Vesta Minerva Stowell Kingston was born January 25th, 1884 to William Rufus Rogers Stowell and Harriet Eliza Stowell. Vesta was the 25th and last child of her father. When Vesta was about 8 or 9 years old, her mother Harriet, got breast cancer. Without many medical treatment options at the time, life became quite difficult for her. The cancer made her very sick and she was in terrible pain. She tried a number of remedies with mixed results, but eventually on March 7, 1897, Vesta's mother died. 4 years later on May 30, 1901, her father William also passed away. Vesta was 17 when her father died.
Her two older sisters had already been married by the time their father passed. One had moved to Oregon and the other to Wyoming. Vesta's older sister Ann, who was 20 at the time, was still single and the two girls were left alone. These two girls had their share of their father's inheritance. William was successful in business all his life and had accumulated a large savings. With his inheritance split 28 ways and a larger share going to his 3 surviving wives, the two girls (Vesta and Ann) each received between 2 and 3 thousand dollars.
Even though this was a large amount of money for those days, the pair realized if they lived off their inheritance it wouldn't last long. They couldn't afford the payments on their mother's house, so they moved out. Initially, they found a place to live in a boarding house and worked for a knitting factory earning $2.46 a week for six days work. The boarding house costed $2.44 a week leaving only 2 cents to grow their savings.
They soon decided this wasn't going to work long term, so they contacted their sister in Wyoming. They worked out a deal with their brother-in-law to use a portion of their inheritance to invest in some milk cows that they would help care for and they would get a share of the proceeds from the harvested milk. The two sisters moved to Wyoming to work out the deal.
Once in Wyoming, and after using some of their inheritance to buy cows, their brother-in-law became aware of how much inheritance they had. He himself had a brother who was away on a mission and a two others living near them in Wyoming. The men began finding ways to borrow the two sister's inheritance money. Vesta states:
"My sister and I were going to school in Logan, and we had some money that my father had left us when he died and we were using that money to go to school with. My brother-in-law and two of his brothers knew we had that money. One of those brothers was on a mission, the other two brothers were supposed to furnish him money while he was gone. So they got to where they didn't have any more money to spend, so they borrowed some from my sister and me. We let them have it but it was almost more than we could spare. But after this man came back from his mission, we figured he would find out whether that money was being paid back, but he didn't seem to care. He made the remark that he had been on a mission and didn't owe anybody a cent, and he was feeling fine."
After a number of years trying to collect the money, all three brothers died in 1915 and 1916 of typhoid fever without being able to pay the money back and the girls lost this portion of their inheritance. After their death, Vesta dreamed that two of the brothers came to her feeling very bad for not being able to pay back the debt before they passed on. From this experience, Vesta believed that we should always be careful not to take unfair advantage of people, and that a person never knows when their time will be up. She states,
"I thought this, the only thing to do, while we're in this life is to be sure to straighten things up with each other, treat each other decent, treat each other with respect and the way we should treat them. We just don't appreciate that privilege. But now is the time to do things like that because it is impossible to straighten anything up after we are dead. I think it should be a lesson to all of us that if we owe anybody anything, pay it and get that off from our mind. If we can do anything to help anyone, do it and get that off from our mind. ... We should try to help everyone that we can, and do anything that we can to help each other. Treat each other right while we're here and have the chance to. In this work, we're supposed to have peace and to learn to tolerate each other and to make things peaceable. That is the whole thing we should accomplish while we're here [on the Earth].."
While the sisters were living in Wyoming, many of the young people their age would go to plays and dances. Often in the winter, the single men and women would ride to dances in horse drawn sleighs and wagons together. Many of the young men would try to sit close to the girls they liked and wrap themselves up in quilts and blankets together. Vesta and her sister Ann had been taught at a young age not to put themselves in situations where they could be taken advantage of. They had made up their minds to save their affections for the one they married, never kissing, holding hands or making time with any of the boys.
The young men of the town soon realized that Vesta and Ann would not let them sit close or take advantage of them. The men saw this as an admirable quality they wanted in a wife and the girls began to have many suitors for marriage. The young men soon found the only way to get to know the girls was to walk to Sunday School with them. On the walk, both sisters would conduct themselves according to etiquette, always being courteous and never holding hands. Any of the young men who were not respectful of their wishes would not get another chance to walk with the girls.
