Biography of Matthew P. Fifield
The following is a portion (from about 1865 to 1899) of a biography of Matthew Phelps Fifield. It was written by an unknown grandson about 1961. Although Matthew is not a relative of the family he did live in Weston and his biography provides several interesting stories concerning Weston. From the quotes and detail of some of the accounts the author may have had access to personal journal accounts of the events and it also appears that the author may have had a copy of Fredrickson’s history of Weston as some of the wording used is nearly the same as Fredrickson used. It is difficult to measure the accuracy of the account, but most of it does coincide with Fredickson’s history of Weston. The name of Matthew’s brother is Charles Byron Fifield, but the author used his middle name, Byron in this biography.
Here is a brief summary on Matthew P. Fifield by A.J. Simmonds.
Matthew Phelps Fifield, born June 18, 1830, in Vermont. He married Rebecca Ann Hoopes, daughter of Warner Hoopes, who also settled in Weston in the first company. He died September 30, 1920. Matthew P. Fifield had been with Bishop Maughan in the settlement of Bear Lake Valley in 1863.
Matt had lost his rights to the place he had settled on in Richmond by going to Bear Lake. It should be explained that because of conflicts between the Mormon Church and the federal government in Washington which controlled territorial lands, no titles to any lands in Utah could be guaranteed, and a squatter lost his rights when he moved to another place. The custom of putting squatters’ rights into the hands of a trustee-in-trust, Brigham Young in this case also weighed against the Mormons as individuals.
A small group was talking much about going across the valley to the mouth of a big canyon up which John C. Fremont had traveled 20 years before when on his trip to head the Mormons out of California; his ostensible purpose was given as something else. Some four or five families made their way over; in less than a week, Matt Fifield’s family of six females and one male forded Bear River and pulled “up the creek”; his father-in-law and two other families were with him. Warner Hoopes was a charcoal burner and he saw in the cedar (juniper) hills a chance to make a living working at his trade and selling indispensable charcoal to blacksmiths in Salt Lake City,
Besides the Fifields and the Hoopes, there were Chris and Hans Funk, Niels Georgeson, Soren Hansen, J. C. Jensen, Hans Kofoed, John Maughan - a son of Peter Maughan, church authority of Cache Valley who put his son in charge - Carl, J. C., and Rasmus Nelson, Wilson Robbins and Samuel Rogers, “nine Scandinavians and five white men” as Chris Funk jokingly put it. Matt had much admiration for the Scandinavians, their industry and thrift.
Locating at a spot where it would be easy to divert water from the creek, approximately near the old Georgeson farm which belonged to Wesley Fifield’s family until the recent death of his widow; the group worked together to clear and plant enough land to raise vegetables and grain for the coming winter. The alluvial soil was very fertile and easy to till, once the tall black sage was out of the way.
Their seed planted, the next problem was getting water out of the creek to irrigate it after it came up. Experience proved it was best to first dig a ditch away from the diversion dam; this was done by use of a sharpened log to which oxen had been hitched, using shovels to dress out the spots where the legs wouldn’t lower the bottom of the ditch to the point where water would flow. Rocks were hauled from nearby hills and placed in the creek to raise the general water level; then began the task of filling in with earth.
There were no scrapers available so animal-drawn implements were out of the question for moving dirt: it had to be done by hand. Weaving willow hampers and attaching them to poles so two men could carry them when filled with dirt proved the best manner of getting enough dirt that would hold back water. The organic soil near the creek would float away like fine straw; clay had to be used, and it had to be fetched some distance. With a will, these fourteen men went at their task and soon had enough clay on the banks of the creek to make a dam which would serve their purpose. To the joy of all it was found that after the rocks had been put in the creek, beaver had come to the aid of the pioneers; during the night they had dug mud from the bottom of the creek and helped raise the water level. To the devoutly religious it was a sign that God was on the side of the Mormons. Matt and others saw it as a natural process that could happen to gentiles and sinners too.
When they decided to shovel in the dirt, they had piled up, there was no wash out. Puddling the clay with bare feet made a dam that held like “all git out,” a phrase Matt used frequently.
The families lived in wagon boxes and camped out while the men did the obviously most important work of planting and engineering for irrigation. The women, always most self-sacrificing of the two sexes, were anxious for security for themselves and children and urged their men to make a place where they would be safe from the vengeance filled Lamanites, as the pious insisted on calling them. Despite Conner’s service at Battle Creek, two-three years before, little bands continued to harass the whites, especially those in small bands. The Mormons in the “western settlement” as it was called, were particularly susceptible to attach, located as they were at the mouth of Big Canyon with brush and tree-covered hills on all sides. For this reason the place of settlement was later moved two miles further east where scouts could see approaching enemies at a greater distance.
At once work started on the usual pioneer dugout, a hole in the side of a hill with poles used to form the front, ridgepoles with willow, straw and dirt laid on for the roofs to keep out rain - if there wasn’t too much snow and cold. These dugouts were warm in winter and cool in summer; heated by fireplaces over which the women cooked, they were often smoky, dirty, and unsatisfactory, but they were better than “the big blue tent” or wickiups. Whenever the weather would permit, the cooking was done in a Dutch oven out doors. How the women longed for a good stove, a luxury afforded by the high church authorities only in those days.
Work in the dug outs always stopped whenever there was wild fruit to harvest. Men, women, children - all went up the canyons to pick wild gooseberries, mountain currents, service berries, even the hawberries with their over supply of seeds were found better to eat than snowballs. These fruits were mixed with tallow, Indian fashion, and became a luxury when winter came; the food was called “pemmican” and seemed to stave off scurvy.
The crops planted grew fast. Rain came and not much irrigation was needed that summer. Before harvest time, however, crickets came to try the souls of the faithful; but enough was left so there was enough food for those who stayed to harvest it; Weston settlers seemed to have fared about the same as those in other parts of the valley.
Matt cut much cedar for his father-in-law to burn into charcoal; some of it he freighted north to sell to the California and Oregon bound immigrants. Other of it went to Ogden and Salt Lake. Trading charcoal for needed articles of clothing or food made it possible to live better than usual, “usual” being barely enough to keep warm and the stomach from “rattling around.”
While Matt was on one of his freighting trips to Salt Lake, he heard about one of Young Brig’s antics in England. The Mormon leader, for obvious reason, had ordained both Young Brig and John W. apostles the same day, November 22, 1855, the former was 19, and John W. Young was 11 - but the Council of the Twelve wouldn’t accept young Brig until 1868 when he became a member of the quorum.
To give his scion experience, Brigham sent him on a mission to preside over all Europe. While he was there, he witnessed a British coronation. Noticing the pomp accorded royalty, Young Brig rigged himself out with a coach, footmen, servants, and fancy horses and drove himself around London as the “prince of Utah.” This greatly incensed the British. They called for an apology and financial restitution for the insult. It seems that to pay attorneys and salve over the royalty, Old Brig used the Perpetual Immigration Fund. It was exciting gossip and despite efforts to keep it quiet, the common people talked.
During some of the preceding years many Mormons had been hired to supply grain, dig holes to put poles in for the transcontinental telegraph which superseded the Pony Express three or four years previously. For those who lived close to Salt Lake, this was all right. Their families would be safe from Indian attack; but not so on the outskirts of Mormondom, like Weston. These valiants not only fed: they also suffered attacks and were denied the opportunity to work for cash—means to buy such things as stoves.
After Brigham saw the benefits a telegraph would bring to the church, he set about at once to connect southern Utah with southern Idaho. Men were called to supply poles, teams, dig holes and set poles, string wire; their daughters were to go to Salt Lake and learn to operate the telegraph key. Anyone failing to comply with these demands was tried for his standing in the church. To supply his part, Matt hired a man to cut and haul poles, paying him in horses. But it was not until 1867 that the talking wire reached Logan.
Matt viewed with humor the alacrity with which unmarried men enlisted to go east for immigrants to Utah: it gave him a chance to pick a wife before she was chosen by some polygamist. Bachelors came to him to get teams and outfits which he furnished if they would break the horses to work; it was easy to raise horses in those days: they could winter out, be corralled and the colts branded in the spring to establish ownership, and Matt had some pretty good “chunks of horseflesh,” mothers of which he had acquired by trade from immigrants on the Oregon trail.
Indians still caused trouble. Men in Weston had to stay near the house or dugout; whenever Indians came over the hills, all work in the fields stopped and the menfolk went to protect their families. Almost every winter, every family moved back to Richmond, not only for safety but for the social outlet and schools available. In the summer of 1866, all families went to Richmond for safety. The men returned in the fall to harvest crops. Since almost everyone was poor and went through the same tribulations, no one complained.
In the spring of 1866, Matt went to his dugout without Becky; she was expecting a baby and wanting a boy; five girls in pioneer times, although they could run errands and help on the farm, were not too cheering. Just at the time they’d be old enough for any help, they’d get married to help some other man. May 1st, much to Matt’s job, Becky gave birth to a son, whom they named Matthew Warner; he was Matt’s third son.
It was this year that James Mack of Smithfield, began to haul rock from the cedar hills to a site where a millrace could be easily dug; it was down the creek from the original settlement. Mack saw trade possible with all who had settled north and west of the river. Matt and others, when going to see their families at Richmond, threw a small “jag” of rock on their wagons and dumped it off, expecting nothing better than having a mill near by so they didn’t have to take their grists to Logan.
It was this year that a ditch was made on the south side of the creek, one which headed at the original dam site. Wilson Robbins surveyed it with a homemade triangle and a plumb-bob made of rock. The Westonites also got an old rattletrap of a threshing machine that had been discarded at Richmond. Anton Jenson was a good tinkerer and if they had good luck, 50 bushels a day could be thrashed out. Generally the little that the crickets left could be easily threshed out by a flail, or by driving cattle over the bundles, and winnowing it out by hand.
By this time much freight was going from Salt Lake City to the gold mines in Virginia City, Montana. Westonites found it possible to trade for supplies from these freighters, who also, on their trips south, took mail to friends and relatives in the southern settlements. Realizing the need for a site where Indians couldn’t sneak up on them, a place where a town could be built, and the advantages of being nearer the freight road, the settlers voted to move to the present location of Weston. The name, it seems, was shortened from West-Town, or Western, to Weston, in honor of John Maughan’s wife, Mary Ann Weston.
At that time it was thought the town was in Utah, but a survey showed it to be part of the Oregon territory. No land grants could be certified as the government had not surveyed it for settlement, even though the Homestead law had been passed. John Maughan, who had succeeded Christopher Funk as presiding elder, parceled out the places where men under him could build. Matt’s allotment was on the brow of a hill, looking southward into the valley of the creek, and located on the same street as the church building now stands.
The soil was gravely but rich; since he, in connection with a few others had a priority on water, he was able to raise a good garden there. He built a two-room log cabin with a dirt roof; one of his main projects was to get it shingled as soon as possible. The place was a natural for rattlesnakes; they were an accepted part of the pioneer’s life. As a means of protection, everyone who could get them wore high-topped boots; the snake’s fangs could not penetrate them.
Girls as well as boys were taught to recognize the rattle of this viper, and how to kill one. During the season from early June until late August, when the snakes were apt to be blind from shedding their skin, children were especially careful. Orelia, about ten at this time, was sent to the shed to watch a bake kettle. Feeling something hitting her leg, she screamed. “Something I couldn’t see was hitting my leg,” she sobbed when her father came. He reproved the girl for her vivid imagination, but felt he should inquire into her fears. Lifting the kettle, he saw a rattler wriggle out from under it; its tail had been striking the girl’s leg.
Today doctors scorn the story that mothers carrying babies can mark them, but “birthmarks” were part of the folklore of that time. Ellen Kofoed was carrying willows in her arms just a day or so before her baby was born, when a rattler slithered down on her arm. The fright she got caused her child to be born paralyzed, a tale oft repeated and handed down from generation to generation. Grandfather often related how a family of boys, who, after their father had died of being scratched by rattlesnake fangs left in the leg of his boot, each in turn, inherited the boots and likewise died, until someone became suspicious and investigated. It was noticed that each son’s leg was infected at the same place his father’s had been.
Raised among trees, Matt’s yearning for them led him to get cuttings of fast-growing Balm of Gilead and plant them around his cabin. At his first opportunity, he also got scions from the stock of Lombardy poplars Orson Hyde fetched to Utah from Italy. These later were liked very much as they didn’t shed “cotton” as did the Balm of Gilead. Box Elders, native to the west, were also planted along the ditches; because of the bugs which came with them, they were not so desirable as other trees, but they were shade, “and beggars shouldn’t be choosers,” as Matt often said.
Another passion Amy Tracy passed on to her son was his love of flowers, which he, in turn passed on to some of his children, Orelia, in particular. Almost before his log house was habitable, he had dug wild plants in the canyons, native currants, wild iris, etc., and planted them near the place. On freighting trips to Salt Lake, he brought back ribbon grass, old man and old woman herbs, peppermint, spearmint, coriander, dill, catnip, hyssop, holly hocks, and carious other shrubs to grace the barren hill where his family was growing up. The writer well recalls eating cooking on which Grandma Fifield had sprinkled coriander and sesame. Always tasty, perhaps Becky Ann’s food was too rich for the good of her family.
