PETER HOWARD MCBRIDE SR.
Eighth child, son of Robert McBride 3rd & Margaret Ann Howard.
Peter Howard McBride
Flat * For many years, during the summer heat,
Peter farmed in the high altitudes of Mt. Graham
Pioneer Life * A few of Peter's poems
Mt. Graham dedication * Bruce L. McBride -- Pledge of allegiance; Darvil B. McBride -- Unveiling and dedication of the marker
The 2 authors of the McBride book, "AGAINST GREAT ODDS --The Story of The McBride Family"
Very young when his family lived in Scotland, Peter
Howard McBride began an eventful life there.
Many years later, after the family had migrated to America, he began to write in diaries and journals, which he continued to do most of his adult life. Much of his history we glean from these sources.
Born May 3, 1850, in the town of Rothsay on the tiny
Isle of Bute, Scotland, Peter was but a little over three years old
when the family moved to England. The youngest in a family of one
sister and two brothers, Peter had a keen recollection of his life on
the island with them and his parents, Robert 3rd and Margaret Howard
and his fraternal grandparents.*
(Peter would subsequently have a younger sister, Margaret Alice, after
their move to England.)
*(Robert McBride 2nd with
his wife Janet sharp, lived part of their life on the Isle of Bute.)
Quoting from Peter's journal:
My grandfather was a sailor. I have heard him say that he had landed in every port that a ship could stick its hull. I well remember when he anchored his ship close to our home on the Isle of Bute, launched a boat with his effects and rode toward shore, got a wheelbarrow and piled his things on it. He placed me on top the load and we hurried for the house. A wave struck, and by the time we were up the hill the water stood thirty feet where we had just been. My grandfather had a fine home in Ireland, but he was seldom there.
When I was three years old our family moved from Scotland to Churchtown, England where my mother's people lived, then to Southport, England. On our way from Scotland we stopped off at the Isle of Mann. What interested us children most was to see that all the cats were bobtailed. (Although Peter did not know it at the time, these were the famous Manx cats)
Like other members of the McBride family, Peter has left us a few paragraphs telling of the migration to America and the arduous journey across the plains and into Utah. A mere lad, six years old, he walked all the way except for the distance covered after the, rescue parties arrived to assist them. His descriptions of the happenings that took place are much the same as that which has already been presented in the life stories of other family members, and it would serve little purpose to repeat them here. However, a quote or two from his writings add measurably to the record. At the upper crossing of the Platte River much suffering and loss of life occurred. Peter tells how the people crossed the ice-laden stream. He then tells the exciting story of how he himself crossed:
A man by the name of Cyrus Wheelock was riding a horse. He was returning from an eastern state's mission. He carried a lot of children over and helped pull the carts across by tying them to a rope attached to the saddle-horn. One time he had three little boys on his horse, one in front and two behind. I was the last boy left on that side of the river. He said to get on behind the two and cling on. We crossed the river alright, then as the horse lunged up the steep bank I fell off into the river. I thought I would drown but I managed to grab onto the horse's tail and come out all right.
Peter further tells of the company's
not having any food to eat for days; and of the joy and thankfulness
when the relief wagons were finally sighted. When the relief wagons
came, just a little food was given to the children, saving the most of
it for the men who had to do the work of caring for the company.
After the family finally arrived at its destination and had found a welcome haven among the Saints in Ogden City, Peter's life began to revolve around schooling and such work as a young lad could perform.
Peter does not tell much of the next few years in "Zion." It is not known just when and how he became interested in singing and music, or how he learned to play so many musical instruments. Peter and Evan Stephan, as young boys, were given the job of herding the milk cows for the town. They would take the cows outside of town to graze each day on the grassy hillsides and see that they were brought safely home for milking in the evening. After their days work, Peter and Evan would go to the Stephan home where an old organ sat stored in a granary, so old and shabby that Evan's mother would not have it in her parlor, though it played very well. They would take turns pumping and playing the keys, a great delight for Peter to hear the music produced by this old organ.
In later years Evan Stephan was sent to Europe to study. He later became the director of the Salt Lake Choir and played the pipe organ in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
As for Peter, his only opportunity was to join local groups whenever the chance came his way. He never missed an opportunity to get hold of a musical instrument and master it: At one time, when about seventeen. years old, he and three other boys formed a Negro minstrel group, going from town to town with their programs. They were well accepted, save for one time, when President Brigham Young came to one of their performances. Afterwards he complimented them on their talents, but advised that out of respect for the Priesthood, not to blacken their faces. They listened to his counsel and continued the show successfully, non minstrel. Although none seemed to notice this great talent in Peter, in retrospect we know that his young life was filled with service in this capacity.
