Monday, January 9, 2012


Life in a
 Company town
By Eugene Halverson
A child’s view of Winter Quarters

Ella Nielson Boothe
Ella Nielson said, Winter Quarters was like Yellowstone Park.  In the canyon, where the mines were, on one side of the hill, there were beautiful shrubs, pines, lilies Indian flowers, violets and strawberries.  The strawberries were small but they were good.  There was a stream of water and a railroad track.  We lived on the back side of the mountain.  Our home had only three rooms and behind there was a cave.  My father owned this home.  In one room there was an organ.  I think my mother played it. 

When I was a little girl, my father would put me in a sleigh and put a harness on the dog and I would ride all over town.  In the summer he got a little red wagon for me and we went all over.  When I was little, I had mumps, measles, and diphtheria.  They always had a sign on the house, when anyone in the house had the measles.  When I lived in the house in Winter Quarters, I sold the newspaper and became a news girl and sold the San Francisco Examiner.  In mother’s words, they charged me five cents and only gave me two cents. 
 Then I sold the Grit and it was ten cents and they gave me four cents.  I'd go on one side where the rocks were and the other side where the trees were.  I'd sell all over town.  I thought I was rich making all that money.  I got tired of that and started tending children for a butcher and his wife.  I got tired of that too. 
Helen Nielson and home
In MIA, when I was young, we had dances in a big amusement hallThey had dances but the boys wouldn't dance.  We had to dance with girls all the time.  They had shows on Charley Chaplin, the silent movies.  We would go there once a week and have to pay for it.  When I was young, I played basketball and you should have seen my bloomers.  They were black with elastic on the middle and elastic on the legs.  We would go up where there were cattle and get mushrooms.  My brother fished and gave us some.  I went horseback riding up the hill with Winifred on Joe's horse.  Oh, it was so much fun.  My father went with us on picnics.  He watched me skate.  He would say, "Ella quit letting those girls fall on top of you."  The first car I rode in was the old Model T Ford with Stanley Harvey.  It made me sick as a dog.  I have a picture of the school with Millicent when she was visiting us.  I was dressed up with a crown on my head and a thing in my hand.  I was the Statue of Liberty.  Our outdoor toilet had a catalogue in it.  We had dreams every time we went to the toilet probably about some of the things you couldn't get at the store.  On the 24th of July we went up a big hill to Lee Marsden's.  They had a bunch of lambs.  The men built a great big platform and put brush on every side of it and they would give popcorn, ice cream and hamburgers free anytime we wanted.  

The Bishop (Parmley) was sponsoring it and he was the head of the mines.  The Bishop's son married Lavern Parmley of Salt Lake.  We had the best time.  We ran races and made a lot of money.  They played ball, and I like to play ball then.  We had fun.  When we got hungry again, we went back and had all the food we could eat.  I would love to play horseshoes. 

A woman’s life
school bus
Christena and her friend looked down from above the town.  Twilight was a great time to sit and relax, the sun was down and it was cool, the kids were playing and neighbors were coming out to talk.  Then she noticed the men were gathering at the Bars to drink their night away.   Look! that is why I hate Winter Quarters.  We have lost everything because of my husband’s drinking and gambling.  Now my sons are drinking.  I have never been told how many bars there were.  The Finns had their Finn Halls, a family Hall, the Greeks had combination smoke house and bar and I’m sure the Italians and Slaves had there’s. 
 confiscating the turkeys”
I lived in a company town and knew of a company store but even in Bingham we didn’t have a  “Company Bar”.  Just put the drink on my “Tab”.  At the “Company Store”, it was just put it on my tab.  No matter how hard and long the miner worked the family was always in debt.  “I owe my heart to the company store”, as the song goes.  Prices were outrageous and the selection was limited.  It was against the law to buy at any outside stores.  A group of town’s people brought in a bunch of “Turkeys” from the valley, the picture shows “three armed guards” confiscating the turkeys” In many of the other company towns workers were paid in “Script”, paper money or coins only redeemable at the store.  
I would guess the guards wages were added to the grocery bill.  Winter Quarters had a narrow road one way road so it was easy to keep an eye on its people.  In Castle Gate this same company had aluminum coins for their store, these coins were in almost every drawer in my mother-in-laws home. 
The D&RG’s “Utah Fuel” did provide houses, hotels, amusement halls, hospitals and other conveniences but they ruled with an iron-hand.  The Mormons were their first workers, the next were the Finns, and in time the company brought in Greeks, Italians, Austrians and many others.  The Mormons got rid of the Chinese first but the others remained but they were feared and laughed at and humiliated.  These new-comers had strange customs but were all good people.  Ella loved them especially the Greeks and her brother, Joe hated and fought many fights with them.  Ever looked at Joe’s cauliflower-flowed ears, they were very large.  I was more like Ella, I loved being around all these ethnic groups.  But many, like Joe, treated them like animals and not as human beings. 
200 miners killed
We had many nationalities in Bingham; the companies separated them into camps, Jap Camp, Greek Camp, Dinkeyville for the Mexicans, Carr Fork for the Swedes, Frog Town and so on.   My father would never ever go into them but I made many friends there.  No mated where us kids went we had someone to play with.  I loved to talk to the old people there.

