John, Thomas - Biography


By Henry John

I, Henry John, was born near the little town of Mathry in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, Great Britain on the 15th day of February, 1851. My father's name was Thomas John who was born at Wood, Roch Parish, Pembrokeshire South Wales, January 29th, 1820. He was the son of William John and Letitia Phillips John. My grandfather William John was born at Wood, Roch parish the son of William John and Elizabeth. My grandmother Letitia Phillips was born at Llandeloy, Llandeloy Parish, Pembrokeshire, the daughter of William Phillips and Elizabeth Murrow. Elizabeth Murrow was of Scotch descent. She was the daughter of Abel Murrow and Elizabeth Lawrence.

My mother, Margaret Thomas John, was born at Lochvrance, Santelvic Parish, Pembrokeshire, August 18, 1814. She was the daughter of William Thomas and Anna James. William Thomas, born at Summerhill, Knowlton Parish, Pembrokeshire, was the son of William Thomas and Margaret. Ann James, my grandmother, born at Punch Castle, Broady Parish, Pembrokeshire, was the daughter of Henry James and Ann.

My father and mother had nine children: Pheby, born 18 December 1838, at Wood, Roch Parish; William born at Killyaden near Mathry, Mathry Parish, 7 November 1841; Charles, born at Killyaden near Mathry, Mathry Parish, 21 April 1843; Ann, born at Killyaden near Mathry, 1 February 1845; James, born at Killyaden, Mathry Parish, 10 November 1846; Levi, born at Castle Redding near Mathry, 4 February 1849; Henry born at Castle Redding near Mathry, 15 February 1851; Letitia born at Castle Redding, 6 April 1853; Mary Jane born at Killyaden near Mathry, 18 November 1855.

By trade my father was a shoemaker. He sometimes worked at his trade at home; other times he worked as journeyman. Farmers would buy leather and hire my father to come to their homes and make shoes for the families and also for their servants who were working for them on their farms.

My father was a very hard worker and never missed a day working from morning until night; yet the country was so poor, wages so low that it was all he could do to provide food and clothing for his family. He was religiously inclined, affiliating himself with the Independent Sect, and for many years he was superintendent of a large Sunday School numbering from 400 to 500 members. He was well informed in the scriptures in the Welsh languages. Indeed it was very few that could best in quoting scriptural passages.

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 misfortune 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 to his native land. I cannot say just how long my father was in America, but I think he returned home in the spring because I have heard him tell the following story:

When he landed at Liverpool, he met a party of men and women who were going to America. When they learned that he was just returning from there, they asked him about the country, and how the times were there. He replied that it was hard to get employment, and that times were dull. "Well," they said, "it makes little or no difference to us as we're going to Zion." My father thought "Surely these people are crazy", for he had not heard of such a place in America; but 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.." and other ungentlemanly names. He thought it is just the opposite of Zion. Those people told my father that the heavens had been opened and angels had again conversed with man, that that passage of scripture had been fulfilled where John the Revelator declared "And I saw another angel 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." (Rev 14:6)

They also told my father that an angel had shown himself to a young man named Joseph Smith and told him 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. 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 my father's 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, that the Lord had restored the gospel again to the earth, with all its gifts and blessings, with inspired Apostles and Prophets to lead and guide the people. She related to him some of her experiences. The following will perhaps be sufficient to illustrate how some of the gifts were displayed. She said, "I was a servant with a certain gentleman's family when one day having occasion to enter the parlor where the gentleman and lady and a visiting friend of the family from England were in conversation. Just at that moment they were talking of the American prophet, Joseph Smith, and his strange doctrine, and as I entered the room, the gentleman said to his friend (speaking of me), "This is one of his proselytes." "Yes," said I "and if you would like to hear some of our Elders speak, I shall be pleased to have you come to a cottage meeting that is to be held at Brother C's house tonight." The gentleman said he would like very much to come and listen.

The next morning at the breakfast table the conversation was directed to the meeting of the previous night. "Well, what did you think of the meeting last night?" said my master.

"Really I do not know what to think of it," said the gentleman. "They opened the meeting by singing a very pretty hymn which ran something like this: 'Come, Come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear, etc.' then a middle-aged man offered up a very sensible prayer, asked the Lord to let His spirit rest upon all present and especially upon those that would address the meeting. They then sang again beginning with the words "We thank thee, O God, for a Prophet, etc." Then the presiding officer made a few remarks and gave the meeting into the hands of all present to exercise the gifts. An old lady near one of the corners of the room soon broke off into as pure Greek as I have ever heard and delivered a very intelligent speech, then sat down. After which an old gentleman in the other end of the room arose and gave the interpretation in Welsh. I think he gave it word for word, yet I do not think either of them had any education. After the close of the meeting, I was very kindly invited to come again.

My father, as I have previously said, was religiously inclined, and knew that his Aunt Mary was a woman of good judgment and would never come to conclusions without first weighing matters well and be thoroughly convinced by abundant proof and a preponderance of evidence. She had heard the Mormon Elders (as the Latter-day Saint missionaries were commonly called) preach. She had read their tracts, and had compared the doctrine taught by them with the Holy Bible. Although she had hoped to find errors or contradictions, she had utterly failed. She had never doubted but her sects were right. She had a daughter that was a Roman Catholic nun who appeared to be very religious; so much so, that she thought Aunt Mary was a heretic and consequently was not fit to associate with. For that reason she would never visit her mother. She claimed that the Pope of Rome was the true successor of Peter, the Apostle, and that the Church had continued on the earth unbroken from the days of Jesus and His Apostles to the present time. Aunt Mary, too, had never doubted that, but now the Gospel light had dawned upon her mind and she could see that the prophesies were being fulfilled. The Prophet Isaiah had said, "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." (Isaiah 24:5)

The Apostle Paul had foretold an apostasy in writing to the Thessalonians (II Thes. 2:3, 4) "Let no man deceive you by any means for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called of God or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."

