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Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. (1820-1901): Biography

Preface: President Joseph Fielding Smith observed:

It doesn’t matter whether your computer is able to compile all the family group sheets for everyone that ever lived on the earth; it remains the responsibility of each individual to know his kindred dead…

Even if the work is done, then it is still a person’s responsibility to study and become acquainted with his ancestry.1

In pursuit of this charge, a wise genealogical maxim whose origin unfortunately eludes me, states: Undocumented genealogy is no better than mythology; today we are all part of the clean it-up and get-it-right generation.

Accordingly, the purpose of this biography is an effort to bring together and make conveniently visible in one place the diligent research work of many predecessors, together with some less-well-known information surrounding the eventful, engaging, and colorful life of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. (1820-1901).

The piece is based on a sketch originally composed by W. Bart. Christenson, Jr. entitled Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. and His Wives (A Visit at the Graveside) and was performed as a monologue, on 16 July 1998, in Fayette, Utah, for the participants of an Andrew B and Sarah Bartholomew Christenson Family Foundation reunion, at the time of their one day visit there.

Consequently, during the first four months of 2009 this original sketch was augmented and revised, with diligent effort being made to secure full documentation for all of the experiences related herein. A listing of supporting sources appears at the end.

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Howdy! I'm one of your great-great-grandfathers, Joseph Bartholomew, Sr., and these are my two wives, Polly and Electa Benson.

Maybe some of you have seen the movie, How the West Was Won 2, or read the popular series about the fictitious Benjamin Steed family, in The Work and the Glory 3—for sure, it's all good Church history. And, you know, the three of us were right in the middle of that same history, too.

As a result, I suppose some people in your day and age would call me a pioneer and frontiersman. They're right, of course, I really was! But be that as it may, while I didn't leave any real written history of these adventures and exploits myself, a number of our descendants have. Let me tell you our story.

Polly and Electa's family hailed from strong English stock, who immigrated to New England in 1638. 4 Here, their descendants lived and prospered over the next two centuries. The girls themselves were born in upstate New York, Polly in 1816 5, and Electa four years before that 6, into a large family of twelve children—six boys and six girls. 7 And, by the way, they were both my senior since I wasn’t born until 16 January 1820. 8

At any rate, a few years later, with the Westward Migration in full swing, the family floated over a thousand miles by raft over lakes and rivers from New York State to the falls of the Ohio River, near present day Louisville, Kentucky. They then moved to Clark County, Indiana, near present day Indianapolis. 9

The Bensons' were millwrights and built saw and grist mills. So, naturally, with new communities springing up all around, their services were very much in demand wherever they went.

Moreover, it was in Indiana, in 1832, that the family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shortly after its restoration in 1830. 10, 11 (Beforehand, Polly, who was 16 years old at the time, had received a dream revealing that two elders were coming to proselyte the family. 12) After their conversion, there were early persecutions, but the family remained faithful. And indeed, a few months later, true to the request of their new Church leaders, they were moving west again, pursuing another 1,000 mile journey—this time by wagon and ox team, to help found the Center Stake of Zion, in Jackson County, Missouri. 13, 14 It was during this trip, as the Bensons' passed through Illinois on their way to Missouri, that I first came into the picture.

Like the Bensons', my progenitors were of strong American stock, too—first residing in New Jersey, then Pennsylvania, and finally in Indiana and Illinois. I was born in Indiana in 1820, but both of my parents died when I was quite young, and I was sent to live with my paternal grandfather, General Joseph Bartholomew. He was a renowned Indian fighter in Indiana, during the War of 1812 (Bartholomew County, in present day Indiana, is named after him), but had since moved to Illinois when I came to live with him, at age nine. He owned and lived on a farm managed by several of his sons. And, although I was grateful to Grandpa for his kindness in taking me in, I was treated badly by my uncles—and so ran away at age twelve. At this point, the Bensons', now on their way to Missouri, while passing through Illinois, took me in and made me a part of their large family. 15

And you know, as I have thought about it, perhaps getting a taste of maltreatment while I was still very young was really a blessing in disguise from the Lord. Because, that was just the beginning to what followed in our lives.

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To begin with, after we had settled in Jackson County, on the western borders of Missouri, we were totally burned out of our prosperous new farm by a mob because of our Church membership. Fortunately, being forewarned by a friendly neighbor, we fled for our lives and hid in the river-bottoms, where we watched our many months of strenuous labor go up in flames. Then, in company with other suffering Saints, we were driven across the Missouri River and back into Illinois. It was hard! But, despite these persecutions and hardships, I now had a firm testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and joined the Church in 1841. 16 I was 21 years old. Two years later, in 1843, in Hancock County, Illinois, I took Polly to wife. 17, 18 We eventually settled in Warsaw, near the new city of Nauvoo.

