Jernberg Family Stories

Elmer was born Feb. 8, 1893, at Pullman, Illinois, the son of Charles and Mary Jernberg.”  As a boy he moved to Pocatello with his parents.  At the age of 12 he left home after which he was employed in a wide variety of jobs.  On one job when he was a night watchman for a logging camp in Couer d'Alene, he had to drain the donkey engines at night then fill them with   In 1909 he went to California and while there was recruited as a volunteer to fight against Pancho Villa. During that time he narrowly escaped death on several occasions and received no pay for his services.  They were using single shot 45-70 rifles.  One time one man had a machine gun up in a tree firing at them, but the Americans were shooting them out of the trees.

Another time the group he was with marched into an area with a lot of ditches and found Mexican rebels were hidden behind the ditches.  He said, "We didn't know they were out there or we wouldn't have been so brave." At one time the men were waiting for leaders.  A man named Stanley William had gone to Los Angeles, California to get an order making him their general.  He led them out among the ditches then raised his head to look around and was shot in the head.  That was their only casualty that time.  On another occasion he was leading a mule loaded with ammunition along the road.  Rebels shot at them and hit the mule in the knee.  He felt lucky the bullet hadn’t been higher but said that experience was the reason for him leaving the Mexican revolution.  After the animals knee healed it was given to someone else and he said, "I had got to where I liked that mule a lot and it hurt my feelings when they gave it to someone else.  I just walked across the line into Calexico and was out of it."  He can't remember getting any pay for his time in that conflict but said there were about 20 saloons in Mexicali and they were all abandoned when the fighting got so close so all the men could get all the drinks they wanted.  They thought that would make us braver and I guess they figured that was enough pay.

By a coincidence about the same time he was going into Mexico to take part in the revolution, his future wife was leaving Mexico with her family to escape the revolution.  The Staleys traveled to Idaho and later joined the Lake family in the Mud Lake area.

Later he went to Gilmore and worked in the mines there before he was drafted into army right after World War I started.

He was in a group of about 1400 who were sent over in the Leviathon, a German steam ship which had been remodeled to make a troop carrier.  Because of the danger of submarines the ship moved as rapidly as possible at night then moved slowly and zigzagged continuously during the daylight hours. 

They landed in Liverpool, England on Christmas Day 1917 then were sent to Winchester for a week.  Later they were put on a cattle boat to cross the channel.  They landed in LeHavre, France.  He made frequent trips to the front line but was not assigned there at first.  After being assigned to the Rainbow Division he spent five days on the front line before he was wounded on April 13, 1918.

He was wounded early and after recovering enough to be rated 2B, he could go back and was one of the men assigned to check gasoline tank cars for leaks.  They were kept on until the men on active duty had been returned home.

He said he met two men from Iowa, Vespucia and Jones.  They told him a friend was in their division and asked him to go back with them to visit the friend.  They were walking through the timber rather than in the trenches when a shell hit all three of them.  The two men were killed.  The flesh was shot off of Elmer’s leg with a fragment of bone.

Of the medical facilities he said, "I was the seventh one brought in to that hospital and there were 100 nurses."  That didn't last long though and before he recovered the hospital was so full he had to be moved to another facility to make room for new casualties.

While he was at the front it was what was called a quiet sector not much shooting on either side.  “We didn't shoot at them and they didn't shoot at us.  We could see the Germans hanging up the clothes they had washed but we didn't bother them.  That changed when a new group was assigned to the area.  It was the 99th division with a bunch of men from New York.  They started shooting at the Germans and they shot back with chlorine gas.”  While he was in the hospital he watched as they performed autopsies on several of the man and said, "There were holes as big as a dime or a quarter where the lungs had turned just like ____."

One specific discomfort was the lice.  "We all had them; we called them cooties.  We'd boil our clothes any chance we got.  That was the only thing that would kill them, but the trenches were full of them.  As soon as we got back in the trenches we got them again."

The return trip was quite different from the trip over.  He was in one of three small Dutch ships and, “It was rough riding.”  He insisted he wasn't seasick.  "If you laid down you got sick.  I was one of the lucky ones.  We got up on deck in the fresh air and we didn't really get sick."  Of the food though, “We didn't care much about eating."

