Autobiography of James Muir McPhie
Contributor: finnsh Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
James Muir McPhie
(Written by himself)
I was born in Grass Creek, Utah, October 8, 1885. My Father [John McPhie] was very strict with his children, as he had three families of them. He married his first wife while they lived in Scotland; her name was Lizzie Henderson; they had two children that survived infancy. They were Lizzie and William and were born in Scotland. After coming to America in 1874, Father worked in the coal mines at Coalville and Grass Creek, Utah. He almost went without food, clothing, bed or shelter so he could save enough money to send for his father and mother, his wife and children.
My father took another wife in polygamy in 1874. She lived just two years, her name was Catherine Welch. She had two children; then sickness hit hard, a diphtheria epidemic which took her life, as well as her seven month old daughter one month later. In 1878, Father married my mother, Margaret Ann Muir in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Her first babies were twin girls, they lived just a few days.
Two years later, Father obtained good work at the coal mines in Coalville, so he moved his house back there just before George Angus was born in 1881; in less than two years he was given better work at Grass Creek, so he moved his house back there just before Charles was born. He stayed there until I, James Muir McPhie, was born on October 8, 1885. Then in the summer of 1886, Father moved that log house to Almy, Wyoming.
In those days, they used five inch tongue and groove boards for ceilings and floors, then they chinked between the logs with pieces of wood and plaster, then white-washed it all over, and painted the ceilings, windows, doors and frames. My father cut the logs and hewed them until they were square, then laid them up making two large rooms. The carpets were made by braiding rags and laid them in front of the beds or where they were needed. My mother, as well as other women, would shear the sheep, card and spin the wool from which she and Aunt Lizzie (what we called her) made our clothes and stockings, mittens and caps. His two wives lived with him just like two sisters would.
My mother lost three children at birth which were born between me and my sister Sarah Isabella, who was born at Almy, Wyoming on January 16, 1891. Then Joseph Fielding McPhie was born May 22, 1893, at Almy, Wyoming. Jane Ann, George, Charles, Sarah Isabella, Joseph and myself were all born in the same house, but in three different towns or places.
In 1894, Father took his family and moved to #3 Onterio Canyon, Park City, Utah where on March 23, 1895, my mother gave birth to twin boys. She named them Martin and Andrew, making eight living children. She started with twin girls and ended with twin boys.
In the summer of 1895, Father moved back to his home at Almy, Wyoming to help rescue some 200 miners who had been killed in a coal mine gas explosion. In 1899, just four years later, I was old enough to go to work in the mines with my father at #7 Union Pacific coal mine in Almy. Then the big coal mine explosion occurred at Winter Quarters near Schofield, Utah. My father volunteered with a group of men to rescue the 172 men who had been killed in that terrible accident, then we cleaned up the mine. He took my brothers George Angus, Charles and myself with him; that is one experience I will never forget and don’t want to tell about.
In the late summer, we returned to Almy and the Union Pacific Coal Company opened a mine at a place called Spring Valley, Wyoming. A lot of the miners were going there to work and build a town. We lived in tents the first winter, we ate at the company boarding house until houses were built for the families to move into.
In the summer 1901, some carpenters by the name of Alfred and Brigham Hansen, Olif Hopkensen and some others persuaded my father to file on a homestead near Bridger, Butte County, Wyoming, called Millburne, Wyoming.
Father knew very little about ranching or farming and we worked very hard getting a house built and land fenced and plowed, also barns built and hay planted. We did work harder than those who knew the business. It was while moving a barb wire fence that my father cut his hand on that old rusty wire and not thinking it serious, just wiped his hand on his overalls and kept on working. That night his hand hurt him and we made poultices with bread and milk, sugar, soap and hot water, but no use. We called a doctor who was living in Evanston, Wyoming, 40 miles away. He came, but just to tell us he could do nothing for him as blood poison had set in. He died several hours later on August 17, 1906 and was buried in Millburne, Uinta County, Utah.
In the fall of 1908, we moved to Cumberland, Wyoming. There I worked in the coal mine for the diamond Coal and Coke Company. I had charge of the movement of the coal in the mine by all the drivers.
