Question: William Henry Branch was a carpenter and a brick layer. What homes and buildings did he help construct in the Salt Lake Valley and Fillmore, Utah?
Answer: William Henry Branch was born August 9,1820 in Griswold, New London Co.,Connecticut to Elisha Branch and Mary Herrick. His grandfather, Stephen Branch, fought in the American Revolutionary War.
When William was ten years old, he wrote in his diary that he “commenced the world” for himself. His father taught him to work for a living and gave all of his children a common school education. When he was sixteen, he taught school. He worked at different jobs, including brick laying and farming until he was 23 years old. At this time he heard the Mormon missionaries preach in his town, and continued studying but didn’t join the church at that time.
When he was 24 years old, William married Emily Atwood, who was born March 1, 1879 in Willington, Connecticut to Daniel and Polly Sawyer Atwood. Their first son, Nelson, died at birth. William continued his work of building factories. Their second son, Irvin, was born in 1847. William built his family a home and worked for the railroad cutting stone for bridges and received $1.50 per day plus his board. When he returned home one night, he found that Elder Wilford Woodruff, one the twelve apostles had been at his home.
William and his wife began to study the Church again, and on January 16, 1850, they were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Cyriel Brown. After they were baptized, they began immediately to make preparations to go to the Salt Lake Valley, along with Emily’s parents, Daniel and Polly Sawyer Atwood. Daniel and Polly joined the Church at the same time as William and Emily, along with six of their eight children.
William sold his property and settled his business. They visited their friends and relatives, many of whom would have rather seen hm die than join with the Mormons, but his father gave him his blessing and would later join the Church. On April 9, 1850 they left with thirty others and headed to Salt Lake, with the Wilford Woodruff Company. William kept a daily diary of his life beginning in April 1850 until May of 1857.
They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on October 14, 1850, after six months and five days of sickness, cholera, and death. Emily took sick with cholera but was the only one listed in the company who recovered. William and Brother Atwood were the two men Wilford Woodruff sent into the Salt Lake Valley to get enough oxen and provisions for the company to help them get over the mountains into the Salt Lake Valley. Here Henry built their home where their next five children were born.
William was a carpenter and brick layer and helped build the tithing barn, President Young’s barn, President Kimball’s barn, E.T. Benson’s house, and several other homes and buildings in the Salt Lake Valley.
In 1852, William was asked to go to Fillmore, Utah, with 22 other men, to start building the State Capitol building for Utah. In 1857, he served a mission in Carson City, Nevada. In 1857, he went on a handcart mission with other missionaries to the Eastern States where he was assigned to Connecticut, and while there, baptized his father. He returned home in 1858 and worked at his trade of brick laying and plastering in Salt Lake City until 1861.
In 1861, William was called by President Young to settle Southern Utah. He took his wife and five children with him. His youngest daughter died at age four in 1864. In 1869, Emily’s health had been poor, and she was taken to Salt Lake for treatment. She died on August 26, 1869. Her mother, Polly, lived with the family until Cornelia, who was only fourteen at the time of her mother’s death, was old enough to take over the responsibilities of the family. In 1877, William remarried and had five more children.
William was called by Apostle Erastus Snow, who was president of the Southern Utah Mission, to locate in St. George, Utah, where he remained until the spring of 1879 when he was called to the Mesquite Flat Mission. He built himself a home in St. George up on the spring lots and continued to make a living at his trade of brick laying and plastering. During these years he was city marshal and helped in different ways both in a civic and religious capacity.
In 1877, at the dedication of the St. George Temple, William was again called by President Young to fulfill a mission in England. When he returned, in 1879, about two dozen young men were called to the Mesquite Flat Mission in Nevada, and William and his family went with them. The main object of this mission was to raise cotton for the cotton factory located in the town of Washington about five miles east of St. George.
Since bad water caused chills and fever, together with the floods, these men were released from this mission in the fall of 1883 by President Erastus Snow. Most of them returned to St. George. In talking with President Snow, William was advised to go to Castle Valley in Eastern Utah and settle in Price. William stayed the winter of 1883-4 at Price and returned to St. George for his family. He left St. George the latter part of April for Price, but they had to wait for high water and bad roads, so that it was July 1884 before he arrived in Price with his family.
After settling in Price, William built a home for his family. He worked on the Price Water Company Canal, where he had been appointed foreman and manager of construction. He build an adobe house for Fred E. Gramas, the postmaster. Early in 1885 he was chosen Ward Clerk by Bishop George Frandsen. Early in the spring of 1885, he moved up on to the townsite and pitched his tent and commenced to build another home. It was during this summer that he was appointed one of the school trustees, and in the fall, put in a rock foundation for the school building and thus helped to build the first school house in the district.
William was one of the presidents of the 81st Quorum of the Seventies. In 1886 he was elected as County Commissioner of Emery County, and the little old rock building was built to take care of those who would break the laws. Roads were built and improved which made traveling much better during his administration. Finally the water got out on to the townsite in the spring of 1888, after a struggle of nearly four years hauling water in barrels day after day for domestic use.
On February 20th, 1888, the 101st Quorum of Seventies was organized with William H. Branch, senior president, appointed by Seymour B. Young, which position he held and filled with honor until the end of his days.
William was a man of patience, long suffering, charitable, and full of love for his fellow man. William passed away, on September 19, 1889, at the age of sixty-nine years, having led a very useful and interesting life both in the church and among his fellow men and associates. He was honored and respected by all who knew him. He was buried in the Price Cemetery.
Source: “William Henry Branch and Emily Cornelia Atwood,” FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com