Strawberry Place

Strawberry Place - 2015

11905 Dudley Rd. Newberg, Yamhill, Oregon

While living at the Patton place, Boyd and Cleo decided to invest in some property relatively close by.  They had always wanted a piece of property of their own; a place to go when they retired.  The farm was about 13 acres, 5 of which was planted in strawberries, hence the name.  The family raised pigs here and the land also had cherry trees.  Darwin and his wife Barbara lived here for a time shortly after they were married.  Everyone helped remodel the existing house for them.  Boyd and Cleo sold the land after owning it for six to eight years.  All that is left on the property is a cleared plot of land in the fork of 2 roads, (northwest side of both the drainage and the roads) near a cluster of fir trees.

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.”

William and Martha Fergus

William Maughan Fergus & Martha Elizabeth Peterson

married 11 April, 1910 in Logan, Cache, Utah

Wedding Day - 1910

Wedding Day – 1910

Martha Peterson and William Fergus met at a dance in Snowville, Box Elder, Utah.  William and his brother were homesteading in Holbrook, Idaho, at the time.  He was a pretty fancy fellow, a college graduate, and a good dancer, so naturally he attracted attention.  In this case, it was the attention of young Martha and her bishop.  Martha’s bishop warned her not to go steady with a “northern” boy, but Martha was bound and determined.  Holbrook, Idaho was north of Snowville, yet still in Curlew Stake.  William and Martha married on April 11, 1910, and continued to dance together for the rest of their lives, often winning prizes for their skill.

William Maughan Fergus

William Maughan Fergus

19 November 1879 – 21 November 1939

Willie - William Maughan Fergus Davidson - as an infant.

Willie – William Maughan Fergus Davidson – as an infant.

William Maughan Fergus was a very dapper man with two gold front teeth, the result of an accident with a mule.  He graduated from the Utah Agricultural College at Logan, Utah, in the field of veterinary medicine.  He was a good veterinarian but rarely practiced the profession.  He was also a great lover of horses.  Everyone always admired his horses; the way he cared for them and handled them.  One of Boyd’s earliest memories was of a team of white horses, owned by his father, that were always borrowed to pull the hearse in funeral processions.  Before taking the team out in public, William Maughan would scrub them with soap and water until they shined.

William Maughan loved change.  He tried many different jobs throughout his life, even working as a logger and sawmill man in the Pacific Northwest as a young man.  His stories and experiences made a big impression on Boyd, his firstborn son.  An impression that would later influence Boyd’s decision to move his own family to Oregon in the late 1930s.

Grandma Peterson’s Death

July 1, 1952

In the summer of 1952, Boyd’s mother Martha died.  The sad news came during milking time at the Couche Place and the loss was felt deeply, for Boyd had lost another parent, Cleo had lost another mother and the little children had lost the only grandmother they had ever known.  Grandma Peterson, as she was called, had lived with or near the little Fergus family for most of the children’s lives.  She even vacationed with them at the beach many times.  She was a very hard worker, responsible, and dependable; the one stable part of Boyd’s childhood.  The children particularly, remembered the times she would let her hair down and have fun with them wading in the surf at the beach.  It was a sad adjustment for the whole family.

 

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Windshaker or Earthquake?

One of the more frightening memories from living in the Couche place in Wilsonville, was the earthquake of 1949.  It happened April 13, at 11:56 a.m.  The epicenter was in Puget Sound, between Tacoma and Olympia, Washington, but its effects were felt throughout western Washington and Oregon.  Cleo was hanging clothes on the line outside the house, Boyd was in the field plowing, Dorothy was home sick from school, Monty and Gary were inside the house playing.  As soon as it began, Cleo yelled, “kids come outta that house now!”  Dorothy thought that her mother was banging on the outside walls of the house just to tease them.  Monty ran out through the kitchen and remembers watching the old wood shed and tall trees around the house swaying back and forth.  Boyd was in the field trying to figure out why the tractor wouldn’t stay down in the furrow.  When it all ended and all were safe, Boyd came in from the fields only to be asked by little Gary, “Daddy, did you hear that big windshaker?”

For more information about the 1949 earthquake click here.

Oregonian April 14, 1949

Oregonian April 14, 1949

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

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.

Work and Play – Couche Place #2