Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bellevue woman celebrates 107 years

Chrystal Harper has a rich history in the Wood River Valley


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Bellevue resident Chrystal Harper enjoys a quiet afternoon last Friday. She celebrated her 107th birthday last week. Photo by Willy Cook

The city of Bellevue donated flowers to Chrystal Harper on her 107th birthday last week, celebrating the life of perhaps the oldest woman in Blaine County.

Harper's father, William Uhrig, moved to Idaho in 1887, raising three girls and three boys on a farm near Stanton Crossing, about 15 miles south of Bellevue. As a child, Harper rode about two miles to school, wrapped in quilts in a horse-drawn sled.

"The schoolhouse was so cold we had to hug the heater," said Harper in an interview last summer. She lost her mother when she was 5 and to help out around the house climbed onto a box to wash the dishes. She stood on a fence post to mount the family horse.

Harper rode with "no saddle. Only bareback!" She remembers flushing "sage chickens" nearby as well. Harper took the 15-mile trip to Bellevue only twice each year, to get supplies in the spring and school clothes in the fall. Her family lived on the road to the Camas Prairie, and she often encountered Native Americans passing through on wagons, probably on their way to gather camas bulbs, a staple in their diet.

"They were rough-looking Indians. They had a poor old team of horses that should never have been hitched up," she said.

Harper has been known for defending animals that were not treated well, reporting to the sheriff rodeo stock left out in the sun.

William Uhrig rounded up his kids and hid them in a closet upstairs when the Native Americans passed through. The young girl held on tightly to a doorknob in the dark until they were gone.

"I was scared to death of them," Harper said.

When the family farm was sold in 1917, Harper moved to Boise. She met Ed Harper, who had just completed his military training in preparation for sailing to Europe to fight in World War I. After the war ended, Ed Harper was playing baseball when he spotted Chrystal Uhrig for the first time.

"He walked up to me and said hello, and that was it," Harper said with a shrug.

The couple drove a Chevy truck over Timmerman Hill—in southern Blaine County—in 1924 to Washington state, and then followed the West Coast south into California in search of work. They settled in Laguna Beach, where they operated a dry-cleaning business for the next 17 years.

"Laguna Beach was nothing but a big expanse with three houses. We had one of them," she said. "I liked California. I'd kind of like to go back there," she said.

In 1943, people Harper described as the "Zoot Suits" came to Laguna Beach. Thinking they were bad company, probably gangsters, the Harpers packed up and drove back to Idaho.

In 1945, Harper became a member of the Mayflower Rebekah Lodge in Bellevue, serving for many years as the group's financial officer. Over the years, she sewed for herself many formal gowns for occasions at the lodge, using a pre-electric treadle sewing machine.

Harper donated some toys and household objects from her childhood to the Bellevue Historical Museum many years ago.

On Sept. 1, 2010, there were 70,490 U.S. citizens aged 100 or more. This corresponds to a national incidence of one centenarian per 4,400 people. It is estimated that only 27 people in recorded history have lived to the age of 115.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2019 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.