Our Return To John & Martha Elizabeth Hunt Wilkes
Chapter four of this account reported the marriage of young John Wilkes and considerably younger Martha Hunt, both of St. Charles in the Salt Lake City Endowment House on 20th of October 1873.
Due to the fact that over one-hundred pages of this history have been written since those pages, it may be suggested that the reader spend a moment of two reviewing those brief comments relating to this young couple's trip to and back from the Endowment House. Not so much pertaining to the trip itself, but to the fact that it was made and they returned to St. Charles.
We are not aware of their first home as a married couple. It will be well for us to recall that it was just ten years since the Wilkes family lived with another family in a one-room log cabin and even under those conditions shared that room with two or three head of sheep to keep the sheep from freezing to death. John, at that time, was about 11 years of age. In the next spring, 1864, the small settlements of that area, including St. Charles were laid out and received their settlers. The spring of 1864 appears to have been when most of the settlers moved into the region including Martha Hunt's parents. She, at the time would have been about seven years of age.
The observation being attempted here is to call attention to the fact that it was families already established who had obtained homesteader's rights to the free land being offered to the first settlers. As has been observed, the new homesteads, undoubtedly, were somewhat limited in size due tot he limited supply of water plus the limited work-force of the average family and the limited family capital required to start up farming operations.
This simply meant by the time the children of these families waited ten years to start homes of their own, such as our John Wilkes and Martha Hunt, there was little room for them to find land for themselves. The original farms were not meant to be divided a decade later. Unless the original owners, the parents, had only one son or one daughter to turn their holdings to, the siblings - other than the one - had no chance of inheriting even a chance to get hold of land.
This, undoubtedly, was the situation with John and Martha. Whether there had been an empty log cabin in the area when they returned following their marriage we don't know. We are aware that John's mother, Elizabeth Haines Wilkes, passed away on the 7th of August 1878 - less than five years following the marriage of John and Martha. John's father, William, was left alone when his wife passed away, for oldest child, Sarah Ann, John's only sister, had married William Lansing Allred in 1866 well over seven years prior to John's marriage, during which intervening time John was the only child at home until his marriage.
By the time John's mother passed away John and Martha had two children, John Daniel (Johnie) and Martha Elizabeth (Mattie) and within another four months third child, 13 Dec 1878, William Edmond (Ed) was born, all three in St. Charles.
As the reader of this history well knows by this time, the history of this overall Wilkes-Hunt family appears to be always in a dilemma - nothing serious, but this time a date conflict. There appears no way of resolving the matter.
An explanation: attention has already been noted that there was very limited room in the Bear Lake area for new homes to be established - in fact it was becoming an impossibility and, in our instance, we have John and Martha with three little children the youngest of 13 Dec 1878 making two boys and a girl. The future was going to require acres and farm animals. Surely the problem being faced by John and Martha did not come to them all at once. There would have to have been pondering long before the arrival of the last baby, be it boy or girl. Another real problem and it must have been of great concern. As before brought out in this story, John, the young herdsboy who had taken an animal or two of his parents, plus, most likely a community herd made up of animals belonging to neighbors who, perhaps, had no herdboy of their own - or herdgirls - or, if they had, could not be spared for herding cows or sheep from milking time in the morning until milking time in the evening when the cows would be brought back from the sagebrush western hillsides above St. Charles. John was hired to do this service for others. Due to his shriveled left arm and his deformed right foot brought about when he was an infant by that then feared infantile paralysis which he had to contend with since babyhood he found it difficult to compete with other boys of his age in rural pioneer living which environment was his only choice in the times and conditions in which he was raised. Due to the fact that his time and conditions required the use of his physical expertise in handling horses, cows and farm equipment it was not easy for him. Mother nature usually has a means of making up for the lack of such handicaps and so it was with John. He was gifted in his mind and he later proved to himself and others that he could compete with the best when he eventually got into an environment where physical aptitudes were not solely depended on. Such a fact will come to our attention alter, but for the preset he had little choice. He needed room for expansion and St. Charles did not have it.
Reports were being received of the possibilities being offered of undeveloped land out and beyond these settlements in the Bear Lake Valley over the Salt River range of mountains and north and east over the Idaho boundary line into the valley in western Wyoming some 75 miles from St. Charles and these were reportedly long miles for the trail would have to lead thru the mountains with the road very much to be made as emigrants went in to Star Valley. To introduce this valley perhaps this writer can do no better than to quote his former classmate of may years ago - the years of 1915-1919 - Velma Linford wrote from her position when she was with the University of Wyoming, considerably subsequent to school years mentioned which were in the Afton grade school. The article relating to Star Valley was published in the Improvement Era, a Church publication dated October 1937.
"Before 1870 the Shoshone Indians had for their summer feeding ground a valley nearly hidden in the Salt River range of mountains in what is now northwestern Wyoming. They spoke of it as a land where grass was plentiful for their horses and there was a "heap" of game, fish, and fine water to drink. Legend has it that one Shoshone, known as Indian John, led the first white man to the spot.
"Crystal clear streams and fertile meadows with grass knee-high induced the first explorers to make the valley their home. Perhaps some of the early settlers dreamed of the future wealth of the valley, but most of them were concerned in wresting a living from the soil.
"Hemmed in on all sides by mountain ranges, the inhabitants were dependent upon the land and what it would produce for their sustenance. The nearest settlement was fifty miles away and those fifty miles were not easily traversed by team and wagon; sometimes for from two to four months of the year the only contact with the outside world was made by men on snowshoes. When summers were long and frost-free, the larders were full. Short seasons meant scant winter meals, as all food not grown within the valley must come by freight.
"Not until the summer of 1880 was the valley officially named. There are three stories of the naming of the valley which share credence. One is that the cowboys lying under the stars at night, named the valley for the glittering canopy; another story contends that the five peaks which tower east of the valley resemble the five points on a star, hence the name. The third story is that the valley was so beautiful and fertile that it was called Star Valley. The old timers substantiate the third story by quoting Moses Thatcher's dedicatory words: 'When God made the world, he reserved the finest part and hid it among these mountains. It shall be called Star Valley, for it is truly the star of all valleys.' (The Improvement Era, Volume 40 - Number 10. October 1937)
There are various versions of pre-settlement history of the valley that later became known as Star Valley which, unquestionably can be relied on as being reliable. Assistant Church Historian, Andrew Jensen, in his well know Encyclopedic History of the Church has this interesting early history of Star Valley: "Star Valley, or Upper Salt River Valley, was known to overland travelers who passed through it on what was called Lander's Cutoff, which entered the valley from the south through Lander's Canyon and left it going up Stump Creek, thus crossing the valley from a southeasterly to a northwesterly direction. Lander's Cut-off dates back to 1863.
"Elder Moses Thatcher and Bishop William B. Preston visited the Upper Salt River Valley in the fall of 1877 and were highly pleased with its appearance. They came in from Bear Lake Valley and found neither trappers nor settlers in the valley, but a large number of Shoshone Indian wickiups, built of willows. No Indians, however, were in sight." Pp. 832-33.
Reports such as these were taken back to Bear Lake and fell on the ears of several families who had long since saw the handwriting on the wall that the time would come when some type of move from that area would be necessary for their growing families due to the lack of land expansion around the limited shores of the Bear Lake Valley. The farms were simply too small to divide and still take care of family necessities for another generation. John and Martha were of the second generation for it was their parents who had dealt with the U.S. government by settling for a limited number of acres of homestead lands. Both John and Martha were but children back in 1863 and 64 and now by 1878 the prospects for a move into a more virgin area became encouraging.
Undoubtedly their prospective breaking away from family and friends in St. Charles was not hurriedly contemplated nor finalized. John probably never remembered leaving Twekesbury when he was but three years of age and, certainly, Martha Hunt was born as a pioneer. Hardship was nothing new to either of them and they were well aware of the fact that, should they move on for new opportunities, there would be many new hardships ahead of them. Looking at the challenge ahead of them from our perspective as grand children and great grandchildren it can be visualized they had few alternatives other than throwing their shoulders back and taking the step.
