In Paradise, Cache County, Utah, April 22, 1876, a baby was born to Margaret Ann Oldham and Prince Albert Crapo. They were converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, coming to Utah with the first pioneers, immigrating from England and France.
Mary Ellen was the third girl in a family of five girls and two boys. She was an exceptionally bright child and always had an interest in the arts. She could draw, paint, write poetry and prose. Also she did such tasks as sewing, knitting, embroidery, mending, keeping a clean house and cooking a good wholesome meal. She did all these things with an added touch, which made them special.
Mary Ellen's mother was a silent, taciturn woman and didn't see much humor in the hard life she lived. However, Father, as they always called him, was the opposite; a joke, a song and a funny poem, and a very ready laugh for it all. The were well matched and had a great love for each other, that lasted through sixty years of marriage. There were tragic times for them, losing a six year old son and the youngest, a baby daughter of eight months.
Times were hard in Utah in the late 1800's and the children had to work hard. The land had to be cleared of sage and oak brush, then readied for planting.
When Father was about forty-five years old, he had an accident while in the canyon getting logs. The load broke loose and rolled over his back and legs, crippling him badly. He forced himself to do what he could, but the years took their toll, and he was confined to a wheelchair the remainder of his life.
The burden of earning the living fell upon Mother and the three older girls. But she was lucky, for she had a skill to fall back on; she was an excellent midwife and nurse. They always had a large garden and never wasted a thing. Each had to do their part.
Mary Ellen worked at odd jobs and earned enough to pay her way through school in Logan, Utah, where she received her teaching certificate. During this time, the Church sent families from Utah to colonize different areas and about ten families were sent to Parker, Fremont County, Idaho. This project was accepted without question. So, they took what they could carry in wagons and started over again. There was no industry in Fremont County, just the land, a few tools and lots of faith.
When Mary Ellen was 17 years old, she was accepted to teach all grades in Marysville, Fremont County, Idaho, which is just north of Ashton, Idaho. This was a one-room school house with many of her students older and much bigger than she, as she was only five feet tall, weighing 90 to 100 pounds, a weight she kept all her life.
The school didn't occupy all of her time, as the community had dances and entertainment. Mary Ellen starred in many dramas and comedy sketches. The dances were great fun and the cowboys came from all the ranches to attend. Among these young men was a very handsome one, named George Harvey Brower. He and Mary Ellen were attracted to each other at once, and the next fall on September 11, 1898, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple.
When school ended the following spring, they moved to Parker, where she got another school. Things were going well for them, but before they were settled, George Harvey was called on a mission for the Church across the United States to Kentucky. About that time Mary Ellen found she was going to have a baby. So, leaving a young, pregnant wife, a home half-finished, crops to harvest, and all the other obligations, he left for two and a half years. There was no thought of refusing this assignment, just the hope that the Lord would provide.
Mary Ellen continued to teach and in the next two and a half years, paid off the house and land, paid to have the house finished, bought furniture, including an organ, had a beautiful baby girl named Mildred Alice. Quite an accomplishment!
When her Dad came home, Mildred wouldn't let him come near her or her mother. This lasted for weeks, but when she found out that he wouldn't go away, she made the best of it.
There were seven children born in this home and much joy, happiness and love.
George Harvey used his Homestead Right and filed on a 640 acre tract north of Parker. This land had to be cleared of brush, planted and a house of sorts built, all to be done by a certain time or lose it all.
This was a very busy time for all. Seven children to care for, tend a garden, milk the cows in town as well work the homestead. In May, the crop of wheat was planted and the family was preparing to go back to Parker when George Harvey's brother drove up to tell them their house in Parker had burned to the ground. The brother had been staying there and the chimney overheated while he was burning trash. Nothing was saved. This was certainly terribly hard on Mary Ellen. The house she had struggled to obtain, all her dreams of a home gone in a matter of hours.
Mary Elaine, the eighth child and the sixth girl was born soon after the move to the new house. The homestead venture failed for lack of water for the crops and George Harvey was offered a job working in the seed pea experiments. This necessitated a move to Rexburg, Idaho.
In January, 1920, they were blessed with another baby, Grant, making a total of nine; six girls, Mildred, Mabel, Edla, Margaret, Olive, and Elaine. Three boys; George, Victor and Grant.
There was always harmony and love in our home. Our parents were always in accord in everything. If there were arguments, we children didn't hear them.
We didn't know we were poor. We had good food, all we could use, and Mary Ellen's skill in sewing made it possible for us all to be well-dressed. Although some of our clothes had been made over twice or more, they were always clean and in the latest fashion. Sometimes, the first up was the best dressed; and there were a few fights and many laughs over this.
George Harvey had been trained to the wallpaper and painting trade in his youth, and in 1921, the family moved to Pocatello, Idaho, where he started his own paint contracting business. He worked very hard and soon had a good business going. Mary Ellen did all the estimates and bookkeeping. Things were going smoothly at last.
The depression of the 1930's hit every family and everyone had to work harder at any job. We each shared what we had with the others. This helped learn a valuable lesson, to value money and to share.
Mary Ellen had never been strong and had developed a bad heart ailment. Nine children, all difficult births, plus the work and worry that went with raising them, her last years were miserable. To have the desire and the ability to do things and lack the strength is hard on an ambitious person. She passed away on August 8, 1940, at the age of 64.
She was greatly mourned by her husband and children. She was the mainstay of the family, keeping them together and keeping peace among nine different personalities. We have been greatly blessed in having this wonderful woman for our mother and for the strength of character and testimony she left with us.
The song of the Depression days could have been our theme:
"Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money,
And maybe we're ragged and funny,
But we'll travel along,
Singing our song,
Side by side."