our Links to the Past
Isaac Turley Jr. (autobiography) (1888-1977)
The Theodore Turley Family Book, pp. 437-443
I, Isaac Turley, Jr., was born on April 11, 1888 to Clara Ann Tolton and Isaac Turley, Sr. in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. I was my mother's tenth child, and the first child of my parents to be born in Mexico, where they had migrated along with many other American families. Some of my earliest recollections are of the primitive manner in which we lived, such as; the crude shelters, having to haul water from the creek one-half mile away, clearing the land of mesquite brush and wild growth of trees, and leveling the ground in preparation for the construction of homes, outbuildings, and fences. My father was one of the first men who went into the Sierra Madre Mountains west of the colony to build a sawmill which was to furnish the lumber for the construction of the homes and public buildings.
I was a very small boy when my father took a triple-bed wagon and a four-mule team to San Bernardino, California, to bring a good variety of fruit trees to the colonies for the needs of the people. That area proved to be a choice elevation for the growing of fruit, it being 4,500 it. elevation, the same as that of Provo, Utah. The colonies in Mexico, even now, ship out thousands of carloads of fruit each year. Some of the fruit that I remember enjoying as a boy were: Royal Apricots, Bartlett Pears, Delicious Apples, Prunes, Grapes, Peaches, Quince, Currants, Raspberries, English Walnuts and Almonds. My father shared young fruit trees with other colonists who desired to grow fruit. Also, he gave boxes of fruit to many people who had not planted trees.
At five years of age, I was given responsibilities of doing chores, such as tending calves, feeding pigs and chickens, milking cows and taking them to pasture. When these chores were done, many times my mother had other jobs for me such as washing dishes, scrubbing clothes over the washboard, and helping to cook, sweep and scrub floors. Learning to take those responsibilities early has been a great advantage to me throughout my life. "We are never too young nor too old to learn to do things." It was during those early years that my mother's teachings had a great influence upon my life. She taught me absolute honesty, and to respect the rights and property of others, and the importance of observing the law of tithing, among all of her other teachings. Things that I learned in Primary, from age five to twelve years, have remained with me all my life. Our Primary president, Sister Maggie Ivins Bentley, was a noted artist. Her home was like an art gallery, with the walls covered with her beautiful oil paintings. All of the children under her supervision in Primary, who cared to take art lessons, were given that opportunity, free of charge. From that early age, I have had a deep appreciation and love for art. Since that time, I have gone into several phases of it. I took a two-year course with Professor O. D. Campbell, who was an instructor at the Brigham Young University.
At age twelve, I was ordained a Deacon, and was soon made the secretary of the Deacon�s Quorum. Charles Burrell and I promoted an interest in singing in that quorum. It was from that early beginning that I developed a life-long interest in music and singing. I started at age fourteen to sing in the Ward Choir under the direction of John J. Walser. I have sung in Ward and Stake Choirs and choruses for special occasions for seventy-two years. In October, 1927 I sang in the special Combined Choir from the roof-top of the Arizona Temple during its three-day dedication ceremonies. President Heber J. Grant, President of the Church at that time, was present on that occasion. Between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four years, I was the Baptizer for the Juarez Ward, following Brother John C. Harper's service in that position. During that time I baptized many people. It was my privilege also to serve as Ward Clerk.
At about seventeen years of age, I helped my father make the tools for the cutting of the decorative pink sandstone for the construction of the windows, foundation, and pillars of the Juarez Stake Academy. About one year later, I expressed to my father my desire to get a job and start to earn something for myself, as all of my older brothers had done. He told me that because I was the youngest son, he needed my help in the fields, at home, and in the pasture, taking care of the cattle. He was advanced in years and was not able to do all of it himself. He said that he was making a will in which he specified that the family home and part of one field would be mine, if I would assume the responsibility to care for him and my mother in their later years, and my youngest sister, Anna, until she had her education and was married. And she, being the youngest child at home, was also to receive some property. His property that he left in Snowflake when he moved to Mexico was given to his older boys who remained there.
Besides helping my father make the tools to cut the pink sandstone for the decorative part of the Juarez Stake Academy, I was asked to help Samuel E. McClellan with the carpenter work on the same building, because of my former training with him. We laid the sub-floors and top-floors, and did the finishing carpenter work. During the time I worked on the Academy I was paid 50 cents per month, which was enough for one dance ticket. I did various other carpenter jobs throughout the Stake, as, years later, I was employed by the Dublan Mill Co. to put the mill in order with bins, hopper, conveyors, elevators, and all other parts that had to do with carpenter work: to receive the grain, and produce the flour and other milling products. From there, I did cement work on the Dublan Chapel, and after that was done, I was in charge of the carpenter work on that same building, doing all of the finish-work on the stairways, cabinets, floors, etc.
