As the flowers spring forth in May and bring joy to those who see them, a birth on Thursday, May 13, 1880, brought joy to James George and Polly Williams Davis of Kanarraville, Iron County, Utah. James George Davis was born in Llanelli, South Wales, converted to the LDS Church and traveled with his family over the ocean, and across the plains and settled at Fort Harmony, Utah. There he met Polly Williams who had been born in Mt. Pulaski, Sangamon County, Illinois. She also had been converted to the Church and had traveled to Utah with the Saints. They were married in 1856 in Fort Harmony, Utah. They had three children there. They were: Rachel, born April 1857; Elizabeth Ann, born January 8, 1859; and James Lorenzo, born February 14, 1861. Rachel died in infancy.
Fort Harmony was stricken with floods, so in 1862 the Fort was closed and James and Polly moved north to Fort Kanarra. Two more children were born there: William Rees, on February 2, 1863; and George Alma on February 14, 1866. Again, that fort met with disaster in the form of sandstorms and was closed. The people resettled just one mile south, and named it Kanarraville. The rest of the children were born there. They were: Myron Thomas, born March 17, 1868; Rees on February 4, 1871; Nora on December 23, 1873; and Eleanor Matilda on January 26, 1877. The family greeted the new little one born on the beautiful May day of the 13th, 1880 with the knowledge they were blessed with a spring flower fresh from heaven. He was given the name of Albert. Then, one more child, Alice May, was born on August 19, 1883. This completed the family.
Albert found his new home to be a small log house located on the lower street in Kanarra where the Lynn Reeves’ home is presently. The lot had a high pole fence that gave privacy to those within, but there was a swinging gate that welcomed all who wished to enter from without. Try to picture life in the 1880’s. No modern conveniences, homemade furniture, ten children in a small house, and all the work it took just to survive. Food had to be planted, cared for and harvested. Wood had to be chopped, stacked and carried in, to use in cooking and staying warm. Clothes were hand-sewn, hard to come by, and washed by being scrubbed on a washboard. There was very little money – only that which could be earned from selling homegrown commodities or doing manual labor. Because there was very little money, Albert and his brothers and sisters went without shoes most of the year. Their feet became so tough that it has been told they could slide on the icy roads with their bare feet.
With a family of that size, every member did their share of work. Albert, or “Bert” as he was affectionately called, learned to work and work hard from an early age. One of his first chores was to get the drinking water for his family. It was not from a faucet but from the ditch. He would fill buckets, then carry them to a barrel that was kept under a locust tree that gave shade to the door-yard and sidewalk. Having baths, washing clothes, and water for cleaning, had to be carried into the house by this means. Doing this lifting, chopping and carrying wood, walking to where you needed to go, made a healthy and physically fit body.
However, our physical needs are not the only important things. A child needs to grow emotionally and spiritually. Bert grew up in the home of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that had suffered many hardships in crossing the plains, and in being faced with the trials of so many moves in their early married life. Many nights must have been spent by the Davis children listening to the stories their father told of his life in Wales and of crossing the ocean, which most of them would never do. Also of their parents’ experiences of seeing and listening to the Prophet Brigham Young and the many other faith building experiences they had. Because the Gospel meant so much to them, their children were all baptized and confirmed members of the LDS Church. There is no record of the day Bert was blessed, but he was baptized on October 15, 1893, by J. D. Williams, and confirmed that same day by Myron S. Roundy.
Bert attended school during his early years. The school was held in the old church house or in the Relief Society building. His schooling was limited to the 5th and 6th Reader as they were called in those days, which is the equivalent to the fundamentals received in the 10th or 11th grade.
As Bert was learning and receiving more knowledge in school, he was also learning more about the Gospel. The faith of the earlier generations seemed to be more of devotion and not that of needing to know all the answers. Maybe it was that their parents had seen miracles performed by Brigham Young and other leaders, or that they knew of life without the Gospel. Bert, too, must have seen prophets like Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow because they would travel through Kanarra on the way to St. George. Anyway, this would make a person have a stronger testimony.
People then would never go without paying their tithing. I’m sure when Bert was ordained a deacon he helped to gather the tithing. Then the people paid with what they grew or raised. For example, for every ten eggs they gave one, etc. Bert progressed and learned more about the Priesthood. On January 16, 1900, he was ordained a Deacon by William Ford. He was ordained a Teacher by William Ford on January 5, 1902. Joel J. Roundy ordained him to the office of a Priest on January 19, 1908. Then on November 1, 1908, James Wallace Williams ordained him an Elder.