I farmed, having already secured my own land grant property 19 and worked on the Nauvoo Temple, while Polly often kept house and cooked for the Prophet Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma. We knew and loved Brother Joseph and his family. In fact, we named our first two children, little pre-mature sons who died shortly after birth, Joseph and Hyrum. It was a sad day in our lives when the Prophet and his brother Hyrum were shot to death in nearby Carthage. 20

But, after these terrible tragedies, I can still recall the wonderful day when the mantle of authority fell on Brother Brigham Young in the Grove in Nauvoo, and he was transfigured before our very eyes. Blessed to be there, Polly and I gratefully bore testimony of that spiritual event to our dying day. 21

Nevertheless, even after the martyrdom, the enemies of the Church still wouldn’t leave us Saints alone; and, as you know, we were finally driven out to the Utah Territory.

Before we left in 1846, some of the mob ringleaders tried to make a deal with me. As I said, I did farming, and they liked the way I worked. They offered me more land and a good job if I would denounce the Church—but threatened us with death if I refused. Of course, I told them No!, and also told them that if they tried anything, there would be more than one person die that day! Then, with Polly driving our ox team and wagon across the frozen Mississippi River, with baby John beside her (the father of your grandmother, Sarah Jane), I walked backwards behind the wagon with my loaded shotgun, as we slowly crossed to the other side. No shots were fired, but it was a dicey moment, I’ll tell you! 22, 23

Once in Iowa, in Winter Quarters, we had planned to be among the first to journey to Utah in 1847, but one of our oxen died, and until we could afford another, the authorities asked us to remain in Kanesville, Pottawatomie County, Iowa, to help grow crops for others who would follow. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 What’s more, I was occupied elsewhere at the time the government officials came to organize the Mormon Battalion, or I would have surely volunteered for duty.

However, we eventually did save enough money to purchase another ox, and following the counsel of our leaders, we finally made our way to Utah Territory with the Joseph Outhouse Company, in the summer of 1852. 29, 30

Electa went with us, as she and Polly were very close. Although near totally blind since age eight from an attack of measles, nevertheless, she was always a great help in raising the children, now numbering four (three more had come along while we were in Kanesville). 31

The long, hot tedious journey across the plains took 89 days, but how happy we were to finally be heading towards our new home.

After we arrived in Utah 32, I left Polly and Electa and the children in Provo with Mother Benson and Polly's brother Jerome and family (they had preceded us and had built a home on the Provo River), while I went south to build us a home on Hobble Creek, in Springville. I eventually sent for my family, and we lived in this community for the next nine years. 33, 34

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After we had lived in Springville for a few years, Polly was sealed to me in the President’s Office, in 1857. In addition, Electa was sealed to me at the same time. 35 Then, after the Endowment House was completed in 1872, the three of us were endowed and the sealings were formalized again, too. 36 Now, some have wondered how I came to marry both girls. I’ll tell you.

After the greater Benson family had all reached Utah and had gone on to settle in Cache Valley, Electa really had no place to make her home. Since she and Polly were so close, and as she had already been such a great help to our family through the years, when she was 45 years old and it was obvious that she would never marry, Polly and I discussed the matter and decided that she should be sealed to me, as well—thus to be able to enjoy the blessings of an eternal marriage.

Electa was never able to have children of her own. But Polly and I had four more children while living in Springville, making a total of ten—counting the little twin boys who died in Illinois—and Electa was always a wonderful help in helping to manage the large family. They loved her almost as dearly as they loved Polly.

Like Polly, she was a special woman, too. Although near totally blind, she always did her share of the work. She cooked and cleaned; she spun yarn, corded rolls, and wove cloth. She could even tell the color of the warp or thread by the taste of the dye! 37, 38

During our nine years in Springville, the Black Hawk Indian War erupted, and in 1853, I served my first of three tours of duty as a private in the Home Guard cavalry. Later on, after we moved to Sanpete County, I served two similar tours, as well. 39, 40, 41

Moreover, I served on the local police force, and helped establish and found the new town. There is even a small canyon named after me in Springville, called Bartholomew Slide. 42

To be sure, it was a beautiful locality. But all the same, while there, we were treated poorly by unscrupulous people. Time won't permit me telling you the whole sordid tale. Suffice it to say that I was unjustly accused of being an accomplice in a shooting, and was illegally jailed for four months. 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

Without a doubt, while we were in Springville, we suffered more persecution than we ever did in Missouri or Illinois!

