By Madge Cook Wylie
When Ross Pettijohn returned from World War I to his home in Twin Falls he went to work as a bookkeeper for Gem State Lumber Co.
After a few weeks work the manager, who was a friend of his, said, “Ross, how would you like to go to the yard in Melba and keep books there?”
Ross said he had never heard of Melba, but since he was foot-loose, he might as well check it out.
So, on May 4, 1919 he landed in Nampa where he was met by J. F. Vincent, the manager of Gem State Lumber yard in Melba.
It was a short train trip to Melba where he rented a room in the Gardner Hotel. He had become acquainted with the Gardners when they lived in Murtaugh, Idaho, where he had, incidentally, homesteaded.
After a few months, Mr. Vinent retired as manager of the lumber yard and Charles Black arrived as the new manager.
He brought with him his own assistant. So, Ross got a job as bookkeeper at the McLain Hardware where John Gray was the manager.
They were still in the process of building the new brick building, which was attached to the front of the little wood frame store building.
Part of his job was to haul bricks for the new construction.
Ross said at that time in early 1919, Mr. Eichenberger had a coal and feed store, the Hawley brothers, a real estate office and John Sanford had a grocery store where Ernie Smith’s warehouse stood for many years until it was demolished in 2011.
The post office was in the Sanford store and in addition to Gem State Lumber, there was another lumber yard run by a Mr. Robinson.
It became Boise-Payette Lumber Co. Mr. Todd built his grocery store across the street and called it Todd Mercantile.
He moved the post office from the Sanford store to his own store.
In the fall of 1919, standing on the bridge that crosses the canal just east of the Melba Baptist Church, Ross proposed to Hilda E. Moore, daughter of the W. W. (Fred) and Bertha Christina Moore.
The Moores had come to Melba in 1917 from Boise.
Ross bought an acre of land from Mr. Loomis and built a house on the corner of Fourth Street and Randolph, across from Melba Grade School.
The Postmaster job in those days was by political appointment.
With the election of Republican President Warren G. Harding, on February 20, 1922, Ross was appointed Postmaster of Melba for a four-year term.
Once again, with the presidential change, Ross was re-appointed on the 16th day of March, 1926, to four more years in the job.
The Republicans prevailed and on March 20, 1930 Ross was once more re-appointed, this time by Herbert Hoover.
Then, in 1932 the Democrat Party took over the national leadership and Ross resigned from his position to once again go into farming.
He purchased the Clark Wheeler farm below the canal and sold the house on the corner to J. C. Bernard who had just traded his place in Owyhee County for the Melba Garage on the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway.
Ross farmed the place and built a new house there in late the 1940s.
During those years of farming and riding ditch for the Irrigation District, he also served as clerk of the Village for 21 years.
He served as clerk of the school board for nearly that many years and also served as Justice of the Peace and Police Judge in the early ‘50s.
Hilda Moore Pettijohn was a talented and creative person. She always had a beautiful yard come summertime, and grew all kinds of fruits and vegetables which were carefully preserved for winter. She tried her hand at many artistic skills including sewing, oil painting, ceramics, upholstery, knitting, crochet and other varied arts and crafts.
Both Ross and Hilda were charter members of the IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) and enjoyed the company of many Melba folks in that organization, including John and “Dot” Gray, Ray and Olga McClaran, and Rex and Roxy Jensen.
Hilda’s mother, “Christy” Moore was born to Mormon pioneers who came to Utah from Denmark and Norway, so some of the Pettijohn children raised their families following after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dyer Pettijohn was a devout Episcopalian and served for many years at that church in Wharton, Texas.
Ross and Hilda were the parents of seven children who attended Melba schools and all but the youngest, Victor, graduated from Melba High School. All seven were favored to learn their first grade phonics from Miss Vashti McKimmy. Walking to school was a quick trip, as they lived right across the street.
The Pettijohn boys all served their country from World War II to Viet Nam. Ross was a missile inventor after he left the service and Bob retired as an Army Lt. Colonel. The girls are all creative in words – Ann, an historian; Martha, a poet laureate and Dorothy, a biographer.
In 1958 Ross sold the “Loomis” farm to Loyd Coleman and he and Hilda moved to Coos Bay, Oregon where they were buried in the mid-‘80s. Since then, their three oldest sons, Ross, Dyer and Robert have passed away. Still living are Dorothy (Johnson) of Burnsville, Minnesota; Martha (Morrise) of Roy, Utah; Ann (Tomlinson) of Nampa and Victor Pettijohn of North Bend, Oregon.
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