Knowing of all the work and learning they had to do, we might think that they didn’t have time for fun, but this is not so. Bert’s father was a very talented man. He loved to sing and wrote many songs. They were also known for the many parties they had in their home. When children hear their parents singing, they know all is well and they are happy.
Bert’s family homesteaded a parcel of land on the Kanarra Mountain. They had a dairy there. There was a creek running through the land. This creek was named after his mother and still bears the name of Polly’s Creek. Bert spent many summers making butter and cheese, milking and delivering it down to the valley. As he grew older, he learned more working skills. Most of them had to do with animals. Automobiles were unknown then, and all their traveling was done with horses, either on the backs or pulled by them in a wagon or buggy. Bert was known to be a “true cowboy.” He could ride any horse, and was hired to break many horses for riding. He could drive a team of horses and many hair-raising wagon rides were experienced by anyone who rode with him. He used his talent with horses and a rope, and traveled to many rodeos trying his skill at roping animals. I’m sure he must have won at this event, because he once roped a wild, running coyote from his horse.
Bert had grown into a handsome and straight man with blue eyes, sandy hair and a large frame. He was 5’10” tall. He had not only gained a testimony, received his education, and learned to work hard, thus choosing to work with animals to earn his livelihood, but he gained a love for sports of all kinds and participated in many of them. The one he liked best and excelled in the most was running. Bert was a foot racer and he was best at 100 yards or longer. Then the people really loved these races and they traveled from town to town to compete. Bert’s brothers helped him to train by tying weights like rocks to his feet and legs to make his muscles develop more, so that he would be able to beat in racing, and Bert usually did.
Not only did he love sports; he also loved to dance. He probably loved to dance more than anything else, and he wanted others to be able to dance as well. Many a young man went to Bert for a dance ticket and was never refused. They usually repaid him by working for him or by bringing him fence posts.
As a man, he wanted more from life than a career and participating in dance and sport activities. He wanted the joys and blessings of a wife and children. I suppose Bert had many girlfriends and experienced puppy love and such, but one time he told a group of shearers that he was going home to marry Uncle Si Reeves’ baby. She was Hannah Augusta Reeves, the daughter of Josiah and Sarah Stapley Reeves. Hannah was born August 23, 1885, in Kanarraville, too, and was a lovely young girl with blue eyes, dark brown hair, and stood 5’4” tall. She was very deeply in love with Bert, and on December 8, 1908, they traveled by horse and buggy to the St. George Temple to be sealed for time and all eternity. They were married by David H. Cannon. Their witnesses were Samuel Miles and Henry J. White.
To this union five children were born. First was Leonard, born September 8, 1911. He was a farmer and raised sheep. His home was in Kanarra and he was married to Verna Platt Davis and they had two children. Leonard died of cancer on March 18, 1989. Next, their second child, was Delile, who was born April 26, 1914. He lived in Kanarra and was a coal miner, married to Gwen Williams Davis, and they were the parents of three children. Delile passed away on November 14, 1976, from a brain tumor and cancer. The third child was Elda, and she was born January 8, 1917. Elda lived in Summit, Utah, and was married to Rudger Fife. They had four children. Elda died of cancer on March 15, 1962. The fourth child was another girl named Carma. She was born August 6, 1920, and lives in Kanarraville. She married Chester Williams and they are the parents of four children. Last was Marva who was born on February 19, 1925. She made her home in New Harmony, Utah, and is married to Vivian Prince. They are the parents of five children. Albert was only able to know eight of his eighteen grandchildren. The rest were born after he passed away.
Bert worked hard to support his family and as said before, he worked mostly with animals. At one time, he worked for Johnny Adams in Imperial Valley, California, feeding and tending cattle. Many years he spent herding sheep for other people who were absent for a month at a time, leaving Hannah alone to raise the children. Sometimes he rented sheep to go along with his own. He and his children herded them at Spring Creek and other places. Bert was a sheep shearer also. He traveled in Idaho, Nevada and various parts of Utah shearing sheep.
Another job he had was being a stray-picker. When sheep men bring down their flocks from the mountain in the fall, many sheep have strayed from their owner’s flock to another’s. A stray-picker is a person who watches the sheep go through the dividing corrals and sorts out the sheep that belong in another herd. He got 25¢ a sheep. Now they get $3.00 a sheep. I guess trying to raise a family in the ‘20’s and during the depression makes a man find ways to earn a living by taking many different jobs. He was also City Marshall for a while and also a Quarantine Officer. In those days, a Quarantine Officer went to the homes where there was a contagious disease and made sure none of the people left the home, and no one else could enter until all danger of the disease was passed. Bert was also a janitor of the school when Leonard, his son, was away during World War II.
