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Eddie Arbon Davis

Edward Arbon Davis and Rosa May Mathews Davis

Eddie Davis was born 27 December 1892 in Pleasanview, Oneida, Idaho (five miles west of Malad), the eldest child of Edward Henry Davis and Esther Rebecca Arbon.  His father and grandfather George Arbon were some of the original homesteaders in Arbon Valley (then called Bannock Valley) and the valley was named after George Arbon. Through the years Eddie was joined by five other siblings.

Eddie married Rosa “May” Mathews 4 December 1917 in Logan, Cache, Utah, and later solemnized in the Salt Lake Temple on 22 December 1917.  May was the eldest of thirteen children, so perhaps the relative peace of a one-room house in Arbon Valley was a welcome change to her. Her parents, William Mathews and Sarah Ann Iverson Mathews, had also homesteaded in Arbon Valley, and she had many fond memories of growing up in the valley in the summers. May was also familiar with the hard work involved with being an Arbon farmwife.

Eddie and May had four daughters: Lois Bardina, 1918, who married Arbonite John Bolingbroke; Ardella, 1921; Donna Mae, 1932; and Sheri Lee, 1938.  They later raised their grandson, Edwin Craig Parkinson, who was Ardella’s son from her first marriage. Edwin came to his grandparents’ home when he was just eight months old; he would eventually purchase his grandparents’ farm in 1967.

Eddie assisted his father on their homestead ranch and took up a homestead claim himself when he became old enough, proving up on this in May 1919.  This was 320 acres as it included a government allotment for “desert” ground. His land consisted mostly of pasture. On this land, as per the government requirements, he built a one room “lumber house” (instead of a log cabin).  Later, after his marriage, Eddie purchased the Julian Mayes place (Julian was the man who murdered another homesteader, Mrs. Esther Westcott, in 1915).

According to the book, Bannock Valley, Eddie had saved up $500 and with this he built a small barn for his horses, which had been a gift from his father. After two years of marriage, the young couple bought another farm near them, one that had better water. They moved their one-room house to the new place in the usual way, by rolling it on logs, replacing the log that rolled out the back by putting that same log back under the house in the front, propelling the house forward with horses. On this original house in its new location, they added on two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, a cellar, and a porch. They had quite a nice house after it was all said and done. [This house is still extant, next to the brick home Edwin built later on Davis Lane.]

According to modern standards, with our wireless and smart phones, the Davis house was still quite primitive. May Davis related: “Roy Lindley…helped put water in our home. Before electricity came to the valley we had coal oil lamps with glass chimneys that had to be washed every day. We ironed the heavy stove irons which were heated on the kitchen stove. Washing was done on wash boards. Later came gas irons and gas lights. Later we bought a wind charger. When the wind blew it would charge the batteries and produce enough power for us to have electricity for lights, ironing, and a radio. Frank Turner wired our house for electricity [and] then we could have our freezers and other handy things” (Bannock Valley, page 58).

The weather in Arbon, then as now, was often a challenge. As the settlers acquired cars, during the winters they often had to park their cars at the Pauline school, using their horses and sleighs to transport them to their cars, and then take the cars on to town. Eventually more roads were paved in the valley, which was quite a boon, but the snow, wind, and drifts still remained a challenge.

The family remembers a many weather-related close calls.  According to May, “One spring, we went after the car with a team of horses [to bring the car back to the farm]. Eddie drove ahead with the horses and buggy to fill in a big hole that had been washed out so that I could cross [it] with the car. I stopped the car a little way from the wash. When I looked up the horses and buggy were coming right at me. The horses ran over the top of the car. One horse put his foot through the side window and cut his foot but Donna Mae, Sheri, and I were alright. The buggy flew out into Chauncey Payne’s field and broke into so many pieces it could never be put together” (Bannock Valley, p. 58-59).

