Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Family and Roosevelt's "New Deal"

My great grandfather, Andrew Anderson was a farmer and cattle rancher. He spent the majority of his life ranching in Koosharem, Utah, part of what is called Grass Valley. Some of his land was in Sevier County and other parts were in the neighboring Piute County.

His daughter Vione wrote of her father's young years, "My dad had started raising cattle by beginning with little dogey calves when he was just a kid." This early experience proved very valuable to Andrew.

My great grandfather survived year-to-year as most farmers being some good, some not so good and then were those years where he went clear broke.

The Ogden Standard Examiner newspaper of 16 October 1928 claimed my grandfather was paid a record price for his cattle, 10 cents/pound for steers, 9 cents for heifers and 8 cents for cows. I wondered how he and his family felt about their lives that year.

Not too much later, the Great Depression hit the Sevier valley. My Grandma Vera, Andrew's daughter-in-law, wrote, "One day we woke up and all of the banks were closed. A check was no good. The only money you had was what you had in your pocket. In a short time, the government came and killed the animals you had but maybe one." LeGrand [Vera's husband and my grandfather] came home one day with one half of a calf, one half of a cow, and one half of a pig which had been butchered. Vera said, "We had to preserve them the best we could as well as render the lard." For a cattle rancher like my Grandpa Andrew, what must he have been thinking? He had spent his life to that point raising cattle and now the government said, "No more!"

When I first read my grandmother's history, I did not understand why the government would be involved in killing farm animals. I questioned, "Why would the government come in and take away something so valuable to people in such hard times?"

I have done a little research recently and found that during those early years of the Depression, livestock and crop prices had dropped disastrously. Farmers no longer were able to make any profit when they sold their animals or crops. The government felt that the whole economy of the nation hinged on the success of its farmers. It was thought that when the farmer could make it again, maybe everyone else could too.

Officials with President Roosevelt's New Deal program believed prices were down because farmers were producing too many commodities. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 was passed and was used to reduce the over supply. So, in the late spring of 1933, the federal government carried out "emergency livestock reduction." 

The U. S. government bought the animals from the farmers at very low rates--such as 3 cents per pound. Hogs and cattle were just killed. Thousands were shot and buried in deep pits. Farmers felt they had no choice. The federal buy-out saved many farmers from bankruptcy, and AAA payments became the chief source of income for many that year.

Farmers had worked hard to raise their livestock, and they absolutely hated to see them killed and the meat go to waste, but this was simple economics and the government's plan worked to some extent. The program may have helped farmers temporarily by causing prices to go up, but that was at the expense of millions in larger cities who could hardly afford to eat. Those living in rural areas could raise fruits and vegetables which helped them.
After several years, the Depression started to ease its way out of Utah and the rest of the country, but my grandfather Andrew Anderson never again saw the same prosperity he enjoyed in 1928. I am sure many lessons were learned during the Depression era--frugality and thrift among them

                                                                                               Andrew's hoist system

Some time before those hard years, Andrew had taught his three boys, LaRell, LeGrand and R.D. the trade of slaughtering and butchering animals and built on his ranch in Koosharem a manual hoist system which he used for slaughtering. This proved to be a valuable thing as all of Andrew's boys found employment during the Depression years butchering animals. In fact, LaRell owned and operated his own meat packing plant in Vernal, Utah for about 30 years. 

LaRell, LeGrand and R. D. Anderson
LaRell's Uintah Packing Company in Vernal, Utah

I suppose if history has taught us anything, it is that nothing in life is sure. My family fell pretty hard during the Depression years along with most of the nation. 

What I heard in the voices of my grandparents as they talked about living and surviving the years of the Great Depression reminded me of taking tests in school. No one liked taking a test, but if we passed, we felt really good. I suppose they hoped they never would have to take that same test again.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Home SWEET Home

Anderson Boarding House 2013
Koosharem, Utah

In 1907 my great grandparents Andrew and Emma Martinsen Anderson purchased a house in Koosharem, Sevier County, Utah from Andrew's half sister and brother-in-law, Albertina and Parley Anderson. The house was large for its time and place.

Andrew and Emma lived in the home and also ran it as a boarding house accommodating many as they traveled through the valley. Church leaders from the LDS Church and civil servants such as judges, etc. stayed with them. The Andersons worked very hard to keep the home in good order and usually hired others to help with cooking and cleaning. Some referred to it as the Anderson Hotel.

In 1910 the Richfield Reaper, the local newspaper of Richfield, Utah, reported a curious circumstance which may or may not have been a common occurrence in those days. Inside of a hotel wall a swarm of bees had made their home and were very busy doing what bees do--making beeswax, honey and reproducing.

