Ephraim James and Eliza Jane Shirts Rawlings


James was born May 7, 1861 in Burbage, Wiltshire, England, the eldest surviving son of Richard and Prudence Mary Rawlings.  His eight siblings are Ann born March 25, 1847, Matilda born August 24, 1849, Mary Ann born January 23, 1852, Honor born July 3, 1854, Sarah Ann born March 3, 1857, James born June 27, 1859, Ether born November 9, 1863, and Walter born May 10, 1867.

 

He was called “Jim” and at the age of seven, the family immigrated to America sailing from Liverpool on June 22, 1868.  Arrangements had been made to cross the ocean on a comfortable ship, but when they arrived in Liverpool, the ship had been filled and had left port.  There were many others in the same situation so the emigration officer asked the Captain of the sailing vessel Constitution if he would take the passengers on his ship.  The Captain asked, “Who are these people?”  He was told, “They are all Mormons wanting to go to Utah.”  The Captain replied, “I will take them.  A shipload of Mormons will never sink.”

 

The old ship Constitution had been condemned because it leaked so badly.  Little Jimmie, for the first time felt he was a man as he took his turn dipping water out of the ship’s hull to keep it from sinking.  They arrived in New York safe and sound, but when the Captain started back, the ship had only traveled a few miles when it sunk.

 

The family arrived in Salt Lake City in September of 1868 and on December 31, 1868 James’ mother died.  Following a period of time when his father worked for Brigham Young on Brigham’s farm near Salt Lake City, the family moved to Logan where his father took work as foreman on the Church Farm four miles south-west of Logan.  It was here on the Church Farm that he learned to ride a horse and herd cattle and, because of the training and work experiences, he became an expert with cattle and horses.  During this time he witnessed three sleighs loaded with dead soldiers being brought back from the Indian massacre at Battle Creek, a few miles north of Preston, Idaho.

 

The family moved to Fairview, Idaho in 1876 homesteading one hundred sixty acres of land.  James remained on the Church Farm until he was eighteen and then joined the family in Fairview.  He was not in Fairview very long until he went to Montana where he worked for two and one half years on the Union Pacific Railroad construction.  While working in Montana, he met a young lady named Eliza who, after becoming seriously ill in November 1882, returned to her home in Brigham City.  The following spring James decided to return home and see if Eliza would marry him.

 

On May 15, 1883 at Brigham City James married Eliza Jane Shirts (Schurtz), daughter of Peter and Belana Pulsipher Burgess Shirts (Schertz), in the home of her Uncle Ephraim Wight.  Nine children blessed this union, Effie Belana (McQueen), James Richard, Walter Eugene, Edis Irwin, Marvin Asa, Jenny Eliza (Gooch, Duff), William, Elsie Elizabeth (Bronson, Thomas), and Almeda (Nielsen).  Walter Eugene died at age two years and five months and William lived for only a few hours.

 

Eliza was born April 15, 1858 in East Mill Creek, Utah.  Her parents were divorced at the time of her birth and her mother died when she was fifteen months of age.  Her grandmother, Polly Chubbuck Pulsipher, cared for her and her two siblings Elsie born December 6, 1853 and Peter born March 27, 1856.  When Eliza was two years old the children’s father came to get them and Polly refused to let him have them.  In consultation with President Brigham Young, Polly was told she would have to give up Elsie and Peter, but Eliza could remain, as her father had never contributed one cent toward her livelihood.

 

When the father, Peter Shirts, came to get the children, Polly told him by the law he could not take Eliza, but she would have to give up Elsie and Peter.  He then told Polly that if she refused to give him Eliza, he would take the other two children so far away she would never hear of them again, which is what he did.  When Eliza was in her late teens or early twenties, she was able to correspond with her sister Elsie and some years later, her brother, Peter Shirts, Jr., visited her in Fairview.

 

At three years of age, she started attending school and one of her aunts taught her to sing many songs, some of them having from eight to fourteen verses.  She always sang for company and in many church programs.  When she was older, she learned to play the accordian and harmonica and also won several prizes for her dancing skill.

