Book Review: Won't Quit: An Escalante Desert Love Story

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Here at Frontier Homestead, we thought we would, from time to time, share with you what we are reading. This month our review comes from our visitor services manager, Summer Lyftogt. We encourage you to share with us your favorite reads as the year progresses.

"Won’t Quit" delivers an interesting and informative account of a group of people who settled the Escalante Desert in the early 1900’s. In reviewing this book, I was most in awe of the perseverance of these settlers.

 The Johnston Family farm circa 1916.

The Johnston Family farm circa 1916.

The story of a young man obsessed with the dream of being a farmer on his own land, Harley Johnston had grown up farming in the Midwest before migrating to California to be near family.  In 1914 most all the prime land for homesteading was taken. When he saw an ad in the local Los Angeles newspaper for 321 acre homesteading plats for dry farming, (non-irrigation of crops) in the Southern Utah Escalante Valley, he set his sights on that.  He set goals to get what he wanted.  He took a better paying job to save money for the move and started looking for a pretty, young wife. He found his wife, Mary King, at a Methodist church social.  They fell deeply in love and she agreed to accompany him to Lund, Utah to follow his dream.  The life in Lund was hard and cruel.  Dry farming wasn’t working out in the arid desert.  They did everything they could to survive.  They raised sheep, then cattle.  Harley even took a job in the town of Lund.  Eventually, they also owned the general store in town for a period of time.  They had and raised four children in the valley.  Finally, in the late 1940’s Harley realized his dream of farming his homestead by building an irrigation system.

 Mary and Harley Johnston, 1954.

Mary and Harley Johnston, 1954.

The author, Dick Johnston, the youngest of Harley’s children composed this book from memories, photos, documents and hand written letters. Each chapter contains photos and entertaining quotes from the people of the era.

"Won’t Quit" is a memoir that is interesting, entertaining and impressive.  The author’s dedication to his family is obvious throughout the book.  "Won’t Quit" is published by Southern Utah University and is available at Frontier Homestead State Park gift shop as well as other outlets.