Biography of Silas Ricks Hinckley by Ross Clinton Hinckley (son)
Contributor: modestograves Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Silas Ricks Hinckley
To preserve the humorous, interesting, faith-promoting, and character-building incidents of a live well-live, I have compiled this history. It is written from notes taken while he was yet living and his memory was keen.
Silas Ricks Hinckley was respected by all who knew him and loved by those who knew him best, his own family. We gain inspiration and courage by remembering how he live.
Written by: Ross Clinton Hinckley
One of his sons
The Upper Snake River Valley is one of the finest agricultural areas in the world. It produces grain, potatoes, and a variety of other crops worth millions of dollars annually. It is entering an industrial era with the coming of the vast Atomic Energy Reactor Plant on the Lost River Desert. Just one hundred years ago Eastern Idaho was an arid waste. The development of this region is a drama of work and perseverance. One of the pioneers who played a part in this drama was Silas Ricks Hinckley. He was born near Coalville, Summit County, Utah.
Summit County was on the frontier between the Wild West and the unique “Mormon” settlements. The job of law enforcement and maintaining order was vested in the probate judge. He was the head of county government at that time. Silas’ father, Arza Erastus Hinckley, held that office a term of years. While judge, Arza E. Hinckley made a fine record of law enforcement and building up the county.
Silas was born January 28, 1872, on a farm a short distance from Coalville. The father, Arza, was busy as a probate judge, leaving much of the responsibility of the farm to his wife, Temperance Ricks Hinckley. Silas was a normal farm boy and full of boyish pranks. He would milk the cows and drink the milk.
An early memory occurred one day when Silas was not feeling well. On all kitchen ranges was a tea kettle with a spout. It was to have a ready supply of hot water. Silas was sitting near the range. The steam from the spout attracted his attention. He tipped the tea kettle to look down the spout to see where the steam was coming from. He tipped the tea kettle further and further until he had poured the boiling water on his chest. His mother used a home remedy. She poured molasses on the burn to heal it. He was scaled so severely, he carried the scar all of his life.
In this age of automobiles and smooth, hard-surfaced highways, we don’t realize the difficulty of travel when Silas was a boy. He remembered riding in wagons, without springs, drawn by horses over rough, dirt roads. One time Silas and his father were traveling up Ogden Canyon. They saw a ruffian upset a fruit peddler’s cart. Silas’ father hated such a wrong. He stopped and helped the peddler gather his produce and start on his way again.
One other memory of Summit County was when an Indian playfully took Silas and hung him by the heel to a picket fence.
When Silas was five years old, he moved with his father’s family to old Cove Fort in Southern Utah. Silas’ father had helped his brother, Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, build the fort. It was a place of rest for travelers and a protection from the Indians. The stagecoaches from the east and west stopped to change horses and permit the passengers to rest, often overnight. There was work to be done even for boys. Silas remembered feeding the stagecoach horses and cleaning the large barn. He carefully measured the grain each horse was to have.
There were long days hauling hay and storing it in the barn. It seemed to Silas that they were always hauling hay. He would arrange the hay as his father and older brother put it on the wagon. It was taken to the barn where it was pitched into the barn. Silas and his sisters would pitch it from one to the next until it was in place. Seventy-five tons of hay was stored by this method. Flying ants and other flying insects would annoy the men and bite them.
One time Silas and his father went to Deseret, a small community south of Kanosh, to haul grain. They would work all day hauling grain. In the evening, they would go to a creek to get a supply of water. Silas would help load the water in barrels. On the way back to their camp he would go to sleep and not awaken until the next morning.
Cove Fort held many dear memories of his boyhood. Silas had a pony he loved to ride. He would drive the horses to a creek for water with his pony. The other horses would kick his pony often hitting Silas’ legs. He bore the pain in silence. He thought if his father knew it, Silas would not be allowed to drive the horses to water. This he enjoyed doing even if he was hurt.
On another occasion, with his brother John, Silas was trying to help some men round up horses. A trained pony will run in a straight line, jumping brush that might be in the way, until the object of the pursuit is overtaken. Silas’ pony was very well trained. The boys fell off and hid in the sagebrush until danger was past.
At another time, a herd of cattle were driven past the fort. A number of calves wandered into the sagebrush and were left behind. Silas rode his pony out to round them up. He had a difficult time, but did succeed in bringing some in. So, by experience, he learned horsemanship. All his life he loved horses.
He remembered his Indian playmates. He earned their respect.
Few farm boys have grown up without trying to ride calves, even if it is against the rule. Silas and his brothers would ride the calves until the calves would blat. Then, just in case their father would come to investigate, they would hide until the incident was forgotten.
Silas’ father was a lover of fruit trees and shade trees. He would plant them wherever he lived. One day he brought some trees home and set them out. Silas and his brothers chose some of the trees and staged a contest as to who could make his trees grow the fastest. Somehow they got the notion the trees would grow faster if the leaves were picked off. Silas’ father wondered why the trees died.
Around the fort were rattlesnakes. The family had a dog that could grab a snake and with a quick shake, pop the snake’s head off. He remembered as a small boy, of dragging a large snake from under the kitchen stove.
Around the fort, above the roofs of the enclosed cabins, was a walk for the men to stand on and fight the Indians. They could fire through rifle holes in the wall. One day Silas was playing on this walk. He was going to walk past a bee’s nest that was in one corner. He had a bright idea. He would put a blanket over his head so as not to be stung by the bees. He was not so smart after all. He stepped off the wlk and fell to the ground hurting himself badly. His mother again applied her best nursing skill. He was healed without any after-effects.
It has always been the policy of the Mormons to educate themselves and their children as much as circumstances would permit. Arza E. sent several of his children to Provo to attend the Brigham Young Academy, which was the entire school system from the grades to college training. Silas was only five and one-half years old when he started school. He was credited with being one of the brightest children. He always learned easily and had a great desire to read. He remembered how the girls of school would take the rope from the well and play jump rope. Doctor Maeser, the well-know Mormon educator, would chastise the girls. Silas remembered many things about Doctor Maeser. It was school in the winter at Provo, then back to the fort in the summer.
