Meredith – Graham Wedding

William and Mary Graham are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Damey Catherine Graham to James Thomas Ross, son of James Meredith and Nancy Shepherd.  James and Damey were married 9 August 1887 in Snowville, Pulaski, Virginia.

I am stepping into a bit of a minefield in writing this biography because there is such a wide variety of opinions on the history of this family.  The stories I have were handed down and cannot be verified.  Some claim to have documents but I have been unable to obtain copies of these documents for various reasons.  These purported documents are family records and the public records I cannot find.  Therefore, hopefully documentation will come forward and this post will be altered as that information presents itself.  Poor Damey, not much conversation is available about her because there is so little controversy.

The picture above is of James Ross Meredith, or I assume he was called that at that time.  James Thomas Meredith was born to Nancy Adeline Shepherd 22 September 1869 in Snowville, Virginia.

In 1951, a few months before his death, James was interviewed by his granddaughter, Donna Beachell.  She indicated his mind was very clear.  He indicated to Donna that he was born out of wedlock and that his real father was James Meredith.  He said he was born in Snowville, Virginia.   He also said this James Meredith adopted him when he was about 4 years old and raised him.  He said the courts gave him the name James Thomas Ross Meredith.

The records of Pulaski County indicate this:

“Order Book 5, page 25
September 2, 1873
On the motion of Anderson Linkous, Overseer of the Poor for High Wassie Township for an order to bind James Ross aged 3 years son of Nancy Ross who has become a county charge and it appearing to the Court that said James Ross is now a county charge.  It is ordered that said Overseer of the Poor bind out according to Law to James Meredith the said James Ross son of Nancy Ross aged 3 years until he attains the age of 21 years and besides teaching him reading, writing and arithmetic said Meredith shall be required to pay the said James Ross upon his attaining the age of 21 years the sum of 100 dollars.”

The courts recognized him as James Ross, probably after his mother’s married name.  I have been unable to locate a birth record for him under either name.

He was almost 5 years old when Nancy Ross went into the poorhouse, or at least when the county gave little James to old James Meredith.  I am not sure why they thought he was 3.  Although some records have him born in 1869, and if this was correct, he was just shy of his 4th birthday.  But I will stick with the birthday that he gave during his life.

The county placed James Ross into the charge of James Meredith until he was 21 years of age.  Unfortunately, nobody seemed to ask when this James Meredith was born.  We also do not know when this old James Meredith died, or if he raised him until he was 21 (and paid the $100).  After James and Damey married, John Phibbs (brother-in-law to Fanny Ross) remembered visiting the family in West Virginia and that James’ mother, Nancy lived with her son and daughter-in-law, James and Damey, for much of the time the family lived in West Virginia.    Apparently Nancy was strong enough to carry in heavy sacks of coal and potatoes by herself.  This probably would have been the turn of the 20th century since they were in West Virginia.  No mention is made of old James Meredith who was the father and supposedly raised him.  Nancy must have kept contact through the years, lived close enough, or even got little James back.   We have so many holes to fill with information that we will likely never have.

Clarita Morgan, a researcher in Pulaski County in the 1970′s wrote to Donna and told her it was not uncommon for ladies to be placed in the poorhouse for having a child out of wedlock.  These women were considered a menace and a burden to the community.  At any rate, Nancy Shepherd Ross lived an especially hard life.  It is hard to put ourselves into their scene or time without many more facts.

When James married Damey, the marriage certificate has J. R. Mearideth.  Yet, when all the children were born, James and Damey gave them each the Ross name (or so it seems).  Damey died under the Ross name and no records indicate she ever went by the Meredith name.  James is listed as a farmer.

When James went to the LDS temple on 20 June 1935, he gave his name as James Thomas Ross born 22 September at Snowville, Pulaski, Virginia.  He gave his father as James Thomas Ross and mother as Nancy Shepard.  He also gave his baptismal date as 17 April 1898.  Nothing in any of the records provide any evidence of a James Thomas Ross to be his father, and either the recorder at the Temple put the wrong last name, or James made a mistake because he seems to have clearly known his father was James Meredith (was his father’s middle name really Thomas?).  When Fanny went to the LDS temple on 20 June 1923 she said her parents were James F Ross (misread?) and Damy C Graham.

Now, having said all that, one of the difficulties is that there are tons of James Merediths who lived in Pulaski County, Virginia.  In the 1880 Census, little James Meredith is living with elder James Meredith who was born in 1804 and the family lived in Hiwassie.  It is not uncommon for a 65 year old man to have a child.  However, elder James Meredith has a family of 10 children with his wife.  In that census, only elder and little James are shown as living together.  Elder James’ wife, Sarah (Sallie) Jane Bell Meredith, is “ill” and living with their daughter Sarah Jane Meredith Elkins.  I want to speculate but will not.

For years it was thought that James and Sarah Meredith’s son, James Anderson Meredith, was the father of our James Thomas Meredith.  But this was easily resolved in that James Anderson Meredith died in 1864 in a battle at Lexington, Lexington, Virginia, four or five years before little James Meredith was born.  Others thought that James Meredith, the son of Hugh Meredith Jr elder James Meredith’s brother, was the father.  He is four years older than Nancy and their ages seem more conducive to a relationship.  But, we are unable to track him down and prove anything for certain.  But one thing is sure, elder James Meredith told the census taker in 1880 that little James Meredith was his son.  I guess we have to move forward with that record as the basis for our assumptions.  Would the Uncle (elder James Meredith) of James Meredith (Hugh Jr’s son) ruin his good name by claiming little James Meredith as his own to save the name of his nephew?  I just do not know, but the census gives documentation of a relationship (we all know how terrible the census records are for accuracy other than names of family members and location of living).  (Some of my original research and ruminating on these issues can be found here.)

This begs the question of why 27 year old Nancy would have intimate relations with 65 year old and married elder James.  Ms. Morgan above said it was not uncommon for servants living in the home to be taken advantage of by the homeowner.  But we have no evidence that Nancy was a servant in their home.  If he did this and kicked her out, it could account for her being in the poorhouse and his reclaiming the child in court.  But we have nothing to support the notion Ms. Morgan suggests.

