BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
On November 25, 1918, Norma Roylance was the fourth child and only daughter born to George Newby and Margaret Storey Roylance. Her other siblings were all brothers – Clyde, Victor, and Richard. As a result, she was just as active and rowdy as her brothers. Her favorite pastime was to roll down the grassy hill in front of her home. Margaret kept a very detailed history in her diary; Victor also wrote their story down, which is how we know so much about their family.
During the winter of 1924, Norma came down with diphtheria. It is a bacterial disease that coats the throat with thick gray stuff. So, when Norma contracted diphtheria, it became difficult for her to breathe. At the same time, it was very contagious. She, like so many of us today, had to quarantine in order to not pass it on to anybody else. Her brother, Victor, remembered the quarantine signs in the windows and on the front gate. During that time, the boys stayed on the back porch, which was open to the weather and kept them safe from the illness. However, it was January, so they were also subject to the winter cold. They also had some books and instruments with them to entertain themselves with.
Later, a doctor and two trained nurses treated Norma for few days. In the end, she did not survive her illness and died at five years and one month old. Her death was so sudden, no one had the chance to tell the boys she was slipping away. In her final moments, Victor happened to be playing “Rock of Ages” on his clarinet.
Norma was buried on the southwest slope of the Union Cemetery, as it was called then, where the weeds and sagebrush choked the land. Seeing so many weeds on their little daughter’s grave caused even more grief for her parents. By the time she’d been buried, the cemetery was only 42 years old. After the winter melted to spring, they cleaned off the grave and planted grass. It was a never-ending task to water this new lawn. The family loaded five-gallon honey cans, oil drums, and milk cans full of water onto an old Dodge Touring car. They had cut down the back half of the car and made it into a truck. Then, they hauled them to the cemetery and hand-sprinkled the lawn. Every single night, they returned to the lawn to repeat the process, until the lawn took root.
That year on Memorial Day, also known as Decoration Day, the cemetery hosted a gathering. However, more people gathered around Norma’s small plot of lawn than at the spot where the program was being held. Visitors made many positive comments, and a lot of interest was stirred up, which inspired George to do something about it.
He contacted each shareholder of the Rice Creek Irrigation Company and asked for donations of 5, 10, or 15 minutes of their water turn or a share of stock – anything they felt like giving. George, Clyde, and Victor dug a trench and laid clay tile to help the water travel across. George ran his horses, one in front of the other, to limit their tread on existing graves. As a result of his efforts, the cemetery association got behind the project and provided help and supplies. Thanks to them, the grass on Norma’s grave stayed pretty and green. Thirty years later, they named it Ben Lomond Cemetery. The cemetery with Mount Ben Lomond in its background is still one of the finest in the area and, of course, covered in green grass.
Do you have ancestors buried in Ben Lomond Cemetery? Do you know their stories? Ask your oldest relative to tell you the story of someone buried there and submit it to www.connectionpub.com. We just might feature it in the magazine!