Feb 14, 2004
Clara Spens Brown, Autobiography, 1965 draft
Biographical Addition Written by Ila Jensen and Louise Brown
with information from Percy, Blain and Glen Brown, and Kathleen Wankier
Clara Spens was born May 4, 1891, Nathaniel and Mary Spens's youngest child. Her father, Nathaniel Spens, son of James Spens and Isabella Irvine, was born June 21, 1838 at Number 10 East Richmond Street in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. Clara's mother, Mary Campbell was born a twin, October 4, 1848 in Oakley, Saline, Fifeshire, Scotland, the daughter of Elizabeth Smith and Thomas Campbell. No doubt about it--Clara was a Scott from head to toe!
"I was born at home in the Mountainville Ward of Mount Pleasant, San Pete County, Utah. The next day my brother Thomas and his wife, Agnes, came to see me before going to Provo Valley where Tom had work. I was often told I was all eyes when I was a baby.”
Whereas Clara did not have to endure the difficulties of crossing the plains or the numerous moves that other family members experienced, she did face the aftermath of the family struggles. Since all aspects of a child's development are intertwined with the parents' relationship, Clara was to be the most vulnerable and possibly the most affected by her aging parents' struggles. Her mother was nearing 43 years of age and her father was almost 53 when she was born.
Clara seemed to be a very tender-hearted child, very touched by the pain of others. Her sister, Martha, older by almost ten years and quite expert in entertaining her little sisters, often read to them. When the stories were sad, Clara was affected long after her tears had been dried. "When Martha read me stories about Jesus being nailed to the cross and of the king taking the little boy and girl out in the woods and leaving them there to starve to death, I felt very sad for days.”
“I remember being frightened of strangers. I would stay outside until they went away. When I started school, I was afraid to talk.” However, as she became acquainted with her school mates and teachers she felt more comfortable. Soon, they were “asking me to sing in the school programs.”
“I was baptized in Birch Creek by John C. Bell in 1902.”
The Spens homestead was paid off and the family was doing quite well by the time of Clara’s birth and childhood. Clara recalled that she and her sister Sarah had dolls, dishes, and cupboard and a stove. “We had many toys and books and horses. One Sunday afternoon we were going to visit our sister, Mary Jane, on horseback. I was on my horse and when Sarah went to get on, the horse shied and Sarah fell, spraining her ankle. We didn’t go after all and Sarah suffered much from the sprain.”
“I always enjoyed Christmas and birthdays.” Clara also recalled. “We used to have programs on May Day.” One particular May Day, she remembered, “We all went in wagons up Birch Creek Canyon where the men put up a large swing and we had a nice lunch and a program.” Another May Day , “We all went to the Round Hills School House and braided the May Pole and had a program and lunch.” Clara recalled one Easter in particular, “Lena Christensen and Hyrum, Lena’s brother, also my brother Alex and sister Sarah, Grover Hansen and I rode horses up North Creek Canyon. We took our lunches and eggs and found a pretty spot to eat. The scenery was beautiful. On our ride back we crossed a bridge, disturbing a bumble bees’ hive. We had to ride very fast to get away from the bees and we were very tired when we arrived home.”
Many special family gatherings were taking place during Clara’s childhood. When Clara was six years old, her eleven-year-old brother, Robert, died Mar 21, 1898. Following Robert's death, two of Clara’s siblings, Mary Jane and Thomas and their spouses traveled to Manti on June 15, 1898 to be married in the temple. On January 3, 1900 Clara’s sister, Martha, who had been Clara’s little mother, married Arthur Mills in Mount Pleasant and such a party they had--Clara recalled the merriment 60 years later!
In the 1900 Census, Nathaniel is listed as a farmer. Still at home were Nathaniel, Jr., John, Sarah and Clara. Some of the older children lived nearby and were doing the farm work.
Another memory about her sister Martha remained forever unclear in her mind. She wrote, “Martha and Arthur had one boy, Ray, and then she became pregnant again.” Clara’s understanding was that Arthur did not want more children and that “he bought some medicine from an old quack doctor that was traveling through. When Martha took the medicine she was poisoned and died a terrible death” on April 19, 1902. Clara heard Arthur say at the cemetery, “Thank God that it is over” and carried a sadness for her sister’s untimely death throughout her life. There were other stories that suggest a quack doctor might have been in the area.
Clara’s parents were in Spanish Fork helping Nathaniel’s first daughter, Isabella Spens Lloyd with her sick baby, Blanche who died on April 22, 1902, the same day as Martha’s funeral. For this reason Clara’s parents were not close by to help Clara make sense of Martha’s death. Since the adults did not explain to Clara, she was left to draw her own conclusions. Also must each reader draw conclusions, hopefully without condemning those who we do not know. Art was a fun-loving man who cared for and reared his son Ray to manhood in Canada.
Clara went on to speak of other gatherings. “In the Winter we had surprise parties at various homes. We took refreshments and would clear the furniture and rug out of one room. We would dance and have a program for those who didn’t dance. Uncle Jim Campbell, my mother’s brother, would play the violin or Joe Coates would play the accordion. My brother-in-law, Bob Mills and his brother, Ted, played the violin and banjo for some of the dances and for some of the missionary farewell programs. In 1908, we had seven missionaries called to serve from the Mountainville Ward: William L. Shelley, Allen Rowe, John M. Shelley, John C. Bell, Alex Shelley, Richard Brown and Mitchell Burnside” Richard Brown, Clara’s future father-in-law, left for his native Scotland on October 16, 1908.
Mention of sickness brought memories. “I used to get sick headaches and leg aches about once a week at school.” Being in a country school, she attended with her older brothers and sisters who teased her, “You just want to go home where Mother can pet you.” “Growing pains was the most usual home diagnosis. She was the baby of the family.” Later when some of her siblings developed “sick headaches” they didn’t think it was funny. “I had the mumps on both sides at once and Mother’s cousin came to visit. She asked, “Mary, what is wrong with this girl?” I couldn’t turn my head or talk, it was so painful.” Clara’s blood type was O negative. Much later in Clara’s advancing years a doctor noted that her heart problems were due to rheumatic fever as a child. Those sick headaches and leg aches that were thought to have been for attention or referred to as growing pains now made sense.
“My parents were very strict. We couldn’t wear pants or low-necked dresses or go with our stockings rolled. I had to help with the housework and herd the cows. I also milked cows, fed calves and watered and fed the horses when my brothers were away at work, and after they were married Sarah and I had most of the responsibility of caring for the animals.”
“Lightening struck Alex Burnside’s barn two years in a row and burned all surrounding sheds and hay.” Alex was Clara’s sister’s brother-in-law, Alex’s brother, Thomas J. Burnside having married Mary Jane Spens September 2, 1892 when Clara was one year old.
“One summer my brother, Alex Spens, worked with Webley Wilcox, Lester Turpin and Caratat Rowe at a saw mill in the mountains east of our home. They went up on Monday and stayed till Saturday. One Saturday afternoon we had a terrible electric storm. All the men went down North Creek but Caratat Rowe who chose to take the shortcut. He was riding a small mule. He did not come home--the lightening struck and killed him and the mule. Caratat was a very good man and we all felt very sad and missed him greatly.”
Webley Wilcox was a suitor of interest to many of the girls in the area including Clara and Sarah Spens. Webley was a good friend to Alex Spens as was Lester Turpin. These three young men loved to sing and dance and have a grand time. Young Clara was often in their company and enjoyed the good times. Clara loved to dance the schottische, the two-step, and beautiful old waltzes. There were sparks between Clara and the handsome Webley Wilcox. It was told that Webley asked for Clara’s hand in marriage. Her mother, Mary Spens replied that it was not proper for the younger sister to be wed before the elder sister. Instead of waiting for Sarah to marry, Webley married Sarah on November 17, 1909. Clara was eighteen at the time.
Two years later, “at Richard Brown’s Welcome Home party in 1911, Thomas LeRoy Brown, Richard’s son, took me home. (Richard Brown completed his mission to Scotland on December 1, 1910.) I dated “Roy” for a year.” It seems that Clara wanted to get married in the Manti Temple but that Roy’s father was the bishop and would not give his son a recommend because Roy insisted on playing pool at the tavern in Mount Pleasant. His father, Richard was not pleased with his son. Earlier, on December 4, 1908 from 24 Burlington Drive, Glasgow, Scotland he had written his son a post card expressing a father’s hopes and love:
“My dear son (Roy), it is with pleasure i set down to write you a few lines to let you no what i am doing. I am well and hope you are in good health and enjoying the Spirit of our Father in Heaven. I wish you a good time with your meetings this winter. I have not heard from home yet. Write me often, my Dear Son. I like to hear from you. See the horses and cattle are all right. Take care of your mother and all will be well. May the Lord bless you, my dear boy. With love, Father, Richard Brown.
