Sharp – Bailey Wedding

James and the late Sarah Goodlad Bailey are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Mary Ann Bailey to William Sharp, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Cartwright Sharp.  William and Mary Ann were married at Loup Fork, Howard, Nebraska on 10 July 1853.

William is a farmer and mason and they will make their home wherever they are called to settle once they arrive in the Utah Territory.

Due to the circumstances of this family, it is pretty unlikely an announcement would have been written.  Everything about these families was in motion.  Family members on both sides were strewn all over the world and their lives were still recovering from a number of personal blows.  While this was probably a high point, they knew there was a long road still ahead of them.

William was born the third of eight children born to Thomas and Elizabeth Cartwright Sharp 10 December 1825 in Misson, Nottinghamshire, England.  He spent his life as a mason.  We do not know where or how he learned it.  His father, Thomas, is listed as an “Ag Lab”, which is probably an agricultural laborer on the 1841 English Census (he died that same year).

In 1848, the LDS missionaries came to visit in Misson.  William was the first of his family that we know who joined the church on 20 June 1848.  His mother followed 11 August 1849 and his sister Isabella 16 September 1849. The story tells the family was friendly and open towards the missionaries.  One of the missionaries was supposedly George R Emery (?-?).

Elizabeth Sharp was determined to emigrate with her family to Utah.  Her family attempted to discourage her by warning her about the dangers of the American Indians.  Nevertheless, she departed with William, Isabella, Elizabeth, and James.  The other four children had died as infants.  The family purchased tickets at 25 pounds sterling in Liverpool.  The family set sail on the “James Pennell” on 2 October 1850 commanded by Captain James Fullerton.  The LDS leaders on board were Christopher Layton (1821-1898) and William Lathrop Cutler (1821-1851) leading the company all the way to Zion.  Right before hitting the waters of the Mississippi the ship encountered a storm where the masts were broken and the ship drifted for a couple of days.  Luckily, a pilot boat found them and another ship (that left two weeks later from Liverpool) and tugged them to New Orleans, Louisiana.  The ship arrived at dock on the 22 November 1850 in New Orleans.  From there the entire group boarded the “Pontiac” and continued to St. Louis, Missouri where they found work and spent the winter.  The family struggled with sea sickness and chills and fevers that beset them in New Orleans and St. Louis.  Despite having crossed the Atlantic, Elizabeth, the mother of the family died 17 February 1851 in St. Louis (and buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery).

This left the four siblings to fend for themselves.  William and Isabella both still desired to move on with the Saints to Utah.  William became fast friends with Mary Ann Bailey Padley, a widow who had lost her husband before leaving England.  They were such good friends that Anne Elizabeth Padley (she went by Sharp her whole life though) was born 31 October 1852.  Isabella married Joseph Carlisle, who had arrived two years earlier, on 18 May 1853 in St. Louis.  That same day the Moses Clawson Company, “St. Louis Company,” departed from St. Louis.  Joseph and Isabella Carlisle, along with William Sharp and Mary Padley (with her son Lorenzo Padley and new infant Anne), left with the company.  Joseph and William were well respected because they apparently were very good athletes and challenged anyone to a wrestling match.

The Sharps and Carlisles drove a wagon for William Jennings, a Salt Lake City merchant and freighter.  The outfitting was done in Keokuk, Iowa.  The company for traveling over the plains was formally organized in Kanesville, Iowa.  On the trail, William and Mary Ann Padley were married 10 July 1853 in Loup Fork, Nebraska.  The company arrived in Salt Lake City between the 15th and 20th of September the same year.

Mary Ann was born the first of seven children born to James and Sarah Goodlad Bailey 28 November 1828 in Mattersey, Nottinghamshire, England.  James was a blacksmith and died somewhere in the 1860′s.  The Bailey family were practicing members of the Church of England.  Mary Ann attended school and obtained training in millinery and sewing.  Sarah died in 1843 and James remarried to a lady named Harriet.  Mary Ann met missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and converted.  She was baptized 20 October 1846.  Her parents dismissed her from the home for becoming a Mormon.

Shortly after, she met William Padley, another LDS member and a tailor, and married him 4 February 1847 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England.  They had a boy born to them in 1847 or 1848 named Lorenzo Joseph Padley.  William was ill when Lorenzo was born and died 22 February 1850.  Alone with a new son, she went back to her parents who would not have anything to do with her unless she gave up her religion.  With that, she determined she would move to Zion.  She sailed from Liverpool on 8 January 1851 on the “Ellen” with James Willard Cummings (1819-1883) as the leader of the company.  The ship did have a pretty bad episode with measles and what others thought was whooping cough.  She arrived in New Orleans 14 March 1851.    On the 19th they left for St. Louis on the “Alleck Scott” and arrived on the 26th.  Mary Ann and Lorenzo stayed in St. Louis while the company moved on.  As mentioned above, she met William Sharp and his family while living in St. Louis.

They settled in Lehi, Utah, Utah for a couple of years but had a number of issues with range for the cattle and some other minor squabbles.  Water was also not found to be very dependable in the Lehi area. During this time, William and Mary Ann gave birth to two children, William and Isabella in 1854 and 1856, but both died as infants.  Milo Riley was born 23 July 1857.  I have written of Milo and his family previously at this link: Sharp-Stoker Wedding.

William learned of land north near Ogden, Weber, Utah that was going to be opened up from some of the Saints passing through Lehi (abandoning Salt Lake City before the arrival of Johnson’s Army).  These Lehi Saints were told of ample land and good water that was available west of Ogden.  A scouting expedition went to search out the area in the fall of 1858 and visited with Lorin Farr (1820-1909) who told them of the available plain to the west.

The Sharp family left with other Lehi Saints on 10 March 1859 to travel to this new area.  The group of about 100 arrived 17 March 1859 at what is present day Plain City, Weber, Utah.  The company arrived at about 5 PM during the middle of a snowstorm.  The company lined up the wagons to protect them from the wind and dug a hole in the ground for the campfire.  Reports indicate that snow was pretty deep and conditions pretty uncomfortable.  Plain City apparently lived up to its name with some sagebrush that rose over 4 feet tall from the high water table beneath the soil.

William Sharp put his carpentry and masonry skills to work making adobe brick and helping build the first homes in Plain City.  William and Mary Ann lived in one of these homes.  William served in the Plain City band, the Plain City Z.C.M.I. board, a builder, and a city leader.  William and Mary Ann’s daughter, Evelyn, was the first girl born in Plain City in October 1859.  Victorine Mary was born 8 April 1862 and ended the children William and Mary Ann would have.  Mary Ann kept busy sewing and making suits, coats, and other required jobs.  Each of her daughters learned to become dressmakers.

Lorenzo Padley died 24 July 1866 in Plain City.  The photo we have of him is pretty scratched, but here is a cleaned up photo, but it is not perfect.  It is hard to tell what is his nose and what was deformities in the photo.

Anne Elizabeth married Daniel Clayborne Thomas 29 January 1872 in Salt Lake City at the Endowment House.  After six children she died in 1891 in Plain City.

Mary Ann moved out on Christmas Eve 1875 and refused to come back to William.  William sued for divorce and Franklin Dewey Richards (1821-1899) granted the divorce (in probate court!) on 19 May 1876.

All was not well in Zion during these years in Plain City.  Family lore has it that when a Bishop (Lewis Warren Shurtleff (1835-1922), branch president 1870-1877, bishop 1877-1883) extended himself beyond what the members felt was right, these families made sure it was known.  The final straw came when Bishop Shurleff started telling the members what they would give as tithing.  These were not just on the fringe members, but good standing members of the church in the area.  William Sharp began construction on St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1877 for many of these disaffected members (Still standing today and owned by the Lions in Plain City).  For whatever reason a significant group of members were excommunicated between 1877 and 1882.  Many of Plain City’s leading members were excommunicated.  Excommunicated 31 January 1879 were William Sharp (the same who built the new church), Mary Ann Sharp (listed separately because of the divorce), William Skeen, Edwin Dix, George Musgrave (father of their future daughter-in-law), Thomas Musgrave, Thomas Singleton, Thomas Davis, George W Harris, Jonathan Moyes, John Moyes, Winfield Spiers, James Wadman, Robert Davis, John Davis, and Thomas Robson.  These lists also have “and wife” as well as “and family” which seems to indicate that this list may have included spouses and families.  Many of these families returned to the church after time away, some individuals never did.

