Thursday, October 21, 2010

Emery County Archives Open House October 28-29, 2010

The brand new Emery County Courthouse in 1940 on Main Street in Castle Dale. It is now known as The Old Courthouse since the Courthouse, County Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department moved to their new location.
Emery County Archives is having an Open House on Thursday and Friday October 28th-29th from 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM. We will have refreshments and displays to show what collections we have, in hopes that we will generate more collections! The Archives is located upstairs of the Old Courthouse on Main Street in Castle Dale.

Come see pieces of history such as a prom dress and well worn shoes from the Depression--the shoes illustrate how difficult times were;  an Icelandic sweater knitted and worn by one of the Icelanders who settled in Cleveland; a missionary suitcase filled with books and pamphlets and journals of a mission to Denmark in 1913; a stereoscope with dozens of 3-D cards open to the public for viewing; old Emery County Bank display with a section of the teller cage; Shawn Bradley's professional basket ball jerseys; Emery County Progress books of newspapers from 1900; Articles of Incorporation of canal companies, churches, clubs, etc.; And much, much more! We will have the microfilm reader set up ready to search through town, school, or cemetery records and a laptop scrolling through the hundreds of photographs housed in the Archives. 

Images of America: The San Rafael Swell  by Dottie Grimes and the Historical Society will be on sale for $15.00  Emery County History by Edward Geary will be on sale for $10.00. Cowboy Poetry from the San Rafael books for $5.00. Castle Valley: Our Towns, Our Deserts, Our Mountains  booklet for $3.00

Come take a tour of the Emery County Archives with files drawers filled with historic information, personal histories, and boxes filled with  documented historic collections donated by residents (and non residents) of Emery County, and a library filled with old books and newspapers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Collecting the History of Our Schools

Emery County Archives has been awarded grant money from Utah Humanities Council and Utah State Historical Society. These grants have benefited both the Archives and the whole county as well. We are so appreciative of the funding we have received which has helped us collected wonderful stories and events and lives of Emery County residents. Collecting these oral histories is probably the most valuable thing the Archives can do. Through oral history interviews we seek to learn what the towns looked like? What was important? What was popular? What factors created the challenges of the day? What made life fun? What were the schools like? The teachers? The politics? Who were the prominent people? Who were the bullies? Who were the beloved people? What were daily activities? What stores and businesses were in town? And of course we want the stories and details and pictures to make it come alive for us.
Central High School sat on top of the hill where the old Sheriff's Office used to be--or just west of there. It was a three story building that held its place of prominence for 33 years in Castle Dale. --Carolyn Jorgensen Collection
This year our Oral History Grant is focusing on the history of the schools in Emery County with a particular emphasis on the closing of some schools in an effort to consolidate the amount of facilities and funds used for education in this area. As jobs decreased in the county, we lost many residents, and the number of both students teachers diminished. So in 1943 Central High School was closed.

North Emery High School in Huntington--Adeline Wakefield Collection  
There had been an elementary school in every town in the county, including those that are now ghost towns such as Desert Lake, Victor, Willsonville, Woodside and others. Children went to school at these town schools until the 8th grade, when they would then be bussed to the nearest high school. The county had three high schools: North Emery High School in Huntington, Central High School in Castle Dale, and South Emery High School in Ferron.

South Emery High--Sam Singleton Collection
When it was suggested that Central High School be closed, the school board proposed that Castle Dale students be sent to South Emery and Orangeville students be sent to North Emery. A kind of war broke out. For one thing the students and parents did not want to lose the school in their town. One oral history participant explained  that the schools in a town are a social gathering spot for more than just school. To close a school meant to close many activities in a town. Also Orangeville and Castle Dale were sister towns. The kids interacted with each other. They had been going to school together and had become close friends. To separate them seemed quite cruel.

Sam Singleton explained that the buses ran pretty empty for months. Parents refused to let their children go to school as they fought against the closure of the school. His family was caught in the middle of it. His father Morris Singleton was one of the board members who felt that it was the right solution. Morris's sister Cecil Singleton Crawford  was one of the leaders to stop the closure. It was a difficult time for the county. Edward Geary's History of Emery County says that "A group of Central High patrons filed suit to block the closure... The courts decided that the school board lacked the authority to close the school permanently, but ruled that the board could temporarily discontinue Central High for the duration of the wartime emergency."

