Melba Pugh Palmer
Contributor: kdbulloch Created: 3 months ago Updated: 3 months ago
Melba Pugh was born Sunday, March 11, 1906 at Kanab, Kane County, Utah to Charles Robert Pugh and Nellie Baird. She was their fourth child and third girl. Melba had two older sisters: Nellie Elizabeth (whom we called Aunt Beth) who was seven years older than she, and Delsa, two years older. She also had an older brother, Charles Cecil, who was five years older. As the years went by the Pugh family grew with the additions of four more boys and two more girls: Alton Robert, two years younger than Melba; Samuel Edward, 6 years younger, Lincoln David, 9 years younger; Rollace Allen, 17 years younger; LaVerde 4 years younger and Effa, 11 years younger. However, Effa only lived two years. Nellie also had 2 more children, a boy and a girl, but both were stillborn. The family had in total, ten living children-5 boys and 5 girls.
Melba lived in Kanab, Utah in her early years and attended school there. She tells of the summers being spent at "Sink Valley" where her father took the sheep each year. The family traveled in a wagon for two or three days to cover the 40 miles. They took cows, chickens, and pigs with them as they traveled. Melba had many fond memories of the trips between Kanab and Sink Valley and told of how sometimes they would ride in or walk by the wagon, but other times they would run ahead and then wait for the wagon to catch up to them.
The house at Sink Valley was made of logs with clay mud between them. It had 4 rooms and a large rock fireplace on the north side of the largest room, which they used as the living room. They had fold-down cots which were often used when they had a lot of company. The kitchen was on the east and was also quite large. It had a large table, chairs and a cook stove. South of the kitchen was another room used mainly as a storage room, which also had a table and was used in the fall when they had threshers and other people to harvest the potatoes. At one end of the table a grinder was attached for grinding wheat to make "mush". Melba told of how good the mush was for breakfast with plenty of honey and thick cream. The other room was used for the bedroom and had 4 beds; most of the time the girls and their parents slept in this room.
South of the main house was the wood pile and another house made of lumber. It had two large rooms and a lean-to attached. This was where the boys slept and kept their things. They also always had a sheep wagon by the main house. Melba always enjoyed playing house in the wagon with the other girls. The wagon went with them in the winter when the sheep were moved to the Arizona strip.
There were many cattle at the Pugh Ranch at Sink Valley. All the cows that had calves were kept there at the ranch, and at times there were 20 to 30 cows to be milked each day. This provided the family with a lot of milk, and each of them had to learn how to milk the cows.
East of the main house there was a small house which was called the "wash house", however, they didn't wash clothes there. Water was piped to it from a spring in the canyon, and the family carried water to the main house from the wash house. A cellar had been dug by this house which was about 10 feet deep and covered with a lumber roof and then dirt about 2 to 3 feet deep. It was nice and cool in the cellar all the time. This was where the milk, cream, butter and cheese were kept.
While the family lived at Sink Valley there were plenty of things for everyone to do. There was an orchard with many kinds of apples, plums and pears. However, they couldn't grow peaches. I remember going to Sink Valley and picking apples. Our family got an apple juicer at that time as we made a lot of apple cider as we were growing up. There was also a large vegetable garden, from which they canned corn, string beans, and peas. They grew currants, gooseberries, and elderberries and made lots of jams and jellies. There was also a large potato patch. Surrounding the house there were many fields of grain, alfalfa, hay and also pastures for the cows and horses.
The whole family worked very hard to get everything done and ready to take back to Kanab for the winter. Melba told of how their family made big round yellow bricks of cheese. She also made some after she was married because we had milk cows too! To make cheese, the milk was poured into a #2 tub and set it out all night. The next day it was heated on the big stove and a rennet tablet and a color tablet were added. By the time breakfast was over and the men had gone to the field or to see the sheep, the milk had thickened and was ready to cut into squares. When the whey began to separate from the curd, the whey was dipped off and the curd was cooked enough to squeak when it was chewed. Then the curd was cooled with water from the wash house. The new yellow cooked cheese curd was salted and put into a metal press lined with a large cheese cloth and weights were put on it to press the cheese. As the days went on, more weight was added, which increased the pressure. When the cheese was pressed, the outsides were rubbed with butter and the cheese wheel was put into the cellar to cure. In three weeks the cheese would be the best you've ever tasted.
During the summers at Sink Valley, Melba learned many of her ways of taking care of food. She also learned to love watching things grow. She once was given a little chicken (or "biddy"). She wanted to build a pen to keep and feed it in. She gathered all the material and made a nice place for it. Once the pen was finished she put the big hammer down and looked around for the little biddy. As it turned out, the hammer had fallen down on the little chicken and killed it. She really felt bad, so she had to get an egg and hatch another biddy. She never gave up when she started to do something.
