Elgin Oliphant 31 July 1893 - 8 July 1982
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31 July 1893 - 8 July 1982
Part one - The Single Years
In the middle of November 1889 the family of Charles Henry and Lucinda Abigail Judd Oliphant with ten children arrived in Orangeville, Emery County, Utah. They had left a well-established home in Kanab in southern Utah. Charles Henry's half brother, Lacy Stilson lived in Orangeville. The
two towns of Orangeville and Castle Dale had been settled twelve years earlier by people from Sanpete County which was over the mountains to the west. These two towns were the last settlements set up under the direction of Brigham Young just before he died on August 29, 1877.
Charles moved a two-room log cabin onto one of four town lots that he had bought. Here the family lived for the first winter. It was in this log house where William Derby, Elgin's brother just older, was born 21 March 1890. Later that year Charles moved another log house onto an adjoining lot and it was here that the family lived till they all were grown. This house was only one room but bigger. The house faced the east and on the west side a lean-to was built which had two bedrooms, the south one for the girls and the north one for the boys. Another lean-to was added on the north. It extended from the back of the bedrooms to the outer edge of an added porch. This made a space about 25 feet in length. Of this 1 1 feet formed a bedroom leaving 14 feet for the kitchen. On the south end of the main room a fireplace was built to heat the house. Of course the bathroom was an outhouse.
Within these humble walls Elgin was born July 3 1, 1893, and 3 years later a little sister, Ila, was born May 10, 1896. She died Aug. 27, 1896. This left Elgin the baby of a family of an existing eleven children. His oldest brother, Ernest, was killed in a horse accident before Elgin was born.
One of Elgin's first memories was when Utah was made a state, January 6, 1896. His father carried him on his shoulders to the main street of Orangeville where they were celebrating. There was wire strung from the cottonwood trees on either side of the street and cans with fire on the outside of them (oil in the can with rags hanging over). Elgin was just about two and one half years old.
He also remembered when his little sister died. He said, "I ... remember her being worked over in her sickness, and especially her death and burial." And he wondered, " why she was lying so still in the box on the home-made bench, and of standing in the wagon and watching them put the box she was
in in the hole in the ground, and why they covered it up with dirt."
Elgin's three oldest sisters all were married before he was six. Elgin tells of these next incidents that happened before he was nine. His father was in his mid seventies but still had to earn a living. He earned his living by raising and selling nursery stock and garden produce. Much of his nursery stock was sold out of town and had to be shipped, wrapping the roots in moisture-retaining material and then put into a box. This time the box was rather large and
heavy. Elgin was sent up to the post office to tell the mail carrier to stop and pick it up down the road where his father and the box would be at their place. The post office was about a block and a half west of their home. He got to the post office before the mail coach came in. It was coming from the south
and going north to Price where the mail was sent out to the rest of the world on the railroad. This was his first remembered display of timidity, which he said plagued him all his life. "Well, I followed him back and forth into and out of the post office, trying to get up the courage to tell him, but I could not, so he finally got in the coach, whipped up his horses and was off down the road, at a fast trot.
... I, thinking that I could keep up, started off on a run after him. Before I was very far, I dropped in the road crying. Father stopped the mail carrier, got his box in, and then came after me. He never got after me, took me up in his arms, and packed me home."
Elgin's mother was a strict disciplinarian. One Sunday, between Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting, some boys coaxed Elgin to go swimming with them in the Old Blue Cut Canal on the edge of town in a willow patch. "I guess I was having a good time along with the rest, when the first bell for Sacrament Meeting rang. I got out, dressed and was on my way home when mother met me with a branch broken off from a crab apple tree." She wore the branch out on him and when they got home she got the razor strap and used it. "Father was begging her all the time to not whip me so hard and so much. Another incident of father's kindly heart." Elgin said he never resented his mother's punishment "for I knew 1 was doing wrong."
The common garden rake played an important roll in Elgin's life. Elgin and his two brothers just older than he were racking up leaves in the fall and taking them to the corral to use for bedding. Elgin had left the rake near a pile of leaves with the tines side up. A log building was being dragged by in the
road. This was a very interesting sight so Elgin ran and jumped, as he thought, over the rake, but came down on it with the two tines sticking up through his foot. His father and sister Grace rushed to pull him off the rake. With concern and care, his mother, Lucinda, used home and Indian remedies to make sure
the wound healed properly. "Whenever I see a rake today with the tines sticking up, no matter who's it is, or where it is, I turn it over. It has been the chief tool by which I have made my living for I have planted hundreds of lawns. If a person could be said to be an artist by using such a crude tool, then I have painted many a picture. I have always loved to use the rake."
While he was out of school with this injury he did a lot of reading for even then he had an eager, inquiring mind. He learned about Joseph who was sold into Egypt and the promises given to him. He loved to read all about Joseph. "I remember of hobbling over to mother with a Bible in my hands to read to her as she sat in her rocking chair by the fireplace. There was an old cupboard in the corner of the big log front room which was filled with books, some religious, and the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Cooper and the other great writers of the time. I had them all read long before I was grown up.
Whenever I came across any word I did not understand I looked it up in the dictionary."
His father taught Elgin how to use a hoe and when it was sharpened his father would say, "Now it is so sharp, even the shadow of it will cut your toe." When his father put the three boys, Clare, Will, and Elgin, to cleaning out the chicken coop and the boys would play instead, he would say. "One boy is one boy, two boys is half a boy and three boys are no boy at all."
Elgin said "As a boy I was a long way from being perfect. I should have known better than what I was doing." When about eight years old he was with his older brothers bringing home a load of corn fodder, on a flat-bed hay rack, that had a long "reach" that held the front and back of the wagon together.
