Lewis Delroy Catlin

Lewis was born March 16, 1868, to George Washington and Maria Louisa Sanderson Catlin in Mt. Pleasant, Utah. He was the 8th child in a family of twelve children by this wife. Little is known about Lewis’ childhood and youth.

His father was a Mormon Battalion veteran who settled initially in Davis County, Utah, in 1851, then moved to Millard and Sanpete counties in Utah and to Clover Wash, Bullionville and Pioche, Nevada as his family increased in numbers. George W. was a farmer and a miner and apparently moved to follow these occupations as new pioneer developments offered better opportunities to provide for his large family. His travels eventually took him north to Grouse Creek, Utah where Lewis met the girl who would become his wife.

The Lewis Delroy Catlin family began with the marriage of Lewis Delroy Catlin to Emma Vilate Tanner at Grouse Creek, Utah on February 5, 1896 by Justice of the Peace A. F. Richins.

Grouse Creek Baseball Team – 1901
Back Row (L to R) – George Kimber, William Hales, Charles Fenstermaker, Bert Cross, Henry Hales
Second Row – Frank Morgan, Will Richins Will Barrus
Front – Lewis Catlin

Lewis had a very limited education, attending only the first few years of school. He was never trained in any particular trade or profession, so most of his life was spent seeking employment wherever jobs were available. One positive result of his limited schooling was the beautiful penmanship which is evident in samples of his writing which have survived to this time.

After their marriage, Lewis and Emma moved into the three room log cabin of Lewis’ father located on a small farm between Grouse Creek and Etna, Utah, to care for him three of Lewis’ brothers. Lewis’ mother had died the previous year while visiting part of her family in Fairview, Sanpete, Utah.

On January 18, 1897, a lovely baby girl was born to Emma and Lewis. The name given her was Lillian Vilate. Just 19 months later, Annie Louisa was born August 3, 1898, in the same log cabin.

Happiness was soon replaced with sadness with the death of Lewis father on August 26, 1898, and 8 months later the death of his brother, Dwight, on April 24, 1899. Both were buried in the Grouse Creek Cemetery.

Lewis was busy working to support his growing family while Emma centered her time and efforts on her husband and two children.

On March 19, 1900, a third daughter, Edna Mae, was welcomed to the family.

The log cabin home had become too small for Lewis and his family. He was driving freight and mail from Grouse Creek to Lucin, Utah, so it was decided that the family would move to Grouse Creek. They moved into a large house with a small general store at the side which Lewis operated when not driving the stage. Emma assisted when Lewis was gone. They had the store for about three years.

A fourth daughter, Elsie Merle, joined the family on October 10, 1901.

The children were introduced to music when very young. Lewis played his guitar as he and Emma sang the popular songs of the time.

When community dances were held on holidays or for special events, Lewis was often the “caller” for the adult square dances. These holiday dances were the highlight of the social activities in Grouse Creek. An afternoon dance was held for the children with the parents teaching them the waltz, polka, schottische and square dances. The evening dance was for the adults, and the children were allowed to sleep in the benches in the stage.

Lewis’ sister, Esther Brizzee, and family lived a short distance from Grouse Creek and usually came to stay a couple of days with Lewis and Emma for these holiday events. The family was large so there were people sleeping in beds all over the house, including the floor.

On December 9, 1903, Lewis and Emma’s family of all girls was changed with the birth of their first son, Lewis Delroy, named after his father.

Lewis and Emma were born into families with strong religious beliefs. Parents of both had been converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Lewis’ father, George Washington Catlin, was a member of the Mormon Battalion. Lewis was raised in areas where the Church was not available, so, although he encouraged his family to participate when Church activities were available, there is no indication of his interest or participation for himself before or after his marriage.

Their second son joined the family October 2, 1906. he was blessed November 4, 1906, by George A. Blanthorn and given the name William Edman, after Lewis’ brother.

What influenced the family to move to Tecoma, Nevada, in 1907, is not known. It could have been the result of Lewis’ association with the town and people during his stage runs from Grouse Creek to Lucin, or the fact that his brother, Charles lived there, but Lewis and Emma left Grouse Creek and moved their family of six children to this small town on the Southern Pacific Railroad, where Lewis ran a saloon.

