Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Myra Hall Lemmon (1872-1951) Biography

For many years the people of Hurricane depended on two "Aunts" to deliver their babies and to help them cope with many of their physical and emotional ailments: "Aunt" MinaHinton, and the subject of this account, "Aunt" Myra Lemmon. Myra was born 14 Mar 1872 in Rockville, Utah to John Charles and Keziah Degrey Hall. She married Jesse Newton Lemmon 24 January 1891 and died 4 September 1951; Jesse died five years later. Jesse and Myra had seven children, the first two dying in infancy; they are: Elvia 1891, Eldonna 1893, Claude 1895, Maude Leona 1898, Arnold Degrey 1900, Ferra 1901, Eldon 1905, and Norene 1915. The family first lived in Rockville and moved to Hurricane soon after the town was settled. Jesse built houses for others, collecting building materials as pay. He built his own home in the evenings. The family moved in long before it was completed; he just built around them. Unfortunately, he used some green lumber in the walls; after it shrank, the north wind managed to slip through the cracks. The home was located at first East and first South; it no longer exists. Myra lived in Rockville until after her marriage. Sometime in her youth, she and a sister were working in a garden the family had on the south side of the Virgin river. A rattlesnake bit her on the big toe. The sister tied a string around the toe; and got her on their horse for a hurried trip home. Her mother made cuts around the bite and sucked out some blood. Myra survived the incident just fine; the main unpleasantness she remembered was the embarrassment of riding astraddle the horse as a boy would have instead of side-saddle in proper girl fashion. Another well-remembered childhood event began when she felt strangely restless and agitated. Unable to remain in the house, she went to the barn, climbed to the loft and looked out the window space. The view ended a few hundred yards away by what appeared to her as a huge curtain hanging over the village. She then returned to the house in time to observe a neighborhood boy imploring Keziah to hurry over to his house because their baby was Extremely ill. Myra told her mother, "Don't bother to go; the Baby will die." Keziah went, but soon returned to report that the baby had indeed died, and to inquire as to how Myra was so sure it would happen. Myra replied that the "curtain" she saw was hanging over that particular house and that she had perceived that something terrible was happening there. In later years, Myra sometimes got solutions to medical problems in her dreams Myra reluctantly got into mid-wifery; her mother had been a mid-wife and Myra was well aware of the demands it could make on a person. Myra had, of course, learned many useful facts and skills from Keziah. Sometime after her marriage, she assisted a doctor in an emergency delivery; he was so impressed with her work that he kept calling on her for assistance. As she developed proficiency, and as a "healing touch" she possessed became apparent to others, she was called on more and more as an independent practitioner. One resident MD, Dr. Wilkinson, strongly objected to her functioning without a license of any sort. Unfortunately:, she lacked the means to take the required course work in Salt Lake City for a mid-wife certificate. She apparently assisted Dr. Wilkinson with some births, but she evidently had a low opinion of his medical efforts. Once a family beseeched her to tend their stricken baby. She tried to decline because it was under Dr. Wilkinson's care. Finally consenting to visit, she found the infant to be severely bloated and seemed near death. She induced the expulsion of gas and solid waste. The baby did die, however. Mrs. Vera Ballard attests that Myra could cure baby problems where others failed. She took one of her own infants to Myra when it was tightly bloated and on the verge of dying. Myra knew just how to restore a normal condition and the baby soon recovered. Myra taught the same techniques to Vera, who in turn successfully treated other babies.
For some years, Myra assisted a couple of St. George doctors who had patients in Hurricane. They had a telephone installed in her home so that she could consult them about medical problems that were brought to her; sometimes she would take care of the situation, utilizing their advice,-or she could summon one of them if the problem was too great for her to handle. (In those days, the only highway between St. George and Hurricane went through Leeds, Anderson's Ranch and Toquerville) When doctor Aiken came to town, Myra began assisting him; she developed a high respect for his skill and integrity. In one of his early maternity cases, Method examined the patient and told her his diagnosis, that nothing was imminent; then departed. Soon the mother expressed-some concern to Myra who had stayed behind. Myra' examination revealed the opposite of what Dr. Aiken had found. When convinced of something, Myra could be forceful; she located the doctor and convinced him that he should look again. He was astounded to discover she had been right. When he expressed perplexity at how it could have happened, she replied, "It's twins". He had never dealt with twins before. He told her, "Well, when you old women tell something like this, nine times out of ten you're right". Following a birth, a mother remained in bed fourteen days. Myra would attend the mother and baby twice a day during this period. Her fee for this service was ten dollars; sometimes paid with produce, sometimes not paid at all. When bathing or attending a baby Myra's method of handling them would sometimes make an onlooker uneasy. Myra pointed out, however, that she had never dropped one. After the infant was all bathed and clothed, Myra would cuddle it on her shoulder for a few minutes: caring for babies was work she enjoyed. Many times Myra would be called out in the middle of the night and would remain with the patient into the next day. It would then be Jesse's duty to get the children up, fed, and off to school, et cetera.
