John, Charles Henry - Biography 1

History of the Charles John families

History of the Charles John families


(The material for this history was compiled by Vivian John Baker, granddaughter of Charles John.)

Charles John was the son of Thomas John, born 29th of January 1820 at Wood Roach, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and Margeret Thomas born 14th of August, 1815 at Pembrokeshire, South Wales.

When Charles was about five years old, his father, Thomas John, made a trip to America. The following is Charles’ account of what occurred.

“About the year 1848, toward the latter part of the year, my father, hearing of the prosperous times in America, decided to try his fortune in the Western Hemisphere.  Accordingly, he procured his passage across the ocean, working on the ship as an assistant cook.  But meeting with misfortunes after landing on American soil, being sick, and having a felon on one of his hands, and times being very dull just at that time, he became discouraged and soon decided to return home to his native land.  I cannot say just how long my father was in America, but I think he returned home in the spring of 1849.

“When he landed in Liverpool, he met a party of men and women who were going to America.  When they learned he was just returning from there, they asked him about the country.  He told them times were dull and it was hard to get employment.  “Well,” said they. “It makes little or no difference with us as we’re  going to Zion.” My father thought, “Surely these people are crazy.”  For he had not heard of such place in America.  On the contrary, he had thought that America was the wickedest place he had ever seen.   Men thought nothing of profaning the name of Deity in their common conversation and would often call each other when aggravated “sons of b—s” and other ungentlemanly names.   He thought it was just the opposite of Zion.

“Those people told my father that the heavens had been opened and angels had again conversed with man, that the passage of scripture had been fulfilled where John the Revelator declared, “And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven having the Everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” Revelation 14:6.

“They also told my father that an angel had shown himself to a young man named Joseph Smith where certain records were concealed, those records purporting to give a history of an intelligent people that once dwelt upon the American Continent.  The record was written on gold plates.  All this was news to my father and as he meditated, he thought surely these people have been deluded.  And he tried to pass it off from his mind, but the words would sound in his mind, “The heavens have again been opened and angels have again conversed with man.”

In a short time after his return home, his aunt, Mary Phillips (his mother’s sister) informed him that she had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and gave him many logical reasons for doing so.

Thomas had made the Bible his daily study and was well informed, but now a new light had been placed upon many passages of the scripture.  He spent many days in thoughtful prayer and meditation and was convinced of the divinity and truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ.  In the month of May 1851, he was baptized by Elder Phillip Sykes, of Spanish Fork, Utah.

Thomas’ whole family would meet together and study the scriptures.  They were a loved family, until they joined the church, then is seemed like their friends turned to enemies.  Thomas’ sons, Charles and William, were attending school and were well liked by the teacher and students, until their father joined the “Mormon Church.”  From then on the persecution became so great that they had to be kept home, for they were beaten by the older boys and severely whipped by the schoolteacher.  False accusations were made against them, which were followed with severe punishment.  The weight and oppression became so heavy that it seemed unbearable. 

Thomas was a first class shoemaker.  He was poor and had struggled to support his family, but now it seemed that the world had closed every avenue of support against him.  Even his best friends looked down on him with scorn and contempt.  He had to go and work for other shoemakers, or do work wherever he could get anything to do.

One day when Thomas was working alone in a room, he stopped working, and sitting down on his bench, he offered a silent prayer saying, “Oh, Father, if I have done wrong and offended Thee, please forgive me and let me know and I will mend my ways.”  Immediately he felt a light resting upon his head, and felt as if it were oil flowing down over him, and all doubt was expelled from him.  This heavenly feeling continued to flow down over him until he felt a joy unspeakable and he cried out, “Father, it is enough.  I am satisfied.” 

After this thrilling experience, Thomas was sure that the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that he had done right to join the Church.  Never from that day did he doubt it, even though he and his family were severely persecuted.  He had to go other places for work and met up with trying experiences, but he went courageously on and by so doing he received a strong unshakable testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.

