Hyrum Parley Oviatt 1876-1925

Life Story of

Hyrum Parley Oviatt


Parley Hyrum  OviattHyrum Parley Oviatt (called Parley) was the sixth of ten children born to D and Josephine (Workman) Oviatt.  He was born August 31, 1876 in Farmington, Davis County, Utah.

His father, the son of Ira and Ruth Fellows (Bennett) Oviatt, was born September 4, 1843 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.  His mother, the daughter of Jacob Lindsay and Nancy (Reader) Workman, was born July 27, 1845 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.  They were married in Farmington, Davis County, Utah, on December 24, 1865.

Hyrum Parley Oviatt - Birth CertificateParley’s parents lived in a fire room home made of brick and rock.  It was built in a side hill with a basement under part of the house.  In the corner of the basement was a natural spring and water was piped to the barn that was built further down the hill.  Parley’s father was a blacksmith and had a shop in Farmington.  No doubt he was very busy and often the young boys in the family had to help pump the bellows to keep the fire going and the coals hot.  Among the regular jobs a blacksmith had to do was one that Parley thought was great fun to watch, this was shoeing the oxen.  In front of the shop was a hoist made out of logs and canvas.  This “oxen stock” was much like a four-poster bed.  The oxen stood in the middle and a great big strap went under their belly to lift them up for the shoeing process since oxen cannot balance on three feet like a horse.  Alongside this frame was a windlass shaped like a ship’s wheel, which was cranked to raise the bellyband and thus lift the oxen off the ground.  The oxen shoes were shaped quite different from horseshoes.  Since oxen have cleft feet their shoes were shaped like two small crescents for each hoof.

Parley’s father never whipped the boys very often, but found other ways to punish them.  Jack (Parley’s brother) recalled two specific times they were punished:

“Our basement was one of my first recollections because me and my brother Parley were locked up in it one day as punishment.  After plugging up the pipes where the water ran out for mother’s dirty clothes, we found her wooden tub and went sailing around.  I remember another day being locked in the granary with my brother Parley.  This time we found some sleigh bells, strapped them around us and had a wonderful time playing horse.”

On August 23, 1886 Parley’s mother died from a scald (or burn) and almost five months later on January 2, 1887 his father died from inflammation of the bowels.  Some people say he died of heartache following the death of his wife.

With their parents gone, the children were scattered among relatives to be taken care of.  Parley and Jack were taken to San Pete, Utah to live with their uncle Henry Herman Oviatt, and then to live with his son (their cousin) Delbert Oviatt.  While living here Parley and Jack decided to run away and return to their hometown of Farmington.  Jack recalled this incident in his own words:

Along with the help of an older boy, whose father had a store, we provisioned ourselves with a pair of blankets, two loaves of bread and a bit of money.  A short distance from town we found a gentle team of horses, used our suspenders for ropes, climbed on the horses and road them for about 15 miles, turned them loose and walked into Price, Utah, a freighting station at that time.  Here we found some men around a campfire.  We joined them then when they had retired we crawled into a secluded spot and rolled up in our blankets.  Next morning we ate the remaining loaf of bread for our breakfast.  The other boys wanted to crawl into a boxcar and go on the train, but I rebelled so we walked along the railway tracks the second day.  That night we found a place to sleep in some bushes.  We had used our money to buy some bread and meat.  The third day we continued our walk.  In the evening we saw a lighted house.  We were so tired and hungry that we went to it and asked for lodging.  This man owned a sheep ranch.  They took us in giving us supper and a bed.  I do not remember what we had for supper, but I do remember how glad I was to sleep in a good bed.  Next morning, the man told us that the sheriff had been their looking for us so we had better go home.  The lady made us a good lunch and gave us another blanket.  The merchant’s boy and I went home again, but Parley stayed and was hired to help with the sheep.  Here he lived for two years.  I guess I just sneaked in home because no one seemed to have missed me.  I was not punished.”

In 1898, when Parley was twenty-two years old, the Spanish-American war broke out and he volunteered.  On May 19, 1898 he left Boise, Idaho and went in training in San Francisco, California.  He left there on June 27th with the ship “Morgan City” and arrived at the Philippine Islands on July 31, 1898.  He was on guard duty until February 4, 1899 and then in the trenches until July 12th.  He said many times when he laid his blankets down he could feel the snakes crawling about beneath them.  The soldiers often saw huge piles of human bones and they would pick out the skulls and, placing lighted candles in them, march up and down the streets with them poised on the ends of their bayonets.

The war ended in 1900 and Parley returned to his home in Parker, Idaho.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. linda cavallaro
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 11:31:29

    Thank you for providing this beautiful web page. I am a descendent of Hyrum Parley Oviatt’s sister, Josephine. I am writing her life history. My mother often tells of visiting his home in Canada with her grandmother and mother. She remembers the beauty of the area.


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