The Early History of Charles LaMar Barrus Senior

Return to LaMar Barrus and Ruth Hammond main page

Many thanks have to be given to Clyn Barrus for the great work he was able to accomplish on this and Ruth's histories.

Table of Contents

I. The Marriage of Aldo and Mabel Barrus
II. The Move to Star Valley
III. The A-Frame Home
IV. Sprague Hollow, the Dry Farm and the Log Cabin
V. The Bitter Creek Settlement
VI. A Longing Heart Towards Grantsville
VII. Births and Sickness
VIII. Plenty to Eat, but no Money
IX. School
XI. Farming In Star Valley
XII. Aldo Barrus's Many Businesses
XIII. Mabel Barrus- A Pioneer Life
XIV. Culture in the Wilderness
XV. The New Home In Star Valley
XVI. The Star Valley Era Draws to an End

I. The Marriage of Aldo and Mabel Barrus


LaMar's mother, Mabel Louise Robinson was sixteen years old when her father, Heber John Robinson, died. He had contacted tuberculosis while serving a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in West Virginia and sensed on his return home to Grantsville, Utah, that he did not have long to live. During the latter part of his mission he dreamed that he would soon be called to fulfill yet another mission--a foreign mission. Upon returning to Grantsville, he told his family that this new mission would mean that he would have to leave mortality. He died March 17th, 1901.

Mabel idolized her father and was heart broken at his passing. There were only two children in the family and Mabel had a special relationship with her father that she spoke of throughout her life. Never was a cross word spoken between them. He expected a great deal from her, but encouraged her with gentleness and kindness. Just before his death he bought her a six-octave organ (a rarity in those early days) and told her to learn to play it. She cherished the instrument and fulfilled his wish, giving years of service playing the organ.

Before her father's death, Mabel had been asked twice to enter into plural marriage. She refused the proposals both because polygamy was forbidden by the Church in late 1890 and because she was too young to consider such lasting decisions. She had finished grade school and deeply wanted to continue her education, but the financial status of the family made it impossible. It was at this point of her life, age 16, that she began to seriously consider the courtship of a young man of Grantsville, Aldo Benoni Barrus, LaMar's father.

Aldo had the rare privilege of leaving Grantsville for Salt Lake City in 1899 to attend the L.D.S. Business College for two years. While there, he spent about as much time frequenting the old Salt Lake Theater as he did the college. He had loved drama since he was a child and had participated in plays given in Grantsville numerous times, as had other members of his family. While in Salt Lake City his love and ability in the dramatic arts matured and began a lasting tradition of performing on the stage.

Aldo must have made a striking impression on the 16 year old Mabel: a college man and an actor, handsome--with his dark hair parted down the middle. She too must have turned his heart with her small refined features and gentle kind disposition. Their courtship consisted primarily of riding in a buggy through the streets of Grantsville with a horse named Blackie that belonged to Aldo's parents. The short periods of time that they spent together were broken up by the long school year that Aldo spent in Salt Lake. The separation, however, endeared their relationship and in the fall of 1901 they determined that they would marry.

The loss that Mabel felt with the death of her father was replaced with an eternal relationship with Aldo. Certainly she both loved him and needed him to fill the emptiness her father's death had left. At the tender age of 16, she must have put a great deal of trust in Aldo, that he would help her realize the many dreams she still had for herself. Some of these dreams would come to pass, but certainly not all. She was delicate and refined, not built for the pioneer life she would have to face, yet she accepted each challenge and grew into a strong, loving wife and mother.

The young couple, Aldo 22 and Mabel 17, were married in the Salt Lake Temple on January 8th, 1902. After the marriage they lived with Mabel's mother, Jane Louise Millward Robinson, and Aldo continued his work at the Grantsville store as a clerk. Living conditions were crowded and difficult and the couple began to look at other alternatives. Mabel wanted to move to Salt Lake City, the center of all activities to the Mormon communities of the Inter-mountain West, where she could further her education and partake of the many cultural and religious activities that transpired there. Aldo, however, was looking considerably farther East and somewhat North to a primitive valley in the mountains of Southwestern Wyoming, called Star Valley. Three of Aldo's older brothers and one of his sisters had already moved to this valley and their reports of the new land waiting to bring forth an abundance of crops and wealth loomed big in Aldo's eyes. It seemed an ideal place to start a life together, to build, to create, and produce on land that had never been touched by man before.

Mabel hesitated at first, fearing the primitive pioneer life that the valley would bring to her. After her first son, Calvin, was born on December 12th, 1902, however, she told Aldo that she was willing to go wherever he felt they should, and plans were made to leave in the coming spring.

II. The Move to Star Valley


Star Valley, Wyoming remained unsettled until the late 1890's for one overwhelming reason, it was next to impossible to get there. Lying at an elevation of 7,000 feet along the Idaho border in far western Wyoming, the valley is surrounded by mountains. To the east is the Salt River Range with Wyoming Peak rising to 11 ,418 feet. North of the valley is the treacherous Snake River Canyon leading down into the Upper Snake River Valley of Idaho. Only from the south could entrance be found into the valley in those early days, but the trip was one that took pioneer stamina and courage. The 50 mile "road" from Montpelier, Idaho to Star Valley was barely more than a animal trail, winding through high mountains and steep canyons. In one place the trail crossed Montpelier Creek 25 times in ten miles; in another, furrows would have to be plowed in the hill side to keep the wagons from tipping over. Huge boulders strewed the trail making travel slow and extremely dangerous. Yet this trail was the life blood of Star Valley, along which everything that was not native to the valley had to pass. It was their only link with the world; to those who loved Star Valley, the only way in; to those who felt lonely and afraid, the only way out. It was along this trail that Aldo and Mabel would have to pass as they sought their new home.

Calvin was only six months old in May of 1903 when they began their journey. They had very little money and so pieced a wagon and harness together from scraps they could collect from relatives and friends. They purchased two horses and loaded Mabel's organ and their other scant possessions in the wagon and the buggy they towed behind. As they departed, Mabel felt that she was leaving most everything and everyone she loved. She felt lonely even before the trip began, and the departure from her mother was a particularly sad one. Her mother had suffered a great loss with the passing of her husband and to see her only daughter leave to go into a wilderness was extremely painful for her.

The young couple made an interesting sight as they traveled. The two horses led the way, pulling a rickety heavily loaded wagon on which the couple sat. Tied behind the wagon with leather straps was a dilapidated buggy loaded full with belongings. They slept under the stars or under the wagon and cooked on open fires, purchasing needed supplies from the communities through which they passed on their way to Montpelier. The roads were terrible and Mabel found it easier to walk holding Calvin in her arms than to endure the constant tossing of the wagon. There was a problem with the hitch on the buggy causing it to run into the wheels of the wagon each time they would go down a hill. Things did not go well with the wagon either, and after twelve days of travel, just outside of Montpelier at Mink Creek, it fell apart.

Aldo's older brother, Albert Almon Barrus, knew the couple was coming and had journeyed by wagon to Montpelier to help them along the trail leading into Star Valley. His presence added new life and vitality to the very disheartened pair as they loaded their belongings into Albert's wagon and prepared for the final step of the journey.