A great welcome was given William Gill, a Scottish mechanic, when he set up a mill below that of James Mack. The flour mill was running now, the machinery having been bought from the Thatcher mill in Logan. Gill had a new circular saw with which he could rip boards. That put an end to the old-style saw pit in which one man had to stand below the material being sawed while his helper stood above. Gill also had a turning lathe, drill, grindstone and various other devices to expedite woodworking. One of Gill’s first orders was for another spinning wheel, so that Amy, now twelve could assist Becky in spinning; the other girls, Orelia and Julia were of an age to learn too.
That fall James Davenport, father-in-law of the presiding elder, John Maughan, brought his threshing machine from Richmond to help the farmers get their grain ready for market. There was no profit in it; in those days men worked for the love of humanity rather than profit, especially those not high in the church.
Becky’s insistence that the house be made comfortable led her husband to chink and daub the cracks with a good quality of clay which was found down on the flats where foxtail could be cut for hay. That fall extra effort was spent filling all the cracks in the house with clay until it was the most comfortable house in Weston.
Extra time was also put in getting the log building on John Maughan’s lot ready for a meeting house. The custom of holding church at the homes of various people could not be continued long: there were too many in the settlement. Then it was time the people began to think about their children getting a little “learning.” At first William Dees taught some of the few children whose parents could afford to pay for their tuition in vegetables, butter, eggs, meat or grain. He was glad for the food, and they for the instruction.
The log building was 16 by 16 feet and built of logs got out of the canyons west of the settlement. Seats consisted of heavy slabs brought over from the High Creek mill where Chris Miller, who was not managing Mack’s mill, had sawed them from timber cut on the east side of the valley. Auger holes had been bored on the round side, and birch pegs put in for legs. It was so tiresome going to church and sitting on such seats, that many women would rather stay home than to wrestle with their children and listen to the solemn discourses delivered by the devout brethren. One of the pious Scandinavians said, “Aye ban in diss country t’ree yars, mun aye speak Anglish so gute no vun vould know ay vas born in Svayden.”
There was an occasion to choose a place for the cemetery this year, July 24, Niels Oliver Jorgenson, son of Niels Senior died at the age of two. There was a violent discussion as to where to establish this graveyard. Matt wanted it put on the opposite side of the creek. “There” he said, “there should not be a chance of water pollution.” But he was voted down. Eventually Weston became a typhoid trap with a high death rate and epidemics of typhoid fever swept the town regularly, only to be stopped by a sanitary water supply piped into town, the project completed in 1912. How many innocent people died prematurely because of this shortsightedness will never be known.
The population of Weston was doubled in the spring of 1868. They brought good news about the railroad being completed to Laramie. This meant each town would be relieved of sending teams and teamsters east to fetch immigrants to Zion, as had been the practice for more than 20 years. The newcomers settled on the field south of town where they planted crops as soon as they could.
With a will a dam was put in the creek to get water cut on the crops as soon as possible. The early settlers still farmed “up the creek,” but they donated teams and work to get a ditch out so land could be worked south of the creek. This time beavers worked against the pioneers, but though it was rather late by the time water was brought upon the crops, a good crop was the result. It was then Matt noticed that crickets hurt the early crops more than they did the late crops and planted accordingly.
Two boys had been born on the site of the first settlement, John Kofoed and Lorenzo Robbins, Robbins preceding Kofoed. The first child born on the new site was Peter Davenport Maughan, who came March 15 . No school was held because there was no place large enough, but Matt had a freighter get him a spelling book from Salt Lake and he set about to teach his girls to write and spell. Above town was a deposit of slate, poor as it was, Matt got out several pieces that could be used to write upon.
In June the “call” came for Weston to furnish four yokes of oxen, a wagon and teamster to go to Fort Laramie for immigrants. Pete Christensen went as teamster and Matt furnished a yoke of oxen. This was the last time such a call was made, but donations were taken up to bring the Lord’s poor from Europe. Greater stress than ever was laid on the observance of “The Word of Wisdom.” This was primarily because so much money was leaving Zion to buy tea and coffee. Matt, who had learned to like tea from his mother and his stepmother, found little difficulty in giving up his indulgences. One old lady when taken to task said, “Does the devil have all the good things, the comforts of life?”
Crickets were especially bad this year in Salt Lake and Weber valleys. To get food for their families, men went to work building railroad grades. It was this year that Brigham Young organized a construction company and called men on missions, allowing them enough to feed their families; the rest was to be donated so the church could hold stock in the railroad and he as a trustee-in-trust, would have a voice in its management. Three of his sons were put in as overseers, Joseph A., John W., and Young Brig. Others sons of church officials went also to lucrative positions; what the common man griped at was none of them had to do any heavy work with his hands. Reverberations of such complaints reached such outposts as Weston.
There was growing discontent among the people. Merchants, Mormon as well as Gentile, were growing wealthy by charging high prices for needed items. Since the Mormon merchants would take tithing office script, they could and would charge more for their goods than the Gentiles, but the latter would sell at lower prices to induce Mormon trade. Although there was much pulpit advice not to encourage Gentile trade - most of those who owned church stores were relatives of church authorities - the hard-pressed Mormons bought where they could get most for their money.
Many of the Saints took the stand that it was all right for the church authorities to tell them what to do to get heavenly salvation, but that they had no right to tell them how to spend their money. After they had paid their tithing their duties toward the church was ended as long as their morals and ethics were above reproach. One of the leaders in this movement was William Godbe, a devout Mormon and prosperous merchant who treated people as they should be; behind him were T. B. H. Stenhouse and Edward Tullidge, both good writers and firm believers that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
As soon as they made a stand for separation of church from economic and political affairs they were excommunicated. It was the same stand as was taken by the Protestants against Rome; the same as the Pilgrims took against Thomas Hooke in Plymouth. About this time Matt learned that he was living in the territory of Idaho and was not subject to the dictates of Utah’s government. His independent disposition and frank ways led him to be glad he didn’t have to take a stand - not yet. Many people in Weston were taking a stand in the matter.
May 27, 1868, another son, Daniel Lewis, was born. This made a family of seven. But infant mortality was high in those days when water was dipped from ditches. In the Fifield family, however, one of the chores the girls had to do was carry drinking water from a little spring near the creek. Naomi told how each week it fell the duty of each girl in turn to see there was plenty of clear drinking water in the house. The dates of the death of the two sons are not recorded, but they contracted diphtheria sometime before 1870 and passed on. In a pioneer society where male help was needed, the blow was severely felt.
Almira Jane was getting to be quite a young lady at this time, 16. She was of an independent nature and when her stepmother would scold her, as she often did, Jane would threaten to run away from home, or marry a polygamist which her father was dead set against. About this time Andrew Quigley visited at the Fifield home. He was only two years younger than Matt and had married one of Daniel A. Miller’s nieces, Elizabeth, for his first wife; two others afterward. He had a scalp wound, one received at Bannock Creek, when he came from the Salmon river expedition and at which Grandfather was present. Because of this, he drank heavily. Whether in a huff because she wouldn’t be bossed by her stepmother or not, Jane went to Clarkston and married Quigley about this time.
Naturally she made her father grieve. The age difference was enough to make such a marriage impossible. But Quigley promised her that if she’d marry him, she wouldn’t have to chop wood; the other women would do all that; her duties would end with gathering chips and keeping house. Grandmother Fifield’s jealous nature, her constant drive for status and wealth had much to do with this unhappy polygamous marriage. They made their home later at Oxford and were parents of three children.
This year Matt’s brother Byron, who was now married and had been living in Huntsville, came to Weston. He lived with Matt for sometime with his wife and four children, but the place was too crowded, even when part of them lived in a tent and wagon box. Aunt Lucy’s easy going ways irked Becky; the spats they had let Matt to say “two women should never be forced to live in the same house.” A man handy with tools and at repairing broken items, By went to work in Will Gill’s shop down the creek, later moving there where he lived in a tent and dugout until he filed on his place some few years later.
It was a happy day when Wilson Robbins brought a W. A. Wood mowing machine to Weston. In a short time everyone who could afford it either hired his hay cut or invested in one for himself. It put an end forever to the back breaking swinging of the scythe, which looked so easy. When an Indian was asked what was the easiest work he had ever done he said, “Sit on a fence and watch a white man mow hay.” During one of the hard winters, Matt, foreseeing a need for forage and endowed with an urge to be doing something, cut a lot of fox tail from the flats below town. With this he was able to feed some horses through the winter which laid the basis for much of the money and wealth he had. Having been first to cut the hay from these flats, he established a priority to them, one that was respected by the villagers.
Idaho territory had been organized in 1863, the year Bear Lake had been settled, but it was not until 1872 that a federal survey established the line between Idaho and Utah. The year Weston was settled, 1865, Captain Hunt had gone to the north end of Cache Valley, hoping, as he told those whom he could trust, that he’d be out of “Old Brig’s” jurisdiction. A devout believer in the religion established by Joseph Smith, Cap. Hunt was critical of his successor.
When Brigham had made disparaging remarks about the Battalion men at a reunion, Jefferson Hunt had risen to take exception, saying he had reason to know the sort of men they were. President Young, it seems, never forgave Captain Hunt for relinquishing command of the Battalion to Captain A. J. Smith at the crossing of the Cimmeron. When the Mormon leader was inspecting Huntsville, Jefferson Hunt “legged” him clear on over a horse. Although there was outward respect between the two men, their blood surged whenever they met.
There was school again this year, with John H. Clarke as teacher. He took chips and old whetstones for pay; otherwise, there would have been no school. The Bible, Book of Mormon, and a few spelling books brought across the plains were the textbooks; with only three months of “Larnin” it’s miraculous that any of them learned to read. This year Matt taught his brother Byron and his brother-in-law how to read.
When the post office was established in Weston in 1869, there was also much rejoicing. Previous to this all mail had to be fetched from Franklin. The railroad had come to Utah this year, and with the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point, many changes came, some for the good, a few for the bad. One job Matt detested was black smithing; having inherited his father’s tools, he was sought out constantly by people who wanted a little iron work done. It was a happy day when Old Man Fredrickson opened a shop for customer in Weston. This Dane was a skilled smith and wanted the trade.
For some reason Weston seemed to attract Scandinavians, so much so that it was often dubbed “Little Denmark.” Danish was used freely in church because there were more who could understand that than there were who spoke English. One who came was an old sailor called “Buckskin Petersen.” A group of rowdies, bent on what they called fun, harangued him until his patience wore thin. Asking the men near about to disarm his annoyers, he offered to tie his arms behind his back and take them all on, all four of them. The rowdies left him alone after that. Lars Fredrickson had whispered around that “Pete” had whipped 20 German sailors when he came to America the year before.
Although it was expected, the coming of the railroad would bring lower prices, there was little change. Discovery of metals in the Oquirrh mountains, the large influx of people to work in the mines kept demand greater than supply, especially for vegetables and fruits.
The fall of the year that Charles Eugene and Daniel Lewis died, Matt had a fine melon patch. During the night one of them died, the same rowdies who had been afraid to fight Buckskin Pete, raided his garden; what hurt grandfather more than the loss of his melons - he had a good market for them - was the fact that he had hired these boys to work for him when he could have got along without them. The leader of the gang, he said, was John Dees.
November, April 6, 1870, a son named William Phelps made a permanent call at the Fifield home. He was given very special care, not only by the parents but by his four sisters, Orelia, Julia, Priscilla, and Naomi. Everything he wanted was his. His father let him ride on his back when he plowed, and bought him fancy, red topped boots. His mother made him the finest clothes she knew how to make, and he was fed choice tidbits from the table.
Crickets were very bad in 1870, taking over half the crops, but they left enough for seen and to feed the people who raised their choice grains. The south field was doubled in size, and water for irrigation began to become a problem for the first time, so much so that Walter Thompson, who later lived down the creek in Rockland was made first water master. As a young man, Walt used to go to Bishop Allen’s home and carry Rettie around in his arms. He used to “josh” Will by saying, “I held her in my arms before you ever knew her.”
Corinne, Utah, over the hill from Cache Junction became a trading center for most of Cache Valley. A freighter by name of Burton made Weston his home. He would haul grain to Corinne for the farmers and shop there for them with no commission for his services. Supplies were brought up Bear River by boat and sold by Gentiles for considerably less than the Mormon run tithing store would sell them at Logan. Many devout Mormons were tried for their church membership for buying goods there.
Writing of his experiences among the Mormons on page 248 of his Reminiscences Alex Toppence told of buying 5 pounds of coffee for a dollar in Brigham City, while Mormons got only 4 pounds for a dollar. Lorenzo Snow, who waited on him said, “You gentiles in Corinne don’t have to trade with us, but our people, referring to the Mormons, can’t very well get out of it.” This is one of the reasons the Godbe movement was growing.