She had always known that the Pope sat as a God and for certain amounts of money would pretend to forgive sins. She also knew that certain of the Cardinals had traveled through different countries selling what was called "indulgences". That was one of the causes of Martin Luther decenting from the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps among the many monks who made merchandise of the pretended Gospel was John Fitzel, who we are told traveled through Germany selling indulgences to as many as would buy off him. Schlegel, in describing the character of Titzel says "He was a profligate wretch, who had once fallen into the hands of the Inquisition in consequence of his adulteries and whom the Elector of Saxony rescued by his intercessions. He now cried up his merchandise making pretenses that the gates of hell should be closed, and the gates of Paradise and of blessings should be opened to those who should buy from him. (Outlines Eccles, Hist. Roberts, page 251)

Many passages in the Old and New Testaments did my aunt read wherein it was predicted so clearly that there would come a time when the gospel would be perverted and that the woman (the church) would flee into the wilderness (a place not inhabited) and the man child (the priesthood) was caught up unto God and to His throne (Rev. 12:1-6).

My aunt also read many passages showing that in the last days God would remember again His people, and would again send His angels to converse with man on the earth. (Rev. 14:6) "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that swell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred and tongue and people." Also 8th verse of same chapter "And there followed another angel, saying 'Babylon is fallen that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fortification". Isaiah 2:2-3 also Micah 4:1-2 declares "where the mountains (the church) of the Lord's house (the Lord's people) shall be established and all nations shall flow unto it."

There is not space for me to write one hundredth part of what my Aunt read relative to the Lord restoring the Gospel again to the earth in the last days. Suffice it here to say that my Aunt Mary's testimonies had a bearing on my father's mind and caused him to investigate for himself.

My father made the Bible his daily study and as I have said before, he was well informed in it, but now that a new light had been placed upon many passages of scripture, it caused him to think and ponder. He never had doubted but that all the ministers of all the different churches had a right to administer in all the ordinances of the Gospel. But now since his Aunt had read so much scripture to him, proving to him that there had been a falling away from the true church, when he could have a few spare minutes she would read and ponder upon such passages as the following: "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first; and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God". II Thes. 2:3-4.

My father for years had believed that "the man of sin" was no other than the Pope of Rome who sat as a God claiming the authority to forgive men their sins, and even selling what was called "indulgences" (giving men license to commit sin) Apostle Paul in writing to the Hebrews declares "And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron" Heb. 5:4 He would sometimes meet his minister and converse with him upon these topics, but his minister would refer him to Mark 16:15, 16 "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

My father would say that he only commissioned his disciples for those that labored in the ministry besides those at that special time were called by revelation (Acts 13: 2-3 Calling of Barnabus and Saul.

My father had many dear friends among his church members and he knew that they would look down upon him if he severed himself from the Independent Church and affiliated himself with a people that were so very unpopular as were the Latter-day Saints. It caused him to spend many sleepless nights; and then the words of the Savior would sound in his mind: Matt 10:37, 38 "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me."

My father often prayed for light to know what to do for he was now converted to the divinity and truthfulness of the Latter-day Saints Church. He had to decide which to follow - the ways of men or the commandments of God. He finally decided that he would forsake all if necessary and take up his cross and follow the Savior, for why should he receive eternal life in the Kingdom of God more than the Savior and his former disciples without suffering persecution. Therefore, he applied for baptism and was baptized. Elder Phillip Sykes performed the ordinance. (When Elder Sykes emigrated to Utah he located at Spanish Fork, and lived to a good old age a faithful Latter-day Saint.) My father was soon confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This was in the month of May, 1851. I, Henry John, was at that time about three months old, being born on the 15th day of February, 1851.

As I have stated, my father was poor and had struggled with the world to support his family, but now it seemed that the world had closed every avenue of support against him, even those who had been his best friends looked down upon him with scorn and contempt. He thought at times that even the heavens were closed against him. He had to go and work for other shoemakers, or do work wherever he could get anything to do.

The weight and depression became so heavy that it seemed that he would have to despair, until one day when he was working in a room alone he stopped working. Sitting down on his workbench he offered up a silent prayer saying, "Oh, Father, if I have done wrong and offended Thee, please forgive me, and let me know, and I will retrieve my ways." Immediately he felt a light resting upon his head, and he felt as if it were oil flowing down over him. All doubt was expelled from him. This heavenly feeling continued to flow down over him until it reach his waist, then he felt a joy unspeakable. He cried "Father, it is enough. I am satisfied." I have heard him say when he had become an old man "I have never doubted since that day."

I will here relate an incident to show how the people of the world viewed the Latter-day Saints. Some time after my father had joined the Latter-day Saints he was working at a well-to-do farmer's house by the name of Williams. It was the custom to have my father eat with the family, and not with the servants. One day as the family were eating Mrs. William said to my father, "Well, Tommy, how is it that you ever joined that despicable people, the Mormons? We thought so much of you before you joined them." "Well," said my father, "if you were thoroughly convinced that they were right would not you join them?" Mrs. Williams replied that if she knew the Mormons were right, indeed she would not become one of them. Such were the feelings among the people that called themselves Christians. Many of them would persecute my father and ridicule him and often hurl rocks at his door at night when they passed.

Before my father joined the LDS, my two elder brothers, William and Charles, were respected and well treated by their schoolmaster, but Oh, the change when my father joined the Mormons. The persecution became so great that they had to be kept at home, for they were beaten by the larger boys and severely whipped by the schoolmaster. False accusations were made against them which were always followed with severe punishments.

For some time my father worked for his old employers. At times he would go to the farm houses where he formerly made shoes for the family and servants. But soon the people around his new home brought him work to do till the custom grew so great that he had to take my brother William home to assist him. William had been working for some time for a man commonly known as Peter of Mathry. Mr. Peter and his brother John lived by themselves, kept house, did their own cooking and washing, etc. In Mr. Peter and his brother William found good friends and would have liked to have continued with them, but the work was not coming in so fast that my father had to call him home.