At Montpelier they left behind all easy contact with the world they had known since birth. The railroad and telegraph wires serviced this community making it accessible to Salt Lake City and thus a center of supplies for the Bear Lake and Star Valley areas.

The trail into Star Valley from Montpelier was almost impassible because of the huge rocks and mud slides that blocked the way. The wagon wheels strained and creaked as they slowly edged along the path. Huge boulders had to be removed and washes along the road filled constantly to facilitate passage. Yet, it was a beautiful country, with pine covered mountains on each side of the trail. Periodically the couple could glance around and admire the beauty but then would be immediately drawn back to the danger of the trail.

On the 20th day of their travel from Grantsville, they descended down out of the mountains into Star Valley. It was a beautiful spring day around the first of June, 1903.

III. The A-Frame Home


The arrival of the small family into the valley was a reason for great celebration. All three of Aldo's brothers had previously moved to Star Valley: Emery, Albert, and Orlando, along with their growing families. One of Aldo's sisters, Luella Millward, was also there with her family, and another, Angelia Cline and her family, soon joined them. The entire group of relatives had formed a community called Bitter Creek about two miles out of the tiny village of Fairview, Wyoming.

The relatives had already selected a piece of property for Aldo and Mabel, an 80 acre portion of land on the south side of Bitter Creek with an A-frame one room log cabin. Aldo soon added a lean-to on the side. It is not clear from whom they purchased the property or who had built the tiny house, but when they moved from Star Valley fifteen years later, the property was still not totally paid for.

During their stay in Star Valley, eight children were to live in the home, Calvin, Alton, LaMar, Clarence, Joseph Corwin (died at birth), Fern, John Andrew (died at birth), and Keith. Only Alton, Clarence, and Fern were actually to be born in the home, however, as LaMar was born in Grantsville, and Joseph Corwin was born in the log cabin they were later to build in Sprague Hollow. Keith was born in the new home that was built just before they left Star Valley.

The tiny A-framed shelter was to be their winter home for thirteen of the fifteen years they were to live in Star Valley. The single room served as front room, dining room, and sleeping quarters for the entire family, and the small lean-to was turned into a kitchen with one clothes closet and a pantry. Pumped water was not available in the house and so was carried from the canal in the summer and melted from snow in the winter.

Winters were fierce in Star Valley with temperatures falling often to 30 and 40 degrees below zero with from three to seven feet of snow on the ground. The home served as barely more than a shelter for the family and was constantly cold in the winter. The only source of heat was a small kitchen stove that would be used during the day, but never during the night. Bread and meat would freeze so hard some nights that they would have to be cut up with an axe and thawed in the oven for breakfast. Each winter morning would require shaking the frost from the blankets before the stove was lit so that the increased temperature would not melt the frost and dampen the beds.

The family came close to losing their home at one time as the lean-to caught on fire from the heat of the kitchen stove. The members of the community formed a bucket brigade from the canal to the blazing home and were able to douse the flames before they destroyed the house.

Of the original 80 acres purchased with the home, 40 were eventually sold by Aldo because of need for money. On the remaining 40 acres, the family raised Timothy hay which was irrigated by the canal that passed by the property.

On this land thirteen years later, Aldo and Mabel build their first real home, just west of the old A-framed house and lean-to.

IV. Sprague Hollow, the Dry Farm and the Log Cabin


One of the main attractions of the Star Valley area was the possibility of obtaining free government land. The government would allot a certain portion of land to a homesteader provided he would farm and live within the boundaries of the property for at least six months of the year. Aldo was given 160 acres of land for dry farming on the hill just above Sprague Hollow a couple of miles from the A-framed home. Only about half of the property was farmable, the rest being filled with rocks and large washes on side hills.

Several of Aldo's brothers and brothers-in-law owned property on this same hill so that the entire area above Sprague Hollow belonged to the family of relatives. Albert owned the first piece of land up over the hill and built a small log cabin for his family right on the property. The next section belonged to George Millward, and Aldo's land adjoined his. Clarence Robinson and Lon Kennington also owned land, and Orlando Barrus owned the north section.

George Millward, Orlando, and Aldo all determined to build cabins down in the hollow to provide some shelter from the strong winds that would blow down the valley. Logs were cut from the timbers in the mountains and construction was begun.

The log cabin was primitive and simple in every way, but it was the center of the most vivid and precious memories of Star Valley. It consisted of only one room and one door, and the roof was made by weaving thin limbs from nearby trees and covering them with sod and dirt. The floor was built from rough sawed wooden planks and water was hauled to the cabin from Sprague Creek. The roof of the cabin leaked every time it rained, and pots and pans would quickly be placed throughout the room to catch the falling rain. Eventually the roof leaked so badly that every available pan was put on the beds to attempt to keep them dry.

Some of the cabins built in Sprague Hollow had lofts in which the children slept. The ladder to the loft was made of two quacking aspen trunks tied to the wall and some cross pieces nailed to the trunks. Dirt from the dirt roof would sift in through the ceiling boards and cover floors and beds in thick layers.

When John Andrew was born in the cabin it was during the middle of a terrible cloud burst and water was dripping constantly on the bed where Mabel lay. Aldo would drain the blanket of the dripping water as best he could, but Mabel recalled the event as a terrible nightmare. The baby was two months premature and only lived a few short hours. They kept the dead baby in the cabin window to preserve him until he could be buried in the hollow two days later.

As the family grew, it became necessary to provide more sleeping space. A small canvas tent was purchased and erected a short distance from the cabin and this shelter became the summer bedroom for the children most of the time they lived in Star Valley. Cots were used as beds, and the boys and Fern all slept together in this primitive tent.

Animals played a significant roll in the memories the children have of this tent. Wolves and coyotes would come down out of the mountains during the night and stalk the tent looking for any food they could find. They could hear the howling of the coyotes all through the night and their imaginations would run wild when they would hear their dog "Bob" fighting with the beasts trying to keep them away from the tent. Frequently, more than one child would sleep together in a cot trying to find comfort from their fears.

It was during such frightening nights that Calvin's incredible art of story telling developed. Using some fact and a vivid imagination, he would spin tales about wolves, coyotes, bears, and about everything else he could imagine. His story about Abe Putman of Star Valley single handedly pulling a huge wolf from the depths of a dark narrow cave has been passed on for several generations and undoubtedly will endure many more. The smaller children were spell bound by his stories, lying motionless and wide eyed in their beds as the wolves yelped outside and the story unfolded within the tent. They had implicit faith, however, that Calvin the storyteller would become their protector, should any of the dangers he so vividly described lurk too near.

Cows also played a role in the memories the children have of life in the tent. Aldo purchased several head so that the family could have milk, butter, and cheese. They would simply let the animals wander around at will and sometimes they would venture into the hills and be lost for as long as two days. On the hot summer days, the cows would find shade from the sun wherever they could, and the tent seemed to be their favorite place. They would stand around the tent for hours chewing their cud and swishing their tails to keep the flies off. Sometimes the beasts would find their way into the tent unnoticed, knocking the beds over and doing their "chores" in the most unpleasant places. LaMar recalls complaining to his father about the state of his bed after one such incident. Aldo went into the tent with the young boy, picked up his pillow and shook it off on the floor, turned it over and said, "There now, you can sleep just fine."