Well, if this is not enough to confuse the matter, lets jump back in time before James was born to where Nancy married Harvy D Ross 7 June 1860 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  She married Harvy at 19 years old. On 9 September 1861, Harvy enlisted in Company F, 54th Infantry Regiment Virginia for the Confederacy.  He left for military service and we have few details of when he returned.  She bore James Meredith in 1868 and as far as we know, Harvy had not yet returned from the war.   By 1870 Harvy was back living in Alum Ridge, Floyd, Virginia after the Civil War. We do not know when he left Virginia for the “west”.  William Andrew Ross was born on 10 October 1873 in Snowville.  The birth index for Pulaski County lists William as a bastard, but his death certificate lists Harvy Ross as the father!  (Death certificates are highly unreliable for parental information.)  But why they were not back living together in 1870, we do not know.  He was back in the area and could very well be the father of William.  I just wish we had more information.  He supposedly moved to Tennessee or Kentucky and passed away there, never having anything to do with his son William, if he really is the father.  William was raised by Nancy and was told by her that Harvy was his father.  William never had a memory of meeting his father.

Now that I have given more history of Nancy Adeline Shepherd in this biography of her son and daughter-in-law, we can move on.  Our documentation is weak of who little James Meredith’s father is and where he was until he married Damey.  Although, I should mention that a cousin who claims he is in possession of the journals of James Meredith (or Ross) indicates that he was raised by elder James Meredith to believe that elder James was actually his father.  Well, rephrased, he never had any doubt elder James Meredith was his father.  Therefore, we move forward on that assumption even though I have only hearsay from a cousin (as I cannot get a copy of the book) and an 1880 census record.

Damey Catherine Graham was born 25 November 1874 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia to William and Mary Graham.  William, her father, was a laborer on farms who moved to the mines.  As a miner he moved where the best paying jobs for mining were located.  In Virginia, the family worked in the iron mines.  Damey met James and probably knew him and his family growing up.  Hiwassie appears to be a very small town, even today.  I cannot imagine that James and Damey did not know each other growing up.    The two married in 1887 and began to raise their family.  All four children were born in Virginia.

Robert Leonard Ross was born 25 April 1888 in Draper, Pulaski, Virginia.

John “Jack” William Ross was born 2 September 1890 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  Read more about John at this link: Ross-Sharp Wedding

Fanny Elizabeth Ross was born 18 November 1893 in Reed Island, Pulaski, Virginia.  Read more about Fanny at this link: Calvin and Fanny Phibbs

James Thomas Ross was born 19 October 1895 in Radford, Montgomery, Virginia.

Damey chose to be baptized into the LDS faith 27 February 1898 (a few months before James).  Family tradition holds it was in West Virginia but does not seem to hold up with the rest of the story.  James and Damey were supposed to have followed her family to West Virginia to the mines.  James and Damey do not seem to appear on the 1900 Census but Damey’s family were still in Hiwassie on the 15 June 1900.  Damey’s family moved shortly after 1900 to West Virginia to work in the coal mines of McDowell County.  James and Damey (and James’ brother, William) followed and were living in McDowell County, West Virginia for sure in 1906 when Fanny married Calvin Dickerson Phibbs in Welch, McDowell, West Virginia.  The first three children all married in McDowell County.  James Jr returned to Mayberry, Carroll, Virginia in 1913 to marry his wife.  On 10 May 1910, James and Damey were living in Big Creek, McDowell, West Virginia.

James and Damey Ross left Pulaski County about 1913 or 1914 and headed to settle in Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho.  James confirmed his brother a member of the LDS church 26 October 1913, so it had to be after that date.  As mentioned above, Fanny had married Calvin Phibbs and most of the Phibbs family of Virginia had moved out to Rupert in 1912.  The opening of the new farm land in Minidoka and Cassia Counties, a new sugar factory at Burley, Cassia, Idaho, and an economic downturn in McDowell County propelled the move for both families. Robert, John, and James Jr followed later as it does not appear any of the children went with James and Damey when they left.

James & Damey Ross

James & Damey Ross

James and Damey set up house in Rupert for a time probably living with Calvin and Fanny until they could find and afford a suitable place to live.  We do not know exactly where James and Damey lived for much of their time in Idaho because they appear to have rented.  Robert listed his parents as living in Idahome, Cassia, Idaho when he registered for the World War I draft in 1918.  That fall, James and Damey apparently moved to Paul, Minidoka, Idaho to work on the first sugar beet campaign of the newly built sugar factory in Paul.  They remained there until about 1926.  Robert married Rose Sanders (nee Clawson?) in Burley, Cassia, Idaho in 1919.  John met Ethel Sharp Streeter in Paul while visiting his parents in 1919 and married her in early 1920.  James and Damey somehow fail to appear on the 1920 Census, or their names are transcribed incorrectly.  James settled in Vernal, Uintah, Utah and attempted a short move to Rupert in 1922-23 to be closer to family before moving back to Vernal.  Milo Ross, James and Damey’s grandson, remembers his grandparents living on the north side of the tracks in Paul when he lived there 1925-1926.

In 1925, James and Damey’s daughter-in-law, Ethel Sharp Ross passed away.  John, their son, sought work and James and Damey took in all four of the children of Ethel.  The baby, Earnest Jackson Ross, died in September in Rupert, where he was being tended by the Phibbs.  By the spring of 1926, James and Damey were impoverished enough that they asked Ethel’s family to come get the children from Paul.  Apparently shortly after, the family moved again.

By 2 April1930, James and Damey had moved to Bend, Deschutes, Oregon.  Robert apparently lived in the area and Robert’s son, Orson Lee Ross, was also living with James and Damey.  Robert is in Portland but appears to not live there, so this home in Bend may have been Robert’s or James and Damey were tending Orson, who was 9.  Robert later died in Bend in 1944.

James’ journals indicate they lived in Merced, Merced, California for most of the 1930′s.  Damey passed away in Marysville, Yuba, California 3 February 1933 of colon cancer.  Her death notice in Rupert indicates she died after an operation for cancer of the stomach.  She had been in the hospital for five months previous to that.  The obituary also mentions that John lived in Manteca, San Joaquin, California, James in Lapoint, Uintah, Utah, and Robert in Marysville.  Fanny was still living in Rupert.

James returned to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and on 20 June 1935 he was endowed, saw Damey’s proxy ordinance work was completed, and was sealed to her.