My brother Charles had been working for a gentleman taking care of his sheep. My father was soon so crowded with work that he had to take Charles home also. The work continued to increase so that my father had to send some of his work to other shoemakers to do. A man named James Harris did a great deal of work for him and all were kept busy.

My father soon began to prosper and commenced to make deposits in the Perpetual Emigration Fund. This continued till March 1861 when he found he had just enough to pay his passage across the Atlantic Ocean to New York.

My father's family now numbered 11: nine children and father and mother. All were at home save my elder sister Phoeby, who was working at a tavern or hotel at Pater, and my brother James who was working at a grist mill in a little town called Camrose. James continued to work at the mill until we emigrated to America.

My sister Phoeby married James Custworth. He was putting up at the tavern where my sister was working. Soon after they were married they moved to the city of London and located in a part of the city called Lambeth.

My father and my sister corresponded for some time even after we emigrated to America, but after some time my sister ceased to write and though my father tried to find her whereabouts through writing and labors of missionary Elders, he absolutely failed to get any trace of her.

I was 10 years and 2 months old when we left Wales and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America. We crossed in a sailing ship called "The New York Manchester". She was a very old vessel and sank shortly after making that trip. We were 33 days crossing the ocean, and at that time it was considered a fairly good voyage.

We landed at Castle Gardens, New York, just after the battle of Bull Run was fought between the Union Army and the Secessionists. The people were very much agitated and alarmed lest the enemy invade the city of Washington and take the Treasury of the United States. It was a very prosperous time for all that could use the awl and thread. There was a great demand for military equipment such as belts, knapsacks, and cartridge boxes, etc.

My father rented a house in Northfife Street, Williamsburgh, across the Hudson River from New York. There we lived about 14 months.

My father and my two elder brothers, William and Charles, found plenty of work at a large shop in New York where military equipment was being made. The younger children: James, Levi, Letitia, Mary Jane and myself were sent to school. After a short time my brothers 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 a very large bakery in New York City, probably the largest bakery in the city. Nearly all of the work there was done by machinery, the dough being leavened by a sort of gas.

The latter part of the summer of 1861 became somewhat slow so my father set up a shoe shop in a part of his house. He made military boots and shoes. He would take out the material already cut and sometimes fitted. He would put on the soles and polish them. This work he continued to do until we again started on our journey to Utah. We had just enough money to pay our way to Florence (Winter Quarters in Nebraska). From there we expected to be taken by Church teams to the valleys of Utah.

Here I have a very serious misfortune to record. One morning while we were traveling on the train (I think it was in the eastern part of Missouri) some of the emigrants on the train (it was an entire Mormon emigrant train) heard the engineer say: "I will send the Mormons to H..l before night." Soon after hearing this remark, one of the baggage cars was observed to be on fire. Immediately it was uncoupled from the hind part of the train and taken with great speed to the nearest station. By the time it had arrived at the station, the car was so badly burned that it was nearly falling to pieces.

When the engineer came back for the balance of the train, he did not slacken the speed of the engine but sent it crashing into the train. It broke several platforms off the cars and some of the passengers were hurt from the sudden jar caused by the engine crashing into the train. Fortunately none were seriously injured.

When the train pulled into the station where the burning car had been left, all that could be seen were the wheels and the irons of the car and a few smoldering carpets that had been wrapping beds, bed-clothing, etc. I remember hearing my father say as we were looking at the smoking ashes, "There is a piece of one of the carpets that was wrapping some of our bed clothes". When we arrived at Florence, we found ourselves nearly destitute of all we had, all having been burned in that ill-fated car.

My father was very thankful that the lives of all of the family had been spared. I have heard him say many times that he would never grumble if he could get to the valley, even if he did not have a shirt to his back. I believe he kept his word for I never heard him murmur over his misfortunes, though I have seen him many times when his arms were in a blister from his wrists to near his shoulders. Then he would say how thankful he was to be in the valley, out from Babylon and the many persecutions he had endured.

We were met at Florence by some of the Church Emigration Agents. A very large camp was formed 2 or 3 miles west of the Missouri River. It was called McAlister's Camp. Small canvas tents were furnished the Saints. Twelve persons were to lodge in each tent. Following are the names of those that were to occupy our tent: My father, my mother, William, Charles, Ann, James, Levi, Henry, Letitia and Mary Jane John (my brothers and sisters), Danny Elved Jones and wife and their son Dan, and their daughter Ellen, both grown to maturity, making a total of 14 souls.

My father was put in charge of the tent. Brother Jones became very jealous and would not help with any of the camp duties while crossing the plains. He also tried very hard to persuade his son Dan not to help, but Dan was a fine young man and would always assist in rearing the tent at night and procuring wood and water for camp.

We camped at Florence 6 weeks waiting for the Church teams to come from the valley to take us to "Zion". However, the heavy winter followed by high waters had delayed the trains. They had to build bridges to cross the rivers where bridges had been washed away by the high spring floods.

There were abundant wild fruits such as chokecherries, wild grapes, gooseberries, etc. The Saints would father large quantities of them and stew them. They also made pies. We were allowed a weekly ration of flour, salt, bacon, etc.

We had some severe electric storms while we were camped at Florence. I remember a circumstance where a lot of us boys had gone north over a hill about a mile to gather gooseberries. We had not been gathering fruit long when we observed heavy black clouds rising in the west. Not knowing the nature of the country we continued to gather fruit until we felt large drops of rain falling on us. Then we sought shelter under some large trees that were near. It continued raining heavier and faster until the waters began coming down through the foliage of the trees. We then started for camp. When we got to the summit of the hill near enough to see camp, it was a pitiable sight. Nearly every tent in the camp had been blown down save a very few. These were supported by men standing at the posts and exerting all their strength against the storm. Most of the men in camp had gone to Florence or to Omaha to spend the day.