In a rain storm, the tent leaked worse than the cabin, and as all the pots and pans were used to protect the cabin, the inside of the tent, the beds, and the children would generally become soaking wet. During one terrible cloud burst the children were pulled from the tent by their father and the whole family was rushed to the top of the hill. The heavy rains were sending torrents of water out of the mountains down the canyon and were threatening to wash away the cabin and everything it. The other families that lived in Sprague Hollow were standing in the rain on the hill with them as they watched the violent water push and pull at their tiny homes. When the rain finally subsided and the water level lowered, they felt thankful to find all of the cabins still standing. Considerable damage was done, but repairs soon brought life back to normal.

The growing season was short up on Sprague Hollow, and about the only thing that could be raised on the land was wheat and barley. The land raised between 40 and 50 bushels per acre which sold for only about 80 cents a hundred pounds. It required much work for little financial reward, but this farm was the best and most dependable means of earning money while they were living in Star Valley.

The tiny cabin no longer exists, but the farm is still used by relatives. Upon leaving Star Valley, the property was sold to Emery, Aldo's brother, and Cye Ball, the husband of one of Emery's daughters, still manages and works the land.

V. The Bitter Creek Settlement


No one is sure how Bitter Creek got its name, but some have suggested it was because of all the relatives that lived along the banks of the canal running through the settlement. Actually, there was normally harmony and cooperation among the brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins, and they depended greatly on each other for help and support through the many struggles they faced.

The location of the various homes was as follows: The first house south of Fairview belonged to Emery and Martha (Mattie) Tolman Barrus. They were the first family to move to this area and could genuinely be counted among the first pioneers in Star Valley. Farther up the road on the left side was the home of George Millward and Mary Luella Barrus Millward. George was an uncle to Mable, Luella a sister to Aldo. The next two homes belonged to Orlando and Albert Barrus. Orlando, Aldo's brother, married Mary Elizabeth Clark (called Mamie), and Albell another of Aldo's brothers, was married to Alice Millward Barrus, an Aunt to Mabel. Just across the canal was the new home that Aldo and Mabel were eventually to build and east of that, the old A-framed home where they originally lived.

Four other families of relatives lived in the area. Heber Clarence Robinson, Mabel's only brother) married Maude Clarice Johnson and moved here several years after Aldo and Mabel's move. John and Grace Millward Frome (she an Aunt and close friend of Mabel's while living in Grantsville) also moved here at a later date. Ulysses S. and Angelia (Celia) Barrus Cline (a sister to Aldo) built a permanent home up on Sprague Hollow, and Lyle (an Uncle to Mabel) and Mary Johns Millward also farmed in the area.

All together there were nine families of relatives living just south of Fairview and each family eventually had between eight and thirteen children. There were over sixty cousirls wandering around the area and they claimed that it was impossible to throw a rock without hitting a "kid" somewhere.

The cousins were constantly together. They made up a good portion of the school, requiring their very own school wagon or sled to transport the children. They would fight together, play together, eat and sleep together. Their favorite sports were riding calves to see who could stay on the longest, hunting squirrels (called "diddles"), rooster fights, and in the winter, skating.

The cousins seldom would attend church and would often spend the Sabbath getting into various kinds of mischief. One particular Sunday, the older cousins led by Lester Barrus rounded up the younger ones (among which Calvin, Alton, and LaMar were counted) and proceeded to shear the hair off their heads with a pair of hand clippers. After the deed was done, they gave each of the younger boys a stick upon which they placed their hats and started them marching down the road toward the church just as the parents were leaving Sacrament Meeting. The tears I of the children were met with the tears and dismay of their mothers as they viewed their poor "scalped" sons. It was suggested the next Sunday in church that it might be a goodl idea to start bringing the children to church more often.

Of the many Uncles and Aunts that lived in the area, Ulysses S. Cline was a particularly frightful character in the eyes of Aldo's and Mabel's children. Calvin describes him in the following manner, as remembered through the eyes of a child:

"Uncle Ulysses was a neighbor up on Sprague Holler'. Not a very good 'un. Mother didn't like 'im, was always tryin' to git sompin' fer nothin'. He had pigs there, says they's livin' on clay. He had 'im up there on our dry farm all the time, eaten' our wheat. One day I got old "Charlie" - he had three crooked feet there - and I drove all them pigs down and locked 'um up in the barn. Uncle Ulysses, he come down just a flyin' about an hour later, on a horse, there. I crawled under the bed!! He had a big mustache - his eyes was stickin' out there. I crawled under the bed so he couldn't find me! He looked everywhere. Dad was down thrashin' - he went down to talk to Dad and let him know what a bad kid I was. Dad let him have the pigs back.

"Uncle Ulysses used to drive out to Montpelier there, and tie a can a milk on the back a 'is V wagon -- it'd churn up, ya know, and there'd be little balls bout as big as a yolk of a hen egg. He'd lift that there can up there to get a drink there and come to one a those chunks a butter in there and, 'sslllllu', he'd drink it down. They say he liked milk from the time it come out a the cow, Til it turned green.

"Dad let 'im run some of his dry farm up there. When Uncle Emery bought it from Dad when they moved to Idaho, Cline and Uncle Emery 'bout had a mix up over it. He didn't want to let go a that land Dad had let im use. He said Dad told im he could have that land 1:er keeps. He was some guy!"

Once Aldo's family moved to Idaho, the relationship among the cousins stopped, but there was always a warm and lasting feeling among the parents. Visits back to Star Valley were filled with warm memories, laughter, and tears. As these good people gradually began to pass from this life, those who remained felt they had lost their dearest friends.

VI. A Longing Heart Towards Grantsville


Even with relatives on each side, the longing to see their parents in Grantsville was constantly on the mind of Aldo and Mabel. The hardships of Star Valley made thern long for the style of life they had lived in Grantsville, and their lack of financial success made them feel that coming to Star Valley had been a mistake. During their entire stay in Wyoming, only one person visited them from Grantsville, and that was Grandma Janie (Mabel's mother). Of the children, only Calvin remembers having seen their Grandfather Barrus when he died in 1921.

As the winter of 1906 and 1907 approached, a momentous decision had been reached. They had already spent four cold, hard winters in Star Valley and were totally without money. Alton had been born in 1904 during a horrible winter, and as Mabel was expecting a third child, she couldn't bear the thoughts of giving birth again during the cold loneliness of a Star Valley winter. They therefore determined that as soon as the crops were harvested, they would take the entire family to Grantsville for the winter where Aldo would find work to bolster their finances, and Mabel would give birth to their third child, LaMar.

Once again they struggled over the winding dangerous trail to Montpelier, and from there were able to take the train to Grantsville. How good the outside world looked to Aldo and Mabel. Salt Lake especially seemed so full of activity and excitement and it made them wonder if they would ever be able to return to Star Valley. The reunion with their parents was one of great joy and tears and it truly felt as if they had come home.

