Question: How man years did George Pierce Billings serve as sheriff in Manti, Utah?
Answer: George Pierce Billings was born on July 25, 1827 in Kirtland, Geauga County, Ohio. His father, Titus Billings, and mother, Diantha Morley, were some of the first members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Diantha and her older brother, Isaac Morley were members of Sidney Rigdon's congregation of Campbellites. Titus Billings was the second person baptized in Kirtland, Ohio. They moved to Missouri, but were forced out by persecution. George was just a boy at this time.
In February 1835 Titus and Diantha were called to return to Kirtland to help finish the Kirtland temple. Titus was a stonemason, carpenter, and musician, while Diantha helped design the original temple garments. The Billings family moved back to Missouri in 1837, and Titus was sustained as 2nd Councilor to Bishop Edward Partridge. On October 25, 1838 Titus participated in the Battle of Crooked River. Escaping the mobs, he and his family moved to what became known as Morleytown or Yelrome which is near modern day Lima, Illinois and is a short distance from Nauvoo, Illinois. As a young boy, George had many memories of these hard times.
In September 1846, Isaac Morley's cooper shop was burned, and the Billings family and all of the residents of Morleytown moved to Nauvoo. During this time Titus and his family worked daily on the Nauvoo temple until its completion. However due to mob pressure, their stay was short lived, and after the death of Joseph Smith, the Billings family and the saints moved out of Nauvoo and settled at Winter Quarters.
George enlisted in the Mormon Battalion, but accidentally got his foot cut, so he could not go. In April 1847, George was asked by Brigham Young to be in the Vanguard Company to the Salt Lake Valley. George drove one of his cousin, Heber C. Kimball's, wagons to the Salt Lake Valley the day before he turned twenty. They arrived in the Valley on July 24, 1847. Soon thereafter, Brigham Young sent him back with nine others to meet the Charles C. Rich Company, which was on its way to Utah.
Not long after the group started out, their food supply became exhausted, and the springs were dry. George went out to see if he could find food. He finally found a lone Indian who gave him a drink and buffalo meat, which saved his life. He traded the Indian his gun for 200 lbs of buffalo meat and met the Charles Rich company in the willows near the Platte River. He assisted in getting them to the Salt Lake Valley. He was then called by Brigham Young to be a scout and go back to Missouri five more times to help others cross the plains.
In 1848 George’s father, Titus, was appointed as a Captain of Fifty in Heber C Kimball’s company of pioneers. The company arrived in Salt Lake Valley in the fall of 1848. George and his mother, Diantha, and one brother and one sister were in the Company.
Single and free, George got “gold fever” when the gold excitement started in California. He went to the California coast for two years with many others from Utah, but returned penniless. When he returned from California, he went to Sanpete, Utah, and married Edith Patten, by whom he had nine children.
Young dispatched Isaac Morley and other settlers including the Titus Billings family to what is now the present location of Manti, Utah. Manti was incorporated by the Legislature in Salt Lake City, and the area was surveyed in 1851. Upon completion of the survey, the settlers left their temporary shelters at Temple Hill and moved to their city lots. Titus Billings and Jezreel Shoemaker built the first houses, and were followed by others before the next winter. George accompanied his father to Manti. In 1856 George was called to settle Carson, Nevada. He then returned to Manti.
George learned from his father how to build, and helped build the Salt Lake Temple. He was a prominent figure in the building of the Manti and St. George Temples; cutting many of the stones for the Manti Temple. He, along with his father, also did construction and stone cutting of some of the well-built pioneer homes in Manti. On April 27, 1856, he married Jerusha Lois Shoemaker, and by her had eight children.
George possessed a large and strong body at 6'4" tall and was large boned with a big frame. He was a leader, and possessed a commanding personality. He made ditches, tilled soil and made bridges. It was said he could accomplish much work on little sleep.
George’s soul responded to music and was a naturally gifted baritone singer and musician. He was taught by his father to play the violin and every instrument in the band. His father was the first band leader and choir director in Manti. Diantha was the first Relief Society President in Manti.
Every man in Sanpete county knew “Sheriff” Billings, as he served the people in that capacity for about 25 years and held numerous other offices in the Church and in the community.
George Billings died on December 2, 1896. His headstone recorded that he "Held the plow that turned the first furrow in Utah." He was buried in the Manti City Cemetery.
Source: “George Pierce Billings Story,” FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com