Gem County,  ID GenWeb project


Gem Co. map
Reading & References
Sharon McConnel,
Gem County Coordinator

Pearl Willey Hitchcock (1903 - 1993)

(From Pearl's funeral, courtesy of Janet Cox Harshfield)

Pearl was from, and a part of, a pioneer family with a lot of history behind her - especially Idaho history. I found it extremely interesting so I want to share a little of that, not really as an obituary of her life, but rather a few interesting hightlights from an intriguing family history. The family was here in America very early for there is the record of them being admitted to a Church in Boston in 1634. You realize that is only 14 years after the coming of the pilgrims on the Mayflower.

Pearl's parents family originated in New York. Her grandmother was a Rosevelt.

Her father and his brother were part of the 1849 Gold Rush to California. Then when gold was discovered in Idaho they came to the Idaho Territory. Her uncle Norman Willey was a colonel in the Idaho militia during the Sheepeater war. Her father and uncle went into Warren as gold miners.

Her father's brother, Norman Willey became the First Lieutenant Governor of Idaho and became the the second Governor of the State when Governor Shupe went to Wachington D.C. as a senator. Her father moved to the Salmon River in 1895 to establish the Willey Ranch. (Valley County)

The Willey Ranch became the gathering place for everybody along the Salmon River country. When the circuit riders came through the people would gather at the Willey Ranch for church services.

They had the largest library in that part of the country. Both Pearl's father and uncle graduated from the University of Kansas. Her uncle graduated from the University at age 17. They brought with them many books when they came to Idaho.

They had a private School on the ranch. Pearl went through 8 grades there. The population was so scattered that not too many neighbors got there but some did including such names as Dead Shot Reed's family.

She took care of both her father and mother. In fact she nursed her father for the last few years of his life and ran the ranch herself for his last three years.

The ranch was the gathering place for neighbors and for travelers coming through, including the Nez Perce Indians who camped on their land during the salmon run and when snow got deep in mid-winter. When Pearl prepared dinner, especially Sundays, she never knew how many would be there. It would sometimes include Indians, very often some of the Chinese and forest rangers who might be in the area. The Willey's were criticized severely because their dinner table and home was always open to the Chinese or the Indians as well as anyone else.

Pearl came to Emmett in 1933. She joined the Church in 1940.

She was married to Floyd Smith from 1941 to 1949. She was married to Robert Hitchcock from 1951 to 1959. So she was a widow for her last 33 years.

During her working years she did a lot of things but nursing was one of the dominant things. She did home nursing care before the term was coined. She also worked in the packing sheds, and for a number of years at Ore-Ida just after the company was started. Then of course she worked at the Senior Citizens - part of the time as a paid cook and served for a long time as a volunteer.

She has been a member of the first Baptist Church for nearly 53 years, and so very active. I remember her walking to church even from the South Slope area for a time, but she was always in every service for many years. And much of the time she had gathered up some of the neighbor kids and made sure they were in Sunday School and church. She remained faithful to her church to the end. She had nearly perfect altendance in 1992 in the morning services, and was in church the Sunday before she died. It is a rarity to see people as faithful and dedicated to their church over so long a time span as she.




Copyright © 2009 - Sharon McConnel. All Rights Reserved.

The IDGenWeb Project is a genealogical and resource collection for the state of Idaho and its counties. The state and counties has many volunteers who are dedicated to promoting free genealogical and research resources from the state's rich ancestral history.