Milo Riley married Mary Ann Stoker (aka Lillian or Lilly Musgrave) 11 May 1879 in Plain City in the little church William built.  He died in 1916 in Plain City.

This same year, William remarried to the widow of Charles McGary, Charlotte Elizabeth Earl, in 1879.  We do not know exactly when or where.

Evelyn Carlisle married James Henry Taylor 16 January 1880 in Plain City.  She died in 1941 in Oregon.

Victorine Mary married Robert Edward Maw 8 April 1883 in Plain City.  She died in 1945 in Ogden.

Mary Ann continued to work as a dressmaker until she could not do so any more due to age.  She lived with her Granddaughter Elizabeth Taylor from before 1900 and even moved with her to Baker City, Baker, Oregon.  Mary Ann moved back to Plain City not long after Beth married.

William died at 950 Washington Ave in Ogden on 22 December 1900 at 75 years and was buried two days later in the Ogden cemetery.  Mary Ann died 30 October 1913 in Plain City at 85 years and was buried there three days later.

In Memory of Lowell Hansen and Garrett Smith

With a recent bout of suicides, I thought I would pay a bit of a tribute to Garrett Lee Smith and Lowell Eugene Hansen.  Both of them forced the concept of suicide into my life and required I come to some understanding of the idea.  I wanted to give some memories of these two individuals and the doctrinal concepts surrounding suicide.  What is suicide?  How does God look at suicide?  How am I supposed to deal with suicide?  How does God deal with those who commit suicide?

Lowell Hansen was an acquaintance I knew in Paul, Idaho.  I was young enough that I knew who he was, but did not really know anything about him.  After I was charged by a bull at our house, I remembered that within days he appeared at our home and removed the charge from the bull.  I watched him shoot, hang, gut, clean, and cut the bull.  It was fascinating.  I remember recognizing the butcher truck each time when I would see it on the road or at some other location.  I knew he built a log home because I always saw the truck parked near it.  Years later after I became involved in the same congregation and came to know him a little more as Brother Hansen.  It was not until I returned from my mission that I realized he even had a family.  I moved back to home in the fall of 2002 and I was assigned as a Home Teacher to one of Lowell’s daughters.  It was only then I really started to get to know the Hansen family more on a personal level.  It was shortly after that Lowell decided to end his life much like he did that bull.  I was called upon to help minister, however weakly, somewhat to the needs of his daughter and her then boyfriend.  The talk I reproduce in full below was given at his funeral and has provided much of the basis for my feelings and ideas on suicide.

Garrett Smith was on a bit more personal level for me.  I first learned of him in Manchester, England when he was assigned my companion as a new missionary.  I was called as a trainer to him, although I only knew of him as Elder Smith.  We served together, 24 hours a day, for 6 weeks.  We had many a conversation and became close friends.  I had some frustrations with him due to some of his learning disabilities and my lack of patience.  He knew of this and I do not think I always helped in our relationship.  When the 6 weeks were up, we had both profoundly influenced the other though.  He convinced me that I should consider leaving civil engineering and looking more into political science and law.  I think I had convinced him that his disabilities were not a very good excuse for settling for mediocrity.  I left England to return home and he finished in 2002.  We had planned several occasions where we would get together for old time’s sake, but they kept falling through due to poor scheduling and other issues.  We finally set a date to get together on the 13th of September in 2003.  I was going to drive down to Orem, Utah where he was and spend the weekend.  Unfortunately, I received a phone call that week only to find he had hanged himself in a closet after consuming alcohol and sleeping pills.  I had a great desire to attend his funeral so a roommate from Logan drove with me to Pendleton, Oregon for the funeral.  I took a copy of the talk from Lowell’s funeral with me and gave it to Garrett’s parents.  Garrett’s mom, Sharon, later thanked me for the talk.  Our Mission President, Phil Wightman, spoke at the funeral and while I doubt he had read the talk, he referenced very similar themes as Hyrum Smith did at Lowell’s funeral (Hyrum Smith was Lowell’s Mission President too).  Sometimes I find myself wondering what Garrett’s life would be like if he wasn’t reposing in the ground at Weston, Oregon.

I lost the talk over the years and had repeated requests come to me for a copy of it.  Those asking were mostly individuals I had shared with at the time of Garrett’s funeral who were moved by it and wanted to give a copy of it when someone else took their life.  I had probably a dozen requests for the talk in 2010, so I ended up contacting Lowell’s widow for a copy.

Here is a copy of the talk by Hyrum Smith given 6 December 2002 at the funeral of Lowell Eugene Hansen in Paul, Idaho.  At the end, I will give some other thoughts I remember Phil Wightman giving at Garrett’s funeral.

My brothers and sisters, I wasn’t really sure until about 3 o’clock this morning why I was asked to be here, but somewhere around three, I knew.  The spirit indicated to me that I am uniquely qualified to speak here today, and I’ll share with you why as I share some thoughts with you.

I’m honored and humbled that Emma Jean asked me to be here.  When she called Monday, I was stunned as I’m sure all of you were.

Public speaking is not something that is foreign to me.  I do it for a living.  I’ve spoken before thousands of audiences, but never an assignment like this.  I’d like to begin by suggesting that we are met here today in the house of God.  That same God who sent Jesus here to help us.  We meet today in the name of Jesus Christ who died to save us.  I would ask that you keep that in mind as I share a few thoughts with you this morning.

I’d like to begin by sharing four scriptures with you that describe, as many scriptures do, how our Father in Heaven, and our Savior feel about us.  I think we need to be especially reminded of that.  I’d like to go first with the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 5 “Lift up your hearts and be glad for I am in your midst and am your advocate with the Father.  And it is His good will to give you the kingdom.”  I would then take you to the 62nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 1, “Behold and hearken, o ye Elders of my church saith the Lord your God.  Even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.”  Now go with me to John, Chapter 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”  Last I would take you back to the Doctrine and Covenants, in section 18.  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.  For behold, the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh.  Wherefore He suffered pain of all men that all men might repent and come unto Him.  And He hath risen again from the dead that He might bring all men unto Him on conditions of repentance.  And how great is His joy in the soul that repenteth.”  I share those scriptures with you, brothers and sisters, as a preamble to what I would ask you to consider as we have met here today.

This wonderful man, father, husband, son, brother, missionary, I knew him well as a missionary.  He was one of the great missionaries of our mission – most of the Idaho people were.  He made a big mistake the other night.  Huge mistake.  He knows that he made that mistake now.  It cost him his life.  But only his body died the other night.  His soul, his spirit, his brain, his mind are still very much alive – very active.  It’s like going into another room.

I was led to a talk that Elder Jeffrey Holland gave at a very similar funeral.  Jeff Holland and I served as missionaries in the same mission, British mission, lots of years ago.  He’s a very dear friend.  He was asked to speak at the funeral of a young man who had taken his life.  This is what Elder Holland said, and I am going to interject Lowell’s name into these remarks, because they fit perfectly today.  “We’re here to celebrate Lowell’s life, not his death.  We’re here to praise the Lord and love God for the atonement and the resurrection, but we’re also here to say, particularly to the youth in this congregation and others who struggle, that Lowell made a mistake.  Now he would be the first to say that.  Someone said, ‘A man to be good, and I would add a woman, must imagine intensely and comprehensively – he must put himself in the place of another – the pains and pleasures of the man that has become his own.  Until he can do that, he must never sit in judgment on a man or his motives.’  We need a better vocabulary, Emma Jean.  We know what we mean when we use the language of death.  But the master of heaven and earth, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all mankind, the living Resurrection said that, “When you live and believe in Him, you never die.”  So, we’ll let Lowell go for a while.  But he’s not dead, in any eternal sense, and you know that.  You know that now, you’ll know it tomorrow, and you’ll know it next week.  You’ll especially know it when he is spiritually close to you, whispers to you in your dreams, helps through the veil to raise your grandchildren.  You’ll know that Lowell lives.  It is important to me to bear testimony to you that Lowell lives – just as we testify that God lives and Jesus lives.  We testify that Lowell lives and spiritually and is loved of God and of us.  We miss him.  Death was an intruder this week.  We weren’t ready.  We do miss him and we are sorry, but none of that diminishes the brightness of his life.  The grandeur of God’s plans – the reality of life and the resurrection – of eternity and the Celestial kingdom.  Lowell is being buried with all the promises and symbols of his covenants safely around him.  God in his mercy will work out all the arrangements even as Lowell works out his acknowledgement of his mistake.”  Un-quote.

