Birth & Childhood – Cleone Cutler

lucy-jane-stokes-cutler-with-baby-cleo-cutler

Baby Cleo with her mother Lucy Jane.

Cleone Cutler was born October 9, 1917 to Joseph Jonathan Cutler and Lucy Jane Stokes.  The eighth child in a family of eleven. She was born in a three-room farmhouse on the family dry farm located between Tremonton and Snowville in Box Elder county Utah.  This farm produced grain and was dependent on the rain a it had no source for irrigation – hence the name, dry farm. The farmhouse had two bedrooms and a big kitchen.  She lived in this house until she was almost six years old.

As a child she would go with her mother to a spring about a mile away to help carry the buckets of water back up the hill to the house where they lived.  Grandpa Jonathan Corkins Cutler lived near the spring and owned a herd of big red razorback pigs that were penned nearby.  They were mean pigs and would grunt at Cleo and her mother, scaring the little girl very badly.  She didn’t like to go there, yet she did not want her mother to go alone either.  Normally the water from the spring was tapped up to the house, but when the spring got too low it couldn’t make it through the system.

Just before Cleo turned six her father bought another farm called the Torgason place, located near the Snowville school.  It was August or September of 1923, the year that she would start school and she was so excited to help her mother clean house and get it ready to move into.  Her mother, sensing Cleo’s eagerness to help, yet knowing the limitations of her young age, asked her to clean behind the stove.  This was very hard for Cleo to understand.  She felt that more responsible tasks were in order.  This new home seemed like a palace because the family did not have to carry water anymore.

Birth & Childhood – Boyd Fergus

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Boyd Fergus with his father William Maughan.

William Boyd Fergus was born March 18, 1911 in Garland, Box Elder, Utah.  His parents were William Maughan Fergus and Martha Elizabeth Peterson.  He was their first child.  From his own life history, he writes, “I had a normal birth.  I was named after my father and one of his best friends.”  He was later blessed on June 1, 1911.

Oddly enough, his mother always celebrated his birthday on March 20th.  It was not until the age of 65, when he sent for a copy of his birth certificate, that he found out his recorded birth date was March 18th.  Despite this unexpected bit of information, he continued to believe that his mother had known for sure what date he was born on.

Martha Fergus and Lucy Jane Cutler were close friends and neighbors, living about a half mile apart at the time of Cleone Cutler’s birth (Boyd’s future wife).  Martha took her children, including Boyd, down to see new baby Cleo when she was only a week old.  Match-making?  Perhaps.  It made a great story for later years when grandchildren would ask when Grandpa and Grandpa first met and fell in love.

The Fergus family lived about twenty miles from grandpa Anton Levi Peterson’s place in the Snowville, Utah area.  Boyd remembers riding in a shiny, black one horse buggy with his mother back and forth to his grandparent’s house.  Once on the way home, a man on a motorcycle frightened the horse into running away with them.  Martha said a prayer and finally got the horse stopped.  She told Boyd that she knew the Lord would help them.  He was small, but the lesson of faith was learned and always remembered.

Boyd’s mother was a self-sufficient woman who taught her children to work hard and accomplish much.  Whenever Boyd was not needed outside for chores, he helped his mother indoors.  The washer had a handle on it that needed to be pushed back and forth in order to wash the clothes.  Boyd’s job was to push the handle.  He also helped to carry and heat the wash water in a boiler on the stove.  Wash day was also bread baking day in order to conserve the oven’s heat.  Boyd also helped his mother milk the cows daily.

Boyd’s father despite his college education and stable upbringing could not settle down to any one job for a given amount of time.  As Boyd later described, “the pasture was always greener somewhere else for my father.” He kept the family moving around a great deal.  Many times the children would come home from school to find the wagon loaded and ready to move. It was this transitory upbringing that influenced Boyd in his adult life.  He wanted a place with a home for his family to settle and stay, so each farm job he accepted needed to meet that requirement.

Boyd learned how to work horses early on and loved to drive them.  He helped plow, seed, and harvest crops.  He liked to run the header, a machine that cut and thrashed grain.  He also helped haul coal for the church and school, from the railhead 30 miles away in Promontory, Utah.  It was very tiring work for the horses and they had to take it slow.  Hogs also needed to be driven to the railhead in Promontory and Boyd helped with this many times.  This was typically done on foot with many stops for water, which they hauled along with them in tanks.

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.”

Couche Place #3

Couch Place 1993 - This home replaced the original farmhouse that burned down after a lightning strike.

Couche Place 1993 – This home replaced the original farmhouse that burned down after a lightning strike.

1945-1952

14170 Wilsonville Rd., Wilsonville, Oregon (now known as Riverview Farm)

There are many pleasant childhood memories associated with the Couche place, including harvest time in the orchards.  Every year the children helped pick pears, apples, filberts, and walnuts.  The walnuts in particular were memorable because of the special burlap sacks with pictures on them, in which the walnuts were place.  The pictures were  usually animals or birds and the children would carefully choose which sacks they wanted to fill first.

