Mark’s Mom



My aunt Barbara with baby Mark and his big sister, Carrie.

Funeral Program: Barbara Bowles Stratton (outside)

Funeral Program: Barbara Bowles Stratton (inside)

My mother’s older sister, Barbara, passed away a few months ago in September.  I was privileged to speak at her funeral!  Just as the meeting was closing with prayer my cousin, her son Mark, ran up to the stand and wanted to say a few words about his mother… but there was no time because everyone was standing as the casket was wheeled out the door.  Although we spoke about how sweet and kind Barbara was to all of us, Mark wanted to make sure the “tough as nails” part of his mother’s personality was told.  So, he has been regularly texting his memories to me since that day!  Here are the stories Mark wanted to share about his mother:

Story #1 – Mom was Tough as Nails:  My mother is remembered as a caring sweet, sweet lady that was always sweet.  Never nothing but sweet.  There was another side to my mother that was tough as nails.  She was a firecracker!  I remember my mom jumping the fence to save our chihuahua that was getting eaten alive by a big mean-ass dog.  She went after that dog like a wild cat; that dog had his tail tucked and was fleeing for his life!  So, she grabbed our little dog and loaded us up to go to the dog doctor.  As we backed out of the driveway, she noticed the screen door was open.  She ordered me to run and shut it.  And that’s exactly what I did was run and shoved my hand right thru the glass.  So, now she has to decide who goes to the doctor first… the dog or me?  Mom decisively made the call, the dog is first; then if I am still alive, I go next.  The dog died.  Me however, did not.  She was in command of the situation from the first second.


My mother said she always looked up to her big sister, Barbara, and admired her beauty.

Story #2 – Mom had Skills:  My sweet caring mother wasn’t just tough as nails, she had many skills.  Some fine tuned skills and some that just came natural when she was in a jam and needed to come up with something fast to get by.  I was probably four when the dog ate our little dog, so I would say I was five when my mom was backing our new car out of the driveway and tore the door off the car.  I’m not sure of the particulars of how this happened (I was 5); however, I am sure the door was ripped off the car.  So mom, being her father’s daughter, got some rope and put the door back where it belonged and she wrapped the rope around the car door, then over the roof and back under the car, and over the opposite door and back over the roof and after about ten times around the car, she put some kind of crafty cinch loop and a few half-hitches and there it was; fixed almost good as new.  Of course, we had to get in and out of the car thru the back doors until dad got home from working out of town all week, then the door issue naturally fell to him.

Story #3 – I’m in the Dog House Now:  I could always tell when mom was getting fed up with my dad working too much, because she would take it out on me and dad’s hunting dog.  This dog was my pal!  So, I would stand toe-to-toe with my mom and defend my dog from her and her broom; me and this dog was tight.  Hell, we used to go in the garage and eat dog food together!  Now, if that ain’t a tight friendship I don’t know what is?  Anyhow, my dad had been gone bow hunting and didn’t take us with him, so mom was less than sweet to my dog because of it.  And, since I was stupid enough to sass my mom over her brooming my dog, I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t exactly safe from getting broomed my own self; but unlike my dog, I was stuck in the middle.  My mom went after my dog with the broom until he finally had to flee for his life.  He tried to come back but she would go after him with the broom again until he just stopped coming back.  Dad comes home and wants to know where is his dog?  Mom tells him, “I don’t know, the dog just run off.”  I jump up and say, “No sir, he tried to come home but mom kept chasing him away!”


Barbara was born on July 9, 1938

Story #4 – Mom had Nerves of Steel:  I would hit the doors with both hands to stop me, and then do it again and again.  Mom had told me 3 or 4 times to knock it off, or else!  So, knowing this was the last run at it before “or else” was going to hit, I got a good running start and slid into the glass door and went right thru the glass.  So, there I was bleeding out.  Mom used my little brother’s diapers to try to slow the bleeding while she drove like a crazy lady to the hospital.  One time when mom, Brad and I were at the laundry mat, I ws acting my same old out-of-control part… running and sliding on the wet floor.  It was winter and the floor by the glass door at the laundry mat was wet from snow-covered shoes going in and out all day.  I saw the opportunity to do a little floor surfing!  I would get back and get a run at it and hit that wet floor and surf to the glass doors.  I was cut up; it was not a pretty sight.  It took 140 stitches to patch me up that time.  Brad was less than a year old, so I wasn’t quite four yet.  My mom had nerves of steel, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to give me the “or else” she had threatened me with.  I guess that glass door was the or else!

