Ray Joseph Palmer
Contributor: kdbulloch Created: 3 months ago Updated: 3 months ago
Ray Joseph Palmer was born Monday, July 18, 1904, "across the creek" at Mt. Carmel, Kane County, Utah to Joseph Palmer and Helen Jane Robertson. Just before he passed away he wrote a short history of his life in the Palmer Family letter. I will use some of that and also some of my memories.
He was the second living child for to Joseph and Helen. He had an older sister, Artemesia, who we called Aunt Mesia (pronounced "Misha"). She was nine years old when Ray was born. He had three younger sisters, Jennie, 2 years younger, Bernice, 5 years younger, and Lillis, 8 years younger.
They lived on the east side of the creek that went through Mt. Cannel. He spent the first seven years of his life there. He learned to ride horses during this time. They lived so far from the church that his father had to hitch a team of horses to the wagon to take them to church each week. At one time, during a large flood, the water in the creek was so deep it nearly came into the wagon box. He said it was very frightening to him, as a small child, and he disliked the smell of floods after that.
Ray had a neighbor he played with often named Earl Englestead. There was a pigeon nest in the barn and nearly every day they checked to see if any of the eggs had hatched. His father had just filled that end of the barn with hay so it was easy to get up to the nest. One day when Earl reached his hand into the nest a large blow snake stuck its head out. The snake had probably been hauled in with the hay. Ray and Earl got a pitchfork and hauled the snake out to the wood pile where they cut its head off with an ax. Then they tied a string to it and dragged it all over town to show their friends.
Another time he and his sisters Jennie and Bernice were playing in the wood pile, which was across the field ditch. When their mother called for them to come to dinner, Jennie slipped off the single plank bridge into the ditch of water. Ray recalled that he reached down and grabbed her dress trying to pull her out, but he couldn't. Their mother came running to help. All the while he was holding her feet out, but her head was still in the water. Jennie came close to drowning before she was rescued.
Ray also tells of a trip he made to Salt Lake City, Utah. His mother wanted to visit her brother Charles Robertson and his family. His mother's brother, Seth, was going to take them as far as Marysvale, Utah. They traveled the remaining distance by train. It took 3 to 4 days to get to Marysvale by horse and wagon, as it was over 100 miles. The ride on the train was real good compared to the wagon. What he liked best about the trip was going to Salt Air Recreation Area. He rode the little cars that went up high and made quick turns coming down. As they were coming down, the car ahead of them stopped too soon. He bumped his nose and it began to bleed. His Uncle Charles had to go out and get him as they were still over the water. Then he took him to an ice cream stand. There Ray had his first ice cream cone. He said there aren't words to explain how good that tasted to him.
His Uncle Charles and Aunt LaVern had three boys. Lewis was older than Ray, Ronald was about his age, and Cecil was younger. They visited for a week and began the trip home. They traveled the same way, in a train and then by wagon. Uncle Charles and Aunt LaVern decided to let Lewis go back with them. Lewis' father purchased a small saddle to take back with them so he could learn how to ride horses. After Lewis had spent a few weeks with them it was time for him to return to Salt Lake. When he left Ray "fell heir" to the saddle. He said it surely helped him in riding horses, as he had a hard time riding bareback without falling off.
He had two horses that he especially liked to ride. Dewey was a half-breed Shetland. He was larger than a regular Shetland, but had a round back, from which Ray was continually falling off. The saddle made it easier for him to stay on. The other horse was black with a white stripe down its face. It was a pace, and Ray sure liked that gait. This one was quite fast in running races. He had to be quite careful to keep him from running away with him.
Ray's family still lived in Mt. Carmel when he went to Orderville with his Uncle Seth to take a load of hay to Myron Holgate. After the hay was unloaded, Sister Holgate gave him a bucket of nice ripe pears to take home. When he got home, he marched right over to Englestead's with the pears. The next thing he remembers was his Uncle Seth booting him all the way home with what pears he had left. This was very typical of Daddy all his life. He would give the shirt off his back if someone needed it. I remember our neighbors who lived across the street had a horse barn facing north and when the cold Alton winter winds would blow; Daddy would take a load of bailed hay over and stack it in front of those horses so they wouldn't have to stand facing the wind.
Ray didn't start going to school until after his 7th birthday. He walked a mile or more to school with his neighbor Earl. He tells about walking all the way to town with an egg in his pocket to buy some candy. He had to be very careful so he didn't break it (it was quite an event).
Two weeks after he started school, Ray's father moved them to Orderville, but he didn't sell the farm in Mt Cannel until several years later. It was quite a job for them to haul the hay and corn the 5 miles to Orderville. He had a horse called Tanner that he rode to the farm. Then Ray would tromp hay while his father loaded it with a pitchfork. Then he rode old Tanner back instead of riding on the hay. When they were out of the field, sometimes a car would come along. Ray would let the reins a little loose and Tanner would keep up with the car all the way to Orderville.
