high chair and a parent's lap and then Mother. To the side of Mother was Merintha, then I think Afton and George, then Hyrum. To the back of the table on the bench, I was next, and then Alma and Fred. When Roy was home he sat next to Dad going counter clockwise, then I think Alma, then Fred at the end of the table.
The above placement about the table is from memory and may have been, to a degree temporary and possibly varied from time to time. The intent of the placing of each individual was with the thought in mind that there was a place for every member of the family. As you will note, no place was reserved for baby Marie, at this time for she was a later addition to the family. There was need then for a 'slide over to make room' situation.
ROY TAKES WINGS
It seems that Mother Nature has a way of adjusting family situations. When things get overly crowded, much the same as in the Edward Blacker household a generation earlier, there is sluffing off at the top in order to make room for those at the bottom. Roy had graduated nearly a year before, and with his high school days over had found work in a local creamery. If memory serves correctly, he remained with the family for six or seven months following our moving to our new habitat before he and Myrtle Hendricks were married in October of 1924. His leaving was harder on some of us next younger kids than it was easier for him, for his share of the chores were not taken with him when he left. One leaving the table was hardly noticed, for there were two on laps and/or in high chairs, and too, less than a year later, baby Marie came to fill the vacancy.
THE BUM LAMB PROJECT
To the east of the house was a small, fenced-in pasture probably 75 feet by 250 feet running the long way to the north and south. It was used mainly as a calf pasture and a pasture for bum lambs. Some of us kids loved lambs, and even while living on the place south of town, we would either walk or ride Brownie to various sheep sheds around the country and pick up give-away lambs. The owners of the sheep would be willing to give little lambs away. Perhaps, the lamb's mother had died or a ewe had twins and she did not have enough milk for both of them. The lambs often were very feeble and were taken home to be encouraged to take a nippled bottle. The casualty rate remained quite high, but yet with constant care a fair percentage would survive.
While some of us boys became the principals in this job, of necessity it developed into a whole family project. Six, eight, maybe ten lambs at a time had to have milk from the pantry and it had to be warmed. Bottles had to be located and nipples for the bottles were necessary, and of course, this equipment had to be washed and kept reasonab1y sanitary. As can readily be observed, many a lamb's meal time came when we kids were in school, and so those remaining at home became the step-mothers to the hungry lambs. It was not at all unusual to have one or more lambs in a box behind or near the stove during inclement weather, or when a lamb, weakened and its life was in jeopardy for one reason or another, had to have special warmth and attention. For weeks on end each spring there was the customary blat here and blat there from the little motherless creatures, and they did require a lot of extra attention.
As the lambs grew older they provided a lot of satisfaction for a pet lamb is an unusually friendly creature, and being bottle babies, they would tag a person around the yard so long as a fence permitted. One grew to love the little pets and it was always a genuine funeral when one of the little things died or had to be sold or otherwise disposed of. Tears were often shed by the family. Partings - - they are an enigma of life - - and in one form or another, they are always having to be encountered and endured.
SUNDAY A DAY OF REST
In Dad's and Mother's home Sundays were always days of rest if conditions permitted, and it was seen to it that all was done that could be done to make them such. Naturally there were times when some types of work had to be done. Chores had to be taken care of. The animals had to have feed and water, and milking had to be taken care of. During the summers when irrigation season was on, a certain amount of irrigating had to be done. Careful planning eliminated a lot of what otherwise, would have been normal.
It must have been about 1924 that the Blaine Stake was divided, and the area of Minidoka County plus the areas of Hazelton and Eden, some twenty four to twenty eight miles to the west of Rupert, were organized into the Minidoka Stake. I can well remember this particular Sunday morning the meeting was convened in the Wilson Theater. It was announced by the General Authority visiting the conference that Richard C. May was to be the new stake president. He selected Joseph Payne, another Amalgamated Sugar Company official, as his first counselor, and Herman P. Fails of Rupert as his second counselor, with Alvin Jensen as stake clerk. At the same meeting, the high council, a council of twelve members, was selected. The Blacker family was elated and proud that the name of Thomas Blacker was among the twelve chosen. The whole family was affected by this action for Dad was faithful in this position for many years. It was not uncommon that particularly on Sunday, his meetings by assignment didn't coincide with meetings of other members of the family in connection with our own ward. This often required that we kids had to find ways to get to and from our meetings, usually Sunday School. Most of the time by our going a little early, Dad could take us and get to his ward to which he was assigned on time. It was not uncommon however, for us to walk home after being taken. Quite often arrangements were made for us to ride with a neighbor, but this could not always be depended upon. During a few of the early years of Dad's assignment in the stake, it did make it necessary that Mother stay home with the babies on Sunday mornings, however for sacrament meetings it was usually possible for her to go.
TRANSPORTATION BECOMING MODERNIZED
It goes without saying that when we moved to the farm west of Rupert it was necessary to have a car. I don't recall that the original car, the Grant Six, was ever used after we moved to the new home. As stated earlier it had been stored in the home garage during the time of depression, which I would say was at least two years, maybe more. I don't recall that it was ever used after that. At least, it wasn't used very much if any. The Grant Six was a problem car a goodly share of its short life. When I report this I don't say it critically for these ear1y cars were products of a more or less experimental or developing period, and they were far from being perfected. Even today's cars, after a development period of fifty years occasionally have problems. Undoubtedly the Grant Six played an important part in the development of the virtue of patience and probably fulfilled its mission if it were made for no other purpose. No count was ever kept of the flat tires patched and pumped up while on the road, nor the times it had to be pushed in order to get it started.
As I now recall, a used car or two was used by the family for a short trial period. Then arrangements were made for a new or nearly new Model T Ford. The closed-in cars which are the only type we see at the date of this writing, were not known of, at least by us at the time of which we are writing. All cars were open at the sides and had a canvas top which could he folded down or kept up as the driver wished. If the car were relatively new and up to date there were side curtains which could be installed by buttoning on, and these were used particularly during stormy or cold weather. The curtains had small windows of isinglass, which was a semi-transparent substance pliable enough that it would withstand the abuse of vibration and rolling up over a limited time. As the curtains became older, the isinglass would become brittle and would crack or otherwise break. This created more ventilation than strictly needed and desired, but this was a fact of life and had to he lived with. Getting in and out of the car with the curtains on was a problem, but problems are solved by the ingenuity on the part of some. By rehanging the curtain on an iron rod, the curtain would swing open with the door. Cracks between the front and back door then became a problem only to he solved as best one could after the passenger was in and the door closed. Quilts and blankets or car robes were found to be necessary equipment, for a car heater was yet a dream of the future.
There were no self-starters as we used to call them when they did come available. To start a car it was necessary to turn the hand crank which hung between the front bumper and near the bottom of the radiator. When one turned the crank a system of magnetos would generate electricity sufficient to provide a spark, which in turn would cause the gasoline to combust and provide compression to get the four cylinders to move, and thus get the motor going. To start one of these cars was sometimes a real challenge, particularly in cold weather. For an average non-mechanic these gasoline engines - - and they were nothing more - - could become most temperamental. If the carburetor and manifold were warm, the gas would ignite better, and so a kettle of hot water was often resorted to which was poured over the engine head. Providing no moisture got on the spark plugs, there was a chance by a combination of hard cranking and manipulating the choke either by a person inside the car, or by the cranker using a by wire attached to the choke, the car would start. If the car failed to start it had to be pushed. If there were not sufficient man-power to push the car, it was possible for one man to sometimes get the car going by jacking up one of the back wheels. When the wheel would turn freely, the car could be put in gear and cranked. The wheel would create a spark which would ignite the gas. This would start the engine which sometimes would keep going and sometimes not. Due to vibration of the speeding back wheel, the car might slide off the jack which would real]y create a problem for the cranker who was in front of the car. The car by now, was moving forward at a speed only to be determined by how far the gas throttle had been left out. The cranker had no control until he could reach the inside of the car. Occasionally one heard of a person who was pushed by the car against an object in front of the it such as a wall, and the person badly hurt. This way of starting a car was not always the safest but it was done by most of us at various times.
A common way to start a hard-starting car, particularly in cold weather, was to hitch a horse or a team to the front it. With one driving or leading the team or a horse, and someone in the car to control it, the car would sometimes start with a little pull. It was not uncommon to have to pull the car hundreds of yards, or a quarter, or half a mile or more, and then sometimes after all this it would not start.
Back in those years of the early 1920s one earned about every mile he was able to ride. Time after time it was our experience, and this was true of most folk, that plans had to be changed completely due to the fact that it was impossible to get the car started. Nor were one's trouble always behind him after the car was started. It was never considered wise to attempt to start for any place without checking to see if the crank were under the seat, and to be sure a patching kit was fresh. One had to be sure that the tire irons were there for ready use, for even with a spare tire which was a necessity, one could easily have tire trouble. A tire had to be dismounted after going flat, and the rim taken from the tire to get to the inner tube which had to be patched. Then, of course, the hand pump had to be used to pump the tire up so as to carry the load. Oft times the pump was not in the best of condition and would leak air, or perhaps it could get hot and the rubber stem would come off the pump or any of a number of things could happen to cause one to lose time.
Many and many a time people turned back toward home after tire trouble because they hadn't started soon enough to be able to get to an appointment in time, because they had to change more than one flat tire. Today a half century later, we can hardly visualize having had the many problems we had in those former years. We who have experienced them can certainly appreciate travel today when it is now unusual to have problems of such natures. Our parents experienced all this of which has been related. These conditions improved considerably even while Mother was alive, and of course still more prior to Dad's passing away.
Farming on the new place was similar but on a larger scale as compared to the former home. For several years Dad saw that a regular rotation program was followed. Thirty-five acres of beets was a regular year's beet crop. From ten to twenty acres of potatoes was usual, and the balance of the farm was in hay and grain including seven acres of field corn for the first two or three years. All power to operate farm equipment was either by horse or human. Each fall of the year and again in the early spring, the four horse fresno was used as much as time would permit to pull the high spots from the land into the low places. Leveling land was a long range program and from a little to considerable was done each year. Where one ditch now runs down thru the center of the field, there were two main ditches with four or five smaller ones branching out to lead water to the high knolls.
Irrigation was much more difficult then than now due to the fact that some extreme unevenness of land required levies to be shoveled up to retain the water in order to force it upon the high spots. These needed almost constant watching for they would break and let the water run away. Then it was a matter of getting ditches, small or large, to carry the water from knoll to knoll, or forming dikes sufficiently high that when the plot of ground was flooded the water would rise to cover every spot. Today's siphon tubes permit one to have much better control of the water, and with a gentle slope of the land either natural or as a result of the work of huge carry-alls, less water is used as well as a more uniform job of irrigating is done.
All equipment was drawn by horses and the amount of work which could be done in a day was limited to the strength of the horses. As written earlier in the story, Dad started his farming career behind a hand plow. Probably as late as 1912 or 1914 this method was his only means of plowing. Then came the one-way riding plow and shortly after, the two-way riding plow, and they were known by these names. The latter had the advantage over the one-way plow because there was no dead-furrow left when the field had been plowed.
Harrowing, disking, leveling and other processes of preparing the land for a seed bed, were not so thoroughly done by horse power as by the modern powerful tractors. There was not sufficient power even with three or four horses, and certainly it is presently much easier on the man operating the present day equipment. Dad was always considered a successful farmer which was the result of his thoroughness in whatever he did with the soil. His judgment and counsel was sought after by many neighboring farmers, and he was willing to share with them the results of his experience.
Dad personally farmed thru several eras of farming even into the beginning usage of mechanical power. By the time tractors came on the farms he had turned the operation of them over to his sons. He himself, did very little if any personally handling of a tractor. The same situation existed in his experiences from the horse and wagon to the farm truck. He may have operated a truck in a limited degree, but he turned this over to his sons. Many and many a load of beets did he haul to the factory beet dump, and loads of potatoes or hay or what have you to their destination, but I do not remember that Dad ever drove a truck load of beets to the beet dump or the other mentioned products. I may be mistaken in this, but I am sure that if he did any of it, it was quite limited. In his lifetime he witnessed a remarkable change in means and manner of farming, and he accepted the newer as soon as he was able to do so. He was conservative but yet progressive.
Time passed one day at a time, and each day had its own problems. With such a large family there were those occasions when some did not feel as well as normal, so Mother became the doctor and nurse. It is suspected most of us children had the children's diseases, but other than that, plus occasional colds and minor accidents, the family was healthy. The flu was much like Satan, the Devil, if the blame couldn't be pinpointed to anyone else the poor guy got credit for it. If a sickness couldn't be attributed to this or that it was the flu.
