History of Wallis Baird Nelson, by Wallis Baird Nelson and Carol Nelson
I, Wallis Baird Nelson was born of goodly parents on April 20, 191397 at Willard, Utah in a small four room house. I weighed at birth 12 lbs. 6 ounces. My mother weighed less than 100 lbs. I do not believe she weighed more than a 100 lbs. during her entire life.
My father's name was John Laird Nelson and my mother's name was Rachel Rebecca Baird. My father was born at Logan, Utah on January 19, 1867. His father was John Williamson Nelson. My mother was born on October 29, 1880 at Willard, Utah the daughter of Robert Bell Baird and Ann Gwenthlyn Davis. Robert Bell Baird was the composer of many Mormon hymns. Some of them are Improve the Shining Moments and Welcome Welcome Sabbath Morning.
Robert Bell Baird was very gifted in music. He came from Scotland when a small boy and after awhile he got a job as section foreman on the railroad and later became a station agent at Willard. It was while he was section foreman that Evan Stephens came to work for the railroad and happened to work on Robert Baird's gang. Evan Stephens was just a young boy and had also come to Willard from Scotland. He and Robert Baird spent their noon hours and evenings composing songs. Evan Stephens became very much interested in music and left Willard to study music in Salt Lake City.
My mother, Rachel Baird, often told me that when Evan Stephens went to Salt Lake City he took most of the songs that he and her father had worked on while they were working on the section gang. Evan Stephens became a great composer of Mormon hymns and a great leader of the Mormon Choir.
Robert Baird was a great leader in the Willard Ward. We composed music for dances and led the Willard Choir for many years. He was a very devout Mormon, always a 100% tithe payer. He was the first to have water in the home at Willard.
Robert Baird became ill and his daughter Rachel, my mother, went to assist him at the railroad depot. It was while she was working there that he met my father, John Laird Nelson.
My father was hard working and went into construction work using horses. He did very good. He invested his money in saloons. He owned three during his stay at Newton. his last one was at Cache Junction located south of Newton. His father was his best customer. He took advantage of my father until my father lost the saloon on the bad debts of his father. It was then that my father went to work on the railroad and became a bridge foreman. It was then that he also met my mother. My father at this stage had lived a hard rough life, and had seen lots of gambling and drinking in his life up to the time he married my mother. I can never recall having seem him gamble or take a drink stronger than beer. My great grandparents had come to this country from Scotland for Mormonism. On my mothers side they crossed the plains in ox wagons and hand carts. At the time of this writing there is in my garage a box that came across the plains. It was lined with Scotland newspaper dated 1852. It has been handed down by being used as a cedar chest for storing clothing. It is well built and still in good condition.
I obtained the above information from my father and mother. It was their stories that helped me set the pattern of life that I was to follow. My father was a good teacher for me. He was a very honest and hard working man and a good provider. He was constantly telling me that they can take every thing away from you but an education. He did all he could to see that his children got an education. Whatever I amount to and have, I owe it to my father and mother.
The preceding was written by Wallis Baird Nelson a few weeks before his death on June 15, 1959. The remainder of his history is written by his daughter Carol Nelson Ruefenacht from facts gathered from friends and relatives.
Instead of crying when Dad was born, it sounded like he said "Ma." He was the second child in a family of five children, three boys and two girls. The youngest child, a girl, died at birth.
When Dad and his older sister, Carma, were young, they did not like their Grandma (Baird). They figured that she did not like them for she was always criticizing them, telling them to pull up their socks and other such things. She was very particular about everything and could sew and cook like an expert. In fact, one time, Dad and his sister and brothers went to Grandma's house and she made some ice cream. When it was just about finished, Dad cried out, "Me want center." Their Grandma took the center from the freezer and cleaned it off very carefully and gave it to him as his share of the ice cream, but his big sister, Carma, came to the rescue and shared her portion with him. I suppose this and other things lead to Dad's and Carma's conclusion that their Grandma did not like them.
