Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Their Own Words: Agnes Elizabeth Austin

The following is an autobiography written by Agnes Elizabeth Austin, daughter of William Austin and Agnes McIntier. She married James Rowley Ransom. There are also additions by Verna Ransom Sederholm (daughter), Elvina Ransom (daughter) and Ruth Burton Pierce (granddaughter).

By Agnes Elizabeth Austin:

I, Agnes Elizabeth Austin Ransom, daughter of William Austin and Agnes Elizabeth McIntire, was born February 17, 1861, at Logan, Cache County, Utah. When I was three years of age my parents were called by the authorities of the Church to go and help settle Bear Lake Valley. We moved there in the spring of 1864, settling at Bloomington. There were only a few families living there at the time. My father, being a minute man, would help guard the women and children from Indian raids. The Indians were very numerous there during the spring and summer until they left for their winter hunting grounds. My father was a great friend of the Indians. They would come for miles to shake hands with him before leaving in the fall. Father had charge of the fast offerings. These consisted of flour, butter, eggs, and etc. The bishop of the ward would send the Indians to our house for some of it. They would gather so thick in and around the house that we children had to get in one corner and sit very still. There was hardly room to pass in and out.

It was quite hard times in Bear Lake Valley at this time. For several years the grasshoppers had taken the gardens and crops. They were so thick that when they traveled, they would darken the sun, and when they lighted, everything was soon devoured.

Father always kept a few sheep, and in the spring of the year, when they were sheared, Mother and Aunty (Aunty was Father's first wife), would wash the wool, card it into rolls, then spin it into yarn. Some of this yarn they would have woven into cloth. At this time Mother didn't have a loom of her own, so she would have to hire the yarn woven. Some of the yarn was used for knitting stockings. I learned to knit while I was very young, and as I grew older I learned to card rolls, spin yarn, and get it ready to weave. I am thankful that my mother taught me these things, along with housekeeping, for it has been a great blessing in my life.

Mother taught school for a term or two at Bloomington. The families that had children attending would pay a small fee for each child. It was my privilege to attend this school taught by my mother.

I remember well President Brigham Young coming to Paris, Bear Lake Valley, to hold conference. Paris at that time was headquarters for the stake. For days everyone looked forward to his coming, and on the morning of his arrival, every boy and girl, grownups as well, would line up along the streets a little south of Bloomington to greet him. President Brigham Young rode in the first carriage, followed by other carriages containing apostles and other church dignitaries. After the company had passed everyone would fall in line and march back to Bloomington, then Father would hitch the team to the wagon and take the family to Paris to attend conference.

Father had to haul provisions by team and wagon through the mountains from Logan, Utah. This trip required several days. This, together with the hard cold winters and heavy snowfall, was becoming too hard and strenuous on Father, who was getting along in years, so he decided to move his family away from Bloomington. In the fall of 1871 we moved to Weston, Idaho. While we were living there, I became a member of the Relief Society Organization, and at this time I am still a member of that organization.

We lived at Weston four years, then Father took a homestead of 160 acres of land at Trenton, Utah, and we moved there in the spring of 1875. I worked out much of the time at Trenton. Many times I have washed on the board all day long for fifty cents. I worked at housework too, and in addition to the housework I had to spin one pound of yarn every day. The wages I received were one dollar per week, and sometimes less. While living at Trenton, I made the acquaintance of James Rowley Ransom, and after nearly two years of courtship we were married. Elder William Van Orden Carbine performed the ceremony December 13, 1879, at Clarkston, Cache County, Utah. Later on, when the Logan Temple was finished, we went through and had our endowments and were sealed together for time and eternity. This was on October 29, 1884. Apostle Marrioner W. Merrills was president of the Temple, and he performed the ceremony.

James had taken up a homestead at Trenton before we were married, about the fall of 1876 or the spring of 1877. We lived on this homestead until the fall of 1887, then we moved to Cleveland, Idaho. We settled on Cottonwood Creek and lived there four years, then in the year of 1891 James took up a piece of land under the preemption right on the divide between Cache and Gentile Valleys. Here we made our home throughout the years of our lives.

We were blessed with eleven children, four boys and seven girls, and, with the exception of one baby who died at birth, all of our children grew to maturity. On April 21, 1921, we were called to part with one of our daughters. She left a husband and a one week old baby girl. Our children are all active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My husband and two of my sons have filled missions for the Church. In April, 1899, my husband was called to fill a mission in the Northwestern States. My oldest daughter, Mary, was married, and my two oldest sons, James, 17, and William, 15, were my only support. In August of that year I gave birth to a baby girl. We had much sickness and hardships during my husband's absence, but the Lord was merciful to us and blessed us and we came through all right. He filled an honorable mission and returned home in April, 1901.

