A Cooperative Effort

As the Cedar City community sheep herds increased in number, a cooperative organization was established to aid those stockholders in more effectively distributing and marketing the growth of the herd. The Cedar Sheep Association became a well managed, dividend paying company that provided a measure of security during the community’s lean years.  By 1879 there were more than five thousand sheep in the cooperative herd and shareholders had sufficient wool for the women to card, spin, and knit and sufficient mutton for home use.

The Cedar Sheep Association

The Cedar Sheep Association

To supply fresh meat for the community, the sheep association drove twenty-five to thirty fat old ewes to town each week where they would be dispatched by the local butcher, Charles Ahlstrom.  William R. Palmer writes, “Early Saturday morning, before the flies became too active, the people rushed to the butcher shop on Main Street to buy a leg or front quarter of mutton. It was never cut up smaller than that. Plucks (the heart, liver, and lungs) were given away at the slaughterhouse to the kids who swarmed there like flies on killing days.”

After the wool needs of the town were met, the balance was sacked up and freighted to Provo or Salt Lake City and traded for groceries and hardware. These goods were transported back to Cedar City, and sold at the co-op store. The stockholders would draw their dividends in the form of merchandise instead of hard currency.    The Cedar Sheep Association disbanded in 1917.  The Cedar Sheep Association building is currently the home of Bulloch Drug on Main Street.

The Cedar City Co-op - "The Old Reliable"

The Cedar CIty Co-op –
“The Old Reliable”

Another Co-op venture was the Cedar City Co-op, otherwise known as “The Old Reliable”.  William R. Palmer worked in this co-op and shared the following story:

“Dealing all the time with people, the clerks came to know their vagaries. Aunt Manie was one who always expected the clerk “to throw something in.” She came early one year to do her Christmas shopping, and I waited on her. On her list was a pound of peanuts. I opened the drawer and there was a big mouse in the bin. I scooped it with the nuts into her sack. She said, “Now what are you going to throw in for a Christmas gift.” I said, “I have already thrown something in, you’ll find it soon.” I expected to have her in my hair any day, but time went on to the end of January before I saw her again.

1915 Cedar City Co-op ad.

1915 Cedar City Co-op ad.

She was back to trade, and at the end as usual, she asked me to throw something in. I said, “Aunt Manie, I threw something in the last time we traded, and you have never thanked me for it. It was when you bought some peanuts.” “Oh!” she cried, “I never got one of those nuts. I put them in my trunk to keep for Christmas, and when I opened it to get them on Christmas morning a pesky mouse had got in and ate them all. It also ate holes in some of my clothes.” I lacked the courage to confess my sins, but I made the peanuts up in full to Aunt Manie and gave her a sample package of a new tea to pay for her darning. After that Aunt Manie would trade with no other clerk . . . .”

 

Early Iron County Sheep Stories

In going along with recent posts, we thought we would share some interesting tales taken  from the 1940’s radio addresses of William R. Palmer. The following excerpts were compiled  from a 1974 Utah Historical Quarterly article. If you want to read the entire article, it can be found here: Utah Historical Quarterly Spring 1972 Spelling and pronunciation have been left as Palmer intended. Enjoy.

Most of our early pioneers came from the shops and factories of foreign lands. The Americans among them were but little better prepared for pioneering. All of them knew little or nothing about sheep, and no one was available to advise them of the range conditions that their animals must face. So, in trying to build up their cherished flocks and herds, they did many things that seem humorous to the experienced growers of today.

Sheep on the summer range.

Sheep on the summer range.

Sheep were first brought to the Cedar City area in November 1862 by the Willden family, who later moved to Beaver. They had ten head. As fast as others could get hold of them, every family acquired one or more to produce the wool that was needed to spin the family clothing. They were valued as high as thirty dollars a head. To avoid loss they were kept in a pen at home and fed by hand like pigs.

As the years went by, the sheep increased until the families were supplied with the wool they needed. The animals by now were becoming troublesome to care for, and ways were sought to get them away from home where they could pick their own living. At first they were driven out in the morning and brought back at night. Then neighbors put their flocks together and took turns in herding them. Finally a community herd developed and they were brought home only once a year to be shorn.

Sheep in their pens.

Sheep in their pens.

To breed up the quality of their sheep, the company brought in a few head of purebred merinos. They were run on the best ranges and given every advantage that they might increase more rapidly. Everyone thought they were wonderful sheep until shearing time came. The natives had light, fluffy fleeces and sheared only three or four pounds each. Shearers were paid five cents per head and with the crude appointments they had, men sheared only from fifty to seventy head per day. The merinos were wrinkly bodied, tight, greasy-wooled fellows that almost defied the shear blades. The coming in of the merino herd was always occasion for groans and profanity on the part of the crew.

Early shearers.

Early shearers.

