From all available accounts it must have been fun to be a Fitzgerald child.
Born to parents who were deeply in love, honorably devoted to one another. Thomas and Minnie were the best of pioneer stock. Hardworking, ambitious, generous, talented, hospitable, and gracious.
The first Fitzgerald sibling to arrive was Isabelle, known to readers as Katie. She arrived in September of 1897. Eastern Utah Advocate wrote, “Tom Fitzgerald is a very happy man today. It’s a bright eyed little girl and both mother and child are doing nicely.”**pictured**
Through out the next decade five more siblings would arrive. In February, 1899, William, better known as Sweyn Dennis, was born. September 1902 “The Great Brain” – Thomas N. came into the world. **pictured**
By 1902 Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald original house was bulging. Eastern Utah Advocate reported, “Thomas Fitzgerald will begin work next Monday on a six room, frame dwelling house on his lot east of Weeter Lumber Company.”
During those early years – the Advocate would often write, “Mrs. Thomas Fitzgerald and children will leave today for a visit with Mrs. Fitzgerald’s parents in Emery county.” or “Mrs. Fitzgerald and babies are home again from a visit of several weeks in Emery county.”After a brief four years as a family of five – the tree grew. In 1906, John Dennis arrived. Followed two years later by Charles in 1908. The final branch belonged to Gerald, he greeted the world in 1911.
Gerald the youngest wrote in 1989, “We did have a large barn, with a hayloft, and a secret room that the kids used to play in. We also had an Ice house. My dad had a dry farm, raised potatoes and wheat on Palfrey Bench. We had three horses, Blackie, Brownie, and a mule Whitety (sic). Also a cow named Ronie. Bill and Tom kept pigions(sic) and Bill trapped/furs to make extra money.”
As both a saloon owner and farmer, Papa was a success, The Advocate stated, “Mr. Fitzgerald was out last week helping with the wheat. Only a small area was planted but it is yielding a 100 bushels of grain that will not be excelled in the county for quality.” One can assume, since chores were the custom of the day, and since The Great Brain books always referenced chores, that the boys were busy doing their share.
School is part of every childs life, the Fitzgeralds were no exceptions. By all accounts they did quite well. In 1908, both William and Isabelle, now known as Belle, received an award for 100% attendance and no tardies. Unfortuntately, in 1918 the perfect attendance records for all of the Fitzgerald children were ruined when J.D. contracted Liberty measles and the family was put under quarantine.
All six children attended school through High School. The five boys each graduated from Carbon High School. Each particpated fully in clubs, arts, student government and sports. Isabelle though attended St. Mary’s Academy in Salt Lake City. It is from her experiences at school that we have The Great Brain at the Academy. Later she would be the keeper of the family history notes, and researcher for all of the Fitzgerald books.
Life was clearly not all work and no play, another piece in the Advocate shines light on what fun could be had. Again Belle is the featured Fitzgerald family member.
“The girls of the Camp Fire club held an all day picnic down on the river one day last week. They made a very early start, arrived at the destination about dawn, and cooked a picnic breakfast over a camp fire. The day was spent with books and hammocks, and it is whispered that the girls found the boys’ swimin'(sic) hole, and put it to good use.”
Community or civic participation came in various forms. Mamma’s obituary says, “On July 4, 1904 she directed the first sidewalk parade ever to be presented in the state.” For that parade Belle would have been seven, William 5, Tom 2. Parade’s became a tradition in Price, eventually floats were added, prizes awarded. The September 20, 1917, issue of the Advocate wrote about a huge parade being held in honor of the men who were leaving to fight in World War I. “Almost 2000 rode in the biggest parade seen in eastern Utah….The main feature of the parade outside of the soldiers…was the magnificent floats. The Liberty Float designed and built by Mesdames Thomas Fitzgerald, H.W. Millburn, and H.C. Smith spoke volumes….The Greek Float, also designed by Mrs. Fitzgerald, assisted by Miss Anna Wade was another which inspired much comment.” This parade would be very personal for the Fitzgerald’s, William was one of soldiers who would ship out to Europe.
World War I would close the door on the happy history of the Fitzgeralds. From that point on nothing would remain innocent or easy. Though they had suffered some losses during their growing up years, the adulthood losses would be the hardest. Gerald would write in 1989, “John D. left Price after high school and came back infrequently….John was never close to to any of us, but he wrote Mother regularly. I kept in touch with Belle, and she kept in touch with the rest of the family.”
As a reader I grew up thanking John for his magnificent work. Now as a researcher and family friend I thank Isabelle, for keeping the flame alive.