Ethel Shields Boyle was born on 23 September 1892 in a two-room log house in Lake View, Tooele, Utah to James Gillespie Shields and Sarah Matilda Adamson. She was the oldest of eight children.
When Ethel grew old enough, she attended school in Lake View. She didn’t like school much, so she would always come up with excuses to stay home. Often, it was a tooth ache, from her bad teeth, that provided the solution.
James Shields had a farm but also hauled ore to the smelter. When Ethel was 12-14 years old, she and her brother would hand plow the fields while James was hauling ore. They would start early in the morning, take a lunch with them, and work until it was nearly dark.
Ethel loved to dance. When she was 14-16, her mother’s brothers—Dave, Isaac and Frank Adamson—taught her how to dance. They would take her to the local dances in Tooele.
James and Sarah Shields moved from their two-room log home into a bigger, two story log home with a dirt roof when Ethel was a young teenager. Some of her life-long friends lived next door. Ethel, her friend Zella Spray and Zella’s sisters were always together. Few people in town had a parlor in the house, but Zella’s family did. The parlor stayed locked unless company came to visit. When Zella’s parents were gone, they would sneak into the parlor, play the piano and have a great time. Someone would be on watch, and when the parents were seen coming, they would lock up the parlor. Their parents never knew.
The Shields home was comparatively small, only two rooms. When they were not working the children would tear carpet rags and the family would have them woven into a rug. Straw from the wheat fields was stuffed under the carpet; the carpet was stretched and then tacked down. In the fall the carpet was taken up and cleaned and new straw was stuffed under it. Ethel remembers, “Oh, what a lovely warm carpet we’d have.”
When Ethel was 18, she would go to town with some friends and cousins and go into the local millinery shop to try on hats. One day while they were in the store, a handsome young man came in to see the milliner (his aunt). His name was James Boyle. The girls were impressed and began arguing over him. But Ethel said, “Oh no, he is for me.” Apparently, he felt the same, and the two began courting. James would rent a horse and buggy from the livery stable, and they would ride together. He rented the buggy often; the man at the stable would reserve this particular horse and buggy for them. The horse was named Flax. “Old Flax was our loyal motor through our courting days,” Ethel said.
After a year of courting, James proposed and the two were married on 19 April 1911 in the Salt Lake Temple. They had their wedding breakfast at the Chesapeake Café on 3rd South between West Temple and Main Street.
James and Ethel had six children: Elda LaVon (1912), James Keith (1913), Ethel Maxine (1916), Romulus Dean (1918), Eldon Wayne (1921), and Clair Dee (1932).
The couple lived in Tooele for the first two years of their marriage while James worked at the smelter. Then James and his father-in-law decided to begin farming. The two families found adjacent fields (40 acres each) in Sugarville, northwest of Delta, Utah. When James and Ethel first moved to Sugarville they lived in a boarded up tent. Her father built a granary which they used for a bedroom until they were able to build a two-room house. Later they added a lean-to onto the house for a kitchen.
Life on the farm was hard. The entire family would work to get the crops harvested. Ethel and Sarah would work alongside the men planting, weeding and thinning beets. The little kids would play on a blanket underneath the tree. When they would get home, they would make dinner, wash clothes, clean the house, etc. The men would feed the animals and do other chores.
James and Ethel had their share of trials over the next years. They had little money, worked hard day after day, and suffered from plagues and illness. The entire family became sick from a flu epidemic that broke out in the area. When Dean was a baby, Ethel took the plague from deer fly sting. When she recovered, Dean caught typhoid fever and nearly died. Finally their daughter Maxine suffered from rheumatic fever and passed away on 30 November 1928.
In the late 1920’s James and Ethel Boyle put their money into the bank. The next day the banks failed and they lost everything they had. The Depression began and the next few years were difficult for them. Jobs were not scarce, but money was. They had a herd of milking cows at the time and they moved to Lynndyl, Utah.
