Peter Hiskey Baird (1869-1949)

Peter Hiskey BairdBy Glenda Joyce Memmott Black.  Glenda used an unpublished history of the Hiskey and Baird families, written by Peter’s daughter, Thalia Baird, as the main source for this history, together with interviews she conducted with Peter’s grandchildren during 2003-2006.  Minor editing by Guy L. Black.

Raised by his grandparents in Erda, Peter left Erda when he was about thirty years old and lived in the vicinity of Nutriso, Arizona for a period of time.  There he met and married Annie Lund.  One son was born of that union, Wilson Peter Lund Baird.  The marriage later ended in divorce causing Peter to wander aimlessly from California to Wyoming, working at odd jobs but never staying long in one place.  Finally, he stopped in Ogden, Utah where he met and married Lillian Marianna Stratford.

Their first child, Floyd was born and died in Ogden just over six months after his birth.  Soon after his death, Peter brought Lillian back to his beloved Erda, where they made their home the rest of their lives.

Their next son, Rex was born at Erda.  Their only daughter, Thalia, who is our ancestor, was born and raised in Erda.  She married Evan George Black, and they became parents to eight children.

Shortly before Thalia married Evan she lived with her parents at Tooele.  Peter and Lillian at the time were still working the farm at Erda.  It was during the great depression and everything seemed to be going wrong for them, as well as for many other people in the country.  Their pump gave up; try as he might, Peter could not fix it.  He was normally a happy, agreeable person, who loved everyone.  That day, however, he lost his temper, flew into a rage, and began to swear.  Lillian’s attempts to calm him down only made matters worse.  Finally, he yelled and said there wasn’t a God, and if there was why didn’t He just strike him down.

Two days later, June 1, 1931, they were again on the farm.  Peter and Arthur Warr were hauling hay.  Peter stuck the pitchfork in the ground and said, “We’ll put the corner of the stack here.”

Just then, he was struck by lightening.  There was only one small cloud and just a few drops of rain.  None of the neighbors heard the thunder.  It was the only lightening in the area that day.  At the exact moment it happened, Thalia was standing by the kitchen sink.  For a moment she saw, in her mind’s eye, her dad standing, pitching hay, and then putting his pitchfork down and being hit by lightning.

The first thing Peter said as he regained consciousness was, “I had it coming.”  When he was well again he put on the clothes he was wearing and had his picture taken.  As you can see by the picture at the end of this history, the legs of his overalls were cut in strips.  His shoe (lying on the chair) was a lace-up shoe.  All the eyelets were torn out and the shoe was knocked twenty feet away.  The front of his hair was curled like a tight permanent, and was crisp.  He was not wearing the same shirt in the photograph, as it was completely consumed by the lightning.  His legs were badly burned, and he couldn’t work much afterward.  He also lost some of his hearing.

Peter was very habitual and methodical in all he did.  He used to draw water from the well.  He would walk to railroad ties part-way to the well, then sit down and smoke his pipe.  He would then walk the rest of the way to the well, then sit down and smoke his pipe again.  He would then fill his buckets at the well and walk back to the railroad ties for a third smoke, before taking the buckets of water to the house.  He did this as many times as necessary until he had enough water for his wife to do the laundry.

Because his wife would not let him smoke in the house, in the mornings he would engage in a habitual pattern of walking around the exterior of the house, always stopping in the same locations and methodically smoking his pipe, retracing his steps and repeating the same actions at the same location each morning.

When Peter would go to church on Sunday, he would attend Priesthood meeting, then after that meeting and before the next service he would walk out to this car, sit on the running board, and smoke his pipe before going inside for the next meeting.

Later, he and Lillian were sealed in the temple.  As they were getting ready to be sealed in the Temple, Peter continued to smoke his pipe.  His wife asked him what he would do if the Bishop told him he couldn’t go to the temple if he smoked.  He answered that if the Bishop told him to stop, he would give the Bishop his pipe and that would be the end of that.

He reported that he went to the Bishop for his interview.  The Bishop told him that while he had his problems, he was a good man.  The Bishop signed his recommend and never asked or mentioned anything about the pipe.  Peter went to the Temple and continued to smoke his pipe for the rest of his life.

After Evan and Thalia were married, they took their children to see their grandparents nearly every other week.  The children have fond memories of their grandparents during their many visits.

Peter had a Deseret News paper route of seventeen newspapers.  He would drive his Model A Ford around the neighborhood, delivering the papers.  More than a paper delivery job, the ritual of newspaper delivery was an opportunity for him to socialize with his customers and neighbors.  He stopped and talked at each place, and would pick up a dozen eggs at one place and something else he might need at another place.  He visited with each neighbor as he went along the route.

Peter’s grandchildren loved to listen to the tick tock and chimes that rang on the Baird’s old fashioned clock. Grandpa Baird was a very methodical man.  He shaved once a week whether he needed it or not.  He used to smoke a pipe with Prince Albert tobacco in it, and the grandchildren remember the smell.  Whenever they smell that tobacco brand, they are reminded of Grandpa Baird.  He would go out on the porch and sit and smoke his pipe for a while, and then go to the side of the house and sit for a while, and then go to the back of the house for a while for a smoke, and then to the other side of the house for awhile for a smoke, and then return to the front.