Joe worked for Parmly at the store, but this was not the Parmly who hated all emigrants and said so.  But one day he to his shame was wrestled to the ground by six large Austrian ladies who then peed on him.  This was the greatest insult given to a man in the old country.  When Utah Fuel asked for help during a strike the governor sent the militia.  The streets were filled with company gunmen and troops to intimidate and even wound some of the strikers.   In the May 1900 mine disaster one of the Parmly’s blamed the Finns for using to much dynamite and blamed them for causing the explosion.  
Nielson home & Helen
 Later it was proven to be just poor management.  In 1924 the same kind of management killed a few hundred more miners.  It was the coal dust and the mine-owners failure to water down the dust or get rid of it.  The workers had to furnish their own tools, buy their black powder and timber the roof.  The workers who only get paid for lumps of coal cared for nothing about the mine just making a living. 

I wasn’t happy as I looked at old Winter Quarters with its locked gate and a "No Trespassing" sign.  The mountain was still covered with Pines and Quakies.  The stream is no longer running thanks to mining but it still had that “Yellow stone look.   I could see the two walls of the Wasatch Store still standing in the green grass a mile or so up the canyon.  I got a better look in May 2000 as I with many others were escorted in Forest Service vans to the town and the portals.  I took some pictures of the store and what signs of the town that are still left.  There is little sign of the old town and no way to identify where our different families lived.  I tried to remember the old stories and visualize the pictures in my mind as I looked at the remaining foundations of houses, hotels and even old fences and holes but I was lost.
Winter Quarters is hard to find, just reme
200 bodies carried out of mine
mber you are not welcome.  One must leave the oiled road and zigzag up an old dirt road for about a mile to a locked gate.  I came there one foggy day and all I could see was the two stone walls visible through the fog it a Ghost Town, ghosts and all.  
Did you know they dynamited the store and every building in town?  Those who lived in the old town are all gone.  My home-town in Bingham is gone as well but we still have our memories.
Coal mining like metal mining is a boom or bust occupation.  You work when the demand is there and starve when there is no one to buy it.  At the farm money was scarce but you usually had something to eat.  The mine owners in bad times cut wages, then the days a miner worked and finally the firing began. The emigrants left first and the Mormons came last.  An Italian friend told me his grandpa got up every morning and stood in line holding his lunch-box but most days he was sent home.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


                                                    (My Mother’s Mother)
By LaRhea Nielson Twelves
Mary Halvorsen Peterson
                                                   My mother, Elda Peterson Nielson, and her mother, Anna Mary (Mary) Halvorson Peterson were very close.  As a child I remember going with Mother in our Model “A” Ford to pick up Grandma and bring her to our house for Sunday dinner, no matter where she was living at the time.  I also have fond memories of good times with Grandma’s brothers and sister and their families.  Her sister, Martena (Aunt Tena), and her family were living in Neola, out near Roosevelt in the Uintah Basin.  Quite often we would take Grandma with us and drive out to visit them.  It was always a fun trip and there were cousins to play with.  I also remember many visits in Mapleton with her brother Andrew and his wife Aunt Mary. We would sit at her kitchen table where she always had a bowl of sugar cubes (they called them “sugar molies”) and Aunt Mary would serve me “Mormon coffee” (mostly sugar and milk with probably ½ teaspoon of coffee).  It was always better if it was “saucered and blowed”.  Mother never did drink coffee, but it was very difficult for some of the Danes to give up old customs.  It was sort of a hospitable ritual.  Uncle Tom and Aunt Em (Emma) lived in Spanish Fork and I loved to go over there.  The Halvorson family members were always very pleasant, gracious hosts and fun to be with.
Mary H. Peterson  LaRhea & Wendell, Elda P. Nielsen
After a Sunday dinner at our home, Grandma would always say, “You serve such delicious dinners.  You have such good food.”  She loved to eat, and as she aged her ample short body was proof of it.
As I matured I began to realize that Grandma really had a hard life, but I do not remember her ever being depressed, sorry for herself, or complaining.  She was fun to be with and had a cute sense of humor.  We all loved to be around her.
 Always before Memorial Day she would come to our house and Mother would get out the crepe paper and pipe cleaners and we would make flowers.  After we wrapped the pipe cleaners with green crepe paper, we would make the flowers onto the stem.  I particularly remember tulips and roses – all colors, but mostly red.  Red seems to stand out in my mind.  When they were finished Mother would dip them in melted paraffin wax.  Crepe paper flowers were the forerunners to plastic flowers.  Beautiful silk flowers followed them.  Mother raised beautiful flowers in our yard, but we always helped Grandma make her special flowers until Mother [Elda] died.  She was only forty seven years old.  Her death was very hard on Grandma.  Children are supposed to bury their parents.  When it is reversed, it is devastating to parents.

