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THE STAR VALLEY PERIOD
1889 to July 24, 1900
In his desperation to put an end to being hunted by the law, Grandfather Phineas Wolcott Cook considered very seriously taking his youngest family to Canada, but Grandmother Johanna refused to go. She had sacrificed so much to come to Zion, she did not intend to leave it. But she did consent to go to Star Valley, Wyoming, which was in those days raw frontier land.
Uncle Carl tells us in his history that Star Valley proved to be a haven for the persecuted polygamous familie who came there. The state governor and other officials were friendly and encouraged the Mormons to live in Wyoming. The people were perhaps as happy and prosperous as many other people, but they had much poverty and few social advantages. It was because of polygamy that grandfather and many others fled to Star Valley,
In Uncle Moses' history, he says, "Father sold our home in Logan for $1,000. He bought a new wagon, a bore-machine, for making a leaning fence for he wished to go into farming business and raise livestock."
Uncle Carl's history records, "When we left Logan my parents sold our home and had some money. I don't know how much, but enough to fit us out to live in the new place, Star Valley, at least for one winter, so we were well provisioned. I remember a quantity of flour and especially a big bag of beans — perhaps 150 pounds or so and I remember several years later hearing Sister Blanch-ard telling mother how thankful she had been to receive some of those beans and how good they were that hard winter when food was so scarce. It is a fact that some of those early pioneers were practically destitute for food."
He goes on to say, "We left with three wagons and sufficient supplies, except meat, to last our family through the winter. Hyrum Cook drove one wagon drawn by four horses, father drove one wagon with the family, drawn by Frank, a buckskin horse and Doll, a bay mare. I think the other outfit was driven by Dolph Teeples, father's grandson. The snow storm overtook us at Cousin's Ranch up Crow Creek on the 27th day of October 1889 as we were coming to Star Valley. I rode a pony and drove three cows.
The wagon got stuck in crossing Deer Creek and they had to double teau, while I was sent back to buy bread from Cousins. I5y the time we got to the Hardman Ranch, I was wet and cold and very glad to stop, for we were to stay there for the night. Ihe Hardman boys were very kind to us. The next morning Hie snow was a foot deep and stayed all winter with much more added. The winter lasted until May."
Uncle Mose remembers it this way. "So we were on tlie move again and as our wagons neared the valley going down the old Crow Creek road, it began to snow and the wind was awful, so we came to the old Hardman cabin about five miles from the valley. We stopped and asked the boys if we could stay overnight. Carl and I had been riding our roan mare called Nellie and driving our milk cows behind the wagons and were nearly frozen. The Hardman boys, John, Alex, Mark and Will welcomed us into their cabin. They were only boys and did their own cooking, but I can still smell those frying potatoes they cooked for us. It continued to snow all night and next morning too, but we managed to break our way through to the valley.
Uncle Carl has written, "Our first home in Afton was a one-roan log house with dirt roof and earth floor. We got a load of shingle sawdust, excelsior, to put on the ground for carpet pad and mother's rag carpet on top of that. Some of our stuff was stored in the wagon box and some in a tent. We lived in this place only a month or two and then moved to the house vacated by Byron Allred, at the location now occupied by the house of Dr. Worthen, in Lot 4, Block 17 in Afton." This is the house where they lived permanently and in the beginning it was very much like the first one. It was a small two-room cabin which also had a sou roof and a dirt floor. Grar.dfather and grandmother and their baby, Hilma and her baby and five little children were all crowded into that one little cabin. It was very small for so many but later on it was enlarged and improved.
Uncle Carl goes on to say, "Soon after we were settled there, we killed a nice, fat, roan cow for beef, from our herd of cattle which had been driven from Ham's Fork by hired men. We had about 40 cows and some 200 young cattle. Most of the cattle starved and froze to death that winter, furnishing us the way to poverty. That was the winter of 1889-90. Father had depended on wintering out his cattle on the advice of his son-in-law, Byron Allred, who assured him, "Father, you don't need to worry about it, there's plenty of grass in the meadows and on the hills, and your cattle will do well." The previous winter had been mild and there no doubt was plenty of dried grass but when snow was four feet deep, cattle could not get to the grass. Winter continued until about the first of May and many cattle died, including practically all of ours. The people who lived there were impoverished and some wanted for food for themselves. There was almost no conmunication with the outside world. A few times hardy men made the trip to Montpelier, Idaho ' on skiis, to bring in a little first class mail and perhaps a sack of flour on their back, or such most necessary supplies as they could drag on ski-runner sleds."
