Location: Utah_Arizona_Sonora Mexico
Surnames/tags: Utah_Pioneer_Kenny_Cunningham_Giroux_Mormon Trail Life of_Silena_Kenney,_Pioneer_of_Utah_Territory
This life of memories was written by Silena Kenney, she started this at her 75th Birthday. She goes back in time as a child forward and was not able to finish her story. Her son picked it up and added to the memories. Silena passed away in 1946, her manuscript was given to her son Alonzo "Lonnie" it then passed to Lonnie's grandson Lee D. Sutherland.
Silena’s manuscript was originally typed by my mother Gene Bittorf ( son Lee D. Sutherland), in the 1960s and has been retyped by Jackie Black in 2015.
- It is not intended to be more than family history, nor to be published. It is to be shared here among family members to enjoy and cherish.
I would like to thank Marie Giroux-Deal for her help with providing some of the wonderful old photos of Silena and baby Bert as well as other family memories and her father, Lonnie Giroux for providing my mother with Silena’s manuscript. (281 pages which is 29 chapters, it is to large of a PDF file to be uploaded to this site, this has been copied and pasted from original PDF file, and postings are the actual photos that are in the original PDF -LDC).
The Life of Silena Elsie Kenney-Cunninghham-Giroux , December 9, 1855 to August 4, 1946
“Seventy-seven years: My birthday: 1855 to 1932: Yes, that is seventy-seven years. It is hard to collect my thoughts after the surprise which the children have given me. The long banquet table surrounded by my family and friends; the bewildering array of gifts, heady wines, delicious food, fragrant flowers, soft music. The Beautifully decorated room seems to radiate good cheer and to echo the happy wishes of the guests. The click of the glasses as a toast is given me, the merry jests, the tinkle of light laughter and flashing of jewels all add to the gayety of the occasion. The orchestra plays, “This is Silena’s Birthday Party Day”, while the guests pick up the words and sing it all through. Then suddenly the room is darkened and before me appears a masterpiece—my birthday cake. The flickering candles carry me back to my childhood days when candles were the only means of illumination.
My present surroundings fade; I’m back again at “The Peddlers Retreat”, my old home town in Fillmore, Utah. I plainly see the big two-story log house that father had built for a public Inn. I enter the front door, but pass quickly by the office, kitchen and dining room on the first floor, as they all pertain to the public and hurry to the real heart of the home, the family living room, which covered the entire upper floor of the house. It was here that we did all our work and entertained our friends around the huge fireplace which filled one end of the room.
On stormy winter days, the men worked on one side of the fireplace, mending harness’ whittling out and shaping new handles for tools, sharpening hunting knives, or playing Checkers or Dominos. They shelled corn by raking the ears across shovel blades and hung the soaked grain from the hewn beams of the ceiling, away from the mice. All seed had to be carefully preserved for the next year’s crop, as each family raised its own seed and feed and there was none to be bought should anything destroy ours.
On the other side of the fireplace stood the reel and spinning wheel. Here mother and we girls spun, dyed and wove the home grown wool into yarn and cloth. Each girls daily task was to spin four hanks of yarn and also to do some sewing and knitting. The children played quiet games in the other end of the room next to the grain bins and we had some wonderful times too, as neighbors often dropped in to spend the evening. At times there were a dozen or more children playing, but there was never any quarreling, shouting, or noisy games. Sometimes, both old and young would join in a candy pull or roll up the hand woven carpets and dance to the music of a fiddle.
It was here that Grandmother Kenney taught us our lessons. There were no public schools in Utah then and the private ones were very expensive. Grandmother had been mother's teacher when she was a girl in Illinois and when mother's first husband died on the way to Utah with Brigham Young's immigrant train, she took her baby son, Jim and returned to Nauvoo where she boarded with Grandmother Kennedy.
Father was then serving with the Morman Battalion in the Mexican War. When he returned home, they all joined another immigrant agetrain going to Utah and reached Salt Lake City in the spring of 1851, where father and mother were married by Brigham Young.
|Pioneer Wagon Train, Utah Territory.|
They were assigned land in the newly founded State Capitol, which had been named Fillmore after the President. They proceeded at once to their new home and were one of the original seventy families that colonized that city
|The State House, Fillmore Millard, Utah.|
It was here that I was born,December 9, 1855.
The Deserette, the first newspaper in Utah, was printed in one room of the State House. The building was also used for dances, plays and public meetings in the early days and is now used for a museum.
My father’s picture and his favorite chair, covered with cowhide, are in this museum. In the evenings Father sat in this chair directly in front of the fireplace and Mother sat near him in her little cowhide-covered sewing rocker. She often told us stories as she knitted or sewed. No matter how often we heard the story, we always sat spellbound, as she told of their first serious encounter with the Indians. She was a marvelous story-teller and as she talked, the scene unfolded before us and we lived it with her
Like all Mormans, she loved and revered Brigham Young and her faith in his courage and ability was reflected in every story she told
|Mormon Immigrant Train|
She always began: “As the immigrant train drew away from civilization and slowly neared the wild country held by the Indians, Brigham Young warned everyone of the dangers they were facing and cautioned them against arousing the enmity and vengeance of the Indians. He outlined his plans for making friends with them, to trade with and treat them as equals and forbade anyone to shoot near them.
One day as the train was camped on the Potowatamie River, one of the Goodbye boys went down for water. Just across the river was an Indian squaw, also coming for water. The Godby boy raised his gun and fired to scare her, as he later said, but with a piercing scream she fell dead.
Her people rushed to her and when they saw what had happened, they started in pursuit of the boy. Brigham Young immediately ordered all the women and children into the wagons and the men to get ready to defend them. The wagons were placed in a circle to form a stockade and every man was in his place when the Indians rode up and demanded the boy. Of course his parents refused.
The Indians became angry and threatened to wipe out the entire train if the boy was not given to them. Finally, after a great deal of argument, the boy was surrendered, in order to save the lives of all the immigrants. The Indians built a huge fire and the white men expected to see the Godby boy burned at the stake, as that was the Indian’s favorite method of torture, but the fire burned down to a bed of glowing coals before they stripped the boy, rolled him in the red hot embers and gave him back to his parents.
Although his face was not touched, his entire body, was a mass of burns. What were his people to do with him? They were hundreds of miles from home and help and had only a few medical supplies. Brigham Young ordered the head knocked in on a forty gallon barrel of sorghum molasses. He then lifted the boy up and stood him down into it, completely covering his burned body.
For weeks they kept him rolled in cloth dipped in molasses. He recovered and I have heard, became one of the leading citizens of Salt Lake City. This incident proved to the immigrants that Brigham Young's policy of absolute honesty and fairness toward the Indians was indeed the best to follow.
I am called back to the present by Aggie's voice saying: "Count your candles for luck, mother." I am glad the candle light is uncertain and hides my confusion as I realize that I have been “wool-gathering”.
"No use, I laugh...no cake could hold candles enough to represent the years of my life”. Seventy-seven years, packed full and overflowing with experience enough to fill a dozen lives. It has been my privilege to see this western country of ours, grow from the rawest frontier stage to its present modern state. I am proud of the family I have raised. Born on the frontier and in mining camps, growing up in the crudest surroundings, living in old Mexico, where they were not even taught the English language in schools and yet today, they are able to take their rightful places in the world. All of their lives I have striven to so teach them, that when the opportunity came, as I felt sure it would, they would feel at ease in any class of society in which they chose to mingle and tonight, I feel that I have succeeded. “You certainly have, Mrs. Giroux”, spoke a voice at the far end of the table as I blew out the candles, leaving the party in semi-darkness a few minutes before the lights were turned on again.
I looked regretfully after my cake as they bore it away to be cut and served. How I wished father and mother and all of my family could see it! How I wished we were all seated around the big kitchen table at home, with the cake mother had made for my fifth birthday and decorated with from over our "Rock Candy Mountains". Twice a year, father made a trip to Salt Lake for supplies and he always brought us a big box of candy. It was the only "boughten" candy we ever had as we could not get it in Fillmore.
We could plainly see the mountains and the pass that father went through on the way to Salt Lake, so we associated the mountains and the candy together and called them our, "Rock Candy Mountains". The round, bare mountain tops were Mary's chocolate drops, the trees in their autumn colors were Amasa's striped peppermint sticks and the snow that blanketed the mountains in winter, was my rock candy. My cake was decorated with chocolate drops and the sides were festooned with strings of glistening rock candy crystals and to my childish eyes, it was the most beautiful cake ever made and even now, I feel that it rivals my present cake baked by a famous chef and lavishly decorated by and expert.
Down the table I hear some of the guests discussing the Christmas tree they have each year at the Deauville Beach Club, for the poor children of Santa Monica. The conversation swings around to the "depression", the inevitable subject of discussion whenever two or more people meet.
"I do wish the people of today would handle their charity work as the Mormans did in the early days of Utah", I remark and would help one another as they did when they built their first homes.” This depression today is no worse than the grasshopper plague was to the pioneers". "Tell them about it mother", said Harry, my son-in-law. "Yes, please do—oh please do", begged a dozen voices around the table.
Well I began, "the charity situation was met by tithing. The people all paid a tenth part of everything into the tithing office and it was put into a fund for the relief of the needy. If anyone found himself in need because of sickness, accident, unemployment, or any reason whatsoever, he could draw enough from this fund for his immediate needs.
There was no disgrace, sense of shame or charity attached to it. It was rightfully his as he had contributed to the fund when he had the means and as soon as the emergency was over and he began to prosper, he would again turn over one-tenth of all his earnings to the fund. Anyone in temporary need could draw money without the slightest embarrassment.
Every family was required to fast one meal of each week and the food thus saved was placed in baskets and carried to the poor. The needy were well cared for without a financial burden upon any one person or charitable organization. The tithing and charity fund are still in force in the Mormon church.
There were no “loan sharks” in Utah; if anyone needing a home did not have the ready cash with which to buy the materials, he could draw the money from the tithing office and return it when he was financially able to do so.
The early homes of the Mormons were built with community labor at “house raisings”. After all the materials were on the ground, the neighbors would come in to help with the building and a dozen or more men would work each day until the house was finished. In this way the home was soon complete with no labor costs whatsoever. When the home was ready, the neighbors all gathered for a house warming.
The host furnished the cider, while the various ladies prepared the oyster supper. The oysters were bought canned, but the crackers had to be made by the housewives. In my mind, I can see mother standing in the kitchen of the old home making crackers. First she mixed a huge ball of dough from flour, salt, butter and water. Then she rolled the dough out and pounded as much flour as possible into it. She rolled and pounded until the dough was thin and flaky, then she cut the crackers with a cutter which father had made of strips of sharp tin, soldered in circles ranging in size from a dime to a quarter. The circles were fastened together, so that a dozen crackers could be cut at one time.
Then came our part in the preparations; we were granted the delightful privilege of placing the crackers on a big tin sheet for baking. Our hands and faces were scrubbed until they shone and clean, stiffly starched aprons were put on to protect our dresses before we carefully placed each cracker on the sheet, which was then placed in a huge outdoor oven. In a few minutes the crackers were baked to a turn and we lifted them out with our little pancake turners and placed them on a board to cool.
After helping the family get settled in their new home, the evening was spent in dancing and games, followed by the oyster supper. Quilting parties and sewing bees were other popular methods of combining help and entertainment. The ladies gathered together and spent the afternoon quilting or sewing. The men folks would come for supper and dance afterward.
Candy pulls, were enjoyed by old and young a like. Great plates of golden candy were made from the homemade sorghum molasses. Syrup time was eagerly awaited by the children. Oh, how anxiously we watched the sap extracted from the sugar cane! We waited and waited for the sap to boil and it seemed that the old proverb, “A watched pot never boils”, was certainly true. At least it was ready to skim. The first and second skimmings were discarded, but the third was the one for which we had been waiting. It was put into a small keg and then all the children gathered around and filled their little pails. The third skimming was always given to the children for taffy, the fourth skimming was put back with the fresh sap and boiled all over again. The finished syrup was as clear and pretty as anyone could desire.
When I step around to the corner grocery and get anything I need, I often wonder how we ever managed as we did in the pioneer days of Utah, when nearly everything we used was made at home.
I well remember how we use to make starch. A tub was filled half full of grated potatoes and then filled to the top with water and left to stand over night, to soak out the starch. In the morning the water was poured off as quickly as possible, so as not to disturb the starch which had settled to the bottom. More water was put on the potatoes and the mass stirred thoroughly and allowed to stand a few hours, when the water was again poured off. This process was repeated three times, after which the starch was strained through a course cloth or sieve, to remove all the potato pulp. A drop of blueing was added to the last water to whiten the starch, which was spread out on trays to dry and then put in cans until needed.
We gathered the wheat, oat and barley straw and braided it for hats. The oat straw made the finest, prettiest hats and was also the easiest to work up. The wheat straw has to be split, which made it very hard to use. My Grandmother could make beautiful hats of split wheat straw, but we children never got very proficient at it, so never used it.
All our seasonings such as thyme, sage and mint were grown in the family garden, also wormwood for medicinal purposes.
The Indians taught us how to make brilliant and beautiful dyes, all shades of blue from the palest baby blue, to the darkest midnight from indigo. The root of the bitter aloe mixed with another herb, the name of which I do not remember, made a bright orange that could be shaded to pale yellow.
All shades of tan and brown were made from tan bark. Then men went into the woods and got the bark from the fir, balsam or pine trees, which was put into a huge vat and soaked until all the color came out into the water. Anyone wishing the dye bought it at so much per gallon.
We depended upon the natural resources for all our food and medicine. We raised and cured all our own meats and caught fish from the streams, dried and smoked them for use in the winter. We gathered lamb’s quarter, water cress and dandelions for “greens”.
We made jelly from the wild black and yellow currants. The squaw berries were covered with a frosty-like acid which made a delicious lemonade. Our salt came from the rock salt beds and ammonia and alum from mines.
There was a wonderful community spirit among the Mormon people; all united to help one another with their work. During the fruit season, the neighbors helped each other with their drying; the men and boys gathered the fruit and carried it to the cutting tables under a big shed while the women peeled and cut the fruit, then spread it on trays and put it in the sun to dry.
Laughter, stories and songs made the hours pass quickly and pleasantly. The children played happily together while their parents worked and when the fruit was all done at one place, the workers moved on to another, until all was prepared for drying.
In the fall of the year, corn husking was in order. Each farmer would shock his corn in neat uniform shocks all over the field, and then all the young folks in the community were invited to a husking bee. Each boy chose his sweetheart for a partner, then each couple was assigned a row of shocks. There was much rivalry in the race to the finish line, each couple trying to be the first to complete their row and at the same time watch for ears of red corn.
Should anyone husk out a red ear, they tried to hide it, as the boys had to pay a forfeit for every one husked. If a girl had a red ear, all the boys gave chase and the first one to catch her, had the privilege of kissing her.
A candy pull or an oyster supper and dance followed the husking bee. Those were certainly great days; we worked hard, but had plenty of fun to lighten our labor. So you see, we lived and built up a prosperous state without labor unions, chain stores, or any of the things the people of today consider necessities.
“But, the grasshopper plague,” someone reminds me. “I’m anxious to hear something that rivals our famous depression. I thought it was unique.”
“Oh that was when the seagulls flew in and ate them all up, wasn’t it?” exclaimed another. “no, I correct them, “the gulls went to Salt Lake during the cricket plague, but we had nothing to help us get rid of the grasshoppers.”
“Tell us all about it,” spoke up another. Well, it was a beautiful morning and we were all out working in the garden, the sun was shining and the vegetables looked so green and pretty. They gave promise of well filled pantries and bins the coming winter. “Look”, exclaimed Mother, pointing, “there’s a thunder cloud coming up.” Father raised his head and looked. “It’s coming mighty fast—must be wind in it.” “Better run for the house,” yelled Father.
|Cloud of Grasshoppers.|
Father and Mother stood in the doorway and watched its approach. Suddenly it seemed to swoop down to the earth and in a twinkling of an eye, the whole place was alive with grasshoppers, devouring everything in their path. Soon the whole country looked as though a fire had passed over it. The trees were stripped bare and every particle of vegetation was wiped out as completely as when a wet sponge is drawn across a picture on a slate.
The first cloud of grasshoppers ate their fill and moved on, but for days additional droves came, wrought their destruction and passed on to the south. We could hear their hum and watch their approach through smoked glasses, long before they reached us. After eating the tops of the root vegetables even with the ground, they began to bore into the precious vegetables themselves. We had to cover them with thin clothing in order to save them. Fortunately, there were a great deal of dried grains stored out of reach of pests. After devouring everything in reach, the grasshoppers moved on to greener fields, leaving behind millions and millions of eggs.
The second year was worse than the first., for where there was one hopper the first year, there were hundreds the second. The men plowed or dug long furrows across the fields.
|Women and Children Making Furrows.|
As soon as the young wingless hoppers emerged from the from the ground, the women and children took brushes, brooms or branches of trees and swept them into these furrows which were filled with water to drown the insects, or shoveled full of dirt and pounded down to crush and smother them.
There was a great deal of suffering the second and third years, as the dry grains and fruit had all been used up and no more could be grown. Stock died by the thousands and wild animals and birds suffered as much as the people. Our bread was made from ground-up roots of the wild sego. We gathered every edible root and bulb in the country. We watched the fields carefully and every green shoot that appeared above the ground was like an arrow pointing to the precious root below. We had to drive the surviving cattle and horses up into the mountains, almost to timberline to find pasture that had escaped the terrible grasshoppers.
So, you see, the pioneers had their depression too. “Now, I think I have done enough reminiscing for one evening. I have monopolized the conversation too long.”
“Oh, we have enjoyed it,” exclaimed a chorus of voices.” “Our troubles look rather petty after hearing yours,” said another. “Oh, that isn’t a drop in the bucket,” said Aggie, “You should hear some of her real troubles.”
“Ah yes, if they could only see the tangled threads of my life,” I think as they bid me goodnight. “Perhaps some day they shall, but I must mix the good with the bad, the pleasures with the pains, lest they think I have led a warped and twisted existence. It is true that I had more than my share of dangers, breathless escapes and terrifying moments, but I have also had a great many pleasant, sane and commonplace experiences and I thank God, I came through them all just a normal, happy woman, with a family of normal, happy children.”
If I am to tell the story of my life, I must start with my earliest memories and record them all faithfully. When I was about four years old, several soldiers with a group of children, stopped at Father’s Inn for a few days on their way east. I was delighted to have so many new playmates and we spent many happy hours together. But, like all children, I was curious about my little guests, so one day I asked the oldest girl where her mother was. To my surprise, she burst into tears, saying; “the Indians killed my father and mother.” Grandmother called me aside and told me not to question her any more, for when I was old enough to understand, she would explain it all to me. Content to wait, I ran back to my play, as we children never asked “why?”, as modern children constantly do.
As I grew older I learned from mother and father, as well as from conversations and discussions among the neighbors, all the facts concerning the Mountain Meadow Massacre and that my little playmates were the sole survivors of that tragedy.
I came to realize how the Mormons settled Salt Lake Valley, a barren desert country, almost destitute of water; how for years they struggled to tame the wilderness and wrest a living from the dry, sunbaked soil; how they planted their seeds with high hopes, watched the tiny plants show much promise of bountiful crops, only to see them gradually wither and die in the drought summer always brought. It was almost impossible to get more seed and food from the east and so they were often hungry.
They dug ditches and brought water from the mountains to their fields, thus inaugurating the first irrigation system ever used in this country. They befriended the Indians, traded with them, taught them how natural phenomenon in the sink of Meadow Creek, a small lake about fifty feet across, in the center of which the spring boiled up in pure white sand, surrounded by a perfect circle of black sand about the size and width of a large wagon tire, hence the name. In all the years that I knew the spring, “the Wagon Tire” remained a perfect circle, unbroken and unvaried in the slightest degree.
The spring itself was inaccessible to stock, but it fed a water hole that was the best watering place in that part of Utah. Thousands of animals, both wild and domestic, used it and their dead bodies were scattered over the prairies for miles. No one knew why the stock were all dying so suddenly and never suspected the immigrants treachery.
While Proctor was busily skinning a cow, his knife slipped and cut his hand. Blood poisoning set in almost immediately and he died before a doctor could get to him. The people became suspicious, analyzed the spring water and found that it had been poisoned. What a cruel and cowardly thing to do; to poison the water that meant life itself to thousands of animals and people! Water has always been life’s most precious gift and due to its scarcity it was doubly precious out on the desert plains of our whole western country.
Not content with this dastardly act, the immigrants went further and did such vile things that the whole community was shocked. They despoiled all the women and girls they could catch, pretending to think that because they were Mormons and believed in polygamy, they were anybody’s prey. One day a number of men saw several young girls from fourteen to eighteen years of age, gathering vegetables in a field. The girls answered them modestly and politely, directing them to their homes to deal with their parents. Suddenly the men reached out, caught the girls, stripped them of their underwear, assaulted them, then tied their dresses and petticoats tightly around their necks imprisoning their arms, so they could not get their clothing down. After vainly struggling for a long time to free themselves, the girls had to go to their homes in Parowan with their lower limbs bare and exposed. Imagine if you can, the shame and humiliation they suffered. Some of these girls were dear friends of my mother’s and she said that although they lived to a ripe old age, they carried that sense of shame, like a scar, to their graves.
Anger flamed high among the Mormon people. They had already suffered too much at the hands of the immigrants. Seventy-five families can certainly do a great deal of damage to small communities and newly established fields, especially when they deliberately plan to do so.
The Mormons saw their towns, fields and cattle destroyed without arousing to take revenge, as they were by nature and religion a peaceable people, but they could not and would not stand by and see their womanhood destroyed. When they were thoroughly aroused, they planned a revenge that would be swift and sure. They laid their plans before John D. Lee, who protested vigorously, but could not stem the tide of resentment nor soften the blow aimed at the immigrants. At last he gave up and agreed to help, but went to his home and cried in helpless despair over the part he was forced to play. His tears earned him the contempt of the Indians, who ever after called him “Naguts”, which means “Cry Baby”.
The Piutes and other friendly Indians, under Kanosh, joined the Mormons. They all went, disguised as Indians, to the Immigrant camp near St. George. Surrounding the camp at night, they waited until four o’clock in the morning, the Indians favorite time of attack. When the immigrants heard the war whoop, they prepared for defense. After fighting fiercely for several hours the immigrants, facing defeat, made a last desperate appeal.
They dressed all their young girls in white and giving each a white flag, sent them out to intercede for them. When the Mormons saw these girls dressed in white, their bodies clean and undefiled, and their minds free from the horrors their own daughters had suffered, their anger flamed at white heat and striking out with a savageness entirely foreign to their nature, they drove off the oxen, burned the wagon and household goods and wiped out the entire train, except sixteen of the babies and children too small to remember what had happened. These children were taken to Cedar City and cared for in private homes until the soldiers came out from the east about two years later to take them back to relatives. These were the soldiers and children who had stopped at my father’s inn when I was a child.
When the Mormons heard that another immigrant train was in route to Salt Lake Valley, they determined not to let them enter. After the indignities and destruction they had suffered from the train which was wiped out in the Mountain Meadow Massacre, they could hardly be blamed for protecting themselves from further invasion by the unfriendly immigrants of other faiths.
Lot Smith, with a posse of men, went out to meet the approaching train and turn it back. At the mouth of Echo Canyon, the gateway to Salt Lake Valley, he hid his men and waited. About an hour later they sighted the immigrant’s wagons, lurching and jolting slowly down the rough, rocky road. To their astonishment they saw the lead wagon piled high with coiled rope, surely a strange cargo, for in this new country there was little need for such quantities of it.
Every ounce of freight had to be reckoned carefully as to its real need and usefulness, on these long hard trips across the plains and food, clothing, implements, seeds and ammunition were of such vital importance in establishing and maintaining their new homes and defending them against Indians, it was indeed strange that the immigrants would haul a whole wagon load of rope all the way across the country, unless they had some special use for it.
When the first wagon pulled up to enter the canyon, Lot Smith stepped out and challenged the leader. He inquired who they were and where they were going. They said they were immigrants from the East, seeking new homes in the western country. When asked about the rope the leader replied:
Oh, that’s to hang all the Mormons who have two wives. We don’t believe in that kind of religion and so we’re going to clean it out of this country.” “Well we happen to be some of those Mormons,” said Lot Smith, waving to his men to surround the train. Despite violent protests the men seized the wagon load of rope, piled it on a sandy mound and burned it. They then gave the immigrants food and ordered them to return to their homes in the East. This was the Johnson Company and it was from them that the government learned of the Mountain Meadow massacre. Soldiers were then sent out to investigate and take the surviving children back to their relatives.
After this incident, Lot Smith became quite a hero among his people and the little song comforting the event became a Mormon lullaby. Mothers sang it to their babies in their cradles and the children played games to its tune.
- “We’re going to hang the man who has two wives,
- We have the rope quite handy,
- That is to say, we would have done,
- But Lot Smith burned us out on Sandy.”
|Captain Lot Smith.|
Lot Smith lived across the street from our house and I remember his family very well, especially his son.
Father and my uncle John Nichols owned a grist mill to which everyone around Fillmore took wheat to be ground into flour. The old mill was built of adobe and stone and the wheels hewn out of granite, were turned by the water from a mountain stream. This mill was about two blocks from our house and mother often sent my brother, Amasa and me there with messages for father. When he saw us coming he would pull his knife out of his pocket and begin whetting it. Without seeming to notice us, he would sharpen and test, sharpen and test with his finger as we drew nearer and just as we reached his house, he would examine it critically and pronounce it ready for use. We would let out a yell and tear for home, screaming at the top of our voices. Young Lot would throw back his head, laugh and say: “Just see the little white-heads run.” His mother often came out and remonstrated with him, but he would only laugh and say: “I won’t hurt them; I just like to see them run.” Lot was only about fourteen years old, but to us he was a villain, a bold, bad man.
When I returned to Utah on a visit, forty years later, the ruins of the old mill were still standing, although it was almost a hundred years old. I brought away a piece of the stone wheel as a souvenir of my childhood days.
Before we children were old enough for regular school, we attended a private one which Mrs. Speed, whose husband had gone on a prospecting trip to Montana, leaving her to support herself and two small daughters, opened it in her home. Amasa and I attended with several other small children.
Her home was a dug-out in the side of the hill, lighted by a skylight and a window on each side of the door. Her bed stood in one corner and the girl’s bed on the opposite side of the room. A hand-woven carpet covered the floor and several smaller rugs were grouped around the fireplace where she did her cooking, as well as taught her classes. The school room equipment, consisted of a long low table and two benches made of a log which had been split. The flat sides were smoothed off and short poles driven in for legs. The girls sat on a bench on one side of the table, while the boys occupied the other and many was the sly kick administered under the table when the teacher’s back was turned and many an apple I received from Lonnie Robinson, an ardent admirer, who sat across from me.
When the snow was deep, brother Jim carried me to school on his back and remained to help the other men clear paths around the school house. We took our lunches and at noon ate on our study table before putting on our wraps for a romp out of doors. We wore warm coats, knitted caps and heavy woolen socks pulled up over our shoes and stockings. Thus protected from the cold, we ran and played like little snow birds and returned to the school room, flushed and eager for more lessons.
Her home was a dug-out in the side of the hill, lighted by a skylight and a window on each side of the door. Her bed stood in one corner and the girl’s bed on the opposite side of the room. A hand-woven carpet covered the floor and several smaller rugs were grouped around the fireplace where she did her cooking, as well as taught her classes. The school room equipment, consisted of a long low table and two benches made of a log which had been split. The flat sides were smoothed off and short poles driven in for legs. The girls sat on a bench on one side of the table, while the boys occupied the other and many was the sly kick administered under the table when the teacher’s back was turned and many an apple I received from Lonnie Robinson, an ardent admirer, who sat across from me.
When the snow was deep, brother Jim carried me to school on his back and remained to help the other men clear paths around the school house. We took our lunches and at noon ate on our study table before putting on our wraps for a romp out of doors. We wore warm coats, knitted caps and heavy woolen socks pulled up over our shoes and stockings. Thus protected from the cold, we ran and played like little snow birds and returned to the school room, flushed and eager for more lessons.
Mrs. Speed kept our attendance record on the rafters which supported the roof to her home. These were so low they were within easy reach of her hand. When I visited this old school room, sixty years later, I found my record still legible.
We were not bothered a great deal by wild beasts in the pioneer days, but Indians were a constant menace and prevented the colonization of Utah for many Years. For months we had heard rumors of Indian raids in other parts of the state. The Black Hawks had been on the war path and had become so troublesome that the government had sent out soldiers to subdue them. Although the Indians around us were peaceable, an air of anxiety and uneasiness hung over the whole country.
One day we heard father say: “Black Hawk has surrendered. I hope we will have peace now.” Everyone was so excited and happy and of course we children shared in the excitement, although we couldn’t understand what it all meant.
One morning soon after a big government wagon drove up to the door and a group of soldiers got out.
It was Kit Carson, the famous Indian Scout
|Kit Carson, Indian Scout.|
and his officers. The other soldiers were encamped at the public corral. Kit Carson was dressed in fringed leather jacket and pants and a coon-skin cap. When he came through the door, I was dancing and skipping around, just bursting with excitement. He caught me up in his arms, tossed me above his head and after a good romp he carried me over to father’s favorite chair, a huge home-made one, covered with cowhide, where he sat down and took me on one knee and my brother, Amasa on the other. We tickled our noses with the tail of his coon-skin cap, braided the fringe on his jacket, romped and played with him for a long time, little dreaming he was a very famous person.
“I will give you this pretty red cup for just one little kiss.” I wanted that cup, oh, how I wanted that cup! I half reached my hand out toward it, but bashfulness overcame me. I drew back and again hid my face. Handing the cup to Mother, he asked her to fill it with sugar. Then holding it as a bribe, he puckered up his lips for my kiss. This proved too much of temptation, as sugar was a great treat to us, so I kissed him and took the prize. I divided the sugar with Amasa, but kept the cup for many years.
The next day, Mary, Amasa and I were playing out in the barnyard, when we saw the Indians coming. We were very frightened and were trying to crawl under the hay when Father came out and took us into the house saying: “The Indians are passing through and we are not sure they will go peaceably, so you children had better stay inside.” We went into the house, but stood with our noses flattened against the window pane, watching the continuous line of Indians, passing by with all their goods carried on travois, which were dragged back of the horses. Armed soldiers marched through the streets to protect the town. It took two days for all the Indians to pass and then, with the soldiers following them, they marched on down to their reservation.
One day a baby lamb caught it’s head in the fence and the pigs chewed off both ears before anyone heard its cry and went to the rescue. Father doctored and doctored, but it steadily grew weaker, until he finally gave up and decided to kill it. I begged him to let me try to save little Nannie, as I had named her. “All right, Silena,” he said. “She is yours if you can save her life.”
I made a small pen of sticks and willows woven together and nursed, cuddled and petted Nannie, until to my joy, she grew quite well and strong again. I loved her dearly and spent hours playing with her, brushing her fleece and keeping her clean. The next spring when the other sheep were being sheared, Father said: “If you want Nannie sheared, you will have to come down and help.” “Oh Father, I want to shear her myself. Please, may I?” “Of course you may, little daughter”, he answered.
He and brother Jim held Nannie while I cut off all her wool. Mother said I could have a dress made of her fleece, but not having enough in the first shearing, she helped me clean, card and spin it and we put it away until we sheared Nannie again. I then had enough for my dress and grandmother dyed it. When the cloth was woven it was blue with an undertone of brown and stripes of orange and green. Mother cut and fitted my dress for me, then showed me how to make it. I sewed every stitch myself and I was only eight years old. I was very proud of my new dress. After that, I did most of my own sewing and as I grew older, I helped sew for the younger children.
Although I learned to weave as smoothly as any of the girls, my first attempt at it was indeed a sorry one. I got my yarn so tangled that I was in tears before I gave up and asked Mother to help me. As she patiently straightened it out, she gave me a valuable lesson on life. Pointing to the cloth on the loom, she said: "Your life is the warp and what you put into your life is the woof. Let us call this blue thread the church. See, it goes all the way across. This means, regular attendance and steadfast devotion to your church all your life. The next thread can be your family. This green one is home, a real home with fields, pastures and stock. The next thread is for friendship, true friendship that lives through the years. These bright threads woven all through the cloth are the children, who bring pleasure to their parents."
"All these threads woven together make a beautiful piece of cloth, just as the things we named, make a peaceful, happy life. But, if we don’t weave carefully, our lives will be like this lapful of tangled threads, broken ends, passing acquaintances, but no real home and these things, Silena dear, don't make the calm peaceful, happy life which I wish all my children to have."
Swimming was one of our greatest sports. The boys fixed a permanent swimming hole, which they used summer after summer and not to be outdone, the girls proceeded to fix up a better one. We found a shady retreat near the river and dug out a big deep hole, with an inlet at one end to fill it with water from the river and at the lower end, an outlet, so we could drain our pool each night and keep it fresh and clear. We patterned our headgates after the ones in the canals and they were very effective too. We filled the basin early in the morning and by noon it was warm enough to use and late in the evening, when we were all through bathing, we raised the lower gate and let the water run back into the river.
The “Royal Road” to our pool was a little winding foot path which entered a thicket of elderberry bushes that were white with blossoms in the springtime and attracted hundreds of butterflies and bees and filled the air with their heavy perfume. The road then passed into the larger trees of maple, birch and alders, where the wild grapes climbed into the topmost branches and grew from tree to tree, forming arches above our heads, or making substantial swings for our enjoyment.
Wild currants grew on every hand. We trained the vines up among the branches of the willows on one side of the pool to form the walls of our dressing rooms. The trees surrounding our pool were entwined with wild ivy, whose long white feathery blossoms swayed in the breeze like the plumed hats of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.
On the other side of the pool, along the river bank, grew a clump of quaking aspens whose fresh green leaves always fluttering, reminded us of hundreds of little elves, dancing to the music of the running water.
So thick was the foliage, that the sun could shine on us only when directly overhead; thus we had a swimming pool as private and exclusive as anyone could wish. The boys gazed at it in secret envy, but contemptuously dubbed it, “The Gal Hole”. Of course, the name stuck and our fairy pool soon became known only by that plebeian name.
We spent most of our mornings, before the water was warm enough to swim in, splashing around the banks of our pool. We swished the silvery leaved Columbines, in the water trying to get them wet. The leaves were covered with fine silky hairs which formed air pockets and kept the water from reaching the surface of the leaf. We used these branches to drive the little water-skippers into a cove in a vain effort to keep them corralled. We caught tiny green frogs and built private pools for them, only to have them ungratefully hop away as soon as our backs were turned.
Our older sisters and even our mothers often came down to join the fun at the “Gal Hole” and many long, hot afternoons were spent there. The girls soon formed in cliques and some times there was a little jealousy between the different sets. I remember one day, ranging in ages from eight to twelve years, beat the older girls to the swimming hole. As we tripped triumphantly from the pool to the dressing room, one of the older girls snatched up a big stinging nettle and hit each of us as we passed her. If you have never met a stinging nettle, you cannot realize how we suffered. There was certainly a great deal of weeping and wailing and smearing salve in Fillmore that night. What was worse, our blisters didn’t heal for several days.
When the planting season was over, the friendly Indians who camped on the mesa outside the Fort while they helped with the crops, were preparing to start on a march. About daybreak we heard a great commotion in their camp. There was screaming, moaning, pleading as if someone in great distress was beseeching mercy. The men of the fort were hastily dressed and went in a body to the camp to investigate. They found the Chief holding a newborn baby, which he intended to kill by bashing it brains out on a rock. The mother and other squaws were crying and begging for its life, but the Chief was firm in his refusal to spare it. The mother could be put on a litter and the march started as planned, but the baby was too young to make the strenuous journey and he didn’t want to delay the march until it was old enough to travel.
The white men tried to reason and argue with the chief, but to no avail. They were at a loss what to do, as they did not want to anger the Indians by taking the baby by force, if they could possibly save it by persuasion.
Finally, John Elliot stepped forward and offered the Chief a bull in exchange for the baby. The offer was gladly accepted and the baby turned over to him. The squaw seemed quite satisfied to give it up when she learned that it would not be harmed Although the Chief would not delay a single day for the baby’s sake, he halted the march to kill the bull and prepare the meat to take with them.
Mr. Elliot wrapped the baby carefully in a shawl and started back to the Fort. He and his wife had been married twelve years and having no children, they were heartbroken, as a childless marriage is a great tragedy to the Morman people. He hoped the little Indian baby would relieve the hunger in his wife’s heart and assuage the bitterest disappointment in her life. When he reached home, he tenderly laid in his wife’s arms her very first baby and when she looked down at the tiny brown mite, she opened her heart and took him in.