When my father was about five years old, his mother took sick. She had her first four children within five years which is quite fast and she was quite small anyway. A growth had developed in her stomach which had to be removed and in the process a new opening had to be made in her stomach. As time passed her stomach shrank to almost nothing. She could only eat small portions but often.
My grandma had to undergo a very serious operation at this time. Dad's two younger brothers went to stay with their Grandma Baird but Dad and Carma would not go with them because they did not like Grandma Baird. Instead they went with their Father while he irrigated other farms around Willard to bring in a little extra money. Their father loaded a bail of hay onto the back of the wagon and off they went. They slept out in the fields under the starts. Their mother was undergoing a very serious operation and everyone was preparing her children for the worst. There was a chance that she would not live through the ordeal. Each night Dad and Carma would kneel on their knees and take turns saying their prayers to their Father in Heaven to bless their mother that she would come home again soon. Their prayers were answered for their mother did come home.
As a young boy, Dad always had a job. He was not afraid to work. A lot of people took advantage of him and never paid for the work that he did, but Dad did not stop working. He always had money in his pocket. In fact, when it came time to pay the taxes on his parents home every year, it seemed that Dad was the only one who had enough money to pay them. He even paid the taxes while he was working his way through college which was during the depression. My father knew hardship in his life and things were not always rosy for him. But he was self-reliant and worked out his own problems. He was one to never complain. No matter what he was engaged in he was always enthusiastic and did things willingly.
His father was a farmer and stock raiser. The family had a good living but there was not much in the way of cash. His mother was a wonderful manager and hard worker, consequently my father was raised in a happy environment.
Dad's specialty was not handwriting. In fact, when he was in the 8th grade, the teacher's pet subject was penmanship. That was the most important thing to him. Dad could not write worth a darn and what is more he did not like the teacher at all and the teacher did not like him. The feeling between him and the teacher got so bad that the teacher finally put him back to the 7th grade. There dad found a teacher that had the same interest and hobby as he had, math, forget about penmanship.
Dad was a hard working young man. If there was something to be done, Dad pitched in and did it. His father did all he could to see that his children got an education. When Carma was 18 years old, she was forced to stop riding the school bus for the lack of enough money. Dad came to the rescue and made a deal with the bus driver. Dad would clean the bus driver's chicken coops every week and in return Carma could ride the bus free of charge. He did his for the entire school year.
Dad graduated from Box Elder High School in 1932. At this time the depression was on the CC Camps were starting to be established. After graduation, he went to the CC Camp in Hyrum, Utah and worked for a dollar a day. Even at this low wage, Dad saved his money and became known as the banker of the CC Camp. It seemed that when Saturday night rolled around the other fellows were broke but Dad had managed to save a few dollars. So, he would loan them out with interest. It was while he was working here the he saw the engineers doing the easy work and he was doing the manual labor. He made up his mind that he was going to earn a living an easier way. He decided that we wanted to be an engineer. When Dad decided to go on to college, the way was opened up for him. His Uncle Malcolm drove to Ogden every day to work and offered a ride to Dad. He was able to live at home and still go to Weber College in Ogden. After completing two years at Weber College, he entered the University of Utah in 1936 broke. He had no money to pay his expenses and did not know how he was going to go to school. Typically as it was of Dad, he knew that he would be able to accomplish the results and the goal that he had set for himself. While attending the University, he did all kinds of odd jobs for the money to pay his tuition and books. he graduated in Civil Engineering in 1938.
After Dad graduated from college, he worked at several jobs before settling down to a permanent position. He worked on the Deer Creek Dam near Provo, but was laid off because he had not passed his civil service exam. He also taught at a CC Camp in Brigham. He taught the boys whatever they wanted to know. He said once that he even taught the boys typewriting but he himself could not type.
