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History of Wallace Edwin Potter by his daughter Ruby Potter Valantine

History of


Wallace Edwin Potter




His Daughter


Ruby Potter Valantine



Wallace Edwin Potter


            Wallace Edwin Potter was born 14 April 1850 in Mill Creek, now Murray, Utah.  His parents were Arnold and Elizabeth Ann Birch.  He was their first child.  The Potter family had crossed the plains in 1849.  Elizabeth was the second wife of Arnold.  They were married in 1843 in Nauvoo, Illinois.  His first wife was Almira Smith, a native of New YorkArnold was born in New York and Elizabeth in Wales.

            Soon after the family had settled in Mill Creek, they began another long trek to San Bernardino, California.  A large company of Saints had gone there to colonize the town.  While the family were there they had two children born to them; George A. who died as a child, and Mary Adeline.  Arnold left his family for eighteen months while he went on a mission to Australia and New Zealand.  He returned a mentally sick man caused by hallucinations over religion.

            Elizabeth became very unhappy in her home life and decided to return to Utah.  Most of the colonizers had already gone when she, her two children, a family named Brown and others left for Utah in the spring of 1858.  Her husband had provided a wagon, team and provisions for the journey, yet it was still a very difficult and dangerous journey.  While traveling through Nevada, Mr. Brown’s wife had a miscarriage, died and was buried by the side of the road.  Elizabeth was also an expectant mother.  When they reached Beaver, she gave birth to a little girl, Eliza Ann – 5 June 1855.  While there she obtained a divorce from Arnold and six weeks later married Mr. Francis Brown.

            They settled in Mill Creek and all of the children went by the name of Brown.  Mr. Brown was very unkind to his step-children, especially Edwin.  Even the girls weren’t happy.  Eliza Ann was married at thirteen and Mary Adeline at fifteen.

            Early in life Edwin learned to play the violin and played by ear.  His father had sent him a violin.  He practiced it every chance he had.  One day when he was sitting by the fireplace playing his violin, his step-father came in and, because he wasn’t working, took the instrument, broke it in pieces and threw it in the fireplace.

            Edwin had very little schooling.  When he was about ten years old, he had two terms of school which he paid for by dragging home hides and selling them.  The hides were from cattle that had frozen to death – those that had once belonged to Johnston’s army when in Utah.  When Edwin was in school he was always at the head of his class.  There wasn’t any word that he couldn’t spell, and he was a good mathematician.  Later he became a good carpenter and a fine black-smith.  He was very handy with tools.

            In 1870 Edwin went to work for Jerome Kempton who was doing construction work in Salt Lake City.  While working for him, Edwin met Jerome’s daughter, Harriet, and fell in love with her.  They were married 21 August 1871 in the old Endowment House.  Hattie was the first daughter and fourth child of Jerome B. Kempton and Rosetta Anise Chapman.  Prior to their marriage, Edwin’s father had sent him $700.00.  Mr. Brown took the money and bought a small home with it, saying Edwin could have the home when he married.  When they were married Edwin bought logs from the canyons and built another room on the house.  Here they lived because Edwin didn’t want to turn his mother out of the home, especially as they had two children now of their own.

            Later in the fall, Edwin and Hattie went to Bingham with the Kemptons where they stayed six weeks.  Edwin was cutting timber for the mines.  When they returned, Mr. Brown had sold the home and bought another one.  Edwin didn’t receive any money from it so he lost his inheritance.  He and Hattie got a small place in Murray and Edwin started to work in the smelter.  He did very well and was soon able to buy a home.  He got cows, chickens, pigs, a team of horses and a wagon.  He bought fifteen acres of pasture land and planted an orchard and garden.  He moved the house over on his acreage.  They were happy there.  Edwin got another violin and played for all the dances.  Four children were born to them there; Elizabeth Rosetta, 28 December 1872, Wallace Edwin, 1 August 1874, John William, 19 September 1876 and George Jerome, 18 January 1879.

            When George was about a year and one-half, Edwin went to Sevier to take his cousins home.  On his way back home he saw a place in Dover, Sanpete County, for sale.  It seemed a bargain so he purchased it then.  He sold his home in Murray and all his livestock except his team of horses and about 100 head of sheep.  He thought Dover would be a fine sheep country.  Hattie felt very sorrowful to leave her happy home.  It would have soon become very valuable as it faced State Street.

