I was born in the little town of Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, April 8, 1897, the fifth child of Orson P. and Martha Diana Romney Brown. My father and mother were the first couple married in Colonia Juarez. My father made the first adobes to construct the ward house and school. With this meager start in Mexico, he soon became one of the best known sheep and cattle men in the colonies. Together with his partner, E. L. Taylor, they had thousands of sheep and cattle and shipped many thousands to the United States.
Colonia Juarez is one of the most beautiful little towns in all Mexico, nestled between mountains on either side and a river running through the center. It also was, and still is, the cultural center of the Mormon Colonies. The Juarez Stake Academy is a very fine school and many who had the privilege of attending this school have become doctors, scientists, bankers, industrialists, etc. in the United States.
My first recollections are not of my own home, but rather the home and daughter "Ruth" of one Ben and Hannah Croft. Their home was situated at the foot of the mountains to the east of the valley, which by the way is less than one mile wide. Our home was three blocks south. The canal which brings the water for the fine orchards and farms is brought from the river and threads its way along the foot of said mountain. Croft's home was right next to this beautiful stream of mountain water. I remember that Brother Croft had the finest garden and grape vineyard in all the valley. They also had a beautiful lawn which not too many people had. I remember he used to flood the lawn. There was also water running under the outside privy, or outhouse, and it was always very clean. It is here on the lawn that I first toddled with Ruth as a companion.
I should like to deviate for just a moment and tell you what happened to Ruth. She was a beautiful black-eyed girl, and I had a few dates with her when we were about 18 years old. She had had the rheumatic fever, and I recall carrying her one afternoon when we were with several couples in the foothills in El Paso, Texas. Ruth died a few years later from after effects of said disease. My wife Florence and I took her mother Hannah, who was my mother's best friend, for a ride in Salt Lake City years later. She told me that Ruth had written poetry about our escapades.
My mother had a very sorrowful life part of the time in Colonia Juarez, yet she also had much happiness part of the time. My eldest brother Orson, also my eldest sister Carrie died when but 18 months old, causing much grief for the rest of mother's life. However, she raised eight more children, and when she died, all were still living.
My mother being a Romney, we had many happy times with the different families of Miles P. Romney, my grandfather. I recall Aunt Catherine serving cake, strawberries, and cream, and after we had eaten the first serving, I was thinking, "Gee, I'd like a little more" when she said, "Everybody can have more," and we did that very thing. I also remember staying with Uncle Ed Eyring and Aunt Emma and Aunt Caroline. The thing I remember most was the dignity and quietness of their home.
I do remember one trip I had to Colonia Dublán where my grandfather Romney had moved. While there, Uncle Frank and I decided to explore the region across the river. We were about five years old, and after crossing the river, it started to rain real hard, and when we got back to the river it was a regular flood. Well, I suppose we shed a few tears, but after waiting about an hour a Mexican came along. The river had gone down a little, and he took us home in his wagon. Everybody was out looking for us.
My brother Ray attended school at the academy. While there he stayed with Uncle Junius Romney. I remember Ray had a room upstairs in this beautiful two-story brick home, and that is the first I remember talking with Uncle Junius and Aunt Gertrude. They are both still living, and I personally think they are one of the finest, if not the finest couple that it has been my experience to know.
In 1902 when I was five years old, my father was called to preside over the Colonia Morelos Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the State of Sonora. This was to be a financial setback for my father, but I am sure he would not have changed it one whit. On our way to Moreles we had to travel through a very mountainous country, and one thing that I have always remembered is the fact that my father drove his horses with wagon down what has been called "the squeeze." Well, it is solid limestone, and it was so steep and the wagon tipped so much that one of the rear wheels came right off the ground, but almost at once the front wheel on the opposite side hit a rise and swung it back. I have just recently returned to that spot and will say more about it later. Just before we got to Colonia Morelos traveling along a dusty road, the wagon hit a rock, and as I was on the back of the wagon, I was thrown off and nobody missed me for quite some time, and I was very glad then they returned and picked me up.
We lived in Colonia Morelos until about 1908, where I had many happy experiences and met many wonderful people, some of whom are still my very best friendsNewell Snarr, Ray Snarr, Arthur Gardiner, all the Huishes, and many others. I am sure the happiest time of all my life was in Colonia Morelos. I can see my father riding his large bay pacing horse, beautiful saddle, and he almost always wore corduroy trousers with heavy boots that laced up the front. To this day, I can't ever remember him in overalls. He would always greet all his children with a kiss even after they were adults. He always had a big smile and a word of cheer, and if he had been away from town, he always brought candy and gifts. Yes, we all loved him very much. However, he was stern and expected his children to mind him, and they did. Whether it was all for love or they had some fear, I don't know, but I do know I loved my father and mother very much. I'll give my reasons as I continue to reveal our life in Mexico.
Colonia Morelos was located at the confluence of the Vivispi and the Bata Peta Rivers 60 miles south of Douglas, Arizona, the Vivispi being a clear mountain stream draining from the high mountains to the east, while the Bata Peta was a muddy red river draining from the foothills and valleys to the north and only had running water about half the time, mostly during the rainy season.