Upon the completion of that work, I was asked to go to Colonia Pacheco, up in the mountains, and help with the construction of the Chapel there. The last construction that I did on Juarez Stake buildings was on the Academy Gymnasium. I practically built the entire building by myself, from 1933-1936.
My father and I had worked very closely together during the years as I grew up: I helped him in the blacksmith shop, blowing the bellows, and heating the steel and iron for the blacksmithing. We worked together in the garden and the orchards, picking and drying fruit, and planting and harvesting grain and alfalfa in the fields. All through my life I was very close to him. He was a man of very keen understanding of people. Many came to him for advice. He was on the High Council of the Juarez Stake for many years.
As a young man of about twenty years of age, I was back in the mountains, hunting at Thanksgiving time with my older brother, Ernest, and my nephew, Marion W. Turley. During the night, I was awakened by the very strong impression that if we wanted to see father alive, we would have to hurry home as fast as possible. Immediately, I woke the other boys and told them of the urgency to leave at once, which we did, traveling all day and until 11:00 that night. We found him still alive, but rapidly growing weaker. He lived until 11:00 o'clock the following night, when he passed away, holding my hand. I was grateful for the warning that I had received, for otherwise, we would not have known about his condition, he having been in apparent good health when we left.
I missed my father a great deal, and could not imagine what he could be doing and why he was taken from me when I needed him. These thoughts were constantly on my mind. Three years after his death, as I was sitting one afternoon in the living room of our home in Colonia Juarez wondering about him as usual, I suddenly felt his presence, and I looked toward the north wall, where he seemed to be, and suddenly the wall appeared to open, allowing him to step through as though nothing impeded his entrance, letting me know that spiritual beings have power over physical of temporal things. He walked over and stood about six feet from me, and about one foot above the floor. He appeared to be full of vigor. He emphatically told me, "Isaac, because you are constantly thinking of me, you are hindering me in my progress in the work that I have been assigned to do, I am teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to myriads of people who did not have the privilege of hearing it when they lived upon the earth. You must study and seek learning, to prepare yourself for service here, and live according to the teachings that you have received from your childhood, because there is no other teaching nor other religion that will be accepted by our Heavenly Father, or that will take you to the Celestial Kingdom, except the Gospel of Jesus Christ." He seemed to be in a hurry, for when he had finished speaking, he started to leave me, and once more he said, "Now, don't worry over me any more, I'm all right!" With that, he walked on across the room and disappeared in the same manner in which he had entered.
Not long after the incident of seeing my father, I received my patriarchal blessing in which I was promised that when I met the one that I was to marry, I would recognize her the first time I would see her, by the same familiar feeling that I had for her in our preexistence. This was verified when I was twenty-four years old. An attractive black-haired young lady who had come to Colonia Juarez from Colonia Dublan to enroll at the Juarez Stake Academy was walking down the sidewalk. Our eyes met, as I, on the opposite side of the street, was tying up my horse in front of the Co-op Store. At that instant, I knew that Ida May Lake was to be my wife. Six months later, on July 4, 1912 we were married in her home in Colonia Dublan by Bishop Thurber. Because of the threats and dangers of the Mexican Revolution, we were not able at that time to go to the United States to be married in the Temple.
We had been married three weeks when the Stake Presidency assigned me to take the message to the mountain colonies, advising the colonists of the threats of the revolutionists, and to prepare to leave their homes immediately and to bring only a few meager belongings. The elderly people and the women and children were to leave for El Paso, Texas on the "Noroeste" Train from Pearson before the bridges should be burned. The young and middle-aged men were to remain, to attempt to make a peaceful settlement with the revolutionists. Salazar, with his army, came through Colonia Juarez and Colonia Dublan. They demanded that we join the army and fight, but we declared that we were neutral, and would not fight on either side, so they demanded our guns and ammunition, and all available horses. Among other acts of violence against us they killed our good milk cows, with little calves, in our corrals, and cut the hindquarters off the cows and left the dead carcasses. We remained for several days after our families left on the train.
The night I left, I gathered up a few provisions such as flour, salt, and a ten-pound lard bucket filled with homemade butter to take with me. Also, I took a broomstick, which I planned to use to help me get over the ledges above town. As I climbed over the back fence, I met five red-flaggers riding down the street, leading a horse. I pointed the broomstick at them and demanded the extra horse. In the rainy darkness, which was occasionally illuminated by flashes of lightning, they thought my broomstick was a rifle, so they threw the horse's tie-rope at me and they galloped on down the street. I picked up my friend, Oliver Breinholt, as I left town. We were grateful to have the horse, as we tried to pursue the townsmen who had left much earlier. The rest of the 800 men had their own horses with which to make the trek to El Paso, where our families were waiting for us.
