Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ray Lot Richardson

Ray Lot Richardson
An Oral History by Jay M. Richardson
(Transcribed from an interview in March, 1998)

     My father, Ray Lot Richardson, was born on August 6, 1896 in Colonia Diaz, Mexico.
His father, Charles Edmund Richardson, had four wives and thirty-five children among the four
wives. Ray was about the middle child of the first wife, Sarah Louisa Adams. She had fifteen
children, though only about half of them grew to maturity, and she and her children lived in their
own house, while each of the other wives lived in different houses. In general, the wives loved
each other like sisters, got along very well and cared for each other’s children.
     My father was always telling us stories of his childhood. One that we remember most was
set around the time of the exodus, when he was about 14 years old. He was captured by Red
Flaggers, one of the rebel groups in Mexico. They stopped and camped for the night around a
fire. He told his captors that he was going to unsaddle his horse for the night. Instead, he went
and saddled his horse and was far enough way that he just led his horse away. As soon as he
dared, he jumped on the horse and galloped away just as fast as he could. In the dark, they
couldn’t find him. He traveled all through the night and into the next day to reach one of the
colonies in Mexico.
     He also tells an interesting and frightening story [of events leading up to the capture]. He
and his father were bringing some belongings up into the United States as part of the exodus and
were captured. He was taken away and escaped, and the last he saw of his father, his father was
in front of a firing squad, about to be shot. He didn’t know until later that his father had not been
     For a living, my grandfather was a lawyer for the Church in Mexico. He had studied law
by himself, and I think he took a few classes. He was often in Mexico City working on legal
matters for the Church, and was an excellent lawyer—they say that he never lost a case—and a
brilliant man. He was a speedy reader and could read a page in just a few moments. He was a
doctor and treated a lot of people medically. He was also a cattle man, built and operated a mill,
and did a lot of different things.
     Grandfather depended on my dad a great deal in taking care of his cattle because he had a
large ranch and a big herd of cattle, and my dad was kind of a specialist in that. He knew cattle
and could recognize them and remember who they were. One thing he would do: when he would
hear a cow bawl, he would copy that. He could mimic that cow’s bawl (the noise the cow made)
and got to where he could recognize a cow by the sound it made when it bawled. His father often
asked him what cow that was bawling, and he could tell him what cow it was, where it came
from and who its parents had been.
     Though he had formal schooling in Mexico, it was interrupted by the problems they had.
There was a revolution going on in Mexico in which several different factions rebelled from the
government. They said the government wasn’t doing things right, and so they tried to take the
law into their own hands. The Mormons were just caught in the middle. The rebels would come
and visit the Mormon colonies and rob and plunder them, taking horses and their guns and
ammunition and their provisions. Sometimes they were very mean to the Mormons. They killed
some of the people, frightening them and making life pretty miserable. It got so bad that the
Church said to leave with the hope and intention of returning in a short time. It happened that a
goodly number of them did return, but probably the majority never did. They had lost everything
and didn’t care for that kind of unstable life, so they stayed in the United States.
     My grandfather lost everything in the exodus from Mexico. He was gone a great deal on
various business ventures, trying to recoup and get back on top financially. I’m not sure what his
occupation was at that time, but he was in several different things. In those dealings, he suffered
financially and wasn’t able to care for all of his wives and their children. One of the wives moved
to Salt Lake City and another wife moved to California and supported herself with what help he
could give them after his health and his finances failed him. As long as possible, however, he
took care of them, was a good provider and was loved by all of them.
     My dad’s family moved to Thatcher. There, he went to Gila Academy for a couple of
years. I think that was just a high school, and I’m not sure that he ever graduated. After my Dad
finished going to Gila Academy, he went to Globe and worked in the copper mines there. He
began courting my mother, however, and went back to Thatcher where she was living.
My mother, Verna Nelson, was born in Colonia Garcia, another Mormon colony in
Mexico, but it was up in the mountains. If I remember correctly, it was southwest of the other
colonies, Colonia Juarez and Colonia Dublan, and it was up into some high and rugged
mountains. There were two or three colonies there. She spent her entire childhood in Colonia
Garcia and Colonia Chuachupa. Her family consisted of eight girls and one boy, but her father
died when she was about eight years old, leaving her mother as a widow with these nine children.
She never remarried until after her family was all grown. She supported her family and
eventually moved them in the exodus to Thatcher and continued to raise her family by herself.
     I don’t know the exact incident when my parents first met, but it was at Gila Academy.
He had a Model T Ford, and he liked to take her for rides in it, which she enjoyed a great deal.
