During the early 1890's the L.D.S. Church with headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah was expanding by colonizing areas in Western and Southern Utah.
Eastern Nevada had been scouted and considered by the authorities as being good potential for colonizing. Among other places in Eastern Nevada, White River Valley was considered.
Along about 1896 or 97 work on the beautiful Manti Temple was coming to an end. Some of the workers, along with other people in Sanpete County with pioneer spirit, were offered an opportunity by the Church, who had asked for volunteers, to come to White River Valley to colonize and build a community. Two other settlements were being founded in White Pine County and Preston was to be the third. It was an area in White River Valley about 30 miles southwest of Ely.
There were two large ranches in the valley. They were called the "Home Ranch" and the Mattics Ranch". These ranches had been ceded to the Church in 1897 in lieu of other property escheated to the Federal Government of the United States. The Mattic Ranch was six miles northwest of the Home Ranch which was settled as Lund.
William B. Preston was the presiding bishop of the Church and the Mattic Ranch was to become a Mormon Community. A year later in 1898 several families from Sanpete County, and mostly from Moroni, who had heard of the place in Nevada that was open to settlers had decided to come to White River Valley and settle. This had been a big decision on the part of these settlers as it meant giving up what they may have had in Utah, breaking family ties, leaving friends and neighbors to come to a place unknown to them, except for meager information that they had received concerning it.
After much planning, getting ready and etc., on the 5th of March 1898, nine volunteers, mostly heads of families, took leave from their wives, children, relatives and friends with their "tools of their trade" in their wagons, and seeds, clothes and other essentials, with faith in their hearts and great hope for the future, they left Moroni for their new home in White River Valley. The members of the party were: George Morley, Isaac Morley, Orlando Morley, James Jensen,Hy Arnoldsen, John Sorensen, Lewis Lauritzen, Albert Gee, Z. D. Bradley and William C.Bradley. George Morley, being the oldest of the party, took charge of them during the time they were on the road. During that March the weather was bad and the roads so poor that it took two weeks to make the trip, three hundred miles, from Moroni to White River Valley. On March 20,1898 these men camped on Water Canyon stream, in White River Valley. They moved into Lund the next day where a settlement had just begun to take form. When arriving in Lund they met a former acquaintance, Martin Petersen. After a brief rest, Martin Petersen and the Morleys decided to go to Ely and settle on the McQuitty Ranch which later became Georgetown.
The other members of the party came over to Preston where another acquaintance was working. He was Daniel T. Nicholas. He was much help to the newcomers as he had been here for some time. Z. D. Bradley, James Jensen and Frank Fairbanks leased the Mattic and Home Ranch until the ranches were divided among the settlers. This gave work to most of the men who were here and to those coming. This was a big help to the people until they could get started on their own land.
More settlers were arriving, some to stay, others came to make arrangements for their property and then went back to get their families. John Sorensen brought his family in the fall of1898. Thomas Windous came with him. Z. R. Bradley and his family arrived then also. Both families lived together in the old Company house. Z.R. Bradley began immediately hauling log she cut in the surrounding hills. He hand hewed these logs to fit and built the first home in Preston in 1899. His wife, Martha Jane, is referred to as being the first woman of Preston. Shewas a god-send to those who came later. She was always cheerful, friendly and willing. With the help of Frances (Fanny) Horsley she served as midwife and nurse.
In 1906 while Hyrum S. Arnoldsen was Bishop the people decided there was need for a better trained person to take over the job of midwife and nurse. Mrs. Thomas C. Windous was chosen to be that person. This proved to be a wise choice as she proved worthy of the trust.
The people of Preston all helped pay for her training. With her training, pleasant disposition and a natural instinct for healing, she certainly was a pleasant sight to all those in need of medical attention. She continued in this capacity as nurse and midwife and all her efforts were deeply appreciated by those she served. She moved her maternity ward to Ely in the late 20's and continued on for many years with her practice. By then everyone had cars or other means of transportation and the people of White River Valley as well as other places still had much better service than while she was in Preston as there were much more modern conveniences such as electricity, running water, etc. During her time in Preston she delivered some 350 babies, the first one was Marinus Tilby, as well as taking care of other nursing needs. This was not all the babies in the area as Mrs. Lucy Bruno also was a midwife and delivered many babies while in Preston.
John P. Horsley and family moved over from Lund to help with the building. He built some homes of adobe and rock. Some of the men went to work at Duck Creek, northeast of Ely. They took part of their pay in sawed timbers and lumber which they hauled to Preston and built more homes. Albert Gee, being a carpenter, was a big help with those first homes. A few of the men spent the first winter baling hay on the Home Ranch and hauling it to Delamar, a ten day trip from Preston. Edward Daniel Funk had been out here and made arrangements for his farm and a place to live. He moved out from Manti, Utah with his family in 1900. His brother, Ezra Funkand 0.C. "Obb" Peacock with their families also came at this time. Ed Funk went to Salina, Utah and with the help of Albert Gee and "Obb" Peacock brought a saw mill to Preston. He setup the mill and powered. it with water. The men would go up in the hills and get logs and Ed Funk would saw them into lumber and house logs. Many of the first homes were built from these logs and lumber. The first one was Oliver Cloward's. Ed also put up a blacksmith shop and took over and did the black smithing until there was no longer need for a blacksmith.
Under the leadership of Bishop Styler, whom the Church sent out to take charge of the settling of White River Valley district, the land and water were divided by drawing lots. All business transactions relative to the land and water were handled for the Church by the Nevada Land and Livestock Company. A townsite had already been selected and surveyed. It was four blocks long (east and west) two blocks wide (north and south). One two acre lot was set aside to be used as a place to store products taken in as tithing. On one side was built a large barn for hay and grain, and on the other side, a cellar for potatoes and other root crops. This lot is now private property. The barn is gone but the cellar is still in use. The town was named Preston after Bishop William B. Preston, the presiding Bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah.
More people were arriving and the town was taking shape. Some of the families to arrive at this time were: H. S. (Hy) Arnoldsen, Niels P. Jensen, Robert (Bob) Ruppe, the Thompsons, Bernsens, and Peter and Orson Lauritzen. Some of them doubled up in the old Company house,until they could get settled in their own home.
Many of the people went together and planted gardens which were divided so that more people could benefit from them. In this way the people enjoyed the willingness of service together.
In July 1898 a Sunday School was organized with Samuel Carter as superintendent. Bishop Thomas Judd of St. George had been in charge of the settlements in White Pine County and was the presiding bishop over them. On April 30, 1899, he effected a branch organization with Z.R. Bradley as Presiding Elder. Later on in 1900 a Relief Society was organized with Martha Jane Bradley as president. On the same occasion a Y.L.M.I.A. was organized with Mrs. Anne Arnoldsen, as president. A Y.M.M.I.A. was organized with Soren C. Christensen as president. A Primary Association was formed with Ida Jensen as president. Now, Preston formed a part of the White Pine Ward which combined all the saints in White Pine County.
