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John Bartholomew (1845-1914): Biography

A brief biography of John Bartholomew (1845-1914) compiled during the period April through June 2009 by W. Bart. Christenson, Jr., Provo, Utah.

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Upon meeting Bishop John Bartholomew in his home surroundings for the first time, while appearing as a fine looking man with a beard 1, it is more than likely that he would have come across simply as a quiet, hardworking farmer and churchman. Nevertheless, though unknown to many, he descended from prominent American progenitors:

On his mother Polly Benson’s side, through the Messenger and Kelsey family lines, he was the 7th great grandson of Stephen Hopkins, one of the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620 as well as one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact and assistant to the governor of the Plymouth Colony through 1636. 2, 3 Other maternal progenitors had helped found Massachusetts and Connecticut, and at least eight of them had fought in the Revolutionary War. 4 Moreover, present on his father’s side were additional notable forebears, including General Joseph Bartholomew for whom Bartholomew County, Indiana was named. 5

However, to those who knew him best, John was temperate and non-pretentious. Indeed, one of his daughters, Julia Bartholomew Ercanbrack (1882-1961) recalled 6:

Father was very slow to answer anyone…he really took his time. He was very slow of speech. He always measured his words, and spoke nothing to hurt any person.

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His entrance into this life was somewhat inconspicuous, too. Of his birth, another daughter, Rose Bartholomew Peterson (1887-1969) wrote 7:

One lovely day in Mackenau [Mackenan Township, McLean] Illinois, 11 September 1845 8, was born to Polly Benson and Joseph Bartholomew, a very small mite of a boy—so small he could not be dressed. His preparation was a raisin on his navel, a small cloth scorched light-brown on his bottom and a little scorched flour sprinkled lightly over his body. He was rolled in cotton and placed on a pillow and watched very carefully by his anxious mother. He was named John.

Later, when he was only five months old, as the eldest surviving child in the family (twin pre-mature brothers had previously died shortly after birth), he accompanied his parents in the mass exodus of Church members westward out of Illinois. They first lived in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, for several years, as the family expanded and he continued to thrive and grow. 9

A humorous incident which occurred at this time was recorded by John’s grand niece, Marie Bartholomew Larsen (1910-2007):

Mary Keziah [John’s sister] was born at Little Mosquite, Pottawattamie County, Iowa, on 29 April 1847 and would have been born on the plains had they gone with the first company, since they left the first part of April. A son, Joseph [John’s brother], was born on 5 January 1850, and George Marston (my grandfather) [John’s brother] was born at the same place on 5 November 1851. They lived at Little Mosquite, Iowa, for five years.

The Big Mosquite River was just back of their farm. Grandmother and her little daughter, Mary, would cross the river on a fallen tree to get Pottawatomie plums which grew along the river bank. The neighbors had some fierce dogs that would frighten them. Large black walnut trees grew by the house. The nuts were gathered and put under the corn crib in sacks to dry.

John and Mary would fish in the Big Mesquite River. John caught large green frogs for bait and Mary would hold them in her apron. One day her mother came and found her holding her apron up and, thinking it unladylike, asked her to put it down. Mary hesitated, looking at her mother, then at John, undecided what to do. Her mother became impatient; and, at her sharp command, down went the apron and out jumped the frogs at her mother's feet. 10

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Thereafter, to quickly review the events in 1852 that have been detailed elsewhere, the family crossed the plains by wagon train to initially settle in Springville, Utah, for nearly a decade. 11 It was in this place that the Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. and the John Edward Metcalf, Sr. families became closely associated, and John and his eventual wife, Eliza “Roxie” Metcalf first met. 12 Then, beginning in 1861, both families were called upon to help settle Warm Springs, later renamed Fayette, in Sanpete County. 13

Between 1865 and 1867, John now in his early 20’s, on three occasions served as a private in the cavalry, during the Utah-Black Hawk Indian War. He functioned as a scout and patrol. 14

(At a later date, on 1 May 1877, after the war was concluded 15, in his personal journal John recorded that he was also appointed 2nd Lieutenant of Cavalry [in the standby militia of Fayette]:

According to appointment, Gen. A. K. Thurber, Wm. H. Seegmiller, Adj. Gen. Hawley, Foutz and Allen, all officers of the militia, came over from Gunnison, and after drilling a short time, organized the militia by appointing Joseph Bartholomew, Jr., 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry and John Bartholomew, 2nd Lieutenant of Cavalry. They ate dinner at our house and started for Mayfield on the same business. In the afternoon, I helped to blast lime rock. 16)

In 1868, on 11 October in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah, John and Eliza “Roxie” were endowed and sealed as husband and wife. 17 His brother, George Marston Bartholomew (1851-1925), offered some interesting incidentals about the event:

My brother, John Bartholomew, and Eliza Metcalf decided to get married. In those days before any temples were completed, marriages were performed in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City. So as the 'big' [oldest unmarried] brother, I took the 'lovers' to Salt Lake, making the trip down there in three days. It was all right to be the chaperon and to see them safely there; but I did not care much about being the extra company on the return trip. I had planned for that and had taken my saddle horse along as a third horse. So when time commenced to get a little heavy just out of Salt Lake, I turned the lines over to John, saddled my horse and arrived home long before they did. 18

Subsequently, being successful in securing and farming a large tract of land about seven miles from the town, in Flat Canyon, the two of them spent the rest of their lives in Fayette. 19 It is about this latter part of John’s life that I would now like to concentrate the bulk of this review.

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As I have reflected on sweet remembrances written about him by several of his children, along with various surviving public records, I have come to appreciate a number of John’s sterling virtues. For me, those that readily stand out are the following: service, integrity, hard work, and humility; love of people, nature and the out of doors; love of education and the arts; and sensitivity to the Spirit. I’ll conclude by citing some pertinent examples of each:

Regarding service, integrity, hard work, and humility, a quote attributed to President N. Eldon Tanner (1898-1982), formerly a member of the First Presidency of the Church, and Shirley Anita Chisholm (1924-2005), first African American Congresswoman, educator and author states:

Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. 20, 21

John certainly took such counsel to heart. This is evidenced by his service as bishop and presiding elder in Fayette for 47 consecutive years—no small feat. He was called as presiding elder in 1867. 22 Later in 1877, he was set apart as Bishop of the Fayette Ward, serving for 37 years until the time of his death in 1914. 23, 24 Moreover, throughout his life, he was honest, trustworthy, and diligent, while serving in other capacities, as well. His daughter Julia recorded:

Father was always square and honest in his dealings; he never took advantage of anyone he dealt with…. Father was very obedient to his calling as a bishop. He never neglected his meetings. He always fasted from sun to sun or from sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday. In all my life I never heard my father profane the name of the Lord. He didn’t swear; I have never heard him say damn to anything or anybody.

Father was road superintendent for many years…. The roads were very rough…every morning around breakfast time, men would come to be instructed as to where they should go and as to what they should do. They would all discuss where the road was washed out and other things that had happened to cause trouble at different times of the year. That would be around 1893 or 1894. His stretch was the road from Gunnison to Cedar Ridge.

Father was in the legislature when Utah was made a state. That was in 1896. 25

One of his sons added further remembrances in this regard:

John spent many, many days working on the Manti Temple, and had all during the years until it was completed and through the remainder of his life. Many close friends were his associates in this work. He donated very liberally of flour, potatoes, and other commodities to the workers of both the Manti and the St. George Temples. He took a very active part in the erection of the new rock church house [in Fayette] which was dedicated August 3, 1875.

John and his wife were very hospitable persons. All of the early church authorities, both men and women, who traveled to and from the southern part of the state or who had official duties in that vicinity, were entertained at their home…. Wilford Woodruff was in his home when he received word of the death of President John Taylor [thereafter becoming the new President of the Church himself]. 26

Furthermore, his service extended into his home and marriage:

Father always had a good garden. He was very handy at fixing things around the house. The last years of his life, he helped mother with the washing. This was a wonderful help to mother…. They were a lovely couple. Mother was very much in love with father always. 27

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Love of people, nature, and the out of doors is an interesting category. As a helpful, concerned father, neighbor, and bishop he evidently loved everyone with whom he associated, including the Indians. Rose recounted the following:

Father was fond of the Indians. He would speak a little to them, enough to make them understand. He fed their horses and gave the Indians many meals. Mother would always have them sit to the table to eat. They called very often on father because he was the bishop and they learned to respect the bishops everywhere. The bishops all tried to carry out the advice of Brigham Young: ‘It is better to feed the Indian than to fight him.’ 28

Another daughter, Sarah Jane Bartholomew Christenson (1876-1966), my grandmother, recorded this humorous but unnerving experience:

My father loved the out-of-doors. He liked to fish and hunt. There was little that thrilled him more than to be able to walk miles through a forest of aspen and pines observing which tree would make the best lumber, admiring the wild flowers, counting the new birds and observing wild life generally.

After we children commenced to get old enough to travel, father planned to take us all to Fish Lake each June for a few days.

This particular summer, however, mother was unable to go. Some of the children were too young to go without her, so the party dwindled down to a younger brother and myself. We had a very pleasant trip. We set up our camp and prepared an early evening meal and had just finished, when a young handsome looking Indian rode up on a beautiful pinto horse. My father loved to visit with the Indians. There were Piutes around and he had learned to understand and speak their language and signs well. This young Indian seemed to be in a very jovial mood, so Father went along with him. He wanted to trade his horse in exchange for me. I was 14 or 15 years old.

They laughed and kidded along and seemed to have a wonderful time. Finally, the young Indian left, but he came back the next day to make the trade. My father sure had to do some hard talking to settle that mistake, and I was scared stiff. 29

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Although John had received little formal education, he evidently was a strong advocate of education and the arts, especially for his children. Both Julia and Sarah Jane, in order to further their education, tell of their father driving them up to the Brigham Young Academy in Provo, and getting them settled in an apartment. Commendable, too, is the fact that though lacking in official tutoring himself, on occasion he lent his services as a school teacher in Fayette. 30

Moreover, there were regular music lessons (guitar, organ), daily prayers, and Bible reading. 31, 32 He also wrote poetry and kept a journal over many years. 33

One of his sons wrote:

He was a man of no bad habits. His personal standard of living was high and [he] expected his children to live good lives. He loved good music and good books and gave his children all the educational advantages possible. He was a deeply religious man to the end of his days. He was devoted to the church and its leaders. 34

Regarding dramatics, Rose had fond memories:

Father loved home dramatics, and wasn’t bad at playing on the stage himself. The ward put on some plays that were really good. [In one of these productions, there were several actors], Ted, Jack, Hugh Reed—I don’t remember all that were in the play. Father was ‘Fat-sides’ or ‘Jack in the Box.’ I still have the pretty buttons that trimmed his suit. Many of the rehearsals were held in our home, which made it very exciting for us children. 35

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Finally, John evidently was very sensitive to the Spirit. This fact is supported by two interesting experiences.

John’s son Alma “C” Bartholomew (1878-1954) recorded the following:

Then in September 1890, I and my younger brother Joseph (we always called him Jody) went with Father to the Twelve Mile Canyon to get some logs to be sawed into lumber. It was a long day’s drive, and almost dark when we reached our destination.

Father had been there previously and knew just where to go. We soon got a campfire going, wood was plentiful. Jody and I soon had a big pile of firewood, and cooked supper while Father hobbled the horses, and gathered the boughs for our bed. Soon we had something to eat, and after prayer we were soon into bed fast asleep.

About twelve o’clock the wind started to blow very hard. In the midst of his slumbers, Father said, someone raised him up by his arms and told him to move quickly as there was a tree about to fall. Father hurriedly grabbed us boys, and ran some distance with us. Then he ran back and got our bed and the grub box and our other camp things. As soon as every thing was out of danger, down came a huge dry log right across the pine boughs where we had been sleeping peacefully a short time before.

It would have been sure death to all of us if we had not moved. Father often related these circumstances to show the power of prayer and great protection we can receive from listening and obeying the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Father never neglected his prayers no matter where he happened to be.

