Dorothy Gorton - My Story

Soda Springs, Idaho - February 4, 1959

I was born April 22, 1900, at Cove, now Thatcher, Idaho in a log home owned by my grandfather. Trees surrounded this home and a small creek ran along the west of it. The stream was bordered by trees and I can remember playing in the stream and of sitting in the buggy which stood under the trees and pretending to drive horses and go on long trips.

The house as I remember had a front room and two bedrooms and a large kitchen. The other rooms I can’t recall. I do remember the organ though on which my older sisters played.

I was christened by my Grandfather, William Wilson Sterrett, on May 1, 1900, and given the name of Sarah Dorleska Sterrett. Sarah was for my paternal grandmother, Sarah Ann Oakey Sterrett, and Dorleska was for the midwife who assisted at my birth, Mrs. Dorleska (Dora) Larkin, our nearest neighbor to the south.

My father was Simeon Ralph Sterrett born at Paris, Idaho on March 1, 1870. (Died May 22, 1956.) He was the son of William Wilson Sterrett (November 18, 1825 - December 20, 1912.) He was the son of Alexander Sterrett (July 27, 18 - January 24, 1867) who was the son of Alexander Sterrett (1769).

My mother was Emma Arminta Harris born at Richmond, Utah in 1872, daughter of Alexander Harris (March 25, 1834 - February 20, 1889) and Harriett Ann Craner (April 26, 1834 - September 15, 1874.) Grandfather’s parents were McGee Harris and Mary Givens. Grandmother’s parents were George Benjamin Craner and Elizabeth West.

When I was about two years old and a couple of weeks after the birth of my sister, Neta, my father was called on a mission to the Central States. My mother was left for 27 months with we five little girls and Grandpa Sterrett. Mama sold the cows her father had given her to help keep us while Dad was away and Grandpa carried the mail and we operated the post office also.

I don’t remember my father or events until he returned when I was a little over four years old. Then the thing I remember most clearly are the chocolates Mother made in preparation for his homecoming. They were made of fondant and dipped in chocolate.

I also remember of sitting on Grandfather’s knee by the window in the evenings and he’d sing to me “The Last Rose of Summer” and “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” Grandfather had a long white beard and was a bit hard of hearing. After my brother was born on March 24, 1905, he being the first boy, Grandfather wanted him named for him. Mama wanted him named for Father. Grandpa would send me in to ask Mama what they were going to name the boy and I’d come back and shout "Cinnamon" (I couldn’t say "Simeon"). Grandpa would say in a disgusted way “Humph!” He humphed so many times Mama finally conceded and named my first brother William Alton.

I received my patriarchal blessing from my grandfather January 6, 1906. We were now six children for I had three older sisters and one younger. First, Mary Ruth, born 29 December 1892; then Harriett Leah, born 20 August 1894; then Mable Josephine, born l0 January 1898. Neta, my younger sister, was born 14 February 1902. My second brother, Simeon Stanford was born in Pocatello on my mother’s 37th birthday, September 2, 1909, and my youngest brother, Clifton Alex, was born in Soda Springs on June 1, 1912.

In 1906 we moved to Ivans, then called Ten Mile or Sterrett, which was part of the Hatch Ward. We lived on my Uncle Tom Sterrett’s ranch in a big two-story white house. There was a large yard, big trees, a garden, a reservoir, and back of that a canal hugging the foot of the hill. We would play in the canal in the summer, making a slippery slide down the hillside of clay, and slide into the water of the canal. In winter wed take the dishpan and coast down the hill.

I started school at Ivans. My first teacher was Bert Winchell and he gave me a hand painted plate for being neither absent nor tardy that year. We had to walk a mile to school and I remember of going across country walking on the crusted snow. Miss Spear was my second teacher. I remember the neighbors, Sam and Thigh Gillette, Dave and Jo Banks, Sam James, John and Nettie Chirette, the Halversons, Anna Lees Harverson Holbrook now lives in Chesterfield. My sister Josephine and I had great times together. She was the daredevil and I the fraidy cat. How I envied and admired her boldness.

