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History of Thomas Harper Yates
In beginning my Life History, it needs be that I bring to remembrance some things concerning my grandparents and parents.
My Grandparents were the homesteaders of the community in which I was born, known as the North String, and later called Harper Ward. It was named after my Mother’s Father, Thomas Harper, who was the First Bishop. Grandfather Harper was a polygamist. He had two wives. Hannah Jones was his first wife, and Rachel Stapleton Lewis his second (Rachel being my grandmother). My mother Mary Adelia Harper Yates was Rachel’s first child. She had four sisters: Annie, Jane, Sarah, and Ella; and one brother, James. Grandfather’s first family was grown when he married my Grandmother. He served time in the penitentiary for practicing polygamy, as did many church leaders.
Grandfather Yates lived as a neighbor to my mother’s folks, just over the fence. He had but one wife — Jane Baty. They had five daughters: Ettie, Lucy, Jane, Alice, and Kate. My father was their only son. Grandfather Yates followed Grandfather Harper as Bishop of the Harper Ward.
I don’t remember either of my Grandfathers, nor my Grandmother Yates, but I remember well my Grandmother Harper. She was a slender, black-haired woman who was friendly to all — men and women, young and old. To her male friends, who would have courted her after Grandfather’s death, she soon made it understood she was interested in them only as friends. She still included them in her circle of friends, but on that basis only.
I knew my Great Grandmother Lewis, my Mother’s Grandmother. A lovely woman who had known hardships, hunger, and want for the Gospel’s sake. She would waste nothing — especially food of any kind. Crumbs, kernels of wheat, etc. were picked out of the dust, swept off the floor and carefully carried out and placed where birds could enjoy them. I never knew her to take the life of a beneficial insect of any kind. Lady bugs, honey bees, wasps, or bumble bees, when they got into her home were carefully picked up with her bare hands, carried to the door, and set free. I never knew her to have or ever been stung. I learned a great lesson from her which I have never forgotten; ‘to waste never, that I may never want.’
My mother also grew up in a home where many of the necessities were scarce and luxuries weren’t thought of, but love and unity did abound. She went to school barefoot until it was too cold to do so, then she wore her shoes. She only went to the elementary grades, but she had a thirst for knowledge, and though she received no diplomas, she would study the books her children used in school and would complete, I am sure, their studies with more efficiency that they did. She completed high school and much of college in this manner while raising her family.
Father had more in his home, in a material way, than mother. He had some education beyond the elementary grades, and he was an exceptionally good penman. His writing was beautiful. Father was nine years older than mother. After they were married, and my two older sisters were born, father was called on a mission in the Southern States.
Mother went to live with Father’s folks while he was gone. It was a rather trying experience at times being in someone elses home with two daughters of her own and trying to make a little money to send to her husband. She would pick berries in season and was able to send 50¢ to $1.00, maybe $2.00 at a time, since father traveled without purse or script. Mother would do anything, anytime, to raise what she could. Father filled an honorable mission serving his time in Kentucky and Tennessee under Ben E. Rich as Mission President. He returned and resumed the responsibility of raising a family and providing an education and living for them, along with his companion who was a constant helpmate.
Father had many experiences that have helped strengthen my testimony. While on his mission, he was protected from mobs by being carried away from them by divine help. Another time, through his administering to a child whom he had run over with a bob sleigh loaded with five ton of wet beet pulp. The child, though appearing to be dead, was restored to health immediately. Father was always available when there was need of help in the community. He was one of the greatest teachers I have ever had, and standing beside him in this great responsibility was my dear Mother.
In the fall of 1910, Joseph Henry and Mary Adelia Yates were looking forward to a new arrival in their home. It was number 4 as three girls had already blessed the Yates home. So, when a son arrived on November 8, 1910, it was a joyous occasion. They gave their son the full name of both his Grandfathers, Thomas Yates and Thomas Harper. Thus, I was named Thomas Harper Yates.
We were living on Grandfather Yates’ place, as he had passed away. It was located just north of the Harper Ward meetinghouse. There was a schoolhouse just over the fence from the meetinghouse. It was built in 1911. We lived in the same place until I was in about the 2nd grade; then, we moved south about one mile onto the then called ‘Priest Place.’ It was a large two-story native rock constructed home. Father remodeled the inside, and it was very comfortable. I was baptized on a cold day, in a pond about a lock north, while still at Grandfather’s place.
I had all the diseases children have, with none being omitted — measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever, mumps, and spinal meningitis. Mother told me it was a miracle that I survived them all. Then came small pox, seven-year itch, chicken pox, and all the rest. We did escape the flu in the epidemic of 1918, but we saw little of Father as he was away helping the sick neighbors most of the winter.
