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(DARVIL)  MEMORIES OF GRANDFATHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS MCBRIDE AND SIMS 

The McBrides
Grandfather and Grandmother McBride migrated to the Gila Valley of Eastern Arizona for one compelling reason. The Prophet of the Church, Brigham Young, called them to be missionaries. He assigned them to make there way to far away Arizona. The specific calling given to Peter Howard McBride Sr. was to bless the lives of the Mormon pioneer families, already in Arizona, with the precious culture of music. The specific calling of Peter’s wife, Ruth Burns McBride, was to nurse and care for the sick.  

Grandfather was born May 3, 1850 in the town of Rothsay on the tiny isle of Bute, Scotland. Grandmother was born June 30, 1857, in Ogden City, Utah. They married on February 2, 1874 and began their life together in Eden, Utah. After having lived in other northern Arizona Mormon enclaves, they arrived on the banks of the Gila River in the infant community of Smithville early in the year of 1880. Of the fourteen children born to them, my father, Robert Franklin—the first-born—was one of six that survived birth or infancy. (See AGAINST GREAT ODDS—The Story of the McBride Family, 1988, by Bruce and Darvil McBride, for a beautiful and intensely interesting and more extensive record of them.) 

I remember seeing my great-grandparents, Burns, at least once as a little boy, when they lived in Pima. But, their daughter, my grandmother Ruth Burns, I knew for years; because she lived until I was 23 years old. I knew Grandfather Peter well. He died when I was 25. During most of the years that I knew Grandmother, she suffered from impaired hearing, so much so that she usually used an old fashioned ear horn. The impairment was so great that it was difficult to converse with her, even when she used the instrument, but she was a fair lip reader, and with some patience we communicated well.  

Grandfather Peter farmed his homesteaded (160 acres) in the valley with fair success and as a supplier of eggs from his own laying flock. In addition, he was renowned as a farmer of summer produce at his place high in the neighboring Graham Mountains. Moreover, he supplemented those earnings by freighting merchandise for various companies and individuals. Using his modified farm wagons, he worked between Bowie, the end of the railroad, and the mining town of Globe. Generally, two teams (four horses) were used to draw them. He may have had as many as four wagons and was recognized as one of the main freighters out of the Pima Area servicing Globe. 

For further financial supplement, he taught vocal and instrumental music. He taught singing groups, choir, organ, piano, guitar, and banjo.  He declared, “if given a few minutes, I can play any musical instrument I can lift.” In his spare time, he taught vocal classes two or three times a week in The Saint Joseph Stake Academy in Thatcher (The Church sponsored four years of high school at the time.). He served as the Stake Music Director for forty years, and he served as a counselor to the Bishop in the Matthew’s Ward for twenty years.  He and his wife were never officially released from their missions by the Prophet, and he always carried on   with the original determination to pursue the unending assignment in noble fashion. As long as physically able to raise his voice, pluck the strings, touch the keys, heft the instruments or raise an arm to direct with the wand—he continues to fulfilled his mission.  

Returning to thoughts of his farming: In the valley, a man by the name of Joseph Foster is purported to have been the first to plow its dark, deep, fertile soil in the Pima Area. Grandfather and others asserted that Grandfather had been the “second” settler to turn over the soil with the plow. Regarding farming up in the mountain, each spring after the weather warmed sufficiently to allow ground breaking at that frosty altitude, he loaded his wagons with family, supplies and implements and made his way to “black berry patch,”a level place at the road’s end above Cluff Ranch. There he left the wagon, packed the two team-horses and another that had trailed along behind. He and his family, laden too, continued on up the trail to 8,000-feet elevation to a place called Oak Flat.

