Friday, September 19, 2014

Alfred Ricks and Winnifred Lovenia Roberts

I had a wonderful relationship with my Grandmother Georgianna Ricks Ostler for the first twelve years of my life.  She would tell me about her parents and I was always so sad that they had both died before I was born and she would say, "I'm so sad that they didn't get to meet you, too."

I love this picture of Alfred Ricks and Winnifred Roberts, two people who had little chance for a long and formal education but who enriched the lives of so many others.  As I searched out pictures and stories of their life, I began to feel a stronger connection and admiration for them both and their lives which spanned an incredible time during the end of the 19th Century and the great progress of the the 20th.

Alfred was born on November 28, 1868 in Logan, Utah to Thomas E. Ricks and his fifth wife, Ellen Marie Yallop.  Read more about their story here.  Alfred's family remained in Logan until Alfred was four years old and then the family moved to a large farm one mile west of Cache Junction.  He was the second boy in a family of three boys and five girls.  Ephriam was two years older and Ernest was two years younger.  A younger brother, Josiah, died at the age of four years.  Ellen was the oldest of the girls followed by Charlotte, Edith, Elizabeth, and Zina.

Alfred spent his youth doing the tasks of a boy on the farm, milking and herding cows, riding horses, and general chores.  By eleven years of age he was doing regular farm work such as plowing and harrowing, driving a four horse team or yoke of oxen which was not unusual for a boy in those days.  He had his own horse and spent Saturday afternoons riding with is friends and going fishing.  The young Ricks brothers were entrusted with running the farm while their father filled a three year mission to England for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When Alfred was fifteen in 1883, his father was called by President Brigham Young to come to the Snake River Valley to help colonize and develop the resources of this area.  The whole family was soon involved in establishing homes and cultivating and raising crops in this new area.  On November 27, 1889, just in time for his birthday, Alfred married Mary Adeline Roberts in the Logan Temple.  The Roberts family had moved from Malad to this new place shortly after the Ricks family.  Mary Adeline was the oldest daughter of John Lloyd Roberts and Mary Adeline Ensign.  She had Welch ancestry and a very musical family so had been sent to Logan to study music.  She used this talent at church in the choir and as an organist.  When she died during child birth, as did her baby son, on January 30, 1892, it brought great sorrow to all who knew her.

Alfred had a most difficult adjustment to make but he determined to go on and bought a relinquishment on a home site from John R. Young and then filed on the place.  Money was scarce and to help financially on this new venture, he worked with Mary's father, John Lloyd Roberts, on freighting lumber from Montana.  On January 18, 1894 Alfred was remarried in the Logan Temple to Winnifred Lovenia Roberts, the younger sister of Mary Adeline.  They built a small log house on the land that Alfred had purchased and together they cleared the land and made a productive farm.

This is a picture of my childhood home taken in the late 1950's.  The part of the house seen behind the chimney was the original log cabin with the back addition added later but before my parents time.

This farm was eventually purchased by my parents who purchased it from my grandparents who had inherited it from Alfred and Winnifred.  I lived in the farm house of which the main part was the log house built by Alfred and Winnifred.  Those thick log walls provided a home that was warm in winter and cooler in summer.  When the Teton Dam broke in 1976,  this farm, no longer owned by my parents, was in the direct path of the flooding waters and the home was destroyed.

Early family picture of Alfred Ricks Family
L to R: Alfred Ricks, Jr., Alfred Ricks, Mary Adeline Ricks, Winnifred Lovenia Ricks, and Ellen Ricks.
This picture was probably taken in time period of 1902 to 1904 as Lee is not in picture having died in 1901 and Georgianna, also not in picture, was born in 1904.

Alfred and Winnifred had nine children; Mary Adeline whom they named after Winnifred's sister, was born on November 1, 1894; Ellen Ricks was born on February 3, 1896 but passed away at age 13; Alfred Ricks, Jr., was born on February 8, 1898; Lee Ricks was born on June 21, 1900 who passed away at 18 months, Georgianna was born on May 15, 1904; Lorin was born on December 21 1906; Fontella was born on January 29, 1910; Marjorie was born March 5, 1911; and the last baby boy  "Baby Ricks" born and died on January 25, 1914.

