Father Joseph McRae was building a home for the family in Charleston, Utah. He went to conference in Salt Lake City in October of 1876, and planned on bringing enough lumber back with him to finish the home. Instead of a load of lumber, he brought back a call from Brigham Young to go into the Arizona Territory as colonizers and missionaries.
The young family gave up their home, sold their possessions, and headed south with other families who had received a call for the same purpose. At St. George, Utah, a Company was formed with Daniel W. Jones as President and Philemon C. Merrill as assistant. They left St. George on 17 January 1877, and arrived on 6 March 1877 at what is now Lehi, Maricopa County, Arizona. Here the families lived in a tent with a brush shed made by cutting large limbs with thick leaves, and placing them on the shed. When the leaves became very dry, they were a fire hazard so they had to be replaced often. They had to drink river water until a well could be dug.
President Young wrote that he would like at least a part of the company to go farther south and settle on the San Pedro River, so that others could follow and in time would establish colonies in Mexico. As Brother Merrill had been an officer in the Mormon Battalion which had passed through that country a few years previous, they chose him as their leader. Seven families left Lehi the last of August, traveling at night on account of the heat, and too, they felt there was less danger from the Indians. While going through Tucson, they met a man by the name of Thomas Gardner who hired the men to cut trees for a sawmill he owned in the Santa Rita Mountains, and to haul the lumber to Tucson. They were very glad to earn some money as their supplies of food were almost gone. They stayed here until the last of November and then traveled on to the San Pedro River, arriving on 29 November 1877.
They camped in tents on the west side of the river, then a creek. Their camp was near where the Apache Powder Plant now stands. They planted gardens and got water from the springs nearby. Goats were plentiful, and they had milk and meat from wild game. They built a fort on the east side of the river, which consisted of eight rooms, a room for each of the eight families. Here they lived for a time, with their gardens and fields across the river. They heard of wild Indians roaming the country, but none were ever seen.
Much sickness and hardship was endured by these pioneers. Due to so much rain and floods, the land and streams seemed to be filled with germs of malaria fever. Someone became ill in every family, and is some, all were sick. The McRae family did not escape. All of them had the disease, but Mother McRae suffered more than all the others. In the summer of 1879, shortly before Charles was born, John Campbell, a convert to the Church from Texas, came to their rescue. He had brought with him two large wagons of store goods, besides many horses, mules, wagons and machinery. He gave these Pioneers all the food and clothing that they needed and let them pay as they could. A short time later he erected a sawmill in the Huachuca Mountains and gave the men work and paid them well.
Father McRae took his family with him and went to the mountains. He had two reasons for this. One was to get money which was needed at this time, and the other to take Mother McRae in hopes that it would improve her health, being away from that intense heat and the diseased water. At that time it was not known what was really causing the malaria.
Here in the Huachuca Mountains in Miller Canyon, Father built a large one-room house out of new lumber, thinking to have a nice, comfortable room when the baby arrived. Shakes were put on the roof, instead of shingles. As the lumber had not been seasoned, the boards shrunk, so when Charles was born on September 20, the rain poured through the cracks and into the room. Pans and buckets were placed over the bed to keep the mother dry. It was quite an event as he was the first white child born in Cochise County. At that time it was Pima County, but now is considered part of Cochise. The tiny son was christened Nymphus after Nymphus Murdock, president of the stake the McRae family had lived in before leaving Utah, and Charles after the father's brother Charles who had died when a young man and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery; the tallest man buried up to that time in Salt Lake City. Nymphus Charles never attained the height of his uncle. He took after the smaller members of the family.
After the men cut, sawed and hauled timbers for the mines in Tombstone and Bisbee for some time, they returned to the Fort on the San Pedro. Here Father Joseph homesteaded 160 acres of land for his family, and began to farm as President Young had advised. Later, part of this homestead was donated for the cemetery.
When Charles was only two years old, his Aunt Margaret Goodman, sister of his Mother, and her family arrived from Minersville, Utah. Her husband, William N. Goodman, had asthma and they thought a warmer climate would help him. Mother moved into one room and gave her sister and family the other room to live in. As William was a good carpenter, having helped in the erection of the Logan and Salt Lake Temples, Father gave him some land east of his home where he built two large adobe rooms for his family, finished the lower part and the family moved in. The upper part was never finished because of the earthquake which came soon afterward, and cracked it so badly that it was taken off and another roof added.