In the spring of 1905 I was called and set apart as visiting teacher in the Relief Society of Cleveland Ward. My husband, James, set me apart. I held this position until 1916, when the Cleveland Ward was divided and a ward was organized on the Divide. This new ward was named Wilson Ward and was organized July 31, 1916. My eldest son James was called to the office of Bishop to preside over this ward.

I was chosen and set apart as second counselor to President Mary Lundgreen in the Relief Society Organization. I was set apart by Bishop James A. Ransom, and I held this position until 1922, when the Wilson Ward was disorganized and made part of the Cleveland Ward once more.

July 16, 1908, my husband and I were called by President Louis S. Pond of the Bannock Stake to the Logan Temple to receive our second endowments.

The Lord has been merciful to me and has heard and answered my prayers. I have often heard the whisperings of the Lord, sometimes as plain as if some one near me had spoken. I recall many incidents in my life when the Spirit of the Lord has prompted me and these whisperings and promptings have been a light and guidance to me in my life, and I know that I have been blessed through the Spirit of the Lord.

My husband passed away July 25, 1926, at the age of 70 years. 108 living descendants survived.

Agnes Elizabeth Austin was baptized by Elder William Hulme May 7, 1971, confirmed by Elder George Osmond May 14, 1871, at Bear Lake, Idaho. She died 24 December 1938, was buried at Cleveland, Idaho, 28 December 1938. The grave was dedicated by George R. Burton, grandson. She died at Preston, Idaho.

My husband, James Rowley Ransom, died July 25, 1926, and on January 16, 1927 he came to me early in the morning. I had been awake and was going to get up but must have dropped to sleep. He told me that I had not paid tithing enough for him in 1926. I asked him why he had not told me that before, that I was afraid it was too late then as they were auditing the books. Oh, he was so natural, not poor and thin as we laid him away. I begged of him to stay but he said he had to go back, that he had just come to tell me about the tithing and then he went and I awoke broken hearted.

Our son James was in the bishopric at the time and I told him my dream, (if it was a dream,) but it seems too real to be a dream. James told me not to feel so bad about it, that he would see what he could do about it. So he went to the auditor and had it straightened out. He found that my mistake it had been placed to my credit instead of his father's. I was thankful to my Heavenly Father that James got there in time to give his father the credit that belonged to him. And it was and is a testimony to me that our loved ones that have died know what is going on here on earth and know what we do and are watchful of us.

Mrs. Agnes E. Austin Ransom
Treasureton, Idaho


By Verna Ransom:

I am going to add here at the close of this biographical sketch a few of the outstanding characteristics that we have come to know and respect in the life of our mother. Her faith in God, her love and devotion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and her willingness to acknowledge the hand of the Lord in all things, however great or small, has always been an inspiration to me. And I know that my life, as well as the lives of all her children, has been influenced for good by this wonderful trait of character. Her life was always one of love and devotion to her family. She rendered cheerful and willing service when and wherever she could.

In the later years of her life her health failed, retarding her activities greatly, but with her faith and strong determination and will to do so, she kept active at home tasks and among her flowers. Her flower garden was one of the most beautiful in the community. She supplied flowers each Sunday morning for the Ward Chapel.


Poem by Elvina Ransom:


When God created this great world
And made both day and night,
He placed here everything to make
It beautiful and bright.

The water with it's sparkling rills
And birds that sing so sweet,
The warm, bright sun to shine upon
The flowers at our feet.

He made the moon to shine at night,
The stars far without number.
He made the hills all crowned in green
Where all the beasts might wander.

Then placed His many children here
To beautify creation,
To love and live that they might make
A Holy Habitation.

Then gazing at His work to see
If there were any others,
"Ah me!" He said, "Will never do
Without some loving mothers."

He then placed Mothers here to fill
A great and glorious space,
And what could bring more pleasure
Than that kind sweet smiling face?

So as 'twas said of long ago
I now again repeat.
It takes a loving mother
To make a world complete.


By Ruth Burton Pierce (written on December 4, 1975):

We lived in a small settlement called the Divide, between Treasureton and Cleveland, Idaho. We received our mail from Treasureton, but we belonged to the Cleveland L. D. S. Ward. Our nearest town was Preston, also our nearest doctor was in Preston, and in those horse and buggy days that seemed a great distance away; so when illness came we depended on the Lord, with the help of our grandmother.

