Thomas William Newman

History of Thomas William Newman
Including historical data written by his wife, Bertha Maria Urech Newman and including historical information written by his daughter, Hellen Bertha Newman

Thomas William Newman was born 2 Nov 1882 in what was know as Big Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah. He is the son of Thomas Samuel Newman and [Caroline] Maria Wayman Newman. His first four grades of school were under a private tutor and the remainder of his elementary education was received in the Salt Lake County Public Schools. He later attended the University of Utah.

He was a member of the Holladay Ward of the LDS Church. In 1906 he was called to fill a mission by the Church to labor in Switzerland with headquarters being in Zurich, Switzerland.  He left Salt Lake City on the 4th of July 1906 and was honorably released from his labors in February 1909.

A few months before his release, he took a six day trip up the famous St. Gotthard Alpine pass. This is a popular tourist trek. There is also a road that goes up the same canyon but misses some of the spectacular views. He took the train from Ulster to Einsiedeln and Goldnau. Then he walked  through the little towns and villages of Kulm, Brunnen, Gersau, Sisikon, Fluelen, Amsteg, Wassen, Andermatt, and Gotthard. He wore holes in his stockings the first couple of days. He kept a daily log of his trip and commented on the beauty of the mountains and valleys, the lakes and streams and waterfalls. He talked with some little girls on the mountainside herding cows. From the town of Kulm, he walked nearly all through the night so that by 5:30 in the morning he was up high enough to watch the sun rise on the Alps. When he reached the summit at Gotthard, he took a train back to Ulster.

While serving in Basel, Will (Elder Newman) met the Urech family while Bertha was away in French Switzerland attending Mondon College and working. She returned home in the Fall of 1907 and was called to be Sunday School secretary in her branch. She was eighteen years old. Will first met Bertha at an activity for the Branch members. Elder Newman and Elder Ed Grojean had arranged to go with the members on a ferry ride and have a picnic afterward. The picnic did not materialize, and a group of the members had lunch in one of the old castle restaurants in Chillon instead.

While on his mission, Elder Newman also labored in Biel Ct, Bern and Burgdorf. After his release, he visited the Urech family on his way home and left a little cup and saucer for Louise, Bertha’s mother. She treasured it through the years that followed.

After he returned home from his mission, he pursued his labors as a farmer (row crop) and also raising strawberries on his own farm in Holladay. While attending a 4th of July celebration at Wandamere Park (1) with his family and some friends, he met Bertha Urech. She had attended with friends and was visiting with a group of Swiss members at the park when Will and his sister Elisabeth and others met them in the crowd. He invited her to visit his parents who lived in Holladay and she accepted the invitation.

When Bertha came to visit, Will took her for a ride in the buggy, which she very much enjoyed. They spent the day together and he took her home in the evening. And he asked if he could call on her again. They saw each other often and a beautiful friendship grew into a mutual love for each other. After a short courtship, he proposed to her on the 24th of July. They were married on 1 September 1909 in the Salt Lake Temple by President John R. Winder.

On occasion, Will had visited his mother’s sister and her husband–Mary Ann Martha and George Godfrey-on their ranch in Rigby, Idaho, in the Garfield area. He liked the area very much. Shortly after he and Bertha were married, he took a trip up to Idaho again to look over the area. The harvest was better there and in 1910, after Bill was born and when the harvest in Holladay was finished, he and  Bertha decided to make the move to Idaho. They lived a week with Mary and George while making arrangements, and then purchased and moved to their new home on a 40 acre farm in the Garfield Ward of the Rigby Stake. The place had been somewhat neglected, but with work and care it was soon made a lovely home. They planted a fruit orchard in the spring of 1911 and had crops of grains, hay and potatoes. There was a good, helpful community spirit in the area and farmers helped each other with machinery and the work. Will also managed a grocery store for many years. But the farm was his first love. They remained in Rigby for ten years.

While living in Rigby, six of their eight children were born: Hellen Bertha, born 10 August 1911; Rachel Martha born 13 November 1912; Margaret Evangeline born 11 September 1914 and died 11 Aug 1916 of pneumonia; Delmont Urech born 25 January 1916; Hyrum Thomas born 13 January 1919; and Viola born 25 September 1919.

During the spring of 1914 Will filed to homestead on 320 acres of land south of Idaho Falls near Iona, known as the Ozone Tract. It was necessary that they improve a certain percentage of the land, and time had to be spent divided between the two farms for several years. Will would make trips there to prepare and plant some of the land. He had built a small cabin there and in the summers the family would go to the dry farm for several days at a time and stay in the cabin. Mother and the girls rode in the white-top buggy and father and the boys in the wagon. They would pack up boxes of clothes and food and have the milk cow tied up and following behind. It was an all-day, dusty ride to the cabin and when they arrived, they enjoyed the cool, spring water to quench their thirst.

 The cabin had two rooms. One had a dirt floor and a built-in table and a wooden box in one corner built down level with the floor. The spring water was piped into this box to keep their milk and butter cool. The other room was for sleeping, and had a board floor. They had sleeping cots and a bed, and their clothes in boxes. There were lots of pack rats that would chew holes up through the floor boards. The kerosene lamp and a box of matches sat on a box by the side of the bed. The shotgun lay beside Will.

One night a shot rang out and frightened the children. There was soon a light and Will was sitting on the side of the bed with the gun in his lap. He had had enough of the pack rats and when he saw two bright eyes by the wall, Bang! He shot the head off that rat and a hole through the wall and into the cupboard on the other side, breaking some dishes. That pack rat was nearly as big as a cat. Bertha had lost her shoe and they found it under the cabin along with things like spoons, bottle lids, and belts with buckles.

