|Birthplace:||Bloomington, Bear Lake, Idaho, United States|
|Death:||Died in Simi Valley, CA, USA|
|Cause of death:||Stroke at age 84|
|Occupation:||Married 9/23/1885 John Henry Rollins, Jr. He died 1889. Then Joseph Thomas McKinney 4/15/1897. She had 6 children, 2 with first husband and 4 with second husband|
|Managed by:||Della Dale Smith|
Dortha's Top Matches
About Dortha Roxana Rollins (Madsen)
The following is a bit of a diary that my great grandmother kept starting in 1940 for a couple of years. She talks about the move her family made from Bloomington, Bear Lake County, Idaho in 1883 when she was 14 years old, and also about her family, including her father, Christian Madsen, who came to America from Denmark at the young age of 9 in 1853; her mother, Roxanna Louisa Welker Madsen, who was born in Iowa in 1851 while her Mormon parents were getting ready to cross the plains going to Utah; as well as her grandparents on both the Madsen and Welker sides of the family. I wish she would have talked about her first husband, John Henry Rollins, Jr., who died in a tragic accident at the age of 24, when their daughter was 3 years old and their son was 1 year old, but sadly, she does not. My mother told me stories about my great grandfather, indicating he worked on an ox or mule team that hauled borax out of the mines in Arizona. Supposedly, he fell off the wagon and his head was crushed by the wheels of the wagon, and he died on Christmas day in 1889.
I found a few public records on Ancestry.com about my great grandmother, specifically in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Bloomington, Bear Lake County, Idaho, when she was 11 years old and living with her parents, Christian, 35, Roxana Louisa, 27, her brothers John, 9, and Ezra, 5, and her sisters, Muzetta, 5, and Alberta, 1. In this census, Christian's occupation was listed as laborer, and Roxana Louisa was keeping house. The children were all at school, except for the youngest two, Musette and Alberta (known as Aunt Zette and Aunt Bertie to my family. Three years later the family moves to Arizona. There are no census records for 1890, so where they were living is unknown, although the family did settle eventually in Safford, Arizona, and Christian owned a livery stable there and also ran the Groesbeck Hotel for many years.
In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Dortha was 31 years old was living in Cochise County, Arizona Territory, with her second husband, Joseph T. McKinney, age 41, an Arizona Sheriff, and their children, Dan Carroll, age 1, Thelma Josephine, age 5 months, and her two children from her first marriage to John Henry Rollins, Jr., my grandmother, Dorthea Evelyn Rollins and her brother, John Delbert Rollins, although their names are mis-spelled in the census as Evelen Rolla and John D. Rolla. There is also a Thomas Young living with them as a "servant", who is 27 years old. It shows Dortha's birth date as March, 1869, and her husband's as June of 1858, and that she was born in Idaho, her father in Denmark and her mother in Iowa. Joseph T. McKinney was born in Arkansas, his father was from South Carolina and his mother from Alabama. Joe's occupation is shown as a Stock Raiser. At the time of the census, they had been married three years, having been married in the year 1897, about eight years after her first husband passed away.
In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census for Graham County, Arizona Territory, Dortha's parents, Christian and Roxanna L. Madsen are 55 and 48 years old, and living with them are their three youngest surviving children, Louisa Albertina, 21, Sylvia Elizabeth, 18, and Royal Eller, 14, and in this census record, Christian owns the Livery Stable and his home, free from a mortgage, so the family seems to be doing fairly well at this time.
In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Dortha was 40 years old, living in Bowie, Cochise County, Arizona, with Joseph T. McKinney, 52 years old, and her 3 children by Mr. McKinney. They had been married 13 years, and Joe's occupation is listed as "Stock Raising, Cattle". Their children were Dan, age 11, Thelma, age 11, and Gladys age 6. By this time, my grandmother, Dorthea Evelyn Rollins had married Stephen (Uselle?) James Eubank, and they are living on their own. My Uncle John Delbert Rollins (or Uncle Del as we knew him) is also living on his own, probably by this time in California where he is found in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census and on his 1917 draft card during WWI.