On June 23, 1908, their fifth daughter arrived. She was given the name Emma Thelma; Emma after her mother and Thelma from a name in a book Lewis read. Unlike their previous children, Thelma, as she was to be called, was delivered by a doctor who came from Montello, Nevada.

In 1909 Lewis moved his family to Buel where Lewis found work with the Copper Mountain Mining Company. Buel was a small school district where only three or four families lived a few miles up in the hills from Tecoma. Their home was a three bedroom house located on a slight hill, with a large garden planted on the lower part of the hill. Occasionally, as the children played hide-and-seek or tag around the house, Lewis had to shoot rattlesnakes that wandered into the area.

When dances were held in Tecoma, Lewis would put his family into the buckboard and head for town, along with Emma’s father and brother’s families, who had come to stay with the Catlin family in Nevada. Her father and brother often played their fiddles for these occasions. It was not uncommon for them to dance into the early hours of the morning, arriving home just at daybreak.
In the fall of the year, Lewis hunted for rabbits, sage hens and deer to supplement the food they gleaned from their garden. One time, while hunting, he found a stray lamb and brought it home. The children loved feeding and caring for it and it was not long before the lamb was a family pet. When the time came that Lewis felt it should be slaughtered for meat, the children refused to eat it when it was served to them.

A sixth daughter, Hilda Lavon, was added to the family on April 8, 1910, in Salt Lake City, where Emma had gone to await the birth of her 8th child. Within a year’s time Lewis and Emma added another child to the family. Esther Faye was born December 5, 1912.

Emma’s pregnancy had some anxious moments in the beginning because Lewis came home with a transient who they later discovered had smallpox. After learning of the exposure, a Health Officer came to vaccinate the children. Del had a severe reaction to the vaccine. His arm swelled to such a degree that Emma knew he would have been gravely ill had he contracted the disease. Emma was unable to receive the vaccine because of her pregnancy and she contracted smallpox, but no problems developed.

On June 18, 1913, their eldest daughter Lillian married Fred Whipple and started a family of her own. Emma and Lewis made the necessary arrangements for the wedding to be in their home during the day, and the reception was held in the Whipple home that evening. Annie was her sister’s bridesmaid at the ceremony attended by family and close friends.

Later in the year, Lewis returned with his family to Tecoma to look for employment. The following year the family composition changed when a daughter, Alta Irene, was born April 17, 1915, making the family count eight girls and two boys.

Around this time, the Catlin family was forced to face a tragic situation in their lives. An order was put out that all dogs had to be muzzled because of a rabies scare in the area. When the muzzle was put on Jack, the family pet who had been with them since Grouse Creek, he fought it constantly. Realizing the cruel and physically harmful conditions imposed on the aged dog, Lewis decided the most humane action was to put it out of its misery. He had killed many animals for food, but he had to ask Everett Whipple to do what he could not bring himself to do.

Lewis was unable to find steady work in Tecoma so the family moved to Wells, Nevada, a larger town, with the hope that he might be able to find it there. While he was looking, Emma took boarders into the home and did sewing to help with the income.

A special treat for the family was to see the traveling circus when it came to town. It would set up tents beside the park area, between the railroad station and the main street, and the whole family would go to town for the big event.

Lewis was unable to find work the next summer so he went to Contact, Nevada, to work in a mine. As soon as a home was located, he returned to Wells, loaded the furniture into a farm wagon and the family moved to Contact.

The children enjoyed fishing and playing in the creek. In the winter when it would freeze, Lewis would build a bonfire on the bank while the children skated by the light of the fire. Then they would sit around and enjoy the warmth of the fire and have refreshments, which often included pickled pigs feet.

When it continued to be difficult to find steady work in Nevada, Lewis moved his family to Idaho, first to Burley, where a 3rd son, Arthur Walton Catlin, was born on August 5, 1917. Then the family moved to Emerson, where Lewis decided he wanted to try his hand at farming on a larger scale.