As a child and later as a teenager, Melba took many little trips to the knolls south of the cow pastures to find flints or arrowheads, as there seemed to be quite a lot of them. Another favorite pastime was in malting dollhouses. The girls would save the boxes that the freight and groceries came in and made dollhouses, papering the walls with pictures cut out of magazines. They even made furniture out of the clay that would form after it rained in Sink Valley. These kinds of activities kept them busy when there was time between chores.
Some of the chores in Sink Valley were tromping hay when it was hauled, taking the cows to pasture and doing the milking, feeding the lambs, doing dishes, cleaning the milk separator, cooking, cleaning and peeling vegetables. Melba learned to work hard and continued to do so throughout her life.
Her family was very close and enjoyed their get-together& Even after she and her brothers and sisters were grown and had their own families, they had many Pugh Reunions up in the canyons. There was also much eating, visiting and good laughing. They were usually held in the beautiful East Fork and Water Canyon areas west of Bryce Canyon with the pink cliffs all around.
Sink Valley got its name because the soil west of the house was a gumbo clay and when the rains came, it was literally a bog hole, in which people or animals, especially those pulling wagons, were unable to get very far. After Melba's legs got well, she would go out and walk with her siblings barefooted as far as she could with the mud growing on their feet until they had to stop and dig the mud off. Then they would walk some more and get "big feet" again. The family could always expect company when it rained because the Pugh Ranch was on the road from Marysvale to Kanab. All the freighters came that way as they didn't have a road across the sands between Orderville and Kanab. People stopped and set up camp in their front yard often. There were also tramps that stopped at the ranch. Melba's parents became known for helping travelers and no one left their home hungry, even with all the children and relatives they had to feed.
When the family was back in Kanab, the children attended elementary and high school. Melba was a very good student and learned very quickly. She received a gold hexagonal watch one year for being the best speller in the whole grade school. She always had a great thirst for knowledge. Learning to care for the sick was one of her greatest interests. She read many books about medicine, herbs and used much of what she learned. She became famous with her family and with others for her "sticky-gum", which was made from pine tree sap. Many people have been helped to heal with this medicine. She made many trips to the dry farm on the knoll to gather the sticky-gum.
In a short history Melba wrote, she told of a time when she was very young and was troubled with rheumatic fever. It was hard for her to walk or run, especially if she went outside, or got her feet and legs wet.
This could lay her up in bed for weeks. But she had a kind and loving father who would hitch up his high stepping sorrel horse to the surrey and carry her out to the buggy and they would go for a long ride to the Kanab Dams, 2% miles up the canyon She really enjoyed these rides, which gave her a chance to get out of the house for a short time. She credits the prayers and deep faith of her parents in her healing of this trouble, and she was able to start school on time when she was six years old.
Her first years of school were in the 2-story rock school building in the Kanab town square. Later, in her high school years, a new school building was built on a clay knoll, and oh, how their feet would stick in that clay on rainy days. Her brothers were all good ball players and were on the high school team that traveled to Orderville, Hurricane, Cedar and St George. The teams always stayed overnight, so when teams from the other towns came to Kanab, some of the boys would stay at the Pugh's home.
After graduating from high school, Melba went to Utah State College at Logan, Utah. There she received a 2-year certificate to teach school. She never used the certificate, however, because when she came home, she met Ray Joseph Palmer who lived just up the road in Alton. They were married in the St George Temple in St George, Utah on June 1, 1927. At that time it was a law that no married woman was allowed to teach school.
She had seven children: Elgin Ray, Helen, Donna Rose, Robert Kay, Delbert Ross, Charles Joseph and Wendell Blain. Four of the children were born in Kanab, Kane County, Utah and three were born in Alton, Kane County, Utah. All of the children were born in April, except Robert, who was born in October. When questioned why this was so, she always replied that Ray herded sheep and was only home during the summer months, but once came home early.
She had a lot of courage to live in Alton all winter alone with her family of small children. The snow often got very deep and it was difficult to get around, as they didn't have any way to remove the snow from the roads. Once the snow was so deep that she couldn't get up to the top of the lot to feed the pig, and it died. But her children loved the snow and would go across the field and up the hill just east of the house and ride a sleigh all the way back to the house over the fence! Once, as they came down, Helen hit a fence post and cut her head quite badly. But with her "know-how", faith and prayers, she was able to fix all her children's cuts and sicknesses. Ray always made sure she had a full coal bin and cut wood so she could keep them all warm.
