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You should write the Life History of your Grandmothers Gwendolyn Higbee Matheson (Mom's Mom)

This is my mom's mom's life history. Also check out the ongoing projects for my dadmom, and and dad's mom

Typed by Michael Laub, from a photocopy of the original that Gwendolyn typed on a typewriter. Comments by me in parenthesis

Henry Gordon, Gwendolyn Higbee, And LaVane Matheson 

It must have been a sad day when I was born. I was the fifth child in less than nine years, and arthritis had made mother (Sarah Ann Jones) a cripple long before that December 5, 1891. She was bed-fast most of the time until she died early in 1895 (10th of March) when I was a little over 3 yrs. old. Five little children had to be parceled out with relatives, and it fell to my lot to live with Grandmother Higbee.

So you see I went to live in a large home that had already housed many children and where no more were to come. (click below to read more)

I'm sure Grandmother had earned a rest from child raising, but she made me feel very secure in her love. The
Henry Gordon and Gwendolyn Higbee Matheson 
(19??, I only have about 4 photos of her. Send 
more  if you have them).

industry in this old home had included most everything. They had made their own straw hats; corded wool for quilts; made all their own soap; carried and settled all their water from irrigation ditches; made candles to fit in the little brass candle holders. I remember the big barn, the corrals, sheds, and granaries - the coal bins and big wood piles. They all told their story of early pioneer labor and farm life. As time passed, of course, water was piped inside our kitchen door - the old coal oil lamps were replaced by electricity - when some of our big stone fireplaces were replaced by enamoloid stove: that did a better job of heating.

Gwen and Gordon and Gordon's Sister 
Rhoda and William Wood got
 married on the same day 
Aunt Mary Alice and Uncle Uriah‘s home became a second home to me. I slept, played, and ate there part of the time; and their family became like brothers and sisters to me. I often felt that I had four mothers: Aunt Mary Alice-Aunt May Higbee - Aunt May Woodbury - and Grandma. They all tried to be good and kind to me because I was an orphan. While were young, Aunt May Higbee did nearly all of our sewing. So, although my two brothers and two sisters lived in different homes, we all lived quite close together and our lives seemed knit together. Our summers were spent together - either on our uncle's Farm or father’s farm or quite often in the mountains where the cattle were taken to graze and where the butter and cheese were made for the coming winter. As I look back on it now our summers were wonderful. We rode into town on loads of newly cured hay. We often rode the horse that pulled the alfalfa in the barn. We had fun feeding and tending our pet lambs - laughing; at their capers - running away and having them follow. We sailed homemade boats on our watering pond - caught frogs and pollywogs. There was real excitement when my sister Lillian fell into a partly dug well and the whole family worked to get her out. I remember building little fences of sticks and then trying to make frogs stay in the fenced area and hearing the coyotes yell so close at night. When we were in town, we used to play "one old Cat" and "Steal Sticks" - the streets were not so dangerous then. While we were in grade school, we all looked forward to our school hikes into the mountains. We'd climb the shale beds and wade in the creek - and, how good our lunch tasted. Each summer Aunt Hay Higbee made lovely frilly dresses for us – we wore them on the 4th and 24rth of July and then on Sundays. I enjoyed the 4rth and 24th because I really liked to run races and play games and have good lemonade from the big barrel with plenty of ice in it. As we got older, the town kids went skating together – hayrack riding and rabbit hunting and, of course, always looked Forward to our Dances.

Gwen and Henry Gordon
When I was about 15 or 16 years old, Grandma and I moved to a nice little modern apartment in Uncle John Woodbury’s new home. No more Saturday night baths in the old tin tub. In Sept. of 1907 l entered high school and until 1911 was busy with all sorts of things. I played French horn in the band - was part of the chorus in school operettas - and took piano lessons part time. I started to teach Primary and later Sunday School.

I met Gordon while we were in grade school. When I was about 11 years old, he gave me a book for Christmas; and we used to walk home from school together. When we went to high school, Gordon took lead parts in our school operettas - he also sang in the band concerts on summer evenings. He often took me into the ice cream parlor and, of course, to school. Although I went out with other boys during high school, Gordon and l kept coming back together. Sumner stock companies used to play in Cedar, and often Gordon took me to every play during the week. How I did love those plays.

Not sure where this is, or what the occasion is?? Gwendolyn
Higbee Matheson and 
Henry Gordon Matheson
After graduating from high school, l went to summer school at the University of Utah. I went out with other boys while there and Gordon and I decided to quit-it just seemed that we must see each other; and finally after one year of teaching school in Cedar City, we were married Oct. 10, 1912. He went to Germany on an L.D.S. mission and l returned to school teaching. I kept very busy while Gordon was away. I worked on the Stake Mutual Board, taught Sunday School, and taught the adult class in our ward Mutual. Each summer I went to summer school. Gordon had earned the money for his mission, and I was saving mine so I could meet him in Germany upon his release. War broke out in 1914 and we never saw Europe together as we had planned. Gordon enjoyed his mission. He got to see a lot of Europe and England. He went to hear a great many fine operas, He was interested in music and lead the choir in most of his church branches. He also did chorus work.

Not sure where this is, or what the occasion is?? Henry
Gordon Matheson and Gwendolyn Higbee Matheson
After Gordon came home from his mission, he worked with his father at the Cedar City flour mill. I continued teaching second grade until spring when we moved to Hurricane to begin our flour mill experiences. This was in I915. Our first year at Hurricane was a hopeful year. We liked it there. People were very friendly, and we both worked in the church. Gordon’s work seemed to justify us buying a lot - and in 1916 we started building a home. It was the only home we ever had plans drawn for, and it seemed such a wonderful thing to look forward to. LaVane was born in March of 1916 and that about made things complete. Having been raised by my Grandmother, I had never been in a home where there were children, and I handled her with fear and trembling for the first few months. Grandpa Matheson came to Hurricane to bless and name her. We had picked out our name - but when he named her, he just said - LaVane. Gordon rather thought Grandpa had once liked a girl by that name. I shall never forget waking up one night when LaVane was about 6 months old to find her gone from her little bed. She must have cried when she fell - but I slept soundly then. The funny thing was that I couldn’t find her. I was about frantic when we finally pulled our bed out from the wall ~ there she was asleep on the floor. She cut her teeth very young, walked and talked very young.

It was quite a blow to me to find ourselves "out of favor" - the mill was not making good and the board members blamed Gordon. Anyway another man was called in to run the mill. Gordon got A chance to go into the mountains to help run a sawmill. It was while he was working here that he had quite a terrifying experience. While working on the saw, Gordon's partner, Ira Millet, got his leg caught in the saw. His leg was badly mangled and Gordon knew that if he didn't get him to a doctor quickly, he would bleed to death. The only way to get him out of the mountains quickly was to lower him down the 2,000 ft. cable to the canyon floor. Somehow Gordon and two other men managed to get Ira on a Platform on that cable - Gordon went down with him. As they were lowered down, the wind moved them to and fro in a 200 Foot arc while they dangled 2,000 ft. in the air. Anyway they did get to the doctor and the life and leg was saved. It's a funny thing but that very night just about an hour after we had finally got in bed - a man got our back screen door unlocked and came in our house. Gordon was very tired and besides undressed - but he chased that man four blocks down the street in his bare feet.

In January of 1918 we moved back to Cedar and lived in two rooms of Grandma Matheson's home. We had left behind us our first mill experience. For the next four or five years it seems like we did nothing but move. We tried our luck at being farmers. We moved south of Cedar on Pace's farm. I made butter and cheese. Gordon did farm work. I had quite a frightening experience while here. I was expecting Jean so decided not to go into town with Gordon that day because the - roads were so bad. LaVane and I were alone in the house when one of the hired men - just opened the door and walked in and started to act crazy. I couldn't imagine what was the matter with him. I took LaVane by the hand and ran out the back door, but on the way out I met another man coming after the first man. He asked me to come back and help him because he said his son was going into an epileptic fit. That fit was one of the most terrible things I had ever seen. I was always glad LaVane was too young to understand and didn't: seem to be frightened. Later on in my life while teaching school in Cedar City I had two school children who had epileptic fits. They caused quite a problem in a roomful of children.

We moved back to Grandma Matheson’s home just in time for Jean's arrival. I think perhaps the first two weeks after her arrival were the hardest of my life. It was the winter of 1918 when so many died of the flu. The lady who came with the doctor as nurse had the flu. Every one of Grandma’s family came down with it. She was the only one in the house who could do a thing. Kind neighbors came in to help, but l had little new Jean and poor little sick LaVane to help care for and I was delirious half the time. I can remember hearing something I thought was angel‘s singing - or was it Christmas serenading that awful winter of 1918. Poor Grandma Matheson had the brunt of it - she cried almost all the time she was in my room and I felt so had. I wished a thousand times I had had some other place to lay my head, and I'm sure she wished the same thing. Gordon was down with the flu and couldn't help. Thank goodness Jean was a good baby - slept most of the time. I was quite horrified when I first saw her stick her tongue out - it was so long she could touch the end of her chin. I soon learned to laugh at it and, of course, thought it was very cute. Jean was to become my star-gazer. Many a time she looked at the stars and, as she walked backwards, fell into a ditch.

