William “Bill” Henry Whitmill was born on November 2, 1900 in Shelley, Idaho to Henry Albert and Delia Arminety Pope Whitmill. He was the second of nine children. He grew up in Basalt, Idaho and lived most of his life around Basalt, Shelley, and Kimball.
There isn’t anything known about his childhood except when he was a teen, he contacted typhoid fever from swimming in the irrigation canal. He was so sick they thought he was going to die from it. Luckily, he pulled through it.
Bill grew to be a slender man, about 5’6” tall with sparkling blue eyes. He usually wore bib coveralls, but when he dressed up, he was handsome and meticulous. He was an honest, straightforward man. He loved life and had the courage to live his life in a manner he believed was pleasing to the Lord. He faced his obligations, disappointments, and problems with the same determination that he embraced the joys and pleasures.
When he was a young man, he went to California to work. He had never been away from home before and it was all a strange world to him. He got a job working for a rubber company. He became acquainted with an older woman where he boarded, who helped him a lot. She advised him of the ways of the world and the evils of the big city. He was always grateful for the help she gave him; it gave him a desire to live a good life. He worked there for two years then returned to Idaho.
At the age of 23, he met Beulah Fern Frandsen in Basalt. They were married on July 31, 1924 in Idaho Falls. Their marriage was solemnized in the Logan Temple on August 8, 1928.
Bill grinned a lot but he didn’t laugh aloud very often. If he was grinning, you could tell he was pleased. Beulah teased him a lot; she could really make him grin!
They made their home across the street west of the church in Basalt. They had five children while living in Basalt: William Dewayne, Fern Olea, Delpha Ruth, Alton Boyd, and Arlene Annice. All of them were born at home and were delivered by a midwife. Arlene lived only three weeks.
Bill was a dirt farmer and the title was a badge of honor as far as he was concerned. He loved the land and was very much a part of it. He worked his small 7-acre farm, raising a lot of vegetables, which he sold to the stores. During the winter months, he worked in the spud house in Firth, Idaho.
He took very good care of his animals, especially his horses. He didn’t let anyone borrow his horses if he had seen them be abusive to their own. He would make sure they were fed and watered before he went in for lunch.
The Great Depression began on October 29, 1929, when the bottom dropped out of the stock market. That day is now referred to as “Black Tuesday”. The banks failed and many people lost their jobs. Just putting food on the table was a hardship. More than 60% of the families in the nation had a yearly income of less than $2,000, which was considered the bare minimum to provide a family with the bare essentials.
The prosperity of the 20’s gave way to the hardship and poverty of the 30’s. Beulah’s brother, Burke Frandsen, lived on a nearby farm. The farmers all helped each other when needed and worked hard together. It was the only way to survive; and survive they did!
The summers were a time for lots of chores – weeding the garden, canning and big picnics with Uncle Burke’s and Aunt Blenda’s families. They would pack a big lunch to take to Tautphaus Park in Idaho Falls. A big treat was sandwiches made on bread from the store. The kids would gather eggs to sell to the store for bread and a jar of Miracle Whip. Those were wonderful, busy times.
One of the summertime chores was weeding the onions. If the kids were careless and pulled up the little fresh ones instead of weeds, Bill could smell the onions and would make the kids eat them so they wouldn’t be wasted. Everyone was careful not to waste anything. Bill would tell them, “Waste not – want not”.
Bill and Beulah enjoyed people and always welcomed company into their home. Everyone loved to be there. The kids were always included in the festivities. They would often get together with Beulah’s brothers and sisters.
Minnie White (Sister Clara’s mother) was a midwife in the Kimball area and delivered many of the babies, including Beulah’s. She would stay with the family for 10 to 14 days to take care of the mother, new baby and the family.
In about 1934, Minnie's brother Israel Porter became the town mayor. Minnie was the town clerk and Bill was the constable. Whenever they held a town meeting, the three of them would stay after and discuss the scriptures. Bill had a good understanding of the gospel. They were looking for a work to start up where they could live United Order. Minnie felt like this was the time that she had waited all her life for.
Through Burke, Bill met Brother Clyde Gustafson, a shoe repairman, who was also interested in studying the gospel. Brother Clyde introduced him to Brother Elden, Brother Charles and Brother Marion Brown. Brother Charles organized cottage meetings at different homes to discuss the gospel. Brother Burke, Brother Perry, Brother Ammon Neilsen, Brother Burton Dye, and their families would come. They talked about perfecting themselves and following God’s laws. All of them seemed to be searching for a better way to live their lives. They wanted to unite together to live economic communalism where everyone lived “United Order”. The meetings would go far into the night nearly every night. When Bill met Brother Charles, he invited him to hold a meeting at his home. Bill invited Minnie White to come to that meeting.
In early June 1935, Bill and his family moved to Bountiful, Utah where he joined the Co-op. Bill was one of the men that went on what is known in the Co-op as the "Teton trip". They left on June 19 and were gone for about 10 days.
As harvest time approached, Bill and Brother Burke went back to Idaho to take care of the farm up there. Burke and Bill moved their families into Burke's mother's house in Kimball. Burke's mother had moved in with her daughter Blenda and her husband Ernie Ekstrom across the railroad tracks.
When Bill and his family moved away from Basalt, Minnie White was really concerned. No one knew what had happened to them as they hadn’t told anyone where they were going. She had felt so strong that he was her link to being able to live United Order and she didn’t know what she was going to do. She really felt lost.
