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Children of John Walker
Solomon Walker.... A Tiller of the Soil
By Jennie Walker Halliday
He was a man of the soil and for such an enterprise as farming he possessed an interesting list of qualifications. A mere glimpse of the man would tell that his tall, straight, well muscled frame was above the average man's physique. It was crowned by a well proportioned head, clear cut features and dark hair, which in later years turned a salt and pepper accompanied by a small bald spot. Strength beamed from his entire being. Solomon Walker liked to follow the plow and feel the new turned soil soften beneath his feet, or smell the new mown hay carried by the summer breeze. All of this held a certain charm for him. Bending nature to his will or helping its natural process along gave him great satis- faction. "The Tiller of the soil is the backbone of the country," was his strong convictions.
Life itself was full of fascination and each day found him eager to begin his labors. This vigorous, energetic man always said, "Tis the early bird who catches the worm." His greatest pleasure and satisfaction came from work. His intolerance of people who were not of the same opinion was very noticeable. He could not understand the "pleasure seeking world" in which he existed the last few years of his life.
This man's academic training came from the "University of Hard Knocks. His actual class room recitation covered a period of six months. Yet through his own efforts he became a fairly good reader and an excellent mathematician. He found enjoyment in reading history, church works, some of the lighter plays of the day and especially the newspaper. This he read from cover to cover.
Pleasure as we know it today was unknown to this lad and man. He was at- tracted by the rod and gun but seldom took time out, for the use of either. Time was too valuable when there was work to be done. He said that his conservative nature was acquired from his Scotch ancestors, and often "Sol Walker" became the Scotchman of his friend's jokes. But the kind of man he became was due more to his childhood environment than his Scotch ancestors.
He was born at Winter Quarters, Iowa, November 20, 1848. His journey across the plains is the first happening in his life he can recall. He was only a child of four when his mother made preparation to travel to Salt Lake City to his father. All their worldly possessions were placed in a small wagon, and they joined the wagon caravan in the summer of 1852. Bare footed, this small boy walked most of the way to Salt Lake City. When the sun soaked ground blistered his feet he would tie them up in rags or buckskin. One evening they made camp early. The Walker wagon was farthest from the stream. Solomon's job was to keep his mother supplied with water. As he started for the stream with his pail, his feet became so hot he could not stand it. He jumped into the bucket to let them cool. On the return trip, he dumped the ground with water from the pail, to stand on until he could go on.
On reaching Salt Lake Mrs. Walker found that her husband had taken another wife, she could not reconcile herself to the thought of living polygamy. On hearing that a party of saints were leaving for Tooele, she joined them. Here she met and married a widower by the name of Marshall. In spite of all their combined efforts, privations and hardships kept close to them. Their shelter, poorly built log cabin, was inadequate to protect them from winter's chilling blasts. Sustenance and clothing were scarce. Many a meal was furnished from sego lily roots or a few dried wild fruits, gathered from hill side.
At the age of eight Solomon was sent to tend the sheep belonging to^his stepfather. With his dog for company he spent weeks at a time on the hillside, preparing his own food and sleeping on the ground. The coyotes and sometimes the wolves howling in the distance kept him alert to his task. When the howls came close, he would build a large brush fire and keep the sheep near by. The first snowstorm of the season found him still on the mountain side with the sheep. The sheep were all bedded for the night when he wrapped himself in his mother's black woolen shawl which served as coat and bedding. It was late autumn and too cold to sleep without some protection. After he had gone to sleep snow started to fall. It covered him like a blanket and "For one night," he said, "I slept warm."
Life was not very easy for this undernourished, half-clad lad. His step- father kept him busy. When he was twelve his stepparent enter into plural marriage. Solomon's mother did not approve. She sent Solomon to Salt Lake City to see his sister, Mrs. Oscar Hamblin. Mr. and Mrs. Hamblin had been called by the Church leaders to settle the Santa Clara Valley. Sol, as he was now called, walked to see the city and back again in a week's time to let his mother know the time of their departure.