Little Don, as he was named, grew at an amazing rate and became the pet of the whole Fort. An Indian baby as an Indian baby, was a common sight, but an Indian baby in a white home, was indeed rare and interesting. Mr. and Mrs. Elliot loved their new baby very dearly and planned to raise and educate him just as they would of one of their very own, but when he was nine months old, he sickened and died. His foster-parents were heart-broken and very lonely, until god gave them a daughter of their own and just a year later, a son to fill their hearts. They loved their own children dearly, but they never forgot the little Indian baby that they had rescued and joyfully watched grow into a beautiful little bud that was destined to never bloom.
The crops were all up and growing nicely when the grasshoppers swooped down in great black clouds, devouring everything in their path. The people fought desperately to save their crops, but could not stem the tide of hungry jaws that chewed their way across the country. We saved the root crops by covering the gardens with cloth and maintaining a ceaseless vigilance to see that no “hopper” crept underneath.
The pioneers were thrifty, energetic, hard-working people, yet they never missed an opportunity to play. All holidays were duly observed and celebrated, but July 24 was their chief holiday, as the first Mormons reached what is now Salt Lake City on July 24, 1847.
This day is celebrated with parades, picnics and speeches, very much as the rest of the country celebrates the Fourth of July. I will remember one celebration that I missed. Father had been to Salt Lake City and bought new shoes, stockings and dress materials. Mother had made our dresses with ruffles and bows, all ready for the big celebration. On the morning of the twenty-fourth, she dressed Mary, Amasa and me and set us on chairs out on the porch while she dressed herself. “Now, don’t stir off those chairs,” she warned, “for if you get dirty you will just have to stay home, as I won’t have time to change you.”
This was indeed a big order for active youngsters. We thought the rest of the family would never get dressed. We heard mother call to father and grand-mother to “hurry or they would be late.” Amasa slipped off his chair and began peeking around it, making faces at us while we giggled and squirmed. Finally we could sit no longer, so sister, Mary called: “Mother, please may we go down in the yard and wait? We are so tired of sitting still.” “Yes, answered mother, but don’t go any further and DON’T GET DIRTY!”
We soon tired of the yard and decided to walk on ahead, so hand-in-hand, we started up the street, watching guiltily over our shoulders. “Let’s go look at the water just a minute,” suggested Mary, the mischief-maker. “Let’s,” Amasa and I agreed, so we went over and stood on the edge of a narrow, rail-less footbridge, which crossed the main ditch. Below us, the water rushed madly down to a tunnel or underground passage, where it poured over the wheel which ran the mill.
|Old Grist Mill, Fillmore, Millard, Utah—photo 1890.|
As we stood gazing down at the swirling water, we became dizzy and leaned farther out over it, until we dropped just like flies, into the water below.
Our sudden plunge into the icy water dispelled our dizziness and we began screaming for help. “Father! Father!” called Mary, as she came up choking and sputtering, only to be dashed under again. “Help! Help! screamed Amasa, while I called weakly for “Mother!”
Our screams brought men running to us and we were dragged out of the water just at the mouth of the tunnel where, fortunately for us, a screen had been placed to keep trash from going down and clogging the mill wheel. If the screen had been raised, as it often was when the mill was not running, we would have been dashed to certain death. We were carried home, half drowned, put to bed immediately and kept there for the rest of the day.
I can see Mother yet, as she sat by our bedside crying. She was thoroughly unnerved by our narrow escape and bitterly disappointed over missing the celebration. This was the big day of the whole year and celebrations were few and far between in that new country as it was a blow to miss it. We suffered no ill effects from our icy bath and were up and ready for play the next morning.
The rest of the summer passed quickly and uneventfully. I went to visit my cousin and returned home one evening quite late. As I stepped through the dining room door, I stopped, paralyzed with fright. A shaft of moonlight from an open window fell across a huge white object on the dining room table and all the ghost stories I had ever heard, flashed through my mind as I let out one ear-splitting scream. In an instant, a dozen people were gathered around me, all trying to sooth and question me at the same time.
“It’s a ghost, Father, it’s really, truly a ghost. I saw it, “ I sobbed as Father held mein his arms.
Presently someone lighted the lamp and Father led me over to see my “ghost”. Laughing heartily at me, he slowly raised the sheet. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when I saw a DRESSED HOG! Father had butchered a big hog for our winter’s meat and had left it hanging outside until it was stiff and cold. Just before dark, he had brought it inside, away from the prowling animals. Finding no other suitable place to keep it, he put it on the big dining table and covered it with a sheet. Then he had opened all the doors and windows so the fresh air could circulate around it and keep it cool until morning. After a hearty laugh at my expense, everyone returned to their rooms, but for years my “ghost” story was told and retold around the fireplace on long winter evenings.
Every fall the stock was all rounded up and brought in from the range to the big public corral, where buyers from all over the country came to buy it and after the sale, each owner put his remaining stock in his own corral for winter feeding.
One morning right after a fall sale, grandmother gave me a little pail and sent me out to the irrigation ditch for water. The ditches ran down the streets and everyone got their water from them. Just as I stopped down to dip my little pail into the water, I spied a roll of green paper and picking it up, I turned it over and over.
We had very little paper in the pioneer days and I had never seen any just like this. Dropping my pail, I dashed into the house with my prize. “Oh, grandmother, grandmother, look what I found!” “Where did you find this?” she asked, as she gazed in astonishment at the huge roll of bills. “Loren, come quickly. Just see what this child has found.” Father hurried in to see what all the excitement was all about and when he saw the money, he was as surprised and puzzled as grandmother. “Come daughter, show me just where you found this.” I took father by the hand and led him out to the ditch and pointing down to a small bush at the foot of a tree, said: “right down there.”
Father took the roll of bills to the Bishop and told him the whole story. The Bishop inquired everywhere, but could not find the owner. A great many strangers had come into Fillmore for the sales, but they had all gone away. The money was probably lost by one of these, although we could never find out by whom.
When the money had been advertised for six weeks and not called for, ten percent was given to the church and the balance was returned to father who went to Salt Lake and put it in the bank. When I grew up, I asked him how much money was in the roll and he replied: “Well little daughter, there was enough to keep hard times away for a very long, long time.”
The crops had all been harvested and carefully stored away, the excitement of the fall round-up had subsided and we were all settled down to the quiet humdrum life of winter, when the whole country was startled by a very tragic incident.
The Piute and other friendly Indians had been converted to the Mormon faith and established on small farms next to the foothills. Kanosh, Chief of the Pahvant Band, was made President of the Indian church, which also had a Bishop and other officers.
Affairs of the newly established church went along smoothly until Kanosh took a second wife, much against the wishes of his first. There was a great deal of jealousy and ill feeling between the two women, until one day the second wife disappeared. A posse of men searched for days before they found her body buried beneath a pile of rocks and brush. Kanosh forced his first wife to confess to the crime and then meted out her punishment. He built a stone house and shut her in it to starve to death. According to the Indian custom, he had to share her punishment, so he sat at the door of her prison until her death and then, less than four hours later, he too died. When I visited Utah sixty years later, Kanosh’s prison still stood.
After the Indians were subdued, the colonization of Utah advanced quite quickly. Groups of families left the established towns and settled in colonies near the rivers and springs. About fifteen families left Fillmore and founded Deseret, thirty-six miles away. Mrs Webb, a cousin of Brigham Young’s favorite wife, Amelia Webb, went with them, while her daughter, Mrs. Brooks, remained in Fillmore. Mother had promised to nurse Mrs. Brooks through her approaching confinement, but was called to Deseret to take care of Mrs. Webb.
As her time drew nearer and mother did not return, Aunt Sarah Brooks, as we called her, grew uneasy and decided to go to her mother’s at Deseret. She asked brother Jim to take her in the sleigh as the roads were deep with snow. Jim filled the wagon bed half full of straw and put a big canvas over it. They took plenty of robes and blankets and started out early the next morning, expecting to reach Deseret in the late afternoon.
About noon Aunt Sarah was in pain and they knew that their time was short indeed. Jim whipped up the horses and they fairly flew along the road in a mad race with the stork. The horses were gallantly doing their best, but the stork was gaining with every mile. Finally through lips drawn with pain, Aunt Sarah said: “What are we going to do? We are losing the race. We can never get there in time.” “We’ll just do the best we can, answered Jim cheerfully. He drove the sleigh off the road into a little stretch of timber, unhitched the team and built a fire. He then stretched a big wagon sheet over the sleigh and carefully tucked the blankets around Aunt Sarah to shut out the wind. In these crude surrounding little Laura Brooks was born. Jim wrapped her in her mother’s petticoat and his own undershirt and making his patients comfortable, he hitched up the team and drove rapidly on to Deseret. When they arrived Mother and Mrs. Webb were greatly disturbed over the event.
“Don’t worry,” laughed Aunt Sarah. “I’ve had the best doctor in the world, baby and I are fine and I can assure you that Jim will make some woman a wonderful husband.” Which prophecy proved true in later years.
In the spring, twelve carriage loads of the high officials of the Mormon church stopped in Fillmore on their way to St. George to lay the cornerstone of the new church. There were the twelve Apostles: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Amasa M. Lyman, Willard Richards and Ezra T. Benson. Also, Captain James Allen, Col. Thomas L. Kane and Elder Jesse C. Little.
Among the ones that stayed at Father’s inn were George A. Smith, his wife and little daughter, Mary A. Smith. Mary and I became very close friends and when the party was ready to travel, we refused to be separated. Hand in hand, we stood in front of Mary’s mother and begged her to let Mary stay with me.
“Please Mrs. Smith, can’t Mary stay here? She can play with my things and sleep in my bed and…” “That is very generous of you, Silena dear,” laughed Mrs. Smith, “but, I’m afraid we can’t spare our little girl.” “Oh Mama please,” pleaded Mary. “No, Mary” said her mother with finality. “Then I’m going to take her home with me. Please mother, may I?” “If Mrs. Kinney will let Silena go, we will be glad to take her,” answered Mrs. Smith. Still holding hands, as if we’d never let loose, we turned to mother. “Please mother, may I go home with Mary? I’ll be just so good and never cry or fuss,” I promised eagerly. “Oh please Mrs. Kinney, we’ll take the ‘bestest’ good care of her, said Mary, adding her entreaty to mine.
You two are too young to go so far from home,” began mother. “I’m afraid your father will never consent to it.” Just then father and Mrs. smith stepped into the room. Determined to win or lose at one stroke, Mary and I put our arms around each other and said almost defiantly: “Now you can’t part us. Do we both go, or do we both stay here.?”
Our parents laughed heartily and then Mr. and Mrs. Smith added their pleas to ours until finally my parents consented to let me go with them as far as their home in Parowan.
“The caravan will pick her up on the way back from St. George and bring her home again, “ promised Mrs. Smith. Mary and I danced around the room, too excited to plan our trip.
When we were actually on our way, so there could be no changing of plans and knew that I was really truly going, we could hardly contain ourselves. There were three other children in the party, Clara Kimball, Jack Hyde and another whose name I can’t recall. We reached Beaver the first night and all the families with children stopped with Bishop Dame. I remember that we children all teased little Jackie Hyde about his long golden curls. The poor little fellow would run sobbing to his mother. “Mama, Mama, they’re teasing me about my curls. Cut ‘em off, oh, please cut ‘em off.”
We reached Parowan the next night and the school children met us about a mile from town, singing songs and strewing flowers in our path as they escorted us into Parowan. We stayed there two days visiting among the people while the horses rested and we were royally entertained wherever we went.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith decided to go on to St. George and of course, took me with them. We took big baskets of lunch, as the villages beyond Parowan were very small and far apart. At noon we stopped in a lovely stretch of timber and had a bountiful picnic lunch.
We traveled all afternoon, but stopped for camp early in the evening. We pitched our tents under pines that murmured and swayed above our heads and spread a deep carpet of needles under our feet. A laughing little mountain stream danced by our camp, catching the sunbeams which filtered through the leaves and changed them into a million shimmering jewels. The crystal clear stream with its pebbly bed, seemed to invite us to come and romp with it. “Oh, may we wade?” “Please may we wade in the water?” we begged. “Not yet,” laughed our elders. “Wait for summer to come.”
With a sigh, we turned reluctantly from the enticing water and raced upstream, but rounding a huge boulder, we stopped in breathless wonder at the sheer beauty of the picture that met our eyes. No wonder our little stream had danced and gurgled and murmured! It was fed by a fairy fountain. A waterfall came tumbling down over a rocky cliff, sending foamy spray, like soap bubbles high into the air, making a rainbow as it fell back into the stream to dance on down the hill.
On the rocks above the stream grew sarvis berry bushes, now snow white with blossoms. It was indeed marvelous how they grew in what seemed to be solid rock and standing there in such stately beauty, filling the air with perfume and showering the water with white petals. They seemed more like fairy princesses than real flowers.
We children wove wonderful stories about our princess. In our childish imagination, we could see her seated on her throne, dressed in a shimmering white robe, with her ladies-in-waiting twining blossoms in her golden hair and spraying her with rare perfume. We called the petals falling through the air butterflies and the ones floating on the water were snow white swans.
We played around the waterfall until we were called back to camp. We went down the hill chattering of castles, princesses, butterflies and swans until most of the older members of the party went up to see what we had found. The beauty of the scene impressed them as much as it did us and they declared we had named it well when we called it Fairyland.
After a picnic supper we all played such games as six sticks, hop scotch, drop the handkerchief, find the ring jumping the rope and many other childish games. Brigham Young and all the Elders joined in the play as wholeheartedly as the children and enjoyed it even more. We had played until midnight before we realized it was getting late.
As we passed through the various towns, the school children handed out baskets filled with all kinds of goodies, pies, cakes, doughnuts and cookies as well as substantial sandwiches. We reached St. George, where Brigham Young laid the cornerstone for the new church. We children did not attend many of the meetings, as we grew tired and restless before they were over.
When we returned to Parowan, Mr. and Mrs. Smith kept me with them and sent word to father and mother that they would take good care of me until the caravan returned for the fall conference.
While I was at Parowan, I attended my first public school. Mother had taught me at home, so I was able to enter the fourth grade. During the school term my teacher, Della Barton, became ill and died. The whole school attended the funeral and the services made a big impression on my mind. I can see it all yet; the casket blanketed with flowers, the tear-wet eyes of the sorrowing parents. The memory of the sad, sweet music brings a lump to my throat, even now. The Bishop read this poem to her:
- “We lay our lovely Della
- low beneath the sod.
- She was a beautiful flower in springtime,
- Now she has gone to dwell with God.
- She left this world of sorrow
- For a brighter sphere,
- So mourn her not in anguish,
- Now dry your flowing tears.
I heard it once, but memorized it and have never forgotten it, although that was nearly seventy years ago.
The people of Parowan all lived together in a fort for protection from the Ute Indians, who roamed over the country, often attacking the whites, stealing their stock, killing the men and taking the women and children captive. The children were allowed out of the fort for short intervals, only when absolutely necessary.
There had been a heavy rain, which had swollen the river, marooning the cattle on the other side, so they could not come home. As soon as the water receded to normal, Frances and Lottie Turnham, Harriet Hollingshead and I were sent out to find them and drive them home. We thought it would be fun to have a potato bake, so we hid some potatoes under our Indian shawls before starting out.
After rounding up the cows and starting them toward home, we cleared a nice place under some bushes, built a campfire, let it burn down, then put our potatoes on the coals. While they were roasting, we ran over to a little ravine, took off all our clothing, except our underwear and smeared our bodies all over with the sticky red, paint-like mud which the water had left along the river bank. Then we put our handkerchiefs on our heads, wrapped our shawls around us and had an Indian dance and pow wow.
After a hilarious half-hour we went back to our potatoes, but when we reached our camp fire, such a sight met our eyes! Potatoes, rocks, sticks and embers were flying in every direction. We were too amazed to speak and too frightened to move.
Before we could gather our wits together, an ugly head appeared out of the ground, followed by a long slim body and eleven rattles. A big rattlesnake had found a nice hole in the ground and crawled inside for his long winter’s nap. We came along and built our fire right on top of him. Soon the heat thawed out the ground and disturbed his sleep. As he warmed up he began to stir and stretch, but he finally began to get too hot and in thrashing around, trying to find the opening to his home, he upset our potato bake, scattering things to the four winds.
When we saw the snake emerge and realized what had happened, we all grabbed sticks and stones and killed him. We tied a string around the snake and dragging him behind us, started home to show our prize.
All at once we heard the most blood-curdling yell and thinking the Indians were after us, took to our heels without delay. Jesse and Frank James and their two cousins, Bill and John, were playing along the river. When they saw us with our painted bodies and Indian shawls, they thought we were real Indians and letting out a scream of terror, they dashed to the Fort to spread the alarm. We were almost to the gate when the boys sped through it. When we got inside the riders were dashing down the street, blowing horns, beating drums and shouting: “To arms! To arms! The Indians are coming! The Indians are here!
The men were leaving their work, running out of the houses with their guns and gathering to protect the Fort from a raid. When we dashed inside, four badly frightened little girls we were, immediately surrounded by the men, all demanding an explanation. Finally convinced that we were the Indians whom the boys had seen, we were sent home to our parents for punishment.
As soon as the ground warmed up the grasshopper eggs hatched out and the fight was on. Women and children stood shoulder to shoulder with the men in the battle to exterminate the pests. We brushed the young hoppers into the ditches which the men dug. Swish! brush! swish! brush, until our brains reeled and our eyes ached and our arms almost dropped from their sockets.
At first I could not sleep at night for dreaming of the wiggling, crawling, scrunchy grasshoppers under my feet, but as we brushed and swept day after day, I became so tired, I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.
We could raise only a few vegetables in our garden and these were carefully covered with cloth, so we had to hunt in the woods for wild herbs and roots for food. We drove the stock up in timber where the hoppers had not been and it was here we found all the fruit and berries we had to use during the three years of the plague.
One berry picking excursion up in the mountains almost met tragedy. A few days before Brigham Young and the apostles were to visit Parowan enroute to the fall conference, a party of four wagons went up into the mountains to gather wild raspberries, choke cherries and sarvis berries, so as to have fresh fruit to serve to their guests. Mrs. Gloria Smith and daughters, Frances and Lottie, Mary Smith and I were in one wagon. We went up into a narrow canyon and climbed the mountain. We reached our destination about noon and ate our picnic lunch before scattering into small groups to pick berries.
It began to cloud up and Mr. Wimmer became worried, as he had seen a cloud burst go down this canyon years before. He insisted that all the teams and wagons be driven up a small ravine on one side of the canyon. “Hurry and gather your berries,” he urged, so we can get out of here before it rains.” We scattered over the mountain, sighing and chattering. Soon our pails were full, but by this time the storm had gathered. The lighting flashed and thunder rolled from peak to peak and reverberated through the canyon. We rushed to our wagons and were putting our berries in when it began to sprinkle. We scurried to cover, under the shelter of trees and bushes. Soon the rain was coming down in torrents and we huddled close together for warmth and protection.
All at once, we heard a terrible roaring. “Look!”, shouted Mr. Wimmer. “It is just as I feared. ”We looked up and saw a huge wall of water moving down the canyon, sweeping everything before it. It washed away two mills and two bridges over the river. We were safe, but marooned upon the mountain side. We found a ledge under an overhanging cliff, where it was fairly dry and protected from the wind and there we lived without bedding and only berries for food for two days. We were thankful for Mr. Wimmer’s insistence that the wagons and horses be left outside of the main canyon, as they were saved.
As soon as the water receded, a rescue party started out to hunt for us and had to build temporary bridges before they could cross the river. We were certainly glad to be found and taken home.
As we went down the canyon again, we noted how its appearance had changed since our trip up two days before. Where there had been buildings, bridges, trees, and bushes along the way, there was now only a waste of mud, sand and boulders. The trees were uprooted and the bushes buried under the debris.
We were a hungry weary party that returned home, with our berry pails as empty as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. Brigham Young and his party had passed through Parowan, on their way to St. George while we were marooned, so we missed them. Although they were very much concerned about us, they could not wait to see if we survived the storm. They hurried back from St George, anxious to learn our fate and were overjoyed to find us all safe at home. We were treated like real heroes and heroines and I was certainly well cared for from Parowan to Fillmore. I had a wonderful time, but I was glad to be home again.
I attended the first public school in Fillmore, which opened soon after I returned home. My school work at Parowan helped me to advance a grade ahead of others of my age.
We had amateur plays nearly every week during the term. I took a minor part in most of these productions and played the part of the beast, in “Beauty and the Beast” and also a leading part in “The Charcoal Burners.” These plays were given in the State House and furnished entertainment for the whole community.
Mary also took part in these plays and we rehearsed at home as much to the amusement of the whole family. Mary had grown so tall during the summer, while I was gone, that she seemed a real young lady to me. She walked sedately to school, while Amasa and I raced ahead, chasing butterflies or gathering wildflowers.
“Mary, oh Mary,” I called one afternoon, “here comes your best beau.” Mary was just reaching the age when boys meant more to her than just “pests to be avoided. Several of the nice neighbor boys were beginning to take an interest in her and make “sheep’s eyes” at her, as Amasa and I delighted in calling their attentions.
When Mary heard my call, she rushed to the window to see who was coming. The eager expectancy in her face changed to annoyance when she saw old Cap Price, hobbling up the path. “drat, that man!” she said fiercely, as she turned from the window.
Mother was as annoyed as Mary by the unwelcome guest. Cap fancied himself to be quite the ladies man and nearly drove us all to distraction with his frequent calls on Mary. Nearly every afternoon or evening, he came limping up on his cane and “planted himself”, as Amasa rudely, but aptly put it, on a chair in our living room. Standing his cane against the wall and removing his coat, he stuck his thumbs in the armholes of his vest, tilting his chair against the wall and was off on a long tale of his war days. There he sat for hours, chewing generous quids of tobacco and spitting into the fireplace, or smoking a vile pipe, as he spun his long-winded yarns. He expected us to stop everything and give him our undivided attention, in spite of the fact that we had heard the same stories over and over, until we could recite them backwards.
His unwelcome visits became so obnoxious, that one day I said to mother: “I’m going to get rid of old Cap once and for all.” “Yes, shoot him or poison him or something. “I’m desperate,” begged Mary. Mother laughed heartily as she said: “No violence, my dear, but if you can get rid of him peaceably, you have my consent.”
The next afternoon we were rushing around getting ready to go to a quilting bee, when we saw old Cap limping up the walk. Mother met him at the door. I’m afraid we can’t entertain you this afternoon, Captain, as we’re getting ready to go to a quilting bee.”
“That’s alright, Mrs. Kenney, I’ll just come in and stay until you’re ready and then I’ll walk along with you,” he said, as he pushed his way into the living room and took his accustomed chair, tilting it back against the wall and pulling out a huge plug of tobacco. Mary looked at me with a “do or die” expression on her face. I looked at mother and her faint smile gave her full consent. “Mother”, I said bustling around, “I’ll hurry and clean up this floor before we go.”
I bought a big bucket of water and dashed it out, almost to the Captains feet, I began swishing it over the floor with the broom and then rushed out and got another bucket full and splashed it after the first one.
“Looks like you’re trying to get rid of me, “said the Captain as he grabbed his cane and stomped angrily from the room. “Trying to give me the rheumatiz, that’s what,”he muttered as he hobbled down the walk.
Mother dropped into her chair and laughed until her sides ached and tears rolled down her cheeks. Mary and I grabbed each other and danced all over the wet, slippery floor, endangering our necks in the wild delight over the success of the plan.
About this time, hoop skirts were in style and of course, Mary and I never rested until we had some. We took cowhide and soaked it thoroughly, scrapped all the hair off and cut it into narrow strips. Then we coaxed Uncle Jim to saw a barrel in two, then help us fasten the strips securely around it, leaving a space about six inches between. When they were thoroughly dry we slipped them off and had hoops as stiff and inflexible as anyone could wish. We hung these hoops on strips of strong muslin and then sewed a plain petticoat inside. When we had our hoops, a bustle and a half dozen petticoats under a flounced dress, we felt very much dressed up indeed. Mary was allowed to do her hair up like a young lady, but to my disgust, I still had to wear mine in two pigtails down my back.
With my school work and home duties, the winter passed quickly and pleasantly and soon it was spring again. When school closed I went down to Cove Fort to visit my Aunt Lydia Huntley. Her daughter, Roselia, was about my age and we had great times together. We spent many happy hours with the Hinckley girls, whose father was Fortkeeper . Cove Fort was built around an open square with a spring bubbling inside, so there was always water in case of a siege. The walls, three feet thick, were of solid stone, except for the portholes in the upper story. These sloped outward and downward, so the men could fire on the Indians below. The heavy doors were double thickness and filled with sand, to make them bullet proof.
The government furnished the immense stores of food stuffs and cords of wood, which were stored in the lower rooms. The ammunition was stored upstairs, near the portholes and within easy reach of the sleeping rooms.
|Cove Fort Entrance.|
One day, while Roselia and I were visiting the Hinckley girls, we decided to go for a ride. We were all excellent riders and spent hours on horseback.
Just as I mounted, a little dog ran out, frightening my horse until he started to pitch. Round and round that fort we went, the horse getting meaner every jump, until soon my nose started to bleed. With blood streaming over my clothes, I stuck to my horse, trying to subdue him. I tried every trick I knew to stop his cruel jumping, which threatened to snap every bone in my body. Presently I became too weak from exertion and loss of blood that I could scarcely sit upright in the saddle.
Mr. Hinckley lassoed the horse and lifted me off. I was unable to ride him again that day, but I was determined to conquer that beast, so rode him again the next day, until he was docile as a lamb.
While I was with Aunt Lydia, some of the U.S. Soldiers were transferred from Camp Douglas, near Salt Lake, to Beaver in the southern part of Utah. Word was sent ahead that they were hungry for fresh milk, butter and buttermilk. Aunt Lydia had a dairy, so we prepared to feed them. We made a big cheese tub full of hot biscuits and served them with butter and pitchers of cold milk. We worked like troupers all day long, baking and serving until evening when our supplies gave out, forcing us to stop, so Aunt Lydia told Roselia and me to put on some fresh dresses and go for a walk to cool off before dark. We walked out into the pasture and were swinging on a big five-barred gate when two soldiers came by. “Taking a ride girls?”—they called to us. “Sure”, we called back. “Girlies, don’t you want us to ride you?”, they called. Their manner and tone of voice, made us feel insulted, so without a word we turned and went back to the house. We told Uncle Al about it and he wanted to rush to the Captain, but we begged him not to, as we didn’t want any gossip started about us. Ira Hinckley also advised against it, saying a great many soldiers would be passing through and it was best to start no trouble, so he let the matter drop.
One day Uncle Al came in and said: “Lydia, I’m going to bring you a caller tomorrow, Sam Cunningham, the young stage driver who has the run between Fillmore and Beaver. He is just a youngster, but well liked all up and down the line.”
Then turning to Roselia and me, he said: “Now, look your prettiest girls. I want one of you to capture him, as he is a mighty fine fellow.”
Rosalie and I spent most of the day getting ready for our caller. I spent hours arranging my “white fleece” as father jokingly called my hair, which was very, very fair and had a silvery sheen instead of the golden glints usually found in blonde hair. My skin was very fair and almost transparent, while my eyes were such a dark grey, they looked almost black in contrast to my hair and skin. In fact, I was now what they call a platinum blonde.
When I had my hair arranged to my satisfaction, I put on my best dress of white lawn with blue polka dots. It was made empire style with a low round neck and puffed sleeves, edged with narrow lace. Roselia was also dressed in her best and looked as sweet as could be.
About one o’clock, Uncle Al came into the yard alone. As we stepped out to greet him, he said: “My you girls look pretty as pictures. Are you going to a party?” “NO, we answered together. “We’re waiting for our caller. Where is he?” “Now Uncle Al, I exclaimed, catching him by the arm, you promised him to me.” “No, he’s mine!” “He’s mine! Uncle Al only laughed at us as we stood arguing with him, each claiming the new friend, when to our embarrassment, Sam walked around the corner of the house.
Uncle Al introduced us to a handsome boy with big brown eyes and dark hair. He was good company and we spent a jolly two hours together, before Sam started on his stage trip a whole hour late. It took two days to make the round trip, so Sam passed every other day and always stopped for a few minutes and we soon became warm friends.
One morning, Aunt Lydia, Roselia and I were in the garden gathering peas for dinner when a loud whistle blew a piercing blast, followed by two short ones. “What’s that?” I asked fearfully, noticing Aunt Lydia and Roselia had turned pale as ghosts. “An Indian raid,” gasped Aunt Lydia. You girls run for the Fort. I must get the baby.” “We’ll help you,” we panted, as we raced after her to the house, where we snatched up a few dearly loved trinkets, before we started for the Fort. We raced madly up the hill reaching the Fort just breathless, through the gates, their faces pale and drawn with fear. There was a great deal of confusion as the men took their places before the portholes and the women gathered the children into the sleeping rooms for better protection.
|Gun ports at Cove Fort, Millard Utah.|
We were all in our places, waiting with sinking hearts and tense nerves for the dreaded attack, when Mr. Hinckley announced that it was a false alarm. Some men were chasing wild horses which were fleeing to the hills and Mr. Hinckley seeing the dust cloud, thought it was Indians, so blew the whistle, calling everyone to the Fort for protection. The horses finally escaped into the hills and the men afraid to follow, returned to the Fort. As soon as they were near enough for Mr. Hinckley to see they were not Indians, he called out that all danger was over for the present, but after I left there they had the worst uprising in the history of the fort.
Roselia and I looked forward to Sam’s daily visits and there was much good-natured banter and rivalry between us. Aunt Lydia watched us with great amusement, but uncle Al chuckled openly and teased us about our daily primping.
Before many weeks had passed, I decided I just had to go home to see mother. I caught the stage the very next day and of course, rode outside with the driver. It was a glorious day and we were happy as larks as we sped along, atop that lurching old stage coach, oblivious of dust and discomfort.
I took Sam home with me and introduced him to my family. Mother fell in love with him at once and gave her consent to our steady company. I stayed home for several weeks and had another unpleasant experience with the U.S. soldiers.
Sister Mary and her baby were living with mother. Her husband had drowned. Father and Jim were gone, so Mary, mother, Rosetta and the younger children and I were all alone. A company of soldiers had stopped in Fillmore and after my experience at Aunt Lydia’s we didn’t trust them very far.
At bedtime mother said: “I’m going to lock both doors, as I feel rather uneasy with no men at home.” About midnight we heard someone banging on the door. Mother got up and called, “Who’s there?” “Soldiers. Open the door and let us in,” they answered. “What do you want?” inquired mother. “Accommodations,” they answered. “What kind of accommodations?” “Accommodations,” in your bed.” they answered boldly. “Get out of here at once, or I will arouse the neighborhood,” commanded mother.
A few seconds later a little wheel off the children’s wagon, came hurling through the window, showering glass all over us. “Open the door mother, I’m going for help,” said. The soldiers ran down the street just as I dashed across to arouse Mr. Hanson. I knew he always kept a loaded gun and would help us. Panting and stammering, I told what had happened.
“Jump in bed and I will go right over,” he said, snatching his gun from under his pillow. “I’m going too,” I called as I ran after him
Mr. and Mrs. Hanson and I rushed over to our house and found mother, Mary and Rosetta shaking with fright, expecting soldiers to burst in upon them any moment. The younger children were crying and clinging to them. The beds and floor were covered with glass and I had cut my foot on a piece of it as I dashed out of the house and was leaving bloody footprints everywhere.
Three months later, I had to have a piece of glass cut out of my foot. There was no anesthetic in those days, so I had to stand the pain, with nothing to ease it at all. Mother held my foot and Mary held my head, while the doctor cut my foot open. Fortunately, I fainted and when I came to they had the glass out. The whole affair was a most horrible experience and it was all caused by the soldiers of the U.S.A, sent out to Utah to protect the people from danger.
Mother looked so pale and tired that as soon as I was able to do the work and care for the children, I sent her to Aunt Lydia’s for a rest and vacation.
|Mary Ann Tucker-Kenney, Silena’s Mother.|
I took complete charge of the house and did some sewing during the six weeks she was away.
When she returned home, Mary was married to Pete Borreson, at a quiet home wedding. His sister, Nancy came from Spring City for the ceremony and met brother Jim, who had come from his logging camp to see Mary married.
To our surprise, Jim, who had never cared for girls, took a great interest in Nancy. He took Nancy and me up in me up in the mountains to the camp for a vacation. We stayed with Mr. and Mrs Compton, who ran the boarding house for the loggers. It was a lovely spot, situated on the mountainside, overlooking a wooded canyon.
“How beautiful!” exclaimed, Nancy as Jim stopped the buckboard at the dining room door. Nancy and I jumped out over the wheels, like a couple of children and hand in hand raced to the canyon’s rim, where we stood drinking in the clear, cold mountain air, laden with the spicy odor of the pines.
“Oh isn’t it wonderful?” breathed Nancy. “Come, let’s see it all. And away we ran, exploring the mountainside and investigating the kitchen like children just out of school.
The boys put up a swing on the branch of a huge pine, almost a hundred feet above out heads. Neither Nancy nor I would swing in it alone at first, but got a wonderful thrill when Jim swung with us. We swung so far out over the canyon that we felt as if we were flying in mid-air. Years later, when I took my first airplane ride, I got the same sensation as that swing over the tree tops in the canyon, gave me.
We watched the loggers at work and listened to the whine of the saw as it cut into the heart of those majestic trees until they fell with a mighty crash that shook the very earth. We kept the dining tables filled with bouquets of wildflowers, which we gathered as we roamed over the mountain.
In the evening, Jim, Nancy and I took long walks down the moonlit mountain paths that wound in and out among the trees. It was an ideal, romantic setting and Jim and Nancy became so absorbed in each other, that they left me almost entirely to my own thoughts, which were mostly of Sam. How I wished for him to share my strolls and make the scene as perfect for me as it was for Jim and Nancy.
All too soon our lovely vacation was over and we returned to Fillmore. A few days after Nancy left for her home in Spring City and I clambered atop the stage coach beside Sam, bound for another visit to Cove Fort.
While I was at Aunt Lydia’s, Roselia and I helped strain the milk and make butter and cheese. Often in the evening, we would go out to the corral and help the boys milk. Uncle Al had several boys employed to do the milking and care for the calves. Among them was Johnny Elliott, whose father had bought the Indian baby years before.
One day the men had rounded up a band of wild horses from the open range and were putting them in the big horse corral when one broke in with the milk cows. They tried to get him out before milking time, but he reared and plunged and raced around the corral, causing the milk cows to run and get nervous and overheated. Once the stallion bared his teeth and made for the nearest rider, who but for his alert presence of mind and his horse’s fleetness, would have suffered a horrible death. The foreman ordered his men out of the corral, saying: “That outlaw has given us more trouble than all the rest of the bunch. We’ll let him alone a while and he may quiet down enough that we can get him out.”
That evening Roselia and I went out to help the boys as they had so many cows to milk and calves to feed. We had been busy in the house all day and had not seen or heard the struggle with the wild horses. When we reached the corral we noticed a stallion and Roselia said: “Look, there’s a new horse in with the cows. Maybe we had better not go in tonight.”
“Isn’t he a beauty?” I exclaimed, as we stood admiring his shiny sorrel coat with black mane and tail. “He’s built for speed all right. Look at those long limbs. There’s only one horse in there and the corral is so large we can keep out of his way. “Come on, let’s go on in and help.”
So saying, I opened the gate and we slipped through. We heard one of the men call as we went inside, but paid no attention. The men were always calling to one another and we didn’t realize they were talking to us. Roselia went over to the calves’ pen and I started to drive one of the cows to the milking post.
Just as I passed behind the stallion, both of his hind feet shot out in a vicious kick. I felt the air sing past both my ears, heard a shot ring out and saw the horse fall, all in the split part of a second. I was too dazed to realize what had happened until the men ran up to me, asking if I was hurt. “You’ve killed him,” I gasped as soon as I could speak. “Yes, I shot him,” answered the foreman. “We can’t have an outlaw around. Thank God, I was not too late. If you had been just an inch or two to the right or left, you would certainly have been killed, but luckily you were in the exact center, between his feet.
The men sent Roselia and me to the house as we were too nervous and shaken to help with the milking. “What a pity,” I said sadly, as we passed that magnificent horse, on our way to the gate. “Oh, don’t look,” shuddered Roselia, “he tried to kill you.”
Aunt Lydia was terribly upset over my narrow escape and Sam turned pale as Roselia told him the story, very dramatically the next day, when he stopped on his run to Beaver. He took my arm as Roselia and I walked toward the stage coach with him and giving my hand a squeeze, he whispered: “Be careful, Silena dear,” as he sprang on to the box and gathered up the reins. The horses were off in a cloud of dust, with Sam looking back and waving until he was out of sight.
Sam was allowed a half hour stop at Cove Fort for lunch, but he usually managed to speed up ahead of schedule, so he could spend at least an hour with us. Often he came down to Aunt Lydia’s for lunch, instead of eating at the Fort and Roselia and I usually walked back with him.