Before leaving for his mission my parents were rebaptized. They took us four girls to the Logan Temple on the 16th of April, 1901, when I was one year old, and took out their endowments and had us sealed to them. At that time they had only one session a day in the temple and they were much longer than now. My sister Jo says she can remember seeing the company come down the stairs as we sat waiting in our white dresses with Aunt Harriett Hogan to take us to the sealing room. I was too young to remember any of it.

My father had been appointed deputy sheriff in 1908 and not long before Christmas we moved to Pocatello. We stayed with Mrs. Chirrett the day before we left. Our older sister, Ruth, helped fuss us up pretty for the trip and gave us instructions on how to act on the train and all. It was so exciting! We arrived after dark, Dad met us at the depot and we all walked to our house on 4th Street. The electric lights were on and we thought we were in a fairyland.

In the spring of 1910 we moved to Soda Springs. We lived first above the kitchen of the Idanha Hotel because of a shortage of houses. Later we moved to a house that stood where the Caribou Lodge now stands. Our friends and good neighbors, the Dell Root family, lived across the street. Helen Root was my age and we were the best of friends all through grade school. Dewey Root who was two years older played with us and spent most of the time teasing us. One day my sister Josephine and I got even with him though. We were home alone and for fun we put some soap in a bowl with a little water and beat it up until it looked just like frosting for a cake. Dewey came over and asked, “What is that?” Jo replied, “Frosting.” “Give me a taste,” said he. “Oh, no! It’s for the cake,” Jo replied. He kept teasing for a taste and Jo kept beating it and tantalizing him with it. Then finally she said, “All right, if you won’t tell Mama, I’ll give you a taste.” She gave him a large tablespoonful. I’ll never forget the expression on his face or how quickly he ran home. Or how hard we laughed.

I used to sleep with Helen Root a great deal or she with me. Helen married a Jimmy Morrow and lived in Florida. She died of cancer when her baby was only a year and a half old. They took her body to Oregon for burial. When the train passed through Soda Springs, Debbie Davis, Mable Davis, Milton Horsley and I boarded the train here and rode as far as Bancroft with the family. Heber Lau drove a car to Bancroft and brought us home.

Our family next resided in a house on South Main Street between D. A. Woodall’s and E. D. Whitman’s. Whitmans lived in the house that my grandfather moved in from his farm at 90% and in which he lived for many years. Later still we moved to a house further south on the same street, the Swensen Home, and still later to the old Shurke home on 2nd East and 1st North Street.

Dad filed on a homestead in the 10-Mile Pass area where the family lived until it was proved on. While we lived there one time Mother and Dad went on a trip for a couple of days. Neta and I and the little brothers were left home. I was supposed to milk the cow who was a kicker. Well, I tried and she kicked. We didn’t have any kickers to put on her so I got a rope and tied her two hind feet together around the ankles. I milked her, and then I couldn’t untie the rope as she had tightened the knot by moving. I got the butcher knife and tried to saw it in two but couldn’t so gave up and turned her out on the range. When Dad returned he went looking for her and found her hobbling about with the rope still on two terribly swollen legs. I got a scotch blessing for that one. He moved the house to town and we lived in it until he built a 3-bedroom bungalow just south of the high school. Bon and Bee Wallace now own the home. In this home I was married.

We had only a buckboard and team of horses when on the dry farm and it was quite a way to town so we didn’t get in to church often. I remember one Saturday I felt that I just had to go to Sunday School. I was positively hungry for it. Next day we hitched up old Nubbins and Kusler and drove over the mountain and down 90% Canyon to church. I was so glad to be there that while everyone else sang I cried. I guess the first church position I held was secretary to the MIA in 1918 when my mother was first counselor to Iona Meyers. Leslie Stewart was second counselor. I was released as secretary on January 16, 1921. A few years later when my family was small and Brother Kenneth Balls was bishop I worked in the Primary. Again from September 17, 1940, until May 1941 I worked in Primary and from October 1948 until May 1949 also. During the years 1938, 1939 and 1940 I was Manual Counselor in MIA to Fern Tipton with Myrtle Lowe as 2nd counselor. On May 26, 1940, Fern was released and I was sustained as president with Myrtle Lowe and Betty Largilliere as my counselors. I was released on September 13, 1942.