I think it was early in 1919 that Gordon started on his second mill venture. His father, my father, and others went in on it together. It was built on North Main Street in Cedar City. Grandpa and Grandma Matheson mortgaged their farm. Gordon ran this mill (flour mill) until May of 1925. I would not attempt to say what financial difficulties were to blame for trouble that developed, but we did find ourselves terribly in debt; and Gordon went to work at Desert Hound (iron mines) for the State Highway and Dolph Andrus ran the mill. (This mill was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. I was always glad Gordon wasn't running it when it burned down.) Gordon got several good paying jobs. In I927 he went to Grand Canyon to work on the snow plow. We were both so grateful for the good wages Gordon got during these years because we were able to pay off a huge debt the mill had involved us in.

In 1920 and 1921, thinking I could perhaps get a few things we needed and help out, I took extension work at the University of Utah and taught school again. Kate Ison, a real nice girl, lived with us the first year and took care of LaVane and Jean. Ella (Gordon’s sister) stayed with the children the second winter and Aunt Millie kept Jean the third winter while LaVane went to school. Seems funny how little tragedies stick in our mind. The winter Ella stayed with us our cute little black dog got run over while LaVane and Jean looked on. Oh me! Oh my!

We moved so many times we decided to try for some kind of a house. We bought a lot from Uncle Ted Higbee on 95 N 4th West and early in 1925 Gordon went out on the desert and had a fairly good abandoned house moved in. He worked hard to dig a basement and then set the house on a high foundation and proceeded to fix it up. It seems now that we had to do an awful lot of sacrificing in fixing this house - I guess it was because we were so far in debt. It was only a small two bedroom house, but we rented the two front rooms to the Pugh family, and Gordon I and I slept in an unfinished cold, cold basement. After the basement was complete, we rented it. It was soon after we moved into this home that Jean and LaVane got red measles and were both quite sick. In July of l926 Don was born. He was our first baby born in a hospital. LaVane was born in the Isom home in Hurricane, and Jean was born in Grandpa Matheson’s home. Gordon and I were pretty proud to have a son and, of course, every mother thinks her child perfect. A year or so after Don was born we rented our basement to a family named Blanchards. Later we found that Mrs. Blanchard was in the last stages of T.B. We, of course, asked them to move and all of us took the T.B. test. We found that little Don tested positive and, when X-rayed, had lesions in his lungs. I never was so worried about anything in my life. Dr. MacFarlane made all tests possible and said it was inactive and with care he need never be bothered with it again, which proved to be true. He did, however, continue to have very bad colds, and I never did feel like I could let him run and play as other children did. The more active he was, the more he coughed and the more fearful I became. Don never had a fair chance even when he got school age. He had 4 mastoid operations by the time he was eleven - and always missed half the year in school. We did all we could for Don - took him through a Salt Lake clinic and the doctors said they felt he would outgrow these infections, and, of course, he finally did.

Our lot at 95 North 4th west was a large one. We had four very good apple trees on it and several good plum trees. He raised chickens and rabbits and kept l a cow. The soil was real hard to work but somehow Gordon did get home long enough to plant a garden. I sometimes wonder that the children remember much about Gordon because these were the years when he was out of town almost constantly. Seems now as I look back at the milking and tending the cow, feeding chickens, splitting and carrying in wood and coal and carrying out ashes, putting up fruit and vegetables that we were pretty busy. No wonder that California seemed like a pretty easy life when we landed there in l943. I can't see now I just how I managed to do the church work that I did. Before Don was born I worked in the Stake Relief Society (Social Science Class Leader) - also in Stake Mutual. I believe I taught and worked in every organization. Before Carlene was born, I was asked to be Relief Society President of our 3rd Hard, but I didn't feel that I was capable of that; but I did work as first counselor for two years.

I can't remember dates, but for years after Uncle John Woodbury built the Parks Theatre I worked there. I sold tickets and kept accounts. It must have been between 1929 and 1935 because I remember the struggle Uncle John had to keep going during the depression, l do remember that it was while I was working at the theatre that word came that the Parowan Mill had burned to the ground. I think it was 1931 that Gordon leased this mill. He ran it until I933. We sustained a great loss because all of Gordon‘s wages were in mill produce and it was a complete loss. Seems like every mill we touched was a misfortune, but Gordon never gave up and I notice now that most of his dreams are of running flour mills.