Beverly was always very intrigued by Grandpa Baird, who never seemed to talk much.  One day she asked him why he didn’t talk very much.  His reply was simply, “When you’re talking, you’re not listening.”  Then he patted the seat beside him, and motioned to Beverly to come and set on it and listen with him.  They would listen, and he would say, “Nighthawk.”  Then they would listen some more, and he would say, “Meadowlark.”  He repeated the names of the sounds they were listening to often enough that Beverly became familiar with the sounds of each of them.  He said that after he was struck with lightning he wasn’t able to hear the birds as well as he would like.

Beverly remembers riding with Grandpa and Grandma Baird in their Model A.  She was sure they never traveled more than five miles per hour.  Everywhere they went was a very long drive.

One year Grandpa gave Grandma a lantern for Christmas, and she gave him a can opener.  She was known to say to him more than once, “Be careful of my present,” as he walked out the door with her lantern.

They always had a little toy box that had a few toys for the grandchildren to play with whenever they came.  Each time the grandchildren visited, the box had different toys.  They also had a candy jar that was full of candy when the grandchildren arrived.  It was never filled up again during the grandkids’ visit, but was “magically” refilled before the start of each new visit.

Grandpa would go to church with his pockets full of candy.  The little kids would all come up and shake his hand because they knew he had hard butterscotch candies to give them.  He was the custodian at the church.

When Eva visited, her grandparents had a ground owl that would turn its head and watch whatever they were doing.  Grandpa told her that if she ran around and around, the owl’s head would pop off and she could catch it.  Eva thinks Grandpa Baird might have just been trying to direct all her energy.

Richard would watch Grandpa Baird sit on the porch, light his pipe, and flip the stick match.  The match would land in the same spot each time.  Richard loved to gather up all the little stick matches and play with them.  They also had some old records that they no longer wanted, so they gave them to Richard.  He had hours of fun rolling them down the hill.

Whenever they went deer hunting with Grandpa Baird and they needed meat, they always got a deer.  He would sit on a rock and pray, and they would always get their deer.  He would thank the deer for sacrificing its life that they might have meat.  One year, their cow gave birth to two calves instead of the usual one.  That year, when they went deer hunting, a big buck came right up to them.  Grandpa looked at him long and hard, and then saluted the deer and said thank you and didn’t kill it, because he didn’t need it.

When his grandson, Pete Black, was a teenage, Grandpa Baird was no longer able to drive himself, so Pete and his cousin, Kenneth Baird, took turns going to stay with the Bairds for the whole summer.  They would drive their grandparents wherever Grandma and Grandpa needed to go.  Grandpa told Pete that he would give him his Model A car when he died, which he did.  Later, Evan and Thalia were driving it, and a drunk driver hit them.

Around Peter and Lillian’s 80th birthday, January 6, 1949, a great party was held for them.  An article was placed in the Tooele newspaper, and many old friends saw it and came to see them.  One man, a distant relative, had not seen Peter for over twenty five years.  He came through the line and said, “I really wanted to come and see you Peter.  I wanted to bring you a gift, but I didn’t have one, so I brought you these.”  He held up two dead chickens with their feathers still on.  Peter was really touched by that gesture of love by an old friend.

Peter Hiskey died 10 May 1949.  Lillian followed him not long after on 14 Dec 1951.  They are not remembered as much for the honors they won in this life, or their great deeds or accomplishments.  They are remembered for the things they stood for.  Honesty was Peter’s watchword.

They loved the desert, the quiet of their home, the lake breeze, the bigness of the moon on the desert, the stars, the night noises, the nighthawks, and the howl of the coyote.  They loved people, and though neighbors were scattered at Erda, they were never lonesome.  People came often because they knew they were welcome.

Their ambition could be described best by the saying, “Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”  All who knew them, rich or poor, good or bad, loved Peter and Lillian and felt at home in their house.  Everyone.[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 secondary sources, which include his death certificate, obituary, and grave marker.  They all agree that he was born January 9, 1869.  However, his self-reporting, as stated in his marriage license, indicated that he was thirty-nine in November, 1906.  However, if he was thirty-nine in November, 1906, then he could not have been born on January 9, 1869, as a simple calculation would show that he would have been only thirty-seven if that were the case.  Either he forgot or misstated his own age, or the other secondary sources incorrectly state his birth date.  However, in his daughter, Thalia’s birth certificate, he reported that he was forty-three in May, 1912 (which is consistent with a January 9, 1869 birth date).   The 1870 U.S. Census lists his birth date as May, 1870, which is inconsistent with all other secondary sources and his self-reporting.  Marriage License:  Salt Lake County, Application Number 3322, Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, Salt Lake City, Utah.  A copy of the certificate is also available on Family History Library Microfilm Roll No. 429065.  Death Certificate:  Peter Hiskey Baird, Death Certificate, Registrar’s Number 41, State File Number 43 230032, Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Salt Lake City, Utah.  Also available from: Peter Hiskey Baird, Death Certificate, Series 81448, Entry 22306, Utah State Archives Digital Collection, <> accessed 23 August 2007.  Electronic image in the possession of Guy L. Black.  Grave Location and Cemetery Directions:  Tooele City Cemetery, 361 South 100 East, Tooele, Utah 84074.  The grave locations for Peter Hiskey Baird and Lillian Marianna Stratford are: 2-20-6 and 2-20-5.  To get to the cemetery:  From I-80, once in Tooele, follow Main Street to 400 South and turn left; drive one block.  Obituary: The Transcript Bulletin, Tooele, Utah, (Vol. 54, No. 100) May 13, 1949.