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July 24, 2024

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Life of Lauretta Hepworth Astle
Written by her daughter, Arstanie Astle Nye

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A year or two before the Astle family had moved into Star Valley, they had come from Montpelier, Idaho, where they had lived quite comfortably on a 160 acre farm.

On a beautiful Sunday morning, as was the custom, all the people were going to church. The Astle family had just tied their team to the old hitching post when another team of horses drove up. Someone said, "There's Brother Hepworth and his other family." The family consisted of himself, his wife Hannah and two lovely young daughters, Eliza and Lauretta.

As usual, young men were interested in the young ladies. One of the Astle boys made the passing remarked, "I'm going to marry that young one."

It wasn't long after this statement that a courtship really began between the two, John Francis and Lauretta, the younger Hepworth girl. Their courting consisted of much horseback riding, sleigh riding, dancing and candy pulls along with other things. All during the courtship, plans were being made for a wedding in the near future. John Francis worked hard on the farm and spent many long hours hauling logs from the canyon to build a new house for his future bride. Lauretta helped her mother with the cooking, washing and all things she could do to help with the work. She also watched the building of the house and was pleased with the progress being made.

Now was the time for Lauretta and her young man to be married. They left early one morning in a covered wagon, taking her mother along for the trip to Logan, Utah. It took three days to make the trip. They were married in the Logan Temple on the ninth of September 1891, with President Marriner W. Merrill officiating. On their return, the newlyweds went to their new log house, their first home.

The logs used for the house were hewed on one side which would make the inside of the house smooth. The outside was plastered with white line mortar. There were two rooms on the main floor and two above it. The roof was shingled. They had very little furniture. The bed had no springs, just board slats that held the straw filled mattress. The cook stove was one bought in Omaha, Nebraska and was brought across the plains by John Francis' father. Lauretta loved her new home and took great pride in keeping it clean. She carried water from the ditch for washing, cleaning, cooking and all household chores. They worked together in the home and on the farm and joined in all activities of the Church.

Lauretta and John F. Astle with son, John Francis Jr.
Lauretta and John F. Astle
with son, John Francis Jr.

On the 13th of July, 1892, a little son came to them; this was a big event in their young lives. Lauretta was not yet seventeen and her husband was twenty-two. The baby was given the name of John Francis, Jr. Then on their third wedding anniversary a little girl was welcomed, she was given the name of Klea Lauretta. She was a pretty baby with blonde hair and blue eyes. Lauretta worked long hours, washing, ironing, mending, cooking, churning butter, making bread, plus garden work. She would get tired but yet never a word of complaint. She was always ready to help someone else.

A few days after Klea was born, a letter from Salt Lake City arrived; it was from the First Presidency of the Church. It was at this time that John Francis was called on a mission to preach the Gospel to the people of the world. The letter was a great surprise to them, but they were happy and yet sad. They didn't know how it would be possible, but after talking and praying about it they decided the mission should be filled. They only had three weeks to do all the necessary things, but with the help of the Lord and the people, Elder Astle was ready to go on time.

They sold hay, grain, cows, to get a little money. One young cow, hay and enough wheat for the family's bread was kept. Lauretta was happy for her husband to take a mission, but she really had a big mission herself to fill at home with two babies to raise, farm to do, along with all other things. Her motto was, "I'll always do what I can and the Lord will be ever ready to come to my aid."

The two families, Hepworth's and Astle's, were good to her and the children. Lauretta was up each day at the break of dawn to milk the cows, feed the chickens, and to work in the garden while the children were still sleeping. The milk was put in flat pans, making it easier to skim the cream off. The cream would then be saved each day to make butter once a week.

John Francis, Lauretta, Klea, and John Francis Jr.
John Francis, Lauretta,
Klea, and John Francis Jr.
- Taken about 1897 -

The butter churn was a barrel type, with a handle on one side and a peg on the other. The barrel was placed on a stand made with two upright boards fastened together with cross bars and these were nailed together with another at the bottom. There was a notch cut in the top end of the two boards for the barrel to rest in, then it could be turned over and over until the butter came. The butter would be worked, washed and then worked again to get all the buttermilk out, then salted and worked some more. It would then be made into round mounds placed on plates ready to be taken to the market in Afton. Butter sold for ten or fifteen cents a pound and eggs, eight or ten cents a dozen. Lauretta did much of the work, saving what money she could to help keep her husband in the mission field.

After thirty long months, her husband was released from his mission and returned home. That was a happy time for the family. He found everything in order and working well. Lauretta was always a good manager. The children had to get acquainted with their father, which didn't take long. The couple still young in years, but much older in experience, picked up together once again to work the farm and raise a family.

Vernon was born April 5, 1898, in the north downstairs room with Grandma Hepworth in attendance as mid-wife. (In those days there were very few doctors in the Valley.) Lauretta and the two children, Francis and Klea, were happy with the new baby. For about two weeks after the birth of each new baby, it was really the only rest period Lauretta received, but from the bed she was managing the meals and keeping the house.

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