Preparation for such a move would have required some time, perhaps running into months. The word reaching them was that there was no settlement, at least of any consequence, then in Star Valley, excepting a little settlement of two or three families at a place called Stump Creek near present day Auburn. The activity of these families appear to have been with freighting in connection with the Lander's Cut-off as mentioned earlier. To this time it seems Star Valley was void of homesteaders who were attempting to provide for themselves off the soil of the valley.
The reports coming back to the anticipated movers in Bear Lake was that the elevation in Star Valley was even higher than that of their present home so, in their planning it became plain to them that the activities of the first season, of necessity, would be the construction of shelters from the cold and storms of the oncoming winter season for both human and animal. Before this could be accomplished it would be necessary for each family represented to select a place which each could call home. Some type of fencing had to be anticipated. Lock and key were not probably feasible to any major degree yet the wanderlust nature of horses, cows, sheep, hogs and, to a degree, chickens had to be curtailed. The thoughts of a garden had to be uppermost in their minds for home grown food, often considered somewhat of a luxury became a necessity to homesteaders who were anticipating a move at least fifty miles - and hard miles, sometimes impossible miles - from any other food supply excepting what could be gleaned from the wilds of mother nature such as wild berries, fish from the streams, wild birds and such animals as deer and elk and their kinds.
They had to be well aware of the shortness of the summer growing season and would have realized the importance of getting their first garden in at as early a date as possible. Their planning probably included making a list of the seed they would need and the tools which they couldn't get along without.
A major problem was the limitation of room in their wagon - probably each family would have to be contented with but one. One thing in their favor would be the fact that it was not like as if a return trip could not be made at a future date, despite the difficulties of it. Perhaps one team and wagon could serve three or four families if they would so organize but to be able to spare the teams and the manpower would be another thing, particularly, during the first summer, if a return trip to Bear Lake was found to be a must.
Well over one hundred years subsequent to this first trip we who are but writing or reading of it know few of the details. We can but imagine and with all our imagination we are unable, by our reliving the event in our mind, to include the same concern and - maybe fear - that the actual event brought to these courageous souls.
We are assured the trip was made and we are assured it was a difficult trip but of the date there appears a question. Even among family members of the previous generation there is not total agreement. Aunt Martha Elizabeth (Mattie) Walker, second child and eldest daughter in her brief history of her parents which she is credited as having written in 1947, some 66 years following the event she could have very easily drawn her information from notes kept from earlier dating - writes, "In 1881 my father wanted to go where he could get more land and make a better home for his family at St. Charles the land was taken up and pretty thickly settled. Father, taking my mother, my brothers Johnny and Ed, my sister Lottie, Uncle Bee, and another Uncle and family and my grandmother, moved to Wyoming to a little valley called Star Valley". Aunt Mattie would have been five years of age in August after arriving in Afton. We face a problem here with the year 1881 and her naming her baby sister, Lottie, as having made the trip for Aunt Lottie's birthdate is 23 July 1882. If Aunt Lottie actually made the trip our date would have to be changed to, probably, 1883 for the last of July would be rather late to start such a trip and become prepared for winter of 1882 after arriving in Afton.
Aunt Mabel, the baby of the family, born many years after the first trip of the Wilkes' family into Star Valley, uses another set of dates. Aunt Mabel's date agrees with and could stem from a brief article titled 'Star Valley' as written in a series of historical volumes "Our Pioneer Heritage" which has been written for 'The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers'. Practically the whole of the brief account is here quoted, referring to the first colony entering the valley: "It was a hazardous undertaking, in the spring of 1879, when a company including John S. Rolph, William Heap, John Hill, Frank Cross, Moroni Hunt, Gash Hunt and John Wilkes located in Lower Star Valley. The Hunts and John Wilkes returned to the Upper Valley, and settled on the east side (I presume they were meaning the east side of the Valley. L.B.) On the south bank of a large creek, which has since been named Swift Creek". Referring to the numbers remaining in the Lower Valley the account reads: "They built three log cabins about two miles west from the east mountains. Some of the men then returned to Bear Lake Valley and got their wives and children." Speaking of the overall trip the article says, "This was a trip of seventy-five miles and return, with little or no roads for about half the distance. They brought eight wagons with them and the trip required over three weeks. The Montpelier Creek had to be forded twenty-six times in a distance of six miles. Often furrows had to be plowed on the sidehills for the upper wheels to keep the wagons from tipping over with their loads of household furnishings and supplies of food. The little colony numbered twenty-seven souls, which included the colony in the Lower Valley."
Whether the menfolk of our families - John Wilkes, Gash and Moroni Hunt - were without their families on this first trip we have no way of knowing. Nothing has been written by any of the family members of the previous generation which has alluded to such a possibility. Gash Hunt was without a family, he being a bachelor but yet a young man of about 24. He eventually returned to St. Charles where he lived out his life-span remaining single. Moroni Hunt, possibly a married man at the time, was a full brother of Grandma Martha Hunt Wilkes as was, Gash, all three children of Daniel D. Hunt and Martha Eynon.
We are led to wonder, first: Why did the colony, going into the south end of the Upper Star Valley, which they would have had to have done by going thru Montpelier such as the above account makes clear they did, and travel northward the length of the Upper Valley - probably 15 miles - and go thru the Narrows into the Lower Valley to find a suitable settling place? And, secondly, why did the Hunts and Grandpa Wilkes return back and settle in the Upper Valley away from their companion travelers?
Our simple answer is that we do not know. Undoubtedly they had done some scouting around. It seems the logical thing to have done was to ride into the Valley, perhaps, the summer before to look things over. Such a round trip would have taken but three or four days going by horseback. It is possible John and his brothers-in-law had already determined where they wanted to settle before going into the Lower Valley with their friends and after arriving they still felt the Upper Valley was for them. This is but speculation but seems plausible.
It can very possibly be that before the colony of eight wagons reached Star Valley the travelers wondered why they had selected the Montpelier route for there was another possible route which was considerably longer but not so rugged. After leaving Montpelier it would have been possible for them to have gone north toward Soda Springs, Idaho, and after reaching it vicinity could have turned eastward and went down Stump Creek into the power portion of the Upper Valley.
As has been stated, there had been limited freight traffic through the Upper Valley - south-east to north-west - and two or three families had stopped at Stump Creek. Also, at Stump Creek there had developed a salt mine and salt was being freighted out by wagon into western Montana and elsewhere, including the Bear Lake country.
It is understood some settlers later entered the valley thru the western entry which accounted for the Auburn area becoming settled at a little faster rate than the eastern portion of the valley in the Afton area.
The fact remains that John Wilkes and his brothers-in-law, Gash and Moroni found themselves so it is reported, the first to erect cabins on the east side of the Upper Valley, most likely, 1879.
To within this year of 1984 this writer has been of the understanding that the original Wilkes cabin or cabins were built at the mouth of the Swift Creek canyon but on the north bank of the creek. For the first twelve years of my life I had traveled from birthplace home two miles north of Afton on my way into Afton whether going to school, church or whatnot and whether alone or with others and I knew beyond question where the old Wilkes' homestead was located - the first place to the east after crossing the Swift Creek bridge heading north. I had spent hours playing with my cousin, Howard Wilkes, son of Uncle Ed, when their family lived in the little old log house. I was aware that Uncle Noen and family had also lived there so I was confident that was the original family homestead but I was wrong. Keep in mind I was always aware that the log house was not the original for I knew the original house had been built at the mouth of Swift Creek canyon and suspect a second house had been built on the main road for convenience.
