This history was written by my grandmother in 1962 while she was recovering from hip surgery.
The story of My Life: Melissa Ann Shaw Wardle
I was born in Leigh, Idaho, now know as Clawson on Sept. 10, 1895. My father was Osmond Wielding Shaw and my mother was Melissa Ann Atwood. My father had been born in Utah, my mother in Pennsylvania. He was English and she English, Penn. Dutch, and a little Irish. They had bought a relinquishment on a homestead at Leigh in Teton Basin. There was no doctor in the valley at the time so mother had a midwife wait on her. She was very sick, and both she and I almost died so father named me at birth. He gave me my mother’s name, Melissa Ann.
I was the next to the youngest of ten children. There were six boys and four girls. Two boys and one girl died in childhood or infancy. My brother, Earl, was six years younger than me. He was my chief playmate and companion when we were children.
I started to school when is was six years old. The school was called North Leigh School. It was a one room rough log house with a dirt roof. It was heated with a big stove in the middle of the room. My desk was one that my father had made. He made all of his children a desk as the school had none of its own. The desk was made of lumber. The four legs were made of 4 x 4’s. They were smaller at the bottom. It had a sort of box to put the books in. The back was higher than the front. The top was on a slope and it could be lifted up to put books and slates in. The seat part was made of heavy lumber with a real tall back so you couldn’t see the person that sat in back of you. The desks were never painted. When they got dirty we scrubbed them with soap and water.
My teacher was a man named James O’Brian. He was a neighbor to my mother and father. He chewed tobacco and swallowed the juice, what didn’t run out of the corners of his mouth. I don’t think I learned much that winter and I didn’t like my teacher. My brothers also went to the same school. They drove a team of horses on a sleigh and took all the children who lived along the road. Sometimes it was so awful cold I would have to wrap up in quilts to keep from freezing. When the snow melted I had to walk as my brothers had to quit school and go into the fields to farm. It was three miles from home, quite a walk for a little six year old girl.
I want to tell about my mother right here, for about this time she carried mail from Hayden, a place about seven miles from our house. She also rant the post office. She drove an old black horse by the name of "Nig" on a cart to Hayden. She would pick up the mail and bring it home. She made that trip every day but Sunday. I used to sometimes like to go with her. She had a special place in the kitchen where she kept the mail. Anyone expecting mail would call for it.
Our house was a two-room log house with a dirt roof. It had wide planks for the floor on which there was no covering. Father was an excellent carpenter. When I was about 13 he built our big house. It had four bedrooms, a large kitchen and front room, a bathroom (without fixtures), a pantry, and a closed in porch. It was the nicest house in the neighborhood. Father and Mother were hard workers and good managers. They were prosperous farmers.
I was always playing out around the barns and the outbuildings and with the livestock. One day I ran into the barn behind Nig. I guess I must have frightened her and she kicked me and knocked me out. I was unconscious for quite a long time. After that I was more careful about getting around livestock.
The next summer after my first winter in school my sister Ellie and I went to Cache, a school about three miles south of Father’s farm. We walked, and as there were two creeks to cross, Father made foot bridges for us to cross on. He put a hand rail on each side to help keep us from falling in. In the Spring of the year there was a lot of water in the creeks and they were deep. Going to school that summer helped me so I could take the second grade the next Fall. I think I went to North Leigh School the next year. Then the community built a school a new frame school house about three miles from the old log house and called it South Leigh School. This is where I went until I graduated form the eighth grade.
I had several different teachers. Their names, as I can remember were: Mr. Steele, a man my brother, Will, met while he was on a mission in the Western States. Mr. Steele came to Idaho to teach school. There was also a Mr. Hunnicut. Mr. Hugh Barnes taught. He was blind in one eye. He was nice and I liked him. I won a nice book the year Mr. Barnes taught. It was fun having a perfect record in discipline, attendance, and grades. I had a perfect record in spelling. I still have the book and treasure it. It is a book of poems. Mr. Alma Hansen also taught. He tried to teach me algebra, but it was hard for me. I used to have a run-in with him quite often. He was alright, but I didn’t care for him too well.
While I was growing up I had to help with the work about the place. It was my job to carry all the wood in to burn, also the coal and water. In the summer I had to take a big tub and go out a short distance from the house where Father had sharpened the fence posts in the Winter for the Spring, and gather chips. I would fill the tub just as full as possible Then Mother or one of the boys would help me carry it to the house. We used the chips to make a big and quick fire to heat the flatirons so we could do our ironing as we had no electricity in those days. We use to use heavy, old, cast-iron flatirons.
