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Richard Summerhays & Eliza Stirling




Dick, Don, Lloyd and Keith Summerhays

Dad was born August 17 1887, the son of Joseph William Summerhays and Sarah Berrett.  His brothers and sisters were Jennie, Teresa, Lucy Ruth, Alma, Lorenzo, Leroy, Edgar, Hyrum and Gordon.

Mother was born May 10 1886, the daughter of James Dunn Stirling and Annie Searle.  Her brothers were James, William, John, Heber, Charles and George.  She had no sisters except Annie who died before her second birthday, and before mother was born.

The only information that we have about dad’s childhood comes from Dick’s Family Journal.  Below is an unedited extract:

            November 25, 1960 – Friday: We returned home from spending Thanksgiving with Don and his family tonight at 7 o’clock having left their place shortly after noon.

            Wednesday afternoon shortly after 3:30 we picked up the children at school and drove north as far as Fresno where we spent the night in a motel and then drove on in to Stockton the next day.

            We had a most enjoyable time.  Mother and Dad and all of the family were there except Dick and Barbara who could not get away and Joyce who stayed home with Nana.  After dinner we sat around talking which turned into some reminiscing during which Dad gave us the following particulars about his early boyhood.

            Dad was born October 17, 1887 in the 16th Ward.  Later the family moved up on the avenues and then when he was nearly four years of age they moved on 9th East close to 27th South.  While living at that address he started school in a little red brick schoolhouse just north of State Street on 33rd South close to the old granite stake tabernacle.  In 1894 they moved to 2435 South 8th Street in ForestDale.  Up until that time Dad had gone by the name of Richard Johnson because his mother was the second wife of his father and there was considerable difficulty at that time in Utah because of polygamy.  The manifesto was issued in 1890, later amnesty was granted to those who had taken more than one wife prior to that time and it was not possible for grandfather to move all of his three families to Forest Dale where they could be close together.

            His first wife, Mary Melissa Parker lived on 7th East.  His second wife, Hilda Johnson lived with her family on Walnut Street and Sarah Berrett his third wife and mother of my father lived in this house on 8th Street.  Dad was seven years old before he ever saw his father.

            While living on 8th East Dad attended what was then known as the Central School on 21st South just east of 11th East Street where the Irving Junior High School now stands.  When he completed the eighth grade in June 1901 his father denied his request to continue his education because some of the older boys had not made good use of their high school and university training.  In September of 1901 therefore he obtained a position at the Deseret news were he worked until February of 1905, and it was here that he first met mother.  He started with the Deseret News as an errand boy and later worked in the office.  She was employed in the bindery.

            Dad says that back when he was 11 years old he had a job delivering a weekly newspaper called “The Saturday” and his district included the 700 block on South 9th East.  He says that he remembers being impressed with the iron fence around the house at 746 South 9th East but never did know the family who lived there.  It was not until a number of years later that he found out that this was the home where Eliza Stirling lived.

            When dad first became acquainted with mother at the Deseret News she was going steady with a George Soderberg.  In May 1902 he asked mother’s girl friend to let him know when they broke up because he wanted to go with mother.  It turned out that they did break up in August of that year but he did not learn of it until November.  Mother says that they broke up because of a misunderstanding over a date.  She had a date with this George Soderberg for a Sunday evening.  During the day she went to Emmigration Canyon with one of her girl friends, the horse pulled up his stake and by the time they got him back and drove into town George had become tired of waiting and felt that she had stood him up.  In any event Dad Started going with her in November and went with her steady until he went on his mission the 17th of August 1905.

            Dad quit the Deseret News in March 1905 and started his own letter shop in the Templeton Building.  He had limited capital and started with a mimeograph and an Oliver typewriter.  One of his first jobs was given to him by Tom (Thomas) Sloan who at that time was secretary for the Southern State Missionary Committee and wanted Dad to do some work on their mailing list.  In April when Ben E. Rich, then president of the Southern States mission came home for conference brother Sloan took him over to Dad’s office, introduced him to Dad and showed him what he was doing.  Ben E. Rich seemed impressed with the quality of the work that was being done and asked Dad if he wanted to go on a mission.  Dad didn’t think much about it but it was not long before he received a call to go on a mission to the southern states.  He sold his business to Charles Norberg and arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee on the 21st of August 1905.

