(assisted by her
daughter, Roberta Bowman)
I was born in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua
Mexico on March 22, 1916. I’m told that the wind was blowing hard that
day. In fact, at one point my father called me “Windy” but I think that
it was because I talked too much. When he called me that I would retort
“Well, I take after my Daddy!”
My Dad was the most honest,
trustworthy, likable man that I ever knew; to him right was right and
wrong was wrong. He was very strict about the Sabbath day and insisted
we keep it holy. He did have one bad habit; he cussed every other word.
My Dad and Orson Hawkins would have contests to see who could pull the
worst faces. Dad could screw up his whole face and mouth and make the
funniest faces so he always won.
I don’t remember my mother. (She died
when Nelle was only 5 years old.) Sister Agnes Hawkins who was her good
friend would tell me about her: her long black hair, her singing
ability. I do remember when she died and was laid out in our living room
in front of a big window.
We lived in Colonia Juarez across the
street from my MacDonald Grandparents. After school we would go over to
their house to get cookies or candy.
After my Mother died Grandma Mac
(Fannie Van Cott MacDonald) came to live with us for nine years. She was
short and quite heavy and wore dresses down to her ankles and always an
apron. She was a really good cook so she did most of the cooking and
Dad got a lady to help with the other housework. Grandma Mac had a way
with words; in fact, Nelle learned many of the surprising sayings she
sometimes comes up with from Grandma. She also taught her to piece
quilts, cook and clean house.
Grandma wanted to keep chickens so my
Dad made her some little houses for the chickens. When the chickens were
gone we used them for play houses. We sure had to clean them out good
because they were really messy. Ella Romney, my best friend and I
would play house out there all day.
Grandma Mac made candy for a living for
years and years. She made fondant in chocolate, pink and white and then
put it together and slice it. She sold it to the stores and everyone
would buy it even though she gave a lot of it away.
Sometimes I would go ask Dad if I could
have a new dress. He would tell me to go down to the Farnsworth-Romney
store and get some material and charge it. Then we would take the
fabric to Sister Jorgenson, a hunch-backed lady who was the town
seamstress. She had a big catalog that had all the pictures of dresses
and we would pick out which dress we wanted and she would make it. She
made all our school dresses, Hannah’s and mine. We never wore pants, we
always wore dresses to school; we each had 3 or 4 so we did well.
Sam Camphouse raised sugar cane. He
would extract the juice, put it in a big vat over a fire and stir it
until it turned into molasses. We children would go out and ask for
cane to eat and he would tell us to take all we wanted. But when our
Dad found out about it he told us not to take any more cane because that
was Brother Camphouse’s means of support. One day Hannah and I came
with our arms full of cane. There came Dad on his big old mule; he
asked, “Where did you get the cane?” “From Brother Camphouse.” “Did you
pay for it?” “No.” We got a whipping that day; the only one I remember
getting from my Dad. It was a good one because it lasted all those
years. My Dad was funny though. Whenever he got after us some time
later we would find a 20 cent piece under our pillow.
Sister Camphouse was my Bluebird
Primary teacher, she was such a good teacher. That’s when there were
Bluebirds, Larks and Seagulls. She taught us how to crochet, and knit.
We went to Church in the old round
school house on the Flat. Parents would go to Church but leave their
children home; the older children would tend the younger. One Sunday I
went up to the Bowmans to help Dorothy tend her little brothers. It was
during this time that little Jessie Cardon found a gun, pointed it at
his brother and killed him. It was devastating for everyone. I later
worked with Sister Cardon in the Mutual and grew to love her.
When I was little we would have a plate
just like the plates we eat on and it would have an orange, a popcorn
ball and some of Grandma’s candy. We didn’t have stockings, just a
plate. I remember once Dad went to Chihuahua and brought us some little
porcelain dolls. It had a little painted face but no real hair, it was
just painted on. I remember the clothes that came with it and the doll
was in a little basket. I thought that it was the prettiest thing I had
ever seen in my life.
One Christmas I snooped and Grandma
found it out and she said, “Nelle, I’m afraid you’re not going to get
much for Christmas since you’ve been snooping around and looking
around.” Oh, I cried and felt so bad and told her I’d never do it again.
And I never did. That was the Christmas I got a big doll that had
orange hair and legs that moved. It was really ugly but I thought it
was the most beautiful doll in the whole world. I would brush her hair
and comb it so much.
We would go over to the Church on
Christmas Eve and sing Christmas carols and then one of the Bishopric
would come in and say, “I think I hear Santa; I think I heard little
feet up on the roof.” We would all clap and get so excited and then
finally “Ho, ho, ho” Santa would come in on the stage and he would have
this big sack on his back that was full of oranges and popcorn balls and
little sacks of candy. He would give us all some; that was the most
The Boy Scouts would get in a big old
trucks and go up to the mountains by Garcia or Chiuchupa and cut down
lots of Christmas trees. They would take them to the Church house and
we would all go by and pick one. To decorate them we would string
popcorn into long white chains. Then Dad would buy oranges and we would
get a long threaded needle and we would thread it through the oranges
and hang them on the tree. Later we would eat the oranges. We would
also put little candles on the tree and light them.
In 1928 after 9
years of being a widower my Dad married Lillian Hatch. I was 12 years
old. She was a wonderful mother to us; we just loved her. She tried
very hard to make a nice home for us. We were so hard up; my Dad always
mourned that he wasn’t able to give her more of the material things
before she died. (They knew what it meant to live in poverty but they
had a happy life.)
One in a while,
while in Elementary school 2 other girls and I would leave school and go
over by the store. Aunt Lillian told me that if I did that once more
she would tell my Dad. And I knew what my Dad would do so I never did
We went to the old school house on the Flat. Hannah and I would go out
early to school and teeter-totter. Once Hannah decided to jump off. I
was on my stomach on the teeter-totter board so when I came down hard it
knocked me out. Hannah thought I was dead. I woke up and she was just
screaming and crying. It really did hurt. We learned our lesson not
to jump off.