"I would crawl off the back of the load of corn fodder and would crawl under the load and ride on the reach for a while. Then I would crawl out, and crawl back on the wagon. I don't know how many times I had done this, but this time was one too many, for when I crawled out, there was a row of trees in the
way and I did not crawl out far enough. One foot was still on the road, and the hind wheel of the wagon went over my ankle, and hurt it. . . . I do not remember how much of a lecturing I got for doing this foolish thing, but I know it was the last time I tried that."
Their neighbor, Jim Crawford, the richest man in town, bought the first car that came into Orangeville and one of the first made. This was before 1902. "I was out helping milk the cows one evening after dark. Our corral was near the main highway that came into town and I saw a light coming into town from across the river. That was something strange and new. I thought; 'Is a train coming into town and laying its tracks as it goes?' I was familiar with the railroad which was in Price. I went in and told the folks about it. Father said he understood Jim Crawford was getting a gas buggy. I didn't understand for I was never interested in anything mechanical. The next day I was over and examined that gas buggy from end to end and it was a gas buggy for it was so near like a buggy that I was so used to being in. It had wheels very like a buggy, a little smaller, made out of wood, with a steel tire, and a little solid rubber over top of them, or on the outside of the wheel. The driver sat on the right side just like they did in a buggy to drive the horses. It had a brake lever with a comb to engage the ratchet, which the driver could put on and off just like in a buggy. It pulled a brake block against the front outside of the rear wheels just like a buggy or wagon. The engine was under the seat with a sprocket wheel out of each side, with a chain that went around a little larger sprocket on the inside of each rear wheel. It had, just like a horse buggy, a dash board up in front, and I am quite sure it had a place to put a whip. The
lights, the seeing of which had brought me to see it, were like a square box fastened just below the dash board to the body of the buggy. They were carbide lights, for I took the bottom off from them and saw the little rocks that water falling on makes a gas, which is burnable. It didn't have a steering wheel, but a rod that came up and bent over, so that by pushing it back and forth it turned the front wheels this way and that."
Elgin was baptized the July 13, 1902, near his ninth birthday in a hole of water deep enough in the creek near his home. His father had brought a chair from home. Andrew Anderson, who was the First Counselor in the Bishopric, baptized him. Franklin Young confirmed him with his father standing
His father was nearing his seventy-seventh birthday when he died on 16 October 1902. He had only been sick about a week. Elgin was a little past nine years old. He remembered the events leading to his father's death very well. The thrashers were there to thrash their grain and Elgin thinks that his father wore himself out helping. Elgin gives a very detailed account of the thrashing procedure in his autobiography. But he didn't say anything about the funeral or burial. Elgin admired his father very much and missed him when he was gone.
When Elgin was in the fourth grade, there was a box on the teacher's desk where the students put their Valentines. Then on Valentines Day they were passed out by someone taking them around to each one as the teacher took them out and read the name. Elgin had been picked to do the passing. "That
was one of the most painful acts of my life. I had on a pair of pants made out of one of father's old pants, patched on each side on the seat. The kids used to tease me about having eyes in the back. Then I had on a pair of my sister Grace's old button shoes; both soles were loose so that I had to put my foot
down, with a back swish, or I could not walk on them. Well, I passed out every Valentine singly; some kids got a dozen or more. I didn't get a one."
In those days they gathered fast offerings in kind: flour, dried fruit, home made soup etc. After he was twelve and made a Deacon, Elgin could, " remember going to most homes in the ward alone with a little single horse buggy" to gather the fast offering contributions.
The family bought a 160 acre farm on the bench east of Orangeville. For a time they lived in town and went back and forth to work the farm on the bench. The older boys also bought a coal mine in Straight Canyon, west of Orangeville; I hauled a lot of coal from it to Orangeville and Castle Dale" with
a team and wagon. "I remember also working on the farm, for I guess all the years from 191 5 to 192 1 ."
During this time Elgin got his high school education at the Emery Stake Academy, graduating in 191 8. He also took two correspondence courses while he was not in school. One in landscape gardening which he has used to make his living; also a course in touch typewriting. Elgin had many experiences working with horses, teams, wagons, and buggies while he was
growing up. "I drove a team, a big horse and a little mule, and I was scared of the little mule when I first started to drive it, but after a hard day's work it was fiesh and the horse was give out. All summer I drove them on an old fashioned hay mower on a big ranch a few miles south of Wellington. As soon as I got one cutting of hay cut, where I had started was ready to cut again."
Elgin tells of how they broke a wild horse that had been caught on the desert southeast of town. It had been given to the family and they broke it to work in a team. "I will tell about it in detail for I was in on every move that was made. I petted her, led her around and let her know that we meant her no harm. We had her for several days, maybe a week, before we tried to put a harness on her and get her used to it. Then in a few days we drove out onto a patch of plowed ground, then took one horse out of our work team. Flossie was a beautiful sorrel. The biggest horse was always used on the right side of the tongue. Flossie was the biggest, so we always used her on the right side but with this wild one we put her on the left side. The wild one was some smaller than Flossie. We got them hitched to the wagon and chained Flossie back so she would have to pull the wagon. The wild one was rather calm up to now
for we had handled her a lot before. This was an extremely new experience for her so when we spoke to Flossie to go, she reared and plunged as much as she could. Flossie went right on pulling the wagon, so the buckskin soon settled down and went along. She was soon being used in the team to pull all the farm equipment."
Elgin decided to teach "Buck", the wild one, to ride, so he put a saddle on her. "I rode the little roan mare, leading Buck, and of course driving the cows. I had got about half-way home when one of the cows turned out into a patch of shrubs." He tried to get her out and the wild one, "realized that something was a little different, started off down the street bucking and rearing and trying to get the saddle off her back. She was gone. I guess she went back to where she had come from as a wild horse."
