This website will shut down in Mar. 2013.
In Aug. 2006, Helen Aldridge (dustbuster777(at)hotmail(dot)com) contributed the
following concerning James L. Wrathall (1860 - 1932) and his home in Grantsville.
5 South Center
written by Helen Aldrige
An unusual window resembling an eye, and shaded by gracefully curved shingles again, gazes eastward from the upper story of the century-old mansion at 5 South Center. For years, the once elegant home was obscured by the large trees that surrounded it. In 2005, two enormous pine trees (known by some as the "bride and groom" trees) were removed, allowing a clear view to passers-by. For a third of a century the house was home to James L. and Penninah Wrathall, and for nearly seven more decades it has belonged to their descendants.
Some people call it "the Wrathall home", some call it "the other Johnson home", and some refer it as "that big house behind Robin's". The stately house reflects the craftsmanship and skill of its builder, Charles Zephanihah Shaffer. With its thirteen large rooms and what have been described as "all of the modern conveniences" of the time, it was once one of the finest homes in Grantsville. Constructed in 1898, it was the first to convert to electricity when that amenity came to town in 1905. In an era when indoor plumbing was rare, a tank on the second floor provided water for the family's use. On a rock foundation, it was constructed of two layers of adobe brick, with an exterior layer of red brick. Legend says the bricks were shipped parcel-post because it was too expensive to bring them by train. Inside, the color scheme was pale green and dusty rose. This was repeated in a stained glass window over the stairs, which were accentuated by a beautiful wooden bannister. Upstairs, there were four bedrooms. The balcony was used as a sleeping porch in warm weather. The third floor consisted of one enormous room where the Wrathall children and their friends played.
A description of the house written for its application to the National Register of Historic Places notes that there are approximately 2,700 square feet of space in the two main floors. That includes a one-story kitchen added to the northwest corner in the 1940s. The full-height attic is expansive, but the basement is only partially excavated. A foyer with the curved stairway on the north opens off the central entrance. Occupying the square turret on the south is the parlor with its beautiful oak woodwork and elaborate two-tiered mantel. Doors lead from the parlor into the dining room in the southwest corner of the house. All the doors are original and feature the transoms common to the time.
James L. Wrathall was a successful rancher and businessman, acquiring in his lifetime 4,000 acres of farm and ranch land, where he raised hay and sugar beets. In 1890 he purchased lots on what is now the corner of Main and Center Streets from the pioneer, John Eastham. At the time a small cottage was located on the property. The Wrathall family lived there while the new house was constructed. (The older house, facing Main Street, still stands.) James and Penninah Hunter Wrathall were the parents of ten children. The two youngest were born in the front guest bedroom on the first floor of their new home. James and Penny encouraged their children to develop useful talents, such as playing the piano. They also emphasized the importance of education. The dining room doubled as a study hall for the children.
At the age of 72, James L. Wrathall gathered his family around him at home and predicted his death. He died the following day, November 29, 1932. Penninah died in 1937. A portion of their property had been deeded to a son, Morris Wrathall, in 1931. After Penninah's death, the remainder went to her daughter, Irene Wrathall Page, whose husband, George Page, had died in 1936. It is not known how long Irene lived in the house, but she did rent it out for a few years. In 1944 she sold it to her youngest sister, Hazel Wrathall Johnson, who was married to Milan "Mike" Johnson. They had eight children. They remodeled and restored portions in the 1950s and lived in the house until their deaths, his in 1978, hers in 1993. The next year the property was transferred to their daughter, Janice Johnson Sommerfeld and her husband, Sigmund.
While few people now living knew James and Penninah Wrathall, there are no doubt those whose parents and grandparents attended social functions in Bishop Wrathall's fine home. A description penned in his journal by Joshua Clark and printed in detail in Alma Gardiner's history of Grantsville describes the formal dedication of the house in 1899. Some may recall the rosettes which adorned the ceilings in the original parlor and dining room. Laura Hudson Johnson (1905 - 2003) was a school friend of Hazel Wrathall. Laura told how, when she was visiting Hazel one day, Hazel's mother gave the girls a large basket of eggs and asked them to go to the store to trade for the food she needed for dinner that evening. On the way, they met some boys they knew (Chunky Anderson and Paul Jefferies), who invited them to go for a ride in their car to the warm springs. They got stuck in the mud. The boys walked to a sheep camp to ask the sheepherder to use his horses to pull them out. When Laura finally got home, she hid the muddy shoes she had been wearing under her bed. She said she never dared to ask Hazel what happened when she didn't return with the food. Hazel's own memories of her childhood home included the silverware which she had to polish every Sunday, and the napkins with the family's initials on them.
Aletha Ericson, a Tooele girl, married Theodore Roosevelt Wrathall, whom she met at a dance (the Junior Prom) at Grantsville High School. "Rosie" was a grandson of James and Penninah. Aletha said she was in the house only a couple of times to visit Aunt Hazel, but she remembered when she used to "chase in Grantsville" before she was married, how beautifully the house and yard were kept. A fabulous flower bed, with numerous peonies, occupied the southeast corner of the lot. That is the spot where the former Robins' now stands. Pauline Wrathall Hawker, a granddaughter of James and Penninah, has a photograph of her grandparents enjoying a family gathering on the lawn. Also present was William Spry, who served as governor of Utah and was married to James' sister, Mary Alice.
Barbara Dalton (a descendant of the Wrathalls) wrote: "The home of James and Penny Wrathall will always be remembered for its beauty and individuality, as will its occupants."
Janice Sommerfeld, who owns the James L. Wrathall's home, is in poor health and resides in a nursing home. Her husband still lives in the house. I don't know what treasures they have regarding the house but it would be wonderful to see. I have run into many descendants and other residents who would love to buy it and restore it.
[Helen has also written accounts of 278 West Clark (James Wrathall's house)
and 84 West Main (Paul E. Wrathall's house)].