An almost forgotten headstone marks the grave of my great grandmother Clara Ellen Wilkins Stevens in Wasatch Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Salt Lake City. Once a year on Memorial day weekend, a few of Clara's descendants come and leave flowers on her grave to remember and honor her. In quiet conversations, we discuss how unfortunate it was that her life ended before she was able to raise her six surviving children. She died in 1922 at age 47 after a lingering illness, perhaps diabetes. Some family members say she died of "a broken heart," others say heart failure.When Clara died, her children still at home were Winnifred, age 13, Howard 15, Gladys 17 and Alice 19. After her death,Clara's husband George lived with and later in 1929 married a woman named Katherine or Katie Silvers who was born in Kentucky. She was married to Joseph Martin Silvers and lived in SLC. He died in 1925 and they had one child Raymond.(5) Katherine didn't want to raise Clara's children, so they were soon out on their own. Winnifred lived briefly with her older married sister Mildred. Alice lived with her younger sister Gladys after she married. George did provide money for nurses training for Gladys, and beauty school training for Winnifred and Alice. The oldest son Meade and daughter Mildred were married. Howard, I imagine was working by this time. Katherine burned the family photos and alienated most of the family. She and George eventually moved to California away from his children. When George died Sept. 22, 1947, none of his children or grand children were mentioned in his will but only Katherine and her son. With Clara gone, the family was never very close to their father George. He is buried in the Inglewood Cemetery. Katherine moved to Napa, California and died in 1970.
Clara Ellen Wilkins, Child of Pioneer Parents
Clara Ellen Wilkins was born 31 Oct 1874 and raised in Peoa, Utah a small town near Oakley. Her parents were both Mormon pioneers who came to Utah in their youth. Clara's mother Elizabeth Durrah was born in Scotland and her mother Jane Donley Durrah died soon after Elizabeth's birth leaving a grieving husband Henry Durrah with a young son to raise. Baby Elizabeth was given to her mother's sister Elizabeth Donley Maxwell. The Maxwells were converted to the Mormon church in 1856 but before coming to Utah, her husband died. Widowed Elizabeth Maxwell came to Utah shortly afterwards with young Elizabeth Durrah and other family members. They traveled in the Daniel McArthur handcart company. Elizabeth Durrah was about 3-4 years old during the trip to Utah. Her aunt got ill on the way and was left in Fort Bridger to recuperate. A year later she attempted to come to Utah but died and was buried in Echo Canyon. Elizabeth Durrah was raised by her cousin Arthur Maxwell who married and settled in Peoa, Utah. It was here Elizabeth Durrah would met her husband Oscar Wilkins also a Mormon pioneer. (2) Clara's father Oscar Wilkins came to Utah at age 13, 8 years after Clara's mother Elizabeth Durrah had made her way to Utah. Oscar's father had died and his wife Hannah Stoneham Gillet married Richard Russell a Mormon Elder in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England. Richard would also die coming across the plains and Hannah married again after arriving in Utah. She and her new husband James Garner moved to Peoa ,Utah with her son Oscar who would later met and marry Elizabeth Durrah. After their marriage, Oscar became well known for running the Peoa Cooperative Store (shown on the left with their home on the right in the photo of Peoa to your right) and helping with irrigation canal work in Peoa. Clara was their first child and they would have a family of 12 living children.(2) See the Oscar and Elizabeth Durrah Wilkins history for more details and photos.
George Stevens, Child of Pioneer Settlers
George Geroy Stevens was born into a prominent family in Oakley, Utah who had settled in that area. George's grandparents William and Emma Crowden Stevens came from England to Utah in 1860 with their six children. They were the first permanent settlers in Oakley. William was a blacksmith, farmer and in the mercantile business. (2) William and Emma's oldest son William Henry Stevens married Eliza Maria Horton and they were the parents of George Geroy. They built the Stevens home in 1885 that George would later buy and live in. It still stands today. (See photo on p. 10.) The Stevens family became prominent in the mercantile business opening up small stores in their homes. Wm. Henry Stevens also opened up a creamery which was located across the street from his home. Later they opened new creameries in SLC and Evanston Wyoming. W.H. Stevens became a judge also. For more historical information on the Stevens families and the town of Oakley see Horton/Stevens webpage.
A Fashionable Wedding Takes Place
It was only natural that George and Clara would meet, probably at a dance or other social event as the two towns Peoa and Oakley were close and shared many activities. It wasn't long before the announcement of their wedding was published in the Coalville Times in 1895. He was 22 and she was 21 years old when they married.
"One of the most enjoyable affairs of the season took place at the palatial and hospitable home of Judge W. H. Stevens and his charming wife, of Oakley, on Wednesday evening, January 30, 1895, the occasion being the wedding and reception of George G. Stevens, son of the host and hostess, and Clara E. Wilkins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Wilkins of Peoa. The marriage took place shortly after 6 0'clock p.m., Judge W. H. Stevens officiating. After the health of the bride and groom had been drank in wine, the guests, who numbered over one hundred sat down to a feast that was worthy of a king's banquet, and of which all heartily partook. After supper that evening was spent in singing, reciting and general conversations. Kamas, Oakley, Peoa and Rockport were well represented by both old and young people and from the way W. H. Stevens, John Horton, O. F. Lyons, J. A. Marchant, Oscar Wilkins and William Dix enjoyed themselves, one would have though they were the youngest of all,and that Father Time had rolled back the years over their heads for some twenty or thirty years. The bride and groom received many handsome and valuable presents. We wish the young people a long and prosperous life and a host of friends. The bride was charmingly dressed and looked all that a bride should. The groom looked as if his cup of happiness was overflowing. The sleigh ride behind a team of spanking Cleveland bays, to Oakley and home again after the wedding was just lovely." (1)
Another article describes a wedding dance in Peoa for the newlyweds the following day: "Mr. And Mrs. George G. Stevens, of Oakley will give their wedding dance in Marchant's hall, Peoa, on Friday evening February 1st. As host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Stevens are a success, and did all in their power to make their guests at home." Feb 8, 1895 Marchant's hall was filled to overflowing on Friday evening, the cause being the free dance given by G.G. Stevens in honor of his marriage to Miss Clara E. Wilkins. A large number of young people from Kamas, Oakley, Rockport and Wanship took in the dance here on Friday night. A sleigh load of young people from Park City came over to enjoy the dance."(1)
Children Join the Stevens Family
My grandmother Mildred Lucille Stevens was the first child born to Clara and George on Jan 19, 1896 then George Claudis was born Sep 4, 1897. I'm sure Clara was busy with her young family and fearful of the dreaded Scarlet Fever and Typhoid diseases that were epidemic at that time. Unfortunately Mildred and George the baby both came down with it. As we can see in this newspaper articles from the Coalville Times dated Dec 1898 and Feb 1899: "The children of Geo. G. Stevens are improving slowly. George Stevens' youngest boy had an attack of the scarlet fever. He is not so well at this writing" ... "The little son of George and Clara Stevens died of scarlet fever about noon on [Jan]31st. He lingered some five weeks with the most severe suffering."... "The many relatives and friends of Mr. and Mrs. George Stevens of Oakley were grieved to hear of the death of their little child yesterday." [Their son George Claudis was 15 months old.] Feb 24, 1899 G.G. Stevens' little girl [Mildred was 3 years old] is not getting along so well as she was some time back. It is reported she has the typhoid fever at present."(1)
Their daughter Mildred did recover but was very sick at the time. In her life story she tells about it..."When I was a little girl I had scarlet fever and typhoid fever. My dad owned a store and my brother George died with scarlet fever. I got rheumatism in my legs and my feet turned right around backwards and Dad used to take me over to the store and sit me on the counter for as long as I could take it to get me out of the house." (5)
|(l-r) Baby Meade and his sister Mildred||Mother Clara Wilkins Stevens with baby Alice||(l-r) Baby Alice and her sister Gladys|
George the Consummate Businessman
George throughout his life was very smart in making money possibly from the example of his father and grandfather who seemed to have their hand in many businesses in Oakley including the first grist mill and store. He also spent some time at USU or Agricultural College in Logan as can be seen in the photo at the right. He is on the right side with his friends. George had livestock-sheep and a mercantile store in Oakley, later he went into real estate in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Some interesting and humorous stories were told about him by his son-in-law Joseph Harold Vernon [my grandfather] who married his oldest daughter Mildred [my grandmother]. Harold took any kind of work he could get including sheep herding for George and selling or trading goods in nearby Park City. Here's a sample of one of the many stories Harold told of his father-in-law's shrewdness as retold by Harold's son-in-law DuWayne Williams:
"In the early 1900s, Park City was just hitting it's heyday with lots of miners coming into the area. They had money but no way of growing their own food so Harold saw a business opportunity here. The miners would pay good money for produce. Harold had a farmer friend up in the Peoa and Rockport area. This old farmer came to him and said, 'Harold, I don't have money to pay you but do you want to pick potatoes for pay? Then what ever I owe you I'll pay so much per sack if you'll take the potatoes up to Park City to sell them.' So Harold picked and then loaded up the potatoes in a wagon and started to go up to Park City when he met George Stevens." (5)
"When George saw Harold with his loaded wagon heading out of town, he stopped him and inquired what he was going to do. When told, George told Harold that it was a foolish idea and he had a family at home to feed so why didn't he just take some money from George for the load and forget the idea. Harold took a small amount of money from George and went home to his family only to find out later that George had sold this load in Park City for much more. This was only one experience that Harold was to have with his new and shrewd father-in-law. Another time Harold was going to take a load of mutton sheep to Park City to sell them but his father-in-law talked him out of this endeavor also and made a neat profit from it. When confronted later by Harold, he said, 'Well, this is just to teach you a lesson.'''(5)
Articles in the Coalville Times, mention George's many businesses:
"Nov 26, 1897 George Stevens had the misfortune to have some sheep killed by dogs. Now the citizens are having the misfortune of losing their dogs."
" April 8, 1898 George Stevens is the miller this winter who will meet you at thedoor with that broad grin which means, 'You are welcome; come in, gentlemen.'"
" Nov 25, 1898 E. Hortin sold his store to Geo. G. Stevens. George is moving the goods in the brick house near the mill.
