History of Emma Arminta Harris

1872 - 1959

Emma Arninta Harris (1872 - 1959)

I was born in Richmond, Utah, September 2, 1872. My father was a prosperous farmer. My mother, Harriet Ann Craner, died when I was two years old. My father, Alexander Harris, was away at the time freighting to Montana. There were eight children in the family. I was the seventh. I remember we milked lots of cows and as the boys would come from the corral with those large buckets of milk. I would run to meet them, dip my pint cup in the bucket and sit down on the ground and drink all of it. I think that is what gave me my start in life, as I was always very small.

Not long after my mother died, we moved to Mound Valley, Idaho on a farm, as my father felt he couldn't bear to live where they had been so happy together. My older sisters, Harriet and Mattie were married and the older one, Harriet Ann, took me to live with her in Gentile Valley, Idaho, which was in Thatcher Ward. She married Ira Hogan and he was Bishop of Thatcher Ward when I was growing up. Her children seemed like my own brothers and sisters. I enjoyed life on the farm there very much and as I got older, like all girls, had young men friends and a very splendid time. At one time, when I was sixteen years old, my cousin, Mary Ann Craner, came up from Tooele, Utah and stayed for a while. I went back to Tooele with her and stayed for one year at my Uncle's home. He was George Craner, my mother's brother. While there, I learned dressmaking, cutting and fitting. We had many a good time. When I came home I started sewing by the day, going from place to place. I stayed for several weeks with a grand old lady and her daughter. Her name was Sister Hoops.

My father frequently came to the Valley and took me home to stay with him for a while. He died when I was 16 years old and I lost the best friend I had on earth. After my father died, my two brothers, Walter and Will, and my younger sister Gertrude and I went to live by ourselves. We fixed living quarters in the granary until the boys could build a house. We had some splendid times there. My brother, Will and I went to school at the Brigham Young College at Logan for a year. We had a delightful time there and enjoyed the school very much. At Christmas time my brother, two cousins, their girl friends and I went to Gentile Valley to spend the holidays. We had four horses on a big wagon with four spring seats and that was a jolly trip of about 70 miles. We had a lot of fun going and coming and a nice time while there. We all stayed with one of my sisters and went to dances and parties during the holidays. We went back to school and remained there the rest of the winter.

In the summer we still lived in the granary. It was fixed up very comfortable. In the fall of that year, the boys had a new four-room house built up next to the road so the four of us lived there. At the first Christmas, my brother, Walt, went to Soda Springs and brought his girl friend, Ada Sterrett, to the valley to spend the holidays. Her brother, Simeon came with them. My brother shortly married Ada and we all went to Soda Springs to the wedding.

Simeon Ralph Sterrett

Soon after my boy friend, Simeon Sterrett went to Hams Fort, Wyoming to work and we corresponded. Shortly after that he came down to our place and took me back with him. We were married the next day, 27 Apr 1982, at his father's home in Soda Springs and then went to Wyoming to live. It was very dreary and lonely there. It was entirely different to what I had always been used to. No church of any kind! We lived there for about eight months, then moved back to Soda Springs. On the 29th of December 1892, my first child, Ruth, was born. We lived there with Simeon's father and mother until the spring and then we moved to Gentile Valley, eighteen miles southwest of Soda Springs to a little place called Cove. Simeon had bought a house from my cousin and moved it on our land. It contained three rooms, living room, bedroom and kitchen. Later we built two more rooms on the back. Before my second baby was born, his father and mother sold their home in Soda Springs and moved down to our place and lived with us the rest of their lives. They were getting old in years. They were grand people and I loved them as though they were my own parents. My second child, Leah, was born there August 20, 1894. I had a lady come and stay, Miss Keller, as she was a doctor and was there when the baby was born. Simeon was working in the northern part of Idaho. Leah was three months old before he came home. Women had lots of hardships in those days.

The next spring we moved to Woodall's ranch north of Soda Springs where Simeon was taking care of the ranch and the cattle. My third child, Josephine, was born there on the 10th of January 1898. In the spring we moved to Soda Springs and lived in Iva Judson's old house that summer. Simeon was still working for Woodall. In the fall we moved back to Gentile Valley and lived with Grandpa and Grandma Sterrett. On April 22, 1900, my fourth daughter was born. We christened her Sarah Dorleska, but always called her Dorothy or Dot. Grandma Sterrett was very ill all winter and March she passed away. I always loved her so much. Grandfather lived on with us.

