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Native History of Wallace Edwin Potter

Written and compiled by Ruby Potter Valantine, his daughter. His early life was given to Ruby by his daughter Crystal Dean Potter.

NATIVE HISTORY OF

 

WALLACE EDWIN POTTER

 

Born 14 April 1850 – Died 30 Sept. 1909

 

 

 

Written and compiled by Ruby Potter Valantine,

 

his daughter.  His early life was given to me

 

by his daughter Crystal Dean Potter.

 

            Wallace Edwin Potter was born 14 April 1850 in Mill Creek, near Salt Lake City, Utah.  His parents were Arnold and Elizabeth Ann Birch Potter.  They crossed the plains in 1849.  Edwin was their first child.  They were married in 1843 in Nauvoo, Elizabeth being his second wife.  His first wife Almira Smith and mother of five children, had died.

            After being settled in Mill Creek for a short time, the family journeyed again.  This time to San Bernardino, Calif.  Two children were born there – George, who died as a child and Mary Adeline.  Arnold went on a mission to Australia and New Zealand and was gone eighteen months.  When he returned, he was all mixed up in religion.  His wife Elizabeth wished to return to Utah and leave him.  Arnold provided the best he could for her return.  She left with a company who consisted of the family of Francis Brown and others.  Mrs. Brown gave birth to a child in Nevada – and both died and were buried there.  When the company reached Beaver, Elizabeth also gave birth to a little daughter, Eliza Ann, 5 June 1855.  Later, she obtained a divorce from Arnold and married Francis Brown.  They settled in Mill Creek and two children were born to them there.

            Mr. Brown was unkind to his stepchildren.  The girls left home early.  Eliza Ann married when thirteen years old and Mary Adeline at seventeen.  Edwin had learned to play the violin which had been given to him by his father.  One day, Mr. Brown found him playing it instead of working and he broke it and threw it in the fireplace.

            Edwin had very little formal schooling.  When he was ten years old, he found hides from cattle which had frozen and sold them and used the money to help with his education.  He was very intelligent and learned readily – a good speller and mathematician and handy with tools.  In 1870, he went to work for Jerome Kempton doing construction work.  While there, he met and fell in love with Jerome’s daughter Harriet, and they were married in the Endowment House 21 August 1871.  Prior to their marriage, Edwin’s father had sent him $700.  Mr. Brown took the money and built a small house, saying Edwin could have it when he married.  So when he married, he brought logs from the canyon and built another room on the house and here they lived.  He didn’t want to turn his mother out of her home.

            Late in the fall, he and Hattie went to Bingham Canyon and he worked for Mr. Kempton.  When they returned, Mr. Brown had sold his home so he lost all the investment and inheritance his father had left him.  He and Hattie then went to Murray and bought a house.  They got a cow, chickens, pigs, a team of horses and a wagon.  He had found work at the Smelter there.  Soon he found a place of fifty acres and planted an orchard and garden.  He moved his house over to it.  He got another violin and played for dances and life was happy for them.  Four children were born there – Elizabeth Rosetta, Wallace Edwin, John William and George Jerome.

            When George was about a year and a half old, he went down to Sevier to take a cousin home.  On his way home, he saw a place in Dover, Sanpete County, for sale.  It seemed a bargain so he bought it.  From that time on, his life was surely changed.  He sold out in Murray and moved his family down there.  He kept his horses and wagon and about a hundred head of sheep.  He thought Dover would be a fine place for sheep.  Hattie was sorry to leave her pleasant home.  Had they stayed, it would have become a valuable piece of property, as it faced State Street.

            Dover, which had looked so promising, proved otherwise.  The soil was alkali and water for irrigation wasn’t sufficient.  The houses were built of logs with dirt roofs.  It was near the Sevier River, which often flooded or else not enough water.  Edwin put a blacksmith shop near his home and besides his regular work, made guns for both the settlers and the Indians.  All the family were good hunters, even Hattie.  He helped dig the canal using handmade scrapers drawn by ox teams.  The canal often washed out, flooding crops.  About 1884, the earthen dam broke and everyone had to flee to the mountains for safety.

            The Potter home was the gathering place for all the neighbors – there was always music and dancing.  Besides playing for the town dances, he composed music, although he couldn’t read music.  At this time, the principle of Polygamy was being preached very extensively.  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 17 July 1884.  Hattie went with them.

            The Potters were living in a two room house.  Hattie with her five children had the large room and my mother, the small room.  Papa had a large herd of sheep.  He wintered them at the Pope and Seales ranch and in summer on Chris Creek.  One time Hattie went to one camp and mama was left at the other.  She was alone for several months.  When papa sent for her, she took her baby daughter Pearl with her and rode on a donkey to the other camp.  About this time, some men stole all of his sheep and threatened to expose him as a polygamist if he complained.  Because of this, he moved Mama to Salt Lake, where she stayed with Papa’s Half Sister Rosella, working for her board and room.  In the fall, Papa moved her to a small room and shanty.  Her father was in Salt Lake working and lived there with Mama.  In September, another little girl was born, Myrtle Ann.  Papa also left Dover and moved his family out to the Ashley Valley in Uinta County.  Aunt Hattie went first and stayed with her brother Tau Kempton, during the winter.  Papa got there in the Spring.  Mama with her two little girls arrived in the Fall.  Papa bought some land and built two cabins – one for each family.  In 1889, Papa moved again – this time to Dry Fork.  He set up his Blacksmith Shop there and gathered a few possessions around.