By about 1936, James was back visiting family in the east.  He spoke at a Conference of the LDS church that had met in Grundy County, Tennessee.  James spoke that morning to the assembled crowd.  That same day, James’ nephew, Howard Ross was baptized.  These conferences were a big deal because it was an all day event for James’ brother’s family to travel all the way from Gary, West Virginia to Tennessee, spend the day in meetings, and then go home.  Howard remembers meeting “Uncle Jim” for the first time that day.  Many people enjoyed the sermon he gave and came up to give their commendation to William and Sarah on his fine speech.  William’s wife, Sarah, had to set them right, that it was William’s brother, James who delivered the sermon.  Howard did not hear the sermon because in those days unbaptized children were not allowed into the meetings and even though he was to be baptized that day, he was not baptized yet.

“Uncle Jim” returned with the family to West Virginia and stayed for a couple of weeks.  James was so disappointed that the family did not have a cow for milk that he went out and purchased one for the family while he was there.  When James left, he took and sold the cow too.  The family recalled how rare it was for them to have milk, and it was many years before they would have it again.  James was also noted by the family for his girth and the sheer capacity to each large amounts of food.  Howard thought he must have pushed to near 300 pounds.  Howard also remembers that Uncle Jim was missing a finger and upon asking, James indicated that he had been bit by a spider and that the Dr. took off the finger to save his life because the finger had started to rot.

The story goes that James married while he was visiting the family in West Virginia.  Family history records have James marrying Etta on 6 June 1936 in Snowville, Virginia.  However, later information indicates this was Henrietta Fountain who was born in Sacramento, Sacramento, California and died in Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona.  How she met James and why they would have married in Virginia does not add up, especially where she was from the west.  A cousin has the marriage in Sacramento which seems much more accurate.  A death certificate at some point will rest the case.  Her full maiden name was Henrietta Fountain and she was a widow of Charles Henry Lowell in 1925.  She died in 1946 according to the memories of Milo Ross and he is accurate.

James and Etta relocated to Lakeport, Lake, California after their marriage.  Lakeport was a town for the wealthy and Ms. Etta must have brought the money into the marriage.  It was here that James applied for Social Security 4 November 1937.  Due to the requirements he use his legal name, James went by James Ross Meredith the remainder of his life.  He began receiving his benefits 6 January 1938.  On 21 April 1938 he received a letter indicating he would have to have been a resident of California 15 years to receive the payments and no further payments were made.

James then married a widow by the name of Nora Brewer.  Her full maiden name was Martha Elnora Cackler and her late husband, Daniel Gordon Brewer, had passed away in 1943.  James and Martha were married in Fresno, Fresno, California 14 July 1947.  She had been born in 1877 in Iowa and died in Fresno in 1974, just short of 100 years old.

James lived until 13 April 1951 when he passed away in Fresno.  He was buried in Belmont Memorial in Fresno.  The last few years of his life, he took back the Meredith name.  Milo Ross, his grandson, indicates this was for Social Security benefits which had to be claimed under the birth name.  Either way, his tombstone reads James R Meredith.  His last letter to Donna Beachell was signed James Ross Meredith.

When he passed away in 1951, he was living at 344 Theta Street in Fresno the home of his widow.  One last thing, apparently while living in Fresno, he served as a Bishop of the LDS church.  We do not know when or where, but several lines of the family were all aware of this.  More information will be needed to share more.  The fact he was called upon to speak at a conference of the church in Tennessee seems to show he held some position but we don’t know anything more.

Calvin and Fanny Phibbs

Calvin and Fanny Phibbs with (l-r) Evelyn, Florence, and Catherine in Idaho in 1912.

I had heard a rumor a couple of years ago that Calvin Phibbs had committed suicide but could not confirm the story.  Now that I am back in Idaho, I stopped by the Rupert Library to see if they had some old newspapers.  Sure enough, I found the following obituary which reads more like the local gossip column.  I will include some of the family history after the obituary.

