Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dear Hal (Harold Graham Christensen, a cousin to Lee.)

May 20, 1996

Dear Hal,

Of all the Christensens I know, I’m the one most prone to reminisce about family history
so I very much enjoyed your letter to Bruce. Over the years I’ve corresponded with Ruby
Cox Smith, a cousin of our fathers, and I’ve shared your letter with her. She has been my
reminiscing correspondence, though I’ve never met her. It was her father, Bruce Cox, who
built the three big lambing barns at the Oak Creek farm/ranch.

While I’m calling the barns “lambing barns,” I don’t know that that is what they were built
for. I do remember a winter or two when J.W. did not sell his lambs in the fall, but kept
them and perhaps bought others to feed into the winter - a feedlot operation. What I remember
most vividly about the barns is how immense they were to a small boy and how
my mother considered the lamb manure to be pure flower growing gold.

Bruce may have lived for a time at Oak Creek place. During the early days of the Depression,
A.D., Tobey Candland, and Harold Swan all worked for J.W. Steve and Elsie lived at
Oak Creek, but either Alice/Tobey or Maud/Harold may also have lived there. I doubt the
Swans stayed in Fairview for more than a year before returning to California. A.D. and
family left the area for Nevada about 1937. J.W. lost the Oak Creek place about 1935-36.
You were very young so you probably do not remember when all of J.W.’s boys homesteaded
in the Sunnyside area of East Carbon County. I don’t know that any of them but
L.R. bought sheep. They built at least two cabins, Bill’s and L.R.’s. Because Tracy and
L.R. were WWI veterans, they had some advantages over the others. I think all but L.R.
dropped out early. L.R. was challenged when he came to “prove up” and he lost his place.
This forced him to buy in the Schofield area. He may have been there ahead of J.W. It also
forced him to merge his herd, six or seven hundred head, with J.W.’s.

I once asked L.R. how J.W. managed to hold onto his herd while so many big spreads went
under during the Depression. He said the banks could have foreclosed on J.W. and most
other herds in Sanpete County, but that J.W. owned some unmortgaged pasture land that
made his less insolvent, if that’s a description, than others. The banks, of course, had more
sheep than they knew what to do with so were not pressing foreclosures. There was always
the hope and the promise that Roosevelt and the Democrats would turn the economy
around. Which they did, of course, with a big assist from WWII.


The following is taken from "Utah History To Go" and written by John H.S. Smith.

With its high, dry climate, abundance of bunch grass, excellent breeding program, and "near-perfect transhumance cycle," Sanpete County had proved an ideal place to raise sheep. Unfortunately, the worldwide depression that began in 1929 sent wool prices tumbling. On May 31, 1929, the Manti Messenger had reported that wool was selling at the highest price ever--about a dollar a pound. Then things suddenly changed. Rudolph Hope "related a story of two men who were dickering with a commission man after the peak of the season. Not content with a dollar they were trying for more, but during the bargaining a telegram arrived for the commission man who promptly refused to buy at any price and left. This was the start of the slump and soon wool was fetching as little as five cents a pound, irrespective of quality." The industry would never fully recover.
At the turn of the century Utah had some 2.7 million sheep, and Sanpete was the heart of sheep country. By 1994 the state had only 445,000 sheep and lambs and a wool clip of only 3.8 million pounds. Sheep remain an important element in the state's and Sanpete County's agricultural economy, but the glory days of the 1920s are gone forever.

Sources: John S. H. Smith, "Localized Aspects of the Urban-Rural Conflict in the United States: Sanpete County, Utah, 1919-1929" (M.A. thesis, University of Utah, 1972); History of Sanpete and Emery Counties, Utah (Ogden: W. H. Lever, 1896); Wayne L. Wahlquist, ed., Atlas of Utah (Provo: Weber State College and Brigham Young University Press, 1981).

The entire article will post tomorrow.


Hal was Harold Graham Christensen, a cousin of Lee R. Christensen
Harold Graham Christensen
Harold Graham Christensen