            He says that when he got there President Ben E. Rich took him directly to the office after dispatching the other missionaries to their fields of labor.  He showed him a stack of letters more than eighteen inches high which needed to be answered and other office work which was equally far behind.  Except for 21 days dad spent his entire time at mission headquarters doing the office work,  looking after the commissary and handling the distribution of the “Elders Journal” a magazine published for distribution in the Southern States Mission.  Dad Instituted a system of writing acknowledgment letters in response to subscriptions to the Elders Journal as well as the payment of tithing with a resultant increase of more than 300% in both subscriptions and tithing 90 days after the system was started.

            Dad wanted to spend some his time in the mission field and in June, 1906 he was granted permission to go with President Sylbert Broadbent then president of the Virginia conference on a tour of the district.  They started walking from Richmond, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee.

            On the way while visiting at Oilville, Virginia Dad says that they stayed at a home of a family of modest means, had hard biscuits and clabber milk for dinner and then went to bed.  During the middle of the night President Broadbent who was sleeping with him, pushed him out of the bed and said that he couldn’t sleep and the bedbugs were biting him.  They got up, lit a candle and Dad says that after each of them took two corners of the sheet and shook the bedbugs into the center that there was a full half cupful.  This was apparently typical of some of the conditions in the southern states at that time.

            When they reached Bristol, Tennessee there was a telegram calling Dad back into the office and his 21 days was the extent of his experience in the mission field.

            In the early part of 1907 “Liahona” was established in Chicago for use in the other missions.  In April President Rich went to Chicago and as a result of the discussions held then it was decided that the Elders Journal and the Liahona should be consolidated.  President Rich sent Dad to Chicago to effect this consolidation and when it was completed on the 16th of June 1907 he was released from his mission.  After the consolidation the publication was moved to Independence, Missouri, the headquarters for the Central States Mission where Samuel O. Bennion was the president.

            When Dad got home he reopened his letter office in the Tribune Building.  He barely got it under way when he received a call to go back to Independence and work in the Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co. which had been established not only to distribute the Liahona but also the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon and the missionary tracts.

            He married mother who had waited for him when he was on his mission, on August 7, 1907 and they left immediately for Independence.  Their first home in Independence was at 519 South Pleasant Street where they were renting and it was here that I was born.  In May 1909 then bought the small place next door at 515 South Pleasant Street and lived there until the latter part of 1914.  In the fall of 1914 President Bennion learned of a home then owned by a Herbert Gould at 418 North Grand Avenue.  He was having trouble making his payments and there was on opportunity for dad to buy it for $3200.00 and assume the payments.  It was a much better home than the one they were living in on South Pleasant Street and dad negotiated all of the arrangements without Mother’s knowledge.  All of the details were handled except some papers which required her signature.  At this point he rented a buggy and asked mother if she would like to go for a ride.  She thought nothing of it because they had done this on frequent occasions for recreation in the past.  He drove out to the new home, stopped and asked her if she would like to go through it.  She was thrilled with it from the start but had no idea that it would be possible for them to own such a place.  After they had gone through the home dad asked her if she would like to have it and she was more than thrilled when she learned that it was to be theirs.  They lived there until February 1920 when they returned to Salt Lake City.  They moved in just before Halloween in the year 1914.

            I did not start school until the following September when I went to the George S. Bryant school.  Mother had taught me a considerable amount of what is taught in the first and second grades so after having rather an easy time in the first grade, Mrs. Eades my first grade teacher recommended that I be skipped to the third grade.

            From 1907 to 1914 all the printing at Independence as done by outside concerns.  Dad felt strongly that considerable money could be saved if the church owned its own printing plant.  He was given permission to make a test on the multigraph which was successful and in 1914 the church allocated $5000 for the establishment of the plant.  He was able to cut the cost of printing the Book of Mormon from $0.47 to $0.17 and the tracts from $1.10 a hundred to $0.11 a hundred.  I can remember as a boy going to the plant which was built back of the mission home and being fascinated by the large printing press and the monotype which cast the type.

