Early Life and Family
Lucy was born on December 19, 1905 to George Emanuel and Lucy Bennett Crossley in Whitney, Idaho. She was the second of seven children. The family moved to Thatcher, Idaho in 1907.
In 1862, the Homestead Act was passed by congress. This provided that any person over the age of 21, who was a citizen of the United States, could obtain title to 160 acres of public land – if he lived on the land for five years and improved it. The sponsors of this bill believed that land was worthless before it was improved, and anyone who converted unoccupied land into farms should not have to pay for it.
This act was still in effect when Emanuel filed on 160 acres in Thatcher in 1908. The land was all in sagebrush. He spent all the time he could spare clearing the sagebrush and cutting logs for a house. Finally, a few acres had been cleared and the four-room cabin had been constructed. The family moved into the cabin in May 1909. This is where Lucy grew up.
Her father was an honest, hardworking man. He was kind and gentle and taught his children obedience. He taught them not only to work but also to respect their own property as well as that of others.
There were good years and bad years on the farm, but the family never suffered for the necessities of life. Her parents were thrifty and conservative. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” was her parents’ motto. Making it do was very much on their minds. Most of their clothes were made at home and were often faded from many washings and mended and patched many times. Lucy carried these attributes throughout her entire life.
Lucy preferred the fields and was more than happy to let her older sister take care of the household chores. She helped her father a lot with the farm work. As she grew older, she went out and did housework.
Later, she got a job working in the kitchen at the LDS Hospital in Idaho Falls. A woman named Irene Snarr was also working there and the two became good friends. Irene introduced Lucy to her brother, Denzil James Snarr. They started dating and were married on June 12, 1929 in the Salt Lake Temple.
Together they had four children, Gordon, Bonnie, Merrill and Delane. Denzil passed away on April 4, 1939 from pneumonia. This was a very trying time for Lucy – all she had was her four children and a little furniture. Through her grief all she could see was a great wall – she could not get over it or around it, but she knew she had to do it alone. She finally realized there was only one way and that was to trust in Heavenly Father. She prayed a lot and poured out her soul to Him.
When everything was settled, she received state insurance. It wasn’t much, but it was something. She moved to a smaller home that charged less rent. She went out in the fields and cut seed potatoes for the farmers. That got her by for the summer. In the fall, she went job hunting.
She heard about a job opening and decided to go down and see if she could get the job. When she got there, there was a long line that went quite a ways down the sidewalk. She didn’t get discouraged very easily but this was beginning to discourage her. There were so many applicants in line ahead of her, she was sure the job was going to be filled before she got a chance to interview.
As she waited in line she began to wonder if she should just leave as she thought she probably wouldn’t get the job anyway. Then a woman came walking up the sidewalk. She happened to stop and strike up a conversation with Lucy. Lucy poured her heart out to the woman, telling her about her situation and how she didn’t know what she would do if she didn’t get the job. The woman encouraged her to stay in line and then went on her way.
Eventually, the line began to move as the interviews began. As she got closer and closer to the front of the line, she expected them to come out at any time and tell everyone to go home as the job had been filled. She finally got to the front of the line and went in for the interview. As she walked into the room, there behind the desk doing the interviews, was the woman that had stopped and talked to her on the sidewalk. She had specifically held the position open for her and gave her the job. You can see how Heavenly Father helped her out.
In the fall of 1940, she found work at a seed house, where she worked until the run was over at Thanksgiving time. The day she finished there, the LDS Hospital called and wanted her to come and work there again. She went to work, but only until Christmas time. She just couldn’t take it – it was such long hours. She went to work at six in the morning and got home at seven in the evening. She had one hour off in the morning and two hours off in the afternoon. By the time she walked home, she didn’t have much time to do anything before it was time to go back. She had a neighbor boy tending the children while she worked.