Some of the people who were in Florence were struck by lightening and nearly lost their lives. Brother Dan Jones, our tentmate, was taking shelter by the side of a house near some other men when he was struck lifeless to the ground. After a great deal of rubbing and working by the men, he regained consciousness. Brother John L. Young (a son of Pres. Brigham Young) was knocked out of his carriage, and I heard that one man (not a Mormon) was killed. We were told these storms were of frequent occurrence.

After waiting 5 to 6 weeks the Emigrant trains began to arrive from the valley and the Saints began to move toward to the west again. Little by little the big camp was broken up, and my father and family were among the last to be called to leave the camp.

For the benefit of future generations, I will here explain how Church Emigration trains were raised and organized. Early in the spring Bishops would call what was then called business meetings and would ask the people how much they could do or furnish. One would promise a wagon, another an ox or a yoke of cattle, another so much flour. This was continued until a large train was raised. The train that I crossed the plains in was made up of 60 wagons with 4 persons and a yoke of oxen on each wagon. Someone was put in charge and called a captain. A captain was also placed to look after each 10 wagons. In this way the train was divided into divisions, each division would take turn leading for one day. A well trained train would form a perfect circle. The first 10 teams would pull into camp. All would follow each other on the same side. The second 10 would pull in from a different point and meet the first 10 forming the beginning of a circle. The tongue of the wagon would always be on the inside of the circle or carol as it was called. The third 10 would follow after the first and in this way a good carol was formed. The carol answered several purposes: to hold the cattle in the mornings, to yoke up, as a fort against hostile Indians, and a place where prayers were offered and meetings held.

Our train had been raised from the wards of the Saints located north of Salt Lake City, principally from Cache Valley. The Saints were allowed labor tithing for the use of their oxen or wagons, and the teamsters volunteered. If enough did not volunteer, they were called, and they were also allowed "labor tithing" for their services.

Brother Henry Miller, from Farmington, Davis County, was placed as captain of our train. He may have had some noble traits of character, but I have always thought that he was very inhumane in many respects as I will show. When we came to Green River, its water was very clear and cold as though it was flowing from a snowdrift. Word was given out that no one was allowed to ride. The river had a rocky bottom and the waters run with a rapid current. The captain stood a few rods up on the bank of the river so that he could have a good view of the teams as they crossed. An old man that had been sick for some time and was badly worn down climbed into a mess box that was bolted onto the hind end of a wagon. The wagon was well out in the river when the captain saw him. Captain Miller ran down to the ford and jumped in, catching up with the wagon about the middle of the river. He pulled the old man off the mess box into the cold water, submerging him nearly all over in the ice-cold water. I believe that the hardships that the Saints endured were the cause of so many deaths in H. W. Miller's train. We find the following account in Church Chronology by Andrew Jenson, page 68: "Friday, October 17 Capt. Henry W. Miller's church train (fifth) which had left Florence August 8 with 60 wagons and about 665 (?) immigrants arrived in Salt Lake City. The company had suffered considerably from sickness and about 28 persons died on the journey."

I shall relate another case of cruelty. We were camped at a place where there were some mud springs. In one of the tents was an old man by the name of ____Colt and a very disagreeable and overbearing woman. It was said by some of those who belonged to the same tent that the woman was very abusive. She mistreated Brother Colt shamefully before he made any response. When he could endure it no longer, he retaliated with his foot. She went to Captain Miller and accused Brother Colt of kicking her. The captain, without any investigation, told one of the teamsters, Timothy Parkinson, to duck that old man in one of the mud springs nearby. The teamster obeyed, and the old man was plunged in the mudhole until he was covered with mud from head to foot. Brother Colt made no remonstrance but walked to his tent and changed his clothing. He said nothing about it until we came to Salt Lake City. Then he went to Brigham Young's office and entered a complaint. President Young sent for Captain Miller to come to his office and asked him if it was true what Brother Colt said. The captain tried to justify himself, but after hearing both sides, President Young told the captain that he could choose one of two things, pay Brother Colt $300 or stand a lawsuit. The captain chose to pay the money. The following spring Brother Miller offered his services to go back to Florence and take charge of another immigrant train, but President Young told him that he was excused from going after any more immigrants.

I think it was some time in August 1865, that our few goods were loaded into the wagon that carried them across the plains. There were assigned 18 persons to each wagon (a tent and a half or three tents to two wagons). Among those that were assigned to our wagon (I take the liberty to call it "our" wagon because it hauled our goods) was an old lady and her daughter. The old lady was probably 75 years old and her daughter perhaps 40 or 45. The old lady (I do not remember her name) insisted on having about ½ of the wagon for herself and her daughter. She finally succeeded in utilizing the hind part of the wagon. She could not walk much herself and claimed she should have her daughter with her to take care of her. I think the old sister was right, but there should have been provisions made beside crowding all the rights from others.

My father was put in charge of our wagon in seeing that the tent was taken down, rolled up and lashed onto the side of the wagon every morning in good time. He also had to see that the cooling utensils were properly packed in the mess box. My father would always see that the old sister was cared for with food.

Just before starting out on the plains, my brothers William and Charles (ages 21 and 19 respectively) hired out to drive church teams across the plains. Captain ___Dame was in charge. I do not know whether they received any wages or not outside of their board and passage. If they did, it was very small. They were new hands at driving teams.

I have heard them say that at first it was very awkward. However, they soon learned to yoke up the oxen and drive, and enjoyed the work. They had a good captain and they soon learned to love him. They thought Captain Dame an exceptionally good man.

After our goods were loaded up, we were told that there would be no room for any to ride. The front part of our wagon was loaded to the bows, and all would have to walk. All that is except the old sister who persisted in having her little room in the hind part of our wagon. All sympathized with her and let her have her way. I do not remember ever seeing her out of the wagon unless it was on Sundays when the train did not travel, but would hold religious services until we came to the little mountain near Salt Lake Valley.