Here Charles played as a child. He seemed unafraid of danger, a characteristic all of his life. He was always interested in bugs or millers. One day he was out of doors and his mother heard him laughing. When she went to see what he was doing, she found him about ready to pick up a tarantula. He liked to climb trees and haystacks. When only a small boy, he climbed the ladder and walked around the adobe of the two-story home while asleep. The family was afraid to call him for fear he would fall.
When he was five years old, a terrible sorrow hit the family. After a short illness, George Edwin died of pneumonia. He had been having a bad cold. The cows got out and he went after them. The cold March wind and rain chilled him through and through and his cold turned into pneumonia. He was always fond of Charles and when he went to bed that night, he wanted his little brother to sleep with him. He passed away before morning. This was a saddening blow for Charles and made him think a lot about the hereafter. Many questions did he ask of his mother and older sisters and brothers about where George had gone.
Charles helped his father and older brothers with the work on the farm. They cut the long grass and hauled it for hay. Father ran a blacksmith shop, doing that work for all of the settlers. When Charles was about eight years of age, he attended school in the adobe school house about one-fourth mile east of home. The building was made from the soil near by and easily crumbled. It was in this building that school was being held on the day of the earthquake. The front of the school faced west, facing the town, and fell just as the people rushed from their shaking homes. They all thought the children were surely killed and came rushing to see. Parents called to the teachers to "Call the roll to see if any of the children are missing." The teachers said, "Go home and call your own rolls," for the school records were in all directions. No one was injured, but all of them certainly had a terrible fright. A little frame building was later erected in which to hold school, but after the people got over the scare, Church and Sunday School were held in the old building for a long time.
Charles was never a strong child. Possibly that was why he was always attracted to those less fortunate than himself. He always went out of his way to speak, notice, or do some little act of kindness for them. He was always kind to animals.
At the age of nine, his mother took Mamie (Mary Jane) as the baby tender, Charles, because he was not very well, and the baby, Milton, with her on a visit to her old home and to relatives in Utah. They stayed from November until March of the next year. While in Salt Lake City, Charles and Mamie attended school. He would pass under the Eagle Gate going to and from school. He talked of many things they did and saw on the trip, remembering the feather mattress and the huge basket of food taken on their four-day train trip. It was quite an experience for anyone in those days, especially Charles!
After the pioneers were released from their Arizona mission, father wanted to go back to Salt Lake City, for he thought that his family would have more advantages there. He became discouraged about farming. After they would plant crops, the floods would take out their ditches and dams and leave them without water to irrigate and their crops would die.
Shortly before the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, father, mother, and the three youngest boys, Milton, Parley and Orson went to Salt Lake to purchase a home and stay for the dedication. Before the actual purchase was completed, they received word that Charles was very ill with typhoid fever. Aunt Margaret Goodman took him home to care for him, but he grew steadily worse. As nothing was known at that time about diet for disease, many foods he ate increased his fever. One day a neighbor, feeling sorry for him, brought a fried chicken which he ate with much relish, but soon his fever was almost as high as it had been. Perhaps if the chicken had been boiled, and he had eaten the broth, it would have been good for him. Parley and Milton both had light cases of the fever too.
By now father thought that the family was not supposed to leave Arizona, so he decided to move to the Gila Valley in order to give his children better advantages in school. They arrived in Safford 20 July 1893, and stayed there until December of that year, then moved farther down the Gila River to the town of Thatcher. A year later, father bought twenty acres from President Layton and built a home. The boys helped with the farming when not in school.
Mary Jane "Mamie" and Charles attended Gila Academy at Thatcher. He was always very kind and thoughtful of his mother, especially during her last illness. Mamie took a teaching course while he took one in business. His mother died on 19 April 1901, and was buried in Thatcher. After her death, the boys went away to find employment, and the home was sold in 1902. As Charles had always desired to go on a mission, he now had the privilege. He was called to the Western States Mission in 1903 where his brother, Joseph Alexander, was the mission president. He spent much of his time in Nebraska, where he made many friends. He had always had a testimony of the Gospel, but here it was strengthened very much. From then on he spent his time trying to live his religion by example as well as by precept. He never met a stranger, and he always wanted to share the Gospel with his friends.