Many times after school Ray would have to shuck corn. They took the best corn with their wheat to the gristmill at Glendale, which was seven miles up the canyon. There it was ground for their year's supply of flour and corn meal. The corn was white flint, which was very good to parch and then grind for cold cereal. They ate this cereal with cream and sugar on it, which was very good!
As he was growing up, Ray learned to work, as there was much to do. He milked three cows each night and morning so they had plenty of cream for cereal and for making butter. They also had to feed the pigs each day, which resulted in some good ham and bacon. (He always liked fried bacon with his eggs. I remember this as I was growing up).
Ray was baptized on his eighth birthday, July 18, 1912. Grandpa Joseph Palmer baptized all his children on their eighth birthday. The water was very cold, as it was done in Henry Chamberlain's water tank. Grandpa also confirmed him a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then, four year later, when he was 12, he was ordained a deacon and set apart as the President of the Deacon's Quorum. The deacons had the job of cutting wood for the widows in the town. He recalled that one of the widows always gave them candy when they cut wood for her.
He became a scout during this time and had to ride old Tanner every Wednesday night to scout meetings, singing the scout song all the way. He also worked at Binnie Sorenson's ranch, which was three miles north of their home, where he would tromp hay for $ 1.40 a day. He recalled singing scout songs while tromping the hay.
In the spring of 1921, the Palmer family moved to Alton, Utah, which was 18 miles north of Orderville. Ray had finished the ninth grade of school, but that fall there were ten of them that needed to go to high school, but couldn't afford to, so the Alton school teacher said he would teach them 2-12 units.
The next fall, in 1922, Ray went to St. George, Utah, where he attended high school. He graduated in the spring of 1924. During these winters, he had to milk eight to ten cows both morning and night for his room and board, and then ride a horse to school. He stayed out in the Washington fields.
Ray was offered a scholarship for his first year of college, which would pay part of the expenses. At that time, however, the only courses offered were for training teachers. He decided he would rather herd sheep than kids. He began herding sheep that fall and spent most of the next 14 years working with sheep.
While living in Alton, a family from Kanab came to live in Sink Valley which was three or four miles south of town. They stayed during the summer, as they had sheep too, as that area is where everyone brought their sheep during the summer. This family was the Charles and Nellie Pugh family. They had a daughter named Melba who Ray met at an Alton town dance. The story is told that one night Ray went down to see her and stayed so long that the horse he had ridden got tired and went home, so when he decided to go home, he had to walk. The roosters were crowing by the time he reached Alton. (Whenever we as children stayed out too late, we would remind them of when they were young).
Ray Joseph Palmer and Melba Pugh were married Wednesday, June 1, 1927 in the St. George temple for time and all eternity by George F. Whitehead
In their early married life Melba stayed in Alton and tended their children in the deep snow, while Ray spent many lonely winters at the sheep herd. When he was home, he had many stories to tell his children. Sometimes it would snow at the herd and he would have to make trails for the sheep and feed them a "cottonseed cake" and chop brush just to keep them alive. Other times he would take the family to the canyon in the summer and stay in the sheep wagon. It had a bed and a table that lifted up, and also a small stove and cupboards. The children thought it was a fun playhouse.
Ray quit working with sheep in the spring of 1937, and began working on the farm with his father. Then in 1938 his parents moved to St. George, Utah to work in the temple. They built a home there at 37 East 300 South in St. George. Their lot was large enough for a barn, chicken coop and garden spot. They sold the farm in Alton to Ray, which he made payments on for the next 20 years with whatever he had and whenever he could.
As a child I remember going to St. George to visit Grandpa and Grandma Palmer with Daddy in the old Ford pickup, which would always get hot. We always had to carry water with us in the truck. It was very hard going through Zion. We always stopped in Rockville and visited some relatives, the Coxes, to let the pickup cool. We would play in the river and they always seemed to have watermelon, which was delicious.
Ray was the president of the YMMIA for two years, and then was 2nd counselor to Bishop Harold H. Heaton for five years. Later he was 1st counselor to Bishop Allen M. Cox for another six years. In 1953 he was ordained a high councilman in the Kanab Stake.
He also worked hard for the community. He was on the Alton Town Board and also the Water Board. He was president of the Kane County Farm Bureau for five years, and a member of the State FFA Committee for three years. He taught 4-H to his boys, and helped them enter sheep and calves in the 4-H fairs each year. He said he enjoyed working in all of these activities.