On his trip back, Sam rushed down to see us, without stopping for his lunch and seemed quite relieved to find us all safe. He rushed up to me, caught both my hands in his and started to say something to me when Uncle Al’s laugh boomed out. I snatched my hands away from him and blushed.
“Al, you come here this instant and get me some wood,” called Aunt Lydia from the kitchen door. Uncle Al, with a broad grin at Sam, ambled out of the room, calling over his shoulder: “Better go help your mother, Roselia.” “I’ll help her I stammered and fled from the room. Aunt Lydia soon sent me back with dishes and food to put on the table and by the time lunch was ready, I had recovered enough to take my part in the conversation. “Are you girls going to walk up to the Fort with me,” asked Sam, as he was preparing to leave. “Run along, Silena. It’s my turn to clear the table,” said Roselia.
On the walk to the Fort, I kept chattering about the wild flowers, birds, or anything that seemed a safe and diverting subject. When we reached the fort, Sam took my arm and said: “Wait, Silena…”—“Let’s measure our hands on the gate,” I interrupted nervously, trying to span the thickness of the heavy, solid door to the Fort. Sam put his hand over mine and whispered: “When are you going to give me this?” I blushed and dropped my eyes. “What do you mean?” “You know what I mean, dear. “When are you going to marry me?”
“Why Sam!” I looked up, startled. “Do you mean that?” “Yes, Silena, I’m serious. I do mean it and I’m going to ask your mother for your hand, when I get to Fillmore. “Do you love me, dear?” “Yes, Sam,” I whispered with flaming cheeks. Sam raised my hand to his lips and kissed it. “Goodbye, little sweetheart. I must go see your mother now.” I waved at him until he was out of sight, then walked slowly back to Aunt Lydia’s. I was so happy, I could scarcely notice my steps. What would mother say? Would she allow us to be married so young? I pondered these questions, but could not answer them until Sam stopped on his way back from Fillmore. I walked down to meet him, away from Uncle Al’s hearty chuckle and good natured jibes.
When Sam saw me coming he ran to me, caught both my hands. “Mother says it is alright with her, sweetheart.” “Did she really?” I asked, hardly daring to believe my ears. “Are you sure?” “You just bet I’m sure,” he assured me happily. “But…,” her face sobered slightly. “She says we will have to get your father’s consent, too. “Do you think he will give it—oh, do you, Silena?” “I don’t know, I answered rather doubtfully. “Will you go home with me on my trip back, and we’ll ask him together?” he begged. “Yes, I’ll go, I promised. “I want to see Mother.”
We talked and planned for our future until Sam had to run to start his stage trip, very much behind schedule. I was so excited and happy, I could hardly wait for Sam’s return. I had my things ready and waiting an hour before the stage clattered up to the door.
There were several passengers on the stage, among them Brigham Young’s daughter, Lyda, her maid and her fiancé. Lyda was the prettiest girl I ever saw, with pale gold hair and beautiful blue eyes. She was so sweet and friendly and chattered about everything along the way. They got off the stage at Uncle Al’s and borrowed a knife to cut a big watermelon, which they had brought from Beaver. We all sat in the shade of a Juniper tree in Aunt Lydia’s yard and ate melon before we started on to Fillmore. To my disappointment, Lyda’s fiancé climbed up on the box.
“Never mind sweetheart,” whispered Sam, as he helped me inside the stage coach. “I’ll come see you tonight.” Lyda, her maid and I sat on one seat of the coach and sang, recited and told stories as we rode along. Finally, Lyda asked: “How much farther is it? I’m terribly thirsty.” “About twenty miles,” I answered. “Oh dear, I can never wait.” “I’ll have the driver take us directly up to mother’s. She has a wonderful spring.”
We got well acquainted and had a jolly time on the thirty-six mile ride to Fillmore. Sam drove the stage up to mother’s door and all the passengers alighted. Mother invited them in and gave them a cold drink, fresh from the spring.
Lyda asked to see the spring house which I had been telling about on the way in. She exclaimed in wonder when we saw it surrounded by scrubs to keep it cool. Father had made a small mound, shaped stone house right over the spring of ice cold water. Opening the door, mother showed them the shelves inside, where we kept our milk, butter, eggs and other perishable foods.
When the passengers were rested and refreshed, they resumed their journey. Sam managed to pass close enough to squeeze my hand and whisper: “Goodbye until tonight, sweetheart,” before he jumped up on the box and dashed away.
Mother and I went inside for a happy reunion and to talk over our plans for the future. She told me, she had said nothing to father., preferring to let Sam plead his own case. Mother begged me not to consider marriage at all until I was much older. “Silena dear,” she said, “I like Sam and I think he will make you a good husband when he is older, but you are both much too young to take such responsibilities. Wait a year or two and if you both feel the same as you do now, I will gladly give my consent.”
“Now mother, I know what I want. I’m big and strong and can cook and keep house, so why wait? We want to get married now.” “Well ask your father.” Mother sighed, hoping father would be harder to persuade. “But mother, I asked anxiously, “do you think he will give his consent?” “I don’t know, I’m sure,” answered mother. “One can never tell what your father will do.”
|Loren Edward Kenney, Silena’s father, July 7,1815 —October 30, 1890.|
With that, I had to be content until we could find out from father himself. I could hardly wait until Sam came that evening. I wandered from window to window watching for him and when he finally came, I rushed to the door to meet him. “Oh, I’m so nervous.” “Courage, sweetheart, he whispered, as he took my cold hand in his warm grasp.
Hand in hand we went to father. “Mr. Kenney,” began Sam bravely. “Well, what is it?” Father asked gruffly, as he lowered his paper and looked from one crimson face to the other. I was so proud of Sam, as he squared his shoulders and began again. “Mr. Kenney, may I have Silena’s hand in marriage?
Father’s gruffness made my heart sink until I detected a friendly gleam behind his mock severity. “How old are you my boy?” he asked, looking Sam over from head to foot. “Fifteen”, answered Sam and as he saw father about to speak, he added quickly, “but, I’m doing a man’s job, sir and will advance you know.”
“Yes, I know father answered kindly when he saw how deeply and earnest we were. “But you are both just children. Silena’s only fourteen.” Neither of you are old enough to take on such responsibilities. Wait a year or two and if you still feel the same as you do now, I will give you my blessing.”
He turned back to his paper, but Sam begged: “Give us your consent and blessing now. We never know what a year or two will bring. I love Silena, Mr Kenney and I will do my best to make her a good husband. Her mother is willing for us to get married now, if you will give your consent.” “Oh please do, father,” I begged, speaking for the first time. “I love Sam and we will be happy together, I know we will.”
Father looked a long and earnestly into our faces before he answered. “Take her son and make her happy and my blessing go with you both.” “Thank you, sir,” said Sam and he took me in his arms for our first kiss.
Soon the news of our engagement was known all over town and I was the envy of all the girls. The high officials of the Mormon Church opposed our marriage because neither of us was a Mormon. Although my parents were staunch members of the Mormon church and I had attended it all my life, I had not joined it. In the early teens each child is given an opportunity to decide for himself whether or not he wishes to join the Church. While I loved the Mormon people and admired their faith and loyalty in their belief, I could not quite bring myself to accept it, marry a Mormon boy and settle down in Utah for life, before I had seen something of the rest of the world.
Neither Sam nor any of his people were Mormans and he was new to Utah. It was probably that which attracted me to him. At first. Sam’s father, Captain Cunningham, served during the Mexican War and was later appointed Registrar of Lands at Shawneetown, Illinois. His mother was Elizabeth Fontaine, of French Huguenot descent. They were very fine people and held in high esteem by all who knew them.
Sam’s sister, Mary, had married John A. Logan, who served with Captain Cunningham in the Mexican war and later in the Union Army during the Civil War and was a member of Congress, when I met Sam. He was very proud of his sister and often told me of her experiences nursing the soldiers. She followed her husband all during his service and helped establish hospitals and nurse the wounded. She solicited supplies from neighbors and equipped a hospital at Cairo, Illinois. After the war, she went with him on all his political tours in his campaigns for Congress and later on his two campaigns for President.
After Sam’s mother died of cholera, contracted from a neighbor whom she nursed through the illness, Captain Cunningham moved to Provo, Utah, where he was made Postmaster. He and his second wife had been in Provo, several years when I met Sam.
Mary lived in Washington D.C., where General Logan was serving his second term in Congress. Although I did not meet Mary until she went to Portland, during General Logan’s second campaign for President, she sent me many beautiful things from Washington and Chicago.
Our parents and friends wanted us to wait at least a year to be married, but we just couldn’t agree, so father gave his consent to our early marriage and we thought the path to true love was going to run smoothly at last. But, the elders of the Mormon Church, objected so strenuously, that we planned a very quiet wedding. I did not invite any of my friends, so only the members of my immediate family were there, as non of Sam’s people lived near enough to attend.
I made a pretty but simple dress of dotted swiss. Sister, Mary was dressed in pink lawn and mother wore her best black silk. Father was an elder in the church and could have performed the ceremony, but felt he would rather not do it for one so near to him, so asked his friend, Deacon Eldridge.
The officers watched father’s house so closely that we went to Mary’s to be married. The parlor was beautifully decorated with potted plants, of which Mary had a great many and grandmother sent over all hers carefully wrapped in newspaper and covered with a big buffalo robe.
Father came in and said: “I’m afraid we’re going to have trouble with the officers, so if you children don’t want them to stop the ceremony, you had better slip out to Mother Wagoner’s room, if you see anyone coming.” Sam put his arm around me and answered: “they had better not try to stop us now.” “Better run then,” said father anxiously, “for here they come.”
Hand in hand we flew out the back door and into the little stone house which had been built for Mary’s mother-in-law. “I do wish Mother Wagoner were here to read my cup to see if they are going to stop us,” I said nervously, as we sat huddled together in her favorite rocker.
“Of course they’re not going to stop us,” said Sam stoutly, as he hugged me tighter. “I wish someone would read my tea leaves, anyway,” I insisted, trying to recall all that Mother Wagoner had told me in the numerous fortunes she had read in my cup. I remembered many happy hours I spent in that same little stone house when Mother Wagoner was teaching me to tell fortunes with tea leaves.
The officers knocked on Mary’s front door just as we darted out the back. Father courteously invited them in. “We hear there’s going to be a wedding here,” spoke up the leader. “We plan to have one, but the parties are not here now,” answered father. “When do you expect them?” asked one sharply. “In about an hour or so,” answered father, resenting his tone. “Well we’ll be back before then,” they snapped, stomping out.
As soon as they were safely out of sight, father called us in. Brother Eldridge came, chuckling, out of the bedroom into which he had dodged when the officers entered. We stood in front of the fireplace and with a cheerful fire for a background and surrounded by father, mother and the family, Brother Eldridge read the simple ceremony which made us man and wife.
As soon as we had received the congratulations and best wishes of our family, father put us into the cutter and throwing a robe over us, drove quickly to Grandmother Kenney’s. “Better take care of these youngsters,” he said, “or they may try to separate them yet.” When Grandmother heard our story, she laughed and said: “Well we’ll fix that.”
We hastily carried a big feather bed, pillows and covers down into a vegetable cellar, under the house, which was reached through a trap door in the kitchen floor. When we were safely down inside she closed the door and put a rug over it.
When the officers came, she was comfortably seated in her rocker, knitting. They inquired about us and she waved around the room, saying: “You see they’re not here.”
Seeing no sign of us, the officers went on their way. The next morning they called on father and asked if we were married.”Yes”, father answered, “they were married yesterday.” “The marriage must be annulled immediately. They’re too young to be married. It isn’t legal,” stormed the officer. “Yes, it is legal”, answered father quietly. “Both Silena’s mother and I gave our consent and saw her married.” “Then they will have to report to the Bishop.” “Where are they?” Father called us into the room and said: “I guess you will have to go to the Bishop.”
“They’ll never separate us,” said Sam defiantly, as he threw a protective arm about my shoulders. I clasped Sam’s hand tightly as I echoed: “Never.” Seeing our determination, the officers relented and giving their blessing, went their way and left us to live together in peace.
A few days later, Sam was sent to the station at Riverside, forty miles away. It was just a temporary assignment and the country was so wild, lonely and dangerous that Sam was afraid to take me with him. In spite my pleas, he left me with mother and went alone to his new duties. I was so lonely that soon I began to plan a trip to Riverside.
I wanted to walk in unannounced and surprise Sam. I knew Mr. Lemroe, the stage driver very well and he promised to take me. I rushed home to prepare for the trip and despite mother’s protests, I was waiting when the stage pulled in the next day. I noticed that the driver and the nine men passengers had been drinking, but I was so excited over the prospect of seeing Sam, that I paid little attention.
A colored lady, the only woman passenger, seeing that I planned to take the stage, walked over to me and asked if I was going to ride inside. “Oh no,” I answered. “I know most of the drivers and always ride up on the boot with them.”
“I was hoping you would ride inside, but I guess I’ll be alright alone,” she said as she turned away. I thought no more about it, until we were well on our way. I could hear the men laughing and jesting coarsely and the woman singing most of the time. She sang the same negro spirituals, over and over again, until I thought she must be drinking too.
In the meantime, I was having troubles of my own. The driver was getting so drunk, he could not manage the team. I begged him to let me drive. I loved horses and could manage four as easily as a buggy team. Finally Mr. Lemroe said, if I would drive while he took a little nap, he would be alright. He buckled the boot around me, put my foot on the brake and gave me the lines, saying, “they are well trained horses, so just give them their head and keep in the middle of the road. They know where to go. When you get within call, just “Yip! Yip!” a couple times as that is at the signal.” and then he dropped into a drunken stupor.
It was a lovely moonlight night and the horses were on their mettle and fairly flew over the road. As soon as I got the reins in my hand, I lost all fear and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the trip. Judging from the hilarity inside the stage, I thought all the passengers were enjoying it too, but afterward learned the colored, spiritual singer did not enjoy her ride. Early in the trip, in an effort to ignore the rude attentions of the men, she began to sing softly to herself. When they found that she sang well, they kept her singing constantly and she was so hoarse, she could scarcely speak when she reached Riverside.
As soon as I saw the lights of the station, I let out a couple of war whoops. Sam recognized my voice and leaving a card game, he bounded out into the yard. He was quite frightened when he saw me driving and Mr. Lemroe so drunk, he had to be lifted from the stage, like a sack of meal. I stayed in Riverside until the stage made the return trip from Pioche two days later, when Sam insisted that I go back to mother’s, as he expected to be transferred soon.
A few days later, he was called home from riverside by the death of his father. He hastened at once to Provo, where his father had been Postmaster. His sister, Mary Logan, came from Washington, D.C. for the funeral. She took her younger brother Johnny and little sister, Eva back to Washington and put them in school. John entered West Point and Eve went to a ladies’ seminary. Clementine, just older than Sam, stayed with her step-mother and helped care for her little son, Robert, who was born six weeks after Captain Cunningham’s death. They had been married six years and this was their only child.
|Sam’s Father, Captain John Francis Marion Cunningham.|
When Sam came home he brought me his share of his mother’s jewelry. There was a pair of beautiful ball and chain bracelets, with earrings to match, and a watch and chain. He also brought two quilts which his mother had made, two pairs of lovely blankets, six sheets, a pair of pillows, a bolster and a big feather bed on which he was born.
Mother gave me the feather bed on which I was born. Several years later, I combined the two and made one large bed on which all my children were born. About twenty-five years later, I had the feathers renovated and put into pillows. My daughter, Agnes has one pair of these pillows yet.
About two weeks after Sam’s return from Provo, we were given a station at Sevier River, Utah. I was barely fourteen and Sam not quite sixteen, but we went happily to our new home and took up our arduous duties, with a confidence that defied fear or experience. In spite of our responsible position, we were just a couple of kids playing house.
Of all our varied duties, the one we liked best was exercising the horses. Every morning we rode horseback and drove the twelve stage horses to a little meadow where they kicked and romped to their hearts’ content. We often gathered wild flowers or hunted and fished, while the horses were exercising. So it was really a pleasure instead of a task.
Sam built a small wharf out onto the river, so that we could sit and fish in comfort or dip water without getting our feet wet. We kept our boat tied to the wharf in readiness for a boat ride or to go for fresh meat.
Almost directly across from us lived our only neighbors, four cowboys who ranged their cattle in the valley beyond the river. When ever they butchered, they put up a white flag and we rowed across and got fresh meat from them. If we could not leave the station, Sam hung out a red flag and some of the boys brought our meat to us.
One morning, when we returned home from exercising the horses, we found a man sitting on our doorstep. To our greetings, he looked up and mumbled: “I’m so drunk I can’t move.” “What have you been drinking?” laughed Sam—“Firewater?” “I dunno,” he answered thickly. “I got something at the saloon down by the bridge and it made me sick. I want to go on to the next station, but I’m too sick now.”
“Take a blanket and go up in the loft and lie down on the hay. I’ll bring you a cup of coffee and maybe you will feel better,” advised Sam. I made the coffee and Sam took it up and talked to him about an hour, then he fell asleep and slept until about four o’clock in the afternoon.
When Sam came in, after the stage pulled out, I asked if the man had gone. “No, he was dead drunk. I couldn’t rouse him. Guess he will be alright there until morning.”
High up on the back wall was a small door between our room and the hay loft. There was a ladder up to it and Sam used it in bad weather to reach the hay mow, instead of going around outside to the stairway.
While we were eating supper that evening, we heard a noise and looking up we saw the “drunk” squatted in the door watching us. “Come on down and have some supper,” invited Sam. “Naw, I don’t feel like coming down, but I can eat something if you bring it up.
I fixed a good meal and Sam took it up and stayed while he ate it, then persuaded him to lie down again. Before we went to bed, Sam went up and fastened the door securely as he could and moved the ladder. Feeling perfectly safe, we went to bed to sleep.
Some time during the night we heard the door open. Sam lighted the lamp at our bedside and we saw the man and heard him muttering and mumbling to himself. He looked down at us and said: “Now I’ve got you just where I want you.” We were not greatly alarmed, for we knew he had no firearms and he could not get into the room without jumping down. If he did that we knew we could overpower him before he regained his feet. “better go back to bed and sleep,” advised Sam. “No, I’ve got you just where I want you. There’s snakes crawling all over you—lots of snakes.”
We realized that he had “D.T.’s, so Sam put the ladder back in place, crawled up, tried to quiet him and get him back to bed. He refused to go and kept talking. “Is that your wife down there?” he demanded of Sam. “Of course it is,” snapped Sam, growing angry. “Damn fine looking girl,” said the “drunk”. “That’s enough of that. Now shut up and go to bed.” “I mean it. She’s a damn fine looking girl.” If you don’t shut up and go to bed, we will bundle you into the next stage and send you out of here.”
“No you won’t, I’ve got a good thing here. I’ve got a good bed and plenty to eat and I’m going to stay right here,” he bragged, pointing downward with his finger. “Suit yourself,” said Sam.
Realizing that arguments were useless, he climbed down, removed the ladder and came back to bed. Just as he settled down on his pillow, a tomahawk came hurling through the air, struck the wall right between our heads and stuck there. Sam snatched up his rifle and sent a bullet into the wall just over the man’s head, and said: “The next move you make, you are going to get bored right through.”
I caught up my gun and trained it on him too. We sat there and held our guns on that man until the stage came through and took him away. It was along, weary night and we were certainly glad to see the stage pull out with him aboard. We never learned who he was, but we had his silver tomahawk as a souvenir.
Fred Gilmore, brother of Jack Gilmore, was a line inspector. He drove the route in a buggy, inspecting the horses, roads and conditions at the stations, visiting our station about every ten days. He was quite egotistical and disagreeable and liked to show his authority. Of the dozen men connected with the stage company, he was the only one I ever distrusted.
One day I called to my husband: “I think I will go home in the morning. I haven’t seen mother for quite a while.” “Alright, Silena”, he answered from the barn, “just as you like”.
I did not know that Fred was at the station until he stepped up to the door and said: “Why not ride in with me this afternoon?” “No thank you,” I answered with freezing dignity. “I will wait for the stage in the morning. I never ride alone with anyone except Mr. Cunningham.
He lowered his voice and said: “Oh come on, I’ll take good care of you.” “What’s that?” demanded Sam, coming around the house. I told him that Fred wanted me to go in with him that afternoon. Sam turned to Fred and said: “My wife never rides with anyone except me on the stage.”
Without a word, Fred walked into the barn. He was sullen during the rest of the inspection and left soon afterwards. “I guess that settles him,” laughed Sam when he drove away.
Next morning I caught the four o’clock stage to Fillmore. I sat up on the boot with the driver where I could hear the chirping of the birds and other early morning sounds. I thought I had never heard the Meadow Larks singing so sweetly as they did that morning, just at sunrise.
Everything was perfect and I was enjoying every mile of the trip, when I saw that we were approaching a beautiful little place with two cottages made exactly alike, of peeled logs and chinked with white. Each had a well kept yard, surrounded by a white picket fence. While I was admiring the place, a man dashed out of one of the houses, coatless, hatless and seemingly greatly agitated. This was very unusual, as the Mormon people are rather staid and calm, very slow to become excited or angry.
I watched breathlessly as the man rushed out to the barn, where he put his arms on the barn door and dropped his head-on them in an attitude of despair. As I gazed in astonishment, I saw him raise his right arm and jerk it quickly across his throat. Instantly, the blood spurted out all over the door. I cried out and called the driver’s attention to the scene. He whipped up his horses and dashed into the driveway. We rushed to the man, but soon saw he was beyond help.
His wives and children came rushing out of the houses and from them we learned that there had been domestic trouble. The two wives were becoming jealous of each other and had been bickering and quarreling. The man realized that this meant the beginning of the end of their domestic happiness and that soon one or both of them would ask the Bishop for a release. He loved both dearly and rather than give up either of them, he killed himself.
I felt faint and sick as I climbed back on the stage. The morning which had been so perfect now seemed filled with the black shadows of despair.
When I reached home, I found mother busy making quilts for Aunt Sarah. I helped her finish the last one and tied them securely in a bundle. That afternoon, Dick Catlin came in his buckboard, to take mother down to Aunt Sarah’s at Corn Creek, ten miles away.
“Come along with us,” suggested mother, “and we will spend the evening with them and come home by moonlight.” “Yes, do Silena, you’ll enjoy it,” seconded Dick. So, we set out gayly on our trip. Dick had a fast team and light rig and made good time. About four miles from home we came to a big mud hole, which a recent storm had washed out in the road. On the other side of the mud hole, we saw several men and teams which looked as if they had been through the mud. We were laughing and talking, so didn’t pay a great deal of attention to them. One waved us around the hole, but Dick thought he meant it was passable to come through. Without breaking their trot, the horses dropped into the hole, almost up to their withers. Dick and mother were thrown out into the mud, waist deep, while I landed with a terrific jolt astride the buggy tongue.
The frightened horses struggled out of the hole and dashed madly down the road. They ran fully a mile and a half before I collected my wits enough to climb up on the tongue, grab the lines and try to stop them. Fortunately, the horses were gentle, for if they had started kicking, I would certainly have been killed.
Dick struggled out of the mud and helped mother, while one of the men who was standing near, jumped on his horse and rode after me. By the time he caught up with us, I had stopped the team and was in the buggy, trying to turn around. He was too amazed to speak when he first saw me and finally gasped out: “Well, I never expected to see you alive.” He helped me turn the team and drive it back to the scene of the accident. Mother was in hysterics when we drove up, as she thought I had surely been killed. When we had quieted her down, we prepared to return home, as we were too wet and bedraggled to think of continuing our journey.
Looking around, we found the bundle of quilts thrown high and dry to one side. “Well, thank goodness, I don’t have to make more quilts,” exclaimed mother, when we picked up the bundle.
When we got home, mother realized that she had strained her side so severely that she had to go to bed. Dick was not hurt at all and I had only severe bruises. I stayed with mother until she was able to be up again and then went home to Sam.
A few days after I returned home, Fred came on another tour of inspection. Sam had cleaned the barn and bedded his horses down on clean white straw. They were resting after their grueling ten mile run with the stage. It was a peaceful scene, with the double row of stalls and the horses all resting with their tails toward the hallway between, so no one could walk down the aisle and look over the backs of the sleek, well kept horses without disturbing them. At the end of the passageway, was a large window, through which all the refuse from the stalls was thrown out and later moved away.
Sam was known all up and down the line from Pioche to Salt Lake as the best man with the teams. He had always loved horses and took excellent care of them and their stable. When the stage came in he had to change the teams and get the fresh ones ready to start in fifteen minutes. On this particular morning, Sam had his barn all cleaned and everything done, except moving the refuse from outside the window, when Fred arrived. Fred was more disagreeable than usual as he was still peeved over the little tiff he and Sam had on his last visit.
He brought Johnny Green with him, expecting to find a place for him, somewhere along the line. Johnny was an old friend of mine and we were having a nice visit when Sam came in. He shook hands with Johnny, but Fred didn’t offer his hand. Sam noticed it, but said nothing. The men went out to look over the horses and Fred went down the aisle slapping the horses which were lying down to make them get up. “I’d rather you didn’t do that,” said Sam. “I don’t like to have the horses disturbed when they are resting after their stage run.” “Huh, what have you got to say about it?” asked Fred sullenly. “Just this answered Sam, as he slipped the manure fork under Fred’s feet, lifted him up and pitched him bodily out of the window, where he landed head foremost in the refuse pile. He got up sputtering and mad as a hornet and whipping a small pistol out of his pocket, said: “I’ll get you for that.” “You couldn’t hurt a mosquito with that,” laughed Sam, while Johnny fairly howled in glee. Fred threw his gun from him and said: “Come on, I’ll fight you with my fists then” “Oh, forget it”, said Sam. “Come on, let us brush you off.”
I got a basin of water, soap and towel and comb for him. He wouldn’t let Sam or me help him, so Johnny brushed him off. He jumped in his buggy, shook his fist at Sam and said: “I’ll get your job for this. You will never work for me or my brother again.” “I’m not working for you, but for the firm of Gilmore and Salisbury,” Sam called after him as he drove away.
Sam fully expected to lose his job, but he did his work as usual. About ten days later, Jack Gilmore came to the station. He shook hands with Sam and slapped him on the back as he said: “That’s the funniest thing I ever heard. It’s the best thing that ever happened to Fred. Maybe it will reduce his head. We have had lots of complaints about him, but no one else ever had the nerve to give him what he deserved.”
Down below the station, on the banks of the Sevier River, was a favorite camping place for the immigrant trains that were crossing the country. There was good water and excellent pasture. The trains usually camped there for several days to let the stock rest and grazing to let the women do their washing and baking in readiness for the next long lap of their journey. Almost as soon as the wagons went into camp, the bushes would blossom out with wet clothing and my oven was in constant use for their baking.. It was hard to have strangers come into the kitchen and use my utensils and stove and interfere with my own work, but it was a part of the pioneer life of the west.
Most of the women were lovely and I enjoyed visiting with them, but we had a few very undesirable ones. I remember one in particular who was absolutely the dirtiest woman I ever saw. A shiver of disgust passed over me when I saw her and the three very untidy children who were with her, but human kindness and western hospitality demanded that I invite her in and offer her the use of my kitchen. I tried to keep very busy with my sewing, so as not to see how she made the pans of biscuits she baked, but when she wiped the children’s noses on the dishrag, in the midst of her dishwashing, I hastily departed and left the kitchen to her mercy.
I came back in time to rescue a few prized trinkets from the children grimy fists and to receive the woman’s voluble thanks and a plate of biscuits, she was leaving for our dinner. The door had hardly closed behind her, when the biscuits fell into the swill pail and I plunged into an orgy of cleaning.
When Sam came into lunch, instead of finding it all ready for him, he found me elbow deep in hot soapy water. “What in the world are you doing?” he asked. ‘Cleaning the kitchen,” I answered grimly. “But you just cleaned it last week.” When he heard my story, he was just as sick and disgusted as I was and thoroughly sympathized with me when I felt like locking the door and running home to mother every time I saw the immigrant train coming.
The next winter Sam helped the proprietor of the saloon across the bridge from the station, put up ice from the river. They built an ice house on our side of the river and filled it with ice. They planned to seine fish from the river as soon as spring opened and pack them in ice to sell. These plans never materialized, but the ice proved to be quite an asset to the saloon. The proprietor made a delicious lemonade from ice water and lemon, sugar and extract shipped in from the east in cans. This drink became so popular with the stage passengers, that the saloon became more of soft drink parlor, than a regular old time saloon. On one of my frequent trips home, mother came back with me for a visit. It had been a hot, dusty trip and when the stage stopped at the bridge, I said to mother: “Lets get a good cold drink. I want you to taste the lemonade they make in here.”
Dick Catlin was driving the stage that day and as he helped us out he said: “Go on in and get a cold drink. I will be in as soon as I signal Sam to be getting the horses ready.
As soon as we stepped inside, I saw that there was a new proprietor behind the counter. He was big, fat and too lazy to go across the river for ice, so served us a very weak, lukewarm drink. After tasting mine, I said: “This is too weak. Can’t you make it a little stronger?” “Give ‘em here. I’ll fix them strong enough to suit you,” he answered crossly. He poured out about half the contents of each glass and taking a bottle of whiskey, he filled the glass up again. “There! That ought to be strong enough for you,” he snapped as he almost banged the glasses down in front of us.
Not realizing what he had used,we raised our glasses again to our lips. With a wry face, I put mine down and asked mother if she liked it. She was holding hers and looking at it in a puzzled, uncertain manner. “No, I don’t like it at all,” she said, just as Dick entered the door. “Dick, taste this lemonade this man just served us,” I said handing him my glass.
Dick smelled and tasted the stuff and then shoved the glass under the proprietor’s nose, saying: “Now you drink this damn stuff you served to these ladies.” The proprietor tried to refuse, but after one look at Dick’s brawny frame and his angry face, he gulped it down without a word. When he lowered the glass, Dick shoved mother’s into his face and said: “Drink this too, every drop of it.” “Like hell, I will,” sputtered the bartender.
“Drink it”, commanded Dick, again shaking his fist under his nose. “Drink it, I say!” With an angry snarl, the man raised the second glass to his lips and drained it. “Now be careful how you treat ladies after this,” snapped Dick and taking mother and me by the arms, he escorted us out to the stage. I had never seen handsome, good-natured Dick so angry in my life.
When Sam heard the story, he was so angry, we could hardly restrain him from going over and beating the man up. “Better drop it,” advised Dick. “I think he has had enough now and we’ll see that he does’t stay there long.” When mother passed through on her way home, he was gone. One day Sam came in and said: “The circus is going to be in Provo on July 26. Do you want to go? I can get a man to relieve me for a few days and we will go if you like.”
Did I want to go? What a question! I had never been to a circus, so of course I was wild to go. Sam’s stepmother and his sister Clementine still lived in Provo, so we wrote them we were coming. I was beside myself with excitement. A trip to Provo would be a treat, but a circus too! Oh dear—would the time ever come! Sam laughed at my enthusiasm and teased me about being such a child, but I knew he was just as excited as I, even if he did feel too grown-up to show it.
The stage seemed to creep along, when we were finally on our way. Why didn’t they go faster? I could hardly sit still. We arrived in Provo the evening before the big day. I had never met Sam’s people, so felt a little shy at first, but they soon put me at ease and I grew very fond them before I left.
Sam’s step-mother had been appointed Postmistress after her husband’s death, so Clementine stayed on with her, to help in the office.
Next morning, about seven o’clock, we heard a knock at the post office door and when Clementine answered it, she found the advance man from the circus, wanting the mail. I skipped up to the floor and asked: “When is the circus coming?”
Seeing my flushed face and starry eyes, the man laughed and said: “Be out on the street at ten o’clock and you can’t miss it.” Long before ten, Clementine, Sam and I were out with the rest of the crowd, waiting. After ages and ages of watching and waiting, we heard the band playing. I pinched Sam and squeezed Clementine’s arm and jumped up and down in my excitement.
I loved the monkeys in their fetching little suits. I admired the ease with which the dogs rode the ponies and I was determined to teach my dog to ride too. I shrank a little from the lions and tigers as they paced restlessly about their cages and was positively amazed at the sight of the elephants. Could anything really be as big as that?
When the last glittering cage had passed, we dropped in behind the parade with the rest of the children and followed it to the circus grounds. We saw them erect the huge tent and were astonished at the ease and efficiency with which they did it. We saw the man who had come for the mail and when he recognized us and waved, I was thrilled to my toes. I clutched Sam’s arm tightly when an elephant passed near us, pushing a huge cage in place. “Little fraidy-cat,” laughed Sam affectionately. “I’m not,” I denied, “but he’s so big.”
Finally we just had to tear ourselves away and go home to lunch, but were back promptly at one o’clock for the performance. I was delighted with the bareback riders in their frilly little skirts. We fairly held our breath as the trap performers swung through the air and gasped with relief when they caught the bars in safety. I laughed at the clowns until I cried and longed to grab the cute little dogs as they dashed by on their ponies. It was so new and wonderful that I couldn’t grasp it all and it was over all too soon and we had to go home.
Mrs. Cunningham took us back to the evening performance. We visited all the side shows and saw it all over again. I was just as thrilled and excited as the first time. It was certainly a red letter day in my life.
We stayed in Provo several days and I visited my first dentist and had a tooth filled.
Sam took me for a boat ride on Utah Lake and as we looked out over the water, he remarked: “This isn’t much like our little lake at home, is it?”
The boat was leaky and a sudden squall came up. We were further out than we realized and had to bail for dear life to keep the boat from sinking. When we had most of the water out, Sam rowed while I bailed and we reached the shore in safety.
We had a wonderful vacation and a nice visit with Sam’s people while in Provo. Almost as soon as we reached home, I went to Fillmore to tell mother about it.
About a week after I returned home, Sam came in one morning after the stage pulled out, waving a paper. “Pack up,” he called. “We’re moving” “Moving?” I echoed. “What do you mean?” “We’re to go to Riverside to take the station there. Lemroes are leaving.”
“Oh Sam, I hate to leave here,” I said, looking wistfully around the room that had been our home ever since we started keeping house together. “I know, dear. I hate to leave too. We’ve been so happy here, but orders are orders, you know. I’m afraid the work will be harder for you too, as we’ll have to feed the stage passengers there.”
I don’t mind the work and perhaps we’ll like it just as well as Sevier Bridge, when we’ve been there a while,” I said, determined to be cheerful.
We packed our things and left on the stage, next day to take over our new duties. When we reached Riverside, we found the Lemroes gone, but Rhody Lane, who had been helping Mrs. Lemroe for a long time, was busy in the kitchen. She was a big strong girl and was certainly a wonderful help to me the first few days I was there.
“Did you bring plates, Mrs. Cunningham?” she asked when we were preparing the first meal. “Why no, aren’t there plates here?” I asked incredulously. “No, the plates belonged to Mrs. Lemroe and she took them with her. We have cups, saucers and soup bowls, but not a single plate in the house. What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know, but we’ll have to do something.” I hit upon an idea. I remembered a bundle of shingles I had seen in the store room that morning. They were the first real shingles, I had ever seen, for all the first houses were roofed with hand hewn shakes.
“Sam, I called, “Bring me about two dozen of the nicest smoothest shingles out of that bundle, please.” “Mustn’t burn shingles, dear,” he cautioned. “I’m not going to burn them. You’re going to eat off them. We haven’t any plates.” “Well, you’re a smart one to think of that,” said Sam proudly.
Thinking all our troubles were settled, I left Rhody to watch the dinner while I fixed the long table that stood in the middle of the dining room. I arranged bouquets of wild flowers and placed the knives and forks very carefully on each side of the improvised plates, as I wanted everything to look especially nice for the first meal I served the passengers, but in spite of all my planning and care, the effect of those shingles was ludicrous indeed and I waited anxiously for the expression and comments of the passengers.
“Bring the bread, Rhody,” I called. “I have a shingle ready.” Rhode came rushing in, looking very worried indeed. “Oh, Mrs Cunningham, there’s not any bread. I forgot to tell you.” “Quick Rhody, I exclaimed, rushing into the kitchen. “I’ll have to make biscuits.” “But, Mrs. Cunningham, there isn’t any flour. Mrs. Lemroe hoped you’d bring some.”
I almost dropped the mixing bowl when I herd the dreadful news. “What a pretty kettle of fish!” I exclaimed angrily “No plates, no bread, no flour!” “Sam come here quickly. My first dinner is spoiled already. I could just cry.”
Sam whistled when he heard the tragic news. “Anything here we can use for bread?” he inquired of Rhody. “There’s a box of sweet crackers, but they are pretty stale! “Let me see them,” I exclaimed hopefully, but my spirits fell when I saw them. They were indeed stale and worse, they were wormy. Snatching up a handful, I picked the worms out, blew off the crumbs and arranged them on a shingle. “Better to leave them in here until we see how they’re going to like the shingles.” advised Sam.