On October 13, 1901 Preston organized as a separate Ward with Hyrum S. Arnoldsen as bishop. Preston then belonged to the St. George Stake. Later in 1910, Preston Ward was transferred to the North Weber Stake as communication with Ogden as headquarters was much easier and faster than with St. George. Preston later in 1926 became part of the Nevada Stake which had been organized.
The first church meetings were held at the home of Elder Z. R. Bradley. In the summer months they were held in a bowery on the lots east of where the road forks to go to Lund. By this time the men had cut and hauled logs. Ed Funk squared them on two sides and a ward hall 20 x30' was being built. It was to be used for their church and also a school house.
The first school was held in the old Company house. The first students were Joe and Everett Bradley, Clarence Jensen, Edith, Alpha, and Virgil Ruppe, Eloise and Ina Windous, JohnnieBatty, Nora Thompson and Jemima Horsley. The first teacher was Mary Rutledge from backEast. They held school in a little log cabin on the Mart Petersen lots north of where the ward hall was being built. Other teachers were Miss Louise Lewis, Miss Vilo Redd, Mrs. Brown, EthelBaylis, Fannie Daniel, Sarah Q. French, Etta Sarver, Mrs. Olive Loveland, Eva Olsen, Marie Olsen, Fannie Daniel, Fannie Cunningham, Jessie Grosvenor, Ellen Morrall, Merle Morin, Grace Steinman, Lillis Ivins, J. R. Warne, Helen K. Warne, Mrs. Elvin M. Woods, Miss Eloise Woods, Miss Geraldine Rosevear, Eva Petersen, Mildred Reid, Ida Henri, L. E. Long, Andrew Crofut, Burt Grant Moulton, Ione Hermansen, Ralph Brimhall, Bessie Snow, Chester W. Cheel, Irma Weber, Lillian Funk, Felton Hickman, Ida Jensen, Wayne Lytle, Alice Spencer, J. Lee Olsen, Donald C. Parkinson, Charles Funk, Irene Wankier, Eva Petersen, Mrs. Hendrix, Fannie Daniel.
Before the ward hall was built the social gatherings were held in private homes. The first Christmas was celebrated in the home of Dan T. Nicholas. After the ward hall was finished it served as school house during the week, church house on Sundays, and a place for all social occasions. Later as there were more children, more logs were cut and squared and the school house--ward hall was rebuilt to twice the original size and two teachers were employed. It served in this capacity until 1915 when a new concrete school house was built in the north part of town on land donated by Ed Funk. It had two rooms, a nice library and office. This served Preston until the school was consolidated with Lund in 1956 and the children went to school by bus.
The settlers had all drawn for their land and because of a mix up they had to trade around until it was straightened out. Some had been lucky and drew plots that were already in meadows or hay, but others had to clear the brush and level before cultivation could begin.
Machinery was scarce so the settlers exchanged what they had with each other. The main tools were plows, harrows, markers and a brusher left by the company. Grain and alfalfa were broadcast by hand, harrowed in and marked off so it could be irrigated. Potatoes were "plowedin" in the spring and harvested by plowing them out in the fall.
The Preston Irrigation Company was formed and was charged with the equal distribution of the water. The first officers were: E. D. Funk, D. T. Nicholas, Z. D. Bradley and two other members.
Most of the ditches were laid out by Ed Funk. He made a level by using a 4 foot length of 1/2 inch pipe with elbows on either ends. This was filled with water and a medicine bottle, partly filled with water and sealed in each end. This attached to a 2 x 4 with the bottles up could be used as a level. By mounting this on a tripod and sighting through the water level in the bottles, he could determine the proper amount of fall for the ditches.
Settlers that came later took up homesteads from the government. It took quite awhile to get this land to produce. Hay and grain were the main crops raised at first and later potatoes.
After the grain was raised it had to be harvested. Z. D. Bradley and Andrew Jensen bought a binder and did custom work as well as their own. A thresher was bought and hauled in from Modena, Utah. It was powered by six teams of horses and took thirteen men for a full crew. After most of the crops were in the threshing crew would go with the thresher to each farm in turn and thresh their grain. The farmer's wife would serve them their meals while they were there. The children always had a good time during threshing playing in the straw pile. Tractor shave since replaced the horses and combines have replaced the binder and threshers.
After they got the land into production the rabbits moved in. In the winters the men and boys got together and organized a rabbit hunt. They put up rabbit tight fences forming a corral with long wings. When the snow got deep, some mounted horses and some on foot, all armed with clubs, they would drive the rabbits into the corral and kill them. In this way the rabbits were note liminated but were thinned out. The rabbit hunt became an annual event. The men would choose sides, the losing side would furnish the supper and dance, which always followed the hunt. This event still being held has been combined with Lund but has changed to shot guns and pick up trucks. The number killed has varied from 300 to 5,000.
Haying was always a lot of hard work--usually caused by trouble from the elements. Everyone tried to get their hay up without getting it rained on or letting it get too dry because of wind or having to water under it because of not getting it "off" in time or some other thing going wrong.
(Essentially the process of haying was the same for the whole valley and has been described in the section on industries.)
Some of the first derricks were rather crude and simple. This one, not described else where, was probably the first. It was made by setting a large pole in the ground and attaching another toit with a chain about twelve feet from the ground. This chain was attached closer to the butt than the small end. Then by tying the butt down close to the butt of the one on the ground made the small end extend out in a diagonal direction. This worked as a swinging boom. A rope (metal or hemp) was put through the pulleys at the base of the pole on the ground, taken up through one at the butt of the boom, then out through one at the end of the boom. This end was fastened to a Jackson Fork which was a large four-tined curled fork. This was pushed into the hay on the wagon, the bail fastened in a way that kept the fork when lifted, at an angle that made the haystay on it. There was a rope attached to the lock on the bail and was held onto by the person unloading. A horse called derrick horse was hitched to the other end of the rope and when it was led ahead the fork with the hay would rise and swing over the stack. When in place the man stacking would holler, "Dump" and the man on the wagon would jerk the rope and the bail would unhitch letting the hay fall. This was repeated until the wagon was unloaded.
The derrick described else where with four logs joined for a base with an upright pole to hold the boom operated in much the same way but it could be moved by dragging. It was known as the "Mormon Derrick". The "two poled" derrick that used nets to lift the hay has also been described in a previous section.
Hay was also stacked by "rolling". This method took only ropes. Two ropes were laid over the stack and fastened to the ropes or nets under the load of hay on the wagon. A cable forked at the end was thrown over the load and each fork fastened to the ropes or nets on the opposite side of the load. This cable extended out over the stack and a team was hitched to it. As they pulled,the load of hay would roll onto the stack and then was spread out by the stacker.
These methods were used for many years but have all been replaced by the windrower, baler and bale wagon stacker. Some of these old derricks can still be seen in isolated places. Some of the two poled derricks are still standing and come in very handy to hoist things to load and to hang animals during the butchering process.