Story #5 – Mom knew No Fear:  My mother was absolutely the most fearless person I have ever met in my life.  She had more backbone in her little finger than most men ever have in their finest hour.  My mother would tackle jobs that would make a big bad-ass strong man die from fright.  Mom heard about a trailer in Veyo that was free.  All you had to do was come get it and it was yours.  So my mom, knowing that my sister was thinking about moving back to the area, she hires a trailer mover to go move the trailer to a park near her home.  Now this trailer was a scary sight.  By the time I found out about what she was doing, it was too late to tackle her down and tie and gag her while I try to talk some sense to her.  Nope, that conversation was a luxury I did not have; so no sooner than the trailer was parked, the tear down began.  There was not one inch of this trailer that was livable; everything had to come out and go into the dumpster.  I wasn’t around to help as much as I should have been.  My brother, Brad, was the muscles and mom was the brains, and she executed her daily list day in and day out until she had the trailer looking like new.  She called me up and told me she needed this done before my sister got here.  So me being me, I followed her order pretty damned good, because I knew the difference between her asking me and her telling me.  And, make no mistake about it, she wasn’t asking me to paint the trailer, she was telling me to paint the trailer.  And, she told me to bring a couple cords of fire wood with me when I come.  The only thing I could think to say to that was, “Yes ma’am, I will cut the wood in the morning and get to painting when I get there; is there anything else ma’am?”  She said no sir, just that it had to be done in less than 48 hours because that’s when your sister will be here.  So I cut wood all day and painted most of the night to beat the clock.  I knew better than to ask the boss any stupid questions, like maybe if I’m not done in time coud I get another day?  No sir, not after I seen the work she had done herself inside the trailer.  She learned how to set tile by the instructions on the tile box… and the list goes on and on.  She was a tough act to follow but I will do my best to do so.  What she done to that trailer in about a month’s time was nothing short of a miracle.  She worked in that trailer herself day and night to make it happen on time.  She was well over fifty when this event took place and take it from me, someone that out works 20-year old men every day at the age of 55, it don’t come easy like it used to when I was 45.  She was the only one I have looked up to since my Dad and my Grandpa Bowles passed away.  She was my rock.


Spencer Bowles with his first child… a daughter named Barbara!


TODAY marks the 75th anniversary of  the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  Grandma Gwen (Dean’s mother) was born on Maui and was raised there by her grandmother.  December 7, 1941 was called “a date which will live in infamy” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  A few years ago, Grandma Gwen sent us the following remembrance about her experience on that day:

“I was about 7-years-old when this harbor was bombed by the Japanese.  I had just reached the chapel in Kihei when the (LDS church) district leader Bro. Pia Cockett announced the bombing had taken place.  I did not understand bombs.  We were told to watch the sky for blue parachutes and report it to authorities.  I was terribly frightened but I did not know why I was to be frightened.  I did not understand.  He dropped me off in front of grandma’s home and I went in and told her we had to keep our windows blackened and no lights were to be exposed.  How frightened I was as grandma explained war and what it means.  We listened to the radio to get information and learned so many of our service men were killed in the raid on Oahu.  These men were preparing for war and they were killed because there was no alarm given of the planes which flew under radar into the islands.”

Part 3: Nephi’s Ute Stampede

In this 1936-ute-stampede-mtg1last post about celebrations in Nephi, you will see the beginnings of the annual rodeo that is held in that city to this day.  I don’t know where the name came from, but here is the first article I found that calls it the “Ute Stampede.”  This first meeting in 1936 was held in February to gauge interest in holding another rodeo in their city later that year.  Enough interest was shown that they held a second and a third meeting to set the course for another successful celebration!  They determined that this celebration would be even bigger and better than the Blackhawk Encampment from the previous year and they bumped the dates forward to mid-July; however, you will read that they called it their 2nd annual Ute Stampede.