“Judge Phibbs Ends Life; Ill Health Cause
“Well Known Rupert Attorney Meets Instant Death By Own Hand at Home Thursday.
“Four months of sleeplessness, a body racked with pain and mind grown despondent through belief of the utter hopelessness of physical recovery, led to the tragic, but carefully planned suicide of Judge C. D. Phibbs, well known Rupert attorney who ended his life at his home Thursday.
Seated before a mirror in his bedroom at three o’clock in the afternoon, when no one was in the house but his wife and himself, the distraught man placed the muzzle of a 22-caliber hammerless revolver to his right temple, and with a firm unswerving hand sent a bullet through his brain, death being instantaneous.  The leaden missile passed through the head and lodged in the wall, near the ceiling.
“Startled by the sharp explosion of the gun, Mrs. Phibbs rushed in from an adjoining room to find her husband’s body crumpled on the floor with his life extinct.
“That the rash act was premeditated and carried out as planned is shown by excerpts from a letter written the previous Saturday, addressed to his wife and left where she could not fail to find it.
“I do not feel that I can get well.  I have suffered for four months.  So much that I cannot endure it.  If anything happens to me, know that I love you and have never loved anyone but you.  Tell the children to be good children, as it is best for them.  It is the only way to be happy.  I have failed to do as much for them as I wanted to but have not been able.”
“Following the introductory explanation foreshadowing the tragedy that was to take place, the letter continued with detailed instructions of what to do in regard to business that would arise, told where his life insurance policies were, how to plan the funeral, left words of encouragement to the children to continue their education and even advised about planting a garden.
“After a farewell sent the children and the brief words of assurance for their future, the final paragraph concludes: “God bless you all till we meet again.  I do not believe God will blame me for what I am doing for there is no other way.”
“The letter was found by Mrs. Phibbs soon after the tragic shooting occurred.  It was dated March 20.  Although she knew he suffered much from stomach trouble for many weeks and was discouraged over his health, no hint of self-destruction was ever suggested by her husband, she said, and in the past week it seemed to be somewhat improved, and had been to his office only a few days before the appalling act.  He had suffered intensely from stomach trouble and it is thought he believed himself a victim of cancer.
“When a youth of 13 years, while in the mountains of Virginia, at Fancy Gap, Carroll county where he was reared, in 1899 Calvin D. Phibbs, whose father worked in the mines there, hopped on a coal car and received injury to his left leg that later caused infection, making amputation necessary and left him crippled for life.
“In 1906 when twenty years of age he married Fanny Elizabeth Ross in Welch, West Virginia, and on March 21, 1913, they came to Idaho and to Rupert, making there (sic) home here since then.
“Although he had little opportunity for attending school, he received his education by private study.  Securing books and texts of the International Correspondence school he studied law and was admitted to the Idaho state bar in 1919.
“For ten years he held the position of probate judge of Minidoka county, being elected on the Republican ticket and served in that capacity until four years ago.  He served also as justice of the peace for two years and in 1918 was city clerk of Rupert.
“His friends and business associates, of whom he had many, were shocked and grieved at his tragic act.  He had a kindly disposition and a cheerfulness of manner that in no way can be reconciled with his fatal deed.  At the time of his death he was engaged in the practice of law but since last November had been unable to be in his office much of the time.
“Besides his grief-stricken wife he is survived by eleven children, five boys and six girls, their father being the first of the family to pass away.  The children in order of their ages are Mrs. Florence Biles, 23, of Gridley, California; Mrs. Evelyn Collier, Rupert; Mrs. Catherine Beachel, of Filer, Idaho; Virginia, James, Viola, William, Orville, Arthur, Albert and Phyllis, the youngest, age three, all of whom live at home.
Three brothers, Frank Phibbs of Twin Falls, Robert of Oakland, California, and John of Salt Lake City, and twin sisters, Mrs. Ardena Christensen, San Francisco and Mrs. Mary Hiatt of Paul, also survive.
“Largely attended funeral service were conducted Monday at one o’clock in the Second ward L.D.S. church with Albert Harrison, first counselor to Bishop O. J. Bateman in charge.
“Speakers included David J Borup, former bishop of the Second ward, who came from Boise where he now resides to be present at the funeral.  Judge Hugh A. Baker, an attorney friend, and David Hyde and A. H. Jensen, churchmen and friends of the deceased.
“Music was rendered by a chorus of nine voices under direction of Arthur Humphries, singing three selections “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Sometime We’ll Understand” and “Oh, My Father.”
“Prayers were offered by L.D. Hyde and R.C. May.  Interment was in Rupert cemetery with Goodman Mortuary in charge.

Here is a biography of Judge Phibbs from an old Idaho directory of prominent people.

“Judge Calvin Dickerson Phibbs. since 1912 a resident of Rupert, where in 1918 he was elected judge of the probate court of Minidoka county, was born at Hillsville, Virginia, June 12, 1886, a son of James and Elizabeth (Bolt) Phibbs. The parents are also natives of the Old Dominion, where they were reared and educated. Subsequent to his marriage the father there followed farming and stock raising and during his early life also engaged in the profession of teaching. In 1910 he removed westward to Rupert, Idaho, and purchased a farm northeast of the town, becoming owner of eighty acres. At times he has owned various farms, but his holdings at the present time embrace just eighty acres. He and his wife have become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in his political views Mr. Phibbs is a republican.

“Calvin D. Phibbs spent his boyhood in his native state and pursued his education in Fairview Academy. He was reared to the occupation of farming, early becoming familiar with the best methods of tilling the soil and caring for the crops. Later he took up electrical engineering and worked along that line until he came to Rupert, Idaho, in 1912. Here he entered the real estate field and after a time he was called upon for public service, being made city clerk of Rupert, which position he filled for a brief period. In 1918 he was elected to the office of probate judge of Minidoka county, which position he is now acceptably filling, being most careful, prompt, systematic and accurate in the discharge of his official duties. On the 15th of December, 1919, he was admitted as an attorney at law in the supreme court of the state of Idaho.

“In 1907 Judge Phibbs was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Ross, a native of Pulaski, Virginia, and a daughter of J. T. and Catherine (Graham) Ross, the former a farmer and stockman. Judge and Mrs. Phibbs have become parents of six children: Florence, Evelyn, Catherine, Virginia, James and Viola. The religious belief of the family is that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in politics Judge Phibbs is a stalwart republican, giving unfaltering allegiance to the party and its principles. He stands for advancement and improvement in all things that have to do with citizenship and is among that class who are putting forth every effort to spread the principles of true democracy and make one hundred per cent Americanism the rule of this land.

I do not usually place that much quoted material in my histories, but there is so much extra information I probably would not otherwise include, I thought I better just leave them how they were printed.

Calvin Dickerson Phibbs was born 12 June 1886 in Hillsville, Carroll, Virginia.  He died 30 March 1933 in Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho.  He was buried 4 days later on 3 April 1933 in the Rupert Cemetery.

Now that I have given so much on Calvin, I probably should fill out the life of Fanny a little more, my Great Great Aunt.

Fanny Elizabeth Ross was born 18 November 1893 in Reed Island, Pulaski, Virginia to James Thomas and Damey Catherine Graham Ross.  Read more about here parents and family here.  She married Calvin Phibbs 22 December 1906 in Welch, McDowell, West Virginia.  As mentioned 11 children were born to the marriage.  I believe she moved fairly quickly to California after Calvin’s death.  While in Rupert, the Phibbs family lived at 96 B Street (unless the streets have been renumbered, this home does not exist any more.  Grandpa, Milo Ross, visited her in Salt Lake City before World War II.  I do not know if she was living there or just visiting, he does not remember either.  She died 23 January 1943 in Daly City, San Francisco, California.  She is buried at Cypress Law in Colma, San Francisco, California in an unmarked grave.

Calvin and Fanny’s children are as follows, without spouses.

Florence Geneva Phibbs born 21 June 1907 in Gary, McDowell, West Virginia and died 9 February 1987 in Gridley, Butte, California.

Evelyn Adaway Phibbs born 8 October 1909 in Eckman, McDowell, West Virginia and died 7 January 1961 in San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Catherine Elizabeth Phibbs born 1 January 1912 in Thorpe, McDowell, West Virginia and died 7 September 1989 in Fall River Mills, Shasta, California.

Virginia Ardena Phibbs born 3 March 1914 in Rupert and died 25 September 1969 in San Francisco County, California.

James Calvin Phibbs born 22 April 1916 in Rupert and died 10 July 1977 in San Francisco.

