ERASTUS ROWE GEE
Erastus Rowe Gee was born August 31, 1852 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of Lysander Gee - who had been born in Austinburgh, Aktabula County, Ohio on September 1, 1818. His mother, Maryette Rowe, was born on October 3, 1831 in Utica, Thompkins County, New York.
When Erastus was but three years of age, the family moved to Tooele, Utah. Little is know of his childhood, but they were among those early pioneers who settled in that community and endured all the hardships incident to colonizing a new country, and Erastus, as was the majority of young people in those days, was deprived of the opportunity of a higher education and culture.
Erastus’ father, Lysander, was prominent among the settlers, as he possessed the mind and heart necessary to a man who could take the initiative in the work of redeeming the arid county of this western territory. He was well versed in the law and a widely read scholar and thinker, and held many public offices. He followed law as a profession. He lived in the days of polygamy and had three wives, and a large family.
Erastus was the second son of the third wife. There were all active in the little branch in which they lived. The church house was an old log building as was the school house where Erastus received his meager education. He was baptized the 10th of October, 1870 when he was fifteen years of age and in 1867, his mother Maryette Rowe passed away at the birth of her ninth child. Soon after the death of Maryette, the family made their home with their father’s second wife, whose name was Therisa Bowley Gee. Erastus and his older brother left home in search of employment.
When Erastus was twenty-three years of age, he met and married Geneva Eleanor Telford, daughter of John Dodds Telford and Sarah Matilda Coltrin. Their marriage was later solemnized in the Logan Temple. For about five years, they made their home in Tooele, Utah, and three sons were born to them there. Erastus made his living as a farm laborer. He was also kept very busy as caller for dances around the community - square dancing was very popular those days as it was about the only form of entertainment available to the settlers. His pay was meager but helped out with the family budget.
In about 1880, the family moved to Lewiston, Cache County, Utah on a small farm left to his wife, Geneva, from her father’s estate. They made the most of the little farm and were happy there. His fame as caller for dances followed him to Lewiston, and with his small income from this venture and the farm, they were able to live quite comfortably.
Erastus was a happy man and had a real zest for life as he was always cheerful and jolly and he was a good entertainer for old and young. He loved children and was loved by them, and was always prepared with some very interesting and perhaps a little exaggerated stories of his hunting and fishing experiences. He loved the out-of-doors and was a real sportsman. He loved his children and grandchildren and never grew too old to play with them and was affectionately know by friends and relatives as Uncle Dat.
Four daughters were now added to the family which consisted of seven children and they were growing up. The oldest son, William, was attending college at Logan, Utah. But they had outgrown the little farm and as many of their friends and neighbors were leaving to see their fortune in Idaho, they decided to join the wagon train. So in 1896, with all their worldly possessions they started on the long and difficult trek to the Snake River Valley where a large area of land was available for homesteading. They endured suffering and fatigue, but like their pioneer ancestors, proved equal to the task. Erastus and his family arrived at Ora, Idaho, which is now Ashton, in the late summer. They camped in the Granary of an old friend, Hyrum Cunningham, until their two room log house could be built. The following spring another room was added, also a barn for the cattle and horses. And they were content, for few in the community had better and they were prepared for the long cold winter.
At the old log school house, which also served as a place of worship, they would gather for a basket lunch, dance, and general get-together with their friends, and all the people both young and old would participate.
The farm produced and the little cellar was filled each fall with fruits, vegetables, meat, butter and lard, and all was well for awhile. Another daughter, little Geneva, had come to bless thier home. Five of the children were married and lived nearby. Erastus received the appointment as mail carrier from Ora, Idaho to Ashton, Idaho, which he held for several years. Later, during the summer months, he would take his fine team, (white topped), and buggy and drive the Eastern tourists around Yellowstone Park as this was the only means of transportation available at that time. He enjoyed this very much and had many interesting stories to tell about the greenhorn dudes from the East - as he called them. The years passed and the Lord was good to them.
Erastus’ wife, Geneva Eleanor was truly a choice and noble spirit. She was a kind and loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She would toil and sacrifice herself day and night for the comfort and blessings she could eagerly give through her own labors to her family. She had very little of this world’s goods but always made the most of the little she had. Her home was clean and pleasant, a home where people loved to come and visit. She loved flowers and worked tirelessly in her little garden. She taught her children the Gospel by her own example. She was true to her religious principles and was very active in the little branch where she lived, serving as Relief Society President and also as a nurse and midwife. But she loved her work and gave unselfishly of her strength to the sick and those in need. But her health began to fail her and in 1909, ten years after moving to Idaho, she passed away after a lingering illness. Her passing was a great loss to her family and the community.
Soon after, Erastus sold his farm and with his three daughters, Lenore, Alda, and Geneva, he moved to Ashton, Idaho. After a few years, his daughters married and he was left alone. As he was getting along in years, he closed his home and went to live with his sister, Emma in Lewiston, Utah. Later he came back to Idaho and lived among his children. The last few years were spent with his son, Ether, in St. Anthony, Idaho.
Erastus had many friends and among them several elderly men like himself. Each morning, weather permitting, he would walk the short distance to Main Street, which was quite difficult for him as he was crippled with arthritis and had to walk with the help of a cane. The townspeople had placed benches for them to sit on and a small table and he and his friends would sit for hours and play checker and talk of their past experiences. The people like to walk by and chat with Uncle Dat and his friends. But one by one his old friends passed away and he was left alone. He soon became too feeble to walk to town. He passed peacefully away on the 17th of December, 1937 in St. Anthony, Idaho, and was laid to rest beside his wife, Geneva, in the cemetery in Richmond, Utah.