I was born on January 13, 1874, in the town of Fountain Green, Sanpete County, Utah. My parents were John Fleming Wakefield and Julia Ann Johnson Wakefield. My birth took place in a little log house located in the northwestern part of the town.
In October 1879, father, with several others, left Fountain Green to go to Castle Valley (Emery County). There he staked off 160 acres of land as a homestead.
In the summer of 1880, Father sold our home in Fountain Green and our family of six (Father, Mother, John Fleming, myself, Julia, Ellis, and Don Angus) with several other families, started in November to move to CastleValley. We traveled very slowly with some horse teams and some ox teams and some loose stock, milk cows, etc. The road led over mountains, through canyons, across streams without bridges and through beautiful groves of timber.
We traveled seven or eight days, traveling about eighty miles. The fall before, Father had started to build a log house on the homestead. Father and two of Mother’s brothers, Uncles Milas E. and Joseph, started at once to finish the house before winter set in. One room, about 16 x 18 feet, was finished in a short time so we could move into it. There was six of our family, Uncle Mile and Aunt Alice with three children and Uncle Joe and Aunt Annie (thirteen of us). We all slept in that small room with Uncle Joe and Aunt Annie sleeping in a tent at the south of the house. And then toward spring, Grandpa Woodward came to stay with us. When we went to bed there were beds all over the house and Grandpa would wait until the rest were all in bed and then make his bed on the hearth in front of the fireplace, but we got along very well.
At times we had very little to eat or to wear, but we divided what we had so we got through the winter and had some good times. Mother made me a pair of pants out of a seamless flour sack and I was the proudest boy in town when I could wear them to Sunday School.
In 1881 I started to my first school. There were eight pupils and Elias H. Cox was our teacher. The school was held in a little log cabin northwest of our home. The desks and seats were made of rough lumber. The room was about fourteen feet square with one door and one small window. It had a dirt roof and a dirt floor. I went for about eight days and then my parents decided that mother should take the children and go back to Fountain Green and stay with Grandma Woodward for the winter. I went to school for the balance of the winter in Fountain Green.
In the spring we went back to Huntington with Uncle Thomas Wakefield by way of Spanish Fork Canyon and Price Canyon. The D&RG RR was building through Price Canyon at that time.
The people of Huntington were nearly all poor people and we had to make our good times in those days. When the song “The Mormon Boy,” first came out we didn’t have the music, so mother taught it to me to the tune of “Ten Thousand Miles Away.” I sang it at our first Sunday School anniversary on Christmas Day 1882. I was eight years old. For some time after that whenever they had a social I would have to sing it. Some of the fellows would give me a nickel or a dime, which was a lot at that time.
On July 16, 1882, I was baptized in the Huntington Creek by Elder William Howard and confirmed by Wm. Guymon at the same place.
When I became twelve years of age, I was ordained a Deacon and in due time a Teacher and a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood under Bishop Peter Johnson and held that office for about four years. All the ward records were burned in a fire at the tithing Office, so I have no dates of these.
My cousin Mide Johnson and I were real pals and loved each other very much. During the first twenty years of our lives we were together whenever possible. The “Two Mides” were very popular with all the different crowds in town and also in some of the other towns. There was one corner on Main and Center Streets that they called “Mides’ Corner” where we would meet with the fellows and girls and have a lot of fun arranging for some social or get-together. We had many enjoyable times until I got married and moved to Grouse Creek and he married and moved to Los Angeles where he was killed by a street car.
I saw Huntington grow from the beginning (1880) until I moved away in 1896 and helped build the canals, roads, bridges, and many other things.
Grouse Creek Ward Choir at the Ogden Tabernacle
On December 20, 1893, Mide and I were on the sidewalk on the north of our lot when along came a bunch of girls. There was one girl among them that they introduced as Miss Kimber from Grouse Creek, Utah. After we left the girls, Mide said to me, “That Miss Kimber is the girl for you. Now see if I am not right.” And he spoke the truth. On the night of December 31, I went home with her from Church and we visited in the parlor until the New Year came in, 1894. We continued to keep company from then on.
