Friday, June 26, 2009

Autobiography of John Raymond Lee

John Raymond Lee and Annie Eliza Keele  LeeI was born at Minersville, Beaver County, Utah, on August 28, 1877. My father was John Nelson Lee born 11 November, 1841 at Payson, Adams County, Illinois. My mother was Melissa Keziah Rollins, born at Cajon Pass, California 13 July 1841. They were married in Minersville on December 30, 1868, and later were endowed in the St. George Temple.

My four older sisters were: Jane Eveline, born 6 March, 1870, Ada Melissa 19 April, 1872, Ida Dionitia 8 October, 1873, and Mary Etta 6 April, 1875. I was the first son followed by James Henry 28 August, 1879, Luverna Edessa 29 August, 1881, Peter Leroy 4 Sep 1883, Angus Melvin 3 February, 1886, Lester Eugene 15 February, 1889, and Porter Lafayette, who was born November 8, 1891.

Mother went to Minersville for my birth, then father took us home to Panaca, Nevada, in a covered wagon. One of the horses died enroute, and father pulled the wagon with the other lone horse until we reached Desert Springs, twenty miles away, where he secured another horse.

At six years of age, I began school with Mary Finley as my teacher. Other teachers were: Allen M. Finley, Rose Atchison, George F. Whitney, Charles R. Ronnow, and Mr. Warner of Provo. My total years of schooling would be about five. At that time, boys were taken out of school as soon as they were big enough to help on the farm.

I was father’s main help on the farm. We raised a good supply of vegetables, which we sold at Pioche markets for several years. We also sold much to the mining camp at Delamar, Nevada, forty five miles southwest of Panaca. We also delivered ice through the summer, as well as in the winter. I made many trips with four-horse teams alone, taking three nights and two days for the trip. I received five cents for a pound of ice at times, but the usual price was seventy ($70.00) per ton. Vegetables ranged around two and one- half cents a pound.

Delamar was a wonderful gold camp. Thirteen million dollars ($13,000,000) in gold were extracted from the mines by means of Chilean mills or dry crush, which proved very deadly to the miners. Many lost their lives from the dry dust of those mines. Three cemeteries were filled with men who mined for the yellow gold. In later years, at great cost, Simon Bamberger bought out the former owners. He changed many things by making pipelines for twenty-five miles, from Meadow Valley Wash, over mountain passes. The main pump station was about nine miles from Caliente, Nevada.

After several years of this farm life, peddling vegetables, hauling freight, camping out, and farming, I fell deeply in love with Annie Eliza Keele, the daughter of David and Eliza Keele. I was just nineteen years of age when we were married. I married her at home in Panaca in 1896, then later we were endowed 15 June 1897 in the St. George temple. To this union were born nine daughters and five sons.

We lived at Panaca until after our first four children were born: Myrtle Idonna, Ada Evelyn, Jesse Raymond, and Leah Birdetta. I built a nice four room home on father’s land, about one hundred and fifty yards southwest of father’s home. I continued farming and stock raising, then father and I not being satisfied to let well enough alone, bought a ranch of 480 acres at Sunnyside, Nye County, Nevada, known as White River Valley. There my son James Horald, was born. After two years farming there, the rabbits became so numerous that we turned the ranch back to Mr. Horton, the original owner. He paid us one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) for our cattle and then father and I dissolved our partnership.

I moved my family, with my animals and machinery, thirty-five miles north, into Lund, White Pine County, Nevada. The town had been named in honor of Apostle Lund. From Bishop O.H. Snow, I purchased a home, city lot, and five acres of land from Nevada land and Livestock Co. Later I purchased more land. Estella and Melba were born here. Then desiring to increase my holdings, I sold my property to Mr. Hoop of Preston, Nevada. By so doing, I doubled my acreage and water rights. Here we raised hay, grain, vegetables and cattle.

Our baby boy, Porter La Vaun, was born here, but we were blessed with his companionship only six weeks, when he was called into the great beyond and we buried him in the cemetery at Preston, where we now lived, having moved there after selling out to Mr. Hoop. In Preston, Guy Willis and Margaretta were born also. I owned two houses there. I borrowed six hundred ($600.00) to buy one. This was a financial mistake. For years I suffered agony from an inguinal hernia. I wore a heavy truss for many years before I could afford to have it operated on, and many, many times, Annie came into the fields and helped with the work just like a man when I could not have carried on otherwise.

