Monday, July 29, 2013

Pioneer Pete

Partly because of our family goal to dedicate twelve family home evening lessons to family history and partly because we're still thinking a lot about our pioneer ancestry, we had another lesson about our pioneer ancestors for family home evening tonight.

I spent a good chunk of the day researching ancestors (Miriam and Benjamin simultaneously went down for naps, which was wonderful (though Miriam is still awake (and cleaning the bathroom as her "get out of bed" activity) because of it)). I wanted to review the ancestors we'd talked about a couple of weeks ago but also introduce a few new ones. Eventually inspiration struck and I decided that I'd just plop all (well, some of) our ancestors down on a single sheet of paper and make a game of it. Thus the game "Don't Eat Pioneer Pete!" was born (the rules are here, in case you've never played).

Making the game board was fairly simple. Finding facts and stories to share about each ancestor was a little more time consuming, though certainly worth while.

I've always loved hearing "the grown ups" talk about my predecessors but now I am one of the "grown ups" (though I'm not quite sure how or when that happened) and it's my responsibility to pass on the stories. I also need to familiarize myself with Andrew's side of the family tree, so I dabbled a bit on his side as well and came up with some pretty interesting stories.

All nine of the ancestors we highlighted this evening were converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All nine of them crossed the plains (and sometimes the ocean as well) in order to reach the Salt Lake Valley. All of them led very different lives and we learned a lot from them and had a lot of fun doing so! 

Feel free to read about our ancestors below...

Allen Freeman Smithson

Andrew's third-great grandfather
Born: February 11, 1816 in Anderson County, South Carolina

Joined the church and headed west with the Mississippi Company [with my friend Geneen Kartchner’s ancestors no less!].

Wintered (1846–47) in Pueblo, Colorado. Entered Salt Lake in late July, 1847, along with the “sick” detachment of the Mormon Battalion.

His wife Letitia died in 1849, leaving him with 5 small children. Jennett Burton Taylor (born in 1826 in Darlington County, SC and who came to the valley with her parents in 1847) came into the home to care for the children. She and Allen were married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on December 16, 1849 [which just happens to be mine and Andrew's anniversary].

They had eleven sons and three daughter (in addition to Allen’s previous five children). We descend from their sixth son, Charles. Allen and Jennett were kept very busy in Dixie, UT, where Allen raised cotton which Jennett “carded, spun, and wove into cloth on a hand-loom” to make clothing (from jeans to shoes) for the entire family.

They lived in San Bernardino, CA; Beaver, UT; Dixie, UT; Pahreah, UT; St. George, UT.

Lucinda Haws Holdaway

Nancy's third-great grandmother
Born: 20 October 1828 in Green, Wayne, Illinois, United States

Travelled with the Brigham Young Company in 1848. An excerpt from her journal reads:

"In May, we crossed the Missouri River in Lorenzo Snow's company on our way to the Rocky Mts. All went as well as could be expected. Of course, we had many difficulties to encounter—we had to wash our clothes in cold water and make fires of "buffalo chips" as there was no wood to be found. Very often the great herds of buffalo would come down from the mountains to drink at the rivers, sometimes within a quarter of a mile of us; they didn't seem much afraid. In the evening, we would all assemble in the center of the corrals which were formed by a circle of wagons, and sing and pray. Everyone seemed thankful and a good time was had by all."

We were cracking up about that last line because Andrew's Aunt Nicki says that all the time!

Joseph Stacy Murdock

Andrew's third-great grandfather
Born: June 26, 1822 in Hamilton, NY

Raised by grandparents until age 10 when he moved back to run family farm and take care of his sick/crippled parents.

In 1836, when Joseph was 14 years old, a Mormon missionary by the name of Jonathan Dunham came to the Murdock home. The following incident took place as told in Joseph's own words:

"He went to Father's side and Father asked him if he really believed in the new religion. Elder Dunham replied that he did, with all his heart and soul, that it was the true religion restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the same gospel that was held and practiced by Jesus Christ, and that the fullness of the gospel would be restored in our time.

