ELLIS and HATTIE ROBISON
The following information and excerpts have been taken from
A LIFE SKETCH of ELLIS and HATTIE ROBISON
by their son, CLAY
At, Giles, Blue Valley, Ellis, the teacher, lived with a family on the north side of the Fremont River. The river channel, then was still narrow and well enough sodded to be spanned by a long pole brought in from the mountains. According to Clay M. Robinson, "On this pole Ellis and others walking people crossed in a kind of a tight-rope balancing act to reach the store, the school, the church and the main part of the village. This method of crossing could have caused some problems for anyone unsure of foot. "Imagine a love-dazed young gallant walking the girl of his dreams home under a dark night following a community dance or party," said Clay. "A sudden plunge into the cold waters would douse the sparks of romance."
In his history of his parents, Clay gives the following: "Back at Notom ranch Hattie Mae Mulford was developing into a young, pretty lady. One indication of her becoming aware of her change from childhood was her growing shame for the "long-jon" woolen underclothing her mother insisted she wear to school to ward off the chill of winter. To rid herself of this shame, Hattie, on her way to school, would guide her horse into a thicket of service berry bushes or junipers. There, with no one but God as witness--she hoped--she would quickly remove her clothing. She would then re-clothe without the bulky, ugly garments. A special dry place in the ledges hid the "long-jons" until after school when Hattie was on her way home. "Sister" Mulford, Hattie's mother, never suspected that her daughter was exposing herself to the elements of nature by not wearing the protective underwear. I imagine Hattie May, carefully inspected those garments for varmints--spiders, lizards, and scorpions--before again putting them on.
"After Hattie graduated from the eighth grade (probably in the spring of 1910 or 1911) she either helped her parents on the ranch or re-entered the eighth grade, as was often customary. There is no evidence of her going to the "Upper Country" (Bicknell) to high school until about 1912 or 1913. When she did go to Bicknell for high school, a mistake was made by both the Mulford family of Notom and the Motts of Aldridge for sending Hattie and her first cousin, Juliett (Jule, Julia) Mott, to live and go to school together. Hattie and Julia, who was the daughter of Aunt Lizzie (Dena Mulford's sister), were two hellions when they were together. Going to the high school in far off Bicknell, out of the reprimanding hand of a parent, was to them a license for all the tomfoolery their creative minds could invent. Studying of grammar, arithmetic, science, and other practical things, was reportedly among the most remote intentions of these two imps from the "Lower Country". Not only did they join the boys' boxing club--putting on boxing gloves to spar in ankle length, then fashionable dresses, and hats to match, but they rode somebody's donkey to school. There are pictures of proof of these outrageous activities. Their deviltry must have tried the patience of the teachers. And as clowns these two girls were most popular with the other students--especially the boys. As they giggled in their room, far into the night, at the Tom Will and Jane Smith (no kinship) boarding house, there must have been some people hoping that those two young ladies--if ladies they could be called--would go back to the Lower Country and get lost in the labyrinthine Capitol Wash.
"Hattie, after she had married and was raising two little boys instead of hell, decided she should complete high school and go on to college (perhaps in 1922, 23, 24, and 25). She needed some kind of document to prove she had earned high school credits. The report from these two high school teaching personnel gives the "Wayne High School Credits for Miss Hattie Mulford" for these years:
For year 1913-14: English, one unit credit, with a mark of 88 percent; German, one unit, with a mark of 79 percent; bookkeeping, one-half unit, with a mark of 97 percent; and art, one-half unit, with a mark of 95 percent.
For year 1914-15: English, one unit at 79 percent; Ancient History, one unit at 92 percent; domestic science, one-half unit at 95 percent; German, one unit at 82 percent, and art, one-half unit at 90 percent. This provided Hattie with a total of 9 1/2 units of credits toward graduation. She graduated form high school, several years and three children later and went on to college to get an elementary school teaching certificate which she used in getting a teaching position in Wayne County (see Clay M. Robinson's article The Echoes of Childhood in old Fruita, Desert News, 2 January, 1982).
Clay Robinson states, "I do not know the circumstances surrounding the renewing of acquaintance of Ellis and Hattie, nor do I know anything about their falling in love and their courtship. Possibly Ellis returned to teach in Aldridge after Hattie had grown to be a pretty young woman. Standing five-feet-four and possessing a figure, face and personality that activated the circuits of romance in quite a number of young suitors, Hattie was destined to become the wife of some young gallant. Her blue eyes, dark brown hair that was naturally wavy and contained just a hint of red, and her come-get-to-know-me better smile was sufficient to send the heart of the young school teacher down the race track of romance leaping hurdles in happiness."