The nearest L.D.S. place of meeting was at Kanosh. Each Sunday, the family would hitch the horses to the wagon and drive to Kanosh for meetings. They seldom missed a meeting. When Silas was eight years of age he was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The baptism was performed in a creek that had been dammed off. His father confirmed him.
In the autumn of 1882 the father, Arza E., was called on a mission to go to Arizona. His calling was to teach the Indians the ways of the white man. He also taught them the principles of “Mormonism.” The Ricks family, the father and brothers of Silas’mother, lived in Logan. Upon Rick’s advice and invitation, Arza decided to move his family to Logan. They would be in the care of the mother’s family. A Mormon missionary pays his own expenses. Other members of the Church consider it an honor to help him. Arza spent a few weeks closing all business and finishing any jobs not yet finished.
The long wagon trip to northern Utah was begun in November. It was a cold trip, snowing most of the time. They traveled between fifteen and forty miles a day. They would stay with friends at night. silas was the driver of one wagon. His sister, Ella, was the brakeman. He remembered Salt Lake city to be in a building boom. Main Street was a row of buildings with scaffolding around them. As they went on north, the weather became more severe. Going over the mountains into Cache Valley, the snow was getting dangerous. How well he remembered going down the hill toward Wellsville. It was dark. They could see the lights of the village in the distance. It seemed that they would never get to the village where they could stop for the night.
Mrs. Hinckley and her children first lived in the back rooms of Joel Ricks, her father’s home. The house was located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Main and Center streets. The house was the largest house in Cache Valley at that time. The Hinckley family later moved to a house in the eastern part of Logan called the Island.
Silas remembered an incident which helped shape his character, led by Freddy Turner, a group of boys would steal eggs. They would sell them and buy candy. A boyish prank: Silas’ mother didn’t think so. He didn’t remember what his mother did but he was thoroughly impressed that he should be honest. He has always been known for his honesty.
During his first year in Logan Silas began to show one of his most admirable characteristics. He always hated a “bully.” Joe Charles, a bossy fellow, was the town “bully.” He always tried to take unfair advantage of others especially smaller boys. One day Silas and other boys were playing on the chains attached to the tying posts in front of the Z.C.M.I. Joe Charles ordered the boys off the chains. Silas and his companions were doing no harm. There was no good reason to get off the chains. Joe Charles challenged Silas to a fight and was accepted. They fought until some of the other boys said, “Joe, here comes a cop.” Joe left. Silas was never molested by the “bully” again. Silas never started a fight, but he never retreated when forced into combat.
Silas remembered a Sunday school picnic on the hills west of Logan. The railroad had just been built into the valley. For a novelty the trip was made by train. The children rode on an open flat car, going uphill. The train went so slowly the children would get off, pick flowers then climb back on the train. They had a very enjoyable time.
Silas attended a school with Miss Mary Reese as teacher. A teacher was Miss Mary not Miss Reese. It had been two or three years since school days in Provo. Now Silas was the largest student in his class. He didn’t feel self conscious of his size. Lilly Bell, who later became his wife, was in the same class. She sat right behind him. She would try to finish her work before he did. He was always through first.
In the summer of 1883, Silas helped his Uncle John haul grain. They were in Bensen ward north and west of Logan. Both were hungry. They had heard that frog legs were a delicacy. They stopped, caught some frogs, and cooked the legs and had dinner.
While he was working with his uncle John Ricks, one evening Silas was walking home to his home in Logan for the night. He met his father, Arza E., who had returned from his mission to Arizona. When Arza reported his mission to the First Presidency, he was called to move his family to a new settlement in the Snake River Valley. The spring earlier, Silas’ Uncle Thomas E. Ricks had been called to found a settlement between the forks of the Snake River. The settlement was to be an educational center. They named it Rexburg. When Arza met his son, he asked Silas if he wanted to go to Idaho. Silas said, “Yes,” and climbed into the wagon. They were on their way with Silas not so much as saying goodbye to his mother.
In the fall of 1883, Silas Hinckley first went into the Snake River Valley, his home for the greater part of his life. The trip was made without much incident. They were driving horses named “Browney” and “Charley.” They didn’t travel fast, they traveled long hours often stopping for an evening meal, then traveling on before stopping for the night. The only place they got off the road was near Pocatello. It was soon noticed. They returned to the right road and continued on. Near Blackfoot was a five-mile stretch of sand that stood out in the memories of the pioneers that traveled that way. Silas and his father camped on the sand. During the night they had to chase coyotes from their camp repeatedly. The coyotes wanted to eat the travelers’ supplies and chew the horses, harnesses. One morning they were going to get an early start. They arose before daylight. Arza cooked breakfast. Silas went out to get the horses. They had been turned out to graze. Silas looked for some time and returned without them. His father tried to find the horses, but could not. They waited until daylight. They could see the horses a short way off. They crossed the Snake River on a ferry. While driving up the main street of Rexburg, Silas asked a man nearby where Rexburg was.
The first winter, Silas and his father stayed with Aunt Tamer Ricks. During the day they would walk to the bank of the Teton River and cut cottonwood logs to build a house. Silas tried to step in his father’s footsteps. He remembered hFather as being rather quiet as they worked. Part of the winter Silas attended a school taught by Mrs. Sarah A. Barnes.
The spring of 1884, Silas and his father returned to Utah to move the family to the home in Idaho. Arza E. had real estate in Summit County, which he traded for cows and horses. Silas and his brothers drove the livestock from Summit County down Ogden Canyon, past Ogden, to Cache Valley. They then began the move. They drove the livestock to Idaho Territory. Crossing the Blackfoot River, a colt got into deep water. Silas rode his horse into the river, grabbed the colt by an ear, and dragged it to safety. The move took two weeks.
When the family was settled in Rexburg, Silas rode horses a great deal. One time, he and his brother John were riding along; both horses stepped in gopher holes. They stumbled with their feet together. The boys had to pull the horses apart before they could get them on their feet.
