Ralph Cutler

Ralph Cutler

Male 1873 - 1958  (84 years)


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Ralph Cutler: Birth, Boyhood and Education

Written by Alice May Cutler, shared on Family Search by Ted Walker

Ralph Cutler: Birth, Boyhood and Education
Written by Alice May Cutler, 1976

          Ralph Cutler, the son of John and Sarah (Atkinson) Cutler, was born December 13, 1873 and spent the first seven years of his early childhood at the home of his birth, the little frame cottage at 523 East 5th South, Salt Lake City, Utah. It is believed at this time that his father had established his green grocery business and being a polygamist, was somewhat limited in his financial means. Ralph Cutler wrote, "Like the majority of mankind I was not surrounded with the luxuries of life but grew up to know the plain and substantial way of living.  Money was never extravagantly or wastefully spent upon myself for father was a working man and his means were limited, still he was an indulgent father and I never remember ever being in want for the necessaries of life and a little spending money. When about 5 years of age I remember going to school for the first time in the old adobe school house in the 9th Ward at the corner of 5th East and 4th South. There I wrestled with and mastered the alphabet."  

          Later in life, Ralph Cutler could still recall some of their closest neighbors; the Maxwells, a florist who landscaped the Burton home on State Street, and Berkenshane, a mason, whose son was the same age as Ralph Cutler and later laid the red sandstone foundation for the Cutler family home on 3725 South 11th East. Though he could remember little of his early childhood, a few incidents remained vividly in his mind. "I remember. . . being clad in a plaid dress and of being scared by Indian troops that galloped along that street occasionally to and from the city and of running off to the 8th ward square (city and county building) to see a circus and gave my mother a scare. (I) have a faint remembrance of an explosion that shook the place, which I afterwards learned to be a powder magazine explosion along the hillside north of the city. Later I remember several of these magazines on the hillsides of north Salt Lake that were used to store powder and dynamite. . ."  During these early childhood days, Ralph with his older brother, Frank, and their parents lived in the 9th Ward, his father serving as 1st counselor to Bishop Woolley.

          In the summer of 1881 when Ralph was nearly seven and a half years old, his parents moved to a 3 room brick home located on the northern bench of the city on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and "D" streets in the 20th Ward. His sister, Jane, was born in this home a few weeks later "on the anniversary of the death of General Garfield," September 21, 1881. The Puzey, Simmons, Knotts and Wiscomb families lived in this area and he retained close friendship with them and remembered them well throughout his life.

            The northern bench (the terraced foothills of the mountains) of the city was then very sparsely settled so the homes were few and far between.  An irrigation ditch running along Third Avenue from City Creek, supplied the area with water for their gardens and homes. It was Ralph's task to carry the water for all their household needs (water for baths and drinking and cooking water) up the hill.

           During the summer months Ralph Cutler worked in his father's grocery store on Market Row (located on First South between Main and West Temple), drove a delivery wagon and did other odd jobs around the place. In the winter he attended school in the adobe schoolhouse on the 20th Ward square. Of this period he wrote the following dated July 21, 1895. "While living here I became associated with boys who were not the best of company, with the result that I contracted some bad habits just at the time when my character was being formed which should influence my future life to a great extent. I have no fault to find with my parents, for they did all in their power to influence me to do good and to check the evil passions of my nature. My chief bad trait of character was the disposition to take things which did not belong to me. . . I look back now at those youthful days with sorrow, remorse and repentant heart at the mischief and annoyance I caused my parents, especially father, from whose pockets I several times extracted the tempting coins. Many times during these years did I disobey my parents, running away to go fishing or swimming when I was strictly forbidden to do so. But I am happy to say that the better elements in my character have prevailed and with the help of the Lord, I have to a considerable extent, overcome the bad associations which I acquired and the evil passions of my nature." 

            Ralph Cutler turned eight years of age when the family was still living in the 20th Ward area.  He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, February 28, 1882, in the Old Endowment House by John Cottom and confirmed March 2, 1882 in the upper room of the 20th Ward School by John Squires.

          While living in their home on the northern bench, his mother began to show signs of her mental illness. "In that house we were terribly annoyed by a swarm of black beetles or cockroaches and mother being of a very peculiar temperament they seemed to frighten her very much and no doubt aided materially to unbalance her mind." To please his mother, Ralph Cutler's father built a "nice" new five room brick adobe home in the Fourth Ward area, on a lot located at the corner of West Temple and 9th South Streets which he purchased from his son, John C.  Referring to the new home and his experiences as a child there, Ralph Cutler wrote in his diary: "It seemed almost out of creation at that time and mother, who was very hard indeed to please, was continually dissatisfied, which made home very unpleasant. . . A canal ran on the north side of this property and our house was next to the canal.