Nevertheless, after nine difficult years there, along with four other families we were called to move further south and settle Warm Springs, now known as Fayette, here in Sanpete County. 50

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Life in Sanpete County was also rough at first. Getting there through the thick, sticky spring mud was our first obstacle; later came the Indian problems, crickets, wild animals and water shortages—besides the ongoing task of winning a livelihood from the soil. 51 But, the Lord blessed us, and with hard work and community cooperation, we prevailed. And now, as you look around, you can see the fruits of our labors. 52, 53

While living here, I made my living as a farmer. (You would probably now find our farming methods to be both interesting and practical.) Moreover, my boys and I were avid hunters and outdoorsmen; nevertheless, we insisted that all of our children learn good work habits. In fact, it was a necessity. I also built and operated a general store, as well as taught school on occasion. In addition, I erected the first permanent stone dwelling in the town.

Being able to perform useful Church work was also a joy. I served as a home teacher for decades, regularly traveling long distances to visit my charges. Moreover, I helped in constructing the Saint George and Manti Temples, and, following the dedication in Manti, I was able to perform much temple work for our kindred dead.

Of course, we had setbacks and sorrows. For example, our son, William O., was accidentally shot and killed. But, overall our family was very happy here in Fayette. At long last, we were able to find peace and satisfaction. Moreover, here we were able to rear our large family to adulthood. 54 We spent the rest of our lives in this choice area. 55, 56, 57 It was a good life.

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Electa died first, in 1887, at age 75 years, having suffered from cancer of the breast. 58

I died next, in 1901, at age 81, due to severe infection and gangrene in my lower leg, badly injured from a kick by my daughter Mary Metcalf’s horse. 59, 60, 61

Polly outlived both of us. She died in 1912 at age 96 years.

We’re all buried in the Fayette Cemetery.

Thanks for listening to our story. We are looking forward to welcoming all of you personally when we have our big family reunion in the life to come.

                                                                                                                                                                                          L to R: Bart & Barbara Christenson and Suzanne C. Tannyhill,
                                                                                                                                                                                                       ABC Family Reunion, 16 July 1998, Fayette, Utah

And, please, please, work hard together to help one another while you're there, on earth.

We certainly want no empty chairs in our family circle when we're all here, in the next life.

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Listing of Sources:

1. Joseph Fielding Smith, in Hearts Turned to the Fathers: a History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1891-1994/by James B. Allen, Jessie L. Embry, Kahlile B. Mehr, BYU Studies, Provo Utah ; Volume 34, Number 2, 1994-1995, p. 184; found at BYU-HBLL, #BX 8658.G286 AL53 1995.

2. Metro-Golden-Mayer, How the West Was Won, USA Release date: 20 February 1963.

3. Gerald N. Lund, The Work and the Glory, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1990-1998, nine volumes.

4. See under John Benson (1608-1678) and his descendants, found in the World Connect data on this website for further details and source documentation.

5. See the Polly Benson (1816-1912) file found on this website for further details and source documentation.

6. See under Electa Benson (1812-1888) found in the World Connect data on this website for further details and source documentation.

7. See under Benjamin Benson (1773-1846) and his descendants, found in the World Connect data on this website for further details and source documentation.

8. See 1820: First affirmation of Joseph's birth date and birthplace…, found in the Document section of this file.

9. See Marie Bartholomew Larsen, Biography of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. (1820-1901), found in the Additional History section of this file.

10. See 1841: Affirmation of Joseph’s initial baptism [and others]…in Polly Benson Bartholomew’s Family Bible, found in the Document section of this file.

11. See Family History of Alvah Benson (1799-1883), Joseph’s brother-in-law, found in the Additional History section of this file.

12. See Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph’s granddaughter, The Life Story of Polly Benson Bartholomew, found in the Additional History section of the Polly Benson (1816-1912) file, on this website.

13. Op. cit.: See Marie Bartholomew Larsen, Biography of Joseph Bartholomew

14. Op. cit.: See Family History of Alvah Benson (1799-1883)

15. See Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph’s granddaughter, Biography of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr.…, found in the Additional History section of this file.

16. Op. cit.: See 1841: Affirmation of Joseph’s initial baptism [plus others, as well]…

17. See 1843: Photocopy of the marriage license issued to Joseph and Polly…, found in the Document section of this file.

18. See 1843: Photocopy of the certificate…documenting this marriage…, found in the Document section of this file.

19. See 1842: Photocopy of U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907 land grant to Joseph Bartholomew…, found in the Document section of this file.

20. Op. cit.: See Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph’s granddaughter, The Life Story of Polly Benson Bartholomew…

21. See Testimonies of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. and Polly Benson Bartholomew as told to their grandson, George Marston Bartholomew, Jr. (1884-1950), found in the Additional History section of this file.

22. Op. cit.: See Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph’s granddaughter, The Life Story of Polly Benson Bartholomew…

23. Op. cit.: See Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph’s granddaughter, Biography of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. …

24. See George Marston Bartholomew (1851-1925), Joseph’s son, Family History…, found in the Additional History section of this file.

