Tuesday, July 12, 2011


by Eugene H. Halverson &
Jay C. Smith

Joe Smith
Joseph Smith was the tenth and last son of Christina Maria Birkedahl and Jorgen Smith, one of only four children who lived to be an adult.  He was born in Fort Ephraim, Sanpete County, Utah 6 June, 1867, during terrible times.  The Black Hawk War had been going on now for two years, but just a few months ago his sister, Mary and neighbors, Jens and Amalia Peterson had been killed by the Indians and the family was forced to leave their home in Richfield.  Brigham Young had sent hundreds of wagons to evacuate all the settlers in Southern Utah, the Smith Family was taken to Ephraim.  There home was now a covered wagon.  I have often wondered if he was born in some strangers home or in the wagon. 

Later they would go farther North to their old home in Fountain Green to live until the war was over.  After the peace treaty in 1871 they moved back to their old house in Richfield where Joe would grow up and receive what little education he could get which wasn't much, he was required to work in the home and on the farm. 

1886 was a busy year for the Smiths, it was time to leave Richfield.  Jorgen had received a calling to go South and settle another area of the State, Grass Valley (Koosharem) and Pleasant Creek (Notom).  Before leaving he gave Joe's mother, Christina Maria one-third of all he owned, the house, land and live stock when he divorced her.  He was one jump ahead of the Federal Officers who had started arresting and jailing  polygamists.  He couldn't have two wives in the same town. 

Joe was 19 now and wished to go with his father, an adventure that suited him well and would also fulfill his ambition to obtain land and begin a new life.  The Smiths didn't arrive in Pleasant Creek until a year later.  How long Joe stayed at Notom is unknown.  His time spent in Thurber (now Bicknell) is also unknown.  Somehow he met and married Estella Holt here on 25 December, 1888, Estella was born 25 December, 1872 in Ogden, Weber County, Utah.  She was 16 and Joe was 21, it was stated on the marriage license that her father had given his consent in writing for the marriage.  (notice on the certificate below, city unknown)

Joe & Estella Smith

Certificate of Marriage (partial copy)

This certifies, that on the twenty fifth day of Dec. AD 1888, at Thurber in the County of Piute and the Territory of Utah, Joseph Smith of--------------(city unknown) in the County of Piute and Territory of Utah and Estella Holt of Teasdale in Piute County, Utah Territory were united to each other in Lawful Marriage.  Married by William Meeks, Bishop of Thurber Ward (relative of  Maren Katrina Nielsen), witnessed by Frederick Giles and S.S. Smith.

Estella was a daughter of William Alma Holt and Sarah Wardell.  Her father William was one of the very early settlers of Torrey and its first Postmaster (now living in Teasdale).  She was a sister of Leo Rolando Holt who married Anna Laurine (Rena) Smith  (Joe's half-sister).  Two years later they were found in Scofield where Pearline was born in 24 June, 1890.  Later moving to Sunnyside, Utah.  The mining camps in Carbon County were paying fairly good wages in those days. The miners at Scofield loved to go to the saloons to drink and fight.  Joe must have started to drink and fight here.  Drinking may have caused him to do things that would eventually cause him a lot of harm.  I recently visited one of his nieces who loved and also felt shame because of his temper and drinking.  

Joe loved to fight and was involved in many street fights and did gain quite a reputation as a fighter.  In a story written by Clay M. Robison Jorgen Smith once jokingly declared, in his broken English, supposedly with some pride,  "My Yim, he iss der pissness man;  My Yoe, he iss der fighter."   Jay C. Smith said,  "My grandfather William Smith told me Joe fought like a pit bull, never gave up, and came out victorious in about all his fights.  My grandfather admired some of Joe's fights.  When Joe had took on some bully that nobody thought he had a chance with, he trounced the bully good.  He made the bully scream in desperation that he had enough.  And Joe had many more than just one fight like that.  