Alfred and Winnifred Ricks children in 1906 or 1907
L to R:  Ellen, Alfred, Jr., Georgianna, Lorin, and Mary Adeline

The first five children were born in Salem, meaning on their farm or the John Lloyd Roberts' farm.  When Sugar City was platted and created in 1904, their land south of the new Sugar City changed from Salem to Sugar City.  In 1904, Alfred moved his family from the farm to the new town site where he had built a fourteen-room home for his family.

Sugar City home which stood just north of Sugar-Salem High School when I was a child.  
Note the little girl standing on the porch.

Alfred Ricks' life was very closely connected with his brother, Ephriam.  They formed a business partnership which lasted for thirty-five years until the death of Alfred on October 24, 1927.  Through this joint enterprise they were financially successful and their families grew up with love and respect for one another.  They invested in land, sheep, cattle, a mercantile, and the banking business.  They became joint owners of about 500 acres of land under cultivation which annually produced between twenty and thirty thousand bushels of grain and three hundred tons of hay. They introduced the first threshing machine outfit into the country and for years spent their summers working on those machines. The business of irrigating and ditch building occupied a good share of their attention and they took an active part in the building of canals in the area.

Snapshot of the younger children probably around 1915-16
L to R:  Georgianna, Marjorie, Lorin, Fontella

Alfred held many positions of responsibility in his community.  He was on the school board for many years, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Fremont County, Director of the Teton Island Canal Company, president of the Rexburg Milling Company, and served as Field Foreman for the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company.

Sugar City was formed when the sugar beet factory was planned in 1903 and then built in 1904.

This historical plaque gives detailed information about the sugar factory and its history.  Just click on the picture to read.  Alfred played a big part in the formation of the little town of Sugar City.  He was manager of the Sugar City Mercantile from 1904 until the time of his death.  During these busy years he acted as president of the Fremont County Bank of Sugar City and president of the Farmers' and Merchant's Bank of Rexburg.  He invested much of his money in the building up of Sugar City and Rexburg and financed many enterprises in the Snake River Valley.  He gave financial aid to many of his extended family, church ward, and a helping hand to many a home builder.

One of several buildings in Sugar City and Rexburg built under Alfred's tutelage.

Charles Rees Evans and family visit the Alfred and Winnie Ricks family during their 1915 trip to Yellowstone Park. Left to right:  Alfred Ricks, Fontella Ricks, Effie Evans, Vilda Evans, Charles Rees Evans (half brother to Winnifred's father John Lloyd Roberts), Winnifred Ricks, Marjorie Ricks in front of mother, Winnie Evans, unknown male, Georgianna Ricks, Lorin Ricks.  I love this picture of them in their everyday clothing and hair styles, especially Winnie's housekeeping hat.

The Sugar City Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ was organized the same year that Alfred and Winnifred moved their family to their new Sugar City home.  Alfred was made counselor to Bishop Mark Austin.  The following year he was made Bishop with J. B. Gaddie and John K. Orme as his counselors.  He served as Bishop until July 1927 just before his death in October 1927.

Old Rock Church built in Sugar City's early days while Alfred was bishop.  This photo is from the late 1950's and the newer church is shown on the left.  During my childhood, I attended Sunday School and Primary in both buildings.  The Old Rock Church is no longer standing, but the newer chapel survived the failure of the Teton Dam.

He was a man much like his father, active and vigorous, making his own way at an early age. He had a keen shrewd business mind and unlimited energy.  He loved the Snake River Valley and strived to build it up and make it better.  Although his formal education was meager, he was a well informed man, excellent organizer, and a natural born leader.  Many came to him for advice and he loved and influenced many.

Winnifred Lovenia Roberts was born December 17, 1875 at 10:30 am in Malad, Idaho to John Lloyd Roberts and Mary Adeline Ensign.  She was named after her paternal grandmother. Winnifred was the third child in a family of ten children.  To read more about her parents and family go here.

As a young girl, Winnifred's jobs were tending the younger children and scrubbing the wood floors with sand to keep it clean.  The Roberts family moved to what would become Rexburg, Idaho in the spring of 1884.  It took two weeks to travel from Malad to Rexburg and being spring the waters were high and they had difficulty in crossing the Snake River.  They remained in Rexburg until the spring of 1887 when Winnifred and her family moved to Alberta, Canada leaving her siblings Mary, Daniel, and Luther behind so that they could go to school. The home in Canada consisted of a one log room with a dirt floor and roof.  The beds were made of green logs with rope ties and straw ticks.  The cupboard was two wooden boxes stacked on top of each other and the table a box with four poles for legs. The chairs were an assortment of cast offs.  A cook stove had been left  and coal could be gotten close at hand.  They enjoyed their stay because they felt secure.  Her father, who had an additional wife, had been sought by federal authorities.