Just then the stage clattered up to the door and the passengers, hungry, tired and cramped from their long ride, trooped into the dining room. When they saw the plates they all stopped as if controlled by machinery. finally someone said: “What’s the joke?”
“I’m afraid it isn’t a joke,” I began timidly, but Sam stepped forward and waved over the table with a lordly gesture and said: “My wife’s best china, ladies and gentlemen. Be sure you don’t chip it.”
When the roars of laughter had subsided, he explained the situation and proudly introduced me and gave me full credit for the idea. Then he brought in the sweet crackers and asked them to substitute them for bread, grandly promising them some of his wife’s best hot biscuits,” when we got flour. The passengers were very good-natured over the whole affair and there was a great deal of fun and laughter over their efforts to keep the food on the shingle plates.
After the meal, Ed Butterfield, a wealthy man from Salt Lake, came and congratulated me on the novel way in which I had saved the situation. Sam gave the driver a big order for supplies, including plates and flour.
Besides the stage passengers, we had to feed ten men who were cutting hay for the station. Each morning I packed a big hamper of lunch and we took it to the meadow when we went to exercise the horses. At noon I spread it out under the shady tree along the river bank and fed the hay-makers with a picnic lunch.
We got so tired of the sweet crackers, we could not eat them and waited hopefully for the stage, but alas! When it came down from Salt Lake it was so filled with passengers and their baggage that there was no room for supplies. I was almost too discouraged to join in the passenger’s jesting about my “best china.”
Before Mr. Butterfield left, he presented me with the book, “Oliver Twist”. He gave me a great many books, during the years we were connected with the stage company.
The next trip the stage brought the much needed supplies, so my “best china” was again put in the store room, until needed to patch the roof. The next day Sam wanted me to go with him as usual, to the the men’s lunch and exercise the stage horses. “I can’t, Sam,” I explained. “You promised the passengers hot biscuit when we got the flour, so now I must stay home and make them.”
So Sam set out lone and I busied myself with the work. Just after noon, I heard the stage horses running up to the barn and looking out, I saw Sam trudging along with the saddle on his back. Very much alarmed, I rushed out to see what had happened. His horse had stepped into a gopher hole and broken his leg, so had to be shot. Sam tried in vain to catch one of the stage horses to ride home, but they succeeded in keeping just beyond his reach. Finally, he gave up and putting the saddle on his own back, limped wearily home. He was in for many good-natured jibes from the hay-makers when they came in for supper. “That’s a horse on you,” they laughed.
A great many of the passengers were businessmen from Salt Lake and Provo, who owned mines or big ranches and so came quite regularly on the stage. Of course, we grew well acquainted with these men and learned their likes and dislikes. Mr. Gilmore always wanted Jack Rabbit roast or trout. I was famous all up and down the line for my Jack Rabbit roasts and fresh trout was to be had for the catching, also plenty of wild ducks and geese.
We had a small seine for trout and Sam built a raft which he covered with brush for a blind, and we could get on that and row out among the ducks and geese on the lake and almost take our choice. We always took our rifles when we went to exercise the horses and brought home a supply of rabbits and other game.
Among the regular passengers was a very pompous Englishman we called “Percy”. He felt very important and made himself extremely unpopular with his officious manner and commanding tones. He was always immaculately dressed, even to spats and monocle. Imagine such a manner of dress out on the wildest frontier of Utah!
We had to serve breakfast at four am and we were very busy one morning, when Percy said: “Mrs. Cunningham, would you get me the smallest paht of a cup of tea?” Without a word, I walked over, turned his cup upside down and poured the bottom full of tea. Amid the roars of laughter that followed, he got up and stalked out.
On his return trip however, he was as obnoxious as ever. “Mrs Cunningham,” he said patronizingly, “will you please toss me a biscuit?” Exasperated beyond control, I granted his request with a vengeance. I snatched up a biscuit and threw it at him. He dodged it and left the place in high dudgeon and I lost a steady customer.
From Riverside, we were transferred to Fillmore. My, how glad I was to be near mother again. We rented a little three room brick house with a lovely grassy yard in front and a garden plot and fruit trees in the back. It was our first real home since our marriage and I was so happy in it, entertaining friends. Father helped me put in the garden, which kept us supplied with fresh vegetables all season. I canned and preserved enough fruit to last for a whole year. I felt like a real housewife as I took care of our cozy little home and cooked dainty meals “just for two”.
For Christmas that year, Mary Logan sent me a lovely astrakhan shawl. It was two yards long and soft as down. Another time she sent me a wonderful sealskin coat with cap, muff and arctics to match. She sent me many beautiful things that could not be bought in Utah at any price.
After six months in Fillmore, we were again sent to Sevier Bridge, but I did not stay long as I was not very well. But, while I was there, I failed miserably in my first attempt to be truly modern. Cigarettes were just being introduced into Utah and Sam was very enthusiastic over them. One Sunday morning we were lazily lying abed planning our future when Sam lit a cigarette. “Sam, why do you smoke so many of those things?” I asked curiously. “you smoke twice as much was you did with a pipe.” “I like it, that’s why.” “But I persisted, “just what is the attraction?” “Try one and see,” he challenged. Seeing the shocked expression on my face, he taunted: “Dare, dare double dare!”
“Shades of my Mormon ancestors!” I thought desperately. “Miss Piety won’t take a drag,” twitted Sam, his eyes dancing with mischief. I’m no piker. Give me one and I’ll soon show you,” I exclaimed scornfully.
Sam put a cigarette between my lips and showed me how to light it. After a few awkward attempt, I succeeded in getting it to draw properly.
“Humph! There’s nothing to it,” I said witheringly as I flicked the ashes into the chamber that sat by the side of the bed.
Sam just grinned and called my attention to a bedbug calmly walking across the ceiling. We had to fight them constantly, as the unpeeled pine logs with which the house was built, were full of them.
Through the haze of cigarette smoke we watched the bedbug weave back and forth across the ceiling until a false step sent him tumbling into the chamber, where he swam desperately about, trying to get out.
“Whoopee! Just look at the old bug swim!” laughed Sam. “Let’s put sails on him and have a boat.” I said nothing as I gazed at him with a sickly grin. The cigarette was beginning to take effect and I was trying desperately to fight down the waves of nausea that threatened to overpower me.
Sam noticing my lack of enthusiasm at the bedbugs antics, looked up at me. “What’s the matter, honey? Are you sick?” “No I began stoutly, but the cigarette won and my actions belied my words before they were fairly out of my mouth. For hours I was so sick, I could hardly sit up and never again did I try to discover the secret of the cigarette’s charm. When I see the girls nonchalantly smoking cigarettes, it brings back my experience so vividly that I have to fight down the nausea that sweeps over me.
I went home to mother and Sam stayed at the station, near enough that he could come home frequently to see me. Just before our baby was born, he was sent to Frisco, Nevada, which was the wildest spot on the stage line. Hold-ups and other depredations were common occurrences, so everyone advised against my going there, but I was determined to join my husband as soon as I was strong enough.
|Silena, age 17 & son, Bert, about 3 months old.|
When Bert was just five weeks old, I was barely seventeen myself. I took the long arduous journey by stage to my new home. Mother insisted that Rosetta go home with me and help me with the baby for a few weeks until I got stronger. She had never been away from home and was not anxious to make the trip. The stage was barely out of sight of home, when Rosetta began to cry. She cried herself almost sick before we reached Riverside, so I left her there to return home on the next stage and went on alone.
Although Rosetta got over some of her timidity as she grew older and spent several months with me when I lived in Grass Valley about four years later, she never went very far from mother and was never out of Utah during her lifetime of nearly seventy years.
This station, like all the others, was divided into three parts, all under the same roof. The stalls for the twelve stage horses were in front, next to the road. Back of them, were the grain rooms and great stocks of baled hay and on the very rear were our living quarters.
I had been home about ten days and was getting nicely settled when I had my first taste of real life in this wild station, whereon women had ever lived before. The weather was too warm for comfortable sleeping and we tossed about restlessly.
“The stage will be here soon and I will bring you a cold drink from the spring after it leaves,” promised Sam. I listened anxiously for the stage, but finally said: “I’m just so thirsty, I can’t wait until the stage comes. I’m going for some water.” I got up, put on my bedroom slippers and went around the big station building and across the road to the spring which was back in a cut in the hillside. We had a small trough for water for the house and underneath a large one for watering the horses. I filled my pitcher and headed back.
Just as I reached the mouth of the cut, I heard the stage coming. It was a bright moonlight night and I was dressed only in my night clothing, so sat down on a bench in the shadows to wait until I could get back to our room without being seen. I saw the stage clatter up and the driver and passengers alight and go inside.
John Fettison, the messenger, was on his maiden trip and went inside, leaving the stage unprotected, which was strictly against the rules. Just at that moment, I saw a man glide out of the shadows, open the stage door opposite the station, strike a match and look over the express shipments, which consisted of gold and silver bullion, being sent from Pioch, Nevada, to the mint in Salt Lake. He picked up a bar of gold bullion, no larger than a brick, but almost too heavy for him to carry and quietly closing the door, dashed across the road and up the hill.
Dressed or not, I knew I must spread the alarm, so I raced across the road and into the station, calling: “The stage has been robbed. I saw the man take a bar of bullion.” “What!” exclaimed the men, whirling around. “The stage has been robbed. Hurry, catch him!” “Which way did he go?” asked the men in chorus, grabbing their guns. “Up the hill. Oh hurry!”
The messenger, driver, Sam and some of the passengers started in pursuit. They raced out the door and up the hill. On the very top of the ridge, in clear relief against the skyline, stood a white horse. Just as the robber reached his horse and raised his arm to the saddle, the messenger shot him with a sawed-off shot gun and almost severed his right hand at the wrist. With a cry the robber dropped to the ground and tried to draw his gun with his left hand, while his horse raced madly down the hill.
The men reached the wounded man and carried him down to our rooms for such first aid treatment as we could give him with our limited equipment. They put him in a chair and cut his shirt sleeve away from the injured arm. “I’m afraid this hand will have to come off,” said the driver huskily. “Get your shears Silena,” requested Sam. Without a word, I handed him my shears and a clean sheet for bandages and then, fighting down the waves of nausea, which threatened to overcome me, I put my arms around the poor suffering boy and supported his head while one of the men cut the shreds of skin which held his hand to the bleeding stump of his arm. They tore up the sheet and bandaged his arm the best they could, but could not entirely staunch the flow of blood, so kept his arm above his head to keep him from bleeding so rapidly.
I held his head in my arms and bathed his face with cold water and my tears. He was scarcely more than a boy and was so gritty through it all, that I was sorry I had been the cause of his capture. There was never a curse or a whine out of him during the entire time, only an occasional moan which he could not wholly suppress. When we had done all we could do for him, the stage turned around and took him back to the station they had just left, as help was nearer that way.
“I’m sorry,” I managed to say to him, as they led him from the room. He tried to smile at me and I could choke back my sobs no longer, so fled from the room.
When Sam came in, after helping put the man aboard the stage, he found me lying across the bed sobbing wildly. “Poor little kid,” he whispered, smoothing my hair. “What a terrible experience for you.” “Oh, if I hadn’t seen him. I wish I hadn’t seen him,” I kept saying over and over again. “Try and forget it, dear,” soothed Sam. “You did the right thing.”
We learned later that he recovered and was taken to prison in Salt Lake. Sam and I each received $250.00 for his capture, but a hundred times that amount, could not have repaid me for the agony and remorse I suffered that night and it hurts me to think of it yet.
One morning Sam was out in the yard cleaning harness’. First he washed it well in warm water and Castile soap, then he hung it on the rack, wiped it dry and then went over it all carefully with a clean sponge which had been rubbed over a bar of Castile soap. He then polished the metal buckles and rings with a soft dry cloth and when he had finished the harness was jet black and the metal shone like polished silver.
In the middle of his work, he suddenly stopped whistling, paused in his polishing and listened intently. “Silena,” he called softly. “Come here real quietly.” I tiptoed to the door. “What is it?” I whispered. “Listen. I hear a mother quail calling to her little ones.” I listened a moment before I heard the call. “They’re over across the road by the spring,” I whispered excitedly. “Let’s slip over and see if we can see them.”
We crept across the road and saw the prettiest covey of quail, I ever hope to gaze upon. There were the proud father and mother, with fourteen babies, just out of their shells. They were about the size of a small walnut and the quickest, sassiest little things I ever saw.
Oh, aren’t they dear? “Can’t we catch them and keep them?” I begged. “We can’t cage up little wild things, but we will feed them and try to tame them enough that they will stay around close so we can watch them.”
I slipped back to the house and got some bread crumbs and a pan for water. We scattered the crumbs around near the spring and stepping out of sight, we waited. Soon the mother found them and called her little brood and they ate every one. We always kept the pan full of water and twice a day we fed them until soon they were quite tame.
One morning we caught one and took it to little Bert. He was just at the age when he reached for everything in sight and cooed so sweetly. We spent hours playing with him. It would have been too lonely for me at “Frisco”, if I hadn’t had the baby to occupy my time and amuse me, as we were too far away for visitors and the stage stopped such a short time, we could not get acquainted with the strangers. We could hardly wait to see what Bert would do with a little live quail. We put it in his hands and he kicked and cooed and started to pop it in his mouth.
“You little cannibal,” laughed Sam, catching Bert’s fists just in time to prevent destruction. Sam and I laughed until we were weak, but never repeated the experiment.
It was not safe for me to stay at the station alone, was there were so many tramps, highwaymen and guerrilla bands roaming over that part of the country and the station spring was the only water for miles around, so when we went out to exercise the horses, Sam carried the baby on a pillow and strapped his pad, back of my side saddle. When we stopped, we spread the soft pad, made of a heavy quilt, on a grassy spot and put the baby down on it to rest and play, while we worked or gathered flowers nearby. One of us always stayed near him on account of snakes, while the other hunted, as we had to depend on wild game for our meat.
The woods were full of rabbits, sage-hens and quails, but we missed the fish we had always had at Sevier Bridge. I had been in Frisco about two months when I had my second experience with stage robbers. Between the walls of our bedroom and the stacks of baled hay was a very narrow passage, just wide enough for a small man to squeeze through, to be used in case of fire. There were large cracks between the boards in the bedroom wall, over which I had pasted cloth to keep out the draughts. I was a light sleeper and awakened at any unusual noise, no matter how faint. On this particular night, I was aroused by a murmur of voices. I listened a second to be sure I heard alright and then gently nudged Sam to awaken him. “Sam,” I whispered, “there’s someone hiding behind the hay.” We listened intently and heard a man say: “We will get these two, then there won’t be so many to handle when the stage comes.” Imagine our alarm when we realized that they meant to kill us and hold up the stage when it reached the station. “Listen Sam,” I said, “if you go to one end of the runway and I go to the other, we can trap them and hold them until the stage comes.”
“Alright ,” he answered. “We will try it. Something must be done quickly.”We slipped out of bed and fixed the baby so he could not possibly roll out, no matter how long we were gone. Sam took a double barreled shotgun and I took my rifle and sixshooter and we slipped around the building and took our places at each end of the runway. Then Sam called to the men to surrender. They flatly refused to do so.
Sam said: “You’re trapped and can’t possibly get out alive, so surrender now and we will make it as easy as we can for you.” We will have to turn you over to the Messenger when the stage comes, but we will ask them to be lenient on you. “No,” they snarled. “We will set fire to this hay and burn our way out.” “Suit yourselves,” he answered. “You will only burn yourselves up. You can’t hurt us and we can get the horses and the baby out, so you will be the only ones to suffer.”
They paused to consider that for a moment and then abandoned the idea of fire, although they still refused to surrender. Sam and I reasoned, talked and pleaded with them to give up to us peaceably before the stage arrived. Finally they threw their guns out to us, but still refused to come themselves. We unloaded the guns and tossed them to one side, but kept the ammunition, so that if by any chance they should escape us, they could not shoot. For an hour and a half, we stood there and held those bandits prisoners.
I thought the stage would never arrive. What if it never came? Wild thoughts flew through my mind. What if it had been wrecked or held up and the driver killed? We would be helpless and have to stand there until the men gave up or help came.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the stage clattered up and we called for help. The bandits were captured in short order and we found that, while we were pleading with them to surrender, they had been trying to cut their way to freedom with pocket knives through ten tiers of baled hay. They were taken to Salt Lake Prison, but we never learned their names as they refused to talk.
After our second stage robbery, Sam applied for a transfer, as he felt it wasn’t wise to keep the baby and me in such a wild and dangerous place. “Let’s gather some pine nuts to take home with us,” I suggested one day when we were out in the woods hunting. “I’m afraid they’re not ripe enough yet,” answered Sam, examining a big pine cone. “We might dry the cones enough to make them open.”
Suiting action to words, we built a fire and dropped the cones into it and watched them until they dried out or popped open. Then we quickly raked them out and put them on canvas until cool enough to handle. We shook out all the nuts and spread them on canvas to dry thoroughly. We worked at them each day while exercising the horses, during the two weeks we were waiting for our transfer and when we were ready to leave, we had twenty-five pounds.
I wanted to catch our quail, almost grown up, to take home to mother, but didn’t have room to carry them on the stage. When we turned the station over to the new manager we asked him not to harm them. “They’ll make some mighty fine eating,” he observed. “Don’t you dare kill them!” I began furiously. “No, don’t kill these. There’s plenty of wild ones you can eat, but these are pets,” interrupted Sam.
The man laughed, but wouldn’t promise to spare them. After spending three dangerous and exciting months at Frisco Station, we started home to Fillmore with our four months’ old baby and three hundred dollars cash, all we owned in the world. We had to travel fifty-five miles by stage coach and hold-ups were common occurrences in that wild unsettled country, so I insisted on combining our assets or putting all our eggs in one basket, so to speak, by pinning all our money, except travel expenses, inside the baby’s band. I thought that in case of a hold-up, a tiny baby would not be molested. My husband ridiculed the idea, but finally consented.
When we boarded the stage there were fourteen passengers, with the driver and express messenger on the boat. It was an all night journey to Fillmore, but the bright moonlight and the jolting of the stage made sleep impossible. The passengers were a jolly lot and we joked and laughed as we sped along. The colored lady who had sung the negro spirituals for the drunken men, the night I had driven the stage to Riverside, was among the passengers. She sang several of the old spirituals for us and then all the passengers joined in and sang together.
I held Bert on a pillow on my lap and was nursing him to quiet him as we sped through a beautiful wooded canyon, when a harsh voice suddenly rang out, “hands up!”
The driver hastily stopped his team, wrapped his lines around the brake bar and raised his hands high above his head. It was the express messenger’s first trip and he became so frightened he dropped his gun and promptly grabbed for the moon. The passengers had hardly regained their seats after the sudden stop, when the door was yanked open and a rude voice commanded: “Hands up!”
I laid Bert and his pillow down on my lap and obeyed without question. The baby was not so obedient, however and promptly began to yell for the rudely interrupted dinner. The bandit ordered all the passengers, except me to get out and then said: “Madam, you may attend to your baby now and paid no further attention to me.
I had modestly covered my breast with my handkerchief when I started to nurse Bert, but when I put my hands above my head, the handkerchief fell down into the baby’s face, leaving my breast exposed. My embarrassment wholly overshadowed my fear and it was a heartfelt “thank you!” which I gave to the bandit when he allowed me to relieve the situation.
The bandit lined up the passengers and relieved them of all their money and jewelry. Sam lost his watch and all the money he carried. The bandit piled it all on a flat rock as he collected it and then tied it in a bandana handkerchief and threw it out into the brush. He then herded the passengers back into the stage and ordered the driver to drive on and not to stop until he heard a whistle. We had not gone very far when we heard a shrill whistle and the driver promptly halted. Hearing nothing more, the passengers thought it safe to get out. They all rushed back to the scene of the hold-up, but of course could find nothing.
We hurried on to Riverside to report it. The stage master there refused to give the passengers food or shelter without payment and none of them had a cent with which to pay, so I called my husband aside and told him that we must help them out. I took off the baby’s band and took out one hundred dollars of our precious savings and gave each one money enough to get him to his destination. They were lavish in their praise of my novel scheme to keep our money safe and were grateful for the loan. Each one gave us his name and address and promised prompt payment. We got off to Fillmore, while the other passengers went on to Salt Lake. When we had heard from all of them, we counted our money and found we had received two hundred dollars in payment for the one hundred we had loaned. Thus we realized that, although a good deed is its own reward, bread cast upon waters did indeed return a hundred fold.
While Sam was with the Stage Company, he fell in with a wild crowd. There was always a great deal of drinking and gambling among the passengers as well as agents and drivers. Sam was young and easily led and life in the stations was very lonely, so he took to drinking and gambling. It nearly broke my heart and I begged him to give it up. After little Bert came I renewed my pleas, but to no avail.
My parents, being of a deeply religious nature, naturally voiced their disapproval in no uncertain terms. They were staunch Mormons and firmly believed it was my duty to raise a large family and they repeatedly pointed out the fact that a gambler and a drunkard, as they called Sam, was not a fit father for my potential children. To all these arguments I had no answer, except that I loved Sam. With the Mormons duty comes before love, so to father and mother, that was no answer at all.
At last, worn out with their continued urging and heartbroken over Sam’s behavior, I applied to the Bishop for a release. This was readily granted, so once more I was free, but not a happy woman. Little did I dream that I was turning my back on the three happiest years of my life and after the happiness I had had with Sam and the excitement of the life at the stage stations, the next three years were dull ones indeed.
Years later I learned that my faith in Sam was justified. When Mary Logan learned of our separation, she persuaded Sam to join her in Washington and she placed him in West Point. He was still young and had not finished his education, so it was a wonderful opportunity. He straightened up, graduated from West Point and through Mary’s influence, obtained a position in the Post Office department at Washington D.C., which he held for many years.
When Bert was about eighteen months old we went up to Mr. and Mrs. Green’s for a few weeks. They had the nicest farm in the whole country, well stocked with pigs, ducks and chickens, as well as cattle and horses. One day Mr. Green came to Fillmore for supplies and came up to see us.
“Mrs Cunningham, throw a few clothes in a bag and go home with me for a nice, long visit,” he invited. “Mother will be glad to have you and it will be a nice outing for the baby.”
I was sorely tempted, for I knew I’d enjoy it very much, but felt mother needed me at home. Mother, however, insisted that I go with Mr. Green, so I gladly gathered up the things I would need and was all ready to start, when Mr. Green was through shopping. We reached our destination late in the afternoon and when the family came out to greet us, Mr. Green said: “Now Mother, I want you to feed these people all the milk, butter, cream and good things you can fix while they’re here, so they’ll be fat and sassy when they go home.”
Mrs Green looked her husband straight in the eye as she began: “If you think I’m going to feed these people you’re mistaken.”My heart fell. Was it possible that I wasn’t welcome?” Then Mrs. Green continued: “I’ll put it all on the table, all they can stuff, but if you think I’m going to take a spoon and feed them, you’ve got another thing a’comin’.” I had a lovely visit, as the young people were about my age. Johnny and I laughed again over the comical spectacle that Fred Gilmore had made when Sam pitched him head first in the manure pile.
Bert was in a fair way to get badly spoiled. He was running everywhere and talking quite a bit and was such a sweet child, he was soon the pet of the whole family. Mrs. Green gave him some little chickens and it was a treat to watch him play with them. He loved them so dearly, but was careful not to squeeze or hurt them. He loved to watch the little calves, pigs and ducks, but was not allowed to play with them.
When the snow began to melt in the mountains, the streams all became swollen and threatened to overflow their banks. One morning when we got up, we found the house which was built on a knoll in the sink of Meadow Creek., entirely surrounded by water. The poultry houses and pig pens were all flooded and the yard was full of floating, half-drowned baby pigs, chickens and ducks. Leaving everything else, we all rushed out and gathered up the stock and carried it in to try to revive it by the kitchen stove. We took everything out of one big room and made temporary homes for our rescued babies.
I was so busy helping that I did not pay a great deal of attention to little Bert. I thought he was playing safely in the corner with his blocks. Suddenly I thought I heard him call, “Monna.” I went over to his corner, but he wasn’t there. My heart froze in my breast. Where was my baby? I rushed out frantically: “Bert! Bert! Oh, has anyone seen Bert?”
At my cry, they all rushed outside to help search for him. “Monna, my chities! Monna, my chities!” came the cry and we all dashed around the house, where we found Bert standing in water up to his armpits, his little arms held high above the wet mop of his curls and tightly grasped in each chubby fist was the neck of a very limp chicken! He had braved the flood to rescue his pets which the rest of us had forgotten. With a sob, I gathered him in my arms. Mr. Green blew his nose loudly, while Mrs. Green frankly cried into her soaked apron.
While I was changing Bert’s clothing, Mr. Green quietly disposed of the poor strangled chickens and substituted others for them. Bert never knew the difference, but loved his new pets and when we went home he proudly carried his “chities” home to show grandma.
After taking little Bert home to mother, I started a private school. I had mother’s three younger children, Delia, Ben and John and several others whom I taught at one dollar a week.
I also did sewing to help support my baby. Little curly-headed Bert was such a comfort to me in those trying days with his winning ways and sturdy independence. Life would not have been worth living without him. Often as I held him in my arms, in those first lonely years, I would gaze earnestly into his face and wonder if I had so hopelessly tangled the skein of his life, that he would never straighten it out. I recalled my broken romance with Sam, our happiness and our separation. A broken romance, broken marriage vows, a broken home. Just more broken threads, added to the seemingly hopelessly tangled skein that was my life.
My sister, Ellen and I played in amateur theatricals, which Mr. Gibson, manager of the theater, put on in one room of the State House.
In the late summer I gleaned beans. The vines were cut and piled up until dry, then they were put on a wagon sheet and flailed out. Then the older boys tossed the straw into the air, letting the chaff blow away and the beans drop into the wagon sheet. When the harvesters had moved on to the next place, the women and children gleaned the fields. Every bean was carefully gathered and saved. One summer the children and I gleaned a year’s supply of beans for our own use and sold enough to buy our winter clothing.
Father and brother, Jim helped me support my baby. I had a comfortable home and was busy with my school and theatrical work, yet I was not happy, for I missed Sam. The family, realizing my loneliness and sorrow, made life as interesting for me as possible.
When Bert was about three years old, I went for a visit to Circle Valley. A great many of my friends from Fillmore had moved there, so it was almost like a home coming for me. The people from Circle Valley were very prosperous, owning large farms, well stocked with horses and cattle. They were a jolly, sporty lot and held many horse races, dances and other amusements. It was a rule that the loser at the races should pay for the supper and dance that followed.
One of the first persons I met was Eugene Giroux. He and his two brothers were mining men and were frequent visitors to the Valley, although they did not live there. I heard a great deal about them from the people and Eugene told me of his brothers, but I did not meet them for several weeks.
One night I went to a horse race dance with some friends. It was my first one and I was quite excited over it. Gideon Giroux was the floor manager, or official host, as he would be called now. His business was to keep things moving and see that everyone had a good time. When I saw him across the room, I thought he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. His immaculate clothes fitted perfectly, his raven black hair was brushed until it shone like satin and his hands were as well cared for as any woman’s. He had a well groomed appearance, so different from the boys I had always known. In fact, he was the type that always attract girls.
I danced with him several times during the evening and he seemed quite interested in me and asked if I liked to ride. Of course, I did and as I was almost raised in a saddle, I was a splendid horsewoman. I had a navy blue riding habit with brass buttons, a high silk hat and gauntlet gloves which I had made.
Gid called the next afternoon with two beautiful saddle horses and he seemed very proud of me as we mounted and rode away. We went over all the valley and he introduced me to a great many of his friends. We spent a very pleasant afternoon together and were quite interested in each other before we parted.
The next day Gid, his two brothers and a brother-in-law, started to White Pine, Nevada, to settle up some mining business. Gid didn’t want to go and kept trying to turn back, but the others finally persuaded him to go on. He hurriedly finished his business and rushed back to Circle Valley, taking only ten days for the trip on horseback.
After his return, he visited me daily and we took long rides over the country. He told me that my silvery blonde hair and dark gray eyes had attracted him when he first met me. Gid was French and had dark blue eyes, black hair and skin as white as milk. He fell madly in love with me and with characteristic Latin impetuousness, fairly swept me off my feet.
He urged an early marriage and although I knew I could never love him as I had loved Sam, I consented. I liked and respected him very much and was older and more mature, so felt I’d never experience that girlish ecstasy again. I knew I could make Gid a good wife and thought it would give little Bert his best chance in life. Gid was so eager and so sure that we would be happy together, that I finally agreed.
He was so impatient, he would not even wait to go home and see father and mother. Billy McCarty and his wife were great friends of his and they invited us to be married at their home. Gid came up to Hardy’s where I was visiting at the time and took Will Hardy and his two sisters, Nettie and Louisa and I down to McCarty’s for the ceremony. We all stood grouped around a center table which held the big family Bible. Al Price, Justice of the Peace, read the ceremony and once again I disappointed my family and friends by not marrying a Mormon.
Gid had bought a beautiful ranch in Grass Valley, without a house, but well stocked with horses and cattle. We couldn’t reach it on account of high water, so we started housekeeping in a log house on the McCarty place. Four days later, Mr. McEdwards, Gid’s partner in Bingham Canyon, came with papers to be signed to close a mining deal. He was much surprised to hear Gid was married and congratulated us warmly and gave us some good fatherly advise.
When Gid called little Bert to him and put his arms around him, saying: “This was my wife’s little boy, but he is mine now,” McEdwards said: “Good. You’re old enough to marry and settle down with a family. That is a mighty fine youngster and has the stuff in him to make a real man. Now it is up to you to take care of him and raise him up right.” I liked Mr. McEdwards very much and was so pleased at his interest in little Bert.
One morning I heard the queerest noise outside. “What is that?” I asked. “It doesn’t sound like a dog or a pig.” I stepped to the door and saw the most interesting sight. A mother bear was up in a cottonwood tree and was trying to coax her two little black babies to follow her. The little round roly-poly cubs could scarcely reach around the tree trunk, but were manfully trying to reach their mother, who waited on the lowest limb. Gid ran back and snatched up his gun and started to aim it. I knocked his arm aside and clung to him begging him to spare them. When he saw that I would not let him shoot them, he called to Billy McCarty to get them, but Billy had no better luck than Gid, for his wife and mother-in-law refused let him kill the bears either, so the mother was allowed to take her babies to the mountains in safety.
We lived in Billy’s log cabin about a month before the swollen river receded enough that we thought it safe enough to start for our place in Grass Valley. After a very hard days’s journey, we found ourselves again held up by high water, so took refuge in a herder’s cabin.
The next day, while eating dinner, a man stepped up to the door and exclaimed: “What’s all this? Have you taken possession? This is my place.” Gid explained to him that we were on our way to Grass Valley, but could go no further until the river went down. He said we would move out right away and give him the cabin. The man was very nice when he understood the situation and refused to let us move. He said he and his men would sleep in their tent and would help us over the mountain the next day.
Next morning we started bright and early, but found the going very slow indeed. It took us a whole day to go about a quarter of a mile. The men had to put chains on the upper wheels and hold them with horses to keep the wagon from slipping over the edge of the cliff. It took us two days to reach another abandoned cabin near our place, where we lived while Gid cut logs and made a temporary cabin in a beautiful meadow, near the river.
One evening just about dusk, I heard a scream that made my blood run cold. “What’s that?” I gasped, clutching Gid’s arm. “It’s a mountain lion. He has killed a calf or a colt somewhere near. We will have to contend with that all the time.”
Some men came by, driving a herd of horses. They had a tiny colt with its whole back laid open by one savage slash from the lion’s claws. They doctored the colt, but could not save it.
At last our cabin was finished and we moved into it. The men made a foundation for the covered wagon bed and we used it for a bedroom. Our stove was set up outside the cabin and we started housekeeping on our own ranch.
One night I was ill and slipped out of the wagon for a few minutes. I heard a slight noise and there, not a hundreds yards from our camp, was the lion eating the garbage I had thrown out. I crept back into the wagon and awakened my husband. “Gid,” I whispered, that lions right out there.” “We’ll get our guns ready,” he whispered back, but the lion was gone and we saw no more sign of him that night.
Several evenings later we saw him standing on a high cliff, near our camp, but out of gunshot range. He was a magnificent animal and made a perfect picture as he stood on the edge of the cliff, in sharp relief against the skyline. “What a pity,” I sighed, “that he is so destructive and has to be killed.”
He roamed over all the country for miles around, killing stock. He would kill a calf one night on our ranch and the very next night kill another twenty miles away. We never knew when or where he would strike next.
One evening, just after dark, Aunt Helen King and the girls were driving the baby calves into the corral. “Oh, mother,” called Matilda, “there’s a big calf in the pen too.” “Chase it out,” answered her mother. When Matilda went in and started to chase it out, it reared up on its hind legs and snarled. It was the mountain lion. Matilda dashed out, hastily barred the gate and left the lion alone until the men came home. When Uncle John and the boys went out to catch the lion, he gave one spring and was gone into the woods.
All the ranchers hunted and trapped for months for him, but without success. One day when they found a horse he had just killed and had evidently been frightened away by their coming, before he had time to devour his victim. The men put poison on the meat and slipped away. The next day they returned and found the lion dead.
One noon, as I stooped down to slip a pan of biscuits in the oven, I felt something strike my skirts. I sprang up and jumped aside in time to see a huge rattlesnake disappear into the grass. I snatched up the baby and put him inside the wagon, then grabbed a rake and began beating the grass in search of the snake. Failing to find it, I called to Gid to come and help me. We hunted and hunted, beating the grass all down around the cabin, but found no trace of him.
Finally Gid said: “That snake was as frightened as you were. It probably made straight for the river and is miles down stream by now.” I was unconvinced and kept a sharp lookout for it as I worked, but saw nothing more of it.
When the men started to go across the river for the pole rafters for our house, I decided to go with them as far as King’s and get some fresh buttermilk.
I visited with Aunt Helen and the girls while the men cut the poles and took them back across the river to our new home site and then came back for us. There was no bed on the wagon, just the bare running gears, which did not make for comfortable riding. The driver sat between the front wheels, Gid sat on the coupling pole, while I sat between the back wheels, with my feet braced against his back and held Bert on my lap.
The river banks at the ford were very steep and the horses, becoming frightened, plunged wildly down the incline with a jerk, which threw Gid off into the water. His fall removed my support and I plunged after him.
|Rocks overlooking Grass Valley, Utah.|
|Overlooking Grass Valley, Utah.|
Gid grabbed Bert out first and then rushed to me. I was laying face down in the bottom of the river, with the wagon wheel across my back. The horses were so frightened that the driver could not leave them, so Gid had to raise the wheel and drag me from under it and then carry me ashore, where he laid me down, unconscious and apparently dead.
Both men worked frantically over me for thirty minutes, before I began to show signs of life. They rolled and pounded me and stood me on my head, to get the water out of my lungs, so I could breath again. After I got my breath I was so deathly sick I could not sit up, so they carried me up to the house and put me to bed. It was several days before I entirely recovered from the shock.
One afternoon Mrs. Clay and her little girl Bessie came to visit us. We put Bessie and Bert in the wagon to play because there was always danger of snakes in the high grass. Mrs. Clay and I were engaged in a nice chat, when little Bessie began to sob as if her heart would break. We rushed over to investigate the trouble and found Bessie clutching her broken doll and sobbing. Bert had his arms around her shoulders, trying to comfort her. “Don’t cry Bessie. Monna fisk ‘em.”
Tears came into my eyes when I saw his confidence in my ability to fix anything that needed it. I tried hard to merit that faith, as I patiently fitted the china pieces of the doll’s head together.
A few days later Billy McCarty, his brother-in-law, Philander Maxwell and some of their cowboys came by, hunting stock. Gid said to Billy: “If you’re going to be around here for a few days, just sleep here at our cabin. I have to go to Beaver for lumber and my wife wants to go along.” “Sure, Phil and I will stay here and the boys can sleep at the corral. Take your wife to visit with my wife while you’re gone. Letty will be glad to have company.”
So I went over to McCarty’s and visited, while Gid went on to Beaver. Billy was the largest land and cattle owner in that part of the country and had a nice home and lovely wife and I had a very pleasant visit.
One morning while we were gone, Billy took the pail and started to milk the cow. On the way to the corral, he stepped into a hole and felt something strike his boot. Looking down, he saw a huge rattlesnake with its fangs buried in the leather of his high boot, just below his knee. Snatching his hunting knife from his belt, he slashed off it’s head before it could loosen it’s fangs and strike again. Mr. Snake had had two strikes and was out!
My numerous petticoats and Billy’s heavy boots had saved us from a painful death. Billy removed his boot and cut a circle of leather out of it around the snake’s head and tacked it, just as it was, on the wall of our cabin where it greeted us on our return. He skinned the snake and made himself a beautiful belt of the skin. I was certainly glad to know the snake was dead, as I had never ceased to watch for it.
