Joseph Roskelley Biography
Colaborador: cheerful_woman Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
BIOGRAPHY OF JOSEPH ROSKELLEY
By Rebecca Roskelley Watson
My father, Joseph Roskelley, was born in Smithfield, Cache County, Utah, on the fifth day of June 1868, one year before the railroad was finished, making him an official pioneer. He used to joke about being held back at birth and never being able to catch up. He said a very dear friend of his mother had a baby on the fifth, too. He was sure he was actually born after midnight but was set back so they could have the same birthday.
He was the eighth and last child in his mother’s family. He was his father’s ninth child, (not counting Hyrum, who was his mother’s child by a previous marriage, who was adopted by Samuel Roskelley) Joseph’s father being a polygamist.
His parents were Samuel Roskelley and Rebecca Hendricks.
Their children:Hyrum Abiff Watson8 April 1853
Rebecca Roskelley22 April 1859
Charlotte Roskelley7 October 1860
Zina Young Roskelley18 March 1862
Samuel Roskelley11 August 1863
James Roskelley19 January 1865
William Hendricks Roskelley4 May 1866
Joseph Roskelley5 June 1868
Joseph was raised in Smithfield by his fine and loving parents who loved the Gospel and were strict about all of them living it. His mother had suffered and sacrificed much for the Gospel. His father had left home and family for the Gospel when but a boy, none of his family ever joined, much to his sorrow.
His mother was a woman of action as demonstrated by an instance he told about when some boys were pulling pranks in the street one day as she was passing by carrying some eggs. They were told to stop, but didn’t. As a result, one of them bumped into her causing her to drop the eggs. Even though the boy’s mother was standing in the doorway, she grabbed the boy, put him over her knee, and gave him a sound spanking.
Joseph’s father was a bishop, the mayor of Smithfield, as well as being involved in the canal company, the school board and many other projects, yet took his role as a father very seriously. He would write out work assignments for his sons each morning and have them report at night. He was very tender-hearted and took their problems very much to heart.
Joseph’s mother at age 45 passed away with consumption when he was twelve years old, leaving the four youngest boys in the care of their stepmothers as his father was on a mission to England at the time.
It is hard to tell just where he lived but he did live with Mary Roberts, his father’s second wife, for a time. One of his memories of this time was eating some green plums which he had been warned not to do, and becoming so ill that he wished he could die. He was given a large dose of castor oil which didn’t help his feelings any. It took a while to recover but he had loving care.
Joseph had a great gift for music and entertaining. Although we as children had to do a lot of coaxing to get him to perform, we heard much about his talent from others. We did get him to do things now and then and loved it. He had a natural ear for music and could play almost any instrument by ear although he had had but little formal training. As a boy he played the violin with the same or greater ability as one who later became a well-known violinist. But his father, although he loved music and led choirs, could not see it as worthy of development into a profession.
He used to take a certain leaf from a tree, put it into his mouth and whistle through it, making the sound of a flute. How we loved it when he would do this. He used this in local bands in Rexburg and St. Anthony. Once we persuaded him to play the piano for a dance and entertainment in Fairfield, but that is the only time I ever heard him perform in public.
He had a beautiful tenor voice and used to sing a lot of solos before and during the early years of his marriage. Years later at a meeting in Twin Falls, Idaho, I met a woman who asked me if I was Joe Roskelley’s daughter. When I said yes, she told me she would never forget his beautiful tenor voice. She had heard him as a child in Rexburg, Idaho. She used to stand on the bench so she could see and hear him better as she was so thrilled.
His sister Elizabeth (Aunt Libby to us) had this to say about his teen years and his later years:
I am thinking about my dear brother Joseph who we affectionately called Joe (or Jody). He was a loveable character, was gifted with talents, could play the guitar and the harmonica at the same time. He was much wanted for his talent. He fastened a wire around his neck and made it so it held the harmonica in place at his mouth. He played hymns, Sunday School songs, waltzes and made one come to their feet because of the rhythm and beautiful music.
Joe was a great entertainer, one of the very best. So good, in fact, that his talent and services were in constant demand everywhere.