Saving what they could they then moved to Junction, Piute County (now called Fruita, Wayne County) and bought some land from Gilbert Adams on the south side of the river.  I have no idea how long they kept the land because in only two years later they were in Thurber where their next three children were born;  George William (11 April, 1892),  John Doyle (8 September, 1893) and Sarah Christene (12 February, 1895).  Both boys died as children, George was drowned in Aldridge, Utah.  Pearline tells how her and George stepped in the cool water of the canal to comfort their poor bare feet.  He stepped into a hole and disappeared. Joe and Stella were happy together but had very little money.  Joe and Stella were happy together but had very little money.  People in those days did a lot of trading and bartering for the things they needed, no one had any hard cash.

There were Range Wars of all sorts during the early days.   The small local ranches against the larger ones.  The King Livestock Outfit was one of the larger ones.  They were large and aggressive and they carried guns.  Come to think of it the locals did too.  They all wanted as much of the free range as possible for the grazing of their livestock.  This caused some resentment from some of the smaller livestock owners.   King also rented the school sections and if other cattle were found on it or even near it, King would seized the animals and hold them as collateral until the fine was paid
Near Torrey, Utah

Joe and many of the smaller ranchers felt that the King outfit was trying to hog up all the range and squeeze out the little guy.  Most of the land was public domain (free range) then and Joe was just the kind of fellow that insisted on having his part of the range.  Joe just did not like King, so, every time King would do something Joe would get revenge.   When Kings would seize one of their cattle he would do the same.  Joe must have noticed how similar the King brand was to his so branded some of them his. This caused him to get himself in trouble with the law.  One fall Joe, Jed Mott and Hite Williams gathered their herds together and drove them to market. Low and behold one of the cows died along the way.  Not far behind them came the King outfit.  King and his cowboys didn't like the looks of the brand on the dead cow so they skinned it.  The outside said Joe Smith but the other side said King.  Joe and his partners were required appear in the Richfield District and they just about got off.  Court, Joe told the Judge that it was his mistake and that the others were innocent.   The day of reckoning had come, Joe was sentenced to a year in jail.  Grandfather (William Smith) really did have a lot of love and admiration for Joe and he felt Joe was a good and likable brother who was more like a Robin Hood than a thief.  I must also say, in time King began to be less aggressive and more cooperative with the town's people and was accepted as a  neighbor and marriage partners for their children. 

In those days a million sheep roamed the hills between the Boulder and the Henry Mountains.  Joe it seems was herding the Families sheep when they disappeared.  I believe they were just swept away by another large herd.  There are many stories of the same missing sheep.   When Jack and Franklin Haws returned from New Mexico with their cattle, they rented 500 sheep.  They kept them for years while the herd increased in size.  Joe was a part owner of this herd and he was herding them when they disappeared so he was blamed for their loss.  Some thought that Joe just sold them but those who knew Joe would not believe this.  Many said Joe’s word was as good as a bond.  Nelda Mott Cook said,  “Oh Poo”, you can’t believe that, we were always doing that in our family.  We called it borrowing”.  

Joe Smith married Estella Holt, she was a sister to Leo Holt who married Rena Smith.  Sometime in the late 1895 or early 1896 Joe and Stella moved out to Desert Lake in Emery County.  Where Joseph Oren was born on 16 August 1896) and Enock Alvin was born on 8 April, 1898.  The town, according to George A. Thompson in Some Dreams Die, was described as a beautiful city settled 10 years earlier.  It was surrounded by shade trees and farms that produced an abundance of crops.  A canal had been built to catch the overflow from Huntington Creek.  The people lived near a small natural lake and a storage reservoir.  The reservoir broke in 1896 and many lost their homes in the raging flood.  Most of the people moved to a site east of Elmo and established a town called Victor.  But Joe’s family moved temporarily to Castle Dale, Emery County where Edna May was born in 26 March 1900).  Later the family moved to Ferron, Emery County where Alfred was born in 27 February 1902) and Ferdinand in 23 July 1904.  After the reservoir was rebuilt they returned to their home at Desert Lake where the next five children were born.  Lillian (23 April 1906); Clifford (17 March 1908); Clayton (8 April, 1911); Leo (8 July, 1913); and Dee Lavar (20 February, 1915).  I have often wondered what caused the deaths of six of their children here, two dying as children, the rest during their teenage years but family members have been helpful in solving the question.   His son, Clifford said that they lived one mile east of the lake but no one today really knows which farm it was.  After the dam was rebuilt the people began to prosper.  Schools, Churches, post offices the town soon had a population of about two hundred people.   It was the lake behind the settlers that finally doomed the town.  The lake raised the water table causing the land to sour.  By 1910 alkali spread all over the land.

