Cover photo for Margaret  Bethel Croghan's Obituary
Margaret  Bethel Croghan Profile Photo

Margaret Bethel Croghan

September 1, 1919 — August 10, 2016

Margaret Bethel (Wilson) Croghan, 96, of Elgin, OR passed away on August 10, 2016 at home with two of her daughters by her side. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 20, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. at the Elgin Christian Church followed by a graveside service at the Elgin Cemetery. A dinner for family and friends will follow at the Elgin Christian Church.


Bethel was born September 1, 1919 in Wallowa, OR, to Fonzy M. and Opal M. (Ketcham) (Young) Wilson, the first girl in a family of brothers. The family lived on Smith Mountain, northwest of Wallowa while her father worked in the area as a lumberman and carpenter. They moved to the Wallowa River canyon east of Minam where they lived until Bethel was 5 years old and started school in Elgin. She stayed with some family friends during her first grade year as her mother was ill and all the children were farmed out to friends while her father worked. While at the Vandervorts, Bethel attended the Elgin Christian Church.


After Bethel's first grade year, the family got back together on Palmer Junction Road, north of Elgin, where they had another daughter and two more sons. They moved between that place and a home on Gordon Creek, also north of Elgin, so the children could attend school in the winters. Bethel attended the country schools through eighth grade at Thorny Grove, Gordon Creek, and Partridge Creek (the Darr School), taking second and third grade in one year. She walked or rode a horse to school. She graduated from Elgin High School in 1936. Bethel enjoyed school and thought highly of her teachers. In high school she received some Palmer Penmanship Awards for her beautiful penmanship. She was in 4-H clubs since age 8 with sewing and cooking, and she joined the Rockwall Grange at age 14.


Bethel walked or rode to piano lessons from Mrs. Galloway and Edna Rush along with her friend Marie Smith. She took her mother's place playing music with her father who played the fiddle and taught her to chord.


Bethel's family was close with their neighbors toward town, the Croghans, and eventually she and John Croghan began dating. The night of her high school graduation John proposed and they were engaged for three years. Bethel worked in Fruitland, ID doing housework and cooking for a neighbor of her grandparents while staying there with her mother. She also worked for the Gekelers on Cricket Flat near Elgin staying with them and seeing John when she could. She and John's sister, Dorothy, had a laundry washing business for the men who built the Tollgate Highway west of Elgin.


After John and Bethel were married, on June 14, 1939, they lived for a year with John's mother and siblings who were still on the farm. She always spoke highly of "Grandma Croghan" and the things she learned from her. They also lived in a logging camp above Rondowa. In 1940, Bethel and John moved to a farm they had purchased, which was between the Wilsons' and the Croghans', and eventually acquired the property where Bethel grew up, too. They lived there the rest of their lives raising their 6 children, building a new home on the property in 1950. John had a sawmill and sold lumber and raised cattle. With her husband, Bethel raised a huge garden while her children were growing up, enjoyed canning their winters' food, and sold garden produce along with milk, cream, homemade cottage cheese, butter, and eggs. She helped her kids with their 4-H projects, including sheep and cattle, garden produce, sewing, and cooking. She won ribbons at the county fair with her canning, as well. She sewed her family's clothes for many years, made quilts, and crocheted. She also enjoyed playing pinochle, reading, crosswords, picnicking, picking huckleberries and mushrooms, scouting for wildlife, and seeing her family and friends.


Stalwart members of the Grange, she and John held several offices there over the years, and helped lead Junior Grange when their older kids were in it. She recently was presented with an 80 year membership pin and a certificate of thanks for her 83 years of Grange membership, which made her smile.


Bethel played the piano and John played the violin, banjo, or harmonica for many dances at the Grange Hall and the Elgin Community Center, and they had a band for a while with some friends called the "Stump Jumpers". They also played at the Senior Meals in Elgin, which Bethel continued to do after John passed away on January 1, 1997, until about a year before her death. She also enjoyed playing music at the Promise Grange Hall for their annual reunion in recent years. Bethel and John joined the Blue Mountain Old Time Fiddlers Association in the 1970s and played at many Fiddle Shows around the area. In 2001, Bethel was inducted into the Fiddlers' Hall of Fame for her work as Editor of their monthly newsletter, "Rosin Dust", for 12 years. Bethel played at her last Fiddle Show on June 11th at the Hurricane Creek Grange in Joseph.


Bethel never learned to ride a bike or swim and was afraid of the water, but she didn't mind an occasional snowmobile ride or flying, and took trips to New York and Alaska to visit family.


She belonged to the Rockwall Home Extension group and more recently the Triple E Home Extension, the Palmer Valley Ladies Bible Study, and the Union County Historical Society. Bethel had a quiet faith, probably modeled after her mother's, and taught her children the basics about God and how to pray, and took them to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, until they were old enough to drive themselves. She taught them the Golden Rule, that you should put others before yourself, and the Ten Commandments. She was patient, giving, a good sport about most anything her family wanted her to do, and always said, "I'm a follower, not a leader." She was devoted to serving her husband and family, and John said she would "feed the devil if he showed up at the door hungry.". She enjoyed raising chickens until about 20 years ago, and said earlier this spring while looking out the window, "I'd like to have some chickens." She loved her old yellow cat, Tiger, and he, like all who knew her, will miss her greatly. She was a tough but mellow lady who survived much in her life, but felt she'd had a good life. What a trooper!


Bethel was preceded in death by her husband, John, her parents, a half-brother Wilson who died in infancy and half-brother Jesse Vandevort (her father's sons), half-brother Willard Young, siblings Fred, Richard, Fonzy Junior, and Esley Wilson, Jessie McDonald (formerly McDowell), and Sidney Wilson. She is survived by her children and spouses Janita Post of Pendleton, Terrel and Pearl Croghan of Elgin, Margie and David Vaughn of La Grande, Cathleen Croghan of Palmer, AK, Tamera Croghan of Elgin, and Laura and Chris Banta of Elgin, and sister-in-law (on John's side) Marlene Croghan of Boise, ID, seven grandsons and two step-granddaughters, 16 great grandchildren including step-greats, and one step-great, great granddaughter, and one on the way, and many nieces and nephews, and friends.


Memorial contributions may be made in memory of Bethel to the Rockwall Grange in Elgin or the Promise Grange Hall in Wallowa. Arrangements are through Daniels-Knopp Funeral, Cremation & Life Celebration Center in La Grande.

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