As I remember, we had many forms of recreation such as bucking horses, horse races, bulldog roping, riding a horse with a lancer and picking the rings off the posts at about 50 yards apart. The rings were about three inches in diameter. I believe that one John Negle was the most apt at the latter game. We also had many picnics and band concerts, foot races, wrap the Maypole, baseball, and many other games. I was not much of an athlete, but I could run very fast for a skinny little fellow. Newell Snarr and I could run faster than anyone else in our group. We usually ended in a tie. I was a little older than he, but he was considerably taller than I was. We were not supposed to gamble in the colonies, but I remember Ralph Snarr had a gray horse and it was a holiday and he was as excited as anyone could be at a racetrack, and he rode back and forth calling for bets, and he did get some callers. I just can't remember if his horse won or not, but I can remember the race and how excited I was. At night we played "run sheepy run" and had many huge fires to play around. Of course I was too young to participate in most of the games mentioned above, but did indulge in the less dangerous ones.
Speaking of danger, I recall on one occasion that the church bells tolled and we all knew that trouble was at hand. The men got onto their horses and away they went across the Vivispi River, and we heard many shots and the men did not return for about an hour. The next day it was determined that it was a group of robbers, and several of their horses were killed, but as far as was known, none of the men were killed. Of course, it is possible that some were killed, but their companions picked them up.
On one occasion two young men from the United States who had been robbers and bad men rode to the foothills to the northeast of the colony, and one stayed as lookout. The other came into town and was in the grocery store buying groceries when one Brother Winn, who was a deputy, entered the north door and the young man reached for his gun, but Sheriff Winn shot him through the hip, and he tried to run, but just got to the east door when he fell. This young man had been talking to my brother Ray just before he was shot. We all felt rather bad. He was taken to the Casas Grandes jail where he died from infection.
My father was still in the cattle business and had two large ranches, the Las Vores and the Petache, or basket. I might mention here Geronimo the great Apache chief was captured or surrendered on the Basket Ranch.
One night to the southwest of Moreles they had about 1,000 head of cattle in a corral with large poles for the gate. They waned two boys to watch the cattle at night, and my brother Ray, who was about 16, was supposed to go, but my mother said no, and Evan Winn and Ben Eccles were chosen. About midnight the cattle stampeded, and Ben and Evan were playing cards beside a bonfire. The cattle came plunging through the fence pole gate and Evan was able to climb up on a cliff that was real close, but Ben was trampled to death. He is the first person I ever saw in a coffin, and poor boy, his face was completely bruised.
The principal crops raised around Moreles were grain60 bushels per acre, sugar cane, potatoes, alfalfa, most garden products, sweet potatoes, peanuts, some fruit, beans, etc.
One day when I was six or seven years old I took a large gray horse and got a chair and climbed on. I went for a ride alone, and it was in July and very hot. As I was riding along at a gallop, suddenly a bird called a roadrunner with a long beak and a long tail, brown, blue, and gray in color, ran across the road in front of my horse. These birds can run about 25 or 30 miles per hour and seldom fly. My frightened horse stopped instantly, and over his head I flew. He was so big and it was flat country. It was impossible for me to get astride of the horse again. Well as I said, it was very hot. It was sandy country and it almost burned my feet. There was no vegetation except a little weed called stinkweed. It was a weed about like an octopus lying very flat on the ground. I would run from one weed to another and put my feet under them. When I finally got home I had blisters on my feet.
A short time after this my father gave me a very beautiful black mare. She had caught her foot in a barbed wire fence and almost cut her foot off. Therefore, all she was good for was to breed. One day when I knew she was with foal and about ready to have a colt, I went up the Bata Peta River alone, and there I found the mare with a little colt about two days old. Now this is what made me love my father so muchwhen I brought the mare and colt back to the house, dad took one look at the colt and said, "Son, do you know that you have a race horse there?" "Look at his long legs." Well, all colts have long legs, but I didn't know it. He made me very happy.
As stated before, my father was bishop of the ward and was in charge of the whole community. They built a new ward house or church, and just before it was completed, I thought the floor was real pretty, so I decided to see how far I could run and slide on it. Well, as usual I was barefoot, and as I slid I ran slivers from the pine floor clear through my big toe. To show how primitive things were down in Mexico, Brother Snarr, one of my dad's counselors in the ward, took a pair of pinchers that they used shoeing horses and pulled the slivers out, and put cryslic, a medicine they used on cattle to keep them from getting worse on the wound, and it healed perfectly.
About that time my dad took me to the Juana Mine which he owned. It was about 25 miles south of Colonia Morelos, near the El Tigre Mine which was a very large silver mine. While there it rained every day, but the showers only lasted a few minutes. Then the air was wonderful.
We had a very small mule named Pia also. He weighed about 400 pounds and was about five hands high (four feet). We had a packsaddle on which we placed two five-gallon cans and would go down a long trail to get water. On the opposite side of the canyon was a large cave similar to the Carlsbad Caves in New Mexico. It had a very small entrance, but once you were inside of it, it had very large rooms and the crystal formations were beautiful to behold. In one room you could see right through the ceiling and the light was a wonder to see. It was while at the mine that my father taught me to offer thanks on the food. Soon after this I was baptized in the Vivispi River near Colonia Morelos.
As kids usually do I had a few fights, and as I recall won most of the time, but lost a good one when in Arizona in my teens. I will recount the details later.
By this time in my life my father had four wives. He was a polygamist. As I remember, we all got along rather well together. Dad's third wife contracted typhoid fever. I too got the disease as well as my brother Clyde. While I was ill, Aunt Bessie died and the entire colony mourned her death--everybody loved her very much.