Roy married Clara at Manti City, in the Sanpete County Court House, on November 7, 1912 by Osmond Olsen, an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Witnesses were W. L. Hall and Sarah Staker, Elder Olsen’s wife. Roy was born 4 Mar 1891 in Mountainville, the eighth child of Richard Brown and Annie Hutchison. He had always been a serious child spending much time in a world of his own. He had completed school through the seventh grade then herded sheep for his father. He had also been the school janitor for two or three years.
“We came home from Manti on the train and Roy’s brother, David Brown, met us with the horse and buggy and brought us home. We had a wedding supper in my home and all the relatives and members of the ward were invited. We received many gifts.
“We moved into a two-roomed log cabin out in the sage brush not far from the Spens farm, and I thought we had it very comfortable. From here we moved to the Spens farm then to Keith Brown’s cabin in the brush across the road from our first cabin. By the time Percy was born we were back in our first cabin and we stayed there until after Blain were born. Percy was born August 21, 1913. Leonard Burnside was herding cows and he brought Mother down to see me and our baby son! Blain was born March 6, 1915. Dr. Stocks was my doctor. The winter Blain was born the snow was four feet deep on the level. LeRoy had nailed boards on the front runners of a bobsled and wired the wagon spring seat to the bobsled. This sled was our transportation, pulled by a nice black team of horses. The evening of March 5th, it only took LeRoy thirty minutes to harness the team, drive eight miles to Mt. Pleasant, phone the doctor, get mother and return home.” The doctor rode a horse the eight miles from Mount Pleasant and the last two miles the snow reached up to the horses’ sides.” Blain was born March 6, 1915 at 3:00 a.m. “I never had any luxuries in my married life. I had to be very economical.”
Once, according to Ila, Clara recalled eating pie at LeRoy’s parents’ home. She poured cream on her pie, something that her family did when she was growing up. Annie Hutchison Brown gave her a Scotch blessing for insulting her pie crust” Indeed, she called Clara a “rich-mouthed hussy.” The harsh words crushed Clara’s gentle feelings. How easy to misunderstand one another. Annie had raised a family on a shoe string, caring for her dozen while her husband had been on a mission in Scotland. She knew how to make do and her children could either choose butter or jam, not both for their bread. Annie would spread the butter or jam on the bread, then clean most of it off with the knife, “stretching the trimmings even further.” Clara’s family, on the other hand, had lived in relative comfort during those same years. Sadly, the misunderstanding seemed to grow wider over the years and the Spens and Brown families grew apart rather than together. Clara’s children did not grow up knowing Grandpa Richard and Grandma Annie Brown.
LeRoy moved his family to American Fork and from there to Storrs, Carbon County, Utah to work in the mines. Church was important to Clara. She sought out the church with every move. She wrote, “I taught Sunday School class for six months. I was the Relief teacher and also the Relief Society secretary for a year. I read the scriptures including The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. I read the Relief Society magazines and the Improvement Era every month. I enjoyed reading books such as Added Upon. I was the choir leader for a year. My father-in-law, Richard Brown, told me I was the best singer in the ward choir. I sang in Sacrament meeting and at social gatherings. “
“Storrs, Carbon County, Utah was the birth place of our third son, Vernon, born July 8, 1917. It also hold a memory of Clara’s faith. Percy, about age 3, and a neighbor boy, Johnny Richards, were using an old ax to “dig a well.” Johnny made one more chop than Percy expected and chopped off one of Percy’s fingers. Clara took Percy to the doctor who said, “It will have to come off.” Clara insisted the doctor sew the finger back on which he did against his better judgment. Perhaps it was more the power of a mother’s prayers that saved the finger and gave Percy full use of that finger through out his life.
Shortly after Vernon’s birth we moved back to Mountainville where we lived, first with my widowed mother, then on the Coates farm. From the Coates farm we moved back to Carbon County to Castle Gate then to Mt. Pleasant where LeRoy herded sheep for Mr. Cook of Fountain Green. We lived in a two-roomed house belonging to Mr. Gunderson. Ila was born there on September 11, 1919.”
“Our next move was back to Mountainville (the Round Hills) and lived there for a year in the same cabin Percy and Blain were born in.” According to the 1920 Census, on January 10-12th during the enumeration of the 110th Enumeration District, LeRoy and Clara were living in house 96 (farm 33) next to Joseph and Lilly May Syndergaard (farm 32) in the North Ward of the City of Mount Pleasant. LeRoy and Clara were both 28 years old, Percy L. was six, Blain four, Vernon 3 1/12 and Ila 4/12 years of age. LeRoy was shown as a farmer and it was noted that both Clara’s parents and Roy’s parents were born in Scotland.
“Mother took sick and went up to Mary Jane’s where she (Mary Campbell Spens) died on the 28th of July, 1921. LeRoy was working at Clear Creek,” but not for long. LeRoy moved his family to Fairview for the winter (1921-1922) where they lived in a small brown-framed house owned by Sophia Hansen. (Sophia Hansen had married Clara’s brother, James, leaving her home available) Clara was ill with tonsillitis, a recurrent complaint. It was about this time, according to Percy, that Clara had all her teeth pulled. She was given gas and turned black. She looked frightening until she came out of the gas.
Percy and Blain were baptized on September 4, 1923 by their cousin, John Mitchell Burnside and confirmed by William L. Shelly on the same day. Clara’s teachings and testimony are evident.
The next move was back to Mountainville in May, to the Brown farm (Keith’s cabin?) and that move was followed by a move to the Spens farm. “LeRoy and his brother, Walter, ran the Spens farm that summer and we were very destitute. Roy sold one of the Spens cows to make ends meet. LeRoy’s brother, Richard and family came from Storrs and talked Roy into going to the camps (mining camps) to work. Clara’s family encouraged her not to go with Roy. From that time on, Roy did not send money to provide for us so the ward and relatives helped us. After Roy left, Ila recalled how the snow was piled high around the house. “We melted the snow for drinking water and household needs. That was easier than carrying the water a half mile from the neighbor’s well. Another special blessing from the snow was ice cream, which Clara mixed from snow, cream and a bit of sugar and vanilla.
On February 7, 1924, Clara signed an impecunious affidavit, affirming that owing to her poverty she would be unable to bear the expenses of the action in divorce which she was about to commence in the District Court in and for Sanpete County, State of Utah. Clara asked for custody of the four children, Percy, age 10; Blain, 8; Vernon, 6, and Ila, age 4. She reported that Thomas LeRoy, the defendant, had not provided any support for the family since the 15th of January, 1923. Although Clara had filed for a divorce, Sheriff James H. Sanderson, was unable to locate Roy Brown and Clara let the petition drop. Roy’s last known address was Park City. Clara loved Roy and his quiet ways and was continually hopeful that he would provide support for them. When from time to time, Roy would come to visit, everyone would welcome him home and Clara found it easy to let the past go. It was fall 1924 and Clara was pregnant again. “Glen was born at my sister Sarah’s on March 21, 1925.
Vernon was baptized September 5, 1925 by Floyd Larsen and confirmed a member of he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by Bishop Clarence L. Stewart (Mr. Stewart was also the high school principal). He was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy who loved to tease, according to Ila, and was remembered as being very good-natured. Vernon attended Hamilton Grade School in Mount Pleasant to the third grade.
When Nathaniel Glen was four months old, on July 31, 1925, Clara filed for divorce again and the divorce was granted September 19, 1925. By this time, Percy was 12 years old and his custody was assigned to the defendant since he was with his father. Percy was to remain with his father until he was of age. The decree of divorce was heard on the 19th day of September 1925, the plaintiff appearing in person with her attorney, L. R. Christensen, the defendant not appearing. The decree read as follows:
CLARA vs THOMAS LEROY BROWN
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the plaintiff be and she is hereby divorced from the said defendant and the bonds of matrimony heretofore existing between them are forever dissolved, and the plaintiff is hereby given the care, custody and control of the following named children, the issue of said marriage;
Harold Blain Brown, Vernon Brown, Ila Brown, Nathaniel Glen Brown;
and the defendant is given the care, custody and control of Percy LeRoy Brown, one of the children of the said marriage, and it is further ordered, adjudged and decreed that the defendant shall pay to the said plaintiff for her support and for the support and maintenance of the children in her care and custody the sum of $30.00 per month, payable monthly on the first day of the month until further order of the court and that the defendant shall on the first day of December 1925 pay to the plaintiff for her attorney fees herein the sum of $50.00 and the further sum of #12.00 to cover the costs of the court herein. Dated October 22, 1925
Signed by Judge Dilworth Woolley.
Thomas LeRoy Brown acknowledged receiving the court papers on August 12, 1925 in McDowel, Siskiyou County, California. Either Percy and his father and Uncle Alvin Joseph Brown left for California prior to August 12, 1925 or Roy came back for his brother, Alvin Joseph Brown and his son, Percy after August 12, 1925. Clara’s prayers must have been with her son during his travels with his father. On the trip to California, the stranded travelers left their vehicle behind in the desert. Miraculously they were lead to water and averted death. It appears the California work was sparse and the travelers returned to Utah via Idaho. Back in Mount Pleasant, Percy kept running away from the Richard Brown home to be with Clara and his brothers and sister. Finally Roy agreed to let Percy stay with Clara, a decision that must have been joyful for Clara and sad for Roy. After the divorce, Roy seemed to be even more introverted and distant.
