Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Morgan Farm of Nibley, Utah

The original lean-to barn, octagonal silo, barn addition, Morgan home, and out-buildings still stand on the property.
Starting from scratch in 1903, Ernest Morgan with his new family, established a farm at 2800 South 800 West in what is now Nibley, Utah. The farm began while the family lived out of a tent on the property, until the first room could be raised. Eventually the land was cleared, a home built, and the farm begun. When first establishing the farm, Ernest was not willing to go into debt for the construction of a barn, and began by building a lean-to that would eventually become the east side of his barn.

While operating the farm in 1909, and raising his young family, Ernest developed appendicitis, and was rushed to Salt Lake City for an operation. It was touch-and-go for quite some time, and appeared in all likelihood he would not survive. Under this trying circumstance Elizabeth gave birth to the couple’s first daughter, my wife's grandmother, Zelda Josephine Morgan, on April 19th. Ernest recovered, and resumed his work on the farm.

Besides running a dairy, the Morgans raised beets, onions, potatoes, cabbages, hay and grain. The farm supplied all the little local grocery stores with onions, cabbage and potatoes for years. In time, Ernest became known throughout the Valley as an agricultural leader and a progressive farmer. In an interview at his childhood farm, Austin Morgan said of his father’s standards, “they’d put it in the paper once in a while—‘The Morgan farm—You’ll never see a weed!’ If dad seen two or three weeds and that, why he’d make us go all over the potato patch and get them… We had to take two rows at a time, down the full length and back, to get maybe a handful of weeds.” Ernest operated the first large potato cellar, was secretary of the Clear Creek Irrigation Company, was a past President of the Nibley Farm Bureau Federation, and served as a Cache County road supervisor in the south district.

Around 1919, or possibly earlier, as the farm became progressively more productive, an eight-sided wooden silo was completed on the northwest end of the lean-to barn. The silo was unusual because of its wooden construction using 2X4’s stacked on their sides. It was built entirely from the inside and up with no sealant on the wood. It is speculated that juices from the fermenting corn stored inside leached into the lumber and seal the seams.

Between 1924-26, during a time of economic hardship, the owner of Anderson Lumber approached Ernest and offered to finance the finishing of the main bay of the barn. Isaac Smith was hired as the builder. The barn has an English aspect to it with its simple rectangular shape and side drive doors. When it was first built, the barn was a small lean-to. The wall that now faces the inside of the barn is has a trough on opposite side. Instead of solid plank walls, this wall has slots that are designed for the cattle to slip their heads through. Each slot, or stanch, is made up of two boards: one that is anchored and the second that hinges on a bolt. This single, rough-cut board is the hinged upright that locks them into place. The handmade features of this barn make it one of the valley’s most outstanding historical buildings. It was designed entirely with the requirements of manual labor in mind. A system for the removal of waste in the manger is basic — a window on the east provided the exit for hand shoveled manure. 

Loose hay was brought into the barn from large sliding doors on the west side. Three doors allowed the first, second, and third crops of hay to be put inside as they were harvested. Hay grows quickly and needs to be harvested a few times a season. To harvest the hay a cutter would cut the tall, leafy blades and leave them lying in the field allowing the hay to cure. Then two men working with pitchforks would walk side by side and fold the hay into rows and then back again making piles. Finally a wagon would be driven between the rows and those same men would stab long pitchforks into the hay and toss it over their heads. The wagon would then pull up to the side of the barn and a pulley would slide out on a track and lower a hinged device with interlocking curved hooks (Jackson Fork), it is almost like salad tongs, and the fork would grasps the hay and pull it up out of the wagon.[1]

It would then slide the fork with the hay along a track that runs along the roof of the barn. A man inside would pull a small trip rope and the fork would open and dump the hay in a pile in the center of the barn. After having spread out this hay the cycle would continue until the hay reach almost two storied completely filling the large room. Most of the barn was devoted to storage for the hay with only a small coral for calves and the area that was once a lean to for the milking.

