The Rowberry family, one of the first families to settle the Tooele Valley, was blessed with artistic talents uncommon to the time. Most of their descendants had risen to local fame as builders, painters and sculptors, but one, known as the “Man with a Hoe”, was a gardener of a very special variety.
His name was Clyde Rowberry, and both he and his younger sister were intellectually disabled. Nonetheless, Rowberry also became a well-known figure within the community.
According to the book “Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County” by Claude Atkin, Rowberry had a passionate hatred for weeds, and made it his personal duty to remove every last stray plant from Tooele. He would roam the town from one end to the other each day, packing a hoe with him and hacking down weeds wherever they might be found. Occasionally, residents would pay him for his services.
This, and performing other odd jobs such as chopping firewood, allowed Rowberry to earn a meager living. Local companies paid him to clear freight yards, and he would solicit work in the city cemetery, where he would clear graves in exchange for quarters.
But more than anything, Rowberry loved to talk to other residents.
“He was looking for someone who would listen to him,” Atkin recalled. “I’m sure he couldn’t read or write. But he had under that old slouched hat more common sense about life, more concern for people … than most, if not all, of the so-called ‘sane’ and respectable residents of Tooele.”
Unfortunately, Atkin wrote, most of the town regarded Rowberry with a measure of disdain. “He was the object of scorn, ridicule, jokes, and was somewhat feared by many who did not know him,” Atkin said, adding that most Tooele residents thought of Rowberry as the town loony and referred to him as ‘Clack.’
“The injustness of the perception now suddenly becomes overwhelming to me,” wrote Atkin in his 1986 history.