On May 2, 1926 Percy was back with his mother. On this day he was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood to the office of Deacon by his cousin, Nathaniel Mason Burnside. The ordination took place in the Mountainville Ward, North Sanpete Stake and was recorded by William Shelly. This was a milestone for Percy and a joy to his mother who was so grateful for him, her oldest son.
It seems that Roy went to Idaho to live near his brothers. His nephew, Kenneth Archie Brown, son of James, was born in 1917 and was six months old when his mother died. Kenneth’s father died when Kenneth was 8 years old and Kenneth lived with his Uncle Sandy (Alexander Brown) and family as well as the Shelleys. Kenneth recalls cooking for his Uncle Thomas LeRoy Brown who was farming near Richfield, Idaho. Kenneth was about 10 or 11 at the time (about 1927-28). The Browns worried about Roy after he separated from his wife Clara and family.
“We moved from Mountainville to Mt. Pleasant toward the end of summer, 1926, and lived by the flour mill in the Old Fletcher Place.” Clara’s new home was the outcome of Lizzie’s work as administrix of her father’s will which was moving toward probation following their mother, Mary Campbell Spens’s death. It seems the siblings all agreed, as Clara recalled. This home would be Clara’s home for the next eleven years. It would be the house the children referred to as home.
Clara’s Scottish heritage made this place a trial as it had a very tricky hollow under its eves. Ila remembers, “We counted over 100 bats fly out of that hollow one evening. Our house had no screens on the windows so a bat was often blinded by a light switched on. One night as I was reading in bed, a bat hit my book, then my head as I dived under cover of a blanket. Next time I decided to read I hung a blanket on the window which was made fun of by neighbor children.” One can see the dilemma for a Scott who believed that a bird getting into the house meant a death.” An owl hooting in the night also meant a death in the family. Ila noted, “The old flour mill next to the Fletcher Place was a favorite haunt of hooting owls, and if their hooting had meant death, we would all have had short lives.”
Clara went right to work getting the home in order. She did her own painting and kalsomining. Usually, according to Ila, for want of a ladder, she pulled the kitchen table around to stand on. This particular time the table simply folded in the middle, letting one leg down through. She had a badly bruised leg, which remained swollen and discolored for quite some time.
Clara relates, “We had only been there two months in September when Vernon ate the green plums and took acute appendicitis. I had to take him to Salt Lake City to LDS Hospital. I left the other children with Sarah’s children and Sarah and Webley took us in their car. The car burned out a bearing so we were delayed several hours. I stayed in Salt Lake City with Vernon, and Sarah and Webley went home. I was in Salt Lake with Vernon for three weeks, spending nights at my sister, Lizzie Chesnut’s home. Vernon developed pneumonia following a ruptured appendix and surgery. The night Vernon died, October 6, 1926, I was alone with him at the hospital. Lizzie was angry that I didn’t call, but she had company, so I didn’t. Instead I took a taxi to Lizzie’s. The next day I went home alone on the train with Vernon’s body. Lizzie and family came down to the funeral on Thursday, October 8th in their car.” Vernon was nine years old. LeRoy came to the funeral, too. The funeral was held at the North Ward Chapel. O. M. Aldrich presided at the funeral and Bishop Jacobs of Mount Pleasant and Bishop William Shelley of Mountainville were the speakers. The following prose was selected in memory of Vernon:
In Loving Memory of Vernon Brown
Died Oct. 5, 1926 Age 9 years
We had a little treasure once,
He was our joy and pride,
We loved him, ah perhaps too well,
For soon he slept and died.
All is dark within our dwelling,
Lonely are our hearts today,
For the one we loved so dearly,
Has forever passed away.
Sarah’s son, Alvin remembers that little Glen didn’t want his mother, Clara, when she came back from her vigil with Vernon--Glen turned away crying. Alvin remembered that Clara cried, too.
Clara continues, “I went back to work to support my family.” Ila recalls, “I clearly remember Mother toting bucket after bucket of water for laundry. The cleanly washed clothes were hung outside on the lines, even in winter. Then the clothes, frozen stiff like boards were pried off the lines. Mother’s hands would get so cold she would beat them against her body to restore circulation. She brought the frozen clothes inside to dry in endless layers around the stove, the house damp and cold from the many baskets of laundry. Often she washed every day except Sunday. It was a way to earn money for her family. Her sister Annie came to visit and looking about her said to Clara, “How do you bear this?” Ila’s childhood memory of the conversation reflects her sadness for her mother’s lack of choices, “What else can I do?”Clara wrote, “I worked at the school lunch one season and on the canning project. Percy and Blain were then old enough to work. Percy trapped muskrats down on Bruce Seeley’s farm and made $30 that winter which helped.” Clara was a very good cook when she had the where-with-all to cook. She made good rice pudding, Ila recalled, and also cinnamon rolls when the New Deal projects were administered during the Franklin D. Roosevelt era. Clara was heard to say, “Anyone can be a good cook if they have the material to cook with.”
Clara was a fast working person. Ila noted of her mother, “No grass grew under her feet. She had a place for everything and wanted every item in its place. She was great at cleaning up yards and trash. She would light a fire without thought of wind, proximity to buildings or neighbor’s corrals. Once the whole neighborhood turned out to fight a fire she started in an effort to “spruce things up.” That particular time it was Johnny Fowles’s corrals and haystacks and maybe even his home. After the fire had been put out, Johnny said, “Mrs. Brown, don’t you ever do that again.” Standing there, weak and shaking with fright, and black from the smoke, she promised Johnny she wouldn’t do that again. Not long after the above-mentioned fire, she poured a pan of hot ashes in a box in the outside privy and Johnny Fowles found the outhouse on fire”
According to Ila, Glen was a chubby, happy baby who from a very tender age, raised his voice in song, tuneful and clear except for a slight lisp. He was loved by his family as well as Sarah and Webley and family. Even the neighbors stopped to hear Glen respond to their “How are you?” with “Pity dood.” This son must have been a special blessing to Clara, after the loss of Vernon to death and of Percy, whose custody was awarded to Roy upon her official separation from Roy. (Percy spent a year in California with Roy, but when Roy moved back to Utah, Percy kept running away to be home with the family. Roy finally agreed to give custody back to Clara.
Ila was baptized on her 8th birthday, September 11, 1927. In her eager efforts to learn to read, she asked her mother about every five minutes, “What’s this word?” Sometimes Clara became exasperated and would respond to Ila’s query with, “Oh, call it “ax handle” and go on.” Ila also recalls that when the children would get their tempers ruffled, Clara would say, “You’ll just have to scratch your mad place and get glad again.”
Discipline is a necessary part of rearing children. Sister Sarah’s pregnancies were extremely painful and it must have been difficult for her. Even so, she had four children and disciplined them by raising her voice and hand to them, giving them a Scottish blessing for their behavior. Clara, on the other hand, according to Ilas’s memory, never raised her voice. Clara must have found it hard to discipline her growing children by herself. The boys often fought to see who could win. Percy was small for his age due to sickness and Blain was a strapping young man that Percy was always trying to bring into submission. Both boys teased Ila until she cried, then they called her spoiled. Clara did spank the boys upon occasion when they were small, perhaps Percy more as he was so mischievous, and he was her first child, the one upon whom she learned! Ila could recall only one spanking. Early on Clara realized that kindness and strategy might work but force was out. Like their mother, the children would dig in their heels when force was applied or implied.
Sarah and Webly loved to travel in their car. Webley loved to visit and Sarah enjoyed visiting as well. It seems all the Spens children enjoyed visiting extended relatives and friends. Clara loved to have family come and even in the most difficult times, visitors reported a good time at the Browns. Clara had a resilient spirit and could always find something to sing about.
The year of 1929, 1930 and 1931 were years of deep despair for Clara and a difficult time for her family. The country was in depression leaving families of any means in some need; but for this family whose livelihood depended solely on a mother’s hands to do laundry for neighbors, and on the kindness and generosity of her relatives and of the ward members. It was a time of deep emotional trials. Due to the family’s poverty, Webley and Sarah constantly helped out, sharing what they had to the extent that their own children were troubled--”Why was it always their family that must give the Browns help?” Webley was the ditch master and would often stop to visit Clara in the day time as he made his rounds. People noticed and there was talk. Especially the Relief Society sisters talked. Only Sarah and Webley seemed to think about all the burdens Clara had to shoulder. Any weaknesses Clara had were the subject of the neighbors’ judgment and condemnation. The Relief Society sisters decided they didn’t want to give Clara any more church help upon learning she was pregnant. Though she had no support or help, Clara never disclosed the father of her child.