We had this big iron swings that would go way up. One day we were
swinging and little Ruth Farnsworth got in the way and the swing hit her
right in the head. She died 3 days later. They took the swings down
after that because they were too dangerous. They also made the
Out by the school was this big pit. We
made little paths all around in it and we would run around it.
Sometimes we’d fall but most of the time we would just run around all
recess. We would run home and eat lunch as fast as we could so we could
come back and play.
Aunt Lucille Taylor was my teacher for
the 1st and 2nd grades. We had a little old room down in the basement
that was so cold. But she was a good teacher.
I had never seen in airplane, only
pictures of them. One day we heard this plane and the whole 8th grade
got up and left and ran down where the plane lit. It was quite
exciting. Sister Pratt kept yelling at us to come back but we wanted to
see that plane more than anything.
My best friend was Ella Romney
(Miller). We lived just across the street from each other; we were
always together. Her older brother worked down in the
Farnsworth/Romney Store and was so cute. He would drive around in his
Dad’s car and we just beg for him to take us with him. And he would say
“If you’ll stay here and not fuss I’ll give you some money.” So he
would give us each a big 20 cent piece, which was a lot of money for us.
We had this little pinto horse; when
LaSelle rode him it seemed like his feet touched the ground. Dad would
let us ride him around. Dad also had a great big horse. We didn’t ride
him, he was too big.
I was real good friends with John Carlton. I ate at their house almost
every Sunday, more than I did at home. His mother was such a good cook,
I would go out there on the Flat and just feast. His older brother Leo
went with Hannah and I went with John.
Uncle Harvey Taylor owned a place up on
the way to Juarez that they called the Riquena. Lynn Taylor who was
dating Ella and John and I would go to get the milk. On our way up we
would stop and buy these yummy round “paletas” (popsicles).
School Years - 1931 to 1935:
Nelle “batched” during 3 1/2 years of
high school. That means she left home and lived in Colonia Juarez in
order to attend the Juarez Stake Academy. She lived on her own with some
other girls, doing their own cooking, laundry, etc. She didn’t get to
go home to Dublan very often because it cost 90 cents and she didn’t
have it that kind of money. Over the years she lived in 3 different
places: in Sister Millie Whetten’s house in 2 rooms, upstairs on one
side of the Bentley’s home (the old Ivins home) and in Grandma Hatch’s
house. She lived with Ella Romney, Flossie Bluth, and for a time with
her sister Hannah Vee and some other girls.
While living in the Whetten home Nelle
was sometimes frustrated because she felt that her A. Maud (Taylor
Bentley) wouldn’t share the produce from her large garden or the fruit
from their fruit trees. So one day the girls decided they would get the
apples another way. The apples were stored in boxes in a little shed
by the house so the girls got the apples out of the boxes one by one
through a hole in the slats of the shed. Nelle’s Aunt Rinda (Taylor
Abegg) in Dublan would send wonderful things up to the girls with her
husband Moroni; cinnamon rolls and sweets. Aunt Lillian, (Nelle’s
stepmother Lillian Hatch Taylor) would also send bread up to the girls;
2 or 3 loaves at a time wrapped in a flour sack. “She saved our lives;
sometimes that’s all we had to eat.” Sister Romney would give them fruit
that she had put up for them to eat with their bread.
While living at the Bentley’s home the
Clarks lived on the other side and they still had outside plumbing and
Nelle remembers “that every time we went to the outside toilet laughing
and talking on the way, Brother Clark would always be in there. He
would say ‘You’ll have to come back in a while’ so we would go back and
do something else and then go back in a while.” The Clarks had a big
hound dog that lived with them. No matter how they put their food away,
even tying it up in something that dog would get into it and eat it.
So one day Nelle had had it! She got a big stick and went into the
Clark’s side of the house to get that dog. “You’re going to get it
now!” But just as she came around the corner there was Brother Clark
coming up the stairs. So she changed her tone quickly, “Okay, doggie,
here, you can have some bread.” Before she left the Academy she truly
wanted something to happen to that dog!
Nelle lived upstairs with the girls and
2 boys lived downstairs on one side. One day Verla came home and when
she turned down her bed some of the boys including her brother had put
egg shells all over her pillow. They were always pulling stunts on us.
One day Verla got so mad at one of the
boys that she threw a bucket of water at one of the boys and it went
right down the stairs into the Bentley’s living room onto the beautiful
rug. Bro. Bentley was going to kick her out but Hannah coaxed him into
letting her stay.
During her years at Juarez Stake
Academy Nelle had some special friends; they were sort of like the 5
Musketeers. The group was Nelle, Ella Romney (Miller), Nellie Spilsbury
(Romney), Elois Cardon and Ivis Farnsworth. They talked and played and
had a lot of fun. “We had more fun than anyone in the school!”
There were some special boys too.
Herman Hatch and Ralph Sloan, whom they called “Molly”, Nelle doesn’t
remember why, would always sneak up and peek on any couple who was
having a date. “Then they would come and tell us all about it and they
never got caught either.” They especially liked to peek on A. Maud and
Miles Romney when they’d come home from play practice.
Nelle and the other girls (when they
lived with Grandma Hatch) had to cross the long swinging bridge that
spanned the river. It was made of wood with just some chicken wire on
the sides. Greer Skousen and Molly Sloan always knew when they were
going across the bridge and they would get on either end of the bridge
and start swinging it as hard as they could. “It would scare us to
death and of course that just made them do it worse. I would say, ‘I’m
going to kill you, Greer Skousen.’ and he would answer ‘No, you’re not;
you know you like it.’ But I was really scared; sometimes I would even
start to cry I was so scared!”