The two men who pitched the hay on the wagons had to be good strong men to be able to pitch all day. There was usually one that was outstanding at this job and it was considered a great accomplishment for a younger boy or man to pitch all day and stay up with a good pitcher. Sometimes it was called a way of separating the men from the boys.
The hay that was raised was freighted to Tonopah, as well as Delamar where it was sold or traded for supplies. About 1905 Ely started to grow and provided a much closer market for the products.
The settlers soon learned that there was more land than water to irrigate it. With this in mind they began looking for ways to increase their water supply. They dug out and cleaned the springs with little or no increase. They then noted that the big spring that furnished most of their water ran to waste several months during the winter. They began to look for a place that this water could be stored in winter and then used in summer to irrigate the crops. A place was found about two miles north of Preston that suited the purpose and under the supervision of the Preston Irrigation Company, work started that fall.
The amount of fill dirt that it would take to build the dam seemed more than it was possible to move with the means they had to move it, but the people were undaunted by the size of the project and took to the task of building it with high hopes for success. It took several years of work mostly in fall and winter to complete the project. It had to be done with teams of horses pulling fresnoes, wheel scrapers, tongue scrapers, big router plows to break up the ground and wagons with false bottoms to dump the dirt. The seemingly endless task at last began to take the shape of a dam and this seemed to give the workers more vigor and incentive to continue to a finish.
During this time it was also noted that several times a year cloud bursts sent large streams of water down the Jakes Valley wash. This usually flooded and caused damage to cropland. Also most years large amounts of spring run-off came down this wash and ran to waste. The Irrigation Company then found that by building a dam across the wash and a long ditch this water, too, could go into the reservoir. The same was true with the Black Jack drainage and so a dam was made across that wash and diverted the water into the reservoir. For a time water from the Giroux wash (water pumped from the Giroux mine) added to the flow until the mine quit pumping. It was impossible to hold the Jakes Valley water with a small diversion dam so a large storage dam was begun farther upstream which washed out and had to be rebuilt. Another problem was that the one or two times the reservoir filled, mud filled the drainage pipes and the water remained in the reservoir.
These dams and ditches took countless hours and much hard work but were done without question as the result was thought to justify the means. The spring was finally turned into the reservoir and most of the people were jubilant as they expected much more water from all these sources. It was watched daily and as the pond grew so did the people's hope. It was not long until it was noted that it was not filling and only occasionally it seemed to rise. Hope was not dimmed too much for they still looked forward to having the flood waters from Jakes Valley and Black Jack. They thought the water with all the silt it carried would seal up the bottom of the reservoir and make it hold.
Ditches were made from the dam to the farms and in the spring a little water reached the farms. This went on for three or four years but finally it was decided that this means of getting water was a failure and it was abandoned. Due to weather changes that have occurred it sometimes is years now between floods that in the beginning occurred every summer.
The Jake Valley reservoir has since been added to and taken over by the livestock men as a water hole for cattle. Although the Black Jack dam still diverts water into the reservoir it is of little value in furnishing irrigation water but the dam served one purpose and still does--it stopped the floods through Preston. The big Preston reservoir still sits there gradually eroding with only an occasional small pond in the bottom from storms and floods. It may have been a failure as an irrigation project, but it is a staunch reminder of what people working together with hope and determination can do.
The Preston people were a determined group and when these dams failed to provide the water hoped for, some of the families, under the supervision of the Preston Irrigation Company, had visions of developing another settlement. This one was to be located in Reveille Valley some hundred miles southwest of Preston. The exact place was the drainage area from Echo Canyon.
A group of Irrigation Company stockholders gathered up "fresnos", wheel scrapers, plows and etc. and after the harvest was over and they had time to leave home they took off for Echo Canyon.
Under the supervision of Ed Funk, president of the Irrigation Company, and Martin Petersen they started to build a dam across the Echo Canyon Wash. They were going to build a large dam, catch the "run off" in winter and early spring and use it to irrigate the land below during the summer. They spent three winters down there building dam, laying out ditches and etc. and then in the spring of the third year a large storm came and the unusual amount of water washed away most of the dam and destroyed the ditches, dikes and other irrigation structures.
Some gave up the idea that spring and said they had enough, others thought they would go back and try again but never did--so another dream of developing irrigation water went down the"Echo Canyon Wash".
The Church meetings, Sunday School, M.I.A. and Sacrament meetings were all held in the old ward hall. In 1912 the new Relief Society building had been finished and dedicated. This building was built under the leadership of Martha Jane Bradley and her Relief Society organization, also the help and work of all the ward members and their families. For many years it was used only by the Relief Society for its meetings and activities, but later it was used for all church affairs. This left the old ward hall for social gatherings and all other meetings not connected with the church.
Baptism, from the time of the first settlers up to the time of moving our Church to Lund, was a ritual participated in by nearly everyone in town. It was usually done in an irrigation ditch where the water could be backed up to a suitable depth. When the records showed that there were one or several children that had reached the age of eight and there would be no more of that age until some of the ones eight would be nine, it was then time for a Baptism. A day was set and everything necessary was done in readiness for the event. The boys and girls to be baptized were always given lots of advice by those who had been baptized. The advice usually went along the line of do's and dont's. The first do was hold your breath or you will choke, keep your feet together, close your eyes, keep your body stiff etc. Don't struggle, bend your knees, try to rollover and be scared and many more. After giving the advice they always told how they stuck one foot out and had to be rolled over in the water or their knees stuck up or something else went wrong and they had to be submersed again. Those being baptized were always scared and afraid they would do something wrong, but one thing, after it was all over, they could look forward to being the ones to give advice to those that followed.
H. S. Arnoldsen was the first Bishop of Preston. He served until 1912. He was succeeded by Christian Hermansen, who in 1918, was succeeded by Niels P. Jensen, who in 1926 was succeeded by Pharo Arnoldsen who in 1928 was succeeded by Andrew L. Petersen who was succeeded by James Neilson who was succeeded by Lloyd Oxborrow. Each one proved his ability as a leader and helped in the building up of the church and community. During Lloyd Oxborrow's term, the members dwindled to so few that the church turned the Preston members over to the Lund Ward.
Social activities were always held under the direction of the church and before the ward house was built the parties were held in different homes. In the early days the orchestra was made up of Z. D. Bradley, Andrew Jensen and George Morley. Later on anyone showing musical talent would help out with the music. At first an organ was used for all church music as well as socials. Later a player piano was purchased and used for the social events.
Saturday afternoons were set aside as a holiday in the first years of the settlement. A baseball team was organized and rivalry between Lund and Preston existed. Other sports such as boxing, pitching horseshoes, pulling horses, horse and foot races, high and broad jump, and more were part of the enjoyment.