"My father said to Elder Dunham, 'Either you have the true gospel as taught by Jesus Christ, or you are the greatest impostor in the work of the Lord.' Then he said, 'Now if you have the truth and are of the Lord, I want you to pray for me, and lay your hands upon me, and if you are of the Lord I will be healed, and if you are an impostor I will not be healed.' Elder Dunham knelt down and prayed for Father, and got up and laid his hands on his head, and blessed him and asked the Lord to heal him of his long sickness and suffering."

Joseph wrote that his father fell into a deep, sound sleep. In the morning he awoke rested and refreshed and called for his clothes saying, "I am a well man, give me my clothes." He dressed, ate breakfast, and was strong enough to work in the fields.

The whole Murdock family was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later that year. The Murdock family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1842. Joseph was inspired by many of the experiences he had there and wrote a poem that he sent to his aunt. The poem later became one of the hymns we sing now, "Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice."

Mary Catherine Longley

Andrew's third-great grandmother
Born: December 20, 1839 in Austin, TX

"Mary Catherine Longley married Charles Marion Tyler at the age of 14 in Washington County, Texas. Before Mary Catherine's father would give them permission to be married, he made Charles promise not to leave Texas for 15 years. (He hoped by extracting this promise from Charles that he would give up his notion of moving to the west.) True to his word Charles stayed in Texas for this period of time. However, on 10 May 1869 Charles and Mary Catherine and their six children left Texas and headed for Utah where Charles' brothers had settled. Mary was driving a six-mule team and holding her 2 month old baby on her lap and Charles and the hired cowboys were driving their 1000 head of cattle and their other two wagons being pulled by 3 yoke of oxen were being driven by other hired helpers and they headed out for the Chisholm Trail."

They arrived in Ogden, Utah on 15 July 1870.

Mary Catherine is the oldest daughter of Campbell and Sarah Longley. Her younger brother is Wild Bill Longley, “one of the deadliest gunfighters in the Old West.” That was a charming little tidbit to learn! We've been laughing about it all day.

Charles Layton

Nancy's third-great grandfather
Born: April 6, 1832 in North Hills, Stanford, Bedfordshire, England

Charles Layton was the son of William Martin and Bathsheba Layton. He took his mother's maiden name since his parents were not married. His mother afterwards was married and they were sealed to Nathanial Denton. Because he lived in a rural district he, like other boys, helped to tend the flocks of sheep and do other chores. When he was a young man, Mormon missionaries arrived in the community. He, with two of his companions, William Stewart and William Foxeley, attended the meeting with the idea of creating a disturbance and possibly breaking up the meeting. The Elder who was in charge of the meeting was Thomas Smith, better known as "Rough Tom" Smith. So great was the testimony of this Elder that these three young men who had come to ridicule, were soon converted to the faith and baptized into the church. Later, on October 2, 1850, along with other immigrants, he left England for America on the ship James Pennel. It took a period of seven weeks to complete the journey, Arriving in New Orleans November 22,1850, he boarded the river steamer Armantle. He arrived in St. Louis with his uncle Christopher Layton and stayed for two years.
When the great cholera plague was at its peak, Charles and some others had to haul in the corpses for burial. In spite of his many exposures and privations he never was afflicted with the plague. In the spring of 1852, he left St. Louis as a member of the Horton Heights Company, which included fifty-two wagons. After a journey beset with hardships and heartache; the company was met by Brigham Young on September 3, 1852. He remarked that it was one of the best outfits to arrive in Utah.
Charles went to live with the Hector Height family in Farmington. Betty Bowler moved into the household a year later and they were married on January 2, 1854.

Phoebe (Alta and Solomon) Hancock

The excerpt below is actually what I wrote a couple of weeks ago. This was one of our "review" ancestors. Alta (23 May 1795 | Pawlet, Vermont) and Solomon (14 Aug. 1793 | Springfield, Mass.) Hancock were my (Nancy's) fourth-great grandparents. I would have put Solomon Hancock on the grid, except that there don't seem to be any existing photographs of him (or Alta), though there is one of Phoebe, so that's why Phoebe's face is up there.