During her sophomore year Nelle had a
big crush on Bob Bowman (brother of her future husband). They dated;
mostly they went to dances because “that’s one thing he could do,
dance!” But he had to play his violin with Sister Viva Bluth on the
piano since that’s all the music they had. She would tell him he was
“married to his violin” because he would only dance with her for the
first dance, one in the middle and one at the end. But Nelle danced
with everyone so it was okay. She says that their relationship was like
“an old sock, on, off”.
Nelle recalls that Mr. Clark was one of
her teachers at the Academy and once gave her a D in Algebra. “It was a
horrible class; that’s why I talked all the time. He thought he was so
witty and he’d tell jokes so we would tickle ourselves and laugh.” So
she went to talk to him and told him that it wasn’t fair that he gave
her a D for deportment and not for her work. “I can’t help it
(talking); it’s in my genes.” But her work really was good so he
changed it to a B. Nelle despised Math but was good in English and
writing so sometimes one of her friends would do Nelle’s Math and Nelle
would do her English.
One day when Nelle was 16 or 17 she got
a letter from Brother Ara Call telling her she had been nominated the
“Queen of the May”. This was a great privilege as it was also a
celebration of the Mexican Cinco de Mayo but Nelle protested she
couldn’t be Queen of the May for the Dublan Ward because she was a
member of the Juarez Ward and besides she didn’t have anything to wear.
But Brother Call insisted so she was. She remembers that her stepmother
Aunt Lillian (she doesn’t remember why they called her “Aunt Lillian”
but they did) said that “Nelle was going to have a dress no matter
what” and she made a dress using a pale green organdy material with
little pink roses. It had little straps and puffy sleeves and was long
and full. It was the most beautiful dress Nelle had ever seen. And
Nelle never knew where A. Lillian got the cloth or how they afforded
it. A. Lillian also made her a big, broad-rimmed hat all lined.
Looking at the picture of herself with her attendants (whom she picked)
she says “I was thin once and that’s proof!” There was a big dance and
a special ceremony to introduce the Queen and her attendants who were
During her senior year at Juarez Stake
Academy Nelle was vice-president of the student body. Ashton Longhurst
was president even though Nelle really wanted Bob Bowman to be
president. But they had a lot of fun activities including a program
nearly every Friday with musical numbers and skits they had written and
dances and parties. Sister Viva Bluth (who was named Viva because she
was born on Mexican Independence Day; Viva Mexico!) helped them with
these programs. She was Nelle’s favorite teacher; she taught them music
and how to dance. Every year they would put on an opera and everyone
who wanted to could be in it. “I never got a speaking part and that’s
what I was the best at but I was good enough to hobble around in the
Another of the highlights of high
school according to Nelle were the rock fights, “I nearly got killed!”
and water fights. They broke out all the time. Also the young people
were always making candy and dances were a very big thing, they had them
every other week or so.
Once when Nelle was living at Grandma
Hatch’s house she and the other girls had hung their laundry out on the
clothes line to dry. Along came Harold Brown and told Nelle “If you had
a red flannel petticoat you would have the Mexican flag.” She told him
to shut up. But it was true because hanging on the line was their
green and white underwear (the colors of the Mexican flag, red, white
and green). Soon after that Nelle started dating Harold. They even
went on a trip with another couple clear up to Chuichupa (another
colony) for 3 days. Nelle isn’t sure exactly what they did but they had
a great time hiking, visiting the Black Canyon, eating good food and
sitting around big bonfires. One thing she remembers is the problem of
going to the bathroom out in the middle of the mountains. She also
can’t believe her father let her go but he did. Nelle graduated from
the Juarez Stake Academy with the class of 1935.
of teaching school:
When I was about 18 Brother Keeler, the
Superintendant of Schools called me in and said he would like me to
teach school only he wanted me to teach in Colonia Juarez. I agreed to
and taught 2nd or 3rd grade. I lived with one of Miles Romney’s wives,
Francis (he had four). It was really fun. One of my students was little
David Jewel. The principal warned me that he was terrible; he kicked
his teachers etc. and that if he got too bad I could get a little
switch and spank his bottom. He had a big black blind dog that he would
bring to school every day. The dog would sit right in front of my
blackboard so I would have to stumble over that dog every time I did
something on the board and some times it would wander all over the room
and distract the kids. I finally told David that the dog had to go. He
had all kinds of excuses “He is such a good friend of mine, he would get
so lonely” but I insisted.
One day David got mad and threw his
books all over the room. I said “David, go pick up your books.” He
said, “I won’t do it and you can’t make me.” And Nelle thought, “Oh boy,
this is it.” I took him into the little room by my schoolroom and
turned him over my knee and spanked him. He let out these loud screams
that the principal heard so he came down. I just told him that David
and I were having a little trouble here but we’ll be all right. David
picked up his books and after that we became really good friends. He
would come by and pick me up and would go to school together. One day
David came in and said “Miss Taylor, you’d better keep your eyes open.”
And I said “Why?” And he said, “Because you can’t see with them shut!”
In some ways he was really cute.
One day school started and I couldn’t
find David. When I asked the other students they said he was down on
the river bottom smoking with Marion Wood. I excused myself and went
down to the river and there they were. I told them they had to go to
school and brought them back. He was smart as a whip. I always have
wondered what happened to him; they moved to the States.
For one summer (not sure of the year)
Nelle worked at Jacob Lake, Arizona a resort in the pines run by the
Harold Bowman family. She was a cook and would make big loaves of bread
and lots of pies. Because they weren’t allowed to eat the pies once
Nelle burned one on purpose so they could eat it. The sink in the
kitchen leaked so when people would ask where Jacob Lake was Nelle would
say that it was here under the sink. “That would make Aunt Nina so
mad!” They had to work hard but always managed to find some fun. At
least twice a group of girls sneaked out and walked down to the bus
stop area, put on some music and danced around for a while. Then they
had to sneak back into their cabins without Aunt Nina catching them.