One day, in November 1935, Minnie saw Bill in Firth and asked him where he had moved to. He told her he had gone to Bountiful and joined a cooperative there. He invited her and her family to come to a meeting at his home. Minnie met Brother Elden and Brother Marion there. She asked Brother Elden if she could join. He told her they weren’t taking any more members at that time.
On January 17, 1936, Brother Elden and Brother Marion went to Minnie White’s home in Basalt. Brother Elden asked her if she still wanted to join and she said that she did. He told her Bill and Brother Burke would come up in a few days to move them to Kimball. Brother Ammon and Sister Thera had moved to Bountiful so the Whites moved into their house in Kimball.
On March 5, Minnie White’s family moved to Bountiful. In April, Brother Ernie and Sister Blenda moved to Bountiful, bringing Burke's mother with them. Bill moved into their house in Kimball, which made more room for Brother Burke’s family.
After Bill's family moved to Kimball, they had four more children: Floy, Phyllis Aurella, Samuel Eugene, and Belva Jean. Samuel also died in infancy, living only about four and a half months. He was buried in Basalt with their daughter Arlene.
Bill was a very good farmer and gardener. He raised many vegetables, and sent most of the harvest to Bountiful. The people there really appreciated all the produce he sent down. He also worked on the beet crews.
Along with raising a big vegetable garden, he raised a lot of flowers. He really loved flowers, especially gladiolus, roses and sweet peas. You could see his beautiful flower gardens from the road. He would always plant some flowers in his potato field.
One year he planted a quarter acre of sweet peas in the potato field. They could be seen from the highway and everyone really admired them. Many times people would stop and ask if they could buy some. He would tell them, “No, they are not for sale, but if you’d like I will give you a bouquet”, which he did.
They were in full bloom when Blenda, Ernie, and Ernie’s brother Johnny came for a visit. Together, they picked armfuls of sweet peas and loaded them on Brother Marion’s truck on top of the produce he was taking to Bountiful. Johnny rode in the back of the truck to protect the flowers. They were going to give them to the women of the Co-op. When the women got the flowers, they were thrilled.
Bill and Beulah’s house in Kimball was a resting place for many traveling between Bountiful and Marion Brown’s dry farm near Tetonia, Idaho. Brother Marion and others would always stop and spend the night when making the trip. Cars traveled at around 25-30 miles an hour then, so the trip was a long one. Beulah would cook a nice meal and they would have homemade ice cream. The kids thought it was a treat to sleep on the floor so the company could have the beds.
As the 30’s ended and the 40’s began, there were rumors of war in Europe. On December 7, 1941, the United States was drawn in to World War II. The families were faced with more hardships. There were gas rationing and food coupons. Many commodities were hard to get and money was scarce. Tires were almost impossible to get. Many young men were drafted into the army. However, the family had more troubles at home.
Beulah was starting to have more health problems. She suffered from rheumatism and dropsy. Her legs would swell and she had to stay off them. At the end of February in 1942, Thera Nielsen went to Idaho for a few days to help her. She seemed to do better for a while, and then she started to get weak again. In July of that year, Bill brought her down to Salt Lake to stay at Blenda’s for a couple of weeks. When she went back to Idaho, Sister Anderson went up with them to help doctor her.
In August, she saw a heart doctor. Her heart was quite enlarged and the doctor didn’t give her much hope. Over the next few months, she would stay for a time with Blenda or Thera, and then she would go home to Idaho for a while.
On January 10, 1943, Bill took her to stay at Blenda’s again. This would be the last time. Her two youngest girls stayed with Thera. On January 23, Bill came down from Idaho, as Beulah had taken a turn for the worst. He was with her when she died on the morning of January 25 of heart failure. She was 37 years old. She was buried in Basalt with her two babies.
Bill was left with seven children to raise. The youngest, Belva, was only 14 months old. His sisters wanted to take the little ones, but Bill wanted to keep his family together. The girls stayed with Blenda and Thera for a while then they went back to Idaho. Olea and Delpha took turns staying home from school to watch the kids and take care of the house the best they could while Bill worked. By this time, DeWayne wasn’t home much so Boyd helped a lot with running the farm.
Bill met Lucy Snarr at a New Year’s Eve dance at the end of 1943. She was a widow with four children of her own. They started dating and were married on July 6, 1944 in Salt Lake. With his seven and her four, they had quite a houseful. Bill and Lucy's daughter Martyna was born on November 23, 1946. The children were now an even dozen, and the new baby was the cement bringing everyone closer together.
Belva, who was now five years old, and Martyna were the apples of Bill’s eye. He was very mindful of his little ones. Bill was proud of all the children and was strict with them. When they heard him whistle, they knew they had to hurry home. He taught them by example that it was honorable to work hard. He worked from daylight to dark. No matter how late the kids stayed out, they were expected to get up just as early as always to do their chores.
On March 13, 1950, Bill came home from work early because he wasn’t feeling well. He was in bed when the kids came home from school. When asked how he was feeling, he still had his sense of humor and replied, “I’m alright, as long as they didn’t send that big black car for me.” Lucy was alone with him when he died later that night of a massive heart attack. He was 49 years old. Although Lucy 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.
Not long before he died, Sister Beulah came to him in a dream and told him his time here on the earth was about up and she would come back for him in a little while.
Bill spent the last 15 years of his life in the Co-op. He had a keen understanding of the gospel and a firm testimony. He lived by Brother Charles’ memory gem; “it is my firm resolve and fixed purpose”. He always met people in a friendly way. His association with others was always in a way that would help them.
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