From Preston, we moved to McGill, Nevada a large copper and mining camp. Lester Nelson Lee was born there on December 18, 1911. I acted as fireman in the fire department and looked after the fire wagons. I also exercised the horses who pulled the fire equipment.

Annie and I decided a mining town was not the right place for our daughters, so we set our hearts on Oregon, but father’s persuasion took us back to Panaca, where I farmed another year for him. Then we went to Minersville, my birthplace, and farmed more than a year when I got word from Mr. Mitchell to run his farm at Parowan. Father had passed away July 21,1914
and my brother, Melvin followed him in death a few months later from a ruptured appendix,. November 18,1914.

After moving on the Mitchell farm, I raised hay, grain, vegetables, and livestock. I bought a home and city lot for eight hundred dollars. This is where Ida Mae was born. The following year I farmed for Evans brothers. Sheep were then added to the other enterprises. Next I farmed for Hans J. Mortenson, just across the street on the Culver farm. The products of this farm were hay grain, cattle, sheep, and hogs. In 1917, ELzada was born at our new home in Parowan. She died eight years later with ruptured appendix. She was born July 19, 1917.

In 1919 we again decided there was great possibilities for families in the Sugarville district. This was in the Delta Valley. We moved there and rented eighty (80) acres to raise beets and alfalfa. Edessa was born there on June 30,1920. Then I leased 160 acres from Gus Johnson three miles farther east in the Woodrow district. Everything was going nicely until my wife Annie became suddenly ill. In twenty days, she died from blood poisoning caused from obstruction in the blood vessels of her legs. She passed away September 22,1921. I was left a widower with our thirteen children, five of whom were married. At the mother’s death, Melba assumed the role of mother and, carried on the great responsibility of caring for the house and our motherless family. Annie's funeral service was held at the Sugarville ward. The tabernacle was filled to capacity although scattered with friends who loved her. Fifty-five automobiles followed in the funeral procession 15 miles to the cemetery in Delta, Where she was buried. Although we had so many kind friends it was a terrible blow for me to carry on without my beloved wife.

We lived in the same house in Woodrow until the following Spring. The land was boggy so we moved to Hinckley, Millard County, Utah, about fifteen miles south of Woodrow. We leased 160 acres from F.L. Hickman and farmed there two years. Then, I bought 80 acres north of the Hickman ranch, this was called the Perry place. Here I met and married my second-wife, Harriet Theobald Bliss whose husband had been killed by a derrick fork. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple, October 2, 1924, by Elder George F. Richards.

In the meantime my son, Horald, had married Jennie Woodbury, and Melba had gone to Provo to attend school at the Brigham Young University. The household duties were turned over to Margaretta, but soon she married Orvil Morris, and left me again without a housekeeper. Stella, a married daughter, cared for her younger brothers and sisters. Myrtle, also married, helped with their care. The boys did their part too, in helping to keep the home going.

My wife, Harriet's house, and 40 acres were just across the street from our house and 80 acres of alfalfa seed land, so, we unitedly ran both places. Harriet had eight boys and one girl, so with our two large families, it was better that she preside in her own home, and our home was kept as before. Things went quite smoothly when Elzada became ill at school. Her operation was at Delta hospital and she was dead in three days from a ruptured appendix.

At this time, our baby son, Leo, by Harriet, was just four months old. After Elzada's death, things went along fairly well, and soon we were blessed with a little brother for Leo. Otto was born January 29, 1927. Hattie (Harriet) hemorrhaged badly and it became necessary to take her to Salt Lake City, on advice of Dr. Middleton where she was taken to the L.D.S. Hospital. Otto was then two days old and was left in the care of Sister Wilford Warnicke, who kept him in excellent shape for a month. They then had expected to turn him back to his mother, but Hattie did not live to nurse her baby or see him again. She died February 28, 1927. Her body was returned and funeral services were held at Hinckley High School Auditorium. She was buried in the City Cemetery.