This year the Deseret Telegraph reached Franklin, which brought news from the nation much faster than had hitherto been possible. Scriptures were quoted to prove that the last days were near at hand, wars, famine, earthquakes, rumors of wars, comets. It was held there was little room for improvement now with railroads run by steam. People were told to prepare for the Ten Tribes who would soon come marching down from the North Pole.
Weston farmers, always short of equipment to till their land, lack of posts and fencing material, logs to build cabins 50 to 75 miles distant, crickets eating up crops, the only source of revenue, no way to educate their children, their wives cooking amid the ashes of campfires when the weather would permit outside, and their eyes stinging from standing over a fireplace inside. All such conditions were those the pioneers had to face.
When Lars Fredrickson raised enough grain to bring him $40, Freighter Burton hauled them free of charge to Corinne and sold them, bought him a stove for $37.50 and shoes for the other $2.50 and brought them back to him. Hearing of it, Matt got his grain crop ready, hauled them himself to the Gentile town on the Bear, and bought a stove for Becky, one which the tithing store in Logan was charging $50.00 for; he also bought other items while he was there, and took them back to his family.
About July 4th, 1871, Brigham Young, George A. Smith, and a retinue of nearly 100 body guards, women, and members of the families of these two dignitaries came to Weston. There were more people in the procession than were in the little village, and it was difficult to find places where they could be sheltered as the usual July rains were falling. The log church-school house on John Maughan’s lot was pressed into service. Hay, fresh from the cutting, was put on the floor and the body guard expressed much appreciation for the hospitality shown. President Young and George A. Smith, both grown very fat and flabby, were put in beds provided by the faithful. They were en route Soda Springs and Bear Lake, and reached Salt Lake during the latter part of July.
There was much joking among many of the people, especially those who honored Old Brig for his position, rather than for his personality; he affected great concern about his party being attacked by Indians, yet he never hesitated to send scouts out into the wilds singly, even in the early days. Many of the oldsters accused him of being a coward and pointed out that he always “made tracks” when danger threatened, even in the Kirtland days.
During the Missouri persecutions, Brigham displayed his ability to “smell danger.” His clever elusion of persecutors made it possible for him to assist the Saints in getting to Illinois. He had a body guard after the prophet was killed while in Nauvoo, and Matt had stood guard at his cabins in Council Bluffs and on the way to Utah in 1848. During the Buchanan expedition, Brigham’s guard was doubled, and, after all danger from that source was over, the number of men watching out for him remained the same.
Becky scored her husband for joshing with some of the irreverent about Old Brig’s solicitude for himself. She spent lots of time preparing choice food for the authorities. But she ceased her censoring when Matt defended himself by pointing out that if Brother Brigham’s advice had been followed, she would be third wife of a squaw man in heaven.
In the meeting, President Young brought up the matter of the “Order of Enoch.” He scolded them for not having investigated the plan already, saying, “There are some of you who will get into heaven by your own efforts; others will go in on their wives’ skirts, and there are a few who will get their rewards only if we who are at the head of the kingdom dig you to the rowels of our spurs.” The silence and stony stares of the audience convinced the prophet that it would take some time to think the matter over.
Then he changed over to the cooperative store idea; more response on the parts of the congregation led him to believe this was to their liking. A committee was appointed to investigate the prospects.
After the vicegerents of the kingdom had moved on, Matt brought out that he would never put money into a co-op that sold liquor such as the one in Franklin. “Does Brigham know they’re selling Valley Tan’ there?” someone asked. “Of course he knows. It’s made in the still he took when he called Brother Howard on a mission to Canada,” said Jim Lemon, who lived in Salt Lake when the transaction took place.
Weston didn’t get a cooperative store until Alexander A. Allen came to the ward as bishop. Liquor was sold in it too, in spite of the fact that Grandfather was a principal stockholder, but he often told the writer than he never came so near apostatizing in his life as when liquor was forced on the store as an article for sale. No profit was ever made on it; the stockholders drank it all up.
There was a great to do because these two men, Fifield and Fredrickson, had bought from Gentiles. To visit Corinne was counted a sin; to buy from a Gentile was next lower in the category of evil. The presiding elder whose wife was no doubt envious of the women with the coveted stoves was duty bound to call the two offenders to task; had he not wanted to, public opinion would have forced it. One pious woman said in testimony meeting that she’d rather starve than eat food cooked on a Gentile bought stove.
To clear himself with his superiors and the public, Bishop Maughan demanded that the offenders “ask the ward’s forgiveness,” and sent word to church headquarters of the rebellious and sinful proclivities of his parishioners. Next fast day the sinners were given a chance to “make peace with God.” Matt and Lars had talked the matter over beforehand. Their consciences didn’t pain them one whit; in fact they felt rather righteous when they were greeted with a kiss from the women they loved for having bought the stoves.
Will Gill challenged anyone to show that these men had sinned. Mrs. Henry McCullough, who had asked Lars to buy things for her while he was in Corinne, defied Bishop Maughan to punish her. The Godbe movement was mentioned and Brother Godbe defended. He was well known for his generous nature. Someone said he’d take the profit off goods he was selling when his buyer didn’t have quite enough to pay the asked price. James Lemmon, a Battalion veteran, rose to ask when Brother Brigham had ever given anything away; like most Battalion men, Lemmon was resentful of Brigham’s constant carping and scathing remarks about the men whose families had been deprived of money earned by the soldiers.
Then Lars, genial and generous, smiled and rose to his feet. In his thick Scandinavian brogue he said he thought there had been enough criticism of the church authorities, especially the local ones; they had their problems too. “But,” he added in finality, “when you can show me where the Bible or Book of Mormon shows we have sinned, I’ll ask forgiveness, and not until.” Matt’s comment was, “Me too.”
By rationalizing - it was hard to get to the church-owned Franklin Co-op because the bridge over Bear River had been washed out - the presiding elder enlisted support from the two offenders and the town decided to build a new bridge to replace the old one. Lars offered to get a pile driver from Battle Creek and Matt furnished teams and wagons to haul needed long timbers from the Mink Creek area. The hammer used to drive the piles into the river bed weighed 1500 pounds. The bridge was completed in 1872.
With crickets a scourge in 1871, Gill and Fredrickson decided to stop them. Noticing that the black monsters couldn’t jump across a water ditch, they put in a water wheel, attached it to rollers over which the cricket-laden water had to pass; this made the bugs a black, stinking pulp, but there were still plenty of the devil’s insects to eat the crops of the faithful. Prayers didn’t bring seagulls either.
But Matt and two others planted late in the year and harvested enough grain to feed the colony and have seen for the next year. Matt let his grain out on credit; it had not been threshed and the borrowers had to bring their own flails to beat out the kernels; then winnow it by throwing it into the air and let the wind blow out the chaff. Even at that, more than half of the colony moved away during the winter months; there was no school either.
That fall Matt hauled loads of potatoes, vegetables, and grain north to Soda Springs to trade to the Morrisites for things they had procured by tracking with Oregon Trail immigrants, or by going east to dumps where heavy items had been discarded to lighten loads. As a result, Becky owned kitchen utensils and Matt acquired tools which only set self-righteous tongues wagging faster than ever. They said because Matt Fifield had got away with buying a stove at Corinne, he was fast on the road to apostasy.
Then Bishop Maughan bought a wagon from a Gentile in Corinne and saved himself 24 dollars. Those whom he had chided for buying stoves went in a body to him and threatened a church trial; after they had had their fun, for that’s the reason they went, good fellowship prevailed in the ward. There were many of the very “faithful” however who felt such backsliding was not the Lord’s way. One of them, envious of the success some of the more diligent were having, made a trip to Logan and reported to the dignitaries there.
“The first thing you know Brother Brigham will be up here to look into our wickedness,” one of the village prophets warned. “Then what will you say?”
When it was pointed out that the reason the Mormon leader had not been up was the trouble he was having at home, the warring brethren only wailed the louder. “You’ve no right to judge; besides that Eliza Ann was to blame for getting Brother Brigham into his trouble.”
“Both of them had to be willing,” Lars Fredrickson pointed out.
“And what about young John W.’s escapades? Him running off with an actress and leaving his four wives with their families?” Somehow or other tales about the leader’s families got around, even though they were not published in the Deseret News.
“Yea, but what tickles me is that young John W. Beat his father’s time with that actress woman?” another one had to bring out to show he was up on news.
“You mean Julia Dean?”
“I don’t know if it was her or not. Any ways they went off to Californy and when he got tired of her, he come back and Old Brigham made him president of St. George stake or something.” The speaker had left “Dixie” the previous year because he could live on the meager dole the church was giving the cotton mission and the promptings of the spirit, he said. (Loretta Young was a granddaughter of John W. Young and the actress in question.)
“I’ve heard,” another chimed in, “that Old Brig’s daughters and Squire Well’s are the most forward young vixens in all Salt Lake.”
“You’ve heard wrong”; then everyone looked in the direction of Sergeant Lemmon, who was well known for his antipathy toward a falsehood and the church. “I’ve been around a lot, and while the Young sisters ain’t above having fun, they’re as nice girls as anywhere in the territory.”
“You see! We’re going to have some of the authorities up here to look into the doings of all them what is backsliding - and then you’ll be sorry.”
“And you’ll be glad you tattled, won’t you?” Matt smelled a rat.
“I didn’t tattle,” he denied. The gossipers dispersed and went home.
One of the most critical of those who bought from Gentiles was Byron Fifield. A perfectionist in all he did, he looked for the same quality in others, and accused his brother of being a backsliding Lamanite whose skin would be turned brown unless he repented. Matt merely shrugged off the prediction, even though Becky sided in with Byron. Matt’s stand throughout life was middle of the road.
One day a brother came to borrow Matt’s blacksmith tools. “Did you know young Briggy is coming to Weston?” he asked after Matt’s permission had been given for the use of the tools. After Matt confessed he didn’t know, the borrower said, “I hope he ain’t too hard on them what don’t do what the Lord’s anointed says.” Grandfather knew who the tattler was. “You don’t need to fret none, but ain’t you glad I bought what you’re borrowing?” The informer dropped his head and heard the lender add, “Be careful them tools don’t contaminate you. They’re Gentile boughten.”
Sure enough young Brig was in Weston next day to hold a church trial, John Maughan carried the summons to the backsliders himself. He asked each of his fellow sinners what “we’re gonna do?” Matt’s advice was chosen as the solution. “Confess and play on Briggy’s sympathetic nature.”
Briggy began suspiciously; telling his audience they had been accused of aiding and abetting the Gentiles, the avowed enemies of God’s Kingdom, they were on trial for their church fellowship. Then he wanted to know what defense they had for such actions, or, here he gave them an out, did you buy from the enemy?
“Yes,” Matt Fifield confessed with his alert frankness. “And knowing your generous, kindly disposition, I’m sure you’d have done the same thing.”
Young Brig had his mother’s soft-hearted nature. Mary Ann Angell was noted for compassion, and was often taken to task by her husband for being an easy tough. After a short pause he asked.
“Circumstances alter cases, I admit. What were they, Brother Fifield?”
“For years my wife Becky has cooked over a campfire, or when the weather was bad, she’d kneel in the ashes of a smoky fireplace to prepare food for my family. When we were in Bear Lake, she cooked for us all one winter over a campfire. You who know Bear Lake’s reputation know that wasn’t a Sunday School picnic. She didn’t complain much; only wished she had a stove like Brother Brigham’s wives —she didn’t even wish for a servant to do the hard, dirty work for her. When I saw this I, of myself, promised her that the first time I had enough cash to buy a stove, she’d have one.”
“Came last fall the crickets left my oats alone enough so that I took in something over $60 for them. My eight young ones needed shoes more than Becky needed a stove. Her and me, we couldn’t carry on our choring and the like unless we had shoes. The shoe bill comes to more than $16.00; with the $44 dollars left, I couldn’t buy a stove at the Co-op in Logan. The bishop there ain’t that kind of man, you know that, being his brother-in-law.”
“Being as I had to make a trip to Corinne to take freight for Mr. Burton on a subcontract, I went inside and bargained for a stove, the price being only $35. You know the price, I think, of the identical stove in Logan, $50.”
“But Brother Fifield, you know the law and the prophets. Our kingdom will break down completely unless we hold together unless we look out for each other. If our enemies can divide us —don’t you see the consequences?”
“It’s not the enemies who are dividing us; it’s the difference in prices,” Grandfather countered before he thought twice. “Every man here knows the church, with its mission system can sell for the same price as the Gentiles.”
Young Brig scratched his head with his pudgy hand. “But Father’s instructions - how am I going to account to him?” Everyone present knew Old Brig was not one to compromise, except with those who held as much or more power than he held. Briggy didn’t have that power. “If only you had a cooperative store by yourselves,” he wished half aloud.
Bishop Maughan, who still had to say why he bought a wagon at Corinne, asked how to go about organizing the cooperative when no one had any cash. It could be done, he was told, if they had credit and were able to put up property to the amount of the indebtedness.
“But we don’t know if we’re in Utah or Idaho, and the church won’t give out credit accounts outside Utah territory.” Bishop Maughan was up on the church regulations.
“How would you like to see your wives cooking before a smoky fireplace?” Lars Fredrickson asked. “One that scorched her face with dirty sagebrush fire when she got near enough to get hold of the bake oven handle?”
