200 North 187 East



(This history was written in December 2014 – for the Christmas Home Show.  It was Richfield’s Sesquicentennial (150 years) Celebration.)

The east section of this house was built in 1870.  Square nails were used.  A large addition was made to the home in 1902.Joseph and Addie Johnson moved into the home in 1905 with their seven children.  Their daughter, Alta, wrote an article for the Utah Historical Society in 1984 describing Wash Day in this home when she was a young girl.  The article below provides a glimpse into life in Richfield over a hundred years ago.

Wash Day as I Remember It                                                                                                                                  By Alta J. Howard

                When I was a girl in Richfield on 1908 I lived in one of the better homes.  We were considered affluent because Papa built Mama a Wash House.  This was no simple task.  It required careful planning.

                The building was about 10 feet by 12 feet in size, of frame construction with a shingled roof,  one window, one door, and a wide front step.  It was painted white so it would match the house.  It stood about 10 feet from the back kitchen door and was equipped with the latest conveniences – a wood stove, a wooden washer with a wringer attached, a bench with two tubs, one for rinsing and one with a washboard for scrubbing, and a table on which to sort clothes.  The water was just a few steps outside, which was so convenient.

                From the doorstep, Papa had erected two pulley lines.  Each line was extended about 5o feet away into the trees. We could stand at the door and hang the clothes on the line and pull them u[ into the air to dry.  They looked beautiful hanging there, but if the wind happened to be blowing, we were unable to use it.  Because the line would break and the clothes would land on the ground.  I remember that happened once and it was necessary to rewash some of the clothes.

                Now the entire operation was very advanced for 1908, and we were the envy of the neighborhood.  Papa always tried to make life better for Mama.  The Wash House made washday so much easier because it kept the mess out of the kitchen, kept the house cooler and was really a great convenience for Mama.

                We were a large family – six girls, one boy, two grandmothers, one uncle and Mama and Papa – which meant that washings were large and required family cooperation.  The two older girls helped Mama with the wash, and the younger ones dressed and cared for the small children and prepared breakfast.

                There were certain rules rigidly followed at our house.  Washday was always on Monday.  A neighbor who failed to wash then was judged accordingly.  One could always tell the good housekeepers by the Monday washday and how the clothes were arranged on the clothesline.  People in little towns had various ways to classify their neighbors.  Those who failed to wash on Monday were poor housekeepers.

                Monday morning was well planned.  Mama and the two girls were up at 5:00 a.m. and busy.  First a fire was started in the Wash House stove.  Then it was necessary to fill the two boilers with water from the nearby well and place them on the stove to heat.  The boilers were large containers designed to fit over two holes on the stove and to fit side by side so both could heat at the same time.  That was a real convenience.  Heating the water was a slow process, and it was necessary to keep feeding the fire.  This time was used for breakfast and for sorting clothes to prepare them for the washer.  Sorting was very important.  If any colored clothes were mixed with the whites, they would fade and ruin the others.  There were no colorfast dyes then.

                While the water was heating, lye was added to soften the water and to keep the clothes white.  A lye can was in every home.  We were always warned to be very careful because it was poisonous and very caustic.  There were many children disfigured for life, and some died because they found the lye can.  After the water was heated, it was emptied into the washer.  Soap, which Mama had made, was shredded and put into the water.  Then a batch of clothes was added and the machine was ready to be turned.

                Papa was proud of our new washer.  It was the very latest design and he called it “The Woman Saver.” It was made of wood with a wringer attached.  The dasher for agitating the clothes was attached to the lid on the underside with a handle on the top.  When the washer was closed, the handle could be pushed back and forth to agitate the clothes.  We would take turns operating the machine.  It required about 20 minutes for each load and took patience and prodding to keep the washer going until everything was washed.

                After a load was finished, if it was white, it was put into the boiler, which had been refilled and treated with lye.  Mama said this was necessary to keep the clothes white.  While the clothes were boiling, we would stir them with a long round stick.  When the boiling was finished, which took about 20 minutes, they were lifted into a tub of cold water and thoroughly rinsed, put through the wringer, which was operated by hand, and placed in a tub of blueing water, which kept the whites from yellowing.  Now the blueing water had to be just right.  If not, the clothes would be spotted or too blue.  That would never do.  If that happened, the clothes would have to be rewashed.  After the blueing rinse, the clothes were put through the wringer again and separated and separated into two piles – one ready for the line and the other to be starched.

                Much of the success of the wash depended on starching.  Mama would mix starch with cold water until it was dissolved and then add hot water and boil it until it was clear and thick.  After it was cooked, it was thinned to just the right strength.  If it was too heavy, the clothes would be stiff and would stick to the iron.  When the starching was just right it gave body to the garments and they stayed clean much longer.  After the clothes were put through the starch water they were wrung by hand and were ready to be put on the line to dry.

                What a thrill it was to stand on the step and fasten clothes on the line and see them floating in the breeze.  Of course, there was a special way to fasten clothes on the line, or the neighbors would know you were sloppy.  Sheets must be hung together and towels, etc. and they must be even and straight, each with the ends securely fastened.  You had to be an artist to hand clothes on Mama’s line.

                When the line was full and clothes were gently fanning in the breeze, they were white and beautiful.  The neighbors would know that you were good housekeepers.  If you were the first to get your clothes on the line you were really proud.

                It took a day or two to do the family wash.  With a sigh of satisfaction and pride we would prepare supper and sit down to eat and plan for ironing all day Tuesday.  When supper was finished it was time to gather the clothes from the line and prepare them for ironing.  The clothes were separated into two piles – one to be folded carefully and put away and the other to be sprinkled and made ready for ironing day.

                Sprinkling was done by spreading a garment on the table and sprinkling a small amount of water over it.  Then it was rolled up and covered and allowed to stand overnight so the moisture would be evenly distributed.  It required just the right amount of moisture.  If the garment was too wet it didn’t iron right, and if it was too dry it didn’t iron at all.  It was also important after clothes were sprinkled and let them stand too long or they would mildew and be ruined. 

                After the sprinkling was done, it was time to go to bed and be rested for Tuesday’s ironing.


The Knaphus family purchased the home in 1920 and lived there for many years.  A few owners later, Susi Jenson purchased the home (2005) and has done much to restore it.  (Susi Jenson died a few years later.)






Richfield City Corp

75 East Center