Next morning the Prairie Train was loaded up, the oxen were brought in off the prairie and yoked up and hitched to the wagons, the train pulled out and was soon headed West.

During the day we passed by an overland or mail station. That is the place where I first saw an Indian. I remember that I was very much afraid of him. He was dressed in the Indian costume. His hair was done up in long braids, with long strong feathers standing up around his head. His face was painted red, and had many brass bands or bracelets on his wrists. He had on buckskin pants with a long buckskin fringe all the way down the outside of the legs. He had a blanket of very bright colors over his shoulders. In his hand he had a large wooden bow covered over wood (I was told). The string of his bow was made of sinew. He had a large quiver of arrows with metallic heads. He had buckskin moccasins (Indian shoes) on his feet and looked very dangerous to me.

That afternoon we camped on the west side of a beautiful stream of water called the Elkhorn River. We camped at that place two or three days for the purpose of arranging the train in proper order and doing other necessary business before starting on the long journey across the plains. There were fish in abundance in the river. Some spent their time while we camped there in fishing while others enjoyed themselves under the natural bowers of wild grapes. I will say here that at that place I saw the most wild grapes that I ever saw in my life. The vines climbed up the trees that stood on the banks of the river and twined over the branches and formed beautiful bowers. The fruit hung in its thousands of clusters making grand sights.

After all the preparatory arrangements for the journey were made we again moved out of camp in order. It was a grand sight to behold. About 1000 people were on the move, many in lead of the train while many followed behind.

After leaving the Elkhorn River, we were soon out from civilization and on the great American western prairies. At this time they were only inhabited by Indians and wild animals. Nature in all its beauty and splendor was uncontaminated by man. The wild grasses waved in the breeze. No sign of white man's ax was seen in the forest and woods. The wild flowers bent and nodded in the breeze and dropped their petals and prepared seeds for the next year's crop. The morning dove's plaintive song was heard in the woods. The wolf, fox and beaver were undisturbed save now and again a band of trappers would chance along. The little prairie dogs darted from burrow to burrow and would utter their sharp shrill bark as we passed their towns.

The wild buffalo were seen by the hundreds on the distant hills. However, one was all that was brought into our camp in crossing the plains. The elk, the deer and the antelope were numerous and valued for the choicest venison. But the time was at hand when the white man would exterminate them and change the face of nature. The buffalo were swept off by the hundreds and thousands. They were slain for their hides and tallow. Their carcasses were left on the prairies to waste. Their hides were dressed and made into beautiful robes, sometimes lap robes, and other things. The natives used them loose over their bodies in place of coats with the fur side in. They were very warm. White men used them for bed covers, which were highly prized. The rich often used them as rugs on parlor floors, but that luxury was soon to be a thing of the past.

The horse and the cow were soon to take the place of the buffalo. Sheep were to replace the elk, deer and antelope. Domestic fowl claimed the place of the wild turkey; grouse and little prairie dogs were given wheat saturated with poison in order to move them out of the way so fields of grain could be raised. Wild plums with bending branches of wild fruit were to be rooted up and the more luscious fruits - peaches, pears, apples and others - were to take their place. The Indian wigwams were to be moved; white man's cottages and beautiful residences were to take their places.

The red man had to move and seek a home elsewhere. He had already been pushed from the Atlantic states westward across the great valley of the Mississippi, thence across the Missouri and soon all his lands would be taken from him. The U. S. Government was now beginning to make provisions for him. Certain tracts of land called reservations would be his new home. His hunting grounds would soon all be claimed and the game all extinct. School houses were to be built on the reservations. Each Indian would receive certain rations of flour, sugar and other groceries along with a certain number of blankets, cheap jewelry, beads, etc. It is now the year 1917 and when I look back over the past 55 years, it seems to me as a dream.

We were soon out on the plains, traveling up the Platte Valley, seldom seeing a house or any people. We had not traveled many days when one of the teamsters told my father that out on the plains in the Buffalo country we would pass some "Trading Posts".

As my father had had the misfortune of loosing all of his bed clothing in traveling on the train, he might be able to save up a couple hundred pounds of flour and trade it off for buffalo robes at those trading posts. My father thanked him for the information and had his family be as saving as possible so as not to waste a crumb of bread. We had not traveled many weeks before we had saved up 200 pounds of flour out of our rations. We were thinking how we would appreciate our robes those cold nights, for it was now getting in September. However, we were to experience a sad disappointment.

I think it was the morning we were to pass one of these trading posts that the teamster who drove our team went to the captain and told him that my father intended trading some flour for buffalo robes. The captain, who had a very sonorous voice, came to my father as if he had done some very heinous crime. In a very loud voice repeated to my father what had been told him and said "You shall not have another pound of flour till you eat up the flour you have." My father tried to explain how he had saved up the flour by the strictest frugality. We had even shorted ourselves in order to get these robes that we so much needed, having lost all on the train. My father soon found that instead of touching a sympathetic chord, the captain flew into a rage and began abusing him, telling him how the Saints in the valleys had sacrificed in order to raise the flour that had been sent to feed the emigrants. Those Saints would apostatize. I do not know but that my father thought himself that he had done wrong in thinking about those robes. I shall always believe that Captain Henry W. Miller appropriated the flour that belonged to my father for himself. This I do know: that Captain Miller rode in a new white top buggy that was always empty back of the group till we came to the trading post. He traded flour at the trading post for buffalo robes and his buggy was then on was filled with robes.

When we came near Salt Lake City, we were met by one of the Church immigration agents. Our train laid over for a few days and an account was taken of all the people. My father was charged between $300 and $400. He was charged with full rations the full time as he did not report what the captain had done with the flour that was held back. My father paid his debt as fast as he could until every dollar was paid with 10% interest after the first year.

