On July 2, 2011, hundreds of the more than 1,600 descendents of Willard Richard and Hattie Black Guymon will gather in Blanding to celebrate the passage of 147 years since their common Grandfather and Patriarch, “Will” (as he was known) was born in l864.
Will and Hattie’s life was a struggle by today’s standards. Will was a small man standing 5 feet 6 inches tall and never weighing more than 150 pounds.
But he met every adversity with courage and faith and today presides over a posterity that would be the envy of kings.
From Will’s writings, we are allowed a brief look back into his youth: “I was born at Fairview, Sanpete County, UT on September 20, 1864. My first recollection is of the town of Fountain Green, Sanpete County, where we lived. I, with 15 other boys from age eight to twelve, would meet together and practice singing Christmas songs. Then when Christmas came, we would go all around town and sing.
“We would circle the door and our leader would give the signal and, I will tell you, we thought we were ‘just the boys’!
“The good old Danish women would come out with a pitcher of root beer and a pan of cookies and then away we would go for the next place. Those were the happiest days for me.
“I got what little education that I had from going to school with teachers that had a very meager education themselves. My occupation, until I reached the age of twelve, was herding the cows along with the other boys of my own age or thereabouts. From that time in life until the present, I have worked at every honest occupation.
“When I was a boy 16 years old, there was a crowd of us about the same age and we went around the town turning cows out. We would take people’s cows and put them over in some other man’s corral, changing cows with them like that.
“Once we took a man’s buggy. We got long ropes and threw them over the meeting house and tied them to the buggy. We put two poles up on the edge of the roof, and we drew that buggy right up and put it right straddle of the meeting house roof.
“We then went off down the road like we didn’t know nothing about anything. We met a man that owned the buggy and he said, “Have you seen some boys up there in town? They came here and took my buggy and put it somewhere and I can’t find it to save my neck. I have hunted all over town for it.’
“We were standing right even with the meeting house and I said, ‘Why Brother Kramm, there’s your buggy right up there on top of the meeting house.’
“Well, he said, “Did you ever see such a thing in your life? How in the world did they ever get that buggy on top of that meeting house?’
“‘I have some long ropes over home there. We have been branding cows and I believe we could throw a rope over and get that buggy down for you.’
“Mr Kramm said, ‘Do you really think you could do that?’
“I said, ‘I believe we can.’ (I guessed we could since we put it up there). So’s I clumb on top of the meeting house and tied the rope to the wheel, and sure ‘nuff we got it down.
“‘Oh,’ he said, ‘you are the best boys I ever saw to do a good thing like that for a man.’
“I said, ‘Well we wanted to be good to you since we knew you couldn’t have done it yourself.’”
In those days, a prank like that was talked about and laughed over and became part of the history of small towns. And you could bet that Will Guymon was part and parcel of most of the memorable events of Fountain Green history.
When Will was 18 years old, the family moved to Huntington, Emery County, where his father bought a large herd of sheep. Will, and his brother Albert became sheepherders until their father sold the flock.
They then dabbled in the mercantile business. Later, Will and Albert purchased farmland and went into farming for a living.
While working in Huntington, Will met a beautiful girl by the name of Annie Rowley. They kept company for a year and decided to get married. Will and Annie and four other couples, each in their own wagon, made the long trip to the Logan Temple, where Will and Annie were married on October 1, 1886 by M. W. Merrill.
Everything went along fine until five days after Annie gave birth to their first child, a girl they named Katie. Annie died of birth complications on December 29, 1887.
Will felt like the bottom had dropped out of his world. Annie’s mother and her sister, both of whom lived in Huntington, raised Katie. She married Theadore LeRoy and was the mother of ten children.
After Katie died, Will met another special girl in Huntington. She was the 18-year-old daughter of William Morley and Annie Marie Hansen Black. Her given name was Harriet Drucilla Black and was lovingly known as Hattie.
They started dating, but not alone. In those days a chaperone was usually along. When Hattie accepted Will’s proposal of marriage, they traveled for three days in a buggy to the Manti Temple and were married on September 25, 1889 by Apostle Daniel H. Wells.
While living in Huntington, Will and Hattie had four children: Ethel (Joseph T. Cooley) born July 11, 1890; Rachel (Mark Kartchner) born February 22, 1892; Willard Morley (Anna Eleanor Jamison) born November 5, 1893 and Roxie Marie, who died of pneumonia on October 6, 1896 at the age of six weeks.
Hattie’s parents returned from Old Mexico to be with the family at Roxie’s passing. While there, they talked Will and Hattie into moving to where they lived in Mexico. Will took Hattie and the three young children to Price to catch the train to Mexico shortly after Hattie’s parents had gone back. Will had to stay in Huntington to harvest crops and dispose of his property.
Hattie recalled: “After we had been about a half hour on the train, Morley, who was four years old, went to sleep. When we awoke he said, ‘Where’s papa?’
