History: Grace Davis

When school opened in 1924, Emerson Adis and Verda May went into Chinook to go to High School. Verda May was in her third year and Emerson Adis was in his first. Walter Ilith went to a country school called North Yantic, which was near their home. Earl and Vera Murphy, and Emerson Adis and Verda May rented a small house and batched. Verda was unable to start at the beginning, as Grace needed her to cook for beet men. She was six weeks late, but made her grade.

On 9 September 1925, Hugh Francis married Erma Thornton. The ceremony was performed by the Justice of the Peace, Mr. Harold Ziebarth and they moved in with the family as Hugh Francis was helping his father on the farm.

In the fall of 1925, Verda May started High School in Chinook, but in the latter part of October she suddenly took ill. After spending a couple of days at home, she was taken to the Sacred Heart Hospital in Havre and spent a day under observation. On 13 October 1925, she was operated on for appendicitis by Dr. J. S. Almas. She was in the hospital for three weeks as stitch abscesses developed. Just before Christmas, Grace, who was so homesick, decided to go to Idaho for a visit. It was decided that Verda May would go with her. They arrived there two days before Christmas, just in time for Grace to attend her Grandfather’s (Reuben Coles) funeral.

Verda May came home in April 1926, in time to help her sister-in-law with the family’s move to the Charles Christensen ranch, Southeast of Zurich. Soon after, however, they found that they could not get along with the landlord, so they packed up again — moving to the Roy Colgrove farm. Grace missed the short time they lived at the Christensen place, as she was still in Idaho. She came home in June to the second new home. They rented this place for two years.

Moving again!! It seemed as though moving was all they every did — but this time Hugh Thompson bought the 160 acres of very good farm land known as the Jake Everett place, and that was the last move for them. They moved there in the spring of 1927, after Hugh Thompson had built another log house.

This home put them in the Harlem Branch and the church house had been placed on the northwest corner of the farm before Hugh Thompson bought it. It was just across the ditch from their orchard and garden. This made it very convenient to attend all services, conferences, and recreational activities which were held. They enjoyed this very much and being that close, they did the janitorial work as well.

Once more Grace had the opportunity of becoming active in the Relief Society. She didn’t spare herself in trying to make a success of bazaars, plays, dinners, singing groups, compassionate services, visiting the sick and needy, taking fresh vegetables, fruit, baked goods, and whatever she had to share with those who were in need and less fortunate. She was very handy with her hands and did much knitting, crocheting, and embroidery work. One thing she did love to do was to set quilt blocks together and quilt them. She did many. She was a counselor to the President, Gladys Johnson with Maude Munsee as the second counselor, for about seven years. She was set apart 5 February 1928 and served until her death in 1935.

To be continued…


History: Grace Davis

On 7 April 1924, David William and a cousin, Hugh Galloway, arrived in Lohman, Montana on the freight train with the stock and furniture. They borrowed a wagon from Mr. A. S. Lohman, the man from whom Hugh Thompson had rented the farm, and they soon had the furniture and stock unloaded from the box car and moved to the farm, which was only a couple miles from the town. Mary Galloway, Hugh Galloway’s wife, and Verda May arrived on the train the same morning at Chinook and after they spent the day at the hotel, Mr. Lohman picked them up and took them out to the ranch where David William and his cousin were waiting for them.

Hugh Thompson, Hugh Francis, Emerson Adis, and Walter Ilith came by car. They stopped in St. Anthony, Idaho where Hugh Thompson took some treatments for cancers on his face, caused by blows he had received as a young man. They spent two or three days in St. Anthony, then came on to Montana arriving the following week. Grace got to Lohman in the middle of May. As soon as the family was all together again, they found the closest place where they could attend church was at Zurich, as they had a small branch there. It was about twenty miles from Lohman, but they did manage to attend a few times that first summer.

Although Grace was good about concealing her feelings, the family knew she was unhappy in Montana. Verda May caught her in tears more than once and though she never explained the tears, Verda May knew she was lonely and missed her friends and loved ones left behind in Idaho. The first year in Montana didn’t help Grace feel any better, either. In fact it was most discouraging. They had lovely weather, but there were too many little “winged entertainers” which made life miserable — especially the mosquitoes. Every time anyone went outside, it was necessary to put on a wide brim straw hat from which a net veil hung down around the shoulders. A cloud of the miserable little creatures followed everywhere you went. Even the horses and cows were not immune. They were literally covered with mosquitoes out in the fields and had to have nose bags on all the time, especially towards evening. To the Rowley’s, who had always loved to be outside and especially enjoyed the “cool of the evening” — this part of Montana wasn’t the place to live.