At that time I felt I had almost more trouble than I could bear and only my good family standing by and the help of dear friends, gave me the courage to go on. Don and Nora Bishop, who had not been able to have a child for eleven years, consulted with President Hinckley, now an apostle, about adopting little Otto; since Nora and Hattie had been very dear friends, Nora was anxious to have her baby. He told them that with my consent and the blessings of the Lord they should take him. When Otto was nine months old, and was very much loved and doing so well, Nora dreamed that Hattie came to her and wanted her baby back. This, of course worried Nora, especially since she soon became pregnant herself. Strangely enough, when Otto was nineteen months old, he drowned in the well, the day after Nora’s baby was born. I can't help feeling that Hattie wanted her baby and the Lord made it possible for Nora to have one to take Otto’s place in her heart.

Once more I was alone in sadness. hardly knowing the wisest course to pursue with my family. Through all of my trials, I endeavored to take part in my religious duties. At different times I held responsible positions in many of the church organizations; Superintendent of Sunday school, President of YMMIA. Ward teacher, and Counselor in the Bishopric. I have always felt it my obligation to pay tithing, donations, etc. These responsibilities helped to sustain me during those trying times.

The water shortage and other obstacles made me feel that I could do better elsewhere and also get away from the sorrow I had experienced in that area. I closed out my holdings and with a rambling desire, took a trip into the Snake River Valley in Idaho as I wanted to get my family in as good a location as possible, but this did not prove satisfactory. I went back to Nevada, to work as a laborer, then as night foreman at the foundry in McGill. I worked four years for the Nevada Consolidated Copper Co. My daughter, Ida Mae, was my housekeeper. Edessa and Leo were with us in a small town of Steptoe overlooking McGill township. Dessie was about ten and Leo five years of age. Soon Mae married John Munson, and again I needed a housekeeper. Next came the depression, and many men were out of work. I was laid off at the foundry.

I hardly knew where to turn, but I was somehow guided back to my old boyhood home in Panaca. By this time, of course, father was gone and mother had remarried and was living in Cedar City, Utah. The old home had been vacant for years. My sister, Edessa, who lived just a short distance away from the old home, was happy to see the light shining in the old house again. Those were the last lights to shine in the old homestead. After a year there with the baby girl of Annie's and oldest boy of Hattie’s, again I was at my wits end to know what was best, and I earnestly prayed for someone to help me finish raising my children. I thank my Heavenly Father for hearing my prayer.

John Raymond Lee and Mary Lowe Lemon LeeIn February, 1933, Mary Lowe Lemon went to visit her daughter, Genova and Willis Robinson, her son-in-law, who taught school in Panaca. Genova and Willis had taken me to Caliente and other places on different occasions. One Sunday night, I attended the opening of a new ward in Caliente, built under the direction of Bishop Porter Lee, my brother, and his counselor. This night, the Robinsons brought Genova’s mother with them and thus began a much brighter future for me. In about a month I married Mary Lemon, whose husband had been gored to death by a bull in 1915.

My last night in the old home brought many mixed emotions, because I knew I would never again live there where so many memories, both happy and sad, were all around me. I was alone and worked all night preparing to leave on the early morning train for Willard, Utah, where we would make our home. I left with my intended wife, leaving Dessie and Leo with their Aunt Dessie until we could get settled into Mary's old home, which she and her former husband, Alec Lemon, had built when they were newlyweds. We knew there would be many problems to overcome. Mary’s large family of boys and girls were all married and very much disapproved the marriage of their mother to a man they did not know. I knew I would have to work hard to prove my loyalty and love for their mother. My family of married children probably were not too approving either, but in the years that we lived together, Mary and I, very happily, we proved to both families that it is very possible for older couples to have a happy and satisfying relationship even with so many hurdles to overcome. We have more than justified the faith that we had in each other.