"They were married on that 25th day of October, 1915 in a civil ceremony by their family friend, Bishop R. Arthur Meeks. The future for Ellis and Hattie then looked romantically bright, but realistically one could have known that they were heading into some tough times economically. But unpredictable were the tragedies that would soon strike sadness into the hearts of both.
"There are various accounts of where they lived after their marriage. One locates them in an old house east of the farthest east street in Torrey, and north by several hundred feet from the main highway. No early letters to provide evidence. We have been told that Alvin Locke Robison, Ellis' father, then an old man of 81, gave the newly-weds a fine team of brown horses (old French and Perch), harnesses, and perhaps, a wagon. There were also other presents--dishes, pots and pans, food and the like, necessary for setting up housekeeping.
"Their first bit of ill luck was soon to happen: The wedding presents had been placed in a wagon provided by some friend. The team of horses (not French and Perch) became frightened. In the run-away all the pretty wedding presents were damaged and the set of new dishes broken into china particles. This caused much anguish. Many tears flowed.
"We have in our possession," Clay reports, "Old letters dating back to 1918 that give a few hints of some things that happened a few years later. The letters most certainly provide evidence of economic hard times. And they reveal dreams and hopes of a better tomorrow. Probably many letters that could have told more were destroyed in a fire that was to become the second major tragedy in the lives of the newlyweds. Their first great tragedy was the death of their first baby--Fae Elda, a little girl who should have grown to be a beautiful young lady with brown eyes and dark hair. But ravaging pneumonia cut short her life. She was born to Hattie and Ellis on 19 December, 1916 and died on the 8th day of January, 1917. She was buried in the cemetery at Torrey, which tends to confirm that Ellis and Hattie were living in Torrey at that time. There is speculation that he may have been a school teacher that year. The baby died in Loa where she had been taken to Dr. Nelson.
"In those first years of marriage, as they struggled desperately to survive, Ellis and Hattie found constant need of reassuring one another," Clay said. "The economic times were hard. The country was at war. Money was difficult to get from working and from selling what little farm produce could be raised. And loan interests were high.
Following excerpts from letters to Hattie from Ellis substantiate this situation. They also show a bond of love in the marriage of Ellis and Hattie.
"Got here yesterday. Stopped in Bicknell to see Meeks, he could not help me now as he had just promised Tom Jackson $3,000 to use in buying a farm (Ellis must have gone to his old friend, Arthur Meeks, seeking a loan).
"I have promised to help Irwin (his brother at Loa) for a day if he would take me to Richfield. We will go Monday. I cannot get a loan without going (probably to see about a loan from the banks). It would do no good to write as money is tight and I would not get anything (by writing).
"Look carefully for the Liberty bond in your case. I have either misplaced it before leaving or I have lost it. Someone may have stolen it.....
"I have also lost a $30 check that Henry (his brother) paid me on the wool. But I can stop payment....
"Now, Dolly, take good care of yourself and our little boy (Max at 3 months)......
"Don't go back to Caineville until I come, as I hear that the fluenza (sic) has started in Hanksville, which means that Caineville will be visited (by it)."
At the time the following letter was written, Hattie was visiting with her brother, Clarence (Cass), and family at Fruita. Ellis was trying to get money to finance a small farm. Several months earlier he was in Hanksville looking for a farm to buy.
Dearest Hattie, Hanksville, Utah, 5 September, 1918.
I got here last night. Will probably go to Marshall's this afternoon. It will probably take three more days from today before I am home. Take good care of yourself, dolly-girl, and don't worry about anything. I am talking with Joe, about his place here. I can get it at a bargain and can make some good money here. We shall talk it over when I come. If you are satisfied to come here we may come, but not if you don't want to. I am writing this little note just to let you know I am all right.
Yours lovingly, Ellis
Ellis had known for a long time that with the low wages paid to school teachers ($45.00 a month in 1909) he could not support a family. So he concluded he would have to get into ranching and cattle raising to keep his family fed and clothed and provide a home for his wife. In 1917 he had entered into a financial arrangement with his brother, Henry. That was supposed to see him through to success as a cattle grower. It was the spring of 1917, not many months after their little Fae Elda had died. Both were still sorrowful. But now there was new hope. They would take on this ranch and soon their financial worries would be over."
Everything would have gone smoothly, perhaps, but a second tragedy came. Ellis and Hattie, one evening, had changed into their oldest clothes to go into the farmyard to care for a flock of bum lambs (lambs without mothers and in need of hand feeding of milk from cows). Ellis and Hattie had just eaten their supper in the beautiful, white frame house where they lived. (Nellie had, at times, expressed jealousy over the fact that Hattie lived in the better of the two Bowns-built homes on the ranch).