Just to know that Grandmother lived near gave us a sense of security. When Grandmother came when we had sickness in the family we all felt that everything would soon be better and it usually turned out that way. She knew many home remedies which seemed to help us. She seemed to have the gift of healing and a deep faith which gave comfort to us all.

Grandmother was there when I was born. My father had driven on a blizzardy November night to bring Grandmother and a midwife, Mary Lundgreen. Mrs. Lundgreen brought most of the babies into the world in that part of the country. Aunt Lottie Walton, not a relative, but we all called her Aunt, stayed with Mother while Daddy went in a sleigh on a very cold night to get help. My Aunt Verna Sederholm remembers holding me after I was washed and dressed, so she probably came with Grandmother. At this time we lived on Cottonwood Creek.

I remember when my sister Agnes was so sick Grandma would come and seemed to know how to help the pain. Later we learned of a disease called rheumatic fever, which is possibly what my sister had. It seemed to me that Grandmother had healing in her hands.

When I was about four years old and we lived in the "hollow", Mother would put a pretty clean dress on me, comb my long dark hair into ringlets, and send me up on the hillside to get a fresh flower to pin in my hair. Very often the flower would be a Sego Lily. Then Mother would say, "Now you can go over to Grandma's and say Good Morning." This was very special to me to walk through the lucerne and wheat fields all by myself. I knew I would be greeted with love and affection by my grandparents and my aunts and uncles.

I remember vividly walking home from school with my sisters and my cousins. We would always stop in the doorway of Grandmother's home. Then she would say, "Would you like a piece of bread and butter?" We were very bashful and would say bashfully, "We don't care." Of course we wouldn't miss that delicious home-made bread and butter for anything. Grandfather Ransom would tease us and say, "That's too bad. If you really want some, then say, 'Yes, please." Grandma's bread and butter was the most delicious I have ever eaten. Sometimes she put jam or jelly on big slices of bread. Oh, how heavenly! Often there was a cookie for us.

Grandmother loved her garden and grew such a variety of vegetables. I can see her now with her large hat on to protect her from the sun, guiding the stream of mountain water down the long rows of cabbage, corn, beans, squash, peas and onions and many other kinds of vegetables. In the fall when beans were ripe, Grandmother would ask the grandchildren to come and help shell them. Then she would store them for the winter use. So Agnes and Ila and I, along with Ethel, George, Mary, Jim and Vera from Aunt Mary's family, would all go down into the garden to shell beans. A large canvas was put on the ground, then the beans were placed on the canvas, and we would jump on the dry bean pods, or sometimes shell them with our hands. We would then hold them up high and let the chaff blow away. The pile of beans would grow larger and larger. Sometimes we were given a salt sack full of beans to take home with us. When we were finished, all tired but happy, Grandmother would have a delicious dinner waiting for her hungry grandchildren. That would be a perfect ending for that special day.

Our great delight was to be asked to Sunday dinner at Grandmother's. She was an excellent cook and so clean that it was often said that people would rather eat off her clean scrubbed floor than to eat off most people's tables. This was an old saying used by old-fashioned people.

Thanksgiving Day was a special treat as we all gathered at Grandmother's house for dinner and to give thanks for our blessings. As usual, the pond would be frozen over and we would skate on the thick ice with our cousins, sometimes with our uncles and aunts. We would sing Thanksgiving songs we had learned in school. Oh, the heavenly smells which would float out to us in the frosty air. When dinner was ready we would all gather around to hear Grandfather give a blessing on the food and express thanks to our Heavenly Father. In those days the grown-ups always ate first and the children waited. It seemed forever as they all ate their fill. We would anxiously wait to see if there would be food left for us children. When finally our turn came to eat there was always plenty. And how we did enjoy the turkey with stuffing, the many kinds of vegetable and Oh! The cakes and the pumpkin and mincemeat pies, all so delicious. It was good to feel the blessings of the year, and to express thanks for the things we were thankful for, as each of us were asked to do.

Grandmother loved flowers. Every seed was so precious to her. She often exchanged flower seeds with relatives and friends, and she often came home with a different kind of flower seeds tied up in the corner of her handkerchief, and with these seeds, along with her own, she created a thing of beauty. This beautiful creation was not alone for her own enjoyment, but for every one who came to her home. Everyone was greeted by Grandmother and made happy by a handful of her flowers. The flowers blossomed in every nook and corner around her humble home. Heavenly blue morning glories covered the east side of the house; their bright faces always turned toward the sun. Many varieties of old fashioned flowers such as bachelor button, hollyhocks, buttercups, daisies, larkspur, pansies and roses, with dozens of other varieties decorated the yard and home surroundings. Grandmother had a special gift for making things grow.

