Sunday, February 6, 2011

William Luther Croff, A Man that Wore many Hats

William Luther Croff wore many hats through out his life. Born on March 25 of 1840 in Northfield, Summit County, Ohio the oldest child of William Cowee and Julia Ann Bougey Croff. His father trained him as a blacksmith, which skills he used throughout his life, but mining became his primary profession. He was said to have known much about mines and mining in the central and southern parts of Utah, his “opinions on the topic held considerable weight”.

During his twenty’s his life read like an adventure movie with drama in every corner, but things settled down when he married Harriett Mariah Higley at age 30. He later went on to become the father of eleven children! John Arthur Croff was the son we decended from. William served in the political arena as a City Councilman in Eureka and a Justice of the Peace in Minersville for 22 years. Church service was a large part of William’s life. He assisted in building the St. George Temple, working there for two years, the Manti Temple, Salt Lake and Logan Temples and five meetinghouses and two tabernacles. In addition to building, he served in his local ward area doing such things as a “home teacher” and president of the YMMIA a number of times and counselor for a Bishop. A highlight was serving a mission to England from 1907 to 1909 keeping a daily journal while there. A quote from his mission journal tells much about this multisided man.

November 26, 1907, “This morning I called my family together before parting from my good home and we all bowed ourselves before God and I dedicated all that is most near and dear to me into His kind care and protection, and took the train for Salt Lake City.”

William often put on the hat of writer and historian. In an old large envelope that has been passed down from one generation to another are sheets of paper that William had copied a number of his family’s patriarchal blessings as well as a timeline of family events and his own biography. Note his beautiful hand. The pages below are pieces from his wife, Harriet's patriarchal blessing. The originals are in Colleen Sperry Smith's possession, a great granddaughter.

Picture: William Croff and Sons

Joel Daniel (UL), William Ellis (UC), John Arthur (UR), Ira Mark (LR), William Luther (LC), and James Adelbert (LL)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Memories of Sarah Caroline Batty Calder

One year at the annual 4th of July Chuck wagon Breakfast held in Paris, Idaho I asked my Uncle O’Dell Smith (my father’s oldest brother) if he could tell me anything about his grandparents. He hemmed and hawed around a bit and then told me these two stories about his mother’s mother, Sarah Caroline Batty Calder.

He said that it seemed like whenever he would go over to visit her she would tell him to go and find her purse. When he brought it to her, she would “give him a sixpence”. Sarah Caroline was born in Whittington, Derbyshire, England on May 17, 1870 and came to America at the age of 12 when her oldest sister Annie arranged for her to work in “the Bishop’s” house tending children and keeping house because his wife wasn’t in the best of health. Sarah Caroline later married Bishop Robert Calder in polygamy. One of their children was Rosella, my grandmother.

The second story Uncle O’Dell told me sheds light on Sarah Caroline's personality. The details are a bit fuzzy; nonetheless I want to share it in hope that someone out there can set it all straight. Uncle O’Dell couldn’t get through telling it without giggling a number of times while sustaining an enormous grin. It seems that his grandma Sarah Caroline was making a steamed pudding; something she did every year for Thanksgiving or Christmas and it was tied up in a cloth bag. Her husband (second marriage, Robert Calder had passed away) made a rather large fuss about how much he disliked the pudding. When she had taken quite enough she opened up the window and THREW IT OUT!

And I wonder where the women in my family get their edge . . .

The making of steamed pudding did carry on however, regardless of this telling incident. Rosella made a Thanksgiving pudding every year for her family and to date it is one of my father’s, Kent Smith’s fondest memories of that holiday. I don't have any direct information as to where Sarah Caroline got her recipe or know how as to how to make her steamed pudding, but England is the capital for such things. I like to think that she learned it from her mother or older sister Annie and her homeland.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Book Of Pioneers & Peggy not Margaret Ann

Every once in a while you are in the right place at the right time. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers scheduled a lesson in 2010 on the celebration of the 50-year mark or Jubilee of when the pioneers had entered the valley in 1847 and I was randomly assigned to teach the lesson. The stars were already lining up. Knowing that our family had pioneers that came that first year I knew it would be a great opportunity to learn more and once I started digging into extra material I found myself at the Utah State Historical Society looking at the original Book of Pioneers.

This book is made up of forms that were filled out by all original 1847 pioneers that could be located and still living in 1897. Armed with my list of ancestors I was put into a room to view the “book” via microfilm. I’m not certain if it was because of the Rio Grande historical nature or the work I was engaged in alone, but it wasn’t long until I felt the room fill up with others looking at the book with me, others from another dimension. Imagine, I was looking at information that may not have been looked at for over 100 years! It was a gift just to see their handwriting, to see how they worded an answer to a simple question and to search the page for any extra information about the family.

