Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Family History Tour: Searle and Clark Families

A few months ago when my mother-in-law, Denise, was telling a story about The McCornick House (a place I've often heard of), I mentioned that I'd like to see it and take pictures of it before it falls over. The McCornick House is legendary in Denise's family history. Her grandmother and grandfather, Carrie Nielsen Clark and Lawrence Clark, bought 40 acres in McCornick in 1919. Some shady land developers convinced dozens of recently married LDS couples in the surrounding area that McCornick was the next big thing. Plenty of water! Crops will grow and you'll be rich and happy! Almost 100 years later, the Clark home is pretty much the only thing (barely) left of McCornick. 

Last Thursday, April 9th, we took a drive to Delta and McCornick to see the legendary cabin. On the way there, I read Brian the 16-page history Denise gave us.
"[Carrie's son] L. Nielsen and her brother, Rex Griffith had dug a cellar five feet deep and twelve feet wide by fourteen feet long, making a roof over it with cedar posts and boards then covering it with dirt. They hung their bedsprings from the roof of the cellar, making beds for the boys and a place to store their food, clothing, and some light furniture.

"Then, When Carrie and the girls arrived, they took their huge canvas wagon cover and built a lean-to on the side of their wagon, boarding it up - which served as a kitchen and dining area. Here they set up their kitchen range, table, kitchen cabinet and chairs. Carrie wrote: 'It was fit for a Queen!'"

Okay, let's stop here for a moment and reflect on our lives.
This is Carrie Nielsen Clark and four of her children (from left to right: Denise, Nola, Edra, and Niels). My mother-in-law is named after her Aunt Denise. Edra (the five year-old on the right) is Denise's mother. Don't they look clean here? :)

"The next day after the girls and I arrived (10 April 1919 being my Mother's 53rd birthday and Easter Sunday), we went half a mile from our farm to a sandy knoll up by the canal bank and had our Easter party, taking our lunch with us and hiding eggs." One of the Easter traditions in Brian's family is going to the sand dunes for a picnic and hunting Easter eggs. I've always wondered why they think that's normal, and now I know! :)
Denise and Bridget walking up to the Clark home in McCornick, April 2015.

In May 1919, more families had moved in, crops were growing, dreams were coming true. Carrie Clark: "This beautiful day the last part of May 1919, we had just sat down to our noonday meal when all at once we heard a roaring noise. We all looked at each other, so bewildered - we had not had time to think. One of the men said the banks of the canal must have given way. We all looked up and there, not a half mile away came the surging stream of 200 second feet of water headed right toward us. There was not one thing we could do but get out of its way.

"It came rushing on but thanks to the leveled ground when it first came out of the canal, it cut a deep gulch and washed twenty feet deep and some fifty to sixty feet wide and a forty-acre field long before it commenced to spread out. So by the time it reached our camp, the water was three feet deep in some places. four and five feet deep in other places. We were stunned. For a while no grownup or child made one sound."

In August 1921, the crops looked great. On the 14th of August Lawrence went to Delta to get twine so they could finish cutting the grain crop. Everyone else was at church. Carrie Clark: "It commenced thundering and lightning and just like a cloudburst - a real hard rain in the town site and all the other farms. But when we went back home, a hail storm had hit our three forties [acres] (Mother's, my brother's, and ours) and five other farmers. Just took a strip two forties wide and four forties long. Threshed out every bit of grain on the ground. We had had another lovely garden but the tomatoes and melons were shot full of holes as if they had been shot with a twenty-two. Cabbage and lettuce were stripped of their leaves. Our turkeys and chickens were lying dead all over. 

"So there was no need for the twine."

I can't even write this down without losing it! Brian and I laughed/cried at all the things we think we've suffered after reading his great grandmother's words. Carrie's mother, Margaret Bridget Allred Nielsen Griffith, had come across the plains and now she was dealing with all this bad luck in McCornick along with the Clarks. (I loved finding out that we had inadvertently named Bridget after such an amazing ancestor. Margaret was a nurse and a pioneer.)
Standing: Carrie Nielsen Clark, her mother Margaret Bridget Allred Nielsen Griffith. Sitting: Enid and June Nielsen (or Griffith?)

Denise with grandsons; Nate, Colin, and Emil at the Clark house in McCornick.
Grandma showing the kids the very stairs she went down to sleep in the basement as instructed by Grandma Carrie Clark. (The family spent summers in the McCornick house after they moved to Delta in 1930 so the kids would have somewhere to go to school.)
Grandma Carrie would lead Denise down the stairs, snuffing out the black widow spiders as she descended. 
It was fun to stay at Grandma's house, but kind of scary, too. :)
Bridget and Grandpa collected pretty glass near the... kitchen, I guess?
Emil, Bridget, and Colin sitting on the edge of what I think was the grainary. Beyond them is some of the 40 acres the Clarks owned.
Grandpa found a lizard and tried hard to catch him. The boys (except Nate) cheered him on.

In 1930, Lawrence and Carrie Clark moved to Delta. Most of the other farms had been foreclosed (not enough water for all those farms), so there was nowhere for the Clark children to go to school. We actually saw the Delta house first on our tour, but I'm putting those photos here. (Denise was born in this house, by the way.)
Carrie and Lawrence Clark in front of their home in Delta, 1930.
Eighty-five years later - those trees really grew up! Back row: Brian, Debbie, Hal, Harold, Denise, Dena, Kyra holding Brighton. Front row: Bridget, Nate, Emil, and Colin.

We didn't hear as many stories about the Searle family on our tour, but we did visit the old home of Delbert and Ruth Searle in Delta.
Denise's father is Donald Searle, Delbert and Ruth are his parents. This is their home in Delta.
Harold and Denise with grandchildren (and great grand child) in front of the Searle home.

We've had the wedding portrait of Denise's grandparents, Del and Ruth Searle, in our front room for many years. It was very cool to see where they lived and raised their family.
Back row: Del, Donald (Denise's father), Alta, and Ruth. Front row: Archie, Sidney, and Arda.

If you're like me, you're wondering what happened to Del's hair. Denise said he had blood poisoning and it turned his hair completely white within a very short time period. I love having that wedding picture where I can see it all the time. Such a handsome couple. 
Del Searle, Don Searle and Harold doing their favorite thing - fishing.

Just like our ancestors, we headed to the sand dunes after our tour for a picnic and a Junior Arrowhead Hunt (Harold brought some of his chips and dropped them in the sand where the kids could find them). I was inspired not to complain too much about having to use a sagebrush for a bathroom. Carrie Clark was a queen in a castle in a lean-to! I can do anything.
Emil and Bridget, Brighton, Colin, and Nate.
Oh, man! So dirty. The shoes were almost done, this was a fitting farewell.
 Brighton perfectly accessorized for the sand dunes.
Sweet Bridget burying herself in the sand.

I want to take this kind of tour with all my grandparents! I can't put into words how special this was - I'm glad we have these stories to share with the next generation.


melissa said...

How wonderful! Thanks for the perspective. I, too, want to take that kind of tour with my grandparents. Darn it.

allyn said...

Dad's words have come to fruition at last! Our graveyard tour of 1990(?) he exclaimed, "you'll thank me one day." I know you didn't hit any graveyards, but a similar trip, no? Pretty insane the things those pioneers had to endure. And they look so classy in their photos. Probably because they were.
Amazing experience for you.