It was not until I had reached writing this chapter 10 that I concluded that it might be interesting to the readers who may not be fully acquainted with the lay of the land that a map of the farm or ranch would be helpful for the reader to be able to picture in his or her mind what it was like. I sketched the ranch as I remembered it putting in the position of the log house, the barn and corrals and the ditches etc. and concluded that I should mail it to our dear cousin, Arvilla Wilkes Humburg who lives in Salt Lake City. She would know where each building and each ditch was located. Actually, quite to my surprise, she concurred with everything, ditches included, to what I had, excepting one log building behind the house which I had remembered but which I remembered as a still older log house, when I remembered it, I thought to be a tool house. Arvilla corrected me by telling me it was their root cellar built a little higher than the ground but with a roof over it. Even after the map's return I was under the impression the farm itself was the original homestead with, as explained, the log house, another than the original. It was but a week or two following the above mentioned exchange and Arvilla's approval I had occasion to visit with Arvilla but this time on the phone but still having to do with this history. She asked something like the following: "Loyn, you are aware that the original cabin and land was on the south side of Swift Creek?" I could hardly believe it. She assured me that her father, Uncle Ed, had, throughout her lifetime, told and retold her of the original being on the south, or Afton side of the creek. This made it a whole new ballgame and I thought to myself, "Why are you writing this history?" And I continue to wonder.
At this very point in my writing I must put a 'hold' on the above account for it continues on to a much greater length and there is much to relate which we must return to I order to keep a semblance of continuity to the overall account.
Returning to the account of John Wilkes and two brothers-in-law returning to the Upper Valley: Subsequent and more recent since writing the above has verified the fact that brother-in-law, Moroni Hunt, was a married man. He had married Cynthia Hill in St. Charles and had had a little daughter, Martha, who had passed away in St. Charles 20th April 1879, apparently about the time of their leaving for Star Valley.
Of all the subsequent family history written by the children of the John Wilkes family there appears at least one thing in which there emerges total agreement, and that is that the family's first home in Star Valley, before the town of Afton ever reached its designing stage, was their log home on the south side of Swift Creek as it was leaving the canyon. Almost without exception the term was used "about where the Gardner saw mill pond was first constructed."
We must not overlook the possibility of the men folk having gone to Star Valley without their wives and children and erecting the log house and then returning for their families - perhaps two houses. Perhaps single brother-in-law Gash came to the Valley solely as a carpenter. His father served as a professional carpenter for many years and it would be rather likely some of his native ability was inherited by the sons, both Gash and Abel Moroni. We are well aware that Gash did not remain in Star Valley. He could have gone with them in June of 1879 and returned when and if they returned for their families.
It is hoped, as the reader proceeds with this story, that you remain aware that the writer has not proven to himself nor is he attempting to prove to others that the date of entry into Star Valley was actually 1879. The out-of-the-family account as quoted from the book, "Heritage Builders" published by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers referred to earlier gives June of 1879 and, Aunt Mabel Wilkes Brown uses that date. If this date be correct then we have to assume the families spent the winter of 1879-1880 in the Valley.
It is family tradition that John Wilkes and Moroni Hunt were the first to plant a garden in the Upper Valley. This would had to have been growing while the houses were being built which very well could have been done by going up the creek a few rods with their hand plow which, undoubtedly, they brought with them and diverting water from the creek to run down the furrow to the garden spot.
It is a common tradition stemming from the children of Grandpa Wilkes that one morning the family saw a large bear in their garden which they drove out. One version says it was chased out of the garden and Grandpa followed it into the close-by mountain and shot it. Another version reports that the bear had a cub and they were chased away.
Whether they had a cow the writer does not know but it has been reported that feed for the horses became very scarce and, as the knolls on the hillside became bare as spring approached dry grass would be pulled from them and fed to the animals and, as spring came closer, the horses, would be led to the hillside's grassy spots.
Every family history, as told by the older generation, agree in most of the details of a catastrophe resulting from the cabin builders having gone to Auburn across the valley and to the north, where they obtained fine sand and lime and probably another ingredient, perhaps sulfur, from which they mixed a mortar to seal the cracks between the logs of the house. To make a neat job this would be troweled into the cracks on both sides of the wall, the inside as well as the outside of the walls. Such a process would add greatly to the warmth of a log house in wintertime.
The mistake which was made was certainly unintentional. The container, a copper wash boiler - perhaps a worn-out boiler - was left to the side of the house with some of the mortar remaining in it. Whether there was neglect in not furnishing the animals with adequate salt we do not know but, apparently, the horses became salt-hungry and licked the mortar contained in the boiler. Any one of the elements in the mixture would probably not have affected the horses, however, apparently, a poison resulted from the copper of the boiler container and the result was a couple dead horses.
This literally proved a catastrophe for the family. Farming during these years depended on flesh-power, either human or animal power and human power by itself was totally inadequate. Grandpa Wilkes could not help but recognize the fact that he suffered from a great physical handicap - an invalid arm on his left and an invalid foot on his right. What courage he showed to even think he might be successful. His wife, Grandma Martha, encouraged him to do his best and, at probably said, "That which you can't do, I'll do for you". We who remember her know that was the type woman she was and this willingness will become even more evident as we watch her lifespan unfold.
It must have been a hard decision during the following days after the loss of the horses. There had to have been tears - big tears - the reason for, perhaps, the little children could not comprehend.
It the actual date was the winter of 1879 - 1880 as some think it was, then the three children would have been, Johnnie, six; Martha (Mattie) not quite five and Ed, just past two. If Aunt Mat's memory was correct, which it could very well have been, that her sister, Lottie, was the baby when they moved to Star Valley and, with Aunt Lottie's birthday having been 23 July 1882, it would seem logical that such a difficult move would not have been made until the spring of 1883 which appears to mean that the poisoning of the horses would have been during the winter of 1883 and 1884. The event would not have been any less heartbreaking excepting the children would have been four years older. Aunt Mattie Wilkes Walker suggests that the John Wilkes family was also accompanied on this first Star Valley trip by Martha Eynon Hunt, mother of Grandma Martha Wilkes and the sons of Abel Moroni Hunt and Gash Hunt.
After well over a hundred years the difference between the two dates matters little. The results of the venture remain the same. The trip was made and the decision was made by the family that with no horses there could be no farming. Probably due to extreme discouragement Grandpa John Wilkes is reported to have ridden his only remaining horse back to St. Charles and, either in the spring of 1880 or the spring of 1884, borrowed an outfit from neighbors and friends and returned his family to St. Charles.
If the earlier year of return to St. Charles was the fact then the family had successfully made their return by the time of the 1880 census which was taken in that area on the 4th and 5th of June of that year. The 1880 census shows that John and Martha and their three children were living in the home of his father in St. Charles. This does not discount the possibility of the family having just recently returned from Star Valley. Neither does it confirm the possibility.
An item of interest shows up in the St. Charles ward record of these controversial years which, in reality, adds little to the solution of our dilemma if even, it doesn't add more. Little Minnie Hunt, daughter of Abel Moroni and Cynthia Hill Hunt is reported to have been born on the 18th of June 1881 - and note this with interest - at Salt River, Oneida County, Idaho.
As we learned from the 1870 census of the William Wilkes' family, the whole of southeastern Idaho was then in Oneida County, including Bear Lake. Apparently the same was true, or thought true, by the ward official who recorded Minnie's name and birth date. With Star Valley's Salt River being so close to the state's Idaho-Wyoming border line it is apparent someone was not aware that the Hunt family had crossed into Wyoming. The fact that Abel Moroni Hunt was listed among the earliest group moving into Star Valley - and with John Wilkes - the birth of the child in 1881 appears to be favoring the earlier date of 1879. If the winter of 1879-89 was the winter of the horses becoming poisoned, the occasion of the birth of the child in 1881, simply indicates that Abel Moroni Hunt and family chose not to return to St. Charles with John and Martha but did see that the information got back to their ward records.
Our suspicions led to a search of the ten future ward records of Afton in which records we found Afton was organized as a branch in 1885. The purpose for the search was to determine whether, in particular, Abel Moroni Hunt remained in Star Valley, rather than return to St. Charles as was suspected in the previous paragraph when his daughter Minnie, was reported by the St. Charles records as having been born at "Salt River" - new term for Star Valley. Our suspicions were confirmed when the Afton branch records - at the time - for another daughter, Dorcus Charlotte, was born 1st June 1885 at Afton, Uinta County, Wyo., and she was blessed the 22nd of November 1885 by O.H. Eggleston.