I recall the anxious time of my parents during World War I, especially when Father’s name came up for the draft. Fortunately, the war ended before he was called to serve. Through all the years our family was growing up, each two years a new member was added. Vila, who died at three weeks, followed me, then Mary, Joseph L., Merlin B., Mildred, Maxine, Velma, Leland (who lived a year and then died with diphtheria), then James, who lived just long enough to receive his name, and Carlyle, who lived only as long as James had. Mother and Father welcomed us all.
(Back Row) Joseph Lewis, Grandma Harper, Grandma Yates, Grandpa Yates, Harriet,Velma, Mary, Merlin Baly,
(Front Row) Gladys, Mildred, Maxine
(Back Row) Gladys, Merlin, Thomas, Harriet, (Front Row) Mary, Joseph, Maxine
I can recall when Father purchased his last new white top buggy in about 1913 or 1914. In 1916, he bough our first car, a blue seven-passenger Buick. Cars weren’t very common in those days.
I was ordained a deacon at the age of twelve. I acted as Quorum President for two years. I finished my elementary schooling in the Harper School which was just two rooms with four grades in each room. Our class was the last to graduate from the Harper School; then, we were consolidated with the Brigham City schools. I graduated from High School in 1928 at the age of sixteen.
I then attended Utah State Agricultural college at Logan. I majored in Poultry Husbandry, and minored in Animal Husbandry.
I graduated in the May of 1932. While attending college, I boarded at Mrs. Joseph Daines home the first year at school. It coast me $26.00 for Board and Room, and Mrs. Daines did my laundry. The last three years I batched with Willis Adams, a very close friend, and Leonard Follard, a fellow from Emmett, Idaho. We had some very enjoyable times together.
I lived in the 5th Ward in Logan while going to school. It was during my first year at school while attending a ward activity that I saw a lovely young lady who I thought surely was just the most precious of any God had created. It was nearly two years later before I got up the courage to speak to her. She was Muriel Morris. I continued my quest for her hand, and by winning out, we were married on March 22, 1934 in the Logan Temple. President Joseph R. Shepherd performed the ceremony.
After graduating from college, I worked with Father on the home place that summer and was going to buy the north part of the place (the Priest place as has been mentioned before). I ran it the year of 1933, but things didn’t work out, so in January of 1934, I went down to my oldest sister’s and her husband in Antimony, Garfield County, Utah. My brother-in-law rented me his farm and went to work for Herb Gleaves. In March, I came to Logan and claimed my Bride. We returned to Antimony and ran the place for two summers (1934-35). In the fall of 1935, we decided to return to Logan. We moved in with Muriel’s mother; but, we had an addition to our family prior to this, for on March 24, 1935, we had been blessed with a baby girl whom we named Beverly.
Work was hard to find, but the Church was doing considerable work on the Logan Temple that fall, and I got work with the contractor doing anything that he chose to assign me — from chiseling through concrete walls, to digging trenches underneath the Temple. The Morris Firm from Salt Lake City was doing the ceramic tile work, and I got on as a helper with them doing considerably more work in private homes and business establishments.
During the evenings, as much as possible, I did endowment work in the Temple. Muriel went with me most of the time. On February 5, 1936, I received my Patriarchal Blessing under the hands of Patriarch Harvey Sessions.
In January of 1936, we went to Rigby, Idaho, looking for a farm. It was the Walter Scholes place we decided on. His son, Alvin, was running it, and we decided we would work together on the place, so we moved to Idaho on March 10, 1936. They had just opened the road east of Rigby. There was still lots of snow on the ground, and the moving van had to drive over drifts getting to our house. It warmed up before we got unloaded, and the driver had some difficulty getting back to the main road. We worked with Alvin one year, then we purchased the place from his father and operated it ourselves from 1937 on.
We had some rather lean years on the farm. In fact, at one time, we listed it for sale, but before it sold, we decided to give it another try. That proved to be a good decision as we raised some very good crops the following year, and from then on, we raised some of the best hay and potatoes in the county.
During the years our family increased. Following Beverly came Joseph Richard, then Patricia, a while later Judith, then Sheila, and finally Morris Harper, who was, regrettably, our last.
During all the years of my life, as long as I can recall, I have had a testimony of the gospel, thanks to my dear parents who always took us to our meetings and supported us in all our assignments. I went ward teaching (now called home teaching) from the time I was ordained a teacher. I went alone many times. I had gathered Fast Offerings from the same homes while I was a deacon. I was ordained a Priest during that time. Until I went away to college, I was secretary in the Harper Ward Sunday School. I recall going to the Stake meetings where I was the only boy secretary in the Sunday School in the Stake. It rather bothered me in having to go to the secretary department.