Uncle Mose recalls, "The range cattle and our horses were turned out to rustle for themselves the best way they could on the west hills and Byron Allred was supposed to look after them to get them on the best possible feed for which father gave him the new set of harnesses. We kept the two milk cows at home and by feeding them potato peelings and dry grass which we secured by climbing up to the top of the high peaks east of Afton, we were able to save them. We found tall grass where the wind had blown the snow away which we cut or pulled and brought down in bundles or in sacks to the cows."
Uncle Carl said that there were only eight cows left the spring of 1890 out of all their cattle brought to the valley. Grandfather traded seven of them for two city lots in Afton and he kept one cow so the family could have milk. With the land which he bought from Byron Allred, On which their cabin stood, he now had three lots to work and plant to crops. Uncle Mose tells us these lots were two and one-half acres each.
Uncle Carl records, "In the spring of 1H90 we went to work breaking and cultivating father's three lots. They were in their wild native state, as was most of the Afton Townsite, with dock weeds bearing sun-flowers everywhere, i
They had big blade tap roots, sonetimes more than three inches in diameter,
and eighteen inches long, and rough enough to stall the horses when the plow
engaged one. We also took on tracts of land to break and plant to grain crops,
for the use of the land for three seasons. During my childhood in Afton, my
father taught me to hoe weeds in the garden and potatoe patch, to saw wood for
fuel, to cut, drag and haul timber out of the mountains for fuel and building. I
also worked with my father digging the mill-races and pit for the "Up and Down
Uncle Carl continues, "Notwithstanding his illness at times and his old age all the time, father still had the heart and energy to work. He secured a little employment at times, mostly from his old friend, Archibald Gardner, the father of the Gardner family in Afton. But most of the people in. the valley were too poor to hire and there was little opportunity to earn money, so he went to making a mill. He could not buy a modern, up-to-date mill for want of money, so he built one of the old-style "Up and Down Saw .Mills" just north of Afton on Swift Creek, where water power could be made available. During the winter he managed to buy some logs, which he hewed and framed into the frame-work of his proposed mill, and he arranged with some of the pioneers to secure the abandoned saw and mill irons from a mill they had built and operated in Swift Creek Canyon. I remember how hard he worked and how he sweat, hewing the logs to build the frame and the wooden shafts to turn the saw-crank and move the log carrier, also in digging the mill races and mill-pit. I had to help him most of the time. It took a lot of time and work, but it was finally completed and he made some lumber, but liis health was failing and he was not able to operate the sawmill for long."
Uncle Itose talks about helping with the "Up and Down Saw Mill" in his history too. He tells what hard work it was to bring the mill irons, which grandfather had bargained for, down the canyon on foot, how heavy they were and how cold they got having to ford icy Swift Creek in several places in order to bring them down. These young boys learned about hard work early in life.
Both Uncle Mose and Uncle Carl write about an experience they had in their early teens. Uncle Carl says, "When I was about fourteen and Moses thirteen and Kib eleven, we three went to the mill of Turners, camped out and for a week or more we got out logs from which they made shingles for us on shares, by special favor and arrangement with our parents. Our share were to be used to shingle our house which had a dirt roof."
Uncle Mose remembers this "Mr. Turner down at Turnerville told Mother if she would let the boys bring the team, and wagon down to his place he would show us where we could get some small logs and he would also saw them into shingles for her for nothing, so we took the mares and an old wagon father had got from Ed McClatchie out at Dry Creek. It was a rickety old wagon and even after a lot of repairing it still would not hold many logs but we were not very heavy loggers either, so we did not overload it. We placed skids to the top of the wheels and rolled the small logs up on to the wagon and took them to the mill and it was not long until we had enough for our shingles. In this way we got enough to shingle our house that had a dirt roof before. Father made enough lumber to build a leanto on the north side of the house and later another room on the west side and after the sod roof was removed he built a long room above the front rooms where the boys slept and where Idalia had a little play house in one end by the window."