The early settlers would permit their cows and horses to graze on the foothills east and south of Rexburg. It was Silas’ duty to ride out and check on the livestock. He would bring in the animals as needed. Silas soon knew the trails over the hills. Silas’ father had a brace of six-shooters that Silas liked to wear. For recreation, Silas would often go hunting with his brothers.
Riding horses in the summer, sleigh riding, and dancing in the winder, were the principle forms of recreation. There were many fond memories of these times.
Rexburg was founded by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As mentioned before, the First Presidency called the first settlers to build a town. The method of settlements was well understood. It was to be an educational center. The “Mormon” Church as always fostered education. Two often-quoted statements are” “The glory of God is intelligence” and “A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.” To a “Mormon,” learning applied to all fields of education, not just to the principles of his belief. Ladies who could teach, gathered children to them and would teach them even from the very first winter in the new settlement. Silas’ sister Ella and later, Francis, were teachers.
The next step was to organize Bannock Stake Academy, now Ricks College (BYU-Idaho). Jacob Spori was the first principal with Sarah A. Barnes as a teacher and Axel Nielson as secretary. The academy was the school system from first grade through high school. First a public grade school was organized, then a high school was organized. The academy then relinquished those levels of learning and became a two-year college. Silas was a member of the first student body. The first classes were held in the First Ward meeting house, a log building.
For two years, Silas would go to the school early and start a fire in the wood burning stove. This he did to pay for his tuition. On cold mornings, his ears would become frozen before the fire began to be warm. On days off from their studies, the young men would go to the hills, cut timber, and haul it to their school for fuel for the fire.
The writer has a report card dated March 15, 1889. It shows that Silas was registered in the preparatory department. This was for older students, who had missed school when they were younger. The report on the card is as follows: Reading 78, Theology 93, Physiology and Hygiene 91, Grammar 75, Arithmetic 85, Geography 75, U.S. History 93, Orthography (spelling) 75. Silas took advantage of every opportunity that he could to attend school.
To introduce the Mutual Improvement program, the Church had a program of sending young men to a college to learn the young people’s program. They would return to their home and teach Mutual Improvement in their stake. It was a program of cultural improvement and recreation. Silas was sent to Brigham Young College in Logan, Utah, for this program. Silas had a notebook, in a very fine and readable hand. It told the function of each officer in the program. It outlined the program and purpose of each department.
The Mutual Improvement program did not take all of his time, so Silas enrolled in other classes taught at the college. There is another notebook, the writer has seen, of notes from these other classes. In these are notes from the science of the day. They show a high scholastic standard for the day.
When Silas returned to Rexburg, he was sustained as secretary to the stake board. In this capacity, he would go from ward to ward to teach the Mutual Improvement program and help officers in the ward solve their problems. He was a young man, not yet married. He would go to the wards in company with stake leaders the age of his father.
Silas’ father was a deeply religious and courageous man. Several times he willingly risked his life in defense of the “Mormon” people and Church. As may be supposed, Silas was taught the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was urged to live the precepts of that faith. His baptism has been mentioned. He was ordained a deacon by Roman Siepert. In this Church there is no paid clergy. All men and boys twelve years of age and older, who lie the Church teachings, can hold the priesthood. All can teach, preach, and perform Church ordinances, the same as ministers of other churches. Silas was given duties to perform that helped him understand the Church program better. Later (the record of when and by whom is lost) Silas was ordained a teacher, then a priest by Casper Stiener. Each step gave him more responsibilities and more privileges. On the tenth day of November, 1895, he was ordained an Elder (the first office in the Melchizedek Priesthood) by T.J. Winters. He now had all the rights and privileges of the Church. He filled many special offices, such
as Sunday School teacher while still a young man.
The Mormon people believe that God revealed to them that they should live in plural marriage. Other people denied revelation in modern times. They did not view plural marriage as a religious practice. They thought of it as simply indulging men’s passions. During the administration of Abraham Lincoln, the United States Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act outlawing plural marriage. Lincoln signed the bill into law, but never enforced it. There were other laws passed against polygamy. During the 1880’s federal officials in Utah and Idaho began to enforce the anti-polygamy laws with great vigor. Leaders of the Church and other men with more than one wife were imprisoned. Idaho disenfranchised the Mormon people. The crusade against polygamy was at its worst when Silas’ father’s family moved into Idaho Territory. Some of the officials went beyond their rights as peace officers and caused unnecessary suffering to Mormon men and their family. The Church considered the anti-polygamy laws unconstitutional as infringing on the right to religious practice.
Arza E. concurred with the Church. He believed in obeying constitutional law. But thinking anti-polygamy laws unconstitutional, he made every effort to protect men with more than one wife from prosecution. One night Silas was awakened by his father and asked, “Do you want to go for a horseback ride?” Silas replied, “Sure.” As he dressed, his father explained, “The Federal officers are in town looking for Brother Robinson.” Silas made a night ride to Lyman, south of Rexburg, to warn Brother Robinson. As he was riding along, he could see the officers ahead of him. He rode his horse across the fields to get ahead of the officers. Brother Robinson thanked him and furnished a bed for the rest of the night. Returning home the next morning, Silas could see that the officers had turned b ack when they noticed the horseman was ahead of them.
Times were tense. The Church leaders were exploring every legal avenue for relief from this persecution. They even appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The anti-polygamy laws were upheld. The members of the Church agreed to abide by those laws, with the provision that plural marriages already entered into be allowed to continue. The men wanted to support their wives and families. Peace returned. Silas’ father had married three wives. Two had died. Arza E. was not harassed.
On the mountains east of Rexburg were pine forests. The early settlers would cut dead trees for fuel for fires. They cut pine logs for houses and other buildings. Men of the settlement would go to the mountains with bobsleighs in the winter and wagons in the summer for logs. Many family and community picnics were enjoyed there. Logging was made a party. As a young man, Silas and his brother John kept their families well-supplied with pine logs for firewood. The writer remembers going with his father for wood. One time, Silas got a log so large that it was a sleigh load by itself. Silas hired two rather short men to saw it up with a two-man handsaw. They couldn’t see each other over the log.