In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Safford, Graham County, Arizona, Christian and Roxanna Louisa are 65 and 58, and two of their children still live with them, Bertie, 30, and Roy, 24, and now Roxanna's father, John Welker, age 84, is also living with them. At this time they have been married 42 years, had 10 children, 7 are still living. Christian states that he came to America in 1854. He still owns the Livery Stable, and his son, Roy, is working as a Teamster for the stable.
By the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Dortha, age 50, is separated from Mr. McKinney, but the census indicates she is a widow (although Mr. McKinney does not die until 1948). With her are her children, Dan, age 21, Thelma, age 20, Gladys, age 15, and a niece, Louyre Rollins Rosenbloom, age 22, and her son, John Rosenbloom, age 1. They are living in Bakersfield, California, in their own home which has a mortgage. Dortha's occupation is Nurse, in General Practice, and her son Dan is listed as a Fireman for the Railroad, and Thelma is a Stenographer in an Insurance Office. Her niece, Louyre is also working as a stenographer in an office. The family's address is 2217 Sunset Avenue, Bakersfield. I have a picture of that house with my great grandmother and my Uncle Jim (James Rollins Eubank) sitting on the front porch. It was probably taken about 1920 when my Uncle Jim was about 5 years old.
In the 1920 census for Stafford, Christian is now a 75 year old widower, and living with him is his son, Royal or Roy Eller, 34, and daughter Alberta Louisa, 40, who has married William Branch, 38. Christian is no longer working, but his son, Roy, is working as a laborer doing general work, and his son-in-law, William is a cowboy on a stock ranch. By the following March, sadly, Christian passes away at the age of 76. I wonder if Dortha went to his funeral in Arizona from where she was living at the time in Bakersfield, California?
By 1930 or earlier, Dortha, 61, has moved to Los Angeles, with her daughter, Thelma, 30, and also living in their home at 6715 Victoria Avenue is my mother, Frances Amelia Eubank, 18, who listed as a "boarder". Thelma is listed as the head of the household, and Dortha's name is mis-spelled as Dorthy Rock McKinney. They own their home, and the property is valued at $5,500. The family has a radio, which was a question the census takers asked during the 1930 U.S. Census.
Thelma is listed as being divorced (from her first husband), and Dortha is listed as married, although he has been separated from Joseph T. McKinney for at least ten years or more. The census record states she was originally married at the age of 16 (which was to her first husband, John Henry Rollins, Jr.). Thelma is a stenographer in a law firm, Dortha has no occupation, and my mother is listed as a beauty operator in a beauty shop. This must have been before my mom went to work for Warner Brothers Studios in Culver City, California, as a cosmetologist to the stars.
In 1940, Dortha is listed as Dorothy McKinney, age 72, living with her daughter Thelma, age 40, and Thelma's second husband, Stephan Riess, age 41, in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California, at 14-A Mortimer Park. Stephan is listed as being in the Mining business, but he was a world famous geologist (born in Germany). He discovered many water wells in areas all around the world that were previously thought to be devoid of fresh water, including Majorca, Spain, the deserts of California, Arizona and Utah, and in Ojai, California, where they lived in the 1950's and 1960's. Previously, the water there contained a lot of sulphur which smelled very bad! But Uncle Steve was the first person able to find a fresh-water well there, which made him very popular with the local residents.
Dortha lived with Uncle Steve and Aunt Thelma until about 1952 when she went back to Arizona to live with her daughter Gladys, where she passed away in 1953 after a stroke. Following are excerpts from her diary that she started March 11, 1940, on her birthday at the age of 71.
"Fragments of the Past by Dortha Roxana Madsen Rollins McKinney"....
On September 23, 1883, with my parents, brothers and sisters, in company with our grand parents and several other families, we started from Bloomington, Idaho, for Arizona. We crossed at this spot on Lee’s Ferry, arriving at our destination November 5, 1883. Here is the route taken by the Madsen, Welker and Dustin families from Bloomington, Bear Lake County, Idaho in 1883 to Safford, Arizona:
From Idaho to Utah, Logan, Provo, Nephi, Johnson, over Buckskin Mountains, House Rock Spring, Saap Creek, Lee's Ferry, Bitter Spring, to Willow Springs, Limestone Tank, Moan Cappa Wash (also known as Moan Cappy or Moenkopi), Holbrook, Woodruff, Snowflake, Concho (then Springville), Bush Valley, Luna Valley, toward Sucarro, New Mexico, then down the Frisco in New Mexico, Ash Springs, San Jose, Solomonville, and Safford. We traveled down the Gunnison River. We crossed the lower crossing of Lee’s Ferry.