He possessed one of the Master’s greatest gifts. The rare and priceless art of pouring oil on troubled waters. A peacemaker with an intelligently humble, soothing, element of approach to the problems of any situation. May his beautiful music be recorded in heaven and peace be to his soul.
And I say Amen!
Joseph was called on a mission to the Maori people in New Zealand. He left for his mission on November 10, 1890. He of crossing the ocean on a not-too-seaworthy boat. It took several weeks. There were several missionaries on board. They were caught in a terrific storm. It seemed that there was no hope left as the ship creaked and groaned under the massive waves that taunted every effort to control it. Someone on board, not a Church member, told the others not to worry, that as long as there were Mormon missionaries on board, no ship would go down. The missionaries went below deck and knelt in prayer for some time. Father seemed to be the one who felt most strongly that the Lord would protect them and managed to calm the others. I’m sure the strong faith of his parents instilled in his early youth was evident here. The storm abated and they arrived safely in New Zealand.
Father said the Maoris were very friendly – mainly. Their greeting was to rub noses. One can imagine when they were extremely happy or sorrowful that this could be a rather uncomfortable experience. He said that no matter how many he called on in a day that he had to eat at least something or insult them – so was often overstuffed. The people there really loved him.
There is very little I can find out about him from the time of his mission until his marriage.
He went to Idaho, probably because his older brother, Hyrum, was there. He worked in logging camps, mining camps, lumber mills, freighted over Jackson Pass and helped build the railroads in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. It may have been while working in these camps that someone offered him a “chaw” of tobacco which started a habit that kept him, for years, from much church activity. He said if it had only made him ill, as it did most people at first, he would never have touched it again. Some say it happened earlier while he was still at home.
When not out on these jobs, he spent his time in Rexburg, Marysville, St. Anthony and Driggs. He was Sunday School Superintendent in Marysville in 1898. Lucy Harris in a letter (June 21, 1898) to Frances says: “Though I believe he done a little good where he (Joe) is, if in a mining camp, has went with missionaries several times to preach the gospel, yet he is depriving himself of many blessings, that he ought to have, and I think he realizes the fact and does not blame anyone but himself. When he was called to the position of S.S. Supt., he said ‘I am not fit for the place’. But he filled it with honor while he was here.”
He met Frances Amelia Hinckley in 1893. Frances told of their first meeting. She had heard of him through friends. They spoke of his talent on stage and in singing and, of course, of his good looks. She was anxious to meet him after such glowing accounts. And naturally wanted to make a good impression. One morning, after putting her hair up in rags as was the custom to curl it, she set about polishing the huge old iron cooking stove. She was using soot to blacken it, then polished it – also polishing herself no little. A knock came at the back door. Cloth in hand, she opened it. There stood a very personable young man who introduced himself as Joe Roskelley.
Their friendship was interrupted by Frances going to school in Logan, Utah, at the B Y C and her teaching in various places. They were in many plays and programs together, both being very talented in this art. These were happy experiences for them. In the early part of their friendship, she was chosen ‘Queen of the May’ and he was chosen 'Archbishop’. This foretold their future together although it took a number of years and much doubt, sadness and joy before it came about.
In time they knew that they were meant for each other but her father violently opposed their marriage because he was sure Joe was not good enough for her and would only bring her sorrow. They decided several times to forget each other, but could not. Finally, they decided to be married anyway.
They were married in the Logan Temple on the thirteenth day (Friday) of June, 1900. Joseph’s father, Samuel Roskelley, was the Temple Recorder at the time. He loved and accepted her whole heartedly and she him.
They spent their first years in St. Anthony, Idaho. Frances was elected to the office of county superintendent of schools in Fremont County. Their first child, Lucile, was born there, 3 April 1901. She lived three years and died on 2 April 1904, the day before her third birthday, leaving behind her heart broken parents who at the time thought, because of Frances’ serious illness after Lucile’s birth, that there would never be any more children for them. Lucile was buried in the Ashton cemetery.
While in St. Anthony, Joseph was choir leader and Frances played the organ.
At the end of Frances’ term as superintendent they moved to Marysville, Idaho, where she taught two terms of school. Then the spring after Lucile’s death she taught a term of school, her last formal teaching.