One of my favorite places to visit on a warm summer day was the ice house which Grandfather had built. A stream of cool water ran through one corner of the ice house. The stream of water came from a nearby spring, then it emptied into a pond which Grandfather had also made. From the pond he would cut large blocks of ice during the winter months, then store them in sawdust in the icehouse. This made a cool storehouse during the summer months. The long cold Idaho winters helped to preserve the ice for summer use. Oh, the sheer joy of entering this ice house on a hot summer day, to hear the cool water running, and to take a good deep breath of clean cold air. This ice house served many purposes. Overhead hung the long thin sacks of home made sausages, salt sacks of head cheese, all made by Grandmother. There was salt cured pork, smoked ham, and at times fresh mutton hung from the ceiling rafters. On each side of the ice house Grandfather had built shelves where the fresh milk was set in large tin milk pans. Grandma would skim the thick cream from the milk and put it aside until there was enough cream to make butter. When there was cream enough, Grandmother would put it into a tall wooden churn, and up and down, up and down, she churned until the butter came. The butter was then put into a large wooden bowl, washed in cold water, then worked with a butter paddle until all the buttermilk was worked out. She then molded the butter into a 16 ounce pound of rich yellow butter. This was by far the most delicious butter I have ever eaten. The buttermilk was saved, and then Grandmother would make pancakes for breakfast. The pancakes were so tender they'd melt right in your mouth. The butter was stored in the ice house, which served very well as a refrigerator.

Crocks of preserved fruits were also kept in this cool house. A large barrel of salt pickles stood in one corner. Grandmother put the small cucumbers in the salt brine in the fall and by the time spring came they would be cured and ready to eat. They tasted so good in the spring of the year, and people have said they would drive for miles just to eat one of these delicious salt pickles. I would like to say right here, too, that no one was ever turned away from my Grandmother's home cold or hungry. If they needed a place to sleep for the night, this she willingly provided.

One of my special memories was the 24th of July. My grandparents would load their white top buggy, or wagon perhaps. With lots of thick cream and milk, sugar, etc., the big ice cream freezer, and ice, and all it takes for ingredients for ice cream, then drive the five miles to Cleveland to celebrate this special occasion. Grandmother would then, after arriving at their destination, stir up a batch of ice cream, pour it into the freezer, then Grandfather would put ice and salt around the freezer and go to work turning the freezer handle around and around until the ice cream was frozen just right and ready to eat. This process was repeated throughout the day until everyone who wished it was served a dish of home made ice cream. The children would gather around to get a dish of ice cream, or for a second serving, perhaps. Then at night, my grandparents would gather up all their dishes and things and drive back home, tired but happy for their day of service. Everyone had a good enjoyable time at the 24th of July celebration, and one long to be remembered. The sports for the day consisted of baseball games and foot races and other games for the children. Prizes were awarded the winners. A program was usually held in the meeting house. One thrilling event that I will always remember, for, being just a child, it frightened me, was when several couples of men and women would dress up in pioneer costumes. I especially remember the ladies wearing their large sunbonnets. Then they'd take a few children and get into about a half dozen covered wagons and enact a scene of crossing the plains. As they drove peacefully along, a band of young men dressed as Indians, with feather and war paint, came galloping in on their war ponies, yelling and whooping, and made an attack on the wagon train. With the attack the wagon train horses would become so frightened they'd run; people and horses and wagons would scatter every which way. The women and children screamed, and the scene became very realistic. Some of the people re-enacting the play had in reality crossed the plains in the early Mormon trek. They seemed to enjoy the excitement displayed in the re-enactment scene.

My grandfather owned and operated a sawmill, and at times I would go with my Aunt Elvina to the sawmill for a week and help her cook for Grandfather and Uncles Jim, Will, John and Tom. One particular time, I remember it so well, I went with Grandfather and Grandmother to the mill on Hoopes Creek. My uncles were already there. We rode in a wagon, and when we were almost there Grandma said, "Ruth, let's you and me walk the rest of the way." We were glad to walk for a change; the scenery was so beautiful. The pine trees grew on every side and wild flowers were in bloom everywhere. Their fragrance was so good to smell. Grandfather reached the camp before we did and the boys, thinking there were no women folks to cook for them, felt very disappointed. When they finally saw us coming, walking along the road, they began to shout. They knew Grandmother would cook good food for them to eat. The first thing they asked for was a cake for supper. Although there was no milk to make the cake with, Grandmother went ahead to make one any way, using water and a bit more shortening, and the cake turned out delicious, just so light and fluffy.