Soon Solomon's family reached the Santa Clara, a town site was chosen and shelters were built. Homes were crowded and poorly constructed, but Sol did his best to support his mother and family. He worked for produce, animal's wool and leather; anything which could be used for food and clothing. Money was almost a novelty in those regions. While he lived here, he learned many Indian customs and some in their language; which was of great value to him in later life, in his dealing with the Indians. He often went with his brother-in-law, Oscar Hamblin, to settle disputes and grievances among the Indians. Here an Indian marriage ceremony took place within sight of the town on a cliff which projected over the Santa Clara river. Two braves from different tribes wanted the same maiden. The one, strong enough to pull her away from the other, was to be victor. For days they pulled this way and that way, until the poor maiden's arms became severed from her body. As a result they buried her on the cliff and returned to their tribes.
In the spring of 1864, the Santa Clara river, swollen by the spring thaw and rains, lashed its fury against the little town and washed most of it away. It covered the remains with a fine mud, several feet deep. The rescued people were camped on the hillside; after several weeks they were able to return and try to save something from the wreckage. A story is told of a widow's cow which returned to her door six months after the flood, still covered with so much mud the widow did not recognize her until she rubbed her head on her arm. After the flood many of the people moved away, among them Oscar Hamblin. Mrs. Marshall and her family accompanied them. Solomon was now a young man of sixteen.
They located in Beaver County in a spot known as Minersville. Here he spent the most productive years of his life. The town was in the making when they arrived. He helped lay out the town site and the farming district southwest of the town. The two families lived in a one room log cabin for awhile which also served as the first school building for Minersville. Beds were rolled up and piled in the corner while school was in session.
A year after his arrival he met and married Amanda Grundy. He was only a lad in years at this time, but he said, "I felt like a man; I had been carrying the burdens of one for many years." He was a very proud man on his marriage day. He was wearing his first pair of "store made" shoes, which cost him the fabulous sum of seventeen dollars. Two children blessed this union, only one of which lived. His wife died soon after the birth of the second child, leaving him with a motherless daughter, Emma, to care for.
Honest labor was helping him accumulate a few worldly possessions. He now had a well paying farm, a modest home and a few cattle. He began to feel the satisfaction which comes with possession. Work became a drive and before many years he was known as the wealthiest man in Minersville.
Solomon had always been an active community man, interested in civil advancement. The Rocky Ford Dam which furnished the water for culinary as well as irrigation purposes, broke its banks. Through the foresight of Solomon the town was actually saved from destruction. When the town council met to decide^ what should be done. Solomon arose and said, " I can build a dam that will stay. His services were accepted and he built a dam that held until 1915, when a concrete one took its place. A new project opened up below Minersville. Water rights were sold to a new farm owners. A larger storage space was needed so a new reservoir and dam were constructed.
Besides planning and supervising the construction of Rocky Ford Dam Solomon aided in fencing the "town field," making canals and ditches, making a cemetery, constructing roads, building bridges, etc., and guarding the town on many occasions from Indian raids. At the time he was bishop, the one room meeting house was remodeled, and it is still in use today. He helped construct the first brick school building by contributing funds and also labor.
We find he was just as active and perhaps more so, in Church af fairs ^ as he was in civic concerns. On March 28, 1887, he was set apart to fill a mission to the Northwestern States. After six months of diligent labor he contracted chills and fever and was forced to return home. He was president of the first Y.M.- M.I.A. organization in Minersville, and in 1880 he was ordained a High Priest and Bishop, by President George Q. Cannon. This office he held until 1894. Throughout his life he tried to exemplify his religion by his living.
Martha Ann Eyre had become his wife on May 9, 1888, and a desire of his heart was fulfilled by this marriage. Home had always been his castle, but he wanted children. Eight children, three girls and five boys, blessed this union. The children all grew up with the same love of home. I have heard him say on many occasions on returning from a short visit, "Be it ever so Humble there is no Place like Home." The children were all taught to work and share the re- sponsibilities of the home, and in their adulthood have adopted their father's motto, "I am happiest when I am busy."
