The ancestor I am talking about this week is my husband’s uncle, Alva Rich Porter, who was married to my mother-in-laws only sister, Anna Isabel Mortenson. Alva Rich Porter was born February 19, 1907 in Central, Graham County, Arizona the son of Alva Sylvenus Porter and Eliza Bratton Porter. He was the next to the youngest and only surviving son of his parents, having had two brothers that died the same day they were born and also seven older sisters. As far as I know he never went by his first name, but always used his middle name of Rich instead.
Uncle Rich’s siblings were: Joseph Lyman Porter 1887-1887, Mary Hazel Porter 1889-1921, Birdie Electa ‘Verda’ Porter 1891-1976, Cora Eliza Porter 1894-1968, Millie Viola Porter 1896-1899, Nancy Mildred Porter 1899-1979, Afton Luella Porter 1901-1978, Athena Pearl Porter 1904-1968 and John Parley Porter 1911-1911.
The following is a family picture of Uncle Rich, his parents, and four of his sisters taken in about 1915 in Webb, Cochise County, Arizona from left to right: Mildred, Cora, Alva, Eliza, Rich, Afton and Athena.
We loved going and visiting with Uncle Rich and he always had fantastic stories to tell, most of them my husband had heard over and over since he was just a little kid. Uncle Rich wasn't much of a talker if there were a lot of people around, but just one or two and he would get started and could go on for hours. We always loved listening to his stories.
One of Uncle Rich’s stories is one I will never forget and one Uncle Rich never forgot either. That was the day that he meet a world famous aviator, none other than Amelia Earhart on September 12, 1928 in McNeal, Cochise County, Arizona. Amelia Earhart was on a solo flight heading to Los Angeles and going across Southern Arizona when she noticed her plane was running low on fuel. Just below her was the tiny little farming and ranching community of McNeal. McNeal is about 20 miles north of Douglas and about 25 miles northeast of Bisbee. Uncle Rich was working at the little mechanic shop there in McNeal when he saw her plane headed right towards them. Amelia set her plane down safely, but unfortunately the mesquite tree needles punctured her tires. Uncle Rich always told how he took the tires off the plane and got them fixed for her. While Uncle Rich and the other men got Amelia’s plane back in working order, members of the Ladies Aid Society from the area, fed her and visited with her while her plane was being fixed. I also have the old newspaper, from the Douglas Dispatch, that Aunt Anna saved, that shows Uncle Rich with Amelia Earhart in McNeal, now all I need to do is find it so I can get it scanned and add to this little bio.
The following picture is Amelia Earhart at McNeal on September 12, 1928. She apparently posed for a picture while she was there and this photo is found at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, in Bisbee, Arizona.
This next is a newspaper report that I found of her landing in McNeal, Arizona dated Thursday, September 13, 1928 from the Oregonian a newspaper in Portland, Oregon. This article says McNeal had an airport but they really didn't, it was just a dirt field barely big enough for her to land. If it had been an actually airfield she probably wouldn't have gotten mesquite needles in her tires.
The next picture is of Uncle Rich, which was taken on July 24th, which was Pioneer Day, in Whitewater, Arizona which is a little town about 26 miles north of Douglas. Not sure what year this was taken, but I am assuming in the 1930’s, though it could be even a little later say early 1940’s. The back of the picture just said, Rich, Pioneer Day’s on it.
I can see why Aunt Anna, said yes when Uncle Rich ask her to marry him, he was a good looking young man. Rich’s family lived there in Webb and Anna’s family lived in Whitewater both in Cochise County, Arizona, two tiny little towns about 26 miles north of Douglas and the Mexican border, which are both now called Elfrida. Both families were from early LDS pioneer stock and they attended church there together. Rich and Anna were married there in Webb on September 28, 1932. Unfortunately, Rich and Anna never had any children of their own, but Anna was a surrogate mother to many of the children in the area. All of her nieces and nephews thought the world of her and always made sure and stopped to visit with Uncle Rich and Aunt Anna, anytime they were home for a visit. They had huge pecan trees around their house and we would always stop and pick up all we wanted anytime we were there for a visit.