Alice Thurstone noted that both Dr. Aiken and Myra Lemmon could often diagnose a health problem just by looking at the person. Alice credits Myra with probably saving her oldest child's life. The baby was born two months premature and would not wake up on its own for the first few weeks. "Myra figured out how to get it awake long enough for feeding thus enabling it to survive until it overcame the problem. Roma Stout whose husband, Emerald, was Myra's nephew credits Myra for the good health of her babies and for saving the lives of many babies over the years. It is sad to consider that Myra was unable to save two of her own babies from dying. Myra was famous father salves, particularly her mixture of pine gum and turpentine; it had to be kneaded for a number of hours. In spite of the labor involved, Myra usually charged nothing for it. Another remedy reported by her daughter, Norene, was Columbia Healing Powder mixed with castor oil. With it, she successfully treated bedsores that her sister, Dora (Stout) had developed. She also used it to heal some severe burns on a young man's leg; he would come to her house each day for treatment. Norene remembers as a little girl having a severe ulcerating sore on her finger. It resisted all efforts to treat it until Myra dreamed that she mixed glycerin-and sulfur and upon applying it to the wound, instant healing occurred. The next morning she followed the recipe learned in the dream, applied it liberally to the wound then made a loose bandage from her standard bandage material: old thoroughly scrubbed bed sheets. Healing was rapid, although considerably slower than occurred in the dream. Myra reportedly had a number of dreams in which solutions to problems were given. A grandson, Jack Lemmon, reports that when, as a child, he got a sore throat, Myra would apply some turpentine to a small cloth then holding it with a finger, swab his throat with it; he remembers it as being effective, albeit unpleasant. The writer's father, J. Harvey Hall, had much more faith in Aunt Myra's medical prowess than he did in any doctor 's. He was a frequent patient of hers following an accident in which he was dragged by a horse that resulted in some of his scalp being scraped away. Lorraine Lemmon, wife of Ferra, reports that as time went on, Myra became as much a psychotherapist as a medical worker. She had strong empathy and the willingness to become engaged in another's problems. Norene remembers her mother as affectionate, comforting and caring. Her dad simply couldn't bring himself to show affection, but he expressed his love in other ways such as building an elaborate doll house for her when she was a child. While being described as "a worrier, who would fuss and stew about everything", Myra could also relax and enjoy herself. Roma Stout remembers the three sisters, Anne, Dora and Myra getting together on Sunday afternoons, "Three short plump pretty little ladies. They would sit in a circle facing each other chattering happily, frequently breaking into laughter." Later, the Lemmon's front lawn would be a Sunday afternoon gathering place, attracting various friends and relatives from around the town. Myra always enjoyed knitting and crocheting when she was not otherwise engaged. She had no musical or singing talents, which she deeply regretted. Her sister, Dora, was a skilled organist who was described as "South Ward organist for many years, her little short legs pumping mightily." Myra saw Dora as having a most precious "gift", while she, Myra, had none. To others, of course, Myra had an even greater gift, that of healing.
Jesse spent a number of years as a cook for various livestock operations and construction projects so Myra did much of the child raising by herself. Jesse had a hot-dog stand that he would set up at outdoor dances et cetera; Myra baked the buns. His call of "A loaf of bread, a pound of meat and all the mustard you can eat; just one thin dime." was known by everyone. Jesse had a legendary wit, and would no doubt be the center of attention whenever he was with a group. He did not take readily to religion and did not become converted until in his old age. Myra held a life-long commitment to the LDS Church although the frequent calls for assistance sometimes kept her from regular church attendance. Jack reports that while he was growing up, his grandmother made sure he understood the importance of the Gospel. In later years, Myra developed heart problems; she also survived a cancer operation. She loved cheese and would keep a round slab of it on a breadboard, cutting little slices off frequently throughout the day; a habit that helped her to gain more weight than was ideal. One morning in 1951, Jessie called for help; it was obvious Myra was not well. Lorraine and others came, but Myra said she just had gas and would be all right. They were all used to accepting Myra's diagnoses, but couldn't shake their concern. As a precaution, Lorraine set up her ironing board in Myra's bedroom and ironed during the day while Myra talked of her life. That night a granddaughter volunteered to stay at the house; she took Myra a drink about midnight. Myra had died by the time they looked in the next morning. Sources and dates of interviews:

Vera Tobler Ballard, Oct 5, 1992
Jack Lemmon, Sept 29, 1992
Lorraine Alexander Lemmon, Oct 9, 1992
Roma Wallace Stout, Jan 14, 1992
Alice Woodbury Thurstone, Sept 26, 1992
Norene Lemmon Yeagley, Feb 8, 1993

No comments:

Where Are You?

Visitor Map
Create your own visitor map!