When we were crossing the South Pass, the weather was very cold. When we opened the front of our tent one morning, we found that it had snowed 3-4” during the night and the wind was blowing very cold. We were camped on the open prairie and there was nothing to make a fire but some small green sagebrush. It was a dry camp. All the water we had was what we had carried with us. The people made haste and packed up their beds, and rolled up the tents. The cattle were brought into camp and hitched up. The train rolled out. The next night we had a better camping place with better pasture for the cattle, wood and water, all of which was very much appreciated.

We came to the foot of the Little Mountain not far from Salt Lake City. It was late in the afternoon. The teams were tired and the load in our wagon was very heavy. Our teamster, John Wood, had 3 of his oxen die. He had only 5 left, but one of the other teamsters loaned him one of his oxen making 3 yokes of oxen. However, the load was so heavy that the team could not pull the wagon up the hill. Brother Wood asked the old lady in the wagon if she would come out but she refused. After several attempts to get up the hill, he became angry and declared he would drive off the grade and tip the wagon over if she did not come out. She would not get out. The teamster began to carry out his thread. The wagon was on the verge of tipping over when the old lady began to scream and soon came out. Some of the men lifted on the wheels, and some shoved behind. With a united effort we got to the top of the hill and in camp for another night. The Saints sat up quite late singing songs and talking of the good times we had had in our meetings and dances on the journey. The spoke of their prospective homes in the valleys, which many have lived to see and enjoy. However many of those that were of mature years at that time have passed to the beyond. Many that I have been able to keep track of are prosperous and well to do financially and have held on to the “Iron Rod”. They are good Latter-day Saints and have beautiful homes and farms in the valleys of the mountains.

On the 17th of October we arrived in Salt Lake City. We camped on immigration square, from which place the train scattered, each team or group of teams pulling out towards their own homes.

The old sister and her daughter who had come in the same wagon with us unloaded their luggage and I never heard what became of them. Brother and Sister Danny Jones, their son and daughter Dan and Ellen, left us and put their things on a wagon that was going to Logan.

The tents were all left on immigration square and were taken care of by men who were in Church employ. After all was arranged, the captain released the team for a couple of hours, during which time my father and family hunted up an old friend named John Twig from Pembrokeshire who had immigrated to Utah years ago. Brother Twig was not at home. He was out of town working on his farm. However, Sister Twig was at home. I remember her giving each of us children a slice of bread and molasses. I thought it was the best food I had ever tasted. It had been so long since I had tasted anything sweet - and I was a young, growing boy.

Some time in the afternoon the Cache Valley teams pulled out. We drove a short distance north of the city and camped. The grain and hay fields were all open. The people in the towns would unite in those days and join fences and fence in large public fields. When the grain was all hauled home, the fields were opened for all. Our teamsters turned their teams in the fields where there was abundant feed for the cattle. We did not make early starts in the mornings as it took us until the 22nd of October to get to Cache Valley.

We camped the last night in a small valley in the mountains between Brigham City and Wellsville called Dry lake Valley. We were only about 4 miles from Wellsville, so on this morning our teams were hitched up quite early, and we arrived in Wellsville about 9 o'clock. The Wellsvile teams camped on a small square between Bishop William Maughan's and Ira Ames, Sr's home. The rest of the teams went on to their homes; some to Logan and some to Hyrum, others to Mendon and other places.

Our teamsters had just taken their teams away when we saw a long streak of dust rising on the road at the mouth of New Canyon. In about a half hour President Brigham Young and a party drove up to Bishop Maughan's place. A number of Wellsville's young men unhitched their teams and fed them. The party went into the Bishop's house. After washing themselves and dusting their clothes, they walked a short distance to the Old Log Schoolhouse that stood cross ways on the street of what was called the Old Fort. Wellsville at that time was not built in a city but was in an "L" shape. The street running north and south was called the Old Fort, and the street running east and west was called the New Fort. There was room for the wagons to pass by the schoolhouse either by the east or the west end.

I well remember two men coming walking side by side apparently in a deep conversation. Some one standing near us remarked "Here comes President Brigham Young and the Bishop." When they came near, I heard one say to other "Who are these folks?" The younger man, who was the Bishop, answered "They are some immigrants that have just arrived from crossing the plains." The elder one, Brigham Young, left the Bishop and walked up to my father and said "Aren't you coming to meeting?" My father said he was too dirty having just crossed the plains. President Young replied "We are all dirty." He then locked arms with my father, and they both walked away toward the new house arm in arm until they caught up with the Bishop. My mother and us children followed. My mother and father went into the meeting, but we children were told that there was no room for children in the house.

My brothers and sisters (Ann, James, Levi, Henry, myself and Letitia) could not go into the meeting. We had not been there long until a man came up to us and said "Come with me. You have not had your dinner. Come and have your dinner." We were ragged and dirty from traveling. We had been 10 weeks on the journey from Florence to Salt Lake City. My sister Ann, who was the eldest of us, thanked him for his very kind invitation. We all followed him to his home, which was but a short distance. We were introduced to his wife as some children that had just come in off the plains, and as there was not room in the meeting house for us, he had brought us to have our dinner.

Sister Maughan treated us very kindly. The man's name was John - the Bishop's brother. Sister Maughan gave us some water and towel that we might wash our hands and faces. The house was built of pine logs and had two rooms. Everything in the house was very clean. I remember that both Brother and Sister Maughan were dressed in home-made clothing -- gray cloth made by mixing equal parts of white and black wool together. In these days it was considered the best that the country could produce.

After washing and combing, we were set up to a clean table covered with a white tablecloth. The food I think had been prepared for some of President Brigham Young's party. But as President Young and party were not going to stop in Wellsville for dinner, we children received the benefit. I am sure I never enjoyed a dinner more in my life. Sister Maughan treated us so motherly and kind. We were so hungry! It had been so long since we had sat up to such a good meal and by a table!