Being a long way from medical help was always a worry to parents. May related: “One day Joe Arbon Sr.’s hired man took his wife and baby to the Arbon field a mile west of us. It started raining very hard so he had to quit working.  He tied the horses to the wagon and they all got under the wagon for shelter. The horses got frightened from the thunder and lightning and backed the wagon over the baby’s head and he was unconscious. The father came to us for help. I phoned the Arbons [but] they were all gone somewhere. Eddie was gone also so I knew I had to get the baby to the doctor. We had a car but it was so muddy I didn’t know if we could make it, but we did and the baby was alright in a few hours” (Bannock Valley, page 59).

Another medical issue, with doctors far away, again involved May Davis, who always seemed to be home without her husband Eddie (modern Arbon farmwives can relate to this). This time their neighbor, Joe Arbon Sr., was driving his pickup to the field with water for his men.  The water was in glass jugs, and they started knocking together so Joe thought they might break. He reached his hand down to separate the jars while keeping his eyes on the road. However, “one jug had already broken and he cut his hand badly.” He stopped at the nearest home, which was the Davises’. According to May Davis, “He was bleeding awful. I knew I had to get him to the doctor quick. My car was out of gas but thank goodness we always had extra gas but it just took time. I have never driven so fast before or since and wishing a cop would pick me up especially after I arrived to Pocatello. Dr. Merrill’s office was closer than the hospital so I stopped there. The nurse ran out to help me and the doctor stopped the bleeding. They put him in the hospital as he had lost so much blood. Joe wasn’t too happy about that as he thought he could go home and work. When he argued with the nurse she pushed him on the bed and jerked his pants off so I beat it [out of there] and called his wife” (Bannock Valley, page 59).

May Davis remembers another incident that could have been a disaster. “I was married and had two little girls, Lois and Ardella. I had a spirited team of horses on a black top buggy going after chokecherries.  There was a creek of water I had to cross and the banks on each side of the creek were very steep. Knowing it was a bad place, I pushed Lois and Ardella [off] the buggy seat into the bottom of the buggy by my feet, but it wasn’t enough for as the buggy hit the bottom of the creek, the horses jumped and threw Lois out into the water and mud. I stopped the horses, but the front wheel of the buggy stopped right in the middle of Lois. I knew if I went ahead the back wheel would run over her too, and if I backed [up], the horses and buggy would back over her, and there was only six or eight inches between the wheels where the break was, so I had to have the horses pull just right to get her between the front and back wheels.  Have you ever tried to hold a horse from backing or moving ahead on a steep bank?  Well, I have and somehow, with God’s help, (I know I couldn’t have done it alone) I got the wheels just right and reached down and pulled Lois up into the buggy. She was very muddy and a cold little girl, but she wasn’t hurt at all – the mud being soft, the wheel didn’t hurt her at all” (Bannock Valley, page 297).

Arbon blizzards are legendary, frightening, and awe-inspiring, both then and now. In 1920, the Joe Arbon family asked neighbors to come for Christmas Eve. The Davises went in their sleigh. “During the time we were there it turned into a blizzard and Santa (Ezra Andersen) had a hard time getting there with the children’s toys….We didn’t dare drive home in the blizzard so about 2:00 a.m. Christmas morning we decided to go to bed.  The children were put in the beds and the adults all laid on the floor and tried to sleep. Finally daylight came. The blizzard had piled the snow in the doorway so we had to dig ourselves out. In those days [everyone] kept a shovel in the house” (Bannock Valley, page 59).

Eddie farmed the original homestead piece, along with other land that he acquired. In the natural course of things, his four daughters grew up and got married and moved out of the valley. Eddie and May’s grandson Craig Parkinson bought the farm in 1967. Later on, Eddie’s brother Orval had one son, Norman, who took over the farm and farmed into the 2000s.

Eddie died on 28 April 1969 in Pocatello at age seventy-seven; he was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. May outlived him by almost two decades; she died at age ninety-five on 11 December 1993, also in Pocatello, and was buried alongside her husband.

Sources:

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

https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/KWCV-8PY

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/43060839

The links provided here will provide information on other family members.