Lewis farmed sugar beets and alfalfa in addition to having cows, pigs, ducks and chickens for meat and eggs. The children enjoyed living on the farm, tending the animals and doing the chores required of them.

Farming wasn’t as successful as Lewis had hoped so he moved his family south across the river to Oakley, a small community south of Burley, to look for work. While living here Emma gave birth to her twelfth child and fourth son, Howard Ross, on November 7, 1920.

After his months long search for employment in Oakley failed, Lewis went to Vipont, a mining camp located a few miles from Oakley, to work cutting timber. When school ended for the summer vacation, Emma and her remaining family put their belongings in a wagon and went to Vipont to be with Lewis. Annie and Elsie moved to Salt Lake City where Elsie worked for a department store and Annie found work with the Cook and Noyes Real Estate office.

After the arrival in Vipont, two tents were set up for shelter and sleeping. A long table cupboard were built a placed outside near the area where they had their fire for cooking.

It was an enjoyable time for the family. In the evenings after day, they would sit in the light of the fire and sing songs as Lewis accompanied on his guitar. The children loved to listen to the beautiful singing voices of their parents. During the day, Bill went with his father, trimming the timber after Lewis cut it. The younger children spent their time playing on the swing Lewis had put up for them, playing ball, pitching horseshoes and enjoying the outdoors.

The supply wagon failed to arrive on time and the family had to eat flour and milk (“bank belly”). Childish fears were created when they overheard their parents discussion of family finances.

At the end of the summer, Emma took the children to Salt Lake City to live, leaving Lewis in Vipont to work for a while.

Lewis learned that there were job openings in McGill, Nevada and so he went there to work. Bill left his job at the sheet metal shop and joined his father in McGill, working in the mills as a laborer on the “bull” gang. Lewis and Bill stayed in the company dormitories and ate in the company cook shack.  Annie, Edna and Elsie came to McGill to apply for work and they were accepted. Edna and Elsie waited on tables while Annie checked the men in at mealtimes. The girls received a small wage in addition to room and board at the boarding house.

It was while Annie was in McGill that she met her husband Howard Christensen. After a six month engagement, Annie was married in the Manti, Utah, Temple on July 5, 1923. They returned to a rented house in McGill shortly after the wedding. Edna gave up her room at the boarding house, Lewis and Bill left the dormitory and they all lived together, sharing the living expenses. Lewis and Bill slept on the back porch and Edna had a room inside the house.

Lewis has suffered from ulcers for many years, but a serious skin disease, psoriasis, became an additional health problem. When his stomach problem cleared up, his skin disease would become acute and when his stomach problem was bad, the skin diseases would go away. While he was working in McGill his health started to deteriorate and it became necessary for him to return home. Bill returned with his father.

As soon as Lewis’ health improved sufficiently for him to work again, he started with the American Smelting and Refining Company in Murray, which allowed him to live at home with his family. However, it wasn’t long before his health forced him to quit and concentrate on gaining strength and getting his health back to normal.

A deeply serious tragedy came to Lewis and Emma’s family on January 7, 1925. That morning in Montello, Nevada, their grandson, Jack Whipple, found his mother, Lillian, dead on the kitchen floor. She had died sometime during the night or early morning from a heart attack. Lewis was unable to attend the funeral because of a hemorrhoid operation that had been scheduled for him in Salt Lake City, Utah. Emma had fallen and broken her ankle a few weeks earlier and was in a cast when she and their daughter Annie, and her son Deane, left on the next train to go to Nevada for the funeral.

While they were gone, Lewis had his surgery and it was successful. Upon their return, the doctor discovered that Emma had a developed an infection in her leg, and her recovery therefore was set back. She was still bedridden, when a week later, Lewis developed blood poisoning. On January 18, 1925, just 11 days after the death of their daughter Lillian, Lewis died.

His funeral was in the Murray 2nd Ward Chapel and he was buried in the Murray Cemetery. Emma was unable to attend the funeral because of complications from her injury. Lewis’ body was brought to the house before the funeral so she could see him for the last time.

Submitted to Alan Smith of Grouse Creek Histories on September 1, 2013