Webley was called to be the Elders Quorum President in his ward or church. He turned the calling down stating he was not worthy. His health began to fail. He talked with the doctor of his great concern for Clara Brown. In February, 1930 Webley Wilcox died at the State Hospital in Provo, Utah where he was taken for being a danger to himself, unable to face Sarah or Clara. The Doctor reported that he was certain that Webley was the father of Clara’s unborn child.
Clara was a good laundress so it was not surprising to her neighbors and her children that she went to work in a laundry in Salt Lake City. The children went to stay with Sarah and her children, although not happily as they knew they were a burden on Aunt Sarah. In reality, Clara went into confinement with the help of her sister, Lizzie Chesnut, in Salt Lake City. On October 3, 1930 a baby girl was born at the McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden. Clara returned to her family shortly after giving birth. Her beautiful baby girl (to be known as Kathleen Warner and later Mrs. Kathleen Wankier) was placed for adoption through the Relief Society Social Services. While one mother was rejoicing, another was in the depths of despair.
On October 30, 1930 it was noted by the social worker that “the people of Mount Pleasant treated Mrs. Brown very unkindly and that she stayed in her home and worried about her family. The ward president felt very sorry for Mrs. Brown but did not know how to change the attitude of the people. They even objected to the Relief Society giving Mrs. Brown assistance.” The social worker was urged to keep in contact with Mrs. Brown.
Ila was ten years old and Glen was five. The children at school teased Ila about her mother giving a baby away and Ila asked Clara about the children’s comments. Clara, in great sadness, said to her daughter, “Did you want me to bring the baby home to starve with the rest of us?” Over the next 60 years this subject was not addressed again. (Clara would be deceased before the topic would resurface when Kathleen would find Ila.)
The pain, the sadness and the shame seemed more than Clara could bear. It was the practice at the time not to tell the birth mother whether she had a boy or a girl nor was the mother allowed to see or hold her baby. She had no support on earth, but the angels must have wept with her and walked with her so she could bear her sorrow. Her prayers must have found succor from on high. Her baby found a wonderful home and grew in the gospel. Clara lived, and continued to attend church, her head bowed, but not enough to please some of the women in Mount Pleasant. The refining seemed to make Clara more gentle and responsive but also less confident. It may be about this time that Clara developed an allergy to flowery, insincere compliments and comments. She would say, “Spread it on thick.”
In 1931, shortly after Glen started school in the fall, he became ill with Bright’s Disease and was months in recovering. Clara must have wondered if the Lord was hiding His face from her. Yet she kept going. For many weeks Glen remained in bed and the family provided entertainment and nursing care. He lived on cream and orange juice--and prayers, which along with the family’s love and care brought him, after a long siege, back to health from a disease that took many lives. The Lord had not forgotten Clara and her little family.
One day in 1933, when Lottie Seeley came to visit Clara, she brought James Phenor Peterson, recently divorced from Kisty Etta (Boletta) Johnson Peterson whom he had married 10 Aug 1916. A less confident Clara accepted Phenor’s proposal and Phenor and Clara were married in Manti on 14 Dec 1933. Phenor Peterson was a sheepherder, born 28 February 1891 in Ephraim, Utah, the son of Neils Peterson and Josephine Jensen. He had two sons by his first wife, LaMar and Glen, who lived to adulthood. He also had a baby daughter born 11 Mar 1925 and died the same day. In the 1920 Census, Phenor and Etta had a 2-year-old son, Lamar (born 1 Dec 1917 in Ephriam). Phenor’s nieces and nephews have pleasant memories of going out to the sheep camp to visit and having sour dough biscuits and mutton. They also recall how kind their Uncle Phenor was to them and to their parents. (Clarence Peterson was a brother to Phenor and Clarence’s children included Leo, Ada, Sena, and LaVee, all of whom reported remembering Uncle Phenor, but not his wife.)
Phenor’s son, LaMar came to live with Clara and family while his younger son, Glen, stayed with his mother. LaMar, age 14, slept with Percy and Blain and they were not too happy with his bed-wetting problem. Percy, who had finished school lacking one English credit to graduate, was working in the area, doing farm work, irrigating, and herding sheep to help the family out. There must have been some hope in his heart that Phenor would take over some of the responsibility; however he could soon tell that it wouldn’t be so. During the 1934-35 winter Percy worked on W.P.A. projects, then in the Spring he went to Idaho and Montana looking for work.
Phenor “Brusern” Peterson was so named for his pioneer ancestor who always camped by a brook--”Brook-son,” (son of the Brook), was shortened to “Brusern” and tagged on a generation or two of his descendants. It seems that Phenor lost his ancestor’s courage and drank his sorrows away. Like most school age and adolescent children, Blain, Ila and Glen were not pleased to have a new parent. Indeed, the Brown children were relieved when Clara and Phenor separated and divorced (filed on February, 1935 and official on August 3, 1935).
Clara asked, in addition to her petition for a divorce, that she might retake the surname of Brown by which she was known prior to her marriage to Mr. Peterson. The decree was dated August 3, 1935. The divorce decree so stipulated and also stated that the defendant was to pay $12.00 to the plaintiff for court costs and $50.00 for attorney fees.
Glen Brown was baptized July 26, 1933 by.....
After Clara divorced Phenor, he is thought to have wandered a bit, marrying once more, this time to Mary B. Schofield of Spring Lake on May 4, 1940 in Salt Lake (Lic # A08404) after going back to Etta, his first wife, for a short time. None of the marriages endured and he was a bachelor for many of his later years. He died 25 January 1967 in Salt Lake City, Utah of cardiac and respiratory arrest at the University of Utah Medical Center having entered the hospital with pneumonia on 19 January 1967. He was buried 29 January 1967 in the Ephraim Park Cemetery in Ephraim, Utah. Cassady, his half-brother, was the informant on the death record. LaMar had two webbed toes about which he was teased. LaMar never married. His brother Glen stayed with his mother and reportedly moved to Nevada. It is not known if Glen married or had any children.
There are two stories about LaMar’s death. According to one person, LaMar went into the army and returned. He and some friends were out celebrating, driving a jeep west of Salina when the jeep rolled--they were speeding on rough roads--and LaMar was killed. The death record show the following to be the case: LaMar Peterson (born 1 Dec 1917) died 17 Mar 1939 in Provo of appendicitis and was buried 20 March 1939 in Ephriam, the informant being Phenor, his father. LaMar was 21 years old and single.
Ila remembers, “The windows in our Mount Pleasant home were filled with geraniums and other house plants. They bloomed or simply sat there with their colored foliage brightening the atmosphere. In winter the plants had to be set out of the windows to the table to avoid freezing as the coal and wood fires died out allowing the cold to creep in.” Many mornings Ila recalls the icy-cold floors and the skim of ice in the water bucket.
Clara loved to visit. She would talk across the fence to Elvira Cambron (on the days when Vi felt like talking). Sometimes she would trudge down to visit with Pauline Seeley, across the creek and the first house on the left. Other times she would talk to Johnny Fowles, who on his way home from work at the flour mill, would stand patiently on one foot then the other saying, “Yas. Yas, that’s right, Mrs. Brown.” When her sister Sarah moved into town from the farm after Webley died, Clara and the children would go often to visit. Sarah did home nursing to help earn some money. And, just two blocks further south than Sarah lived was the home of Clara’s sister-in-law, Ethel Spens Kolstrom where Clara and the children enjoyed visiting. Ila recalls, “Aunt Ethel (the wife of Alexander Spens, Clara’s deceased brother) was only as big as a pint of soap. She had brown eyes that sparkled and was nearly stone deaf (which condition she stoutly declared came from living in Wyoming where those “so and so, such and such gnats had caused it. Ethel’s second husband, Amel Kolstrom, was a fat and jolly man whom the children liked. Ethel told fortunes with cards until it frightened her to be so right.
Clara’s niece, Mary Burnside Mower, wrote of her Aunt Clara, “The first I really remember is when she lived in Mount Pleasant by the mill. She was so good to all of us. She had a May Tag Washing machine. Out on the farm we had to wash on the board. Aunt Clara would have us come to her house to do our laundry. I would come with my two children, Jack and Carol and sometimes my husband Morely. She would fix us lunch. Morely would tease her saying, “We don’t eat where we don’t like the folks,” then he would laugh and, after she got to know him, she would give him a good comeback.”
Rita, another niece wrote of Clara, “Aunt Clara was always so loved by my dear mother (Annie Spens Rasmussen) that I had the same feeling. She was always so much in our lives, coming in our gate when I didn’t know where to turn.... I am so grateful for her sweet spirit and her life of service to others.”
As mentioned earlier, Percy went to Idaho and Montana looking for work. Clara wrote, “Percy and Lynn Peterson (Clara’s niece’s husband) hitchhiked to Montana. Percy worked there through haying, but Lynn got homesick and returned home. Blain hitchhiked to my sister Annie’s in Burlington, Wyoming. Then Percy went to Wyoming.