Just a couple weeks following a year after the birth of the little girl, a little boy was born to Abel Moroni and Cynthia Hunt who was named John Daniel. He was born 19th of June 1886 at Afton, Uinta County, and was blessed on the 12th of July 1886 by branch president, C.D. Cazier. Another little boy who they named Moroni was born 12th of July 1888, but this time the birth occurred at Freedom, Wyoming. He was blessed 5th August 1888 by A.B. Clark.
It has been understood for many years by this writer that this branch of the family eventually ended up in the Lower Valley, but it hasn't been until this day that their moving from the Upper Valley was not at all immediately following the winter of the poisoning of the horses. Nothing is known, however, of where his residence continued to be in the Upper Valley. Did he and wife and family remain with the log cabin at the mouth of Swift Creek canyon? We don't know, but the fact that the family survived in Star Valley - there was no such place as Afton during the earlier of these years - causes us to wonder if, perhaps, there was a deeper reason that the death of a couple of horses which took the Wilkes family back to St. Charles such as discouragement or deep depression. Martha's mother, Martha Eynon Hunt, while reportedly with the family in Star Valley, undoubtedly still retained her home in St. Charles and, as noted earlier, John's father, William Wilkes, a widower, was alone in him home in St. Charles. Could it have been that the glitter of anticipation of a new home lost its glamour when the real test came? Did the price become too high? We really don't know and perhaps this type of judgement is too harsh, however, maybe the lesson learned was not for them at all but for us, their descendants down the way two, three, four or more generations, which can be summed up to be prepared to pay the price, not merely in a monetary way for oft times costs have nothing to do with money.
John and Martha and their little family with Grandma Hunt and, very probably Uncle Gash found themselves, within approximately a year's time, back in St. Charles, certainly no better off, monitarily. John and Martha, back on his father's little acreage reported himself to the census taker as a farmer. It is not likely they found conditions better than when they left. Little daughter, Lottie, was born 23 July 1882 - whether before or after their venture to Star Valley. Another daughter, Hettie, was born 19 November 1884, also, in St. Charles and, as these little ones were added to the family so the responsibility. They required nurturing - clothing and food and love. There was lots of the latter in this home, perhaps far more love than the physical elements.
As we consider the history of this family, the one great outstanding virtue of which we shall be able to, literally, boast will prove to be that virtue the Master suggested was the most important - that of love, love for one another and love for everyone.
After two additional years and two months following the birth of Hettie, another little boy arrived, also in St. Charles. They must have thought a lot of him for it appears each one of them must have added a name to him. Officially he became known as Benoni Gasham Moroni and abbreviated it to a type of nick-name, Noen, by which he was known by family, friends and the public at large. His birthday was 24th of January 1887, also in St. Charles.
As has been noted, the family was growing, both in years and by number. Five children to feed and bed down, and the task certainly was not getting easier. Eldest, Johnnie, was now 13, well into his 14th year; Mattie was a young lady of 11 years; Edmond or Ed was now 9; Lottie 5; Hettie 2, and now, Baby Noen.
What was becoming the more perplexing was that St. Charles, from year to year, was not able to offer a brighter future for young families nor for families not so young. Father, John, had reached his 35th birthday and was on his way to his 36th . Mother, Martha, was 30 years of age, in fact, nearly 31. What was most concerning to them was that neither of them were satisfied with the opportunities they were able to give their children and there was no more hope now in St. Charles - if as much - than there was when they first braved their disappointing venture into Star Valley.
The actual history of Star Valley during these intervening years was one of progress, unusual progress. The LDS Church leaders saw an opportunity for these two valleys to become colonization communities and, as a result the Mormon families, particularly, in the Bear Lake Valley were being encouraged to lessen their overcrowded conditions brought on by the second and third generations for there simply was not room for expansion by the division of their original small farms.
Over in Star Valley sufficient L.D.S. families had moved in by 1885 that an independent branch of the Church was organized with Charles D. Cazier as presiding Elder and within two years the branch had grown to ward status with Charles D. Cazier as the first bishop.
As has been noted previously, by the late 1870s and the very early 1880s the Stump Creek area near where Auburn later developed, there were a few families who basically had to do with the Lander's freighting trail and the earlier salt mine which was already supplying the surrounding territories with salt which was being freighted as far away as Montana and into the Bear Lake Valley. As has also been noted, the more spacious eastern side of the Upper Valley was slower becoming settled as was indicated when the John Wilkes' and Moroni Hunt families built their first cabin at the mouth of Swift Creek canyon. Within a year or two the virtues of this area became more fully realized and it was soon seen that they very area the John Wilkes family gave up in discouragement would soon become the center of activity of the Valley. The fast running waters of Swift Creek was soon seen as an early asset to the Valley for such, at first, small enterprises as power for a saw mill and a grist mill. Also, in as much as the most of the acres of the land east of Salt River, which flowed the length of the valley nearer the west hills than the mountain on the east side of the valley, were of little use for farming without irrigation, it was quickly observed that distribution of water for irrigation was logically to be done at the mouth of Swift Creek Canyon. This area, then, soon became the most promising of the entire valley for a town-site and by 1884 and 1885 just three or four years following the departure of the John Wilkes family, the town of Afton had its beginnings on the very acres which most likely would have been within the boundaries of a land patent or homestead, guaranteed by the federal government to a family, usually for a small fee per acre, but oft times for nothing more than settling on it, constructing a dwelling and residing in the house. In early Star Valley, such land patents consisted usually of 40 acres, 80 acres, and oft times 160 acres.
On the 21st of June 1984, this writer, with his wife Mabel, drove to Evanston, Wyoming, which, at the time of the earliest settlement of Star Valley, was the county-seat of Uinta County - and still is - but which county then included the Star Valley area. The purpose of the visit was to search early land records to see whether or not the John Wilkes family had applied for land patent rights for land on which they erected their earliest Star Valley cabin.
This was not a difficult task for we knew the exact location where the cabin had been constructed for, repeatedly, we had been advised by the previous generation that the cabin or cabins were near the site of "the Gardner mill pond" of later years to which site this writer had gone. In fact, it was in this pond that I was baptized as well as my brothers and many of my friends. The spot was well implanted in my mind.
The Evanston courthouse provided us with nothing specific as to land patents in Star Valley. The name of John Wilkes appeared on the index of land records, but the actual records had been transferred to Kemmerer, the county seat of Lincoln County, the new county in the division of the early large Uinta county. This division had taken place in 1915.
We had already traveled well over 200 miles in search of any such records, if they existed, so another 50 miles to Kemmerer was essential. The help at the assessor's office in Kemmerer, fortunately, readily appeared more qualified to give the help we were seeking - and more willing. It became a pleasure to work with them. Too, it became obvious that some records in local government offices have weaknesses such as in this case the index to these records was either not complete or not current. Such a deficiency required considerable extra searching, but there simply was no evidence that homestead or land patent rights had ever been applied for, for the land near the mouth of Swift Creek Canyon by John Wilkes. The first land record of this area was connected with the formation of the townsite of Afton itself which appears to have been during 1885.
Such a situation appears quite understandable when we consider the brief period the Wilkes' family was in the Valley on their first expedition. They were hurried during their first summer in their construction of shelter for the on-coming winter. There would have been little or no outside communication during the winter months with out-of Valley agencies such as government surveyors or other officials having to do with land grants. By the time spring came, their major thoughts and plans were not to establish themselves in Star Valley but, rather, to find a means to return to St. Charles, where Martha's mother still had a home and where John's father, then a widower still resided in his home. Keep in mind, apparently, Martha's mother, Martha Eynon Hunt, was with them in Star Valley.
Copies of other land documents were obtained from the Lincoln County Assessor's office in Kemmerer which will become interesting historical data for the continuation of the Wilkes' Star Valley story following their three or four or more year's stay in St. Charles between their first venture and second into Star Valley. So far as dates are concerned, as stated earlier, family history and family events do not wholly agree with what we may term regular Star Valley history. The writer is not discounting either, however, the suggested 1879 date appears three to four years earlier than other evidence is pointing to. As an example, at one pint in regular Star Valley history, it mentions the first Star Valley garden was in 1883. If the first colony went in to the valley in 1879, it appears a long wait to raise a garden when food would have been such a necessity.
