Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Robert Crookston Jr.

  • Robert Crookston Jr. 
  • Born: March 6, 1855 Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Died: February 6, 1928 Logan, Utah
  • Related though: Dan’s grandfather Lynn Crookston

My father Robert Crookston, Jr. was born March 6, 1855, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was the fifth child of 11 children born to Robert Crookston Sr. and Ann Welch. When he was four or five years old his family moved to Moroni, Utah, and when he was eight years old his family moved to Logan, Utah, where his parents stayed the rest of their lives. His father built a log house on North Main Street a half block north of the courthouse and it was here where he lived until he was married.

He learned responsibility at an early age and was hired by Moses Thatcher to watch his cattle. The ranch was located on Bear River west of Preston, Idaho. He lived in a little log cabin all alone. One day he found an Indian boy about his same age huddled among the cattle to keep warm. He had scarcely any clothes on even though it was cold weather. He couldn’t communicate well enough to explain where he came from and why he was there. Father motioned for him to come into the cabin to get something to eat. He shared what clothes he had with him and his food. They became good friends and he stayed until spring. He was good at catching fish from the river and supplemented their food with fish all winter. Father called him Indian John. Since he had no home, father showed him where to go across the river on a toll bridge and how to get to the Washakie Indian Reservation west of Logan. He gave him his own pony to ride. Indian John and Dad remained good friends all their lives. Whenever Indian John came to Logan, he would come by grandfather’s home to visit and borrow dad’s gun to go hunting. Grandfather and grandmother were always good to him and gave him flour, bread, etc. Father was the only one he would take hunting with him as he said everyone else was too noisy.

Father liked animals and was good to them. He spent a good deal of his time taking care of them and working with them. A horse fell on his leg when he was a young man and broke it. It gave him trouble the rest of his life. He limped from rheumatism.

In the settling of Utah the church would issue land to its members. Grandfather wanted his boys to learn to build instead of farm so he got only 40 acres located west of Logan. Dad was the only one home to work the land. Grandfather was working the rock quarry. They planted 10 to 15 acres and the rest was hay land. They planted grain and sugar beets. Father also worked at the quarry at the same time. The rock was selling for about $1.00 per load. There was no cement so everyone used rock for the foundations of their homes.

When father was 26 years old he married Rosabell Pitkin, age18, in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on October 10, 1881. Their first child, a son named Robert Young, was born in Logan December 17, 1882.

Father took his wife and small son Bob and went to Rexburg, Idaho to homestead. He made a box with screen wire over it for Bob to take his cat. He also took a hive of bees with him and a few chickens and a cow. After clearing some land and planting it, he went freighting to Great Falls, Montana, (the nearest waterway port) and Corinne, Utah, (nearest railroad depot) while waiting for his crop to mature. They lived in Rexburg, Idaho, five or six years under very trying circumstances before returning to Logan.

While in Rexburg 3 more children were born in the family: Annie (July 6, 1885), Nicholas Lee (July 6, 1887), and Agnes (Feb 12, 1889). After returning to Logan six more children were born: Elease (Feb 1, 1891), Frank Byron (June 22, 1893), Carlton (July 18, 1896), Clement (Apr. 13, 1898), Ruth (July 7, 1900), and Vernon (Nov 4, 1903) making a total of ten children.

After coming back to Logan besides getting logs from Logan canyon for firewood, father did team work around town and worked the farm again. After the train came through Logan he would haul freight from the depot to the stores uptown and do any other work he could find.

In the early days the mountain on the south of the river of the mouth of Logan canyon ran right down into the river. The only way to get up the canyon was by horseback, fording the river. Soon after Logan was settled, Brigham Young advised them to clear a road up Logan canyon. Help came from around the nearby settlements, even as far away as Garland and Brigham City. 

It was no little job as the mountain was mostly solid rock. Finally they built a narrow road against the river. It remained that way until I was a big boy. The road department has been picking away at the mountain ever since. Now there is a wide two-lane highway. Whenever the men wanted to go to the canyon they would meet at the mouth of the canyon until there was more than one outfit so they could work together and have good security. 

One time when we were still living at McNeal’s dad went to the canyon to get wood in the wintertime. He was bringing a horse and a mule on a sleigh. The weather was cloudy and threatening so no one else came. After waiting a while he decided to go alone because his family needed wood. He did not return home as usual, but we all went to bed anyway. About midnight there was a noise on the doorstep. One of the boys went to investigate and found the team with the gray mule pawing on the doorstep. Father was seated on a the front running gear of the sleigh wrapped in a camp quilt which was frozen stiff so he could not even move. We asked him what happened. He said a small snow slide pushed them into the river. We asked him how they got out and he said that the gray mule dug them out and brought him home. We never found the other half of the sleigh. Father was only frost bitten and in a few days was recovered enough to be able to go again. He always felt like the gray mule saved his life.