           “During this period I learned to swim and take care of myself in the water for I often indulged in this sport in the summer time even though I was only around 10 years of age. There was a large grove of trees on the north side of the canal and no houses for almost 1/4 mile. It was a lonesome place. . .In the summer time I used to hunt mushrooms in a pasture opposite (their home) and my brother Frank would take them up to market and sell them. In the winter and spring (we) would catch muskrats and skin them and sell the hides.  Much of the land south was under water and we had fun skating on the slick ice..." His sister, Jane, recalled some years later, that the home was built in rather a swampy area and that water ran from Ninth South and West Temple to the "Warm Springs" north of the city. In the winter, Ralph Cutler skated from their home on 9th South all the way up to "Warm Springs" and back again.

           Ralph continued his education in the Fourth Ward School, a little one room adobe building located on the corner of 7th South and West Temple Streets. It had a lean-to in which, at times when asked, Ralph taught the chart class to help the teacher. He modestly described his grade school achievements. "I had the privilege of attending school at the 4th Ward School. It was in this school, when I was about 10 years old, that I captured the first prize in the Fifth Reading Class, being head of the highest class in school. The school was taught by Wilford Smith. The prize consisted of a small book entitled "Stories and Ballads" which I have preserved up to the present.
I think it was mere accident that I won or else the rest of the scholars were extra dull. I never considered myself a very bright scholar at school and was not overly studious and idled a great deal of my time away in playfulness." He made life long friendships here; Jake Weiler and Ed Jenkins who married his neices, Lillian Susannah Nicholson and Elizabeth Taylor Cutler; John Eardley, a contractor; the Christopherson boys, Willard and Einar; John Halvorsen, Oscar Hadley and the Worthen boys who lived just west of the school house. During the vacation time in the summer "I herded cows on the vacant property on 7th and 8th South and on the streets as you could count all the houses on your fingers in the neighborhood. . .My mother was very religious and often attended Sunday meetings in the tabernacle on Temple Square and it was my task to carry my sister, Jane, on my back up and back as there was no other transportation in those days." 

             About 1884 they moved again to a small house belonging to Charles Lambourne on 4th Avenue between "F" and "G" Streets back in the 20th Ward. Their frequent moves were necessary because they were a plural family. Deputy sheriffs were constantly seeking convictions for unlawful cohabitation as the government was severely and relentlessly enforcing the Edmunds Law of 1882, sending the brethren to the penitentiary for six months and/or a fine of $500.00. His father so far had escaped detection but his brother, Thomas R. and a brother-in-law, John Nicholson, served terms in the penitentiary.

             In June 1885 a critical point was reached in his home life that caused him much bitter pain, sorrow and anguish the rest of his life. Although he was hardly old enough to realize fully the true state of affairs, the home life had become almost unbearable, due to the weakened condition of his mother's mind. Her reason on some matters had become so unstable and deranged that she remained the rest of her life in the mental institution in Provo, having previously been adjudged insane by the county authorities. His anguish over this trial is best reflected in the words from his journal. "My childhood recollections of my mother have not been of the pleasantest kind because of the state of her condition and health and although she wasn't violent, her loud and continued ravings and rantings were very disturbing and almost unbearable young as I was and are remembered with a great deal of sorrow. . . This has been the saddest event I have been called upon to endure and has caused many a heartache. Why it should be thus so, is a question which is unanswerable, but we have to swallow the pill and trust in a just and benevolent providence to some day, overrule this sad event for our good and happiness. . . I have generally tried to take an optimistic view of this life, believing everything that happens in our lives is, or will be over-ruled for our good. I do not know, of course how my life and character would have turned out if the events and circumstances above mentioned had not occurred and had been ordered otherwise, but I have always taken this view that what has happened is for our good. I, at least, have not seen or experienced any bad results as yet". . .July 21, 1895.