After her in-laws Joseph and Helen Palmer moved to St. George and Ray took over the farm, they moved into the house west of where they lived previously. The house was built on the same floor plan as the other, but was larger. It had a large front lawn, an orchard to the east and north with apple, plum, pear and cherry trees, and a big barn, coal house and grainery. There was also a cellar under the hay in the barn and a chicken coop, sheep shed and milk stall for milking and feeding the cows. They also had a large garden spot. With all her experience in her early years, she just continued canning, making cheese, cottage cheese and butter. Later they bought 300 chickens, so there were eggs to clean and sell, plus chicken to bottle. The best corn and potatoes grow in Alton. After getting the house, Melba asked Ray and her brothers to build a big cellar under the house, with steps going down on the west side. It was built in the early 1940's and all the children were kept busy with digging and carrying the dirt out. She always kept this cellar full, and the family always had plenty to eat. She provided a warm and secure home for her children as they grew up.
When World War II was declared, many of the school teachers rushed to the war plants to find higher paying jobs. This left many schools without teachers. Then the law was changed so married women were allowed to teach school. It was then that she determined to go back and get a certificate to teach. She became qualified and taught Charles when he went to grade school. The other children always said that was why Charles was so smart and was the only one to get his Master's and Doctorate degree. She said if he didn't bring his homework home, she did.
Melba spent many summers at summer school in Cedar City at Southern Utah State College. She continued learning and graduated from college in 1965 at age 59. She taught in the Alton school off and on for 10 years and then when she and Ray began going to St. George for the winters, she taught at Colorado City, Arizona, which was also known as "Short Creek". The people of Short Creek broke away from the Mormon Church when the President and Prophet Wilford Woodruff received the revelation of the "Manifesto" stating that plural marriage was against the laws of the nation and that the people of the church must obey the law. The people of Short Creek, however, continued to practice polygamy and left the church. Melba said it was difficult to see some of the very bright and beautiful young girls have to marry so young, but she couldn't say anything about it. She was a good teacher and all the people liked her. She taught until 1972 when she retired at 66 years old.
In 1974, Ray and Melba were called on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Florida. She enjoyed this time of her life very much in being able to serve her Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by telling others about the Gospel. She even organized a primary for the little children. She had a strong testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ, that He lives and that this Gospel is the same that He taught when be lived upon the earth. When they were released in the fall of 1975, after 18 months of service, Charles, who then lived in Denver, Colorado, flew to Tallahassee, Florida and helped them drive home. They also did some sightseeing before coining home, going to the south of Florida to see Aunt Beth Rowdy and Aunt Delsa Stevens, Melba's sisters who were both on missions at that same time. Then they continued down the west side to Tampa, St. Petersburg, Ft. Myers and across "Alligator Alley" to Miami, and up the east side to Ft Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, and Jacksonville, then north through Georgia on Highway 95 to Savannah, then to South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington D.C. There they stopped long enough to go to a session in the new Washington D.C. Temple. That was a very beautiful and enjoyable experience for Melba. They continued up to New York City and toured the Statue of Liberty and other points of interest. Charles said there were a few times they got lost and it took a little doing to find their way around. They also went to some of the early church history sites, like Palmyra, New York, Kirtland, Ohio and on to Carthage jail and Nauvoo, Illinois. From there they traveled to Independence, Missouri and back to Denver, Colorado where I lived at the time. My two daughters were visiting me then, so Melba and Ray took them back to Utah on their way home. They returned to Alton on August 11, 1975. Melba said of this mission "What a glorious experience we had working for the Lord, together."
After the mission, Ray and Melba went back to their usual custom of spending summers in Alton and winters in St. George, working in the temple. They also went to the Senior Citizen's activities and square dancing, which they enjoyed up to 1983. Ray always loved to pitch horse shoes and Melba did a lot of hand work. She crocheted many Afghans and pillows. She kept busy all the time. Most mornings she would rise early and walk two or three miles up a steep hill on Main Street. This kept her in good health. When they moved to Alton in the spring, they would plant the garden, can fruits and vegetables and dry many things such as celery, onion, apples, apricots, and peaches. They also made fruit leather. As time went by, it began to be harder for them to make the moves twice each year. Melba would say "if I was to Alton, whatever I needed was down to St. George, and if I was to St. George, it was at Alton." Ray's Parkinson's disease continued to get worse until he shook all the lime. Melba had taken him to the doctors in Las Vegas and Salt Lake but there seemed to be nothing that helped, even though he took many pills.
