Jobs & Moving Days Part Two – the William & Martha Fergus Family “

The Great Depression had begun and the William & Martha Fergus family had been lucky enough with the help of a friend, to rent a dry farm in Stone, Idaho.  These were very hard times.  The family sold cedar posts and sometimes traded posts for flour and honey.  They raised wheat and rye which was mostly used to feed their livestock.  Later they raised milk cows, separated the milk and sold the cream to buy kerosene and other staples that they needed.  They raised chickens for eggs and to eat.  They raised turkeys, herding them into the field by day for their feed and locking them up at night to protect them from the coyotes.   In November they were slaughtered and sold for Thanksgiving.  They had sheep and hots for meat.  In the summer they raised a big garden and the vegetables they didn’t can went into the root cellar.  And an uncle in Brigham City always brought them fruit for canning.

Eve & Nola Fergus

Sisters Eve & Nola Fergus

According to Marion, “Monday was washday for clothes, we also cooked a pot of soup beans that day.  We had an old wooden washer, you had to push the handle back and forth to make it work.  On Tuesday, you had to cut extra wood, as we baked bread and ironed our clothes.  We heated the old flat irons on the cook stove.  This happened every week.  We also had chores to do, such as milking cows, feeding the livestock, keeping the barns clean, chopping wood and keeping the dooryard clean.”

It was around this time that the WPA (Works Progress Administration) started and William and his son Boyd went to work hauling gravel with horses and wagons, putting gravel on the roads which, up until this time, were dirt roads.  The bottom of the wagon box was built with 2 x 6’s, so after it was loaded you could turn the board up and the gravel would come out.  Horse-drawn graders would follow behind to spread it.

Don, Boyd, and Marion Fergus - the Fergus brothers.

Don, Boyd, and Marion Fergus – the Fergus brothers.

Second son Don worked on a dairy farm milking cows and putting up hay all that summer.  When his work and the road were finished, all three (William, Boyd, and Don) went back to cutting cedar posts.  About 1935 William got sick with diabetes.  Martha wanted to move into Snowville, Utah with her mother because she didn’t want to be alone so far out in the country during the winter.  So that summer, Boyd, Don and Marion had to go to Hansel Valley to stack and put up straw for the livestock for winter.  Then they moved the livestock from Stone, Idaho to Snowville, Utah.  Here is one memory shared by Marion of his dad’s illness.

“Having diabetes, Dad couldn’t have anything sweet.  He had to take insulin shots.  Mother made part of the fruit, jams, and jelly with saccharin for Dad, and some with sugar for the rest of the family.  Sometimes Dad would get into the jams made with sugar and would get sick.  This would upset Mother.  We had to make sure everything he couldn’t have was put away from him.”

Around 1937, William’s diabetes was much worse and the family decided to sell off what they could of the farm and move to McAmmon, Idaho so he could be closer to a doctor.  They moved into the back of an old cafe.  William and Martha initially thought that by running the cafe, they could help make a living for the family but it didn’t work out that way.  William’s health grew steadily worse and he was unable to work. William would eventually pass away on November 21, 1939 in Pocatello, Idaho.

Jobs & Moving Days Part One – the William & Martha Fergus Family

During the first few years of their marriage they moved frequently back and forth across the Utah-Idaho border depending on William’s jobs.  First they lived in Snowville, Utah where William went to work for his father-in-law carrying mail from Snowville to Tremonton and back.  March of 1911 found them in Garland, Utah (between Snowville and Tremonton) where their eldest son William Boyd was born.  By November 1912 the family had moved back to Snowville, Utah where their second child Martha Nola was born.

William & Martha Fergus family on the homestead above Holbrook, Idaho.  Martha is holding daughter Martha and son William Boyd stands in front.

William & Martha Fergus family on the homestead above Holbrook, Idaho. Martha is holding daughter Martha, son Boyd stands in front.

During this time William and his brother Hyrum continued to homestead a place about ten miles from Snowville near the town of Holbrook, Idaho.  The family stuck it out for two years until Hyrum decided to move to Logan, Utah.  At this point, William and Martha gave up the homestead and moved their small family to Tremonton, Utah where William went back to work for Martha’s father carrying the mail from Tremonton to Blue Creek and back.  Here their third child Evelyn was born.

By 1917 William had changed jobs yet again and moved his family back to Snowville, Utah.  He alternated sheep-herding with cutting cedar posts and other farmhand positions.  During this time three more children were born to the family: Anton Don, Merle, and Marion spanning the years 1917-1921.  Sometime between 1921 and 1925 according to their son Marion, the family moved yet again to Thatcher, Utah where William rented a farm and raised sugar beets, hay, and livestock.  Their youngest and last child Vaudis was born here in December 1925.

Martha Fergus with daughters Merle and Vaudis.

Martha Fergus with daughters Merle and Vaudis.

After two years another opportunity presented itself and the family moved to Deweyville, Utah.  The family lived in an old hotel close to the railroad tracks.  As soon as the older kids were able, they were needed to help support the family.  Boyd, the eldest took a job working on the railroad section gang.  Martha, Don and Merle went to work in the sugar beet fields hoeing and thinning beets.

In the fall, after William was through with his seasonal work of herding sheep, he found a job operating a dairy farm and moved the family to McCammon, Idaho.  This only lasted about two years since William and the owner could not get along.  After this the family moved into town and William went to Soda Springs, Idaho to work in the timber.  Their oldest son Boyd was still working out of Soda Springs on the railroad section gang.

This was the beginning of the Great Depression and work was hard to find.  When the timber job ended William went to work on a road that was being built through McAmmon, Idaho.  At this same time, his wife Martha helped cook meals for the road gang at the hotel to bring in extra income for the family.  When the road was finished and the job ended, the family moved to Trenton, Utah to work on a sheep ranch owned by a friend of William’s.   When the busy work season on the ranch came to a close the rancher employed William and the two older boys Boyd and Don to cut cedar posts for him in Stone, Idaho.  Part of the arrangement was the rental of a dry farm close to Stone about five miles north of Snowville.

In son Marion’s words, “it was early in the spring, before we moved, that Dad and Boyd came out in a Model T Ford to check on where the most posts could be cut and to check on the house and farm we were going to move to.  The roads were muddy and they got stuck many times.  When they got low on gas, they had to turn around to put the car in reverse and back up the hill to keep gas in the carburetor.”

“After Dad and Boyd returned home from looking at the farm, we decided we would move.  Dad got a team and wagon from his friend to move our belongings.  Moving like this was no easy task as it took several days and we had to camp out at night.  I remember one night we stayed in Tremonton, Utah with some friends that had feed for the horses.  The next day, as we were going along, my uncle came along with the mail truck and took Mother and we three kids to Snowville and dad brought the horses and wagon the rest of the way.  After resting for a day or two, we went to the dry farm in Stone, Idaho.  Boyd, Eve and Don stayed in Trenton, Utah to work in the beets.  After that work was done, they came out to our place in a Model T Ford.”