One time when very young (probably around nine-years-old), Peter was helping work on a building under construction in Salt Lake City. Some children were tending a. little girl in a go-cart near the building. They apparently went away and forgot her. Peter found the girl (probably about age two years), still in the go-cart and half covered with debris from the building. He rescued her and took her across the street where he thought she belonged. "I have found me a little girl," he told the man who, answered the door. "Well, what are you going to do with her?" asked the man. Peter replied, "Well I don't know unless I marry her sometime."
Years later when he grew to be a man, Peter met young Ruth Burns. Ruth proved to be the little girl of the go-cart. Peter and Ruth were married, February 2,1874*. (Ruth Burns was the younger sister of Elizabeth Burns, who married Peter’s brother, Heber). They began life together in the town of Eden, Utah. Freighting was the main source of their living, although Peter did some farming. Their first child, Robert Franklin, was born in Eden, January 4, 1875.
It was Peter's mission, to promote singing and music; and Ruth's, to care for the sick. After a year in this Order they went back to St. George, Utah, intending to return to Salt Lake Valley; but they met President Brigham Young at a conference, and he told Peter his mission was not finished, but that he should go on to Arizona again with the others. This decision was a hard one, but eventually they found themselves in a pleasant little town called Forestdale, Arizona Territory, near where Show Low is today. Here a ward was organized and about twenty families settled. They took up land and started building homes, only to learn that the Forest Service would not allow them title to the land, as it lay on the U.S. Indian Reserve. They were here the greater part of three years.
In the spring of 1879, these pioneers packed up their belongings, leaving the homes they had begun, and started traveling, asking only that the Lord would direct them to a place of safety. After a long, hard and dangerous trip, as the Indians were on the warpath then, they landed in the little town of Smithville on the banks of the Gila River in the Gila Valley, Arizona. It was early in 1880 and the weather was mild. They built sheds of cottonwood limbs over their wagon boxes and lived in this manner until they could do better. Eventually each family was given a city lot. Again they set to the task of building homes, adobe and log structures, of clearing and digging ditches.
Now again Peter was called by Brigham Young from church headquarters and given the mission of caring for the singing and music in the area.
In another two years, according to the decree of the Church, Peter married Laura Lewis, a second wife, Nov. 1, 1882.
Peter had filed on 160 acres of land on the banks of the Gila River. He now turned his attention to developing this into a profitable farm. He built a good adobe house on this spot. With the exception of a year or so spent in Corallites, Old Mexico, where he had to go with other saints to avoid arrest because of government interference with the plural marriage plan, Peter spent the rest of his life on this farm in the Gila Valley.
In the two families a total of twenty-two children were born, fourteen by his first wife, Ruth Burns, and eight by the second wife, Laura Lewis. Of this number twelve survived infancy, six from each family. A great sadness to families in those days was the number of children lost, either stillborn or deaths from diphtheria, smallpox and other childhood diseases. The twelve surviving grew to adulthood in the Gila Valley and became solid citizens of their communities.
A fairly successful farmer, Peter also participated to a large degree in freighting and hauling to supplement the family living. Not only to further supplement the family living, but for the pure joy of so doing, he taught singing groups, choir, organ, piano, guitar, and banjo. He taught vocal classes in the St. Joseph Stake Academy in Thatcher. He held the position of Music Director in the St. Joseph Stake for forty years. While carrying on his music assignment, Peter served twenty years as 2nd counselor to Bishop Lehi Larson, of the Matthews Ward of the LDS Church.
Indicative of his thrift and industry was Peter's project in the Graham Mountains, a majestic range which rises some 11,000 feet on the south side of the Gila Valley. In exploring one of its remote sections, he discovered a broad meadow area, which he called Oak Flat. Such was his love for the mountains that he built a cabin and spent a good deal of time there. Other members of his family were fond of saying that he smelled like a pine tree.
