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Leah Ellen Radford Lovell a Native Pioneer
By Maxine Williams, a great granddaughter

Leah Ellen Radford, fourth child of Leah Smith and John Whitlock Radford, was born in Provo, Utah on April 6, 1853. Her two older sisters, Nancy Jane and Catherine, were born as the family was making the trek across the plains. Her brother, John W. was also born in Provo. Her father had been married previously and his wife had left him, apparently when he joined the L.D.S. Church. Her mother, Leah Smith Radford, had two previous husbands and several children. Both of her husbands had been killed, leaving her twice widowed at a very young age.

The Radford family moved from Provo to Fillmore in Central Utah where they remained for several years and from there they were called to assist in the settling of Deseret in Millard County. This settlement was not successful due to their inability to get a stable water source for their crops. The Radford family, with many others, moved a few miles to the East and founded the community of Oak City.

It was in this tiny, peaceful, hamlet that Leah Ellen grew to maturity. It was a busy life as the pioneer family struggled to provide food and clothing and to raise their large family. Leah's father married Polly Stevens as a plural wife in December of 1855. She had four children before she died of childbed fever in 1863. Leah learned early how to work hard and that it was important to be thrifty and careful with what she had. These lessons were to be very important to her later in her life.

Leah Ellen was only sixteen when she married her sweetheart, Joseph Hyrum Lovell. He was the neighbor boy who lived on the block just behind her in Oak City. They made their home in that community and had ten children. As the children were growing towards maturity, the Lovells decided that, because of the limited water available, there was nothing in the Oak City area that offered much opportunity for their growing family. They decided to move to new country to help their children get a start in life.

Several families decided to make the journey to the new area. The intended goal was Star Valley in Wyoming. The company of several wagons, carrying all their possessions, their livestock, chickens, etc., left Oak City in May of 1889.

One of the daughters, Leah Ann, remembers the experience:

"We had a company of seventeen wagons and a big band of horses and cattle. . . . It took five weeks to make the journey into Star Valley. We cooked our bread in the big iron bake oven and put coals over the top of it. When we landed there, it wasn't the place we expected to find or what had been pictured to us. It was a wild country and there was plenty of wild hay, but there were so many willows and underbrush that it couldn't be cut until the land was cleared.

"Grandfather and Grandmother Radford went with us. Just before we arrived, we met a man coming from Star Valley. Father asked him about the country and he told us that it was nine months of winter and three months of late fall."

As they arrived in Star Valley, Leah Ellen's mother (Grandmother Radford) was very ill and unable to travel any further. Otherwise they wouldn't have stayed. Leah's husband took his family to the mountains, found a spring and made a home of sorts for the coming winter. Not long after their arrival, he and the older boys were away cutting logs for corrals when a forest fire broke out. Leah Ellen and her youngest son (a very small boy) with one horse in camp, tore the tents down, hitched on to the wagon and pulled it to a clear place. All that had been accomplished in weeks of hard work was destroyed by fire.

Joseph decided that it would be best to have the family in the valley. There he built a two-room log shack with split lumber to cover the top. Here the family spent the winter.

Leah Ann tells that, whenever her father was away, the Indians were a constant concern. They were continually coming asking for food, and especially for sugar. One day, when Grandmother Radford was asleep with her back to the doorway, Leah Ellen opened the tent flaps so the Indians could see her mother. Then she told them the old lady had the small pox. The Indians never came back to the' camp again.

That first winter, Joseph arranged for a man to feed his cattle and provide some shelter for them. When he went to get them in the spring, they were all dead--they had starved. In December of that winter (1889) Leah Ellen's father, John Whitlock Radford, died and was buried in Star Valley.

By the next winter most of the rest of the group who had come from Utah with them decided that they couldn't survive in such a cold place and left, traveling West and North to the Upper Snake River Valley. Leah Ellen and her husband could not leave because the serious illness of her mother made travel impossible.

They continued to live in their tiny home in the area that is now known as Etna, Wyoming. The Freedom Branch of the L.D.S. Church was organized in 1890 and Leah's husband, Joseph, was called as the Presiding Elder. A school was begun and was held in a small room that had been built as a shade for the cattle during the summer-time. It was a room about 11 x 12 feet. Still, however, it was difficult to make a living because of the short growing season.

Finally, when Leah's mother was better, Joseph and Leah Ellen determined that they too would leave Star Valley and join their family and friends who had gone on to Idaho. They took Grandma Radford to where the other families had gone (where Ririe, Idaho is now located) and made preparations to move immediately.

The family arrived in Idaho on October 3, 1891 and found a small house where they could live. It had been used as a storage shed and had to be cleaned and have windows installed, but they thought it would do for the winter. The boys made a dugout to sleep in and the rest of the family lived in one tiny room. Leah Ellen was so sick all winter that she couldn't even feed herself. Her young teen-age girls had to care for her and take care of the needs of the family as best they could.

Joseph obtained work at a saw mill about five miles away. He walked to and from the mill each day before and after work. One day the following spring, he became ill and after five weeks, he passed away, leaving his wife a widow, a stranger in a strange new country, just three weeks from delivering her eleventh child. The only possessions the family had were what they had brought in the two wagons.

The child, Mary Josephine, was delivered on July 6, 1892. When she was two weeks old, a neighbor (Dolph Heath) came and told Leah that he could put her onto some land on which a man had filed and never lived. This kind man even loaned Leah the money to get the land. The day her child was one month old, she was camped on the bank of the river along the way to Blackfoot to the land office to file on the farm.

Another young man, who was homesteading and making his way in this new area, also stepped forward and helped her, offering aid and counsel to her sons as they cleared the land and began farming. Later this man, David Ririe, married Leah Ann, one of the daughters.

Leah Ellen's daughter said of her:

"She was a wonderful mother. A number of times she didn't have anything in the house to live on but she would never let her wants be known. Once she went out and prayed to the Lord that He would open up the way for her to get some salt and some soap. As she went out that evening after the cows, away out in the sage brush, she picked up a new silver dollar. She said it wasn't even covered with dust as if it has been left there for her benefit.

"Mother worked very hard and did all that a woman could do toward making a livelihood for her family. In the early days in Utah, Father used to raise sheep and sheared them. Mother would card the wool and knit our stockings. Until I was grown I never knew what it was to have a pair of stockings that Mother hadn't made. She made her own soap and the lights we burned were candles she had made from mutton tallow."

Two years after her husband died, Leah Ellen's five-year-old daughter, Ada, was drowned in the big canal that ran by their home. Her mother saw her fall in and tried desperately to pull her out but the current was too swift. Just three months later, her seven-year-old daughter, Sylvia, died of diphtheria. A few weeks later her mother passed away. Leah Ellen wondered if she had the strength to endure.

But endure she did, keeping her faith, and her great love for her family and for the Lord. This stalwart pioneer of both Utah and Idaho, aided and counseled her sons so that each indeed "got their start" in the Idaho area. Each of the sons became a hard-working farmer, owning his land and supporting his family from that farm. Leah Ellen died 3 February 1923, just a few weeks short of her seventieth birthday. She left a wonderful posterity. The church was filled to overflowing at the funeral service. The services were simple but impressive as they paid homage to a brave and valiant soul who was in all respects a noble pioneer woman.

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