It was also my job to help wash. We had a hand washer. It was my job to turn this washer, and also to turn the wringer to wring the clothes. When I got larger I hung them on the line.
I also had to clean the lamps everyday to have them ready for night. We used coal-oil lights. I would have to clean the chimney and put oil in the lamps. When we got a gas lamp I would have to attend to it. The gas gave a much better light than the coal-oil.
I had to feed the chickens, ducks, and turkeys twice a day and gather their eggs every evening. In the summer I had to find the ducks as there were two springs on the place and the ducks liked to go a long ways away following the water. Sometimes the hid their nests and I wasn’t able to find them. Mother wanted the ducks in the coop every night as coyotes would kill them sometimes if they were left out. I had to herd the turkeys to keep coyotes from them. Why a coyote would get in the flock and probably kill a dozen or more in just a few minutes. The folks had first turned the turkeys loose and let them roam the hills.
Another of my jobs was to get the cows in the corral in time for milking. The would feed on the hills close by. Sometimes I would hunt for several hours before I could find them. I had to walk up and down hill after hill hunting them. When I got to be about eight years old I had to help Mother do the milking and carry big buckets of milk to the house to separate them. I would turn the separator to separate cream from the milk as we sold the cream to the creamery to be made into butter and fed the milk to the pigs.
Mother raised turkeys, as I have told about, and she had a tom that used to fight anyone who wore a dress. He would jump on you and hit you with his wings and peck at you. Many a time I have taken a large club and beaten him off. He would drop down like he was dead, lay there for a while, get up and spin around a few times, and then go off. But if he saw you within five minutes he would start all over again. So mother traded him for a pure white tom and we got a big laugh out of that as he wouldn’t bother anyone with skirts but if it wasn’t he would give the men a rough time. I have seen him jump clear on Father’s shoulders when he was carrying two big buckets of feed to the pigs. We didn’t keep him very long.
Many is the time I have been kept up on a fence for hours b a buck sheep standing just below, and no way that I could get away from him. Either Father or one of the boys would have to come with the dogs and scare him away. Then I would have to run like a deer to get to the house. I would be very hot and tired.
One day my brother Earl and I caught our saddle horse, whose name was Queen, and attempted to saddle her. Work as hard as we could, we couldn’t tighten the cinches. We both got on her and started to go. I was in the saddle and Earl behind. We went for a little way then we started to gallop and that was when the trouble started. The saddle turned right under Queen’s belly. Of course we both fell off. The horse, being gentle, stepped so we didn’t get hurt,
Other than a few bruises and skinned places. We didn’t ever try to saddle a horse again until we were grown.
Father’s place, being right by the creek and the water being real clear and good to drink, there were always a lot of people passing by who camped overnight. They came to our house to buy eggs, milk, bread, and other things to eat. When I was alone I would get real nervous. Sometimes I would lock the door and not answer when they knocked. We had a real good dog that wouldn’t let people come very close.
The first dog I can remember real well was named Bounce. He was a large dog, coal black with a white spot on his nose and one on each foot He was the family pet and used to sleep in the house. He was also a good watch dog and heeler. I felt real bad when he died of old age.
The summer I was ten years old, Mother made me go and stay with my sister, Rosa, while her husband was away working. They lived a long ways away from any neighbors on what we called Clawson
I remember I got so homesick that I ran away. I walked all that seven miles and I was so happy to be home with my Mother and Father. It was also so pretty and green after being on the sunburned flat, no trees nor anything that was green. As soon as I went in the house Mother asked, “How did you get here?” I said I had walked. She never kissed me or even put her arm around me. All she said was that I would have to go right back. When Dad came in for noon, nothing to do but he must take me right back in the buggy. I cried all the way, but they made me stay the rest of the summer.
Riding to school in the Winter I froze my feet and I would have chill pains so bad that I would have to leave the school room, take off my shoes and stockings, and wade in the snow to stop the itching. My mother knitted me long-legged, black wool stockings. I just hated them after I got older. She also made me wear long-legged and long-sleeved union suits and panties. The panties were called tights and they were long-legged also. I always had to wear two petticoats, or what you call slips today. I used to have to wear boy’s shoes. They were big, heavy leather with thick soles and hooks on them. I was about twelve or thirteen years old when they got the last pair for me and I refused to wear them. I said I would go barefooted first. They insisted that I put them on, but I wouldn’t. I guess I must have put up a real rumpus, but that was once I won. They took them back and got me some girl shoes.
