Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Beginnings of the Branch, Part 1: The Greers Move to Aurora

Although Mable Stemple was the first member in Aurora, no branch of the Church was organized until Jim and Myrtle Greer moved to town in May or June 1929.

In this early picture of the family in Aurora, Myrtle and Jim Greer appear to be ready for church. Judging by the ages of Jimmy and Louise, this photo was probably taken in the early spring of 1930 (maybe Easter Sunday?).

They joined the Church June 20, 1926, in southern Illinois. (Read about their conversion as told by my son John Hamer in a commentary on the blog By Common Consent. After their baptism, the neighbors turned against them, and eventually they decided it would be impossible to raise their children in the Church in southern Illinois. In addition, their small farm was caught in the backwaters of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 that actually started in 1926. Their corn crop was wiped out three years in a row.

Myrtle said that they read something in a mission publication about Mormons in Aurora, and they thought it meant there was a branch of the church there. Because of this mistake—she later realized it simply referred missionaries being stationed there—they chose Aurora. They also knew some people from “down home” who had moved there and with whom Jim and his friend Jim Boss could stay until they found work.

Here’s the way Jim told of his arrival:
“Jim Boss and myself started out from home one morning in my car, and we was about two days on the road. Every time we’d pass a gas station or a garage, we had to stop and get the old [1924] Chevrolet worked on. It was raining and cold and Jim Boss would cuss and cry and say he was going back home. One night we was stopped along the highway and a big truck come by and asked if we was in trouble. We told him yes, and he hooked onto us. That little Chevrolet swung back and forth sometimes too. He took us to a garage about ten miles away and called the garage man out. He got in under the car and looked at the gas line. It was almost disconnected, and the old vacuum tank was sucking air instead of gasoline. He fixed it, tightened it up, and we come on into Aurora.”

Myrtle takes up the story:
“They got to Aurora on a Friday, and he went to see Ora Whelan. Ora’a wife, Iva, was sick and she told Jim if he’d do the cooking and help her with the housework, she would board him free so that he could get a job. They read in the paper that Lyon Metal needed help, and to apply Monday morning. Jim went down to Lyon Metal, and he said there was a group of men there waiting, you know, all standing out there. This one man come up and pointed to him to come in, so Jim went up to him and said, ‘Did you want me?’ The man said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Where’re you from?’ Jim says, ‘I’m from Cypress.’ He says, ‘What kind of work can you do?’ ‘I’m from the farm. I’ve learned about farming.’ ‘Well,’ the man says, ‘is that what you want to do?’ ‘I’ll take the first thing I can get.’ He said, ‘Well, we can use you.’ Jim says, ‘Well, there’s a man come with me, and I told him I’d stay with him, so I can’t take the job unless you hire him too.’ So then Mr. Larry Rice says, ‘Well, show me who he is.’ So Jim told him, and he called him in too. Jim Boss come in, and both went to work. Jim worked there for 32 years, but Boss worked there about six weeks and then he went back home.”

The job taken care of, Jim’s next order of business was to look up the missionaries. He recalled: “I went three times, Jim Boss and myself, to see the missionaries and we never caught them home. The next time we went, the elder come to the door and he says, ‘Come on in, Brother Greer.’ He says, ‘I’ve been looking for you.’ Myrtle had wrote and told him that we was in town.”

To be continued

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