Saturday, Dec 03, 2022

James R. Bailey

James R Bailey and Annie Leishman Kerr

James Richard Bailey was born 26 February 1867 in Wellsville, Cache, Utah, to English immigrants Charles and Susannah Hawkins Bailey. James was the oldest child, eventually having nine full brothers and four full sisters. He also had many half-siblings, since his father practiced polygamy. James was the oldest of a total of thirty-one siblings.

It was very common for boys to quit school and do a man’s work while they were still quite young. James was no exception in this respect.  At the tender age of twelve he started driving a freight wagon from Wellsville to many locations throughout the West. The roads he traveled were long, tedious, and lonely; he covered only thirty to forty miles a day, was out in all kinds of weather, and camped wherever he could find good grass and water for the teams. At one point, his route took him through Arbon Valley (then known as Bannock Valley), and he was impressed with the beauty and lush grasses sweeping as high as his horse’s bellies.  At that time, he thought that if Bannock Valley were ever opened to homesteading, he’d like to live there someday.

James married Annie Leishman Kerr on 11 June 1890 in the Logan (Utah) Temple. Annie was the daughter of Scottish and British immigrants. She had also been born in Wellsville, in 1873, so even though there was an age difference of seven years, James possibly knew Annie or her family as she was growing up.  They met again at a logging camp in Aspen, Wyoming (south of Rock Springs), where sixteen-year-old Annie was cooking for a logging crew – perhaps James had gone there on purpose to see Annie and gain work.

Right after they married, they went to live in Huntsville, Utah, where James worked laying tracks for a railroad company.  Three months later they moved to Bear River, Box Elder, Utah, where James worked digging canals for the canal company.  (A family story says when they moved from Huntsville to Bear River, the newlyweds took with them their only worldly possession – a pig that had been won in the previous Huntsville Fourth of July greased pig contest!). After the canal in Bear River was completed, they continued for the next two years to spend part of the year back in Aspen, Wyoming, logging, and the winter months in Wellsville.

Over time, James and Annie were blessed with thirteen children, all of which were given the middle name of Kerr, which was Annie’s maiden name:

Jane Kerr Bailey (“Jennie,” 1891, born in Wellsville, Utah)

James (1 October 1892-15 October 1892, Wellsville)

Susannah (“Anna,” 1893, Wellsville)

Melvin (1895, Wellsville)

Charles (1897, Wellsville)

Thomas (1899, Arbon, Idaho)

Erma (1901, Arbon)

Elizabeth (1903, Wellsville)

Mary (1905, Logan, Utah)

Edna (1906, Samaria, Idaho)

Tressa (1908, Arbon)

Merle (1910, Arbon)

Earl (1913, Arbon)

George Arbon and his son Joseph Nicholas get the credit for being the first homesteaders, in 1892.  The next spring saw the arrival of several families, of which James Bailey was one. He, along with several other men from Wellsville (John Bowen, and Sam and Ed Davis), went to Arbon Valley and took up pre-emption claims in 1893.  So, the Bailey family, along with the Arbons (from near Malad) and Andersens (also from Cache Valley, from the town of Mendon), were among the first five families in the Arbon Valley. Eventually several Bailey brothers came from Wellsville to Arbon, including Charles, Lorenzo, William, Parley, Willard, Lorin, and Cyrus.

The first Bailey home was a dugout James built with loving anticipation, but when James brought Annie to the valley for the first time, she refused to “live in a hole.”  So, that summer, their home was a tent until they returned to Wellsville for the winter months. By the next summer, James had gathered enough logs out of Knox Canyon to build a one-room log cabin. Later on, another room was added, and finally a three-room frame house was built (which wasn’t as snug or as warm as the cabin).

Water was supplied by a pump bringing the water up from underground, but this water was too “hard” for washing clothes, so every week someone had to make a trip of a few miles with the buckboard to get water from neighbor Bowen’s spring, hauling the water in several fifty-gallon drums.  By 1924, another well was drilled at the home place, deeper this time, and the family was elated to find this water was good for both laundry and drinking. No more weekly trips to get water!

James and Annie had to do a lot to feed and clothe their sizable family of thirteen children. They milked cows and sold butter, raised chickens and sold eggs, and raised a productive garden (which is no easy task in high-altitude Arbon Valley). James, being a sociable man, regularly invited people over after church to come to Sunday dinner. Often Annie wouldn’t know they were coming until they stepped in the door, as hungry as her own brood – but there was always plenty for all.

The first post office was in the Tom Evans’ family home, after which the James Bailey family kept it in their home from 1899 to about 1903. Lorin Bailey, James’ youngest full brother, had the first contract with the US government between Arbon and Pocatello – previous to that, the mail route came from Malad, Idaho. Lorin provided mail service to the valley three days a week.  That doesn’t sound like much today, but at that time it took a full day to go to Pocatello, and another full day to come back.  He spent a lot of time looking at the south end of his north-bound team (or vice versa), traveling over Mink Creek Pass. Post offices were located at Crystal (where Twain and Michelle Hayden now live – their lovely modern home is actually remodeled from the original Crystal Post Office and store), Pauline (close to where the elementary school now is), and then Arbon (close to where the LDS church building now is).  The Star Route contract ran for twenty months, after which someone else other than Lorin took it over.  While James and Annie ran the post office out of their home, the “salary” was rather slim, coming from the cancelled stamps and a percent of any stamps that were sold (stamps at that time cost two cents).  On a very good month, the postmaster might make $30. However, many farmers sent their cream, butter, and eggs to Pocatello to sell, and had to send it via the post office’s buckboard, so the cost of freighting also helped with the salary.

