SIGNE ELISABETH HOLMES HALVERSON
Grandma Holms wrote mother’s name in her teetotaler book the “SVENSK-FINSKA NYKTERBETS-FORBUNNDET” as Signe Elisabeth Johansdotter Holms. All her childrens names were written in Swedish. Before they were Anglicized to the names we are familiar with. Born 21st Juni 1904. She was called Signe by her friends and family for at least 25 years. She used to write it "Signa" (with the "a" not "e")for years. I can remember when she was always called Signe, but few non Swedes could read it and then pronounce it. Eventually she wished to be called Beth. I loved the sound of her name when it was spoken by a Swede. I have never referred to Mother as "Beth", always "Signe", yet my Father and all my brothers and sister called her Beth. She was born in Frisco, Beaver County, Utah. One year after her Mother (Lisa Jakobsdotter Antbrams) and her sister, Edith had immigrated from Finland. Her father Johannes (John) Ericksson Holms (Holmes) had been here in America since 1900.
Grandpa came here about sixteen years after the "Horn Silver" mine caved in, when thousands of tons of rock rolled into the town. Windows were broken in Milford, fifteen miles away. The Horn Silver Mine had silver so pure and soft you could cut it with a knife, it would curl up like a horn. It was the richest deposit in the west. Frisco was rendered a semi-ghost town overnight, the population had dropped from 6000 to less than 50 by the time grandpa arrived.
The people had abandoned the town, like rats leaving a sinking ship, all in one day. Both the town and the mine was destroyed. The outlaws, gamblers, ladies of the night all left. Schools, saloons, and stores were closed.
Frisco was a ring-tailed roarer and a devils delight. It was common to find men murdered or killed. A record of twelve men were killed in one night. A new Marshall from Pioche Nevada, Marshall Pearson killed six men his first day on the job. the policy was no judge, no jail, get out or get shot.
It was never a wild town when Grandpa was here, but it was a God forsaken place in the middle of the desert, not a good place to bring a family. He was part of crew working on a new 900 foot shaft to find the ore body that was covered. There was still a lot of silver to be found, It produced ore for another 20 years.
In 1903 he sent money to Finland to bring his wife, Lisa Jakobsdotter Antbrams Holms and their daughter, Edith Marie, to Frisco to live. When they arrived they thought they were at the end of the world. The desert was barren and dry and the mountains almost treeless. The town being mostly destroyed, with many old vacant shacks and stores rotting and falling apart. Only a few dozen dwellings were occupied, two stores were still open. My mother was born one year later with only a mid-wife.. There were no doctors in Frisco.
This was no ordinary town with all the conveniences a town would have, it was a company town with only the bare necessities. Water was sold for five cents a bucket; this was a lot of money in those days. It was hauled by train from 30 miles away. They stayed here about a year before moving to Eureka. When Mother talked about Frisco, she talked about the water.
My mother was about three months old when the family moved to Eureka, Utah, where she was christened into the Lutheran Church and now had four God-Parents. Mother was happy to have all these God-Parents and often talked about them, I wish now that I would have written down what she had said, can't seem to remember much now. They were her father's uncles and Aunts, Herman and Lovisa Holms Snell and Josef Holms and his friend Mary Kronlof. Each had signed their names on Mothers baptism document below hers, a very beautiful document it is. It has opened many doors that were closed to me before I began showing it.
Mother remembers the fourth of July 1910 even though she was only six years old. Signe was sleeping, when Edith was awakened by the smell of smoke. The house was on fire. She was then drug out of the house by her sister Edith. Working late the night before with only a candle for light, Edith had ironed her new white dress, but had forgotten to put out the candle. Her pretty umbrella, shoes, hat and dress went up in smoke.
Both of her brothers were born here in Eureka, Verner Herbert born 16 March 1906 and Conrad Hjalmar born 13 December 1910.
Mother tells about the many vaudeville shows and the Ringling Brothers Circus her father had taken them to in Eureka, when Grandpa had money they used and enjoyed it.
It was 1912 and the mines were closed because of Strikes, when her father lost his job they lost their house. So they moved back to Frisco. Mother was eight years old then and tells a little about her life in Frisco.
In an autobiography Mother tells of how she and Vanner sold a grip (suitcase) and bought a wagon to play with and to haul firewood home for their mother. She said "I liked playing baseball. I went to a real school with two rooms and two teachers. We walked two miles to school and packed water."
On the 20 of November 1914, two years after arriving in Frisco, my mother's sister, Edith married Erick Swenson. Edith's four oldest children were born here in Frisco, Helen, Edith, Margaret, and Virginia.
Mother was quite close to her two brothers. She was proud of Conrad when he graduated from school as valedictorian with two gold medals and a scholarship. Her brother Vanner went to the 11th grade. He worked as a hoistman in the mine and later for the railroad.
Mother remembers Dividend, they lived here for a few years before moving to Eureka. We have a photograph of Grandma, mother and her life long friend, Irene Westerlund Edvick, taken in Dividend.