Father always took Mother and me to Sunday School. When I was about fourteen years old I was asked to teach the kindergarten class in Sunday School. I did that for about two years then I was sustained as the assistant secretary in the Sunday School. I held that position for a year then I was sustained as secretary of the Sunday School. I held that position until I was married about four years later. I was also the secretary of the M.I.A. (mutual) I attended most all of the meetings including, S.S., sacrament meetings and mutual. I always went to primary when I was younger. I also attended what they call religion class. It was held one night a week, after school for an hour.
After my sister Rosa and Jim were married and had their first child, Elva, they lived in Victor, Idaho. The lived in one room of William Wardle’s house. Jim was working and I went to stay with them for a few days. Those Wardles had a whole house full of kids. There was on boy a little older then I. One day I was outside and this boy was feeding lambs. He came after me with this lamb bottle with a nipple on it and was going to make me suck it. I thought he was the meanest boy alive. I just hated him. He came and put his face up to the window one day just to see what I was doing. That made me real mad. I was about eleven years old at the time.
A few years later when I was nineteen years old I was at Driggs to a dance. I met this Wardle girl who was about my age. It was the first time I’d seen her since I was eleven. We talked and she asked me if I’d like to meet her brother, Wilford. So I did. He danced with me the remainder of the evening. He didn’t take me home as he was there a horseback, but he did make a date to take me to a celebration at Victor a few weeks after. That was how I met my husband. He was the same boy who tried to get me to suck the lamb bottle.
[There is a line cut off.] We went with the horses and buggy. A lot of the time Wilford would drive from Victor to Tetonia which was about twenty miles. Then we would drive ten miles back to Driggs to a dance. Then he would take me back home and drive back to Victor just in time to get on the mail wagon and go to Jackson. There were no cars. The only transportation was by horses, buggy or wagon. We didn’t get to see each other very often, about once in two weeks as Wilford was working very hard for his father either driving mail from Victor to Jackson or driving a freight wagon. His father had the contract to deliver freight and mail from Victor to Jackson. Victor was the terminal of the railroad. Wilford’s father kept him really busy, he being the oldest so he came to see his sweetheart when his father said he could.
We were married in the Salt Lake Temple April 10, 1914. We went to Salt Lake from Tetonia on the train. My mother went with us. It was all so strange and I was so frightened as I was who had never left home much. It was only the second time I had ever ridden on a train. I was very grateful to my mother for going with me. While in Salt Lake we went to the Salt Lake Theatre to a play. It was Rip Van Winkle. It was the first time I had ever gone to such nice theatre to see real people acting. To this day I can still see Rip Van Winkle when he woke up from his long sleep, how old he was, and his gun. All that was left of it was the iron barrel. It was very impressive to me.
My folks gave us a wedding dinner and had folks from around Tetonia where I lived come in. His folks gave a reception at their home for us. There were a lot of his friends and relatives who came. We got a lovely lot of gifts. We had a public dance the night after the reception. There was a large crowd and we had a nice time.
We lived in Victor, rented us a house which had two rooms. We had nice furniture, I thought, for a couple starting house keeping. Father Wardle had made a deal with his two oldest boys. If they would not use tobacco until they were twenty-one years old he would give them $100 towards furniture when they married. Wilford had kept his part of the bargain. Instead of $100 they got the furniture for us. It consisted of a table, eight chairs, a cupboard with glass doors (real pretty), a chest of drawers, a dresser, an iron bed and springs (no mattress), and a wood rocking chair. We bought us a nice stove range. We had a nice lot of quilts. I had made most of them, but we had two given to us as presents. We also had a nice lot of dishes. We were really happy in our new home.
On Oct. 29, 1915 there came to stay at our house a little bit of heaven, a bundle of sweetness, our first little daughter. I think she weighed around eight pounds, had a real lot of dark hair, and blue eyes. We named her Audrey Melissa and we loved her so much. She was a real good baby. Mother Wardle was with us when she was born to help the doctor.