In 1917 I took a position in the Post Office when Homer Woodall was Postmaster and worked there until October 1918. The Bank of Soda Springs had just started up in business and Mr. J. T. Torgensen was Cashier. He asked me to come work there and I was seriously considering it when Alice Bole who was the 1st Deputy County Clerk under Kenneth Gorton when the county was established in 1919, told me if I’d go to Salt Lake and take a business course I could have her job. She was anxious to return to Idaho Falls where she had previously worked in the County Clerk’s office but said she would stay until I came back from school in Salt Lake. After returning I took the oath as Deputy County Clerk and Recorder and held that position until October 15, 1921, the day before I was married. Incidentally, I issued my own marriage license before I quit working.

The summer I was a high school freshman a group of us girls and boys took Mrs. C. T. Woodall, or Granny Woodall as we all lovingly called her, who was a wonderful fisherwoman, as our chaperone and went out on Blackfoot River for a few days on a camping trip. Granny and a few of the girls rode in a white top buggy. Heber Lau and George Small drove the commissary wagon with our bedding, food and camp things in it. The rest of us rode horseback. Oh, what fun it was! As I remember, besides those already mentioned there were Debbie and Mable Davis, Esther Wallace, Helen Root, Winnie Rompel and others. The boys were Orrin Barnard and Milton Horsley, Newell Horsley, Frank Davis. In high school I used to go with Milton Horsley and Esther Lau Wallace went with Orrin Barnard. If ever we had a falling out, we’d change beaus. It so happened that at the time of this fishing trip we were at outs. My family at the time was living near Alexander on the Idaho Ranch. Orrin called me by phone and asked me to go on the camping party. I rode train #17 from Alexander to Soda. Orrin met me. He had a saddle pony ready and I changed into riding clothes at his home and we all took off for Blackfoot River. We decided to stop at a place a little above the Indian Hole. A balky team was pulling the commissary and we decided to ford the river and camp on the other side. In the middle of the stream the team decided they didn’t want to go farther and in spite of the whipping and urging and gid-up-ing, they stood firm in their tracks. Heber had to walk out on the wagon tongue, mount one of the horses and ride him to shore.

The girls had one large tent to sleep in and the boys had another. Each morning the boys would awaken early and slip over and loosen the ropes on our tent and let it fall down on us. What a time we’d have trying to dress under that canvas!

Another year we camped at the foot of the Narrows. Mable Davis and my sister Neta didn’t want to sleep on the ground so they brought a camp cot. In the night four of the boys sneaked over, picked up the cot and carried it, with the girls in it, some distance up on the hillside, then put it down and ran back. The girls were frightened and had to walk back barefoot with a quilt wrapped about them. On this trip also, George Small threw a lasso rope around me and ran into the river, pulling me after him. I stood teetering on the riverbank screaming, for I couldn’t swim, when Bud Doull came running and saved me. Good old Bud!

The second day we were out, all the boys went fishing. We girls goofed around, picking wild strawberries, etc. Esther and I decided to cross the river and go for a walk. On the other side we met my cousin Theo Medford and some other boys from Grace. We visited a while with them and it made Orrin and Milton mad at us. They wouldn’t talk to us or saddle our ponies or anything. We all went home the next day and Orrin and I rode to town side by side and never spoke a word to each other. How childish can children get! It was lots of fun though.

They took another such trip after I went to Salt Lake to Business College. On this trip Kenneth Gorton wrote me that one of the horses laid down and died and they had to pay for it. They gave several dances that winter to raise the money and called them “The Dead Horse Dances.”

When I was a teenager and until I married I went out with Frank Hildreth, Dewey Root, Milton Horsley, Harold Baker, Lewis Stocking, Kenneth Gorton and Rees Gorton. I went with Lew and Rees at the same time, and almost lost Rees over it.