My mother began working for Mr. and Mrs. Hillsdale at Fitchville. She said, "I got a five dollar raise for making doughnuts and cooking breakfast and I was allowed to take home all the milk that was left over. I would give it to Edith as she had a few children by now."
Mother worked for the Finches at Finchville. We have a photograph of two of the Finch children, a boy and a girl.
About this time she left home to work for a family in Salt Lake City. The house was a high mansion. We have several photographs of it and its occupants. They signed their first names with love to "Signe", but we don't know who they are.
My mother tried to hide the next part of the story from all her children, Vivian found out and caused Mother some grief (It was a secret she felt very strongly about keeping). I had known about another man but we had never talked about it, for years I had wondered if Dad was really my Father. He sure didn't treat me very well. I have always wondered if my Father knew. Anyway on 14 May 1925, she married Vernon William Dean from American Fork. Edith Swenson and Vanner Holms were witnesses. The only thing that I know about him is that he was a Mormon missionary. It must have been a bad marriage because they were soon divorced. Her mother and father being old Lutheran Church members didn't believe in divorce, no matter how bad the choice. She was not allowed to return home. Grandfather said, "If you make a nest, stay in it."
The divorce or probably an annulment and the lack of support from her family caused Mother to have a nervous break down. It's just lucky Mother had made some very good friends over the years and they cared for her now. I believe she went to live in Salt Lake during this time. Mother tells of how homesick she had became.
In time her brother Vanner was sent by her father to bring her home. Her mother, Lisa, had become sick and mother was needed at home to care for her.
Mother said, "Then after that I left for Bingham Canyon where I got work at Shillings, he was manager of Utah Copper. They had four children. I got a raise for making home-made bread and also for being good to the children. I quit there because I had to work too hard." So I got work in a Swedish boarding house but it was worse. Then I went to work at the Copper Hotel in Copperfield as a waitress and quit there."
"And then I went to the U. S. Hotel (at Copperfield). "It was the best job I ever had. It was run by Mr. Ollenger and Mr. Whetsel. We worked two hours on and two hours rest, altogether it was six hours. We were assigned four tables and anyone doing different got fired. I quit once to work at a Greek Restaurant for more money as a cashier, but quit when Mr. Whetsel came down there and got me to go back to the U.S. Hotel. While I was working at the Greek Restaurant, I stayed with my friend Irene (Westerlund Edvick) who was married to Fred Johnson, they had five children and a brother there, it was crowded."
"Recreation was going to a baseball game between Utah Copper and the U.S. Mine and dancing at the Finn Hall at Carr Fork. Carr Fork had mostly Swedish-Finns living there."
Mother said, "I worked in the U.S. Hotel during the time when unions were trying to get started. I used to watch the door when the Wobblys (International Workers of the World) were having a meeting. If caught by the company gunmen, they were locked up in boxcars and sent to the eastern United States. Some were found frozen to death in these boxcars. When the union would strike the company would hire strike-breakers and gunmen. John L. Creeden said "the strike brought an element that left a blight on the community for years. Hate for the "scabs" lasted for years and company gunmen were everywhere, at one time there were 400 of them in Bingham."
The mine owners were afraid that if the worker would unite and form a union they would have to pay more for wages and make the mines safer. The Wobbles gained a reputation for violence but mostly they were sinned against. Their best tool was putting their hands in their pockets and doing no work. Utah hung it's leader here on a trumped up murder charge, Tom Hill Day is celebrated every year by unions every year in Utah on Labor Day.
The U.S. Hotel was where my father stayed when he came to Bingham to work. This where he met Mother. He courted her for two years before they were married on the 24 December 1927, on Christmas Eve.
After their marriage they made 5B Telegraph their first home. Where they lived for about four years. They were built on the Old Telegraph mine dump, it was the center of three groups of apartments. This was where I (Eugene) was born 18 July 1928, I was premature and losing weight. Both my mother and I stayed in the hospital for two weeks, to recover. As soon as she was able, she left Telegraph for her mother's home in Eureka, where the two of us lived for the next four months. By then I was able to ride on a sled with her. We lived here until my brother Lee was born 1 August 1930, he was sickly and underweight. Mother thought it was very unhealthy to live on a mine dump, so we moved to Frog Town where he would have a better chance.
We now lived in the Panos Apartments, on the top floor to the right, the apartments were in the lower end of Frog Town. The Panos were mother's friends, Mrs. Panos was my sister's God-Parent and my sister Vivian was named after her. This was where Lee and I had many of our childhood diseases, my dad was suffering with pneumonia and silicosis off and on so at first sign of any disease he would leave home and we would then only see and talk to him through the window. I also remember the card games that were played with my father's friends.
This was also where Lee and I were both hit while ridding a sled by the superintended of the U.S. Mine's, son Bob Hoyne. It was a shock to my Mother when they ran to her and said, "Lee's dead and Gene's got a broken leg."
My brother Paul was born in Frog Town, 7 July 1935.
