words are italicized.
Lee family cabin, Nutrioso, Arizona, taken by my mother Helen Hamblin Ellsworth in 1976.
Our social life in Nutrioso was wholesome candy pulls, skating, sleigh riding, (and) horseback riding. These were some of the things we did for recreation. We did not have as many dances as the do today, but they were very much enjoyed when we did have one. Young people from nearby towns (such as) Luna, Alpine, and Eagar would meet together and enjoy these dances. We had no fine orchestras, but better dance music was never played than came from the violins of Lyman Hamblin, Will Maxwell, and Curt Maxwell. Our 4th of July and 24th of July celebrations, commemorating Independence Day and the arrival of the Saints into Salt Lake, also Christmas, were held first in one of the three wards of Luna, Alpine, and Nutrioso and then alternate with the other two wards. How we enjoyed these celebrations, just like one big happy family. Of all that crowd of young people there wasn't a bad one in the group. There was a place east of town in the foothills, north and over a ridge, called "Chimney Rock" where the young people would gather and make a swing between two tall pine trees. They were known as the "Swing Trees". This was a favorite sport. Another was to climb the hills north and over a ridge to what was called "Devil's Chimney". This was a large rock standing 75 to 80 feet in the air which greatly resembled a chimney. Hence the name "Devil's Chimney". The rock still stands as well as the two old "Swing Trees".
I always adored my father, and he would take us children in the hills with him when hauling wood for the cook stove and fireplace, or to the hills to dig potatoes. How happy are the memories. Mother loved her home and family and was always there, doing the many things that were to be done in a home that housed fourteen children. Really thirteen, for my brother Oliver Lionel had died in Utah when he was a real young child with membranous croup.
I was ten years old when my brother Hyrum was drowned in the treacherous Black River. This was a real tragedy in our home and I will never forget it. How my dear father looked when he rode up to the gate and had to break the news to Mother. It seemed only a few minutes before kind neighbors were there to comfort and help. He drowned trying to save his wife. The story goes like this:
My brothers John and Hyrum, and wives, (John W. Jr married Betsy Ellen Hamblin in 1892, Hyrum married Lemira May Maxwell in 1893) in the company (of) Duane Hamblin, a son of William Hamblin and a cousin to my husband, and his mother Betsey Hamblin, Lige DeWitt, Orson Bigelow and father, and others were on their way home from Gila Valley where they and spent the winter. Arriving at Black River they found the river too high to ford on account of thawing snow. They decided to build rafts and row teams and wagons across. The night before they sat around the camp fire singing songs and telling stories. It happened that of all the men there, the only two who couldn't swim were my brothers John and Hyrum. Hyrum was a good singer and sang several songs that night, one being, "Bring my harp to me again. Let me hear it's gentle strains. Let me tune it's chords once more, ere I pass to yon bright shore." After what happened the next day, one wonders if this was not an omen of coming events and that he had a premonition of what was going to happen. The following morning, March 3, 1895, Duane Hamblin took Hyrum's wife, May Maxwell lee and a Smithson girl from Woodruff, Arizona on the raft and started across the river to try the raft out. When about halfway across the river the raft capsized throwing the women in the ice cold water. Hyrum's wife became frightened and called for help. All on the bank were frightened and excited and no one noticed Hyrum until he jumped in the stream, not waiting to even pull his boots off. As he could not swim, and perhaps took a cramp from the icy water, he went down without a struggle.Duane was cool-headed and a good swimmer. He righted the raft and saved both women. Brother Lige DeWitt wrote a letter to his wife in Eagar telling of the tragedy and hired an Indian to take it to Fort Apache to mail. Sister DeWitt got Alma Russell to take the letter to Nutrioso. On his way he met Father and my brother Rain going to Springerville with loads of grain to market. Alma took over Father's team and he and Rain delivered the grain to market. Father rode Alma's horse back to Nutrioso to deliver the sad message to mother and the family. In a few days my brother John, his wife, and Hyrum's wife arrived home. What a sad homecoming!! They had been unable to rescue Hyrum's body from the angry waters of the river. Later, cowboy friends of Hyrum's, Ted Wiltbank, John Durfee, Pollard Pearson and others went to the river and camped, and using branding irons for hooks fastened to a tarpaulin, they dragged the river until at last the body was found, several hundred yards below where he went down. They dug a grave, wrapped him in a tarp and buried him. Then wrote a letter to Father and Mother telling them what they had done. My brother John and Sam Love, a neighbor whom Father hired to go with him, went back to the river and brought his remains home. I am sure it was a sad ordeal for John after being an eye witness to his drowning. They were every close to each other. I am sure John's thoughts were many and varied, but God gave him strength to accomplish this. A funeral was held out in the yard for him and he couldn't be dressed as it had been such a long time (three weeks) since he had drowned. He was kept wrapped in the tarp that the boys had put around him and put in a casket which had been made by Milt Gibbs, a friend of Hyrum's. He was laid to rest in the little cemetery at Nutrioso. Later, Henry Lee Marble made a marker at the spot where he had been buried on the bank of the river.
Below is the grave marker from the Nutrioso Cemetery. On the left is Hyrum Gulley Lee, Id'as brother who drowned. On the right is Hyrum Gulley Lee Jr. who was born and died on the same day almost a year before.
Hyrum's wife Lemira was remarried four years later to Jessie Joseph Stayner and had a daughter and three sons with him. She passed away in 1947.
Lemira May Maxwell Lee Stayner
I am touched by my grandmother's memories of these events. It is most likely the first real, big tragedy she experienced and being 10 years old at the time, I am sure she felt it deeply. I wish we had a picture of Hyrum. She loved him a lot. Lemira is lovely, isn't she? I am glad she found happiness again.
I include this picture again this week because it sadly does not include Hyrum. The older brother here is John W. Jr. Oldest sister Dora is next to him holding her little baby Hiram Claude Lytle. He looks to be about a year old and that would have been the time just after their brother Hyrum died.
This is John Willard Lee Jr. and his wife Betsy Ellen Hamblin. They were with Hyrum and Lemira that day. Betsy Ellen is Jacob Hamblin's niece.
We will become related to her as soon as we get Ida married in this story!
Look at the detail of her dress...so pretty! They are both wearing flowers and she is carrying some as well. Wedding portrait?
Next time, Ida grows up a bit and goes away to school. Will she be happy?The turn of the century comes and big things are in store! You'll have to come back and see what happens!