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July 17, 2019

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Life Story of John Astle
Written by his daughter, Sarah Astle Call, in 1953

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Through hard experience, as settlers in a new country among strange people of various nationalities, they found it necessary to adjust themselves to a different way of life. The first movement was to secure a piece of land on which to erect a log house or dug-out to shelter them as a home. No one could afford to be idle. The motto was, "Work and help yourselves and the neighbors." They never thought of doing things in any other way. When a little older, John purchased a few acres of land near Hyrum for a few bushels of wheat. (I believe it was four bushels.) Here he built a small log house.

In 1866, when the call came from President Brigham Young for volunteers, as missionaries, to go with ox teams back to the Missouri River to meet and bring Saints who were immigrating to Utah without financial means to continue the journey, John volunteered for this unselfish service.

This took about five months of his time. When ready to return, he found his passengers to be Scandinavians. Some of them proved to be quite quarrelsome and disagreeable about the unexpected hard, tiresome way they were to cross the plains.

While in Omaha, Nebraska, John purchased a cook stove for the intended house keeping with his bride-to-be. This was one of the first, if not the first stove in Hyrum.

Living in the same town was a young woman with whom he was in love. He wished to marry her, but up to this time he hadn't told her so.

Isabella Jane Bradshaw
Isabella Jane Bradshaw

Mother tells the story in this brief way: "John and I were standing outside near the woodpile when he proposed. I just had time to say 'Yes' when Mother appeared on the spot." Later, as she and her mother were discussing the marriage and the probable consent or not, as parents were always asked about it, to grandmother's great surprise Belle Jane said, "I'd run away to marry the man I love, if necessary!"

Well, it wasn't done that way. With the blessing of her widowed mother, and of his parents, they were united in marriage. John Astle and Isabella Jane Bradshaw (called Belle Jane) were married at Hyrum, 9 December 1866. The ceremony was performed by Bishop O. W. Liljenquist who also was the first mayor of Hyrum, Utah. They, at a later date, 24 May 1869, were married for time and eternity in the Endowment House of the LDS Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.

They lived in the snug little log cabin John had built until the next summer, when another change came. They were called to help pioneer the Bear Lake Valley in Idaho. Obedient to authority, the young couple, courageous and brave, gathered their few possessions and left loved ones and friends to depart for the new place. It was especially hard to leave his wife's widowed mother. She remarked, "I shall never be happy again until John and Belle Jane return to Cache Valley." One-half of the wagon box held all of their household effects. In the other half were two pigs, two sheep, and a few chickens.

There were no roads, as we call such, nothing more than a trail, where ever a place was found that might be passable. It might be in the bottom of a canyon, on a side hill, or as Mother and Father pointed out to this writer, up over a steep mountain. It is still a mystery how they ever succeeded in reaching their destination. They went by way of what was known as Mink Creek.

Their first child was expected during the early months of the coming year, 1868, but not one word of complaint was heard from either of them. They were cheerful and brave about a hazardous undertaking for in those days the only assistance to be had was the aid of some kindly neighbor lady, or perhaps none at all. This child, a daughter, named Elizabeth Felicia for her two grandmothers, was born 4 February 1868.

They had located at what is known as Montpelier, Idaho. It was a trying experience, in a new, uncultivated country with a very cold climate, where they were never sure of their crops, for more often than not in those early times, they were frozen just before harvest time. Everything was scarce and what could be purchased was extremely high in price: sugar, $1 per pound; buttons, $1 per dozen; and other items in like proportion.

Year after year they persevered. It took all the grit they could muster to subdue the soil, raise the crops, and build a home. Many times they would have liked to return to Cache Valley, but they had been called to help settle this wilderness and must prove true to their leaders who had faith in them and believed they had within themselves the right kind of metal to succeed. This they did in time.

Sometimes a trip to Cache Valley had to be made by ox team for flour and other necessities. Of course they enjoyed seeing their loved ones who still resided in Hyrum and Paradise. A brother, Joseph Astle, had preceded them to Montpelier, Idaho. Grandfather Francis Astle and Grandmother Felicia Raynor Astle soon followed them, as did also their other sons, James and Thomas, and the family rejoiced in being together again. Amid the hardships of the new home, the friends and neighbors enjoyed themselves in social activities, such as dance, house parties, picnics in the near by lovely canyon, or on the shores of beautiful Bear Lake.

Church duties were not neglected. A ward was organized and a log meeting house had been built. Among other duties, Father was given the responsibility of helping in care and burial of the dead. He and his brother Joseph dug many of the early graves (gratis) in the cemetery of Montpelier. On one occasion when Brother Daniel H. Wells was visiting the Bear Lake Stake, John met him at Paris, Idaho, to receive instructions as to the clothing of the dead, etc. One remark made to him by Brother Wells remained in his memory for life: "John, keep your eyes on the big guns (meaning the authorities of the Church); little guns often miss fire, but big ones seldom do." This advice was closely followed. Members of the family were never allowed to criticize or find fault with any of those placed in authority.

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