During my time at home, Father and Mother worked hard to keep things going. We were well fed and clothed, but there weren’t a log of extras, at least we though so then, but looking back we had lots more than most.
Father would take a week’s vacation most summers. He would take part of us each year, as some had to stay home and do chores and tend the baby. It was a rest for Mother not to take the tiny ones along as we had little ones most of the time, as I can recall. We had many good times, as well as having to do our share of hard work.
I recall the fun of the 4th of July celebrations. The excitement of Memorial Day of roaming the hills in search of wild flowers to decorate the graves of our loved ones, then visiting with friends and relatives at the grave sites. We would only get to see some of them on these occasions. Other occasions, such as going with Dad to Ogden to the Livestock show and to Salt Lake to the State Fair, were long remembered. Also remembered were the county Fairs and the traveling shows that came in the big tents. I wonder now how Father and Mother managed it all. Things some how look different when one is a parent.
Father almost lost the farm and home at one time. It was while I was in college. I realize now how Father felt because during the time Richard was on his mission, it was the hardest financial years of our married life — at least up to the present time. But, we were blessed during those years in many ways that money could not buy. We again had a similar experience, though not so severe, while Morris was on his mission, but I suppose our Father in Heaven knows what is best for us.
We have always been able to provide for our family, educate them, and have money for the missionaries when it was needed. We have been able to do a lot of things as a family. A few are: attending the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Saints coming to Salt Lake, seeing the Christmas lights on Temple Square, going to Disneyland, Yellowstone Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Sun Valley, a trip through Missoula, Montana and into Yellowstone, and several others over the years. We have been able to see most of the good shows as a family as they came to Rigby and many in Idaho Falls. The Lord has blessed us abundantly.
As I am nearing the end of my account, I will give a more complete account of my ordinations, blessings, etc.
Born November 8, 1910, I was blessed by my Father on December 4, 1910. I was baptized by Father on my birthday in 1918 and that was a year to remember as the World War I armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. I was confirmed at home by Joseph S. Gibbs, as no meetings were being held due to the flu epidemic. It was a winter of sorrow and suffering. I was ordained a deacon on November 26, 1922 by my Father. I acted as deacons quorum president. I was ordained a teacher May 16, 1926 by Roland J. Frodsham. They were our neighbors. I was ordained a Priest on February 26, 1928 by LaRue Yates. He was a second cousin of mine and two years older. Then while I was a Priest, I acted as Genealogical Chairman in the Harper Ward. I was ordained an Elder on August 10, 1930 by my Father, Joseph H. Yates. I was ordained a High Priest on November 14, 1937 by John A. Widtsoe, an Apostle, and was set apart as 2nd Counselor in the Bishopric for about two years, then as 1st Counselor for the remaining time.
After my release from the Bishopric, I was called to serve a Stake Mission for two years. I was released February 12, 1950. I acted as Mission Secretary while on my mission. Upon my release from the Stake Mission, I was called to act as Ward Building Fun Chairman. I served until the chapel was dedicated on June 19, 1955. I served as Aaronic Priesthood Secretary for the Stake; and also as Melchizedek Priesthood Stake Secretary. I served as Young Mens’ Mutual Improvement Association (YMMIA) President for a number of years, and was Ensign teacher for a few years. I coached the basketball team one year. We went to the district championship games, but got defeated there. This is rather odd, but I served as Stake Choir President for about three years. I have been High Priest Quorum Secretary for about twenty years. I also served as Deacons’ Advisor in the Clark Ward the ten years I was in the Bishopric, and for 25 years following my release from the Bishopric, I still served as their advisor. I love youth. Two years ago (approx. 1980), I was called as the High Priest Group Leader in the Clark Ward, and I am still acting as Secretary of the East Rigby Stake High Priest Quorum.
In drawing to a close, I wish to list the greatest legacy which I possess. My Dear Companion will head the list, followed by my Sons and Daughters with their companions and their families with them (two sons, four daughters, four son-in-laws and one daughter-in-law, one son still at home, Morris our youngest, and 19 Grandchildren). To this group I wish to speak in closing.
Thomas (Tom) Harper Yates, beloved husband and father, passed away on October 10, 1980. Almost 15 years later, during the Priesthood Session of General Conference, on April 1, 1995, the following tribute was given to Tom by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as part of his message entitled, "Our Priesthood Legacy."