Mother was very conscientious about her role as doctor and nurse and her favorite remedy was Epsom salts. "You have got to get it out of your system" just as if there were but one exit for flu bugs, marbles, or any other thing that may have gotten under the epidermis or outer skin of her patient. This was her common theory. 'Wash it out' was her easiest and fastest method and nothing did the job better than Epsom salts.
It was not often we kids 'played sick', in fact, it was easier to walk around, or at least stay on our feet when not feeling well than to have the biggest glass in the house filled with the most nauseating medicine ever concocted. Mother, very kind and considerate as she was, would suggest that the patient hold his nose and drink the salts as fast as possible but there was hardly a kid alive who could drink all the preparation without taking a breath about halfway thru. Occasionally castor oil was substituted, and there were other medicines for the same purpose, but none of them could equal Mother's favorite which, without any equivocation, causes me to shudder yet, just thinking of those 'good old days'.
There was one thing we must say regarding Epsom Salts - - and I use capital letters advisedly - - they worked. There has never been a time in the history of the family during those years, but that they cured the ailment. When Mother was alive and serving as doctor and nurse, at least since my entrance into the world, there never was a trip to the cemetery to bury one of her patients.
Within a few hours from the time the dose was taken, there was surely a trip to the little house in back. Were we too sick to even venture to that little 'island of isolation', a 'thunder-mug' was used. This, as it was lovingly known, but which was nothing more nor less than a glorified child's pottie was in every home. When not in use was it was hidden under the bed if the bed were high enough to accommodate one, or if it was too low, it would be hidden away in a closet. Oh, those good old days before we had ever heard of nor seen a bed-pan, certainly before we ever dreamed of having a bath room with its modern day conveniences!
Human beings are hardy creatures, and as we look back forty and fifty years ago, we wonder and are amazed, that as many of us made it who did. If one were in bed two days you could be assured that two doses of salts had been given. If one had the strength and was seen to be making regular trips to the back, whether he had to go or not, there would be a chance of escaping the next dose. There had to be more evidence than one could produce by staying in bed enjoying the rest. Surely Epsom Salts must still be on the market. Actually I haven't seen any for years, but dear reader, may I suggest you go to a drug store and secure just enough to prepare one good dose - - not a great deal less than a quart - - and take it just to get a 'touch' of the 'good old days'.
THE LAST BABY AND RED HAIR
A couple months more than two years following the birth of the twins, Earl and Verl, baby number twelve, a little red-haired girl arrived at our home and our parent's hands were fully occupied indeed. The twins were still but babies and another meant three. It is true we older ones had long ago learned to assist with house work. By this time, our oldest sister Afton was nine years of age, and any nine year old girl of a family with a dozen children, and especially in this particular Blacker household, had long since learned the fundamentals of keeping house and the way to care for babies. The twins were yet on their bottles, for particularly Verl had had a real rough time becoming adjusted to taking milk and other food without being upset by any irregularities of diet. He was yet very frail and required considerable attention.
As has always become a proven fact, the arrival of a new baby in any family, providing it was wanted, didn't upset the regular routine of the family to any great extent. The family members as stated previously on more than one occasion, just moves over and makes room. The love for each other is multiplied so there remains enough of everything for all. It is true that nearly a year earlier Roy had married and made a vacancy, so actually Marie just took up the slack and life went on as usual excepting we didn't notice much difference with the milking and certainly none at the pump. Four red haired kids. Mother's mother had auburn colored hair. Genetics tell us that such a trait will spring out into the unborn descendants from generation to generation so it seems we rightly came by our colored hair. It was also said that Grandpa Edward Blacker had a rather sandy beard, so you children and grandchildren of generations yet to be born, don't be overly critical of the fact that red hair will be amongst you. Mother Nature has about as much to do with your parents having inherited it as any of us mortals.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A MISSIONARY
Before Dad and Mother got their financial situation back on a sound footing, one of their number was called to a mission for the Church. This called for sacrifice for it already was a struggle to feed and clothe and otherwise keep a family of the ten children then at home. I don't recall the year that the folk decided to purchase the farm rather than to rent it, I am sure it was not long before this, so other than keeping the family, there was an annual payment, to be made on the farm and now a monthly check to a missionary.
Marie was just a couple months passed her second birthday, when nearing my twentieth birthday, I received a call to serve two years in the British Mission. Both Dad and Mother felt good of this call, but I am sure they became very much concerned with the responsibility which fell upon them. While I had always desired to go on a mission, it was not my fortune to have been able to find employment following my graduation from high school a year and a half before, in order to save any amount toward the expense of a mission. I had kept busy with the work on the farm and other than drive a school bus for a season for twenty dollars a month, I hadn't had a chance to accumulate savings. Before we, and I say we, because a mission call was and is a family project, gave a reply Church instruction from Salt Lake suggested it would cost about $50 per month to maintain a missionary in the British Mission, but this didn't deter the folk from accepting the responsibility. To them, to serve in the Church was foremost in importance, and they often expressed their faith and trust in the Lord that a way would be provided if I went.
Mother had considerable concern for she was mortally afraid of an ocean trip for any of her loved ones. Whatever created this fear I have never learned. To my knowledge there hadn't been any real ocean hardships for her's or Dad's family, both of whom crossed to this country by water. Other than a long, tedious boat ride with perhaps good cases of seasickness, I have not heard of any event that would cause fear of the ocean. Mother had never seen an ocean at that time, let alone had experience on one, but it proved to be a cause of considerable concern to her. She was as proud as any mother could be that a son had received a call for a mission and she would have it no other way than that I should go, but it was hard for her,
The period of farewell parties, the ward dance for raising contributions toward a missionary's expense was a usual thing during that period. The testimonial in connection with a sacrament meeting, while appreciated by Mother was difficult for her for she realized all the more that the time for my leaving was getting closer. I had been working in the MIA, and the officers and friends went to our home one evening for a surprise sock and handkerchief shower. The dance just mentioned was public, and was held in the Rupert 1st Ward recreation hall a short distance west of the railroad tracks on 8th street, due to the fact that the 2nd Ward of which we were members didn't have the facilities for such a dance. Over two hundred dollars were raised by the dance, and other contributions toward my mission expenses, enough, almost to the penny to purchase train and boat tickets to England. This was the most any missionary had ever received up to that time in our area. This was the esteem the wonderful people of our ward and other wards had for Dad and Mother, as well as evidence of their faith and devotion to the missionary cause of the Church.
On Sunday evening, January 15th, 1928, in the little, white 2nd Ward chapel which then stood where the present stake house stands across corners from the Minidoka County court house, was held the sacrament meeting testimonial which was well attended. This proved to be one of the hardest things Mother had experienced up to that time. She was very reticent to make any appearance in public because of her reserved nature, and to say a few words which she was invited by the bishop to do, and which she did do, was most difficult for her. Following the meeting, Dad, Mother and I went into the bishop's office, a small room off the stage in the northwest corner of the building. There Brother Henry Catmull, Minidoka Stake patriarch, pronounced upon me a patriarchal blessing which has always proven to be a guide and stay to me. In that blessing a successful mission was promised which, certainly gave each of us an assurance that I would go and return in safety.
While yet joyful in one respect, it was a sad morning when the day arrived for me to leave home. Mother had already expressed that it was a morning she dreaded to come. How a mother could so love a son such as I probably can be answered only by a mother in the same circumstances. I was the first of the family to leave home for any length of time and not be within 'calling distance' so to speak. It was true Roy had left home, in fact by this time he and Myrtle had moved to Provo, Utah where Roy was working in the Utah State hospital, but for some reason this was different. It may have been that she had confidence that Roy was old enough to take care of himself and Myrtle, but with me it was another question. At least my leaving was a new experience for us all.
THE PARTING AND A SACRED COMMITMENT
At 9:30 Friday morning January 20th 1928, Dad and I boarded the train at the Rupert railroad station after some thirty to forty-five minutes before, embracing Mother for the last time before leaving, as well as my brothers and sisters. Mother prepared herself to be the brave woman she was, and though there were tears in her eyes, she contained her emotions remarkably well and said, "Be a good missionary and may the Lord bless you and keep you and bring you safely home." This was sealed with a mother's farewell kiss. I shall never live long enough to forget that morning. Mother was holding the baby Marie, at the time, and certainly Marie wondered what it was all about.
Members of the ward were at the depot to see Dad and me off, but Mother remained at home with the smaller children and the older children had gone to school. My heart was full for I loved my family and it was hard for me to leave. Particularly was it hard when I sensed how difficult it was for my parents. I had every assurance that my journey to England and back would be safe, for I was entering a two year period in which I would be engaged in the Lord's work. I had every confidence that a missionary would be blessed and watched over and kept from harm and danger.
Mother and the folk later told me that the real hard part of our parting was yet to come to her, for it was the emptiness in the home which she really felt. She has related to me, how after we left the home that morning, she went into her bedroom alone and knelt down and pleaded to the Lord that her son would have all the protection he needed to bring him safely home after his two years of missionary service. She related that she covenanted with the Lord that if He would bring her son back, that she from that time forth would never touch her cup of tea again. In later years she, not boastfully in the least but gratefully, acknowledged the fact that she had kept her promise.
Breaking her tea habit was a real sacrifice to her for she had said she didn't think she would ever be able to quit having it. She had felt that she should, and it was necessary for such a situation as this for her to have a real reason to give it up. Undoubtedly I didn't fully realize at the time, the full impact of the love Mother had for us children. I was no different to her than any of her other children, and certainly, any one of her other children had the same love from her as I, but it was my privilege to be the first on whom such a demonstration of love was showered. To go into my bedroom, Mother has since related, was one of the hardest things she had to face after my departure. All I can say is God bless her memory for she was a wonderful mother to us, her children.
Dad and I went to Salt Lake where we stopped with Uncle Kem and Aunt Marie until Sunday evening when I was to report to the mission home, and Dad left for his return trip back to Rupert. I went with him to the Union Pacific Depot and saw him off. This was another parting which I shall not forget. I don't doubt at all but that fathers have as much love for their children as mothers do. Dad didn't express it in just the same manner as Mother and he was able to contain his emotions, I think even more than I, but he couldn't keep back his tears as he embraced me in the depot that evening as we said goodbye. Unfortunately we kids probably didn't get quite so close to Dad as we did to Mother, but I am sure there was no less love for him. He was a good man and a good father and it was just as hard for me to bid farewell to him as to others of the family. With tears in both our eyes, I saw him go up the steps into the coach and watched him find his way down the isle to an empty seat. The locomotive tightened the couplings of the passenger coaches, and the wheels started to turn, and as I stood there alone in the night and watched the train separate my father and me until I returned I must confess that I cried but attempted to keep all evidence from the strangers about me. I think one has to be placed in some such situation as this to fully realize what his family and loved ones mean to him. If the next world cannot offer a close companionship to one's loved ones, what does it have to offer? The beauty of the gospel in its teaching of eternal family relationship is beyond compare, but at the same time, the challenge that I have to be worthy of the blessing sometimes is awesome.
LETTERS A TIE WITH HOME
For a couple weeks following my leaving Salt Lake, letters from home were scarce, not that they were not written but that they didn't catch up with me. I received a letter from home when we arrived in New York for we were advised beforehand that we were to stop at the Herald Square Hotel.
Before I heard from home again Mother had another unnecessary worry, for as we were crossing the Atlantic on the big ship Leviathan, one of the biggest ships then afloat, we were grounded on a sand bar near Southampton, England. Actually, it was at night that there was a couple hours of waiting until the tide came in to raise the boat. We passengers on board were not even aware of the situation until later. The newspapers at home had a small front page article stating that the Leviathan had been grounded on a sand bar which the folk read, and so it was a concern to them until they received a letter from me stating that we had landed and that all was well.