Richfield Reaper 25 August 1910

With a little research I found it takes a hole of at least 5/16 of an inch for bees to be able to enter, build honeycombs, leave to retrieve more pollen and reenter reasonably.  A hive such as the one in the Anderson home would have been active for many years to have the network size discovered.

Finding the bees in the month of August and then trying to have them removed was probably very difficult since this is the time of year when bee activity is highest. Removing a honeybee hive is really a matter of personal safety, and much time and patience is required to do so. Seldom is it worth it monetarily for a professional to remove a hive for the honey. 

The newspaper article does not say whether the 300 lbs. of honey retrieved from the wall was given as payment to the beekeeper or if the Andersons shared in the wealth.

Approximately 300 lbs. of honey

Probably this incident in the lives of my ancestors would have been passed off as just another day, but someone thought it was of enough interest to put it in the newspaper. Then again one has to consider the town of Koosharem with its secluded location in a mountain valley and the small population. Perhaps the whole town gathered to watch the unveiling and removing of the beehive. The locals may have even brought their lawn chairs and picnic baskets for the afternoon. I can only imagine the possibilities. Grandpa may have even sold tickets--likely not since he was related to almost everyone in town!

As far as family history information, I only now know that this boarding house was part of the Anderson family's occupation in August of 1910 with or without the bees. 

Hopefully those planning to frequent the Anderson hotel were not discouraged to stay because of the pesky insects which remained. Likely Grandma Anderson served up their breakfasts with a nice cup of herbal tea, toast and lots of honey.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

In the Sweat of Thy Face

What God decreed to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, is still true today, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." At least it has been so with my ancestors. All of them have had to work hard to be able to eat, provide clothing and have a place to live.

The list of work my ancestors did in order to live is long and varied from making hats to weaving wool. All of their jobs interest me, although I am sure their work was interesting to them. Census takers sometimes listed the occupation of my ancestors as odd jobs. When I consider the word odd, I think of peculiar, not regular or something different. For a split second my mind says, "Yep, that's my family."

I believe throughout time, many have wanted to work a little harder to provide more or have another job on the side to bump up their earnings. Nothing has changed throughout times, we also look for ways to make more money, enough be able to pay a bill long overdue or purchase a new shovel.

LeGrand Anderson, farmer

My maternal grandfather LeGrand Anderson and his brother R.D. worked together for several years farming and ranching in a small mountain town of Koosharem, Utah. Besides their chores of planting and harvesting crops, the two also raised turkeys, chickens and other farm animals. Earning a living as a farmer has always been unpredictable.

R.D. and LeGrand Anderson

One year, the two brothers conspired to make some extra money raising geese. Because after all, geese are easy to raise, they don't need much shelter and only eat grasses and weeds. The Anderson boys probably thought this venture was a sure thing

While going for the gold, they decided to do it in a big way--about 1,000 ways [or geese] which were penned on the family property. The geese did very well until their day of reckoning when LeGrand and R.D. arose one morning at 3:00, loaded them into crates and onto the back of R.D.s flatbed truck and headed toward Salt Lake City for the goose market.

LeGrand and R.D. made good time traveling on US Highway 91 until they ran out of gas in the town of Payson, Utah. It was still dark outside when LeGrand decided to leave R.D., the truck and the geese to try to find some gasoline.

R.D. waited in the truck patiently, listening to the rustle of the geese and a few occasional goose honks. Then it was as if a choral director raised his arms, brought the geese to attention, and led them in the loudest, most off-keyed ballad ever heard. R.D. was very alarmed when he noticed the houses on the street light up one after the other--their occupants awakened abruptly by the unruly choir. His goose was cooked so-to-speak! It is supposed the goose raising trial failed since it was not ventured again--at least not in those numbers. A decision probably for the best.

Since hearing this story, I have wondered about all of the different ways my ancestors may have worked to provide a living for themselves and their families. I suppose some of them had to swallow a little pride to raise acres of carrots in poor soil or sell sauerkraut door-to-door. I love and admire them for their labors. I am here today as proof of their efforts and I thank them.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Glimpse of a Grandpa using Graphology

Lately, family historians have been using graphology, or the study of handwriting, to determine character traits in deceased ancestors in cases where there has been no history left behind, but a sample of handwriting has survived. 

Of course I had heard of graphology before, and I wondered if it was like having a palm reading done behind a tasseled curtain by a gypsy woman with a crystal ball

Some of my ancestors did leave much of themselves for us to read and enjoy, and after analyzing their handwriting, the results seem to match what we knew of them. So I decided to look closer at an ancestor who left little of himself behind except that written by his children and grandchildren--my great, great grandfather Josiah Tuttle.