Some time after Thomas had joined the Church, he was working at a well-to-do farmer’s house, whose name was Williams.  (The three Williams sisters Charles later married were from this family.)  It was the custom to have Thomas eat with the family and not with the servants.  One day, as the family was eating dinner, Mrs. Williams said, “Well, Tommy, how is it that you ever joined those despicable people, the Mormons?  We thought so much of you before you joined them.”  Thomas said, “If you were thoroughly convinced that they were right, would you join them?”  Mrs. Williams replied, “If I knew the Mormons were right, indeed I would become one of them.”

The ridicule and oppression continually grew worse.  People even hurled rocks at their door at night when they passed by.  Such were the feelings and attitudes of people who called themselves Christians, until Thomas decided it was best to move into another part of the country.  In the spring of 1856, they moved about eight miles southward to a place called Haisford, Camrose Village, about four miles from the town of Haverford in western Pembrokeshire.

For some time, Thomas worked as a shoemaker for his old employers, going to their farm houses to make shoes for the entire family and the servants.  But soon, the people around his new home were bringing their work to him and it became necessary for him to take William home to assist him.  William had been working for two brothers who had become good friends and he would like to have continued working for them, but the work was coming in so fast that his father had to call him home.

Charles had been working for a gentleman taking care of his sheep.  Charles gained valuable knowledge and experience in this field of endeavor, which proved to be important later since he followed the sheep work most of his life.  But Thomas was soon so crowded with work that he had to take Charles home also.

The Lord blessed this family and they prospered.  They made regular deposits into the perpetual immigration fund and in March 1861, they had saved enough to pay their passage across the Atlantic Ocean to New York.  The family numbered eleven: nine children, five boys and four girls. 

One daughter, Phoeby, married a man by the name of James Cusworth.  He was putting up at the tavern where Phoeby was working.  Soon after they were married they moved to London and located in a part of the city of Lambeth.  The family corresponded with her but after some time she ceased to write.  Thomas tried to find her through the missionary elders, but failed to get any trace of her. 

The rest of the family left on the sailing ship called The New York-Manchester and were thirty-three days crossing the ocean.  The ship sank shortly after their arrival.  They landed at Castle Garden, New York just after the battle of “Bull Run” during the Civil War.  The people were very much alarmed lest the enemy would invade the city of Washington and take the treasury of the United States.

Conway B. Sonne lists the Manchester in his encyclopedia of Mormon emigrant ships and writes,

The Manchester was a 1067 ton ship, 178' x 36' x 18,’ built in 1860 at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  This three-masted square-rigger was owned by Captain Trask, Benjamin J.H. Trask, and Joseph Stewart of New York City.  The Manchester was a two-decker with a square stern and billethead.  Two companies of Mormon emigrants crossed the Atlantic aboard the American ship Manchester.  The vessel was commanded by Captain G.D.S. Trask on both occasions.  He was from New York and in 1864 skippered the large General McClellan, which transported another company of Saints.  The Manchester’s first voyage began on 16 April 1861 at Liverpool.  Elder Claudius V. Spencer, a missionary returning because of failing health, presided over the 379 emigrants.  He was assisted by Elders Edward Hanham and William Jeffries.  After a successful crossing of twenty-eight days, the packet ship docked at New York on 14 May.  After it’s second voyage in 1862, there is no further registration of this ship.

It was very prosperous times for all who could use the awl and thread as there was a great demand for military equipment such as belts, knapsacks, cartridge boxes, shoes, etc.  Thomas rented a house on North Fifth Street, in Williamsbrough across the Hudson River from New York.  They lived there about fourteen months.  Thomas, Charles and William found work at a large shop in New York where military equipment was being made.

The younger children – James, Levi, Letitia, May Jane and Henry – were sent to school, but after a short time James and Levi were taken from school.  James went to work driving a team on a canal and hauling coal.  Levi was put to work in the bakery in the city of New York, probably the largest bakery in the city.  Nearly all the work was done by machinery, the dough being leavened by a sort of gas.

In the fall of 1861, work slackened, so Thomas set up a shoe shop in his house and made military boots and shoes.  They all saved their money and by the later part of the summer they had enough to pay their way by rail to Florence, Nebraska, which proved to be Winter Quarters for a large group of the Saints.  From there they expected to be taken to the Valleys of the Mountains in Utah by church teams.