Oak Flat became not only a retreat from the heat and mundane affairs of the valley for him and his family, but a business venture. He reasoned that soil and climate conditions were favorable for raising potatoes, and fine crops of the Irish tuber were raised. He discovered that pumpkins and squash flourished in that kind of environment. Peter, always proud of his crops, sometimes boasted about the quality and size of his vegetables, especially those grown in the fertile soil and cool climate of Oak Flat. A story that circulated for years among his friends and doubting locals about his pumpkin-raising prowess went something like this:
For a whole week Peter could not locate an old sow with a litter of eight "piglets" that were let run comparatively free around the Flat. One day while working in the pumpkin patch he noticed a hole in the side of his largest pumpkin. Inside he discovered the nine contented swine. They had eaten their way into the squash and were content to stay there as long as the luscious supply of food lasted. That's how well things were supposed to grow on Oak Flat.
Oak Flat became a saving haven for those suffering from a malady of that day, a hot weather ailment they called summer complaint. Families with sick children that needed the escape from the murderous heat of the valley were always welcome at Oak Flat. Peter and his boys built a second cabin on Oak Flat, partly to accommodate those in need of quarters providing more comfort than that offered by a drafty old tent. At a higher elevation Peter built a third cabin for the same purpose. This lovely spot, among majestic pines, came to be known as "Peters Flat."*
Peter was a natural performer and had the talent to compose poems, speeches, etc., on a moments notice. No local entertainment was complete without a rendition of some sort from "Uncle Peter McBride", as he became affectionately known to friends and relatives.
Most of his poems and speeches were of a humorous nature jokes about different people in the audience, or family situations.* He danced the Scottish Fling and different jigs and step dances to the great delight of the children.
Peter's penchant for venturing into uncharted fields is clearly demonstrated by his egg business. Form his own incubators he hatched chicks to fill pens with hundreds of laying hens. A certain room in his home he used as a warm room where his chicks were kept until they were feathered enough to endure the coolness of the barn. This, much to the displeasure of his wife, but always cooperative, Ruth somehow managed to put up with the smell and inconvenience.
The early phases of the process were, however, chief among the many delights of their grandchildren who came to witness the miracle of birth and the antics of the "peepers" in the warm room.
Peter was probably the first in the Gila Valley to carton his eggs in cardboard containers and ship them to many towns in the State. With a red ink stamp on each egg, he proudly disclosed its origin - "Peter McBride, Pima, Arizona," - as though he had laid it himself.
Modest financial successes enabled Peter to put old Cyrock** `out to pasture' and purchase a Ford automobile. Though well advanced in years (his mid seventies), he was determined to learn to drive, quite an accomplishment in those days for one his age. Many are the humorous stories told by his grandchildren of how he learned to drive, and other exciting experiences with his Model A. What a highlight in their lives when he and his beloved Ruth rode like a prince and princess to Mesa for the dedication of the Mesa Temple! The `flivver' was driven by a grandson, Elmo McBride.
Peter's unusual and energetic activities were largely curtailed when he began to suffer from arthritis and related ailments. He didn't give up easily, if indeed it could be said that he "gave up" at all. Even when in severe pain, he could be seen chopping wood and doing chores about the farm.
His wife, Ruth, died April 8, 1932. Peter's last years were spent in the care of his son, Howard and wife Elsie, except for a short time during the summer of 1934. His eldest daughter, Laura Smith, then took him into her home, where she and her husband, Hyrum, cared for him until shortly before his death. On the 4th of July he sang his "Fourth of July Song" for the last time to the delight of friends and relatives gathered at a party in his honor. He died August 19, 1934, at the home of Howard and Elsie McBride at age eighty-four, and is buried in Pima, Graham County, Arizona.
Peter had never been released from his singing and music mission; but due to health and age, plus different and newer modes of entertainment, he had stepped aside in favor of younger and more modern talent.
If Brigham Young had lived to send him an official release, sure we are it would have read, "Mission accomplished, Peter, and well done." By Gladys McBride Stewart, a granddaughter.
At this writing (1988) the posterity of Peter runs
into the thousands, a fitting tribute to a man of great faith and
courage. Peter, in whom was instilled a love for freedom and the gospel
by saintly parents, proved himself a true pioneer. From age six, when
he ate rawhide and the bark of trees to survive, and cheated an icy
grave in the Wyoming hills, until the time of his death, that pioneer
spirit motivated his life.
Peter Howard McBride
Sr.-- wife Ruth and baby, Robert Franklin McBride, 1875. (subscript)