A compromise was made that both Orangeville and Castle Dale could send their students to South Emery High School. The parents began to send their children to school but bad feelings still exited, and when the school burned down in 1947 before it was reevaluated, feelings were inflamed as well. In some oral histories, I have heard--67 years later--that the school board will forever be blamed for starting the fire, in their minds at least. Everyone was sad to lose the grand old building on top of the hill. Photographs below are from Emery  County 1880-1980 History, originally from Elzora Jones Jensen.

The next consolidation of schools happened in 1962. As students graduated from school, they knew they had to leave the county. There were no jobs here. Population dwindled in the whole county. It was recommended that they combine the two high schools North and South Emery and make just one high school for the whole county, and other schools were "rearranged." Elmo and Emery lost their town school and their students began going to schools in other towns--Cleveland and Ferron, respectively. It was on the voting ballot of 1960. Outlying towns voted against it--Elmo, Cleveland, Emery and Huntington and Ferron who would be losing their high schools, were split on their votes, but Orangeville and Castle Dale voted yes almost unanimously. The school was named Emery County High School and opened its doors to students in 1962.
Many wanted it to be named Castle Valley High, but the board decided on Emery County High School.--Bill Jorgensen Collection

There are some other stories about schools in Emery County. In 1930 a young man playing football for South Emery was killed in a game against North Emery. This was in the days of leather helmets, and it was decided that the injuries weren't worth the risk. The football program was canceled, and was not opened up again until the new high school was built in 1962. One man said in his oral history that he and some friend were even expelled from school for playing football on the school grounds just for fun.

Every school has a rival, but North and South Emery High Schools seemed to be even more bitter enemies than is typical. Some say it dated back to which town got the Stake Academy in the late 1800s--Castle Dale being the location. Others say animosity was increased after the fatal football game. One remembers all the fights that were instigated after the rival games. But whatever the reason was, all the teachers and students that I have interviewed about the new high school said everyone seemed to get along fine when the two high schools were closed and one school for all was opened. People I have spoken to have expressed their dismay at the uncreative name chosen for the school. Many people wanted to name it Castle Valley High or some other name that had some county significance, but in view of the history, Emery County High School sounds like a good, unifying name.

Click here for more School Photographs: 
 If you know someone who should be interviewed about the history of school, please let the Archives know. 
If have any photographs of any of the schools in Emery County, please donate them to the Archives! 
We want more yearbooks, if you feel you can part with yours and let us preserve it, contact us!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Ghost Town of Mohrland

Mohrland is worth a visit!
Mohrland Town. The school can be seen near the center of the photo at the base of hills.

The Mine Portal and the Tram
About a year ago I began corresponding with two men from Iowa who were brothers. They were both very interested in family history and had found that their grandfather worked in a coal mine and lived in Mohrland where he met his wife. Her father ran the boarding house at the time. They were looking for photographs of the area. They had a couple of them which they promised to send to me, and wanted my help in finding any information I could about their grandfather and grandmother.

Well I was happy to help, because that is my job--and I LOVE my job. I did some research and found some records that had a similar name, with a slight change of spelling. I began to collect photographs of Mohrland. I went to the Western Railroad and  Museum in Helper which has a wonderful collection of photographs, and had a few copied and printed. I forwarded those photos to the Jones brothers. Our communication dwindled for a time, and then I got another phone call saying that one of them was planning a trip to Utah--just to see Mohrland, and he hoped to stop by the Archives and meet me.

 l- r  The Mine Office, The Store, and The Butcher Shop
I told him I would arrange for someone to take us on a tour of Mohrland. We have a Historical Society filled with very knowledgeable people who know this county very well. Vernell Rowley, Mervin Miles and Ed Geary are the three I call on all of the time for help and clarification of history. They are all walking history books! Vernell and Ed and I met Mr. Jones and we proceeded on a tour. I had printed out some photographs that would help him see what it looked like in its heyday.

Our guides were fabulous. They showed us the foundations where Silk Stocking Row used to be; where Main Street was; explained what the standing walls of buildings were used for. We hiked through the sage brush that has been diligent in its effort to reclaim this ghost town and found what is left of the Mohrland School. We saw Gobbler's Knob--the main housing district;  other locations were pointed out where different nationalities lived. They had names that are no longer politically correct to say or write.

