James Ammon Memmott (1856-1936)

James Ammon MemmottCompiled by Guy L. Black from two separate histories by Alice Adams Memmott, a granddaughter; remembrances of James Ammon Memmott, by Eugene Memott, a son; and a history written by Roxie Memmott, wife of James Ammon’s son, Calvin.  Guy also added additional materials from other sources.

James Ammon Memmott was born October 22, 1856 at Cedar City, Iron County, Utah.  He was born in a wagon just outside the town of Cedar City.  He was the sixth and youngest child of John Memmott and Julia Wilson, pioneer converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from Yorkshire, England.  All of his brothers and sisters were born in England.  One of his brothers, John Alma, and one of his sisters, Anna Laura, died of cholera at Mormon Grove, Kansas, just before the rest of the family began the trek west to Utah.

His family later moved to Beaver.  Then, when James Ammon was five years old, in March, 1861, the family moved to Round Valley, it was then called Robins Valley.  The people lived in a small village called Graball near the mountain west of where the town of Scipio now is.  Eventually the entire town relocated to present-day Scipio.

While he was a small child he lived with his father and mother on a lot north of the amusement hall in Scipio.  His father was a good man.  He worked a lot in Deseret, Utah, working in the hay seed threshing.  While working there he developed lung trouble.  The dust got into his lungs and shortly after he died from affected lugs in 1866.  James was about ten years old at the time.

After his father’s death, James lived with his widow Mother.  She lived up at the top of the lot where a saloon used to be.  It was hard picking for Mother and him.  She would make preserves from watermelon rinds and put it in crock jars.  They enjoyed this in the winter.

His father owned land north of the church in Scipio and built a home there.  He also owned a farm south of Scipio.  As a child and young man, James worked on the farm.  After his fathers’ death, he inherited the farm and spent the rest of his life there.

James’s sister Martha Ann had married Benjamin Martin two years before his father’s death; and his oldest sister Sarah married Samuel Probert three years later January 12, 1869.  This left the two boys Thomas William, 16, and James Ammon, 10, for his mother to raise alone.

The next eight years he lived with his mother and took care of her and worked for bishop Yates who ran the Co-op Store.  He worked on his farm and hauled freight and all other work.  It was during this time that there was trouble over polygamy and the marshals were hunting the men who were living in polygamy and arresting them and taking them to prison.  He could tell in detail about the night that a marshal arrested Bishop Yates and several other men from Scipio.

The U.S. Marshals were still hunting the polygamists and James told about one day a man came to the place riding his horse very fast, the Marshals were close behind him.  James put his horse in the stable out of sight but there was no time to hide the man so he just went in behind the door.  The Marshall came to the house and asked him if he had seen a man on a horse.  He said he just seen a man going out of sight to the south.  He said he held his breath because the toes of the man’s boots were sticking out from under the door.  But the men believed him and went on as hard as they could toward the south.

He used to laugh and say that the old man said, “I hope the Lord will forgive you for telling that lie, Brother Memmott.”

One of his chores as a child was getting wood enough to keep warm, as the winters were cold and long and they had all they could do to keep warm.  He remembered sitting by the house polishing up his mother’s shoes till they shined brightly.

His mother wasn’t very well but she did everything she could to help make a living and the boys worked at jobs they could to help out.  She was a kind woman, and spent many hours helping deliver babies and working as a midwife and nurse.

James Ammon herded and milked cows, and his mother made butter and cheese to sell.  He said the first money that he made on his own was made from cradling grain for the farmers, as all the grain was cut by hand then.  He ran a small farm when they were using oxen instead of horses.  He often used to say how much different it would have been if his father had lived.

James was a young boy when they were living the United Order in Scipio.  He used to tell how Aunt Hannah Johnson’s father used to take a crowd of young boys to do some job in the fields and how good he was to them.  When they were living at Graball some of the young boys and girls used to go everyday to herd the calves up in the gap country.  He told of the time when they were having trouble with the Indians how frightened they were when they went on the hills near town to drive the milk cows home at night.  The cows were turned out on the hills to feed during the day.  He remembered well the day of the big Indian raid, when the Indians drove off most of the cattle and horses and killed Brother James Russell Ivie who had gone over west to get a cow and her young calf, and Peter Boise, who with the other boys were herding calves west of town.