One summer Silas worked for James T. B. Mason. Mason had married Silas’ sister Rhoda. They were living on a farm in Parker, Idaho, some six or eight miles north of Rexburg. A short distance from that farm was lava beds where there could be no farming. In the evening the work horses were turned out in the lava beds to graze. At daylight, Silas would rise and bring the horses in for work during the day on the farm.
A flour mill was built on the hill east of Rexburg. Silas hauled rock for the construction of the mill. The mill burned to the ground. The foundation of the mill could be seen for many years. There was very good building stone in the hill east of town. Several homes and public buildings are built of this stone.
Agriculture on the Snake River Plain depends on irrigation. Canals were dug from the Snake River and its tributaries to the farms. When the Ashton canal was being dug, Silas and his brother Frank were employed there. It was some distance from home. The young men were to live in a construction camp. They understood that they were to furnish their own food. A camp cook would cook for all the workmen. When they arrived at the job they had food enough but no cooking utensils. There was no camp kitchen or cook. Each man or group of men cooked for themselves. That left the young men to their own initiative. An outdoor man is never stumped very long. Silas opened a sack of flour, poured in a little water, and mixed some dough, and cooked it on sticks. They cooked over an open fire. Potatoes were roasted in the coals. Thus, food was prepared for a day or two. They sent word to their father as to their situation. He took them some cooking utensils.
Yellowstone Park, a world-wide tourist attraction, is about eighty miles north of Rexburg. Ever since tourists have gone there, good roads have been build and maintained. Dugways through the canyons were built. Bridges were constructed and maintained. Silas spent some summers in road construction camps there. He saw the vices that are always in such camps, but he kept himself free of them. It was an adventure to be in the mountains among wild animals and men of low standards. The U.S. Cavalry policed the park. Silas watched the soldiers care for the horses as a sergeant barked commands for each detail.
In Church meetings and at socials was a certain lovely, dark-haired young lady that caught Silas’ attention. She was the daughter of William M. Bell, the carpenter. She was one of the finest young ladies in town. She was kind, sociable, and very attractive. Silas enjoyed her company. Friendship grew to courtship, then marriage. Both were worthy young Latter-day Saints and desired the highest order of marriage offered by their Church. In the autumn of 1895, they journeyed to Logan, Utah, to be married for time and eternity in the temple. It was November 13th of that year. The Rexburg newspaper announced their wedding as follows:
Last Sunday evening two young and gladsome hearts left our beautiful town temporarily for Logan, the Temple city of the North, which place they have chosen as the starting point in a race in the realities of a journey through time and eternity. Mr. Silas Hinckley and Lilly Bell, two of the most estimable young people, could not have chosen a more fitting place than the Temple of the Lord wherein to pledge their sacred troth, nor a more opportune time than the present when hearts are pure and true. The Silver Hammer congratulates them. May their life be strewn with beautiful lilies and the marriage bells never cease to ring.
The “Silver Hammer” was publish by Ben E. Rich, the son of an Apostle. People thus married, if they continue to live worthily, will enjoy family associations after death.
The young couple first lived in one room of the old Hinckley home. Fifteen dollars was spent for furniture. They bought two chairs, a bed, and a table. Plain boards were arranged for cupboards. Homemade rugs were on the floor. With fifteen dollars for running expenses, they set up housekeeping. Silas was working in a blacksmith shop, run by his wife’s brother, William. While working there, Silas made a box for firewood and a flour bin. Another brother of the bride, Hyrum, made a cupboard, a fine piece of workmanship, that is now in possession of the writer.
While working in the blacksmith shop, Silas had an accident. One day he was shoeing a horse. He was kicked or bumped on the nose, which twisted it around under his eye. Someone standing nearby pushed the nose back in place. That was the only surgery performed to set it in place. All his life Silas said his nose was tender to the touch.
The following spring, the young couple moved into the home of the bride’s father. It was about a block and a half north of Main Street, by the irrigation canal. Soon they were able to buy half a city lot. It was large enough for a house, lawns, a flower garden, and a vegetable garden. Silas constructed a shanty and they moved in. The blacksmith shop accepted lumber as payment for work done. Silas was glad to accept lumber as part of his wages. With that lumber he built a two-room house on the block west of Porter Park. The second summer they were married, Silas worked in a construction camp in Yellowstone Park.
The second winter a child was born dead. It did not receive a name. The third winter, on February 9, 1898, a daughter was born. They named her Eva. She was a bright child. Soon after she could talk she memorized nursery rhymes.
The next summer, Silas rented the Anderson farm. It was one mile west and one mile south of Rexburg. They rented their home in town to Doctor Hyde. That summer hay sold for two and one-half dollars for a ton. During World War One, hay sold for forty dollars a ton. Silas was a good farmer; however, he found it necessary to supplement his income with jobs as they were to be found. For some years the railroad terminal was at Market Lake (now Roberts, Idaho). It was necessary to maintain a freight line between the two towns. From time to time, Silas would haul exports to the railroad. He would bring imports back. He remembered bringing a load to the store. There were times he would haul supplies to the silver miners along the Lost River Mountains in North Central Idaho. He would then haul silver ore to the railroad terminal for export. There were several mines in those mountains. It was a long trip across a desert to the mountains.
The family moved back to their home in town in the fall. Silas went to the mountains near Rexburg to cut and haul firewood to town. Often the temperature would be twenty degrees below zero when he was camping out. His feet were so cold they were frozen slightly. He suffered with chilblains. At times the pain was so severe he would wade in the snow in his bare feet for relief. When he was camping out, his clothes would be frozen stiff when he dressed in the mornings.
In the late 1890’s, lime was used exclusively for mortar in building masonry buildings. There was live rock in the canyons. By a process of burning, the rock could be turned into live suitable for building. At the suggestion his brother, Seymour, Silas joined his brother in a business to burn the live rock into live and sell it. They constructed a kiln of heat-resistant rock. It was about twelve feet in diameter and shaped like an egg, standing on end with a door at the bottom and open at the top. The limestone was arranged in a cone shape in the kiln, so a fire could be maintained at the bottom. The kiln was filled with limestone. A fire was built and maintained at low heat for about thirty-six hours. Then, the fire was heated up and maintained for four days and nights. Fuel was taken from the surrounding forest. When the lime was ready, it gave off a distinctive odor. The process was called slacking the lime. The hot lime could be taken from the kiln and loaded on wooden wagons without burning the wagons. Yet, if the slacked lime was on the wagon in a rainstorm, the lime would get so hot it would burn the wagon. There was a wide market for the lime and the Hinckley brothers had a good product. Business was very good until cement came on the market and replaced the lime. Lime was sold from Rigby to St. Anthony.