The work on our house was progressing slowly but surely. I felt it would never be finished and I was getting so tired of camping as I wasn’t very well. When Gid went to Beaver to get the shingles, windows and doors for the house, I went with him as far as Cottonwood and visited Mrs. Price. Her husband was the Justice of the Peace who had married us. Our ranch was on the Navajo trail. Indians, tramps and renegades often came by, so I never stayed alone when Gid was to be gone several days.
Mrs. Price was formerly Mrs. Duane, who, with her young son, Johnny, was captured by the Apache Indians and held in the Bradshaw Mountains for six years, before the U.S. soldiers rescued them.
She told me a great deal about her life with the tribe. She said she was well treated because she met the squaws half-way. They were always jealous over the white women captives and could make life miserable for them if the whites showed a feeling of superiority or refused to mingle with them.
Mrs. Duane taught the squaws how to sew and do many other tasks. She was careful to show no partiality and was very respectful of the older members of the tribe and in this way, she gained their friendship.
They showed her how to make horsehair lace, one of the tribal secrets and treated her six-year-old son like one of their own papooses. Johnny was happy with the Indians and learned their language and sports. It was with real sorrow, he parted from his Indian playmates when the soldiers rescued them and he pined for them when he and his mother returned to the white settlement. He had spent his most impressionable years with the Indians and had learned their ways and customs instead of those of the white children, so was never happy with white playmates, as he did not fit in with them.
About a year after their rescue, Mrs. Duane married Mr. Price and Johnny became more discontented than ever. Mrs. Price told me she was often tempted to take her boy and go back to the Indians. Johnny begged his mother to let him go back, so when he disappeared one day, his mother knew where he had gone, even before she received the letter from him saying he was well and happier with the Indians, as he knew their life and begged her to let him stay. The soldiers wanted to go and bring him back, but Mrs. Price would not allow it. She said she wanted him to stay where he was happiest, but she died a year later from a broken heart through grief for her boy.
While I was visiting her, she showed me how to make the horsehair lace which the Indians had taught her. I was the only one she ever taught, so I feel sure that I am the only living white woman who knows how to make it.
While the men were working in the timber, little Bert and I spent a great deal of time roaming over the country gathering flowers and greens and locating berry patches for future use. We fished a great deal too and kept the table supplied with meat while Gid was too busy to hunt.
We lived in a V-formed by the north and east forks of the river, above where they joined to make the main river. At the point of the V, was a lake of fairly placid water, joined to make the main river. At the point of the V, was a lake of fairly placid water, which was an excellent fishing place. Gid built a small platform out over the edge of the water so we could sit and fish in comfort. Bert loved to go fishing with me and would manfully help catch the grasshoppers with his little hat and then sit still as a statue while I fished. It was a proud day in his life when I gave him his first fishing pole and he soon became a good fisherman.
One day, as we were nearing the lake, Bert said: “Look, Mamma, our fish are all dead.” I gasped in amazement. The lake and both forks of the river were full of floating fish, their sides glistening in the sunshine. There was not a spot as large as my hand on the surface of the water, that was not covered. Some of the fish were two or three feet in length. Poor little Bert was heart-broken. “Mamma, what killed our fish?” “Sh-h, be quiet a few minutes and see what happens.” I was watching the fish closely and thought they were alive. Bert could not be consoled. “Oh, Mamma, our poor fish.” Sh-h,” I whispered spellbound at the sight. Bert reached down, got a little pebble and threw it in the water. In an instant every fish was gone! Not a sign of one could be seen anywhere. When I told Gid and some of the oldtimers about it, they said the trout were sunning themselves. They also told me that few people are lucky enough to see such a sight.
Bert and I often found nests of wild ducks and geese along the river. They were so soft and cozy, lined with the down from the mother’s breast. We had no hens, so I sometimes took the duck eggs to use. The goose eggs were too strong to be palatable. I would wet my hand, rub it in the dirt and carefully lift out one egg and taking it away from the nest and then sprinkle dirt and leaves around to kill the “human smell”, so the old duck would not abandon the eggs. Soon we learned to watch for the ducks when they left the nest to feed and could easily locate the nest and get our eggs while she was away and not frighten her.
One day Bert and I were fishing just above a beaver dam. I dangled my hook enticingly in an eddy which promised big returns. Suddenly it was caught with such a jerk that it was almost pulled from my hands. I held on like grim death and gradually worked my hands up toward the line. So intent was I on landing my prize that I did not notice that I was standing on a beaver slide and being pulled in until I plunged into the water. Bert was dancing up and down on the bank and yelling: “Hold him Mamma, hold him!”
It must have been his last desperate effort that yanked me in, for he soon gave up and I threw him up on the bank and pulled myself out of the water by the poles on the beaver dam. Dripping, but triumphant, I bore my trophy home. The fish was about six inches longer than the width of my doorway in which I had laid it to measure.
At last the house was finished except, chinking the logs and we moved in. I was so anxious to get settled and straightened up in a real home, that I could hardly wait. We had a large living room, with a huge fireplace in one end, a small kitchen and a bedroom.
Our house had the only matched floors and shingle roof in the valley and it became a very popular place for dances, as the music sounded so good and the smooth floors were so nice for dancing. The sod roofs of the other houses deadened the music. The house stood on a mesa overlooking a rolling meadow and the tree fringed river which wound its way around the hill and out of sight through a gap in the mountains.
As soon as the house was finished, the men started cutting timber for the barn and corrals and we felt we soon could have a real home.
One day I said to Gid: “You have to be away so much and I don’t like to stay alone, so I am going to send for my sister, Rosetta to stay with me.” “That is a good idea,” he answered. “Send for her right away. It is not a good idea for you to be alone so much, anyway.”
I wrote my sister that night and she arrived within a few days. My, how glad I was to see her. I was expecting another baby in about two months and was so lonely and homesick when Gid was gone.
With Rosetta there, the time passed swiftly and pleasantly. We made dainty curtains for the windows of my new home, braided rugs for the floor and gathered roots of wild flowers, vines and scrubs to plant around the yard. We prepared a dainty layette and got everything ready to go home to father’s for the big event.
One day Gid said he must return a spirit level he had borrowed from Mr. Phoshea over in the east fork, five miles away. It was a regular Indian summer day. The sun was shining warm and bright, the birds were singing, the bees buzzing, the hens cackling and the young roosters learning to crow. Everything seemed perfect, but for some unknown reason, I felt restless and uneasy. Some premonition of evil seemed to haunt me. I could not settle myself to my sewing, nor enter with enthusiasm into Rosetta’s plans for our trip home. When Gid said he must return the level he had borrowed to use in building the house, as Mr. Phoshea needed it, I just froze in my tracks.
“Oh, Gid,” I begged, please hurry back, as it is about the time for the Navajos to pass through and we don’t want to be left alone. I am so nervous today that I feel anything could happen.” “Cheer up, Silena,” spoke up Rosetta. “You mustn’t feel that way. I’ll be here with you, so you won’t be alone you know.”
“I’ll hurry ,” promised Gid, “but you must remember it will take me two or three hours to make the ten mile trip on horseback.”
He saddled his big horse and calling: “I’ll hurry,” and dashed away. With a sinking heart, I watched him ride out of sight and then resumed my wandering around the yard.
“Better come in and lie down,” called Rosetta from the door. “You’re tiring yourself too much.” “I’m coming,” I answered her as I walked slowly toward the house. When I entered I saw little Bert playing on the floor and snatched him up and held him so tightly he gasped and squirmed to get away, while I kissed his fat neck. “You hurt me, Mamma,” he said, wriggling out of my arms. “I didn’t mean to, dear. I was just loving my little man.”
All afternoon I stayed near my baby and kept him playing on the floor with blocks of wood left from the house. I felt that I just couldn’t let him out of my sight to play in the yard.
Once the old rooster passed near the house and stopped and deliberately crowed in the doorway. I jumped as if I had been stuck with a pin. Old Mr. Rooster says, “company’s coming,” laughed Rosetta, as she busied herself with her baking. “I’m making some fancy tea rolls especially for you, Silena, but I guess we can pass them if the company does drop in.”
“I only hope they are welcome guests,” I said. Don’t be a fraidy-cat, Silena. This isn’t like you at all. Remember the bandits you’ve faced and the man with the ‘D.T.’s.’ Surely nothing can be worse and you came through alive. “Perhaps you’re right,” I answered with a shaky laugh. “Surely nothing could be worse than that.”
I took my sewing, determined to conquer my nerves. I helped little Bert build a church with his blocks and praised Rosetta’s delicious looking rolls when she took them from the oven, but all the time my gaze kept straying from the clock to the trail over which Gid would return and I often glanced anxiously down the trail toward the reservation.
He had been gone about an hour and a half when I looked to the northeast and saw a dust cloud, the sign of travelers on the road. I said nothing at first, but watched it anxiously as it drew nearer and nearer. When I could discern men on horseback, driving pack horses, I said: “Rosetta, here come a band of Navajos and we are all alone. What shall we do?” “We’ll just act as naturally and bravely as we can and surely they won’t hurt us,” she answered.
For more than an hour we watched with sinking hearts and anxious thoughts as that band of Indians rode across the meadow toward us. When they got within hailing distance, they called “Buena Hoe”, their usual greeting. “Buena Hoe”, we answered, holding our voices as steady as we could. “Where’s your hombre?”, they asked. Fearing to tell them he had gone so far away, I said: "He is out after some cattle. He will be back real soon."
Upon learning that they were alone, they quickly dismounted and strode into the house demanding food. “Oh my bread, my lovely bread,” wailed Rosetta. “They shan’t have your rolls, anyway,” she declared, snatching them up and thrusting them quickly into the bread box.
“Give them anything they demand,” I whispered. “Our very lives may depend on it. ”The Indians sat down around the table, calling loudly for something to eat. Six lovely, crusty loaves of fresh bread, a pound of butter and two large pitchers of cold milk soon disappeared down their savage throats.
While they ate, they kept close watch out of the windows and door and when they saw no sign of my husband’s return, they grew bold and insolent. About two years before this time, Billy McCarty had killed two Navajos, whom he had caught stealing cattle. The Indians had seen Billy and Gid together a great deal and knew they were good friends, or perhaps brothers, so they decided to get revenge for the death of their tribesmen by stealing us. They spoke a mixture of Indian, Spanish and English, but I could understand enough to know what they meant to do.
When I had finished serving them, I sat down with my back against the wall with little Bert on my lap and as the logs hadn’t been chinked, I watched desperately, through a crack, down the trail and prayed that Gid would return before it was too late. The Indians were beginning to quarrel among themselves and one said: “I want this one,” pointing to Rosetta. Another reached out and pulled my baby off my lap, then jerked me to my feet, saying: “This one is mine.”
“No, I want that one,” said another, making a grab for me. I was white as a sheet and growing more frightened every minute. Dear, brave little Rosetta was fighting desperately to keep out of their reach, but noticed my pallor, and said: “Sally, don’t be so frightened. You are pale as a ghost. Don’t let them see you so afraid.” “Rosetta, I know what this means better than you do,” I answered, trembling like a leaf. The Chief finally said: “We’ll take them both, but we’ll kill the baby. It’s no good.”
I almost fainted with horror. I could just see them dragging Rosetta and me out and leaving my poor baby on the floor with his head crushed in, for I knew that was the way they would kill him. I was too terror-stricken to move when some of the Indians rushed out and began throwing blankets off their horses while others stripped our cabin of supplies.
“We will take you to a beautiful canyon and keep you there forever. It’s a place like heaven. You like it there with Big Chief,” they said. “You can’t take us,” I almost sobbed. “The soldiers won’t let you.”
They only laughed and continued to gather up our things. They took the sheets from our beds, filled them with our supplies, then tied them in bundles and put them on the horses. They stripped the cupboards of all the flour, salt and sugar, bacon - - -everything they could find. The Chief found my lovely rolls which Rosetta had hidden and put a whole one in his mouth, smacked his lips and thrust the rest in the front of his shirt. “Pale face make Big Chief heap plenty more in new home like heaven.” he said, leering at me.
I shuttered with horror at the prospect, but what could I do? Poor Rosetta and I were helpless and at their mercy. There were sixteen Indians against two defenseless women and a baby. Oh my poor baby! How could I save him? Our nearest neighbor was five miles away and of course, no travelers would pass just when we needed them most. I looked anxiously down the road. Oh, why didn’t Gid come? Would he be too late to save us? What would he do when he found us gone?
The Indians could see our terror, so delighted in torturing us by telling us about the beautiful canyon that was to be our home forever. No white man had seen this canyon of which the Indians often boasted and which they used as a hideout after raids and where prisoners were taken, never to return. I knew that if they took us there, we were lost forever. I suffered agonies over my baby’s fate, but I was powerless to save him. My condition made me almost helpless at best and now I was so paralyzed with fear that I could not raise a finger in his defense.
“Oh God, why doesn’t Gideon come? Is there no help for us anywhere?” Turning back to the crack for one last despairing look, just as the Chief reached out to drag me from the cabin, I saw a dust cloud. Was it real, or was it just a mirage in my poor tortured brain? I looked again. It was real. Relief swept over me in waves. It was too much! I sank back in my chair almost fainting, but I didn’t dare give into my weakness, now that help was almost at hand.
“Look!” I gasped. “Soldiers!” The Indians looked. In the distance the heads of the horses and riders all bobbing up and down and the thick dust veiling the whole scene made it look like a great many men riding together. The Indians laughed derisively when I had mentioned soldiers before, but they didn’t laugh now. They dashed out to their horses, hastily threw the bundles and provisions off, mounted and rode hastily toward a gap in the mountains about a quarter of a mile away. The last one disappeared just as Gid and Mr. Phoshea raced up to the house. What a sight met their eyes! The yard was full of bedding, clothing, food and even ten loads of blankets the Indians had brought from their reservation. They fairly fell from their horses and dashed into the house calling: “Silena!, Rosetta! Girls! Are you alright? What happened? Are you safe?”
I was holding little Bert and sobbing so wildly, I could not stop and Rosetta had dropped into a chair too shaken to even speak. When we had recovered somewhat, they insisted that I go to bed, while Rosetta and the men brought in the things and put the cabin to rights once more. Last of all they brought in the blankets and we opened the bundles to look them over. We gave part of them away and for ten years, we had Navajo blankets on our beds and even on the floor for rugs, but we had earned them all and what a price we paid!
When I visited Zion Canyon, forty years later and realized that it came very near being my prison, I was overcome with emotion. When I recovered enough to really see it, I was simply speechless at its sublimity. Its wonderful panorama of colors, its awe inspiring grandeur and its indescribable beauty, made it indeed a place like heaven, but had Rosetta and I been carried there as prisoners of the Indians, it would have been a veritable hell. Its grandeur and beauty would have been but a mockery to our despair.
After our terrifying experience with the Indians, we rushed our preparations for going to Fillmore. I filled a forty gallon barrel with butter, packed in salt. Gid killed an ox and corned it and butchered a hog and salted it down.
Rosetta and I gathered wild currants and preserved them. We baked crackers and bread and roasted meat for our lunches, as it was about a hundred miles to Fillmore and we would be at least four days on the road.
Little Bert was so excited when we were packing that he carried everything he could reach and piled it beside the wagon wheel for Gid to load.
We slept out under the stars at night. We took a big wagon sheet, spread it on the ground and put two feather beds on it, with plenty of Indian blankets. After we were all settled in bed, we pulled the other half of the wagon sheet up over us to shut out the dampness and slept as cozy as could be.
Arriving at mother’s late in the evening of the fourth day, we stayed overnight with her, but went to grandmother’s the next morning, as she had a larger house. We found Amasa’s wife, Canny, there awaiting the arrival of her baby. Gid went with his brother to White Pines to work in the mines during the winter and I stayed at grandmother’s to await the stork.
Grandmother put Canny and me in a large bedroom with two canopied beds and a cheerful fire in the fireplace between. She had a new sewing machine, just sent down from Salt Lake and Canny and I made our baby clothes together. It was the first sewing machine I had ever used. Mother spent most of her time with us, while Rosetta kept house and cared for the younger children.
Eddie was born February 2 and little Amasa Jr., just five weeks later. Canny was still in bed when Gid came back from the mining camp and he almost convulsed her with some of the stories he told of their experiences. Eugene walked in his sleep and the boys had quite a time keeping him in bed.
One night he got up and taking a pitcher of molasses, poured liberal quantities of it in the boys’ hair and was chuckling with glee as he diligently smeared it in, when the boys awoke to defend themselves and great was the tussle which ensued. Although they could never prove it, they firmly believed that Gene was not nearly so sound asleep as he pretended to be. Gid told story after story until grandmother banished him from the sick room.
As soon as the roads opened up in May, we took Rosetta and our children and went back home to Grass Valley, where we found Billy McCarty, his wife, Letty and her mother, Mrs. Maxwell, camped in our house, as theirs was entirely surrounded by the spring floods.
One day Letty and I noticed an old goose and her little ones on an island formed by a knoll in the meadow. “Let’s go get some of the goslings,” suggested Letty. “They look so downy and soft.” “Come on, let’s go,” I cried in eagerly. So, taking off our shoes and stockings, we tucked up our skirts as best we could and raced into the cold water, laughing and splashing on our way out to the island and “shooed” the old goose with our aprons. The poor distracted mother stood in front of her little brood and hissed menacingly as we approached. Undaunted, we pressed remorselessly forward, fanning our aprons and “shooing” until, with an angry squad, she flew away. The poor frightened little ones, ran wildly about and hid their heads in the tall wet grass. We caught them all and carried them home in triumph, but our elation was short-lived, as Mrs. Maxwell began to shame us.
“How would you like to be chased away from your children?” she asked. Turning to me, she said: You almost had that experience one time. How did you feel about it?
Did you enjoy it?”
We had not thought of it in that way and it put an entirely different face on the matter. We were just like a couple of children in our eagerness to get the fluffy little goslings, but when we realized what we had done, we were conscience stricken. With shame and remorse, we quietly gathered up our prizes and waded back out to the island with them. We turned the little goslings loose just where we had caught them and went sadly back home.
All afternoon we hovered before the window and watched for the mother to return to her babies. When dark came and she had not come back, we were so heartsick we could not eat our supper. We spent an almost sleepless night and as soon as morning came, we waded out to the island. We could find no trace of the goslings and as there were no dead ones lying about, we hoped the mother had returned during the night and taken her babies away. This incident certainly taught us a lesson.
As soon as the floods receded and the roads became passable, the McCartys went back to their own home.
When the water drained off the meadow into the river, the fish were so plentiful that we could almost lift them out. Gid did not care for fishing, but Bert, Rosetta and I loved it. We caught about two tubs full a day and Gid cleaned them and packed them in layers of salt. After they stood overnight in the salt, we took them out and laid them on racks made of green willows and built a slow fire underneath to make just enough smoke to keep the flies away. In a few days they were ready to be placed in clean sacks and hung in an airy place to finish curing. We preserved all the fish we could use and sent a great many to mother in Fillmore. During the winter we enjoyed the fruits of our labor when we ate trout, sizzling hot, just off the grate in the fireplace. As soon as the fish season was over, Rosetta and I set about to improve our home.
I had saved every scrap of cloth and all the worn out clothing for rugs. We braided strips of this cloth and sewed them on burlap sacks which we had ripped open and washed and made lovely rugs for the floor.
We beached flour sacks and made curtains for the windows. We also hemmed the sacks and fagoting four of them together and made table cloths. I always had a bouquet of flowers or leaves on the table. We had left our house the fall before, almost as soon as it was finished and had not had time to add those “homey” touches that make every house a real home. I was determined to have a real home and not just a pioneer shack, so that my children should know the better things in life and appreciate the beauty of nature.
As soon as the ground warmed up enough, Rosetta and I planted the scarlet runner beans, we had brought from mother’s. Oh, how carefully we patted the moist earth in place and how anxiously we waited for the first tiny green leaves to appear! We searched the woods for wild flowers and vines to plant around the house. I wanted our log cabin to blend in with the background of rolling meadows and majestic timber.
In one of the big window boxes which Gid built, we planted spearmint, gathered from the river banks. We wove a lattice work of slender green willows and when the spearmint had twined itself in and out around the willows, it was indeed a thing of beauty.
On a shelf underneath the other front window, we placed pots of chili and birdseye pepper plants. We gathered the bright colored clays from the river and painted our pots all colors of the rainbow. When our peppers matured and turned a cheery red, our “flower garden” was the envy of the whole country. When I gathered the peppers, I shared the seeds with all the neighbors and warmed my family with many a highly seasoned dish during the long, cold winter months.
The west side of the cabin was a riot of bloom from the wild morning glory vines which we had trained over the log walls. When the autumn days turned the leaves to red and gold, we gathered and pressed them to use to brighten up the house. When the snows obliterated our vines and flowers, juniper and other wild berries replaced the flowers in bouquets.
Rosetta returned home in the early fall to attend school and I was left to do my work alone. Gid’s youngest brother, Eugene, was now making his home with us and we also had several cowboys on the ranch. I had to cook for all of them, besides doing all the family washing and sewing by hand.
Gid was made Postmaster of the new office the government was establishing in our valley. One corner of our living room was given over to the new Post Office, called Clover Flats and I had to serve warm meals to the mail carrier on his bi-weekly trips through the valley.
Winter set in early, very blustery and cold. The wind hurled the snow into huge drifts and drove it into every crack and crevice of the house and barn. All the men from the neighboring ranches gathered at our house on mail days and sat around smoking and gossiping all day long, as the mail was often hours late, on account of the storms.
The boys could not keep their saddles dry in the barn, so they built a room at the back of the house and moved all the saddles and harness’ into it for protection against the weather.
The bare floors were too drafty and cold for the children, so I selected the Indian blankets that were two shades of blue with touches of tan and brown, washed them to soften and blend the colors and sewed them together for a living room carpet. When I had it on the floor and a cheerful fire blazing in the fireplace, the room was indeed cozy and warm.
I always cooked the evening meal in the fireplace. A big iron kettle, which hung on a crane, was often full of bubbling hot beans. I roasted potatoes in the coals and broiled thick juicy steaks on a big grate which just fitted into the fireplace. Home-made bread, stewed dried fruit, hot coffee and pitchers of creamy milk completed our meal.
The long, cold winter finally dragged to a close—the last patches of snow melted away and soon the meadows showed faint traces of green. When the wild geese honked overhead on their return trip to the north and the buds began to swell and the bees to buzz, I felt like a new person and plunged into an orgy of spring house-cleaning. After I had scrubbed, scoured and cleaned everything in the house to my satisfaction, I banished the saddles and harness’ to the barn and took possession of the new room. I made it a private retreat where I could slip away from the post office patrons and the ranch hands for a few quiet minutes of reading or sewing.
I wet and packed the dirt floor until it was hard as stone, then I took pale green clay from the river bank and made a thin wash or paint of it, very much like thin cement and painted the floor several coats. It made a hard glazed surface, almost like a polished floor and I forbade any of the men to step on it with their calked boots.
Gid made me a small rustic table, with a top of hand-hewn shakes. I padded it with a thick layer of newspaper to cover the rough shakes and then tacked a white oil cloth over it. A hand embroidered doily made from a piece of flour sack, under my work basket, completed my sewing table. An old couch covered with an Indian blanket and a rustic chair or two completed our furniture. A few cut-outs brightened the rough walls. I always collected and saved every picture I found, but did not have many as we did not have the calendars, magazine pictures and hundreds of other bright colorful things which are thrown away today.
There was a small opening for a window, but we had no glass for it, so I tacked a thin, bleached flour sack over it and pasted a border of the bright autumn leaves around to cover the tacks.
We got a case of canned peaches from Marysvale, the nearest shipping point. It was the first commercially canned fruit I had ever seen and I was perfectly fascinated with the labels. I carefully cut out the luscious-looking peaches and then cut away the pieces of the dark blue paper, which were not covered with printing and pasted them to a foundation of newspaper. Then I fashioned a beautiful fruit bowl of deep rich blue, piled high with yellow peaches and a few green leaves. I pasted it on the middle of my “window picture” and with the light shining through from the back and the border of gorgeous autumn leaves, it was indeed worthy of the many compliments which it received.
I made fans for use during the hot summer days by taking strips of newspaper about a foot wide by two feet long and folding them back and forth in inch strips. I first decorated them by rubbing crushed hollyhock blossoms on the paper until the colors stained it. I then rubbed soap over the stains to set and blend them. By using various flowers a number of colors and shades could be transferred to the paper, making a very artistic effect. When they were folded and one end tied with colored thread to hold it, I had some pretty as well as useful fans, which certainly made the hot days more bearable.
I was not very well and needed someone to stay with me and help cook for the men. “Send for Agnes,” urged Eugene. “I want to meet her.” I had told him a great deal about Agnes Brooks, who was a very dear friend of mine. Our mothers had been almost like sisters all their lives and their children grew up together. Agnes’ mother, Aunt Sarah Brooks, was a cousin of Amelia Webb, Brigham Young’s favorite wife. Agnes had been planning to visit me for a long time, but something always happened to prevent her coming.
Gene kept urging me to send for her until I finally wrote, asking her to come. “Agnes,” I wrote, “I want you to come prepared to meet the handsomest man you ever saw, Gid’s youngest brother, Eugene. He is staying with us and he is certainly a fine looking boy, tall and broad-shouldered, with big blue eyes and dark wavy hair. He is a splendid dancer and horseman and the very life of all the parties.
Agnes wrote back that she could hardly wait to meet him, but could not come for about two weeks. When she finally came and she and Eugene met, it was love at first sight with both of them. Their devotion soon became so apparent that it was evident to everyone and there was such good-natured joking at their expense and several parties given in their honor by the ranchers and neighbors in the valley.
One morning I was in my sitting room, sewing, when I saw Gid harnessing up a young colt to break. I loved the horses and admired this one as, with a proud toss of her head, she stood calm but frightened as Gid slipped the bridle on. I saw the muscles ripple under her sleek coat just before she gave a snort and jerked away from his hands, but the stout rope with which she was tied to the corral held fast, so she had to submit to bridle and harness. Gid hitched her, with an older horse, to a light buckboard and drove her around the yard.
On one of his trips past the door, I called to him: “If you get her gentle, we will go for pinons this afternoon,” little dreaming that he would take me seriously as the stork was due in just a week.
The pine nuts were unusually large and plentiful up in the canyon on the upper end of our place. I was very anxious to get our winter’s supply, but Gid had been too busy to go for them.
Right after lunch, he hitched up Bess with a gentle horse and drove up to the door, calling: “Are you ready?” “But Gid,” I asked anxiously, “do you think it is safe?” “I think so,” he replied. “She has been gentle as a lamb.” Turning to Mrs. Codke, a neighbor who was helping me, I asked if she thought it would hurt me to go. She was from the old country, where the women are not so careful of their health, so she thought it would be safe enough. “Drive around the yard while I find the buckets and get the children ready and if Bess is still behaving, we will go.”
I left Agnes to take care of the Post Office, but took Mrs. Codke and the children for an outing in the woods. I sat on the high spring seat with Gid and held little two year old Eddie on my lap. Mrs Codke and Bert sat in the wagon bed. The woods were gorgeous in their autumn color and the air was crisp and clear, scented with the tang of the pines. We were enjoying the ride very much as we followed a tortuous mountain trail which wound up the canyon.
“See mamma, “Gid knows how to break horses,” said Bert proudly. The horses were behaving beautifully and they climbed up the trail docilely enough until we came to a narrow, sharp curve near the head of the canyon. Here they became frightened at a little land slide and began plunging and running. The blood froze in my veins and the wagon wheel struck a boulder and we lurched toward the canyon rim and it seemed as if nothing could save us from being plunged into the canyon, a hundred feet below. Gid managed to jerk the horses and we were spun around and hit the bank on the opposite side of the trail with a jolt that almost unseated us. He gripped the lines and tried his best to calm them, but they were fast getting beyond control, so he shouted: “Hang on! I’m going to make for that tree.
I clutched Eddie with one hand and the wagon seat with the other, as Gid pulled the horses around in line with a huge pine tree. One last desperate plunge and the tongue crashed into the tree and the horses were halted, spent and shaking with terror.
The force of the impact sent us flying in all directions. Gid was thrown out over his side of the wagon, Mrs Codke and Bert jumped up against the seat, while Eddie and I hurtled down under the fractious horses’ feet. They were too frightened to move, so did us no further harm. We were badly shaken, but not hurt, except for a serious bruise on my right leg. We gathered ourselves up and Gid unharnessed the team and quieted them down, then fed and watered them. I took the wagon sheet and made a bed under a tree and lay down to compose myself and quiet my shaking nerves. Mrs Codke and Bert gathered pine nuts by the bucketful.
Gid said: “I don’t know how I am going to get you home. I don’t dare take you home with this horse.” “Yes, you do dare,” I corrected him quietly. “You dared to bring us up here and now you dare to bring us back the same way.”
When the sun began to get low, we gathered up our things to go home. Mrs. Codke, the children and I walked down past the place where the horses had become frightened. Gid drove the team and they passed the place without a flicker of an eyelash, so we climbed into the wagon and rode home without a mishap.
One week later, Eugenia arrived right on schedule, apparently non the worse for our harrowing experience.
When little Eugenia was just six weeks old, we took Eugene and Agnes to Circle Valley to be married. We left Bert with Mrs. Codke, but took Eddie and Genie with us. We put three seats in the buckboard and Eugene drove a team of his own horses. I sat on the front seat with the baby on my lap. It was late in November and the weather was getting quite chilly, so I had her bundled up in blankets and carried her on a pillow. Agnes and her sister Laura, who had come down for the wedding, were sitting on the middle seat, while Gid held little Eddie on the rear seat.
The horses were young and one of them not very well broken. As we were driving along a sudden gust of wind blew a piece of paper out of the buckboard, frightening them. They began to plunge and kick. Gene tried with all his strength to hold them, but could not. With a vicious jerk, the wilder horse broke loose and dashed madly down the road, scattering harness as he ran.
We were all thrown from the wagon into the bushes along the roadside. The baby flew out of my lap and sailed through the air as smoothly as a bird and landed away from the wreck. I scrambled to my feet as quickly as possible and rushed over to her, expecting to find her little body all crushed and broken. As I stooped over to pick her up, she opened her little eyes, stretched and yawned as unconcerned as anyone could be. I stared in amazement while the others picked themselves up and ran over to us. They could hardly believe their eyes, when they saw her lying there on her pillow as comfortable and contented as if she were on the bed at home. Her thick wrapping of blankets and the pillow had saved her life.
When the party got straightened out and we saw that none were hurt, Gid and Gene loosened the nervous, frightened horse that was still hitched to the wagon and tied it to a tree, then started down the road to hunt the other one. They found it about half a mile away, standing by Charley Lane’s corral. Charley helped them catch the horse and when he learned of our trouble, he insisted that they take one of his gentler horses to complete the trip and leave Gene’s with him to quiet down before the return.
The men came back, got us, took us down to the house where we rested for about an hour while we recovered from our nerve-racking experience and straightened our badly rumpled clothing.
Regaining our composure, we thanked them for their kindness and resumed their journey. We reached the minister’s house in Circle Valley about noon, where Eugene and Agnes were united in marriage. In spite of their harrowing experience, Agnes was a lovely bride in her white dress and Eugene a very happy bridegroom. Then minister’s wife served lunch for us. We then went down to Hardy’s very dear friends, where we had a wonderful wedding supper. We remained there all night and started home early the next morning. We stopped at Lane’s and exchanged horses and reached home that evening without further mishap.
One day Agnes and I took the children out for a walk. The day was warm and pleasant, so we wandered farther from home than we had ever walked before. The children ran ahead, hunting for wildflowers, or playing tag with one another. As we rounded a hill, I espied a patch of green vegetation and hurried to it.
We all enjoyed it so much that Agnes, the children and I started out early next morning for another mess of it. We explored farther and found a spring of clear cold water, surrounded by the beds of verdant water cress. After this we searched the fields for new foods to vary our diet.
|Wild Water Cress.|
Later in the summer, we found wild strawberries, black and yellow currants an squaw berries, which grew on a bush very much like currants. The berries grew in clusters and were covered with a white acid substance resembling frost. We dropped the berries in water to soak off this acid and make delicious lemonade. The sap of the bush seeped through the bark and dried on the outside and made a very satisfying chewing gum.
We utilized all the natural resources of the place. Gid went up to the rock salt beds at the head of the canyon and cut great blocks of pure white salt for the stock. We ground it through the coffee mill, covered it with water and let it boil up, then skimmed off any impurities or dirt, strained it through fine cloth and made salt for cooking purposes. We also mined alum and ammonia for medicine.
Eugene and Agnes lived with us the first year after their marriage and I was certainly glad to have Agnes’ help during the winter as our house became the headquarters for a great many of Gid’s old miner friends and cowboys.
Every fall we butchered and froze a wagon load of meat to sell or trade for our next year’s supply of flour. As Gid was getting ready to take the load to Spring City, I said to him: “I am going with you. I haven’t heard from Jim and Amasa for so long, I feel a little worried.” “It would be a long, cold trip,” cautioned, Gid, “but go if you like.”
We left Bert with Agnes, but took Eddie and Genie with us. We fixed a corner of the big, covered wagon for the children and put a feather bed and plenty of covers around them, while I rode on the seat with Gid. We left early in the morning and traveled all day with only a brief rest lunch and reached a farmhouse late in the afternoon, where we asked to spend the night.
During the night the farmer’s wife gave birth to a baby and I had to deliver her, as there was no doctor or nurse nearer than ten miles. We stayed the next morning while her husband went for his mother, so it was nearly noon before we started on our journey again. Gid asked the way to Spring City and the farmer told him to follow the road to the forks and then to take the left fork. We traveled until four o’clock without seeing a single house and the road grew steeper and rougher every mile.
Finally I said: “Gid, we’re lost. This road hasn’t been traveled lately and we haven’t seen a human being for hours.” “Well,” admitted Gid, “I’ve been uneasy for the last hour, for I believe you are right. What shall we do? We can’t go back to that last place before dark and there is a snow storm coming up.” “We’ll have to stop and camp right here. There’s timber for shelter and wood and it will soon be night. In the morning we can find our way easier,” I answered.
Spending a night in the open with two small children and a raging snow storm was not a very cheerful prospect to face, but we resolutely set to work to clear a place for our fire and bed. Gid built a huge fire to dry and warm the ground and then we spread a big trampoline down and made our bed on one end of it; then we pulled the other end up over the top, thus making it moisture proof both top and bottom. After eating supper we crawled in bed and slept as snug and warm as anyone could wish. When we awoke the next morning, we found ourselves covered with two feet of snow!
Gid went up on the hill and climbed the highest tree he could find and looked all over the country for signs of human habitation. About four miles down the road he saw a man clearing the road of snow that had just fallen, so he came back to camp and got a horse and rode after him to ask the way to Spring City.
“You are on the wrong road. This one is just a wood road and if you follow it you will go into the mountains where you will probably be lost until spring. Spring City is about twenty miles from here, over the roughest road you ever traveled,” answered the man.
He came back with Gid and helped us get started and then he went out ahead with his snow plow, breaking the road for us. We reached brother Amasa’s in the late afternoon
|Amasa Loren Kenney, Silena’s brother.|
Jim, Amasa and Nancy rushed to the door in answer to our hail. “You’re too late,” they said sadly. “Too late for what?” we asked in surprise. “Didn’t you get our message? Canny and the baby died this morning.” We stayed in Spring City almost a week and then took Amasa and his little two-year-old son home with us. Mother came for a visit and took them to Fillmore to live with her.
One day a hunter stopped at the house to ask about wild animals, explaining that he hunted lions, coyotes and other predatory animals for the hides and bounty. The river was full of beaver and he wanted to trap them.
Gid invited him to make our house his headquarters between his hunting trips. He had a small water-proof tent in which he slept on his excursions. “Hunter”, as we called him, was the nicest man we ever had stay with us. He always saw that the water bucket and wood box were filled for me and kept us supplied with fresh venison and other game meat. We all watched with interest as he tanned the hides and prepared the buckskin for gloves. I was so interested in his gloves that he taught me how to make them and I soon became very proficient at it. We made some beautiful gauntlets with elaborately beaded and embroidered cuffs and some with beaver cuffs.
One day Hunter brought some samples of ore to Gid and asked if he could tell what minerals it contained. Gid had been a mining man before we bought the ranch, so knew a great deal about ore deposits. “This looks pretty good,” he said, after examining it closely. “Lets stake out the claim and send samples to El Paso to be assayed.”
When the assayer’s report came back we learned that the ore was rich in silver, with some gold, lead and tin. So Gid, Hunter and John King organized a company and put a crew to work at the mines. They sent two loads of ore per week, to the smelters in Bingham, Utah. The mines proved to be fairly rich and easy to work, so was kept open most of the winter.
