Estella Holt Smith b. 1872, d. 22 Feb 1942

Joseph and Estella Holt

As I’ve been looking through my family history records, and doing a bit of research, I came across these photos of Estella Holt “Stella,” daughter of William Alma Pain Holt and Sarah Wardle.  William and Mary Ann Pain Holt were brother and sister.  Mary Ann is my Great Great Grandmother.  Her cousin, Stella died on this day in 1942.  I am thinking about her today.

It intrigued me to look at Stella and Joseph’s wedding portrait above.  They look so calm and serene and hopeful.  I spoke today in church about how our lives unfold, how we are not given to know the ending from the beginning.  What little I know about Stella’s life fascinates me.  There was a good deal of heartache and tragedy.

Estella had 15 children!  Their names were Pearl, George, John, Sarah, Joseph, Alvin, Edna, Alfred, Ferdinand, Lillian, Clifford, Clayton, Leo, Dee and Estella.  Six of these children lived to old age.  Three died as infants, George drowning in an irrigation ditch.  Sarah died in child birth with her infant, leaving 2 more children for Stella to raise.  Ferdinand and Clayton were each 16 years old when they died, Ferdinand died of typhoid fever and Clayton died in a car accident.  Leo died of heart failure when he was 13.  Little Estella was only 7 years old when her father died at age 58.  Stella lived another 16 years.

How I would love to read Stella’s journal, had she written one!  Her story is lost to me.

Smith, Joseph and Estella Holt familySmith, Joseph and Estella Holt family 1

I found an interesting history of Stella’s husband, Joseph Smith, written by Eugene H. Halverson & Jay C. Smith.  How interesting it is to look at faces in a photo, then learn their story.  What adorable children!  What heartache followed the dates on these photos!  How interesting is our perspective of their lives.  They didn’t know what the next day would bring.  We see it all, completely unfolded.  We see where their choices and paths led them. They did and dealt with very hard and often tragic circumstances.

I wonder how my life will continue to unfold, and how it will look to my descendants someday many years from now.  I hope they will learn from what I do and the choices I make.

Below are some excerpts from the history of Joseph’s life.  He was born 6 June 1867 in Ephraim, Utah and died 8 April 1926 in Wattis, Utah.

Joe was 21 years old when he met and married Estella Holt on 25 December, 1888, Estella was born 25 December, 1872 in Ogden, Weber County, Utah. She was a daughter of William Alma Holt and Sarah Wardell. Her father William was one of the very early settlers of Torrey and its first Postmaster. She was a sister of Leo Rolando Holt who married Anna Laurine (Rena) Smith (Joe’s half- sister).

Joe and Stella were happy together but had very little money. People in those days did a lot of trading and bartering for the things they needed, no one had any hard cash. The mining camps in Carbon County were paying fairly good wages in those days. So they went to Scofield to live for a few years. This was where their first child was born, Pearline (24 June, 1890). Saving what they could they then moved back to Junction, Piute County (now called Fruita, Wayne County) and bought some land from Gilbert Adams on the south side of the river.

I have no idea how long they kept the land because in only two later they were in Thurber where their next three children were born; George William (11 April, 1892), John Doyle (8 September, 1893) and Sarah Christine (12 February, 1895). George was drowned in Aldridge, Utah.

The miners at Scofield loved to go to the saloons to drink and fight. Joe must have started to drink and fight here. Drinking may have caused him to do things that would eventually cause him a lot of harm. I recently visited one of his nieces who loved and also felt shame because of his temper and drinking.

Smith Family
Joe must have been involved in street fights and did gain quite a reputation as a fighter. In a story written by Clay M. Robison, Jorgen Smith once jokingly declared, in his broken English, supposedly with some pride, “My Yim, he iss der pissness man; My Yoe, he iss der fighter.” Jay C. Smith said, “My grandfather William Smith told me Joe fought like a pit bull, never gave up, and came out victorious in about all his fights. My grandfather admired some of Joe’s fights. When Joe had took on some bully that nobody thought he had a chance with, he trounced the bully good. He made the bully scream in desperation that he had enough. And Joe had many more than just one fight like that.

Joe did get himself in trouble with the law. Joe it seems just did not like King, so, he was not above stealing a few cattle from him. He felt that King could afford it. Joe felt that the King outfit was trying to hog up all the range and squeeze out the little guy. There were some King cattle out on the range and Joe must have noticed how similar their brand was to his so he made some of them his. In the Fall after round-up Joe, Jed Mott and some other friends and relatives gathered their herds together and drove them to market. Low and behold one of the cows died along the way. Not far behind them came the King outfit. King and his cowboys didn’t like the looks of the brand on the dead cow so they skinned it.

