|Birth: ||Oct. 22, 1901|
|Death: ||Nov. 18, 1971|
Biography of Vernal Caldwell
Vernal Mae Caldwell was born Oct 22nd, 1901, in Malad, Idaho. She was the first of five known children born to John (Jack) and Emily Vaughn Caldwell. This little girl, of mostly Welsh decent, had black hair and black eyes.
While still a child, Vernal's family moved over to St John (just a few miles north of Malad) where Vernal would have had her share of the farm chores. She went to school here with her brothers and sisters, and somewhere along the way she met Griff Davis.
Vernal married Griff on August 21, 1920, at the Oneida County Courthouse. She and Griff set about having a family right away with a son born to them that winter, followed by many sons and daughters.
About four years after their marriage, Vernal endured the loss of her mother. Vernal's siblings came and lived with her and Griff off and on until they were able to go and make their own way in the world, as their father was often gone in the mountains herding sheep. When Vernal was 30, her father remarried. Her new stepmother was actually her uncle's widowed wife, whom everyone loved, Aunt Lil'.
With caring for her children and her brothers and sisters, Vernal and Griff kept having babies and didn't stop until Vernal had her last in May of 1940; Vernal was 38. How this woman of 4 ft 11 inches ever had twelve children is beyond most. Faye, Vernal's sister in-law and friend, said she would often ask Vernal, "How on earth do you keep getting pregnant?" to which Vernal would reply, "It's easier to have a baby then it is to do my washing!"
The family endured hard times with the Great Depression. With the loss of Griff's job, the family had to move from their brick home, to a white home, to a log home. Though it was a log home, it had a place to shower inside! The previous owners had left an organ. Though no one knew how to play it, they all had fun piddling on it. The house always had geraniums in the window, as Vernal had a love for flowers. There were two rooms in the house, of which the family made do.
At night everyone would just pull out their bed rolls, though a lucky few got to share one of the two beds. It was so cold then, as there was no heating system other than the wood stove and Idaho knows some very cold winters. Vernal would heat some old-fashioned irons on the stove, and then wrap the irons in a towel and put them in the beds before they all went to sleep, to keep them warm at night.
With a family of twelve children, there was not enough room to go around the table. Faye recalled, "Earl and I would go over there for dinner, and though there was twelve children there wasn't twelve chairs! We would sit around the table, and all those kids would grab their plates and find a spot on the floor. And you know, with all those kids, there wasn't one bad one. They were all so well behaved, out of all twelve there was only one that ever rebelled... and he was a good kid too! Vernal loved those kids. She would make quilts to sell during the year, and that's what would buy Christmas."
Christmas time was always a lot of fun in the Davis house. Jack said, "Mother always had a heck of a time from keeping us from peaking at the presents! She'd always keep the ones that were toys hidden some place. On Christmas Eve she'd bring them out and put them under the tree. Now we didn't get a lot, but we always got something. Sometimes it was just school clothes, but we always got something. We always put out our stockings on Christmas Eve. They'd be full of candy! Now you didn't dare mess with each other's stockings or there would be fights! Now there was always two picture shows in town on Christmas. One was earlier on and the other in the evening. It cost nine cents, and sometimes nine cents was a lot to come by! But you'd go to the one show, and if you had enough you'd go to the other. Then we'd come home and mother always had a Christmas dinner for us."
A fond memory of everyone's, was of her humming. She would just hum along her day, usually a tune that was popular at the time. If the children were trying her patience, she would respond by humming more loudly! The girls remembered this especially when she would be brushing their hair. If they complained, she would just hum louder and keep going!
Vernal never yelled, hit, or swore. She just gave a look that said she was disappointed. She never even argued! It is said that Vernal had a way of teaching and disciplining her children by asking them questions and making statements such as, "Well if you think the Lord would be pleased with that," or, "Do you think that's a nice thing to do?" One time one of the kids stole a bunch of pennies. She lined them up in the hallway and said, "You're gonna stand up in the hallway till whoever took the pennies, says they took the pennies." One of them confessed, and then Vernal said, "Well does that make you feel proud?" That was just her way, making statements or asking questions that would make them think.
One of Vernal's trials was, like so many people, having an alcoholic spouse. It was said that he was a hard worker, but a drinker. The Great Depression had that effect on a lot of people.
With it being hard times, Vernal would often go and pick raspberries at her Uncle Ed Vaughan's for some extra cash. In fact, many of Vernal's children have fond memories of going to pick raspberries at Uncle Ed's. Some even worked in the hay fields, including their daughter, Erma, who would cook for the farm hands.
All of Vernal and Griff's sons were in the military. Marlene recalled, "During World War I, they would hang a flag in your window with a number on it saying how many children you had in the service. When one died, they would hang a different colored flag in the window." We are grateful that other colored flag never hung in the Davis home.