In March 1936, Lester Turpin, a widower, his daughter Anna and her three children came to visit Clara. Lester began courting Clara. Ila fell in love with the children, “Denny is a darling,” she wrote, and “I just love Anna.” Ila had always been hungry for a sister. In fact, when Anna needed to go to the dentist, Ila paid the dentist. Clara was always willing to work and found work to do. There were family visits--Tom and Ag and Young Than and Mildred came and helped quilt. Sarah was close by and handy in helping Ila with sewing.
On July 2, 1936 Glen, Ila and Clara went to Richard Brown’s funeral in Mount Pleasant. Grandpa Brown was mostly a stranger to the children as the two families were estranged, especially after the divorce.
Percy interrupted Lester’s courting when he came to Utah to take Glen and Clara to Wyoming on November 23, 1936. Clara wrote, “Ila stayed to my sister Sarah’s to finish High School in the spring of 1937.” Clara recognized that Ila’s tears were valid and that uprooting her was not the answer. Ila and Anna had become good friends and Ila spent time with Anna when not at school or at Aunt Sarah’s.
Clara writes, “I had been in Wyoming for about a month when a widower, Lester Turpin, followed me from Mount Pleasant to Burlington.” Clara had known Lester Turpin for many years and always had a soft spot in her heart for Lester because he had been such a good friend of her dear brother, Alex. Lester Turpin, born 21 Feb 1887 in Fairview, Sanpete County, Utah, was the son of James Moroni Turpin and Margaret Rigby. (James was born 31 Dec 1844 in Harrison County, West Virginia to Jesse Turpin and Eliza Ann Boggess) James married Margaret Rigby (born 20 Mar 1846 in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois and died 31 Aug 1907 in Fairview) on Jul 14, 1863. Lester was the youngest of 10 children and was baptized 21 Jul 1895. Lester’s first wife, Clara Ethel Brady (called Ethel, born 14 Feb 1891 in Fairview) had a weak heart and died 4 Sep 1935 in Fairview, survived by only one daughter, Anna. Ethel had lost 10 sons by miscarriage and Anna was born with heart problems like her mother. Anna was so small she was kept in a shoe box on the oven door. Lester and Ethel were sealed in the Manti Temple on February 14, 1917 and Lester was ordained to the office of Seventy in 1921.
Andrew Rasmussen and son, Spens, were the witnesses when Clara Spens Brown and Lester Turpin were married by Elder Clinton M. Black, also the Deputy Clerk (No. 182999) in Basin, Big Horn County, Wyoming December 30, 1936.
Ila graduated from Mount Pleasant High School on May 19th. On May 20th following graduation exercises, Ila left her Utah homeland behind. Lester, who had returned to Utah to take care of the farm, had completed his business and returned to Wyoming with Ila. Lester and Clara and Clara’s family stayed at the Newcomer place west of Burlington on the road to Cody. Percy rented the home for his mom and Lester and family. (This house was later moved to Ila and Irvin’s farm and the Jensens lived in it most of their married life.) On January 31, 1937, Lester’s daughter Anna wrote to Ila, “From the way Dad writes, it sounds like he has a new lease on life. Sure makes me feel a lot better. He was so blue for so long.” Ila, who had liked Lester initially, was not feeling so happy for herself and was worried for her mother.
Lester and Clara and Clara’s two younger children, Ila and Glen, stayed in Wyoming until October 28th. The neighborhood held a farewell party for Glen on September 25th. Lester’s new family moved back to Utah, arriving on November 1, 1937 after a series of flat tires and other car trouble. “We moved into Lester’s home on Canyon Road in Fairview.” Ila found work at the school doing secretarial work and Glen attended school. Clara recalled really enjoying going to church in Fairview. Ila recalls running out of butter and how her mother would put some cream in a jar and shake and bounce it on her leg until she “brought” the butter--not as easy as it sounds”
Lester’s daughter Anna Margaret Turpin Davis had previously married Mel Davis. In 1937 she was divorced with two children, Donna Ludene Davis and Denny (Dennis Arden) Davis. Anna married, second, Glen Adolf Hartley in 1937 and continued to live in Fairview. Over the next two years, Ila and Anna became good friends and Clara was a very loving and helpful stepmother to Anna and a caring grandmother to Anna’s children. Lester loved his daughter and grand children dearly. Clara would go down to Anna’s to help with the children and the housework. Anna and Glen had one child whom they named Fonda (born 18 Jun 1938) and there was much happiness over Fonda’s arrival. Ila’s tribute to Anna, written Nov 17, 1937, in the form of a poem is a reminder of the rainbows that come after the storms, both for Anna and for Ila.
You’re so tiny for such a big heart, No one could help but love you... every part.
You’re so pretty and your laughter is divine--I’d be right proud, my dear,
To call you “Sister, Mine.” You’re so lovable to have had so many heartaches,
But after storm comes sunshine, so soon will come your breaks.
February 21,1938 Ila wrote in her journal that it was “Pa’s birthday” and that there had been a big dinner. Like many children, the Brown children did not grant this step-parent full favor. Ila chose to call Lester “Pa” or “Pa Les” as she knew he didn’t like it. Ila soon found a job at Birdseye and was not at home much. She noted that “Pa’s getting some better on March 25th and on April 17th that she and Glen had gone with Pa and Mom to Anna’s for Easter.
While working in Birdseye caring for some little children, Ila noted in her journal that she had received a postcard from her father. The woman at the post office (who obviously read the post card) had asked her about her father, stating that he had worked there previously and had been a silent man. That job ended around Decoration Day and Ila moved back home. In October 1938, Ila noted that she “ragged with Mom.” Rag rugs provided bright floor coverings and certainly kept one’s bare feet warmer than the bare wood floors when stepping out of bed in the early morning.
The year 1939 began with some sadness. On Monday, February 20, 1939 Clara’s brother, Thomas Spens died. Her sister Mary Jane and nephew Harry came to the funeral and visited with Clara and family.
While in Wyoming, Ila met Irvin Jensen. Two years later, Irvin came to Utah for her--his bride. Ila married Irvin on November 27, 1939 and, after a wedding party for a few friends and relatives at Clara’s home on the 29th and dinner at Aunt Sarah’s on December 1, 1939, the new bride moved to Wyoming with Clara’s blessing for a better life.
As is often the case there are trials that come with blessings. On May 4, 1940, on Clara’s birthday, Anna and Glen Hartley’s twin daughters were born, Lela and Lola. Both babies died shortly after birth. One can only imagine, not only the sorrow of this day, but also the peaceful reminder of their faith and the deep whisper of hope in life after this life. For Clara another trial was not being with her faithful daughter, Ila when on January 20, 1941 Ila’s first and only baby was born dead after a very difficult birth. Ila remained in the hospital, her body mending more quickly than her heart. Afer 10 days in the Lovell Hospital Ila was moved to her sister-in-law, Annie’s home and finally returned home to her dear Irvin on February 5th, still feeling sad, “worse than a widow I am.”
Still another trial was watching her son Glen struggle. Glen graduated from Fairview Junior High School. Life was difficult at home with his step-father. The debts from the farm took all of the money promised Glen for a bike. With Clara worrying, he struck out on his own, hitchhiking with two friends to Wyoming. His friends went back to Utah and Glen stayed with Ila and Irvin where he finished school in Burlington, graduating in 1943. He would have been the valedictorian but several local individuals put in their two cents to disqualify Glen due to the fact that he had not been in the Burlington School all four years.
Lester and Clara loved Lester’s grand children. Donna remembers liking Grandma Turpin and that Grandpa Turpin cried when his little Donna was spanked by her father. Anna and the children were a source of joy in Lester’s and Clara’s lives, and in Ila’s too.
Lester was not well. Ila recalled that he suffered from chronic asthma, upset nerves and emphysema. It seemed that Clara was getting more trials. Clara and Lester lived in half of the house--the other half was never finished as Lester had little income from the farm. Lester smoked a lot, was depressed and had threatened to shoot himself. Clara slept little and sang less. Lester drank coffee and smoked the nights away. The farm in Fairview was nothing more than a rock pile, according to Ila, and is evident even to this day (1999) by the rocks piled and strewn in the fields. Clara’s little enjoyments in life included visiting with Anna and the children, visiting with neighbors and going to church during this time. Her own children were all out of the nest and too far away to visit.
Early in June, 1941 Laurence Turpin, Lester’s brother from Ogden came to visit and told Lester he looked great and would probably be around for years. Lester’s suffering was great and this news was not encouraging. Will, Lester’s brother (James William) and a nephew, stopped by Lester’s house Wednesday afternoon, June 11, 1941, on their way home from the fields. Clara was talking to them out by the gate when they heard a gun shot. Will and Clara seemed instinctively to know what had happened. Lester was buried in Fairview and Clara was left to remember his sadness. Her sister, Sarah, understood better than most as her husband, Webley had attempted to end his life of struggles which resulted in his death. One may be tempted to judge harshly; however, “A man of understanding holdeth his peace.” Proverbs 11:12).