Soon after this dad took four or five of us children to the Las Varas Ranch for a vacation. While there we children decided to take a hike. The hills were rather rugged, and after going over a ridge we decided to return via a deep canyon, and to our amazement we came upon a large cave. We went to the mouth and heard a sort of shuffling noise. We were frightened and ran back to the ranch house. All excited, we told dad, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Miles, I want you to go back to the cave and see what all the racket was," two miles distant. Well, he gave me a rasp that you use to shoe horses with, a candle, and a box of matches. He said, "Go to the mouth of the cave, light the candle, and go in and place the rasp on the back wall." Strange as it may seem, all fear left me because I knew that my father would not send me where there was danger.
When I entered the cave I looked up at the ceiling and there were hundreds of black bats getting ready to go out after dark. When I returned to the ranch house, dad said to my half-sister Mattie, "You go up and get the rasp, and Miles, you go with her." So as you see, dad sat in his rocking chair had taught us a wonderful lesson, that he would not send us where there was danger. He knew it was the bats that made the noise.
I remember my mother as being a very fine hostess. We had many church authorities stay at our home, President Ivins, Apostle Teasdale, President Heber J. Grant, and many others. My mother was a very proud woman and she always served very good food. How well I remember the large platter that was about 14 inches long heaped up with beautifully cooked eggs and bacon.
Mothermama as we called herloved her children very, very much, and I am sure would have died for any one of them. She had no favorites. When I was a small boy I had long black curls and she dressed me in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. That was when we lived in Colonia Juarez and mama had an abundance of material goods. Mama quite often would get a stick and come after us to give us a spanking, but we always managed to outrun her. I am sure she wanted it that way. We had many electrical storms and mother would always cover the stove with quilts to keep the lightning from striking the house. We also had earthquakes in Mexico, and she would get us all out of the house and have us lie on the ground. I am sure this was a very good idea.
My father was finally released from Bishop of the Colonia Morelos Ward, and we moved to Colonia Dublán. New Colonia Dublán was situated in a large valley 18 miles from Colonia Juarez, and like Colonia Juarez, had many beautiful two- and three-story brick houses. Many are still in use. We had telephones, electric lights, and in general the town was way ahead of towns in the U.S.A. with a like population.
Moving from Colonia Morelos to Colonia Dublán was another highlight in my remembrances of my father. We camped in the Pulpit Canyon one night. It was a very deep canyon and there are many wild animals there. We burned a campfire all night. I remember dad cooked stew and used jerky or dried beef. Oh, how savory it was, or seemed to a hungry boy. When we came to the Penuelus Flats we stayed another night and we had to gather buffalo chips, cow manure, for fire fuel. The next morning dad got all the people to line up their wagons. There were many going over to general conferences in Colonia Juarez. Well, it being a very flat, smooth plane, we had a race. All of the wagons had four horses. We had two black spirited horses and two very fine mules. Just before we got to the finish line, one of the mules fell, and I thought it rather mean of dad to continue, but we won the race. Dad was quite the sport. Well, as I see it now, the harness practically carried the mule, and he wasn't hurt at all.
A short time after we arrived in Colonia Dublán, my father got a contract to help dig the large canal to divert the water from the river to the reservoirs east of Dublán. One day while Ray, Clyde, Dewey, Ronald my half-brother, and I were out by the canal roasting calves' testicles, Rocky Mountain oysters (which by the way are very good to eat), Ronald and I got into a fight. I am about 11 months older than Ronald, but somehow he got me flat on my back and took his long fingernails and just scraped the skin right off my face. I suppose my older brothers thought that because I was older than Ronald I should be able to get up, but I couldn't.
About a year later, Clyde, Ronald, and I were at the Las Varas Ranch. Clyde had gone with the men looking after the cattle. Ronald and I got into another fight. Now the ranch is 75 miles from Colonia Dublán. Well, this time I got the best of the fight, and then I did something that might have made me a very sad man the rest of my life. Now Ronald was a very fearless lad, and I took him to the ranch house and just wanted to frighten him, so I got the .38 Colt revolver from the mantle and thought I had removed all of the bullets, but I had left one in the cylinder. I said, "I am going to shoot you now," and Ronald just sat there. I aimed very slowly at his head and snapped the trigger. I said, "Well, it didn't go off that time, but I'll get you this time," and very slowly aimed at his head again and snapped the trigger. By this time I thought he knew it was not loaded, so I just brought the gun down and pulled the trigger again, and bang! Well, I didn't aim the last time, so the bullet went through his arm. The blood shot out of his arm in a large stream.
Well, I ran outside and an old piece of canvas was there. I tore three pieces off of it. One piece was about eight inches wide and two or three inches wide. I tied the wide one on his arm and tied the end very tight. I thought it would fill, then it would stop bleeding. Of course what saved his life was the fact that I had the one on the upper part of his arm so tight that it stopped the blood.
I placed Ronald on the bed and said, "Don't move until I return." Then I went running over the mountain range looking for the cowboys and Clyde. I ran three miles calling, "Help," "Murder," and anything that came to my mind, but found no one. I started back more scared than I was at first. Well as usual I was barefoot and broke my little toe, but I just kept running.
Ronald had done just as I told him to. He just lay there and hadn't even shed a tear. At that time I was a very good shot with a pistol. I'll relate stories later that will confirm this. I might add here that my wife and I visited this ranch in February of this year and I visited the cave also. It was two miles to the cave and three miles I ran when I shot Ronald, one way. My brother Clyde and the cowboys returned to the ranch about 5:30 p.m. They had killed a wild pig and had him strapped on the saddle of one of the horses. Of course I was a very frightened lad. Louise Lopez, who was our foreman at the ranch, hooked up a team of horses to the covered wagon and we started for Colonia Dublán. We traveled all night, arriving the next day about 4:30 p.m. Ronald was taken to the doctor in Casas Grandes and the wound healed in a short time. We saw Ronald about a year ago and we had a nice visit.
