My grandmother, Talitha Cuma Cheney Eggleston died at a young age. At least from my present perspective it seems a very young age. I never had the privilege of knowing her. When I was compiling histories for the Cheney Wilson Family History Book, I realized that she was the only member of that family no one had written about. So I set out, as one who had not known her personally, to write a history of her life. This is taken largely from that account, with some additional photographs.
Early Life in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Talitha Cuma Cheney was born May 3, 1893 in South Park, Wyoming. She grew up as on only daughter, with several brothers, all but one older than her. Her parents, Selar Cheney and Mary Alice Wilson, had another daughter Mary Ellen, but she had died as a child in Wilsonville, long before Cuma was born.
Talitha Cuma was named after her grandmother, Talitha Cumi Garlick Avery Cheney, though she went by the name “Cuma”. In some places it was written Cumi or Cumy, though her daughter Alice said she preferred Cuma to Cumy.
At the time Cuma was born, the South Park community consisted mostly of her extended family, so her childhood would have been spent with her brothers and several cousins.
Education was very important to this family. The first school was organized in Jackson Hole in 1896. Cuma was too young to attend when the school first started, but was privileged to have this available from the time she was ready to start school. A 1899 souvenir card of School District No. 37 in Jackson lists 16 pupils with Cumy Cheney listed last, as she was probably the youngest.
Marriage to Joseph S. Eggleston
Cuma met Joseph Smith Eggleston, the son of Orson H. Eggleston and Annie Christine Johnson, who had been raised in Star Valley, Wyoming. Joe and his uncle Jacob Johnson homesteaded on a place called “Mormon Row” in Jackson Hole. This area is now within the boundaries of Teton National Park. The first land grant there was made in 1896. According to the Homestead Act, they were able to purchase 160 acres of land with the requirement that they build a dwelling, improve the land, and remain there for 5 years. After that time, a title to the land could be obtained.
By 1910, Joe and Jake had built a cabin and an irrigation ditch, known as the Johnson/Eggleston Ditch. They later built a 100 foot well for drinking water and Joe built a two story home. Joseph Eggleston received a title to this land January 5, 1916.
Cuma was married to Joseph S. Eggleston, January 15, 1914 in the Salt Lake Temple. That would have been quite a journey to the Temple at that time, in a sleigh pulled by horses.
Life on Mormon Row
After their marriage, Cuma moved in with Joseph at Mormon Row. Joseph became Postmaster and for a time the Post Office was in their home. When the application was made for a Post Office, the name of Grovont was given to this community. The store was across the street from their home.
A branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized and the Church was also right across the street from their home. Cuma was called to be Relief Society President. Though the flock was small at that time, they were also quite isolated, so Cuma would have had a great deal of responsibility to care for the needs of these families through sicknesses and deaths as well as organizing activities. Cuma also played the piano and lead music at times. Joseph was the President of the Sunday School there.
Four children were born to Cuma and Joe at Mormon Row: Alice Christine was born November 20, 1914; Joseph Wesley was born April 26, 1916; Lola was born December 15, 1917 and Selar Orland was born May 5, 1919. Alice remembers being in the Post Office (one room in their home) while her mother took care of the mail, and being outside with her while she hung out the clothes to dry.
Though Mormon Row is a beautiful place, life was not easy there. Irrigation was necessary for any farming and the growing season was very short. Winters were very severe. Alice remembers the snow reaching their second story windows. She recalls her father shoveling a trench out to the barn and one time when he hitched the team and they sank in the snow. They were almost buried and he had to dig them out. There was an Elk reservation just north of Jackson. Joseph worked feeding the Elk there. The elk did not stay confined to the reservation however, and during the winters they would often feed on the hay these settlers had grown for their livestock.
After Joseph’s father died in February 1917, he brought his younger brother Theron to Mormon Row to live with them. Theron was about eleven years old and stayed with them for a few years, before going back to Afton to live with his sister.
Move to Eden, Utah
Joseph and Cuma decided to move to Eden, Utah where he had been born. They moved in 1919, traveling on a train, and bought a farm on Middle Fork. Joe bought a herd of cows and feed, but the next year the bottom fell out of the market and the value of cattle dropped. It took a long time for them to get out of debt. They had 20-30 milk cows as well as chickens, pigs and rabbits.
They lived in a small one story house with outside plumbing. Joe eventually dug a basement, dug a septic tank and a well, and installed indoor plumbing. Transportation then was mostly by horse and wagon or sleigh. Joe later bought a car, which they rarely used, and a truck for use on the farm.
While living here Cuma had four more children: Laura was born November 20, 1920; Melvin was born April 7, 1922; Dale was born May 19, 1925; and DeLoss was born July 10, 1926. All of her children were born at home, except DeLoss, who was born at the Dee Hospital in Ogden.
Cuma continued to serve in the Church while living in Eden. She taught Primary. Alice said of her mother:
“Mother was always active in the church. She had a strong testimony and love for the gospel. I think she was as near to a lady as any woman could be. Her language was correct and she used no profanity. She was a good example for her children. She did not send us off to church, she took us and made sure we behaved.”
Eden Ward records show that July 24, 1925, the Relief Society work day was spent sewing clothes for Sister Cuma Eggleston’s children, as sister Eggleston was ill at the time and the children needed the clothing to start school. (History of Eden Ward p. 239) Dale would have been just two months old at this time.
Cuma had some difficulties in bearing children, resulting in scar tissue. She did go to the hospital to have some surgery after Dale was born and could have still been recovering at this time. She was advised not to have any more children, but 13 months later DeLoss, her last child, was born. There was a need for further surgery later, but because money was scarce, she put off having this surgery.
Grandma did live long enough to become a Grandmother, but Alice lived in California with her children. Other grandchildren who lived closer in Utah were born not long before she died. She did not have much time or opportunity to enjoy her grandchildren.
Her Final Days
Alice recalls that her mother went without many things for her children. Cuma finally went to the hospital for surgery in the fall of 1940. There were complications, including pneumonia in both lungs. She died November 4, 1940 at the age of 49. The day Cuma died was election day and Alice recalled her being concerned about voting. Lola recalled that on Sunday her mother was sitting up in the bed crocheting and on Tuesday they got word that she had died.
Talitha Cuma Cheney Eggleston was buried in the Eden Valley View Cemetery.