Those are words of an Apostle of God.  I would like to pose five questions to you now.  The first of which no one has an answer for, but I think we need to deal with it, because I don’t think there is a person in this room that hasn’t asked this question in the last five days.  The second, third, and fourth question, I came from southern Utah this morning, to answer.  Because there are answers to those three questions, and I believe I can answer them for you.  The fifth question, only the people in this room can answer.  I don’t know what that answer will be, but I’m going to pose it.

Here’s the first question, which has been on the minds and lips of probably everyone.  “What was he thinking about?”  What possibly could have driven him to make this mistake?  What’s the answer?  I don’t know.  Nobody here knows.  What sort of despair and anguish and pain causes someone to do that?  I don’t know!  He made a mistake, so we really don’t know the answer to that question.  But that’s not the important question.

The second question, the one that I think I am uniquely qualified to answer, and one of the reasons why I think I was asked to be here is, “What is Lowell thinking now?”  Lowell’s very much alive.  He thinks, he breathes; he has probably had an opportunity to walk with his Father in Heaven.  DO you want me to tell you what he is thinking now?  He’s afraid.  He’s sorry.  He’s in anguish.  He’s suffering.  He’s wishing he hadn’t done it.  I know that.  How do I know?  Several years ago, I made some big mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  Hopefully not as big as the ones I made.  Because of those mistakes, it was required that I lose my membership in the church for several years.  And after I went through the process of approaching my Bishop and my Stake President, and going through the church judicial system – which is amazing, I found myself asking the first question a lot.  What was I thinking?  I couldn’t even answer that question for me.  But I know what I thought about after.  I know about the pain.  I know about the anguish.  I know about the suffering.  It’s awful!  So rest assured, and knowing Lowell as I know him – the integrity of this man, he’s in a lot of pain.

Third question, “Will the Lord allow Lowell to repent?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question – Of course!  He allows everyone to repent.  There’s a myth that floats around the church from time to time.  It suggests that people who take their lives have committed an unpardonable sin.  I’m here to tell you today that’s just flat not true.  The Lord will allow Lowell to repair that mistake.  He’ll walk him through it.  He’ll help him do it.  He’s going to allow that.

Fourth question, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question.  The answer is yes.  He will.  He will forgive him.  And Lowell will receive all the blessings that he rightly deserves from a wonderful life.

Those are the three questions I can answer with surety.  The fifth question, I can’t.  The fourth question was, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  The answer is yes.  The fifth question is, “Will you?”  I know from sad experience that lots of people don’t.  But the Lord has asked us to forgive.  He said, “I the Lord will forgive whom I choose to forgive, but of you, you’re required to forgive all men.”  I need to talk about forgiveness for a moment.  Does the mistake that Lowell made the other night blot out all the good that this man did in his life?  No!  Elder Holland reflected on that.  He was a wonderful missionary.  He was a great father.  He was a great man.  He was dedicated to his Father in Heaven.  Like many of us, he made some mistakes, one big one.  It doesn’t blot out everything he was.  We heard of a wonderful tribute from a beautiful daughter today about the kind of dad he was.  None of that gets wiped out.

As I went through the initial stages of my repentance process, one of the major sources of the anguish was the worry that no one would forgive me.  Because I somehow got it in my mind as I grew up in the church, that to ultimately forgive someone, for a transgression, you had to forget it.  Because we were taught in the scriptures, that when repentance was real and complete, the Lord forgets.  How does He do that? He forgets!  Wow!  Can we, mortals, reach a level of spiritual maturity where we can forget what happened the other night?  I don’t think so.  Do you think that anybody in this room will ever forget that Lowell took his life?  Not in this life.  I don’t think so.  Do you think anyone, who knows me well, will forget that I was excommunicated from the church?  Nope – Hyrum Smith…business leader, great, great grandson of the prophet’s brother, Hyrum?  No one will ever forget that!  Do you think my kids will forget that?  No!  BUT, and this is one of those moments where the spirit instructs and saves, in the middle of the night, the spirit taught a great lesson.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means remembering – but it doesn’t matter any more.  I think we can achieve that.  I think we can reach a point, as mortals, where we can remember and have forgiven to the point where, in remember, it just doesn’t matter anymore.  I challenge each to deal with the fifth question, “Will you forgive him?”  I believe you can – you must!  That’s what the Lord wants you to do.  But you’ll never forget.

I want to share a concept with you that has helped me think through a number of things.  During the Vietnam War, I was in the military during that period of time; there was a man by the name of Stockdale.  He was an admiral.  He was the highest-ranking man to spend time at the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war.  And while he was in the prison, for about six years, he discovered that there were three basic types of people incarcerated in that prison.  He discovered the same thinking that Victor Frankl discovered at Auswich during the Second World War.  Victor Frankl wrote about it in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Then Stockdale wrote about it, and it has become known and has been written about in a number of books since – the Stockdale paradox.  The three groups of people that he discovered were these.  There were pessimists, optimists, and realists.  And this is how he defined each group.  The pessimists saw the brutal facts around him and quit.  The optimist had boundless faith and ignored the brutal facts.  The realist saw the brutal facts, but had faith they could be dealt with.

The reason I share this with you is that in this book, when he wrote about this he said the interesting thing about these three groups is that the first two groups of people died in the camps at Vietnam.  Died!  Didn’t make it back!  I understood why the pessimists didn’t make it.  They saw the brutal facts.  They were in the middle of South-East Asia.  They were 8,000 miles from help and the Marines aren’t going to get in here.  We’re going to be here forever, and they died.  And some very healthy bodies died.

The second group stunned me!  The optimists died!  How come the optimists died?  Because the optimists had boundless faith but were not willing to look at the brutal facts.  And they said to each other, “You know we’ll be out of here by Christmas.”  “We’ll be out of here by Valentines.”  Every rustle in the bush was the Marines coming to save them.  And when every rustle in the bush wasn’t the Marines coming to save them and when they weren’t out by Christmas, and when they weren’t out by Valentines, they died.  They gave up and died.

The realists survived.  They saw the brutal facts.  “We’re in the middle of South-East Asia.  We’re not going to be rescued for a long time, but you know what guys, we’ll stick together.  We can handle this.”  And they did.

A good friend, by the name of Jensen, was in our mission – Lowell knew him – served six years in that prison.  There were several LDS fellows there, and the way they kept themselves sane was they would try and remember LDS hymns.  They would tap by Morse code on the bars of the jail, and they would send what they could remember of each hymn.  They gathered lots of hymns.  And one hymn they worked on for four years.  They got the first three verses in about 18 months, but the fourth verse took two and a half years to get.  They finally got the fourth verse.  When they got back, there was only three verses.  They had created their own verse, but they survived.  Now why do I share that here?  I want to ask you the question as what are you going to do about this issue?  Pessimists see the brutal facts – Our dad killed himself.  It’s pretty awful.  Nothing so wrong, it’s awful!  And you can give up – if you want.  The optimist ignores the facts – puts on a smiley face and pretends it didn’t happen.  And the optimists live a lie.  The realist sees the brutal facts – We lost our dad, our husband, our son – pretty awful.  We’ve got to gather together and help each other now to survive financially and economically.  We’ve got to get through school.  We’ve got to do stuff that dad normally would have helped us with.  It isn’t going to be easy.  The optimist has the faith that we can do it.  And so I’m asking you today, “What are you going to be?”