They had a terrible experience while their immigrant train was traveling through eastern Missouri.   The engineer hated the Mormons and was overheard to say, “I’ll send these Mormons to hell before night comes.”  Shortly after this, a huge fire started in the baggage car and swept through the train.   At once the baggage car was uncoupled from the hind part of the train and taken at great speed to the nearest station.  It was burned so badly it was nearly falling apart.  The engineer then came back for the balance of the train.

He failed to slacken the speed of the engine and sent it crashing into the train, breaking several platform cars.  The sudden impact injured several passengers.  What a sight it must have been, seeing those poor emigrants searching and scrambling through the charred and burning inferno, trying to salvage some small part of their belongings.  Charles often said he could remember seeing his parents standing tearfully gazing at the ruins of their meager earthly possessions.  A few pieces of the carpet which held their bedding was still burning.  The only thing they salvaged was a few balls of thread for sewing shoes.  In spite of their terrible plight, this courageous father humbly expressed thankfulness that the lives of his family had been spared.

They camped at Florence six weeks before the church teams came from the Valleys of the Mountains to take them to Zion.  The following is an extract from Church Chronology by A. Jensen: Friday, 17 October 1862, Captain Henry Miller’s church trains (fifth) which had left Florence, 8 August 1862, with 60 wagons and about 665 emigrants, arrive in Salt Lake City.  The company has suffered considerable from sickness and about 28 persons died on this journey.”

Charles, 19, and his brother, William, 21, hired out to drive church teams across the plains in another company, that of Captain Dames.  As they learned to yoke up the oxen and enjoy their work, they soon learned to love Captain Dames, and felt he was an exceptionally good man.  It is doubtful if they received more than their board and passage.  If they received any wages, they were small.

Mary Jane, the youngest child, was delicate and sick all the way across the plains.  One of the teamsters allowed the baby to ride in his wagon.  Margaret, the mother, made a bed in the wagon for her.  Often the mother would carry her over the bad roads and steep hills because the wagon bumped and jarred so. 

When they arrived in Salt Lake, they camped on Immigrant Square.  Thomas hunted up a friend by the name of John Twigg whom he had known in Wales.  In the afternoon, the Cache Valley teams started for Wellsville.  They traveled slowly and arrived there on the 22 of October, 1862.  President Brigham Young and company came into their camp and invited them to conference, which was being held that day.  Thomas excused himself saying that they were too dirty from traveling, but President Young said, “We are all dirty,” and they walked to church arm in arm.

The meeting was held in the schoolhouse, and as the building was so crowded, the children had to stand outside.  While they were still standing, Brother Maughan, brother of the bishop, came along and took all the children to his home to have dinner.  Sister Maughan gave them water, soap and a clean towel so they could wash their hands and faces.  The two-room pine log house was spotlessly clean.  Brother and Sister Maughan were dressed in homemade clothing.  The cloth was gray, made by using equal parts of black and white wool together.   In those days it was considered the best the country could produce.

The dinner had been prepared for President Brigham Young’s party but for some reason they did not get to eat.  The children received the benefit.  Never had a meal tasted so good.  They were all very hungry and it had been months since they had sat up to a table, especially with a nice white cloth.  Sister Maughan was so motherly and kind to them.

Brother William Rigby (later Rigby, Idaho was named after him) came to Thomas and told him he had a little old house in the new fort and if he could fix it up, he could live in it with his family.  The house was fourteen by sixteen feet in size and had a dirt floor.  The ceiling was so very low, an ordinary man’s head would touch the stringers, or ribs, as they were called.  There was just an opening for the door and a window.  The roof was made by putting small quaking aspen and willow sticks up and down close together on the cross ribs, covering this with a thick layer of straw, and then placing 12 to 18 inches of soil on top of the straw.  They borrowed a broom and swept the dirt floor as clean as possible.