There, he prepared the rich soil to principally plant potatoes, and some pumpkins destined for the market below. He also planted a garden of varied produce for the family’s own enjoyment during their stay. Dad had also built a small cabin at Oak Flat where he, with his family, could escape the summer’s heat. Later, Granddad Peter chose to farm a place at the 9,000-foot level, another good hike on up the trail to a flat that now officially carries his name -- Peter’s Flat. (Now it’s dedicated as an Historical Area with an attractive monument inlaid with a bronze marker of explanation.)  He had found both places to be superior for growing potatoes and pumpkins and other produce during the short season and to be cooler and much more comfortable, to say the least, up above the scorching summer heat of the valley. He dug out several long, wide, deep, pits (they are still there to be plainly seen) to store the multiple harvests of potatoes and  pumpkins. The nights grew very cool, and an insulating layer of pine bows and leaves spread over the top kept the vegetables as fresh as any root cellar. When he made the necessary trips to haul the harvest down to the valley during the more clement months of the harvesting season, the superb produce sold at premium price. 

At Columbine, near Peter’s Flat, a lumbering operation continued for many years. Granddad worked there for extra cash also as time away from the potatoes and pumpkins allowed. I know that my dad worked there, at times, and sometimes he worked with Granddad. A V-shaped flume of heavy wooden planks had been engineered starting from the top of the mountain at Columbine. Supported on wood trestles, it slithered for miles through forests, and down ridges; spanning canyons, gullies and creeks to terminate in the desert at the foot of the mountain. Water diverted into it from the creek at the mill carried the sectioned logs to its end, where it spewed them out about a quarter mile above the Cluff Ranch pond. From there, they were dragged down to the pond. A sawmill there converted them to finished lumber. 

Granddad kept several hundred White Leghorn laying hens. As a little boy, I remember that each early spring a whole “passel” of baby chicks in vented shipping cartons arrived by train at the Pima depot. Much to grandmother’s dislike, he kept them inside part of the house until they feathered-out enough to weather the outside nights. He was ahead of his time in handling and supplying eggs.  (See explanation in section # 11  (Darvil) Chores and Jobs During My Youth)  

Granddad exhibited a steadfast, sincere spirit about his religion. Through the many years, as mentioned, he served extended periods in several church positions, especially in callings related to music and ward leadership. Right on the nail head though, he adamantly, without missing the Lord’s intended mark, lived the commandment of keeping the Sabbath Day holy. He knew in his heart that if a man would but live the law, many blessings would come to him that otherwise would be forfeited. In humility he had taught his family accordingly, and as opportunity arose in his church positions he spoke to the subject with eloquent and clearly understood compassion for the heedless. He had always lived the commandment himself; hence, by living example too, he had experienced the promised blessings and could always teach the principle with a conviction that comes only with true knowledge from experience. 

I’ll relate a story I heard about him many times concerning the Sabbath: The great blessing of the telephone had recently arrived to the area, and, a Mr. Mack, the neighbor down the lane, called him one Sunday. He explained that he was in the middle of planting twenty acres of corn and had just run out of seed corn. He asked Granddad if he had some to lend. The answer was yes; but, he also added that he wouldn’t loan it on the Sabbath. Mr. Mack explained that he only lacked one part of the field and that a single sack would finish the job; and he needed it to finish it up that day. The answer came the second time—no loan on the Sabbath.  Mr. Mack rationalized then, that he could send his hired hand to get it, and they could let “him” do what “he” wanted to do with it, thereby relieving Granddad and himself of any wrongful act before God. Well, Granddad explained in direct terms that he couldn’t do that either, for, the hired hand represented “the stranger within his gates” for whom he should be protective also against breaking the commandment.  He assured the neighbor he could have all he needed on the morrow. 

We can be assured, Granddad’s thinking was right on line, and though aggravated the neighbor might be, he knew he would always deal with a man of uncompromised principles whenever he dealt with that solid Scott Farmer in the future. 

