(as told by his son
James A. Chalk on 7 February 1940 at Jamison, Oregon,
by request of James' daughter Dorothy James of Farminton, New Mexico)
Elisha Milton Chalk was born May 19, 1848, in Henderson, Henderson County, Tennessee, the next to youngest thirteen children born to James Askew Chalk and Malinda Simmons, who were married in Tennessee, October 12, 1824. . His father married again and he lived at home awhile. His mother died when he was a lad of only nine years. His father married again and he lived at home awhile until the Civil War broke out and called so many of the men to arms.
One of his sisters needed his help and company as her husband had to join the southern army and she was left alone with her two little girls. Here he stayed most of two years, from 1858 to 1860. During this time his father, James Askew Chalk died (1860). When his brother-in-law came home on a furlough, Elisha went to stay overnight with some little friends. Early the next morning he went to his sister's house, the only home he had, to find everyone gone and the house empty. On inquiring, he found they were at the depot. Going down as fast as he could before the train came in, there he found his sister and the little girls, who were glad to see him come. Soon his brother-in-law came and said in a very gruff voice, "What the hell are you doing here?" "Nothing, sir, only to bid farewell to my sister and the children," which he did with a broken heart and then left, with nowhere to go, no home, never to see them any more.
He lived among friends until he was 24 years old when he met, loved and married Celia Ann Elizabeth Price, daughter of Eli Price and Nancy Richardson. They were married January 1872. Her parents lived at the time of her (Celia Ann) birth in Green County, Alabama. She was a beautiful girl with dark eyes and hair, very quiet and unassuming, and very modest. It was often said by friends, that they both were so bashful, their marriage was a great surprise.
Elisha's and Celia Ann's first child, Lewis, died in infancy. The next child, Elisha Edner, was born 21 April 1874. About this time the Mormon Elders were coming through the country preaching. Elisha's Father, James Askew Chalk, was a distinguished doctor and Methodist preacher. He told his family upon his death bed that they could join any church, but to never join the Mormons. Elisha was out in the woods splitting rails when his nephew, William Jones came along and said, "Uncle Milt, there are some Mormon Elders going to preach in the schoolhouse tonight. Let's go hear them." "To hell with the Mormons. Father told us what they were before he died. That's enough for me," said Elisha. "Ah come on, Uncle Milt, and go with me. Won't hurt anything." So he decided to go.
That evening, after a hard rain shower, they made their way through the mud to the little schoolhouse. A number of people were there but no preacher. A little after the appointed hour, in came two men, wet and muddy. They went right onto the stand, took off their wet coats, called the meeting to order, and read a song, Ye Elders of Israel. Neither could sing nor carry a tune or part. "I never heard such beautiful words", said Elisha. Then they prayed. "Oh, what a beautiful prayer. They even prayed for their enemies," he said. Then as they preached, Billy Jones wrote down chapter and verse. That night they sat up until 2 AM reading scripture and trying to find a mistake to catch the Elders.
The next evening they went again. As they left the meeting, a man said to Elisha Milton, "I can tear that sermon all to pieces with my Bible, can't you Milt?" "I don't know about that," said Elisha. " We sat up most all the night and tried to tear last night's preachin' up but couldn't find no flaw at all. It was all there in our Bible, just as they gave it." They sat up awhile that night, but it was more to talk among themselves than thinking it over. But Elisha said, "Why didn't my father preach that way? Why didn't he pray that way? That's the best and greatest I ever heard. And to think it had to be Mormons." But he and Billy kept going and attending all their meetings until they were baptized, they and their wives on 10 April 1876, along with many others in the community. The Elders were John McCallister who baptized them and Henry G. Boil who did the confirmation.
Elisha Milton was a great coffee drinker from one to seven cups at a meal at this time, but when he joined the church he quit it. "And never in my life," says his daughter, "did I ever see or hear of him breaking his covenant with the Lord, to live the Word of Wisdom fully." And he always paid an honest tithing and fast offering. In about six weeks there was a company of Saints going to start for Zion in the West. They made full preparations to go too, starting the latter part of May 1876 by way of the old Santa Fe Trail. Elisha was made chaplain of the company. His duty was to see that all was well, that order and the spirit of fellowship and brotherly love existed at all times. He made his regular trips at each camping, morning, noon and one in the evening. On one occasion at noon, the men, usually tired after a morning of walking and their oxen, laid down in the shade of their wagons for a short nap. One man was clear under his wagon as father (Elisha Milton) went by and said, "You better get out from under there. Ants will sting you." As he came back the brother was sound asleep and father took a long spear of grass and tickled his ear. He jumped up quickly, kicking and cuffing, clawing trying to get out from under the wagon, saying," Ants are all over me!" He bumped his head many times and several of the saints got a good laugh.