The twenty-fourth of July was a real big celebration, parade, programs, barbecue and all kinds of sports with the highlight of the day being a dance from 8:00 to 12:00 M. Usually a kid's dance was held in the afternoon. Mayday was a big day, which was usually spent at the Berryman Meadow. Braiding the Maypoles and crowning the King and Queen of May added to the fun.
Christmas Eve with Santa Claus and programs of church, school and other organizations was entertainment looked forward to by the young and old alike. Other days that were observed with programs or socials of some sort were Thanksgiving, New Years, and on leap year there was always a dance "ladies choice". (This gave the men and boys a chance to find out how popular they were). The Fourth of July, Election day, Valentines Day, Halloween, and others of a different nature including traveling shows were enjoyed.
Not many years after the settlers arrived and the Church organizations were functioning there arose a small problem of coordinating all organizations in sponsoring, scheduling and "carrying out" all social functions during the holidays. To solve this, a committee was chosen usually made up of three or four of the young people supervised by the head of one of the church organizations. This committee was charged with scheduling, and helping with all holiday socials, dances, programs and responsible for financing them. One such was the Christmas Eve program with all the candy, presents, Santa, etc. Other dances, programs and parties were their responsibility. After the holiday season was over, there was an accounting of the finances and it was usually found that there were a few dollars over after all expenses were paid. This was turned over to some of the church organizations.
Then one time the committee held a discussion on how to improve on what they were doing, and after some discussion it was decided that most of the social functions favored the young and it was suggested that something be done for the older people. They decided that they would put on a dinner and party with program and dancing free to all over forty years of age. The young married folks would furnish the dinner and other refreshments. The committee would arrange for the program, music etc. The party usually started about 6 o'clock in the evening. To finance the party and dance, the money left over from the holidays was used and considered a very worthy cause. Also about 9:30 the young people were invited to come and join in. They were all either charged a ticket or asked for a donation to help with any additional expense.
The "Old Folks Party" became a looked forward to tradition and was held every year. When there became too few people in Preston for a good party it was combined with Lund and is still a social looked forward to by the local people and all former residents of the Valley that can possibly arrange to attend.
When the people first settled in Preston and for a few years later most of the social gatherings were in private homes. Then they started meeting for church and social gatherings in a meeting place. Since they were all very busy in the spring and summer most of the socials were held in the fall and winter. It was apparent that fuel (wood) for heat and cooking was needed and had to be provided. The only way of getting it was hauling it from the hills with teams and wagons.
Under the leadership of Bishop Hyrum S. Arnoldsen a unique method was conceived of that lasted until the town merged with Lund. The method was that each family would haul a load of wood. Some larger families would let some of their boys help a neighbor with the wood. Some chose to pay a small fee for not furnishing a load of wood. To add interest and make this a morewelcome task, a dead line was in the fall for all the wood to be delivered. That day the women would cook up something good to eat, and that night the whole town would gather and have areal old fashioned "Ho-down", and a delicious meal would be served by the ladies. The cash taken in would help pay what expenses were incurred. Hence the "Wood Dance" became a tradition.
The people of Preston were a gregarious group always looking forward to getting together and having a good time. One of these occasions was the Basket, Bow, or Box Lunch Dance. No matter what it was called it was the same kind of social. Sometimes it was held for different purposes, such as fund raising, depicting a special purpose but the results were always the same--a good time. The ladies and girls would each fix up and decorate a box or basket, trying to outdoeach other in making it the most attractive. Then they would put in a delicious lunch for twopeople, close it and tie it with ribbon and make a big bow out of the ribbon. At the dance, if itwas for fund raising, the boxes or baskets were put on display and these were auctioned off to the highest bidder during a break for lunch. If it was just a social of another nature, sometimes the purchase of a dance ticket received a number and at lunch time he could claim the lunch with his number on it. On some occasions you got your lunch by choosing the set of ladies' feet that extended from under a curtain. There were other variations. No matter how you got the lunch box you were always privileged to eat lunch and have a waltz that always followed with the donor. You seldom knew who you were going to have lunch with, but one thing you did know for sure was you were going to have a delicious lunch and a very enjoyable time.
Halloween was celebrated in different ways at different times. One time in addition to the typical practice of overturning toilets and cutting clotheslines, a group gathered up three wagons that were parked in the street and all the gates in town that could be lifted off the hinges with theuse of much baling wire (Mormon buckskin) all were fastened into a corral on the Black Hill and all the milk cows in town were put in it. A toilet from the old ward lot was placed near the corral and arranged as an "office", with a sign across it reading "Boy Stouts".
The next morning the farmers all had to go looking for their cows and gates. After the surprise, shock, and madness wore off, the boys who did it always were just as surprised and innocent as anyone but willing to help put everything back in shape. No one ever knew who the "Boy Stouts" were but for years after when there was an odd or hard to explain thing occurred someone always "came up" with maybe the Boy Stouts did it.
During the early days and continuing up until recent years, the M.I.A. was credited with arranging for much entertainment. In winter they sponsored many socials such as progressive suppers, ice cream parties, treasure hunts, plays and programs. They also taught the young people different dances and then they would go to the stake and in competition with other wards show what they had accomplished. They also had skating and skiing parties, and sleigh rides. In the summer the young people, especially the boys, went swimming where the irrigation water was diverted resulting in a pond of some degree. At one time the men and boys of Preston dugout a hole and put in a dam making a nice swimming hole on an irrigation stream. They installed diving boards--one high and one low-and people from far and near came and enjoyed swimming. This went on for a few years but had to be discontinued as it interfered with the irrigation water. Other types of activity were Boy Scouts and later on 4-H Clubs.
On Saturdays in early spring when due to weather conditions or other reasons, the school age boys did not have to work at home, they could be found down on the "Black Hill" indulging in a sport that was unique to Preston and participated in for many years. It was called "mud slinging". Although the name was the same, it was in no way similar to the political version.
It was played by using a green willow about four feet to six feet long and about 3/4" in diameter at the butt, the small end cut off where it was approximately 1/8" in diameter. Mud was obtained from the banks of the old channel and had to be of a certain texture to be used so that it would cling to the end of the willow. By holding the willow in the hand by the butt end and bringing it back over the shoulder and then swinging it forward with a fling the mud dob would fly off the end and travel up to a quarter of a mile.
Some of the boys got quite accurate at throwing the mud dobs. The ''Black Hill" no longer exists as such but was where Van Petersen's trailer park is now and just across the street to the south where the road goes to Lund. The old channel and ditches on either side made it an ideal mud slinging spot to hold mud slinging battles.
Sometimes towns people who were passing by were in the line of fire and some were hit by stray mud dobs. One day this happened and it was Andreas Anderson that got hit. It hit him in the ear and knocked off the leather cap he always wore. Ray Funk had just arrived on the scene but had not started to participate in the battle. Neither did he know that Andreas had been hit. He noticed that all the boys on both sides took off over through Allred's place. The reason for them running was Andreas had taken exception to being hit with a mud dob and took after them. Well, before Ray knew what was going on Andreas "had him", and with no regard for his pleading gave him a good paddling. After that Andreas was considered an onery old grouch--at least by Ray.