Three children were born to them in Marysville:
Joseph Arza Roskelley26 October 1905
Rebecca Roskelley 7 May 1907
Thyrza Roskelley1 March 1909
Joseph decided to sell his farm and listed it with a real estate agent for a certain length of time. The time was about up when they decided not to sell and made plans for planting for the coming year. Their plans were interrupted on the last day of the listing when the agent brought a buyer and they had to sell although they always regretted it. How different things could have been for them and their family if one day could have been different.
They moved to Rexburg, Idaho, for a short time and then moved to a dry farm near Iona, Idaho. There was a small one room house on it, but they started digging a basement for a better home. During the winter, Joseph went into town to work coming home on weekends. During this time they were expecting their fifth child and Frances took the children and went to her sister, Dell Paul, in Rexburg where their second son, Franklin Wayne Roskelley, was born on the twelfth of June, 1911.
In 1912 (in the fall), they moved to Rigby, Idaho, where Joseph worked at various jobs for the next three years and where the children could be in school. Both felt that their children’s education was very important. They lived in rented houses here. Samuel Clive was born here 15 June 1914.
In 1916, Joseph obtained a farm near Lewisville, Idaho. Joseph was a good farmer and a hard worker. As long as there was work to do, he was hard at it. He had a special knack with horses and could handle those that others could not, often did.
In the spring of 1917, their last child, Ghreta, was born 11 March 1917. In April, Clive caught cold. It turned into pneumonia and spinal meningitis. Their doctor was in Salt Lake City at the time and the doctor they finally persuaded to come found the trip of four miles through the snow too much, so they were left to their own resources. Clive was called to his heavenly home after a week of intense suffering on 13 April 1917. On the night he was buried, Ghreta joined him 15 April 1917, leaving the family bereft indeed. Joseph was up day and night never leaving his sick babies except for dire necessities. Clive was a great favorite with him as he was with all of the family. He had blonde curly hair and blue, blue eyes and was a happy child. Ghreta was much loved, too, even though our little red head wasn’t with us long.
Joseph sold this farm in the fall of 1919 and moved his family to Rigby for a few months. He then, after looking for other opportunities, had the decision to make as to whether to invest his money in the theater business in Weiser, Idaho, as a partner to Jack Cooper or put it into a dry farm near Fairfield, Camas County, Idaho. He decided on the latter.
The dry farm consisted of 320 acres, highly misrepresented by two L.D.S. real estate salesmen who attracted quite a number of L.D.S. families to the area, most of whom lost all they had. Only those who had good outside finances succeeded. Father put all he had into it thinking he could make payments from the crops each year, but it proved to be impossible. This was a great blow to him. He tried doing other work along with it but it just didn’t work. Once he went to Montana to earn a few dollars and returned with what we called the “seven-year itch”. He slept on a cot for some time while the mite that caused it was eliminated.
We moved there in May 1920 and left in the fall of 1925. The three oldest children having graduated from high school that spring, the family decided to move to Pocatello, Idaho, so they could attend college at what is now Idaho State University.
We rented a house on Second Avenue South. Joseph worked at the ball park there until he contracted pneumonia and nearly died. When he was so ill, he kept asking to have two men dressed in black suits with long tails and high silk hats put out as they were trying to carry him away. We couldn’t see them but he could. He asked for the Elders to come and that they rebuke the evil spirits, which they did. Father was soon better. This room had been occupied by some medians calling up evil spirits before we moved there and it seemed they were still around. In his weakened condition, they tried to take over. They said they were taking him away.
It was at about this time that he quit the tobacco habit that had held him down for so long.
He tried selling and other things after that but it was hard times. The children worked at various things to help. In 1929 we moved to a house on West Haliday. Arza married Lucille Will in January 1930, and they lived with Joseph and Frances until their new house was built in the fall. Thyrza was married to Leonard Barrett in April and Rebecca to Arthur Watson in June 1930, leaving only Wayne at home. Rebecca and her husband moved in with them in October after Arza and Lucille moved out, to help with expenses. In the fall of 1931, Rebecca and Art moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho. Arza and Wayne then decided to send their parents to Logan where they served on a Temple mission for two years. What a joy it was to be doing the work of the Lord.
