Louisa Sorensen Robison 1879 – 1959

“This is the story of my mother, Louisa Sorenson Robison, as she wrote it in her own handwriting”. Related by youngest daughter Iola Robison O´Donnell on July 30 1980

I am printing Louisa’s story at length as it gives a very down-to-earth and rich picture of life in Gandy and the Snake Valley at the time, the school situation and in particular how the members of the family helped and supported each other in times of trouble. 

“I was born in Scipio, Utah, July 7, 1879, the seventh child in a family of nine children – five girls and four boys. My parents Marie Nickelsen and Christian Peder Sorenson were pioneers having come to Utah from Denmark in the fall of 1862. They were not very well off. My father was a miller by trade and also a small farmer.

My early life, as I remember, was one of privation and disappointments. I was a very timid child and was afraid of people and their opinions. But in school I could easily keep up with the brightest in the class and there I was not timid or afraid, because I knew I was good. I loved school. I was considered good at reciting and always spoke my pieces in Primary Sunday School and Mutual Meetings. It did not frighten me to do things like that because I had confidence in myself.

There were plenty of older children to do the important tasks at home, so all I got were the jobs no one else wanted like washing dishes, feeding chickens and pigs and milking the cows. I never learned to sew or do fancy work. My mother insisted that we sew carpet rags for one hour every day. Rag carpets were the only kind we could afford in our home. My sister and I would take the rags out into the orchard and I would sew while she read aloud the novels we were not permitted to read. I had to sew very fast so mother would not know that only one had worked.

Father was a miller and we children loved to play in the mill while he worked. It was run by water, had a big wheel and a long flume to carry the water to the wheel, there were strips of board across the top to hold it together and we would run along the top of the flume, stepping from one board to the other as fast as we could go.

One of my playmates got drowned in it. In winter the icicles would form in big pillars from the flume to the ground and form beautiful winter palaces where we played. Father also ran the molasses mill and we got all the skimmings to make candy.

I received my education in the District schools. I was one of the first four students to graduate from the 8th grade in Scipio. At the Commencement Exercises, I gave the Valedictory address and received many compliments. I was chosen Miss Utah at the 24th of July celebration and made a speech at that time.

After I graduated from the 8th grade, I borrowed twenty dollars from my brother Chris and went to Richfield to attend High School. It was the first High School ever held in that town. There were only two teachers, one was a music teacher and the other was principal and instructor in all other subjects. There were only twelve pupils. In July there was an examination for school teachers held at Fillmore. Myself and two other girls thought it would be fun to take the examination and find out where we stood and we did. We passed with high marks and received a Primary Teachers Certificate. That was the only certificate I ever received and the only examination I ever took and I taught for fourteen years.

We all applied for the same school at Scipio. Emma Robbins, my very dear friend, and I lost out. Soon Emma was offered a school at Burbank, Utah, which she accepted. The following week I was offered one at Garrison, Utah, which I accepted.

Garrison is one hundred and fifty miles from Scipio and there were no automobiles in those days, so Mother hired an old friend of the family (an elderly man) to take me there. We had two horses and a light wagon and a camp outfit. We drove to Hinckley the first day and it rained all afternoon until the roads were all mud and water. He took me to some friends of his to stay. They treated me fine. The next morning the weather was better and we went on. That night we camped at Antelope Springs, a beautiful place in the mountains. I was very nervous as I had never camped out much. Soon other travellers, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Parker from Trout Creek came and camped there and still later A. J. Bishop came, so we had a nice party.

The next night we camped at Conger Springs a large ranch at that time. We made out bunks in the bunkhouse. There were several rough men there and no women and I will say I was very nervous and frightened, but nothing happened and I think that was about the longest night I ever lived.

The next day, Sunday, we drove into Garrison. J. H. Robison was one of the school trustees so we went directly to his home. He said they always boarded the school teacher and would like me to stay with them. I gladly accepted and found a home in a strange place.

This was in November 1899. They had four children, two boys and two girls. The oldest child, a boy named Isaac Peter, called Ike, was in Logan attending the A. C. College.

I opened school Monday morning in a small log cabin with twenty eight pupils of al grades and ages from a five year old beginner to an eighteen year old ninth grader. I had only had a part of the first year high school and no teacher´s training at all. Oh, how I worked and prayed to make a success of my first job. Some of the larger boys were very rough and I could not control them very well. The parents expected me to know everything there was to know and questions and problems were sent to me daily. I worked night and day and I learned more the first year I taught than I had learned all my life before.

Emma Robbins’ school at Burbank was not far from where I was and we spent an occasional weekend together. The people were all very sociable and friendly. I was getting along splendidly. Then Christmas came. I could not go home for the holidays, because there was too much snow and I did not have much money. Well, the son, Isaac came home from college for the holidays and he fell for the new school teacher. There were lots of nice parties and dances and the first week I had a partner to take me out. Then on New Year’s Eve, I went with Ike to a dance and what a wonderful time we had. Now the trouble started. He decided not to go back to college and I got the blame, although I tried my best to get him to go – even had a farewell party for him, but he did not go. His family tried to come between us but we did have glorious times after school hours and were very happy. Soon he asked me to become his wife and we became engaged.