During the next seven years, my wife, my mother, and my sister, Anna, lived in Beaver and St. George, Utah, where Ida May and I were married in the St. George Temple on Jan. 29, 1913. During World War I, from 1916 to 1918, I worked in a mortuary, building caskets and embalming. Not long after the war began, many people died during the great German Flu Epidemic. In many cases, entire families died of the dread disease. Those of us who prepared the dead for burial had to use the greatest of precaution in order to preserve our health and that of our families. During our years there, I was Stake Sunday School Secretary and Ward Clerk, as well as a teacher in the auxiliary organizations. Three of our children were born in St. George.
In November, 1919, I took my family back to Colonia Juarez to re-establish ourselves, as did many of the other colonists who had been driven out of Mexico during the Revolution. There I served as a counselor in the Juarez Ward Bishopric for three years, from 1919-1922. On May 10, 1921 a ten-pound baby boy was born to us, but he passed away at birth.
Earlier in my life, a close friend, Neil Bunker, met with a fatal accident when his horse fell with him. He was in a coma for three months before his death. Because of this, and the accidents and sickness of others, I resolved to exhaust every effort to find some means of relieving the suffering of those who needed help. Therefore, every book, or source of information along that line, was of special interest to me. Later, in view of the fact that there were no medical doctors in the Colonies, and knowing of my interest in caring for the sick and injured in the community, Bishop John Jacob Walser invited me to his home, where he gave me a special blessing, in which he promised me that I would be successful in aiding many who would need my help. That blessing was a great strength to me, and the promises I received have been verified on many difficult occasions. Among other services, I have delivered many babies, both among the Mexican and American people, and have answered many calls for help. On some occasions, I have gone horseback into the mountains in snow two or three feet deep to render assistance in delivering babies and in cases of accidents.
While in the bishopric, it was my responsibility to organize the activities of the young men of the ward. We formed teams, in baseball, basketball and volleyball, and raised the necessary funds to purchase our suits and equipment. We traveled to the other colonies, and to Pearson, Chihuahua City, Madera, Ciudad Juarez and Casas Grandes to challenge their teams. We chose Owen Skousen to be the leader of our team. Good sportsmanship was our motto. Many close, exciting games were played. I played on the team until I was sixty years of age.
My mother, who had been living alternately with me and my brother, Edward, passed away after several months of illness in the old home in Colonia Juarez on Sept. 4, 1932 of cancer of the stomach. She was buried the following day beside my father and Aunt Sarah in the town cemetery on the southwest side of the colony.
I served on seven Stake Missions, four of which were served in the Colonies, and three in the Mesa, Arizona area. My wife, Ida May, and I served together on three of those missions. Ida May and I lived about six months in Mexico City with our daughter, Viola, and her husband and family, where we joined them in helping to promote missionary work through the organizations of the Sunday Schools and Primaries throughout the entire Mexican Mission. While there, we were called to go to Arizona to work in the temple. During twelve years' time, in which I helped to supervise the baptismal work in the Temple, more than one million baptisms were done. I did approximately 3,500 endowments, and stood as proxy in thousands of sealings, and did 4,000-5,000 initiatory, besides working for ten years at the clothing counter during the evening sessions. My dear wife served along with me at the clothing counter and did many endowments and sealings until April, 1968, when her health failed her. Gradually her condition worsened until her death in a Mesa Hospital on December 18, 1968. She has been greatly missed at the Temple and in our Tenth Ward, where she had served as a counselor and a teacher in the Relief Society. She was very strong in her convictions of honesty and righteous living. Her life was one of great service to those in need, both temporally and spiritually.
Since the death of Ida May, I have spent a great deal of my time while alone in underlining the most important chapters and verses in Books of Mormon. I have given many copies of those to non-LDS people who have come to my home for foot therapy treatments. This has been a means of bringing quite a number of people into the Church.
As I begin my eighty-eighth year of life, in retrospect, I think of the motivating powers behind my labors and the things that I have tried to accomplish. The early teachings and example of my parents, the constant help of my good companion, and the love and devotion of my children, and my faith in God have been my sources of strength throughout my life. I feel greatly blessed in my posterity of three living children, twenty-three grandchildren and forty-six great grandchildren. I am grateful to the Lord for His guidance and protection, for I would not have lived these many years, had He not warned me of danger on several occasions, and if I had not heeded those warnings which He gave me. I am grateful that He has spared me, that I might use His influence in telling others of His great truths, the Plan of Life and Salvation unto all who would heed His Word, and repent, and be numbered in His flock. It is my constant prayer that we, as a family, will prove faithful to those principles which motivated our great ancestors.
(Submitted by Isaac Turley, Jr. with the help of Viola T. Haws, his daughter). Isaac died in 1977.
Children of Isaac Turley, Jr. and Ida May Lake Turley:
Melvin Isaac Turley, born Aug. 31, 1913
George Lake Turley, born Dec. 16, 1916
Viola May Turley Haws, born Jan. 26, 1919
Baby Boy, born May 10, 1921; died at birth, Colonia Juarez, Mexico