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The Personal Histories


Darvil Burns McBride & Josephine Phillips McBride


My life began on the eighth day of June 1912, in Thatcher Arizona. Such a happy childhood, such happy growing-up years, we children were "born of goodly parents." Our parents loved us and always provided the good things of life. We were given everything needed to foster a healthy and happy, physical, mental and spiritual foundation.

It seems we lived about one block from everyone and everything: the Church, all of my best friends, both sets of grandparents, the grammar school, the high school and the junior college. (All my brothers and sisters and I graduated from the schools in Thatcher.)

I was born in the house my dad, with the help of Mexican labor, had built: a sturdy little, sixteen-inch adobe-wall home with a bedroom, kitchen, dining and living room. Dad and Mama moved into it—brand new—after they were married. Our home sat next to the bank of the picturesque tree-lined Union Canal. Just the other side of the canal stood the old, beautiful Saint Joseph Stake Center, its corner stone laid in 1904. I lived below the banks of that serene flow of water until the age of seventeen.

Thatcher, in Graham County, is nestled in the Gila Valley: a stretch of seventy-five miles through which flows its namesake, the Gila River. About fifty miles west of the New Mexico border, it snuggles peacefully against the foothills of majestic Mount Graham. During my childhood the small Mormon town boasted a population of eighteen hundred.. The Prophet, Brigham Young, sent my great-grandfather, Christopher Layton, south from Utah to organize the wards among the Mormon settlers, presiding as the first stake president. Eventually he purchased 360 acres three miles west of Safford where he founded the community he named Thatcher. It immediately experienced rapid growth from families from nearby communities and new Mormon settlers arriving from Utah. (Refer to the book, “CHRISTOPHER LAYTON,” by the Christopher Layton Family Organization, 1966.)

At a later date, my maternal grandmother, Josephine Cluff—affectionately known as Nonnie by her grandchildren and Josie by her family and friends—moved to the valley from Heber City, Utah. Her marriage to my grandfather, John William Jones, was unhappy and unsuccessful, and after the divorce, she dropped Jones from her name. There in the valley, close to loving aunts and uncles, who preceded her, she would begin a new life raising her young children: my mother, Eliza Arnette, and a son two years younger, William Wallace. 

They first lived in Pima seven miles west of Thatcher. Grandmother Josephine, brought up in a progressive and educated family was a multitalented and, a well educated woman for her time. Her brother, Benjamin Cluff, became the first president of Brigham Young University while it was still known as the L.D.S. Academy.

While the family lived in Pima, Grandmother Nonnie (Josephine) taught in the elementary school in Central, a smaller community three miles to the east between Pima and Thatcher. She later built a home in Central, and moved her family there. Eventually The Church Academy in Thatcher employed her as the "Matron" (dean of women). In addition to those directorship responsibilities, she taught several courses. To be closer to her new work she built another home in Thatcher and moved her family again.

Grandmother Nonnie, after her children were grown and independent, answered the call of the Prophet of the Church to fill a mission in Saint Louis. One of her companions was, Jeanetta, a sister of David O. McKay. We know that Jeanetta's health deteriorated, and her parents went to Saint Louis specifically to bring home their ailing daughter; she needed their care to make the trip. Grandmother enjoyed a singular experience as a missionary there. She was assigned the responsibility of helping to oversee and host the "Church Exhibit" sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the World Fair of 1904 and 1905.

Soon after completing her mission she returned to our Valley, resumed teaching and married Andrew C. Kimball of Thatcher, eight months after the untimely death of his wife, Olive Woolley. With that union she assumed the ominous task of raising Andrew's six children. Spencer W., one of the children, later became the twelfth President of the Church. My mother, through her mother's second marriage became Spencer's older, beloved sister (Albeit, stepsister). She often said, "He was the most perfect boy and young man I have ever known."

My step-grandfather, Andrew C. Kimball, was serving as the second stake president of the Saint Joseph Stake. He succeeded President Christopher Layton, my great-grandfather, who had been released because of terminal illness. As a girl, I only knew Spencer, as Uncle Spencer, and his father as Grandpa. Of course, they were really step-uncle and step-grandfather, but only as the years passed did I become aware of that mere technicality. To me they would forever be just my Uncle Spencer and my Grandpa. Several times as we raised our three teenage children in Thatcher, Uncle Spencer, then an apostle was a guest in our home. (See a more detailed synoptic history of Josie and Andrew in the section on grandparents.)

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