Josiah Tuttle

According to the graphology, Josiah Tuttle had many strong traits. In fact, he had more strong traits than I had dealt with previously. The results showed his strongest trait was distrust. I am not sure if distrust is a good or bad trait. I guess it depends on how one looks at it. The testing also showed other strong traits. He was reserved, consistent, thrifty and logical. It was also suggested that he was clear of judgment, had a good memory which included being mentally strong. He had a strong sense of order and was adaptable. Some lesser traits showed he was practical, dependable, determined and showed perseverance.

A letter from Josiah Tuttle to his mother 

Wow! I would love to share some of his traits. But the distrust thing has me a bit puzzled. I decided to go through some of the stories written about him. His granddaughter Iva Lee Sorensen wrote this, apparently recalling what was told to her by her Grandma Sarah, Josiah's wife, 

"Grandpa Josiah was always jealous of Grandma. She told of a time when one of the men in Glenwood [Utah] made a statement in the store that Grandma Tuttle was the prettiest woman in town. This bothered Grandpa just terribly. Grandma said that in his [Josiah's] earlier life whenever he got really sick and thought he was going to die, he would just beg her not to marry again."

How interesting! Could that paragraph mean he was a little distrustful or just a man who loved his wife very much? I'm not sure. Only Grandpa Josiah could tell us how he really felt.

I certainly don't think less of any of my ancestors for their insecurities. In this case, Josiah actually seems much more real to me when I see all of his wonderful traits. I hope some of those traits have been passed down to me.

So is graphology an art or a science we can rely on to help us learn more about our ancestors? I don't know for sure. But to me I am beginning to be less distrustful.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Scandinavian Christmas in Utah Territory

Denmark in Wintertime

About half of my ancestry is from the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. These ancestors joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the mid-1850s and made their various incredible journeys to the United States and eventually Utah.

I have thought of the first Christmas celebrations my ancestors held after arriving in Utah. I wonder if the Christmas traditions they enjoyed in their home countries were similar after coming to a new land?

People in Denmark, Sweden and Norway each celebrated Christmas a little differently from one another, but many things were similar.

Before Christianity took a hold in Scandinavia, a gnome or elf was given particular attention. It was believed that elves protected the farmer's homes, children and kept families from misfortune.

After the introduction of Christianity into Denmark, Sweden and Norway, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmastime was most important, but the tradition of the elves continued. On Christmas Eve the elves were left a bowl of rice pudding as we might leave cookies for Santa Claus today.

Rice pudding seemed to be a constant in the Christmas celebrations of all three Scandinavian countries. The pudding was mixed with whipped cream and eaten with a warm fruit sauce or in the case of the Danish, cooked in a fruit juice.

After arriving in Utah, the Scandinavian saints prepared early for Christmas and went to great lengths to procure extra food to help make Christmas special. Even the animals received an extra share of food. The Scandinavians celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with gifts and feasting. Christmas feasting was almost always followed by dancing

The Deseret News, a Salt Lake City newspaper, printed a story about Christmas dancing on 25 December 1861 stating that "every nation, kindred, tongue and people have traditions peculiar to themselves." But dancing had been adopted by almost every nationality as their principal amusement.

Because the Christmas season in Scandinavia was celebrated in the darkest and coldest time of the year, families were always together and celebrated with one another. That tradition was carried on as much as possible in the Utah Territory.

Christmas' in Utah changed after a few decades. The traditions of the different cultures seemed to mix together even in the small community of Ephraim, Utah where those of Scandinavian descent were the majority of the population in the late 1800s. Parents began telling their children of a Santa Claus who was much like their Nisse or Tomte of Nordic folklore--and yet different. 

An advertisement printed on 16 December 1891 in the The Ephraim Enterprise, a newspaper printed in Ephraim, Utah, made it seem as though one would not be able to enjoy Christmas without a Santa Claus. And sadly that tradition has not changed much today.

In my family I cannot think of any specific Scandinavian Christmas traditions which have been passed on to me. We do enjoy much feasting, but we've never eaten rice pudding. Maybe this year we should include it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sometimes a House Is Just a House

The William Leslie and Eva Stephenson Thompson Provo home

I love to research my family's history. This research usually begins by finding a person's birth, marriage and death date. Finding these dates don't always come easily. But after they are found and typed into a database, they seem to blend into all of the others. 

To the casual observer these lives appear to have come and gone just like all the others. Most hopefully they have left behind some children and a few cherished possessions. These possessions often remind us of our loved ones and the time we spent with them.

A few weeks ago, our family held a shower for my niece celebrating the coming of her new baby. She sent a thank you note addressed to my mother. Mom showed me the envelope and asked me if I recognized the return address. I thought I did. Mom said she believed it might be the same address of the home once owned by my great grandparents, Leslie and Eva Thompson. 

After comparing my niece's address to this note sent to my parents, we discovered the addresses were the same. My niece was actually renting the same home my great grandparents had owned in Provo, Utah!