Dancing was the most popular entertainment, especially in the winter. Our house was the favorite place for dances because of the good floor and shingle roof and we gave a great many, the winter the mine was running. I had a big wagon sheet under the carpet and had it laid so that it could be rolled up against one wall, then I spread a clean blanket over the roll and made seats. Seats were one of the biggest problems, as no one family had enough chairs to accommodate the crowds and we had very few boxes in those days. The neighbors often brought boxes, boards and chairs as extra seats in their wagons and we took them inside to use. A great many times I have made seats of stove wood stacked up and covered with blankets or pillows.
The beds were wooden frames, laced both ways with rawhide. The corners were bound with inch wide bands of green hide which shrinks as it dries and makes a perfect brace. These rawhide bound frames covered with a straw tick and topped by a luxurious feather bed, make the finest bed I ever slept in. A great many housewives had high beds with one or two trundle beds rolled underneath. The babies were put to bed while the mothers enjoyed the dancing or visited. Often the mothers slipped out between dances to nurse their babies. The beds were taken down in the other bedrooms except one room which was fixed for the babies, so they could be used for sitting rooms for the guests and leave the entire living room to the dancers. Here the musicians were seated on each side of the big stone fireplace, in the alcove formed by it and the wall.
The refreshments were usually served in the form of a “necktie party.” Each lady packed a lunch for herself and a partner in a decorated box. Inside this she put a necktie made of a piece of the dress she was wearing. These boxes were auctioned off and the money used to pay the musicians. When the purchaser opened the box, he put on the tie and then searched for the girl whose dress matched it and thus secured his partner for supper. The hostess served hot coffee.
In the summer time the horse race dances were popular. Adjoining our land was a large meadow as flat as a floor. The ranchers all banded together and made it into a race course. Every rancher owned fast horses and we held many races and race horse dances and had some wonderful times. I had two horses of my own. Diamond Johnny was the best one. I won six cows and calves with him in the first race he ran. Eugene saw that he could be developed into a real racer, so put him through a training course and he was run only on the track.
My favorite was Jimmy, my saddle horse. He was quite a fast runner and I often entered him in the races. I remember one day he was entered against several horses of about his own weight and speed. I felt quite confident of winning and had bet quite a little on Jimmy. The horse left the barrier in a flying start; the race was close and very exciting; the crowd was on its feet screaming encouragement to the horses and riders when suddenly Jimmy espied a herd of cattle passing near the track. In an instant he swerved from the course and started in hot pursuit. The jockey vainly tried to turn him back but, with impish delight, Jimmy plunged into the midst of the herd, scattering it right and left.
I saw that jockey, Lyle Jones, could not manage him, so I said to Gid: “Get me a horse quick. I’m going after Jimmy.” I jumped on the horse and rode “pell mell” into the bunch of cattle, whistling and calling Jimmy. He always came when I whistled, so I soon had him under control. The jockey took my horse and I rode Jimmy back to the track, but he was too excited to run again, so the race had to be called off until the next day. The crowd roared with laughter at Jimmy’s antics and ever after he was known as “Silena’s cow racer.”
In the fall Gene built a log house on his quarter section which joined our land and he and Agnes moved into their own home. In January we received a letter saying that Gid’s sister, Matilda and her little boy were coming to pay us a visit. Gid was to meet her at Marysvale, fifteen miles from our house. He had gone but a few miles when a blinding snow storm swooped down over the valley, obliterating all the roads and trails and blotting out the land marks. Soon he was hopelessly lost in rough, unsettled country with no fences to guide him and the roads buried deep in snow, with more falling all the time. He drove for two days before he came to a house of any kind. He and his team were almost exhausted when he drove into the yard. The man rushed him into the house and cared for his team. When Gid asked the way to Marysvale, he learned he was fifty miles off his road.
He stayed two days to let the team rest and the weather clear up, then the man went with him and guided him to the home of one of the fiddlers who played at our dances. Gid spent the night with the fiddler, who guided him on into Marysvale. They reached there late in the afternoon and found Matilda almost wild with anxiety. She had been there several days and was worried because she could get no word from us. Gid refused to wait and rest until morning, but insisted on starting for home at once.
Meanwhile we were nearly crazy, as Gid had been gone almost a week and we feared he had perished in the storm. Several of the neighbor men had organized a searching party and were starting out when the mail carrier staggered in, two days late, with the mail and told us he had passed Gid on the road and that he would be home in a few hours.
I was so relieved that I set about to prepare a big dinner for the prodigals and when they arrived at two o’clock in the morning, almost frozen, I had a warm welcome, as well as a warm house and a hot meal ready for them. Gid said it was by far the worst experience he ever had. He had traveled over a hundred miles and spent almost a week trying to make a thirty mile round trip to Marysvale.
Matilda stayed with us seven months and did not prove as pleasant a companion as Agnes had been. Agnes was a wonderful girl, just like a sister to me. She was calm, even-tempered and a big help with the housework and cooking. Matilda was excitable, quick-tempered and hated housework and refused to help with anything, except sewing. She was a good seamstress and made the layette for the baby that I was expecting in a few months.
One day Eugene clattered up to the door and stopped the team with a flourish. We hurried out to see what all the excitement was about. Eugene stepped down and lifted a quarter of venison out, he handed it to Gid; then looking proudly at Agnes, he said: “The pioneer wife presents her trophy.” Agnes flushed as she began; “Now, Gene- - -“”What’s the story?” interrupted Gid. “We want to hear it.” “Come in the house first,” I said. “Agnes and Elmer look half frozen.”
When our guests had removed their wraps and were warming themselves at the fireplace, Eugene made Agnes tell her story. She tried to refuse, but Gid and Eugene overrode her protests. According to the usual custom, they kept their fresh meat hanging outside on a two by four that extended beyond one corner of the house. It was high enough to be out of reach of animals and stayed frozen as long as it lasted.
“I was standing on a block of wood, cutting meat” began Agnes, and Elmer was holding the plate for me to put it in when we heard something pounding. We looked down the hill and saw a doe breaking the ice on the river to get a drink. Before I realized what I was doing I had jumped down, grabbed up a rock and thrown it at the deer. It threw up its head, startled and tried to run across the river, but slipped and fell on the ice. I ran down and cut its throat with a butcher knife. It was all over before I realized what I was doing. If I had stopped to think I- -I couldn’t have done it,” she said, her voice breaking. “Eugene was gone and I had to save the meat after I had killed it, so Elmer and I dressed it and had it ready for Eugene to hang up when he came home, but I don’t know how we ever managed it.”
“I don’t see how they ever did it, either,” I thought, looking at them. Agnes was just a little slip of a girl and Elmer, her brother, was only twelve years old “Good work!” exclaimed Gid, while it was plain to see that Eugene was as proud of Agnes as he could be. Matilda pretended to be terribly shocked at Agnes’ “coarseness”, but we noticed that she was not too shocked to eat a generous share of delicious venison steak we had for dinner.
We had lived in Grass Valley five years and had our home fixed up truly homey and comfortable. We had made a great many friends and were enjoying life when Gid’s oldest brother wrote that he had some good mining claims in the Coeur d’Alene mountains. “If you want to make some real money, join me in Butte soon,” he wrote. We pondered and studied over the questions carefully for a long time. It was hard to give up our nice home and start out in a new raw country with three small children and another coming.
Gid was a mining expert and had always followed that work until we were married and bought our home in Grass Valley and he felt that he could make more money in the mines. He talked it over and discussed it with the neighbors and finally thirteen other families decided to go with us if we went. So, Gid spent the spring and early summer finding buyers for the ranch and mine and making preparations for our trip. He sold his interest in the mine for $1,000 and the ranch for $10,000; the sale of the stock and implements brought in several thousand more, so when we left Grass Valley, Gid had over $15,000 in a belt around his waist.
We got a big immigrant wagon, drawn by four horses and loaded it with the most necessary supplies and started out just as my father and mother had done years before. We took fifty head of horses and left the rest with a neighbor.
On the morning of July 6, fourteen immigrant wagons filed out of Grass Valley after a glorious “send-off” from the ranchers who stayed behind. There were nine in our party; Gid and I with the three children, Matilda and her son Georgie and two men and our dog, “Frosty” to drive the loose horses. Several of the neighbor boys rode with us the first day or two to help us get started.
We had put down enough meat and butter for the entire trip and I had baked a great deal of light bread and cookies, but these only lasted a couple of days. The third day out, I was faced with the problem of baking bread for our party. Gid had promised to get me a big Dutch oven for baking on the trip, but we had not yet reached a town. The first meal I made the mistake of baking perfect biscuits between two tin milk pans in the hot coals. It was indeed a hard task to brown them nicely without burning in the thin pans, but I hovered over them anxiously, nearly breaking my back and burning my face to a crisp, as I turned and adjusted the pans to bake the biscuits to perfection. I had to bake several pans of bread and fry four pans of meat in my small frying pan, before I had appeased eight ravenous appetites.
When Gid finished eating, he arose with the remark: “Well, I’ll never buy a Dutch oven if you can bake biscuits like those in a milk pan.”
I was too dumfounded to speak—too late I realized my mistake. I wanted to throw the pans at Gid’s head and lie down and kick and scream, but I was too weary, hot and dizzy from stooping over the hot stove, so I scraped my dinner out to Frosty and crawled into the wagon bed, thoroughly exhausted and sick at heart. Matilda, who had lain on a quilt in the shade of the wagon while I bent over the blazing fire cooking dinner, packed the dishes away dirty and we resumed our journey.
Day after day, meal after meal, I stood up on the wagon tongue and reached over both the footboard and step to get the flour, mix and knead the bread for the family, climbing down every few minutes to tend the fire and then wrestle with those tin milk pans and that small frying pan, trying to feed our party.
Matilda did not offer to help although she knew that I was getting so big and heavy, it was agony for me to stoop. She sat in the shade of the wagon, wearing a heavy veil and gloves to protect her from the sun. If I asked her to turn the meat while I mixed the biscuits, she only answered: “I can’t do it. I’ll burn my hands. Let Bert do it.” Never once did she help to cook a meal on the whole trip. Little Bert did what he could, but was only eight years old and I was afraid to have him around the camp fire.
Each night I had to wash out the clothes which the children had worn during the day. I begged Gid to get them oilcloth aprons to protect their clothing while eating and insisted that I must have a Dutch oven and a larger, heavier iron skillet. “We’ll get them at the next town,” he promised, but we passed through town after town and they were never bought. It infuriated me when he refused to get me the necessary things to lighten my labor when I knew he could amply afford to do so.
When we reached Spring City, where some of my people lived, they begged us not to go on. They felt the trip was too long and hard and the hazards too great for me. When they could not persuade Gid to settle near Spring City, they wanted me to stay with them until after the baby came and join him when he had reached his destination and had a house ready for me.
Gid refused their pleas, so once more I crawled into that hated immigrant wagon and we pushed on into the wilderness, we knew not where.
One of my sister’s boys went to Salt Lake with us to help me with the driving. Before this, I had driven the wagon most of the way, relieved occasionally by Gid or one of the boys.
|Salt Lake City’s early days.|
Driving through the towns was the most terrifying part of the trip. The horses had never been in town and would rear and plunge until I could scarcely hold them. When I approached the second town, I felt I could not go through it alone and tried in vain to attract Gid’s attention as he rode ahead with the horses. I watched for an hour and he did not once glance back, so I had to conquer all the towns alone. I was very glad to have George Sears relieve me of the arduous task of driving. Nevertheless, I had plenty of other troubles.
Georgie, Matilda’s son, was a very spoiled child and exasperated me almost beyond control by tormenting and abusing the children and the dog. Frosty helped drive the fifty loose horses along the road and when we stopped at camp, she always crawled into the shade of the wagon to rest. Georgie would sit on top of her, pull her ears, poke his fingers in her eyes, or anything to tease her. He would not listen to me, so I kept telling Matilda to make him stay away from Frosty.
“She is liable to bite him if he doesn’t stop hurting her,” I cautioned Matilda one noon. “I’ll kick her head off if she does,” she flared up, but did not correct Georgie. Soon Frosty did snap at him and broke the skin on one finger. “You bit him, you little devil,” screamed Matilda, slapping little eighteen month old Genie over and beating her on the back. My self control snapped and I saw red. I grabbed Matilda and gave her the beating of her life. “Don’t you dare touch one of my children again,” I said, shaking her, like a terrier shakes a rat.
Matilda screamed bloody murder and Gid, who was asleep under the wagon, jumped up and pulled us apart. “Gid,” I said furiously, “you take her and put her on the train. She’s slapped my children for the last time. She’ll not ride with me another mile.”
“Silena, calm yourself,” he commanded. “I’ll put her on the train at Spanish Forks tomorrow. Now get dinner ready. The men will be in soon.” Without a word I turned back to my cooking, but I heard Gid tell Matilda, to pack her things and get ready to leave us. I was never so angry in my life. That was the only time I ever struck another woman, but I had stood for so much of Matilda’s meanness, that this was absolutely the last straw.
It was with a sigh of relief that I saw him put her on the train at Spanish Forks before we headed toward Salt Lake, twenty miles away. We reached there about noon the next day and drove straight out to the public corral. There was a big hotel in connection with the corral. Each family who had stock were given one room and the use of a big community kitchen. Everything was very neat, clean and convenient.
Matilda and her husband came out with a carriage and took us on a sightseeing trip over the city. We stayed in Salt Lake a week and were there for the big celebration on July 24. My neighbor left us at Salt Lake and when we started on, I had to again take my place as driver. As I look back now, I don’t see how I ever managed that outfit on the rough trails and through the swift rivers we forded. I was not use to the left hand brake and cut my hand on it so badly that I carry the scar to this day.
We crossed over Bear River on the first wagon bridge we had seen on the whole trip. As we drove along, we noticed that all the vegetation was stripped of leaves. “It looked like everything did after the grasshopper plague when I was a child,” I remarked. “I wonder if they have grasshoppers here.” Just then we drove into a clump of weeds in the middle of the road and a cloud of huge insects flew into the air. “They’re butterflies,” exclaimed Bert eagerly, but as the insects flew into the wagon and settled over us, we saw they were not butterflies, but huge black crickets. They annoyed the horses and made them so nervous and skittish I could scarcely control them.
After many weary weeks we reached Marsh Basin, Idaho and the rest of the party decided to settle there. I was so homesick and heartsick, that I told Gid, I simply cannot go on. We would be alone and the country was wilder and rougher than any part we had yet crossed.
I knew that my hour was drawing nearer and nearer and I feared it would come when I was in the wilderness with no other woman near to help and comfort me. I argued and pleaded with Gid and pointed out the fact that one wagon alone would be easy prey for the Indians.
At last he consented to turn back and I was weak with relief. The two men who had helped with the horses wanted to stay in Marsh Basin, but one from another wagon was anxious to turn back, so he agreed to help Gid drive the loose horses and I gladly climbed into the driver’s seat as we headed back toward Salt Lake.
It took us fifteen days to make the return trip and we lay over there a week while we sent word to my people in Spring City, that we were on our way back. Amasa came to Salt lake and drove the wagon to Spring City. He visited with us there before returning to his home in Fillmore.
We went to stay with my sister, Mary, who lived in a big log house. Soon after this we traded for a nice five room adobe house, which had belonged to the Acord family. We all moved into the new home and Mossyee was born in the same room in which Art Acord, the cowboy movie star, was born. Art often played with my sister’s children. Mary’s husband, Pete and Gid bought a thresher and rented a binder for the harvest season. We had enough horses to run both machines and they made considerable money. As soon as the harvest was over, Gid went to Grass Valley to see about the horses we had left there.
One day a telegram came saying: “Mother is dying. Come at once.” We didn’t know what to do, as my baby was only five weeks old and the snow was up to the wagon hubs. Mary, Pete, Rosetta and I hurriedly got ready and started home. We took Mossyee and Genie with us, but left all the rest of the children with friends and relatives.
We took two teams with us and drove day and night, changing teams whenever necessary. When we reached Circle Valley, Amasa was waiting with fresh horses. He said: “Mother is alive. She is waiting to see you.”
We hurried on and reached home about four o’clock in the afternoon. Mother knew us and greeting all of us, said: “Now I can go in peace. I have seen you all.” Ten minutes later she passed into a coma and died at two o’clock without gaining consciousness.
Father and all the children, except Ben were at her bedside. Ben was in Salt Lake, working on the temple which was then being built. Every man was required to work two years on the temple, for which they were paid one dollar a day, with room and board.
|Morman Temple Contruction.|
After the funeral, the others had to go back, but father begged me to stay. “Just wait until I get the wheat in and then Amasa and I will take you back. It will only be about five weeks.”
Mary said she would take care of Eddie and Bert, if I would stay and help father, so I agreed. Rosetta took John and Delia back to make their home with her.
After the wheat was sown, we all went to Spring City by ox team. Father took the New York Weekly and the New York Ledger and I read and re-read them aloud as the oxen slowly jogged along. We had a wonderful trip and all enjoyed it.
Father had a nice visit in Spring City and when it came time to go home he persuaded me to take all the children and go back with him, as it was so lonely for him since mother had gone. He was seventy-four years old and I realized he did not have very many years left, so we moved back to Fillmore.
Amasa went out to work on the railroad and left Anna, his wife and son, little Amasa, with us. Anna and I planned a surprise for father on his seventy-fifth birthday, which came on July 7. We wanted him to sit down to the table, surrounded by as many of his family as we could get together. Jim, Mary and Rosetta could not leave their homes in Spring City, but Delia, the youngest sister and father’s favorite daughter, came. She had been visiting with the folks and brought father their love and best wishes as well as gifts to the dinner. Amasa came home for the party and Ellen lived in Fillmore. Each of us had done some little personal service for father in addition to our gifts. He had asked me to wash his shroud, saying: “I would rather have you do it for me than anyone else.” I was so moved at his words, that I flung my arms about his neck, and said: “This is the happiest moment of my life. I am so proud that you have given me this honor.” The robe of finest white linen, was used in a certain ceremony of the church and only a true Mormon could wear it. I washed, bleached and ironed it very carefully and had it ready to give him on his birthday.
When Mossyee was about seven months old, Gid took a grading contract on the railroad they were extending from Lehi to Spanish Forks, Utah. As soon as he got things started, he sent for us to join him. Delia promised to stay at home and keep house for father, so I felt free to leave.
It was my first ride on a train and I was certainly thrilled. I was amazed at the speed with which the fence posts flew by us. The children sat with their noses pressed flat against the window panes, exclaiming at the new wonders they were experiencing. When we reached Lehi we went out about ten miles to the new grading and moved into a tent alongside the right of way.
As I stood looking at our new canvas house my thoughts flew back to the lovely home we had left in Grass Valley. “No regrets!” I said fiercely to myself and resolutely set about making a real home for my husband and the children. I could not do any permanent fixing as we moved every few days as the work progressed. When the weather got too cold for the tent, the company gave us a passenger coach for a home. Mr. and Mrs. McBride lived in the front end and we moved into the back end, so the children could have the use of the observation platform. When we reached Lehi, I took a house in town and put Bert in school.
About Christmas time, Gid took a contract for supplying the railroad with ties. The camp was high up in the mountains at Clear Creek Canyon, where it got bitterly cold, with heavy snows. We moved into an un-chinked log house and nearly froze to death with a red hot stove in each end of the room. Finally the men stopped work long enough to build us a dug-out home. It was dug into the side of the mountain with two windows and a door in the front. I tacked a big wagon sheet over the ceiling and newspapers over the walls to keep the dirt from sifting through the cracks between the slabs which reinforced the walls and ceiling.
I used fifty pounds of flour every day baking bread for the tie camp, so I soon had sacks enough to cover the walls, to make window curtains and even window shades. I put straw on the floor and covered it with grain sacks, tacking them down securely and soon had a cozy little home right in the side of the mountain.
Right above our home was the largest pine tree I ever saw. I told Gid I was afraid to live under it, for if it were to fall, it would smash our home like an eggshell. He laughed and said: “That tree will be standing a hundred years after you’re dead and gone.” However, I never quite trusted it, because it was so huge, it overshadowed all of the other trees on the mountain and made us feel like ants crawling at its feet.
When the snow got too deep for Gid to come home every night, he stayed at the logging camp and was with us only from Saturday night until Sunday evening of each week. He always brought enough wood into the house to last until the next Saturday and saw that I had plenty of supplies on hand, so I wouldn’t have to go outside except to care for the horses in the dug-out barn, about one hundred feet from the house. The snow was about four feet on the level in the canyon where we lived and a great deal deeper up on the mountains.
A warm chinook wind came up and blew all day and night, melting the snow. About midnight, I was awakened by a deep rumbling sound that increased to a roar, followed by such a jar that I thought the whole earth was going to pieces. I heard the stove pipe go tumbling off and saw the snow falling into the house. I jumped up and stuffed a gunny sack into the hole and hopped back in bed, little dreaming how serious the situation really was.
When Bert got up in the morning to start the fire, he missed the stove pipe and called me. Fortunately we had several joints of pipe which we had used in the big log house, but had not needed in our dug-out home. We pulled the sack out of the hole and piles of snow fell through the opening. We turned and twisted it until we forced the top through the snow far enough to get the lower end on the stove. Then we tried to build a fire and such a time, as we did have! We couldn’t get it started until we had melted the snow out of the pipe. At last after many weary efforts, we made it burn and soon the room was warm and cozy.
I cooked a hot breakfast and we all felt better. At last I raised the window shade to see if it was getting daylight and found the snow banked solid against the window. When Bert saw it he ran and opened the door and the snow just poured into the house. We realized then that we were snowed in, so I grabbed a shovel and Bert took the little fire shovel and we began to dig snow for dear life.
I put the wash boiler on the stove and we melted the snow, as we had no place to put it and we needed the water. We shoveled and melted, shoveled and melted all day long and made little progress, as the snow was packed so hard. There was snow all around and above us and I began to fear that we were snowed in for the winter.
Dear, brave little Bert kept saying: “Don’t worry mamma, Gid will come and get us out.” And little Eddie would say: “Papa will come soon.” We were frantic to get to the horses to see if they were alive and worked all day and most of the night, but did not reach them until ten o’clock the next day. Fortunately their grain was stored in the house and the hay inside the barn.. We carried them buckets of snow water and gave them all they would drink, then fed them well.
It took us two days to shovel a tunnel out to the creek where we got our water. Four days after the storm I thought I heard a, “hello”, and soon we heard men’s voices and knew that help had come. Gid and about ten men had been four days getting down from camp. They had shoveled like demons to reach us, afraid of what they would find and were overjoyed to see us all alive.
When we all got outside where we could look the situation over, we saw that the huge pine, which I had feared, had saved our lives. When the snow slide struck it, the pine had stood firm and broken the force of the slide, causing it to divide and go on each side of our little home. If it had not been for the tree, we would have been buried under the peak of the slide and probably would not have been found until the snow melted in the spring. As it was, we were buried under twenty feet of snow.
After a brief rest and a hot meal, the men pushed on to see about the Hogensens who lived in the big log house. They were not buried as deeply as we were, but were out of wood, so they really suffered more than we did.
One family, consisting of a man, his wife and seven children were buried so deeply, their bodies were not found until the following summer. They lived at the mouth of the canyon and got the full force of the slide. The weight of the snow and rocks crushed their big log cabin just like a child’s house of sticks.
Early in the summer we left Clear Creek Canyon, bound for the Snake River country in Idaho. When we reached Lehi, I went into a general store to buy some things and saw Mr. Hinckley from Cove Fort. I was overjoyed to see him and hear news from home, as I had not heard from any of my people since I left Fillmore, almost a year before.
“How’s father and Delia and —“ I began eagerly. Mr. Hinckley took both my hands in his and said sadly: “Haven’t you heard about Delia?” “No,” I answered faintly. “What about her?” “She died three weeks ago.”
Mr. Hinckley led me half-fainting to a chair in the back of the store and when I recovered from the shock enough to listen, he told me how it happened. He said she had fallen from a tree, while gathering peaches, struck her chest on a rock and died a few hours later from a hemorrhage of the lungs. Mary and Rosetta went down to the funeral and father after selling the house to Uncle John Nichols, went to Spring City with them to make his home with Mary.
Mr. Hinckley said father told him that the year Delia had kept house for him, was one of the happiest of his life. She had been so sweet and good, so kind and patient with him. She had read to him by the hour when his eyesight had failed and had been a very loving daughter to him. It was with a heavy heart that I left the store, promising to write father as soon as we reached our new home and had an address to send to him.
When we reached the Marsh Basin, we visited for a week or so with the ranchers who had left Grass Valley with us. It was wonderful to see so many of our friends and neighbors after our long, lonely winter.
We reached Snake River in May and Gid went to work helping his brother Eugene, build reduction works to separate gold from the gravel, while I set about making a real home out of the abandoned log house into which we had moved.
While we were there, I had one of the most terrifying experiences of my whole life. I had not been well for some time and finally my mouth became infected with strawberry tongue, a very painful and trying condition to say the least. I was suffering so much that Gid took me to a doctor in Albion twenty-five miles away, over roads that were mountain trails. It was a long, hard trip for me, as I was suffering a great deal with my mouth and the jolting of the spring wagon almost jarred my body to pieces.
When we were about three miles from home, on our return, I noticed something in the middle of the road ahead of us. I called Gid’s attention to it, saying: “Look Gid,” what is that? It acts so queerly.” It looks like a coyote,” he answered.
We watched it closely and as we drew nearer Gid said: “It’s too big for a coyote,” and then added “It’s a plain old timber wolf.” It sat up in the middle of the road with it’s head hanging down in a dejected manner, totally unlike the usual appearance of a timber wolf. “There’s something wrong with it,” said Gid. “It must have eaten some strychnine.”
As we approached it shambled off to the edge of the road, but made no attempt to run away. When we passed, Gid hit him with the long buggy whip and with a snarl it sprang after us, snarling and frothing at the mouth. Gid leaned forward, whipping and bring the horses to greater speed, but the wolf kept up with us, snarling savagely and we were racing with death at our very elbow. Our team, tired out from the long trip, was fast becoming exhausted, so as soon as we gained a little on the wolf, Gid slowed the horses down a trifle to allow them to get their wind. But, the wolf soon closed the gap between us and was right at our wheels again, snapping, snarling and jumping at us.
The horses could go no faster, they were doing their best. Although they were game through and through, we saw that their endurance was failing fast, while the wolf seemed possessed with unusual strength and speed. It looked as if we were going to lose the race.
One of our neighbors saw us coming at break-neck speed and knew that something was wrong. He looked more closely and saw the wolf. “There is something chasing them,” he said. “I’m going to turn the dogs loose.”
One of our neighbors saw us coming at break-neck speed and knew that something was wrong. He looked more closely and saw the wolf. “There is something chasing them,” he said. “I’m going to turn the dogs loose.”
We had two wonderful big dogs which we kept penned up most of the time on account of the rabid coyotes and wolves. Mr. Huntley turned Frosty and Don loose and sent them to meet us. They came bounding toward us, barking fiercely and about three hundred yards from the house the wolf, realizing that a new danger threatened, bounded off into the woods. All the men in the surrounding country set traps and hunted him, but he was never caught. When we reached home, I had to be carried in and put to bed, so ill from fear and nervous shock, I could not raise my head.
About two weeks later both our supplies and those of the Day Camp were almost exhausted. Day by day, as we ate up our food, we anxiously awaited our order—from Godby and Day, of Salt lake City—which we must have to get new supplies. Finally it came, about noon on Saturday and Gid hitched up the team and started at once for Bonanza Bar for the much needed food.
“I’ll push through as fast as I can and by traveling all night I think I can get there, buy the supplies and get started back tomorrow. With good luck, I should be home by Monday noon.” “Hurry as fast as you can,” I urged. “I have only some wormy dried apples and stale cornmeal which were in the house when we moved here and Aunt Lydia has only a little canned milk and hard bread.” “I’ll hurry,” promised Gid, as he drove away.
We went to bed hungry and spent an almost sleepless night. I tossed and tumbled about, trying to think of something to feed the children. Bert and Eddie started out early next morning hunting rabbits. They saw no rabbits, but scared up a sage hen and managed to kill her with sticks and stones and proudly brought her home. She was so old and tough, I could not cut her up, so put her in a pot to boil. The meat was unfit to eat, but I made some soup by thickening the broth with some of the corn meal after sifting out the weevils. I could not eat it, but the children were too young and too hungry to be squeamish. I sent some up to Aunt Lydia’s children at Day’s camp, a mile away. She sent me a little canned milk and some hard bread which I burned and then ground for “crust coffee”.
Monday afternoon a tramp came to my door asking for food. I explained the situation to him and told him I expected my husband home that night with supplies. The tramp acted rather queerly and I felt a little uneasy as I directed him to the camp down the river. The children were weak and ill from hunger, so I put them to bed early, promising to wake them up if their father came with food.
The door fastened with a latch on the inside and the string was pulled through a hole and left hanging, so the door could be opened from the outside. Being so weak from hunger, I was unusually nervous that night, so pulled the string inside and fastened the door securely. “Now I defy anyone to open that door,” I said grimly as I prepared for bed.
About midnight I was awakened by a tapping and listened, paralyzed with fear, as I heard a soft, stealthy movement as if someone was fumbling for a latch string. Outside the door I had a bench with a tin basin on it and a small mirror hanging above it. Once I heard the mirror tap the wall as if someone had bumped against it.
For agonized moments I lay there, stiff and trembling, until gradually a course born of desperation came over me. I got up and tiptoeing to the door, quietly opened it a crack and peeped out to see my enemy. To my amazement I saw only a kitten sitting on the wash bench, reaching for the latch string. My relief was so great that I snatched up the kitten and hugged it so tightly I almost squeezed it to death. I carefully fastened the door and took the kitten to bed with me.
Next morning Gilbert Webb, Aunt Lydia’s oldest boy, came down and said: “Mama is almost starved and is getting so weak she can hardly stand.” “Can’t you catch her a fish?” I asked. “I haven’t a hook.” I had none to lend him, so we took a piece of wire, bent it into a fish hook and filed a barb on it. Gilbert fished all afternoon, but caught only one small sucker.
By Wednesday we were almost starved. I was so weak I could hardly stand and the children clung to my skirts, crying piteously for food. I was so worried over Gid’s continued absence I was almost desperate. I knew that something serious had happened to delay him, for he wouldn’t lose a minute in getting home when we were so terribly in need of food. As darkness fell, our hopes waned and we faced another hungry sleepless night. It was useless even to put the children to bed. I sat at the window praying that Gid would come soon when I saw the light of a lantern bobbing along the road. I caught my breath and held it for several painful seconds before I dared relax and believe my eyes.
“Children,” I called, my voice trembling with emotion and relief, “here comes your father now.” :Are you sure, Monna?” asked Bert. “Yes, son, I’m sure. Stir up the fire and have it hot, so I can cook something as soon as he gets here.
About eight-thirty, Gid staggered up to the door so exhausted he could hardly stand. The team and wagon were plastered with mud, but the precious provisions were safe. Bert and I hastily cut a steak off a half beef and broiled it for supper. I never tasted anything so good in my life.
Gilbert came just as I was wondering about a way to get food to Aunt Lydia’s, as Gid had tumbled down thoroughly exhausted and Bert was too small to send. He said they had seen the lantern and he had rushed over, hoping it was Gid with supplies. I gave him enough food for their supper and breakfast and told him we would take the rest to them the next day. It was with a thankful heart that I put my well fed family to bed that night and not until the next morning did I hear the reason for the delay. Gid got into Bonanza Bar Sunday afternoon and found all the stores closed. He hunted up the manager of the only general store and asked if he could get some provisions. The store was closed when you came by, wasn’t it?” asked the man sarcastically. “Yes,” answered Gid, “but I thought you might open it long enough for me to get a wagon load of supplies when you knew the circumstance my family and the people at Day’s Camp are in without food. I have over forty miles to haul it, so I must get started back as soon as possible.”
“Call around in the morning and I will sell you all you want.” “But,” pleaded Gid, “I must have it now. My children are crying for food.” “I’m sorry, but I can’t open the store on Sunday,” replied the man stubbornly. “That’s your answer, is it?” demanded Gid angrily. “That’s final,” snapped the manager. “Well you’ll not sell me a nickel’s worth tomorrow or any other time,” Gid flung over his shoulder, as he stamped down the path.
Early the next morning he bought his supplies from several other stores and started for home a little after noon, but had to travel slowly with the heavily loaded wagon over the poor roads.
Tuesday morning, while fording a mountain stream, the wagon slipped into a bed of quicksand and in spite of the straining and pulling of the team, it slowly sank deeper. Gid had to unload all the supplies, pile them on the bank and then hitch the horses to the end of the tongue to pull the empty wagon out of the hole into which it was being sucked.
It was almost dark by the time he was all loaded and ready to start on his way again. About midnight the horses were so tired, they could go no further, so he unhitched them and let them rest about two hours. He had to rest them at frequent intervals all day Wednesday and said he did not believe they could have gone another mile.
Gid and Eugene were building Robinson’s Ferry across the rapids in the Snake River and Gid was home only Sunday of each week, so the children and I were alone most of the time. About six weeks after we came so near starving, Agnes Silena was born during the worst storm of the year. We could get no one to help me, so Gid had to remain at home two weeks until I was able to do the housework and care for the children.
As soon as Robinson’s Ferry was finished they built Day’s Ferry. When the reduction plant was ready for operation, Gid took the contract to furnish fuel for it. He used the sagebrush which grew wild all over the plains. It was so large they had to put a chain around each bush and pull it out with a team. Bert was only ten years old, but he worked right along with the men. He hooked the chain around the bush and then hunted the next bush, while the men pulled the first one out.
When Aggie was about six months old, Al and Lydia Huntley moved up to Albion and we moved up to Day’s Camp. The first mill did not pay, so it was abandoned and another built farther up the river. When the second mill was put into operation, I had to cook for sixteen men, as well as my family of seven. One month when Mr. Godby came down with the payroll he noticed Aggie creeping over the floor and the next time he came down from Salt Lake, he brought her a walker. It was a wonderful help to me as well as to the baby. She spent many happy hours in it and was running everywhere by the time she was ten months old.
The second mill did not pay expenses, so it was closed down and Gid was kept as watchman.
In April, Joe wrote for us to come to Butte and help him in the mines. I decided to leave Bert with friends for a while, but little did I dream, as I bade him goodbye, that I was breaking the thread which bound our lives together and that he would be lost for eighteen long years, before I held him in my arms again.
We had to wait several hours in Pocatello and while there met Mr. Godby en route to Snake River. He was taking me a pair of beautiful gloves and a big box of candy. He took us to dinner and for a ride over the city and was a great help with the children. It was with real regret that I told him goodbye and knew we were severing connections with the firm Godby and Day.
When we reached Butte, I stayed at the Centennial Hotel sixteen days while Gid and Eddie were driving through with the two teams.
Just before I got off the train, I had washed and dressed the children all very carefully, as I wanted them to look their best to go to the hotel. Genie was dressed in blue, with blue and white stripped stockings, Mossyee in pink, with pink and white stockings to match and Aggie was in red, with socks in red and white. I always knitted our stockings and had made sixteen pairs the winter we were on Snake River and hoped they would last a year. As I finished dressing myself and the children I felt that my family looked very creditable to enter the city.
After I had registered at the Centennial Hotel, the best in Butte, I looked around at the people sitting in the lobby. To my horror I discovered that no one else had on stripped stockings. My face flamed as I looked down in distaste at my own hand-knit hose.
One woman, sensing my discomfort, drew Genie over to her and simpered: “Your mother is a very industrious woman to knit you all such pretty stockings.”
Fortunately, the landlady stepped up just then to show us our room and I gladly herded my little “zebras” into it and commanded them to stay there, while I rushed out to get us all some “store “ stockings. I felt I could never brave the dining room that night in my own home-knitted hose.
We had a lovely room at the hotel and enjoyed our stay there very much. I had breakfast and lunch served in our room, but took the children to the dining room for dinner.
Dr. and Mrs. Beal, who owned the hotel, invited us to dine at their table with them and their little daughter. One evening we were served steak, smothered with mushrooms. It was the first time I had ever eaten them and I did not know what they were until I asked Mrs. Beal. She told me that the mushrooms were very plentiful around Butte and unusually large and well flavored.
It was a great treat to be in town after our long, lonely stay in Clear Creek Canyon and Snake River. We took long walks over the city and most of the sights were as new and strange to me as they were to the children. I never tired of wandering through the big department stores and the curio shops were a constant source of interest to me.
I met a very lovely woman who lived at the hotel. She had no children and became very fond of mine and was a great help to me in keeping the children interested and amused while we were staying there. She had lived in Butte many years and knew all the places of interest and showed me around over the city.
One evening her husband, a clothing salesman, went with us for a long walk. We visited a rink where I saw my first roller skates and on the way back to our rooms we stopped at a restaurant for refreshments. When we were ready to leave the husband, who was a quick, nervous man, jumped up from the table and tripped over his chair and to my surprise and horror his hair went sailing across the room. I had never before seen a toupee and I could not at first grasp the meaning of the phenomenon. The rest of the people were not so mystified, but screamed with laughter.