Technically, Phoebe's not our ancestor at all—not directly, anyway. Her name was Phoebe Adams, wife of Solomon Hancock, and niece of our direct ancestor, Alta Adams. Alta died in 1835. Solomon married her niece, Phoebe, in 1836 (but that's a story in and of itself).

By 1844, Phoebe was pregnant with her fourth child and she and Solomon were on their way into town to buy some new things for the baby (as well as provisions). Solomon had promised Phoebe $5 to spend on their baby but along the way kept feeling prompted that they needed to save that money for something else, so he explained this to her, telling her that she could use the money from selling butter and eggs to get some things for the baby. She was livid, but did just that.

On the way home she was still upset and could hardly turn to look at her husband, when they came upon the prophet Joseph Smith being led off to jail. He asked if they had $5 to spare so that he, and the company being jailed with him, could get something to eat (in those days you had to supply your own food in prison). Solomon and Phoebe were able to give the prophet the $5 they had saved, which was a wonderful blessing all around (see here).

Christian (Christina) Howie

Andrew's third-great grandmother
Born: July 3, 1823 in Coylton, Ayrshire, Scotland

She worked as a dairy maid in her early teens. She married William Lindsay in 1844, and they joined the Mormon Church in 1848, which caused her family to disown her.

Christina never gave up hope and by means of the Church Emigration Fund was able to bring her family to Utah arriving September 21, 1862 [after the death of her husband in 1861]. She came directly to Heber, Utah, traveling across the plains by ox team.

In the fall of 1863, Christina married George Muir and became a polygamous wife.

George set up two homes, one for each wife, side by side in Heber. In 1885 George and Christina took up a homestead of 80 acres in Center Creek. They lived on it to prove title. Most of this time George was away working either for the Union Pacific Railroad or in coal mines, so most of the providing of this homestead can be credited to Christina.

Christina was a very independent woman and made much of the living for her entire family. She took in sewing, worked in the fields and acted as a midwife for the Heber Valley for many years.

Nicholas Muhlestein

Nancy's great-great grandfather
Born: October 7, 1831 in Wohlen, Bern, Switzerland

From his dictated oral history:

“In the year 1862 in Switzerland a Mormon elder came to my house. He talked about this awful Mormonism, so I began to study after the things he told me, but I came to think what all my folks would say if I should change my faith, but I could not help myself. I had heard the truth and I went to my bedroom and knelt on my knees and asked my Heavenly Father to tell me if this was true and I heard a still voice whisper to me, “Everything this elder said was true.” I began to go to their meetings. I would walk 7 miles to the meeting and fast besides. My dear wife did not like it very well, but she could not change my course, so she began to investigate, but it came hard for her to make up her mind to change her faith. At last she went into the waters for baptism, and that in December when the ice was 2 to 4 inches thick. We had to go in the night down a steep bank, through brush and thorns and break the ice. She was in very delicate health. When she came home she said all her pains and ailings had left her. In three weeks a nice baby girl was born. Then their troubles began with their relatives. They all thought they had lost their senses to join such a church.”

[Eventually they came around...]

“They began to prepare to emigrate to Zion, but where to get enough money, for they had not enough. So I went to my father to see what he could do for me. My dear old father was not a Mormon, but I tell you what he did do about it, He went to work and had the whole estate valued and had my portion turned over to me. There were 4 boys and 1 girl, so I had plenty of money to emigrate and some left to help others. So we got everything ready to start in the Spring of 1863, me and my wife with two little children, one four years old and the other 10 months old. Everything went pretty well till we got on the ship to cross the waters. We couldn’t get any fresh milk for the children and they took sick and died, and we had to sink them down in the deep, that tested our faith pretty hard. But the Lord helped us to bear it, so we traveled on, till we got to where there were no more railroad, and there we waited till some more of the Saints arrived, then we started on our new journey across the plains. Well, we was beginning to see that we could not have saved our darlings through these hardships, for such poor food and no way to make our babies comfortable, we began to be reconciled to our lot. So we moved along as fast as our poor oxen could take us, but my wife and me had to walk all the long way for the team we had had too heavy a load. Sometimes I had to pack her on my back across the rivers. We made us a little tent out of some linen sheets. We was getting quite used to this camping and cooking over the fires on the ground. After many weeks we arrived in Salt Lake City. We pitched our little tent on the public square and waited. What should we do. We could not understand one word of English, so somebody came and told us that in Provo there was no watchmaker, I might get some work there, so we found our way to Provo and pitched our little tent again on the west public square till we could find some room. I run across some men that could talk French for I could speak French pretty good, and that was James Bonnet and he helped me get a room down on West Main Street. I tell you we felt like thanking the Lord to get under a roof once more. I unpacked my tools and the good people began to fetch me some work, but money was hard to get in them times, but we were glad to take whatever the people had, some potatoes, and flour, and so on. I soon bought me a home of my own and planted fruit trees on my two lots. And next year in 1864 my first son was born to me, for which I felt very thankful. I began to be a worker in the First Ward as Deacon and as I learned the language I was made a teacher and so on till I have been a High Priest for many years. Now my family numbers 14 children are living and 5 gone to the other side, and grandchildren I have 34. Thank the Lord they are all in this church.”