“I told him Daddy had to stay home for a while and Morley began to cry. It took three days and nights on the train to get to Mexico and Morley cried most of the time. Finally a man who was sitting near us asked Morley to come sit with him. He gave Morley a silver dollar and that seemed to do the trick.”
Hattie and the children arrived in Pecheco, Mexico on September 14, 1897. They lived with her parents in their home nestled among the tall pines.
In December, Will joined his family. It was a joyous reunion. Hattie was expecting her fifth child in February and Will was grateful to be there to help her with the new arrival.
In the middle of January, he had to go to the Mexican customs house to see about his team and wagon and furniture. For reasons not made clear, Will was held up there for almost two months.
Their daughter, Hazel, was born on February 26, 1898 and she was six weeks old before Will got to see his wife and new baby daughter. While waiting at the customs house, Will ran out of money and had to eat the same ground corn he fed his horses.
When Will finally got his belongings to Pacheco, he was broke. He rented a farm and raised livestock. He kept a garden and raised a large crop of corn, which became the food staple in their home.
They ate cornbread for breakfast, Johnnycake for lunch and corn mush and milk for supper. When they had enough money, they would buy a sack of flour so they could “show off a little,” Will said.
They lived that way for 15 years. The family kept increasing. Even though times were hard and jobs were scarce, Will usually managed to find employment. Often, however, he would have to either leave his family behind or move them to a new location in Old Mexico in his search for good employment.
While living in Old Mexico, Will and Hattie were blessed with five more children: Lawrence on March 20, 1900; Lee (Louvene Perkins) on May 14, l902; William Rollo (Nelda May Riding) on September 17, 1905; Ervin Richard (Elizabeth Mary Park) on October 13, l907; and David Lavar (Freeda Perkins) on February 10, l910.
When Lawrence was 10 years old, he died of typhoid fever.
After 15 years in Mexico, word came to the Mormon Colonies that Pancho Villa was leading an army of rebels and they were coming to kill the Mormons.
Everyone who could was advised to leave the country as soon as possible. Will and Hattie took four horses to pull their two wagons loaded with the essentials of life and their eight children. They left everything else they had worked so hard for behind.
What broke their hearts, however, was having to leave Lawrence in his grave. They headed for the train in Pierson. However the rebels had burned all the bridges and the trains in that area were stopped.
Hattie’s Brother, Dave Black, took them to Columbus to find an operating train. They had traveled 50 miles when they were accosted by a force of 500 Mexican soldiers. They were forced to stop. They were interrogated. Luckily Dave spoke good Spanish and the family felt that is what saved their lives.
It took several more unsuccessful attempts before the family finally got out of Mexico. On the way, Will met a fellow Mormon (Brother Lamb) and they had a good visit.
When they arrived at the Blue Water station, where the family got off the train in the middle of the night, they found themselves in six inches of snow with the nearest sleeping accommodations six miles distance.
Fortunately, Lamb also got off at that station and seeing the predicament the family was in, invited them to his home where they stayed for three days. “Nobody could have been treated better than we were by Brother Lamb and his family,” Will said.
After many other trials and another month of hardships, the Guymon Family arrived in Grayson, UT. (Later renamed Blanding).
They were so grateful that their lives had been spared and that they were finally in a place where they could feel safe.
There were 20 families living in Grayson when the Guymon family arrived. Jens Nielson, hearing that a good farmer had moved to town, immediately contacted Will and asked him if he would like to run his farm. Will was so thankful for the offer and agreed to do it for $150 a month.
Several months after arriving in Grayson, Will and Hattie’s eleventh child was born. Another precious little girl, who they named Hattie (Cardon De Jones), was born December 20, l912.
The Guymon family loved their new home and the wonderful people in Blanding. Will and Hattie were life-long members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holding many church positions over the years. Will loved to grow a large garden, which he shared with everyone who needed a helping hand.
Hattie’s sister, Myrtle Black Palmer, was a mid-wife in Blanding and helped bring more than 200 babies into the world. Hattie assisted Myrtle with that endeavor and knitted more than 300 pairs for booties for the babies that were born in Blanding during her lifetime.
At the age of 91, Will’s health began to fail. He spent the last three years of his life in his favorite rocking chair. He always had a smile and a hearty greeting for those who came to visit.
In his 95th year, he contracted bronchial pneumonia and passed away eight hours later at their home at 800 South and 300 West in Blanding on December 10, l958.
Their eight living children and many of the 50 grandchildren attended Will’s funeral on December 13. He is buried in the Blanding Cemetery.
Hattie continued living in Blanding and other places with several of her children until she too passed away at the age of 93 on March 4, l965. She was buried next to her beloved Will in Blanding.
The most precious possession of Will and Hattie were their testimonies of Jesus Christ, their membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their beloved family. Today, in the fifth and sixth generations, their posterity numbers more than 1,600 souls.
Even though they endured and overcame many obstacles in their lives, they were living examples of “Where there is a WILL there is a way.”
Writers note: I am indebted to VerDonne Blake and Bev Vowell for their assistance in writing this article.