Isaac Franklin Lee

Isaac Franklin Lee was born on March 22, 1891 at Etna, Box Elder County, Utah, at what later came to be known as the Hart Place. His parents were Joseph Bracken Lee and Mary Ann Mecham Lee. He was the fourth in their family of ten sons and two daughters. He grew to be a tall, slender man, yet somehow early in life acquired the nicknames of “Shorty” and “Stub.” In later years, these names were seldom used either in conversations with or about him. He remembered his first home as being in an area still known as the “Joe Lee Creek” on the north end of the Grouse Creek valley. In September of 1896, his family, then consisting of his parents and six children, traveled by team and wagon to the Salt Lake Temple and were sealed.

In 1897, the family moved to Marion (now Oakley), Idaho. Joe Lee acquired a small farm there and did odd jobs for other people, and was frequently away from home on contract work. Frank was often required to hire out to help with the family income. He was only thirteen years old when he was hired out to herd sheep.

Frank first started school at Marion, the schoolhouse being about a mile from their home. It also served as their church house. His teacher was Angeline Bates. Frank was baptized while they lived at Marion.

After several years in Marion, Frank’s family (now increased by four more children) moved back to the Grouse Creek and Etna area. Frank had barely finished the fourth grade while in Marion. Later, for a short time, he went to the Etna school, but that ended his formal education. Because he was one of the older boys, he was required to start working at an early age in order to help support the rest of the family. His father would always collect his wages, so he saw very little of the money he earned.

He was fifteen years old when his father hired him out to help feed 300 head of cattle on the Grande Ranch, which, along with other big ranches in northeastern Nevada, were owned at that time by a company called Sparks and Harrold. It was early April when he rode horseback through the hills to the Grande ranch. The foreman living there was married to an Indian woman and they had one child. Frank had only been there a few days when this man took off with his family and left Frank alone on the ranch. He did the best he could for the next ten days, then wired the main boss that he was quitting and to send someone to take his place. A cowboy named Walt Gamble finally replaced him, and Frank headed for home. He couldn’t remember if his father was angry with him or not.

Frank was then hired out to herd sheep for Carson’s. He spent that winter on the desert. He had his sixteenth birthday before returning again to the Carson’s summer range north of Grouse Creek. His uncle, Mort Mecham, was herding with him during the summer when Frank severely injured his right foot with an axe while chopping wood for the morning fire. They were at the base of what was called the Twin Peaks. His uncle immediately put him on a horse and sent him home to Etna for help. He had to go a distance of eight or ten miles through the hills. During the ride, he became very weak and his boot filled with blood. Somehow he managed to get home and his mother immediately began treating the wound with a salve made from pine gum, and the wound eventually healed. Many were the hardships of his sheep-herding years. Once, later in his life, he said, “As I look back over the years, I think of what I could have done if only I had had the opportunities of a good education and church activity in my youth.”

For several years, Frank continued to do odd jobs including more sheep-herding and also helping his father at a sawmill which they had set up in the Pine Creek area. Frank and most of his brothers worked there for several years. They supplied lumber for people in the valley, and also built themselves a two-storied frame house on a piece of property they had purchased from Charles Kimber.

In 1917, three of his brothers went into military service, but because he was one of the main breadwinners of the family, Frank did not have to go. He had begun homesteading 160 acres at the head of Pine Creek, but eventually traded that for 300 head of “scad” lambs. In the spring of 1920, he sold them for a very good profit.

Frank began keeping company with Orita Richins in the fall of 1919. They were married on September 1, 1920 in the Salt Lake Temple. After their marriage, they moved to Yost, Utah, where Frank worked as a carpenter, and then in the spring of 1921, they moved to Malta, Idaho, where he also did carpenter work with his brother “Jode.” Their first child, LaVerne, was born while they were here.

They lived in Malta for a year or so before moving back to Grouse Creek, where their second daughter, Evva, was born. At various times he herded sheep and also worked in the quarry at Lucin, where rocks and landfill were blasted out and hauled to the trestles of the Southern Pacific Railroad where it crossed the Great Salt Lake. During the following years, they lived at Etna, first at the Kinkade Place and then at the Hales Place, where Merla was born.