One day as he was in the hills hunting cattle, he became very thirsty.  A man from Scipio, Peter Olson, came by.  James asked him if he had any water.  Peter said, “I have water, but you run along into town and get a drink.  You are young; I need the water.”  James said he nearly died before he got to town; he was so thirsty and had bare feet.  He said he never forgot Mr. Olsen.

James was baptized by Daniel Thompson on August 7, 1868, and confirmed by George Monroe the same day.  He was re-baptized by Bro. Neilson, Feb. 22, 1880, and confirmed by Wilas Probinson, Feb. 22, 1880.  He was ordained an Elder May 20, 1880.  He married Eliza Wasden in the temple on March 28, 1880.  When they had been married nearly a year, Eliza fell in love with a young man named Wieser.  She left James during the Christmas of 1880, when she began living with her sister in Gunnison, Utah.  She obtained a divorce about a year later, married Mr. Wieser, and went back east.

He was active in the church as a boy and young man and managed the dances in Scipio for twenty years.  He called for the square dances.  He was a good step dance and even after he was old he used to step dance at the Old Folks Parties.

After his divorce, James married Susan Agnes Ivie, on September 6, 1888 in Fillmore.  She was a beautiful girl he liked to dance with.  The March after their marriage, they moved to his father’s farm in Scipio, known as the Gap.  They lived in a two-room adobe house.  They had a lovely farm and had a large orchard from which James’ grandchildren recalled receiving all the fruit they needed.  James lived on this farm for the rest of his life.

James and Susan have five children together, three boys and two girls, Eugene, Calvin, Redick, Agnes and Bettie.  He was a real farmer and industrious.  The soil was good and the canyon breeze kept the frost away several weeks earlier in the spring and later in the fall than in the valley were the towns of Scipio was.  He raised all kinds of crops and fruits and melons.

One day a flood came and ruined their crops and fences.  It also destroyed part of their house.  James and Susan had to take their children and part of their possessions and flee to higher land to save their lives.

His wife, Susan, loved their children, always kept them neat and clean, and took them on nature walks.  As the ranch was very rural, there was a lot of nature for them to enjoy.

Susan had a brother, Arthur Franklin Ivie, who committed suicide by shooting himself in the barn on Christmas Day, 1890.  After his death, she took to worrying as he was her favorite brother and was close to her in age.  She later had a nervous break down, was adjudicated insane with schizophrenia, and spent the rest of her life in the Provo Mental Hospital.

This happened when Jess Adams, a young man from Scipio, was thrown from a horse and lay in a comma for quite a while.  Doctors were called to see if they could help him. While they were here they examined James’ wife and decided that she should be taken to the hospital in Provo.  They took her back with them and she never returned.

James was left with five small children to raise alone.  His sister Martha had a large family of nearly grown children so she took Redick, Agnes and Bettie into her home.  James stayed on the ranch and kept Eugene and Calvin with him except in the winter they stayed with May Walsh (his oldest sister’s daughter) and her husband William Walsh and went to school going to the ranch over the weekend.  This they did until they were old enough to ride a horse from the ranch to school.  James did everything possible to pay Aunt Martha and May for helping to care of his children.  He hauled the wood used to Aunt Martha’s, furnished them with meat from pigs he raised at the ranch and with fruit from orchard.  Then the boys helped Sister Walsh all they could.  Otis was small then and Zellas was born while they were there.  Before his wife left they had a very frightening experience.  It was in August, the grain was about ready to cut.  A severe hail storm went across the valley a mile or so below the ranch.  Without any warning, a high flood came down the ditch.  Their house was under the tress near the west side of the ditch.  They saw it coming just in time to get out of the house and out onto higher ground.  It ran right over their fields, right through the house washing everything away that could be moved, even taking their wire fences.  All there as to do was to dig the mud out of the house, rebuilding the fences,   I have heard Grandpa say that they did what they could to straighten the grain up and when it was entirely ripe they had to cut all one away to get any of it.