The spring after they got there, they all pitched in to help get the crops in — beets, potatoes, grain and flax. Grace did more than her share of planting a large garden and caring for it mostly by herself. She also raised some chickens, having bought some brooding hens and some eggs from a neighbor.

An incident happened later in the spring of 1924 which became very amusing and gave Grace her start in the turkey business. Verda May had gone to work for a Mrs. Lillian German, who raised turkey’s and sold hatching eggs. She had ten pens with ten turkey hens in each pen. It was Verda May’s responsibility, along with other chores, to gather the eggs each night. She was given orders to never leave any eggs out overnight. To Verda May’s consternation, one evening she found 33 eggs in one nest. As badly as she hated to do it, Verda knew she had to be honest and tell Mrs. German. She really got a “scotching”, and then was told she could just as well throw them away as they were not good. On impulse, Verda May asked how much she wanted for them. Taken by surprise, Mrs. German said all for $1.50. She had been getting $2.50 per dozen. Verda May took them home and Grace put them under some hens and hatched out thirty pullets. Imagine Mrs. German’s surprise — and Verda May’s! After that, Grace raised turkeys every year and made a nice little profit on them.

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History: Grace Davis

While living on this ranch, they belonged to the Clark Ward. It had been many years since they had had the opportunity of Ward activities. Hugh Thompson and Grace saw to it that the children benefitted from all of them — Primary, MIA, Beehive and Scouting, also attendance at Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School, and all the amusements which were available through these organizations. Hugh Thompson was drama director for a year or so while living in Clark Ward. The boys became involved in Boy Scout work, Grace in Relief Society, and Verda May became a Beehive girl. It was here, also, that Verda May became a teacher of the beginning class in Primary. She was only fourteen, but through this opportunity she began to realize what a blessing it was to be able to serve the Lord.

They also went to school there, the three older ones, Hugh Francis, David William, and Verda May, graduating from the eighth grade in a class of eleven students. Robert E. Weller was their teacher. Hugh Thompson and Grace always encouraged their children to take advantage of all the schooling they could, as well as all of the Church activities.

They moved again, this time to the Webster farm just one and a half miles west of Ririe, which they farmed only one year. This placed them in the Shelton Ward, necessitating the making of new friends and working under new conditions. That fall they rented this place and the following fall (1922-1923) Hugh Thompson, Hugh Francis, David William, and Verda May went to Lincoln to work during the Sugar Factory campaign. This was done to help supplement their budget as they didn’t make very much on the farm. Verda May cooked for boarders while the men worked in the factory. This left Grace with the younger boys to keep in school. She wasn’t very happy to have her family split up like this, but she sacrificed much and did everything to work along with her husband. She was a true “helpmate.”

Sometime during 1923, a rabid dog chased a puppy belonging to the family into the kitchen through the open door. They rolled around on the floor close to Grace and Verda May. Grace was very frightened, but also very brave. She managed to brush the dogs out of the kitchen in order to protect her daughter and herself from an obvious fate. Grace used her voice and a broom to accomplish this task. Neither of the women was bitten, but were very shaken by the experience.

In the spring of 1924, Hugh Thompson really exploded a bombshell when he announced to the family that he had decided to move to Montana. It seemed that he just couldn’t stay out of Montana. Although Grace had given her consent to the move, she was very unhappy about it. Leaving the place of her childhood, all her old friends and relatives nearly broke her heart, but true to the teachings she knew to be true that she should be a helpmate to her husband and follow his counsel and advise, she agreed to go and make another home. These moves were hard on Grace. Her health wasn’t very good and she had suffered from a goiter for many years, along with other complications.

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History: Grace Davis

About this time, the school district was also formed and a new school house was built at the “Forks.” It was a large, one room, frame building with a blackboard all along the north side of the room and three large windows on the south side. There was one door and two windows on the east and one door on the west. It was here that all the dances were held, dancing to the fiddle and the organ. Always during the evening there was time out for one or two numbers from the “step dancers” to show their skill. During the intermission, Grace and Verda May often sang a number or two of the songs which were so popular during these years and which were not the old-time songs.

The years of 1917-1918 were the time of the “Spanish Influenza” epidemic. Very few families escaped having it and the Rowley family was no exception. Hugh Thompson was the first one to get sick, then the two younger boys and Verda May became ill. Hugh Francis and David William were away on a hunting trip and when they came home, Grace wouldn’t let them come in but talked to them through the window. They stayed with a neighbor and took care of the night and morning chores, and also the other family needs. Hugh Thompson was very ill with the flu, while Emerson Adis, Walter Ilith and Verda May had it in lesser degrees. Grace took care of all of them until Hugh Thompson was better and could see that she too was ill. Hugh Thompson told the boys to phone the doctor and have him come and take his wife to the hospital. Hugh Thompson then managed with the rest of them. They lived on onion sandwiches and hot toddies. It was quite a menu, but they survived. It was during this epidemic that Grace lost her Grandmother (Hannah Terrell) in 1918. It was a wonder that Grace didn’t get it sooner as she was always going to the aid of others, regardless of how she felt. Verda May can still remember the little white masks, saturated with antiseptic, that everyone wore over their faces when around any illness.