I find it very interesting that it was Uncle Mose, who wasn't a bit religious who has written the following about his parents' church activity: "After the first winter we were able to raise enough hay on our lots to feed our animals and we raised potatoes, cabbage and other hardy vegetables but regardless of what condition we were in, my parents never neglected their church. I have seen Father follow down a row of cabbage and count, and every tenth head belonged to the church. Regardless of the size, that was the Lord's head, or tithing and my dear mother was always there and ready in almost any emergency always the first to assist in case of a death, and generally too, first at weddings. She worked with the Relief Society many years traveling from one ward to another, all over the two valleys." Parts of Star Valley were referred to as the Upper and Lower Valley. The Upper Valley consists of Smoot, Osmond, Afton, Grover, Fairview and Auburn. The Lower Valley includes Bedford, Thayne, Freedom and Etna.
Grandmother served in the Stake Relief Society Presidency for many years. Mother remembers when she was just a little girl grandmother taking her along many times when she went to the Lower Valley to assist when babies were born, when deaths occurred and when there were illnesses . Even when grandma was elderly, I remeirtoer her making Temple Shoes for friends and neighbors in the valley who passed away.
Star Valley is located in the southwest corner of the State of Wyoming. In the summer it is, I believe, one of the most beautiful valleys I have ever seen. The climate is moderate, warm in the daytime, cool at night and the sky is clear blue with fleecy white clouds most of the time. The greens of the valley vary from the dark green of the stately pines to the light green of the quaking asp trees with their white trunks and silvery-green leaves dancing in the breeze. The valley is dotted with little towns and with many farms. Salt River is the major stream running through the valley and is clear and cold and offers good trout fishing. In Afton there is a beautiful crystal-clear stream rushing down from the east mountains, just north of Temple Bench, called Swift Creek, and it was in this stream that grandfather baptized his younger children. Adelbert, Hilma's son who was just six weeks older than mother, any my mother, Idalia, were baptized there by him on her eighth birthday.
It is in very recent years that the streets in Afton have been named. What we always called Main Street is now Washington Avenue and the street where grandfather and grandmother lived is now Fourth Avenue. Their house was on the north side of Fourth Avenue a half block east of Washington Avenue. After grandmother passed away in 1929 the house was sold and later the building was torn down and a brick house was built in its place. But, my, hew well I remember grandma's little home and the picket fence enclosing her yard filled with columbine, forget-me-nots, pansies, tiger lillies and many other old-fashioned flowers. I remember going through the gate, up the path toward the house between two tall pine trees, which were planted as baby pines by the older boys when they were very young, and beautiful big lilac bushes near the house, then passing the pine tree where the humming birds built their nest on a low branch for many years in a row and we could watch from grandma's bedroom window while the mother fed her little ones. And most of all, I'll never forget the yellow rose bush by the door of the room on the west end of the house, which used to be called the store room, but in my lifetime was the room where grandma and mother did the cooking and where we ate our meals, the room where the old-fashioned flour bin still stood in one corner and near it, on a little wooden bench was the bucket of water with the dipper in it.
A year or two after the family moved to Star Valley, Hilma met and married a man by the name of Thomas Spencer and they moved to Weiser, Idaho. Here they would be near Alvira, Hilma's full sister who lived in Payette, Idaho.
After the house had been improved and the new west room built on, and since grandfather was not strong enough to run his saw mill, he and grandmother decided to try to operate a little store. Uncle Carl remembered a sign they prepared and posted announcing "MILLINERY AND NOTIONS" and he said that they used what little money they had left to stock their little store. Though they sold a few things, they had no experience, their stock was poorly suited to the pioneer market and that market was very limited and the little business soon died out. Uncle Carl said, "Though father still tried to get a little work now and then, as his years crept by, his health failed more and more and he became quite a care to mother and the family. He was very deaf and became unquestionably afflicted with "second childhood". At this time in his life it was necessary for him to use a cane.
In both Uncle Carl's and Uncle Moses1 histories and in mother's and my memories, our most vivid recollection of grandmother was her deep love for all of us. She had very little financially throughout her life, but she always managed to have some little remembrance for each one on a birthday, accompanied by a little bouquet of flowers and on Christmas always a little something special and for her children when they were little, five or ten cents to spend at the celebration on the Fourth of July. Scmetiines all she could afford was an egg, but if that was all they had, they could buy an "egg's worth of candy' and there were times when they were that poor.