The Tipple at Mohrland
Vernell and Ed explained where the Tipple was located; where the Tram Tracks were located that took the coal from the mine to the tipple. We saw the Fan House, the Bathhouse, the Machine Shop, which is the best of the ruins. It all came to life for us as we wandered around the area "trolling for ticks" as 
Mohrland Main Street. Amusement Hall on the left of the photo.
my husband says when we are moving through sagebrush. The ticks left us alone that day, but the ghosts of the place were seen and heard in our imagination as we listened for the laughter of the children walking down the hillside of steps from a day of school, the splashing of the fishpond behind the hotel, the dancing and music at the Amusement Hall, the clanking and rumbling of mine equipment as it goes in and out of the mine and the tram as it rolls along the tracks that are still there. We found that the  little town of Mohrland, seemingly quite dead, still lives on through the memories and knowledge of the people who treasure the past and want to help the rest of us understand it.

Here is the link to Emery County Archives photos
Be sure and look at the Western Railroad and Mining Museum photos as well.  
 See the Historical Society Trip to Mohrland: 
Emery Progress Article on Historical Society and Mohrland 

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Icelanders of Emery County

Vestmanneyjar, (Westman Island) Iceland, the small island  where most of the Icelandic immigrants came from. --Larue Lofley Collection

This week we collected histories, photographs and journals of Icelanders who helped settle Emery County!

Fred Woods, a professor at B.Y.U. came to Emery County Archives on Tuesday, bringing with him Kari Bjarnason who is a Special Collections Librarian from the National Library of Iceland. These two men are working (from both sides of the ocean) on research about these first Icelanders to settle in the United States. The Archives had very little information in our collections, but Fred Woods had sent us some names of the early settlers, and we were able to contact some Icelandic descendants still living in Cleveland to aid in this research.  
John and Freida Thorderson
Holldor Johnson
    We contacted Freida Filmore, descendant of John Thorderson and Freida Olafsson; Larue Lofley who's great grandfather was Einar Erickson and Gudrun Magnusdottir; and Kit Anderson, descendant of Halldor Jonsson (later spelled Johnson) and his wife, Jonina. 
Einar Erickson
Each of those contacted donated and/or loaned photographs, histories and journals to the Archives to be scanned. Frieda and Kit met with us and our researchers to share stories of their ancestors as well as documents and photographs. As our new friend from Iceland looked through the items, he would say, "This is fantastic!"
  Here is some of what we learned on Tuesday: Mormon missionaries visited Iceland in the 1850s and many people joined the LDS Church. (Missionary worked stopped there in 1914 because of World War I.) Icelander converts came to the United States and settled in Spanish Fork, Utah where today you can see a monument erected to honor them as the first permanent settlement of Icelanders in the United States! Later some of them were guided on to Emery County where they settled in Cleveland, and a few in other towns in the county.

Kit Anderson, Larue Lofley and Frieda Filmore all have documents written in Icelandic.  Kari Bjarnasson translated into English for us, as he read them. Kit then asked if he would read something in Icelandic since he heard his mother and grandmother speak in that language to each other all of his life. Kari then read a poem in Icelandic. It brought authenticity to our discussion of these early immigrants as we heard their beautiful language spoken, and especially touched Kit as he heard the familiar language of his youth. 

Icelanders seemed to have a stronger connection to their homeland than any other nationality. They believed that if they read, spoke, and wrote in Icelandic, they would preserve their heritage, and it has lasted through generations. Frieda and 14 other members of that family visited Iceland, feeling a tug of their homeland.

It is interesting to note that each of these Icelandic pioneer men were called back to Iceland on missions for the LDS church. It sounds a little difficult to be settling a new land and town and taking time to travel across the ocean and spend some years there as well, but these men did it! Einar Erickson went on three missions and we have a list of names of the Icelandic converts to the LDS church in those early years through Larue Lofley's Collection. Come see it at the Archives!

If any of you have ancestors from Iceland, please contact me so we can pass the information along to Fred Woods and Kari Bjarnason and (even more importantly) keep copies for us in the Archives too!

We understand that sometimes you don't want to part with your historic pictures, so we are glad to digitize them and return them. We can give the family as many disks of the scanned photographs as you want for no charge.