James Ammon would haul loads of wood and give his orchard fruit, pigs, and butchered beef to his sister Martha to help pay for the care of his girls.  He had a big beautiful farm located at the foot of the mountains.

When James’ girls were old enough to take over the house work at the ranch, they took turns going up and doing work. James’ boys were all good workers.  They had built a four room house up near the hill and they had a very prosperous farm now.

On 18 September 1912, Calvin left for a mission to the Southern States.  One of James Ammon’s grandchildren heard Grandpa say that he was smoking when Calvin left for his mission.   Then one day he said, “If I am sending a boy out to teach people to keep the Word of Wisdom, the least I can do is to keep it myself.”  So he threw his cigarettes away and never smoked again.

Soon after Calvin returned from his mission Bettie married William Stanley from Nephi and went there to live.  So Agnes went to the ranch and stayed all the time.

In 1916, Eugene was called on a mission.  And on May 17, 1917 Calvin married Roxie Leavitt from Bunkerville, Nevada.  They lived at the ranch until early spring of 1918 when they moved on to town in a small two room house that Calvin had bought before he was married.

In 1922, Agnes married Andrew Peter Christensen from Holden and they built a home out of on his farm north of Holden.  A little latter Redick bought a small farm adjoining Andrew’s north of Holden and moved over there.

Then, when Ardes was nearly a year old, Dec 5, 1923, Eugene married Lillie Jensen from Holden and they made their home in Delta country.

At that point, James was alone at the ranch, so Calvin and his family moved to the ranch.  At this time there they had the three boys, Gwynn, Ralph and Evan and Ardes, just a year old.

After Calvin and his family moved in with him, James Ammon went to meetings regularly on Sunday with Calvin and his family.  He also frequented the Temple.  He had the privilege of doing his brother Thomas’ work in the temple.  His mother and father were sealed in the Endowment House but the children had never been sealed to them.  So he had the privilege of going and having the children all sealed to their parents.  He was the only one left who could stand for himself.

The fall before Amy was born, James went with Calvin and Roxie and their family to Overton, Nevada and spent Thanksgiving with Roxie’s parents and brothers and sisters.  He had never been in that part of the country and enjoyed the trip very much.

Then later he had the chance to go on a Temple bus with about thirty other people from Scipio Ward on a trip.  Calvin and Roxie went with him to St. George, went through the temple one day, then went on to the Hoover Dam where they enjoyed visiting every part of the dam.  They visited in Las Vegas one evening and came back by Grand Canyon and BryceCanyon.

One day, when James was as Calvin and Roxie’s house for dinner, between the morning and afternoon sessions of Stake Conference, James told the family, “You had better all be sure and go to Conference  this afternoon because I am going to talk.”

When they got over to Conference, Brother Benyon was the General Authority who was down to Conference, and when the opening exercises were over, he stood up and pointing to James, he said “I would like to have that man come to the stand and talk us.”  He didn’t know James, and James had never met him.  James gave a very good talk, told them this was the first time he had ever been asked to speak in meetings.  After that he did get a chance to take part.

When Ralph and Evan were in High School they raised calves to be shown at the CountyLivestock show.  One year Ralph took his prize calf to Fillmore to the show and James went with him.  There was a nice piece in the County paper about him with his picture.

Some of James’ grandchildren remember that he wore a long grey beard.  He would ride five miles to town every Sunday to church and usually come to Eugene’s place or Uncle Calvin’s for dinner.  When he ate Sunday dinner with his grandkids, one of them was afraid he would eat the hair from his beard, it was so bushy.  After dinner, he would usually sit and tell his grandchildren true stories about Indians.

He loved to sit and listen to an old phonograph.  He loved to listen to the songs, “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” and “Climbing up De Golden Stairs.”

One day as one of the grandchildren was coming from school, the child heard the music playing in the Recreation Hall of the church, looked in, and saw their grandpa, James Ammon Memmott, standing on the stage calling for a square dance.  A Mr. Allen was playing his fiddle and his wife was playing the piano.  They were having an old folks’ party, really swinging; and Grandpa Memmott was really calling the numbers.  The grandchild didn’t realize that James loved dancing and partying, as it seemed he was always working hard on the ranch.