Warner Hoopes nearly upset the program when he asked the apostle if he’d ever eaten food cooked over a fireplace, but Grandfather rescued the situation by saying he was sure he had; he’d seen him eat half-cooked potatoes from a bonfire when they were crossing the plains in 1848.
“Sure! Now I remember you,” young Brigham said. “You were the fellow who swam out to keep one of our wagons from tipping over when we were fording the Sweetwater, or was that where it was?” It was evident Brigham wanted to get away from making a decision; all present looked at each other significantly. “I don’t want to embarrass you, but wasn’t your hair red when you had some?”
“That’s right,” was the answer. “Now that you understand our side of this question, you won’t have any difficulty with your father in fixing up matters, “Matt decided for the apostle. “And see what can be done about a branch of the coop at Franklin, will you. If we’re in Idaho, so is Franklin.”
“I’m sure Father will understand,” he agreed with a sigh of relief at not having to make a decision. His father had made all the decisions for his boys as well as most of them for the church since 1844 when he took over. Hosea Stout had once said that anyone out of favor with President Young had tough sledding in the Mormon church, “I’ll tell him things here were not as they had been represented.”
It is unlikely that the Mormon leader would have given the Weston matter a second thought under the pressure brought upon him by federal and church problems. Although she was wife number 26, Ann Eliza Webb had called herself number 19 and asked for a legal divorce to be granted on the grounds of lack of support. Those who knew Old Brig best felt she had some basis for her contention. President Young was frugal almost to the point of being penurious; several of his wives did odd jobs for a little extra money.
With the telegraph already in Franklin, Idaho - federal surveys put both Weston and Franklin north of the boundary - news quickly reached the Westonites that a federal judge had recognized the legality of polygamy by granting a divorce to Ann Eliza Webb Young with alimony. Nothing could have pleased Brigham Young more. But President U. S. Grant immediately recalled the obliging judge and had the supreme court set aside the decision.
Always a popular subject for debate, such news stirred up discussions with violent actions, even in Weston. Defender James A. Kofoed and Robert A. Wilcox went far beyond friendly discussion. Kofoed based his discussion on the Bible, the antics of Abraham, David, and Issac. Wilcox quoted the most correct book that was ever written. The Book of Mormon, Jacob chapters three and four which declare polygamy to be “an abomination before God,” and pointed out that it was a more recent revelation. “Did Joseph Smith and Brigham Young change God’s mind?” He wanted to know. Kofoed shot four times at the wicked Wilcox, who also fired five times but quit when his opponent’s pistol was empty. Only a poor horse standing nearby was hurt, the men afterwards becoming fast friends.
This season Joseph Levi, who was born February 24, 1872, died as an infant. In a society where males were at such a premium, it was a blow to his father. Frontiers are essentially rough and require much manual labor. Little Will was pampered more than ever. He expected more attention than he received and learned to demand it by sulking, an especially effective method with his doting sisters and mother.
This was about the time surveyors had made it possible for “squatters” - the only claim Mormons had on land was “squatters’ right” - to file on land under the homestead law which had been passed in Lincoln’s administration. Under the right of preemption and the timber claim, Matt went to Oxford where a branch of the federal land office was established and filed on 160 acres for a homestead and 160 acres under the timber claim; this half-section was one-half mile wide and a mile long, the northern half being the homestead.
At the same time his brother Byron filed on 160 acres directly east of Matt’s and the two worked together to build log cabins on their claims. To get cash for their needs, Matt furnished horses to Byron, who took them to construction camps and sold them after he had made them harness-wise. Byron also worked at grading the roadbeds. He had prepared himself to become an Indian interpreter, but most of the Indians had learned enough English at this time to take care of their needs. At this time Byron was always chiding Matt for his neglect of church duties.
Badly in need for cash, many young men came to Matt for teams to be broken so they could work on the railroad that was being constructed from Logan to Franklin, the Oregon Short Line it was called. Brigham Young and sons had taken the main contract and sublet much of this work to Merrill and Hendricks. After they had obligated themselves for harnesses, horses and equipment and had boarded themselves and worked for the winter, when time came for a settlement, these men were told when President Young got pay from the railroad company, they could call and get their money. Although the subcontractors were members of the stake presidency, less than 40 cents on the dollar was paid to the men who did the work.
Weather was good this year until after the holidays. Matt had cut a lot of fox tail hay from his flats, and was being joked about his fruitless and useless task of mowing fox tail for hay. “God has blessed this country so the weather won’t be so severe; we ain’t gonna have the snow and cold we used to have.” But in early January snow fell to the depth of about 2 feet and lay there until late spring. Those who had horses on the range saw many of them starve and freeze. It was this year that those who had worked on the Utah Central railroad learned they would get only 40 cents on each dollar they had coming to them. Matt’s horses ate his foxtail hay and pulled through the winter; “Any kind of hay is better than a snow bank,” he used to say.
There was much excitement when John Evans killed Robert A. Wilcox for visiting his wife while he was away from home. Evans waited until his victim had led his horse across a bridge; when well over the creek, Evans shot him in the back; then when he was down, he held his gun so close to Wilcox’s head that powder burns were found on his head. A jury cleared Evans for protecting the sanctity of his home. [This contradicts Fredrickson’s account, who said he got 15 years.] Those with endowed power of judgement, who know a little and say a lot, insisted Wilcox met his fate for attacking the revelation on polygamy.
To prove his claim on the timber land, Matt had to have two thousand or more trees growing at the end of three years. Hustling around he found cuttings of poplars, Balm of Gilead, and Box Elder seeds which he planted along the ditch banks for windbreaks. Going to Weber County he got pits from blue Orleans plums, green gage plums, German and Italian prunes, walnuts, silver-leafed maples - they were really poplars —weeping willows, lilacs, mock orange, Pottawatamie plums, in fact any kind of tree that would grow in the rigid climate with little water.
Such small fruits as gooseberries, raspberries, native currants, English currants, the black (bedbug) currants which have such a rich flavor, rhubarb, ground cherries from which preserves can be made - they have a sickly taste but because they bore a crop every year they were highly desirable, all these and more too, became part of the Fifield fruit farm.
Then he bought winter Permian apples, Wealthy, winter banana, golden transparent, pears, fruits of all sorts were planted on the place. He sold much of his crop to Bear Lakers whose climate was too cold to raise them; often he’d load up a wagon and haul it loaded with fruit to Bear Lake where he’d swap it for cheese, butter, and fish. The Bear Lakers also loved to come to Cache Valley to pick fruit of their own choice. This orchard became the paradise of the writer in his childhood. The trees were a haven for birds. The cool shade was a relief from the scorching desert sun, the fruit so tasty and sweet.
One of the first projects on the farm was digging a well. There at a depth of about 20 feet plenty of water was found, though high in limestone - it was called “hard,” it was potent and palatable; from it water was drawn in two oaken buckets on the ends of a rope which passed through a pulley hitched to a crossbar overhead. Travelers passing by would often stop to get refreshed from this well. Because a large number of horses and livestock were watered here, the water was always fresh. There is no record that it ever went dry.
Just south of this well, his first cabin was put up; it was typical of all pioneer cabins; the logs were peeled and laid up to about eight feet high; the cracks between “chinked” with split triangular poles and clay daubed in to keep out the wind and storm; at first there was no floor except dirt on which sand and straw was sprinkled and removed when dirty; two small windows and a homemade door through which tall people had to “duck” let in light and fresh air. It was heated with a fireplace, but the cooking was done on a stove. It is likely that Edwin Willard was born here, March 27, 1874.
This was an age of dried fruits and meats, either jerked and sun-dried or pickled in salt brine. Squash, pumpkins, apples, plums, grapes which are called raisins, even beans and corn were scalded and put out in the dry air and hot sun to dry. There were no screens to put over them, but Grandmother Fifield sensed the danger of having flies’ crawl over them and spread a flimsy cloth like that put around cheese over them. Because squash got ripe too late in the fall to take advantage of the hot sun, it was cut in rings and hung up on cords in the attic.
While the family was still on the town place, the girls wanted some fun in melons that Pete Christensen’s place on the north lot had raised. The girls disliked Pete because he was always telling tales about them which got reprimands from their father. Loss of his prize melons brought Pete over to the Fifields for another accusation. At first they denied the act; then Priscilla owned up. Pete chuckled; now he had something on these brown-eyed little scamps who reveled in tormenting him. When they weren’t promptly whipped, the old Dane complained that Matt was spoiling them.
So the offenders would meditate on their deed and wonder what justice he would mete out, their punishment was postponed, although ever day Pete asked what reaction the girls had taken to their fate. That was characteristic of Matt Fifield. Punishment given immediately after discovery and while the offended was angry was of little value; often it was too severe and the nature of the punishment was not commensurate with the sin. “Let em fret; it’ll do em good.” was his usual method.
About two weeks after the melons had been enjoyed, the girls were told to fetch their father some diapers; these he tied to a willow so they’d hang like a flag. “Now bring me an old tin pan,” Naomi complied. Giving her a stick to beat it with, he bade Julia and Orelia and Priscilla to hoist the diapers above their head as a sign of a truce while Naomi walked behind beating on the tin pan and to walk around Pete Christensen’s house three times. Tears streamed down the faces of these girls as they chanted, “We won’t do it any more.” This satisfied the neighbor. “It ban better dan a whoopin’, Matt.” And it was because everyone laughed except the offenders.
As a boy “Father’s pet,” Will, would run away from home; it didn’t bother him that the entire family had to drop everything and scout the village for him. Probably because his father, Joseph Levi, punished his boys by putting them in a sack, Will was treated in the same way. One day he laughed. “It don’t hurt me none,” he boasted. “We’ll soon fix that,” his father said; he put the boy’s head inside the sack and tied it, boy and all. That was effective; he later used similar methods on his own sons.
There was never a lack of things to be done in the Fifield household. One of the best sources for a constant cash income was butter and cheese. Accordingly several cows were milked, 10-20, and in those days girls did much of the milking. The milk was then set in shallow pans - first it had to be strained - and put in a cool place, usually a cellar so the cream would rise; every morning someone had to skim off the cream and put it in a jar. The milk pans, 20 to 50, were washed and scalded every day, and the milk carried to the pigs and calves. Depending upon the size of the herd being milked, churning had to be done, sometimes every day. This was done by hand and took from one-half to two hours, depending on the kind of feed the cows were grazing on. Then the butter had to be worked, salted and put in firkins, sometimes containing 50 pounds; when one was full, it was hauled to market, Franklin, Logan, Corinne. Sometimes cash was paid for it; other times it was taken out in trade.
But the dairy end was only incidental. Matt Fifield always kept a few sheep. These were sheared in the spring, and when the women weren’t busy with the dairy product in the “Buttery,” they were washing, carding, batting, spinning, and weaving this wool. Sometimes it was sold in skeins of yarn, and sent to the city where men, employed in business, bought it so their wives could work it up into cloth. Often there was the job too, of harvesting flax, soaking and breaking it, combing the fibers, and spinning that.
About this time, Samuel Preston set up a wool factory on the creek in Weston where he did the washing, carding and batting by machinery. This saved the women much time and they were glad the little Englishman, who learned his trade in Britain, had come to join them. Then it was the task of the girls to weave the spun yarn into linsey-woolsey cloth, a drab-colored, scratchy cloth that almost never wore out. To vary the colors, Grandmother used all sorts of dyes, rabbit brush flowers, saleratus, uric acid, saffron, indigo, and other pioneer dyes. Almost always they faded in the sun, as they were vegetable dyes; then their clothes were the drab, dirty-colored gray of nature. But to have something different women were willing to do much extra work.
With the advent of the railroad the factory made goods, “Store-bought” as many termed them, made their inroads into homes. Those with cash incomes discarded homemade furniture; it was considered a mark of distinction to be able to afford “States made “goods. Much of it was trashy and poorly made, the motive for manufacturing and selling it being profit only, as it is too often today.
There was little to break the deadly monotony of pioneer life but church attendance and the participation in entertainments which were put on to raise funds to support the church or school. Emulating Brigham Young, the impoverished Saints in the settlements put on theatricals, dances, programs and improvement meetings for which entrance fees were asked; if those wishing to attend didn’t have the cash, they brought whatever they had: hens, eggs, squash, potatoes, butter, which the committee trying to raise funds took to the tithing office and changed into Tithing Office script. This was too often discounted for various reasons, and while many gentiles accepted T. O. Script as payment for debts, they didn’t like it because the church officials discounted it more than they did that which church members brought in.
Aunt Naomi often told that one of her first chores as a girl was the task of washing 40 milk pans every morning. In her childish reasoning she felt that if there were no pans, they wouldn’t have to be washed, so she hid them in the tall wheat grass that grew north of the house, 20 of them. It didn’t take too much deduction to know what had become of them; a little pressure brought a confession; her mother thought scriptural punishment should be administered, but her more indulgent father said to let it pass. He seemed to sense that it takes age instead of punishment to make maturity in children.