A brief history of Star Valley will be copied as it is written by Maud Call Burton, a relatively early pioneer. This writer interrupts on occasion as will be noted with my personal comments by way of question or comment.
A HISTORY OF STAR VALLEY
As written by Alice Maud Call Burton
(An early resident of Afton)
"Star Valley: Star Valley consists of two small valleys each about five or six miles by twenty-five, lying in the western part of Wyoming, united by a narrow pass and surrounded by high timbered mountains. The steep hillsides of the canyons make it a favorite haunt for deer, antelope, elk, and other wild animals that find an abundant supply of feed in the grassy meadows. Buffalo wallows are found also.
"Salt River heads in the mountains at the southeast end of the valley and flows northward through both fertile valleys. In early times Indians roamed at will the "heap fine hunting grounds" and adventurous trappers secured good catches of the finest furs. Whether from tradition or sad experience, Indians, trappers and explorers alike, believed that human beings and domestic animals would perish in the long cold winters, for the snow fell from October to May, and sometimes six feet deep, with temperatures often 40 to 50 degrees below zero. The summers, on the contrary, were balmy and inviting.
"The Lander trail, a cut-off from the Old Oregon Trail, entered the valley from the southeast, crossed Salt River about six or eight miles down the valley, and headed from Stump Creek Canyon, its northern outlet. Over this historic trail, emigrants passed on their westward trek to the Golden West. They stopped for a few days to rest their weary teams, and at such times related pioneer experiences that were thrillingly interesting. Entering Stump Creek, the road passed the salt works, where nature had deposited an immense salt bed. From here in early days, a Mr. Stump supplied salt on contract to points in Oregon and Washington (and Montana and Bear Lake). Engaged in delivering this salt with a ten-mule team was one David W. Rainey, who later became one of the early pioneers of the valley. This salt vein is traceable for nearly a hundred miles and in the Crow Creek area (Fairview), great blocks of it have been mined.
"It was a hazardous undertaking, in the spring of 1879, when a company including John S. Rolph, William Heap, John Hill, Frank Cross, Moroni Hunt, Gash Hunt, and John Wilkes located in lower Star Valley. The Hunts and John Wilkes returned to the Upper Valley, and settled on the east side of the south bank of a large creek, which has since been named Swift Creek. They built three log cabins about two miles west from the east mountains. Some of the men then returned to Bear Lake Valley and got their wives and children. This was a trip of seventy-five miles and return, with little or no roads for about half the distance. They brought eight wagons with them, and the trip required over three weeks. The Montpelier Creek had to be forded twenty-six times in a distance of six miles. Often furrows had to be plowed on the side hills for the upper wheels, to keep the wagons from tipping over with their loads of household furniture and supplies of food. The little colony numbered twenty-seven souls, which included the colony in the lower valley.
"The winter of 1879-80 was serious for these inexperienced settlers. In the fall it was imperative that they secure supplied from outside the valley for their needs during the winter months. Accordingly they secured provisions from Montpelier and on their way home were overtaken by a heavy snow storm, which compelled them to cache most of their provisions in Beaver Canyon, about midway between the valley and Montpelier. It was with great difficulty that they made their way to the cabins with a small portion of supplies. Their plight was serious, since the snow was too deep for the team to make their way. The only alternative was to make skiis or snow shoes and carry the cached supplies home on their backs, otherwise they face starvation.
"In August, 1879, another small colony located on the west side of the valley near Stump Creek. They entered the valley from that canyon which had a better road bed, but which was not conveniently reached from Bear Lake or Utah settlements. In this colony were James and Sam Sibbets and families, Jacob Grover, Harmon Lehmberg, David Robinson, Ben and Money Welch, and some trappers who soon moved away. August Lehmberg settled south of Stump Creek in 1880.
"About this time Moses Thatcher, accompanied by Indian John as a guide, explored the valley, and was so impressed with its beauty and resources that he named it "Star Valley" and remarked that it was a "star among valleys". On returning to his home in Logan, Utah, he recommended it to those seeking free land and later as a refuge for the L.D.S. families who were being persecuted for practicing plural marriage. When the marshal wanted to arrest the latter, Governor Moonlight said, "They are good citizens, leave them alone."
"Snow fell in 1879 before sufficient food for stock could be harvested, causing the loss of many animals. The wool was picked from the dead sheep and the women spun and wove it into linsey (a course fabric) for clothing or knitted it into socks or mittens. Some of these articles were taken to Montpelier and exchanged for food. Skiis or snowshoes were their only means of travel. A strong man could carry fifty or up to seventy pounds of weight. Men, women and children all skied.
"In the spring they planed a garden near the mouth of the canyon, two miles east where the Gardner mills now stand. Hardy vegetable in this first garden thrived and produced abundantly. One morning a bear was found enjoying them. As they approached, it ran upon the hillside where they shot it and fed it to their chickens. (This last commentary by Maud Burton calls for a question. While she doesn't so state it, the Wilkes' story from two or three sources says she has to be referring to John Wilkes, his garden and the bear story. She appears to be inferring the garden was two miles east of the cabins which seems unrealistic. It would seem logical to have the garden near the cabin. The family history has always definitely stated the cabins were near where the millpond was later constructed. During Maud Burton's years, the Wilkes family was living on their homestead two miles west of millpond as will be shown on the map on page 207. Did she have it clear in her mind that the first cabins were actually near where the mill-pond was made rather than down on their homestead which they laid claim to on their second attempt to settle in Star Valley. As stated this would seem more realistic. L.B.)
"They had to depend largely on wild game and fish for food. From their cabin doors, herds of elk and deer could be seen during the summer time. Wild strawberries, currants and service berries were plentiful in certain locations. These were usually dried, but when they had sugar, some were preserved for winter. Wild game, also, was dried in large quantities.
"They learned to tan elk and deer hides and from them made shirts, gloves, moccasins, and other items of wearing apparel, including some high top boots. The winter of 1883 and 1884 was very severe. When spring came the animals were weak and the first shoots of green grass weakened them instead of giving them strength; and then, one day, the remaining horses drank a mixture of clay white-wash prepared to put on the cabins. All the animals with exception of one horse died. John Wilkes rode the remaining horse to St. Charles for help, for their resources were exhausted. Friends came to their rescue and fitted up teams and wagons with which the settlers were returned to Bear Lake. Thus ended this colony. (Again, Mrs. Burton appears quite accurate relative to details of what transpired. However, there appears conflict as to timing. If the first entry into Star Valley as claimed by these non-Wilkes' histories was correct, then John and Martha brought with them only their first three children, Johnny, Martha Elizabeth (Mattie) and Edmond and not Charlotte as some family histories claim for she was not born until 23 July 1882 in St. Charles. If, indeed, Aunt Lottie was the baby when the family first went to Star Valley, as Aunt Mat states in her history, then this winter of 1883-84 would have been the first winter for the Wilkes' family and the only winter of their first venture before returning to St. Charles during which elapsing time baby Hettie was born on 19th November 1884 and another baby, Noen, on the 24th January 1887 - both in St. Charles - before the family returned to Star Valley. Did or didn't Aunt Lottie accompany her family on their first venture to the Valley? The first public record of Aunt Lottie in Star Valley that has been located is her baptismal date of 6 August 1890 in the Afton Ward records. This assures us that the family returned to the Valley between January of 1887 and August of 1890, as previously mentioned, but doesn't help with the date of the first trip.
(It appears we may have to live with this conflict of dates and perhaps it won't be all that serious. All histories agree that John Wilkes family was among the first group and that John with two brothers-in-law, Moroni and Gash Hunt, erected the first log cabin or cabins on the east side of Upper Star Valley. The non-family histories say 1879. Aunt Mat gives the year as 1881 in June. If this be correct and they returned to St. Charles in 1882, it all happened before Aunt Lottie's birth date and, thus, she couldn't have been included among their number as they made the first trip. Let us now return to Maud Burton's history. L.B.)
