July 24th is Pioneer Day in celebration of the arrival of the first Mormon Pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. In an effort to teach our children about their pioneer heritage we are learning about their pioneer ancestors. We are lucky to have access to detailed records of their lives. This week’s posts all come from a book my grandmother wrote to her grandchildren about our pioneer forefathers. This book was written in 1989 when the oldest grandchild (me) was 12 so keep that in mind as it is written specifically for children.
Grandpa Jed and His House – Jed Ashton
This is a story about a house that a great grandfather helped build. You all know this house – it is XXXXX (sorry my grandmother still lives here).
Jed Ashton was the son of the pioneer grandparents, Edward and Jane. He was their second son and he helped his dad and brothers make their home bigger as the family grew. Later on, Jed would work on his own house.
When Jed was about 20, he met and began to “court” a girl named Matie, who was also from a pioneer family. Matie’s parents had come from near Bristol, England. When they crossed the ocean they landed in New York, and Matie was born back East, in Michigan. When the parents decided to come to Utah, they had five children with them, two teenage boys, two little girls, and baby Matie.
To cross the plains, they bought a wagon, which the 17-year-old boy drove. The parents and the 14-year-old boy walked all the way across the plains. The two little girls, one 11 and one 9, took turns riding in the wagon. One day one would get to sit in the wagon and hold baby Matie while the other walked. The next day, she walked and the other little girl rode. So little Matie was carried across the plains – but was a pioneer too!
Matie’s family lived near Jed, and the two got acquainted when she was about 16. After “courting” for about 5 years they were married. They had a big family – 11 children. Jed decided they needed a big house to hold them all. By then, his brothers were building brick homes, and Jed bought one they had built on XXXX street, even though it still had fields all around it where people farmed. The house was not finished inside, and Jed rode his bicycle day from the other side of town, to work on his new house in the evenings.
Finally the family was able to move in. How roomy it must have seemed to them! Outside in the big yard there was a garden, with chickens and rabbits and a cow, and a playground for the kids. Jed always said he was ich because he had good kids.
Jed loved music like his dad, and sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for many years. And like his father, he directed a choir – for 25 years! He also had a boys’ chorus. They would meet in the front room of the home for practices. Jed made each boy a three-legged stool to sit on. His life was his family and music. His children could hear him singing as he came down the street from work, for he had a beautiful tenor voice.
Jed’s and Matie’s descendants have lived in this big house for 70 years now (90 now!) and it is “the family home” to all. There have been some changes – what was the “pantry” is now just a corner of the kitchen, and what was the kitchen is now the dining room. The house is warmer than when it was heated with little pot-bellied stoves in each room. There are more rooms along the back of the house and an apartment and long stairs.
It is still a home for the family to gather. The front rooms are big and roomy, and everyone usually fits around the dining room table. We love this houseand when we are in it, we think of Grandpa Jed and Grandma Matie, and then of their daughter Florence, and Charlie who took it over. We are grateful to all those who have worked to make this home so beautiful and comfortable for us.