MY MOTHER - ELVARETTA ANNIE WILSON
Written by Her daughter Fern Watson Wood
When the first white people settled in Riverside, Idaho, in the year 1884, they found nothing but sagebrush and barren land. Land with Indians and wild range cattle roamed the country. In 1885 grandfather came and settled in a dugout.
The first white people were Emery LaRocque and Homer LaLabertis where the R.D. Poll family live - they came in 1884.
The next year, L.D. Wilson, Lot Adams, and the Terry Adam's families came. It was in 1885 that Grandfather and his second wife, Elizaellen, came and settled in a dugout while they built two log homes, Grandfather built these houses just alike for his wives and their families.
The new settles were given land under the "Homestead Right, " which gave each family 160 acres. When grandfather came there was a toll bridge where the Blackfoot Snake River bridge now stands. The fee for crossing was $3.00 for a team and wagon. This was a large sum of money for those days. Pedestrians could walk across for nothing. Several families would go together about once a month to go into Blackfoot by wagon to get supplies or they would leave their wagon and team by the bridge and walk across carrying eggs and butter into Blackfoot to exchange for supplies.
The Indians all lived on the south side of the river and on the reservation. They gave the settlers many scares and sometimes harmed them.
To feed the cattle, grandpa brought a little hay with him. He had to fight the wild cattle away and would be in danger of being trampled to death every time he went to feed them.
When grandfather first came, he brought his second wife with him, Elizaellen. Grandmother, Catherine stayed in Ogden and kept the two families and put them in school, until the homes were finished. Grandfather was an excellent carpenter and the homes were lovely and comfortable.
Both families were raised as one. He would have no feelings between the families and they grew up loving each other very much.
When the homes were finished, grandfather went to Ogden in a wagon to get Catherine and their children. Heber Bingham, a son-in-law, brought the family of Elizaellens to their mother.
It was very hot and travel was slow. The little sad family with their belongings and cattle slowly left the beautiful Ogden Valley where they had known so much happiness to make their slow journey to this new desolate country. Driving the cattle and horses, it took eight days to make the journey.
This was not the first exodus as Catherine and Lewis had both fled Nauvoo and came with the pioneers, settling in Ogden, when small children. Grandmother being just seven and grandfather was twelve so they had known hardships previously. When they had first settled in Ogden, there was no railroad, but he soon prospered. He built a beautiful farm home in Wilson Lane, a duplex, each family living in it, one on each side and here they lived happily as one family. Wilson Lane and Wilson Ward were named after this family. Mother was the first one born in Wilson Lane in this home, she being the seventh child. She was a beautiful cherished child having beautiful blue eyes and natural brown curly hair. The only blue eyed child in the families, so grandma always dressed her in blue and was so proud of her. Grandfather having two wives at this time, had to be in hiding much of the time as the Edmunds Law had been passed permitting only one wife. Grandfather wouldn't desert either family, so had to go into hiding. This necessitated a partnership and while in hiding, his partner stole his businesses.
Mother's uncle William Wiggins named her. He vas grandmothers only brother and was very fond of his little niece. He named her Elvaretta and much of her pleasant memories were childhood days spent in his home. He taught her a song and would sing it to her. -"Elvaretta on the Junietta". She and her half-brother Bert were near the same age and he was very good to her. It was sad indeed when they had to leave all their friends and loved ones and it seemed as though their hearts would break as the good-byes were said. Through tears they waved good-bye to a beautiful home and started on a journey into the wilderness of Idaho. Mother was about eleven years old when they left Ogden.
When they arrived in Riverside the sage brush was just being cleared off the land and the hard hot Idaho winds blew the soft dirt and sand in great clouds on their already parched faces and hair.
There were no Primaries, Sunday School, or Schools, or friends and few settlers. They indeed felt like they had stepped into a new world.
Grandfather wanted to get connected with the church so he sent his son-in-law George B. Wintle to see the Stake Presidency. On the way he met A.0. Englestrom of Baysolt, and he came down and organized a ward so they soon had a little Sunday School School, and Primaries. Mother was just a child, but was made a counselor to Elizaellen. She was president of the Young Ladies Mutual. It was not just a branch of Baysolt.