In the spring as a bunch of us were shearing sheep in Spanish Fork Canyon, Coxey’s Army came through on their way to Washington to see President Grover Cleveland in regard to the hard times that had struck the country. There were hundreds of them, all traveling on foot. It was several days before they all passed by.
After shearing, I came home and started courting Miss Annie Elizabeth Kimber in earnest. I asked the fatal question and she answered, “Yes.” I was the happiest boy in the world and then I sang, “My Heart is Full of Love for Thee.” On October 15th we were re-baptized by Uncle Joe Johnson in his fish pond and confirmed by Elder George Gull, after which I was ordained an Elder by Bishop Charles Puslipher.
Ann’s father was going back to Grouse Creek. We went with them as far as Fountain Green (October 23). There we left them and drove to Manti, Utah and the next day, October 24th, we were married in the Temple by Pres. John D.L. McAlaster. We lived very happily together for forty-five years, two months and seven days before her death and had a lovely family of four girls and seven boys. She was a true and trusted wife and a devoted and loving mother.
We lived in Huntington, Utah until the spring of 1896. Her father was moving back to Grouse Creek and we decided to go with them and visit Annie’s folks and work there for the summer. After about three weeks of tough traveling through rain, snow, and mud, we arrived at the Kimber Ranch, twelve miles below Grouse Creek.
I went to work for Old Sam Kimball at $15.00 per month and board, hauling manure, digging ditches, irrigating and general ranch work. I stayed there until June 10 and went to shear sheep for David P. Thomas at the head of Grouse Creek. He paid six cents per head and charged seventy-five cents per day for board. I had been shearing at Price for four and one-half cents and board myself. After shearing was over (July 5th) I went back to Kimball’s for the summer at $20.00 per month and board. It was some job working for Old Sam Kimball–up at 5:00 in the morning, feed and water eight to ten head of horses, milk and feed six or eight head of cows, feed a dozen or so hogs and then breakfast at 6:00 a.m. then hitch teams to wagons, mowing machine or hay rake, work in the hay field until 7:00 or sundown with a break for lunch. Then after haying, evening chores and supper–about eighteen hours a day.
Our first child was born on August 11, 1896. We named her Leona Flossie.
After haying, I went to work feeding sheep for David P. Thomas. We had moved into the Old Marsh Grover house across the lane from the Low Richins rock house, and lived there that winter. In the spring of 1897 I bought a two-room log cabin from Henry Cleveland. It was in the lower wire field of the Old Parson-Egar ranch (later Ross Warburton’s) about five miles below the Grouse Creek church. I tore it down and hauled it up to the Creek and rebuilt it, about one-half block north of Aunt Lizzie Cook’s home. I got the house up and we moved into it about the first of October 1897.
On October 15, 1897, daughter Sarah Grace was born. Sister Ellen Blanthorn was a midwife and waited on Ann at the birth of all our children except Don. All (except Leona) were born in the little old log house in Grouse Creek.
In the spring of 1898 (during the Spanish-American War) a group of sheep shearers from Grouse Creek and George Creek shearing for Ed Bonnimort at Paskett spring, east of the Creek all donated some money to buy a twenty-foot flag and raise a pole to hoist it on. When shearing was over four of us went to the canyon and got a fifty-foot pole and Dell Hart gave us a twenty-foot one and we got the blacksmith, R.E. Warburton to make iron bands to fasten the two together, making a seventy-foot pole. We dug an eight-foot hole on the hill just east of the church house and raised the pole and hoisted the flag, and left it there to wave until the war was over. Then we hoisted it on holidays for about twenty years until the pole rotted and fell.
In July of that year I hauled silver-copper ore for Charlie Criste from Copper Mountain to Tacoma, Nevada.
I went out shearing sheep every year from the time I was sixteen years old until I was about sixty — nearly forty-four years of it. I sheared in many places in Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Montana at prices ranging from four and one-half cents per head to twenty-five cents per head. I used the blades for more than thirty years and then used machines. My best tally was with the blades. Brother Don and I sheared together, when possible and about the same amount. At the Fred Herrington corral on the head of Muddy Creek we sheared 204 each in nine and one-half hours — 408 in our pen. I worked at other jobs after shearing season was over, mostly haying and other ranch work, but I supplied my family with the necessities of life mostly by my sheep shearing.