No one who knows human beings doubts that there was favoritism in the Fifield family; Jane, Orelia, and Julia were “your children”; Priscilla was “my child.” Naomi, Willie and Eddie were “our children.” My mother who worked for Becky and knew much of her, said she was very prone to jealousy, so it can’t be doubted that “my child” and “our children” were favored more than “your children.”
The blessings of “celestial marriage” were being held up to church members at that time as a reward for obeying “counsel.” Although advised by many authorities to take more wives, Matt Fifield could never regard such counsel seriously. Nature had provided that an equal number be born; “there was a goose for every gander,” he protested. Another of his reasons for disobeying “counsel” in this matter was: “he’d take a chance on the glory of more bliss in the next world, to have more peace in this one he knew about.” He often said “Old Brig paid a good many debts with other men’s daughters.”
Since Grandfather and Grandmother were both married in the old Endowment house to other partners, they were never sealed to each other. Under Mormon church rules, he will have only the children born to Jane Almire Gibson for his posterity; all his children by Becky will belong to her first husband, Charles Lincoln. At one time this ruling was being discussed, and Aunt Priscilla, who was Lincoln’s only child said, “I’d almost as soon not go to the next world if I can’t have the only father I have ever known there too. Matt Fifield is the only father I have ever known; he loves me and I love him. No! It isn’t right that way.”
Matt’s usual trip to Salt Lake for conference was one event which gave zest to his life; there he met old friends and acquaintances, talked about old times, and what was most important, got new ideas about farming. On one of these he saw a new kind of plant growing on the farm of Christopher Layton, who had served in the same company as his father in the Battalion. The Fifield curiosity led him to the door to ask for a drink; in the course of the talk, Matt asked him about the plant and its purpose.
“It’s called lucerne,” Layton said, “I have a little seed I’ll sell you, if you’d like some, seeings as how you are Joe Fifield’s son. It’ll grow anywhere, produces many times as much hay as clover or grass, and will come up tow or three times every year, right away after it’s cut.” Having an extra dollar in his pocket, Matt handed it to him, and Layton measured out a tablespoonful, plus a little extra for “old time’s sake.”
After preparing a plot of ground, the lucerne was planted according to the directions Layton gave him, and in due time almost every seed came up. Next spring it really flourished and fulfilled every claim that had been made for it. No seed was produced, however, but Matt built his willow fence higher than ever so if the “tarnal stuff ever did make seed” he’d have a lot of it.
That fall after cutting a nice crop of hay off the little plot, his neighbor’s cows mashed down his fence one frosty morning and glutted themselves with the usual consequence; bloat and death. Grandfather never would say whose cows they were, but one of his first chores after the event was to take a hoe and cut out every stalk of alfalfa, or lucerne, as he called it. Feeling to blame for his neighbor’s loss, he gave him a choice cow so his little children would have milk.
Later his entire south field was planted to the wonder crop, alfalfa, and as much as 200 tons of hay were harvested. His neighbors also planted fields of it. It became the basis for much of the stock industry in Cache Valley.
The territorial legislature of Idaho passed, about this time, a law denying the vote to everyone who held to the Mormon faith. Those who knew the Constitution maintained the statute was unconstitutional, but few Mormons had the means to take it to court. To circumvent this shameful example of taxation without representation, church authorities advised its members in Idaho that there names taken off the church rolls long enough to vote: then to be baptized again after every election. Rather than to be a hypocrite, Grandfather ignored the subterfuge. “They’re scalawags on both tickets; why vote at all” Others followed the counsel, Byron for instance.
[a portion of the history is missing from this point for about two pages]
from Kaysville called “fox” Parkinson, his legal name being Samuel R. Parkinson. Stories of his shrewdness preceded him, but always willing to give a man the credit of a doubt - hearsay is a liar and it’s a fool that will believe it —Grandfather bargained for and bought a Walter A. Wood mowing machine, delivering a firkin or so of butter, several skeins of yarn, a heifer with some cash to boot. He insisted on and got a receipt when he loaded the machine, putting it in his pants pocket. Parkinson told him to be sure to put the receipt where he could find it, but Matt took it as a sign the man was honest and neglected to take the advice.
A few months later one of Parkinson’s sons called to get what was due on the mowing machine. Matt told him it had been paid for and that he had a receipt for it. “Will you let me see it?” came a suave request. Grandfather fumbled through his pockets, with a thought in his mind that maybe Becky had removed it when she washed his pants—she was always washing them, he supposed, just to get an excuse to go through his pockets - then asked, “Did you see a receipt in my pockets when you washed my striped brown pants?”
Young Parkinson snorted and Becky laughed her indulgent chuckle. “I cleaned out your pockets, if that’s what you mean; you know I always do.” But the receipt was nowhere to be found. The smooth-tonged collector was sent on his way with the promise the receipt would turn up and Matt would be in to settle with his father. There was a smugness in Becky’s manner that made her husband suspicious. It was he won’t to teach him a lesson; he realized he needed lots of them, growing up as he did, practically an orphan.
In a short time another Parkinson called to collect with the same results; assurance that the mower had been paid for and that Matt had a receipt. Then “Fox” himself came. He was more insistent and threatened a bishop’s trial unless something practical was done. This made Grandfather angry. Parkinson knew that the mower had been paid for. He also knew that his reputation for paying cash for all he bought and that his reputation for honesty would clear him in a bishop’s trial. But he fretted about it, Ordinarily, Becky would be jawing at him; now she was noncommittal. At any rate Matt didn’t intend to pay twice for the mower.
The bishop’s trial took place. Parkinson, suave and pseudo-sympathetic, said he knew Matt Fifield’s reputation for honesty was unchallengeable, but supposed that he had forgotten there was a balance, just because it was his custom to pay for what he bought. John Maughan gave the Fifields a good name and regretted that the case had to come before him. To get out of making a decision, he referred the matter to the stake high council. Parkinson made a lot out of this postponement; it was costing him a lot, he said, in time and money to chase around collecting bills from people who wouldn’t pay; Matt countered with “It’s costing me a lot to keep from paying for things twice. You know as well as I do that I payed for that mowing machine.
That was an inference that Parkinson’s integrity was questionable. “I shouldn’t have sold it to you in the first place.”
“That’s right. I should have gone to Corinne and bought it from a Gentile.”
Then came the high council meeting. Becky insisted on being present. After the accuser made his charges, Becky tripped up to the stand, laid a piece of paper on the desk and asked, “Is that your signature, Brother Parkinson?” After, everyone was sorry and hands had been shaken all around, Matt took his wife over to Isaac Nash’s new store and bought a dress. He admitted he had a lesson coming to him but she emphasized it by warning him to stay away from people whose deeds had earned the sobriquet “Fox.”
While trading with Nash, one of the members of the high council came up to Matt and asked why the people of Weston had not established a coop of their own. Grandmother immediately took the matter up; the idea pleased her greatly. Before leaving the store, it had been arranged that someone would call at Weston for the purpose of organizing a store. Matt began to talk the idea up at all meetings and soon there was considerable interest. But it took some time to get the movement going; few people at that time had the necessary $25 required to buy membership.
The cold weather of Cache Valley made sheds a necessity; all of us who lived on the old farm knew how Grandfather’s shed was built of slabs faced together with nails and standing upright, nailed to horizontal poles top and bottom. Across these poles aspen poles were laid at regular intervals, willows laid crosswise and straw piled high and deep over these willows for the roof. When the English sparrow invaded America they would burrow up into the straw and make nests from which a brood would be hatched every month of the year. These sheds were warm in winter and cool in summer; furthermore the roofs could be used for forage when hay ran short, which it often did in Pioneer Idaho.
Malicious grins grace the faces of Weston historians who write, “Matt Fifield was the first to bring wild morning glory to Weston.” They fail to take into account the fact that it was customary to bind all grain in those days so it could be hauled into the stack to “sweat” or cure. Since grain was apt to be short in that dry country when drought appeared, it was not possible to bind the grain with straw as was the usual practice. Twine was not available: no one had money to buy it anyway and all grain was cut with a cradle. “Bindweed” is a term for morning glory and goes back to the time when it was planted for the purpose of binding grain. Since it grows easily without water, the logical solution to the lack of material to bind their grain was to plant it in the fields.
It was not practical to raise more than an acre or so of grain, as it had to be harvested before it got very ripe or else it shattered and fell to the ground. Few men could “cradle” more than a half acre a day; it was very strenuous work, and since there was no way to thresh large quantities - the grain was flailed out and winnowed by hand. In addition to its use for binding grain, the morning glory had a sweet, succulent root which pigs relished. After harvest the pigs were turned into the wheat fields; there they picked up wheat kernels and rooted up the soil for the “bindweed” roots, thus preparing it for the inadequate plows of the pioneer. A heavy harrowing and leveling with a go-devil was all that was needed to raise another crop of grain.
After the mowing machine was invented, little genius was required to put a side rake together. A reel which swept the loose grain onto a table and then, every few times the driver of the implement could touch his foot to a lever, and the rake would sweep the accumulated grain off the table to the ground, where it was picked up by binders and tied into bundles, and shocked into piles, heads off the ground for curing.
After the side rake came the wire binder, which was termed the last great invention possible. But careful as the farmer tried to be, wire found its way into threshing machines where it was chopped into short pieces and found its way into stomachs of cattle; this caused the death of many livestock and the wire binder had to be discarded. Farmers went back to the side rake.
Then came the twine binder; as usual Matt Fifield and the Fredricksons, who lived above town, were the first owners. After the practice of dry-farming was proved practical by Christopher Layton, a Battalion veteran who introduced the idea of summer-fallowing as a means of storing two years supply of moisture for a one-year crop, larger grain fields became common. The “north field” homestead section was plowed up and planted into wheat. Later in his farming operations the header was introduced; this made possible cutting the heads from the short grain stalks, and lifting it into “header boxes” from which it was unloaded and stacked. It was considered the “ultimate” in grain harvesting.
For some unsolved reason, Weston was chosen by church authorities as a haven for Scandinavians. “In the early day” the town was called, “Little Denmark.” Much of the preaching was done in Danish, even though the presiding elder was unable to understand it. It was a Dane who said, “A Dane ban yust so goot as a vite man so long as he behaves himself, yah?”
At one of these church gatherings, it was “fast Sunday” one devout brother rose to give thanks to God for His goodness. He had come before the railroad made travel easy, sometime before 1869. The gist of his story runs like this but not told in his naive rich brogue. Print won’t convey the priceless charm, the sincere naivete of these good people.
When he and his bride arrived at Iowa City, the gathering place of those Zion bound, they invested in a wagon and yoke of oxen. With the wagon was a box of Lightening axle grease. The dealer showed Ole how to lubricate his wagon and told him to put some of the axle grease on the hub every day; if he did, there should be no further trouble. After a couple of days on the prairie, the wagon began to squeak, so Treena told Ole he’d better pray to the Lord for the wagon to stop squeaking. But Ole’s prayers were not effective; he entreated Treena to use her influence, all to no avail. Concerted prayers were no more effective: the wagon went on squeaking. Then Treena say, “Ole, vy you don’t put some Lightening axle grease on de vagon?” He did and the wagon stopped squeaking. “Now, bruddern and sistern, Aye know de gospel ban true.”
The winter of 1875-6 was very severe, snow falling to the depth of 30 inches, and held on for more than three months. Wind which blew snow from the slopes facing south was all that saved the cattle. This was the winter when all his fox tail hay and bunch grass put him ahead. The brethren who laughed at his “Yankee stinginess” became envious, when, in the spring of the year, he had nearly his entire herd left. They had nothing.
Wesley was born December 21, 1875; it began to snow Christmas day and what fell was still on the ground in April. Since this brought lots of moisture, crops were exceptionally good. High waters in June washed out all bridges over Bear River and the narrow gauge railroad to Franklin was too busy to haul grain. Of necessity farmers had to freight grain to Corinne again, about a full day’s trip. Many, instead of taking their grain to Corinne, hauled it north to the mines in Montana. The difference in what they were paid there more than compensated them for their time, they claimed.
Some of the brethren were backsliding fast. One who hadn’t paid tithing for years was called on to turn in one of his choice steers to the “Lord’s account.” The churchmen were to pick it up after the fall roundup. During the summer, lightning killed one of his two steers. But the tithing collector, who knew of it, called just the same. “Oh, no!” was the erring brother’s protest. “The Lord killed his steer.” That was a sample of the waywardness of the Idaho brethren. Something practical was done about it.
Because of Old Brig’s health, although he was still a power to reckon with, the general condition of the church was the poorest it had been since leaving Council Bluffs. What strength Brigham had was used up combating the federal government, and the Godbeites who sought to divorce religion from political and economic matters; the latter felt when the church had used its influence on spiritual matters it had accomplished its purpose. The federal government sought to separate the state from the church.
Most of the natural leaders in Weston were sympathetic with the above motives; even John Maughan, presiding elder had bought where his money would go furthest; his financial affairs would permit no other course. With stake headquarters at Logan, it was difficult to control the buying of the Westonites, especially when they had to haul their produce to Corinne to market. It was felt by stake authorities that someone was needed in Weston who would report what was going on there.