While she was still working at the hospital, a woman told her about Abramson’s Tent and Awning Company over on Yellowstone Highway. When her brother George came over at Christmas time, she asked him if he would take her to see Mr. Abramson, which he did. Mr. Abramson asked her if she had ever run high-powered machines. She told him no, but she had done a lot of sewing on home machines. He told her he didn’t have anything at that time, but he would call in a few days. A week later, he called and wanted her to come and get acquainted with the machines that afternoon. This is where she got her experience with industrial sewing machines.
Lucy Meets Bill Whitmill from the Co-op
At the end of 1943, Lucy met Bill Whitmill at a New Year Eve’s dance. She had gone to the dance with a woman that she worked with. Her good friend, Minnie Brinkman, was at the dance. Minnie was the sister of Lavenda Kingston and Esther Nielsen. Minnie introduced her to Bill, who was acquainted with Minnie through his sister. Bill was a good dancer and Lucy loved to dance.
The following Monday, the woman she went to the dance with told her she had arranged a date for her with Bill for the next Saturday night, but Lucy refused to go. The next Monday, the friend told her she had another date, and Bill wanted a date with Lucy. Lucy told her she wouldn’t go. She thought Bill was a married man and she was not going to be a home breaker. Then she found out his wife had died, leaving him with seven children. She told her friend she would make one date. From that time on, she went out with him every Saturday night. She enjoyed his company so much that she looked forward to him coming over.
As time went along, she began to realize that Bill wanted to marry her. She had been to his home and she could see the need for a mother there but she was hesitant to marry him. She knew Bill was a member of the Co-op and she was a staunch member of the LDS Church. She didn’t want to lose her standing in the church. She also didn’t feel like she had what it took to take on such a large family – her four and his seven. She knew, too, that it would be lonesome without his company anymore. She really enjoyed being with him and the good times they had together. She made the decision to tell him no and prepared not to see him anymore. This is what she said:
“I realized it would be lonesome without his company anymore. I really enjoyed being with him, and the good times we had together. 'NO!' I told myself. I wasn't a big enough woman and I would tell him when he came up on Saturday evening.
“Sunday night I went to bed. I had trouble sleeping. When I did fall asleep I had a dream. I dreamed I was walking down the lane towards Bill's house. As I remember there was an iron fence in the front of his house, and a large gate to the driveway, which was open. There was ice, snow, frozen mud, and a cold north wind blowing. Two of Bill's little girls, Phyllis and Belva, came running to me. They didn't have any shoes or stockings on, just dirty little white slips. Their hair was dirty and uncombed. I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep the rest of the night.
“I got up and went to work, but I hadn't changed my mind about my decision. I went home that night and went to bed. I hadn't been to sleep very long when I awoke. That dream just wouldn't go away! Again the next night the same thing happened all over again. Three nights without any sleep – I had just about had it! It happened that another woman and myself were working in the basement at this time. The third morning we had just turned on our machines when she said to me, 'Lucy turn that darn machine off. Now tell me what's the matter with you. I have been watching you for three days now. If it’s Bill you darn fool, go ahead and marry him. I think he’s a fine fellow'”.
That broke the ice and they talked about many things. She decided she would tell Bill the next time he came up that she would go ahead and marry him. She went to bed that night and slept all night. Bill was a very happy man when she told him. They got married in Salt Lake on July 6, 1944.
Many times, throughout her life, she thought about how she almost missed out. She always thanked her Heavenly Father she didn’t and she always expressed how thankful she was that she made the decision to marry Bill.
Lucy had a daunting job. She brought organization and order to a house that had been without a mother for a year and a half. She was a meticulous housekeeper. She went into the home with the realization that Bill's daughters Olea and Delpha had managed the home the best they could since their mother’s death. Rather than going in and just taking over, she worked along side them as a team. All the children were very dear to her and she tried to treat them all the same. The children never referred to each other as “step-sisters” and “step-brothers”. They were all one big family. She remained very close to all the children all through the years.
Those were learning years for everyone – adjusting to a new family and getting to know each other better. She soon adjusted to farm life. It was a lot of hard work, but she was used to that. She had worked hard all her life. There was a lot of work to do on the farm.