She thought she was in love with another man and didn’t take the courtship seriously, but he
persisted and finally won her over. They were married June 10, 1919 in Thatcher. They didn’t get
married in the temple because the Arizona Temple wasn’t built until 1927, eight years after they
were first married. I think it was 1929 when they made the trip and were sealed in the temple
with their four children.
     Their early marriage was a happy marriage. They moved back to Miami, and he worked
there for a time. He was getting relatively good wages at the mine, but they then had an
opportunity to start farming in the Duncan/Virden area on a farm owned by his father, and they
moved up. Two children were born in Duncan while they were there. My oldest brother was
Chad. He was born in 1920, but died of diphtheria when he was about 15 months old. He died
before Acel Bernard, the next one, was born in December of that year, 1921.
     Unable to make a good living on the farm, they decided to move up to Red Rock, New
Mexico. That’s also on the Gila, farther up the river, and my dad thought it was an opportunity to
get some land, get established farming and make a good living. My mother was opposed to it.
She said it's too far from the markets, too far away from everything, we won’t have good
transportation, and we don’t have enough money to get a farming operation going. She became
very discouraged and left, taking my brother, Bernard, and moving to California where she lived
with some relatives there. A few weeks later, my dad went to California and persuaded her to
come back, and he gave up the Red Rock venture. They went back to the mine in Miami for
economic reasons, and that was where my older twin brothers, Edwin and Erwin, were born in
     But then they got another opportunity up in Virden and moved there, and that was where
my sister and the rest of the family were born. Once they moved to Virden, they started farming.
Before long they had an opportunity to rent a farm that was owned by Harry Day. He was a
rancher, and had a big ranch out on the flat between Virden and Lordsburg. Incidentally, he was
the father of Sandra Day O’Conner, who’s our Supreme Court Justice. He owned about a
hundred acres, and agreed to let my father rent it for one-third of the crop, that is my father had to
give a third of his crop to pay the rent on the farm. Also in the agreement was that my father
would get to purchase part of the land as time went on. I remember growing up that he owned ten
acres of that farm, and that he could keep all of the crops from those ten acres. He often said that
he raised “cotton and corn and cows and kids.” He kept a herd of milk cows and several horses to
pull the farm machinery and lived on a house that was on the property. It was a big adobe house
with a tin roof and four big rooms. That was where we grew up.
     My sister Elaine was born in 1927. My twin brother Jorth and I were born in 1931. Cecil
Roy was born in 1937, and Chester Ray, the last one, in 1941. I don’t know specific reasons for
our names except that I know that my twin brother, Jorth, was named after a character in a novel
they had read, called The Last of the Jorths. Middle names for Edwin and Erwin were for the
names of our two grandfathers: Charles and James. Mine and Jorth’s middle initials, “M” and
“A,” were for the maiden names of our grandmothers, which were “Adams” and “Mortensen.”
Of course, Chad’s and Chester’s middle names were both “Ray.” We had a teacher, Roy Paine, at
the school that was kind of a family favorite, and I think that may have influenced the selection
of Cecil’s middle name, “Roy.”
     When I was about four years old, the family moved to a little homestead just across the
highway from the Harry Day farm. A homestead is a piece of land made available by the
government, and it encourages people to develop the land. If you get in on that, you must live on
that property for a certain length of time, and then eventually, you are given title to it without
having to pay money for it. So they homesteaded that property, and there was a little two-room
adobe house on the property where they lived. After they moved there, because the family was
really too big for it, my father purchased a house in Morenci, Arizona that was being torn down.
He got the lumber materials from that home and built on several rooms to add on to that little
house. The family lived there for, I think, two full years. I went to school during first grade when
we lived in that house. But then we moved back down to the farm and lived there continuously
until I was a senior in high school.
     That home was an adobe farmhouse on the Harry Day place: it was made of four fairly
large rooms. It had a living room and kitchen/eating room and my parents’ bedroom and then the
boys’ bedroom. For Elaine, they partitioned off one corner of the kitchen area and made a little
bedroom for her. Each room was about twelve feet by twelve feet. Our home was not fancily
decorated—it just had the pretty bare minimum. There weren’t a lot of decorations, maybe a
picture or two on the wall. There was linoleum on the floor in the kitchen and in the living room,
but the other rooms were just a wood floor.