From the time I was married I always had some position in the Church, Sunday School teacher most of the time, also on the stake board of the MIA. In Cove I was president of the Primary until we moved from there.

Just before my fifth daughter, Josephine, was born (10 Jan. 1898) my husband was called on a mission to the Central States. He left March 7th, 1902. My baby was three weeks old. I can never forget as the door of our home closed upon him and I was left with five little children for 27 months. The only support we had at the time was from Grandpa Sterrett. He carried the mail to Thatcher and back every day, a distance of 16 miles. For the labor he received $20.00 a month. We had a little post office at Cove and he made about $8.00 a month from that.

Seated center: Simeon Ralph Sterrett and Emma Arminta Harris
Their three daughters, L to R: Mabel Josephine, Nita, Sarah Dorleska
Their three sons, L to R: Simeon Stanford, Clifton Alex, William Alton

We had a few cows and sold one of them occasionally and sent the money to my husband. My brother, Alex Harris, came to our rescue. He would get up a dance and the neighbors would pay as high as $7.00 for a ticket because it was for a missionary. At other times, he would auction off one of his big steers and raise money for him. While he was gone, we were quarantined for diphtheria. My brother took all of the children except for the two that had been exposed, post office and all, to his place and kept them until we were out of quarantine.

I was nearly frantic when they nailed the red quarantine flag on our gate. I had gone to Henry, Idaho, visiting my brother, Will Harris and his family and they had diphtheria while I was there. The doctor let me come home, but their little daughter, Matti, died the next day. It was a dreadful disease and so many children died from it and my husband was so far away. Grandpa, who was Patriarch of Bannock Stake, gave me great comfort. He came in the house and said, "Minnie, you don't need to cry, it has just been made known to me that your children will not have diphtheria." That was certainly an answer to a prayer for not one of them took it. We also had measles and small pox while father was away.

One year after his return from his mission our first boy, William Alton, was born on 24 Mar 1905. The next year we moved to Ten Mile, now known as Ivans. I was President of the Primary all the time we lived there, about four years. At that time my husband became interested in politics and was appointed deputy sheriff of Bannock County under John Ellis. That necessitated our moving to Pocatello, Idaho, in December 1908. I was opposed to going, for my oldest children were in adolescence and I didn't like the environment for them in a city. We lived in Pocatello two years. Our son Stanford was born on my birthday, 2 September 1909.

We attended church in the Second Ward. They were just organizing the Second Ward at that time. On our first time present I was sustained as President of the Primary. This may seem strange but Brother Hendricks, Bishop of the First Ward, had been in Ivans and knew I was President there. As I knew no one, the Bishop had to choose my help. We had a wonderful organization with 80 children enrolled. I held this position until we moved back to Soda Springs in the fall of 1911, after John Ellis' term as sheriff had expired. We had been in Soda only a short time when they asked me to be president of the Primary there. My last child, Clifton Alex, was born in Soda Springs, June 1, 1912. In 1915, we filed on a homestead in Ninety Percent Canyon nearby. We always went down to the Idaho ranch during the winters as Simeon worked there as foreman of the ranch. We did this for a number of winters until we had proved up on the homestead and then moved back to Soda Springs. We built a large home there. I was president of the Primary for a time, then was chosen as a counselor in the MIA under Iona Meyers. About this time the Anaconda Copper Mining Company of Butte and Anaconda, Montana developed the phosphate mines eight miles north of Soda Springs where they built a little company town called Conda. Father, along with many others secured work there and we, with our three boys, moved there to live. Our five girls had married and had homes elsewhere.

L to R: Stanford Sterrett, Nita Sterrett Long, Clifton Sterrett, Sarah Dorleska Sterrett Gorton, Alton Sterrett, Josephine Sterrett Davis

Soon an LDS Ward was organized and I was sustained President of the Relief Society. Many important things happened in my life at Conda. We lived there 21 years. One of such was while there, my husband had the opportunity of filling another mission for the Church. A special call was sent out from the Church for experienced short-term missionaries and Simeon was one of those called. He was given a leave of absence from his work and the mine superintendent said he could have his same job back when he returned. I have always respected Mr. Newman for this. During this time he also served as Bishop for eight years.

