Thursday, November 1, 2012

Under My Boot-SOULS

John 5:25 (NIV) Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

The morning started out with a song. "I can only imagine...," she sang, standing with Jesus in the Heavenly realms. How apropos for my sister Lauren and I, finishing up our breakfast in Springerville, Az. to hear these words.* Soon enough we'd head on out to St. Johns, Arizona, the birthplace of my grandfather. A visit to the cemetary where many of my mother's father's ancestors lay at rest, topped our agenda. 


St. Johns, a small ranching community in the White Mountains of Arizona sits unassuming and almost forgotten; a step back in time by at least 70 years. Stopping at the family history research center, we made our aquaintance to staff working their volunteer shift, quite excited to help us piece together a few unanswered questions and point us to the stories archived in their quaint library. The Greer Boys, known in the area as ranchers and cowboys, and more than likely, a few rabble rousers, came back through this part of Arizona returning to Utah after a stint in Texas, where they originally settled.  This place though, caught their attention and they stayed. Better suited to raise cattle then the cold climate of Utah, The Greer Ranch, sprawling, grazing land, was not without territorial issues. The Mexicans herded their sheep on these same fields and the town known then as San Juan, frequently experienced unpleasant words amongst these two rival clans staking out pastures. The famous gun battle of San Juan Day brings the two interested parties packing their pistols to protect their interests.  

Wild Celebration of San Juan's Day
There was a wild time in St. Johns on the day of the Mexican population's patron saint, San Juan, June 24, 1882, when Nat Greer and a band of Texas cowboys entered the Mexican town. The Greers had been unpopular with the Mexicans since they had marked a Mexican with an ear "underslope," as cattle are marked, this after a charge that their victim had been found in the act of stealing a Greer colt. The fight that followed the Greer entry had nothing at its initiation to do with the Mormon settlers. Assaulted by the Mexican police and populace, eight of the band rode away and four were penned into an uncompleted adobe house. Jim Vaughn of the raiders was killed and Harris Greer was wounded. On the attacking side was wounded Francisco Tafolla, whose son in later years was killed while serving in the Arizona Rangers. It was declared that several thousand shots had been fired, but there was a lull, in which the part of peacemaker was taken up by "Father" Nathan C. Tenney, a pioneer of Woodruff and father of Ammon M. Tenney. He walked to the house and induced the Greers to surrender. The Sheriff, E.S. Stover, was summoned and was in the act of taking the men to jail when a shot was fired from a loft of the Barth house, where a number of Mexicans had established themselves. The bullet, possibly intended for a Greer, passed through the patriarch's head and neck, killing him instantly. The Greers were threatened with lynching, but were saved by the sheriff's determination. Their case was taken to Prescott and they escaped with light punishment.

(L to R) Joe Woods (cowboy/hired hand) William Nathaniel "Nat" Greer and Frank P. Drew (cowboy & hired hand - he married Deseret Dianah Greer, sister to Nat and Thos Lacy)


My Grandma Greer wrote limericks. Let me share one of my favorites.

Here comes Cowboy Vaughn
Just rode in from St. Johns.
He is one of those Greers,
Still wet behind the ears.
But always up before dawn.

My Grandparents, 1920 
What did "wet behind the ears mean?" I didn't know, but I giggled at my sweet grandma spouting her rhymes about Grandpa. Vaughn Harris Greer eventually rode into Alburqurque where he met my Grandma, never to return to the red dirt trails of the Southwest.  

Did I know my Grandpa came from real cowboy roots?  

He fixed people's watches and put diamonds in rings. He always wore a suit. He didn't look like John Wayne or the Lone Ranger to me. 

The dark, black clouds gathered against the mountains. Warm, in the high 80's, we back-tracked on small country roads outside town, past beaten down farm houses and barns missing most of their roofs, past car graveyards and forever-rest stops of farm equipment, out to a bluff over looking the desert-valley floor.  The wind met us there, while the lightning cracked and the thunder bellowed in the backdrop of pinks and grays, reds and gray-greens. Our family name carved repeatedly, with dates in the 1800's, marked a time gone by.  Yes, "A dark and stormy night," no one for miles in this sleepy town all ready tucked in for the day at 4:00 in the afternoon; My sister and I stepped out to visit the dead. 

So, I thought I'd embellish this blog by authoring my own "family" limericks.  

Here lies James H. Vaughn
Murdered in the town of St. Johns
Friends with the Greers 
Which ended his career. 
Now pink rocks, no lawn.

Thomas Lacy Greer

Here lies our Great Great Pa
Thomas Lacy's grave we saw.
Georgia roots
Arizona boots
When the West was still quiet raw.

"The first tme I saw Mr. Greer, he was wearing a large white beaver hat. I knew he was a Texan, but I didn't like the hat. We soon got aquainted. He asked me if I would go to church with him. I said, "yes." We did not stay apart much after that. On the 25th of Nov. 1855 we were married in my father's house by Judge Sprouce, a Justice of the Peace. I was 18 years old the 17th of Oct., 1855 and he was 30 the 2nd of Sept., 1855. We had $50,000 when we were married. We had a merry time that winter. Mr Greer didn't have to take care of the cattle that winter. He was bookkeepper at the store and I went to dancing school."   --A page from Ellen Camp Greer's history.  

Catherine Ellen Camp Greer, 
Pioneer woman, sincere
 She crossed the plains
Gave thirteen children names,
Held in high esteem, revered
The original, very large picture of my great great grandmother Catherine,  hung in my grandfather's house for as long as I remember.
This picture taken at the World's Fair, San Francisco, 1915.  My great great grandmother,  Catherine is 2nd from the right, bottom row, and two of her daughters, Oasis and Ellen are on the ends, same row.

Lacy Greer

Great Grandpa Greer fell dead
When the cattle stampeded ahead.
The corral crashed down
Lacy was found
"The railroad at fault," was said.

Uncles and cousins at rest
Greer Cowboys, a very good guess.
Tombstones don't tell
Of a life lived well?
What of their dreams and quests?

 Gilbert Dunlap Greer & Hyram "Hi" Hatch (cowboy and ranch hand).
An Arizona cattle drive 

The "Greer Ranch" today.


All goes onward and outward, nothing collaspes, 
And to die is different from what any one supposed, 

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me, 
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the
shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another
I stop somewhere waiting for you. 

Excerpt from "Song of Myself," Walt Whitman, Great American Poet. 


Credit:  I like to thank my sister, Lauren for taking me with her on this once-in-a-lifetime Sister Trip,  providing the "color" and history of all the genealogical research she's done so excellently and for her passion for history which she finally (to her joy) has ignited in me.  

I'd also like to thank Vem Sherman, English teacher extrordinaire,  who, when inquiring about a poem I wanted to add on this yet uncompleted blog, she immediately shared this Walt Whitman piece, which not only fits perfect but brings tears to my eyes as I read it.