Thomas improvised a windbreak for the window and door openings to keep out the cold.  They had no furnishings and little bedding because of the train fire, but they were mighty thankful to have this shelter. (Later they fixed a floor of boards and put in a window and door.)  The next day, October 23, Thomas was given a chance to dig one acre of potatoes with a shovel on share basis.  He got one fourth.  Ann went to work for Sister Maughan, and James went to work for Brother John Maughan pressing sugar cane at a cane mill where they made molasses, clear and amber and sweet as honey.  Charles and William found plenty of work helping people thresh grain.  They were paid one bushel of grain per day.  During the winter of 1862-63, Thomas and his son, William, worked at the shoemaking trade and did very well.  There was an abundance of good wood close by in those days.  Brother McMurday furnished good ox teams and Charles and William hauled out big loads of both dry and green maple.  One load would go to Brother McMurday’s and the next to their father’s house.  They soon had plenty of wood for the winter.

There was no money in the valley.  They were in Utah over a year before they ever had a dollar.  Thomas traded shoes for the many things his family needed.  He was always so thankful for the few balls of shoe thread that had been salvaged from the train fire.  He made his shoe pegs out of wood.  There was a famine of flour that fall in Wellsville and they were forced to live on potatoes most of the time.  Charles’ mother would wash them, boil, mash and sweeten them with molasses, to satisfy her hungry family.  Somehow they always tasted good.

Late in November 1862, Bishop Maughan announced arrangements had been made to baptize newly arrived Saints the following Sunday.  It was the custom to re-baptize all emigrants in those days.  Thomas and his family, along with all the newcomers, met at the appointed place the following afternoon.  A hole in the ice was made and the sacred ordinance was performed, immersing each person in the icy cold water.  Shivering and cold in thin wet clothes, they walked a mile back to their log house and had a pleasant surprise awaiting them.  While they were away, a kind neighbor had come in and built a blazing fire of maple wood in the big fireplace.  As they had no clothes to change into, they had to stand before the fire to let their clothes dry, turning first their fronts and then their backs.

Charles was a good scout and hunter.  On their horses, he and William frequently roamed over the mountains and valleys adjoining Wellsville.  They liked the climate over the mountains in Box Elder County better than that of Cache Valley.  Charles got along fine with the Indians and always tried to understand them and their ways.

In 1865, Charles married Elizabeth Williams, an acquaintance from Wales.  She and her family had crossed the plains in 1862 in Captain Duncan’s company.  Their driver’s name was Larterand, and they had come on to Wellsville, Utah too.  Elizabeth’s father, John Jenkins Williams, was a wonderful musician and did considerable work organizing choirs and other musical groups.  The Williams family later moved to Tooele, Utah.  On the 4th of February 1867, a baby girl was born to Charles and Elizabeth and they named her Margaret Elizabeth John.  (She later became Maggie Reese.)

The summer of 1867, the first settlers moved into the Malad valley to cut wild hay.  The place was called Hay Town.  Later, Lorenzo Snow, President of the Box Elder Stake, changed the name to East Portage, in honor of Portage County, Ohio, where he was born.  Twenty-five couples and their children came that first summer and settled on the east side of the valley in the vicinity of Oregon Springs and Mound Springs.  A few more families came the following year.  They built a large rock fort where they could have protection from the Indians.  They also built a log schoolhouse about 26 feet by 30 feet, which served as meeting house, dance hall, etc.  William John and Harrison Boothe were the first violinists who played for the old time dances.

Thomas John and his wife, Margeret, took up a homestead, one hundred and sixty acres, on the north edge of Portage.  Most of the children were married by this time and they also took up homesteads there, the father’s being in the center of the group.  They all helped each other with their work, clearing their land and preparing the soil for planting.  When it was ready, Thomas called them all together and blessed the land.  Thomas John planted the first grain grown in the Malad valley.  This land was called Johnstown in honor of Thomas John, and is still called that.

About 1872, the town site of Portage was laid out, their object in moving to the west side of the Malad River was for irrigating purposes.  They built a large canal 12 miles long carrying water from Samaria Lake.  The ditch was 22 feet in some places and was dug with tools such as a shovel and spade.  It was built under the direction of Bishop Oliver G. Hoskins.

