History of Simeon Ralph Sterrett

Simeon Ralph Sterrett, 1870 - 1956

Simeon Ralph Sterrett was born March 1, 1870 in Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho. He was the second son of William Wilson Sterrett and his plural wife, Sarah Ann Oakey. At the time of Simeon's birth the family consisted of his parents, his older brother, Joseph, (who was almost three) his father's first wife, Mary Jane Crandall, and a 15-year-old half-Indian boy, Charles, who had been adopted as a baby by his father and Mary Jane Crandall.

When Simeon was one year old the family moved to Soda Springs, Idaho where he spent much of the rest of his life. There Simeon's father built and managed a large hotel. The town derived its name from the many mineral springs surrounding it and had been settled by several Mormon families who were sent there by Brigham Young. The area at this time was still in a wild and undeveloped state. Elk and deer were plentiful in the hills and some of the Indians were still hostile. This had been a choice grazing land for the wild herds. These same advantages attracted the settlers and later many sheep and cattlemen, who made the valley one of the largest stock ranges in the West.

This was the environment in which Simeon spent most of his life, either in Soda Springs or the nearby towns and ranches. Simeon's schooling consisted of three months during the winter when the school was open, the teaching of his parents, and his own curiosity to learn.

Sarah Ann Oakey
William Wilson Sterrett
Simeon's mother, Sarah Ann Oakey, was a young girl when she became the second wife of William Wilson Sterrett. He was at the time of their marriage, 42 years old. Guided by a mother, anxious to have her daughters marry good and faithful men, she had come to live in a home with a middle-aged man and his first wife, Mary Jane Crandall, to whom he had been married for 16 years.

Sarah Ann became the mother of four children, Joseph, Simeon, Thomas, and Ada. Later difficulties arose and she went home to Paris. So it came to be that Simeon, his two brothers, and one sister, along with their adopted brother, Charles, were lovingly cared for and raised by Mary Jane Crandall, who had never been able to have children of her own.

So it was that later the temple marriage of William W. Sterrett and Sarah Oakey was canceled and Simeon was sealed to Mary Jane Crandall. Later in life, his real mother, Sarah Ann, became a beloved grandmother to Simeon's children and fulfilled a rich and serviceable life, becoming the mother of other children than those she left behind so early in her life.

In the early years of his life, Simeon manifested a great love for horses and, when he was eleven year old, went to work for Sol Hale, receiving fifty cents a day. It was here he received his first lessons in bronco riding. Mr. Hale would strap him on a wild horse and he would often ride till his nose would bleed, but Simeon was always game.

Simeon as a young man
When he was 13 years old, he worked for A.D. Young, son of Brigham Young, herding horses. As years went by, he became an expert rider and broke horses for many outfits.

In 1885, the family moved back to Soda Springs. In 1870, gold had been discovered in the Caribou Mountain district about sixty miles northeast of the town. Soda Springs, being the headquarters for all supplies shipped in and out, naturally attracted people from all parts of the west. Many of whom were of the rougher element, and it soon became typical of the other western mining towns. The town at Caribou, called Keenan City, grew almost overnight to a population of 1,000.

During the next three years Simeon spent most of his time at Caribou, dividing his time between freighting, driving stage and prospecting. The freight outfits in those days consisted of heavy wagons, usually drawn by six or eight head of horses, and although he was but 17 years of age, his former experience with horses was a great help to him. Freighting in those days was considered an art, which required much skill in handling of horses and equipment. Driving stage also had its thrills and dangers and the sixty-mile trip seemed long and lonesome and holdups were not uncommon.

During the time Simeon was driving stage a murder occurred in the vicinity of the mining camp, so hiring William Winchell to drive for him, he went with a friend to view the scene of the murder. While laying off, they decided to take a trip down the Snake River on a raft. They built a good strong one and rode for two days, passing through Browns Canyon arriving at last at the mouth of Cherry Creek, six miles from Idaho Falls, Idaho. It was a trip never to be forgotten. He laughingly told his grandchildren, they used to call him "Slippery Sim, the Snake River Pirate".

When the mines closed Simeon went punching cattle for the old War Bonnet outfit, Brand S-E, one of the large cattle outfits in the west.

The village of Soda Springs was the headquarters for cattlemen, sheepmen and farmers. The mineral springs had become widely known, and the ideal hunting and fishing brought many people, making it a famous summer resort. The beautiful Idanha Hotel was built in 1887 and was one of Idaho's landmarks.

Emma Arminta Harris
In December 1891, Simeon and his sister, Ada Sterrett, were invited to Gentile Valley to spend the Christmas holidays at the Harris home. The friendship of Simeon and Minnie (Emma Arminta) ripened into love and, during the winter, they became engaged. They were married in the spring in his father's home. To this union eight children were born--five girls and three boys. In 1894, he bought a farm in Gentile Valley and went to live.

Simeon was ordained a teacher on December 1, 1900 by Bishop Ira Hogan and ordained an Elder by Nathan D. Hatcher on March 3, 1901. On April 16, 1901, they were sealed for time and eternity in the Logan Temple and had their four little girls sealed to them at that time. Her sister, Harriet Ann Hogan, accompanied them to care for the children.

