John Wesley Norton

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Question: What challenges did John Wesley Norton face after having served in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: John Wesley Norton was born on November 6, 1820, near Lisbon, Wayne County, Indiana, to David and Elizabeth Heaton Norton.

From John’s Journal:

“I lived in that state until the year of our Lord 1836. Then my parents moved to the state of Missouri, Caldwell County. I remained there until the year of our Lord 1838. On the 16th day of March, I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the hands of David Iven. I remained there until the Church was forced to leave the state and seek a home elsewhere.

“I left that state in the spring of 1838, when I left there with my parents and moved to the state of Illinois, Pike County, where I lived until the year of our Lord 1844. November 5th I was ordained an Elder in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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“I was ordained a Seventy on July 7, 1845 in the City of Joseph or Nauvoo. I received the washing and anointing in the house of the Lord in the City of Joseph on the third day of February 1846. And the next May, I started with my parents bound westward to hunt country that the saints of God could worship according to their faith and beliefs. We traveled west until we came to the Council Bluffs, where I married Rebecca Hammer on 20 July 1846. [Rebecca Hammer’s father, Austin, had been killed at Haun's Mill in 1838. Rebecca and John had four children together.]

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“I remained at the Bluffs until Spring. Then I left the Bluffs with the Pioneers on the 15th day of March 1847 to find a resting place for the Church. I traveled with the pioneers, Brigham Young and his councilors, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, George A. Smith, Orson Pratt and Wilford Woodruff...[John served as a foot hunter in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in the 12th Ten led by Norton Jacob. While traveling near Sulphur Creek, Wyoming, John discovered an oil fountain. Pioneers used the oil to lubricate their wagons.]

“We landed in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on the 24th day of July 1847. I started back to the Bluffs on the last day of November. My wife was delivered of a child the 9th day of May 1847, before I came back.

“After I had been home a few weeks I went down into Missouri and worked through the winter and got means to move my family to the valley. I started from the Bluffs on the 9th day of May in the year of our Lord 1848 in company with my father and his family, and I landed in Great Salt Lake City on September 20, 1848. And I commenced work on the public works in Great Salt Lake City on the 8 day of April 1850 and continued my labor until April 12, 1852. I was ordained assistant President over the 29 Quorum of Seventy April 1852.

[John married Martha Minerva Reynolds in polygamy on June 1, 1851 in Salt Lake, and they had seven children together.] “On the first day of June I had Rebecca Hammer and Martha Reynolds sealed to me for time and eternity. Martha Norton was delivered of her first child July the 14th, 1852.”

In 1854 John was called on a mission to Australia, where he labored for almost three years. When he returned, John took his family to Lehi, Utah where he lived a number of years (1857-1867). Two children were buried there. In 1867 he received a call to assist in strengthening the settlements in Southern Utah. Consequently, the fall of that year found him traveling south with his family. They settled in Panaca, Nevada camping in their wagons the first winter and the following summer John worked hard, working to build a fort as protection against the Indians. He acted as Sheriff and Postmaster for several years.

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In 1871 John joined the Company led by George W. Sevy to resettle Panguitch, Garfield, Utah. He with many others lived in the fort for some time. He served as Postmaster here. He was a blacksmith and a wheelwright by trade. At Panguitch he was president of the Seventies Quorum.

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The last years of his life John was crippled with rheumatism. His first wife Rebecca died on February 9, 1900. His second wife, Martha, died in February 1901. John then lived with his son until the time of his death, which occurred on October 20, 1901 in Panguitch. He was eighty years of age. He was buried in the Panguitch City Cemetery.

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Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,” Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; FamilySearch.org, “Life Story of John Wesley Norton, 1820-1901;” FindAGrave.com