William Wallace Stephens
John and Will were inseparable, as there was only two years difference in their ages. John’s mother had died 9 days after his birth, on
January 4, 1869,
and his father married Amina Raymond on August 23, 1869.
She cared for his four children as though they were her own. Geneva Ellen died as a child. The Children loved and respected Amina as
they would have their own mother. She
found it hard to punish John when he misbehaved, because of the loss of his own
mother. William Nephi (Bill), his older
brother, took over when discipline was necessary. Boys being as they are, they did get into
mischief. Uncle Bill felt Will should
not bear the punishment alone, so when necessary, he laid on the heavy hand in
the right place to John. Amina had a
wonderfully sweet disposition and Will loved her with great devotion. Being the eldest of her children, he was
always ready to help her carry water, chop and carry wood for cooking and heat,
hoe the garden and also carry wood and water for “Aunt Mary” as they called the
Because the country was so wild in those days, there were many adventures for small boys. Their father taught them all to use a gun, and to fish and hunt. On one occasion, they shot a deer. Having only a lunch with them, they dressed the deer and fried the liver. The hungry boys ate too much of the fresh liver, and it made them very sick.
There were grizzly bears, too, and one kept coming and getting into the cattle. A heavy trap was set and solidly chained to a large log, the wedged between two trees. In the early morning, as soon as daylight came, such a loud commotion was heard that the men were up and ready to get the bear. He was so large and powerful that he had torn the log loose. His trail was easy to follow, as the log had torn up brush and small trees. The bear raged and tore, but was shot. The hide, when stretched, almost covered the end of the cabin. Will’s mother rendered the fat and had enough for donuts and shortening for the winter, besides the meat it provided. The animal, when skinned and dressed and hung up, resembled a human; and she couldn’t bring herself to eat it, but it furnished meat for the rest of the family.
The Fisher family came to Menan in the early days of the settlement. They had a dirt-floored log cabin near the Big Cedar Butte. Their grandson later became the famous author, Vardis Fisher. Vardis” uncle, for whom he was named, was a playmate of Will’s and John’s. One day they found a rattlesnake coiled in the road. The boys dared each other to jump over it. Will and John made it, but as Vardis jumped, the snake struck and fastened its fangs in Vardis’ coattail. He ran, and fast with the snake sailing through the air behind him. He thought quickly and shedding his coat, also shed the snake.
When Will was 15, he took his mother from Menan to
, west of Plain
City where her mother
lived, to have her child, Imogene. There
was no doctor in Menan, or near there, and Grandfather felt she should be where
she could get good care. Will drove a
team and light wagon. They had to camp
out unless they made the day’s end near a farm or stage station. Part of the way was across the
Shoshone-Bannock Indian country too. It
was quite an undertaking for a young boy. Ogden
When Will had gotten all the schooling he could get at Menan, his mother sent him to Plain City to stay with her mother, so he could get a better education. When Ricks Academy was first opened in Rexburg, Will and John were sent there to school, staying in a sheep campwagon, until a cabin was found. There, sister Sarah, called Sadie, kept house for the boys while they attended the Academy. Jacob Spori was his first teacher.
There were so many mosquitoes in the summer at Menan, the cows could not give milk, so Will, John, their mother and younger children took the cows into the mountains to the east. They had plenty of grass for the animals and the family camped out. Amina made cheese, which, on returning to Menan, she took into Idaho Falls, (then called Eagle Rock) and exchanged it for sugar and staples they could not raise for themselves. Once when Will went with his mother to Eagle Rock, there was a drunken brawl and a man was shot in front of the saloon. (He was a well-known desperado, but I have forgotten his name.) Seeing such violence was a terrific shock to both of them.
In the meantime, the Federal Government passed a law against the plural marriages practiced by the Mormons; and the Church, wishing to obey the laws of the land, issued a manifesto by Pres. Wilford Woodruff to “refrain from contracting marriage forbidden by the laws of the land”. Federal Marshals had been sent out to arrest those with more than one wife. The men had to support their families and so traveled around working wherever they could for money and food—anything that could help the families. Will’s father traveled wherever he could get work, building barns, felling trees, helping with crops, working at sawmills, etc. When not working, he fished and hunted and got food home to his family somehow. It was a bad situation trying to avoid the Marshals. On one occasion, when Federal Marshals came to the farm at Menan searching for Will’s father, he managed to slip away, but watched from a short distance away, ready to come to the family’s aid, if they were mistreated. The often were. The Marshals searched the barn—Will on hand with his dog to see what they were doing. One of the men kicked the dog and Will rushed to help the animal. The Marshall rapped Will hard on the head with the butt of his pistol, raising an egg-sized lump. Will’s father then turned himself in. He was sentenced by Judge Hays on November 18, 1887 at Blackfoot, Idaho to 6 months in prison at Boise, Idaho. The prison was cold, food sparse, supper usually bread, raw onions and water. He served his sentence and was happy to return to care for his family and run his farm, a free man.
