Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.

St. George, Utah -- September 16, 1935

Isaac H., Burgess was born in Salt Lake City April 23, 1859, was the son of Harrison and Amanda Hammond Burgess.

At the age of 5 years I, with my parents moved to Pine Valley, Washington County, Utah where I resided the early part of my life. My boyhood days were passed in helping my father build a home and doing things a small boy could do to help his parents in the struggle to make a living for a family of eleven, there being six boys and five girls.

The year I was 14, I lived in the United Order, and done a man's work - cut grain with a cradle, helped haul and stack the grain. When I was 15 years of age I milked 25 or 30 head of cows with my younger sister to help me, also helped my mother make cheese and butter. Them days we either had to herd cattle or take them to the hills in the morning then go get them of a night, which I did. As the years came along, I helped my father at his sawmill, make lumber, he being one of the first to put a sawmill in the Pine Valley Mountains. I also helped my father saw-off blocks from trees, these we would split and shave-off to make shingles. These we would take to Pioche and sell them, we used ox teams to get the logs to the sawmill. At the age of 20 I married Nellie Thomas, by whom there were eight children born, 3 boys and 5 girls, two of the boys died while infants. During this time myself and brothers worked a good share of our time at the sawmill making lumber to help build up the country.

About the year 1880 my father and his boys were called or requested to go take the water on what was then called Mesquite Flat. There were some others called a t the same time. I was the first man to stick a shovel in the ditch we were to take the water through. I worked there with others for three years, building homes, and clearing land, and putting in crops, a ward was organized with Henry Branch as Bishop, Gaboutley and myself as counselors. We also hauled salt rock from the Muddy Valley to St. George to the Wooley, Lund and Judd store to get groceries to live on. We were just getting along so we could live, had cut 30 acres of grain, had it all shocked also 15 acres of hay all cut and piled. I think it was about July, and then it was all destroyed by the big flood water [it] went through fields, washed grain and hay away - some clear into the Virgin River, destroyed all our past work, filled up our ditches, etc. There is one incident I wish to mention -- John Schmutz and family lived right in the mouth of the Beaver Wash. We knew they would be washed away unless they were warned. I got out a horse and rode fast as I could, told them to hurry and get out of bed as there was a big flood coming down the wash, I helped them get bedding, clothes, and what we could out onto the bank and we were none too soon as the water came before we were ready but there was no lives lost, but they were fast asleep when I got there and gave the alarm. The water was so high I couldn't get back home till next day. We all were out in the rain all night with no shelter. We stayed a few weeks longer, made a small ditch to take the water through as the large ditch was completely filled up. But we were not able to do much. After all the loss we suffered, we took the chills and fever, a disease very common in that country then and since, but don't think they have much of it now that the country is all settled and farms for miles, over which was nothing but a desert at one time. So having lost about all we had we went back to Pine Valley, this time our main work was farming.

I was the only musician they had in Pine Valley for years. I enjoyed playing the fiddle for dances or entertainments whenever I was called to do so. Then I moved to Biglow Ranch near Gunlock where I had bought some land. Lived there 13 years, during that time we had the big earthquake.

During this time I lost my wife and was left to care for 5 motherless children. Three years later I married Elizabeth Keys, from this marriage there were six children making a total of 14 children. Later I moved to Central, a new place they were then settling, lived there for about 20 years. Was Superintendent of the Sunday school there for several years, was then released from that position and chosen first counselor to Bishop Baker who was then Bishop of Central. My children are all grown and married. I have lost my health , not able to work, but feel like a pleasant word and smile for all is about all I can do for my loved ones and friends. I am 76 years old. I have 46 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren. I have lived here in St. George two years.

Isaac H. Burgess
St. George, Utah

Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.


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