Buildings for which the Hinckley furnished lime were the Spori Building on the Ricks College campus and the sugar factory that used to be in Sugar City. At Ricks College, Silas drove his outfit onto the scales to be weighted. It was so heavy it broke the scales. One day Silas drove on the grounds. The lime house was inconvenient. Silas caught the lime house with his wagon and carefully turned it around. At the sugar factory, George Martin had the contract to furnish the lime. He could not furnish it fast enough and so he called on the Hinckley brothers for help. Silas showed some good business sense. He insisted that all lime furnished on the Martin contract be weighed in on Silas’ name. The wisdom of such insistence was proven when Mr. Martin left the country owing large sums to several men in the valley. Lime was also used in the manufacture of sugar.
Life at the limekiln had several diversions. The brothers built a little cabin to campo in. The cabin had a place cut for a window. A piece of canvas was tacked over it. One evening, Seymour walked down the canyon to visit some friends in another camp. Silas is often full of mischief in a playful way. He hung a canvas in a tree near the road. It was a pretty good ghost. Seymour was quite startled.
Several summers the brothers took some feeder pigs to the mountains and just let them run loose. They found plenty of feed, they grew fast, and made good pork at very little expense. They often hunted blue grouse that lived in the mountains. Seymour would imitate the mother grouse and the chicks would gather. He could imitate chicks and the mother would come.
When cement crowded out the lime business, Silas turned to farming. He purchased a forty-acre farm at the northwest corner of Rexburg. The family grew up on this farm. For a time, he again worked in the blacksmith shop with his brother-in-law, William Bell.
He was going to Jackson Hole with a large load of freight at one time. Jackson Pass is high and a very winding dugway. At Victor, just before going over the pass, he met a man he knew. The man said Silas couldn’t get over the pass with such an outfit. Silas replied, with a bit of braggadocio, “I can drive a four horse team and a trailer where can’t drag a whip.”
Silas also had a dry farm during this period of time. It was seven miles south and east of Rexburg, on the foothills, often referred to as Rexburg Bench. Dry farms had one principle crop—wheat. The wheat was generally planted in the fall to be harvested the next summer. Wheat was also planted in the spring. The practice was, and still is, to have two fields. A crop of wheat would be planted in one field. That summer the crop would be harvested. At the same time the other field would be plowed, and from time to time would be harrowed, to kill the weeds and preserve the moisture. In the fall, that field would be planted. The next year the field from which the crop had been taken would be plowed. Dry farms were large tracts of land. Neighbors were often one, two, and more miles apart. This was a lonely life. The family would only see each other and any hired help from one weekend to the next.
In connection with his farms, Silas had a herd of cows and a band of sheep. All equipment was horse-drawn so a band of horses was maintained. There was a spirited team, used mostly as a buggy team. They wanted to run all the time. The family was living quite comfortably. They had a surrey buggy, of which they were quite proud. On the home farm, near Rexburg, a nice two-room house was built. It was later enlarged to five rooms.
At about five years of age, their daughter, Eva, became sick of Brights Disease. (I would be known as kidney problems today.) Doctors Rich and Ricks were called. She was taken to Ogden, Utah, to the doctors there. The best medical help couldn’t save her. The loss was intense.
In October of 1900 a boy Jesse was born. May 1902, another boy, Perry was born. A girl named Stella was born in March 1904. Lorin, a boy, was born in August of 1906. In February of 1908, Dean, a boy, was born.
During this period of time the world began to become more mechanized. A new contraption, known as an automobile, was invented. The first one Rexburg was a noisy, strange thing. The first automobile Silas owned was a 1918 Buick Master Six. It was paid for in cash. People were having telephones installed. They could talk to friends without going to see them. A little boy, seeing his mother use the phone, ran outside to see to whom she was talking.
The fall of 1908, Silas was called to go on a mission for his Church. He was to go to England. He had saved enough to support himself for two years without further income. He arranged to have his farms taken care of and some income for his family. His wife lived frugally and supplemented her income by selling silverware. Pieces of that silverware are still kept in the family. She had five children to care for in their father’s absence.
Silas’ minister’s certificate is dated November 19, 1908. In Salt Lake City, a group of missionaries was organized to travel together. They traveled by train to Chicago, Illinois. They stopped a day and saw the points of interest in that city. They continued on to Niagara Falls. They saw the famous falls. They then proceeded to Portland, Main. Here they boarded a ship that sailed to Halifax, Canada, then to the British Islands. The ship didn’t seem to be really secure. It would creak from one end to the other, as it rolled and tossed through the ocean. Silas was troubled with sea sickness until he could smell the breezes off the coast of Ireland.
He was appointed to labor in the Leeds Conference (Zone). His first companion was J.F. Daybill. He followed the generally accepted practice of L.D.S. missionaries. Part of the day he would go tracting (going door to door giving free literature to whomever would accept it.). if anyone showed interest, the missionary would stop and explain some of the teachings and practices of the Mormon Church, always hoping for an invitation to return and explain more of his beliefs. Part of the day would be spent on return visits gained from previous contacts, and part of the day would be spent visiting those who had joined the Church to strengthen and encourage them in their way of life. Meetings would be held in lecture halls, homes, on the street, and in the parks, wherever they could gather a crowd. They would make use of every opportunity to explain Mormonism to as many as would listen. The Mormon people accepted a command from God to preach to all people. The missionary must defend his teaching from the Bible and from reason. This required a great deal of study on a consistent basis. In a letter to his family, Silas listed books he had read: the four standard scriptures and ten other books, besides leaflets. From a record of his day by day activities, we learn that he put in an honest effort in the work.