A few weeks later she was caught and brought back to the family. "She had got rid of the saddle, but it left a sore and made her an outlaw as far as ever trying to ride her again." But they still used her in a team and never had any trouble. At the town celebrations they, " would drive to and from in a buggy
with Buck as one of the team. To give the crowd some excitement, Rod Swazy, a bronco buster, would come and get us to let him ride her. I don't think he ever did stay on her, she was just that crazy, but when they brought her back and we put her in the team we drove her right off without a bit of trouble.
She was used for many years on the farm."
Elgin said his first great responsibility was when he took his mother and sister, Ness, on a trip to Southern Utah to see relatives. They left the end of July the summer he turned 19 in 191 3. They traveled in a big white-top buggy that had room in the back for a bed for his mother. They took a feather mattress and a lot of bedding, and some food, "and although mother's hands were all out of shape, she still knitted and crocheted. We took a good bit of her work, especially to give to Grace's children."
Their team was a horse called Cal and a tough little bay that could keep up a trot all day and never get tired. They made it to Ferron the first day. Stayed there overnight and then went up Ferron canyon It took all day to make it to the top of the mountain where they camped that night. "I made mother a bed
under a big evergreen with some logs around. Then I broke off the ends of the evergreen boughs and spread them thick inside the logs, then put her fluffed up feather mattress on top. Mother said that was the best bed she had ever slept on." They went down Mayfield Canyon to Mayfield, and out onto the main road, then south to Richfield and beyond. They averaged about twenty-four miles a day, camping each night.
They went from Joseph City west to Cove Fort, than on to Beaver and to Parowan, staying at Grace's place over a week. They went back north to the next town, then up over the mountain east to the road on the other side; then going south through Orderville and on to Kanab where they visited his mother's brothers and a sister still living there. They stayed at the home of her youngest brother, Ami, who was living in the old home of her father and mother. "Ami had a girl about my age. We got a lot of joy in each other's company. I remember Aunt Esther, who was the sister in Kanab. I learned from her the saying; whenever 'nothing' was spoken of, it was down in Aunt Esther's cellar behind the door. That is a saying I remembered all of my life." They stayed in Kanab about a week, then went south about seven miles to Fredonia, Arizona, where two other brothers lived.
After staying in Fredonia for several days they went west on a road over flat ground. There were mountains to the north. They camped the first night at Pipe Springs Fort. For protection from the Indians the first settlers had built a fort over a beautiful big spring that comes out of the base of the mountain. Many years earlier Elgin's Uncle Jacob Hamblin and his Grandpa Judd traveled here while settling many of the disputes between the whites and the Indians in that part of the country.
Next they went on west to the edge of a high bench, then down on a not very gentle slope to Hurricane, a beautiful garden town. Here Elgin's sister, Lucinda lived. She was married to Lorenzo Young, a brother to John's wife Rhoda. '"Ren' was kind of a lazy fellow but they had a beautiful garden
on their place and a big watermelon patch. In the evening before I went to bed in the buggy I would go and get a melon, take out the middle and eat it. The rest I would give to the horses."
They then went to St. George where Gertrude, his mother's youngest sister lived. Her husband, Charles Cotton, was a builder. While there in St. George they took a trip over to Santa Clara where his mother grew up as a child and where her father was the first Bishop. "Mother was very disappointed in
Santa Clara." After staying in St George a few days they went back to Grace's in Parowan. Stayed there a few days; then back home to Orangeville, which took a number of days, arriving home in October.
Elgin was made an Elder when he was 19, and made the secretary of the Orangeville Elders Quorum and then secretary of the stake elders. "The summer of 19 15, when I was 22, after I had been to
high school for a year, I took mother and May over the mountain to Manti to the Temple. I had my own
endowment on July 14, 1915. Then the next day I carried mother through the temple and May had her
own endowments that day."
Elgin loved to learn and to go to school. He thought that he might like to become a teacher.
After going to school at the University of Utah the summer of 191 8, he began teaching school in the
Emery County School District the next winter. Will Reid, the County Superintendent of Schools, sent
him to Victor to teach in a one-room school. In a log building that served as the home and store of the
bishop, he slept on a folding couch next to the counter. "The school building was a brick, one-room
building a block from the bishop's. I was supposed to be both teacher and janitor. There was a big pile
of wood near that I can remember chopping on. I didn't stay there till the cold weather came. I couldn't
take it. This was something I have been ashamed of and sorry for all my life. I had 16 children and all 8
grades. There was one sweet little girl in the first grade. I just couldn't seem to know how to teach her to
read. I taught there maybe a month. It was the only school that was not closed that winter for the flu."
"That winter of 191 8 and 1919 I spent a good share of my time sitting up with those who had the
flu in both Castle Dale, Orangeville and those who lived there on the bench near us. I remember I was at
the bedside of one young mother, alone, when she died." Elgin said he never caught the flu or had a cold
all his life.
Because teachers were hard to get during the First World War he was given the chance to teach at
Ferron about 12 miles south of Orangeville. He taught the seventh grade. "Some of the kids were as big
as me. There was one girl, large for her age, who used to give me a lot of trouble. She would talk back to
me and make fun of me, etc. Well, one day I just couldn't take it anymore, so I walked down the aisle
and slapped her in the mouth and told her if she couldn't act as a lady, I just couldn't treat her like one.
She was one of the best students I had after that. School was closed in March because of the flu and
didn't open again." (This was the last experience Elgin had with teaching school)
The spring and early summer of 1920 Elgin went to help his brother, Clare, with his homestead
in an area called Tarb northeast of Monticello, San Juan County, Utah. While helping grub sagebrush he
was accidently hid in the head with a grubbing-hoe which knocked him out. He did recover alright.
