William Dykes

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Question: What was William Dykes responsibility in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: William Dykes was born on November 18, 1815, in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania, to Daniel and Cynthia Dykes. He became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1843 and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. He was in the Nauvoo 4th Ward.

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In Nauvoo, William became a member of the 31st Quorum of Seventies. In 1843 William married Mary Rice, and they had their first child, Cynthia, in 1844, while living in Nauvoo.

In 1846, when the Saints were forced out of Nauvoo, William and his family were among them and journeyed to Winter Quarters, Nebraska.  Their son, John Nephi, was born in 1846 after they arrived at Winter Quarters.

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In the spring of 1847, William was asked to be a member of Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company and was in the 4th Ten. He was designated a hunter in that Company. After arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, he assisted in building the fort and performed other duties as needed. He returned to Winter Quarters with President Brigham Young in the fall of 1847.

In 1848 William Dykes is mentioned as having signed a petition to establish a post office on the Pottawattamie lands in Iowa. William and his wife, Mary, had two more children: William in 1849, and Mary in 1851. William’s wife Mary died in 1851, probably in childbirth with her last child. In June 1854, William married Catherine Preece (Nelmes), who had immigrated from England. She cared for William’s children from his first wife, but never had any children of her own.

William was a member of the 31st Quorum of Seventies in Salt Lake City as late as August 1856. However, early in 1857 the Church obtained a four-year mail contract from the federal government to carry mail between Independence, Missouri, and Great Salt Lake City.

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As Brigham Young and the first pioneer company trekked westward in eastern Nebraska, several sites were identified as possible temporary settlements to serve as way stations along the route. One of those became the little town of Genoa in Nance County. Genoa was founded and named by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the spring of 1857.

Brigham Young sent hundreds of men that spring to establish settlements in Wyoming, while others developed Genoa, Nebraska, to be one of the main stations on the mail line. Genoa was to service the “Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company, as well as travelers following the trail.” William Hartley and Gary Anderson note that the settlement was to be a “rest and resupply stop for annual LDS emigrating companies." Initially, about 100 families settled Genoa. Living in sod homes, they fenced and farmed the land and constructed a steam powered mill among other projects. William’s family was probably one of the families sent to settle in Genoa.

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The mail route ended with the Utah War in 1857. When the Pawnee Indian reservation was set up in the fall of 1859, the families had to move out. When Genoa was vacated, it was on the verge of becoming a flourishing farm village. William apparently decided to stay in the area. In the 1870 census, William was listed as a farmer, living in Monroe, Platte, Nebraska, with his wife, Catherine, and two sons, Nephi (23) and William (21).

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William’s death is listed in the Church membership records as November 24, 1879 in Nebraska. That date and a tombstone are associated with a William Dykes who someone has listed as born in 1804 and buried in the Columbus Cemetery, Platte County, Nebraska. If this grave and tombstone are William Dykes, then the birth date listed on the tombstone listing, November 27, 1804 , would be incorrect. The death date on the tombstone is correct. Whoever did the tombstone may just not have know William’s exact birth date. Catherine went back to Salt Lake City and died there in December 1886.

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The Columbus Era, November 29, 1879

Wm. Dykes, living near Genoa, died on Tuesday last and was buried in the Columbus cemetery on Tuesday. Mr. Dykes, had he lived two days longer, would have been seventy-five years old; was one of the oldest settlers in the Platte Valley, and was widely known and respected as a man of sterling worth. His death was caused, so we are informed, by over exerting in the hay field last summer, from the effects of which he never recovered.

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Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,” Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; William Dykes in the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia; FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com; Sacred Places: Iowa and Nebraska, LaMar C. Barrett, William G. Hartley, A. Gary Anderson