Viola Belle Phibbs born 21 July 1918 in Rupert and died 11 June 2008.

William Robert Phibbs born 3 October 1920 in Rupert and died 16 September 2010 in Redding, Shasta, California.

Orville Leonard Phibbs born 20 October 1922 in Rupert and died 25 December 1985 in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, California.

Arthur Lee Phibbs born 15 October 1925 in Rupert and died 22 June 1983 in San Francisco.

Richard Albert Phibbs born 25 December 1927 in Rupert and died 27 January 1983 in Clearlake, Lake, California.

Phyllis Elaine Phibbs born 24 February 1930 in Rupert and died 6 July 1972 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.

Of course I am always looking for more information on the family since we do not have contact with any of the descendants.

Ridin’ into the Sunset: Bud

I thought I would dedicate a post to Ivan Walter “Bud” Lloyd since he just recently passed to the other side of the veil.  He was born 5 April 1919 in Riverton, Salt Lake, Utah.  His parents were Madeline Cascutti and Walter Graham Lloyd.  His father purchased a ranch about 1932 near Montpelier, Bear Lake, Idaho.  He lived, married, and raised his family there.  Around 1989 or 1990, he met my Grandma, Colleen Mary Andra (whose married name at that time was Jonas).  She was in Montpelier for work and Bud told me he met her in a restaurant. Here is a picture from early on, although it is not a great picture.

They loved each other and that is quite evident from the letters and cards.  The two were married 31 January 1998 in Dingle, Bear Lake, Idaho.  Here is a picture from later that year, you can see how much they enjoyed each others company.

Deer Cliff Inn 1998

Grandma passed away from a surgery that went wrong 14 November 1999 in Boise, Ada, Idaho.  Bud moved back to Montpelier from Paul and remained there the rest of his days.  He still worked hard maintaining yards and doing other work despite growing older and passing 90.  He mowed one last lawn and then didn’t feel well and went to the hospital.  He died a few days later on 27 September 2011 in Montpelier.

His funeral was held on 1 October 2011 in Dingle.  His family referred to him as “the last of the great cowboys who lived his life on his own terms, his determination and hardworking ways, always peppers with a head tilt, sly grin, and a laugh.”  This was true and my memories are of his blue eyes that twinkled, big smile that showed his worn down teeth, and that slight tilt to the head so he could hear you a little better.  We stopped to visit him a few weeks ago so we could get a picture with the last of Aliza’s Great Grandparents (the others had already been captured).  Unfortunately we missed him.  Now we really miss him.

The family took out the last of the great cowboys in a wagon.  A true tribute.  Rest well Bud, I look forward to seeing you again.

Moxley Find

Here is one of those family history stories we wish happened more regularly.  A friend, knowing my abilities in family history, asked for some help.  I said sure, not just as a friend, but also because he married a cousin of mine.  He knew nothing of his Grandmother’s family except their names.  Luckily, despite the commonality of the Webster name, I tracked down his Grandmother on the 1930 Census in Boise, Ada, Idaho.  The family did know the maiden name of the Great Grandmother as Hattie Hawley.  That confirmed some potentials and fortunately I was able to track down at least two or three generations on each of his Grandmother’s lines in about half a day worth of work.

In doing that work for my friend, I found that Hattie Hawley had a previous marriage to Earl Moxley.  I did some searching for Earl Moxley and found a comment on a family history forum where a man had found a photo in an antique shop in Creswell, Lane, Oregon with “Mr. and Mrs. Earl and Hattie Moxley” written on the back.  He had tracked down enough information on Earl and Hattie to know who they were, but could not find anyone who might be interested in the photo.

I sent this man an e-mail and his e-mail still worked (often a miracle with dated forum posts).  I had asked for a scan of the photo and he was willing to give up the original.  I gave him my address and he sent the photo to my address carefully packaged.  I was happy to have a dinner appointment with Dustin and Maren McClellan and to present the photo to him so he could give it to his Grandmother.  Small world with the internet.  20 years ago, this photo might have been trashed for the impossibility of finding a relative of those in the photo.  But in our day and age, only a posting on a forum and a few years later provided a rightful owner.

Earl Bertie Moxley was born 26 August 1887 in Creswell and died 17 May 1925.  I could not clearly find out where he died, but he was also buried in Creswell.

Hattie Blanche Hawley was born 4 April 1888 in Lane County, Oregon to Mary H Hillegas and Robert Divolson Hawley.  She died 12 January 1979 in Paul, Minidoka, Idaho.

Hattied married Earl 16 June 1909 in Lane County, Oregon.  I assume they were divorced but I did not easily find the divorce online and did not pursue the documentation.  She married George Reece Webster 14 June 1916 in Boise, Idaho.  George and Hattie are Dustin’s Great Grandparents through his paternal grandmother.

George Reece Webster was born 13 November 1880 in Lancaster, Schuyler, Missouri and died 6 December 1953 in Boise.  Both George and Hattie were buried in the Morris Hill Cemetery of Boise.

I wish I could have a few more of these little miracles in my family history.  Either way, I am happy to have been a part of this little miracle for Dustin’s family.  I wonder what Dustin’s Grandmother’s reaction is/was.  Had she ever seen this picture?  Did she ever see a picture of her mother so young?  I will give an update when I hear.

Memories of Great Grandpa and Grandma Andra

For the Andra Reunion this year, we have been asked to write our memories of my Great Grandpa and Grandma Andra (William Fredrick Andra and Mary Louise Wanner).  These are my maternal grandmother’s parents, but we just referred to them as Grandpa and Grandma Andra.  For sake of reading, I will call them by their more formal title.

My Grandma (Colleen, their daughter) lived in Paul, Minidoka, Idaho from before I was born.  She had grown up in Preston, Franklin, Idaho and her parents still lived there.  Therefore, the only time I saw them is when we visited them in Preston or they visited us in Paul.  At some point, I will write a more comprehensive history of Bill and Mary Andra, but for now I will only write my personal recollections.

Great Grandpa Andra was born in 1898 and Great Grandma Andra was born in 1901.  By the time I was 4 or 5, they were already in their 80′s.  Some of my first memories of my Great Grandparents were the Andra Reunions held at Wolcott Park, beside the Minidoka Dam, near Acequia, Minidoka, Idaho.  Here is a picture from the reunion in 1984.  Great Grandpa and Grandma Andra had 12 children, so our reunions could be quite the crowd of immediate family.

