Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy 128th Birthday, Blanche Hatch Woodland (1883-1984)!

Nita Welch's mother

Ruth Blanche Hatch was named after her aunt Ruth and Emmeline Blanche Wells (no relation), since her mother Annie was heavily involved in the early Relief Society efforts and admired Emmeline. She is the only great-grandparent I met, and lived to be 101--a lifetime which spanned carriage to spaceship.

Blanche at age 18 in 1901

Blanche (who always went by her middle name), was the fifth of ten children born to Idaho pioneers Lorenzo Lafayette and Annie Hatch.  Three of her four grandparents crossed the plains as pioneers, and that family legacy greatly influenced her life.

Her father missed her birth while taking his son to the circus. Blanche had a happy childhood of paper dolls, caring for younger siblings, taking the cows to pasture, running telegraph errands for her mother, and frequently spending the night with her widowed Grandmother Fox.

By age 14, Blanche helped her father run the post office, and then she loved attending the Brigham Young College in Logan with her many cousins. There she met her future husband Dan Woodland, studied organ, and later attended a nursing program and graduated from the Keister Tailoring College in Logan.  These nursing and sewing skills were well-used in her life.

Blanche married Dan in the Salt Lake Temple at age 25, a double wedding with his sister Pearl and missionary companion Roy Chadwick.  The newlyweds lived in Brigham City and later moved to Malad, Idaho, for most of their child-raising years.  They had seven children, and mourned the loss of 6 month old Iza in 1917 (during the flu epidemic).  

Mothering brought both joy and heartache to Blanche.  She nearly died giving birth to her son D. Platt in 1920, and her life was miraculously spared through the healing of a priesthood blessing. Blanche suffered years later when that same son was murdered in the line of duty as a night guardsman.  She also agonized over daughter Eloise's death in childbirth in 1937.

Woodland family Christmas 1949
She was good at adapting patterns; when Hazel once saw a dress she liked in Salt Lake, she sketched it and Blanche sewed it for her. She also crocheted afghans and hanger covers which some descendants have.  Blanche was a great organizer, packing for family car trips to national parks, taking the pictures (but seldom in them), and served for many years in stake Primary and MIA callings.  She entertained apostle Melvin J. Ballard in the home (cooking veal birds on a coal range), and kept a daily diary for many years.  

The Woodlands moved to Logan in 1932, where Blanche lived until 1975.  She was a survivor.  In her seventies, she was told by a doctor examining her gall bladder pains, "If you were a young lady, I'd do surgery!" to which she replied, "I am a young lady!" and she had the surgery.  She continued to crochet with a broken arm in a cast, mowed her own lawn as a widow, and enjoyed an 80th birthday celebration trip to Hawaii.

Blanche shared her 90th birthday with her granddaughter Barbara (my mother)'s wedding, and at the reception, the bride and groom greeted visitors outside while Blanche held her own court in the living room.  At age 92, Blanche left Logan to spend seasons living with her children.  I remember her using a walker but even getting in the pool and playing the piano in her late 90s.

I love this tribute written by daughter Nita in 1978: "She doesn't look like a gypsy.  No tambourine or gold earrings, no bright scarf or bolero-topped paisley dress to betray her inner restlessness.  But gypsy she is if gypsy is to be ready at a moment's notice whenever the magic words are said: Travel, car, city, reception, park, vacation, shopping, museum, concert, play, open house, church, lecture, tour, dance, visit--cane in hand she is ready.  This little sprite of a woman at 95 still finds excitement in the world beyond her door. Contemporaries may be content in a rest home. She prefers a restless home! ... Ever her service has been handmade to the Lord. This gypsy world cannot be store-bought. ... This wanderlust was to continue to world's fairs, national parks, and California winters in years that followed... Bag in hand by airway or highway she still changes camp for new sights and sounds. On this, your 95th birthday, we salute this sallying spirit, this spry one--our Super Grandmother."

96th birthday party

my daughters wearing Blanche's dresses
I remember Great-Grandmother Woodland's 100th birthday party, when I was 8 years old.  All of us great-grandchildren helped blow out what seemed like a sea of fire of candles.  I wish I had known her better at the time.  

I would give that gypsy adventurer a world cruise!  


  1. i think i have inherited some of her restless wanderlust! great post.

  2. I'd give her a Segway or Duck tour.

  3. Anita does such a good job writing these little histories. Today is Grandmother Woodland's birthday, so I am forwarding this on to those in my family who I think might be interested.

    I have some great memories of my Grandmother Woodland. I enjoyed several summers at her house in Logan when I was a teenager, and my family also went there one Christmas when I was 13 (see the 1949 photo below). As my Aunt Nita said, Grandmother loved to travel, and she came to our house in Monmouth in June of 1963 for two weeks when she was nearly 80, riding the train to Portland. While she was with us we took her to the Oregon coast one day, then to Seattle to attend Gary's PhD graduation ceremony at the U. of Washington. While in Seattle we also visited the World's Fairgrounds and went up the space needle. Two days later, while Grandma Huxford took care of Leslie, Lynne, and Carol, Grandmother Woodland and I took a four-hour steamer trip to Victoria, B.C. We toured the city and surrounding area by Greyline bus, explored Butchart Gardens, the Empress Hotel, the Parliament buildings and the Museum, then ate dinner on the ship on the return trip. Nita was right--Grandmother was always ready for an adventure. She loved shopping, too. After looking through the women's dresses at Crider's in Monmouth (most of them navy blue), she dismissed them as being "old lady dresses." Although nearly 80, she was a modern woman and they weren't her style.

    I hope you've enjoyed a few of my memories. By the way, the baby in the 1910 photo is my mother, known to my children as Grandma Hazel.

    Love, to you all,

    Mom/Grandma H.

  4. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman! THANKS and love,

    Lew Cramer

  5. I am interested in information on the Hatch family. My mother was Marianna Hatch Parkinson Musser, who was the daughter of Ina Hatch Parkinson who was a sister of Blanche Hatch. I met Aunt Blanche only a couple of times when I was very young. If you could direct me to a sight with the lineage of the Hatch family or a Hatch family tree I'd appreciate it.

    Thank you,
    Alyson Musser Morvay

  6. Alyson,
    Welcome, cousin! Have you tried accessing the tree at

    Email me directly for more information: anitacramerwells at gmail dot com

    You can read bios of Ina's mom Annie Hatch, and her grandparents Elizabeth Fox and Lorenzo Hatch on my blog here (her father and other grandparents haven't yet had their birthdays). Good luck!

  7. Anita,

    Thanks so much for the link. I'll definitely read it and get in touch if I have questions.


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