I tried to be an obedient son while away and I wrote regularly, but I am sure that I did not send as many letters to the folk as I received. With the exception of a few, all letters from home were written by Mother and a goodly share of them were written by her after the day's work was done and others of the family were in bed. Her letters were looked forward to, and tho they were usually written in pencil, for she said she could write in pencil easier than with a pen, they were welcomed. Her spelling was not perfect, but it was near enough that I had no trouble understanding. As before stated, her education was but thru the fourth grade of school, and during the many previous years she was not called upon to do a great deal of writing. As related, this was about the first time her family members had been separated. Mother was a great one to make regular inquiry as to whether I was getting enough to eat and if I had a place to sleep. I suspect she had a thousand and one unnecessary worries and she would certainly fall in the category to whom it would apply when it is said, "Ninety percent of our worries never materialize." Being so far away it took letters a full two weeks to arrive after mailing. Packages were not sent often but Mother would have something on the way quite regularly, such as a pair of socks, a handkerchief, a shirt and of course occasionally cookies or a little candy. It seemed her mind must constantly have been on her boy in England. I think it was my nature to be quite fully appreciative of my parents' love and attention to me, and I don't think I ever received a money order from them without stopping and thinking of how difficult it was for them to get it to send. I am sure they went without much which they would liked to have had, and it made me aware of the fact that it would have been the meanest thing in the world I could do would be to disappoint them. Parents' interest and love, and this can be said of brothers' and sisters', provides a real incentive for any son or daughter to do his best and, certainly not to do so would be most ungrateful of him.
The two years passed and probably faster for me than for them, and our meeting again in Salt Lake City on April 3, 1930 was a wonderful reunion. Our train arrived at the Denver & Rio Grande Railway station about nine o'clock in the morning where I was met by Aunt Marie Blacker. Uncle Kem was teaching seminary for it was Thursday. It has now been forty years since that time, and as I attempt to recall, I am not sure that it was that day that Dad, Mother and sister Marie, who was now four years old, arrived in Salt Lake, but I am prone to think that it was not until the following day. It was about noon I believe, on the 4th of April 1930 that the folk drove into the yard of Uncle Kem's and Aunt Marie's in Murray. This was a happy day for each of us, for I could report to my parents that I had completed what the mission president reported was an honorable mission, for I had received my release. The folk were happy that I was home and that they would have a respite from sending the fifty dollars each month. They had also sent fifty dollars to assist me to go to relatives in Wales following my mission and to visit the areas of my ancestry on both Dad's and Mother's families.
Even back in the days of my mission one had to be careful to confine his spending to be under the amount mentioned. I am sincere in stating that it was our good fortune as children, to have grown up during years when money was never plentiful, and so each of us learned to be frugal and to be satisfied with the simpler things of life. Were it not so, conditions would have been even more difficult for not only our parents, but I am sure for us as their children.
THE CHURCH'S CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE AND THEN FOR HOME
I arrived in Salt Lake just in time for the 100th General Conference of the Church, for on the 6th of April the Church celebrated its 100th anniversary and this particular conference became known as the Centennial Conference. Special preparations had been made to observe this centennial including the great Centennial Pageant. Naturally we all attended the meetings of this conference and on Monday morning, April 7th, we left Salt Lake for Rupert where we arrived at approximately six-thirty that evening.
The family who at were home late fall 1931. With Dad and Mother were Alma, Hyrum, Afton, George, Merintha, Earl, Verl and Marie. Fred had left for his mission. I took the picture. Some remodeling had been completed. Note the new bathroom window.
BACK HOME WITH THE FAMILY
Things were much the same as they were some twenty-seven months earlier excepting the changes in the growth of the younger brothers and sisters whom I hardly recognized. Probably no other change was so significant as the changes in the voices of the boys. The yards were much the same as was also the house, with one major difference in its furnishings and that was that the home boasted of a radio-phonograph which was new to me. The radio was just coming into its own. Many homes did not yet have one and it was not a common thing to have a combination such as the folk had. To verify my statement that radio was yet new, I might add that the first radio I ever heard was thru ear phones of a little crystal set in the home of a Brother and Sister Gilliland in Belfast, Ireland during the first year of my mission. Before I left England I did hear others in the homes of Church members, but they were few. The first radio I ever heard in our own hone was the evening of my arrival April 7, 1930.
The folk had an Essex sedan during these years which was a step-up from the Model T Ford of which was written earlier in the story. While it gave more room and comfort, it created problems in that its dependability in starting and continuing to run after it was started was unreliable. It was temperamental, but manufacturers were making improvements both in mechanical phases as well as in the bodies of the cars. A sedan, once considered by many of us as impractical due to the amount of glass which could prove hazardous, was actually a wonderful improvement over the open type car when comfort was considered. Glass was beginning to be made so it was relatively shatter-proof.
Excepting brother Roy, who was married, the entire family was at home during the summer of 1930 which was a pleasure to Dad and Mother for they both enjoyed having everyone being accounted for. While some of us boys were maturing to the point where we were beginning to keep company with girl friends, I think none of us created too much concern for the folk.
The farm work on the eighty acre farm went on as usual and had the advantage of one additional helper during this particular summer over the two previous summers. The fact that the younger members were a year or two older and more mature meant that they were of more assistance. Crops were good this year and there was also a fair price for them. With these conditions existing, plans were made during the late summer months to obtain some better farm equipment for the harvest. Little in this regard had been done during the time I was away, partially due to the cost of keeping me in the mission. It is true 1930 was the first year of the Great Depression of the thirties, but we were not affected by this depression such as we were with that of the early twenties. Actually the year 1930 was one of the best years financially that the family ever enjoyed, and certainly we have felt that the folk were deserving of improvement in their financial condition. Up to this date we had never been so blessed.
Hauling a load of beets to the factory in 1931. Three tons was a large load for this 1½ Chevie. Marie is seen in the cab.
Harvesting sugar beets in the fall of 1931. One row at a time was dug by the team. The beets were piled as they were topped and then thrown on the wagon or truck with a beet fork.
Harvesting potatoes in the fall of 1931. On several occasions the farm produced 400 sacks of potatoes (100 lbs each) per acre. During these years the picking was done by hand, and all digging by four-horse teams. Harvesting was hard work for both pickers and horses.
Cousin Lincoln Gardner and Alma picking potatoes. A good picker could pick 100 sacks a day. At 6 cents per sack or 1 1/2 cents per basket, one could earn six dollars a day. It was back-breaking work and there as no time for 'horse-play'. During the depression years we picked for as little as 4 cents per sack, and 5 cents was quite common. In fields where the yield was but 150 or 200 sacks per acre, picking pay was low. Two dollars to two and one half dollars was common.
The potato crop this particular year was good, and with the fact that there was a fair price, the advisability of purchasing a truck to do the hauling was considered in the affirmative, and so a major step was taken. It was a 1930 Chevrolet 1 1/2 ton truck with a flatbed. This conveyance provided the means for hauling such crops as potatoes which were sacked by hand-pickers in the field, and then loaded manually onto the truck, three tons at a time, and hauled away to the potato warehouses in town. Never before had the farm produced so well and income so gratifying. As many as ten loads a day were harvested and hauled away, and as each load went out the yard Mother had confessed as saying to herself, "That, is another $100 worth of potatoes."
It was this fall that our cousin Merl Barker, of Afton came to Rupert to assist with the harvest and lived with us for two to three months. This another for Mother to care for, but his help was needed and was most dependable. This was the beginning of two or three years of Merl coming to assist with the harvest. For a couple years following this, another cousin, Lincoln Gardner came to assist in the harvest also. Hiring had to be done, and both Merl and Lincoln assisted greatly, and were benefited themselves with their earnings. From the potato harvest we went into the third crop of hay and then into the harvesting of beets.
FRED LEAVES FOR A MISSION
At the conclusion of the 1930 fall's harvest Fred was called to serve on a mission for two years, and so the family was called upon to have another parting. The 'ice' so to speak had been broken, however, and due to the fact that Mother did not have to worry about him crossing an ocean, she was able to realize the futility in much of her worry. This is not to indicate that Fred's parting was not as hard as it had been with my going, for I am sure it was. The fact that I was a part of the first experience, I was more aware than I was of Fred's leaving and the effect it had on the family. For this reason every member of the family should write his or her personal story, for another has no way of knowing the feelings and even some experiences between parents and individual children.
Fred left for his mission to the Western States with headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Of course as did all missionaries during these years, he spent about ten days at the Mission Home in Salt Lake and then went by train to Denver. As before, I am sure I would be safe in saying that Mother became the letter writer for the family.
When a family works as a team as our family did, with each one a cog so to speak, in the work of the family, including chores - - and pumping - - no one member leaves without being missed. To my own knowledge the folk were just as concerned as any parent could be about their missionary. Fred wrote relative to a period of time when the missionaries of his mission were going through the country without purse or scrip. He wrote of his sleeping in hay and straw stacks because he had nowhere else to go. He tore his trousers and had to knock on the door of a strange home to ask the lady if she would sew them for him. He had to go into another room and hand his trousers out for her to mend. Mother became very concerned as to his welfare, and she had difficulty resting at night fearing Fred had nothing to eat and that he might be out in the night without a place to stay. Mother was concerned far more than we probably realized and it couldn't have been easy for her.
MODERNIZING THE HOME
Due to the income received from the farm in the fall of 1930, it was possible for plans to be made to remodel the house and make it modern. The house had been built several years prior to our moving into it, and outlets for sufficient ventilation was not provided under it. This resulted in the floor joists under the northeast portion of the house to deteriorate. Nor was there sufficient space left under the house at the time it was built, to allow room for anyone to work to repair the joists. It was decided that a hole would have to be dug outside, and from there under the foundation to permit a man to go under with timbers to reinforce the floors. This project was undertaken. In reality it proved to be a bigger chore than we had even anticipated. In our spare time during the next many months, when there was nothing of more importance, one or more of us would excavate. Digging was by hand, and we had to dig a sizable hole on the outside to get under the foundation which was at least eighteen inches below the level of the ground, even before we could get to the removing of any dirt from under the house. Other than picking and shoveling the dirt, it was necessary to carry it away in buckets. It seemed that we would never get the job done.
The lower floor plan after the remodeling in 1931.The upstairs remained the same.
By the spring of 1931 space had been dug for sufficient room to replace the floor joists where needed. The time had come for a major remodeling job of the northeast area of the lower floor of the home. A back porch was planned under which was to be a basement. The kitchen was to be moved from the northwest corner of the house to the northeast corner. A bathroom was to be included between the newly planned kitchen and Dad's and Mother's bedroom which was in the southeast corner of the ground floor. To do this it became necessary for the bedroom to be made smaller than it originally was. This change then eliminated the pantry and the middle bedroom used by the smaller children. The back half of the downstairs hallway was included in the kitchen, and in order to do this it was necessary that an archway be run through part of the kitchen. The wall which was to be removed, which was formerly between the hallway and pantry and small bedroom, was a support wall and had to be retained in some form or another and so the need of the archway.
To install modern plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom it was necessary for a septic tank and a drain to be dug and installed in the yard. Brother Louis Humphries and son Roy, professional carpenters, were hired to do the job, and so a goodly share of the summer was spent getting it done. Reed Catmull did the plumbing work which included a pressure pump placed in the basement under the porch. Other than the long septic drains, a trench was dug by hand from the house to the corral where a hydrant was put in. With the use of a short rubber hose the hydrant could remain on the outside of the corral, and the water tank be on the inside. When they got the pump in operation, the long era of hand pumping water for the cattle and horses came to an end. A new world -- a luxury never before enjoyed by the Blacker family became a reality. The long, tiring chore of providing water to the animals by hand pump had come to an end. For over ten years every drop used by man and beast was hand pumped, and perhaps no one will ever determine how many gallons of water were drawn. There was rejoicing in the home, when, by the push of the switch and the turn of the hydrant handle, water spurted out into the big galvanized tank. It seemed that never since did the animals drink as much as they did before. We kids knew that the cows and horses drank more than necessary, actually in delight, just to see us ride the pump handle down.
What a great transformation in our farm life! Within a year's time we were actually living in another world from what we were accustomed to. We were yet in the days of the coal range and coal heater in the living room, but to have a roomy kitchen with a nice cabinet in which was a sink and running hot and cold water made a dream come true.
This truly came about after a hard summer's work, for in our spare time, the digging of the basement and the many, many feet of trenches were all dug by hand. Getting thru the hardpan which was under the top soil to dig the basement became a real chore done only by a lot of pick and crowbar swinging and shoveling. In today's world just forty years since the remodeling job we would have machines to do all the digging but such was not available to us when the job was done.
A PAIR OF GRATEFUL PARENTS
Dad had lived 51 years without running water and an otherwise modern home, and Mother 47 years. Whether or not their lives were shortened by these many years of extra manual labor required to do by hand what electricity with the modern system of handling water is able to do, we will never know. With these modern conveniences the entire family was greatly benefited, but especially was Mother, and it is doubtful there has ever been a person more grateful than she.