Nelle and her older sister Hannah left
home in the fall 1937 to go to Salt Lake City, Utah to work. She worked
for a Mr. and Mrs. Sheets for $10 a week, which was a lot of money
then. She did housework and cooking. Her sister Hannah worked in a
home just a few doors down so they did a lot together. Every Thursday
was their day off and they would get all dressed up and go downtown.
All dressed up meant nice dress, gloves, nice shoes and stockings and a
cute coat. They would go to shows (movies) have a nice dinner and stay
out until 10:30 or 11:00pm. They loved that day off. One of the first
things Nelle bought with her own money was a little black coat.
The family had a 3 year old daughter
who liked Nelle more than her mother and wanted Nelle to do everything
for her. She would follow her around and hang on her dress all day.
She cried when Nelle left because she wanted to go with her.
One day her employer’s old father got
fresh and made a pass at Nelle. She left there very quickly saying “I
would rather starve to death than work there”. She left Salt Lake and
moved to Provo in January 1938 finding an apartment after a couple of
days staying with friends. She registered at Brigham Young Academy for
the winter term taking such classes as English, Bacteriology (about
which she said, I can say I’m not crazy about the class as a whole”),
Social Dance (where there were so many boys), Geology, Religious
Education, Typing and Home Administration which included topics such as
“Food Problems in the Home”. She also took Gym where she played
basketball and was quite the player. In one game she tells about Nelle
made 10 points out of 11.
Nelle was a member of a sorority called
“Alta Mitra” where she helped plan and carry out many fun activities and
dances. She was in charge of one activity for the Cinco de Mayo when
she and some other kids from the Colonies danced a medley of Mexican
dances. She was also in charge of the food and it was so popular they
didn’t have enough for everyone. There were many fun activities
including going to the “show” (movies) every Sunday afternoon. Nelle
had many friends who were always dropping by to chat.
For the second semester Nelle had to
get a loan in order to continue her schooling. In order to pay back the
loan she had to work. She worked cleaning house, in the bindery and in
the library off and on. During one stretch of school Nelle’s uncle
Harvey Taylor sent her $4 a week. Later she tried to pay it back but
he wouldn’t let her. Sometimes money was pretty tight. At one point
Nelle couldn’t afford to buy new shoes so when the soles of her shoes
wore out she had to cut pieces of cardboard to put in the bottom. That
was not much fun for walking on icy sidewalks. One day while at school
she got a check from home for ten dollars, “What a lifesaver!”
After 2 years in Utah Nelle returned to
the Colonies. For the summer of 1939 she mostly worked at home and had
fun with friends. In the fall of 1939 she started teaching school at
the Dublan Elementary school and taught for one year. But there was
still much fun to be had with friends. For a while Nelle dated Harold
Brown again and even wore his ring for a while but when he moved to
Benson, Arizona and then Claudius Bowman came around she took it off.
(Actually Claudius dated Nelle’s older sister, Hannah for a while but
she met Alma Jarvis and they married later.) Claudius would take turns
going with 3 girls; Nelle, LaPrele Bluth and Estell Shupe. They would
say among themselves, “Well, it is almost my turn” or “It seems like
it’s my turn”. Then all of a sudden he dropped the other 2 girls and
went with Nelle steadily. She recalls that “he wore a white shirt, pale
blue slacks and white shoes when he came courting. He was so
handsome!” But it was sometimes hard to get him to have a good time; he
always said he had a hard time socializing.
According to Claudius “by this time
(1941) Nelle had become so desperate that she accepted the attentions of
a chicken man and married him before the school could get her”.
(Claudius at the time was managing a poultry business.) During the
summer of 1941 Nelle spent most of her time with Claudius and making and
shopping for items for her trousseau.
For a week in July 1941 Nelle and
Claudius spent a week with some other couples in the mountains camping
out. They visited Pacheco and Cave Valley and even had their pictures
taken peeking out of a huge olla.
Nelle and Claudius were married on
September 18, 1941 in the Arizona Temple. They were accompanied by
Claudius’ parents and sister Dorothy and Nelle’s father Loren Taylor.
Some of the Mexico people living in Arizona threw a party for them and
they received a few gifts including some money. They also had a
reception in Dublan when they got home.
The newlyweds lived for a few weeks
with Mother and Dad Bowman and then purchased a small house across the
street from the Bowman home. Claudius was very handy and did a lot of
fixing up, painting, putting in a bathroom and a kitchen sink. They
bought a little refrigerator from Uncle Moroni Abegg and got a coal-oil
stove, and brought some mattresses in from El Paso which made up a bed
in the living room area. All of the children were born there in that
bed and later they remodeled the house and added a window over the
kitchen sink and a living room on the side. (The house was remodeled
extensively in 1961.)
Nelle had difficulty having children;
she had more than 2 or 3 miscarriages. Doctor Hatch had a doctor friend
who came to hunt and also examine Nelle and gave her some pills and told
her he would be up next year for the christening. Sure enough Nelle
had her first baby, a son on October 22, 1945 who they named Claudius
The chicken business being what it was,
Nelle resumed teaching school in the Dublan School leaving her year old
baby with the hired girl. Later she conducted a kindergarten in her
home so she could be there. Later after her fifth and last child was
five years old in 1958 she started teaching again and taught for more
than 20 years.
The other children to come to the
family were: Jennie Loriene born on December 22, 1947, Flora Eileen born
July 18, 1950, Roberta born September 4, 1951 and Conrad LeRoy born
October 16, 1953.
Church service has taken much of
Nelle’s time and talents and has profited from many hours of insomnia
usually from 3:00 to 5:00 am when she came up with a lot of her ideas.
