Most important crop in town of Belfry: children

When Clarence Jackson's parents arrived to inspect some property in the quaint little valley of Belfry, Mont., they were met with bare ground. That, contrasted with the snow drifts they left when they departed their home in Driggs, Idaho, was all the persuasion the Jacksons needed to relocate.

Nearly 80 years later, Clarence still calls Belfry "home" and is an active farmer. Their only move was when they relocated their house a few hundred feet to the west to make room for road improvements.

He and his wife, Dora, have raised cattle and various crops on their land about five miles south of downtown Belfry (population about 300), just a few miles from the Wyoming border.

But of all the things they have raised on the farm, the most important are their 10 children.

In fact, their small, comfortable home just off State Road 72 is decorated primarily with family photographs. On a kitchen wall they have a carved, wooden family tree with cup hooks holding pictures of all their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and spouses.

Evidence of something else Brother and Sister Jackson hold dear is provided by the Church-related pictures and books that grace their home. As children growing up and for the past 57 years as husband and wife, they have been stalwarts in the Church. Brother Jackson remembers that his family, shortly after arriving in Belfry, joined a few other LDS families in the valley to organize a Sunday School. Later came a branch — one of the first Church units in Montana, according to current branch president Fred Kazmierski. Branch membership has fluctuated in size over the years and currently is about 100. The one constant has been the Jacksons and their faith in the Lord.

Born in Woodruff, Utah, into a family with a pioneer heritage, Brother Jackson was 9 years old when his family moved to Belfry in 1923. Sister Jackson, born in 1924, was also a young girl when her family made its way to the community. They went through similar experiences growing up and are proud to be graduates of Belfry High School where the mascot is, yes, a bat.

Brother Jackson was branch clerk when Dora, as a child, was taught the gospel and baptized as a convert. Their family farms were near each other and they were also well acquainted as members of a small branch in a small community.

"I wanted to give her a diamond ring when she graduated from high school and she wouldn't accept it," Brother Jackson said. "Then I wanted to be engaged the following winter and she said, 'Well, where is the diamond ring?' So I finally got her the diamond ring and we decided to get married on her birthday."

It wasn't so easy, though. Sister Jackson said that through the teachings of the Church, especially while she was attending Mutual, she wanted to be married in the temple. But the temples were far from Belfry, and World War II was raging. Because of the war, there were travel restrictions and rationing of fuel; getting to a temple seemed to be an insurmountable challenge.

But their faithfulness in the Church opened up a way. The branch was provided a train ticket by the Church for a priesthood leader to attend general conference in Salt Lake City. Brother Jackson was a counselor in the branch presidency, and was offered the ticket because the branch president was unable to go. Then resources were collected to buy Dora a train ticket so she could go to Salt Lake with Clarence.

The journey by train was long and arduous. At one point they had a layover in Butte, Mont., and decided to buy their marriage license there to save time. Later they found out they had to buy the license in the county where they were to be married. "So we could still take that old license and go up to Butte and get married sometime," Brother Jackson said with a laugh.

They made it to Salt Lake City and were married in the temple on March 31, 1943. "We were married during the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple," Brother Jackson said. "But they didn't make a fuss about the anniversary because it was war time."

After the wedding/conference, the Jacksons returned once again to Belfry, where they have been content ever since. They have occasionally traveled, usually to Salt Lake City for general conference. But their happiness has come from faithfulness in the Church and from raising livestock, crops and, most important, children.

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