Will always carried the shotgun with him. In 1915, one day he and Willie were on a hillside where he had just finished plowing the ground for planting grain. Bertha was carrying baby Margaret in her arms and Rachel and Hellen were taking the lunch. The family all hiked up the hill to Will and Willie. They ate lunch in the shade of a lone tree. Will leaned the gun against the tree and as the kids played, he and Bertha talked. Will then walked across the new plowed land, counting his steps, to measure it out for a fence. He was down hill a little and as he turned around and looked up and to his left, he didn’t move. Then he slowly reached down and picked up a stick and threw it as hard as he could in the direction he was looking. He hurried up the hill to the family and was all out of breath. It was some years later when he would be telling some friends or relatives about the large mountain lion watching his family and he could not reach the gun. He said he prayed that no harm would come to his family.

One time, when Bertha was sitting outdoors with some mending, her thread spool fell off her lap. When she reached down for it, she saw a large snake coiled under her chair. She screamed and the snake moved on and wound itself around the corral post, where Will took care of it. She and the children did not go to the dry farm again after that. After several years of working the dry farm, Will and Bertha sold it to a neighbor who built it into a sheep ranch.

At their home in Rigby, the children would play hide and seek in the big apple orchard beside their house. Sometimes they would climb the fence into the neighbor’s yard to get a drink of water from the well. The ‘picture shows’ they went to see were brown, and the people moved very fast. The dialogue was not spoken, but was words printed on the bottom of the screen.

In the summer of 1920, Will and Bertha went to town one Saturday afternoon for groceries. Rachel and Hellen were to clean the house and Willie and Monty were to clean the yard. Willie and Monty were playing catch with a silver dollar and the girls joined in for a game of keep away. One time it landed in the straw at the edge of the straw stack. They looked and looked for it but couldn’t find it. When their parents came home, Will unharnessed the horses and gave them some hay. The children were upset and Willie told Will they had lost his silver dollar. Their father said very calmly, “Well, when you find it come in and get your supper.” He meant what he said and they knew it. They looked until the sun went down and stars came out, but couldn’t find it. Will did the chores, fed the pigs and chickens, milked two cows, carried the milk to the house where Mama was getting supper. Finally the back door opened and Will’s voice called them to come in. Mama looked at their long, sad faces but never said a word. Will said it was time to go to bed, and they all went to bed without supper, crying. The next day was Sunday, and as Willie went out to help with the chores that morning, there in the dirt lay the dollar, shining in the sun.

One time, about 1920, while Hellen was tending Delmont, the children were outside playing around a large pile of rocks. Willie was going to show them how to make sparks fly by laying a piece of a match head on a rock and hitting it with another rock. Sometimes they could feel a sting on their arms and their faces. As they were at the table eating supper that evening, Bertha noticed how red Delmont’s face was. And that his eyebrows were singed. Then the truth was told. They all blamed Willie for it.

In January of 1920 Will, with some other men, made a visit to the Magic Valley, looking over the fertile fields and warmer climate. The country looked good and he rented a farm and moved the family to Jerome in January 1921. They rented this farm for a couple of years, and then moved to another farm which they rented for three more years. They kept their Rigby farm during this time. While living on the rented farm in Jerome, Isabelle Claire was born on 11 May 1924. She was their eighth child.

Bill, Hellen, and Rachel walked two miles to the Grandview school in the warmer weather. In winter, they rode the horse through the fields. When the snow was too deep to ride through the fields, their mother would wrap large, heated rocks in old blankets and set them on the floor of the one-horse buggy and drive them down the road to school. They would often pick up other children on the way. Eventually, a school wagon came around to take them to the town school.

In 1926 they sold their farm in Rigby and bought an 80-acre tract of land that had come available in Jerome. It had been an experimental farm run by the county, but part of it was still in sagebrush. They continued to live on the rented farm while they worked their new land and, in spare time, built a home on their new farm. They improved the ground, planted a new orchard, and built barns. In the fall of 1929 it was finished enough and they moved in.

The family were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and continued their services as teachers in the auxiliaries, including the YMMIA. “Brother T.W.”, as Will was known in the ward, was also active in civil service and scouting. He served as Scout Commissioner for several years and as president of the Parent-Teacher Organization. He served as ward clerk for eight years while living in Garfield. He was called to be a member of the Blaine Stake High Council and served for eleven years. Then he served as counselor in the Jerome Ward Bishopric, with Parley G. Thompson as Bishop, for four years and again in the High Council where he served as senior president for fifteen years. His hobbies were going to scouting activities and fishing.

All of Will and Bertha’s children have been active in the LDS Church. Their three sons served full-time missions. Hyrum Thomas and William Edward served their missions to Hawaii. Tommy left November 1939 and Bill left December 1939. They both returned together on November 1941, one month before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Delmont Urech served a mission to Switzerland from October 1936 to February 1939.

Thomas William passed away 23 September 1948 in Jerome, Idaho and is buried in the Jerome City Cemetery.

(1)  Wandamere Park was previously a private enterprise called Calder Park and was one of the finest amusement parks between the Missouri River and the Golden Gate. At it’s peak it was attracting over 100,000 patrons per season. The Granite Stake of the LDS Church assumed ownership in 1902 and changed the name to Wandamere.  By 1921 intererst in the park had diminished and it was sold to Charles Nibley, who donated the land to Salt Lake City on the condition that it would always remain open park space. That condition was met by transforming the park into a nine-hole golf course which, in 2005, the city was still operating as Nibly Park Golf Course.