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.

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