Just as Hattie raised her head from finishing feeding one lamb her heart cringed with pain. Before her disbelieving and horror-filled eyes her home flared into a raging inferno. In the house was every personal article, records, and cash that she and Ellis possessed. There were many new quilts that Hattie, with the hard work of her mother, had made for a venture that involved renting furnished cabins to passing freighters and other travelers. There had been many hours of work and much money put into the making of those quilts. To know that they were consumed by flames added to the great anguish in Hattie. But worse still were the loss of little personal items, including the clothes and blankets Hattie had saved from her baby who died only a few months earlier.
"Hysterical, Hattie rushed toward the flaming home. She had to be physically restrained from entering into the blaze. She wanted so badly to retrieve some of her treasured items.
Henry and Ellis were joined by the Mulfords and others in trying to douse the flames. But men with buckets of water could in no way cope with the out-of-control fire. It had been fed from coal oil (Kerosene) spread from room to room. Hattie's mother and little sister, Elma (then only four or five) watched with tears flowing down their hot cheeks, and Hattie, by now exhausted from her struggle to escape those who held her back, burst into uncontrollable sobbing.
The following day there came to light among the smoldering ashes further proof that the house had been set ablaze after someone had spread kerosene from a large can. Everything that was burnable was destroyed in the fire. Only melted and twisted bits of metal--the kitchen stove, bedsteads, and the like--stood hauntingly the next morning among the smoldering ashes where the home once stood.
"Destitute, without clothing, without food or money, Ellis and Hattie faced a future of bleakness," said Clay. "There must have been some desperate thinking and planning on their part. The Notom ranch dream had been shattered. The ranch was later to be sold to the Durfey's. Ellis and Hattie were to come away with nothing for their equity except a verbal "IOU".
"With no other available means of providing food and clothing for himself and his wife, Ellis applied for and got a contract to teach, probably in the fall of 1918, at the village of Caineville, down river from Notom fifteen or twenty miles.
"Had it not been for the generosity of Charles and Dena Mulford, parents of Hattie, the young tragedy-stricken couple would have starved. Charlie and Dena, always concerned for the welfare of others, loaded a wagon with food, clothing, bedding and various household items just for the destitute young couple. They probably stayed until the fall of 1918 in a camp cabin--one that Hattie planned to use for bringing a little extra cash to help them pay for the ranch.
"As fall came and the school opened Ellis and Hattie moved into a little lumber shanty on the edge of the lonely community of Caineville. It was only through the items given to them by the parents of Hattie that made it possible to set up housekeeping again. As was his nature, Ellis was to feel forever indebted to his parents-in-law for their generosity and throughout his life he reciprocated as he could.
"Time helps soothe all traumas, both emotional and physical, and in the little shanty alongside the old Dirty Devil (Fremont) River, Ellis and Hattie gained pleasures from the simple things of life--a full moon rising in a crisp, clear sky above the high, long mesa across the river channel; birds singing in the mulberry trees; bees buzzing in the clover blossoms; the taste of red apples, peaches, and pears from the orchards; their trust in the Creator; and of course their love for one another. These pleasures could not be bought with money, and soon Ellis and Hattie learned that these were the basics of happiness here on earth.
"During the school year of 1918--1919, Hattie's little sister, Elma, at six, lived with them as she attended her first year of school. Ellis was her teacher.
"Hattie conceived again, and despite the tragedy of loosing her first child, she again looked with happy anticipation to the arrival of a baby. This baby, a little brown-complected boy with dark hair and brown eyes, arrived on 10 January, 1919. The proud parents named him Max Edward. An old lady referred to by everyone in the community as Gran'ma Giles served as mid-wife in the delivery of the baby. There was no medical doctor, nor a sanitary white hospital. Grandma Mulford, for reasons not known to me, was not there for the birth of her grandson.
"Displaying frugality and with a reputation for fulfilling his promises, Ellis was able to buy a small farm alongside the broad Caineville wash. This wash had been carved by the flood waters flowing from the South Desert. (I could never understand why it was called the South Desert. It was always in a different direction than south. When we were in Caineville it was northwest of us. When we were in Fruita, it was north east, and when we lived in Torrey it was still more east. But I suppose that is one of the things I'm not supposed to understand, just like I am not supposed to understand why the mouth of a river is always on the drainage end).
"The tremendously big, roaring floods cutting against the high banks to undermine a portion of the alfalfa field on the Robison farm frightened my mother, even though she had seen equally big floods racing down Pleasant Creek past Notom. Hattie often watched the coffee-colored flood waters as they churned in the near overflowing channel. Bobbing near the surface were pine cones, rocks, trees, and sometimes drowned animals. Such debris was poured into the already flooded Fremont River to be carried on to the Colorado, and eventually to the Pacific Ocean. Having acquired a simple box camera, a Kodak, Hattie took some photographs of the floods including one that threatened to topple the flume that carried irrigation water to the farms on down the valley.
