"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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In the spring of 1888, three hundred dollars was paid to Hans Hansen for another 160 acres adjoining this property. This farm became know as the Lower Ranch and was homesteaded and title obtained by the eldest son, John Francis, eighty acres of it to belong to his brother, Richard. This was partly meadow land. On it was a two room log house, to which was added a third log room. The first wife, Isabella (Belle Jane), and family moved from Afton to this place in the spring of 1888.

None of this land was fenced. The children were kept busy watching and keeping away roving live stock, so that the grass would grow and make hay for the coming winter. This was truly primitive country. The whole Star Valley had been a summer hunting ground for the Indians. Wild animals were plentiful, especially deer and elk. Unafraid, they roamed the valley where and when they pleased. It was not unusual to have from one to two or more (especially deer) pass right by the house. This was a common occurrence, especially every spring and fall, when the animals would be crossing from west to east or from east to west, from one range of mountains to the other.

The men folk took great pleasure in the "Hunt". This furnished us with plenty of meat. The hides of deer were tanned into buckskin by the men folk and made into shirts, moccasins, gloves, etc. The sewing was done by Mother until the boys learned to do it themselves. Our boys also learned to knit gloves, socks, etc.

The winters were long and severely cold. Those Wyoming blizzards are still well remembered. Trees cut and hauled from the canyons were our only supply for construction of buildings and also for firewood. This was hazardous work but was all done cheerfully and without complaint. It was considered just one of many requirements, a regular routine in a new country.

Religious duties were not neglected. On Wednesday, 21 September 1887, very soon after their arrival there, the Saints who had settled on Swift Creek, Star Valley, Wyoming, were organized as Afton Ward with Charles D. Cazier as Bishop. This comprised all the Saints living in the two valleys, both upper and lower.

The Sabbath was observed as such. No work was allowed except the preparation of the meals by the housewife and the feeding of the livestock by the men folk. Of course, the cows must be milked and pigs and chickens fed. Once a month on the first Thursday, a fast day was observed with Fast Day and Testimony meeting held at ten o'clock a.m. and Relief Society Meeting at two o'clock p.m. All labor was halted for this day. Old and young attended the meetings, especially the morning meeting.

We, as a family, believe the Upper Ranch was the most loved of all places where we lived. In about 1889, both wives and their children were living on this place. A larger home had been erected for the first wife. The two houses were now only a few rods apart. The older children of the one family and the younger children of the other family grew up together.

This ranch was a beautiful place to live near the high mountains and a beautiful canyon with springs of clear water, lovely pine, aspen, and other trees with enough willows and other shrubbery to complete the scene. Truly, it was nature in all its glory. Water from these springs was piped to the front of each house where it emptied into a wooden trough hewed from a log of wood. This had an open mouth called a spout placed several feet above ground. Water flowed continually, making a miniature waterfall as it rose and fell into the ditch below. Service berries and choke cherries grew abundantly, not only on the side of the mountains and in the canyons, but right in the yard near the house. Sage hens and pheasants came right into the garden, helping themselves to whatever they pleased.

There were plenty of wild animals roaming about. The cry of the coyote and mountain lion was frequently heard. Their presence was occasionally felt as they came too close for comfort.

An incident told by members of the family may be interesting to relate. Upon returning home from some ward affair at Grover one moonlight evening, they heard the shrill cry of a lion. It sounded very close and came from near the mountain and just outside the corral where the cows and calves were penned up for the night. The animal was crying and howled at the top of its voice. Naturally, the family became somewhat alarmed and decided to get inside the house as quickly as possible. The key to the house could not be found. It was lost! What to do next was the question. Well, they broke a window and began putting the children through as fast as it could be done. Once inside, they watched and listened, wondering what they should do. In plain view, the lion sat upon its haunches and howled. Finally, the animal stood on all fours, yawned, stretched, and leisurely walked away.

Another time a fox was killed over by the lone pine tree that stood in all its majesty next to a lone cedar amid a beautiful grove of aspens and other shrubbery. This was in the south east corner of the farm.

Father was a very systematic and tireless worker, blessed with unusually good health and plenty of determination to finish whatever he began. With the help of his family, he soon had both farms under cultivation. They produced abundantly grain, hay, and livestock. Later, the dairy products played a very important part when a Creamery was set up, and still later a cheese plant was established.

The climate was extremely cold, the winters long and severe with lots of snow. Here, as in Bear Lake Valley, the wheat was often frozen just before harvest time. But this was now our home, and we had learned to love it, for here we found peace and relief from persecution by enemies of our religion.

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