I t’s important to keep the memory of Jackson Hole old-timers alive. One lady who stands out in my memory is Vesta Ward Linn. She was born in Wilson in 1896, the first white child born on the west side of the Snake River in Jackson Hole.
Vesta was the granddaughter of Elijah Nicholas “Uncle Nick” Wilson, for whom the town of Wilson is named. Her parents owned and operated the Ward Hotel in Wilson. Vesta attended the one-room school in Wilson for eight grades but never went on to high school because there was none. She helped her father operate the hotel. There were only four rooms to rent, but they had double beds. The rooms were mostly occupied by freighters that came in. Sometimes there were tourists too.
They fed all their guests, and Vesta did a lot of the cooking and baking. She made biscuits every morning, fried bacon and then baked pies and bread before going to school each morning. At noon she would come home and help serve lunch and make a cake.
She spent the winter of 1912-13 in Salt Lake City while her grandfather “Uncle Nick” published his book, “Among the Shoshones.” She received the first copy.
Vesta married Joe Linn in 1916. He was 13 years older. They were the parents of two sons, Vernon and Oscar, who both served during World War II. Vernon was killed in an accident soon after the war while working at the Army Depot in Ogden, Utah. Joe developed Parkinson’s disease and was hospitalized in Evanston, where he died in 1952. Oscar died in an auto accident in the spring of 1953.
Vesta was the great-aunt of Connie Linn and Gene Linn. Both still live on the homestead that their grandfather Ben Linn filed in 1905. The ranch is on the West Bank. Connie said Vesta was like a grandmother to them and always attended family celebrations.
I met Vesta in 1981, when she was 85 years old. We met when I began working at the Senior Center of Jackson Hole. She lived in that little brick house located close to the old high school where the Center for the Arts now stands. By some miracle that little house still exists.
She knew I loved lemon pie, so she would often bake one for me. Each time she would say, “Be careful with the pie plate because my son gave it to me.”
A cute story that she once told: She was a member of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church. They baptize by complete immersion. On a cold April morning the water in Fish Creek was still icy when her uncle baptized her. He held her nose and submerged her. When she surfaced, she exclaimed, “Jesus! That’s cold!” The bishop, her uncle, pushed her down again and held her under until she thought she would drown. She said she never swore again.
Vesta died in February 1988 at the age of 91. In her honor here’s a recipe for “Grandma’s Lemon Meringue Pie” from AllRecipes.com
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 lemons, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 (9-inch) pie crust, baked
4 egg whites
6 tablespoons white sugar
Preheat oven to 350F
Make lemon filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat. Pour into baked pastry shell.
Make meringue: In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread over pie, sealing the edges at the crust.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown.