JOSEPH WILKINSON SMITH
As told by his daughter, Edith
Born: 23 Aug. 1874 Where: Glendale, Kane Co., Utah
Died: 3 Nov. 1943 Where: Douglas, Cochise Co., Arizona
Buried: St. David, Arizona
(See Edith & Vern Kambitsch stories)
Joseph, the seventh child of Charles Pears Smith and Mary Wilkinson was born in Utah before they went to Nevada and Arizona. The family settled in the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona where he spent most of his life. Several of the boys took up land in the mountains and homesteaded and built homes. In latter days Joseph and his posterity were the only ones to remain on the homesteads.
Jo, as he was always called, married Bonnie Lee Wagner Owens, a widow with one child. He raised a large family and lived and died in this part of Arizona. His homestead was in Cottonwood Canyon, where he built a home and farmed much land, along with his cattle business. He had 11 children, eight of which grew to adulthood, married and settled in this part of Arizona. He had four sons and four daughters to be proud of.
His daughter says: "It was team and wagon days, horse and buggy days, horse back, or shank’s mare, mode of travel."
Besides dry land farming and cow ranch operations Joe ran a wood yard. The wood was cut with axe by Mexicans and hauled it to be corded up at the yard. One Mexican, Jesus Cota, owned a string of burros and packsaddles for that purpose. In the early days there were a few scares by Indians but none historic. Uncle Charles Smith, father’s brother, was living with him and he drove teams hauling loads of timber to the Tombstone mines from the sawmill on Turkey Creek. Charles did a big business with the soldiers at Ft. Huachuca; in those days. In later years Charles moved to Bisbee where he established a Shoe Shop and repaired shoes. Often on visiting Joe, Uncle Charles would gather up all the old shoes around the place, take them to Bisbee and soon return them as good as new. We children were always so thankful for our renewed shoes from our dear uncle. We had cold wet winters and as we generally walked to school through long stretches of sand and burrs, we were mighty glad when we had shoes. Of times in the fall warm weather we still walked barefoot to school, so we rigged up our Holland type shoes: Namely: A board length for each foot, held on by rubber bands cut from old inner tubes, that was OUR first acquaintance with the elevated "WOODEN GLOGS." We felt like Royalty as we skimmed along the trail, then left our wooden shoes there to be used again on our way home, to save our good shoes to wear while in school.
Joe hunted deer to feed his children in those early days, as did the rest of the families in our neighborhood. One of his best friends often came to hunt with him while the two wives visited and enjoyed cooking up a big dinner for both families. Many were the happy times spent with Bob and Musetta Grantham and their children: Lee, Mary, Robert, Wesley Charles and Erma. There were usually a few pictures taken at these times. If only those treasures could be found to be reproduced to file away in our albums with dates and headings today.
Henceforth—Joe and Bonnie will be called dad and mom. Dad raised horses on his ranch. Some became favorites for buggy or for teams to work and others to be sold to whomever would make a good offer. One of the favorites was Prince, the old buggy horse, used so much by mom, when she took out time to go visiting. He was a faithful servant and worked willingly up to old age and death, where we found he had dug his grave under the field fence and lay dead, in the hole, ready to be covered. Prince, in the late years, got too close to the old well and fell into it. A lot of hard work went into getting him out but he didn’t seem to be hurt from the ordeal. This was the same well Marylee fell in when she was just a tot of 15 months, she was pouring sand down the well to see the waters bubble.
Another of the riding horses was a mare called "Ribbon", who belonged to mom before she married dad. She was a "Cold Jaw Type", meaning they set their jaw on the bridle bit and so steadfast that no amount of pulling on the bridle had any effect. Dad rode this horse in the pasture one day and it got an urge to run away. In the attempt it took him between the forks of a ground level tree—forked. He hit his head against one tree trunk and lay unconscious for a long time before being able to come staggering in, looking terribly strange to us with all that blood on his head and face.
One morning Dad left to work in his field, Mom was busy in the kitchen, and the small children were playing the yard, when one of the boys came running in the house crying that the baby, Marylee, had fallen in the well. Mom ran, looked down the well and sure enough there lay her precious baby under several feet of water looking up at her. Mom said she screamed at Dad but he was too far away to hear so she sent one of the little boys to hunt him. There was no time to lose, no time to make decisions; "action was the word" so Mom said she took off her shoes, reached over, took hold of the water pipe in the middle of the well and started down that awful hole – trembling – for fear had gripped her, but there was nothing else to do, and soon she stood on land. She turned the baby over on her tummy, grabbed her clothes and strangled as she got her head above water. Getting up was the trouble but she managed to start up the pipe with one arm around the pipe and her bare feet around the pipe holding with her toes. Inch by inch she climbed that long pipe and how did she do it? It was a miracle. The baby seemed lifeless and quiet but Oh, the strain, and the children at the top were fussing and crying—another one could have easily slipped over the top. Mom was about given out as she finally reached the top. At that moment here came Dad just in time to grab that baby and run, letting Mom get out the best way she could. It was easy after she could use both arms and she ran to help Dad with the baby. Dad had some first aid and seemed to know what to do and went to work draining the water from her lungs. It looked like a hopeless case with no response and it would take hours to drive with horse and buggy to the doctor’s office. What to do next? They must not give up and after what seemed "ages" they noticed a pinkness coming into the baby’s skin; they took hope and soon they could find a heart beat and withy much persistence the baby showed more signs of life.
By evening little Marylee was out of danger, but it was sometime before this child was her same sweet self again. And Mom? Just two months after this awful tragedy Mom gave birth to another baby girl. A crisis, a moment of decision, saved the life of one child, and the life of a mother and another child, named Edith, were also spared.
As we children became old enough we were given a hoe, to fit our size and age, and the whole family hoed weeds in the field. Many were the meteorites ploughed up but, simply being another rock was hauled to the border of rocks around the field fence. They would, today, be a great find, but at that time they were of little interest to anyone. Some perfect spear-heads and tomahawks were sent to the University of Arizona Museum.
Our bachelor, uncle Sam, lived on Turkey Creek, just below the Bill Saunder’s ranch, he worked for Henry Smith (no relation) much of the time. He farmed, raising corn as the main crop but he worked his beautiful horses, descended from blooded stock. They were his family and he spent much time with them, feeding them corn, currying them and also petting them. They held actual conversations together – we were surprised to hear them shinny an answer of "Yes" or lay back their ears as "No". Uncle Sam was a pal to all the children in that area. It was a gathering place for games, talk, horseback races, and how we gorged on his special soda cooked beans with home smoked ham and his special biscuits—he would often cook three batches to feed all his guests.
The Thompson kids were our closest pals through early years and as Jeff Thompson often took his boys to school in his Overland (car), if their riding mares were unavailable, he would always stop and pick us up for school. He was a kind and good-hearted man. In latter years ruffled feelings over some happenings led to bad feelings and later to the well known "early day feuding". Actually the same thing happens today in more drastic manners.
Dad was depending so much, at this time, on his eldest son, Archie, but he had a chance to earn and learn at ranch work, having a foreman’s job and living alone at Rock Creek Ranch. Archie moved there and we were so happy to see him coming to visit us, and each time riding another horse. My favorite horse was a strawberry roan, with black mane and tail. I named him "Carranza" because he would march on command of a tap on the neck.
Ben Saunders often told us the story of John Ringo, who is buried just west of the Sanders’ home. Recently, in 1973, Edith says a formal dedication and plaque was placed on Ringo’s grave.
Uncle Sam was our "Pal" at work in fields or Sunday Play; at horseshoe games, races, jump the rope, checkers and dominos. He was always cheerful and a good sport and we adored him.
We moved to St. David, buying a small place to live and some of the children went to school. I was too young to go but I loved it there. The artesian well had water that flowed all the time and we had to haul our water while living in the mountains.
A little brother, Samuel Albert was born while we lived in St. David, April 6, 1921, and I loved to tend him. Mom and I used to walk up town where Grandma Smith lived at Aunt Martha’s home. Being English she had her 4 o’clock "Spot" ‘o T A (long sound of ‘a’), and she and mom would have a long visit together. Grandma would set me on a little stool beside her and give me a sip ‘o tea. Sometimes she would break into a song in her clear high carrying Soprano voice and sing as clear as a bell ringing. Once I went to school with Marylee, but I was so shy, if the teacher smiled at me was so scared and afraid to look up, sealed to the desk where I sat. It is awful to be so afraid.
Marylee, Robert McGee and I attended Pierce High School two years, then Marylee and I were graduates of 1929 and later attended school in St. David High. Both of us had been put in the same grade in early grammar school so we went through our Junior years together. The following year, aunt Martha could take only Marylee, so she finished her senior year and graduated on May 12, 1933, and 4th of December went with Spillman’s back to Colorado. Soon romance set in and Marylee married Fred Kambitsch May 11, l934, after he went to Denver, Colorado to bring her home from a visit to see Willa Mae Spillman, her half sister.
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