"Upper Star Valley - By the spring of 1885, only two families, Lehmbergs and Welches, remained in Upper Star Valley and were located near Stump Creek, later called Sterling and still later Auburn. Grant Campbell joined them in 1884, but in the spring moved to Crow Creek about seven miles south, which place is now known as Fairview. During this summer of 1885, Fred Brown and James N. Dinsdale came and located claims on Crow Creek. The same year Charles D. Cazier returned to the valley. He had spent the winter of 1880-81 near Stump Creek, but had moved to Bennington, Bear Lake, in the spring of 1881. On his return he was accompanied by his son, Charles G. Cazier, and Isaac Biglow. They occupied the cabins on Swift Creek vacated by Wilkes and the Hunts the year before and staked out their farms a little to the east and south.
(Another interruption to Mrs. Burton's story: It appears to me she is starting with a wrong assumption as to where the original Wilkes cabins were located. As earlier stated, during her memory John Wilkes had returned and was living on his homestead two miles west of Afton rather an where his first cabin was located at the mouth of Swift Creek canyon next to the east mountains. Please see map on page 207. I, personally, well remember the old Cazier homestead which was 'south and a little to the east' of the Wilkes homestead 2 miles west of Afton rather than the original cabins at the head of Swift Creek Canyon as it emerges from the east mountains. Perhaps a better understanding can be gained by turning ahead to a map on page 207. Now to again return to Mrs. Burton's history.
"They (speaking of the Caziers, L.B.) Also selected the Afton townsite situated near the mouth of the Swift Creek Canyon. William Budge of Bear Lake, while on a visit here, was disturbed by the roaring of the creek waters, and by contrast, recalling the song, "Flow Gently Sweet Afton", decided to name the town, Afton. The townsite was surveyed by Henry M. Harmon in 1886. He was assisted by Charles D. Cazier, A. Lucius Hale, Harvey Dixon and others. Their calculations were made by the noonday sun, the north star, a carefully measured rope and a regular carpenter's square. They laid out the town almost as it is now standing. When G.S. Jones made the government survey three years later he changed the northwest corner about seven feet, shifting it to the east and north. City lots, one-fourth of a block, or containing two and one-half acres, sold for $1.00 each. (Note the Townsite Deed of John Wilkes on page 212. He paid $13 for his two lots on the 9th of September 1893. L.B.) The fertile soil was shallow over a gravel and cement base, and required water to raise vegetables and other crops. The water was plentiful but unavailable until the city canal was constructed in 1886-87. Previous to this, each family had a water barrel and all water was hauled from Swift Creek.
"Harvey Dixon built the first house on the town site of Afton in 1885. This was a log construction and was located on what was later the southwest corner of the town survey. (This would appear to have been on about Block 30. See map of original townsite, page 211. L.B.) Barnard parry also came in 1885 and the following newcomers in 1886: Lucius Hale, Wm. H. Kennington Sr., William W. Burton (for polygamy and future Burton store. L.B.), Sam Bartlett, John Bartlett, James Kofoed, Mark Hurd, Helen Foster, Jas. C. Leavitt, Charles Green and mother, Andrew Carbs McCombs, John Astle, Crit Williamson, Thomas Yeaman and John Wilkes who had previously spent 1870 to 1884 west of Afton. (If John Wilkes actually showed up in Afton in 1886 as Mrs. Burton here reports that meant that he left his wife, Grandma Wilkes, in St. Charles to have her baby, Noen, 24 January 1887. Could Grandpa have spent the summer in Afton and then returned to St. Charles for the winter and his new born baby and with the entire family returned to Afton in 1887? There are so many possibilities. L.B.) Also, arriving in 1886 were Orson H. Eggleston and James Harrison. Joseph Luke Nield came in 1888.
"Women of the Valley - one of the most outstanding women of Star Valley was Constance Stephens Eggleston, wife of Orson H. Eggleston, who had God-given ability for relieving pain and suffering. She was always subject to call, and if a team were seen or heard on the run, day or night, all knew that someone was going for Sister Eggleston, and that someone was ill, had met with an accident, or that a new baby was coming to town. This capable woman rendered her services generously. If the family were poor, there was no charge; otherwise it might be $1.00 or never more than $5.00. She served the community for over fifteen years, officiating at the birth of more than four hundred babies.
"Harriet Cazier, wife of Charles D. Cazier, first president of the Afton Ward Relief Society in 1887, was long known for her charitable deeds. She freely gave of her services to the poverty stricken, brought hope and cheer to the sorrowful, nursed the sick, and served as undertaker when the grim reaper took his toll.
"Kittie M. Dixon, wife of Harvey Dixon, served the community with her skill as a weaver. She was the first lady to serve as a school trustee in the valley, and in August, 1892, when the Star Valley stake was organized, she became the first Relief Society Stake President.
"Susan Harmon, plural wife of Harvey Dixon, and lady of the first house built in Afton townsite, could spin and weave linsey or lovely carpets. Her son, Alfred, was the first child born in Afton.
"Sarah Ann Fielding Burton, plural wife of Wm. W. Burton, who was the only white woman to live all winter in a tent, 1886-87, was known for her spirituality and courage. She was a most genial hostess, entertaining such dignitaries as Governor John E. Osbourne, who spent a week at her home.
"Charlotte Cook Hale, plural wife of Areot Hale, know how to smile through her tears. She always had a good joke or a funny yarn to tell her friends, which often relieved a tense situation.
"Lyde Lee Hale, wife of A. Lucius Hale, was similar in character to Aunt Charlotte.
"Annie Kennington, wife of Wm. H. Kennington, was one of the early school teachers in Star Valley.
"Sarah A. Hurd, wife of Mark Hurd, as made Star Valley her home since 1886. She, smilingly, nursed many a patient back to health, and she has served in official positions in many of the auxiliary organizations of the Afton ward.
"Ellen Burton, plural wife of Wm. W. Burton, was a charming little lady who assisted in the sale of merchandise when the supplies were removed from the wagons and tent into a room of her home, as the first merchandising project.
"Susan Cazier, wife of Charles G. Cazier, was a quiet, humble and sincere woman.
"Isabel Astle, wife of John Astle, was a Mormon handcart pioneer, and rode horseback from Montpelier when she came to Star Valley in 1887.
"Martha E. Roberts, wife of Arthur Roberts, came to Star Valley in 1889 and engaged in the mercantile business.
"Men and Industries - Most of the men who came in 1880-1890 seemed to fit into the community life like cogs into a wheel, by adding a needed industry to the settlement, in addition to their home building and farming activities. Harvey Dixon and Sam Cazier constructed an up-and-down saw. It was a crude affair, but it supplied boards for cabin floors and doors in 1885-86. In the fall of 1886, Crit Williamson, Thomas Yeaman, and Helen Foster came to the valley, bringing a steam sawmill. They brought two yoke of oxen belonging to Mr. Williamson, who was the first blacksmith in the valley. This mill was located in Grover Canyon and soon made lumber for building purposes.
"Archibald Gardner, know in Utah as the "Mill Builder" came in 1888 and established the first flour mill, the first shingle mill and the second sawmill. Some sawing and grinding was done in 1889, and in the work of constructing and operating those mills, Sylvester Low played an important part until he moved to Alberta, Canada, when in 1889, he was succeeded by Brigham L. Gardner.