Grandma Helen Jane Robertson Palmer, Ray's mother, passed away in Kanab, Utah on September 30, 1957, two weeks after having a stroke. This was very hard on him, as he had depended on her all through his life. It was also hard on his father; Joseph Palmer, who had a hard time living alone. Ray and Melba decided to move to St. George in the winters. Melba was teaching school in Colorado City, Arizona, about 40 miles east of St. George and would drive back and forth each day. Ray attended the temple as much as he could. When it was summer, they moved back to Alton and brought Grandpa with them. There Ray would feed cattle on the dry farm and the meadow for the Hughes brothers from Mesquite, Nevada. The cattle would be trucked to Alton in the spring and picked up in the fall. He did this for ten or twelve years.
In 1961 after moving back to Alton for the summer, Grandpa Joseph Palmer had a stroke. He was taken to a doctor in Kanab, Utah, where he stayed with his sister Bernice Pugh. Several days later he passed away on April 15, 1961, only 3-1/2 years after his wife, Helen Jane.
Ray and Melba continued to live in Alton in the summer and St. George in the winter. Ray worked for a time on Cedar Mountain marking bug infested timber so it could be cut down. He enjoyed being outdoors and doing that kind of work. He also continued caring for cattle and moving them from one place to another so the feed could re-grow. He was always fixing fences to keep them in.
In the fall of 1973, Ray and Melba were called on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They worked hard getting everything ready so they could leave. They left toward the end of January, 1974, for the Florida-Tallahassee mission, driving their car all the way. They labored for 18 months in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, sowing seeds of Mormonism among the people of the south. They met many good, friendly people, but not many who were interested in the church. They put 32,000 miles on their car and spent $8,000. They had many wonderful and enjoyable experiences on the mission, and returned home to Alton in August of 1975.
While living in St. George each winter for 25 years, and working in the temple as often as time would permit, Ray estimated he had done over 7,000 endowments, 250,000 confirmations in the baptism area, and that he worked in initiatory once or twice a week. He was also a frequent proxy in sealing sessions. During this time he was set apart as a veil worker and worked in this capacity until December 1983.
In the fall of 1983 it became very hard for Ray to keep the weeds controlled in the backyard. He worked very hard in the St. George heat. Melba wanted to have condominiums built on their lot, but Ray didn't want to tear down the house that his father had built. They decided to build a new house behind the original house since it was such a deep lot. A basement was completed and a home, which was built in Salt Lake City, was brought down in 2 pieces and set up on the basement. In March 1984 they were finally able to get everything moved into their new home. "That was quite an undertaking," Ray said in a family letter. In the January, 1984 letter he wrote:
They brought our house down from Salt Lake City, Utah on December 22nd and placed in on the basement the next day. Due to storm and the holidays they haven't done anything since. We have to use a stepladder to get in. (The house) was brought down in two sections and then bolted together after it was placed on the basement.
In the February, 1984 letter he wrote:
The new house isn't completely ready, but Mama has moved a few things in. She can hardly wait to get moved in. She thinks we'll have plenty of room, using both floors.
In the March, 1984 letter:
We have been living in the new house for a week. It has been a little like camping for a few days as we didn't have enough things or the right things to really keep house. It's a job to find which pile the item is in at the time you want it. You can’t possibly imagine how many things we have stored in all the tubby holes, nooks and corners.
It was quite a job for them to move, as Ray had developed Parkinson's disease and shook quite badly at times. However, he really enjoyed the time he got to live there. He was also glad he had provided a nice home for Melba to spend her last years in. It was warm in the winter and cool in the summers with only the turn of a switch.
That spring was a cold one, so it was late when they moved back to Alton. They usually moved in April or May, but this year, they didn't arrive until Thursday, June 7. They had sold some land and had to sign the papers in Kanab that day. The lot in St. George had been split into two lots so each house was on a separate lot, and all the deeds were signed to that effect, and were waiting to be recorded.
But finally, Ray was home to the place where he was happiest, with the animals and the open space. On Saturday, he was able to water the garden. On Sunday morning, Melba recalled he bad gotten up, taken a bath, fixed their breakfast, ate and went to feed the calves some grain. As he wasn't able to sit through the three-hour block of meetings at the church, he had planned to attend Sacrament Meeting, which was last. Melba was going to go to Relief Society, but was waiting for him to come back to the house before she left. But, she said, "He didn't come."
Ray Joseph Palmer died in the sheep pen of a heart attack on June 10, 1984. He didn't have to suffer.
He was such a great example to all who knew him. He loved everyone, and was so kind and gentle. He was a hard worker and a good provider. He enjoyed music, dancing, and loved to travel between Alton and the Cedar Mountain area. He was missed by us all, but was well prepared to meet our Savior Jesus Christ!
(Written by Donna Cain, Ray’s Daughter)