I believe it was sometime in 1929 that all three of the children took the mumps. Don and LaVane got along fine, but Jean was never no sick in her life. Poor little kid couldn't lift her head. I have often wondered if doctors now could have saved her one ear from becoming deaf. She only seemed to have the mumps on the right side, but complete deafness on the left side resulted. I know that her deafness has been a great trial to her.

In the fall of 1934 Gordon went to Colorado to run another flour mill. LaVane and Jean were in high school. Don was eight year old when Carlene came along. It was another hard winter. Don was taken to the hospital for a mastoid operation the same time I was confined there with Carlene. I remember the nurse brought him in my room to see his new little sis-or. All he could say was "Is that little red face my sister?" Grandma Matheson was kind enough to take Don home with her for a week and somehow we got through. Uncle John and Aunt May were awfully good to us all that winter. In fact, they became my second parents after my; Grandmother died in Aug. of 1918 and stood by me in so many ways. Uncle John gave me his car when they bought a new one and Aunt May gave me materials enough to clothe the children. (I thought the children always looked nice in their home clothes - maybe because I was mother.)

The spring after Carlene was born Gordon come home ready to move us out to Colorado. I felt that the job wasn't worth the move. I also felt that the dust and dirt of the Flour mill was not good for Gordon’s health. Anyway things seemed to move to prevent it - maybe my prayers were answered. LaVane had, appendicitis - was operated on - and Gordon became interested in rebuilding the Parowan mill which he ran without disaster for two years. LaVane had been working in Dr. MacFarlane's office but decided to quit and go to school in Logan. I have always felt that she did this to break up a romance that she felt was getting more serious than she wished it to become. Anyway LaVane never really came home to live again. After school in Logan, she went to the State Capitol Bldg. to become receptionist to Walter K. Granger. Both LaVane and Jean worked for him in the State Capitol. Both girls were married away from home LaVane in Idaho and Jean in Salt Lake. Both were married just before their husbands left or entered the Armed Forces.

Before and during the very early years of the war Gordon built roads in and around Iron County. He was operating heavy road building equipment when Trehorne Jones (my cousin) wrote and told him that the Forest Service needed tractor men in California. He just said "Come - the wages are much better than in Utah." We thought we would at least take a trip to California and just look around a little. The day after we arrived (Don, Carlene, Dad, and I) Gordon went to work. He thought the job worthwhile and we just stayed. Gordon didn't even take time out to help me buy the home. We (Don, Carlene, and I) went back to Utah just long enough to sell out and move. Poor Don loaded the truck so good but backed over Gordon’s good violin, that was, of course, where it shouldn't have been. So we came to California and to a much better life for me. Gordon‘s work was much better for him than he had ever had it in Utah. The Forest Service people were very good to him. The hardest part of his job was firefighting. He made fire breaks with the tractor and it was dangerous work: with long hours. Most of the time he was building roads. Gordon had a wonderful opportunity to travel and see all of the mountain area in Southern California. He was even sent into Northern California. He always loved the mountains and it seems that this job was just made for him, In July of 1955 while working for the Forest Service; he had a heart attack and stroke. He was off work for, about six months. (He had enough sick leave back pay coming so it wasn't such a hardship on us.) When he finally was able to go back to work, they made an easier job for him. He was able to work here until Jan. of 1956 when he got a job as guard at Huntington Library. This has been a wonderful job for him because we were able to qualify for Social Security and the work was easy. So far California has been very good to us. It does seem that before we came down here we had so many financial troubles; it has been nice to have three of our four children settle down here.

"Little Happenings"

LaVane was such a climber. She about lived in trees. I remember finding her on top of the piano. (She was for too young to be there). One day she climbed up into a kitchen cabinet to get something - anyway the whole cabinet fell over on her. It about frightened her to death. She was covered with flour, mustard, preserves, and other things that were in the cupboard. Poor little child. She never did that again. I never saw a person learn to read as naturally as LaVane did. I made charts of the nursery rhymes with pictures and words. At first she just memorized the rhymes, but it wasn't long before she was just reading everything - long before she went to school. I think she would have been much happier in her early years in school if she had never learned to read until she started to school.

Remember the house you built in the tree - mostly to get away from the Walker kids?

I was outside gathering corn one summer when I heard Don cry "Mother, Mother" I ran to the house and found him lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood. I called the doctor and he had to take about 8 stitches in Don's Forehead, He had been running real hard, had stumbled, and fallen on the sharp unfinished edge of the cement step.

When Jean was real small, she walked backward a lot. I believe I pulled her out of a big irrigation ditch twice and she was nearly drowned.