            The place in Dover which had looked so inviting and such a bargain, proved to be little more than an alkali flat with poor soil and indifferent irrigation.  Dover was a small frontier village on the Sevier River, composed of a few log houses with dirt roofs.  Edwin put up a blacksmith shop where, besides blacksmithing work, he made guns for both the Indians and the white settlers.  All the family were good hunters – Hattie could kill deer as well as any of them.  Edwin helped to dig the canal, using hand made scrapers drawn by ox teams.  The finished canal often washed out, flooding the crops.  About 1884 the earthern dam on the river broke and everyone had to flee to the foothills until the water receded.  Other times there wouldn’t be any water at all and the precious crops would be burned.

            The Potter home was a gathering place for all the neighbors as there was always music and often dancing.  Edwin still played for the town dances.  He even composed many pieces of music, even though he was unable to read a note of music.

            At this time the principle of polygamy was being preached very extensively and many people accepted it.  Edwin began courting a young girl, Olive Andelin, whose family had recently moved to Dover.  With the consent of his wife, Hattie, he married Olive (my mother) in the Endowment House in Salt Lake on 17 July 1884.  Hattie went with them.

            My half-sister, Crystal, supplied me with most of the above history and also some of what follows.  There is sometimes a little difference in our information; for instance, Crystal said that after the marriage of Olive and Edwin, Hattie took her two youngest children to Payson, where she worked for Edwin’s cousin, Amasa, in his hotel and was there six weeks.  According to my mother, she said Hattie had gone to Idaho after the marriage leaving all five children with her and Edwin.

            The Potters were then living in a two-room house, one large room and a lean to.  When Hattie returned, she, with her family, had the large room and Olive had the small room.  What a hardship that was on Hattie and it was also hard on Olive.

            Edwin had a large herd of sheep.  He wintered them at the Pope and Searles ranch and in the summer their range was Chris Creek.  At one time Edwin moved Hattie to the sheep camp and left Olive at the other camp.  Olive was alone there for several months.  When Edwin sent for her she went to the other camp riding on a donkey, holding her small daughter, Pearl, in her arms.  About this time Edwin had the misfortune of losing his sheep.  Some unscrupulous men stole them and his cattle and threatened to expose him as a polygamist if he complained to the authorities.

            Because of that Edwin moved Olive to Salt Lake where she stayed with Edwin’s half-sister, Rosella, all summer working for her board.  In the fall her husband moved her to a small place with one room and a shanty.  Olive’s father was in Salt Lake working at that time and lived with her.  There her second baby, Myrtle Ann was born in September.  In the meantime, Edwin decided to leave Dover and go to the Ashley Valley out in the Uinta Country east of Salt Lake.  He sent Hattie and the children on ahead with her brother, Jerome Kempton.  Tan Kempton was a prosperous cattle man in the valley.  Hattie lived with them until the spring of 1888 when Edwin came.  Olive and the two little girls came in the fall.  He bought a part of the Lee homestead, three miles from Vernal and built two cabins, one for each family.

            In 1889 Edwin moved again, this time to Dry Fork.  He set up his blacksmith shop and began again to get a few possessions around him – cows, horses, etc.

            Olive lived in a grainery and Hattie near by.  Hattie was very good to Olive to tend her children when she had to go off to work and being with her every time one of her children were born.

            The U.S. Marshall’s were hunting all over for polygamists and Edwin had to leave his home many times and go in hiding, even Hattie wouldn’t know where he was.  Olive also had to take her children, often in winter or at night and run to some kind neighbor.  Often the neighbors were so poor that it was almost impossible to get food for themselves, let alone others.

            When Olive’s third baby girl was two months old, she went back to Provo with her three children, riding on top of wool sacks.  She was with her mother and father most of the time except for a winter in Provo when she worked for her sister-in-law, until after her fourth girl was born, then she went to Salt Lake to work.

            Edwin went to Salt Lake to work as his family needed money, so the family was quite scattered.  When he was home, they would have many happy times, as his and Hattie’s children were all very musical.  All of them played an instrument and all by ear.  They played the violin, guitar, mandolin, banjo, organ and even the zither.  The girls generally played the organ to accompany the others.

            In the winter of 1890-91 Edwin lost most of his live-stock with the black leg plague.  Those he was able to save were driven west to a lovely, lush green valley called Snyderville.  The family moved there in the spring of 1891 and enjoyed the trip of three weeks or more when they were on the way.  While they lived in Snyderville, all of the children had diphtheria except George.  Crystal was born there and a little child, Welcome Elwyn, was killed by a runaway team which was driven by a drunken man into their yard.