I attended school three years in Colonia Dublán. Then I came down with rheumatic fever and was in bed for eight months. I couldn't walk and my ankles and wrists were swollen very much. They had to turn me in sheets. I was sore all over. My dear mother took very good care of me, and she gave me much needed love and understanding.
My father was over in Sonora and had me join with Clyde and three cowboys to take about 10 mares from Colonia Juarez to the Petache or Basket Ranch in Sonora. I couldn't get on my horse. They had to lift me on. As we left Colonia Juarez coming up the winding dug way, the big bay pacer horse I mentioned before as being my father's favorite saddle horse broke out from the rest of the horses and ran down the grade with Brother Brigham Stele in hot pursuit. As they rounded the last curve, Brother Stele lassoed the big horse with his rope, and the horse he was riding was no match for the big bay. Well, it threw the horse Brother Stele was riding, breaking Brother Stele's leg so that it made it impossible for him to go with us.
While we were crossing the Penuelas Flats about two days later, my brother Clyde got into an argument with one Lem Spilsbury, one of the cowboys, and Clyde told me many years later that I said to him, "Shoot the no good so and so." This is no doubt right, but it is one incident that I just don't remember. Upon arriving at the ranch my father was not there and did not show up for three weeks, and he said, "Son, you are so much improved, I think we will just stay here and not go to the warm springs." Well, this is the reason I love those old mountains of Sonora. I stayed there for about four months, and I haven't had an ache or pain from that day to this, and that was 52 years ago.
We had a wonderful time that summer at the ranch. My dad's second wife was there together with all her children plus myself. We had camped in tents as I had done many times in my life, and oh how I loved to hear the raindrops hit the tent. I am reminded of it today, December 2, 1961, as my wife Florence and I sit here in our house trailer and it is raining really hard. The raindrops are hitting the metal roof. After living in the big tent for about three months, we moved into the cave across the canyon and had not lived there long when about midnight one night a skunk came into the cave and bit my sister Mattie. What excitement! The next day they had to take her to the U.S. for treatment against rabies.
I roamed the hills and swam in the crystal clear water of the canyon. As I was about to go home, my father roped a steer and had him on the end of a rope circling his horse when he said, "Miles, get the gun," which I did, and started to hand it to one Brother Goadnum, who was foreman of the ranch at that time. Dad called out in a rough voice and said, "Shoot him yourself. Never hand a gun to another man." I took one shot and hit the steer right in the forehead, killing him instantly, proving as I mentioned before that I was a good shot at the time. At the time I shot my brother Ronald in the arm, had the pistol gone off either of the first two times I snapped the trigger, I would have killed him dead. Now I am reminded that my father never mentioned that affair to me so long as he lived. He knew that I had suffered enough. He sent me an automatic shotgun a couple of years later while I was in Arizona. I will say more about that later.
After being at the ranch for about four months, I was to go home to Colonia Dublán with Jodymans. My father brought a large workhorse to me and said, "Miles, this is your horse in payment of old Bess the black mare and colt we left in Colonia Morelos." Now when my dad gave you something, it was yours, and you didn't have to consult anyone if you wanted to trade. Well I did that very thing, and soon after I arrived in Colonia Dublán I traded the old workhorse to one Brother Ammon Tenney for a little mare. I wanted my horse to have a family. Well, in due time that mare did have a colt, and when we left Colonia Dublán during the Mexican Revolution in 1912, I left my mare and colt behind again.
I returned to school again, and with the help of my dear teacher, Mrs. Cordon, I passed the fourth and fifth grades in one year, then through the sixth grade the following year. I failed to mention that while on the ranch in 1910 the Madera Revolution broke out and my brother Clyde and I were on the Basket Ranch. We were helping the workman put up a fence. We returned to the ranch house about 5:00 p.m., and Mrs. Lopez, the foreman's wife, told us the soldiers had been there and had taken some of our horses. Inasmuch as we were Americans, we thought we could get our horses back. Clyde told Louise Lopez to go and find the army headquarters and try to get our horses. However, Mr. Lopez said, "Nothing doing. If I go down they will take me along with them."
Clyde and I had our supper and started out to the Cuche Verchi Ranch some 15 miles distant, where we thought they would be camped under the command of General Blanco. We heard that they were approaching that area in Sonora. It was dark a few miles from our ranch, and we had to feel our way on horseback. We had arrived at a point about two miles from the Cuche Verchi Ranch riding up a deep canyon. It was very dark and was about 10:30 p.m. We sort of heard a rustle in the leaves when all of a sudden, about 50 men shouted, "Ken vivi?""Who is it?" and without hesitation my brother Clyde yelled, "Americanos, Americans." They had lanterns covered, and upon knowing we were Americans they uncovered them, and there from behind large trees were about 50 guns pointed at us. It all happened so fast, I didn't have time to be frightened. They said, "What do you want?" We said we wanted to see General Blanco about getting our horses. Well, they sent two of their men with us and we continued to the ranch house. We talked to General Blanco. He was very nice to us. You see, Clyde was 16 and I was only 13 years old. General Blanco said, "Where is your bill of sale for the horses?" We said we would have to go to Douglas, Arizona to get them from our father. He said, "Oh no, you can't do that." We didn't know why, but they attacked the town just south of the Mexican border three days later. Then we knew why. He didn't want to reveal his whereabouts. He said, "You boys sleep here tonight, and tomorrow morning we will see how many of your horses we have." The next morning they drove the horses in the large corral and they had 11 of our horses. Blanco released them to us, and we drove them back to our ranch.