Portage Ward was organized the 23 of November 1877.  William H. Gibbs, Latitia John’s husband, was in the bishopric.  The first school was taught in a private home.  Edward Smith, Ann John’s husband, was the first teacher.

Charles married his second wife, Agnes Williams, age 15, in 1874 and ten children were born to this union.  His took his third wife Edith Williams, age 15, in 1880 and a wonderful family grew from this union.  Charles’ three wives, Elizabeth, Agnes, and Edith, were sisters and daughters of John Jenkins Williams. They had a total of 25 children.

Charles was a real hunter and brought down a lot of game.  He was counted one of the best trackers known.  One summer day, Charles took Agnes and Edith’s families to the canyon to watch their cattle as they grazed.  The bears were very bad that year.  Charles cut a big hole in the top of a honey can, knowing the bears like honey.  When the bear would get his head stuck in the can, Charles would aim straight to the heart, never failing to get his bear.   Among the many big game tales that could be told is the following:

Charles told his children about the time he was cleaning a gun while up in the mountains with the sheep.  He was sitting on a fallen log and he looked up and a few feet in front of him was a huge bear sitting behind another fallen log, just staring at him.  Charles picked up another gun and aimed, shooting the bear between the eyes, and the bear dropped.  He started cleaning the gun again, but hearing a noise he looked up and saw the bear rise up from behind the log.  He shot and the bear dropped.  Again and again the same thing happened.  That old bear got up ten times.  Soon he was silent, so Charles got up and stretched and walked over to the other log.  To his surprise he found ten dead bears.

In Malad, they had treaties with the Indians and gave them beef and sheep as pay for the grass.  That is how they appeased the Indians before the reservation was opened.  Charles was well liked by the Indians and made treaties with them for a lot of the range land for himself and many other stockmen.  He was good about not crowding the ranchers and took his sheep far back into the hills.  They traded mutton for butter and eggs and other food at times.  Charles used to care for sheep for small owners: 5, 10, 15, or 20 head.  They would pay him 2 ½ pounds of wool per sheep for caring for them, or give him 15 lambs to 100 sheep.  These were called co-op herds.  It took a lot of bookkeeping to care for them.  He took care of the Malad herd of 5,000 head and the Brigham City herd of 10,000 head.  He hired men to help.  He kept the Brigham City herd of 10,000 on the Wasatch Mountains above Brigham City, where the little town of Mantua now stands, and over the mountains as far east as Evanston.  The food and water was wonderful.  He kept the Malad herd on the Soda Range, which included the surrounding area of Soda Springs, Idaho.  Nearly 2 ½ million sheep were taken from the Soda Springs range to the Nevada and Utah deserts each fall for winter ranging, and returned in the spring.

Charles was one of the best sheep men in Utah.   He would guarantee a sure cure for sheep diseases such as scab, in one application.  He had learned to make this medicine in the old country.  He also made an ointment for bugs that sometimes got into the sheep’s head and sent them crazy.  These medicines rarely failed.  He knew the mountains like a book.  He made a lot of money with these co-op herds.  Then he bought a threshing machine and lost a lot of money, because he did not know machinery like he did the sheep business.  He was a good shoemaker and knew how to tan leather, and he made shoes for his big families, later making shoes for his grandchildren.

In the year 1881, three babies came into his homes: Minnie was born to Elizabeth; 20 days later Mary was born to Agnes, and shortly after, Millie was born to Edith.

The farms of Charles and his brother, James, adjoined.  Sometimes James would invite all the families together for dinner, and some outstanding ones were the mourning dove dinners.  The doves were very numerous, it seems, and the men would send their dogs in a large circle to scare them up.  They would light in the big Haws trees, then Charles would use a shot gun, sometimes getting as many as twenty with one shot.  Kids and dogs would gather them, then this would be repeated until enough birds were had for dinner.  The women would clean them, then bake them in a big iron roaster to a golden brown.  A huge pan of sheepherder potatoes were served steaming hot, and sourdough bread, cooked in bake ovens, was served with molasses.  The same thing would happen when they got wild geese, ducks, sage hens, pheasants and other game.