While in Grantsville, they stayed with Mabel's mother who married Charles Albert Johnson just a few days after they arrived. The two families lived in the "Charlie" Johnson home during the winter and Aldo's and Mabel's small family was given the front room for living quarters. It was in this room that LaMar was born on March 18th, 1907.

Aldo was able to find work in the salt mines at Stockton, just outside of Grantsville and they carefully saved every penny they earned to help their financial plight in Star Valley"

As spring approached, the new baby, LaMar, was too young to make the perilous journey back to Star Valley, so Aldo left by himself in order to plant the crops for the coming season. He returned by train to Montpelier and then hitched a ride with a wagon freighter into Star Valley.

With summer now upon her, Mabel realized that she too must make the journey back with her thee sons. She must of course be with her Aldo, but leaving Grantsville was even more difficult than before, as the romance and excitement of the unknown had left Star Valley. It had been replaced with struggle, poverty, and loneliness. She fought with her emotions, knowing that she must leave, and finally determined that she would arrive back in Star Valley with new determination and courage to make a life of beauty and warmth for her family.

On the train from Grantsville to Montpelier, Mabel was aided by Grace Millward, a younger aunt, who later was also destined to move to Star Valley. At Montpelier she was met by Aldo and the family journeyed once again to their home. This trip was filled with special dangers as at one point one of the horses slipped and fell down a gully, pulling the other horse down on top of him. It seemed that the wagon and family may tip over and roll down the side hill also, but Aldo, amidst the cries and tears of the children and Mabel, was able to get the horses back on the road. They entered Star Valley just in time to harvest the crops from Aldo's hard work of the previous months.

Aldo and Mabel were to make several other trips back to Salt Lake City and Grantsville during their stay in Star Valley, but they were never able to take the children with them and so the trips were short. They often combined their trips with General Conference in Salt Lake, but Aldo was sometimes accused of spending more time in the in the drama and vaudeville theaters than in the Tabernacle. Their commitment, their dedication, and their livelihood remained in Star Valley, but somehow, their hearts never left Grantsville.

VII. Births and Sickness


Visits to a Doctor were seldom possible, and some of the children never remember seeing one during their stay in Star Valley. Most doctoring was done by the women and there seemed to be a home remedy for every ailment one could possibly get. Aid for a sick stomach came by placing a hot cloth over the abdomen, and special contrived drinks could cure about anything. The reality of contracting an illness was, however, that it brought suffering and pain, and relief came only after the sickness had taken it course and health returned.

There were constantly babies being born in the Bitter Creek settlement, and most of the women never visited a Doctor. In fact, most births were performed without the presence of a Doctor. Every woman was an experienced "Mid-wife", and Mabel assisted in countless births during their time in Star Valley.

Many children died at child birth, and Aldo and Mabel were to know the pain of this type of loss well. Of the thirteen children that were eventually born to them, five died at childbirth. There were no morticians in Fairview and the ones in Afton were too expensive. When a baby would die, the body would be wrapped in damp cloth and placed in a open window to preserve the body until burial.

When Keith was born, Aldo wanted to provide a new bed for Mabel as their old one was quite primitive and uncomfortable. He had worked as a freighter between Star Valley and Montpelier often, and on the trip before the birth, he had saved five dollars and brought back with him a brand new bed and mattress. When he arrived back in Star Valley, however, Keith had already been born. Fern recalls this event well, as her mother insisted on cleaning the straw out from under the carpet while she was in labor. Aunt Clarice, Mabel's sister-in-law, assisted in Keith's delivery.

Telling children where they came from was not always approached with total honesty. Fern was told over and over that they found her up under a sage brush in "Barkdoll Holler".

Many serious illnesses passed through the valley, the most deadly was diphtheria. Many children died of the disease, but though some of the Barrus children contacted it, none of them became seriously ill.

Dentistry work was for the most part neglected. Only when the pain became unbearable would the trek to Afton be made to have a tooth extracted. LaMar was once put on a horse just before turning seven and told to ride seven miles into Afton to have a tooth pulled. His parents had little doubt that he would do as told as the pain of the decayed tooth was terrible. It was a long trip to Afton, his tooth hurting all the distance there, and then, having to face the dentist upon arrival. The tooth was pulled out with a large pair of forceps and it took a mighty pull to break it loose.

Mabel was often sick during her stay in Star Valley. It seemed that her heart was severely affected by the 7,000 foot elevation of the farm and though she visited doctors in Afton and Grantsville, they seemed to be able to do little for her. It was finally determined that a lower elevation would help her and the family considered the possibility of moving to California to aid her health. This move was mostly impossible because of lack of money, and so a much less expensive move to Idaho was taken. Mabel's health was the main reason for them leaving Star Valley, fifteen years after they arrived.

VIII. Plenty to Eat, but no Money


Money was almost non-existent in Star Valley. The only profitable way to earn cash for produce that was raised was to load it in the back of a wagon and haul it through the mountains to Montpelier. The round trip took most of a week, and often the freighted produce was lost because of wagons turning over, or from exposure to the sun in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter. Even when the produce arrived at Montpelier in salable condition, the money received in sale was very small. Coming home with nine or then dollars was considered a good sale, not much reward for such a dangerous trip.

Within the valley, the families were mostly self-sufficient out of necessity. What they didn't already have, they did without. When exchange of produce or services was necessary, it was often done through a barter system. It was not uncommon to go to the dry goods store in Afton with a bushel of wheat to be exchanged for items needed. Payment of tithes and offerings to the church was generally done with produce and the Bishop had the responsibility of exchanging it into a monetary value that could be sent to Salt Lake.

To have more than one set of clothing was a luxury. Aldo's and Mabel's children wore pretty much the same fashion: a pair of long-handled underwear (the top part used as a shirt), and a pair of over-ails. Shoes were almost never worn in the summer, and sore feet was a common complaint among the children as their feet would often bleed from sores and cuts, making walking quite painful.

LaMar remembers receiving a pair of mail-order shoes when he was six years old. They had been ordered from the Montgomery Ward catalogue and took weeks to arrive. LaMar would frequent the Post Office almost daily waiting for the shoes. Finally, after almost giving up in despair, the shoes arrived. They were black with a piece of copper on the toes for protection. He tried them on and found that they were very tight and pinched his feet terribly. After walking home in them one time, he was glad to be able to go bare footed again.

The family would often go for weeks without a penny of cash in the house. When motion pictures finally came to Afton, a one dollar bill had to be borrowed from one of the relatives in order for the family to be able to attend. The entire family attended the movie for that dollar, with a little change left for popcorn.

At Christmas time, Aldo and Mabel were hard pressed to find enough change to buy the children gifts. A Christmas tree was always placed in the home as they could simply cut one from the surrounding mountains, but decorations were simple and hand made. One particular Christmas the children arose to find their presents and LaMar was unable to find anything for him. Very disheartened and droopy eyed, he approached his father wondering why Santa hadn't left him anything. The kind father comforted the boy and then rummaged around in some boxes above the closet. There he found a little red top that was his entire Christmas present. LaMar was more than satisfied, making that top a prized possession.