On July 28, 1899, our third daughter, Julia Vilate, was born. That fall we went to Huntington for the winter where I went to the Seminary.
On March 14, 1900, we started for Grouse Creek by train. I got a job grubbing some brush for William C. Betteridge and Sons and took a cow for pay. Later I went to work for Ann’s Uncle Bill Kimber, and got two young mares. In September, I leased the Bill Kimber ranch for two years and moved the family down.
On August 25, 1901, our first son was born. We named him John Afton.
We moved back to the Creek from the Kimber ranch in September. During the winter I spent most of my time working in the Sunday School, MIA and helped put over dances, theaters, socials, etc. for the benefit of the Ward.
We also put over two big rabbit drives, killing 5,000 in the first and 2700 in the second, and that was only a few of what were in the valley.
John, Milas, Arlin, Uknown, Julia, Annie, Leona & Sarah Wakefield
On July 1, 1903 our son Arlin Elmer was born and in November of that year, the whole family took the train at Old Lucin and went to Huntington for the winter. I worked part of the winter at Sunny Side Coal Camp and the balance of the winter Ed Johnson and I hauled ice and stored it for the stores and others.
On March 18, 1904, a bunch of us sheep shearers went to shear at Blake on the Green River, also at Moab and Monticello. We traveled through miles of red sand so bad we had to walk most of the way between Moab and Monticello. We arrived back at Huntington the first day of May. My brother Claude took me and family to Price to catch the train back to Grouse Creek. I sheared and hayed during the summer.
I was made Assistant Chorister to brother Lorenzo Richins. The year before I was sustained as Sunday School Chorister with my daughter Leona as organist. She was only seven years old, but could play quite a few of the songs and was the organist for several years for Sunday School and Church.
Brother Lorenzo Richins moved away from the Creek. I was set apart as Ward Chorister and held that position until I went on a mission to Northern California in 1943, thirty-eight years.
In the spring of 1905, the trains had started to cross the lake over the Ogden-Lucin Cutoff, so the Grouse Creek mail was dropped at Lucin instead of Tacoma, Nevada. Charley Morris had the contract to deliver it to Grouse Creek and I drove for him all summer.
On September 3, 1905, another son was born to us. We named him Don Milas. Mrs. Mary Hadfield waited on Ann at the birth.
At this time I had about thirty head of good cattle and thirty-five head of horses, but hay was so hard to get I had leased the cattle to George S. Cook for a few years. After several dry seasons when I couldn’t take care of them I gave it up and let the stock go. We didn’t realize very much out of them. The final chapter in my stock raising was in the depression of 1929-30.
Charles Kimber Jr., Joe Lee, Charles C. Toyn and I built a large frame house above the dugway for an amusement hall. We had many dances, theaters, roller skating and socials there during the next few years. It was then sold to Charles Lucas for a stone building and he later sold it to Isaac Jorgensen who remodeled it into a hotel and general store. After a few years it burned down on the Fourth of July just as people were going to the dance.
On November 26, 1909, George Ellis was born. In the fall, Ann’s brother Billy and I took Will Cooke’s ranch and cattle on shares for one year and had fairly good luck and made a little.
The winter of 1909-10 was very severe with a lot of snow and plenty of cold. On January 8th, Ann’s brother, Oz Kimber, and I fought our way to the head of the Kimball Creek and tramped trails through the snow drifts and got a bunch of our horses out that would have died. We trailed them down to the hills just northwest of the Bill Kimber Ranch and saved most of them. In February, George (Kid) Blanthorn and I rode to Straight Fork to get some more horses out of the snow which was two and one-half feet on the level with drifts among the trees eight to fifteen feet deep. There was no hay to be bought, but Uncle George Cook had some old half rotten straw that he let me have and I got a few sacks of corn and oats and that pulled them through.
On November 24, 1910, the water was first turned into the pipeline at Buckskin Springs for the homes in Grouse Creek.
In January 1911, I was appointed Deputy Assessor under Charles C. Toyn, County Assessor to assess all sheep going through Lucin to the winter range, and also all the property in the Grouse Creek District. I held that job for about ten years.