On the 19th of October of last year, not this year, but 2001, Steven Covey and I, we have a business together, were asked by Mayor Giuliani of New York City, if we would come back to Manhattan and do a free, one day, workshop for the families of those affected by the 9/11 disaster.  He told that their mid-town Manhattan Sheraton had donated their ballroom.  They donated our rooms to stay.  Would you come back?  We’ve got people in some real pain.  Would you come back and speak?  We said, “We’re there!”  We got there on a Thursday night.  The seminar was to be on Friday.  I got there about midnight.  I’ve been in Manhattan many, many times.  As I flew up the East river, I was coming from Chicago, and saw the lights where the World Trade Center used to be, it was kind of an eerie feeling.  It was a very different landscape now.

At five o’clock the next morning, Mayor Giuliani had arranged for a tour, a private tour of ground zero for Steven and me.  At that point, which was just five weeks after the event; sixteen hundred policeman had surrounded ground zero, and had blocked it off.  You couldn’t get down there without a police escort.  We had to go through four checkpoints to get to ground zero.  About 5:15 in the morning, we found ourselves standing on the street in front of where the Marriott Hotel used to be. It used to be called the Vista Hotel.  I’ve stayed in that Hotel many times.  Only I wasn’t really standing on the street.  I was standing on 16 feet of compacted debris.  And as we stood there looking at this horrific hole in the ground, the policeman who had been assigned to be our guide began to tell us his story.

He said, “You know, I was here that day.  I was standing on the street right about where we are.  I heard this big bang, I looked up, and all this stuff came flying out of the World Trade Center.”  He said, “You know, it looked like paper when it all came out until it started hitting the ground.  It was fifty foot I-beams killing everyone it hit.”  He said, “I watched 34 people jump from those towers.  Four of them holding hands.  I watched eight firemen lose their lives from falling people.”  I’m not even believing this.  Then he looked at me and said, “Mr. Smith, how many computers do you think there were in the World Trade Center?”  I said, “Probably a lot.”  He said, “We haven’t found one!”  I said, “How come?”  “3,000 degree fire.  It’s still burning.”  As he was talking, a crane pulled a big I-beam out of the rubble, and the end of the I-beam was dripping molten steel.  Then he said, “You know the second plane hit and then the building started to come down – we all thought we were dead.  We got under a car, and somehow we lived.”  That’s how our morning started.

When we got back to the hotel at about 7:30, we had to shower.  We were covered with soot.  At 8:00, this meeting began.  There were 2,000 people jammed into a ballroom designed for 1,500.  People were sitting on the floor.  It started by two New York policemen and two New York Firemen, carrying the American flag in.  I will tell you, It’s hard.  And then the Harlem girls choir, sixty young women from Harlem, filed in and sang three patriotic songs, and the music that came out of those kids was amazing.  I was very grateful that Steven Covey had to speak first because I was a mess.  He spoke for two hours, and then I had to speak for two hours.  As I approached the front of the room, there were people all around on the floor.  A fireman, about half way back, in uniform, stood up, and he said, “Mr. Smith, are you going to tell us how we get of bed in the morning when we just don’t give a darn anymore?”  That’s how it started.  It turned out to be one of the toughest, and ultimately the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.  I said these words to the fireman – and I want to say these words to you – Emma Jean and the children, and their extended family, and everybody here.  If you don’t remember a think I’ve said, remember this statement.  I said to this fireman, “Pain is inevitable.  Misery is an option.”  And he seemed a little stunned.  Now what do I mean by that?  The fact is, brothers and sisters, bad things happen to good people.  They just do.  Airplanes fly into buildings.  Rivers overflow their banks.  Dams break and flood out villages.  Accidents happen – people die prematurely.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  How we choose to deal with the pain is ultimately a measure of who we are.

That’s why the Lord gave us the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To help us deal with the pain.  Some of the most serene, magnificent, wonderful people I’ve ever known have gone through some major pain in their lives.

Will the Lord forgive?  Yes!  Ten days ago, tomorrow, President Hinckley and Elder Maxwell, laid their hands on my head and restored all my blessings.  Not just some of them.  All of them.  And President Hinckley mentioned three times in the most amazing blessing I’ve ever heard, all the blessings.  I’m here to testify to you today that that will happen to Lowell.  He’ll be there.  He’ll be ready, Emma Jean.  He’ll welcome you with all his blessings.  So the challenge for us as the living – to go on.

When the pioneers came across the plains, they periodically had to stop and bury the dead.  And the scene was always the same.  There’d be a family standing around the grave, and if you looked off into the distance, you could see the wagons – and the wagons were ready to go.  The wagons had riders in them.  They were waiting for the family to get through with that funeral so that they could move on because they knew, “If we don’t move on, then we’ll die!”  They buried their dead, and they moved on.

Well, the wagons are surrounding the building, and they’re ready for us to move on.  We pulled off the highways of our lives to pay tribute to a great human being – who made a mistake that can be fixed.  And when we’re through here today, we’ll get back in our wagons and move on.  We’ll survive.  Don’t ever forget the brutal facts, but never lose faith that they can be dealt with.  I bear you my testimony that God lives.  Jesus is the Christ.  He loves everybody in the room.  He’ll take care of Lowell.  He’ll take care of us too.  I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Here are a few more thoughts from my memory of Phil Wightman’s talk from Garrett’s funeral.  The talk centered around the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 which states, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

In essence, since I went to the funeral with Lowell’s funeral talk in my mind (in fact, my friend, Taylor Willingham, read it to me again on the drive up and I gave a copy to Garrett’s parents) the basics of the talk were the same.  Brother Smith approached it with some practical questions and answers to those questions.  President Wightman approached it from a doctrine side that we do not really know what goes on in the minds of these individuals when suicide is completed.  But we have to have charity, love them and their families, and move forward.  In the end, the Lord will sort all things out.

Rest in peace Garrett and Lowell.  I look forward to meeting up with you both again some day.  Until then, I hope we all can appreciate the suicidal act and hopefully help avoid it in the future, and work forward from those who do commit this unthinkable deed.

2008 in Review

This morning while everyone sleeps, I thought I would give a quick year in review.  Wow, what a year.  Probably the best year of my life.  I hope I can continue to say that every year!

One year ago, it was the first day of being laid off in my life.  Good ole Bank of America laid off the entire Wholesale Division.  My life as a underwriter came to an end as the mortgage industry was obviously in signs of trouble.  I decided to leave the entire industry.  Boy, am I glad I did!  1 January 2008 brought a month of trying, scrambling to find out what to do.  I had severance for a year and my job working professionally as a genealogist.  That carried us through.  I have been doing genealogy for the same family over the Christmas Break to supplement our income.  That is certainly a great blessing.  I know it is a blessing to their family and those who have gone on before as well.  I have probably added more than 2 or 3 generations on each of their family lines.

The first week or two of January I received an offer for employment in Pasco, Washington covering the states of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming for Inlande Environmental Resources.  I would be making more than 10K more, have my own vehicle, card, and a whole lot more.  The only downside is I would be in Idaho most of the time while Amanda would remain in Virginia to finish her education.  We decided it was a great offer, much better than our options in Virginia, and could help open doors for the future.  The end of January, Brad Hales flew out, and we made a cross country trek in my pickup.  Brad has always been a very generous, kind friend.  Who would have thought a mission to England would have such long lasting repercussions?

February through June found me working for IER working with existing customers and making new sales.  The only big contract I found was with J.B. Swift in Hyrum, Utah.  It was 2 or 3 truckloads a month at present.  They were having so many problems with Thatcher Chemical that it was a fairly easy sell.  Honestly, I was just at the right place at the right time.  I really don’t think I personally did anything that really made the sale but it made me a favorite with the bosses.  We opened quite a few doors.  The big thing I enjoyed was the travel.  Salem, Portland, The Dalles, Weston, Pendleton, Gresham, and more in Oregon.  Toppenish, Yakima, Zillah, Sunnyside, Grandview, Pasco, Kennewick, Wenatchee, and Colfax Washington.  Wenatchee was another example of just being in the right place at the right time.  We were solving a foaming problem with apple concentrate waste.  We just had the right chemical but became known as the defoaming expert!  I also traveled all over Utah, Vernal being the most exotic visit.  I sure enjoyed Inlande Environmental.  They were really good to me and I enjoyed working for them.