I had a lot of songs I used to sing to all my children - also a lot of stories to tell. You always said "Sing that again" or "Tell me that story again.” There was a whole book of "Blackie" stories, also fairy tales. Some of the songs we used to sing were "The Babes in the Woods," "Bow-Wow--wow, Come Here My Little Master," "The Bumble Bee Stepped on the Elephant‘s Toe," "Little Robin Redbreast," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Old Mother Hubbard," etc.

Don's log was cut quite badly in a rake they were using at school. I didn't even get a chance to bandage and care for it. I had three young ladies come down each day to change the bandage. Did he ever have care!

Don, Jean, and I did the packing when we moved to California in 1943 and we did have one serious mishap- when Don started up the truck, I was horrified to see him back over Dad's violin. I guess I just hadn’t been watchful enough. I was always sorry I scolded Don for that because it was my fault. Aunt May and Uncle John came down in their car and we came in our truck. I remember them trying to slow Don down a bit. They said our loaded truck was going faster than they cared to travel. Don was just seventeen and had never driven away from Cedar City. Anyway we got here. Don wasn't here long before he was called into the army and was not out of the army long before he married and left home.

While we were in Cedar City, Carlene went with me to see Don take part in a school play. Carlene tipped over a light, and I shall never forget how frightened she was. Poor little kids have so much trouble growing up.

Carlene got two hard falls while she was little. One out of our oak tree and another into the wash that ran east of our place. I think both falls hurt her quite bad and, of course, worried me quite a lot. Do you remember - the day we gave a birthday party for Karen Overbaugh - the night some of your girlfriends slept at our house and the "bed fell down - when Laurel came to visit and went to school with you and got lost???

When Carlene was born, I was forty-three years old, and I felt that that was pretty old to have another child. Anyway Carlene has been a great comfort to me. Children always bring their love with them.

I think that perhaps one of my most worrisome nights was the time Gordon let Carlene and Alan drive our car out to Hollywood. Carlene was way too young - did I ever worry!

Don, do you remember when you took; Carlene in the car and you and Roland Esplin both wrecked the cars? How lucky no one was hurt.

I always like photos that show the photographer shadow

Memories from others
  • My mom says every day they would go for long walks and talks. My mom says she and Gordon seemed to get along better once the kids moved away. 
  • She played the saxophone
    • When? In a band? When she was little? Does my mom remember her playing it. 
  • December 5, 1891, in Ceder City Utah 
  • October 10, 1912. Age 20. In Salt Lake City. 
  • Sarah Ann Jones (died when she was 3) 
  • Samuel Alonzo Higbee (died when he was 71, and she was 39. Doesn't mention him in her life history) 
  • I don't have any photos of her when she was younger. Does my mom or any of my cousins have any? 
  • How tall was she? 
  • How often did she see her brothers and Sisters, who were all raised by other people? Who were they raised by? Where? How many decedents. 
    • Alonzo Jones Higbee (1882-1964, age: 82, burried in Ceder City) 
    • Thomas J Higbee (1885-1955, age: 70, burried ???) 
    • Rebecca Pearl Higbee (1888-1987, age: 99) 
    • Lillian Higbee (1890-1973, age: 83) 
  • Why did her father and mother still have kids if she was starting to become a cripple? I guess, In those days you needed kids to help with the farm, and if you knew you were going to die, perhaps that would encourage you to have kids while you still could... I would just like to know if anyone remembers it being talked about? 
  • She never mentions her father in her life history. Why? Did she see him often? 
  • She said she was raised in a large home with Grandma Matheson. What Grandma and Grandpa Matheson do? 
  • Her mom (Sarah Ann Jones) died at 34 years old. Arthritis is what crippled her, but did that kill her? LaVane died of Parkenson. Did people think those were the same? 
  • When Gordon passed away, why did she come to live with my Mom, who was the youngest? Why didn't she live with LaVane? 

My people were Mormon pioneers.
Is the blood still good?
They stood by in awe as truth
Flew by like a dove
And dropped a feather in the West.
Where truth flies you follow
If you are a pioneer.
I have searched the skies
And now and then
Another feather has fallen.
I have packed the handcart again
Packed it with the precious things
And thrown away the rest.
I will sing by the fires at night
Out there on uncharted ground
Where I am my own captain of tens
Where I blow the bugle
Bring myself to morning prayer
Map out the miles
And never know when or where
Or if at all
I will finally say,
“This is the place,” 
I face the plains
On a good day for walking.
The sun rises
And the mist clears.
I will be alright:
My people were Mormon pioneers.

1 comment:

  1. thank you Michael. You may not know haw much I appreciate the time it took to put this down on paper, the love I feel for my parents ( the past) and you and the grandchildren (the future). Thank You --Thank You!