25. Op. cit.: See Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph’s granddaughter, The Life Story of Polly Benson Bartholomew…

26. Op. cit.: See Family History of Alvah Benson (1799-1883), Joseph’s brother-in-law…

27. See 1850: Photocopy of the 1850 United States Federal Census for District 21, Pottawattamie, Iowa …, found in the Document section of this file.

28. See 1852: Photocopy of a transcription of the results of the 1852 State Special Census of Iowa, Pottawattamie County…, found in the Document section of this file.

29. See 1852: Joseph Outhouse Wagon Train information, Part 1…, found in the Document section of this file.

30. See 1852: Joseph Outhouse Wagon Train information, Part 2…, found in the Document section of this file.

31. Op. cit.: See George Marston Bartholomew (1851-1925), Joseph’s son, Family History…, found in the Additional History section of this file.

32. See 1852: Deseret News [Weekly]…, announcing the arrival of Joseph Outhouse Wagon Train Company into the Salt Lake Valley…, found in the Document section of this file.

33. Op. cit.: See 1820: First affirmation of Joseph's birth date and birthplace…, found in the Document section of this file.

34. See 1856: Photocopy of 1856 Utah State [Territory] Census for the Joseph Bartholomew Household ..., found in the Document section of this file.

35. See 1857: Extraction of the Sealing Record for Polly Benson [Bartholomew] and her sister, Electa Benson to Joseph Bartholomew in the President's Office…, found in the Document section of this file.

36. See 1872: Extraction of Endowment House Sealings for Polly Benson [Bartholomew] and her sister, Electa Benson to Joseph Bartholomew in the Endowment House (1855-1889)…, found in the Document section of this file.

37. Op. cit.: See George Marston Bartholomew (1851-1925), Joseph’s son, Family History…, found in the Additional History section of this file.

38. See Biography of Electa Benson Bartholomew (1812-1888), Joseph's second wife, by Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph's granddaughter, found in the Additional History section of this file.

39. See 1853 – 1866: Card Index to Military Records of the Indian Wars (Utah-Black Hawk Indian War), A-Z … , found in the Document section of this file.

40. See 1853 – 1866: Affidavit Concerning Service in Indian Wars Within the State of Utah and Service Relating Thereto… Part 1…, found in the Document section of this file.

41. See 1853 – 1866: Affidavit Concerning Service in Indian Wars Within the State of Utah and Service Relating Thereto… Part 2…, found in the Document section of this file.

42. Op. cit.: See Marie Bartholomew Larsen, Biography of Joseph Bartholomew…

43. See The Springville Years, 1852-1861, by Eldon Bartholomew (1920-2005), found in the Additional History section of this file.

44. See 1859: The Deseret News [Weekly], 6 April 1859, Part 1 (overview), concerning "Court Doings at Provo"…, found in the Document section of this file.

45. See 1859: The Deseret News [Weekly], 6 April 1859, Part 2 (overview), concerning "Court Doings at Provo"…, found in the Document section of this file.

46. See 1859: The Deseret News [Weekly], 13 July 1959, Part 1 (overview), concerning Joseph Bartholomew's release…, found in the Document section of this file.

47. See 1859: The Deseret News [Weekly], 13 July 1959, Part 2 (overview), concerning Joseph Bartholomew's release…, found in the Document section of this file.

48. See 1859: More commentary on Joseph Bartholomew's unlawful incarceration Part 1…, found in the Document section of this file.

49. See 1859: More commentary on Joseph Bartholomew's unlawful incarceration Part 2…, found in the Document section of this file.

50. Op. cit.: See Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph’s granddaughter, Biography of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr.

51. Op. cit.: See George Marston Bartholomew (1851-1925), Joseph’s son, Family History…, found in the Additional History section of this file.

52. See Early History of Fayette by Martha Louise Wintsch Bartholomew (1896-1993), wife of Joseph's grandson..., found in the Additional History section of this file.

53. See More early history of Fayette, taken from The Mellors Through the Years (1963), by Edna J. Gregerson..., found in the Additional History section of this file.

54. Op. cit.: See George Marston Bartholomew (1851-1925), Joseph’s son, Family History…, found in the Additional History section of this file.

55. See 1870: United States Federal Census for Warm Creek (later Fayette), Sanpete, Utah Territory…, found in the Document section of this file.

56. See 1880: United States Federal Census for Fayette, Sanpete, State of Utah…, found in the Document section of this file.

57. See 1890: United States Federal Census for Fayette, Sanpete, State of Utah…, found in the Document section of this file.

58. See 1888: Obituary for Electa Benson Bartholomew…, found in the Document section of this file.

59. Op. cit.: See Ella Grace Bown (1894-1975), Joseph’s granddaughter, Biography of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr.

60. Op. cit.: See George Marston Bartholomew (1851-1925), Joseph’s son, Family History…, found in the Additional History section of this file.

61. See 1901: May 28th statement of death for Joseph Bartholomew, Sr. …, found in the Document section of this file.

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