It was while he was teaching at Brigham that he married Lila Gull on March 28, 1940 in the Salt Lake Temple. They both were from Willard but neither of them personally knew each other while they were growing up because of their difference in ages. Soon after his marriage he got a job with the State Road Commission. Then in December of 1940, he went to Moab to be the engineer of the CC Camp there. While there, he finally passed the Civil Service Exam. It seemed he always had a problem with the English part on these exams. He knew the problems on the mathematics and engineering parts were right but the English threw him every time, but he finally passed the English too. He then received a job with the Army Engineers in Salt Lake City. So after eleven months in Moab my father and mother moved to Salt Lake City to make their home.
In Salt Lake City my parents rented a small house but after a few months, my father decided that we was not going to rent any more. So they went out to look for a house to buy and they found one on Elgin Avenue that suited their needs and bought it. About six weeks later I was born into the world. Not long afterwards, Dad found that he was going to be transferred out of Salt Lake City. Since he did not want to be transferred, he went to work for the U.S. Geological Survey. He started to work for the Survey in July 1944 as a hydraulic engineer and continued on until his death on June 15, 1959. A little later in 1945 my brother was born.
My dad wanted his family to have a little more financial security than what his parents had. He looked for ways that would provide for security in his old age or in case he should die young. Before he knew it had invested in rental property. A good neighbor just up the street from un on Elgin Avenue was transferred to Idaho and wanted to sell their home. It seemed a good deal and since it was a little bigger house than the one we were living in, Dad bought it. We moved into it in 1954 and rented the other home. Before this time, Dad had bought a large piece of property on Ninth East. It was just a weed patch for several years. Then in 1955 my father and a group of property owners on the borders of the property got together and put through a subdivision. Dad received 4 lots from the deal, one of which he sold. His vacations for the next few years were devoted to building two duplexes and one house. First he built a duplex. One side we lived in and the other side was occupied by my Grandma Gull. Next he built a duplex on the corner which was rented out. Then my father and mother decided that they did not want to live in a duplex when they got older. So they built a house on the third lot.
My father was never privileged to live in this house because just a week or to before we were to move in, he was killed instantly in an automobile accident while on one of his many field trips to southern Utah. His neck was broken when his government station wagon collided with a truck on June 15, 1959 somewhere outside of Richfield, Utah. Our family was provided with a sufficient income to live on without my mother having to go to work. We had the rent from the rental property to pay off the houses and a monthly compensation from the federal government to live on.
My father was always active in the Church and paying his tithing was always a must. He was always at his meetings and when he was in the Aaronic Priesthood, he blessed the sacrament almost every Sunday. He was a very faithful member of the Church all of his life and he had a strong testimony of the Gospel. Dad was happy in his work in the Church and he always did more than he was asked to do. No one except the ward work director spent as much time on the stake farm as Dad. When he was asked to go, he dropped what he was doing and went. It did not even matter when he was building his house, he still took the time out. He held several positions in the ward during the latter part of his life some of which were, Secretary of Senior Aaronic Priesthood, Secretary of Aaronic Priesthood, Priesthood Advisor, Scoutmaster, and Explorer Advisor.
Dad was a boys' man. The boys that knew him loved and respected him. When he was scoutmaster he spent many hours on projects helping the boys earn money for their summer trips. For a couple of years the project was selling Christmas trees at Christmas time. Dad enjoyed working with the boys and going on different trips with them. I believe all of the boys in the ward of scouting and explorer age were at his funeral. When we was scoutmaster he still could not forget about the Senior Aaronic men. Every chance he would get, Dad would visit them and try to get them active. Dad knew that the only way that could have the happiness he was receiving in his life was for them to become active in the Church.
Dad was a friend to all. He had a way about him that would attract people. He was warm and kind and always interested in everyone. If anyone needed help they knew that Dad was around. There was a desire in his heart to help everyone. I believe his greatest joy came by serving his fellowmen. If everyone would pattern their life after Dad's what a better world it would be to live in. Dad was a leader of men and if those of us who knew and loved him fail in life, it will not be because we did not have a good example to follow.