Question: What tragedy occurred in the life of Samuel Walton Utley after he joined with the Saints in the journey West.
Answer: Samuel Walton Utley was born on October 28, 1799, in Raleigh Township, Wake, North Carolina, the oldest child of Little John Utley and Sarah Walton. Samuel’s father was a minister in the Christian Church. Very little is known of Samuel’s early life, but he left home before he was married and went to Perry Co., Alabama. His little brother, Little John Jr., went with him. Both married by 1820. Little John Jr. was born February 1, 1806. These two brothers were the only ones of this family to go west.
Samuel settled by a stream of water which supplied good fishing. His nearest neighbors were James and Elizabeth Berry, who had six children. It was Mariah Berry, the charming daughter of James Berry, who Samuel Utley married on December 26, 1829. They were very happy and devoted to each other. To this happy family came six children: Sarah Elizabeth, James William Sanders, Harriet Temperance (born in 1835), Jacob Jefferson, Henry Lafayette, and Gabrial Marion (born in 1844).
About the year 1843, Elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came to their place preaching the Gospel. The missionaries that came to Alabama were: John Brown, James Brown, Benjamin L. Clapp and Elder Winchester. Samuel and Little John Jr’s families, with many others, were converted and decided to join with the Saints at Nauvoo, Illinois.
Samuel Utley’s parents were very much opposed to their faith. This may have been the reason for their late leave, but it was the spring of 1847 when they left. They sold their farm and all their possessions except a team and wagon which carried them to Mobile where Mariah’s sister Mary lived. They stayed here for several days while Samuel W. Utley disposed of the team and wagon. They went by boat up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, where they were met by some of the members of the Church who were left there to notify others, that the Saints had been driven out of Nauvoo and were settled at Winder Quarters in Nebraska.
When they arrived at Winter Quarters, people were camped on both sides of the river; Samuel camped on the west side. In September the measles broke out in the camps, and all of Samuel’s children came down with it. Inside of six weeks, Samuel had buried his wife and four children leaving only Harriet Temperance who was twelve years old and Gabrial Marion the baby three years old.
The next summer Samuel moved to the east side of the river to the little town of Kainesville (Council Bluffs), Iowa. Here Samuel taught school for two years, while young Harriet kept house for them and attended school. From this place Samuel went with his brother Little John, Jr. to a place called Harres’s Grove. They remained there for two years preparing to make the trip across the plains. They cut the timber for their wagons and seasoned the lumber in the rafters of their log cabin. They made their own wagons, wheels and all and also ironed it. This wagon was to carry them and all their belongings across the plains.
In the spring of 1852, their company, the Robert Wimmer Company, started across the plains to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Samuel took a cow that he had and bought another to make a team which took them on their journey of over a thousand miles. All went well with them until they came to the alkali beds and one of the cows drank some of the water and died. Capt. Wimmer let them have a yoke of oxen with which they completed their journey. When they came to the crossing of the Platt River cholera broke out in camp, and Samuel contracted it.
Harriet said “I am going to ride by my father; I will not leave him when he is so sick.” A member of the company told her she would take the disease and die too, but Harriet was determined and she rode by her father all day, and he died that afternoon. That evening when they camped, some of the men buried him in the hillside. This was about the 20th of August 1852. About this same time Little John, Jr. buried his wife and oldest daughter. A man without a team and wagon offered to drive Samuel’s team the rest of the way.
Harriet and Gabriel arrived in the Salt Lake Valley about the first week in September. A man by the name of Ridden Allred offered to take the two orphan children to his home. They remained there for two weeks. Shortly after they had arrived in Salt Lake Valley, Samuel Turnbow, who was a friend of the Utley’s in Alabama, heard of the fate of his friend’s family. He sent his son John for the children, and the two lonely children were very glad to find friends. The Allred’s treated them like their own. Within months, Sister Turnbow died leaving a new born baby; however some kind friend took the baby and Harriet took care of the family for about a year.
On November 23, 1853 Harriet married William Carter. This gave her younger brother, Gabrial, a permanent home. Harriet had eight children. They all married and settled near St. George, Utah, except her three daughters. Harriet celebrated her 90th birthday on July 11, 1925 and five days later on the 16th she passed away, only ailing a half a day. At her death, she had eight children, 56 grandchildren and 59 great grandchildren.
Gabrial Utley left his sister’s home in July 1871 and went to Pine Valley to work. Here he met Sophia Burgess and they were married on January 1, 1872 at Pine Valley. They lived around Dixie a few years then settled permanently at Annabella, Sevier Co., Utah. Gabrial had a large family of nine sons and six daughters.
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Harriet wrote of the difficult time in Winter Quarters:
“While here, a terrible misfortune befell our family. We all contracted the measles, except father. He took care of all of us. My mother, my only sister, and three of my brothers all died within six weeks of each other. My seven-year-old brother went first, Henry Lafayette; then my mother eleven days later, on the 14th of October. When she died, her last words were: "Samuel, keep the children in the Church." James William Saunders, my oldest brother, went next; then seven days later, Jacob Jeffersen went on the 12th of November. My sister was dying six days later, and when she knew she was going, she said, "Oh father, I can't die, I must stay and take care of my little sister." She was sixteen years old. My youngest brother, Gabriel Marion, who was three years old, and myself who was twelve years old, also had the measles...we were the only ones that lived.”
“My father wrote back to Alabama, and told them of the family tragedy. One of my uncles wrote and asked for me and my brother to come and live with him and his wife, as he was well-to-do and wished to give us every opportunity. But they had not accepted the gospel. Father asked my if I would like to go, and I said, ‘Father, don't you remember what mother said, ‘Keep the children in the church’?’ So we remained with father.”
Source: “Samuel Walton and Mariah Berry Utley,” written by a granddaughter; “Harriet Temperance Utley,” and “Gabriel Marion Utley,” FamilySearch.org.