Question: How old was Seth Taft III, when he was asked to join Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?
Answer: A native of Massachusetts, Seth Taft was born August 11, 1796 in Mendon, Worcester County to Seth and Lydia Staples Taft. In early manhood he moved to Michigan where he married Harriet Ogden in 1826. In 1841, two Mormon Elders came to his home with the message of the restored Gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and soon Seth, his wife, and two daughters, were baptized. In 1844, Seth is listed as running for State Elector in Michigan for Joseph Smith’s run for President. He then moved his family to Nauvoo, Illinois and was in the exodus to Winter Quarters.
In 1847, Seth was fifty years old when he was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company headed to the Salt Lake Valley. He was with Orson Pratt's advance company and was a member of the committee appointed to select a place for the planting of potatoes, corn and beans.
“About 9:30 a.m. they were called together on the new camping ground on City Creek and, after a few introductory remarks by Orson Pratt, he offered up prayer and thanksgiving in behalf of the Pioneers. The meeting was then addressed by Willard Richards and Orson Pratt, after which Shadrach Roundy, Stephen Markham, Seth Taft, Robert Crow and Albert Carrington were appointed a committee to select ground for planting potatoes, corn, beans, etc. They immediately left the meeting to accomplish their tasks.” About 11:30 on the morning of July 22nd he, with others, reported that they found a piece of firm, fertile soil 40 rods by 20 rods for potatoes, and a suitable place for beans, corn and buckwheat, which they had staked off. Two hours later, plowing commenced a short distance northeast of the camp. Seth’s plow broke in the hard soil.
On August 17, 1847, the return trip to Winter Quarters was started. Seth Taft was with them retracing the tracks over which he had so recently come. On Saturday, September 4th, at the Little Sandy, he met Daniel Spencer’s Company of Latter-day Saints en route to the valley. His wife and daughter, Almira, were with them. He returned with this company to the Salt Lake Valley.
Seth was made Bishop of the Ninth Ward on February 22, 1849 in which capacity he officiated until 1856. He is mentioned as a member of a prayer circle held with Brigham Young each Monday evening.
While Bishop, he was called by Brigham Young to help lead a group of settlers south to the Sanpete area. Under the leadership of Isaac Morley, Seth Taft, Nelson Higgins and Charles Shumway, a band of 224 colonists and 240 cattle set out on October 28 for their new home, skirting the south and west sides of Mount Nebo and heading south down Salt Creek Canyon.
Although winter travel was often difficult, it was common practice for pioneers to journey to a new settlement in the winter so they would be established and ready to plant crops when spring arrived. Unfortunately for the Manti party, the winter of 1849-50 was severe, the worst in memory, according to area Indians. When the group arrived at what became Temple Hill on November 19, some of the leaders proposed that they keep moving south to Gunnison.
"This is only a long, narrow canyon and not even a jack rabbit could exist on its desert soil," argued Seth Taft. "This is our God-appointed place and stay I will, though but 10 men remain with me," countered a stubborn Issac Morley, who was made Bishop and primary head of the colony. Such differences of opinion among its leaders marked the early history of Manti. But the rabbits Seth Taft had disparaged proved a godsend for the hungry settlers. A bit of local doggerel was soon professing that: "Rabbits young and rabbits old; Rabbits hot and rabbits cold; Rabbits tender and rabbits tough; Thank the Lord, we've had rabbits enough."
In the end, the party hunkered down on the south side of Temple Hill, digging shallow shelters into the hillside or turning their wagons on end to miserably wait out the winter. Issac Morley chose the Book of Mormon name of Manti for the settlement. Seth Taft would return to Salt Lake City to continue as Bishop of the 9th ward.
Bishop N. V. Jones organized a Relief Society in the 15th ward and chose Sister Lydia Granger president. Bishop Seth Taft also organized a Relief Society in the 9th ward and appointed Sister Harriet Taft president. Johnston's army and the move South, occurred in 1858, interrupted the regularity of the work of the society wherever it had begun, and it was not until after the return of the people to their homes that the society was more permanently organized. Seth was chosen Justices of the Peace while serving as Bishop of the 9th Ward. In January 1859, Seth married Eliza Jane Dykes, and they had two sons, Seth Dykes Taft and Latinus Ogden Taft.
At the Great Celebration on July 4, 1861, a company of pioneers under Captain Seth Taft, aided by George Woodward and William Carter, carried a banner inscribed with the names of the pioneers of 1847. He was ordained a Patriarch on April 18, 1861 and his book of Patriarchal Blessings lists 50 blessings he gave. On November 23, 1863 Seth Taft passed away at the age of 67 years and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Source: FamilySearch.org, “Seth Taft (1796-1863) sketches about his life and Church service,” These sketches were found in several databases, including “Heart Throbs of the West,” “Utah, Our Pioneer Heritage,” and “Treasures of Pioneer History;” “Manti Grew Amid Struggle And Surprises,” Deseret News, March 21, 1995.