By Sandra D. Benson
Thou Shalt Not Steal!
Water is a big issue when one lives on or at the edge of a desert. The Mormon Pioneers recognized the need for water as they entered the Great Salt Lake Valley and had, in fact, damned up City Creek two days before Brigham Young entered the valley. As the damned-up water was released, it was sufficient to flood and soften the soil, making it possible to sink a plow deep into the virgin earth so that lifesaving crops could be raised.
So, what happens when water, intended for the greater good of all, is selfishly horded, maybe even stolen? In Parowan, that issued has been addressed in a variety of ways.
On one occasion, a person newly called to a stake position was put before the congregation for a ratifying vote as to his worthiness to hold this lofty Church position in the Parowan Utah Stake. When the person presiding over the Stake Conference meeting asked, “All in favor of sustaining this person, please raise your hand,” it appeared that the vote was unanimous. But, when he said, “Any opposed, please so indicate,” one ancient, gnarled old hand was raised, followed by a much bent, aging form, a stern old man standing and signaling his disapproval.
The meeting went on, but the work-worn old man was invited to step out of the meeting and voice to proper priesthood authority the reasons for his negative vote, directed towards a neighbor.
Well, it didn’t take long in our small community to learn the reasons for the ancient ones displeasure. It seems he felt that week after week, when it was time to transfer water from one user to the neighboring user, this fine gentleman was too often a few minutes early in the transfer and the old man felt a water thief, even one who is only a minute or two early, was not acceptable before the Lord, as water was a greatly valued, precious commodity.
Valuable lessons were learned on that day. Many lessons were pondered in the Church and in the homes of Parowan.
It was Oct 16 and 17, 1907. Joseph Oscar Decker swears out a complaint against his brother, Mahonri Moriancumor Decker for assault. Mahonri pleaded “not guilty.” Witnesses were called and “the charge proven.” Mahonri was fined $10.00. It was over water, irrigation rights, whose water turn was it? Whatever the specifics, it was over water!
Taking Charge of One’s Problems – recalled by Ron Smith
The biggest phenomenon Ron Smith can ever remember in connection with the store was the popularity of what the kids called “water weenies.” They would come in and buy a 4 foot piece of surgical tubing and a Bic-click pen. They’d take the top section of the pen, along with all the insides, and throw them away. All that was left was the point end of the pen. They would tie a knot in one end of the surgical tubing; on the other end they would firmly insert what was left of the pen. This, of course, was the squirt end of the water weenie. Once full of water, it would go around their bodies several times. The water pressure in these “water weenies’ would last quite a while, and at first they had a great deal of power; they could shoot a stream of water clear across Main Street.
When Ron first bought Fenton’s, there was a water fountain on the sidewalk out in front of the store. There was no handle to turn the water on; it just bubbled up non-stop. Whenever you wanted a drink, there was always a fresh supply just for the taking.
This was the favorite place for the kids to fill their water weenies. They’d push the pen down in the fountain and before you knew it the water weenie was full. Once full, the kids didn’t waste any time using them. One of their favorite targets was the front windows of Miriam’s Style Shop which was a ladies clothing store just north of my Fenton’s.
Miriam’s husband, Jay Moore, had finally had it with cleaning those windows, and he always blamed that fountain. One morning Ron came to work and noticed the fountain was gone, and where it had stood was nothing but a fresh layer of cement. It seems as though Jay had spent a rather busy night. It might have lightened his window cleaning, but it didn’t phase the water weenie business; in fact, Ron’s medical supply company rep said Fenton’s sold more surgical tubing than any other store they called on!
Parowan’s Original Slip and Slide
Recalled by Frankie Lou Bentley and Katrine Rowley
Throughout the lazy days of summer, one could sit on Main Street in Parowan and listen to the water in the irrigation ditches. It was a pleasant sound! Adults knew it was the sound of a life-saving resource as grown-ups appreciated the great value of getting irrigation water to every lot, to every vegetable garden in town.
And, while the children didn’t really appreciate the life-saving aspect of this water, by the middle of summer there were places on Main Street where moss formed along the concrete bottom of the ditches, generally on the east side of the street, and the fun began. It was then that the children, the boys in old levis, often cut-offs, and the girls in fancier but very modest swim suits, would slide down the ditch on top of the moss, giggling and playing, filling their summer afternoons with one of the best out-of -doors activities ever.
The best places for these exciting events began near the Johnny Dalton property where one could slide all the way to the intersection of Main and Center, or you could enter the slide a half block north of Center and Main Street, starting in front of the pool hall, across from the show house. It was about a half-block slide as well. Oh, the fun that was had in the dog-days of summer!
Parowan Folks are in the Movies
Information shared by Mary Gae Lyman Evans
Information about this tale is recorded in the “Mary Lyman Book”
In 1939, 20th Century Fox Movie Company released “Drums Along the Mohawk” staring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert. The feature was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by John Ford; both producer and director were arguably the finest in the world at that time.
The movie was a huge box-office success. It grossed over $1 million dollars the first year and was nominated for two academy awards. It was Ford’s first feature film in color and the first time Claudette Colbert had been in a “Technicolor” film. It was reported that she worried she wouldn’t look as good in color as she did in black and white pictures and she was somewhat reluctant to play the role.