We now lived in a little two roomed house. (231 Telegraph) This was our "Stuga" on the mountain, the highest house in Bingham. We had no running water, no bathroom and it was also built on a mine dump but it was nestled in the trees, pines and quaking aspen and we loved it. The house rented for six dollars a month. The water was below the house about 100 yards away. But it was cold, clear and good tasting, it came from a spring that ran into a tank,
The house was Mr. Wride's house when he quit working for the U.S. Mine and moved back East, Dad got his house and his job of running the U.S. Mines Air Compressor Dad had not been working, he was suffering from silicosis, this was his first job in over a year. He could hardly walk home from work. He was angry all the time and it was hard on Mother. Dad was working graveyard shifts so mother kept Lee and I out of the house so we wouldn't wake him up, he would beat the hell out of us if that happened. So when Lee and I came home from school she would meet us, this was every day, and we would go walking. We would walk to many favorite spots back in the mountains, in the pine and quaking aspen forest. In winter time we played in the snow. She was so happy and fun to be with then, she was a good mother. This was where Vivian was born on August 18, 1937.
Mother just loved to feed her little red-headed birds and watch the animals. I can still see her sitting at the kitchen window with the bread in her hand waiting for the little birds to empty it. The house may have been inconvenient for her but she missed it when she moved.
This was also the time mother's friends would come to our home when my father went to work on the Afternoon shift. They came two or three at a time, and they always talked Swedish. Mother was so happy, she acted like a young girl. I loved to be around them but eventually when I began to understand Swedish, they would send me away when they talked about things I wasn't supposed to hear. They stopped coming after 1938 or 39, probably the boarding houses or the hotel closed down. Irene W. Edvick came to our house as late as 1955.
It was a lot of work and inconvenient for mother to raise us there. We had no running water, no bathroom and it was cold. I packed all the water and sawed all the wood. Dad put in a hand pump in the kitchen, but the water line would freeze every winter, and I would be back packing water again.
Mother was a very loving and caring person, but maybe a little too sensitive. I remember her crying many, many times at night. Sometimes after coming home from a Democratic parting function, Church activity, or some social activity where she didn't quite fit in. She would do every job with such enthusiasm, eventually some old biddy would cut her down. She felt like she wasn't really accepted by Dad's mother or Uncle Joe either, but felt at home with all of his other brothers and sisters. She was very close to all of her own brothers and sisters.
Later we moved to the apartments down in the lower part of Telegraph were we had a more modern house, Mother loved it but I didn't. Our address was 6A Telegraph. Of the seventeen homes in Telegraph these four were the only ones with grass.
If she thought we might be doing something wrong, she would ask us. We knew no matter what we did, she would love and forgive us. If we went down to Copperfield, she would be concerned and tell us to be careful, but if we went into the mountains for no matter how long, even overnight without food or bedding, she would never scold us.
I can still remember the day Mother wanted to drive a car. She learned to drive when we lived in Telegraph and that was no place to learn. It was funny and very scary. Even many years later it was still scary and funny. The gas or the brake was always pressed to the floor. She had nerves of steel, a ride with her would never be forgotten. My daughter, Diane still talks about her ride with Grandma to Eureka.
Later when we moved to West Jordan, she was happy with her home but we were treated a little like Gentiles in a Mormon land. I remember her crying at times because she wasn't accepted in the community. Paul and Vivian were always very good Mormons and both were missionaries. Mother was a Lutheran and they converted her. In time she began going to Church and later was remarried in the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City but she still had to walk on pins and needles.
Mother, Dad, Vivian and Paul went on many trips and vacations. She tells of them in a few of her journals. She was a night person, wherever she went she would stay up and write about what she had seen or done. These years were some of her happier years, snapping pictures and writing her journals. There is a whole book of them.
She suffered in silence for many years but in the last few years of her life, she had to be hospitalized a few times, she didn't like them at all. She had a bleeding ulcer which she didn't see about until she had lost a lot of blood and then she had a heart attack when she was being given blood. One time when we had thought we had lost her, she recovered very quickly from very critical condition. She told us of how her spirit had left her body and how good she felt and free of pain. As she floated above us she saw how sad we were so she came back to live with us once more. She said it was a wonderful place and her mother and father welcomed her there.
The last time she went to the hospital, she wouldn't go until I asked her too. I was very humbled by her confidence in me. She was so frail and weak. I remember I helped her to the bathroom the night she died. She felt like a feather but her mind was sharp. it was a blessing but what a void she left. She kept the family close and together just like an old mother hen.
She must have known she was going to die, she asked Paul if she could come back and visit him someday. She did come back and visit him many times but Paul didn't know it was her until the brief last visit.
She was always so interested in knowing about her family in Finland, it's so very unfortunate that she didn't know they were still alive. The Kock-Holms, the Antbrams, Hagglof-Holms and the Hagglof-Kneck's are still alive. We are all writing letters and sending gifts back and forth. I wish I could have found them for her at the time when she was with us. She tried to find her family here and over there but had no success.
Mother died 3 October, 1974 and was buried in the West Jordan Cemetery. All of the traditions at Christmas and new years that were so important to her is still in practice in my daughters home. She will always be remembered.