May rolled around and I decided to accept an opening at Oklahoma City University for Law School.  I announced it to my bosses and they were more than accepting.  They knew when they interviewed me for the job I was seriously considering law school.  They were so good to me!  In fact, they let me keep my salary through to August while Amanda and I took our trip to Europe and here to Oklahoma City.  Amanda also graduated in May.  Amanda’s parents and I flew out for the big occasion.  We sure had quite a bit of fun!  During the time there we packed everything to move all our stuff to Oklahoma City.  We did a little sight-seeing as well.  Monticello was probably my favorite place to visit and I was fortunate everyone else wanted to go as well.  In the end, I flew back to work in Idaho and Amanda with the in-laws drove to Oklahoma City in a moving truck, and from there to Kaysville in the car.

A big first for the year.  We purchased our first home!  A quaint little 30′s home near 23rd Street NW in Oklahoma City.  A wonderful little home with plenty of things to keep me busy but still liveable.

June rolled around and then Amanda and I went on our very expensive weight loss program.  I can boast losing about 20 pounds running around Europe.  We spent six weeks in Europe.  Many, many firsts for both of us.  We visited friends in Belgium and they were very kind to treat us.  Primarily, it was perfect for getting over jet lag!  We then went crazy in traveling for the next 6 weeks.  About 4 days in Belgium.  We attended a Stake Conference in Antwerp and attended dedicatory prayers in Dutch.  That prepared us for Brugge, and where we spent our next few days in Amsterdam.  We saw the sights and even made a trip to Den Haag.  Off we shot across The Netherlands, across Germany to Berlin, and down to an ancestral home in Dresden.  I still think Dresden was probably my favorite place.  Even better than Vianden or the rest of Luxembourg.  Dresden is also near to Meissen which was another ancestral home.  I would love to spend a week in Dresden.  We shot across Germany through Leipzig down to Augsburg.  There we were based to hit Munchen, Dachau, and Fussen for Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein.  Then we headed off to visit Stuttgart with Neuffen and Holzgerlingen (ancestral towns) before heading to Salzburg.  Salzburg was definitely another favorite.  Gorgeous town.  Then off to sweltering Venice via Innsbruck.  There we spent time in a very different culture and climate in a city on the water with no water to drink!  After Venice, up through Padua to Zurich and down to Bern.  Bern was definitely another favorite.  I really wish we could have spent some good quality time there.  Then off through Lausanne and Geneva for a few wonderful, long, unorganized days in Paris.  If there was ever a point Amanda and I were getting tired it was in Paris.  More with each other than with the city.  But we really enjoyed Paris nevertheless.  If we had been stuck in Amsterdam during this time, we may have been in marital breakdown, but Paris made it bearable.  After Paris, we headed back to Belgium for a day or two before flying off to Prestwick, Scotland.

We then were in a car for the next 3 weeks!  That day we made our way through Glasgow before ending in Edinburgh for some wonderful times there.  We really liked that city.  I could certainly feel we were back in the United Kingdom.  There is a flavor in the air that reeks of Britain.  From there we worked our way down through Manchester, Liverpool, Northern Wales, Birmingham, Bath, Dorset, and finally to London.  In the UK we spent two weeks of it in the old stomping grounds of the England Manchester Mission.  We visited loads of people I knew and tried to balance that with seeing the sites for Amanda.  I think we did a good job.  We also caught up with some long time friends, the Gores and the Byroms.  We also met up with my old missionary companion Elder Gheorghe Simion and his wife who now live in Liverpool.  After the mission we visited ancestral homes near Birmingham, even stumbling on a cemetery in Halesowen with plenty of ‘my’ Coley line.  It was fun.  Bath was quite a bit of fun crashing that night with a cousin in Milton Abbas, a gorgous little Dorset town.  They treated us very, very well.  Then off to London crashing with the Jeppesen’s in Weybridge.  We spent our remaining time with them in their posh house until we flew out.  All in all, we loved our entire trip.  Paris could have used a bit more planning, but the trip as a whole was utterly marvelous.  We feel very, very blessed to have been able to take the trip.

We landed in Utah and the gears started grinding in different ways.  I tried to make sure everything was a successful transition for IER and we headed out for Oklahoma City.  We arrived here the very last week of July.  Before August had arrived we had moved all our possessions into the home and started setting up for the next few years.  I went to work on the yard, Amanda went to work on the inside.  We came to know our ward, get lined up for school, Amanda a dental hygiene license, and job.  Everything fell into place within a month.  I was rolling with law school and Amanda had a job blocks from home.

The rest of the year was fairly uneventful.  I sat trying to recoup some of my weight lost in Europe (I have been unsuccessful, not that I really want it back) in the law school library.  I picked up squash here again.  Amanda works her days away.  I am slowly remodeling a bathroom with all that extra time.  Amanda took up sewing our Halloween costumes and organizing Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then the year was over!

All in all, what a year!  I feel highly blessed of heaven.  Who could ask for anything more?  We have started paying off student loans for Amanda.  We are also paying for some work done on the house and what little remains of our trip to Europe.  We paid off the washer and dryer, now the refrigerator next.  Then we can start socking it away for retirement (since our retirement took quite a hit in October and since!).  Plus there will be plenty more to do to the house if we should really want to invest.  But all in all, God has been very good to us.  May he continue to light our paths and may we continue to do what is needed to bring down the extra blessings!  I am looking forward to 2009, although I think it will be much less eventful than 2008.  But hey, who knows?

Stiffnecked

Today I sent my wife back across the country.  Seems a bit out of odds that I am sending off my wife for another month or so.  It seems more like she should be sending me away.  A mission?  Military?  Work travel?  I could not help but think of Engelbert Humperdink’s, “There Goes My Everything” as we said adios again.  As President Stucki would say, “There is no such thing as a good bye in the gospel.”  I believe it is true.  No matter what happens, we will meet up again.

I find myself even further from her now.  I am now in The Dalles, Oregon.  She is in Richmond, Virginia.  That puts us about 2,800 miles of separation in one day.  Don’t we live in a day of miracles?  I can visit with her without any more cost than my cell phone plan.  I spoke to her in Detroit, Minneapolis, Richmond, and a host of other places in the past month.  I am always impressed when I send out a dozen letters in one day all to different regions on the United States, or even the world, and know they will arrive there.  Most of them within 2 or 3 days.  That is a miracle to me.  As I type this up, on a free internet signal, in a hotel room, my computer connects to the internet and will make it available worldwide within seconds of my pressing the send button.  Every person in the world could read it if they wanted.  That is a miracle.

If you cannot tell, I have thought about miracles today.  I listened to some of Harold B Lee’s stories about miracles.  I thought about the miracles in my own life.  I even wrote of the miracle of the Book of Mormon in a recent blog.  They are all about us.  Somehow though, I get so busy in my life not to recognize them.

This leads me to the scripture I have thought about from the recent reading of the Book of Mormon.  This is another one of those scriptures I memorized that summer but have not been able to retain.

“And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked.  And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith.”  (Jarom 1:4)

Far too often, I think I fall on the side of the stiffnecked.  In fact, I know I do.  I am just proud enough to miss so many of the blessings which could be easily obtained.  In some instances, more recognized.

There are plenty of ways in which I still need to repent and rise above the natural man.  Without beating up on myself too much, I do completely recognize that I am just humble and faithful enough to have some personal revelations of my own.  I end up with one or two in each journal, but they are there.  Meaning, I know that the Lord speaks to even me in my weakness.  Even in my weakness, I am abundantly blessed and am just humble enough to see some of those blessings and miracles all about me.

