The ancestor I will be telling you about this week is my husband, Roy’s, grandfather, Joseph Mortenson. I only met him once, because he passed away just a few months after Roy and I were married. You can talk to people in the little southeastern Arizona town of Elfrida, in Cochise County, and all the older people especially, will remember, Uncle Joe, and they all have fond memories and many stories to tell about this special man.
From Joseph’s life story that he wrote in 1973, we read the following: “My sister Mary, who is five years older than I, remembers the small log cabin in which I was born. It was a humble pioneer home. My parents were surprised when there were two of us instead of one, so my mother gave her mother’s broach to the midwife for delivering me. She had made only one quilt to give to her. We were her 11th and 12th children. When we were born Josie was the healthiest looking and I was the skinny one. Now it’s just the opposite. They fed me soaked bread, clabber and burro milk and she nursed mother. One time, after we moved to Mexico, my mother dug a hole in the dirt floor of their home, poured water into it and sat the bucket of my milk in the hole to keep my milk from souring. Since it was terribly hot and we had no refrigeration this was the best she could do.”
Joseph Mortenson’s siblings were the following: Anna Boletta Mortenson, 1868-1942, married George Calvin Williams, then Peter A. Dillman; Margaret Amelia Mortenson, 1870-1948, married Melvin Swapp; Sarah Etta Mortenson, 1873-1957, married James Thompson (brother to my husband’s grandfather, Peter Elmer Thompson); James Martin Mortenson 1875-1967, married Emily Davis Hawkins; Edmond Grevelious Mortenson, April 8, 1878 – June 15, 1878; Charles Elmer Mortenson, July 31, 1879 – September 26, 1880; John Wilford Mortenson, 1881-1959, married Adelia Ada Johnson; George Franklin Mortenson, 1884-1965, married Edith Western, then Lula Ethel Smith; Mary Amanda Mortenson, 1886-1982, married Broughton Lunt; Andrew Mortenson, 1889-1984, married Nellie Alice Kerby and Josephine Mortenson, 1892-1980, married Thomas Washington Kerby.
When Joseph and his twin sister, Josephine were about nine months old, their parents and some of their other children, left Arizona for Old Mexico in February of 1893. From a history that daughter Margaret Amelia wrote about their journey to Mexico we read the following: “We had a good wagon and a large buggy so mother rode in the buggy. These were pulled with some very good horses. We first moved to Oaxaca, Sonora where my oldest sister, Lettie lived. As I remember, we lived in a tent close by our sister, however, father soon built a three-room house down by the river – several miles from town. This house was built with forked posts at the corners, sun-dried adobes laid up for the walls with a brush and dirt roof. For doors mother hung quilts and at the windows, where usually there was glass, were unbleached muslin and there were dirt floors. But the room father and mother and us girls slept in, mother put down home-made carpets she had woven and brought with her. We next moved up by Brother and Sister Peter Dillman. Here, father built one room by setting four forked posts in the ground with a brush and dirt roof. The walls were wagon covers with mother’s carpet on the inside and for the door the table was turned at night. Once while father was over to Dublan to get a few groceries, we were awakened in the night by a scratching noise on the canvas. The next morning when Brother Dillman came over he looked at the tracks. After tracking it into the woods nearby he told mother, “A lion has been here to visit you.””
The following picture is a family group of Joseph with his parents and some siblings, it was taken in about 1896 in Old Mexico. The boys in the back from left to right are: John Wilford, James Martin & George Franklin; next row, Dad (James), Mary Amanda, Mom (Anna) & Andrew in the front are the twins, Joseph & Josephine.
Joseph had an interesting life growing up in Old Mexico, again from his sister Margaret Amelia’s story we read: “Dad had gone to Juarez to get groceries from Brother Eyring, when we were all awakened in the night by hoof beats of a horse. We were always on the lookout for Indians as they were still killing and stealing. We were terrified! We had two very fine dogs who seldom ever let anyone strange come near and so, of course, they let us know someone was coming. When a voice called out, my brother-in-law recognized it immediately as “Negro Bob” from Bearsfords’s ranch. He wished to stay until morning and were we thankful to have him. The flood came on November 28, 1905 – our place in Oaxaca was on high land, but my sister Lettie’s home was nearer the river and her roof began level with our foundation, but it was five foot deep in our front room. My father worked getting all the lower people out and their belongings. When mother saw it was still rising she, Joseph and Josephine began hauling food out in a new express wagon, taking things to the foot of the hills a few blocks away. All our nice furniture was in the house, the beds floated so that all that got wet was what hung down. The dining table also floated with father’s Bible and other church books on top, but they did not get wet. Mother had several sacks of flour and several sacks of dried peaches in the loft undamaged. We had two Chester White pigs that were fat and ready to kill that the water ran over their pens, but in the morning they lay as contented as pigs can be. They divided our food as many had none. The flood had washed the field of my father’s away and the canal, and so he sold our house and lot which contained a lovely orchard to Brother Haymore for two horses and harnesses. With the money my grandfather had sent mother, they bought a new wagon and went on flat cars to Magdalena, Mexico to do freighting. “
Joseph’s parents, James and Anna came to Cochise County, Arizona from Old Mexico where they had been living in the Mormon Colonies down there, in 1909, and lived there on the east side of Mormon Road between Gleason Road and the school road, in the town of Elfrida. Both are buried at the Whitewater Cemetery, which is also on Mormon Road, but on the west side. The following are pictures of James and Anna when they were older and living in Elfrida.