The boys were pretty clever when it came to finding hidden Christmas presents. Aldo and Mabel had saved for a year to buy them a new bridle for their horses at Christmas. When the bridle was purchased, Aldo hid it in the grain bin under about two feet of wheat. The boys found it soon after it was hidden and did their best to look surprised when they saw it under the tree on Christmas morning.

While money was almost non-existent, food was plentiful and no one ever went hungry. Cows were purchased to provide milk, butter, and cheeses and the job of milking and churning butter was usually left to the children. A favorite snack was to dip freshly made bread in the cream as it raised to the top of the milk pail and then sprinkle it with sugar.

Meat was plentiful, not because it was raised, but because it was hunted. Aldo was a good hunter and elk were plentiful in the mountains around Star Valley. The wild meat was cooked in every way imaginable: stews, steaks, roasts, hamburger, and summer sausage. Every time that the meat supply was low, a new hunting trip was planned. Aldo never came home empty handed, taking pride in his ability to hunt. The head of one especially large elk was mounted and hung on the walls of their several homes most of their married life.

Mabel was a good cook, taking the limited supplies she was able to obtain in Star Valley and always providing a good meal. She would make dark brown bread out of unrefined wheat the family would grow. The milling was done in near-by Afton. She had a number of specialties that were favorites with her children, but most of all they loved "Yocksy Puddin'". It consisted of a batter, baked in the oven, that would raise into large mounds of paper thin dough. When browned on top it was sprinkled with sugar, cut into squares, and eaten. Whenever there was a choice in the matter, this is always what the children wanted to eat.

IX. School


The school house that the children attended was in Fairview about two miles north of the Barrus home. Needless to say, the relatives in Bitter Creek made up a good portion of the school population and so were able to have their own school wagon (a sled in winter). The children's uncle, Clarence Robinson, drove the wagon, which had hewn logs protruding out from the sides and back of the small wagon box. Few of the children were able to sit in the box and so the rest would straddle these logs or "bunks' as they rode to school. For the boys, this of course was the prized place to sit. During the cold winters when the temperatures would get to 40 below zero or lower, a small stove was placed in the sled to help keep the children warm. Those sitting out on the logs, however, received little of the warmth and were often extremely cold upon arriving at school.

The school house consisted of four small rooms in which children were taught through the 8th grade. In each room was a large pot-bellied stove for warmth in the winter. After the canal in back of the school was frozen in the fall, all of the students and teachers would put on skates during recess and noon break and skate. Skating was one of the most popular winter activities among the children of Star Valley.

Discipline was strict and on Calvin's first day in school, he and Ben Millward were called up to the front of the class by the teacher for throwing chalk at each other. The teacher then proceeded to soundly spank their hands with a ruler.

All of the children attended school when of age, though LaMar waited until he was seven because his mother thought he was just too young for the rigors of school life. Because the growing seasons were so short, the farm seldom kept the older boys out of school and they attended with regularity and, for the most part, dedication. LaMar was awarded the book, "Penrod" while in the third grade for outstanding reading ability.

Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic were the main courses of study in the school, but history and geography were also taught. These classes were about the only chance the children had to hear and dream of the vast world that lay outside of the mountain valley.




Most of the population of Star Valley were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their ancestors had crossed the plains from the eastern United States as Mormon pioneers and had settled in the area of Salt Lake City during the latter part of the 19th Century. Settlements were immediately started by their leader Brigham Young throughout the inter-mountain West and families were sent to colonize and plant roots for future cities and communities.

Star Valley was one of the last areas considered in the colonization process, mainly because of the difficulty of getting there. By the time the first serious settlers arrived, however, they had come more to find a fresh start and hopefully a more abundant life, than because of a direct command from the Church Leaders. None the less, most were devoted members of the Mormon Church and were dedicated to its principles and teachings.

The church that Aldo's and Mabel's family attended was located in Fairview. It was a one room building, very roughly built, with hand made pews and an old pot bellied stove used for heat. There were wires stretched across the ceiling on which blankets could be hung to divide the building into four classrooms for Sunday School.

The bishop of the ward played an extremely important roll both in the Church and the community. As all were LOS, the line between religious and civil problems was very thin, and the Bishop was generally expected to handle all of them.

Viewed statistically, activity in the Church might be questioned. Attendance at Sacrament Meeting was normally between 15 and 20% and the children tended to avoid most Church meetings. They much preferred to ride calves, have rooster fights, and catch squirrels on the Sabbath. The Word of Wisdom was observed, but not too closely, as coffee was considered a remedy for any number of ailments and was very often, "prescribed by the Doctor", or so they said. Yet they were deeply religious people whose faults were vastly over balanced by the dedication that lay within their pioneer souls. They perfected the spirit of loving one's neighbor and would do anything to help in time of need. The time, energy, and love that they shared with each other was endless and certainly strengthened their religious fervor. They had an acute awareness of the elements that were around them and realized that the tempering of these elements, so that they could survive, lay in the hand of the Lord.

Aldo and Mabel served in the church all of their lives. While in Star Valley, Aldo accepted callings in the Sunday School Superintendency and was one of the seven Presidents of the Seventies. Because of her ability to play the organ, Mabel served as Mutual Improvement Association organist for eleven of the fifteen years that they lived there.

All of their children attended Primary and would sing songs of the church in their home as Mabel would play the organ. Calvin recalls his mother trying to get him and Alton to sing, "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam," but with little success. "A It's voice was even worse than mine and she soon give up," Calvin laughingly stated.

The children that turned eight while in the valley were baptized in the canal right by their home. Uncle Albert was usually the one that performed the honor, and their father would confirm them members of the Church. Uncle Albert used to love to tease the children that were to be baptized, telling them that he would throw them in the canal and let them float for a while.

Soon after Aldo's and Mabel's family left Star Valley, the old one room church caught fire and burned to the ground, destroying all of the records concerning the families' early church activity. Some of the information is available in Salt Lake, though there are numerous mistakes.

XI. Farming In Star Valley


Farming was all done by horses, and the collection that Aldo and Mabel had during their time in Star Valley was rather unusual. Aldo liked to trade for horses and because of his gentle, kind, and compassionate manner, he usually ended up on the short end of every trade. It seemed that each horse had some defect: "Old Charlie" had one good foot and three crooked legs; "Thislo", a name given to a sore that would not heal, got her name from an abscess on her shoulder; "Sailor and Tracy" could both run fast but had long and clumsy legs, often throwing the rider over their heads as they would come to an abrupt stop; and "Crippy", who received her name because she was crippled in two legs. The horses were always ridden bare back, usually without even a bridle or rope, and directions would be given by slapping the horse on the side of the neck it was supposed to turn towards. A harness was, of course, used to hook the horses to the simple equipment that was used: a plow, harrow, wagon, mower, and later, a header.

During their first years in Star Valley, Aldo did all of the farming, using Mabel to help in many of the projects. During the planting of wheat, she would drive the team and wagon, usually with two or three tiny children on her lap, while Aldo would broadcast the wheat from the back of the wagon. She would generally spend a good portion of each week working on the farm at various projects while at the same time trying to care for her growing and demanding family.