The next day, Oct. 23rd, my sister Ann commenced working for Sister Maughan. My brother James went to work for Brother John Maughan pressing sugar cane at a cane mill making molasses. I think I am right in saying that in those days there were thousands of gallons of the very best molasses made in Utah. I would not be afraid to challenge the world for good molasses with some that was made in Hyrum, Cache Valley. It was as clear as amber and as sweet as honey.

At the time my father landed in Wellsville, Cache Valley, the people were mostly poor. A great many of them were from Scotland. Many of them had been assisted to emigrate to this country by the Church. Therefore they were poor and could not help those that had just arrived like my father. But they were very kind hearted and were willing to help all they could.

The people all lived in log houses. Many of them had but one room to live in. My father made inquiry for a house that he might hire, but none could be found. After much searching a man by the name of William Littlewood said he had a house in the New Fort (he lived in the Old Fort) that my father could fix up and use. (After discovering through some English records that his name was actually Rigby, he had his name changed on the state records. The town of Rigby in the Snake River Valley is named after his name.)

My father went with Brother Littlewood (Rigby) to see the house. It stood on the south side of the street about the middle of the fort. It was a very low house. An ordinary man's head would nearly touch the stringers or ribs as they were called. It had no door or window. The roof had small quaking aspen and willow sticks placed up and down close together on the ribs. They were then covered with straw and about 12-18" of soil upon the straw.

My father was thankful for having the privilege of moving his family into this house. The house was about 14 x 16 feet and had a large, old-fashioned adobe chimney at one end. There was a doorway at the other end. It had no floor of any kind. A broom was borrowed from a neighbor. My father and mother made it as clean as circumstances would permit. We moved from the little square by the Bishop's to our new quarters in the New Fort. A long board was procured and fastened edgeways on the ground, one end resting against the side of the adobe chimney. The other end was fastened to the opposite wall. My father begged a few arms-full of straw and placed it in the enclosure. A sheet was placed over each end. My father and mother and my two little sisters, Letitia and Mary Jane, slept at one end; and my brother Levi and I slept at the other end.

I think it was the next day after moving into the house that we began digging potatoes for Brother John Thirkill. My father took an acre to dig with the spade. He was to get ¼ for getting them out. My father would dig and my sister Letitia and I would pick them up and put them into a pile. He would cover them at night with potato vines to keep them from freezing.

Brother Ira Ames had a sawmill at the north end of town. He would saw from 400 to 500 feet of lumber per day. My father managed to get enough lumber to make a door for the house. He bargained with a man by the name of Gee for an old 6-light window 8x10 glass. By fixing up the door and window we had a fairly warm house.

My brother Levi would pick potatoes for other people and would get paid one bushel of potatoes per day. Soon my two brothers, William and Charles, arrived. They had driven Church teams across the plains in Captain Dames train. The people at that time in Wellsville were very bush threshing their grain. William and Charles found plenty of work helping the people to thrash and got one bushel of wheat per day for their work.

There was no money in the country, business being carried on by barter and traffic. Wheat was always reckoned at tithing office price in those days. The price was always the same, $2 a bushel.

We were now working: some for wheat, some for potatoes and some for molasses. Andrew McMurdy came to my father and said, "Brother John, you have some big boys. If you would like to put them to hauling out firewood, I will furnish good teams and wagons and give half of the wood for hauling." My father accepted the offer, and after working on the thrashing machine, my two brothers William and Charles commenced hauling the wood. There was an abundance of good wood in the canyon close by. My brothers would haul out a good big load of maple each day. They would haul one load to Brother McMurdy and the next load to our house. In the course of a couple of weeks they had hauled a fine pile of maple mixed dry and green.

After grinding sugar cane was finished for the season, my brother James was hired to work a year for Brother John Thurkill at $110 for the year. He was to have one cow, some sheep and some wheat. He was to have the cow the next spring. We were to have the calf for taking care of the cow and breaking her to milk. The cow was young, only 2 years old, when she freshened. She had a heifer calf, spotted red and white. My mother called her Spot. Two years after she had a calf. It was the first cow my father and mother ever owned. She turned out good, and my father had her for many years.

There was no flour mill running in the valley. There were some small mills earlier but none were working. There was a famine for flour in Wellsville for a short time. We were forced to live on potatoes for a couple of weeks. My mother would boil and mash them and sweeten them with molasses. I believe the Lord blessed us for we were quite satisfied. Our appetites were always good.

We felt that all was well. We were thankful we were in the valleys of the mountains. We enjoyed freedom and peace. We could call our neighbors brothers and sisters and feel that we were among our friends.

It was late in November when the Bishop announced in a Sunday meeting that arrangements could be made so that all the newly arrived emigrants or Saints could be baptized next Sunday. It was the custom to rebaptize all emigrant Saints in those days. Accordingly my father and mother and all the family and other newcomers repaired to the river the appointed place about a mile away and were baptized. I remember Brother McMurdy baptizing us after which I walked home in my wet clothes and bare feet. The dry dust on the road was covered with white frost. My feet were red with the cold. However, while we were away our next door neighbor had built a large fire with dry maple in the old fireplace. The heat could be felt all the way to the open doorway! Brother William Haukinson was a kind-hearted man. He enjoyed helping his neighbors and would always have a smile on his face. His wife was equally as good as he. She was very round-shouldered. Although she was quite young, she always stooped in her shoulders caused by drawing a handcart across the plains. She pulled the cart nearly all the way with her sick father lying in it.

Since we had lost all our clothing in the train wreck, I had no clothes to change into, so I had to stand before the blazing fire to dry.

That afternoon we were all reconfirmed in meeting. Some of the people were very late that fall getting out their potatoes. After my father got through with Brother Thurkill's potatoes, he worked for other people. He would take me with him to pick up the potatoes which he spaded them out. Sometimes a light skim of snow would be on the ground. My fingers would get so wet and muddy I am not sure that I did not cry a little for I was very thinly clad and only 11 years old. My little sister Letitia had been excused as it was too cold for her. After finishing with the potatoes my father went to work helping thrash grain.