This sad circumstance broke up their home.  Ralph Cutler, then eleven and a half, and his sister, Jane (nearly four), began boarding at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hadley D. Johnson, 226 "G" Street.
Mrs. Johnson, Aunt Eliza or "Auntie" as she was affectionately called by the family, was the oldest sister of Ralph's mother. His grandmother - Jane P. Fowler - also lived with his aunt. His older brother, Frank, and their father returned to their 4th Ward home to live with Mrs. John (Myra) Nicholson, John Cutler's daughter by his first wife. He writes of his stay with his Aunt Eliza as being some of his happiest times as a child. "The many years residence at my aunts have been a very happy part of my life, omitting one or two disagreeable features, such as the egocentricity and ill temper of Uncle Hadley at which at times has been quite unbearable to a person of my disposition and the peculiar and unchristian-like whims of my grandmother, Mrs. Fowler. But I have tried to overlook their very prominent imperfections and forgive them for they are getting old and childish. But for all these faults I have been amply repaid in the kind, patient and charitable disposition of my aunt, who has been untiring in her devotion to us and whose worthy example I have partially endeavored to exemplify and whose kindness has influenced my life to a considerable extent." 

            His sister, Jane, remembered that when Ralph Cutler was at this age that he was very independent and did not want his father to pay his board. He wanted to get out and earn money and pay his own way. His first business venture has become a favorite story among family members and is regarded as a fine example of his early business acuity. It is best told in his own words which were recorded at a family gathering. "I don't deny that I'm saving and always have been. As a youngster, flipping marbles when I lived with my sister, Jane, up at "Aunties" - that was about the only game we had in the summer... marbles, hop-skotch or jump-the-rope --- I became an expert marble player. I could beat almost anyone on the campus, only it wasn't a campus then. ..it was a school backyard. I got "Auntie" to make me a great big bag out of an overall pant leg. Then when I went to school I would take a half a dozen marbles, a flint, a crystal or a taw and would play for keeps. I would always come home with a pocket full and put the surplus in the bag. Then I would take just a half dozen the next day. I would keep doing that for a year or two until I had a bag right full.  Finally when I got too big to play marbles any more I started to sell them off. That is where I got my financial start. I would play tops also. I was a pretty good top player. When I had a big pile of tops, too, I sold the kids back their tops. We always played for keeps you know."

Later Education 

           In the fall of 1886, Ralph Cutler's father encouraged him to attend the Salt Lake Stake Academy, later known as the Latter-day Saints College. At first he wasn't very anxious to attend the Academy, which had just been organized, but as he looked back and reflected upon the kind of training and discipline that he received there, he considered it one of the most important influences for good in his entire life. He was then twelve years old and the good moral and religious training they taught impressed itself upon his mind in indelible letters; the spiritual training created a great interest in him, and became the foundation of a strong and firm testimony the rest of his life. That schooling counteracted all the bad influences of his younger days. He was of course, also taught the "ordinary branches of education."

           The Salt Lake Stake Academy met the first year in the basement of the old Social Hall. As it expanded its curriculum, classes were held in the Brigham Young Schoolhouse also known as the Eagle Gate School house. When he first entered school, he had great fear that he would fail in the examinations, but to his "great surprise and gratification" he passed and entered the intermediate department. There he soon became greatly attached to Professor Willard Done whose ability he highly admired and respected. He progressed very well from that time on and at the close of the school year was the valedictorian. During the summers he assisted his father in the produce business.  In the fall of 1887, he was promoted to the Academic Department of the college presided over by that brilliant teacher, Professor James E. Talmage. 

           Ralph Cutler attended school regularly until the early part of the winter of 1888 when at the urgent solicitation of his father, he quit school to help in the produce business. Thus ended his formal education which he described as being "a very pleasant and happy and ambitious period of my life." He was fascinated by the study of phonography (shorthand); and when he left school he had acquired, through much practice and study, a speed of 120 words per minute, "the most rapid writer in class." As a result of his training, Ralph Cutler also developed into one of the most beautiful penmen in the Salt Lake Valley. He wrote with ease and perfection to the end of his life. His diary is an example of this great gift which he developed.
Later in his life he wrote again about this school experience: "I have always been very grateful. . .
that father decided to send me to that school. . . as it took me out of undesirable companionship and environment and into the Church school system, under such wonderful teachers as Willard Done, Joseph Nelson, Willard Cronahl, Dr. James E. Talmage and occasionally Dr. Karl G. Maeser.
This to me has always been the turning point in my life and gave a different and more serious outlook upon life and its responsibilities."  He assisted his father in the wholesale business for a few weeks until January of 1889 when he obtained employment at the Deseret News.

Owner/SourceAlice May Cutler
Linked toRalph Cutler

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