In August of 1983, Richard and I stopped on our way to Los Angeles, California carrying a load of swinging pigs. Daddy and Mama looked into the small door on the back of the trailer and saw all the pigs hanging from the top of the trailer. They couldn't believe that we were carrying that many pigs, 50 cut in half, in one trailer. As we prepared to leave, Daddy asked us if we would buy the house that Grandpa Joseph Palmer had built, as they were planning to build another house in the back lot. We said that we would buy the house if it was okay with the others in the family, and upon arriving back in Denver, we got a call that the others had approved of the idea.
We called the Virgin Valley Credit Union in Mesquite, Nevada where I already had an account to get a loan. Representatives of the credit union came to appraise the house and prepare the paperwork, which we signed on our next trip. Mama got a contractor from Short Creek to put in the basement. When work was completed, she had a bedroom and bathroom, a large fruit room with double walls and a storage room, and a family room next to a kitchen. The kitchen had an outside entrance with stairs making it possible for her to bake bread and can fruits and vegetables without making a mess in the upstairs kitchen.
In the house above the basement, Mama had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a dining mom, kitchen, fruit room, washroom, and a large living room with a bay window. There were also stairs going down to the basement, allowing inside access. Altogether, it was a very nice home - one that Mama really enjoyed the last ten years of her life.
They got all moved in by March 1984. That move was quite something. Delbert and his boys came from Orderville to help. Then Richard and I moved to St. George from Denver the end of March into April. We moved into the upstairs of Grandpa Palmer's home. Pamela, who had just been married on March 16, 1984 to David Ray Tait had moved into the middle part of the house. It took us all a little time to get settled as Richard and I owned our own truck. We went back to driving on the road. This seemed to cause much worry for Mama as she was so afraid that something would happen to us in the big truck. I had called her a lime or two telling of some bad accidents we had seen and the bad weather we were in. She had had a bad experience with credit union loans. She had tried to help Wendell pay a loan and after paying for some time, she found that she was only paying the interest and that the principle Wendell owed was still the same. She worried that if we were killed in an accident, the Credit Union would come and take her home with the one we were buying, as there was only one deed to the land.
We came home to St. George in May, 1984 and sold our truck. We got another job driving for "James Andrus Trucking" out of Mesquite, Nevada. I stayed home, took the money to the credit union and paid off the loan. I also got the deed and Mama, Daddy and I went to a lawyer and had the lot legally divided into two lots, with separate deeds for each lot.
Daddy was anxious to go to Alton for the summer that year, even though this new house had a heat pump (not like a swamp cooler) which kept it cool in the summer. He told Mama that if she wasn't ready to take him, he was going to drive himself.
On June 7, 1984 they got word that a piece of land had been sold, and they needed to go to Kanab and pick up the money, so they left for Kanab and Alton. Richard got home that day and signed the deed papers and we had them recorded with the title company. All was now in order and Mama didn't have to worry any more. Her home was on her own land.
On June 9, 1984 Mama and Karen, her daughter-in-law went to Cedar City to get some things Karen needed for her daughters wedding. Shannon was getting ready to marry Cary Chamberlain on June 29, 1984. While they were gone, Daddy felt good enough to water the garden. He loved it there in Alton.
The next day, Sunday June 10, 1984 Daddy got up and took his bath. They ate breakfast together and he went to feed the calves some grain. He passed away in the sheep pen that morning. Ray and Melba had been married 57 years on the 1st of June. He would have been 80 years old on July 18th if he had lived.
This was a very bad day for Mama. Delbert, Karen, Richard and I all made it up to Alton that afternoon. It was the neighbor, Albert, who had found him as everyone else had gone to church.
We all went with Mama to Kanab to get things ready for the funeral and all the family came home. It was a large crowd, as Mama and Daddy were special people and had many friends plus family.
I stayed with Mama most of the summer. We would go back to St. George and then up to Alton. She felt that Daddy didn't have any time to enjoy his new home; but I believe he was ready to go, now that he had a nice place for Mama to live.
Mama kept busy at home. We put a brick wall around the two houses, landscaped the yard with grass, trees and scrubs, and moved all the roses from the front house to the flower gardens in the back. Everything looked very beautiful.
Mama sold Daddy's pickup and her car then went to Las Vegas, Nevada where Robert helped buy a nice station wagon for her. She really enjoyed that car. She could take everything she wanted when she went to Alton, and also take her friends around St. George. It had four doors and two seats.