Our party consisted of the following: Christian Madsen family, John Welker, Eller Welker, Jacob Welker, Adam Welker, Peter Jacobsen, Roswell Stevens, Malinda Dustin Stevens, Nephi Dustin, Chauncey Dustin, Andrew Thorsen, and Sis Welker (NOTE: Sis Welker was probably her aunt Mary Catherine Welker Nelson, sister of Dortha's grandfather, John Welker, or her aunt Eliza Madsen Welker, sister of Dortha's father, Christian Madsen. Eliza Madsen also married into the Welker clan, just as Christian Madsen married Louisa Roxanna Welker, John and Rocksena Welker's daughter). The first school we went to in Safford was a one-room adobe, on the lot where the Kirtland Blacksmith Shop now stands.
March 11, 1940:
Today is my birthday. I am 71 years “young” today. I was born March 11, 1869, in Bloomington, Bear Lake County, Idaho. My parents’ names were Christian and Louisa Madsen. My father came to America from Denmark at the age of 9 years. His parents having been converted to the Mormon religion, prepared to immigrate to this country.
There happened to be, at that time, another family who, for the same reason, was sailing for the U.S. My father’s parents were not quite ready to leave, as they were trying to dispose of their worldly goods. Having a large family, for some reason or other, they sent father on with these people and gave them five hundred dollars to care for him until they could join him there. (NOTE: Christian Madsen's parents, Jacob and Dorthea, were not able to come to the United States until around 1856 or later. Christian's youngest brother was born in Utah in 1860.)
I have forgotten the length of time that elapsed before they left Denmark. They sacrificed a great deal of money and property, not being able to take much out of their country. It took several weeks to cross the ocean in those days. My father was very ill most of the way. The people to whom he had been entrusted were unkind to him and also neglectful of his comfort and needs. He was lonely and home sick, a little boy on the wide ocean, friendless and frightened, in route to a strange land where he could not even talk or understand the language.
The family he was with remained in the East for some time, several months, or until they could arrange to start their weary trek with other Pioneers across the plains to Utah, which was the place they and my father’s family had started for, a home in the rocky mountains of America, where they would be free to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, free from the hands of royal rule, to a land with new possibilities and freedom.
However, these God loving and God fearing people continued with their indifference toward the lonely little boy. They themselves suffered terrible hardship, but they had no sympathy for anything but their own. For many weeks they struggled with desert sands and mountain trails with bleeding feet and half filled stomachs. They would camp at night with hearts filled with fear from the attacks of hostile Indians and fear of the loss of an animal out of their teams for which there was no chance for replacement.
Many hard and extreme were the sufferings of this one family among many others of whom my father was a member at this time. Many were the incidents, thrilling and heart breaking, which our father related to us children as bed time stories in years following, and which have almost faded from our memory.
These were experiences that molded into his life a stronger faith in both God and in the brotherhood of man, unselfish, untiring against all obstacles. Truthful to the extent of risking his life to keep his word to a friend or debtor, honest to every one but himself, always running over the measure, prayerful and hopeful in the face of the worst discouragements, such was the character which grew up through great tribulation and which these few weak words can make only a dim picture.
My mother was born in Iowa and while an infant her parents, John and Roxanna Welker, moved to Utah. They were farmers and located on uncultivated land, which they homesteaded and cleared. They had a hard struggle getting their land to producing and getting a comfortable house built to live in.
Grandfather cut and hewed all the material that went into the building of it. They had a puncheon floor, which was made from logs split and smoothed to fit and lay smooth. In that same way they built all their improvements. Neighbors assisted each other with work of all kinds and in sickness or snow. Each one was untiring in every act of labor and sympathy, with never a thought of reward.
They did not have a chance to enjoy their hard labors and the few possessions of livestock, machinery and a few conveniences they had contrived for their humble cabin home. They had accepted the Mormon religion under the teachings of the Prophet, Joseph Smith, and were, along with all the others after the murder of the Prophets, robbed of every possession on earth and driven from the state of Illinois.
They were personally acquainted with the Smith family and the father of Joseph Smith and all the children. My grandfather, John Welker, was a very young man of only 18 years old when he was a member of the Nauvoo Legion, and he was one of the bodyguards for the prophet when he was herded into the Liberty Jail and was an eyewitness to the massacre of Joseph and Hyrum Smith there.
The sufferings and hardships they encountered in their trek across the plains into Utah has been told in history, and how well I am convinced of the truth of these things, related from the mouths of my own people who were numbered among the great cavalcade. It was their sincere faith in the gospel, which they had accepted that gave them courage and strength to make their way into Utah as my father’s family before them, their desire to live the truth, believing the truth would make them free, and their ambition to build up a country for future generations to enjoy.
They finally settled in Bloomington, Bear Lake County, Idaho, where about that time my father’s family were located. And thus it happened that in due time when my mother was 17 years of age and my father, Christian Madsen, at the age of 23, were married. They were still Pioneers homesteading and building and planting, still undaunted through tribulation and stronger than ever in their faith in God and in those who had proclaimed the gospel to them.
If my memory had not so sadly failed me since the days of my childhood and the constant association with my beloved parents, I could relate many interesting and beautiful incidents concerning their lives. I may have made some mistakes in this narrative, be that as it may, I have at least made mention of these very wonderful people of whom little has been mentioned in the pages of history, of how they blazed the trail from state to state, and everywhere they resided they have left silent evidence of their ambition and usefulness.
I was the first born of Christian and Louisa Roxana Welker Madsen. Six other children were born there, John, Ezra, Muzette, Zina, Bertie and Sylvia, quite a brood to hover under one kitchen apron, which was never untied from morning until bed time except to be replaced with a fresh, clean one. The kind of aprons mothers wore in those days were made of checked gingham, gathered full on a band that almost met in the back, then strings attached, which were tied in a neat bow.
Always neat and clean, my mother’s apron, and how we children loved to snuggle around her knees as she sat in the rocking chair before the fire light that sparkled and crackled from the pine wood burning in the open grate. The iron door of the stove front would be swung back over the “stove hearth” as it was called, and the soft light would be enough without the kerosene lamp, unless we were studying lessons or playing some kind of games.
There was always a babe in arms and just two years between each of the seven, not one babe was ever put to bed without being rocked to sleep. That was a custom in all families, and while the rocking was in process, to the soft crooning of “Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top”, "Baby Bunting" and many other lull-a-byes, the rest of us would settle down on the floor around mother’s apron, which had a sweet smell we have never forgotten.
In the days of my childhood, the lives of children were closely interwoven into the lives of the parents. There was a bond of affection that tied them together as if the heartstrings of each were spun or woven into one fabric. The reason for this is easily explained. When they were not in school, even at an early age, they had duties to perform. There was always “the chores to do”, too numerous to mention. Each one had their particular chore, according to their size and strength.
Little girls were taught to wash dishes when they had to stand on a stool to reach the dishpan, there was no such thing as a kitchen skin. The older children helped care for the smaller ones and all learned at an early age to wait on them selves. There was nothing to take them away from home or out of the house at night. No movies, libraries or public games to detract them. In every neighborhood there were flocks of children. In the early evening they romped and played around bonfires and other interesting games amused them.
These were happy days, romping in the meadows, gathering wild strawberries, wading in cold mountain streams, but not much swimming. We had no fear of earthquake, pestilence or war, the only frightening thing was extreme illness or accident endangering the lives of our loved ones. And how bitterly we grieved when one was taken from us.
The seasons were short in that mountain country. There really was a spring, summer and winter. Snow would start falling in November and winter had set in as the natives would say. Snow was deep on the level ground and much deeper in the mountains. The spring thaw would begin in April or May, and it would be June before planting could be done. The summer was so short the harvest could hardly be gathered before the frost came. And the fun we would have during harvest time.
It was like a big party when the “threshers” went from place to place. It took crowds of men to do the work, to handle the teams, sack the grain, stack the straw, haul the grain to the granary, and it was like feeding an army. So when the machine would move to our place, long tables would be arranged and preparations made two or three days ahead of time. Some times it would take two or three days to finish the threshing, so Aunt Jane, Aunt Eliza and Aunt Agnes would come and bring their flock of youngsters. And as their men folks were on the job, they would help with the cooking and the cleaning up afterward.
When their turn for harvesting came, mother would move in to help them. They had everything to eat that the farm produced. There was always plenty of home cured meat the year round, chickens and dumplings, roast chicken and dressing, besides pies and cakes and preserves, and big plump suet pudding with spiced sauce. The best was none too good for the farm hands.
No wonder they sang and whistled while they worked. The teams knew how to keep perfect step to all the different time, and again if any of the horses stepped out of time, or slacked up on the job, there was words without music that made them step up in the collar and keep in the circle, just exactly as the horses in the Merry Go Round of today!
When winter came, father worked in the mountains with teams of oxen, getting logs for the lumber mills. The snow would be awful deep and the big pine trees carried tremendous weight, too heavy work for horses, except for hauling lumber or equipment and supplies. The oxen would be shod the same as horses, but did not use harness, they were yoked together with heavy neck yokes and were guided about their work by telling them to Gee for one direction and Haw for another. It took great patience, strong lungs and strong physique to handle these powerful creatures.
Many is the time I have ridden behind the oxen on the “running gears” of the wagon. The boys used to ride on their backs as they would a horse, except with no saddle or bridle, of course. The ways of getting the logs to the mill was very interesting, but I won’t go over that part of it. Suffice it to say this work kept father away from home a great deal in the winter. It was a hard life and there was much danger of having feet and often ears frozen. There were blinding snowstorms, and dangerous snow slides when the snow began to melt.
Every year men and teams lost their lives in that way, but at home we all did our bit to take care of everything which was no easy job, and was a great tax on our mother’s strength with all else she had to do. However, there was always kindly neighbors or relatives to lend a hand.
When the sledding got too tough there was no possible chance for a man coming home at night or over the weekend in those days of slow transportation. But young as we children were, with our mother we suffered great anxiety for his safety. We never failed in our daily prayers to plead for his return to us. And what a welcome sound was the creaking of the snow under his feet, which told us he was home. Many, many times, long icicles were hanging to his whiskers. Men had to wear a beard on their face in that extreme cold, or they would be frozen.
I remember how father would put three of us behind him on a horse and take us to school and back during a snowstorm. Snow would fall in large flakes so thick you could only see a short distance through them. Very beautiful and quietly the snow would cover the ground, several feet deep, then the wind would come, boosting and piling it into large drifts against buildings and fences. We would walk over the tops of fences under the frozen snow all winter, seldom seeing even the top of a fence post. Once the snow was drifted and frozen, it staid that way until the spring thaw.
We had to keep a shovel in the house all winter during snowstorms to shovel the drift away from the door and a trail to the barn and woodpile. We had no indoor water supply, such as pipes or faucets, no sink in the kitchen or the luxury of a bathtub. The water buckets would be filled from the well at night and in the morning would have to be set on the hot stove to melt the ice. We never kept fires burning at night, only in times of someone being sick. All day the house was warm and cozy with the best of pinewood to burn, and no matter how the storms raged outside, there was no time to loaf or be idle.
When father was home he took such days to work making a new set of harnesses or mending an old one. He could make beautiful leather harnesses. For heavy team work there was the extremely heavy harness. Brass rivets were used where the greatest strength was needed. Other parts were sewed with what we called buckskin string, and it really was that very thing.
He would take the hide of a fresh killed deer and, strange as it seems, he preferred buckskin to the female of the species. He would scrape off all the hair and treat the skin until it was soft and pliable, almost as silk. It was a big job and took experience and skill. When ready for use some of us would have to take a tight hold on one side of it with both hands and keep the skin straight and smooth while father held onto a part of it and with a keen, sharp knife, cut into strands that could be threaded into a large harness needle. And he sewed parts of the harness with that.
He used an awl to punch the holes for the stitches, having no machinery, but all made by hand. He had a big workbench which he sat astride as he sewed and riveted. And oh how our fingers and shoulders would ache holding that skin while father would cut and when ever he would slack his grip or get to the end, we would reel backwards and often times sit flat on the floor. We would laugh and make a joke about it, not every time, of course, as it really was hard work but just as important as the sewing and fitting.
We kids that were large enough would take turns and mother even would have to change off with us. Sometimes while the skin was large it could be fastened to the wall by the top edge and it was fascinating to watch the long evenly cut strings drop away from the edge of the sharp edged knife. It was not harness only that father made from buckskin. He braided the most wonderful whips which it would be utterly impossible to describe the fine workmanship and durability.
The threads were woven evenly and smoothly, all by hand. The whip was not flat, but round. When it was finished there was a stick of smooth hard wood called the whip handle to which it was attached. Some were made long for the use of four horse teams, while others were short, used only on one span team.
Like the harness, there was the heavy or work kind and the fancy. How priceless even one of them would be now, as a relic of days when the finest work in art and for durability were made by just human hands.
Father would sing and whistle all the while he worked. After 60 years or more, the same songs are being sung again, "Darling Nellie Gray", "Buffalo Gals", "Jeff Davis", "I long to be single again", and many, many others. We children would romp and play around him and he worked. He would not be annoyed with one noise and seldom scolded us. But at night when he was reading, he wanted quiet. We kids used to laugh so hard the way he would keep going shush over and over, not looking up from his papers.
We had a big gray cat that played with us and furnished us lots of amusement, and all of us together were pretty noisy. It really broke our hearts when we left Idaho and had to leave dear old Tom. I could write a story of him alone. We had him so many years.
We also left a large, beautiful buffalo robe or hide, just discarded it as if it was of no value. We were so heavily loaded and had to sacrifice many valuable things. Our darling mother played her part in the world of industry. Pioneer mothers could not send to a mail order house for ready-made clothing. Some of the youngsters were grown before we saw or wore shop-made garments. In large families, and there were no small ones, they would buy yardage by the bolt.
It is comical to think about now, as I remember from a bolt of Calico the mother and all the girls would have a dress from the same material. All dressed alike, even the underwear for the entire family was made by mother’s hands alone. They would buy a bolt of shirting and men's shirts were all made by hand.
They spun the yarn made from wool sheared from their own sheep. Every family kept a few sheep and they would dye the yarn different colors and knit the socks and the stockings for the whole family, also wristlets and mittens. In that cold country, every part of the body had to be well protected. The old spinning wheel was always turning, only when the big old loom that wove the cloth made from the homespun threads was doing its part.
Could Robert Ripley in this modern age, in his “Believe It or Not” broadcasts tell anything any more unbelievable than what I truthfully tell about my mother and those of her time with families of 9 and even 12. How they spun and wove and knit and sewed and cooked and washed all the family laundry on a washboard. They rubbed the clothes and put them through two sudses, boiled in a wash boiler on the stove, rinsed through two rinse waters, and every bucket-full drawn and carried from the well.
An in the winter time the clothes would freeze stiff as boards as soon as they were on the line. Ironing was done by heating the irons on top of the stove. And would you believe it, they ironed every article, even the baby diapers. I was about 12 years old when mother got a thing called a washing machine, a curious contraption that was not much to save labor.
Another thing added to the work of the wife and mother is the fact that they made their own carpets and beautiful things they were. Every shred of clothing was saved. It was torn into narrow strings called carpet rags, sewn end on end, wound into balls and when there were several large sacks full of balls, the loom was made ready again. Many of the rags had to be dyed to make bright colors to weave, and then there would be many yards, just a yard wide. And the long strips to fit every inch of the floor from edge to edge had to be sewed together by hand. Then tacked down covering the floor tight and beautiful. Fall and spring the carpet was taken up, cleaned and put down again. The men folks always helped with that part of the work.
While on the subject of washing, I omitted the fact that all the laundry soap was made with fat and lye, boiled together, hardened and cut into bars, which would be a grayish white and greaseless when done. And the only soap ever bought from a store was the soap we called now toilet soap. We just called it hand soap.
All the time we lived in Idaho, the only lighting we had was kerosene lamps and candles, and did we have lovely candle sticks for our best rooms, some brass, others of porcelain, and some sort of clay painted. The lamps were also very artistic, and the candles the women melted nice clean tallow, poured it into candle molds and to make the wick we twisted soft cotton cord. While the tallow was hot in the mold, this string was placed so it would be right in the middle when the tallow hardened. Out came a smooth shiny candle as perfect and pretty as any you buy in the stores today. Women pieced quilts in beautiful patterns and quilted them by hand, two or three quilts at least for every bed.
There was always plenty of milk and churned butter, salt risen bread and cream biscuits or made of rich buttermilk mostly. Breakfast was always served by lamplight, but always there were hot biscuits. Home cured pork and beef were always plentiful and every scrap was made into headcheese and sausage. A dugout cellar with tightly covered roof contained the vegetables, which lasted through the winter. Large crocks filled with currant and strawberry preserves—no one made or talked of “jam”.
But women found time to do all those things along with knitting and sewing beautiful dresses, tucked and embroidered petticoats, elaborate baby clothes and even mens tailored suits. My grandmother on fathers side was an expert seamstress and tailor. She made mens suits out of cloth she wove on her own loom which was as fine as any sold from stores. (NOTE: this would have been Dortha Roxana Madsen Rollins McKinney’s paternal grandmother, who was Dorthea Christine Jensen Madsen, born 1817 in Denmark and died 1891 in Bloomington, Idaho.) Another thing my grandmother did was make beer to serve to the farm hands in summer time. I have watched her take the sprouted grain, brown it in the oven, add water and yeast and put in the wooden kegs.
In 1879 or 1880 or near that time, Grandpa Madsen died and soon after a great change came into our lives. Some citizens of our town drifted to Arizona and began writing unbelievable things about climate and advantages of the sunny south. It spread a fever of unrest among many of the families who were some of the afflicted with rheumatism. Grandmother Welker (mother’s mother) suffered with asthma. The long cold winter season was not a pleasant time to prepare for hurrying through the short but beautiful summer to be battling the long cold spell of snow, the springtime of mud when the snow melted, so many were the excited conversations that took place on the sunny side of the one and only store of the town.
And while the blizzard was drifting the constant falling snow in the months of February and March, the letters would arrive from the south land telling of green fields, fruit trees in bloom, five crops of hay per year, etc., etc., and the winter weary citizens began to plan to hitch the teams to the covered wagons, sell or mostly gave away their homes, farms and prosperity, and strike out again to what they hoped to find, a utopia in a promised land. The green fields, the sunshine, the blossoms, the long season to work were the upper most things in their minds.
The cheerful correspondent had not warned them of the disadvantages to encounter nor did they realize the long months of intense heat they would be so unprepared for, housing problems, a different way of doing everything they had ever done nor did they know that from a quiet peaceful God fearing little town of people where a man was a man and every neighbor was just one big family, that just the opposite conditions would face them.
I do not know if having known this would have prevented the exodus, be that as it may, on the day of September 13, 1883. The children and other few necessities were loaded in the wagons along with grain for the teams, bedding, clothing, and quite a supply of food stuff, but leaving a heart rending amount behind, we set out. My brother John, age 12 years, drove the wagon with one team of powerful horses in which mother and the children rode. Father drove a team of four horses. Grandma Welker drove a team and light spring wagon all the way from Bear Lake County Idaho to Safford, Graham County, Arizona, a distance over mountain trails as such they were. In some places the men had to cut trees and break a way through.
After several days of travel, the company would camp to let the teams rest for a day or two. Then the washing and baking was done and the load repacked. All the money that was received for possessions sold was carried in the wagons. Three thousand dollars in gold was put some where among the things. We were never molested although we met some very suspicious characters and traveled through Indian territory and at times Indians on horse back rode along for some distance, filled with curiosity, and had they desired, could have made a tremendous haul in everything.
On that long trip from September 23 to November 5th, there were no serious illness or accidents or loss that I remember. God’s protecting care sheltered us and as was the habit at home, our parents knelt in prayer morning and knight and gave thanks for this protection and asked for guidance in the great task they had undertaken again as pioneers in a new and strange land.
Saturday, March 16, 1940. Today is Grandpa Welker’s birthday. He lived to the age of 88, has been dead over 30 years. More changes have taken place since his passing than the 88 years of his life. It was just the beginning of the machine age. He never saw or heard a radio or saw any electric machinery or household appliance operated by electricity. He operated his farm with man and horse power. He loved the smell of the good rich earth he turned and the feel of it as it trickled through his fingers. He was greatly provoked with the introduction of modern machinery. He did not believe the automobile would be permanent, said it would kill too many people or scare both men and horses to death, that the noise of it would run people crazy. How surprised he would be now to see one drive up to his door with no sound to announce its arrival.
He loved horses and raised the best. Wherever he lived he owned beautiful horses. And when the time came he could ride behind his prancer’s hitched to a rubber-tired buggy that was near perfection in transportation as he ever cared to attain. Dear old grandpa Welker was an honest and industrious man, generous and helpful to his neighbors and never slacked with time or money according to his means in the advancement of the community wherever he lived. He was a faithful member of the church to which he belonged (Church of Latter Day Saints or Mormons) and served in the capacity of Bishop for over seven years. He was active and industrious up to the time of his death, however his mind seemed to weaken. He could not remember or do things he was used to doing. He had a stroke and only suffered a few days.
His whole life was spent in pioneering, to this day, trees, houses, and other monuments of the work of his hands still stand. There were only two children by their marriage, Louisa Roxana, my mother, and John Eller, their only son. Uncle Eller went back to Idaho with his family, becoming discouraged with the conditions of Arizona, so different to the north country, Idaho, where he was born and raised. It left grandpa and grandma saddened and lonely for a long time as there were several grand children to whom they were greatly attached.
None of the family were ever satisfied with Idaho after returning there, but never came back to Arizona again. After grandmother’s death on March 11, 1904, he visited the family once a year, leaving on the train the first of June, as regular as the year rolled around, to visit the old home and his many relatives.
Always known as “Uncle John” and always had the love and respect of all who knew him. The long, severe winters in Idaho began to get the best of him and he suffered intensely with rheumatism. Grandma was afflicted with asthma and some times would almost choke to death. How often we children have cried and prayed and feared each attack would be her last, which was before the move in 1883. So for some reason or other of which I do not know, (I was about 14 years old at the time) one or two families from our town drifted into Arizona and began to write back about the land of milk and honey!
Yes, they said that very thing! Where the sun shone more than 12 hours a day, fruit tress bloomed in February, raised 5 crops of alfalfa. November days were like summer, when in Idaho we had several feet of snow. There were many other breathtaking descriptions about this fairyland. This was along about 1881 and from then on this correspondence rolled in. So is it any wonder that a large number of families, mostly relatives, began to pull “the stakes” they had driven so many years before, and prepare for the big move, starting out again with a covered wagon cavalcade.
Then on September 23, 1883, they started for Arizona, sun kissed land, and it lived up to its reputation as far as sunshine was concerned. And when on November 5th we pitched camp in the suburbs of the little town of Safford, where we made our home, the sun was warm, trees were green, acres of growing alfalfa greeted our eyes, but some how the picture had faded in a degree through the dangers and hardships we were subjected to as we traveled all those weary miles. It looked different to what we expected. We were tired and homesick.
Never the less, every man, still a true pioneer, began to build a home and grandfather Welker was among the first to begin. In his passing he left hosts of friends and a better world for his having lived in it.
Dortha Roxana Madsen Rollins's Timeline
March 11, 1869
Bloomington, Bear Lake, Idaho, United States
October 18, 1886
Safford, Arizona, United States
August 26, 1888
Layton, Graham, Arizona, United States
April 16, 1898
Safford, AZ, USA
August 28, 1953
Simi Valley, CA, USA
August 30, 1953
Safford, Arizona, United States