We were married in the Logan Temple on March 17, 1933, by President Joseph R. Shepard. The following years, I worked the land on Mary's farm, planting new fruit trees, removing old ones, spraying, picking, selling, and the many, many tasks that go with earning a living on a fruit farm. As soon as we were settled, I brought Dess and Leo to their new home. There were many adjustments to be made. Edessa was about 13 years of age, a very sensitive, shy child, and after about two years, Melba and Hans, her husband, took Dess to live with them in Arizona. Leo was about 8 years of age, and easy going, happy boy, who readily accepted Mary as “mom”. He helped with the work of the farm and attended the local schools, finally graduating from Box Elder High School, at Brigham City, Utah.

World War 2 began in 1941, and both Guy and Lester enlisted. Later, Leo and several grandsons enlisted or were drafted. Guy was sent to India with the Army where he was badly wounded and spent many months in the hospital. His death in 1953, was no doubt hastened by the many toxins in his body from this experience. His death was caused from Hodgkinson’s disease.

Lester enlisted in the Navy and was on a cruiser in the South Pacific, or Solomon Islands, when the Japanese bombed the ship, the Astoria, which was sunk along with two other cruisers on August 9,1942. He was a gun loader, and the reports say he "stayed at his post until the gun was blasted from the ship." He was reported missing in action and finally declared lost a few weeks later. About twelve hundred lives were lost that night.

My granddaughter, Georgia Mickelson married Ray Munson, brother to my daughter, Mae's husband, John Ray was in the Army, and was badly wounded on the Anzio beachhead in Italy. Leo enlisted first in the Navy, then the Army, rating in as a Sergeant, then finally making the Air Corps his career, earning his wings as pilot, then after his marriage to Helen Harrop, advancing to Major. He has made the years in service fruitful. Leo has raised a fine family, four boys and two girls,(as of this writing, July 1962) and is serving as Bishop in one of the
wards in San Bernardino.

John Raymond Lee and Children
Reunion Tooele, Utah.

John Raymond Lee Family

Back row: (inserted) Lester Lee, Mae Lee Munson, Guy Lee, Dessie Lee, Jesse Lee, James Horald Lee, Estella Lee Eddards, Melba Lee Claussen.

Front row: Ada Lee Griffiths, Myrtle Lee Kesler, John Raymond Lee, Mary Lowe Lemon Lee, Birdetta Lee Mickelson, Marge (Margaretta) Lee.
John Raymond Lee family photo

John Raymond Lee
Family Reunion
Children, Grandchildren,
& Greats

Back row: unk, John Munson-husb of Mae, unk, John Munson-son of Mae, unk, unk, unk, unk, Ray Munson-husb of Georgia-daughter of Birdie , Guy Lee, Tillie Lee-wife of Guy, Jesse Lee, James Horald Lee, unk, George Mickelson-husb of Birdie, unk of Myrtle, child in arms of Nina-wife of Jesse Lee, Albert Kesler, unk of Myrtle, unk of Myrtle, unk of Myrtle, unk of Myrtle, Jennie-wife of James Lee.

Center Row:Unk, Mae Munson, Edessa Lee, Ada Griffiths, Myrtle Kesler, John Raymond Lee, Mary Lemon Lee, Birdie Mickelson and grandchild Linda, Melba Claussen, Marge (Margaretta) Lee, Stella Eddards with child, Georgia-daughter of Birdie Lee Mickelson.

Front Row: unk, unk, unk, unk, unk, unk, daughter of Jesse with baby, unk male with girl, unk male with boy, unk girl, Raymon Lee-son of James, Flora Monson- dau of Mae, unk, Helen Lee-dau of James, son of Myrtle, Sharon Lee-dau of James.

At this writing, July 1962, 1 am again alone. My wife, Mary, passed away on February 3, 1962. She died without pain as she had been promised in her Patriarchal blessing. She was 93 years of age. We lived together in harmony and love for 29 years. At present I am 85 years old. I have recently visited with my two brothers, Porter and Lester in Nevada, and with my sister, Etta in the St. George hospital. Etta’s health is gone, and it will be merciful when God will take her. She does not recognize anyone and is a total invalid. I pray every day that I may not become incapacitated in such a way before our Heavenly Father sees fit to call me home. My sisters, Edessa and Ida have passed away within the last five years. I have at the present time,10 living children, 55 grandchildren, 128 great-grandchildren and 8

Many happy memories of our marriage I remember fondly and there were many events that brought us sadness. First, Mary's grandson, Orvin's boy, Wayne, was killed when their horse kicked him, rupturing his spleen. Second, Eileen, 0rvin's daughter, lost her husband as he was crushed when a frozen slab of earth fell on him while he was making a drain for their new home. After she remarried, her son, Wayne, named after her brother, was killed accidentally by a tractor.