We returned to Colonia Dublán a short time after that. The next spring I had my first garden. I don't remember all of the vegetables I raised, but I do remember part were beans. I attended the sixth grade in Dublán the following winter. We had just a normal small town life in Dublán. I remember we always gathered around the organ and sang hymns, then my father would have us all kneel down around the table and we would have prayer. On one occasion I had been talking to one of the other children, probably Dewey, and my dad just reached over and tapped me on top of the head. He did not hit me hard, but I just crumpled up and I suppose fainted.
I said earlier that my mother didn't have any favorites in her family. Well, my dad did have. I am sure that Ray was his favorite son, and Vera was his favorite daughter. He had Vera play the organ, and I am sure he wanted her to go far in the field. However, too many changes were made in the next few years for her to have an opportunity to take music lessons.
In August of 1912 one General Salazar came to the colonies and demanded that we give up our guns and ammunition for use in the revolution. The church authorities told us not to resist, so we gave up our guns, and about four or five days later were aboard a passenger and freight train combined headed for El Paso. I rode on top of a freight car part of the way. My Uncle Vernon Romney was with me. The train traveled very slow. Upon arriving in El Paso we were all taken to a large hall, where we slept on the floor. Some of the people stayed there and other similar places, but we went to the Pearson Hotel where my dad always stopped while in El Paso. We stayed there for about two weeks, then we went to Thatcher, Arizona. We all thought we would return home in a few weeks, but that never happened, and to this day only a handful of the original families have returned.
I went to school, the seventh grade, in Thatcher and I also had considerable fun. I had one fight in which I lost. One morning when we were hunting rabbits I had my automatic shotgun dad had sent to me. One Elmer Fenn, a redheaded boy and I got into a quarrel and started to fight. I hadn't had any breakfast. He took a punch at me. Not at my face, but square in the stomach, and I had had it. I turned deathly sick and all the fight was knocked out of me. As usually happens, we soon became good friends again.
I must return to Sonora Mexico again for a short time. In 1911 my brother Ray was a very likeable young man. He was always singing, and I learned many Spanish songs from him. He could ride the wildest horse and fan him with his cowboy hat. On one occasion dad got a bronco and had Ray ride him. Then Clyde was to ride him, and after the horse was about exhausted, dad had me ride him.
On the range when a calf is one year or older and is grazing on your ranch, you can put your brand on him and he becomes your property. Mexican law at that time was such. One summer, Ray, Clyde and myself rounded up and branded 60 calves. Ray and Clyde roped them, and on one occasion we got four head. Ray and Clyde each roped one, and I held both calves with my horse and then they lassoed another. We branded them all.
After leaving Mexico we lived in Thatcher one winter and I attended the seventh grade until just before school let out for the summer. Then I started what proved to be a move about every six months. We first moved to Dexter, New Mexico, and we had two farms, one an apple orchard with many varieties of apples, and an artesian well with a large pool where we went in bathing and shot ducks and mud hens. The other ranch had alfalfa, grains, etc. Well, dad had traded some of his Mexican property for it, but something went wrong and that fall we moved to Provo, Utah. When we came down Spanish Fork Canyon on the D. & R. G. Railroad, there was about two feet of snow on the ground and the mountains were the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. My father said, "Miles, you and Dewey can work and Ray and Clyde and the smaller children can go to school." So Dewey and I worked all winter at the Knight Woolen Mills running a loom weaving blankets and other material.
To prove to you that Ray was the apple of dad's eye, he stopped me on the street one morning and said to me, "Son, do you know that your brother is the finest looking man in town?" Well, I don't think I'd say that to one of my children; however, I agreed with him as I loved Ray very much and I didn't love dad any less for saying that. Clyde was married while we were in Provo to one of the girls that worked in the woolen mills. Her name was Mabel Ellis. I have liked Mabel all these years.
In the spring we moved to Richmond, Utah, where dad had bargained to buy another farm and dairy. We stayed there for the summer and then something went wrong, and we moved to Rupert, Idaho where dad traded invoiced merchandise which was invoiced that called for $1,000-worth of groceries, but you had to pay $500 cash on each invoice. Dad traded the invoices for the down payment on two farms, one coal company, and two houses in town. We were so involved and my older brothers were such poor farmers and businessmen that we finally lost everything.
In the meantime however, I started to school in the eighth grade, and because I was so old and was quite efficient, the teacher put two extra bright young men in a class, and we passed the eighth grade in six weeks. The other boys were about 14 years old, and I was 17. You see I had missed school several times.
I started high school and had gone about half a year when my mother got a letter from dad saying that I was to come to Miami, Arizona. I packed up my belongings and started by train for Miami. You see I had been a rather bad boy and my mother had written my father, and I believe dad thought I could get a job and would send money home to mother. When I got to Arizona it was raining very hard, and I had to take a taxi from Globe to Miami because the train could not get through. It was midnight when I got to my dad's hotel. I went to bed with him, and mind you, I was just 17 years old, and he said to me, "Son, tomorrow morning I am going to give you $5.00, and you will be on your own." The tears rolled down my cheeks and I cried silently for about 15 minutes. Then I made one of the few resolutions I have ever made in my life. I said to myself, "I'll never cry again so long as I live," and haven't cried but a very few times.