All the waiters sprang forward in a frantic effort to return the toupee and a great scramble ensued, to the delight of the crowd and the humiliation of the poor salesman, who dived under the table and refused to come out until his hair was again in its proper place.
“Let’s go home, Kate,” he begged. We could scarcely keep up with him on the way back to the hotel and never again could we coax him to go with us. He spent most of his evenings playing billiards in the smoking room, so his wife spent her leisure time with me.
When Gid and Eddie arrived, we had so many new and interesting things to tell and show them. We were proud of our knowledge of the city and delighted in acting as guides. Gid was a marvelous ice skater and delighted in fancy skating, making figure eights and cutting the pigeon wing. I could hardly wait to see him on roller skates.
As soon as he had rested from his long trip from Snake River with the teams, I said to him: “I’ve found something that I know you’ll enjoy. Do you feel like going this evening?” “Let’s go, I feel fine. It’s great to be in the city again.”
I put Mossyee and Aggie to bed and left them in the care of Mrs. Beal and taking Eddie and Genie, we started out. As we approached the building, Gid saw the sign “Skating Rink” and exclaimed, delightedly: “Skates, lead me to them.” “I knew you’d be interested. That’s why I brought you.”
Gid found seats for the children and me and then rushed over to have the skates put on his feet. As he stepped onto the floor, he waved confidently to me and started out to capture the honors for fancy skating as he always did on ice, but alas! there is a slight difference in the technique of ice and roller skating and his elation was short lived. His feet flew out from under him and he sat down with a resounding thump. His amazement and chagrin were comical to see as the crowd shouted and screamed. With flaming cheeks, he scrambled to his feet, only to pitch headlong, flat on his face in a sprawling heap. The more he tried to rise, the more he floundered around until in disgust he crawled to the nearest booth and took off the roller skates, never to put them on again. It was the first time I had ever seen Gid when he wasn’t master of the situation and although I sympathized with him, I laughed until I cried at his ludicrous appearance. We never visited a skating rink again, but spent many enjoyable evenings in the theaters. We were so starved for entertainment that we couldn’t get enough of it and the shows were a source of unending pleasure to us.
When Gid was ready to go to work, we found a cozy little house in Meadeville, near the mines. Early one morning I went for a long walk before the children were up. I saw my nearest neighbor, Mrs. O’Connor, out picking the little button mushrooms. She had quite a large pail full and I asked her how she could use so many before they spoiled. She said she canned them and told me just how to do it.
The next morning, my early walk took me down past the wood yards and tie camps. The ground was almost white with mushrooms, some of them as large as dinner plates. Catching my apron, I hastily filled it and rushed back to ask Mrs. O’Connor if they were fit to eat. “Where in the world did you find all those?” she demanded in astonishment. “Down in the wood lot by the mines. There’s hundreds of them,” I cried excitedly.
She helped me sort them over, pointing out the wormy ones and explained that they must be gathered before the sun shone on them to avoid worms. Every morning during the season she and I went out and gathered mushrooms for canning. Soon crowds of people from Butte were swarming over the lots gathering them, but we were always there first and got the pick of the crop. I canned gallons and had them to use the year round.
One day Joe told us of a nice little mining claim which no one owned and suggested that my husband file on it. After looking it over carefully, Gid took it up and when work slacked up at the mines, he hired a man to help him and took our teams up into the timber to cut logs for a house.
He had a nice two-story log house almost completed when he discovered that he needed an adz to fix the door step. He borrowed one from some carpenters who were building a house nearby. After working only a few moments he called: “Silena, come see what I’ve done to this adz.” I rushed out and saw that he had broken a nick in one corner of it. “Oh, Gid,” I cried, “whatever can we do? Can you file it down or something?” “I’m afraid not. I’ll have to go into Butte on tonight’s express and get another one.”
Right after lunch one of the carpenters’ helpers came for the adz. Gid was not there, but I gave it to him and showed him the nick, saying” “Tell the owner that my husband will pay for this adz and go into Butte tonight and get him a new one, whichever he wishes.”
About four o’clock in the afternoon we were both busy. Gid was laying the kitchen floor while I was splitting chinks and putting them in the living room walls. Hearing a noise, I turned and saw two carpenters set their tools down and step to the door. Their faces were livid with rage. They were Irish and spoiling for a fight. One of them held the adz in his hand. As I looked up he ripped out an oath and shaking the adz in my face, said:
“This is a great way to return a man’s tools. I loaned this to him for a few hours work—not to be ruined. I’ll smash his brains out with it.” I raised the heavy hammer with which I had been driving spikes into the logs and said: “Don’t you set one foot through that door. I told your man to tell you that my husband would pay you for that adz or go to Butte tonight and get you another one. Now you make one move to touch my husband and I’ll beat your head soft with this hammer!”
Just then Gid, hearing the commotion, stepped through the kitchen door. Still holding my hammer aloft, I said to him: “It is just behind the partition there, Gid.”
The carpenters turned as pale as death. Dropping the adz they grabbed their tool chest and started down the hill on a dead run. Quickly recovering from surprise at the amazing change in behavior, we roared with laughter. It was merely an adz, but they thought I meant a gun, just as I intended they should. We never saw them again, but we had the adz as a remembrance of them.
As soon as our house was finished, papered and painted, we moved into the first real home we had since we left Grass Valley.
One day Gid went to see Mr. Jeffries, who was working in the mines and while there he met Mamie and Rebecca Hume, Mr. Jeffries’ orphaned nieces who were making their home with him. Gid laughingly remarked: “Joe should meet these girls. He is looking for a wife.”
The next Saturday night, Gid and I went to a dance and as usual he was selected Master of Ceremonies. He introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. Jeffries, Mamie and Rebecca. I fell in love with them at once and we soon became fast friends. The girls took turns spending the day with me, as I was lonely and could not go out very often on account of the children. The girls were good company and I enjoyed having them with me. Gid and I were very enthusiastic in our praise of both girls.
One day, while visiting me, Becky went to draw some water from the community well, where all the miners in the neighborhood got their drinking water. It was a crisp, cold day, with bright sunshine above and snow underfoot. Becky had on her heavy coat and leggings and a light pink fascinator or scarf on her head, which rivaled the color of her glowing cheeks, as the wind blew soft curling tendrils of hair across them. She certainly was a beautiful picture as she stood drawing the pail of water. Fate or fortune brought Joe driving by just at that moment. After a sweeping glance of admiration, he stopped his horse and climbed out of the buckboard. He walked over to the well and like Isaac, asked for a drink. Rebecca graciously, but modestly served him and Joe, respecting her difference, thanked her and went his way.
That evening he came over to our house and asked eagerly: “Silena, do you know who that pretty girl was at the well today?” “That was Becky, one of the girls we wanted you to meet. Come over to dinner tomorrow night and I will have Becky, Mamie and the Jeffries, too.”
Joe met the family at our house and was just as delighted with them as we were, but was especially interested in Becky. A few days later, he came over and asked me how I would like to take a trip down into the mine. I had always wanted to go, so was delighted at the suggestion. He told me to invite Mrs. Jeffries and the girls and he would let Mr. Jeffries off and get another young man to make up the party. He invited us to have dinner at the restaurant before we started
We reached the mine about six o’clock and as only four could go in the basket at one time, Joe, Becky, Gid and I went down first and waited at the first level for the rest of the party. We spent about an hour there wandering around the labyrinth of passages and small rooms, watching miners taking out the copper ore. We went on down to the next level, which was as far as the hoist went. A ladder led to the workings below. “I have to go on down to see some workmen,” Joe said. “Who’s game to go along?”
Becky, Gid and I volunteered, but the other four decided to wait for us there. About a hundred feet down, Becky began to get sick from fright, so we stopped in a little alcove and let her sit down on a bench. Gid said he would stay there with Becky, if I wanted to go down.
I spoke up eagerly: “Yes, I want to go. This is my first chance to visit the bowels of the earth and I want to see it all.” Joe put a miner’s lamp on my head and gave me a candle and we climbed on down, down. Then we wound through the passages, down inclines, up hills and through stopes, before we found the men he wanted to see.
Joe said: “I had better blow the signal for them to not to set off any blasts. They are not suppose to at this time, but they might, so I will signal for sure.”
Instead of doing that, he blew for a blast and soon we heard a rumble and muffled BOOM! The whole earth shook while the sound reverberated through the rooms and echoed and re-echoed down the passages.
I heard the same sound in the snow slide on Clear Creek and I was frightened half to death. It seemed as if the whole earth would fall upon us. Like a wild animal, I darted down the nearest passage seeking escape. Joe ran after me, calling for me to come back. I didn’t heed him, but sped blindly on, not realizing that I was running straight into another blast. Joe blew the signal for them not to set it off, as they rushed after me and when he caught me, he held me firmly by the arm, while he laughed heartily at his little joke. He said I was a regular mountain goat, the way I bounded over the uneven, rocky passage.
As soon as I regained my strength, we climbed back up the ladder. Becky had heard and felt the blast and was frightened. Gid was trying to reassure her by telling her that it was just one of Joe’s little jokes and that the blast was probably a half mile away from them.
When we joined the others we found Mrs. Jeffries almost prostrated with fright, lying down on the floor on her husband’s coat. Mr. Jeffries was fanning her to keep her from fainting.
We reached the surface about nine-thirty and Joe said: “It’s just a nice time for a sleigh ride.” He sent to the livery stable for cutters and we had a wonderful ride all around the hills and over to Butte.
After our visit to the mine, I was quite ill and had Becky come to stay with me, to help with the children. Joe became a frequent visitor at our house, spending about three evenings a week with us. One day he asked me if he could take Becky over to Butte to the theater the next evening. I told him he would have to ask her aunt, as I had nothing to say in the matter. Becky ran over and asked Mrs. Jeffries, but before her aunt gave her consent, she came to see me. She said that since the girls had been in her care, she had always been very careful of them and very particular about the company they kept. We talked the matter over and decided it would be quite alright for Joe to take Becky out.
They went over to Butte the next evening. Gid worked on the night shift at the mine, so I was alone with the children. When Becky got home, she slipped into my bed and put her arms around me. “What do you know, she whispered—I’m engaged!” “Engaged?” I echoed in astonishment! “Yes”, she answered happily. “Joe asked me tonight, to marry him and I said I would.”
“But Becky,” I protested, “you are only eighteen.” Are you sure you love Joe enough to get married and settle down with him for the rest of your life?” “Love him? I adore him! We are going to be married Christmas.” She was so happy that I said no more except that she must tell her aunt the first thing in the morning. Becky, had just gone to her aunt’s home when Joe came next morning and he was as excited as a small boy over a new toy.
“Silena, Becky and I are going to be married. Aren’t you glad?” “Joe,” I said, “marriage is a wonderful but serious thing. Are you sure you love Becky enough to make her a good husband? She is a mighty sweet girl and deserves the best.” “Of course I love her, Silena. I can hardly wait until Christmas. I am going now to ask her aunt and uncle, but I wanted to tell you first.”
Christmas was just three weeks away and there was so much to be done. Joe wanted our new house for his bride until he could build another one, so I moved back in the little house and they were married in the parlor of their new home.
It was such a pretty wedding. Becky was dressed in dove gray satin, trimmed with shell pink, which seemed a perfect setting for her big brown eyes and dark hair. She carried a shower bouquet of lilies of the valley and pink roses. Joe looked handsome in his dark blue broadcloth suit, white vest and shirt and tie. Mamie was bridesmaid and her dress of shell pink satin, set off her blonde beauty to perfection. Our little Genie and Peggy O’Connor were flower girls and looked so sweet in their pert little dresses of white organdy. Genie wore a pink sash and pink stockings with black slippers and carried a bouquet of pink rose buds.
Peggy wore a blue sash, blue stockings with black slippers and carried a bouquet of blue forget-me-nots. Joe had ordered all the flowers from a hot house in Butte and they were certainly beautiful. Mossyee, dressed in pure white, carried a white satin cushion for the bride and groom to kneel on. Mrs Jeffries was dressed in golden brown, Mrs. O’Connor wore a beautiful gown of gray moire silk and I wore a black dress made with hoops. It was a very pretty wedding, solemnized by the Lutheran minister of whose church Becky's was a member.
They were married about one o’clock and after a wedding breakfast served at our house, they left for Butte to spend their honeymoon.
|Butte, Montana—Circa 1881.|
|The Centennial Hotel 1880, Butte Montana.|
They stayed at the Centennial Hotel a few days and then returned to their new home. They were very happy together and just a year later, their little son, George was born. When he was just a year old, little “Virgie” came to join them.
The winter we spent in Butte was about the hardest one in my whole life. It was bitterly cold and we had a great deal of sickness. First Gid had a very severe case of quinsy. He lay for several days, unable to eat anything, while his throat swelled tighter, until one day he sat up in bed gasping for breath. I rushed over and found his face turning black as he fought for air. I was panic-stricken. The nearest doctor was in Butte and I knew he could never get there in time. There were no telephones and I had no one to send for help.
Suddenly there flashed into my mind a story I had heard, when a small child was ill and about someone opening up a patient’s throat with a quill full of gun powder. I dashed out to the kitchen, took a cartridge out of the box on the clock shelf and snatching up the hatchet, I chopped it open. I took out a little of the gun powder and rolled it into a small cigarette and took it to the bedside. Gid was still fighting for breath, but was growing very weak.
“Open your mouth,” I demanded. “Maybe this will help you.” Obedient as a child, he opened his mouth as widely as he could and I blew the powder down his throat. Immediately a severe spasm set in and the core of the abscess flew out of his mouth, followed by a cup or more of blood and pus.
As soon as I dared leave him, I ran the half mile to the mines to get Joe. When we got back, Gid was hanging his head over the edge of the bed, letting his throat drain. Joe was very much alarmed and sent for the doctor at once and then asked what had happened. When I had finished telling him, he demanded: “Don’t you know, you might have killed him?” “But, Joe, he was dying, I tell you and it was the only thing I knew to do.”
I was almost in tears from the nervous strain I had been under. By the time the doctor got there, Gid was beginning to breathe more easily than he had for several days.
When the doctor heard the whole story, he remarked: “Well it certainly worked. You saved his life, alright, but I’m afraid I’d never have dared use such a severe treatment.”
Before Gid was able to be up, Aggie took the measles, quickly followed by Mossyee and Genie. A friend took Eddie into her home, so he escaped, but I had four very sick patients on my hands. For six long, weary weeks, I nursed them day and night with no help except an hour or so each day, when Mrs. O’Connor risked exposing her family to come in and help me. She kept a suit of clothes in the chicken house and changed there, before coming to my house and after leaving it to go home.
The rest of the family were barely able to be up when I went to bed for a two weeks’ siege of sickness and being so worn out, I could not recover my strength, so was hardly able to do my housework for months. The long, hard winter was followed by a late, cold spring. My vitality was very low and I was so lonely, sad and blue that I felt I could not go on. I did not know where Bert was and had not heard from any of my people for over a year, when one day, a letter came from Mary. It had followed me all over Idaho and was weeks old when it reached me in Butte.
It brought the news of my father’s death at sister Ellen’s in Fillmore. He had not been contented with Mary in Spring City, as he had lived so long in Fillmore, that all his friends and interests were there. He had gone back to Ellen’s and had lived there a year before he died.
This letter from Mary was the latest news I had of any of my people for over thirty years. I did not receive any of my father’s estate, because I could not be located. I was completely lost from them until brother, Jim learned of my whereabouts and wrote me in Los Angeles.
When spring did finally come, after our long, hard winter in Butte, I busied myself with my garden and spring house cleaning. One day Gid came in, quite excited. “Silena, they’re opening up a new country over around the Flathead Lake and I would like to go there and seek my fortune,” he exclaimed.
“But Gid,” I protested, “we can’t take the children in that new raw country, away from schools and doctors. Remember all the sickness we’ve had this winter. I simply can’t take the children out of reach of doctors.”
Gid refused to give up his plan, as he firmly believed that the “pot of gold” lay at the foot of that particular rainbow and I was just determined not to drag the children out into the wilds again after our hardships in Clear Creek Canyon and Snake River, so we compromised. He was to go to the Flathead country in Montana and I was to take the children and go to Portland, where Eugene and Agnes lived. We divided our money equally. Gid took the team and wagon and started for Montana. I shipped my sewing machine and kitchen range and took the children to Oregon.
When I reached Portland, I had forty dollars in cash, a sewing machine, a stove, no income and four small children to feed and clothe. I knew it was up to me to earn our living, as there would be no money from Gid’s venture for some time, if at all.
I rented a house next door to Agnes for five dollars per month. Laura Brooks, who was born in a sleigh en route to Deserette, was now married to Dick Allen and lived on the other side of me. Eugene and Dick had part time work on the railroad. They took turns running the helper engine up to the Dalles, or rapids, at the top of the divide and then bringing it back to Portland, a three hour trip.
The girls had been riding up with their husbands. Agnes kept all the children and let Laura ride up with Dick one morning, then Laura took care of the children and let Agnes go up with Eugene the next. When I moved in the cottage between them, they helped care for my children and let me go up with one of the boys every third morning, so I had a chance to get away from home and see something of the country.
One day “the Frenchman,” as we called our landlord, came and asked me if I would like to take care of his five cottages and tend to the renting of them in exchange for my rent. Of course, I was glad to do it and earned our house rent for eight months in this way.
I put out a “dressmaking” sign and soon had all the work I could do.
|Selena Elsie Kenney,-Giroux about 1885.|
There were few dressmakers in Portland and in a few weeks I had a large trade, both in sewing and cutting patterns. I took produce instead of money for most of my work. One day a woman came to the house and said: “I will give you six dozen eggs if you will make dresses for my two little girls for next Sunday.” I told her, I would gladly make the exchange and went to work on the dresses. I made them with round, low necks puffed sleeves and ruffled skirts. The woman was well pleased and declared them well worth the six dozen eggs, which I took to the store and traded for groceries. I did a great deal of sewing for her after that.
A paper-hanger came to me and said he would furnish the paint and paper and redecorate three rooms for me, if I would make his wife a brown taffeta dress.
Through my dressmaking work, I met a great many new people and was soon interested in things outside of my own home. I joined the “Good Templar” Lodge and was Chaplin, for the three years I lived in Portland. Our meetings were very interesting and instructive and I thoroughly enjoyed them. We had many lovely picnics and boat excursions. One time we went up to Vancouver, where we were royally entertained by the Vancouver Chapter of the Lodge.
My first picnic in Portland was with some of my neighbors. We packed a basket of lunch and went up in a ravine above the town. Imagine my surprise when I found the picnic grounds inside the cemetery.
When Mr. Galden was transferred to to the Dalles, they could not take their furniture with them, so Mrs. Galden asked me if I would make her a layette in exchange for goods. She was expecting her baby soon and would not have the time and strength to make the clothes after she moved. I gladly consented, as I needed furniture badly and did not have the money to buy it. When they moved away, Mr. Galden brought me a truck load of goods. There was a set of dishes, a complete bed outfit, a lovely carpet and scores of other things. I was so pleased that I made her a beautiful layette, as I promised and in addition I made two comforters of creamy mull, tied with bow-knots of pink and baby blue ribbon, for her own bed. She was so surprised and pleased that she wrote me a lovely letter, saying she could not thank me enough.
By exchanging my work for goods, I was able to furnish a five room house, pay the rent and support myself and four children with very little cash. Most of the money that I received for sewing was put in the bank.
|Albina, Oregon, Circa 1880s.|
We lived across the river from the city proper, in what was known as Albina. The children roamed over the hills and were so well and happy. They picked all the wild strawberries and blackberries which we had for canning and in the fall they gathered hazel nuts.
Down the hill, next to the railroad tracks, lived a family of “shanty Irish” people and all the children in our neighborhood gathered on the hillside above their house and from their ring-side seats enjoyed the many family rows which were staged in the shanty below. I had often scolded my children for going down there, but the temptation was too great for them to resist, until one day they saw a sight which scared them so badly, they never again went near the place.
They came home pale as death and screaming so hard, I could not get the story from them for hours. Finally, I learned that they had heard even more noise than usual, at the shanty below us. There were shouts and curses, mingled the shrill squeal of a pig. Immediately, all the children within hearing, rushed to their accustomed place on the hillside, where they could see in the back door. To their horror, they saw the family butchering a hog right on the kitchen floor. They fled from the scene as if chased by demons and it was hours before I could quiet my children down. Their dreams were haunted for several nights with the horrible picture they saw. Never again did I have to forbid their going down the hill.
Soon my dressmaking business grew too large for me to handle, so I fitted up my living room and one bedroom for my business and employed help. I cut my own patterns by a chart and was soon doing as much pattern cutting as sewing. I had to rent two more sewing machines, which were in almost constant use. The dresses which were worn then required a great deal more work than modern clothes do. Every seam was bound with binding ribbon; every dress had a lining and often whalebone, which had to be feather stitched down.
I saw Mary Logan when she came to Portland with her husband, General John A Logan, on his second presidential campaign tour.
|Mary Cunningham-Logan, Sam Cunningham’s sister.|
She looked so distinguished as she sat on the platform while General Logan was speaking, that I didn’t wonder at Sam’s pride in her. He had told me so much about his sister and I had received so many kind letters and lovely gifts from her, that I felt I knew her before I ever saw her.
|General John Alexander Logan, Sam Cunningham’s brother-in-law.|
Logan died soon after their visit to Portland and Mary returned to her home in the east, so I did not see her again, but my daughter, Agnes met her when she visited in Los Angeles years later, in interest of the Red Cross.
|Mary Simmerson-Cunningham-Logan,, son, Maning Logan, Captain John Alexander Logan & daughter, Mary Elisabeth (“Dollie”) Logan. Approximately 1870.|
As soon as my business justified it, I moved into a better location. It was a lovely house overlooking Portland and the river. Through a friend, I got a chance to make a gown for a famous prima donna, who had a month’s engagement in one of the Portland theaters. I can’t recall her name, but I remember that she was a very beautiful woman with lovely golden hair and big blue eyes and the most perfect figure, I ever had the pleasure of fitting. I worked almost day and night for three weeks on the gown, which was of black satin, made princess style. I had drafted and cut the pattern to her individual measurements and when the dress was finished, it molded her figure like her own skin. It was almost covered with passementerie work in an oak leaf design. I received twenty-five dollars and complimentary tickets to the theater for my work and I know that I was the proudest woman alive, when I saw that famous singer walk out on the stage in the gown I had created.
As I sat there admiring its perfect fit, I wondered why we couldn’t cut the pattern of our lives and fit them to our ideals as I had fitted that gown to the figure that was wearing it.
I recalled the lesson on life, mother had given me as she taught me to weave and slowly realized how far I had strayed from the pattern she had set aside for me to do. A smooth, well-woven fabric of life—church, family, home, children, friendship. I had indeed wandered far. It had been years since I had seen or heard from any of my family. In fact, in fact I did not know of their whereabouts, nor they of mine. I had had many houses, but no permanent home, I could not attend church regularly when I was often miles from one and lasting friendships could not develop in the few months or years I had stayed in one place.
As if in sympathy with my thoughts, the prima donna began the haunting strains of “Home, Sweet Home.” Tears welled up in my eyes until I had to grope my way from the theater, blindly following the crowd.
A few days later Gid came walking in after an absence of nearly three years—his “pot of gold”, just another mirage. When we compared notes we found that he had lost his team and wagon and had returned home with forty dollars cash, while I had furnished a five room house, fed, clothed and schooled the four children, had ninety dollars in the bank and such a large dressmaking business, that I employed seven women to help me.
After a few days’ rest and exploring Portland, Gid became restless and proposed that we go on one of the numerous excursions that went down the river to the ocean and visited Elwaka and Fort Kenby, where the lighthouse was. I felt that we could not afford the trip, but I had been on several excursions and knew Gid would enjoy it a great deal after his three years of pioneer life, so I consented.
I went to the bank and drew out ten dollars of my precious savings for the excursion and planned a great deal, for our first real trip together since those first happy days in Butte.
I was so proud of Gid when we started out the next morning. He was always careful of his complexion, hands and clothing, so the three years in the wilderness had not coarsened him as as it does so many men.
It was a beautiful day and a gay colorful throng swarmed over the decks, shouting goodbye and laughing gaily as they greeted their friends and fellow passengers. I was so happy! I loved a boat excursion more than anything else and I thrilled to a boat whistle, no matter when or where I heard it.
Standing on deck and watching the city of Portland recede and gradually fade into the distance, I felt that I’d like to sail on and on forever, with the wind blowing my skirts and taking liberties with my hair. The steamer was one of the new “side wheelers” and the pride of the owners. I was thrilled and happy as a child as I stood on the deck, with the vibration of the huge engines under my feet and watched the trail of froth and foam in our wake.
Gradually I realized that Gid did not share my mood, but stood about as stiffly with a faint scowl on his face. “What’s the matter, Gid,” I asked. “Aren’t you enjoying your trip?” “Trips alright”, he answered shortly. “Then what’s the matter?” I began anxiously.
Just then a group of friends came up to us, so Gid did not answer, but soon took my arm and almost rudely pulled me out of the group and insisted that I take a turn around the deck with him. Finding a deserted spot on the windy side, he stopped and leaned over the rail, gazing into the water below. “You’re not getting sea sick?” I asked anxiously. “No Silena, I’m not getting sea sick,” he answered angrily.
I said no more, as I did not want to arouse his anger and cause a scene, but I was chilled and hurt by his strange behavior. He had seemed so eager for the trip, that I was willing to make the sacrifice to give it to him, as I hoped he would find a job soon and then would not have time for many pleasures.
During the whole trip, he kept me in the most secluded spots on board and would not mingle with the crowds, which is more than half the pleasure of the excursion. I could not understand it at all and wondered if he was ashamed of me. I glanced cautiously over my clothing to see if I had torn my dress or had a run in my stocking, as I knew I had looked very well when I left home. I had on a light voile dress, big white hat and white shoes and stockings. I compared my clothing with that of the people around me and saw that I was dressed well and as suitably as anyone onboard.
When the boat docked, we went to a hotel to wait for the smaller boat to take us across to where we planned to visit the lighthouse after a picnic dinner on the beach. When we walked into the lobby of the hotel, I felt the sand grate under our feet and looked down. There seemed to be a carpet on the floor and still the sand grated as if the floor were bare. “Gid,” I whispered, “what kind of carpet is this?” “It’s linoleum,” he answered in a superior tone, although I felt sure it was the first one he had ever seen.
When we reached Ellice, I saw a sign, “Picnic lunches put up to order,” and noticed a great many of our fellow passengers go in and get lunches, so I suggested that we have one put up and then go down on the beach and eat with the rest of the crowd.
“I know what I want,” Gid answered shortly and going to a nearby grocery store, he bought a loaf of bread, a can of salmon and a half pound of cheese. I was surprised at his purchases, as I felt they were not suitable for a picnic lunch, but said nothing for fear of arousing his ungovernable temper.
To my disappointment he led me not down to the beach where the rest of our crowd were spreading out their lunches, but up to a patch of sagebrush on the side of the hill away from the water, where we sat in the scant shade and ate in a leaden silence.
Having lived all my life inland, I loved the ocean and could sit for hours and gaze out across it. I loved the roar of the water and never tired of watching the waves roll in and break upon the sand. The spray acted like a tonic and sent the blood racing through my veins and made me feel alive and eager for adventure.
I had anticipated a great deal of pleasure in walking along the beach with Gid, showing him the beauties I had grown to love. These trips were treats to me and I always tried to absorb all the wonder and beauty of them, to help me through the long, weary days I spent over the sewing machine and cutting tables. Although I had lived in Portland three years, I had been to the ocean only a few times, as it was quite a distance and I did not have the money for pleasure trips.
As I watched Gid eating in sullen silence, I wondered what had happened to turn our pleasure trip into such a gusty failure, but I dared not ask. When we had finished, I stood up, carefully brushed the crumbs from my dress and mustered up my courage, said cheerfully: “Come on, let’s walk down to the beach and join the rest of the party.” “We’re going back this way,” said Gid crossly and taking my arm in a firm grip, he started through the grass and weeds on the hillside back toward town.
Twisting around so I could look him squarely in the face, I demanded: “Gid are you ashamed of me? Is that the reason you won’t stay with the others?” I don’t want you down there with all those young fellows making sheep’s eyes at you. If you didn’t deck yourself out like a spring chicken, I wouldn’t have to watch you so close.”
Stung to the quick, I turned and walked rapidly toward the town, simply boiling inside. I had dressed to please him and had only made him angry. I wondered what queer streak in his nature would allow him to leave me alone in a strange city for three years, not knowing or seeming to care what friends I had made and then suddenly became insanely jealous of casual acquaintances on a pleasure trip! I was so angry and disappointed that the rest of the day is just a blur in my memory. We took the boat home, and did not stay overnight as we had planned.
A few weeks later we moved into a hotel and took over the management of it. We rented rooms and served dinner at night. I fitted up a sewing room and planned to continue my dressmaking business, but, I found the two jobs too hard for me, as I was not well.
Gradually, I came to realize that Gid would not go to work, as long as I made enough money to support the family, so I quietly turned my dressmaking business over to Mrs. Call and Mrs. King, two of my assistants. When Gid learned what I had done, he was furious and stormed about the house like a raging lion, but the next morning he went out and got a job in the railroad yards.
One day Aggie came running to me with a kitten tightly clasped in her arms. “Oh, Mama, can I keep it? Please, can I keep it?” She begged so hard that I finally consented, although I feared it would be a nuisance around the hotel. It soon became the pet of everyone, but seemed to recognize Agnes as its mistress. She spent hours combing and brushing it and caring for it just like a baby.
Every Sunday morning she would put it to bed with a little doll clasped between its paws and say: “Now be a nice kitty and stay there until I get back,” and then skip happily off to Sunday school. I often felt sorry for the poor kitten as it looked wistfully toward the door as much as to say, “will she never come?” Although it watched and waited anxiously it never stirred until Aggie came home and took the doll out of its arms and then it would dash out of the door like a boy released from the school room. Eddie , who worshiped Aggie and always called her “Little Sister,” had made her doll bed of a vegetable crate. He made her a great many toys and always took her part in all the quarrels she had with Genie or Mossyee, even when she was wrong.
The hotel did not pay expenses and I was not able to do such heavy work, so we gave it up and moved into a five room cottage.
One day Joe, Becky and their two children came. Senator W.A. Clark of Montana was sending Joe to Jerome, Arizona to take charge of his mines there. He wanted Gid to go with him, as he was a natural born mining man.
|Senator W.A Cark of Montana.|
Joe often declared Gid could “smell” ore, as a “water witch” could locate water.
|Joseph Louis Giroux, Gideon’s brother.|
I had proved that I could support them in the city and they were well, happy and satisfied. Gid did not want to leave us again, so Joe urged me to go. Becky added her pleas to the rest, as she did not want to go down alone.
“We’ll make piles of money down there, Silena and can give our children far more advantages than you could ever give them on what you could make here in Portland. The children don’t have to stay in Jerome. As soon as they’re old enough, we’ll send them away to a good school. Don’t worry, I’ll see that your children get a good education. I’ll send them to Chicago to a good school as soon as they’re old enough. “Is that a promise, Joe?” I asked, looking him straight in the eye. “It’s a promise, Selena. Here’s my hand on it.” “I’ll go then.” We solemnly shook hands on our pact.
Gid and Joe left a few days later for Jerome, but Becky and the children were to stay with me until Joe got things straightened out at the mines and found a suitable home for his family. I planned to remain…
|Jerome’s Main Street, Boom Days.|
- Leaving Portland By Silena Giroux
When Louis was six weeks old, I sold all our household goods and started to join my husband in Jerome, Arizona. We took the boat to Portland, but before we got out of the bay, the boat got stuck on a sandbar and we had to wait four hours for the next tide to come in and float us off.
Soon after leaving the harbor we ran into such dense fog, that we dared not try to go on. So, the boat rode at anchor with the fog horn blowing continuously. It was a miserable time for us all. The portholes had to be closed tight and the constant rocking of the boat caused sea-sickness. The stewardess had us move up into the officer’s quarters, where she could give us better care. I lay on the bed deathly sick, with the baby by my side. The other children played on the floor until one by one, they succumbed to seasickness.
For three days and nights we tossed about on the ocean, with a thick gray wall of fog blotting out everything and the boom, boom, boom of the fog horn, pounding away at our wrought nerves.
We were in constant danger of other vessels running into us, but most of us were too sick to care. When we reached San Francisco, after a five day journey, I was so happy to get my feet on good solid earth once more, that I vowed that I would never get on a boat again!
We went to the Russ House, owned by Sander and Seymour and waited for word from my husband. Little Florence Sells was there with her mother. She played with my girls and entertained them with stories about her father’s circus. Mrs. Sanders and her little boy, lived at The Russ House and helped me a great deal with the baby. Mrs Sanders, Mrs. Sells and Mrs. Seymour, loved Louis and took care of him most of the time. So, I had a delightful six-week rest, before proceeding to my new home.
- Arriving in Jerome, Arizona—October 15th, “Genie’s Birthday
We went by train from San Francisco to Prescott, Arizona and took the stage for Jerome, a distance of about thirty miles. When we had gone about fifteen miles, we saw someone approaching on horseback and to our amazement it was Eddie! Four months is a long time for a ten-year old boy to be away from his mother. He had expected us the day before and being very eager to see us, had borrowed a horse and rode out to meet the stage.
It was a wild, unsettled country, with only the stage road and a few cow trails across it. He had ridden until darkness overtook him and when he didn’t meet us, we realize he was a long ways from home and all alone except for his horse. Hesitating to ride back in the darkness and still determined to meet us, he tied his horse to the wheel of an abandoned wagon by the roadside and crawled into the wagon bed, to spend a cold, hungry and sleepless night.
Early in the morning, he tightened his belt and mounted his pony and rode on. When he came up to the stage, he was off his pony and inside almost before the driver had his team stopped. We tied the pony back of the stage and Eddie rode inside the rest of the way home. I opened our lunch basket and for a while it had his undivided attention, even to the exclusion of the new baby brother, whom he had never seen.
We reached Jerome about dark and went straight to Joe’s home, where we stayed several days while we were getting our new home ready. All evening, while talking to Becky, I noticed flashes of light through the window. Finally, I went to the back door and looked out saying: “It’s lightning—I wonder if it is going to rain.” Becky stepped to my side and said, “That’s the hot slag” and then explained to me that the slag came from the smelter, after the metal had been melted out.
|Jerome, Yavapai, Arizona, USA—Circa 1900, the year Eugenie’s daughter,Wanda was born in Jerome.|
- My Life from Jerome, Arizona to Sonora, Mexico, By Alonzo (“Lonnie”) Jerome Giroux
- I am writing to tell you how it came about that we all went to Sonora, Mexico.
- Happenings before we left Jerome, Arizona:
Nearly every summer, we would go camping at Oak Creek Canyon. These farmers would not sell us any chickens to cook, so one day after I had been fishing, I came back to the camp for my lunch, laid my pole down with the bait still on it. About this time a big, fat hen walked up and took the bait—we had chicken for supper! (We had to destroy the feathers and bones though)
|Jerome, Yavapai, Arizona, USA.|
Jerome was a wild, mining town in the early days. Anybody that had daughters did not dare live right in Jerome, but built houses below the “Hog Back”, in which they called “The Gulch.”
|Louis Joseph Giroux, 4 years old in old mining town of Jerome, Arizona About 1892, Louis was born August 6, 1888, Portland, Oregon.|
- Getting Father off to Work
I can remember my father had to get up at five o’clock in the morning to go to work and walk up the Hog Back several miles, rain or shine, to go to work. Mother had to fix his breakfast and make him a lunch to take along. Sometimes, the older girls would take turns doing it—Agnes was 15, Mossy was 18 and Eugenie was 21.
|(Seated L to R:) Mossyee 18, “Aggie" 15, (Standing) “Genie” 21, Jerome, Yavapai, Arizona.|
- The Apache Indians
I can also remember going to the Apache Indians’ camp to play with the Indian children. We use to trade flour for cactus candy.
My father, Gideon Giroux, was working at the Jerome mines at a very poor job as hoisting engineer, when his two rich brothers, Eugene and Joseph Giroux, told him they would give him a better position if he would take charge of the Mexican holdings for the Giroux Company, as my father was a college graduate of mining. He couldn’t turn it down.
- Unfortunately, my Great-Grandmother, Silena Kenny’s book is incomplete. To complete the story, I must explain that the Giroux’s mining endeavors in Jerome proved to be a tremendous success. After a few years, they felt expanding their operations to Mexico was in order. My Grandfather, Alonzo (“Lonnie”) Jerome Giroux, completes the story in his short book, beginning with his childhood in Jerome, Arizona. —Lee D. Sutherland
- Jerome to Mexico, By Alonzo (“Lonnie”) Giroux
I am writing this to tell you how it came about that we all went to Sonora, Mexico.