There was no separator to thrash and clean up the grain in those days. The thrasher consisted of a cylinder run by a large belt running from the horsepower to a pulley on the cylinder shaft. The wheat chaff and straw all fell together under the cylinder. A couple of men would "cave out" as it was called the wheat chaff and straw. A string of men would shake the straw and pitch it into the straw stack. Others would rake off the wheat and chaff and pile it up into a large pile. When the job was through, they would clean up the floor as clean as possible, then cover the pile of wheat and chaff with straw. It was customary to have another crowd of men follow up as close as possible with a large fan mill and clean the wheat from the chaff. Sometimes they would be a couple of weeks after the thrashers. Sometimes it would be very late in the season before they would get all the grain cleaned up. They sometimes had to work in the deep snow. Three men would run the fan mill. One man would measure, the other two would turn and feed, exchanging jobs with each other. One would feed the mill while the other turned. Then the other would feed while his partner turned. In this way they would clean up about 300 bushels of grain a day.

About the beginning of winter my brother Charles was hired out to Mr. Edward Miles of Paradise, Cache County, who had charge of two mills: a saw mill and a grist mill. They belonged to a Mr. Jackson of Salt Lake City. My brother would often be sent with others to the canyon for saw logs. One day in the summer of 1863 my brother was sent to the canyon without company to get logs. All went well with him until he had the logs cut and snaked to his wagon. His load was partly on the wagon when a large grizzly bear made its appearance. My brother climbed onto the wagon. He took his ax with him for defense in case the bear might attempt to climb the wagon. The bear took a stand a few yards from the wagon. His team became scared and made their way for home. When Brother Miles saw the oxen he thought something had gone wrong with my brother. He got some other men to go with him. They made as much haste as possible. When they came near to the place where my brother was, the bear walked away. The men could see the bear's large tracks. Thus my brother was released from his perilous position.

During the winter of 1862-1863 my father and my brother William worked at their trades - shoemaking. There were two small tanneries in Wellsville. One was owned by Robert Baxter. The other was owned by Hamilton Stewart. The leather was very inferior, partly because it did not have time to lay in the vats and get tanned through. Only a very thin outside part was tanned. The middle was rawhide, but it was much better than nothing. A man in Paradise made shoe lasts out of cottonwood timber. They were very crude and unshapely, but they were the best that my father could get.

My father had brought a few balls of shoe thread with him from New York which had escaped from being burned on the train. If it had not been for those few balls of shoe thread, I do not know what my father would have done, as the shoe thread could not be bought. (And if it could have been bought, my father did not have a dollar in the world and did not receive a dollar in money for more than a year after he came to Utah.)

Out of clear, straight-grained maple he made shoe pegs. I would practice making shoe pegs after coming home from school and on Saturdays. I soon became expert in making pegs. In an hour or two I would make shoe pegs enough to last my father and my brother William for some days.

School was usually held for about 3 months each year in these times. My brother Levi and I went to school that winter. Brother James A. Leishman taught school in the school house in the town. It stood cross ways in the street about the center of the Old Fort. It was made of round pine logs with small quaking-aspen poles placed up and down on the stringers or ribs. Straw was laid on the poles. Twelve to eighteen inches of dirt was placed on the straw. Some wooden pegs were driven into the logs. On those pegs boards were laid. Those constituted our desks. Then holes were bored into long slabs and into these holes wooden pegs were put. When placed lengthwise by the desks, these pegs were our seats. The more advanced pupils occupied the desks. The smaller children occupied similar seats placed lengthwise in the room. They faced the center of the room. There was a space between those who sat at the desks and the small children, with a wide space in the center of the room. The chimneys were at either end of the house and were built of adobe. Large fires were made in those chimneys, but the house was so cold that while those who sat near the fire were nearly burning, those who sat farther away were very old. They would often ask the teacher for permission to go to the fire to warm.

The winters were very cold and the children thinly clothed. I could name some boys who had long strips of rags fastened to belts around their waists with strings tied around their legs in places to keep the material close to their legs and bodies. Then there was no janitor to clean the house and makes fire. The boys had to do that work in turns. The teacher would appoint one of the larger boys and one of the small boys to do the work each morning. The large boy would chop the wood while the small boy would sweep the floor and carry in the wood. The parents would pay the teacher a certain amount of wheat for tuition for each pupil that he sent to school.

The first two winters that I went to school I had no paper to use. I would have to use my slate and pencil to cipher on. Then I would have the teacher write me a copy on my slate. Paper could not be bought in the country. Books were also very hard to get. Grammars, geographies, histories, etc. were not known in school. I remember that my brother Levi and I had a Maguffies Third Reader between us and a blue-back Webster's Elementary Spelling Book. We thought we were highly blessed. Often two or three would have to study out of the same book.

The people were very industrious. They were learning to be self-supporting. Many would raise an acre or two of sugar cane out of which they would make the best of molasses. Large quantities of beets and carrots were raised. During the winter, after they were frozen, the men would clean them, then boil them in large boilers made for that purpose. Thousands of bushels of corn were raised from which meal was made. Also hundreds of bushels were used for feeding swine.

The women would spin in the winter evenings and have it woven into cloth. They would have it made into what they called Jeanes for men's clothing and linsey for women's clothing.

After a couple of years small stores were started. Brother Ira Ames was about the first to set up a little store. Soon after Mr. Fred J. Kiesel set up a store and would take wheat for goods. He would have the wheat ground into flour and ship it to the gold mines in Montana. Better school houses were built after the city was laid out, which took place in the spring of 1864. Soon a rock school house was built near the north part of town. A small brick school house was built at the south end of the Public Square, and thus the country was building up.


John, Thomas

Thomas, Margaret

John, William Henry

John, Charles

John, Ann

John, James

John, Levi

John, Henry

John, Letitia

John, Mary Jane


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