I remember Granddad owned a beautiful horse-drawn buggy of that day called a surrey. It had the proverbial top, fringed around the edges. It came furnished with curtains, or sides, that could be fastened into place for protection against wind and rain storm. It carried four passengers comfortably, but six adults could fit in if necessary. Neighbors, friends and relatives loved to borrow  the well-kept stylish buggy for an evening outing or a special event. Some managed to prevail upon him to use it on Sunday. But, he carefully informed the community that he never greased it prior to Sunday—for the specific reason to discourage its improper Sabbath-day use. He declared that the racket of its greaseless, squeaking wheels would broadcast to everyone it passed the nerve-grating proclamation of improper Sunday use. (I also remember he owned a small, two person, utility buggy that he referred to as a hack.) 

Grandmother, Ruth McBride, like so many good women of her day, was always available during times of injury or illness. Still true to her original missionary calling of many years before, she served the unfortunate victims in the area with unfeigned selflessness. She possessed a natural gift to soothingly nurse the unfortunate, in need of care and comfort.  She had at her disposal, a memorized catalogue of all the old herbs, mixtures and remedies of the days before the advent of modern medicine. But, she may have been guilty of staying too long with the old ways when the improved ones took their legitimate place. One remedy I remember, used by the old-timers, consisted of the sudden application of very cold cloth on a croupy chest (lung congestion from flu or colds) thinking that the abrupt shock had curative power. Though it sometimes seemed effective, my own mother never believed in, or used the method.  She felt that the “remedy” could possibly worsen the problem. Nevertheless, my dear, charitable grandmother did the best she knew how for all who needed her. (We must admit, with the return of interest and research of herbal remedies, that much curative knowledge of the past has been lost. The complete story is yet to unfold, and it is best to hold in abeyance final judgment.) 

Grandmother had been a beautiful woman, and still was, even though she put on extra weight in her later years. You can easily draw from the one photograph here in this history—that of her with her husband and first baby, my father—her true beauty as a young woman of seventeen years. A great number of friends that knew her in her youth said that if one wanted a glimpse of her real appearance as a young woman, they needed only to look upon my younger, beautiful sister, Ruthie, to see Grandmother in person.  

Grandmother never treated her grandchildren in a solicitous, physical, coddley fashion. She did show genuine delight in seeing us and immediately invited us in for a pastry or something else to eat.  She took the time to visit with us and was more than happy to have us when we spent the night. She was just a plain good grandmother through and through.  

After I reached an age of sufficient maturity to give fair thought to the circumstances, with deep heart-felt love and admiration, I came to look upon her in a new light. She had been Granddad’s first love: the love of his youth. However, through the admonition of church authority, he and she were obedient to the Lord’s commandment given to the church regarding plural marriage. Consequently she and he chose his second and younger, beautiful wife, Laura Lewis. With the passage of time, I often heard from my mother, and from others of my mother’s age, of Grandmother’s relationship with the second wife and her children. We knew her and her children well, and we called her, Aunt Laura. In my presence, the good people of the valley concurred on the love that Grandmother had for Aunt Laura.  They discussed how the new younger wife was received into what had once been only Grandmother’s home and domain; how mutual love and respect developed between the two fine women because of Grandmothers and Aunt Laura’s unselfish integrity.  A true bond of sisterhood had developed between them long before Granddad built a separate house for Aunt Laura and her children to be. From Aunt Laura, an extensive and exceptional posterity has blessed the earth.   

The Sims
My grandfather, John Sims, was born April 18, 1850, in Cheltenham, Goucestershire, England. His parents, Samuel George and Caroline Gill, joined the church in the year of Grandfather’s birth. By age twelve, Grandfather Sims stated he had apprenticed with his father as a paper hanger and finish carpenter. The family planned to immigrate to Zion (Utah) but his father fell ill and died a few months before their ship’s departure.  At thirteen years of age, Grandfather with five sisters and his mother arrived in America, July 1863.  (An infant brother died at sea.)  The oldest sister had all ready arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July 1862 and married. (Of interest, his sister, Septima, two years older, married the Bishop of the Kaysville Ward, Christopher Layton.  As mentioned elsewhere, he is my wife’s great-grandfather through his daughter, Selina Phillips Layton.) It is believed that from age fourteen he became the primary support of the family for a while. After arrival in Zion, his history becomes sketchy, but Grandfather did live in Payson, Utah with his mother, step-father and youngest sister.  