The proud always fall

Life continues to come upon me at breakneck pace.  I don’t mind, I am really enjoying it.  There are a number of things I do feel like I am neglecting which are more important.  This trend is not one I could keep up indefinitely.  Portland, Pasco, Spokane all in one week.  Last week it was Pasco, Wenatchee, Moscow, Boise, and more.  This coming week will be all over Northern Utah.  I took the weekend off some to get back into some family history, paid and unpaid.  A chance to do some missionary work (I gave away three copies of the Book of Mormon and had 3 less-actives out to church).  A funeral, visiting with a couple of widows, and time with two babies, and eating that partridge from the pear tree.
Having just written that last paragraph, I remember the time I was accused of telling those sorts of details to make myself look significant.  I often wonder about that when I have mentioned where I have been or what I am doing.  I have for as long as I can remember deliberately never ‘dropping names’.  I honestly think my not doing so has afforded me opportunity to meet more notable than I would have ever had the chance if I had sought them out.  Billionaries, politicians, actors, and who knows.  The best are those who have no name or station, but wisdom to share.  But what about telling of my adventures and travels.  Hmmm, if I do not mention the places I have traveled or the things I have done what would be left for conversation?  Thoughts?  The more I read it seems the less original thoughts there are in our day.  Are we really just to discuss history?  Then again, would we have history if nobody ever recorded where they had been or who they had met?
It seems to me the real problem is when we tell of laurels from ages past.  When we live in a surreal environment where the past keeps being relived with little relevance to the present.  Then I find I am in the presence of insufferable know-it-alls who are doing little in the present field of theater.  On the other end of the coin, there are others who seem to dwell in the present making decisions with little relation to significant points of the past.  With the disconnect we have some terrible side effects on our hands.
“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come: And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.” (D&C 98:24-25)
What do we share with others?  Do we live in a state of hermitage or do we share our experiences with places, people, and thoughts?  It seems we should be living our lives as an open book.  Talking, sharing, conversing, and listening to others.  To truly be learning and walking forward through life.  It really is the spirit that is most important, not necessarily what is shared.
Anyhow, it is not a clear relation, but this was in relation to the scriptures I read this morning.
“And I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible.  I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.  Therefore, I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.  And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up; and they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into this own land.  Every one that is proud shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked shall fall by the sword.” (2 Nephi 23:11-15).
Doing things for our own purpose is pride and arrogancy.  In deed, it is Priestcraft, which interesting the upcoming chapters of 2 Nephi dissect and expound upon.  The proud will have nothing to do than to turn to his own people and flee back to their own land.  Even then, they shall be thrust through, taken down by other wicked individuals.  The truth will not only set you free, it will save you from death and hell and that endless wo.

More of the same; Life

Time keeps ticking by too quickly sometimes.  I have so much to write but not as much time as I would like to do it in.  Such is the limitations in the probationary game.  There are plenty of achievements to report though in the past week or two.
This evening I spoke with Gerald Neuffer in Columbia, Missouri.  In a most random turn of events, I noticed that a Jenna Neuffer became friends with my friend, Kami Lowe on Facebook.  With a name as rare as Neuffer, I knew all odds were in my favor of having a near shared ancestry.  I sent Miss Neuffer a message and asked for her Grandfather’s name and phone number.  Which she supplied.  Come to find out, I even had Gerald already in my family history.  I just had his first name Myron (Gerald is his middle name but he goes by it.  Probably due to remove confusion with his father’s name being Myron).  He knew the Andra’s well and said he remembered Millie, who was just younger than him.  Funny how small a world it is.  He went to get his PhD and never left Columbia after moving there in 1947.  We conversed for a little while he dug for information verifying I was not this total stranger calling for his family history for some other sinister reason.  He sounds like a good guy.  He asked if I was doing genealogy.  I confirmed I was and that I was the family historian.  He then happily related he was basically that for the Neuffer/Nuffer family.  I was definitely glad to hear that.  What is the chances of the Andra historian running into the Nuffer historian in Columbia Missouri?  Very far removed from Preston, Idaho!
I received a phone call from Jacqui yesterday about the Phibbs/Ross/Beachell family.  I tried returning her call and spoke with her mother for a few minutes.  I am glad she finally returned my message.  I only left it in May!  That was before we moved!
In other news, there was an e-mail that found its way to me from Robert in Fresno, California.  A most interesting question.  He asked if I knew of any of the siblings of my Constance Jorgensen.  I always felt Constance most likely had siblings but was never able to find any.  Between her parents marriage and Constance’s birth, there is twelve years.  I was sure there were other siblings.  Olavus and Hanna Mathea Jorgensen immigrated with Constance and settled in Richmond, Utah.  Constance married Ole Christiansen and gave birth to my Great Great Grandmother Martha Christiansen who is the mother of my Lillian Coley.  Constance died in Portland, Oregon while visiting and was buried there.  In the whole episode, I knew some day I would have to do some research in Norway to find the rest of this family.  Well, Robert e-mailed me asking me if his grandmother, Amanda Jorgensen Swensen could be a child of Olavus and Hanna.  He produced a copy of a hand written copy pedigree she had produced in 1935.  Sure enough, everything lined up.  Well, Amanda was born another 12 years after my Constance (24 after the marriage of the parents).  She immigrated to Utah a good 10 years after her parents and sibling came over and settled in Logan, Utah.  By the time she arrived her parents were both deceased and her sister had married.  It seems that she never knew she was only 15 miles from her parent’s graves and her sister.  The exciting news is that Amanda gave us the names of her siblings, none of which made it to America to her knowledge.  We added the 5 siblings.  Don’t know their ages, but definitely gives some more to go from.  That will give us much more to go from when the time for the Norway research begins.
I am happy to report I completed the New Testament this evening.  I am one day late.  If I had read the one chapter a day, I would have finished yesterday.  Last weekend put me just off enough that I did not catch up in time.  I completed the Book of Mormon on schedule this year on August 27th.  Now I can go through some General Conference talks and some other reading for the year.  Next year is the Doctrine and Covenants which you can almost read three times in a year.  I think I will just do it twice though.
The ward continues to blossom when it comes to family history.  It seems like people are doing their homework, research, and compiling regularly.  I have e-mails at least once or twice a week for help on something.  That is an indication something is going on.  That is definitely something which is a good thing.
Online the family history work continues to reveal new and interesting things.  I received an e-mail from a Homer Mason.  He was inquiring concerning the Jonas family in Washington State.  Come to find out, Anna Jonas is his Grandmother.  Anna was the daughter of William Jonas who was the brother to my Joseph Jonas; father to my great grandfather Joseph Nelson Jonas.  He knows very little so it has been fun introducing him to the family.  I have especially enjoyed his research on a line of the family I have not been able to crack.  It has proved not to be an easy line for him, but with his living in Yakima, he is much closer and capable of doing the work than I can.  I really hope I am accepted to the University of Idaho for Law School.  Then I could work on the Jonas, Ross, and Sharp lines in Washington State.
Stepping back to the Andra family.  This past weekend Amanda and I took a trip to Washington DC for our monthly temple visit.  But a new aspect as emerged.  My Great Uncle and Aunt, Donald and Lolane Andra, are now serving a mission in the temple.  We went up Friday night and stayed with Amanda’s Uncle and Aunt in Springfield.  Saturday we picked up Don and Lolane and made our way to Mt. Vernon.  They thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  It was the 18th Century Fair so there were masses of people.  Don and Lolane are good and quick on their feet.  Despite being in their 60′s they move well.  Don reminds me so much of my Great Grandpa.  I get a kick out of both of them.  We were limited on time as they had to be to the temple to work later in the afternoon.  We did probably the fastest walking tour of Mt. Vernon I can imagine.  We zoomed all over the grounds, through the fair, and then back up to their apartment to change and attend the temple.
On a side note, as I went into the endowment room, I noticed the officiator’s name was John Whatcott.  I looked at him and asked if he was from Kanosh.  He looked a bit surprised at me and said he grew up there.  I told him of the Whatcott’s I knew.  After the session he asked me to remain in the celestial room so we could visit.  We had a great visit.  Come to find out he knows Don and Lolane from St. George.  Small world.  Don knew which session we were on and waited for us to leave the celestial room.  He walked us down to the next floor and we parted again.  I met Don’s Home Teaching companion, Elder Toronto, while picking up Amanda’s Aunt’s glasses from the temple lost and found.  Funny how interlinked the world is, at least in the church.
I have not made mention of it yet, but I am going from contractor status to full associate status at Bank of America.  Meaning, I will be an employee of Bank of America and not an at will person filling a seat.  Many companies now do the contractor business as they can then hire on employees after they have shown their worth.  I must have done well enough for them to offer me employment starting October 1.  I am excited.  Business has been picking up.  I don’t know if it is from the crunch in the market or what.  Bank of America definitely stands on higher ground than those feeling the squeeze or sinking under the housing market.  One thing is for sure, with this rate cut, we are expecting the next month to be hectic.
My birthday came and went just like every other day or the year.  I am back to being congratulated for it being my unbirthday.  I received all sorts of e-mails (which will take me a good week to respond to them all), many messages on Facebook, and a couple of cards and gifts.  Amanda and I enjoyed a nice big meal at Chili’s for dinner.  We joked about it being our triannual beef night.  It is birthdays or anniversary that I get to eat a steak.  Monday was a 12 oz Ribeye.  Mmmm, so good.  That is of course not mentioning the Idaho potatos.  Amanda got me a shirt, a jump drive, and something else which slips me at the moment.  I also received a journal, a few checks, and some other random memorabilia.  I honestly don’t feel any different now than I think I did when I was 19.  Except the fact my knee was reconstructed in 2004 and doesn’t give me the issues it did at 19.  So I guess I feel better than at 19.  I have filled out in stature, even added a little padding in the middle,  and perhaps a little wiser.  Life is good.
My blessings continue to flow despite my inept nature.  I continue to be given the little peaceable things of the kingdom from time to time.  They make the living and endurance all worth it.  Line upon line right?  Sometimes I wish it was more page upon page, but alas, I am not the one running the show.  Church goes well.  I feel spiritually well.  Not the muscular behemoth I would like to be spiritually, but I feel strong enough to do what needs to be done and any forseeable adventure.