In the Fall and Winter of 1920-21 he went to school at BYU. He lived in the basement of the
Swapp family home with a roommate by the name of Orval Stott from Meadow who was sickly and had
to go home before the year was out. The Swapp family was from Kanab and knew the Oliphants there.
He took a class in psychology and was the star student. His professor was Arthur L. Beesley whom he
had known from Emery Stake Academy. He was eight or nine years older than the rest of the students.
"In the same class was Alice Taylor, the most beautiful and the most intelligent girl I had ever known
and also the richest." He and Alice were assigned to give an intelligence test to the whole school of
700. "We also took the test and after figuring the results we found that Alice was the most intelligent
person in the school. I was the fifth."
At the end of the school year he got a job helping pave fifth west in Provo using a wheelbarrow.
He was wearing a pair of old, worn-out, run-over shoes and had had no great amount of exercise all
winter and this was real work. He lasted about two or three weeks. His right foot began to pain and
swell until he had to quit. His foot swelled at least twice as large as it should be. What to do? He could
not work. "My brother Clare came to my aid, as he has so many times in my life. He took me down to
his in-laws in Payson, the Hiatts, and took me to a Doctor Curtis, who lanced my ankle and drew more
than a quart of puss out. That was painful, I tell you, for he never used any kind of pain killer. I stayed
there at the Hiatts for a week or two until it healed up a bit. Then I came back to Provo."
Then he went to work for a Brother Cannon who was a teacher at the Y. He had eight fullblooded
Jersey cows in south Provo. Elgin milked and delivered their milk while the Cannons took a
vacation to Yellowstone Park. There was a girl staying at his home to take care of his children. She also
helped get the milk ready to deliver. Elgin stayed in a room in the basement. "I remember that he said I
was the only one he would dare trust with his valuable cows. You see I had lived on a farm and taken
care of cows all my life. They spent three weeks or a month away so, of course, I had complete charge
of his cows and the delivering of their milk. I delivered it in an old pickup of his. I can't remember of any
difficulty that occurred while he was gone. He came back at about the time school was to start in the
fall. I guess with the money he gave me for my services I paid some of my debts and paid my tuition for
the next school year. Financial dealings in my life have never seemed to worry me. I can't seem to
remember any of that."
"Looking back on it now I can't for the life of me know why I stayed with school that next year.
They wouldn't give me a job as a janitor so all I had to live on was $12.00 a month for reading to a blind
fellow. I got some good out of the English grammar I took and, I suppose, the history and sociology.
What I enjoyed most taking was psychology which I was born good in, but what I guess I learned to apply more to life, but it has been the ban of my life, has given me most of the grief of my life; I can see through a person, realize if they are a phony, and just instinctively try to help people, which they don't seem to want. I know what they are wanting to say before they say it and say it for them. Psychology was what I was going to take up as my life work."
After leaving BYU, without even going home, he went to Carbon County to work in the coal
mines. His brother Will came and worked with him. They worked at two mines up Spring Canyon west
of Helper, first at Storrs, and then at Standardville, where there was a ward organization. Both these
mines used the railroad called the Utah Coal Road that Elgin had earlier helped to build. The Bishop
made Elgin the ward clerk, and he was also asked to be the Boy Scout leader. He said he remembered taking several hikes with the Scouts and studying the plant life in the canyon there.
After describing how some of the mining equipment worked, Elgin tells of a very scary
experience that he had while working in the mine. "I was working all alone in the room, my carbide light
failed, and talk about the darkness of hell. I did not know how to make it work. There are tracks up into
each room. That is how the coal is hauled out in a small car. It would haul maybe two tons of coal. I got my foot on that track and when I would lose it with my foot I reached down and found it with my hands. I followed that track out to the man corridor where all the room tracks were fastened. Then I followed that main track down to where another room track took off and followed that track into the next room. There I found two Japanese fellows working. They were tickled to help me fix my light. I might just say here my experience with working with men of other nationalities. They seem to be glad to help and associate with American men. I sure thanked those Japanese fellows. That was true with the Austrian's I worked with in building the Utah Coal Route."
Another experience he had in the mine. They would load the coal on the cars. "Will would work
on one side, I on the other. One of the lumps of coal I tried to put in the car was too heavy for me. I didn't get it up to the edge of the car and it came back and dropped on my left foot. I have a misshapen big toe nail now as the result of that drop. It was pretty painful for a few days." Elgin paid off his debts in Provo and he and Will bought a Model T Ford with the money they earned working in the mines.
In March 1924 the family moved to Salt Lake City because they sold or lost their farm in
Orangeville. They traveled in a horse-drawn wagon and took several cows. "It took several days to move.
We drove the cows. The family consisted of mother, May and her sons, Leo, and Morgan, (her oldest
child, Little May, was already married), Ness and her two children, of course Will and me. We settled in
a house on North Redwood Road. The house was on a bit of ground and there was a barn we used for our horses and cows."
"South of our home along Redwood Road lived a widow who worked up at the University of Utah
as a cook. Her oldest daughter, Druceal or 'Seal' as her brothers and sister called her, was the 'Mother' of the family. It wasn't too long before I noticed how thoughtful and considerate she was of everybody, and especially of my mother, who was, of course, a helpless invalid, and who I believe favored her before I did. I moved to Salt Lake with the intention of never looking at another girl. I was going to finish my study of psychology at the U of U. and spend my life teaching it. How foolish can one be for I never got to the U. of U. and, thank the Lord, I never thought of psychology again---at least to make it my life's work. I can never thank the Lord enough for changing my plans."
