LIFE OF THOMAS JOHN AND DESCENDANTS
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.