Besides working in the city of Leeds, he worked in Bradford, Morely, Keighley, Huddersfield, Batley and other cities, towns and villages. Companions after Mr. Daybell were: William Clark, A.J. Brewer, Mr. Heaps, and Robinson. A missionary would lodge in the same room, eat at the same table, and share all experiences with a man he had never seen before. They got along together and became very good friends.
There were times of the day and days that a missionary could rest from proselyting and visit points of interest in his new surroundings. He could attend the theater. Silas made the most of these opportunities. With his companion, he would attend a performance, then watch the wealthy leave the theater. An attendant would call the wealthy and the noblemen’s name. The proper carriage would be brought forth. The nobleman and escort would enter the carriage and leave. The British would make a ceremony of their comings and goings.
The president of the mission, Charles W. Penrose, called all the missionaries into London for a special conference. Such meetings are to help the missio9naries with their problems and encourage them in their work.
London is an interesting city. Silas, on his way there, made a list of places he wanted to see. Every time that he had free time he would go to some point of interest. He visited both houses of Parliament. He saw Buckingham Palace, the King’s residence, the King’s horses and carriages, Tower Bridge, and London Bridge. He visited London Tower, an old medieval castle and prison, turned into a museum of things from the Middle Ages such as suits of armour and torture devices. Also in the tower was the royal jewelry and crowns of t different monarchs. He visited the famous Wax Works, a museum of life-size figures of famous people. He visited Hyde Park, Trafalger Square, the zoo, and meat packing plants.
In other parts of England, he visited Fountain Abbey, Duke Devonshire’s Estate, Prophet’s Row, and Wakefield. He heard Ardsly Chimes which he thought were more beautiful than chimes in the creat cathedrals, such as Westminster Abbey. He watched a fox hunt.
In his work of trying to win people to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), he was successful in baptizing seven people. This is a good record for the times. In the 1930’s, the Church average was one convert per missionary each year. Baptisms are not a full measure of success in such work. Real success cannot be measured. Unknown hosts of people had their lives brightened and improved as a result of his work. Among the people Silas remembered was Annie, a blind girl that got around the city as well as people who have their sight. He remembered the Sutcliff family and many others. He left his blessings on many friends in England. He also gained much from Britain that enriched his life. After two years of unselfish labor, Silas returned to his home and family. In his letters home he expressed his love and concern for his family. He felt a great deal of sentiment, but seldom showed it.
He returned to farming and sheep raising. He had a dryfarm back over the hill past the big Webster farm. One day, on the dryfarm, his son Perry, was running the leveler, a device to smooth the soil. Perry, a young fellow, fell off the front of the leveler. The horses he was driving pulled the leveler on him pinning him face down in the dirt. Perry was almost smothered to death when he was found by his father. Silas revived him by breathing into his mouth. This he remembered from the Bible when the Prophet Elisha revived a young man in that manner. Perry was rushed to twon, then taken by train to the hospital in Idaho Falls. He fully recovered.
A son, Cloid, was born in April 1912. Another, Clinton, was born in September 1915.
Times were good in America. But in Europe could be heard the rumblings of war. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany desired to expand his domain. America was profiting while Europe battled. However, in sending supplies to Europe, many of our ships were sunk by submarine warfare. The Spanish American War in the 1890’s was passed without comment. Some acquaintances and one of Silas’ brothers joined the army. It was of short duration and was mostly excitement. World War I was different. It dragged on and the United States was drawn in. Several nephews of Silas and his wife were drafted or volunteered into military service. There were also close friends involved. Casualty lists would include someone well-known. The lives of those who survived were deeply affected.
On the homefront, grain was scarce and prices were at unheard of levels. Hay was forty dollars a ton. Civilians were asked to sacrifice and forego bread made of wheat flour. They ate corn bread, bran, potatoes, and potato starch instead of white flour bread. Silas produced all the food he could. To finance the war, Liberty Bonds were sold. Silas not only bought as many Liberty Bonds as he could, he also sold them. In every way, he cooperated in the war effort.
In the war, these new flying contraptions, were playing an effective role. They were called aeroplanes. One evening Silas’ wife had gone to town. Some her children were with her. It was dark. Silas went up the road to meet them, but played a Halloween prank. He took a jack-o-lantern, made from a pumpkin, put a lighted candle in it, and put it on a pole. When his wife saw it, she thought of aeroplanes and the war stores. She told the children to get under the fence beside the road. Silas began to laugh and his family was reassured.
After the war there was a severe epidemic of influenza. People were dying from it. Most of the people in town were ill with the flu during the winter. In the spring, the Hinckleys were very sick with the flu for a time. The writer remembers that time. All soon recovered. With peace came a financial depression. Wheat was so cheap, the dry farm was sold. Soon after, the sheep were sold. The writer remembers two or three big sheep shearing times. As times began to improve a dry farm on top of the first hill south and east of Rexburg was secured.
About that time, Silas showed an interest in dairy cows, particularly Holsteins. He liked the big black and white cows. He bought two fine registered cows. One was a very heavy milk producer. In fact, she died because of it. This cow bore a heifer calf that was almost entirely white and a bull calf that won first place at county fairs. He grew to weigh 2200 pounds—a regular mountain of beef.
In the 1920’s, times were neither very good not particularly bad. The family had what was needed. Low prices for wheat caused the dry farm to be sold. One or two were rented for a time. Dryfarming was abandoned. Part of a large band of horses was sold; they had become an expense rather than an asset. Eighty acres of irrigated land was rented from James M. Cook for three years. For several years, Silas would hire a crew and stack hay for Steve Hunt. Hunt owned one hundred and sixty acres adjoining the Hinckley farm in Rexburg. That farm was planted to alfalfa hay, almost exclusively. Stacking the hay was about a ten-day job the middle of July and again a week’s work the forepart of September.
In July, 1920, Silas’ last child, Eldon, was born. In 1926, Silas’ son Perry was called on a mission to New Zealand. It was a time of spiritual uplift for the whole family. Silas gladly sent money to support his son.