Wayne and Arza purchased an acreage on the outskirts of Pocatello and in 1933 Joseph and Frances moved on it. They raised chickens, raspberries and tomatoes in abundance plus other things to make their living. Then Arza decided to move his family on the acreage. So in the fall of 1935, Joseph and Frances moved to Twin Falls, Idaho to live with their daughter Rebecca and family. While there, he worked in genealogy.
In February 1937, his beloved wife, Frances, passed away, leaving him a lonely and disoriented man. He stayed with each of his children off and on until he was afflicted with a severely crippling stroke. It came on slowly, gradually paralyzing his right side, robbing him of clear speech and confining him to bed. He was in the hospital in Pocatello from 194_ until 194_ when he was moved to a rest home across the street from Rebecca in Twin Falls, Idaho. In 194_, the rest home owners moved patients, equipment and all to Burley, Idaho. It seemed best for him to go with them as he was used to their care. The last five years of his life he was unable to talk but was aware of all that happened around him and knew all who came to visit him.
At first he asked to have some money at his bedside but finally kept just a dollar there. One day I went to visit him. He indicated that I was to take the dollar. I asked him if he needed something. He shook his head. I tried everything I could think of but none was right. Finally, I started naming family members. When I came to Thyrza’s name, he nodded with a relieved look. At that time she and her husband were starting a new business. He wanted them to have the dollar as he wanted to help and that was all he had.
Joseph passed away April 15, 1951, in Burley, Idaho. Funeral services were held in Smithfield, Utah, and he was buried in the Smithfield cemetery in the Roskelley plot beside his beloved wife, where they will rise together one day in the midst of those he loved.
While he could talk, he had expressed himself as desiring a choir to sing at his funeral service but was sure no one would come, to say nothing of having a choir sing. His service in Smithfield was beautiful, well-attended and the choir fulfilled his wish beautifully.
He was beloved not only by his own family, but by all the Roskelleys. There had been a rift in the family and some felt bitter about others. But Joseph was always welcomed everywhere and loved by all. He did much to help the situation.
He was always a good neighbor and helped many in need. He had a strong testimony of the Gospel and was always ready to defend it. It will be a joy to be with him again.
Joseph was five feet eleven inches. He was slim but wiry. He could wrestle both of his teen age boys down at the same time. He had light brown hair and blue, blue eyes. He was always particular about his appearance. He was courteous and very concerned about those around him.
His granddaughter, Mary Kay Roskelley Sorensen says: “Mostly I remember him in bed and not able to speak. I do remember how upset he would get with Richard and would chase him around our big dining room table. This was before his illness. The folks went somewhere and he stayed with us. We went to the carnival and lost all of our money and Grandpa was so upset when we got home and told him what had happened, he went to the man and got our money back.”
Although Father was curbed a great deal by circumstances beyond his control and some he should have controlled (a thing we all suffer from), he is a choice son of our Heavenly Father, having charity and love for his fellow men. I am sure he is now with his beloved Frances, fulfilling his many callings beyond the veil.
Following is a letter to Father from Wayne which expresses all our feelings beautifully:
February 16, 1947
By the time you receive this letter, it will be Mother’s birthday. I can’t help but think how blessed we were to have such wonderful parents. You have had your disappointments and financial reverses, your heartaches and ill health here, but when it came to a partner for life and eternity, you were blessed with one of God’s choicest spirits. To have such a wonderful helpmate in this life and to know she is yours for all eternity are blessings so rich that it is beyond our ability to express them properly.
And so we, your children are blessed alike with rare and choice souls for our earthly Father and Mother. Had we a choice, as perhaps we did, we could have chosen no finer heritage. I hope that in some small way we can live worthy of you both, that we may enjoy the richness of your companionship through eternity. It is with wonder and gratitude that I call you Father, and thank you and our Father in Heaven for choosing for us such an intelligent, lovely, beautiful mother. May our Father in Heaven continue to bless you and comfort you.
I send my love to you,
Your son, Wayne