James contributed to the social aspects of the valley in many ways.  At first church was held in various homes until the Arbon Ward of the Curlew Stake was organized in 1900, meeting in the Valley View school house (near where the LDS Church building is now, on Church Road). James was the Sunday School superintendent for the next nineteen years.  The Arbonites held church in the schoolhouse until 1928 when a new church house was built, under the direction of Bishop George Arbon at a cost of $11,500.  This building was dedicated in 1929. Many members of the valley, LDS and non-members alike, contributed their time, talent, labor, and money to help build this building. It also housed many community events until it was torn down in 2010.   

Since he himself had left school at a young age, James knew that a good education was important for his children. They lived a mile and a half from the school.  In good weather the children walked, but if it looked like a storm was brewing, James would take and retrieve them in the wagon or sleigh. James was also a school trustee, and served as chairman of District 12 School Board for two years (1918-1919). 

James also helped keep the canal maintained so it could water many of the parcels in the valley, donating his team and time to help.

For seven years in a row, James’ wheat crop froze out, along with the crops of many other farmers. They certainly didn’t have any luxuries during this time, but were able to survive and “make do” because of their frugality.

Isolation on rural farms has always been a real fear for women, and Arbon was no exception. It had its share of a negative element passing through it. Annie remembered a time when she was home alone with her two little girls.  “She happened to see a terrible looking man ride into the yard. He had guns strapped on him. She was so frightened she didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t see a soul around anywhere. She took the girls into the cellar, knelt down, and said a prayer to protect her little girls. [When] she arose and looked out, she saw a neighbor man riding into the yard. He took care of the man. She later learned [the stranger] was an escaped convict” (as told by daughter Merle Bailey Christensen: ).

The Bailey children created many familial connections through Arbon marriages. The oldest, Jane (“Jennie”) married John Gibbons in 1910. Susanna married David Thomas Lusk in 1913. Erma married David’s brother, Edward Park Lusk in 1918 while he was home on leave from World War I. Charles married Ada Andersen, daughter of John Christian Andersen, in 1928. And in December 1929, Edna married Joseph George Arbon, the grandson of the first homesteader.

A highlight for James and Annie, and something they talked about the rest of their lives, was a train trip they took in 1928 to Butte, Montana to visit their daughter Mary Bailey Renberg and her family. Many sights on the trip reminded James of his younger days when he was freighting over much the same areas, and he talked about this trip often.

Rain falls on the just and on the unjust alike, but the Bailey family saw more than their share of tragedy.  Jennie Kerr Bailey Gibbons died in March 1912 at age twenty-one while giving birth to her first child.  March is still a very wintery month in Arbon Valley. The young couple had planned to travel to Malad for the birth, but Jennie went into labor unexpectedly. Her mother Annie was always called when sickness or birthing was happening, and many Arbon babies were brought into the world through her skill. It was said that “there were never any complications with the mothers she assisted” (Bannock Valley, p. 51).  But this was not to be for Annie’s own oldest daughter. Imagine the mother and father and young husband’s distress when it was obvious that all was not going as hoped. By the time the doctor could be summoned over the snowy roads from Malad, both Jennie and her baby had died. She was buried in the Arbon Cemetery, with tiny baby Bertha snuggled in her arms.  The snow was deep in the cemetery, and digging the grave was a terrible job for sympathetic family and friends.

A few years later, daughter Erma Kerr Bailey Lusk, the mother of four-year-old James Park Lusk and two-year-old Ralph Bailey Lusk, caught a cold which developed into pneumonia.  She deteriorated quickly, and soon it was thought she was too sick to be moved to a hospital over the wintery roads. Again her mother Annie was called to nurse the sick. She died on 24 February 1922 at the age of twenty-one. It must have been a terrible job to sift through the drifts in the cemetery to find her sister Jennie’s headstone, then dig through the deep snow and frozen ground to dig a grave near her.  Jennie had died one month shy of ten years before.  Erma’s young sons were then raised by Erma’s sister Susannah Bailey Lusk and her husband David Thomas Lusk, who were aunt and uncle to the boys.

Another hard trial was the lost of their youngest son, Earl. A newlywed, he had married twenty-year old Aseneth Rammell in May, 1939. But soon his condition worsened, and for a while he was in and out of the Pocatello hospital. He died on 23 November 1939, at age twenty-six, less than six months after his marriage.  His funeral was held in Pocatello, Idaho, and he was laid to rest in the Mountain View Cemetery in Pocatello.

James eventually sold the Arbon farm to his son, Melvin.

James’ hardest trial was in May 1946. Annie had suffered from gall bladder troubles for several years, and she got especially sick one day after hanging out her laundry. They were living in Pocatello by then so medical care was close at hand, but her doctor did not think her condition was serious enough to hospitalize her. However this time her attack was worse than any she had ever had before.  The next evening she asked her husband to run to the grocery store for ice cream, thinking the cold sweetness of it would give her some relief.  However, by the time James returned from the store with the ice cream, she had died. She was seventy-two years old, and other than the occasional gall bladder issues had been in excellent health. James never quite got over the shock. Annie was laid to rest next to her youngest son Earl in the Mountain View Cemetery in Pocatello.

For several years James and Annie had served at the Bishop’s Storehouse in Pocatello.  After the death of his beloved Annie, he married a woman they had known for a long time, Nancy Livingstone, a widow who had gotten to know James and Annie through volunteering at the Bishop’s Storehouse.  He and Nancy were married in October 1946, but he did not live long after the marriage. He developed a growth, probably cancer, and passed away on 12 July 1948 at the age of eighty-one, less than two years after his second marriage. He was buried alongside Annie and son Earl in the Mountain View Cemetery in Pocatello.


Ward, Laurie Jean, Bannock Valley (Providence, Utah: Keith Watkins and Sons, 1982).

(The links provided here contain links to all other family members.)