That was the beginning of my life so far as getting work was concerned. From that day 53 years ago until now I have not been out of work more than three months. I went into the first café I came to, which was by the way a large one, and asked to see the manager. I told him I wanted a meal ticket and that I'd pay him as soon as I got my first payday. I didn't have a job, but thought I'd get one right away. I got a job that very morning from one Johnny Hoopes who had a contract to excavate the property to build the powerhouse for the City of Miami. I was a teamster skinning mules. I worked there for about two months and then got a job from one Seaman Merrill who was the manager for the Miami Dairy. The first three weeks I had a route with team and wagon. Then I got a Ford pickup and delivered both wholesale and retail.
In 1917 I went to Pocatello and got a job from the Union Pacific Railroad and went to Rupert, Idaho and moved my mother and children to Pocatello. I was their sole support, save my sister Vera worked in a candy factory and helped what she could. After about six months the war was on and I listened to the bands play, and my brother Dewey who had been in the army about two years wrote a letter and said, "Enlist today. Don't let it be said that a Brown had to be drafted."
I enlisted and soon was in San Antonio, Texas, and my brother Ray was at camp Travis and I was at Camp John Wise only about four miles apart. We had several good visits when one day I found that he had departed for parts unknown (overseas). While Ray was in Camp Mills, New York prior to going overseas, Dewey was also there and learned that Ray was also there, so he looked him up and they had several visits before sailing for Europe. Ray fought on five fronts and was gassed just before the war ended. Dewey and Clyde also saw each other in Fort Worden, Washington, so as you can see, we were very fortunate.
While in Camp John Wise our company commander had the entire company line up and said, "I want six cooks. Step one step forward." No one moved, and he blurted out that he wanted six men who could boil water without burning it. Well, inasmuch as I had very sore feet and was flatfooted, I thought that would be a very good place for me, and thus I became a cook.
One night while I was downtown on leave it started to rain really hard, so I stayed away from camp all night, and the next morning, rather than put me in the guard house, the company commander transferred me to the 36th Balloon Company, and soon the 37th Balloon Company was sent overseas. That was the company I had been in. The 36th was soon sent to Arcadia, California, and there I cooked until the end of the war.
While in the army in California, like most boys I had dates with several girls, and when I was discharged I thought I was in love with one Fannie Tugwell, so I took $54 of my $120 and bought her a small diamond. She wanted to get married right away, but I said, "No, not until I could save a little moneyabout six months." Well, to make a long story short, I have never seen Fannie or the ring since.
On arriving in Salt Lake City I dated Phosia Humphries, a girl I had met and courted once while in high school in Rupert, Idaho. After about seven or eight months I bought her a diamond and paid $100 for it, and went from Pocatello to Rupert to present it to her. She had already promised to marry me. I showed her the ring, and she said, "Oh, isn't it tiny?" I questioned her, and she said, "I didn't mean the stone, but the mounting." Anyway, I just put the ring in my pocket, and she didn't know that I had bought it for an engagement ring and didn't know it until about a year ago when I saw her in Salt Lake City.
When I was young I was a very independent lad, and if anyone crossed me in the slightest way I would tell them to make up my timethat is, the places where I worked. I worked in the planning mill for the railroad and the foreman got all excited and started throwing things around, and I said to Mr. Hopkins, "Make out my time; I don't have to take this treatment." Of course, these other men are buying homes and have their families to support, but I don't have either. "Just make out my time right now." That was in the early spring of 1921.
I moved to Salt Lake City where my Uncle Junius Romney lived, and he had me paint his house. It is a large house, and I put two coats of paint over the complete house. Then Uncle Junius got the general manager and the secretary of the Beneficial Life Insurance Company to let me paint their houses, and I did a very good job on them, and while Uncle Junius did it to help me; however, I want to say that he saved a lot of money by having me paint his house rather than have a painter do it, and it is my understanding that his house was not painted for 14 years after that. Now Uncle Junius, I think you will possibly read this because you are the one that asked me to write my memoirs.
My mother had moved to Salt Lake with her small children, Tony, Phoebe, and Orson, and it seems all we older boys about forgot our dear old mother, and Tony and Orson sold newspapers on the street, and for about five or six years about all the support she and the children had was the money these two boys made. Now during these hard times Uncle Junius was my mother's best friend, and did more to help her than anyone else in the world. Uncle Gaskel was also good to mother.
After I had painted the house, I went to the Salt Lake Transportation Company, met the manager, Lawrence Mariger, and asked for a job. He said he didn't have anything then. However, I said I needed a job and I wanted to work for him. We talked a short time, and he said I could drive a yellow cab for him. They had just started yellow cabs in Salt Lake, and they had four old white cabs. Of course they had had cabs in Salt Lake City for a long timePackards, Cadillacs, Studebakers, Nashes, and other kinds of taxis.
The word Studebaker brings to mind a rather humorous remembrance to me. Ammon Tenney in Mexico, the fellow that I traded my big workhorse to for the little mare, had a brand new Studebaker wagon and drove two stallions hooked to the wagon. Well, I couldn't read very well. I think I was about 10 years old, and I thought it said on the side of the wagon, "Stud Breakers." Well, I thought brother Tenney had quite the outfit. I hope the above will not embarrass anyone.