One of the early recollections was the death of one of father’s workhorses. It was big horse that father got from the circus. He traded a mule for it. One day it just laid down in the barn and died. Father had to take the side of the barn to get it out. Serge Bodrero brought over a big team of black horses with a big flat bed with small iron wheels. They dug holes in the ground and buried the hind wheels, so that the team of horses could pull the dead horse right up on the wagon. The team then pulled the wagon out to the holes and took the horse away.

When I was a small boy, father bought the Kartchner property at 434 West 2nd South, Logan, Utah, where we built our home. There was two-story house on the property that was moved up near the college. Grandfather Crookston helped father lay the foundation using the rock from grandfather’s rock quarry at the mouth of Logan canyon. The rock was blue limestone. The rock used in the construction was much larger than needed, so it was a sure foundation. The house was built about two feet off the ground. Most of the lumber was made from logs that dad had cut. Uncle Nick supervised the building but my brother Lee did most of the work. It was a two-story home with two rooms down stairs and two above. Later two screen porches were added and an additional room on the west that was used as a summer kitchen. Here mother canned her fruit and did the laundry.

The lot was about an acre, so we had plenty of room for a barn, corral, garden and orchard. The orchard consisted mostly of apple trees with a cherry, pear, prune and several plum trees. Later my brother Byron built us a root cellar behind the house. Father always kept a milk cow, which I learned to milk at an early age, and horses or mules, chickens and a sheep. Every spring we would get a lamb and feed it until winter and then butcher it. Mother used to card the wool for quilt bats. We had a well with a pump just south of the house. There was always a stream of water flowing in front of the lot on the north and also at the south edge of the lot, both were used for irrigation. The back half of the lot was lower than the front, going down a small hill. The barn, corral, and garden were below the hill with the house and orchard level with the street.
Robert Crookston Jr, and Rosabell Pitkin
The cooler we used to keep our food cool was a box under a tree out in the yard in a protected area. It consisted of a frame covered with burlap and the burlap was hanging in pans of water. The breeze blowing through the wet burlap cooled the food. It was used mostly for milk, cream and butter. Soon after ice delivery was available we purchased an icebox that was located in the hall between the main house and the summer kitchen. The iceman delivered ice several times a week. He would come in and put the ice in the icebox and tear out a coupon from a book previously purchased and hanging on a nail be the icebox.

We often supplemented our food with fish and game. One winter dad came home from the canyon with a load of firewood on top of which he had several small deer. In order to keep some of the meat after it was dressed and cleaned we salted it down in a wooden barrel buried in the ground in the shade of the cherry tree. The meat was good, but the cherry tree died later from the salt. The rest of the meat we froze and ate or gave it away.

Father was a kind person and would often see that the widows had free firewood. My brother Bob said that often when he came home from school father would have a log tied on the bobsleigh and the team hitched up ready to go. Dad would instruct him where to deliver it and he was told not to talk to anyone.

After his house was built father gave the team to this brother-in-law Plesant Farmer as he would be working the farm while father worked for the coal mines east of Salt Lake City. His job was to care for their horses and mules. He left one horse at home to pull the buggy so we had transportation while he was gone. We also had a telephone installed, which was a great help for mother. She used it to order all our groceries. They were always delivered to the house and charged to our account. The bill was paid monthly. Having the telephone made mother feel more secure when father was away.

I remember once when father came home on a visit while still working for the mines, he took Carl and me fishing down in Little Logan River by the Fairgrounds. He carried us across the river on his back one at a time. Carl and I played on the bank while he fished. He caught two or three small fish.

After father returned from working in the mines, Mother got him a job working for Utah Power and Light Company driving a team of horses and taking care of all their horses. He worked there until he died.

Men from Bear Lake used to bring large suckers they caught in Bear Lake to town to sell. They kept them in tubs of cold water and sold them on Main Street. Dad would often buy one on his way home from work.

He was a very quiet person and not very outgoing. He only talked to others when it was necessary. He was a practical person, could see what was needed to be done and would do it. He believed in the gospel and kept me on my mission after my money was gone. He was an honest, hard worker, and lived on meager means all his life.

Dad was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, was stocky built, but never heavy. He had dark brown hair and part of his life he wore a moustache.
He was not very active in attending church. In his later life only attend Stake High Priest Quorum meetings and funerals. He died in the hospital from pneumonia following an operation at the age of 73 on June 2, 1928. After he died, mother lived on his life insurance until her death at the age of 76 on April 23, 1940.

This life sketch was written by his son Clement Crookston.

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