One 4th of July Lew invited me to a celebration the farmers out on Blackfoot River and Diamond Creek were having. Audrey Kendell from Salt Lake lived out there that summer and was going with Bill Taft the young forest ranger. Lew came for me in his Model T Ford when I got off work at the Post Office. We four went out and had supper with Mr. and Mrs. _____. Then over to Palfreyman’s to the dance. We danced all night and the sun was just coming up over the hill as we drove into the ranch. Mrs. Stocking had me go to bed but at noon I arose and Lew saddled a couple of ponies and we rode down the canyon to invite the kids from Soda who were on another camping trip to come to the ranch that night for a dance. We never did see the kids but had a lovely ride. When we returned Mr. Stocking said the boys had been fishing in his field all afternoon and were camped on Whiskey Creek. Well we rode back and invited them. Mrs. Stocking and her neighbor had made a lot of lemon pies so that night we danced and ate lemon pie. I went back to camp with the group and stayed that night and Lew took me home the next day. Lots of fun!

I had accepted a diamond from Rees and we had set our wedding date as Sunday, October 16, 1921. A few days before our marriage my sisters gave me a wedding shower and I received many pretty and useful gifts. The night before our wedding Chris and Mary Woodall entertained for us at their home. We played games and danced. Bishop D. K. McLean performed the ceremony in my home at 210 East 3rd South on October 16, 1921, before my parents, my sister Neta and her fiancé John Horsley, Rita and Ralph Gorton, Rees’ mother, Leah Gorton and Mary McLean the Bishop’s wife. Mother served a wedding dinner after.

We were going to take train #17 to Salt Lake for our honeymoon. Mr. Tom Horsley came to the house and told us all the young folk in town were at the depot planning to kidnap us and not let us leave so we all got in a couple of cars and drove, quick like, to Alexander to get the train there and give them the slip. Mr. Horsley went back to the depot and told them what we had done so most of them got on #17 and when we got on at Alexander, there they all were, throwing rice and having a good time. They presented us with a pair of twins, two little wax dolls tied together with baby ribbon. The group rode as far as Bancroft.

We spent a week in Salt Lake at the Newhouse Hotel. Shopped and saw shows and took in the places of interest. When we returned to our room on our second day, there was a large bouquet of talisman roses from Henry Gorton, also a telegram of congratulations. A newsman from the Salt Lake Tribune came to our hotel and took my picture, which appeared in the paper with an article of our wedding.

We returned to Soda and took up residence in Mrs. Gorton’s home. She was living there alone and there we lived with her until her death November 20, 1932.

This was both good and bad for us. Mother Gorton was a lovely, refined and sedate person. Rees was the last son to be married and he hated to leave her there alone so we decided to live with her.

The Gorton home was a lovely eleven-room, three-story house with an underground cellar that we later turned into a furnace room and coal bin. The yard was large—on the west four large willow trees, two in front (one on each side of the walk) and another beyond the garage in the barnyard to the east. They grew to enormous sizes. Lovely old friends. Our children climbed and played in and under them. The branches of those in front almost reached the house and stretched out toward the road and made a shady place to park the car under its huge branches on the opposite side. Later the ones on the west were removed. Clay, when a boy, planted three evergreens on the west nearer the house behind which we planted a garden.

The house was built in 1895 when Rees was four years old. It then had the cellar/back porch that was a large room closed on three sides and part way up on the north side with screen the rest of the way and a screen door. We kept the washer and the refrigerator out there. The refrigerator was huge. It held a large cake of ice and sometimes a half besides. We kept a pan under it to catch the water from the ice. I have seen the times when we had 9 or 10 pans of milk in it. We skimmed the milk and made butter from the cream and always had plenty of cream for the table and ice cream, etc. We had a good cow we called Peppy. She gave a great quantity of milk. She used to, on washdays, occasionally get under the clotheslines. I looked out one day and Peppy was wandering around with Mother Gorton’s petticoat draped over her horns.