            Olive lived in a granery near Aunt Hattie.  She always tended the children when Mama went out to work and helped her during confinements.  Mama often had to flee in the night, when the marshals were around.  She had a miscarriage one time because of it.  The people she went to, often were so poor they scarcely had enough for themselves, so it was very hard on Mama in every way.  She had another baby in May – Mary Melvina.  When she was three months old, she took her three little girls and went to Provo.  The remainder of her time, she was with her little girls in Richfield with her mother.  I was born in Richfield 23 September 1892.  My mother was with grandma until I was about fifteen months old, when she went to Salt Lake to work, so she could support her children.

            Papa went to Salt Lake to find work and his family was scattered.  He was with Aunt Hattie more than our home.  He and all his children were blessed with musical ability and there was always dancing and fun.  My sister Pearl played the organ and when Papa was at our house, we also had music and fun.  In the winter of 1890 and 91, Papa lost most of his cattle with black leg plague.  Those he saved were driven to a lovely lush valley where Snyderville was located.  The family moved there from Ashley Valley in the spring of 1891.  The trip there which took three weeks, was a very enjoyable one.  While they were there, all of them had Diphtheria, except George.  Crystal was born there.  A little baby of theirs was killed by a runaway team, which came into the yard.  He was Welcome Elwyn.

            In the spring of 1893, Papa and Aunt Hattie with children, moved to a place on Provo River, called River Dell – now Heber City.  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, Papa killed a big black bear.  Another child, Ann Craven was born there, nicknamed Tiny.  The family moved again in 1895 to Midway and had a home located at the foot of a hill called Jesse’s Mound.  Jesse McCarrell had once owned it.  A soldier’s monument now stands on the top and a winding road winds up to it.  When the family were there, it was covered with sagebrush, scrub oak and a variety of colorful wild flowers.  Just around a bend of the hill were some fascinating lime kilns and huge rocks where the children played.  There was a huge irrigation ditch in front of the house and Millie fell in it one time and nearly drowned.

            Olive returned to her husband in the fall of 1899 with Ruby and Mary.  Myrtle had passed away.  Pearl stayed in Richfield to finish her eighth grade work as she had such an excellent teacher.  Papa bought her a little home two blocks away from Aunt Hattie.  His Blacksmith shop was on one side of the lot.  Here my sister Myreel was born 26 April 1900.  We were in Midway that one winter and then Mama moved to Provo where her family could go to a good school.  A few years Aunt Hattie, with her family, came to Provo.  They rented a two story building on 5th North and Academy (now University Ave.)  They fixed this up to take boarders.  Mama had already done that since she had been in Provo.  Papa had a small store on the ground floor where he sold jewelry and fitted glasses.

            About 1906 – 7 Papa and Aunt Hattie went back to the Ashley Valley and got a place about three miles out from Vernal.  He got more land, some livestock, horses etc.  There were there two and a half years when Papa took a sudden heart attack and passed away before a doctor could see him.

            Papa was a very intelligent man and could do anything he wanted to.  He was an expert Blacksmith and could play the violin so that it could almost talk.  He played by ear.  He had a good voice and could accompany himself on the organ.  He had studied Optometry and passed his examinations with high marks.  He was able to fit many people with glasses and all were successful.  He was a very good carpenter.  Yet he was always a poor man.  It is hard to know why.  He always saw greener pastures over in the next valley or over the hill.  He spent what he earned by his constant moves.  He also had a very large family to support, although both his wives worked all their married lives to help support their families.  He must have felt frustrated when he saw his families needing so much and he not able to supply their needs.  It made him stern and bitter.  He was often harsh with Aunt Hattie’s children and had a bad temper but he was never that way with us, because Mama would not allow it.

            I wasn’t with my father very much – not even seeing him until I was about eight years old.  Even after that, he was with his first family more than with us.  I always had a very close relationship with Aunt Hattie’s children and had no bitter feeling about them.  My mother was never jealous and it wasn’t her nature to be bitter.  The older children of Aunt Hattie’s were quite bitter but the younger ones and I have been close to each other and have had love in our hearts for each other.  I am very happy about that.  When Papa was with us, he would play his fiddle, Pearl would chord on the organ and we would have a very happy time.  I wish I could have known him better.  When he died, none of us could attend his funeral, not even Mama.  It was a very unhappy time for her.  She had lost two little girls and now her husband.  Papa died 30 September 1909 and was buried in Vernal, Utah.  He was the father of twenty children – Aunt Hattie’s were Elizabeth Rosetta, Wallace Edwin, John William, George Jerome, Amasa, Harriet Elva, Arnold, Welcome Edwin, Crystal Dean, Ann Craven, James Reece, Amelia Ivy and Royal Elmer.  Mama’s were Olive Pearl, Myrtle Ann, Mary Melvina, Ruby, Myreel, Wallace Edwin (her only son) and Lenore.

            I honor my father for giving me life and by doing all that he did to take care of his wives and children, and by giving his children strong bodies and intelligent minds.  I do not judge him for I do not know what stresses he had to overcome.  Someday, I might be able to tell him that myself.  


Owner/SourceRuby Potter
Linked toWallace Edwin Potter

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