One Saturday, Grace and Hugh Thompson were going to Idaho Falls to do some shopping. Verda May got permission to go horseback riding. Emerson Adis and Walter Ilith were going along with Verda May and her girlfriend. The boys were riding a work horse and Margaret and Verda May were riding a former racehorse which was almost a razorback. Contrary to instructions, they used a saddle. When they started for home, the boys went ahead of them as the girls had stopped to tighten up the cinch, which felt loose. In turning the corner, the cinch broke and they were thrown to the ground, Margaret landing on top of Verda May. The boys and a neighbor caught the horse, which had stopped running when he caught up with the other horse, and brought him back to the girls and they rode him home — minus the saddle. When Grace returned home, one look at Verda May’s swollen face and she knew her daughter had disobeyed. Verda May acknowledged what she had done and Grace felt she had been punished enough. Verda May soon recovered, but her mental anguish made her vow then and there that whatever she suffered in the future would not be for disobedience to her parents.

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History: Grace Davis

These fishing expeditions with her children were very special occasions. Being the wise mother she was, Grace took advantage of the wonderful surroundings to talk to her children about the purposes of life and the importance of doing what was right. The gospel of Jesus Christ meant a great deal to Grace and she wanted her children to learn to love it as she did. She wanted to share her strength and testimony with them and she told them often the many wonderful truths they should know. These wonderful fishing trips stand out in the memories of each of her children more than almost anything else at this time in their lives and the lessons they were taught then will never be forgotten.

As memory turns back through the years for her children, Grace can still be seen always ready to go the ‘extra mile’ in opening her home to hold services and putting the extra touches in making the home more pleasant. Many Sundays after church, she invited all who would stay, to have a pot-luck dinner. Sometimes, some of the other families would bring lunch and they’d join together and have a very pleasant day. They learned to know each other better while the children had a great time playing all the games of childhood such as catch, marbles, horseshoes, hide and seek, run-sheep-run[1], ring around the rosy, fill up the gap, and too many more to remember.

On many a clear, cold winter night, neighbors would drop by and spend the evening playing cards and having refreshments of hot chocolate and cake stirred up by Hugh Francis while the older ones played cards. Many an oyster supper was served after an evening of tobogganing, skiing, sleighing and whatever, having a wonderful time just being together and visiting.

One very amusing incident occurred when neighbors were having a watermelon feed. After waiting and enjoying their melon, one of the men present came to Grace and told her that another man, Wallace Rapp, was going to wash her face in melon. Grace stacked a pile of rinds in a convenient place and soon Mr. Rapp came up and tried to grab her. She was very strong and he couldn’t hold her. Imagine his chagrin and embarrassment when he tripped and fell to the floor and Grace proceeded to really wash his face — to the hoots and laughter of the crowd.

During the hardships and struggles of those early days on the dry-farm, the Rowley family was happy in their home. Many times, Grace would read to the children while Hugh Thompson would make a batch of “syrup” candy and they’d all join in when it came to stretching it into ropes. When it had hardened enough, they would cut it into bite size pieces to eat. What a feeling of togetherness they felt as they spent many evenings in this fashion. As they got older, David William and Verda May devoted much time to reading, but Hugh Francis read little as he was more gregarious and liked to go to all the parties and dances he could.

In 1914, the members organized a Sunday School with Roy Hulse, Hugh Thompson, and Roy Hill in the Superintendency. Grace was the secretary and Ralph Hoggan was the adult teacher. They also had a teacher for the younger children. They were small in number, but they had very spiritual meetings and the Spirit of the Gospel was instilled in their hearts.

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[1] a game in which one group of players hide and their leader tries to guide them safely home by calling “run, sheep, run” when he thinks they can escape being caught by those searching

History: Grace Davis

That first year they lived on the dry farm, Grace killed thirty-two rattlesnakes. This was a most terrifying thing for the wife and mother and her children. Grace warned the children many times how to listen for them and always to be careful of going into weed places and among the rocks. One day Emerson Adis, age 5; Walter Ilith, age 3; and Verda May, age 7, were left alone while Grace and her father went into the canyon for water. Grace had very implicitly instructed the children to stay in the house. It was a very beautiful afternoon following a light summer shower and the children longed to go out and play in the yard. Shortly after Grace and her father left, the three children were standing in the doorway wishing they could go out when suddenly they saw a big rattlesnake crawling rapidly towards them. They were very frightened as they were sure it would come right in the house as he would only have to crawl up a little wooden step. Their Guardian Angel must have been with them because just as he reached the step, he turned and went behind some boards lying against the house. (The house had not been put down on a foundation yet.)

