It is said that the spark within that gives man a desire to improve himself and his environment is the distinguishing quality of humankind, and is possessed by man in varying degrees. Certainly the White River pioneers had their fair share of this spark. Gardening and horticultural skills are discussed elsewhere. In addition the women applied their skills with needle, hook and loom to convert their shelters into comfortable and lovely homes.
Almost every home had "wall to wall" carpeting in one or more rooms, woven on hand looms by Grandma (Mary L.) Oxborrow or Sarah O'Donnell. These rugs were made from old clothing cut or torn in strips a few inches wide and stitched together in continuous longer strips. The woven lengths were about a yard wide and had to be stitched together into room size rugs. No great care was taken with colors and the finished product was a multicolored blend that had a beauty and charm of its own and complemented any early century decor. These rugs were given resilience by putting a layer of straw underneath. Once or twice a year they were taken up, hungover the clothes line and shaken, swept and pounded to remove the accumulated dust (and what with unpaved roads, scant vegetation and no vacuum cleaners, the accumulation was considerable). The carpet was then tacked down again over a fresh, clean layer of straw. Pulling the rug taut and making it straight was no small feat in itself and required two people.
Every home also had braided and some what later, hooked scatter rugs that were often conversation pieces. These, too, were made from old clothing, cotton pieces for the braided and wool for the hooked rugs.
Nothing was wasted. These resourceful people were past masters in recycling before the term became popular.
Rug bees, a joint effort on the part of all the women in the neighborhood, were social events as well. Sometimes they worked for an afternoon or sometimes all day with dinner served at noon. Some of the women cut and stitched strips of rags that were rolled into balls for weaving later or for braiding, or cut strips of wool that were to be worked into hooked rugs. Other shooked or braided, while some with an artistic bent, keeping an image of the finished product in mind, made suggestions as they went along. The artistry lay in the designs chosen and the mixing and blending of colors, and often there would be a lively discussion concerning the respective merits of a certain design or combination of colors.
Quilting bees were much on the same order as rug bees. The quilts ran the gamut from utilitarian denim or flannel, sometimes tied instead of quilted and often used for camp quilts, others using plain pieced scraps, to the delicate heirloom quilts carefully pieced or appliqued and intricately and elaborately quilted in patterns with descriptive names like the double wedding ring, log cabin, blazing star, etc. As children, we thought it was fun to sit on the floor under the quilt between all the feet listening to the chatting and exchange of news among the women, Belle Gardner, Delle Ivins, Sabra Oxborrow, Louisa Harrison, May Reid, Ellen Oxborrow, Lil Ashby,Ann Reid, Ella Fawcett, Bertha Smith, Alice Carter, Rebecca Sinfield, Ruth and Alice Gardner,Lucy Oxborrow and others at different times. At intervals the space became smaller as the finished sides were rolled under on the wooden frames and the chair backs they were tied to moved closer together until there was no longer room between the feet and we had to crawl out. Some of the daughters of these women later won recognition for their fine quilting and exquisite needlework, Zella Harrison Reid, Isabella Smith Chesnut, Lillian Ashby Sinfield, Mary Sinfield,Mazie Reid Ashby, Maggie Reid Hendrix and many others.
Knitting was a useful art that provided warm sweaters, socks, etc. My Aunt Ann Reid knit incessantly and during World War I, many of the things she and others knit were sent to the servicemen through the Red Cross. She taught me to knit small squares that were set together with squares other children had knit to make afghans for the Red Cross.
Embroidering, crocheting, tatting and knitting were all forms of artistic expression that enhanced the decor and added variety to the clothing of all ages from infants to grandmothers. Elaborate long dresses with embroidery, crocheted or tatted edgings and inserts were a must for babies, boys as well as girls, until they approached the walking stage. Then they were put into shorter versions with boys still in dresses or knickerbockers that resembled dresses with short pants underneath. The women made most of the clothes for the family. Sewing was simplified when they got Singer or other foot-treadle sewing machines. School and everyday clothes were a necessity but the twice-yearly nice dress was an event. One was for Christmas, the other for the Fourth and Twenty-fourth of July and the rest of the year they were worn for "Sunday best". A popular item at one time was a crocheted yoke set in petticoats and nightgowns for girls and women. Styles change but these arts have not been lost. Rather they have been added to and expanded on, due in part to the once a month Relief Society "work day", which is a teaching and exchange program of skills and crafts that is described in the section on the Relief Society.
Early methods of food preparation and preservation are treated in another section but the art of cookery is not neglected in the new Relief Society programs and good nutrition is emphasized along with attractive looks and tasteful table settings. To date three cookbooks have been compiled and published by the Stake Relief Society and contributions of old pioneer as well as modern gourmet recipes were supplied to each of these by many of the White River women.
Painting and drawing got off to a slow start mainly because people in general thought they required a special talent and one either had it or didn't have it. The meager and perfunctory school programs that stressed realism above creativity were more discouraging than helpful to beginners, so among the earliest pioneers, Delle Redd Ivins and her sister Vilo Redd Snow were the town artists, and many of the homes had examples of their art hanging on their walls. Delle's daughter, Lillis caught the spark from her mother and began painting early. In the Ivins home one wall of the parlor, which in those days was used only on special occasions, was completely covered with paintings for the most part by family members.
Neil Gardner, Sr. early in his life developed an interest in drawing and painting which he has maintained and developed to the present time. His subjects range from landscapes and animal pictures to mechanical drawings and some of the pictures of old buildings, machinery, etc. in this history are some he has drawn from memory. Quite late in life, Sabra Oxborrow Peacock discovered she had a talent and became the "Grandma Moses" of Lund. She painted prolifically in oils during the later years of her life, sold some of her paintings and gave away many. One hangs in the Relief Society room of the church.
A very talented artist and comparative newcomer to the town is Mollie Kaye Griffin Reid. A native of South Carolina, she married Max Reid. She has exceptional versatility and works with a number of mediums. Her portraits and character pictures of children are especially appealing and she has had exhibitions of her paintings at the Ely National bank as well as receiving many ribbons at the County fairs. She has been very generous in sharing her knowledge and techniques in adult and young people's classes and as a result painting as a hobby has become quite popular and many homes can now boast of originals by members of the family. A more meaningful program in the schools has contributed to this wider interest.
Several former residents have developed their talents to quite a degree as artists and/or artteachers. Among these are Jack Gubler and LaRose Ashby. La Vere Hutchings, who specializes in water colors, has had forty one-man shows at National Watercolor, Texas Fine Arts Exhibits, etc. He owns his own gallery where he teaches and has published two books on art, "It's Fun to Paint Old Shacks and Barns" and "Roads and Rivers".