Every job she had in the Church got the full measure of her intense
energy and creativity. Some of the jobs she had included President of
the YWMIA, Stake Gleaner supervisor, Sunday School teacher, Primary
Teacher, Junior Sunday School coordinator, Counselor in Ward Primary and
Stake Primary and Stake Primary President for 8 years. In April 1958
Nelle made arrangements for the whole Primary board to travel to Utah
to attend the meetings and workshops that were held at General
Conference time. They earned the money to go by doing fundraisers, one
of which was catering a banquet for the basketball champions. The board
members traveled in cars and stayed in the Hotel Utah. At the
President’s dinner Nelle received for the Juarez Stake a gold cup
awarded for their work in the Children’s Friend campaign; she also
received a beautiful lavender orchid. It was a very memorable experience.
From Nelle’s journal, August 29, 1958:
“This is the day I came into the money from Aunt Lucy Van Cott. She
didn’t leave a will so her money was divided among all her relatives.
Laselle, Hannah and I got $107.75 (dollars). I guess we’ll use it to go
to Elwood’s wedding in California.”
One of Nelle’s favorite things to do
was eat out. For every special occasion the family would go eat at a
restaurant in town. Our favorite was Constantinos or
the Ranchito or the Restaurante Casas
Grandes. Claudius always said that he could get a better meal at home
but Nelle insisted anyway. (That is one thing that all her children
inherited from her. They all love to eat out.)
Another favorite thing was to go to
“the States”, usually El Paso, Texas. There were at least 2 family
trips a year, one to shop for school clothes and supplies and go to the
dentist and one to shop for Christmas. We usually stayed at the Hotel
McCoy in downtown El Paso and ate at the cafeteria around the corner and
other restaurants in the vicinity. We visited with relatives also
mostly Nelle’s sister Flora and her family. On one such visit Nelle
became very sick, showing signs of appendicitis. Claudius administered
to her, anointing her with consecrated oil. She soon felt better and
spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and going to a movie. (Later
she had another attack of appendicitis and had to have an operation on
that and a hernia repaired.)
About 1960 Claudius inherited some land
out on the Flat from his mother so he decided to go into the orchard
business. Nelle records, “It was a real thrill for us when we started to
get the land ready for our orchard out on the flat. We have planted
peach, pear and apple trees.” Around this same time Nelle realized her
dream of having her home remodeled completely. They took off the
screen porch, added four bedrooms and two bathrooms. They enlarged the
kitchen adding a pantry and laundry room, installed a furnace for
central heating and made a basement room under the kitchen. The work
was done by Claudius’ brother, Donn, who did a beautiful job. During
part of the remodel the family lived with Grandma Bowman with some of
the children sleeping at Donn and Maurine Bowman’s house.
Nelle continued to teach school in the
Dublan Elementary. In 1962 a new school building was constructed and it
was nice to have a beautiful, modern school. For the next few years
Nelle was busy with school, children and Church work including a stint
as Mrs. Bishop when Claudius was called to be Bishop of the Dublan 2nd
Ward (Spanish speaking).
As her children grew up, left home to
go to school, married and began having their own children Nelle traveled
a lot out to the States (mostly Arizona, Utah and California) to visit.
She especially enjoyed going to help out when a new baby came. Most of
the trips were long drives in the car but on occasion she flew in
airplanes (and was terrified the whole time!).
In March 1978 Claudius and Nelle were
called to go on a mission to the Mexico Villahermosa Mission as welfare
missionaries. They were to enter the Language Training Mission on May
11. The next few weeks were spent getting their affairs in order
(renting out the farm and house etc.), packing up their things and
getting ready to go. On April 11 Nelle was so surprised when she went
to Relief Society work meeting and found that they were paying tribute
to her! They presented her with a R.S. pin and thank you note and then
they all sang a song to her written by Glenna Call and Winnie Jones.
This is the song sung to the tune of “The More We Get Together”:
We love our Sister Nelle, Sister Nelle,
We love our Sister Nelle, let us tell
She makes us all feel that we are very
We love our Sister Nelle and that’s one
She shows appreciation, appreciation,
she shows appreciation, And does it so
Nelle is so very clever, full of wisdom
We appreciate her humor and enjoy every
Nelle’s a friend to little children,
little children, little children.
Nelle’s a friend to little children,
their teacher as well.
She’s my friend and your friend, we all
love her dearly,
And so we’re all more friendly when
Nelle is around.
She’s a very good example, example,
She’s a very good example, We’ll follow
To be better mothers, she tried hard to
The more we learn from Nelle, happier
families we’ll be.
We’ll share our Sister Nelle, Sister
Nelle, Sister Nelle.
We’ll share our Sister Nelle, with our
sisters down South.
Her years of experience, She’ll take to
With all her talents, others too, she
Nelle recorded that
she was so embarrassed but at the same time thrilled.
The missionary farewell sacrament
meeting was held on April 23 and Nelle, Claudius and the Bowman family
did the program. Their daughter Nina and son Claudius and his family
were able to come to Dublan to take part, singing and giving talks and
playing the piano. Music was also furnished by the Dublan Ward Choir
and the Bowman brothers. Later that day Claudius gave Nelle a
patriarchal blessing (for some reason she didn’t get one earlier in her
life), which was very special for her. They were set apart as
missionaries on April 26, 1978 by Juarez Stake President Waldo P. Call
and promised many great and wonderful blessings, including the blessing
of good health and that they would be protected as if surrounded by a
band of steel around them. From April 30 to May 10 Nelle and Claudius
traveled to visit their children and grandchildren. They visited
Claudius and family in El Paso, Texas, the Jensens in Dodge City, Kansas
and the Esmeyers in Salt Lake City, Utah. During the trip to Utah
President Call’s blessing was fulfilled as they traveled through
Wyoming. The weather turned very bad with snow and icy roads. On a
curve in a mountain pass the car hit a black ice and slipped sideways.
Claudius thought maybe they were going to roll over but something
whirled the car completely around and it went off the bank backwards.
If this had happened just a few feet earlier they would have gone down a
steep embankment. They didn’t even get out of the car but drove back
onto the highway and continued their journey. During their stay in Salt
Lake they visited relatives, purchased enough clothing to last 2 years,
installed air conditioning in their Rambler car and went to see the
movie “Star Wars’ (#1) with their Esmeyer grandchildren.