Many components of their previous celebrations were preserved such as: competition of bands, rodeo contract with Colborn & Sorensen, carnival contract with Monte Young, and voting for a “queen.”  Again, they appointed committees to carry out the various activities and this year they even selected a “slogan” that encouraged all to wear western clothing and return to the times of the Wild West.  In a few short months, they had a program and all was made ready for the big event.  As their organization developed, they selected Preston L. Jones as chairman for the Ute Stampede.  He had chaired the celebration the year before and was one of the main drivers influencing the city to invite the Blackhawk Encampment to Nephi.

All their efforts paid off as they held an even bigger celebration than the year before, despite some challenges with rain.  (Because of the rain on Saturday that they feared may decrease attendance, the committee had hurriedly made a decision to add one more evening for the rodeo on Sunday.)

Unfortunately the newspaper from the week of the rodeo was missing, so I don’t know if the queen was LuDean Wade or Rosemary Belliston!  However, this later article mentions the visit of Utah Governor Blood to the rodeo and his commendations to the Nephi citizens as well as the results of the baseball games, boxing matches and band competition.  Within a few weeks many businesses and citizens had pledged their support for another rodeo in 1937 (and declared that holding the rodeo on a Sunday night was not an option).

1937-ute-stampede-3These were exciting times for Nephi!  I had to hold my own excitement in check as I hurriedly scrolled through the next few months in the newspaper.  Sure enough, even earlier in 1937 the city had elected a corporation consisting of nine directors to “put on” the Ute Stampede.  They joined the Rodeo Association of America and locked in Colborn & Sorensen Rodeo Co. for future events;  later (1956) Cotton Rosser would buy out that company to form The Flying U Rodeo Company.

At right is an article listing preparations for the 3rd annual Ute Stampede to be held in 1937.  If this is true, then those pioneer citizens of Nephi counted the Blackhawk Encampment held in 1935 as their 1st annual rodeo.  This means that the most recent Ute Stampede (held in July 2016) was the 82nd rodeo to be held in Nephi, Utah.

Part 2: Nephi’s Blackhawk Encampment

If you read my last post you’ll know that Nephi was thrilled to be selected for the Blackhawk Encampment!!  The celebration dates were set for the second week in August 1935 (which means they had only 4 months to get ready).  And, they almost immediately received a telegram from Colborn & Sorensen to consider holding a rodeo for the celebration.  During the next several weeks a central committee and other sub-committees were put together.  Then, they got serious about a rodeo!

In the meantime, they were busy making plans and sending postcard invitations to family from out-of-town.  As I scrolled through the weekly newspapers, I noticed many articles about the need to clean up yards!  They held their annual 4th of July celebration which seemed almost an afterthought as they focused on the Blackhawk Encampment.  Front page news on the 4th of July was the voting procedures for their Blackhawk Queen.  The top vote-getter would be the queen, 2nd place Miss Nephi, 3rd place Goddess of Liberty, 4th and 5th place would be attendants to the queen.  Talk about an over-the-top celebration!

By the second week in July, they had decided yes to the rodeo!  They were almost ready for the celebration scheduled in just four weeks.  Their program featured many things that they had previously incorporated in other celebrations, including a mammoth pageant highlighting the first settlers in Nephi and a mammoth parade with participation from surrounding cities as well as baseball games, boxing matches, horse-racing, dancing, their annual hike up Mt. Nebo and of course, the rodeo!  Even the Governor of the State of Utah, Henry H. Blood, was there.  The town was finally ready and the Queen, Florence Chapman, had been selected.