When I first moved into the home there was the square kitchen with a sink and small drain board on the north wall, a door on the west leading onto the back porch, another into the dining room. One on the northeast wall into the bathroom and another on the southeast was to the breakfast room. On the south wall was the old-fashioned kitchen cabinet and worktable. Between the bath and breakfast room doors was the old wood range.

Then a little door back of the cabinet that opened into a space under the stairs where we put things that we didn’t use. When we remodeled they sealed that little door and inside among other things is our little milk separator that would be an antique by now.

The dining room was between the living room and bedroom. All three rooms were large. The living room was 16 x 16 ft., the dining room a bit smaller and the bedroom a foot or two smaller. Off of the bedroom was a clothes closet and a walkway into a small bedroom on the north of the house. Why am I writing all this description of the home? I guess because it is so dear to me and it is where we raised our family and lived together. The stairs went up from the east side of the dining room between the kitchen and living room doors 20 steps. There were transoms above the stair door, the living room door and the two front outside doors. Upstairs were two bedrooms on the north and on the south was one room the size of the living room. Then off from that was the attic, which was under the roof of the dining room and bedroom downstairs. Above the bedrooms was another floor large enough for two more large rooms but was not finished off. Only rafters. There was an opening in the ceiling where one could climb up and in. There was a small “curtained” window in front. Of course we remodeled the house years later.

Rees was working in Gorton’s Supply Store when we married. They also operated the Pool Hall and the movie theatre—all in the block south of the railroad. They also, before we were married, had road shows above the warehouse next to the store. Also dances and picture shows, silent films then. I remember when they were showing “The Birth of a Nation” and the scene came on where a black man was chasing a fair young white girl through the woods, Maggie Bolton, recently from England, got excited, stood up and shook her fist at the screen and shouted, “You Devil, you!” The audience all broke up into laughter. I remember going home and crying a long time the show was so sad.

Incidents that come to mind to be put in the history in proper place

Pat loved cats when she was a child, still does I think. She was always finding some or being given some. Most of them would have sore eyes or fits and we would have to get rid of them. She felt so badly about the one cat we promised to take it to a farm where it would find mice in the grainery. We drove out to Freedom, Wyoming, one day soon and as we passed a farm we opened the car door and let the cat out and drove on. When I looked around at Pat a few moments later she was sitting quietly with tears just streaming from her eyes.

Dorothy (center front) with her three children
L to R, Pat, Clay (back) and Gayla
Clay loved dogs. He had a few given to him but we were unable to keep them. He had one dog he really loved but it was a female and caused a bit of a problem. A man from Conda wanted the dog and promised Clay one of her pups. After much, much persuasion, he let the dog go but I can still see him sitting on the floor with Queenie in his arms and crying. Such heartaches children have! Later he came home with a wee puppy, he carried it home in the sleeve of his jacket it was so small. It was part spitz and part fox terrier and grew to be a beautiful dog. He had pointed ears, long fluffy tail that curled up over his back, big blue eyes and his hair was white. The dog was a gift to Gayla and she made him a bed in her doll buggy and she and Pat really loved him. He grew to normal size but the novelty wore off for the girls. At Christmas Gayla put a red bow of ribbon around his neck and a card that said “To Clay from Gayla.” Clay loved him and he loved Clay. Clay would put him on the foot of his bed in the winter until his feet got warm, and then let him sleep on the pillow beside him. This after I told him not to let the dog sleep on the bed! Skippy by now was a full-fledged member of the family. He wasn’t allowed to sit in the chairs but if we left him home alone, when we returned we could see him through the glass door, and as he saw us coming up the walk he would jump from the chair and go and lie innocently by the stove, thinking he had put one over on us. Of course I disliked the dog hair and sometimes he threw up on the carpet and I got cross with him, but we all loved him. I think we had him for about seven years. He followed Rees and me to the depot one night when I went to Salt Lake. He was never seen again and is still a mystery. Rees wrote to Clay and told him Skippy had gone A.W.O.L.

Rees being 30 years old when we were married was anxious to get a family started but we were married one year, five months and 23 days before our son, Henry Clay, was born. How proud we were of him! He was named after his father’s brother, who was named after his father’s brother.