Finally, they had good news – they were going to have a new baby. Martyna was born on November 23, 1946. Now all the kids had something in common. The children were now an even dozen, and the new baby was the cement bringing everyone closer together.
On March 13, 1950, Bill came home from work early because he wasn’t feeling well. Lucy was alone with him when he died later that night of a massive heart attack. He was 49 years old. His death came as a real shock to Lucy. It was another turning point in her life. Although she was left with hers and Bill’s family to take care of, this time she wasn’t alone. She had all the people in the Co-op to back her up.
Moving to the mining camp in Huntington, Utah
After Bill died, she wondered what she should do. She stayed on the farm for another year, and then Brother Ortell went up for a visit. He told her about an opportunity to work at the mine to cook for boarders. She felt like that was what she wanted to do. Her sons Gordon and Merrill were already working there. She asked him if she could wait until school was out, which was fine with him.
Before she moved to the mine, Brother Ortell told some people there that Lucy was planning to move there. No one knew her as she had lived on the farm in Idaho since she married Bill and became a member of the Co-op. Brother Ortell told everyone that she was the best housekeeper he had ever seen.
When she was getting ready to move to the mine, someone got a hold of her and told her the only housing available for her was "the worst run-down shack at the mine". She replied, “It’s not going to be a run down shack when I live there.”
When school got out, Gordon went up with a truck and moved her to the mining settlement in Huntington, Utah. She arrived there on June 1, 1951 at about noon. They stopped at the first little building at the top of the road. What a sorry sight to behold after a long and tiresome trip. It really was the most run-down shack she had ever seen. It was made up of a two-room shack with two other shacks attached to make a total of four rooms – a kitchen, front room and two bedrooms. One of the shacks was once the old shoe repair stand from Sugarhouse that had been moved to the mine.
There was a coal stove in the kitchen, a sink with a drainboard on one side, some shelves both under the sink and to the right of it. There was one two-foot shelf on the other wall and a row of four shelves in the next room. The drain board and all the shelves had been made out of rough lumber. The floors had patches of worn out linoleum here and there. The yard was hard, black bug-dust laced dirt. The only inside plumbing was a tap in the sink. There wasn't much water pressure so it ran slow when turned on. There was no indoor bathroom – the bathroom was an outhouse back a little ways behind the house.
Lucy wasn’t one to sit around feeling sorry for herself. Her attitude was to always look at the bright side of things. Although it needed many repairs, all kinds of possibilities started running though her head. She was very creative and used the limited resources she had to fix that old shack into a nice, cozy home.
There was never anything out of place in her house. In all her years, a person never once went into her house without finding a sparkling clean scene. And it wasn’t as though cleaning house was the only thing Lucy had to do. She had four girls and three boys of her own to cook and do laundry for – including dirty, black mine clothes – as well as boarders eating three meals a day.
With the help of her boys, she put in a cellar where she could store fruits and vegetables. Everything kept firm and nothing froze. Later on, they built a closed-in porch. This was used for boarders. Last, but not least, was her lawn and flowerbed. Everyone laughed when she said she was going to plant flowers. They told her flowers wouldn’t grow with so much coal dust, but she didn’t let that stop her. She took that hard, black bug-dust laced dirt and hauled it out a bucket at a time. Then she brought in buckets of good dirt from down by the creek. She accomplished the first lawn of green grass the mining camp had ever seen.
In order to grow a lawn, it has to be kept constantly wet until the grass comes up. This was accomplished by making good use of the household water – from the dishes, laundry and baths. She terraced the creek and the ground behind the house with flowers and kept the lawn mowed and trimmed. All this was done without neglecting a single household duty. No one was laughing when she had the prettiest flower garden anyone had ever seen. Her yard was truly a showplace and an inspiration to everyone in camp.
