My grandparents on my father’s side lived in Blanding and so it was home to my father. My grandmother on my mom’s side moved there for work, and at the age of 20, my mom joined her and helped her run an Indian Dormitory for a few years. This is where my mom and dad met and lived there for a while. Later after my father died, my mother moved to Blanding when she married my father’s brother, and they lived there together for a few years. So Blanding is a ”Going Home Family Reunion.”
My mother held a family reunion here and people from all over the state and outside of Utah came. Relatives who still live there arranged for tours and hikes to Ancient Native American sites, or horseback riding adventures, etc. That evening we all gathered for dinner and a campfire. We sang old songs around the campfire, and then my mom presented a reader’s theater based on a newspaper article of my great grandfather. He was a polygamist and had three wives. The first wife decided she didn’t like polygamy and with the help of those people who came into Utah–reporters, spies, agents–to try to expose the practice as evil. She was aided in deciding to sue her husband for polygamy. It was the first trial, but it was brought against him by his wife. This was reported in newspapers all over the country like New York and Chicago. This article came from a Chicago Newspaper. It was written cleverly with a sense of humor, and so Mom assigned parts to different people such as the wife, Thomas Hawkins, the reporter, the judge, etc. And it was performed. Afterwards my aunt who had known him as her grandfather and had researched a lot shared the rest of the story with us. Until then I didn’t know much about my great grandfather, but I have always remembered that part of his life. We all learned a lot in a memorable way.
Another time when it was my turn, we went up Huntington Canyon and reenacted a mini pioneer trek. We used ancestor stories and planned around that. Each person was given a pioneer bonnet or a cowboy hat. One of our ancestors headed to Oregon for the gold fields. They stopped in Salt Lake for supplies and he joined the Mormon Church. So we salted the creek with some gold marbles for the kids to find as we began our trek (they could each pick up four gold nuggets), telling them the story of William Morley Black. The family was divided into families with a “Ma and Pa” for each family. Each family had a little wagon or a wheel barrow to use as their handcart. Each person brought a bedroll (to eat their lunch on) and a large squirt gun or super soaker (for the buffalo hunt) and put them in the handcart.
Top Row: L-Panning for gold; C-On the trail; R-A pioneer ancestor visits us and tells her story. Middle Row:-Crossing a stream. Bottom Row: L-Guns read for the buffalo hunt; C-The hunt; R-The Trading Post.
Toward the end, some anonymous person handed each family a note that told of a challenge for their family such as one of their children broke his leg. They had to figure how to best help him. The trail crossed a small stream two times, and the leaders had to figure out the best place to across. Everyone made a stop to eat their lunch (cheese stick, jerky, and an apple). We had one of our pioneer ancestor–Ann Jewell Rowley appear to us and tell her stories of faith. The dads and grandpas acted as the buffalo and had a cardboard buffalo head as a shield. The kids had the most fun with this activity. At the end of the trek, they could spend their gold at the trading post. After the trek was over, the kids gathered around an aunt who helped them make a pioneer craft. Each family was given a small book that told the stories of their pioneer ancestors, to take home. We ate chili and scones for late lunch. The there was free time for kids and visiting time for adults.
My sister chose our old hometown of Tooele for the venue of one of our family reunions. We went to the new Desert Peak Aquatic Center and everyone went swimming. There is a water slide and a huge pool. It is also located by the Historic Benson Grist Mill which has a lot of interesting, historic things to see and do. It’s a great way to review history of the area where we had lived for many years.
Our old pioneer house in Tooele. Left–My sister and I in the doorway of our old house a couple of years ago. It was empty and the yard is overgrown. The door was open so we took a tour. Right—I’m the baby, my sister is behind me, in 1949. The house was about 100 years old when we lived there.
We had lunch after our activities and then everyone was given a driving tour map with addresses and information on it telling about our home, the homes of two sister in laws, who grew up there as well, the high school my brothers attended, the hospital my mother worked as administrator, the old hospital where I was born, the elementary school we all attended, and some points on our way home where we picnicked as children, such as Black Rock Beach on the Great Salt Lake, and Adobe Rock. Everyone had their own map and so we all went in our individual cars at our own pace.
My husband is from Georgia. Two of his brother still live there. The other three boys lived in Utah, at the time of this reunion. My mother-in-law, Nina wanted us all to go to Georgia for a family reunion. We planned it two years ahead. We knew we wanted to be there in the Springtime when it was most beautiful and not too hot. The folks in Georgia did a lot of planning on their end of it as well.
The top left picture is just one of the fishing trips that were planned. The top right is a family blue grass band that has recorded their music, and Uncle Tut Taylor, famous among blue grass music lovers. He has made many albums, and won a Grammy for one of them! “He’s called the Flat Pickin’ Dobro Man.” So we were entertained a lot!
We had a huge southern barbecue, where they cook a hog over a pit all night long. And then, added to that, were all the fabulous southern dishes and desserts. It was fabulous. All cousins, aunts and uncles in the whole state were invited! Feasting and visiting went on for three days!
Top Left–Nina (Ben’s mom) with her brothers and sister–all still living in Georgia. Center–Charlie (Ben’s Dad) and his sister. Right–One of the old homes Ben lived in as a boy. Bottom Row Left–The old Methodist Church where Charlie’s parents are buried. Center–Gravestones of Charlie’s parents. Right–The Old State Capitol building, now a Military high school.
We went to Georgia a few more times, and each time we had a big family barbecue and learned more family history. We toured the town and saw all of the houses that Nina and Charlie had lived in through the years of raising their five boys; where Nina had worked and gone to school; The Georgia State Mental Hospital where Ben’s grandfather and aunt worked; the theater they used attend; the old schools; Georgia Women’s College, which once The Governor’s Mansion and other State Buildings. In the early 1900s Peabody High School was in one of the college buildings, and that is where Nina attended high school. Note: During the Civil War Milledgeville was the state capitol. After the Civil War the capitol was moved to Atlanta.
One year all the brothers and sister-in-laws got together in Georgia for a family history tour and discussions. Then we all went to Hilton Head Island and rented a beautiful beach house for three days. We visited Savannah and other wonderful sights, but our evening conversation was always about memories of Georgia, grandparents, aunts and uncles, skeletons in the closets, places the family lived and worked, etc. We taped our conversations so it could be typed up as history later. And on every trip, we got to see Uncle Tut Taylor and be entertained by his wonderful blue grass music played on a dobro! Although he moved to Tennessee long ago for his music career, he always came to Georgia to be with family when we got together.