The Tales of a Blair Family    

From: History of Tooele County,Utah: Vol. II: by Orrin P. Miller: 1990: page 435:
by Mary Ruth Hammond, Gazette Staff Writer: April 6, 1988

    Grantsville resident, Nell Marie Palmer Lamus, turned 88 years old on April 1, 1988, and she has truly led an interesting and colorful life.  While her husband was still alive the two of them often entertained dignitaries in their home, with Nell doing all of the cooking.  Nell's husband, Blair, was a very prominent man in Wendover and was featured in a LIFE magazine article in 1948.  There was a newspaper in New York who once printed a story about Nell's family and their pet crow, who could talk.

    It was hard for this writer to believe that the agile, smiling lady could actually have been born at the turn of the century.  Nell was an extremely gracious person to interview, and it was sometimes hard for me to keep up with her happy conversation, and her running to and fro as she proudly showed me some of her lovely art work and other projects that keep her busy.  The following is only a very small sample of the interesting activities that have kept this delightful little lady busy for so many years.

    Mrs. Lamus was born April 1, 1900, in Grantsville.  She was the fourth of ten children born to Jim and Emma Barrus Palmer.  Her brothers and sisters include: Van; Naomi Warburton; Hugh; Faye Crowther; Jim; Emma Dalton; Erwin (Sam); Ross; and Keene.  Her only surviving sibling is Emma, who lives in Salt Lake City.  She also has two surviving sisters-in-law in Grantsville, Orae Palmer and Dora Palmer Bybee.  The Palmer family grew up in the house that stood on the corner of Main and Willow Streets, which was occupied in recent years by the Keene and Twila Palmer family.

    Both sets of Nell's grandparents were Utah pioneers who walked across the plains as members of the Mormon handcart parties.  At one time her grandfather, Orin Barrus, with two of his brothers, Owen and Benny, owned most of the property in the east end of Grantsville.  Nell's paternal grandfather, James Palmer, a well known Utah pioneer whose life story has been published in a book entitled "James Palmer's Travels and Ministry in the Gospel," settled at Deep Creek in Tooele County's Ibapah.

    Nell grew up in Grantsville.  She said, "Oh, I loved growing up in this town.  When I was a young girl I knew every crag, tree, and place that was here.  I used to run and play all over the town."  Nell's mother was a practical nurse.  Nell said, "Everybody that needed help would come for my mother.  She spent many, many hours helping others.  I've always said that I helped raise some of my brother's and sister's--one on each hip--while mother was tending to the needs of those who were sick."  After Nell had started her second year of high school in Grantsville's "adobe school house," which was located in the approximate vicinity of the present day fire station, she quit school and obtained a job at Burmester, sewing salt sacks.  Salduro, which is a Spanish word meaning salt, was a little community located nine miles east of Wendover.  Most of the people who lived in Salduro were salt plant workers.

    It was at Salduro that Nell met her husband, Blair, who was from Shasta County, California.  Blair's father had come to Utah to work at Salduro.  One summer day, a couple of years after Nell met Blair, he was working in Farmington, Utah, and asked her to meet him in Salt Lake City.  When she arrived in Salt Lake City he asked her to marry him, explaining that he had already talked to her father and asked for her hand in marriage.  The couple was married on July 7, 1925, in Farmington.

    Blair and Nell spent most of their married life living in Wendover and at Knolls, Utah.  Blair had a job with the Tooele County Road Commission, which took him back and forth between Knolls and Wendover.  Their children remember going to school with three other children in a camp wagon that was pulled out to Knolls.

    Nell's daughter, Joan, also talked about the times the family would go out searching for Indian arrowheads in the desert.  Their talking crow would always go along on those expeditions.  Joan said, "Mom, Dad, my brother, our dogs and I would all walk along the desert looking for the arrowheads.  The crow would actually hop along behind us on those expeditions."  The Lamus family found enough arrowheads to fill boxes and boxes, which Blair gave to the University of Utah before he passed away.