Even with these new conveniences she was far from having those she would have today were she to be presently living. She was never in a home with central heating. The bedrooms, both downstairs and upstairs were still unheated in the winter time, and certainly there was no air conditioning in the summer time. We had by then advanced to a Maytag electric conventional, also known as a wringer type washing machine. In the summer time it was used on the back porch which had a screen on the open north side. The east and west ends of the porch had been closed in. During colder weather the washing machine was stored on the porch, but was rolled into the kitchen where the washing was done. No more heating of water on the range in the old boiler. At first it was concluded that the used wash water could be pumped down the sink and into the septic tank. It was later learned that such water with soap in it would affect the bacteria and in order to keep the septic tank in good condition, most of the wash water was still carried out of the house into the yard manually.
Mother never lived to enjoy an automatic washer in her home nor a clothes dryer. To be able to put soiled clothes in a washer and twenty minutes later take them out and put them in a dryer for another twenty minutes was probably not even a dream to her. Television also was a thing of the future. Not in her lifetime did she ever have an opportunity of seeing a TV even in black and white, let alone our modern day color.
HYRUM SWIMS BY NIGHT
A year or two prior to the above modernizing, brother Hyrum had an interesting experience - - probably as interesting to the folk. During the warm, summer weather it was quite customary for us boys to go to the big canal a couple hundred yards across the road to the south for a swim. This was back in the days when it was not considered unsafe to swim in canal water. During this particular summer, Hyrum with Alma and oft times friends, had been. doing quite a lot of swimming. Hyrum, as a kid, had been of a flighty temperament and occasionally walked in his sleep. On one particular night he apparently dreamed that he was swimming, at least so we judge from what transpired.
During the early morning hours Mother and Dad heard a knock on their bedroom window, which was on the ground floor in the southeast corner of the house. It was Hyrum who had knocked in order to awaken them so they could unlock the screen door. It was normal during warm summer weather to leave the main doors to the house open, but lock the screen doors so no one could get in, thus letting the cooler night air circulate thru the house.
Mother went to the window after hearing the knocking, and to her surprise there was her son Hyrum. She knew he had gone to bed the evening before in his room upstairs - - the middle room with windows facing the east. In letting him in she found him dressed only in his shorts, for in warm summer weather all excess clothing was removed, especially by the boys upstairs, for those rooms remained warm well into the night. When asked how he had gotten outside, he answered that he didn't remember. Upon investigating they found the screen over his open window had been broken off on the bottom and that his shin bones were skinned and he had a scratch or two on his body.
The only conclusion they could come to was that Hyrum apparently had been dreaming that he was swimming and he dove head first thru the open window, breaking the screen, alighting some twelve or more feet below on the ground in the midst of a rose bush. When he landed, he reported he felt cold and reached for the bedding to pull upon him, and found nothing but bushes and grass as he was awakening. Other than the few scratches he was unhurt.
A miracle if there ever was one! Had he not been asleep it would very possibly have been an entirely different story. One would hardly dare jump while awake, let alone dive head-first from that distance above the ground.
DAD'S HEALTH A CONCERN
During the latter part of 1931 and the year of 1932, the family had the concern of Dad not being well. His condition became quite critical during a several month period, for he was having difficulty with his stomach to the point that he became confined to the house a goodly portion of the time. Fred was on his mission and the expense of keeping him out became a worry which probably contributed to Dad's trouble. The local doctors didn't seem to assist a great deal, and it was finally decided that he would have to go to a specialist in Salt Lake.
Our bishop, David I. Garner, had been in close touch with the family and arrangements were made by the local doctors for an appointment in Salt Lake. Bishop Garner insisted that he take his car. I for some reason, was asked to go along. Dad spent several day's of exploratory tests to discover what the trouble was. The final tests showed that he was lacking a certain acid in his stomach. The doctors stated that treatment at home could be as effective as though he stayed in Salt Lake, so a couple days later we all returned to Rupert. His recovery was slow, in fact for some time it didn't look as though he would recover.
Fred was nearing the completion of his mission and Dad's health became so critical that he with the family, decided that it would be well to have Fred return home. Bishop Garner telephoned Fred's mission president, Elias Woodruff, to see if permission could be granted for Fred to return home so he would be able to see Dad while he was yet alive. This permission was granted and Fred returned.
It became a pleasant thing to all of us to have Dad eventually improve, and over a period of months return to his normal health.
As related earlier, in 1924 brother Roy and Myrtle Hendricks were married. They had the misfortune of losing two of their babies at birth, plus if I remember correctly, a still-born infant before the births of the other two. On May 6th of 1932 Myrtle passed away having never recovered from the birth of the last baby. Myrtle was buried in the Rupert cemetery on the 9th of May, and Roy was invited by the folk to return to their home to live. He continued to work with the irrigation district where he had been employed for a couple years.
CUPID TAKES TOLL DURING MID THIRTIES
As in the course of most human families, the children mature to a point where the home starts breaking up. This became the lot of the Blacker home and believe it or not, young Alma got things started. Though he was way down near mid-way thru the family roster, he and Edith Jensen were married in April of 1933. On the 6th of September 1934, a still younger brother Hyrum, was married to Jessie Carter Peart. Just over three weeks later, oldest brother Roy and Hilda Widdison, this being on the 27th of September 1934, were married. On the 14th of November of 1935, brother Fred and Elva Nisbet were married. I Loyn, and Mabel Brown were married on the 9th of October 1936, and on the 19th of November 1937 sister Afton and Horace Hatch were married. In five and one-half years the folk endured six weddings, not bad for any set of parents.
The years just prior to these weddings and during these years were interesting ones at Dad's and Mother's home. To pinpoint it to the years of 1931 thru 1935 there were four or five of us courting. Most of us of this group had our own Model T or Model A or another make car. Very often, on a Sunday, two, three or four of us would drive in the yard from Sunday School for dinner at home. How Mother was able to arrange her table to accommodate all of us I'll never know. We were all welcome to take our girl friends or boy friends home, in fact both Dad and Mother felt honored that their young folk chose to bring their friends there. Keep in mind that we were then milking by hand some twelve to fifteen cows, and if some of us spent the Sunday afternoon elsewhere it was common practice for the most of us to assemble at home in time for milking. Almost without exception we would be off to church either in our own ward or in the ward of our girl friends. These were interesting and lovely years in our home.
After this portion of the family had left home, I am sure the situation was much the same with the younger members of the family. I'm sure every one of us children were proud to take our friends to the home of our parents, and had confidence our friends would be made welcome and treated with respect. This was true not only of the friends we may have been courting, but even before when we younger and took our boy friends or girls friends of our own sex. This is exemplified by a conversation I had with a friend of the family as he and I were sitting in the Burley Genealogical Library reading microfilm. As part of our conversation Morris Baker stated and I shall use his exact words as near as I can remember them. He said, "Your brother Fred and I were great friends as kids and he often came to my home. Probably more often I went to his home, and let me tell you, I never went into his home but that it was in order. Nothing seemed out of place or disorderly despite the fact that your mother had a large family. She always appealed to me to be a wonderful housekeeper." We, her children, can all confirm what Morris observed.
COOKING AT OUR HOUSE SUPREME
Due to the fact that Mother's health was generally good - - her general condition had improved from her hard years of the early twenties - - and the fact that she had a large family, she was assured that she would never die of loneliness. There was nearly always a group to any of her meals. Examples were given above, but this has been the case thru the years. Ten, twelve, fourteen to a Sunday dinner was nothing new to Mother. Preparations were made for Sunday dinners the day before which made it possible for Mother to attend Sunday School with the rest of us. With a limited amount of preparation with her as the central figure, but usually with a lot of voluntary help, the table was spread with exceptionally good-tasting, nourishing food fit for a king. Mother was a cook supreme. We don't claim she was the only good cook, but one would have to go a long way to find a better one. No one made better home-made bread, better pies - - she had a certain knack for pie crusts - - luscious flaky crusts with deep filling. Her mashed potatoes, the gravy, her roasts - - you name it and it was tops. She was always a great one to 'put up' fruits of all kinds to store for another day. It was not a common thing for one to find empty shelves in her cupboards and in the cellar. One thousand to twelve hundred quarts on her pantry and cellar shelves of fruits, pickles, vegetables etc., was a standing supply. Naturally after a winter's use the shelves needed replenishing to a degree, but never did I see the time when there was danger of the shelves becoming totally bare.
There was very little wasting of food in our parent's home. They were frugal but no one could ever say they were 'tight' or reluctant to share. Food was never thrown away. Were there some scraps left over which couldn't be used for a later meal they were fed to the dog when we had one, the cats and the pigs. We were taught to take on our plates what we felt we could eat and we were allowed all we could eat but we learned early that our plates were to be cleaned up by the end of the meal. This lesson was so impressed upon us that now as we eat at a table, whether it be in public or at home, it becomes disturbing to see anyone whether it be children or adults, leave good food on their plates which has to be thrown away. Hard times teach some very important lessons.
MOTHER APPOINTED RELIEF SOCIETY PRESIDENT
Just when Mother was appointed Relief Society president of the Rupert 2nd Ward I do not recall, but it must have been as early as 1933. The accepting of this position proved to be one of Mother's great decisions, for by nature, she felt she was being asked to do something which was impossible for her. As earlier related, she was an unusually retiring person when it came to meeting the public. Now to preside over the important organization such as a ward Relief Society, she felt was beyond her ability. She had always taught us kids that we work where we are called, and so she accepted the position. She called two other ladies as her counselors who were about as timid as she, but she wanted Sister Marie Hubsmith and Sister Lulu Whiting as counselors, for she felt she could work with them and they would be understanding with her. By all standards of comparison, this Relief Society presidency proved to be very capable and accomplished a great deal during their tenure of office which lasted for several years.
In giving tribute to Mother at her funeral services several years later, Bishop Garner eulogized her as being one of the finest Relief Society presidents any bishop could ever hope to work with.
While Mother was president it became necessary that the Minidoka Stake build a stake house. The Rupert 2nd Ward had outgrown the white frame church building which stood on the corner across from the county court house to the northeast for a goodly number of years. The new plans were that a stake house would be erected on that spot and be shared by the Rupert 2nd Ward, so when time arrived for construction, of necessity, it required the moving the old building. During the time the stake house was being built which took a few years, the 2nd Ward met in the Pioneer school house four miles west of Rupert and one mile north. This was not an ideal situation for Relief Society work, for they didn't have their own Relief Society room, nor storage for their quilts or others items which go to make up the work of Relief Societies. There was no choice and things were expected to be done regardless of circumstances.
Mother had the full support of Dad in her calling. Unfortunately, she never learned to drive a car, and where ever she went she had others take her, and as a general rule it was Dad. She was regular and prompt with her meetings. On occasion when Dad may not have gotten home in time to take her, she would become so worried about going that she would start walking the three miles she had to go, if it were to town, with the assurance that she would be picked up by a passing neighbor. I think I would be safe in saying that at no such time, did she ever get far from home before someone came to her rescue. She was most faithful in her assignment and the Lord made her equal to it.
Christmas has always been a big day in our home. While we older ones were yet young and living in Star Valley, we always had a large Christmas tree with real candles which were lighted on Christmas Eve. This was long before we ever saw or dreamed of electric Christmas tree lights. During the hard financial years of the early twenties, a Christmas tree would have had to have been purchased, for we were in Rupert and there were no such trees growing anywhere close by. Those hard years denied us a Christmas tree, so colored tissue paper, popcorn strung on strings, were our Christmas decorations. Our stockings were hung from a stick, often a broom stick spanning the back of two chairs.
Dad's and Mother's family about 1937. Back row left to right: Afton, Fred, Hyrum, Alma, Loyn, Merintha. Middle left to right: Leroy, Marie, Dad, Mother, George with Earl and Verl kneeling in front.
During the years of which we are now discussing, the family's financial condition improved to the point where some luxuries such as a Christmas tree could be afforded, and Christmas became a lovely thing in our home. Certainly the extent of gift giving was based on the fact of our numbers, and while costs of gifts were always modest, the family always had a wonderful time placing gifts under the tree a few days prior to Christmas. Gayly wrapped gifts could not be contained immediately under the tree, but they were literally stacked around the tree up two and three feet high. With each of us giving a gift to each family member it was not difficult to see that the total would run into dozens of separate packages.
The family always left the opening of Christmas gifts until Christmas morning, and what a time we kids had, particularly the younger of us, say from six to twelve years of age, during the night of Christmas Eve. Sleep was a difficult thing. Sneaking down the stairs and peeking in was quite occasionally done, just to see if Santa C1aus had come and we were never disappointed, even during the 'hard years' as some of us label them.