     We didn’t have electricity or running water until I was a teenager, so for our water supply,
we had a pump in the backyard. My memory is of pumping this water out of the ground by hand
with a hand pump into buckets, and then we would take those buckets, lift them up onto a
platform and empty them into a 50-gallon barrel that was mounted up on a little platform. From
that barrel, there was a pipe coming down to serve the kitchen sink and the bathroom, though we
didn’t have a bathroom until the end of my teenage years. Before that we had an outhouse, and
our baths were done on Saturday night in a Number 10 tub with water heated on the kitchen
     The town of Virden was comprised almost entirely of the Mormon people who had come
out of Mexico. There was a school and also a church, and the church was one of those they built
in phases. When I was growing up, most of the time there wasn’t a chapel—just a big cultural
hall with a stage and then classrooms built around it. Every Wednesday night, there was a movie,
usually a double header—a Western and then another kind of movie. If we paid our budget to the
ward budget fund, we had a right to go to that movie, so our recreation was to go to the movie
every Wednesday night. My entire family would go. The movies I remember most were the
cowboy movies with Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter.
     My father was a real cattleman. He loved horses and he loved cows, and was very good at
training them, taming them, getting them to work, and speaking to them, getting them to come to
him. He also liked to tell stories, mostly the stories of his life when he was growing up. Several
of us children and our parents made a trip into Mexico one time during the sixties. Lavona and I
once got the opportunity to ride with Daddy in a pickup on that journey, and from the minute we
entered the area where he had lived, both in the United States and in Mexico, until we reached
the end of that territory, he was telling one story after another. Every bend of the road seemed to
remind him of another story (we often wished we had recorded that somehow). Then when we
left Colonia Juarez and started up the road to the mountains where my mother lived, it was just
like turning off a faucet. He didn’t have any more stories because he hadn’t experienced that
country; he’d never been there. It was a great experience to be with him and to hear his stories. I
think the purpose of his stories was to teach his boys. On the farm, he’d often work with us
whenever he could get away from other duties like hoeing, irrigating or putting up hay.
Otherwise, he was with us and would use that time to tell us stories of his life and teach us
principles of the Gospel.
     Whenever it was cold and stormy and we were out in the fields or the corrals doing our
chores or our jobs, he would say, “You know where I would like to be right now? I’d like to be
up on the mountain, hunting deer.” That’s when I want to be in the house by the fire, staying cozy
and warm, but he wanted to be out hunting deer. That’s something he dearly loved to do. They
had a favorite hunting spot, several miles north of where we lived, and he liked to take his sons
hunting there. They’d gone there so many times that he took an old bedspring and left it there,
putting it high up in a tree where no one could see it and take it away. When he’d go up there
hunting, he go up there and pull it out and sleep on it. I went hunting with him once, but not
there, and just for part of an afternoon. I didn’t like it at all, and I never went hunting with him
after that. All of my other brothers liked hunting and went with him probably several times. He
was a fair shot. A neighbor named Hyde Pace was an excellent shot and would always get his
deer, whether anyone else did or not. My dad got a deer probably half the time. My mother didn’t
like deer meat, but she’d cook it for us.
     Besides hunting, the one trip that we made every year was to the Richardson reunion in
Mesa. Transportation was difficult and we never had really good cars, but he always made every
effort he could. He loved to be with his family, brothers and sisters and cousins. He never
stressed to us children our heritage and that “you are a Richardson.” I think that came on with his
taking us to the reunions and meeting relatives. We seldom missed a Richardson reunion, and at
the reunions they would always tell stories of our ancestors, and we’d gain an appreciation for
     I don’t remember ever having help on my schoolwork. School was always very important
to me and to all the family, but I don’t remember our parents ever having to encourage us. We
just always had an interest. It’s just part of our heritage, just as I never pounded into my children
to get good grades “or else.” We always liked studies and liked to do well.
     He was very devoted to the church and bore his testimony often. He wasn’t really
“sanctimonious,” but he paid his tithing faithfully, attended his church meetings and filled his
callings. I don’t remember him being involved with the youth a great deal, but mainly with the
older people in the ward. He liked to teach, and taught priesthood lessons and in Sunday School a
great deal. He was head of the adult Aaronic priesthood, like the prospective elders group we
have now, and helped reactivate some people. He then served as high priests group leader for
years and years. He worked hard at that. He really was a kind-hearted man, and tried to give
service and help people out. Whenever we would harvest potatoes, he’d always take several
sacks around the ward and give it to widows and those who were a little less fortunate. He was
involved in genealogy work quite a bit. My mother was Primary president for a while, but her
chief callings were pianist and organist for the ward. She taught herself to play the piano and then
learned to play the organ. We had a piano in our home, and one of her pet projects was to teach
teen-age girls to play the piano and organ. She gave lessons to many of them and brought them
along well.
     I think my father was about 5’11”. He was red headed, but he never had any red-headed
children. Our son, Vernon, was the first grandson that had red hair. My father was quite robust.
He wasn’t extra heavy, but well filled out and a strong man. He enjoyed good health all the time I
can remember, and was always a hard worker, though he did like to take a little nap at noontime
after dinner for half an hour or so, lying on the living room floor. He always got up real early and
went out and did his chores. He worked every day of his life.