After Ardes was in High School, James was very anxious that a drawing be made of the settlement at Graball and the Fort that was used during the Indian trouble, showing just who lived there and where they lived.  He talked with Grandma Walsh until they were sure that they had everything just like it was.  Then he told Ardes just what to do and she made a map of both places.

A year or two before he died he was determined to fix his parents’ graves so that people would always know where they were.  So he and Calvin went down and built a low cement fence around the two graves and wrote their names in the cement.  After James passed away a nice monument was put up to the graves.

He asked Roxie to write a history of his father and mother so with the help of his father’s diary and Calvin and Roxie’s records and what information he could supply from what he could remember, Roxie was able to write a very complete history of both of them.

He told Calvin and Roxie about when he was living with his mother, his mother had the old four poster bed that this father had made with strip of rawhide stretched across for springs. He bought her a new bed and springs, and then he took her over to visit with Aunt Sarah. While she was gone he took the old bedstead out and chopped it up and put the new on in its place.  When his mother came home he thought she would be so happy but she cried and said she loved that old bed because his father had made it.

He had good health in his later years and was able to do a good days work up until the day of his death at the age of 80.  He was 80 years old Oct. 22, 1936 and died Oct. 31, 1936.

Calvin was working on the road won by Kanosh.  Ralph and Evan went to the ranch in the evening after school to help with the chores.

Toward evening the 29th of October, Lionell Wasden and Noel Robins had got a deer in the hills west of the ranch and brought it down to the ranch.  Grandpa told them to take one of the horses to ride to town. As he went to help one of them onto the horse, it became frightened at the smell of the deer and whirled around and kicked him in the stomach.  He got up and seemed to feel pretty good and told the boys to go on to town that he would be all right.

But in the night he got very sick.  Ralph came on a horse to town for help.  Calvin had just got home from his work at Kanosh that night, so he went immediately to the ranch.  Toward morning Calvin could see that he was getting much worse so he sent one of the boys to town to get someone to bring him to town and send for the doctor.  The children all got here and the doctor but he passed away about noon October 31st.

He died not owing anyone a penny, and having lived a good full life.

His wife was still alive and in the hospital at Provo.  They had not been sealed in the temple but he could do nothing about it before he died.  She passed way March 26, 1946 and Agnes went to the temple and had her mother’s work done October 24, 1949.

Then the children all except Redick, who was in the hospital at the time, went to the temple and were sealed to their parents.

After Redick passed away, one of Eugene’s children went and had him sealed to his father.

His funeral was held at Scipio.  A man from Scipio, Lars Jensen, made his casket.[i]


[i] Vital Records, Cemetery, and Obituary Sources:  Birth Certificate:  No birth certificate available.  No governmental entities in Utah were required to report births prior to 1898.  Birth date is from interpretation of secondary sources.  Two secondary sources, his death certificate and his grave marker, report his birth date as October 22, 1856.  The death certificate birth date was reported by his son, Calvin.  His granddaughter, Alice Memmott Adams has reported both October 26th and October 22nd as his birth date, depending on the history she wrote.  A ward record from Scipio Ward, made during his lifetime, reports his birth date as October 26, 1856.  Calvin Memmott’s books report both dates in various places.  Marriage License:  Millard County, Marriage License for James A. Memmott and Susan A. Ivie, 6 September 1888, Millard County Utah, Marriage Licenses, Vol. 1, p. 49.  Family History Library Microfilm Roll No. 482022.  Death Certificate:  James Ammon Memmott, Death Certificate, State Board of Health File Number 50 (530 written underneath and 3601190 stamped on certificate), Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Salt Lake City, Utah.  Also available from: James Ammon Memmott, Death Certificate, Series 81448, Entry 15966, Utah  State Archives Digital Collection, historyresearch.utah.gov/indexes/index.html accessed 23 August 2007.  Electronic image in the possession of Guy L. Black.  Grave Location and Cemetery Directions:  Grave locations for James Ammon Memmott and Susan Agnes Ivie are plots 46-1-20 and 21 located in the Scipio Cemetery, Scipio, Utah.  Cemetery is located 1 mile north and ½ mile east of Scipio.  Obituary: No known obituary.