1935 Blackhawk Ad

Part 1: Nephi’s Pioneer Day

1934 Pioneer DayThe inhabitants of Nephi had a strong Pioneer heritage.  Every year on July 24th they celebrated the settlers of Nephi.  I cannot do justice to the intensity of their celebrations!  So, check out this 1933 Pioneer Day article, which describes in detail the entries for their parade.  These celebrations were typically sponsored by the MIA and supported by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.  Nephi took their celebrations seriously.  At left is an invitational article for the celebration that was held in 1934.  The activities appeared to increase every year including baseball, boxing and dancing.  I loved reading the follow-up article listing the winners of the “whiskers” contest among other awards.  My GG-Grandfather, Thomas Bowles’s family won first place among the “handcart” floats!

1934 Blackhawk -charter night (page)The great success of the 1934 Pioneer Day resulted in an immediate desire to hold an even bigger celebration the following year and a committee was formed to invite the Blackhawk Encampment to Nephi for 1935.  (Pioneer veterans had been holding reunions, which came to be known as “Blackhawk Encampments” named after the Black Hawk War.)  Preston L. Jones was selected as President of the Nephi post of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneers and Indian Wars Veterans.  They learned they needed to increase their membership in the group and a couple of drives were held.  Then, a banquet was planned and held (in December 1934) to show off their more than 300 members, making them the largest post in the State of Utah at that time!

The work to attract the Blackhawk Encampment to their town was often headline news (example at right, above) and there were weekly articles detailing all their efforts.  Finally, in February 1935, 40 citizens showed up in Springville along with President P.L. Jones to convince the directors to hold the Blackhawk Encampment in Nephi.   Although up against Cedar City… Nephi was selected for the annual encampment!!

1935 Blackhawk -Nephi selected


Dean is Old

This little baby, born feet first, just celebrated his 55th birthday earlier this month!  During the difficult delivery, mom said something whispered to her to give up on this baby, but she didn’t listen to that voice.Baby Dean

Who is Zina Gray?

Skinner, Alzina Messinger2bSkinner, Alfonzo Miles.jpgAlzina Eliza Messinger was my great-great grandmother!  She was only sixteen years old when she married 19-yr-0ld Alfonzo Miles Skinner.  The Messinger and Skinner families had traveled different routes to Utah during the 1850’s and then both families settled in Beaver, Utah.

1860 US Fed Census – Alzina with her parents, Barnum Blake Messinger & Louisa Brooks Howard, in Springville, Utah where she was born on 23 Mar 1857

1860 US Fed Census – Alfonzo with his parents, Horace Austin Skinner & Laura Ann Farnsworth, in Beaver, Utah.  However, he had been born in San Bernardino, California on 11 Jul 1854

1870 US Fed Census – Alzina living with her parents/family in Beaver, Utah

1870 US Fed Census – Alfonzo living with his parents/family in Beaver, Utah

1870 US Fed Census – John Gray living with his parents/family in Beaver, Utah

1880 US Fed Census – Alzina & Alfonzo (married) living in Beaver, Utah

Skinner, Chester Louis1bThe young couple met in Beaver and made it their home after marriage on 9 Feb 1874 in the Endowment House.  They were married for nine years before the birth of their one and only child on 11 Jan 1883 in Beaver, my great-grandfather Chester Louis Skinner (at left).  Then after suffering for years with heart disease and dropsy, according to his obituary, Alfonzo died on 9 Mar 1891 and was buried in Beaver near his father and father-in-law.

The year after Alfonzo’s death, Zina married John Gray on 22 Jul 1892 in Beaver.  John Busby Gray was born in Scotland and traveled to Utah as a young child with his family.  His family had also settled in Beaver suggesting that John knew Zina as a teenager.  John was the same age as Zina and had not previously been married.  Their union produced only one child, a daughter named Jennie born in Beaver on 17 Feb 1893.

1900 US Fed Census – Zina & John Gray (married) living in Beaver, Utah with 17-year-old Chester and 7-year-old Jennie

1910 US Fed Census – Zina & John living in Beaver, Utah with 17-year-old Jennie

Gray, Alzina Skinner2John died on 30 November 1914 and left Zina a widow again.  He was buried in Delta, Utah.  Zina then began living with Jennie’s family until her death on 30 Sep 1930.  At that time, they were living in Ruth, Nevada.  It is likely that David William Cook, Jennie’s husband, worked in the open-pit mine there.

