A legacy of music in Enoch

By Dawn M. Aerts

Iron County Today

(Editor’s Note—The Enoch Orchestra will be among performer at Folk Life Fest at the Frontier Homestead State Park June 22-23)

ENOCH–Local historians Shirley Jones and Alice Matheson remember well the love of music, song and dance in the earliest photographs of the original Enoch Orchestra.  Many relatives played instruments then, Jones gave piano lessons to dozens of children over 45 years, five of her six children learned to play, and most of Matheson’s nine children took lessons from Jones.

After graduating from Cedar High School in 1957, Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the College of Southern Utah while raising a family with husband, Loren. “I was a full-time homemaker, led the choir and played the organ in our church,” said Jones of the years they sang in the church choir together.

But it was a violin that belonged to ‘Grandpa Myron Jones’ that became a part of a musical legacy in their family.  His father, John Lee Jones was widely known for his musical talents and was an exceptional violinist though he had little opportunity for study as a young man.

“At times Myron would sneak out his father’s violin and play it while he was away even though he and his siblings had been forbidden to touch it. But Myron ended up with this family violin, so we always enjoyed hearing him play and on one Christmas Day — it was given to our daughter who is now a violin teacher.”

In the early days of Johnson’s Springs and Enoch, the rural community of sheep herders, ranch and dairy farmers often turned to music for social gatherings and as a respite from the work and isolation of living in a very small community.

According to Enoch records, a handful of early harmonica players gradually became two brass bands in 1909, directed by William H. Grimshaw.  The older residents recall a legacy of beautiful music.

“I am so grateful that my husband brought me to such a giving and caring community,” said Jones. “We all shared our talents and time with each other. At the beginning of our courtship, he danced with me all evening at an Enoch Orchestra dance. Loren’s grandfather, Myron, was the fiddler that evening.

Back then, neighbors all knew each other, so there were a lot of good times at church and community gatherings with homemade root-beer, pies, and the music that brought people together.”

Alice Gay Matheson recalls her husband’s family farm of the 1950’s. She remembers the homesteaders and neighbors in Enoch and throughout the midvalley who helped each other in harvest time — fixing each other’s roofs and helping to build neighbors’ homes.

“I really heard very little music growing up, but I wanted all the children to take piano lessons and our youngest, set her sights on the violin,” said Matheson.  “Instruments and pianos were a treasure to own back then, so it took a school teacher to find an old violin that she could practice on.”

Matheson, a graduate of high school in Tropic said she had always felt a little isolated in their small town during the Depression Years.  It wasn’t until she attended the Branch Agricultural College in 1951, that she met her husband to be who she described as a ‘cute missionary’ that worked with her at the early Lunt Motor Company in Cedar City.

They married in June 1952 before leaving for a tour in Germany.  “His father and two uncles had worked together on the family Dairy with 40 milk cows,” said Matheson, “So there was always a lot of work to do: plowing, harvest and raising nine kids; along with church, Sunday School and other meetings that kept everyone busy.”

It was the early Enoch Orchestra that the Jones and the Matheson family came to enjoy as musicians and neighbors.  “We traded milk for piano and dance lessons,” said Matheson of those years. “And there was always music in the air once I found an old upright piano for our home that was a bargain at $ 50.”

Both share an appreciation for the heritage of Enoch and the music and songs passed down from John Lee Jones and poet Joel Hills Johnson.  While John Lee Jones was known for playing the first musical instruments in the community, Hills Johnson is known for his written poetry that includes over 50 of the 1000 songs he composed while at Johnson Springs.

The most famous of the hymns, ‘High on the Mountain Top’ was featured at the Youth Celebration and Dedication of the Cedar City LDS Temple last winter. “We’re hoping the young musicians of today’s Enoch Orchestra will carry on our long tradition of musical talent with the songs and community dances that our neighbors always loved to be part of.”

John Lee Jones was a fiddler who spun his own wool for clothing and who organized the Enoch Orchestra in 1908 under the direction of William H. Grimshaw.  They first performed as a brass band in the Old Log School, and later, Myron and his sister, Grace, turned it into a dance orchestra that featured waltzes, polkas, Schottisches and quadrilles.

“People still remember the early talent here,” said Matheson of the legacy, “They played for 75 years with the Enoch Orchestra and now we have a new generation of talented young people.”


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