Nearly all the settlers in Preston ran livestock, some more than others. Some of the operators who ran their stock on the range were Hy Arnoldsen whose operation was from Moon River--Z.D. Bradley and Bill Goodman used Douglas Canyon as a base. Among others were D.T. Nicholas, Ed Funk, Herbert Allred, "Duff" Allred, James Bernsen, who used Cottonwood Canyon as a base, Tom Windous, Niels Jensen and a few others all ran cattle. Chris Jensen was the only one who ran sheep.
They all grazed their livestock in common in the area best suited to their farms and homes. They grazed mostly in White River Valley, north and south of Preston. Some got into Cave Valley in the summer. Some wintered in Jakes Valley north of Preston. They all used the water available such as the streams of Water Canyon, Rowe Creek, White River, Eph Creek and the irrigation streams around Preston. They also used small springs in the mountains.
All went well for a time and then it was noticed that the AdamsMcGill Company who ran hundreds of cattle and thousands of sheep were also using the range and water. It was also noticed that they were filing on the water and improving the facilities. When questioned by the Preston people the Company explained to the people that they had to file on these waters for everyone's protection and not to worry because the Company would never interfere with the people's livestock watering. The people took their word for it and all went well until Adams-McGill Company decided to go out of business in the late '20's.
Other livestock men started buying up the water and bringing in livestock--mostly sheep. Nature had also turned against the people and the range would not sustain the livestock it oncedid. As a result there was much trouble and many problems arose. Many of the people were forced to quit the livestock business.
A few years later the B.L.M. came into existence with a solution to all problems. They were going to make equitable distribution of the livestock and stabilize the livestock industry. To make a long story short, they caused all the little operators to go out of business, imposed many hardships on those remaining, and developed a bureaucracy. They not only hurt the livestock people but the miners and all others who used the public domain.
After Ely had grown to a sizable town and was becoming a better market for all farm products some of Preston people bought a herd of dairy cattle from Jim Gianopolis and went in the dairy business. Drought and depression caused the failure of this enterprise but did not discourage the people entirely. About 1922 they formed a corporation called the Preston Creamery Company. They sent a couple of their best dairymen to Wisconsin and they purchased a herd of Holstein dairy cattle.
R. D. "Mack" McKenzie from Lund had experience in operating a creamery, so he was hired to get them started. They used the name "Silver Mill" for their products so a new industry was born. McKenzie ran the creamery for a time, and trained Ezra Funk to operate it, which he did for a long time and then Chris Jensen took over and ran it until it closed. The cream was gathered every day and was taken to the creamery where it was churned, the butter wrapped and packaged and the buttermilk bottled ready for market. A dairy had started up in Ely and they were short of milk and cream and they offered more money and a chance to buy into the company so the Preston Creamery was forced to close.
Shortly after the dairy cattle were brought in from Wisconsin there was a rabies epidemic in the area. Several coyotes which apparently had the disease were killed--some right in town. One night one came into the corrals of Niels Jensen and bit some of the dairy cows. In killing the coyote and cutting its head off to send away for a determination whether it had the rabies or not, Herbert Allred and Niels Jensen both had handled it. The report came back positive and both men had to go and take the very painful Pasteur treatment. The cows that were bitten were killed.
After the creamery closed some of the milk was separated at home. In the early '30's there was an extremely bad winter. The snow was deep and drifted and it was cold. The road to Ely became closed and the dairy truck with the mail was having trouble. "Mack" McKenzie of Lund had the contract and made every effort possible to get through.
A group of Lund men "pooled" their teams and hooked six teams to two large Martin ditchers, hooked together and tried to plow the road. Some success was achieved but for the most part everything failed. So the mail was carried horseback for about two weeks until the roads could be opened. In the meantime the cream was piling up and the people had no place toput it. It created quite a problem for most but was a real convenience for the young people who enjoyed ice cream parties nearly every night. Many of the older ones enjoyed them too.
That same winter other problems arose. It was the practice of Elko County sheep men to winter their sheep in Coal Valley, Coyote Valley and White River Valley. That fall approximately one hundred fifty thousand head of sheep went south as usual. Most of the sheepmen head quartered in Preston during the winter and hired some of the Preston men. This always helped the economy of the town some. When the snow got bad and roads closed the sheep were in trouble trying to find food. Every effort was put forth to save the sheep. The owners started shipping in corn by the car load and hauling it to Preston by any means that could be obtained. It was taken by sleigh down the Valley to the sheep. Charles Funk and Sherman Bradley each with four horses and a sleigh were hauling to one area, and James Jensen and Randall Bradley were doing the same for another area. A similar operation was going on in Lund.
One trip that is hard to forget is told by Charles Funk. ''The 28th of January started out cold and windy. The snow was being blown until it was hard to tell if it was snowing or just blowing. A new shipment of corn had arrived and all four of the Preston corn haulers were hitched up and ready to go at day light. We all strung out and headed for the cove where we usually spent the night. Everything was going all right, so we were all off our sleighs walking behind to keep warm. The wind was really howling and buck shot sized pellets were hitting us in the face as we headed southwest.
The road was higher than the surrounding snow, as sleigh roads always build up. Occasionally there were drifts angling across the road making it hard to tell just where the road was. It was at one of these places that Sherman Bradley's leaders took the wrong place to go and left the road. Where they went off, the sleigh road was high and a small wash was right alongside. Before Sherman could get on his sleigh to correct the horses the sleigh was bottom side up on top of three tons of corn and a thousand pounds of oats. By the time we got the horses unhitched and the sleigh set back on the road the corn and oats were completely covered. We had to pick up each sack and put it back on the sleigh. It took two of us to pick up a sack, as each time we lifted our feet would go down in the snow a little farther. We finally got reloaded and on our way again and made it to the "Point" and camped that night.
It blew and snowed all that day and night making it pretty rough to melt snow for water etc. The next morning the wind had stopped but it was still very cold and cloudy. Sherman and I broke camp and headed toward Calloway's well. The camp tender had told us about where he would have camp up in a draw just west of what we called Oil Basin. The going was rough as the snow had drifted badly. We had to take turns breaking roads to make it easier on our horses. We were looking forward to making camp by night. We traveled all day and it was getting nearly dark and we hadn't found camp so we decided to make camp ourselves. We pulled up in a little draw and stopped and unhitched. By now it was dark. We had stopped where there was plenty of wood, so we put up our tin sheet and built a big fire under it and shoveled on the snow. Soon we had water running in a tub to water our horses. The snow was dry from freezing and the horses were thirsty. By the time we got them all watered and our supper cooked and eaten it was 2 o'clock in the morning. We unrolled our beds and crawled in wondering where that sheep camp was.