A telegram arrived June 11th in Burlington letting Ila and Irvin know of the tragedy. Percy was herding sheep and Irvin took Don Mower up to take Percy’s place so Percy could go to Utah to the funeral. Ila, Irvin, Glen and Percy attended the funeral with their mother on Saturday, June 14, 1941 at the Fairview North Ward Chapel. The obituary kindly stated that Lester had died at home of a lingering illness at the age of 54. Services were conducted by Bishop Golden D. Carlston. In addition to Clara’s children from out of town, other travelers included Mr. and Mrs. Irving Richins, Mr. and Mrs. Laurence Ashton, Mr. Ed Chesnut and Miss Pearl Chesnut of Spanish Fork, nieces and nephews of Clara’s. Lester was buried in the Fairview Cemetery beside his first wife, Clara Ethel Brady Turpin. Ila stated, “Lester got out of it (his pain) the only way he knew.”
After the funeral Irvin, Ila, Glen and Percy brought Clara back to Wyoming. Percy helped Irvin fix the Jensen’s 1936 Chevy to pull a trailer with her few possessions. They stopped in Mountpelier, Idaho for the night. Ila described the trip (June 18-20th), “Flats, transmission problems and brake problems. We were so tired” We came through Yellowstone Park and watched Old Faithful ‘shoot’. Percy continued herding sheep and Clara moved in with Ila and Irvin. Clara was very nervous when she first arrived and Ila worried about the winter months when Clara would be more confined.
Blain had left Wyoming earlier and returned to Utah where he joined the army in 1940. (Blain had previously served in the National Guard as a private in Battery D 222nd F. A. in Mount Pleasant from 17 Dec 1931 to 18 Oct 1933.) Blain wrote that he was going to marry Vivian Mower when he comes home on leave, which he did on July 21, 1941 in Mount Pleasant.
Glenn and Anna Hartley, Lester’s daughter, moved into Lester’s home after Lester died. Some letters went back and forth between Anna, Ila and Clara to help with healing for the adults but Donna and Denny knew little of this--only that Grandpa and Grandma were gone. Donna recalls, “I was very sad that Grandpa died. I missed Grandpa a lot.” As noted earlier, Anna had a bad heart like her mother. Ila has fond memories of Anna and her children and sorrowed over Anna’s death at the age of 36. Anna died from heart disease on 19 January 1946. When Anna died, Donna went to live with her father while Denny and Fonda stayed with Glenn. Not only did Fonda lose her mother at a young age, but she also lost her older sister and her grandparents. These were difficult times for the children.
Clara was happy to be in Wyoming with her children. She had especially missed her daughter, Ila. Needing work, she helped Merle and Wilma Johnston, taking care of their daughter, Joan who would later marry Irvin’s nephew Frank Wordell. In the fall of 1941 LeRoy learned that Percy had kidney problems and came from Colorado to visit him. This was Clara’s first visit with Roy in many years--a mixed blessing for Clara and Percy. Percy’s illness was about to change the course of Clara’s life. Ila noted that Percy continued to work; however he came in from herding sheep for the Christmas holidays in 1941 and Ila had a New Year’s Eve party. Percy came again on the 8th and played cards with the Jensens, and again to attend a basket ball game on January 26, 1942. He liked to be home with his mother and family. On February 23, 1942 Clara went to Graybull to the doctor with Percy and Ila. The doctor asked Clara to come back on the 24th and he pumped her stomach. Percy was told his kidney problems were worse and that he was anemic. Roy and Percy found alcohol as a solution to the health problems.
Clara attended her son Glen’s graduation on Wednesday, April 29, 1942, and on Thursday, April 30th, Percy and Roy, left for Colorado where Percy planned to recuperate. Clara and Ila had made quilts for Percy to take with them.
On May 22, 1942 when Virginia May Briggs was born to Rita Briggs, Clara was there to help her niece with the washing and child care. She continued to help as was her nature, bringing peace and comfort to others; however Clara’s kindness did not provide financial support to herself. In August she tried a job in Woreland, Wyoming.
On August 11, 1942 Percy returned from Colorado full of wedding plans and dreams of his sweet bride to be, Mary Louise Fitz of Inavale, near Red Cloud, Nebraska.
It was in Gold Hill that Percy had met Mary who had come from Nebraska to work at the Blue Bird Lodge. Percy made plans to marry in Nebraska then return to Wyoming to live. He worked hard to accumulate some money. Percy went on to Nebraska to meet Mary’s family, and he and Mary were married in Smith Center, Kansas, just across the Nebraska line from Mary’s parents’ home on November 4, 1942. After getting married Percy moved to Wyoming. Clara met her daughter-in-law on November 15, 1942 and enjoyed a Christmas visit December 25, 1942, in Otto, Wyoming on the John Bullinger/Skinny Hopkinson place. Now Clara’s children, except for Blain who was in the Army, were in Wyoming.
When someone was sick or needed help, Clara was there. She often helped her niece Rita who lived on the next farm and had a large family. Wash days were referred to as the Devil’s Birthday or Back Ache Day. Ila wrote in her journal, “Mother works too hard.”
World War Two continued to intrude on Clara’s family. Clara realized it didn’t sound favorable in keeping Glen out of the army in the fall of 1943 so she prayed he and Blain would be safe. Glen was inducted into the service on January 14, 1944. While in California, he met and married Inez Jean Dunsmoor in Sacramento, California. He was sent overseas and spent a year on the Island of Okinowa. Glen had one LDS buddy (another answer to Clara’s prayers). Omer J. Bangeter. Percy would have been drafted except that John Bullinger, his boss requested he be deferred as he needed help on the farm. Due to his back and kidney problems, Percy was given a “Y” classification. Blain received a certificate of Merit from the U.S. Army Technician 3rd Grade Harold B. Brown 19 011 231 787 Ordinance LM Company, “In Recognition of Conspicuously Meritorious and Outstanding Performance of Military Duty” in the Automotive Platoon during the period of 15 Dec 1944 and 15 Mar 1945. This citation also recognizes Blain for performing his duties “in a superior manner, often under adverse weather conditions did by interchangeability and fabrication restore to operation many vehicles that would ordinarily be dead-lined.”
In the fall of 1944 Clara went to Colorado where she was reunited with Roy (Thomas LeRoy Brown) in Gold Hill. Since their divorce in 1925, LeRoy had wandered, working a job then moving on, the family seldom knowing where he was located. He was in Birdseye, Utah for a season and also thought to have been in Idaho in the State Hospital and in Kansas and Colorado. In Colorado he had worked in various mines. He received a certificate of First Aid from the Bureau of Mines in Climax, Colorado in 1938, where he worked for the Molybdeum Mining Company.
Prior to the war, LeRoy had leased a gold mine and was working it. However, the war had stopped the sale of iron and by the time LeRoy could get back into the mine, it had flooded. In Colorado, Clara and Roy lived in Salina and in Gold Hill. LeRoy built a cabin up Four Mile Creek in Wall Street near Boulder, Colorado. Roy mined at Cold Springs in Netherland. Clara and Roy lived in their two-room cabin as long as his health would allow--he developed silicosis from having worked in mines much of his life.
Percy and Mary came to Colorado with their two little children in August, 1945, and Clara began to be Grandma again, something she took great enjoyment in. She loved to braid Louise’s hair and help Mary with the children and the housework. On March 16, 1949, Clara wrote to Ila stating that Percy, Mary and the three children were still with her and Roy. Clara planted hollyhocks and enjoyed the lilac bushes and wild flowers in the mountainous town of Wall Street where the cabin was. Percy and his family lived in the cabin after Clara and Roy moved out of the mountains.
Clara did love her brothers and sisters and often noted missing them. On July 10, 1949 she took the train to Wyoming to visit Ila and Irvin. She left on the 22nd with Blain and Vivian to go to Utah to see her sister “Bert” as Bertha was fondly called, who was down from Canada. On August 30, 1951 Clara’s sister Mary Jane went to Wyoming to visit sister Bertha who had traveled by plane from Canada. Clara took the bus to Wyoming, arriving at her son Glen’s on September 10th for this festive occasion. Glen and wife Inez had come to Wyoming after the war to raise a family and were living on a farm in the Burlington area. Ila noted that her mom returned to Colorado on the September 25, 1951.
Ila received a letter from her mother dated January 5, 1952, stating that “Percy had been in another car wreck and broken some ribs, etc., and demolished his car. Poor Christmas for the kids (Henry, Louise, Sandra, and Gayle).” Clara worried about her grandchildren. On January 29th Clara was in the hospital with the flu. By February 21, 1953, although Clara was feeling better, Ila noted that her father was “very bad, physically and mentally.” Clara went to work at the hospital to make a little money and Ila noted, “If it isn’t too long hours, it will be good for her to get out.” Ila wished she could go visit them, “I need to see my folks,” she wrote.
Roy and Clara had moved to Bloomfield when his health could no longer endure the high altitudes of the cabin in Wall Street. Now they have moved into an upstairs apartment in Boulder (921 Maxwell). Roy went to the mountains once in a while, until he was unable to breath without the aid of an oxygen tent. Clara went to work in the kitchen at the Community Hospital.