Mary Halvorsen Peterson
LeRoy    Elda    James Peterson
They had a nice small frame home they built on property in Mapleton that Grandpa Peterson’s father, Christian Peter Boel, gave them. I don’t know when Grandma gave her home to her only son, Uncle Roy (LeRoy Peterson); possibly when she married John Beckstrom and she moved into his home in Spanish Fork.  He had a car when not many people owned such a luxury and courted her handsomely.  He also had a nice home.  I’m sure she must have thought her life would be good and perhaps easier.  It turned out that he had a mean temper and was abusive.  His neighbors said he beat his animals unmercifully. 
sisters Tina H. Jensen  &  Mary H. Peterson     Beckstrom
I was probably four or five years old when Grandma called my father on the phone and asked him to come and get her.  Dad went to Spanish Fork and brought her to our house.  It wasn’t long until Mr. Beckstrom pulled his car up in front of our house.  Mother saw him and she rushed Grandma and me into the bathroom and Grandma locked the door.  I could hear Mr. Beckstrom hollering for “Mary”.  He figured out that Grandma was in the bathroom, so he pounded on the door and kept hollering at her.  Grandma was whispering to me to say that I was in there.  I remember of being very frightened and I don’t suppose I was much help.  Just then my father came home from wherever he had been and ordered Mr. Beckstrom out of our house and to never come back again. Grandma lived with us for a while.  During this time my parents helped her get a divorce from him.  I don’t know how long their marriage had lasted, but I’m sure their marriage and divorce are in the county records. 
There were no Assisted Living Centers or Nursing Homes at that time.  There was only the “Poor House”, which was located on Ironton Hill between Springville and Provo.  My Aunt Harriet, Marcellus (Uncle Cell) Nielson’s wife, needed someone to take care of her father after her mother died.  His name was Mr. Thorn, and he lived about three blocks north of our home.  Grandma moved into his home and cared for him and his house until he died.  This was not unusual in those days.  After that Grandma’s brother, Uncle Tom, needed a caretaker for his father-in-law, who was a widower and lived on a farm in
Mary & Tina Halvorsen
Palmyra.  Grandma took care of Mr. Otteson for several years.  I don’t really remember Mr. Thorn well, but I do remember riding with Mother in our Model “A” Ford on Sundays to Palmyra to bring Grandma and Mr. Otteson for dinner.  My brothers and I loved having Grandma come, but Mr. Otteson was “such a bore”.  He talked incessantly about the “Old Country” (Denmark) and we secretly wished that he were there.  Now I think that if we had been smart we would have listened and asked questions.  I'm sure we would have learned a lot about the land of our heritage.
After Mr. Otteson died Grandma moved back to Mapleton and lived in a trailer house in Uncle Roy’s back yard.  Meanwhile I had married and was living in Alameda, California where my husband, a Navy fighter pilot, was stationed.  It wasn’t too long, maybe a year or two when my father called me and said, “If you want to see Grandma Peterson alive, you had better come home soon.  She is in the hospital with breast cancer that has invaded the pulmonary cavity and is not expected to live.”  Our daughter, Valerie, was 18 months old.  She and I flew home and stayed for two weeks.
Mary H. Peterson    James Peterson
Grandma was very weak, but was happy to see us, especially her first great grandchild.  We had some precious visits and flew back to Alameda two weeks later.  Grandma lasted another 10 days or so and died quietly in her sleep on April 19, 1947.  She was 72 years old.