These papers and the feelings I got while looking at them made our ancestors come to life more than ever. One specific example that we can learn from is Margaret Ann Sidwell. I searched for her on the General Immigration list but didn’t find her until I looked a little deeper. She was listed as “Sidwell, Peggy A.”. Well, who would have thought she was known as Peggy?And she had a sister Rebecca who filled out a paper as well who went by . . . Rebecca.

If you click on the image you will be able to read the information about where they were born, when they arrived in the valley, whose company they were in, who their captain of 100, 50 and 10 were. Also at the very bottom of the page there is a place for relics that were donated to the state.

The only reclics donated were by Charles Sperry (hopefully he donated on behalf of the entire Sperry Family). It states "One roleing pinn, and one potato masher. They were turned in the spring of 1848 in the South part."

I only put a few of the images of our family up on this post. I have the others stored up for another time. If you find yourself in downtown Salt Lake with nothing to do, head over to the Rio Grande Depot and look them up yourself. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

C. R. Savage Photo of Thomas E. Ricks Company

I’ve been anxious to post this wonderful picture taken by Charles R. Savage in the summer of 1866 somewhere on the plains from Nebraska to Salt Lake City. Mr. Savage was part of the Thomas E. Ricks mule train company that left in early July arriving in Salt Lake City on August 29, 1866. His purpose was to take pictures of the country, landmarks along the route. The bonus to our family is that we have ancestors that were on this very wagon train with him, Agnes McDowell Smith and her children a total of 11 in their group. Unfortunately, C. R. Savage wasn’t very successful in his trade while on this journey. You can read his trail excerpt and find out all the pitfalls of photography in the 1860’s -- it was hard enough being a pioneer, just imagine being a photographer as well! So, this one photo might be all that we have of the company made of 251 people. I like to imagine that somewhere in this picture one or two of those faces are Smith’s.

Click on the image to make it larger and see if you can see any family features and get back to me. I think the man with straw hat holding the young girl on his shoulder looks like someone familar.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Frank & Iola Sperry and the Hancock Ranch, Where Eternity Began

Images of the Hancock Ranch have been floating around my head for years, but I had never actually seen this place until I attended the annual Frank and Iola Sperry Reunion this past September. After the food, visiting, games and sailing squash boats down the ditch we piled into cars and left Todd and Debbie Sperry’s home in Santiquin for a tour of family sites.

Hankcock Ranch was the major destination. It was NOT a quick ride in our cars. It would have been a L O N G ride by horse or Model T Ford. It did give us a chance to ease back into history. Are you ready for a ride?

Judge John Cooper in Nephi, Juab County, Utah, married Frank Lamont Sperry and Iola Croff on November 2, 1927. Nephi was Frank’s hometown. It was a double wedding- Iola’s older sister Mildred Croff and Doug Brown were also married the same day. Both couples soon settled in at the Hancock Ranch 9 miles south of Elberta, Utah. This proved to be a great place to grow into marriage. In Iola’s words “we enjoyed ourselves very much and made many good friends here”. Mont told the group at the reunion about the couples swimming in a nearby reservoir as often as they could make time for, and we all reflected about the likelihood of the couples watching for company from their wonderful view of both Utah and Juab County. They loved visitors, and visiting.

Both Frank and Doug had become regulars at the Elberta Ward and helped to build the one room church building into a larger space. Iola wrote of a very important event that took place while they lived at the Hancock Ranch. Bishop Heinze encouraged them “to go to the Manti Temple and be married for time and all eternity”. She wrote that she would “always be grateful to Bishop Heinze for his goodness and encouragement. I have always hoped I would live worthy of his effort and what he did for us.” Just ten month’s after they married, on September 3, 1928 Frank and Iola went with the Tintic Stake on a temple excursion to seal their marriage.

They remained at the ranch for two years until their first child was born, Donna. Later they moved back when work was hard to find. The second round was spent with Frank’s older brother, Roy Sperry and his wife Thelma and two son’s Lee and Neil. There were two houses on the ranch, Frank, Iola and Donna lived in the smaller of the two. They worked the sheep ranch, gardened, tended horses, cattle, other farm animals, cared for fruit trees and enjoyed life. For those of you who know the stories told by Frank of the DEAF PIG, this is where it happened. They spent a total of 4 years at the ranch.

