|Stuart Williams of Ferron, tells the story of the first Ferron forest ranger.|
The Emery County Historical Society held its monthly meeting on Oct. 24 at the Museum of the San Rafael. The meeting was called to order, the audience welcomed, the prayer offered, and the pledge to the flag given, historical society president, JoAnn Behling introduced the speakers and performers.
Diane Bott was both a speaker and a performer. She came in pioneer dress and introduced herself as "Emma," a young girl who grew up in the Sanpete Valley. Bott told a brief, sensitive and visual story of how and why the forests around the area needed to have some regulations and how the over- use of the lands was effecting the health and well-being of the citizens who used the water sheds of the mountains surrounding the towns below. She told that there were about one million sheep and 250,000 head of cattle grazing every year. In the early 1900s, the people knew that a change had to take place and thus cuts needed were made over the years. Now there are about 75,000 sheep and 11,500 cattle permitted each year. She showed slides of the damage of over-grazing causing rain washed gullies that have taken decades to restore themselves.
Musical selections sung by KaeLynn Fox and accompanied by Eileen Lofthouse, were songs written by Americans about the American life they and their audience could relate to during the early part of the 19th century: "Sleepytime Down South," "When the Springtime Comes, Gentle Annie, When the Wildflowers are Scattered O'er the Plains;" "I've Got You Under My Skin," and George Gershwin's "SummerTime" from Porgy and Bess. Fox's beautiful soprano voice was just right for each of the musical selections.
The guest speaker of the evening, Stuart Williams of Ferron, told about and read from the journals of his grandfather, David Williams, who became the first forest ranger for the area in 1903. Ranger Williams retired in 1934.
Williams has put together four three-ringed binders of data of the journals and photos, clipping and notes that are filled with priceless history of his grandfather. Day to day decisions and happenings that not even the forest service has documented over the years.
Williams told how his grandfather traveled by horseback for hundreds of miles each week to do his job. How he took his young wife, Annie, to live with him; camp out and travel in the summertimes. He explained that their 11 month old son, his father, Coy, was put in a "panyard" on the side of the horse and very comfortably made the trip to do the work.
He told how Ranger Williams used the train to travel to required training meetings and to get the schooling that soon was required for forest service employees. "Granddad Dave would take the train from Price to the then town of Thistle, wait at the station there and ride the train that then went on into the Sanpete area in order to attend meetings in Ephraim." So much has changed in one century.
Ranger Williams was given many tasks over the years besides regulating the number of livestock on the Wasatch range. He had to actually count the livestock prior and after the grazing year to make sure that permittees were abiding by the amounts allotted. He was required to do an agricultural census report for the government of all farms in the Ferron and Emery area.
All this was before the Fish Lake National Forest was divided out of the Wasatch National Forest. He helped "plant elk" herds. He planted seedling pine trees. He knew plant life in the forest. He collected various seeds for use elsewhere. He helped make trails and roads; most still in existence and in use today. In the 1920s, he also sold the first hunting and fishing permits. Part of his job was to set up a forest service booth each year at the county fair.
Dave Williams helped install telephone lines over the mountains. He was there to help celebrate when the towns of Ferron and Emery received electricity. He was one of the first to have a car and a phone in the town of Emery that he used to perform his job and also serve the community in many other ways. His wife and family were very involved in all the work that he did.
In the early 1930s, he helped oversee the Civilian Conservation Corps-the "CCC's"- jobs for young men of the area and nation who came in to build roads, by hand and with heavy equipment. The CCCs built Ferron Ranger Station, the Stevens Creek Station, and the road to Ferron Reservoir. Later many private cabins were allowed to be built on the forest also.
Once Ranger Williams was taken to court by some cattlemen who thought they were being treated unfairly by him. Other cattlemen of the area came to his defense and the judge not only acquitted Williams, but actually commended him for the fine job he was doing.
Ranger Williams made signs for the mountain to designate places and roads. Speaker Williams had one of those old signs that a neighbor had recognized and retrieved from some trash and given to him some years ago. He also showed a segment of an original telephone pole with a porcelain insulator still attached that he had borrowed from Orvel Allen of Moore. Another artifact was the multi-repaired, rusty hand shovel that his grandfather had used in his job; it had welds, patches and screws that made it serviceable for many years.
In wrapping up the evening, Williams introduced family members who where also there: his brother, Eugene, and his nephew, Mike Williams, who is currently Emery Town mayor. He offered the binders to John Healy to use as a source of history being compiled for and by the U.S. Forest Service at this time to commemorate its 100th Anniversary.
During the question and answer period of the meeting, Mike Williams asked of John Healy "Just how many people does it now take to do the job great-grandfather did alone?" Healy answered that the Ferron District has about 19 employees usually.
People lingered over refreshments prepared by Joanna Clawson and enjoyed the many photos of people and places that Williams had prepared.
The Emery County Historical society will next meet on Nov. 21. Call JoAnn Behling for more information, 384-2666.