Typical Welsh people, these folks loved music and had many jolly times together singing folk songs, dancing to the violin, and having such wonderful fun.  Charles was a singer and a step dancer.  One favorite song he and Agnes sang together was “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton.”  They had many happy days all together with their families.

On June 6, 1890, Charles was arrested for polygamy.  Life was very sorrowful for these families because the law was continually searching for these men. The three wives agreed that they would abide by the law of the land, still knowing in their hearts that God’s law had been best.  Agnes was very ill from a fall she had taken years before, and she had to walk on crutches.  Elizabeth and Edith thought it would be best if Charles took Agnes and her family to care for.  Charles waited until Elizabeth was through childbirth with their eleventh child.  They named this baby Fydelia.  She lived only a few hours.

Charles gave to each of his wives a paper signed in the presence of witnesses that he would never live with them again.  This paper served as a divorce from Elizabeth and Edith.  No doubt his heart was heavy as he had to leave behind his land and families, never to see them again.  Many tears were shed as he bid his two wives and their children good-bye.

Leaving as much as he could for the maintenance of Elizabeth and Edith’s families, Charles took a small band of sheep, a few head of cattle, and two covered wagons.  Charles, Agnes and their 8 children started in search of a new home.  Like Lehi of old, two more sons were born in the wilderness.  His first new home was a squatter’s right on the Portneuf River.  This did not prove to be what he wanted, so they moved on and stopped at many different places.  They finally settled in a little Mormon settlement near the Mesa Verde Park.  The town was called Mancos, Montezuma County, Colorado.  Most of the people living in this little town were like Charles, getting away from the law for living in plural marriage.

While in Mancos, the youngest child, Walter, took sick and had to be taken to Salt Lake for an operation.  Agnes and one of the older boys drove the long road.   The little boy never recovered.  After the funeral, Agnes visited with her family and friends in Portage.  She went to see her sister Elizabeth, who was living in Dempsey (Lava Hot Springs) where several of her children had made their homes and were making a new community.

One day, Agnes and Elizabeth were going to town in a buggy when the horse became frightened and ran away.  The buggy turned over and Agnes was badly hurt.  She lived a few hours and was buried the 6th of September 1907, in Portage beside her son, Walter, who had just preceded her in death.  She was 48 years of age.

When Walter was ill, just before he died, he was conversing with someone in the spirit world and it was evident that his mission was to go.  He was beckoned by someone on the other side of the veil and he said, “I cannot leave Mother.”  He was told that she would be all right and would “be with us soon.”  She followed Walter only three months later.

In 1908, Charles started for Idaho and Utah to visit his family.  After two days of driving with team and buggy, he became very ill.  Word was sent back to his daughter, Mary John Busch, whose husband went for him and took him back to their home in Mancos.  He was very ill with cancer of the stomach, and died August 12th.  He was buried in the old Mormon cemetery at Weber, south of Mancos on August 18, 1909.

Mary and her family took care of Charles until the end, which was hard for her as she was expecting a baby.  He was bedfast several weeks and during that time was very patient and took it stoicly.  Charles had a very good sense of humor and made the most of the circumstances of his life.  People who knew him always had a word of tribute for him and his good nature.

Dr. J.R. Trotter, the old family doctor of Mancos, in a conversation in about the year 1949, said that Charles went to him to see what his trouble was, and Dr. Trotter diagnosed his illness as cancer in the last stages, to which he replied, “Can I go fishing?”   The doctor replied, “Yes, there would be no harm in that if you felt like it.”  It was after this that he decided to go to Idaho and Utah, and had to be returned.

Interesting note:

Charles built his home in Mancos over an old Indian Cemetery without realizing it.  In later years, all kinds of pottery, skeletons and even coins have been found.

The material for this history was compiled by Vivian John Baker, grand daughter of Charles John.  She received material from Henry John, Thomas John, James John, Emma J. Smith Hughes, Thomas Parley John and wife, Ida, Noah James John and wife, Ester.  Also helpful were LaVern Fife Marley, Thomas John, Owen Busch, Mary John Busch, and Millie John Smith.



John, Charles


No comments.