Lightning was common in the Wilsonville area and just in the few years the Fergus family lived there, a house across the road was hit and its wiring system burnt out.  The pump house belonging to the Couche place was also hit with the same results.  The night the pump house was hit by lightning, Darwin remembers being upstairs with Dorothy in the middle of the storm.  They made up their minds to run downstairs and barely made it before the lights went out and the pump house was hit.  The intercom phones between their home and Mr. Couche’s were also damaged.  Ironically, six months after the Fergus family moved to Newberg, their former home on the Couche place burned to the ground after a lightning strike.

One day while detaching the mower from the tricycle tractor, the mower slipped away from Boyd and Darwin.  It fell on top of Boyd, injuring his back.  He was crippled with pain for many months as the doctors tried to diagnose the problem.  During this time, Cleo and the children struggled to keep the dairy chores done so that Boyd could keep his job and not worry too much.  The months of inactivity, pain, and relying on his wife and children too its toll on Boyd and he used alcohol to numb not only the physical pain, but the mental strain.  Finally, a doctor in Portland diagnosed his injury as crushed vertebrae and operated, leaving Boyd in a body cast for the rest of the summer.  The drinking, which eased his suffering, added to Cleo’s worries.  It was only with great courage and faith that he was able to overcome it.

Eventually the dairy and Mr. Couche, proved to be too burdensome to handle so the family started looking for new job possibilities.  One day in a Relief Society meeting Cleo heard about a farm in Newberg, where a man was looking for help.  Boyd contacted the man, accepted the job and the family decided to move.

Couch Dairy Barn 1993

Couche Dairy Barn 1993

Work and Play – Couche Place #2

1945-1952

14170 Wilsonville Rd., Wilsonville, Oregon (now known as Riverview Farm)

Boyd standing with children in front of church building.

Boyd standing with children in front of church building.

Cleo standing with children in front of church building.

Cleo standing with children in front of church building.

The Fergus children had a very work-oriented relationship with their father.  Instructions for chores were given and expected to be done.  There may have been a lot of playing between times, but the job always got done.  Many times the children would play tag in the dark and before long Boyd would be in on the game, chasing them.  It was fun until he caught one of them because they were in trouble for not doing their chores.

One of the children’s many jobs at the Couche place was to kill squirrels and bluejays because they would eat the nuts from the trees in the orchard.  Sometimes they shot them, other times they left poison barley out in the open, or they built traps or cages to catch them.  Another one of the children’s jobs at the Couche place was to drive the tricycle tractor, called so because it had three wheels.  Howard was often accused of trying to drive it up a tree.  Usually Howard or Darwin, would hook up a trailer to the tractor and use it to carry the household garbage up the ridge to the end of the cliff overlooking the river.  Their difficult and sometimes scary job was to back that trailer up to the edge in order to dump the garbage.  It would have been so easy to slip over the edge of the cliff.

One day while the boys were working in the barn, they had an awful argument and got Monty into trouble.  Monty had a habit of hiding when he was upset or in trouble, so after the argument he slipped into the house to hide.  While everyone was out looking for him he got tired.  He crawled into bed and pulled the covers up.  The family looked and looked for him outside, never thinking that he might be inside the house in his own bed, sound asleep.

Life on the farm, while fun, could be fraught with danger for children because of the heavy responsibilities they had.  They had their share of accidents and Monty in particular, seemed accident prone.  One night, after a day full of pranks and setting booby traps in the barn, the kids were rushing around to get the cows and calves fed so that they could go to the movies (a Ma and Pa Kettle double feature).  They had forgotten however, about one booby trap that had not been sprung; a covered rope strung between the calf pen and the hay.  Monty came running through the barn, hit the rope, and stabbed himself with a pitchfork.  He insisted on going to the movies anyway.  During the wait in the ticket line, Boyd and Cleo had to ask if Monty could wait for them inside the theater because he was in so much pain.  As they came inside, Monty was waiting for them on the stairs.  He was sick through the whole movie.

The kids always knew how to have a good time together.  Sometimes, too much of a good time.  Once after milking the cows they started playing around and let the milk sit out until the calves ate most of it.  To cover up their “crime” the kids added water to the milk to bring up the volume, and then took the pails up to the house.  Cleo was so surprised as she tried to separate the milk and there was no cream in it.  Another prank the Fergus children loved was throwing apples and pears at the chickens, knocking them flat, and then dunking them in the water trough to bring them back to consciousness.  Apples could also be stuck on the end of twigs and sticks, preferably apple suckers which were supple.  Then you could swing it like a sling shot and watch the apple fly.  This brought trouble when they managed to hit the house.

