Monday, May 25, 2015

Turning a Banida House into a Home

Ezra James Allen had been born on 9 April 1871, in Logan, Cache, Utah, the second child of Maria Cowley and Alexander Alma Allen. He was baptized into the Church at the age of 8, and lived in Banida the majority of his life. He was called to the Southern States Mission in 1897, at the age of twenty-six. He arrived by train in Chattanooga, Tennessee on August 24, and after a meeting was assigned to Moorhead, Kentucky to labor. He wrote often in his journal of traveling great distances for meetings, and routinely went without food on those journeys.
Walked 5 miles; held meeting in private house…August 27, traveled 8 miles…Gave out appointment; held meeting in private house. Had good turn out…Stopped overnight with Brother McRoberts. Left and walked 20 miles and met Elder Budge and Elder Blackburn…I spent the day on the road walking - walked 9 miles. Visited 5 families…Stopped the evening and all night with Mr. Springer…Slept out in the hay field…
He was released in 1898, and returned home. In 1906, failing health of his father, Alexander, forced the family to sell the farm and move back to Logan. Ezra rented a small farm in Banida, on shares, and went to work. During the winter months he returned to Logan to be with family.

In December 1912, he met the love of his life, Ada Florence Richardson, a recent convert from England, in 1913. Flossie, as she would later be called by members of her ward in Banida, was born on 23 December 1873, to George Richardson and Ann Baker of Islip, Northampton, England, the middle child of eight. George was a miller by trade and ran a flour mill in Titchmarsh. The mill provided a large home for the family.

Florence attended school at Titchmarsh, and then transferred to Thrapston School, about three miles from home. At the age of thirteen Florence began working as a servant in the neighboring estates.

One of the estates was Lilford Hall, the home of Thomas Atherton Powys, 4th Baron Lilford, or Lord Lilford — according to the Peerage of Great Britain, the system of titles representing the upper ranks of British nobility and part of the British honours system — a renowned ornithologist, and founder of the British Ornithologists’ Union and the first president of the Northamptonshire Natural History Society. The Hall, a 100-room 55,000 square foot mansion, maintained several aviaries that allowed the Richardson family to experience such animals as kiwis, rheas, pink-headed ducks, Lammergeyers, peacocks, swans, turkeys, ostriches, and the first pair of Little Owls in England.

The following year the family relocated to Islip, the adjacent village northwest of Thrapston.

At the age of twenty, Florence moved alone to the town of Northampton. Here, her Uncle Charles Baker was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before his release in 1897, Uncle Charles baptized Florence a member of the Church; he then returned home to Logan, Utah. Fourteen months later, Florence packed up her belongings and sailed to America with Jane Wood and her sister, and four small children. Her parents, George and Ann, died in England, having never embraced the Gospel.

Florence moved to Logan, near her Uncle Charles, and lived with the family of George Thatcher, at 35 West 100 South, for whom she also worked. After two years she moved and began working in the kitchen at Brigham Young College, trading wages for school lessons. 
Brigham Young College is now Logan High School.
Portions of original campus remain in use today.
It was during this time she met Ezra James Allen. A reserved woman, she described the matter in her personal history with only two lines.
I worked at the BYC kitchen for five seasons then left to get married to Ezra James Allen. We lived in Banida, Idaho for nearly 20 years.
They met at a social at the Logan 7th Ward, in December 1912. Ezra had asked if he could walk her home. Florence responded affirmatively, and a quiet romance followed. Florence was 39 and Ezra 42 when they married 9 April 1913 in the Logan Temple. Following the wedding, they traveled to Banida, Idaho, where Ezra had been farming the past seven years. Banida was a small community in the northernmost reaches of Cache Valley. The name was said to have been coined by Ezra Allen, and is derived from the words Bannock and Oneida.

Country living was difficult on Florence, and she occasionally wrote of being “blue,” and “discouraged.” After a year of marriage Ezra built a beautiful wood framed home with a large front porch. 

From her vantage point in the kitchen, Florence could see the majestic 9,300' Oxford Ridge of the Bannock Mountains as she cooked and served meals to the schoolteachers who boarded there and the farm hands who worked alongside her and Ezra. It was here the couple’s only child, Foster Baker Allen, was raised; the family having moved into the home three months after his birth in June 1914.