As the children grew, however, they began to completely take over the farming as Aldo ventured into other businesses. Calvin being the oldest, took the lead, working long hours on the farm and making most of the decisions relating to its success. Even as early as five years old, Calvin would spend all day on the harrow, driving three head of horses on the dry farm. He was so small that Aldo would have to tie him onto the harrow with a rope so that he wouldn't falloff and be hurt. The other children would help also, but because of their young ages, they were limited in what they could do. LaMar seemed to be Calvin's most dependable helper, though not always of his own free will. On one hot summer day, LaMar told Calvin he was tired and was going home. Calvin objected, but LaMar started off down the hill. A few moments later, LaMar turned to see Calvin galloping down after him on a horse, a lasso swinging over his head. Like a rebellious calf, LaMar was roped and pulled back up the hill to finish his day's work.

Since there was no water up on the dry farm, it was the task of the younger children to bring it from Sprague Creek as the temperatures would rise and the young farmers would feel their thirst. They had small tin buckets to carry the water and by time the small children would get the containers up on the hill, most of the water had been slopped out. After a long day's work, these buckets would be hung on the hames of the harness and taken back to the log cabin. One of these buckets almost cost LaMar his life as the horse he was riding, "Old Crippy," was frightened by the clanging bucket on the hames, reared on his hind legs and charged down the hill. LaMar was thrown from the horse's back, but his foot caught in the harness leaving him dangling underneath the horse's four pounding legs. With each jolt of the horse, his head would hit the ground and the poor frightened boy thought for sure his end had come. When the horse finally stopped at the bottom of the hill, Calvin leaped from the horse he was riding and ran to LaMar, expecting to find him dead. He was relieved to see LaMar slowly get to his feet, somewhat bruised and very shaken, but with no broken bones or serious cuts.

The fall of each year brought the harvest, and the harvest brought the thrashers. They came in huge numbers, sometimes between thirty and forty, with their teams and wagons and huge appetites. They were for the most part neighbors who would donate their time and labor with the understanding that the favor would be returned when their grain was thrashed.

The thrashing machine itself was huge and was pulled by several teams of horses. It received its power from horses through a system called "hub power." As many as twelve teams of horses would be harnessed to a giant hub and would walk and pull in circles all day long turning the hub and transferring the energy to the machine. It required seven to eight people just to take care of the horses.

For Mabel, the coming of the thrashers meant cooking. Each family assisted was required to feed the hungry workers three meals a day and they seemed to eat in abundant amounts when the food was free. Huge pots and pans would be filled with food that had taken hours to prepare, and after the horde had eaten, dirty dishes would take hours to clean. Mabel would collapse at the end of such a day, totally exhausted.

It took about two days to thrash the grain on the Barrus' dry farm, and the temperatures were always cold, sometimes even below freezing. Straw would be burned in bonfires to keep the workers warm. When it was over they would usually have gleaned between forty and fifty bushel of grain per acre.

The end of thrashing the grain meant an end to the farming season. The long hard winter was to follow close behind and the children would be off to school, trying to keep warm by the fires until the sun would melt the snow again in the spring. They learned early the value and necessity of hard and continuous work and made a success of their efforts. Though Aldo attempted other businesses, the primary means of support for the family always came from the farm and the hard labors of these two parents and their children.

XII. Aldo Barrus's Many Businesses


If Aldo Barrus wasn't especially successful in his many attempts to trade and sell to other people in the valley and in Montpelier, it was only because of his nature and the circumstances under which he worked. He was a gentle and kind man, with an enormously warm heart. He was immensely trusting of other people and believed what they would say to him in spite of the fact that it was often untrue. He would do anything to help others, from giving credit when it was unwise, to letting people take unfair advantage of him. Aunt Luella Millward described some of ~ the Barrus brothers' trading in the following manner: "Well, they gits a bunch a' cows and a few horses together and takes chickens and gits ta tradin' around, and when they gits thro' tradin', all they gots left is de' buggy whip!"

Soon after arriving in Star Valley, Aldo and Emery, Aldo's brother, opened a small dry goods store in Fairview. Because of the scarcity of money in the valley, most business transactions were done through trade or barter. Many goods were also given out on credit and Aldo's heart was just too kind to demand payment when payments were due. The store only lasted a few short months after which Aldo and Emery no longer had funds to bring supplies from Montpelier. They took a great loss with the closing of the store and had to use most of the money earned from the farm to pay the debt.

Aldo loved to raise horses, trading for them with other farmers in the area. Most of the horses he would obtain in trade had some deformity, however, and so the business was never really successful. His one giant effort to succeed ended in total disaster and proved to be a great hardship to the family. Aldo had put all of his money and a considerable amount that he had borrowed together to buy a beautiful stallion. The horse cost $1,800, an immense amount for those early days, and from it he was hoping to raise a new breed of outstanding colts, using his deformed mares as the mothers. Only a few days after purchasing the horse, Aldo arose in the morning to find that the shed in which the horse was kept had collapsed and the horse lay underneath the heavy logs, dead. Aldo was shocked and heartbroken, all of his future hopes and dreams lay underneath those logs and now were gone. It took the family years to finish paying for the dead horse, most of the money coming year after year from what little was earned from the dry farm.

Another venture of Aldo's was raising pigs. He never approached it very scientifically, as the pigs would normally just run wild and eat whatever happened to be lying around. The young pigs were usually just born up on the side of the hill and took several weeks to round up and put in some type of holding pen until they could mature. Though some pigs were sold and traded in the valley, the most part were freighted by Aldo through the mountain road to Montpelier and sold.

Freighting was the life blood of Star Valley. All trade, mail, dry goods, and food came by way of Montpelier and the term "Freighter" was a title of great respect given to those men who would cross the treacherous fifty miles in every season to supply the valley with its needs. Wagons would be used in the summer, spring, and fall, and sleds in the winter. They would cross no matter what the weather and were often exposed to the harshest elements the mountains could put down on them. Usually four or five sleds of wagons would travel together and the trip would take about three and one-half days. On toward Montpelier they reached a way-station called "Give-out". The name was given because at this point most of the horses would be exhausted and require feed and rest before traveling on. Most of the wagon trains would spend the night at the "Give-out" and then travel on to Montpelier the next day.

Both Aldo and Calvin made numerous trips into Montpelier as "Freighters" and LaMar and Alton were sometimes privileged to ride along. Aldo would usually box several of his pigs and put them in the back of the wagon to be sold in Montpelier and then would return with a load of dry goods for the stores in Afton. Rather than receiving pay for his return load, he would usually take credit out in the store to be used when the family needed to purchase supplies. They would always sleep out in the open on these trips, even in the winter when temperatures would be below zero and the wind would bring blizzards down upon them. It took great courage and strength to make these trips.

For the three older boys, the trips to Montpelier opened a new dimension. It was their only chance to get away from the valley and get a feel for the activities of the rest of the world. It was here that they saw their first train and car and stores that offered a variety of goods they had never before seen. The trips to Montpelier were the highlights of their early lives and hold many memories.