Grandma was not too tall, her shoulder fit under my arm when I put my arm around her. (I am five feet, six and a half inches tall) She was on the plump side and was nice looking and had such a sweet smile. She had a very pleasing personality and was kind and outgoing and had many friends. When she was elderly, everyone in the Valley called her "Grandma Cook". Mother says, "I never saw her angry or unkind to anyone nor did I ever hear her utter a profane word." She also told us, "The Lord and the Gospel meant more to mother than anything on earth." Grandmother always spoke with a Swedish accent, but was easily understood. She was fun-loving and had a wonderful sense of humor. She loved her garden and everything grew beautifully for her.
Mother, Uncle Carl and Uncle Mose all remember so clearly how very hard grandmother worked to support the family when grandfather was no longer able to help. The only work available to her was to take in washing, which she did, and she had to work so hard, for so long, for so little!
Uncle Moses writes the following, "For the benefit of those who do not know, I would like to remind you that there was no running water in trie homes in tnose days, all water for washing and any other purpose must be carried from an irrigating stream that flowed down the opposite side of the street. My mother had to heat all her wash water in the large boiler on the cook stove with wood as fuel, there was no electricity for cuiy purpose, all lights were made from kerosene lamps or candles. There were no street lights, very few telephones and of course, no radios or television, no automobiles. All travel was done on foot, on horseback or in the wagon. There were very few buggies. One thing that was plentiful though was fire wood in the nearby canyons. I am writing this just to show what we all had to put up with, especially my dear mother, in trying to make a living for her family, because father was getting old and about all he could do was saw and split firewood."
Uncle Carl writes, "I do know that mother took in washing of the Arthur Roberts family and each week we kios had to go to their home with a little wagon and tote home a great bundle of clothes which mother washed on a wash board by hand." (There were nine in the Roberts family and each week there would be eight to eleven shiru3 with starched, stiff bosomed fronts and wide starched collars) "She had no machine of any kind, and then she ironed the whole batch by hand of course, heating the irons on a wood fire no matter how hot the day in summer. It was a full week's work for her, dear soul, to get a few cents to buy necessities for us kids. But no matter how poor she was, she always arranged so that each birthday was remembered and some little gift provided by her for each of us, and slie always arranged to give us five or ten cents spending money on the Fourth of July. Bless her dear soul] I shall never forget her love and devotion to us. The precious price Roberts paid for such a washing and ironing was $1.50 per week."
Mother's recollection is pretty much the same except she remembers the pay for that immense washing every week as $1.25 and not even that in cash, but in store pay. The Roberts family owned one of the general merchandise stores in Afton and grandmother had to take her pay in goods bought at their store. Mother also tells how very difficult that washing was in the winter when it was so cold that grandma's hands would ache when hanging out the clothes and gathering them in again. It would be so cold sometimes that the washing would be frozen stiff on the lines when she took it in. Her feet and legs would get so tired and swollen and mother remembers when she was a little girl rubbing grandmother's legs and feet to relieve the pain.
Uncle Carl writes, "During my childhood, I'm sure my father provided for his family the best he could, but strictest economy was practiced at all times. The molasses, when we had any, was diluted with water to make it go further and potatoes being cheaper than bread, we were urged to eat plenty of potatoes and "go sparing" of the bread. Generally we had a cow so that milk was available, and butter when we had enough milk to make it, but always in the spring, as soon as the nettles grew large enough, we gathered them and had "crreens" most every day until the leaves on the pig-weeds became so old and dried up that they were too tough to use. It was economy to go barefoot, so as soon as the weather was warm enough, and the snow was all gone, we put our shoes away for winter, and were well suod in bare feet until cold weather again."
Mother remembers one Christinas when she was six or seven years old and her only dress, made of livisey, had worn through at the elbows. She wanted so very much to go to the Children's Dance on Christmas, but she couldn't go with her elbows sticking out. She asked grandmother if she would mend her sleeves for her Christmas present. Grandma said she'd try, but mother knew that she had an awful lot of work to do and it would be hard to find the tine. As the days grew close to Christmas and her dress wasn't fixed yet, she began to really worry and on Christmas Eve she was very discouraged when she went to bed because there were still holes in her sleeves. But on Christmas morning grandma had a new dress that she had made for her and a little Christmas tree besides and Uncle Carl had made her a doll cradle and cupboard. She said never in her life had she seen anything to beautiful as that dress looked to her that Christmas morning I And to have a doll cradle and cupboard too was more than she could have ever imagined having, in her wildest dreams. They had so little that everything was very much appreciated.