The old Santa Fe Trail led through the San Juan Valley. Often Father spoke to me of Farmington on the San Juan in New Mexico. They went on through to Flagstaff, Arizona, on to a place called St Joseph. There they joined the United Order at Sunset, Arizona, a camp of the Saints just east of where Winslow is now located. Here they stayed six months. Then we went on up into Utah by way of Lee's Ferry to Glendale, Kane County, Utah, where they stayed several years. Here two more children were born, Celia Loetta on 21 October 1878 and Emily Francis on 19 May 1880. Just after the birth of these little girls, or as soon as possible after arriving in Long Valley as they called it, they made a trip to St. George to get their endowments and sealings and do the work for their parents and dead brothers and sisters on 10 Septempber 1879.
Before and after this date for some time, Fast Day was on the first Thursday of each month. On an occasion shortly after father's arrival, times were very bad and many had but little. It was Fast Day; Father and Mother got themselves and children ready for meeting. They then took their substance to pay their offering. Father had no money, nor produce, so we went to the flour box. There were just four quarts or a milk pan full. Father gathered it all up in the pan, taking half to pay their fast offering, keeping half to make one more meal. They knelt down and thanked the Lord for all their blessings, and asked such others as he felt they deserved and needed.
Then he went to meeting, taking their little dab of four as their offering. A good meeting was enjoyed by all present. On coming home, Mother walked with the children. Father walked and talked to one Brother John Carpenter, a very abrupt-spoken man. In the course of conversation he asked Father if he would go into the timber and cut him 100 shingles and 100 pickets. Father was overjoyed to think he might get something to do to get supplies, knowing that just one more meal was in his home for his little family. He spoke at once, "I'll do it for 100 lbs of flour, Brother Carpenter." "You'll do no such a thing." Brother Carpenter said. Neither spoke for some distance. Then Brother Carpenter broke the silence by saying, "I'll tell you what I will do, Brother Chalk. I'll give you 100 pounds of flour and 100 rounds of potatoes if you'll do the job all right." They then were at Brother Carpenter's home. "Come on in. We'll carry the flour and spuds on down now."
On stopping to rest, Brother Carpenter said, "I've been thinking, Brother Chalk. I need more than 100 pickets and shingles for my place. What will you double the order for?" "I'll do it for some more flour and potatoes," said Father. "All right," said Brother Carpenter. They delivered the first load and went back for a like load. Before leaving, Brother Carpenter said, "Say, Brother Chalk, you haven't any milk for these children, have you?" "No, said father, but we are getting along." (While they were going back up home, Father was thinking about a pail of milk for the children all the time.) Brother Carpenter said on the way down to the corral, "Brother Chalk, now pick you out a good cow to milk so as to have plenty for all of you." Father chose one and they drove her home.
Brother Carpenter said, "Hitch up your team on the hay rack wagon. You must have hay to feed the cow and your team." They did so by evening. The Lord had blessed them with work for which he paid them in advance, many times more than he had given as his fast offering, for before night he had 200 pounds of flour and 200 pounds of potatoes and a cow for milk and hay to feed her. "Let us thank the Lord moreover, for the blessing we've received and the test of faith we've had this day." Father always held this day as a great one in his life. Never did he forget the Lord and His portion in tithes and offerings henceforth.
In the summer of 1882 on June 1, another baby boy came to their home. They named him Jefferson Bennett. Shortly after this they moved to Huntington in Carbon County. They were blessed with another son in 1884, but his life here was short and they buried him in Huntington. Soon after, their hearts turned back to their first home and friends in Glendale and they went back to the same house even which made it seem more like home than ever. Father got work at the sawmill and all was well. On 26 November 1886 another boy baby was born. They blessed and named him John Milton. Sister Brinkerhoff acted as doctor and nurse as usual. In the year of 1888, a baby girl came. They named her Dora but she only lived a very short time. And on 5 June 1889 a baby boy was born. They named him James Albert. He weighted twelve pounds.