Ernest was always heard to say, “Nothing is nicer than a full barn and a full cellar with row upon row of bottled fruit, cured hams and bacon, honey and molasses, potatoes, carrots, apples, etc.”[2] When the hogs reached the right size, fires were stoked, water boiled, and after scalding, and skinning the pigs, the butchering would begin. The family would put up their own hams, bacon, and sausage. Though considered foul in today’s climate, the kids thrilled at the slaughtering season, not for the blood of the scene, but for the opportunity to “have the bladder to blow up into a balloon to kick about.”[3] They marveled too that “death had been transformed into food for the family.”[4]

Christmas on the farm was a special time for the Morgans. Ernest and Elizabeth would give each of the children a dollar, from which they were to purchase presents for all eleven members of the family. Chickens were picked, singed, plucked, and cleaned. Dressing was made, and apple and mincemeat pies lined the shelves. Large sleigh bells, heard in the distance, ushered the children off to bed in preparation for Santa’s arrival. At 5 a.m., the children would scramble through the dark house feeling for their stockings, which had previously been hung on chairs.

Ernest and Elizabeth made their way downstairs, and in great acts of astonishment, which filled each child with considerable joy, appeared beside themselves as to the previous night’s events which now brought presents to their home. The girls would often find fine dolls with china heads, wooden cribs, skates, new shoes, and best of all books.

Ernest and Elizabeth ensured there was always food on the table and in the pantry. Clothes and some of the finer things may have been lacking as the children grew, but food was never in want. Breakfast was always served on the large wooden kitchen table, covered with a white damask tablecloth. Plates of bacon, ham, sausage, headcheese, eggs, cereal, cracked wheat, and corn meal covered the table, mixed with biscuits, corn bread, fresh wheat bread, honey, syrup and molasses.

Ernest Morgan operated the farm until 1937 when son Elwood took over the operation. Elwood managed the farm until 1981 when Dee Gibbons purchased the property. He operated it until 2007 when it was purchased by the City of Nibley, designated as open space and given an historical landmark status. The barn has been a prominent fixture in the history of Cache Valley, and appears in RV guides, books, and photo-journals.

Today, Ernest Morgan's one hundred year old barn hosts the annual Cache Valley Live Nativity each December.


The former milking parlor is transformed into a Bethlehem stable, complete with sheep, braying donkeys, and a camel. A shepherd's hut and goats fill the adjacent pasture, while the soft glow of light leads visitors into a reverent corner of the barn where wise men, shepherds, Mary, and Joseph gather around baby Jesus. With the live nativity integrated with the century-old history of the barn, "It almost feels like a holy place."[5]


[1] Moving loose hay from a wagon required the use of a sling or Jackson fork (below) attached by cable or rope to the boom. A Jackson Fork's wooden frame has four metal tines. When the fork was closed the tines were pushed into the loose hay and the frame clamped down. Once secured, a harnessed horse was walked a set distance away, pulling the cable through a system of pulleys on the derrick frame. The derrick arm would be swung, and then by tripping the dump rope the fork released to dump the hay. 

[2] Zelda Morgan Eliason. Personal History.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] The Herald Journal,. 2014. 'Live Nativity At Nibley Farm Draws Visitors To ‘Bethlehem’'. Accessed December 16 2014. http://news.hjnews.com/allaccess/live-nativity-at-nibley-farm-draws-visitors-to-bethlehem/article_0fc84840-643d-11e3-bb77-0019bb2963f4.html.

Monday, September 1, 2014

C Davis Blacksmith, St Johns, Arizona Territory

Research   (ˈrēˌsərCH)

Noun - The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions...


There really can be no Family History without research. Occasionally, and possibly more often then we want to consider, what we term family history research has really been nothing more than a reliance on family tradition, the postulations of disconnected, though well-intentioned, individuals, and a lack of perspective.

The first problem, over-relying on family tradition, can be seen in the light of a simple elementary school game. In this simple game the teacher whispers a pure unaltered story into the ear of a student. Upon receiving the story that student then repeats its into the ear of the next student, who then repeats it to the next student, and so on, and so on, until it reaches the last student's ear. Without fail, discombobulation of the facts occur in this orally transmitted story, which is exponentially expanded by the number of ears the story passed through; the original facts became lost in the unwritten translation.

The second problem, the assumptions of well-meaning individuals, is really nothing more than fancy. By this I don't mean to be critical, but without close examination, study, and articulated reasoning, we are left with nothing short of conjecture - guess work.

