Like Father Like Son: The Frew Family Versus Trains

Earl came very close to meeting his father’s same fate in January.

Joseph Frew and his wife Mary Ann Smith.


The Frew family had their fair share of good and bad luck. While they do come from Scottish origin, they cannot claim to have any luck of the Irish. Still, some of that luck must have rubbed off on them, because one Frew narrowly escaped death.

Joseph and his twin brother Hyrum were born in Franklin, Idaho, on July 10, 1860. They were the sons of John Frew and Jane Clottworthy. Only four years earlier, Joseph’s parents had crossed the plains pulling handcarts with the Daniel McArthur Company. In 1858, they were some of the first to settle in Franklin. His father was a mechanical engineer in Scotland and helped build a grist mill. The very first steam-powered mill was invented by a fellow Scottsman, James Watt, decades earlier. In that way, John had come from the “Silicon Valley” of mechanical engineers at the time.

When the older brother, William, moved to Hooper in the 1880’s, the rest of the family moved down in 1890, and Joseph’s father ran yet another flour mill there.

Earl Frew

Joseph married Mary Ann Smith while living in Franklin and had four children: Jean, James, Elizabeth, and Earl. Five other children were born to them while living in Hooper: Anna, Arnold, Lawrence, Clarence, and Lester. Joseph purchased an 80-acre farm in Syracuse and built his family home in 1904, near the corner. Their property used to be at about 750 North and 2000 West.

Mary suddenly became a widow in 1904 when her husband Joseph was killed in a train wreck. He was on his way back from St. Louis, Missouri. From April to November of 1904, the World Fair was on exhibition there. This was an expo dedicated to the latest inventions of the world. Countries and companies would show off on the world stage, and it was open to the public. Joseph visited the fair in its final month that year and died on November 11th at the age of 44.

A few months later, Joseph’s third son of eight children, Earl, came very close to meeting the same fate in January. He was only 15 years old at the time, and he went out to fill his wagon with coal. In 1905, Utah was approaching its 40th anniversary of hammering in its golden spike, finishing the first transcontinental railroad in the States. In those 40 years, more railroads connected Promontory Point to Salt Lake, Salt Lake to Ogden, Ogden to Tooele, and so on. City centers often sprung up around train stations to catch the attention of passersby. Earl was near such a town, loading his wagon, when a freight train frightened his team of horses. The two horses took off running toward the tracks. He caught hold of the end gate from the wagon to try and reign them in. At this point in history, the end gates of the railroads were very similar to the kind we have now; there were long planks of wood that swung down to prevent anyone from crossing the tracks. Much good that was doing Earl then, because he could see the train bearing down on him and his team. He let go, jumped off the wagon, and rolled out of the way. One horse was killed on the spot, and while the other survived, it sustained a broken leg and had to be shot. His wagon was smashed to bits. The only piece of the wagon left was a singletree, which is the piece of wood that yokes the two horses together.

Today, Earl, his mother Mary, and his father Joseph are all buried in Hooper Cemetery.

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