Andra Reunion, July 28, 1984. Bill (Jr), Millie, Bill, Mary, Golden, Larry, Don, and June in back. Colleen and Ross in front.

Great Grandpa Andra was pretty ill.  Some believed it was Parkinson’s Disease, others just thought it was old age.  I do not personally know what it was.  I believe the reunion was held at Wolcott Park because Grandpa was staying in the old folks home in Acequia.  I remember going there multiple times with Grandma and playing while she attempted to play cribbage with Grandpa.  He was pretty shaky, and could not speak in any way that I could understand him.  As you can see in the photo, he needed assistance walking by this point and standing.

I remember him at Grandma’s house in Paul one time and we were having dinner.  Grandma had to feed him.  I do not know exactly what happened, but apparently Grandma became very upset with Grandpa Andra and slapped him over something.  I was not present when it happened.  I remember Grandma crying and I entered the room hearing her sob and tell Grandpa Andra how very sorry she was for what she had just done.  For years afterward, she mentioned how you can spank your children, but you can never slap your Daddy.

Another time we were driving somewhere in Grandma’s 1974 yellow Mercury Cougar.  Grandpa Andra was in the car with us and a song came on the radio.  The song was “O My Papa” and Grandma sang along with it, apparently to Great Grandpa.  Both of them cried.  Grandma always sang along with the song, probably in memory of her father.  Even today, I hear the song and I think of Grandma singing to her father.  Very, very sweet.

Great Grandpa moved back to Preston after probably only a year or two in Acequia.  The only times I really saw them then was at the Andra Reunions, now held at Riverdale, Franklin, Idaho.  Here is a picture of Great Grandpa in the shade at the Riverdale water park where the reunions were held.  I remember he was not very coherent by this point, and family kept herding us away from him so he could have some peace in the shade.  I believe this is the last Andra Reunion he attended in 1989.

He passed away during the spring of 1990 and because school was still in, I was not allowed to go down with Grandma to the funeral.  I remember wanting to go and sad I could not.

Somewhere before this time, for some unknown reason, we went to visit Great Grandma Andra in Preston.  Grandpa was still in the old folks home there because we went to visit him.  We actually stayed the night at Great Grandma’s for the only time I ever remember doing so.  Grandma left us with Great Grandma for part of the day and she pulled out a big board with holes in it.  We played “Aggravation” and it is the only time I think I ever remember playing it.  You move marbles around on a board and somehow your marbles were sent back home.  I remember enjoying it and Great Grandma getting quite a kick out of Andra’s reaction (I know, confusing, but it is my Sister’s first name…I wonder where my Mom got the name?).  She laughed and laughed at one point where Andra was not laughing at all, which only added to Great Grandma’s enjoyment of the situation.

We helped Great Grandma in her massive garden for a good while.  I remember the smells of the garden more than anything.  She had flowers surrounding the garden and even my young 9-10 year old mind knew it was beautiful.  Here is a picture of Great Grandma in 1990 after Great Grandpa Andra passed away.

My last memory of Great Grandma Andra was the day she passed away.  She did pretty well getting around and taking care of herself until a stroke hit her a few weeks before she passed away.  She went downhill very quickly and I remember there being concerns she would not even live until the Andra Reunion in 1991.  The reunion was held and she was in the old folks home in Preston.  Everybody knew it was pretty much good-bye at this point.  We lingered that Saturday with family and then made our way over to the home to say good-bye to Great Grandma.  We all hugged her and gave her kisses.  Grandma climbed on the bed and gave Great Grandma a hug.  She pretty much was laying on her and sobbing and telling her how much she loved her.  Grandma was there too long and we could see that Great Grandma was starting to struggle to breath.  Aunt Jackie pulled Grandma off Great Grandma and I still remember the fluffy white hair in the light as we left the room.  It was a sweet feeling as we left.

We drove from Preston to Paul.  As we walked into the house from the garage, the phone rang.  Grandma answered the phone and the person on the other end informed Grandma that Great Grandma had died while we were driving back home.  Grandma started crying and went somewhere to be alone.  I remember feeling just as sad knowing how much Grandma loved her parents.

I have a very soft spot in my heart for my Great Grandparents because of the love I know my Grandma had for them.  I did not get to know them very well.  Their memory is still fresh in my mind though.  I can still remember both of their smiles, Great Grandma’s laughter, and a sly look Great Grandpa Andra would get in his eye when he would tease me.  I can remember looking at his little tattoo that looked like a eggbutt snaffle bit, that was the only thing in my life that I thought it resembled, just above the thumb knuckle.  Kinda like an 8 on its side with a line between the loops near the thumb of the hand.  I cannot remember if this was the hand he lost his thumb?  (I seem to remember being told someone had the thumb in a jar!)  I did not get to attend Great Grandma’s funeral either.

Anyhow, in closing, here is a picture of after May Melycher was born.  They all drove down to get a 4 generation shot.  I assume sometime in 1989.

Mary Andra, Jackie Melycher, Colleen Jonas, holding May Melycher

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.

I graduated once

Since it is the season of graduations and I am fortunate to have just participated in one, I thought I would give a little personal post about some of my earlier formal graduations.  I am sure there are other graduations I probably participated in, but I do not have photos of them, at least that I am aware.  Like graduation from diapers,  which consists of a diaper on the head with a tassel.  Or graduation from elementary school, which would consist of a wedgie (and a tassel!).

Here are my Kindergarten Graduation Pictures.  The Graduation ‘ceremony’ was held in the West Minico Junior High Auditorium in Paul, Idaho.  I can still remember the day, both sets of Grandparents being present, and some of the program.  It was quintessentially the same program that Andra, my sister, would go through two years later and I remember that occasion for her.  I am assuming I graduated Kindergarten in the spring of 1984.