Simeon as a missionary
In September he received a call to go on a mission. The letter was signed by the first presidency: Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith. He accepted the call and attended missionary school at Logan for three months. He was called to labor in Southwestern States Mission. He then arranged all of his affairs at home, paid his debts, leased his hay land to William Larkin and got everything in first class shape so that his wife and father could manage the place while he was away. He was compelled to sell a span of beautiful black horses, which he prized dearly, in order to raise money to help defray his expenses. His father, W. W. Sterrett, who had been a Patriarch to the Bannock Stake, was at that time carrying mail from Cove to Thatcher. This money helped support the family while Simeon was away.

On February 14, 1902, their fifth baby daughter was born. And when she was three weeks old, a missionary farewell party was held for Elder Sterrett. In March 1902 he bid his family goodbye and started for Salt Lake City. It was hard to leave them but his wife smiled bravely through her tears and assured him they would be all right. She had Grandpa Sterrett to council and advise her and many true friends and relatives; she was not afraid.

He traveled without purse or script, depending on the Lord to help them find their meals and lodging. In his journal it states, that one time he received a letter from Aunt Olive Peck. When he opened it, it contained a one dollar bill. He said a tear came to his eyes and he exclaimed, "God bless Aunt Olive".

Simeon was released from his mission June 1904. He arrived in Salt Lake on June 6th. He reported at the Historians Office, visited some friends, attended one session of conference, then left Salt Lake and arrived in Preston, Idaho the same night. He visited with Sol Hale, (a son of old Sol Hale whom he had worked for when a boy). In the morning he had the joy of meeting his wife once more. She had come to Preston to meet him, and they returned home the next day, where he again met his dear old father and five little daughters. He hardly knew his baby daughter, as he left her when she was three weeks old, and now she was a little miss past two years. After his return, he held several positions in the Ward. He was First Counselor to Brother Tom Allsop in the Bannock Stake M.I.A., Counselor to George D. Anderson in the ward Sunday School, Ward Teacher and home missionary.

Simeon (standing) and companion
In March 1905, Minnie Sterrett became critically ill. In those days, when people were so far away from a doctor, they usually depended on neighbors and midwives to care for them in sickness. Sister William Larkin had been at her bedside for two days doing everything for her that she could do, but in despair, Minnie called her husband, Simeon, and sent him to Soda Springs after Dr. Kackley. Teams were relayed along the way and in a few hours, Dr. Kackley arrived, but the stork had flown faster than the teams could run, for a baby boy had already arrived. But the mother, who had so nearly given her life to give him birth, still lay in the valley of the shadow of death.

When the baby was about ten days old, Simeon Ralph Sterrett drove to Wayan to get a load of lumber, and while he was gone, Minnie became worse, and Fred Christensen, a nephew of Minnie, drove to Alexander to meet Simeon and sent him for the doctor. He met him on the road between the Point of Grace. Simeon took his team and hitched them onto Fred's buggy and ran them all the way to Soda. He intended to get a fresh team at Soda from his brother, Tom Sterrett, at the Caribou livery barn, but when he arrived there, all of Tom's teams were let out, so he got the doctor and ran his team back as far as Grace, where Dave Sullivan met him with a fresh team. (A distance of about 12 miles). Sullivan's team was all harnessed and ready, and the heaving, dripping team was traded for a fresh team and the race began. They went past fields and scattered farm houses, around bends, down the big hill, across the river, and finally up the lane to home with Dr. Kackley clinging to the swaying buggy. He said it was the fastest ride he ever had in his life. They arrived in time to save Minnie's life, but milk leg had set in and she lay in bed for three months. Her right leg was lame for the rest of her life.

In 1905, Simeon was nominated for Sheriff of Bannock County on the Democratic ticket but was defeated at the general election. The family left the Valley and moved to Sterrett, Idaho, 10 miles northwest of Soda Springs, where Simeon leased his brother Tom's ranch. Grandfather Sterrett stayed in the Valley and continued to carry mail.

In 1908 John Ellis was elected sheriff of Bannock County and Simeon was appointed deputy. Due to his appointment, the family moved to Pocatello, the county seat. John Ellis did not have very good health and he needed a deputy that could do all the outside work, while he did the office work. Simeon Sterrett made all of the arrests, etc.

During the summer of 1915, Simeon took up a homestead of 360 acres on the Divide at the head of 90% Canyon. At this time, he was foreman of the Idaho ranch, and during the next three summers, the family lived on the dry farm and the father came up and stayed at night in order to prove up. In 1921, they sold the homestead and built a beautiful home in Soda Springs.

Shortly after this, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company of Butte opened the phosphate mines up nine miles north of Soda Springs. The town was called Conda, and Simeon received a position in the compressor office.

