"Going to the roots of the Frank Family"
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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Father came home in disguise at threshing time. He found the boys all busy in various places. Elizabeth was on the stack of grain pitching bundles to the threshing machine. The younger children, who were old enough, Sarah and Joseph Hyrum, were in the bins shoveling back the grain as it was emptied from the sacks by the carriers. The women cooked the meals; for we, like all others, had the threshers and all other help, to feed for the length of time it took to do the job. Often this was for several days, especially if the machine broke down. All worked - both old and young.

This was too much for Father's feelings. He felt he could no longer endure this arrangement. What to do, he knew not, but he trusted in God to help him find a way and a place to live in peace with his families. His eldest son, Francis, said this of the occasion: "It was more than Father could bear. He broke down and cried like a child and said, 'It is too much, too much, for children of such tender age to work as they have done.'"

About this time, or probably the next summer, the Ashley Valley in northeastern Utah was being opened for settlement. A Mr. Kovene from Montpelier had moved to that place but later returned to Montpelier. Our father, John Astle, and a close friend and neighbor, Christian Hoganson, who was living in similar conditions, decided to investigate the possibilities of the new country.

It was another long and uncertain trip over rough roads and a dangerous route. They started out with a team of horses and a covered wagon going by way of Green River, Wyoming. There was only an impoverished dirt trail to follow; it could hardly be called a road. It led over rugged mountains and down steep canyons.

An incident happened that proves they were good men, watched over and cared for by a higher power than that of man. While going through one of these very dangerous canyons which looked and seemed impossible for travel, they found themselves accompanied by a man riding a white horse and directing them where to go and what to do. As soon as they were safely past the perilous place, the man disappeared, and they knew not from whence he came or where he went. The Lord surely takes care of those who serve Him and live worthy lives.

They arrived in what was then called Ashley's Fork, now Vernal, Utah. After investigating conditions there, they decided that this was not the kind of place they were seeking for a home, and over the same tortuous trail, the return trip was made to Montpelier.

A little later, Father decided to go to the Star Valley in western Wyoming, as others with the same problems were moving to that place. In the latter part of October 1886, with his young wife and three-week-old baby son, and accompanied by his eldest son, Francis, he started on the way to Wyoming. The weather was very inclement. Francis said it snowed and snowed and was very cold. The roads were extremely difficult. Montpelier Creek had to be forded many times. They persevered and succeeded in reaching Afton, Wyoming, where they passed the winter. Francis returned to his mother's family in Montpelier to take charge of the work and property.

There were but few families living in Star Valley that winter. In the spring of 1887, they returned to Montpelier, glad to be home again. The young baby, Alma, had whooping cough. Later we young children did too. Conditions with the law hadn't improved during the winter but had grown steadily worse. It was now more difficult than before to live here under existing circumstances.

So in the autumn of that same year (1887), it was decided to move both families to Wyoming and begin life once more under what seemed to offer more peaceful and favorable conditions. A goodly number of polygamous families moved there about this same time, for safety and home surroundings. The governor of Wyoming Territory (as it was then) said, "I will never molest the Mormons as long as I am Governor of this Territory."

Elder John Henry Smith, when speaking in a Star Valley Stake Conference said: "The people of this place did not come here because they wanted to, but because they had to come. This valley got some of the cream of Utah and Idaho."

Father and his young wife, Melvina Ann (Melley), were the first to once more make the trip. A little later, in October 1887, his first wife, Isabella, and family left everything in the way of property except the household belonging, etc., and they, too, moved to Afton, Wyoming. It was not easy to pick up and leave a comfortable home, well kept grounds, good outbuildings for the livestock, and extensive, cultivated fields. This had been home to them for many years. Here their nine children were born. They would miss the close association of kindly friends and neighbors. Some of the choicest land in and near Montpelier had been acquired and cultivated. They had really prospered financially. A year or two later this was all sold, mostly to neighbors who were glad to own this improved and profitable land. The payments were not all in cash. At one time Father received twenty cows for some acreage.

Making a home in Star Valley was a gigantic task - another pioneer undertaking. The country stretched for miles each way as a vast wilderness without building or fence. The soil must be subdued and homes erected. About the first united effort of the settlers was the building of a meeting house or church. This served also as school house and amusement hall. This was a log building, as were all early houses, small, with dirt roofs and floors of rough lumber, when it could be obtained.

At Afton, a log house with floor space 16 by 16 feet was our first home for parents and seven children. This was the fifth house built in the township of Afton.

A 160 acre tract of farm and ranch land was purchased from John Hurd for a twenty dollar gold piece. That is, the settler living on it was paid to move off, so that father would have the homestead right to obtain title to the land. This property was located about three miles north of Afton near the mountains on the east side of the valley. This was known as the Upper Ranch. There was a small dirt-roofed log house on this property, and Melley and the baby moved into it.

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