While Brother Walker was Bishop, the Indians, friendly but destitute, often came for help. They would say, "White Bishop, heap good in'jun Bishop." His young wife and small children alone, often tried to satisfy and entertain a house full of Indians in his absence. They would bring pine-nuts and buckskin to barter for flour, potatoes and bacon. One old buck called Beaver Adds, who was nearly blind, had his corner in the Walker kitchen where he ate his meals every day. He said, "White man food heap good."
Because of unsanitary drinking water, Solomon and family moved to Beaver City on May 9, 1898. This was eighteen miles east of Minersville. They resided here until April 3, 1902, at which time they moved to Provo. Mr. Walker had had a severe illness which left him with a slight heart disturbance. The doctor ad- vised him to find a lower altitude. The family approved of the move, especially the children, but Solomon was never content. A period of restlessness followed. He was a pioneer at heart and wanted to be doing his work. He visited all the new farming projects for hundreds of miles around. He wanted to build, to break and tame nature to his will. He wanted to be a part of the place where he lived, as he had been in years past. Two trips were made into Oregon and Idaho. The Uintah Valley more than pleased him. For his desire was to keep his family close to him and he thought this would be possible if he lived where they could all have farms around him. His wife refused to leave; education for the children for the children was better and easier to obtain where they were. In his discontent he tried investing his money in real estate and mining stock, but his losses were heavy. He then became more determined than ever to move where he could farm^on larger scale. The Sevier Project was well under way by this time. His wife finally decided to let him have his way. In the spring of 1913 they moved ^ to Lynndyl, a desolate looking spot for his wife and family, but he seemed to enjoy it. Life took on a new meaning for him. There was work to be done. Work! Work! Work! beat within his blood. The hardships they were forced to undergo seemed very trivial in comparison with those of his own youth. After a year or so he found it would be necessary for his daughter to leave home, to continue her education, and that the only son now at home was not very enthusiastic over broken ground, where rattlesnakes lurked behind each bush. Because of this they "pulled their stakes" and headed toward familiar "stamping grounds," the old town of Minersville.
Here Solomon seemed more content and entered into the activities of the community with his usual zest. The town had acquired a nick name "Punken Town." He was determined such a disgrace should be eliminated. Through his efforts this was done, and today it is called by its right name. Wherever he went he planted trees, both fruit and shade. Today some one is reaping the benefits of such thoughtfulness. Among his trees you could always find a hard wood such as locust or walnut. If a tongue or singletree broke belonging to some farm implement, it was soon mended. The hard wood tree always kept him supplied with new ones. He was very handy with the tools. Some times his work could not be called "works of art," yet they could always be depended on to be substantial and sturdy. He always said, "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well."
As he grew older he could not understand the demand of the world for more leisure time and "modern luxuries," as he called them. Movies were considered abominable and most of them a disgrace to human society, although he hardly gave them a chance to justify themselves. I doubt if he saw more than a half dozen during his entire life. However, he encouraged home dramatics and as a young man he belonged to a dramatic club. In later years he encouraged his children to take part.
Because of his desire to keep his family around him, he left Minersville on March 22, 1919 and went to Burley, Idaho. Two of his sons had located here; however, the climate did not agree with him and as soon as school was out, he returned to Utah and settled in Murray. Unable to farm, he kept busy with his garden, which was the pride of his old age. City life did not satisfy him. Close neighbors irked him. As long as he lived he longed to return to the farm and the life which demanded so much of him. Within himself he knew a return to such activities was impossible, but an expression of longing escaped from him once in a while. The last years of his life were spent in his garden, reading his news- paper and chopping wood, which was his favorite pastime. He always attributed his agility in his declining years to this sport.
This man, Solomon Walker, who loved the soil with all his being, was placed within its fold on December 23, 1930, for his final resting place. "Dust thou art, to dust returneth."
(From The Ancestry and Descendants of John Walker, 1985)