"The home in which Ellis, Hattie and Max lived was a simple little two-room shack. It still stands in Caineville today (1982), although it has been modified, not necessarily for the better.
"Hattie, carrying her little boy, attended church with other people of the community. And Ellis and Hattie, together, would participate in community socials and celebrations. They built lifelong friendships with many of the people of the little Mormon community.
"Typical of both Ellis and Hattie, with their desire to help and comfort 'underdogs' of society, they reached out to the Ortega family, the only Catholics of the community. The Ortegas, meek and lonely, had a girl baby, Juanita. She was to become the mother of Buddy Merril (Behunin) of the Lawence Welk TV show of the 1960's. Juanita was just a little older than Hattie's baby, Max. Hattie and Mrs. Ortega enjoyed each other's company. They visited together frequently, despite their homes being separated by several miles of dirt road and a precarious river crossing.
"Conceiving for the third time Hattie again waited with pleasant anxiety for the arrival of another baby. This baby, also a boy was delivered by Grandma Mulford who had for many years been the only medical doctor in the 'Lower Country'. The new baby was as blond as the first boy was tan, Hattie and Ellis were both amused and joked that this baby, whom they named Clay Mulford, had missed going through the coloring vat while he was being made. For the remainder of her life Hattie often referred to her two sons as the brown boy and the white boy. Ellis affectionately called them Maxie and Pink. These children added great happiness to the lives of Hattie and Ellis and soon the little isolated community of Caineville beamed with sunshine and simple pleasures.
"Occasionally they had visitors, including Ellis' parents--Alvin and Mary--who had in their old age moved to the bigger community of Richfield, some two or three days journey through rugged canyons and precipitous mountains to the west. Such visitors and the pleasure of her two sons helped Hattie cope with the departure of her beloved parents, Charlie and Dena Mulford, and little Elma 'Dacy', who had moved from Caineville to Vermillion, Sevier County in 1920.
"Despite the low monthly wage of about 45 to 50 dollars a month from his teaching several months out of each year, Ellis commenced building for better times. His teaching was supplemented by the operation of the small farm on which was grown alfalfa hay for a few cows and his work horses. A big garden of vegetables, including potatoes and corn, and a pen full of pigs, all helped provide for the Robison family in their humble surroundings.
"Then Ellis successfully received a contract with the United States postal service for carrying mail from Torrey to Caineville. That was a distance of about forty to fifty miles away over winding, narrow dusty roads that led through flood washes, over hills and through river and creek crossings. It was a long , full day of driving a horse team carriage one way, from dark of morning until long after dark of night in winter months, and from dawn to dark in summertime.
"This bit of economic progress inspired Ellis and Hattie to venture into the 'Upper Valley' where they bought an old house and a small lot along the main road west into Torrey. On this stood a productive orchard of apple, plum, peach and other kinds of trees. The old sawed-log home, with its small living room, kitchen and bedroom on the main floor and a bedroom upstairs, was a vast improvement over the old shack at Caineville in which the second baby had been born.
"And adding to their good fortune, Ellis became the principal of the Torrey school, which supported two other teachers--one for the first and second grades, another for the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Mr. Robison, the principal, taught the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. The school building, of native red sandstone carved from rock beds east of Torrey, was large and spacious, compared with the small school at Caineville. Besides the three big rooms on the ground floor, the school building had a recreation hall upstairs. The stairway leading to the upper floor was attached to the outside of the building. A belfry stood in the center of the building above the second floor.
"Now Ellis had his hands full, holding down a teaching position and a mail delivery route. He hired various wagon drivers for working the route in the fall, winter and spring, during the school seasons, and for helping maintain the small farm at Caineville."
"In 1934 another child, Dena Rae (Terry) was born to Ellis and Hattie. She now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Ellis taught in the Wayne County schools some 40 years or more. He served as principal of the Torrey school most of that time.
Additional information on Ellis and Hattie is contained in Clay's writings.
Ellis Robison: born, 25 December, 1886---Filmore, Utah--died 14 October, 1953--buried Torrey, Wayne County, Utah. Son of Alvin L. and Mary Olmstead Robison (Robinson).
Hattie Mae Mulford: born, 13 August, 1896---Cedar Edge, Colorado--died 9 May, 1956--Salt Lake City, Utah--buried Torrey, Wayne County, Utah. Daughter of Charles E. and Dena Smith Mulford.