Desert Lake was a long distance from Wayne County and there were family members did visit and keep in contact with them.  Their house was a log house, divided so that bedrooms were accessible from one end and the living quarters were accessed by a door on the other end of the house.  The kitchen had a dirt floor the other was rough wood. Their home was described as a log and scrap house with two rooms.  Mud was used to seal the cracks in the logs. 

I would think it would be a hard place to start all over again without the help of family or friends.   Farming in the "early days" or pioneer days was hard and there was a limit the amount of land he could cultivate with what he had.  It had to be done with horses and worn-out plowshares or other old out-mooed farm equipment, he did what he could.  His main supply of money came from the livestock he had and he loved working and caring for them.  He had horses, cattle, sheep and a large herd of about 2500 goats.  He made quite a profit selling these goats to the immigrant coal miners in Carbon County.

Butch Casaday and his Wild Bunch were holed up at times in the Bad Lands of Emery County.  Joe would break and train horses for Butch.  This makes three of our family that worked for Butch.   

The soil by 1915 became very alkaline because of the rising water table.  The wells were contaminated with alkali and life was becoming hard.  I remember the sagebrush there (an indicator of good soil), grows six or eight feet high when it gets watered and has good drainage but grows only four to six inches in the dry ground.  This being a very arid and desolate area, hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  Some years they would have water for their stock and crops but there were years when the crops would just whither away and die during the summer. 

About 1915 Joe filed for 640 acres near the mountain in a place called Service Berry Canyon.   The land blocked access to a large coal field.  The mine owner built them a nice new four-room house for allowing the Utah Railroad to be built across his property.  Their home was one of the several dozen new homes built in the town of Wattis.  The mine and the town was named Wattis.  When he left his land and home at Desert Lake is unknown.  I believe they used both homes for a while, a summer and winter home.  Wattis was where their last child, Estella was born 4 October, 1919.  Clifford said Ferinand, 16 died with typhoid fever 20 October,1920.  Leo, 14 with a bad heart died of dropsy in his mother’s arms as he got off the train March, 1927.  Clifford was another heart breaking experience.  He got killed in a car wreck.  He was pinned under the car while his mother helplessly watched him die.  The family all said Alvin was killed in a rodeo others said he choked on a fish bone.  Sarah died in childbirth leaving two children for the Smith’s to raise. 

Estella was only seven years old when her father, Joseph Smith died 8 April 1926.  Joe worked hard and struggled all of his life to care for his large family.  They found him slumped against a building in Wattis, like he was worn-out and just went to sleep.  He was buried in the Elmo Cemetery, (near Desert Lake), Utah.  He was only 59 years old but looked much older, like he just worked to hard and worried to much. 

I have pictures of Joe and Stella in their younger years, they were a very good-looking couple.  They both tried to be contented and happy with what they had, they usually seemed happy and have fun.  They laughed and always enjoyed each other’s company.  Stella lived to see her remaining children grow up and marry.  She was well cared for in her later years by her children.  They watched over her because of her sinking spells where she would just black out and fall down.  She died in Price, Carbon County 22 February 1942 and was buried along side her husband in Elmo, Emery County

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