In October of 1925 they moved to a one-room house in Grouse Creek on property which he began buying from Orita’s brother Wilford. He again herded sheep for wages and then returned and built another room on the house. Their fourth daughter, Irene, was born here. He worked at odd jobs during the winters, and their Summers were spent north of Etna on a homestead for which they had begun the claim procedures. Juanita, the fifth daughter, was born in 1929 in Ogden, Utah, Orita going there to her sister Eliza’s place for confinement. During the summer of 1920 they were again at their homestead when the girls all broke out with smallpox. Frank had been exposed to them when he made a short trip to Idaho to visit relatives. He had recovered from them before the family went to the homestead. Orita had already had them as a young girl. The girls were very sick, but they pulled through and no one else in Grouse Creek was exposed. However, during the next eighteen months the family suffered through many more contagious diseases which were rampant throughout the town, whooping cough, measles and chicken pox. Juanita also had pneumonia twice and was taken to Ogden each time.

Their first son, Ray, was born in 1934 at Ogden. That year they again leased the Hales Place in Etna. A great tragedy occurred in the fall of 1935. Their daughter, Merla, stepped on a rusty nail, resulting in gangrene poisoning. Her leg had to be amputated, but she died on November 16th. It was a hard blow to them, and a sad winter followed. During Merla’s hospital stay, coyotes had killed all their turkeys on Etna, and they were financially devastated. Orita was carrying their second son when Merla died. Russell was born in May of 1936.

During the following summer of 1937 a terrible flood swept through the Etna valley, washing out bridges and fences and filling the new mown hay with mud and weeds. The family sustained a great loss at this time. Frank then obtained a government loan to buy 400 head of sheep (as did several others). He never did like to be in debt, so after a year or two he sold the sheep, paid off the loan, and went back to working for wages. He worked for the WPA when those projects were brought into the area. Also, every summer for quite a few years during the months of July and August, he hired out to George Paskett who regularly contracted to put up the hay on the big San Jacinto ranch in northeastern Nevada. Frank was a stacker, making $3.00 a day. It was hard work. One year (1943) his wife Orita went along to help with the cooking, and they took their two young sons with them.

In September 1943, Frank became the janitor of the Grouse Creek school. This was actually the first steady job he had ever had. He and Orita held that job for more than twenty years, and they were also the caretakers of the church for more than ten years. All their children graduated from the Grouse Creek school and then went to other areas to complete their high school education. In the summer of 1954, and for several Summers thereafter, Frank worked for the Bureau of Land Management, doing fencing for the government in that area. Frank was always involved in community projects and did a lot of volunteer work on the church farm and also worked on the pipeline and helped out in other ways. During those years, the girls all married and lived in other places, Ray joined the Air Force, and Russell went on a mission. The two boys also eventually married and moved to other areas.

Then a big blow came to them when Orita was diagnosed with cancer. She spent most of the summer of 1959 with her daughter Irene in Ogden undergoing radium treatments. She returned to Grouse Creek in fairly good health. In the summer of 1965, they purchased the big Jesse Barlow house from Sarah Tanner, and they enjoyed the time they spent together there.

During January 1968, Orita became bothered by severe headaches so she was again taken to Ogden, and this time was diagnosed as having a brain tumor. Surgery was required, but it did not prove successful. She passed away on February 23, 1968. For a year after her death, Frank continued to live at their home in Grouse Creek. But in the spring of 1969, he sold to J.R. Simplot, and moved to Grantsville, to be near Myron and LaVerne. Wanting to be as independent as possible, he bought a trailer and it was set up on their back lawn. Here he spent most of his remaining years.

Frank experienced many periods of loneliness and sadness, especially when his daughter Evva passed away in 1974 with cancer. But his family was very good to him and he expressed appreciation to them many times. Accompanied by family members, he made a total of four jetliner trips to Alaska to visit Ray and family. He flew twice to Denver to see Juanita and Jack. He enjoyed being with family members in Ogden and visited with Idaho relatives many times. He enjoyed going to the senior citizen dances there. He went on yearly hunting and fishing trips and enjoyed going back to Grouse Creek several times a year, especially on Memorial Day. Within the families of his children, a service man came home, missionaries departed and returned, weddings took place, babies were born, and a big family party honored him on his 83rd birthday.

Frank’s health noticeably declined, especially during the fall of 1978. As the winter wore on, his condition worsened. He was taken to the hospital with a very severe nosebleed. He lived only one week after his release from the hospital. He died on February 11, 1979 at the Kimber home in Grantsville and was buried in Grouse Creek on February 15, 1979. Isaac Franklin Lee was an honest man, a hard worker, an accommodating neighbor, and a very good husband and father.