We got our logs to the mill and got them sawed into lumber, and got home at the end of the week grateful for the preservation of our lives. 36

Lastly, preparatory to recounting the second experience, John saw many new innovations during his lifetime, including the telephone, telegraph, and automobile. 37 However, he never drove nor owned an automobile, but apparently did ride in one. 38 Moreover, health wise, he suffered greatly from rheumatism of the knees in his later years, which greatly limited his mobility.

Then, in 1909, at age 64, he experienced his first heart attack. 39 Five years later, at age 69, on 23 September 1914, he suddenly succumbed to another heart attack. 40 It is about his premonition of his passing, as was recorded by Rose in her memoirs that the second experience deals. It also seems a good place to end this narrative:

Father was not old when he passed away. But he must have sensed that his time was running out. He wrote to us (Will and I were living in Fillmore), urging us to come for a visit. Will felt that he just couldn’t leave his hay, but we went nevertheless to visit father as he wished. We stayed a few days and during that time, he followed me around and talked to me and instructed me as though he couldn’t tell me enough. When we got ready to leave, he clung to us all as though he didn’t ever want us to leave him.

We got back to Fillmore for only a day or so, when the woman who kept the telephone office came to our home at night after we had gone to sleep. Will got up to answer her knock and said, ‘I know what the news is. Father is dead!’ That was the very news.

We were so grateful that we had gone to see him when he asked us to come. It always makes us happy that we took time to visit this wonderful man, my father. 41

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Listing of Sources:


2. See Documents of John Bartholomew (1845-1914), on this website.


4. See Polly Benson (1816-1912): Biography, on this website.

5. See under General Joseph Bartholomew (1766-1840), grandfather to Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. (1820-1901):



8. Op. cit.: See Documents of John Bartholomew (1845-1914), on this website.

9. See Additional Family History of Polly Benson (1816-1912): Biography by Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), on this website.

10. Op. cit.: See Additional Family History of Polly Benson (1816-1912) Biography by Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), on this website.

11. See Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. (1820-1901): Biography, on this website.

12. See Eliza “Roxie” Metcalf (1850-1924): Biography, on this website.

13. Op. cit.: See Eliza “Roxie” Metcalf (1850-1924): Biography, on this website.

14. Op. cit.: See Documents of John Bartholomew (1845-1914), on this website.

15. R. Warren Metcalf, A Reappraisal of Utah’s Black Hawk War…Master’s Thesis… pp. 1-3 and 160; Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, HBLL, #D.1.02.M48 1989.

16. See entry for May 1, 1877 in Daybook of John Bartholomew, found in Additional Family History of John Bartholomew (1845-1914), on this website.

17. Op. cit.: See Documents of John Bartholomew (1845-1914), on this website.

18. See Family History of George Marston Bartholomew (1851-1925), found under Additional Family History of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. (1820-1901), on this website.




22. See excerpt from Andrew Jenson's, Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deseret News Publishing Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1941, p. 248, indicating the beginning of John's Church calling in Warm Creek (Fayette). Found at the Brigham Young University HBLL, volume #BX 8672.03.J451e.

23. See entry for July 6, 1877 in Daybook of John Bartholomew, found in Additional Family History of John Bartholomew (1845-1914), on this website, which shows John's ordination as a high priest and setting apart as a bishop by Elder Erastus Snow.

24. Fayette Ward [Utah] Historical Record, 1851-1875, FHL film # 0025955, indicates John's ordination as a high priest and setting apart as a bishop by Elder Erastus Snow, in July 1877.





29. See Favorite Experience under Additional Family History of Sarah Jane Bartholomew (1876-1966), on this website.

30. See entry for January 29, 1877 in Daybook of John Bartholomew, found in Additional Family History of John Bartholomew (1845-1914), on this website.


32. See Sarah Jane Bartholomew (1876-1966): Biography, on this website.

33. See Additional Family History of John Bartholomew (1845-1914), on this website.



36. Alma Bartholomew, Night in the Mountains, a Story of John Bartholomew, transcribed in full herewith. Copy in possession of W. Bart. Christenson, Jr., Provo, Utah.




40. State of Utah—Death Certificate, State Board of Health File No. 125-634: John Bartholomew, age 69 years and 12 days, died 23 September 1914, at Fayette, Sanpete, Utah, from paralysis of heart, sudden death … See John Bartholomew: Documents, on this website.


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