In 1934 James and Ethel moved from Lynndyl to Park City, Utah. The football coach in Lynndyl took a job in Park City and wanted Dean and Wayne to play for him. He offered to find a job for James in the coal mines if he would move his family. They lived there for ten years and were active in the church. They both served as drama directors in the MIA.
James became ill from the mines and quit his job. They moved to Bakersfield, California for a year while James worked in the boiler room for the railroad. Their son Keith lived there and lined up the job. James just didn’t have the health, so they moved back to Salt Lake City.
In Utah, Ethel worked for the Purity Biscuit Company and a local bakery with James, and then for a pickle factory. James worked for the City Water Department and retired in 1960. He passed away on 31 October 1867. After his death, Ethel moved into an apartment in Park City just across from Clair and Judy Boyle. She also lived next to a life-long friend, Mrs. Hurley.
Ethel enjoyed living so close to her son and grandchildren. Her grandson Gary would spend nights with her so she wasn’t alone, and then she would spend much of the day playing with her grandchildren. They would walk up and down Main Street, stop in at Po Jenks for lunch, and take naps on the roof in the summer.
Judy Boyle, daughter-in-law, recalls, “She loved to have her hair done, so at least once or twice a week I would do her hair. She had beautiful gray hair and always looked so lovely.”
Ethel moved to California to live with LaVon for a while. In 1972, Clair and Judy moved to Rigby, Idaho. One day they got a call from Wayne saying he and his wife were on their way up for a visit, and Ethel was with them. It wasn’t until it came time for them to leave that they realized Wayne intended on leaving Ethel with them. She stayed with them about a year. Clair and Judy’s house was small, and they had three small children, but Ethel enjoyed staying with them.
Ethel began to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, something from which her father also suffered. Judy recalls one story that has become a favorite in her family:
“We were poor and didn’t do much. One day we decided to go for a ride and Mother Boyle asked if she could buy us dinner. Clair said, “are you sure you want to do that Mom? Do you have money?” She replied that yes, she did have money in her purse and she seemed very rational that day. So we went on our ride and were by Ashton when we came by the Frostop in Ashton. We ate and when it came time to pay she got up to leave with no intention of paying. She had forgotten we were there at her invitation. Neither of us had any cash so luckily Clair did have a credit card which he used to pay for dinner. We have laughed and laughed over that incident over the years.”
On another occasion, Judy and Ethel were canning fruit. As Ethel was peeling fruit she leaned over to Judy and asked, “Do you think we could have a cup of tea?” She lowered her voice and then said, “You know, I know lots of people that drink a lot worse and that would be so refreshing right now.” So Judy drove to the grocery store, bought her some tea and the two enjoyed tea and cookies together.
Her Alzheimer’s made things difficult for Clair and Judy. A number of times she would pack her things and sit near the front door waiting for someone to pick her up. Other times she would run away and Gary would have to go looking for her. She would be found along the highway walking “home.” Judy also remembers that she would have conversations with herself, talking into her hand so nobody could hear.
Clair eventually called his brothers and sister to discuss options for her. LaVon recalls that Ethel didn’t want to live with her or the boys, so Wayne and Dean found a rest home for her in Heber City. The children would visit her as often as they could.
On one occasion, Clair and Judy remember visiting her in Heber City. A nurse came up to Clair and asked if he knew Ethel Boyle. He said, “Yes, she is my mother.” The nurse told him that she was sitting outside in someone’s car and wouldn’t get out. Clair went out to talk to her and finally convinced her to come back inside.
Ethel devoted much of her later life to genealogy work. She loved to talk about her ancestors and show the many pictures she had collected. Unfortunately her Alzheimer’s had an effect on this work, and dates were often changed and corrected, making it difficult to distinguish the actual information. However, much of the Boyle genealogy can be attributed to her.
Ethel was transferred to a care center in Salt Lake City, where she passed away on 8 September 1980. She was buried in Delta, Utah, next to her husband.
Information collected from Ethel Shields Boyle Autobiography and memories from LaVon Mills and Judy Boyle. Compiled by Cameron Knowlton Boyle, great-grandson.