Grandma Iola Sperry’s words ring in my ears: she was grateful for a good Bishop who visited them and loved her husband into the ward, and the church. Their future was forever changed because they spent time at the Hancock Ranch.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eliza Ann Carter and Finding Connections Serendipitously

The other night John and I were out to dinner with long time friends. One of the couples, John and Jill Carter we have known for many years, so long that we actually know their family history and we have a common ancestor, William Furlsbury Carter. I began telling them about some recent information I had found about the Carter family when the other couple, Rick and Carolyn Evans became interested as well. That’s why I was telling them about a something new I had recently found out. We all know that for the most part, family history can be an instant turn off, but Carolyn was very intense about wanting to make certain she had tracked the story correctly and that these were people that had settled in Provo, Utah. After a few volley of questions we discovered that she was also a descendant of this same family, only through a different sibling, Eliza Ann Carter. What’s the likely hood of that happening?

Eliza Ann Carter Snow has always been one of my hero’s because she brought Hannah Carter, daughter of Richard and Hannah Parker Carter across the plains after her parents died. It was wonderful to actually be able to hug one of Eliza’s progenitors and thank them for Eliza’s great kindness.

I can learn so much from this simple experience about family history.

· If you know who your people are, you’re bound to find others that are related to you

· Nothing is a coincidence, it turns out that Eliza Ann’s birthday was the next day. She wanted us to celebrate her. At least that’s what I think

· Don’t be afraid to tell stories about your ancestry, you never know what you might learn in a simple setting

Challenge: Talk to someone you know about an ancestor and see if you have a connection. Who knows where it will lead you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Isaac Hill, True to the Faith

Isaac Hill, has been for me a remarkable example of what so many of the pioneers were made up of- faith, obedience, hard work, ingenuity, resiliency, hope, sacrifice. I’ve tried to reduce his life to a few bullet points, but he simply covered too much ground in his 73 years of life. If you don’t get anything more out of this post know this: Isaac Hill joined the church when he was 27 years old with his wife and daughters and he never looked back. He was there to see it all, live through the good, the sad and unspeakable and the joyful moments of the beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What makes him different is that he kept a journal so we know where he was and what he was doing during those remarkable years.
Sometime ask me what happened to him in the graveyard when he was running away from the mob, it makes for a great story.
True to the Faith
· Born near Penn State University in 1806 (Brighton, Beaver, Pennsylvania to be exact)
· His father died when he was four years old, together with his older sister and mother moved in with his maternal grandparents, younger brother born shortly after
· Bound to a blacksmith at age 12
· Married at age 22 to Mary Bell. They have four children.
· 1833, “I joined the Saints”
· Worked on Kirtland Temple, Far West Temple foundation, Nauvoo Temple
· Lived through, and wrote about many experiences during “the persecution period”
· Mary dies, gets married to Eliza Wright.
· 1839 “Sold out my farm for a horse”
· Body guard to the Prophet Joseph Smith
· Brick maker in Nauvoo
· Serves three missions “In Penn., Beaver Co., preaching. Baptize first converts in this month.”
· 1843 “Give to the poor. Some excitement this winter on account of plurality.”
· 1844 Jun “Great excitement. The mobbers begin to collect at several places and on 27 Joseph and Hiram Smith murdered at Carthage Jail.”
· 1845 Jul 10 “The inhabitants rise in mass to burn out the Mormons.Great trouble in the land. Some killed on both sides.”
· 1845 “Received endowment”
· 1846 “Leave N for the wilderness”. Family experienced many mishaps and hardships along the way. Worked as blacksmith, brick maker.
· 1850, September 4 enters Salt Lake with children. Wife had died of cholera along the way.
· Builds home in SL 2nd ward, becomes a counselor to Bishop Joseph C. Kinsbury.
· 1851, married Martha Ann Miller in Brigham Young’s office. They have three children.
· 1852, married in polygamy Mary Jane Miller, Martha’s sister in Brigham Young’s office. They have 10 children.
· 1854, ordained as Bishop of Second Ward, served for 10 years.
· 1857, Served mission to Canada. Kept daily journal, very insightful.“Preach on lakeshore in woods”
· Returned from mission to angry wife (Martha Ann), granted divorce.
· 1862, sealed to Amelia Rassmussen
· 1863, sealed to Margaret Faulkner
· 1864 called to colonize Bear Lake region of Idaho, moved on September 5th. Set up residence in St. Charles, many trials and hardships
· Died June 25, 1879 in Fish Haven Idaho. Buried in St. Charles, Idaho

A two room log house that Isaac's sons built for Mary Jane Miller Hill as it is today

To read Isaac Hill's full journal/diary entries go here. Terry Smith has written a history of Isaac Hill with more details of his life. It can be found on his site by clicking here.