On June14, 1989, the Jackson Hole News published an article about Mormon Row Pioneer holdouts Clark & Veda Moulton. The following is a copy of that article. Clark and Veda are gone now, but their memory lives on. Their one acre also lives on in the family. It is now owned and operated by Clark and Veda’s Grandson Hal Blake and his wife Iola.
Last landowners tell of historic settlement
By: Bill Wilcox
Behind Blacktail Butte north of Jackson there is a seldom traveled road lined with old wooden barns, some of them sagging with the weight of years. Photographers like to take pictures of the old buildings in front of the Grand Teton.
Many photographers probably do not realize the are standing on Mormon Row, once the location of a self-supporting community that thrived despite many hardships.
There is only one acre of private land left on Mormon Row today, just one acre in a cast sea of Grand Teton National Park. That valuable acre belongs to Clark and Veda Moulton.
Clark was nine months old in 1913 when his father, T. A. Moulton homesteaded his 160 acre ranch. Veda was born a year later a short walk down the row. They attended elementary school together and used to get in heated a\discussions about who had to walk the farthest to get to school.
Clark graduated in the class of ’32 in the depths of the depression. His family was so poor they couldn’t afford a license plate for their car that yearso it stayed in the garage all summer. His father depended on the cattle business for his annual paycheck, but during the toughest years two-year old steers only sold for $29 apiece in Omaha.
About this time, the Snake River Land Company, with Rockefeller money, started buying the marginal farmland around Mormon Row. In 1936, the year Clark and Veda were married, the company targeted Mormon Row Homesteads.
Clark’s father decided that, since his son was married and wanted to stay on Mormon Row, that he would give him a one-acre plot in the corner of the homestead. So Clark fenced off and acre and built a small house there. Little did the young man realize that he would someday be the last owner of the last remaining private property in the settlement.
The history books tell the story of what happened between 1936 and the present. The land purchased by the Snake River Land Company was eventually given to the federal government for the creation of Grand Teton National Park. The park eventually bought all the rest of the land on Mormon Row, except Clark’s on acre, and gave lifetime leases to the original homesteaders.
Only one original homesteader in still alive (in 1989). He is 102 year old John Moulton. Clark’s uncle.
Clark is proud of his heritage as a second-generation homesteader. He has made a map of Mormon Row showing the location of the original homesteaders: Families with the last name of May, Budge, Riniker, Chambers, Harthoon, Johnston, Eggleston, Perry, Moulton, Murphy, Van de Brock, Sindel, Geck and Pfieffer. Many of their relatives still live in the valley.
Clark enjoys telling visitors about the old days. Historians continue to knock on his door to get a first-hand account of one ot the communities in the Old West. The following tale is the story of Mormon Row from a son of a homesteader who is the last private property holder along that historic stretch of road.
The earliest days
“The original homesteaders came from Rockland, Idaho. On the second or third night they camped on the railroad track of Eagle Rock, which is now Idaho Falls. During the night the train came through and killed some of their horses. James I. May went back to Rockland to get some more horses, and joined the group, and on the Fourth of July, 1896, they came through Victor, Idaho, with their covered wagons and livestock. Victor thought that was quite a parade.
It took them several days to get over the pass. There was no road then, so they spent one night in Wilson, along Fish Creek. The mosquitoes were bad. They sent the boys out to fish and pretty soon they had enough fish for several meals. The next day they came up the west side of the river past what is now Teton Village. They arrived at Menor’s Ferry. At that time of year the river was high and they had to ferry the wagons across the river to get to this area. When they got to Menor’s Ferry, the fare was a dollar per wagon and the other horses can swim the river, and that’s what they done.
“And they arrived here at their homestead. It was July and it was too late to plant, to late to plow, and there was no water, no wells. So they took their plow and they went up east here and plowed a furrow for Ditch Creek. That old ditch line is still there. That’s how they got their water for their livestock that first summer. They had this livestock and it was getting late in the year so they went down to flat creek and helped to cut the meadow hay. There was one mowing machine in the valley then.”
They spent the first winter there with friends.
“Then they started the next spring, 1897, they came up and started plowing and planting. They had a few sagebrush to contend with. They brought with them an early maturing oat. It would mature in 90 days. And that has been the main crop for a number of years on Mormon Row. You can thresh it into grain. The straw was good roughage for the livestock. Or you could stack it as hay and feed your livestock that way.
We had to plow the land. There was sagebrush, you’ve seen the sagebrush on Antelope Flat. Finally I got big enough that I could use the grubbing hoe and I’s go around the patch with the grubbing hoe and cut sage so we could plow. You plowed with horses. And when they first came here, either you had a sulky plow or a hand plow to plow the ground, that’s just one furrow at a time.
“Then they would burn the sage. You’s put the sages into a pile and then you’s go out at night and burn the sages because it was so pretty at night. That was evening time recreation.