The folks always played an important part in our Christmas planning and our Christmas Day. While Dad was not a great hand to work with the details, he always saw that arrangements and materials were available. Mother delved into the small details required for the occasion. Each one of us would confide in Mother as we asked, "What do you think I should get for so and so?" or "What do you think so and so needs that I can afford?" She played detective for each of us, for when we were inquiring about others she would either slyly inquire of each of our wants so she would be the better prepared to answer the same question when another would ask about our needs. Mother enjoyed helping us. She would always caution, "Now be careful with your money and don't spend more than you can afford." Always she would say, and she would mean it, "Now don't you spend anything on me, save it for yourself." She was the most unselfish person I have ever known and it was genuine. She was sincere when she suggested such a thing as going without herself, in order to let another member of the family have what we wanted. This is not meant as a reflection on others, for many times others of the family were not aware that it may have been Mother's share that was being given to them. With all this, you can be assured every member of the family was most considerate of Mother, and very often the children would prefer taking less to insist that Mother was not overlooked. I think no mother had the love and respect of her children more than our mother.
The corral and loafing shed were built during the summer of 1937. It was 24 feet by 144 feet. The new corral setup was divided into three. The center and larger section was for fifteen to twenty head of cows. The corral on the extreme right was for young heifers and one on the left not seen, for horses.
The new barn completed in 1938. It is located about where the old barn was, centering about the horse section of the old barn.
THOSE OCCASIONAL VISITS TO OUR OWN HOMES
After we children had married and had homes of our own we always looked forward to a visit from Mother and Dad. In our own instance we had the pleasure of having them visit us for perhaps only overnight, and on an occasion or two for a couple of days. These visits occurred when we were living in Almy and Evanston, Wyoming and also a few times while in Ontario, Oregon.
Their visits were never long enough. When we were living in Almy and Evanston they were yet on the farm, and naturally they felt they had to get back to assist in taking care of things. After we moved to Ontario they were living in town, and it was not uncommon to have them stay for a couple nights. Fred and Elva were in Ontario also, so it took a little longer for the folk to complete a pleasant visit. Often on such visits we would sit up long after midnight talking and we hated to see the time pass to bring their visit to a close.
BUILDING THE LOAFING SHED AND BARN ON THE FARM
Mabel and I spent two summers on the farm with the folk after we were married, for Dad had work he wanted done. The other members of the family who were yet at home - - this was during the summers of 1937 and 1938 - - were so busy with their regular farm work that they didn't have the time to do it. Dad asked if we would like to come home and assist with the building of a loafing shed for the cows the first summer, and with the building of the big barn the second summer. I was teaching during the regular school months, but welcomed employment during the summer so as to be able to afford to go back to teaching school the next nine months. Dad propositioned us saying he wanted to hire us and that if we were unable to come he would need hire someone else.
With the help of others of the family we completed the 144 ft. by 24 ft. open shed the first summer, and the second summer the barn was completed, both of which added greatly to the farm. It was a wonderful experience for us and we learned to appreciate Dad and Mother more than ever before.
THE FOLK PLAN TO RETIRE
About four years after the above building program - - in the fall of 1942 to be exact - - Dad and Mother came to visit us in our home in Evanston, and this time they had another proposition to make. We were asked if we would be interested in returning to the farm and buying their cows and renting the farm for they felt they were getting to the point where the farm was more than they could keep up with.
Within a few week's time our decision had been made, and my resignation had been reluctantly accepted by school officials, and I was up in Rupert assisting with the harvest of their beet crop. For two or three weeks Mabel remained in Evanston with the three children until we could make the necessary arrangements to make the move. The urgency of the season required that crops be gotten out, and then we would have more time to make our move. Grandma Brown, Mabel's mother, purchased our home which we had started buying.
The Rupert home, 1001 H Street, into which the folk moved in December of 1942. This yard became one of the beauty spots in Rupert because of its flowers and garden.
There were occasional high spots onto which Dad would throw water to keep the ground moist. Normally Dad would have his hat on, but this scene is quite characteristic of him in his yard.
A HOME IN RUPERT PURCHASED
Dad and Mother purchased a home at 1001 H Street in Rupert and made arrangements to move from the farm the same day we arrived from Evanston with our furniture. Thus their town life started. This was the first time Dad had lived in town since he was a baby in Wales, and Mother had not been a town dweller since her marriage in 1903.
We were all happy to see the folk move to town for now they would have more time to relax and would be away from the daily concerns of farm life. Most of their family who had married were living near Rupert, and so the folk were in close proximity to them and the grandchildren. George, Earl, Verl and Marie were still living at home, so especially Mother still had considerable house work. The boys had finished school and George obtained work in town. The twins spent most of their time working with various farms, including the old home farm on which we were then living. Dad of course, found all he wanted to do with the yard work at their new home.
A couple years prior to their moving to town, the family became one smaller again by Merintha leaving home thru the not uncommon routine of marriage. She and Carl Garner were married on the 4th of December 1940. This left the three boys and and one girl at home as mentioned in the previous paragraph.
WORLD WAR II HITS THE FAMILY
The folk had been rather fortunate in their having a large family of boys and not having a period of war time affect them. While they started having their family long before World War I, none of us boys were old enough to be a effected by that conflict. Thru the next twenty odd years there was a relative period of peace which allowed time to pass that we older boys became too old for active combat duty, even tho we eventually had to register, however we were never called. The younger of us older six such as Alma and Hyrum were married with families, and so were never required to get into the armed forces.
The family spanned too long a period to be so fortunate that the younger boys could also miss any military service. George's physical condition prevented his going, and Earl and Verl were too young to be called to active duty until the occupational forces went into Japan. Actually Earl was the only one who got into the army and went over seas to Japan. Verl was called and went into basic training, but it was unfortunate that he was ever permitted to get that far, for his health condition was not such that he should have been considered. At that particular time many young men who were not physically fit had to report for duty. He had a complete physical breakdown while in basic training, and spent considerable time in the army hospital, and was then subsequently released. Due to this experience his health condition has not been the same. Earl spent several months in Japan in the Occupational Forces as indicated.
Naturally there was considerable concern on the part of the folk when Earl and Verl were called, especially when they knew Verl's condition. It was not that they were unpatriotic in the least, but they were well aware that any war is a terrible thing and that it has always been so useless. However, World War II was thrust upon this country and it was a matter of self defense.
In December of 1945 we left the farm and went into the furniture business with brother Fred in Ontario, Oregon. Brother Hyrum bought our cows and machinery and moved on the farm which of course still belonged to Dad and Mother. Hyrum remained on the farm for two years, and following him Earl and Margene took the farm over where they have remained to the present.
1945 A MARRYING YEAR
The folk had another big marrying year in 1945 for they lost three of their children by that route. Earl married Margene Hunsaker in April of that year. George and Louise Hammer were married in July, and Marie and Derald Green were married in November. Brother Verl was the only remaining of the children who hadn't married. He married Doris Evans Moon in November of 1961, but this was not until long after Mother had passed away and four years after Dad passed away.
DAD APPOINTED PROBATE JUDGE
Following the unexpected death of Probate Judge Boyer, Dad was approached by the Minidoka County Commissioners to see if he would accept an appointment to serve the balance of Judge Boyer's term. After a few days deliberation on his and Mother's part, they decided that he would accept the offer, and so on September 11, 1944 he was officially appointed to that office. He had considered the appointment carefully and called to their attention the fact that he felt unqualified because he had no experience which would relate to such an office. They advised him that they felt he was qualified because of his integrity and esteem held of him by those who knew him. It was with reluctance and a sense of inadequacy that he started serving and he served for more than two years.
Work on the farm is not the only strenuous type of work, and due to the fact that he took this position seriously, the weight of his responsibility was with him day and night. Decisions had to be made, and though in all instances, his decisions were based on what he felt was fair and just and that would be for the welfare of the individuals concerned, the final decisions he made did not always come easy. After all, he and Mother had moved to town to be able to relax. To be sufficiently free that they could come and go as they felt they desired, and this position actually tied them down, so they were unable to do what they always wished. The salary he received, while helpful, was not essential to the modest type living they were accustomed to. When it came time for election to a new term he chose not to seek the position. The Republican party wanted him to run for the office, for those with whom he worked were highly satisfied with the way he conducted the office. However, he declined and so in January of 1946 he turned the office over to the newly elected probate judge, Mr. Jake Wall, and so ended Dad's political career.
Will and Ella Blacker, Mother and Dad while on their trip to the east coast and the south in late winter and early spring of 1947.
TWO MONTHS OF TRAVEL
One year later, on the 31st of January 1947, Dad and Mother left Rupert by train for a trip to the eastern part of the United States. Dad's brother Uncle Will and Aunt Ella, had been in the East visiting with one of their children and had written and asked the folk to meet them back there, which they did in Boston, Massachusetts.
Uncle Will and Aunt Ella met them at the depot in Boston and thus commenced their tour of many points of interest in that part of the country. Such places as the Bunker Hill monument and the battle ship Maine, the ship Old Iron Sides, in Boston Harbor. Their early travels took them from Boston into the state of Maine and into the state of Vermont, and the state of New York and down to Plymouth Rock. From Massachusetts they traveled down thru Rhode Island and into Connecticut and into the city of New York.
Uncle Will had his car and the four of them traveled as they wished and when they wished. One of the days they spent in the city of New York they hired a man to drive their car for them and visited the main spots of interest in that city. It was interesting to me to learn that while in New York City, they stopped at the Herald Square Hotel, the same hotel that I spent a couple days in, nineteen years before while on my way to my mission in England.
From New York they went thru New Jersey and into Pennsylvania, where they spent two or three days with their cousin Albert Lewis and family who lived in Cannonsburg. From here they went to Pittsburgh and down to Gettysburg where they spent the night. The folk talked of their visit to the Lincoln Museum and the room in which President Lincoln slept. They saw the table at which President Lincoln reportedly wrote his Gettysburg Address. They also visited the cemetery he delivered this famous address in.
From Gettysburg they drove down to Baltimore, Maryland, and the next day on down to Washington D. C. They drove around the White House and visited the Capitol Building and the Arlington National Cemetery and other historical places of interest in and near the city. I must mention the fact that they visited the senate chamber and the house of representatives while in the capitol building. They went to the White House and visited the East Room, the Green room, the Blue room, and lastly the Red room all of which were most beautiful. I make mention particularly of the National Gallery of Art which they visited. Dad reported that this building, costing over fifteen million dollars, was the most beautiful and most elaborate building he had ever seen, in fact, to use his words, "Beautiful beyond description."
From Washington D. C. where they stayed two days, they drove to Mount Vernon, Virginia and visited the historical sites pertaining to George and Martha Washington, and as they proceeded, also to historical sites of the Civil War period. From Virginia they drove into North Carolina, visiting places of interest and thence into South Carolina, and on down to Savannah, Georgia and down to Jacksonville, Florida.
It is almost a certainty that Mother did not realize that they were traveling in the very area her grandfather Daniel B. Hunt had lived, and served in the army. Mother's visit in this area would have been complete had she been aware that she was traveling where he had been 130 years earlier.
Several days were spent in Florida enjoying the sights of the miles upon miles of coastal beach, and the many beautiful parks and gardens. It was here they saw the first palm and orange trees they had ever seen. They marveled at the beautiful, homes and gardens. They visited the city of St. Augustine and on down the coast to Miami. They went to the southern point of Florida and from thence up the west coast to Tampa and Tallahassee. From Florida they crossed into Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. They drove into Lockhart, where Uncle Will's and Aunt Ella's son, Kem and family were living. While visiting Kem, they drove to San Antonio and visited the site of the Alamo. Kem had his career in the service and was near San Antonio. They traveled to Iowa where Aunt Ella had an aunt living. It was here that word caught up to them of the death of Alma's and Edith's baby, Teddie. They traveled on to Omaha, Nebraska were Dad and Mother took the train for home.
I am not sure of the exact date of their arrival in Rupert, but it was about the twenty-eighth of March. Fortunately they were about thru with their trip when they received word of A1ma's and Edith's sorrow. It has often been mentioned by the balance of the family that it was a wonderful, thing that Dad and Mother took the trip the year they did. It proved to be the lest chance Mother would have for it was about the fifth or sixth of October of that year that, she left her home so reluctantly to go to the hospital for an operation. This was not to have been serious, but it proved to be for she never returned alive to the home she loved so dearly, even tho she had lived in it only five years, and to the family that meant more to her than all else in the world.