Accordingly they set out to find a trustworthy man to fill the position. A son-in-law of Brigham Young’s recommended a young policeman, Alexander A. Allen for the position. He was one who would follow council, report deviations from the straight and narrow and bring the erring rebels at Weston into line. Bishop Maughan was called on a mission to Arizona and it was announced that Weston would be made into a full ward.
Grandfather knew the new bishop when he was living with his stepfather, Joel Ricks, in Farmington. He knew of the oppression he had suffered at Rick’s hands. He also knew him at Bear Lake where he had gone to live with his sister Amerette who had married Lewis Ricks, a son of the old man. There his sincere manner and tall, handsome personality won the confidence of everyone.
Early in the spring, Alex Allen arrived in Weston seeking a place to put his family. There he saw his problem wasn’t going to be easy. There was a quarrel about water rights, the very early settlers claiming priority. “When we have enough for our crops, we’ll let you have some,” was their attitude. To unite them, he set about to build a new church, the old one being too small. Lumber was bought from Charles O. Card’s mill in Logan, at which the critical carped: since the price was about the same there was elsewhere, they couldn’t make much of the issue. Everything seemed on the mend and a good spirit prevailed. The genial disposition of the bishop’s wife, Maria, completely won the confidence of almost everyone.
Then Becky’s mother died; this greatly affected the family. Pricilla Gifford Hoopes was a woman of strong character and Becky depended on her to make her decisions. She was the woman who took care of Matt’s three girls, Jane Almira, Orelia, and Julia Ann, when their mother died seventeen years previously. Her influence over Matt was decidedly for the better; almost a mother to him, he too grieved at her loss. But time reconciled them to their great loss.
During this summer Weston was almost deserted. To get money to feed their families residents moved away to Dunnville, a temporary railroad terminal east of what is now Clifton. There it was possible to buy eastern-made goods with the wages they got. Others freighted to the mines in Montana; the gold mines at Virginia City were booming and there was a market for almost anything the Weston farmers had for sale. Although Bishop Allen tried to divert some of their trade to Logan, he was sensible to their problems, even though the authorities brought pressure to bear on him. “You can’t expect them to buy in Logan for the same price they can get it at Dunnville,” he explained.
When Weston learned General George A. Custer had been massacred on the Little Big Horn they were apprehensive. “What if the Indians, to escape the almost certain punishment of government troops,” they worried, “should come this way?” When news reached them that Chief Joseph, who had fought a winning battle, in northern Idaho, was on his way southward from the Big Hole country where the Montana gold mines were, great fear was expressed. Indians near abouts began to get saucy, and though Matt was 47 years old, he was called out to drill again. Being away from his farm twice a week greatly affected his farming operations.
This year crops were a total failure. Crickets and grasshoppers ate up everything that came up. Matt was saved from disaster by selling his good-sized herd of sheep to the mines. His horses were sold down to just breeding stock; his cattle went for beef. The frugality of Becky and her stores of dried fruits from previous years, made it possible for Matt to get along without undue hardship; what spare time he had, was spent in freighting what he raised to Montana and to the Oregon-bound immigrants, who despite the railroad, were still trekking to the west coast. They had to get their stock and household goods to their destination and though the trip was long and difficult, they found it better than spending all their cash for railroad fares.
One of the leaders against church domination was “Old Man” Fredrickson. When told to do as he was told, he spunked up to tell them he would do as his reason told him was best. For this, Bishop Allen “cut him off” the church. Warner Hoopes and Matt Fifield, with others, urged Brother Fredrickson to take the matter to the high council; when he protested that his Scandinavian brogue was against him, Grandfather offered to be his spokesman. But the proud old Dane had had his fill. He had lived before he joined the church and he could still live after being cut off. His fate, however, deterred several others from speaking their minds.
Matt’s success in farming the clay bottoms east of town induced others to settle east of town. Adam Campbell, who had come from “Dixie” because of the hard scrabble there, took land south of Byron’s. Dan Hoopes filed on a claim south of that. Before long there was no place to run the cattle except the “school section, a mile north of the place. Barbed wire was coming on the market; that greatly influenced preemption in northern Cache Valley. To get cash, men went into the mountains near and far to get cedar (juniper) post for fencing. These cut during the winter would last 30-50 years without rotting and were much in demand. How Grandfather regretted cutting it for charcoal making 20 years before.
It was in August this same year that Brigham Young died. Many felt that with him out of the way, there would not be the restrictions on their political and economic activities there had been. Persecution for polygamy was acute and severe. John Taylor, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, was the logical man to succeed him, but he was “in hiding” because of his many wives. Some looked for Young Brig to take over, but those who knew him best were aware that he could not follow in his father’s footsteps. John W. Young’s antics, his apostasy at one time, with his reputation for branding cattle in Arizona that didn’t belong to his herd, removed his claim for successor to his father. There were two or three years when the leadership of the church was rather flimsy.
In general Matt stuck to farming. There was a good market for butter and beef. Pork, also brought a good price. Since by-products of dairy farming, skim milk, could be used in fattening pigs, which could be killed, salted down, and sold in the form of salt pork, Matt intensified his efforts in this line. He was under no cloud because of polygamy and would be left alone while others of his neighbors were dodging the “Feds” as U. S. Marshals were called.
Although the founders of out country railed against “taxation without representation,” their descendants saw nothing wrong in denying the vote to the Mormons for worshiping God according to the dictates of their consciousness, the means being the Edmunds-Tucker anti-polygamy law. To get complete control in Idaho, the Idaho passed legislature passed a disfranchisement statute about this time which prohibited voting by anyone who believed a creed which taught bigamy. As a result, Mormons in Idaho had their names taken from the church rolls just before election and were baptized shortly after. One side was as sinister as the other. It was a ruse Grandfather scorned to stoop to.
September 26, 1877, Julia Ann, Matt’s youngest daughter by Almira Jane Gibson, married John Henry Campbell at Clarkston, Utah. He was the son of Grant Campbell and Ellen Hanks. His father married in polygamy, leaving John Henry to take care not only of his mother’s family but also of his second wife’s family. To do this the six-two giant went to work in the mines until his brothers and sisters were able to take care of themselves. He never allied himself with the Mormons because he felt any religion which countenanced the desertion of helpless women and children to support such heartless practices was not righteous. He had the respect of everyone, members and nonmembers alike. Whenever troubles struck Weston, John Henry Campbell was there to help. Julia bore him 16 children, among which were two pairs of twins.
During the polygamy hunt the federal government paid its marshals by giving them a bounty for catching a “co-hab,” the term for anyone living with more than one wife. Many of these marshals had personal friendships with polygamists which kept them from arresting them; indeed some of them sent word to offenders when other marshals were near and aided them to escape. Matt’s nephew, Charlie Fifield, was one of them.
Another boy was born to Becky and Matt June 29, 1877; they named him Albert Moroni. Will was now seven and able to ride the hills north of the place for horses and to do many chores about the farm, but still the work fell on the girls, Naomi and Priscilla and dairy work in those days was heavy work. Since he had so much work to do, Grandfather had to hire men to plow, and work in hay and harvest fields.
The meeting house which cost the little ward $800 was completed. As usual it united the people, but almost as soon as done dissention began over water. To solve it, a reservoir project was begun south of town, with Bishop Allen as consulting engineer. When about half full of water, the dam broke out; those who were critical blamed him, saying he knew next to nothing about engineering. This was also the situation when the ward bought an old threshing machine which he tried to manage. It also broke down after two weeks when the power unit, a horsepower with seeps, went out. An old time thresher man, John Bird, was induced to come work on it; after some time he had it going again and threshed all the grain near around.
There was little that was of great interest in the next few years. Barbed wire came into general use; timber became scarcer; dry farming became a more general practice. Circular saws were introduced, Matt’s son-in-law, Andrew Quigley, being the first one to use one in Cottonwood Canyon. The railroad reached Black Rock on Portneuf river; high water washed away a section of the soft roadbed near Weston, which gave many of the men there a chance to pick up extra money by regrading it. Matt was bringing his north field into cultivation by plowing and grubbing sage brush off by hand. He had only the “foot-burning” hand plow pulled by two span of ponies.
This year Becky prevailed on Matt to build a new house. The old one was south of the well, but the new one was over toward the brow of the hill north and west from the old one. On this he put a shingle roof - the one on the old one was earth; a cellar was put under the new house; a slope on the north side. He also bought a lot of fruit trees, making a trip to Bountiful to buy them. January of 1879, the Utah and Northern railroad engaged several Weston men to cut ties on the mountains near McCammon; they boarded themselves and made upwards of $2 per day.
There was a long drawn-out lawsuit over water about this time. Those who were early settlers felt they should have priority, but the church tried to make them divide with those who came later. Bishop Allen, in trying to settle matters made himself unpopular with the first settlers, but the later comers supported him. When taken to court in Malad, the judge settled in favor of the old timers. They then agreed to divide water with those who needed it for gardens, if they would build a storage reservoir up Big Canyon.
1881 was a dry year. There was considerable unrest because of Mother Shipton’s prophecy that the “world unto an end will come, in 1881.” Since all other of her poems rhymed, couplets came true, many of the superstitious believed this one would. They cited Joseph Smith’s prediction that if he could live to be 80 years old, he would be able to see the face of Jesus. One who took great stock in this was Matt’s sister-in-law, Lucy Jane Fifield, Bryon’s wife.
Becky was giving Matt much trouble about this time. There were times when he lived at Byron’s all the time, working on his place during the day but eating and sleeping away from home. She was beginning to put on lots of weight and was not well. Those who know symptoms felt she was developing what is known today as sugar diabetes. She was having her children fast, working too hard, and eating too much rich food. March 31, 1879 she gave birth to a daughter whom they named Melissa, after Becky’s sister, Billy McCarrey’s wife.
As an old timer, Matt was called upon to be a witness in the lawsuit at Malad about water rights. After spending all day in the courtroom, he decided to ride back to Weston that night by moonlight. After crossing the divide into Big Canyon he became thirsty and decided to ride down to the creek to water his pony. The horse snorted as he neared the stream, so he tied it up and went down the bank where he lay flat and drank from the stream. A large service bush was near; liking the sweet, succulent fruit, he picked a hand full and ate them. Finding them scarce, he walked around the bush and stood face to face with a mother bear with two cubs. She paid little attention to him, going on with her work of getting berries into the mouths of her babies. Glad of her indifference, he went up the hill, mounted his pony and gave her full rein.
Unused to barbed wire, horses of that time cut themselves to pieces by running full speed into the fences. Hoping to avoid this, Matt tied poles to the top of his fences; it was a costly, tedious task, but what he saved in horses more than paid him for his time.
In 1882 Becky’s Grandfather Gifford died. He had come to Weston in 1865. Warner Hoopes sold his holdings in Weston and went to Arizona where his sister and her husband Levi Allen had gone a few years previously. About this time, Becky’s uncle was reported to have killed three men at Fort Hall. It seems they were gambling, and Jonathan Hoopes, in an altercation pulled his gun to get his lost wages back. He rode to Mendon, got in an Arizona bound wagon and rode clear to Salt Lake under cover. While the wagon was stopped there, he peeked out and saw a man he despised. Jumping out, he gave him a terrific beating, got in his hiding place and went on to Mesa where he became very religious. In the Life of Charles C. Rich, Hoopes is mentioned as a man with undaunted courage. When Joseph C. Rich called for men to go after outlaws, Hoopes was first to volunteer. After locating the seven tents comprising the “robbers’ roost,” Hoops and a man named Wilson crept into the tents while the thieves were asleep, and took all their guns. This made for an easy capture. Hoopes is also mentioned several times in the story of the “White Indian Boy,” by Uncle Nick Wilson and Howard R. Driggs. Legend tells us they were related.
The heavy spring run off of water from Big Canyon led to the work of building a reservoir at the narrows. All work was voluntary. Because he had plenty of horses, Matt lent several of them to the ward, as well as plows, scrapers, fresnos and other means of moving dirt. Not only did he go himself; he also sent Will, then about 12 who did the work of a man.
With the coming of railroads, the opening of mines, and the advent of the Gentiles, a market was provided for what the Mormons had to sell. Grain and hay could be sold to the numerous freighters who hauled ore to the railroad terminals. Beef was much in demand as was butter, eggs, pork, and dried fruits. Matt’s family spent most of their time producing such items for the market. As a result they had more comforts; one of Matt’s slogans was: no one is so far from market as the man with nothing to sell. His farm was stocked with ducks, geese, turkeys, goats, sheep, guinea fowls, pigeons, and all sorts of fowl, even peacocks. He had laid it out after the manner of the plantation; visitors were much impressed.
April 16, 1881, a daughter who was named Rebecca Ann was born. She married Ethan John Allen, son of Bishop Allen and Elizabeth Clarke. About two years later a son, Thomas Alma was born, July 10, 1883. While still a boy, he lost an eye in an accident.