Lastly, our view is limited by our lack of perspective. The narrower our approach, the more likely we are to reach a limited conclusion.

All that being said, this post is my effort to reach a conclusion, through research, about two (2) family history photographs. Both photographs, according to family tradition, are of the "Charles William Davis' Blacksmith Shop" in St. Johns, Arizona.

Photograph 1:

Photograph 2:

Let's first begin with a study of the photographs themselves. At first glance, it should be obvious that each building is made of completely different material. 
  • The building in Photograph 1 is a combination of adobe, wood, and concrete block. 
  • In Photograph 2 we have an all wood building. 
Next, let's examine some finer details about the structure.
  • Photograph 1 does not have a gabled (pointed) roof, as does the building in Photograph 2.
  • Additionally the boards used in the facade, or face, of the buildings run different directions (horizontal vs. vertical). 
Though we don't have enough detail in which to measure the physical size of each building, it does appear that the building in Photograph 1 is wider than the other, though the building in Photograph 2 appears taller. I won't bore you with ideas of how we could measure the buildings.

Suffice it to say, I am confident that these are not the same building. But let's not stop here. Photograph 1 shows the building being advertised as "_____ Repair Shop" while Photograph 2 clearly shows the building as "C Davis Blacksmith." Let us assume that at least this much is true about both - the buildings were owned by the Davis family. With that in mind let us interject the name Davis into the name of the business being advertised in Photograph 1, making it the "Davis Repair Shop."

I performed a Google search on the phrase "Davis Repair Shop." In doing so I found an obituary for Paul Davis, the youngest son of Charles William Davis. The obituary indicated that Paul owned and operated the Davis Repair Shop in Ramah, New Mexico. Additionally I located an article from the Gallup Independent dated 19 December 1946. The article, under the heading "Ramah News," described how the Davis Repair Shop was enlarged with a "cinder brick addition," while the "adobe front of the old building" was white washed (see the last full paragraph in the article).

Upon closer examination, the building in Photograph 1, matches the description of the 1946 modifications. The adobe front is obvious, while an examination of the right side of the building reveals the new cinder block addition. Additionally, the sign for that building, upon a closer look reveals hints that the word DAVIS may have been painted just above the words Repair Shop; the bottom of what could be a D and an S are visible.

Lastly, the sign states that the Repair Shop is involved in "Tractors and Implements." This advertisement appeared in the Gallup Independent on 14 August 1949. The advertisement announced the new appointment of Davis Repair Shop as a dealer for Ferguson Tractor and Farm Machinery, which is a polite way to say implements. Again it points out that the repair shop in in Ramah.

Based on this research I am satisfied that Photograph 1 is Paul Davis' Repair Shop in Ramah, New Mexico.

So what then of Photograph 2. Taken at face value, the sign clearly reads "C Davis Blacksmith." So let's act under that assumption, and assume that the C Davis mentioned is in fact Charles William Davis. We could compare the man standing on the left in Photograph 2 to other known photographs of Charles William Davis.

Consider these pictures of Charles William Davis. The picture on the right we see him standing to the right of his five boys. My grandfather, Charles Joy Davis, is seen standing next to him.


Charles William has a certain stiffness to his back. He stands very straight and his shoulders seem naturally held high and back, in what we would call good posture. He has a strong neck, that slopes easily to his shoulders, and his chest is wide and powerful. I could post other photographs, but for the sake of time, both men from these three pictures appear physically similar. Additionally, we can rule out the young man on the right in Photograph 2 as being the owner of the business, as he is obviously too young. Alone, this comparison of physiques would be circumstantial at most, but it holds more credibility, when we consider that both men in all three photographs probably share the same initials and last name, "C Davis," and both were blacksmiths.

But this still leaves most of our original question unanswered. Can we confirm that this building is in St Johns, Arizona? Fortunately for us we have two photographs to study. There is Photograph 2, which is the most often published photograph of the building. Then we have Photograph 3, which was discovered several years ago. It happens to be the original picture, uncropped, and unedited, and gives us an amazing perspective!

Photograph 3

This is our best clue for determining the exact location this photograph was taken, and the key is that lovely building off in the distance. Its unique and distinctive shape can only be an asset in our search.