Pulaski Roots

Speaking of roots, I had a dental appointment on Friday.  Due to Measles as a baby, I have ameliogenesis imperfecta with several of my teeth.  Basically, some of my teeth have deformities.  One of which is that the nerve in one tooth reaches quite a bit higher than normal.  Also linked with the deformity of the drugs (legal!) I took in the early 80′s, those teeth are weaker and more susceptible to problems.  Many, many years ago I had a filling put in the tooth that touched on that high reaching nerve.  Over the years that nerve touching the filling, in addition to a slight tapping from the tooth having moved (from squash racket trauma about 2000), and just normal advancement of time that root has decided to pass away.  Yes, I am the owner of a slowly dying tooth.  I have been placed on antibiotics to keep the nerve from getting infected as it decays.  In the next few weeks I will experience my first root canal. 

On an interesting note, once Dr. Spitzer saw my x-ray of the teeth he quickly noted how long the roots are on my teeth.  Amanda confirmed to me later that during the freak show discussion that ensued my teeth roots were measured at 25 mm long.  Amanda tells me that the normal individual has roots approximately 15 mm long.  The dentist commented how he may have to order some longer tools to work on the tooth.  Whether it was in jest or not, I have come to appreciate how different I really am.  Deep down inside I always knew I was special.  Now I know it is a good 10 mm deeper why I am special.
So we have frantically tried to figure out how we would pay for what a root canal and crown would cost without insurance.  When in the mail today I received an invitation to join the insurance for my work.  As generous as they are, I will now have dental insurance.  Now I just have to find how long of a waiting period I will have with a tooth that has become highly sensitive to hot and cold with slight throbbing from time to time.
Anyhow, on to the story of Pulaski County, Virginia.  My Ross line left Pulaski County about 1912 and headed to settle in Rupert, Idaho.  The daughter, Fannie had married a Phibbs from Pulaski and Carroll County and moved out previously.  Her husband was the Minidoka County Judge in Rupert.  With the opening of the new Sugar Factory at Paul, the rapid expansion of irrigateable farm land, and an economic downturn in Pulaski it was time to move.  James Thomas Meredith Ross who I have written about before followed his daughter Fannie.  His other three children would follow to the west.  James would later settle in the Vernal area.  The Phibbs would eventually end up north of Sacramento, California.  John would roam for many years marrying in West Virginia, Colorado, and Wyoming.  He would die in Alameda County, California.  Robert we don’t really know what happened to other than he died in California about 1944.
While I have written about all of that previously, James Thomas Meredith Ross would leave behind his half brother William Andrew Ross.  William would marry and move to West Virginia.  He lived in Gary, WV most of his life and raised his family there.  He worked in the mines coal mines.  He and Sarah (Sallie) had 12 children.  The youngest of which is Howard Ross born in 1925.
It was Howard we went to visit this weekend.
Howard is the only remaining individual of his family.  He was born in Thorpe, West Virginia and moved to Bluefield, West Virginia many years ago.  He lives in a home perched on the side of a hill on Essex St.  He had 3 children, and a step child he helped raised.  He worked in or with the mines all his life.  His wife past away a few years back and he lives in the home with his grandson and future granddaughter-in-law.
I knew of Howard because he had spent so much of his life pursuing family history.  Grandpa gave me a copy of one of his books he had written about 1972 on the Ross family.  That is how I knew who he was and that he was related.  By the time I came home from my mission I did not expect him to be alive anymore until one day in Twin Falls I was visiting with a missionary who had served in the West Virginia Mission.  I told him of Howard (I knew he was LDS) and the missionary not only knew of Howard, he had his address and phone number.  He gave it to me and I called Howard.
I have looked forward to meeting Howard for several years and of visiting the famous Pulaski County.  The valleys surrounding Pulaski County had already been home to the Graham and other families for over a hundred years by the time Pulaski County was formed in 1839.  There Meredith, Martin, Booth, Shepherd, and other families were well entrenched.  But my main interest was in going to the area where my family left before heading west.
Friday we drove out to Pulaski County and arrived after dark.  We spent the night in a hotel at Claytor Lake just over the border into the county.  The next morning we drove into Pulaski and just got a feel for the town and then headed for the hour and half drive to Bluefield to see Howard.
Bluefield turned out to be what you would imagine a town 50 years ago.  The little streets, little yards, flags on every house, and a good percentage of people sitting on their porch.  It was a lazy, hazy, day in summer.  We wound through the streets of Bluefield following our directions to Essex St.  Wow, as if we were not impressed.  One side of the street was wood and the other side of the street were homes perched on the side of a hill probably 75 to 100 feet up.  This hillside was probably at a 45 degree angle.  We found the home and climbed the steep stairs to the rickety old porch.
I don’t mean to sound negative, but we had entered what you joke about with rednecks.  These homes sat precariously sitting on the side of this hill and had not had any care in the last 40 years.  There was a hand made 2X4 railing up this terribly steep hike and at the top the porch wood buckled with every step.  Howard met us in the open door and invited us in.  We sat there in a relic of the 1930′s with only the television and sofa to remind us we were actually not in the mid 20th century.
Howard sat there talking with us in a most happy manner with his eye patch and asking for us to repeat often what we said.  Moreover, he spoke with that thick gentleman manner which so permeates the old confederate ideal.  His joking ways were jovial and we had quite the good conversation.
I took him with my computer through all the descendants of William Andrew Ross and he updated quite a bit of my information.  We also showed him a number of pictures I thought he would be interested in from my side of the family.  He then told us a few stories.
Uncle Jim (my great great grandfather who went west) had come to visit in the 1930′s where they lived in Gary, West Virginia.  It was the late 1930′s because the family had all gone to attend a Conference of the church in Grundy County, Tennessee.  One of the speakers that morning was Jim Ross, Howard’s Uncle.  The children did not attend but afterward all these people kept coming to his mother and commenting about how powerful Mr. Ross had been in his preaching.  Howard’s mother had to set them all straight that it was not her husband but her brother-in-law.  Howard remembers the day because it was the day he was baptized.  They would meet for the morning meetings and then have a big meal and baptisms in the middle, and go back to conference in the afternoon.
They went back home after the conference and Uncle Jim came and stayed for a spell.  Howard remembers Uncle Jim taking the wash basin out to the fields and coming back with a huge amount of corn.  He then told Howard’s mother to cook all the corn and they would eat it for dinner.  When Uncle Jim found out they did not have any milk, he went out and purchased a milk cow and brought it back for them to have milk.  (This isn’t necessarily all the same night).  Howard remembers that he was so thoroughly struck by how much Uncle Jim could eat.  Howard swears Uncle Jim must have pushed near 300 pounds and that man could eat.  Howard laughs and laughs about how when Uncle Jim left he went and sold the cow and they didn’t have milk for years afterward.
Howard remembers Uncle Jim was missing a finger.  He doesn’t remember which one, but he did ask how he lost it.  Apparently he had been bitten by a spider and as the finger started to rot and decay he finally just cut it off.  The Dr. apparently told him he had saved his life by taking the finger off.
That was about all he remembered of Uncle Jim.  He knew he moved to California after Idaho and Oregon.  While in Fresno he served as a Bishop of an LDS ward for quite a few years.  Uncle Jim was always a Ross to him even though he took the Meredith name back after moving to California.  The timeline in relation to the name I have told previously.
John Ross, or Jack as he was known, also made a trip out to West Virginia to visit.  He came out after his second wife had passed away (my great grandmother) and tried to convince his first wife to marry him again.  She wasn’t having any of that and Jack left empty handed.  Howard never met Hobart Day, Jack’s oldest child with his first wife.
Howard doesn’t remember ever meeting any of the rest of the family.  Donna Phibbs Beachell came out to visit in the 1970′s and spent quite a bit of time with Howard.  They wrote often over the years, some of which letters I mentioned were sent to me in the papers of Howard from John Ross.
Howard was very interested in what I had found out on the Meredith family and I told him what I was pretty sure to be correct.  He related to me more of the stories of what he believed happened to his grandfather but until further information comes out to prove the James Meredith story of the Harvy Ross story, we still really don’t know for sure.  I think mine is pinpointed quite a bit more firmly than his.
Howard then gave us a bit of the history of the LDS church in West Virginia.  He had us drive him down to the Bluefield Ward Building over the border in Bluefield, Tazewell County, Virginia.  He gave us a tour of the building.  We met the Bishop and a few other people.
We went back to the house and he asked that I give a blessing to his daughter, Sarah who lives next door.  She has MS and various other problems that come with smoking, MS, and the redneck lifestyle.  I will tell you now, I was alarmed that 82 year old Howard regularly climbs and descends those stairs out front.  They were so steep I didn’t feel safe especially with an old man struggling up them.  I gave a blessing to a woman who didn’t want it but whose father insisted.  Talk about a little awkward of a position.  We then went next door where he asked I give his future granddaughter-in-law a blessing.  Not only did he want a blessing for her, but the unborn child as well.  That was my first experience I remember blessing a baby in the womb.  Both turned out to be special events.  I enjoyed them and Howard became choked up after the second of the two.  My oil holder had become cracked and did not stay together any more and so we had to make due with a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a small glass bowl.  Under the circumstances it was the best we could do and we were richly blessed on the occasion.
Interestingly, the kitchen is exactly how you would have found it in the 1940′s.  The sink, the ironator, cupboards, and more were all of proper vintage.  Sadly, that was probably the last time they were cleaned.  It was quite humbling to see the faith of this man in such humble circumstances.
We left with my promising to do the ordinance work for his son and him after he had passed away.  He joked, part seriously, that through family history he had prepared the way for hundreds to enter heaven despite his own lack of achieving the same goal.
Amanda and I left and wound our way back to Pulaski County.  There we wound our way through the desolate parts of county roads trying to cross the New River.  We found our way across and went through the little towns of Allisonia, Hiwassie, and Snowville.  All towns of which were heavily populated by those of my ancestry.  It was interesting to drive along and recognize names on mailboxes and say to Amanda, “They are probably related.”
We drove back across the river up to Newbern, past Dublin, and back to Pulaski.  There we enjoyed our dinner, as we had our breakfast, at the Sonic Drive-In with gift cards that had been given to us for helping a lady move into the ward.
Afterward we hit the road to try and make Tennessee for some souvenirs and then across Southern Virginia to other ancestral locations.  We realized we were too far from Tennessee too late in the day to make it so at Rural Retreat (how is that for a name?) we turned and headed east.  We drove through Independence (Grayson County) and crashed for the night in Galax (Carroll County).  Both counties are heavily tied to me as well.  Sunday morning we awoke and made our way to Hillsville (Carroll County Seat), Martinsville (home of the Martins of which I am related), over to Danville, north to Keysville and Farmville, and home to Richmond.
It was a long weekend but very worthwhile.  I really enjoyed getting to see Allisonia, Hiwassie, and Snowville.  Maybe someday we will get to go back.  Maybe Howard will be around when it comes time for us to head back west in a year.

