Allen Compton

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Question: What experiences did Allen Compton, age 37, have after joining the Mormon Battalion in 1846?

Answer: Allen Compton was born in Wilson County, Tennessee on 10 January 1809, the second son and third child of William Compton and Susanna Bayless. He had five brothers and three sisters, all born in Wilson County, Tennessee. He spent his early life in Wilson County where he was married on 13 January 1832, at the age of 23, to Mary Bettis. To them were born eight children, four boys and four girls.

In January 1842, Allen become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In June of 1845, they moved to Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. They had been living there about a year when on 2 May 1846 a mob of eighteen men rode on horseback to the Compton home and called Allen Compton out. They told him to get his family out of the house immediately. At that time his family consisted of his wife and six children. The eldest son had passed away four years earlier. As soon as the family was out of the house, the mob burned the house and everything in it. The family moved on to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

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While all these preparations were being made for crossing the plains, a call came from the United States Government, to Brigham Young for a detachment of 500 volunteers to go to Mexico immediately to serve in the conquest of California. After talking with U. S. Army Captain James Allen, Brigham Young and other Church officials determined that it would be beneficial to the struggling Church to answer this call of their country. It would firmly establish the Mormons loyalty to the flag, and it would be a source of some monetary gain.

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Five hundred men between the ages of 18 and 45 volunteered. Allen Compton, age 37, enlisted in the Mormon Battalion. He was a soldier in Company "D." On 21 July 1846, they started their march on foot to Mexico. It was 200 miles to Fort Leavenworth where they were to be armed and outfitted. They arrived there 1 August 1846. Allen Compton left his family, camped in the corner of an old worn fence with the only protection from the hot sun and heavy dew a piece of wagon cover stretched on the fence. Two of the children were ill with ague which was chills and the fever associated with Malaria.

After the Mormon Battalion reached Fort Leavenworth and were equipped and ready to continue their March to Mexico, there were many among them who were ill with malaria. A sick detachment consisting of 140 men, under the command of Lt. Willis was left to winter and recuperate at Pueblo, Colorado; among them was Allen Compton.

Having heard that Brigham Young and the pioneers were on the trail, the soldiers left Pueblo in June 1847 to meet them at Fort Laramie. Brother Compton was one of an advance party of thirteen sent ahead to recover some stolen horses and thus learned the whereabouts of the pioneers. The soldiers joined the main pioneer company camped west of the Green River. News of the past year was exchanged. It was learned that some of the men in the Mormon Battalion detachment at Pueblo had died.

Allen Compton arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 22 July 1847. All of the pioneers entered the valley this day except the ailing Brigham Young and the small group caring for him. Orson Pratt and a few men rode down into the valley to choose the best places for the Mormons to plant their seeds. Allen Compton was assigned with the group to dam up City Creek, plan an irrigation system and dig ditches for irrigating this arid land. After some of the ploughing was done and some of the potatoes were planted, the water was turned into the irrigation system in the early afternoon of 23 July 1847, and it began flowing into the farm land. Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847.

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Allen helped the Saints to get settled. They cut trees, made bricks, built corrals for the cattle and horses, and built a fort On 24 August 1847, one month after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Allen left on horseback for a reunion with his family in Council Bluffs. He arrived there 11 October 1847, a total of 48 days trip. A son was born 4 October 1848, and died 8 October 1848. Brother Compton left Council Bluffs on 14 October 1848 with a saddle bag full of mail for the Salt Lake Saints. He arrived in the valley 30 November 1848 with the first mail that came to Utah.

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That winter much trouble was being cause by the Indians for the Mormons in Provo. Brother Compton was sent to Provo with Captain Scott to battle them. After April conference Allen was asked by Brigham Young to return to Council Bluffs to build flat boats to ferry the Saints across the Missouri River. He arrived there 27 May 1849. During the years 1851-1852, he operated the Lone Tree Ferry at Winter Quarters. Allen moved to Honey Creek and later to a farm at Horseshoe Lake. He became ill and was moved to Council Bluffs to receive medical aid. He passed away 18 August 1854 at Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the age of 45. Burial place was not marked. Mary made it to Utah with five of her children. She died 5 Aug 1887 in Farmington, Utah and was buried in the Farmington Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from “A History of Allen Compton 1809-1854,” by Ella May Compton Swensen, 1981, Great, Great Granddaughter, FamilySearch.org