Lucy’s life at the mine came to an abrupt end when she was involved in an automobile accident on June 15, 1960. She, along with four others, was on their way to Price, Utah to shop when something went wrong with the car and the driver lost control. The car swerved back and forth several times before leaving the highway. They hit a bridge with a railing and tumbled nose first down a steep ravine where some men were working. Everyone was hurt quite badly but Lucy was hurt the worst.
As she lay in the hospital, all crippled up, she had a vision of the Savior hanging on the Cross. She thought her situation was nothing compared to what He went through. She felt she was being shown the Lord’s hand in it all and that He allowed the accident to happen.
This was the day that Lucy gave up that cozy little cottage at the mining camp in Huntington. It was never the same after she left. Others lived in that little house before and since, but as long as it stood, it was referred to as “Lucy’s place”.
She was in the hospital in Price for three weeks, then she was transferred to a hospital in Salt Lake. After she was released from the hospital, she was on crutches for quite some time. She stayed here and there for a while, living out of a suitcase. Then she went to Olea’s to stay. This is where she lived until she was able to get her own apartment.
Life in Salt Lake City after the accident
Around that time, Sister Ardous’ daughter, Velanne, was trying to start up a sewing factory. She was acquainted with Lucy and knew she was an excellent seamstress so she asked her if she wanted to work for her. She went to work there in the spring of 1963, still on crutches. It wasn’t long after that when she was finally able to get by without the crutches.
ValLanne's Manufacturing was located in a building on 300 West at about 7th North in Salt Lake. The building had an apartment attached to it that Velanne moved in to with her three children. There was also an apartment building just to the north of the factory. One day, not long after she started working there, Lucy noticed a “for rent” sign in front of the apartments. She talked it over with Velanne and decided to rent one of the vacant units. This was the first real home she had since she left the mine more than three years earlier. The rent was reasonable and it was very convenient for her. She no longer had to rely on others to get to work – she could now walk there.
It also was very convenient for Velanne. She had become very good friends with Lucy. Anytime she got discouraged, she would sit down by Lucy's machine or go visit her. Lucy always gave her words of encouragement. When Velanne went on business trips, Lucy would care for her children. The children really loved her and Velanne relied on her a lot.
Even though Lucy was now in a small apartment, she didn’t let that stop her from having a garden. She raised many beautiful houseplants. She took advantage of her back porch that had a large west window. That porch got plenty of sun in the afternoon. Her favorites were her African violets and this was where she grew many them. Anytime anyone came to visit, she had to show them her newest blossoms.
The landlady of the building lived in the apartment underneath her. This was a larger apartment, with a second bedroom behind the kitchen. The landlady was very friendly and looked out for Lucy. One day, she told Lucy that she wanted to move and sell the building. She asked her if she knew anyone that would want to buy it. Lucy told her she knew someone that might be interested. She told Brother Ortell that the building was up for sale. He made the decision to buy it. This is how the Co-op got what became known as “the Third West Apartments”.
ValLanne's Manufacturing eventually moved to the Seaflight building on 7th West just south of 3300 South. She once again had to rely on others to get to work, but there was always someone willing to pick her up on their way. It was never a burden for anyone. Everyone really loved to help her.
Velanne passed away in March 1974 of cancer. Lucy always said how much she missed her. They had been such good friends all those years.
Lucy had a permanent limp from her accident. There was a metal plate in her hip and as she got older, it bothered her more and more. She was finally forced to retire when she was seventy-five years old. She just couldn’t get around anymore.
She passed away in the early morning hours of June 24, 1994 at the graceful age of 88.
Lucy was the type of person that didn't like to impose on others, but it was never an imposition for anyone. Everyone loved to help her because she helped so many others. She always looked out for everyone and she never expected anything in return. She was a friend to all and could never turn away anyone in need. She was always pleasant to be around.
Lucy lived a long and virtuous life. She always looked at the positive side of things and always made the best of whatever situation she was faced with. She endured many trials and tribulations throughout her life, but to her, nothing was a hardship. She always had a positive attitude and made the best of every circumstance she was faced with. She always appreciated what the Lord gave her.
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