But where was Zina buried??  That is my real question!  I made my husband drive me out to Ruth, Nevada (near Ely) during the summer of 2012 in an attempt to search for her grave site in the cemetery there.  It wasn’t until this past summer, as I searched for obituaries in old newspapers, that I found her resting place.  I wondered if the Beaver newspaper would carry information about her death and it did!  Here is Zina Gray’s obituary in The Beaver Press.  I found out she had worked as a nurse!

Find-a-Grave confirms that Zina is buried in the Mountain View cemetery in Beaver with Alfonzo… but in an “unknown” grave location there.  I will keep searching that cemetery until I find her!  Zina is gone, but not forgotten.

1920 US Fed Census – Zina living with Jennie’s family in Delta, Utah

1930 US Fed Census – Zina living with Jennie’s family in Ruth, Nevada

Skinner, Alzina Messinger1a

Just the Old Gal to Write the Stuff

Hancock, Ann Eliza2

Ann Eliza Hancock, my great-great grandmother, was born nearly 100 years before my own birth.  She was well known in Panguitch, Utah and considered the oldest resident at age 86-years when she died.  Her obituary (see below) describes her many abilities… her ability to teach and lead the young folks… her charitable feeling for those in need… her strong will power to do good at all times and to accomplish any undertaking she took upon herself… her extensive work in the Relief Society.  Specifically, the obituary states that “her journalism and poetry will not be forgotten.”  To that end, I write this post in tribute to my Grandma Lida.

Ann Eliza married Elias Hatch in 1882.  They had a total of nine children, five of whom preceeded her in death.  Elias, or Lyle as she called him, died in 1934 leaving her a widow for the next sixteen years.  I believe most of her poems were written during this time.  This gem is one of my favorites:

Hatch, Elias2
I am glad I left that little town
And came to this dear place
For if I had stayed I would never of seen
My husband's smiling face
For fifty years I lived a happy cheerful life
For fifty years I am proud to say
I have been Lyle Hatch's wife


I love the charming grammer and the words that just don’t quite fit at times.  I admire her boldness and willingness to put herself out there.  Her positive influence in that small town cannot be calculated!  However, unfortunately, time has a way of erasing our lives… unless we leave behind documents that can be treasured by descendants.  So, here they are for you to treasure!  You can see her despair and loneliness in these tributes to her husband.  Read the worries between the lines of her thoughts on the War.  Get a glimpse of small town life in these many tributes to friends and neighbors and personal experiences she shares.

Hatch, Ann Eliza Hancock3

At one time she submitted poems for publishing and received a rejection letter.  She was crushed.  You can read about it in her “personal experiences.”  Here’s another gem about that:

I think that I shall never be
A great writer of poetry
Of that there seems to be no hope
I can never rise to pull the ropes

My name will never be so great
That I will ever nab the bait
For this I am not great enough
Just the old gal, to write the stuff


These poems are an insight into Grandma Lida’s soul and personality.  My heart has turned to her… she’s gone but not forgotten!!

Obit- Hatch, Ann Eliza Hancock2


And… Emily is here!

At our family Christmas party, my sister Shellie announced that they would be adopting a FOURTH baby due to be born in January.  Well, that baby was suddenly born a few days later on December 29th!  My sisters’ family quickly drove to California where they are now waiting to bring baby Emily across state lines back to their home in New Mexico.  Introducing Ms. Emily Jean Erikson… this is baby Jess’ first cousin, once removed 🙂

Shellie & Emily

*I previously wrote a blog post about my sisters’ baby John

Jess is Here!

Deaths and births… the cycle of life!  Announcing the birth of my second grandbaby, another little girl, named Jessica Noelle!

Santa Jess

Mom and baby are both healthy and happy and were able to return home in time for Christmas.  Interestingly, their picture was included in a news article about the hospital changing names.  It’s interesting because I was also in the news at a very young age in the same newspaper!
Baby Jess in News

Lor in News2

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