Winnifred loved the beautiful large wheat fields in the fall.  They returned to Rexburg in the spring of 1888 for a short time before moving to the farm her father had homesteaded two miles north of Rexburg and on the south side of what is now Sugar City.  Record show that Winnifred was the first child baptized in Rexburg.  Her schooling was limited because she was needed at home.  Her mother had bad headaches causing her to remain in bed some of the time.  The school she did attend was a one room log school and her teacher was Sarah A. Barnes. Winnifred's social life consisted of quilting bees, apple peeling bees, candy pulls, and dancing which she never out grew.  The floors may have been rough, but it was oh, so much fun.

Alfred's and Winnifred's first home was just a small room but it was clean and warm and they had a nice stove with plenty of fuel.  Winnifred's first Christmas gift from Alfred was a new clothes basket and she was most grateful. Water was drawn from a deep well and they used kerosene lamps. This was their home for ten years.  Winnifred was a hard worker and was a wonderful helpmate no matter the venture.  They raised stock and it was during this period of life that they invested in sheep and the threshing business.  With united effort they were soon making a good living for their family

Sugar City neighborhood with Ricks children and their friends

There were struggles in Winnifred's life.  During the diptheria epidemic in the early 1890's three of her siblings died.  She was also infected but credited a Priesthood blessing from her future father-in-law with saving her life.  Both her sister and her mother died as they gave birth during this same time period. She lost two children, Lee and Ellen, while in their youth. Her son, Lorin, contracted polio when two which affected his left leg and her last baby died at birth.  She became a widow at just 51 years of age.

Winnifred, wearing apron, with her children and spouses July 20, 1931
L to R: Lorin and Guyla Ricks, Winnifred, Marjorie behind her, Mary and Emery Thomas, Georgianna and George Ostler, Rachel and Alfred Ricks, Jr.
I'm not sure of all the children in front, but my father, Gary Ostler is the dark haired child with his head turned toward his parents

Winnifred was known for providing a place of fun and good times for her family and they enjoyed plenty of parties, vacations, trips, picture shows, music lessons, and her children's friends were always welcome in her home for good times. Although she had a large family of her own, it was seldom that there were not one or two extras living there as well.  After the death of her husband, she continued her good works helping the poor and sick, learned to play the piano, read many good books, did lovely handwork of all kinds, and kept herself busy and happy.  She was most known for her unselfishness and always considering the needs of others first.

Her daughter, Marjorie, described her as small in stature with dark hair, brown eyes, and small feet and hands.  She was a natural nurse always caring for the sick and cheering the poor and needy.

Winnifred and Ephriam Ricks on the front step of her home

In July of 1937, she married Ephriam Ricks, the older brother of Alfred, who had also lost his spouse.  They lived at her home in Sugar City until her passing on November 25, 1947.  So in a sometimes sad chain of events, she had married the husband of her sister and then the brother of her husband.  She was always blessed with the means and health to bless the lives of others.  Her husband received this letter near the time of her death.

Childrens Home
Boise, Idaho
December 12, 1947

Dear Mr. Ephriam Ricks,
As an expression of sympathy in your bereavement, and as a tribute to the memory of your wife, Mrs. Winnifred L. Ricks, a gift has been made to the Childrens Home Finding and Aid Society of Idaho in her name by the Idaho Wool Growers Association, for the purpose of helping homeless and dependent children.

Sincerely Yours,
Kathryn C. Wolfe, Supt.

Adult children of Alfred and Winnifred
L to R:  Mary, Alfred, Jr., Georgianna, Lorin , Fontella, Marjorie 

 Christmas gathering of the extended Alfred and Winnifred Ricks Family in 1955
My parents are standing in the upper right corner and my brother Farrell and I are in the front, also on the right.  
These are the familiar faces of my childhood.

 Both Alfred and Winnifred are buried in the Sugar City Cemetery.

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