After returning from his mission, he went to Bisbee and secured work in the mines. A diary beginning on 1 June 1906, gives many little inside thoughts behind the scene. A few lines written about that time reflect what was going on in his mind:
"I must go in search of a partner in life, so God grant I may be successful." was written. He had in mind a girl he had gone to school with, Sarah Fraances Cheney, a successful school teacher and an ardent Church worker in the St. Joseph Stake, living at the time in Thatcher, Arizona. In fact, while Charles was in Iowa, working in that district of his mission, he ran onto his Aunt Sarah, a sister of his father, who wasn't a member of the Church nor was she interested in Mormonism, but was interested in the McRae name. She invited Charles and his companion to her home to eat. She was very attentive to their wishes, but refused to listen to them preach the Gospel. She asked Charles who his girl was. He was ashamed to say that he didn't have any one girl, and didn't know just what to do to answer his insistent Aunt. All of a sudden, the name of Sarah Cheney flashed across his mind, and he told his Aunt that she was his girl for he had gone to school with her.
When Charles came home from his mission, he went to St. David to visit and stayed at the home of his dearly beloved Aunt Margaret. Noting that the wood box was nearly empty and the wood at the chopping block was gone, he went to the hills for a load of wood. This wood-getting for his home, as well as that of others, was quite a ritual of his. He heard a voice say, "Sarah Cheney"; he thought someone was there because the voice was so clear. When he got back from the wood hauling, he wasn't at all surprised to hear Aunt Margaret say, "Charles, I have a surprise for you. Sarah Cheney is here."
Sarah was there as a stake official sent to visit the wards and branches of the St. Joseph Stake. There were five visitors in the party: President David H. Johnson and his wife; Joseph Lines, Superintendent of the Sunday Schools; Emma Merrill in the interest of the Relief Society; and Sarah Cheney representing the Primary. The ladies stayed at the home of Aunt Margaret, and the men at the home of the Bishop. During this time Charles and Sarah renewed old acquaintances and got better acquainted.
While he was still in St. David, he was summoned to Jury duty in Tombstone for a week. This was in 1905. Sarah had gone with a missionary group to carry out appointments in Bisbee. While there, she secured a job in Tombstone, working for some people by the name of McPherson, helping cook for the summer months. Charles found out she was there and went to visit her. Here he proposed to her. He told her he had his two hands, his heart and head to offer, and they would be hers if she would marry him. She accepted, but told him she would have to teach school for a while to help the family. Charles went to Bisbee to work and saved his money. In June of 1907, they went to Salt Lake on the train with a group of Stake people who were going to June Conference. On 7 June 1907, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple. Charles' father was prospecting in Idaho and came to Salt Lake City for the wedding. They visited a while at the home of Charles' uncle, Joseph Taylor. Sarah's grandmother lived in Burley, Idaho, so they went there for their honeymoon. After a nice vacation, they came back to Arizona to make their future home. As they had spent all of their money, Charles went to Bisbee to get work while Sarah went back to Thatcher to get her things ready. As soon as Charles was able to save enough money for her train fare, he sent for Sarah to come to Bisbee where they made their home.
They purchased a home in Bisbee and Charles worked in the mines and in the bakery for a few years. On 17 June 1908, their first child, Ora, was born. Both mother and father were very proud of their first-born. She was a very brilliant girl, excelling in scholastic as well as Church activities. She was a leader in every sense of the word. Her life ended here on this earth when she was only fifteen years old, from the effects of diphtheria. This was a big sorrow for the little family, expecially to Charles. Shortly before Ora took sick, Annie, Charles' sister, came to stay with the family so that she could be close to the doctor for she was suffering from quite a serious kidney trouble. Charles told of a dream that he had had the previous night. This was to the effect that his mother was in need of help to get all of the work done on the other side that so urgently needed to be done. She wanted Charles to come and help her. Charles told his mother that he was needed too badly in this world, for he had his young family, and for her to get someone else. As he told the dream, Annie inquired as to whom their mother was planning on taking instead. Charles said that he did not know, for the dream had ended before he found out. Annie thought, because she was so ill, that perhaps it was she. She went on home. A short time later, Ora took sick and died. Charles always felt that he was the one that should have gone.
In the fall of 1908, Charles leased some ground down at Geronimo to farm. He and Sarah built them a two-room house. He was a good framer, but the land was poor, and because of lack of water and not enough finance to see them through the dry period, he gave up the lease.
The second daughter was born 15 January 1910. It must have been quite a disappointment not to have a son, but Charles carried it off very nicely. He called for all of the friends of the family to send in a list of names so that he could pick out a name for his daughter. The name "Grace" was selected. Sarah like it for it was the name of one of her favorite school students, Grace De Spain.