Now we can forward more than a decade to graduation from high school.  I graduated from Minico High School in Rupert, Idaho in the spring of 1997.  I swear there are photos out there of the occasion, I have seen them.  It does not seem my family has any at the actual ceremony, and whatever my Grandmother had is with her stash, wherever that might be since she passed away.  That could be the dump, but I guess it is in a drawer somewhere in Alaska.  Maybe some day…  This is a photo in my Grandmother’s home in Paul, Idaho.  This photo was taken on my Grandma’s birthday and probably taken by her.  I am still pretty thin, excited about life, and wearing that new class bling, I mean ring (that was rudely stolen by a home invader in 2009).

Forwarding a few more years, here is a picture of graduation from Utah State University in Logan, Utah on 17 December 2005 with a BS in Law & Constitutional Studies.  By this point I am days away from marriage to Miss Amanda Hemsley so she joined me in the photo, along with future in-laws (my Dad and Jan are in the photo too, to my left).  I even got some fancy cords again!  Two more of my grandparents had passed away by this time and the last one was unwilling to attend.

Now the latest event in my graduation history.  Graduation on 15 May 2011 from Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with a Juris Doctor.  Not only is my Dad and in-laws in the picture, my family has been joined by the newest addition of Aliza.  I doubt there are further formal graduations in life, besides death, awaiting in the future.  But at least we have some of these graduations in photograph.

I am such a ham!

Look at the cool hood.

Ross – Sharp Wedding

Jack and Ethel Ross holding June Streeter about 1920 in Paul, Idaho.

Milo Riley and Mary Ann “Lilly” Sharp are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Ethel to John William “Jack” Ross, son of James Thomas and Damey Catherine Graham Ross.  They were married at Fort Logan, Arapahoe, Colorado by an Army Chaplain (Julius J Babst) on 11 January 1920.

Jack is currently employed with the US Army as a cook at Fort Logan, Colorado.

The couple will return to make their home in Plain City, Utah as soon as he completes his enlistment with the Army.

Jack Ross was born 2 September 1890 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  He was the second of four children born to James Thomas Ross and Damey Catherine Graham.  Read more about Jack’s parents here.  We really do not know much of Jack’s childhood.  His mother joined the LDS church on 27 February 1898 and his father on 17 April 1898 in an unknown location.  Jack and his older brother Robert Leonard joined on 30 July 1900.  I have been unable to find the Ross family on the 1900 Census.  By July 1906, the family was living in or near Welch, McDowell, West Virginia working in the coal mines when Fanny and James were baptized.  Jack married Nannie May Day (she went by May) on 6 July 1910 in Squire Jim, McDowell, West Virginia.  To this marriage was born Hobart Day Ross (who later went by Hobart Day) on 1 Jun 1911 in McDowell County, West Virginia.

James and May Ross holding Hobart about 1912

Jack’s younger sister, Fanny Elizabeth married Calvin Dickerson Phibbs on 22 December 1906 (listed as a miner) and then moved to Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho in 1912.  Initially Calvin and Fanny moved to Rupert and purchased 80 acres to the northeast of Rupert.  He dabbled with cattle and real estate while also working as an electrician.  (He was eventually elected as Rupert City Clerk and in 1918 as Minidoka County Probate Judge.  He was admitted as an attorney to the Idaho bar 15 December 1919.)  At any rate, in 1911 the construction of a new sugar factory in Burley, Cassia, Idaho was drawing a number of potential workers.  Word reached the remaining Ross clan in West Virginia, probably from Fanny, of the upcoming opening.  The remaining Ross family rode a train of coal from McDowell County directly to southern Idaho.

Jack’s wife, May, did not come with him for one reason or another.  She divorced him shortly afterward and remarried to Andrew Cleveland Parson(s?) on 22 November 1913 in Gary, McDowell, West Virginia.  We do not know anything of the Ross family between 1913 and 1917 other than they were working at Amalgamated Sugar in Burley.  Jack enlisted in the U.S. Army on 23 April 1917 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and served in Battery E, 4th FA Rec Ser; Co. C, 21st Bn USG; 5 Rct Co (I do not know what any of that means) at Fort Logan, Arapahoe, Colorado, until 6 June 1919 when he was permitted leave.  He had obtained the rank of Sargent and was awarded the WWI Victory Button and Medal.  As far as I can tell, he never left U.S. soil.

Jack’s parents were working on farms around the area during the summers and then at the factories during the winter.  Robert listed his parents as living in Idahome, Cassia, Idaho in September 1918 when registered for the World War I Draft.  Jack’s parents moved to Paul, Minidoka, Idaho and started working on the first beet campaign in 1918 at the new Paul Amalgamated sugar factory.  Jack visited his parents in Paul on leave (starting 6 Jun 1919) and it was there he met Ethel Streeter running a store on Main Street, now Idaho Street, only a block or two from where his parents lived.  Jack reported back at Fort Logan on 13 August 1919 to 12 August 1920 when he was discharged from Fort Logan.

Ethel Sharp was born 9 April 1898 in Plain City, Weber, Utah.  She was the 11th child (8 siblings living by the time of her birth) of 12 children born to Milo Riley Sharp and Mary Ann Stoker, AKA Lillian “Lilly” Musgrave.  I have written about this family at this link: Sharp-Stoker Wedding.

Ethel was confirmed in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Plain City 15 May 1912.  Somewhere during this decade she was involved in a train accident on the Utah-Idaho Central Railway line between Plain City and Ogden, Weber, Utah.  I have been unable to locate any newspaper clippings or other information on this accident.  Anyhow, she obtained a settlement for her injuries.

She married Mark Lewis Streeter of West Weber, Weber, Utah on 7 May 1917 in Ogden.

Mark and Ethel Streeter

She made large deposits at Ogden First National Bank in June 1917, potentially her settlement.  We have checks from not long after that through August 1918 written out from Paul State Bank.  Interestingly, the checks state, “Paul is the Cream of the Minidoka Project, We Have the Cream of Paul.”

I have written about the photos recently found which include two photos of the Streeter Ice Cream & Confection Parlor.  Ethel Sharp and Streeter Confection.

