Oral Histories

Jim & Nellie McPherson

 Trails – With James T. and Nellie Irene Kingsley McPherson


As told by Nellie McPherson in 1993


Jim McPherson Family Background

Jim’s dad, James McPherson, was born in Laramie, Wyoming. He married Tora Seamount in Provo, Utah in 1894. Tora was married at 16 years of age and Jim was 22. Following their marriage, they came to Thompson, Utah on the train. They then rode horseback into Florence Creek by way of the Green River from the little town of Elgin. They summered on the Range Valley Mountain in the Book Cliffs, and packed supplies from Sunnyside, Utah. They had to ford the Green River from Florence Creek to the mountain.

James and Tora had five children and Jim was the youngest. David, first born, died in a fire on the mountain at the age of two. Next came Iona, Fern, Pearl, Zelpha, then Jim. When Iona was a baby, they lived a winter in a cottonwood cabin at Woodside, Utah, on the Price River.

McPhersons built a home in Elgin, quite close to the highway and river. It still stands today. It was a forty-mile ride, horseback, from Elgin to the ranch. Everything had to be packed by mule; a long galvanized bathtub (like the porcelain ones of today), a small organ, machinery, stoves, and supplies.

In 1929 or 1930, Mr. and Mrs. McPherson and Jim sold the Florence Creek ranch and holdings to Pearl and Budge Wilcox (their daughter and son-in-law).

During Jim’s junior year in school he rode to the ranch. His dad asked why he had come that time of year. Jim said he had quit school. Mr. McPherson said, “No, you are going back and on to college. Why do you want to quit and what will you do?” Jim said he wanted to “punch cows” and the colt he was riding needed more work and exercise than he could give him in town. So he stayed.

After selling to Pearl and Budge the McPhersons moved to Crawford, Colorado and rented a farm. In the five years they were there Fern had married Les Peterson from Springville, Utah; Zelpha had married Bill McClure from Greenriver; and Iona had married John Burritt, who owned a farm and property on Red Mesa, between Delta, Colorado and Hotchkiss, Colorado. Fern, Les, Zelpha and Bill were with James and Tora part-time. Iona and John lived on Red Lands Mesa. So most of the family was near and that is what the older McPhersons wanted.

In 1934 Jim said he could see the “outfit” going broke, what with “running in common” on gazing land with other cattlemen, decreases, and feeding hay from September ‘till June. Those were the bad Depression years.

Having heard the Fisher Valley Ranch was for sale (south and west of Cisco, Utah, belonging to Amasa Larsen), Jim decided to investigate. (Amasa and Budge’s mother— Rena—were brother and sister, and Essie White is a daughter of Amasa.) Jim came down and got George White, Essie’s husband. George and Essie had a small ranch on the Colorado River between Cisco and Moab. They went into Fisher Valley to investigate. The big house, made of adobe brick, had burned. So had a small one-room cabin. But the “huge” logs were scattered about.

Amasa Larsen and his son, Brig, were camped in a tent. Jim decided to lease the place with the option to buy. He farmed the ranch that summer, with help of the Cleveland boys whose parents had “homesteaded” a piece of ground across the valley and dug a cellar to live in. Jim and the boys rebuilt the cabin and put on a dirt roof.

The winter of 1935 and 1936: Mr. McPherson, with the help of a hired hand, Paul Haskett, and a friend, Charlie Childress, moved the cows from Crawford by railroad to Cisco. Jim unloaded his good horse, Pat, from the train. The horse fell and broke his leg and they had to put him away.

They got the cows to Dewey, where Lester Taylor had quarters for their “sheep outfit.” It was a bitter cold winter, 30 degrees below zero that night. The cows had to be corralled. They were thirsty and hungry. Jim and Paul had chopped the ice down on the river the length of the ax handles. It was solid, no water. Jim had night watch and the cattle milled all night long. Next morning they were covered white with frost. They moved them into Fisher Valley by way of the Dolores River, over Seven-mile Pass, up Cottonwood, and into the lower end of Fisher Valley. This country would be the winter range.

McPhersons, Jim, Bill, and Zelpha rented an apartment in Fruita, where Mrs. McPherson stayed winters. Bill soon went to work for the railroad as depot clerk, but was in Fruita between jobs, until he got established and got on full time as a dispatcher. Fern and Les went to Salt Lake City, Utah where Fern finished nurses training and Les went to barber school.

For clarification in telling this story, and so as not to get the two Jims confused, Jim Sr. will be referred to as Mr. Mc and Tora will be referred to as Mrs. Mc, which is what most of the family and friends called them.


Nellie Kingsley Family Background              

Nellie Kingsley was born in Bedford, Iowa to Sam and Nell Kingsley. She was next to the youngest of five living children. The oldest daughter died a birth. Brother Carl had asthma. The doctors and family said he would outgrow it, but at age 15 he was six feet tall and didn’t weigh a hundred pounds. Mother had a brother in Fruita, Colorado, so on New Years Day, 1926, Mother and the five kids landed in Fruita. They had come by train, which took three or four days. The climate agreed with Carl. He worked in the hay fields that summer. Pearl had Rheumatic Fever and leakage of the heart. She was quite a sick kid.

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