Part Two- The early Married Years
During the summer of 1924 Elgin spent his time working at various jobs around Salt Lake City
and courting Druceal. That fall on September 24 they were married in the Salt Lake Temple. Elgin was
3 1 years old and Druceal had just turned 19. They moved into a honeymoon cottage located just off Yale Avenue not too far from the University of Utah. The cottage was very nice and they liked it there but it was too isolated and Druceal didn't like being alone all day while Elgin worked so they only stayed there about a month. They moved back to Redwood Road and lived in a one-room apartment in a big old house near Druceal's mother. They lived there until late Spring, then moved to P. Street where they lived until the first part of July. Then they went to live with Druceal's mother. Their first child, T Lawrence Oliphant, was born 16 July, 1925, in the north bedroom of Druceal's mother's home.
After living and working in a coal yard for a number of months, in the spring of 1926 Elgin
bought and moved his little family into a cement block house located at 2785 south 1 Oth east in south Salt Lake. Elgin said it was an old abandoned cement block house on the edge of a hill in Hill Crest Ward.
The house had no indoor plumbing so they had to cany water from an outside tap to be used in the
kitchen etc. and the toilet was an outhouse. They lived in this house for seven years and had three more children born to them there. These are: Nada, born 7 July 1927, ("Nada was the first of the three children
that were born in this house! A Dr. Jackson delivered her. I planted a lawn for him for the pay. She had
long black hair that was easy curled"), Roland Elgin, 8 July 1929, and Norman Henry, 9 August, 193 1.
For a short time in March of 1929 they moved in with Elgin's brother, Will, and his mother so Elgin
could help take care of his mother just before she died on the 9Ih of March 1929. After the funeral they
moved back to their cement block house.
While living in Salt Lake City Elgin worked at a number of different jobs. The economy was
booming in the 1920's and jobs were not hard to find. When Elgin first arrived he worked with his
brother, Ralph, digging basements for new houses with a team and scraper. At the time of his marriage
he was cleaning up and pruning a large orchard in Highland at the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon. He
worked there all winter. Then he was at the Jereamay Coal Yard where, with Will and his nephews, Leo
and Morgan, he unloaded coal from railroad cars and delivered it to people's homes. In the summer of
1926 he worked as grounds man for a golf course taking care of the grounds around the Club House. On
the east and north grass was planted on a slope making it hard to cut the lawn. "I remember it was quite
a job to stand up and handle a mower on the steep slope. (This was a handpush rotor mower, no power
mowers then.) The manager of the place brought me out a pair of golf shoes with spikes on the soles. I
had no trouble standing up after that. Those were the best shoes I ever owned. After I quit working there I
took the spikes out and would wear them every day to work and polish them up for Sunday. I was then
considered a professional gardener. I remember going on the golf course and showing the men that took
care of it how to do their work. I worked here as long as they played golf, till late in the fall."
The winter of 1926 and 27 he worked at a meat curing plant uptown at night. The work was to
keep a fire or smoke going under hams in the smoke house, and to take hams out of a container where
they were cooked. He worked there all winter.
"The summer that Nada was born, I did not go back to the golf course and take care of the
grounds around the Club House. That is the kind of work that I would have preferred." Instead he
worked that fall at icing railroad fruit cars uptown. "There would be three or four cars to be iced at once,
pulled up along side the long ice house with a platform about six feet wide above the railroad cars. There
were several doors along the side of the ice house opening out onto the platform. I would loosen the ice
blocks; each one weighed at least three hundred pounds. Then with ice tongs I would drag the ice onto
the platform and to the ends of the car. The platform went out over the cars, so that I dropped the ice into
each end of the cars." This was done in the evening and into the night. "I rode the streetcar to the job, but
I had to walk home. The streetcars stopped running at midnight."
Early in the winter his bishop, who was an official at the oil refinery, started him working in the
laboratory testing for the different grades of gasoline, etc. "I was not fitted for this so I only worked here
for two or three weeks. Then I was put out on the grounds as kind of a lackey, all-jobs man. I stayed with
this till the next spring." For two summers, 1927 and 1928, he took care of the grounds of the big homes
of six millionaires around the University of Utah. "In the summer of 1928 I answered an ad in the paper
that wanted someone with experience to sell plant material and landscape grounds. I answered it and told
about my experience, and that I was the son of the man that established the first nursery in Utah. This
appealed to Brother Healy, who had put in the ad and was working with the Porter Walton Company."
This was the first of several years Elgin worked for the Porter Walton Company with Brother Healy.
"I went with Brother Healy in his car. When I first started to work we went down into southern
Utah, on down thru southern Nevada and on to Las Vegas." Elgin said that his wife saved the letters that
he sent home during this time. (These letters are now, , in the possession of Bob Oliphant, Sugar
"In November of 1929 I helped plant several orders, first at Heber, then a large one at Richfield;
then we planted four at Cedar City, and had taken a number of orders. Then we went on through southern
Nevada." In one of the letters Elgin tells of a certain place, "that took my eye, where hot water come out
in a spring; an ideal place to establish a greenhouse." They went through southern Nevada to Las Vegas,
selling all the way. Elgin stayed in southern Nevada through that winter selling and planting. Bro. Healy
had gone home for the winter leaving Elgin alone. "Many of the places I went to had mean dogs that
came at me with their teeth bared, and I knew would have bitten me but I seemed to be able to talk to
them a while, gentle-like and tell them I was their friend, and finally made it into the door, and I
remember that a number of the places gave me a large order. A number of the places were newly built. I
helped them figure out what they needed to landscape their places and a number of them I promised to
help them plant after the order came back."