Next morning we got up and I walked up on the ridge to see if I could tell where we were and to my surprise there was the sheep camp in the next draw. We had missed it by about a quarter of a mile.
This would seem to be the end of the story, but there was more. We "hitched up" and drove over to camp. The camp tender and herders were sure glad to see us but were afraid that we were too late. We looked out across the "sea of white" and about two hundred yards away we could see gray spots dotting the area. The sheep had bedded down the night of the blizzard and had refused to get up. The dots were their heads sticking out of the snow. The camp tender and herders loaded up a load of corn on a little single bob and drove to the sheep. Then they each opened a sack of corn, threw it over their shoulder and started dribbling corn among the sheep. They made an odd sound with their vocal chords, known to them as the "salt call". In a few minutes sheep started to stir and soon nearly all had pulled themselves from the snow and started to eat the corn. This saved the lives of most of this band of sheep, but many did not get corn in time. As a result more than half of the 150,000 sheep that went south perished in the snow and mud that followed."
Growing potatoes at first was a lot of hard work as the ground had to be manured, irrigated and plowed. There were no planters and potatoes had to be dropped by hand in furrows and then covered by dragging a harrow over them until the furrows were full.
After they were up and getting dry for water they had to have furrows made between the rows. This was done by using a hand cultivator with a horse hitched to it. Quite often instead of holding the handles on the cultivator and driving the horse with lines, a boy would ride the horse and guide it.
Several times during the summer the potatoes had to be cultivated. This was done the same way except more teeth were put in the cultivator to stir the soil. Weeds grew well and had to be hoed out by hand. This was always a job that took a lot of work and was usually done by the older children, under protest.
After they were grown they had to be dug and placed in the cellar. For many years this was done by plowing them out and having to stir the dirt by hand to find them, place them in sack sand hauled to the cellar to be stored, sorted and sold.
Later some of the farmers got a shaker plow to dig them. This had a scoop type blade with a slotted metal grill hinged to it. Under this was a small paddle wheel type of wheel that as the plow was pulled along, a paddle would come up and hit the grill and raise it a little. This helped to put the potatoes on top of the ground instead of having to scratch for them. Later years self planters were used and diggers that separated the potatoes from the dirt and laid them out on top. Potato growing was sometimes quite profitable but always was a lot of hard work.
About 1928 the people of Preston were growing several acres of potatoes. It was a good "cash" crop and potatoes grew well here. There was a storage problem, as all the growers did not have cellars fit to use. They decided to form a co-op, which they did, and all went together and made a large cellar with a drive way down the middle and large bins on either sides. The potato growers all put their potatoes in the cellar, where they were sorted and sold by the Association. This went well for a few years, but again low prices and lack of market caused the failure of this project. Many of the farmers kept raising potatoes, but they were strictly on their own.
In 1940-41 some of the people were getting individual light plants for electricity. They all got together and decided to put in a central plant large enough to furnish electricity for all who wanted it. They formed an association and bought a 10 K.W.A. diesel electric power plant. They built a building to house the plant on Lowell Petersen's place, and he was chosen to care for and operate it. Vic Gardner was in charge of putting up the lines with Andy Petersen as "pole climbler" and most of the rest of the men dug holes, put in poles and helped with the wire. Soon the plant was in operation with Lowell Petersen in charge of the plant and Andy Petersen in charge of meter reading. The flat rate was $3.00 for up to 15 K.W.'s and 5 cents a K.W. for all over. Later the plant was moved to the corner of Dan Nicholas' lot and cared for by Hy Whitlock. Hy gave up as care taker and Charles Funk took over until it was discontinued when Preston built a line to Lund and bought electricity from there.
The first store in Preston was in an old log house of Chris Jensen's operated by Mart Petersen and Henry Cummins. Chris and Jim Jensen bought it from them. Since all the stock for the store had to be hauled long distance by horses and wagons, only the bare necessities were brought in. These consisted mostly of cloth, kerosene, candy, and some staples such as flour, clothing, canned goods. Other articles were also handled on a barter system as products were the chief medium of exchange. The Jensen Brothers sold out to Jim Summers who stocked another product, gasoline, since cars were coming into use. Marie Jensen bought out Jim Summers and about the same time D. T. Nicholas built a new living quarters and store combined. He also put in a gas pump. So now in 1933, Preston boasted two stores and gas pumps. A couple of years later Dan Nicholas closed his store. Marie Jensen operated her "Preston Cash Store" until her death. It was then sold to Carl Madsen who also had the Post Office. Carl's time of operation of the store and Post Office was short. He sold to Hyrum Whitlock. Hy ran the store and Post Office until 1951 when both were discontinued.
The first settlers, and those who came later, eagerly looked forward to mail day, hoping for a letter from home. Mail was delivered twice a week with John Melvin being the first stage driver. He drove a one horse cart from Ely to Sunnyside and return. The first postmaster was Oliver Cloward followed by Tom Windous, Chris Jensen, Wells Bradley, Carl Madsen and Hy Whitlock in that order. During the years that followed, mail delivery was increased to three times a week and then to daily deliveries. Early in 1951 Hy Whitlock resigned as postmaster. The mail still remained on a daily basis but the people had to put up mail boxes in which to receive their mail. This method still exists.
The first cemetery was located southwest of town. Not many were buried there before it was learned that White River flooded that area nearly every spring. It was decided to move it to a more pleasant place on higher ground. With the help of all the people the graves were moved toa place north of town on land donated by D. T. Nicholas. Water was provided, lots laid out and mapped, ditches made and trees, shrubs, flowers and etc. were planted. Care of the cemetery such as cleaning, ditching, fence upkeep, pruning, planting, etc. was always necessary and sometimes a problem. It was taken care of by at first voluntary help of the towns people. Usually a day was set aside for all to turn out and help with everything.
In 1929 under the able leadership of Andrew L. "Andy" Petersen, the bishop, many improvements were made. Donations were taken and enough money was raised to purchase a new "netting fence". The towns people turned out and spent several days installing the new fence. Cleaning, leveling, "sqaring" up the plots and making ditches, more shrubs, trees and flowers were planted and the cemetery took on a "new look", making it a more desirable and pleasant place to be buried and a much more attractive sight to all who passed by.
This time was known as the "Depression" and many people were living in Preston. Gardens were essential and many. Water for some of these gardens was a problem. Since there was enough water for the cemetery with some to spare, it was sought after by some of the people that were short. These people agreed to water and care for the cemetery in exchange for the use of the surplus water. This way of keeping the cemetery watered and cared for went along for several years. Then it became apparent that no one wanted to care for the cemetery for the use of the water.
By this time there were organizations being formed that needed projects for their groups. The4-H Club was one of them and for many years they did a good job of caring and upgrading it. They made markers for all unmarked graves, painted them, put names on and placed them on the grave. They made an up to date map identifying all graves. For this there was also much help by the 4-H leaders and other volunteers.