In 1925, President Heber J. Grant called one thousand short-term missionaries to go in the mission field. They were to be men of missionary experience who would need little training and who could completely finance their own mission. He asked for one missionary from every ward in the Church. Simeon volunteered to go from Conda. He was called to labor in the Central States. This mission had been part of the Southwestern States mission where he had labored the first time 23 years before. He was set apart by James Hart, and in November 1925, left for Independence, Missouri, which was headquarters of the Central States Mission. The Mission President was Samuel O. Bennion.

Home of Simeon Ralph Sterrett in Thatcher, Idaho

He was indeed glad to be called back to the same place where he had filled his first mission years before. He could now see the fruits of his labors. He found that the seeds they had sown had flourished and now in Independence there was a large and thriving branch of the Church. The same was true of Missouri in general. There had been many changes for the better. He met many of his old friends and baptized some worthy people. This time he labored in the Central States for six months, performing a wonderful work that was much appreciated. He was released in April 1926. I quote in part of a letter, which he received, from President Bennion after his return home. "You made a good missionary and I only wish, Brother Sterrett, that we had more men like you who could come to the mission field. Your presence here has been an inspiration to me, and all the missionaries and the people as well, where you have worked, and I take great pleasure in writing you this letter".

After his return he was ordained First Counselor in the Conda Ward Bishopric. On the May 20, 1928, Apostle Melvin J. Ballard ordained him Bishop of Conda Ward. He served in this position for the following eight years. Bishop Sterrett was loved by the members of the Conda Ward and greatly appreciated by the Stake Presidency for the work he accomplished there.

On November 17, 1935, David A. Smith sustained him as a member of the Idaho Stake High Council. He served in this capacity until June 1936, when he was called to fill another mission. This time it was a stake mission in the Idaho Stake. After serving on this mission for two years, Dr. Kackley advised him to move to a lower altitude because of a serious heart condition.

Pearl Sterrett with Don, Simeon and Mimmie Sterrett in Oakland, California
They moved to Oakland, California where their two sons, Alton and Clifton and families lived. His health improved and they were active in the Elmhurst Ward, Oakland Stake. He served in the High Priest Quorum Presidency and also Ward Teacher.

After World War II they moved to Ashland, Oregon where they spent the remaining years of their lives. Ashland, at that time, was in the Northern California Mission. He was a source of strength to the young, growing Branch. He was at once made a counselor in the Sunday School. The young missionaries frequently called at the Sterrett home where he was happy to explain the points of the gospel that were not clear to them.

In the spring of 1947 Simeon Sterrett was sustained a counselor in the Branch Presidency. By September 1947 they had raised sufficient funds to build their own chapel. During the construction of the building Simeon worked out his assessment on the building. He was now 77 years of age. The chapel was dedicated on November 21, 1948.

Shortly after, this Branch was reorganized. Simeon was a Ward Teacher from 1945 to 1951. On January 4, 1951, he was called on his fourth mission. This time he was to labor in the Northern California Mission in the Rogue River District as a Stake missionary. He labored 15 months 11 days teaching the gospel, converting and baptizing several people.

Home of Simeon Ralph Sterrett on Gresham and Iowa Streets in Ashland, Oregon

From his mission journal I quote, "I held a few more meetings with Brother Burt Adams. My old tired heart went back on me. The doctor said I had to quit all of my activities and take it easy but that is hard to do. President Collins Hassell released me March 11, 1952. So ends my fourth mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".

This was far from being the end of his inspiration to the membership of the Church, however. Everyone who had questions on the gospel would come to him for help. He could be found at any time reading the books on the gospel and the scriptures and gleaning more and learning. He became known as Grandfather Sterrett to everyone in the Ward.

Simeon was particularly fond of teaching his grandchildren and would start a gospel conversation whenever they came to visit him. In January 1956, he had a stroke and passed away May 22, 1956 at the home of his daughter, Josephine, who cared for him during his illness. He was loved and respected by all who knew him and his memory will ever be cherished by his posterity.

L to R: Clifton Alex Sterrett, Simeon Ralph Sterrett, William Alton Sterrett

Comments below by Beverly Jean Sterrett (granddaughter):

We lived near my grandparents all during my childhood until their death. It was always a treat to visit them. They lived on a triangle lot between Gresham and Iowa Streets in a white house in Ashland, Oregon. The house was located on the top of a steep hill about three blocks from the town of Ashland and about 7 blocks from the Church. Although Grandpa had a very bad heart, he was too proud to ask anyone to take him to town or to church. He would walk to town and then walk back up the hill and have to rest for a long time to get his breath back. He was always active in the church. He and Grandma would always be in the chapel on Sundays even through both had hearing problems.

Whenever we visited Grandpa and Grandma, they would usually have some interesting story to tell us. They always made us feel so welcome in their home. They radiated a love and respect for each other. Grandpa was a good size man of six feet or more and Grandma was a small lady of about five feet three inches. Grandma always used a cane to help her walk as long as I can remember. Grandpa had a great imagination and a terrific sense of humor and could make any story sound as if you had been there when it happened. During the last part of his life, he had one heart attack after another and eventually his weak body gave out. Although he was weak physically, while he was sick, his mind remained sharp and he could remember things that happened to him a long time ago. I will always admire grandpa for his strong testimony and the love he had for his family and the Church.