He was supposed to get 25% down, which was his share, and what he lived on. If he did not get
the full 25% he would send in the order and Porter Walton Company would send him the rest. "I
remember I was making about $50.00 a week, which was good for that time, and especially for me."
He was making enough to buy a car. He made the down payment and was supposed to pay $50.00 a
month. "Which I must have been able to rustle for a number of months, for I kept it quite a while." He
drove the car home the next spring and his next selling trip that summer was to Castle Valley where he
was born and raised. He took his family with him this time to show Druceal the places that he knew. Her
comment was "It's a good place to have been from." They were there through most of the summer,
traveling through and selling and planting in many of the towns of Carbon and Emery Counties.
It was in the Fall of 1930 Elgin began to feel the effects of the Great Depression. He and Brother
Healy were in southwestern Idaho and had taken an order to plan and plant a church and a school in
Grace, Idaho, in October. The order was canceled and they lost the job and the money that would have
come with it. They stayed in Idaho into December and were able to do some selling. After coming home
for Christmas, they were able to do some selling in Las Vegas and other towns in southern Nevada
through the winter.
Then the Great Depression really hit the west and Elgin says, "One of the most difficult years in
our lives was the year 193 1. It seems because of the depression that everyone went kinda crazy." His
selling for Porter Walton was finished. He tried to get the job of taking care of the rich people's homes
that he had before. "I could tell they sure needed it, and I am sure they could have afforded it, but nothing
doing. I tried everywhere to get work but it was just not to be found. This was the summer Norman was
born, (August, 9, 193 1). With him on the way and no way to take care of things, I have never been so
downhearted, although we have been as bad or worse off since. We had our own garden, and the Contas
(their neighbors) helped us with eggs and a chicken now and then, so we didn't suffer for food. We made
out until the next winter, then I got up the courage to ask the Bishop to help us with some coal."
In the spring of 1932 they are about to lose their house and become homeless. They couldn't keep
up the mortgage payments. Clare came to the rescue and hauled them in his truck down to Tarb, where
he had a homestead. Tarb is north and a little east of Monticello where the government had set up a large
area for homesteading. "We take only what we can and need. We settled in Tarb on a homestead under a
big old cedar tree, pitched a tent we had found on the way down there, and prepared to live. That was the
most beautiful soil, a quarter section of it, (160 acres) that would have been ours if we had stayed on it
and done certain things which we could not do."
They hauled water in barrels in a wagon from Peter's Spring that was about 3 miles away while
they were trying to dig a well. They were also to build some kind of a house. The house and the well did
not get built and they only stayed there for a few months. "We lived on beans that grew there in Torb and
peppermint tea that we picked at a spring where we picked up the tent, where we stopped on the way
down," and bread baked in a kitchen cook stove, brought from their home in Salt Lake City and set up
under the cedar tree.
"We were invited to a party and dance at another homestead not so far away. So we put the
children to bed in the tent, made sure they were asleep, tied the flaps on the tent and went to the party."
They got worried about the children and left not long after they got there. "Of course we found the
children alright. But the next morning when we got up we noticed that animals (probably wolves) had
come and sniffed at the flaps of the tent and apparently gone away."
Before summer was over they gave up on the homestead and Elgin walked to Blanding, about 30
miles south, to check out the possibilities for living there. "I slept in a women's restroom that night after
arriving in Blanding, and I can't seem to remember what happened the next day, or how I got back to
Torb the next day." A few days later Elgin with his family were in a campground outside of Blanding
called West Water. They slept in their tent that they had found, and the next day a brother Harris came by
and saw them camping there. He told them that only Indians camped there. "And that he had a small
house on his property in town that we were welcome to stay in until we could find something better. He
came out and helped us move into his little house that was behind the main house. We never can thank
Brother Harris enough for that and for all the kindness he gave us, not only then but for the next few years
while we lived there. All the people were very good to us while we lived there. We were never treated
better anywhere than we were while in Blanding."
There was a corral and shed just back, west of the Harris property, that belonged to the Bayleses
where they kept their milk cows. Elgin milked them and got the milk of one cow and he helped Brother
Harris in his garden, and the harvesting of it, which gave them food to live on.
There were two groups of people who lived there: the first to settle and perhaps the most
numerous, were those called the "Hole in the Rockers". Their ancestors had been sent from Parowan
down through the Hole in the Rock to settle Bluff, a town on the San Juan River several miles south of
Blanding. Brother Redd, the President of the Stake was one of these. The other group were the ones that
had been driven out of Mexico. There were two men who had two wives each. There were Redds,
Blacks, and Browns. Brother Black, who was an older man, and was the Patriarch of the Stake, had been
born in Orangeville. "I talked with him quite a bit." Brother Lyman told stories on Sunday evenings to
the children of the Ward. They liked this. The older people liked to listen also.
The area around Blanding was Indian Territory with the Navajo Indian Reservation a few miles to
the south. "There was a dormitory where quite a number of Indian children lived. I played Santa Claus
for them the first Christmas we were there." There was a stately old Indian called "Long John," tall and
straight, whom they got to know. "Long John had big white spots on his hands of which he was so proud.
He and his two wives and children lived in hogans east of town near the town flour mill. Here his wives
had some looms on which they made Navaho rugs or blankets. Lawrence and Nada used to go down there
and watch them. We had Long John to our home several times and he ate with us . Other Indians used to
come around and offer to chop wood for a meal. They used to pile it up so it would look like a lot."
Elgin earned money by helping people with their lawns, doing yard work, trimming their trees and
shrubs, and pruning orchards. In the fall he and Druceal would help with the harvest in the fields east of
town where the towns people had dry farms that grew many kinds of crops in very rich and productive
soil. One of the crops was sorghum sugar cane which was used to make molasses. They would go
through the rows with a stick in each hand and knocked the leaves off. "There was a watermelon patch
and Druceal went over and tried to find a ripe one. While she was hunting the owner came, found a ripe
one and gave it to her. I don't know that I ever tasted better watermelons than were grown there. That is
the way everyone treated us there."