While working hard at what jobs he could find, Bert and Hannah raised chickens for the eggs and meat; also calves and pigs. They also had milk cows and a large vegetable garden. Bert met a lot of their needs by trading what he had to others for what they had. This is called bartering. He was always trading horses and other animals. He would trade potatoes, grain and other items to Dixie people, for casabas that he stored, buried in the grain so they would keep all winter. Food was hardly ever bought with money then, but was traded for. He always worked hard and provided for his wife and children.
Bert had many fine qualities and characteristics. He was very good-natured and very seldom became angry. If he did, he got over it in a hurry. He was usually nice to everyone but one time he did get into a fight. This man named Billy Roundy was a cantankerous fellow and he had been mean to some of Bert’s kids and animals. Bert didn’t like this, so when he went to talk to Billy they got into a fistfight. Billy, as usual, didn’t fight fairly and was pulling Bert’s hair through the fence. Neither of them won and Billy kept right on being mean to the kids and animals. Anyway, Bert did try to defend what was his.
Another quality he had that people remember most about him was that he was always singing. Not that he could carry a tune, but because he was happy. The two songs he sang most were “Knick Knack Paddy Whack, Give a Dog a Bone,” and “Cripety, Cripety, Crany Crow Went to the Well to Wash His Toe.” Michael, his grandson who was only seven when Bert died, remembers that he was always singing.
Another characteristic for which he was remembered, was that he would go any place, any time, anywhere, with anybody. When he went to visit he didn’t stay long and sometimes he was known to get up and leave in the middle of a conversation, when a person least expected it!
His children remember the many times be brought home gifts to them and Hannah after he had been away. To the children, he brought things like chocolate animals or figures that he had carved out of wood. For Hannah, he always brought her gifts when he went to Cedar City or other places, and he bought her clothes and accessories that were always more suited to her than she or other people would have chosen.
Marva, his youngest daughter, can remember the cleanliness of Bert. Every morning he would get up and scrub his whole head, his ears, and the back of his neck, very vigorously, to greet the day.
Throughout Bert’s life, he continued to be active in the Church. On December 9, 1930, he was ordained a High Priest by President William A. Palmer. There is no record to verify he was in the bishopric, but some people think he was. I’m sure he would have done a fine job if he had been. He was definitely in a presidency because his son, Leonard, remembers coming in late to a meeting and some girls teasing him that now that his dad was on the stand watching him, he had better watch what he did. He was a Ward Teacher for many years and I’m sure he was always willing to serve and help where he was asked. He was also a faithful tithe-payer and he taught his children the importance of this commandment.
In Bert’s lifetime, the world was experiencing many new discoveries and people were creating many new inventions. He saw life go from horse-and-buggy to cars and airplanes. He was able to ride in a train and to drive a car. Though he never owned a car, he drove other people’s cars. He had a driver’s license, one that never expired. Some people said he drove a car like he did a team of horses, and it was just about as scary to ride with him. He saw electricity, the telephone, radio, toilets, refrigerators, and washing machines invented and come into use. He had electricity, a fridge, a conventional washer and a radio, but they never got a bathroom, a TV or a telephone before he died. Bert really enjoyed listening to the radio. His favorite programs were “Amos and Andy,” and “Fibber McGee and Molly.” He really thought they were funny. He never got used to an indoor, flushing toilet or baths in a real bathtub. All he knew was a No. 3 tub and an outhouse.
Bert’s life was happy for him always, until he suffered a heart attack during the war. When Leonard left for the army, Bert took over the farm and being janitor of the school. One day when he was helping Delile, his son, and Chet, his son-in-law, haul hay, he had a heart attack. He was not taken that day but his heart was weak from then on and he couldn’t do much work. In October of 1948, he was put in the Iron County Hospital in Cedar City for his heart condition. While in there, he developed pneumonia and excess fluid built up in his body. On October 18, 1948, Bert literally drowned in his own fluid. His wife, children, family and friends were very saddened at his passing. His children to this day always talk with great love and respect about their beloved “Papa,” which they always called him instead of “Dad” or “Father.” He was laid to rest in the Kanarraville Cemetery on October 21, 1948.
Even though I never knew him, I have learned to love and respect him. My hope for his posterity and any others who loved him is that they will live their lives so they will be able to greet him on the glorious morning of the First Resurrection, and to be able to talk with him and know of his love for us.
Bert was known by many names,
Husband, Papa, brother, friend.
Bert lived as everyone should,
Happy and joyful from beginning to end.
May we live by his example,
So we can hear others say,
They’re kind, good-natured, pleasant,
They have followed in Bert’s way.