In June 1954 Ila noted in her journal that her mother was out of work, her father was sick, and that Percy was out of work. In 1954 in the fall, Ila rode to Colorado with Frank Wordell and on the train to visit her parents, knowing that her father’s health was failing. Roy had been ill for several years with silicosis. Ila went with her mother to Wall Street (a tiny community) in Four-Mile Canyon to visit Percy and his growing family one afternoon. Percy and family went to visit in Boulder, too, and Ila played Button-Button with the children. Clara served Campbell soup, which the children remember as a wonderful treat.
Thomas LeRoy Brown was admitted to Boulder General Hospital on January 21, 1955 from his upstairs apartment at 921 Maxwell Street and died February 8, 1955. Blain and Vivian drove out for the funeral and Ila came alone on the train. LeRoy’s sister, Mary, and his brother Dave’s daughter, Lucille, also came to the funeral, held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Seventh and Highland in Boulder at 2 p.m. on February 12, 1955. Following the funeral he was buried at Mountain View Memorial Park-NE, Boulder, Colorado, 3/4 mile east of Turnpike-Estes Park 28th Street bypass road. At the time of Roy’s burial this was a relatively new cemetery with no standing headstones, it did not seem like a cemetery. Howe Mortuary was in charge of the burial.
Clara always gave thanks for her blessings and kept the teachings of the gospel her mother had taught her in childhood. She found a small branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and began attending. Roy’s funeral was held there. She sent the Stake Missionaries to teach Percy’s wife and children. Mary and the three older children were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints December 4, 1955. Gayle and James were blessed at church the following day.
A 1956 article in the Boulder Newspaper noted that the Community Hospital in Boulder had invested approximately $7000 in Meal-Pack equipment to assure that the food would be hot and pleasant when it reached for patients. This equipment and the new addition was on public display on Saturday and Sunday, February 19-20th. Shown in the accompanying article were Clara Brown and others who worked in the hospital kitchen.
On August 16, 1956, Clara’s brother Nathaniel Spens died. He was known by the children as “Long Uncle Than.” Once again Clara traveled to Wyoming to the funeral. There she saw dear ones including her daughter Ila and son Glen. A number of relatives from Utah came to the funeral. Clara’s sister Sarah and husband Chris Christensen came with their daughters May and Beth. Her nephew, Fairel Spens and wife Edna came too as did Elfa’s sister, Alice Christensen. (Elfa was Than’s wife.) Than had hidden money in the granary which had once been a Bishop’s storehouse on church property. There was quite a search for his money but it was never found. The funeral was August 20th and on the 21st everyone went home except Clara who stayed until the 23rd. Ila took her to Basin where she caught the 5 p.m. train.
Clara was delighted with the good news that Glen’s wife Inez was learning from the missionaries. On October 7, 1956 Inez and daughter Nancy were baptized. Within a month, Glen and Inez decided to move to North Dakota. They sold their farm to Smokey Grabbert for $8,000 and left Wyoming with their three children, Robert, Nancy and Ronald on January 6, 1957. Ila noted, “I don’t know how I will get along without the kids. They get to be such a part of your life.”
The year 1957 ended the Colorado era for Clara. In January, 1957 following the birth of their baby Ruth, Percy and his family moved to Nebraska to be closer to Mary’s family with the hopes that Percy could get away from drinking friends with more family support. This was a very sad time for Clara as she was now left alone in Colorado and her health was failing. Clara’s heart problems increased and she was not able to keep working nor was she to be left alone. Once again, Ila and Irvin moved Clara back to their home in Wyoming.
On February 15, 1957, Ila noted in her journal that she had received a letter from her mother requesting that them to come for her. Ila and Irvin left on the following day, a Saturday, and on the 17th began their journey home, stopping in Cheyenne, Wyoming to visit Irvin’s nephew, Owen Jensen and in Riverton to see Leslie Jensen and family. Clara would live with Ila and Irvin for the next 20 years, in the same area where her brothers Tom and Nat lived and her sister Annie’s family. Adjustment was not smooth, Ila noted agitation in “hands that go constantly” and numerous trivial arguments. She worried, “My patience won’t last.”
In addition to Clara’s move from independence to dependence, the year 1957 held other significant dates for Clara. On May 10th, she attended a funeral for her sister-in-law, Eva Spens. There were not many flowers and not many tears. Ila wrote, “That is the way when there are no children, I guess.” That same month Clara was thrilled that Ila and Irvin were able to go to the Idaho Falls Temple where they were sealed together for time and eternity. Glen and Inez and family came for a visit over the 4th of July and took Clara to North Dakota with them for a visit. Ila met her mother at the train station on July 28, 1957. On August 26th Blain and Vivian came for a visit and Clara returned home with them for a visit to her family and friends in Utah, returning home by the 11th of September for Ila’s birthday.
The year 1958 was another year of travels and trials. On May 8, 1958, Clara left for Nebraska, having received a letter from Percy’s mother-in-law that Percy was drinking again. She returned home on the train on August 6, 1958 then left for Utah with the Yorgasons on the 14th of November. Perhaps she was trying to do too much for others. Ila received a call from Blain and Vivian informing them that Clara was in the hospital in Salt Lake City, having broken a blood vessel in her stomach. “About scared us to pieces.” Clara came home on the 14th of January. 1959.
May 5, 1959 Clara’s brother-in-law, Andrew Rasmussen died in his sleep on the couch at his daughter, Reta’s home, her sister Annie having died many years earlier.
The year 1962 was a year for travels. Clara wrote, ”I went to Salt Lake City by airplane on May 8, 1962. I left Cody at 7:45 a.m. and arrived in Salt Lake City at noon. I went to Elva Spens’ home then called my son Blain in Murray. He came for me after work and I spent two days with Blain and Vivian and family. Beth Thursby, my sister Sarah’s daughter then took Vivian, Debbie and me down to Mount Pleasant to see Sarah who had had a bad heart attack and was in the hospital. Sarah went home on Friday but was very poorly on Saturday morning. She took a stroke and was taken back to the hospital. I stayed for five days, worrying all the time about Ila who was in the hospital. I stayed in Mount Pleasant until Memorial Day then went back to Murray with Blain and his family. I stayed with Elva again. Beth Olsen came and took me to see her sister, Bessie Weight and her brother, Harold Spens and family. Blain took me to the airport and I returned to Wyoming. Ila was doing as well as could be expected.”
1962 held changes. Clara’s first two grandsons, Michael Blain Brown in Utah and Henry LeRoy Brown in Nebraska, graduated from high school. ”On June 6, 1962 I had acute arthritis in my knee and was in the hospital for two days. Soon after we received word that Percy’s wife, Mary Louise, had gone to the hospital in Omaha, Nebraska for another cancer operation. I went to Hastings, Nebraska on the 7th of September and stayed until the 12th of October, 1962. I then went to Caldwell, Kansas to visit with Glen and Inez and family. From Caldwell, I went to Long Island, Kansas to visit with William Dunsmore and family (Inez’s relatives). On the first of November I went back to Percy’s and left for Wyoming on the 5th of November, having had a good visit with both families.
“Like many British folk,” Ila observed, “Mom grew up loving bread and butter and tea. Though she said she drank it for the ‘trimmings,’ (the sugar and cream) it was about 1960 when she gave up tea. Tea may have been responsible for her many digestive tract problems.”
Clara went to Utah again in 1963 to be with her family and complete the necessary eternal ordinances of temple work for herself, her deceased husband, Thomas LeRoy and her deceased son, Vernon. She received her first Temple recommend on 22nd of September, 1963 from Bishop Morris Aagard and Wilmur A. Nicholls, Stake President. On October 19, 1963 she took out her own endowments in the Manti Temple with other proxies being Spens relatives. She visited her son, Blain and his family, also her granddaughter, Louise (Percy’s daughter) who was a student at Brigham Young University, her cousin Wesley Burnside and other relatives.
Clara had written her niece Nellie May about her plans to come and Nellie May had written from Moroni that Sarah was doing “pretty good,” that she mostly lays quietly without much pain and that she talks although at times she gets things mixed up--i.e. she thought Nellie May’s white dress was a slip and told her to “put something on over that slip before going on the street.” Clara visited her sister and was saddened by her aging and her pain. Clara returned to Wyoming and Sarah slipped away on Christmas day in 1963.
Between1964 and Clara’s death, the BYU grandchildren and their friends made annual tips to Burlington, Wyoming for Thanksgiving. Even after Grandma Clara was in the nursing home in Woreland, the visits included her. Many a picture was taken and many a memory made during those visits.
Nothing could have pleased Clara more than to see her grandchildren serve missions.