One man in particular named Ray Thurman was very interested in Vesta. He was the son of the local Stake President and his family was wealthy. Ray began to propose marriage to Vesta every chance he got. Vesta's sisters and in-laws encouraged her to accept his offer saying he was a good man and she wouldn't get a better opportunity if she didn't marry him. Vesta knew he was the best man around but she couldn't bring herself to tell him yes, it just didn't quite feel right to her.
One evening, Vesta was walking alone out in the country to a bright moon. She was contemplating everything and trying to decide what to do. She was in her 20s and most of the girls her age had already been married. She thought of all the men around, she didn't like anybody as much as she liked Ray. She decided the next time he proposed to her, she would tell him yes. Vesta says,
"Just as soon as I made up my mind to tell Ray yes, it was like a voice came and talked to me and said, "You can't marry Ray because he is not the right one for you and you've got a work to perform for the Lord in Utah."
The feeling that came with the message was so strong and it impressed very strongly on her mind. The next time Ray came to see Vesta, he asked, "Well, are you going to marry me?" Vesta answered, "Ray, I've wondered for a long time whether I was going to marry you or not. The answer is no." She told him he just as well look for somebody else because she had made up her mind. Ray was very disappointed and didn't take no for an answer right away, but Vesta's resolve from her experience out in the country was very strong and she stood firm in her decision.
Many of her family members were very disappointed that she had turned down Ray and tried to talk her out of her decision, but she still remained firm in her decision.
In the months following she received a letter from Charles Kingston, a man she had only briefly met at one of the dances in town. Vesta's sisters, her brother-in-law and their family insisted that she should not write him back. They forbade her from writing him in the hopes that she would change her mind and marry Ray. Vesta describes a very strong spirit that came with the letter from Charles, the same as the voice she had heard before. However, she was not able to respond to the letter for the time being.
In the fall of 1905, Vesta went back to college in Logan, Utah. Ray Thurman enrolled also to be close to Vesta in case she changed her mind. About midway through the semester, Vesta found out that Charles Kingston had enrolled as well, but had been held up working on his father's ranch. Charles did what he could to get caught up in his classes, but in time the two began to become acquainted with one another. Vesta told him of the feelings she had directing her toward Utah and how his letter carried the same spirit. Charles told her of a dream he had that eventually led him to write her the letter.
The two were married on May 17, 1906 in the LDS temple at Logan, Utah.
Vesta lived with Charles' family in Wyoming and then Ammon, Idaho for the first few years after their marriage. Charles was called on a mission just 6 months after they were married which kept him away until the end of 1908. After a number of conflicts with Charles' family over business ventures, Vesta and Charles moved to a homestead ranch in Henry Creek, Idaho in the summer of 1909.
One day as Vesta and Charles were getting things setup in Henry Creek, the two planned a trip to pick up some of their belongings from Ammon, Idaho which was only 4 miles from Henry Creek. Charles planned to drop Vesta off in Ammon and then continue on 9 more miles to sell an old milk cow in Idaho Falls. They got in a one-horse buggy and Charles tied the old milk cow to the rear of the wagon and they set out for Ammon. Vesta was visibly expecting her first child at the time. About 2 miles down the road, they encountered a pair of young teenage girls talking and laughing loudly on the road. The milk cow they were towing got spooked and started to buck and pull back and to the side of the buggy. As the girls saw this they started screaming and the horse also got spooked. The horse and cow started bucking and pulling the buggy sideways until it tipped over on top of Vesta who was 6 months expecting and threw Charles to the side of the road. The two animals turned the buggy around on top of Vesta for a ways before 2 cowboys rode up who had heard the commotion. They helped Charles calm the animals and move the buggy off of Vesta. She had broken a couple of ribs in the accident and it was a struggle to breath. The cowboys offered to take the cow into town for Charles and he took Vesta to the old house in Ammon where she stayed until her health improved.
Vesta's doctors made a number of house calls to Ammon as they worried about the fate of the unborn baby. Without any technology to know, they simply had to wait until the baby was born. On October 10, 1909, her first child Charles Elden whom they called "Elden" was born in Ammon, Idaho without any complications and perfectly healthy. They felt it was a miracle that Heavenly Father had protected the child from the buggy accident.