            In the spring of 1893, Edwin moved Hattie and the family to a place on the Provo River called River Dell.  Their house stood where the Heber City Power Plant is now located.  Behind and at both ends of the house were hills and hollows.  In the largest hollow Edwin killed a big black bear.  Another child was born there – Ann Craven, and nick-named, Tiny.  The family moved again in 1895 to Midway.  Edwin built a house at the foot of a large hill called ‘Jesse’s Mount’ named for Jesse McCarrell, who had once owned it.  A soldier’s monument now stands at the top of the hill and a winding road leads to the summit.  When the family lived there it was covered with sage-brush, scrub-oak and a variety of lovely wild flowers; Indian Paint Brush, Segolilies, violets, larkspur, blue-bells, wild sweet peas, ladys’ slippers and many others.  Just around a bend from the house were some fascinating lime kilns and huge rocks.  Here the children played.  There was a large irrigation ditch in front of the house and I think it was Tiny who fell in it and was nearly drowned.

            The family bought a second-hand organ so that again there was music in the home, and dancing on the bare kitchen floor.

            Edwin’s wife, Olive, and her two daughters came to Midway in the summer or fall of 1899 after a separation from him of seven years.  Pearl didn’t go.  Myrtle died in 1896.  She lived in a little house in the same yard where Edwin had his blacksmith shop.  This house was about two or three blocks from where Hattie lived.  After living there one year, she moved to Provo where the children could have the advantage of going to school at the B.Y.A., as it was then called.  Myreel was born in Midway.

            Hattie and her family stayed in Midway until 1905 when they moved to Provo, and rented a large two-story house on 5th North and Academy Ave. (now University Ave.).  It was on the north-west corner.  Here the family kept boarders and roomers.  On the ground floor Edwin had a small store where he sold jewelry and fitted glasses.

            When Edwin and Hattie moved back to the Ashley Valley he got some property about three miles out from Vernal.  Again he started to get his farm going.  He always had horses, no matter what else he lacked. 

            They were together only two and a half years after moving back, for on 30 September 1909, Edwin died from a heart attack.  He didn’t feel good when he got up that morning and soon went back to bed.  His arms and legs became cold and he had severe pains in his chest.  He died around noon – the doctor wasn’t there long enough to give him any help.  His wife, Olive, was unable because of poverty to come to the funeral.

            Edwin had a very intelligent mind and was able to do most anything he put his hand to.  He was an expert blacksmith.  He was also repaired watches and clocks.  He could play the violin or fiddle as he called it so that it would almost talk.  He had a good voice and could accompany himself on the organ.  He studied optometry from a correspondence course in his late forties and received his diploma as an optometrist.  He was good at it too – everyone who came to him for glasses were perfectly satisfied.  He was a very good carpenter.  Then, why did he suffer from poverty all his life: One reason was his large family of 20 children – another, that he was restless, always looking for greener pastures – always thinking that over the next hill he would find security and prosperity.  He felt frustrated that he couldn’t make his dreams come true and so became a stern, bitter man.  He was often harsh in his treatment of his children, whipping the boys too much and letting his temper get the better of him.

            To finish in the first person: I remember very little about my father.  We would travel from Provo to Midway while Aunt Hattie was still there and I would be petrified when we went over the dugways in Provo Canyon.  Once we saw a black bear.  He was never afraid of the steep dugways, nor fording streams or any other danger in our travels.

            Often when he would be at our place in Provo, he would play his violin, my sister, Pearl, would chord for him on the organ and we children would dance around on the floor.  He was stern but never whipped us.  I would play with my half-sisters and brothers and although there was jealousy and often bitterness between the families, I was never aware of it.  Mama was never jealous and it wasn’t in her nature to be bitter.  My sister, Crystal, said that in later life she understood Papa better and learned to love him and respect his memory.  That is how it has been for all of us and that is how it should be.  Enlarge upon his good qualities for he had many.  He tried to be a good Latter Day Saint even if he did fall short many times.  All honor to his memory.

            He was buried in Vernal, Utah.  He was the father of 20 children.  By his first wife, Harriet Susan Kempton, he had the following children; Elizabeth Rosetta, Wallace Edwin, John Wm., George Jerome, Amasa, Harriet Elva, Arnold, Welcome Elwin, Crystal Deane, Ann Craven, James Reece, Amelia Ivy, and Royal Elmer.

            With his second wife, Olive Andelin, he was the father of Olive Pearl, Myrtle Ann, Mary Melvina, Ruby, Myreel, Wallace Edwin and Lenore.

Owner/SourceRuby Potter
Linked toWallace Edwin Potter

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