There was no school. Mother walked three and a half miles to a school way down near the standard home. School was just held three months out of the year - When you graduated from the 8th grade you could get a teacher's certificate to teach.
A log house was built for a school house. It consisted of one room, had a dirt roof - it was indeed a crude cold building in the winter. Their L.D.S. meetings were also held here, about a mile from her home. Mother was now about eleven years old. There was no transportation. There was one team busy on the farm. So the little children walked four miles to Blackfoot to pick berries - back home at night carrying their bucket of berries.
Mother now got work in Blackfoot and spent most of the week there. Blackfoot was now just a one -street small settlement and only one well. It wasn't long until grandfather had the land cleared for a beautiful fruit orchard and raspberry patch and vegetable garden. Grandfather had the first orchard and raspberry patch In Riverside. He was a very ambitious hard working man and grandmother and the girls soon had the dirt fruit cellar filled with big crocks of jams and bottled fruit, for their cold winter table.
Mother was about sixteen. It was a cold hard winter and they had a diphtheria epidemic in this little community. There was only one doctor and he did not know anything about this disease - a beautiful little girl died with it thinking it was tonsillitis. They had an open funeral and all the children contacted it. Mother had this dreadful disease soon and was near death. Her two cousins died and she stayed near death. Bishop Lillinquist came and sat by her bed for sometime. After he started home, going about one mile, something stopped him and told him to go back. He went into her room and asked her if she knew that she was going to die. She couldn't talk. He said, I am going into the other room. You pray in your heart and I'll know If you are going to live." Her eyes were set, she couldn't open them. But the Lord heard her prayer. He came back Into the room and asked her if she knew that she was going to live. She opened her eyes and said "Yes" she knew she would live. He stayed all night. In the morning he said "I have spent the happiest night of my life, because I saw the power of God manifested" and she made a rapid recovery. Mother was always religious, but now she had a great testimony that never left her, and-it has strengthened the testimonies of her family and we have always loved Charles Lillingquist. If there ever was a man who could call down the blessing of the Lord it was be. His father was a patriarch and gave mother her beautiful patriarchal blessing.
The Riverside Ward was soon organized. Grandfather donated sixty acres for the town sight. The church was built. L.D. Wilson and sons built the first church and the Riverside Ward was organized with George B. Wintle as Bishop and L. D. Wilson and S.F. Adams as councilors. Mother was president of the 1st Primary in the new Riverside Ward and remained so until she married and moved to Thomas.
Their life began to brighten now and many good times were had here in this little ward. It was here one day that a fine young Mormon boy, who was the druggist in Blackfoot named John Watson came down to attend church and mother met him and the courtship began. He and his brother were the only Mormon boys in Blackfoot. They did not see each other too often as John had to work and sleep in the drugstore.
In the meantime, mother worked and attended school in Blackfoot. Here she saw John more often. She also went back to Ogden and lived with her sister, Zella Bingham and attended school there in Wilson Lane. During this year she was fortunate to be able to attend the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple and also met President Woodruff who was president of the church and dedicated the temple. An experience she always cherished. Never had she felt the spirit of the Lord so manifest.
The romance was progressing & after five long years John and Elva left by train for Salt Lake City to be married In their beloved Salt Late Temple and were married for time and all eternity.
After their return, they lived In Blackfoot where John was druggist of the first drug store. This was on 15 April 1899. He has been druggist seven years previous to this time. Father had filed on a homestead in 1895 and they had to move down on this homestead to save it.
Mother came down with her beautiful, wedding clothes and lived alone for two months until he could train another druggist who could replace him. This was the year 1899.
Her sweet girl friends would come and stay and help break the lonely day and night. Father gave her a beautiful horse so she could go to her mother's often.
Mother loved this beautiful dapple sorrel trotter - a choice safe horse.
One night mother was alone. She heard a window break by her head. She got her gun and 'was going to shoot when her horse stuck its head in the window. It was cold and lonesome and had come to the house. She had many frightening experiences while living here alone, but never complained.
There wasn't any water, not even a well. She had to haul the water even to her precious little trees.
More families moved into the community and it grew. The Thomas Ward was now organized the 13th of September 1903. Elvaretta Wilson Watson as the first Primary president, Lucy Hemonway, and Lillian Parson as counselors. Drucilla Dance as secretary. They remained in office until 1905. There were 27 children enrolled. There were no cars or telephones in Thomas then. John would unhook his horses from the plow so they could go to Primary and their meetings.