Melba enrolled in some more college classes and learned a new way to quilt, and also some new ways to cook. She also took some courses at the Institute on the Book of Mormon. She was able to go on by keeping busy. She told me to go back on the track with Richard and she even went with us on a trip to Denver, Colorado. She thought it was quite nice where you had a bed to sleep in while driving down the road. She also got to see first¬hand that her daughter could drive one of those big 18 wheelers, pulling 80,000 lbs up and down hills. She went to Denver to be with Lois, Charles' wife, as Charles had been diagnosed with leukemia in July and was in the hospital. He was allowed to be home that Christmas, in 1984, but the cancer came back in February. He passed away on March 29, 1985 after battling for 9 months with leukemia. This was very hard for Melba, as he left a wife and nine children-the youngest being only 14 months old. She made a few more trips to Denver to help out. She was always caring for others.
The prophet has asked the church members for more missionaries, so Melba talked to Bishop Snow of the 4th ward and told him she was ready. Her sister, LaVerde McAllister, was also preparing to go on a mission and they were both called to serve a Family History Mission in Salt Lake City, Utah. They lived together for one year, from August 1988 to August 1989. Melba really enjoyed this second mission. She learned to use computers and when she came home she bought a new computer and went back to college for more courses.
With Ray and Charles gone, Lois kept the "Palmer Family Letter" going. Charles was the one who initiated the letter, and also organized the family to have reunions each summer in Alton. This has truly kept the family together and in touch with each other. At each reunion, the family honored one of our ancestors. In 1990 it was Delbert's family's turn to be in charge and they decided to honor Melba while she was still living. We all had a delightful time, putting on skits about the accomplishments of her life, and some of the funny things she has done, for example, when she would back out of the long driveway of the home in St. George-she always made it, it just took some time to get from one side to the other. Delbert's family also made a book in her honor. Most of her children and grandchildren put a page in it. This was a great day for her.
Melba lived four more years, but these weren't the best years. She kept busy, as always, making baby quilts for the two new great-great-grandchildren, Jake Dennis Hadley, born November 12, 1993, son of Jennifer and Travis Hadley, and Jenna Leech, born August 31, 1994, daughter of Kimberly and Thomas Leech. She had a 5 generation picture taken with Jake, Jennifer, Cathleen, and Donna. The picture was printed in the newspaper in St. George. She never had the opportunity to see Jenna, though; as she was born in California just four weeks before she passed away.
Melba's knees were giving her a lot of pain. She went to the temple frequently, but didn't know if she could make it home. She could still drive her car, but walking was the problem. So she made the decision and had an operation on her knees on August 8, 1994. Both knees were replaced with metal ones that wouldn't give her any pain. She went through the operation very well. She came home on August 26 after two weeks of therapy and was doing great. She was able to walk without pain, but was having some other problems with an upset stomach and her feet were bothered by the tight stockings she wore. She was planning on going to stay with Delbert and Karen in Orderville, as Richard and I had his mother, Viva B. Caine staying with us. We were planning to take Viva to New Mexico to visit her sister. We thought Melba would be fine staying at home.
On Monday, September 26, 1994, Melba was up when I took her breakfast over to her. She ate well and then her therapist came at 8:00 to help her exercise. She walked from her home to mine without her walker and without any pain in her knees. Then her home healthcare nurse came to help her bathe and wash her hair at 10:00. At noon the visiting nurse who took her vital signs came and said she was doing well. She said she was going to lay down for a rest, while I went back to my home to do my washing. There were also three or four of the ward sisters who stopped by for a visit that morning, and her friend and neighbor, Laura Bruhn came over with a basket of fruit. I told her to just go on over to see her. My visiting teacher came at 2:00. They were going to go over to see her to, but I knew she was resting so they said they'd come another day. I was busy packing for the trip when she called on the phone to say that Zola Jolly had called and asked her to come to their Family Home Evening at 4:00. I told her I'd come over with something to eat before she went. About 15 minutes later I went in and she was laying on the floor. I tried to pick her up and talk to her, but I couldn't do either. I called 911 and they came and worked on her for about 20 minutes. I knew by then that Daddy had come to take her home to heaven to be with him.
They were truly great parents. They gave us all a great example for us to live up to. They both had strong testimonies of this life, our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ and. the Gospel. They wanted us all to obey the commandments!
Some of the last things Melba did in her life was to pay her tithing, pay for the Ensign magazine for another year to the Ward Magazine Representative and she was reading in her medical book to try to discover why she kept having an upset stomach and rash on her feet. She was learning right up to her last breath.
A Tribute to Ray and Melba Palmer:
All their children have been baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and all have been to the Temple of Our God to receive their own endowments. What better gift could parents give to their children?
(Written by Donna Cain, Melba’s daughter)