I drove yellow cab for about a week when Tom Sims noticed that I had a loud voice, so he got Mr. Mariger to out me on the hotel bus where I would call out the names of the different hotels that we served. This was at the depot as passengers emerged from the station.
I was rooming with Del Peirce at the Temple View Hotel, and the landlady, Mrs. Seward, decided to have a dance for the guests in the recreation hall. She invited Del and I to attend. We did, and she had invited one of her friend's daughters and her girlfriend to attend. Del and I met them, and when the dance was over I asked Miss Helen Anderson if I could accompany her home, and she said yes. Helen was a rather large girl for her age. She was only 16 years old at the time, but I thought she was about 20 years old. About three months later we were uptown and I said, "Let's get married," and she said, "Okay." She was rather wild, and I too was no angel, so I thought I was worthy of her. We went to the courthouse and were married. She told the man who married us that she was 19, and I had no reason to doubt it. Three days later her mother came to the Hotel Utah and asked me if we were really married, and I said, "Sure." She said, "She is only 16." However, she was soon to have a birthday, making her 17.
This all sounds very boastful, even to me, but I have been able to evaluate property almost instantly and have bought property in this manner. I bought the store and home at 1448-1450 South Fourth East, Salt Lake City, Utah by just striking matches in the dark. I went out front and said, "I'll take it." We owned it one and a half years and sold it for a nice profit. In 1946 we went to the store and apartments on 10th Avenue across from the Ensign School. A fellow by the name of Spillsbury had the place, and again the store part was closed. I asked to see the basement. We entered from the outside directly to the basement. I saw that the foundation was good and the building looked very good on the outside. I asked what the house contained. He told me five small apartments and told me how much they rented for. I quickly considered what we could do with the store, and without ever entering the house or store I told him I would give him a certain amount and would give him a check for $5,000 right then. He accepted. We went into the first apartment and I made out the check. We then looked through the rest of the building. My wife Florence was sitting across the street, and before I went into the first apartment to do the check I went over to her and told her I had just bought the apartment and store building. We sold the property in 1947 for a nice profit. I worked for Harry E. Miles at the Hotel Miles for three and a half years as a clerk from June 1957 to October 1960. That about tells the story of my jobs. Of course, I worked many other places for six months or less.
My boasting is over now, and I want to go back to 1942 when I closed the store. I went down to Chihuahua Mexico to see my brothers Ray, Clyde, Dewey. Ray had a mine and had made Clyde and Dewey partners. They were making money very fast which was nothing new for Ray, but Clyde and Dewey were most anxious to get ahead, and in so doing were a little cross with one another. Poor fellows, they are all dead now and I miss them very much. The four of us were real pals when we were growing up. Ray died in 1945, Clyde in 1948, and Dewey went over into Sonora and was very successful owning a large company selling tractors and farm equipment. He died on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1954. Orson and I went down to Tucson when he was sick. We arrived there November 24, 1954 to find Dewey in a coma. He had been in this condition for about 30 hours when we arrived. He was breathing very hard, and he just slipped away about 9:00 p.m. on November 25. I had lost my very best friend and brother. Dewey and I corresponded our entire adult lives, and I am sure we had many things in common that no one knew about except we two.
Returning from the funeral I made a resolution that I would attend church for one year. After six months, Bishop Gunderson called me into his office and told me they wanted to ordain me an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I had always said I didn't want any further advancement in the priesthood because I didn't think myself worthy. However, it touched me to the bone when the bishop said this, and I cried openly and said if he thought I was worthy, I'd be glad to be ordained. My wife and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple about four months later on November 30, 1955. I am now a high priest and have lived a very clean life, and I am happy that I have been able to abstain from many things that I was doing before Dewey died.
We have done quite a lot of traveling as a family. We had a number of trips to California, Arizona, and Mexico and Canada. Before Shirley was married our most important trip was to New York City just before Shirley was married. In early 1950 I decided to take the family to New York. My wife said it would cost too much. She said $2,000. I did a little figuring and told her we could go for $500 for the expense of the trip and motels only. On May 25 we started for New York.
James seemed to be sick, but we thought it just a severe headache, so we continued to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We got a motel and stopped for the night. James had a terrific fever and was delirious. He didn't know any of us and was very sick. We did everything we knew for him, and by morning he seemed better, so we traveled on until about 5:00 p.m. when we reached Grand Island, Nebraska. Jim seemed to be getting a high fever again, so we got a motel, and I said this is as far as we are going until he gets better. The next morning about 4:30 a.m. he was very sick. He had a burning fever and was delirious again and seemed to be dying. After we had done what we could for him, it was obvious that something had to be done quick Although at the time I was only a teacher in the priesthood and couldn't administer to him, I prayed to the Lord and asked him by the power of the priesthood I held to cast out the fever from his body and make him whole. By 8 o'clock that morning his fever was completely gone. We were all very thankful to the Lord. Of course, he was weak. We found out that he had the mumps. Now as far as I am concerned, Jim might have died had it not been for that prayer.
We stayed one more night, then proceeded on our journey, stopping in Chicago, Niagara Falls, and then to Palmyra, New York, where the Hill Cumorah is located. We first went to the Bureau of Information and met Brother Ball. We had our picture taken with Brother and Sister Ball, then went up to the Hill Cumorah.