Acting under the assumption that this is in St Johns, Arizona, I conducted a search on the history of St Johns, and included in that search a search of historical images.

Turning to Google I located a blog post "St. Johns: Town of Friendly Neighbors Had Unfriendly Start." It is a lovely post regarding the early days of St Johns. About half-way through the article there is a digital rendering of a court building and this description:

This cut stone courthouse was built in 1884. A jail with a metal roof was added on the east side in 1885. In 1891, Apache County was split in two to create Navajo County from the western half. In 1917, county officials had the existing courthouse built on the hill where the white schoolhouse was located and the old courthouse building became an elementary school. 
Further into the blog post another picture appears showing an addition attached to the east side of the courthouse along with this detailed description:

When the new courthouse was dedicated April 2, 1918, the old building became District 1 elementary school shown here. The building on the right was the town’s second jail, built in 1885. The school burned in the early 1930s and was rebuilt as Coronado School. It was demolished after a new building was constructed in 1987 on the playground.
By blowing up the section of Photograph 2 that contains the old building we can compare it to the above photographs and renderings and we can see that this is the same building. Obviously the rendering has additional features that are not present in the actually constructed building, but there are more than sufficient details to make our conclusion sound: roof line, roof style, roof material, block construction, decorative block courses mid-height and at the foundation level, window placement, window styles, the number of windows, door placement, chimneys, front door steps, etc.

Based on this conclusion we can be certain that the "C Davis Blacksmith" shop as seen in Photograph 2 is in St Johns, Arizona. More importantly, based on the Coronado School reference from the blog post we located, we can know precisely where the blacksmith shop was located. Coronado Elementary is located at 50 N Water Street, St Johns, AZ.  In the cropped photograph of the court building there is evident, on the lower left, a set of steps that clearly leads to the building from a lower elevation. Using street view in Google Maps one can see that on the west side of the Coronado Elementary there is a significant elevation change where the landscape quickly drops off to the west. From this clue we can surmise that the blacksmith shop was built on the west side of the school at the corner of 2nd East and Cleveland Street.

Let's not stop here though. Let's compare the timeline of when Charles William Davis was living in St Johns, and see if it corresponds with the history of this building.

From his own history we know that Charles William Davis, who was affectionately known as Charley, married Harriet Martha Bloomfield on 13 September 1896, in Ramah, New Mexico. He reported that shortly after the marriage the family moved to St. Johns, Arizona where he began working as a blacksmith, cabinetmaker, wheelwright, and barber. Though he does not report what year he arrived in St Johns, we know that the couple's first surviving child, Charles Joy Davis, was born in St Johns on 20 May 1901. In 1910, Charles had removed his family back to Ramah where he operated a Grist Mill. This places the family in St Johns somewhere between 1896 and 1910, and these dates firmly place the family in St Johns after the court building was constructed, and prior to it burning down.

But, can we conclude that the "C Davis Blacksmith" shop is in fact Charles William Davis' blacksmith shop? Yes, we can.

This conclusion is solidified with research of newspaper articles from the St Johns Herald. A search of the newspaper archives for the Herald identified several advertisements for the "C W Davis Blacksmith," and that these advertisements were published between 1901 and 1909. 

Additionally there are articles referencing C W or Charley Davis, that confirm that he was not only a blacksmith in town, but the newspaper referred to him as, "Our blacksmith."

Check out this articles from 22 June 1901.

This next article was published in August 1901, and suggests a reason behind the stiffness that Charles William Davis displays in his back.

Printed in January of 1902, is article appears the most telling as it describes a very particular detail about the blacksmith shop, for which we have photographic evidence - a very neat sign on the front of the building.

In October of 1901, C W Davis had been working through the night when he suddenly put down his hammer and walked home to commit an act of murder for which he was never convicted.

Then, how about this one from 15 June 1906.

Here the article clearly indicates that C W Davis' blacksmith shop is located on "South Side Block, West of Court House, St Johns, Arz."

Still not enough?

I know from the personal history of William Charles Davis, Charles William's father, that he and his wife moved from St Johns to Clifton, Arizona around 1903, while still serving as First Counselor in the St. Johns’ Ward bishopric. William Charles was then chosen superintendent of the Sunday School in the Clifton branch organization on 25 May 1905. Members of the branch then regularly met for Sunday services in the Davis' home in Clifton.