            Lloyd then recalled the time that Don fractured his skull while we were living in Salt Lake.  It appears that when Don was about 13 that he took a hike up across the east bench where the large St. Marys of the Wasatch was being built.  He came across a horse with a rope around its neck.  The horse was walking down 13th South and apparently had come untied after having been left on the job by the workmen.  Don got him over toward a rock wall, got on his back and had a good time riding him over the hills.  When it got time to go back however the horse sensed his intent, decided otherwise and galloped in the opposite direction.  This shook Don’s cap down over his eyes and when the horse went to make a turn, Don didn’t and ended up with a fractured skull.

            At this point Keith recalled the trip of the family back to Independence.  I left on my mission in June 1928 and in August dad had accepted an offer for a position in Kansas City.  Miriam’s folks were then on a trip in the east and it was decided that she would go back with my folks and then join her folks on their return trip.  The old Model T Ford was apparently packed tightly so that with  luggage and passengers, not much room was left.  Query as to what to do with a potted plant which mother wanted to take.  Dad decided to hang it from the roof of the car and it appears that there was some hazard to life and limb as it swung to and fro while they traveled along.

            On the trip they went to Yellowstone where Don decided to take a loaf of sliced bread and feed it to the bears a slice at a time.  It appears that this was too slow for the bear and he proceeded to take the whole loaf of bread and just barely missed taking Don’s arm along with it.

            When they got to Independence, Missouri they stopped at the Lewis Hotel.  During the night there was a severe thunderstorm, Miriam was so frightened that she couldn’t think of anything to do but keep her head under the covers so that the window was left open and her shoes full of water when the storm finally subsided.

            The folks left Kansas City in April 1929.  The job dad had taken there did not turn out to be as represented and they came to California arriving in Pasadena in April of that year.  They stayed in Pasadena until August 1929 when they moved to 1263 Exposition Blvd in Los Angeles.  That fall while the folks were shopping at the Grand Central Market, Keith and Lloyd were playing on the back porch with a lighted candle.  There was a cloth hanging over the back screen porch door.  This caught fire and first thing Lloyd could think of was Mother’s canary.  Without stopping to put out the fire he ran for the canary and got it out of doors then came back to find that Keith was patiently going to and from the kitchen with glasses of cold water to throw on the fire.  Lloyd hitched up the hose and they were finally able to put the fire out.

            In the meantime the folks were coming home from the market, heard the fire department.  Mother remarked to dad that it would certainly be an awful feeling to come home and find that your house had been burned so you can imagine her feeling when they rounded the corner and found that the fire department was actually in front of their place although it had been put out before the fire department arrived.  Mother was fearful of what the landlady would say but pleasantly surprised when she told her that it was insured and that she was glad to have the insurance company pay for the new back porch.

            Lloyd told of Keith’s vivid imagination.  It appears that a Miss Clarkson his teacher, had assigned a book report.  He hadn’t read any book and when it came time to give his oral report he made one up.  Apparently it was so well done that the teacher commended him for it and said she would like to read the book herself.  Keith told her that his Uncle Jim had written it and it wasn’t available to the public.  If the teacher suspected or found out that he had made it up at least she didn’t let him know and gave him a good grade on the report.

The family returned to Salt Lake City in February 1920.  The March 16 1920 issue of the Liahona contained the following information:

            “During his stay here Elder Summerhays has always taken a leading part in the activities of the Independence Branch.  He has been an officer in several of the auxiliary organizations, was branch chorister for many years and also president of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association.

            “Elder Summerhays has been with us so long and has such an intimate knowledge of the work in the various departments that he has almost become an indispensable part of the plant.

            “He posseses the true missionary spirit.  He has a very high ideal of the service that is due by a Latter-day Saint to his fellow men, and he has lived up to it.  Difficulties that would have disheartened many others he regarded as special opportunities for service and development.  Many kindly acts of his will linger on as pleasant memories in the minds of those who were priveliged to associate with him during the many years he labored so faithfully in the office of the Liahona.”

During 1921 he worked as a traveling representative for the Monotype Company of California.  He then established the Richard B Summerhays Advertising and Professional Credit Management Service.