After 4-H began losing interest it became necessary for volunteers to again take care of it. Van Petersen and others with some modern machinery and hard work did much in pruning and removing excess trees, bushes, iris and other plants that had become a hindrance to caring for it instead of an attraction. They helped make it possible to mow the streets and ditches with a power mower. This Van has done since. This has made it possible to keep the weeds, grass, clover and young trees from taking over, and also help to make it more attractive.
Graves were always dug and covered by friends and neighbors of the deceased. Sometimes in winter it was not pleasant or easy to dig, but no one ever complained of the task. Nor was ever a grave dug that was not down to the regulation depth of six feet regardless of conditions. The last few years backhoes have come in to use and with lack of people to dig them by hand, it has become the way of digging them. This has been done mostly by Van Petersen without charge, or for a nominal fee.
The cemetery is still being cared for by volunteers but it is hoped that in the near future everyone concerned can get together and adopt a permanent and workable plan for caring for it. It is still a desirable, quiet and pleasant, final resting place for all those who choose to be buried here.
There were Indians here when the people came and there have been some around until recently. While they were not considered too important in the colonizing and developing of the Valley, there were some that played a small part and others that may deserve mentioning.
Before the settlers came to Preston some of them stopped off at Georgetown, just east and north of Ely. Georgetown belonged to a man named McQuitty. The Mormon Church secured it from McQuitty and was starting to colonize it. McQuitty also owned a ranch near Preston commonly called the Indian Ranch.
During the time he was at Georgetown, there was trouble at Hercules Gap. It turned into a massacre and the soldiers killed every Indian, they thought. There were two that hid in a cave for three days and nights until the soldiers left. One of them showed up at the Georgetown Ranch and McQuitty gave him sanctuary and allowed him to stay. McQuitty called him Tom and later brought him out to his ranch at Preston, later called the Indian Ranch, Tom took care of the ranch and was considered a good farmer and neighbor. Tom took a wife named Bell and they had a daughter called Rosie. Rosie walked to Preston often and got along well with the Preston girls.
Things went along quite well for a time. Tom always had good crops and a few stock. Every fall the other Indians from the area would gather, feast on sunflower seeds and gophers. He also had other meat hung up to dry, usually over the gate into the ranch. Old McQuitty was having health problems and decided to go back East to a doctor. He left Tom in charge of the ranch until his return. On the way he met Mr. McGill of the Adams-McGill Co. and sold him the Indian Ranch. McGill came out to claim the ranch but Tom objected. Tom told McGill he was McQuitty's slave and was left with the ranch and if he (McGill) tried to take it there would be a heap big war. McGill, being an understanding and tolerant man decided to await the return of McQuitty. McQuitty died before returning and so McGill left Tom there until he died. Tom lived in peace and was a good neighbor to everyone. Some called him Tom McQuitty and others McQuitty Tom.
When the people settled in Preston there were a few Indians here. More came later but none were ever a problem. There was one called "Humbug". He was a little larger than most Indians and very homely. Most considered him right down ugly. He could be seen just about any time wandering around, especially in the winter time. He would often go to someone's home, usually entering without knocking. In those days nearly every house had a wood box of considerable size usually behind the stove. The wood box was the favorite place for "Humbug" to occupy. He would sometimes sit for a long period of time saying nothing but continually reaching up to his face and pulling out his whiskers.
It had not been long since the Indians were unfriendly and caused a lot of trouble with their raids, and running off of livestock and stealing. They also had been known to kidnap women and children. The fear of something like this happening was always in the minds of all the children and was also in the minds of some of the "grown ups". Everyone tried to go out of their way to appease Humbug. They all welcomed him and usually gave him some cookies or other goodies.
He would sometimes stay quite awhile and all during the time he stayed, the children stayed well back and close to their parents. Nearly everyone would provide him with something to eat and some old clothes, like an old coat or something. The family, especially the children, was glad and relieved to see him leave. It was common practice of the parents to keep their children in line by telling them if you don't mind me, we will give you to Humbug, or Humbug will get you. With what stories the children had heard and after seeing Humbug it usually worked.
Chicken George and his wife moved into Preston unannounced, and with all their worldly possessions in, on, and attached to an old dilapidated wagon. His team consisted of one black horse, rather large; and one white, rather small. One thing these horses had in common was willingness--one was willing to pull all the load and the other willing to let it. Chicken George's three most useful articles were burlap, buckskin and baling wire. He moved into the old log house built in Clog Hollar by Martin Petersen. He was not one of the early pioneers but was here during much of the development of this community. He was a good worker and was hired by many of the farmers to help them with their farming. He was a good neighbor and bothered no one, which gave him the title of a "Good Indian".
The name "Chicken George" came about when he came to Preston. As was said before, he had things tied on top and on both sides of the wagon and on the very top was perched some chickens. His whole outfit was made of parts and pieces, held together with baling wire and buckskin. His harness was the same but it made no difference to Chicken George and he got by just fine. From that time on, whenever someone for some reason had to toggle up things with wire, buckskin, or other material to a point of being ridiculous it was called a "Chicken George" outfit. This term is still used today to describe some of the things that have odd appearances.
Bert and Tessie Johnson with their two boys, Raymond and Teddy, came to Preston in the 20's. They built a home of adobe, willows, tin, and lumber and lined it, arranged and furnished it in such a way that it was a pleasant and comfortable place to live. It was near the Cold Spring northwest of town. The boys went to school in Preston and upon graduation Teddy went to high school at Lund.
Bert worked for wages, trapped, and sheared sheep. He and Tessie were considered extra good at picking up potatoes for the farmers. The boys grew up and Teddy became a heavy equipment operator and followed construction, married and raised a family living most part in Fallon. Raymond also followed construction, worked on ranches in the area and has spent much of his time in Ely, where he is now retired. A daughter married Arthur Lee, but never lived in Preston.
Bert and Tessie moved to Ely in the late '30's, where a daughter, Mary, was born. They called Preston their home, and all three are buried here. Frank Johnson, Bert's brother, also came to Preston and built a dugout near Bert's home and lived here about the same time as Bert. He had no family, and worked for wages, sheared and herded sheep and trapped for a living. He also called Preston home and is buried here too.
Some of the other Indians in this valley were Andy and Lizzie Lee. They lived on their farm on upper White River. They had one son, Arthur. They were considered neighbors and came to Preston often on business and to visit. Andy brought his broken machinery and other equipment that needed repair to Ed Funk's blacksmith shop. While he waited, Lizzie would visit with the ladies and make a few purchases at the store. Arthur would play with the Preston children. In later years after the death of Andy and Arthur had grown up and left home, Lizzie would ride her old bay bally horse "Shyrock" to Preston to visit. She visited many people but the most likely places to see her horse tied were Allreds, Windous, Whitlocks and the Preston Cash store.