Now we all had been very humble and I am sure had thanked our Heavenly Father on many occasions for Jim's recovery. Florence and the children stopped at the Angel Moroni statue. I continued down the path about 200 yards, and there on the west slope was a sign that said, "Approximate spot where the plates were found." Now I hadn't always lived my religion, but I had always had great faith that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was true, and to me there was no question in my mind but that the plates were really found at that spot. I started to pray to the Lord for having the privilege of being at that sacred spot under the conditions that we were there. Our son had been healed and made whole. I bear witness that a very strange and wonderful feeling came over me, and so I continued to pray. I feel that I would have fallen to the ground if my family had not come walking toward me, and I cut my prayer short. After they arrived, we all heard the most beautiful music we had ever heard, and we thought it was emanating from the hillside, although it sounded many miles away and was very soft. Now we have spoken to many people and none have ever heard music at that place, and Brother Wood said it could have been "heavenly music," so we still don't know.
Shirley was soon to be married and Barbara was soon to graduate from high school and Colleen also was attending the Granite High School. Jim was a skinny little fellow and I carried him in several places on account of his having the mumps. However, when we got to New York, he climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty and otherwise seemed completely healed. We had come to New York via the Great Lakes, and on return trip went to Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, and Denver. We had a wonderful trip, but the kids coined one phrase, "All dad wants to see is the lay of the land and the main drag." Well kids, my main purpose in traveling with you was that I always thought it helped you with your education, and I am sure now that you are all grown that you will agree with me. The trip cost us a little less than $500. The gas and oil were $95. I had figured $100close, eh? Florence and I have continued traveling a lot here in the United States.
In 1955 we bought a house trailer and spent a month in Los Angeles, then to Phoenix, El Paso, New Orleans, St. Petersburg, and Miami, Florida, then up the east coast to Jacksonville and home. The next year we took a month's vacation in California and Arizona. Last year we were in Los Angeles, Phoenix, El Paso, and also 17 days in Old Mexico. We saw the old Indian ruins at Casas Grandes, and by the way, they are only 10 miles from where I was born in Colonia Juarez. We saw many old friends and were elated to see that both Colonia Juarez and Colonia Dublán are in a sort of a boom stage. As I said before, many of the beautiful brick homes that were built from 1904 to 1911 are still in use and are very comfortable. They have a lot more ground under cultivation now than ever before and are putting large pumps out on what was a prairie. They are raising cotton, grain, and alfalfa.
In writing what I have about my father, it may appear to some that I have sort of put him upon a pedestal. However, I know that he made many, many mistakes and was far from a perfect man. However, as a father he was most understanding and I am sure loved all of his 31 children very much. You see his father died when he was a babe in arms and he had a stepfather for awhile, but most of his life he had no father. In 1930 I told dad that in spite of his faults, I loved him very much and that I personally forgave him of all he had done wrong, and felt that had I been in his shoes, I would have done worse. He said to me, "Son, you are the most tolerant man I have ever known." If there is anything in my makeup that will help me in the hereafter, I think it will be that I can forgive my fellow man. I have never been perfect and therefore I have sympathy for those who make mistakes. I believe that I have one talent, and that is being able to see the good in most people.
I have cashed checks in 17 locations over a period of 35 years and never lost a penny. That includes all the checks in four stores, and I owned two of the stores twice. Also, I have only lost in charges about $350 to $500 over a period of 20 years in business. Now I have put down at least $100 more than I have lost, but I'd rather say more than less. Also, my wife has worked with me most of the time, so she is included in this good fortune.
One Mrs. Steel bought a small store from me at 170 East 800 South, Salt Lake City, and her son-in-law finally bought the store and built a new building and has a hobby shop there now. Mrs. Steel only ran the store two and one-half years, about the same amount of time as we did, and she lost over $1,500 in credit and had a whole handful of checks she couldn't cash. Now I feel very bad for Mrs. Steel, but she was just too careless to be in business. I probably shouldn't have written what I did about Mrs. Steel, but it does show that all of our good fortune was not just luck, but that it was sound business practices.
Florence and I are now in California for the winter, and I want to say that we as a family have been greatly blessed and all of our children are happily married. I have said many times, and I repeat it now that each have found the right person for themselves. Now you couldn't mix them up one bit and get the same results. Shirley married Don Hadley, a wonderful boyOh no, not perfect, but the one man in the world for Shirley. Barbara married Edward Silver. Ed is altogether different than Don, but I am sure is a far better choice for Barbara. Again, he isn't perfect, but who is? Then comes Colleen. She married Bill Burt, a slow, easygoing fellow, but a jewel as a husband. Again, he is far from perfect, and as the others there have been some moments when all was not well. Then there is that little skinny fellownow fatthat I have mentioned before, James. He had the good fortune to fall in love with Joyce Walker, and Joyce, I am sure, is the very best girl in all the world for Jim, and I predict that there will not be any divorces among any of them and that they will all have a fine family of their own. Shirley now has three, Barbara one, and one on the way. Colleen now has three and one on the way. Jim and Joyce now have one and one on the way, so Zion is really growing and I hope that all of these children will be brought up with much reverence for the Lord.
There is much more that could be written, but I am sure it will be rather difficult to find anyone who would enjoy more about a fellow who has accomplished so little in life. Yesterday, December 20, 1961, Florence and I together with John and Margaret Davis whom we have known for 30 years went up to San Fernando, Moore Park, Filmore, Santa Paula, and Ventura, taking three and one-half hours going up, returning on the freeway in one hour. California has the most beautiful roads and freeways in the world. Traffic moves so fast that you cannot stand and count all the cars that pass in one direction.