Ethelyn June Streeter was born 4 June 1918 in Paul (she died in 2012).  Pictures of June are at the link in the preceding paragraph.  The divorce of Mark and Ethel was final after Mark had enlisted in the Army 3 March 1919.  Mark indicates in his autobiography that after he enlisted and left Ethel fell in love with Jack and that was the reason for their divorce.  Jack did not meet Ethel until June 1919, three months after Mark enlisted in the army.  Jack returned from his leave in Paul to Fort Logan in August 1919.  Ethel ventured to Fort Logan in January to marry Jack.  The 1920 Census lists him as a cook just days before Ethel arrived and the two were married.  She left little June with the Streeter family in Ogden.  We do not know much about the short dating period, but she traveled all the way to Colorado to marry him.  Whether she was head over heels for a poor military boy or something else, we do not know.  We do not know how long she stayed in Colorado or even if they came back together after his discharge.  We assume Ethel sold the store before going to Colorado.  After his discharge, Jack and Ethel moved to Plain City and he worked for Amalgamated Sugar Company at the Wilson Lane factory.  This was roughly a 7 mile walk to work one direction.  Milo James Ross was born 4 February 1921 in Plain City in a little log home just to the west and north of about 2971 N. 4200 W.  I have written of Milo James Ross at this link: Ross-Donaldson Wedding.  Here is a picture of the little log cabin in about 2005, shortly before it was torn down.

At some point, Jack and Ethel found their way back to Paul where Jack worked in the fields and at the sugar factory.  Paul Ross was born 14 February 1922 in Paul.  Work took Jack back to the Burley sugar factory and John Harold Ross (who went by Harold) was born 7 November1923 in Burley and then moved back to Paul.  By 1924, Jack and Ethel were living with Jack’s parents and trying to make enough to get by.  Milo remembers walking to church in Paul before his mother died, he thinks a Presbyterian or Episcopal church.

To ease the load on his parents, the family moved back to Plain City.  Ethel gave birth to her last child, Ernest Jackson Ross, on 16 July 1925 in Plain City.

Sadly, Ethel passed away 21 days later on 6 August of puerperal septicemia (Blood poisoning from obstetric delivery).  Ernest lived to 20 September and he passed away from malnutrition.  Jack is listed as the informant on the death certificate for Ethel.  Jack could not afford burial plots so Edward Sharp, Ethel’s brother, provided the burial plots where Ethel and Ernest are buried in Plain City.

Milo tells the story of the funeral for his mother.  He remembered that he was not permitted to look into the casket to see his mother.  The casket was up on the table and he could not see a thing and all he wanted to see was his mother.  Within days Jack took the four children back to Idaho and dropped them off with his parents.  Milo remembers his father riding the train holding baby Harold in his arms.  James and Damey Ross took care of the children through the winter of 1925-26.  June and Milo do not remember their father being there for the winter.  June’s only real memory of this period was of creamy buttered potatoes that were common and that she acquired a great love for.

By the time spring rolled around, Jack or his family had contacted Ethel’s family in Plain City and indicated they could not afford to feed and take care of the children anymore.  Os Richardson, Ethel’s brother-in-law drove to Idaho to pick up the four children.  Milo remembers the drive from Paul along the poplar lined highway from Paul past the sugar factory down into Heyburn, across the old river bridge through to Declo, Malta, Strevell, and back to Plain City.  The children were “farmed” out to family.  Milo was raised by his Uncle Ed Sharp, Paul by his Aunt Vic Hunt, and Harold by his Uncle Del Sharp.

We have very little information on what occurred in the life of Jack from this point on.  He found his way back to West Virginia where he tried to convince May to remarry him.  She had remarried and was having none of that.  This is the last time Hobart Day Ross ever saw his father.  Hobart went on to become a preacher.  He awoke blind one morning after being kicked in the head by a horse.

Jack found his way to Rock Springs, Sweetwater, Wyoming where he married a lady named Zana Cogdill on 29 November 1926.  She was previously married to Frank Coffey and was going by his name.  I have been unable to determine what happened to Frank.  She had a son already named Orval A Coffey. The 1930 Census on 2 April 1930 finds the two of them in Crawford, Delta, Colorado where he is working as a foreman in a battery shop and living with the brother of Zana’s first husband (?!?).

We do not believe this marriage lasted very long either.  Jack made several visits back to Plain City to see his children.  He would take a taxi out to Plain City, pick up Betty Booth, and the two would ride over to the fields where Milo was working.  We assume the same happened with Harold.  Paul died from a concussion in 1932 after falling out of a barn.  The car would pull up at the end of the field and would toot its horn and Milo could see the occupants wave.  It was not until he visited his father in 1948 that he realized this was his father waving at him across the way and that the lady was Betty Booth.  (Interestingly, Milo had given assistance to Betty Booth in the form of coal and helped pay some of her Dr.’s bills before she passed).

Jack reappears for the mandatory draft registration for World War II living in Stockton, San Joaquin, California working for Werl Zuckerman on McDonald Island with a Stockton mailing address.  He lists his nearest kin as his sister Ms. C. D. Phibbs (Fanny) living at 529 S. California Street in Stockton.

Milo received a telegram in 1948 telling him that his father was dying in a Veteran’s Hospital in Livermore, Alameda, California and that he was requested to come.  Milo tried to convince his brother Harold to go with him but Harold wanted nothing to do with his father.  Milo took the bus to Livermore and found the hospital. He arrived somewhere around midnight and found his way into the building and climbed up a couple of floors and found a corner he could sleep in until morning.  He heard coughs from a room and somebody in the room ask for the time.  He poked his head in and asked if anyone knew of Jack Ross.  Jack indicated he was in the room and wanted to know if it was Milo or Harold at the door.

They visited until an orderly came in and kicked him out.  He slept in a corner for a while and then told an orderly that he had come all the way from Utah to see his father and that his father was dying.  The orderly then let him stay with his father until he passed.

Fortunately, Milo and Jack were able to visit.  Milo asked why his father never came to visit and his father insisted that he wrote letters, sent gifts, and that the Sharp family kept the children from him.  He did not believe him at the time.  Vic Hunt, Ethel’s sister, had received the letters and told Milo about them after her husband and son were electrocuted in 1960 (thinking it was a form of punishment for her keeping them secret) but still did not give them to him. They passed to her son Harold in 1987, and to her grandson Archie in 2005.  Archie turned them over to Milo in 2010.

We know very little of his time in Wyoming, Colorado, or California before his passing.  Jack indicated in 1948 that life had been hard and he never had much.  So little is known of these years, hopefully some more of the story will come out in the future.

John Ross Tombstone