In the publication, The Community of Banida: centennial 1910-2010, reference is made to Ezra and Florence's home being located at 1789 North 2600 West - the exact whereabouts of that address are elusive as street numbering has been modified over the years, especially in the rural hamlet of Banida. The house, on several occasions, was referred to as a catalog house purchased from Sears, though it was also described as an Aladdin home purchased from Sears Roebuck. 

Catalog houses, also known as mill-cut houses, pre-cut houses, ready-cut houses, mail order homes, or kit homes, were a type of housing that was popular in the United States and Canada in the first half of the 20th century. Kit house manufacturers sold houses in many different plans and styles, from simple bungalows to imposing Colonials, and supplied at a fixed price all materials needed for construction of a particular house.
All designs were standardized to maximize efficiency and reduce waste in materials and labor. Lumber and hardware were purchased in bulk. The factories had skilled employees and special machines to cut difficult pieces such as rafters and staircases. Lumber was pre-cut to length, guaranteed to fit, ready to nail, and labeled for easy assembly. Floor joists and bridging, sub-flooring, finished flooring, studs, rafters, sheathing, clapboards, shingles, stucco, plaster or drywall, columns, railings, doors and windows, hardware, nails, and paint for two exterior coats were included in the order. Plumbing, electrical, and heating systems were available for an additional charge.
A study of Sears Roebuck and Aladdin - two distinct and competitor catalog house companies - revealed similar houses as the one built by Ezra, but catalog homes, being pre-cut, had very distinct characteristics, and none of the period plans offered by the companies matched the Banida home.

Edison model by Aladdin
Starlight model by Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Both manufacturers offered one-story, hip roof, front porch, bungalow floor plans with or without the dormer window in the attic, and though similar in appearance - the Starlight being closest - the placement of front windows, the offset front door, and the placement of the front porch pillars distinguish the Banida house from these options.

But Sears Roebuck and Aladdin were not the only manufacturers that offered catalog homes, there were Montgomery Ward, Gordon-Van Tine, and Harris Brothers.

The Gordon-Van Tine Company, based out of Davenport, Iowa, also operated fabrication plants in Mississippi, Washington, and Missouri. 

A review of their 1920 catalog uncovered the floor plan for Home No. 567. A single story, hip roof, front porch, bungalow.

A review of this floor plan shows - though the floor plan is obviously a mirror image - the placement of the front windows, the offset front door, and the placement of the front porch pillars are identical to the Banida house.

The 728 square foot Gordon-Van Tine catalog home offered two bedrooms, a living room-dining room, kitchen and an indoor bathroom. The basement, which was accessible from stairs in the kitchen, most likely offered storage, and at least three additional rooms to house boarders.


When not employed in working the farm, Ezra enjoyed reading — especially the scriptures and occasionally Time magazine. One of his favorite pastimes was singing with Foster, who had taught himself to play the organ, after receiving it as a gift from his father’s sister. In addition to spending time with Foster and seeking wisdom “out of the best books” Ezra lent his hand in the construction of several more buildings in the Banida area. On September 8, 1918, the Prophet Joseph F. Smith ordained Ezra a High Priest.

By February 1933, Ezra’s health began to fail him. By June he was quite uncomfortable, and unable to lie down to sleep, so he slept without complaint while sitting up in a rocking chair.

A few of Foster’s friends came to visit Ezra on Sunday June 15. During the visit Ezra made a request which the visitors willingly complied and sang the following hymn.
An Angel from on high,
The long, long silence broke -
Descending from the sky,
These gracious words he spoke:
Lo! In Cumorah's lonely hill
Lo! In Cumorah's lonely hill,
A sacred record lies concealed . . .
…Lo! Israel, filled with joy,
Shall now be gathered home;
Their wealth and means employ;
To build Jerusalem:
While Zion shall arise and shine
While Zion shall arise and shine,
And fill the earth with truth divine.
Ezra Allen died two days later on the evening of 17 July 1933, around 6:00 p.m., just as the sun was setting behind the Bannock mountains casting a long shadow over his Banida home.