About this time Becky’s daughter Priscilla married Benoni Campbell. He was supposed to be an orphan who lived with Adama Campbell who had come to Weston from southern Utah - the town was called Pocketville or Virgin. There was much confusion about his parentage. Adam’s wife claimed he was her son, but Adam said otherwise, that another boy was her son. The matter came to court and while the woman was on the witness stand, she fell over dead. Self-appointed judges of others pronounced it a judgment on her for lying. Doctors today would like to pronounce it as heart failure. Adam had a place south and east of Grandfather Fifield’s and north of Dan Hoopes.
Benoni and Priscilla had no children of their own. They adopted one of Jane Quigley’s children, Edward, when she broke up with her first husband. It is said that they were not good to him and that he ran away from them one night and went back to Oxford where his mother lived.
In those days of willow and pole fences, much trouble took place between neighbors whose cattle would get in each other’s places and destroy much grain and other crops. After lucerne became a common forage crop, breechy cattle would dash down the willows, get in the fields and bloat; this caused ill feelings too, one side blaming the other. When barbed wire was introduced, it cost 13 cents a pound with staples 35 cents. Since they ended much of the trouble, people willingly paid for it.
The Weston United Order, inaugurated at the time of the dedication of the Weston meetinghouse in 1877, was something Grandfather did not go into; he’d had experiences in signing over property in Ogden and he wanted none of it. Although several of the devout looked down their noses at him for his aloofness, his experience had taught him the “Order” was all right for those at the head of it when it broke up.
At the organization of the Weston Co-op, however, he took stock. Bishop Allen was president at first, but after three years he withdrew. He tried to keep matters straight but was too much dominated by those in authority, paying prices that were not in keeping with those at Corinne. Matt stayed with the co-op for several years. He said that the nearest he ever came to leaving the church was when it was made mandatory to sell liquor through the coop. It never made any profit; men high in authority always had to take a “wee drop for their colds,” or to clear their throats and that practice ate up the margin. Matt had no use for anyone who would make and sell the “stuff,” no matter what his standing. He had seen too many homes ruined by it; being outspoken on such matters, he made enemies of men who should have been his friends.
About this time, Oneida Stake was organized with headquarters at Preston. Near enough to attend conferences, he began to pay more attention to his church duties. He was now 53, with substance, a large family, and able to take time out for public duties. Since he spoke well on his feet and had a reputation for square dealings, he was made a council man, a position of trust and importance. Becky kept prodding him into looking after those who had been unfortunate, but her jealous disposition caused him grief if he went himself to help widows, or his daughters by his first wife. Since his son-in-law, John Henry Campbell, was ever on the look-out for ways to assist, Matt often furnished horses and equipment to plow their gardens, fields, or to get wood, paying his son-in-law for doing the work; it gave him an out to help Julia too.
With his family of boys to educate, he took an active part in schools. His girls by his first wife had been taught to read at home. Orelia taught school, and Naomi was preparing to teach, taking the necessary examinations given by the local school boards who hired them. One of the Fifields past time was a spelling class, carried on while carding wool, or doing other routine tasks. By such “hit and miss” ways many of the teachers of that period were prepared, it was the only way to get what education there was. Often girls were hired to teach because their parents were prominent in ward or stake affairs and “needed the money,” or someone was currying favor.
In 1885 Matt’s father-in-law, Warner Hoopes, returned from Arizona; the hot summers were too much for him. Samuel Preston built a carding mill on the creek; this put an end to “carding bees.” For some reason not explained it also brought a crisis in the water problem. Much of the Mormon commonwealth depended on water, although at this time the practice of dry-farming was easing the utter dependency on irrigation. Some men saw a future in raising wheat alone as a means of supporting their families.
Tired of fording Bear River, of foregoing trips during high water, Grandfather urged rebuilding the bridge below the Jonathan Hoopes place. Pressure on church members to attend stake conferences, to contribute for temples, stake headquarters, stake academies, church colleges, all kept pocketbooks empty. Those in authority had ways of learning the approximate income of each member, and then, as now, set the amount to be “donated.” Refusal to give his amount was “whispered about” as a sign of “backsliding.”
There was much speculation when it was learned that a national company had bought out the interests of the Young family in the narrow gauge railroad on the east side of Cache Valley and intended changing the route to the west side. Land values rose in Weston when surveyors began running lines and planting stakes through the fields. The survey crews were made up of strange young men, mostly non-Mormons. When their day’s work was done, they went into different towns and tried to make friends with the young people. Grandfather took the stand that to shun them, as was the Mormon custom, was wrong; but this put him in bad with most of his church members. He was always too tolerant to be trusted; this was the age and day of bigotry.
Mormon church officials were, for the most part, too busy eluding law officers to take much part in economic and social affairs. The sale of the narrow gauge railroad was probably forced on the church officials who owned it, and, because of being forced into the “underground,” sold it to get means to live in hiding. Polygamy was not all the joy it had been touted to be.
Many times polygamists came to Matt for a horse, or for hiding, and he always obliged. When he visited with Byron, the subject came up repeatedly in the presence of Charlie, who was a deputy marshal at the time. Matt pointed out that the constitution guaranteed religious freedom, and that, if the wives could put up with other wives, the innocent children of such marriages should not be made to suffer for disagreement in Mormon bigotry and Gentile bigotry. The two Fifield boys were not for polygamy; nor were they for persecution of innocents.
In 1887, Becky’s father died, which caused her much sorrow. But she had all her family by now, her youngest, Jesse Harrold, having been born September 22, 1885. Naomi, her oldest born in 1864, was now 21 and teaching a school in Utah. Strange as it may seem, a Mormon couldn’t teach in a government or state supported school in Idaho. During the winter months nearly all the young men who couldn’t find work went to school along with little tots half their age. Miss Nellie Merrick from Malad had a reputation for knowing the three R’s better than anyone. As a school patron, Matt had induced her to apply and get the job as teacher, and she proved a good one, sympathetic to the needs of the community.
This same year Oneida stake was organized. In spite of his politics - Matt was a Republican at a time when that party was fighting strenuously against the Mormon theocracy with its union of church and state - he was made a member of the stake high council. His generous nature and frank speech led to a feeling of enmity between him and the president of the stake, George C. Parkinson.
In spite of his large farm and the work to be done, he was always sending his teams to plow for some widow or poor emigrant couple with no means to work their land. One widow across the valley, Mrs. Lamereau, had reason to be grateful; that spring Matt’s three plows pulled onto her place and plowed the entire field. He lent her seed to plant, and let her boys use a team to work the ground after broadcasting the seed.
Years later one of the sons introduced himself to the writer at Rigby, Idaho saying he had heard me refer to “Grandpa Fifield.” “He’s as much my grandpa as he is yours?” he explained. “After my own father died, Grandpa Fifield made it possible for Mother to hold her farm and raise a family by his generosity and advice. Our whole family calls him Grandpa.”
The new railroad, taking off at Cache Junction and uniting with the road again at Oxford, cut off a piece from the Fifield homestead, about three acres in a triangular shape and not suited to farming practically. The town of Weston needed such a piece of land, one with water running through it and far enough away from town so none of the stench of putrefying meat and offal would offend. A committee composed of the town fathers called on Grandpa and asked him for the land. His reputation for donation was well known.
“How much will you pay me?” he wanted to know. “We supposed you’d donate it.” Peter Michelsen, spokesman for the groups said. “Well, I have a use for that land; I’m planning to make a pig pasture of it.”
Piqued at the rebuff, Michelsen said, “Matt Fifield, if you owned all the land in the world, you’d want a corner of hell for a pig pasture.” “Yes,” retorted the alert farmer, “and you’d be the first pig I’d put in it.”
By this time practically all spinning, carding, weaving, dyeing, and other similar home industries had ceased. Cloth was bought form stores, cut up and made into garments for the family wear by the women of the household. With his love of bargaining, Matt bought much that irked Becky. Once he bought a plaid pattern which pleased her very much. Hoping to please her more, he went back and got the entire bolt. Imagine the chuckle of the church members when the entire Fifield family walked into church all dressed in the same plaid. Another time Becky wanted a five-gallon tin can. Matt brought her a dozen, because he could get them cheap.
Often when the early pioneers had no use for an article and they needed something the Indians had, they would trade it off. One of Grandfather’s statements, when one of his children or grandchildren did something he didn’t approve was, “We’ll trade you off to the Indians.” Another of this terms for an item of no use, “It ain’t worth shucks’,” was often used. He liked to say, when he had paid for something in various ways, he had obtained it by trading it “for chips and whetstones.”
In 1890 Will and Thomas Preston opened a store, with John H. Clarke as the manager; he had been manager of the Weston Coop, a branch of the Z.C.M.I. and always contended that in buying from the main store, the owners of the Coop were being overcharged; the wholesale prices to the Coop were more than the same article could be bought for at retail from a Gentile. Even though Matt owned stock in the co-op, he’d go to Franklin and buy because he could do better there.
In a short time Preston brothers had nearly all the business, and the stockholders of the Coop had a “white elephant” on their hands. Grandfather almost gave his stock away. That something was wrong with the system, or the Z. C. M. I. is proved that people could go to Logan, Corinne, or Ogden and buy their needs and save money.
In 1890, Idaho became a state. Because the Democratic president, Grover Cleveland, had granted a full pardon to all the polygamists, many of the Mormons became Democrats in party affiliation. It was in Idaho that most of the persecution of the Mormons was put on them by Republicans, presidents of which party had appointed political hacks who sought to gain favor by meeting injustice to these poor people. Although church authorities advised the Saints to split about half and half into both parties, most of the Mormons in Idaho joined the Democrats, who then controlled the state. Both parties however held to the principal of “taxation without representation” which senator William E. Borah later denounced.
There were those who maintained that the Mormons were advised to keep an equal number in both parties because it would be easy for authorities to swing elections to the party that would give the church the best “deal.” Utah tried to get statehood at the same time as Idaho. Many writers claimed that the “Manifesto,” in which church president Wilford Woodruff had a revelation to discontinue polygamy, was a compromise between the church and the federal government so Utah could gain admission as a state.
Raids on “co-habs” stopped in 1890, but it didn’t stop men from living with their polygamous wives. Grandfather Allen’s last two children were both born after the Manifesto. So was Lucille Snow, daughter of Lorenzo Snow, who later became president of the church. But no one except the bigots outside the church expected men and women who had lived together to give up at once a religious principle they had been taught to believe in. Though many people, in and out of the church, talked, no legal persecution came of this violation of both church and federal law.
It was believed by most of those living under the reservoir up Big Canyon that someone put a charge of powder in the dam and willfully blew it up in 1891. It was a year of severe drought. Those with prior water rights were blamed, but no one could prove the deed. Those with later water rights claimed it was done so the old timers could buy land from the late comers at a low price. Since Grandfather was an early settler, it may be he was under suspicion; those who knew him well felt the was above such actions.
This year a steam thresher was brought to Weston by Lars Fredrickson and Pete Jacobsen. They used their steam engine to operate a sawmill they built up Deep Creek. Young men could get work almost anywhere if they had a team and wagon. To get a girl, young men felt they should have a buggy or surrey, and since it was easy to get money, although the wages were very low compared to present wages, these boys bought horses on credit from men who could trust them and worked at grading railroads. Will put in much time with four horses on a fresno. But economic conditions were rather shaky.
To win the Mormon vote, the Republicans appointed Stake President George C. Parkinson on the board of regents for the University of Idaho. While serving in this capacity, two of his sons were appointed to West Point. It was not like Parkinson to give one of these to someone else’s son. Parkinson helped put the university at Moscow, so far away that the Mormons could not send their sons to school there.
Groaning under taxes to build rural schools, the Mormons were also asked to donate for the Salt Lake temple, the Logan temple, the tabernacles and meeting houses, and to pay tithing in addition. It was a heavy burden in those days of so little cash. Most of them had plenty to do to keep the “wolf from the door.” Believing in education, Grandfather supported these institutions with generous gifts, both in money and labor.
In establishing the Oneida stake academy, the plan was to have students work their tuition out by learning such trades as cutting stone, making bricks, learning carpentry and building trades, as well as getting an academic education. The plan was excellent —it still is —but the favoritism in assigning young men to work soon brought it into great disfavor, especially by those not high in favor with the officials in charge of the enterprise. Sons of the favored few got high allowances for doing book work; those in the lower ranks did the menial work with low pay.
Just when Grandpa was made a member of the Stake High Council is not known. But because he owned good traveling horses and a light rig to visit the wards, he learned much that was going on; the disgruntled were listened to with sympathy and the assurance that their grievances would not reach authorities who would mitigate against them. It was better to be dead in Mormondom if the chosen authorities were not sympathetic.
In one ward a brother was chosen to be bishop whose only redeeming quality was his frugality. He owned a store, one he had taken over from a coop, and collected his debts with interest whenever possible. Widows quit going to the bishopric for relief; he pointed out that since his term, those on relief had not found it necessary to have help. Those in the high council signed and hung their heads if they felt sympathetic to the unfortunate. The self-righteous paid the bishop high compliments.
After a stake conference a member of the ward came to Matt and asked how such a man could get to be a bishop, and pointed out his many faults. Matt knew who recommended the man for the job, but was hesitant about committing himself. At last he said, “I don’t know how Brother ______ got to be bishop; that’s a secret from me too. But you can lay your bottom dollar that neither God nor the high council had anything to do with it.”