In about 1892 Hilma gave birth prematurely to a little girl who died at birth. Hilma was lying in bed recovering from her confinement, with Adelbert sitting on a chair beside her bed and she was cutting out paper dolls to amuse him. He was about three and a half years old. Her husband was in the closet showing a neighbor his rifle which he was planning to loan him to Kill a beef. The gun accidentally went off, went through the wall of the bedroom, through yonng Del's shoulder and through Aunt Hilma's abdomen. As soon as they could, they sent word to grandmother to come, but it was in the middle of winter and traveling was slow, and though grandmother started immediately when she received word, Aunt Hilma died before she could get to Weiser, Idaho. Grandma and Aunt Hilma were very close and grandma was distraught with grief. Adelbert recovered and grandmother brought nim back with her to Afton and he was raised along with the other children as her own. He was six weeks older than my mother, Idalia, and they were raised like twins.
Mother tells of her memory of grandfather while grandmother was away and how good he was to her. He used to love to have her sit on his lap and comb his beard and his hair. She remembers him giving her a ride on his foot and singing to her "High Diddle Diddle, High Diddle Do, High Diddle Dineturn, Do Dee Oh." She remembers how he used to place the chairs with their backs to the table and all the family kneeled down around the table for family prayer before breakfast.
Uncle Carl mentions that grandfather had an explosive temper and an incident that mother remembers bears this out. One day mother was just outside the back door and she heard grandfather yelling at grandmother, threatening to throw a bucket of water on her. Ihen grandmother came running out the back door, out of patience with him, calling back to him, "Go on, throw it, and I'll go over and show Bro. Osmond what you"ve done." Bro. Osmond was the Stake President. Needless to say, he didn't throw the water on her. It seems to me it is only human to have seme failing, and a quick temper seems to have been his. Grandfatner was an honest man of good character. He was a very hard-working man all his life and endured the hardships of pioneering for many years. His pioneering began even before he joined the Church when he left his home in Connecticut and journeyed, to Michigan, which was then frontier land. After he joined the Church he suffered the hardships of Winter Quarters, crossing the plains, early pioneer days in Salt Lake City, helping to settle Manti, Payson, Goshen and Bear Lake and finally Afton, Wyoming. Is it any wonder that he became ill after he was seventy years old? I think he was made of sterner stuff than men of this generation!
Mother has a very vivid recollection of the night grandfather died. She was ten years old and she and grandmother had been sleepina on a ^t-raw tick on the floor next to grandfather's bed because he had been ill and they wanted to be near where they could hear him and help him if he needed them in the night. Lou Hale and his wife had come to visit grandfather that evening and he seemed to be feeling better. After they left grandmother and mother went to bed, and after a hard day's work grandmother fell asleep quickly. Mother had not yet gone to sleep when she heard grandfather moan. She woke grandmother and said, "Pa's crying." Grandmother went quickly over to him but he was already gone. He passed away very quickly and quietly, but mother, being still very young, was frightened. Grandmother sent her to find Uncle Carl, who was walking the streets because of severe pain in his hand caused by a large sliver which had run up under his fingernail while building a barn for Wolcott Cook on his Border Ranch. Since there was no doctor near Border, he had come home for Dr. Stoughton to remove it. Carl was not far away because he knew that his father was very ill, but the half block mother ran in the dark seemed much further to her. She was verv grateful to have her big brother hold her little hand on the way home.
Grandfather, Phineas Wolcott Cook, passed away from causes incident to old age, on the night of July 24, 1900 in Afton, Wyoming at the age of eighty years and eleven months and was buried in the Afton City Cemetery on July 27, 1900.
These pacres of history on the life of Phineas Wolcott Cook were compiled from information found in histories written by two of his sons, Carl Cook and Moses Cook and from the recollections of his youngest daughter, Idalia Cook Covey who is still living and in her 87th year. This history was compiled by Idalia's daughter, Eva Covey Madsen during December 1976 and January 1977.