On January 30, 1911, it started to thaw and it washed all the bridges out in the Grouse Creek Valley. On December 27, 1911, Annie LaRetta was born to us.
I was appointed Postmaster on February 9, 1915. The Post Office was at the A.F. Richins’s rock house. Upon receipt of my commission I was authorized to move it eighty rods northeast, so I built a 12 x 12 frame building on my lot and on March 23, 1915 I received the mail when it arrived from Lucin. I was postmaster for twenty-eight years.
On March 23, 1915, our son Claude Kimber was born. Ann had a very hard time with all of our eleven children at birth, but none so severe as this time. It looked as if we might lose her, but the Lord was with us and spared her life for another twenty-five years.
Three years later, on July 30, 1918 Frank Elwood was born. Another son, Leland Amos was born on August 3, 1921, making eleven children in all — seven boys and four girls, and all of them welcome.
On November 6th I was ordained to the office of seventy by Pres. John A. Ellison of the Raft River Stake. Shortly after this I was asked to go on a mission and made some arrangements to go, but as Ann had been sick most of the time for several years and kept getting worse, I was advised to wait for a while and if she improved then I could go. She kept getting worse and we arranged for her to go to Ogden for the winter so she could be closer to a doctor and the children could get to high school which they couldn’t at Grouse Creek. So for several winters they would go to Ogden while I stayed at home and tended to the Post Office and store. I spent one winter working for the railroad in Ogden and Salt Lake as a carpenter helper.
During the next few years we were getting along quite well financially until the Big Crash of 1929 and 1930 when everybody suffered. Along with the financial crash there was a dry spell for two or three years and there was very little produce raised on the farms and ranches. There were no jobs, banks failed, and all other business was at a standstill all over the country. The children could get no work, so it took all we had to live through it. It was really a tough time.
1939–Ann was getting worse all the time, so on December 30th we took her to Ogden to the doctor but she passed on. On January 3rd we shipped her body by train to Lucin and then to Grouse Creek by automobile. All of the children were there when we laid her to rest in the Grouse Creek Cemetery on January 5, 1940.
I stayed at Grouse Creek for three long years and with the help of the children took care of the Post Office and store until I received my retirement from the Post Office Department on January 1, 1943 which gave me an annuity of $46.00 per month for the rest of my life.
Ann’s brother, the Bishop of Grouse Creek, asked me if I would like to go on a short term mission (1943). During the next three weeks I disposed of my belongings and made other arrangements so I could leave. On July 26 I was set apart by Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith to go to the North California Mission for six months. I left Ogden on the 27th and arrived at Oakland the next day. Elwood was waiting for me at the station and went with me to the mission home since no one had been sent to meet me. I met Elder Hennefer, District President of the Santa Rosa District and went with him to Santa Rosa, sixty miles north of San Francisco, where I labored for three weeks, and then was sent to Ukiah.
It was at a baptism service that I first met Sister Mary Elsie Fischer who became my wife after I was released from the mission the next spring.
After six months in Ukiah, I was reassigned to Klammath Falls, Oregon. I was there until I received my honorable release no April 20, 1944.
Mary Elsie Fischer and I were married on April 27, 1944.
I sold the store building to the Grouse Creek Co-op, gathered some of the things I wanted to keep, and closed the house where I had spent so many happy years of my life. It wasn’t home any more.
I moved to Ogden where Elsie and I lived until her death on March 12, 1954. It was another very sad time. I am thankful to my Heavenly Father that He has blessed me with two of the best wives in the world, and I hope I can live the rest of my days in a way that I will be worthy to meet them in the same Glory on the other side. It will be up to me and how I live if I have this wish granted to me.
I know I have had many weaknesses, but have tried in my weak way to do nothing that could not be forgiven by my Heavenly Father and my fellow men. God grant that we may all live in a way that we will not be sorry for things that we have or have not done. There are sins of commission and of omission.
(The remainder of M.E. Wakefield’s life was spent in Ogden visiting his children and friends. He remained active and alert to his last days in an Ogden Nursing home. He enjoyed singing and visiting and did much writing of family histories in the years he lived alone. He was ninety-six years old when he died on November 11, 1970 and he is buried in the Ogden City Cemetery.)