Dry Farmers In Pleasant Valley



This is part two of the Peace Family history. First, I need to make three corrections from last week's column: Ezra Peace was stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, not England; Edwin Peace worked for Sears for 41 years, not 35; and Lyman was stationed in France while he was in the U. S. military service. He was a Korean Era Veteran.

Will and Myrtle Peace moved to Globe, Ariz. in 1927, then moved on to Pleasant Valley (Young), Ariz. They had three children at the time: Albert, 13; Calvin, 8; and Ezra, 3. Will and Myrtle had already buried three of their children in Texas.


The Peace brothers, from left, Calvin, Ezra, Edwin and Lyman, gathered for a family photo Aug. 20, 1979 at their childhood stomping grounds in Young, Ariz.

Myrtle's dad, Al Griffin, had been hired by Gila County to go into Pleasant Valley and break up a cattle thieving ring in 1919. He lived at the OW Ranch. By 1927, the cattle stealing business was better under control, so Mr. Griffin lived with Will and Myrtle and their family. First, they lived on the Rice Pettis Place, then they bought land and built a house on the east side of Cherry Creek.

Living on the east side of Cherry Creek was sometimes a trial because the main part of Pleasant Valley, which basically included a general store or two, a post office, and homes, was on the other side. And back in the 1930s and 40s, it rained in Pleasant Valley -- a lot. Cherry Creek, which ran in front of the Peace House, was 100 yards wide from bank to bank. There were two main channels and although water didn't,t always run in both channels, during flood stage, the water ran deep across the entire 100 yard creek bed. To get across the creek, Albert, Calvin and Ezra built a wire cable foot bridge.

Edwin Peace, now of Payson, recalled, "One time we watched a big sycamore tree go down Cherry Creek in front of our house. It was standing upright! And it tore out the foot bridge my older brothers had built."

During their early years in Pleasant Valley, they dry-farmed which means they depended on the rains to water their crops. This was a common practice in both Pleasant Valley and Payson back when it used to rain regularly.

Calvin said in a 1982 interview, "When we moved to Pleasant Valley, Albert and I attended school at the Red Schoolhouse which was located where the ranger station is today. We rode our horses to school and tied them under a shed that was built just for that purpose. At that time there was snow on the ground for most of the winter. Sometimes the snow would be belly-deep to the horses and it was cold. I can remember the snow just covering the tops of the fence posts. On rainy days we were cold and wet by the time we got to school. Then we had to ride home in the cold and the snow and do our chores."

The Peaces plowed their fields and planted, among other things, corn, pinto beans, Blue Ribbon sugar cane, and hegari (pronounced hygera). Calvin said, "Dad also planted other people's fields for a percentage of their crops. Albert and I worked right along with him. When we got our share of the crops, we sold them to other people or traded them for goods at the store. I remember we sold Hegari to the OW Ranch and the Q Land and Cattle Company for five cents a bundle. A bundle would feed one horse or one cow for one day."

Besides the field crops, the Peaces had a big vegetable garden to feed their family. Myrtle canned all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and meats. She also made lots of jams and jellies. "My mother's younger sister, Elizabeth, lived with us and helped my mother with all the cooking and canning," said Calvin.

Fall was a busy time of the year because the Peace family, like many others, had to cut firewood, harvest the field crops, and butcher the hogs. Here, Calvin tells how they harvested their crops: "After the first frost, when the corn stalk was drying up, we cut off the tops off the corn, tied it in bundles, and used it to feed the animals," said Calvin. "We pulled the ears of corn, threw them in the wagon, and hauled them to the barn. We shelled the corn off an ear of corn and let it fall into the wagon box. Then we scooped it up with buckets and ‘winded' it to get the husks, leaves, sticks, and dirt out. Then we hauled it to Lum Martin's mill to have it ground into cornmeal. Ma made corn bread and we ate it with ‘Lick,' (a homemade syrup) and it was good.

"We cut the tops off the sugar cane and used them for grain for the animals and chickens," Calvin continued. "Then we knocked the leaves off the stalks with wooden paddles. We went back and cut the cane and hauled it to Cline's (Raymond's folks) where they ground it and made it into molasses.

"After the pinto beans were dry, we pulled the plants up by the roots, threw them in the wagon and hauled them in. We used sticks or poles to thrash the plants to get the beans out of the pods, then we sacked up the beans and sold most of them. We usually sold over 1,000 pounds of beans, and some we traded for coffee, flour, sugar, or kerosene.

"We cut the hegari with big long knives, tied it into bundles, and piled it in the fields. When all of it had been cut, we loaded it onto sleds and hauled it to the barn. The top of the hegari pant is a grain and the bottom part is a stalk. This was used to feed the stock. We always had saddle horses, work horses, work mules, milk cows, and milk-pen calves.

"When we first moved to Pleasant Valley, we had no twine to tie the bundles of corn tops and hegari, so Albert and I went out and gathered Bear Grass. It worked just as good as twine.

"After the crops were harvested, we took wagons and went up to Cherry Creek Hill to cut firewood. This took about a week. Two or three families would go together. We cut the wood then hauled it by wagon to our homes. We were sure to get plenty of firewood because that was the only way we had to heat our house or cook our food.

"As soon as it started snowing, we started butchering hogs. We waited for the snow and the cold weather so the meat would not spoil. We hung the meat in the barn or in a storehouse. In the daytime, we covered the meat with tarps to keep the flies off, the same with beef, elk, or deer."

After the climate changed and Will Peace could not depend on rain to water his crops, he worked for the county and WPA. About 1941, he worked at Ralph Miller's sawmill at Red Lake.

"Dad work for Ralph Miller and so did Calvin and Albert," said Edwin. "Dad had a bad accident there. He was running the swing saw and reached over to grab a board. He cut off the thumb and first finger on his right hand. But he adjusted to working without those fingers and went back to working at saw mills. There were about a dozen saw mills around Pleasant Valley back then."

Will Peace was also a fence contractor. He took Albert and Calvin with him and built many miles of fence. He employed other men in the area, too. Then he built fence with his brother-in-law, Martin Cline.

For relaxation, Will teased whoever was near him and played the fiddle a little. Edwin can remember him playing "Sally Goodin.'

Myrtle faithfully taught Sunday School at the Young Baptist Church during her 40 years in Young. Hazel Peace (wife of Edwin) can remember when Myrtle taught Vacation Bible School at the Red Lake Sawmill Camp in 1945. "I was 11 years old. Six years later she became my mother-in-law!" Years later, (1960s) Myrtle taught her granddaughters when they visited her at the Peace Place on Cherry Creek.

Myrtle and Will are remembered by their family and friends as good, honest, hard-working people. They helped their neighbors and took in stray kids.

"Mom and Dad passed away in 1965," said Edwin. "Mom on August 9, and Dad on August 18. This was a great loss to all of us. They will never be forgotten, nor will the values they instilled in all of us as we were growing up."

The old Peace house on the east side of Cherry Creek burned in 1999. But the wonderful memories of my grandparents, Will and Myrtle Peace, will always be with us.

Town Historians Jayne Peace and Jinx Pyle, owners of Git A Rope! Publishing, Inc. have written the following: "Looking Through the Smoke," "Blue Fox," "History of Gisela," "Mountain Cowboys," "Rodeo 101 History of the Payson Rodeo," and "Calf Fries and Cow Pies." Look for them at Art and Antique Corral, Payson Chamber of Commerce, Rim Country Museum, Mountain Air Gifts in Payson, and with Lorraine Cline in Tonto Basin.

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