CHILDREN OF JOHN AND MARTHA HUNT WILKES
Left to right: Noen, Lottie Barker, Mat Walker, Hettie Blacker, Mabel Brown and Ed. Lola Holbrook was not present. Picture taken at family reunion in Fairview, Wyoming about 1946.
A SAD DAY INDEED, OCTOBER 12, 1947
On that sad and fateful 12th of October 1947 Mother passed away at the Rupert hospital and her body was taken to the Walk Mortuary just across the street. The following children in the order of age were left to mourn her passing: LeRoy, living with his family one mile west of Rupert. I, Loyn, with my family and Fred with his family both in Ontario, Oregon. Alma with his family in the Emerson district west of Heyburn, Idaho. Hyrum with his family on the family farm west of Rupert. Afton, with her family living three miles west and two miles north of Rupert. George and family living in Rupert. Merintha and her family on their farm two miles west and one mile north of Rupert. Earl and family in Rupert. Verl yet at home. Marie, at the time not well, with her family temporarily at Dad's and Mother's home. Naturally our father, Dad, had as much reason or more than any of us to mourn the loss of his life's companion.
The loss of a mother is a seeming tragedy in anyone's life for certainly no one has a better friend. Fortunately her children were all of adult age and all but Verl were married and had plans for homes of their own. Mother had a special concern for Verl whose health was not the best and among her final words were, "Take care of Verl."
Fred and I and our families were in the furniture and appliance business in Ontario, Oregon and were operating two stores. Fred and I had been to meetings pertaining to a stake conference in Weiser, Idaho on a Saturday evening. We had been back to our respective homes but a couple hours when the phone rang early Sunday morning. Due to the lack of experienced help to keep both stores open, we asked Mrs. Bertha White, an employee, to keep the furniture store open, but it was necessary to keep the appliance store locked up until after our return from the funeral services.
RETURNING TO A HOME WITHOUT MOTHER
It was nearly noon Sunday morning before we were able to get our affairs in order so we could leave for Rupert. Uncle Arch, John and Lucille who had been visiting, cut their visit short so the three cars left Ontario for Rupert. It was late in the afternoon, in fact darkness was approaching when we drove up to Dad's and Mother's home where we met the family for the first time following Mother's passing. Naturally sadness reigned, and though our family has never been boisterous and jubilant at family gatherings, this meeting was as though the shadows of a dark cloud had passed to cut off the sunshine, and why shouldn't it have been thus? Mother was not there to greet us as she had always been, and though we were men, tears were wont to make their appearance despite one's will to restrain them as we embraced Dad and brothers and sisters. We knew the emotions of that moment would not change things, but as a valve releasing high pressure, tears brought relief to aching hearts.
MOTHER'S UNQUESTIONED WISH NOT DENIED
Monday morning a few of us family members went to the Walk Mortuary to select a casket for Mother and arranged that on the following day, the day before her burial, her body would be returned to her home. We knew this was as Mother would have liked it so before noon Tuesday, she in her casket was placed in the east end of the living room and the casket lid was then opened. The 'sting' of her passing had in part passed, for we had to now realize it was real. Never in this life will I forget that moment as we walked to the open casket and looked in to see that beautiful mother resting serenely and peacefully in her temple clothing. Words cannot describe, nor do I have the ability to relate the feelings of one who looks for the first time on the remains of a loving mother. Many of you who read this may have had such an experience and you who haven't will have to wait until such an event comes. To any family such occasions shrouds the immediate future with dark clouds, which at first seem unpenetrable, but the thought that death was and is the end was foreign to Mother, for she taught her family to believe in the reality of life after this. That death was "a sleep from which no one returns" was never acceptable to her. She believed just as assuredly as she lived, that one's passing from mortality was but a step toward immortality which was made possible by the Savior of humankind.
So as Mother was brought into the home that Tuesday morning, those seeming dark shadows were soon penetrated. The assurance that Mother had lived a life in which, to us her children and husband, there was no doubt but that she had qualified herself for a future far more glorious than what she enjoyed here. Never before had death come within our immediate family that any of us could remember, other than Dad whose memories could go back to the laying away their little son Theodore, over forty years before. Of us children only Roy was then living, and he was so young he would have been unable to remember. Few families had had the privilege of remaining together so long without a break, and as it must come to all families, there is a parting to be anticipated and so it arrived in our family.
FRIENDS ALMOST WITHOUT NUMBER
Mother had many friends, and all afternoon on that Tuesday and again Wednesday prior to her funeral services at two o'clock, folk were almost constantly coming and leaving.
Mother had the following brothers and sisters still alive in the order of their age, Aunt Mat Walker, Uncle Ed Wilkes, Uncle Noen Wilkes, Aunt Lola Holbrook, and Aunt Mabel Brown, all of whom were from out of town. They with other members of their families were at the home prior to the funeral. Of Dad's family, his brothers and sisters yet living included Aunt Maria Gardner, Uncle Will Blacker, Aunt Merintha Williams, and Aunt Fannie Cazier, who, with their families were likewise present.
MOTHER'S FUNERAL SERVICE
The funeral services were held Wednesday afternoon at two o'clock on October 15th in the stake house which also served as the regular meeting place for the Rupert 2nd Ward of which the folk were members. Brother Roy was bishop of the ward, but due to the fact that it was Mother's services, his first counselor Brother Vao Schofield conducted. There was a large crowd in attendance both from the families involved as well as friends, and seating arrangements had to be prepared well back into the cultural hall.
The regular family prayer was offered prior to the closing of the casket lid at the home, and we each, with few dry eyes and a lump in our throats, bid goodbye to the sweetest mother in all the world by a kiss on her forehead.
The funeral services were opened with the regular organ prelude music, and the opening prayer was offered by Mother's nephew, Frank Walker of Jerome, Idaho.
A duet, "Beautiful Home" was sung by Brother and Sister George Catmull who were accompanied by Zilla Humphries.
Dad's nephew, Delos Gardner, a member of the Star Valley stake presidency from Afton, Wyoming was asked by the family to read Mother's obituary and following which he offered a few remarks.
Mother's brother-in-law, Lorain Brown, was the second speaker who was followed by Brother David I. Garner, who for several years had been Mother's bishop, and who had worked so closely with her due to the fact that he was bishop and she was the Relief Society president. One thought which remains consoling to us as a family to this day, was given wherein he said, "If there is anything to a hereafter, what can be done on earth to attain it if Sister Blacker has not attained it?"
Following Bishop Garner's remarks was a vocal solo by Frank Watson, "Going Home" and he was accompanied by Zilla Humphries.
The concluding speaker was President J. Melvin Toone, president of the Minidoka Stake. It is not the purpose of this story to glorify Mother beyond her desserts, but where she is deserving it seems not out of place on our part to quote direct comments. Among other things, President Toone stated, "I come here with gratitude in my heart for the knowledge that I have of the greatness of this woman and her husband. I want these good people who have spoken so well of her and so eloquently from where she used to live, to know that she lived just that here, and I don't know a family, a man and a woman, that is more highly respected among all classes of people in our community than Brother and Sister Blacker. I know of none. We speak of woman as the weaker sex. We stand here today and have had before us evidence of her greatness."
The closing hymn of the service was a number rendered by the choir of which she had been a member, "Rest Now From Care and Sorrow", and the closing prayer was offered by Mother's cousin, Ernest Allred from St. Charles, Idaho.
Mother's burial in the Rupert Cemetery.
TO HER FINAL RESTING PLACE
A long motor caravan traveled to the Rupert cemetery where the family and friends paid their last respect to a loved one who was to be buried, that a noble soul's body might 'return to dust' as the Lord had instructed his children at the commencement. There remained no question in any of our minds but that Mother, temporarily separated from her mortal tabernacle, was yet alive, and had been transfered to the Spirit World where she would join others who had preceded her. Her little one, Theodore, who had preceded her over forty years before would certainly be awaiting his mother. Mother's parents and a brother and two sisters were there also, and a host of friends. She would have a welcome to her new surroundings. Certainly an acclamation from authorities for the life she had completed during her sojourn in mortality could well have been, "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter now into My joy."
Yes Mother had left us, and it was our turn to now experience a sorrow from the fact that she would no longer be physically present with us, but we knew she would not be far away, for her interests would still be with her husband and children who were left. Some day each of us will take our turn in joining her, and at this writing some nearly a quarter century later, Dad and brother, Hyrum, have left us, and in the due course of events it will not be long until we shall all join them.
OTHER'S LEGACY TO US HER CHILDREN AND CHILDREN'S CHILDREN
This brief history, including as a part of it the story of Mother's life, is not for the purpose of offering adulations to her for whom it will do no good. The intent is that we of this generation and of generations yet unborn will recall and learn of a dear one, and a great soul, who came into this world under real pioneering conditions. Though she lived to see and experience great technological changes during her lifetime, they were really but the beginning of what we, even in her children's generation, are enjoying. Her life was full or toil - - real manual toil - - she lived to see the horse and buggy outmoded by the automobile, and the kerosene lamp by the electric light. She experienced the steps from obtaining water for house use from the spring or ditch, to the hand pump and to modern plumbing. It was only in her later years that she enjoyed the luxury of what we once called 'running water' in the house. Only during her last four or five years did she have an electric range. She never had a freezer nor an automatic washing machine, nor an electric clothes dryer which we consider necessities. She lived just to the real commencement of an easier way of life, but it was not her lot to benefit from much of it.
Perhaps this is not all bad, for after all, it is not the mode of living that creates character. To the contrary, it seems that oft times the more primitive way had a way of developing real, deep character which would seem so difficult to gain with the modern way. Regardless of the influence of such surroundings on character, there is no question in the minds of us who knew Mother so well, but that with the benefit of, or in spite of it, she developed quality of character which will behoove any of us to equal.
As we now come to the close of this brief review of the life of Mother, it must be stated that some of the simple qualities in her life should serve as a precedent for each of us. She lived and died with less thought for self, and possessed an abnormal willingness to sacrifice for others, particularly for her husband, children, and grandchildren. The question might be asked, "Who has been the benefactor?" Such is difficult to answer. Certainly we with whom she lived are better today than we otherwise would have been had she not left her imprint upon our lives. Such qualities as unselfishness, patience, and goodness in its innumerable facets which she abundantly possessed, should have a way of brushing off onto those of us who have had our lives touched by this good woman to the extent that we must be the better for her mission with us. Yet, the real beneficence of her life to us will be thru our willingness to incorporate them into our lives. Her mission is over. She has done all she will be able to do for us and it becomes our sole responsibility to make her teachings effective.
It may seem unfair to her, but part of her reward in the eternities to come will come only thru the type of folk we become. She loved people everywhere. The hungry aroused her sympathy and no one knocked on her door for something to eat but that they were given the best she had and all they desired. She was never comfortable unless she knew everyone else around her was likewise comfortable. If she knew of anyone in need, she was particularly concerned about them and was quick to be of assistance.
There remains but one additional thought: All that we say relative to this wonderful mother will now neither increase nor decrease her real stature. Mother's life has been lived, and that which we say and write will be superfluous so far as her well being is concerned. On the other hand, those virtues which she possessed can serve as seeds to the lives of us her descendants, and will continue to from generation to generation. May the Lord bless the memory of the most wonderful mother to us her children.
Throughout Dad's married life he depended greatly on Mother and now that she was no longer in the home he became exceedingly lonely. As stated earlier it was just understood that Mother would live to be a widow. In general her health had been better than Dad's. While she was one never to complain even when she was not feeling well, she waited on Dad probably more than needful.
Of his loneliness he often told us, "You will never know until you are called upon to be alone." We his children attempted to convince him that now that he was alone he would have to visit more often in one home and then the next of his children, but this it seemed he could not do. He wanted to be home more than any place in the world and his children's homes were poor substitutes. We realized his condition and did all we could to assist him to pass the time away. Those living in and near Rupert visited his home very often and offered assistance, and we who were away from Rupert kept in touch with him, but he couldn't easily reciprocate. Verl was in the home but much the same as the rest of us, was not so close to Dad as he had been to Mother.
To make matters worse for Dad, Mother's passing was in the late fall of the year and with winter coming shortly after, Dad had to be confined to the house. Had he been able to pass his time in the garden, or if he were yet in his old position of probate judge, conditions would have been much easier for him, but these means for activity were of the past. While Dad was always interested in reading he now found it difficult to keep his mind it, and anyway, one cannot spend all his time reading.
The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were difficult for him, for they followed so closely his loss of Mother. On these occasions he had depended on Mother to take care of the dinners and gifts for Christmas. Dad had never been handy around the house. I never saw him assist with the preparing a meal. Occasionally he would assist with the dishes, but before they moved to town even this was a rare thing. After moving to town he did considerable assisting with the dishes. To prepare his own meals for him and Verl - - Verl was working - - was an entirely new experience for him. Many men folk adjust themselves to such new situations, but this Dad had difficulty doing.