With that in mind, consider these two short articles which appeared, respectively, in the St Johns Herald on 24 October 1903 and then a week later on 7 November 1903.

From these articles we know that C W Davis operated a blacksmith shop in St Johns, just west of the courthouse, that he was also known as Charley Davis, that he added a new sign to the top of his shop around 1902, that he occasionally suffered from a bad back, and that he helped his parents move to Clifton, Arizona around 1903.

Based on all of these facts, I feel confident that the C Davis Blacksmith shop in Photograph 2 is in fact the Charles William Davis blacksmith shop, and that it is located in St Johns, Arizona. More importantly the adult subject in the photograph is Charles William Davis himself, and that the photograph was taken between 1901 and 1910 - more likely closer to 1901 because the sign still looks new and does not appear to be too badly weathered, as does the rest of the building.

Would you agree? Do you find any holes in my conclusions?

I would like to hear your thoughts on my research.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Joy Davis, Inc.

It sounds almost like the lead-in to an off-color joke of sorts; “A furniture salesman, car dealer, and the justice of the peace walk into a trading post…” The joke would seem wilder if they all turned out to be the same man. Such are exactly the facts about my grandfather, Charles Joy Davis. He was a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of most. Throughout much of his early married life, Joy Davis could be considered an amalgamation of vocations and talents – if he could make a living doing it he did it. This was out of necessity, and not out of impulse or licentiousness. He understood what it was to be a man, and that meant doing all that he could to raise a growing family, and provide for their necessities in life.

Charles Joy Davis, with child, in the shadows of El Morro National Monument.
In 1921, following their marriage, Eulla Eliza Merrill and Charles Joy Davis began operating the Ramah trading post. As incentive, they newly married couple lived in a back room at the trading post. They were eventually relocated to run the Inscription Rock Trading Post about ten miles southeast of Ramah, near El Morro National Monument. 

Another transfer came and Joy and Eulla relocated to Zuni Pueblo where they began operating the Zuni Trading Post. The Zuni people, though this was the Roaring 20s, still lived on the corn, beans, and squash they had grown since before written history, supplemented with a little meat from an occasional deer or a sheep from the herds introduced by the Spanish. They sold their pelts to Trading Post, which were then shipped to New York. Contracts with wholesalers in Albuquerque provided the post with goods to sell and money to buy wool. In those days, the trading post had a "bull pen," the area in the middle of the store surrounding the potbellied stove where the Indians stood. The trader kept behind the counter and handed goods over from the stock in back. The high shelves were full of coffee, sugar, yard goods, pots, pans, kerosene lamps, and reels of colorful ribbon. There was also a social element in the trading post, especially on those bitterly cold winter days when people could spend some time gossiping around the glowing stove and do a little trading, too. While working in the trading post industry Joy honed his gift for gab, and learned to speak Navajo and Zuni. By the time 1924 came along, the Davis family had moved to Gallup, where Joy worked at the L G Shanklin Hardware and Furniture, and rented a home at 109 South Second Street.

They bought a home at 110 E Mesa Ave, just down the street from where Eulla’s sister May and her husband Dick White were living, they having moved to Gallup to establish the White Elephant Storage and Moving Company. 

Soon after, Joy was hired to operate the Crystal Trading Post about 50 miles north of Gallup. The family home was rented out and the whole family moved to Crystal.

Within the year, the family returned to Gallup and Joy took a job as manager of the McKinley County Hardware Co. In early 1927, another venture came Joy’s way and he entered into an agreement with Albert Lebeck. Together they bought the Oakland Pontiac dealership of Gallup, and Lebeck-Davis Motor Company was born. 

The Gallup Independent, June 1927
The Gallup Independent, April 22, 1927
On 3 April 1927 Joy bought Lebeck’s half of the dealership, renamed it Joy Davis, Inc. and was immediately “in the money.” 

The Gallup Independent, June 1927.

General Motors had introduced the Pontiac brand in 1926 as the 'companion' marquee to their Oakland division. Within months of its introduction, Pontiac was outselling Oakland. In 1927, Pontiac became the top-selling six cylinder engine in the U.S., ranking seventh in overall sales. 

