24 June, 1882 - 24 July, 1953
Married: Rebecca Hannah Allen
|Children: Oma Phelps,
md. Wayne Stapp
Lewis Ashael Phelps,
md. Muriel Brimhall
md. James Wallace Wilkins
Leon Hyrum Phelps,
md. Francis Knight
md. John C. White
Orson Allen Phelps,
md. Lorraine Sorenson
Standing: Leon, Orson Jr., Elizabeth,
Genevieve, Oma, Lewis
Orson was the sixth child of
his parents, Hyrum Smith Phelps and Mary Elizabeth Bingham, and he
was welcomed into their home June 24, 1882 in Mesa, Arizona. His
sister Hattie was not two years old when Orson was born, and through
their childhood they were very close.
His first home was a two-room adobe house located on the property
where Temple Courts stand on South Hibbert Street. A few years later
his father built a larger adobe house with a shingle roof and wooden
floors just north of the old one on the corner of Hibbert and First
Avenue. In that house he spent his childhood. The lot was a quarter
of the block and was planted to fruit trees and a grape vineyard.
The family cows were pastured at the 80-acre farm on East Main
Street, and Orson fell heir to the job of herding the cows into town
to be milked in the evening and herding them back in the morning.
He, Gove, and sometimes Barbara or Hattie helped with the milking.
He loved to play marbles and became a real
winner. He kept winning until he had a tomato can full of marbles,
and he thought to take good care of them he would put them in the
ground. He found a secret place and buried his can of marbles;
however, when he wanted them again, he couldn’t find the place and
he never saw his collection again. In his later years he would laugh
when he recounted this experience.
As he grew he attended Mesa schools and took his responsibilities in
the church. He served as president of the deacon quorum and was a
counselor at one time in the same organization. One Sunday morning
when he was sitting behind the sacrament table ready to help
administer the Sacrament, Sister Griffin said to her neighbor,
“Orson Phelps looks as innocent as the day he was born,” and that
was true of him.
He graduated from eighth grade. He was a great hand to make up
adjectives to suit his needs. One day when it was raining, he had
seen a man in a wagon going out past their place to get wood on the
desert. About sundown, he saw the same man coming back with an empty
wagon and it disgusted Orson. He said to Hattie, “Look at that
inforben fool coming home without any wood.” Another time he was
trying to teach a calf to drink from a bucket and the calf stepped
on his foot. Orson rebuked he calf saying, “Well, you’ve waltzed on
my foot, now why don’t you take a two step!”
By the time he was large enough to help with other ranch chores, he
had to haul hay, irrigate both grain and alfalfa, and at harvest he
helped with binding and pitching the grain bundles. He learned all
the things a farmer has to know. The only pay he got was his
support. Once in awhile his father could spare him a dollar for a
dance ticket or perhaps a nickel to buy an orange. Dollar were hard
to come by in those days.
He was a very sensitive person, tender hearted, generous and
helpful. He couldn’t see his father left to run the ranch by himself
when the older boys had grown and gone, so Orson remained and helped
him, feeling it wrong to leave the work for his aging father to do
On Sept. 13, 1905, Orson and Rebecca Allen were married in the Salt
Lake Tempe, making the trip with Tom Watkins and Julia Allen and
Henry Watkins and Caroline Rogers, with Hattie and Jim Miller as
chaperones. The three couples were married by Brother John R.
Winder. They remained in northern Utah for a month, visiting
relatives, then returned to Mesa to make their home. Each of their
fathers had given them a cow, and Orson owned a horse and buggy
which he had used while courting Rebecca, plus a sow and nine little
pigs. To show his appreciation to Orson for his faithful years of
service on the ranch, his father helped them in a number of ways to
get their home started. He also gave them $200 to finance their trip
to Salt Lake.
They soon had a cozy little home composed of a couple of tents built
on the northwest corner of Grandpa’s ranch. The rooms, boarded up
half way, had lumber floors, and they were joined together with a
breezeway. Rebecca’s father had given them some stock in the Coop
Store which was sold for $25 with which they purchased a linoleum
rug for the kitchen and some other household furnishings. Her folks
gave them an old rug and abed. Gove gave them a stove as a wedding
present, and they received other gifts at a wedding reception, so
they felt well off.
When the winter rains came, it leaked through the top of the tents,
but it failed to dampen their spirits. They would open the old
umbrella and place it over their heads to turn the drips of rain,
and their feet didn’t matter. Their two-tent home meant as much to
them as greater ones have to others. After six months they moved
their tents to a twenty-acre tract which was located on Home Lane.
It was at this place their first baby, Oma, was born Aug. 11, 1906.
Later they built a frame house to replace the tents. Grandpa Phelps
helped to build it, for Orson still helped his father during the
haying season. Their first son, Lewis. was born in the frame house
in 1909. While he was yet a baby, they filed on a homestead south of
Chandler where they moved one of the tent rooms. They lived there
off and on until they had proved upon it and got the deeds of
ownership. In 1911 Genevieve was born in the frame house on Horne
lane. Water was not available for the Chandler 160 acres, so they
had moved back to Mesa, sold the ten acres and cows and rented what
was known as the Solomon ranch on east Broadway. It was there in
1914 that Leon was born. Their next move was to rent Aunt Adelaide
Allen Peterson’s place on Fourth Avenue [corner of Hobson and
Broadway] where they stayed one year. Then taking the cows they had
acquired in the past two years, they moved onto the Dudley Lewis
ranch two miles further east on Broadway. This they rented with the
privilege of buying the sixty acres. It was there they paid cash for
their first car, a Chevrolet, and in 1917 Elizabeth was born.
The payments Orson made on the Lewis ranch were misused, and in the
summer of 1919 they decided to sell out for what they could get.
They were talked into putting their money into a large acreage of
cotton ready to pick while the price was one dollar per pound, but
the price suddenly dropped and they lost everything. It was during
this trial in 1919 that Orson Jr. was born. Tom Watkins made it
possible for Orson to buy some property on Baseline Road where they
started over again, but the price of produce raised on the ranch
failed to match the payments and they were forced to make another
change. Elijah Allen helped them to make a trade of the ranch for a
ten-acre place on South Mesa Drive. Soon after locating there, Orson
began to haul gravel and sand for a living. First he hauled with a
team and wagon, then he traded for a dump truck and continued to
haul for more than twenty years. It was on Mesa Drive that he build
their home that stood well into the 1980s.
For 40 years Orson and Rebecca sang in the choir for he loved to
sing and had a good high tenor voice. All of their family were
musically talented and music was a big part of their home.
In his later years, Orson filled a mission to the Lamanites in San
Tan. He was called to serve a second mission but did not live long
enough to do so. He helped the poor and the needy; in fact, he
helped the widows so much that the family kidded him about being the
widow’s man. When he died July 24, 1953 he was mourned by friends