My grandmother, Susan Oyler, was born April 11, 1855, in Rockymount, Franklin, Virginia. Ammon Oyler Sr. and Delilah Emily Turnbough, her parents were born there too. So were three of her grandparents—the fourth in Maggoty Creek, A, Virginia. While with her sister, Amanda, and her sister’s husband tried to play cupid and introduced her to a good man. Knowing the couple’s wishful intentions, she said, “What, that little Englishman!  I wouldn’t have that little runt.”  Nevertheless, Grandmother married him on July 18, 1861.  

They lived the United Order during the last three of the eight years they lived in Brigham City, Utah, from 1872 to 1880. While they lived in Brigham City, five of their children—including Clara, my mother were born there. In January 1881, after the break-up of the United Order, as part of a group, the family made its way through mountains and deserts, some seven-hundred miles, to Smithville, in the Gila Valley of Arizona.  They chose to settle north of there, across the river at a site they named Graham. Later, they moved a little farther down-river to an area called Curtis (now Eden).  About 1889, my grandparents moved to the town of Pima. Grandfather was well known as a furniture maker and carpenter\builder. He sold his own furniture from his own store in Pima. Later, he and his boys would build many houses and commercial buildings throughout the valley and in the city of Globe, Arizona. Grandfather died February 26, 1920 and Grandmother May 11, 1933, in Thatcher, after living many years in globe and a good many in Thatcher.  (The above is extracted from “Short History of Samuel John Sims” written by my eldest sister, Gladys Stewart in early 1975.)

Grandfather Sims died when I was eleven years old, so I didn’t get to know him that well and time has caused me to forget much. I remember as a boy, while helping Neighbors move or clear out storage areas that I would many times come upon pieces of furniture he had made. On the back of each piece of furniture was printed in large black letters—Sim’s Furniture Store, Pima Arizona—John S. Sims, Proprietor. Of course, each time, inside, I swelled with pride as I pointed it out to those around me. His furniture-making days were before my time, but I was well aware of him and his sons as builders, expert in cabinetry and finish-carpentry  His furniture-making was of—no little renown throughout the area. His labor with wood was an art form.  Whatever could be done with wood, he could do it. He refused scanty money-saving projects—he turned them down. The many structures he built were well known among his cohort builders and the population in general, for all that he built, he built with pride, and the results radiated the finest of quality. Jo reminds me that he and two sons, Oscar and George, had a small shop in Thatcher where they made caskets. He did business in casket making when he lived in Pima too. My mother, as a girl, remembers doing the cotton and fabric lining of the insides. The two sons, my uncles, continued with the business in Thatcher long after grandfather died. 

In Thatcher, for his wife and himself, he built the house on the lot next to ours. As mentioned before, my brothers and I took part in stages of helping him with it. It was the first time I’d seen a building built like it: of adobe on the inside, fine-finished with plaster and brick on the outside. All the adobes were made on the lot out back. I watched them make them—mixing the clay earth with straw, packing it by hand into the wood-frame molds, drying them and then mortaring them into place with lime-slaked, clay mud. The brick and adobe walls were of such thickness and natural insulating characteristics, that they provided unparalleled insulation through the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, providing superior comfort in that day before cooling and air conditioning. Grandfather worked so anxiously and hard on the project that it weakened him. With the cabinetry not quite finished inside, he died of a heart attack, just two months short of his seventieth birthday. I remember the family taking me out of school to bring me home when he died.  

