Perry Fitzgerald

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Question: What was Perry Fitzgerald’s position in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in July 1847?

Answer: Perry Fitzgerald was born on December 22, 1815, in Redstone. Fayette County, Pennsylvania, to John Fitzgerald and Leah Phillips Fitzgerald. The year before Perry was born, the United States had been victorious in the War of 1812, and the new nation had yet another hero, Oliver Hazard Perry. John and Leah Fitzgerald named their first son Perry in his honor.

When Perry was a young boy, early in the 1820's, his father, John, moved his wife and family from Pennsylvania to Reily, Butler County, Ohio. In Perry’s youth, Ohio was considered as part of the far west, and the opportunities for learning were extremely limited. Therefore, Perry was denied any formal education. In 1837, when Perry was 21, his father, John died in Ohio.

In the 1830's Perry met Mary Ann Cosat, a native of Kentucky. Perry married Mary Ann on January 10, 1839. In the autumn, Leah Phillips Fitzgerald, Perry’s mother, died. Shortly thereafter, the young couple moved to Vermillion County, Illinois. On March 25, 1840, Mary Ann gave birth to Perry’s first child, a son, and Perry named him after his recently deceased father, John Fitzgerald.

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In December, 1842, Perry and Mary Ann, along with Perry’s sister, Lurena F. Nebeker, received the gospel and were baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Illinois by Field B. Jackson. The saints were busy building the city of Nauvoo and in erecting another temple, and Perry was anxious to help. The next year, 1843, the Fitzgerald home was blessed with another son they named Daniel, but little Daniel died in his second year. Their beloved prophet, Joseph, and his patriarch brother, Hyrum, were murdered on June 27, 1844.

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In 1845, a third son, Alvah, was born to Mary Ann and Perry. The saints were going through a period of unrest and turmoil. Perry and Mary Ann remained faithful, and in 1846, Perry received the Melchizedek Priesthood and was ordained an Elder. In the spring of 1846, Perry’s family was among those who lost their homes in Nauvoo and moved to Winter Quarters. There they remained until the following spring of 1847. It was here that Perry and Mary Ann lost their little two-year-old son, Alvah.

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It was early in the year of 1847 that Brigham Young selected 31-year-year old Perry Fitzgerald to be among those stalwart men (142) who would journey over a thousand miles to the Salt Lake Valley. Perry was a Scout and took pride in his horse and gear. He was in Captain John S. Higbee’s company of fifty, and entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Perry and the others got busy and diverted a creek, prepared some soil, and planted potatoes and other crops.

In August, after only a few weeks in the valley, he returned east to gather his family and bring them to the Salt Lake Valley. Early in August 1847, Perry headed eastward toward Winter Quarters, but along the way, they met the group of saints coming westward to the Salt Lake Valley. Perry turned around and came west again, as these pioneers included Perry’s wife, Mary Ann, and son, John, his sisters, Lurena and Barbara, and his brother-in-law, John Nebeker. These saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 26, 1847.

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Perry spent the winter of 1847-1848 probably in the fort (where Pioneer park is now located) with the other saints. Shortly after the new year began, a son, Manassah, was born on February 11, 1849. Perry was allotted some acreage South and east of the temple lot, but soon moved to the Millcreek area, where he spent two winters. 1849-1850 and 1850-1851.

On January 22, 1851, Mary Ann gave birth to their fifth child. It was a boy, and Perry named him Perry Junior. In April 1851, Mary Ann, age 29, died. She was survived by her husband and three sons: John,11; Manassah, 2 and Perry Junior, 2 months. Perry then moved to South Willow Creek (Draper) with five other families. During the first winter in Draper, Perry lived in the fort with other settlers, where he ran a small shop. Later in 1851, Perry married Ann Wilson, 39, a convert from Oldcoats, Nottinghamshire, England. They had two daughters together.

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In 1851, Perry moved to Draper and established a permanent home. It was a large log cabin, for that time, built along the creek. Perry only purchased what he could pay for. In this dwelling, Agnes bore five of their thirteen children. When a terrific storm came and flooded the area, Perry moved the cabin a few rods north, where it later served as Perry’s barn and stood for over 125 years. Eventually it was carefully dismantled and marked so it could be rebuilt as an original log cabin to be displayed at the Draper Park by the Perry Fitzgerald descendants.

In 1852, there came to Draper a young convert from Manchester, England, whose name was Agnes Wadsworth. She came to the Fitzgerald home and became a nanny and a friend. Perry married her on March 21, 1853. This commenced the time when Perry began to practice plural marriage.

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While living in Draper, Perry was ordained a High Priest. Perry’s and Agnes’s family was increasing, so he built a lovely new house 50 yards to the east of the log cabin. Among the many visitors received in the new Fitzgerald home was Orrin Porter Rockwell. One evening a rider galloped swiftly into Perry’s yard and wrapped hard on the door, and when Perry answered the door, he looked into the steel grey eyes of his friend, Porter Rockwell. Perry greeted him and invited him inside and soon learned that Porter was being pursued by a posse, and he asked Perry to hide him. Perry pointed to a thicket where he thought Porter would be safe and then Perry turned his back so he wouldn’t see which direction he went. About four or five minutes later, the posse arrived and inquired of Perry if he had seen or heard a rider, and Perry truthfully replied that he had but that he didn’t “see” which direction he had gone.

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Early in February 1865, Perry’s son Manassah, 16, and Perry Junior, age 14, came down with measles. Manassah survived, but Perry Junior, just age 14, died on February 13, 1865. Perry’s family and farm increased. He homesteaded and claimed land and was a farmer and raised sheep and cattle. Early in the new decade of the 1870's, Perry’s second wife, Ann Wilson, died on November 21, 1870. Perry had lost his second wife who had blessed his life for 19 years and who had born him two lovely daughters.

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In 1876 Agnes gave birth to her 12th child, Melvin, and in 1879, her thirteenth and last child, Royal, was born. In 1884, Bishop Stewart selected Perry to be his second counselor. Early in 1888, Perry was diagnosed as having Bright’s Disease of the kidneys. In 1889 Perry’s condition became grim. Perry’s family was becoming enormous, as his three wives had borne him 20 children, 17 of whom were living. He asked to see his family for the last time and instructed them to be strong in the Gospel. On October 4, 1889, Perry departed this life. He was buried in the Draper City Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from “The Life and Times of Perry Fitzgerald,1815-1889,” and “Pioneer, Family Man, Sod buster, Saint” by Perry Glenn Fitzgerald, Family History Library, film 1320973, item 10, Salt Lake City, Utah, FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com