"I worked at a sawmill, the two late falls and winters that we were there, to get lumber to build
our own house." The sawmill was in the mountains north of Blanding a number of miles away, so the
workers had to live there in tents. "I wrapped my feet in burlap or any heavy cloth I could find because
the snow got very deep there. The stumps we cut right against the snow. The next spring when it thawed
out they were seven feet long. I earned enough lumber so that I could start building my house on land
that a dear old Brother Jones gave me down near the flour mill."
In the winter of 1933-34 the family is still living in the little house behind the Harris's. Elgin
came home from working at the sawmill for a short time in January for a very special event. It was a
beautifbl warm day on January 27 and Druceal took the children ( Lawrence 8, Nada 6, Roland 4, and
Norman 2) out to play, helped them build a bonfire, and started roasting potatoes. Elgin had gone for the
midwife. Druceal told the children she was going back in the house to get some salt. A couple of hours
later Elgin came out and told the children to come into the house and see their new sister. This was
Virginia, born 27 January 1934. "They came in, and I had a hard time keeping them from crawling all
over Mama and smothering the baby."
After helping out for a short time Elgin went back to the sawmill and worked till spring when he
had earned enough lumber to start building his house. In the spring of 1934 the lumber was delivered to
the ground already told about. "With the help of others we got up the frame of a fairly good big house by
using pasteboard for petitions. We moved into it before the cold winter of 1934 and 1935 came and lived
there that winter. We weren't too comfortable but we were in a house that more or less we could call our
own. But our life in it was not for very long. We had a cow that I had earned. She was hard to milk and
did not give very much. I had a hard time finding feed for her during that last winter in our new house."
"In the very early spring of 1935, Brother Healy wanted me to go with him down to Moab and
start and build up a nursery for him there. He said he had already made arrangements for the land, tools
and power to run the land. I went with him." Elgin left his family in Blanding to come later. Lawrence
was left to milk the cow which was not easy. Several weeks later, but still early in the spring, Druceal
with the kids and the cow got to Moab and they moved into the living quarters Elgin had ready for them.
"Brother Healey and I had put up a frame to put the tent on that we had picked up along the road. We also
had a camp wagon, so we had a fairly good place to stay." The nursery farm was on a bench south and
west, across a gully from Moab. The west side of it was down against the Colorado River.
"We had acquired a big team of mules that I was afraid of when I first started to handle them, but
we soon got used to each other. I also had a plow and other tools to work the ground with. I planted a
lawn and did some landscape work for the men from whom we got the mule team. I did several jobs of
landscape work in Moab. I did not have very much use for mule team after the ground was plowed and
leveled. We did not use them to go back and forth to town so they were given back to the men from
whom we got them."
Brother Healy had left credit at the grocery store and a hardware store. "We lived on about the
cheapest food we could buy, for that was our sole source of food. At the hardware store I had to get
things to till the ground with such as ****, weeders, etc. He had also left us all kinds of seeds: trees,
shrubs, flowers and garden seeds." Elgin had the ground plowed, leveled and ready to plant by the time
Druceal got there. She helped plant all the seeds, "as she does yet. I row out the row and she comes along
and plants the seeds out of her hand. There was a whole sack full of Chinese Elm seeds. We planted four
rows of them and they were long rows too. Chinese Elm, a fast growing shade tree, was quite popular
then. We planted two or three rows of ash tree seeds. There were several different kinds of shrubs that
grow from seed, some perennial flower seeds, and, of course, a vegetable garden which was for our own
use. It was quite a pleasure to work that soil, and there were no great amounts of weeds there."
They were some distance from the center of town and had to ford a stream in the gully to get
there. When it rained in the mountains the stream would flood and it was impossible to cross. This
caused some problems at times, especially with Lawrence and Nada coming and going to school. "There
were several times when the children could not get home till late, after school, waiting for water to go
down. It was sometimes a job to pack back from town what we had got there. Especially in the grocery
line, like flour, canned milk and canned mackerel, which was the cheapest meat we could buy. We lived
just as cheap as we could, so as not to run up our bills any more than we could help, for, of course, it was
all on Brother Healey's credit."
In June Druceal's mother sent her some money to come and visit her. She took Virginia and went
to Salt Lake City for about two weeks, leaving Elgin and the rest of the family in Moab to fend for
themselves. Elgin said of this, "if ever I was discouraged, downhearted, and blue it was then. The
children were out of school, for they were there with me all day, and pretty much big enough to take care
of themselves. But oh, was I lonesome, for she is my very life. God bless her. There are not many wives
and mothers God has ever sent to earth as good as she. I would go off into the trees down near the river
where there was a grove to get away from the children, and would pray, which helped me a little to stand
it. We had lived alright while she was gone. The children had helped prepare the meals and did other
As the summer went on, "Everything was growing beautifully, especially the Chinese Elms. I
kinda admired them then. They were quite popular as a shade tree and very easily sold. I have learned
since what a weed and nuisance they are. We must have lived several weeks before everything began to
tumble in on us . Brother Healey had lost his credit. We could not get any more at the grocery store They
came and took the team and all the tools away from us so we could not do very much more in the nursery
and garden." (The Great Depression was getting into full swing and most everybody was being effected.)
"The garden was just beginning to be of some help in feeding us . There was a mulberry tree near by
which helped a lot. The fruit on it was just getting ripe. But we were just about at the end of our rope. So I
decided we could starve just as well in Provo as we could there."