One spring morning while Becky was getting the family ready for church, she was in high dudgeon: the men folks had tracked up her freshly scrubbed floors with the red, sticky clay from the yard; even though her husband had hauled gravel for a week from the pit near Bishop Allen’s hill, the gooey clay was in and on everything. She berated Grandfather for selling the town places: “at least I could keep a clean house and could get the young ones to church without having them all stuck up with mud,” she chided.
Matt felt he had done the best he could and continued in the same way by holding his tongue. Covering the wheels on the spring wagon they rode to church in so she wouldn’t get her yards of skirt dirty, he calmly loaded the children and meekly got up on the spring seat beside his better half. When they reached a place where the ruts in the ungraded road were so deep that even a strong team couldn’t pull the wagon out, Becky discovered she had left her knitting at home. She jawed, and he said he was pleased: “you’ll get a minute’s rest,” he advised, but she would have none of it. “What will all the sisters think of me?” she fumed. “That lazy no-good Matt Fifield married,” they’ll whisper.
Grandmother’s face registered her feelings; few ventured to pass the time of day that sunny morning; she was secretly glad they didn’t. Going to an old Scotch lady, Grandfather gave her a silver dollar to lend him her knitting for the services. Almost blind, the grateful woman asked him how he knew she so sorely needed that money to buy some tea. “The Lord must o’ w’ispered it to ye,” she confided. “I’m sure He did, Sister Coburn,” he consoled her.
That Sunday Brother Hendrickson of Logan, who had just started a knitting factory in Logan, preached against working on Sunday. “The Lord, if he could look on this congregation, would think it was a knitting factory, “ he preached.
At this time Matt was wondering about his ancestors and cousins back in Vermont. After his death this letter was found among his papers:
June 25, 1892 East Plainfield, New Hampshire
Mr. Fifield: Dear Sir, we received your letter after much delay by being directed wrong but will now answer it. First will tell you who I am, the wife of George Q. Fifield, he being Samuel Fifield’s son my husband is 72 years old, his health is very poor, has been unfit to do any work for nearly five years but does some chores and does some trading in the way of speculating in most anything he can make a dollar. Now I will tell you of your father’s family.
Your father was one of nine children, five girls and four boys, Samuel, David, Calvin, Leavi were the names of the boys, Rosamond - she married William Forest- has been dead a good many years, Lois and Nancy were twins - they married two brothers, Jery and Gardner Philips - they lived in Ohio the last we knew of them. Betsy married a Brooks - Ben dead a long time. Polly was the youngest child and married Elijah Whiting - lived at Beaver Meadows, Vermont - one year and then died some 45 years ago. There were more or less children but all are dead except three, my husband and his sister and one daughter of David’s - there are three own cousins of yours living in this place that is all I know of your grandfather - has been dead about 50 years the last your grandmother about 35 years the last anyone ever heard of your Father was over 50 years ago they heard he had joined the Mormons and had gone to Salt Lake that was the last account until we got your letter which we were very glad to get.
Now the questions we would ask are for you to give us a little history of the family since your father went west and how he fared in the gold fields and all you think we would like to know and I will write and tell you again and give you more minute details of the families if it would be interesting to you to hear or if health and circumstances will permit come and see us and the old New Hampshire Hills among which was the Birthplace of your fathers.
Very respectfully yours Mrs. G. W. Fifield East Plainfield Sullivan County New Hampshire
So far as is known this is the only letter he had from his relatives. Matt went to the church authorities and asked to go on a mission so he could collect genealogy but they were not sympathetic to his request. He had the means, and was anxious to know as much as possible about his kin. Why one of his four sons who were later called on missions was not assigned to New Hampshire is not known either. There certainly could have been no harm in it.
The fall of 1892 was devoted to visiting the Salt Lake temple prior to its dedication. The completion of the railroad made it easy for the Fifields to go as all they had to do was drive to Cornish and board the train. To spite the Weston people who wouldn’t donate land to the subsidized railroad, they would not even give them a “whistle stop” there. Matt took his entire family, Byron offering to take care of the farm during their absence. There they stayed at the Levi Savage home, one of Matt’s particular friends. Savage was famous in Utah for founding “Old Folks” day and for his photography. Some of the pictures in this history are taken from his prints.
The Oneida stake high council decided this would be a good time to build a stake academy; work was slack, there was a depression on and since nearly all the work was to be contributed, the time was felt to be opportune for such a venture. Feeling that all his boys needed to have a trade, Matt allowed Will to go to learn the stone mason’s trade, a good one in the days before Portland cement was in general use. Besides there were other boys at home who could do the farm work and Will, now 23, had ideas about getting married.
Matt had traded his flock of sheep for part of a block in Weston, thus freeing one of the boys from the ever constant job of tending sheep. Since Will was planning on attending the school at Preston, he had allowed him to work out with a team and wagon on putting the fill in the “Big Slough” north of Weston and Will had also herded sheep for the Hatch brothers of Franklin. “A boy needed to get some experience and money of his own,” Matt contended although he could use him on the farm.
Edwin was his mother’s “pet.” When there were chores to be done, Ed would grab the Bible and begin to read. Seeing her son busy pursuing the word of the Lord, Becky would call one of the other boys to do the chore she had in mind; if they protested, she’d call her husband to enforce her command. In meantime, Ed sat with his nose in the Holy Bible, grinning at his skill in avoiding the galling farm chores. When it came time to go to Logan to school, Eddy got the first chance on the ground that he was more interested in learning than Will or the other boys. Later in life, this preference and partiality was held against Ed.
While still a member of the High Council, President George C. Parkinson asked Matt why he didn’t send his boys to the Oneida stake academy. Parkinson’s boys were going to school in Logan and Moscow, Idaho. “When the Oneida stake academy is good enough for Brother Parkinson’s boys, I’ll send my boys,” was what could be expected from Matthew Phelps Fifield.
Will married unexpectedly that fall; cleaning up the “old log house” out by the old well - it had been in use as a chicken coop. He moved his bride, Rettie Allen into that. Times were very hard, but the Mormons were used to that; they had had nothing but hard times since coming west. Edwin went to Logan to the Brigham Young college. But farm work went on as usual; there was plenty to eat and wear, and that was about enough to the poverty-ridden Mormons, who, since 1847, had been praying for that night and morning.
Then tragedy struck in February, 1895. Byron, while attempting to add some straw to stop the leak in his shed, fell through and was hurt inwardly. In addition he took a violent cold. After being sick only a week, Aunt Lucy sent for Matt to come and administer to him, but it was too late. Matt’s most constant companion through life passed on to immortality January 24, 1895, leaving a family of four sons and four daughters. As well as his widow, Lucy. As a brother should, Matt felt a responsibility in advising and contributing to his nieces and nephews, and sometimes sent them provisions from his own larder. Matt felt bad that By’s indifference to the church had ostracized them from the social standing needed, but that is characteristic of Mormonism: anyone not in the church is not fit to associate with. Instead of uniting people, the church divided them, husbands from wives, brothers from sisters, cousins, friends and others not in harmony with the teachings promulgated.
With no reason given, Matt was dropped from the High Council; many of the Weston people resented the action. Although it was a jolt to him, Grandfather said little: he had seen so many inexplicable events in his 65 years in the church that he grew to expect anything.
Becky was getting heavy on her feet; although she worked hard and long hours she seemed to get little done. Her temper flared up with little excuse; Matt asked her to take life easier, but she felt that if she worked harder her weight would get less. Asthma had always bothered her. Indeed, on the doctor’s advice, she kept a box of snuff in the clock and used it, much as she dreaded it.
By working hard, Edwin finished a four-year course in three; no sooner had he graduated, and he was called on a mission to Hawaii. Naomi’s husband Henry had been called to preach in Virginia. Like her father, Naomi was self-reliant and provident, but her father saw to it that she had plenty of coal, flour and other staples of subsistence. In short order, Will, father of three was called to a mission in Virginia; Box “B” then sent a “call” for Wesley and Albert in a very short time. Then came a request from Salt Lake for Ed’s wife, Margaret Cowley, to go to Hawaii to help him teach in the church schools there. Although there were to go without “purse or script” some sort of fund had to be furnished. To make up what his sons lacked, Matt donated. But he was no one to complain or ask why. The missionary furnished his own transportation in those days; the church paid his way home.
On one of his trips to Logan, Matt had seen a riding plow. When Alonzo Farrell of Smithfield asked for his opinion of it, Grandfather said, “When I get so tarn lazy that I have to sit down to plow, I want to die.” But Farrell and Fifield were two of the first owners of sulky plows in Cache Valley. At this time Matt was approaching seventy years of age, an age at present when the law forces men to retire. In order that his family might further the cause of the Kingdom of God, he was asked to work harder and longer than ever before.
As always hired help was unreliable; as the “Cleveland depression” passed young men found work elsewhere than on farms. If the work didn’t get done, Matt had to do it. The spring of 1899 was wet and cold, so Matt mounted his sulky plow so he could get a crop to help his four sons and the in-laws in the mission field. In his handling of the animals, a wood tick crawled off one of them onto him. One was also found stuck to Becky one morning. In this day the bite spot would be carefully disinfected, but in those days it was not known that the wood tick carried the germs for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
After a week or so, the couple complained of severe headaches and of being tired. When they could go no longer, they took to their beds. Experienced housewives prognosticated “spotted fever.” A doctor confirmed the diagnosis and treated them. They got no better; help from town came to do the chores, and unfinished farm work. Then a hot spell came in the weather. No one who knew the symptoms of the disease gave either one of the Fifields any hope. All their children not on missions were sent for, and all came.
Becky asked to have Matt come to her; he was in the parlor, she in the north bedroom. They were alone. Both knew her end was near. After he asked help to get back to his bed, she sang in a clear loud voice, “We Thank Thee, Oh God, for a Prophet.” Then she sank back into a coma. At four in the morning everyone knew she was with the ages. This was June 23, 1899.
The writer was sent with his brother and sister to stay with Grandmother Allen at the time of this death. Aunt Millie Allen took him to the funeral; two events took a permanent place in his mind, the song “Till the Resurrection Day” which was sung and being forcefully taken away from the grave when the volunteers began to fill the grave; I picked up rocks and threw at the offenders for daring to cover her up.
Conditions at the Fifield home were in bad shape. When the church authorities were asked to allow one of the boys to return, Wesley was chosen, although Will, oldest and with most experience and a family who needed him was the logical one. Rettie tried to get some of them to get things moving; all they wanted to do was feel sorry. Not only did she have to milk her own cows, but she had the cooking, dish washing and supervision of the place to see to. When events didn’t go to the liking of some of the daughters, she was severely criticized, for which she loaded her baby, Matthew, in her baby carriage and started to walk to her father’s place, a mile and a half distance.
Priscilla’s husband met her, asked what her troubles were, took her back, and boomed out his version. After that the family came to. But Grandpa Fifield would let no one except Rettie wait on him; she was the only one he trusted in his fever-ridden mind. He was especially hostile to church authorities. The emotional strain at this time was wrenching, but his mind was suffering from 106 degrees of fever. Pathologists today would understand and treat him accordingly. His brethren in the church pronounced him as “possessed of the devil.” But their prayers gave him no relief, and under the advice of George C. Parkinson, he was sent to the Sanitarium at Blackfoot, Idaho. It was excellent advice.
The change of scenery, plenty of nutritious, simple food and occupational therapy soon brought him back and after about two months, Uncle Wesley, who had come home by that time brought him home. His beard shaved off changed his appearance, until the writer didn’t know him. Grandfather accosted him with the question, “Do you know me?” “Uncle—Uncle —” were the uncertain words used to get his bearings. Then “Grandpa! Grandpa!”
Uncle Wesley had good business judgement and soon the place was going along again. Melissa, who had married Ambrose Maughan, March 21, 1895 when she was 16, took over affairs, and Rettie moved to her home in town. She didn’t feel able to carry the burden of cooking for the large group of hired men needed to run the big farm. Melissa didn’t stay long as cook, even though she had her sister Ann’s help, it was too much for her.
Because it was felt that Grandfather needed change and relief from the scene of his grief, he went to Logan to work in the temple, living in the meantime with his daughter Naomi and her five children. Henry had returned from his mission. He continued to gain strength and grew active again. Naomi was much like her father and under her guidance and encouragement, he went fishing, ventured into genealogy, and tried salesmanship.
Whenever he returned to the “home place” there were indications that the loss of Becky upset him emotionally; he decided to sell the farm to his boys. Accordingly the place was divided into six equal parts. Will was apportioned 30 acres on the extreme north and south ends. Ed took the next 30. West, Bert, Tom each getting their portion accordingly; Jess had sixty acres in the middle: it was full of hollows but had the house, orchards, and yards to compensate for the untillable land. Each was supposed to pay Grandfather something for the land but since the contracts didn’t stipulate the amount, that fact is not known. The girls were given the household furniture. Whether Almira’s girls got anything is not known, but it is likely they didn’t.
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