As a young man, Will worked away from the farm, giving money to his mother to help keep the family. He met and married Alice Elliott, who had come with her family from Warnecliff, Silkstone, near Barnsley, England. She was second from the youngest of eight children—four boys and four girls. They were Thomas, James, Albert, Aaron, Sarah, Lillian, Alice, and Annie. One child died in infancy. Alice’s father, John Elliott, died October 20, 1885 of pneumonia in Silkstone, Yorkshire, England. He was a mining engineer, making the blueprints or maps of the various shafts, levels, and tunnels in the Warnecliff Silkstone mine. Working as machinists in the mine, were sons Albert and James. Aaron was secretary (as far as we can determine) to Mr. Walker, manager of the mine at the time of Alice’s fathers’ death. John Elliott had become a member of the LDS church as a young boy. He never saw a Mormon Elder again until about 2 years before his death. One day while John and his wife, Elizabeth, were shopping at the Barnsley Market Place, two men came to his home. The girls were home alone, and noting the difference in speech, they were mystified by these men, who said they would return later. When told of the incident, Alice’s father said, “I know—they were Mormon Missionaries.” The Elders did return. In time, the rest of the family joined the LDS Church. Alice was baptized October 26, 1886, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. Her father, John Elliott was born November 2, 1825, and married Elizabeth Mathewman on October 14, 1856. Elizabeth was born October 11, 1837.
When Alice was seventeen years old, she went to Oregon with Mag Stoddard and husband, who had the contract to feed the men laying the railroad tracks for the Oregon Short Line around Huntington. She spent the summer there helping Mrs. Stoddard do the cooking. She developed a bad toothache and was taken to Baker to the dentist. He pulled all her upper teeth and made her dentures that she wore the rest of her life. They were pretty and very well made. She did washing on a washboard for the Durrans family. Having difficulty collecting her wages, she found that they had been applied on purchases Lillian had charged at Durrans Department Store.
Seeing his beloved Alice, a tiny girl of 19, doing such hard labor, nearly broke Will’s heart. Feeling he could make life easier for her, he asked consent of Alice’s mother to marry Alice. Given the consent, they were married in the Logan Temple February 22, 1893. At the time, Will was feeding cattle for a cattle company at a small wage, but they found a two room house and managed, with much less work for Alice. During the next few years, he worked at many jobs that were all manual labor, as there was no other kind in those days. During this time, daughter Amina Elizabeth was born November 17, 1893, and a son, Raymond Elliott, was born September 19, 1895. Then Will had the offer to be foreman of the Wood Livestock Company at the home ranch in Pahsimeroi Valley. To get there, one took the stage from Blackfoot via Mackay and Challis. It was a long hard trip on a western four-horse stage. The summer was eventful. Going with them to the ranch was Alice’s sister, Annie, and her husband, Jet Ricks and also Will’s half-brother, Jim, and Mr. and Mrs. Osborn. Alice had a bottom tooth that was abscessed, and hearing one of the ranchers in the valley owned a pair of dental forceps, Will sent Jim on horseback to borrow them. Getting the forceps, he gave Alice a stiff drink of Whiskey and pulled her tooth. While Alice and Will were away from the ranch on a shopping trip to Challis, Raymond fell and broke his arm at the elbow. As soon as they arrived home, Jim was dispatched to Challis for a doctor. It was two days before the doctor arrived. All the doctor had to set the arm with was a cardboard shoe box. This he softened in water, fitted it to the arm and it was left to dry and harden. The doctor left saying, “Remove the cardboard in 6 weeks.” They never saw him again, but the arm was straight and healed well.
There was a tame antelope on the ranch that had the run of the place and was found one day lying on the bed in Hugh Wood’s bedroom. It had jumped through an open window. The antelope never bothered Raymond, but every time he could catch Mina alone, he would bunt her.