"I got a chance to trade the cow (that we were glad to get rid of) for our move to Provo. On our
way to Prove we had a flat. The old truck that was bringing us was an old delapidated one that had seen
its best days. I don't believe the owner had a jack or even an extra tire for we hunted all over till we found
a long pole with which we raised the wheel so it could be taken off. Then we put under the axle a stool I
made for the children. It was broken and I did not hear the last of that for a long time. That stool was
very precious to them." The tire was fixed and was put back on. They traveled all night and arrived in
Provo early the next day. "We unloaded on what is now the upper campus of BYU under some old
cottonwood trees where the Eyring Science Building is now. There was an old tumble-down shed nearby
that we used as a shelter in case of storms." And they set up their tent.
They arrived in Provo sometime in August 1935. There was fruit on the old fruit trees just over
the fence from their camp. "I asked if it would he alright if we used the fruit. There were peaches, apples
and some pears. I picked some of the fruit and brought it to Mama (Druceal) and she bottled it on an old
camp stove we had picked up somewhere, right out in the open under those trees." The children
(Lawrence, Nada, and Roland) started school while still living there under the trees.
"In the meantime I was going to every store, business house, and even many of the homes in town
trying to find work, any kind of work, but especially landscape work, but everyone was doing his own
garden or yard work as they called it then." (The Depression was at its worst.) He contacted a Brother
Whitehead who was the Bishop of the First Ward in Provo, also a City Commissioner. He told Elgin that
he could live in an old caddy house by the golf course on the south side of town. The caddy house needed
fixing up before it was livable. It could be made into two rooms. There were cracks between the outside
boards and the two window holes needed windows put in them. "The door on the east was still hanging.
The windows were on the west. There were some lumber yards on the south side of town, so I visited
them, and they told me that I was welcome to any old scrap lumber I could find around. They even had
two old windows that I could have. By patching and fitting I made the windows fit after a fashion. And
with the scrap lumber I pretty well patched up the cracks in the single lumber wall, so that the wind could
not get in so readily."
They moved into their first home in Provo the last of October, 1935. "We did not have any toilet
facilities, so we used a slop jar, and emptied it at night in an old drain ditch not too far away." The C.C.C.
boys were housed in the old fair ground buildings not far away. Lawrence and Roland and sometimes
Norman visited with the C.C.C. boys in their kitchen. They gave them food all the time and especially a
big salmon. "My, but that tasted good after it was cooked on the stove (kitchen range) that we had hauled
from Salt Lake. It had been used in Blanding, Moab, and now in the caddy house. We have used it since
and still have it." This stove was used for cooking and heating that cold , windy caddy house. Some of
the fuel come from the lumber yards where Elgin got lumber scraps. Most of the fuel was coal from the
side of the railroad tracks. "As the heavy loaded coal cars jerked and moved through town some coal
would be shook off. This I picked up so that we had plenty of fuel to keep ourselves warm."
That winter on January 4, 1936, Robert Toone (Bobby) was born in the Crane Maternity Home.
The Maternity Home was "Run and owned by the sweetest woman. I don't know what we would have
done without her generosity. I made arrangements with her and she allowed me to pay for her services
and the use of the building and pay for it by doing landscape work on the grounds around the building.
Lloyd Cullimore was the doctor. He promised to bring the baby into the world and let me do some work
around his home. He had a beautiful home on a large lot up near the University so arrangements were
made for the coming of another baby into our family---the sixth and middle one. I have always felt that
the landscape work these two fine people allowed me to do kinda broke the ice for I didn't have too much
trouble finding work after that." Elgin worked at the University library in the winter binding or repairing
books, and doing landscape work around the city in the summer. "I must have earned some money some
how for we bought an old car while we were still living in the caddy house."
"We moved from the caddy house in late spring of 1937 to a building that had been built for a
chicken coop, but had never had chickens in it, and someone else had lived in it before we did." They
moved in the old car. "We planted a garden and had some carrots to use out of it. I was still looking for
work. I contacted a Mr. Smith who owned a store and several homes. He told me he owned a house at
477 North University Avenue, kitty-comer across the street from the lower campus. I worked for him
doing landscape work around his home to pay for the rent of this house." They moved into it a little after
school started in the fall of 1937. The children started school that year while they were still living in the
chicken coop, which was on the hill just below "Y" mountain. "We rented two of the rooms. One to
three boys who moved out just a week or so after they moved in and never payed us anything, but the
other room we rented to a woman, a grandma and her grandson who was old enough to go to school."
Larona was born while they were living there. They went down to the Crane Maternity Home in
the old car, which was on south University, and she was born about four o'clock in the morning of April
19, 1938. "I came home in time to get the children ready for school. Lawrence was 12, Nada 10, Roland
8, Norman 6, who all went to the regular day school. Virginia and Bobby I took to a nursery school
further south on University Avenue. Bobby was walking by now, and was being taught to use the potty,
which was right near the range or stove which was the heat for the house, and on which out meals were
cooked. Bobby in trying to sit on the potty, got a little too near the stove and burnt his little bottom."
I was making a little more to live on, and we had bought some bicycles for the older children the
Christmas before, and someone had given us a tricycle for the younger ones. And we had an automobile
of sorts. Shortly after Mama came home from the maternity home we went and looked at an old tumbledown
house on a lot on the west side of Provo, and paid ten dollars down on it. But it did not satisfy us,
for in a few days, we found we could buy the land where we now live at 1701 South on 8th East in Orem.
It was then considered just worthless ground. I bought the acre and one half for $250.00, to be paid for at
the rate of twenty five dollars a month, We just lost ten dollars we had paid on the other place, which was
a lot of money for us then, but I have been and will he eternally grateful that we found the place where we