Being at the Language Training Mission
was a wonderful, spiritual experience. But the second day there, Nelle
forgot one very important rule; “You must always stay with your
companion”. She did feel like having breakfast so she told Claudius to
go without her. He was back before too long and reminded her that they
were to stay together at all times. Neither had breakfast that day but
Nelle said “we certainly made up for it at lunch time!”
The first Sunday they were there after
Sunday School Nelle was stopped by their district leader and asked if
she would speak in Sacrament meeting later. She was dumbfounded but
remembered, “We do what we’re asked to do”. She hurried back to their
room wondering what she could speak about. She opened her notebook where
she had been recording everything and there was a whole talk she had
written for their farewell Sacrament meeting that she had decided not
to use; so she had her talk.
While at the LTM Nelle and Claudius met
Florence and John Fossum who were also going to the Villa Hermosa
Mission. They became good friends and met again in the mission field
when they were in Merida. They especially enjoyed going out to lunch
together when they had a chance. (They continued their friendship even
when they left the mission and kept in touch for many years.)
After one week Nelle and Claudius were
tested for their fluency in Spanish; Claudius was given a 5 (out of a
possible 5) and Nelle was as good as most missionaries get in 2 months
so they discontinued their Spanish classes and concentrated on learning
welfare principles which included teaching others about gardens, soil
etc. They left the LTM on May 25 after only 2 weeks and traveled to
their mission field stopping in El Paso for last-time visiting with
family (Flora gave them a big family dinner), to buy a hearing aid for
Claudius and for last-minute shopping. They traveled to Dublan to tie
up some loose ends in their affairs and to do car repairs and give some
patriarchal blessings and packing up all their stuff. They finally left
for Villa Hermosa on June 6 with the trunk and back seat of the car
packed full and had many adventures such as getting lost in the slums
of Mexico City, getting pulled over by the cops twice, once for smoking
exhaust and excessive baggage for which Claudius had to pay $1,500
pesos, the highest “mordida” (bribe) he had ever paid and once for
almost running a red light. They also had the usual car trouble in
Veracruz. A worn-out bearing tore a hole in the radiator and they had to
stay all night in the car in a rainstorm waiting for parts. But they
made it finally to the beautiful little town of Villa Hermosa on Friday,
June 9 where they met the mission president. Again their first Sunday
there they were asked to speak in Sacrament meeting with a short time
to prepare and Nelle again was horrified and scared but prepared a
short message and bore her testimony. They were assigned to labor in
Tuxtla Gutierrez, a town in the mountains which had no drinkable water
so they had to buy purified water to use. They were assigned to help
teach leadership skills and to find inactive members, “the lost sheep”.
They worked very hard with the auxiliary presidencies helping them with
leadership meetings and training etc. and going over lists of members
and trying to find them to bring them back into activity.
To Nelle’s delight one of her former
students at Dublan Elementary, one of her favorites, Bowen Call was an
elder working nearby. She fixed them a nice meal often when they were
there and when Elder Call got sick Nelle took him into their apartment
to care for him until he got better (April 1979). In fact, Nelle would
often fix a home cooked meal for any of the missionaries around which
they loved. Other missionaries in their mission from the Colonies were
Paul Hatch and Dana Call and Wesley Wagner.
One of many highlights was meeting
Elder Howard W. Hunter at a conference in Tapachula and having him
recognize Claudius as someone he knew. Claudius reminded Elder Hunter
that he had set him apart as a Patriarch and had visited him in his
office earlier. He remembered Claudius’ parents very well and chatted
with Nelle and Claudius for a few minutes. There were other Brethren
who visited and spoke and taught.
Another highlight was that Nelle and
Claudius were able to attend the very first baptism performed in the
Mayan language for a Mayan brother converted by Elder Call and his
companion held in Motul. (June 17, 1979)
Another enjoyable activity was visit
various ruins in the areas where they served and traveled such as the
pyramids at Izapa, the great Mayan temples in Tullum which includes the
“Temple of the White God”, the ruins at Coba and Kohunlich and
ChichenItza where Nelle climbed the stairs to the top of one of the
pyramids and the beautiful Loltun caverns.
Nelle and Claudius labored also in
Merida, working with 5 branches, one in Valladolid, 2 in Tizimin and one
each in the beautiful tourist areas of Cancun and the island of
Cozumel. They actually lived in Cancun and visited the other branches;
to go to Cozumel they had to go by boat, a real “ocean voyage”; they
even saw dolphins leaping out of the beautiful blue water and following
Later Nelle and Claudius were asked to
work in the office on weekdays. Nelle was asked to be the records
secretary even though she had never done anything like that before. She
was probably the first and only female records secretary to serve in
any mission. She was overwhelmed and nervous about the assignment but
Elder Peterson who was the previous secretary told her “Don’t get
discouraged. Spend a lot of time on your knees; you’ll catch on.”
Nelle had many wonderful experiences
such as drinking milk out of a coconut and teaching the sisters had to
make banana bread. The first batch one of the sisters made was
terrible! Nelle found out later that she had used 2 cups of vegetable
oil instead of one and had used the big cooking bananas. Nelle also made
cookies and cinnamon rolls to share usually with the missionaries. She
learned many things too: that she didn’t like Horchata (a rice drink)
or cilantro (a spice they put in everything), to take dramamine before
a trip in the boat if the water was rough, to take cold showers or spit
baths, to like some kinds of fish like shrimp and breaded barracuda,
how to ride on a local bus with standing room only and to be prepared
with some kind of talk because she was called on many times with no
time to prepare. She learned that if the chorister was teaching the
practice hymn wrong if she and Claudius and the elders sang really loud
they would start to get it right. She also learned that you can survive
not being home with your daughters to welcome a new baby; two
grandchildren were born during the mission: Joseph Jensen and Erin
There were other challenges to learn
from; Nelle records “In Cancun we had cars, buses, motos and drunken
neighbors to keep us awake. Here (in Merida) we have cats, dogs,
turkeys, trains and of course, mosquitoes”. There was also the heat and
humidity to contend with and the worry about children who didn’t write
letters often enough.