The outside said Joe Smith but the other side said King. Joe and his partners were required appear in the Richfield District Court, Joe told the Judge that it was his mistake and that the others were innocent. The day of reckoning had come, Joe was sentenced to a year in jail. At the time the King Livestock Outfit was not a very popular cattle outfit. They were a large and an aggressive livestock company. They wanted as much of the free range as possible for the grazing of their livestock. This caused some resentment from some of the smaller livestock owners. King also rented the school sections and if other cattle were found on it, King would seized the animals and hold them as collateral until the fine was paid. Joe, it seems felt a need to retaliate, So, Joe took one or more of the King cows. The public domain was a free range then and Joe was just the kind of fellow that insisted on having a part of what he believed was his part of the range.

Grandfather really did have a lot of love and admiration for Joe and he felt Joe was a good and likable brother who was more like a Robin Hood than a thief. I must also say, in time King began to be less aggressive and more cooperative with the town’s people. And the town’s people accepted them as neighbors and marriage partners for their children. I have two stories of missing sheep, one when Joe and his brother, Jorgen (Jack) were partners in a herd of sheep. Joe was supposed to be tending them in the mountains when they somehow disappeared and were never found again. Another story tells when Jack and Franklin Haws returned from New Mexico with their cattle they rented 500 sheep. They kept them for years while the herd increased in size. Anyway Joe was blamed for their loss in this story too. (same sheep same loss) Family members talked of this as borrowing.

Sometime in the late 1895 or early 1896 Joe and Stella moved out to Desert Lake in Emery County. This was a long distance from Wayne County and there were family members who tried to keep in contact with them. I don’t have any idea what their home and farm looked like but I would think it would be a hard place to start all over again without the help of family or friends. The soil was very alkaline but was good enough, the sagebrush there (an indicator of good soil), grows six or eight feet high when it gets watered and has good drainage but grows only four to six inches in the dry ground. This being a very arid and desolate area, hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Some years they would have water for their stock and crops but there were years when the crops would just whither away and die during the summer.

Farming in the “early days” or pioneer days was hard and there was a limit the amount of land he could cultivate with what he had. It had to be done with horses and worn-out plow shares or other old out-mooed farm equipment, he did what he could. His main supply of money came from the livestock he had and he loved working and caring for them. He had horses, cattle, sheep and a large goat herd.

Two more children were born here; Joseph Oren (16 August, 1896) and Enock Alvin (8 April, 1898). Edna May was born in Castle Dale, Emery County (26 March, 1900). Alfred (27 February, 1902) and Ferdinand (23 July, 1904) were born in Ferron, Emery County.

The next five children were born back on the farm in Desert Lake. Lillian (23 April, 1906); Clifford (17 March, 1908); Clayton (8 April, 1911); Leo (8 July, 1913); and Dee Lavar (20 February, 1915). I have often wondered what caused the deaths of six of their children here, two dying as children, the rest during their teenage years. Water, disease, lack of food, who knows?

They did move away from the farm eventually, up to Wattis, Carbon County, a coal mining camp.. This was where their last child, Estella was born 4 October, 1919. Estella was only seven years old when her father, Joseph Smith died 8 April, 1926. Joe worked hard and struggled all of his life to care for his large family. They found him slumped against a building in Wattis, like he was worn-out and just went to sleep. He was buried in the Elmo Cemetery, (near Desert Lake), Utah. He was only 59 years old but looked much older, like he just worked to hard and worried to much.

I have pictures of Joe and Stella in their younger years, they were a very good looking couple. They both tried to be contented and happy with what they had, they usually seemed happy and have fun. They laughed and always enjoyed each others company. Stella lived to see her remaining children grow up and marry. She died in Price, Carbon County 22 February, 1942 and was buried along side her husband in Elmo, Emery County.

Holt, Estella m. Smith b. 1872 obit

I just found some very interesting memories of Stella from her daughter Pearl’s daughters:


Pearline Smith (Mills) was their oldest child and her daughter Euella Mills (Merchant) remembered that “Grandma Smith” (Estella Holt) would come and stay with them. Mother (Pearline) was the eldest of 15 children. Grandpa (Joseph Smith) rode for the Indians a lot, so he wasn’t home a lot of the time. Marla, called Aunt Wade and asked her to clarify some of the things Mom had written such as names. I put them in Parentheses. Aunt Wade also told me of Grandma’s brother, Doyle (Holt). The Indians took him as a youth. Grandma and Grandpa searched everywhere for him, in vain. Several years passed and when the Indians were forced to send him to school, Grandma was able to trace him, getting him back.