When Grace and Grandpa Davis came home, they were told about the snake under the boards. Grandpa, David Peter, very carefully moved the boards, but before he could reach it, the snake crawled back under the house and curled up. David Peter got a long willow, dipped it in liquid lye and reached the snake with it. You never saw anything move as fast as that snake did! It rapidly left the coolness of the shade under the house for other parts. Because of the lye, he was a very spotted rattlesnake, but the effects of the lye were evident as it slowed and was killed. Those little tots were so grateful that they had obeyed their mother’s warnings as one of them could very well have been bitten. In their play they may not have seen the huge snake.

Perhaps one of the greatest lifesavers the children had around was a little brown dog who accompanied them everywhere. He could spot a snake long before they ever had any idea that there was one around. He seemed to have extra sensory perception when there was danger for any of the family. He seemed to have a special hatred for snakes. He was very careful and quick. He would dash for the snakes very quickly, catch it behind the head and shake it to death. This wonderful little dog, named Brownie, killed many dreaded rattlesnakes that way.

They only lived on the flat for a year when Hugh Thompson decided to buy some land down in the canyon where they moved the house, enlarging it to make it more convenient and comfortable for his family of seven. This moved them closer to neighbors. The home, being the largest in the community, became the center of many activities and a place to hold church services.

After moving down in the canyon near the creek, Grace proved to be a very avid fisherwoman. There were two or three good fishing holes that were her favorites. It was a common sight to see her in the single-horsed buggy on a hot afternoon or evening on her way to one of these fishing holes. She often took one of the children with her and spent a couple of hours fishing and teaching her children. It was a rare thing when she didn’t bring home enough fish for a meal or two. It was also a rare thing if she wasn’t seen sitting by her propped fishing pole busily knitting or crocheting while she was waiting for a bite. She would usually outdo any other fisherman who happened to be fishing nearby.

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History: Grace Davis

When they moved to the dry farm, there were many inconveniences they had to put up with. In those days they heated their wash water on the wood burning stove (for which wood had to be chopped) in a large copper boiler. As soon as the water was hot enough to barely stand their hands in it, they began scrubbing the dirty clothes in a tub of water using a washboard. Taking them out, they were put in rinse water, and then in “bluing water”, which made them whiter, then in another rinse. They were then hung on long clothes lines outside to dry. By the time they had done eleven or twelve batches by this process, they had done a full day’s work. They got their first hand washing machine about a year after moving up to the flat.

Another big inconvenience, was hauling water in fifty gallon barrels for this washing, as well as culinary and drinking purposes. How they did watch that precious water supply, always keeping it covered so dust, wigglers, foreign objects and animals couldn’t get into it. All the stocks were driven three miles to the canyon for water twice a day.

Several experiences are remembered by the children in connection with hauling the water for their needs. Emerson Adis recalls one time when he was with his mother in the white top buggy.  Grace was driving a team of horses, in one of which had a colt. As they neared the gate, they looked back just in time to see Verda May trying to stop the colt that had gotten loose, it jumped over her and was trying to get to its mother. The colt kicked Verda May in the head in the process. Grace turned the team around and took Verda May back into the house and gave her the medical attention she needed.  They were such a long ways away, it was much too far to get proper medical attention and Grace had become a doctor on many, many occasions.

Another time on a trip after water, Grace had taken Hugh Francis with her. He was about twelve years old. They had several barrels in the white top buggy and were about half way down when they met a couple of neighbor boys coming around a curve with some cattle. The Rowley dog ran up on the embankment to get out of the way of the cattle. This startled the colt and she jumped down between the mares, scaring them. They bolted down over the side of the road. Hugh Francis was thrown clear of the buggy as it tipped over, but Grace was caught underneath and dragged some distance before the horses broke loose and took off down the canyon.  They were caught just after they got out of the dug way at a place called Cedar Fort, by some neighbors who brought Grace home. Emerson Adis recalls that they brought her home in a farm freight wagon. When they got to the ranch she was lying in the bottom of the box, seemingly unconscious and wearing a dark polka dot dress made of gingham. This was a frightening sight for the young boy and it stands out in his memory vividly.

Grace was taken to her sister’s home in Milo, Idaho and the doctor was contacted. The extent of her injuries are not remembered, but she was unable to be up and around for a long time and it was three or four weeks that she lay in bed with her eyes crossed. Her eyes finally returned to normal and she was able to get up. Truly it was through faith and prayer that she regained her health.

To be continued…