     For most of the time, his relation with his wife was very good. At times he made what she
thought were some big mistakes economically. She didn’t think he used his money wisely and
was never a wealthy man. Especially when he went to Red Rock, she left him because she didn’t
feel that there was any future in doing that. I think that taught him that he needed to pay attention
to her more. My parents were both kind of shy and stoic. It wasn’t the thing to do to show
emotions in our home. I remember my mother crying one time. She was disappointed with some
financial loss or failure, but I don’t remember any great show of emotions other than that. They
were not flowery, not showy, not really expressive.
     At one point, my father needed help on the farm. There was a chance to get some people
from Mexico to come and work on the farm for him, so he went down to the border and got
them, not knowing that it was illegal, and got picked up. I don’t know that he got put in jail, but
when he came home he was very emotionally wrought because of his financial problems. He
usually didn’t act like he had a big financial burden on his shoulders or seem to worry about it a
lot. My mother worried a lot about it, but he was always pretty optimistic that whatever he did
would turn out well (though it usually didn’t turn out well). We were never very well off
financially because we didn’t own the land and had to pay a third of the produce, the farm
products for rent, and what was left just barely paid for the costs. There wasn’t too much left for
     When I was in my early teens, he bought a hay baler from Hugh Pace, and this baler
required six people to operate it. One would drive the team of horses or the tractor pulling it, and
two would lift the pile of hay up onto a little table. Then one would push that hay into a hopper.
Two more would sit towards the back of the baler and put the blocks between the bales as they
were formed, and then tie the wires that wrapped around the bale. One more would follow the
baler and retrieve the block that came out and place it up ready to put into the hopper again. He
had that baler for probably four or five years, and during that period, he prospered. He was
probably the most well off of any time in his life, because he had both sets of twins to help run
the baler, and we were able to do custom baling for all the different farms in the valley. Times
were good, and we really did quite well. We were able to buy a nice car and get a better tractor.
Things really looked up for us then and they were able to send some missionaries into the field.
But then someone got a new-fangled hay baler that didn’t require six men to run it. It was
automatic, and our business kind of dwindled off.
     During World War II, he liked to listen to the radio in the evening and would comment on
it. I remember him saying many times that it didn’t matter who won the conflict between
Germany and Russia, but that the United States would have to fight against the winner anyway,
whoever it was. He had definite opinions about things, and it was interesting to talk about it.
My father was very athletic and a good baseball and basketball player. I think he loved
baseball more, but he loved basketball too. He played basketball for Gila Academy, and though
he wasn’t the tallest player, he played center and was a great jumper and helped them win lots of
ball games. He had a buddy named Bill Mortensen that he’d known in the colonies. They were
together in the Gila Academy, and I remember also seeing a picture of them in baseball uniforms.
When we kids were going to school and would play basketball on the high school teams, he
never missed a game. He was always there, always standing about the middle of the court
opposite the side where the players were, shouting out to them, encouraging them and
commenting on the events of the game as it went on. He could outrun his sons until they got into
their late teens and he kept very active his entire life, as long as he could.
     I think the last fifteen years of his life, my parents were at peace and really enjoyed each
other and got along very well. He built her a new home, and by that time, the family was raised
and gone, so their costs were down and I think that they enjoyed life. They were a very
compatible couple and accomplished a lot together.
     They always welcomed us and treated us well. When I was married, I was in Chicago for
four years, then Pennsylvania another year and then in Tempe, Arizona, so we never lived close
by them and gave them an opportunity to come see us. But whenever they did come to Mesa,
they would come to visit and we’d have a great time. Whenever we’d visit him, he’d nearly
always disappear when it was time to say good-bye. He’d put on his hat like it was time to go out
and do the chores or something like that, and you wouldn’t see him. He didn’t like to say goodbye.
He never did retire, just kept on working. He died of a massive heart attack. It wasn’t
expected at all—I don’t know if he’d had symptoms prior or not. He had cancer on his hand and
lost a finger because of it, just a few years before he died. But that wasn’t the cause of his death.
There isn’t a history of heart problems in his family. He died in 1970, when he was 74 years old.
     One of his pet themes throughout his life was to be modest in your dress. He was really
concerned about girls wearing immodest dresses, and he preached about that a lot. At one
reunion, he preached on moral cleanliness and modesty and one statement he said was, “I want
you to look at me and know that I am a virtuous man, and my greatest wish for you is that you
would be morally clean and be virtuous.” I think that was his legacy, the theme he has passed on
to us—that we need to keep our bodies covered, our minds clean, and our actions morally
straight. I think that’s the greatest thing he was concerned about.

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