During the long winter months Aldo and his brothers would try to raise money by cutting logs in the mountains and selling them for building materials to the residents of the valley. They would often go out when the temperatures were bitterly cold and would often come home terribly frost bitten. Warmth was attempted by wrapping "gunny" sacks around their feet and hands and tying them with string, but the cold always seemed to penetrate deeper than the cloth and they would usually come home cold and sick, the cloth frozen to their limbs. On one such trip, Aldo was struck by a falling log on his left leg and seriously injured, the heavy log scraping the skin off the side of his leg and leaving him unable to walk. The brothers brought him home in great pain where he took several months to recover.

The logging business, like so many of the others, was not successful, not because of lack of diligence, but because of the times in which they worked. Once the logs were pulled down into the valley, the settlers were without money to purchase the wood and so would buy on credit. Credit could only be paid when money became available, and for the people of Star Valley, this seldom happened.

What Aldo may have lacked in good business tactics, he made up for in the love he gave his children. He was a gentle father, never punishing or beating the children and always having an understanding and warm heart when he would listen to their problems. He desired more than anything to provide them with a good life, which was the main reason he tried over and over to make a success at the various businesses he felt potentially profitable. That he failed in this direction in no way marred the feeling the children had for him. The only life they had known was poverty, and the remembrances they have of their father are filled with love and happiness. Whenever he would return from one of his ventures, no matter how little money he had, he would always bring some candy home for the children. They would run and crowd around him as he would pass out the rare treat, scurrying away to eat it, and yet not failing to notice the sparkle and joy in his eyes in giving something special to his children. He will always be remembered for his kindness, and the candy he would pass out was somehow synonymous with the gentle, sweet taste of the love he so abundantly gave.

XIII. Mabel Barrus- A Pioneer Life


For Mabel, the adjustment to the life style of Star Valley was difficult. She was a very small woman and not strong physically, making the rigors of the pioneer life she led extremely hard. The life style in the valley required hard physical labor for her such as chopping and splitting wood, working on the farm carrying heavy loads, and milking and feeding the cows and other animals until the children were old enough to help. She completed these tasks with diligence and accomplishment, but after her fifth child, Joseph Corwen, was born, her energy was drained and she became dreadfully sick.

It was determined by the one doctor in Star Valley that Mabel had contacted some sort of heart ailment. She spent all of one year bedridden unable to do anything much around the farm or house, living in almost constant pain. Finally it was determined by the doctor that she would live only a few months longer and that the family should prepare to lose her. Mabel was simply unwilling to accept this judgment and insisted that Aldo take her to Salt Lake and Grantsville so that she could visit the temple and receive a blessing from Aldo's father, Benjamin Barrus. The doctor advised strongly against leaving and warned that she would probably die on the way. She was determined to go and so Aldo sold some of his pigs so they could have the furlds needed to make the journey. She lay in the back of the wagon as Aldo drove the team across, the mountain road to Montpelier, each jolt of the wagon causing her great pain. Many times she thought she was going to die. Upon arriving at Montpelier, the trip became much easier as they took the train to Salt Lake City and then on to Grantsville.

Before leaving Star Valley, Mabel had received a blessing from Albert (Aldo's older brother) telling her that her life would be spared and that she would live to raise her children in good health. This same blessing was given to her in the Salt Lake Temple by one of the temple officiators and again by Aldo's father in Grantsville. With strong unshaking faith the two returned to Star Valley where Mabel's three blessings came true. She recovered quickly from her illness and gained in strength and courage, living fifty years beyond the time that the doctor had predicted her death, for he had not realized the great faith she had in the Lord's ability to heal the sick.

With the birth of Fern and Keith, Mabel was slow in her ability to recover her strength, and so it was determined that a lower climate would be of assistance to her. It was at this point that the family moved to Idaho and sold all of their holdings in Star Valley. Mabel's health seemed much improved in the lower elevation and she was able to maintain good health most of her life.

Mabel was a good house keeper. As difficult as it was to keep the tiny dirt-roofed log cabin .I clean, she would constantly work at it. Upon completion of a day of house cleaning she would love to say, "Well, the house may be dirty, but it isn't old dirt!" In the two homes in Bitter Creek where cleaning was more evident, a pattern of cleaning activities was established. Every Saturday the straw under the "rugs" (a piece of heavy cloth over straw) and in the mattresses was changed and the floors were mopped. The walls were regularly calcimined, as was the cellar (called a "Cool"), and the furniture in the house were varnished to preserve the wood and enhance the appearance of the home. Her home was always clean and attractive.

Most important in Mabel's life were her children. She dearly loved them and was devoted to their betterment. She provided for them the best that was possible amidst the poverty in which they lived, and helped and encouraged them throughout their lives to accomplish the most that was possible. Her children were to grow and develop into outstanding people, raising children of their own, strongly established in the traditions that she cherished so deeply.

XIV. Culture in the Wilderness


Culture and the refinements in society are not normally traits of a pioneer existence. The Mormon pioneers certainly proved the exception, however, as they fostered the fine arts in every possible condition and developed a high quality of refinement in the midst of a wilderness. Such was the case in Star Valley, as Aldo and Mabel were the inspiration that developed a fine dramatic company which performed plays for the citizens of the valley for over twelve years.

It only seemed natural for Aldo to organize and manage a dramatic company during his stay in Star Valley. He selected the plays, usually directed them, acted in them, and selected the cast. He organized a performance schedule throughout the valley and hitched the team and wagon to transport the small dramatic company from place to place.

Most performances took place during the winter as it was the only time the performers could spare the time for rehearsals. Aldo and Mabel would supply the fire wood to keep the company warm during rehearsals and the audience warm during performances.

Most of the actors were relatives and the list of characters often sounded like a roll call of the families that lived in Bitter Creek. Rehearsals usually took place in the Fairview chapel and so in the early evening, usually with temperatures extremely cold, Aldo would hitch up the team and load the sled with firewood, throw in a few of their children, and then begin sledding from house to house to pick up the cast. Upon arrival at the chapel, a fire would be started, beds laid out for the small children to go to sleep on, and the rehearsal would begin in earnest. Rehearsals would sometimes last in to the early hours of the morning as the performances were approached with a desire for perfection before they would begin their four or five day tours.

The plays that they would produce were usually of the melodramatic style that was popular at the time, but some productions were of a more serious dramatic nature. Some of the plays that were presented were: "Silver King", " Yon Yonson", "Brother against Brother", "Tried and True", and "Above the Clouds". An article in the "Star Valley Pioneer" (now Independent) told of an up- coming production by the Fairview Dramatic Company. It stated:

From Fairview, a name that is becoming widely acclaimed as a theatrical town, comes the outstanding production of "Above the Clouds". The cast is comprised of Aldo Barrus, Orlando Barrus, Mabel Barrus, Emery Barrus, Orville Child, Nelson Allred, Lettie Campbell, Annie Hood, and Eliza A. Tolman.

Money raised from many of the performances which the company produced was donated to the Fairview LDS church to completely payoff a 600 dollar debt it had incurred. Needless to say, the Bishop and the tiny congregation of Fairview cheeringly supported the valley-famous actors that brought not only culture into a wilderness, but also desperately needed funds into a destitute congregation.