"May I use one example drawn from contemporary history, an example demonstrating faith and loyalty more like that which you and I will be called upon to exhibit. In doing so, I pay tribute to faithful fathers who serve as the standard of strength for their growing and less-experienced sons."
"Some years ago, long after he had returned from his mission, Bishop J. Richard Yates, of the Durham Third Ward in the Durham North Carolina Stake, was out on the family farm in Idaho, helping his father milk the cows and do some of the evening chores. Because of limited family circumstances, Richard’s father, Brother Tom Yates, had not been able to go on a mission in his youth. But that disappointment only strengthened Brother Yates’ vow that what he had not been able to afford, his sons would certainly realize — a full-time mission for the Lord — whatever the sacrifice involved."
"In those days, in rural Idaho, it was customary to give a young man a heifer calf as soon as he was old enough to take care of it. The idea was that the young man would raise the animal, keep some of the off-spring, and sell others to help pay for the feed. Fathers wisely understood that this was a way to teach their sons responsibility as they earned money for their missions."
"Young Richard did well with that gift of a first calf; and, over time, expanded the herd to eight. Along the way, he invested some of the income from the milk he sold to buy a litter of pigs. He had nearly sixty of those when his [mission] call finally arrived. It was the family’s plan that they would sell future litters of the pigs to supplement income from the sale of the dairy milk to cover the costs of Richard’s missionary labors."
"That evening out in the barn, long after a wonderful twenty-four months was safely concluded, this young man [Richard] heard something of which he had known absolutely nothing while on his mission. His father said that sometime within the first month after Richard had left, the local veterinarian, a close family friend and tireless worker in that farming community, came to vaccinate the pigs against a local threat of cholera. But in an unfortunate professional error, the vet gave the animals the live vaccine, but failed to give adequate antiserum. The results were that the entire herd of pigs came down with the disease; within a few weeks most of the animals were dead, and the remaining few had to be destroyed."
"With the pigs dead, obviously milk sales would not be enough to keep Richard on his mission, so his father planned to sell one by one the family’s dairy herd to cover the costs. But beginning with the second month, and virtually every month for twenty-three thereafter, as his parents prepared to send him the money for his mission, either one of their cows suddenly died or else one of his (Richard’s) did. Thus, the herd decreased at twice the rate they expected. It seemed an unbelievable stretch of misfortune."
"During that difficult time, a large note became due at the local bank. With all else that had happened, and the inordinate financial problems they were facing, Brother Yates simply did not have the money to repay it [the loan]. There was every likelihood they would now lose their entire farm. After much prayer and concern, but with never a word to their missionary son, Brother Yates went to face the president of the bank, a man not of our faith who was perceived in the community to be somewhat stern and quite aloof."
"After he had heard the explanation of this considerable misfortune, the banker sat for a moment looking into the face of a man who, in his own quiet and humble way, was standing up to trouble, opposition, and fear as faithfully as had Rudger Clawson and Joseph Standing. In that situation, I suppose Brother Yates could not say much more to his banker than ‘Shoot.’"
"Quietly the bank president leaned forward and asked just one questions. ‘Tom,’ he said, ‘are you paying your tithing?’ Not at all certain as to how the answer would be received, Brother Yates answered softly, but without hesitation, ‘Yes, sir, I am.’ The banker then said, ‘You keep paying your tithing, and you keep your son on his mission. I’ll take care of the note. I know you will repay me when you can."
"No paperwork or signatures were exchanged. No threats or warnings were uttered. Two good and honorable men simply stood and shook hands. An agreement had been made, and that agreement was kept."
"Brother Yates [Richard] says he remembers hearing this heretofore unknown story with considerable emotion that evening, asking his father — the note to the bank long since repaid — if all that worry and fear and sacrifice had been worth it just to try to live the gospel and keep a son on a mission. ‘Yes, Son,’ he said, ‘it was worth all of that and a lot more if the Lord ever asks it of me,’ and he continued with his evening chores."
"Physically, Tom Yates was a slight man — under five feet eight inches in height and weighing less than 150 pounds. His body was stunted somewhat from a near-fatal case of polio contracted in his infancy. But Richards says he does not ever remember thinking of his father’s physical stature, one way or the other. To this son, he [his father] was simply a spiritual giant, always larger than life, leaving his children a legacy of devotion and courage longer than all eternity."
"To such fathers of our families and fathers of our faith, to those who have lived lives of integrity whatever the cost, to generations in this and every dispensation who’ve faced fear and trails and yes, death, unflinchingly, I express gratitude from the bottom of my heart. . . . . . . I pledge with you my own determination to be true and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ whose church this is, even as I praise with you that ‘legacy’ of loyalty given to us by those who have gone before. . ."