My first experience as a school teacher was in the summer of 1900. Maude Noble of Alpine was teaching summer school in Nutrioso and became very ill. I took her place for two weeks, from which I received $7.00. I was very proud of that money. After paying my tithing on it I spent the rest on books, among which was "A Key to Theology", a "Compendium", and a "Pearl of Great Price". My ambition in life was to become a teacher and later in life this desire was realized, tho' according to the standards of today, I was not much of a teacher.
In the fall of 1900 Father's family with several other families, some of whom were: Warren M. Tenney, Josh Gibbons, Billie Hamblin, my brother John and family, my sister Margaret and husband Will Lund with their two small children Guy and Miles, moved down on the Blue River in order to have feed for their cattle, as the drought in the country prevented them from raising enough feed to winter their cattle on. The men freighted mining timbers from the Blue Mountains to Clifton, Arizona. The small village which grew up there was called "Poverty Flats" perhaps because it looked rather poverty stricken. The houses were made mostly of slabs, tin, and scraps of lumber with occasionally a nice looking tent. Our cabin was built on the east side of a bluff whiff protected it from the east winds. It was made of slabs and covered with wagon covers. Two wagon beds at the north end opening into it were used as bedrooms. There was a neat little fireplace in one corner of the room which was warm and cheered us during the cold days and nights. We were very comfortable and spent a happy winter. We children attended school which was held nearby. During the winter my father fixed up a wagon for my sister Lillian and I to ride in and we accompanied him and my brother Rain to Clifton with stulls. It was quite an experience for us and we enjoyed seeing the sights of Clifton and doing some shopping. While there we had our picture taken.
That would be this photograph that I showed you last week. So, it was taken in the bustling mining town of Clifton, AZ.
In the spring when the weather got warmer we returned to our home. There were eight children at home and one wonders how we ever managed in that temporary home at Poverty Flats. But Mother, bless her heart, always had a way of managing.
The following September my sister Lillian and Willard O. Hamblin were married. Being so near the same age, Lillian and I were very close to each other and I was lonely when she left for a home of her own.
The drought continued and the creeks dried up so it became necessary to move again in order to get water for the cattle. father built a house up on what was known as Paddock Creek. he also built a nice little room for milk, butter, and cheese. Mother made many cheeses that summer, also butter which added so much to our living. Brother William Hamblin and family lived across the fence form us. They were good neighbors. During the summer hes sister Jane Mangum was brought to his home. She was very ill with dropsy. We helped what we could in caring for her. I have sat for hours, rubbing her legs which were swollen so badly, to help relieve the pain. When she passed away I helped make her burial clothes, and with several other young people, sat up with the body the night before the burial to keep saltpeter cloths wet and laid on her face to keep it from becoming discolored. There were no undertakers in those days to embalm the bodies. Owing to the condition of her body she was buried late at night, so I walked home with George and Mary Wilkins. I was staying at our home in town, painting the walls before the family moved back for school. As we walked home that night Brother Wilkins said, "I hope before we have another death here that we get sine lumber and have it on hand t make coffins out of." He had made the coffin for Sister Mangum and had to take the lumber out of the bins in their granary to make it with. How ironic the statement was as just three weeks from the time he made the statement, on September 23, he was killed by lightening in Magdalene, New Mexico where he had taken his wife and two small sons to obtain employment. When his body was brought, not only was lumber lacking, but there was no one to make a casket for him. Carl Hamblin, who later became my husband, went to Alpine and had the casket made and brought it home in the middle of the night. I imagine that was a lonesome ride, but in those days, in those little Mormon communities, one's troubles were everybody's, and all did their share to help. When the word came to the ranch where we lived, Father, Mother,and William Hamblin and wife went to see what they could do to be of assistance and help. While they were gone, I wrote the first poem I had ever tried to write, as a comfort to his wife and mother. My cousins Vine and Etta Lee were there and they pronounced it a good try. I gave it to Sister Wilkins and Mary and I kept a copy. Later on when our house burned it was destroyed and I could not get a copy from them. (the Wilkins family) I guess they had lost it. I wish I had it to put with my other poems. When Mother and Father returned home that evening they said I was needed in town to help with the burial clothes. A horse was soon saddled and I was on my way down that lonesome canyon in the dark, but it didn't take me long to ride the five miles. I have always been thankful I went. I found George's mother in a state of shock and grief as Mother was when her son drowned. Kind and willing hands were there to help. Several Sisters came from Alpine to assist Annie Jepson, Doll Hamblin and others and before dawn we had his clothes completed and on him. With all the grief his mother was going through, she stayed with us until the last. supervising the making of the clothes since she knew more about it than anyone. He was buried that day. He had left his wife and little sons to carry on without him. Hes death was caused by lightening. He had gone to the corral to see about the horses. It was storming and the only flash of lightening which cam struck him, killing him instantly. His cousin John Martin, with George's wife and two little boys left that night to bring him home for burial.They put him in the bottom of a light buckboard and they crowded into one seat. It was pulled by a good span of horses. They stopped at ranch houses along the way and exchanged teams and bought milk for the baby, and refreshed themselves with food. Never a wink of sleep on that long lonesome trip. It took a brave man and a very brave, courageous woman to undertake that trip through that lonesome country where one could travel for miles without seeing another living creature. I am sure God was with them and gave them faith and courage to make the trip under such trying circumstances.
I was very impressed that my grandmother bought books with her substitute teacher earnings. I was curious about the titles of the first two and looked them up on the internet. "A Key to Theology" was nowhere to be found, and the Compendium she purchased was a collection of...what? I wish I knew. Here is a picture of a "Pearl of Great Price" from that era.
The family had to move so often due to drought, or just to be where the children could be in school. My sense is that they pastured their cattle in the grassy hills during the warm months and came back to town for winter and school. Can you imagine having a family of 10 living in a "house" made from scraps of what you could find, then being ingenious enough to think of using you wagon boxes for bedrooms so the family didn't have to sleep on the dirt floors? It was crowded too, I am sure in those wagon beds at night.
Those youth were exceptional to sit up all night and perform such a labor of love. But then, maybe not so exceptional. That was the way they were raised, to care for each other no matter what the need. The story of bringing George Wilkins' body home for burial is awesome in the fact that all along the way they were fed by strangers, and people just willingly let them trade out the worn horses for their own teams, taking them off into the dark, without knowing whether they would ever be returned. But perhaps the did know the horses would be brought back because that is the way things were back then.
I am learning a lot about life back then and the good people who settled this wilderness, just trying to stay alive and raise their children right.
Next time: Small Pox, a mission, and more schooling