Activity in the Church was always a major part of Silas’ life. He was a member of the Mutual Improvement Stake board several different times. For a time, he was ward president of the M.I.A. He surrounded himself with capable officers and teachers. Almost every meeting attracted a capacity crowd. He was a member of the Council of Presidents of the Eighty-fourth Quorum of Seventy. He became the senior president. For a time, the Eighty-fourth Quorum was divided, and the Two Hundred Sixth Quorum was created, with Silas as senior president. The Seventy quorums held a special place in Church organization. The quorums were on a Church-wide basis. Their special duty was missionary work. They also gave support to the general programs.
Silas and the quorum established a record of activity. Almost all Seventies were active in the Church. Very enjoyable socials were had by the Quorum. Short outings were sponsored to Pincocks Hot Spring, a swimming resort. Trips to the mountains were enjoyed. These trips were family affairs. The writer remembers being a part of these activities. Ball games were participated in. a temple excursion was sponsored. These activities held the men’s interest. A Seventy quorum, as the name suggests, normally has seventy members. It may have from thirty-six to one hundred nine members. Along with promoting Church activity, the members felt a fraternal interest in each other. Silas always considered his presidency of the Seventies a highlight of his life. (Seventy quorums and groups were disbanded in the Stakes of the Church in 1985. They are now General Authorities of the Church.)
For sixteen years Silas and his wife were members of the Fremont (later named Rexburg) Stake Genealogy Board. Part of that time Silas was a counselor to the chairman. In this capacity he and his wife would go from ward to ward in all fourteen wards of the stake. Their assignment was to encourage the ward officers and members to keep family records of important events of each family member and to trace their ancestors. The names found would be sent to temples where saving ordinances were performed for those who had died. The Stake Board would hold planning meetings once a month. They would then call all the ward boards into a monthly meeting to train the ward officers. Besides the regular meeting, members of the Stake Board would do what they could to train and encourage the ward officers. The ward officers then would help the members to do genealogy work.
Pageants and other presentations were given to portray the beauty and importance of genealogical work. Closely related to this work was an effort to urge young people , planning marriage, to go to the temple for their marriage. To further stimulate members to do work in the temples, excursions were organized. Logan, Utah, was the location of the nearest temple. They would have enough people go to justify an extra car be added to a regularly scheduled train going to Logan. There was socializing on the trip to make it even more enjoyable. Children over twelve years could go to the temple and be baptized for the dead. All other ordinances were reserved for adults.
Once a year, conventions were held to train and help the Stake Board. Representatives from the General Offices of the Church would come and teach the people. Another training program was in connection with Ricks College leadership week. Again, representatives would come and deliver a series of lectures on genealogical work.
While Silas and his wife were on the Stake Board, a program was inaugurated in connection with the Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women’s programs. A Book of Remembrance was to be kept by each young person. In it was to be a sketch of the individual’s life, a sketch of the life of parents and grandparents. They were introduced to keeping of records and tracing their genealogy.
During this time, the Rexburg Stake was among the leading stakes in the entire Church in genealogical work. The record of work done in one day during the first fifty years of activity in the Logan Temple was when the Rexburg Stake people were in the temple.
During the Twenties, the Rexburg Stake decided to install a pipe organ in their tabernacle. To finance it, they planned two evenings of concerts on the new organ. Tickets were sold in advance. It was understood the price of a ticket was a contribution to the purchase of the organ. Silas was given the job of selling in the Rexburg Second War—his ward. The campaign was a success in the Stake and the organ was easily paid for.
The old auditorium and gymnasium building at Ricks College was built during World War I. All steel was needed for armaments. In constructing the auditorium, posts were used to support the next story of the building. During the twenties, when steel was again available, it was decided to replace the posts with steel beams. A committee was organized to collect donations to finance the project. Silas accepted an assignment to help collect the donations. When the steel beams arrived in town, Silas offered his time and equipment to help haul the beams from the railroad to the college campus. These incidents were only a few of the projects Silas helped to improve the institutions in the city. He was also a strong supporter of education. He was an avid reader himself, and he urged his family to pursue their education. Always on these projects, he would say to his sons, “Come, let us help.”
About 1930, Steve Hunt, the owner of the farm adjoining the Hinckley Farm, died. Silas rented one hundred and sixty acres from the administrator of the estate. With his son Perry, and those not yet married, it was farmed for two years. The returns from the farm were not too good. The farm was given up. Perry had married just before going on his mission. Jesse was married a few months before Perry. Stella was married the next fall. Dean and Lorin were married a few years later.
The Depression of 1929 hit the Hinckley family pretty hard. Money was hard to get. Yet, in 1934, Cloid was called on a mission to Minnesota. Within a few weeks after Cloid returned, Clinton was called on a mission to Czechoslovakia. Silas was able to pay their expenses.
During this time, Silas secured the job of Watermaster on the Rexburg Canal System. The canal system took water from the Teton River. The head of the canal was east of the city of Rexburg. The canal ran west on the north side of the city, then south through the western part of the city and out three miles. There were branches going to the farms to the west of the city. There was about a total of twenty miles of canal to look after. It was Silas’ responsibility to keep the canals in repair by supervising repair crews. These crews were users of water from the canal. He was to see that each user received his fair share of water for irrigation. This water was the life of the crops the farmers raised. This was, at time, the most difficult part of the job. Each farmer would buy shares of water according to the size of his farm. When the river ran high, the canal would be full. Everyone had the irrigation water their crops needed. However, as the season advance, the water in the river became less and less. There were times when it was necessary to limit the amount of water a farmer could have. It would be pro-rated to the farmer according to the shares he had. During those times, the water would seem inadequate for the crops. Farmers would claim they weren’t getting their share. There were bad feelings and arguments. To prevent farmers from taking more than their allotment, locks were installed on the headgates. Silas carried the keys. He would be gone long hours giving water to one farmer and taking from another according to their turns for the water.