When Audrey was about a year old we filed a homestead on 160 acres of land in the North of the valley, about seven or eight miles east of Tetonia. Wilford built us a one room log house. It was a very neat house. My mother furnished and then helped me tear and sew rugs. We took them to a lady in Victor who wove them into a carpet. I put that on half the floor and scrubbed boards floor the other half. We were cozy, comfortable, and happy but the snow got so deep we had to move out for the winter.
On Dec. 23, 1917 we were blessed with another treasure from heaven, another little girl. She had dark hair and blue eyes. She was small, weighed just a little over seven pounds. My mother was with me when she was born. She was born quite early in the evening, and the next morning she woke Audrey up crying. Mother asked her what it was and she answered, “It’s a wooser! [rooster]” We named our new girl Lula Theo. We had a midwife by the name of Mrs. Rammel who brought her into the world.
All that winter Wilford was in bed with sciatica rheumatism. He was awfully bad. I had cows to milk and horses to feed and pump water for. One day when I was pumping water the well caved in. I threw my arm out and grabbed the pump, that was what kept me from going down the well. I was thrown against the curb and broke three ribs. I didn’t go to the doctor. I just suffered with them until they healed. We had a real bad time that winter.
Audrey ran away on the crusted snow trying to catch the birds, she said. We had her a pretty red coat, cap, and mittens. I bundled her all up and let her go out to play. That was when she followed the birds. I had to run after her. I guess I chased her for a mile before I caught up with her.
On Nov. 15, 1919 our first boy was born. He had red hair. We named him William Hashton after Grandfather Wardle. We called him Willie. He was a very sweet boy. We almost lost him when he was born as he had a hemorrhage. He bled from eyes, nose, mouth and bowels. The doctor gave him several blood transfusions. He took two blood from me. That checked it. He lost so much blood that he was so cold, almost like death. They wrapped him in blankets and put him in the oven to try and keep him warm. The doctor gave him a sedative to keep him quiet when he wasn’t 24 hours old. He lived to be two years and four months. He was sick most of his life. When he passed away his hair was white. We had moved to Pocatello and were living there when Willie passed away. Just before he died we had another little daughter born on Dec. 10, 1921. She looked like the other girls with long dark hair. We named her Myrtle Mary. She was just a little doll, but the Lord saw fit to take her. We were only permitted to keep her three months. We had four children. All of them, Wilford, and I were all sick at the same time with the flu. There was a bad flu epidemic. Wilford and three of the children had flu and pneumonia. Two children were taken. Willie died March 1 and Myrtle March 4, 1922. That was terrible. We were all too sick to leave the house so we had a little service for both of them at home. It took a long time to get over the loss of my children.
On March 29, 1923 we had another little girl born. We named her Wanda Helen. She also had dark hair and blue eyes. She was a beautiful child. She lived to be eleven months old. We enjoyed her very much. She and the other girls got whooping cough. Wanda got pneumonia with it. She passed away Feb. 10, 1924. It was a very sad blow to all of us.
On July 29, 1925 we had another son born. We named him after his father, James Wilford. He was a darling baby and the best one I ever saw. He sucked his front finger. It helped make him so good, and it never made his teeth crooked. We had moved back to Victor and he was born there. He had light hair.
After Wilford came our little valentine girl. She was so sweet with her big blue eyes and dark hair. We called her Donna Phyllis. She was born Feb. 14, 1927 at Driggs, Idaho. She was a very good baby. We called her Phyllis.
When Phyllis was one and a half years old we moved to Salt Lake City, Utah so that Wilford could get work. It was quite a change as I had never lived in such a large city.
On July 10, 1929 we had another little girl come to live with us. She was tiny and sweet. We named her Verna Larene. She was the only one of the children born in a hospital, all the rest were born at home.
We lived in Salt Lake for one and a half years. Wilford worked in a garage as a body and fender man. Then he got out of work. We went back to Victor and Wilford got work with Tonks with their sheep. Then we moved to Lincoln near Idaho Falls. Wilford worked in the fields and the sugar beet factory. These were depression years. Although Wilford worked very hard at anything he could find we had a very hard time to get along. When Audrey graduated from High School Wilford pushed a baby buggy we no longer needed to Idaho Falls. It was filled with some tools he sold, along with the buggy. We used this money to buy Audrey a graduation dress.
Later we moved back to Pocatello and then to two different farms near Blackfoot. In 1938 we moved onto a ranch two and a half miles south of Rigby. Audrey was married, Lula teaching school, and the other children at home. While we lived here Phyllis went on a mission. I learned to make drapes and worked at stores in Idaho Falls to keep her on her mission.