Mar 24 1899 George G. Stevens, our popular merchant will visit Silver City with the intention of locating if the prospect is fair for..."
" Apr 21, 1899 G.G. Stevens our merchant is doing a rushing business now-a-days, he is herding sheep."
" Apr 28, 1899 George Stevens, the enterprising Oakley merchant, was here the first of the week. George is looking up business and is bound to win out."
" Mar 15, 1901 It is reported that George Stevens will soon start for Canada."(1) George did move to Los Angeles, California sometime after his marriage to Katherine and did very well in real estate in the 1940's. My father Stanley Vernon, his first grandchild visited him in California in the 1940 when I was a small babe in arms. I was George's first great grand child.
The Descendants of George and Clara
Child # 1. Mildred (deceased) their oldest child was the first to marry in 1915. Her husband Joseph Harold Vernon was from nearby Rockport. (See their photo on the left.) They were married in the Salt Lake temple. Getting there was no easy matter in those days. They went first to Park City by buggy then by train to Salt Lake City with her grandmother Eliza Horton Stevens along to chaperone. After a short two day honeymoon they returned to Oakley for a wedding reception at the Stevens home where her parents George and Clara (see photo on right) had their reception as they now owned that home. It's a lovely brick home that still stands in Oakley today built by her grandfather Wm. H. Stevens.
The reception was held in the front living room or parlor of her parent's home and everyone was invited including Harold's boy friends who spiked the punch without anyone knowing. The Bishop who was attending the reception consumed quite a bit and later was found sliding down the narrow bannister in the hallway next to the parlor to the amusement of the wedding guests.(5) Mildred and her husband Harold who later worked for the Union Pacific Railroad moved to Wanship, Stockton and other railroad towns before finally settling in Milford, Utah. Their three children: Stanley (deceased), Weston, and Bonnie.
Child # 2. George Claudis (died at age 15 months)
from Scarlet Fever in Oakley, Utah.
Child # 3. Meade Wilkins (deceased) married Faye King of Kamas, Utah. They lived in Salt Lake City and he worked at a government arms plant. Also at the Brookline Creamery in Beaver, Odgen's Cream of Weaver diary and in Rawlins, Wyoming. They had two children: Lyle King and Gloria Joyce.
Child # 4. Alice Claire (deceased) after her mother's death, went to beauty school but never finished. She lived for a while with her sister Gladys and family. She met and married at age 27, Earl Gerrish-a chef from Coos Bay, Oregon. They lived near Portland. Later moved to California where Alice worked at See's candy in Los Angeles, California and later at the Pig 'n Whistle candy shop in San Francisco. They lived in Oakland until they retired in Grass Valley, California. They had no children.
Child # 5. Gladys Celia (deceased) went to nursing school and worked for Dr. Stucki. She met and married (Bill) Willard R Huntsman from Fillmore who was a lawyer and worked for Utah state government and in private practice. Gladys and Bill both worked at Hill Air Force Base during the war for a short time. She worked in the Naval Supply Depot boxing clothes. Bill worked for the fire department and in the dispatcher's office. After the war, Gladys also worked at Porter Walton nursery with plants for about 4-5 years and then worked at Bailey Seed Company, their competitor. They had two children-Cortney and Clara.
Child # 6. Howard Wayne (deceased) met Katherine Johnson from Blanding. They lived in Rawlins, Wyoming, and Colorado. Wayne worked for the Stevens creamery, on the railroad in Stockton briefly then moved to Bear Lake and owned the Brookline creamery in Mountain Home, Idaho picking up milk there and died in an auto accident in Idaho. Their children are Geroy, Sandra (deceased), Gayland and Vicki (deceased).
Child # 7. Winnifred (deceased) went to beauty school and worked in Auerbachs department store's beauty shop in Salt Lake City. Her first husband George Cameron was in charge of dressing the windows at Auerbachs. They divorced and she married Alan Hampshire, an insurance agent . They lived all over as Al was into mining speculation. At one time they lived in a dugout in Searchlight, Nevada outside Las Vegas and cooked rabbit stew while they both signed up for unemployment. They finally settled in Escondido, California where Al sold insurance. They had one child: Deana.
|Winnifred the last baby born to Clara||(l-r) Winnifred, Wayne and Gladys in Oakley||Winnifred, Alice and Gladys in SLC|
(1) Coalville Times news articles researched by Lorraine Crow of West Valley City, Utah
(2) Wilkins and Stevens family histories written by Lin Vernon Floyd on my family history webpage site:
www.geocities.com/famhistory1867/Wilkins.html + www.geocities.com/famhistory1867/stevenshorton.html
(3) Photos taken from Stevens Reunion CD by Pat Cone of Oakley, and others contributed by Stevens family relatives
(4) Research in US Fed Censuses: 1930 George Stevens in SLC with Katherine and her son Raymond; 1920 Census George and Clara in SLC with their children; & 1910 census George, Clara and Family in Oakley.
(5) The Vernon Family Book: Joseph Harold and Mildren Stevens Vernon of Milford, Utah by Lin V. Floyd as well as interviews with Stevens family members.