Though he was one of the first wounded he was one of the  last to return.  He didn't return to the states until April of 1919.  He was discharged from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

His parents lived in Pocatello at that time and he said, "There was a big write-up in the Pocatello Tribune about when I got wounded.  Later there were lots of wounded and they didn't say so much about them."

After returning to Idaho he joined his parents in Pocatello for awhile and spent some time in Mud Lake. Charlie Jernberg filed on land in Mud Lake and shortly after World War II ended Elmer Jernberg joined his family in Mud Lake.  A number of early settlers were coming to the Mud Lake area by then.  In Mud Lake he met Priscilla “Pearl” Staley.  They were married March 13, 1920.  They had four children:  Mildred, Merritt “Bud,” Harry, and Melvin.

A short time later he had an opportunity to attend Washington State University for two years.  He studied the poultry business and after leaving college he continued his training working for poultry farmers in Weiser and Caldwell.  Later they returned to Mud Lake.  His father had divided his property and Elmer got eighty acres of land.  They farmed for some time and in the early 40s he went into the poultry business which he recalls was pretty successful for awhile but he got interested in prospecting.  He said, "We always thought we were going to find something but we never did.  The only money I ever made in mining was when I sold my property.  They saw the high grade ore we had found and thought they could really develop it but they never did find anything worthwhile.

When the Mud Lake area was being settled, he said, "People were different.  Everybody knew everybody else.  We used to have a party or a dance in the old Level School house just about every week and everybody came.  Whole families came.  Some of them walked miles to get there."

The desks would be pushed in the corner.  The babies were laid back there and the little kids watched.  He said, "I used to play the banjo for the dances, Roy Staley played the fiddle and Nils Wilcker played the mouthharp.  There was always somebody to play the piano and we never charged anything for it.  People had more fun then."

It wasn't always good, though, the time his brother Dave and his brother-in-law, Charlie Rahr went out on the lake with a small boat that had too big a sail on it.  The boat overturned and sank and the men were stranded in the middle of the lake for several hours. Rahr drowned before they reached an island.

Elmer helped work on the canals when the community was being developed and said, "You furnished a four horse team and a fresno and put in a ten hour day and got paid $10.  He couldn't remember how much was paid to the men who worked in the SPA projects during the depression years for working on roads and bridges but he said, "Everybody got in on that.  There wasn't another way to make money."

Elmer died at 91 at the Good Samaritan Rest Home in Idaho Falls.  Survivors include a daughter, Mildred Woodard, Bismark, N. D. and two sons Harry and Melvin Jernberg both of Mud Lake, eleven grandchildren, five great grandchildren and two brothers David Jernberg of Mud Lake and Roy Jernberg of Idaho Falls.

Funeral services were held at the Community Baptist Church in Mud Lake Thursday at 1:30 with Reverend Clinton Powell.  Burial was at the Little Butte Cemetery in Annis under the direction of the Buck Sullivan Funeral home.  Elmer Jernberg born February 8, 1893 at Chicago, Illinois died April 7, 1984 at Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Services at Community Baptist Church Mud Lake Thursday, April 12, 1984 at 1:30 p. m. Rev. Clinton Powell, Officiating; Rosalie Wadsworth, Organist; Duet - "Beyond the Sunset" Judy Osborne and Dorine Potter; Organ Solo - "Gold Mine In The Sky;" Congregation - "The Old Rugged Cross;" Pallbearers:  Dan Jernberg, Darrell Jernberg, Clyde Jernberg, Duane Jernberg, Cory Jernberg, Boyd Jernberg, Eddie Jernberg, Dale Jernberg; Honorary Pallbearers:  Carl Lundholm, Jack Richins, Warren Mitchell, Ralph Taylor, Harvey Hutchison, Thomas Mitchell, Bruce Mitchell, Joe Hartwell, Alvin Staley; Concluding Services and Interment at Annis Little Butte Cemetery Annis, Idaho; Memorial Rites by Verl Skidmore Post No. 8893, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Terry Gilstrap, Commander;  BUCK-SULLIVAN FUNERAL HOME, Directors

Author:  Mildred Staley, Post-Register Correspondent