"Wm. W. Burton, the pioneer merchant of Star Valley, came in 1886 bringing, in addition to household goods, a supply of needed merchandise with the intent of establishing a business. There were a few supplies sold in the colony established in 1879-89 at Stump Creek. Mr. Burton and his son, Heber, spent the balance of the summer, up to October, hauling with two teams from Ogden, Utah, the household furnishings, some farm machinery, and additional supplies of merchandise. Goods were sold first from a "covered wagon", then from a tent, until the summer of 1887, when the house, a two-room log structure, was completed and the merchandise was moved from the tent to occupy part of one room. Here the store remained until its removal early in 1889 to the new Burton Store building, the first erected in Star Valley, and into it was also moved the post office, which had been temporarily located at the home of Bishop Charles D. Cazier, with his son, Wm. H. Cazier as postmaster. In the new store building, Thomas F. Burton served as the first clerk and also as assistant postmaster. At about this time the Indians, finding they also could secure supplies here, increased the business considerably. The emigrants, passing through on the old Lander Trail, found an additional source of supply which added to the volume of business. The settlers, as in the past, had but little cash, but they traded available goods or services. At this time, and during the year or two following, the Burtons advised the milking of cows for the production of butter as a source of cash income and began making preparations for handling this product in exchange for merchandise. They were now dealing with other commodities, taking a cow, a pig, a calf, or chickens in exchange for family supplies. The project developed beyond highest hopes and again stepped up sales. And it did more than this: It brought attention to the fact that Star Valley was a dairy possibility with its abundance of luxurious grass, plentiful supply of pure spring water and invigorating climate.
"Anson V. Call, the builder, located at Afton in 1887, bringing in one wagon of household equipment, winter supplies, carpenter tools, and some hardware items. He built a cabin. In one end of the cabin was his work bench. He built a turning lathe with which he made household articles to trade for milk, meat, etc. in the summer of 1888, he built a two-room frame house. It was very distinctive in contract with the log cabins. Lumber now was available, and he took many contracts for the building of frame structures. In the fall of 188 his brother, Joseph N. Call, moved to Star Valley and the following year they went into the building business together. They were now known as Call Brothers, and with the help of their sons, built most of the frame houses and barns in the two valleys.
"After making various furniture items, they began importing furniture and established the first furniture store in Star Valley. A little later they accepted the agency of the Co-Op Wagon and Machine Company and supplied the settlers with farm implements. About this time Joseph H. Built the first amusement hall in Afton.
"Arthur Roberts, in 1889, built the second store and began business. He was later joined by his brother Thos. H. Roberts, and they operated under the name of Roberts Bros. Archie R. Moffat came to the valley in 1887 and later on began buying or trading for produce and disposing of it to the miners at the Almy mines near Evanston, Wyoming. William Blanchard came in 1888 and was the first to repair shoes and harnesses. He also made shoes and boots of elk and deer hide. He was a gifted violinist and was the important "First party" at dances and dramas. He made some violins, one of native wood and others of hard wood, secured from boards of an old bedstead. Eli Lee came about the same time as William Blanchard and was a good violinist. Robert (Bob) Gee came in 1887 and was an excellent caller for dances. Our dances at this time were practically all quadrilles. H.K. Cranney was the first doctor in Star Valley. He had previously practiced in Logan, Utah. Michael Yeaman was in all probability the first resident of the valley to serve as a lawyer. Arthur B. Clark was the first dentist here and served the people of both valleys in extracting teeth. He was also a violinist and musician, and many have been entertained by his singing.
"Schools - the first school held in Star Valley was during the winter of 1886-87 in the home of Charles Green and his mother. The sessions lasted six weeks, primarily to secure an enrollment of pupils in order to have a school district organized in the valley. Sam Bartlett was the teacher. There were practically no books, and the attendance was irregular.
"A log meeting house was completed in 1887 and at once became the school house and the amusement center in addition to the "meeting house". Here in the winter of 1887-88, the first school was held under school laws with William G. Burton of Evanston as teacher. For books they used anything they could bring from home. Several used the same book. Rarely were two books alike. Anson Bowen Call, a University of Utah graduate, was the teacher. He taught school many winters in After, teaching advanced students in mathematics, history and grammar. He also served as deputy county superintendent of schools. The schools in the early years were forced to close for short periods due to blizzards and heavy snow. From many homes there were no roads. The children followed cattle trails or tramped trails of their own through deep snow. The drifts almost covered the cabins. Steps had to be made before the children could leave home, and at times only the larger boys reached the school. Some summer schools were held for the smaller children. Annie R. Kennington, the first lady teacher, and Mattie Barrus served as teacher. (Interestingly, Mrs. Mattie Barrus was still teaching 24 years later than the above account. The exact year is not remembered, but many of us former pupils in the grades traveled by sleigh on clear winter day from Afton to Fairview to her funeral service. My cousin of the same age, Howard Wilkes, son of Uncle Ed Wilkes, drove his father's team. It is as though it were but yesterday. L.B.)
"The log school building was the finest building here. The logs were hewn on all four sides. This hewing was done by Mr. Shaeffer and, though not so smooth on the surfaces, were as perfect from end to end as if sawed. It was built by the united efforts of all settlers in the valley, and was located near the southeast corner of the present grade school building in afton (1946). It had a rough board floor and the dirt roof sloped to the north and south. The wall height was about eight feet and the roof was the ceiling also. The dimensions of the base were 24 feet by 40 feet. There were two double sash windows of 10 x 12 inch lights on each side of the building and rough board floor in the middle of the east end. An elevation in the floor in the west end served as a stage and on it the first drama in Star Valley was presented in the winter of 1888-89. The title of the first drama was "The Charcoal Burner". Popular amusements were dances, quilting bees, candy pulls, rag sewing bees, with now and then a birthday party or a surprise party for good measure. Then, to round out the sports calendar, they held shooting matches and horse races and sometimes "just visited".
"Incidents in the Pioneering of Star Valley - Up to the year 1888 there was no communication service, no mail or passenger service, into Star Valley. In the winter men made the trip of one hundred miles (return) on snow shoes. One year, the second lot of mail received, reached Afton about the middle of April and brought news to William W. Burton of the death of his daughter, Juliana May, on the 11th of February. Others of the early settlers had similar experiences. In the spring of 188, the people hired A. Lu Hale to carry mail from Montpelier. His son, Roe and his brother, Fred, assisted him in this work. Late in the summer, a mail route was established which gave semi-weekly service under the contract held by V. H. Pease, which was sub-contracted to A. Lu Hale and his former aids. This necessitated better camping places along the mountain roads.
Leaving the valley via Crow Creek Canyon, the trail followed a few small spots of natural meadow which made good fair weather camps. It led over Quaking Aspen Ridge, Deer Creek, Old Cousesns Ranch, the Old Salt Works, White Dugway, Half Way, Samsons Tree, Beaver Divide, and Beaver Canyon, Thomas Fork Creek, Caveens Retreat, Whiskey Flat and Camp Give Out. This last camp consisted of a shelter with dirt roof and dirt floor and a small door about three feet by five feet, a little window in the south end, and a bunk frame underneath the window where many a weary traveler enjoyed a peaceful and much needed rest. A small box stove that gave warmth and supplied heat to cook a simple, frugal meal made it seem like home. The trail proceeded and reached Snow Slide, leaving which it entered the North Park of Montpelier Canyon, then on down to the turn in this canyon six miles from Montpelier, and in those six miles the road crossed the creek twenty-six times; two miles down the canyon, it passed the Water Falls wee a small stream plunges about forty feet over a perpendicular cliff. On the return trip to miss dreaded Beaver Canyon, the winter with its heavy snows and mountain divide at both ends, the long winding road climbed the divide out of Thomas Fork Canyon, took the Hales turntable and then scooted down "Hell's Drive". This is a one way road, and compared with it, a scenic railway seems uninteresting.
"The mail carrier's and freighter's tasks were difficult and dangerous. During some seasons it was necessary to transfer all loads from wagons or buckboards to sled several times en route. The mail carriers never charged a passenger extra for walking part way nor for pushing on the wagon up some steep hills. Seldom any one ever complained for most of the passengers knew why. On mail carriers and freighters rested the responsibility of keeping the roads open, especially during the winter season. Nearly everyone who passed over the route carried a shovel, a pick and an ax, and a plentiful supply of matches. Timber was plentiful, a fact that saved many a pioneer from serious suffering due to the cold. Many parties were organized to go on the road and repair certain sections that, due to melting snows, has become almost impassable. The road lay in three counties, and the middle county had no particular interest in making a road."
As this compiler of this family history reviewed this last paragraph by Mrs. Burton dealing with freighting in and out of Star Valley and the general condition of the then existing roads, it brought to my attention the advisability of briefly reviewing, at this point, what was going on outside Star Valley which had a great influence on our family within the Valley. Timewise, we have been dealing with the decade of the 1880s.