Christiansen Family Photos

I just uploaded all the pictures I have of the Christiansen family relatives.  Here is my tie to the Christiansen family.
There is me.
Sandy is my mother.
Norwood is her father.
Lillian is his mother.
Martha Christiansen was her mother.  The same one I referred to in the past that Lillian gives no emotional record in her journal concerning her death.  She was born in 1879 in Fredrickstad, Norway.  She and her parents immigrated to the United States arriving in New York on the 2 Oct 1889.  It was a long route getting here as in the early 1880′s they moved to Melbourne, Australia.  After about 5 years there, they moved back to Norway.  It was then that they joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then moved to the United States.  They found their way across the United States by rail and were sent from Salt Lake to Cache Valley.  They settled and homesteaded near Richmond, Utah.  Martha’s parents had 10 children.  Surprisingly, all of them lived through the move (the one’s who were born) to Australia, back to Norway, to the United States, and across the country.  They would only have one child die and that was the last child born near Richmond.  If anyone has more information on this family, I would certainly be interested.  I am especially interested since some of the children married husbands with common names which makes it hard to chase down, or they fall off the map and apparently out of the records of the church so they probably were not active.
Here is the family in full.
Olle Christiansen 1853 – 1900.  He was born in Trygstad, Norway, died in Richmond, Utah.
His wife from 1874 is Constance Josephine Eliza Jorgensen 1857 – 1932.  She was born in Drammen, Norway and died on a sightseeing tour in Portland, Oregon.  She is buried there.  Her parents Olavus Jorgensen and Hanna Mathea Christensen also came to Utah.  They died and are buried in Richmond, Utah.
Walborg Christiansen 1875 – 1951 Born in Fredrickstag, Norway; died in Salt Lake City, Utah.  She married to Charles Christian Anderson and lived in Salt Lake all her days.
Martha Christiansen 1879 – 1961 Born in Fredrickstag, Norway; died in Logan, Utah.  She married Herbert Coley.
Eivelda Christiansen 1881 – 1892 Born in Melbourne, Australia; died in Richmond, Utah.
Constance Christiansen 1883 -1953 Born in Melbourne, Australia; died in Pocatello, Idaho.  She was married to John Rocky Clawson and Charles Roy Huff.
Henry Owen Christiansen 1887 – 1932 Born in Fredrickstag, Norway; we don’t know where he died.  Church records have his exact death date but no location.  I believe he moved to Washington State and was married to Anna Wilder Hooser, but am not sure.
Rhoda Christiansen 1890 – 1965 Born in Richmond, Utah; death location is also unknown.  I believe she was living in either Vancouver, Washington or Nyssa, Oregon at the time of her death.  My Great Grandmother was writing to her in 1962 in Nyssa and in 1963 to Vancouver.  We have three marriages, none of which I am sure; George R Davenport, Edward Holman, and Peter Pappas.
Roy C Christiansen 1892 – 1892 Born and died in Richmond, Utah.
Jennie Christiansen 1894 – 1949 Born in Richmond, Utah; we don’t know where she died.  We assume her husbands were as follows; Peter Dee June, a Mr. Ewing, Orval Charles Sherwood, and Junior Albert Shirley.
Myra Christiansen 1896 – 1897 Born and died in Richmond, Utah.  There is another Myra Christiansen in church records born 2 years later, but I have no confirmation it is this girl.  Plus this girl is missing in the 1900 Census so she is either dead as the records and family tradition says, or who knows what.
Ole Loren Christiansen 1898 – 1977 Born in Richmond, Utah; died we assume in Oakland, California.  The dates and everything match, but I would like to have some contact with a family member or something to confirm it.  His spouses we believe are Sara May Strong and a Florence.
Anyhow, this line is a hard one to chase.  It is often misspelled as Christensen, Christinsen, Christianson, and so forth.  Plus there are so many of these other names it makes it tedious work to sort them out.  So I hope for some communication with a family member to open the door on these.  (If you are reading this and are related, please contact me!  Leave a comment with your e-mail or contact me directly, please)  This family has too many holes in it for how I like to do things.  But it seems to be so difficult to do.