Life and Death in Snake Valley

 Elias McClellan Smith 1861 – 1937

Elias McClellan Smith and family

Elias M. Smith, Emma Paul Smith and first child Grant E. Smith 1886

Photo courtesy Russell Robison

Elias McClellan (Bob) Smith (1861-1937) wrote a diary during the period 1898 – 1907 (also 1921-1923) when he, wife Emma Paul Smith and their 10 children lived in the Big Wash, today called Hidden Canyon Ranch in the Snake Valley. Bob Smith was a man of many talents: farmer, carpenter, builder, undertaker, mechanic, derrick builder, musician and active on the local school board, to name a few. He worked for many of the farmers in the Valley, including Isaac and Harriet Gandy and their descendants. He made Isaac Gandy’s coffin and buried him in 1904 in Garrison Cemetery.

After Isaac’s death he leased the Gandy place from Harriet to farm, before selling the lease on to G.T.Smith in 1905. Later he married Isaac and Hattie’s daughter Mollie Heckethorn Gandy, becoming her second husband. She was his third wife. Both are buried in Garrison Cemetery.

Russell M Robison has generously allowed me to use material from the diary on the Gandy website. He writes:

“The diary of Elias McClellan Smith is presented here as copied and typed from the original diary at the direction of the Lad Davies family, Burbank, Utah. With the permission of Lad Davies, a grandson of Elias McClellan Smith, I, Russell M. Robison, have digitized the typed diary, added a Table of Contents, added a Name Index with 92 photos, and published the resulting work, at no profit to me.”

The diary is a day to day record of Bob Smith’s work on the farm and in the Valley. It also functioned as his bookkeeping. It records everyday life on the farm, ploughing and sowing, reaping and haymaking, trips to different farms and ranches to do work, slaughtering of pigs, looking for stray cattle, making coffins, hunting deer and buying supplies, building derricks and digging irrigation channels. The excerpts here describe two dramatic events as recorded in Bob Smith’s very matter of fact prose.

A Quick Burial 

3-4th September 1898

“At 6 o’clock F. Schumacher came [and?] the word that G. C. Estes was dead and with the Request that I go make a coffin for him. we Rode fast to Clover Springs Changed Horses and away we went again on the gallop for miles stoped [sic] at Geo. Mechams got lunch at 11 oclock and away we rode again at Break neck Speed arriving at Bishops place at half past 12 noon this Being Curts Father In Law The Coffin a (Rude Affair) Being made I Built a lid to it Helped line & cover it with Black cloth bandaged our faces with our Hdkerchiefs wet with carbolic acid and made a dive into the House with the coffin Deposited it on the floor of the Front Room went in where Curt was and carried him out in the Sheet laid him in the coffin and nailed him in Quick loaded him in the wagon and Forming in line Followed him to the Buring [sic] place. (The reason of our Haste Being the Smell) arriving there we sang a couple of Hymns and covered him down we rode back as Far as Mechams who made us welcome and gave us Supper. We then mounted again & galloped Back to Clover Springs ariving [sic] there about mid night wher [sic] we slept till morning. Changed Horses and rode to Snake Creek (Garrison) had dinner at Quates Visited Brig Young a few minutes and Started Home.”

Accidental Shooting at the Heckethorn Place

 18th April 1904
In evening Fred Gonder Shot himself at Heckathorns & I was Sent there By Hi Bro Will to take care of him for him I found him lying on the floor in a pool of Blood with his Brains Shot out But Still Breathing and Mr. Isac Gandy down over him on his hands and Knees I propped him (Fred) up with pillows and Washed the Blood off him and examined Him to find if there was any use to Send for a Doctor But could not see that there was any hope of his recovery or regaining consciousness as his pulse kept geting weaker I got Some help & lifted him onto an Improvised pallet and cleaned the Blood off the floor with water and cloths. By this time he had ceased to Breathe we then Washed and Dressed him & took him in a Wagon to Gonders and with the Help of Doc Baker and Hyrum Young Proceeded to make a Coffin

Fred Gonder

Victim Fred Gonder

Photo courtesy Russell Robison

19th April 1904
“Put him in Coffin and Went home and tried to Sleep But was Sent for and Went Back and went to Heckathorns with Joe Stoddard Frank Holbrook and Geo. Richardson & took a look around went from there to see Miss Mattie Heckathorn who was with Fred when he shot himself and Questioned her about the manner of the Shooting She Says I asked Fred to get me Some Wood when he came in with it I says Fred You are a Good Boy I expect you would Shoot Your Self for me He Says says Yea Mat & picked up the Six Shooter & Says do you See that little Bullet in there Mat. Says don’t fool with the Gun & Grabbed at his arm Just then the Gun went off and he fell this is the account of the affair as near as I could tell.”

Mattie Heckethorn

 Mattie Heckethorn

Photo courtesy Russell Robison

20th April 1904
“Went to Funeral & wrote a piece to the paper.”