 

While still very young, she and grandmother Polly moved to Brigham City and made their home with her uncle and aunt, Ephraim and Harriet Elizabeth Pulsipher Wight.  Times were so hard Eliza started working out when she was nine years old.  She worked in different homes but never received any pay.  At the age of thirteen she took care of women who were confined.  She also cared for the baby, family and did all the work receiving seventy-five cents a week for her labor.

 

At the age of sixteen she helped cook at a sawmill about twenty-five miles east of Brigham City where there were from forty to fifty men to feed three meals a day.  She next worked for a co-op dairy where she milked from twenty-five to thirty cows night and morning as well as making cheese, butter, soap, and helped in the kitchen.  After working at the dairy for a year, she went back to the sawmill where she was head cook and received ten cents a day.

 

From there Eliza went to Lewiston, Utah to work for a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Bybee, who had lost all of their children to diptheria.  While there she got a chance to go to Montana and cook for the men who were building the Union Pacific Railroad.  With Mirinda Griffeth as her helper, she baked thirty-six loaves of bread a day and did the washing for the men receiving one dollar per day, which was more money than she ever dreamed of seeing.

 

Following their marriage in May of 1883, James and Eliza homesteaded one hundred sixty acres of land in Fairview located one mile north and one half mile east of the church.  James hauled logs from the mountains on the running gears of his wagon and a two-room log house was built.  This location proved to be disadvantageous as good drinking water had to be hauled from about a mile away.

 

For two years Eliza taught school in her log home and James worked hard preparing the land for crops and also working at whatever jobs were available including the herding of sheep during the winter months.  After five years on the homestead, they purchased seven and one half acres of land from Lyman Lake and two and one half acres from Joshua Adams one and one quarter miles west and north of the homestead.  They moved their log house to this location where they found good water to drink.

 

Shortly after they were all settled in their new location their two and one half year old son, Walter Eugene, contracted diptheria and died.  The land for the new cemetery had been decided upon but exact lines had not been made definite yet, so he was buried where they thought the cemetery was going to be.  Later on when the definite lines were made, little Eugene’s grave was a few rods too far west so he was moved to the lot James and Eliza had bought.

 

James was a recreational leader for the young people and he and Eliza entertained them in their home until the Ward furnished larger quarters.  Square dances were the rage then and James was a “caller” for many years.  The couple loved to dance and were very good dancers.

 

James was a professional cattleman and took great pride in owning good stock.  He hauled wood from the canyon to be used for fuel and fence posts.  On these trips he took the opportunity of supplying the family with a special treat in the form of prairie chickens, which he acquired by throwing rocks at the chickens.  Eliza made her own lye, soap, all their bedding, raised geese and picked them every six weeks during the summer so she could make feather beds.

 

James bought a horse-powered thresher in 1900 and with the help of sons Jimmie, Edis and Marvin, operated it for eight years.  In 1909 his son Edis became a partner and together they bought a steam engine, which they ran for nine years.  In 1911 James and Billie Pulsipher bought a sawmill and operated it with the steam engine.  Marvin was the engineer and they ran the mill for four winters.  Many of the big trees in Fairview were chopped down and sawed into lumber, which allowed the farmers to construct new buildings that were previously unaffordable.  In 1917 James sold his share in the steam engine thresher to his son Edis.

 

In 1918 they sold their home and property in Fairview, bought a home in Preston and retired.  James purchased a new Model T Ford and in the latter part of September of 1924 the couple were on their way to visit their youngest daughter, Almeda, in Ogden when they were involved in a terrible automobile accident.  They were rushed to the hospital in Logan and, after five weeks in the hospital, James passed away on October 25, 1924.  It was several weeks before Eliza recovered.

 

Eliza spent the remaining years of her life gathering genealogy, working in the temple, always being kind to those in distress or need, feeding those in need of spiritual food as well as making tasty dishes for the sick, and, in general, an angel always striving to be of assistance.  On the 28th of January 1934, Eliza passed away in her home at Preston with all her living children present at the time of her passing.

 

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Ephraim J Rawllings Descendants


SOURCE:  History of Fairview by the members of the Sara Mar Camp of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and A History of the Richard Rawlings Family by Wendell H. Rawlings and Gladys Rawlings Lemmon.