In the year 1955 I was operated on for gallstones. They removed two large ones and several smaller ones. I was in the hospital [all] of ten days. When I was able to walk my left leg started swelling real bad. The doctor sent me home, telling me to stay off it and elevate it. So I came home and was there for ten days. One morning all the swelling was gone and I had a terrible pain in my right lung. I could hardly get my breath. I went back to the hospital for eighteen days. The blood clot had passed through my heart and lodged in my right lung. It left me with almost half of my right lung blocked off. It bothers me sometimes, but not too much. It is something I have to live with.
We lived on the farm until 1958. During this time all of the children married and Wilford Jr. served in the Navy. We sold the farm and moved into town. It took a long time to adjust ourselves to town life. We have a nice warm home and we enjoy it. With all the children married and gone it gets really lonesome and quiet at times. We enjoy the children and grandchildren when they come to visit. We have 21 grandchildren, eleven boys and ten girls.
During all these ears I worked in the church wherever we lived, held offices in M.I.A., Primary, Sunday School, and Relief Society. During the ears 1960 and 1961 I was Captain of the Doriene Cap of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. I have enjoyed working in the church in every capacity and I enjoyed D.U.P. At the present I am just a R.S. visiting teach and work director for quilts.
Also during all this time I have saved a lot. I have made most of my children’s clothes. I still make drapes at home.
Wilford has always been very handy. He built our nice home on the farm south of Rigby. We both worked hard to raise our family. But we have been richly rewarded because our children have become such wonderful adults. Verna, Phyllis, and Audrey have all graduated from college. Lula is nearly ready to graduate now. All the girls have taught school. Wilford attended college for a short time. He is now a successful farmer, a member of the bishopric of his ward, and a leader in his community. We are very proud of our children.
On July 9, 1962 I fell and broke my hip. I was in the hospital for ten days, then I came home. I was in bed or a wheel chair all summer. The doctor took x-rays an it seemed to be healing but I was in pain all the time. I had to take pain pills and sleeping pills. Then the pain got so terrible I had to have the doctor come and give me a hypo to put me out. We called the other doctor, Dr. Sells, who had done the operation. He said for me to come to the hospital for x-rays again. This was on Oct. 25. They found out that it wasn’t growing together. I would have to have another operation to put in a steel ball, as the ball in the socket was decaying. It was broken in such a bad place that enough blood could not reach it to heal it. So the operated again, Oct. 17, 1962. I lay on my back for three weeks. The first week I had a ten pound weight on my foot, then they reduced it to five pounds. I kept that weight on for about ten days. After the three weeks was over they got me up in a walking chair and I had to walk. I was so weak that I would only take a few steps before I had to sit down and rest. I did that for a week then the doctor let me come home.
While I was in the hospital my youngest brother, Earl died. I will miss him. He was the first of my brothers and sisters to go, except for those who died while small.
I came home Nov. 12, 1962. I am slowly improving and walking in a walking chair more each day. I hope that someday I will be able to walk without help. I never realized before how many people cared about me. I am grateful to them all. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways and I am so grateful to him for sparing my life. I have had such wonderful blessings given to me. I know without a doubt it is through prayer that I am alive today. I hope and pray that I will be able to do genealogy work and be of service to my husband, my children, my grandchildren, and others in need.
I want to tell about the many times I had to run a race with a car. Father had a pair of horses. One mare was a sorrel and the other was a dapple gray. We called the dapple “Dap” and the sorrel one “Nance”. Father always hooked up Dap and Nance for me to take Mother where she had to go, to Relief Society or the store. We used the white top buggy. Automobiles were just coming into the valley. When I saw on of them coming I would hit the horses on the tails and try to make it into some driveway, as they were frightened of cars. But they would start bucking and regardless of how hard I hit them they wouldn’t go forward. They would back us clear down in the burrow pit, sometimes in ditches. One time they back us in South Leigh Creek. We almost tipped over. That was one time I couldn’t get out. A man came along and helped me to get the buggy setting straight and back on the road. That was on time I shook for hours and poor Mother was as frightened as I was.
My mother had dropsy a long time. She finally died in 1918. Father lived on the farm with Earl for a while and then alone. He was strong and healthy, but a small man. He stacked his own hay at the age of 81. He died in 1934 at the age of 83.