My uncles were always good to me, and I endured much good natured teasing. Uncle John ran the steam engine for the mill, and every time he saw me crossing the narrow foot bridge over a stream of water he would blow the whistle and I'd fall off into the water. We had a wonderful week.

Another pleasant memory I have of my early years is of being permitted to stay overnight at Grandmother's house. I was always made to feel so welcome. My uncles were jolly and we had fun. But most of all I remember the summers, and of sleeping out under the big shade trees at the south of the house, and sleeping with my aunts, Elvina and Verna. I liked to lie awake and listen to the leaves whispering in the soft night breeze. I could hear the frogs croaking down near the pond of water, and I could hear the twittering of the birds in the trees as they settled down for the night. We would lie in bed and talk and tell stories until sleep quietly overtook us, then we'd have a perfect night's rest.

On this special occasions, morning came all too soon, and Grandfather would wake us up by playing the record, "Oh, it's nice to get up in the morning, but it's nicer to lie in bed." We'd get up to find Grandmother already in the kitchen with hot delicious buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, and with plenty of butter and home made jelly for topping.

One morning as I was sleeping in the east bedroom with Aunt Elvina, she said, "Ruth, wake up, wake up. Look out of the window and see Haley's Comet." This was in the early morning hours some time between four and five o'clock. I opened my eyes to look and there it was, a big bright star with a long light shiny tail behind it. Aunt Elvina asked me to always remember seeing Haley's Comet. I believe this was in the year 1910, and I would have been seven years old.

It was fun to be at Grandmother's house when my uncles brought the cows in from "over north". Now "over north" was any place north of my home and it took in miles and miles of forest land, and it made good pasture land for the cows. As the boys brought the cows down the lane toward the barn they'd call out, "Lumpy Dick for supper. Lumpy Dick for supper." Then Grandma would get out flour, heat some milk, add a pinch of salt and a good sized lump of butter, and in no time at all the lumpy dick was really to eat. We'd eat it with cream and sugar and a little cinnamon on top, and it was so good.

My first time to take a trip was with Grandpa and Grandma Ransom. They took me to Hyrum, Utah, to visit my Aunt Elvira and Uncle Fred Andersen. We went to Preston with team and wagon, then took the train in to Hyrum. I was nine years old and very bashful. On the table at every meal was a large bowl of fruit, so I naturally thought they were rich people. In Idaho fruit was scarce and we never had a variety of fruits. After a few days with them we returned to Preston, and as it was late at night, we stayed overnight in a hotel room. This was my first time to sleep in a hotel. I remember we had ham and eggs for breakfast and Grandpa told me I must eat all that was on my plate. It was a big plate and so full of food, that, try as I would, I could not eat all of it. After breakfast Grandpa got his team of horses from the livery stable, hitched them up to the wagon again and we went back home.

For a couple of years we lived at Cambridge, Idaho, a small community near Downey, Idaho, so my mother and grandmother made a trade. I was to go to help Grandma and Aunt Elvina was to come to Cambridge to help Mother. Frank Kropf (my cousin Ethel's husband) and my cousin George Burton took Aunt Elvina to Oxford, Idaho, where she took the train to Downey, to be picked up there by Daddy, and I took the next train out of Downey and went to Oxford. Here someone was waiting to take me to Grandma's. I stayed with my grandparents for a couple of weeks. I remember going to Preston with them, where Grandma bought a piece of gingham and made me a pretty dress.

Later on we moved back home, near to my grandparents, and I went to Preston to live with Mother's cousin, Myrtle Goff, so I could attend Preston High School. Sometimes Grandmother came to Preston and took me shopping with her. She liked to have company, and Grandfather had other business in town to take care of. After we finished shopping she would take me to the ice cream parlor and buy each of us a dish of ice cream. We both enjoyed shopping very much.

After I was married and living in Brigham City, 48 South, 3rd East, Grandmother would at times spend a couple of days visiting my husband Virgil and me. These visits were during the winter months when she came to Brigham City, as she often did, to spend a month or two with Verna and Roger Sederholm. Whenever she came to visit us Virgil would go to town and buy soda crackers and nippy cheese, and the two of them would have a cheese and soda cracker feast. Unfortunately, I didn't like cheese, but I did enjoy seeing them enjoy themselves. A favorite snack for Grandmother was cheese and crackers.

These are only a few of my recollections of childhood and growing up days. There are many other happy memories of Grandmother. She was a person of great faith and perseverance, and she gave to all of us a feeling of security. This is also memories of my grandfather, and I must say that I loved them both very dearly.

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