On May 15, 1919 he had a dream that he described in a letter he later wrote to Elder Mark E Peterson as a vision of “Genealogical Clearing House Practice”.  In that letter, dated July 11 1959 he says:

            “In the year 1922 I had a one hour conversation with President Heber J. Grant converning these matters, and several hours in conversation at various times with President Anton H Lund.

            “Elder Melvin J Ballard who was a member of the Church Board of Publication at the death of President Smith also spent a good deal of time with me discussing these important matters.  I have held them in my heart and have done as much as I possibly could to foster their fulfillment.”

He felt strongly that the information given to him in that dream was ment not only for the the individual members but for the Church as a whole.

He was active in genealogical work during the rest of his life.  In 1920 he was appointed to the Genealogical Board of the Granite Stake.  On September 1 1924 he was called to the full time position of Secrtary and Director of the Utah Genealogical Society of Utah.  This was the organization of the Church responsible for genealogical research and temple records.  He held that position until 1928 when he resigned to accept a position in Kansas City, Mo.  The October 1928 issue of  The Utah Genealogical and Historial Magazine says:

            “During the four crowded years he has devoted the best of his mind and heart to this work.  During that time the work of research and record keeping has grown by leaps and bounds.  Since January 1925 he has personally attended genealogical conventions in every stake, where he has left the impress of his fervid testimony and spiritual personality.

            “Elder Summerhays has the respect and good will of every employee of this Society.  The gracious and helpful spirit that he displayed in meeting the public and in his convention work has been a real asset to the cause.  He has the happy faculty of helping over the rough places.  People who come to him with heavy hearts are comforted and encouraged.

            “He came to his position in the Genealogical Society as a recognized expert in the science of office management.  Under his direction the organization for research has been placed on an efficient basis, not only adequagte for present needs, but such as to permit of infinite expansion to keep pace with the destined growth of this work.  He brought with him a dream – an ideal – a vision of the future proportions of genealogical activity, and the steps necessary to build wisely and well for it great ultimate objective.”

In Kansas City he worked for the United Chemical Company as a salesman.  This connection did not work out so left for California on April 29 1929.  In California he worked for a short time for the A. L. Scoville Company, then established his own business in which he provided service in office management and account collection.  Many of his clients were chiropractors, and osteopaths.  This lead to an interest in supplemental nutrition and the establishment of the Dietary Research Council which he used for the manufacture and sale of supplemental nutritional products.  He was engaged in this work for the remainder of his working life.

In California his church activities, in addition to genealogical and temple work included Stake Instructor for the stake missionaries.  During the six years that he served in that calling more than 1000 people were baptized through the activities of members of the class.  On May 21 1955 while living in the Arlington Ward he was ordained a High Priest by Harvey H Sessions.

The Caleb Summerhays Family Society officially came into existence on April 2 1943 when its constitution and by-laws was ratified.  Caleb Summerhays had counseled his son Joseph William that when he grew to manhood, and had a family he should form a society so that the family would not separate and lose their identity.  Joseph William discussed this with his children but the society was not organized.  After his death, the family found a written request that the family unite in an organization for their common good under the leadership of a committee composed of three of his sons; Caleb Ephraim, Hyrum Berrett, and Clyde Johnson.  Under their leadership the Caleb Summerhays Family Society was formed.  Richard Berrett Summerhays, also one of his sons, was active in the organization.  He was a member of the Board of Trustees, and assisted in the genealogical research.

With the help of his sons he produced a loose leaf book for each family in the Society which contained family group sheets for all of the descendants of Caleb Summerhays.  The Society published a monthly news letter from 1943 to 1953.  In the February 1947 issue is an article paying tribute to him for this record.

During all these years mother was a faithful and devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, loved by her husband, her children, her twelve grandchildren, and all who knew her.  By precept and example she taught her children to live righteous lives, to love their Heavenly Father and keep his commandments.  She served her Heavenly Father as Sunday School teacher and Relief Society visiting teacher.  She served her country during World War I by working for the Red Cross, and the Liberty Loan drives.

Dad passed away on 24 July 1970.  Miriam said it would not be long before Dad came for her.  Miriam was with her when she passed away on 19 November 1970.  She says that as she died a smile came on her face and she stretched out of her arms.  They are buried side by side in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles County, California.



Last modified: November 15, 2000