What struck me about this story was how they were grateful to have lost their children on the ship over the Atlantic, rather than having to have made them trek across the plains in such deplorable and uncomfortable conditions. It must have been such a terrible journey.

William Gibby

Nancy's third-great grandfather
Born: 18 December 1835 at Slebach, Pembrokeshire, South Wales

(My sister Josie is in Wales right now on a study abroad, so it was fun to learn we are of Welsh decent! It's on my dad's side and I'm much less familiar with his side of the family than I am with my mom's which is how it came as a bit of a fun surprise!)

"William along with his brother John gained a testimony of the gospel and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormons were so hated and persecuted at that time that their mother was broken-hearted over their conversions. The blow was especially heavy when she learned that they planned to sail to America to join the Saints in Zion.

"William and John set sail on the ship "Clara Wheeler," with four hundred and twenty-two souls aboard. It cleared port on November 24, 1854, bound for New Orleans. Elder Henry E. Phelps was president of the company with John Parson and James Crossley as counselors. After it set sail, it ran into rough water in the Irish Channel and had to return to port. The Saints suffered considerably from seasickness. After receiving fresh supplies, it set sail December 7th and arrived in New Orleans January 11, 1855. Measles had broken out among the passengers with twenty children and two adults dying from the disease. After landing in New Orleans, many of the Saints were stranded without funds to go father. Those who had means were asked to lend to those in need. James McGraw, the church Emigration Agent at New Orleans, was contracted with the Captain on the steamboat "Oseana" to take the Saints on the Mississippi River to St. Louis. They were charged the rate of $3.50 for each adult, and half of that for children 3 to 12 years old, and 24 hours after their arrival in New Orleans, the emigrants were on their way up the river. Apostle Erastus Snow met them at St. Louis and others who gave the new arrivals a hearty welcome, and conducted them to comfortable quarters that had been secured for their accommodation.

"William and John Gibby went as far as Kansas. They found work on a government farm for $25.00 a month. They worked there for two years, then came to Utah by ox team, driving across the plains for board and keep with the Canute Peterson's company of fifty two wagons. They had a great deal of trouble crossing the plains with tens of thousands of Buffalo stampeding the cattle. They finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and took odd jobs until they could get settled."

"William married Miss Catherine Stevenson on the 26th of May 1857 by Bishop Edwin Wooley of the 13th Ward. "

"William was best known as the man who captured the $500 cash prize offered by the American Agriculturist for the largest yield of wheat on one acre, they yield being 80 bushels and 6 pounds. He also won a $25.00 prize for raising the best potatoes. He received $5.00 a quart for the largest gooseberries. To his associates and intimate friends, however he was esteemed as an unostentatious man, quiet and unassuming. William was a cabinetmaker and made all of the furniture for their homes, as well as for others. William Gibby died at his residence, 2909 South Main Street, at 7:30 Monday evening, 29th of August 1910 after five days' illness of pneumonia."


  1. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me!

  2. I think you ought to break out the Mary Elizabeth Holdaway Conrad stories while you are still nursing Benjamin, so your girls can imagine what it would be like for you to nurse a fawn. :o)