In 1892, they moved again, this time into Sevier County. They moved onto Robert Ross' farm at Joseph and ran it that year and raised a good many hogs. They moved over to Monroe in 1893, seven miles east. Here they lived many years. Father was ordained an Elder in 1877, and a High Priest on 10 January by Morton Hensen. He was called all over the town among the rich and poor alike to administer to the sick. He was known for his honesty. He was known as a clean man as far as the Word of Wisdom was concerned. He lived it to the letter, a man of faith, a man of honor, and a man of God. He never profaned. His language was plain and simple; yet clean of vulgarity in any way. He was a friend of mankind, yet determined. He was a lover of home and family.
They moved to Glenwood in the summer of 1904. They took a trip by team to Idaho, of course to look for a new location and to see if the trip and the change of climate would help mother's health, for she had asthma very badly. It did and she felt very good. They came back in the fall. They moved back to Monroe and bought there a little home. Father rented his son-in-law's farm, four miles north of Richfield, in 1907. The following summer of 1908, the saddest experience of his life came, for on that day of July 7, his dear wife passed away. He was alone now but for his youngest son, James and a grandson, Milton Chavis, whose parents lived in Park View, New Mexico. He had lived with grandma and grandpa for several years.
So when the crops were gathered, he took the boy home to his parents, accompanied by his boy, James. He went on to Tennessee after a short visit with his daughter and family, leaving James there with his daughter. He visited his only brother, James, who was 17 years older than him and whom he had not seen for 52 years. On coming up to the old home where he was born, which now belonged to his brother, he saw his brother or a man old and gray with a long beard, chopping wood. He approached him, setting his hat back a little, saying, "Is this Chalk farm? I hear it's for sale." The aged man turned and eyed him closely for a few seconds. "Oh, you can't fool me, Milt. It's you." They clasped arms and body and cried. He saw many of his old playmates when a boy, went fishing again on the river, hunting squirrels and in a general way tried to imitate youthful days now passed. All was new and there were many changes since he was a boy, but the change was a rest and he enjoyed it all. He was yet lonely for his "pal and lover," his wife Bettie. Oh if she could have only been here to enjoy it all, his trip would have been complete.
There at the church, he talked about the gospel to them and through politeness they listened, but it had no effect for they were staunch Methodist. He got lonesome for Mormonism, to meet some one of his faith, to see a Mormon, same as he, to go to a meeting, listen to the songs of Zion, hear a prayer, partake of the sacrament, to hear a sermon from an Elder, to exercise his Priesthood some way. All this was almost more than he could stand, so he asked if there were any Mormons in the country round about or any Latter-Day Saints.
He came back to Utah the following summer and helped some on the farm of his son-in-law, went south in the fall of 1909 to visit his son and family, Elisha Edner at Cannonville in Farfield County. The next spring he made a homestead entry for 160 acres of land southwest of town about seven miles. Here he stayed three years and proved up on it, but his health had become bad so he left it to his son and came back to Richfield where his daughter Loetta lived. James was to return soon from a mission to the Southern states. The summer of 1893, he helped some on the farm. He did considerable temple work in the Manti Temple also. In the spring of 1914 he stayed with his daughter in Richfield and helped some on the farm. During haying, he camped or stayed at the farm to take care of the stock. His son, James was helping also. One morning he came out to help as we got the horses and said, "Well, son, I won't be with you long for your mother called me last night and told me to hurry and finish my work. She was waiting and needed me. I told her I just had a little more to do and I'd come." The conversation on that subject dropped there by his son saying, "Oh, Pa, jus think of more pleasant things. I think we got a long time yet."
His condition gradually worsened until we took him to the LDS hospital in Salt Lake City. Drs. Hansen and Middleton examined him and said he had prostate gland trouble. He never improved but gradually weakened and on 3 August 1915 he passed away. We brought him home and buried him beside his dear wife in the Glenwood cemetery, six miles east of Richfield. He had 68 years of life well spent and was now to go home to Bettie who had waited seven years for him.