There was no other transportation. They did not have lesson books like we have. They took their lessons out of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Primary progressed and she loved her work with these good sisters, and her testimony grew as they studied the gospel together and taught: the little children.
At this time Elva had two sons, Lester and Arthur. It was April and she was expecting her third baby. April was a very wet month. The roads were just soft clay and the buggy would sink up to the wheel hubs. Their doctor couldn't get there so the last few days before the baby came, they took Elvaretta to Blackfoot to her husbands parents and here the first daughter was born and they named her Fern. It was some time before they could return to the farm. But she said April Showers brought May flowers & soon all was beautiful again.
As her little family grew the farm and home became a beautiful spot. Many were the hardships and she worked very hard by John's side - It was a constant battle to subdue the soil and fight the elements of the early years on this desert land, but always joyous occasions were more to be remembered and she never could be discouraged.
She has always been a faithful church worker. Besides her Primary work, she has been a Theology teacher in Relief Society and secretary and worked in the Genealogical Society. Elvaretta has a beautiful alto voice and enjoyed singing In the choirs.
John built a lovely rock home - cutting the rock and painting it himself. It was a joyous spot to raise her family. There was joy and sorrow, bit the home was a happy place, as nine children grew up together - five boys and four girls. Here they were taught the gospel - to lave it above all else and we all had strong testimonies.
The children's friends gathered here and were always welcome. The long dining room table was always filled and surrounded with young people and loaded with good food.
Elvaretta and John love music and the fine cultures and every effort was made and no sacrifice too great when it came to getting musical instruments and seeing that their children had an education.
Elvarerta was always a devoted daughter and the last years of her mothers life were made happy by her care. She and John gave her constant loving care until her death. Elva was so proud of her heritage.
Her grandfather was chosen one of the first high councilmen of the Church as found in Sec. 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 132. Where he, "Dunbar Wilson" was chosen one of the eight to be chosen for the cornerstone of Zion.
He was a constant. companion of Joseph Smith as he married into the Smith family and they travelled together. He was a bodyguard of Joseph Smith during his last days. Her father was born in the same place and same year as Joseph Smith in Vermont, and they had many choice experiences together. George A. Smith converted the Wilson family.
Elva's father could tell many stories about Nauvoo as told in his history. My mother was always a friend to all. She loves her friends dearly and her neighbors.
At the time of this writing she is 87 years old. She and my father, John who is 89 still live in their home in the Thomas Town site. Where they moved after the large family home on the farm burned down in about 1926. This was such a sad and heart-breaking experience.
They are in good health for old people and very much loved and cared for by their family and friends in the Thomas Ward.
They are the parents of nine children. Three have passed on - Harold, Walter and Barbara. Lester John born 18 March 1900; Arthur Theadore born 27 May 1902; Fern Elvaretta born 22 April 1904; Harold Clyde born 22 March 1906; Walter Lowell born 11 March 1909; Phyllis born 5 October 1910; Ottella born 28 June 1916; Wendell Floyd born 1 June 1919; Barbara born 17 June 1924.
We love our mother - she is a stalwart and constant inspiration to us and one could never do a wrong when thinking of her teachings. She taught honesty, faith, and charity and love - the greatest gifts of life.
Dear heart it matters little where I wander for I cannot go &far or near but what you are there and I am glad to have it so.
Your prayers are heard and are our soul's most precious treasure and have many times turned our steps from the precipice of temptation.
God has not
promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through.
God has not promised sun without rain,
joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath
promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor; Light for the way.
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
It is now 1964. They are in good health and have just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
[Elvaretta died on her birthday, 27 January 1967 in Blackfoot, Idaho. John Isaac Hart Watson died a short while after on 6 February 1967 also in Blackfoot.]
By Phyllis Watson Hale
My Mother was so loving and kind
To we children sometimes reluctant to mind.
She taught us to be prayerful and
to live right
Which would be pleasing in their sight.
She taught us the dustiung and
housework to be neat
And how to make good things to eat.
She loved to make us dainty
clothes and hair to be neat
To others to always look sweet.
No other mother can be more
Than this mother of mine so kind and wonderful.