Drama was not the only means of culture in which Aldo and Mabel participated, as music also was an important part of its family's cultural distinction. The six octave organ which Mabel brought with her from Grantsville was one of two or three keyboard instruments in the entire valley for many years. Mabel was not an accomplished player, being primarily self taught, but would give of her talent freely that others might have the joys of music. Many nights relatives and friends would gather around the organ as Mabel would play, and would sing hymns and popular songs of the times into the late hours of the night. Such nights were joyous occasions and left a lasting impression on Aldo's and Mabel's children. Several of them were to become accomplished musicians of high caliber, establishing a musical tradition for which the Barrus name has been widely known.

Aldo and Mabel may not have succeeded in some areas during their time in Star Valley, but in the area of the Fine Arts, they were the King and Queen. The joy that they personally brought to the hearts of so many people through their talents is immeasurable. Their willingness to give and share opened new worlds to the people they touched, worlds that otherwise would have never been known.

XV. The New Home In Star Valley


Since arriving in the valley, one of the main goals of Aldo and Mabel was to build themselves a new home. The dream faded year after year, however, as lack of funds seemed an eternal determent to its reality. Finally, after ten years of living in small one room dwellings, construction began on the home they would only live in for one and a half years.

All of the wood used for construction was taken from the surrounding mountains by Aldo over several years of hard winter labor. The logs were hauled to a nearby saw mill where they were cut to the proper size and then stacked near the site where the home was to be built. By time construction was started, some of the cut lumber had been prepared over five years earlier. Construction was done by a local carpenter who worked the entire summer for a small salary to build the structure.

The home consisted of seven rooms, one of them being a large living room where the organ was placed. It was a two story structure and was a literal mansion for the growing family compared to the tiny buildings they had been living in. It had a large open front porch, a nice sized kitchen, and four small but very adequate bedrooms.

By the time the family moved into the home, in the fall of 1915, the children were reaching an age where activities were constantly in progress. Calvin was 13, Alton 11, LaMar 8, Clarence 7, and Fern 3. One baby, Keith, was to be born in the home in August of 1916.

The older boys worked most of the day on the farm, while the younger children were given tasks around the home, such as turning the wheels on the wash machine, churning butter, and taking drinking water up on the hill. In free time, the children would constantly play together, "tag" being their favorite sport. Fern, being the only girl, used to play as hard as the boys, though she was often ridiculed for trying to act like one. Storytelling had become a favorite pastime of the children with Calvin as the story teller. He had perfected this art beautifully, using the talents he had obviously inherited from his parents. In winter, the children would all put on skates in free momerlts and skate down the canal that bordered their home. This was their favorite activity during the long winter months.

XVI. The Star Valley Era Draws to an End


The purchase of an automobile made a significant change in the outlook of Aldo's and Mabel's family. They no longer felt tied to the valley and began looking at the primitive roads that were being constructed that led to areas the family had never before thought of visiting. One of these areas was southeastern Idaho, where Mabel's mother had moved after Charlie Johnson had died and she remarried a third time to Eli Clark. They had settled in Newdale, Idaho and plans were made to drive over narrow winding dirt roads to visit them as soon as the weather mellowed in the spring of 1917.

The car that Aldo bought was a 1915 Dodge and was one of the first cars ever to appear in Star Valley. The front wheels were directly under the steering wheel, followed by two rather small bench seats, each of which would hold two people, and a hood over the top. It was a rather temperamental automobile to drive and Aldo had significant problems adjusting to it. After having driven horses most of his life, he couldn't help but say, "woah" when he wanted the car to stop, and clucking his mouth when he wanted it to go. Soon after he purchased it he took the children on a short drive and upon starting to return, each time he would let up on the clutch the car would just roar and go no where. More than an hour passed as Aldo tried to find the problem, not quite understanding what could be wrong. Finally he called the children to the car and with a rather sheepish look on his face admitted to them that he had forgotten to put the car in gear.

The trip to Idaho was filled with numerous adventures. The roads in 1917 were incredibly poor and mountain passes were steep, narrow, and very dangerous. On one of the steepest inclines, Aldo killed the car engine and they sat in fear as he tried to start it again. Each new start was accompanied by screams from Mabel and the children as the engine would kill again and the car would start to roll backwards until he could stop it. Finally, in desperation, Aldo kindly suggested that the family get out of the car and sit at the side of the road, which they gladly did. With the expressive "Back Seat Drivers" gone, Aldo calmly started the car and drove it to the top of the hill where they continued their trip.

The journey took three days, and was to be significant in their future plans. Mabel's health was still poor and doctors suggested that a lower climate could be of benefit to her. While in Idaho they decided to purchase sixty acres of land just outside of Sugar City for $10,000, hoping to gather the funds from sale of their holdings in Star Valley. The property was not especially good as it was full of sloughs, but it was at a price they felt they could afford and so determined this was the move they should make.

The trip back to Star Valley was rather quiet, as each family member considered what they were giving up by the decision to move. The children were especially sad at the thoughts of leaving all of their cousins and moving to an area where there would be no relatives of their age. How could life exist without cousins constantly around! Aldo and Mabel thought of their friends, brother and sisters, and of course, the Fairview Dramatic Company. So much to give up; but it was too late now, they had already purchased the land in Idaho. They arrived back home and were deeply saddened as they broke the news of their departure to the Bitter Creek settlement. It was not a happy day.

Aldo and Mabel sold their new home and all of their property to Emery Barrus for $10,000, exactly the price of the new property in Idaho. The sale price was very low, but Aldo still owed money on the home and the market for purchasing new property in Star Valley was limited. The family needed to sell quickly and Emery gave them all he could afford, considering his difficult financial situation.

When they left Star Valley in August of 1917, Calvin was 15, Alton 13, LaMar 10, Clarence 9, Fern 5, and Keith 1. The smaller children were to ride in the car as they made their final move, and Calvin, Alton, and LaMar were to drive a wagon and buggy loaded with their belongings. The boys had six horses, one team each for the wagon and the buggy, and two that trailed behind. Alton joined the family in the car after the first day. As the car drove on ahead, Calvin and LaMar slowly lumbered along the narrow roads on their 130 mile trip, their wagons loaded to overflowing with furniture and boxes that were the entire belongings of the family. The wagons would sway back and forth on the high mountain roads and the boys were constantly fearful that they would tip over and roll down the canyon cliffs through which they had to pass. They would drive until long after dark, trying to catch up with the car that had driven on ahead. As the sun would go down and darkness set in, the fears of the road would double and it seemed an endless period of time before they would finally reach the place where they were to spend the night. The trip took three long days and the courage of the boys matured a great deal with each mile they traveled. When they arrived in Sugar City, they took on the responsibilities of helping to support the family as if they were many years older. These mature young boys played an important role in the family's survival during the difficult time that lay ahead.

Soon after arriving in Idaho two of their horses broke loose and headed towards the mountains. The family searched for them for days, but couldn't find them. Finally, several weeks later, word came from the relatives in Star Valley that the horses had found their way back through the mountains into Star Valley and were found standing by the home Aldo and Mabel had built. Somehow, with their horses went a bit of each of them. Their bodies and souls had moved to Idaho, but a bit of each of their hearts remained and will always remain in Star Valley, Wyoming.

Return to LaMar Barrus and Ruth Hammond main page