A NEW COMPANION
Dad visited us a time or two in Ontario, and on a visit late the next spring or early summer he apparently came to purposely advise us that he had seriously been considering remarrying. We were not so naive as to suspect that he was asking our opinion as to whether it would be acceptable to us, but rather there was no question but that it was a statement of intent. He did ask if we would object to his taking such a step and our answer was that it was a matter that he alone would have to make a decision on. He told us that he had visited Aunt Luella, the widow of Mother's brother - - Johnnie Wilkes who died in 1905. Aunt Luella was a good woman and had been a widow for well over forty years. She had consented to his proposal. We knew that this is what Dad wanted, and we realized that it would bring relief to his almost insurmountable problem of loneliness. Our feelings were mixed, for we knew it would be difficult for Mother to accept. She loved Dad with all her heart and was most emphatically a one-man woman. She would never be the type woman who would remarry were she the one who might have been left alone. Perhaps it was or maybe was not to her credit to have been jealous of her husband. I can remember when but a very young boy of a period of time when this was demonstrated. Undoubtedly there was little or no genuine cause for it. So when Dad raised the question my thoughts went to Mother.
Dad and Aunt Luella were married in the Idaho Falls Temple for time only on the 22nd of June 1948. Both Dad and Aunt Luella had been sealed to their respective companions at the time of their original marriages. Aunt Luella had been in the grocery business for many years in Pocatello, but had reached the age when she was intending to retire if, she had not already retired.
Their plans were that they would live in Dad's home in Rupert. It was not long after this that Verl moved to an apartment despite the fact that both Dad and Aunt Luella encouraged him to retain his home with them. Plans had made event before they were married, to remodel the home. The remodeling was not extensive, however new closets were built in the master bedroom, the bath room was refurbished from floor to ceiling, and an oil central heating plant was installed. The furniture and appliances were changed, an automatic washer and dryer installed, and new drapes were put up. Mother's better bedroom suite was put in the second bedroom, and a new bedroom suite put in the master bedroom.
In other words the old home was not the same. Wall to wall carpeting was installed in the living room and hall, and the five year old carpet installed in the bedrooms. Dad reported that it was agreed between them that Aunt Luella would take care of the expense of furnishing the house, and he taking care of the expense of the permanent changes to the house such as the heating system, and the concrete driveway, and repairs to the garage.
In the midst of this refurnishing project, Dad and Aunt Luella came to visit us who were living in Ontario, and purchased from us the appliances and furniture. As stated, Aunt Luella bought these items from her own bank account.
It is not the intent of this account to infer there was any criticism from any of the family as to what was transpiring back home. We all loved Aunt Luella and welcomed her into the family wholeheartedly. With the sharing of the expense it was possible for them to fix the home up as Mother would liked to have done had they felt they could have afforded it. Aunt Luella at no time made us feel that she was purposely changing the home to erase resemblance to the way Mother had it. She respected Mother and always spoke highly of her, which we as members of the family appreciated. The fact was that it was time for an updating of the home, and between the two of them they could afford it. We were happy for them to be able to do so.
So far as can be determined all living descendants of Thomas and Hettie Blacker were present excepting Kay and Judy Blacker, daughters of deceased son Hyrum and Jessie Blacker. Also present were Uncle Arch Nisbet and members of his family who were living in Rupert.
THE ENIGMA OF A DREAM
On Dad's and Aunt Luella's first visit to our home, which was also their furniture and appliance buying visit, they stayed with us for the night. Usually when Dad and Mother came to Ontario they stayed with us one night and with Fred and Elva the next, probably in order to make the both families feel there was no favoritism. This same arrangement could very well have been the case with this visit. Of this I am not at all sure. Nevertheless the night they stayed at our home, as we had always done, our bedroom was turned to them. We slept in one of the other bedrooms, for we had ample room in our house to 'bed down' at least one set of visitors without overly crowding our own family.
It was this night that I saw Mother. To be conservative I am going to call it a dream, but it seemed plainer than a dream. If it were a dream it was an exceedingly short one for there was nothing more to it than an appearance. At the foot of the bed Mother was standing. Due to her height, I could detect that she was not standing on the floor, however I could not see her feet for they were hidden by the foot of the bed. She did not look at me, nor did she seem aware that I was there. She seemed to be looking beyond the room and appeared to be in the act of walking past the bed, but during the brief period I saw her there was no movement of the body. She was dressed in white. The upper part of her dress in the front and around the collar was trimmed with lace. Her dress collar was high and close about her throat. The dress was long and reached below the bed but did not appear that it would reach the floor. Her hair was very neatly done but it appeared that she had a full head of hair. It was not cut as she wore it during the later years of her life, nor was it in a bob at the top back part of her head as she used to wear it during our younger years. There was a fullness to her head of hair, but it was well proportioned and was dark, not containing the gray she had when she was last seen. She was much younger looking than when we last saw her, and was without wrinkles in her face, but it was Mother. There was no question about that, for I have seen Mother too many times not to recognize her.
Her appearance brought a sadness to me which feeling I still retain to this day. This may be strange to say of a son seeing his mother months after her passing, but in one sense, I almost wish I had not seen her. Her countenance was expressionless. Her face was firm and tense and it was plain that she was troubled. Our conception of the spirit world has been one we have been led to think as being a condition of freedom of trouble and pain, yet I am reminded of Brigham Young's statement that our loved ones are oft times grieved at our actions in mortality as they look down upon us. For twenty five years nearly, I have hoped and prayed that this unsolicited visit by Mother was not real, but only the fantasy of a dream, but it was so plain it was almost too real for that .
If her concern and apparent sadness were real, I have wondered if it could have been caused by something I had done or was doing which was not pleasing to her. As I have since reviewed our way of living at that time, I have been unable to determine anything in particular which we were neglecting to do. We were active in our Church responsibilities and certainly it was our intent to reputably operate our business. I haven't been able to determine that we were doing anything which should be displeasing.
The enigma of the dream has remained with me, and someday I hope to be able to ask Mother if there was any meaning to it. Knowing Mother as well as I do, I have reasoned a meaning into it but shall make no attempt to openly commit myself to a statement.
NINE PLEASANT YEARS
For the next few years Dad and Aunt Luella were free to do much as they desired. They visited considerably for a few days at a time. There was no one at home depending on them and during the summer months when the yard needed tending, they had Verl look after it for he was living only a few blocks away. They visited folk on her side of the family, and of course Dad's families. From all indications things worked out smoothly for them and certainly they were company for each other.
Our memories are not such that we recall just how long it was after Dad's and Aunt Luella's marriage that they decided to spend two or three months each winter in Mesa, Arizona. As we now recall, it probably was only during the last three or four winters. For the first two or three years they found an apartment with a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Crisp who became close friends to them, and one summer at a later date the Crisp's visited them in Rupert. The last winter they were in Mesa they decided to find another apartment due to the fact that Aunt Luella's sister Elva Reed, was invited to spend the winter with them and she accepted. The apartment at Crisps was not sufficiently large for three.
OUR MOVE TO RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA
Only by way of explanation for subsequent events connected with this story, do I mention the fact that in the summer of 1956, we the Loyn Blacker family, sold our interest in the furniture store in which we were involved in Ontario, Oregon. We moved to Riverside, California in anticipation of another business venture which never materialized, and it so happened that this winter of 1956 and 57 was the winter just mentioned above, that Dad, Aunt Luella and 'Aunt' Elva Reed were in Mesa. While Sister Elva Reed was no relative of ours, we called her 'aunt' for convenience.
DAD WITH CIRCULATORY PROBLEMS
For some time preceding this particular winter of which we are referring, Dad had been having difficulty with his right leg. In fact, for a summer or two it handicapped him in his work in the yard and garden. His trouble had been diagnosed as poor circulation, and it was not until January of 1957 while in Mesa that his trouble increased until he had to again go to a doctor. His trouble continued to worsen, until it was advised that he should go to the hospital for closer attention and treatment. His trouble seemed to stem from his right groin and the doctor suggested that a clot had blocked his leg circulation at that point. He advised that an operation was imminent. Dad had been in an exceeding amount of severe pain in his entire thigh, and recognized that something had to be done.
The family had been kept advised of the situation, and in as much as we were living in Riverside, California, we were much closer to Mesa than those of the family living in Rupert, so Mabel and I made a hurried trip to Mesa. We drove to the apartment where we found Aunt Luella and her sister. They had been with Dad all morning and had returned home for a rest and were happy to see us. We all went to the hospital and Mabel and I went in to see Dad who was in a ward with approximately ten or twelve other patients. When he saw us he was surprised, for apparently he was not aware we had been sent for. He put his arms about us and held us close, and a tear or two was shed by each of us. His face was grimaced indicating that he was in pain. He said, "The pain is so bad I can't stand it, what am I going to do?" The fact that we were there gave him comfort, for a hospital is not a place to be without family members and loved ones. We visited with him for some little time and then went to the waiting room so Aunt Luella could go in to see him before we took them back to their apartment.
As I now remember, it must have been the next day that I returned to Riverside where I was working in a furniture store. It was necessary that I be back on the job. Mabel remained in Mesa where she was to spend the next week assisting in caring for Dad, particularly sitting up with him at nights. Aunt Luella and Aunt Elva were unable to stay with him at night time as well as several hours during day time.
Not only was Dad suffering from the circulation problem in his leg, but he had developed a bad case of uremic poisoning. He was so serious that the doctor advised Mabel that she should call the family, for it was probable that he would not live until morning. Mabel telephoned me in Riverside and I was in Mesa by noon the next day. At the same time she telephoned Roy at Rupert and he notified others of the family at Rupert, and Fred at Ontario. They set in order plans to rush to Mesa, and within a couple days most of the family were there, I think all.
When I arrived, Dad's condition had turned for the better so far as the uremic poisoning was concerned, but the circulation problem was as critical as ever, if not more so, due to the lapse of time. The doctors insisted that an operation had to be performed to get circulation into his leg and foot. With Aunt Luella's consent in writing, they had operated that morning before I got there. By cutting into the groin they hoped they could extract the artery and main veins which had closed. They hoped that nature would provide a new course for the blood to reach his foot which was already turning black. Following the operation, but an hour or two later, I arrived and was with him during the balance of the afternoon and during that night in order to relieve Mabel who was about worn out due to having been up several nights in succession.
FAMILY MEMBERS ARRIVE IN MESA
As indicated, Dad was fighting a battle on two fronts, both of them extremely critical. While still in a serious condition, Dad's situation at the time proved not as critical as the doctors had anticipated. Exact dates have slipped our memory, but this would have been during the first few days of February of 1957. At this time there was again hope for possible recovery, and from this point on various members of the family took turns in remaining at Dad's bedside almost constantly.
Due to Dad's operation, blood was needed to be replaced thru the Red Cross Blood Bank. That afternoon most of us went to Phoenix and contributed blood in exchange for what had been and what would be subsequently used. Several of the sons-in-law and daughters-in-law were among the group and they likewise contributed. Among the family were some who left families at home with illnesses, or other problems. It was necessary that this trip be made as short as possible, so with Dad being presently off the critical list they returned to their homes within a day or two.
In as much as there were now others of the family in Mesa, Mabel and I returned to Riverside to our family and to my work. While we were away it was necessary for one of the girls to stay out of school to care for three year old John.
A PLANNED PROGRAM FOR STAYING WITH DAD
As indicated, from this time on members of the family arranged to stay in Mesa. It is almost foolish for me to venture to enumerate those who stayed, but from our combined memories, the gamut seems to run somewhat in the following manner, and we here apologize to any and all if errors are made. Afton and George remained with Dad for a period of several days. Then Roy, Hilda, and Alma return for a period. Following them were Derald and Marie, then Carl and Merintha followed by Alma and Edith. Earl and Margene spent several days and then lastly Roy and Hilda. Brother Fred of Ontario volunteered several times to go and would have gone, but the family felt he was needed at his own home more than in Mesa. Elva was not well, and this was the time Cheri was born.
It was at the time that Roy, Hilda and Alma were there that Roy called me and I left the next morning by bus for Mesa. Getting there in the early afternoon I went to the hospital and with the rest of the family who were there, assisted in making a decision as to whether the doctors should amputate Dad's leg. There was a question in the doctor's mind whether Dad would be able to withstand such an operation, but there was no chance for him to live unless an amputation was performed. After considerable discussion, permission was given the doctors to go ahead with the operation. We were back to the hospital early the next morning and witnessed the doctors taking Dad into the operating room for the amputation. Two or three hours later he was brought from the operating room still under heavy sedation. This was on the 19th of February.