Henry LeRoy Brown was called to the Central British Mission and served from May 1966 to May 1968. Robert William Brown and his brother Ronald Glen Brown were both called to serve in Germany. Clara Louise Brown served in the Argentina South Mission from October 1968 to January 1971. Gayle Lynn Brown was called next and served in the Texas Dallas Mission from October 1977 to May 1979. Finally, Ruth LeAnn Brown, Clara’s youngest grand-daughter, visited her in October 1980 prior to entering to Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Ruth served in the England London East Mission from November 1980 to 1982.
Life in Wyoming settled into a routine during the next few years. Clara wrote letters to her family members and sent birthday cards to her grandchildren, and later wrote to them as missionaries--Henry in England (May 1966- May 1968), Robert in Germany (1966-1968) and Louise in Argentina (1968-1971). Ila took over much of Clara’s correspondence and continued to send letters to the rest of Clara’s grandchildren missionaries over the years--Gayle in Texas, Ronald in Germany and Ruth in England. At Christmas Clara helped Ila prepare the Christmas packages with goodies that lasted through the holidays. For those years, trips were to town, not out of state.
On February 6, 1964, Percy’s wife, Mary Louise, had cancer surgery again. Worry over Percy’s family mounted and on September, 11th Clara made another trip to Nebraska to help Percy’s family. She returned home to Wyoming on October 21st having spent the last week visiting Glen and Inez and family in Caldwell, Kansas.
The year 1965 began tenuously. Percy’s wife, Mary, was in the hospital and with terminal cancer. “We received word that Mary Louise Fitz Brown died February 18, 1965 in Hastings, Nebraska, and Ila and I traveled to Nebraska by bus to attend the funeral and comfort Percy and his six children, the youngest being barely eight years old.” As Clara and Ila prepared to leave on the 19th, Clara had a “blackout.” Ila noted, “Mom felt sick and hurried to the door to get some air. She fell head-long, sustaining some bruises.” Even so. Clara traveled by bus with her daughter to Nebraska to the funeral, returning on March 2nd, having seen Glen and Inez and her youngest grandson, baby Kevin who was “real cute and full of vinegar.” Ila noted in her journal that “Percy’s family are nice youngsters, but it will be hard for them.” More for Clara to worry about, and pray about.
Ila, during the many years she spent with her mother, gathered many memories and some understanding of her mother’s loneliness and sorrow. “As I look back on the years we were growing up, it comes forcibly to me how lonely and very discouraged Mother must have been. She seemed old to me, but she was yet a young woman with the need for love and for someone to care for her and her children. How many decisions she had to make alone. How many nights she faced the fact that the cupboard was bare.”
Some of Ila’s earliest memories are of Clara’s long, baby-fine auburn hair, her delicate, pink-toned skin and her hands. “Mother hadn’t an actual knack for caring for her hair so it was a problem to her. In my later childhood, she had her hair cut short and curled it with curling irons heated on the old coal and wood kitchen stove. Often the smell of burned hair told the story of too hot of an iron. Some of the irons “crimped” her hair to a washboard appearance; mostly though, she was too busy working to spend much time on her hair or hands, or on clothes of which she had few and mostly drab looking. Some of her house dresses were probably made by her sister Sarah.” Of her skin Ila wrote, “She was prone to sunburn and had to protect herself carefully when outside. Mother would pull on a pair of long cotton stockings with the toes cut out to protect her arms, and she would wear a large straw, sun-shading hat. She could sunburn from the reflection through the window! Her large hands with long fingers made knobby from milking, forking hay, hoeing weeds and hand-wringing the washing--both the family’s and other washings for hire-- including large quilts.”
“My hobbies are making quilts and crocheting.” And singing, one might add for she enjoyed music, as did all of her family. “She loved music and singing,” mused Ila. “For a while we had an old phonograph and we learned the songs. Mom sang many old songs from her childhood. Our home was often alive with all our voices as we sang together. The boys all played the harmonica, too.” Ila added, “Mother was a collector of old songs, poems and post cards. We often referred to one particular card depicting two black boys eating a slice of watermelon. We quoted them often: “Aint gonna be none left” said one and the other responded, “I knows it.” This carried over into many facets of our lives.”
Clara carried on correspondence with many of her relatives, and all the letters, carefully saved by Ila have been a source of genealogical information.
Ila recalled her mother saying, “Five moves are as bad as burnout.” She should know. There was always something to be left behind or something dropped, cracked or broken. She moved 35 times!
Over the years Ila wrote down many of the unique Scottish comments that Clara was wont to use, many of which seemed to be superstitions. Following is a list of sayings not mentioned in Clara’s story thus far:
If you meet the dirt at the door you won’t get married this year.
A noise in the chimney means bad news about someone in the family.
Death comes in threes.
Storm in an open grave means another death in the family.
Hud yer whist’ (Be quiet)
Help yersel and dinna be bligh (bashful), there’s more in the kitchen.
Spit it out if ye dinna lak it...our boys ‘ll eat it.
Oh, go to Bonff and see the kettle dance
Want shall be your master.
Many a little makes a muckle.
Dinna fash yerself. (Don’t get excited)
Dinna be greetin. (Don’t be complaining or grieving)
I dinna ken. (I don’t know)
Lak Paddy’s serk (shirt), twill be white when dry. (Things look better later)
Spit in one hand and wish in tother, see which fills first.
Why? Y’s a crooked letter, and ye ought to know better.
Don’t walk around so slow the dead lice can crawl off ya.
Ach’ He’s a blether o’dirt. (Talks too much)
Mammy trot, Pappy trot, Hard for cold to pace (bad parental example)
Even the Devil is easy to get along with if you give him all his own way.
This weather makes you wonder where your summer’s wages went.
I’ve nothing to say, I’ve me living to make.
Who stole your scone? (What is making you look so sad?)
Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?
Twould skunner a hog. (Even a hog couldn’t stand it)
Activities that may have been hobbies earlier on, became important pastimes in later years. Playing Sol or Solitaire and working crossword puzzles by painstakingly copying the answers were such to Clara. She couldn’t concentrate well enough to read long periods and was too nervous to crochet or embroidery in her later years. She just wanted to work. She would set the table many times a day, dry dishes, burn trash, and walk from window to window.
Clara enjoyed good health until her later years. She would be back on her feet directly after the birth of her children and experienced little discomfort prior to the birth. She in later years, experienced many bowel problems, sciatic pains in her legs and a heart problem. She also had late onset diabetes.
In the summer of 1977, Clara was taken to the Cody Hospital and later released from the hospital to the Bethesda Care Center in Worland, Wyoming, 60 miles south of Burlington. She was given the following diagnoses by Dr. Tarr on June 13, 1977: diabetes mellitis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic heart disease by history, cardiomegally, essential hypertension, senile vaginitis, chronic UTI, and senile brain syndrome. During her four years at the center her Social Security Number: (528-18-7065A) was very important. That is what paid for her care. Over the four years, she became increasingly more confused. She was strong physically and would walk away when opportunity arose. When visited, she showed a sense of humor and enjoyed company; however, she forgot they had been there once the visitors were out of sight and reported being very lonely. Ila and Irvin visited her every week during her stay in Worland.
Clara Spens Brown died January 28, 1981 in Worland, Wyoming at the Bethesda Care Center where she had resided for three and a half years, the immediate cause of her death being pneumonia. She was buried in Burlington, Big Horn County, Wyoming on Saturday, January 31, 1981 following services at the Burlington-Otto Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with Rodney McNiven conducting. Clayton Chantrell gave the family prayer. Bishop McNiven dedicated the grave. Poll Bearers were Paul Rasmussen, Gary Orr, Ray Wardell, Arlan Preator, Henry Brown and Ferrel Riley. Paul, Arlan and Henry are all Spens relatives. Ray and Gary are Irvin’s nephews and Ferrel and Cleo were neighbors. Cleo gave the eulogy. Blain and Vivian, Percy, Henry and Louise, and Glen and Inez came for the funeral. The Haskell Funeral Home in Lovell was in charge of the burial.
The paper noted that Clara Spens Brown was survived by three sons, a daughter, 14 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren. Unknown to her family at the time she was survived by one more daughter who had been placed for adoption in 1930, and six more grand children!
Step grandchildren also survived her. Fonda Hartley married Clark William Rappleye, born Dec 17, 1937 in Orem, Utah, son of Ammon V. Rappleye and Lila Cox. Fonda and Clark had 4 children, one son, Jeffry Glen Rappley, 1959; and three daughters, Jane Ann, 1961, Joy Lynn, 1962, and Jerri Sue, 1963. Clark and Fonda Rappleye lived in Orem for many years then moved to Fairview where they were living at the time of this writing (1999). Donna Davis married and had three sons, then married Darrell Rappleye, a brother to Clark. Three more sons and a daughter were born to this marriage. Dennis Davis married and had one son.
Reta Rasmussen Briggs was not able to attend the funeral but wrote the following: “Your dear mother was always loved by my dear mother (Anna Elizabeth) and I had that same feeling. Her concern and devotion to us meant so much. She was always coming in our gate when I didn’t know which way to turn. I am so grateful to her for her sweet spirit. She always worked hard and thought of others. Her life was one of service.”
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