In July, Joy leased space at the Grand Hotel at 306 W Coal Avenue, in Gallup and began to expand his business. 

306 W Coal Avenue, Gallup, NM
By November Joy opened a dealership office in Farmington, New Mexico. Initially Joy's business partner, Lawrence Clawson, was to run the Farmington branch, but business ventures in Ramah kept him from fulfilling his responsibilities. Joy split his time between Farmington and Gallup until he could hire George Williams to manage the Farmington office.

His expansion continued when on 12 January 1928, a grand opening dance and celebration took place at their new location in the Iehl building at 506 W Coal Avenue.

Iehl Building - 506 W Coal Ave, Gallup, NM
12 January 1928, Grand Opening of Joy Davis, Inc at 506 W Coal Avenue.
Joy Davis is at the lower right wearing a light colored suit, with his elbow bent pointing towards the crowd.
During 1927 and 1928, as side notes to the dealership, Joy was the Crosley radio dealer for western New Mexico[1] and dabbled in real estate, selling hillside lots in the newly annexed Highland Park addition of Gallup.[2]

Sales continued to increase, and so did Joy’s ideas for the business. Utilizing bold ideas Joy advertised in The Gallup Independent, even taking out an entire page in the newspaper to advertise a used car sale that included 25 gallons of free gas with every car purchased during the sale. He joined forces with other local businesses to support and advertise products such as Veedol oil, which was carried exclusively by Gallup Mercantile Company. He joined those same local businesses to welcome “the Methodists” to town for a convention hoping to lure them here for future business. 

His business prowess was remarkable. In April he acquired Mutual Motor Service, as the on site repair and service department for the dealership. In August, Joe Dunn joined Joy as a partner in Mutual Motor Service, which was quickly renamed D & D Motor Service. 

Pontiac, in August of 1929, granted Joy membership in the coveted 52-Car Club, he having sold over fifty-two vehicles during a single year. Car sales at Joy Davis, Inc., in a nutshell, were record breaking.

A lot can happen in two months, however. "Black Tuesday" struck Wall Street on 24 October 1929, and the Great Depression rumbled its way west; when it did, Joy could hold on for only a year before he was completely broke. Earlier that year Joe Dunn broke off and began selling the Nash line of automobiles under the business name D & D Motor Service. Joy downsized, moved his corporate office to the White Elephant Storage and Moving Company, and relocated his car lot to the Hart Building at 312 W 66th Avenue (US Route 66).[3] In 1930, he moved again, this time relocating the dealership lot to the Frkovich Garage on 5th Street, next to the Piedmont Hotel at 502 W 66th Avenue. Before Joy could catch himself he found he had lost his dealership, his home, $50,000, and his health.

On 1 April 1930, Joy packed the family and moved to Salt Lake City where had obtained a position as a sales representative at Joe Carpenter, Inc. Salt Lake City’s Oakland-Pontiac dealership at 47 W Fourth South Street.[4] The family lived in Salt Lake City for about a year, renting a home at 241 Belmont Avenue. In June of 1931, Joy and the family returned to their Ramah roots, where Joy opened a blacksmith shop, and built a house. Within three years Joy was elected Justice of the Peace and served in that capacity until he took a position with the Department of the Interior as a master mechanic; that job eventually led to another with Arizona Sand and Rock and the family moved to Arizona, but I'll save those details for another day...

And so, there you have the story of Joy Davis, Inc. A simple story of a simple man who was determined to do his family right in whatever profession he held be it trinkets, hardware, furniture, automobiles, or what have you.

Charles Joy Davis, circa 1950.

[1] Crosley, considered the Henry Ford of radios, began producing radios for the masses in 1920, selling them for a mere $7 per radio. Other brands sold for upwards of $100 apiece.

[2] Highland Park is situated southeast of downtown Gallup, in the foothills, taking in that area south of Route 66 near Ford Drive, south and east to Boardman Drive then west to where Boardman intersects with Second Street then north to East Logan Avenue on the north west. 

[3] Only a portion of the Hart Building remains, the main portion of the property is now a parking lot for the City of Gallup.

[4] Fourth South Street was eventually renamed University Avenue