John Hamaker Calvert

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Question: What experiences did John H. Calvert have after serving in the Mormon Battalion at age eighteen?

Answer: John Hamaker Calvert was born 7 March 1828 in Jefferson, Alabama, the third of ten children born to William P. Calvert and Anne Hamaker. Early in 1844, a Mormon Elder, William Crosby, came through the area, and William P. Calvert and his wife and four children were baptized. The others were still young. John was baptized 1 January 1845 at age 16.

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The family sold their property and traveled up the Mississippi River by boat to join the Sainte in Nauvoo, Illinois The family was in Nauvoo when the saints were driven out in 1846. They were in Winter Quarters in March 1846 when the U.S. Government called for 500 Mormon volunteers to help fight the Mexican war. It became the Mormon Battalion, and on July 16, 1846 they began the 2000 mile march. John Hamaker Calvert was eighteen years of age and was one of these volunteers.

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John’s mother and father and three brothers and three sisters died while he was gone with the Mormon Battalion. They were all buried at or near Winter Quarters.

John went with the Battalion as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico. Here Captain James Brown, Captain of Company C was detailed to take a detachment of the sick back to Pueblo, Colorado.

John was chosen by Captain Brown to help with this detachment. They spent the winter in Pueblo and in the spring of 1847, this detachment, with a company of Mississippi Saints, went to Utah, entering the valley on July 29, 1847, just five days after Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company.

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John helped build the first Bowery and did some work to help people get settled. It is said that Brigham Young wanted John to stay in Salt Lake City, but he went with Captain James Brown to California. They took letters to the soldiers from their families and also an epistle from the twelve Apostles advising them to stay in California for the winter and work and bring their earnings with them to Salt Lake City in the spring. John lived there for about twenty years, participating in the gold rush and serving as a deputy sheriff. He then decided to return to Utah.

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John married Mary Amelia Gardner on 10 May 1869 in Ogden, Weber, Utah. She was the oldest child of fourteen children of James Harvey Gardner and Mary Amelia Gates and was born 10 September 1853 in Ogden, Utah. She was only sixteen years of age, and John was 41 years of age at the time of their marriage. John and Mary had seven children: Mary, Annie, John (died at birth), Nancy (died at birth), David (died at birth), Elizabeth, and Lydia. Mary died 7 October 1879, just after the birth of her seventh child, Lydia (Zena).

John married Martha Jane Calvin 13 April 1874 in polygamy. Martha had two daughters who died at birth, and then had one son, Almon, born in 1877. After Mary died, Martha cared for the remaining children as well her own baby, Clara, born 10 October 1879, and Mary’s baby, Lydia, born 1 October 1879. Martha became sick and died about a year and nine months later on 16 July 1881 in Ogden.

Faced with the problem of making a living and being father and mother to his family, John let Martha Jane's mother and sister take the baby Clara and Almon. Lydia (Zena) was entrusted to a family by the name of Crane in Ogden, who raised her. She never lived with her father but was always in close touch and loved and respected him and often visited him in Idaho. John kept Annie and Elizabeth with him, and for a while they all lived with a sister of his first wife. John’s oldest daughter, Mary, stayed with a family in Ogden. She died in 1892 at the age of twenty-one, in Ogden.

In 1883, in obedience to a call from the church leaders, John took his two small daughters, Annie and Elizabeth, and moved to the new little settlement of Neeleyville, American Falls, Power County, Idaho. Neeleyville was named after the first Bishop, William Neeley. Here John made his home and took care of his little girls who never remembered a mother. After he was settled, he also brought his son Almon and later his daughter Clara to Neeley. These girls had stories of wandering up and down the bank of the Snake River while their father would work from day light till dark clearing and planting his fields. His life was the routine daily struggle of all those early pioneers who made new homes and communities where other Saints might gather.

John served as Sunday School Superintendent, then as councilor in the Bishopric of the Neeley Ward for several years and was a member of the Stake High Council until he died. He also served for years on the School Board. He donated a tract of land from his own property where the Neeley Cemetery was located and helped build a new brick school house that was also used as a Ward meeting house for several years. During this time he was also trying to gather family records with the help of his sister Martha Jane Bowman. He had the temple work done for his father and mother and grandparents.

In his later years John filed on an extra 160 acres of land. Here the family built him a comfortable log cabin. It was close to his daughter Elizabeth’s home, and he would walk there for most of his meals. She always took care of his laundry and clothes. He never failed to make a visit every day to see his daughter Annie and her family and to see his daughter Clara.

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In August 1906 John went with his daughters Annie and Elizabeth to visit his daughter Lydia (Zena) and her family who lived in Pocatello, Idaho. While there he had a stroke, and while two doctors did all they could for him, he only lived a week. He was taken back to Neeley and buried in the Neeley Cemetery by his son Almon's grave. Almon, John’s only son who lived, died in 1897 at the age of twenty.

Source: Excerpts from “Some History of John Hamaker Calvert,” written by his grand daughters Mable Stanger Nokes of Boise, Idaho, and Norma Christensen Weber of American Falls, Idaho, FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com