When Simeon’s health began to fail, we moved to Oakland, California. Our two sons, Alton and Clifton, were living there at that time. There Simeon's health greatly improved and during World War II he secured work at the shipyards, although he was quite old at this time. We were able to save enough to buy a home in Ashland, Oregon, where we later moved.

We were only in Oakland a few weeks before I was called to be a visiting teacher in the Relief Society in the Elmhurst Ward. Soon I was sustained the Visiting Teacher Class Leader. Every month the Relief Society did a great deal of sewing. Because of the war, we were instructed to have every sister make temple clothes for herself and her husband to have them ready in case of emergency. Once a month all of the sisters went to the Welfare House to sew and can fruit and vegetables. We were kept busy most of the time. I made many friends there. On April 27, 1942, we celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary. In 1945, when the war was over, we moved to Ashland, Oregon because our sons, Alton and Clifton and daughter, Josephine and family, had bought homes there. We both worked in the Church after we moved there.

The following was written by daughter, Josephine Sterrett Davis:

It is a humbling experience for me to finish the life story of my mother. In the Bible, Proverbs 31: 10-31, you will read the characteristics of a good wife and mother and I always think of my mother when I read this. It is so like her, so ambitious, energetic, faithful and pleasant. She lived her life doing good to her family and those in need and she had many friends.

She was a beautiful seamstress and made all our clothes. She crocheted and knitted and gave so much of this away. In her latter years, when it was difficult for her to crochet or sew, she made braided rugs, which she either sold or gave away. She was an excellent cook and an immaculate housekeeper. She was a good manager. I often said she could make a dollar go farther than I could five. She loved the gospel and had a good understanding of it. She taught it to her children all her life, both by word and example. The thing I remember about her most was her beautiful, sweet disposition.

They lived in Ashland during their declining years. We had such good times. On Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Years, Wanda (Alt’s wife), Pearl (Cliff’s wife) and I, Jo, would each in turn, have a family dinner. There were 17 of us. Our children enjoyed this for they all loved their grandparents. My father was 75 years old when they came to Ashland and mother was 73. Even at that age my father was counselor in the Sunday School and a counselor in the Branch Presidency, which position he held when our new chapel was built. He also filled a 15-month stake mission after coming to Ashland. My mother taught the Theology Class in Relief Society and was a visiting teacher.

1956 my father passed away at the age of 86 and Mother and my brother, Stan, lived alone for over two years. In the summer of 1958, mother's health failed and I brought her out to my home that fall where I could take care of her. She was here nearly a year and a half and was bedfast the last three months. I am so grateful I had the privilege of caring for her. She passed away in August 6, 1959, at the age of 87. Her funeral services were held in Ashland Ward Chapel under the direction of my husband, Bishop William H. Davis. His first counselor, C. Jay Bean, conducted. Some time before she passed away she wrote out her funeral service, whom she wanted to speak and what songs she wanted sung and by whom. "Oh, My Father" had always been her favorite hymn. The services were carried out as she had planned them.

Comments by Beverly Jean Sterrett (Granddaughter): I was 15 when my Grandma Sterrett passed away.

Our family lived a few miles from my grandparents in Oregon until they died.Grandma was a small person and had a small, quiet voice. Each Sunday morning my mother and I would stop by her house to pick her up for church. The men were already in Priesthood meeting. Since she lived on a very steep hill, I would help her out of the house and into the car. She needed help to walk because she had a crippled leg and walked with a cane. Each Sunday as I helped her in the car, she would say, “The Lord will bless you for being kind to an old woman.” She was always faithful in the Church and would go every Sunday. She really knew the gospel. She and Grandpa had a great love for each other that was magnified everywhere they went. I remember how she used to spend a great deal of time making rag, braided rugs and she gave one to each grandchild. I remember she made a yellow rug for me, but I lost it when our house burnt down. She had such a strong testimony of the gospel and was always doing something for others.

Emma Arminta Harris

Born: 2 Sep 1872

Married: Simeon Ralph Sterrett, 27 Apr 1892

He was born: 1 Mar 1870


Their 4th child was Sarah Dorleska Sterrett

Born: 22 Apr 1900

Married: Rees Dubois Gorton, 16 Oct. 1921


Their three children were:

Henry Clay Gorton, 7 Mar 1923

Gayla Gorton, 23 Jan 1925

Leah Patricia Gorton, 3 May 1928

Henry Clay, Gayla and Leah Patricia Gorton