Some interesting stories came from farmers trying to get more water that their entitlement. When Silas first took the job of Watermaster, the headgates were made of lumber. A framework was installed in the bank of the canal where the ditch to the farmers took water from the canal. A panel could be raised and lowered to regulate the amount of water going into the farmer’s ditch. It was held in place by a crosspiece that was bolted to the frame. The panel controlling the water was locked to the crosspiece. This was done in times when no farmer could have all the water he wanted. Silas had locked all the headgates to ensure fair distribution. One Japanese farmer unscrewed the nuts holding the crosspiece, and raised the crosspiece and the headgate to let more water into his field. When Silas saw the situation, he said it was stealing. The Japanese was arrested and fined. While the sheriff was holding the Japanese, several other Japanese came to Silas asking that their countryman be released. Justice must prevail. Silas convinced the other Japanese that it was only right that this man pay the penalty. He then asked their cooperation in seeing that none of them took more than their share of water.
A white man found that by putting wagon in the canal he could force more water through the headgate and to his field. He was arrested and paid the penalty. Others tried devious methods to get more water. Silas was alert to these things and transgressors were punished. All had to admit he was fair and just. Their interests were protected. One day about five angry men, who felt they were not getting their share of water, came into Silas’ yard. What a situation! Silas said, “What a hot day. Come, sit in the shade of the tree. Would you like some water to drink? Now, what did you come to see me about?” They voiced their complaint. The situation was discussed. Soon they agreed to having their water measured. It was found each farmer was getting his share of irrigation water.
On another occasion, while Silas was out checking on the canal, a man came toward Silas with his shovel and saying unkind things about the Watermaster. Silas said, “I am thirsty. Could we go your house and get a drink of water?” It was only human to accommodate. Soon the man was friendly.
While Silas was Watermaster, the canal company installed metal headgates of a standard design. Silas supervised the installation of these headgates. It was a big project, but it was easier to be sure each man received his share of water. One year was really dry. The winter before, little snow had fallen. The summer was warm and little rain fell. The river had only enough water for the Rexburg Canal Company. Other canal companies taking water from the river became almost hostile, trying to get even a little water for irrigation. The Rexburg Company shared their water from time to time.
Whether as a leader or just a man of the ranks, Silas did his part in the work of the Church. For a time he was in charge of ward teaching (now home teaching) in the Rexburg Second Ward. It was his duty to encourage men who were so assigned, to visit the members of the Church in the ward. They were to teach the members more about their religion. This was one job most men didn’t care to do. Still, Silas was able to get most of them to do their ward teaching. While on the Stake Genealogy Board, Silas also taught classes in genealogy in the ward. He was a capable and interesting teacher.
The coming of the automobile, the telephone, and the airplane has been mentioned. The Hinckley had plumbing in their home at an early date. When people started talking about radio, that seemed too much. The idea of hearing man talk over long distances, without even a wire between, was incredible. People would say the radio was wired to a phonograph. In less than a decade every family had a radio, and soon, many had two or three.
In fifty years the Snake River Valley had changed from a sagebrush desert to plains of fertile farms. Towns of 3,000 to 20,000 had grown up.
In the fall of 1939, a condition in Silas’ body had developed to the point that an operation was necessary. He had prostrate trouble, a condition common to men going into old age. The doctor in Rexburg did not feel qualified to do such an operation. He said doctors in Salt Lake City could do it. Silas was taken to the L.D.S Hospital in Salt Lake City. It was several weeks before the doctor felt Silas was ready to undergo the operation. Finally, it was successfully done. Silas was most of the winter recovering. Eldon was the only boy left at home. There was a potato crop to harvest. Each day, until the harvest was complete, a high priest donated a day’s work. That was greatly appreciated by the family.
During the 1920’s, a dictator named Mussolini came to power in Italy. The nations of the earth tolerated him. In the early 1930’s Hitler became a powerful dictator in Germany. He declared his intention to wreak vengeance on the countries that punished Germany after the First World War. Hitler and Mussolini formed an alliance. War became a definite possibility. Both Italy and Germany were arming themselves as fast as they could. In 1938, Hitler gained control of Austria and Czechoslovakia without opposition. When he tried to take over Poland, the next year, the war began in Europe. America at first took the attitude, “Let them fight it out. If they want our products they can come and get them.”
During these years Cloid, Clinton, and Eldon were married and on their own resources.
Japan formed a treaty with Germany. They also were under a dictator. December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States by bombing Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Cloid was called into the Army. Eldon was working in a war industry—Lockheed Airplane Company. Lorin went to Philadelphia to work in war supporting industries. Jesse found work in an arms plant in Salt Lake City. Perry was on his farm producing food. Clinton was teaching school. Stella helped the teacher shortage by returning to the school room after many years of homemaking. Her husband worked long hours keeping the farmers’ equipment in working order. Dean was in his grocery store in Rexburg. Eldon was drawn into the Marine Corps. Clinton went into the Navy. The family was scattered far and wide. Three were in the armed forces. None were injured or even in battle.
Silas had worked long hours for many years on his farm. His family induced him to move to Salt Lake City and work regular hours. At the age of seventy years, he worked in an arms plant. He then worked at the Naval base in Clearfield, commuting to Clearfield each day. It was a change of lifestyle—indoor work instead of out in the elements, living in a house that was heated day and night. No more fires to be built in twenty degrees below zero. While the war raged, life for Silas and his wife was highlighted by visits from their family members. In Salt Lake, new friendships were formed. They could go to the temple often. After the war was past, Silas worked in a hotel for a time. Part of the family lived in Idaho, part were in Utah.
Old age was taking its toll. Silas gave up gainful employment. He enjoyed going to the temple. The day before his death he spent the day in the temple. Grandsons were going on missions. Tharon, Jesse’s son, had gone and returned. Donald, Perry’s son, was leaving Salt Lake City for a mission. Silas went to bid Donald farewell. Silas’ steps were slower. On the morning of May 20, 1950, after a good night’s sleep, Silas was suddenly taken in death. The cause of death was not determined. His Father in Heaven had graduated him to another sphere of activities. Two funerals were held, one in Salt Lake City and one in Rexburg.
He left a large posterity—eight children, all married and standing at the head of their own families. Thirty grandchildren were living at the time of his passing. There were four great-greatchildren.