But there were wonderful experiences
too and fulfillment of blessings promised. Many times Nelle and
Claudius were protected while traveling in their car, once being hit by
a drunk driver and there was no damage to them or the car. One time they
hit a motorcycle but the damage to it and the driver was minimal. Two
months before being released from their mission Nelle started having a
toothache. Having no confidence in the dentists there Claudius gave
her a blessing asking the Lord to bless her to take away the pain until
they went home and she could get care. She didn’t have any more
toothaches until after they moved to Salt Lake City and had a good
dentist. Both Claudius and Nelle had sickness come to them and through
Priesthood blessings they were healed almost immediately and were able
to continue with their work.
From Nelle’s journal: October 17, 1979
- “Guess what! I fell down! I had on these miserable wood soles and
heels shoes and as I opened the front door kerplunk! I fell on my nose
and I mean literally on my nose. My knees had to go someplace so they
fell as hard as they could on the hard cement . . . I look like Rudolph,
the red-nosed reindeer and I feel like I just turned 100 years old.
Those shoes have been disposed of ‘never to be worn again.’ And I feel
like my nose is longer than my arms. Moral: never wear wooden heels
and toes shoes on hard cement. You’ll get plastered every time.”
Nelle and Claudius were released from
their mission in November 1979 by President Martinez because they were
stopping on the trip home in Mexico City to see their son Claudius and
his family. They had a last opportunity to both speak in Sacrament
meeting, were given a special luncheon by the mission president and his
family with a big cake with 18 candles representing the 18 months of
their mission. After the luncheon there was a special meeting where
many people expressed their love and thanks and said many nice things
(Nelle says, “much exaggerated, of course”).
On Nov. 14 they started their journey
home and as usual had car trouble, this time it was the “mystery of the
heating-up radiator”. Even after they had the radiator replaced in
Villahermosa it again heated up and had to be fixed. They finally made
it to Mexico City on November 17 where they enjoyed staying with
Claudius, Marina and their children, celebrating Thanksgiving Day and
attending the ground breaking ceremony of the Mexico City Temple where
there were over 10,000 saints in attendance. Elder Boyd K. Packer
presided; when he lifted the second shovel full of dirt his shovel
broke. Luckily they had an extra to quickly hand him so he could
While in Mexico City Nelle and Claudius
did some sightseeing and were able to attend a symphony performance at
the Palacio de Bellas Artes featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman.
Later in 1983 they were able to go back
to Mexico City for the Temple dedication. They were able to attend the
first session with all Claudius’ brothers and sisters seated in the
ordinance room next to the Celestial room. It was a very special
Since they were still having problems
with their car Claudius decided to sell it there, send their stuff home
in one of the Wagner’s big trucks and fly home. They were notified of
the death of Carlos Taylor (son of Nelle’s brother LaSelle) so they flew
to Ciudad Juarez so they could attend his funeral in El Paso. They
arrived home in Colonia Dublan on December 1st where they stayed in
Grandma Bowman’s little house since there home was still rented out.
They stayed there for two weeks and then traveled to Salt Lake City,
Utah to stay with their daughter Roberta and family and help handle some
family problems that their son Conrad was having at the time. Since 3
of their children and some grandchildren lived in Utah they decided to
buy a home there. After enjoying Christmas with their children they
decided to rent the Clark’s home on Winward Drive in the Cottonwood
area of Salt Lake City. Nelle was asked to teach in the Relief Society
just a few months after they moved in. She did a good job always using
humor and stories to spice up her lessons. They also had their
grandson Christopher live with them for a few months so that his
parents could solve their problems. Their other grandson Michael was
living at the Primary Children’s Medical Center and in foster care. In
April 1980 these two grandchildren who had been abandoned by their
mother were taken away and eventually adopted by a LDS family and were
not seen by the family again.
The next few years were spent working
in the Church (Nelle was a Relief Society teacher), enjoying children
and grandchildren and going to all their programs, recitals, games etc.
and helping out by babysitting and welcoming new grandchildren, there
were quite a few.
Nelle was quite a poet. She enjoyed
writing poems especially for her grandchildren for their birthdays and
special events. These are just a few of the poems she wrote:
May 26, 1979, poem written to
granddaughter Jeniann Jensen for her 2nd birthday:
You are a child of royal birth,
Two years ago you came to earth,
In keeping with His holy plan
To grow and progress all you can.
A special spirit in these last days
To walk uprightly in His ways.
You were blesssed with parents true
To guide you in the things you do.
Some day you’ll go back again
To serve and love and reign
With Heavenly Father up above,
To share forever in His love.
Poem written on June 18, 1979 to
grandson Claudius Marcel on his 9th birthday:
Just a Year Ago, Marcel
A beautiful thought came to me of late
That just a year ago you turned eight.
I thought of all the preparations you’d
And all the wonderful plans you’d laid;
To be baptized as Jesus was,
And begin anew to obey His laws.
You read the Book of Mormon through
And studied the mission lessons too.
Other things, I’m sure were done
To inspire, direct and help you, son.
Soon the day for baptism had come
And you reviewed the things you’d done.
Your worthiness was soon made clear,
And with friends and loved ones near
You were baptized as Jesus was,
And took upon yourself His laws
To live more righteously each day
And all His words try to obey.
Then hands were placed upon your head
And an inspiring, humble prayer was
Then you received the Holy Ghost,
A blessing you will need the most
Because it will prompt you what to do
And guide and help you your whole life
Poem written August 11, 1979 for
grandson Bryan Esmeyer on his 6th birthday:
Bryan, Our Husky Boy of Six
Here’s hoping that your birthday is a
happy day for you
And finds you doing all the things you
like the best to do.