My father, Gideon Giroux was working at the Jerome mines at a very poor job as Hoisting Engineer, when his two rich brothers, Eugene and Joseph Giroux, told him they would give him a better position if he would take charge of the Mexican holdings for the Giroux Company, as father was a college graduate of mining.
We didn’t hear from him for such a long time, that mother went down to La Sultana Mines and found nothing was wrong—simply that he didn’t write. So, when she got there, she sent for us…
We left Jerome, Arizona on June 6, 1900. I had just reached 9 years old. Wanda was born January 20, 1900 and was 6 months old when we arrived in Tucson. We stayed in Tucson for 6 months; when we left Tucson and arrived at Pasqueira station, it was 3:00 am on Christmas Day and very cold. We left Pesqueira for San Miguel, going through Los Angeles (milling town in Sonora, Mexico).
At 7:00 am father and mother met us in San Miguel and took us to a large house that was formerly a fort. The many rooms had iron bars at the windows. The natives would hang on the bars at the windows and watch us as though we were caged animals. They had never seen white people before. Even the house inside looked like a prison.
Lottie had found some old rusty guns in back. From that we knew they had some fights at one time in the past. Lottie, being such a little girl, mother put me in charge of her. I was 9 years old and Lottie, 5. I was quiet and easy going and Lottie was just the opposite. I had a hard time keeping her in check. She was very venturesome for such a little girl.
While we were in San Miguel, Lottie and I would walk around to the stores. We saw some baskets of what looked like dried grasshoppers, but which turned out to be dried shrimp from Guaymas, Mexico. When we got home, Agnes made us throw them out and we couldn’t reason with her. The shrimp were used as “pilous” (or treats).
We had many various experiences while we were in San Miguel. One day for instance, Lottie disappeared. We looked everywhere for her. We finally found her in a Mexican house—they wanted to be good to her. Everyone drinks in Mexico; they gave her one too many and we found her dead drunk—and remember, she was only 5 years old!
She didn’t want to go home. Father certainly gave them a “chewing out” and took her home. We had to move into a more suitable house to rent until our house was built at the mines. We did find a small house to rent.
One thing I will always remember, was that the people in Mexico think nothing of marrying full cousins and half cousins; it plays havoc to the offsprings. Father had hired one of these brothers to work for him. This man went out into the hills and was killed by wild animals; the other brother blamed father. He came to San Miguel very threateningly. We had just moved into the house we had rented. He came into the house “chewing on his hand”—he was insane.
Some of these small town people would have only two names—the intermarriages caused the offspring to not have good sense or go crazy. That’s why these two brothers went insane.
Eugenie offered him some port wine. That quieted him down, so I could go for help. The only person who could speak English was the Sheriff of San Miguel. He came over and took charge of him.
San Miguel was a small town built around a huge circle. They used these for their fiestas, which they had very often. One time the soldiers from several companies camped there. They were always having trouble with the Yaqui Indians. They always had to be on-guard.
Louis and I attended a Mexican school for a while. All children who went to school, had to go to Catholic Church on Sundays. After church, they would take us out for long walks, which we liked.
In going up to La Sultana from San Miguel, I noticed a string of wagons with very large wheels and a thing that looked like a railroad engine to pull it. It had been abandoned for many years. At one time, the Copetic Mining Co. decided to use this method to haul ore to Carbó for shipping, but found these land wagons wouldn’t do the work. That’s why they built a smelter. The Copetic Mining Co. was right opposite us. We would like to watch the Copetic pour hot slag over the mountain at night.; it looked like the “Fire Fall” at Yosemite.
We would get visitors from Copetic occasionally. One old man came quite often; his name was Chinaworth. He had married a Mexican woman who was totally blind. He had 12 children by her and she had never seen any of her children. The older ones would always take charge of the younger crop.
This old man was quick as a cat. I’ve seen him pinch the stinger off scorpions before they could sting him. After a rain, scorpions would crawl up the side of buildings to get out of the wet.
Our house at the mines was finished and we all enjoyed it very much. It was quite a large house with a porch all around four sides and screened in. We would hang our meat out to dry on the porch for jerky. Meat-eating animals would go all around the house at night to smell the meat drying. There was no refrigeration in the early days.
When my mother, Silena, married Gideon Giroux, Bert was about 9 years old. Bert said he “could never get along with my father”, so he went to live with Aunt Mary mother’s sister, but that didn’t work out. From there he went to a tribe of Indians. I never did know what tribe.
Bert told us that once when he was out hunting with one of his Indian friends, he got attacked by a bear. He got pretty well broken up, but his friend shot the bear, just in time to save his life, but Bert lost an ear in the fight with the bear and also crippled his right arm. Afterwards in using his left arm most of the time, the strength in his left arm doubled.
Getting back to our first sight of Bert, one summer day we were sitting on our porch, when mother saw a man coming up the path and she exclaimed: “That man’s walk looks familiar.” As he walked towards us, he had a broad smile. I will never forget her saying, “My God, is it you Bert?” She hadn’t seen him in 10 years. Bert looked very thin and walked with a limp. he said he had been in a hospital for over a year (due to the fight with the bear as mentioned above).
He had been looking for his mother and while lying in the hospital, he had a long time to think and make inquiries. Some man in the hospital was a mining man and said he had been in Jerome and thought we had moved to Mexico.
After Bert was able to walk or ride, he landed at the La Sultana mines.
|L to R: On horse front yard of the ranch house, Louis J. Giroux, in carriage in background, Silena & Gideon Giroux, on horses: Caraboy & Bert E. Cunningham.|
We children thought a lot of Bert, as he was so much fun. He would take us out quail hunting; he bought Lottie a nice little pony, that wouldn’t let anyone ride but her. This pony that Bert bought Lottie, acted just like Lottie. It was full of pep and ginger and seemed to love her. She would get on it and away she would go. For such a small tot, it was really remarkable.
Bert was quite a venturesome sort. One day he caught a skunk on a steel trap getting into his chickens. He held him down so as to release the spring and get his hind legs. You can guess the rest! Had to burn all his clothes that he had on. Made him jump in the river; thought we would have to bury him!
When we moved up to La Sultana from San Miguel, father bought several dozen chickens, but didn’t know that chickens had to be fenced in to keep out the wild cats, skunks and chicken hawks from killing them.
They didn’t have any place to roost, except in some small trees and bushes and we soon lost about one-half of them. Finally father, had the carpenters build a nice yard with chicken wire all around them and a nice chicken house in the middle. He ordered about three dozen more chickens and put me in charge of them.
To get our water while we were there, we had to get a young man to haul our water in canvas bags for about three miles on a donkey. He had to make 4 trips a day for water.
The Mexicans at the mine would sometimes get in bad fights and would throw knives at one another and would get quite accurate. One time, as one of the men brought ore up the elevator (sometimes a man would ride up with the ore) a man was waiting for him at the top. He jabbed him with a dagger and then exclaimed he had no more use for it. Louis kept that knife for years—poor man who received it was dead—it went right through his stomach! The man was executed the next day by firing squad.
Father would warn us not to go near the Gauchos as they were a mean lot. We would play cowboys and robbers with the Mexican children. We could tell the difference because the Gauchos dressed very differently, with lots of spangles.
The Gauchos were a mean tribe of Indians. The government couldn’t do a thing with them. They dressed very fancy, like the early Spanish and they made most of their money gambling.
Bert was quite prone to accidents. One day he took me to a little town of Rayon in a buggy to get some supplies. When we got to Rayon, he saw some Mexicans breaking horses. He didn’t think they were doing the job right, so he got on a horse and was bucked off. He broke his arm again. We got to the town of Rayon and to a doctor, got the supplies and came home, but Bert didn’t work for many, many, many months.
About 8 months after we moved up to the mines, mother had to go back to Tucson for an operation. She left Eugenie in charge, which was quite a chore as I was 9, Lottie 5, Earl 3, Wanda about 1 year old and Louis was 12.
- Mexico in Year 1901 By Silena Elsie Giroux
We rented a house in San Miguel and sent for the family. They were to arrive on Christmas day and we wished to make their arrival in Mexico and their first Christmas in this strange country, one to be remembered always. It was a never to be forgotten day alright, but not in the way I had hoped.
They left the train in Pasqueira about thirty miles away at four o’clock in the morning. It was dark and the children were tired and cross after their long, tiresome journey and resented being awakened so early and the older ones were none too cheerful.
Their spirits were low indeed, as the train left into the darkness. We felt it was the last link that bound us to civilization. As soon as the train pulled out of the station, the station agent herded them into the office, closed the door and went back to bed.
|Train to San Miguel de Horcasitas, Sonoro Mexico.|
- San Miguel, Mexico, By Silena Elsie Giroux
There was nothing for the children to do but wait for someone to come for them. Unable to speak the Mexican language, and failing to make their English understood, they could not find out when the stage was due. Eugenie and Agnes quieted the younger children down as best they could to stifle their own fears in order to reassure the others.
The scene was not comforting however, because they walked from window to window and peered out, they seemed to be surrounded by small campfires around which peons, wrapped in their sarapes, stood like statues, pacing back and forth in an effort to keep warm. This was Christmas morning 1900.
Their homes were made into a crude shelter, with only three sides. They were made of bamboo poles, laced together with rawhide thongs; the roofs were sod of course. These crude houses failed to keep out the rain and cold, so when the occupants became too uncomfortable to sleep, they got up and built fires for warmth.
The sarapes were blankets made especially for wraps and were extra long and only a yard wide. The men wrapped them around their bodies and held one end close around them with the left hand, while the right arm was flung upon the left shoulder, thus covering the nose and mouth with their sarape as they did not believe in breathing the cold air.
Gid made arrangements for someone to meet the children and bring them to San Miguel, but Mexico is the land of “manana” and Christmas is a day of celebrating, so it was eight o’clock before the stage finally rattled up to take them on the last lap of their journey. It was after 2 o’clock when they arrived in the afternoon, weary and worn out, at San Miguel. They were glad to see their mother and father, but were homesick for the good, old U.S.A.
|A typical Sonora, Mexico Stage Coach in 1900.|
The streets of San Miguel were very desolate. The houses were built right up against the walks and not a blade of green could be seen anywhere. The windows all had iron bars or grillwork over them and were closed from the inside with shutters. They had no way to keep out the cold; there were no glass panes at all. Every house had a patio entirely surrounded by the house and high adobe walls shutting out all the views from the streets. Inside the patios was a riot of blossoms, geraniums, scarlet runners and….
(Page 3 missing—from the memoirs—)
I looked into the cone and my stomach turned completely over. “Dried grasshoppers,” I gasped. “Oh!” “They wouldn’t dare,” We washed their mouths out with soap and water. When Gid came back, I indignantly told him the affair. He roared with laughter. “Dried grasshoppers, he sputtered and then he went into another spurt of laughter—“you goose!”
“They’re dried shrimp and darn good too—have one.” But I could never even taste one, as that first impression was too vivid and too lasting.
Our first breakfast food was “Pinola”, made by grinding popcorn.
- Recipe as Follows:
“Popping Corn in Mexico: In Mexico, the peons put hot rocks in a big olla. Then put the popcorn in and closed it up tight. In a few minutes, the olla was full of snow-white popcorn. They ground this corn real fine and made a breakfast food called “Pinole.” A handful of this Pinole and a few lumps of raw Mexican sugar was sufficient nourishment for a days journey.”
Most of the Mexicans cook on fireplaces built in the order of our sinks and drainboards. They were about 36” high, with the stove or cooking in the middle and work shelf on each side.
A few families had American stoves and they were highly treasured, so I was very much surprised to see one sitting outside one of our houses. I stopped to see if I could buy it. The woman was very anxious to sell it so I examined the stove very carefully to see what was wrong with it and found it to be in good conditions and almost new, so I asked her why she wanted to sell it. She said her husband had brought it to her from Tucson, but soon after that she had given birth to a black baby. All her other children were very fair and her last came and she saw his dark skin and hair and believed it was a curse sent upon her for using a black stove. Thus she banished it from her kitchen forever.
Knowing the temperament of the Mexican people, I very much understood the stove’s responsibility in the matter, so gladly bought it and baked some good, old salt-rising bread on it, as we were simply starved for American food.
Another Mexican family had a stove, but did not know how to use it. She built a fire in the hearth lid and did not use the firebox or oven at all, so of course, the stove was not a success.
We all wore white clothing during our stay in Mexico. The girls and I wore white cotton house dresses, while Gid and the boys wore white linen suits. The Mexican women did our washing in the river. They would find a flat rock that sloped down to the water and then dig a basin at its base for a tub and using the rock for a washboard, they washed our clothes in the cold river water until they were snow white. We got a big washing for a family of nine done for $1, Mexican money.
As soon as the girls got acquainted with the young people of San Miguel, several of the boys began to pay them a great deal of attention. These boys were very refined and well educated in Spanish, English and French and could speak all three languages fluently. They were very wealthy and would have showered the girls with diamonds and other jewels, if the girls would have accepted them.
One Sunday evening, Aggie was all ready to receive her caller. She was dressed in a soft white silk, her chestnut hair was parted in the middle and waved down to a soft knot it the nape of her neck. She wandered into the garden to wait for him and paused beside an orange tree, white with bloom and looking like a bride dressed for her wedding. Just as she heard her friend coming, she stopped to smell the blossom, thinking to make an effective picture, as he stepped through the gate. But, alas, “the best laid plans of mice and men”…a bee was busily engaged in getting honey from the same blossom and resented the intrusion into his business and with an angry buzz, he darted down and stung Aggie, right on the top of her head, just where her hair parted. With a cry of pain, she staggered backwards and almost fell. In a few seconds, a bump the size of an egg had raised on her head, so she was put to bed for the rest of the day.
- Asked to Move from the Bedilla House
We had lived in the Bedilla House about three months, when they asked us to move. They said a member of the family was going to die soon and they needed our room to lay him out. He had Tuberculosis—a great cause of death in Mexico and when one has contacted the disease, there is no hope or cure. The patient sits up as long as possible, but when he is finally to his bed, active preparations for his death begin. The priest is called in to perform his last rites and the church bell starts tolling. It gives one ring for a child, two for a woman and three for a man and tolls constantly day and night until the patient draws his last breath.
Our house at the mines was not finished when we were told to move, but we got another, not quite so large. It was in this other house, that we had this bad experience with the mad man. It was in May 1901, the rainy season. Lonnie was nine years old, Lottie 6 years old, Earl 3 years and Wanda was just passed 1 year, Louis 12, Aggie 17 and Genie 24.
After we moved from the Badilla house in about 3 months, I think it was March, we had a shocking surprise. One day as Genie, Aggie and myself were piecing a silk crazy quilt, Jose suddenly appeared at the door. He glared at me until my blood ran cold. His blood was running down his right arm. He came so close to me that his blood dripped on my dress. With wonderful coolness and presence of mind, Genie began to talk to him. “Don’t you want some port wine?” she asked. She knew that he was very fond of Port wine, so kept talking to him and urging him to go with her to find some. She slipped back with lightning like swiftness, snatched a loaded gun off the shelf above my head and slipped it into my lap. I kept sewing as calmly as I could, trying not to make a sudden move. Genie led Jose over to the cupboard, where she kept him searching for the wine until help came.
As soon as Jose had turned his back to the door, Aggie darted out and dashed to the Sheriff’s Saloon for help. She collapsed at the door, but was able to gasp out a cry for help. That sent the officers rushing to our rescue. Genie had coaxed Jose outside the door when the officers arrived. The Sheriff, John Navarro, took him by one arm while his deputy took him by the other arm, speaking to him in Spanish. That coaxed him to go with them. The last we saw of him, they were loading him out through court, when we saw him disappear through the gate. We almost fainted with sheer relief. They took him to Hermosillo and put him in the asylum.
- Leaving Mexico (Mother Speaking—Silena):
I became so ill, I had to leave Mexico to go to Phoenix to undergo an operation. I took Aggie along with me, as I was not able to travel alone. She stayed with me at the hospital where I had three major operations in the seven months we were there. As soon as I was able to travel, we were preparing to return to Mexico, when I received a telegram from Gid saying, “I am sending the family to San Diego—join them there.” We were quite puzzled over the message, but delighted that we did not have to return to Mexico.
One day a messenger came riding madly into camp, jerking to a stop. He threw his roan flecked horse back on its haunches.
|Yaqui Rebellion, Sonora, Mexico by Fredrick Remington.|
“Get your family out of here quick,” he panted. “
“There’s 300 Yaquis just over the mountain and they’re going to sweep everything out of their pathway; They vow to not leave a man, woman, or child living in this part of the country when they are finished.”
When he had finished delivering his message, he dashed madly on to the next campfire. Gid hurriedly called all the men together and explained the situation to them, saying, “we have to send all the women and children down to the mines.” “You had better send them out to Carbo and let them take the train for the States—this Yaqui trouble probably won’t be settled for months and they won’t be safe here.” Guess, you’re right, answered Gid. “Tell Genie to get ready to leave by dark.”
Genie said she never lived through such a terrifying time in her whole life. The cook was told to start killing chickens and preparing food for the journey, as they were unsure when they would reach the railway. They had to take plenty of provisions. Genie washed the children’s clothes and packed them up. She and the Mexican cook were the only women in camp and so she had to do all the managing and planning for the trip, as well as a great deal of the other work. She had Louis 12, Lonnie 9, Lottie 6 and Earl 3, as well as her own daughter, Wanda 1 1/2 years, to care for and get ready for the journey.
|Eugenia (“Genie”) Giroux.|
They were short on horses, so Bert went out and caught a few more. Rumors were that scattering bands were burning homes, slaughtering livestock and there was the endless beating of tom toms.
Some of the poor, luckless people failed to make good their escape because the train just sped right through. When the train arrived in Nogales, Mexico, it ignored the Customs inspection and stopped for nothing until it reached the safety of the United States, Nogales, Arizona.
Genie was fortunate in making the acquaintance of a merchant from San Diego who helped her with the children and stayed right with her till he settled her in the 5th Avenue Hotel, where Mossyee and Frank had rooms.
I arrived soon after and was amazed to hear all about their escape and so thankful to find them all alive and well. We were very much worried over Gid and Bert, as it was some time before they could get word to us, so we could learn the rest of the story.
By the time they got back to the mines, most of the Indians had gathered at their rendezvous in a valley, ten miles long, surrounded by sheer, almost impassable mountains. A band of scouts visited the mine and demanded food and supplies. They threatened to wipe out the whole camp, if their demands were not met.
There were a number of Mexican families living there and the miners were so hopelessly out-numbered by the Indians, that Gid gave them a number of cattle and hogs. They killed and dressed them right in camp, made packs of meat and took it to their rendezvous. Other scouting parties evidently brought in food as the Indians held a big pow wow that night, beating tom toms, war whooping and other sounds of revelry could be heard at the mine, as it was just over the Pichuchio Mountain (sp) (maybe Pajarito Mountains or Picacho Mountains) from camp.
A few days later, the Mexican soldiers captured the Indians; they were tried and sent to a penal colony in the Yucatan. This was virtually a death sentence as the prisoners lived only a few years after. The Indian families were sent down to join the braves and this ended five years of troubles with the Yaqui Indians.
- Julio (About 1909)
When I left Mexico, I brought Julio Cobrilles to Los Angeles to finish his education. He was a nephew of the President of Mexico; His brothers, Manuel and Peppe were our body guards. Manuel gave me a beautiful drawn-work, table cloth and twelve napkins. The family was very wealthy. When the youngest boy, Julio, finished the Mexican schools and University, they decided to send him to the United States to study the English language and the American ways and customs. They asked me to bring Julio to Los Angeles and put him in charge of the priest. He entered the St. Vincent Academy.
He was a handsome, broad-shouldered boy of 19 and he had plenty of money to spend, so soon he became very popular with the students. They began slipping out at night to attend dances at the various beaches near Los Angeles. Julio was not accustomed to the dissipation, nor the climate, which soon lowered his resistance and vitality and he fell prey to colds. He was suppose to report to me once a month; he usually took dinner with me. When he failed to come home once a month, I phoned the school. The Director said that he had taken one cold after another and could not throw them off, so they confined him to his bed. Harry and Aggie took me right out to see him. He looked very pale and ill, but said he felt better and expected to be up again soon.
When we didn’t hear from him for about 2 weeks, we phoned again and learned they had moved him to Pattinger Sanitorium for Tuberculosis. We went right out to see him and found him to be just a skeleton of his former self.
I immediately wrote to his brothers of his condition and advised them to come and take him home to Mexico. Two of his brothers came, but he was too ill to be moved. One of his brothers stayed with him until he died a few weeks later. They took poor Julio back to his beloved Mexico for his final resting place.
- Reaching the Ranch by Agnes Giroux Budworth
|Agnes Silena Giroux-Budworth (“Aggie").|
Next morning after Louis had heard all about our experiences, he said, “you certainly deserve to see that battleground, so I’ll take you over, right after breakfast.”
We went over to it and found there were only two hills with a small valley between. The Mexican army was on one hill and the Yaquis on the other hill. As soon as any tried to cross the river, they were shot down by the army until the river was dammed by the bodies of both Indians and Mexicans. About 40 were killed in the battle.
Counties were still terrorized by the Yaqui and revolutionaries. We dared not go by the main highway to the ranch.
Charley Mills let us have a team to go to the Sultana Mines, a distance of eight miles over a rough trail. Aggie and I walked over the rough trail, while Louis and driver helped the team by lifting and pushing the wagon buggy.
We stayed there all night and next morning, we rode horseback to Charley Mill’s Mine. We had only Mexican saddles and we were so used to riding, that we found the going very uncomfortable. While we rested at the mine, Louis and I went on to the ranch and got a buggy to take us home.
When we reached the ranch, we found Harry (Aggie's husband) very uneasy about us. It had been three days since he left us in San Miguel and he could not get anyone to carry a message back, as the Mexican Federal Government were drafting everyone into the Mexican army.
We were just as worried about him, as we did not know whether he had reached La Huerta ranch safely. We were certainly glad to get to the ranch safely. We rested a week before going on our trip to the Blue Mountains.
- Blue Mountains
Louis had promised us a camping and hunting trip to the Blue Mountains, if we would come and spend Harry’s vacation on the ranch with them.
|Louis Joseph Giroux.|
We planned a great deal for our trip and had planned on Louis meeting us in Carbó , but our letter to him was delayed due to rain and washouts in Mexico. When we reached Carbó , there was no one to meet us. Carbó was just a small station with no accommodations, so we took the stage and went on to San Miguel, where we lived for several months when we first moved to Mexico.
At the time we had lived there, San Miguel was quite a large, thriving town for that part of the country. Imagine our surprise to find it almost deserted—almost a ghost town. There was no hotel, so we went to Charley Mills’ to spend the night until we could get word to Louis. Charley offered to send a man to guide Harry to the ranch and in spite of our troubles, Harry accepted the offer.
It was nearly 4 o’clock and about 30 miles, through a wild, unsettled country, to reach the ranch.
Harry, had not been on a horse for years and could not speak a word of Spanish, while his guide could not speak a word of English. There was still always the danger of attack from Yaqui Indians and there were rumblings and mutterings in this generally uneasy country, likely to flare up any minute. Darkness came on soon after Harry left San Miguel and he could keep to the trail only by watching his guide’s colored blanket flapping in the breeze as he rode ahead.
- My Life in Jerome, Arizona to Sonora, Mexico —Continued, By Alonzo Jerome Giroux
Not long after mother left, we got word that the Yaqui Indians were going to kill all white people, so we had to leave in a hurry. We took a large flat wagon and filled it with straw and put Eugenie, little Wanda, Agnes, Louis, Lonnie, Earl and Lottie in it and Eugenie drove the span of horses. They gave all the older ones, the guns and told us to use them if we were attacked, but we got to Carbó without any trouble, leaving Father and Bert at the mines.
We were on our way to San Diego. We caught a train at 8:00 am, the next morning. Lottie was broken-hearted that we couldn’t bring her pony, which she loved so much and had such a good time with.
We left Mexico soon after President McKinley was assassinated, which was in 1901 and I had reached the ripe old age of 10 years.
We went to San Diego where Mossyee and Frank Buelna met us at the train and took us to a hotel, called the 5th Avenue Hotel. It was the first time I had ever seen any double-decker street cars; they ran on 5th avenue. That was back in 1901. Mossyee and Frank had one baby when we got to San Diego. It soon died; I was too young to remember what it died of. The hotel where we stayed cost us too much rent, so next day we went out house-hunting and found one on C Street, next to a church, but it caused us too much trouble, so we finally had to move.
We lived in San Diego from 1901 to 1904. My father didn’t send enough money to feed and clothe this large family, so that is the reason mother had to open a dressmaking shop, with the help of the older girls.
Louis worked in a hotel as Bellhop. He would wait until the restaurant closed after the evening meal and then they would give him all the soup that was left over to take home. It was a treat to us.
I sold lemons in my little express wagon in the afternoons and on Saturdays, to buy my school clothes. I always saved my Sundays to go fishing and would fish until dark. To keep from being scared, I’d whistle all the way home.
I never did know why we picked up everything and moved to Otay towards Tijuana and San Diego. While we were in Otay, Bert came to see us. We always liked Bert. He would take us places and loved his mother so much. He had been away so many years. He would rent a carriage and take us all over the back country of San Diego. He was always so generous with his money.
While Bert was there, Louis tried to get Bert to take him back to Mexico with him, but Bert refused to, as much as he was needed in Mexico.
Mossyee, and Frank had two boys, after they lost their first child. Their names were Raymond and Loren. In 1904, we moved to Los Angeles. Mossyee and Frank moved also. Frank got a job for Bullock’s selling yardage and later for The Broadway, when I worked there.
In approximately 1908 or 1909, the following happened: It was after father had retired and come home to stay. Bert and his first wife and baby boy and also a man by the name of Sales and Louis were on their way to Rayon, to have the baby baptized. They were ambushed by 11 Yaqui Indians. Bert’s wife and baby jumped out of the buggy and hid in the bushes. Sales was killed instantly. Bert and Louis killed 9 of the 11 Indians—the rest got away, however the cowboys found the Chief dead later. The coyotes had eaten him and left just the bones.
|New Giroux Family car, 1909 Model, Stevens Duryea.|
In about 1909, father retired from the mines and came home. They bought a home at 2766 West 9th Street. Father also bought a Steven’s Duryea car, Model 1909. Also a nice house for Harry and Agnes at 2372 West 31st Street and one for Mossyee and Frank; also a two-story flat on West Jefferson Street.
|1909 Stevens Duryea car. L-R: Bert ?, Alonzo, Silena, Gideon, Lottie, Earl, Aggie, Mossyee, & Eugenie Giroux at the “9th Street house”.|
The second time I went back to Mexico, was after my father came home to retire. Mossyee and Frank, Raymond, Loren and myself, went back and found quite a change there. Frank went to work in the company store. I worked in the mines in the mornings and in the afternoons in the company store. The reason for that was that they set off blasts and this would make me very sick, which is why I worked in the company store in the afternoons.
They had built a smelter and Bert put in a pump to bring all the water up to a large tank back of the house. They had built a company eating house with a Chinaman to do the cooking. We all ate there except the natives. We had a company store and saloon combination.
When these workmen from the mines would get their money, they would go straight to the saloon and drink it up. Their families would go hungry. I would give them booze at the counter until they couldn’t stand up, then Frank and I would drag them over out of the way. Therefore, we had to have cards made up, so they could spend their money mostly on groceries and clothing and a small amount for liquor.
When the Mexicans got drunk, they would sing like a bunch of coyotes. The men that worked in the mines rent free, had little houses built for them by the company. I often heard my father, Gideon Giroux, talk mining to his two brothers, Eugene and Joseph, when they were getting started—not anything more than poor prospectors and when they became wealthy, Eugene was a pompous individual. His new found richness went to his head.
They did inspection work at the mine, when we were struggling to get moved. We had towels on rollers, so it could be used by lots of our guests. Eugene blurted out, “Haven’t you got some better towels than this?” Bert said, “Eugene, I’ve seen the time when you would be damn glad to wipe on a gunny sack.” He got very red and walked away, wiping his hands on his handkerchief.
Father thought I needed more schooling, so he took me to Ures, the former Capitol of Sonora. I stayed there until I was 16 years old. The school was run by a Frenchman by the name of La Fontaine, an escaped duelist from France. There was another teacher by the name of Rochien, who was a Mayan Indian and was very smart; he taught the lower grades.
The Mayan Indians were very intelligent people and great educators. Getting back to the Frenchman, La Fontaine, who ran the school—he married a Mexican woman half his age. They had four children. He was a good teacher, but would go on a drunk for several days at a time, but would always finally go back to his classes as if nothing had happened, but very blurry-eyed.
It was quite an experience for me to be in a school where everybody studied out loud. It sounded like a large hive of bees. The school was built in a circle. To punish the children for something they did, they would have to stay after school and sweep all the court, every night after school, even if it took them until after dark.
The Mexican people would take a siesta every day from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 afternoons. There was even a padlock on the courtyard gates like a real jail, for the children that were very bad. Of course, they were fed and allowed to go out to the toilet.
While I was in Ures, I sent home for my bicycle; being the only one in town, I charged them .50-cents and hour for riding it. I made my spending money that way. A few things happened while I was in Ures, going to school. One was an epidemic of Malaria, which gave you chills and fever and it killed many people. I also got it. The only thing that saved my life, was the fact that a Mexican doctor gave me 9, 5-grain Quinine tablets. I saw “red” for a week, but it cured me. I always had leg pains after that.
During that time, the Navy was sent down to Mazatlan because the Mexicans were up in arms. Some of the kids in school took their spite out on me, being an American. They thought they would like to kill an American, so they took me out to the edge of town and tied me up so I couldn’t move, then stood back and threw rocks at me. Finally a poor Mexican who was hauling wood, came along and rescued me. I don’t know to this day, how far they would have gone, if he hadn’t come along to help me. La Fontaine put all six of them in the school jail for one week.
I had one room-mate, quite a little older than myself, who would talk me into sneeking out on school nights to go to dances and this was forbidden by La Fontaine. We would rig up a rope with a loop on the end to catch onto the peg top side, so when we came back, we would come back the same way. We would shinny up the rope, then hide the rope and the teacher never got wise. Mine was a school for boys. The girls school was a block away.
Ures was full of pigeons. I had my 22 rifle; when not going to school, I would go out and shoot as many as I could and bring them to Mrs. La Fontaine to cook until we got sick of them.
Right across the street, was an orange grove with a large reservoir. The kids would go in swimming in their “birthday suits”. The water was great for swimming and irrigating, but was not for drinking water.
This school in Ures was a public school, but they had several rooms for boarders also. While I was there, they only had myself and my room-mate, the young man, several years younger than I. It was during my year at Ures School that I learned most of my Spanish.
It was in Ures when the Mexican government collected all the Yaquis from all over Sonora and herded them through the large square. You never saw such a dirty, bedraggled bunch—must have had at least 1,000 men, women and children; all sitting down on the dirty, dusty ground, under the hot, boiling sun, to ship them to Yucatan—the lower tip of Mexico to live. I felt very bad for them; heard later most of them died. The ones that did not die came back.
Most of the Mexican towns of any size at all had men out every night stationed two blocks apart, blowing a little whistle every hour. Each one would answer with the whistle, “all is well”. It would sound very mournful.
Just before I left home in Los Angeles, California, for the second time, I visited Bert and his new wife, Lola at Cananilla. Lola (Dolorres), is the mother of all the Cunninghams, living today. I had a very nice time with Lola and Bert. I can remember we went to a dance and Lola was a very good dancer.
Back to Ures; after several years to see some of my old friends: I found my teacher, La Fontaine, had passed away several years before. I stayed several days in a hotel; a one story, flat building. The first night I woke up a 3:00 a.m., with someone pounding on the wall next to my head…”Let me out—Let me out!” with very bad language, then started to play on an old piano, very loud. I got dressed and went down to tell the Hotel Keeper and he put me in another room.
For the remaining days, that I stayed in Ures, all my old friends treated me very nice. They put on a dance in my honor. I was the only American out of a population of 10,000 people.
|Gideon Louis Giroux at his La Huerta ranch house, about 1907.|
I’m not sure what year it was when I went down to La Huerta, but it was a short time after Bennie and Genie left, that I went to La Huerta. I went down all alone. I got to San Miguel and I had a man take me to the ranch house and I got there towards evening. Louis, Edith and father were there. It was the first time I had ever seen La Huerta, which father had spent so much money for.
I stayed for about a year there, when Madera and Poncho Villa were at it.
|Poncho Villa—Sonora raid.|
I didn’t know how it would come out. Edith and little Louis left before me, so it only left Louis and I at La Huerta. We got word that Bert had killed a couple of the enemies and was in hiding.
|Poncho Villa (center) and staff.|
When I got to Carbó to get my train, they said I would have to go further on towards Nogales, so had to rent a rig to take me about 25 miles where I could get a train. After paying a man to take me, I just had enough to take me to Los Angeles—nothing to eat on.
When I got to Nogales, Arizona, I met a man that Louis knew and he loaned me $5 and said he would collect it from Louis. It gave me a little to eat on until I got to Los Angeles. I had just enough to pay my street car fare to the West 9th Street house and that was all. Mother had a nice dinner ready.
After I arrived in Los Angeles, the next day, Louis came walking in. He said Poncho Villa had raided the ranch and he had to get out in a hurry or be killed, so we were all home at the 9th Street house again. There was father, mother, Edith, Eugenie, Mossyee, Louis, Lonnie, Little Louis, Agnes and Harry (back at home on 31st Street) and Mossyee and Frank went back to their house on 5th Avenue.
|Gideon Louis Giroux with twin grand-children, Gideon Thomas & Catherine Caroline Giroux, children of Louis Joseph and Edith Perkins-Giroux 1914.|
That’s the last of my life story of Mexico. My mother and father decided to call it “quits.” Louis and father took the Mexican property. My mother got all the 9th Street property and the Jefferson flats.
Louis and father went back to Mexico and that’s the last I ever saw of my father. He died the year I got married, which was September 15, 1917; I was 26. I was born in 1891. My wife, Sarah, was born November 22, 1895.
I think my father died in 1917, the year I got married. My eldest daughter, Dorothy, was born in July, 1918. My other daughter, Marie, was born 1922.
I had a hard time to find work, because of my poor education. I liked lettering and design and went around to all the sign shops. I finally landed up at Orange Coast College of Lettering and Design. That’s when I designed the Ralph’s logo (or Trademark) in 1912; I was 19.
One year after that, I went to work for Lindquist and Lund, designing for Pennets in 1913 in Seattle and worked there until 1914, when World War 1 broke out in Europe. I had a very bad sick spell while in Seattle and had to come home.
Eugenie married Ben Reddick
|Ben Gage Reddick, Wanda Reddick-Bittorf’s, step-father.|
Several years before that, I met my future wife while working for Badge Peanut and Novelty Company. From there I went to work for The Broadway Department Store in the sign shop, under my old teacher, W.E. Potter. I worked for The Broadway at 4th and Broadway for 19 years, then to the 5th Street Store at 5th and Broadway, later called Ohrbach’s. I finally retired from there (Ohrbach’s) after 23 years. I retired at age 67. —Alonzo (“Lonnie”) Jerome Giroux
|Silena Giroux (“Grandma Dear”) August 7, 1921, Los Angeles, California.|
- Silena became fondly known as “Grandma Dear”, when her great-grandchildren came along.
- “They felt, just “Grandma” wasn’t enough. “Grandma Dear” was a little more special, as she was.
- NOTE: To Acknowledge the hard work that made this possible for families to enjoy
- Silena’s manuscript was originally typed by my mother, Gene Bittorf in the 1960s and has been retyped by Jackie Black in 2015. It is not intended to be more than family history, nor to be published.
- I would like to thank Marie Giroux-Deal for her help with providing some of the wonderful old photos of Silena and baby Bert as well as other family memories and her father, Lonnie Giroux for providing my mother with Silena’s manuscript.
- I had hoped to find a photo of each of Silena’s children to complete her story, however I was not able to find them all to include here. I plan to submit this to ancestry.com in hopes of connecting with other Kenney or Giroux descendants who may have photos I can add to her story. I will keep her story as a work-in progress adding photos as I find them.
- From Jackie Black
- Growing up in Los Angeles, California in the 1950s and ‘60s, I knew and loved getting together with a few of Silena’s children who were closer in age to my Grandma, Wanda. I remember being fascinated by the many adventuresome tales in this book from Jerome to Mexico, as told to me by Lonnie, Aggie, and Lottie and I want my children to know of their interesting lives.
- Although I never met my Great-Great-Grandmother, Silena or Great-grandmother, Genie, I have always found their story so intriguing. I hope to continue to uncover more photos to add to Silena’s legacy.
- Anyone with photos to add, may email me at email@example.com. It is now so easy to take a photo from a cell phone and email the digital file. I would be most grateful for any contributions. If you would like you can also contact Lori through WiKi Lori Cook and she can also pass information forward.
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