Great changes were being made at this exact time geographically, as well as politically. Wyoming was yet a territory of the United States even though it had been geographically divided into large counties. On the 10th of July 1890 the Wyoming Territory became the 44th state of the United States and on the 11th of September following, the first state and county election was held. Uinta County, along with other counties selected, among other county officials, three county commissioners who wee to oversee the business of government over the people living within the jurisdiction of the said county. Establishing and maintaining the main roads into various areas of the county became one of the Commission's responsibilities. The main roads, known as county roads, connected community to community. Star Valley was just being settled and had no county roads as our story - and now Mrs. Burton's story, is verifying.
While in the process of gathering family history in 1939, this writer while browsing thru materials in the school library over which I was principal, ran across a small paper-back publication titled, "Annals of Wyoming" which was published quarterly by the State Department of History - this number in 1929. It contained an interesting article (interesting to me for, to that time, I had not been aware of information it contained) titled, "Official Unita County visits Star Valley". I hee quote directly portions of the article which will be self-explanatory for the most part:
"At the first State election held under the Enabling Act on September 11, 1890, I.C. Winslow, John Sims and Edward Blacker (my grandfather who was an immigrant from Wales just six years before and engaged in regular coal mining at Almy, a mining town with a population of four to five thousand people five miles north of Evanston, the county-seat).
"In those early days, Star Valley was an isolated frontier settlement of Uinta County in the first stages of subjugation by the hardy Mormon pioneers. No telegraph or telephone line had yet penetrated the primeval precincts of the lovely vale of Afton and Auburn to apprize those quiet pastoral regions of the restless wagging of the outside world. No automobile had 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 mountains to Montpelier, then to Evanston, Almy and Red Canyon, - appalling distances when the means of transportation then in vogue are considered. - the long hard drives over 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 tri 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. (John R.) Arnold.
"There had arisen some dispute over the ownership of a calf in the vicinity of Afton, and the prosecuting attorney was called upon to investigate the affair in the local justice's court to see if a felony had been committed. Hence the all around utility and economy of the official visit.
"This August representation of official Uinta County, the first of its kind in the history of the Valley, drove a team of cayuses hitched to a spring wagon, and were piloted by Archie Moffatt, the 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 other where as suited convenience or necessity.
"On the way out, the route chosen was up the Thomas Fork to determine whether this were the more feasible site for a county road into the valley. This route brought us out on the ridge at the southern extremity of Star Valley where we intersected the Old Lander Trail at what was early called Sublette Pass." (Annals of Wyoming, Vol. 6, pp. 192-3).
While road construction into early Star Valley was very slow, the freighters and interested citizens of the Valley eventually got the attention of the Uinta county officials as noted in the above article, and help from that source was eventually forthcoming. Uinta County was a very large county (Lincoln County was not formed until about 1915) and there were many other areas requiring help, so it required time - a long time, it probably seemed to the freighters and others of the Valley. Within another 30 years - by 1920 - trucks were beginning to travel these same roads in summer time which required even more concentration on road building.
As we are all aware, during these same years, due to the immensity of the road projects, the federal government agreed to help on certain roadways until we have the present-day facilities of which our grandparents could not even imagine.
Brother Archie Moffat, the freighter referred to above and mentioned in Mrs. Burton's treatise, was the grandfather of the Ed and Bessie Moffat Wilkes' children and, interestingly, he was one and Archiso Corsi from Afton the other - of the freighters, on their return trip from Almy, Wyoming, who took the Edward Blacker (Uinta County commissioner of 1890) family-furniture to their newly purchased 160 acres and its log cabin two miles north and one mile west of Afton in 1895. Actually, due to a severe attack of appendicitis on one of the children after the family had been on its way some 30 miles, caused them to return to their home they had left for medical help. The oncoming winter weather caused them to change their mind and they were delayed and did not reach Afton until the 10th day of April 1896. Edward Blacker became the father-in-law of Uncle Ed Wilkes in 1903; also Hettie Wilkes Blacker, his sister.
Now to return to and continue with Mrs. Maud Burton's history which was interrupted.
"The hard winter of 1889-90 was a most severe one, very similar to that of 1883-4 when, as previously stated, the Wilkes and Hunt families lost all their livestock. Note the difference between these winters: May 1st, 1890, fifteen days later in the season, two feet of snow covered the Afton townsite, while on May 15th 1884, fifteen days later in the season, two feet of snow covered the same area, as related by John Wilkes. The snow of 1890 disappeared in about five days and the ground was covered with tiny spring flowers.
"Previous to this the people trusted too much to having an open road to Montpelier. The summer had been less productive than those preceding it. The snow fell to a great depth. The road to Montpelier was completely closed. Many horses and cattle were dying from starvation. People emptied the hay from their bed ticks and even took the straw from under their carpets to save the last cow. Some drove their animals to the mountain ridges; many of these lived. Others tried to do this with their animals, but had left it until the animals were too weak. Men then took sacks, climbed the mountain slopes and ridges, pulled the dried grass, filled the sacks, and rolled them down to their starving animals. In this way Morris Hale saved their last cow. After thus feeding the cow, they milker her in a bottle which they carried in their pockets, taking it home to their baby sister. Louie.
"Phineas Cook came to the valley in the early fall of this year (prob. 1889), bring with him about 150 head of cattle. These he attempted to winter along the river bottom where they could browse the willows. Not an animal lived through the winter. Several others had a similar experience in losing every animal. Enoch Venter and the Hendrickson brothers, Alfred, Bill, Pet, and Frank (the father of these boys was a member of the Mormon Battalion and lived here for some time) saved about one-half of their cattle and horses on the grass mountain slopes. Thomas F. Burton, in a like manner, cared for the livestock of his father, William W. Burton, by moving them from ridge to ridge and carrying on his back about 40 to 60 pounds of grain up the steep mountain side in Swift Creek Canyon north of Afton and opposite to the PicNic and Recreation grounds (1946). He saved about 75% of the animals.
"Many families fared little better than did the animals. Food supplies were scarce. Of luxuries there were none. Clothing, too, was at a premium. Shoes suitable in many sizes, were not available. The skins from the hock joints of deer and elk and dead cattle were worn by those pioneer men and women and children. This is the way it was done: they cut around the leg of the dead animal, both above and below the joint, carefully removing the bone and not splitting the hide. They left sufficient length of hide above and below, making a tube which was turned inside out. The lower part was made to fit the foot and toes, and the upper part to fit the ankle, which may have been arranged for lacing.
"Much credit was due Archibald Gardner who made his grist mill ready to operate with the help of Sylvester Low. He carried flour to many who were destitute. The Burtons also did much to relieve the food shortage, having shipped into the Valley a half carload of flour. Conditions became critical towards spring. The men organized and appoint Lu Hale to take charge, and started out to open the road to Montpelier. This meant much wallowing tramping and shoveling of snow, so that the underfed teams could be saved for that part of the work that they alone could do. Still, many of the teams became exhausted when within fourteen miles of Montpelier. The men, too, were nearing the end of their strength, and it seemed they could not make it through, but a happy surprise awaited them. A crew from Montpelier had been working from their end of the road, and the two crews met in Snow Slide Canyon. They all went to Montpelier, where the boys were given royal consideration. The next morning a sleigh full of accumulated mail was en route to the valley, while other teams hauled merchandise and various supplies. These supplied needed items for the people until the spring breakup of mountain roads."
Surely, we are all appreciative of the interesting account of the early history of Star Valley written by Mrs. Maude Burton. We, the descendants of the John Wilkes family, can appreciate the more the struggles and hardships our parents and grandparents were required to endure as told by Mrs. Burton.
Despite the date enigma of the Wilkes Family's moving to the Valley the first time - now seen quite probably to have been 1883 - and their return to Bear Lake, we are aware that they had returned to Star Valley a year or two prior to the winter of 1889-90, just described by Mrs. Burton and, therefore, experienced the hardships just related.