It was on April 3, 1910, our first child, Hazel was born at Glenco, Wyoming. We moved back to our land at Millburne, Wyoming. On November 14, 1911, Francis James McPhie, our first son, was born on our homestead in our new frame home. We continued ranching and stock raising. We lost our second baby boy, Chester, October 8, 1913, at birth.
We improved our homestead and fenced it all, then I bought the Jensen ranch from my wife’s mother. George Severn, our third son and fourth child, was born in our homestead on November 24, 1914. That winter was a very bad one, the snow was carried with the wind until the drifts covered home, barns and haystacks, until we had very little left in the spring. That spring of 1915, I left the Ft. Bridger Valley for keeps and moved to Rawlins, Carbon County, Wyoming. The first World War was coming on and I was working for the Union Pacific Railroad Company in the Railroad Signal Department. In a few months I was transferred into the Store Department.
At that time, Ray Scovell of Ogden, Utah, was President of the Rawlins city branch of the LDS Church. He persuaded me to work for his company and to learn the broom business. I learned how to make every kind of a broom; also inspected all the brooms before they were taken from the factory. The Broom Manufacturing Company used the Wyoming prisoners as convict labor. I had one year’s experience with the broom-making business when the contract expired with the State of Wyoming, so Brother Scovell left Rawlins City. I was called to take his place in the Western States Mission and was set apart to preside as President of the Rawlins City branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Joseph F. Smith and set apart by John L. Herrick. I served in that capacity from May 1916 to December 1918.
After the Broom Manufacturing Company moved out, the Reliance Shirt Manufacturing Company installed a shirt factory and I was retained by them, and I learned the shirt-making business. I was final inspector of all shirts before shipment was made from the factory.
On August 11, 1917, our son John Marvin McPhie was born. The First World War was at its pitch so many men had been taken into the service, and the railroad company was calling for help. I was deferred because I was needed more at home, having important work, a wife and a family of four children.
I hired on to the Union Pacific Railroad company as fireman. The war ended November 11, 1918, which brought joy to us all. My Brother-in-law, James Overy, and my sister, Sarah, were living at Lioncol, Wyoming, just five miles north of Rock Springs, and he encouraged me to move there as the miners were earning $500 or more per month for operating a coal cutting machine. I was released from the Western States Mission on December 15, 1918. We did quite well there at Lioncol.
On January 30, 1920, our son, Harold Grant McPhie was born to us and in the spring of 1920 we bought a home in Provo, Utah, but didn’t live there until some years later. We moved to Hiawatha, Utah, in the summer of 1921, where I worked as a machine operator.
While in Hiawatha, I was appointed Stake Missionary, then First Counselor in the Sunday School. Our daughter, Hazel, was appointed Sunday School Organist. That fall I was appointed President of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement and later a member of the Stake Board, Carbon Stake. We did well in Hiawatha. On the 17th of February, 1922, our sixth son, Donald Alma McPhie, was born in Hiawatha, Carbon County Utah.
A coal mine strike was called at all the mines in Carbon County. I went to Provo for a short time then and obtained a good paying job cutting coal, contracting at Kenilworth, Utah. We moved there in the summer of 1923; I was retained on the MIA Stake board and appointed First Counselor to Bishop Roy Thayne and also Scoutmaster of the Kenilworth Troop. My son, Francis, was just 12 years old and I accepted the job as Scoutmaster so I could be with him more. Then on May 1, 1924, Bishop Roy Thayne moved to Salt Lake City, and I was appointed Bishop in his stead. Then I was released from the Carbon stake Mutual Board which office I continued to fill until July 15, 1925.
While living at Kenilworth, on September 9, 1925, a baby girl was born to us. We named her Viola Josephine McPhie. It was while working at Kenilworth that the terrible coal mine explosion occurred at Castle Gate, Utah, where 182 men were killed. Word came to me and my partner while we were going to work. We went back and told our wives goodbye and went to help those men that were in the mine, if we possibly could. We could not enter the #2 Castle Gate mine until much of the debris was removed. Another Bishop and I were assigned to call on all the families of our Church and many others to give what help and comfort we could. Then when the rescue work began, I was appointed to help identify the men and place them in caskets and show the relatives their dead. We had more than 100 men in that large amusement hall at one time. Much more could be told, but it was too terrible.