George McQueen and family lived in Preston for a time and the children went to school here. They contributed little to the development of the Valley but were good neighbors to all. Georgewas always willing to help with any community projects. He was a good barber and did much ofthe hair cutting, gratis. He spent most of his time scheming and petitioning the Federal Government for benefits for the Shoshone Indians. His son Arthur Herrick and Nephew Arthur Lee were shot and killed by other Indians at Duckwater. They are buried in Preston.
Big Ed and Molly came in for a mention as they were well known in Preston. They lived mostly at the Rosevear Ranch where he worked. The stage driver tells about Ed sending to Ely with him for a pair of shoes. The stage driver asked, "What size"? "I don't know what size butthey are just two straight marks" replied Ed.
Tom Ellison was a descendant of the Ellison family that at one time owned the Ellison Ranch now belonging to the Forest Service, part of the Willow Grove Ranch and the William's Ranch now belonging to the Jesse Gardner family. Ellison raised horses and at one time had a race track in the middle of the Williams Ranch. Tom had no property and worked for wages on the ranches in the area. He usually stacked hay and was considered a good hay hand. He was a slow moving, slim, gangly person with eyes which were constantly red. The expression on his face was always somber and could even have been considered sad. He wore a walrus mustache from which tobacco juice dripped continuously.
At first he traveled from ranch to ranch horse back and later in a Model T Ford. He was considered a loner, but at times he liked to talk. One story he told many times was about being in Old Mexico. He got in trouble with some natives and they started shooting at him. Tom was at one end of a building and the Mexican at the other. The Mexican would stick his head around the corner and shoot at Tom, but Tom always shot first. This went on for some time and Tom couldn't understand why he couldn't hit the Mexican. Finally the shooting stopped and after awhile Tom walked around to see what had happened and there were thirteen dead Mexicans in apile.
He also knew a sport, one which he liked to wager. He would bet anyone an agreed amount that he could jump farther backward than they could jump forward, but they had to jump the same way he did. He usually had no trouble getting "takers" and after the bet was made and the stake holder had the money, Tom would reach down and take hold of the toes of his shoes and jump a few inches backward. He never lost.
This was his way of life--working for wages in the summer and trapping and hunting in the winter. After he grew old he spent his declining years co-habitating with Lizzie Lee on the Lee Ranch in upper White River.
Andreas Andersen played a small part in the settling of the Valley. He took up a homestead just north and east of the Ruppe Ranch and spent many years in his spare time trying to develop it. He also, together with Dan Nicholas, attempted to develop another place on the west side called "Head Scrabble" near the Cedar Swamp. They spent a lot of time and hard work but never developed anything. After Andreas gave up others tried to make something of both places but never did. Andreas was a good worker and had a good team of horses and could have used the caption "have team will travel". He would go any place to work but wanted to hire on his team too. While around Preston he always stayed and used Dan Nicholas' place as headquarters.
Two other characters associated with Preston are Chris Petersen and Frank Neilsen. Neither had much to do with the settlement of the area but both spent some time here.
Frank usually lived with the Chris Jensen family, and worked for Chris and others. He was considered a "loner" by most but in a different sense. He liked company and was very sociable but had no family that he lived with. He was good to, and well liked by all the young people as well as the older ones. When in the area he always went to church on Sunday and his beautiful,deep voice was greatly appreciated by all when he joined in the singing. He also sang at social sand parties and appeared to enjoy it as much as those that listened to him.
Chris Petersen was of quite a different nature. The first recollection some of us had of Chris was seeing him coming down the road driving a six mule team hauling freight to Hot Creek. Every fall he and others hauled grain, cotton seed and other supplies for the Adams-McGill Co. Most of it was taken to the Hot Creek Ranch. This was the winter headquarters for the company, as they wintered hundreds of cattle and thousands of sheep in lower White River, Coal, and Coyote Valleys.
Chris' ability as a mule skinner was said to be unexcelled. The road leading out of Preston has a right angle turn into a rather narrow lane. When we would see Chris coming we never missed the chance to hurry down ahead of him to watch him make that turn. To see him sitting up there in the spring seat of the lead wagon with a "jerk" line in his hand expertly jumping the swing team into the stretchers of the leaders and letting the wheelers pull the load on a wide swing in order to make the turn, and then straighten them all out, was a sight to behold and one many never witnessed and most of us will never see again.
Chris' background was somewhat of a mystery. He was a large heavy built man, and at an early age no doubt was considered handsome. Something happened to him while young and disfigured his face into something that was hard to believe--even considered gruesome by some. One side had been damaged so that when it healed his one eye was stretched open, his jaw wascaved in and his mouth healed closed on one side making it necessary to only open one side so that he talked, ate and spit tobacco juice all from one side. Stories were many as to just how his disfigurement came about. One was that he was beaten and stomped in a drunken brawl. Another was that it was a result of his defending a girl's honor. That he got kicked in the face by a mule and there were others. No one knew for sure only Chris and he didn't talk about it.
Chris liked to spend much of his spare time in Preston. Here he was accepted for what he was and no one ever looked at him or acted toward him as if he were different in some way. He especially liked to spend the winter holidays here as he liked to join in the socials and dances and was always accepted without question. As Chris and Frank grew older they spent more time together and finally they purchased a home (the old Mart Petersen home) and spent their declining years in Preston and both are buried in the Preston Cemetery.
Preston History in Retrospect
The children of the Preston Pioneers were healthy, intelligent and many. As the wars came along Preston was called on to furnish what appeared to be more than their share. During World War II some twenty-eight boys entered the service from Preston. A check on the population showed that there were more boys from Preston in the service than there were people still living there. With the help of the good Lord and the boys' superior qualities, nearly all returned, even though many of them saw action on the front lines.
In the '30's it was evident that the size of the farms were too small to make a living. Many of the people sold out to their neighbors and left to seek employment or a new place to farm. Due to economic reasons and age, those left were having trouble trying to survive the adversities. Outside interests started making appearances and buying up the farms. At present there are eighteen families living in Preston, a few farming, some working for wages and others retired. We have no schools, post office, church, store or any service except mail delivery. Without exception, there are no descendants of the original families engaged in farming in Preston. There are still, however, some of the names of the original settlers on the mail boxes, such as Petersen,Windous, Funk and Bernson.
In the 75-80 years since the settlers came, Preston has gone through many changes. It was soon learned that there were more settlers than there was water and land available to them. With this limitation Preston had little chance to grow even though the settlers tried developing the water, building reservoirs and etc. The weather changed as well and the rainfall grew less and less. Streams went down, some dried up, all adding to the limits of growth. The range was very productive at first and it slowly has become more arid.
In spite of the growing adverse condition, Preston flourished for a time boasting fifty-five to sixty children in school, two stores and filling stations, a church ward and post office. Presently Preston is growing some as many find it a quiet and pleasant place in which to live and retire. We, of the families of the original settlers, are proud to bear the name of those who pioneered the settling of Preston.
Written by Charles Funk
From personal knowledge and information from the Funk family, Andy and Violet Petersen and Church records.