Sidney Valley, a beautiful area above Parowan and just north of the Mammoth, became the set for the movie. The story was a 1776 Revolutionary War story, supposedly occurring in the New York area. Since Sidney Valley was Lyman land, Rulon Lyman, Mary Gae Evans’ Father, helped a lot with the labor and he furnished a team of horses for the movie. The Lyman family built a “Hollywood” church and fort as well. Many people from Parowan worked as extras, including Rulon Lyman and his children, Roma, Mack, Mary Gae, and a cousin, Don Lyman. A number of other Parowan residents participated with equipment and as extras as well. These were the Depression years and the wages were well above those offered locally.
When shooting the movie was completed, Rulon and Ray Lyman, brothers, got a contract to cleanup up the movie set and some of the materials were used in building the Rulon Lyman home in Parowan, the home Mary Gae Lyman Evans lives in today.
For the local folks, this movie adventure is still remembered as fun times, with tattles and tales attached to the “goings on” up on the mountain. Some are recalled in local journals, others through oral histories told by the children and grandchildren who heard the original tales from fathers and grandfathers. One such tale is that Henry Fonda proved to be “a fine man, personable and enjoyable to be around” while Claudette Colbert “didn’t much appreciate the locals and remained aloof.” In any event, for those from the area, hanging out with the Hollywood folks offered a break from the troubles of the day and added an air of excitement to the, otherwise, doldrums of everyday living in the hard 1930’s.
As a side note, as far back as old-timers can remember, whenever you met up with the Lymans of Parowan, you found beautiful horses including some big-time race horses that won large purses. Every Lyman rode horses and rode them well. They started young. Ruth, the youngest daughter of Rulon Lyman, was too young to be an “extra” in the Hollywood production, but she rode around the mountain with Dad on a favorite horse, Brownie. For his daughter’s safety, Rulon tied the saddle strings around Ruth’s legs so she wouldn’t fall off. She was three years old.
*If you’re interested: You can still purchase “Drums Along the Mohawk” on the internet.
First Nationally Famous Person Visits Parowan
The historic plaque on the southwest corner of 1st South and Main is a reminder of the first nationally famous person who spent time in Parowan with the pioneers.
On Feb. 6, 1854, a bitterly cold night, Parowan settlers heard someone calling for help. Pres. John Calvin Lazell Smith blew out his light and stepped out of doors to see what was wanted. He feared it might be an Indian attack. It was a white man in the snowdrift at the side of his home. The man was weak from hunger and almost frozen. He was helped into the home, warmed, and fed.
The nearly frozen man was John C. Fremont. Fremont was conducting a survey for the railroad when he and his men ran into trouble….cold, lack of food, worn out livestock. Upon learning other men in the survey party were out on Buckhorn Flat, the settlers brought them into Parowan and nursed them back to health. It was on the southwest corner of 1st South and Main, in Sister McGregor’s home, where Mr. Fremont was kindly cared for. She was a polygamist wife.
While in Parowan, Fremont wrote to his wife in Washington D.C.: “We owe our lives to these good Mormons, who not only cared for us for two weeks, but gave us food and new horses to continue our journey.”
Interesting note: A couple of years later (1856), when Fremont was running for President of the United States, he ran on the platform of opposition to the “twin relics of barbarism – slavery and polygamy.
Accommodating Habits and Caring for Others
In the 1950’s, Iron County approved and built a new Iron County Rest Home in Parowan, constructed just south of the old rest home but facing south on 69 East 100 South. The old home, which faced east on 1st East, was behind (north) the new facility and the intent was to demolish it when the new establishment was opened.
However, on “moving day” there was an elderly gentleman who resided in the old rest home who didn’t move. You see, he liked to drink a bit and he smoked. He was an “old-timer” and perhaps thought not too fit for polite company. As the policy went, he’d have to stop his habits in order to move to the newer, nicer, fresher accommodation. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t. At any rate, he remained in the old, now vacant home except for himself, until his death.
He was well cared for. His meals were provided by the rest home staff, he had visitors, and he was happy to stay in his old home. He wasn’t there too long but one can hope the old man was happier, habits and all, remaining in familiar surroundings.
What an example of caring for others’ struggles and adjusting to needs at hand, even if it means a small bend in a rule. This is so like the nature of this community.
Can’t Swim a Lick
Woodrow Decker was Parowan’s Streets and Water Manager for many years (late ‘50’s through the ‘80’s). No one was more dedicated to his job. One rule Woodrow absolutely would not bend was “City equipment was for City use.” No child got a ride to school and no one was picked up for a ride-along unless he/she was involved with the City and/or issues at hand.
One summer evening Woodrow’s son, Rod, said he’d like to go fishing at the Yankee with his Dad. Woodrow indicated he had to “check the 4-Bay on the way up” and instructed Rod to please give him a head start and pick him up at the weirs. He’d leave the City truck there, and they’d continue on to fish.
All was accomplished, the 4-Bay water was checked and regulated, Woodrow jumped in with Rod, and they were off.
As they returned just after dark, there was a great deal of commotion at the 4-Bay. They pulled in behind a lot of emergency vehicles with a lot of people swarming along the stream and peering into the water weirs. Woodrow sprang out of his vehicle and asked a person nearby what was happening. Without looking up, the individual said, “They’re looking for Woodrow Decker. They figure he’s fallen into the water. His city pick-up is here but he’s not. You know he can’t swim a lick!”
Woodrow laughed for years that “Rumors of my death were somewhat exaggerated.”
Notable in the Parowan Cemetery
The gravesite on the northeastern corner of the entire original cemetery is that of Almera Johnson Smith Barton. The headstone indicates she was the plural wife of Joseph Smith Jr., the first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her descendants believe she was the first plural wife of the Prophet Joseph. She later married Rueben Barton. It is from that union that her descendants come.