Family reunions and get togethers were always a favorite of Vernal's. She and Griff would often take the kids up to "Honeymoon Holler", which was a ranch owned by Vernal's brother Earl and his wife Faye. There they would have great family picnics with all kinds of delicious food; mostly chicken, watermelon, salads, ice cream, and of course pies!
Vernal and her sister in-law, Faye, were especially close. She taught Faye many talents including how to make beautiful necklaces. Faye showed me one of these beautiful necklaces that Vernal had taught her how to make, it looked store bought in it's perfection. Faye said how Vernal taught her how to crochet each bead on there. Faye is still living, 98 years old, hard of hearing, needs her oxygen, but she still has a sharp memory and sense of humor to get you rolling! She shared a story of our beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great-grandmother, Vernal. I would like to add a quick note, that at the time of this writing, our Aunt Faye, is a very proud great, great grandmother as well who proudly displays her posterity all along her home!
Back to the story.. Aunt Faye recalled, "Vernal never was good at driving. (laughing) She could never back out! So what she would do, is park in a way so that when she had to leave she could just drive forward (more laughter)! She said she wouldn't take lessons from Griff cause he would get too angry! You know they only had the one car. When Griff didn't know, she would sneak over here to see me. Oh we had a good time! After a while she would get up and say she better get the car back before Griff found out it was missing (even more laughter)!" After a pause, Faye looked away and said, "Oh, she was a dear!"
Janette Davis said, "She was so short she couldn't see above the steering wheel, so she had to look through it!" Vernal was known for not being a very good driver. In her defense though, the car they had did not have power steering. As Marlene said, "It didn't have power anything!"; such were the cars in those days.
On Wednesdays, Griff would take Vernal to the movies. Vernal loved to go because she loved to win the twenty five dollars. As you would go in, the theatre would give you a number and if they drew your number you won the money. That was one of her favorite things to do.
Vernal had a big heart. Often times her children would see her making coats for the needy. She would take these coats and put them in a box at the church for any that needed them. I quote many people in saying that "she was a Saint".
All of Malad knew of Vernal's excellent cooking. At Christmas she would have big orders for pies of all kinds; raisin, fruit, veggie, etc. Her pies were famous both in the town, and of course with her family. One of her daughters, JoAnn, especially loved her raisin cookies and strawberry pie. Many enjoyed her cooking at the Dude Ranch Cafe, where she worked for fifteen years. With no car, she would walk to work and walk home. The owner remembers being in the resteraunt as a young boy, how Vernal would always come in the mornings to make the rolls and pastries.
Though Vernal was a hard worker and always busy helping others, she, Griff, and the children enjoyed going to the Dance Hall on Saturday nights. It was a two story building, with a balcony up top. The old ladies would always go to the balcony to visit, and everyone called it the "Crow's Nest." About 4 guys would come and play for everyone. This was something the whole town looked forward to. The dance hall has since been torn down, and the swimming pool is there now.
Pearl talked about how her mother, Vernal, loved her grandchildren. She would always try to get the grandkids a little something. Sometimes it would just be a pair of socks, but the kids always loved it anyway because they knew even though she didn't have a lot of money, she thought of them and she still tried to send them something. At least she did this until there were just too many of them.
Though Vernal was always religious, she didn't go to church while the children were growing up. She had visiting teachers from the LDS church that started to see her. Then Vernal was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon), when she was 53, on March 26, 1955. She was very active in her religion ever since. She was a visiting teacher in the Malad third ward, which meant that she was assigned some sisters (other women of the church), to go and visit at least once a month. She would see how they were getting along, and would bring in meals when needed, help in whatever way she could, and share a spiritual message.
In 1961, Vernal's husband, Griff, had given up drinking and was able to be baptized. Four years later Vernal and Griff went to the Logan Temple to be sealed together for eternity.
At the time of Vernal and Griff's 50th wedding anniversary they were the proud grandparents of 38 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.
A little over a year past their 50th anniversary, on November 18th, 1971, Vernal left this world. She was seventy. Pearl said that she looked like an angel, in her temple clothes, at the viewing.
Vernal is burried in the Malad City Cemetery, which you can see from the interstate, close to the Malad exit, just off I-15. Next time you're driving through Idaho, stop and say hi... after all, none of us would be here if it were not for Vernal and Griff.
Written by Meliah Porter Crow, in December 2010. Sources: Vernal's children; JoAnn, Marlene, Pearl, and Jack. Daughter in-law Janette, sister in-law Faye, newspaper clippings including one on their 50th anniversary, funeral announcement, three obituaries. Census records, marriage records, birth records, and the owner of the Dude Ranch Cafe
John Caldwell (1875 - 1933)
Emily Rachel Vaughan Caldwell (1874 - 1924)
Griff J Davis (1900 - 1980)
Vernal Mae Caldwell Davis (1901 - 1971)
John Earl Caldwell (1911 - 1984)*
Malad City Cemetery
Created by: alwaysmeliah
Record added: Jan 16, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 64267152