Grace was a teacher, as her mother had been. She married Verney Cluff and to this union was born four daughters and one son: Verna Rae, Jeanne, Brent, Leisel and Frances. They now reside in Thatcher, Arizona.
The third daughter, Pearl, was born 2 December 1911. When she was very small, she had diphtheritic croup and was very sick for a while. Pearl married Alvin Talley, and to this union were born three sons and one daughter. There are: George, Del, Peggy and Tommy. They live in Farmington, New Mexico, where they have a dairy farm. Pearl is known far and wide as a splendid cook.
The fourth child was a son, Van Taylor McRae, born 13 November, 1914. They were very proud of this young son. He was a very trustworthy boy. In the spring of 1926, he developed inflammatory rheumatism which settled finally in the heart muscles. He was taken to Thatcher at the doctor's request, as he felt he needed a lower altitude. He finally recovered from this severe illness, but in 1929 he had pneumonia from which he never recovered. He passed away two years after his father.
The fifth child was Rex Cheney McRae, born 8 December 1916. He was a fun-loving, carefree child. Nothing seemed to bother Rex. His happy disposition, cute little smile and curley hair won him many friends. Rex served a mission, attended college at both Gila and at the University of Arizona. He entered the Air Force during World War II and had reached 2nd Lieutenant, when he was killed in a plane crash over Barstow, California, while on a mission flight from Tucson Air Base.
Etta was born 30 November 1919 in South Bisbee, Arizona. She was a pretty child and a favorite with all the family. She went to school most of her life in Thatcher where the family moved when she was six years of age. She studied a business course and for a period worked for the water office in Safford, Arizona. She married Keith Smith, a rancher. To their union have been born ten children: Keith, Van, Dianne, Jay, Glade, Yvonne, Arvid, Rex Oman, April and Lincoln. They live in Thatcher.
Keith was the baby son, born 19 August 1922, in South Bisbee. He was quite small when the family moved to Thatcher. All of his schooling during elementary grades and high school was spent in Thatcher except periods when he would go with his mother to her teaching employment. He also stayed with his sister, Grace, and went to school in Central, Arizona, for a time. He served five years in the Armed Forces during World War II. While in Europe, he was injured in the back and spent many painful days and weeks in hospitals trying to regain his health and strength. He served two years in the mission field and finished his college education at BYU when he returned. At present he is living in Phoenix. He married Clara Seager. They have four children: Ann, Joan, Cameron Keith and James Charles.
Charles took a Rawleigh route for a number of years when Van was a baby. He had his address at St. David, where his family lived but he spent his time on the road. He was affectionately called "Doc" by the many friends that he made while in this work. He built a home for his family in St. David and worked the territory all around, including Benson, Patagonia, etc.
While the family was living in St. David, Charles had the smallpox. The family was quarantined away from the community for two months. As sick as he was with the smallpox, the children were even sicker from the vaccine that was given them. The actual pox was scratched and the fluid from it was scratched on the arm of each little girl. None of them ever needed another vaccination.
While living in St. David, Charles took an active part in both civic affairs and Church duties. He was elected a member of the school board and held many responsible church offices. He was friendly and not afraid of a little hard work which always goes with any office or calling. Young and old like Charles McRae.
World War I broke out in 1917. His brother Orson was killed in an I.W.W. raid while acting as a deputy sheriff. As he was operating a dairy at the time, Charles went and took over the dairy until Stella, Orson's wife, disposed of it. The dairy was located at Naco. Then he went back to work in the mines. He was there when the War ended on 11 November 1918.
Charles had many important Church callings, including Boy Scout leader for many years. He enjoyed the responsibility of moulding fine men out of these boys. He loved his family, and his every effort and thought were for the betterment of mankind. He was always explaining the Gospel to the men underground at the mines. They respected him for his clean living. He always set the best example for his family to go by.
It was a great shock to this family and friends when he took sick in December of 1926. His son Van was sick in Thatcher, and his wife, Sarah, had been over there taking care of him. Grace was going to school at the Gila Junior College. Charles brought the rest of the family over to spend Christmas. Too much exposure, not enough rest, too much worry and work gave this man pneumonia. He went back to Bisbee to go to work, but was never able to make the grade. He passed away on New Year's Day in 1927. At last he answered the "call" to go and help his mother on the other side. A great character and loyal friend was gone.