Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

The A.G. Wilson family has always been given credit for being among the first settlers in the area and they were the first white family to settle in Moab on a permanent basis.

Grandma became pregnant and spent the winter in some caves in Ferron. She wanted to get back to Ephraim to have the child (my mother). She returned to Ferron and then the family moved 6 miles or so down Ferron Creek to Molen. There’s nothing in Molen anymore, except for a cemetery. I visit the cemetery whenever I go over there. The area was not good for farming. The watering makes the alkali come out of the ground after a few years.

Two of mother’s brothers (age 18 to 20 years old) left Molen, came to Moab and then moved on to La Sal. They worked in La Sal raising cattle. The third brother came out a little later as did a man named Albert Beach.

They found out that the hotel needed women to cook and help with the hotel. My mother’s brothers brought their sisters over from Molen to get jobs. Mother came to Moab in 1899 and first met John Williams at the Maxwell House Hotel. They were married on May 19, 1900.

The life expectancy of a man in 1900 was 46 years. Dad was 46 when they married. Dad’s birth date was August 3, 1853 and Mom’s birth date was August 3, 1878. Dad lived 10 days past his 103rd birthday and never went to the hospital. As I write this on July 16,2003, I note that on my mother and father’s birthday, which is on August 3rd, only about 2 weeks away, my father and I together, will have covered 150 years of observing our world’s history. Also on that date, my mother and I will have covered 125 years of history.

Before Dad was married, he bought a piece of land from the County and made some stables to keep his horses in. Dad used horses in his practice for transportation to see his clients. Occasionally, Butch Cassidy and “Wild Bunch” would come through town and had horse races on Main Street. Dad opened his barn as a place for people to keep their race horses. Dad’s race horse was named Fly. I rode her, but Fly was too old and I was too young to race on Main Street. I sure could beat my friends in races with Fly, though!

Mom and Dad rented a house when they were first married. Dad had some land and bought a big, one-room house up by the old Mormon Church. Dad had the house moved to his property and set it up. He had carpenters add rooms. Dad rented a double log cabin on another lot close to his property to keep track of the work on the house. The cabin had an open shed between the two enclosed cabins. The shed served as a front porch as well as a place to store saddles, etc.

My sister Ramona was born in the cabin. My brother, La Due, and I were born in the new house. The house is still standing and my son, John, owns it. A man named Gary works on the house in his spare time and lives there rent-free in exchange. Gary works for John full-time in the expedition business. Gary, his dad and step-mother worked on the house and painted it yellow, the original color.

When I was in grade school, some of the other kids who lived in La Sal and other outlying areas had to stay in Moab with other families so that they could attend school. Lots of young people stayed with us over the years. The kids helped us and vice versa. We knew the parents of some of the kids, but we also took in kids whose parents we didn’t know. Some of those kids stayed in Moab for good.

One of my friends, Ludell “Doodle” Wilcox, stayed in town with his Aunt Hattie. Hattie ran the hotel, the back of which was across the street from our house. When Doodle came to stay with his Aunt Hattie, he and I became fast and good friends. Doodle was over at my house a lot and we liked to repair bicycles. We got so good at it, we started taking care of other kids’ bikes, too. We would repair tires, put new tires on, etc. -we’d fix’ em up like new- a complete overhaul!

One day, Doodle and I saw a Model T Ford across the fence belonging to Mr. Neal Ray. It just sat there and no one used it. It was called a “bug”. The body was taken off and a homemade body (“bug”) was put on it. It also had a pickup box on the back. We asked Mr .Ray if he would sell it to us and he said, “Yes.” We asked him, “How much?” Mr. Ray said, “$5.” That was a lot of money back then, but we said we would try to raise the money. My parents gave me the $2.50 for my half and Doodle came up with his $2.50 in a day or two and we bought the car.

We pumped up the tires, put the harness on an old buggy horse we called Colonel and hooked a chain around the front axle of the car. One of us rode Colonel and one of us drove the car over to my house. We didn’t know beans about cars – we were 13 years old and didn’t have driver’s licenses, but licenses weren’t required in those days.

We knew an old fellow from Montrose called “Old Frank”. He rented my father’s ranch raising corn and all kinds of things. Frank had been a mechanic in Montrose and had lots of tools. We asked Frank if he would help us get the Ford running. He wouldn’t, but we kept after him. He finally took a look at it and told us it needed a valve job.

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