I moved my family to Provo into our own home. At that time I owned 13 acres of land at 896 North 5th West. We had a good home, school, church and neighbors. I boarded or batched until on the 27th day of November 1927, I was injured in the coal mine. While I was running a coal cutting machine, the large pipe jack fell and hit me on the leg above the right knee. I was in the LDS Hospital in Salt lake City until the next April. I was released as Bishop at Kenilworth on July 15, 1928.
We were in our home at Provo almost two years when Gladys Elaine McPhie, our ninth child and third daughter was born on March 2, 1930. The Depression hit hard here in 1931; we had two cows and raised most of our own food on the 13 acres of land we farmed.
Very little work was obtainable during the Depression. One evening in 1933, Bishop H. A. Dixon came to our home and asked for a missionary. Hazel had finished her normal training and was qualified to teach school but could not get a contract anywhere. Francis had two years of college and had graduated from Seminary, so he was called to go on a Mission to Germany. We didn’t know how we could ever keep him on a mission for two years, but my good wife, full of the kind of faith it takes, said as Nephi did in the Book of Mormon, “The Lord doesn’t ask us to do anything except He will provide a way to do it.” So Francis went to Germany on his Mission. No sooner did he reach his field of labor than Hazel got a school to teach, and I got a good job at Spring Canyon, where I was appointed a member of the Carbon Stake High Council. Francis served on his mission for three years.
I took the examination for Mine Foreman and obtained work as Fireboss and Faceboss at Castle Gate. Here I had charge of the machinery and men who produced the coal for truck and railroad shipment.
In July of 1944, the United States Steel Company opened the steel plant at Geneva. Because of my having experience on a locomotive, I was hired as engineer and I worked there until I was retired in the fall of 1953. Since that time, my wife and I have traveled quite a bit. We went to New York with a group of people who were active in church work. We visited places which are mentioned in our church history. It was very interesting to go on the top of the Hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith received the gold plates from the Angel Moroni. We visited the prison where Joseph and his brother Hyrum were shot and killed by the mob.
At this writing, we are living in our own home at 459 North 1st West in Provo, Utah, and hope this will be of interest to all of my family and some others, too.
**This account is believed to have been written in 1957**
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 15, 1965
Utah County, Utah
James M. McPhie
PROVO MAN DIES OF LONG ILLNESS
James Muir McPhie, 80, 459 N. 1st W., Provo, died Tuesday evening at the home of a daughter, Mrs. Viola J. Ostler, 640 N. Beverly Ave., Orem of a lingering illness.
He was born Oct. 8, 1885 at Grass Creek, Utah, a son of John and Margaret Ann Muir McPhie. He married Josephine E. Jensen, on June 17, 1908 in Salt Lake City.
As a young child he moved from Grass Creek to Almy, Wyo., where he received his education. After his father’s death he quit school to help his mother support the family. He homesteaded in Ft. Bridger, Wyo., where he met and married his wife, moving to Provo in 1920 where he had maintained a home since then.
He was an active member of the LDS Church, serving as bishop of the Kenilworth, (Utah) Ward for four years; and was on the High Council in Price, Utah.
He was employed at Geneva Steel as a railroad engineer from 1946 until his retirement. He also did farming and mining.
Surviving are widow, Provo; three sons and three daughters, Mrs. Elmer (Hazel) Williams, Renton, Wash.; Francis J. McPhie, Salt Lake City; George S. McPhie, Yakima, Wash.; J. Marvin McPhie, Ogden; Mrs. Boyden J. (Viola) Ostler, Orem; Mrs. Arthur T. (Elaine) Harrison, Spring Valley, Calif.; 28 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; two brothers and two sisters, Mrs. Sara Bushnell and Mrs. Jane Murdock, both of Salt Lake City; Martin McPhie, Martin, Utah and Andrew McPhie, Ogden.