Fortuitously for me, and bragging, may I add—my wife, my wife’s parents, Dave and Nettie Phillips, bought the house six years after Grandmother Sims died and moved their with their family, when Jo was a beautiful seventeen-year-old. Of course, because of her living right next door, our romance began to bud and then blossom and eventually bore fruition of marriage. Coincidentally,  Jo and I later bought the house from Jo’s mother in 1951. We lived there until 1969,  when we sold it to return to live in California. 

Here is a description of Grandfather Sims by my wife as she remembers him: “That grandfather was an exceedingly handsome man, a beautiful man and very much an Englishman—a real gentleman—with aristocratic bearing. In contrast, Darvil’s Grandpa McBride was very much a westerner, in the sense of the true old west.” 

Grandmother Sims, quite a different type of person than my other grandmother, didn’t shower us with special attention or affection at all; nor, did she take the initiative to invite us to her home; or if we were there, to encourage us too stay long.  Each time we visited her, mother would be with us and caution us about any rowdiness and told us that we wouldn’t stay long because Grandmother Sims, easily got too nervous. We understood too, and knew that she was good and a good loving grandmother, and that she loved us all dearly. 

All kids, since its invention, have been entranced with the player-piano. Grandmother had one and she certainly did love it. I don’t remember its origin, but she would sit for hours treadling it as she listened to its tunes. She especially loved the piece—I heard her play it over and over again—“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.”  She had a large collection of other selections too.  

Granddad Sims had gained a degree of formal education, but Grandmother didn’t know how to read. History has it that she was of Pennsylvania Dutch stock, though she, parents, and grandparents were born in Virginia.  She moved into her new home right after her husband died, and she appreciated having us kids over to help her do things.  

She subscribed to four different magazines and loved their pictures. She also loved to listen to the articles and stories, especially during her declining years. So, I went over regularly and read them to her. One day I finally asked her if she had ever learned to read a little in the past. She answered that she had learned some, but just a few words, and that she couldn’t glean much from the magazines on her own. I boldly suggested that she could, if she would only try, and told her I intended to begin to teach her and refresh her memory.  For the next three months I sat next to her and would only help her as she tried. Haltingly at first, I helped her with many words; but in time, I needed to help her less and less. As I followed along with her, I sensed when she needed coaching as she hesitated on a word too long and only then would I help her.  

Within several weeks she had improved immensely and after three months the day came when she announced that I wouldn’t have to come over to help her any more, for she could read on her own. Many times after that, she rewarded me in private as well as in my presence in public with compliments and explanation of how I had taught her to read, and of how appreciative she was of that gift. “I’ll always love and appreciate Darvil because he taught me how to read,” is a fair paraphrase of her manner of expressing it. That of course, has always been a heart-warming experience of satisfaction I’ve harbored deep within me—that I had been the one to help her attain what she felt was an enormous and important accomplishment of her later years.  However, I feel I shouldn’t take more credit than is due, for I perceived that she might have understood a bit more than maybe she wanted to reveal in the first place. Nevertheless, she continued to shower me with the credit. 

During her last years of life, she became totally bedridden. We moved her over to our place, just across the fence, where the family could care for her. I wasn’t always there at that time, for I was away at school.  Though Aunt Nancy, Mother’s youngest sister, came to help a little, Mother carried the great brunt of the burden, not receiving much help from the other sisters as she had expected—and direly needed. The length and difficulty of the ordeal took its toll on her. (Read the history of her daughter Frankie.)  

As I record this interlude of the integrity in the life of my dear mother, I think it significant to add the truth just spoken by my wife: “Darvil’s mother was an angel as she cared for her: for she had become a very aged woman: completely unable to care for herself at all. And, Clara, not that physically strong

a person, on the fragile side in fact, in reality needed some care for herself. But, she continued with hardly a complaint. What a wonderful and loving daughter she was to her mother.” Grandmother Sims passed away exactly one month after her eighty-third birthday. I was twenty-two years old attending school in Flagstaff.  (For more details of my Grandparents Sims, go back to table of contents and click # 3.)  

 

 

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