John, Charles Henry - Biography 2

Thomas John and his wife, Margaret, took up a homestead, one hundred and sixty acres, on the north edge of Portage


Thomas John and his wife, Margaret, 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 proceeded 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


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