In looking over the family group sheet, Grandma Smith lost George, Enoch Alvin, Edna May, Alfred, Ferdenand, Clayton, Leo and Sara (she left 2 grandchildren for Grandma to raise).

Mother and her brother was herding cows one day. They didn’t have shoes. The sand was hot and the kaulkle burrs were thick, so they waded in the edge of the canal. Mother’s little brother (George) stepped in a hole and went under. Mother ran all the way home which was a mile or more to get Grandma, she ran down there and dove in three times before she could find him. He was caught. She had to carry him all the way back home.

Mother said when she was able to go to school, her one teacher was really mean, if they didn’t do exactly what they were suppose to the teacher would hold there hands out and take a ruler and hit them until they were black and blue.

They had to wrap burlap sacks around there feet to keep them from freezing when they walked to school.

Mothers one brother (Clayton} was killed in a car wreck. He was pinned under the car. Grandma got there before he died, but they couldn’t get him out, so she had to watch him die.

They had to haul all of their water. They had some boards nailed on two poles with a 50 gallon barrel tied on. They hooked a horse to it and pulled it up the hill to town for water.

Mother’s one brother (Leo) came and stayed with us. He had heart trouble. He had his tonsils out the same day I did. He loved to watch bull fights, mother would set him in a chair out in back of the house with a quilt around him and he would watch the neighbors bulls fight. They would go through fences and all over the road. He wanted to go home so bad so one of mother’s other brothers came and took him home on the train. Grandma was there to meet him. He died in her arms at the train station.

Mother’s sister, Aunt Sara had two children, Irene & little George. She stayed with us when I was born. Shortly after that Grandma got word she had died. They never were able to find where she was buried. Grandpa went and checked where she was suppose to be, but there was never any record of her death. They never found out what happened to her.

Grandma & Grandpa raised her children. Irene did however find out when she was old enough to investigate it. Sarah died in Idaho from complications in child birth and is buried in Bosie with her son, who died also, in her arms.

Mother’s brother, Alvin got a fish bone caught in his throat. (It killed him). He rode the tail of an airplane strapped in a saddle at a rodeo. (Aunt Wade said that he was the dare devil type and was always doing those type of things.) Irene told me that he died in Wyoming and althought Cliff told Grandma that Alvin died from a fish bone they always felt that he was killed doing something with a rodeo.

I remember Grandma had some kind of sinking spells. She would just black out where ever she was. She fell in some glass one day, when we lived on the farm. She came to the house, her face was all cut and bleeding. She fell on the hot stove and burned her really bad a lot of times. I guess it was caused from the hard life she had had.

Euella Mills Merchant remembered that “Grandma Smith” would come and stay with them. She had what they called ‘sinking spells’, where she would just pass out without any warning. Grandma Mills and the kids would watch her every move. She remembered one time when Grandma Smith was looking for eggs {she loved to watch the chickens and gather eggs}. She found a nest next to the granery and when she began stooping over to get them, she passed out, fell face first into the nest of eggs.

When mother was very small she had a bad ear ache one winter. An old Indian came to the house and told Grandpa to find a red ant bed and get some ants. He said, pound them up and put the juice in mothers ear. Grandpa had to dig down thew the snow to find an ant bed. He found one and did what the Indian said to do. Mother never had any more ear ache all her life. Grandma & Grandpa had a very hard life. They lived in a log cabin with dirt floors. (Aunt Wade said that the two rooms didn’t had an inside entry. The doors were on the outside only)

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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4 Responses to Estella Holt Smith b. 1872, d. 22 Feb 1942

  1. Ann, I have enjoyed the history you have put in this blog. Thank you! I just have a question about the obituary. I wonder why it seems to have incorrect information in it, like her mother and father?

  2. That’s a good question. I wonder who wrote it. Probably not one of her children who would have known the names of their grandparents.

  3. Joyce Vogel says:

    I am the ggrandaughter of Jorgen “Jack” Smith, Joseph “Joe” Smiths older brother. Histories tell that Jack was very upset with his brother at times. They lost a lot of live stock which was hard for the family. Both men grew to be prominent men in their families. I was excited to find this information that I came across while looking at the Holt family cemetery in Enterprise Utah. My very good friend Anice Holt wife of Joe Holt will be buried there on Monday February 8, 2016.

    • Nice to meet you, Joyce! I was sad yesterday to hear about Anice’s death from her daughter, Angi, who is my friend. Thanks for sharing this bit of history.
      Glad this information was interesting to you! I always enjoy learning more about family members and the challenges they faced.

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