I visited my niece when she brought her new baby home from the hospital. I took a few pictures of the home's exterior then went inside. Somewhat disappointed I decided that although the home has remained as strong as it had been in 1950s, the love I felt when I used to visit was not created because of the house but because of them. I now know I don't need something I can touch to remember love.

The thought came strongly to me that objects, although often more enduring, are insignificant compared to the whole picture of a life. It is the people who are the stars of the story. Lives here on earth are relatively short but so important.

I only had the opportunity of knowing my great grandmother Eva and never met my great grandfather Leslie, but I very much look forward to it some day. He wrote this poem about his perception of life.

The Beauty of Living

The flowers are blooming on the hillside fair
It gives me a thought as I look over there.
They smile in the sunshine that peek thru the trees
And wave their pretty heads in the cool gentle breeze.

The seasons change; they come and go.
Like the sun in the morning, it enters the sky,
And goes to its rest as the hours pass by.

Let's be like the flowers, greet the world with a smile
And feel the struggles in life, are really worth while.

Eva and Leslie Thompson, Provo home

Leslie and Eva Thompson, Provo home

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Our Ancestors Knew "It" All Along

As I have looked over the death records of some of my ancestors, I sometimes think to myself, "If they would have lived in my time, they would never have died of that." Many suffered so terribly with maladies which we also share, but we reach into our medicine cabinets and take out a pill to relieve our symptoms.

Many children died at young ages from complications of injuries along with diseases of all sorts of which today we only read about in history books. Mothers often died as the result of the difficulties which can accompany childbirth. Here in the United States we rarely hear of those such cases.

Emma Martinsen Anderson

My mother's paternal grandmother, Emma Martinsen Anderson died the year after mother's birth; so we never knew her personally. A few years ago my mother, sister and I set out on a "family history" adventure interviewing those who knew Grandma Emma. As we questioned her niece, Donna Bagley Harward she said, "I stayed with your grandparents one school year while they lived in Richfield [Utah] and I was attending Richfield High School. Aunt Emmy wasn’t well while I lived with them. I don’t know whether she had the medical attention she should have had. I remember they had a wood burning stove. They would leave the ashes in a tin tub on the kitchen floor. Aunt Emmy would sit and pick up the ashes out of that tub and eat them. It must have helped her."

When I heard this I thought it was very strange. Giving my great grandmother a little benefit, I researched and found out that charcoal is one of the finest absorptive agents known. Taken by mouth, it can have an amazing ability to extract and neutralize many more times its weight in gases, heavy metals, toxins, poisons and other chemicals. 

Charcoal can also be used for relieving a variety of ailments, such as indigestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, high cholesterol and intestinal bloating. Charcoal’s ability to absorb and prevent substances from being absorbed into the body make it a popular choice for detoxifying the liver and kidneys.

So maybe the next time I feel the need to chew a Tums,  I could grab a piece of charcoal. In fact, charcoal in pill form can be purchased in many local pharmacies. 

Another story from my father's Stephenson family surprised me. It seems my great grandmother Eva Stephenson Thompson's niece as a child was visiting her Grandmother Bennett in Holden, Utah. While playing she received a deep wound. She ran to her grandmother for help. Grandma Bennett called to someone nearby and asked them to go into the barn and bring to her the cleanest cobweb they could find. They did so. She wrapped the cobweb around the wound tightly. Immediately the wound closed and the bleeding stopped.

Scientists today are finding out amazing things about cobwebs. But with regards to wounds, spider silk is known to be antimicrobial, hypoallergenic and completely biodegradable. Spider silk has been used in folk medicine for more than 2,000 years to fight infections, stop bleeding and heal wounds. In American Indian medicine, spider webs were used to banish scrapes, warts, and bruises, by simply covering the area with a web.

They also were eaten on moldy bread to cure infections; and in Appalachian folk medicine, cuts and scrapes on the skin were treated by placing a spider web over the area and blowing on it. These webs were used several hundred years ago as gauze pads to stop an injured person’s bleeding. Spider webs are rich in vitamin K, which can be effective in clotting blood. There is a large body of folklore concerning the antibiotic, wound-healing, and clot-inducing activity of spider silk.
So the next time I cut my finger making dinner, I will simply go to my front porch and search for a spider web. [Displacing the spider of course.]

I could go on and on about old cures which we wouldn't think of using today. Maybe just as a tease, I might try to give my grandchildren a spoonful of cod liver oil to help them grow strong. Or the next time I get a headache I'll go outside to my back yard and collect some leaves and bark of a willow tree, then boil these for a few minutes and drink. Within a few minutes I'm sure 
to feel much better. 

One thing I know for sure, I will feel better not having to read about these terrible ailments anymore!