Couche Place

Couch Place - cropped

Gary in front of the old farmhouse at the Couche Place.

1945-1952

14170 Wilsonville Rd., Wilsonville, Oregon (now known as Riverview Farm)

Shortly after World War II ended, Boyd was laid off from the shipyards.  Even though it was inevitable, he was very nervous because he had never been out of work before.  Boyd was always concerned with job security, due in part to childhood memories of his father’s frequent job changes.  Providing for his family with a steady job was important to his peace of mind.  Job changes were stressful.  On Labor Day he went looking for work and when he came home he had good news for the family.  He had found a job working on a dairy in Wilsonville.  It was called the Couche place.  The family moved to Wilsonville that same month.

Moving to the Couche place and managing a dairy were both difficult adjustments for the family.  The house that they came to occupy was old, rundown, and very drafty, an unpleasant change after the well-kept Sattler house that they had rented in West Union.  Many times the house would become so cold that the family would sleep downstairs around the stove in order to stay warm.

The new job brought a decrease in pay for Boyd and was very challenging because of all the record-keeping needed to track milk production and cow pedigrees for 20-30 cows.  The cows were all milked by hand until a machine was acquired.  Boyd had only finished one year of high school, and with the setbacks of illness during the first two years of grade school and the forced switch from left to right-handed writing, he tended to question his own abilities.  Thus, the clerical tasks required by the hard-to-please Mr. Couche, were frustrating to him.

There are bright sides to every situation however, if you look for them, and this is what Cleo and Boyd tried to do.  Boyd was grateful for the job security which paid $225 a month and Cleo thought the situation of the house, on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River, was beautiful.  The Wilsonville area was blessed with deep snow many of the winters that the Fergus family lived there and the children have many happy memories of wrapping chains around their shoes to make tracks in the fields, and sledding down the hill towards the river.  As much fun as it was watching the children enjoy the winter wonderland, Cleo could not help but worry that they would slide themselves right into the river.

Couch Place - 1993 - cropped

This home replaced the original farmhouse that burned to the ground in 1953 after a lightning strike. Riverview Farm (Couche Place) – 1993

1993 - beautiful view of the Willamette River from the Couch Place.

1993 – beautiful view of the Willamette River from the Couche Place.

Couch Place - Wilsonville - 2015

2016 – Couche Place is now a million dollar horse farm.

 

Patton Place

photo taken by Fergie Fergus in 1978

2nd home built on the Patton Place. Photo taken by Fergie Fergus in 1978.

near present day 15195 Ribbon Ridge Rd. Newberg, Oregon

The Patton place originally consisted of an older two-story home with a big porch on the back, a garage, and a huge barn that was over 100 feet high.  The home itself was built at the intersection of two gravel roads.  One road came in at an angle and closely followed one of the two creeks that fed into the valley.  During years of excess rain or snow, the creeks would flood and change course, covering the roads.  Water would run past the house, flood the garage and back porch, and drain down into the old lake bottom used as farm land.  Boyd and Cleo Fergus always kept an eye on that lake bottom and how full it got.  Water never flooded the main part of the house because it was a good 6-8 inches higher than the garage and porch.  The kids loved it because they missed school when the bus couldn’t get through.  They never had to evacuate, but if they had needed to, safety was as close as the barn up the hill.

The Fergus children were very excited to move to the Patton place because it seemed like a mansion after their previous home, the drafty old Couche house in Wilsonville.  The children were too excited to sleep the night before the move and were up early in the morning on moving day.  Boyd and Cleo let them stay home from school and explore their new home and the Patton property.  After touring every inch of the place, they came home for hot chocolate.

For the Fergus teenagers life at the Patton place was full of hard work and responsibility; sometimes lonely work if they were driving a tractor.  The Patton place had 5 filbert (hazelnut) orchards, one of which was 99 acres, the largest in the world at that time, 3 cherry orchards, and 3 prune orchards.  The cherries and prunes were hand-picked.  The family also raised grain, mostly as feed for their own livestock.  They kept turkeys for a time, sheep, and then beef cows.  Boyd had worked with sheep in Utah, but found it a challenge in Oregon because of the wetter climate and dense vegetation in which predators could hide.  He kept 200-300 head of sheep at one time.  Later he switched to beef cattle which were easier.  The family raised most of their own food, cows for milk and meat, chickens, pigs, a large vegetable garden, and kept a berry patch.  Boyd was also a skilled horseman, just as his father was before him.  Some of the special horses he had at the Patton place were Pet and Prince, Rowdy, and Red.

 

Aerial view of George Packing Company, formerly the Patton Place.  Photo courtesy of the Yamhill County Assessor's Office.

Aerial view of George Packing Company, formerly the Patton Place. Photo courtesy of the Yamhill County Assessor’s Office.