It was the manager’s custom to call the men together for prayers every night and morning. And always a blessing was invoked upon “our flocks and herds.” There was a newcomer from England in the crew one spring, and he could not get the knack of using the shears. He snipped and snipped all day. If he was lucky enough to get a good run of bare-bellied natives he sometimes got up to fifteen or twenty head in a hard day. When the merinos came in his count dropped to a third of that number. After wrestling with the merinos one hard, hot day the manager called upon Dick to lead in prayer. He made a good and fervent start but when he came to the blessing of the flocks and herds he truly told the Lord how he felt about the matter. He said, “Lord bless all our flocks and ‘erds, but this ‘ere bloody, greasy ‘erd we don’t care whether Thee blesses urn or not.” It was a long time before proper reverence and decorum could be restored at prayer time.

In those days the housewives carded and spun the wool, and wove the cloth and knitted the stockings for the needs of their families. So the first market to be supplied was the townspeople. The sheep company declared a wool dividend every year, and the women brought their sacks to the Tithing Office to receive it. The women came generally because they knew wool better than the men, and they wanted to select their own for they would have to work it up. If the family needed more than twenty, thirty, or fifty pounds of dividend wool that was theirs, or if they were not stockholders, they bought it from the company or from a shareholder who had more wool than he needed. After the town was supplied, the balance was sacked up and hauled to Provo or Salt Lake and traded to ZCMI for groceries and hardware. These goods were brought home to Cedar City and sold over the counters of the Co-op Store. ZCMI found a market for most of that wool among the women of Salt Lake City who still were carding and spinning and weaving their own cloth.

Sheep to Shawl: Spinning and Weaving

Controlling the yarn

Controlling the yarn

The spinning process turns prepared fiber into yarn or thread. The spinner controls the thickness and amount of twist to give the finished yarn the desired qualities. Usually yarn is plied, multiple strands twisted together, to give the final product more strength. The yarn is stored on a spindle or bobbin as it is spun.

A spinner in action

A spinner in action

 

Once the spindle or bobbin is full the yarn is wound on to a skein winder. There are various types of skein winder, but they all perform the same purpose: they allow the length of the yarn to be determined and keep the yarn in organized, untangled loops, ready to be turned into fabric.

 

 

Weaving

Weaving

One way the yarn could be used is on a loom to weave fabric or rugs. Warp threads are those that run the length of the fabric. The warp is wound on to a beam at the back of the loom. Each strand of warp is then passed through a harness and a reed. The harness moves up and down to create the woven pattern. A simple loom will have just two harnesses which makes a plain weave. Looms with four, eight, or sixteen harnesses allow for more complicated patterns. In a floor loom, like the rug loom at the museum, the harnesses are controlled by treadles. When a treadle is stepped on a system of chains and pulleys raise one harness and lower the other. This creates a space for the shuttle containing the weft, the horizontal strands, to pass from one side to the other.

You can even weave using straws.

You can even weave using straws.

The other treadle is then pressed, causing the harnesses reversethe position of the warp, and the shuttle is passed back across the loom. Between each pass of the shuttle the reed is pulled forward to press the weft tightly in to place. As the fabric grows it is wound onto a beam at the front of the loom.

015Also, be sure to mark your calendars for our Sheep to Shawl event, This Saturday, March 19,  from 10am to 2pm. Call us at 435-586-9290 for more information.

Sheep to Shawl 2016

Join us Saturday, March 19 for a trip back in time as we explore wool, from Sheep to Shawl. Frontier Homestead State park in partnership with the Sagebrush Fiber Artisans will allow participants to journey through the step-by-step process of taking wool from the sheep’s back to yours. From 10:00-2:00 have fun with the whole family as you explore how pioneers made clothes. Sheep will be attending as well to give visitors the opportunity to touch and feel before and after their annual haircut.

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A young knitter practices his skills.

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Spinners creating yarn.

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A freshly shorn Spots.

Demonstrations include washing, carding, spinning and dyeing wool. Knitting, crocheting and weaving will be available to participate in. Come enjoy the activities and visit with our talented craftspeople. Cost is $1.50 per person or $5.00 per family. Friend’s Group members are free with membership card.

The El Escalante Hotel

Contrived by the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce and designed by Randall Jones in 1919, the El Escalante hotel was located on the SW corner of 200 North and Main Street, conveniently across from the railroad depot. Construction began under the direction of city leaders with locally made brick. The hotel was purchased by Union Pacific to accommodate tourists to the nearby Utah parks in 1923. The hotel began hosting thousands of visitors a year, including movie stars and President Warren G. Harding. The El Escalante anchored the north end of Main Street for nearly 50 years. In August of 1971 it was sold to a private enterprise and was demolished.

Here is a sample of some of the images and artifacts we have from the El Escalante. We would love to hear your stories and recollections about the hotel.

An early image of the hotel and depot.

An early image of the hotel and depot.

The hotel in the 1960's.

The hotel in the 1960’s.

The hotel with the UPC buses out front.

The hotel with the UPC buses out front.

A typical room. Taken from a 1925 UPC tourist guide.

A typical room. Taken from a 1925 UPC tourist guide.

The lobby of the El Escalante hotel.

The lobby of the El Escalante hotel.

Registration card

Registration card

Room key

Room key