In March they closed the school in Garrison because of lack of money. By chance they needed a teacher at Smithville, eighteen miles north of Garrison, which I gladly accepted. The Smithville District was twenty miles long and as they could only afford one teacher, the time was divided – three months at the south end and three months at the north end. After the 4th of July I moved to the north end. Ike took me there. His grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Gandy, had two large ranches there. My school house was three miles from Mr. Gandy´s ranch, a little log house built on a knoll in the centre of a meadow, a beautiful setting with a spring of cool water at the foot of the knoll and bright flowers everywhere. The students were French-Canadians. The mothers could not talk American and the fathers but slightly. I boarded with them and they were very nice people. The students were all nearly grown but had only had two short terms of school before I came and they were very anxious to learn.

I spent most of my weekends at Mr. Gandy’s home and Ike visited there nearly every week. We were very happy, but the school closed in September. I had applied for and obtained a position of teacher for the short term in Scipio. After the fall work was finished the older boys could go to school and they always put on an extra teacher until work started in the spring.

Ike had decided to go to Provo to college so we left together by stage to Frisco – then a thriving mining town – where we had dinner at the Sackett Hotel and then boarded the train north. We travelled all night in the chair car. It was out last visit together for some time and we did not waste much time in slumber. At five o’clock in the morning we arrived at Juab where I left the train and took the mail stage to Scipio and home.

My school closed the last Friday in March. I had signed up for the school at Smithville and the following week I went out there. In the meantime the Robison family had moved to Gandy, the northern part of Smithville. Ike met me at Garrison and took me to his new home where we spent a very happy weekend.

Monday came and I opened school in a little log cabin in the willows east of the Meechams and the Simonsin ranches. I boarded around first with Meechams, then Simonsins and last at Bliss’s where we rode to school in a little cart and an old gray horse. Sometime she would balk going to school, but was always willing to come home as fast as he could. On the first of July I had to move my school to Gandy to the same little school house on the knoll. I boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Gandy. They liked me and I liked them. The school closed in September and I returned home to prepare for my marriage. We were married by the Justice of Peace Willis Memmott the afternoon of September 12, 1901 in Scipio. The Robisons could not come in for the wedding and our house was too small to have a big crowd. Mother, Chris, Ann, James and Effie were the only ones present.

Isaac Peter & Louisa Robison
Isaac Peter and Louisa Sorensen Robison

After visiting the folks a few days we had to return to Gandy. Ike had come in a covered wagon and that is the way we went back. I will never forget that trip – it was wonderful –we were three days and a half.”

(At this point Iola’s mother stopped writing and Iola picked up the story).

“The first winter after their marriage they lived with his parents at Gandy. In the spring they leased a lower ranch on Silver Creek for the summer. On July 9, 1902 their son James was born at Silver Creek. It was a dry year and the crops burned, so in the fall they moved back to Gandy. A small bunkhouse on the ranch was remodelled and made into a three room home. Here they lived for five years. Then his parents deeded him 60 acres on the south and they built their own four-room house.

In 1911 they sold the ranch to the Marble Company. At this time Mother was very ill with asthma so they moved to Long Beach, California. Grandma Sorensen lived with them in California. The Company who had bought the ranch could not make the payments so they all moved back to Gandy. In the spring of 1916 they were able to buy a Dodge car for cash.

Daughter June was born in 1905 and then Iola  April 11, 1918. In January of 1922, June married Emery Burnell Singleton. Then brother James Keith, now 19 years old, decide to go to Kansas City, Missouri and take a course in automobile mechanics from the Sweeney Automobile School. He left home January 1, 1922, He died in Kansas City of the flu on March 16, 1922.

From this time on Father’s health started to fail him and although he was not an invalid he was not able to do much work and had to keep a hired hand. Boy Sorensen worked for us during the summers of 1925, 1926 and 1927. Leland worked in 1926 and Darrel lived with us and went to school about 1923 and 1924. They were all sons of Uncle James (James Stanley Robison).

Grandfather Robison, James Henry (Jim) Robison, also had reverses and had to sell his ranch. My father bought it on January 1, 1930. In January they traded their Gandy ranches for the Hendrie Creek ranch. Rulon O’Donnell was working for us at the time. I was attending school at American Fork. At the end of the school year I came home, found Mother very ill with asthma. I had been home about a week when my Father died suddenly of a stroke while planting the garden on May 27, 1933. We stayed on the ranch that summer. Rulon ran things for that year, then Sid and Nina Weber came and ran it for a year. In the fall of 1935 we leased the ranch and moved to Provo where I attended B. Y.U. for two years. Rulon and I were married on June 9, 1927. We moved to Ely and Mother moved to Fish Lake for the summer. Mother died August 2, 1959 at the Utah Valley Hospital in Provo. She was buried August 6th at Garrison.”

Rulon & Iola Robison O´Donnell
Rulon and Iola Robison O´Donnell

Iola and Rulon’s son Jerry O’Donnell helped his parents to tend the graves in Garrison Cemetery and now looks after their grave.

Grave Iola & Rulon O'Donnell
Grave of Iola Robison and Rulon O’Donnell in Garrison Cemetery. Photo Bill Dearden

Iola´s story is related in  “Pioneers of Snake Valley 1865-1935 as remembered by their descendants” by Boyd E Quate. Chapter 14 is about Isaac Gandy and family.

Boyd E Quate was a well-known meteorologist from Milford, Utah. He is the son of  Margie Lake, eldest daughter of Stella Gandy Lake, who married Graham S Quate in 1917. Read the  wedding report here.