Jumping on the trampoline, or riding on
Seeing a weekly moving, maybe an
You can bring joy to others in so many
That your six-year old birthday could
last for days and days.
Do you help with little sisters? Can
you take the garbage out?
Have you tried picking cherries? You
would like that, there’s no doubt.
Bryan, have a very special birthday,
Add six candles, blow them out.
Share your cake and share your presents
That’s what birthdays are all about.
Poem written Dec. 6, 1980 to grandson
Joseph Jensen when he turned two:
Joey, El Travieso
We know a busy, little boy
Who has just turned two.
God chose this angel from above
And sent him to me and you.
He gathered sunbeams for his smile
From out the sky above,
To brighten up our shadows
To share with us his love.
Some folks may call him “mischief”
“Travieso” fits him too
But it doesn’t really matter
‘Cause we love him through and through.
So Joey just remember
You always make us glad
You always have a funny face
To cheer us when we’re sad.
The spring of 1981 Nelle and Claudius
did some traveling; they went to visit Claudius’ brother Bob and his
wife Rickie in Dixon Illinois. They all visited The Church historical
sites in Carthage and Nauvoo and traveled to Washington DC where they
went to concerts, museums, the Botanical gardens and the Library of
Congress. It was one of the happiest experiences of their lives.
Claudius and Nelle had wanted to buy a
home in Utah so they decided to sell their home in Mexico to Ron Taylor
in order to finance a home in Salt Lake. They found a nice little house
on Olive Drive just a block from Claudius’ sister Dorothy. They bought
the house on February 16, 1982 and moved in a few days later. They
attended the Winder 6th Ward where they made special friends and had
Nelle and Claudius took many trips to
the Colonies, to Arizona to visit their daughter Nina and to attend
Lunt/Taylor family reunions. Another great trip was in April, May 1982
when they went to the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, the first
they had ever seen. They also visited New Orleans, took a paddle-boat
trip on the Mississippi River, visited Florida, Key West, and spent a
day at Disney World. They traveled with a group of senior citizens
including their dear friends Elbert and Ella Miller so there was never a
In August 1983 Nelle had quite an
ordeal; she had to have a hysterectomy and hernia repair operation. She
came through well but stayed in the hospital for 7 days. The first
night home she developed a high fever and was in a lot of pain so the
doctor suggested she go back to the hospital. She had a infection and
had to stay in the hospital another 7 days. During this time she had
many visitors, calls, and cards but was glad to get home. A few days
later she developed a rash that was very itchy. She said she “felt
like I had the 7 year itch but was 10 years behind in scratching!” As
soon as she quit taking a certain medication the rash went away.
Then in Sept. 1984 Nelle had total knee
replacement surgery on her right knee. She had been suffering for a
long time with pain in that knee. She came through the surgery very
well and was up and around, on crutches in no time. Later in May 1990
she had to have the same knee replaced again.
In May 1985
Claudius and Nelle traveled to the Colonies to attend the Academia
Juarez High school graduation. The special thing about this graduation
was that many of the students graduating had been Nelle’s students in
kindergarten about 18 years ago. Four of the graduates told Nelle that
she had been their favorite teacher. Nelle also enjoyed celebrating her
class of 1935 high school reunion. They had a party and dinner at the
home of Nelle’s best friend in high school, Nellie Spilsbury Romney.
Fifteen of the 33 graduates were there. During the giving of awards
Nelle got an award (a set of ear plugs) for making people laugh.
Another outstanding experience was the
Centennial celebration of the Mormon Colonies in Mexico in August 1985.
There was a week of activities including a pageant, barbecue, parade
(the Bowman family built a float), a talent program, dance and a
chuck-wagon breakfast. It was a wonderful experience with many people
coming “home” to celebrate together.
About this time Claudius began having
problems. First he lost his singing voice, then he began having problems
eating and swallowing. They went to many doctors and had many tests
but it wasn’t until the middle of 1987 when Claudius was beginning to
be weak and tired and his voice was affected that the doctor diagnosed
Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This changed
their lives considerably over the next year and a half as Claudius
became weaker and weaker with his muscles losing their function. Nelle
spent most of her time caring for him. She writes: “It was a blessing
for me to take care of him. He was no trouble at all; never
complained. He said to me many times, ‘I don’t want to be a burden to
you’. And I would reply with, ‘You are not a burden to me; you are too
skinny! (114 lbs).’ Claudius passed away on January 10, 1989 in his
sleep. He had insisted that he wouldn’t have a permanent feeding tube
put in which was scheduled for that day. Now Nelle had to adjust to
being alone; she very much missed taking care of her sweet husband.
(Actually, Conrad lived in the basement but he was gone so much working
that it was like being alone most of the time.) She writes: “My
sweetheart has been gone three months; it seems like three years. I
get so lonesome sometimes I can hardly stand it. The good memories we
had together and the fact that he is not suffering any more keep me
In August 1992 Nelle’s son, Claudius,
moved in with her, living in her basement. This was a very big help to
her to have someone who could do some of the work around the house and
to have someone to talk to. He lived there for almost 10 years taking
care of Nelle especially during the years her health began to
deteriorate. She continued to have back pain, knee problems and early
stages of dementia. But for the most part she was a joy to be with, she
never lost her sense of humor or her enjoyment of eating out and
visiting with people.
In August 2001 because of health
problems Nelle moved in with her daughter Roberta’s large family in West
Valley City, Utah. They remodeled their home to fix a room and bathroom
for her. There she enjoyed the numerous family activities and getting
to know some of her grandchildren and hardly ever complained about the
noise or the food. They enjoyed listening to her stories and
experiences and many times Grandma would have the little kids laughing
hysterically as they sat around the dinner table listening to her jokes
and funny stories. They also learned that Grandma was always ready to
go out to lunch or dinner at the slightest suggestion.