“The homesteaders dug their own wells by hand. The Budge well was 60 feet deep. As you go north the wells get deeper. This well is 110 feet deep and dug by hand. Joe Pfieffer’s well was 120 feet deep and he never found water. Joe dug a lot of the wells. He has to have someone up on top with a horse, and when the bucket was full it’s come up and be’s dump the dirt, or the rocks. It was mostly rocks.
“You finished the well in the month of March when the water level was down, and it’s fill up in the summer.
“They used the short handled shovel and you had to crib the well as you went down or it’d fall in on you. They’d take a log and split it in half and then they’d crib, holding the logs together with a spike or board.
“They said the old Joe Pfeiffer could tell if he was going straight by the way the sun was shining on the north side of the well. Don’t know how true that is, but he’s a well digger.”
Life on Mormon Row
“The membership of the church had 22 families. They weren’t all from here. Some from Moran, Kelly, around Moose, all LDS. They all had their records here. The community was called Grovont. The Post Office was Grovont. The LDS Branch was Grovont, but being that most people here were LDS, it just got nicknamed Mormon Row.”
(In the ealry 1960’s the old Mormon church from Mormon Row was hauled into twon and later it became the Calico Piza Parlor.)
“Mormon Row was a self-supporting community. They all had cattle and they all milked cows. You see, we didn’t get a paycheck every month. We got a paycheck once a year, so you had to make it all reach. Of course you had your egg and your cream checks. They had a creamery in Jackson. We’d take our cream i once or twice a month and tehy’d make butter in Jackson. That was revenue. We’d take our eggs to the store and trade them for groceries. And Fred’s Market, when they started up on Wilson would take oats for groceries, so we sold our oats and bought groceries.
“Recreation was the Saturday night dance twice a month or something. Veda’s father had a violin and his boys could beat the drums and play the horns. Mel Chandler could play the piano. Most of the time the dance was here in the old LDS church. People from Kelly would come, and of course you couldn’t smoke or drink, but you could dance. We learned to dance, and we could dance to everybody could dance. little fellas, big fellas, everybody learned to dance.
“The piano player would play until three o’clock in the morning and his fingers would be bleeding, he’s have to tape them.
“In those days it was team and sleigh transportation in the winter time and since this was the main road the mail would come out of Jackson in the morning. It would come here and then there would be a sleigh come from the dam, or Moran as we knew it then. That’s where the Post Office used to be. There’d be a team come from there and one from Jackson and they’d meet here and change horses, have dinner, and exchange mail. and he’d go back that way, he’d go to Moran with the mail. And if there was anyone from Jackson who wanted to fish on Jackson Lake in the wintertime, they’s ride up to Moran for a dollar and they could have dinner here for 50 cents.
Dr. Huff came up here to deliver babies, and he had a light sleigh and he had a driver. My mother was the midwife so they’d get together and deliver babies. Sometimes they got there soon enough and sometimes they didn’t. If they didn’t mother would have to deliver the baby.”
” The winter’s meat supply was the elk. We’d wait until December to get our winter elk. And we’d wait until December because we didn’t have refrigeration you know. We’d hang it up in the meathouse and it’d freeze. When we needed a piece of meat, we’d bring it in and thwq it out and there we’d have our meat.
“Another thing the women folks done was canned elk meat. The front shoulders, they’d can it cold pack, and then that was part of the meat for the summer. We also raised hogs. March was butchering time for the hogs. You cured your hams and bacon and took it to the smokehouse to smoke it and then wrapped it in newspapers and hung it in the meathouse for the summer. You treated it with pepper. The fly’s didn’t bother it much, you just hung it on a nail in the meathouse and that’s how you had your summer meat.
” In the fall of the year when the grain got ripe, ready to thresh, they all would come to thresh. and they’s thresh at this place for a couple of days, then they’s go back someplace else. The womenfolk would cook for them. There’d be 10-15 men, and there were a lot of horses to feed.
“You had a kerosene lights, a little later gasoline lights. And the wells were all just deep hoes at first. Later we got a casing down the well and then we had these hand pumps. You’d pump it up and then later we got a Galloway one cylinder engine that went pop. pop-pop-pop, POP-POP-POP-POP. You knew Clifton was up down there if you heard his pump going or you knew the Moultons were up if you heard their pump going. They were pumping water for their stock.
“There’s one thing I wanted to mention because not many people know about it. At one time there were sheep grazing on Blacktail Butte. For at least six years there were sheep up there. and that was unusual because this was cattle country. But you couldn’t graze cattle up there, cause it was to steep, but sheep did just fine.”
The Kelly Flood
“It’s been 65 years since the Kelly flood. There’s not many people left you see I was 13 and she was 12. Just before the flood came, the ranchers here was building their canal to Kelly and then the one from the Gros Ventre was coming the other way and they were going to meet. The nxt morning after the Kelly flood the warm springs comes up, never a drop of water there before. And it was heading right for our canal. so now we didn’t have to pump water for the cows anymore. We had irrigation water for our fields.
We didn’t call it the Kelly Warm Springs, We call it the Miracle Pond, because it was miracle that came our way. The water runs all winter it doesn’t freeze because it’s warm.”