When Elden was 2 months old and Vesta had recovered enough to travel, the new family moved back to Henry Creek.
Vesta's second child, a daughter she named Orlean, was born January 8, 1912. Vesta traveled into Ammon to deliver so she would be closer to medical help if necessary. Her third child, daugher Ardous was born July 8, 1914.
About this time Vesta moved back to Ammon, Idaho in the fall so her son Elden could attend school with the other children. Charles remained at the homestead in Henry Creek to work during school season.
In the fall of 1916, Vesta was expecting her 4th child. The winter began to be unusually cold early on and when Vesta gave birth on November 23, 1916, her new baby, a boy she named Rulon, did not survive.
In the fall of 1918, Vesta traveled into town to get a pair of shoes repaired and the shoe repairman was coughing and sneezing quite severely as she came into his shop. Before long, her and her whole family came down with what became known as the Spanish flu. Many people in the United States contracted the disease also, and many in the U.S. died that flu season. Her family came down with it again in the spring of 1919 before fully recovering with the help of a coal oil and olive oil remedy her husband Charles had discovered the previous year that he used on the family. Luckily, none of them lost their life to the disease.
On May 19, 1919, Vesta's 5th child, John Ortell was born and on January 30, 1922, her sixth and last child, Merlin Barnum was born.
In 1919, there was a severe drought and depression in Idaho. Farm prices plummeted and there wasn't enough water for dry farmers to grow enough crops. Charles took out a loan from the bank to cover operating and living expenses. The next few years the drought and depression continued. Charles went to talk to the bank. Many farmers were in the same situation and the banker advised Charles to file bankruptcy. Charles tried to sell his horses and equipment to the bank, but they refused saying they had no buyers to turn around and sell them to.
In 1922, Charles went back to the farm heartbroken. He parked all the equipment around the homestead. He hung the saddles and harnesses up in the barn and turned the horses loose into the hills. He walked away from the farm with nothing but a whole lot of debt. By the end of 1922, the family had moved to Idaho Falls and Charles got a job at the OSL Railroad.
One of the qualities Vesta had was frugality. It didn't cost very much for her family to live because she was very careful to utilize every resource she had available to her. She took good care of all her belongings and taught her children to do the same. Vesta was an expert seamstress, and was very particular to repair her children's clothes so they wouldn't go with holes or tears. She had a row of hangers for the children to hang their school coats and another for their work coats to keep them separate and only wear them at the proper times. She did the same for their clothing so they would not be worn too quickly. Even stockings had to be folded just right and put in a certain spot in the drawer and she would not allow clothes to be lying around the house.
Anything of value was not allowed to be wasted. Anything that cost money to replace was used to its fullest so as to not waste money replacing it too soon.
Vesta also taught her children to be hard workers, to be up on time. No matter what time the family members in the house needed to be out the door, she was always up before them with breakfast prepared and everything ready. She taught her children that the day was for work and that wasting time was as bad as wasting money.
Vesta had each of her children, boys and girls, to work hard, to clean the house, help with meals and chores and wash the dishes. The same was true for outside work. Each of the children were given responsibilities on the farm in the summer, out in the fields and garden and in caring for the animals.
Vesta was also very charitable, she would rather spend her money buying something for someone else than to spend it on herself.
Her son Ortell states:
"As I was growing up I always loved her a great deal as a mother. I thought she was wonderful, but I didn't realize or have any idea how special she was or how unusual she was. I thought that mothers were all like that. But as the years went by and I became acquainted with other people, I came to realize in all my experiences, she was the most honest, the most fair, most truthful and the most charitable person I have ever known....It seemed like everything she did was so close to perfect that I marvel when I think back on how she lived her life and how she conducted herself, maintained her home and her family."
The children grew up never remembering their mother raising her voice to them. She talked to them in a calm quiet tone, but whenever she told them to do something, they didn't have to be asked twice. She also made sure to get to the bottom of any issues that came up with her children. Sometimes it felt as though the children were guilty until proven innocent. She was careful that the truth would come out when the children had done wrong. Not only so the children could make it right, but that they would know what they needed to change to never do it again.
She also taught her children to be honest, and to never tell a lie. If there was anything that had been done wrong, she insisted that her children take responsibility for what happened and see to it that it be made right.
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