Sister Lillian came to visit from Blackfoot and Will took her to Mackay to catch the stagecoach home. On returning the ranch over Double Springs Pass around midnight, a mountain lion screamed from a ledge just above the road. It was a steep grade and the horses (a beautiful sorrel buggy team) were very frightened and the neck yoke came loose. Will had to stop the team and get out and put it back on the trembling, sweating horses. The lion followed them almost to the bottom of the grade, screaming its blood-chilling cry. Finally they lost it, because it had followed a higher ledge away from them. Will admitted to fear, too, not knowing when the lion might jump him in the dark. Alice was always timid and rather frightened of the rough cowboys. The cook, called Big John, made rhubarb wine. One fourth of July, all the hands got drunk on John’s wine. John took a trip to Challis and while he was gone, Alice dumped out the wine. On his return, John was furious and quit his job, but when he spent all his money in Challis, he returned to the ranch and his job as cook.
When winter came, the sheep foreman, a Mr. Hyde, brought the sheep to the home ranch instead of one of the other ranches where hay was stacked. He wanted Will to haul the hay from that ranch to the home ranch where there was a cook and bunk house. Will objected as it was a waste of time and men to haul hay that far. However, Mr. Hyde had been sheep foreman for the Company for a long time, and he talked to Mr. Wood, the manager of the Company, into his plan. Will said if he was going to be foreman of the ranch, he was not going to give in to such a wasteful plan, so Will quit the job. Then began the long trip back to Rexburg in the winter, with two wagons, each with four-horse teams. There was Jim, another man on horseback, Jet, The Osborns, Will and Alice, and the children.
On the last of the trek out of Howe, night over-took them. They all thought they would get lost in the white expanse of snow, but Will, with the North Star as his guide, took them directly into the town of Roberts. They went on to Rexburg and spent Christmas with Sarah and her husband on their farm.
Will found work and they later moved to Menan where he worked at Smith’s Store and the flour mill. Virgil Elliott was born in Menan on December 23, 1899.
Will entered into a partnership with his sister, Sadie, in a store at Lewisville. The partnership was eventually dissolved; then the family returned to Rexburg. There Will become bookkeeper for Henry Flamm. He also went around the country selling Studebaker wagons. The exact year, I do not know, but he become Postmaster at Rexburg, a job which he held for 12 years. Vera Elliott was born March 20, 1905. Will built a brick home in Rexburg. A fifth child was born, but died at birth. The difficult birth left Alice practically an invalid for years until a surgeon came from Salt Lake especially to operate on her. From this, she eventually recovered and was in fair health. Mina went to Ricks Academy, where she met T. Carl Blackburn. They become engaged and were married following his mission for the LDS Church. They lived in Blackfoot and he filed for homestead sixteen miles west of that town. T. Carl Blackburn was born April 25, 1891.
In 1914 when Wilson became President, Will lost his job as Postmaster. In those days, when political parties changed, so did post office jobs. The family then moved to Blackfoot and homesteaded near Carl and Mina, who had a child, Otella. Carl & Mina’s son, Terry Art, was born May 4, 1924, and died at the age of 8 in January 1932.
Will built a small grocery store at Rockford, which his son, Raymond, ran in the summer and the family moved there in the winter so Vera could go to school.
After proving up on the homestead and a few years later, with insufficient water for dry farming, they gave up the farm and moved to Springfield. The store at Rockford closed. Raymond went to Ogden to work and Will rented a farm in Springfield and Virgil helped his father.
World War I began. Raymond joined the Army and went to France. The year after the peace was signed the family moved to Blackfoot, (between the rivers) and Will became a partner on two farms with Lillian’s husband, LR Thomas. This partnership was eventually dissolved and Will retained for his own, the farm known as the “Welch” place. Virgil went to Blackfoot to work and Raymond also, after returning from France. The brothers married sisters. Virgil married May Thompson, and Raymond married Eloise Thompson. Each had a son and daughter. Raymond’s children were Dean and Lois. Virgil’s children were Chad and Diane.
Three years after graduating from high school, Vera went to Los Angeles to study nursing at Los Angeles County Hospital in 1926.
Will hired Glen Hunter to help him on the farm. Later he became a partner with Will in the farming business. After graduating from nursing school, Vera returned home and she and Glen were married on June 3, 1931. The farm partnership continued until 1945, when Will retired and he and Alice bought a house in Blackfoot. He later sold the farm.
In the meantime World War II began. Grandson Dean was in the Marine Corps, Grandson Chad joined the Air Corps and Otella’s husband, Otis Massey was in the Army. All returned home safely from the war.
Glen Hunter received his barbering license after 6 months schooling in Salt Lake City. He and Vera moved to Arco, Idaho and later in 1956 to Boise. Mina and Carl and Otella moved to Boise in 1947.
Will and Alice moved to Arco also, and lived there until their deaths. Alice died on September 23, 1952, and Will died two years later on September 25, 1954. They are buried in the Arco cemetery.