Uncle Rich also served as the second Bishop of the Whitewater LDS Ward from August 2, 1942 until February 16, 1947. Before the Whitewater Ward was made a ward it had been a small branch of the LDS Church there in the Sulpher Springs Valley of Cochise County, Arizona. At the time he was Bishop the members meet in the old church house that was there by the cemetery. The building was so old that it was being propped up by 2x4’s, when Uncle Rich was Bishop. It was during his time as Bishop that he was ask to go to Salt Lake City and met with Apostle, Joseph F. Merrill to see about getting a new chapel built there in Whitewater. He was able to get the needed approval and land was soon bought on Highway 666, just down from Gleeson Road in March 1948 from Bessie Shirley and the ground breaking for the new chapel was July 17, 1948. The new building was finished on June 23, 1952 and the members of the LDS Church in the area still go to that building to this day. The following pictures show Uncle Rich when he was Bishop, the old building in 1932, the ground breaking for the new chapel in 1948 and the new building in 1968. The new building was built from native rock quarried from the hills in nearby Gleeson.
Uncle Rich did many things for his community and for those less fortunate. He would gather up old items of clothes and toys and in his work shop by the side of their house he would fix and repair items that people had thrown out such as toasters, irons, ovens, anything mechanical and then take all of these items across the line to Aqua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico and give to the poor Mexican’s, mainly members of the little LDS Branch there in Aqua Prieta. He also would buy food and pass it out as well on his trips across the line. People knew that Uncle Rich did this all the time, so they would just drop stuff off at their house, Aunt Anna would fix up the clothes when needed and Uncle Rich fixed anything else.
Uncle Rich drove a really old pickup truck and the back of it would be filled with all matter of things for the poor. It is a good thing he passed away before 9-11 or the border agents would have never let him cross into Mexico with his treasures for those less fortunate. I know he was still driving that old truck up until at least a couple of years before he passed. I don’t think he ever went over 30 miles per hour those last few years. We use to joke that we could leave the same time as Uncle Rich, we just lived a mile down the road from him, and go to town in Douglas get our groceries, stop at the bank and be back home before Uncle Rich ever made it into Aqua Prieta.
Another thing that Uncle Rich did, which benefited not only the Mexican’s, but anyone else who needed it was that he made tombstones out of concrete for anyone who was being buried at the Whitewater Cemetery. He did this for those who could not afford a traditional stone and I doubt he ever charged anything for them, but if he did, I doubt it was even enough to cover the cost of the concrete. He made the mold and letters and when it was set he would take and place the stones at the cemetery. You can see his handwork all over that little desert cemetery. Some people have in recent years, had new stones placed for their ancestors, but may have left Uncle Rich’s concrete stones there by their loved ones graves for the most part.
Apparently Uncle Rich didn't like having his picture taken, because pictures of him are hard to find. We have lots of Aunt Anna, but very few of Uncle Rich himself. The following picture of Uncle Rich and Aunt Anna was taken in 1968 in their home in Elfrida, Arizona and I am not sure when the next one was taken, but probably after 1968, since they look a little older in that one.
Aunt Anna loved doing family history as much as I do and after she passed, Uncle Rich gave me just about everything Aunt Anna had ever collected. I do know that he gave the majority of his Porter family history to a nephew of his, possible Fred Stope, but I don’t remember for sure. The following is a picture of Aunt Anna working on her family history, if she wasn't doing this she was sewing, canning, etc. she was never idle and neither was my mother-in-law, her sister, Elnora Mortenson Thompson.
Aunt Anna died of cancer on May 20, 1987 at their home in Elfrida, almost seven years later Uncle Rich joined her when he passed away on March 13, 1994 at the hospital in Douglas. They were both laid to rest side by side in the Whitewater Cemetery in Elfrida, Cochise County, Arizona. The following pictures are of the gate going into the cemetery and of their stone, which my brother-in-law, Dan had made for them after Uncle Rich died and also you can see the type of stones Uncle Rich made out of concrete just like this one he made for his sister Verda after she passed away.