    Blair died in 1955, but his memory still lives vividly in Nell's mind, and she says she loves to talk about him.  Blair's son-in-law, Lavell Hansen, said, "Blair only had an 8th grade education, but he was known far and wide for his expertise in Chemistry.  He could talk on an equal level with chemists who had earned their doctorates of philosophy in the subject."  Blair's daughter, Joan Hansen remembered, "Dad never went to bed without a Chemistry book in his hand.  He would read those books every night until he fell asleep."  Blair had became well known when he and his father devised a method that separated pot ash from brine while he was working as the superintendent of Bonneville Ltd. in Wendover, which is now Kaiser Chemical.  People came from all over the world, including Chili and Israel, to see how his discovery worked.

    It was Blair, his father, and one other contractor who was responsible for building the road between Wendover and Knolls.  Blair was also very instrumental in getting the Bonneville Race Track going out in Wendover.  In 1948 LIFE magazine printed his picture and told about him in a story they wrote about the Bonneville Race Track.

    Blair's father was the first mayor of Wendover, and when he passed away before his term expired, Blair was appointed to serve as the mayor.  Nell is proud of the fact that Tooele County Chamber of Commerce named a mountain peak in west Wendover in honor of her husband.

    In 1962 Nell retired from working, and in 1972 she decided to move back to Grantsville from Wendover.  However, she has maintained a very active and busy pace since her retirement.  It was shortly after her retirement that she purchased a "Blueboy Paint by Number Set" and decided to become an artist.  She noticed an ad in a paper that a man in Connecticut wanted students to take a correspondence art course from him.  Nell signed up for the class and developed into an extremely gifted artist.  She said that the art teacher took a personal interest in her because she as from Wendover.  The teacher had been the first captain at the air base in Wendover when the runways were built."  He just couldn't believe that a lady from Wendover would actually be interested in taking an art course," she said.

    Nell has won numerous awards for her art, including a three state amateur oil contest held in Elko, Nevada.  She also held a one-artist show in Elko.  Her paintings include desert scenes, mountain scenes, landscapes, and flowers. Nell has her own art studio which is located just to the south of her house.

    The effervescent lady also loves to cook, write poetry, do crafts, and spend time in her garden.  She laughed and said, "I've already spaded my yard in anticipation of this year's garden."  At one time Nell had 500 iris seedlings in her garden, including a lovely pink ruffled iris that she developed herself and named the "Nell Marie Iris."  When she lived in Wendover people would come to her house just to see her lovely roses.  All of the paintings she has done of flowers have been her own flowers that she has grown, arranged in a beautiful bouquet, and then painted.

    Nell and Blair have two children. Their son, Dr. Bruce B. Lamus, has recently retired as a specialist in internal medicine in Everett, Washington.  Their daughter, Joan Hansen, has recently retired as a school teacher in Sacramento, California.  Pride glows in Nell's eyes when she talks about the accomplishments of her children.  Nell also has seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.  Nell's youngest great-grandchild, Tyler Rachelle, who is only four weeks old, and her sister, Shelby Marie, flew to Utah from California with their parents, Pam and Carl Hansen, to help celebrate Nell's 88th birthday.

    Nell still possesses good health. She said, "Although I was sometimes sick in my younger years, I do enjoy good health today.  I have good strong legs and eyes.  I have some problems with my hearing, but other than that, I'm in great shape."  She continued, "I guess that's because I've always kept myself busy and I've never wasted time.  Even if I sit down for a few minutes, I keep something in my hands like sewing or crocheting.  I never allow myself to become depressed because I'm so involved in all of my projects.  I always have my winter activities planned before winter is over, so I'm never idle."

    And that philosophy seems to have worked wonderfully well for Nell Lamus.  She is, indeed, a remarkable woman.  The Gazette staff joins with many others in wishing Nell many, many more happy and constructive years.