We now begin Joseph’s time in the Sulpher Springs Valley of Cochise County, Arizona. Again from Margaret Amelia’s story we read: “In February 1909 my father sold out to Dave Black and moved to Whitewater. This is in the eastern part of the Sulphur Springs Valley. His place was across from E. M. Baldridge, the Baldridge place was first owned by my brother John. Here, father and Joe broke 25 acres of land after digging the brush with pick and shovel. They broke this land with a walking plough and horse, dug a well with a shovel and bucket, fenced the land, made adobes by hand and put up two rooms, later adding another. During this time, Joe cut wood and sold it in Douglas for $3.00 a double bed wagon load. Father and mother had a nice little garden. Father and Joe would draw water out of a well with a bucket and fill barrels of water and mother and Josie would do the irrigating during the day, Father was past sixty years old and starting a new home. George and Andrew homesteaded north of the Baldridge farm. About this time all of father’s horses died from eating mesquite beans but one, nine good horses. After this Joe went over to the Safford Valley to work for Hawk and Anderson in the summer time from 1909 to 1912. It was during this time he met Mary Myrtle Kerby.”
I believe the following picture was taken around 1910 or so, of Joseph, with his parents and all of his living siblings. The top row from left to right is: James Martin, Joseph (my husband’s grandpa), John Wilford, Andrew & George Franklin, then their mom (Anna) & Dad (James). Front row from left to right is: Josephine (twin to Joseph), Mary Amanda, Margaret Amelia, Anna Boletta and Sarah Etta.
Again, from Joseph’s life story we read: “We were married by Bishop, Philemon C. Merrill in the Kerby’s beautiful yard under the lovely shade trees. We were honored with a big wedding dinner that night.” On June 12, 1912 in Pima, Graham County, Arizona Joseph and Myrtle said, ‘I Do’ and thus begin their lives for the next 57 years, before death took Myrtle, who suffered from diabetes and who died on August 13, 1969 at the hospital in Aqua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. They became the parents of nine children: Anna Isabel Mortenson, 1913-1987, married Alva Rich Porter; Joseph Owen Mortenson, 1916-1984, married Rosealee Lois Dees; Arthur F Mortenson, 1918-1930, they say he was what was called a blue baby and his heart was never strong; Elnora Mortenson, 1922-2007, married Floyd L Thompson (my in-laws); Roy Edmund Mortenson, 1926-1996, married Myrtle Lovelle Long; James Don Mortenson, 1929-2007, married Esther May McGinty and Walter Lee Mortenson, 1933-1984, married Glenna Marie Knotts. I never met Arthur of course since he died young, nor did I ever meet Walter, but I did meet all of my mother-in-laws other siblings.
Joe and Myrtle built their new home on Mormon Road in 1921, from Joe’s life story he says the following about his and his father’s homes. “At the writing of this account, June 7, 1973 I am still living in Elfrida in the same house, near four of my children, Anna, Owen, Elnora and Don. Before this house was my home it was used as a store, post office, school, dance hall and a church. It is now over 50 years old. I helped dad make his last brick home and it is now owned by Harold and Jennie Gardner. It is about one fourth mile south of my home and the land has a common boundary.” The following is a picture of Joe’s home and of his father James’ home as well.
The following picture is of Joe and Myrtle in 1925 with their first four children, from left to right: Anna, Elnora (my mother-in-law), Owen, Myrtle, Joe and Arthur.
This next picture was taken in 1947, with all of their living children, from left to right standing: Walter, Roy, Owen & Don, the setting from left to right: Anna, Joe, Myrtle & Elnora (my mother-in-law).
Joe was a fantastic farmer, from all of the stories that have been told, his corn was taller than most and his fields were always fertile. J I love these pictures of Grandpa Joe with his corn and with his milk cow. Then the one here of Grandpa Joe and Grandma Myrtle, and you can see how very high the corn could get.
Joe and Myrtle never went too far from home. Living on a farm is not conducive to traveling, since you need to be there pretty much most of the time, for watering, weeding, etc. The following picture says it was Easter 1950, at the Coolidge Dam, apparently Joe and Myrtle, did leave Elfrida at least once. J
This is a picture of my husband Roy in 1955, when he was a baby with his grandma Myrtle.
Joe & Myrtle at their 50th wedding anniversary party in 1962, at the Elfrida LDS Church building, with some of their children, from left to right: Anna, Roy, Joe, Owen, Myrtle, Don & Elnora.
This is my husband, Roy, standing beside his Grandpa Joe in front of his grandparents’ home.
Joe & Myrtle at the time of their 55th wedding anniversary in 1967, in their home there on Mormon Road in Elfrida, Arizona.
Joe & Myrtle in 1969, not long before she passed away.
Grandpa Joe, had a stroke a few months before he passed away and never fully recovered from it, he passed away on February 18, 1979 at the Cochise County Hospital in Douglas, Arizona. On the 21st he was buried by his wife and son Arthur in the Whitewater Cemetery.
There is so much more that could be written about this man and his family. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather and was loved by all who knew him. He loved his church and his country too. He was a tireless worker who did not know the meaning of the word relax and neither did any of his children, especially my mother-in-law, Elnora. He was a man that is still missed to this day. I wish I could have gotten to know him.