The next sad event was when we learned that Lester had lost his life in the service of his country. Then Orvin's son, Bert was killed while in the service. He was accidentally killed by a tractor he was running. Then Guy's death brought the next sad event. There have been many other unhappy events, but mostly our marriage was blessed by good health and with much happiness. Mary was allowed to live as long as life was sweet to her. Our life was very satisfying and I believe we were able to prove to both families that we did love each other very dearly, and could make a home for each other. Mary shared her home with me and I was happy to justify her faith in me by showing her children that all I wanted from their mother was her love, and had no desire to take anything away from the home, but was glad to do my best to build it up and work the land to support us.

Their kindness to me has grown through the years, and I believe our feelings for each other is as fond as any father-children relationship. These last thirty years have gone by very quickly. They have brought enrichment to my life in the many associations I have had with Mary's friends and her children and grandchildren, who are like my own dear ones.

At this time, due to my state of health, it is not wise for me to live in the old home by myself, so the future years will no doubt bring many changes. I will enjoy my remaining years getting re-acquainted with my own children and I am sure the years hold many more happy experiences for me. God has indeed blessed me.

-- John Raymond Lee

After July, 1962, John Raymond Lee lived with his daughter, Mae Munson, in Bellflower, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. He desired greatly to make a last trip to visit his brothers, Lester and Porter, in Panaca, Nevada, and to visit his old friends there. He was driven to Panaca by his son-in-law, Mervin Edwards, and his daughter, Ada. miraculously, his badly deteriorated hip improved enough to allow him to walk over the beloved land of the old Lee farm. He had planned to stop in Tooele, then travel once more to Willard to visit with Aunt Mary’s families.

He spent several days with his oldest daughter, Myrtle Kesler and family, in Tooele, when his heart began to fail. He was placed in the Tooele Valley Hospital, where he passed away, without pain, after having sung, “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie" just 20 minutes earlier, when the nurses came to get him ready for breakfast. He has lived a wonderful full life. Everyone who came in contact with him loved him. His funeral, by his wish, was held in the Willard, Utah Chapel. Hundreds of friends and relatives paid their last respect to him. The services were planned by him several years before, and those who participated paid a wonderful tribute to a kind, wonderful man.

He passed away July 19, 1963, at age 86. He was buried beside his first wife, Annie, in Delta, Utah, according to his wishes. His sons, James and Leo J. officiated at the graveside. Pall bearers were grandsons, Ronald Lee, Ramon Mickelson, Lester Munson, Verl Kesler, Calvis Kesler, Marion Kesler. He is survived by: Mrs. Albert Kesler (Myrtle) Tooele, Utah; Mrs. Mervin Edwards (Ada) Minersville, Utah: Mr. Jesse Lee, Delta, Utah; Birdie Mickelson, Redondo Beach, California: James H. Lee, Kearns, Utah; Mrs. Estella Edwards, Cedar City, Utah; Mrs. Hans J. Claussen, (Melba), Winlock, Washington: Mrs. Margaretta Duncan, Winlock, Washington, Mrs. John Munson (Mae), Bellflower, California; Edessa Lee, Douglas, Arizona; Leo J. Lee, San Bernardino, California.

(Name spellings and birth dates verified 23 September 1998 by Jennie May Lee Adam from computer Genealogy records.

1 comment:

  1. I come through Harriet Theobald Bliss Lee . My father Ferron Bliss is a half-brother to Leo Lee son of John R. and Harriet. I was glad to see a history of John. I am in process of writing a book on the Bliss family and want to include John R. Lee in it, as he was the second husband of my grandmother. I would like to have permission to use parts of his autobiography that you have on the website in the book. Uncle Leo sent me some photos - but no history on his father. So glad I came across your blog - thanks for posting it. Julie Bliss Hammons