Dad remained in serious condition for several weeks. While his amputation was difficult for him, it did slowly mend, and had that been his only trouble he would have recovered, however the uremic poisoning was not to be overcome. As stated earlier, family members were with him ccnstantly until during the last week of March when Roy and Hilda were spending their week or longer with him, he worsened until on the evening of March 27th, it was seen that Dad could not last much longer, and about nine pm, Roy telephoned us in Riverside. I was the ward clerk of the Arlington Ward and when the call came to the house Mabel had it transfered from our home to the church where I was in a meeting. Roy stated that Dad was very low. Later that night, about two o'clock, as we recall, Roy again called advising that Dad had passed away. The time schedule of Mesa was one hour ahead of California. Roy asked if we could arrange to go to Mesa as soon as possible to assist in taking care of the business matters pertaining to removing Dad, Aunt Luella and Aunt Elva back to Rupert, as well as notifying members of the family. Dad's passing was 2 am March 28th 1957 at the Southside Hospital in Mesa, Arizona.
RETURNING TO RUPERT
Dad's passing was not the sudden shock of Mother's. Over the weeks we could see that it was but a matter of time, and after observing the terrible suffering that he had to undergo we each felt that death would be a blessing to him. It is a marvel how Mother Nature has ingrained into the human body the ability to survive. During the times of Dad's stay in the hospital, we had occasion to talk to the doctor. He informed us that people's sensitivity to pain varies, and that pain to some is much more intense than to others, and that it is not but a figment of the imagination, but a reality that some suffer much more than others from apparently like conditions. He said Dad's body was one of the most sensitive he had had experience with. In as much as it seemed impossible for Dad to recover, we all felt grateful that he could be relieved of the nearly three months of suffering.
On the morning of March 28th Mabel, our daughter Ruth, our three and one-half year old John, and I left Riverside leaving our three daughters Lois, Mary and Beth to home. We arrived in Mesa shortly after the noon hour, Roy and Hilda had had time to get a little rest after their sleepless night and we proceeded to make arrangements thru the mortuary where they had taken Dad's body for its transfer to Rupert. Mabel and Hilda assisted Aunt Luella and Aunt Elva in their packing, for they now planned to permanently move to Rupert for the winter was about over. Roy and I went to the telegraph office where wires were sent to the various branches of the family, informing them of Dad's passing and the date of the planned funeral service. Aunt Luella had us take her to the hospital where she paid them and the doctor bills. She had paid up to date at various times during Dad's confinement in the hospital. At the time, we knew the total expense. Exact figures have now escaped our memories but the total expense at these two places - - the hospital and doctor's office - - amounted into thousands of dollars.
Dad's body left by train during the night of March 28th. We talked to the mortuary people relative to having an attendant accompany the casket but they advised that it was not necessary. Other than just riding as a passenger in the train, there was no way of being any assistance whatever. We also had the problem of getting three cars to Rupert and there were but three of us who drove, so we had no alternative but to have the body shipped without accompaniment.
Dad's car was down there so it was necessary for us to split loads to get all the cars home. Roy and Hilda took Aunt Luella in their car and Mabel drove our car with Ruth, John and Aunt Elva Reed, and I took Dad's car and we started toward Rupert. The first night we got to a small place just across the Colorado River and all stopped in a motel. It had about noon time when we left Mesa. The next morning we started early - - got to Moab, Utah for a late breakfast and thence on to Provo that evening. Aunt Luella, and Aunt Elva stayed with their relatives in Provo as did also Roy and Hilda. Our immediate family took off on the road to Evanston where we spent the night and the next day. Paul, our son, was at Provo attending BYU, so we made arrangements for him to drive Dad's car to Rupert, but to meet us Monday morning in Ogden from where the two cars of us arrived in Rupert before noon Monday. From Provo Roy and Hilda brought Aunt Luella and Aunt Elva to Rupert Sunday.
Dad's body arrived in Minidoka and was removed from the train to their ambulance Sunday by Walk's, and was brought to their mortuary in Rupert where it remained until Tuesday, the day of the funeral service.
THE FUNERAL SERVICE
As is customary, the family met at the mortuary prior to the funeral service. Due to the large numbers of related family members as well as Dad's own large family, the mortuary was almost filled to capacity. It has always seemed to me that this last meeting with one's loved one prior to the closing of the casket lid is the most difficult portion of any funeral service and so it was in this instance.
Dad was only 77 years of age, not an old man by modern day standards. He looked even younger. The fact that he suffered almost unendurable pain for many weeks previous was not evident in his face, as he peacefully lay in the casket. To us who had been with him at times during his long illness we also found relief.
As one meditates before an open casket such as we did during the waning moments the casket lid was left open, a panoramic vision of the years which have passed gives one an unobstructed view of a son's or daughter's lifetime in relation to a parent who is resting before him. One doesn't live with a family member for the many years we did, and then following the years after one leaves the household in close association, without having genuine sorrow when parting time comes. Our father was an exceptionally good man by any standards of the best society. He had a sound faith in the Restored Church and attempted to live its principles all his life. I am one of the older members of his family, and I never remember a time when it was not a daily practice for the family to kneel morning and evening in family prayer. Dad and Mother were not ones who would say to us children, "Now you go on to church." Rather, it was always, "Come with us to church." Dad was as honest in his dealings with his fellow men as any person I have known. He was a good provider for his family. There were periods when times were very difficult to keep his family provided for, but at no time did any of us go hungry or without warmth both from the standpoint of clothing and warmth in the home. The promises of his patriarchal blessing were fulfilled to the letter. He was told that he was one of the noble sons of Zion. He was told that his posterity would be numerous, and that his name with theirs would be widely known among the people.
Dad was strict and he had our respect. We learned to do what we were told when we were told to do it. Most of us remember well a few paddlings probably because we deserved them, but really Dad did very little whipping. He didn't have to. We knew he meant it when we were told to do something. We often took advantage of Mother in our childish ways but seldom of Dad. We all felt easier in doing things when he was not around, and we were more ourselves when he wasn't with us. This is a regretable thing to say and it seems ironic to say it of what we consider a very successful parent. Dad was well aware of this situation, and he felt hurt far more than we. As we got older, and as he became older, this - - almost fear - - diminished into almost naught, but he did retain our respect. He played with us as babies, but as we got older, seldom. When we were young and at home we seldom if ever went on a picnic or outing as a family unit. He wasn't a sportsman so never did we have the pleasure of a fishing trip or a hunting trip.
Dad was energetic to a fault, and one of the most valuable lessons he taught us was to work - - not only to work but to enjoy working. How empty life would be if one had nothing to do! At Dad's home there was always something that needed to be done. I don't recall that it ever occurred, however, it was common comment around our house that before Dad would have us idle he would have us go into the yard, dig a hole, fill it in again. Weeds and Dad did not live on the same farm. He was meticulous in this respect in his garden. The two were incompatible. It would irk him to no end to have a post in a fence to be out of line with the rest of them, and few folk could go into his garden and make a row or ditch straight enough for him. If we dug a post hole and planted a post and left it in any position other than straight up, we would have the job to do over again. He was an outstanding exemplar and teacher in these matters, but it is questionable that any of us acquired his proficiency.
Father always had the respect and love of those about him. His neighbors esteemed him highly for his neighborliness, and for his willingness to he of assistance whenever and wherever needed.
Mother was a great mellowing influence in Dad's life. As with some of the rest of us, his temper got out of control when things did not go just right. Fortunately Mother was mild and even tempered and proved an example to Dad, and as he became older, he worked hard at controlling it. He probably never wholly mastered it but he did make great headway.
It is most likely that mention has already been made of his early rising in the morning. Following his retirement it is not likely that the birds stirred about quite so early. We always gave Dad credit for awakening the birds in the morning. He seemed to enjoy it for almost from the time he took his first step outside the door, even in the dark hours of the morning, he started whistling. The only regretable thing about his early rising was that he was never content to be up alone.
As stated earlier, as we who knew Dad so well stood by his casket, all the above flashed almost instantaneously thru memory of the past. Much of it we would have like to have lived over again.
TO THE STAKE HOUSE
From the mortuary the funeral cortege drove to the stake house which was but two or three blocks away. Awaiting the procession was a large crowd of folk seated in the chapel and cultural hall which arose almost as one when the casket was lifted by the pall bearers - - grandsons - - over the threshold of the doorway, where it was gently placed on the wheeled carriage to be rolled to its temporary resting place in front of the pulpit. Sacred prelude music was being played on the organ until the service started.
Roy was still bishop of the Rupert 2nd ward, as he was at the time of Mother's funeral service, and his counselor, Brother Vao Schofield likewise conducted Dad's funeral service. The family had arranged that Roy offer the opening prayer of the service, and that I offer the closing prayer or benediction. The first musical number was a vocal solo, "I Shall See Him Face to Face" by Ferrel Catmull after which President Arvel Child, president of the Nyssa stake spoke. He was followed by Dad's nephew and our cousin, Delos Gardner who was a member of the stake presidency of the Star Valley stake. He called to our attention how the life of one man - - Dad - - had touched the lives of so many people. Following his remarks a solo, "In the Garden" was sung by another nephew, John Nisbet accompanied by his daughter, Cora Lee.
Brother David I. Garner, the family's former bishop, extolled the virtues of Dad and Mother and called attention as to how this couple had always been one. He called attention to the fact that Dad was never ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and made mention of Dad often bearing his testimony. He quoted Dad as addressing the young folk of the audience and saying, "You young people, I want you to know that I know the gospel is true." He called attention to the multitude of friends Dad had at the service.
President Davis Green, president of the Minidoka Stake, was the concluding speaker. He made mention of the fact that there had been many stalwart families in the area, and that "Brother Blacker was one of those faithful ones and has now gone." He made mention of the fact that a good number of years ago, while Dad was serving on the high council of the stake, they were attending a Sunday School class. The teacher who was a learned man was attempting to teach the class that all we learn must be by one of our five sense organs. President Green said, "I want to tell of what Brother Blacker said in my presence in that class over twenty years ago. The teacher said that we can only come to a knowledge of a fact as we gain it thru one of our senses. If we did not see or hear, we couldn't know that God lived. We couldn't know that Jesus Christ lived, or that the Gospel was true, it could only be strong belief. Brother Blacker sat in that class and stood it as long as he could, and then he stood up without being called, and he said, "Do you mean to tell me that I don't know the Gospel is true? I know it just as well as I am standing here speaking to this class." President Green continued, "To me that was one of the outstanding characteristics of Brother Blacker." Later in his talk President Green said, referring to Dad, "He lived the gospel. He paid his tithing all the days of his life. He honored the Priesthood and served in the Church wherever he was called to serve because he knew that was part of the Gospel. He knew what the commandment was concerning raising his family. He knew that he would be responsible if he didn't teach them the Gospel and teach them to be honorable, and the important thing is that he remained true to these things all his life. The Lord said, "If ye keep my commandments and endure to the end ye shall have eternal life" and that's what Brother Blacker did."
The closing musical number was a vocal duet, "The Lord's Prayer" sung by Sister Lois Rasmussen and Sister Shirley Paoli.
Thus came to an end a lovely and inspiring funeral service which was held on the 3rd of April 1957. A long procession of cars followed the hearse to the cemetery some four miles north of Rupert, and he was buried by the side of Mother who preceded him by nine and one-half years.
As this story closes there remains but one additional thought. All that has been said relative to these two wonderful people will now neither increase nor decrease their real stature. Their lives have been lived and that which we say or write will always be superfluous so far as their well being is concerned.
On the other hand, those virtues which they possessed can serve as seeds to the lives of us, their descendants, and will continue to from generation to generation. Only as we plant the seeds or transplant them into our own lives, will they be beneficial to us. We have had good parents, and it now behooves us to be likewise, good parents to our children.
The real purpose of this story is to acquaint those who never knew these good parents of the fact that, biologically, these forbearers transplanted genes of the same temperament into each of our blood streams. We genetically have the capacity to develop the same traits with which each of them were so blessed, and not only for their good, but for the good of others. In other words, by birth each of us has inherited traits which will make of us as good an individual as were these, our parents. It remains with each of us the Herculean task of developing these tendencies and traits that we may each find a place with them.
They were both wonderful people and so we say, God bless their memory.